Category Archives: Random Bananas

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”.

 

 


Curb Couch

We took you for granted, I see that now. All those years you sat by, quietly supporting us. You welcomed our friends and family with no questions asked.

Stoic.

Solid.

Slightly greasy in some spots.

Oh, Curb Couch, you’ve come to mean so much to us. And it wasn’t until now, as we set you outside for pick-up that I recognize your true value.

You, our faux-sueded wonder.

Majestic two-person sofa.

As with all things, your season has come to an end. You can no longer take a jump like you used to. Despite my many Pinterest-inspired cleaning attempts, that black Sharpie isn’t going to come off. Nor will the half-eaten red lollipop I recently discovered behind your cushions. So to the curb you must go, old friend.

Not many pieces of furniture receive a custom-made photo essay farewell tribute. But not all are worthy enough to be called the Curb Couch.

Gone, But Not Forgotten: a Tribute in Photos Taken on My Phone

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Passive aggression is tiring. Thank goodness for Curb Couch.

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Curb Couch has the best lighting for a selfie with a reluctant participant (please see above).

Was I worried that we would look less than classy with living room furniture sitting by our driveway? I don’t think Curb Couch is going to change our neighbours’ opinions of us me that much. They’ve seen me strolling to the park in my pajamas or shuffling slowly by looking for a signal when our wifi is out. There’s little I can do to surprise them at this point.

 

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We’d left good old scuff-armed sofa out for 24-hours and it was still there. As was I.

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Say what you like, our house has become quite the hot spot. Curb Couch is an ideal perch for heckling with friends.

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No shoes on the couch, boys. We are Canadian after all.

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Curb Couch at Sunset

But wait! Our time is not over. We have been gifted with another two weeks of our mystery-stained, but surprisingly comfortable, chesterfield. How? Our youngest child informed the garbage collectors that “nope, it’s staying” when they stopped to collect it. Never trust a five-year-old sitting on a curb couch. THEY ARE NOT RELIABLE.

And now, sweet Curb Couch is being held in furniture purgatory in our garage.

 

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Will we be moving it back outside to bask in the sunshine reflecting off the worn armrests? Only time (and lack of calls by our neighbours to by-law complaint) will tell.

Come on by.

Sit a bit.

I’ve got mediocre snacks and a great view.

We’re the house with couch sitting by the curb. Intermittently.

 

 


I Can’t Feel My Face

It’s wise to take some quiet time and reflect. Some people pray, meditate, or contemplate life’s bigger issues in solitude. In the past I used the long drive to work to centre myself. Others do yoga, walk, or wake up early to catch the pre-morning peace (they are robots, just FYI).

I tend to take my quiet whenever and wherever I find it. Some days it’s at the kitchen sink as I wash dishes, other times it’s when I’m angry-cleaning the basement bathroom. Most recently, it was the dentist’s chair.

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Having have your face frozen is not the same as Botox, I know that now.

Due to some lacklustre flossing coupled with the presence of three baby teeth, I needed to get some cavities checked (if my dentist reads this, I floss daily and must have a genetic predisposition to cavities, I’m sure that’s a thing). It’s fine, I can handle needles and if we’ve ever met in person, you know I am quiet capable of distracting myself. What follows is the rabbit trail of thoughts I contemplated during that hour of blissful mostly-quiet time. Fun Fact: it’s amazing how the definition of “quiet time” changes as you age.

I know pretty much every song playing on this station. I wonder who chooses the music? Probably the dentist, or do they vote on it as a staff? Do they change it to a different station when the boss isn’t here?

Premium Plus is a weird name for crackers. Premium plus WHAT? If it’s already a premium product, what could they have added? Also, they aren’t really all that premium.

I’m hungry.

I should have peed before I got in the chair. 

If I opted not to get the topical anesthetic, would that cut some of the time? I just want to get out and hit the dollar store. I can take the pain. 

Kimmy Schmidt says you can do anything for ten seconds. I can live with this plastic wedge in my cheek. I can do it. When will season three of Kimmy Schmid be out? I miss John Hamm.

Is Rod Stewart still alive*?

That cup of coffee at the end of the school day was a mistake. I see that now.

I used to want to grow my hair as long as Crystal Gale’s. But how would you wash it? Wouldn’t your neck hurt? Was she Loretta Lynn’s sister? Loretta. Lor-et-ta. Loretta.

If the zombie apocalypse started right now, I’d be in big trouble. Would the staff stay to help me get this rubber dam out of mouth? I think that would be a serious disadvantage. I’d be fine for the first few hours, but once this freezing ran out, I’d be toast. Death by gaping hole in my tooth. WHY DIDN’T I FLOSS MORE I AM SO SORRY FOR MY PAST DENTAL HYGIENE TRANSGRESSIONS.

I really need to pee. It’s worse every time they rinse my mouth.

I could practice some kegels, I guess. Just sitting here anyways.

Roche Voisin’s singing sounds an awful lot like Anne Murray. You know, that lady can really pull off a short hair cut. Not everyone can. Is she still alive*? I’ll google her later.

