Getting Festive With It

The girls and I have been working our way through the cheesy Christmas movies on Netflix. We’ve never had the Hallmark Channel here, so the bountiful riches of crappy romances on Netflix is totally new and novel. Some have been okay, some have been a little groan-inducing, but mostly they have been cheerful and positive and smell faintly of gingerbread, so all good.

(Mini reviews – the kids loved Christmas Chronicles way more than I did, but it was okay; The Princess Switch was the bomb; double bill of A Christmas Prince and A Christmas Prince: Royal Wedding was so-bad-it’s-good; Nailed It Christmas Edition is NOT to be missed)

I was laid up on the couch yesterday, so I decided I might watch another – Christmas Wedding Planner.

But luckily I thought the main girl looked a little familiar, so I looked it up in the IMDB first.

People, this movie, THIS MOVIE. It has the BEST horrible user reviews of all time. Here is a very small sampling:

Entitled “Garbage”:

Brew up a cup of hot cocoa, and then dump in a hearty helping of your favorite cleaning chemical. This one’s a doozy.

Here are a few tidbits about this abysmal, schlocky assault on the senses:

1. The female lead spends half the film texting her dead mother.

2. Joey Fatone plays a chef. He has way too much dialogue. He plates and serves a lobster like 2 and a half minutes after it has been ordered.

3. The film’s ending wipes out the second and third waves of feminism in one deadly, surgical strike.

Please. Hug a loved one. Read a book. Water your plants. Pick your scabs. Do anything but spend a nanosecond of your infinitesimally short time on this earth watching this movie.

Here’s another:

Keeping aside the sub par acting coupled with the most unreal storyline, the ending seemed the most bizarre to me. There is no real plot, the characters do not feel any genuine emotions (not even a woman who just broke up with her fiance on the aisle), and do not even get me started on the last scene. I concur that love conquers all and all other cliches associated with it, but Christmas Wedding Planner portrayed each and every aspect of love and christmas horribly wrong. I watch a lot of romantic comedies and this movie will definitely top the list of the 5 Worst RomComs of all Time.

This one is also typical:

This is by far the WORST movie I think I’ve ever seen. How it was in my recommend on Netflix has me perplexed. The dialogue was horrible. The acting somehow even worse. And the ending was absolutely absurd. It was like a car wreck that you couldn’t stop staring at. I literally made an account to save people from 90 mins of cringe.

Best review ever – entitled “My Eyes are Bleeding…”

I would rather die….I would rather die….I would rather die….I would rather die….I would rather die….I would rather die….I would rather die….I would rather die….I would rather die….I would rather die….I would rather die….I would rather die….I would rather die….

Needless to say these are all 1-star reviews. I guess the 0-star review isn’t allowed. There are DOZENS like this, and so many more hilarious ones. If you are looking to kill time while laid up on the couch, skip the movie, and just read its reviews instead.

(Although, don’t you totally want to watch it now, just to see if it is really THAT bad? I am tempted.)

In happier holiday news, Spotify has just added a new Christmas album, my most favourite of all time – It’s A Hi-5 Christmas. It wasn’t there last week, and now it is, and there is JOY in our household. It’s a kids album, and it’s as cheesy as a Hallmark movie, but a GOOD Hallmark movie. It has lots of original tunes you won’t find anywhere else that are absolute classics in my house.

If you’re on Spotify, you can find it here. Santa Claus is Coming!

If I Were Famous

I work from home, so I spend a great deal of time wandering about my house in my jammies with a cup of tea and bowl full of Skittles.

This sometimes leads me to imagine how different my life would be if I were famous. By “famous” I specifically mean for acting or singing or modelling, or something else where my physical appearance was part of the package, as opposed to for writing or winning a Nobel Prize for Economics or whistle blowing on the addictive properties of the brightly-coloured hard candy industry.

Once I saw an interview of Madonna (I believe it was in her Carpool Singalong with James Cordon) where she talked about how she’s totally un-glam at home. She prefers sweatpants and no makeup and only puts on the Rock Star when she’s leaving the house.

But even then, I imagine she has to be camera-ready at all times. No matter how much she likes to slob it around at home, she must have to hit the gym at least every other day, if not every day, just in case she gets called in for a photo shoot or interview or red carpet event.

And she must have to watch what she eats all the time, because she can’t be getting a giant pimple just before some big awards show or something. Plus all those gowns and designer clothes would be expensive to replace if she gained even one pound, so while slumming it in her sweatpants she’d still have to stick to salads and carbonated water.

