Friday, December 30, 2011

Just a Skype Video Call Away

Back home in Ottawa. It's always a little bit of an adjustment to get back to reality after spending the holidays surrounded by family. It makes me think of how lucky we are, though, to live in a time where it's still easy to keep in touch with each other despite the distance.

Once upon a time, and I'm talking about the '80s and '90s, we could only speak to our grandparents on the phone and send letters like chumps. I'm all for keeping the written letter, but now families can be part of each other's day-to-day lives no matter where they are.

Thanks to e-mail, Facebook and Flickr, my family back home can't get rid of us. They can be provided with all the latest "guess what your grandson can do now" stories, photos and videos. Here he is dancing in his Jolly Jumper! Here he is in the monster truck jammies you bought him! Here he is with velcro rollers stuck to his head! LOL, etc.!

And then there's Skype, which is great because allows my folks to see my son in action. By "action" I usually mean "trying to climb onto the computer".

I have to say Skype is kind of dodgy for us, though, 'cause the audio stalls and becomes choppy and robotic, so much of the conversation consists of, "hold on! It's frozen again! What?! Sorry, go ahead. What?!"

Add to that the already-grainy image that is always freezing (mid-blink or mid-chew, naturally). My dad said himself that he looked to be right out of "Tales from the Crypt" on screen. In his defense, there wasn't the best lighting.

Soon enough, Sonny Boy will love to Skype with my folks. At the moment, though, I'm not sure if he recognizes that he's looking at human beings, let alone his grandparents. 

Hey, at least it's free. (Click to Enlarge)

All in all, though, can't complain. Modern technology lets us join each other for breakfast 1600 km away, and that's not too shabby.  Even if it is breakfast with the Crypt Keeper.

Happy New Year!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Have Baby, Will Travel

Hi folks. Just a quick hello before the holidays. Today is being spent packing in preparation to go East again to spend Christmas with my family.

I've always been a chronic over-packer, trying to prepare for myriad "what-ifs". 'Cause, you know, the one time I decide to pack light, wouldn't it so happen that I'd get invited to go, say, white-water rafting? And me without my water shoes. Never mind that it's Winter. Better pack it all, just in case.

Well, now it's worse with a baby, especially for carry-on. Although in this case, the 'what-ifs' can be placed almost entirely into the categories of

1. body functions
2. restlessness

So, like many parents before me, I will illustrate my carry-on pre-baby:

And now my carry-on with baby (not including actual baby):

(Note that coat, hat, mittens are in his luggage for the sake of, shall we say, convenience).

When we flew last month, a fellow passenger told me I won the prize for "Most Carry-On". I guess I was sporting a bit of a pack mule look. I wouldn't have been surprised if I'd forgotten the baby amidst it all.

I figure if I'm armed to the teeth with distraction and food ammo, I can keep him entertained for the two hours in our tight quarters.

Last time, though, I was delighted to find said ammo not necessary. We were flying at night, so Sonny passed right out on my lap, cuddling his favourite sheep (named Sheepie because we never got around to a more clever name).

It was lovely to enjoy the cuddle, but the only downside was that I didn't dare move the whole time. The blood supply to my legs was cut off, but the risk of gangrene was a small price to pay. I was more concerned that I couldn't get at my in-flight sandwich, which was trapped in very noisy packaging.

My sandwich is trapped forever!

All in all, I was very fortunate to have a pleasant flight with my little guy. I could've brought a magazine after all!

This time we're flying during the day, but I'll have Hubs with me. My doctor told me 'next year it will be worse, 'cause he'll want to run up and down the aisle' (the baby, not Hubs). Shhh. Let me live in denial for a while longer.

Anyway, I aim to be easygoing about it all, however it goes. He's allowed to be there, after all. If we aren't so lucky this time, hopefully our fellow travelers will notice we are making an effort with our bag of ammo and have some Christmas spirit. Or, barring that, earplugs.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year, friends, and thanks for coming by and checking out my cartoons the past few months.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Good Eats

"Aww, but I LOVE solids!" - Homer J. Simpson

Sonny boy is coming such a long way. It seemed like only yesterday that this was pretty much every hour of our day:

The glorious early days (click to enlarge)

Huh, I've forgotten about those days. Mustn't have been too hard.

Now he's got his first teeth coming in, and solids are in full swing! Such excitement!

He loves him some solids. I'd say so far he willingly eats most things if I wanted to jinx it. But I don't, so I've said nothing. He wasn't always so willing at first, though. More dramatics, making me wonder what he was tasting. The books and doctors all tell us we have to try a food on a baby ten times before deciding if he likes it or not, though. Good Grief. TEN TIMES??

Once they're into it, I guess we're supposed to let them explore the food with their hands and various utensils. Man, in case you know nothing about babies, that's a mess. It doesn't get anywhere near the mouth. All I have to say is he'd better be developing a skill or gaining a love for something in all of this.

Then I'm left to clean a high chair which, I've discovered, has way too many nooks and crannies for its own good. High chairs should be one smooth plastic mass.

Do you use those plastic scoop bibs? I remember those from when my sister was a baby, and they're pretty awesome. They catch everything and protect the pants. Warning: Do not look directly in the scoop. 

