A Guessing Game

My mother is an early Christmas shopper. This is because we only see her a couple of times a year, and she likes for us to have our Christmas gifts on Christmas morning. So she tries to have them ready for us to take back with us when we do our annual summer visit.

This year is no different. We are seeing her next week and she has our presents ready.

But what’s different this year is this: we know all five of us are getting the same thing, as is my sister FameThrowa and her husband Mr. Chatty.

Also: apparently this item is too big and awkward to be wrapped, so we will be receiving them right away when we go next week, instead of the usual tucking away of wrapped parcels to wait out the next four months.

This has started a guessing frenzy in our household. What could this mysterious item be?

Here are the clues we have so far:

A – About six weeks ago, my mother asked us all to “pick a colour” from a list of about 12 colours for our item. Each of us had to pick a colour that was “distinct” from the others. Also, curiously, one of the colour options was “natural.” (We selected: Captain JB – purple, Gal Smiley – red, Little Miss – turquoise, Sir Monkeypants – orange, if it isn’t too similar to red, otherwise grey, Me – natural).

B – FameThrowa and Mr. Chatty had to pick a colour too, but they were invited to pick two additional colours, in case they “had guests over who also wanted to play.”

C – From hints my mother has dropped, we know that this item is handmade. And from the wrapping information, we know it is large and awkwardly shaped, but not so large that she couldn’t fit nine of said item in her car when she went to pick them all up.

D – This is my own inference, but I would guess that from having “natural” on the colour list, and the fact that these items are made in Elmira, home of lots of handmade furniture, that this item is made of wood.

So far we have no slam-dunk guesses. Is it a game? If so, why would we need five copies of it? Is it something we can play where we can all have one – like a ping pong paddle? But surely those would be wrappable? Is it something decorative, like a stool or a little shelf or a pretty box? If so, why would FameThrowa need one for “guests”?

We are constantly speculating, and our plan is to have everyone write a secret guess on paper on the drive down. But at this point, I’m not sure anyone is going to get it right.

Your guesses are invited. I’ll let you know next week the answer to the mystery!

Breaking New Slang Ground

My older two kids love nothing more than making fun of my social media illiteracy.

This is Gal Smiley’s all-time favourite meme:

Credit: dopl3r


One thing they really bugged me about for a long time was that on Instagram, when I liked a post, I would “like” it by hitting the heart icon at the bottom left of the post.

You can also “like” an Instagram post by double-tapping it, and they laughed and laughed at me for carefully selecting the icon instead of just double-tapping. It was SO OLD LADY.

(I admit I didn’t see what was so funny. That was, apparently, EVEN FUNNIER.)

So the other day at dinner, Gal Smiley said something funny, so I reached over and double tapped her shoulder. “Double tap,” I said.

I thought I was so funny. As funny as hitting the heart icon on Instagram! I was going to start a revolutionary new in-joke! Soon we’d see people on TV giving each other the “double tap” of “like”!

I was cutting edge. Very briefly.

Then the Captain pointed out that the trailer for Zombieland 2 had been released that day, and in the first Zombieland – a movie that is much adored by all in this house (except the 12-year-old, who hasn’t seen it, I am not THAT bad of a parent!), “double tap” is one of the rules for killing Zombies, as in, make sure you shoot them in the chest and head to make sure they are really dead. In fact, the second movie is actually CALLED Zombieland: Double Tap.

So giving your kid the “double tap” is maybe not that great.

But I still feel like I am on to something big, don’t you?

Driving Dreams

I think you all know that once the Captain is a fully licensed driver, I intend to never drive again. Instead, he will whisk me from place to place as I chat on my phone or control the radio, and hold the door open for me like a little chauffeur as I dash out of Chapters with an armful of shopping, and take his sisters places while I recline with a new book and a glass of Club Soda on the couch.

However, this plan has recently come under fire for two reasons.

First, he hates driving. We have to force him to practice and he’s a nervous wreck the whole time. It’s getting better, slowly. But I will probably need to wait at least a year until he would even THINK of trying the roundabout that leads out of our subdivision, so unless I want to be swanning around in the three blocks that immediately surround our house – and let me be clear, there are no bookstores there – then I’m out of luck.

Second, I’m a total wreck myself when riding next to him.

