I like to think of myself as well read, and I have read a lot of older classic-type novels, which means I know a lot of words. Even words that are no longer in common use.
The other day I was reading a Nancy Drew book to my youngest – The Whispering Statue, which I just learned from that very Wikipedia link was completely rewritten in 1970. It contained this part:
The intruder was taken completely by surprise. It was easy for the three girls to hold him. As he became obstreperous, George used a judo trick which buckled the man’s knees and he fell.
Obstreperous is a word I have never heard before. I just could not get over the fact that a Nancy Drew book contained a word that was completely foreign to me.
Plus, it means “loud and difficult to control,” which if you have kids like mine, means this word should be in DAILY USE. “Knock it off, you’re becoming obstreperous.” “I’ve had it with your obstreperous fooling around, I’m turning this car around!” “Hey! Try and be a little less obstreperous, I’m trying to watch Jeopardy!”
Am I right or am I right?
So – officially kicking off the campaign to bring back obstreperous. It deserves to live.
I was a Reader as a kid, and I always hoped my kids would be as well. And they do like reading, although it’s not the kind of obsession it was for me, the kind that makes you sneak a book onto your lap at the table or stay up late with a flashlight under the covers after bedtime. It’s more like something they are WILLING to do, eyeroll, when I force them to put their screens away. But at least there is some reading going on around here pretty much every day, which is good.
I guess I needn’t have worried about it so much because in addition to my history as A Reader, I also have a sordid history as A Book Buyer. It’s my absolute weakness. I will wear shirts with stains and holes in them, I will wear shoes until they crack and fall apart, I will deny myself all manner of treats and bling, but put me in a bookstore, and I am WEAK.
Observe my house:
It’s a Situation, is what I’m saying, but possibly a good one. If there’s ever a Zombie Apocalypse, we’ll be able rebuild society based on my personal library of Every Classic Children’s Book Ever.
The only other shopping weakness I have is this:
Seriously, I MUST STOP BUYING CRAYONS.
Here’s what’s being read around here these days:
Captain Jelly Belly, age 13 – The Alchemyst series by Michael Scott; also, although it is a bit below his reading level now, he’s only just discovered A Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket and finding it HILARIOUS – I think the dark, dark humour in those books is maybe best for this age level.
Gal Smiley, age 11 1/2 – Gal Smiley is the closest we have to a real Reader in that a) she can get so lost in a book that we have trouble getting her to come to dinner or go to bed, and b) she re-reads favourites over, and over, and over, and over. Also, this is totally beyond my comprehension, but she often has about five books on the go at any given time and picks them up randomly, which would drive me NUTS. Right now she is re-reading the Kane series by Rick Riordan (having just re-read the entire Percy Jackson series for the THIRD TIME), plus she’s working her way through Frank Cottrell Boyce’s entire works (including Millions and Sputnik’s Guide to Life), plus she just got Scrap City by D.S. Thornton from the Chapters because it was the thickest book she could find in the 9-12 section. Also, she has several graphic novels on the go at any given time – right now it’s the Lumberjanes series by Noelle Stevenson and Grace Ellis.
Little Miss Sunshine, age I-turned-9-years-old-yesterday! – Together we are reading the Nancy Drew series at bedtime, and on her own she’s working her way through the Mermaid Tales series by Debbie Dadey, the Stink books by Megan McDonald, and the Phoebe and Her Unicorn graphic novel series by Dana Simpson.
What are you reading this summer? And what are your shopping weaknesses?
This past weekend our friends the Lucky Sevens came over for dinner. They have two kids that slot nicely in between our three, and the five of them usually have no trouble finding some scheme or other to occupy themselves when we get together.
This time they all disappeared into the basement and while the adults were chatting, we could hear quiet, followed by a crazy uproar of shouting and squealing, followed by quiet, repeat. We were curious, but no one showed up with blood or a broken bones and we’ve been parents long enough to know that if no one is crying, you leave well enough alone.
Later at dinner we asked them what they had been playing and it turns out that my darling daughter, Gal Smiley, age 11 3/4, had started an underground Hexbugs betting ring.
If you’re not familiar, they are little electronic bugs that you can put on a plastic course, kind of like a Hot Wheels course, and they vibrate when you turn them on and sort of jitter around and move places. What Gal Smiley was doing was setting up some sort of course challenge – the first to break out of a closed space, or the last one to remain on an elevated bridge perhaps – and then taking Monopoly money bets as to which hexbug would win.
Winners got their investment back plus 10%. Losers lost it all.