The only downside is when my son tries to tip it towards his face for some reason, or when he slouches like this and manages to get the bib in his mouth.

So that's how stuff was still getting all over his shirt.

The other thing to watch for is when he gnaws on the high chair tray and then rests his forehead on it. It can make for a becoming case of Sweet Potato Eyebrows, which I don't always notice before taking him to the mall.

Sweet Potato Eyebrows

Anyway, it goes with the rice cake in my hair. (That only happened ONCE, but still)

Cheerios are fun to watch him eat. He's still working on the pincer grasp, so at this point, eating involves mashing his fist into his face and gnawing until he hits food. Current success rate: 10% 30%! Getting there!

Effective eating, at least of adult food, is definitely not a skill human babies are born with. Thank goodness we have adults to manage things for us while we develop these skills, or else we'd all be very hungry and very messy for a long time.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Christmas Time's A-Comin'

Christmas time's a-comin', as Raffi would say.

I love Christmas, and I still revert to being a big kid at Christmas time (this assumes I am mature the rest of the year). My family had some great Christmas traditions growing up. For instance, my dad would make a fancy punch Christmas Eve and we'd watch National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation for the millionth time.
Fun Fact: As a teenager, I memorized Clark Griswold's obscenity-filled rant and still remember it to this day. Such a waste of brain. Anyone else out there guilty of that?

I hope to make it just as magical a time for my son (and possible future sibling) as it was for me growing up. I can't wait to celebrate his first Christmas with our family. It's like new energy is brought to the festivities and we're seeing it all again with new eyes.

Last weekend, Hubs and I dug out the decorations-- unbreakable ones this year. We had the idea to decorate the tree while playing a CD of Christmas music. Instead we wound up decorating while watching Old School on TV. Nothing gets you in the festive mood quite like a streaking Will Ferrell. Oh well, the baby's too young to know the difference. Next year.

I made a few observations this year, given that it is my first Christmas as a parent:

1. Santa:  I used to wonder why people brought babies to see Santa. "It's not like they even know where their feet are, let alone who Santa is." Ahh. I get it now. It's for us. I totally wanted to put my son in a cute sweater and get a picture with Santa, and I totally did. It took a few minutes and an undignified set of antics on my part, but I got a grin out of him! I wasn't sure how it'd go, 'cause I guess for a kid it can be like being taken to sit on a big hairy clown.

2. Christmas Photo Cards: I realize it is socially acceptable for people who are parents to give photos of themselves as Christmas cards to family and friends, as long as their baby is in the picture too. In other words, a picture of me with the family wishing you a Merry Christmas is cute. A few years ago, a picture of just me as a card would have seemed a tad conceited. "Merry Christmas. Put this on your fridge. You're welcome."

Click to Enlarge

3. Photo Gifts: Speaking of pictures, it seems a given that I have to give my family some sort of gift that involves their grandson/nephew's photo this year, and I see I am not hurting for choices. Beyond the standard photo book and digital frame, I could do a canvas, poster, calendar, puzzle, mug, water bottle, t-shirt, ball cap, mouse pad, tree ornament, stocking, pillowcase... even a throw with my son's giant face on it! Goes with any decor! Well, that's it, then; my shopping is done. Throws for everyone!

My brother cannot contain his excitement.

Thursday, December 08, 2011

Not Amused

I said I aimed to update once a week, but I thought I'd throw in one of my older cartoons/observations mid-week to shake things up.

Do you ever feel responsible for your baby's reactions (or lack thereof) to others? I'm not even talking in a few years' time, when he will really give me something to be embarrassed about.

I'm delighted to have one of those boys people call "a real charmer". He's got mad flirting skillz. Huge open-mouthed smile combined with aw-shucks eyelash-batting and coy head-turn at anyone who makes eye contact with him.

A few days ago, sonny had an elevator of people oohing and aahing (the fact that his hood had cat ears certainly helped). I felt all proud, as if it was a result of my teaching him good manners or something.


Other times, though, he couldn't care less about the cou-cous, boops, tongue clucks or what the answer is to "who's that handsome little fella." He just sits there deadpan, so people pull out the big  baby-amusing guns. No dice. He continues to stare stone-faced while they flail about. It's like he's doing it on purpose to see how far people are willing to go.

In those cases, I feel the need to launch into an 'it's not you, it's him' explanation, such as, "He just woke up" or "he's due for a nap" or "he's a little bummed 'cause Two and a Half Men isn't the same without Charlie Sheen."

Maybe it's my way of showing that I appreciate that they took the time to make a fuss over him. Or maybe I don't want them to feel that their antics weren't funny or that they don't have a gift for amusing babies (been there. Ack). Or maybe I want people to know that he's usually pretty awesome with people and I'm sorry they're missing it.

Some may figure, "oh, he's shy," or "he's so SERIOUS", because naturally it stands to reason that any good-natured baby would be ROFL about now.

But when I think of it, I don't laugh at everything that's meant to be funny either, and I figure I'm pretty good-natured.

I often wonder at times like this what he's thinking. Oof, one day it won't be an inner monologue, and THEN I'll have some 'splainin' to do.

Click to Enlarge. Please note: This was my first attempt with my Wacom Tablet and Photoshop, thus explaining the craptacular job with the lines.

