Friday, June 28, 2013

It's about time.

Mr Lannis finally installed a ceiling fan at the top of our staircase, an act that was long overdue.

Yes, he built a platform.

Yes, it stayed there for almost a week.

Yes, I had to take a picture. (Have you met me?)

You're welcome, Interwebs, You owe me.

Maybe this is just me, but I was of the impression that people don't normally sit down on chairs to install ceiling fans.

But whatev.

(And people assume he's the rational one... pffft...)

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Sing With Me

[Note: This post was originally published on The Mrs on August 6th, 2011.]

Parenting truth: kids are great at showing the world how much you suck as a parent — regardless of actual suckage — because everything and anything can be taken out of context and will always look way worse than it really is.

The level of apparent atrocity will directly relate to the level of innocence behind an act. In other words: the more innocent an act, the more horrible it will outwardly appear.

Case in point: music.

One of our boys’ favourite activities is to sing lyrics of songs they love, occasionally shouting them at the top of their lungs.

Usually in public, of course.

A slightly different version of this game is to sing overtop of each other, each attempting to correct the other’s goofy lyrics... and this amuses them. Immensely.

Music as play is a good thing, don’t get me wrong. I’m all for melody- and wordplay, and anything creative is a good thing in my books, but...

It’s not just any music.

Oh no, they don’t choose anything adorable and childish... no She’ll be Coming ’Round the Mountain, or Skinnamarink for them... oh, no, they wait (in ambush) until we’re eight carts deep in the not-so-express Walmart lineup, and then start to hum, then sing Raise Your Glass by Pink.

If you’re not 100% familiar with this song, the chorus goes

Raise your glass if you are wrong
in all the right ways
all my underdogs
we will never be, never be
anything but loud
and nitty gritty
dirty little freaks

Charming, yes?

And there’s another — of course four-year-old favourite — line, that goes “party crasher, panty snatcher. Call me up if you are gangster.”

Yep. The artist in question also occasionally spells her name P!nk. Seriously.

And I don’t judge. I really don’t care.

And I realize you could look at me and say that the reason my kids are singing Pink’s song is because they’ve been exposed to her music (dur).

But the thing is, they haven’t.

Let me clarify: they love this song. And it looks (sounds?) horrible, but if any one of those wide-eyed strangers in the Walmart express line asked my kids if a girl with questionable spelling sang Raise Your Glass, they’d adamantly correct that stranger and say no, it’s sung by a boy named Blaine.

Him. Not her.

Yes. My kids listen to the Glee versions of popular songs, because then I get a break from the traditional ‘kids’ music, and get to hear some fun, catchy, current, upbeat, well-produced music, without profanity.

(Okay, there’s the occasional ‘damn’ or ‘hell’ — but it could be worse.)

But I know how this looks. It looks like my kids (aged four and five) are listening to unedited pop music, swear words and all.

So, in the Walmart express line, when I saw the tell-tale hum as the four-year-old stamped his feet and pumped a fist into the air, about to burst into song, I might have acted a teensy bit like the King of Swamp Castle trying to avert the arias of his limp-dishrag son in Monty Python and the Holy Grail.

But it was no use. Why do I even try?

And he wasn’t hurting anyone. He was actually being kind of quiet. And on key. Sort of. Or at least off-key and out-of-tune in a “I’m little and too cute to care” kind of way... that works, right?

I got a tap on my shoulder, and an older woman behind me all but shook her finger at me. “That song has the F word in it, you know.”

I wanted to say, “not the version my kids listen to,” or even snatch another F word from the song and fling it in her face (except my brain was choosing to be sluggish, and ‘freak’ and ‘fool’ were eluding me, unfortunately, since passive-aggressively implying she was both in reply would have been highly satisfying).

Thankfully, my five-year-old leaned in, as if on cue and in time with his brother’s singing, to belt out the lyric, “why so serious?”

And then I remembered: it’s my kids’ job to remind me who I am and who I want to be. And if that means letting people publicly question my parenting, I’m okay with that.

When it comes down to it, my boys are deliriously content to wait, singing, in a horrendous lineup with a full cart, after patiently shopping against their own wishes for the previous hour.

They weren’t touching items on the racks.

They weren’t fighting or hitting each other.

They weren’t whining, they weren’t melting down, and they weren’t asking for anything.

So outwardly, sure, this lady can question my child-rearing all she wants. But regardless of her opinion, I’m confident in my parenting skills.

Or skillz... whatever.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

And the winner is...

SHEILA! For her comment: "I've been looking for new reading material and your recommendation makes me want to read it."

Well that's good, because you're getting a copy of The Demon Trapper's Daughter by Jana Oliver! The Rafflecopter widget tells me it did some fancy schmancy thing via and came up with your name, which was entry number 6.


I'll be shipping Sheila her swag, and after Jana personalizes a copy of the book, it'll be heading her way, too.

If you're dying to get your own copy of The Demon Trapper's Daughter, it can be found here, and The Book Depository has free shipping to almost every country... (If you can't tell, I kind of have a thing for them—and not just because their customer service reps admit that drinking and online book buying are a good mix. True story.)

Or if you're interested in something else by Jana, her new novel Tangled Souls is available for Kindle, Nook, and Kobo for $2.99 CAD... sounds like good value for 334 pages if you ask me.

Anyhow, thanks to everyone who entered, and happy reading!

A COMPANION TO WOLVES by Sarah Monette and Elizabeth Bear - Book Review

[Note: This review was originally published on on January 26th, 2011.]

Rating: 4/5 -  A satisfying read that’s worth every word.

  A Companion to Wolves

Author:  Sarah Monette and Elizabeth Bear

Format: mass market paperback

Published: 2007

Genre: Fantasy

Publisher:  Tor Books

Landed in my hands: purchased myself

(from cover blurb):

“In a harsh northern land, the towns of men huddle close around the walled keeps of their lords.  Those keeps, in turn, look to the wolfcarls — men bonded to huge fighting wolves — for their safety, when the trolls and their wyverns come down from the icy mountains to prey on manflesh.

Isolfr is a young nobleman who is called to the wolf pack.  His father is hostile to the wolfcarls and refuses to send his sons, but Isolfr is deeply drawn to the wolves.  When the konigenwolf, Vigdis, comes to visit with her human brother Hrolleif, the young man chooses to disobey his father and answer her summons.


This was one of those books that made me sit up and realize the gaping hole that has previously been in whole "companion animal" fantasy sub-genre.  Totally an out-of-sight, out-of-mind kind of thing until I read it and went, “THAT’S what’s been missing!”  To put it succinctly, it’s a psychological and sociological view on the influences of men on the wolf pack (and vice versa), as well as prickly questions of honour.

To be honest, I never would have stumbled upon this book if it weren’t for Brit Mandelo’s excellent post for the series Queering SFF on  I’m always glad to add titles to my To Be Read list, especially if it fits a niche that has previously sat empty.  That’s not to say that I haven’t read any queer fiction, it’s more to say that on my own I gravitate towards the mainstream, and I enjoy the opportunity to explore titles that are more obscure or for whatever reason are marginalized.

I loved the subversiveness of this book.  It grabbed the romanticized ideas of bonding with wolves and put a realistic slant on them.  These ladies obviously asked some hard questions and have thought their concepts through well, and as a testament to their skill, they’ve also delivered an engaging plot to accompany it.  It's a shame this book wasn't written earlier, and hasn't had the time to implant into the fantasy canon.

One thing I’m forced to question, though, is the authenticity of two women writing from the perspective of a young man.  To their credit, this didn’t stand out until I had finished the book, and that’s probably because everyone can relate to feeling alone, feeling in over their head, and feeling bitter that the right, moral answer doesn’t always align with what the heart wants.  I’d certainly be curious to hear a man’s take on this narrative.