Here’s a funny story for my husband to tell at future dinner parties, while everyone sighs knowingly and pats his arm in sympathy. When the Captain first got his license, my husband was outlining a plan for some practice and lessons, and where they would go.

And I was all, “Ooooh, are you sure YOU should be the one to take him out?”

And Sir Monkeypants was like, “Um, YES, most terrible driver in the world, probably NOT YOU should teach him to drive.”

And I was like, “But I’m afraid you two will butt heads and he’ll be stressed out already, so maybe his mom should take him.”

And Sir Monkeypants was like, “YOU BE CRAZY. But fine, have at it.”

So I took the Captain out a few times, and almost had a heart attack. The handle on the door practically came off in my hand, I was gripping it so hard. This was while we were going at about 20 km/hr around our closed-circuit crescent.

I was sure he was going to crash into a parked car, or hit someone while going around a corner. When it was time to pull into the driveway, I was POSITIVE he was going to ram into the garage door and yelled at him to STOP STOP STOP.

(Actually, that was probably correct and I think I was probably right to yell.)

I think I lasted two times. Then I apologized heartily to Sir Monkeypants and begged him to take over, and he was like, “OKAY THEN.”

They are doing better, the two of them. But I am quite happy to be staying home. Guess I’ll put that chauffeur hat away for a while, at least.

Songs For Lynn

Recently I watched the movie Baby Driver with Gal Smiley, and we both found it delightful. It’s very music-centric – the lead character is listening to music all the time and several segments of the movie kind of feel like music videos.

When he meets The Girl – there’s always a girl, right? – she complains that her name is Deborah, and there aren’t any songs about Deborahs. Her sister’s name is Mary, and she gets all the good ones.

Baby Driver, of course, knows an awesome Deborah song, by the band T-Rex. That’s how you win a woman’s heart.

I don’t know any songs about girls named Lynn. I decided to hit Google and Spotify. I found at least 10 songs or so with Lynn in the title or lyrics, but I’d never heard of any of them.

So I put them all in a Spotify playlist and checked them out. Turns out that songs about Lynns are all:

  • instrumentals, often from movies, or
  • really terrible country songs, or
  • songs that Gal Smiley describes as “the kind of creepy lullaby they play in horror movies when an animated doll is about to kill you.”

That is NOT the way to win a woman’s heart, unfortunately. I deleted the playlist. Note to songwriters: the position of “great love song for the Lynns of the world” is still open.

Speaking of songs, Sir Monkeypants was watching an interesting YouTube video the other day about the song Mr. Brightside by The Killers.

(You probably all know it. But here is its video, just in case.)

The YouTube video was asking why Mr. Brightside continues to pop on to the British top 100 hit list from time to time, a full fifteen years after it was released. It is still one of the most-played songs in the UK and USA, even after all this time.

I don’t think the video had any answers, but it did refer to Mr. Brightside as “the song of a generation,” and as perhaps (he suggested) Don’t Stop Believin’ by Journey was the song of a previous generation.

I don’t think either of those are songs of MY generation, though. But maybe I just listened to weird stuff.

I would say here are some songs of generations past: Rock Around the Clock by Bill Haily and the Comets; Love Me Tender by Elvis; Yesterday by The Beatles; Hotel California by The Eagles. I’d give the 90s Smells Like Teen Spirit by Nirvana.

What is the 80s defining song though? Maybe Thriller by Michael Jackson? Like a Virgin by Madonna? U Can’t Touch This by MC Hammer?

Maybe it’s too hard to pick a song of your own generation, because those are the songs you know best. It’s too hard to pick a favourite child.

But I can tell you this: if one of them were about a cute, smart girl named Lynn, THAT WOULD BE THE ONE.

It’s not too late, songwriters of the world. GET ON IT.


We are having a lovely summer.

In the past few years, I have become more of a winter person than a summer person, but this year has been excellent. Crazy hot, which is the way I like it, and extremely lazy, which is also how I like it.

I made a conscious decision to do less with the kids this year – less scheduling, fewer chores. There’s been a lot of laying about about watching movies and eating popcorn for lunch.

It’s lovely.

I have taken the kids to a few places. Last week I took the two girls to Pinhey’s Point, which is a heritage home close to us. We’d never been before.

Turns out it is a lovely place to spend a few hours by the river on a hot summer afternoon.

Perhaps you would enjoy a snack of sugar cookies while dipping your feet in the river.

