The Best of Times, The Worst of Times

Man, I hate it when I write a really, really long blog post, and then people just trying to clear their reader over lunch click on Turtlehead and see reams and reams of unbroken text – like, can’t she even do us the favour of including a photo, for heaven’s sake – and so they move on.

Hate that.

However, I am way backed up with blog post ideas and I have to clear my head so today, you get a bonus two posts in one! Hope your boss wasn’t expecting you back from lunch any time soon.

So this weekend!

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.

On Saturday I went to the mall specifically to share my views on garbage collection in this city. I am very passionate about garbage collection and green bins and LORDY, what people put in their recycling boxes. Here’s a sample of some of my past bloggy rants on that subject.

Anyway, the City of Ottawa is considering changing the pickup schedule, among other things, so that the green bins are picked up every week all year around, but garbage is only picked up every other week. I’m totally in favour of this plan. With our family of five, our green bin is straining to contain our bi-weekly compostables, and I could easily fit two weeks’ garbage in our garbage can.

The City was hosting a series of open houses/consultations on this subject, but they’re over now (except for one in Richmond tomorrow evening if you’re really passionate about it). But you can still go online and fill out a survey on this issue here.

So! My point here is that I went to Bayshore Mall on Saturday to see the Open House and to make my views heard. There was a guy there with an iPad who was gathering survey results, so I chatted with him and he wrote down my answers.

And then – there was a quiz! A recycling quiz! They show you 10 items, and you have to sort them correctly.

SHEER HEAVEN, I’m telling you. I just about busted with excitement. And of course, I went ten for ten. It was almost ORGASMIC, how joyful I was. AND, I was the only person so far that day (it was almost the end of the consultation time frame) to go 10 for 10.


I know I should be ashamed or at least mildly embarrassed at how happy I was to get 10 out of 10 on a recycling quiz. However, I cannot hide my delight. It’s like I took a test on being a good person and then got an A+. Not to mention it gives me authoritative backing to continue being an obnoxious, judgmental jackass about the contents of other people’s blue boxes from now until eternity, and there’s nothing I love more than being an obnoxious, judgmental jackass, so THAT ROCKS.

Could I USE any more capitals? Do you SEE how awesome I am?

And that was pretty much the best of times.

Now for Sunday.

We had tickets to a 9:30 a.m. Kinderconcert at the NAC, and Lord in Heaven, why is the poor NAC always involved when this family has a crisis? Anyway, the Captain and Sir Monkeypants had another engagement, so it was just going to be me and the girls, With one of our extra tickets, Gal Smiley invited her friend ShyGirl.

Saturday afternoon, the Little Miss spikes a fever and goes downhill from there. But she can’t skip the concert, because Sir Monkeypants won’t be at home, and I really felt we just couldn’t cancel on ShyGirl because we’d only invited her the day before.

Sunday morning the Little Miss wakes up feeling perkier, so we drug her up good, and she seems fine, so we decide to go for it.

Now here is my fatal error. At the NAC we park inside, so we always leave our coats in the car. So Gal Smiley asks me if she can wear running shoes instead of boots, since she’ll only be going from our garage to the NAC parking garage and never setting foot outside. And I say, in super slow motion with heavy drums-of-warning in the background, “Suuuuuuuuuuure.”

When I was a kid, if it was wintertime, no matter where we were going, we wore boots. I can hear my mom’s voice so clearly, “What if we get stopped on the side of the road somewhere? You have to be prepared.”

I heard that voice in my head on Sunday morning, and I thought, “I should throw the girls’ boots in the car, just in case we get stopped on the side of the road somewhere.” And then I thought, “But, Sir Monkeypants will totally make fun of me, and seriously, in all those years growing up, did I ever once get stopped on the side of the road somewhere? Well, there was that one time, but one time out of like, 500 times is pretty small chances. So forget it.”

FAMOUS LAST WORDS. Or thoughts. Whatever.

I pick up ShyGirl and with the three girls in the back, we’re off to the concert, in gently falling snow creating mildly slippery roads.

Then a light comes on in the van, indicating we are out of washer fluid. So despite plenty of salt coming up on the windows, I couldn’t clear them very well.

