Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Publish Day - Ink Blog - Sat. Aug. 27

Oops. I forgot to paste my Ink Blog piece in Saturday's paper into the blog. So here it is. It's a timely reminder that as our little people go back to school, some of them are luckier than others. And there's always an opportunity for us to help in some small way.

Here in London, a small group of volunteers did just that, and they've been hugely successful thus far. I hope this entry prompts other good folks in other cities to consider doing the same:
Back to school usually means a new backpack filled with pencils, erasers, notebooks and other hallmarks of childhood.

Except when your family can’t afford it.

Enter Supplies for Students, whose volunteers scrounge the city for school supplies, then bring them back to a Westmount Mall storefront to assemble the bags for needy children at the Thames Valley and London District Catholic school boards.

Principals in each school identify recipients and personally deliver the bags the first week of school. The goal: do it quietly to avoid making anyone feel uncomfortable.

Co-founder Rita Turpie says the group defines life on a shoestring.

“We’re just a little group with no budget,” she says. “Our community support has always been tremendous.”

It may look like a simple backpack, but Turpie says it builds lives.

“This gives children the tools to learn, to build their future, and contribute back to their communities.”

If you’re shopping at Westmount Mall and want to be a hero, drop by the storefront beside the post office. Or e-mail me here. I’ll do anything to see a kid smile.
Your turn: Is there something similar going on in your city? Do you think something like this can snowball beyond our little neck of the woods?

Tuesday, August 30, 2005


I managed to grab this one as this plane was taxiing past us, and tripped the shutter in the split-second when the tail was blocking the sun. I feel moody when I look at it; there's something about backlit subjects that just makes me wonder.

Yes, I know I can drop it into Photoshop and crank up the light levels. I can also apply filters and special effects to make it look like, well, a regular old airplane. But that wouldn't do a very good job of telling the story of what I was seeing and feeling the moment I took the picture.

Your turn: This all begs the fundamental question of photographic editing: if a picture needs to have major surgery to be saved from the scrap heap, does it remain faithful to what the photographer originally wanted to say through the lens?

One last note: I'm not saying editing is bad. Or good. Or anything. I'm simply opening up the issue for discussion. So...please discuss!

Monday, August 29, 2005

By the runway's edge

I've always hated the silly plastic windows in airplanes. For starters, they're way too small and perpetually smudged by the noses of way too many strangers (I know, ew.) Over time, they get all pitted and scratched, which as I understand, is not terribly conducive to taking sharp pictures through them.

Still, I was pretty pleased with the warmth of the pictures I got while flying out of Toronto last week. Somehow, the lovely yellowish-orange early morning light managed to make it through the optical equivalent of a dollar store see-through toy.

Here's the lineup of planes waiting for clearance to proceed onto the runway for takeoff. When granted, each one would make a left turn, hit the gas and go. That's one of my favorite times during a flight, because since you're sitting in their wake, you can hear and feel the sheer power of the other planes as they initiate their takeoff roll. It's often just enough of a thrum in the base of your spine to viscerally convince you that things are about to get much more involved for you as well.

I really like the warmth of this picture, too. Sometimes, a split-second either way makes the difference between ho hum and an image that jumps out at you a little.

Your turn: What's your favorite part of a flight? My daughter wants to know.

Sunday, August 28, 2005

Into the morning sky

I'm just back from Montreal, where I spent a few days simply being there when I needed to be there.

Before I left, our daughter, all of 7 with a soul very much older than her age would suggest, asked me what it looked like to fly in a plane. So as I sat by the window of an Air Canada Airbus A-320 at Toronto's Pearson International Airport, I pondered how to tell the story in a way that would be meaningful to her.

With an empty memory card on my camera, I decided the best way to accomplish that would be to simply shoot pictures as they occurred to me, from runway to runway.

It was early morning, and the sun had just peeked up from the horizon. I was feeling decidedly melancholy about being away from my brood and sad about what I was flying toward, and I found myself enjoying the wonderful light that bathed everything around the plane.

