45 in Pictures

Because it’s NaBloPoMo I’ve been trying to come up with blog post ideas, and earlier this week I had the thought to do a day-after birthday post featuring photos of everything I did that day.

So yesterday I faithfully took snaps of all the places I went and the things that I did and you know what? Most. Boring. Photo. Set. Ever. It’s the very affirmation of every person who ever thought that digital imagery + blogging = epitome of hyper-dull navel-gazing. There aren’t even any cute pictures of cake, or pie, because I couldn’t muster up the energy to make something. It turned out to be just the most ordinary of ordinary days (except for the awesome flood of Facebook wishes, thanks to you all!).

But then I thought, well, these ordinary days are what my life is made up of, and it’s a pretty good life. One thing I like about this blog is that I can look back and see little snapshots of our world from certain times and it always amazes me how quickly I forget how things were, and how small changes have added up to big ones that can only be seen when you have a yardstick to hold them against.

So here’s what life looked like on November 18, 2015.

Present unwrapping aftermath - I got new skates! I'm very excited about these.
Present unwrapping aftermath – I got new skates! I’m very excited about these.
Handmade card from my youngest.
Handmade card from my youngest.
Morning tea in a brand new mega-mug, plus my newest iPad obsession - Monkey Wrench.
Morning tea in a brand new mega-mug, plus my newest iPad obsession – Monkey Wrench.
My youngest is SUPER into gift giving - if you come to my house for longer than 10 minutes she will be in her room making you something on the Rainbow Loom or drawing you a picture. She made me these "friendship bracelets" as a gift.
My youngest is SUPER into gift giving – if you come to my house for longer than 10 minutes she will be in her room making you something on the Rainbow Loom or drawing you a picture. She made me these “friendship bracelets” as a gift.
Dropped by the school to see a display of projects by Little Miss Sunshine's class.
Dropped by the school to see a display of projects by Little Miss Sunshine’s class.
Laundry waits for no birthday.
Laundry waits for no birthday.
Worked for most the time the kids were at school.
Worked for most the time the kids were at school.
Grey but warm at school pickup.
Grey but warm at school pickup.
Scootering over to pick up the mail.
Scootering over to pick up the mail.
I love puzzles, and so does my youngest, so we did a few before dinner.
I love puzzles, and so does my youngest, so we did a few before dinner.
Taco salad for dinner. We have a tradition that the birthday person can have whatever they want for dinner and what I wanted was a) something that was super easy to make and b) did not use a lot of dishes. ACCOMPLISHED.
Taco salad for dinner. We have a tradition that the birthday person can have whatever they want for dinner and what I wanted was a) something that was super easy to make and b) did not use a lot of dishes. ACCOMPLISHED.
Folding laundry and watching Jeopardy. It's the Tournament of Champions this week and I am UNREASONABLY EXCITED. If you'd like to talk about Matt's chances versus Alex, I'm your woman.
Folding laundry and watching Jeopardy. It’s the Tournament of Champions this week and I am UNREASONABLY EXCITED. If you’d like to talk about Matt’s chances versus Alex, I’m your woman.
Cozy blanket, evening cup of tea, and yes, TWO ice cream sandwiches, because it's my birthday, dammit. A sweet end to a lovely, ordinary day.
Cozy blanket, evening cup of tea, and yes, TWO ice cream sandwiches, because it’s my birthday, dammit. A sweet end to a lovely, ordinary day.


I still dye my hair. Every time I get out the little box, I sigh and think, Maybe this will be the last time. It’s such a pain – smelly and messy and I always worry about missing a spot and coming out like Cruella de Ville. But then five weeks rolls around and I look at those white-and-mousy-brown roots and I think, Maybe just this one more time.

When I dye my hair I like to put on the TV in the bedroom, to help pass the 20 minutes or so I’m sitting around topless with my hair stinking like vinegar on a dead mouse, and for some reason it seems to always be showing The Price is Right. This season I notice host Drew Carey has let his hair go full-on Santa Claus white. I admire his boldness but sadly, the result is not so much silver fox, and more albino chipmunk. I think of Drew Carey as being something of a contemporary of mine – he’s about 12 years older than me – but I cannot possibly be that old. Not yet.

Today I’m turning 45 and that sounds like a big number, but it doesn’t quite seem like a white-haired kind of number. Still, around this time of year I get to thinking about how much longer I’ll put up with the little boxes of Natural Caramel Light Brown. Three more years? Four? Five?

When I talk like this my middle daughter begs me to keep dying it forever, to never change, to never grow old. I wish I could promise her that. I know she wants to believe I will always be here, exactly the same, sitting at the end of her bed with the lights out chatting at the end of the day. No grey hairs in the moonlight reminding her that I am only human.

I can stand a few more nice and easy years for that dream, for sure.

Look Ma, No Roots


I had big plans to do a bunch of family board game posts during NaBloPoMo, and here it is more than halfway through the month and I’m just getting to one now. GAH. So here’s a quick little post on a game we broke out over the weekend – Qwirkle.

Who It’s For

Qwirkle is a fast and easy little game that’s suitable for the whole family. Older players will be better able to understand the strategy but our eight-year-old can play with us with no problem.

We do tend to take a community approach to game playing, by the way. By that I mean, when we are playing with our kids (especially the youngest), we tend to talk out loud about possible strategies, and point out places where there would be a great move if only you had X piece, and we’re even not above having a peek at their cards/pieces and recommending various strategies. It keeps things fun and keeps everyone involved and happy. This approach works really well for Qwirkle if you can put aside the fact that if your kid makes move A, you could make move B for mega points, and instead just try to help them with what they have in front of them, and ignore your own tiles.

