The Van of Enlightenment

It’s taken me just under ten years but I have figured it out.

Cracked the code.

Uncovered the secret.

Distilled the formula.

Want to know what your son is thinking? Interested in his school life? Curious about his peer dynamics? Or just wondering what he really thinks about that girl Paige in his class? (she’s the worst, by the way).

Here’s the answer. And it’s foolproof.

Drive the van.

That’s it.

Load up the van with him and a bunch of his friends and drive them somewhere. The destination doesn’t matter, but try for something fifteen minutes away, minimum.

And drive. Just drive. Don’t pepper them with questions, don’t insert yourself into the conversation and do not make eye contact. Pretend you are on a safari observing animals in their natural habitat (but don’t take notes, because they will see that and wonder why you pulled over. Same goes for whispering recordings into your phone).

The information you will gather by listening in (it’s not eavesdropping if they forget you can hear them) is astounding. Here’s a recent sampling, in case you doubt my methods:

Josh thinks he’s so great at soccer, but really, he isn’t.

Someone needs to tell Julia to settle down – everyone knows she’s loud just to get attention.

Adam claims he got to level K in math drills, but he totally didn’t. Liar.

Ryan is so mean that they’d like to take a power washer to him and wouldn’t even feel bad about it.

There are also some epiphanies which give you a peek into alternative parenting choices. For instance, one boy piped up with incredulity, “Wait, you can ride your bike on the street? Such freedom.”

You might be tempted to jump in and ask some follow up questions, but play it cool. Stay in the shadows. That time will come later.

It can be challenging to listen and not reply, but it’s worth it. You might want to chime in that maybe Julia feels insecure and is looking for a safe circle to be herself. Squash the urge to point out that maybe life is hard for Ryan and that’s why he acts out. Perhaps Josh doesn’t feel good about himself so he shows off the skill he is most proud of.

There will be opportunities for those conversations, but for now, just listen.

Drive the van.


Watermelon Wasteland

Once there was a tired mom who groggily dragged herself downstairs. All poor mom wanted was a cup of coffee. She could almost taste it.

The elixir of life
The elixir of life

But instead of a hot cup of joe, this mom was greeted by devastation.

A giant watermelon that was awaiting consumption decided nighttime would be the right time to give up all hope. This depressed watermelon sprung a leak and all its insides had oozed out onto the table.

The carnage was not limited to the table. One of the mom’s sons had created pottery with air-dry clay. The fish and bowl were the first victims, reduced to soggy bits of sadness.

Next in line was the chair and wall. Although watermelons are mostly water, there is a high sugar component. Sticky watermelon intestine juice removal is not a simple task. And it stinks.

Clean up was swift and efficient, despite lack of help.
Clean up was swift and efficient, despite lack of help.

Poor mom was heckled with unnecessary observations from her offspring about the “grossness” and the condition of the pottery. But no one offered to hold the garbage bag for her. Weird.

The final victim of this culinary savagery was mom’s sanity. Because coffee.

Production has already begun on the sequel, “Mango Mayhem”.

Just give it one more day
Just give it one more day

Insert Evil Laugh

I saw it.

With my own eyes.

We were in line for a roller coaster that I would soon decide not to ride. And then I saw him. A twenty-something guy with a fully waxed, handle bar moustache and a girlfriend. He looked like a Disney villain, but with a lady on his arm, there can be no doubt, he’s a hero. Or at least has supernatural powers.

I’d like to offer you some photographic evidence, but he thwarted all our efforts.

"Just pretend you're taking my picture, but snap a shot of that amazing 'stache. I will never ask you for anything ever again."
“Just pretend you’re taking my picture, but snap a shot of that amazing ‘stache. I will never ask you for anything ever again.”

My window of opportunity was small – zoom in, Bearded Husband, zoom in.

Turn around. Please. Just a little to the right.
Turn around. Please. Just a little to the right.

You’ll just have to believe me. It was real. I even saw him twirl it with his finger. I have no doubt that as he ate his funnel cake, he was really plotting ways to take over the world. Or at least Canada.