Then ANOTHER light comes on in the van, that looks like a fishbowl floating in squiggly water, and I was all, WTF? But of course I just kept on driving because when you ignore something, it just goes away, right?

Once we were parked at the NAC in the underground garage, I pulled out the manual and looked up the funny symbol, and it turns out it means “low tire pressure.” So I had a look around, and sure enough, one of the back wheels is about 60% flat. FABULOUS.

It was time for the concert, though, so we went up and watched it before I did anything about the car. It was about “Orphea,” a feminized version of Orpheus, specifically about that time he went down to the underworld to bring back his wife (“grandfather” in this kids’ concert version). If you know the story, you’ll know that Orpheus manages to convince Hades to let him bring his wife back, as long as he does not look back. But he can’t help himself, and he does look back, and his wife is sucked back into Hell.

I knew this story, but I figured there was no way they’d end a kids’ show like that, but OH MAN, WAS I WRONG. And no offense to the players, who were amazing, but seriously? Two seconds after the end of the play I have three crying girls on my hands. Why didn’t the grandfather come? When will she see him again? Why, dear Lord WHY, did she look back?

(I’ve answered that question at least 50 times since Sunday morning, by the way. Never gets old. Oh wait, IT TOTALLY DOES.)

So! The girls are sad, and now we have to go deal with the car. While the girls snack and sniffle, I call Sir Monkeypants and he recommends that if the tire is not completely flat, to get to a gas station and fill it with air, then get home and we will figure out what to do from there.

So I come out of the NAC and start nervously driving around downtown, in the snow with a partially flat tire, looking for a gas station. Did you know that the downtown core has about as many gas stations as my recycling quiz has wrong answers? As in, none?

Not to mention the fact that there is this one street that runs along the canal – Queen Elizabeth, maybe? Or something like that? – that once you are are accidentally on it, cannot be ever, ever exited? And if you do find an exit, you’ll be lost, lost, lost in tiny side streets made six-feet narrow by parked cars and snowbanks on either side?

So there I am, lost in the city, driving blind because we have no windshield cleaner, on three wheels on slippery roads, with someone else’s kid in the backseat, and another kid sick and about to move out of the medication window, to a combined chorus of “We’re starving/We’ve passed that building twice already/Why did the grandfather have to die (sob),” which I believe is the very definition of GOOD TIMES.

We wound up driving around downtown for 45 minutes, the whole time I was convinced we would blow the tire out and I’d be stuck on the side of the road, in winter, with kids with no boots on. I was obviously asking for it. Do not mess with fate, Lynn!

If my mother read this blog, she’d be commenting furiously right now, all YOU SHOULD KNOW BETTER and HAVE I TAUGHT YOU NOTHING and CALL ME, I WANT TO RE-TILE THE BATHROOM AND NEED YOUR OPINION.

And to add insult to injury, Gal Smiley and ShyGirl passed the time by playing a name-that-tune kind of game, and Gal Smiley used excerpts from the legendary art-house film High School Musical 3, while ShyGirl used the hipster Pride (In The Name Of Love) by U2. Total pop culture education fail for me, right there.

Eventually we found a gas station at Bronson and something-right-by-the-highway. And of course, their air pressure injection machine thingy was broken. So I did what any tough, strong woman would do, and called my husband hysterically and cried. Oh yes, hear me roar.

I decided to bail on downtown, and we drove home very slowly using about a million back roads. I found gas station along the way near Riverside and Hunt Club and got some air in the tire (HEAR ME ROAR) and an hour-and-a-half later, we made it home where I passed out from stress.

Or actually, it was because I had caught whatever was ailing the Little Miss, and spiked my own fever, and then quietly died. On the side of the road somewhere.

And that was pretty much the worst of times. Does that make my weekend work out to even steven?

29 thoughts on “The Best of Times, The Worst of Times

  1. CapnPlanet

    I should add — I know exactly how you feel. Yesterday was a rainy day, but we took the opportunity to put on rain gear and go jump in puddles. The boys had never really done that before AFAIK, and I think they loved it. It was sort of a sublime moment of parenting – it really brought out the kid in me.

