The Silver Years

A few years back I took many of my old blog posts and bound them into a book. They were mostly cute stories of the kids when they were young, interspersed with their baby photos. My kids love flipping through this book, especially my middle daughter, who will often pull it out. It makes me really happy that we have all this family history written down, a one-of-a-kind story of their lives.

Gal Smiley has been on another tear through the book this week and it does make me nostalgic to see their smiling little toddler faces looking out at me, next to tales of adorably mispronounced words and hijinks at the park. But up until now, I’ve never really felt a true longing for those baby times. To me, the real Golden Years were when they were old enough to be out of diapers and naps, free to travel and explore and to have thoughtful conversations about their world – and yet, not quite old enough to be sulky or embarrassed by hanging out with old Mom and Dad. It’s been a great few years.

Now things are starting to turn a bit – just little hints that someday the kids will move on. The older two like hanging out with their friends after school, and no longer rush home to tell me all about their day. They still like to be tucked in at night but most of the time, I’m too tired to make it there so I give them a quick kiss on the cheek and they end up reading long after I’m asleep. They’re still willing to come to the movies with us, and on family trips, but they grumble if we ask them to put their screens away, and they’re long over quiet little outings to the park or a museum. It’s still good – at least now we can talk politics at the table and freely watch PG rated action films with them – but I can tell change is in the wind.

This week my youngest sister announced she’s pregnant with her fourth child – an unexpected, but not unwelcome, surprise. It’s made me set that all aside once and for all – nothing too heavy or depressing, just a quiet, official acknowledgement that yup, we’re done with all that. Baby time is past. I know I won’t miss midnight diaper changes and the challenge of figuring out how to pick up the others from school when you’ve just finally gotten the baby to sleep.

But I do, ever so slightly, miss the promise a baby brings of a second round of the Golden Years. Another round of Curious George movies and sandcastles on a beach vacation and family bike rides.

Deep breath, and head up. Now that I think of it, the Silver Years look pretty good, too. They’ll be additional bodies around here to make dinner, shovel snow, drive over to the grocery store for something I’ve forgotten. Kids who have their own surprising senses of humour, who like my Instagram posts, who enjoy board games that are more complex than The Game of Life (and who handle it better when they lose).

Kids who are becoming people – people I’m excited to get to know. Welcome to the Silver Years.

Stress Relief

Sometimes, I get so worried about something I turn it over and over in my head, like a shiny jewel I can’t stop admiring. I’ll wake up early and my mind will fly to the worry spot and I’ll fret about it for a while, then I’ll fret about all the sleep I’m losing due to fretting, then I’ll fret about my total inability to stop fretting.

Right now, I’m stressing out over a family vacation I am attempting to plan for later this year. I am not normally a superstitious person. But I am seriously wondering if the universe is trying to tell us something. Something like, DO NOT TAKE THIS TRIP OR YOU WILL ALL DIE.

It’s a big deal for us to book a family vacation – we usually save up and only go somewhere once every other year or so. So we dithered about for a long time before finally booking some flights to a nice, warm destination in the United States.

The next day Trump did his immigration ban thing. Also: my husband is Indian and has a middle Eastern kind of look. Fabulous.

Then, a few days later, just after I booked and paid for a place for us to stay, our oldest came home with an invitation to go for a week long enrichment program at a local university. Just GUESS what week it was. SIGH.

Of course, our first reaction was sorry kid, you can’t go, but he was so upset, and so determined to go he actually asked if we could just leave him behind with another family. So eventually we caved and paid heavy penalties to change our flights and our accommodation bookings.

And I almost forgot – or perhaps blocked this out – that while booking the plane tickets, I needed to refer to our passports to check the date of expiry… and one was missing. Totally gone, vanished, poof. It’s my oldest son’s, and it’s just gone. There’s no reason for it not to be with the others, he obviously used it to get back home the last time we travelled. That led to a declaration of a lost passport, two separate visits to the passport office downtown, a four hour wait when I finally decided to commit, and extra fees for the penalty of losing it in the first place. GAH.

And then just this week, I went to order some tickets and passes online for attractions we wish to visit on this trip, and the order failed, because our credit card was maxed out due to the flights and accommodation charges. So I went online to pay off that credit card, and accidentally transferred an enormous amount of money to the wrong thing on my list of online bill payments, and now a utility has several thousand of our dollars, and I had to start some sort of crazy and arduous process to get it back that may take 4-6 weeks, and in the meantime, we have to find some other way to pay our credit card.

Of course, I have never, ever made a mistake like this in 15+ years of online banking.

