Wins and Losses

The other night at the dinner table, one kid was humming Bohemian Rhapsody, another was singing American Idiot by Green Day, and the third was humming 16 Going On 17 from The Sound of Music.

I considered that a parenting win.

Then yesterday, the kids asked to play outside in the snow because it was so warm. I went to check on them about a half hour later and found all three with their coats off, bent over, with their heads stuck right under the snow like ostriches.

You win some, you lose some.

Personality Conflict

It’s been 10 years now that we’ve had a kid in school, 11 if you count preschool. In that time we’ve had teachers who were fun, and smart, and kind, and gentle, and rules-y, and stressed, and tired. We’ve always emphasized to the kids that they need to find a way to work with all personalities, and that being a teacher is a hard job so they deserve our respect even if we don’t quite mesh with them. Until now, that has worked – while our kids haven’t loved every teacher, they’ve gotten though alright.

This is the first year that we have a teacher-kid situation that is a genuine personality conflict. I do think this teacher means well, but this teacher has a bombastic, Big! Fun! style of teaching that involves a lot of teasing and lot of hijinks and a lot of rushing forward with big plans without filling in the details, and it does not work for one of my kids, the kid that has him. Luckily, the kid in question only has him for one class, three hours a week, but it has still resulted in many tears, coming home at the end of the day using words like “hate” and “horrible” and “terrible” to describe school and this teacher in particular.

If this were your kid, would you say something?

I’m torn. On one hand, I think it is quite likely that this teacher has no idea he is destroying my kid’s whole day. I’m sure he would be concerned to hear how much of an effect he is having on the kid’s feeling about school.

But on the other hand, I can see, I think, that it’s nothing personal, and that it’s just this teacher’s personality. Can I ask him to change his whole personality? Can I ask him to handle my kid with kid gloves (heh), to pussyfoot around while he is happily Going Big with the rest of the class?

And I’m worried that his style of teaching specifically VALUES independence and hardiness, and pointing out that my sensitive kid is sad will only highlight the fact that the kid is not doing well in that class, and does not have the skills valued to succeed in that class.

Hm. What do you think – continue to comfort my child and emphasize that we must work with all types, that it’s nothing personal…or ask the teacher to change and to make allowances?

Spirits

One of my favourite songs from this past year is Spirits by the Strumbellas. Newly nominated for a Song of the Year at the JUNOs!

The lyrics to the chorus of this song go like this:

I’ve got guns in my head and they won’t go
Spirits in my head and they won’t go
I’ve got guns in my head and they won’t go
Spirits in my head and they won’t go
But the gun still rattles, the gun still rattles, oooh”

Yesterday I heard this same song on the radio with the word “guns” removed. As if it were a swear word – you know how sometimes artists make “radio friendly” versions of their songs with swear words blanked out, or maybe replaced? Classic example: Forget You, by Cee Lo Green, in which the original version does not use the word “forget”:

Still totally rockin’, either way, I think.

But for Spirits, I’m weirded out and kind of disappointed. Are we really at a stage where the word “guns” is a dirty word? It’s actually a pretty positive song about overcoming your personal demons, so maybe the band is worried that the use of the word “guns” gives the whole song a different connotation. But I like it – it captures the gritty danger of being on the emotional edge much better than the replacement lyrics, which are these:

I’ve got dreams in my head and they won’t go
Spirits in my head and they won’t go
I’ve got dreams in my head and they won’t go
Spirits in my head and they won’t go
But the heart still rattles, the heart still rattles, oooh”

In general I am adverse to change and I think that causes me to become too attached to things, and unable to see where things can be improved or ideas can be developed. Lord knows I absolutely despise the revamped Star Wars Episode IV. LEAVE IT ALONE, GEORGE LUCAS. On the other hand, the updated version of Are You There God, It’s Me Margaret by Judy Blume, featuring the use of more modern feminine hygiene products, was most welcome.

What do you think of this one? Better, or worse? Should an artist leave well enough alone when they’ve put something out into the world, or are they free to tinker?

And should “guns” be a word that’s used more carefully in song, especially pop songs aimed at teens? Were they right to be concerned?

If so, maybe someone should tell Foster The People.

One of Those Weeks

It’s one of those weeks when I need to clone myself – twice over. Every night this week we have at least two things on, sometimes three, and I just can’t be everywhere at once.

Lately I have said more than once – probably to the same people, I apologize for the repetition – that I always thought life would get a little less busy when the kids got older and we didn’t need to be so hands-on with the dressing and bathing and packing of stuff and wiping of butts. But I was wrong – now it’s worse, I think, in that no one naps and all three kids have their own set of activities and schedules, and now Sir Monkeypants and I spend a vast amount of mental and physical energy running between ski club and piano and outdoor ice rink maintenance duty and birthday parties, trying to stay on top of everything. It’s bananas.

