Tuesday 29 May 2012

Random Facts About Canada for Kids (Almost No Swearing In This Post!)

I dedicate this post Yvonne's son from Attracted to Shiny Things.

Dear Awesome Kid in the Spider Man Costume,

First, let me say I love your fashion sense.  I have a son who wears superhero costumes too and I think our whole neighbourhood is safer because of it.

Your Mom has brought it to my attention that you have some questions about Canada; namely that you were wondering if it rained wieners up here, like it did in a Ren and Stimpy cartoon.  Unfortunately it does not.  I live in a house with all boys (even my dog) and sometimes it feels like it's raining wieners but it really isn't.  However Canada is pretty different from America and, being an expert on all things Canadian, I would like to tell you about it.  Because I am all about education.

I'm glad to see you like Ren and Stimpy.  I love that cartoon!  And you will see all kinds of weird things in there because it was created by a Canadian.  We have a bizarre sense of humour up here.  Why?  I sometimes think it's because we spent so much time being really, really boring.  You see, you will learn (or have learned) in school that your country was born from an exciting Revolutionary War with the Forefathers signing the Declaration of Independence.  And every Fourth of July you guys celebrate all that cool stuff by taking the day off and blowing up firecrackers!  The American War of Independence is a big deal and a great moment in history.

The history Canadian kids have to study is mind-numbingly boring compared to that.  Canada never had a revolutionary war.  In fact we are still technically a colony of England.  Look at our money: we have a picture of the Queen on it.  And up until about fifty years ago our national anthem was "God Save the Queen".  So you'd think we might have missed out on having our own firecracker holiday.  But you'd be wrong.  In Canada we get two firecracker holidays!  One in May to celebrate the birthday of a Queen who's been dead for a long time and one on the first of July when we celebrate Canada's birthday.  We think this helps compensate for all those boring history lessons.

Our money, aside from having picture of the Queen on it, is kind of funny because it is multi-coloured and looks like the money you get in Monopoly.  We also have $1 coins called "loonies" (because there's a picture of a loon on it) and $2 coins called "toonies" (because it rhymes with "loonie").  This spring we minted a quarter that has a glow in the dark dinosaur on it.  Seriously!  How cool is that?  The only thing that could make this any cooler is if the Queen's head turned into a glow in the dark skull.  It doesn't but it totally should.  This just happened back in April and I haven't seen any of the coins yet, but I will be happy to send you one in the mail as soon as I get one.  Apparently we have dug up a lot of dinosaur bones here and the one you see on this quarter was discovered in 1972 and was 26 feet long.

So, other strange things about Canada.  Well, we are officially bilingual, which means that every Canadian kid has to learn French and English.  It also means that all of our signs and labels are printed in French and English and it means that Montreal cabbies will take advantage of you/rip you off no matter how good your French is just as soon as they hear your English accent.

I went to Quebec a few times and I learned that you can buy wine at the corner store (which you can't do in the rest of Canada) and I picked up a few French swear words.  Yes, I'm totally going to tell you how to swear in French because French swear words are really no fun and won't offend anyone unless they are Catholic and understand French.  I don't think your Mom will mind.

Sacre bleu!  (Pronounced sack-ray bluh)  Literally means "sacred blue" and it refers to heaven.

Tabernacle!  (Pronounced tabernack)  Literally means tabernacle which is a special religious bowl.

Viande!  (Pronounced vee-ond)  Literally means meat but is referring to the body of Jesus.

Maudit!  (Pronounced mow-dee)  Means damn.

As you can see these swear words are pretty boring, but they are pretty offensive to our French Canadians. Mostly they are offensive because they are like taking the Lord's name in vain or something like that.  Basically the rule of French swearing is to just find out how to say religious things in French and then shout them at someone you don't like.

There's a lot of wilderness in Canada.  In my neighbourhood I have been close enough to touch deer, coyotes, foxes, rabbits, skunks and raccoons.  And many, many, many Canada geese.  They're kind of a problem.  They are aggressive and noisy and there's goose poo everywhere.  When we go camping I see all those things and sometimes beavers and muskrats.  I saw some moose on a golf course once but that was when I went on a trip to Vermont. I've never seen a whale or a seal but my friends have.  One of my friends even met face to face with a Grizzly bear at her cottage and lived to tell the tale.  Also, I'm pretty sure British Columbia has mountain lions.

