Stalking Tay-Tay

I am a singer. I sing in the car, in the shower, when I’m making dinner. I am really not a good singer, not at all. But at least three quarters of my mental capacity is taken up with song lyrics – I can’t stop it, they just get in there like a virus – and so I figure I better put the lyric library to good use. Plus, it makes me happy.

Today we were out at the War Museum and on the way there, Little Miss Sunshine was belting out Taylor Swift’s “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together” at top volume and it was lucky she was in the back seat and couldn’t see my face, because then I’d have to explain the huge grin. It’s not that I thought she was funny, it was just SO adorable. The passion involved in the belting – oh honey, I have been there. I had a moment when I thought of all the times I had sung in the car growing up, and I often wondered if I bugged my mother (my sisters made it clear that YES, IT BUGS). Maybe it will come around to bothering me someday but for now, I just had a swell of the sweetness of parenthood, the good stuff when your kid is just like you in the best possible way. Well, I think it’s the best possible way, at least. Next up: tap dancing in grocery store lines!

Speaking of Tay-Tay, she is coming to town on Monday, playing at the Canadian Tire Centre which is like, five minutes from my house. I really, really regret not getting tickets. I was considering taking the girls and then backed out because it would be too late of a night for them, but now that the date is looming I must admit that I, personally, really want to go. Sir Monkeypants bought me her album for Mother’s Day and I am properly embarrassed at my extreme soccer mom-ness, but I do love it, and I bet it’s an awesome show, and I wish I were going.

So I had a peek at Kijiji a couple of days ago (because it’s sold out) and there are like, 100 people on there selling off their tickets, which is hopeful, but they all want like $300 a ticket, which is not quite as hopeful. So I am thinking, if there are so many people with extra tickets, how about on Monday I just go over there at like, 8 p.m., with a sign around my neck that says “SINGLE TICKET WANTED” and see what happens? I mean, I’m not going to pay scalper prices, but I figure if I wait until the show actually starts, I could probably snap up a ticket at a reasonable price and get inside in time to catch Shake It Off.

Maybe I’ll even get really lucky and someone will be there with a group and someone from their group didn’t show and they’ll let me have the extra ticket for $20. Maybe I won’t get anything and all it will cost me is an evening of lurking about and $10 in parking money.

All in all it seems kind of badass and it seems to me that at my age, I could use a little more badass in my life. Hang in there, Taylor, I’m coming!

For the Record

I do not understand how it is that all three of my children are incapable of sleeping with a sheet.

And by that, I don’t mean that they kick off their blankets and sleep in the open air, which might make sense – too hot maybe, or tossing and turning.

No, I mean that every night I tuck them in, heads on the pillow, a sheet and a comforter pulled up to their chin. And then, by morning, there is a balled up sheet at the bottom of the bed, while the comforter remains pulled up.

So somehow, they are kicking the sheet alone down to the bottom of the bed, while keeping the blanket. I cannot imagine the kind of sleep gymnastics that must be required to make this happen. The contortion required. And if one kid did it, I’d think, okay, they sleep weird, but all three do it, like it’s some kind of genetic quirk that Sir Monkeypants and I have cursed upon all our descendents.

I used to think they’d figure it out eventually, but the Captain is now twelve and still the sheet bunching is going on, so lately I’ve started a solid campaign to teach the three of them what a sheet is for, and why I would like them to use one, and how to use one. Repeat: I am teaching my children HOW TO USE A SHEET.

When the kids were little, my friend Izabela once commented on how the most surprising thing about parenthood is the way you have to teach them every little thing, and even stuff that you’d think would be blatantly obvious, or easily picked up by imitation, or just native to the human race, turns out to be taught. She was so right. “Hey kids – here’s how your bed works. Next week we’ll talk about how to sit in chairs without squirming around or tilting them so far you fall over, and how to work a washcloth.”

SIGH.

Pushing Daisies

I’ve been watching Pushing Daisies with the older two kids. I admit it: I forced them into it. Pushing Daisies is, like, my nirvana of TV shows, considering it features everything I love about life, the universe, and everything, including:

  • Pie
  • Musical numbers
  • Clever puns and witty banter
  • 50s fashions (gloves! hats! pumps dyed to match the dress!)
  • Magical realism
  • Bright colours
  • Murder mysteries
  • Omniscient narration
  • Gentle, quiet romance involving a lot of longing looks and flirty comments

All this, plus synchronized swimming, a vast variety of cheeses, eye patches, AND Ellen Greene. SWOON.