And if she did want to leave her house, even if it’s only in the car to hit the McDonald’s drive through for a black coffee, then she has to worry about someone taking her picture, so a minimum amount of makeup and hairstyling would be required. Even Madonna, I’m thinking, does not keep a full time makeup person on staff so if I were her, I’d have to spend a lot more time learning how to actually apply makeup so I don’t look like a circus clown, and maybe buy some hairspray.

And if I were someone like Angelina Jolie, then every time I left the house I’d have to worry about my outfit and whether or not it makes me look too fat or too skinny or too rich or too menopausal, because people are going to comment on that. So, for a random example, I wouldn’t be able to drop my kid at school wearing my jammies and Bogs and a Girl Guide toque like I did this morning.

Not to mention the fact that I’d have to make sure every one of my kids was properly turned out whenever we were leaving the house, not just physically, but mentally too – happy and shiny and ready for the world, and not likely to be screaming “I HATE YOU YOU’RE THE WORST MOTHER EVER” in the aisles of Shoppers Drug Mart in a half hour or so.

And then I feel like maybe it’s a good thing that I am not a famous person, because clearly I am not cut out for that lifestyle, even though (just between you and me, please keep this hush-hush) I wrote that achieving fame was my number one life goal in my Grade 11 summer camp yearbook.

On the other hand, if I had a jagillion dollars and a full-time chef and full-time maid and full-time assistant to constantly monitor all my social media feeds for me, maybe I’d have a little more time for glamming it up. I’ll let you know when I get there.

Things I Used To Do

I’ve been getting our Christmas Cards together. I still like sending them, because I like making up the annual family newsletter, but I’m starting to feel kind of weird about sending them because almost no one else does. And no judgement! It’s a lot of work and people just don’t exchange cards like they used to. I remember back when Sir Monkeypants and I lived in our first house – this would be at least 15 years ago – we’d get so many cards each year that I had them strung on ribbon all up and down our bannister. Now, if we get ten cards a year we’re lucky (and five of those come from my mother, who buys each of us the most beautiful card each year).

I was working on them last night and my youngest was helping out by putting on stamps and return address stickers, and she asked me how many cards I thought we might get in return, and I had to brace her for probable disappointment. She’s HEAVILY into Christmas and traditions and holidays in general. I’m sure when she grows up she’ll be sending out packets of cards with joy and delight. I will do my part and send one to every member of her family so she gets at least six or seven (I’m betting on her having at least a full handful of kids).

It’s a good thing that she is so into traditions because I find I am losing enthusiasm for the whole thing, at least this year. I just feel tired all the time. Remember when I used to bake up ten different kinds of cookies, and make mixed tins for every family we’d be visiting over the holidays? Remember when I started shopping in October, putting together ideas lists and combing the stores for just the right thing for each person, whereas now I hit Toys R Us on one Saturday in December and pick up whatever is on sale? Remember when I wanted all the lights on our house, and now I’m happy with one of those laser light shows and a sparkly snowflake in the window?

Yup.

This year it was my youngest who pulled out all the decorations and put them up, and decorated the tree on her own. She’s done most of my wrapping so far and as mentioned, is helping with cards. I’m sure she’d do the baking for me if I asked her, while I’m happy to just sit with my David’s Tea Advent Calendar Tea of the Day (BEST THING ABOUT THE HOLIDAYS EVER). She’s anchoring the team. Go Little Miss Sunshine!

I do tend to blame Girl Guides for a lot of things – feeling tired and burned out and having all my creative energy going to that one thing. Work has been super busy and for me that’s both busy and creative, too. So I get why the days of me doing a daily craft or Christmas activity with the kids are maybe over.

But secretly I’m hoping that next year will be different. I’ll take less work in December, I think to myself. I’ll be done with Girl Guides, I promise. And then maybe I’ll feel those same old cinnamon sparks that encourage me to bake, and light evergreen scented candles, and pore over flyers looking for just the right gift for everyone on my list.

Next year, I whisper.

Toking Up

I was at World Trivia Night on Friday, which is a huge trivia competition done in teams of 10 people here in Ottawa, once a year. There are a LOT of teams, and as a result we are usually crammed in there pretty tightly. I was sitting at the corner of our table of 10, and pretty much back-to-back with the lady on the team next to us who was at the corner of her team’s table.

Over the course of the evening, those of us at that end of the table (sending shoutouts to my poker buddy LuckySevens and Bibliomama) smelled the distinctive heavy sweet smell of weed. It took us a while but we eventually pinpointed it to the lady sitting back-to-back with me.

She had smoked enough of it beforehand to smell of it when she arrived. There were two 15-minute breaks in the three-hour evening, and during both she went outside and smoked more (evidence: whiff test).

