Autonomous Source


November 07, 2007


I remember telling myself a few months ago that I'd soon have to stop displaying my children on the internet for the amusement of others. They're getting older now, and they may find some photos embarrassing when they become aware of them. But I think for the most part I've been sensitive to this possibility, and have been considerate of their dignity. Until now, that is:

Max and Talia are dancing to Feist's Leisure Suite. Note how Max is into the music, and Talia is into the camera. Forgive me kids, I just couldn't resist...

November 02, 2007


A shiny Autonomous Source no-prize to the first reader that identifies the animated cartoon franchise depicted by the odd shapes of these tasteless noodles:

The slices of hot dogs were my own addition. Sometimes I can lead our children on quite the culinary adventure.

UPDATE: We have a winner! The correct answer of Scooby Doo was given by dmorris. Besides the everlasting pride, he wins a coveted Autonomous Source no-prize which is not on its way to him right now!

October 31, 2007

Possessed by the spirit of Martha Stewart

Halloween is a spooky time. And nothing could be spookier than having your body controlled by a woman that makes simple things complicated, then claims they're 'Simple'. I spent hours on Max's costume, and paid at least $20 in supplies. That eerie presence inside me -- I can't explain the feeling! I feel so used.

But it was worth it, I guess. No one could say he doesn't look exactly like what he asked for. A better furnace costume has never been made.

Mama had an easier time with Talia's costume. Fairy Princess hand-me-downs from a friend -- done! Next year I'm taking the easy route too. Over-sized Spiderman pajamas over a parka, plastic mask -- good! That's it, go get 'em, kid!

UPDATE: Aaugh! She's back! And she's making me get my power tools to work on the pumpkins. Pumpkins? More than one? No. Stop! Nooooo!

October 19, 2007

Why do I do this?

Right now, a pear-shaped woman in stiletto heels and tight, low-cut jeans is battling a four-year old. He's screaming at the top of his lungs and trying to bite the woman, while she is screaming back at him at a slightly lower volume. Luckily, they are all of ten feet away from me, so most of their noise is lost in the deafening ambient sounds of the fluorescent chamber I'm imprisoned in.

Yes, I'm at the McDonald's playroom again, and my keyboard is getting greasy. The Mistress of Chaos is pulling apart her burger looking for her pickle, and Captain Destructo has just removed his socks -- in clear violation of the Playroom rules -- so he can more effectively climb the slides and cause a collision.

But it's pouring outside and they're having a great time. They've spontaneously merged with the other children into a giggling, marauding pack that is rushing through the playstructure, back and forth, up and down, sometimes attracting a new member, sometimes losing one to the grasping hand of a parent. All I can hear is squeaks and shrieks, thumping and laughter. With so much fun going on, I can count on them not eating much of their food. And that's a good thing.

October 15, 2007

Stuff Happens

When you have children, your home becomes full of stuff. Suddenly, there is stuff everywhere. Stuff adorns each level of your bookshelves, sits on your stairs, clutters your counters and tables, hides under your furniture, and gets lodged in your feet in the middle of the night. Behold the contents of a shoebox that was used as a temporary stuff receptacle in just one sample household:

A cheap metal airplane with the propeller blades snapped off, a page of glitter easter egg stickers, many brightly coloured hair clips, a really cheap plastic stegosaurus dug out of a sandbox at a birthday party scavenger hunt, a Wizard of Oz Tinman Happy-Meal doll, a Wizard of Oz Scarecrow Happy-Meal doll, a battered mini-pack of tissues with pictures of bears on them, an oversized pencil with a multicoloured lead, a snail shell, a small unrecognizable clump of Lego from some mini kit, a cheap green button very poorly sewn to a square of fabric, a very small Tonka truck with eyes on the windshield as in that Pixar movie, a rubbery and translucent piece of plastic bacon, a harmonica, a Hot Wheels forklift, a very cheap plastic horse, a beat-up golf ball, a little red glass heart, the remains of some Kinder Egg toys that didn't really fit together right, a cheap plastic toy scalpel, a pencil from the Ontario Pork marketing board, a fragile figurine of Statesman from City of Heroes, a rubber red lizard, a toy drill bit, numerous tiny beads, another little red glass heart, a plastic toy key, two pieces of plastic that pretended to be 'flash cards' as part of the world's cheapest and most easily broken personal stereo system, a couple of little bells, and a tiny figurine of Piglet wrapped in a rubber Winnie the Pooh costume.
I know the internet is only to be used to share useful and interesting information, but I feel like being a rebel today...

