Tag Archives: big family

The Schedule in My Head…

Here’s another post from the archives…it originally appeared on April 10, 2010.  I think it’s something a lot of people can relate to: 


Most people who know me would say I’m pretty relaxed…but I have a secret: under this laid-back exterior, there’s a person who gets very anxious when things don’t go according to the careful plan she has laid out in her head…

With seven people in our family, a schedule is pretty much the only way to keep from going insane.  Every member’s practice, medical appointment, birthday party, dance, play, or concert is logged on a giant calendar on the side of our fridge, as are school holidays, and vacation days from work.  Our lives revolve around this calendar – it is checked before committing to anything, and meals are planned around who is going to be home for supper that night.


The schedule is going to be even more important over the next couple of months – we have two daughters in cheerleading (two different teams), and they’re going into competitions – this means extra practices.  One daughter is going to Quebec on a school trip.  Our son is on the tech crew at school, and they’ve been working every night getting ready for the spring production of “Beauty and the Beast.”  Book sale season is starting in May, and we will be travelling to other New Brunswick cities in search of stock for the store.  There are lots of concerts coming up that Jim and I would like to go to as well, and we’re planning a weekend getaway trip sometime this spring.

Our two cheerleaders holding Brianna's team's banner...

I spend weekends doing laundry, getting groceries, and cooking for the week ahead – by the time I sat down in front of my computer last night at 9:45 p.m., the only thing I’d “accomplished” yesterday was getting groceries and making lasagna for supper (which was pretty awesome!).  We spent the rest of the day running kids around (and we did see a great movie in the afternoon – “How to Train Your Dragon”).  My brain was totally fried, and the blog topic I came up with yesterday morning seemed lame and unimportant – I was mad at myself for not taking the time to do my blog, which is one of the favourite parts of my day!  My daughter called me a “slacker” for missing a day, and I felt like one!

Jim doesn’t get my commitment to routine – he pretty much takes things as they come.  He admits that he sleeps better now that he goes to bed about the same time every night – he used to be awake until all hours, and then drag himself out of bed in the morning to go to work.  Jim also eats a lot better than he did when he was a bachelor – he usually has a hot meal (with vegetables) on the table by six o’clock, and leftovers for lunch the next day, instead of fish sticks and fries at 8:00, and fast food for lunch.

Jim and Jake Chilling Out...

However, Jim’s the one who talks me down from my tree when my self-imposed “schedule train” runs off the tracks…”Does it really matter if the laundry isn’t done today?” “Why don’t you stay home from the bookstore and get those seeds planted if that’s what you want to do?” “Let’s just barbecue tonight!”  I’m so glad I found him!

I changed my plan today – I slept until 9:30 a.m.!  I took the time to set my newly-sprouted seedlings outside.  I made myself tea, and toad-in-the-hole for breakfast.  I played on Facebook for an hour.  I helped Jim and Anna wrap and beribbon 4 dozen Rice Krispies squares for the bake sale at Brianna’s cheerleading competition this afternoon.  After they left, I put the first load of laundry in and started this blog post.  It is now 1:15 p.m., and I’m still sitting here in my jammies!  I’ll keep the washer and dryer going, and eventually, I’ll make it into the shower…we’re going to Jim’s mom’s tonight for his sister’s birthday dinner – now THAT’s important!  The rest of the laundry can wait…

The Birthday Girl on New Year's Eve...

Tomorrow night, I’ll see my granddaughter (and her parents) for the first time in almost three weeks – I’m looking forward to that too!

Elise, Just Hanging Around...

I don’t think I’ll ever give up the schedule in my head, but, with my family’s help, I’ll try to stop being so anal about it…


Filed under family, self-discovery

Wood That I Could…

Here’s another one from the archives…it was originally published March 29, 2010 in the first week of my blog.  It’s almost firewood delivery time again…enjoy!

I’m not bragging when I say that we live in a BIG old house (it’s a good thing with seven people in the family).  Instead of building a new one when the family got bigger, they just added on.  Consequently, we have two kitchens, two living rooms, a dining room, a laundry room, five bedrooms, two full baths, and two half baths!  With a house this size and the price of electricity, we appreciate our ability to use our wood furnace for heat.

When we found the house in late October, 2008, there was no firewood left in the basement.  Jim’s parents, and sister and brother-in-law donated some downed trees/brush from their yards to get us started, but I spent the next two months calling every place I could find trying to get wood.  After an exceptionally wet spring and summer (and the death/retirement of a couple of suppliers), firewood was in short supply.  Finally, in late January, I found someone in St. Stephen (an hour-and-a-half away) who had dry wood.  I paid an arm and a leg, plus delivery charges, for two cords.  I asked them to bring it around the back to the basement door, so we could stack it inside.

We came home from work to find that the load had been delivered…however, it was dumped in our driveway (right in front of where we normally park the car).  When I called the supplier, he explained that they had tried to get to the basement, but had gotten stuck in the snow.