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I’m happy to report the kids are properly sucked in. The Captain (age: 12 and a bit) thinks it’s silly but just loves it. Gal Smiley (age: nearly 11) was a little freaked out by the dead bodies at first, and still does sometimes find it scary, but won’t hear of us watching it without her. Isn’t it just the best part of parenting, when you can take something you love love love, and show it to your kids, and they’re young enough to love it too, instead of sneering about how everything you touch is LAME and GOD MOM, LEAVE ME ALONE?

These are the golden years, for sure.

Pushing Daisies, I admit, has been a bit of a stalling tactic because I told Gal Smiley she can watch Glee with me when she turns 11, and she is literally counting down the days to her birthday, when she plans on kicking off Episode 1 on Netflix and watching non-stop until her eyes bleed. I’m not sure she and I are ready for the teen years quite yet, but there’s massive peer pressure (“EVERYONE at school has seen it, MOM!”) and she’s already spent hours and hours watching the videos of the musical numbers online so I think the slippery slope has been slipped. It’s happening, starting September 21, so a delivery of hard liquor on that day would be appreciated.

So until the Glee thing starts up, I was looking for some other show to watch with them, and the others on my hit list – Buffy, Veronica Mars, and Serenity – are definitely for an older audience. What beloved series would you show to your kids, or have shown to your kids, given the chance?

Last Day

I find, as I get older, that I get more and more sentimental about things. It runs in the family – my grandfather was well known for getting teary-eyed at every emotional moment, and several of his grandchildren are the same way. Today is the last day of school and I’m a little misty, mostly because next year the Captain will be in grade seven (SEVEN!) and Gal Smiley will be in grade six (SIX!) next year, and that just seems so big.

The Captain’s class made a yearbook this year – everyone made their own page about themselves, listing their favourite memories of the year and their predictions for the future – and then the teacher copied them into a book for each kid. I heard about it on Monday and immediately got a little teary, because yearbooks! So grown up! and then, it was even worse, because he mentioned he couldn’t bring it home yet because he was still getting everyone to sign it. They were SIGNING YEARBOOKS. Are they trying to kill me with tears, here?

Speaking of tears, here’s a word of advice: do not go see Inside Out with your 11-year-old daughter. DO NOT DO IT. The main character is an 11-year-old girl and she’s just feeling all these crazy emotions and the world is so hard and she’s letting go of childish things but not quite ready for grown up things and SNIFF. I was sitting next to Gal Smiley and at the end of it, I looked at her all mushy-eyed and grabbed her for a hug, while she rolled her eyes in true Disgust fashion. MY BABY. Damn you, Pixar.

Tonight is the last night of soccer for the big kids (the Captain’s last game ever, as he’s aged out of this league and unlikely to move on to the next level), tomorrow is the last one for the Little Miss, and after that, there’s going to be a lot of sleeping in, lazing around, and eating of fresh fruit and freezies. Please don’t disillusion me by bringing up the bickering that’s always a hallmark of the first week – it’s enough to make me cry. Happy last day!

Little Updates

I sent a kid to school today with a lunch of chips, cookies, two pepperoni sticks, and a banana. When does school end, again?

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The kids have discovered a croquet set that has been languishing in the basement, unloved, lo these twenty years. Suddenly it’s croquet in the backyard all day, every day. I feel like I’m living in the English countryside. Or possibly the movie Heathers.

The Captain insists on always being red. Should I book him some therapy? Shiver.

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We’re off to see a FIFA game this Saturday. We just thought it would be kind of cool, since it’s a world event and everything, right in our home city. Little did we realize that our city has done everything possible to prevent us from attending, including a) only scheduling matches in the evening, b) not allowing ANY cars to park at the stadium, but instead bringing in people by transit only, and c) scheduling the girls’ end of year piano concert at exactly the same time as this ONE game we were able to attend. Kay, maybe the city didn’t have much to do with that last one, but it does feel like fate is against us.

