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.

Baby Driver

I posted this on Instagram on Saturday:

View this post on Instagram

Baby Driver in da house!!!

A post shared by Lynn (@lynnturtlehead) on

We have a third driver! Captain Jelly Belly has joined the world of cars. We are hoping he will be fully licensed by summertime.

We dragged him into this, truth be told, kicking and screaming. He had NO interest in learning to drive. Apparently this is a millennial thing – all the kids his age are completely uninterested in cars. He is the first among all his friends to get his beginner license and the only one, as far as we can tell, who is being pressured into it by his parents. He claims it’s an environmental thing – that he and his generation have moral problems with the whole concept of driving. I am skeptical of this, as a) Gal Smiley is CHOMPING AT THE BIT and cannot wait to get behind the wheel, preferably of some classic muscle car, and b) whenever we suggest to the Captain that he drive somewhere, he is TERRIFIED, so I’m guessing fear has much more to do with it than morals.

But whatever, onward and upward! I am very interested in having another driver in the house as I intend to pass all driving obligations on to him as soon as I can, as I hate driving and am terrible at it. But also, we want him to be able to drive alone by the time he is in university, as it is likely he will have to live off-campus somewhere and being able to have a car rather than take public transit all the time would be amazing, he just doesn’t realize it yet.

Of course, once he has his license he’ll probably only need to drive for a decade or so before we’re completely on self-driving cars. But then he’ll be able to tell his kids all about the days of yore when he actually controlled a vehicle. The other day, we were telling the kids about our own days of yore, when you had to turn on the television by walking over to it and turning a dial, and then you had the choice of like, 12 channels tops. Their eye-rolling could be seen from space.

Anyway, in addition to someone getting a license, it was also our 23rd wedding anniversary this weekend, and we celebrated by going to see Avengers: Endgame, and then going out to dinner. It was bone-chilling cold and actually snowed, and everyone was astonished, but since April 27 is my anniversary I can confirm that it snows at least 1/3 of the time, and did indeed snow on my actual wedding day, and that was even in Toronto, not Ottawa. So we continue our long trek towards spring but at least it was a very nice anniversary and a bright spot in an otherwise pretty bleak April.

Then last night, after winning our local trivia team event, we rushed home to watch Game of Thrones, which featured an extra-long episode with a crazy battle and many sad deaths. Between that and Endgame and being married for 23 years and self-driving cars, I have a lot of processing to do today. It’s times like this that I wish I had a pop culture blog, because I have a LOT of thoughts about Endgame and Game of Thrones and how they both were great, but specific pointers on how they could have been better, in case the creative types behind these things need a little advice. But sadly, I will just have to share my ideas with my laundry basket and all the chocolate I can muster as I sort it all out.

Traditions and Politics and The People You Can Count On

Yesterday I spent a couple of hours stuffing a hundred plastic eggs with treats for an egg hunt on Sunday, without much enthusiasm. I am reminded once again of one of my parenting rules that came along too late to be of any use to me: do not introduce any new traditions unless you are willing to commit to them for a lifetime.

When I was a girl, Easter was not a huge thing. We’d get a basket of treats and often a new outfit on Easter morning, and then go to church, dinner with our grandparents, that was it. But Pinterest and Blogging and Keeping Up With the Moms led me to think that, when my kids were toddlers, that an Easter egg hunt would be so fun! And we did it the first year, and it was pretty okay! And then the following year, I already had a hundred plastic eggs, so why not!

And now here we are 12 years later and I’m seeking little items to put in eggs for my sixteen-year-old who is learning to drive and who is growing a mustache, because TRADITION.

New moms: you have been warned.

I think I am especially cranky lately as my son and husband have been rewatching The West Wing. I picked up the first three seasons in a steal of a deal at a used book sale – $2 per season. I watched it the first time around so I haven’t been a devoted viewer this time around but the few scenes I have seen are really depressing. It’s because it’s a show about people trying to do good in this world, with basic kindness and humanity, and that seems so rare these days, especially in the world of politics.

And it’s almost comical, the things that pass for a “scandal” on that show – a major first season storyline is that Sam, who is the assistant communications director at the White House, is dating a woman who also happens to be a call girl, and that’s HUGE and TERRIBLE and must be stopped. Which compared to today – I mean, who even knows who the assistant communications director is, and what he’s doing, when we have so many worse things to worry about in the actual Oval Office?


Speaking of kindness and dedication, I was ranting to my youngest the other day about Unreliable People, as a few people had recently disappointed me with their failure to do things they said they would do. She was probably too young for such a talk, but I do find that as I age I am getting more and more jaded about people just showing the hell up when they say they are going to. I can count on one hand the people who I consider “my people” in that I know they will be there for me 100% of the time, no matter what, no questions asked. And I am related to most of them. What has happened to the days of It Takes A Village? Will we ever return to a time when streets and communities bonded together to care for one another?

