Never Say Never

XUP made a theme post yesterday that began like this:

“When I was very young, I never in my wildest dreams thought I would…”

Here are some things I never thought I’d do:

Be a mother In my 20s I really thought I’d never want to have children. I was really happy with my life and I didn’t think I wanted the massive changes that would come with being a mother. Plus, I had the usual fears — what if I get really fat, what if my husband loves the kid more than me, what if my mother and mother-in-law start coming over all the time… It was scary. But well worth it.

Drink alcohol My father had alcohol issues and I grew up with some messed-up ideas about drinking. As a result I went hardcore and never touched the stuff until well after university. I loosened up after I was married and now I occasionally have a glass of wine without too much trauma.

Drive a car I didn’t get my driver’s license until after I turned 18, which was very late in my hick town where the only way to have any fun was to find a car and drive someplace else. I just had absolutely no interest in driving. My mother felt it was very important that I have a license so after a couple of years’ resistance, she finally put her foot down and made me go get one. I think I drove maybe two or three times the whole time I was in university. Really I didn’t become a driver (such as it is — I’m still terrible) until a year or so after Sir Monkeypants and I were married, when he gifted me his old car so he could get a really cool sports car.

Use the words penis and vagina so freely Sex was NOT something you talked about at my mom’s house. Still isn’t, really — every time we visit I pray that none of the kids will hump the couch or ask me loudly in the bathroom why I have SUCH BIG BREASTS, because I would just DIE. However, we’re trying to bring up kids who are more comfortable with their bodies, so now I say the words “penis” and “vagina” several times a day. Who knew?

What did you think you’d never do?

Mix Master

Lately I’ve been feeling like we just have too much stuff. When we were first married we had a 1000-square-foot 2-bedroom apartment, and we fit into it just fine. When we bought our first house — a mid-sized townhouse — it seemed too spacious to be believed. We had several closets that were empty. The unfinished basement had nothing but a few boxes and an old desk. Upstairs, the whole living/dining room was unfurnished, a giant room for just running around in or rolling around on the carpet. The space was incredible.

Now we’re in a four bedroom, two-and-a-half bath house and it feels like we’re starting to push the limit.

Sure, there are the kids, and they have lots and lots of kid-related things, from toys to clothes to books to sippy cups to diapers. We’re kind of using that stuff, though. I’d dearly love to cull the toys, in particular, but the kids always seem to notice. I’ll throw out one broken pair of sunglasses that they haven’t touched in six months, and the very next day it’ll be, “Where’s those pink sunglasses that I LOVE WITH ALL MY HEART?” So not a lot of kid stuff gets disposed of around here.

But on top of all the kid junk, I also feel like I personally have too much crap. Every drawer seems full of random detritus that doesn’t have a purpose. Stuff falls out of every cupboard when you open it, stuff that I crammed in there because there it didn’t have a good location. I have half-used hair care products that I don’t use at all anymore. I have kitchen appliances that only see the light of day once a year, at best. I have cloth napkins that were a wedding gift twelve years ago that I have never used. EVER.

So recently I decided that I’d try to take just one drawer or cupboard, once a week, and go through it. Anything I hadn’t used in a year was gone — to charity, if possible, to the garbage if not.

I decided to start with one particular kitchen cabinet. It’s Little Miss Sunshine’s favourite cabinet to open and empty (aside from the snack cabinet, which is now locked). It was full to overflowing with rarely-used items like napkins, fancy placemats, and the fondue pot. Just about the only thing in the cupboard I ever used was my stand mixer — I do a ton of baking around here, since it’s so hard to buy baked goods that are egg and milk free — and it was getting pretty hard to get the mixer in and out of the cupboard.

My mixer, by the way, is probably my favourite kitchen appliance. It isn’t the most useful or anything like that, but I just love the thing. My mother is big on baking and her mixmaster is also her favourite kitchen appliance. When she’d pull out the mixer, we’d know that cookies and cakes and other sources of yummy goodness were not far away. My mom is the one who bought me my mixer — she saw it on a good sale back when I was in university. At the time I thought I would never use it much, and it was so big and such a pain to move around in my student days. But now I love it, I use it all the time, and it reminds me of my mom, so it has a nice sentimental quality, too.

