The Sniffles

The Scene: 1976. I am running home from Grade One at the end of the day at top speed, crying.

I pass my older sister, who has been invited to sit on the front porch of gorgeous, blonde Sharon Barnes’ house and wait with Sharon for her mother to come home and unlock the door.

Me, to my sister: HELP ME!

Sister: What’s going on?


Sister: I don’t have a tissue.

Sharon: Just sniffle.


Sharon comes down off the porch, takes a few steps out into the driveway.

Sharon: Sniffle. You know, like suck it back.

Me: I can’t, I CAN’T.

Sharon: Just pretend like you are going to breathe in, really hard, like this.

She demonstrates a gorgeous, golden-blonde snort.

I give a half-hearted attempt.


I continue to race home, snot running down my face, too young to understand that the crying is only making things worse. But slowly the crying subsides, as I discover that this sniffling thing is quite effective when done with passion and heart. Plus, the sleeve of one’s coat can be useful in such a situation.


The Scene: 2015. I am awakened at 1 a.m. by the Little Miss, whose nose has been running like a faucet for weeks. This is already the fourth time she has been up tonight.

Little Miss: Mommy? I’m doing a weird breathing thing and I can’t sleep!

Me: Okay honey. Let’s go to the bathroom and sit.

We go to the bathroom and sit, her on the closed toilet seat, me on the side of the bathtub. She continues to wipe and wipe her nose in the blue tone of the nightlight.

Little Miss: It just won’t stop! I blow and blow and blow and there’s always more!

Me: It’ll be okay, honey. Try not to cry, it doesn’t help. Now, I want you to try something new tonight. Close your mouth tight, and try to force yourself to breathe through your nose.

Little Miss: But it’s totally plugged!

Me: I know, but sometimes you can clear at least one side with a good sniffle. Now try.

She tries.

Little Miss: I can’t! I can’t!

Me: It’s okay, I know it’s tough the first time. Just breathe through your mouth, quiet down. Then try again.

She tries again.

Little Miss: It feels like everything is packed in there now.

Me: I know. It’s not the greatest thing to do – you still need to blow it out if you can – but sometimes at night it’s easier to just sniffle it up, so you can clear one side and get some sleep.

Little Miss: I think one side is clearing now.

Me: Let’s try getting some sleep then, kay?

We return to our beds. She manages to get a couple of hours of sleep. This morning, we’re back to a combination of sniffling and blowing, sniffling and blowing, but at least she can breathe a bit. Many thanks, Sharon Barnes.

Laundry Day

Gal Smiley has taken to wearing these cargo shorts she has that have like, a hundred pockets on them, at the top, back, and down the sides.

Today was laundry day so I had to put them in the wash and found they weighed like, a hundred pounds.

Cleaning out the pockets, I found:

  • two Toronto-area GO train schedules
  • a small Playmobil catalogue
  • a hand-sized notebook and small pencil
  • a baseball
  • a hacky sack
  • an old cell phone of mine
  • a dime
  • a key card from one of our Calgary hotels
  • a keychain with a fold-out pocketknife on it and a bunch of suitcase keys
  • a folded up note of mysterious origin that I really wanted to read, but didn’t

No idea why she felt she needed to have these things on her person at all times. Also, no idea how she was able to physically walk this past week.

Children are mysterious creatures.

A Jolly Old Elf

Yesterday at bedtime, Little Miss Sunshine asked me if Santa is real.

I always promised myself that I’d answer that question truthfully and frankly if asked directly. And I did it, too, for the older two. I gave them the speech about how the idea of Santa is real, the spirit of Christmas is real, but that it’s parents who buy and give the gifts. In part it was a relief – I’ve never been completely comfortable with the elaborate ruses involved in explaining how it all works, and the effort involved in trying to convince them that yes, that guy at the mall is the REAL Santa.

With the Captain it was actually easy – he’s a logical sort, and he was never that attached to the whole Santa idea (that guy at the mall freaked him out, actually). He was thrilled to be brought inside the circle of trust – he loved playing up the Santa idea for his sisters, and giving me a little wink in the background after assuring them that yes, Santa did eat those cookies and drink that milk. With Gal Smiley, I was told her the honest truth, but she wasn’t quite ready to hear it – she continued to talk about Santa for another whole season, before she finally started talking about just keeping the idea alive for the sake of her younger sister.