At the moment I’m pushing forward with the planning but I gotta tell you, I am losing a LOT of sleep. I can already picture us being caught up at the border and missing our flight; or making our flight at the last minute, only to have our luggage lost; or to find the house is full of cockroaches (apparently it has happened at this house in the past, OF COURSE); or to have someone (i.e. ME) break their leg skiing and have to manage the whole thing on crutches.

Maybe it isn’t too late to cancel? Sigh.

Wins and Losses

The other night at the dinner table, one kid was humming Bohemian Rhapsody, another was singing American Idiot by Green Day, and the third was humming 16 Going On 17 from The Sound of Music.

I considered that a parenting win.

Then yesterday, the kids asked to play outside in the snow because it was so warm. I went to check on them about a half hour later and found all three with their coats off, bent over, with their heads stuck right under the snow like ostriches.

You win some, you lose some.

Personality Conflict

It’s been 10 years now that we’ve had a kid in school, 11 if you count preschool. In that time we’ve had teachers who were fun, and smart, and kind, and gentle, and rules-y, and stressed, and tired. We’ve always emphasized to the kids that they need to find a way to work with all personalities, and that being a teacher is a hard job so they deserve our respect even if we don’t quite mesh with them. Until now, that has worked – while our kids haven’t loved every teacher, they’ve gotten though alright.

This is the first year that we have a teacher-kid situation that is a genuine personality conflict. I do think this teacher means well, but this teacher has a bombastic, Big! Fun! style of teaching that involves a lot of teasing and lot of hijinks and a lot of rushing forward with big plans without filling in the details, and it does not work for one of my kids, the kid that has him. Luckily, the kid in question only has him for one class, three hours a week, but it has still resulted in many tears, coming home at the end of the day using words like “hate” and “horrible” and “terrible” to describe school and this teacher in particular.

If this were your kid, would you say something?

I’m torn. On one hand, I think it is quite likely that this teacher has no idea he is destroying my kid’s whole day. I’m sure he would be concerned to hear how much of an effect he is having on the kid’s feeling about school.

But on the other hand, I can see, I think, that it’s nothing personal, and that it’s just this teacher’s personality. Can I ask him to change his whole personality? Can I ask him to handle my kid with kid gloves (heh), to pussyfoot around while he is happily Going Big with the rest of the class?

And I’m worried that his style of teaching specifically VALUES independence and hardiness, and pointing out that my sensitive kid is sad will only highlight the fact that the kid is not doing well in that class, and does not have the skills valued to succeed in that class.

Hm. What do you think – continue to comfort my child and emphasize that we must work with all types, that it’s nothing personal…or ask the teacher to change and to make allowances?


One of my favourite songs from this past year is Spirits by the Strumbellas. Newly nominated for a Song of the Year at the JUNOs!

The lyrics to the chorus of this song go like this:

I’ve got guns in my head and they won’t go
Spirits in my head and they won’t go
I’ve got guns in my head and they won’t go
Spirits in my head and they won’t go
But the gun still rattles, the gun still rattles, oooh”

Yesterday I heard this same song on the radio with the word “guns” removed. As if it were a swear word – you know how sometimes artists make “radio friendly” versions of their songs with swear words blanked out, or maybe replaced? Classic example: Forget You, by Cee Lo Green, in which the original version does not use the word “forget”:

Still totally rockin’, either way, I think.

But for Spirits, I’m weirded out and kind of disappointed. Are we really at a stage where the word “guns” is a dirty word? It’s actually a pretty positive song about overcoming your personal demons, so maybe the band is worried that the use of the word “guns” gives the whole song a different connotation. But I like it – it captures the gritty danger of being on the emotional edge much better than the replacement lyrics, which are these:

I’ve got dreams in my head and they won’t go
Spirits in my head and they won’t go
I’ve got dreams in my head and they won’t go
Spirits in my head and they won’t go
But the heart still rattles, the heart still rattles, oooh”

In general I am adverse to change and I think that causes me to become too attached to things, and unable to see where things can be improved or ideas can be developed. Lord knows I absolutely despise the revamped Star Wars Episode IV. LEAVE IT ALONE, GEORGE LUCAS. On the other hand, the updated version of Are You There God, It’s Me Margaret by Judy Blume, featuring the use of more modern feminine hygiene products, was most welcome.

What do you think of this one? Better, or worse? Should an artist leave well enough alone when they’ve put something out into the world, or are they free to tinker?

And should “guns” be a word that’s used more carefully in song, especially pop songs aimed at teens? Were they right to be concerned?

If so, maybe someone should tell Foster The People.