That weekend, we rounded up all four kids, my dad, a couple of wheelbarrows (one of which had a wonky wheel), and even a snow scoop, and began the task of transferring the wood from the driveway to the basement.  Each trip was down a hill and around a corner in snow about eight inches deep – countless times, the load would fall off on the way down.  After retrieving the fallen cargo, the wheelbarrow would be taken down a ramp and dumped in the basement for someone to stack.  On more than one occasion, taller people forgot to duck going in, and clocked themselves on low-hanging beams.  It was cold, too!  Getting the wood in took several days.

We were, however, very happy to see the drop in our power bill from January to February – it went from over $700 to less than half of that!

When spring came, we resolved not to be caught without wood again…we called a supplier in Sussex who advertised in the newspaper, and arranged a delivery of five cords in July.  The price per cord was better, and there wasn’t an extra delivery charge!  I repeated my instructions to bring the wood to the back of the house, and told him I would leave a cheque in the mailbox for him.

We arrived home from work on delivery day to find…you guessed it: five cords of wood in the middle of our driveway!  I almost cried!  Deep ruts in the yard indicated where the wood truck had gotten stuck in the mud trying to get to the basement.  “I’m sorry, ma’am, but I had to get another truck to pull me out!” Wally the wood guy told me afterwards.

About 3/4 of the woodpile where it was dumped, completely blocking our "roundabout" driveway...

Jim and I, and my dad, worked away at the pile over the next few weeks (the kids were too busy bouncing on the trampoline/playing on their computers to help!).  At least it was summer, and we didn’t have to haul it through the snow this time!  We enjoyed working together, although we soon found out how out of shape we were!  We ate ibuprofen like M & M’s!

This is me right after I lost my balance and fell into the woodpile...

The wood was good, but it was also infested with earwigs, which I found in the most unsuitable places in my house for weeks after the wood arrived!  Someone left a Brita water pitcher out on the counter…we found an earwig between the insert and the pitcher…ewww!

One of the pesky critters which were all over the house...

Since the wood was a bit wet, Jim used his technical skills to rig up an ingenious drying system using a dehumidifier and a fan placed strategically in the basement.  It was successful, and the wood burned well when it came time to start the furnace up again in October.

Jim and I stacking wood in the basement...

Wally the wood guy called me last month to set up delivery for this year.  We decided he would come with another five cords in July…we both hope he doesn’t get stuck again!


Filed under family, memories

I Was Stylish Three Times in Three Weeks!

Or at least other people thought my blog was…I have received this award three times recently:

I was given the first one by Nancy at Embracing Myself on February 17th.  Then Todd at Todd Pack’s Messy Desk gave me the nod on February 28th.  Finally, Ian from The $#!& I Think About awarded me again on March 8th.  All of these folks are talented writers, and I am pleased to also call them my friends!  Please check out their blogs!

One of the requirements of the awards is to tell some stuff about yourself that people don’t know…that’s a tall order for me, because I probably share way too much in my blog as it is!  So, that’s been one of the things holding me up in officially “accepting” my awards!  The other barrier has been that I’ve gotten a lot of awards (not bragging…just stating a fact…well, maybe bragging a little!), and I’ve run out of people to pass them on to!

I visited a new blogging buddy’s site today after she commented on mine…Melissa at Play 101  had also been a triple winner of the Stylish Blogger Award.  Some thoughtful soul had provided her with questions to answer about herself, so I’m stealing borrowing the questions…I hope Melissa doesn’t mind:

1. How long have you been in your current relationship, and how many children do you have?  Jim and I are coming up on three years together…between the two of us, we have five kids (4 girls and one boy) and one granddaughter.

2. What is one thing most people don’t know about you?  That I’m not as big a “Goody Two Shoes” as I appear.  I’ve never broken any laws (that I know of), but I swear a lot (not in public usually). 

3. What are your greatest fears?  Running out of things: time, money, food, love.

4. What is your favorite food?  Sour cream and bacon Ruffles potato chips.  And bagels.  And pie (any kind except cream pies).

5. What is your most rewarding memory?  I’d like to say the births of my three daughters, but that hurt a lot (I did it naturally).  I think that some of my happiest memories are of doing things together as a family: eating, playing board games, making music, or outdoor activities.

6. At which store could you spend an entire day by yourself?  I really don’t enjoy shopping, but if I had to be in a store all day without kids, I’d definitely pick an old bookstore.

7. What’s the most embarrassing thing you’ve ever done?  Tough one…so many choices!  There was the time I walked around the mall in Newfoundland with my fly down for an hour-and-a-half before discovering it (no one told me!).  Once, I accidentally got on the Super Express bus to Toronto from Ottawa, and found out just before getting to Belleville that the bus didn’t stop there…luckily, the driver took pity on me and let me off at the exit ramp…I picked up my suitcase and walked into town!  One of my favourite activities is dancing when my teenagers have friends over…it’s worth it just to see the looks on their faces!   

8. What’s the worst job you’ve ever had?  I once took a temp job doing data entry for a non-profit organization’s fundraising event.  The hours were 4 p.m. to 11 p.m., so I spent all but half an hour of my shift by myself, and the work was boring!  I also found it difficult to get up with my daughter in the morning and take her to school…I always needed a nap after dropping her off!

9. What’s the worst thing you’ve ever worn?  I made myself an absolutely hideous maternity dress when I was pregnant with my first child…the style and fabric were both ugly…I don’t know what I was thinking!  Thankfully, no photos exist of that one!     