When my mom bought the mixer, she worried about the fact that it had glass bowls. She thought they might break someday. But the bowls are very heavy and strong and I’ve actually dropped them a few times in the past 15 years with nary a chip. Still, every time I got out my mixer I’d worry about the fact that I had to kind of edge it through a narrow pathway between baskets and coasters and fancy Christmas tablecloths, so I really wanted to clear out that cupboard first, to avoid any breaking dangers.

I dragged everything out of the cupboard and almost everything got rerouted to the charity pile; the fondue pot got sent to our downstairs pantry shelves and the Christmas tablecloths went in the cupboard above the fridge. Left behind were a few coasters and hot plates, some cookie tins, and my beloved mixer.

I must say, I feel really, really good about getting rid of stuff and about having a tidier kitchen.

So Sunday morning, I had to make some granola bars for Captain Jelly Belly’s school snacks this week, as well as chocolate chip cookies for Gal Smiley to bring to school the next day as her birthday treat for the class (apparently a tradition, which we learned about last year — when did that start?).

I opened up my nice tidy cupboard with lots and lots of space and easily took out my mixer.

The bowls slid out of my hand and both smashed into a thousand pieces on the floor.


They haven’t made my model in years so I can’t get any replacement parts, and now the mixer is essentially useless. But you know what? I’m not actually all that upset about it. Ten years ago, I would have cried and demanded that Sir Monkeypants take me out THAT VERY SECOND to get a new one, one as close to exactly like the old one as possible. But it seems I’ve grown up. It’s just a thing. And my joy over having one cupboard, JUST ONE, that is neat and tidy and crap-free overshadows the loss.

I guess I’ve traded sentimentality for organization. I’ve come a long way, baby!

Take the A Train

Here’s a fun meme I got from DramaQueen_23:

Comment on this post and I’ll give you a letter. List ten things you LOVE which begin with that letter, then post this in your journal and give out some letters of your own.

She gave me the letter A. Here’s my list:

Autumn This is my favourite time of year. Not so cold that we’re dealing with snowpants; not so hot that we’re swooning like Southern Belles. The bugs are usually closing up shop, the air is crisp and clear, there’s lots of yummy local fruit available and it’s time to break out the crockpot again. Autumn means back to school, Halloween, my birthday, and open season at Etsy as I begin my Christmas shopping. Joy!

Apple Pie My mom’s apple pie, to be precise. I come from a family of pie-makers, and my mom’s apple pie is, seriously, legendary. A while back I decided I better carry on the tradition and become an expert pie maker myself. My first couple of tries were okay — not mom-worthy, but the potential was there and they were definitely edible — but you know what? My family HATES pie. HATES it. So every time I make a pie, I end up eating all of it, which is not conducive to my current weight-loss plan. Thus, pie must remain a Thanksgiving/Christmas treat. Sadly.

Ant Traps, Ant Spray, and all other manner of Ant Killing Devices Have I mentioned our current infestation? It’s spreading. I’m horrified. I really hate bugs of all sorts and having a whole nest of insects somewhere in our house, crawling through our kids’ playroom, stealing our leftover crumbs, is NOT GOOD. We’re currently trying to battle them in the most kid-friendly, environmentally way possible but lately I’ve been thinking of just moving us into a hotel for a few days and having the place fumigated. Or maybe just moving. One or the other.

Almost Famous Cameron Crowe is one of my favourite movie-makers and Almost Famous is his masterpiece. I even love the four-hour director’s cut version — mostly due to the commentary by Cameron and his mom. Mrs. Crowe is totally awesome and hilarious. As you would probably expect.

Allergy Awareness I feel so lucky that we live in a time when the general public knows about food allergies. We still run across the odd misconception but in general, people understand that food allergies are real and that they are serious. There’s plenty of food alternatives available for us to buy (thank GOD for Sunbutter and Rice Dream), and there are thousands of other parents on the internet with tips, ideas, and sympathy. It would be so hard to live with the Captain’s food allergies even 20 or 30 years ago.