October 01, 2007

A beautiful and busy Fall

Last year I was lamenting what a miserable autumn we were having (among other things). But this year has been wonderful, with many, many warm sunny days. Things will be getting brisk soon, I know, but if we can just keep the sun for a while longer...

Here the kids pose with Kafka, AKA The Devil Dog, AKA Buttercup. (I was hoping that last name would make him more pleasant to be around. No such luck.) He's a Chesapeake Bay retriever who we have now inherited permanently from my mother-in-law. He's stubborn, noisy, disobedient, and requires a great deal of care and stimulation. So now I have three children to attend to. This is not helping me work on my new priority.

Plus he seems to have scared our lovely cat Squeak from our house. Four days and counting...

September 07, 2007

Speaking of Superheroes...

It's clear now that I'll never get around to recording our family's travels in the great province of New Brunswick. I don't really want to relive some parts, and you don't want to hear about them. So we're both better off. But I have to display this action shot of Captain Destructo and the Mistress of Chaos preparing to do battle with the tides of the Bay of Fundy. You don't want to mess with Max...

Unfortunately, I usually don't have any choice.

August 09, 2007

Outta here!

Well, that's it. Tomorrow my family and I head out on the open road in the Improbabus. We don't know where we'll wind up or what we'll do. We're just going to throw caution to the wind and see where the open road takes us. We may go East, we may go West, or we may even go South. A week from now we may be crossing a desert, or climbing a mountain, or lounging in front of a pool in Las Vegas. There's nothing like the excitement of the unknown.

Of course, there is a small chance that we may do what my wife has planned: drive to New Brunswick to spend a week in a cottage by the ocean, followed by attending her brother's wedding. But I'm sure I can talk her out of it.

Either way, posting will be infrequent. More so, I mean. Here's a last photo of my traveling companions, taken during a hike the other day. I'm sure they're going to be perfectly well-behaved.


July 29, 2007

Simpsons! Meet the Simpsons!

Apparently the movie is pretty good, but I haven't got around to seeing it yet...

July 26, 2007

Pause that refreshes

Every now and then, when the children are driving you absolutely batty, you have to remind yourself that they're not always stubborn, quarrelsome screaming machines. This is one of those times.

Oh yeah, I remember...

July 11, 2007

Why are children so annoying?

They don't look so bad in this picture, do they? But it's all an act.

School is out for the summer, and they're still a little young for any of the day camps, so I've had a unique opportunity to get to know my kids a lot better over the past few weeks. And I've noticed that they frequently act in a way that gets me quivering with frustration. Max is the worst. Except for Talia. It's going to be a long summer.

June 17, 2007


This Father's Day I spent part of the day performing a sacred duty: passing to my first-born son the knowledge of how to make totally awesome hamburgers. First Max learned the nine secret spices and sauces that go into the meat to give it the perfect flavour. Then he got to mix it up and form the patties.

Then he had the chance to learn the mysterious ways of the charcoal barbeque, and the best way to get the coals to the ideal temperature. He also learned never to give in to the temptation of propane.

Finally, he learned how to master the tools of the barbecue chef, and use those tools to grill the burgers to perfection.

As you can see, Max is also a master of correct barbeque fashion. I couldn't be more proud of him.

May 09, 2007


The Mistress of Chaos prefers the elegant simplicity and aesthetic purity of the Ball of Whacks.

Captain Destructo goes for the endless possibilities of the more traditional Lego. His Space Station is a long term project with an expected completion date sometime in 2009.

April 22, 2007

Happy Mud Day

This is what happens when you take your eyes off two 'spirited children' for more than five minutes.

March 27, 2007

A window into my mind

If you could look into my mind, this is what you would see: two 'spirited' children dancing madly in a cluttered and chaotic environment.

Incidently, it's also what you'd find in my basement right now...

