Little House, Big Fan

To describe me as a fan of Little House on the Prairie is a gross understatement.  Not the books, the TV series.  I was too young to watch it when it originally aired, but I caught it in reruns later and consumed the entire series, more than once.

LHOP shaped my worldview in many ways. When I was offended by something a friend or sister had done I would describe her as “such a Nellie Olsen”! If a character on a medical drama needed pain relief and they were given morphine my first thought was “Careful! It’s highly addictive. Just ask Albert after he got in with a bad crew and was so hooked he stole the drug from sweet Doc Baker. PA WOULD BE SO DISAPPOINTED IN YOU.”

My roommate in university and I stayed up late one night recalling episodes of our beloved show. She disclosed that she and her sisters would put nylons on their heads and braid the legs as hair and act out scenes as the Ingalls girls. In case you’re wondering, yes, I for sure casually strolled into her room several times as I braided my pantyhoes atop my head.

As newlyweds, Bearded Husband and I had a vegetable garden in a very sunny backyard. As I lugged watering cans from our rain barrel to the parched tomatoes I reminded myself that if a heavily-pregnant Laura Ingalls Wilder could take care of her and Manly’s crops during a drought, then surely I could manage our garden during a heatwave. Sadly, no Willie Olsen organized my students to help me out, but I also did not suffer from heatstroke, so there’s that.

One morning when my oldest son was about five years old, he complained that his neck was itchy. I discovered a fine rash on his torso and he was running a fever. We went to the doctor and the moment he laid eyes on my little guy he declared “Oh, he has Scarlett Fever, I can tell just by looking. Hop up on the table so can check to be sure.” I then waited for the punchline. Nothing. So I responded with “Pa! I can’t see! Help me, Pa!” Our doctor had an excellent sense of humour, but his LHOP frame of reference was nil. I had to spell it out for him: “Ha, ha, like Mary Ingalls, right? Little House?” After a beat he calmly commented, “Oh, yeah, it’s a real thing, but don’t worry we caught it early and he will be fine.” Wait, wait, wait, this was something you could still get?

The above anecdotes might not convince you that I was die-hard fan. Fair point.  But then let me ask you this: would anyone but a die-hard fan have the LHOP collector’s plates?

No. They would not.

My collection began as a kind gesture from my parents. They had the plates shipped to a friend who lived in the states (only US residents could order these treasures). He would  then bring them to us on his visits. The orchestration of the purchase and delivery of these memorabilia just adds to the legend that is my LHOP plate collection. I have saved them for such a time as this. We are all at home for social isolation and going out to the grocery store now is the equivalent of Caroline Ingalls going to the mercantile to haggle with Mrs. Olsen. Plus, they keep me company.

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Here they are, in all their Little House glory.
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Laura is all of us right now trying to keep our distance at the til.
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The plate that started it all.

I’m not lonely. Who said I was lonely?

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See? I can still have all my friends over for lunch. 

I’m fine. Nothing to worry about.

I’m willing to loan these out to those of you who are homeschooling the Pioneer Life unit of the grade 3 curriculum. Just promise to be careful.

So, LHOP fans – which episodes stuck with you? How did this series impact your life? 

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.

____________________

*Yes, still alive.

 

 

 

 

Tension and Turntables

It was a typical Saturday in that the boys were oscillating between playing nicely and pushing each others’ buttons. In an attempt to keep the peace and remove a certain younger brother from the mix, I retrieved our old record player from the basement.

Sometimes I think I need a life coach, or at the very least a Jiminy Cricket-type friend who will caution me when I’m about to make a huge parenting mistake. Someone who will whisper, “Really, do you not remember the last time you got that out and how many times they played ‘Snoopy Versus the Red Baron’?”

But I digress.

Old favourites from my childhood were dusted off and played. If you haven’t heard “Itsy Bitsy Teeny Weeny Yellow Polka Dot Bikini” on high speed (but just the chorus) you haven’t lived.