Perhaps you will find just the right stone to skip, and get it to jump a miraculous eight times across the water.

We took in the display they have right now on Camp Woolsey, which is a Girl Guide camp nearby that will be closing in 2020. It was a sad exhibit but I was glad to have seen it with my two guiding girls.

The main house was fascinating – full of period furniture and facts about early life in the Ottawa area.

Afterwards, we went outside where they have a large hill of mown grass, with a stage at the bottom for concerts and shows. The girls decided they’d roll down it, in a throwback to their childhood days.

So they did.

Turns out the grass was burned and stiff with lack of water. When Gal Smiley arrived at the bottom, she showed me her arms, covered with little prick-marks, like a long strip of road rash.

#noregrets, she said.

When Little Miss Sunshine arrived, she agreed, despite the prickles.

But within a few minutes, her arms and legs burst out into hives. She was red and itchy all over.

#someregrets, I said.

We took some Benedryl and headed home. (She had a cool bath in baking soda and was just fine.)

It was still a lovely afternoon.

Mrs. Turtlehead

This is an issue that comes up fairly often with our kids, and I’m sure I’ve blogged about it before, but it’s on my mind today, so let’s have another discussion, shall we?

The issue is this: what do your kids’ friends call you?

A history:

When I was growing up, some very close family friends were called “Aunt Lady” and “Uncle Gentleman,” but for the most part, we referred to our parents’ friends as “Mr. and Mrs. Lastname.”

Sir Monkeypants grew up in an Indian household where using “Auntie” and “Uncle” for adults is sort of the accepted norm, so he mostly used those terms, with or without an associated first name, for his parents’ friends. But definitely this was a title of respect – neither of us would have dreamed of just casually calling an adult by their first name.

When we were in university, we got to know some parents of our close friends very well, and calling them Mr. and Mrs. always seemed too distant, so we often referred to them as “Mom Lastname” and “Dad Lastname”, which I feel many of them found charming, but I have to say I’m not exactly sure.

When our kids were very small, we had to decide what we wanted for them. We both agreed that we wanted them to call our friends “Mr. and Mrs. Lastname” and so they have, with very few exceptions. It’s how we introduce new adults to them and what we expect them to use.

But we found most of our friends introduced us to their children by our first names, so other kids would just call us Lynn and Sir Monkeypants, while our kids were calling them Mr. and Mrs. Whatever.

It was kind of weird, and often our friends would ask us if we would prefer to be known as Mr. and Mrs. Turtlehead.

And here I have to say: I wanted to seem cool and chill and modern and hip, so I always told them I didn’t care and it was no big deal and that it was an individual parenting decision.

But the truth is, when a kid calls me “Lynn,” I find it odd and a little bit grating. So I guess in my heart of hearts I DO prefer to be known as Mrs. Turtlehead, even though that also has its issues as it sounds so old-fashioned and doddy and pearl-clutching.

All this has come up again because I met a lovely friend of the Captain yesterday, and he was a very nice young man, but one thing he did was ask me my name, directly, as in, “Nice to meet you, what’s your name?” So I hesitantly told him it was Lynn, and now I guess that’s what he will call me? And that’s okay?

I mean, it felt weird and possibly off-putting to say that my name was “Mrs. Turtlehead.”

But it also felt like I was inviting him to call me Lynn, which we have already established I don’t really like very much.

But also, I am not a million years old and living in the Deep South, and he is an almost-grown person of age 16, so…are we on a first name basis now with young men of that generation?

Is it time to accept that teenage friends of the Captain have achieved first-name calling rights?

I don’t know what to make of the whole thing. Most of his other friends avoid this whole subject by not ever calling me anything, and just sort of looming into my field of vision when they need my attention, or randomly calling out “Thanks” when I drop them off and hoping I understand that was meant for me.

I am thinking maybe what I need is a cool nickname that I can hand around as a sort of in-between. Like how hip and fun grandmother characters in books are always like, “Oh, everyone just calls me Bubie!” or “You can just call me Aunt Kit Kat like everyone else does!” and that will work.

So, currently taking:

  • your feedback on what you like to be called
  • your feedback on what you expect your kids to call other adults
  • your ideas for hip and cool grandma-type nicknames
  • And side discussion: do you call your in-laws Mom and Dad, or by their first names? Would you want your daughters and sons-in-law to call you Mom, Mrs. Turtlehead, or Lynn?