10. What’s your favorite guilty pleasure? I read Cosmopolitan at the hairdresser’s.  Please refer back to #2!

Instead of passing the award on in the traditional fashion, I’m going to steal borrow another idea from my friend Kathy at Reinventing the Event Horizon: she suggested that readers respond in the comments with a post of their own that they’re really happy with, and a post of someone else’s that they recommend reading.  So here’s an early one of mine that not many people saw: https://writerwoman61.wordpress.com/2010/04/07/pickin-and-grinnin/.  My friend, Amanda, at Life is a Spectrum, wrote this heartwarming story about her son: http://www.lifeisaspectrum.com/The-long-distance-runner

Please read, enjoy, and tell us about your favourite posts in your comments!  That’s one of the best parts about blogging for me: hooking up my friends with great blogs to read!


Filed under blogging, family, food, friends

Molasses, Mozzarella, Mountains, and Mom Time…

1. Molasses.  In one of my very first blog posts, I talked about my Grandma Shoots’ yummy molasses cookies.  Hope and I decided to make some yesterday, since it had been quite some time.  Here’s the recipe (I have no idea who “Shirley” is):

Shirley’s Cookies

1 cup molasses

1 cup water

1 cup white sugar

1 cup brown sugar

1 cup melted lard or shortening

4 tsps. baking soda dissolved in 1 cup boiling water

1 tsp. cinnamon

1/2 tsp. salt

10 cups flour

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

Using a large mixing bowl, mix all ingredients together and beat gently with a wooden spoon (add flour a cup or two at a time).  Roll out to 1/8″ thickness, and cut with large round cutter (I actually use a plastic tumbler).  Place on cookie sheets, and bake about 10 minutes, until puffy but not hard.  Makes about 6 dozen BIG cookies.  Keep them in the refrigerator.

Working on cookies...Hope threw some flour on my face for extra authenticity...photo by Anna

Molasses Cookies...these are only 3" in diameter...Grandma's were about 5" or 6" across! Soft and awesome...they'll also keep you regular! (photo by Anna)

2. Mozzarella.  I was in the mood to cook last night, but had planned a fairly boring menu of chicken burgers, curly fries, onion rings, and green beans (from the garden).  Then I remembered the fresh mushrooms and mozzarella cheese I had in the fridge, and the huge onions I’d bought at Costco…why not make Philly Cheese Chicken?  I cut the onion into long, thin pieces and sautéed them with the chopped mushrooms in a little bit of butter in a non-stick pan.  Then I laid on slices of processed mozzarella cheese (I would have used real cheese if I hadn’t been pressed for time).  After the cheese melted, I stirred it and spooned the mixture on top of the chicken burgers.  If you try this, make sure you use real chicken burgers (not the breaded ones!).

My lunch today...yummy!

3. Mountains.  We had a little more snow on Friday night…slightly more than a foot.  Weather forecasters had dubbed it the “worst storm of the season”, but I think it failed to live up to their expectations!  I sent Anna out with her camera yesterday to show what kind of snowfall we had:

This is Hope and Jake in our driveway yesterday...photo by Anna

This is Brianna (about 5'4") standing next to a snowbank...photo by Anna

4. Mom Time.  Jim took the girls to see Gnomeo and Juliet this afternoon, giving me a 3-hour break from bickering, pop music, and general hubbub…thanks, Honey!  I am using the time to do laundry; write this post; practice my new addiction game, 4 Elements, on Facebook (I just about cried when I found out Dad had closed my window on the computer this morning when he checked his email…luckily, it remembered where I’d left off at midnight last night…attempt #8 on Level 15…aarggh!); and get ready for Kaylee, Scott and Elise to come over for supper.  I’m making Barbecued Chicken (in the oven – the barbecue is under two feet of snow!), mashed potatoes, corn, and carrots.  The kids are going to be home soon, so I’d better get to cooking!  Happy Sunday!


Filed under cooking, family, food

Strength, Thy Name is Woman!

Yesterday, my blogging buddy, Charles at Mostly Bright Ideas wrote a post called The Weird Uncle of Invention…one part of Charles’ post caught my attention, as he muses over who invented pole vaulting:

“It had to be a man, didn’t it?…For one thing, most women don’t have that kind of free time on their hands.”

Charles’ assertion caused those little wheels in my head to start spinning…what he said about women and free time is true.  After doing some research, I found that female inventors were responsible for a lot of things that people wouldn’t think of doing without today:

1. Bras.  Contrary to popular opinion, the brassiere was invented by a woman: a New York socialite named Mary Phelps Jacob (aka Caresse Crosby).  In 1913, she bought a new dress for a fancy evening affair, and was frustrated because the corset she wore under it was poking out in very unattractive ways and indiscreet places.  Mary grabbed a couple of silk handkerchiefs and a pink ribbon, and the Backless Brassiere was born!  Mary didn’t enjoy being a businesswoman, so sold her patent in 1915 to the Warner Brothers Corset Company for $1500.   Over the next 30 years, Warner made over $15 million selling bras to women who were tired of wearing corsets!