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In general I would be described as a laid-back mom. I don’t tend to micro-manage and the general chaos that is our family life does not phase me (except for tapping, that’s the worst). However, I seem to have strong feelings about playing records. I was unaware of this side of me. What follows is a sample of phrases I uttered while my old LPs were spinning, unedited.

Gentle.

Please pick a speed.

Stop flipping between the speeds.

How about we let the whole song play right to the end?

Gentle.

Leave the volume at one setting.

No jumping, it’ll scratch the record.

Put the record back in the sleeve.

The sleeve, the box-thing it came in.

GENTLE.

Just let the song play the whole way.

That record made it through my entire childhood, it better make it through this afternoon.

GEN.TLE.

Stop jumping.

Hey! I have an idea – just let the song play through.

Pick a speed and commit.

We can’t repair it if it breaks, stop fiddling with the switches.

JUST. PICK. A. SPEED.

We don’t put Lego figures on the turntable, I don’t care if it looks cool.

LETTHESONGFINISHBEGENTLESTOPJUMPING

Here’s the part where I say something profound about how I changed my perspective and savoured the sweet moments of them having fun together. How Psalty the singing songbook isn’t creepy in hindsight and the boys delighted in my ability to recount all the lyrics to Muppet Movie soundtrack.

Nope.

They had fun, the record player still works, and no albums were damaged.

Okay, okay, it did bring back good memories for me. It conjured up images of the old blue velour couch from my childhood home where just yesterday I was curled up listening to The Three Little Pigs on my portable player. Or cozy winter nights spent indoors while another album dropped onto the turntable (our hi-fi was quite fancy and held up to five records in the queue). Rifling through the large selection of LPs in our family collection – Burrell Ives, Bobby Vinton, Rick Springfield, Tom Jones, and of course Kids Praise.

Sunday afternoons spent playing games, napping, or reading. The house buzzing with the sound of friends and family visiting. The smell of coffee brewing.

You can’t hang on to everything, but we should hang on to some things. Today I’m grateful for vinyl, varying speeds and all. It’s okay, Jiminy, I’ve got this.

 

 

What Are you Doing?

Ah, teaching kindergarten children. Is it rewarding? Yes. Fun? Absolutely. Challenging? At times, yes. Energizing? You betcha. Draining? For sure. Worth it? Without a doubt.

Do you ever wonder what it’s like to work with small children every day? Here you go.

___________________________

Student (to me as I stamp letters with a classmate). What are you doing?

Me (thinking it is pretty obvious). What am I doing?

Student (smiling). What are you doing?

Me. What am I doing?

S. What are you doing?

M. What am I doing?

S (giggling). What are you doing?

M. What is in my hand?

S. What is in your hand?

M. What do you think I am doing?

S. What are you doing?

M (gesturing directly at the stamps and paper and classmate). What does it look like I am doing?

S. What are you doing?

M (weeping quietly). Stamping. His. Name. With. This. Stamp. In. My Hand.

S. Hahaha. What are you doing?

M. Go find a centre, honey.

S. Bye.

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Pure Wander: “It’s the Journey”

Pure Wander: “It’s the Journey”

Pure Wander is a site for families who like to travel – near and far. You can find me over there today guest posting. We might not travel far (yet) but it’s always an adventure with our crew of six Moyers.

Check out the great travel tips and destinations.

My Worst Car

Growing up, our family of six always had two cars – one big enough to for the entire crew all at once, and the second, a smaller one (typically a hatchback) to supplement our transportation needs.

It looked just like this except with a big white stripe down the middle.
It looked just like this except with a big white stripe down the middle.

The first cars I remember were the wood-panelled station wagon with vinyl seats and optional seat belts, and one of several “second” cars, an orange and white Mercury Capri. Both cars were AWESOME. The Capri resembled the “General Lee” a bit, and you honked the horn by pressing the handle of the turn signal. What kind of engineering magic was that?! Forget getting my license, I just wanted to honk that horn.

Sadly, the Capri gave up the ghost before I was able to drive. But it was replaced by an even better hatchback: a Chrysler Turismo. And guys, it was gold. Gold. GOLD. It was painted gold with matching beige interior. That little gem was a demo car for the dealership our cousin worked at so we got this fully-loaded two door for a great deal.

