Meanwhile, On Instagram

I’ve never really figured out Twitter and I always feel like I should be doing more on Facebook than just spying on old friends from high school and university. So I really can’t explain why I decided to join Instagram.

Mostly I was curious about the filters, I think.

Anyway, I’m on Instagram now and I kind of love it. It’s like micro blogging, super fast and flip and fun. And pretty! So many pretty pictures! I don’t post often, but I just like that I can post often.

Come join me, if you like.

November 5 and warm enough for a barefoot backyard water fight. I'll take that. #summerthrowback

A photo posted by Lynn (@lynnturtlehead) on

Ready for games night tonight…I call the Boston Creme! #beyondthebatter #cupcakes

A photo posted by Lynn (@lynnturtlehead) on


A photo posted by Lynn (@lynnturtlehead) on

#pies #cherry #pumpkin #shoofly #happythanksgiving

A photo posted by Lynn (@lynnturtlehead) on

On My Desk

I spend at least 50% of my day sitting at my desk in my office. As soon as the kids leave for school I head over there (almost always in my PJs) and get to work. “Work” might involve writing for SavvyMom or the Kitchissippi Times, or working on a website as part of my design business, or trying to do a little creative writing for contests, or putting together this week’s Turtlehead Newsletter. It’s a frantic race to get as much accomplished as I can – and put on pants – before going to pick up the kids from school six hours later.

Like most people I work best when my workspace is neat and tidy and I have easy access to everything I will need for the day.

And that TOTALLY happens all the time!

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Or not. Actually, for full effect, here’s my entire workspace area, featuring multiple piles of papers on the floor, because they kept sliding off the massive pile of paper on the desk. Oh yes, I am neat as a pin!

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One thing that takes up a lot of space on my desk is my collection of toys, which is actually a small subset of the toys I own. The rest of the collection lives upstairs on my bedside table, where my children add to it daily (“Mom, I know you will love this Playmobil girl, she looks just like you!”). Let’s zoom in to the ones that get to be a part of the workday.

First, there’s Edward, a miniature train from the Thomas the Tank Engine line. Edward is my favourite Thomas train because he likes to help and share. Edward gets a surprising amount of play time as I roll him around my desk, putting off doing any actual work.

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Then there’s my Banff Gondola paperweight – a beloved gift from FameThrowa. I saw these when we were actually at the gondola in Banff and I so very badly wanted one, but we were trying to keep the souvenir spending down so I passed, then regretted it. But little did I know that FameThrowa had snuck back into the shop later to get it for me, and gave it to me once we were back home. I love it!

Also pictured: my mouse, used exclusively by the kids to play Minecraft, shaped like a VW car of some sort; and if you are sharp eyed, you may notice a bookmark featuring kittens and puppies in the background. Because I am nothing if not PROFESSIONAL and ADULT.

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I like turtles, and whenever my two daughters come across a turtle – at garage sales, in play sets, at toy stores – they get one for me. I have quite the little zoo on my desk hiding behind the computer. Also pictured: random white bead that my youngest daughter insisted I HAD to have.

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You may have noticed there’s also a little hippo in there – he’s my House Hippo, also a gift from the girls, who love that commercial.

Recently my youngest got a Smurfette as a happy meal toy and insisted that I adore Smurfette (??) and placed her on my desk. She’s chilling with my favourite Hot Wheels car from my childhood, which I gifted to my son but now lives with me because he broke something on it and we were both a little stressed out about it.

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Anna, Elsa, and Olaf like to answer the phone when it rings.

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These two little super-smooth rocks are from the Museum of Nature and I just really like the way they feel. I often rub one between my fingers while thinking. It’s soothing, and the black one is actually a piece of obsidian so it makes me feel all badass and stuff. In a smooth kind of way.

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Not pictured: a little bin I have of cool buttons, guitar picks, and little rocks (in which I just found ANOTHER turtle), a deck of cards, a container of pennies (COLLECTOR ITEMS!), and about a million pens. They’re in there somewhere – just don’t ask me to find them!

On Being A Grown Up

I saw this article on The Daily Buzz the other day: The Competent Adult’s Checklist. For me, being an adult means being able to bake a pie. CHECK. But here’s what’s on their list, and what I think of it.

What’s on your list of required adult skills?

1. Understand Body Language – Yes, this is a good one to have, if you want to avoid being punched on a regular basis. But it does amaze me how many adults are able to get through everyday life with no apparent understanding of this one.

2. The Genuine Apology – I’m Canadian. COVERED.

3. Adhering to a Budget – Critical, so much so that I think a course on basic money management should be a high school requirement.

