Best TV Characters Ever

A few days ago, Brooklyn Nine-Nine got cancelled. It’s one of my favourite shows and one of the few shows that we watch together as a family, and I was sad.

Less than 36 hours later, it had been picked up again by a new network. Yay! Rock on with your silly self, Nine-Nine!

In between there, in the sad hours, I boldly declared that Captain Holt, played by Andre Braugher on Brooklyn Nine-Nine, was my most favourite TV character ever. EVER.

No one clip can capture the understated brilliance of Captain Holt, but this one might do:

Anyway, Sir Monkeypants challenged me, thinking I was blinded by the recent cancellation, so we brainstormed other TV Characters We Have Loved. Of course, I have not seen every TV show ever. But of the ones I have seen, here’s a list of my all-time favourites.

  1. Captain Holt, Brooklyn Nine-Nine
  2. Veronica Mars, Veronica Mars
  3. Buffy, Buffy The Vampire Slayer
  4. Eli Gold, The Good Wife
  5. Quack, Peep and the Big Wide World
  6. Christina Yang, Grey’s Anatomy
  7. Liz Lemon, 30 Rock
  8. Tyrion Lannister, Game of Thrones
  9. Kalinda Sharma, The Good Wife
  10. Toph, Avatar: The Last Airbender
  11. C.J. Cregg, The West Wing
  12. Violet Crawley, Dowager Countess of Grantham, Downton Abbey
  13. Kimmy Schmidt, The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt
  14. Les Nessman, WKRP in Cinncinati
  15. Amy Farrah Fowler, The Big Bang Theory
  16. Diane Lockhart, The Good Wife
  17. Molly Solverson, Fargo
  18. Brienne of Tarth, Game of Thrones
  19. Toby Ziegler, The West Wing
  20. Titus Andromedon, The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt
  21. Abed Nadir, Community
  22. Lisa Simpson, The Simpsons
  23. Dale Cooper, Twin Peaks
  24. Robin Scherbatsky, How I Met Your Mother
  25. Dr. Gregory House, House
  26. Elsbeth Tascioni, The Good Wife
  27. Data, Star Trek: The Next Generation
  28. Kramer, Seinfeld
  29. Murphy Brown, Murphy Brown
  30. Alex P. Keaton, Family Ties
  31. Amy Duncan, Good Luck Charlie
  32. Gob Bluth, Arrested Development
  33. Mojo Jojo, The Powerpuff Girls
  34. John “The Biscuit” Cage, Ally McBeal
  35. Candace, Phineas and Ferb

I know as soon as I post this there are going to be 100 more that I remember. Plus, there are several shows on here where I wish I could list ALL the characters, like Game of Thrones and Veronica Mars and The West Wing and The Good Wife and Arrested Development. Who would you add to this list?

It was fine.

I know you are all worried about how I am doing, so just wanted to assure you all that I survived camp. And it was…fine. Not a horrible bloodbath of terror. Definitely not my preferred way to spend a weekend. So it was somewhere in the middle – it was…fine.

It helped that we had fantastic weather, bright and sunny and warm without being too hot. Also, it helped a lot that we were camping at an outdoor educational centre that has a classroom building, sort of like a cottage but even better than that as it had a proper bathroom and kitchen. The girls were allowed to choose to sleep inside the big classroom on the floor, or outdoors in a tent, and I slept inside with about a third of the guides. Tent sleeping is THE ABSOLUTE WORST and also I have a firm INDOOR PLUMBING AT ALL TIMES rule, so this was a much happier situation than true camping. No one had to canoe anywhere to get to the site and no one had to pee in the bushes and no one had to sleep on rocky ground if they did not want to.

So, I made it. I’d still choose not to go to camp if at all possible. But if they were in another desperate situation and needed me to come, I would come, and it would be…fine.

I have many stories about what it is like to supervise 18 very excited and energetic 8 to 12 year olds for a weekend. But I cannot share them in good conscience, as they are stories about other people’s children. Instead, I will just say that on the very first evening, one of the other leaders leaned over to me at campfire and said, “Remember, Guide Camp is an exercise in patience,” and so indeed, it was. It was sort of a marathon of patience, in fact. But that was probably good for me. Right?

