Adopting a Fluffy White Kitten, Maybe. Recycled Sundays.

animal-17545_1920

I have three cats but I’m still a normal person. I’m not a victim of feline reproduction since I’m adamant about neutering. I’m a victim of innocence.

My daughter, my son and I went to buy a sweet white kitten, the fluffy heart-tugging kind they show in toilet paper commercials. It was for my daughter, a cat-aholic if there ever was one. It would be a low maintenance pet and we’d feel good for having saved an animal from euthanasia. Unfortunately, all the ivory colored kiddies were gone. My daughter asked to see a gray female that was caged with the black and white male. The woman in charge met us at the counter with both kittens.

“One for me!” cheered my son.

I protested in vain. The woman promptly dumped both in my arms explaining that they were littermates who hadn’t been separated since birth. A single kitten would be lonely. The pair would play more and be physically and emotionally healthy. The kittens looked up with their huge trusting eyes. My children stared pleadingly. The woman smiled and offered two for the price of one. Ten eyes, waiting. I was a goner.

The black and white kitten we named Patch was the friendliest. He also had ear mites, which required swabbing both cats twice a day for two weeks. There aren’t enough pillows or oven mitts in the world to stave off a panic kitten. My husband and I looked like we’d wrestled with thorn bushes.

They did keep each other company, for almost a year. Then Misty developed into an aloof, “don’t bug me, that’s if you can find me” cat. Patch was constantly rebuffed. In a sickeningly weak moment, I decided to get him another playmate and take the pressure off Misty. I waited until another white kitten was up for adoption.

I made it clear to the children that this was to be my kitten. The white kitten was fluffy and plump. It had one blue eye and one pink. Pink eyed white cats are sometimes deaf. I clapped my hands and made silly noises, but the cat did not respond. It was either hearing-impaired or very dull.

“Look at this one, Mommy,” called my son as he watched the loose kittens through the viewing window.

I was doomed from the first glance. A black and white kitten, one ear up, one ear down, was bouncing sideways across the floor. He stopped to tumble with a tabby, and then tried to crawl up the wall to the window, meowing frantically for attention.

“He’d make a good playmate for Patch,” said my son.

The moment the scruffy little fellow was put in my arms, he twisted around and licked me.

“He’s rather ratty looking,” I protested. “Why is he scratching his ear so much? I hope he doesn’t have ear mites.”

“Oh, I don’t think so,” said the woman. “We put down any that have ear mites.”

My children’s eyes widened. They looked from me to the kitten in horror. It’s always the eyes that get me.

“We’ll take him,” I sighed.

He didn’t have ear mites but Virgil’s done more than his share of damage and had more than his share of trips to the vet. He gives new meaning to the word pest. He’s also funny and affectionate. Patch and the kids love him. So now, we have three cats, none of them white.

September 9, 1990

Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

The Only Diet That Works. Recycled Sundays.

scale-and-feet

Like many people, I spend much of my life concerned about dieting. Not actually dieting, mind you, just concerned about it.

The first stage is “awareness.” Or, I realized that the water in the bathtub rises to an unusually high level when I step in. I noticed that my pants are a little tighter. “Oh, these 100% cotton slacks always shrink,” I’ll rationalize. Tight polyester pants are a bit harder to excuse.

The second stage is “realizing that the weight isn’t going away on his own.” I haven’t lost as much weight as I thought suffering through camping and hiking season or starting a new exercise class. Even though I’ve substituted chocolate chip cookies for chocolate chocolate chip cookies, I’m still overweight.

The third stage is “doing a little something” such as drinking diet pop instead of regular with my family-sized pack of ripple chips or eating frozen low-fat yogurt instead of ice cream with my cheesecake.

The fourth stage is “denial.” Here I buy baggy clothes that deceive the eye, baggy sweaters, puffed blouses, and layered outfits. I compare myself, favorably of course, to heavier women even though they are becoming harder to find.