Anyway, the game is for 2 to 4 players (although I do think we have played it with all five of us, with no problem) and it’ll take you only a few minutes to learn; a game takes perhaps 20 to 30 minutes and there’s no setup so you can break it out before dinner and still be done in time.

How to Play

Qwirkle is like a mix between dominoes and Scrabble. You have wooden tiles with coloured shapes on them – six different colours, and six different shapes. You lay the tiles on a table in an interlocking, crossword-puzzle style format making rows and columns. Each row or column either has all the same colour, or all the same shape. Like Scrabble, you can sometimes play a tile that fits into both a row and a column – say, an orange star that works with the orange row and in the stars column at the same time.

qwirkle2 (Small)

An important rule is that the tiles in each row/column must be unique. That is, for an orange row, every shape must be different; for a stars row, every colour must be different. That means that there is a maximum of six tiles per row/column, because there are only six different shapes/colours.

On your turn, you have a look at the six tiles that make up your “hand” and see where you can add to an existing row or column on the board. You can play any number of tiles but like Scrabble, they must all be in the same row or column. After playing, you score your points – you get one point for every tile in the row or column (or both) you played into. If you play the last tile in a set of six – closing the row or column – that is called a Qwirkle and you score the six points for the row, plus a bonus six points. You definitely want the Qwirkles – and you definitely don’t want to leave sets of five hanging around for others to pick off!

qwirkle3 (Small)

Draw tiles to replenish your hand, then mark the points on a piece of paper and at the end, the person with the most points wins.

qwirkle4 (Small)

Why We Love It

As I mentioned above, there’s no setup so you can break out Qwirkle and get it going in no time. It’s a good game for all levels and easy enough to play and learn that even people in your circle who don’t like games can be sucked into playing – we find this is a great time to bring out at Christmas or Thanksgiving or other big family events where you’ve got a mix of levels and ages and interests. It’s complex enough to keep us adults interested and the cute colours and shapes make it fun for kids, too.

It comes in a box but you store it in a bag, for use when pulling out tiles. That’s both good and bad – I like the bag but it can be awkward to put on a shelf of games. It seems like it would be a good travel game but the bag is actually pretty bulky – but you can buy a travel sized set with small tiles that fits in a little tin. That’s maybe a better addition to your game shelf, actually, unless you are playing with younger kids who would appreciate the bigger blocks.

Some Bad Stuff

Sometimes near the end of the game you can find yourself backed into a corner, where a piece you’ve been holding in the hopes of getting a qwirkle must be played and then someone else gets the qwirkle you were saving for, which can make one bitter. But in general I do find qwirkle to be fun to just play – even if you are losing, there’s always the possibility of a cool move around the corner to make you feel proud of yourself.

qwirkle1 (Small)

Recommended For

Families who want something a little lighter and faster to play will enjoy this game; it’s a fun little spin for ages 8 and up. It’s widely available at Toys R Us or any toy store. Have fun!

Not A Bother

I’ve noticed something lately about my middle child, Gal Smiley. She is 11 years old and she is my right-hand-woman around here. Not only can she do a lot of the things I do – prepare snacks, or change the laundry, or talk her younger sister down from a wardrobe-related meltdown – she’s also really sensitive to other people’s feelings and helps keep the whole family on an even keel. She often knows how I’m feeling before I know it myself, and makes sure everyone is on board with working around that as best as possible.

It sounds great – and don’t get me wrong, it IS great, I don’t know what I’d do without her – but lately I’ve noticed that her desire to help out has extended to this new frame of mind where she doesn’t want to be a bother. It’s like she doesn’t want to add to the chaos and busy-ness, so she puts down her own wants and needs for the sake of the group.

For example, lately she’s taken to not letting me heat up leftover food that she is having for lunch, because that’s “too much trouble” for me and I’m “already so busy.”

Or, recently she got a new glasses prescription, and she was all like, “These ones I have are FINE, I don’t need new ones as it’s so much trouble, and so expensive, and I can live with these, they are FINE.” Which is nonsense, she should absolutely have new glasses, but convincing her that she DESERVES new glasses has actually been tough.

I have to say, I think this whole thing is sadly a pretty common thing among women. Our desire to please, to not rock the boat, to not cause anyone any difficulty. I’m the worst offender, myself, and I’m afraid I have led by example here, not wanting anyone to fight about anything ever, and never worrying about myself above anyone else in the family. And I fear I’ve been taking advantage of her caring ways by being a little too perimenopausal around here, sighing GREATLY over how UNAPPRECIATED I am and how I do EVERYTHING, which only makes her feel even more like she shouldn’t add to my great family burden. I mean, it’s partly who she is, but my own issues combined with society pressures aren’t helping the situation.

I suppose being aware of the problem is half the battle, and now I know I need to work on her – emphasizing her own self-worth, making sure she’s taking care of herself along with everyone else, making sure she speaks up when she needs or wants something. Telling her that what she needs is important and she should expect to get it.

It’s like the absolute reverse of dealing with a three-year-old. Funny how parenting changes.

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!

office7-desk (Small)

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!

office8-fullshot (Small)

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.

office1-edward (Small)

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.

office2-gondola (Small)

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.

office3-turtles (Small)

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.

office4-carsmurfette (Small)

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

office6-lego (Small)

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.

office5-smoothrocks (Small)

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.