A Companion to Wolves is a coming of age story — it’s the tale of how Isolfr becomes a man by being forced into hard decisions.  It’s not for everyone, and while I certainly don’t advocate censoring what people read, I do advocate age-appropriateness.  There’s a harsh honesty to the way this book deals with sexuality that requires a level of maturity in a reader, and therefore I’d recommend a parent be familiar with the content before handing it to someone under the age of fifteen.

This book loses a star only because the names of places and characters are at times difficult to follow — unfortunately, what aids in verisimilitude might distance some readers.

And the only other comment I have to make is more of an innate reaction to the use of the word "kitten" to describe baby trolls.  Maybe it's the cat lover in me, I don't know, but it twigged an extremely base-level knee-jerk disgust every time I read it.  Cognitively I can understand that the term was chosen because the trolls are the natural enemies of the wolves.  Wolves have pups, so it's only logical for the trolls to have kittens, in a cat vs. dog opposition.  But every time it came up, it gave me the heebie-jeebies, and this entire passage probably sounds like it's a negative critique of Monette and Bear's choice — it's not.  I was thoroughly disgusted by those baby trolls, and that's exactly what these writers were going for.  Good work, ladies!

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Six Uses for White Vinegar Around the House

I buy a lot of vinegar.

Like, grab-a-case-at-Costco-every-few-months-lot of vinegar.

We need so much because we don't only use it in the kitchen. It's incredibly cheap, non-toxic, and can be used in a multitude of ways around the house. I keep it under the sink in our master bathroom, and it's used so often in the laundry room that it never makes it back up onto the shelf.

What do I use it for? Plenty.

  • A de-funk-ifiying laundry soak. Hot hot water + vinegar soak will get nasty smells out of clothes, towels, sheets, Mr Lannis' sweaty karate gi... everything. I pour a few cups in a basin of hot hot tap water (sorry, I don't measure), and toss in the item in question for a time... anything between ten minutes to overnight. Then I wash as per usual.
  • Fabric softener for laundry. Yep, I pour it into the front load washer's softener slot, and I don't notice a difference over store bought. No, you can't smell it on your clothes. Yes, even my line-dried towels and jeans are not stiff, just as if as they were washed with store-bought softeners. And vinegar is very gentle on clothes and doesn't leave residue on your dryer's lint catcher (softener residue on a dryer's lint screen can cause house fires, by the way). What I appreciate most about white vinegar in the laundry is that my clothes smell nothing but clean—no overpowering floral perfumes masking anything. (Full disclosure: I'm allergic to perfume, so commercial fabric softener scents can be migraine triggers. Any reason to avoid that aisle at the grocery story and I'm golden. Keeping it from entering the house is a downright miracle blessed upon me by the white vinegar gods I now worship...)
  • Glass cleaner. Added to a spray bottle with water in equal ratios, and it cleans my windows. Perhaps not as well as commercial cleaners, but guess what? My kids like washing my windows and I'm not going to be as worried if they accidentally spray themselves or anything other than the window's glass when it's simply vinegar and water in the bottle. If they waste it?—it's cheap. If they accidentally consume it?—it's non-toxic. If they leave streaks?—Meh, I have other priorities. (I also use old t-shirts, receiving blankets, or rags made of old sheets to scrub windows—no lint left behind.)
  • Jewelry cleaner. A few tablespoons of hot kettle water and a good splash of vinegar will soften the grime off my wedding rings. I scrub them with a designated toothbrush and give them a quick rinse in regular tap water et voilà, those diamonds be sparkly again!
  • Hair rinse: Every couple of weeks I'll put 1 cup vinegar with 1 cup hot tap water, and after shampooing I'll pour the mix over my hair and let it sit. After a few minutes of being careful not to let it leak into my eyes, I'll rinse it off, and follow with the tiniest bit of conditioner—quickly in and out, not letting it sit. The vinegar cuts all the build up residue out of my hair, and once dry it'll be super light and clean. My mother used to do this for my hair when I was little, and I've always had glossy, silky hair—I figure she must've been on to something.
  • Weedkiller. Mixed with a touch of water and a tablespoon of dish soap, white vinegar is a non-selective herbicide. Wait until noon on a sunny day and spray the leaves of the offending plants... the sun and the vinegar will shrivel those plants in no time. Just cover anything you don't want to hit because you'll have nice circles of destruction on your lawn...

Believe it or not, I rarely have occasion to cook or eat white vinegar... the odd homemade salad dressing here at Chez Lannis is made with balsamic dressing. So for a house that quite literally buys vinegar by the gallon, I find it amusing that we're not ingesting it... ha!

Do you use vinegar around the house? Can you enlighten me on other uses?

Monday, June 24, 2013

Cancer Bombs: Hoopla

[Note: The first of this series can be found here. All previous (and subsequent) installments of this series can be found here.]

If I wanted preventative surgery—namely a prophylactic double mastectomy—I needed to jump through a few hoops.

The first of which being learning how NOT to snort every time someone said the word prophylactic.

I wish I was kidding.

My brain goes somewhere entirely different and less significant than, um, major surgery when it comes across the word. Spoken, written... and it doesn’t really matter by whom or where it’s encountered—I laugh.

Seriously, my inner fourteen-year-old boy would trip and fall victim to the giggles every time he stumbled across the term.

[stage whisper] It’s like people don’t even realize it’s a synonym for condom... pfft. [/stage whisper]

The double-edge sword (sword... condom... heh) of the problem would be that yes, I had to speak to people—technicians, surgeons, counselors, assistants (read: professionals)—about the procedure.

I heard the word a lot.

And unfortunately, I got it into my head that I had to look, erm, balanced psychologically so that these professionals would clear me for the next step in the process...

(If you’ve read this blog you understand how truly challenging this undertaking is.)

Which meant these people were repeatedly saying the word “prophylactic” in appropriate conversation, and I was afraid to laugh in fear I wouldn’t be approved for the prophylactic (heh) surgery.

The crux being that everything’s funnier when you’re not allowed to laugh. Right? Right.

It was even worse when “prophylactic” was said with utter gravity by anyone in a white lab coat.

Seriously. Doomed. Brain = elsewhere.

Oh, how I struggled to rein in the insanity, lest there be potential derailment of the proposed surgery I so desperately wanted. Truly, though, I didn’t encounter anyone who seemed put off by my, um, unique approach to life, even when it managed to spill everywhere and make a mess.

So. The hoops. After I retrained my inner 14-year-old-boy managed to get it together, I had appointments. Many.

First off, Mary had arranged an appointment in January 2012 with Dr A, a general practitioner who volunteered her hours with the genetics department. I believe her clinical breast exam counted as one of my two needed in a year within the Ontario Breast Screening Program’s requirements.

Dr A had only one true hoop to jump question. Based on my response, I would be referred to the general surgeon (yay!) or not (boo!).

Picture me sitting in a generic cotton surgical gown, on a generic exam table covered with generic paper, within generic exam room walls, babbling about how I hadn’t known there was a quiz or I would have studied for it...

Dr A is a blur of soft colours and kind tones, holding a clipboard. She says this:

“How would you respond if I said we could drop your risk of breast cancer to lower than the natural risk of any other woman walking this Earth?”

Anything but a generic question.

My face crumbled. I had no answer. My mouth moved but nothing came out, my eyes warm with tears.

I remember she smiled, wrote on her clipboard, and said she lived for those responses.

Dr A referred me to Dr D, the general surgeon who would be preforming the prophylactic double mastectomy. Before I saw Dr D, though, I had to have a breast MRI, as part of the Ontario Breast Screening Program, and to ensure I wasn’t already carrying breast cancer.

No point in scheduling preventative treatment when I needed reactive treatment, right?

Here’s the thing: in Canada our healthcare is covered. If your problem isn’t critical it’s a notoriously long waiting list. I wasn’t fooling myself. MRIs can be a four to six month wait if you have a problem.

I wasn’t ill. Not even a teensy bit.

