It’s Over.

I am officially done with winter.

I feel like I have been a remarkably good sport about it this year, particularly as someone who has deeply and truly disliked winter in the past. I have been skiing, so I have been outside even when it’s minus 25, and it’s been okay. I have cheerfully shovelled side by side with my children. I have invested in many lovely new pairs of thermal socks and have enjoyed many cups of tea. I have remarked on how nice it is that it’s at least sunny out, that the days are slowly getting longer. I have loved watching the kids love the snow, rolling around in it like it was a bed full of money.

But now – I’m over it. A couple of days ago I woke up and looked outside and it was still winter, still frigid, still with the snow all over, and that was IT. DONE. Since then I have lost my powers of optimistic protection and have felt the wind drive itself right into my bones, felt my hands turn blue with cold. I have come to hate my snow pants and resent my giant clonky boots and gone barefoot in the house in defiance, only to find myself shivering with toes by the fireplace an hour later. It all sucks.

This morning Sir Monkeypants declared the Winter Of Our Discontent to be over, because the deep-deep freezing days were supposed to end with slightly milder temperatures – highs in the negative single digits – starting with today. But although he’s technically right, I still suffered a great suffering on my way to pick up the kids today, despite still suiting up in the full spacesuit of winter protection. IT DID NOT HELP.

Winter: you have finally broken me. I quit.

A Few Thoughts On Food

Last week I made little individual tourtieres for dinner. I love them, but it was a little depressing that something that took me over two hours to make was gobbled up in the 15 minute window between piano practice and running out the door for guides/scouts. Sigh.

I made an apple pie as well that night and a piece before bed and then another for breakfast the next morning did help soothe the hurt feelings, a little.

———————————–

Every morning I have oatmeal for breakfast, with maple syrup on it. Every morning I open the fridge to get out the maple syrup and see it in the fridge door, right there next to a big bottle of Bailey’s.

Some morning I may mix the two of them up and it may not be an accident.

———————————–

We have had a devil of a time getting the children to eat breakfast lately. I have thrown out all notion of healthy breakfasts and am now offering them cookies, pie, or even a half cup of tea for breakfast. It frustrates me that no one has yet invented a pill that could take the place of an entire meal, especially considering that such an invention would solve the world hunger crisis, not to mention freeing up all kinds of time for more productive activities, and allow travel to foreign destinations to be so much easier for the food-allergic among us.

Perhaps my children are just using this breakfast strike as a way to inspire me to invent such a thing. If so, the joke’s on them, as I intend to make it their homework for the next few years. HA.

10 Books

Nicole over at the Boyhouse posted about 10 Childhood Books that Stuck, as in books that she read before age 12 that were especially memorable for some reason. I think it’s a meme that’s going around. Anyway, I was going to comment over there but it quickly ballooned into an out-of-control hijack of her blog so thought I’d move it over here.

So here are some books that come to mind when I think about those pre-grade-8 years:

1. The Forgotten Door by Alexander Key. We read this when I was in Grade 5, and I think it was the first fantasy book I’d ever read, and it blew my mind. Alexander Key is better known for his book Escape to Witch Mountain, and after reading The Forgotten Door I went on to read all his books, but this first one will always live in my memory – I can still quote parts of it. My class wrote him a letter as part of studying the book and it was my first author fan letter ever, and I gushed and gushed. Sadly, we heard back a few months later from his widow – he’d died just the year before – but it was still a wonder to me to have an actual response.

2. The Tattooed Potato, and Other Clues, by Ellen Raskin. I love, love, love Ellen Raskin. All her books are genius – they are mysteries, but odd and offbeat ones containing nutty characters and crazy situations and surprising twist answers to unusual questions. She’s best known for The Westing Game and I’ve read that book probably two dozen times and it’s great. But The Tattooed Potato holds a special place in my heart because a) the lead character’s name is a sassy girl called Dickory Dock and b) I never, ever saw the ending coming. Other titles by her include The Mysterious Disappearance of Leon (I Mean Noel), which I just read to my youngest and it totally holds up; and Figgs and Phantoms, a book that changed my whole world outlook when I was 12.

