A Life Lesson Learned

So yesterday I took the kids to the Museum of Nature for an outing.

We used to go frequently, but it’s been more than a year now since we were there so our annual membership had lapsed. The whole way there I was dithering about whether we should get a new membership – which pays for itself if I go three times in the year with the kids, and twice in a year if Sir Monkeypants comes too – or if I should just admit that this was likely to be our only trip of the year and pay just for the day. I was leaning towards just paying for the day.

But then we got there and had to wait a half hour in our car just to get a spot in the parking lot. And then we finally got inside and there was an epic line up – right out the door – to get tickets. I don’t remember it ever being that busy before. Is that typical for the summer? Hm.

So we get in the long line for tickets and there, temptingly, off to the side is a small desk for members with absolutely no one at it. We could buy a membership right now, leap over the line, and get inside.

So I did. Plus we threw in a 3D movie, because LIVING LARGE.

We went inside and spent about 15 minutes in the Earth Gallery, which was our primary reason for visiting (there’s been recent interest in rocks and gemstones in our house), before the kids complained they were hungry. So we gave up and went downstairs to the cafeteria to eat lunch.

We were sitting with our food when I noticed that Little Miss Sunshine’s left eyeball was about to explode.

Some background here: we have spent the week caring for some pets at a friend’s house, while they are on vacation. These friends have a cat, and Little Miss Sunshine is super allergic to cats. She’d been medicated with antihistimines, though, so I thought we were okay.

At the museum, she’d been rubbing her eyes a lot and complaining they hurt so I gave her more meds and thought that would be the end of it. Then, while eating, she casually looks at me and OMG – WHAT is your eyeball doing, child? The white part of her left eyeball was kind of yellow and gelatinous, and worst of all, BULGING – like, instead of being a nice sphere, her eyeball was sort of lumpy with the coloured part inset and the whites pushing out. GAH.

So we packed everything up and went to the hospital.

The people at CHEO, who we sadly know much better than we ever wanted to, are so nice and kind and great with kids, but it was still three hours we chilled in the emergency room before we saw a very nice doctor who told us that although it looked incredibly scary and gross, the Little Miss just had Chemosis, which is an uncommon but not unusual extreme allergic reaction (warning: do NOT Google images of Chemosis while eating). Likely she touched something with cat on it and rubbed it into her eye. More Benedryl and she was sent on her way.

By then it was late afternoon and the Little Miss actually wanted to go back to the museum, because she had been looking forward to seeing the gemstones and more importantly, shopping in the gift shop. But I was exhausted and not looking forward to another half hour wait to pay for a second round of parking, so we went home, eating the loss of the 3D movie tickets.

But! We can now go to the museum on any other day, because I bought the damn annual pass.

So the lesson here is: always buy the annual pass.

The end.

Aging Not So Gracefully

As I age, my fear of bugs is getting worse and worse, especially my fear of spiders. When I spot a spider in the house, you know it, due to excessive screeching. I realize my response to spiders is Not Appropriate, and yet I cannot help myself. I suppose that’s the very definition of a phobia.

Luckily I have a secret weapon around here, and that’s my youngest daughter, Little Miss Sunshine. For an intense animal lover, she certainly has no qualms about getting in there and squishing the hell out of any bugs in the house. I think her need to be helpful outweighs her need to cherish animal life. I’m not going to quibble with that.

The other day I was driving around with the Little Miss sitting quietly in the back seat right behind me. Suddenly she squealed and started kicking the back of my chair over and over, hard, then just as suddenly, stopped.

Me: Um, I’m driving here, honey. Usually it is not a good idea to bother the driver like that.

Her: I know, but there was a giant spider crawling up the back of your chair.

Me: OH MY GOD, YOU SAVED MY LIFE.

Her: I know. I’ll need a tissue when you get a chance to scoop up the guts.

She rocks.

Aging Gracefully

A weird thing is happening to me as I age, and that is that I have come to like vegetables. Not just like them; crave them.

Those who have known me since childhood (hi, Fame Throwa!) know that this a rather shocking turn of events. I was the poster child for I Hate Vegetables, the stereotypical kid sitting at the dinner table with lips locked and a look of horror on their face. I didn’t even like the ones you can usually coax kids to try, like carrots or peas or celery.

One time, my poor mother tried to lay down the law and insisted I sit at the table until I ate three small baby carrots that were left on my plate. After an hour and a half I finally choked one down and then threw it back up, along with the rest of my dinner, all over the table. After that, she was resigned to looking the other way while I slipped Fame Throwa (who has always loved veggies) my broccoli under the table.