Anyway, I came home on Sunday and had the world’s longest hot shower, and my husband and older two kids made me lunch and cleaned up all the camp gear, which was so nice. And we ordered pizza for dinner and watched a superhero movie and it was a lovely end to the weekend and a very nice Mother’s Day, and now I am celebrating my return to civilization with many jellybeans and actual machine-brewed coffee, and camp is already a fading memory.

Everything AND the Kitchen Sink

I have been roped into going to Girl Guide camp at the last minute – we leave tomorrow and will be back on Sunday. Anyone who has known me for five minutes knows that camping is my most hated thing in the whole world. Well, that and having plans change at the last minute. I am not a flexible person, I have a bug and general outdoor phobia, and I hate, hate, hate being without creature comforts.

As my friend Nicole would say, at least I am not being dragged across the prairie, pregnant, with a fiddle-playing vagrant who thinks carving a house out of grass on squatted land is really cool, like poor Caroline Wilder. BUT STILL.

I told my husband that in order to soothe my fears and keep me sane, I will be taking the whole house with me. EVERYTHING.

Later when I had calmed down a bit, he said, “So, what are you going to sleep on?”

And I said, “Two camp pads, maybe a couple of quilts, both of our sleeping bags and a couple of pillows.”

And he was all, “Uh…isn’t that rather a lot of stuff? You have to haul this stuff around you know.”

And I was like, “Did you think I was KIDDING about taking the whole house? THINK AGAIN.”

And he wisely ran away from the crazy lady.

This evening I have been packing, with the help of my two ex-Scouts older children, and they were reduced to giggles by a) the sheer number of bug spray containers I am taking, and b) the sheer number of allergy pills I am taking, in FOUR different brands, and c) the sheer number of pairs of socks I am bringing.

And to them I say, WHOLE HOUSE PEOPLE.

If you don’t hear from me, it’s because I was eaten by blackflies. But at least I died wearing my choice of four different hats and three pairs of shoes. It’s the little creature comforts that get us through the hard times, right?

The May Slog

I have decided, in a very grouchy and cranky way, that spring is my least favourite season, possibly because of the busy-ness, but mostly because of the weather. I can get behind the sparkly snow and hot chocolate of winter, and its ease of dressing (reach for the same boots and coat every day, all the days). I can get behind the oven-roasting heat of summer, with its cute sandals and freeing ability to leave the house without a coat. And I even like fall, with its gloomy days and darkening hours that make me want to read all the gothic novels and cuddle up by a fire. But it’s the cold damp of spring that gets into my bones and lives there, growing like a fungus, bringing allergies and the common cold and a mud room that smells like wet dog, and we don’t even HAVE a dog. Not to mention that every where I turn there is some sort of half-dead plant and ugly, torn up chunk of grass that is going to require me to be outside in the cold dampness doing yardwork. SHUDDER.

We are entering the crazy-busy time of year for us, the time when year-long activities like Girl Guides and piano and swim lessons are still going on, but spring activities like soccer and ultimate are starting up, and every subject has a major project due. I always go a little comatose in May and June, because everything is just so overwhelming and I’m racing around so much that I spend every free second I have being completely catatonic in front of Facebook. But I did make this Marie Curie costume for Little Miss Sunshine this weekend, for a school presentation she is doing later this month:

I am so, so ridiculously proud of myself. Not only for pulling together this costume on the cheap (dress is a modified Old Navy ladies’ t-shirt dress, lab coat was cut down and modified from a man’s white dress shirt I got at Value Village), but also for convincing her to be Marie Curie in the first place, as opposed to the various pop stars she was considering. The secret: sharing the fun fact that the white kitten in The Aristocats was named for Marie Curie. Sure, she has two Nobel Prizes and whatever, but having a Disney character named after you is what really counts. Take that, Katy Perry!