3. The Clue of the Tapping Heels by Carolyn Keene – My favourite Nancy Drew book, but in truth I read them all. ALL OF THEM. I also read all the Hardy Boys books – literally, ALL of them. Once when I was in Grade 4 I was home sick for a day, and my mother had an appointment that she had to go out for, so she gave me two brand new Nancy Drew books she’d been saving for my birthday to keep me busy in bed while she was out, and when she came back two hours later I had read them both. The Tapping Heels involves tap dancing and morse code – so yeah, loved that one.

4. Hurry Home Candy by Meindert deJong (pictures by Maurice Sendak). Checked this book out from the school library in Grade 5 at least four times – my younger sister FameThrowa discovered this fact when she was in Grade 5 at the same school, and saw my name multiple times on the card. Not sure why I did that, as this is seriously, SERIOUSLY, the saddest book of all time. It’s the story of a young stray dog, Candy, who goes through many adventures, most of which end badly or sadly or meanly. At the very, very end, the dog does find a kind home and it’s a WEEPFEST, I can’t even think about it now without welling up. FameThrowa bought me my very own copy about a decade ago and I can’t even imagine reading it to the children because I’d just sob all the way through it. It’s on the bookshelf downstairs if they want to have a go at it on their own.

5. The Great Brain by John D. Fitzgerald, Banner In The Sky by James Ramsay Ullman, and Crisis on Conshelf Ten by Monica Hughes. My mother has a brother, my uncle, and he’s 10 years younger than her, which makes him only 15 years older than me. When I was in middle school, he was a young adult but not married and he had to shop for his nieces for Christmas and had no idea what to get for tweenaged girls. So he went into a bookstore and asked the lady there what he should get for me, a 12 year old who loved reading, and she sold him these three titles, all of which changed my life. The Great Brain is a classic of hilarity – I read it to the Captain a couple of years ago and it totally holds up, funny as ever, just as I remembered it. Banner in the Sky is a story about a young man determined to climb a mountain and it was so moving and inspirational and I absolutely remember every word. And Crisis on Conshelf Ten – love, love, love that book, went on to read everything by Monica Hughes (she is best known for her Isis series, about a girl living alone on another planet). This one is about a society that lives on a future earth underwater, and one boy who is invited to use his low-grav skills to help settle the moon.

I just had a look on Amazon and let me say, it is sad that many of Monica Hughes’ books are now out of print – as are most of Ellen Raskin’s. I’m sure there’s more. In today’s ebook age, it seems like a simple thing to just upload the text and get it out there. Hm – possible new project.

Anyway, moving on!

6. Deenie by Judy Blume. Like every woman my age, I have read all of Judy’s books, but my favourites were Deenie and Tiger Eyes, both of which I read many times and heralded a new age of womanhood. Still remember Deenie making out with a boy at a party – THE SCANDAL. It was my own personal Fifty Shades of Grey. Also, I can still describe scene-for-scene how to get yourself a back brace for scoliosis. This book inspired me to seek out the movie Splendor in the Grass, starring Natalie Wood in the role that Deenie was named for, and that kick-started my whole love of classic movies, which soon became an all-consuming passion that lives on to this day.

As a fun aside, Nicole is doing a full chapter-by-chapter recap of Deenie over at her new blog, Throwback Three.

7. The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett. I actually didn’t read a lot of “classic” literature as a kid. Things like Anne of Green Gables, Charlotte’s Web, or Little House on the Prairie were all read in my 20s because I felt I’d missed out on something. This is one of the few classic novels I did actually read, in Grade 5, and I loved it. Magical and dreamy with a kickass protagonist – oh, how I wanted my very own secret garden.