A few more random facts about Canada:

-Somewhere in Alberta we have a giant Ukrainian Easter egg, called a "pysanka" egg.  We love giant things.  We also have a giant nickel, a  giant loonie and a giant toonie.  There are so many giant roadside attractions in Ontario alone that it would take me too long to list them all.

-We eat more macaroni and cheese than any other country on the planet.  Only what you might call "Kraft Macaroni and Cheese" is known up here simply as "Kraft Dinner".  And guess what our favourite thing to eat with Kraft Dinner is?


-Many Americans think some of us live in igloos.  We don't.  Not even our Inuit people do.  You might know our Inuit people as "eskimos" but we try not to use that word because it's actually racist.  We do however build ice hotels every winter and you can actually sleep in them on beds made out of ice.  They cost about $600 dollars a night.

-Yonge St. in Toronto is the longest street in the world at 2,000 km (that's 1,243 miles) and we also have the world's longest coastline.

-We aren't as polite as everyone says we are.  We have jerks just like everyone else, but we're more likely to apologize for that fact.  It's true that Canadians apologize a lot.

-We spell things differently.  I took the liberty of highlighting all the words that are spelled "Canadian", which usually involves adding the letter "u" to things that don't really need it.  It seems like a little thing but it's actually a big deal to us.

-There are a lot of famous people from Canada.  Unfortunately that does include Justin Bieber.  Sorry about that.

And that's about it for now, I think.  It's not always easy trying to find out what is interesting about us to Americans because we live here and think of everything we do as "normal".  America just seemed so much cooler to me when I was your age so I picked the stuff that might have made me think we were cool, too.  I love being Canadian now that I know more things about us, but a lot of that stuff would probably be pretty boring for a kid to learn about.

I would love to answer any other questions you might have about Canada. Hopefully someday you will come and visit Canada and you will have no problem fitting in with all your knowledge of Canadian culture.

But if you do visit, be sure to come in the summer.  It doesn't snow all year round but when it does it gets really cold!

Thursday 17 May 2012

5 Stages of Grief: Telemarketing Edition

"Hello.  May I speak with Mr. or Mr.s Rotten?"
I'm here to tell you about a virulent evil that stalks and preys on the good citizens in my neighbourhood, and throughout the rest of the free world.  When we moved here all we were looking for was a nice quiet neighbourhood with a good school where we could raise our kids. Maybe a place close to a nice park where the kids would play.  Maybe we'd get a dog.

So we bought a little fixer-upper in a neighbourhood our real estate agent assured us was "hot", which apparently means that even if we did nothing to our house the value of the property would go up just by our sitting on it.  There's a french immersion grade school and high school within walking distance, two beautiful parks, a nature conservation area with plenty of hiking trails, a community center, a library, and an aviary and it's all nestled within the shadows of a University campus.  In short, our neighbourhood is basically the setting of a 1950's sitcom.  It was perfect!

Or so we thought.

You see what I didn't know was that there was lurking a vicious parasite that will feed off anything but particularly enjoys targeting the denizens of pretty little suburban neighbourhoods just like ours.  And our neighbourhood has one of the worst infestations that it has ever been my displeasure to experience.  For the love of all that is holy I will share with you my horrific tale, my soul-shattering experience of having to deal with this unspeakable evil: telemarketers.

1)  Denial.

Not surprisingly, once we were settled into our new home, we had to still deal with some of the mail and business contacts of the previous resident, Mrs. Fraser.  A couple of times a week we'd get a call asking for Mrs. Fraser and we let them know she no longer lived here and thought that was the end of it.

It was in the spring of the second year of living here that I began to notice we were getting a lot of phone calls.  I usually screen my calls letting them go to voice mail first.  The phone was ringing all day long but no one was leaving a message.  So Daddy got a call display phone and we soon found out that they were telemarketers.

I have been desperate enough for an income in my lifetime that I had to swallow my pride and work as a telemarketer.  It was horrible.  But I knew they would just keep calling until they spoke to someone so I started answering the phone.  I empathized with the telemarketer, knowing they were just trying to pay the bills, so I tried to treat them the way I wish people had treated me when I had to do that job.  They'd understand we're not interested and move on the next potential customer like any intellgent person would do.

2)  Anger.

Not only did the calls not stop, we were getting even more of them than before!  Sometimes from the same business over and over.  And many of them (not all but many) were quite rude.  If my phone rang ten times in a day (some days it was more than that) only one of those calls would actually be for me; from someone I knew and wanted to talk to.