Also on the plus side: Gal Smiley continues her obsession with all things Disney, particularly the music. She is into music in general, but this winter and spring she’s had a sudden resurgence of interest in playing Disney music pretty much constantly on her new Spotify account, interspersed with viewings of some of the older Disney movies that we haven’t seen in years, filled in with a re-watching of Moana or Beauty and the Beast whenever we have a brief break in the schedule. It’s seriously SO CHARMING.

Our oldest went through something like this when he was thirteen, too – suddenly getting re-interested in watching old Thomas the Tank Engine and Peep and the Big Wide World episodes that he remembered from his youth, wanting to crack out the old train track and set it up. I wonder if this is a typical transition-to-teen thing. Now that he’s fifteen he’s pretty much over it, and although we can still perk him with a bit of talk about trains or Lightning McQueen, he’s moved on to more adult things. I suppose the same will happen to Gal Smiley but for now, I’m enjoying the nostalgia.

So I suppose there are some Spring positives, and the sun is at least shining, and we brought up our bin of flip flops and sandals on the weekend, and had our first barbecue too. Plus, there is a giant bowl of jellybeans on my desk, so I resolve to be less grumpy and try to be positive like Madame Curie and every Disney princess ever, and get through the May Slog. See you on the other side!

It’s Raining

This morning, before school.

Captain JB, age 15: Kay, bye mom.

Me: Wait! It’s pouring rain! I thought you were going to wear a jacket.

Him: No, why would I?

Me: It’s raining.

Him: I spend all day inside, I don’t go outside for recess.

Me: You have to walk to the bus, and wait for the bus.

Him: I’ll be fine.

Me: You’ll be soaked! Take your jacket!

Him: Fine, I will take the jacket and put it in my backpack. Is that alright?

Me, sighing: I guess so. Do you want an umbrella?


And scene.

On Vomit and Responsibility

One time, when I was in third year university or so, I went to a house party for my engineering class.

It had been in full swing for a few hours already, which meant the basement was full of drunken male engineers. I think I was the only girl there. I was definitely the only non-drinker there.

After a short while, a ripple of awareness went through the room, where we realized en mass that one guy had passed out in a corner in a pool of his own vomit. He was breathing okay but it was a terrible, smelly mess, and we all started to exchange nervous looks, wondering if anyone was going to do anything about it.

Then this happened – a conversation between two of my classmates, Terry and Dave.

Terry said, Hey, how well do you know VomitGuy?

Dave, looking wary, said, Not very well at all.

Terry said, How well are you willing to get to know him?

Dave sighed, and said, Not that well, but if you’re going in, I’m with you.

And then the two of them got VomitGuy up and cleaned him up, then cleaned up the vomit, and took him home.

This event had a huge impact on me. First of all, it absolutely captures the essence of Terry and Dave, two stand-up guys and genuine Good People. Terry is the kind of guy who is very level-headed and responsible and who will step in to take care of things when no one else wants to. And Dave is the kind of friend who has your back, who will answer your call for help, no questions asked.

But I still think of this moment not because the guys were awesome, but because they showed me something. They showed me that doing the right thing isn’t always pleasant and definitely isn’t rewarded. But it’s worth doing because no one else is going to do it, and it must be done. I was pretty nervous that as the only sober person and the only girl, I was going to be asked to do something about VomitGuy, and I admit I was ready to flee the scene rather than step up. But I think I would act differently today, after seeing Terry and Dave in action.

These days, I’m the kind of person who DOES take on the thankless tasks. The kind of person who, when everyone else is giving each other those not me, I can’t do it kind of looks, sighs and says FINE, I will be the one. My year in Girl Guides has shown me that the whole organization is held together with a fragile handful of such people, the kind of people who do too much, but if not them, then who else is going to do it? I have joined the ranks of the vomit cleaners of the world.

This came up last night because Sir Monkeypants went downstairs to let the two older kids know that it was bedtime, and found it a total disaster. The basement is the kids’ zone, and we are pretty casual about it but we do have some basic standards. Although food is forbidden in the basement due to ongoing ant problems, there were food wrappers and other garbage around; video games were all over, drawers from the storage unit were open, toys and board games thrown around.