8. Among the Dolls by William Sleator. My whole life I thought this was another title by Frances Burnett, but it seems her book about dollhouses is a sweet little ditty about two competing dollhouses, while this one is a work of sheer TERROR. I had to look it up online but I’m pretty sure this is the one that continues to live large in my memory – probably the first horror book I ever read and it scared the pants off of me. It’s about a girl who gets a dollhouse for her birthday and, due to a troubled home life, is mean to the dolls inside – so then they suck her into the house so they can be mean right back. GAH. I also read The Green Futures of Tycho by the same author, about time travel, which mostly served to teach me who the hell Tycho Brahe was.

9. Sideways Stories from Wayside School by Louis Sachar, and Where the Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein. Both of these were read to my Grade 4 class by my totally awesome teacher (she later went on to become the school’s librarian), and I loved them, they were like a golden special treat for the end of the day. Years later I still absolutely remembered whole chucks of both wholesale, and bought both for my kids and insisted they read them, and now I have read both probably 20 times, at least. WORTH IT.

10. George and Martha by James Marshall. Not a lot of picture books on this list, because I was a precocious reader and was into novels at an early age. But George and Martha – oh, how I loved them. We owned their book about pea soup (Martha loves to make it; George hates to eat it, but can’t tell her because it will hurt her feelings), and I’m sure I read it 100 times. I saw their combined tales at the library last year and I checked it out for ME, not the children, and re-read it all and it was super nostalgic.

Ah, warm memories of days spent hiding in the corner of a family reunion with my nose in a book. Good times, good times.

Earth, Fire, Air, Water

I’ve been missing for a week or so now because of many things, but the best thing is that my girls’ piano teacher has lent us her DVDs of The Legend of Korra. She found out that we were fans of the show Avatar: The Last Airbender and then we wasted almost a whole evening’s worth of lessons gushing about the elements, and what kind of bender you’d be (earth, for the record), and how awesome it is, and how mysterious it is to all of us that the world isn’t 100% on board with this show, which is, in all seriousness, AWESOME.

In fact, I can get quite evangelical about it, so I will try to keep it sane by just saying a few things: The Last Airbender is the story of four tribes, each of whom have the skill to “bend” or manipulate one of the four elements – earth, fire, air, or water. There’s one person born in each generation who can bend all four – the avatar – and this person’s job is to maintain balance.

It’s an animated show but it is, SERIOUSLY, so very, very good. The kids started watching it last year on Netflix (the whole original series is on there) but Sir Monkeypants and I were quickly sucked in as well. It’s funny and mystical and deep and yet accessible and fun and emotionally fulfilling. There are three seasons that tell a complete story and at the end, you’ll just need to sit and absorb and feel the peace. SO GOOD.

The Legend of Korra is a sequel show set in the same world that follows a new avatar, and it’s also AMAZING. We are watching it as a family and this weekend’s extra cold temperatures meant we all huddled up on the couch and binge watched the first season, and now are into the second season, and YES. Every bit as good as the original series. Find a way to get your hands on both of them, now.

In other news, I have been busy with skiing. Sir Monkeypants made a crafty move and bought me these:

DSC_3943 (Small)

Hello, my beauties. Bright pink ski boots, which automatically makes them the best boots ever, but also with plush thick lining that is sooooo comfy. Now I have no excuse not to go skiing. He also bought me my own set of skis that, by coincidence, match – they are black on top and hot pink on the bottom. Last week at lessons a young girl going by told me she liked my skis and that was possibly the most fulfilling moment of my life. I KNOW. When did I become a ski bunny?

And speaking of things Sir Monkeypants bought me, I got a Valentine gift this year, which is actually unusual, because both of us kind of pooh-pooh on the whole event and have never celebrated it, although I must admit that in recent years I have taken to getting the kids a book or a LEGO man or something to mark the occasion. Anyway, here’s what I got this year:

DSC_3941 (Small)

Best. Gift. Ever. The girls and I have been BUSY. Do you wanna build a snowman?

Report Cards

It was report card day yesterday, and I always get a little wound up on report card day, ranting about the meaningless comments. But yesterday was much cheerier than usual, because of this:

Captain: (cough cough) I’m sick, I can’t go to school.

