Monday, April 26, 2010

Just Motoring Along

NOTE TO HUSBAND: Dear Chris, I want you to know that I wrote this blog *days* before our trip to the airport and our "vigorous" conversation and me mimicking your driving style in front of the semi to prove my point thus earning me that charming name that you called me ....Sorry that you crapped your pants.

So I am thinking about taking my driver's test. You have a years grace period before you have to bite the bullet. I am closing in on the 8 month mark and feel relatively confident in my abilities to navigate the NZ roads. The Cinder Block or Sugar Cube that is my car is blessedly free from any more battle scars. I have one missing hub cap, one that is tied to the wheel and am hoping to lose a third on a curb so I can go out and buy a new set (with one to spare- just in case!) The side view drivers mirror was taken of by the Mister and repaired and replaced. It's kinda a wonder of sorts that I drove around for weeks without one really. It's almost like an added bonus/surprise now when I do a lane change and go to look over my shoulder and see it hanging outside the car. "Whoa! What's this thingy? Kewl! I can see cars behind me now!")

I am used to the honking way of communication now. For the most part I don't hunch over when I hear it because frankly it never applies to me and more often than not it's me that's leaning liberally on her horn. In other words, I am back in the Superior Drivers type seat that I was back home .Oh STOP rolling your eyes at me! I can drive!! And may I just say, that the Mister has read and told me that New Zealand Drivers are rated as some of the worst in the world. Gosh, what a surprise. I was also informed that the giant letter "L" on the back of every 4th car or so doesn't actually stand for "Loser" as I had first thought. No, it stands for "Learner". Well with that in mind here are a few "tips" from the Master to the masses about driving "Canadian Style'...

First of all lets talk about the speed limit signs. They are there as kind of a guide line (in my opinion). So, if on the motorway please boot your ass up to that pre determined speed. I will allow you a 10% overage even if you can get your hamsters to go that fast under the hood. I will probably in all likelihood *NEVER* be pulled over for speeding here. I am constantly trying to switching lanes on the motorways in an effort to leave the Sunday drivers behind. One day I had to look down at the speedometer in the car as I seemed to be whizzing by all my fellow travelers. I had started to ease up on the gas when I looked down only to discover that i was 10k (still!) under the limit. Grr....

Another tip is this merging onto the motorways and streets that seem to magically go from two lanes to one; Treat each car like a part of a zipper. In this way you can effectively become one and thus not have the cluster F*** that seems to happen far too often when people come to the end of their lane. This "merging" is achieved by either speeding up (usually) to enter the flow of traffic or knowing that I am going to be right on your tail and thus you should probably slow down and let me pass you. Don't make me use my Devil Horn sign on you and the kids bouncing around the back seat.

This leads me to another topic of safety. There are only a certain amount of seat-belts allocated to each vehicle. Please ensure you A.) Use them. B.) Don't pack all your visiting relatives from another country in the trunk of your tiny SUV. I have seen less clowns in a Beetle at the Circus than some of these rides that I pass on the roads.

The other thing about safety is the the old 10 o'clock 2 o'clock hand position that my driver instructor gave me back in the day of my grasshopper driver's Ed course. Ok, so maybe I don't *always* have my hands in that position on the maybe one hand is on the CD changer or reaching behind me to swat the kidletts (they are so quick and flexible though!) into submission BUT there is at least ONE HAND!!. Truly it is amazing to come barreling down the road only to be stopped short by some weaving car whose driver has one arm out the window doing the air surf with his hand and the other I can see quite clearly gesturing to his passenger. Who is driving the bus? I wonder...and there are the limits of my mind powers folks.... I mentally try and will them to move over/speed up etc but fail every time. Must apply the power of my Super Horn (again) which would sound oh so much more "super" if it any sort of power to it. Alas, it sounds more like an accordian or small bag pipe with a bit of wind.

The Kiwi driving mentality is more powerful than I first thought. It has a way of seeping into some weaker bodies it seems. The Mister is quite easy to hypnotize we found out one night years ago when attending one of those Bar type shows. We originally came as a bit of fun to watch the people on the stage act like giant washing machines only to find out that Chris, while watching them be put under, also fell to sleep and thus became a highly entertaining part of the show. Ever watch your husband try to give birth on a stage? No? Classic I can tell you! Anyways, it is much like this I find driving with him -painful labor as he gently slips into Kiwi driving mode. His accelerator foot slowly loses weight and a glaze comes over his eyes as he wanders from lane to lane. Yes, he does the hand surfing thing out the window, OY! I try to remind him of his driving roots, as we wander over to the tiny shoulder. Well... "remind" is maybe a kind word to describe my yelling, sighing, and general foot pumping into the floor of my passenger side of the car. The kids singing "Dad! Look out!" from the back seat. The "Force" is strong in young Skywalker unfortunately.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Who Let the Dogs Out??