The original "Backless Brassiere" patent diagram...

 2. Chocolate Chip Cookies.  The invention of one of North America’s favourite cookies happened by accident.  Ruth Wakefield was the proprietor of a tourist lodge called the Toll House Inn in Whitman, Massachusetts.  She was making Butter Drop Do Cookies for the guests one day in 1930, when she discovered she was out of baker’s chocolate.  Ruth substituted some broken pieces of Nestle’s semi-sweet chocolate bars, expecting it to melt and act the same way as the baker’s chocolate…it didn’t.  The result was delicious, and the recipe for Ruth’s Toll House Crunch Cookies was published in a Boston newspaper.  In 1939, Betty Crocker featured the cookie on her national radio show.  Sales of the chocolate bars soared!  Ruth was no dummy…she made a deal with Andrew Nestle to print the recipe on the chocolate package in return for a lifetime supply of Nestle chocolate.

Ruth's recipe on the back of a Nestle chocolate chip package...


3. Dishwashers.  In 1886, Josephine Cochran got tired of her servants chipping her fine china in Shelbyville, Illinois…she declared “If nobody else is going to invent a dishwashing machine, I’ll do it myself!”  She invented a hand-operated mechanical dishwasher, and formed the Crescent Washing Machine Company.  Josephine unveiled her invention at the 1893 World’s Fair, but only hotels and large restaurants seemed interested in Josephine’s idea.  The general public didn’t use dishwashers much until the 1950’s.  The company Josephine founded to make her dishwasher eventually became KitchenAid (now owned by Whirlpool).

Josephine Cochran: "It's hard to get good help!"


Cochrane's Dishwasher (she added an "e" to her name)...


4. Disposable diapers.  Indiana native, Marion Donovan, was a housewife and mother of two living in Connecticut after World War II.  After changing her younger daughter’s sodden cloth diaper (and clothing and bedding) for the umpteenth time, Marion used a sewing machine to make a waterproof diaper cover out of a shower curtain.  The Boater  was better than rubber pants, because it had snaps instead of safety pins, didn’t cause diaper rash, and didn’t pinch the baby’s skin.  The Boater flew off the shelves at Saks Fifth Avenue when they started selling it in 1949, although Marion was unsuccessful in attracting manufacturers willing to produce it.  She patented it in 1951, and sold the rights to Keko Corporation for a million dollars.

Marion then started working on creating a fully-disposable diaper, using special paper that was strong and absorbent, but also carried moisture away from the child’s skin.  She shopped the idea around to all the large manufacturers in the country, but nobody jumped on it.  It was ten years later in 1961 that Victor Mills used Donovan’s idea to make Pampers.   Over a 45-year period, Marion held patents for 20 inventions including the DentaLoop, a two-ply dental floss that eliminated the need for wrapping dental floss around one’s fingers. 

Marion Donovan, and her nice dry baby...

5. Grocery bags.  Paper bags used to be shaped like envelopes until Maine native Margaret Knight came along.  While working in the Columbia Paper Bag Company, in Springfield, Massachusetts, she created a new machine part that automatically folded and glued the paper to form a square bottom.  Workers installing the equipment argued with her, because they didn’t think women knew anything about machinery.  In 1870, Margaret founded the Eastern Paper Bag Company.  After patenting her bag machine design in 1871, she went on to be awarded some 26 patents for different inventions including a window frame and sash, machinery for cutting shoe soles, and a rotary engine. 

Apparently, Margaret's male co-workers were wrong...she did know about machinery!


6. Liquid PaperBette Nesmith Graham wanted to be an artist, but life got in the way.  Shortly after World War II, she was a divorced mom with a son (Michael Nesmith, later of The Monkees) to support, so Bette got a job as an executive secretary at a bank in Dallas, Texas.  Bette was a conscientious worker, and sought a better way of correcting her typing mistakes when she made them.  As a painter, Bette knew that artists painted over their mistakes on canvas…why not apply the same idea to paper?  She brought in some tempera paint and a watercolour brush, and started using them at the office.  The boss didn’t notice, but her co-workers did, and asked for some of her correcting fluid.  Bette put some in a bottle, and labelled it “Mistake Out” before passing it to her friend.  In 1956, Bette launched the Mistake Out Company from her home, using her kitchen as a laboratory (with some advice from Michael’s high school chemistry teacher), and working nights and weekends to meet the demand for her hot new product.  She was finally able to devote all her time to the business after being fired from her secretarial job for an error even Mistake Out couldn’t correct (she typed her company’s name instead of the bank’s)!  In 1962, Bette married Robert Graham, who joined her in running the company, which grew into a million dollar business by 1967.  The business was renamed Liquid Paper in 1968.  Bette sold the company for $47.5 million in 1979, and died six months later.