I miss the Muppet Show. 

If I owned this dental office I would offer facial waxing/dental work package. Cavities filled and moustaches removed, all in one trip. 

What happens if the freezing reaches my nose? Will I stop breathing? How will I signal that problem? Lift left hand for suction, right hand for suffocation?

I think I might actually pee my pants soon. I wonder if that has ever happened? Are there protocols for patients peeing their pants because they drank too much coffee before their appointment? 

My thumb nails are really ridgey.

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*Yes, still alive.

 

 

 

 


The Perks and Pitfalls of Getting Older

With age comes wisdom, sure, but plenty of other things accompany maturing age, too. Shifting priorities are one example. Instead of searching for the perfect radio station in the car, you use the optimal lighting in your mini-van to find and extract chin hairs.

Age also brings discovery. As I progress into my forties I have discovered that debit machine screens suddenly have a glare requiring me to hold them at awkward angles. Also, noises are exhausting. All the noises: loud voices, medium voices, the whirring of the dishwasher, the wind lifting the tarp off the table in the back yard, the way my husband eats cereal, and my son sniffing. Tapping of any sort induces high levels of stress (maybe that’s just me, but it’s real. STOP IT).        no-you-need-reading-glasses

A few unexpected surprises have come along. My children all sleep through the night now so, of course, a new pal, Insomnia, visits more often. Whereas I used to be awakened by a newborn, now I wake up trying to recall the theme song from “Simon and Simon” or wondering if a hard-boiled egg is really called a Ten-Minute Egg.  I discovered I have “good rags” and get annoyed when someone uses them to clean the bbq grill or the tile around the toilets.please-floss-somewhere-i-cant-hear-you

My threshold for thrills has been lowered dramatically as my age increases. Recently I was ridiculously excited about buying a new foot cream. Just buying it. Don’t even get me started on actually trying it, that’s a topic for a whole other post (spolier: my heels no longer got caught on my workout leggings). Ordering clothes for my kids is almost more thrilling that shopping for myself – how did that happen? Dad jokes are not nearly as painful as they once were, in fact, I employ them. REGULARLY. “Oh, hello, Thirsty, my name is Mom.” Hilarious.

While a few years ago, I looked forward to going out, now I am quite content staying home and watching Netflix while browsing youtube for how-to videos about knitting projects I will never do. Or something like that.

There are some nice perks of getting older, too. I have learned scores of lessons since hitting the big 4-0. Your time is valuable so I will share one of the most profound epiphanies:

Self-care is vital to mental health. Time spent with friends, reading a book, meditating, or enjoying a hot cup of coffee can feed the soul. One word of caution, dear reader. If you unwind one afternoon by soaking in a steaming, hot bath, that is fantastic. However, trying to put on skinny jeans right after towelling off could be hazardous. You might end up stuck in your own pants weighing the pros and cons of  wriggling around on a tile floor or giving up until your skin cools down. Neither option is pretty. Or do you carefully shuffle around to find a pair of scissors and “jaws of life” your way out? How much did the jeans cost? Is it more than your pride? Can you discreetly dispose of cut-up jeans to avoid uncomfortable questions? Why did you even buy those jeans in the first place sure they give a nice silhouette with your slouchy sweater but AT WHAT COST WHAT COST I SAY?

Hypothetically speaking.

Age well,  friends. Age well.

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Poke-a-what now?

“Mommy, see this card I got. It’s an EX.”

“My skirnigorf has evolved!”

“I thought that was a good trade, but then I realized that mine had way more energy than the other one so I didn’t.”

Hold on – cards can have energy? They evolve? Tell me more no wait, that’s okay.

Pokemon.

I’ve tried. For years I have tried. I think I am a reasonably intelligent woman. I can hold my own in a conversation and can even watch movies with subtitles. But Pokemon is something beyond my comprehension.

And that, dear readers, is a problem because not only do I have four offspring who are all into Pokemon cards, our house is the trading hub for such activities. On any given day there could be up to nine or ten kids congregated on our front porch actively discussing and negotiating with these playing cards. They stroll over with their binders full of plastic sleeves housing these colourful and shiny bits of paper and huddle on the cold concrete for an hour or more. They only stop to pee or hydrate. And I teach in an elementary school so basically 75% of my waking hours have some element of Pokemon in it. I want to be an engaged mom and neighbour, but I’m struggling.

In an effort to be an invested parent and a teacher with a working knowledge of this craze, recently I agreed to let my son show me his Pokemon collection. It took a long time. A really, really long time.

What follows is a photo essay of sorts chronicling the longest 45 minutes of my life.

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I am watching you and trying really hard to follow along, honest.

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Those are a lot of cards

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I mean, when did you get so many? WHO IS FUNDING THIS CARD-BUYING FIASCO? 

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HOW many pages?

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No, I’m listening. Really. I am. Something about energy and wait, I’ll be right back, your brother needs me to move the van.

Do I want to see your Pokemon? Depends. Will you be serving snacks?