Suddenly, it seems, I cannot get enough of them. I was out at the Farm Boy a few weeks ago and they had a little bowl of cut cucumbers out as samples. I have always despised cucumbers but for some reason I took one, and it was like a Festival of Joy in my mouth. I bought like, 20 mini cucumbers and ate them all within three days and had to go back for more.

(Then I took a pregnancy test JUST IN CASE.)

Now I find I’m obsessed with lettuce. I could seriously take an iceberg lettuce and just bite into it and eat the whole thing like an apple, but between the Farm Boy and the weekly farmer’s market I’ve been delving into all kinds of dark, reddish, or bitter variations and loving it. Plus, red peppers: NATURE’S CANDY. So delicious.

I realize this probably just means I’m dehydrated. Also, come winter I’ll probably be depressed when all the vegetables go back to tasting like water and I’ll get over it. But for now, I like to think of this as just me getting better with age.

Obstreperous

I like to think of myself as well read, and I have read a lot of older classic-type novels, which means I know a lot of words. Even words that are no longer in common use.

The other day I was reading a Nancy Drew book to my youngest – The Whispering Statue, which I just learned from that very Wikipedia link was completely rewritten in 1970. It contained this part:

The intruder was taken completely by surprise. It was easy for the three girls to hold him. As he became obstreperous, George used a judo trick which buckled the man’s knees and he fell.

Obstreperous is a word I have never heard before. I just could not get over the fact that a Nancy Drew book contained a word that was completely foreign to me.

Plus, it means “loud and difficult to control,” which if you have kids like mine, means this word should be in DAILY USE. “Knock it off, you’re becoming obstreperous.” “I’ve had it with your obstreperous fooling around, I’m turning this car around!” “Hey! Try and be a little less obstreperous, I’m trying to watch Jeopardy!”

Am I right or am I right?

So – officially kicking off the campaign to bring back obstreperous. It deserves to live.

obstreperous

Little Readers

I was a Reader as a kid, and I always hoped my kids would be as well. And they do like reading, although it’s not the kind of obsession it was for me, the kind that makes you sneak a book onto your lap at the table or stay up late with a flashlight under the covers after bedtime. It’s more like something they are WILLING to do, eyeroll, when I force them to put their screens away. But at least there is some reading going on around here pretty much every day, which is good.

I guess I needn’t have worried about it so much because in addition to my history as A Reader, I also have a sordid history as A Book Buyer. It’s my absolute weakness. I will wear shirts with stains and holes in them, I will wear shoes until they crack and fall apart, I will deny myself all manner of treats and bling, but put me in a bookstore, and I am WEAK.

Observe my house:

The horror that is my bedside table backlog. Not shown: overflow pile on the floor.
The horror that is my bedside table backlog. Not shown: overflow pile on the floor.
My husband's bedside table. These were all gifts from me.
My husband’s bedside table. These were all gifts from me.
There's a bookshelf in my room...
There’s a bookshelf in my room…
And one in each kid's room...
And one in each kid’s room…
And each kid's floor kind of looks like this...
And each kid’s floor kind of looks like this…
And we have some overflow hidden in some cabinets here and there...
And we have some overflow hidden in some cabinets here and there…
Plus my basement looks like this.
Plus my basement looks like this.

It’s a Situation, is what I’m saying, but possibly a good one. If there’s ever a Zombie Apocalypse, we’ll be able rebuild society based on my personal library of Every Classic Children’s Book Ever.

The only other shopping weakness I have is this:

crayons (Small)

Seriously, I MUST STOP BUYING CRAYONS.

Here’s what’s being read around here these days:

Captain Jelly Belly, age 13 – The Alchemyst series by Michael Scott; also, although it is a bit below his reading level now, he’s only just discovered A Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket and finding it HILARIOUS – I think the dark, dark humour in those books is maybe best for this age level.

Gal Smiley, age 11 1/2 – Gal Smiley is the closest we have to a real Reader in that a) she can get so lost in a book that we have trouble getting her to come to dinner or go to bed, and b) she re-reads favourites over, and over, and over, and over. Also, this is totally beyond my comprehension, but she often has about five books on the go at any given time and picks them up randomly, which would drive me NUTS. Right now she is re-reading the Kane series by Rick Riordan (having just re-read the entire Percy Jackson series for the THIRD TIME), plus she’s working her way through Frank Cottrell Boyce’s entire works (including Millions and Sputnik’s Guide to Life), plus she just got Scrap City by D.S. Thornton from the Chapters because it was the thickest book she could find in the 9-12 section. Also, she has several graphic novels on the go at any given time – right now it’s the Lumberjanes series by Noelle Stevenson and Grace Ellis.