4. Showing Compassion – This seems to me to be a basic thing I call Being Human. The idea that someone would have to learn this seems odd, and the idea that you can’t learn it until you’re an adult also seems odd. Don’t be jerks, people.

5. Be Your Own Tailor – I am very, very passionate about this one. Just the other day I spent an afternoon sewing patches on various Scout/Guide/Brownie uniforms and it occurred to me that by the time I was as old as my oldest two kids, I was sewing things on a regular basis. By grade 8 I could also knit and crochet. I feel like these are dying arts – for shame, the loss of home economics. Memo to self: teach kids to sew (in my spare time HA HA HA).

6. Learn Photoshop. DONE.

7. Asking for Help – um, NOT DONE. Man, I suck at this. But I can make a pie! Six of one, half a dozen of another.

8. Learn to cook more – done, not by choice, but it was probably good for me. I just realized that this is also something I want to work more on teaching the kids. And, in fact, this whole list is really a list of “stuff you should teach your children.” Except Photoshop, they can get their own damn license someday.

9. Public Speaking – definitely a good skill to have for any adult. I still get nervous but it’s not debilitating, I can get through it.

10. Speaking a Second Language – I count this one as a “nice to have.” It definitely helps you be more aware of the global stage and open to new cultures, as well as (I hear) upping the flexibility of your brain. But I got a lot of other stuff to do first. Maybe when I’m retired.

11. It’s OK to say No. TOTAL FAIL. Send me back to high school!

12. Time Management – Something else I feel should be actually taught in high school, instead of assuming that throwing six projects and two essays at a kid at once will help them figure it all out, in a sink-or-swim kind of way.

13. Being Open to Feedback – Something that’s hard for everyone. I give myself about a B- on this one.

14. Learn a Lot of Keyboard Shortcuts – Hm, maybe – but isn’t that more of a requirement for being a whippersnapper teen? Perhaps this one should be changed to “text using only your thumbs at the speed of light and use at least three acronyms.” Actually, now that I think about it, the true mark of adulthood in this category should be, “LEARN TO USE PROPER GRAMMAR AND SPELLING.” SHEESH.

15. Have Quality Alone Time – YES. A lot of people need time to learn that being comfortable with yourself while alone is a must-have skill, and that the company of jerks just for the sake of having company isn’t worth it. (I’ve had this one covered since I was about six days old, so we’re good here.)

16. Always Back Up Your Computer – Um, excuse me, I just thought of something I have to do.

17. Approaching Someone For A Date – I agree, this is a critical adulthood skill, as well as its counterpart, “Gracefully Accepting a Rejection and Moving On.” Can’t claim to be able to do either, though.

18. Mastering the Power Nap – DONE.

19. Learn to Negotiate – NOT DONE. I hate confrontation so much I never, ever, negotiate. EVER. And I agree, this is something real adults should be able to do competently. I smell New Year’s Resolution.

20. Make Friends Anywhere – A great skill to have in your back pocket and a hard one to cultivate. I’m in the B range on this one, too.

A commenter on this post added some more that I think are great – learn to drive, basic first aid, learn how to take care of a house (still working on it), know the maintenance schedule for your car (DEFINITELY still working on it), basic tool use, and basic personal hygiene. How do you stack up, and what would you add?

Pushing the Pop Culture

One thing I’ve been thinking (idly) about lately is that perhaps we push pop culture on our kids too early. I’m not talking about things like sex and violence – that’s a whole other topic – but I’m talking about showing things to kids that you love, that you’re excited to share, but they just aren’t mature enough to really follow what is going on.

I’m a huge, huge pop culture junkie and when I’m not blogging or working I’m probably watching movies, or TV shows, or reading books, or reading magazines about movies/TV/books, or talking to my friends online about OMG JENNIFER LAWRENCE SQUEE. I admit I was counting down the days until I could show my oldest Star Wars and I have tried, oh how I have tried, to get him to love Star Trek and The Princess Bride. IT WILL HAPPEN, DAMMIT.

But something interesting has happened a few times lately – while Little Miss Sunshine, age 8, has been watching something age-appropriate – the older two have LOVED IT. I know they enjoyed it when they watched it when they were 8. But now it’s like they really APPRECIATE what is happening on a whole new level. They GET the in-jokes. They fully understand all plot twists. It’s interesting to me.

And this applies for even younger stuff. My three-year-old nephew was visiting at Thanksgiving and introduced the girls to Paw Patrol, which is apparently very hot right now among the toddler crowd given the volume of Paw Patrol toys I see in all the newly-arrived Christmas catalogues and flyers. It’s an animated show about a team of puppies who, in 10 minute shorts, solve problems and do heroic acts to help kids. And the girls have been eating it up – they talk all the time now about Paw Patrol, which is their favourite, what’s their favourite episode, can they PLEASE PLEASE watch Paw Patrol if they do all their homework first. And although he’d probably die if he knew I was putting this on my blog – even the Captain will sit and laugh and enjoy it. He knows all the names of the puppies, y’all. They are INTO IT.