I have four different schedules on the go around here, and about five “to do” lists, all with critical items. My head is spinning and almost every surface in my office is covered with sticky notes. Plus, of course I am sick. Of course.

All this is to say that if you haven’t heard from me lately, I’ve possibly suffocated in sticky notes, but that doesn’t mean I don’t care. I miss the world! Maybe I’ll be back…next week.

Guess The Movie!

Sometimes when we are stuck somewhere waiting for something, I’ll pull out a notebook and whoever is around will play movie pictionary.

That’s where we take turns drawing a scene from a movie, and the others have to guess. It’s definitely more fun when people get it right – this is not a game about stumping.

It’s more a game of making people laugh at your bad stick drawings.

The other night, we had a good round with me, Sir Monkeypants, and the two older kids. They had such a good time, actually, that they suggested I put their drawings up on my blog for everyone to guess.

Some of these are from obscure family favourites…but most are mainstream hits. Can you guess which movies these represent?

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Getting the Mail

The divide between The Big Kids, as we call our older two, and our youngest, is bigger than ever.

Captain Jelly Belly is almost 14, in Grade 8, and I just registered him this week for grade 9 at a new school. HIGH SCHOOL. We’re all a little freaked out. Gal Smiley is 12 and a half, in Grade 7, and our tallest child now.

Although both of them still go to our local school, the same one they’ve been going to since JK, they now find their own way home, walking with a gaggle of friends. I see them when they come in and they maybe share a few words about their day before grabbing some cookies and rushing off to play video games. They’re not interested in playing with toys anymore; it’s all screens and talking with friends, maybe a movie or a TV show here and there, but only if it has lots of action, isn’t animated, and maybe throws in the F-bomb once or twice for thrills. They aren’t so much interested in being told what to do and they aren’t so much interested in showering and they aren’t so much interested in being told that no, we can’t watch Friends over dinner, it’s family time.

Our youngest, though, is only 9 and in Grade 4, and that’s still the kid zone. I still go to the school each day at pickup to get her. She runs out of the school and flings herself into my arms, bubbling over with things to tell me. She still wants help with her homework and takes my advice on where to glue the pictures for her project on Bears very seriously.

Each day after I pick her up from school we go to get the mail. We walk together hand in hand over to the super mailbox, making plans for the rest of the day. Just being together. Visiting. She gets to work the key and then hands me the mail, and then every day – always the same – she hands me my keys and tells me this exciting “backup set” of keys has also mysteriously arrived in our mailbox. Ha ha.

We are very much alike, her and I, in all the good ways and all the bad ways, too. But it means that when we walk and talk we have a natural rhythm, a back and forth where we both share something and learn something. I sometimes feel badly that my older two never really got alone time with me like Little Miss Sunshine does, even if it’s just for a half hour or so every weekday before the Big Kids arrive home from school.

But I also wouldn’t trade these moments for anything. Getting the mail is the highlight of my day.

When Is It Time To Call It?

My husband has a dream. His dream involves the five of us heading out to the slopes on a chilly but sunny Saturday morning, strapping on downhill gear – skis or snowboards – and hitting the hills. Swooshing down slopes with glee, shouting at each other to watch this! was we race down, landing in the lodge after a few runs to swap joyful stories of speed.

So far: not happening.

The problem is me. Totally me. The kids have been taking lessons now for several years, and they’re coming along well. They’re bold on the hills – sometimes too bold for my tastes – and they love it, the wind in their faces, the spray of snow as they slide in at the bottom. They can’t wait to go to their lessons every weekend and they’ll take any ski trip, any time.

I took a few beginner lessons two seasons ago, and then weekly lessons last year. I’m getting better, I guess, but one thing never goes away: the terror. I just hate going fast. I hate the feeling of being totally, completely out of control (and trust me, that happens often – just about every run). At the top of every single hill, I have to brace myself, give myself a little pep talk, then grit my teeth and force myself to ski down, praying I won’t break a leg in the process.

Last year we were at Mount Packenham, a local ski hill that I have heard many others in Ottawa refer to as little more than a speed bump. If you’re into skiing or snowboarding at all, Packenham is apparently a laughable location, barely even worth sledding down, let alone skiing. But I eventually got somewhat comfortable there – I can’t even do their black runs, which others tell me are easier than green runs at literally any other ski hill on earth, but they had a few very gentle walk-in-the-woods kind of runs and I occasionally, rarely, but sometimes, actually did kind of like them.

