The New Frontier: My First Podcast

I’ve listened to some podcasts, wondered about podcasts, and now I’m part of a podcast.

This is a conversation with my new friend, Michelle at People I Almost Know and also Steadily Skipping Stones

We chat about twitter, blogging, making friends through social media, my boys, and another great passion of mine: teaching.

Here’s mine: People I Almost Know: Wonder Woman Jan Moyer (she was very kind with the title).

Uncomfortable Truths

There is a woman in the US who is my American counterpart. It is eery how parallel our lives are and also our fondness for laughing at ourselves. Katherine puts the extra “u” in “humour”.

You can find me over there today, pinch hitting my Five Uncomfortable Truths. While you’re there, be sure to check out her posts (might I suggest other UCT to begin). And you can find her on twitter @grass_stains

Uncomfortable Truths at Grass Stains.

Good Housekeeping

Ricky Anderson (@Arthur2Sheds) and Joseph Craven (@thejosephcraven) came up with Sudden Writing Challenge and I blindly accepted. My contribution is below. My first attempt at fiction since high school. Gulp.

We were given 48 hours and had to include three elements

     1. A rooftop
     2. A custodian named Glenn
     3. The line “Well, that’s not how I would have planned it.”

Go here http://www.rickyanderson.net/p/the-caper-challenge.html to read the details and also to check out the other participants.

——-

“I hope I can get the lock to turn, Jen said it sticks sometimes, would you come with me?” Alice asked her husband, Gary.

“You’re the one who agreed to watch their house, text me if you have a problem, I’m just getting ready to go play squash with Brad,” he replied.

“Fine, you’ll probably hear from me in two minutes!’ said Alice as she ducked out the front door. She jogged the short distance three houses down the street and up the path to her neighbour’s house. With just a little jimmying, the deadbolt clicked. Alice scooped the mail out of the box and went inside.

As she sauntered to the kitchen, she glanced briefly at each piece of mail to make sure it was for Jen and Tom Watson. After depositing it on the table she went to check the house plants. They were all on the kitchen counter, just like Jen had said. That way none would get overlooked. Alice was to take in the mail, keep the plants alive and check the basement for water if they had a large rainfall while the couple was away for two weeks on a camping trip.

Since this was only the first day, Alice only needed a minute to complete all the tasks. It hadn’t rained at all the night before, but Alice convinced herself it would be a good idea to check the basement, just to get a baseline. Before today, she had only been in the kitchen for a coffee when Jen and Tom had first moved in three months earlier.

Nothing but some boxes and an old treadmill were in the unfinished basement, so Alice returned to the main floor. She took her time leaving, pausing to peer at the pictures on the wall, peeking into the powder room to make sure no one was lurking behind the door. It was as she turned around to retrieve her shoes that she noticed the carpet. The plush, luxurious carpet that covered the living room all the way to the stairs.

The carpet had been vacuumed. Alice couldn’t help but notice that the lines from the recent cleaning were very exact, very precise. She also noticed that Jen or Tom had vacuumed their way out of the room. Not one footprint could be seen.

Odd. Alice thought. They must have cleaned the carpet right before they left. I guess they wanted to leave me with a good impression. She also thought, a tad unkindly, that Glenn, the custodian at her office, could take a few lessons on thorough cleaning from the Watsons.

She locked the house and returned to her own home. She sifted through the junk mail that had been left on their porch, but couldn’t stop thinking about the carpet lines.

I wonder if they just didn’t want me nosing around? Seems rather untrusting. After all, they asked me to watch the house.

Later that evening she mentioned her observations to Gary.

“I mean, what’s the big secret? I understand wanting to come home to a tidy house, but why vacuum your way out? Don’t they trust me? What could I possibly see or do? Why would they be so suspicious?”

“Maybe they are in Witness Protection? I don’t know. You are reading way too much into a clean carpet. Seriously, let it go.” Gary said and went back to watching his show on TV.

Alice couldn’t let it go. All kinds of scenarios went through her mind, mostly ones involving illegal activities. She just had to know and decided that tomorrow she would leap gazelle-like over the carpet, take a look upstairs, assess the situation, then slowly smooth out her footprints as she backed out of the house. Easy.

The next day she put her plan into action and she made it incident-free to the home office. She was slightly disappointed to note that they appeared to be law-abiding citizens who appreciated good housekeeping. Just as she leaned forward to get a better look at the postcard tacked to the bulletin board, her arm grazed a half-empty glass of water, splashing some of the contents onto the desk. Thankfully, she caught the spill before it reached anything and wiped it up with the sleeve of her hoodie. Relieved that she hadn’t damaged anything, and feeling a little sheepish about her previous suspicions, she turned to begin her retreat. It was then that she knocked over the pile of invoices that sat on the edge of the desk.

