Sunday, March 30, 2008

Locked out - What do we do??

According to Wikipedia "A library is a collection of information, sources, resources, and services: it is organized for use and maintained by a public body, an institution, or a private individual. In the more traditional sense, a library is a collection of books."

This is something I think we all know. Something else we all know is that this is place of knowledge, of learning, of fun. I grew up visiting the library to research school projects, to find that next crime thriller in the series that had enthralled me for so long or just to hang out with my friends and not be lying to my mother - "no Mom, I really was at the library".

As I got older, got my own job and was responsible for paying rent and bills, I discovered that money for books to read for enjoyment was a little further down on the priority list than I would perhaps like. But what's that? Oh, the library! Of course. Off I would trudge with my backpack and take out as many books as I could carry. This number was usually far lower than the number I was allowed to take, but short of buying myself a donkey to cart all those books around on, a backpack full was all I could manage. The library was a small piece of sanity in my hectic world, somewhere I could escape to and leave the world behind. To be able to escape into the world of the Swiss Family Robinson or to experience the heartbreak of Anne Frank, is something that I hold near and dear to my heart. Just being able to sit and read a newspaper in the relative quiet of the stacks was an experience that many in this world never get to experience.

While the library is still all that and more, now that I have my own children, I see other facets to the institution. Now when I visit, I see parents and caregivers sharing the joy of the books with the children in their charge. The expressions on the faces of those children as they read about the life of the mouse under the stairs and how he escapes from the big black cat. The giggles you hear ripple through the kid's area as they hear about Walter the Farting dog. Story time for the kids introduces them to the wonders that await them through their lives and the explorations they can embark on as they wander the world of the library.

All of this, and so much more, is why the last weeks and months have been so horrible in the world of Victoria BC book lovers.

We are locked out of our libraries!!

In September of 2007, the union workers that staff our libraries in Greater Victoria went on strike. They are seeking pay equity and getting nowhere. The last pay equity agreement was reached in 1992 and was intended as a way to end gender based pay scales. So why, 15 years later, were the Labour Relations Association and Libraries Board so unwilling to bend that our library workers felt the need to strike? This is an answer we are still waiting for.

Over the months between September and February, the union continued to strike but the libraries remained open with minimal services. The lack of internet service a concern to a small few. The inability to pay fines not a big worry. But, the Library Board and LRA, in all its infinite wisdom felt that they were losing inordinate amounts of money and as a result, a lockout was surely a better solution.

February 18, 2008 - All the library workers, and the library patrons were locked out indefinitely with no whispers of negotiations.

As a result, I have gone from almost daily visits to the library with my children to nothing. Numerous times I have tried to explain the situation to them but at the ages of 3 and 5, how do you explain something so complex that many adults cannot understand it? How do you help change the injustice that is being done?

Not only have the workers been locked out, and are therefore losing wages and salaries that inevitably support their own families, but the people like me, who frequent the library, have also been locked out. As taxpayers, this is our library too. There has been much discussion surrounding this on a local forum of mine (KidsInVictoria) with many of us wondering how we could help. How can we get our point across to the negotiators, to the people who make these big decisions? How do we make them understand what an impact they are having on the lives of the children, of the students, the elderly and the shut ins?

A couple of local mommas who will forever be heroes in my mind, staged a "story time sit in" at the GVLRA offices. Had my children not been sick, I would have attended myself.

I have come to realise over the last months that we take our library privileges for granted. Today while reading a post From the Pear, it struck me as funny that she was raving about how great the library was and the tongue in cheek shock of not being arrested for leaving the library with books that cost so much. It also made me incredibly sad to think that it could be months before my children see the inside of a library again. Every day I hope that our union and our GVLRA will be able to reach an agreement, but at the same time I need to be realistic and understand how hard those negotiations can be.

Here's something special for you though - we now hold the distinction of being the only city in all of North America to ever be locked out of our libraries. Yay??

Stay tuned!

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Friday, March 28, 2008

Adventures in Haircutting!

When my daughter was a baby, she was bald. When she was two, she was still bald. This used to upset me beyond belief as I encountered person upon person who would look at my beautiful daughter, dressed head to toe in pink and ask "How old is your little boy?" Are you freaking kidding me?!? Ok, fine, she's bald. I can get past this.

Thankfully at the age of almost 6, she is no longer bald. In fact over the last few years she has grown a lot of hair and, just as I do with my own hair, when it reaches a certain length I decide it must be culled. After all, who really needs all that hair right?

