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?

The Joy of Being Sad

I was listening to Q on the CBC yesterday, and they had a performance artist on there from Iceland who recently did an installation where the band The National played their song “Sorrow” over and over again, live, for six hours. The host asked the artist why he was drawn to such a sad song, and he said it actually made him feel happy – that the song had more of a feeling of melancholia, and that melancholy is the “joy of being sad.”

It’s been a cold, bleak January, but sometimes it’s kind of nice to hibernate with big fluffy socks on and your sixth cup of tea and rosy red cheeks, and wallow in the joy of being sad, don’t you think? July and August leave no time for wallowing. Sometimes I just need a good wallow.

The Existential Puzzler

After we all had a lot of fun at my mom’s house doing a puzzle over the holidays, my mom gave me two old puzzles that were mine as a kid, both featuring teddy bears (a major motif in my preteen life). One was 500 pieces, and I did it over a couple of days after New Year’s with the Little Miss (the only other puzzler in the house).

The other was 1000 pieces and I wasn’t sure I needed yet another project on the go, but I still dumped it out last week and started to work on it. It was a picture of a kitten in a basket of bears so 90% of it was fuzzy grey-brown-beige type pieces.

On the weekend, I finished it!

puzzle1 (Small)

Lovely, isn’t it? Oh, what’s that you say? Something doesn’t look quite right?

puzzle3 (Small)

puzzle2 (Small)

That’s right – 1000 pieces later, it turns out it’s missing not one, but two pieces. GROWL.

I was going to write a deep, existential post here about how My Life Is A Puzzle That Is Missing Two Pieces, or even take it broader, to Parenting Is A Puzzle That Is Missing Two Pieces, or hell, go whole hog to We Are All Puzzles Missing Two Pieces.

But I pulled it together (you’re welcome), because it’s really just a puzzle that’s missing two pieces, nothing special.

Now, here’s the rub. Should I keep it? Or should I throw it out?

I can’t give it away, that’d be mean. I found it aggravating in the first place as it’s a hard puzzle, but also extra aggravating that once I realized pieces were missing, it became annoying to look for a specific piece, wondering if it was really there or not.

But I did still feel accomplished at the end of it. And I really hate just throwing stuff away.

I guess the real question is, will I ever do this puzzle again (especially once I take a sharpie to the front and write “MISSING TWO PIECES” on it)? I’m not sure.

What would you do, you lovely puzzles who are well worth keeping, no matter how many pieces you’re missing?

Word of the Year

I don’t feel any obligation to make New Year’s resolutions, but it is a good time to just kind of take a good look at the way things are going and think about anything you might want to get done that isn’t already getting done. So sometimes I make a resolution, and I usually keep it (unless it involves exercise/weight loss, which is a pie crust promise, easily made, easily broken), but sometimes I don’t.

This year I don’t so much have a specific resolution as a general plan to get my writing goals in order, and make stuff happen. That means figuring out what I want to do, and then doing it. It sounds so simple, doesn’t it? SIGH.

So in addition to my regular writing gigs, and the website design business which is still chugging along, and DEAR LORD, my vow to paint this house and hang up some artwork if it KILLS ME (which it might), I would also like to:

  • take some writing classes
  • enter some writing contests
  • finish a large creative writing project I have been working on
  • gather my blog posts and columns from the past two years into a Blurb book (a softball goal, as I’m 90% done this already)

It seems kind of silly to me to actually write this stuff down, and I can’t explain why I actually feel kind of embarrassed to have writerly goals or to hold myself out as a “writer,” like, you can’t be a real writer unless someone else says you are. But I think if I don’t actually put it down in this blog I just won’t do it, so I’m creating my own accountability here.

Also, I’ve seen people do this – pick a “word of the year” and it never spoke to me before, but this year I do have a word to live by, and it’s this:

create4

Make it so.

Micro Blogging the Holidays

Well, hello there! You take a break from the blog for a couple of weeks, and they go and start a whole new year on you. Happy 2015!

I had lots of ideas for blogging over the holidays, but it just seemed so much easier to roll over on the couch, grab yet another cookie, and then continue reading Bossypants on my Kindle. Needless to say, it was a good break. But now, I will capture as many of those vitally-important social commentary notes as I can remember through the butter-and-sugar-filled haze, as I have been reading a few non-fiction family histories lately and suddenly it seems key that I record every single thing we did. Future generations will want to know!

