Say what now?

E. *calling down the hall*: “Mummy, I hear that P’s awake!”
Me: “Do you want to go in and say good morning to her?”
E.: “Yes please!” *gets stool from the bathroom, climbs up and takes latch off door*, opens door* “Good morning, P-Boa!”
I then had the joy of listening to the following conversation from my cozy warm bed.
P.: “I had a weak last night!”
E.: “What’s a weak?”
P.: “No, not a weak, a weak!”
E.: “A wee? You had a wee overnight?”
P.: “No, not a wee! A WEAK!”
E.: “But what’s a weak?”
P.: “No! Not a weak! A WEAK!”
At that point I got out of bed and joined them. P. meant, of course, that she’d had a LEAK overnight and her pjs and sleepsack were wet, but it was the most fantastic ‘Who’s on first?’ moment.

*We have a latch on the door to P’s room so that our mad cat can’t burst in there in the middle of the night and sit under the crib and meow until P. wakes up. She used to do this when E. was a baby too, which was when Q. first installed the latch. Our best guess is that she forgets I’m no longer in there- she loves to come in and hang out when I’m putting P. to bed and she’s not the greatest at retaining information. But it is always deeply frustrating when she wakes up in the wee hours, gets off the bed, and starts roaming the house yowling, only to return in apparent surprise when she realizes I’m in the bed ON WHICH SHE WAS SLEEPING IN THE FIRST PLACE.

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Filed under Choose Happiness, E.- the eighth year, P.- the third year, Siblings

Here there be dragons

This post is sort of about How To Train Your Dragon 3 (The Hidden World). I’m not going to discuss in detail any major spoilers, but if you’re planning on seeing it, maybe dodge this post until you do.

I have wanted a dragon my entire life.

The dragons in the novels I read wound their way into my inner self and never left.

Melanie Rawn’s dragons, who communicated through colour and spoke with Sunrunners.

The crystal dragon in Guy Gavriel Kay’s Fionavar.

And, of course, the dragons of Anne McCaffrey’s Pern.

How I longed for a dragon (or, failing that, even a fire lizard) of my own.

I grew up, as all children do.

I stopped looking for the door into the faerie realm, the wizard on my doorstep, the quest to come calling.

I grew a grown-up life, with a husband and a house and children and a cat and grown-up problems and grown-up worries that squeezed out the stars and made it harder to see the gaps between the worlds.

Deep down, though, I’m still the little girl I used to be, the one who escaped to other worlds when she didn’t want to inhabit her own.

The one who would have given anything to ride on a dragon. To be one of the Riders of Rohan. To wield the Elfstones.

To know real magic.

And so, when I watched How To Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World in theatres with E., I suppose I should not have been surprised when I full-on ugly cried towards the end. We’re talking openly sobbing, to an intensity that makes it still difficult to talk about the ending of the film, several weeks later (I’m crying as I write this).

E. didn’t feel the same way. He found it sad, but felt that the actual ending of the film made things better. We’ve had some interesting conversations about it.

He felt the strongest association with the main character. If all was right in his world, then all was right in E’s.

I couldn’t stop thinking about everyone else.

This wasn’t about watching the end of a beloved trilogy. I haven’t seen either of the two previous movies. The books are very different, but even so, I’ve only read the first two with E. (he’s read them all and says the twelfth and final book is his favourite). I didn’t grow up with them, in the same way that I grew up with The Dark is Rising or Narnia.

This was about watching someone who had been given the very thing that you had wanted all your life have to give it up.

It broke my heart.

In the theatre, E. and I were sitting directly in front of a birthday party. One little girl sobbed her way through the ending.

I knew that she was a kindred spirit.

She will want a dragon for her entire life too.


Filed under Books, E.- the eighth year

Conversations with P. (at 32 months)

P. is talking to me about Daba (her baby doll).
Me: “What is Daba going to be when they* grow up?”
P: *gleeful* “A dinosaur!”
Me: “A dinosaur?!”
P: *chortling* “Yes! A purple dinosaur! The T-Rex kind!”
Me: “And what are you going to be when you grow up?”
P: “I being a doctor!”
Me: “Will you have a stethoscope?”
P: “I have one of dose already.”
Me: “And will you help your patients get better?”
P: “No. I am mostly going to help Daba.”

Three days later
P:  *gleeful* “Daba is a dinosaur now!”
Me: “What?! Daba’s all grown up already? I guess they have had a lot of birthdays lately.”**
P: *sagely* “He has been growing and growing at night when he’s sleeping.”

P: “Daba ate a whole lot of poo! It was so disgusting!”