I am probably just as bad. When I do it in reverse – people I’d be there for any time, any place – it’s probably also only a handful.

No wonder I’m such a curmudgeon. Hopefully a hundred pretty Easter eggs, lovingly posted in Instagram to convince other mothers that I’m as cool as they are, will fix me, for one day at least.

Springtime This And That

It’s not very spring-like in Ottawa. In fact, I believe it is snowing right now. Every morning Little Miss Sunshine, who has to leave the house first every day, asks our Google Home for the weather, and every day the Google Home says cheerily, “It’s -5 right now, with a windchill effect of -11, cloudy today with a high of 2 degrees and chance of snow showers.”

Then she sighs heavily and trudges to the door to put on her boots, and toque, and mitts, and winter coat, although she refuses snow pants now on principle. I feel her pain.

But! Despite the fact that spring is dragging her feet, I am still feeling pretty chipper. There is fresh light in the mornings and the snow is sloooooowly melting and there are things to be happy about, like:

Les Miserables.

Okay, it IS one of the saddest musicals/movies of all time. But I watched it last week with my older daughter, Gal Smiley, and now she is obsessed, and I’m so, so happy. I saw it when I was on a Grade 9 field trip to New York City and it was TRANSFORMATIVE. I know every word to the soundtrack and now she and I go around the house all the time, several times a day, belting out all the parts to “One Day More” (her: Marius, Enjolras, Javert; me: Jean ValJean, Cosette, Eponine, while we both take on the Thenardiers). It is awesome.

She’s getting into stage musicals in general, having recently been through phases when she listened to the Dear Evan Hansen soundtrack and then the Rent soundtrack on repeat. I’m thrilled. I was super into musicals and theatre as a kid – still am.

Side story – I was thinking this morning about how I begged my mother to take me to see Shakespeare as a child and she eventually caved and took me to The Tempest at the Stratford Festival when I was 11 years old, the same as as Little Miss Sunshine right now. I even READ IT before we went so I would understand everything and we sat in the front row and I was ENTHRALLED. Every year after that my awesome mom took me to at least two plays or musicals there, sometimes three or four, and thinking about this over breakfast made me realize I was NOT a normal child. I am trying to imagine going on a field trip with Little Miss Sunshine’s class, and having some kid in her class tell me how much they enjoyed their recent outing to see The Tempest and that they were hoping to catch something by Gilbert and Sullivan or Moliere next year, and basically falling over from shock, and also thinking that kid was WEIRD.

This explains a LOT about my school days.

Anyway, I am just happy that I have at least one kid who is into stage and screen and musicals and we can geek out about it together.

Also good this spring: the end is in sight for Girl Guiding! My last meeting as a leader is May 29 – I have signed the papers and told the people. I will really, really miss all the crafting. This past week I stayed up late every night to make 24 custom Harry Potter wands, each a different size and shape and pattern with a different semi-precious stone embedded in the handle, and I love them all. And I also made a set of mini Harry Potter bookmark-scarves out of felt, and made little scrolls with a Harry Potter potions assignment on it, and now I am thinking of opening up an Etsy business to fill the void.

Also I will miss the paperwork. I’m serious about this – I just love paperwork and record keeping. I love updating the files I have on each girl that track what badges they have and I love entering the attendance and I love updating the budget and making inventories of supplies. I TOLD you I was weird.

But I will not miss the rest of it – the hours spent planning and the way my mind cannot let go of a cool idea once I have it, and how I must do EVERYTHING because I can’t not be a perfectionist, and how I stress out before every meeting and have to have a big glass of wine after each one, and how some girls are great but some girls are annoying and I have to be nice to everyone all the time.

So farewell to guides and guiding, it was a lovely experience but I’m ready to be done.

As they say in Les Miz: One Month More. Actually, Two Months More, but I think I can make it work in the song. We will nip it in the bud! My place is here, I stand with you! Les Miz applies to SO MUCH of your daily life, it seems.

Happy spring!

Parenting Advice

One time, when my kids were small, I was invited to a baby shower. There was a book there where everyone was invited to write a few words of parenting advice to the mom-to-be.

Everyone was writing flowery, unhelpful things like “cherish the baby times as they are so precious” and “the days are long, but the years are short” and “nothing is as wonderful as the laughter of a child,” blah blah blah.