So I was floored when I found myself with a Saturday morning appointment for a breast MRI in March 2012, barely five weeks after I’d seen Dr A.

I was worried about that MRI.

I’d never had one before, and had no real frame of reference except for the knowledge that you’re not allowed to move, and that my mother had discovered she was claustrophobic during an MRI when she was undergoing treatment for breast cancer.

My MRI was scheduled to be 45 minutes long.

45 minutes.

45 unmoving minutes.

Truthfully, I was more worried about boredom than I was about revealing hitherto undiscovered claustrophobia.


Nerves infected me. My lack-of-filter verbosity was in true form that day. The MRI medical history questionnaire had me twittering inanely... questions about jewelry, piercings, previous accidents, surgery, potentially embedded plates, screws, false joints, and my personal favourite: shrapnel.

Yes, shrapnel—everyone knows stay-at-home-moms are riddled with it (heh).

Turns out I’m pretty goddamn boring; I suppose it’s in a good way.

Then when the MRI technician told me she was prepping my catheter, I maybe babbled relief because I drink so much tea I tend to use the bathroom a lot, and my secondary fear (after mind-numbing boredom, and despite refraining from caffeine that morning) was the panic of needing to pee mid-MRI.

The technician found this endlessly entertaining of course, because this particular catheter was to be placed in my arm for MRI dye, and had nothing to do with bodily functions.


I blame the nameless person who should have and yet neglected to tell me there’d be dye injected during this MRI. (Erm... and my big mouth. Whatever.)

The two technicians got a good chuckle from that, and by the end of my MRI, I wasn’t quite sure if they’d let me leave—apparently my nervous babbling was endearing, because they were threatening to adopt me.

As for the MRI itself, well, there was certainly no need for me to worry about boredom. Even though I wore earplugs, the knocking and zapping noise of the MRI machine was loud, thundering, deafening, enough to work its way into your skull until you couldn’t put two thoughts together!

There was no thinking. There was no nothing.

You simply lay there, face down with your breasts hanging through a special slot (the techs adjusted their placement—that was fun in an awkward way), while the machine does its thing.

It’s rather relaxing, actually. Meditative.

I won’t be worried if I ever have to do it again, that’s for sure.

I went home with a tingle of trepidation because I knew that if any breast cancer were to crop up, this MRI would show it. But no, thankfully the results were boring as hell. Apparently it pays to be boring...

April 2012, and on to the next hoop: meeting with Dr D, the general surgeon, the first half of my double-surgeon team.

My Surgical Super Team.

Dr D would be performing the my double mastectomy. That meant she’d be the one removing my mammary tissue, as much as possible—obviously a few errant cells would be left behind here and there, but overall my risk of breast cancer would be drastically reduced.

And I knew she was good. Whenever I mentioned she was my general surgeon, medical professionals who had encountered her in the field positively fawned over her in praise. She was known for proactive work. She was known for delicacy.

Best of all: she was known for skill.

Turns out she was blunt and to the point, but warm and professional. Never did I have a sense she was condescending while explaining procedures or specifics pertaining to my case. Her office had the streamlined efficiency of practiced professionalism.

Her waiting room was tiny. Her assistant was courteous and quick.

The entire package was intimidating.

Which meant meeting Dr D for the first time was nerve-wracking.

Mostly because of that ridiculous notion that had set into my brain that if I didn’t appear mentally sound (ha!) it would be inferred that I wasn’t wholly on board with the procedure (or at least not in the right head space to make such a radical decision), and I would be kicked to the proverbial curb. A curb which would mean I was back to the drawing board that is the Ontario Breast Screening Program, and high risk screening for the rest of my life...

Possibly fifty years of mammograms squishing the girls, more MRIs, and more handling of the boobage by complete strangers medical professionals.

Yeah. Screams good times, am I right?

So. Another exam room. An introduction. Another breast exam. Dr D reviewed my chart and asked me what I was hoping to accomplish by pursuing this course.

Another pop quiz. Great.

What to say—that your family history predicts you’ll die young? That you want to be around for your kids? That you don’t want your husband to have to be your nursemaid? That watching other people go through cancer—living knowing a cellular invader was slowly eating its way through them—scares the ever-living-shit out of you? That you don’t want to sit waiting for the two cancer bombs strapped to your chest to explode?

I laid it out succinctly. “My mother’s mother passed away at forty-six, when my mother was only nineteen. My own mother died at fifty-five, less than three weeks before my son was born. My goal is to meet my grandkids.”

Dr D smiled. “I like that. That’s a new one.” She scribbled something on my chart and asked me to get dressed and meet her in her office.

When I sat down facing her at the desk, she was studying my chart. She didn’t look up when she spoke with a light, conversational tone. “Are you interested in keeping your ovaries?”

[Insert sound of needle being ripped off a turntable.]

This was the first I’d heard that they might be removed. And said so... casually...

It was rattling.

Dr D explained that they routinely remove ovaries along with breasts in proactive treatment such as what was slated for me. They’d do breasts, or breasts and ovaries, but they wouldn’t remove ovaries on their own. If I chose to wait, and changed my mind ten years down the road and returned to her, she’d do it then. So no pressure or split-second decision making.

It was still pretty abrupt to absorb. I hedged. “But none of my family history includes ovarian cancer.”

“True. But arguably none of your predecessors lived long enough to have it.”

Ouch. She had me there.

Her eyes roved my file, then she grimaced. “Looking at your chart, I’d perform this based on your family history alone.”

"Pardon?" Still recovering from the question about the oophorectomy, her comment caught me off guard.

I’d fretted over particular genetic testing results only to discover that my family history landed me firmly into the proactive surgical category all on its own?

Fuck, yeah!

“Mother, and father’s sister, both with early onset bilateral breast cancer? Oh, yes.” Dr D grinned at me over the top of my file, her eyes glittering with delight. “This will be good. I’m sending you to Dr M. I enjoy working with her; she's very talented. We don’t get many proactive cases. This will be fun—you’ll be perfect as a showcase for what we can do.”

Ooh, a showcase... a fake boobage showcase. This could be good, right?

Naturally, I had many questions, but Dr D was performing the double mastectomy, and as only one half of my Surgical Super Team, she couldn’t tell me all the details yet.

Important details. Details that left me hanging.

Specifically: how many surgeries, and when.

Those details would come from Dr M, the Surgical Super Team’s second half—my plastic surgeon.

It was heartening, to hear everyone gush about Dr D, and to then experience firsthand her calm and polished manner coupled with an amiability that gave me confidence in her skills, only to have her gush in turn about her proposed surgical partner for this endeavour.

And it was once again intimidating.

Another doctor. Another person to convince I was balanced and on board.

In retrospect, there was no need to worry, because it was Dr M. Of this entire journey, she’s my absolute favourite encounter. So much so her introduction deserves its own post...

[The next post in this series can be found here.]

Friday, June 21, 2013


So last night (and already this morning, since I woke up to discover that apparently it's not over...) I've been kind of mesmerized...

By this:

It's Book Depository's 100 Books - 25 Hours sale, where they offer different titles for steep discounts for 15 minutes at a time... once it's gone, it's gone. And you have no heads up as to what the next book will be... so you keep the tab open on your laptop and keep checking...

Okay, I keep checking, but whatever.

I bought a Lego activity book including Lego figures and shipping for $3.75 CAD.

I bought another Lego book for $4.20 CAD. Both titles were 60% off. And yes, if you're keeping score, that's one book for each kidlet.

And then I preordered Maggie Stiefvater's The Dream Thieves, um... less because it was a part of the promotion and more because I have a problem...

Whatever. I'll own it. I'm addicted to books.

And then, I got sucked into the widget on the right...

Yeah, that's the one... the one where you can watch what people buy. Live.


Fat Quarter Quickies. ::snort::

Seriously, I could watch this for hours... um, or at least until it loops back and resets...