Of course they got a talking to. But we are left in despair because they don’t seem to have any ownership of things. They don’t look at messes and think, Hey, I live here, I’d like it to be cleaner, I should do something. Instead, they have amazing powers to look the other way and pretend they don’t see it, or to point at others and say it was their fault. I didn’t do it, so it’s not my problem. Someone else – the Vomit Cleaners – will show up sometime and take care of it. It’s the same syndrome that means we have to ask them Every. Single. Night. to do their regular dinner clean up chores – any time we don’t remind them, it just doesn’t happen. And it’s the same syndrome that means that they continue to ask when dinner will be, instead of asking how they can help get dinner started, or to ask when I will be doing laundry because they need more socks, instead of offering to throw in a load.

I think it’s maybe too much to ask them to clean up some guy’s vomit at a party. We can’t all be Terry and Dave.

But how do we make the leap from kids who are checked out, who see the world as someone else’s problem, to kids that want to help? We want our kids to see a problem and then DO SOMETHING. This might be stuff around our house. This might be if a friend gets into trouble at a party. This might be if a stranger falls and is hurt in a public space. This might be trying to address world issues like hunger and pollution and poverty.

These are the kind of parenting challenges you don’t think about when you are nursing a baby or helping your toddler stack blocks or teaching your preschooler the alphabet. For a long time we have been focused on survival skills. Now it’s time to teach them Good People skills. I hope it isn’t too late – and that we figure out how to do it.

Away From Home

We went down to Southern Ontario for the Easter long weekend to visit family, and I got horribly, terribly sick. I was fine for the first couple of days, when we were visiting my family, but by the time we had moved on to Sir Monkeypants’ parents’ house, I was spending all my time making weird noises in the bathroom, while everyone else – all of whom were just fine – attempted awkwardly to chat or play a game or eat in the next room.

Occasionally I would crawl out of the bathroom to head to the guest room to sleep, while Sir Monkeypants’ mom gently approached me and tried to get me to drink some gingerale. I barely managed to blink at her in confusion because clearly I would not be putting anything in my mouth ever again.

Although everyone was very understanding and kind, there really isn’t anything worse than being away from home when you’re sick, is there? All I wanted was my giant bathrobe and my huge slippers and my favourite hot water bottle and blanket, but of course, we had packed none of those things (although when I got home I rashly added them all to my standard packing list; I’m sure Sir Monkeypants is going to love the addition of a whole extra suitcase of Flu Comfort Items to our already enormous list of things we must take every time we leave the house for 24 hours). I needed extra towels and tissues and toilet paper, and I had to do a load of laundry (and yet still drove home in vomit-encrusted PJs, I AM GLAMOUROUS), all of which were harder to locate and get at someone else’s house.

Once we made it home I crawled onto the couch and didn’t move for another 48 hours. It was good to be home.

One plus to being sick is that you can’t really do anything but lie there and watch Netflix. It was sort of like a holiday, except for the aching and total lack of food. But it turned out the Captain had his usual spring-cold-that-turns-into-an-asthma-incident this weekend as well, so the two of us spent two whole days watching the entirety of Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency, and it was divine. I find, as I age, I am getting so, so predictable when it comes to the kind of thing I will like. I like shows with a lot of quirk and a mystery that I can turn over and over again in my mind, with some humour thrown in. You’d think this would be a short list but so far I have found several that fit the bill. Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Veronica Mars, Fargo, Pushing Daisies…send me your recommendations!

I’m vertical again but still on the dry-toast-and-clear-liquids plan. I woke up this morning and it was already April 6, when last I knew of the world, it was still March. Time to climb back into the world – it’ll be good to be healthy but I sure will miss the Netflix.

Watch Where You Step

This morning I went into Gal Smiley’s room to change her sheets.

An hour later I managed to hack my way out, having done the bare minimum of tidying required to beat my way through the jungle of her room to get to her bed, then down to the sheets underneath all the junk, then back out again. Ugh.