It was just kind of an interesting thing. I’ve smelled it before at say, concerts, or in the parking lot outside the Circle K down the street from us. But this was a quiet sort of average public event. I guess this kind of thing might happen more often now that marijuana is legal.

The weirdest thing for me was how incredibly normal this lady seemed. She was about my age and about my size (read: starting to thicken out in the middle a bit and sporting some grey hairs). She looked like your average soccer mom. She was there with her husband/partner and they seemed really happy and cuddly. She looked healthy, although I know some kinds of pain don’t really have external symptoms.

It wasn’t a horrifying or icky thing or anything like that. Just curious and interesting. Is this going to be a typical thing now, or was it just a fluke? Are average soccer moms toking up several times a day, or is it still just something for people who are sick and/or rock stars?

I guess I just assumed that with the legalization of pot, it would be something people do in their homes, in private, quietly, with a small circle of friends. Maybe something you did in a party situation; not something you did three times in a three-hour window while at a public event. I wasn’t anticipating the general public to quickly start carrying it around and smoking it freely. Maybe I was naive.

But it does make me think it will be hard to keep it out of the hands of young people.

Have you had any experience with legalized pot so far? What have you seen?

(Also: free use of the phrase “toking up” in this post is meant to disturb my teenagers, who had never heard that term before and still deny that it even exists. I’m bringing it back, baby!)

Mixing It Up

Our family is a multiracial family – my husband is Indian – and I feel so lucky to live in a place where a) I have never once thought that this could be any kind of problem, and b) at least ten other mixed race families live on my very own street, so it’s literally no big deal. Surburban Ottawa rocks, y’all!

But that said, I am vaguely and mildly aware that there are very few mixed race characters on TV and in the movies. So when I see one, I do notice, and I like it.

Recently I watched a Christmas movie on Netflix while I was spending the day cooking for a Girl Guide sleepover. It was called The Holiday Calendar and the main character had a white mom and a black dad and it was all super casual, like not even pointed out, absolutely not any kind of factor in the story.

Don’t get me wrong, you should NOT watch this movie. It was terrible. (My apologies to those friends of mine on Facebook who liked it and recommended it.) Terrible acting and writing. But still, it will always have a little special place in my heart for the way it showed a multirace family as being a totally normal thing.

In a similar way, this is my favourite TV commercial. It’s for Tide Pods and they have bought my respect and goodwill forever for the same reason – the way they showcase a multiracial family like it’s no big deal.

Hard to believe that no more than five years ago, similar commercials from Old Navy and Cheerios caused a big stink. We’ve come a long way, which is nice, considering the first black-white kiss on TV was back in 1977 and was a huge, huge deal. No need to rush or anything, pop culture!

When you see yourself reflected in movies and TV, it’s something, isn’t it? I don’t know, I just get a warm feeling. I shouldn’t need a cheesy romance movie or a Tide commercial to feel like my family is normal and accepted, but I guess I do. It’s just reassuring – especially the ad, as advertising is usually all about including the widest audience possible and not offending anyone. Canada is a pretty awesome place to be right now, I’d say.

Getting Crafty

I love a good craft.

Some people like a craft where they are given a random assortment of supplies and then they invent something. Or they love taking a jumble of home-related stuff and creating a tableau. Or they like just getting their hands into some clay or paint or pastels and seeing what happens.

I am not that kind of crafter – I really love to make a THING out of a KIT. I am a paint-by-numbers, follow the Pinterest directions, use this pattern and instructions kind of girl. But that is good crafting, too. It’s just creative enough for me and I get a lot of satisfaction out of making something and that can be fun.

This weekend, for example, I made some flags for a Semaphore station I am running at a city-wide Girl Guide event on Saturday.

It took a long time and I had to invest my own money in the supplies, both of which are the primary things I like to bitch about when it comes to Girl Guides, but on the other hand I MADE FLAGS, which is pretty much my most favourite thing in the world so it’s all good. Hopefully the event goes well, as I am not just running a station, but I am supervising 12 of my guides on my own because no other leaders could come, plus I am cooking four different dishes for 300 people because they couldn’t get enough people to cook, AND I have to sleep on the floor because there isn’t any room for blow-up mattresses. SIGH.

I really am not doing a good job of convincing you all to be Girl Guide leaders, am I? PLEASE COME LEAD MY UNIT.

My youngest is also heavily into crafts and when she is bored around here, she is driven to create. Which I totally get, but also, it often means there is crafty stuff all over our one table when it’s time to eat/do homework/play cards/literally anything else that requires a flat surface. We really need a craft room here but sadly, three rooms of my house are now given over exclusively to Girl Guide storage so that makes it tough to find room.