And now, the last one – and I totally balked. I whiffed it. I soft-balled. I mean, I didn’t quite lie, but I heard phrases coming out of my mouth like, “No one can really be sure,” and “I believe he might be real, out there somewhere,” and “Sometimes Santa needs a little help, because it’s a big job he has to do, so some parents help him out by buying the gifts, and we are in that group.”

So now she has some sort of weird hybrid idea of how things work – she thinks we buy the gifts, but Santa (who is totally real, and lives at our mall) still comes at night to actually PUT the gifts in the stockings. Because who else would eat the cookies and drink the milk? Right, Mommy?

Riiiiiiight, baby girl.

I know I need to sort this out before she’s rudely confronted with the truth on the schoolyard and learns that adults, in particular me, cannot be trusted. But for now, maybe just this week, maybe just today, I just can’t let go of having a believer.

Time Ticks Onward

School started last week, and everyone got a year older and a little bit more independent and it was all good. They’re all still in the same school, and all three of them have fantastic teachers that they’ve had before. The Little Miss got cut off from her best buddies but she makes new friends easily, and the older two are happily with good friends. At home, I’m breathing deeply in the glory of the silence, and attacking my miles-long, I’ll-do-it-when-the-kids-start-school to-do list. All is well.

The big marker of time passing, though, the stumbling block for me, is that my nephew started university this fall. He’s not my first nephew to reach university age, but the difference is that he’s going to the same university that I went to, the place where Sir Monkeypants and I met. It’s a little too close to home.

I find I’m being kept up nights thinking about all the stupid stuff we did in university, right from day one. The drinking, the parties, the way people in first year residence – 18 year olds! – were sleeping around. The way you’d stay up all hours of the night, then drag yourself to class in the morning, only to fall asleep at your desk. The way the stove in the common room got set on fire on a regular basis. The sudden way you’re thrown into situations you have absolutely no frame of reference for – deciding, for example, who is going to clean up your friend who is lying on someone’s living room floor in a puddle of vomit; surviving for weeks on nothing but french fries and pop from the mini fridge in your room; figuring out just how little work you can do to sneak by on an assignment.

I was a super goody-goody in high school, a kid with a “head on her shoulders,” and I was actually a lot like that in university, too – I didn’t drink, and I did a lot of babysitting of other drunk people. But even I was not immune to the total bacchanalia that is first year university, at least for engineers, which are maybe the worst of the lot.

I think of my nephew, who I held as a baby, who I played stuffed monkeys with as a toddler, who I chatted with about Harry Potter and Percy Jackson like, yesterday, and now he’s out in that wild world. His parents dropped him off, and they will literally not see him for six weeks, until he comes home for Thanksgiving. Maybe they’ll get a weekly phone call. In between, who knows where he is, or what he’s doing. It’s terrifying.

I know he’s a pretty solid kid, actually, and one thing that worries me so much is that I don’t actually live with him, so I don’t always see the little ways that he’s already all-grown-up and able to take care of himself. But when I think of my own babies off at university – panic time. There’s only, what, five more years I have left to teach the Captain kung fu, how to know your limit, proper use of birth control, and all the intricacies of boy-girl relationships? NOT ENOUGH TIME.

Better buckle down.

Dancity Dance Dance

It was the last Dance Show with new content this week, but before we get to that, let me just say this: Cat Deeley is pregnant, and I TOTALLY CALLED IT. Like, five weeks ago when she wore this:

I was all, to Sir Monkeypants, “Don’t you think she looks pregnant? I think she looks pregnant.” And Sir Monkeypants was all, “Leave me alone with your Dance Talk, woman.” So then I went and Googled, but there was no official announcement or even speculation about a baby bump by People Magazine, but I still felt sure, and then she was constantly wearing these weird frumpy outfits, and then this week, official announcement, WHAM, I CALLED IT.

I feel so proud of myself. I also totally called it ahead of time, by the way, when the American Ninja Warrior hostess from the past five seasons, Jenn Brown, was pregnant. And as an aside (as if this wasn’t far enough to the side already), the new hostess, Kristine Leahy, is a peach and I adore her and I’m very, very conflicted about what should happen should Jenn Brown wish to return.