But unfortunately my children are so, so tired of Packenham – they’ve been going there for five years and they’ve outgrown it. So this year we have graduated to Vorlage, which according to many is the next baby step up from Packenham, and we went last week for our first lesson there, and I ALMOST DIED.

Okay, I admit, that is an exaggeration. Really it’s more like, I almost broke my neck and ended up paralyzed for life.

It’s big. And fast. The lift is rickety and the runs all have weird curves and bends in them that I can’t manage. The ends of the hills are steep and sharp and you come racing into the lift line, unable to stop. There’s hidden ice everywhere and the lanes are narrow and I can’t turn or stop. I go too fast and I panic and I get convinced THIS IS THE END and when, by some miracle, I end up at the bottom without breaking both legs I’m literally in tears from the fear and the total loss of control.

Needless to say, my husband’s fantasy of us sitting around laughing and sharing happy stories in the lodge hasn’t quite come to fruition yet, as I’m usually sitting there in mega bitch mode, convinced my family hates me and the world is an awful place. FUN.

So, is it time to just call it? My husband finally told me after last week’s horror that if I want to quit, I should just quit. And trust me, I want to quit. But I do like his little dream of a family thing we can all do together. And my pink ski boots are so cute. And I literally do nothing else physical, so maybe just one thing would be good for me. Plus, I just gave my youngest, who wants to quit gymnastics because she doesn’t like her teacher, a strongly worded talk on Committing To Things We Have Signed Up For, and I guess that applies to me, too.

I’ll give it one more week, I’m thinking. Just one more week. Then we’ll see.

Hello 2017

Lately my Facebook feed seems to be full of recommended articles about how January is blah, the Monday of months, something to be slogged through. But I like January. It feels fresh – and not just because of the chilly temperatures and newly fallen snow everywhere. It always feels to me like a time for rolling up my sleeves, starting new projects, thinking about what I want to do this year and how I’m going to make it happen.

Progress so far: lots of chocolate eaten. Sigh.

Still, I have confidence that I’m going to have a big reset and a flood of energy any moment now. The December break was delightful – I made a decision to do less, much less, for Christmas, and it was great. So much time for doing puzzles and eating cookies! I thought I might use the extra time saved in December to do more work, or perhaps more writing, or to finish the novel I’ve been reading for like, three months, but no, mostly I just puttered around. Hooray for puttering!

So it’s been harder than usual to ramp up the activity machine – oh man, was it ever hard to get out of bed on Monday – but things are happening, a little slower than usual, but they are happening. Work is getting back on track, writing will hopefully soon be back on track, and if I can actually get a day when I don’t need to go to the grocery store (suddenly everyone is starving all the time, which I guess is a good thing, but sheesh, do I have to get myself an apartment in the back of the Superstore?), then maybe I’ll get around to cleaning up around here.

One thing I wanted to mention about the holiday, because I forget every time, is how much I appreciate the bathroom reading at my mom’s house. We go down to visit both sets of grandparents every Christmas and my mother still lives in the same house I grew up in, a house with one full bathroom and a teeny powder room in the basement. Four daughters in that family, kids. If you missed your bathroom slot – either in the morning or at night – you were out of luck.

My older sister lives with my mom and I think she doesn’t think I notice, but whenever we are coming to visit she curates the reading in the downstairs powder room. It’s an overflow bathroom for emergencies and putting on makeup, mostly, so visitors are not as time-pressured, and thus there’s a little magazine rack there. Every time we visit the titles have been changed, and I know she puts thought into it – there will be a comic strip book, usually For Better or For Worse; something in the true crime genre, short tales of horror; a few YA titles for the kids; and maybe a magazine or two about celebrities or the royal family. Often there’s a quick-read action or mystery novel that I’ve never heard of.

I usually end up spending more time in the bathroom than is appropriate.

But it’s one of the little things that make Christmas visiting feel like an actual vacation.

And now – time to put the bathroom reading aside, make an epic To Do list, and get cracking. 2017 – it’s on.

What I Live With

The other day, I was heading out to Ladies’ Poker Night, and my husband and youngest were teasing me that they would not let me go unless I brought them back a present. So I offered to bring them both 5 cents – Ladies’ Poker Night is a low stakes affair – and they agreed, although somehow I got talked up to 10 cents.

I didn’t win anything at poker, so I figured the deal was off, but the next morning much fuss was made about the fact that PRESENTS were PROMISED and not GIVEN and SADNESS. I rolled my eyes and continued making the grocery list and then went out to do the shopping.

When I got back, my older two children had left me notes.