(A before shot)

Last week was one of these instances. After what seemed like the millionth time fighting with Ash to brush her hair and not have her scream blue murder as I hit tangle after tangle, I pronounced it hair cutting time. This was met with a mixture of crocodile tears, door slamming, huge sighs and finally sulky resignation - and we headed off to the salon.

Being a somewhat lower income family, I was not about to take her to a froo-froo salon where they would wash her hair with lilac smelling shampoo, condition it with eau-de-dove and fan her hair dry with palm fronds. No sir, not me. Off we went to the budget salon where you can get a shampoo, cut and blow dry for $10. Having been met at the desk by an unhappy looking woman who had likely been on her feet for all of 2 hours, Ash was planted firmly on her behind, head cranked back to get scrubbed. Shampoo done? Excellent, slap her on her backside in a chair and manhandle her head to facilitate a cut.

Now, I am sure that there are many children who cannot sit still in a hair dresser's chair for the love of all that is holy, but Ash is not one of these children. Because of this fact, I was positive that this cut would go smoothly and she would look lovely. The instructions given to the hairdresser - "Right now, her hair is between her shoulder blades. I'd like about 2 1/2 inches taken off so that it sits just on, or just past, her shoulders." Simple!

10 minutes later (yes, that should have been my first clue), she was pronounced done, "$9.40 please" and I was dumbfounded! How on earth could "just on or just past the shoulders" be misinterpreted so badly as to mean "just at her chin line". That's a whole extra 2 inches! As I quietly seethed inside, I paid the money and off we went.

By the time we got home, I was livid but not quite sure what to do. I'm sure it's incredibly hard to glue hair back on and while she may sit still for a hair cut, I was positive she would not for a glue job. Turns out that in the hurried chop, this cut was also very much angled to the right and very uneven.

Despite the protests of Hotty Hubby, and the voice of my mother in the back of my head (that's where I keep her), I seethed about this internally for the next two days before taking action. Then, in a fit of boldness I marched myself in there to tell the offending person how unhappy I was. Imagine my distress when she said "Oh, sorry" and turned and walked away.

Many of you don't know me personally but if you did, you would know that walking away from me when I'm unhappy about something is a sure fire way to get yourself swallowed into a firey ball of rage. Thankfully this is where the manager, sensing my wrath, stepped in to the rescue. She apologized profusely, personally fixed the cut and even glued the hair back on. Alright, she fixed it.

To be honest, I think the cut quite suits Ash and while it's not what I asked for, it is easy maintained and managed. But I can tell you this much, I won't be returning there.

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Thursday, March 27, 2008

Al-Qaida's got nothing on schools!!

A new form of torture has recently been employed in the house of the Mad Woman. Unfortunately it was inflicted on me. Cold water baths, electrocution, nail pulling and whippings have nothing on the pain that is (dum dum DUM!) Spring Break. Now, don't get all giddy and start picture hot young things in bikinis and swim shorts all drunk and cavorting in Florida. This is elementary school.

Thanks to the poor timing of Easter this year, it coincided horribly with Spring Break and this added extra days to the already dreaded timespan that many of the parents were looking at with trepidation. What on earth would we all do with our spawn home for so long? Is this a test to see if we have any hope of surviving Summer Vacation? If so, many of us failed miserably.

Ash's school was out from the 15th until today. That, for all you budding mathematicians out there, is 12 days. Twelve days of two children under the age of 6 thundering around my house, jumping on my bed at unholy hours of the morning (think 8am) and doing their level best to kill each other in the most creative ways possible. For the first six days I would jump to rescue whichever child was struggling the most and throw the offending party out the top floor window with instructions to "get out and stay out". Once day 7 hit however, all bets were off. You hooligans want to kill each other? Have at it!

This statement was taken far more literally than I had originally anticipated and I would find 40 lbs of son hurtling down the stairs at high speed, while his big sister stood at the top and giggled to herself maniacally. On the flip side, once the son had recovered from his flight, he took great delight in planting himself on top of his sister's chest and using his knees to choke her. All the while, I laid blissfully on the couch reading my book and hoped that they could at least do me the honour of hurting each other equally so I didn't have to hear any "She got more than I did!" comments.

