Bread Pants

Gal Smiley has a hobby: dropping food on her pants.

(I can only assume that it’s an active pursuit, as there’s no other way to explain the volume of food that ends up in her lap at every meal.)

A few months ago, Sir Monkeypants started teasing her that she needed to invent, and start wearing, Bread Pants. Pants, made out of bread. Then, when she dropped ketchup/salad dressing/milk in her lap, she could just rip off a piece of her pants and eat it, like a fancy hors d’oeuvre.

I mentioned this idea to my mom, and I suggested that if she was ever out and saw fabric with bread on it, she should pick some up and either she or I would make some PJ pants for Gal Smiley out of the bread fabric. I have to admit, I did not think that there would be much availability of bread fabric in the world.

But my mom found some.


This is bread fabric. Not only did my mom find it in the fabric store where my niece works, but they didn’t have enough to make a pair of pants left on the bolt.

So my lovely, dedicated mother made a special trip to the other branch of the store, one city over, to get enough bread fabric, and they had just barely enough.

So now Gal Smiley has Actual Bread Pants, and they are the most hilarious thing ever, and she adores them and wears them pretty much at all times when she does not have to leave the house. I’m sure she would wear them to school if we allowed it.

But I am left with lingering questions, like, who thought making bread fabric was a good idea? And why is there so much apparent demand for the bread fabric? And what projects are people doing with the bread fabric, if they are not making Bread Pants?

It’s a crafting mystery.


You Go

Sometimes in our neighbourhood I see people out running. Most seem pretty serious about it. They’ve got the wicking shirts and brand name running shoes and running-specific water bottles and headphones. They’re cruising along at a good clip, working their rhythm, feet falling naturally onto familiar paths.

But sometimes I’ll see someone who does not fit that mold. Someone who is wearing faded yoga pants or a ratty old university sweatshirt, perhaps carrying their water bottle in their hand because they don’t have one of those fancy belts. Someone who is a little overweight, plodding along, maybe alternating between walking and running, especially on the hills.

These are the people that I find really inspiring. These are the people who are putting themselves out there, who are just trying their best. Who know that they have to do something active and they have to start somewhere and so they made that first step to make it happen.

When I drive past someone like this, I’m always thinking, You go. You do it. You are awesome.

Over the past couple of years I have done more and more sitting, and less and less moving. My yoga studio closed down and they moved the time of my tap class so I can’t make it any more. Our elliptical machine started bothering my knee, and my bike has had some technical problems. I’m working more and some days I push the end-of-workday so late I have to drive to pick up the kids, even though the school is less than a kilometer away. I’ve had to move up a couple of pant sizes, but more importantly, I huff and puff when I go up the stairs, and I can’t carry as many groceries as I used to. When I go for a walk with the kids, they have to slow down so I can keep up.

I know I need to do more before old age makes that impossible, but I find it so hard to get motivated. I really, really hate exercise. Running is absolutely out of the question. So I thought to myself, what kind of activity do I actually enjoy, what do I want to do enough to actually leave the house on occasion and just do it?

So far I’ve only come up with one small answer, and that’s ice skating. I love it, even though I’m terrible. And by terrible, I mean I can mostly stay upright and glide forward, but I can’t stop, or turn properly, or skate backwards. I’m a bit of a menace on skates, to tell the truth, but there is something about the crisp cool air of an arena that I like.

So once a week now I have been going to public skate at the local rink, and hit the ice for just 45 minutes or so. I teeter around the ice as others pass me – ladies doing two laps to my every one as they casually chit chat about an upcoming wedding; aging hockey players who crossover effortlessly as they cut between the other skaters; even the odd three-year-old, still learning but already able to zip like lightning around me, unafraid of falling. I plod around and try to avoid the ruts and pray I’ll stay on my feet – two weeks ago I fell so badly I ended up with a four by two inch black bruise on my hip, so deep and dark it’s there still. But I went back for more because it’s the right thing to do, the necessary thing to do.

When I’m on the ice I like to think that the other skaters don’t see me as an awkward obstacle to get around. Instead I like to imagine that to them, I’m like those beginner runners I notice and cheer. I hope they are thinking, You go. You do it. You are awesome.

Because if I can imagine them thinking it, then maybe I’ll start to think it too.