Bette Nesmith Graham


7. Trashcans with the foot pedal.  A native of California,  Lillian Moller Gilbreth was a superwoman before it was fashionable: she was an inventor, author, industrial engineer, and industrial psychologist.  When she wasn’t busy with that, she looked after her twelve children (her daughter and son wrote Cheaper by the Dozen)!   Lillian was a pioneer in the field of ergonomics, and she and her husband, Frank, were among the first scientists to acknowledge the effects of stress and lack of sleep on the worker.  Their Time and Motion Studies were developed in part from living with their huge family.  In the 1920’s, Lillian worked doing marketing research for Johnson and Johnson.  Lillian was later employed at General Electric as an industrial engineer, and interviewed over 4000 women to design the proper height for stoves, sinks, and other kitchen fixtures.  She patented many kitchen appliances, including an electric food mixer, shelves inside refrigerator doors, and my favourite: the trashcan with the foot pedal.

The Gilbreth family in the 1920s (one child short of their dozen)

 There are dozens of things invented by women…here’s a link to a list: http://www.buzzle.com/articles/famous-women-inventors.html .  I hope you’ve learned something today…I did!


Filed under history

We’re Taking Back Our House, Kids…

Long-term readers of Herding Cats in Hammond River are probably aware of my love for the ABC sitcom, The Middle.  I wrote about their Mother’s Day show here:


I don’t think I’ve laughed as hard or as loud at a show as I did at the episode of The Middle that aired last night!  I swear that ABC has video cameras hidden in my house…this program is my life!  Here’s a video clip (please watch – it’s essential to the post):


Sadly, Jim and I are “Mike” and “Frankie.”  We spend most of our time making ourselves crazy/miserable/tired so that our children will be “happy”…I don’t think they appreciate how much we do for them!  We do their laundry and dishes, spend massive amounts of money to feed and clothe them, and drive them anywhere they want to go.  When we plan meals, the menu’s based on their likes/dislikes, not ours!  We listen to their music (they whine when we put ours on) and watch their TV shows (seriously, people…how long can one watch Family Channel before losing one’s sanity?)!  When the kids tell us they need something for a homework assignment (that they’ve known about for weeks), it’s usually the day before it’s due…we drop everything and run to the store to get the posterboard/modelling clay/three-humped camel that they need for their project.  We used to get away twice a year for a long weekend without kids…there were no trips for Jim and I in 2010…we were too busy and too broke (although somehow we managed to scrape together the money to take them to PEI for three days, and go to Sandspit and the go-cart park)!

I spent three hours folding laundry (there were 10 loads or so) on SUNDAY night.  Mine, Jim’s, Devin’s and my dad’s clothes are put away.  Four days later, the neatly-folded girls’ clothes are still taking up two chairs in my living room!  I refuse to cave this time…they’re putting them away, not me! 

When I came home from the store on Monday night, the dishwasher was full, and still had not been run (it was full when I left in the morning).  “You didn’t tell us to run it, Mom!” Anna protested.  Really?  Three teenagers home all day, and nobody thought to turn it on?

Since Tuesday, Jim has been getting up early every morning on his week off to take Devin to driving lessons (to be fair, this was Devin’s mom’s idea, not his!).  I’m sure Jim would rather sleep in…

Tuesday night, I went to the kitchen to get a glass…there was a lone plastic cup in the cupboard, which normally houses in excess of two dozen drinking vessels!  I’m sure there are dirty glasses in every room in my house, except the kitchen!  The same people who hoard sticky, crusty glasses in their bedrooms will be the ones complaining when the dishwasher doesn’t get them clean! 

Yesterday, Jim spent the day installing the new computer he built Dad for the bookstore.  We went out for lunch (to a place which doesn’t serve its food in cardboard containers)…it was glorious!  It’s been way too long since we did that!  We’re going out again on January 22nd to a concert…no kids then, either! 

So…I’m drawing my line in the sand…things are going to change around here, from now on!  I urge other parents of teenagers who find themselves in this rut to stand up with us and take back your houses!   

We’ll start with dinner tonight…guess what, girls?  We’re having fish, because Jim and I like fish!  If that’s not good enough for you, there are Pizza Pops in the freezer…the microwave’s over there!  After supper, we’re going to watch Eureka on the big TV in the living room…and then maybe we’ll put on a record and dance…flee to your bedrooms if you must!


Filed under family, food, rants, satire, self-discovery

“Rain, Rain, Go Away” and Other Random Utterings…

Here is a random collection of things I’ve heard people say this week:

1. “Rain, Rain, Go Away!”  That was me.  I didn’t really say it…I thought it.  It’s been raining since Thursday, and isn’t supposed to stop until next Thursday.  I didn’t go to Book Club on Friday night because of it…driving on the highway at night in heavy rain is dangerous!  As of Sunday morning, we’ve already had about 100 mm, with at least 50 more predicted today.  At least the man with the cows down the road kept them in this weekend to prevent a repeat of this:

Jim took this photo of the cows, and one horse, in October of 2009 after more than 90 mm of rain fell overnight...

2. “Freezer.”  I was sitting at the bookstore on Thursday afternoon, when I heard the front door open, and someone come in.  He walked into the room where my desk is (the bookstore has four rooms), and said, “Freezer,”  just like that.  Freezer??!!  You do know you’re in a bookstore, don’t you, buddy?  It was after I looked out the window and saw his truck that I put two and two together…it had the name of a local used appliance company on the side.  Coming in that morning, we’d noticed a mini-fridge box that our landlord had put out for the garbage…I guessed these guys had come for the old one, and directed them upstairs.