Gal Smiley was just a few months old at the time, and she was our first girl, so I wrote in the book, “If it’s a girl, don’t wash the pale pink stuff with the dark load or it will go kind of grey and ugly.”

Everyone was horrified in a pearl-clutching kind of way, but I wanted to write something concrete and actually useful. But also, I was in the early days when everyone is telling you what to do and what not to do, and I had had it up to HERE with people sharing parenting advice, so I went cheeky.

(But also useful. You really need to make a separate pinks and reds load if you are going to be the parent of girls. I stand behind that.)

The other day I realized I do, in fact, have one piece of actual parenting advice to share. I don’t think you can tell other people how to parent and everyone is out there doing the best that they can, making the choices that fit their family best. But if I went to that baby shower today, and had to write some parenting advice, here’s what I’d write:

You have a shockingly short amount of time to teach your kids how to be human beings. Start now – from day one.

I think this is what surprised me the most about being a parent. By the time my kids were, say 13-ish years old, it was all over. I mean, I’m still here to listen to their troubles and help them through social issues and difficult decisions and friend betrayals. But it’s too late now for my older teens to teach them things like it’s a nice thing to offer to clean up after dinner, especially at a friend’s house.

I remember when the kids were young, I was so tired all the time just from the physical effort of caring for everyone and the house. At the end of the day it was so much easier to park them in front of the TV rather than have them all in the kitchen, herding around me, needing help to do the simplest thing. I have to say, it’s really thanks to my husband that the kids turned out well. He’s really good at the big picture, big planning, and from a young age he got them doing chores and thinking about how to be a good citizen of our home and good citizen of the world.

I always thought there’d be time to impart my wisdom and teach them life skills when they got older – when I wasn’t so tired, when they were able to listen to reason. But it’s too late, when they have outgrown after school care and are home alone at the age 12, to just assume that they know how to use the internet responsibly. It’s too late, at the age of 14, to introduce the habit of putting your dishes in the dishwasher. It’s too late, at the age of 16, for them to suddenly wake up and understand that they are expected to be responsible for their younger siblings and kind to others.

You only have a few short years to teach them to stand up, step up, be strong, be generous. Start as early as you can – and no matter the setbacks, never stop.


For the past few years at least, I have liked winter, but even I am tiring of this long, endless winter. I mean, I have lived through cold, I have lived through snow, I have lived through freezing rain. But this year there is just SO MUCH ICE. Our street is basically a skating rink. A narrow, one-lane skating rink with such deep ruts that driving down it is like taking a covered wagon over a muddy path through the prairies in the 1840s.

I haven’t checked the mail in two weeks because I need hiking spikes just to walk the block to the super mailbox. But unless my mail carrier has a covered wagon, he probably hasn’t been able to get down our street, anyway.

So the end result is that we have been trapped at home for weeks now. One plus though is that we are watching a lot of TV, fueled by the fact that we are now subscribers to Netflix AND Amazon Prime AND Crave. It’s a lot of pressure to keep up with the content and feel like you’re getting your money’s worth. We must watch it all!

Last week, I watched Isle of Dogs with the kids. I just loved it so much — the minute it was over I wanted to restart it. Wes Anderson, man – I totally vibe on his stuff. He’s weird and not for everyone, but his work really IS for me.

The kids thought it was only okay. I suppose they were bound to disappoint me someday.

Other filmmakers who I adore – who I plan on introducing my kids to when they are ready for adult content, probably with further disappointment – include:

  • the Coen Brothers
  • Quentin Tarantino
  • Spike Lee
  • Paul Thomas Anderson
  • Tina Fey
  • Christopher Nolan
  • Sophia Coppola

My oldest, Captain Jelly Belly, will be 16 in two weeks and when we are not forcing him to learn to drive, I will probably be forcing him to live through Mom Film School, which will likely also include a selection of Oscar winners, AFI Top 100 movies, and the best of the auteurs above.

Then I’m guessing we will move on to various TV Series Of Quality, because it probably will take until May for our street to become passable, and heaven knows we have a lot of work to do to make all those subscriptions worth it. Time to flip on the gas fireplace, curl up with a cup of tea, and get to work.

Good Work

My two teens are working this winter at the Vorlage ski hill, one as an instructor, and one as a TA.