February 14, 2007

Four more years!

Today Captain Destructo and the Mistress of Chaos marked their first four years on this planet. It's been a roller-coaster ride, but their parents are still hanging on to their sanity. Barely. There are signs that these children's craziness-inducing qualities are diminishing, but it's too early to declare the danger over.

They celebrated with a spaghetti and meatball dinner, and enjoyed making a colossal mess.

(Apologies for the extreme lameness of the blog lately. Standard lameness will be restored as soon as possible.)

January 05, 2007

My neighbors hate me...

Why else would they buy an inflatable Superman suit for my son at Christmas? And even worse, they bought a Barbie and a Barbie bedroom set for my daughter. With 50 pairs of little pink shoes! Maybe I shouldn't let my dog crap on their lawn so often...

Here SuperMax is set upon by his nemesis, the Mistress of Chaos. He is invulnerable to her attacks, but cannot fight back because he can't move his arms...

January 04, 2007

Demon Children: 1, Outmatched Babysitter: 0

My wife has taken leave to bring the wonders of the Quebec health care system to the grateful residents of Chisasibi, on the shores of James Bay. While she is away, I have the absolute authority and responsibility over Max and Talia. It's an awesome burden, so obviously the first thing I had to do after seeing my wife off was to get rid of it.

I am now a member of the Quebec Liberal party. As such, I have the obligation to gather occasionally with other members to drink plan strategy. Knowing that I was burdened with my two not-quite-four-year-olds, another member offered to give up his daughter as a sacrifice. She would 'babysit', as we fulfilled our difficult obligations to help assure Jean Charest more time in office. She assured me she could handle them; the kids assured me they would be good. I had a good laugh. Captain Destructo and the Mistress of Chaos would make short work of her.

After a number of hours deep in strategic discussion, I was driven back home to where my collegue could pick up what was left of his daughter. It was 11:00. The light in Max and Talia's room was out. I thought that was a good sign.

But when I came in, the first thing I heard was giggling. Then two extremely wired children ran down the stairs and proceeded to run around in circles in the living room, together shouting, "I am a robot! I am a robot!" The babysitter made her way down behind them, defeat etched in the new wrinkles on her face. The children won. Carefully and with sensitivity, we managed to draw the story out of her. And with later confirmation from Max and Talia, I can now partially piece together what happened that night -- though the full truth will probably never be known.

At around 8:00 she attempted to herd them into bed. They had been watching TV with her, and behaving acceptably. They demanded a snack. She provided one. They demanded more. She acquiesced. She finally got them in the bath, where they turned into water monkeys. She tried to reassert control, but didn't manage it. Talia saw the prize she has always wanted -- absolute dominance of this household -- within her reach and went for it.

She asked for longer in the bath. She asked for more stories. She couldn't sleep. She needed a drink. She wanted that pair of pajamas, not the other one. She couldn't sleep. It was too dark. She couldn't sleep. What the babysitter didn't understand was that indulging these requests did not sate my daughters lust for control, it just fed it fuel. And all the while, Max laughed and cheered and egged my little girl on. Talia is exceptionally ingenious, and has no trouble inventing new tasks to tie the supposed authority up in knots.

But I'm not blaming the babysitter. She did her best, but was not prepared for the deviousness of the Mistress of Chaos' mind. And I'm not taking the blame either. Obviously the person at fault is my wife for leaving me here alone with these demon children. I mean, what was she thinking?

November 30, 2006

Max's 'alien' period

My children are artistic geniuses, as I have documented before. Lately their works have gone from the typical 3-year-old's scribbles to more representative works of art. Talia draws people, as any normal child would, but Max draws... aliens!

Lots of them. All the time. Nothing but. Over and over and over again.

If my life was a horror movie, he might be foreshadowing something...

October 31, 2006

Just... terrifying...

I was invited to my children's Halloween party yesterday so I could cast a distainful eye on the other kid's parent's costuming ability. They in turn had the opportunity to draw hasty conclusions on my own worth as a parent.