This is a Northwest aircraft that was just in front of us in the lineup before the runway. Just seeing this image materialize before me made me feel comfortable at a time when life around me felt anything but warm and fuzzy.

I wondered what my little girl would say when she saw this picture. When I showed it to her just before, she confirmed what I originally thought: "Cool."

That's my kid.

Your turn: What three words are in your head now? Does this scene make you think? About what?

Next up: I'll post random pictures from my airport adventure over the next few days. Sometimes, just staring out the window of a plane is enough to remind us that life needs to be savored more carefully than is often the case.

Friday, August 26, 2005

Publish Day - Ink Blog - Fleeced

I've spilled yet more ink on the pages of the paper today. Here's what I submitted before yesterday's deadline:
Let’s get this straight: Londoners are being stuck with a billion-dollar bill to repair the city’s sewers barely six years after committing to spend $500 million over the next 20 years. Since then, sewer rates have jumped 43 per cent, with residents paying double, triple, and even quadruple what big box stores pay.

Call me a sheep, because I’m feeling fleeced.

It bugs me to see big box stores getting bigger and richer on my taxpayer dime. Bad enough they drive urban sprawl and suck the lifeblood out of our cities: now we learn they’re not paying their fair share.

Our helpful civic leaders shift the burden onto taxpayers by giving these leviathans sweetheart deals on service costs and building wider roads to accommodate them. One wonders what else the big boxers get away with, and what it’ll cost us in the years to come.

Something smells, but it isn’t the sewers. Look to the corner of Dufferin and Wellington.

Me again: For the record, Dufferin & Wellington is where City Hall is located.

Your turn: So are today's cities laying down and giving the keys to the kingdom away to soulless big box operators? Are we being paved out of existence?

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Publish Day - Ink Blog - Saving watts

Here's my third Ink Blog submission to the London Free Press. This time, I shared my somewhat jaded thoughts on energy conservation. At this point in time, I do not believe that I am on speaking terms with our province's Premier. I suspect I shouldn't hold my breath waiting for a dinner invitation. That's OK, since the commute from my house would be 2 hours each way.

Anyway, here's what I wrote. Please don't hold back on your thoughts - pro or con, I can take it:
Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty wants me to conserve electricity.

I’ve got news for you, Dalton: I’ve wanted to save for years. Problem is, my government doesn’t make it easy for me to go green.

Oh sure, I can turn off lights. And I do, constantly. I close my blinds, just like you’ve asked, and I run my energy-efficient dishwasher late at night when demand ebbs.

But turning stuff off doesn’t even begin to address the long-term issue.

Why are you so silent on next-generation technologies? Where are the tax breaks for manufacturers of roof-embedded solar panel systems? Why are developers not being incented to include stuff like this in new homes?

Ah yes, that might take imagination, which my government decidedly lacks. Ontario also lacks the will to examine jurisdictions everywhere that are already building the energy plans of the future, today.

The frontier of tomorrow’s energy landscape is already shaping up. It’s time for Ontario to see the light.


Needed a smile

I'm spending a few days away from home to do the things that kids sometimes do when family stuff comes up. Life stress is high. Sleep is almost non-existent. I've posted this picture of one of my favorite childhood characters in the hope that it brings a smile to your face.

Your turn - a 2-parter:
  1. The first three words this picture and/or the memory of Oompa-Loompas brings to you are...
  2. What other characters of childhood hold lessons for us in adulthood? Why?

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Publish Day - Ink Blog - Our New GG

I thought it might be a good idea to directly post my Ink Blog submissions (see here for an explanation of the concept, and here for the first posting that was published on Tuesday the 24th) to my own blog so y'all wouldn't have to click too much. I also want to see just how deeply I can get under everyone's skin.

Here's what I submitted for Wednesday's paper. I shared my thoughts on the appointment of Michaelle Jean to the position of Canada's Governor-General. This is a largely ceremonial post whereby the GG serves as the Queen's (of England, Lizzie...she of bad hats) representative in Canada. Officially, the GG is our head of state, but the role has no real power.