The sixth stage is “shock”. This is when something happens to bring all the other stages crashing down. It may be going up a size in clothing, weighing in at the doctor’s office, or having a child comment that I’m getting harder to hug.

The seventh stage is “actual dieting.”

I’ve tried various methods of dieting, most of which fail. The only thing that works is calorie counting combined with an increase in exercise (from none to some). Calorie counting is a lot like the old game show where people guess the price of certain items. I add, subtract, divide and estimate with the skill of an accountant in order to squeeze in one more snack.

Everything tastes great when I’m on a diet. The food has more texture and flavor then when I mindlessly stuffing myself. At least, that’s what I remind myself when I’m down to 47 cal left and it still for hours until bedtime. There have been occasions when I’m tempted to eat the calorie counting book, staples included.

One problem is that I really hate exercise, especially exercise that makes me SWEAT! Yuck!! I try to develop a few simple toning up movements to go along with my weight loss but it is difficult. You see, when I wake up, I’m too hungry to exercise. Then, I can’t do situps on a full stomach. During my busy day, I seldom have time to even think about exercising. Before I know it, it’s bedtime and I’m too exhausted to exercise.

Finally, I force myself to diet and exercise. I’m unable to decide what hurts more, my clenching, growling empty stomach or my aching, over-taxed muscles. I sleep a great deal and snap at my husband a lot, especially when he is wolfing down cheese.

Experts tell me that regular exercise will increase my energy level. I’d like to know in what decade I get the payoff.

Finally I become so worn down and frazzled that I get sick. Bingo! That’s the only time I don’t feel like eating. Before I know it, my appetite is shrinking and so is my weight. By the time I finished my second round of antibiotics, I’m thin again. It’s a tough price to pay, but it still beats dieting.

February 23, 1992

Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

Being Santa Isn’t Easy. Recycled Sundays.

christmas-presents

Although people often criticize the Santa Claus figure for intensifying the commercialism of Christmas, I enjoyed his special magic. I confess I was one of the greedy children who boldly listed numerous presents, numbered in order of desirability, with appropriate locations and prices. On Christmas, I tabulated the haul beside my stocking with my requests. It never matched, but I was thrilled that an enchanted immortal elf had come right into my small shabby house and left gifts of love for a little nobody like me.

Fortunately, my own children accepted my rules about Santa letters. Santa would fill their stockings and leave one special toy for each child. They could suggest one or two ideas, but it was up to Santa to decide. What? No list? Ah, but what a thrill knowing Santa might bring that extravagant toy advertised on Saturday morning cartoons, when Mom and Dad said it was too expensive. This put the jolly man in red on SUPERHERO status.

My children suspected that Santa did not have the same standards of “good” behaviour that Mom and Dad did. Didn’t the hair-puller up the street get an incredible Ghost Buster vehicle? Didn’t the manipulative girl from school get a Barbie bride doll? Santa obviously loved them in spite of their flaws and all these dire warnings about “watching out” and not crying or pouting were nothing but parental machinations.

Fuelling the legend did not come without its physical as well as financial price. Every year we would allow the children to stay up a little later for family carolling, the reading of THE NIGHT BEFORE CHRISTMAS, and a check with CBC radio on Santa’s progress. They’d set out the snacks for Santa and his reindeer. (Honest, honey, Santa doesn’t mind store-bought cookies.) Mom and Dad would watch a bit of television or read for a while, naively assuming that the children would fall asleep during this time, enabling Santa to make his visit.

Not that our children didn’t appreciate what their parents brought. I always planned a perfect balance of gifts, equal number and equal cost. Christmas Eve, I would slip them into their sacks (I may not be able to fly in a sleigh, but I can save a few trees). The sacks are numbered, each child receiving the same number, opening them in the same order, and each matching number containing a gift of similar value. (Santa would have ho ho hoed himself silly.)