Not Quite There Yet

Our kids are now 13, 12, and 9, and Sir Monkeypants and I have been talking about how to make them more independent. There’s the teaching of skills, like cooking and cleaning and doing laundry, but there’s also an awareness issue – the ability to think ahead to what they need to do, and make time to do it. The ability to know they have a job to do – without being told – and to be able to gather all they need to do it, and make it so.

This weekend we spent just one night at my youngest sister’s house in Toronto for Thanksgiving. Since it was only one night, I didn’t do a lot of my usual packing Super Hardcore Anal Ninja work, where I create lists upon lists and pre-cook all our food and double check everything. On the day before we left I casually told the kids to go upstairs and pack their stuff. On their own.

HA HA HA HA. Laugh at my folly!

Each kid was to pack one change of clothes, one pair of jammies, one toiletries bag, one sleeping bag, and one single sleeping pad or mattress.

We got:

One kid with two PJ tops, and no bottom.

One kid with no top part to her change of clothes, and because she’d been wearing a fancy dress the day before, ended up coming home in her PJ top.

One kid with no toiletries bag – likely left behind at scouts camp, DON’T GET ME STARTED – and so cobbled together a makeshift bag missing half the usual stuff.

One camp mattress with no fan thingy to blow it up.

One camp mattress that was a double, which doesn’t fit in any of my sister’s guest rooms.

No camp pad at all for the third kid.


We survived and everything, but still. It seems we are not quite at the independence stage quite yet.

On Loyalty

One of my favourite scenes of all time from the movies is from the film The Town starring Ben Affleck and Jeremy Renner as best friends and bank thieves who get into a seriously bad situation in Boston. Ben has just learned that the girl he is interested in – who happens to work at the bank they robbed – is being harassed by some skeevy dudes that live near her. Ben goes to see his best friend.

Ben: “I need your help. I can’t tell you what it is, you can never ask me about it later, and we’re going to hurt some people.”

Jeremy, after a moment’s thought: “Who’s car are we gonna take?”

Jeremy Renner was nominated for an Academy Award for this role, and this single moment right here is why. The Academy, just like me, is a sucker for loyalty. I just love characters who stand by the hero, the sidekicks who offer unquestioning support, the ones who got your back. A few years ago, there was a meme going around where you had to pick three values that you cared most about, and for me, loyalty was at the top of the list. It’s almost physically painful for me to cut anyone out of my life; once you’re in, you’re in.

This scene came up between me and Sir Monkeypants this morning as we were chatting about our middle kid. Gal Smiley just turned 12 and she’s becoming a little harder to reach, a little farther away. She’s usually buried in a video game or a book, hiding out in her room with headphones on. We only see her at dinner and even then she’ll pout if we aren’t watching a show. At bedtime she’s moved past the tuck in and chat phase, and now just puts on her headphones and listens to music until she falls asleep.

I miss her, and I worry that when she starts running into teenage troubles we won’t have a good foundation for her to come to me for conversation and advice, so we’re going to work on that. But one thing that Gal Smiley does have is my own sense of loyalty, in spades. For her friends, she’s their rock, their Jeremy Renner, the one who is willing to punch someone in the face in revenge for a mean comment made to one of her inner circle. She’s the one who still invites kids to her birthday party who she hasn’t seen since they moved away two years ago, because they were friends once, and so therefore still are. Once you’re in, you’re in.

Luckily for me, I was already in with her from day one. I’ve got her back, and I know she’s got mine. We just need to find our way back, and I know we will. We just need to figure out who’s car we’re gonna take.

A Conversation with My Nine-year-old Daughter about the Theory of Relativity, While She has a Bath

Her: Mommy, who is the smartest scientist?

Me: Well, a lot of people would say it is Einstein.

Her: Why?

Me: He came up with the Theory of Relativity. Do you know what that is?

Her: Nope!

Me: He said that the fastest thing in the universe is light. We don’t think of light as taking time to travel somewhere, because when we flick on a light switch, the light comes on right away. But really it takes time for light to travel. The sun is so far away, it takes 8 minutes for its light to actually get to Earth.

Her: Sometimes I see when I turn on the light it takes a flash and I can spot it.

Me: Well, probably not, but that is the idea. And then he said that speed is related to time, which was a very new idea. He said that nothing can go as fast as light – it is the fastest – but that as you start to go almost as fast as light, time slows down.

Her: So more time passes or less time passes?

Me: Um…less time passes. Say there is a guy on a racetrack driving a car…

Her: Like James from Dancing With the Stars?