Thursday, June 20, 2013


[Note: This post was originally published on The Mrs on July 30, 2011. The sign works, folks.]

Remember when I said I can be a world-class jerk? Don’t knock on my door. Unless you know me, that is.

Solicitors, I’m talking to you.

It’s highly invasive when someone interrupts my day to promote their Thing — even when I’m not looking after four kids, or scrubbing a toilet, or chasing black wasps around the house because a certain five-year-old mistook it for a mosquito eater and wanted competition for the four-year-old’s pet spider living in the bathroom (true story).

Basically, if I’m answering my door to a stranger over the age of fifteen who is not obviously promoting a local educational or sports endeavour, I’m defensive. Instantly so. Truly, I am a territorial beast. Hackles rise, tension builds, my chest tightens as my snark settles at ready...

(My apologies, but the stun setting is broken... I can’t promise it won’t be lethal.)

And we get a lot of solicitors. Plenty. Like, since our move we’ve had our lifetime’s fair share and that of two others, kind of plenty. When the nice weather hit, barely a day went without someone knocking, be it for a child-sponsoring program, some spa promotion, fencing services, knife-sharpeners, lawn care, a utility company...

(FYI: It’s highly satisfying to tell a man with a clipboard that you live in a two-year-old home and therefore are absolutely positive your hot water tank does not need replacing. They don’t like that very much.)

So imagine my face when for the third time in one day I answered my door with a stranger on the other side. Not one, but two — this 40-something gentleman had a young man shadowing him, learning how to barge onto people’s property and bully them into accepting whatever not-so-necessary service they’re offering.

I, however, have not fallen victim to the horrific disease investing our lovely nation (I’m looking at you, fellow Canadians). You know the one. The one where we err on the side of self-deprecating courtesy and (GASP!) have forgotten how to say no!

Me? I used to be a shy, malleable soul, but life forced me to eat some crap sandwiches and I decided not to care. Yep. This translated to learning (albeit late in life) the ability to say no.

And this is my philosophy it comes to solicitors: if I wanted your product, I’d be seeking you out, not vice versa.

Don’t worry, it’s not an excuse to be rude. In fact, Mr Lannis and I usually have a little bit of fun with the poor souls who choose to knock on our door (my gym rat has been known to stand shirtless and talk the ear off uncomfortable puritan peddlers — he’s my hero!).

So yes, I answered the door — the knock that interrupted my usually-unwilling five-year-old successfully stretching out words for a thank you card he was writing — to find, for the third time in one day, a solicitor. A pair, in fact.

And as it turned out, they were from the same paving company that had already visited earlier!

Whee. (Can you hear my enthusiasm? I can’t, either.)

Me [with a chipper voice]: Hey, guys. Stupid day for a walk.

Solicitor [smiling, probably assuming I’m referring to the blinding heat, as we Canadians are wont to talk about weather]: Yes. Hi. We’re here from [I-don’t-remember-because-you-were-jerkfaces] paving company, and we’re doing a whack of driveways over there [he points], and the more we have, the cheaper we can offer it, so we were wondering if you’d like your driveway sealed?

Me [shocked to realize it’s a repeat, yet relieved for the easy out]: Ah, someone was here this morning. Don’t think so. But thanks anyway.

Him: Oh, well, I’m just making the rounds, so I thought I could talk to you about it.

Me [flat tone]: Clearly.

Him [probably noticing the tone, therefore jumping onto concrete facts]: Well, Miss, I see you’ve got a lot of chalk on your driveway. It dries it out a lot. It should really be done.

Me [I had to give it to him for the recon — the subdivision he’d indicated was in the opposite direction, and he’d had to walk around the side of our house to see the chalk-slashed driveway.]: Nope, that’s okay.

Him: It really is dry.

Me: Well, if it needs to be done, I’m sure we can do it cheaper ourselves. [Mr Lannis has used bucket sealant and elbow grease in the past.]

Him: Oh, see, our technique is far better. We use hot... [blah blah — I stopped listening to him here. It seemed fair, since he’d obviously stopped listening to me.]

Me: Nope, that’s okay.

Him [smiling in what I’m sure he thinks is a disarming manner]: Perhaps I should come back when your husband is home?

Yes, folks, he actually said that. So picture me, eyes widening, brain wheeling in mad panic as I attempt to remember being transported to the 1940s, and figure out how to claw my way back to 2011 before Mr Lannis barbeques dinner!

My broken verbal filter shuddered to life before I could snap something truly inappropriate about people who don’t listen to the word ‘no.’ Epically inappropriate. A friend of mine told me I should have said, “it’s okay, I am the husband,” and see what happened next.

Instead, I grinned: Nope, it’s cool. I have clearance for executive decisions.

He didn’t see the humour in the comment, but his younger cohort snorted a laugh.

So, jerk-muscle flexing, I added: Look, buddy [because unless you’re under twelve years of age, ‘buddy’ is my passive-aggressive term for idiots]. The only way your company will be sealing our driveway is if you offer to do it for free.

Him [shocked]: All right then, thanks for your time.

Me: Yep.

I closed the door, and my brain exploded! Seriously. It chanted: the invasion is coming. The invasion is coming...

Our new town is fairly small, and — with creative geography — could possibly be considered the suburbs. As I said, we get a lot of solicitors. But three in one day?! Two from the same company?! And the last not knowing the meaning of the word “no?!”

I. Can’t. Handle. This. Time for signage!

I assumed Mr Lannis would give me a 24 hour pass until my mental stability regained its footing, then remove my sign — which was a cheery after-work surprise for him. The kind that prompts raised brows and that head shake that means he doesn’t want to know what provoked it.

Usually, Mr Lannis errs on the side of invisible social conformity. He likes to blend. Some days I’m baffled why he’s with me, because I gave up blending years ago. Usually, a saucy sign would be removed promptly, lest our house be egged by local teens.

(To which I would remind him that I get along well with teenagers. Something something mindset something...)

And yes, this is really on our front door. If solicitors knock, they either have a healthy sense of humour, or are duly warned and better be braced for what’s coming...

And so far, it’s working. Three weeks and not one solicitor yet. Ha!

(For the record, it’s open season on telemarketers, too.)

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

THE MAZE RUNNER by James Dashner - Book Review

[Note: This review was originally published on on April 13th, 2011.]

Rating: 4.5/5 - Writing down the title so I can recommend it to everyone.

The Maze Runner

Author: James Dashner

Format: trade paperback

Published: 2009

Genre: young adult, dystopian science fiction, thriller

Publisher: Delacourte Press

Landed in my hands: purchased myself


Summary (from the cover blurb):

Everything is going to change...

When Thomas wakes up in the lift, the only thing he can remember is his first name. He has no recollection of his parents, his home, or how he got where he is. His memory is empty.

But he’s not alone. When the lift’s doors open, Thomas finds himself surrounded by kids who welcome him to the Glade, a large expanse enclosed by stone walls.

Just like Thomas, the Gladers don’t know why or how they got to the Glade. All they know is that every morning, for as long as anyone can remember, the stone doors to the maze that surrounds them have opened. Every night, for just as long, they’ve closed tight. Every thirty days a new boy is delivered in the lift. And no one wants to be stuck in the Maze after dark.

The Gladers were expecting Thomas’ arrival. But the next day, a girl is sent up — the first girl ever to arrive in the Glade. And more surprising yet is the message she delivers. The Gladers have always been convinced that if they can solve the maze that surrounds the Glade, they might find their way home... wherever that may be. But it’s looking more and more as if the Maze is unsolvable.
And something about the girl’s arrival is starting to make Thomas feel different. Something is telling him that he just might have some answers — if he can only find a way to retrieve the dark secrets locked within his own mind.


