The Process of Comfort

We went to Tremblant this past weekend. It’s a big ski hill about three hours away, at least four times bigger than any hill I’ve ever been on before – it was my very first time there.

So although we were only there for about 36 hours, I had a perfectly acceptable number of panic attacks and meltdowns (at least three).

But! I did NOT panic while actually skiing, which is a win. This weekend was a strong reinforcement of what I already know about myself – I get upset when I don’t know the process.

(My business coach is somewhere laughing and nodding until her head falls off, because she gets me.)

I melted down over things like where to park, and where to leave our stuff, and what kind of stuff to bring, and how the line ups worked at the lifts (STILL NO IDEA, we had so many people butt in front of us that I am sure I am still missing out on some critical piece of process information here). The actual skiing was fine. Good, in fact – I stuck to the green runs and they were actually pretty easy, although very long, and the weather was nice and the snow was excellent so it was pretty fun even though I still have no idea how I am supposed to line up for the lifts, and we ended up shoving all our stuff next to the garbage cans because we still don’t understand where we are supposed to store it.

I am extra impressed with myself because – this is a deep secret not even my husband knows – I have an unhealthy obsession with three tragic, mysterious deaths in this world:

  1. The death of the crew of the Challenger, the space shuttle that blew up during take off in 1986. I was watching it live at the time, and it was horrifying, but since then I have read lots more about the explosion and trust me, you should not do this. Here is a hint: the crew was not killed in the explosion, as you probably thought.
  2. The death of the entire group of 10 hikers at the Dyatlov Pass in Russia in 1959. This is an ongoing, unsolved mystery in which the hiking party, having set up a tent in a remote, snowy area of the Ural Mountains, cut their way out of the tent in terror and fled in the middle of the night, wearing very little and with no gear in freezing weather, for no apparent reason. You should probably not read about it if you ever want to sleep again, but on the other hand, if you would like to discuss conspiracy theories/the science of mountain snow with me, I am available.
  3. The death of British actress Natasha Richardson, who died of a brain hemorrhage after a seemingly gentle fall while taking a beginner ski lesson at Tremblant.

For all of these, I have read and re-read a truly detrimental and harmful amount of information, and sometimes when I wake up in the middle of the night, my mind goes over this information in a bad kind of way, and so I do not recommend reading about any of them.

But considering my obsession with Natasha, in particular, I am very proud to say that I never once hesitated, not even while on the very run where she fell, and only a few times considered booking the whole family in for a preventative CAT scan once we were finished skiing there.

So I would say our trip to Tremblant was a success, and I might even want to go back someday, especially now that we have faked our way into our own kind of process. Progress!

The End of Times

Last week our internet died in the house (of course it did).

We could see it coming, in that for about a month before total death, it had been cutting out a couple of times a week, requiring me to power-cycle the whole system, which involves many modems and routers and hard drives and PVRs and probably the microwave oven, for all I know.

Then one day it just didn’t wake up again, and we learned very quickly that everything we do in this house requires the internet. Asking our Google home about the weather, or to play a song from Spotify? Internet. Controlling our themostat from any room via wifi? Internet. Watching TV, or Netflix, or Crave, or YouTube? Internet. Printing anything I need for work purposes? Internet, because our printer is across the room from my PC and works on wifi.

My youngest came home from school and here’s the conversation we had:

Me: The internet is out.

Her: Uh oh…I have some homework to do. Will I be able to do my Flipgrid [a video upload website for oral school assignments]?

Me: Nope.

Her: Okay…I guess I will just write out the script, and then I can show the teacher that and it will have to be good enough.

Me: Good idea.

Her: I just need to get the questions from Google Drive.

Me: Nope.

Her: Okay…I can Instagram message Martha from school to ask her to look them up for me.

Me: Nope. You will have to actually phone her. With the phone. And then write down what she says, on paper.

Her: WOW. Can I just watch TV for a while and see if it comes back up?

Me: Nope. No video watching services are working.

Her: I…can’t even.

Me: I know. It’s basically the end of times.

I have to say, I was a little alarmed at our total dependence. We still had power, so it’s not like we had to sit huddled in front of the gas fireplace reading by candlelight. We could still cook, and do laundry, and use our phones when needed for essential things like looking up who was in that movie we saw that one time.

