Friday, December 22, 2017


"I'm like a vault, baby; locked down."
- Will Smith, Hitch

Kids love keeping exciting secrets, like others' Christmas presents. Well, all except actually keeping the secret.

When I was a small child at Christmas, my dad came home and I immediately announced that I couldn't tell him what his present was, 'cause it was PURPLE SLIPPERS WITH NO FLOWERS ON THEM.
Sorry, Ma.

Fast forward to the new generation. I brought the boys to help buy a present for their dad. Spoiler: it's a thermos with a cup on top. (I daresay *I* didn't spoil it, though).

So we're at Canadian Tire and the kids are giddy with delight at being in on this clandestine operation (cue Mission: Impossible music). They were a great help, though I had to steer them away from the idea that a Bubba Keg-sized thermos would be an EXTRA great surprise.

On the way home, the car is full of adrenaline as the kids clutch the purchase and discuss the best hiding spot, which cannot be somewhere boring like in a drawer because Dad might just get a new and sudden urge to root through random drawers, and we can't risk that.

Dad won't be home for 2 hours, but time is of the essence. We gotta get this thing in the house, or all will be lost.

So because buzzkill Mom won't get out the ladder for them to climb to the attic, they decide on a drawer, but to be doubly sure that Dad doesn't stumble upon it in his random drawer-snooping activities, they make a big sign with his face with a line through it. There.

Now all they need to do is keep it secret for 2 weeks.

(Later that day: )

*sigh* Like a vault, baby. Locked down.

Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 06, 2017

First Date Problems

Anytime someone tells me, "I hate driving in downtown Ottawa", I tell them the story of Hubs' and my first date, 11 years ago this week.

I was living and working five hours north of the city in Val-d'Or, smallish-town Quebec. But I got down to Ottawa often, to see family and such. Therefore, it wasn't such a stretch on a Christmas-shopping-in-the-city visit to agree to a coffee date with that handsome French-Canadian computer scientist I met online. (We'd see if he was really 6' tall like he claimed... )

I was supposed to meet him at  a coffee shop in the Byward Market. I was not familiar with downtown and neither of us owned a cell phone, but I was armed with a Mapquest printout and a plan to swoop into the market, find a close parking spot, and show up all cool and collected at the coffee shop for 3:00 p.m.

Ottawa's roads had other plans for this out-of-town chump.

Sure, it's not the white-knuckled insanity of, say, Montreal, so don't roll your eyes too hard... but you really need to know what lanes go where, what lanes end, and where you can turn or not, and there are a lot of surprises for anyone not familiar with the routine.
For instance, you're heading north along Nicholas, thinking "I'll just keep straight, here in my right lane, and turn right on Rideau", and then the street's all "LOL NOPE" when your lane suddenly ends and you're exiting on some random side street instead.

So anyway, on that day in '06, things were not going well.

Yeah, I ended up pretty far from where I was trying to be.

Hubs told me that he figured he was being stood up (those online dates are so flaky) and was about to leave. Just then I burst in, 20 minutes late, all red-faced after power-walking four blocks. Whew! Future saved. Kids reappearing in the photo. So much for a dignified entry, though.

He offered me some of his ginger cookie, but I was too busy being embarrassed to take any. It was overall a pretty good date though.

I know the downtown pretty well now, having lived here ten years (you'd hope). It's a lot easier when you know what lane you'll need to be in and what roads can be taken where, but every so often in a new area Hubs or I find ourselves up against a traffic surprise and taking an unintended scenic route. It's those times I turn to him and say, "See? THAT'S why I was late."

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Rowdy. You Don't Say

I'm not a fan of those "open letter" posts, where the person does nothing in the moment, but then goes home and rants online like they're all tough and making a difference. 

But if I were the type to write an open letter-style post, it might be titled something like this:


Before we visit people or have guests over, we often have a chat with the kids about what it means to be a good guest or a good host, and the kids are all set to rise to the occasion. 

But then the evening starts.

It's great when family and friends take interest in the kids and take time to connect with them. I love that, and so do the kids. 
Sometimes there's extreme connecting, in ways they know kids will enjoy: goofy jokes, wrestling, tickle fights, flips over the shoulder and all-around rowdies. Good times had by all, no arguments there. Shrieking good times. 

DISCLAIMER: Cartoon does not depict real-life friend or family member. The kids are more or less real though.

