Adulting, Again

So next week, I’ll be going to Toronto for three days with Gal Smiley’s Grade 8 class. It’s my own fault. I sort of half-volunteered during a conversation I was having with the teachers about Gal’s many, many food allergies, and what their plan was to feed her on this trip. It turned out there wasn’t ANY plan, and I was nervous, so while I was giving them dozens of sheets of printouts outlining all her allergies and safe foods, I also threw in the fact that I’d be willing to go with them, if needed, to make sure she ate properly.

Let’s sign you up!, the teachers said. They are no dummies.

Now that I am going, I am no longer worried about what Gal Smiley will eat, but I have a whole list of new worries. Mostly I am worried about potential male/female interaction among horny 14-year-olds, whether it be snogging at the back of the bus, or sneaking in and out of hotel rooms at night. My friend Lee Ann told me that her own mother went on a similar Grade 8 trip, and sat up, awake in the hallway, all night, where she returned girls to their rooms every few minutes.

I am totally willing to be Fooling Around Crackdown Mom, but I am mostly worried about whether my role as night watchman means I will literally get zero sleep over the two nights. Trust me – the world does not want a Lynn who is running on minimal sleep. It’s not pretty.

Someone else, I forget who, warned me that on their own Grade 8 trip, someone smuggled a bottle of alcohol into their suitcase, resulting in one of the hotel rooms becoming a “party room,” and the supervisors both having to a) clean up vomit and b) strongarm sick, hungover kids onto a bus for several museum tours the next day. I am feeling like that is not going be so much “fun” as “horrifying.”

And of course, there are simpler worries, like what if a kid gets sick or injured (legitimately, not from alcohol poisoning), or what if we misplace a kid, or what if we meet Doug Ford on a tour of the Ontario Parliament Buildings and one of the kids “accidentally” kicks him in the shins. What if the kids are bored and not being respectful or paying attention? Or a kid whips out a cigarette and claims their parents are “totally cool with it”? Or a kid loses their wallet in the Eaton’s Centre and my entire three days are one big mall-based scavenger hunt?

Your positive stories of successful trip supervision would be appreciated.

Small Wonders

The other day I made a meal that I have made many times before – chicken shishkabobs for the BBQ. Usually this meal results in leftover lunch for both me and Sir Monkeypants, and maybe a little more than that, too. This week it was all gone. All of it!

This sounds like a minor thing but in our house of very small children with teeny tiny appetites and multiple food allergies, it is a major victory. I used to have this story I liked to tell, about reading an article in a magazine when my oldest was a baby about a lady with three teenaged boys who went through two loaves of bread A DAY. I mentally geared myself up for such a time, but we have never, ever come close to that. In fact, we often have freshly baked bread languishing on the counter, and the kids sometimes bring home uneaten lunches. Including the cookies. Like, who can’t even muster up the appetite to eat the cookies? SIGH.

So, the fact that the entire dinner got eaten is big news. All three kids ate well but the biggest change is that our oldest, Captain Jelly Belly, smallest person in his high school, may finally be hitting a growth spurt. That’s so awesome it makes me want to cry, so I will just leave it there and try to stop lurking near him several times a day so I can compare his height to mine.

Speaking of food, this is the time of year when I always feel the need to write a post on a theme of Lunch Making Blues, and how trying to find something to put in the kids’ lunches is sucking away my will to live. I’m hanging in there this year, but this year more than any other I am really pushing the scheduling part of making lunches.

I usually get up around 6:15 in the morning, and wander downstairs and check my mail and fool around on Facebook, with a firm deadline of 7 a.m. for heading to the kitchen to tidy up and empty the dishwasher and make lunches. For the past few weeks that schedule has been slipping and sliding, so that I’m often still fooling around on Facebook at 7:15, leaving myself a scant 20 minutes to pull three lunches together. But I have been doing it, with the aid of prepackaged crap and lots of cookies. It’s only encouraging me, which is not good.

Only four weeks left. I think I can get lunch making down to 10 minutes if Starburst counts as a fruit. It does, right?