(Really, you WANT to come lead my unit! You do!)

Little Miss Sunshine is also a by-the-kit kind of crafter so she likes to look things up on Instagram (she subscribes to many, many crafting feeds) and then mimic them. Lately she has been working on a series of Jars Painted To Look Like Fruit, which I think is actually a mish mash of a craft we did in guides combined with other stuff she’s seen online. She has several of them now but I could only find this one – it’s her Strawberry – for a photo:

I forsee an Etsy shop in her future.

And while we’re talking about getting creative, I was tired of my middle daughter’s bedroom floor having a foot-deep layer of discarded clothing on it all the time. So I bought her some of those temporary mount hooks for her wall and now it looks like this in there:

That’s making me happy. Man, that girl sure does love her plaid.

And On To Winter

Halloween was last night. I have a firm “no trick or treating after Grade 8 rule” but then a friend of Gal Smiley’s, who moved away over the summer, called and said she wanted to go out and so I let her go, along with Little Miss Sunshine. The Captain is now in Grade 10 and he said “all his friends” were still going out and he was quite bitter about not being allowed to go. Am I a Halloween Scrooge? Just wondering.

One of my favourite things about Sorting Through The Candy is looking at the unusual treats some people give out. Last year we got several Fortune Cookies and personally I thought that was pretty cool. This year each of the kids got a freezie, unfrozen, which is interesting (and likely very cost effective) but I envisioned several exploding inside the trick-or-treat bags of small children, leading to unhappy kids and even more unhappy parents, so I’m thinking that’s a pass. The Little Miss also got two Kool Aid Jammers, which are definitely sweet enough to count as a treat but I still would guess that they came from a “we ran out of candy” house, or possibly a “we forgot to buy candy” house.

We have one house on our street that hands out cans of pop. (The Little Miss pointed out that it is always caffeine free pop, like Sprite or Cream Soda or MUG Root Beer, in case you are wondering about that.) I used to think this was weird and also decadent, as we usually get at least 300 kids on our street each year. But this morning Little Miss Sunshine and I were talking it over, and I may be sold.

Consider:
If you buy your pop at Costco, you are likely paying in the range of 20 cents a can.

With 300 kids at your door, that’s about $60.

I bought 8 boxes of candy – because the pieces are so small, I like to give two per kid – and I got it on sale at $15 a box, but that is still $120.

Plus, if there are leftovers – and we do have some this year, as we only got 270 kids at the door last night – we are stuck with a lot of leftover candy, which I either have to give away or eat, and then I have to buy new pants. But the pop family – a family of six – will likely use up the leftovers over the course of the year, even if they only have it as treats or on special occasions.

Conclusion: GENIUS.

The only real drawback is that it is very heavy in a kid’s bag, and for very young kids, they often have a pretty small bag to boot. So maybe they have one box of small treats for the under-three set, and everyone older gets a pop. It works! I’m making a note to at least consider it for next year.

And as always, the end of Halloween means Christmas decorations are flocking to the stores and we’re on to the winter season. We’ve already had one light snowfall here, and the days are grey and rainy and cold. But I love November – it’s my birthday month, and there’s always cheer and warmth inside by the fireplace, and the first few snows are still exciting and clean and white, and I can look forward to shopping for Christmas presents and ski season and World Trivia Night.

Plus I have a huge bucket of leftover candy to go through. Things are looking up!

Going Back to High School

When I was growing up, the movies always made high school seem like the golden years, the happiest years a young person could have. Carefree, discovering love and making lasting friendships, all American Graffiti.

These days, high school is usually portrayed as a cesspool of the worst kind of human behaviour, where all that is evil thrives and is amplified, and you are either a bully or bullied. My son and husband have been watching the second season of 13 Reasons Why on Netflix, and don’t get me wrong – it is interesting and engrossing and has led to lots of interesting discussion around here. But between that, and Riverdale, and even things like Glee, the whole picture of high school life is pretty grim. The heroes are constantly getting stomped on, and the elites seem like all they know how to do is exploit power and take advantage of people. Where are the average people who are just trying to figure it all out? Where are my modern day Napoleon Dynamites and Freaks and Geeks?

Anyway, that is not the point of this post. My point here is that although I do not look back at high school with some kind of rosy glow, it was a pretty good time for me. I was on the outside of most of the usual drama and I was super active in clubs and activities, so I had a lot of fun and made some good friends and learned some great stuff. It was overall pretty positive, I’d say.

So now that my two older kids are in high school, I find myself getting wistful – not for the social stuff or the activities, but for the learning.

