Grapefruit and Sundaes

She wasn’t a warm or doting person, I don’t think it was anything personal, it just wasn’t her nature. Gruff, no-nonsense, and strict are apt descriptors. When I recall my time as a grade three student, complete with my terrible mullet and gangly arms and legs, my memories include learning the Canadian provinces and capitals, cursive writing, long division, and her. Miss Van Gurp. 

She had a reputation for being mean. Haven’t we all had that teacher? The one the kids whisper about on the playground and warn you to avoid? The teacher you hope you don’t have. The teacher you inevitably get.

Miss Van Gurp didn’t put up with antics. She indeed was strict, to the point of smacking hands with a metal ruler if you really stepped out of line (the rumours were true!). She wasn’t a smiler and she demanded compliance. She was not an adult who doled out hugs or high fives. You were expected to do your work and you simply received a quiet nod for a job well done.

Students often forget that teachers have multiple sides and aspects to their lives and characters. We all tend to forget that about each other, don’t we? We put people into boxes and categories, unaware of the subtext of people’s actions and words.

Recently a post popped up in my social media feed of a citrus fruit fundraiser for an elementary school and it reminded me of a story from years ago.

Once there was a young girl in grade three who had a sick sister. Her parents were frequently out of the country to provide their daughter with the medical care she needed. The girl and her other siblings spent days and sometimes weeks staying with various caring family friends. 

Soon it was time for the annual school fundraiser – citrus sales. Every student who sold a box of fruit would receive an ice cream sundae, the kind in the plastic cup with the little wooden spoon. 

The girl’s parents were out of town during this time and even if they were home, she wouldn’t have pursued citrus sales. Even at the age of eight, she knew she wouldn’t put that on to their overcrowded plate. That’s just the way it was then, it wouldn’t be forever. Next year.

A few days into the sale, her teacher called her up to her desk at the front of the room. She had a sales slip half filled out with a grapefruit order. 

“I’d like to get a box of grapefruit, could I buy it from you?” she asked, barely lifting her eyes up from the ink blotter.

The girl hardly knew what to say, but she knew what this meant. She would get to partake in the sundae celebration, just like all the other kids. In the midst of family upheaval and crisis, she would have this little bit of normalcy.

“Okay,” was all that squeaked out. The teacher completed the form, then carefully separated the carbon copies: white for the school, yellow for the salesperson, and pink for the customer.

“Thank you, I appreciate it,” she said gruffly as she handed the girl the pink page, “you may go to your seat now.”

In a giddy daze the girl went back to her desk. 

A fews later when the sales were completed, she proudly collected her ice cream treat with the rest of the school. It was chocolate, of course. She carefully peeled back the cardboard cover and she licked that plastic dish clean.

Sometimes “I see you. You matter. I care,” sounds a lot like “I’d like to buy some grapefruit.” You just have to listen.

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2017: A Snack-filled Year in Review

Top Ten Movies of the Year

The Most Influential People of 2017

Master Reading List of the Year

Toy Trends of 2017

Top Five Pencils of 2017 

(joking, there is only one pencil worth mentioning and it’s the Staedtler HB #2, everyone knows that)

As a kid, I loved perusing Life: The Year in Pictures. I didn’t know who most of the people and events were, but there was something satisfying about seeing a full year neatly wrapped up in a glossy-page package. Lists are fun and few can resist them. As I bid farewell to this past year, it caused me to reminisce about the highs and lows of the last 365 days.

I contemplated a twitter thread because isn’t that what all the youth are doing these days? Then I thought, no, be yourself. Be authentic. Stay true to your brand. And so, I give to you, dear reader…

2017 in Review: Snacks I Ate After the Kids Went to Bed

1. Sour cream and onion chips

2. Goldfish

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They DO melt in your hoodie pocket if you don’t eat them quickly enough

3. Discounted Easter candy

4. M&Ms

5. Sweet Chili Heat Doritos

 

6. Leftover icing

7. Cookie dough I told the kids would make them sick

8. Mini M&Ms

9. Goldfish and olives (I was feeling fancy)

10. Girl guide cookies I was saving for Christmas

11. Brownie batter

12. The remaining Sweet Chili Heat Doritos (hid them so well I forgot for a few days that they were still in the house)

13.  Ketchup Pringles (I left a few in the can for plausible deniability)

14. Reese’s peanut butter cups that mysteriously appeared in my coat pocket

15. Chunk of cheddar (store brand – barely worth it)

16. American Oreo I received in the mail

17. Caramilk Easter egg I found in my nightstand drawer

18. Jujubes

19. Sour jujubes

20. Fruit juice jujubes

21. Peanut butter off the spoon (did NOT double dip)

22. Crackers and blue cheese (the good kind, did not share)

23. Chocolate covered acai berries I did not know we were saving for the holidays but I would have eaten even you’d told me