    Later that day we had been out to get haircuts, traditionally associated with getting a lollipop. Not sure if it was the sugar from those or just general restlessness, but a couple of stops later I was that parent with the screaming out of control kids in the checkout line at some store. Literally — epic misbehaving, followed by severe punishment – having to sit in a shopping cart – which brought on the complete and utter bawling breakdown, by which time I’m about fifth in line for the cashier, trying not to look like a total prick of a parent. All that for a couple of pillows. I even considered bailing before I got to the store, knowing they were already feeling pretty mischievous, but against my better judgment I went ahead anyway, knowing there was a good chance I’d regret it. Which I totally did.

    So, parenthood’s like that, I think — the highs are very high, and the lows are pretty low. I think in most cases the highs win out, and the trick is remembering that when you’re up to your armpits in the lows.

    1. Oh yes, I have been *that* parent too. Whenever I see a parent in that position, I always send them as many vibes of empathy and comfort as I can. I wish I could come up with exactly the right thing to say to let them know that no one (well, at least not me) is judging. If I get a chance I usually throw out an, “I’ve been THERE,” and a wry smile of sympathy.

  2. Is it wrong of me that (since no one got hurt and it all worked out) that I’m a teeny tiny bit glad to learn that you aren’t, in fact, supremely confident and competent in EVERY single area? Because if you’d asked me I would have assumed you would have a tire-inflating-thingy built into your van. And thank god I don’t live on your street. I’m a bewildered if good-intentioned recycler — and yes I HAVE looked at the website, and I STILL can’t remember what goes where.

    We had that fever last week. It passes pretty quickly, but Eve ate almost nothing for days. Then I got it — I’m hoping it puts me down a couple of pounds. Hope she feels better soon.

    1. You’re so funny. My head is the very definition of scatterbrained. However, I *will* look into getting a built-in tire inflator for the van.

  3. Oh Lordy Lordy! Sweet Mother of Mercy!

    (wipes a tear from his eye)

    The phrase “better you than me” comes to mind, but only because enough hours have passed that you won’t hate me for it.

    Very funny stuff; thanks for sharing your misery. 😉

  4. Listen, if you’re ever downtown and need us to pick up a kid (via walking or bus or whatever safe measure possible), let me know. Not sure it would have helped in this case, but just in case… At least you could have called to ask for gas station directions!

    So sorry you had such a wreck of a Sunday, but I’m very glad you made it home safely.

    I have to confess that I laughed uproariously at mom’s comments about re-tiling the bathroom. SO SPOT ON.

    1. Oh my heavens, I am such an idiot! I didn’t even THINK to call you, and that would have been the smart thing to do. I panic and all rational thought goes out the window.

      I will let you know the next time we have NAC tickets as we will most likely have some other emergency :).

  5. Oh man, I soooo feel for you. I was getting all stressed just reading about your Sunday, let alone living it out in real time. I hope that your fever didn’t stick around too long and that you’re already starting to feel better.

    Here in Markham we do recycling every week and garbage every other week. Works out just fine for us.

  6. So I just did the survey online including the 10-item recycling quiz and I am no guru like yourself. So, the blueberry container – in the blue bin or no? Meat tray? I said garbage. Ack! I feel so inferior. And also, I wish they told me how I did. I really want to know!

    1. I cant remember all 10 items, but I’m pretty sure there wasn’t a single thing that actually went in the blue box. The blueberry container and the styrafoam tray from the meat are both garbage, not recyclable. There was a cell phone and batteries, those are both part of the take-it-back program. Large packing styrafoam can go in the garbage, or if you are keen some mail/packaging places will take it back.

      That’s only five of the things. What were the others?

  7. Somekindofmom

    Oh man that sucks about Sunday! But back to recycling, I’ll all for biweekly garbage pickup. EXCEPT. I use disposable diapers. I do not want stinky diapers sitting in my garage for two weeks. If only we could put them in the green bin, like they do in Toronto, or at least in Stouffville, I know they do it there.

    1. Hmmmmm. This is an excellent point. We are out of diapers now, just nighttime pullups, and it has made an enormous difference to our garbage – both in the amount we produce and the stinkiness factor. I can definitely see your argument here.

      I’ve heard that putting diapers in your green bin makes the compost less marketable – too much contamination with plastics. Apparently (I think this is totally a rumour, but who knows) places like Scarborough, where you can put diapers in, wind up sending a lot of their green bin stuff to landfill because it cannot be salvaged. So I guess every-week garbage pickup is really the best solution?