As always, I had something to say. I hope you'll take the time to share your thoughts with me in a comment (I'll be doing this every day that I publish, so please sharpen your pens now.) Here's what I wrote:
I am disturbed by the media’s feeding frenzy around Michaelle Jean’s appointment as Canada’s next governor-general.

I often wonder if the consistently personal and vitriolic scrutiny would have been as intense if she hadn’t been a foreign-born, French-speaking black woman who also happens to be married to a white Quebecer who may or may not be a separatist sympathizer.

Despite our self-congratulatory speeches on the plurality of Canadian society, we still make life tough on any high-achieving woman who dares to ascend to a high-profile position.

We’re kidding ourselves if we believe that the governor-general’s role has any bearing on the day-to-day lives of Canadians. It doesn’t. It’s possibly the most tangibly pointless job in existence.

But this isn’t about what’s tangible. It’s the symbolism that matters. And Michaelle Jean is symbolic of a Canada that is no longer the exclusive domain of the white, anglophone male.

It’s time to stop whining and let her get on with the job.


Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Publish Day - Ink Blog Launches (!)

It's a great day in my world of words. Today's the day that Ink Blog launches on the London Free Press op-ed page. I first wrote about the feature here.

My contribution is entitled Buck-a-litre gas just what we need. My Canoe home page has been updated with the new content as well, which should make it easy to track no matter where you are.

I'll admit I pulled the paper out of the mailbox at an insanely early hour, then sat at the kitchen table in the quiet darkness and just stared at the page. It was comforting, somehow, to finally see it in its tangible form.

Gee, I hope I don't get under too many people's skin. Then again, maybe that's the entire point.

Your turn: What do you think? About today's gas price piece? About the feature in general? Is this where newspapers will go in the long run?


Buck-a-litre gas just what we need

Published Tuesday, August 23
The London Free Press

I'll come right out and say it: Buck-a-litre gasoline is a good thing. In fact, we'll all benefit if it goes even higher.

Sure, I hate paying a lot for anything, but we've gotten away with cheap gas for too long.

I know I'm risking egg on my house, but our society has had an entire generation to get its transportation act together. We should have learned from the early 1970s oil crisis that our gluttonous ways would eventually bite us.

But we didn't.

We continued to use our cars for everything -- even one-block trips to get milk -- and continued to crinkle our noses at the granola-crunchers who walked, biked and carpooled to work. Anyone who rode the bus was a loser. The car's position as status symbol reigned supreme.

If high fuel prices force us even once to think about ditching our cars, perhaps they'll be a good thing.

On second thought: Maybe two bucks a litre would be even better.


Monday, August 22, 2005

A fleeting glance over my shoulder

While driving the little man to his second birthday party of the day yesterday, I decided to go through the middle of London's downtown. I do this kind of thing all the time - I figure that taking a different route whenever the urge strikes allows us all to see things we wouldn't otherwise see.

Little man in his back-seat booster agreed, and happily commented on the interesting new vista that unfolded outside his window.

As I cruised to stop in front of an interminably long red light in a city of interminably unsynchronized traffic signals, something reached out from my peripheral vision and prompted me to take a closer look. I'm glad I did, because this is what I saw.

It's just a picture of a couple of upper-level balconies on a downtown block that time seems to have passed by. But it provides a tantalizing glimpse into how two households live, and how things might have looked long before any of us was even here.

This slice in time lasted all of 10 seconds while I grabbed my camera, barely composed the shot and fired the shutter before hastily stuffing everything back in the console before the light once again turned green.

But it's one of those little pieces of happenstance that seems to happen on days like this, when you're hanging out with a fascinating little person and you're not overly worried about the big nasty things in the world.

Lesson learned: I'll be taking the scenic route more often from now on.

Sunday, August 21, 2005

A day of parties

Our worldly five-year-old, Noah, had two birthday parties today. So precisely scheduled was he that I had them both entered into my PalmPilot, complete with alarms and instructions of what to bring to each one. My wife packed a knapsack with everything we needed to navigate the celebratory day.