Upon finishing this book, I was exhausted — in a good way. The Maze Runner is charged with energy and gets your adrenaline pumping, right to the last page. It scared the shit out of me, literally giving me nightmares. I think the last book that did that was Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale — coincidentally also a Sci-Fi dystopian future with Big Brother-style social commentary...

James Dashner has given The Maze Runner a thorough progression of terror. Thomas is tossed into an unknown world, and as the details become clear — that this group of boys has been conscripted for a dark, unknown purpose, set to endlessly run the trails of the Maze, futilely seeking exit and risking their lives — it’s all thrown into upheaval. The established (and very creepy) known is slowly chipped away, leaving the characters with an even more terrifying certain doom.

Seriously, get ready for your heart to race.

It is this excellent pacing that creates a very quick read. It’s the kind of book that if it’s handed to a twelve-year-old who’s disinterested in books, you’ll have changed them into a reader for life. Yep. This story is that gripping, and will be introducing teens to the love of reading for a long time.

Now, I do have a couple of hairs to split, but I also recognize the possible reasons behind them, as well.

For one thing, I found there to be too many characters who were not fully fleshed out — problematic in a microcosmic world where the entire group has amnesia, yes. Personality traits are pulled forward, and as a group of teen boys, it felt less like characters at times and more like, well, a gang of teen boys, with only their names to distinguish each from the next.

Tertiary characters came off as empty markers; as if there were too many speaking parts required for a particular scene, and how said roles were distributed didn’t ultimately matter, as long as Thomas was still Thomas, with Thomas’ views. Of course, there needed to be a variety of characters to fill out the Gladers, as well as the internal government that the boys create. The entire story takes place within a world where we know at least two things: a bunch of boys have been dumped into the Glade, and they all have amnesia. Not everyone can be the protagonist, either, so until the girl comes along, it’s a lot of single-demographic interaction. I suppose my problem is that in outlying conversations, it occasionally felt as if three boys’ opinions were too similar and one character could have been cut, his lines then distributed between two others in the scene.

For my second hair to split, my anti-spoiler flare has gone up (I’ll attempt to be indistinct about details as I illustrate my point, I swear). There is a connection between Thomas and the girl that is not properly justified for me. I'm hoping this doesn't follow the soft Sci-Fi trend of "because the author said so" — the disturbing tendency I've noticed for soft Sci-Fi to flout realism by lacking explanation for certain key elements. I want to know more about why they are connected — for what purpose? What function? And how? — because it seemed a tad superfluous here. And granted, these amnesiac characters are hardly the best candidates to answer any of these questions. I also think it's a safe bet that this connection will be explored more in the future books of the trilogy.

Yes. It’s a trilogy, and as creeped out as I may be, I’m anxious to read the next book.

A terrifying imagination you have, Mr Dashner. I tip my hat to you, and your talent. Looking forward to burning through The Scorch Trials as soon as I read a couple of happy books. Something full of love and bubbles, where unicorns shoot bliss-inducing rainbows from their ears. Or something.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013


The kidlets dumped their Lego bins on the weekend. All over the toy area. It's a literal carpet of Lego.

I wish I was kidding...

Yes, that's my front door on the upper right. So yes, this is what you'd see when you walk in the door. Lovely...

Then they attempted to invade the living room with their play.

Hold up, Cowboys!

I told them that if they didn't have enough room to play in their own area, they'd need to tidy up.

It got quiet.

Astoundingly quiet.

Then I learned why...

Monday, June 17, 2013

Cancer Bombs: The Old Blood Sings

[Note: The first of this series can be found here. All previous (and subsequent) installments of this series can be found here.]

The Geneticists sent me a letter.

Okay, it was from one genetic counselor, Mary, rehashing everything we’d gone over in the intake meeting.


My referring doctor... my family history of cancer... the definition of cancer... the explanation of hereditary breast and ovarian cancer... my personal risk assessment... my eligibility and decision to proceed with genetic testing... the advantages and disadvantages to genetic testing, and what the results mean...

I love this letter. It’s three jam-packed pages of awesome.

It’s like Mary anticipated my brain would explode the moment I walked out her door and wouldn’t remember a word she’d said. She’s sort of right—it was an overwhelming day, after all.

What she sent is a form letter with my personal details added in, underlined and italicized. Standard practice with genetic counseling patients, I'd assume (I'm going to guess the counselors expect that everybody's brain explodes after such a heavy meeting).

Here’re two of my favourite parts:

Your family history of cancer includes your paternal aunt diagnosed with bilateral breast cancer at 42 and at 60. On your maternal side, your mother had breast cancer at 41 and 53, and sadly passed away at 55. Your uncle had lung cancer at 65, and his son had testicular cancer at 33. Your grandmother had cancer at 33 and passed away at 46, and her sister had breast cancer in her eighties. Your grandfather had a sister who died of an unknown type of cancer in her eighties. Your grandfather’s mother died of liver cancer at 56.

Based on your reported family history of cancer, we would consider there to be a high chance of an inherited form of breast/ovarian cancer in your mother’s family and a moderate chance of an inherited form of breast cancer in your father’s family. The factors that increase the risk include women with bilateral breast cancer and younger ages of diagnosis.

Believe it or not, it makes me giddy to read this. No, not for any morbid humour reason, I’m not laughing. It's goddamn tragic.

I’m giddy because it is validating.

Even without a blood test to tell me, this letter is a professional’s opinion substantiating what I’ve always known: I’d be winning the big prize.

Now to find out what the genes foretold, written in black and white the red of a blood sample.

Mary’s letter stated that it could take several months before results would be available, and I would be contacted to make an appointment to receive the results in person. Since I had given my sample on October 31st 2011, I settled in to patiently wait, figuring it’d be the end of January 2012 before I’d know anything concrete.

Imagine my shock when they wanted to see me mid-December.

December 14th, 2011.

I woke up the morning of the results appointment, donned my lucky Tai’shar Manetheren shirt, hoping I’d hear that the old blood sings (it’s a Wheel of Time thing), asked some friends to send positive (heh) vibes my way, and hit the road.


Yes. Mr Lannis and I had weighed it carefully. He wanted to accompany me to this appointment, but was running low on vacation days at work. I had a good rapport with Mary, and was confident I’d be fine.

The biggest factor, though, was that I was determined I wasn’t going to hear anything I didn’t already know.

He wavered. I insisted. He caved.

(Read: so don’t harp on him for not being supportive, dude has earned all his necessary spousal-support points into the next millennium. Trust.)

It was simultaneously the longest and shortest drive to that hospital I’ve ever had, and traffic had nothing to do with it.

On the way there, I weighed what I wanted to hear. I was certain I’d be either positive for a gene mutation or negative with unknown variants.

There was no way I’d be negative for genetic mutation...

According to Mary’s letter, a negative result meant The Geneticists were,
unable to find a mutation in the BRCA1 or BRCA2 genes. More accurately, this is referred to as an inconclusive test result. This result could mean (1) there is no mutation in the family, (2) the person tested did not inherit the family mutation, or (3) there are other gene mutations that are not detected by the test. It is not possible for us to exclude the risk of cancer with any negative test result.

What does this mean, exactly?

This means NOTHING. Like, you’re probably still a walking time bomb based on family history, but The Geneticists can’t tell you either way, and there’s nothing to do but wait until one day you explode.

Again, I knew my result wouldn’t be plain negative. Why? My gut told me so. That’s all I’ve got.

The universe has force fed me enough shit sandwiches in my lifetime, and I’ve choked them down, indigestion and all. There was no way this would be one of them, because that would be unfair. Yes, I realize this sounds naïve.

On that drive to the hospital, though, something happened. (Bear with me, I'm aware that I sound all hippy dippy trippy when I recount this.)

Out of nowhere I had an answer to a question that used to bug me. A lot.

The question being: Why no girls?

When I was pregnant with my oldest child, Mr Lannis and I found out via ultrasound that we were likely carrying a boy.

