It Shouldn’t Be That Hard

Every year, kids go back to school  in September and every year, the dietitian/nutritionist guest appears on morning tv to help moms and dads with the onerous task of packing lunches for kids. And to create even more angst they turn it into a search for the new super foods that boost the immune system, that kids, gasp, like and most importantly are convenient. Before anyone clicks this off in disgust, I did work full-time and I did pack school lunches; that is, I packed them until the special orders got too “special.” The kind where ‘I want mustard, no lettuce. I want a little mustard and lettuce and mayo. Don’t cut the meat too thick. I don’t want an apple (insert fruit).’

In one of my many parenting fails, I said, “Fine. You pack your own lunches. THEN you positively will get exactly the food you want.”

My son was in grade two but turned out to be great at making a lunch and does it for his own kids now. My daughter was older and although she didn’t like making her lunch, she liked eating. Her lunches were pretty good, too.

The thing is lunches included a sandwich, a fruit, a snack of some kind (maybe another fruit), a cookie, etc. Nothing fancy. Every Sunday we had a “nice” meal of some kind, a roast beef, a pork roast, a roasted chicken. Then there was a healthy protein for sandwich filling. I confess to allowing little pudding cups and some other packaged “treats.” But the main course was the sandwich.

This sandwich is pretty upscale for what hit our school lunches but you get the idea…

Another closely related parenting fail. I sent roasted or fried chicken drumsticks to be eaten with nicely buttered bread. NO. The rule was that sandwiches were eaten first and so my poor kids had to eat the bread before they got to the chicken. I mention this so that no one thinks I’m preaching.


But lunches do not have to have dragon fruit, yogurt squishy tubes, or so many of the prepackaged things kids get. Some of the packaging is a challenge for me to open when a child asks for help. I’m encouraged when I see  some lunches that feature tupperware containers  packed with grapes, cherry tomatoes, or cucumber slices.

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Just a sample of fruits readily available- nature’s fast food.

I cringe when I see that the choices are gummies, packaged cookies, Lunchables (or their copy-cats.) The “pizza” you make yourself is horrifying. Once the package is opened, a grim, red sauce can be spread over a cracker-like bottom and cheese swept from the factory floor can be sprinkled on top. Kids like them ’cause they’re doing it themselves. Kids like doing stuff. Make them responsible for their own lunches. Let them learn to make a sandwich, wash and apple or some grapes. Let them take milk in a thermos and forget the chocolate choice.


Finally, a hummingbird

For years now, my husband and I have engaged in futile efforts to attract a humming- bird (or in fantasies) hummingbirds to the yard. There are trees around and every year I try to plant flowers that will attract the illusive little birds. This season it was some scarlet runner beans. They climbed up the metal trellis I put behind them and dutifully produced the red flowers. No hummingbirds.

We have had crows, magpies, and blue jays. They are large enough to escape the small hawks which have taken up residence in our neighbourhood. There were few songbirds because- hawks. They might prey on hummingbirds, we theorized. Despite years of failure, a feeder with a sugar solution (and no red dye to harm anything that showed up) was hung. It’s been a year for the wasps and they had no trouble feeding on the artificial nectar.

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If you look at the right “flower” you can see one of our regular visitors.

I gave up but Gary kept watching and hallelujah one morning, he saw an elusive visitor. He tried not to be disappointed because it was a lone, small hummingbird, a female. It was single and in fragile health he thought. Our hummingbird didn’t hover, but sat to feed. It wasn’t much bigger than the wasps but she wasn’t intimidated by them.

After observing her several times (me, even a couple), and consulting the “bird book” and Mr. Google, we determined that our little green bird was indeed, a female Calliope hummingbird. And here she is. I wish I could say the photo was mine but it isn’t. She is very dainty and soon will be headed south.


Again, thanks to google, I can tell you that she is, weighing about as much as a ping-pong ball, the smallest, long-distance migratory bird in the world. Calliope humming-birds winter in Mexico and then in spring fly up the Pacific Coast. Our little girl is out of her range since we are farther east than this hummingbird species is usually found; Calliope hummingbirds are more likely to summer in BC. Soon she will make her way back along the Rockies to Mexico, a round-trip of 5,000 miles.

Calliopes are feisty little birds and have been seen chasing red-tail hawks. We will be looking anxiously next spring for the return of our little hummingbird. Surely she is not an anomaly; surely she will bring a mate and maybe friends.


Asperger’s Children by Edith Sheffer

Asperger’s Children traces as the subtitle says, The Origins of Autism in Nazi Vienna.

Today one in sixty-eight children is diagnosed with autism. The term was introduced in 1911 by Eugene Bleuler, a Swiss psychiatrist but the “father” of autism was Hans Asperger, a Nazi psychiatrist from Vienna. Austria initially embraced the Third Reich and its goal of transforming human behaviour. Some people would be transformed and others eliminated.