Sunday, December 04, 2011

No Longer Stays Where you Put 'im

So we finally have our baby gates up, and not a moment too soon. Baby-proofing is in full force.

Sonny boy is your typical newly-mobile baby, full of delightful curiosity. He likes to climb stairs and pull himself to standing on pretty much anything above ground level, stable or otherwise. We we spend a lot of time helping him avoid face-plants. I guess a few tumbles are the only way he'll learn that the law of gravity is in full effect, but still, it's hard not to want to bubble-wrap him.

He loves his new-found mobility. He motors around chatting to himself. For a while, he would pull himself along by his arms like a seal. Scooting around the house, he reminded me of those baby sea turtles you see making a break for the ocean. Hubs had the idea that if we tied a Swiffer pad to his belly, he could do our floors for us.

PATENT PENDING! *shakes fist*

Yes, I use a lot of animal analogies when I see my son in action. Incidentally, the way an 8-month-old leaves a trail of drool everywhere he goes kind of makes me imagine what it'd be like to live with a 2'3" snail.

Now he's into full-fledged crawling, and the kid can move! Usually he makes a beeline, past all the toys and neat things I leave for him, right for the one thing in the room that's not baby-friendly. Must put hand in DVD player. Must tip over garbage can. Must pat and chew on plunger. Much more interesting than stacking rings.

(FYI,  he never actually got ahold of the plunger. I'm still a bit faster than him)

And impatient! Babies don't know the meaning of "just a second", and if they did, I don't think it would make a difference. When we pre-empt his adventures in door-stop springing or what have you to change him, you'd think we were committing the biggest injustice imaginable. The writhing and grunting! I can hear his inner monologue:

"Arrgh! Release me, woman! I'm losing precious seconds from my research on-- Ooh, shiny-- OMG, now I must determine the texture of that faucet THIS INSTANT!!" Oh, the humanity! Usually we can distract him with something cool to hold onto. Other times, though, I'll find his sleepers only halfway done up because Hubs would leave them be once they were 'good enough'. I must say, though, all those snaps on sleepers are not so practical with a squirmy baby. (It should be a competitive event, like you'd see at a rodeo; Dress the Baby! Points deducted for misaligned snaps!)

Likewise, some of the cloth diapers we use have intricate snapping arrangements around the waist and legs. When we were selecting diapers, we should have considered, "could I successfully diaper a mechanical bull with these?" if not, best to go with the Velcro-fastened ones.

click to enlarge

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

From the Beginning, Part 4: Nowadays

For a while, I'd stopped drawing cartoons and cards for friends and family, thinking I was now an adult and should do the 'adult' thing, which is to buy pre-made cards at the drug store. I was wondering if drawing for others was like a kid with macaroni art, insisting it be put on the fridge.

But, after a while, I came to miss being able to share a laugh over an inside joke or memory with someone. So I started to get back into it. And anyway, who needs to grow up?

I drew about roommate experiences (all good, of course), observations on turning 30... and overall good-natured ribbing and a bit of self-deprication.

I drew Hubs a cartoon about our first date a few months into our relationship. At first I was hesitant, wondering if he'd think it was silly. Then I thought, "If he's the kind of guy who thinks it's silly, he's not the guy for me." Good call. He loved it.

At our wedding, I displayed a cartoon of our proposal. He brought us out to this beautiful spot with the pretense of taking pictures, so of course at the time that's what I thought we were there for.

People ask if I actually said that, although I insist that I meant it as "is this wonderful moment seriously happening", not "are you kidding me, buddy?" Hubs still teases me about it, though.

Here are a few more samples of life in cartoon form:

A good friends' wedding:

This is baby shower card for a coworker who is a big Montreal Canadiens fan. The inside read something like, "Congratulations on the upcoming arrival of the newest Habs fan." (Disclaimer: the real baby turned out to look nothing like my cartoon)

This is a birthday card for a friend following a trip to New York City last year, during the hottest weekend of the year. We melted! It was not the glamourous New York experience that you see in the movies. (Excuse the ink smudges)

Sweat and the City... you see what I did there?

Friends and family have been very encouraging over the years. Recently, I wanted to put together a Facebook album of cartoons, lamenting that I hadn't scanned my old work before giving them away to friends. So I put the word out to see if anyone had kept the cards I'd drawn for them. Guess what...  pretty much everyone did. People still had cartoons of mine that were over a decade old. That was the biggest compliment I could receive! That experience affirmed for me that my cartooning was something worth keeping up with.

My time on maternity leave was the perfect time to work a little more on my drawing while sonny took his naps. My sister introduced me to an Inspired Doodles workshop. It wasn't a drawing course, but rather a month-long online course that let artists of all skill and interest levels to develop as 'doodlers'. The daily prompts and weekly tips on improving were just the inspiration I needed! I met a great group of people, and it's been motivating to network with others who love to draw for the sake of drawing.

Thanks to that course, I learned more about drawing with Wacom tablets and using Photoshop to do my cartooning, as well as blogging to showcase one's artwork (whoa, Janet enters the 21st century!). Let's just say, good thing there is a baby that brings me back to reality when he wakes up, or else I might become a bleary-eyed, knuckle-dragging neanderthal sitting and drawing at the computer for days on end.