Inevitably, I would discover one of my daughter’s gifts hadn’t arrived. I would try to rejuggle them into balance of number and quality. Sometimes, I gave up and slipped a few bucks in place of the missing gift. I’d pile them carefully under the tree, then realize my son was missing a package. I already gave a gift of clothing to him on the night of the Christmas concert because last year’s outfit was suddenly too small, even though it fit the week before. Then, I’d root through the packages in search of the money, renumbering and rejuggling. (Fortunately, I have mellowed over the years.)

Time to check the children. Like four blue spotlights, their eyes shone in the dark. “Is it morning?”

“How could it be morning? You haven’t gone to sleep yet!”

“It seems like a very long time.

Not as long as it was going to seem. Mom and Dad lay quietly in the dark, trying not to fall asleep and wake to the horror that Santa screwed up. Periodically, the toilet would flush, reminding us that little children awake past their bedtime have busy bladders. Eventually, we gave the big threat. “If you keep getting up, Santa won’t come. In a couple of hours, the sun will rise and he’ll have to head back to the North Pole without bringing your presents. Stay in bed with your door shut.”

Finally, Santa arrived. He dragged out all the presents that had been stashed in obscure places. He could have stored them in the bottom of their closets or under their beds and they never would have noticed amid all the refuse of Christmases past.

The stiff plastic bags sounded like gunshots going off in the night. To his surprise, many of the gifts still had price tags. Santa peeled and scratched, only to discover most have another price below. The tags stuck to his sleeves, his pants and the bottom of his big black boots.

He filled the stockings, then turned with a sigh. One looked fuller than the other. He knew that small gifts often cost more than large ones, but did the children? Of course, I didn’t mind if he used something from under the tree to help stuff the sock. He rooted through the sacks to find something that would fill out the smaller stocking, while I rejuggled all the presents again.

He sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle,
And away they all flew like the down of a thistle.
But I heard him exclaim, ere he drove out of sight,
“Happy Christmas to all, we finally got it right.”

December 1990.

                    

Click on the book cover for more information.

 

Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

Confessions of a Chocoholic (Recycled Sundays)

chocolate-lover

One of the things I love about kids is their unabashed honesty. One December, long ago, when my son was rifling through the Christmas Wish Book for the 800th time, my daughter asked him, “Is that all you ever think about…presents?”

“No,” replied my son. “I think about candy too.”

I must admit, we share this passion. While I have risen above candy bottle caps and dinosaur eggs, chocolate still has a vicious grip on my body.

We have a love-hate relationship, chocolate and I. I love the taste, hate the calories. Love the rush, hate the caffeine. Love the texture, hate the cramps. Love the variety, hate the headaches. Love the convenience, hate the price. Except at Easter.

Come spring the store shelves are filled with tinfoil encased Super Rabbits, hollow icing-smothered giant hens, and 50-pound bags of jellied eggs, all costing the same as an RV. But somehow, the cheap solid chocolate rabbit has survived.

Now I’m not talking exotic Swiss chocolate here. This is just one step up from last season’s chunk of chocolate that sits by the cash register in convenience stores and gets handled in passing by every money-short child. It didn’t matter though, it still gave me my chocolate kick.

There are certain times in my biorhythms when I craved chocolate like Santa craves milk and cookies. If I had to, I’d meet pockmarked men named Scud or Slash under damp bridges to buy it. I’d let the electrical bill go unpaid and sell my mother’s china. Combine this physical urge with a tough day and I’m one desperate consumer.

Some people come home after a tough day, fire up the sauna and mix a martini. I rifled through the cupboards, shoving aside unsalted nuts, yogurt-covered raisins and whole grain pretzels in search of the elusive chocolate bunny. With shaking hands, I peeled back the plastic and bit off his ears. I sighed with satisfaction, then chomped down. I picked up the cleaver and hacked his body into bite-sized pieces. On a really bad Friday, I’d run a damp finger along the bottom inside of the wrapper fishing for slivers.

Suffering from chocolate shakes, I’ve been known to dump half a bag of chocolate chips into two grilling pancakes. The rest of the chips, I mixed with ice cream.