Panic. Absolute panic filled Alice. Followed by dread, exasperation, and then more panic. There was no way to know what system had been used to stack those papers originally. Foiled by her own curiosity and overly active imagination, Alice sat at the top of the staircase to regain her composure.

She contemplated all kinds of ways to explain the overturned pile.

I thought I heard something upstairs and saw that a window had been left open and the wind blew the stack over. No, that wasn’t possible since the office had no functioning window.

I could tell them that our dog followed me in and dashed upstairs and went right for the papers. Not bad, except we don’t have a dog. I wonder if anyone would let me borrow their dog for a short time, just for authenticity.

I had a sudden washroom emergency and I only use toilets on the second floor.

I went upstairs to leave mints on your pillows as a Welcome Home gesture. I just forgot the mints.

I couldn’t remember how to spell ‘sabbatical’ and went to find a dictionary. 

There was a crazy raccoon infestation in the neighbourhood and I wanted to make sure you didn’t have any critters trying to make a nest on your roof. They are crafty.

Alice finally realized that there was no plausible explanation for the toppled papers and her footprints, although the rooftop raccoons might work if she could persuade Gary to back up her story. She couldn’t, he wouldn’t. She had to admit defeat.

So as any grown woman who might be caught snooping in her neighbour’s house would do, Alice carefully straightened the papers as best she could, slowly retraced her footprints, then brushed them out with her hand and vowed to stick to the list of things Jen had asked her to do: mail, plants, basement if it rains.

For the next twelve days, Alice sat that house like she had never sat a house before. She could have been nominated “House Sitter of the Year” she did such a good and nonintrusive job. She even started to forget about the overturned papers.

Eventually, the two weeks ended and Tom stopped by to retrieve their house key. Alice debated confessing everything then and there, but at the last minute, decided she would take her chances and pretend nothing had happened.

One day passed and nothing was said. In fact, Alice got a friendly wave as Jen drove off to the store that afternoon. Alice began to think she was in the clear. Everything was fine, she had fretted and plotted for nothing.

Two days passed and Alice was overcome with relief that her moment of crazy was her own little secret. She was feeling even a little bit smug as she gathered up the flyers from the front step and discovered an envelope with her name on it. Alice excitedly opened it to discover a note and a gift card from the Watsons:

Thank you so much for keeping an eye on things while we were away. 

And thanks for tidying up the office. I hope you enjoyed your self-guided tour. It’s not how I would have planned it, but clearly you felt comfortable in our home.

Sincerely,

Jen

   

Moyerangelo

Welcome to the Sneak Peek of my upcoming Art Extravaganza! You might be surprised to learn I am just four years old, but talent and inspiration can strike at any age.

Currently, this exhibit is housed in my bedroom. I like to think of it as a constant work-in-progress since my roommate has very little impulse control.

This piece speaks to my love of gum. When I was young and reckless, I occasionally left my chewed gum on the carpet. Mmmm….gum.

Tribute to Gum
My Gum, My Love

This next display was a random inspiration I had when Mommy called up that it was time for breakfast. I tossed those sticker frames down and when I returned, I was just as smitten as you are.

The lines, the use of space. Inspired, I know.
The lines, the use of space. Inspired, I know.

It’s funny, when I began this particular piece, I was going to go with one or two sheets, but once I got started I realized more is always better. See how the creepy wooden bear accentuates the pumpkins? And I love how the multi-colured squirrel plays off the green in the monsters.

Haunted Monster Mash Up
Go Ahead, Choose One, But Not THAT One

I feel it’s important to encourage the artistic drive in others, so I let my little brother try his hand. I really like how he played up the different textures here: carpet, bed skirt, paper. He might be ready for his own exhibition soon, that little Picaso.

Sticker Carpet Study
Sticker Carpet Study

Here I tried a little something with metal and wood. I like the contrast of the black sticker against the white canvas of the closet door.

Closet Door: Gateway to Diapers
Closet Door: Gateway to Diapers

A different approach with furniture as my framework. Not as bold as the white, but the warmer look works, too, don’t you think?

Top Drawer
Top Drawer

Now this one I am particularly proud of. I tried my hand at something more whimsical here just for Mommy. “Oh, no, another diaper change – wait! What’s this? A darling sticker from my favourite son.” (I just know that’s what she’ll say).