I hung out with my little man and his minions for pretty much the entire day. The first party, a relaxing couple of hours in a backyard pool followed by pizza and cake, gave way to a somewhat more frenetic one involving a huge, crowded splashpad, a not-so-huge patio in the baking sun, and, oh yes, the requisite pizza and cake.

He fell asleep on the way home, waking up as we turned into the driveway so that he could tell Mom all about his exciting day.

Today's photo paints a picture of our thoughtful little guy. In the midst of the hubbub, he somehow found the time to look out at the flowers. What I'd give to know what he was thinking as I tripped the shutter on this one.

Please click the picture to see the larger, full-resolution version.

Your turn: What constitutes a good day when you're five years-old? Do you remember any particularly outstanding days from your own childhood?

While you're mulling that over, I'm tucking in for a nap of my own. Spending an entire day surrounded by little people is pretty exhausting. I know I should know this by now - and I do - but days like this remind me just how tiring the process can be. And rewarding; I wouldn't change a thing.

Saturday, August 20, 2005

A columnist evolves

More crazy news from my world of words...

My life as a newspaper columnist is about to undergo major change. Starting next week, the regular biweekly column gives way to an entirely different animal known as ink blog. The promo from Friday's paper is just over there on the left.

I've long researched and studied that elusive convergence point between so-called old and new media. I'm a firm believer in the ability of online and offline vehicles to complement each other. I'm also pretty firm in my contention that few media organizations have executed on this promise.

My dream is that this initiative represents a first step in that direction: already, no one else is even trying this on the op-ed page, so we're off to a good start.

The idea generator is working at warp speed - I'll be filing every day next week, and my 160-word pieces will appear Tuesday through Saturday, inclusive. Kinda crazy, I know, but right where I want to be, and precisely what I want to be doing. Writers write. Often. This is a forum that I've always hoped to have.

Please pray that I manage to pull off the following:
  • Come up with compelling ideas that hit readers right where they need to be hit.
  • Deliver those ideas not just once, but day after day (I'll be writing every other week, more or less - "on" weeks will be five days straight.)
  • Never miss a deadline (no sweat there, as I never do. Journalist's credo, after all.)
Your Turn #1: If you're in London, I hope you'll read the paper with an extra degree of interest starting next week. I also hope you'll fire e-mails into the paper - pro, con, whatever's on your mind - to prove that blog-like concepts can fly in a newspaper.

Your Turn #2: If you're not in London, I hope you'll track this experiment through the links on my blog - and I hope you, too, will send letters into the paper if I manage to get your gourd.

For the record, my last "regular" column is posted here. It closes a loop that started with the first op-ed piece I published in the paper way back in 2001.

Friday, August 19, 2005

Vacation images - pelican needs a name

Another in a continuing series of images and words from our odyssey drive to Florida last winter. Will we do it again? You betcha!

The scene: Deerfield Beach on a gray, windy day. My wife and I left the kids with her parents so we could walk - blissfully alone - alongside the pounding surf. Not your typical day at the beach, but it was a cool experience all the same.

The avian: This pelican braved the biting winds to pick up some grub at the water's edge. Then again, it's not like he could duck into a hotel nearby to get out of the blustery weather, so I suppose he didn't have much choice.

Surprisingly, he let me get really close to him before he flew off. I didn't have my Nikon with the big lens, so I couldn't cheat. Either way, what an amazingly beautiful animal.

I wonder where he (she?) is now.

Your turn: Got any suggestions for a name?

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Quoted - Canadian Business Magazine

The editorial fun continues: I was interviewed by Andrew Wahl for his piece, Trouble on the Line, in last month's CBM.

For the record, I am not saying Voice over IP (otherwise known as Internet telephony) is bad. I'm simply recommending that businesses get into it with their eyes open. I'm still cleaning the egg of my face from the last time I dared suggest that VoIP wasn't the ultimate technological solution to all the world's problems.

Hmm, maybe it is. Thoughts?