But this house does not run without the internet now. We are plugged in basically all the time. Good, exciting, and modern thing? Bad, dependent, scary thing?

I’m not sure.

In any case, we have recovered and are now returned to the 21st century, thanks to a new router. No need to send emergency supplies! We have emerged safely!

The Story Of Your Name

I was reading an article in Geist Magazine last week about a writing retreat, and how the attendees were invited to do an ice-breaker activity on the first day where they had to write up “The Story of Your Name” and then read it out loud.

And I was wondering: does everyone have a name story? Is this a thing? I mean, I could tell the story of all three of our kids’ names in one line each:

The Captain: We bought a book of Indian Baby Names, and while Sir Monkeypants’ mother was reading selections out loud, she said this name and we both looked immediately at each other and just knew, and from then on there was no other name.

Gal Smiley: We had a long, long list, and picked one, and then that name got vetoed by some relatives (lesson learned: never share your baby name before the baby is actually BORN and NAMED) and so we changed at the last minute on a bit of a whim to a name Sir Monkeypants had always liked.

Little Miss Sunshine: Has the same name as one of Sir Monkeypants’ distant cousins but we both really loved it and dithered for a while about whether or not it was okay for her to have the same name as a much-older relative that she was unlikely to ever meet, finally deciding yes, yes it was.

I guess those are kind of like fun facts. Not sure they could turn into a whole story, though.

My own name, though – there is a story there. My middle name is Catherine, I am Lynn Catherine, and recently MyFriendJen asked me why my first name is Lynn when so many women of our generation have the middle name Lynn.

Here is why. When my older sister was born, my mother had a name she wanted to use, but my father didn’t like it at all. So they made a deal; if my mom could use her name for my older sister, then when they had a second child, he could pick any name he wanted.

So when their second daughter came around (that’s me), he picked the name “Catherine Lynn”, because “Catherine” has a certain rhyming synergy with my older sister’s name. But my mother really, really disliked the name Catherine as it was the same name as a frenemy of hers in high school. But because of their deal, my father would not back down or change his mind.

In the hospital, they brought my mother the forms to fill out, and she just could not bring herself to write Catherine Lynn on the form. So she got around the whole deal thing by swapping the two names, and I have been Lynn ever since.

Without providing too much commentary, this story does make me feel like it is no surprise that my parents’ marriage was not a lasting one.

What’s the story of your name? I want to hear them all, big or small!

Word of the Year

I really want to blog more this year; I’m out of Girl Guides, and the business is running along fairly smoothly, and I’m back into the writing groove, so ideally I have more time on my hands for musing and writing and sharing.

But right now, while I am cruising along on auto pilot, the other members of my family are having their own issues, none of which I feel really great about writing about.

I will sum up with some point form, which is the most detail I feel I am able to share about any of this:

  • the Captain has been diagnosed with scoliosis, and we are anxiously awaiting our appointment at CHEO to see what can be done, and they said they will “try to get him in by May” which in my opinion is MUCH too long a wait considering he may nearly be done growing, but I am trying not to freak out in order to not freak him out.
  • Gal Smiley is in Grade 10 and has been thinking a lot about what she wants to do in life; unlike the Captain and the Little Miss, she doesn’t have a clear path forward in terms of sciencey-stuff versus techy-stuff versus graphics-stuff versus business-stuff, and that is causing her some stress, even though she has years to figure it out.
  • Little Miss Sunshine is 12, going on 13, and THERE YOU HAVE IT.
  • Sir Monkeypants’ parents are aging, and we are facing some hard decisions there, and it has been sad and stressful for all involved.

I do not like it when people Vague Blog but I’m afraid that is all I can share, but given the extreme lack of detail, any advice and/or words of comfort are welcome.

In other news, I am toying with a Word of the Year: STRONG. I feel like I will need to be strong this year in a multitude of situations; and that I need to work on making myself stronger in mind and in body. It’s both a reminder of what I am, and what I could be.

It’s not locked in or anything. You’ll know it is when I write it on a sticky and add it to the wall of stickies in my office reminding me of everything from the CHEO phone number to upcoming work projects to the name of that spray wax I need to get for our crokinole board. It’s quite representative of the inside of my brain – so perhaps a nice bright pink sticky on top that says STRONG would be the perfect addition.