So, that brings us to today. So what am I drawing about these days? Well, mostly my adventures in parenting, seeing as how it's how I spend most of my time. So far it has allowed for a feeling of camaraderie with fellow parents (whew, it's not just me!).

Also, because I enjoy looking back at my old work so much, one day I'll be glad I kept this record. Cartooning keeps me looking at many of life's events with a sense of humour... if not right away, then eventually.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

From the Beginning, Part 3: University and Beyond

Still with me? Onto the most recent chapter of my drawing adventures.

First off, I regret to say I don't have any pictures of my Dairy Queen cake creations. Wish I'd taken a picture! As I mentioned in an earlier post, I became the resident cake artist and was often allowed full afternoons to sit out back drawing with those tubes of coloured gel. People would come in with something in a paper bag and lean in to say, in hushed tones, "Word on the street is that you can draw anything on a cake."

Once I was called in to draw on a big slab cake on my day off. They didn't pay me, but said I could 'order anything on the menu' (cheap so-and-sos). I ordered the biggest meal and made the most gigantic brownie sundae I could eat!

In university, I had a small group of good friends for whom I would often draw large cartoon birthday cards and have the others sign. The cards would always pertain to some inside joke or adventure that I didn't want them to forget --usually with my artistic license, of course. For instance, in the cartoon below, my friend didn't actually get hit by the car; just lightly backed into. But I like my version better.

I was commissioned to design t-shirts for pub crawls and even a stagette. Here are a few of the Ghosts of Pub Crawls Past I dug up. One was for a friend who was in IT. The pub crawl was on St. Paddy's Day, hence the leprechauns sitting on the computer. The second was for my Bachelor of Education class's Pub Crawl Tour (we were the role models of tomorrow, after all; the words "Pub Crawl" were not permitted, while "Pub Tour" apparently gave an illusion of mature, sensible behaviour).

It was always such a delight to see a roomful of people, often whom I didn't know, wearing my design! I had to restrain myself from being nerdy and exclaim "I drew your shirt!" to everyone I met.

After I graduated, I began my career as a substitute teacher. It was definitely an adventure! 6 a.m. calls from a mystery school, teaching a mystery grade and mystery subject. The bright, shiny faces of kids trying to size you up. Definitely not a dull job, and definitely lots of cartoon material. I drew a cartoon named "Sink the Sub" for the Nova Scotia Teachers' magazine, Aviso. It won the "Golden Leaf Award" from the Canadian Educational Press Association, so technically I would be allowed to put "Award-Winning Cartoonist" on my business card!

Here is one of my cartoons on 'subbing':

I was not making much of this up. I must've had 'born yesterday' on my forehead. I did have some good memories, though; one day I was in a hurry getting out the door after getting a last-minute call, and I put my sweater on inside out. A 9-year-old took me aside to point it out, and then reassured me by saying, "don't worry. I do it all the time." Kids are awesome.

Teaching was a great avenue for me to use my drawing skills. I could illustrate songs and spend many an indoor recess drawing things for the kids. I had to Google some of their requests at times. I became a pro at Sonic the Hedgehog and Iron Man.

I also taught cartooning workshops for students in grades 3 to 6. A few wouldn't return after learning the class wasn't about learning to draw Stewie Griffin and Homer Simpson, but overall the classes were usually well-received. If only I could have that kind of rapt attention all the time! Here's a "Cartooning Tips" excerpt from one of my original handouts.

"Holy poop, you're good!" - A satisfied grade 6 cartooning workshop student
I was going to continue onto present day, but I'll leave that for next time. Have a good weekend!

Thursday, November 24, 2011

From the Beginning, Part 2: The Adolescent Years

Drawing was something I continued to enjoy into my teen years, when hobbies were not cool to have. I don't know about you, but when I was a teenager, the only acceptable hobby was "hanging out" (maybe that's always the case). You couldn't look too eager. You didn't learn for the love of learning. You didn't go to the bowling alley to BOWL, for crying out loud. You didn't go to the rink to skate. That's what the cool kids said, anyway.

Luckily, I wasn't one of the cool kids. I found drawing to be a fun pastime, as well as my trademark.

In English class, we were allowed to do cartoons as an option for our creative writing folders. Here is a doozy that I drew in grade eight, where looking dorky in your class picture is beyond embarrassing. I was exaggerating, although only somewhat. Can you guess the time period? Mall bangs! Earlobe-stretching earrings! Pointy white shoes! Steve Urkel reference! Ack!  Please don't judge me.

Good grief. I DID get a 10/10 on it, at least...

I also kept a cartoon journal of sorts based on my family. Ours was (and is) a family that joked around a lot together, and it was fun to depict the daily goings-on to tease one another. They weren't my best work, because the aim was to tell a story, not to show off my drawing skills. I didn't even consider how much fun it would be to look back at how we all were then.

Here is an actual conversation about the future that took place between my sister and me; I was just shy of 14, and she was five.

I don't know why she was so mad; she still had Garth and Bart as options (again, guess the time period!). She's now in her mid-twenties-- no kids yet. I wonder if she's changed her choices? Little Garth will love this cartoon one day.