Me: Yes. And he is driving very, very fast around a racetrack. And we are just sitting there watching him for like, 12 hours. At the end, you and I got 12 hours older, but maybe he only got like…

Her: Like, 1 hour older?

Me: Well, more like 11 hours 59 minutes, but yes, less. Now imagine he could drive at the speed of light…

Her: ALMOST the speed of light, because nothing can go that fast.

Me: Right! And he drives at almost the speed of light for like, 30 years. Then when he stops, you and I would be 30 years older, but he would be the same, it would be like just a few minutes had gone by for him.

Her: That would be so cool! “What are these weird computers in the sky? Why does everyone have jet boots? Why is my daughter 30 years old now?”

Me: Exactly. And then Einstein also went on to say that E=mc2. Have you heard that before?

Her: I think I saw that in Minecraft.

Me: It’s a famous math equation that says that energy and mass are related. Like, you have a bunch of stuff inside you – elements and molecules – and Einstein said we can talk about that stuff as having energy. Did you know that if we took a bag of sugar like we buy at the Superstore…

Her: Flour, or sugar?

Me: Sugar, the small bag. If we could blow apart every single molecule in that bag, it would create enough energy to power New York City for like, a month.

Her: Huh. Is that a lot of energy?

Me: Yes! It’s a ton of energy. Now if we wanted to create a bag of sugar out of nothing, how much energy do you think it would take?

Her: A LOT.

Me: Yes! And this idea led to lots of new discoveries about how the world and the universe works. The most amazing thing is that Einstein just thought all this stuff up, from his head. There’s no way to experiment on this stuff – at least, there wasn’t at that time – and no one was thinking about this kind of stuff, and out of nowhere he just figured it all out. That’s why people think he’s the smartest.

Her: Did he invent electricity?

Me: Um, no, I don’t think so.

Her: Who did that? Because they were pretty smart.

Me: I’m not sure, we would have to look it up. There was a guy named Ohm, and a guy named Volta, and a guy named Tesla…

Her: Those are funny names! Oooooooohhhhm.

Me: Yup. But also smart dudes.

Her: Mommy?

Me: Yup?

Her: Someday I am going to be the smartest scientist.

Me: You know it, baby, you know it.

Special Friends

On paper, we’re a family of five, but in our hearts, we’re a family of eight. The three extra members have a few handicaps – stuffing for brains, for example, and the inability to move unless clutched fiercely by the neck and dragged with an armful of other toys from room to room. But they really make up for it with superior softness, a certain indescribable cuddly factor, and a surprising amount of personality.

Big Wheel is my son’s blue monkey, with a rattle inside that sometimes stops rattling for indeterminate periods of time after a trip through the washing machine. Big Wheel’s black, embroidered mouth requires replacing about once a year, a delicate surgery involving much pacing and stress in the waiting room, even though the teen years for both monkey and boy are looming in the near future.

Shearly is my middle daughter’s sheep, more grey now than yellow, with one favourite ear in tatters. Shearly has had a few outright holes patched with fabric transplants, and strongly resists trips to the laundry room, as her distinctive smell – not exactly pleasant to the untrained nose, but not repulsive, either – is essential to her charm.

Hero is my youngest daughter’s brown bear, with a crooked smile that hints at a mischievous personality and rounded ears that, mandated by His Girl, must always be folded in, not turned out. He has a tag near his tail that has been worried into a stub and his neck isn’t quite able to hold his head up anymore, but he’s still up for tea parties, even if that means being squeezed into a pink velvet doll dress.

The Special Friends are, of course, firmly loyal to their respective children, but they do allow us to co-opt them from time to time. Hilariously bad ventriloquism is used to call tired children to bed or to assure the sick that their friend isn’t feeling well, either. They sometimes squeak out requests for cookies. We can’t really claim to know anything about that.

Long ago, in fear of losing the beloved stuffies, I bought a backup version of each. A perfectly intact monkey, sheep, and bear sit in a box in my closet, shocking in their cleanliness, ready to be called into duty if such a catastrophe should arise. But now I see that these new versions, while cute, would never be the same. The tatters and tears are essential to who they are; the little hurts have made them truly special. Those who seem less than are actually more than; it’s the history of living and loving, written on their faces, that makes them part of the family.

We can only hope to look as good.

The Losing

I think it is well known to the children that I am the softer parent. The one who is more likely to cave, to let things slide. If they want to play video games, they ask me first. If they want to not bother to clean up their breakfast dishes, they know I’ll sigh and do it for them. If they ask for candy, I’m likely to say sure, and look the other way while they’re helping themselves to triple the allotted amount from the cupboard.