Andrew King Lately I’ve become much more interested in owning original art, “real” stuff created by real artists. Someday when I have some extra money I’d love to get something by Andrew King. His work is so vivid and unique and lovely. Plus, Sir Monkeypants doesn’t hate it, which is very big deal around here, as we almost never agree on art. It’ll be quite some time before I have an extra $1000 or so lying around, though, so I’ll probably ask for one of his paintings as a 25 year wedding gift. Or maybe a 50th — we do have three kids to put through university! I love books. I love to buy books. Amazon lets me buy books from the comfort of my own home, at better prices than any actual store. It’s win-win-win. Plus, they have the best customer service on the planet.

Jane Austen Some of her more fanatic followers would hardly call me a fan — I’ve only read about half of her books. But I love her wit, her strong female characters, and her fun storylines. Plus, her work makes for great movies, especially those featuring Colin Firth. Dreamy.

Alexandershishkabob A long time ago, when Captain Jelly Belly was little, I used to take him to classes at Gymboree. At the end of class we’d sing a little goodbye song — “Goodbye Aiden, Goodbye Kathryn, Goodbye Ben, we’ll see you here next time!” I used to sing it around the house all the time and often we’d use it as a goodbye-Daddy song in the morning, or a goodnight-Captain song at bedtime. One day Sir Monkeypants was asking how they can possibly adapt the song so that really long kids’ names could fit. I demonstrated with some longer names like Christopher and Isabella, and then Sir Monkeypants said, “But what if the kid was named Alexandershishkabob?? Huh, HUH?” Sir Monkeypants is a bit of a SMARTYPANTS.

Avocados I love, love, love avocados. My favourite way to eat them is just plain, with a dollop of cottage cheese in the little hole in the middle…yum. I also love guacamole, but please, DO NOT damage it by adding cilantro, ew!

Here’s one more reason to love avocados — my recipe for the best salsa ever. Have this with corn chips and you will NEVER EAT ANYTHING ELSE AGAIN. You are warned!

1 1/2 cups grape tomatoes, quartered vertically
1 ripe Haas avocado, diced
1/4 cup finely diced red onion
1/2 tsp minced garlic (I use jarred)
1 tsp honey
2 tablespoons lime juice
1/4 tsp ground cumin
Gently combine all ingredients and then try to keep from eating the whole bowl. Better yet, make a double batch.

Comment below if you’d like your own letter!

Lady of the Flies

I never did figure out what was causing the bad smell in our laundry room; eventually it just seemed to fade away, and by the time we got back from our trip the house smelled normal again. Clearly, however, something was rotting in there that should not have been there, because now we are having an ant situation. I am so totally freaked out. We are currently weighing our ant-fighting options, so for now, I just go in there every morning and slay dozens and dozens of ants and then attempt to do some laundry as if it’s no big deal. Meanwhile, I’m dying inside from an excess of heebie jeebies.

The ant problem is in addition to an ongoing housefly problem we have around here. Every morning Sir Monkeypants takes out 4-6 flies in our upstairs bathroom. What the hell, flies? Where are they coming from? Why do they feel the need to be so clean? Maybe they’re attracted to the smell of moisturizer and baby powder. In any case, I am SO terribly over finding several dead flies in my bathtub every morning. Did I mention the heebie jeebies?

And then there’s the bees and the wasps. At least four times in the past month, there’s been a stinging type insect in the house. The kids have handled it much better than I have; I have a minor bug phobia and in every stinging bug case I have gotten the bug outside, then totally FREAKED OUT. Yesterday I was wiping up the kitchen counter and I saw something fluffy sitting there by the stove so I picked it up to throw it out and IT WAS A BEE. IN MY HAND. Have I told you about the HEEBIE JEEBIES?

Just now I found two spiders in the kids’ snack cabinet. Plus those little gnats continue to plague me every time I go outside to water the lawn — I ate two yesterday while taking the kids for an after-dinner bike ride.

Oh, and to top it all off, I’ve been reading up on head lice in preparation for the school year. Now I feel like my whole head is on fire and I cannot resist the urge to scratch. Plus, I may have mentioned it, the HEEBIE JEEBIES.