I got this off wikipedia, but it could be ours, there's a limited market for gold hatchback.
I got this off wikipedia, but it could be ours, there’s a limited market for gold hatchbacks.

When I say “fully-loaded” I mean it. This 1985 Turismo came with the following features:

– AM/FM radio with tapedeck

– Swivel light for map reading (or lipgloss application, whichever need arose)

– Air conditioning

– Hydraulic action hatch

This beauty even had a hidden perk that I did not discover until I drove it myself: in a small town, a gold hatchback really stands out. My parents did not need GPS to know where I’d been or what I’d been up to  – I was my own one-car parade. I drove around and people waved even before they saw who was behind the wheel, because it was A GOLD TURISMO. I may as well have been driving the Pope-mobile for all the camouflage that car provided.

Although we treated old Goldie with respect and care, it did not take long for things to start going wonky. And my parents, being financially responsible and never having to drive that car, decided it was best to avoid most repairs and just live with it.

First to go was the driver’s seat tilt option. If you were foolish enough to adjust that from the leisurely position my too-tall brother had set it at, your loss. It took a lot of prayer and tears to get it to stay in the upright position again. I spent many hours sitting up perfectly straight and clutching the steering wheel for leverage.

Next we lost the eject function on the tape deck. But it turns out I was a bit of a MacGyver – all we had to do was press eject and yank the cassette out with a pair of tweezers that became a permanent fixture in the ash tray. (Do not attempt that manoeuvre in a moving vehicle).

The air conditioning went next. And since “you only drive it in hot weather for really a few weeks, we aren’t going to spend the money to fix it”, we learned to live without it. A decision I support now as a parent of four on a budget, but COME ON – it was so hot.

Apparently the Turismo didn’t like the AC decision either and started to really act out. The clutch had always been a bit finicky, but now it took things to a whole new level. If you adjusted it one way, it would stall at every intersection or slow-down. If adjusted the other, it would run on after you turned off the ignition (hard to roll into the driveway or school parking lot incognito when followed by ca-klunk, ca-klunk). We opted to go with the “stall” option and learned to pop it into neutral regularly, earning Goldie the title of “Automatic Car that wants to be a Standard”.

This temperamental car didn’t stop there, though. Next it went on to overheat – the vehicular equivalent of holding one’s breath. Any time it was in stop-and-go traffic the engine temp would rise at an alarming rate. This was both scary and embarrassing. BUT WAIT – we figured out how to deal with that, too. All you had to do was crank the heat at maximum power to offset the heat from the engine. And good news, it only overheated in the summer so you were already dressed for the temps and had the windows down anyways (remember, no AC).

The hatchback feature was perhaps the most amazing part of this car. If you folded down the back seat you could move the contents of your entire university bedroom in one trip. The demon that possessed the Turismo decided to thwart that, too and within a few years, the hydraulic doo-dad that held the hatch open stopped working. BUT WAIT. We dealt with that, too – it was nothing a hockey stick couldn’t fix.

The university years were hard on our relationship, but we wouldn’t give up on old Goldie. The passenger side door no longer opened from the outside, so the driver would get in, then lean across to open it for the others. That was fine except for my sister with whom I shared the Turismo  insisted on locking that door anyways. So that meant one lunge across to open, realize it was locked, lunge across to unlock, and a third to open the door. We did not agree on this method. Also, no one would want to steal that car.

Once winter hit, the fun really began – all the quirks of the Turismo came together. The doors froze shut so the only way to get inside was through the hatch, but remember, it wouldn’t stay open without the hockey stick technique which was precarious at best. So you always had to travel with a buddy who could hold the hatch open for you and then pull on the outside handle of the door while you body checked it from inside. Thankfully, living in student housing, there was always someone around willing to help out for a free ride to campus.

Winter was also the Turismo’s time to shine. Perhaps it was the overheating engine, or the over-running clutch, but that car would start in the coldest of weather. The Polar Vortex would have been no match for Goldie.