Curses, foiled again.
Curses, foiled again.

Have you ever bumped into a celebrity at a theme park? How about at the mall? Perhaps at a Tim Hortons? 

Mom’s McSpiral

It’s date night with one of my favourite little people. Despite my attempts to go to anywhere else, that mini-human is sure to chose the Golden Arches. And thus begins the strategic planning to eat healthy despite being in this fast-food nexus.

Tastes like happy, but wit an aftertaste of regret.
Tastes like happy, but with an aftertaste of regret.

Okay, I’ll go there, but I’m going to eat a quick snack beforehand so I’m not ravenous and succumb to temptation.

No time. No problem. I’ll just get water and a salad.

Well, maybe not a salad. A wrap – yes, a veggie wrap. That’s a good choice.

A veggie wrap is almost like eating negative calories, so I’ll get a small pop instead of water. Wouldn’t want to seem too self-righteous to my dear, sweet french fry-eating child.

Mmmm. French fries. No. 

Since I’m not ordering fries, I’ll get the chicken wrap. That extra protein will satisfy any cravings I might encounter.

A chicken wrap, easy on the dressing. They custom order, right?

I wouldn’t want to seem too choosey, so I’ll take it the way they prepare it.

Seems a shame to get the grilled chicken. I’ll get the crispy. All those veggies still make it healthy. Mostly.

A chicken wrap, small pop. That’s it.

Those fries just came out of the fryer. So hot and fresh. 

No. I’ll just snag a few when the little guy isn’t looking.

He'll know. He always knows.
He’ll know. He always knows.

He’s always looking. I think he counts the total before he starts eating.

I’ll get my own, to keep the peace. But just a small.

A chicken wrap, pop, and fries. 

How much is that chicken wrap?

A cheeseburger is pretty low-cost. We do live on a budget. I’ll just get that. It’s for the children.

Saving some serious money not getting that over-priced chicken wrap. I think I can get the medium fries. 

Yes, I’m ready to order: cheeseburger, medium fries, and a small pop, please. 

Wait, it’s the same price for a larger drink? Well, then it seems wasteful not to upsize.

How am I paying? 

With my dignity, thanks.

Super WHY?

photo 1-7

Uh, oh, Red Riding Hood has a problem – she can’t find Little Boy Blue. There’s only one solution: gather your group of friends to your secret club, transform into Super Readers, hop into your WhyFlyers (they probably use a lot of fuel), jump into a storybook, chase down the clues, solve numerous riddles, collect Super Letters, interact with storybook characters who very 2-dimensional (so shallow), and finally, 30 minutes later realize you just needed to be “clever”.

Or, there’s Option B: get Wifi.

Don’t know where LBB went? Bet he checked in with Foursquare somewhere.

Not sure why he left? Well, look at that, he just tweeted that he’s headed out for brunch.

Yup, just posted a picture of his French Toast on Instagram (no filter).

Dear me, what is that mice like to eat? Just ask Google, Prince Charming.

photo 3-2

Oh, Princess Pea didn’t know how to spell “cheese”? The Oxford dictionary is now online.

Unsure what Super Duper means? Urban Dictionary, guys.

Next Season: SuperReaders to the Rescue! Solving your problems in 2 minutes or less thanks to unlimited data plans.


Et tu, Brute?

Let’s order pizza tonight, it’s too hot to cook.

Messy! Messy!
Easy! Easy!

We can eat it on the porch and then we won’t have any clean up.

photo 1-6
Looks like Little Caesar was murdered in a most horrific way


No, I’m not eating chocolate chips by the handful with a chaser of orange Kool Aid trying not to cry in the kitchen. Nope, not me.

What makes you eat your feelings? Ever have a restaurant mascot meet an unfortunate end on your front porch?

O Canada, Part Deux


Contrary to popular opinion, we DO have money
Contrary to popular opinion, we DO have money

Last year I interviewed three of our boys about Canada. Here’s an addendum since one more son can speak in sentences and the other had a bit to add.