Yet another question I have gotten (and please, feel free to ask me anything let's face it... I don't have much to hide since "our" excursion to the OBGYN a couple of blogs ago) is; how is life now that our Big Boy, Thabo has come to NZ. Thabo is very much our "family" dog but in my eyes he is the less troublesome son that I have. I have no worries about his dating life as we took care of that business long ago. For those of you who haven't had the pleasure, Tabby is a rather large, but oh so handsome Rhodesian Ridgeback. He tips the scales at 100lbs and comes up to the Boy's nose but really in the dog's mind he is much smaller and likens himself to a lap dog rather than the mighty hunter the breed is toted to be. I am often stopped when I am about with the Big Boy by people wanting to know what kind of dog he is. Usually they start with "He's lovely! He's part Great Dane and what else?" Tis strange to see him try and squeeze his fat ass onto The Mister's lap during TV time in the evening but he does try his best.

While sitting in Canada awaiting the free to fly from NZ for 5 months we also acquired another dog- Walnut or Wally for short. She is a feisty little 7lb short legged Jack Russell Terrier -or terror if you prefer. She is rather one of those small dogs that feels she should be a large dog and thus has a rather large ego to deal with. I tried, I honestly did, when picking out a puppy to select the most submissive of the lot of 3 girls. I knew they were large personality dogs so I did my best in that regard. Wally was meant for Shay who has been patiently waiting on a puppy for a year. Her last friend passed at that time, a lovely docile little bit of fluff of a Shih Tzu, whose only desire in life was to be held and cuddled. So, imagine The Girls horror at cuddling her 6 week old puppy and having it turn around and growl at her. It turns out that Wally *may* have two personalities and likes to switch from each of them at random. Don't get me wrong. Wally is actually a very lovable puppy and super affectionate.. when it suits her purposes. If she's on a roll though and has succumbed to the "Dark Side" keep your hands and feet to yourself is all I'm saying.

So Wally had been living with us a couple of months training us to pee at 5 am and when to play with her and when to walk with her completely unaware that she was about to not be THE ONLY DOG in the house. She may have had her suspicions when Thabo was held at the kennel for a month of quarantine here. I would come home smelling a little doggish perhaps and she was all over that with that look of "Whatcha been do'in, I mean Gramma (The Girl says that by proxy I am Gramma because she's the "mom" of Wally). I just try and downplay the event and hand her a bone and a pat but she's looking at me speculatively and I see the wheels turning. This is one beast that you don't underestimate or put anything past. Like Karma, there is always some sort of reaction to your actions with her.

So I have gone ahead of myself and told you about their first meeting and how she was all docile and meek around him. Peeing at the sight of him and prostrating herself in front of his feet.... that didn't last very long. She hasn't plotted his demise -yet, but let's just say that she has pushed his boundaries and found out what we all knew to begin with, my Big Boy is a pussy. This she has completely exploited to her advantage. He *could* in theory, snap her like a twig in his jaws -her whole head and half her body fit quite nicely in there I have seen this one day while handing out the meaty bone treat to each of them. Butcher bones! What a fun time in the Breen house. I have select two appropriate sizes for my pets and hand them out seeing them trotting down the hallway and out to the deck to enjoy. Then I hear the low thunderous growl and rush out to the deck to see what Wally is doing... it's always Wally you see. Yes, she had decided that her bone isn't good enough. She wants it ALL. So there she is like one of those little birds that pick the teeth of crocodiles, head so far down his mouth she could be checking his tonsils and Thabo trying to keep his paws on his prize. In hushed tones as not to incite a riot I say "Thabo, be nice..." Which turns out to be the worst thing I could do because now he has no choice but to let the little witch drag off his bone to hoard with her other one. So begins my song of Wally! Stop it! and Thabo lunging for her bone and running away to another part of the house. Like Pepe Le Pew she's bounding after him with that one goal of getting what's hers back. It continues like this for most of the day. This stealing of each others treasures and growls of distrust. Thabo's only reprieve from her madness is to walk onto the couch and watch her hop and down while he smirks at her with his bone... hers completely forgotten in some corner of the house. Likely I will find it sometime in the night with my foot on the way to the washroom. Feeding time has me at a loss as well. She will NOT eat her tiny little puppy kibble but rushes to the tub of rocks in his and proceeds to eat *everything* while he rushes off to her petite pink dish and inhales her tablespoon of nourishment. Now I have set up guard duty with the children so this is less likely to happen but really...

Aside from the dining drama they are pretty good friends. He will lay himself on the carpet full out and she pretty much treats him like a giant amusement park by jumping on his side and sliding down his chest till she reaches his head and chews on his ears for fun. She loves to sleep with him on my bed... a source of irritation for The Man. After a week of him being gone he doesn't quite fit into the domestic picture is the dog's thinking. Thabo has starred at The Man while we are sharing the couch with one eyebrow raised as to say "What is this?" and he pointedly looks at where Chris is sitting and back up at Chris until either Chris moves to another chair or I set the Big Boy up on his own Chair with a blankie... well two actually. One to sit upon and another to cover him. The Man is fairly disgusted with all the re-training he has to do with the both of them sleeping on the bed come the weekend. Eh? What can I say? They are fantastic heaters!