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Quoted - feelin' wormy

By now, the world knows that vaunted news organization CNN and the leadership of the free world, among others, were taken down by the Zotob worm. It caused computers running Windows 2000 to constantly reboot themselves, thus giving employees a day off and prompting CNN anchors to make fools of themselves on-air. It was quite a thing to watch.

In the overall scheme of things, it wasn't much of a hack attack, but it was high-profile enough for Info-Tech's client base that we sent out a press release on it: Zotob exploits lax PC security policies, says Info-Tech Research Group. It's also posted here on PR Newswire.

Pickups thus far have been really cool, and I've done interviews with the following media organizations:

New York Daily News - Many who kept Windows open let in new worm.
Houston Chronicle - Wake-up call comes in form of worm. Also ran in business section.
Red Herring - Zotob worm attacks Visa (Take a peek at the giant, boldface pants-down pull quote!) and Zotob Morphs into 11 Variants.
Vancouver Sun - War of the worms is a preventable battle.
IT World Canada - Windows worm wiggles through Canadian firms.
Ottawa Citizen - Lax security let worm hit networks, experts say.

Places that have run the press release include:
Yahoo! Finance.

Other notable pickups/rewrites:

La Nacion (Chile). Apparently, I speak Spanish:
"Si todo el mundo instalara los últimos servicios de protección en sus sistemas informáticos, este virus no estaría ocupando los titulares de la prensa" declaró Carmi Levy, analista de la consultora Info-Tech Research Group.'s Microsoft Blog. Zotob worm update.

I'll post more later, and associated links, as they come in.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005


Most folks I know look at a rainy, gray day and think it's depressing. I'd rather look at a day like this and see the fact that it paints everything in a different, more sombre light. It isn't more sad than a sunny day. Nor is it justification for barricading myself inside until the clouds go away. It's just different, and new.

Photographically, I find the possibilities fascinating. Leaves would look bare without perfectly formed droplets of water scattered across their surface. Likewise, windows would be empty expanses of slick nothingness if not for the residue of a light morning rainshower. It's what I was thankful for as I noticed what was left on the windows of our minivan while we loaded the kids in for the trip home.

The water no doubt evaporated by the time we hit the highway onramp. But I look forward to the next rainstorm, because what it leaves behind will no doubt be worth capturing - again.

Your turn: Rainy gray days: good, bad, or indifferent? Why?

Monday, August 15, 2005

Back to the beach

For reasons that make little logical sense, I find myself thinking about the time we've spent at one of our local beaches this summer. We live an almost equal distance from two Great Lakes - Erie and Huron - and they exert a tremendous influence on our lives: from weather to how we spend our weekends, they manage to work their way into at least one or two conversations daily.

The question, of course, is why. What is is about a messy strip of sand and rock beside a huge expanse of water that so fascinates us? Why do we find ourselves thinking about these places long after we've packed up the last sand toy and headed home?

Your turn: I need help answering these unanswerable questions of the universe. Why can't I seem to get the beach out of my head these days?

About this picture: I took this a few weeks back at the end of a particularly wonderful day at Grand Bend on Lake Huron. I thought the sand patterns on the bottom of the shallow water were pretty memorable. This is one of those images that immediately evokes images of my kids enjoying a carefree day in the water with me and my wife. I'd go back tomorrow if I could.

Sunday, August 14, 2005

A child's insight

My wife was heading over to my parents' house last week to help them pack in advance of their impending move. I stayed back that morning to ensure the little people didn't reduce the inside of my in-laws' house to the functional equivalent of Saddam Hussein's famous scorched earth scenario.

Noah, now an all-grown-up 5 years-old, asked her as she stepped out the door:
"They're Daddy's parents, so why do you have to help them?"
On a frighteningly regular basis, the thought processes of our insightful little man absolutely amaze me.

Saturday, August 13, 2005

Publish Day - security rant has published a piece I wrote. It's entitled Credit Breach Brings Kindergarten To Mind. It's a fun rant on the recent security breaches that have exposed 40 million customer records to hackers.