Once I satisfied the compulsion and break the chocolate cycle, I avoided the stuff like a recovering addict. Generally someone showed up about this time with a gift of high quality chocolates. I was all right as long as I didn’t break the seal. Once that gold pull string tore through the plastic wrap, I was done for. The only thing worse than a chocolate bunny frenzy was a Nutcho pig out. The combination of chocolate and nuts was like gold and diamonds. Each complemented the other.

Now that I’m retired, I set up a plan to control my addiction and improved the quality of food I ingest. I try, as much as possible, not to have chocolate in the house. This will be my first Christmas without a pile of gifts from students, half usually chocolate.

Still, I can’t give it up completely. I put my husband in charge of my chocolate fix. I bought several dark chocolate bars and handed them over to him.

“Hide them,” I begged. “When I really need a fix, give me three or four squares.”

This worked really well, until he forgot where he hid them! That’s one way to get me to clean out the closets.

Silent Comix by Robbie Charters. Book Review.

Silent Comix was a neat idea – set of stories told entirely in pictures. This concept would be useful for working with people who have English as a second language. It might also generate sequential story-telling with younger children.
Unfortunately, I found the pictures difficult to understand. After discussing them with others, all but one incident was made clear. However, we agreed that the pictures were often too rushed, even messy, and difficult to discern.

There some clever and funny moments in the story and I believe the “text” has potential but the book needs easier to understand drawings.

Perhaps a second edition?

smilesmile

Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

Is Your Crafting Out of Control? Recycled Sundays.

9lvfvrj1rgPhoto by Markus Spiske

One of the signs of Christmas is the proliferation of craft sales. I have an ongoing love/hate affair with crafts, more captivated by traditional ones than modern kit or glue gun creations. To be fair, the latter may have something to do with all my burn scars.

I started young, caught up in the tacky fabrications of my generation. My grade school suffered from spooling fever. Even a few boys were caught up in the competition. We carried empty thread spools with four nails on the top, a nail, knitting needle or crochet hook, and a wad of scrap wool. By spool knitting, we created woollen tubes the thickness of our thumbs.

Over sticky lunch tables, we compared our multicoloured cords. One student, whose work was as long as the gymnasium floor, drew gasps of envious admiration. It wasn’t because these cords could be used to make something useful, like clothing or blankets. Though, the more ambitious of us actually sewed these into potholders, tea cozies and Max. More often than not, every item turned out looking like a woollen bowl. Most of them made their way to the landfill as we moved on to bottle caps.

Photo by Francesco Gallarotti

Before the age of canned pop, everyone had a wall-mounted bottle opener. Some had a container below to catch the caps. We washed the sticky caps, checked the liners for prize-winning words, and then nailed these caps in rows onto a piece of plywood. This was to be left outside the door as a boot scraper. I wondered what people could walk in the required such drastic wiping. I preferred stringing pop caps as arms and legs for marionettes. Either way, rust soon caused the extinction of bottle Crafts. Nature does know best.

The absolute worst item to collect had to be foil wrappers from cigarette packages. The boys peeled the foil off the paper backing and pressed it into a huge ball. Rumor had it that pure foil could be sold for a bundle of money if you collected enough. Not enough, though, to pay for new lungs.

The girls, more interested in tangible results, smoothed out paper-backed foil. It was rolled over a knitting needle from the widest side to the middle. Another knitting needle was rolled from the other side to the middle. The tinfoil was crunched up the needle to form an attractive crinkle. The needles were carefully removed and the paper was then curved into a loop, looking like a “silver flower petal.” It didn’t smell like one.

These petals were sewn singly on an oval of fabric, from the outside inward, in decreasing circles. This was set in the back of the automobile as a durable doily. The stench of cigarette wrappers still brings back memories of long car drives.

As I matured, I discovered the beauty of traditional crafts. There was a time when I crocheted everything, toys, clothes, handbags, Afghans, ornaments and dolls.

Sad to say, from there, I went onto macramé. Although I made more plant hangers than I ever had plants, I finally cured myself when I finished the obligatory owl perched on Driftwood. Those dead wooden bead eyes spoke volumes.