The news had rocked me, and not in a good way. I’d always expected to have girls, even though I knew there was no picking and choosing (see? Not entirely naïve). Growing up, I’d had no male siblings. My male cousins were younger. I didn’t know what to do with a son. How do you raise boys?! No clue.

The word terrified is too understated to describe my trepidations... (Of course I realize in hindsight everyone has their qualms in pregnancy—especially their first—and this just happened to be mine.) 

I latched onto that announcement and it truly took the last four months of pregnancy to wrap my brain around the idea of possibly birthing a son. With my second pregnancy, we didn’t find out the gender of our child, and I was far more open to the idea of another boy.

But Mr Lannis and I had decided two was enough, and a part of my heart grieved that we would bear no girls. In the end, of course, I quickly got over it—I love my boys and am not ashamed to have them know I grew up dreaming of daughters. It's only a fact of what was, after all. I’ve never for a second wanted to trade my boys, and I love them even more because they surprise me all the more.

Also? I love Lego and trains, and quite frankly, wouldn’t’ve wanted to play with Barbies anyway.

So. Back to the December 2011 and my drive to receive my genetic results. On this drive, out of nowhere I received an answer as to why I wasn’t given girls...

And I say I received this answer because I had the overwhelming sense that this was not my thought. It came from somewhere, and I don’t know where, but it wasn’t mine. It was shoved into my head abruptly, and dominated all other thought processes. (For the record: not exactly what you want to happen while driving.)

While wondering what result I would have (positive for the genetic mutation, or negative with unknown variants), I was overcome with the sense of other and this foreign conclusion that I had boys for a reason...

To break the cycle. 

To buy more time.

The only time I've ever had a similar experience with an intrusive thought from an outside source was when I was carrying my second son. About a week before his birth, I had the overpowering certainty that he would have the cord wrapped around his neck during delivery.

And he did.

(Thankfully everything was fine. But Mr Lannis and I both were intensely creeped out that I'd predicted it.)

Now, I'm not saying that those outside, otherworldly notions were a message from my mother, I'm just saying my mind did not create them. I'm pretty freaking grounded, after all. I subscribe to terminal realism, remember? But that's what makes the experience all the more intense—in no way would I normally believe such testimony from another, but to have had it occur in my own mind, well...

Feel free to heckle, I can only vouch for my own observations. I have no proof, nor do I carry more answers than anyone else walking this Earth.

It did not feel like me.

In response to this foreign certainty that I had had boys for a reason, my gut began screaming that my testing results would be negative with unknown variants. A positive result was completely off the table. It would take years before The Geneticists had anything more concrete on what my children are possibly carrying, but luckily by having boys I had bought them that time...

For boys, as we know, do not develop mammary cells in the same abundance as girls. Nor do they undergo the radical flux and surge of hormones every month from puberty to menopause. Genetic breast cancer is a risk for men, yes, but with not nearly the same numbers as that of women.

By the time I walked into Mary's office, my step was heavy with determination; I had steeled myself to hear the news I knew was coming. I desperately hoped to hear I was positive for the genetic mutation (because you were guaranteed the most choice in proactive care), but I was resigned to hear that I was negative with unknown variants in my genes.

Mary didn’t seem surprised to see I was alone, and we zipped through the chit chat. Then she pulled out my molecular genetics report, and told me what I already knew...

My results were negative with unknown variants.

My BRCA2 gene looks nothing like a "healthy" BRCA2 gene, nor does it match the patterns that have been proven to cause cancer.

It has some creative oddities to it (duplicate, missing, or repeated code). These oddities aren't recognized nor have been researched by The Geneticists—which means they can't weigh in as to whether these particular oddities have any significance in causing breast cancer. Maybe, maybe not...

I’m not going to lie: I bawled.

And not that pretty cry, either. No, this was the full on Ugly Cry.

Mary, very delicately, asked why I was crying, and I told her the truth: I had wanted desperately to be positive for the genetic mutation.

She stared at me.

I’m going to go out on a limb here and say she doesn’t often get people wanting to carry the cancer-causing mutation.

But see, this is terminal realism, right?

I want to be as proactive as possible.

I have kids. I have a husband.

I have a life I’m not yet finished living, and have plans to fill it to bursting with picnics, road trips, reading in the grass, showing Mr Lannis the Louvre, watching my boys marvel at fireworks, snorting drinks out of my nose, moments—fabulous, sundry, and everything in between.

I want to be proactive.

And a negative with unknown variants result left me... bereft of options.

High risk screening until the day when Crap Happened or The Geneticists determined my particular gene variant oddities are a cause of breast cancer. This meant a black hole spiral of a moment in Mary’s office, where in a few fleeting seconds I witnessed a lifetime’s worth of everything worth living for spin out of my grasp, leaving me...


Mary assured me this was not the case. "Our genetics team is incredibly excited you're here, and are thrilled to have a chance to help you. We want you to be the first woman of three generations of your maternal grandmother's line to live past age 55."

I stared, overwhelmed with gratitude. To meet my grandchildren would be lovely, amazing, something others take for granted, but I crave it for myself and desperately!

But negative with unknown variants meant nothing...

Didn't it?

"What would you do to be proactive if you were given unlimited options?" she asked.

“Surgery.” The answer hung in the air before I realized I’d even said it out loud. It was the same reflexive response I'd had when I'd discovered the lump in 2009. “Remove the girls. Get rid of them. As soon as possible.”

Mary smiled. I would soon learn there were more options with my result than I’d previously realized. “We’ll see what we can do.”

[The next installment of this series can be found here.]

Friday, June 14, 2013

Google Salad

So. Back at The Mrs, Sandi once did a funny, hilarious, snort-tea-out-your-nose post about the phrases that were turning up for Google keyword searches when she looked at the back end of the blog.

It's hysterical. No, really. Go read it. I'll wait.

This here post? Sorry to disappoint, but she's not so funny. But I had to revisit Sandi's because, well, it makes me happy and I like to spread the love, what can I say?

No, most of the search terms in the screenshot below are pretty standard, and I'd actually expect my blog to show up in results. No surprises there, except for one...

This post is more to underline the confusion I have about that one particular Google search... and not because I expect the person who punched this term into Google and found themselves magically at Chez Lannis will come forward with a raised hand and tell me what the hell they were looking for, whether my little blog managed to answer the question, and whether that answer was intentional, positive, or whether I am considered a lesson from which to learn... (?)

(How's that for a run on sentence, eh?)

No... really? Really I post this because, well...  


The end is obliterated by ellipses, and the not knowing is excruciating!

Anyone? Anyone? Bueller?

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Married Romance

[Note: This post was originally published on The Mrs on June 25th 2011.]

Yes. Married romance.

And no, this isn’t an oxymoron. And it’s not what you might think.

Mr Lannis has gotten a pretty good pass. Like, for the last seven years, he hasn’t had to really haul his weight in the romance department. Believe it or not, I’m pretty easy going. Which is to say that I don’t need a lot of creativity, I just need to know that he’s thinking of me.

Flowers and chocolate would do.

It would, except I’m allergic to perfume, so most flowers are out (he claims it’s conspiracy that roses, oddly, don’t bother me). Also, knowing I’m a recovering chocoholic, he’s not too keen on the idea of bringing something into this house that will incite me to snort its shavings...

So what is ‘married romance’ in my humble opinion? It’s those teeny tiny things that we do for each other; the ones that say we’re thinking of each other, that we care about what our partner cares about, even though we may not.

Case in point? My bumper sticker.

Yep, you read that correctly.

This past weekend, Mr Lannis decided to take our boys on a field trip in the mom-mobile. To a midway fair. Without me.

I have no issues with this. If he wants to cart them around and brave the crowded, expensive, whiney, cotton-candy-sticky fairgrounds and ferris wheel, it’s all right with me. He’d just better be prepared for puke (true story — ha!).

Anyhow. When taking my oldest to school the next day, I walked around the back of the van to see... nothing.