When I was an idealistic, pre-kids adult, I had a teenaged cousin whose room was like this. There was a foot-deep pile of dirty clothes all over her floor at all times and you could barely open the door to get in there – and it was a large room. It fascinated me, because my mother never would have let me get away with that, and also I shared a very small room with my older sister. After two beds and two dressers and a laundry hamper, there was barely three square feet of floor space – if I dropped one sweatshirt that would have covered the whole area.

So of course, like all idealistic, pre-kids adults, I was all, “Oh, I’d never let my kid do that.”

And now I am eating my words, OF COURSE, and they are salty and bitter. Ugh.

The Captain isn’t so bad. He has the biggest room and he’s a tidy guy in general with a healthy respect for all household processes. Plus, he doesn’t really spend any time in his room except to sleep.

The girls are both terrible, though. At least our youngest is a relatively clean person – she does tidy up things like used tissues and dirty clothes – but she always has at least three major craft projects on the go at any time, splayed all over her floor, plus a hundred stuffed animals who are, no doubt, joining in like the shoemaker’s elves.

My middle daughter is the slob, and I really hate to use that word, because it seems like such a label and the kind of thing that will we will have shrieking matches over in about six months’ time. But really, her room is just gross. I was just in there for an hour and there were dirty socks and tissues all over, discarded dirty clothes freely mixing with the not-put-away clean clothes from last week all over the floor, dust balls in the corner where piles of half-broken toys and odd little scraps of paper have piled up. UGH.

It’s going to have to come to a head, I’m afraid.

One thing I wish I’d done differently as a parent is make my kids make their beds in the morning. This was something my mother was militant about. I absolutely hated making my bed as a kid, because it was wedged up against a wall and very difficult to pull out, and so tucking in the blankets and bedspread was a nightmare, especially for a young weakling like myself. So when I grew up and got a place of my own, I just went with a comforter that I’d sometimes, occasionally, lazily pull up in the direction of the pillows. That degraded until I wasn’t making the bed at all, ever, and as a result it’s been almost impossible to get the kids to make theirs.

I just read an article about how the most successful people in the world have one thing in common that they do every day – they make the bed. Not only does it set the tone for their whole room – their spaces are tidier and more open – but it seems to give them an organized, ready-for-the-day kind of mindset. Looking at my daughter’s rooms – and heck, my own unmade bed – it’s kind of no wonder that the house feels pretty chaotic most of the time.

The teen years are probably not the best time to try to retrain them into awesome bed-makers. But I think maybe I should try.

The Joy of Lists

The other day my youngest wanted to see my Highland Dancing medals…

(probably something you didn’t know about me, I’m guessing? I did competitive Highland Dancing for several of my pre-teen and early teen years.)

…so I pulled down my scrapbooks. These are a series of like, 8 enormous, fat books that my mother lovingly curated, detailing my entire life. I cannot imagine the hours of work that went into these books, and I have to admit they make me rather ashamed of the fact that my kids’ report cards and awards and playbills all get thrown in a giant tupperware bin willy nilly. But we all do what we can, right?

Anyway, while flipping through these books, where all of my medals are properly mounted and preserved (thanks, Mom!), we found solid gold treasure in among the kindergarten art and the book from when we went to see Sha Na Na – my daily diary that I had to keep when I was in Grade 4.

The kids were super interested (and also impressed that I could write in cursive – oh, the sad lost days of proper education). So I read it out loud to them and it was HI-LAR-I-OUS.

First of all, at least 50% of all entries feature my best friend Barbie, and my kids could not get over her name, picturing her as an eight inch tall plastic girl with a fake tan and big boobs in every entry.

Like this series, randomly chosen from a 10 page span:

Friday, Feb 1, 1980 – Today Barbie and I were helping Mrs. Havey. They are having a test and we had to set up for it.

Friday, Feb 8, 1980 – Today Barbie is sick. She has been sick for two days now.

Monday, Feb 11, 1080 – Barbie has a rabbit fur coat. She got it from her Aunt Marg. (jealousy implied)

Tuesday, Mar 25, 1980 – Barbie is in Florida. I can’t wait until she gets back. She promised me that she’d bring me something.

