An Odd Day

Friday was weird.

It was Gal Smiley’s birthday, so I was going to make cupcakes, and pizza pockets from scratch for dinner. And I did that. We were going to send the cupcakes with her to Pathfinder camp, which was supposed to be that evening in tents at Camp Woolsey, which is Dunrobin, about a half hour from here.

All day long the weather got weirder and weirder. It was very windy, and cloudy. They said a thunderstorm was coming in. Some of the moms in the Pathfinder unit were worried about the tents, but Girl Guides are a hardy bunch so they planned to go anyway, and we were fine with it.

Then we got a tornado warning on our phones, which frankly I thought was overkill. I wondered if we were going to get one every time there was a bit of windy weather around here. We haven’t had a tornado in Ottawa as long as I’ve lived here.

It’s not exactly Kansas.

But due to the warning, the guide leaders decided not to go up to camp after all, but rather to head up first thing in the morning.

Now we were home with Gal Smiley on her birthday, and no plans. So we ate a few of the cupcakes and let her pick out a movie to rent.

Ten minutes into the movie we lost power – along with most of Ottawa.

And about that same time, a tornado touched down in Dunrobin, minutes from the camp, destroying several houses and businesses.

So it was a weird night. We spent her birthday in candlelight. The kids built a fort. We played some cards. We ate ALL the cupcakes. We checked the Hydro Ottawa Twitter feed compulsively on our phones.

We were grateful our brand new fourteen-year-old was not at camp in a tent.

Then we all went to bed early because it was dark, and it’s weird how your body starts to think about sleep when it’s dark and there are no glowing screens to keep you distracted from your own exhaustion.

By the next morning our power was up, but it was still out a few streets over from us – we had no idea until this event how localized power supply can be. Some in our local neighbourhood were without power for a full 48 hours. Some parts of Ottawa are STILL without power, and it’s been almost three days.

The camp was cancelled.

It does make you think, about how plans can change, about how the earth is a mysterious place, about how lucky we were to be at home and together on the Blackout Birthday.

Hopefully wherever you are, you are safe and warm and well fed, too.

Blogging While Eating An Entire Tin of Shortbread Cookies

I really had no choice. I bought this tin of shortbread for my parents-in-law last Christmas and yesterday I found it in my closet, behind some storage boxes, where it had fallen. So I had to open it to make sure it was still good, and through the amazing powers of modern processed food chemistry the cookies were just fine, but then I felt I couldn’t give it to my parents-in-law with one cookie missing, so now I am eating the evidence. Later I promise to at least THINK about doing a set of situps to compensate.

Anyway, updates! My hair continues to grow out the grey. It isn’t as white as I thought, which is disappointing – I was really picturing myself as a slightly rounder Jamie Lee Curtis – but I am getting used to it. I can definitely say this: my hair is SO MUCH healthier. The new stuff is unbelievably soft, so soft! And I have had a problem for the past five years or so with massive hair loss – like, handfuls coming out every time I washed it – and I’ve lost hardly any since I stopped dying it. So I think I’m sold on keeping it natural, and that deserves a shortbread cookie, wouldn’t you agree?

Handbags! I have purchased a Lug Shimmy Cross Bag in Red, which can be seen here. Many thanks to the handful of you who recommended this brand! I am not sure about the colour, but I wanted to see it in person before ordering online, so I went down to Readi Set Go on Bank Street, and they had exactly one. And I was thinking of coming home to order a different colour online, but then it turned out to be on sale for 40% off, and who can say no to that, right? I haven’t used it yet because, due to the cost of it, I plan on giving it to Sir Monkeypants to repurpose into a birthday gift for me (my birthday is coming up in November). But then I will wear it everywhere and look cool AND have space for a water bottle! And that deserves a cookie.

Yesterday I had to drive downtown for a networking/work event, and those two things combined made it nearly as bad as camping. But I made it, and I even managed to find parking relatively easily, which is a goddamn miracle. I did notice, though, that I am having to concentrate really, really hard on driving these days. I have always been a terrible driver, although I always claim to be not that bad, I know others shudder at getting into a car with me and they are not wrong to be afraid. Last night I was thinking, during a harrowing highway merge on the way home, that it is only six more months before the Captain can get a driver’s license. And although many parents shudder at the idea of their teens behind the wheel, I cannot wait to hand over all driving duties. I shall sit in the passenger seat and daydream or sleep or work the radio, and someone else will do all the merging. Perhaps while being driven around, like the queen, I will indulge in a tin of shortbread cookies, or two, depending on the length of the trip and whether or not I will be forced to network at the end of it.

