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.

OF COURSE SHE DOES.


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.

Bedtime

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.

My First Seven Jobs

There’s a meme going around to describe your first seven jobs – I think it started on Twitter but you can read great ones in blog form over at Catherine’s blog and Nicole’s blog. So thought I’d list mine here, because I know how much the children are going to cherish my blog-based memories in the future (ha ha!), or at least, I will go down as a legendary diarist like Mackenzie King and above all things, I want to be complete about it.

(Side note: I took the kids to Laurier House last week, along with a tour of all the embassies in the area so we could do flag naming, and it was actually a much better field trip than it sounds – the staff at Laurier House are adorable and enthusiastic. Anyway, there was a plaque there with a diary entry of King’s where he talked about his recent weight gain, then, as a side note, mentioned that Churchill had just declared war, and I could not stop giggling about the comparative importance of the two. Huh. Guess you had to be there.)

So! My first seven jobs:

1. Babysitter, of course – I got roped into this under duress when my Super Babysitter older sister got a real job at a pizza place, and one of her faithful clients begged me to fill in. I was a terrible babysitter, in that I had no sense of responsibility or authority, but I was also a very popular babysitter in that I would actually play with the kids. It definitely was not my calling, though.

2. Library page at my high school – In junior high I was a favourite of the school librarian, who was a friend, I think, of my mother’s, and she put together a small team of girls to help shelve books at recess time. When I got to high school I went into the library to ask if they needed any shelving help, because I’d really enjoyed not having to go outside for recess, and it turns out they did, and also that it was an actual paying position. I got the job and loved it and did this for minimum wage for a few hours a week after school during my Grade 9 year.

3. Textbook Girl – After my first year I was stolen away from the library by the English department at my high school, who employed two girls throughout the year and the summer to manage all the textbooks in the school. My job was to receive new books and stamp them with the school stamp; hand out books in September and as needed throughout the year; collect them in June and inventory them; then spend the summer repairing the covers of ripped or worn books.

It was THE BEST JOB EVER. I had a master key to the school and my own office – a special wood-floored room on the third floor just filled with books from top to bottom, with a big bay window that looked out on the lawn. My co-worker, Sheila, became one of my all time best friends and she and I would hide away in the book room every lunch hour, reading and eating in the window seat. I think I read every book in that room – all the great works of literature – and never had to go outside for recess once. In the summer, we worked completely unsupervised and had the full run of the school – there was no one else there but the janitors, who were sweet and kind to us. We’d get a record player from the library and sit in a room doing repairs and rocking out and occasionally exploring the big old school, which was kind of like a castle and built in the 1850s. It was marvelous.

4. Bank Teller – The summer after my last year of high school I had to sadly give up the Textbook Girl job, as I was no longer a student, and I needed to make some money to pay for university. My good friend Erica had a mom who worked at a bank, and she got me the highly coveted job of bank teller, a job that paid very well and involved working indoors and watching Days Of Our Lives in the breakroom at lunchtime. I only worked there for a few months before quitting because I was moving away to university, but I learned a lot. Also, I now cross my 7s, a source of eternal confusion to my children.

5. IBM Co-Op student – I did co-op in university, which meant four months of school alternating with four months of work for 4 2/3 years. My first three co-op terms were spent at IBM in Markham, doing a little programming and a little training and a lot of goofing around with the other co-op students. It was pretty glamourous, living in Toronto and making big bucks and taking the subway to work.

6. Financial Models – My last co-op term was at a company in Toronto that did financial management of mutual funds for banks and large retirement funds. They were a small company and they gave me a ton of freedom to design and build my very own piece of software and man, I loved it there so much. After I graduated I went on to work there full time (with my own co-op student – my sister FameThrowa). It was a great experience but I left it to get married and move to Ottawa.

7. Small Local Programming Company – I’ll leave this company nameless because they were just terrible. The worst job I ever had. This was the first job I had in Ottawa after moving here, a small software company that made their own programming language for the purpose of large-scale document formatting. The management there – a husband and wife team who had founded the company – was just the worst. You know how when you get hired somewhere, there’s usually a clause in the contract that says they can dismiss you within the first 3 months’ probationary period without cause? That’s usually just in case of a terrible fit, or they found out you lied or something. I’ve never seen it actually used anywhere else I’ve ever worked, but at Company X, it was enforced all the time. They’d take people on, and at the 2.5 month mark, decide they weren’t working out, and fire them. Parents with kids left good jobs to come there, only to be randomly fired after two months. People were always coming and going and no one was safe, and they never warned anyone when hiring them that this was just a trial thing and so people were blindsided and devastated and it was just terrible.

In the meantime, having narrowly survived my own probationary period, I had literally NOTHING to do – this was when I started blogging, out of desperation for something to keep me busy, and I’d often spend my whole days blogging or reading blogs. There were like, three people in the company that the CEO liked, his chosen ones, and they did ALL the work. They’d be running around all day long, working on 10 different projects, but no one else was allowed to help or do anything because the CEO didn’t trust them, so instead the rest of us just did nothing. It was a crazy, toxic environment.

I worked there for just over a year before being rescued by Nortel, and I think we all know how that worked out – but at least it was a pretty great place to work while it lasted.

What were your first seven jobs?

Rio 2016

The Olympics are back! At our house, that means unlimited TV time as we watch every single event ever (rugby 7s! beach volleyball! pole vault! archery! gymnastics! ALL GOOD). I have Olympic Fever and I’m not afraid to admit it.

My friend RheostaticsFan was over on the weekend and reminded me that the last time there was an Olympics – two years ago, the winter Olympics – our youngest kid had to fill out a page at school on family traditions, and when asked what holiday her family loves to celebrate together, she said, “The Olympics.” Which is hilarious and awesome and wee bit embarrassing but mostly awesome.

She no doubt thought of the Olympics because, possibly more than any other holiday around here, Olympic time means craft time and decoration time as we celebrate – FLAGS OF THE WORLD.

Here’s our bannister:

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Flags ordered by current standings, as of this morning – we update it each day. Here’s the top of the leader board:

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And some more of our favourites, hoping to earn a spot on the bannister – can you name them?

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I just cannot get enough of making these little flags (which are about the size of a 6×4 photo). I have a crafting station all set up in the dining room covered with all colours of card stock, glue, my flags of the world reference book, and my beloved star-shaped punch. We are flagging it up around here. This morning for homework the kids each made a flag because we were missing a few on the leader board – my youngest made this kick ass flag of the Philippines:

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Memo to the Philippines, and while we’re at it, South Africa (also pictured): you have not made life easy for the schoolchildren of your countries.

It’s the Olympics, the most wonderful time of the year! How are you celebrating?

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.