Diaper Surprise
Diaper Surprise

This final selection has me stumped. I’m not sure which look to use. The first is the safe, classical approach.

Retro Sippy Cup
The Cup

This one is just a little edgier with the dirt clod in the background. Maybe it makes my work more accessible?

Retro Sippy Cup Slumming It
The Cup Rebellion

Please cast your vote to help me decide. Any art forms you’d like to see in my next exhibit? I’m very strong with glitter glue as well and I’m not afraid to delve into papier mache.

I Am a Mom

During my first podcast ever with Michelle http://steadilyskippingstones.com and http://peopleialmostknow.com I recalled how I got started on Twitter and later with a blog. So I went back and read the first thing I wrote, a guest post on my friend, Amanda’s blog: http://mandiemarie.com

You can the read about the beginning of our friendship here: http://mandiemarie.com/2011/09/08/i-need-a-woman/

and my first foray into blogging here: http://mandiemarie.com/2012/05/14/guest-post-i-am-a-mom/

There, history lesson done.

I Can Be Your Hero, Baby

I’m currently sporting bruises and scrapes in numerous places all over my body: arms, shins, wrists, bum. You will not believe how I got them.

I'll spare you the picture of the bruise on my behind.
I’ll spare you the picture of the bruise on my behind.

The boys and I were playing at the park the other day. It was gorgeous weather,  just the perfect temperature to be outside. We’d brought snacks along and intended to make the most of the morning. Suddenly, out of nowhere comes this little boy we’ve never seen before on one of those battery-operated Jeeps for lazy kids.

“It won’t stop! Make it stop” he screamed.

A good deal farther back was his very pregnant mom who was doing her best to catch him, but the odds were not in her favour.

My instincts kicked in immediately and I swiftly dismounted from the monkey bars, quite smoothly except for grazing my left forearm against the support railing. I didn’t feel a thing because when you’re being a hero, you ignore all pain. I hurdled over the springy airplane riding feature, banging my shin in the process. I dashed to the pathway and the run-away motorist.

Have you ever tried to stop one of those mini-Jeeps? Neither had I. He was moving at a good clip, but I caught up and was running alongside him.

“Press the brake! The brake!” I shouted.

“I AM, it’s not working!”

I grabbed the back to make it slow down, but that kid clearly had cruise control locked on “fast”. He was heading towards a hill which could have been advantageous except it was on a decline. With little time to think, I did what any hero would do: I jumped in front and stopped that Jeep with my own body.

Everyone at the park dashed over, clapping and cheering. Eventually his mom caught up to us and through tears of relief thanked me for intervening.

It was unbelievable. And I have the bruises to prove it. Unbelievable I tell you.

Unreal.

Like out of a made-for -TV movie.

Alright, alright. I wish I had an amazing story to explain all my recent injuries, but sadly, I do not.

Are you ready for the real story?

We were biking down the street and out of nowhere a baby stroller came careening down a driveway. I jumped off my bike, remembering to put the kickstand down first, and bolted —-

Alright, that’s not what happened, either.

Fine, the truth. I was washing the front windows and heard a cat meowing plaintively across the street on the neighbour’s roof. A vicious, probably rabid, racoon had it cornered. I threw down my washcloths and sprinted over, dodging several cars on my way —

Ok, Ok.

We were playing Smurf Tag at the park and I slipped on the mulch, scraping my shin in the process (couldn’t shave for three days while it healed).

The bruise on my bum and the scrape on my right arm were due to falling off a stationary scooter. I wasn’t even moving.

Finally, we were playing Canadian Ninja Warrior Tag at a different park and as I tried to elude Bearded Husband (the boys were playing, too, settle down) I slipped on the wooden railing, banging my left forearm, right shin (again) and the back of my right knee.

Nothing glamourous about those injuries, but I did live to tell the tale.

————–

Best injury story you’ve got – let’s hear it.

*If you’d like to read a true and entertaining injury story, check this post “Told You So” by Amanda over at http://www.mandiemarie.com – I like to call it “Line Drive of Doom”.

Serenity Now

It’s a cool summer morning in August. The family is spending some laidback time at home catching up on some chores and starting the day slow and easy.

Mom serenely ties party favours with ribbon, anticipating the fun of the birthday party the next day. The four boys hover nearby watching her deftly curl the yellow ribbon on each package. She demonstrates the technique for the oldest son and encourages his efforts to try his hand at it. The brothers stare on in amazement as she turns out ribbon after ribbon of perfect(ish) curls. Excited banter about the upcoming party ensues: the pinata, the pizza, the games. Everyone is smiling, everyone loves each other and maybe someone starts humming “Kumbaya”.