This morning, while eating breakfast
P: “Daba’s fired!”
Me: “Oh no! What was Daba fired from?”
P: “Daba was fired from a hose!” *chortles*

*Daba is gender fluid (usually, but not always, described by P. as ‘he’), so I tend to use the plural pronoun.

**P. frequently announces that it is Daba’s birthday or half-birthday. Daba is almost always turning five.

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Filed under Blink and you'll miss it, P.- the third year

Collective Memory (Failure)

Last night, as Q. and I were getting ready for bed. I’d just suggested something I thought we needed.
Q: “I need to order new swimming goggles, so we can just do an order on Amazon.”
Me: “Good plan. Wasn’t there something else we needed from Amazon?”
Q: “Yes. Yes there was.”
We spend a few minutes trying to remember what that something was, to no avail.

Q, this morning, triumphant from the kitchen: “Nit comb!”
Me: “What?”
Q: “That’s what we needed to order from Amazon- the nit comb!”*
Me: “Double high-five!” *finds Q. and does the high-fives*
Q: “Along with swimming goggles and that thing from last night.”
Me: “What was the thing we were talking about last night?”
Q: “I can’t remember.”
Me: “Me either. I don’t think it was something for the kids?”
Q: “I think it was your idea.”
Me: “Dammit!”

It seems that it’s not good enough to write all of our calendar obligations down. We now have to write EVERYTHING down the moment we think of it, or we’ll forget.

(Q. remembered after his shower that we had talked about buying another pair of Yaktrax since if it’s icy enough to need them, we’re both likely to be walking somewhere.)

*Neither of our kids has had lice yet, but we’re sure it’s just a matter of time. The most recent lice check at E’s school found that 25% of the kids in his class had it. It makes my head itch just thinking about it.

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Filed under Daily Life, My addled brain

Read With Your Ears (For Kids)

I wrote recently about how I discovered audiobooks in 2018.

I discovered them for E. as well.

It started with our long car drives to go see my father. P. has pretty much stopped napping in the car, which means she and E. spend much of their time winding each other up and getting sillier (and noisier) by the minute. It got so bad we ended up putting a blanket ban on driving home from my mother’s house after dinner- the hilarity mania that ensued when bedtime was missed and dessert had been eaten was, quite frankly, distracting to the point of becoming dangerous.

If E. is otherwise occupied, P. can’t rile him up. And, if he’s not responding to her silliness, she pretty soon gives up and starts playing with toys or looking out the window. E. can read in the car without getting sick, so our problems were always when we had to drive somewhere at night.

Enter the audiobook.

I’m not exaggerating when I say audiobooks changed our lives. On our most recent trip we listened to Charlie and the Chocolate Factory on the way there, and The BFG on the way home, and the only complaints we had were from P., who announced after one too many descriptions of the nasty giants that she ‘didn’t yike the ABCDBFG’ (which was a good reminder that her level of verbal comprehension is sufficiently high that we should be choosing audiobooks that are appropriate for her if we’re going to play them over the car’s stereo and not just have E. listen to them on his own). She was a huge fan of Matilda, however, especially the part where Matilda glued her father’s hat to his head.

Audiobooks have also been hugely useful as an alternative to quiet reading after dinner, when I’m putting P. to bed, and we need E. to start calming his mind and his body. Without the focus of a good book, he’s likely to end up bouncing off the walls (literally). On the nights he feels too tired to read, he’s happy to put on his headphones and borrow my iPad (although I do have to set Guided Access to make sure I don’t find any surprises on my camera later).

At the moment E. is really enjoying the Upside Down Magic series, but he also loves any Roald Dahl book when the hold (finally- our library doesn’t have enough copies of Dahl’s books) comes in. He’s listened to a heap of Beverly Cleary, quite a few Geronimo Stiltons (which Q. and I find deeply painful to listen to, but E. loves them), most of the Timmy Failure series, all the available Stick Dog books and a couple of Captain Underpants. I asked him if he wanted to put holds on the How to Train Your Dragon series, which is his current passion in ‘real’ books, but he said he prefers to listen to books he hasn’t already read (even though he’s also read all the Timmy Failure and Stick Dog books).

His list of holds is growing thin, so please do recommend anything great we haven’t yet discovered! I’ll take suggestions for podcasts (especially science-related) too, as I’m sure that’s going to be the next step.


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Filed under Books, E.- the eighth year, P.- the third year, What were we thinking? (aka travelling with small children)

Read With Your Ears

I have a confession to make.

Prior to last year, I had never listened to an audiobook.

“That’s not for me,” I’d told myself. “I like the physical feel of a book too much. I won’t pay attention. It won’t work for me.”