I also contributed whenever possible at school. I was the resident cartoonist for our high school newspaper as well as our yearbook. Here is a rendering of the Beatles that I was rather proud of:

I found the early-to-mid '90s were a rather grouchy time to be a teenager (Kurt Cobain, grunge, Doc Martens and lots of plaid...), at least in my experience. It was cool to be cynical, and this comes through in some of my cartoons.

Dramatic much? Oh boy, I can't wait until my son is a teenager.

Once I hit university, things got fun again and I lightened the heck up. Stay tuned.

Monday, November 21, 2011

From the Beginning

For the next few days, I will take a break from drawing to share with you my journey as an artist, drawer, cartoonist and doodler to date. I have dug up some of the old work my parents saved and would like to share it with you.

I have enjoyed drawing for as long as I can remember. This is me at 4 years old drawing at my chalkboard with my little brother. Note that I also drew on the walls behind me. My passion for drawing just couldn't be contained!

I enjoyed drawing for others. I became quite good at drawing Pepsi trucks for my Pepsi-truck-obsessed brother. Soon, everyone I knew became victim of my drawing ambushes, whether they wanted a Janet Original or not. My parents and teachers wound up with huge collections.

"Dear Mom: I drew (jroo) this picture only for you. Love from Janet" (about age 5)

When I was six, I entered a "draw your parent at work" contest held by my dad's employer. Every kid who entered won a Crayola set. I was beside myself with delight. Here is my interpretation of Dad writing on paper by his rotary phone at work. Please note his head is somewhat smaller in real life.

One of my inspirations for my drawing and cartooning, I have to admit, came from my love of Archie comics. I must've collected hundreds of them over the years, and to this day I could still kick butt at an Archie trivia game, should one exist. I enjoyed their realistic portrayal of teen life, including how a guy might get a summer job as a bikini rater, or how he might cope when having accidentally made a movie date with two girls at the same time. Watch out, Archie!

Drawn at the age of 10

From my teaching experience, particularly teaching cartooning workshops, I can attest that most kids love to draw, but many don't keep up with it over the years for whatever reason. They maybe either get discouraged when their work isn't realistic enough for their liking, or they just move onto new interests. I was just one of the few kids that kept loving it and kept going with it.

More to come...

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Payback Time

Well, we're back from the Maritimes. It was great to be home with my family. It's kinda neat to interact with your parents as a fellow parent, too. I think, even to a small extent, that every grandparent sees their child become a parent and thinks 'it's payback time,' for all the disasters and embarrassment that they endured from their own child.

I was a pretty good kid. I was one of those "a pleasure to teach" kids who followed the rules and enjoyed the praise of adults. I was still a kid, though, and I had my fair share of antics to embarrass and prematurely age my parents. And they won't let me forget a few choice gems:

1. As a toddler, I poured a bottle of shampoo all over my head while sitting in my mom's relatively new La-Z-Boy recliner. Apparently they couldn't get the chair to stop foaming.

2. I emptied a bowl of coins, placing them painstakingly between all the piano keys. Dad had to open up the piano to get them out.

3. I put my favourite stuffed toy cat to bed. In the oven. Mom later tried to preheat the oven and the cat burst into flames. Then she had a flaming cat AND screaming kid to deal with.

4. I pushed the emergency button and stopped an escalator full of shoppers at the mall. Mom wondered whether to play dumb and ask me where my mother was.

5. Speaking of escalators, as a three-year-old with three-year-old social graces, I was on an escalator with my mom, and there was a heavy-set gentleman riding behind us. Upon noticing him, I bellowed, "Boy! Is he ever FAT!"
... right before I promptly faceplanted. The gentleman boo-yahed me with "yeah? And YOU'RE CLUMSY." Touché.

6. I was with my mom browsing the magazines, and someone had put the Playboy down on a low shelf. Six-year-old me opened it to a page where some ladies, wearing only scarves, were warming themselves by a fireplace at a ski lodge. I held up the magazine and proclaimed that if they were cold, why didn't they just put on SWEATERS?

I can still remember Mom's "give me that!" and prompt exit from Shoppers.

Then of course there are the proclamations I seemed to save for extended family visits, such as my observation that my Speedo-wearing swim teacher had a 'lumpy bathing suit'. Or how I once shared with my French-speaking aunts and uncles the phrase I'd  heard my dad mutter. I didn't know why they were roaring with laughter. In my defense, he'd told me "mange la m*rde" meant "too bad" (it very much does not), so you can't really blame me for that one.

Nothing horrifying, but I was just enough of a kid to keep my folks from having too much dignity in public.

Below is a card I drew Mom for Mother's Day on this very topic. Please excuse the quality as it was taken with a camera. Now that I, too, am a parent, Mom knows she will have the opportunity to sit back with a sigh of satisfaction when my son first embarrasses the life out of me. I hope he'll go easy on me, but I believe it is, in fact, payback time.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Grammie's Boy

Yahoo! I have five members on my blog. I was all excited, then I just came across a blog that has over 55 thousand. But hey, five is pretty good for such a new web presence. Thanks, guys. Please pass the link along to others!

Sonny boy and I are enjoying our time back home (the flight went very well, by the way). I enjoyed a night out having dinner and martinis with my sister downtown while my parents enjoyed quality time with the grandkiddy. The little fella especially likes having a new house to explore; new drawers to pull open, VCRs to try to stick his hand into... (Why? He has a floor full of toys. WHY always the hand in the VCR?!)