One of Those Weeks

It’s one of those weeks when I need to clone myself – twice over. Every night this week we have at least two things on, sometimes three, and I just can’t be everywhere at once.

Lately I have said more than once – probably to the same people, I apologize for the repetition – that I always thought life would get a little less busy when the kids got older and we didn’t need to be so hands-on with the dressing and bathing and packing of stuff and wiping of butts. But I was wrong – now it’s worse, I think, in that no one naps and all three kids have their own set of activities and schedules, and now Sir Monkeypants and I spend a vast amount of mental and physical energy running between ski club and piano and outdoor ice rink maintenance duty and birthday parties, trying to stay on top of everything. It’s bananas.

I have four different schedules on the go around here, and about five “to do” lists, all with critical items. My head is spinning and almost every surface in my office is covered with sticky notes. Plus, of course I am sick. Of course.

All this is to say that if you haven’t heard from me lately, I’ve possibly suffocated in sticky notes, but that doesn’t mean I don’t care. I miss the world! Maybe I’ll be back…next week.

Guess The Movie!

Sometimes when we are stuck somewhere waiting for something, I’ll pull out a notebook and whoever is around will play movie pictionary.

That’s where we take turns drawing a scene from a movie, and the others have to guess. It’s definitely more fun when people get it right – this is not a game about stumping.

It’s more a game of making people laugh at your bad stick drawings.

The other night, we had a good round with me, Sir Monkeypants, and the two older kids. They had such a good time, actually, that they suggested I put their drawings up on my blog for everyone to guess.

Some of these are from obscure family favourites…but most are mainstream hits. Can you guess which movies these represent?


















Getting the Mail

The divide between The Big Kids, as we call our older two, and our youngest, is bigger than ever.

Captain Jelly Belly is almost 14, in Grade 8, and I just registered him this week for grade 9 at a new school. HIGH SCHOOL. We’re all a little freaked out. Gal Smiley is 12 and a half, in Grade 7, and our tallest child now.

Although both of them still go to our local school, the same one they’ve been going to since JK, they now find their own way home, walking with a gaggle of friends. I see them when they come in and they maybe share a few words about their day before grabbing some cookies and rushing off to play video games. They’re not interested in playing with toys anymore; it’s all screens and talking with friends, maybe a movie or a TV show here and there, but only if it has lots of action, isn’t animated, and maybe throws in the F-bomb once or twice for thrills. They aren’t so much interested in being told what to do and they aren’t so much interested in showering and they aren’t so much interested in being told that no, we can’t watch Friends over dinner, it’s family time.

Our youngest, though, is only 9 and in Grade 4, and that’s still the kid zone. I still go to the school each day at pickup to get her. She runs out of the school and flings herself into my arms, bubbling over with things to tell me. She still wants help with her homework and takes my advice on where to glue the pictures for her project on Bears very seriously.

Each day after I pick her up from school we go to get the mail. We walk together hand in hand over to the super mailbox, making plans for the rest of the day. Just being together. Visiting. She gets to work the key and then hands me the mail, and then every day – always the same – she hands me my keys and tells me this exciting “backup set” of keys has also mysteriously arrived in our mailbox. Ha ha.

We are very much alike, her and I, in all the good ways and all the bad ways, too. But it means that when we walk and talk we have a natural rhythm, a back and forth where we both share something and learn something. I sometimes feel badly that my older two never really got alone time with me like Little Miss Sunshine does, even if it’s just for a half hour or so every weekday before the Big Kids arrive home from school.

But I also wouldn’t trade these moments for anything. Getting the mail is the highlight of my day.

When Is It Time To Call It?

My husband has a dream. His dream involves the five of us heading out to the slopes on a chilly but sunny Saturday morning, strapping on downhill gear – skis or snowboards – and hitting the hills. Swooshing down slopes with glee, shouting at each other to watch this! was we race down, landing in the lodge after a few runs to swap joyful stories of speed.

So far: not happening.

The problem is me. Totally me. The kids have been taking lessons now for several years, and they’re coming along well. They’re bold on the hills – sometimes too bold for my tastes – and they love it, the wind in their faces, the spray of snow as they slide in at the bottom. They can’t wait to go to their lessons every weekend and they’ll take any ski trip, any time.

I took a few beginner lessons two seasons ago, and then weekly lessons last year. I’m getting better, I guess, but one thing never goes away: the terror. I just hate going fast. I hate the feeling of being totally, completely out of control (and trust me, that happens often – just about every run). At the top of every single hill, I have to brace myself, give myself a little pep talk, then grit my teeth and force myself to ski down, praying I won’t break a leg in the process.