…and sure enough…

Thursday, Mar 28, 1980 – Today Barbie got back from Florida. She brought me a purse. It’s from Nassau. I like it.

Good old Barbie. Although I will point out that a) Nassau is NOT in Florida, so that’s a little fishy, and b) a purse is no rabbit fur coat.

The receiving of gifts was a huge, huge deal in my Grade 4 life, apparently. Pretty much any entry that doesn’t deal with Barbie and her comings and goings concerns the listing of gifts I received.

For example:

Mon Nov 19, 1979 – Yesterday was my birthday. I got a Shanana record, purse, charm, earrings, two sets of books, a pack of cards, a radio, and fifteen dollars. On Saturday, I went to my church bazaar. I got two Christmas presents there. One is for [my older sister]. It’s a doll. The other one is for my mom. It’s a pincushion. [Once an early Christmas shopper, always an early Christmas shopper!]

Mon Jan 7, 1980 – For Christmas I got a book full of Life Savers [had to pause here to explain this concept to my children, DAYS GONE BY, am I right?], a camera bag, bubble bath, a weaving loom, Monopoly, a Loveable Snuggles, some clothes, shampoo, a thermos, stamps, candy, and Spirograph. I had fun. [well, I should hope so.]

Wed Mar 26, 1980 – My nana and papa [newly returned from a trip] brought me a shirt that says Puerto Rico, a ruler with all the best sights of Puerto Rico on it [I still have it!], a palm tree charm, a Puerto Rico tree frog called the Cuqui, and a big mexico hat. [My older sister] got the same.

I have now earned a reputation in my house as The Ultimate List Maker, well deserved of course. I mean, who doesn’t love a good list?

The diary also reveals me to be the worst brown noser ever, as entries reveal that I often brought in extra books, collections, flyers, and other info to supplement the learning we were doing in class, as well as performing a few Highland Dances for the class’ benefit. KEENER.

My teacher was a delight that year. She often comments in the margins, encouraging things like, “You’re a lucky girl!” and “You must have missed her” (regarding Barbie, of course). But this one is my favourite:

Mon Feb 4, 1980 – My aunt is in the hospital. I went to see her yesterday. She’s doing fine.

My teacher’s comment on this was, “You have a very busy and interesting life.” For some reason this still fills my heart with delight. Yes, I DID have a busy and interesting life! And I still do! You know what – how about we write about it in some sort of online forum where others can see my diary entries and comment on them and…oh.

And thus the girl becomes the woman.

I love these diaries so much – I’m so pleased my mom kept them. And of course, now I want to force my kids to do the same. Imagine having a year of your childhood captured in entries like this. To know what you were thinking about and what mattered to you and yes, what you got for Christmas that year. It’s delightful. The kids are getting notebooks and pens for Easter, I think!

Back to Business

We had the laziest March Break ever. I worked part time, and the rest of the time we had the biggest movie festival ever. I can’t even remember everything we watched but I think we paid for our Netflix account about 60 times over. I took the girls to the pool one day and we went skiing one day but other than that, I don’t think the kids got out of their pajamas much. I used to find this kind of March Break a waste of time – oh, the lost museum hours! – but this week felt pretty good, although it was tough to get up for school/work this morning, gah.

When we weren’t lying around in pajamas watching movies, I was cooking, cooking, cooking. We had a sad accident a couple of weeks ago in which our big freezer conked out, and we lost a lifetime’s worth of frozen leftovers. It was all the good stuff – a stockpile of our favourite soups, homemade breads and buns, and pies and pie fillings.

Most of it was the kind of stuff that takes a whole day to make, the kind of stuff where you make a triple batch because you know you’re going to be sweating over a stove all day and you may as well make it worthwhile. So this week I set about recreating the stockpile, as much as I could. It was several days of some of the most complex dishes I make, and yet still our freezer is only a quarter full. Sigh.

At least we ate very, very well while enjoying an endless stream of cheesy, family-friendly action flicks and Disney musicals. So all in all, a pretty fine staycation.

How was your March Break?