Me: Well, it’s report card day, don’t you want to get your report card?

Captain: Hm.

Little Miss: What will they do with his report card if he doesn’t come?

Me: They’ll probably throw it out.

Captain: REALLY???

Me: Yes. If you don’t show up on report card day, that’s it. You have to wait until June to get any results.

Captain: REALLY????

And then I snorted and told him he could stay home from school and call me crazy, but they’d probably give him his report card the next day. Poor kid, he has absolutely inherited my total gullibility, complete with the trademark saying of “REALLY???” at all turns. He and I will go forth in blind trust together.

Later I called the school to let them know he was staying home and asked if his report card could be given to the Little Miss, whose classroom is right next door. That was no problem, so turned out he got his report card after all, PHEW.

Funny report card story: the Captain is in Grade 6, and in health class this term they were studying drugs and why they are bad. His report card says that he can describe and understands the effects of “cannabis and other illicit drugs.” Sir Monkeypants and I had a good laugh about his extensive knowledge of illicit drugs, SNICKER, and then this happened:

Sir Monkeypants: So, what do you know about cannabis?

Captain: Well, for the first two weeks everyone in my class thought the teacher was saying “can of piss.”

SNORT. Guess you really wouldn’t want to sample THAT at a party.

Naming Conventions

According to Gal Smiley and her Captain Underpants activity book, our family superhero names are Pinky, Stinky, Flunky, Zippy, and Zippy Jr. Monkeyhead. We are READY to FIGHT CRIME.

——————————

The kids sometimes like to get out the hexbugs and set them up in head-to-head battles like a hexbug version of The Hunger Games. The hexbug names are Exterminator, M.C., Poison Ivy, Easter, Nibbles, and Cockroach. I think these are AWESOME.

——————————

Gal Smiley is not sold on the idea of having children, but if she did have kids, or possibly pet pandas, she would like to name them Davin, John, and Ben. (They will obviously be boys.)

——————————

Bears are the favourite animal of the Little Miss and she has several stuffed versions. They are named Bear, Beary, Ted, Teddy (x2), Fuzzy, Softie, Pinkie, and Hero. You can probably figure out which one was named by me and Sir Monkeypants. They’re so adorably literal at this age.

That reminds me a story about my youngest sister – when she was about six she got a plastic yellow pony as a gift and she had to name it, so she called it “Bowie.” I was about 13 at the time and I thought she was naming the pony after David Bowie and I thought she was pretty much the coolest little sister on the planet. I believe I may have even bragged to some of my friends how my little sister was so pop culture knowledgeable. A year or so later we were talking about this point and she explained that the pony had some small white bows printed on its butt, and so it was more like “bow-y”, as in having Butt Bows, rather than a nod to the musician. Oh.

Butt Bows would be a pretty awesome band name, though, don’t you think?

el drama de segundo grado

The Captain had a friend over on Friday, and it is amazing how much the addition of a single 11-year-old boy to the household can amplify the noise level. Lest you think this other boy was at fault, I’ll tell you now that the problem is absolutely the Captain. He tends to get very excited when a friend is over, and expresses his excitement through shrieking. In particular, Friday’s play seemed to require the shrieking of the world “BELLBOY” over and over again. Not sure what they were doing down in the Kid Cave*, but clearly it involved a lot of arriving and leaving of hotels.

(* – Our new finished basement, name stolen from Shan’s adorable Lady Cave she’s set up for her daughters.)

Anyway, my point here is that the Captain’s buddy went home after three hours of intense playtime, during which there were exactly zero conflicts or issues or debates. It has happened on occasion that a buddy comes over and they run out of things to do, but then they happily parallel play on their iPods or read and that’s just as cool, it would seem.