January is afoot

I just realized that today is Thursday, my unbreakable, never-changing, laundry day, and yet I am not doing the laundry.

This is so typical of the past three weeks that I am going to sigh about it and then eat at least three cookies, and not spend even one additional second wondering when I am going to get around to it. If you are a local friend of mine, and you drop by and I’m wearing a yellow neon sweatshirt and dark green silk pajama pants with rainbow toe-socks, you’ll know why.

So far 2020 has been weird and unsettled and off-kilter. Through a strange convergence in the force, all of my kids’ regular doctors appointments fell into early January this year. So in the past two weeks I’ve been to see the allergist, the eye doctor, the braces guy, and the dentist, with all three kids, at various times and days.

Plus, both of my older two kids have had some additional health issues. Nothing life-threatening for either one, but for both, several additional doctors appointments and tests and scans and specialists, and it’s been busy and stressful. Every morning I look at the calendar and try to make sense of the day, and usually that is not possible, so I just try to make sense of the next HOUR, and get through that.

On top of that, it seems like every time I turn around, something new is breaking around here. My husband has a list of emergency, must-do repairs that is a mile long, and every day I add about three more things to it. We are still fighting The Mice Situation in the kitchen, for example. The other day we finally sat down at about ten at night to watch a show, and there was a sudden loud snapping sound from the kitchen. It’s both the best sound ever and the worst sound ever.

Our furnace died on Christmas Day (of course, when else would your furnace die in a time such as this?) and we had to have an emergency one installed a couple of days later. Here I will digress a bit and say that this whole incident was very, very unusual for me (I mean, aside from the fact of having to do an emergency furnace replacement, which is not exactly a daily event) in that I accepted help.

I am not, in general, a help-accepter. But we were supposed to go out of town on Boxing Day to visit our parents, and because my husband’s parents have also been quite ill and one of them was actually in the hospital (that’s a whole other post), we felt we could not cancel. So when I posted a whiny post on Facebook and one of my fabulous friends, RheostaticsFan, offered to come over and babysit space heaters in our house for a day, we gratefully accepted. And when my superhero sister, FameThrowa, offered to come over on the 27th for the entire day while the new furnace was installed, we also said yes. They were amazing and we owe them so much and I’m so grateful, and I am also pretty proud of myself for growing as a human being there, because it’s definitely my nature to say no thank you and just try to do it all myself.

Anyway, as part of getting the new furnace we signed up for this government program where if you get a new furnace AND you do one other environmentally-friendly thing to your house, you can get a rebate. But now the clock is ticking for us to do one other environmentally-friendly thing to the house, which we are finding is going to take time, and effort, and money, all of which we are short on at the moment, due to doctors’ visits and hospital visits and parental care issues and an unexpected new furnace.

So it’s all kind of a jumble of life at the moment, trying to decide what gets your attention and funds, and what does not. It’s really a minute-by-minute survival thing right now.

Way back in late December, before all this madness, Sir Monkeypants asked me if I had any resolutions for the new year. I am not big on resolutions in general but one thing I do like is to pick a “word of the year” that will help guide me. I don’t always do it, but in years when I have, I have liked it. So I gave it a lot of thought this year, but I couldn’t come up with anything. Does this mean I am directionless? Listless? Confused?

Possibly all those things, and January is not helping. But do have a spark of hope that it is not too late for 2020, that I can still pull it together and find My Word and get focused and make it all happen. I’ll let you know if I get there.

Wrapping up the decade

We had a lovely holiday season – the usual whirlwind tour of Southern Ontario visiting, which I both love and hate, combined with lots of fun gifts, delicious treats, and family Rock Band time.

A friend of mine did a decade-summary on Instagram and I thought it was such a nice way to wrap up this year (although technically 2020 is the last year of the decade, but let us not be pedantic, even though it is an essential part of my personality).

Here’s mine:

2010 – Took the kids to Disney for the first time; went to my sister’s wedding; first ever Summer of Awesome; turned 40 and had a Pie Party to celebrate.

2011 – The youngest started kindergarten, giving me 2 hours of free time every weekday, so of course I was bored and started my own web design business.