But then! Then the family member or friend decides he or she has had enough for now and is ready to settle in interact with adults.

But the kids don't get that memo. They're SENT the memo, several memos, in fact, but they're so worked up by the attention, the new audience, the new person to find their antics funny, that they're not quite done with shenanigans.

That includes jokes that were funny half an hour ago, especially wink-wink ones that are out of the normal range of appropriateness. I hope you're ready to hear that fart machine until well past 7 if you bring it out for some giggles at 5, because jokes don't get old for kids. On the contrary! 

So here I am, wrangling them like greased pigs to send them out in the yard to do some laps because the adults would like to have time to talk about something other than butts for a while.

And THEN I come back in all dishevelled and the aforementioned friend or family member is swirling their wine and remarking:

NEED I REMIND YOU, I'd say in all caps in my open letter, that you are the one who got them all wound up and then retired to the living room to let me peel them off the ceiling at my leisure!

I mean, all I'm saying is, thanks for being so fun, but if you're going to be a human rodeo, don't make sideways 'kids these days" eyes at me ten minutes later while you're trying to drink your wine in peace.   

Monday, October 09, 2017

Groovy Joe: Dance Party Countdown

Groovy Joe is back!

I just got my copy of the latest installment from #1 best-selling author Eric Litwin, of the early Pete the Cat and the Nut Family fame. This one is called Groovy Joe: Dance Party Countdown.

I get to review Litwin's books as one of his Groovy Bloggers. This is the second Groovy Joe book, following Groovy Joe: Ice Cream and Dinosaurs.
(That's a lot of Groovy)

I didn't draw this one. This is by Tom Lichtenheld

The new book follows the familiar format of the previous Litwin books: the character is enjoying life through song, then encounters some sort of adversity (in this case, new dogs keep showing up at the door to party when he doesn't have much room left--oh, no!). There's a moment where we wonder if this adversity will ruin the day... but, Goodness no! The character shows a positive/generous outlook and keeps on walking along/singing/dancing. The predictable style makes it easy for kids to get into right away, and easy for them to pick up later and read out loud to themselves (even if they're not quite reading yet).

As always, the new story includes the elements that draw kids in; music, rhyme, repetition, call-and-response and even a bit of math reminiscent of Pete the Cat's Groovy Buttons book. How many dogs are there now, we're asked? And, of course, Groovy Joe is a kind fella who welcomes anyone who wants to join the party, which is a positive message for kids, too.

This time, the book includes the format of knock-knock jokes, which is right up a kid's alley.
Knock Knock.
Who's there?
One who?
One more dog is going to disco with you.

DISCO PARTY! BOW WOW! (Come on, you're not too dignified to belt it out)

As always, one of the first things I do (and recommend) is look up the story online so we can hear the accompanying performance and get the full experience. There are also live retellings on YouTube. Litwin's books are essentially live performances in book form (and he does give a fun live performance. Come back to Canada, Mr. Eric!).

Not necessarily recommended as a bedtime book, for obvious reasons. But if I were still teaching Kindergarten, no doubt it would be in my collection. 

Tuesday, September 12, 2017


Quick! What's your favourite number?

Don't have one? Well, you'd better get one, if you think you'll be spending any time around kids.
Kids have favourites, and they expect you to as well. Sometimes it's a rank of favourites with careful deliberation, discussed over an afternoon of Perler Beads.

The kids lit up when I interviewed them for this comic.

If you ask, they'll likely have an explanation of why the goat was bumped from fifth place. Maybe there was an unfortunate encounter at the last farm visit. Or maybe someone learned a cool chicken fact that earned chicken a spot in the coveted top five.

I've been held captive at a dinner at East Side Mario's where the kids were having us guess their favourite numbers. Oh man, CHECK PLEASE. (Also, I call BS because I think they were making them up as they went along.)

Kids also don't like it if you don't have a favourite of something. It won't do. Everyone must have a favourite number or colour or dinosaur, and "I don't have one" or "I like many Minecraft Biomes!" are not answers.

I was roped into that, too, regarding favourite animals. Big Bro loves sheep and Little Bro loves owls, to the point that it's part of their identity. So here I am, some lame adult trying to get across that I like lots of animals-- some animals as a pet, others because they're beautiful and others because they're helpful or fascinating...


Alright, alright. So I got cornered into choosing ... uh... the panda, sure, why not, it is kind of interesting and nice to look at. But now that I've said it out loud, they think I'm some sort of big panda fanatic who can't get enough of all things panda.