It begs the universal question: Is your confidential information safe?

In a word, no.

Friday, August 12, 2005

Long in the seat

On any long drive, every family reaches the point where all the movies, books, singsongs, Game Boy games and snacks are no longer enough. All that will satisfy your little people is being able to run around their grandparents' house before tucking into a warm bed with the rest of the brood.

Here, Zach's face clearly asks the question, "When will we be there?" What he didn't appreciate at the time was the fact that my wife and I were asking each other the exact same thing. Even we get sick of the long haul after a while.

Your turn: How do you make long drives manageable for your kids? What works? What doesn't? (And if you want to share a long-drive-horror-story, I won't complain...I know we all have 'em.)

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Quoted - Globe & Mail

Something very cool has happened once again in my insane world of words. I've been quoted in the Globe and Mail's Report on Business section. It's a pretty influential Canadian publication, so please excuse my extreme exuberance this morning.

The piece is entitled Piracy battle leaves Microsoft, 3Com in tough spot, and it's a column by Dan McLean, who is also editor-in-chief of ITWorldCanada. I was asked to share my thoughts on Microsoft's latest plan to scan end-users' computers to look for pirated versions of its software. I clearly had issues with the scope of Microsoft's effort. Click here to read it.


Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Publish Day - A father shows his age

Today's column, Reflections on a father's failing health, might seem familiar to anyone who's ever watched a parent get sick. I've got a front-row seat these days, and it's not an experience anyone would relish.

Why I wrote it is simple: when I feel challenged, I write. As I doodled, I felt others might relate to the experience - if not now, then someday.

I wish that someday would never come for anyone who reads this. But I know life doesn't work that way.

Your turn: How did/do/will you handle coping with parents who get sick? How do you get yourself through it? More importantly, how do you get those around you - other parents, spouses, kids, etc. - through it with something more than you had before?

Monday, August 08, 2005

Car wash

The kids helped us wash the van for the first time last week. I use the term "wash" with great care, since it ended up taking twice as long to finish, and I'm still finding spots that were either missed outright, or had dirt "reintroduced" after the fact.

Regardless, the kids had a great time pampering their huge new toy, and we're already looking forward to the next party in the driveway.

I took this after we were done - I was afraid to take the camera out earlier in case a rogue munchkin with a hose decided to turn his attention toward me - and only realized after the fact that it ended up being a sort-of self portrait.

Your turn: What other household chores do your kids like to "help" you with? Are they really helpful? How hard do you end up laughing as a result?

Sunday, August 07, 2005

Faces from the past

This is my wife, Debbie's, late great aunt Millie. A kinder, gentler person you'd never meet. She passed away many years ago, but not before I got to know her as Debbie and I grew into what we are today. It was a privilege to be part of her family.

I post this for a number of reasons. First, Noah's full name is Noah Mayer Gideon Levy. It is our tradition to honor the memory of those who have passed on by naming our children after them - if not the full name, then at least the initial. So Mayer is for Auntie Millie. He inherited part of her good soul.

Second, I wanted to define beauty in terms that go beyond what Madison Avenue would have us believe. This photo, more than others, reaffirms that true beauty comes from within. It outlives us, and influences those who come afterward to be better people. Auntie Millie would wholeheartedly agree.

I continue to post more pictures to the accompanying Flickr photo site (see photo strip to the right for the link.) I hope you'll cruise the images there for some more insight into what I think is worth looking at and thinking about.

Your turn: Please select three words that, in your opinion, define beauty.

Saturday, August 06, 2005

A child's perspective of time

Sometimes, I have to wonder how deep the soul of a child can go. On turning 5 last week, Noah ripped open his present from us and gleefully screamed the following to all within earshot:
I've wanted this for my whole, entire life!
Almost instantly, my concept of time through his eyes changed. No, he had not literally been waiting for a LeapPad since the day he was born. But his use of the phrase suggested he was - and is - starting to view time in a whole new, and very adult-like, manner. Yet another milestone of growing up has been passed.