However, after dithering and possibly giving up several times, we have been saved by my sister FameThrowa and her delightful husband, Mr. Chatty, who will be a) taking the one cranky child who refused to attend off our hands (eleven – it’s a CHALLENGING year), b) dropping us off at the stadium after we drop off our kid, and c) generally being awesome and supportive. We’ve also made arrangements to steal parking from MyFriendAgi, who lives in the neighbourhood, because we have to take two cars due to piano concert issues.

You can’t foil us, FIFA! We’re coming for you, no matter what hell you may throw our way. Prediction: sunburns, boredom, possible starvation as the game is over the dinner hour. FUN!

Summertime, And The Livin’ Is Easy

Just 10 more days of school left here, not counting today, and the kids are getting pretty wound up. Report card marks are in already, the two girls both have one more project due Monday but the Captain hasn’t seen any homework for weeks. Freedom is so close now, we can taste it.

So that means it’s time to start thinking about: Summer of Awesome plans!

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We have an exciting new development on the Summer of Awesome front: the Captain is now 12. He’s been left at home alone for short periods of time now with success, and that means I can now take the girls to smaller locations like the park without him complaining. Which is AWESOME. Although to be fair, his past crankiness about family participation seems to be fading – MyFriendJen says it’s an age 11 thing and that does seem to fit, as Gal Smiley (age 10 3/4) has crankiness on the rise. Sigh.

The Captain has also, by the way, and I can’t believe I’m even typing this, expressed interest in babysitting his sisters or otherwise taking responsibility for them for short periods of time during the day, and that’s just WOW. WOW. A level of freedom I cannot even imagine. We’ll see what happens there.

Anyway! Summer plans! Of course, our major setpiece this summer is our trip out to Calgary/Banff/Jasper. I’ve been planning up a storm, packing lists, grocery lists, addresses of everywhere under the sun. I’ve been prebooking tours and tickets and such and I think we are almost ready to go. It’s weird, a few years ago when we went out to PEI it seemed like everyone we knew was also going, other kids from school and neighbours and bloggers. And now that we’re off to Alberta, seems everyone we know will be joining us there, too. We are trendsetters! Or follow-the-crowd sheep! One or the other.

We have fewer weeks in town this year to explore, but there’s still a lot of stuff on our list. I’m planning a lot of outdoor stuff this year, and I’m worried it won’t compare with the majesty of the Rockies, but I guess we’ll just have to wait and see. Here’s what’s on our hit list:

  • National Art Gallery – to see the Chagall and Coville exhibits
  • Mooney’s Bay beach, plus a side trip to Hog’s Back Falls – we have actually never been here before!
  • Karter’s Korner – my middle child swears she’s tall enough to ride the go karts on her own this year…we’ll see.
  • Museum of Aviation – all three of my kids went there for a field trip this Spring, and want to go back. I have to say, the Science Museum being out of commission has really been a boon to the Aviation Museum, which picked up a lot of their programming and publicity.
  • War Museum – we’ve never been before and I have passes I picked up at a Silent Auction this winter.
  • Mont Cascades water park – an annual favourite
  • xTreme Trampoline Park – oh, how my children beg and beg to go there every weekend. I’m sure we’ll go more than once.
  • Bate Island – best in the late summer when the water levels go down – or perhaps we will combine this with the Remic Rapids rock balancing event, which is usually on the August long weekend.
  • Gatineau Park – here I am ashamed, ASHAMED, to admit that we have never, ever been to the park. It’s practically criminal. I intend to remedy that this summer with at least two visits – one up to the lookout for a little hike, and one to the Mackenzie King estate to have a poke around.
  • Puppets Up! festival in Almonte – I SAY we’ll go every year, and we never seem to make it. Putting it on the list again this year.
  • Company of Fools Shakespeare in the Park performance – we took the kids last year and it was, surprisingly, a huge hit. This year it’s the Comedy of Errors, always a guaranteed laugh.
  • Upper Canada Village – my kids loved it there last year and although we spent the day we didn’t even get to see it all, so we plan to head back…although I have also heard amazing things about the Cumberland Village Museum in the east end, which is about the same distance drive for us…so I’ll call it between the two when we get to that point on the calendar.
  • Eco Odysee – this is a nature reserve out in Wakefield where you can take a paddle boat around a maze and learn fun facts about nature. I wrote about it for SavvyMom just last week. Bonus – the Wakefield covered bridge is along the way, you’ll go right by it, so stop by for a quick poke around.
  • Parc Omega – have never been. I know, CRIMINAL.
  • Bowling – sometimes the old favourites are favourites for a reason – the kids have been asking and this is a great activity for a rainy day when I don’t have much energy for a big adventure.
  • Park tour – I keep hearing amazing things about the play structures and greenhouse in Brewer Park, so we might go out of our way to check it out; I’m also curious about Strathcona Park which I hear has a nice wading pool. This is likely something I’ll just do with the girls.
  • Statue Tour – Of sketchy appeal to children, I know, but I looooove statues, and I’ve been collecting a cool list of awesome ones in Ottawa, and I’d love nothing better than to spend the day on an Amazing Race style tour of the city looking at them all. I’d have to really sell it, though – we’ll see.