"Here, Mama, I drew you another panda 'cause you love pandas."
"This is my mom. SHE LOVES PANDAS."
"Whoa, Mama! This store sells panda costumes! I bet you're happy now!"

Is it too late to change my answer?

Thursday, August 03, 2017

Ixnay on the InecraftMay

My son's gotten into Minecraft the past few months. Though it is a simple premise, there is a lot to say about the game, and like any kid who's ever been "Into Minecraft," he is more than willing to tell you about ALL THE THINGS.

I appreciate and encourage the enthusiasm he has for all his interests. But also, if you come to visit me and want to have a chance to talk to me at all, DON'T ASK MY SON ABOUT MINECRAFT.

Monday, July 03, 2017

Mom's Dated References

Ice, Ice, Baby came on the radio during one of their Throwback moments, so naturally as a former teen of the '90s who would never turn down an opportunity for nostalgia (grade 7 dance flashbacks!), I cranked it and got my Running Man going. I'm right in the middle of waxing chumps like a candle and Big Bro moseys in and goes, "Um, are you supposed to dance to this, or what?"

Young whippersnapper. Let's see YOU cook MCs like a pound of bacon, whatever that means. 

Sometimes it hits me that my kids didn't exist in the '80s, '90s and even the '00s (!!) so they don't get my dated pop cultural references. Remember when we played Banana Phone and they didn't even know the proper way to answer "Who ya gonna call"? No wonder I need adult contact sometimes!

Disclaimer: I was never under the illusion I was cool, so let's just establish that. And also I do try to stay current on many things (I learned what dabbing was before 2016 was over! After Betty White, my sister reminds me, but Betty White was always cool and probably has people to keep her in the know).
But my kids remind me how dated some of my go-tos are. And how often I use them. And how for some most of them, you probably had to be there.

Take The Simpsons, for instance. My brother returned to university as a mid-30s mature student and discovered that his young adult classmates think of the Simpsons vaguely as "that show with the woman with the blue hair" (note to self: don't try to connect with teens via Simpsons quotes). When my friends and I were teens and young adults, though (when the show was good), everything had a related Simpsons quote. You could tell a friend that what they just said was a load of rich, creamery butter, and everyone would know exactly what you were talking about, amirite? So good. 
Wait, maybe I WAS cool after all. 

So of course, my kids at 6 and 4 are not going to know what I'm talking about when I quote a movie line or break into song, which happens often.

2003 is now "before someone's time". Gah.

Here's another one. The other day, the kids told me we didn't have any glue left. In faux-rage, I bellow  'YOUU USED UP ALLL THE GLUUUE... on PURPOSE!"

"No, we didn't!'

Oh, right. they haven't seen A Christmas Story's famous broken-leg-lamp scene. It just looks like I'm out to lunch saying those random things I say. 

Thank goodness for YouTube, which allows me to fill them in so at least they're in on the reference. Does anyone else's kid sing the "you take a block from the bottom" song while playing Jenga? If not, get on it. It's on YouTube. It's classic. 

Some parents share tales passed down from generation to generation about their cultural heritage. My kids get 20-year-old TV quotes. And not even always the good stuff.  

And if that makes me lame, then I guess I'm just a big lame.

Oh wait, that was a Simpsons reference. Never mind.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Bedside Manner

After every winter I write about someone being sick, it seems, and this time it was me. Two full separate weeks out of commission, a month apart.

It was ruthless ear, nose, throat, sinus  whole head issues that went on for days, relieved only briefly by a Hulk-Smash pancreatitis attack that made me forget all about my sore throat for a few hours. Misery, I tell you! (at least as far as run-of-the-mill illness goes, but I've been known to dramatize)

You've probably seen the memes about moms not getting "sick days"-- Mom shuffles around like death warmed over while kids hang off her arms. Luckily for me, I do get a for-real sick day. Hubs stays home to watch the kids while I lie in bed, wishing I was never born, in peace and quiet, save for the hourly "WHERE'S MAMA".

And then every so often they come visit me to see if I'm better yet.
"Don't bother your mom, she's sleeping", I hear. "Stay downstairs."
Wait for it. 
*door opens*
*stage whispers* "Hi Mama, you sick?"
"Guys! Where are you?"
"Mama! Are you going to sleep ALL DAY LONG?" *stretches eyelid*
*Hubs in the doorway* "Hey! Mom's sleeping. Come down."
"She's not sleeping, Dada."