This is going to sound very Old Lady of me, but I am in serious Jeopardy withdrawal. We switched to an antenna system…I was going to say a year ago, but now I think maybe it’s more like two years? In any case, we got one channel over the air that showed Jeopardy – interestingly, it is the local religious channel, YesTV. But suddenly about three months ago we just stopped receiving the channel, and we don’t know why. Our antenna is a cranky beast that lives in our super hot, super itchy, super horrifying attic, and neither Sir Monkeypants nor I want to go up there to check it out, so I had resigned myself to a future without Jeopardy. But now, I am hearing that Alex Trebek has hinted that he is going to retire in 2020, and the race is on to become his replacement, and trust me when I say: this is my DREAM JOB. So I feel like I should train up, which may mean a visit to the attic, in which case I am going to need a LOT more cookies for fortification.

Meanwhile, at home, we have unexpected workers in our front yard. We are having a little landscaping done and I was not expecting them until October but they had a cancellation and called at 9 p.m. last night to ask if they could come and get started in the morning. I am happy for the work to be done, but I always feel a little off-balance when unexpected things arrive. And now I am doing the usual trapped-at-home thing, where I feel like I can’t go out, or use the bathroom, or get on a client phone call, because what if they need something? Of course, on any other given day I’d be happy just sitting at my computer, eating cookies and not moving, but as soon as they arrived this morning I thought of several urgent errands that needed running and I had to pee and I noticed I have a client call booked for 1 p.m. Sigh.

Luckily I have a lovely cup of tea here to go with the tin, which is nearly empty, so it’s time to stop blogging and get back to work.

Poetry is the Chicken Wing of Writing

Me: So, what did you do in school today?

Captain Jelly Belly, Age 15, Grade 10: We are doing poetry in English class, UGH.

Me: Oh, I kind of like poetry. What did you do?

CJB: We did this one about a wheelbarrow. It was so lame! There was like, eight words in it!

Me: Oh, William Carlos Williams! He’s great, but I can see your point. You have to work for it.

CJB: You have to work for all poetry. It’s like the chicken wing of writing. You do all this work to get this tiny little thing out of it, and then the chicken wing gets all the credit for being SO tasty, when you had to dig and dig for almost nothing.

Me: That is actually pretty brilliant.

CJB: I just don’t like the way you have to interpret everything. Everyone comes away thinking something different. They should just say what they want to say.

Me: But that’s the good thing. It’s like sharing something with the author. You and he together have made something and that something might be different than him and someone else.

CJB: That’s dumb. It’s like conspiracy theories. There’s like, eight words there, and you keep adding and adding and looking and looking and stringing things together until suddenly you magically connect it into one BIG IDEA and everyone freaks out. But really there’s NOTHING THERE on the page, and you have created a big fuss over nothing.

Me: You are kind of making me re-think all of poetry here.

CJB: Saving one lost jedi at a time, mom. It’s what I do.

The Handbag Search

Ever since my kids were born – this is more than 15 years now – I have carried a backpack with me everywhere. It was easiest to manage when my hands were full of babies and strollers; it had room for all the stuff I needed to carry around, plus two convenient water bottle holders. Eventually I moved down from a full sized backpack to a cute little day pack but I still looked like a perpetual university student on her way to class.

Now that the kids are bigger, I don’t carry around as much stuff anymore (but don’t get me wrong, I still am anything but a light traveller). So lately I have been wanting to ditch my daypack for something that falls more into the “handbag” genre, but I can’t find anything that works.

My shoulders are weirdly rounded – I assume, because anything that follows the traditional one-strap style just slips off my shoulder all the time and is SO annoying. But bags like a cargo bags, where you sling the strap across your body, are uncomfortable and rub on my neck and make my chest look weird.

I need something big enough to hold my giant wallet and several smaller personal items and a camera and a phone and keys. It can’t be anything to narrow because my wallet is really, really fat. And it can’t be anything too deep as I hate having to dig in the bottom of an endless Mary Poppins style bag for the one small little thing I need.