Fire away!

Calm Down

You know, it’s funny, but I used to consider myself something of a Pop Culture Aficionado. I used to have my own online pop culture “magazine” called Sidekick, which I still miss dearly. I used to listen to cutting edge music and go to the movies once a week and be up on all the latest TV shows.

But somewhere along the way I became what I like to call a Two Years Late Adapter, where I know everyone is talking about something, and I see it everywhere, and yet I totally resist getting into it, and then two years after everyone has moved on, I’m all like, have you heard about this amazing thing called Hamilton? And everyone gives me a big eye roll.

(I suppose this is preparation for being the parent of teenagers, because my growing immunity to eye rolls and being passé certainly has served me well in recent times.)

Anyway, I am like this with Taylor Swift. Flashback: my friend Tudor Robins was just about to publish her second teen novel, Appaloosa Summer, in 2014. She told me that she had a soundtrack while writing it – all Taylor Swift. And she was like, “Do you know her stuff?” And this was after Taylor had already won countless Grammys, and her song Never Ever Getting Back Together in particular had been a smash hit on every radio station ever, and I was like, “Um, I’ve heard of her, I guess?”

And then of course, two years later I was madly in love with Tay-Tay and acted like I discovered her. TYPICAL. I think back to that conversation with Tudor all the time and cringe – not because I was out of touch then, but now I am so TOTALLY a Taylor fan and I act like I am the ULTIMATE Taylor fan and yet just a few years ago I knew nothing of her. It’s our little secret, right?

(Next year: I’ll probably discover this “awesome new show” called Stranger Things and tell everyone that I meet that Beyonce’s “fabulous new album” Lemonade will change their life.)

All this is to say that Taylor can do no wrong in my book (in fact, in our house we refer to her as “Aunt Tay-Tay” for complicated in-joke reasons), and she just announced she has a new album coming out in August, so SQUEE, and she just released a track from it called “You Need to Calm Down,” and I don’t know why, but I think it is hilarious and fun and delightful and true.

You should probably listen to it because Taylor Swift is really an up-and-coming artist and all the cool, cutting-edge kids are digging her these days.

Limping Into June

This morning my youngest asked me how many more days of school she must endure, and the answer was 12, including today. The older two have just five more days of classes, then exams, then they are done. It doesn’t sound like much, does it? And yet it always seems like FOREVER away, for both them and me, at this time of year.

Considering the longest day of the year is next week, and it gets light now in Ottawa by like, 4:30 a.m., we are all struggling to limp over the finish line. I think my youngest, age almost-12, is finally hitting the mark where she is capable of sleeping in. She’s been getting up at 5:30 a.m. (or earlier) since she was like, three years old, and for the past two days in a row now I have had to wake her up for school, which is BANANAS. Meanwhile, the other four of us are falling asleep on the couch at night and sleeping through our alarms in the morning and everything just feels sluggish, like we are running on fumes.

For a while I have been thinking I should record our daily schedule, because I did that a few times when the kids were little and it’s fun to look back now and remember when they would all pile into bed with us at 6 a.m. on the nose (fun NOW, not as fun THEN). And it seems, if my youngest is going to start sleeping in all of a sudden, I should do it, as I will miss the current routine. It’s nothing fancy; basically, I get up around 6:30, then Little Miss Sunshine joins me downstairs in the kitchen around 6:45, and the two of us have some pleasant, getting-ready-for-the-day hugs and chit-chat until she has to get dressed around 7:20. Then she’s off to school, and by the time she leaves the Captain is up and eating his traditional banana at the kitchen table. There’s a bit of a rush when Sir Monkeypants gets up and has to drag Gal Smiley (NOT a morning person) out of bed and then everyone runs around grabbing lunches and is out the door by 8:50 or so, when I can make a cup of tea and organize my work day and settle in.

It feels so normal and regular, sometimes I have to remind myself that someday I’ll get up and it will just be quiet and lonely in the morning and WHY would I remind myself of that, SIGH. But perhaps that time is sooner than I think, and it’s best to prepare.

Speaking of bittersweet sadness and memories, I have officially finished guiding, yay! I expected to have mixed feelings and maybe even feel kind of sad about it in the end, but NO. I have joyously moved on. Don’t get me wrong, it really was a wonderful experience and I learned a lot and I will miss the girls in our unit. But oh, the GLORY of having free time again!