The attempted sabotage this car tried to inflict on me only managed to give me wizard status. As the car aged, it became more finicky and eventually only two people on the entire planet were able to get it to start and stay running. I wore that title with more pride that I probably should have.

Eventually the Turismo’s time here on earth came to an end. It was on a dark and slick highway one evening in March. The interior lights started to fade, the radio grew faint, and I barely managed to coast into a gas station to call the Clean Shaven boyfriend (who later became Bearded Husband) to come rescue me. We all had to agree that sinking any more money into Goldie was a fruitless endeavour. We had her towed to a wrecking yard and I think I received enough cash to cover the last tankful of gas I’d put in.

Oh, sweet Turismo. You never ceased to cause anxiety levels to rise. You always kept things interesting. I’ll never forget some of the phrases often spoken in that car:

It makes that smell all the time.

It’s okay, it’s when you don’t hear that noise that you need to worry.

We’ll make it, just give it a minute.

That noise is completely normal. 

Hold on tight.

Open your window, we just need to crank the heat for a few minutes, then it’ll be as good as new.

Hold the steering wheel, I want to change the tape.

 

Gone, but not forgotten. Gold Turismo, the worst car I ever had.

Miss you.

_________

Worst car experience? Could have been in the Turismo with me, it’s okay to share that, too.

 

 

 

 

Mine turn?

Moms tend to claim that we get Mother’s Day because labour is the worst. It’s pretty bad, but I’ll tell you the real reason: bath time.

I quietly tiptoe upstairs on a Saturday for a little relaxation in the tub. My expectations are not high, just 15 minutes or so to soak and unwind in the calm ambiance of the bathtub.

Alone.

I clear out the hodge podge of bath toys and turn on the water. No need for bubbles, I know this won’t be a long soak (see how resigned realistic I am?).

No time for the water wheel today
No time for the water wheel today

Just as I get in a little face peeks through the door (how did I forget to lock it?) and chirps sweetly: “I, too?”

I tell Little that it’s just Mommy’s turn.

“I soon?”

Sure, you’re next. Close the door.

He pulls the door shut and I presume he goes off to play. That is until I turn on the hot water and hear a muffled tiny voice ask, “mine turn now?”

No, not yet.

I now realize he is standing right outside the door. Any time I make any noise he inquires: “mine turn?”

No, just rinsing my hair.

“I turn now?”

Nope, just dropped my razor.

“I go now?”

No, soon. Still bathing.

“Mommy, me go? Now?”

Pretty soon.

“I go?”

That was just your brother flushing a toilet somewhere else in the house.

“Mine turn? Mommy?”

Nope, toilet again.

“I come in?”

I think a brother just got a drink.

I keep my head under water hoping for the illusion of isolation, but fun fact: you can still hear someone opening and closing all the dresser drawers. Repeatedly. With vigor.

I pretend not to hear the slamming and convince myself I won’t discover my underwear strewn around the room. Or on his head. Or both.  I’m pretty sure I hear him nosing around in my jewellery box, but those macaroni necklaces will just have to sacrifice themselves for my inner peace.

The sound of the water draining from the tub is like a rally cry. He scurries back to the door to ask one more time: “Mine turn? Now?”

Yes, Little, your turn.

Thrilled, he strips himself down (something he has vowed to be unable to do, I won’t forget that slip-up, you’re on your own now with your coat, buddy) and clamours into the tub.

That lobster looks suspicious
No bath is complete without a lobster

“I no need soap, Mommy. No wash my hair.”

Apparently, Little has learned that sometimes tub time is not about the bath itself.

——

Bath time – is it a family affair at your house or a peaceful oasis?

Releasing Your Inner Toddler

Toddlers are smart.

They can bring a top negotiator to their knees with stubborn persistence alone. They can hold adults hostage merely by refusing to pee on the potty. They can bring a grown woman to tears by simply insisting that their socks feel “funny”.