I’d love it to have a bottle holder, so my ever-present bottle of water doesn’t leak all over the inside. But that seems to be kind of a pipe dream so I’m willing to let that one go.

And I have security issues so things that are open at the top, or just close with a little magnetic snap, are out.

What do you use to carry around your stuff? What do you recommend?

Just One Thing

I have a friend who has recently embraced daily exercise, and she has lost a ton of weight and looks amazing. She’s now started up a side business, coaching people through weight loss, and I’d love to do it, but I feel like I can only do one thing, so committing is a really big decision.

Here’s what I mean: I can work, and I can take care of my family and the house, and that’s manageable. And beyond that, I can do just ONE more thing. I can become a knitter, or do a bunch of puzzles, or be a Girl Guide leader, or read through the epic backlist I have on my bedside table, or devote myself to daily exercise and tracking my calories, or build tiny dollhouses, or write a novel, or organize a blogging event. But I cannot do more than one other thing.

This year I’ve signed up to do Girl Guides again so that’s my one thing. When I am not working or doing kid-related stuff, I will be planning and executing Girl Guide activities. I’ve learned that that means I won’t be writing anything, or working out, or getting through that backlist.

My sister told me once that there are very few true multitaskers – people who can manage more than one project at once. As I age I find I get really stressed out when I have more than a couple of balls in the air. It starts to feel like too much is being asked of me, and I freak out.

So I’m going out today to buy some bigger pants, and maybe I’ll walk around the mall a bit while I’m there, but I’m afraid the body makeover plan is going to have to wait for some other year.

Rocking The Grey

In today’s Getting Older news, I think I am at the point where I want to stop dying my hair.

There is a history of early grey in my family, and I’ve had scraggly grey hairs since I turned 30 (famously, my husband plucked my first ever white hair from the back of my head at my own 30th birthday party, and I wailed in horror over it for like, half an hour before being comforted with cake). I’ve been dying it since just after I had Little Miss Sunshine, because I hated the weird striped look. It’s been about ten years of Nice and Easy every six weeks.

But lately I have become tired with the process, the smell, the toll on my hair, the roots. I’ve been looking long and hard at my roots every time dying time comes around, to try to determine what the current percentage is of white, and whether that’s enough to go gracefully all-grey.

It’s really hard to say, but I think my hair is now mainly grey with white bits, and very little of the original brown. I should have dyed it a couple of weeks ago, but when the day came I just…didn’t. And now it’s been about 10 weeks, and I’m of a mind to just kind of see where this is going, and if I like it. Already I can say that a) I do not mind at all not going through the dying process, and b) my hair seems healthier and less brittle already, so that’s good.

I spent some time looking at older actresses for inspiration. Of course, Hollywood pressures women to Stay Young Forever, so making the decision to Go Grey probably comes later in life. Debra Messing, Lucy Liu, Molly Ringwald, Naomi Watts, Ashley Judd, Patricia Arquette, Gillian Anderson, and Parker Posey all turn 50 this year and show no signs of grey, which probably isn’t natural. Age 60 seems to be the usual “considering it” age – Annette Benning, Holly Hunter, Megan Mullally turn 60 this year and are still dying, but 60-year-olds Sharon Stone, Ellen Degeneres, Angela Bassett, and Jamie Lee Curtis seem to be transitioning or going all-out-grey.

Susan Sarandon is now 71, but still rocking the red hair, which cannot possibly be natural. But on the other hand, I so strongly associate her with being a redhead that I would support her continuing to dye it until she is an invalid in a wheelchair with feathered lipstick. Rock it, Susan.

Susan Junket (cropped)

Helen Mirren was a natural blonde in her youth, which I think makes the transition to grey easier. Still, looking at photos, it seems she was still tinting it a golden colour up until two or three years ago. Now that she’s 73, she’s been appearing more often with a solid head of pure white hair, but of course she looks amazing.

The Leisure Seeker 07 (37044398702)

Judi Dench had dark hair as a young woman and it seems she was not too fussy about embracing the grey. Pictures of her at age 50 or so still show her with longish brown hair, but shortly after that she went super short and let it go grey, the way we think of her today. By the time she won the Oscar for Shakespeare in Love – she was 54 at the time – she was all white/grey and looking like a boss. Today she’s 83 and the very definition of no-nonsense.