Trivia: did you know that Cat Deeley was not the original hostess of Dance Show either, but rather stepped in for Season 2 when original hostess Lauren Sanchez got pregnant? An interesting parallel (well, interesting to probably just me, but whatever).

So! Dance show! Down to the top 4. Since I last posted about Dance Show, I have discovered the So You Think You Can Dance Facebook Page, where people are free to comment, and comment they do. Turns out many, many people out there really hate the judges. They are personally blamed for the fact that Jim went home, because they criticized him so harshly the last two weeks he was on. Personally I think the commenters overestimate the power of the judges to influence the voting, but you can discuss for yourselves. Was Jim sent home in error? And was it the judges’ fault?

I’m pretty happy with the final four, actually, although this week I thought they all looked very, very tired – no one was really at their best (although Virgil came close). I can’t remember the last time they expected so much of the final four – they don’t usually do so many dances, do they? I remember the season that Joshua won, and the final four that year did SO MANY numbers, and there was one group number near the end where Joshua had to lift Courtney Galiano in the air and very nearly dropped her, and you could just tell he was exhausted. This week’s show kind of felt like that to me.

Also: how much of a Dance Show wonk am I that I remember that happening like, eight seasons ago? Can’t decide if I am proud or ashamed.

Let’s predict the winners, shall we?

Jaja. I think she’s going to win. She’s charming and popular. I didn’t feel like she blew me away this week but I still think she has the votes she’ll need to win. Plus, I totally WANT her to win. (And then move next door with Megz so they can come over for poker on Sunday nights with me and Paula.)

Gaby. Looks like Gaby is pretty popular too, and if the judges really do have the power to influence votes, she should be the easy stage winner, as the three of them slobber all over her every week. I swear, I have NEVER heard them say one word of criticism about Gaby, which bugs me, and this week they basically french-kissed her with praise, gave her the glory final slot, and then turned to the cameras and said VOTE FOR GABY DUMMIES in sign language. GAH, and also, that tends not to work (see: judges slaving all over Travis in the Travis-versus-Benji Season Two showdown). In her favour, however, her tap number with Zach was pretty fantastic, and her number with Virgil (OMG do I ever love, love, love Phillip Chbeeb and his crazy original choreography) was the best of the night, so I guess I am okay with it if she is the stage winner, as long as it is clear that she is actually the America’s Second Most Favourite Dancer.

Aside: did you catch the fact that, while commenting on Gaby’s tap number, Jason Derulo identified himself as a tapper? I love you, Jason Derulo.

Virgil. Virgil certainly did do everything in his power to win this thing – his number with Gaby was awesome, his number with Joshua was double awesome, and his solo was the best of the night. In fact, if he wins over Jaja I won’t even have a problem with it, because he rocks, and he deserves to have a dancing career, and I love him.

Hailee. I also love Hailee, and I’m so happy she made the final four, but I did feel like this week did not showcase her talents as well as other weeks (although – solo dancing to Paula Abdul’s Cold Hearted Snake – SWEET). I guess making the final four is sort of her reward – “It’s an honour just to be nominated!” – and I definitely think she’s a long shot for the win. Still: she rocks.

Can’t wait for next week’s finale!

Best. Mom. Ever.

A few weeks’ back when we were at the National Art Gallery, we went to see the Marc Chagall exhibit. It’s a series of about 30 or so paintings that were made for a book, Daphnis and Chloe, a Greek folktale about a goatherd and a shepherdess who fall in love but are kept apart by many circumstances.

It was in this exhibit that we were warned many, many times (in the first three minutes) about being too close to the art, and were threatened with expulsion. It was Little Miss Sunshine who had the hardest time remembering to KEEP BACK FROM THE ART – she was just excited and interested and kept stepping forward to point things out to ask questions – so eventually I just had her stand in front of me, and I wrapped my arm around her chest, and we shuffled like that through the entire exhibit so I could hold her back whenever the impulse hit to approach the art.