Thank goodness mosquito season is over or I’d have no recourse but to encase myself in Saran Wrap and hide in my room until December.

Home Again, Home Again, Jiggity Jig

I swear, the trip to Southern Ontario to visit the grandparents gets harder every time. I suppose it doesn’t help that we keep having more kids, adding to the chaos. Somebody please explain what causes the babies, please!

The drive down was a typical trip — five hours of Pretty Good, followed by an hour and a half of Sheer Hell. The way home was more like two hours of Sheer Hell, two hours of Passable, then an hour and a half of Oh, You Thought That Was Sheer Hell Before? YOU WERE WRONG.

And that was just the driving part. In between we dealt with mommy meltdowns, temper tantrums, lack of sleep, ravenous hunger followed by complete refusals to eat, stranger-shy babies, allergic reactions, asthma attacks, stomach cramps, and packing and repacking the car at least four times. All done at top speed, because there were people-to-see-people-to-see-people-to-see-go-go-go!

Plus, the friendly Grandparent Lectures Of Love, on a common theme of you may think you know what you are doing, but you are wrong, with the occasional you really should try wearing your hair different thrown in for variety.

Anyway, we are home.

We didn’t get to watch much Olympic coverage while we were away, although I did catch an update one morning on the Table Tennis team. Did you know that all three Canadian Table Tennis players at this Olympics — two men and a woman — are from Ottawa? Is Ottawa housing some sort of secret Table Tennis Society that I don’t know about? Have I been living smack in the heart of ping pong in this country, and not appreciating that fact all this time?

Amends must be made.

But They Don’t Award Any Gold Medals On Peep

Sir Monkeypants and I got married in the spring of 1996. Right after the wedding, I moved to Ottawa — I had been living and working in Toronto. The company I was working for in Toronto, bless their dear hearts, really really did not want me to leave. So after I moved, they asked if I would continue working for them, from Ottawa. They set me up with my own computer and a high-speed access line and I became an at-home worker.

This arrangement only lasted a few months because there were lots of drawbacks to working from home all the time, including:

  • being out of the loop on major decisions regarding my product;
  • not feeling like a member of the team;
  • not having any social interaction during the day, especially because I was living in a new city and didn’t know anyone local to hang out with for “lunches” or “coffee breaks”;
  • having to fly down to Toronto once every other week to integrate my updates, when I absolutely despise travelling;
  • and not being able to advance in my career at all, since no one knew what the hell I was doing.

Still, there were perks. As in:

  • being able to work in my PJs (here’s an indication of how long ago this was — the suckers back in my office were still required to dress up for work, as in suits and pantyhose, even the developers);
  • having a 10 second commute to work;
  • being able to devote several hours a day to trying to stump MyFriendJen’s husband, MyFriendMike, with Star Wars quotes;
  • and having a really, really clean house.

But the best one of all was:

  • watching Olympics coverage until my eyes bled.

Picture it: Atlanta, Georgia, summer of 1996. Since the Olympics were in our time zone, there was live coverage all day, every day.

I did very, very little work during those two weeks (sorry, Toronto Company, kisses!). Any kind of sport, any kind of event, I’d be THERE. Fencing? In. Gymnastics? SO in. Sculls? I’m all over it. Weightlifting? Well…there has to be some time to go for lunch and a pee break.

It was pretty much the best time I ever had. PJs all day, snacks all around me, TV all day long. I was so incredibly invested in those Olympics.

I’d love to do the same every four years — that one experience has turned me into an Olympics fan of the highest caliber. Unfortunately I’ve found that watching endless rounds of laps of the pool isn’t very exciting for a three-year-old. Gal Smiley doesn’t even like the women’s gymnastics, for heaven’s sake. She’d rather be watching Peep. What’s up with that?

So this year I’m kind of in Olympics withdrawal. I’ve seen a lot of Peep, though.

By the time Vancouver 2010 rolls around, though, she’ll be in school. All day. Yay!

By then though, I’ll probably be nostalgic for my Peep-watching days. The grass is always greener.