It’s going to be AWESOME.

Want to make your own list? Check my epic list of What To Do In Summer In Ottawa and plan your own Summer of Awesome – and you can also sign up for my weekly newsletter to hear about special events happening that week in town. Here’s this week’s newsletter if you’d like to see what you’d be signing up for.

An Apology, 30 Years Later

Dear Mom,

It will probably amuse you to hear that I now have children who:

  • Take FOREVER to eat a meal;
  • Dance their way to and from school when you just need them to get there already;
  • Have been caught reading when they are supposed to be getting dressed/eating breakfast/doing homework;
  • Cannot find their way to the park despite having being there 1000 times, and it being three streets from our house;
  • Leave their shoes and coat wherever they feel like it upon entering the house;
  • Hate the feel of grass on their bare feet, and avoid the outdoors in general;
  • Hate the feel of grass on their feet, and avoid the outdoors in general;
  • and make me listen to top 40 crap in the car.

So now I say to you: sorry about all that.

Lynn

Generation Gap

The other day I caught an episode of Fresh Prince of Bel-Air on Much Music, because I was looking for something family-friendly to put on while I made dinner. The kids wandered in halfway through and actually recognized Alfonzo Ribeiro, who played Carlton on that show. In fact, in their world, Alfonso is a pretty big star, because he won Dancing With The Stars last year, and made a couple of guest appearances on the show this season as the returning champ. Plus, he’s the host of a cheesy game show called Catch 21 which I have been known to watch, because I am the hugest game show slut in the world, AND he was recently announced (on DWTS no less) as the new host of Gal Smiley’s favourite show, America’s Funniest Videos.

So yeah, they knew who Alfonso was.

This particular episode featured the aunt and uncle returning to the set of Soul Train, a dance show, where they got engaged 25 years ago, and as a result of the parents angle and the dancing angle, Carlton had a huge storyline and a 10 minute dance solo at the end. I tried to explain that Alfonso was not, in fact, the star of this show, but rather that other guy in the too-big pants and backwards ball cap, but they did not actually believe me.

Then, yesterday, they were watching a Disney teen show – A.N.T. Farm – and the girl on there mentioned how she’d love to meet Will Smith, and the Captain said, “Who the heck is Will Smith, anyway?”

Who would have guessed back in 1992 that the Fresh Prince would have to step aside for Carlton in the next generation? It’s like I don’t know the world AT ALL.

Milestones

Last week, assorted kids and I got a ride home from a soccer game with a neighbour of mine. As everyone was piling in, he asked if the kids could all buckle themselves up and I realized, yes they can.

I am living the dream!

I used to have three kids all in five-point harnesses and I used to fantasize, EXTENSIVELY, about the day when I’d say, “Let’s go!” and I’d put on my shoes, grab my purse, head out to the van, get behind the driver’s wheel, and then just drive away – with everyone else having put on their own shoes, and opened the car doors themselves, climbed in, and buckled themselves up.

I gotta tell you, it seemed like crazy science fiction at the time, and yet now here we are, at exactly that point – only one booster seat remains – and trust me, I am GRATEFUL.

The next milestone, I think, will be when everyone is tall enough to reach dishes in the kitchen on their own. We have a small pile of cereal bowls at kid-level since our oldest became a preschooler, but I didn’t want to move all the plates and cups and everything into a low cabinet because that was just weird. We’re now at a point where the Captain and Gal Smiley can, just barely, reach things on the lowest shelf, meaning they can get their own cups of juice and plates for toast and what have you. The Captain can even, just with his fingertips, load and unload things from our above-stove microwave.