JudiDenchFeb07

Frances McDormand is an awesome inspiration here too. She famously has said that she intends to age gracefully and not try to hide it at all. She was still dying her hair at age 40 (short and dark brown), but by age 45 she’d gone super short and mostly grey with a blonde tint, and now at age 61 she’s totally grey and looking amazing.

Frances McDormand 2015

And in real life, I am inspired by my friend Lisa (hi Lisa!), who is my age and has long curly hair that is now a gorgeous salt and pepper. She recently had head shots taken and she looked so elegant and powerful that I thought, that could be me too.

I’ll be 48 in a few months, and 50 isn’t that far away, and 50 does not seem too young to have grey hair, regardless of what the majority of Hollywood says. I know it’s going to make me look older. Maybe even all the way to “old.” But it’s who I am, and I like who I am, and I’m ready to go for it.

Summer Randoms

My oldest, Captain Jelly Belly, is fifteen years old, and out of nowhere his voice is breaking. It’s filling me up with ALL THE FEELS. My babies!


The Captain, Sir Monkeypants, and I have been working our way through the entire seven seasons of The Good Wife on Netflix. This is my second time through the series, so I have the luxury of sometimes letting my mind wander a bit, and thus I have become completely obsessed with Alicia Florrick’s apartment. First, it’s huge and it’s gorgeous, which I don’t know how she maintains as she goes in and out of jobs on the show.

But more importantly, the layout completely escapes my ability to mental map. Sometimes she’s in a room and I can’t quite figure out where that room came from, or if it was always there, or how it fits in with the rest of the space. I have spent hours looking at photos of her apartment from all angles to try to figure out how the rooms are arranged and I even tried drawing out a floor plan but there’s too much that just doesn’t add up.

We actually finished the last episode a week or so ago and I might have to go back and start over from the start just so I can slow-mo through every single apartment scene and try to sort this all out.


We have been back on the “getting a pet” merry-go-round around here. My youngest, Little Miss Sunshine, would so much love to have a pet. But all pets have things that make them difficult for us; we can’t have anything that eats seeds or grass due to allergies, we have very heavy cat, guinea pig, and rabbit allergies in the house, fish are too boring, and a dog is just too much work. We have been flirting with the idea of getting a hedgehog but I worry about a) my daughter’s ability to hold it safely (she is a cuddler!) and b) whether or not a hedgehog can actually be happy in captivity.

The other day I opened up a puzzle my son bought for me used, at a school sale, and it was full of dog hair. I don’t know how people with dogs can live if their house is so thickly coated with dog hair that it gets all over a puzzle they are doing, in theory on a table surface. It has definitely turned me off the whole pet idea for the time being but my daughter continues to look at me with big sad brown eyes, so we’ll see.


The other evening I made ratatouille for dinner, and then we watched the Pixar film Ratatouille, and man, does that movie ever hold up. We laughed and laughed, and since it had been a few years since we’d watched it last, my two oldest in particular were amazed at how charming and appealing it was to them, even more so than when they were little. They are now on a mission to re-watch all Pixar films which is fine by me. I think we own most of them except Inside Out, which is happening…(goes to Amazon, clicks around)…now.


Our summer so far has been very random and scattered. I’ve been working more than I wanted to, and two of the three kids did summer school, which ate up most of July. Now that it’s August, we are doing a lot of lazing around the house, working on important projects like Good Wife apartment plans and cleaning all the dog hair out of my new puzzle.

I declare that age 15 is the official cut off age for Summer of Awesome, sadly. I can still drag the Captain along with us to museums and parks and events with threats, but he doesn’t really enjoy it. Gal Smiley, who will be 14 in a month, is at pretty much the same point. So this year I stopped pressuring them, and some days it’s just me and the Little Miss going on adventures while the other two flop at home and read or watch YouTube.

I am a little sad for the days spent on outing after outing, but I’m okay with it at the same time. I’m still having fun with the Little Miss, who is willing to indulge my desire to see every museum special exhibit and every art gallery in the city. Both of my older two are making solid progress towards getting qualified for jobs (the Captain took a course on becoming a camp counsellor, and Gal Smiley is working hard on her lifeguard certification), and I’m proud of them both for that. Next year perhaps they will have part time jobs. They’re moving on to a new phase of life and I will miss my babies but I love my teens, too. They’re really cool people.