  8. CapnPlanet

    Hmmm, lots of comments about the bi-weekly garbage pickup. I’m with you, TurtleHead — we would be fine with recycling once a week and garbage every other week. We even have the smallest garbage bin you can get and we still don’t come close to filling it.

    I think we wouldn’t have a problem with diapers in the garage for two weeks either – maybe we’re lucky, but the smell isn’t that bad.

    1. Do you dump out the poop in the toilet before wrapping it up for the garbage? This is something you are supposed to do here, but we didn’t know that until we were on kid #3. It makes a huge difference to the smell. Man, parenting is a SLOW learning curve.

      1. CapnPlanet

        Nope, straight to the garbage. Maybe our kids’ poop just doesn’t smell (though I know that’s not true…) I’ve never heard that you’re supposed to dump out the poop, though I have to say it makes a lot of sense. We’re pretty close to having the last one potty-trained, though, so I’m probably not going to change my habits at this point.

  9. Okay, so I’m laughing – but not at you, because that sounds horrible – but because I keep all manner of emergency gear in my van JUST IN CASE. I keep the snowbrush in the car in July (of course, I live in Calgary, it seriously could snow then) I keep gloves in my purse year round and I just recently threw out a can of infant formula I found in the van just in case we were in a horrible accident and infant formula was all we needed to survive. And my kids are six and five years old. So I am with your mother, BE PREPARED, MY LITTLE GIRL GUIDE, BE PREPARED.

  10. thanks for the survey link. i’m with karen, i wasn’t sure aout the meat container. styrofoam, plastic or one of those weird hybrid ones?

    i would have been a complete stress pot and totally lost it in the car. with two weeping girls. yeah. fun times.

  11. LOL long post but worth the read! Poor you.

    Did you go to the Waste Management display when you went to Disney (it’s at Epcot). It was pure awesome and you would have loved it (assuming you didn’t go). It was a family challenge (against other families! ROCK!) to sort and manage garbage/recycling complete with your own little Waste management garbage truck! Our family won our round and I was inappropriately proud!

  12. Hi Lynn,
    Sorry that your experience at the NAC Kinderconcert exacerbated what was already a challenging day for you! I’ll be following up by email directly to discuss this more with you.

  13. Good grief what a weekend!!! I’m with you on the Kinderconcert – what a miserable Sunday morning. DS2 wasn’t interested and DS1 was sad and scared. Not to mention the fact that we are not religious, which meant a lovely discussion about what hell is. We’ve really enjoyed the concerts so far but were really disappointed on Sunday. I hope your week vastly improves 🙂

    1. I’m happy to hear I wasn’t the only one with that reaction! I thought maybe I expected too much and certainly I don’t think everything the kids ever watch should have a happy ending. I was just surprised, and the ending was so sudden.

      I didn’t mention this in my original post but we had a very tough discussion on the way home about heaven and hell. Our little guest was explaining to my daughter that when people die, they “get a second life as an angel.” Then they were both pressuring me – while I was driving around with my semi-flat – to confirm that this was true. YIKES.

      I really did not think it was appropriate to talk about with someone else’s kid, but I didn’t want to just say “yes” about the angels because I’m not too sure about that one, myself, so I tried to deflect, which of course only made them MORE interested, which GAAAAAAAH, made me freak out.

      I hear the next one is much happier :).

      1. CapnPlanet

        Oooh, this is a tricky one. In principle I feel the best way to handle those situations is to turn it into a discussion – ask them if they think that makes sense, admit that you don’t know but it sure would be nice, etc. Maybe harder to do in practice, but that’s the ideal I strive toward.

        I also agree that you shouldn’t shield your kids from the occasional unhappy ending. Life doesn’t always go the way we hope it will, and exposing kids to that in fiction is a good preparation for reality.

        Hopefully next time you won’t have to do all of that when your car is having a near-death experience though.

  14. Oh that sucks. Glad to hear that you made it home. Yay for the bright side.
    (I heard about the concert. It sounds like a crazy choice for kids. And if I had been there I could have directed you to all the downtown gas stations).

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