The Little Miss is our holdout, but she does do her best – she’s recently figured out how to jump up and pull herself onto the counter so she can get her own stuff, and again, I am grateful for the independence, and she likes Taking Care Of Business and also Being Really Helpful. But still, it seems like she is always sprawled bodily all over the freakin’ counter exactly when I am rushing about trying to make lunches or throw together dinner, plus I don’t know how many times she has whacked herself on the head while trying to open a cupboard that she’s sitting in front of, so yeah, it’s a work in progress, that’s for sure.

Really looking forward to the day when I can tell the kids to just set the table, or get their own snack, and anyone who is around will be able to reach whatever they need.

But until then, pretty stoked about the car thing.

Keep It Positive

It’s almost the end of the school year – the Little Miss brought home a note this week saying it will be the last week of homework and spelling practice, which was mind blowing and exciting and impossibly soon, all at once. At this time of year my thoughts turn to teacher gifts.

I am the queen of the gift card, but I also give each teacher a hand-written note, because I have read multiple times online that teachers really appreciate a personal note of thanks, and between you and me, I ROCK a good thank-you note. I find there is always something specifically positive to say and I’m quite happy to have the chance to let the kids’ teachers know how awesome they are. This year, for possibly the first time ever, one of my kids has a teacher who they are not exactly fond of, but even then, I think just getting up every morning to face a classroom full of kids is a heroic task, so I’m sure I will be able to find something cheerful to write about. Keep it positive, that’s kind of my life mantra.

Gal Smiley this year has one teacher, Mrs. P, who is legendary for her awesomeness. She’s super enthusiastic and energetic, and she’s a great teacher of the basics, too. Most of all, though, she really cares about the kids – she unfortunately missed a couple of months this year due to a medical issue and the day she came back, kid after kid literally came running out of the school shouting, “MRS P IS BACK” to their parents. Writing her thank-you note is going to be a breeze.

One of the things that makes her so great is that she personally emails the parents of kids in her class all the time. Just little notes, but always something positive. I often get, “Gal Smiley had a great day today! She is a delight to have in class!”, but sometimes more specific stuff, like “Gal Smiley did awesome on her math test! Yay!” or “Gal Smiley has really improved in her reading level, awesome!”. I know she is definitely looking to say something positive about every kid, but it’s still very sweet and reassuring to feel like hey, someone at the school NOTICED my child and CARED.

I got one of these emails this week, which was nice, and while I was riding that high, I had breakfast with a few of the other moms from the school, moms I know well and have known for years. We talked of many things, but one short conversation involved one particular boy who has had run-ins with a few of the kids represented at the breakfast, and, who, it seems, is getting a bit of a reputation as a bully. I know the family at an acquaintance level and they seem perfectly nice and so I was surprised, but I guess you just never know.

I’ve been turning over these two incidents in my mind, though, ever since, because I was wondering: do you think this boy’s parents actually know? I mean, do they know their son is rough sometimes, or hurts feelings with insults? Or do they just hear from him that he had a good day at school with his buddies (“cronies”, from other points of view), and then they get cheerful emails from the ever-positive Mrs. P that say he had a great! day and is doing awesome! – and that, for them is the end of the story?

Suddenly I had a good, long look at my own kids, and possibly for the first time ever I thought of them being thought about by third-party adults, not just their teachers, but the parents of their friends, and parents of their enemies. Have my kids ever been mean? Has another child gone home to their parent, complaining that one of my own called them a name, or excluded them from a game? Something my own kid considered a passing moment, not worth mentioning – or possibly worth hiding – and yet, such a big thing in the life of another?

Are my kids secret bullies? I mean, it’s possible, don’t you think? How much of their social interactions do you really know about? What kind of real, schoolyard reputations do your kids have?

I wonder. At first I was thinking, I wish someone would tell me. Then I thought, maybe I don’t want to know. Keep it positive, that’s my mantra. My kids are a delight! to have in class. Cling to that.

But as a parent, it’s kind of important to me not to raise any little jerks. So if my kids actually ARE jerks – yeah, fill me in.