I have tried various other crafts, but always come back to needlework. I guess I feel a special kinship with my ancestors who sowed by firelight, creating their own interpretations of still life, landscape and home. There is something intrinsically rewarding about creating a picture without mechanization, no sewing machine, glue gun, drill or staple gun. There is also a special satisfaction in deviating from the pattern, altering the colors, picture or lettering to suit oneself. Best of all, is starting from scratch, designing an original pattern, knowing nowhere else on the planet is there a similar piece of work. There is nothing more fulfilling than creation.

Those of us who can’t walk by a scrap box, be it would, wall or junk, without examining the potential within our kindred spirits. You may feel you have your own “craft compulsion” well under control, having long ago abandoned spooling and bottle caps. If so, I dare you to answer yes or no to the following checklist. Tell me what your score was in the comments.

Are You a Craft Junkie? Quiz

Craft junkies constantly guess what percentage of an item is handmade, including body casts.

Craft junkies have more than one project on the go and seldom abandon one they have started, even if the oldest dates from Trudeaumania.

Craft junkies create from scratch when it would be cheaper to buy factory-mate.

Craft junkies judge their work by sale value, by resale value, by exchange value, but mostly by REAL value.

Craft junkies have difficulty throwing anything away, including old bras, paper cups, and used tinfoil.

Craft junkies take their wool very seriously.

Craft junkies have difficulty with advanced technology.

Craft junkies overreact to changes in color numbers or labels be it wool, embroidery floss, or thread.

Craft junkies constantly seek new patterns for items they have no time to make.

Craft junkies usually feel they are different than other artists/creators.

What was your score? Share in the comments below.

December 1993.

A gazillion FREE craft ideas for toddlers to teens

Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

New Release – Then the Tooth Fairy Won’t Come

tooth-fairy-cover

Click here to buy “Then the Tooth Fairy Won’t Come”

Timo wants to pull Dion’s loose tooth but his methods are pretty strange. Dion won’t let him touch it. All he can think of is how Timo’s crazy ideas will result in a lost tooth. Then the tooth fairy won’t come. Should Dion figure out how to get his tooth safely out or just let it be?

A funny, imaginative story with a subtle message of how worrying makes our fears grow.

Listen to the author read part of it on youtube

An Old Man’s Dirty Secret. Recycled Sundays.

 

One of the best things about summer holidays is doing family activities you don’t have time for during the school year. Somehow, between all the lessons, columns and school events, we seldom take advantage of the free library and Parks and Recreation programs.

We even less often have time for special open-host club events or visits to parks and museums. My kids now know that summertime means examining antique dental chairs, feeding snakes, listening to lectures on the Precambrian Shield, peering through telescopes, tasting wild plants, or hiking through ruins.

Imagine my daughter’s surprise when I asked her if she wanted to go to a Rock Show.

By the time we were heading down the driveway, she realized there would be no loud music or flashing lights at this Rock Show. Guns and Roses would not be playing. I guess I should have said Rock and Mineral Show.

Enthusiasm rose when we entered the West Arthur Community Center and saw the beautiful displays. There was enough glimmering jewelry available to keep any 13-year-old interested. The artisans presented creative blend of fanciful imagination and cold, hard rock. My son was drawn to the clear crystals made into pendants and purchased one similar to that which Vincent gave Catherine in Beauty and that Beast.

We were all captivated by the very elderly gentleman who had prepared a fascinating and informative display on fossils. He asked us if we would like to learn a little about and warned us not to suggest he’s been there during the Reformation. I glanced at his thin body, white hair, heavily-lined face, and smooth pink lashless eyelids and bit my tongue. He explained the air is involved during the formation of the plant and animal fossils. We were impressed with the discovery of a creature older than the dinosaurs hidden inside a dull looking rock.

Surreptitiously, the gentleman drew my husband aside. “I didn’t want to say anything in front of the lady and the young ones,” he stage whispered, “but do you know what this is?”

My husband bent to examine a blackened, round object the size of the cantaloupe. He could not identify it.