I was pissed.  I stopped being polite.  First I was just saying, "Please stop calling here!  We are not interested!" and slamming the phone down.  Then I progressed to abusive ranting.  "What the hell is going on?  I told you guys already I'm not interested so why the hell do you keep calling back?  Take me off your fucking list!  I will never do business with you assholes!  Piss off!"  SLAM!

We even tried joining a National Do Not Call List and at first it worked, but soon the calls began to trickle in and next thing you knew I was being harassed again.  When I asked Daddy about it he looked into it and discovered that list isn't all that it's cracked up to be and that sometimes joining it makes the calls worse because asshole telemarketing firms target those people.  Besides, I'm a free citizen with a constitutional right to live free of harassment!  I shouldn't have to join a Do Not Call list!

This has got to stop!

3).  Bargaining.

I thought, maybe if telemarketing firms understood that telemarketing is actually counterproductive to their business they would stop.  Maybe businesses would find a less invasive way of finding new customers.  Maybe someday we could see a world where telemarketing is limited to fundraising and polling and the like. These are business people, they must see the logic behind not alienating people, right?

My new tactic was to ask to speak to the supervisor.  I would politely inform him that I was taking note of the business he represented so that I could take care to avoid future business with that company.  I told him  that I refuse to do business with people who use telemarketers and that I would encourage all of my contacts to do the same.  And then I requested to be removed from their call list.  I thought if I did this, if I fought the good fight, maybe it would all stop someday.

And then, once enough time had elapsed for me to forget about the incident/lose track of my phone records, they called back.  They always apologized and acted surprised that the computer didn't take my number off the list.  Unfortunately they repeated verbatim the same apology.  Every time.  From a script.

4).  Depression.

It seemed clear that this was never going to end.  There was nothing I could do.  The telemarketers were legion.  Resistance was futile.  I stopped answering my phone altogether.  This was my life now.  My phone was no longer a communications device that I owned.  It felt like a piece of plastic that we paid money for on a monthly basis in order to enjoy incessant harassment from the capitalist free-market system.

What was the point?  The more I tried, the more I was harassed.

(Sigh).  Just leave a message and I'll call you back.

5)  Acceptance.

After a couple of years of phone-related depression I began to realize I was not alone.  My friend Jen posted a facebook status update about a shockingly rude call she received from a telemarketer.  When she said she wasn't interested The Business That Shall Not Be Named Here asked her if she knew what she was talking about.  And then demanded to speak to her better-informed husband.

(Okay, it was Weed Man!  W-E-E-D M-A-N!  They are assholes, NEVER do business with them.  Just ask these people.)

I laughed and made a joke about it in her comments.  I had no intention of going any further than that because of my phone-depression.  But then, not an hour later they called me!

I was kind of fuming at their treatment of my friend and years of built up frustration and resentment, so I let them feel the full fury of my verbal wit (which delighted Frick to no end) and slammed the phone down.  It was very satisfying as, for some reason, when I am angry I suddenly become a genius with sarcastic phrasing.  It's my super-hero power.

Motherfucker called me right back.

Oh, it's on Weed Man.  Do not mess with an angry bitch who blogs.

I found pages and pages of complaints (Google turned up 184,000 results) going back for years and coming from all across Canada and the United States.  I had no idea it was this widespread.

After reading a lot of forums and message boards I came to the conclusion that I was going to have to join the National Do Not Call List after all.  It's a lot better than it was when we first tried it.  Telemarketer harassment is against the law and you can involve the local police and the CRTC (FCC in the US, OBVS.).  If you are on the list, the telemarketer will be fined $2,500 per call.  They also offer documentary services for free so you have proof of the harassment.  I signed us up and it will take effect in 30 days.

Doing this changed my whole perspective.  I know I have to put up with these calls for another 30 days, but there is now a light in the darkness.

I now welcome these calls.  In fact.....I'm going to miss them when they're gone!  Because I never realized until now what an opportunity for fun I had all along.

The very first phone call I got after registering with the NDNCL I answered with glee.  They asked to speak with Mr. or Mrs. Rotten.  I said, "Hold on, I'll go get Mr. Rotten right now."  And then handed the phone to Frack.  Frack recently learned a knock-knock joke.  I must say his speech therapy is really paying off.  You can really understand him saying "banana".

At times when Frack is unavailable to field my calls I put the phone receiver by my computer speakers and play this for them:

This is some of the best fun I've had in a long time.  I have the soul of a 14 year old boy so these kind of immature and consequence-free antics are deeply and spiritually fulfilling.  Now I look forward to each and every time the phone rings.