Background: enter the geek-tastic bumper sticker. A rather rare bumper sticker — like, can’t find it on eBay rare.

And yes, I’m a geek. A rather big stupendously huge one, when it comes to a certain fantasy series.

Like, flew to another country to celebrate said book series for a long weekend, hardcore fan (see visual proof here).

My hubby knows this. He’s read this series, but he’s not into it like I am. At this point, I’ve been reading these books for twenty years and they’ve been grandfathered into our relationship. Technically, I’ve been involved with the books longer than I’ve been involved with him — it doesn’t really matter what his opinion is, I’d still have flown down for JordanCon. Ha!

So. When I walked around the back of the van and saw nothing...? Well, “panicked” would be an understatement.

My bumper sticker — my ridiculously geeky-yet-cool, extremely-rare-and-coveted-official-WoT bumper sticker, GONE?!

I had stuck it to a sheet of magnet before adhering it to the mom-mobile, in accordance to Mr Lannis’ issues with marring the vehicle-we-plan-to-own-for-the-next-ten-years’ resale value (seriously. I rolled my eyes, too).

Someone stole my freaking sticker?!

I raged.

I grumbled and fumed and grunted and growled until my four year old wanted to know why I kept saying, “your father!” that way under my breath. When I replied, “Mommy’s ‘Bela’ sticker is missing,” he blinked, and offered up the holy grail...

“I think Daddy took it off.”

Pardon cowboy?

I dashed to the back of the van, popping the hatch. There, in with the reusable grocery bags and folding lawn chairs, was my sticker!

He’d removed it! When parking in a busy area, where the presence of possible shit-disturbing teens other crazed Wheel of Time fans was likely, he’d had the forethought to rescue my sticker!

This is what I’m talking about. He wouldn’t shed a tear if someone stole Avi-van-dha’s* bumper sticker. He wouldn’t care.

Sure, arguably I would have made his life hell for a while, and he’d probably care about that. But really? If that slap of plastic and magnet had disappeared forever, he wouldn’t’ve blinked twice.

But he knew it meant something to me, so he made sure it couldn’t happen.

This is married romance. He cares about what I care about, not because it’s also important to him, but simply because it’s important to me.

Sure, it’s not a grand gesture, and it may not truly be brag-worthy, but that’s what makes it meaningful.

And I’m still a-braggin’. I love this man.

* Yes, our van has a name — after a character from WoT, naturally. And like all self-respecting geeky fans, I am gloriously proud of it. The Mrs and taxes? Yeah, that’s me and WoT. Yep.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013


Want to know what can happen even when you're spastic and ridiculous? (Something I possibly know firsthand because I'm walking proof?)

Authors can be generous enough to offer up swag and a free signed (and personalized!) copy of a book for a tiny blog's giveaway.

Even when the blogger is clearly certifiable and possibly shouldn't be allowed out of the house without supervision.



How cool is that?!

Credit goes to the wonderful Jana Oliver, who so sweetly put up with my inane babbling, banana brain, giddy fan girl enthusiasm (all the above, really), and who just so happens to be the author of my new favourite Young Adult Urban Fantasy series—The Demon Trappers.

This is no hyperbole. The Demon Trappers has skyrocketed into my list of bookshelf staples—it's smart, sweet, and (most importantly) feels fresh in a genre that has a lot of repetitiveness. (See my review of The Demon Trapper's Daughter here.)

Riley stole my heart with her badassness (totally a word). And then Beck did, too, possibly even more.

True story: When I saw Jana at JordanCon 2013 I told her that if he ever showed up on my doorstep I'd most definitely run away with Beck, the endearing redneck—but no worries, I'd already warned my hubby, so it was all cool on the home front.

Her reply was to say I needed to get in line.


Want to know what else? Jana Oliver has a brand spanking new ebook out available on Kindle, Kobo, and Nook, called Tangled Souls. (I've bought it, but I haven't read it yet, so shh with the spoilers, you.) Go check it out, it's only $2.99 CAD—and let me tell you, this lady is a solid storyteller. I figure we're all guaranteed to be entertained.

Okay. So. For this giveaway... hm... 

Since I fell in love with Denver Beck, I think that to be entered into this giveaway everyone needs to mention a literary hero (or heroine) they've enjoyed so much they were smitten.

Who would you love to run away with if they showed up on your doorstep?

C'mon, who's your favourite? Everybody's got one. Dish!

It's mandatory to comment to be entered into the draw, but you can earn optional bonus entries, too. One for liking Lannis on Facebook, and more for Tweeting the giveaway on Twitter.

And Twitter's fun—you can earn multiple giveaway entries by Tweeting once each day of the contest, if you're so inclined.

(Be sure to comment below, then go through the widget to Like the Facebook page, and Tweet for entries to count towards the giveaway.)

What's the prize?

Well, it's some cool Demon Trapper's swag and a copy of the first book of the Demon Trapper's series—The Demon Trapper's Daughter—signed and personalized by Jana Oliver herself.

Full disclosure: that's actually my book—Jana will personalize a copy for the winner once the giveaway closes.

Pretty sweet, am I right?

(I'm excited just thinking about it.)

You've got from now until midnight on Wednesday, June 26th to enter! Have at 'er, kids!

(Here's hoping this fancy pants Rafflecopter widget works...)

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

The Readathon

We are not a perfect household, here at Chez Lannis.

Despite my stay-at-home-mom-ness, our house is organized chaos.

Between the boys’ schooling, running the household (meals, groceries, laundry, housework, pets), administrative tasks (bill paying, money-managing, tax prepping, and everything else), family appointments (doctors, dentists, specialists, physio, massage therapy, and more), family management (keeping the boys responsible for themselves, their chores, their belongings, and just plain parenting), costuming (which turns the house into a hot mess all on its own), as well as extracurriculars (Mr Lannis’ karate and working out), um... I’m not sure how anything really gets done...

We don’t socialize a ton—I’m perpetually wishing I had more free time and less geography between myself and my friends.

And in there, somewhere, I’m supposed to be writing... ::snort::

And our kids don’t have any extracurricular commitments (yet—aside from swimming lessons for three weeks in the summer).


Yes, those people with two working parents, kids in hockey (or what have you), and 18 different places to be every hour—THOSE people?!

What’s your secret? (Is it speed? Because I'm not into that, and it'd explain a lot.) Because really...? I got nothin’...

And that’s all before homework!

My point?—because there is one, I swear—Mr Lannis and I share the philosophy that in order for our children to learn that education is important, we must show them it’s a priority. We must support the groundwork our kids’ teachers have set, and not leave the onus of their education on the school system alone.

In short: if there’s homework or practice to be done, as parents we need to make it a priority to get it done.

(Aside: I’m not picking a fight here about the Ontario school system, I’m discussing our family philosophy on education—that for children to get the most of what is offered to them, the parents must then support what is learned in the classroom. And I’m not talking big sweeping enrichment programs, either... if your kid is sent home with a book to read, bloody well read it! That’s all.)

Anyhow. We were struggling to make time for schoolwork. We, here, at Chez Lannis, with a kindergartener and a grade two student, were consistently dropping the ball on Snuggle Up and Read books, on extra math practice, on printing pages...

We, who had a stay-at-home-mom who, lord knows, in all the world’s opinion has NOTHING to do (ha!), could not make time to get around to schoolwork at the end of the day. (Mr Lannis got the pass, naturally, since working out, karate, and shift work—with its asinine mandatory overtime—ate his days away.)

And where’s the appeal? Here’s two burnt out kids who simply want to have dinner, play a bit, (maybe) have a bath, hear a story, and go to bed...

(Note: no TV mentioned because they don’t watch TV or play the Wii unless it’s the weekend—or a rainy day. They get suckered in the wintertime—ha!)