A few months back we were watching a Winnie the Pooh movie that the older two had seen a dozen times in their youth, but the Little Miss hadn’t seen, and she liked it fine, but the older two – BUSTING A GUT. It was the most I’d heard them laugh at a movie in ages. It was so cool.

So now the older two, because they are interested and curious and gently peer pressured, want to watch things like The Big Bang Theory and Survivor and Glee, and we let them, and we talk about them, and that’s good. But it’s also good to go back to the stuff that is “meant” for little kids and show them that good entertainment is ageless. I think it’s sweet and adorable that they still think In The Night Garden is totes awesome (and I guess a phase is coming soon in which “kid stuff” like that will be SO NOT COOL, MOM, so I better appreciate it now).

I read an article in the summer about how Steven Spielberg was super excited to share his movies with his grandson, and so finally got the kids’ parents’ permission to show him E.T. when he was three. Putting aside any potential scary stuff, I have to wonder: did the kid even understand what was happening? Did he get the subtleties of sibling interaction, of being an outsider, of how a boy and an alien can become linked in some way that’s beyond the typical daily life? I’m not saying he shouldn’t have shown him the movie, but I do hope he plans to show it to him again when he’s 10, and then maybe again when he’s 15, and then again when he’s 30 – so he can actually feel all the wonder and joy and fear and sadness. So he can come away with something learned, something gained.

So that it’s more than just pop culture education – it’s a true experience. Something to enjoy, to ponder, to remember.

World’s Worst Lunchmaker

My kids’ school has a Facebook group and someone on it has started a weekly lunch feature where we are to take pictures of the lovely, carefully balanced lunches we are creating for our children and post them up there. To this I say: HA HA HA HA HA.

The people who are posting are the people with a) nice lunchboxes, in bright colours, divided into cute little sections, and b) children who actually EAT LUNCH.

I have neither of those things. For starters, all three children are on their third year with the same lunch bags, so you can imagine the staining and smell that is involved (if only the internet were scratch-and-sniff). I did try to replace them this year but they are still in one piece with (miraculously) an intact liner, and none of them actually wanted to part with their beloved bags, so they stayed.

Secondly, all three of my children are of the cookies-only-throw-the-rest-away school of lunch eating. They may drink the drink. And, I have to say, my “good eater” – that’s Gal Smiley – will probably eat her sandwich, unless she’s suddenly decided that the same sandwich she’s taken for the past six months is DEAD TO HER and she will never eat another, which happens about twice a year.

So we get a lot of boomerang fruit and vegetables coming back, as well as things like crackers and granola bars, and buns and sandwiches from the other two. I still, for the most part, diligently pack them with one fruit, one vegetable, and a sandwich/main course like item each day even though I know it’s basically going to just be for my post-school-pickup snack. Swistle posted a while ago about a time when one of her kids was becoming sandwich-resistant, so she sent him to school with a variety of snacks instead, with all the sandwich parts separated out, and then the teacher called home to say that he was missing a sandwich, and oh, the humiliation. I always picture the teacher at lunchtime seeing my kids open what passes for a lunch and sighing with sadness at the poor, poor life they lead.

That said, I have really been pushing the boundaries lately on what passes for a balanced lunch – like, Froot-by-the-Foot counts, right? And leftover tater tots make a vegetable, right? My worst offender – Little Miss Sunshine – is likely to get a lunch of a dried fruit bar, a few sad looking baby carrots (which I will eat later), a bun with butter on it (20% chance of her actually eating it), a bear paw, a juice box, and goldfish crackers – what my sister would call a “beige lunch.” All beige, all the time! That’s what we’re about here – but there’s little point in packing anything else, because unless I’m willing to eat it for dinner it’s going in the garbage.

Today in a wild fit of optimism I threw a mini yogurt in her lunch. It should make for a nice tidbit at teatime for me.

I’m tempted to upload my kids’ lunches to the Facebook page in a dare-to-judge-me kind of way, but I think in the end I just don’t have the stomach for it. I’m too busy filling up on leftovers.

Film Festival

Back in September, all three of my kids were judges on the kids’ panel at the Ottawa International Animation Festival.

If you’re interested, by the way, it isn’t too hard to get in – get yourself on their mailing list, and they’ll let you know in August when it’s time to apply. Applying means your kid needs to pick an animated short, TV show, or movie, and write one paragraph about why they like it. I forced my three kids to do this as a summer homework project – some had more enthusiasm than others – and yet all three were picked. I think it’s a fairly open-arms kind of atmosphere, and it was also very fun and a fantastic experience, so I recommend it to all. Oh, I should probably mention it’s for kids aged 8 to 12.

