Aging Gracefully

A weird thing is happening to me as I age, and that is that I have come to like vegetables. Not just like them; crave them.

Those who have known me since childhood (hi, Fame Throwa!) know that this a rather shocking turn of events. I was the poster child for I Hate Vegetables, the stereotypical kid sitting at the dinner table with lips locked and a look of horror on their face. I didn’t even like the ones you can usually coax kids to try, like carrots or peas or celery.

One time, my poor mother tried to lay down the law and insisted I sit at the table until I ate three small baby carrots that were left on my plate. After an hour and a half I finally choked one down and then threw it back up, along with the rest of my dinner, all over the table. After that, she was resigned to looking the other way while I slipped Fame Throwa (who has always loved veggies) my broccoli under the table.

Suddenly, it seems, I cannot get enough of them. I was out at the Farm Boy a few weeks ago and they had a little bowl of cut cucumbers out as samples. I have always despised cucumbers but for some reason I took one, and it was like a Festival of Joy in my mouth. I bought like, 20 mini cucumbers and ate them all within three days and had to go back for more.

(Then I took a pregnancy test JUST IN CASE.)

Now I find I’m obsessed with lettuce. I could seriously take an iceberg lettuce and just bite into it and eat the whole thing like an apple, but between the Farm Boy and the weekly farmer’s market I’ve been delving into all kinds of dark, reddish, or bitter variations and loving it. Plus, red peppers: NATURE’S CANDY. So delicious.

I realize this probably just means I’m dehydrated. Also, come winter I’ll probably be depressed when all the vegetables go back to tasting like water and I’ll get over it. But for now, I like to think of this as just me getting better with age.


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.


Little Readers

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:

The horror that is my bedside table backlog. Not shown: overflow pile on the floor.
The horror that is my bedside table backlog. Not shown: overflow pile on the floor.
My husband's bedside table. These were all gifts from me.
My husband’s bedside table. These were all gifts from me.
There's a bookshelf in my room...
There’s a bookshelf in my room…
And one in each kid's room...
And one in each kid’s room…
And each kid's floor kind of looks like this...
And each kid’s floor kind of looks like this…
And we have some overflow hidden in some cabinets here and there...
And we have some overflow hidden in some cabinets here and there…
Plus my basement looks like this.
Plus my basement looks like this.

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:

crayons (Small)


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?

For Christmas We’re Getting Her a Green Visor

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.

DSC_5370 (Medium)

DSC_5372 (Medium)

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?

On Their Own

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?

My Husband Went Out Of Town and the World Exploded.

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.

Evil Mastermind

Little Miss Sunshine: I want to quit piano.

Me: Sure, whatever. By the way, I got you this book of beginner Taylor Swift songs for piano, if you want to try it.

(two hours later)

Little Miss Sunshine: I am never quitting piano.

Me: Sure, whatever. [evil mastermind laugh]

A Retirement of Superlatives

I recently picked up this book: The Geist Atlas of Canada.


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.

And scene.

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:


One down, a hundred more to go. Are you with me?

Favourite Mugs

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.

mug1 (Large)

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.

mug2 (Large)

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.

mug4 (Large)

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.

mug3 (Large)

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.

mug5 (Large)

Join us for a little something sometime, won’t you?