But there is one thing that is guaranteed to infuriate me beyond all reason, and that is the Losing of Stuff. The children know – or should, by now – that if they can’t find something, they better ask their Dad for help, because if said something turns out to be Lost, WATCH OUT.

Conversation with nameless child this morning:

Child: Mom, have you seen my grey hoodie?

Me: No, I haven’t seen it in a while. It wasn’t in your closet when I did the annual clear out a couple of days ago. Have you checked the laundry and the floor of your room?

Child: Yes, it isn’t there.

Me, temperature rising: Well, did you wear it to school and then take it off for gym or during recess and leave it lying around somewhere?

Child: Yes, but I know I picked it up afterwards.

Me, huffing and puffing: I SUGGEST you check the lost and found at school! FIND IT!

And scene.

Not shown: crying, upset child turning to their father for help, who kindly finds said hoodie for them in the laundry bin, and warns said nameless child to sneak out the door to school while they can still escape my wrath.

Last night, we discovered that a different nameless child had lost their epipen waist belt, which is not cool, not cool at all. Not only does this mean the loss of the belt, and the medicine, both of which are not inexpensive, but it indicates that said child was not wearing their epipen for some unspecified amount of time, without a care in the world. NOT COOL.

I may have told said child to find said epipen at school today or not to bother coming home. Not shown: kind father comforting said child and then fleeing with all the children to the safety of the school yard.

I know I’m over the top with this. But seriously, children, keep track of your stuff. FOR YOUR OWN GOOD. Trust me.

Bringing Mojo Back

I feel like I’ve lost my blogging mojo a little bit. So I’m going to try to get back into it with the Patented Blogger Brain Dump. YOU’RE WELCOME.

After a lovely, warm week, today it is pouring rain and chilly. And my youngest, who has been home sick for the past two days, has an all-day outdoor field trip.


My middle kid turned 12 on Wednesday, and I was going to make her cake from a mix, with icing from a can. I rarely do this – due to food allergies around here, I usually make an egg and milk free cake. But for my husband’s most recent birthday he requested that for once, we have a “real” cake, with eggs and butter and everything, and OMG, it was like HEAVEN IN MY MOUTH.

So now we will have lovely real cake on birthdays, with a small side vegan cake and/or pie for the Captain.

Anyway, I got partway through mixing up the cake mix when I double checked the ingredients, and turns out it contains cottonseed oil, as did the icing, which my daughter is allergic to, so, I would have to say, less than good as a birthday cake solution.

I threw it out and turned to my grandmother’s classic Red Plaid Cookbook for help, and managed to make a plain vanilla cake that was pretty good. But the big news here is that when I turned to the frosting sections, there was one for Caramel Icing, and so I made it, and OMG, it was like HEAVEN IN MY MOUTH TIMES TWO. Seriously, the best icing ever.

Today as she was savouring leftover cake for breakfast, my youngest said to me, “Why don’t more people make caramel icing?” and to that I have to say, “I don’t know, what the hell was I doing with the first 45 years of my life?”

Great mysteries, people.

Recent parenting wins:

I went to have headshots taken for my web design business a couple of days ago, and the youngest was home sick, so I had to have her tag along. I told her to bring a book to read, and she brought our big book of the Elements of the Periodic Table, so she could read about the elements. The photographer noticed my nine-year-old reading about Praseodymium and Astatine and I gotta say, I thought we were making a pretty kick-ass impression. Later my kid used the book to quiz me as the Captain and I have been trying to learn all the words to this song like the mega-geeks we are:

The next day, a guy came over from our roofing company to claim payment – we had our roof replaced a couple of weeks ago – and he was impressed that a) our oldest son had hair even longer than his, which was up the classic man bun, b) we had our latest family game, Stockpile, all set up ready to play, and he was also a gamer, and c) while we were talking the two oldest asked if they could watch John Oliver videos while waiting for the game to start.

I’m sure both the photographer and the roofing guy came away with the idea that are model parents with brilliant, unique, super-cool kids. HA HA HA HA. Five minutes after both these incidents we returned to our usual state of kids begging for video games while I read Entertainment Weekly and serve cereal for dinner.

But still: parenting wins.