Your turn: Kids really do say the darndest things. What notable quotes have you heard from our planet's little people?

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Little hands

I have no words to add to this lovely scene, so I'll turn it right over to you...

Your turn: What 3 words come to mind as you absorb this picture?

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Big Brother is!

Microsoft has announced a new program under which it will scan your computer before it allows you to download software updates. It's called Windows Genuine Advantage, and I've got serious reservations about it. They say it's to combat piracy, and I have no qualm with that. But the depth and breadth of their information retrieval far exceed what they really need to know to verify software authenticity.

I wrote a news analysis - Microsoft Anti-Piracy Move Raises Serious Confidentiality Issues for SMEs - at work, and it was published on the corporate site.

Which raises the question...

Your turn: Is this draconian? Do software companies - or any companies, for that matter - have the right to peek deeply into your computer? If we let 'em get away with it now, where does it end? This isn't a tech issue so much as it is a consumer-focused, abuse-of-power one.

Update - Thursday, August 4:

Earlier this morning, Info-Tech sent out a press release on this topic. It's entitled Microsoft Anti-Piracy Move Raises Serious Privacy Issues. I'll post updated links to responses here:

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

The tent game

Have you ever played "Tent"? It's a bedtime game I've long used with our kids to get them to calm down enough so that they can fall asleep.

Usually, it works. Tonight, it didn't. At least not how I oririginally intended.

Dahlia tucked in without much ado. But Noah was full of beans and didn't want to put his head down, let alone close his eyes. He wanted his Mommy. He wanted another drink of water. He forgot one of his stuffies downstairs. His fertile mind concocted one excuse after another that kept me hopping for far longer than it usually does.

Finally, desperately, I suggested we play the tent game. He smiled and grabbed for the comforter. As he covered my head with it, it occurred to me that on a hot and muggy night, this was the last thing we should be doing. But he was smiling, so I went with it.

One of the key transitions from childhood to adulthood is when you no longer can breathe in a confined space. When we were kids, my friends and I used to burrow ourselves deep in our sleeping bags for hours on end. We'd time ourselves and keep track of who held the record. Stupid, yes. But it made us happy at the time and didn't hurt anyone, so it couldn't have been all bad.

Back then, lack of oxygen and stifling heat didn't seem to deter us. Now, however, 30 seconds after our little people cover my head, I'm ready to get out.

I quietly fashioned a breathing hole as Noah settled into his side of the "tent". He babbled on about real tents and flashlights, his happy voice now devoid of the sad-clown tone that had filled the air only moments before.

The rhythm of his patter and the fact that I was still underneath way too much fabric soon made my logey. I drifted off before him, and woke up an hour later surrounded by nothing more than the sounds of kids sleeping.

I quietly tip-toed out of the room, careful to avoid stepping on an errant toy, smiling at the fact that my strategy to get them tired enough for bed ended up having the same effect on me.

Monday, August 01, 2005

Little boy goes away

Our eldest, Zach, is off on his first real trip away from home without us. He headed back to Montreal with my in-laws for some alone-time with them. With camp over and not a whole lot on the calendar, this is a great chance for him to forge some lifelong memories much like we did with our own grandparents so long ago.

When they were still with us, my wife's grandparents lived in Toronto - a six-hour drive away from our then-hometown of Montreal. Her parents regularly made the trip, and some of my wife's strongest images are from those trips. Now it's Zach's turn to do the same.

Debbie loaded his bags with enough clothes, books, games, and slices of home to last him until he returns. What we couldn't put into the bag was a piece of ourselves so that we would be with him for as long as he's gone. But at some point, we can no longer constantly be around him. He has to start learning what the world is like beyond his house, beyond the place where his parents and siblings are a constant presence.

That lesson started this morning as our 10-year-old little man waved goodbye to us from the back seat of our in-laws' car. He's somewhere in the hinterland of Ontario now, well on his way to the place where we grew up. When he comes home, he'll have done some growing up of his own. And so will we.

Your turn: How do you start letting go of a child? Can you ever really let go completely?