I counted two firemen, two vampires, a spiderman, a sadly-deflated superman, a batman, a couple other licensed cartoon characters, and about a hundred fairy princesses. Luckily, Talia is precocious, and went through the whole magic wands and pointy hats phase about a year ago, so she had an original costume. Some sort of ghost. A garden ghost, I think. Or something. Max went in this year's most popular costume, as a pirate. He managed to get the no-dental-plan teeth look in this photo by messily masticating a lump of chocolate.

Related: Last year's Halloween. The year before that (too cute).

October 06, 2006

Last nice day of Fall?

Actually, it's probably the first nice day of Fall. It's been pretty miserable so far. But it's just going to get worse...

September 30, 2006

Ferris Wheel

The kids had their first ride on a ferris wheel today at the Metcalfe Fair. We got three complete rotations for only $4.50 per person -- what a deal!

We saw so many tractors and animals that Max is seriously considering giving up his dream of being a firefighter for the life of a farmer.

September 01, 2006

First Day at School

The house is strangely quiet today as Captain Destructo and the Mistress of Chaos are off having their heads filled by someone other than myself, my wife, and the children's edutainment industry. They started their first day at a local Montessori school. I haven't read much on the Montessori method, but I'm impressed by the teachers and the tools in the classroom. There seems to be a focus on non-verbal skills, and building self-reliance, responsibility and concentration. The kids work on what they want, when they want, individually or in groups. It sounds like a recipe for insanity, but it works. We spent an hour in class with them a few days ago so Max and Talia could get used to the place, and they settled in quickly and enthusiastically. They're very ready for this now and I know it's going to be so good for them.

I guess I have to start looking for a job now. And not just pretend to, either...

August 26, 2006

The circle of life

It's happened. I'm a parent. Yesterday I found myself herding my children through one of those bad roadside attractions of the type I remember visiting when I was a little boy. The place was Storyland, located about an hour west of downtown Ottawa. It features an odd collection of ancient statuary, an ancient mini-golf course, a half-dozen peddle-boats (yes, ancient) in a stagnant pond, one of those big, air-filled jumpy things, a couple of oversized sprinklers and one of the biggest backyard water slides that Wal-Mart sells. And it's all operated by a dozen high school students wearing badly maintained costumes.

Unfortunately for me, Max and Talia were having the time of their life. Which means I spent over five hours there. Which meant I promised to take them back...

August 08, 2006

The Popsicle Quest

It was late afternoon. The kids had been home all day and Mama was heading off to work in the ER overnight. It was a pretty dreary day, grey clouds threatening rain combined with a heavy humidity.

Max and Talia were bored. They'd done the Play-doh thing, they'd had their daily allotment of the insideous brain control device, they'd ran around outside, and now they needed something else. The idea entered their little minds that they needed a treat.

I thought about it. As the authority figure, I knew I could deny them this. I could point out that suppertime was coming up and I didn't want them to spoil their appetites. And I also knew that there would be much resistance to my denial, possibly involving screaming. My hesitation gave them the opening they needed to press their demands further. The treat was now a reality, all that was unclear was what the treat would be.

Talia raised the idea of going next door to get a popsicle. The couple next door have no dog and long ago started giving treats to our dog to compensate. We asked them to stop, and they said they would, but every morning Musette trots over there to sit outside their door until she gets her cookie. And she always does. They also have no kids, and have started handing out candy to my kids to compensate. Horrible stuff too, for the most part: sorbitol-sweetened hard candy that have been sitting in a bowl for a couple of years. They finally ran out of that stuff and now have taken to giving popsicles to Max and Talia.

But I really don't like the idea of my kids begging at the neighbors. Knowing I had to compete, I offered to take the kids into town to buy them popsicles at the depanneur and play at the playground. They enthusiastically agreed.

We piled in the Improbabus, waved goodbye to Mama, and drove off. But on the short drive to town it started to rain. Hard. This ruined my plans. Though I would still be able to buy the popsicles, we would have nowhere to eat them. So I had to think.

I inquired whether they would be willing to accept ice cream as a substitute for popsicles? That way we could go to the McDonald's playroom and I could relax and have a coffee. No, they replied, my suggestion was not acceptable. They had been promised popsicles and nothing else would suffice.