Recently I decided to test some of their better known tactics out for myself. After all, despite repeated redirection, our toddler keeps trying. There must be some sort of payoff.

Our Little regularly flops to the floor in a sad heap if he’s been told not to dip his cheese in his juice cup. When he insists he can put his boot on himself and you comply by backing off, he’ll toss himself to the ground because you listened to him.

What if grown-ups handled their frustration that way?

My internet connection went down before I could update my status.
My internet connection went down before I could update my status.
No one folded the laundry for me.
No one folded the laundry for me.
Someone forgot to flush the toilet. Again.
Someone forgot to flush the toilet. Again.
He would't stop playing with the light switch.
He wouldn’t stop playing with the light switch.
4YO left the bathroom light on.
4YO left the bathroom light on.
My coffee cooled off before I could finish it.
My coffee cooled off before I could finish it.

Our toddler has many super powers – check out his other tactics here.

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Your turn – what frustrates you most? Have you tried the toddler approach yet? It doesn’t solve anything, but surprisingly does make you feel better.

Dear Mr. Christie

These are nice, but not a novel flavour.
These are nice, but not a novel flavour.

Mr. Christie, you make good cookies.

Oreo® and Chips Ahoy®, Fudgee-O® and Teddy Grahams® are all so delicious. They taste so good we’ll forgive you for your lapse in judgement when you came up with Belvita®. But Mr. Christie, you don’t seem to like to share. Or you play favourites, I’m not sure which. I do know that the USA has many, many more delectable editions of your famous cookies than we do up here in Canada.

Sure, you’ve given us Double Stuff Oreos  and soft bake Chips Ahoy and we thank you (even though we got them much later than our southern neighbours). I’d also like to say thanks for passing along the recipe for mint Oreos and double Fudgee-Os. Halloween Oreos are a nice token you toss our way, so there’s that.

Recently, through the power of the internet, I discovered that we are missing out in the Great White North. What’s up, Mr. C.? Raspberry Oreos, Chocolate Covered Oreos, Peanut Butter Oreos, must I go on? Okay, I will. Cookie Dough Oreos? What has Canada done to be left out of these special treats?

Did you date a Canadian and it ended badly?

Have you not heard about the Fair Trade Agreement? We signed that thing back in 1987.

You know we can see your commercials up here, right? We know about these cookies, Mr. Christie. We know.

Are you afraid of maple of syrup?

Does poutine make you anxious?

Are we not worthy of cookie dough bundled between chocolate wafers? If you cut us, do we not bleed?

Who hurt you, Mr. Christie?

My kind (and favourite) sister sent me some of these novel cookies and now that we’ve tried them, there is no going back. Please, Mr. Christie, in the name of all that’s Nabisco®, send them to Canada. Or the very least, send them to me.

My passion is real.

A Whole New World

Life can be challenging when you are little. All the good stuff is stored just out of your reach. Would you like to go play in the basement? Sure, but who will turn the light on? You’d like to help yourself to some gum, but it’s tucked away up in cupboard. Thanks to the step stool, you can reach the sink to wash your hands, but what fun is that? If only that step stool was portable. Yes, if you could move it around to the location of your desire, life would be so good – all those things you’ve longed for would be attainable. It would be shining, shimmering, even, dare I say, splendid?

No one could tell you “no” or where to go. Or say you’re only dreaming. It would be a whole new world of possibilities. The new sights – did you know they have a candy jar up there? Indescribable feelings when you discover the pens and pencils that have been waiting for you. Probably one hundred thousand different things to see from your new vantage point.

I’m not sure who invented the portable step stool, but he or she is the hero of every child shorter than the counter top.

Stand amazed at my might power. This step stool and I cannot be defeated.
Stand amazed at my might. This step stool and I cannot be defeated.
See how I deftly move it with just my foot. THE POWER!
See how I deftly move it with just my foot. THE POWER!
Nothing is out of my reach now. Bwahahaha.
Nothing is out of my reach now. Bwahahaha.
She now has a portable "thinking spot". I did not think this through.
She now has a portable “thinking spot”. I did not think this through.