Little Miss Sunshine, age I-turned-9-years-old-yesterday! – Together we are reading the Nancy Drew series at bedtime, and on her own she’s working her way through the Mermaid Tales series by Debbie Dadey, the Stink books by Megan McDonald, and the Phoebe and Her Unicorn graphic novel series by Dana Simpson.

What are you reading this summer? And what are your shopping weaknesses?

For Christmas We’re Getting Her a Green Visor

This past weekend our friends the Lucky Sevens came over for dinner. They have two kids that slot nicely in between our three, and the five of them usually have no trouble finding some scheme or other to occupy themselves when we get together.

This time they all disappeared into the basement and while the adults were chatting, we could hear quiet, followed by a crazy uproar of shouting and squealing, followed by quiet, repeat. We were curious, but no one showed up with blood or a broken bones and we’ve been parents long enough to know that if no one is crying, you leave well enough alone.

Later at dinner we asked them what they had been playing and it turns out that my darling daughter, Gal Smiley, age 11 3/4, had started an underground Hexbugs betting ring.

DSC_5370 (Medium)

DSC_5372 (Medium)

If you’re not familiar, they are little electronic bugs that you can put on a plastic course, kind of like a Hot Wheels course, and they vibrate when you turn them on and sort of jitter around and move places. What Gal Smiley was doing was setting up some sort of course challenge – the first to break out of a closed space, or the last one to remain on an elevated bridge perhaps – and then taking Monopoly money bets as to which hexbug would win.

Winners got their investment back plus 10%. Losers lost it all.

I gotta tell you, I wasn’t sure if I should be mortified or proud, but I was certainly leaning towards proud. The inventiveness! The entrepreneurship! The drive!

And yet, you know, the vague illegal nature of it all. This must be how Bernie Madoff’s mother feels.

Gal Smiley loves nothing more than the exchange of money, and she is always hustling to make a buck. We’ve already called her for a future career in sales or possibly stock trading. But this is a whole new area for her. Our daughter, the bookie. The heart swells, does it not?

Approaching the Summer of Awesome

I can hardly believe that this is the last week of school. Teacher gifts went out this week – I was talking to my sister about how teacher gifts were not a thing when we were a kid, but now they are a MUST, not that I mind, because I think teaching is a tough job and you have to be some sort of saint to want to spend hours a day with other people’s children, but it’s interesting how times have changed, isn’t it?

Starting Friday I will have three children in the house full time, and also for the first time ever, I am going to be trying to work (albeit at reduced hours, but still). I’m kind of in denial about the whole thing, choosing to focus on the fact that I don’t have to make lunches (WHEE) rather than I will shortly have no personal space for quiet contemplation or creativity, and instead will have three squeaky voices at my elbow at all times, begging for more video games and/or narc-ing on the others for sneaking video games.

It’s going to be an INTERESTING summer, to say the least.

I am still planning (hoping?) to do a couple of day trips a week, even though I now have two teen/tweens who are much more interested in having a video screen in their face than doing anything with their lame-old mom. To counteract this, I have already decided that there will be a daily limit of screen time (three hours, in case you are curious, I always want to know what other parents consider reasonable, so I’ll open the conversation here), and they can decide for themselves how to spend it, and whether to binge all at once or parcel it out. I’m hoping this will eliminate a lot of the whining and begging and mental effort it takes to be the Video Game Jailer, but we’ll see. Considering bickering and fighting and whining about being bored is likely to drive me around the bend when I’m trying to get some work done, I may turn out to be a bit of a marshmallow when it comes to enforcement. I have no Illusions of Backbone here.

In any case, I still went ahead and optimistically made two lists this year – one of places to go and visit, and one of “no-screen” activities that I’m hoping I can point to when they are going into video game withdrawal (although most of these require my personal supervision so I may have shot myself in the foot here). Here’s our plans:

Places to Go / Day Trips

Altitude Gym Clip and Climb
Karter’s Korner (likely more than once, they are in prime go-kart age)
Saunders Farm
Art Gallery
Rock Balancing at Remic Rapids
Westboro Beach
Petrie Island Beach
Puppets Up! Festival (August 6/7)
Rideau Hall/Changing of the Guard
Parliament Hill
Pink Lake Hike/Carbide Willson Ruins
Laurier House
Diefenbunker
Byward Market shop tour
Company of Fools Shakespeare in the Park – my kids love this, mostly for the pre-show Lego recreation I give them so they will know what’s going on. It’s Pericles this year, a tragedy – wonder how that will play.
Funhaven
Mini Golf Gardens
Museum of Nature – ultimate dinosaurs, nature swap
Casino/Museum of History Fireworks show – August 6, 10, 13, 17, 20
Museum of History – CINE+ movie
Tuesdays – classic car night at Hazeldean Mall
The Capital Fair – Aug 19 to 28
Splash Pad Park
Upper Canada Village
Mont Cascades/Calypso
1000 Islands boat cruise (maybe, this one is a long shot considering I will have to actually organise something in advance)
Movies: Finding Dory, The BFG, The Legend of Tarzan, The Secret Life of Pets, Ghostbusters, Star Trek Beyond, Pete’s Dragon

No-Screen Activities

Bike Ride (to the corner store for a slushie or just around the neighbourhood)
Lego Build Challenge (where I give them an assignment and they must create it)
Board Game/Card Game
Make cookies – or just eat the dough
Bubbles
Sing It/Rock Band/Just Dance (doesn’t count as screen time as it’s a family activity)
Storytime with Picture Books
Hot Wheels challenge
BeyBlade Challenge
Read a book
Visit the Library
Go out for a treat
Swim at the pool
Croquet at the park
Splash Pad Park
Go fly a kite
Remote control car driving challenge
Target practice – with bow and arrow, nerf guns
Hide and Seek – with stuffies or action figures
Make ice cream or slushies
Set up the tent in the backyard
Make PlayDoh
Scavenger Hunt – inside or outside
Write a Letter
Dance Party
PJ Party
Lunch picnic
Science Experiments
Throw a disc around at the park
Stargazing
Trip to Sugar Mountain, a candy store
Trip to PlayValue, a Lego/Playmobil mecca

What are you doing this summer? Any suggestions for us?

On Their Own

We have started giving the older kids a little more freedom around the neighbourhood. For example, Gal Smiley at age 11-and-a-half is allowed to ride her bike over to her friend’s house, and then either hang out in the park or go down to the Mac’s Milk for a slushie. Captain Jelly Belly at age 13 is allowed to go to our next-door-neighbour’s house after school for a couple of hours – his parents aren’t home from work yet, so it’s just the two boys in the house playing video games.

It’s that time, I guess, when you set them free and start letting them figure things out for themselves, hoping that all the training you gave them about life stuck in their minds somewhere and they make good choices. Eeep.

Two boys alone in a house with internet access in particular makes me nervous – of course, one’s mind does go to porn. I’ve been on high alert for this, quizzing him each time about what they did, watching for signs of blushing or shifty-eyed changing of the subject. I like to think I’ll be calm and fair and that it’s normal and I just want to talk to him about reality vs. fantasy, and respect for women, and put it all in context. But don’t worry, I do have a Major Freakout on the back burner just in case it seems called for.

Today his buddy was accidentally locked out of the house so they came over to our place instead and it was revealed that the shady dealings of teen boys actually do not involve porn, but do involve Call of Duty, a Mature-rated video game that the Captain is not normally allowed to play at our house. We’ve been limiting him to things rated Teen or under. But we are very good friends with the other boys parents, and we like them all very much, so this is less a case of “hey, you broke the rules” and more a case of “huh, if they think this is okay, maybe we should revisit our policy.”

So they’re downstairs right now playing Call of Duty (we have a copy, it’s my husband’s) and I’m a little fretty and a little unsure and a little sad about the Loss of Innocence and such. But that’s parenting, right?

My Husband Went Out Of Town and the World Exploded.

I can count on one hand the number of times I have gone away, overnight, from my children.

Each time I have done so I return home to a clean house with children happily playing outdoors. My husband is full of tales of kids helping to cook, long family bike rides, board games, and cheerful bedtimes. He always wonders why I think being home with the kids alone is so tough.

This week he had to go out of town unexpectedly and within 24 hours of him being gone:

  • two out of three children got terribly sick;
  • the phone and the internet both died;
  • the hot water heater died;
  • the van refused to start, and I had to call CAA for a jump, and then it happened AGAIN;
  • and our shower developed a leak.

Needless to say, I was a hysterical mess. The house slowly descended into Heart of Darkness style madness as I wept over the fact that we had no Netflix to occupy the sick children, the dishes and laundry piled up, and we got smellier and smellier.

He came back on Saturday and suddenly all was well with the world. He fixed the internet and all the children were healed. I think this might go to his head.