It's great to see my folks interact with him as grandparents. I said he's their little Moon Pie (because, for those who get the Big Bang reference, he's nummy-num, and they could eat him up, of course). Moon Pie is loving all the attention as well.

Gone is the chance for me to have a full conversation with my folks, though, because no matter what we're talking about, one burp from him and everything deteriorates into "Omigoodness! Was that a BIG BURP from Grammie's boy?"
Meanwhile, as I was saying about that Nobel Prize I won...

In all seriousness, I completely understand and would do the same. Only right he should command all the attention at his age. I don't make many interesting new noises these days anyway.

I remember visiting my grandparents growing up, whom I didn't live close to, either. I only saw my paternal grandparents every few years. On my mom's side, it was a five-hour drive to Cape Breton to see my grandparents, and I found the wait excruciating. Several times over the trip, I'd hold out my index fingers shoulder-width apart and say, "okay, so if this is home, and THIS is Nana's, where are we now?"

I loved my grandparents, especially my Nana, who'd always tell me I was 'growing like a weed'. She would buy us those little sugar-cereal "Fun Packs" (Although one time she accidentally bought us the "Variety Pack", which contains way too much bran for a kid's liking, and I was not amused).

I used to spend a week each summer there, swimming in the Mira River, picking blueberries, going out in the rowboat with Grandad; all the magical 'kid and grandparents' stuff. They used to make such a fuss over us; they would even listen to every excruciating detail of my 'guess what I had a dream about' narratives with rapt attention. I only saw them a few times a year, but I loved the relationship we had. I wonder if my son will have a similar relationship with his grandparents.

I think my parents will be awesome grandparents, though. They'll make a big fuss over him, take him on great adventures and give him lots of sugar cereals... and then hand him back to me when they're done.

That's the great thing about being a grandparent: all of the hugs and kisses, none of the discipline or diapers. I think my folks are settling quite well into grandparenthood.

"If I knew how much fun grandchildren were, I would've had them first."
-various witty t-shirts, bumper stickers and tole paintings

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Home for a Rest

So my little fella and I are about to embark on a trip to my hometown of Halifax (well, Dartmouth), Nova Scotia to visit my folks. This will be his second trip East to see his grandparents. Though he was born in Ontario, it's important to me that he stay in touch with his "Maritime Roots". I imagine anyone who is raising their child away from where he/she grew up feels some of that.

Nova Scotia will always be 'home' to me, no matter how long I'm away. That sense of pride seems to be a common theme among us Maritimers. It's not often that you see an Ontario flag on the back of a car, but many a time I've seen a Nova Scotian flag on someone's bumper and had to resist the urge to drive alongside and yell out the window, "Woo! Me too! Bluenosers rule!"

Whenever I go home to visit, my to-do list includes:

1. See the ocean at some point
2. Have some good seafood
3. Get a donair (not a shawarma, not a gyro, an honest-to-goodness donair with the sweet sauce).

Please note that it's not as if I did any of these things that often in the 24 years I lived there. I had a donair maybe once every few years. But now that it's not readily available to me, it's a tradition to track one down when I get home. I'm amused to find out how many other expatriate Maritimers also have 'getting a donair' on their visit-home bucket list. Once sonny is older, I'm sure I'll be taking him to Pizza Corner to get him one, too. "Eat it, my son; this is your heritage".

Okay, so Lebanese cuisine isn't technically related to my heritage, but whatever. They're part of the overall culture.

Nowadays, what I call the stereotypical "gift shop" image of Nova Scotia-- bagpipes, fiddle music, Sou'Westers and lobster traps-- also make me nostalgic, even though I grew up in the city and wasn't exposed to much of that myself. I do have fond memories of elementary school assemblies, though, where we'd clap along as the principal would play piano to accompany the custodian's fiddle, so I do come by some of the nostalgia honestly. Also, I did teach hubs how to eat a lobster on one of our first trips home. FYI, lobsters are not good date food.

An aside: anyone remember the Maple Leaf bologna commercial from the '80s where the too-cool-for-school kids from Toronto are "visiting their granny" out East and are rolling their eyes as they are served baloney, with seaweed pie for dessert? Anyway, I think of that commercial when I bring my son home. Pack your bags, sonny, you're going to Grammie's for SEAWEED PIE!

When I bring kiddo home over the years, I will certainly show him all the touristy stuff, as well as the historical sites-- from the Harbour Hopper to Citadel Hill to Peggy's Cove. I'll drive him around the Cabot Trail. I'll take him Tidal Bore Rafting on the Shubenacadie River, something I've done six times now. You haven't lived until you're thrown out of a raft riding muddy tidal bore rapids. Hubs just got initiated to it this summer, and soon it will be a family affair!
But I'll also show my son life as I lived it there too, whether he likes it or not. Walk him through my old neighbourhood. Take him past the car dealership where my elementary school once stood or try to describe what Point Pleasant Park looked like pre-Hurricane Juan. Bring him on a 2-dollar ferry ride across the harbour ("don't say I don't take you anywhere"). Spend a day at the beach during one of the few good swimming weeks at the ocean. Maybe get him deep-fried clams (AKA 'heart attack in a box') at John's Lunch or take a road trip to see the Pumpkin People in Kentville in the fall.