Quick public service announcement – if you live in the Ottawa area, and you have a 13 or 14 year old who is a high intermediate or advanced skiier or snowboarder, then consider the TA program at Vorlage. I think it’s awesome. Your kid has to pass a two-day ski program (held in December) but pretty much anyone who can make it down the mountain with confidence passes, and then you get:

  • free ski pass for the season
  • free weekly lessons, so you can continue to improve your skiing
  • a paycheck – it’s only about $30 or $40 a week but for my kids, that was a lot
  • a discount on passes and classes for all your other family members
  • a discount on food in the cafeteria

In return, you have to work one full day every weekend, either Saturday or Sunday. It’s a pretty full day – you’re on from 8:30 to 4, and pretty much all the time you’re either assisting in a class or doing “chair lift duty,” where you just ski all day but take a little kid up with you on the lift each time you go up. Also, if you come up to the hill on any other days – like for casual fun skiing – you’re expected to check in with the office and might be pressed into some kind of duty if needed.

I think it’s a good deal. My kids are getting great experience plus a real paycheck, at a time when finding part-time work for kids of that age is basically limited to paper routes and babysitting. It’s only for about 12 weeks in the winter so they are still free in the summer and it gets our whole family to the ski hill every single weekend, which has done amazing things for helping turn winter into our favourite season.

This year the Captain was old enough to get certified to actually teach, and he did, and he was nervous about it but they hired him right away so he decided to at least try it. This past weekend was his first full day of teaching and he had four different lessons in one day. I have to say, I am so, so proud of him. He worked so hard and put his heart into it. He had funny and cute and adorable stories to tell about all the toddlers he taught all day long. He was outgoing and fun with the kids, which is hard for him as an introvert, but he shone. I could literally see him growing up before my eyes.

Meanwhile, Gal Smiley is in her second year as a TA and also rocking the hill. On Sunday, her first full day of work, I went into the bathroom with Little Miss Sunshine and we happened to run into Gal Smiley, who was taking a little girl of about 4 to the washroom in the middle of her lesson. Gal Smiley was AWESOME – sweet and upbeat and helped the girl on and off with her things, and told her little stories, and chit chatted with her the whole time, and I was just so, so proud of her.

And then by the end of the day, both of them were so exhausted they could hardly drag themselves to the car. But they did! And they did a great job!

As our family gets older, it’s harder to blog about them, for privacy reasons, and also because those little cute compact tales that fit so well with three-year-olds don’t quite mesh with the complexities of the teen years. But I wanted to write this down, because on Sunday I looked at both them and saw truly lovely people being truly kind, honourable, and tough. I’m so, so proud of them both.

December Randoms

Today, as Captain Jelly Belly was leaving for school, I went to give him a goodbye hug and then we both stopped cold and said, “Whoa.”

It was because we were looking at each other eye-to-eye. Height wise, we were dead even.

He was in boots and I was barefoot which gave him at least an inch or two of boost, which is why this crazy thing happened. But he’s been growing like a weed lately so it isn’t too far away before he actually IS that tall, and IS even with me, or even TALLER than me, and I can’t even.

It was a pretty shocking switcheroo moment for us both.

Gal Smiley, on the other hand, seems to have topped out at a very tiny five feet. She swears she will also be taller than me someday but she still has four inches to go so – well, good luck, honey. I am thinking your one-time dream of being a professional basketball player is history.


Speaking of the Captain, I couldn’t find his lunch bag the other day and I thought it might be in his backpack so I went to look for it.

In his backpack I found:

  • his spring jacket, balled up in a lump
  • his super-heavy bike lock, which he hasn’t used since October
  • an umbrella which I don’t think he has ever opened once, and definitely not since it started snowing
  • about 100 homework assignments
  • his information form for the school, and his “I’ve seen this” form from his mid-term report card, both of which were supposed to be handed in weeks ago.

He was carrying around this stuff every day, back and forth to school, just shoving his lunch on top of the heap.

It’s not an albatross you are required to carry, dear. You aren’t pilgrim in Pilgrim’s Progress. It’s okay to clean out your backpack from time to time and lay down your burdens.

(Also okay: HANDING STUFF IN. Sigh.)


In other news, I would offer this:

Those people who are sitting outside the Shoppers Drug Mart at 7:50 a.m., waiting for it to open, wearing their jammies, so that they can buy over-the-counter Pink Eye medication for their kid, five days before Christmas, YOU ARE MY PEOPLE.


Today I was dropping off my youngest at school and it’s a kindergarten to Grade 8 school. You have to walk past the kindergarten play yard to get inside and the kindergarten kids were still outside playing.

Their yard had kind of a low area and this area was covered with a heavy sheet of solid ice. All the kids were on the ice crawling around and licking it and rolling on it and dragging each other around on it, while the teachers sat on the side and kept an eye on things.

I’m guessing this is how they planned to spend most of the morning.

I was both delighted and amazed and found it absolutely hilarious. Those were the days – when your kid could be amused all morning long by a wonderful, awesome patch of ice. The squirming mass of kids was just so weird and funny and also so very happy.