One thing about the Little Miss is that she is A TALKER. Every thought in her head comes out of her mouth – I like to say that something never really happens to her unless she can say it out loud. And in combination with her chattiness she is also a very curious child and likes to ask a LOT of questions. It’s a bottomless pit of questions in her world, and let me tell you, it is very hard getting her to settle down at bedtime as she will always find something else that she urgently needs to ask you before she can fall asleep. She’s VERBAL, is what I’m saying.

So we made our way around the exhibit fused together, which meant I was absolutely available to her for any and all questions. The paintings were arranged in order according to the story so at every one I would explain who the characters were, and what was happening now in the story (and, more often than not, why they were all naked). I kept my voice low but it was pretty much a constant stream of explaining, answering, and discussing – her asking, me doing my best to respond in a way she could understand.

We were about 3/4 of the way through when a lady about my age, who had been following along with us throughout, leaned over and said to me, “You are the Best. Mom. Ever.”

I gotta tell you, I can live on that for a VERY long time.


I have developed a new pet peeve this summer, and it is this: the children never get out of the car.

We’ll be going somewhere, and I’ll pull into a spot and park, and they will just sit there, twiddling their thumbs, waiting for me to get out. But I want them to get out first, so I can hit the “lock” button on my car door when I open it. If I get out first, they will be locked in. And if I get out without locking the door, I can still do it with the keychain fob, but I have to wait for the automatic sliding door to cloooooose soooooo sloooooowly, so we end up gathered around the van like some odd van-worshiping cult while we waaaaaait for the sliding door to close so I can lock the car.

I mean, even if they just opened their doors as soon as we parked it would be enough for me to open MY door and then hit the lock button, but no. Lately whenever we park I have taken to opening my door, then barking at them to GET OUT OF THE CAR, then once they have (finally) opened their doors, hitting lock and getting out. But I swear if I didn’t snap at them every single time, we’d all still be sitting in the lot at some WalMart somewhere trapped in some freakish battle of wills over who is going to get out of the car first.

GET OUT OF THE CAR, children.


In other surly news, I have developed an old lady grumpiness towards kids’ sports teams that try to raise money by packing groceries at the Superstore.

It used to be that the cashiers would pack for you as the groceries fed through, and a few years ago they went away from that and now all your groceries just get scanned then dumped at the end of the belt and you have to pack them yourself. At first I hated that, always feeling so much pressure to PACK FASTER, but now I am used to it and I have actually come to like it. Now I can put everything in bins and bags exactly the way I want – stuff for downstairs, for example, all gets bagged together, while all the fridge stuff goes gently and lovingly in a big bin, fitting in like a jigsaw puzzle because I’ve bought the same stuff so many times I know exactly how to get it all in there perfectly.

So lately there’s been this trend to have hockey or soccer or gymnastic teams hang around at the end of the row to bag your groceries for you, and in return you leave a donation. It’s supposed to be some kind of treat but I get super anxious about the fact that grapes are being squashed by juice boxes and chips are randomly shoved in bags with potatoes and onions and milk gets loaded into a bag with (OMG) boxes of crackers in a puncture-waiting-to-happen situation. So mostly I end up basically begging them to just let me do it myself, or I grit my teeth and suffer through it, but either way I am actually LESS inclined to leave them a tip than I would have been before.

In fact, proposal: just ask me for a donation, and I’ll give you $2 to NOT pack my groceries. Deal?


Oh mylanta, I have become Maxine.

Catching Up

We were actually away in Toronto all last week, and there’s so much to catch up on. We were there to visit family and also because Captain Jelly Belly went to his first sleepaway camp about an hour north of Toronto – he’s been to Scout camp for a weekend but this was four whole days of him taking care of himself. We wanted to be close by in case he had a food-allergy related emergency or broke an arm or something, so we stayed the week at my youngest sister’s house in Scarborough.

I thought I’d have more to say on the camp subject but actually, it was fine. I was a bit of a wreck beforehand, worried about what he was going to eat (although the camp was great – they have a full time nurse on staff, make all their own food in house, and had a whole separate station just for preparing his food and he was always served first). I also thought he was likely to not shower the whole time, possibly get lice, and definitely lose every single thing he brought because I forgot to label it all with his first and last name. But everything worked out well, he had a GREAT time and came home with a thousand you-had-to-be-there stories and email addresses of new friends. Plus, we had a very nice time with the two girls – it is AMAZING to me how much easier two kids is than three, now that we’re used to the trio. He learned and grew, and we learned and grew, and I’m sure Lifetime will be calling any moment to turn our story in to a Very Special After School Movie Of The Week.