I hope he'll get a glimpse of how Halifax has some charm as 'the biggest small town and the smallest big city', and no matter where you are in Nova Scotia, you're never more than 67 km from the ocean (can you tell I worked for tourism?). The summers are cooler, the winters are milder, life is a little less hectic and people are just  a bit more open to making new friends or waving you on at a four-way stop. Hopefully he will grow up feeling a connection and some pride in his Maritime background. Maybe even get a bit of the accent!

If I do it right, then maybe one day, down the road, my half-Maritimer son will feel right at home at the Lower Deck pub, enjoying a Keith's beer and belting out the chorus to "Barrett's Privateers".

Fun Fact: The tartan on his kilt is the hunting tartan of the MacPhails, my mom's family name.

Sunday, November 06, 2011

Full of Beans

Ever been to those Movies for Mommies, AKA Stars and Strollers, AKA Reel Babies? Great program. Love love love that these things are in place for parents. It lets parents get out and see movies at the theatre without having to find a babysitter or get the hairy eyeball for being "that one who brought the $#@& baby". One can tune out the crying and diaper-changing in the background and enjoy a movie with a friend. My son's first movie was "No Strings Attached". I saw "The Hangover 2" and "Bridesmaids" with him too. Parenting is off to a great start.

Well, I thought my days of Stars and Strollers were over when a friend and I went recently. Unlike his newborn days where he'd sleep through the whole movie, little tyke was full of beans and not about to sit on my lap for 2 hours (I know, go figure, eh?), and I spent the whole time standing him up, walking with him and letting him play with my empty cup and the lights on the side of the seats. The good news is, the movie was "Moneyball" (we got the theatre wrong); if ever I was to miss a movie, let it be that one. SNORE!

I tried again the next week-- am I a glutton for punishment? Well, I like to try to see how many activities I can adapt for us so my increasingly active baby and I can still get out there. So this time we sat in the front row of the stadium section and laid a blanket and some toys on the floor in front of us. The babies' time on our laps was interspersed with rolling around on the blanket together, and I got to enjoy "50/50" (much better than "Moneyball", incidentally). Ha! I can still have a bit of a social life, yet!

So on a related note, in a few days I'll be taking kiddo home to Halifax, Nova Scotia, to visit my folks for a week.

How is this related? Well, my movie experience makes me semi-dread the plane ride; two hours on my lap, which is about the same as a feature-length film, and no possibility of getting to crawl around and explore might just cause my 8-month-old to spontaneously combust. Unless I do first.

Fun Fact: I did not draw all eight panels separately. I drew the first and created duplicate layers for the next three. Then I did the same with the seats in the second row (including the baby seat) so I didn't have to draw them four times. Photoshop is awesome!

Friday, November 04, 2011

"Just You Wait"

This is a cartoon I posted a while back.

Expecting a baby is exciting. Big changes! A new family member! When I talk to someone who is pregnant, I am inclined to say one of the following:

1. Congratulations
2. How exciting
3. You look great

And yet, when I was pregnant, I couldn't get over how often I was offered supposedly hilarious doomsday advice. For instance, I had morning sickness for five months. One day I was feeling particularly green and said I was going home for a nap. The response I got was, "Ha, a nap? Well, ENJOY IT NOW, because soon enough there'll be no more naps for you!" Thanks, bud. Rub it in.

The "Enjoy it now" and "Just you wait" advice seems to be quite common, and I'm not sure why. Is it meant to be humour? "Ha ha, no more dates for you and your husband! No more time to yourself! Laugh, because it's funny to think of how much a baby will destroy life as you know it! You will lose your identity and become a sweats-wearing, puke-covered drudge! Mwa ha ha!"

If it's not meant to be funny, is it advice? Because I don't think there's any parent-to-be who isn't aware of the sacrifices that come with having a baby already. "Naive preggo doesn't know what she's in for. Must inform."

WHAT? You mean I can't just flip the baby's 'off' switch when I want to go clubbing? Wow! Thanks for the heads-up!

Also, 'sleep now while you can' is kind of silly. Everyone knows you can't bank sleep.

After a while, I ran out of ways to respond. "Ha ha! So I hear! Yup! Uh oh! Oh yes, what have I done, amirite? Ha ha ha... "

I even had someone say "A boy? Yeesh. Good luck with that." It's a boy, not a 200 lb. rabid chimp. 

Now I've only been a parent for 8 short months, but I have to say that I am having a ball. I still have showers and put my face on before going out. I still exercise, have personal non-baby interests and see my friends, and get out with the hubs, albeit not as often (and don't say "wait until you have two kids". Please read above.)
I acknowledge the camaraderie that comes with the tough task of being a parent, and sometimes it's good to vent to know you're not alone. There are  tiring times, frustrating times and I'm definitely busier. I do wish hubs and I could still take our weekly dance lessons or would like to go out without 45 minutes of prep, but that doesn't mean expectant parents want to hear me rub it in, whether they're excited or nervous or a bit of both. Besides, there's so much wonderful stuff about being a parent that far outweighs any of that, and it's a shame to sit around wallowing in what you're missing out on. I'd never trade my delightful sonny boy back just to have the luxuries of the DINK lifestyle.