24. Saturday cereal (it’s fine because I’m the grown up)

25. King-size Three Muskateers

26. Frozen butter tart – totally worth the sore tooth

27. Cinnamon hearts

28. More cinnamon hearts even though my tongue hurt from the first round

29. Lime sherbet directly from the container (definitely double-dipped)

30. Post-workout chocolate chip cookies, but I pretended they were power bars so it was totally fine

31. Ketchup Doritos (limited edition, but not limited taste)

32. Mini Kit Kats we bought for the trick-or-treaters

33. Sweet Tarts (purely medicinal)

34. Goldfish and grape tomatoes

35. Hunk of baguette dipped in hummus because I’m classy like that.

I’m not saying you need a decorative box to store your secret snacks, but I highly recommended it.

**Yes, all of the above are 100% accurate and true. Your turn – what’s your favourite evening snack?


My Fish is Smart Because He Went to School

This is Kevin.

Kevin was a prize in an “Every Game Wins a Prize” fishing game at a local fair.  It cost $3 – a fact I am still processing.

——-

Do you want to know why I chose this fish? Because when I get my real fish, he will have a friend. Kevin.

Wait a second, we never agreed that you’d be getting a fish. Remember what happened to the can’t-be-killed beta fish that died?

So, anyways, want to know why Kevin will be a good friend to my pet fish?

Go ahead, but I’m not making any promises.

1. Kevin is already really smart.

Kevin must have spent a lot of time in school

Kevin must have spent a lot of time in school

 

2. He can work my Hexbug. He’s a fish, but he knows how.

Kevin must have taken the Robotics elective during his undergrad

Kevin must have taken the Robotics elective during his undergrad

3. Kevin loves baseball and my pet fish will, too.

Careful, that's official Blue Jays memorabilia

Careful, that’s official Blue Jays memorabilia

Caring for a fish stuffy is not that challenging. I’m still not convinced.

Well, if I had a fish, it could keep me company.

Allow me to refer to the can’t-be-killed yet still dead beta fish.

Fish can be very relaxing.

We had to hold a fish funeral. You made me say a eulogy.

You’ve said we can’t have a hamster, dog, or cat because you’re “allergic”. Well, you can’t be allergic to a fish.

I’m allergic to disposing of dead fish.

I’ll take care of it, it won’t get lonely.

Like the dead beta fish that tipped over on the dining room table.

He survived. 

That time.

Please?

Dead. Beta. Fish.

Is that a maybe?

I’ll think about it.

I’ll clear off some shelf space.

DEAD BETA FISH.

Sounds like a maybe to me.

Go play with Kevin.

_______________

Where do you land on the fish-as-pets spectrum? I’m more of a pet rock kind of gal.


Christmas Time is Here

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Did I have to dress as a glamour shot from 1986? No. Was I asked to choose a theme? Also no.

Posing for the “silly” staff photo.

Dancing in front of anyone over age five and non-family.

Deciding what time to meet up.

Collecting money.

Being the driver.

Wearing dark lipstick.

These are some of things that stress me out.

Surprising? Perhaps. I have no problem making fun of myself and being weird online. I do it almost daily. Speaking in front of a crowd barely raises my heart rate. But when I hear the photographer say “and how about a fun one!” I pray a wormhole will open up and swallow me. “Why didn’t you practice a good silly pose since last year YOU KNOW THEY DO THIS ANNUALLY.”

Speaking of doing things every year, it’s that time again:

Staff Christmas Sweater Competition

It might be hard to top last year when our family went as the controversial yet festive Starbucks red cups. Or the year before when I made my own because I am super crafty and very talented with a glue gun. I thought about going as the Ghost of Christmas Past, but then realized that wearing a shredded bed sheet could hamper my gift exchange competition level.

What to do? What to do?

As I pondered options for a seasonal outfit, waffling between Cousin Eddie and the mom from A Christmas Story (clearly bathrobes are my in my wheelhouse) I received an email…

Reader, I know this is beginning to sound like a movie plot, but the email was not creepy. IT WAS ACTUALLY HELPFUL. Dropped directly into my inbox was the solution I needed: sweaters I could make myself (successfully) using my glue gun, scissors, stencils, and bows. It was this former kindergarten teacher’s dream project plan.

Anything that is described as “easy” or “simple” is certainly in my range of ability. And if you mention “no sew” then say no more. This page has links that could help me win years of Christmas Sweater contests. The only question remaining is “which one do I try this year?”

Click here to peruse the options and let me know what you think in the comments.

I have my glue gun primed and ready – game on.