Now that’s a Happy Holiday Moment, I’d say.

Celebrating Lucky

I like to make a note on this blog when something really lucky happens to me.

This happened to me this week:

I had online ordered a really obscure item for one of my kids for Christmas.

It was delivered last week but I hurried it away into a closet and didn’t look at it carefully.

A couple of days ago, a local store that I follow on Facebook happened to post that they had received a few of this item. I was amazed, because it’s very seriously obscure and I never would have thought any local store would have it. “If only I’d known,” I said to myself, “I could have bought it locally from a store I really love.”

Then today I went to wrap said gift, which is very unusual for me as I usually leave this to the last minute, and also I am drowning in work to be done before the holidays, so why I chose to wrap today is beyond me.

And I found that the item that had been delivered from an online store was damaged – the package was ripped open and it looked like it had gotten wet at some point.

But instead of freaking out and having a total pre-Christmas THINGS ARE RUINED meltdown, I just called the local shop and had them put their last remaining copy of said item on hold for me, then printed off a return label from the online retailer, then boxed up the damaged one, then swung by the post office where it return shipped for free, then swung by the local store where I got a nice new copy of the obscure item at a $10 savings over the online one.

BAZINGA. Now that’s lucky. I feel like Santa must have had a hand in that one.

Getting Festive With It

The girls and I have been working our way through the cheesy Christmas movies on Netflix. We’ve never had the Hallmark Channel here, so the bountiful riches of crappy romances on Netflix is totally new and novel. Some have been okay, some have been a little groan-inducing, but mostly they have been cheerful and positive and smell faintly of gingerbread, so all good.

(Mini reviews – the kids loved Christmas Chronicles way more than I did, but it was okay; The Princess Switch was the bomb; double bill of A Christmas Prince and A Christmas Prince: Royal Wedding was so-bad-it’s-good; Nailed It Christmas Edition is NOT to be missed)

I was laid up on the couch yesterday, so I decided I might watch another – Christmas Wedding Planner.

But luckily I thought the main girl looked a little familiar, so I looked it up in the IMDB first.

People, this movie, THIS MOVIE. It has the BEST horrible user reviews of all time. Here is a very small sampling:

Entitled “Garbage”:

Brew up a cup of hot cocoa, and then dump in a hearty helping of your favorite cleaning chemical. This one’s a doozy.

Here are a few tidbits about this abysmal, schlocky assault on the senses:

1. The female lead spends half the film texting her dead mother.

2. Joey Fatone plays a chef. He has way too much dialogue. He plates and serves a lobster like 2 and a half minutes after it has been ordered.

3. The film’s ending wipes out the second and third waves of feminism in one deadly, surgical strike.

Please. Hug a loved one. Read a book. Water your plants. Pick your scabs. Do anything but spend a nanosecond of your infinitesimally short time on this earth watching this movie.

Here’s another:

Keeping aside the sub par acting coupled with the most unreal storyline, the ending seemed the most bizarre to me. There is no real plot, the characters do not feel any genuine emotions (not even a woman who just broke up with her fiance on the aisle), and do not even get me started on the last scene. I concur that love conquers all and all other cliches associated with it, but Christmas Wedding Planner portrayed each and every aspect of love and christmas horribly wrong. I watch a lot of romantic comedies and this movie will definitely top the list of the 5 Worst RomComs of all Time.

This one is also typical:

This is by far the WORST movie I think I’ve ever seen. How it was in my recommend on Netflix has me perplexed. The dialogue was horrible. The acting somehow even worse. And the ending was absolutely absurd. It was like a car wreck that you couldn’t stop staring at. I literally made an account to save people from 90 mins of cringe.

Best review ever – entitled “My Eyes are Bleeding…”

I would rather die….I would rather die….I would rather die….I would rather die….I would rather die….I would rather die….I would rather die….I would rather die….I would rather die….I would rather die….I would rather die….I would rather die….I would rather die….

Needless to say these are all 1-star reviews. I guess the 0-star review isn’t allowed. There are DOZENS like this, and so many more hilarious ones. If you are looking to kill time while laid up on the couch, skip the movie, and just read its reviews instead.

(Although, don’t you totally want to watch it now, just to see if it is really THAT bad? I am tempted.)

In happier holiday news, Spotify has just added a new Christmas album, my most favourite of all time – It’s A Hi-5 Christmas. It wasn’t there last week, and now it is, and there is JOY in our household. It’s a kids album, and it’s as cheesy as a Hallmark movie, but a GOOD Hallmark movie. It has lots of original tunes you won’t find anywhere else that are absolute classics in my house.

If you’re on Spotify, you can find it here. Santa Claus is Coming!