I had to think now. I headed onto the highway into town and tried to think of somewhere you could buy popsicles near somewhere you could eat them inside. The only possibility? A mall. But which mall? I was approaching downtown Gatineau (formerly Hull) and could only think of two places: a fairly upscale mall with fountains and fashionable boutiques, and a dingy, ancient mall anchored by Zeller's and Provigo. The dingy mall was more likely to have popsicles, so that was our destination.

And inside it was dingy. And deserted. Most of the shops were empty and I didn't find a little magazine/cigarette/soft drink kiosk that could possibly sell popsicles. I was getting desperate and the kids were getting a little whiney. We went to the Zeller's, which made our regular Wal-Mart look like Bloomingdales. After wandering for ten minutes, I concluded there were no popsicles to be found here. On to the Provigo at the other end of the mall.

Here we found some popsicles. But not singles, only in packages of twelve. Whatever, lets buy them and get out. But which ones? For those of you that haven't shopped for popsicles in a long time, I can tell you the offerings are completely different from what you remember. Almost all are in the shape of some popular children's character, Spongebob and Dora being the best represented. I wasn't going to buy those. How about these 'Carnival' ones? No, they look like they've been in this freezer for at least three years. Finally I settled on Bugz -- popsicles with gummy bugs sprinkled within. I bought that one item, opened it up, and handed them each one of the wretched things.

Okay, that was kind of dull, I guess. But that's my life.

July 27, 2006

Thursday Tot Shot

Yeah, we finally got haircuts for them...

July 10, 2006

The best of a bad situation

My friend Pato and I often have little clashes about politics. But maybe the libertarian in him is starting to come out. He wanted to build a tennis court on his large plot of land and applied to his municipality for a building permit. They told him to forget about it (apparently because it's on a flood plain; but then, so is his house), so he decided to do it anyway. After spending many thousands of dollars clearing the land, flattening it, and bringing in the sand and rock for the foundation, he was discovered and told to immediately halt work -- or else. A conservative is a liberal that's been mugged, and a libertarian is a liberal that's had a dispute with their local government. I've got high hopes for his future development.

But on the bright side, the blasted landscape that was left (and evidently must remain) is a wonderful place for preschoolers to play. Max and Talia spent a happy couple of hours getting dirty driving toy trucks and digging for treasure.

July 03, 2006

The new playgrounds

A year ago I lamented that playgrounds in the suburbs were now virtually abandoned and tried to figure out why it was. And -- whoops, Talia just poured chocolate milk all over herself and the floor -- now I know: they're all at McDonald's. At many McDonald's restaurants they now have some of the most elaborate play structures I've ever seen. And they usually have at least half a dozen pre-schoolers crawling all through them.

I'm in one of them right now. They also offer free wi-fi if you spend three bucks -- or just a coffee and a couple of milks. It's easy to understand why they're so popular. You get the kids out of the dangerous sun and an unpredictable open space into a fluorescent lit chamber with only one exit. Treats and a bathroom are conveniently nearby, and there's always the change your child might get injured allowing you to get rich at the expense of a weathly corporation. What's not to like?

June 15, 2006

Vignette III

So I was in the kitchen doing nothing productive when Max came inside, calling, "Papa! Papa!" He was very excited about something, and grabbed my hand and pulled me outside. Mama was working in the garden, so I wondered why he needed me, but I decided to just go along for now. He's become much more talkative in the past two months, but when he's excited it's hard to understand him sometimes. He was talking a mile a minute and I caught this snippet, "...and I was looking around, but I didn't see Ta-ya! So I went, 'Hmmm, I wonder where Talia went!' But I didn't see her so..."

I was being pulled down the road. The houses here are not closely spaced so we had gone a fair way (for a toddler) when Max pointed to a neighbor who was outside and proudly announced that he had lent his shovel to him. Max's snow shovel is one of his prized possessions, and there it was lying in my neighbor's driveway. I indicated I would pick it up on the way back.

Eventually, we came to another neighbor's house even further up the road. This must be where we were going. He charged up to the front door, walked in and sat on the floor. Then he looked up at me and said, "Ta-ya's gone upstairs with Bianca. I hass to take oss my shoes to go in. Could you untie my laces?"