Compare and contrast to the life of Little Miss Sunshine. Her life seems to be one ongoing telenovella – el drama de segundo grado – where small dramas cause huge ripples of reaction throughout her entire circle of friends on a daily basis, requiring lots and lots of reaction shots, tears, and sending messages back and forth via a third party. For example, on Thursday her class went skating, and while the Captain would say such a trip was “fine,” the Little Miss comes home with story after story about how SHE wanted to skate with A but A wanted to skate with B and B was too fast so A sat and cried so SHE chased around after B to let her know how A was feeling but B had a new friend in C and then B cried because she felt bad and then SHE went to make A feel better and then they skated together after all.

Seriously, I don’t know how she lives this way, it sounds EXHAUSTING.

I am reminded of a story Sir Monkeypants likes to tell of two girls in his own grade school who were best friends/frenemies. They sat with their desks pushed together most of the time, but on an almost daily basis would have some sort of squabble which would require the dramatic pushing apart of desks (reaction shot), then by the end of the day they’d have made up and moved their desks back together. He holds this up as an example of the craziness of grade school girls (and possibly, all women in general, but he’s too smart to imply that to his adorable and cherished wife). But now that I am seeing it in action, I’m thinking it’s maybe just a way that some girls like to pass the time. Gives them something to do, or perhaps preps them for a life in show business.

Unfortunately, the Little Miss has two rather unsympathetic parents. I was never into drama as a kid, and Gal Smiley has always played with boys at school so has a similar social history to the Captain, so this is all new to me – and I have to admit, it all seems a little silly, if not downright annoying. She is absolutely NOT interested in any practical suggestions or ideas that would remove her from the bondage of Life As A Soap Opera, including things like just walk away and just shrug and say it doesn’t bother you or even never let them see you cry, Evita. It’s what she does.

Heaven help us if she ever gets a blog.

Sushi and Chocolates

The kids were watching Drake and Josh on Netflix the other day while I was cooking, and this scene came on, of the two boys attempting to pack sushi into boxes from a conveyor belt:

I let the kids watch it without comment just to see what would happen, and they found it HILARIOUS, I possibly have never heard Gal Smiley in particular laugh so loud. So it’s good to know that after 60+ years, Lucy’s still got it:

I showed them the Lucy version on YouTube afterwards, and they thought it was pretty cool, too. A solid foundation in Pop Culture History is pretty important to me.

But they still think, after re-watching both several times, that Drake and Josh have the edge. Youth these days! Which do you prefer?

Fine and Dandy

We’ve been taking downhill ski lessons as a family this winter, on Saturday mornings at Mount Packenham. I thought they’d be ripe, RIPE, with blogging fodder, because the fact that I am not sporty is one of the Funamental Laws of the Universe, plus there’s the fact that I hate winter and it’s been, on average, -25 degrees Celcius every single Saturday morning since the holidays, plus there’s the fact that my three eager children can ski circles around me, resulting in bitterness.

However, I have had very little to say on this subject because it’s really been…fine.

Sure, there are things I do not like, and actually here I have to admit I kind of dread going to the hill every Saturday. It’s a lot of work getting us and all our gear and all our food to the hill, and then I have to be in a full-on panic for an hour and a half as I have freakout after freakout on the ski lift and the hill. And I am the weakest in my class, so that always creates guilt and stress (although my classmates have been nothing but supportive and helpful). Plus, we are all so wiped out from a day of skiing that most of the rest of the weekend is a write-off – I can usually manage groceries but any other errands or to-do items are just getting dropped as we spend the day napping and popping Advil for our sore legs.

But there’s also the fact that we can head out as a family, and the kids really love it, and it’s lovely to see them doing something fun and active all together. Sir Monkeypants has been fantastic, knowing how much I was going to hate it – he’s bought me every single accessory that could make my ski day more pleasant (hello, world’s most expensive balaclava) and he packs up all my stuff every Friday night and when we get to the hill he makes sure I am suited up and doing okay. And I am getting better, SLOWLY, bit by bit, every week, so there’s life skill and accomplishment bonus points.