Christmas Eve Shopping. About 15 years ago, when I was a young newlywed, my husband and I were packing up to visit the folks on Christmas Eve, and I decided I needed some slippers to take with me. So we went to the mall, and it took us an hour to get into the parking lot and find a spot, 15 minutes to buy slippers, then an hour and a half to exit the parking lot. Thus began my ban on shopping in December.

This year, however, we found ourselves in a similar last minute situation when the zipper on the Little Miss’ coat showed signs of failure, and we were just about to leave for a week’s worth of visits to Southern Ontario. So on December 24 we went out early and managed to score her a new coat at the MEC for half price, and it was surprisingly quiet and civilized. So we dared to brave the mall – Gal Smiley had lost her hat – and were in and out of the Sports Experts in less than half an hour total. Amazing.

Later that day I was driving past the Chapters and after the success of the morning, thought I’d pop in to pick up the Captain the next book in the series he is reading, for the trip, and it was a MADHOUSE. I can understand people having to run out to pick up just one or two last things on Christmas Eve, but I am amazed, AMAZED, at the people in there who had armfuls and armfuls of stuff. Who were spending like, $200 or more. Isn’t that like, ALL their shopping? On the very last possible day? How do these people SURVIVE without lists and planning? It just doesn’t seem possible.

Anyway, we managed to get the book but I can’t say my views on December 24 shopping have been reformed.

Christmas Eve Movies. We went to the movies on the afternoon of December 24 and it was delightful – not too crowded and a nice way to while away the afternoon. Often we do a museum or something but everyone was a little sick, so this was all we could handle. The boys went to see The Hobbit (mini-review: Sir Monkeypants feels it was OVERPADDED and UNNECESSARY and should have STUCK TO THE BOOK, it is his own personal Little Mermaid, which often elicits a rant from me about how EVERYONE IS SUPPOSED TO DIE AT THE END, STUPID DISNEY); I took the girls to see Annie (mini-review: absolutely delightful first 3/4, totally blown ending, GAH).

Anyway, this may become a new tradition.

Christmas Travel. For possibly the first time ever, no one got really sick while we were away – a few sniffly noses, a dry cough on the Little Miss, that was it. A CHRISTMAS MIRACLE.

Despite this, however, both Sir Monkeypants and I sheepishly admitted to each other on the drive home that we are both kind of tired of travelling for the holidays. We definitely want to see the people. It definitely will not feel like Christmas if we don’t see the people. And frankly, I’m not sure how I would ever live with the crushing guilt of not seeing the people. But having to pack up everything on Christmas Day, then drive on Boxing Day, and sleep in strange beds, arriving home tired with most of the break gone – getting old. Adding to the ennui is the fact that we repeat this same trip for every single March Break, Thanksgiving, and half of Sir Monkeypants’ summer vacation, leaving only one week each year for us to vacation without visiting family. HMMMMM. Not that we have any immediate plans to change things, but the thought of possibly, one day, changing the system, is there.

Do you visit your families in a sleepover/travel kind of way at Christmas? Every year? What’s your plan? I’m curious.

New Year’s Eve. Every year for New Year’s we make it a point to be home, and have cheese fondue (shout out to my friend Erica, who started me on the cheese fondue tradition back in high school, and whose family recipe I still use today). The Captain is milk-allergic, however, so this year we added a broth fondue at the other end of the table (shout out to my friend RheostaticsFan, who introduced us to the whole broth fondue concept earlier this year). It was awesome, and then later that night we had a chocolate fondue too, and it was awesome, and lo, a new tradition is born.

Funny story: Gal Smiley played “Auld Lang Syne” for her Christmas piano recital this year, which led to a discussion of New Year’s Eve, and all three of my children were shocked, SHOCKED, to find out that some people stay up until midnight to welcome in the new year. Like, they had NO idea this was a thing, it was not even on their radar as a holiday of any kind.

So of course this year, they all swore they’d stay up for it, but we were mean parents and put them to bed later-than-usual but still within-sanity-limits. After the little one was in bed, I watched Guardians of the Galaxy with the older two (mini-review: Oh boy did I LAUGH AND LAUGH, thought it was the perfect fluffy fun. Recommended!).

Puzzles. While at my mom’s house, I got out a 500 piece puzzle I found downstairs, and it was so fabulous – a kitty puzzle shaped like a kitty, containing several individual pieces shaped like kitties! Behold:

100_0731

Photo courtesy of Gal Smiley.