I gotta tell you, I wasn’t sure if I should be mortified or proud, but I was certainly leaning towards proud. The inventiveness! The entrepreneurship! The drive!
And yet, you know, the vague illegal nature of it all. This must be how Bernie Madoff’s mother feels.
Gal Smiley loves nothing more than the exchange of money, and she is always hustling to make a buck. We’ve already called her for a future career in sales or possibly stock trading. But this is a whole new area for her. Our daughter, the bookie. The heart swells, does it not?
We have started giving the older kids a little more freedom around the neighbourhood. For example, Gal Smiley at age 11-and-a-half is allowed to ride her bike over to her friend’s house, and then either hang out in the park or go down to the Mac’s Milk for a slushie. Captain Jelly Belly at age 13 is allowed to go to our next-door-neighbour’s house after school for a couple of hours – his parents aren’t home from work yet, so it’s just the two boys in the house playing video games.
It’s that time, I guess, when you set them free and start letting them figure things out for themselves, hoping that all the training you gave them about life stuck in their minds somewhere and they make good choices. Eeep.
Two boys alone in a house with internet access in particular makes me nervous – of course, one’s mind does go to porn. I’ve been on high alert for this, quizzing him each time about what they did, watching for signs of blushing or shifty-eyed changing of the subject. I like to think I’ll be calm and fair and that it’s normal and I just want to talk to him about reality vs. fantasy, and respect for women, and put it all in context. But don’t worry, I do have a Major Freakout on the back burner just in case it seems called for.
Today his buddy was accidentally locked out of the house so they came over to our place instead and it was revealed that the shady dealings of teen boys actually do not involve porn, but do involve Call of Duty, a Mature-rated video game that the Captain is not normally allowed to play at our house. We’ve been limiting him to things rated Teen or under. But we are very good friends with the other boys parents, and we like them all very much, so this is less a case of “hey, you broke the rules” and more a case of “huh, if they think this is okay, maybe we should revisit our policy.”
So they’re downstairs right now playing Call of Duty (we have a copy, it’s my husband’s) and I’m a little fretty and a little unsure and a little sad about the Loss of Innocence and such. But that’s parenting, right?
I can count on one hand the number of times I have gone away, overnight, from my children.
Each time I have done so I return home to a clean house with children happily playing outdoors. My husband is full of tales of kids helping to cook, long family bike rides, board games, and cheerful bedtimes. He always wonders why I think being home with the kids alone is so tough.
This week he had to go out of town unexpectedly and within 24 hours of him being gone:
two out of three children got terribly sick;
the phone and the internet both died;
the hot water heater died;
the van refused to start, and I had to call CAA for a jump, and then it happened AGAIN;
and our shower developed a leak.
Needless to say, I was a hysterical mess. The house slowly descended into Heart of Darkness style madness as I wept over the fact that we had no Netflix to occupy the sick children, the dishes and laundry piled up, and we got smellier and smellier.
He came back on Saturday and suddenly all was well with the world. He fixed the internet and all the children were healed. I think this might go to his head.
It’s all maps of Canada, with certain totally-real place names pointed out based on a theme. For example, the “Doughnut Map of Canada” features place names like Jelly, Ontario and Bakers Dozen Islands in Hudson’s Bay and The Hole, Newfoundland. The snicker-worthy “Impolite Map of Canada” features Bummer’s Roost, Ontario, the Cockram Straight, and Dixville, Quebec.
On the other side of the page from each map is a bit of trivia on how a few places got their names. Here’s the “Literary Map of Canada,” featuring place names with the same names as famous authors:
I adore this book and I think they must have made it just for me. I cannot imagine who else this book is going to appeal to.
Imagined marketing meeting at Geist Magazine:
Idea Guy 1: I know! Let’s put together a book of maps of Canada, with place names marked by theme! And we’ll add trivia!
Idea Guy 2: Great idea! It will absolutely kill with Canadians who love maps, goofy puns, and wowing their friends at parties with lesser-known linguistic facts!
Idea Guy 1: But, how will we alert our target market?
Idea Guy 2: I’ll get her on the phone.
My favourite map in the book is this one – the “World’s Largest Map of Canada”:
It shows all the places in Canada that claim to have the “world’s largest” something. This is another totally geeky thing that I am super into, and Sir Monkeypants even more so. For ages we have been saying that our dream vacation would be to drive across North America, stopping at every single “world’s largest” item we can.