From Gal Smiley:

MOM I heard that Dad and LMS were promist presants and DID NOT RECIVE THEM! Also am I getting a presant? or is that going to be “missed” as well?

love your daughter (who was not promist presants and did not get any!)”

And from Captain Jelly Belly:

Hey do I get presents? I heard you promised Daddy and LMS presents. It is not OK to show favouritism so I think I deserve some presents.

Do you not love me?”

Everyone had a dime waiting for them at their place at the table shortly afterwards.

A Holly Jolly Christmas

I’ve heard a lot of people saying they aren’t feeling the Christmas joy this year, and I totally get that. It’s hard not to think that it has something to do with the current political climate, which seems to deliver scary, bad news every day. The fact that it’s been unseasonably warm and rainy in Ontario might have something to do with it, too. I know that even though I am officially Done My Shopping, I still feel like Christmas is a long way off.

I mean, I haven’t even felt much like listening to my Christmas music CDs, even though they are all loaded in the van. What is UP with that, I say?

So I thought I’d reverse the trend by doing a post on things that are making me happy this December. Not necessarily Christmas-y things, but things that bring me joy, and that make me happy for the upcoming break, and maybe will make me want to hum a Christmas tune or two.

Lettuce

I love lettuce so much. It’s becoming a not-so-jokey joke around here that the kids are going to give me a big bowl of lettuce for Christmas. Frankly, I’d be delighted. Green Leaf lettuce from the Farm Boy is the shizzle. I can go through two heads a week – I’d go through more but I’m already embarrassed to buy so much lettuce each week. I’m actually sitting here writing this with a big bowl of lettuce next to me for snacking.

The other day I was out running errands and I was starving and one of the places I had to stop was the Farm Boy, so I bought myself a Green Leaf Lettuce and ate it in the car. That’s how much I love lettuce.

Advent Calendars

I’m really happy I didn’t do the activities calendar with the kids this year. Yes, I think it means I feel a bit less festive this year. But it has made things a lot less hectic around here, and I have to say, the kids are really enjoying their actual get-stuff advent calendars, so bribery success achieved!

The older two have LEGO calendars (City and Star Wars) and they love them, but the youngest has a Tsum-Tsum calendar and it is THE BOMB. Tsum-Tsums are little Disney characters in weird plastic pellet form. The youngest is obsessed with them – for Christmas this year she is getting Tsum-Tsums, Tsum-Tsums, more Tsum-Tsums, and also a Tsum-Tsum display case which is probably already too small for all her Tsum-Tsums. I was worried the advent calendar would have a lot of duplicates in it but so far, due to Christmas theme-ing, it’s just been awesome.

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It was sort of stupidly expensive but if you are into these little guys, it’s worth it to try to grab one now (maybe on sale?) and catch up, or save it for next year. I haven’t seen it in stores around here but I ordered one online at Amazon.

Tea

Meanwhile, I have my own advent calendar – a David’s Tea advent calendar, that my family gave me for my birthday in November. You get a little tin of a different tea each day to try.

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I also thought this calendar was a little expensive but it’s been worth it. I really look forward to a new kind of tea each morning at breakfast, and my middle daughter made me a little chart so I can record the tea of the day and my review/rating of it. Plus, the packaging is so great – the quality of the outer box, the inner boxes, and the little tins is so good that you could keep it and use it again next year, filling the tins with whatever treats you like. In fact, I am going to do this, and fill the tins with a variety of candies for my husband, who is feeling a little left out of the advent calendar festivities.

I wonder if there’s a Facebook group where David’s Tea advent calendar owners can discuss the tea of the day. Maybe I’ll start one.

Christmas Cards

I still plug away at the Christmas Cards every year, even though the number we receive in return is dwindling. I like to think that people enjoy getting our family newsletter and I have to admit, putting it together is more for me than anyone else – I love looking through our past annual newsletters and seeing how the kids have changed, or what the year’s highlights were.

I love getting them, too – both for the news and the beauty. My mom in particular sends us lovely, fancy cards from Papyrus each year, one for each member of the family, and they are proud ornaments on our mantle. The one she sent to me this year is mostly white with a tiny gold tree on it and it seems so peaceful and simple and gentle, it makes me happy.

My New Author Site

I decided to make some big plans this year for my writing. I still consider myself a dabbler, but I want to pull together some of my short stories into a self-published book sometime in 2017 so I figured I better have a website for launching it.

You can check out my new author site over here. If you sign up for the mailing list there, I’ll notify you when the book comes out (or if anything else I write gets published).

I have to say, I’ve visited it a LOT in the past week or so. I really like it.

Happy December, everyone!