The Final Solution and resulting Holocaust are well known. What isn’t nearly as well known is the program to euthanize children who wouldn’t be useful to the Nazi machine. The disabled, the paralyzed, the slow thinkers, the bed wetters, the harelips, the epileptics, the ineducable, the unable to work were all categories of children to get rid of. They had to connect to the “collective” of National Socialism. If they weren’t useful to the regime in some way, it was deemed best to remove their burden on society.

Aperger’s Children is Edith Sheffers’ history of autism and how it was a creation of Dr. Hans Asperger to describe children who had trouble making eye contact, making friends, and with social contact. Before the Nazis came to Vienna, he worked with children he called autistic pychopaths and tried to help them. As Austria was absorbed into the Nazi expansion, he was drawn in to the euthanasia for “useless” (my term) children. Reputable Jewish psychiatrists left Vienna, as did others who felt threatened. Asperger stayed and over the war years, he published and refined his defintion and diagnosis of autism. In the beginning, he seemed more humane and involved in trying to help children. Besides the obvious categories listed above, rebellious children, those who defied parents, or were viewed as an expense were referred to him and others like him. Arbitrarily. children as old as 16 were evaluated as salvageable or sent to Pavilion 17 in Spiegelgrund, a clinic for problem youth. Many children entered Pavilion 17 healthy and left in a death cart. Some were subjected to medical experiments; all were mistreated, even tortured.

Dr. Hans Asperger was a part of this killing program. He didn’t directly administer needles or perform experimental surgeries but he did diagnose and send children to Pavilion 17. He was well aware of their fate and as the war progressed, he tailored his papers and lectures to reflect Nazi policies more and more. One thing he never did was join the Nazi party although he did join several organizations affiliated with it. He was a Catholic and these two things saved him when the Allies arrived.

Only three of the doctors involved in the death program in Spiegelgrund were prosecuted for their part in euthanizing children. They received short sentences they didn’t fully serve. Other doctors, nurses and workers had a similar fate and after the war were back working in children’s clinics.

Dr. Hans Asperger continused as a psychiatrist and held several chairs and leading positions at universities. He didn’t pursue his autism work but went on to different interests. It was in 1981, that Lorna Wing, a leading British psychiatrist, discovered his 1944 thesis and from it came the description and designation of Asperger’s syndrome. She was fascinated by his patients’ symptoms and how they were related to Gemut (a German term referring to an individual’s connection to the collective, almost like a soul, and very much the social aspect of a person.)

In the 1990’s the autism idea took off. The diagnosis could be low-functioning, medium-functioning, or high functioning. The scary thing is that the diagnosis began with Asperger’s work in Nazi Vienna. It wasn’t well-documented, the number of patients he examined was low, and his research flimsy. Yet, today, children are treated using his ideas of what may be wrong with them.

This was a difficult post to write. The work at Spiegelgrund was so horrifying and Asperger ended up with his name attached to the condition he used to send children to their deaths. Asperger’s Children is a difficult book to read; I could only handle a chapter at a time. It is an important book, though, and one that is well worth biting your lip and getting through.


Apple Pie Procrastination

There are two apple trees in our yard; they are mature and produce lots of apples high up in the branches. If this was a normal year, the fruit on the far tree would be just ready. This wasn’t a normal year and the apples are scarred from hail and were ready way sooner than most years. I managed, with a bit of a threat to life and limb, to pick enough for, get this, one pie. I knew I wanted to make some pies; I freeze them and if there is a special occasion or if it’s a nasty winter day, I’ll pull one out and voila! a treat. I did procrastinate just a little and when I went to pick the apples, a lot had already dropped. The ones left were hard to reach and as I said, scarred and overripe. I made a pie anyway and it’s in the freezer.


And here it is. I channeled my mom just a little. Any time she made a pie, the extra bit of pastry was turned into a little bit of art, usually mimicking a poinsettia. So there it is- I cheated and used a cookie cutter but there is a decoration on this single pie from this year’s apples.

There were a few left over so I googled a recipe and made an apple-cheddar loaf. Canadian Living has the best recipes that taste good, aren’t crazy to make, and turn out. The loaf was pronounced pretty good, and “I may have a slice of that for breakfast.” The husband isn’t good with new flavours. I’m not suggesting that there is anything unique or unusual about the loaf but it does taste good.


And here it is, under wraps because I tried a slice before I remembered to take a picture. If you want to try the loaf, click here for the  recipe.

I realize it is the May Long Weekend…sigh. We aren’t doing anything and for the people camping, it isn’t the best of weather. Weather didn’t used to stop us. Before retirement, it was the last hurrah of summer. If like me, you’re home this long weekend, get your apples while you can. Pies and apple bread.


I’m not ready…

I’m not ready for fall, mentally, physically or spiritually. And here it is with  no transition and if you can believe the forecast no reprieve in sight. Not that the weather is awful; it’s just cool and cloudy with some showers and not like summer at all.