Their bedside manner needs work, I think to myself. Their consideration for the gravely ill is often lacking.

But then, you know what, sometimes they surprise me and go all out to make sure I'm taken care of, whether I like it or not. Like this.

Now, lest you think it's a humblebrag about being suffocated by my children's loving gestures (what's a mother to do with all this love?), I should add that I have about five minutes after that before they're back to check to see if I'm better NOW. I mean, it is like forever for a kid. Days and days of no one being Mater. Spring is here now, though, so hopefully that's it for a while. 

Monday, May 08, 2017

The Nuts: Keep Rolling!

Eric Litwin fans: there's a new book out!---and, it has a dance contest and a "Health Nut" challenge!

I have the privilege of being on Litwin's list of "Groovy Bloggers" following my review of his performance at the Ottawa International Children's Festival last year (so much fun, BTW). Groovy Blogger privileges include getting advance copies of the newest additions to the series.

Litwin is the author of the first four Pete the Cat books as well as Groovy Joe: Ice Cream and Dinosaurs. The latest installment is called The Nuts: Keep Rolling, starring the Nut Family found in Bedtime at the Nut House and Sing and Dance in your Polka-Dot Pants.

The interactive story follows the familiar formula of the characters' coming across challenges and demonstrating resilience and a positive attitude through song. As well as music, Litwin's books use elements such as repetition, rhyme, call-and-response, and sight words and phoenetics (which Litwin calls "Multi-Learning" books). The predictability makes it easy for kids to jump on board and participate in the reading right away in a way that works for them. It didn't take my kids long to get into this book, much like the others.

The stories all have online downloadable readings by Litwin (see, which I prefer to use to get the personality and full effect of the music, and because my singing voice is terrible (but I don't always let that stop me!). There are often accompanying dances, too.

For the latest book, in addition to the dance, there's also a dance contest. Children can submit their Keep Rolling dances for a chance to win various prizes, including a visit from Litwin (not in Canada, though).

Finally, the book can be a jumping-off point for taking on the accompanying "Be a Health Nut" challenge, which includes setting a fitness goal as a class or family and adding nuts to a printable tree poster as the goal is attained. Kids can get a "Certificate of Achievenut" at the end. We have our Health Nut tree in the living room.

Certainly not just your average "circle time" book!

My kids always enjoy and gravitate toward Litwin's books, and the latest is no exception. I'll find them stretched out on the floor, muttering "ohhh noooo" or singing "keep rolllll-ing!" to themselves.
On a recent car ride, Hubs was reading all the books one after another to entertain the kids. Wonder if the cars stopped at the light beside us could hear the four of us belting out about loving our Doggy Ice Cream. I'm sure we look cool cruising around East Ottawa.

So. If your kids/students like the other Litwin books, they'll enjoy this one, too. And if the videos found online of kids at festivals and school visits around North America are any indication, it's already a hit.

As former teachers, we both agree that reading should be kept as a fun and enjoyable activity. "You don't want to see students escaping to the bathroom to avoid reading," I said.
"No," Litwin agreed, "we want them bringing books TO the bathroom!"



PS: The Ottawa International Children's Festival is back again for 2017, May 10-14. My family and I have thoroughly enjoyed it the past two years, both the unique shows from around the world (see my review of Michel Lauziere from 2015) and the activities taking place on the grounds.

This year, we'll be checking out the Luminarium. I really wanted to see the show "Wanted", but it's past the kids' bedtime.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

New Words

The other night, I was wrapping up bedtime stories. Little Bro, always picking up new and impressive vocabulary, had one request before bed.

I still don't know what he wanted. The poor guy went to sleep without company, whatever the heck that is. :( 

Friday, April 14, 2017

When the Kids' Meal Comes in a Car

We'd never been to this restaurant with the kids before. Guess what... the kids' meals are delivered to their seat in a cardboard car! What a treat! Little Bro's eyes lit right up.

He eventually ate some food, too. You know, the food... that superfluous seven dollars' worth of matter that was taking up valuable owl space. 

Wednesday, March 08, 2017

Deep Thoughts

My little boy turned 6 today. I started this blog when he was 7 months old! After much arguing with his brother as to whether he classified as a Small kid or a Medium kid, I think it was confirmed that he is now officially Medium.