Then the toddler spies a package of Angry Birds Gummies.

Highly addictive. May induce temper tantrums.
Highly addictive. May induce temper tantrums.

Mom gently responds to the toddlers demands for high fructose deliciousness:

“Those are for tomorrow.”

“Later, you can have a treat later.”

“Not now, treats are later.”

“I wonder what Daddy is doing? Is he outside?”

“I WONder where DAddy could be?”

“I think he might be moving rocks. Bet he could use a couple helpers. Shhh, listen, he IS moving rocks.”

“Who wants to dig for worms?”

Nope. The toddler will not be moved. Neither will any of the other three boys. Once digging for worms has Mommy’s approval, it loses all its appeal.

Mom brushes stray hair out of her face, regroups to finish the party favours, takes a deep breath and —

“Ok, what’s that smell?”

Thus begins the “Dance of the Diaper Change” which follows the same pattern every time: Accusation, Denial, Avoidance, Retrieval, Capture, Cleansing, Clenched Teeth Utterances, and Release.

The sound of a toddler protesting a diaper change is a siren call to the brothers. Suddenly, it is of the utmost importance to find out if they can have iPad time that afternoon. Or to locate a certain Pokemon card. Or to nail down the exact time and menu for Snack. Or to ask for help counting the money in their piggybanks (because nothing reminds you that you have a jar full of coins to tally like the smell of poo).

This day is like all the rest, and the moment Toddler Son starts his war cry, one brother is at Mom’s side asking questions in a very soft voice, another cries at the bottom of the stairs, while the third loudly denies any culpability in making anyone cry. So naturally, Mom leans over the banister and kindly, but authoritatively says:

“STOP CRYING I KNOW YOU ARE FAKING AND WHATEVER YOU DID TO HIM WAS NOT OKAY I CANNOT ANSWER YOU RIGHT NOW BECAUSE I AM DEALING WITH POOP STOP WIGGLING AROUND AND LET ME CLEAN YOUR FOOT EVERYONE JUST STOP YELLING.”

And then it is (mostly) quiet.

Oh, the windows are wide open.

Bearded Husband chooses 2 minutes after this exchange to return to the house and glibly remark, “Oh, that was you, I thought the crazy mom came by to visit.”

To which Mom calmly replies with expansive hand gestures, “Let me paint you a picture…”

—–

Ever have a moment that made your eye twitch? Share.

The Day Ricky Called

This adventure began with a simple tweet from a nice guy encouraging the sale of his friend’s new book:

photo

Obviously, I could not pass up this opportunity to hear from a Twitter friend in real-life.

photo-1

July rolled into August and I finally remembered to have my credit card handy when I was at the laptop while the boys were distracted by “Wild Kratts” or “Shawn the Sheep” or something. I ordered the book, now it was time to collect my song.

photo-2

Tweets and emails were exchanged and Ricky had my number. I tried out a few apps to see if I could record the phone call, strictly for posterity’s sake, but realized I would not remember all the necessary steps and thought I’d just record it with the camera or Bearded Husband’s phone. Blackmail Posterity is overrated anyways.

All I had to do was wait.

Friday night BH and I were having date night at home (a little thing we started to spend more — never mind, you came here to read about the day Ricky called, not date night). I turned to BH as we sat on the couch.

I said, “I might get a call from Ricky.”

He heard: “Do you wanna have a quickie?”

Later, when I stopped laughing, I got an email that Ricky would call the next day. He wrote something in Spanish, which I don’t speak (I’m Canadian, we speak English and sometimes French), so when I read “Mañana” I thought he had changed the song to that one by the Muppets. Equally good in my opinion.

Saturday. Phone call day.

Easy, Jan, a watched phone never rings.

I convinced myself that I just needed to make sure my phone was charged and the call would happen when it happened.

Dinnertime arrived. I had five boys to feed on the patio (Neighbour Kid was spending the afternoon with us) and BH was hiding somewhere in the house. We had just recovered from a milk spill and an over application of soya sauce. We thought the toddler was stockpiling basmati rice in his romper then realized it wasn’t rice shaking out of his pant leg, but rather an exploded diaper. Curse you, non-toileting child.

Here's how my day was going.
Not bad, how was your afternoon?

The phone rang and I knew, I just KNEW without even looking at the display, that the time had come. Ricky was calling. I threatened all the blood related boys with no dessert (this I accomplished with simply a dirty look) and politely said, “THIS IS MY CALL. SIT DOWN AND STOP MAKING FART NOISES, but not you, Neighbour Kid, you’re the good one.”