If any of you have creative ways of handling telemarketers I would love to hear them!  I've got 23 days to go....

Friday 11 May 2012

Are YOU Mom Enough?

I'm sure you all have been waiting to hear my response to Time's controversial cover depicting a beautiful young woman defiantly breastfeeding her four year old looking three year old.

To be honest I've been hiding from this.  I really didn't want to respond to it.


Because it's bullshit, man!

It really pisses me off.  I'm pissed off at the look on the Mom's face.  I'm pissed off that she's a model.  I'm pissed off at the incendiary title "Are You Mom Enough?" and I'm pissed off at the grossed out and judgmental reactions that this article intentionally and successfully elicited.

This is just another example of the media playing into the Mommy Wars bullshit and I fucking hate it.  If you want to know what is holding women back it is bullshit like this.

Do you think I find her confident and defiant look inspiring?  Go to hell, Time magazine.  Seriously.

First let me say what I have always said about breastfeeding: meh.  I breastfed my boys until they were three and I can tell you it is not for everyone and it's not necessary to go beyond your first year or to even do it at all.  I wasn't trying to be defiant.  I wasn't trying to be a feminist.  I wasn't even trying to be a superior mother.  It just happened to work for us.  I knew full well how totally weird it looks for a walking, talking pre-schooler to breastfeed so I kept that shit tight and tried to avoid doing it in public.  And as far as what any woman feeds her kids, so long as she is feeding them, I don't really give a rat's ass.

Because being a Mom takes serious bad-assitude and you do whatever you have to in order to get by.

This cover pisses me off because I don't feel supported by it.  I don't feel like my mothering choices have been validated.  I don't feel like the public is being educated in order to develop sympathy for me.  I feel like Time Magazine put a target on me and women like me so that, should any of us have to nurse our pre-schooler in public for whatever reason we are no longer feeding/comforting our kid.  We are defiantly looking around at all the other Moms and saying "Are YOU Mom enough?  Yeah, I didn't think so."

This did nothing to advance any kind of understanding about the culturally foreign concept of extended nursing. All it did was exploit us, turn us into sideshow freaks to be gawked at and resented, so they can sell more magazines.

As a woman who happily nursed her children beyond the first year I would like to say "Fuck you, Time magazine.  Thanks, but no thanks."

Thursday 3 May 2012

Because You Asked For It: Selfish Sister-in-law

Source:  Baby Center

How do I deal with a sister-in-law being pregnant when she has known that I have been trying?

My husband and I have been trying to get pregnant for four months now.  My sister-in-law has known this, and she said that she was not going to try to get pregnant till after me because it would be a lot of work on my mom with my other SIL being 5 months pregnant with her third.  Then I found out a few days ago that she was 2 months pregnant!  what should I do?  should I still try to have a baby? i don't want to cause any problems with her but I also do not think it was right for her to get pregnant before me when she knew I was trying.  I also don't want my mom to be overwhelmed with three newborns and a one year old.  My husband is almost thirty and we feel like it is time, we have been so excited trying.  what do I do?

                                                                       -Baby Center Member

Dear Baby Center Member,

Sounds to me like your SIL is a conniving bitch.  Of course she got herself pregnant before you.  If she has her babies now then your mom will still have time to look after them leaving you with practically nothing!  Oh sure, your mom is going to try to take care of your babies (after all, what else are grandmothers for?) but she'll be swamped!  Can she realistically look after three newborns and a one year old?

If there is anyone who has no business getting pregnant it is your SIL, but the fact that she did it anyway knowing full well you were trying....well that is just despicable.  I'll even bet that she comes up with some lame excuse like failed birth control, but we know better don't we BCM?

Unfortunately for you what's done is done.  If you love your mother you won't burden her with another baby.  You see, that's the problem with these SIL's:  they don't give a shit about your mom because she's not their mom.  She's the mother-in-law.  They'll just keep popping out babies until your mom drops dead from exhaustion.

The good news is that I presume your husband has a mother.  If you really have your heart set on making this baby you should hit up your husband's mom for child care.  Unless she's a heartless monster she will be happy to fulfill her obligatory grandmotherly duties by caring for as many babies as you choose to produce.

Yes, it sucks to have to give up your own mother's child care services but that is the price you pay for being so thoughtful and selfless.

                                                                      Keep trying!

                                                                           Mommy Rotten