I didn’t want to disturb them, haul them away from Lego and force them to read... Yeah, because THAT sounds like a desirable task... Clearly, burnt out, exhausted children are highly amenable and receptive to the idea of abandoning what they want to do in order to opt for homework... and with that mindset they’ll learn a lot, too! Pfft...

So. Stacked with an empty reading log and a boy in grade two who desperately needed to catch up to his peers, I sat down with him and proposed the Readathon.


The Readathon.

It’s where one day of the weekend, we drop everything on the hour, every hour, for eight hours in a row and read.

One book. At the top of the hour. And then we get to go back to whatever we’re doing until it’s time to stop again...

But the rules state: whatever we’re doing, we MUST stop.

And at the end of the day there’s a prize.

A Kinder egg, a Lego minifigure, something we’ve picked up previously at the dollar store to act as the day’s incentive...

Is it bribery? I read recently that the difference between bribery and reward is that bribery is luring someone to perform an illegal act, whereas reward is incentive to do something positive. So no, I’m not going to beat myself silly with guilt about bribing my kid to practice reading.

Besides, it works.

And the boys were so thrilled to have power.

Yes, power.

It didn’t take long before they learned to watch that clock and took delight in announcing it was time for Mr Lannis and I to drop whatever it was we were doing (cooking, cleaning, mowing the lawn) to hear them read.

They loved it. The attention. The short burst of focus. The ability to disappear back to their chosen activity immediately afterwards.

And of course: the reward.

They even asked to have another Readathon! Many, by now—we’ve been doing this since the beginning of the school year, in various reincarnations. Readathon, Math-athon, School-athon (any practice schoolwork—printing, spelling, math, social studies, science—or combination thereof).

Sure, it's a commitment... it's a day set aside where you read, read, read (or substitute another educational activity). But it makes up for all the missed evenings of homework, and your kids learn that school is important. We have a Readathon (or School-athon) about once or twice a month now... if there's a long weekend we'll fit one in.

We’ve since seen a lot of improvement in the boys’ reading levels. Our oldest has caught up and exceeded his peers. He won a book at school for being in the top five kids in his class for books read on his reading log, and is now reading well into the next grade level. Our youngest, the kindergartener, is well beyond the expected reading level for beginning grade one.

The best part? Our oldest has been bit by the reading bug—he figures he’s unlocked the secret code to understanding everything around him, and he lights up with the pleasure of being in the club. You know, the one where you get to spell words to others if you’re trying to hide something from a non-speller/reader...

(Yeah, Mr Lannis and I? We’re screwed.)

That nugget of confidence has had a huge impact on a kid with anxiety. The world is a less scary place when you can read street signs, or can delve into books and disappear.

When you have the ability to read directions and learn on your own, well, that's power in and of itself. And for a kid with anxiety, having the power to help yourself can be pretty freaking important...

Monday, June 10, 2013

Cancer Bombs: Possible Not Probable

[Note: The first of genetic testing and prophylactic mastectomy series can be found here. All previous (and subsequent) installments of this series can be found here.]

October 31st, 2011.

The second part of this intake meeting was one-on-one counseling. We candidates (and whomever we brought for moral support) were called by name and paired with a genetic counselor.

We’re going to call mine Mary (sure, that’s generic, right?). Mary was delightful. Friendly, informative, knowledgeable. Love her.

She sat down in her office with Mr Lannis and I, and made sure we understood the elements discussed in the Power Point presentation (yes, we did). Then we went over my pedigree chart, which was created from the information I’d given in the family history questionnaire.

Again: depressing shit.

Those diagonal slashes mean those family members are dead. That shading means cancer. Insane, right?

Then she said something interesting—completely offhand, but it stuck with me. When in training, they map pedigree charts like mine, but are told that bearing witness to family history like this is “possible but not probable” while working in the field.

As in: sure, these families obliterated by whatever genetic plague exist, and their descendants are walking around you every day. But when it comes to the details of the demise of the previous generations, it’s rare for a genetic counselor to see a family history chart filled with answers... because everyone that person would ask for details, you know, tends to be dead.

Yes. Details fade generation by generation into the oblivion of loss.

Loss of life.

Loss of communication.

Loss of knowledge.

So I plugged my cousin and his penchant for genealogy (hi again, Neil!), and told her (as I’d said to my doctor), that I was pretty sure I was going to win the prize. Always had been sure.

Mary agreed.

Here’s where she began to discuss the next steps in the process. Steps which, at the time, despite being laid out, felt vague and theoretical... fictional... about to be applied to someone else...

If I chose, I was eligible to undergo the blood test to determine whether I had mutations in my BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes.

But wait...

Regardless of whether I underwent the genetic testing, based on family history alone I was eligible for a new program offered by Ontario Healthcare: The Ontario Early Breast Screening Program. It’s like the Ontario Breast Screening Program, but for high risk individuals, so the care begins at an earlier age.

The regimen of screening would include two clinical breast exams a year, a yearly mammogram (with accompanying ultrasound if there are any concerns), and a yearly breast MRI.

All of it covered by the healthcare system.

And it all started NOW, at the tender age of 32 (most women wait until they’re 50 to begin a similar screening process).

I'd had a mammogram and breast ultrasound a few months earlier, as per my family doctor's orders. For anyone who’s ever had a mammogram, I’m sure you can imagine my, uh, understated glee at the thought of squishing the girls yearly in the name of proactive care for the next (hopefully) 50+ years...

Mary’s job is to inform me of the program. My job was to decide whether I was on board.

Was I willing to participate?

OF COURSE!—I’m not stupid, just habitually distracted.

Though the thought of shooting mammography radiation into what are arguably the cellular version of grenades waiting for the pin to be pulled wasn’t exactly delightful, I erred on the side of early detection and said I’d put my name in.

As for genetic testing, clearly I was eligible or I wouldn’t be in her office. Mary carefully went over the possible results and what that would mean.

Positive (for a BRCA1 or BRCA2 cancer-causing mutation): proactive treatment. High risk screening, possible surgery, whatever I chose.

Negative (for a BRCA1 or BRCA2 cancer-causing mutation): go on my merry way, and pray my death-swept family had fallen to chance, and not some other element The Geneticists hadn't discovered yet.

Negative with unknown variants (for a BRCA1 or BRCA2 cancer-causing gene mutation—basically oddities in the appearance of the genes, but nothing previously identified as cancer-causing): High risk screening, and other options based on case by case factors.

But before I signed any paperwork or gave any samples, Mary wanted to make sure everything was in order.

As in: our affairs. Benefits and life insurance.

Because as soon as I signed anything or gave The Geneticists any samples, it would affect our supplementary policies. If I attempted to adjust our benefits and our insurance company caught wind of my results, my genetic testing would affect anything healthcare or life insurance related that’s not automatically covered by the government (at least concerning cancer coverage).

In fact, I’m no expert, but I’m pretty sure our insurance company would be sniffing around if they even suspected I was sitting in Mary's office.

Good news for us, back when I’d found the innocent lump mentioned in this post, Mr Lannis and I had reorganized our benefits to reflect what we figured was the inevitable.

We were certain I was going to die first. Young. And in a fiery, flashy, totally-boring-and-in-need-of-home-care way.

So I assured Mary that we’d already placed our bets that I was going to die. That’s what life insurance is, after all: betting you'll die and your spouse'll get to enjoy the financial consolation prize (Mr Lannis stands to inherit a good one, as we definitely put the lion's share of the money on my head).

I’m 99% sure she didn’t quite know what to do with me at that moment, darkly joking about my own destined demise. She laughed, hesitantly, but said if we were confident it was the way we wanted it, then there was paperwork to be filled out, and I could submit my sample today.

Today, today.

Mr Lannis caught my gaze. We stared at each other for a moment before I couldn’t contain it anymore and snorted a laugh. “I guess I’m giving blood to the vampires on Hallowe’en.”

And I did.

[The next installment of this series can be found here.]