“It’s dinosaur dung,” exclaimed the gentleman gleefully.

I laughed and pulled both my wandering kids back. This would be better than seeing Guns and Roses any day. “Look, kids,” I said. “It’s fossilized dinosaur doo.”

The children examined it and then exchanged glances. At that moment a voice in the intercom announced that a talk on amethyst was beginning. We hurried off, forgetting about the dinosaur doo, for the moment.

On the way home, I asked everyone what they had liked best. We discussed the exhibits. Suddenly my son piped up. “I don’t believe that man about the fossils, though,” he said.

“Why not?”

“I think a dinosaur boob would be a lot bigger than that round black thing he showed us!”

A discussion of mammary glands and dinosaur food followed. My son laughed when he realized what the deposit really was. I asked my husband about his strange smile.

“I was just imagining if a dinosaur boob really existed.”

Rocks and Minerals for older kids site

Kids Dinosaurs site

Fossils for Kids

                    

Click on the book covers for more information.

Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

“But, Mom…” Recycled Sundays.

a-pretty-young-girl-brushing-her-teeth

Remember those patronizing books we used to receive as children about hygiene and manners. They often rhymed and had bland drawings of Dick and Jane types smiling and speaking “Oh so respectfully.” We knew they weren’t real people and would not model ourselves after their pablum personalities. We also suspected the kids on Father Knows Best were just in it for the money.

Today’s kids have the opposite, with Bart Simpson, Family Guy, South Park, and Robert Munch’s best seller about farts. The kids still know these people aren’t real, but model them anyway. I do admit that Bart Simpson didn’t invent, “I didn’t do it. It’s not my fault.” but he has certainly helped to perpetuate it.

That’s why it was so much fun to recommend Piggyback. The title is a double play on “piggyback.” In a clever and intriguing (Find Waldo technique), Browne shows us what happens to three chauvinist pigs, daddy and two sons, when mommy has had enough.

Appropriate behaviour in a pluralistic society, inundated by our corporate giant to the south, is harder and harder to pinpoint. It depends, of course, if you are talking to kids or adults. Adults tend to be more divided on the subject, although far too many agree on one thing. Whatever the neighbour’s kid does could be inappropriate, but whatever their kid does never is inappropriate.

All is not serious, though. Sometimes you just have to laugh at what kids think is normal. Here are some behaviours I have watched over the years.

1. When brushing your teeth, try to avoid making foam as much as possible. Take at least three minutes to get the paste on the brush. Whisk the brush over your teeth, contacting the enamel as little as possible. Be sure to spit the paste down the side of the sink to create glue-line streaks. Don’t worry if you accidentally drop some into the drain hole. It will eventually build up and create a block the size of the Hoover dam. (Of course, it would be easier to squeeze the paste directly from the tube into the sink, but not nearly as creative.)

2. Try to leave the bathroom without washing your hands. If you’re sent back, settle for second best and leave the tap dripping. Make sure it is the hot water.

3. If your mother forces you to wear a jacket to school when it is merely 5 degrees celsius, don’t argue. It makes a great first base.

4. If it moves, chase it. If it sits, collect it. Store it in an unlabelled box under your bed. No one will dare touch it.

5. Everything tastes better with whipped cream. Even a cookie.

6. Everything tastes better with a cherry. Even pop.

7. Everything tastes better with a straw. Even pudding.

8. If you can eat it with a straw, a cherry, and whipped cream, you should run for Prime Minister.

9. Girls are annoying and should be avoided at all costs. Mom is not a girl.

10. Live by the motto of Robert Benchley, who was a grown up, but understood children. “Anyone can do any amount of work, provided it isn’t the work he is supposed to be doing at that moment.” Stick to your Lego task, Sega challenge, or hockey card sorting if it takes all day, but sigh and groan if cleaning your room, doing your homework corrections, or writing a thank you note takes longer than a Canadian commercial break.

March 29, 2010

Click on the book covers for more information.
                                  

Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages