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Spring = Pussywillows

April 8, 2014

Spring doesn’t photograph well at this latitude. Because it looks just the same as winter.
It feels different, but it looks just the same. The sun setting on an March day in the Edmonton River Valley:
Until this happens:

Pussywillows! Every year I snip a bouquet. Every year, my feet get soaked getting to them.

Dogwood Dogwood


House of Flurfel

Spring Break and the Voices in my Head:

April 3, 2014

There are some angel voices that I can tune into when I need them:  one is my beautifully accented yoga teacher saying, “Marlene, you are doing soooooar awehersome.” Another I’ve been summoning to get me through spring break with the kids:
We were at the City Hall, once upon a time, picking up a communities in bloom award for the community garden: so you’d think I’d be feeling all smug and self-righteous or something, but I’d just made my small children last through a lot of polite sitting and polite clapping and polite speeches about… I don’t remember. I remember the sound of their young, shrill voices bouncing through the glass pyramids, I remember the swivel of heads when my kids made noise at inappropriate moments (psssst… all the moments were inappropriate) and I remember the librarian-like frowns that the sudden and unpredictable movements they made were garnering from the crowd we were standing out in (pssst… all my children’s movements are sudden and unpredictable). Someone had given them plastic promotional toys, produced in China, that said something about conserving energy or some such, and they span around delightfully when you tossed them into the air on their way to quickly breaking and becoming trash.

“These are outside toys,” I insisted, but their counter-argument was to simply to take turns dashing under chairs and tables then throwing their spinners gleefully up into the glassy peaks while I wrestled the toy away from their sibling. By the time I had them all gathered up, children and toys, I was mortified and entirely certain that everyone was staring at me and wondering why my kids weren’t behaving like they do at the end of Nanny 911 episodes after they’ve been wisely bribed and properly threatened and smartly edited. I wanted out of that scene and into the open air. If I could just get from point A to point B without knocking over any displays about sustainability…
I was herding them through the gloom and the dour when an elderly man across the hall waved to me and made the international sign for “I need to tell you something.” I signaled back with the international sign for, “I’d love to hear you out but, gosh, we’re in a rush,” and he signaled back, “Don’t be silly, wait right there, I’m coming over now.” He must have been at least in his late nineties, and very slow to drag himself over after his walker, foot by foot across the vastness of City Hall. I considered dashing away, but my children’s habit of proceeding through a building in an… unlinear way made us even slower then the gentlemen. I braced myself for his arrival and the dispensing of his wisdom. I was pretty sure it would be something along the lines of, “Your children hurt my hearing aides,” or, “When we did things properly women just stayed home so children didn’t bother anyone,” or perhaps, “Ma’am, your children are bad because you aren’t even trying.  You should try.” Oooooooh, that’s the worst. That really gets me. But he didn’t say that.

What he said, when he finally inched his way across the tiled floor, beckoned me closer with a bony, age-spotted finger, and held me with his glittering eye, leaning over his walker to speak, was:
“You want them lively like that. The ones that are dull in the eyes are no good.”

Remember that, now: You want ‘em lively like that. The ones that are dull in the eyes are no good. 

Happy spring!

This video combines two of my favourite things:

April 1, 2014

Deconstructing stock photo images and satire.

Year of the Horse, Of Course

January 31, 2014

Happy Lunar New Year. Predictions for the Chinese New Year promise a fast 364 at full-gallop, tail and mane aloft in a rush of speed. One of the reasons I adore Chinese New Year is because I’m slow. Or at least I’m aiming for slow. It’s a process, really, not something I could reasonably say I’ve achieved. In any case it takes a while after Jan 1st for me to reflect and ponder the whole “New Year” thing and by the time Chinese New Year rolls around I’m more or less ready with resolutions and resolves. Also, animal metaphors just work for me. They’re more meaningful than numbers. This year, the year of the horse, I’m focusing on the value of process over product. This year, I’m focusing on mindful. This year, I’m focusing on slooooooow. Or, I should say, doing things at the right speed, which is sometimes fast and sometimes slow.


Click for printable colouring page if you happen to know someone who would like to colour a horse decorated with sea shells and dolphins.

Good-bye Year of the Dragon (2013). I very much enjoyed reading Cressida Cowell’s fantastic “How to Train Your Dragon” series to the kids — wonderful books. I very much appreciate all the beautiful flying creatures my kids have drawn for me this year, all the imaginary dragon’s eggs that have been sat on and hatched in forts and nests in my home this year, and the many conversations about the merits of, say, flame power vs. water power in respect to the fighting strength of dragons. The House of Flurfel has been full of dragons in 2013.