That brain is always going on my Medium son. You never know how much you don't know until you live with a kid who's full of questions:

- What's the biggest stuffed animal in the world? (It's a giant bunny in Italy; I also know many more world records now)
- How much gum would I have to swallow before it was a problem? (Let's not find out)
- Do peanut butter and cheese go together? (He says yes, might just be saving face)
- What will the police do if you run a red light, speed, talk on your phone aaaand eat spaghetti while driving? (probably arrest you, says my cousin the police officer)

All these things I went over 35 years not even thinking to ask.

Today we read "Happy Birthday to You!" by Dr. Seuss. I read him this line:

Today you are you, that is truer than true. There is no one alive who is youer than you.

*Gears turning*

"So who is the SECOND most me-est person alive?"

Happy birthday to my sweet boy who always challenges me with his deep thoughts.

Sunday, March 05, 2017

How to Get your Kids' Attention

It's supper time, or time to get ready to go, or you just need to ask the kids something. Does this ever happen to you?


OK, they're carrying on somewhere, and your attempts to reach them have been futile.

What's next? Holler louder? Go upstairs from room to room until you locate them, whereupon you can get down to their level and lovingly "collect" them? Give up and decide you don't need to go anywhere ever again after all?

No! Don't waste time with any of those. Next time, try my fail-proof plan for collecting your kids.

Nothing beckons "come stand here" to a kid quite like a dirt pile. There's not a sweeping pile in our house that didn't end up with a kid in the middle of it, even if it's in the corner of the room. Even if the kid hadn't been in the room yet all day.

Incidentally, this is a tradition that goes back to my own childhood. Here is a cartoon I drew at 14 of my mom trying to sweep. I now feel her pain (and accept that it doesn't stop in the teen years-- that's me in the last panel. Sigh).

Click to Enlarge

Sorry, Ma.  

So, try it next time you want to save yourself the hassle of hollering or searching the house. If you find that doesn't work, however, you might also try my other strategy, which is to sit down with a cup of coffee. That always gets my children rolling toward me like bony tumbleweeds.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Forgetting Something?

Loved ones say it's because I have a lot to remember when out and about with the kids. I think I'm just losing my mind.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I have a stuffed giraffe to pick up at the Nature Museum.

Monday, February 06, 2017

Boy Discovers the Kangaroo Pocket

We bought Little Bro a hoodie. I guess he doesn't get new clothes very often. 

Sunday, January 29, 2017

A Birthday Card for Ma

I'm going to share the birthday card I recently drew for my mom. We kid around a lot, and sometimes I have to immortalize it. I wasn't planning to post it, but Mom said I should, so.

Usually when I Skype with my folks back East, the chats are pleasant. Sometimes, though, when we get talking, I admit I can get started on lamenting or fretting about who knows what (guess we're never too old to unload on our parents), or the boys go overboard smushing their stuffed lambs into the camera and bleating. Either way, it isn't pretty.

Have you ever had calls that get too intense like that and you want to bail ASAP? In those times, I've deduced that my folks have decided to make like, whoops, the feed is conveniently frozen...and, for authenticity, they make sure to be mid-blink or mid-chew, just like when it freezes in real life.

They'd just have to make sure my brother is in on it.

They tell me they'd never do such a thing...

Tuesday, January 03, 2017

Hooray for Dad

Today is Hubs's birthday, I thought today would be a good day to express my appreciation for something in particular that he brings to our family.

Namely, he has a nonexistent threshold for the kid activities for which I have about two minutes of patience/interest, such as wrestling and snowball fights.

I don't know how many moms wrestle with their kids (we didn't wrestle with our mom. Is it a thing?), but I'll humour the kids for a few flips or being a human jungle gym. RAWRR. Tackle, etc.

Then I'm done and ready to move on. Anyone want to draw or read a book or clean out the fridge?

Hubs, on the other hand, not only wrestles with the kids, he has an absolute ball doing it. They'll be roaring and shrieking for a good half-hour. Yay for Dad, because the kids sure like it.

Same goes for snowball fights. I love sledding, making snowmen and making forts, but snowball fights, not so much. Here is a graph illustrating our respective enthusiasm when the kids invite us to have a snowball fight:

Or, to put it another way,

Sometimes I wish I had a higher tolerance for that stuff. But then, the kids have a more-than-willing participant in their dad, and for that I'm grateful. And I imagine the kids are too.

Happy birthday, Hubs. Love you. I'll be over here drawing.