And just in time for summer, in all its non-lunch-making beauty. Sometimes I wonder if the studies that show that a long summer break is a bad thing are right, and we wouldn’t feel so burned out in June if we went to a more modern, non-agricultural schedule that involves several 2-3 week breaks throughout the year instead of the long summer off. But then we get here, and I imagine the joy of long, warm days with nothing much to do but eat popsicles and ride bikes and read a book in the cool of the basement, and even though I personally have to work, I still feel the excitement that comes with the promise of a long break, and I don’t want to give that up.

So let us embrace summer in its current state, and celebrate the joys of the current daily schedule, and revel in not having any girl guide planning to worry about, and pour out a lemonade and just BE.

After the Flood

We had a small flood at our house on Friday. Captain Jelly Belly went down to the basement to play video games and found a large puddle of water with a steady stream falling from the ceiling. In the words of the Captain, who immediately rushed upstairs, “I believe there is an emergency happening.”

Sir Monkeypants was still at work, but the kids were great and we all swung into action. We opened up the ceiling in the basement and let the water drain into a bucket, and mopped up the puddles. We traced the source of the problem to the area under our upstairs fridge and successfully stopped the flow by turning off the water supply to the fridge ice maker.

Just in case we were going to have to replace the fridge or have it repaired, the kids and I emptied it, too. We have a very small downstairs fridge — the “drinks fridge” — and we formed an assembly line. Me, upstairs loading up bins of food; the girls shepherding the bins downstairs; and the Captain loading it all in.

Aside: the men in Sir Monkeypants’ family are LEGEND in their ability to pack. Every time we go on a trip, Sir Monkeypants grumbles about all the stuff I am taking, as I am a classic Just In Caser and must bring the whole house on every trip. But despite his grumbling, he always manages to get it all in, which probably doesn’t discourage me at all, but still, is amazing to see. In fact I suspect that underneath his grumbling, he secretly appreciates the mental challenge of Packing Jenga.

It is becoming clear to us that the Captain has inherited the packing gene and he was determined to get everything from the Big Upstairs Fridge into the Small Downstairs Fridge, with the added challenge of not removing any of the pop/water/juice/beer that was already in that fridge. And he DID IT. I should have taken a photo, it was like a WALL of food when you opened it up. AMAZING.

Anyway, eventually Sir Monkeypants came home and we ran some tests and figured out that the upstairs fridge seems to be okay as long as we keep the water turned off. So for now we are living without pre-made fridge ice (LIKE ANIMALS) but this staves off the decision to repair or buy a new fridge for an indefinite amount of time, or until we get tired of warm iced tea in the summertime, which may come sooner than we think.

So now we have an interesting kind of science experiment happening in the house. Although we moved everything from the upstairs fridge downstairs (and then wiped it out – the GLORY OF A CLEAN FRIDGE, am I right?), we didn’t put much effort into bringing everything back upstairs. We’re in an As Needed mode right now, where we sigh heavily and trudge downstairs when we need something from the fridge, then we go and get it and put it back upstairs.

Hypothesis: We don’t actually need or use any of the 100 condiments that were in our old fridge.

Experiment: Let’s see if, after several months, they all make their way upstairs.

Progress to date: We obviously need the ketchup and mustard. Also, surprisingly, the soy sauce and the fake Big Mac sauce. Other 96 condiments: ON PROBATION.

(For some reason, no one ever brings up any more than they actually need. For science, I suppose.)

The Worst

Captain Jelly Belly, looking for a cereal snack: “Oh no…we’re out of bowls.”

Me: “Just use anything. A tupperware container or a mixing bowl or whatever.”

CJB: “No, that’s dumb, forget it.”

Me: “Don’t be silly. Use a soup bowl. They are basically the same size as a cereal bowl.”

CJB: “No way! They’re much bigger!”

Me: “They just look like that because of their shape. They’re really not that big. We only call them soup bowls because we have soup in them, but really they were MADE for cereal.”

CJB: “Really? Are you sure?”

Me: “Yup.”

CJB: “Hm…okay.”

(gets soup bowl, fills it with cereal and milk, sits down to eat)

Me to Gal Smiley: “Oh my God, have you SEEN the ENORMOUS bowl of cereal the captain is eating?”

Gal Smiley: “That is just INSANE.”

CJB: “You people are THE WORST.”

And scene.