I had hoped that with the arrival of Spring Break, so would arrive the miracle of children sleeping in past 8am. Wishful thinking at its best. For the first week, both of my hellions took great delight in waking up somewhere between 6am and 7:30am. After crawling out of bed, they would join forces and take turns coming into our room to do the creepy-inches-from-your-face-stare-til-you-wake-up thing that they are busily perfecting. Thankfully, I am a fan of the electronic babysitter and am confident that their rooms are both stocked with books and toys and would send them back to their rooms until I decided it was time to drag my ass out of bed.

Sadly, over the last few day, they have decided that sleeping in isn't so bad after all. This poses great problems on the morning they are meant to return to school. As if it wasn't hard enough for me to get out of bed, it was like struggling to get a cat into a bath when I tried to get Ash out of bed for school. And this is the final act of torture inflicted upon us by our schools. Its almost as if the administrators sit around and plot all this.

Now if I could just escape the other new torture known as housecleaning, I'd be free as a bird.

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Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Obama Billboards - in Canada????

I found this post by Darren Barefoot quite interesting and thought provoking. Seems that a couple of pro-Obama billboards have been erected at the side of the Pat Bay Highway here in Victoria. Darren's post has sparked a bit of discussion and I thought I'd share it with all of you and gather some more thoughts.

As I commented on his blog, " I find it interesting that they have erected these boards here, and I question the rationale behind pro-Obama vs pro-Hillary billboards.

We do have many American visitors here but as one of the previous commentors stated, with so many avenues to get into Victoria, how likely are they to be seen by those tourists?

Perhaps this is more in the interests of sparking debate and having our citizens spread the word. I imagine we will never know the real reason, though I do quite like the boards."

What do you think?

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Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Over Consumption at its Best

Of all of the over-commercialized holidays that we are subjected to these days, Easter was just the most recent to hit us smack dab in the middle of the forehead. No sooner had Christmas ended than we were seeing merchandise for Valentine's Day, St. Patrick's Day and Easter flooding the shelves. At the same time!

Did this observation of mine stop me and my family from indulging in the latest gorge fest? Hell No!!

Having stocked up on exorbitant amounts of mini, foil wrapped chocolate eggs and purchased a couple of solid chocolate rabbits for the kids, Easter was under way. The 2 weeks leading up to Easter were filled with idle threats of making phone calls to the Bunny himself, informing him of the heinous behaviour taking place in our home. The same thing happens at Christmas, with Hotty Hubby and I taking turns using the big fat man as a tool to scare our spawn into submission. Sadly, I think the elder of the two is slowly catching on and merely looks at us while thinking to herself that she surely has the two stupidest parents on the face of the earth. I suppose she's probably right. Why else would Hotty Hubby and I stay up til almost 2am on the night before these big days wrapping presents and hiding Easter Eggs?

Eggs hidden, chocolate rabbits vetted for no breaks in the wrappers, and we collapse into bed for a short few hours of sleep. As the sun rose and the sound of rain pelting our windows intruded on our sleep, I opened my eyes to find the eldest hellion a mere inches from my face just staring at me. Silent. This is becoming a bit of an annoying habit of hers that I seem to be at somewhat of a loss to break. I mean, it's just plain creepy. A quick growl and threat of no chocolate for life, and she disappears back to her room to play Hannah Montana at full volume. You have no idea how fantastic that is in the early morning.

Somewhere around noon, it is decided by someone that we should likely be fulfilling our parental obligations (where is this contract they keep drawing this stuff from) and feed the children. However, all thoughts of boring cereal are put aside as they thunder down the stairs and begin to spot the foil wrapped cavities not so stealthily hidden around the living room.

(I've come to the conclusion that in order to have a full blown, effective, and headache inducing easter egg hunt you must live in a house considerably bigger than ours. )

I'm sure that many of you can imagine what H.H and I were subjected to for the rest of the day after each child consumed an 8 inch solid chocolate rabbit in record time. Sugar high --> hyperness --> sugar crash --> crankiness times 100.

By the time midnight rolled around, we were far too tired to even contemplating spooning. Perhaps a better use for the spoon would have been to dig our eyes out, but we were too tired for even that.

Since then, we have all been consuming crazy amounts of sugar and enjoying every minute of it. I'm sure it does nothing for my adventures in weightloss, but I have to give the Bunny his due - he gives us a perfect excuse to gorge ourselves.

Now if I could just figure out where to find more will power to combat this new addiction, we'd be set.

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