2012 – This was the year I got serious about writing, by joining my awesome writing group with two other ladies who are worth their weight in diamonds. I sold some writing, for cash, for the first time this year. Also: second family trip to Disney; the youngest started Grade 1 so I now had six hours of work time per day, which felt luxurious; got bifocals, which felt old.

2013 – Epic family journey to PEI and New Brunswick. This was also the first year I tried downhill skiing. I wouldn’t say I love it, but it did change my whole attitude towards winter and now weekends at the ski hill are a regular thing for all five of us.

2014 – Finished the basement, which was the first really big Thing We Did To Our House, making us feel all grown up.

2015 – Epic family journey to Alberta, featuring Calgary, Drumheller, Banff, and Jasper. Also took a week-long trip to tour around Toronto and see the stuff we never get to see while visiting family. Crashed a Taylor Swift concert. Tenth anniversary of my monthly (ish) Ladies’ Poker Game. Won my first writing contest.

2016 – Celebrated my 20th wedding anniversary. Won a couple more writing contests. The oldest turned 13 so he started sitting in the front seat, which was weird.

2017 – Third family trip to Florida, this one featuring Disney and Universal, and guest appearances by my sister and her husband. Published my book of short stories, Ten At The Wedding. Joined Girl Guides as unit leader for my youngest kid. Attended all the Canada 150 celebrations in Ottawa. Started writing for MediaSmarts. Also: became the parent of a high schooler, astonishingly.

2018 – Great Wolf Lodge trip; more Girl Guiding; more skiing. Tenth anniversary of the annual Christmas Advent Calendar of Activities. Got a new roof on the house. Decided to embrace getting older and let my grey hair grow out.

2019 – A quiet year – quit Girl Guides, spent most of the restored free time working and figuring out if I still know how to write. Tenth anniversary of my annual World Trivia Night team. Got a new furnace despite our plans to not do that for a few more years yet.

This list could not have been compiled without the help of the thousands of photos I have taken throughout the years. Never let anyone tell you that you should be “living life, not watching it through a viewfinder” or any such nonsense. These are how my memories are preserved; this is how my life continues to live. I wish I had a few thousand more.

Resolved for 2020: more photos, more adventures, more living life – and recording it, too.

A Christmas Gift

Sir Monkeypants was out of town this past weekend, and I was really sick. It was just a head cold, but it was a 10-cups-of-tea-per-day whopper. Usually when I am sick, I just take a couple of advil and go about my business, because like most moms I have a minor God complex and believe that my family would probably implode without my constant care and attention. But this one was so terrible that I had already spent two full days just moaning on the couch by the time he left.

Sir Monkeypants told the kids that he did not want to come home to find out that they had spent the whole weekend playing video games while I shuffled around the kitchen like a snotty-nosed zombie, and they solemnly swore to do all they could to help out. And that his how I ended up grocery shopping on Sunday morning with the sixteen-year-old Captain Jelly Belly.

I really thought I could handle it, but once we were at the Superstore I realized I was way more tired than I thought. And the Captain…was amazing! He encouraged me to just hang on to the cart for stability while he ran around and gathered the items on the list.

I even had to pee at one point, and he took the cart without hesitation and continued shopping without me.

You may find this to be no big deal. But for me it was a Christmas Miracle.

Some kids, like Gal Smiley, are naturally intrepid. Given a challenge or a brand new task, they attack it cheerfully and find some way to make it work.

Some kids, like Little Miss Sunshine, are keen observers of the world around them, and after a single visit to the store, have memorized the layout. Naturally they also are familiar with the brands and sizing for everything on the list as well, having seen it in the cupboard at home.

But the Captain is neither of these things. He is a nervous guy who does not like to be thrown into new situations. He is not the kind of guy who can just “wing it” when presented with a challenge. He is not the kind of guy who can work without a firm set of instructions and a map.

And yet – he took the list, without complaint or requests for more information, and shopped like a pro. He FOUND STUFF on the shelf. He pushed the cart AND put things in it at the SAME TIME.

Like I said, MIRACLE.

I am seriously proud of him. This small incident has really given me hope that someday he will be a productive member of society, able to care for himself. Maybe even care for his own family someday, and that is HUGE.

(I may have also been affected by the fever I was running, which made it pretty easy to get weepy over pretty much everything for the past five days.)