Then I started following Modern Mrs. Darcy, who is a huge fan of audiobooks. She kept posting about great audiobooks. She enthused about the listening experience. Listening to audiobooks, she wrote, not only allowed her to finish more books, but it allowed her to read when she hadn’t been able to do so before (because she was driving, or folding laundry, etc.).

I decided it was dumb not to at least try them. I am not great at trying new things, but this is also something I am attempting to get better at (part of fostering a growth mindset instead of my deeply, deeply ingrained fixed one).

So I figured out how to download the Overdrive app onto my phone and how to link my public library account to the app, and off I went.

And, reader, audiobooks hooked me.

When I went back through my reading journal and tallied my numbers for 2018, of the 118 books I read, 17 of them were audiobooks. I’m sure that number will be higher this year.

I learned a few things as I experimented:

  1. I don’t like listening to books faster than 1.2x the normal speed. Anything faster makes me feel anxious and makes the voices sound funny.
  2. I don’t, for the most part, like listening to novels. I have trouble holding the story in my head, especially if I have to stop in the middle of a chapter. My favourite genre is memoir, especially when read by the author.
  3. I will absolutely stop listening if the reader’s voice bothers me or just sounds ‘wrong’ for the book.
  4. I have trouble turning the story off if I’m in the middle of a chapter, or near the end of the book, or at a very exciting part. Sometimes I have to be strategic about listening to a book when on my way to work.
  5. I can’t listen to audiobooks if I go out for a walk. I can pay attention to the walk or to the audiobook, but not to both. If I walk to the main university library downtown (which takes an hour) I tend to walk with my thoughts on the way there and walk home listening to the audiobook when I’m tired and ready to stop thinking.

It was one of the nicest surprises of the past year to realize how much I enjoy them.

Since my Terrible Tuesdays this semester involve a lot of time in the car (and a lot of walking to and from parking lots), I’ve had even more opportunities to listen. I was incredibly pleased with myself when I had the idea of checking to see if my library carried the Flavia de Luce series by Alan Bradley on audiobook. It does and I gleefully downloaded the next one in the series immediately (no wait list even!). Although these are novels, I correctly guessed that I would love them on audiobook because I don’t actually care very much about the details of each volume’s plot. In general, I’m not a reader of mysteries and when I do pick one up I never try to solve the crimes before the narrator explains them for me. I liked the previous Flavia books I’d read, but only moderately so (as evidenced by the fact that the last one I read was in 2015 and it took me an embarrassing long time reading the descriptions to realize that I had already read #4 and needed to start with #5).

I could care less about the details of each case that Flavia cracks- what interested me was the arc of her character development. If I miss the finer details of the mystery on audiobook, it doesn’t matter. What happens to her and her family is what sticks with me.

I’ve already listened to #5 and #6 this month and am well over halfway through #7. Jane Entwhistle does the narration, and she is brilliant. I love how she captures Flavia’s self-satisfied glee whenever she’s been particularly clever. I still have three more to go in the series, so I’ll be well into February before I’ll need to start thinking about what to download next (although I have holds out on books by (and read by) Eric Idle and Michael Palin, as well as the first Harry Potter, as I’ve heard repeatedly that the audiobook versions are incredible).

Do you listen to audiobooks? Is there a book you’ve loved because of the person who reads it rather than the story itself?



Filed under Books, Choose Happiness

This is love

We had a big blizzard come in yesterday. It started in the late morning and it didn’t stop until the wee hours of the morning. I took P. in a sled to the school when it was time to pick up her brother.

As much as I would have loved a snow day (today being Terrible Tuesday #4), there was no such luck: the snow stopped in enough time for most universities in the area to decide they could resume their normal operations by this morning.

And so, while I showered and got dressed and made tea at 5:45 this morning, Q. went out into the dark. He got the car ready. He shoveled the parking pad. He shoveled a clear path (as wide as the car) into the unplowed street until he reached the middle, where there were established ruts the car could follow. He ran along behind me until I reached the intersection, in case the car got stuck when I tried to push through the pile of snow left by the plow (which had only just made its first pass along that road).

The car skittered and jerked and slid, but I got out successfully.

Q. waved in my rear-view mirror, and then turned to tackle the 30 cm of snow the plow had just dumped on the sidewalk in front of our house. I know him- I know he was thinking that he had just enough time to clear that section of sidewalk (again) before going in to shower and get both kids up for the day. No one would struggle to walk in front of our house.

He made sure I would be safe. He made sure we all would be safe.

He is a good man.


Filed under Choose Happiness, Daily Life