Last year we were at Mount Packenham, a local ski hill that I have heard many others in Ottawa refer to as little more than a speed bump. If you’re into skiing or snowboarding at all, Packenham is apparently a laughable location, barely even worth sledding down, let alone skiing. But I eventually got somewhat comfortable there – I can’t even do their black runs, which others tell me are easier than green runs at literally any other ski hill on earth, but they had a few very gentle walk-in-the-woods kind of runs and I occasionally, rarely, but sometimes, actually did kind of like them.

But unfortunately my children are so, so tired of Packenham – they’ve been going there for five years and they’ve outgrown it. So this year we have graduated to Vorlage, which according to many is the next baby step up from Packenham, and we went last week for our first lesson there, and I ALMOST DIED.

Okay, I admit, that is an exaggeration. Really it’s more like, I almost broke my neck and ended up paralyzed for life.

It’s big. And fast. The lift is rickety and the runs all have weird curves and bends in them that I can’t manage. The ends of the hills are steep and sharp and you come racing into the lift line, unable to stop. There’s hidden ice everywhere and the lanes are narrow and I can’t turn or stop. I go too fast and I panic and I get convinced THIS IS THE END and when, by some miracle, I end up at the bottom without breaking both legs I’m literally in tears from the fear and the total loss of control.

Needless to say, my husband’s fantasy of us sitting around laughing and sharing happy stories in the lodge hasn’t quite come to fruition yet, as I’m usually sitting there in mega bitch mode, convinced my family hates me and the world is an awful place. FUN.

So, is it time to just call it? My husband finally told me after last week’s horror that if I want to quit, I should just quit. And trust me, I want to quit. But I do like his little dream of a family thing we can all do together. And my pink ski boots are so cute. And I literally do nothing else physical, so maybe just one thing would be good for me. Plus, I just gave my youngest, who wants to quit gymnastics because she doesn’t like her teacher, a strongly worded talk on Committing To Things We Have Signed Up For, and I guess that applies to me, too.

I’ll give it one more week, I’m thinking. Just one more week. Then we’ll see.

Hello 2017

Lately my Facebook feed seems to be full of recommended articles about how January is blah, the Monday of months, something to be slogged through. But I like January. It feels fresh – and not just because of the chilly temperatures and newly fallen snow everywhere. It always feels to me like a time for rolling up my sleeves, starting new projects, thinking about what I want to do this year and how I’m going to make it happen.

Progress so far: lots of chocolate eaten. Sigh.

Still, I have confidence that I’m going to have a big reset and a flood of energy any moment now. The December break was delightful – I made a decision to do less, much less, for Christmas, and it was great. So much time for doing puzzles and eating cookies! I thought I might use the extra time saved in December to do more work, or perhaps more writing, or to finish the novel I’ve been reading for like, three months, but no, mostly I just puttered around. Hooray for puttering!

So it’s been harder than usual to ramp up the activity machine – oh man, was it ever hard to get out of bed on Monday – but things are happening, a little slower than usual, but they are happening. Work is getting back on track, writing will hopefully soon be back on track, and if I can actually get a day when I don’t need to go to the grocery store (suddenly everyone is starving all the time, which I guess is a good thing, but sheesh, do I have to get myself an apartment in the back of the Superstore?), then maybe I’ll get around to cleaning up around here.

One thing I wanted to mention about the holiday, because I forget every time, is how much I appreciate the bathroom reading at my mom’s house. We go down to visit both sets of grandparents every Christmas and my mother still lives in the same house I grew up in, a house with one full bathroom and a teeny powder room in the basement. Four daughters in that family, kids. If you missed your bathroom slot – either in the morning or at night – you were out of luck.

My older sister lives with my mom and I think she doesn’t think I notice, but whenever we are coming to visit she curates the reading in the downstairs powder room. It’s an overflow bathroom for emergencies and putting on makeup, mostly, so visitors are not as time-pressured, and thus there’s a little magazine rack there. Every time we visit the titles have been changed, and I know she puts thought into it – there will be a comic strip book, usually For Better or For Worse; something in the true crime genre, short tales of horror; a few YA titles for the kids; and maybe a magazine or two about celebrities or the royal family. Often there’s a quick-read action or mystery novel that I’ve never heard of.

I usually end up spending more time in the bathroom than is appropriate.

But it’s one of the little things that make Christmas visiting feel like an actual vacation.

And now – time to put the bathroom reading aside, make an epic To Do list, and get cracking. 2017 – it’s on.