 


Me versus the Laundry Tub

I like to think that I am skilled at multi-tasking. And in many ways I am. But if you know me in real life you are keenly aware that I am also highly distractible. Do not sit beside me in a meeting unless you are prepared to engage in sidebar conversations and also willing to fill me in on the things I missed. I’m not proud of it, but that’s who I am.

Imagine what it’s like for me to try to clean the house, plan lunch for the boys, rotate laundry, and type in the password for an online game while listening to a podcast and trying to tweet my random thoughts. It’s a burden, guys, a real burden. So far I haven’t (permanently) lost any children or burned the house down.

What you are about to read is a real-life, mostly accurate recount of true events that transpired in our home.

The children were mindlessly watching something on Netflix. I decided I would blitz through as many chores as possible while they were occupied. I cleaned some toilets, tossed some clothes in the washing machine, and emptied out the recycling bins. Upon my return from the garage, I noticed Bearded Husband’s sandals sitting in the laundry tub needing a wash. He had been busy with school work and home repairs, and stinky footwear is kind of my specialty, so I thought I’d do it for him. However, the compost bin was in the way. I put the plug in the laundry tub, started the hot water and dashed to the kitchen to put the bin away (because everything has a home).

And that’s when things got dicey.

The bin needed lining, so I MacGuyvered some paper bags from the liquor store into a passable liner (it isn’t hard when you have so many bags at your disposal, but that’s another story for another day). Then one son needed help finding Mario videos on youtube and the other two required assistance to choose a show they could both enjoy. I sat down and scrolled through the options while sipping my lukewarm coffee. Once everyone was content, I tried to recall which task I had been doing prior to the interruptions and hey, what’s that hissing sound? Did someone leave the hose on outside because that’s weird we’ve been indoo–NOOOOOOOOOO.

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Steady, Jan, steady. You’ve got this.

The water was hot. Super hot. And even this psychology major knows about water displacement. Putting my arm in that tub would result in scalding of my skin and more water sloshing onto the floor. Not on my watch.

How was I to get enough water out of the tub so I could unplug it yet not make more mess? And then an unused science part of my brain kicked in and I thought “I will just dangle a wet cloth over the side into a pail and let physics take care of the rest.”

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At some point in my life, I learned about molecules sticking together blah blah blah. Attraction, sciencey word, sciencey word, something about gravity and affinity. I don’t know, I’m 100% bluffing. But I really did know that it would work, despite having never done it before.

Was is Sesame Street? That biology course I dropped in university? Casual conversation? I cannot recall. But I do know this: Science Works.

Maybe my brain just can’t actively retain information like the source of my knowledge, but apparently my brain is full of it. And I intend to use this knowledge for good. Like staging photos of me being poisoned by puffball mushrooms we found in the woods just so I could post them on facebook. TIME WELL SPENT. I REGRET NOTHING.

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I think I was working on something before I sat down to write this. Meh, it probably wasn’t important.

 

 

 


Everything Has a Home

“Cleanliness is next to godliness” – ancient proverb

“Out of clutter, find simplicity” – Albert Einstein

“Clutter is nothing more than postponed decisions” – Barbara Hemphill


Oh, yes. I agree – clutter is the worst. Once upon a time I was organized. Everything had a place. What a sweet, sweet time that was. Counters were clear, laundry was folded and put away, recycling was taken out, and if something wasn’t needed then off to donation box it went. The floors were clear and end tables held only lamps and maybe a coffee cup (okay, definitely a coffee cup).

Glorious days, my friends. Glorious, tidy, streamlined days.

Then we had kids and our house became inhabited by these little people and all their little people things. But I was determined to keep our home clutter-free. We bought storage containers and decorative baskets. There was a Car Basket and a Book Basket and a shelf for puzzles. For a little while this worked, but eventually the grown-ups were outnumbered and the children were expected to take on some of the cleaning responsibility, and things changed.

“Clean” became “clean-ish”. Tidy meant that stuff wasn’t laying around on the main floor, but only a brave soul would venture into other regions of the house. And closing the basement door was all that was necessary for it to be deemed “put-away”.

Standards were lowered. But not forever and not completely. The anti-clutter side of me comes out every now and then. The family knows it’s coming when I start saying things like, “this is not preschool!” and “EVERYTHING HAS A HOME PUT THINGS IN THEIR HOME”. This generally results in me being offered some “quiet time” and Bearded Husband quietly ushers the children from the home amidst whispers of “she’ll be fine, everything will be okay, just get in the van boys.”

That’s when the magic happens.

Jackets are hung up on their hooks. Bedding is folded and placed on the correct shelves. Receipts are thrown out and library books are gathered for return. The craft area gets purged and all the art supplies fit in their decorative bins. When the house is tidied, I feel calm and smiley. It’s a great feeling.

And then the family returns and this happens.

(These photograph have in no way been altered or staged)

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EVERYTHING HAS A HOME

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PUT THE THINGS IN THEIR HOME

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One day I will miss the clutter and chaos that a house full of kids brings, it’s true. But I wouldn’t mind being able to close a closet door all the way. Just once.