I asked one of the Littles, “Who is the boss of Canada?” to which he promptly replied, “God.” His younger brother added, “Jesus”. So, there’s that.

When I inquired of the 3 year old where Canada is, he informed me, “in the garage.” He also told me that Canada doesn’t use money, so he’s a questionable source.

I might have gotten more information and trivia out of them, but the 5 year old suddenly left to go potty. Priorities, guys.

Happy Birthday, Canada! 

*For more on this topic, click here to view Bast and Moyer talk about Canadian money.

My Five Rules for Bedtime

Bedtime, right?

When our oldest was a baby I had visions of cuddly story time, quiet chats as we put our little guy to bed, maybe even some insightful conversations about his day.


Is that happiness I hear?
Do I hear happiness in here?

There are moments of sweetness, of course. Who doesn’t enjoy being asked, “why are your arms so squishy?” or “can you leave now?” or “Are you going out? You’re not wearing yoga pants so you must be going out?” It’s just like I always pictured.

Trying to get four energetic boys ready for bed is how I burn off all the Oreos I eat. Even if I pace it out and try man-to-man versus a zone approach I still end up looking like Miss Hannigan.

And so, I present to you My Five Rules for Bedtime.

1. Leave Mommy’s shoes alone. I don’t mind if you try them on, but not when you should be brushing your teeth and definitely not when that’s all you’re wearing.

He is surprising agile in those
He can strut around in those better than I can. So proud.

2. Don’t eat the toothpaste. If you stumble upon a dried up, clumpy mound of white pasty goodness, leave it alone or toss it in the garbage, but please do not eat it. Or if you can’t resist, wait until I leave the room.

3. Farting during the bible story. No. Ditto for prayers.

4. No naked running. No naked hurdles. No naked dancing. No naked — look, just put some clothes on.

5. One brother on the toilet at a time.


Your turn – bedtime rules you have or wish you’d had – go.

Coffee Shopping Like a Real Grown-Up

Once upon a time I went to a real coffee shop without any kids.

This is that time.

You can read it over here at Coffee Shopper’s (some of my favourite Americans blog over there).

Be sure to follow them on The Twitter and their own blogs, too. The tea-drinking, coffee blogger, Elizabeth and her partner in crime and caffeine, Laura. They are good people.

The Change Your Name Store – In Review

If you go through life being called “Jananice” or “Janet” or “Which one are you?” (I do not have a twin, for the record) you contemplate changing your name. When my sister and I played we often took on new personas. Most often I chose Angie from that TV show (don’t pretend you don’t remember).

When it wasn’t Angie, we fought over who would be Ashley. I don’t know why. And that was when we weren’t reenacting episodes of “Solid Gold”.

The very talented, Leanne Shirtliffe, recently penned a children’s book The Change Your Name Store and I knew I had to have it. I thoroughly enjoyed her first book, Don’t Lick the Minivan and was anxious to see her handiwork with children’s literature. We were not disappointed.

Go. Buy it. Now.
Go. Buy it. Now.

This story follows the adventures of Wilma Lee Wu who decides to change her name. She finds the Change Your Name store where one can try on different names to find the right fit. The catch is that when you try one, you are transported to the country of origin. Love this.

As a parent of all boys, I appreciate that the main character is a spunky girl who does not fall into some of the stereotypes of young female heroines. As a teacher, I value the multiculturalism celebrated in this story along with the underlying theme of liking who you are. The rhyming narrative flows naturally and engages young and old.

The illustrations by Tina Kugler are fun and inviting. They capture the feel of the story and the characters just right. Our boys enjoy finding all the little details on each page. Wilma’s pet dog is an excellent addition and ALMOST makes me want to get a pet.

When asked what he liked best about the story, our seven-year-old replied, “that you get to visit the country when you try a name.” I agree. When asked what I should changed my name to, without hesitation he answered, “Babette”. Not bad, and definitely better than what they wanted to call their youngest brother (Boomer). I wonder what country Boomer comes from?

This book should be on your shelf.