I remember a lot of memorization of facts kind of stuff, but the stuff they are doing now? It’s so cool!

(They might not quite feel the same way.)

Some of their teachers are really creative and smart and engaging. For example, in history class, my son had an assignment to take a real life, Canadian WWII soldier, read his file (available in the Canadian archives), and then “become” that guy for a week – know everything about him, write his diary entries, present a talk as if he were that soldier. So cool, am I right?

And in English class, he’s reading Lord of the Flies (ugh), but at least his teacher has tried to liven things up by grouping his class into “islands” where they will have to complete a variety of survival challenges as a group. They even got to name their island and then design a flag for it – FLAG DESIGN, I am swooning.

In Gal Smiley’s English class, they are reading Romeo and Juliet. They are reading the old English in parallel with the graphic novel, and then once they are done both they will be making a Spotify playlist to parallel every scene in the play. Which, seriously, SO COOL.

In Geography, she went on a nature hike to examine local rocks; in gym class they are taking self-defense and getting CPR training. In drama, the Captain had a day-long fake fighting seminar and in computer science he’s writing a video game for kids in grade 3 at a nearby school, incorporating their own artwork.

I mean, I liked high school, and I don’t remember it being anywhere near as fun and interesting as all this. Makes me want to throw a party for all their teachers, who are rocking it.

(Also perhaps said party will buy me the ability to sit in and audit all their classes because – SO COOL.)

Be the Black Squirrel

The other day I was driving down a quiet neighbourhood street and a grey squirrel ran out in front of the van at the last moment.

I slammed on the brakes and managed to stop with about six feet to spare, but the squirrel was totally freaked out. He froze in an upright position, not moving at all, as if he could magically make himself invisible.

I wasn’t in any kind of rush, so I sat there too. I figured he’d eventually settle down after a few moments and run off, and I was afraid to try to pull around him because I envisioned that being the exact moment he pulled his crap together and moved, and then we’d meet up in a very unhappy manner.

So I waited, and he froze, and this went on for at least three or four minutes. I started to wonder if he was having a stroke or something.

Then, a black squirrel hopped out on the side of the road where the grey squirrel had been heading. He looked both ways (good boy!), determined there was no danger, then hopped merrily across the road, darting past the grey squirrel as if he really were invisible.

Oh, the poor grey squirrel. He snapped his head around, watching the black squirrel skip past, but continued to sit there in the middle of the road. The look on his face – one of complete confusion – was so funny. HOW did that black squirrel make it? Did he have super powers? Can he run at lightning speed?

Grey Squirrel just could not process the remarkable powers of Black Squirrel.

I took this as some kind of sign, and gently eased the van past Grey Squirrel, who was still sitting there frozen, with his head turned almost all the way backwards, seeking answers. For all I know, he sits there still.

It’s hard not to notice that I’m quite a Grey Squirrel myself. Frozen in place with indecision or fear, unable to move forward, even when I see progress coming easily to others.

Be the Black Squirrel, I thought to myself as I drove away. Some things that look like safety are really more dangerous than just moving forward and seeing what happens.

(Is it illegal to keep a pet squirrel? Because I feel like if I see Grey Squirrel again, I may have to adopt him, poor guy.)

Age Fifteen and a Half

Last night I was sitting on the couch flaking in front of the TV with the Captain, age 15 and a half.

Then, out of nowhere, he announced that he was in the mood for a little spaghetti.

And THEN, he got up and went over to the kitchen and proceeded to make himself some spaghetti.

This does not sound like a huge deal but I just about fell off the couch, and my mouth was hanging so far down I think my chin scraped the floor. It’s not amazing that he physically is capable of doing this – we have been training him to do some basic kitchen things, under duress, for a couple of years now. What was so amazing to me was the agency of it. The fact that he felt hunger, and then rather than just gazing about hopefully after declaring his hunger, expecting someone to do something about it, he decided that he, he himself!, would take action and make food happen.

ASTONISHING.

And! He even fried himself a hot dog on the side to put on top (we were watching Young Sheldon, so it was thematically appropriate). Which involved getting out a whole other pan! And using a secondary cooking technique!

AND! This was maybe an hour after we had just had dinner. The spaghetti and hot dog were a second dinner. I can’t even. This, from a guy who is fifteen and weighs, on a good day, if you weigh him after a really big meal, a scant 80 pounds.

So needless to say this was a pretty BIG DEAL as far as I am concerned. Lo, we have created A HUMAN BEING. Amazing!

Then, this morning I took all three kids to the dentist, and we have one with a cavity, a second one with a cavity, and a third one with THREE cavities.

You win some, you lose some, I guess.