Hope your summer is awesome!

On Choosing a Personal Scent

Two anecdotes about my good friend Sarah.

Sarah anecdote number one: We are in our early 20s, working together on a university co-op work term. We head to the mall on our lunch break and Sarah flips through several magazines, eventually settling on Glamour, because she “smells a perfume sample” and that’s always a good thing.

Personal mind blown: a) ladies read magazines! b) ladies wear perfume!

This lead to me becoming a regular reader of Glamour and also exploring the world of smells, and what smelled good to me, having never given it one iota of thought before.

Sarah anecdote number two: Later that same summer, we are doing some shopping while waiting for a movie to start. Sarah needs some shampoo and is standing in the aisle of the drugstore, smelling a variety of choices. Eventually she settles on one because she likes the scent.

Personal mind blown: a) people can change personal care products any time they feel like it! b) people can choose products purely based on smell as a factor!

Up until then I had been using the same shampoo and conditioner that all my sisters and my mother used, because that’s what had been in my house growing up, plus the same deodorant that my mother had first bought me in grade 5, which was the same brand and smell as my best friend used, because I was envious of her grown up liquid roll-on.


Without sharing too much personal detail, a certain member of our household recently joining the Wearing Deodorant club. Without my knowing it, her older sister suggested it was time, and gave her a stick of what she wears for the younger one to try.

And I was all like, no way!

It was because of the scent. My older daughter is not girly at all and wears a nice cucumber/fresh sporty scent. My younger daughter is very girly and it doesn’t match her at all.

After the Summer of Sarah, I went to the drugstore myself and smelled everything and picked out a shampoo and deodorant that I actually liked. Naturally I still use these both to this day, because unlike Sarah, I am a woman of habit and extreme brand loyalty. But also, I feel like both of these have become by Signature Scent. A few years back, when my older daughter was finding her own scent, we ended up with a few leftover deodorants and I used them up but I felt weird the whole time, like, who is this weird-smelling woman I am attached to?

So I took my youngest out to the store and let her smell everything, and she picked out a lovely rose-scented deodorant to experiment with that suits her to a tee, and which may become her lifelong signature scent, although I suspect she has a little of The Sarah about her and will be continue to experiment.

Still, she’ll always be a flowery one, I’m sure.

What’s your signature scent? Do you have a lifelong commitment to it?

Parenting an Extroverted Child

Before I get into today’s topic, let’s start with a small aside. The other day I was riding in the car with my youngest, and the song “Don’t Want to Miss a Thing” by Aerosmith came on the radio. I was singing along and she asked about it and I started to tell her about the movie Armageddon and then I had to stop because I was very, very close to bursting into tears. Over Bruce Willis dying in a cheesy action movie recalled over an AEROSMITH SONG.

I am thinking it is possibly time to turn this blog into a Journey Through Perimenopause because of this story. I don’t really want to explore this issue any more than you do, I’m sure, but at the same time I was thinking about how many of the blogs I read when the kids were little were written by fellow young moms, and sharing our mutual horrors and joys at raising kids created amazing bonds but also helped you feel like you were not alone and that everything was going to be okay.

So from time to time, I may share stories of my progress towards becoming a Woman Of A Certain Age, which apparently, involves weeping over Aerosmith songs on your car.

I feel like these years will be just one long apology to my family. Sorry about this, guys.

Anyway!

We are into summer vacation and so far I have spent it driving. Both of my oldest are in summer school for July, in two different locations, and so every day is drop off, run home, serve lunch, drop off, run home, try to work for two hours, then pickup, pickup. It’s been bananas and next week the third one is going to a week long day camp at a THIRD location and I am going to have to clone myself to survive.

Until then, though, I have my two extroverts – the girls – home every morning, and then one extrovert – the youngest – home alone each afternoon. I am the most introverted of introverts, and I feel like that is potentially becoming a problem as I age. This summer especially, I feel like the girls are suffering, especially the youngest, by the fact that I have booked too much work for the summer, but also, prefer quiet around the house in general.