I’m still getting into the swing of back-to-school. The older I get, the more I find these transitions to be difficult – moving from the school schedule to the summer schedule, then back again. I always spend the first two weeks of September just frantically trying to catch up on a million things that I let slide, thinking I’ll have so much time to work on them once the kids are gone all day.

It really is amazing how fast six hours can pass.

I’m hoping by next week I’ll have my head above water when it comes to the design business, and I’ll finally remember that Thursday is laundry day, and I’ll figure out how to find time to be creative in addition to being productive. Time marches on and I feel like it is slipping away from me a little bit and I need to just come up for air, take a deep breath, and have a good look around. Then, line up my planned projects like ducks in a carnival game and knock them off, one by one.

Step one: breathe.

Also: don’t forget to pick up the kids. School’s out in 10 minutes. GAH.


Someone I know made a post on Facebook the other day, asking how old everyone’s kids were when they started going to bed later than their parents. I was very interested in this thread, as we have been butting up against this very question for a couple of years now. The older two have started going to bed later and later, while I, in my old age, have started going to bed earlier and earlier, and now we’re at the point of passing.

On Facebook, the answers were all over the place – some parents were night owls and outlasted their kids well into their teens; other parents had a regular bedtime of 8:30 p.m. for themselves, so their kids had been staying up later than them for years. One woman mentioned that her 12-year-old daughter was now at the point of wanting to stay up later than her parents, but was still a little freaked out at being the only one awake in the house at night, and so still went to bed when they did, even if she didn’t fall asleep for an hour or two. FASCINATING.

I think I would actually like my older two to pass me at this point. They are 13 and 12 (TODAY, happy birthday Gal Smiley!!), and both have been officially appointed as babysitters for their younger sister so they’re getting used to being alone in the house at night. They’re both starting to be super awake in the evenings, as teens are, and would like both to stay up later, and to have more say over their own bedtimes. For now, though, we still put them both to bed around 9:30, and sometimes we let them read for a bit, but it’s lights out by 9:45.

Meanwhile, I’m desperately trying to stay away on the couch past 9 p.m. Why bother? Both kids still like to be “tucked in” – to have us walk them upstairs and chat for a few moments before bed – and although I’m exhausted, it’s hard to let that go.

The other reason is that post-bedtime used to be time for my husband and I to hang out. Even if we were just watching a TV show together, it was something we did as adults that was just for us. I still try for Couple Time, but it’s getting harder and harder. I usually barely make it to tuck-in time, then we come downstairs and I’m asleep on the couch within 10 minutes. It seems like it’s time for me to just call it, and give up, and go to bed at 9, and let the other three sort things out.

I’d be missing out on some good quality bonding time, though. How does everyone else manage this? I wonder.

(Don’t tell me: COFFEE. SIGH.)

Summer of Bust

Well, our Summer of Awesome was somewhat less-than this year, I’m afraid. Between me working a few days a week, to the kids getting older and not being as interested in things like the park and the pool, and getting tired of some of the same old museums, we spent a lot of time just sitting around in our jammies watching movies and playing Minecraft.

Which I suppose is its own kind of awesome, but somehow I still feel like I failed at summer. I was talking to Sir Monkeypants about this the other day and he didn’t really get it, but I’m hoping some of you do. I’ve read a lot of articles about how women, in particular, feel a lot of pressure to “do it all” at Christmas, to make the holidays perfect, and although I do a lot of stuff in December I rarely feel pressure – what gets done, gets done, and so be it. But I realized this year that I DO feel that kind of pressure about Summer – to deliver a Totally! Awesome! Summer! every year through planning and adventure and research, and this year I didn’t do that. The kids are happy enough, but I still feel like I should have done more.

Sir Monkeypants always takes the last week of the summer off so we can do a few fun things together as a family, and this year even that week was a total bust. We spent most of those days doing chores around the house while the kids had a Lord of the Rings movie marathon. Our big planned outing to Calypso Water Park was blown after an hour of fun when one kid got sick; our make-up activity of a day at Saunders Farm was super hot and missing a few activities that had already ended for the summer; and our one-last-blow-out attempt at a family swim ending in the parking lot when we found out the pool was closed for maintenance, as were the other two closest pools. GAH.

It felt like the world was against fun. Don’t hate the fun, world!

In any case, summer turns to fall and we are sliding fairly easily back into the routine. The kids all got at least one good friend in their classes and so are happy enough. I’m working away again at the home business. The roof is being redone and the garage door, which snapped a cable last week, is fixed.

We’re all hoping for a Fall of Pretty Good.