 

 


The Case of the Mysterious Pee Puddle

Nothings turns a bunch of brothers into what could rival the Salem Witch Trials than a mystery infraction. There was a pee puddle in the bathroom. No one was a suspect and everyone was a suspect.

“I only use the upstairs bathroom.”

“I NEVER miss.”

“Sure, I’ve used that bathroom, but not today.”

“It. Wasn’t. Me.”

Finally,  my years of reading Encyclopedia Brown and Nancy Drew, plus watching 24 – Season One (let’s be real, it’s the best season and the only one worth referencing) would be put to good use.

I gathered up the usual suspects, but really, I figured it had to be the youngest. He holds his pee until near-bursting level and then panics. You don’t have to be Jack Bauer to deduce that he was the most likely culprit.

There was only circumstantial and anecdotal evidence at this point. Plus, all the “witnesses” had a vested interest. Further investigation was required. And as I investigated, other crimes came to light.

First, there was the second offence of “Who Stuck a Sticky Octopus on the Ceiling After Mom said to Stop Throwing it in the House and Everyone Promised Not to Do it Any More?” Were the two cases related?img_20170930_1720013011713758010456723.jpg

Next, a savvy vandal had replaced all the pawns from Chutes and Ladders with updated versions. Could it be one and the same? Or perhaps, a ring of unsavory characters had infiltrated our home?

img_20171001_1350151460625439463605876.jpgThe range of drawing ability indicated perhaps more than one culprit. Or was it a red herring?

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Finally, I strolled into the basement to discover this storage bin carnage. What band of hooligans had sought out our family and why? The crimes definitely must have been related.

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It was time to turn up the heat. No more Mrs. Nice Mom-playing-detective. It was time to employ Cuddle Protocol. For the uninitiated, this involves inviting a youngster to “come here for a second” and then gently prod them for the truth. Key point in this strategy is to allow the suspect to forgo eye contact. I like to use the “Get-Along Chair” but any cozy furniture will do. Bluffing is not required, but it is recommended.

“Hey buddy, I know what happened in the bathroom, but I’d like you to tell me. You’re not in trouble, we just need to problem-solve.”

“I didn’t pee my pants.”

(when met with denial, go with facts, reader)

“That’s funny, because I also discovered a pair of soggy pee socks in the garbage. Almost like you were trying to hide evidence.”

“I didn’t pee my pants.”

These two identical statements were very specific and he was adamant. Obviously this indicated he did something, his guilt was almost palpable. Let’s look at what he did not say. He never said he didn’t do it, just that he didn’t pee his pants. Very telling. Very telling indeed.

Again, I remembered to avoid eye contact and maintained a mellow and relaxed demeanour.  Then I went in for the closing argument and he crumbled like an overbaked muffin which of course I would know nothing about since I pay close attention to all baking endeavours.

“Did you use the bathroom right before we left for school this morning? And did you have to pee really badly? Did you, in fact, pee through the toilet seat and the bowl thus producing a giant pee puddle on the floor? And upon realization you removed your wet socks hoping to destroy the evidence even though they were brand new? And finally, did you or did you not dash out of the house without even a hit of the urine apocalypse that would await your mother after a hard day at work? IS THAT NOT WHAT REALLY HAPPENED? Remember, I’m not mad, just disappointed.”

“Fine. Yes, that’s what happened, just don’t tell the brothers.”

Case closed, but my work was not done. Now I had to move on to my next mystery: Who Ate Mommy’s Super Secret Stash of Chocolate That Only A Grown Up Could Possibly Reach?

Me to Bearded Husband, “Hey buddy, come here for a minute. I know what happened to that bag of mini-Twix I bought, but I’d like to hear it from you. You’re not in trouble…”

 

 


Tree or Bush

Remember that game we used to play? Tree or Bush? You took a blade of grass that had gone to seed, asked your friend “tree or bush?” and then proceeded to do the opposite of their response.

“Ha, ha, ha, NOPE – bush.” “You guessed BUSH? It’s a tree, sucker.”

It was so ridiculous, but so satisfying. Oh the games kids play. And then we move into adulthood and leave childish things behind.

But then there was that time that my husband decided to plant a sapling that had randomly taken root on his mom’s balcony.

“Check it out! It’s a Maple tree! And it just spontaneously took root in an empty cinder block.”

Readers, to be fair and accurate, I was on board with the transplanting of said maple sapling into our newly-purchased back yard. We had just taken ownership of our first home and were anxious to put our own mark on it. Sure, let’s find a spot and get some shade going.

We couldn’t believe how quickly it took root. It was so hardy. So strong. So bendy. Wait, bendy? Are trees supposed to be that flexible? Nevermind, we were new to this whole tree-planting thing.