Now that we have this map to guide us, I’m thinking it’s only a matter of time. We’ll retire, buy an RV, and cruise from the world’s largest curling stone (Thunder Bay) to the world’s largest aluminum snowflake (Kittimat, BC) to the world’s largest potato (O’Leary, PEI). We can go right ahead and skip the world’s largest T-Rex, though – it’s in Drumheller and we saw it last year:
I have tea with breakfast every morning in this one. I got it for my birthday from Sir Monkeypants and the kids, and they bought it because it’s BIG, and I want a BIG cup of tea every morning. You can never have too big a mug for tea, I say.
Gal Smiley is my most loyal companion around here and she has started having a cup of tea in the evenings, mostly out of solidarity with me, I think, as it is intolerable to her unless laden with three spoons of sugar and a half cup of milk. But she’s made it a habit, and she prefers her tea in this cow mug because, she claims, it is “smoother” than the others.
Sometimes Sir Monkeypants joins us for tea, too. He prefers this mug we bought at Universal Studios in Florida back in 2000 when we were young and carefree and childless and able to get up at 7 a.m. on New Year’s Day to go ride the Hulk coaster six times in a row until I nearly threw up. GOOD TIMES.
Every morning for breakfast the Captain has a “hot chocolate,” which is really a protein drink that is a milk-substitute for him. It mixes better if warmed up so he has it in this mug every morning, which was a birthday gift this year. If you can name the TV show that this references, you are my friend for life.
The Little Miss isn’t much into warm drinks but when she is cold she likes a hot chocolate – the real kind, with milk and cocoa – but she doesn’t want a big serving so I always make it for her in this little Belle mug. My mother bought it for her and there’s a matching plate, and we also have a Mickey and Donald set for the other two that see their fair share of use, but it’s the Little Miss that considers this little one her go-to mug.
Join us for a little something sometime, won’t you?
May is my killer month. All the year-long activities come to an end with big parties, while soccer and other summer sports are ramping up. May is our month when we have at least two activities on every weeknight, plus a few things on the weekend, and I just run from one thing to the next. I like to say to Sir Monkeypants, in a smart alec-y kind of way, “I’ll see you in June,” but it isn’t far off the mark. He goes one way, I go the other, and in between it’s all baking brownies and cutting up watermelon.
May is pretty lucky, I’ll tell you, that it has such nice weather. It’s kind of like a newborn baby – the adorableness helps mollify the horror. A bit, anyway, until I get out there and attempt to weed the gardens. SHUDDER.
If you’ve seen me out and about with pink and purple hands, that’s because on top of everything else, I’ve been tie dying. Gal Smiley is in the grade 5/6 level of her soccer league and it’s always a small level because it’s a super casual community league, and usually by that age all the kids that are actually interested in soccer have moved on to a higher level. Last year they had four teams in this level but this year they have only two teams. That means the same two teams will play against each other every week, which is fine, but what is NOT FINE, NOT FINE AT ALL is the colour of their shirts: light grey and light blue. TWO TEAMS, people. They couldn’t have ordered shirts in, say, red and yellow? Navy and bright green? Black and white?
At the first game, the kids in Gal Smiley’s side both a) passed the ball to the other team multiple times, and b) stole the ball from their own players, multiple times. Sadly, I am not the kind of person who can let this sort of thing stand, so I collected all the light blue shirts and tie dyed them, with the help of the girls. Now they look like this:
It was an ugly amount of work but I suppose worth it for how thrilled the kids were with their shirts. Gal Smiley actually asked if she could wear it to school. As far as soccer shirts go, that’s a major elevation from the others that are stuffed in a drawer somewhere. Plus, it gave me that Laura Ingalls Wilder feeling to be standing over a steaming vat of cloth and dye, wiping my brow with one hand while wearing a plastic Crayola painting bib meant for toddlers. It’s a good look for me, I think.
In other Gal Smiley news, she had her last guides meeting ever last night, as she’s now aged out of the program (and, interestingly, has decided to go to Scouts next year instead of Pathfinders, which is the next level of guiding). Little Miss Sunshine had her last brownies meeting ever last week as she’s now moving up to guides, and in both cases the leaders were just SO fantastic. They put so much work into the graduation and into all the stuff they did all year and most of the leaders cried when the girls were leaving. One of Gal Smiley’s leaders wrote each leaving girl a thank-you note, thanking them for making her into the leader she is today, and telling each what great qualities they bring to this world. SO NICE. I really cannot say enough fabulous things about the whole program and the ladies who give so much of their time to make that happen.
And now I must run – the new flowers in the garden need watering, I’m making some buns for dinner, I have one last shirt to tie dye, and I need to cut oranges as we’re on soccer snack tonight. But I’ll probably also squeeze in a popsicle on the porch after picking up the kids. May is madness – but it’s glorious, too.