My flowers knew before I did or before I would acknowledge fall’s imminent arrival. The blooms are smaller, there are brown leaves and the stalks are spindly and long as though they are trying to escape the inevitable. I feel their struggle. I can water (I do), I can deadhead and I can fertilize but the hard fact remains, they are winding down. If they are annuals, they face death and if they’re perennial, they are gearing down for the coming cold. It is has already snowed west of Calgary.

Leaves on Manitoba maples and domestic poplars are turning yellow. Some of the shrubs have red leaves. The apples are reining down from our old trees with startling abundance. Even the bumper crop of zucchini I expected has stalled. It’s only August 30 and fall is here.

Our camper has been winterized and put away for the season. I even, gasp, cleaned a linen cupboard and cleared clutter and worn sheets. The triage was long overdue.

Two mornings ago, I wore my mini-gloves on the dogs’ walk and I was glad to have them. I have forsaken my flip-flops for new sneakers and people, I have warm feet but in the morning coolness, it’s better to have conventional socks and shoes.

Geese are gathering and flocking. They haven’t left yet but it won’t be long. Other birds are collecting in groups; enough sit on the power lines to remind me of the old Hitchcock film, The Birds. I have heard sand hill cranes calling overhead and they are flying in formation, too.

School will soon be back in. Teachers have met and are preparing. Today I booked a couple of subbing jobs. Back-to-school supplies are actually being purchased and new outfits added to student wardrobes. The Labour Day weekend starts Saturday and it looks to be cool. No pretending summer is lingering. I have to face it; summer is over.

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You can see the trees turning and the longer shadows, even though it was nearly 11:00 AM.

The Little Hazard Golf Course

The Capt. Ayre Lake website lists, as one of its amenities, a “rugged golf course.” What it doesn’t do is explain that the course is a challenging nine holes carved out of the dry, tough grass and cactus covered prairie. Bushes and stunted trees abound and from hole 3 there is a nice view of a pristine pond and beaver dam. The fairways are so hard this time of year, that even a moderately hit hay burner bounces and rolls, well, a country mile. The greens, themselves, are sand greens hieing back to a simpler time when small town golf courses used oiled sand as greens. Players were responsible for raking and smoothing the green after putting so that the next group had a good surface, too.

The best part, to my parsimonious heart? The green fees were $3 for the nine holes. You do get your three dollars worth. In three rounds my golfing partner and I managed to lose a ball down the middle of the fairway. We looked and looked and finally concluded, improbably, that it had gone down a gopher hole. I spent some time looking for balls I’d whacked into the bush. My partner found seven that were not mine in the trees at the side of one insanely narrow approach to the green. Numerous tees snapped off in the hard ground. Wasps buzzed around threatening to spoil yet another great drive. One of my shots went into a steep little ravine populated by dry, thorny plants. I almost fell retrieving the ball. Putts were demanding. The sand on the greens is no longer oiled or even worked up. Your shot just bounces along and depends on luck.

Despite its obvious opportunity for frustrations, the course offered some definite advantages. We were the only players. There was no course marshal to hurry you along, no impatient players hoping to play through as we hopeless duffers searched for yet another lost ball. It was like a chance to commune with nature. Butterflies and birds. A flash to the past with its outhouses, where  pulling down the toilet tissue in one brought out a promethea moth which, unused to daytime activity, fluttered away in confusion. A good drive or putt seemed especially rewarding considering the challenges.

It seems you don’t need to be at Pebble Beach or one of the Trump (perish the thought) courses to enjoy a round with the clubs. If you want to have fun, you will and the Little Hazard Golf Course provided it in abundance.

Capt. Ayre Lake- cool, clean water and a great sandy bottom.
Promethea moth- there are 13,000 species.

Calm down, you’ll live

Everyday frustrations affect us all. They are not life-threatening crises. As an example at our house tonight, gasp…the barbeque basting brush was missing. Drawers slammed, their contents clanging around amid a certain amount of cursing.  Then after two people (me and my retired husband) searched, it showed up in the dishwasher. No one had lost/hidden/wrecked it although someone was suspected.

During the search, it was discovered that the dishwasher, although loaded, had not been turned on a noon. Is this a crisis? No. We ate with the swish-swash of the dishwasher in the background and so far, neither of us (or the two resident dogs) have suffered indigestion, although the evening is early.

Wasps this year are numerous and aggressive. They have been truly enjoying the hummingbird feeder and the nectar we have been trying to lure actual hummingbirds with. The man of the house has hunted for nests to no avail. While deadheading petunias (I did have a beer with me and wasps enjoy beer almost as much as the sugar high they get from the feeder), I discovered their secret. They have a nest and there’s no telling how big it is. It is in our foundation which they have accessed through a tiny crack in a corner of our front steps and the house. I didn’t get stung this time but I did when I disturbed a smaller nest in the backyard while weeding. Our young dog nursed a wasp bite on her right paw for a morning. The wasps are nasty. We are going to spray the opening to which could be the mother of all wasp nests. It’s a contact poison so it could involve a few “treatments.”

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Photo by Pixabay on

Who knew gardening could be so dangerous? But stay calm, we’ll live.