Anyway, I went with the older two to their panel which was Animated Shorts for Kids, and then later I went with Little Miss Sunshine to her panel, which was Animated TV Shows For Kids. Both were great, but I especially love seeing the shorts – they are always so charming and inventive and sweet. I feel sad when it’s over that most animated shorts will languish forever on someone’s hard drive, hardly being seen.

So here’s three of our favourites from this year’s festival – call the kids, they’ll love them too.

First up, The Diary of Ochibi by Masashi Kawamura. Ochibi is a favourite comic-strip character in Japan, with adults and children alike, and when you watch this, you’ll see why. It’s just so charming – this one was my favourite. We were lucky to meet Masashi at the festival and it was fascinating to hear him talk about how this short was made (all stop motion, no computer animation – he has 1000 mugs back in his office in New York). It took a whole year of his life for seven enchanting minutes and I hope it somehow finds a massive, worldwide audience. There’s no talking at all, so this one is perfect for all ages.

Second, A Lion’s Life by Yu Nagasaki – this was one of the award winners at the event and it’s just. So. Weird. Weird, yet fabulous. It’s about a pet pig whose family takes him on vacation to Africa and, as one does, dresses him up in a lion costume. So obviously he gets lost and then must live life on the Savannah as a true lion. My kids laughed at this one until their sides burst (in Japanese with subtitles).

Lastly, the one that took home the overall animated short award is, sadly, not available in full on the internet, but you can watch a one minute clip of Compte Les Moutons (Counting Sheep) by Frits Standaert below. It’s the story of a boy who can’t fall asleep, so his father recommends counting sheep – but when his room is suddenly full of actual sheep, he has a problem on his hands. The showing at the Animation Festival was actually the world premiere, so hopefully someday, after making the festival rounds, they’ll put the whole thing online. In the meantime, this short has led to my son making very effective use of the phrase “deux se cache sous le lit” in everyday conversation.

Even if you can’t commit to the judging panel, it’s worth it just to get tickets to see both of these next year – we also went to a “meet the makers” panel and got to see Hotel Transylvania 2 a week before it was released, so fun all around. Worth it!

The World of Publishing

I’m really interested in the world of publishing, and self-publishing, and how Amazon is changing the face of reading in today’s world. After so many years of bookstores complaining about how Amazon is pushing them out of business, and should be stopped by the government for being a monopoly, something weird and wonderful has happened: Amazon has opened its own physical bookstore.

It’s not like a regular bookstore – books are carefully curated based on ratings and reviews on the website, and then the chosen titles are placed face-out, with a card including user comments and ratings on it, for easy and thorough browsing. Of course, anything you don’t see can be ordered online at one of many handy kiosks.

I’d shop there. Of course, I buy a lot of books. A LOT. But still – it’s pretty. If you live in Seattle, you can check it out.

‘Tis the Season

Yesterday I was reading Tudor’s blog post about her guilty secrets, one of which is that she actually likes the fall time change, and the way it makes the mornings much brighter and sunnier. At the end, she asked what our unpopular opinions are, and I thought about it, and here’s mine:

I actually like it that Christmas season starts November 1.

Okay, I can see that the current argument, that it should wait until at least after Remembrance Day, has some merit. But in general I’m happy to celebrate the season for as long as they’ll let me. I love hearing tinkly Christmas music in the stores, and seeing all the pretty decorations. I love the sound of the mall Santa’s Ho Ho Hos and the way every kid starts looking around with stars in their eyes, dreaming of treats and goodies and warm, happy times.

I love making lists, lots of lists, of gifts and cards and recipes to make – it makes me think about all the people I love, and what they are like, and what kinds of things they like, and all they bring to my life. Christmas is a very busy time for me – I always do too much! – but it never feels like a burden. It’s fun, and I like it.

(Remind me I said that on December 15 or so when I’m knee deep in baking, wrapping, and daily Christmas crafts with the kids.)

I’m better now with winter than I used to be, but November and December can still seem like a very sad time of year, with the dark nights and gloomy grey weather and dying gardens. We know we’re going into bleak days of cold and minimal sunlight.

So Christmas, to me, is a bright light in the middle, something to look forward to, but also something to just enjoy for the whole season. Around here we have a rule: no Christmas music, decorations, or talk about gift shopping until at LEAST after November 18, which is my birthday. But in truth, my lists are already started, and I’m already humming Sleigh Ride when I see the seasonal aisle at the Superstore, and I’m already stocking up on chocolate chips and icing sugar.

I’ll take the cheer for as many weeks as I can.