So if you see a pregnant woman out there, she's not huge, nor does she want to hear she about to succumb to a soul-sucking life. She's likely heard the joke already anyway and didn't think it was all that funny then. Just say congratulations, and maybe 'you look great'.

Tuesday, November 01, 2011


Time for gates! The little tyke is getting mobile and is no longer staying where I put him. Yesterday he found his way into the kitchen. He pulls himself along on his arms like a seal. I get tired just watching him. He's got killer triceps for a baby, I must say. I imagine him giving Bamm-Bamm- style handshakes, where the person is flung back and forth over his head.

This is a cartoon I drew a month or so ago. He had developed the new skill of rolling onto his stomach and pushing himself up, which was great except he couldn't get out of it. On some occasions he had to be 'rescued' several times before going to sleep. I guess he takes after me; apparently I used to get stuck under the piano bench. My folks must've thought they had a genius baby on their hands.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Favourite Toys

Today is my son's first Hallowe'en. I suppose it'd be a faux-pas to go trick-or-treating since he doesn't even have teeth. He did get to dress up as Snoopy this year for a party, though, complete with felt-ears-on-a-tuque and a tail. I'll probably do the same with him tonight and bring him to the door when I pass out the treats-- that is, what I haven't eaten myself over the weekend.

While we eat, he sits in his high chair with us at the table. I gave him a bunch of Hallowe' en chocolate bars, in their wrappers, for him to play with. I tell ya, nothing entertains quite like crinkly, shiny wrappers and shaky Smarties boxes. We were able to read the Saturday paper and have a leisurely coffee while he sat with us and played with the bars.

It's true what they say; the most fascinating toys are never the big, expensive dealies. I'll put  him on the floor in our room in the mornings so I can put my face on, and he finds the springy door stop and bats at it for a good ten minutes. Take that, Playskool!

The Fam

Hi folks,

Allow me to introduce you to the family, including my sonny boy, whom I'll call Owen in my cartoons. I debated whether to use our real names. Though my characters are our likenesses, changing their names allows for some artistic license and lets us distance ourselves a bit from my anecdotes. I learned that lesson from one of my favourite cartoonists, Lynn Johnston (For Better or For Worse) who in turn learned it from Cathy Guisewite (Cathy). Cartoonist wisdom!

So to start off, here's the threesome at a family cottage over the summer (drawn as a thank-you card for use of said cottage). It was the best kind of vacation for a first summer with a baby. I figured it wasn't the time to try backpacking through the wilderness. Maybe when he's a bit older.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

A Little History...

Welcome to my blog.

I started this because I've been developing a small collection of cartoons based on my observations and experiences as a new parent, and on life in general. I would post on Facebook for friends to see, but I wanted to finally develop a web presence and a more 'official' forum.

I've been drawing ever since I could hold a crayon. As a kid, my favourite things to draw included Snow White and other girls in puffy dresses. I won a "Draw Your Parent at Work" contest at the age of six, where I depicted my dad with a head the size of a beach ball. Since then, I knew my calling. Just kidding. I think everyone who entered won that contest. Still, though.

I kept a 'cartoon journal' between the ages of 13 and 14 based on my family. There was me with my braces, mall bangs and adolescent insecurity; my ten-year-old brother with jungle shorts, a penchant for video games and way too much energy; and my feisty six-year-old sister who wouldn't hesitate to stand up to her older siblings by fetching the hand saw from the shed. I find cartoon journals are a great way to remember the feel of a time; the attitudes, trends and so on.

In high school, I contributed cartoons to the high school newspaper (somewhat cranky in tone, now that I look back, but those were the '90s for you) and for our high school yearbook.

After I finished my Education degree, I worked as a substitute teacher for three years in my hometown of Halifax, Nova Scotia. I contributed an award-winning cartoon to the Nova Scotia Teachers' magazine, Aviso, on the craziness and occasional hilarity of being a supply teacher. It was called "Sink the Sub", named for the game where students try to get their 'sub' to crack.

I think I have to dig up some of this stuff to show you. It's gold. Especially the beach-ball head.

I've also designed many a pub crawl t-shirt in my time. It's very cool to see 100 people all together getting their groove on while wearing your design.

Finally, not to brag, but I was the resident cake artist at Dairy Queen during my university years as well. I was known as the one who could draw anything on a cake with that coloured gel. People would bring in stuffed toys, sneakers, and have me depict inside jokes that I didn't get (an orange, lips and a garden hose? Anyone??). I think I was being had, now that I think of it... anyway, getting to spend afternoons drawing on cakes made the polyester shirts and customer abuse all worthwhile. Sorta.

To this day, I continue to draw 'on the side'. I draw greeting cards and other 'inside joke' cartoons for friends and family. There was a brief time that I started buying my cards, thinking I  had outgrown the whole cartooning thing... but I missed immortalizing good memories (and not-so-good ones) on paper and sharing it with others. Having fun with drawing is not something one ever needs to outgrow. And now that I have a son to provide an endless supply of cartoon material and to be my audience, I have more reason than ever to continue!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Finally, I have gotten around to putting together my blog! Can't wait to start sharing my cartoons.

Now, I just need to get that Photoshop upgrade installed, and we're in business.