Anyway, just wanted to mark this little incident because he surprised me, and he impressed me, and it is very cool when you raise a kid who demonstrates the power to actually be independent.

And plus, when we got home, he and the girls put everything away while insisting I sit on the couch with (yet another) cup of tea, and it was absolutely delightful to be the one who is Taken Care Of for a change. A true Christmas Gift.

Sibling Gift Giving

I was going to write a post about sibling gift giving, and invite ideas for group parenting advice. Then I decided I knew in advance what everyone was going to say, so I decided not to bother. Now I find I am still thinking this over a great deal, and in cases like that, I need to write it down just to get it out of my head, and so be it.


Question for parents of multiple kids out there: do your kids give gifts to your other kids? If so, how does that work?

Our kids do. Each of my kids gets four gifts on Christmas morning – one from us, one from Santa, and one from each of their siblings.

When they were little, this was easy for me to control. I just bought stuff on behalf of each kid, then presented it to them: “Look, I got you this Lego set to give to your brother!” kind of thing. They’d wrap it themselves but they had no part in the selection, or shopping, or paying.

This is actually pretty much how I still do things. Before putting together my list and doing the actual shopping part, I do ask them now if they have any ideas for their siblings (and their dad, too); and if anyone does, then I incorporate that.

Sometimes they have an idea or two, sometimes not, but I LOVE giving gifts and I LOVE making lists and so filling in the gaps has never been a problem or a chore for me, it’s a delight to make a big list for each kid and then shop away and then decide who is giving who what, like I AM AN ALL POWERFUL SANTA, thank you.

But this year I started thinking that perhaps it is time to relinquish some control to the kids themselves – not because they feel slighted or are begging to be involved or anything, but because Christmas budgeting is a skill, and thinking of a good gift for someone is a considerate thing to do, and this is something they might want to/need to/be forced to do in the future.

It is already too late for this year, but I am thinking now of how I can make this work more inclusively next year. Some ideas:

  • I take the kids to the mall and give them a budget for each of their two siblings and set them loose to find something suitable in the right price range. This is the most free-range idea.
  • I ask them to brainstorm an ideas list for me, possibly doing online research for prices as required, then pick something from the list. I would also ask them to walk through the online ordering process if this is an online order, or come with me to the store if it is a local purchase. This option sounds like homework, I can tell right now I am going to have trouble getting the oldest, at the very least, to take this on.
  • I can give them my own ideas list, and just have them pick something from it before I shop (rather than having me choose, which is what is happening right now). Then get them to do the actual shopping part as well (online or in person). This is probably the most hand-holding way to do it, but it feels more like something I could get the older kids, at least, to do – Little Miss Sunshine is a GIFT GIVER, all-caps absolutely required, so she would probably embrace any of these options.

What do you think? What works for you and your kids?

Oh, and one more thing – when did you take your kids off-budget and have them move to doing their own shopping altogether? I could say that, at age 18 say, they need to do their own shopping – but for the Captain, at least, that probably translate to no shopping whatsoever. Or I could continue to fund them and shepherd them along until they are out of college, or no longer living at home.

Or possibly until they are collecting Social Security. Sigh.

I guess there is no way to force a kid who is no longer a kid to WANT to give gifts or to CHOOSE to give gifts, so at some point I am going to have to let it go and just move on. But when? When is this magical moment? I guess I will know it when I see it? Hm.

Advent 2019

I’ve re-instated the family activities advent calendar this year.

I know, I am crazy and should be dealt with harshly.

But I was buying us tickets to a few events, and putting those on the calendar, and then suddenly it seemed like we had a lot going on. And there are a few old advent calendar activity stalwarts that we still do every year, because we love them, so I know we are going to do them at some point, so it seemed prudent to put those on the calendar, too. And then that left only like, four empty days, and I decided to fill them with simple things and Bob’s Your Uncle, there was an advent calendar.

It helps too that the big kids don’t really have a lot of weekday events going on anymore, so we’re all around more in the evenings, and Little Miss Sunshine has a later bedtime now, so we have reclaimed some family time that was lost the last few years to homework and sports and widely different bedtimes.

I’ll let you know if I’m still sane in January.

