My March column for Capital Parent is up now over on their site, about our recent trip to an Ottawa 67s hockey game. See you over there!
I had another Tooth Fairy Fail on the weekend. Little Miss Sunshine lost her second tooth ever and we had the usual Comedy of Errors dealing with the fallout. How is it that I can be so uberorganized that I start my Christmas shopping in February, yet I cannot remember to be the freakin’ Tooth Fairy? Sigh.
Even if I had remembered, there was going to be a problem, because she insisted on putting it under her pillow. With the other two, we convinced them that the Tooth Fairy prefers the easy access of a bedside table. Gal Smiley has taken that even farther, and introduced this new thing, learned from a friend in her class, where you leave the tooth in a glass of water in the bathroom, then in the morning the water has been magically tinted to be the “colour” of your personal tooth fairy’s wings. I have to admit I was rather bitter about the whole adding on of even more traditions in association with this ridiculous process of buying your way into being able to throw away your child’s gross bloody tooth, instead of finding them gathered years later in a special tin like some sort of serial killer’s trophy box. But now I see the beauty, because a cup in the bathroom is a lot easier to deal with in a rush at 6:30 in the morning when you wake up and realize you have forgotten, AGAIN. Tip: keep your food colouring in the medicine cabinet.
So anyway, the Little Miss was all into the pillow thing and could not be dissuaded, and furthermore, she wanted to put JUST THE TOOTH under there, and I had visions of myself trying to slip my hand under her pillow without waking her while groping around for a tiny white speck the size of a few grains of sand, and it just seemed like it was unlikely to end successfully. Eventually I convinced her that the tooth might get lost, so she should put it in a tiny plastic box specifically for this purpose, given to her by our dentist.
So the tooth went under the pillow in the orange plastic box, and I went and watched some Jeopardy and then went to bed, merrily forgetting all about it. Then, as has happened about 17 times in the past, I happily snuggled in the warm covers for three minutes after the alarm went off before remembering, and then flew out of bed softly swearing under my breath about the TOOTH FAIRY DAMMIT.
She was already up and playing in her room but we guessed that she had possibly forgotten all about it, so Sir Monkeypants and I swung into Mission Impossible mode. He sent her to the bathroom, and while she was trapped on the potty he asked her through the door what had happened with her tooth and she said she’d forgotten to check. SCORE. So I ran downstairs and got a toonie, ran upstairs and put the money under her pillow, found the orange box, freaked out for a minute because I could not open the box, STUPID PLASTIC CLASPS, and then finally got it open and by some miracle the tooth did NOT go flying across the room, so I slipped the tooth into my robe pocket and fled the scene.
Five seconds later she came out and found her money was all amazed and ran to show us, and we were like, WOW, that’s so cool! How did she do it? AMAZING.
I’m thinking I’ll just give the older two a flat $20 and we’ll call it even for all tooth-related incidents going forward. Do you think it’s bad parenting to tell the youngest that the tooth fairy has died, and has bequeathed her the same lump sum? Not at all, right?
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.
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.
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.
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:
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:
Best. Gift. Ever. The girls and I have been BUSY. Do you wanna build a snowman?
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?
Little Miss: What will they do with his report card if he doesn’t come?
Me: They’ll probably throw it out.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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?