This winter in 2013  our baby turned 4, thus making us a baby-free household by this important standard:


If you aren’t familiar with this “no unhappy babies” symbol, it is on almost everything ever manufactured on this great Earth from toys to bicycles to pajamas to instruct watchful parents to keep said manufactured good away from their babies, lest the baby try to swallow the product whole, thus making the baby unhappy, possibly to the point of death. It seems to me that our world, albeit filled with dragons, became quite a bit calmer and less stressful as soon as those “no 0-3 warnings” became inapplicable to us. It seems to me that life is markedly easier when you don’t have to worry about someone swallowing your bicycle. Or lego. Or pebbles on the beach.

I have become three things in the year 2013 that I was not in the year 2012: An Ashtanga yoga do-er, a ukulele player, and a university instructor. I love all of these things, they have each transformed me, and it’s difficult for me to imagine myself without them now. Funny how that goes. A lot can happen in a year, day by day, increment by increment. Here’s to process; it’s a beautiful thing.

I am converting the room that was our nursery into office space. I’m taking it slow — first I repaired the drywall where the nursing rocker knocked so many little dents into the plaster. Now I’m painting over the “night fury” dragon that someone sketched on the wall with a Sharpie marker. It will take at least one more coat. Goodbye year of the Dragon. Hello year of the Horse. Horses run. Horses work hard when it’s time to work hard. Horses know how to lean into a job. Horses know how to enjoy a meadow full of flowers.

Dragons are lovely with their flight, their sheen, their speed and their tempers, especially when they’ve been tamed. I’m all for the Year of the Horse though. Horses don’t just gallop. They walk, trot, and canter too. They go the right speed.

Some mantras for Marlene:  “This will take as long as it takes.” “We will get there when we get there.” “Breathe.” “Why does everyone get to go to Mexico except for me?” Oh wait, not that last one.

Here’s to ploddingness! Here’s to sniffing roses and munching on daisies! Here’s to things taking a while to sink in and to getting them just right! Here’s to process!  Here’s to change! Happy Lunar New Year.


Reasons to Bike Commute in YEG

November 27, 2013

Partly in response to’s 10 Things I Want my Daughter to Know about Working Out…

Reasons to bike commute to work in Edmonton in November/December/January/February/March:

And the kids are watching my every move…


High Tea at Four for four who are Fours

November 23, 2013

Today, to celebrate Josephine’s 4th birthday, we served high tea to four four-year olds at four p.m. (approximately)


I put on heels and pearls; Papa Flurfel put on a suit jacket and tie. We got the good tea cups out and the girls found a spot for each of Grandma’s lace doilies.

The little ones were totally freaked out by all the formality of being served by grown-ups. “What’s the catch?” they seemed to wonder. They each asked to have their clementines peeled and then we didn’t make them eat their clementines. No catch. There were some spills especially  trying to master the pinky-in-the-air tea-cup hold. One asked to be excused from the table almost immediately. I told her she needed to eat a cupcake first.

My favourite moment by far:  when I set down the creamer set, each one took a sip of milk from the creamer, and tasted a spoonful of sugar from the sugar dish, and then passed it on politely to the next person to do the same.

… is all we need.

November 18, 2013

I was marking papers at the kitchen table the other day when the boy came barging in and emphatically said:

“Mommy. All we need is a jar and a string.”

And I responded, “But, Oliver, I thought all we needed was love.”

And he was so disgusted and confused and annoyed that I would say such a simple-minded, puzzlingly daft thing to him when he was clearly on a very important quest – on the verge of something big.

“No, Mommy!” he cried, throwing his hands up in the air. “Why would you say something so ridiculous? We don’t need love. Love? We have that. All the time. 100 percent infinity love. What we need is a string and a jar.”

Oh. My. Heart.

I sure do love my kids and I sure am enjoying leaning into a new career. It’s a lot in the air, though, all the time, and it’s terribly easy for me to worry that I’m being pulled so far in every direction that I’m doing a horrible job of everything important, and only a passable job of  the things aren’t. I’ve got quite a bit of evidence amassed, actually, to support this claim; I’ve noticed, for example, that other preschoolers appear to have their hair combed, at least at the start of the day, and… well…I could go on. But… clearly… I am not failing in every way. At least I am keeping that love bucket full up and that is a big, important thing to do. I also have a stash of clean jars and some bits of saved string here and there.

Parents: can you think of one awesome thing to say about yourself as a parent? If not, please ask your kids for help with this.

House of Flurfel


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