But if you have older teenaged kids and are considering it, I thought I’d include a list of this year’s planned activities, to give you ideas (hopefully: NOT the idea to come over to my place with a shotgun and a body bag).

  1. Put up the tree
  2. Shop and donate to Toy Mountain and the Kanata Stocking Project
  3. Play Singalong Live to win a prize (more on this below)
  4. Do a Christmas puzzle
  5. Ice Cream Sundae night
  6. Read all our Christmas picture books
  7. Carp Farmer’s Market Christmas craft market, plus three of us are going to The Debaters Holiday Tour at the NAC
  8. Glow Fair – a new event at the EY Centre (tickets required)
  9. Hide and seek with our stuffed Santa and Rudolph
  10. Jammies dance party
  11. Have a hot chocolate with marshmallows
  12. Make Peppermint Bark (or some other Christmas treat, TBD)
  13. Break out the Thomas trains and set up a track around the tree
  14. Magic of Lights drive at Wesley Clover Park (ticket required)
  15. Open house at my sister’s place downtown, combined with visit to Parliament Hill and Confederation Park to see the Lights Across Canada display
  16. Watch The Sound of Music
  17. Wrap a present for your siblings
  18. Have a candy cane
  19. Nail Polish night
  20. Rock Band night
  21. Vintage Village of Lights at Cumberland Museum (tickets required)
  22. Mario Party night
  23. Teddy Bear Picnic – this is where each kid invites a favourite stuffie and we have dinner on the floor like a picnic
  24. Go see the new Star Wars (tickets already bought, I am STUPID EXCITED); also, have our traditional fancy Christmas dinner
  25. Family Board Games Day

More on Singalong Live: this is a game we stole from Neil Patrick Harris where you play a song, and pause it at some point, and the person playing has to sing the next line. I prepare these in advance by bringing up a song the whole family knows on YouTube and looking for a good place to pause it, then making a strip of paper with the song name and a “stop time” for the video. Then the other four of us take turns pulling a slip of paper from a bag, and I play the video and stop it at the correct time. If they get it right, great! Three right answers and you get a prize (always a funny or Christmas-related picture book). If you don’t get it right, someone else can steal.

This game by far takes the most prep and organization on the Advent Calendar list but it is so very, very beloved in our house that we have played it every year, even when not officially doing the calendar thing. If you have the time to set it up, it is worth it.

Oh, I just realized I have my own slips in a big Word document! I’m happy to share it although it is VERY tuned to my own family (i.e. all the songs we listen to as a group on a regular basis) but if you want a quick way to join in the fun, let me know and I’ll mail it to you. I add new ones every year so it’s a pretty long list now. I can also recommend some picture-book hits of the past if you’re looking for those, too.

I’m not sure my older two kids care very much, but my youngest, who is very into traditions, was thrilled to see the advent calendar hanging back up again. So hopefully it’ll be a grand old time for all, and we’ll have a lovely, happy holiday, in which we all actually survive.


I think I have my Christmas list nailed down, although I am taking a very lazy approach to it this year, so we’ll see if I actually finish the shopping any time soon. I have to say: thank goodness for online shopping. I can’t imagine what people did before they could order 75% of their gifts from Amazon.

Although now that I think of it, what they probably did was buy *less* and give *less* and that makes me feel very un-festive, so moving on!

I realized yesterday while looking over the shopping list that this is the first year in at least a decade that no one in this house is getting any kind of Lego. I always find it fun to do a Lego set on Christmas day in the afternoon and so that is rather sad. Maybe I will put some Lego on my own Christmas list.

And in other news, Little Miss Sunshine had a recent growth spurt and needed all new pants, and when we went to her go-to store, Justice, nothing fit. We ended up buying her ladies’ extra small pants from the H&M, and thus hereby ends the era of me shopping at children’s clothing stores. I’ll have to put the Children’s Place and Justice flyers directly into the recycling bin along with the Toys R Us flyer. Sniff.

And in other milestone news, I went for a walk last night with Sir Monkeypants and Gal Smiley, and there was a moment where I slipped on some ice and would have fallen, except Gal Smiley quickly caught me. She literally supported my full weight while I got my legs back under me. It felt like such a passing of the guard, and also, man, did I ever feel old. I’m sure she is currently Googling to get me some ice crampons for Christmas and possibly some prune juice. Festive!