And speaking of endings, tonight is my last Girl Guide meeting of the year. I know it’s crazy, but I have signed up for one more year, because Little Miss Sunshine wanted me to, and the other part-time leader was going to leave if I did, and I didn’t want her to leave, so I caved. So this is not my last Girl Guide meeting ever (May 2019, you and I have a date with a wine bottle!), but it does mean at least a couple of months of no thinking about Girl Guides, which is awesome.

I have to say, I am feeling rather proud of myself for getting through this Year Of Guides and for doing a good job and for hanging in there. I know it was hard on my family and I have been cranky a lot of the time and I had to go camping. But I did it, and I dealt with a lot of crazy stuff, and I managed some difficult situations, and I did a lot of crafts, and I survived. I’m not sure I would recommend it, but as Ladies Of A Certain Age we so rarely get a chance to do something new and hard and to point to something concrete like this and say, “I did that. I made a difference.” So that’s a good thing.

Getting Political

Our older two kids, aged 15 and 13, are pretty miffed that they won’t be able to vote in the upcoming Ontario election this summer. I think that’s so awesome. They’ve both been talking about the election at school and they are interested in the issues, and feel strongly that they should be allowed to have a voice. I really hope they are this keen when they get to actual voting age.

In our riding, there is a lot to talk about as we have so many candidates. In fact, my son pointed out that between the Liberals (red), NDP (orange), PC (blue), Trillium Party (purple), Green (green), and Libertarians (yellow), we have covered all six of the Infinity Stone colours. His dream is to get one lawn sign from each and then lay them out in an Infinity Glove pattern on the front lawn.

I think that’s both hilarious and kind of deep. Snap your fingers, parties – it’s pretty much all the same thing.

Recently we learned that there is actually a seventh party represented in our riding. We were out doing errands and we almost had a car accident when the kids squealed with excitement because they had spotted a black sign.

It said on it “None of the Above” with a big checkmark and it is actually from the “None of the Above” party of Ontario. They are not so much a party as a loose affiliation of independent candidates who want to break away from the whole idea of having to tow the party line. They don’t have a specific platform; instead, candidates are meant to represent their local points of view only and not be beholden to any particular party whips.

I am fascinated by this – do you think government would actually work with a bunch of independent candidates? On one hand, it would be very interesting to see how the issues shake out when it’s a straight up majority rules. But I feel like everything would happen more slowly, as much more debate would be needed and many more back room deals would be required to actually call a vote on something.

Then again, maybe it wouldn’t be any slower than the government already is. Ba-bam! Burn! I’ll be here all week, folks!

In any case, you can find out more on the None of the Above website. We’re not sure how the black sign will work in our political Infinity Gauntlet but I’m sure we can figure something out.

Speaking of lawn signs, I have always been one to keep my political views very private from my neighbours and the whole idea of having a lawn sign was just a big NO. But I am so, so very saddened and discouraged by the sheer volume of Conservative signs on my street that I actually ordered myself a Green Party sign. I’m not 100% committed to them but I just wanted to stir up some crap, quite frankly. It’s out front – Sir Monkeypants and I have bets on how long it will be before the house gets egged.

Seriously, though, what is with all the Conservative support? I cannot vote for them, full stop, because a) Doug Ford, b) removal of sex education from our public schools, and c) DOUG FREAKING FORD. And those are just my province-wide issues; it recently came to light that the PC candidate in my riding, who is likely to be our next Health Minister, is solidly in favour of two-tier, for-pay health care, and as a sideline used her Twitter account back in 2015 to make some fear-mongering, anti-Muslim tweets. I know that it’s impossible to find one party and one candidate that represents everything you stand for, and you sometimes have to take the bad with the good. But these things – sex ed, universal health care, and the idea that anyone living here should not have to feel that those in power, let alone the majority of their neighbours, do not want them here – are so important to me that I don’t see how any thoughts on taxes or hydro bills could compare. I will be humiliated if Doug Ford becomes our premier – which seems more and more likely each day.

Man, this got much more serious than I planned. Hope I didn’t scare anyone away. If you’re despairing, though, just think Infinity Gauntlet. SNAP.

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.