The whole extended family worked on it together and it took all day, and was a major accomplishment. It reminded me how much I like to do puzzles. Resolved: do more puzzles in 2015.

And that brings us to this new year, full of hope and promise and renewed energy. I have so much to say about my plans – BIG PLANS – for 2015, but that’s for another day. In the meantime, stay warm – it’s way nippy out there – and hope your return to the routine was a little less painful than mine (JESUS, 6 a.m. comes EARLY, especially when you’re all out of cookies).

What I Baked

So far this week, I have made:

Two dozen chocolate chip cookies and three dozen mini cupcakes for the Girl Guide Christmas party;

Peppermint bark and Nicole’s Vegan Fudge for the Brownies Christmas party;

More peppermint bark and more fudge for the Christmas Piano Recital;

Two dozen chocolate chip cookies for one kid’s school Christmas party;

Two dozen shortbread cookies for another kid’s school Christmas party;

14 dozen more cookies – coconut, snickerdoodles, crackles, chocolate chip, shortbread with cherries, shortbread without cherries, soft molasses – for the mixed cookie boxes we take to all the houses and relatives we visit over the holidays

Still to come: sugar cookie shapes, dough currently chilling in the fridge.

I list this all out not to show you how totally awesome Martha Stewart I am, but rather to show you how COMPLETELY STUPID I am.

I was having coffee with some of the other School Moms on Tuesday and we were talking about how we KNOW we should do less at Christmas, how everyone tells us to just sit down already with a cup of tea, how unimportant it all is, and yet we cannot stop ourselves. Why is that?

I hear a lot of talk about the pressure to create the perfect Christmas, but I don’t think that’s it, at least not for me. I do a lot of baking so that my kids always have safe treats to eat when we’re at an event or someone else’s house, but I do not believe they really need 10 different kinds of cookie to choose from. I send Christmas cards but I think the vast majority of my list would be just as happy with an email. I decorate the house but my husband would be just as happy with paper snowflakes taped to the walls and a wreath on the door.

Here’s the real problem: I love it.

I love the baking, I love the many kinds of cookies, I love the cherries and the coconut and the chocolate. I love the way my nephews get excited to see what’s in the cookie box we brought, and delight in trying each kind (that kind of praise is like crack cocaine to the under-appreciated stay-at-home mom, trust me). I love the way the mantle looks with greenery on it, I love the way our family newsletter comes together as a perfect little snapshot of our year. I love Christmas carols and Christmas movies and Christmas specials and I want to play them ALL, at least once, every single year.

I suppose the pressure to create a perfect Christmas, then, is the pressure to create the perfect Christmas for ME. To feel like I have done everything I would want to do for a perfect Christmas, every single year. To feel like life could not possibly BE any more Christmassy.

And on the plus side, it doesn’t quite feel like too much yet, it doesn’t quite add up to more than I can handle – yet – but it’s riiiight on the very edge. I’m tired (did I mention also sick?) and more than anything this Christmas, I need to give myself permission to sit the heck down with a cup of tea. I need to believe that Christmas isn’t about the cookies, or the cards, or the shopping, even though all that stuff makes me really happy.

I need to just take a moment to breathe it all in. Christmas is about peace, too – remember that, Lynn.

Emergency Potato Update!

So Amy left a comment on Friday’s post about the Tiny Potato Who Believes You Can Do The Thing, that she wanted to make a poster out of it. And I thought, BRILLIANT, I will do exactly that for my children! So I went to Google and searched for “tiny potato” images, and the very first hit was this:

potato

Taken from cerealz on imgur.

More searching revealed there is a whole Tiny Potato meme, as well as further sayings and art – you can see the whole collection here on We ♥ It.

None of these seem to be the original creators, though. Tiny Potato – still a mystery, but now a much, much bigger mystery.

Edited to add:

There’s more! Apparently the potato version is a modification to the original picture, which made the rounds about 8 months ago as a tiny cactus:

cactus

Taken from HotMeme.net, but I believe the original was posted to Reddit on their “Daily Inspiration” board.

The potato version seems to have been made as a take-off by potato-obsessed Emily of Emily’s Diary – see her Tumblr for all kinds of potato art.

Sherlock Holmes would be SO PROUD of me. Elementary, my dear Watson!