A few weeks passed and I started to doubt the veracity of the claims that this was a maple. Or a tree. But my husband would not be deterred.

“I don’t know, it grew awfully fast, almost LIKE A WEED.”

Bearded Husband replied, “I’m sure all saplings grow quickly, plus we have a lot of sunlight.”

“Those leaves don’t look very maple-y.”

BH: “It’s just a variation of maple, they all have their own look.”

“Isn’t it supposed to have bark?”

BH: “You might have a point.”

“It’s gone to seed, like a dandelion. A very tall dandelion.”

BH: “I’ll get the shovel.”

We laughed at our gardening misstep as we removed this very tall transplanted weed from our lawn. Weren’t we so naive to think a maple tree just appeared in a block of cement? And then we planted it? Adorable. What a rookie mistake.

Ha, ha, ha. Newbies. Any expereinced gardener/homeowner wouldn’t make that error in herbology.

Nope, definitely not. Especially a second time.

Fast forward eleven years to our second home. We inherited a nicely landscaped yard. All we had to do was weed and tidy until we were ready to put our own stamp on it. So weed and tidy we did.

“I think that one tree at the side of the house isn’t a tree. I think it’s a weed.”

BH: “It’s ten feet tall. It’s a tree.”

“It looks a lot like that so-called tree we planted at the old house.”

BH: “Quiet. It’s fine”

“Is it that you just don’t want to dig it out and dispose of it?”

BH: “SHHHH.”

I conducted a highly scientific survey of my social media contacts and three of them agreed it was a weed, so I hacked that invader down.

One time is a rookie error, two times is lack of memory, but three times isn’t possible.

Right?

Last month I was trimming near the side of the house and discovered a green, leafy creature resembling those dancing air things you see on car lots. 

“We have one of those aggressively tall weeds again.”

BH: “Our neighbour has planted a lot this spring, I think it’s hers.”

“ONLY IF SHE PLANTED MAGIC BEANS.”

BH: “SHE HAS A REALLY GREEN THUMB.”

The weed-tree and I are presently at a stand-off, mostly because I’m afraid it has become self-aware. It knows too much. It’s Little Shop of Horrors, but the plant knows where I keep my secret stash of M&Ms and that I’m the one who finished the Doritos. 


Summer on a Budget

Summer time! FREEDOM!

But let’s be real a minute, parents. Summer can be costly. Summer camps, road trips, stops for slushies (sometimes you might even buy one for your kids). Cha-ching! Long-time followers know I like to share my budget-saving ways so I’ve compiled the various activities and programs we have implemented to have an amazing summer, but not break the bank.

Games are always a fun and easy way to spend quality time together. The $1.50 to buy a fresh pack of cards is money well-spent. But you know what’s even better? FREE. Here are some games that are free or almost free and guaranteed to please at least some members of your family.

Stop Being Ridiculous

It’s Okay Not to Fight About Dumb Stuff

You Don’t Own Air

I Was Watching From the Corner of My Eye

He’s Allowed to Look Out Your Window

Games aren’t really your thing? Looking for a more structured program? Why not run your own summer day camp? Here are some that are consistently popular with our crew.

Camp Fend-for-Yourself. Young campers have the opportunity to learn skills such as sandwich making, cereal pouring, and juice distribution. Merit badges can be earned for Counter Wiping, Fridge Closing, and Eating Over Your Plate. Gold Star award presented to the camper who achieves “Leave No Trace Behind” status. Broom sweeping skills are recommended, but not required.

Camp Quityerbitchin. A popular one with parents, this camp teaches children that life involves chores, particularly if you want to live in harmony and for free. Ample opportunities are given to practice tucking shoes away, hanging up hats, and putting away the clean clothes that were washed, folded, sorted, and stacked for them in advance. Merit badges for Timeliness, Lack of Eyerolling, and Least Amount of Sighing.

A great one to pair with Quityerbitchin, is Camp Clean Your Room where the motto “If it’s on the floor, it’s out the door” comes to life. Merit badges include Under the Bed, Only Furniture on the Floor, and Bring Your Dishes to the Kitchen.

Finally, friends, nothing beats Camp Call on Your Friend to provide hours of fun and entertainment. A classic, this camp cannot be matched for simplicity. Unless they congregate at your house and keep asking for snacks. Then might I recommend a remedial session of Camp Fend-for-Yourself? Merit badges for this family favourite include Ring the Doorbell Once, Least Amount of Snacks Eaten, and Bicker-free Afternoon.

 

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Coming to my non-existent Etsy shop soon!

Break-out sessions are a great addition, if you have the resources. Some suggested titles include “Sunblock is Not Optional”, “Yes! You CAN Change the Toilet Paper”, and “Why Popsicles are Not a Meal”.