It was my most Lucille Ball-like moment to date. I dashed for the door to get the camera, furtively looked at my phone, weighed the pros and cons of trying to archive this moment. Decided to just play it cool and answer it. I swiped the phone screen. And swiped again. And swiped AGAIN. IT’S GOING TO GO TO VOICEMAIL!  Steady, steady, sweaty hands will do that.

This call was even more exciting than the time I spoke with Santa. SANTA.
This call was even more exciting than the time I spoke with Santa. SANTA.

“Hello?” I purred.

“Hi, is this Jan?” said a friendly voice.

“Yes, it is.” I replied (I doubt he heard my nervous giggle).

And then I heard the most beautiful rendition of “Friends in Low Places” that I will ever hear. It was like an angel singing about beer and whiskey directly from the pearly gates. And Ricky wasn’t chintzy. He sang the entire song. Be still my heart. I thought I’d see him swoop in from a zip line directly into our backyard, for real.

We all clapped and cheered (okay, mostly me and the toddler). And Neighbour Kid asked me, “was that a real person?” I know, bud, I know. How could such melodic tones be from a mere human?

I thanked Ricky for the call and reassured him that I did not record it. I’m sad about that, but maybe some things are better when they live on in your memory.

Immediately after I hung up, BH reappeared.

I said, “I just got my call from Ricky!”

And I didn’t care what BH thought he heard. I got my call. And my song.

—————-

You can find the funny and poignant Ricky Anderson at http://www.rickyanderson.net or follow him on Twitter @Arthur2Sheds. To learn more about Rob Shepherd and his book, just go to http://www.robshep.com  and follow him on Twitter, too @robshep.

———

Your turn – are you a peanut or plain M&Ms person? Bo or Luke Duke? Coke or Pepsi?

Stick ’em up!

Fits most sizes
Fits most sizes

For Sale:

One Cinderella princess mask, circa 1973. Comes with nylon pink and white smock to complete the Cinderella look. Don’t worry, it mostly covers your thick winter coat.

Yes, the breathing hole is small, but it does exist (I survived the photo-shoot and only got light-headed twice). Might want to avoid eating onions or garlic before trick-or-treating this year, just to be safe. It gets a little sweaty by the breathing holes, so pack some tissues.

This costume is so amazing that not only did  wear it three years in a row, my sister had used it for at least one Halloween before me.

All interested buyers must sign a waiver promising not to use this mask in any bank heist or other illegal shenanigans. Scaring family members is not only permitted, it is encouraged.

Originally, this gem was sold for $3.99 (likely at Woolco), so no offers under that will be considered.

It is recommended that you trick-or-treat with a buddy as there might be one or seven blind spots, so hold off on the scaring of family members until after Halloween (it also makes it that much more unexpected).

If you’d rather not be a pretty, pretty princess, might I suggest another option?

When a bed sheet is just too hard to find
When a bed sheet is just too hard to find

This is the first in a series of pictorial posts entitled: “Stuff From my Childhood That is Still at my Parents’ House”.

What was your favourite Halloween costume? How many years in a row did you wear it? (that’s a thing, right?)

Camp Rules!

Camp counsellor in training.
Camp counsellor in training.

Trying to decide if a summer day camp is for your child? Debate no longer! The answer is “yes”.

Day camp is a great opportunity for friends and strangers to gather together for a week or more to explore a common interest. Lego, sports, nature, faith, games and crafts – there’s a camp for you!

Concerned about the qualifications of the camp leaders? Not to worry! Camp counsellors are born with special DNA programmed for this very role.  Most CCs come out of the womb chanting, “Peel bananas, peel peel bananas.” As toddlers, you frequently here mini CCs telling their playmates to “Stop, Look and Listen” – any kid who doesn’t reply with a speedy, “oh, yeah!” is stricken from future play date lists.

Still not sure? Maybe you’re worried that there won’t be enough structure and rules. Or maybe too many rules. Nope, not at camp. There is just the right balance of routines and freedom. Okay, there are a few rules, but they are important (and universal).

Camp Rules

Stick with your crew.

Follow the leader.

Keep it peanut-free.

Wear sunscreen.

Grates are not for jumping on.

Stay with your crew.

Don’t lick other campers.

STAY WITH YOUR CREW.

Socks stay on your feet.

Wait.

STAY. WITH. YOUR. CREW.

Camp is a rite of passage – whether as a camper or a leader. You start learning life’s lessons at camp. Look out for your group. Travel with a buddy. Ask for help when you need it. Take turns. And always stay with your crew.