Here’s how they would prefer to spend their summer: friends over every day, or going to a friend’s house, or maybe having several friends over for a bit of a party/hang out, or else meeting a group of friends at the park, or talking on facetime with several friends at once, and then going for a pool party with friends every evening.

Here’s how I would prefer them to spend their summer: sitting quietly in a corner reading, with occasional requests to go the library for more books.

I could easily spend the summer with the Captain, who is as introverted as I am. When it’s just the two of us at home, you won’t hear a peep. We will occasionally check in with the other one to see how they are doing, and sometimes if we are keen to do something social we will watch a TV show together, before retreating to our respective corners.

But the girls are always at my elbow, asking if people can come over, or if they can go somewhere. And I know it would be SO GOOD for them, that’s what they need, that’s what will make this summer awesome. But I am busy and I am tired and the thought of negotiating playdates and arranging more pickups and drop offs, or else dealing with more noise and activity in my house, is just ugh, you know?

I feel like, when the girls grow up, this will be one of those things that they were denied as children. Like, I was never allowed to have long hair as a kid, so my daughters (and also, my son) all have long hair and can have it as long as they want. They may also have all the gum they want, something that was banned at my house.

When they grow up, they’ll probably tell their kids they were never allowed to have people over (never being a HUGE EXAGGERATION, but compared to how often they would LIKE to have people over, I’m sure it feels like never) and then let them have all the friends over they want.

Of course, they will probably birth introverts and all their kids will want to do is spend the day at Grandma’s, reading quietly in the corner, with occasional trips to the library.

Anyway, until then, I am trying to do better, to be a better Mom To Extroverts. I am trying to say Yes more often, when they want someone over or want to go out. I am trying to do all I can to make playdates happen and to support their social lives. It’s a hard thing, to say yes when you really want to say no. But I feel like that’s going to become norm as they pass into the teen years – when they were toddlers, it was all about saying no when you wanted to say yes, but now it’s about saying yes when you really want to say no, for so many things.

Parenthood – it’s weird, right?

Seeing Yourself Through Other Eyes

I’m back from the trip to Toronto with Gal Smiley and her eighth grade class.

I wrote about a dozen blog posts in my head while I was away, because that is how I process. But now that I am back, I find I don’t really want to wallow.

So to sum up:

  • Some of the boys on the trip were jerks.
  • I let their behaviour really get under my skin.
  • There was an incident where I kind of blew my top at them, in an inappropriate manner.
  • They laughed in my face and told me they didn’t have to listen to me, and I cried a whole bunch, and felt totally embarrassed and humiliated.

So! It wasn’t exactly a great time. Luckily for me, Gal Smiley had no awareness at all that this had happened (possibly doesn’t even still). She had a very nice time and her friends were wonderful so I’m happy about that.

I spent a lot of time after The Incident processing and self-analyzing. I beat myself up for my well-established tendencies to bossiness and nosiness, which had bloomed out of control on the trip. I gave myself firm lectures on how I need to get my menopause emotions under control, stat.

I wanted to be the Best Trip Supervisor Ever, but although you might think that means being active and involved, I think it actually would have been easier for the teachers if I was more of a warm body, willing to be directed and told what to do, but otherwise on the sidelines. I tried to be that for the remainder of the trip and it was better.

Most of all, I had this really weird flash where the boys were laughing at me when I could really see myself through their eyes. It was the first time I have ever felt truly old. I could hear myself barking at them about The Rules, The Rules, and I sounded to my own ears like a bitter, cranky old woman, angry at youth. Wanting to exercise what sad, little power I had before I vanished completely.

I have probably thought about this incident about 1000x more than any of those boys. It’s come and gone for them, hopefully for the teachers on the trip too.

But I have changed. I am different now. I can see what some part of the world thinks of me and it isn’t pretty.

After The Incident, I was sitting on the bus with dark glasses and tissues and I was sitting behind one of Gal Smiley’s best girl friends. And she casually pointed out to me a cool license plate as it was going by – “AZ IF.” And I cried anew, because she was kind, and because we shared a geeky interest in license plates, and she talked to me like I was just any other person. Maybe it is possible in this world to find the kind of people who are like you, who value you, no matter what your age or station or mistakes or damage.

But it will take some soul searching to get over it all, I think.