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Birds of a Feather

Now, I've been getting a lot of questions from you folks back home as to how I am fairing with the aviary that lives outside my doors. As most of you know, Birds are not my friends and most seek me out to dive bomb me or chase me about at any given chance. This phenomenon is also reported by people who hate cats or dogs who find themselves regularly the recipient of unwanted attention by these critters while visiting their friends homes. I, being the animal lover that I am, cannot understand why people don't like the domestic but I have come to understand their fears/loathing is real and can actually empathize with their plight.

When did this bird aversion first come to pass you may ask? Well I can tell you as a wee lass around the age of 7 my Aunt thought it would be great fun to encourage me to "feed" the swans at Storyland Valley Zoo. Anyone knows that swans are Nazis at the best of times -pretty as they are... and so there I am being honked at and chased around the park sobbing while she laughed at the site of me tearing across the grass. Harmless enough I guess but it made me wary of birds...not yet afraid. Fast forward my life to my sojourn in Grande Pairie. What am I about 30? Ok, well the thing was we had a large Quonset on our property that we housed our vehicles in. Never bothered to close the giant garage type door because it was such a pain. I guess the swallows thought it would be fine to build their nests in the rafter and start up their little egg laying business. Wish that they had sent me notice as one day I went into the Quonset to get into the car and was chased out by a flock of them. This had me tearing into the house and phoning my "Knight" and him laughing at me and telling me that they are just protecting the nests and *"Really Jenn, they are just diving... they won't actually HIT you". Ok, fine. Go back out there and try to get into the Quonset only to be dived at again. The thing is I could *feel* the wind from their wings and THEN feel them brush my head. At one point I dropped to the ground sobbing while doing the Army crawl back to the house. The whole time, the WHOLE time they continued to bomb me and pick at my hair... it was a strong dose of "medicinal" therapy that I needed when the Mister got home.
So now you know. My fear is real and there is not much in the way of living on this island that has changed it. Let's see...hmmm... I was attacked by an albino peacock at the petting farm I took the kids to. He looked harmless enough but there I go viewing him from a safe distance and turn my back to take lovely pictures for you all only to have him come up behind me and start pecking at my calves and screaming at me (hard to tell who was screaming louder actually at that point.) The kids are agog at the site and the dozens of other people starred at me as I sobbed and ran away leaving my brood to fend for themselves. I'm not sure what kind of ESP these feathered demons have but I tell you, wherever I go, whatever I am doing one of them tries to take me out.
On a lovely day out to the beach we stop at a small town to fill up the car. The Girl and I decide to walk across the road and get some coffees and treats to take with us when I see that there is a lovely dress store beside the bakery with some of it's wears hanging outside. I am pawing thru the dresses when around the corner I hear a quack. Just one quack mind you and I am on alert. A female mallard type comes around the other side of the dress rack and stares up at me. I know this is not going to end well and if she wants the red dress she is going to be welcome to it as far as I'm concerned. I back away and slowly make my escape towards the bakery. Guess who follows me? It was probably the slowest chase in history but there we were, me and ducky heading down the sidewalk. I ducked (excuse the pun) into the bakery and bought some sandwiches for the masses, she patiently waited for me outside and THEN decided to "friend" me by taking a seat beside me at the outdoor table. What am I to do about this? The car is still across the street and i have no hope of making to safety. Best to "play statue" I thought and wait her out. Er, well it seems that wasn't working so I thought *maybe* if I toss some bread far away from me she will go for it and then I can run. What I didn't count on was the hundreds of tiny sparrow types in the trees watching this transaction and so with the toss of the bread came dozens of feather bombs landing around me. The Girl is trying soft tones with me telling me that it will be alright. Clearly the duck was getting agitated by her loss of food though and was edging closer to me while the sparrows are fluttering in my face. What to do? Ok, then I will *feed* the duck... will that make this stop? Nice feeding frenzy I've created with me sobbing and tossing out bread while I wait for the car to come.

It really doesn't matter if I have food or not though. I've sat in the middle of a cafe alone with my coffee while dozens of people at distant tables nosh on their baked goods and guess who has the sparrow land on her table? I starred at the bird and said out loud, "Seriously? No. Seriously? Are you kidding me? I don't have food why are you here on my table?" There was no reply only a couple of hops closer to my hands and a hasty retreat for me.

YES! I am still getting dive bombed by a pair of large fat colorful partridge type birds every morning on my way to the recycle. Why oh why they chose that particular tree to lay eggs in *I don't know* since I live in a jungle for God's sake but the routine is the same. The silent slide of the patio doors and me in my pj's peeking out. I stealthily make my way across the driveway to the bin. Some days i almost make it to the bin... it's a trick you see? Just as I lift the lid feeling a sense of relief a war cry is heard from the dense foliage and there they are making their decent upon me... I'm still here though and I have come to accept this is the way if only to keep the insect population from carting off one of my kids. Still it would be nice if one day I could not have to look over my shoulder and not walk hunched over down the street.