3. “I got my licence!”  That’s what Hope said when we picked her up at school after completing the last week of her Red Cross Babysitting training on Thursday.  She got right to work when we got home making up business cards and flyers, and put an ad on Kijiji. 

4. “I stuck a straw up my nose!”  That was Anna.  She was coming into the bookstore after school on Friday, after waiting for the bus for 20 minutes in the pelting rain.  She tripped coming up the store steps, and managed to stick the straw from her Booster Juice smoothie up her nose…at least she didn’t fall!

5. “I got my report card!”  This was Brianna, as she proudly held the paper out for me to see.   “Geez, only 100% in French?”  I teased.  Bri said she was “basically the teacher’s pet.”  Works for me.

6. “I got the job, I think.”  That was Hope after coming back from an interview with a neighbouring family with a five-year-old autistic boy.  Jim dropped her off, and she called us 20 minutes later to tell us she was finished.  Pretty grown up to have your first job interview at twelve.  The family was looking for someone to babysit the little guy for occasional evenings out, and Professional Development days at school.  Hope is to go over for training next week.  She thought it was neat that both she and the little boy are lactose-intolerant.

7. “I’m on the team!”  Brianna announced this in the car when we picked her and Devin up on Saturday at their mom’s house.  Three girls, three cheerleading teams at three different schools…seven practices a week on four different days.  Bonus: Devin’s on the Tech Crew at his school, which is at least another couple of nights a week.  We may have to install a coffeemaker in the van…

8. “Oh, my giant blue head!”  Will Ferrell as Megamind.  We took the kids to see the movie in 3-D on Saturday afternoon.  We all loved it!  The soundtrack was awesome.   Tina Fey was great as the voice of Roxanne Ritchie.  Nice twist ending too…I like it when a movie isn’t predictable!

Megamind poster...

9. “Does anybody know where the extra meatballs are?”  One of the waitresses at Vito’s said this, as we were eating our meal after the movie.  My first thought was, “Shouldn’t she be looking for them in the kitchen?”  Then it dawned on me that she was standing in front of the computerized cash register.  “Ohhh…she’s trying to find it on the screen,” I thought.

10. “I found your wine!”  Another waitress at Vito’s.  Unfortunately, she wasn’t heading for my table (how do you lose a glass of wine, anyway?).


Filed under family, food

The ABC’s of Teenage Girls…Amazing, Beautiful and Challenging…

I am the parent/stepparent of four girls, aged 12, 14, 16 and 24, so I feel completely qualified to present this A-Z guide to living with teenage girls (I wish I could say it was tongue-in-cheek, but sadly, it’s not):

“Awesome”.  What they say after you’ve just emptied your bank account buying them two pairs of jeans they like at the mall.  Alternately, they might also say: “That’s awesome, Mom!  As if I’d be seen in public in those!” if you make the mistake of not bringing them with you, and come home with the wrong kind of jeans! 

Bedroom.  Where teenage girls live.  There’s usually a big “Keep Out” sign somewhere on the door rendered in purple bubble letters with curlicues.  It’s probably a good idea to heed the sign…you could get your foot entangled in the balled-up clothing on the floor, and fall and break a hip!  Remember when you used to send them to their rooms to punish them?  That’s not going to work any more.  Being forced to hang out with the family is guaranteed to make them reconsider their transgressions! 

Cellphone/Computer.  The two electronic items essential to teenage girls in the 21st century.  They don’t actually talk on the phone, unless it’s to summon their parents to pick them up somewhere.  When they’ve misplaced the phone, they panic: “Oh, no!  Ashley will text me, and she’ll think I’m ignoring her!”  Our girls spend hours on the computer, updating their status on Facebook, commenting on other people’s profiles, and becoming “fans” of pages like “My parents just filed for bankruptcy, but who cares…I just got cute new boots!” 

Dishes.  If you’re looking for these, don’t expect to find them in the dishwasher or the cupboard.  Ditto for silverware, especially spoons.  You will find bowls crusty with milk and (if you’re lucky) soggy Cheerios, on the coffee table, or more likely, the floor.  Glasses may or may not be emptied when left for you to knock off their precarious perch on the edge of the desk where you made the mistake of sitting to check your e-mail.  Plates might be left on the kitchen floor for the dog to lick, forever.

Eye-rolling.  Teenage girls are experts at this, especially if their parents have done something especially “lame” (like telling them to wear a hat in sub-zero temperatures!).

“Fail”.  You may have thought the word “fail” was a verb…you are incorrect.  It is, in fact, a noun, as in “That was an epic fail!” which is what teenagers say when they or one of their friends do something clumsy or stupid.

Giggling.  Giggling is a good thing, except when four girls are doing it during a sleepover in the next room at 2 in the morning.

Hair.  Many teenage girls spend hours on their hair…our girls are no exception.  Our kids’ bathroom is a mass of brushes, ponytail holders, headbands, shampoo, conditioner, hairspray, and hair straighteners.  Our lone teenage boy uses the little bathroom by the laundry room, just so that he has a place for his toothbrush!  I wish I had a dollar for every time one of the girls complained that her hair wouldn’t “go right.” 