Down in Toronto we took the girls to the new Ripley Aquarium (bananas busy and pretty pricey, but just monumentally gorgeous and eye-popping, so recommended), and to my favourite place in the world, Casa Loma (referred to as “Casa LAME-a” by my older daughter, but at least Little Miss Sunshine liked it, and they both enjoyed the subway ride to get there).

After we picked up the Captain we all spent a day at Canada’s Wonderland, which was heart-stoppingly expensive, to the point where we question if it was worth it, even though all three kids had an amazing time. No outside food is allowed so after having leftover pizza for breakfast, I ended up having fries and a coke for lunch, then mini donuts and a funnel cake for dinner. The next day I had a nice big salad for lunch and I could hear my arteries weeping with relief. Speaking of health, small tragedy: my FitBit got all messed up while we were away, so I missed out on steps for both Casa Loma day and Canada’s Wonderland day, which may have resulted in a weekly record. SNIFF.

Now we’re back and of course, the first thing I did was race to watch Dance Show. More on that in a moment but first, two important pieces of news:

First, I have a guest post up at OttawaStart – really just a reposting of my statues tour post. This was a big honour for me, because I love OttawaStart, and I often say that if you only read one blog in Ottawa, it should be this one. Glen Gower, who runs it, is a municipal treasure in my opinion, and OttawaStart is a great resource for what’s happening in the city – everything from road closures to local events to historical explorations of local sites to where to get a good lunch. Go now and subscribe!

Second – and I hope you are sitting down for this – DANCE SHOW IS COMING TO OTTAWA. Last week they announced a bunch of new dates and I didn’t even check because I was so depressed about the tour, and then I got an email from my friend Miker with this link in it that takes you directly to a place where you can get your very own tickets to see Jaja IN PERSON. It’s at the NAC this time, instead of the Canadian Tire Centre, which of course means the tickets are stupidly expensive (theme of the week!), but it’s cheaper than flying to New York to see the tour, which I was actually considering, so yeah, I’ll be there.

Speaking of Dance Show, who’s left in the top six?

Jaja. Putting her back at number one this week because a) everyone I talk to loves her as much as I do, and b) she was brilliant this week in her Broadway number with (SQUEE) Ricky. Plus, her solo KICKED IT. Is there nothing she cannot do? No, no there is not.

Gaby. First of all, I’m only putting Gaby this high because it seems they are going to narrow down the field to a single street and a single stage dancer for the final two, so someone from team stage has to be in the second slot here. Is Gaby the best on team stage? I personally think it’s Hailee, but with Hailee showing up in the bottom two this week, and Gaby being just gorgeous all over in her Mandy Moore number (Mandy Moore is THE QUEEN), plus rocking her solo…I think she’ll be the one to end up in the final two.

Virgil. Virgil is just cool. He is like, cool embodied. He’s got the moves, he’s got the personality, and he’s got the skills. In any other season I think he could win – actually, he could still win this one, too. We’ll see what happens this week.

Jim. I think Jim has a lot of personal support and OMG, did you see his solo? BEAUTIFUL. I thought the judges were too hard on him this week – I see what they were saying last week about his lack of personal connection, and how this week’s number with Comfort didn’t help him with that, but on the plus side I thought he kept up with her fairly well and showed some measure of groove. He’s not my favourite on team stage but I do think he deserves to be in the top 4.

Megz. Gal Smiley is going to be broken-hearted when Megz goes home but I’ll be really surprised if she lasts over Virgil or Jaja, who are a powerhouse duo who cannot be beat. I do think her time is up – I love her personality and smooth groove and I think she’s been shafted the past two weeks with bad styles, but her solo as well was fun but not nearly as dazzling as the other two.

Hailee. I’ll be broken-hearted when Hailee goes home but it seems to me that she just doesn’t have the voter support that Gaby and Jim do, plus her number this week with Fikshun was solid, but not as good as her very similar dance with Virgil a few weeks’ back.

Are you going to the live show? Who do you think will win?