The best part is after our lessons and lunch, when we go back out together for a couple of runs before going home, and my kids are all instructive – giving me tips on how to get off the chair lift, telling me which runs I should be able to handle, laying a comforting hand on my arm and telling me they know I can do it. I am a tentative and terrible skier but I often play it up even more just so they all have some teaching and comforting to do.

So in the end it works out kind of balanced. Fine, really. Just fine. Not great, not dreadful, just…fine.

Still, I have to admit, the idea of sitting in the lodge all day with a hot chocolate and a book also seems like it would be…fine. I’d go all the way to fine AND dandy on that one.

From My Cold, Dead Hands

Here’s something I never, ever thought I’d say: we are considering cancelling our satellite TV.

I love TV, it’s…well, I was going to say my only vice, but I don’t want to invite a chorus of comments pointing out my other vices, so let’s just say it’s my biggest vice. It’s how I relax, it’s how I keep in touch with the world, it’s how I birth new fantasies of dinner parties featuring Ken Jennings and Dr. Joan Watson and Eli Gold and Jeff Probst.

Last year, we got Netflix, mostly because Sir Monkeypants and I, once avid movie goers, hadn’t been to the theatre in years, and we thought it would help us catch up a bit, plus we both really wanted to watch Orange is the New Black. This isn’t a sponsored post or anything, but having Netflix has really changed our whole family, in that we are now addicted to the concept of the Binge Watch. The kids are working their way through old seasons of Star Trek, Drake and Josh, and every animated superhero show ever made, while Sir Monkeypants and I are digging through The 100 and Sherlock and House of Cards. It’s so immediate and thrilling and a totally different experience to be able to watch the whole series within a short period of time, as much as you want with no waiting.

Side note: I read (okay – I saw a headline) for an article going around Facebook last week that claimed that the immediacy of Netflix is ruining our children’s ability to wait for stuff. I am worried about this, yet they will pry Netflix from my cold, dead hands. Thoughts?

Second side note: Watching Netflix like this has me wondering if we are raising a generation that won’t have a common pop culture platform to share. Like, know how you can find someone at a party that’s exactly the same age as you, and they the the exact same memories of running to put on their PJs during commercials of Charlie’s Angels and The A-Team, and watching G-Force and Spider-Man And Friends on Saturday mornings, and knowing all the words to the Growing Pains theme song? That kind of thing might be gone now, because my kids know everything there is to know about Drake and Josh and iCarly, but they are technically just outside their age range because they’ve been off the regular airwaves for several years. And now that we have access to old TV shows and movies in a way we never did before, their pop culture education is such a mish mash of stuff that WE loved as kids, and WE want to watch, as opposed to natural discoveries in their own time. Possible PhD dissertation? Discuss.

So! Back to TV. Friends of ours got a digital TV antenna, and with this antenna, which cost them perhaps $125, they get all the major local stations, in HD, just over the air. NO ONGOING COSTS. With these major local stations, they get just about all the major network shows.

We’re currently paying over $80 a month to Bell for our satellite, which, thanks to Netflix, we are now only watching half the time, at best. Sir Monkeypants and I watch perhaps four network shows on a regular basis, and we would continue to get all these with an antenna.

We’d be giving up TSN and some other live sports; my beloved Game Show Network; and a bunch of kids’ channels, like Disney X D and YTV.

TEMPTING.

For the last month or so, we’ve been recording our daily TV watching to try to determine just how often we watch these alternate channels, and we’ve also been trying to redirect the kids’ interest away from Disney X D to Netflix programming, with mixed success. But overall I would have to say…it is looking good.

One potential problem is that giving up satellite means no PVR, which is my love and lifeblood, but there’s a company right here in Ottawa that makes PVRs for antennas or something (Sir Monkeypants is the tech guy around here), and said company is physically located about three minutes from my house, so we can picket them if we run into problems.

So…TEMPTING. The idea of being totally free from Bell AND Rogers seems like some kind of crazy 21st century fantasy.

Do you think you’d ever walk away from cable?