I-Pod.  If you tell your daughter you’re going to the mall, and she doesn’t jump up immediately, she is probably listening to her I-Pod.  However, if you tell her to do her homework and she doesn’t respond, she’s practicing “selective hearing.”

Jealousy.  Every teenage girl has green eyes…she wants what other teenagers have!  She also knows, down to the penny, how much money you spent on her sister, and will demand the same treatment.  My kids can whine “It’s not fair!” in three different languages.  

Kitchen.  The only other room in the house where teenagers spend as much time as their bedrooms.  They stand in front of the refrigerator with the door open, expecting the perfect snack to just jump into their mouths.  When it doesn’t, they announce accusingly, “You never buy anything good to eat!,” despite the fact that I get Christmas cards every year from Coca-Cola, Frito-Lay, and Kellogg’s.

Laundry.  Teenage girls account for 80% of the laundry at our house.  They are completely incapable of hitting the hamper, however, being content to leave dirty laundry on the bathroom floor six inches from it (unless it’s a wet towel, in which case, I’ll find it stuffed in the hamper, three days later and smelling not at all like lemons).  The backup places for dirty laundry are either the family room or bedroom floor (see Bedroom).

Music.  Teenage girls “need” music to do anything, which would be fine if: a) what they were listening to was actually “music” and b) the volume wasn’t set to 200 decibels. 

“Nothing”.  What teenage girls say when you ask them what they did at school or what they’re upset about.  This is a complete lie…”nothing” is always “something,” and it’s usually BIG! 

Opinionated.  Teenage girls are never wishy-washy.  Either they “love” something, or it’s total “crap.”  There is no grey area.  And they never entertain the idea that their opinion could be incorrect.

Perfect.  When a teenage girl is leaving for school in the morning, everything has to be perfect: hair, makeup, clothes, and shoes.  If even one strand of hair dares to work its way out of the ponytail holder, the girl’s day is ruined. 

Questioning.  Do you recall when your child went through the “Why?” stage when they were three?  Well, it comes back when she becomes a teenager:  “I want you home by nine.”  “Why?”  “Turn down the stereo!”  “Why?”  There’s also: “Why can’t I have a tattoo of a pink unicorn?  Jessica has one!”

“Random”.  Two teenage girls can be having a deep conversation about lip gloss, and suddenly, one will say: “I think Cory likes me…do you think he likes me?”  The other will respond: “That was random!”

Sensitive.  Teenage girls take everything personally.  Never joke about their appearance, unless you want to spend another hour waiting for them while they change their entire outfit, and redo their hair.

Texting.  Our girls text, a lot.  The muscles in their thumbs are so strong, they could probably hang 20 lbs. of potatoes from each one without doing any physical damage.

Uncompromising.  See Opinionated.

Vacant Stare.  The look parents receive when telling teenage girls to do something they have no intention of doing.

Wishing.  Our teenage girls spend a lot of time wishing they had stuff that they don’t have (or better stuff).  I wish they would realize how lucky they are to have what they have!

X-Box.  This is the “game system” that our teenage girls use to play “Rock Band” and “Guitar Hero.”  We like it when they do things together without arguing.

YouTube.  This is an online video site where teenage girls go to find “awesome” songs and cute boys.  Hope’s favourite singer, Justin Bieber, got his start on YouTube.

ZZZ’s.  Something teenage girls can never get enough of, especially in the morning when they’re supposed to be getting ready for school.  Apparently, they don’t need them much at night, when other people are sleeping…

I hope that if you’re lucky enough to have teenage girls, that you make it through those years with your sanity intact…for me, one down, three more to go!

Our teenage girls: Anna, Brianna and Hope...


Filed under family, music, satire

The Road Not Taken…Career Choices That Might Have Pre-empted This Blog…

I think I was eight years old when I made the decision to become a writer…however, I had some other career aspirations in case that writing thing didn’t work out:

1. Mother of Twenty Children.  When I was a kid, I was fascinated by large families…I think I saw the movie “Cheaper by the Dozen” (the original, not the lame remake!).  Being eight years old and not aware of the facts of life, I thought you could just decide to have twins or triplets, and get them!  If that didn’t work out, I would adopt them!  Of course, I was blissfully ignorant of the fact that children didn’t just take care of themselves…I just wanted the fun of naming them!  Isn’t that the important part of parenting?  Looking back on the last 24 years, I’m really glad I only ended up with three kids and two stepkids!

My Big Family at Christmas Last Year...

2. An Elementary School Teacher.   I had a really good first grade teacher named Mrs. Lannan.  I wanted to be just like her!  I visualized myself at the front of the class talking to the children as they hung on my every word.  In reality, my teaching career would probably have lasted two days max, and ended with me being committed to a “quiet place” to calm down (picture a scene from “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest”).

How I saw myself as a teacher...


3. A Doctor.    When I was nine, I decided to become a doctor.  I was smart, and they made good money!  What I didn’t consider is that I sucked at science (I couldn’t care less about how things worked), and wasn’t really excited about the gross things I would have to do as a physician.  I choke under pressure.  I also need a lot of sleep, so would never be able to work the shifts doctors do…

Me as a doctor...