Losing the Nouns

They say you lose the nouns first. That when you reach for the name of something, something innocent, like a whisk or nail clippers or a cantaloupe, and suddenly it isn’t there. No need to panic, you know it’s in there somewhere, but just for the moment, you had a little blank. Funny.

Maybe you’re watching a show with your husband and suddenly the name of the lead actor, someone you like and have known for years, is just gone, and you have to go through six degrees of the IMDB to find it – remember, he was in that thing with that girl with the red hair, and she was in that Batman movie with the joker, the one directed by that guy who did Inception. And when you read it, of course, it was right there all along, of course, of course.

“Go downstairs and get me that thingy,” I’ll say to the kids, and they’ll say, “What thingy?” and I’ll say, “You know, the thing with the black base and the buttons and the glass top part and you use it to make milkshakes,” and they’ll say, “The blender?” and I’ll say, “Yes, yes, the blender, of course I meant the blender.”

It’s been happening a lot lately. I’m only 45, still young, still lots of time to chase dreams and think about someday goals. But the words sometimes slip away, mostly in the evening when I’m tired, sometimes now happening in the late afternoon, too. A few months back I was at a store and something was on sale, but sold out, and I felt like an idiot telling the young salesgirl that I wanted, “You know, one of those coupon like things that you give when something is on sale, but you don’t have any left, and you can get one later?” and she was all, “A raincheck?” and I exclaimed, “Yes! A raincheck!” grateful she had put me out of my misery.

I sometimes feel a little panic – is this the start of something new? Early dementia? But a few of my friends have reported the same thing, the same slips. Just a little blank moment, how silly. Nothing to worry about, perfectly normal. So I’m very deliberately not worrying, not fretting, just carrying on carrying on.

Aging is a funny thing – you never think it will happen to you. But I feel it creeping around the edges, in my knees, in the fresh lines on my face, in the occasional hot flash. I’m not afraid to get old, just afraid there won’t be enough time to do it all, to see it all, to say it all. Especially before I lose the nouns for good.

Famous Writers

Quick, who is this guy:

It's Stephen King! Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

It’s Stephen King! Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

And who is this lady:

It's J.K. Rowling! Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

It’s J.K. Rowling! Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

The other day MyFriendJen and I got talking about famous authors, and somehow it came up that we don’t really know what they look like. There are some books that I adore, that are BELOVED FRIENDS, and of course I know who wrote them, but I could sit next to those authors on a plane and have NO idea. It would be an absolute tragedy, for example, to be seated next to Nicole Krauss, or Jessica Grant, or Kate Racculia, and think nothing of them other than that I hope they are quiet, and that they don’t think they are getting the armrest, because it is mine. The lost opportunity for gushing would just be so sad, don’t you think?

And beyond the smaller authors to whom I am devoted, there’s bigger names too that I can’t put a face to. Jen said she could recognize Tom Clancy, but I swore I’d never seen a picture of him, and when she pulled one up on her phone, indeed, he was a total stranger. John Grisham? Danielle Steele? Dan Brown? Stephanie Meyer? Nope, no idea at all what they look like – how old they are, how fat or thin, any distinguishing features. I mean, I adored The Hunger Games to obsessive levels, but I could be waiting in line behind Suzanne Collins at the Superstore and think nothing more than I wonder what she plans on doing with all that orange juice.

So we started to brainstorm authors that maybe we WOULD recognize in public, other than the obvious two mega-stars pictured above, preferably living (although I have Kurt Vonnegut stone cold), and here’s what we came up with:

  • Margaret Atwood
  • George R. R. Martin
  • Robert Munsch
  • Douglas Coupland (me only)
  • Judy Blume (me only, and only because I’ve seen her Twitter profile pic)
  • Brandon Mull (Jen only, because she’s read 100 of his books to her kids)

It’s a very short list, isn’t it? I bet I could recognize many more screenwriters than authors of books. I mean, I don’t want to be a stalker or anything, but I feel like if there’s an author I really love, then I should at least have a vague idea of what they look like, just in case. I intend to read more “about the author” back flaps and maybe do a few internet searches on my favourites. You never know.

Related: guess if either Jen or I become famous authors, we don’t need to worry too much about bodyguards, electric fences, and being stalked by the paparazzi. That’s a relief.

Which authors would you recognize if you saw them in real life?