4. A Singer in a Family Band.  We used to live next door to a family band called “The Singing Post Family.”   Their lives looked really glamourous to me.  I thought it would be a great idea for my brother and I, and our neighbours, Jimmy and Dougie, to form our own band.  What stopped us was that I was the only one who could sing or play an instrument, and that I was pretty much the only one who wanted to do it!  We also didn’t have the money to buy speakers and microphones and other stuff we would need.  Plus, it’s tough to find sequined outfits in Prince Edward County!

The Singing Post Family...early 1970's...

5. A Hockey Player.   Growing up with boys, I did what they did.  We played floor hockey in our enclosed front porch.  I thought it would be neat to be a hockey player!  Again, finances stopped me…new hockey pads would set my parents back more than $100…it just wasn’t in the budget.  The fact that my skating was wobbly and slow probably didn’t help either!

Me on my skates, 1970...

6. A Crochet Designer.  I learned to crochet when I was ten years old.  I loved it, and would often design my own patterns.  As a teenager, I dreamed about becoming a crochet designer.  We got the Toronto Star, and I devoured the Saturday Fashion section, thinking how cool it would be to sell a crocheted sweater for $900!  I designed a line of baby booties, and designed and crocheted my own wedding dress, but never went into the fashion business.  That’s probably a fortunate thing, as I don’t have the personality for it, and I’d be even poorer than I am now!

I could make this dress...

7.  A Genealogical Researcher.  My other passion as a teen was genealogy.  I am fortunate that many of my relatives have already assembled family trees for many of our family lines.  I busied myself with attempting to update my dad’s paternal line.  I sent letters to family members asking them to send me their personal details.  Since I was working from addresses that were about ten years old in some cases, many of my letters were returned.  I also soon came to the realization that even updating my own branch of the family could be a logistical nightmare, with all the marriages, divorces, remarriages, births, and deaths, that had occurred since the original family tree was compiled.  Maybe I’ll get back to it later…I still love research of any kind!  If somebody would pay me to sit in the National Archives all day, I’d so be there!

Our National Archives...

I guess it’s a good thing I became a writer/bookstore owner after all…I’m very much the “starving artist,” but wouldn’t trade what I do now for any other career!


Filed under blogging, family, memories, self-discovery

Our July the 4th…

When one lives in Canada, July 4, 2010 is just another Sunday…however, ours was special because we were invited to a family reunion to celebrate two graduations (one university and one high school – Jim’s cousins’ kids), and a birthday (Jim’s aunt). 

We had French toast for breakfast before we hit the road for the hour-and-a-half drive to Fredericton.  We got in the van just after noon…we were halfway down our road when Jim asked if I’d brought the address where the party was…nope…it was home on my Facebook account.  Back we went!

Hope is notorious for two things on long car trips: getting carsick (she always takes Gravol before we go), and having to stop every 45 minutes to an hour to go pee.  On one such rest stop at a Tim Horton’s, Hope commented on how rude people were: “I held the door for three people, and not one of them said ‘Thank you,’ ” she complained.  She’s a good girl.

We arrived at our destination just after 2 p.m.  Fredericton was very hot!  Thank goodness for air conditioning in the van.  The kids jumped into the pool almost as soon as we got there.

Hope in a boat, Brianna freezing her braces off…

Jim and I sat outside by the pool for a while, but soon came inside because the sun was intense! Also as more and more kids jumped in the pool, the chance of being splashed increased incrementally!

Anna, Brianna and Hope cower at the side of the pool as the boy cousins toss another cousin...

The party was potluck…my favourite kind of event! The table was loaded with all manner of deliciousness: meatballs, casseroles, salads and my rolls. Some day I’m going to invent a paper plate big enough to hold all that food in one go!

The graduates and the food: Jaimee and Matthew

Aunt Alison with her birthday cake...

We enjoyed catching up with the various members of Jim’s family…soon it was time to go.

Our drive home was uneventful, and Hope made it all the way from Oromocto to home without having to pee!  I was happy to make it home from Fredericton without spending massive amounts of money (the kids usually talk us into taking them shopping while we’re there!).

I put in some frozen pizza for supper, and went out to the garden to pick spinach/greens to go with it.  The cucumber beetles were still dining on my squash plants (note to self: pick up more Trounce).

After supper, I went out to water the garden…I carefully sprayed all the plants with the hose.  I was coiling it up and putting the hose away, when I heard what sounded like a shotgun coming from the next property over…talk about scary!  After the second one, the Mama From the ‘Hood came out in me…I hollered, “Whoever’s shooting that gun better stop, or I’m callin’ the freakin’ cops!”  Jim called them anyway…there were two more noises after that.  Dad said the last one sounded like fireworks (did I mention we DON’T celebrate the 4th of July in Canada?)…one of Rothesay’s finest showed up at the door about a half hour after we called.  He was of the opinion that it probably was fireworks, but told us that it was now legal to shoot coyotes within 150 feet of a house (we figured they were shooting deer).  Great news…not!  The officer assured us he would keep patrolling the area for a while…I appreciated it!

It’s been a half hour since we heard anything from next door…I’m heading to bed soon…hoping it stays quiet!

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Filed under family, food, gardening, memories, rants, travel