Friday, August 30, 2013

Dear lady who left the dog in a pickup in Zehrs' parking lot...

Pardon me, but I’m confused.

What makes you think the searing heat of a summer day is an ideal time to take your golden retriever for a trip to the grocery store? You left him there, yesterday, during the scorching afternoon heat in the open sun. (You didn't even try to park in the shade!)

Does he like car rides? Probably. Unfortunately for him, you’ve mistaken a car ride with an oven. Because that’s really what you subjected him to—an oven—while you were inside Zehrs' air conditioning selecting items from shelves, and (most definitely) standing in line waiting to pay for said items (I was in that lineup, so trust me when I say I know it wasn't a quick one).

Because if he likes shopping, you’d think he’d be in there with you, instead of in the blistering heat of a parking lot.

Oh—he’s not a service animal and animals aren’t allowed in stores? Maybe that’s your first clue that taking him to the grocery store is an asinine idea!

Do you realize it was 31c (87F) yesterday?

Do you realize it was 35c (95F) with the Humidex?

Do you realize it takes mere minutes to reach easy-bake-animal temps in your truck?

Do you realize that leaving all the windows open so your golden retriever can hang his head out the window doesn’t make a difference?

Do you realize you’re an asshole?

I mean, I try not to judge, but this one is pretty blatant. You, ma’am, are an asshole. And unfortunately your poor dog is going to love you despite the abuse you hand it.

Also? Yes. Yes, it was me who told customer service that you’d left a dog in the truck. Yes, that’s why you were paged to customer service via a description of your truck and its plates (not that you went). Because while you apparently don’t care if you cook your pet, I’d feel horrible if I knew an animal suffered because everyone around me is too comfortable in their blinders or too chickenshit to open their mouths, so yes, I opened mine.

Sure, it’s not my animal—and I’m sure some people might say it’s none of my business, either—but society’s in a pretty sorry state if people are too afraid to speak up about abuse (animal, child, spousal, whatever) simply because they think it’s none of their business.

Because that’s chaos, people. It's the antithesis of civilization. Every day, with our every action, we build the world we live in—let’s create one without animals dropping dead in parked cars, m’kay?

And I don’t know about you, but I was raised that pets are family members. Also that vehicles become ovens pretty fucking quick on a sweltering summer day like today. Suffice it to say I was raised to not cook my family members.

Clearly you were not.

Sadly, you pulled out of your parking spot before I could reach your truck, or I would’ve told you all this in person. Yeah, I was the one struggling to grab my bag from my cart, running in your direction as you pulled out of your parking space. Yes, I was the random chick staggering to a halt as you drove past, purse and grocery bag dangling from my elbows, flipping you the double bird.

You’re an asshole, lady. And you don’t deserve to own a lovely animal like that dog. And I’m not a fan of dogs. (Or hamsters.) But I am a fan of responsible pet ownership—and you, ma’am need a punch in the throat.


Thursday, August 29, 2013

Kijiji Etiquette

[Note: This post was originally published on The Mrs on January 28th, 2012. And in the three years since we've moved, we've made $937 from selling gently used items on Kijiji. We've also bought everything from clothes to gym equipment to furniture, too. Uh, and after five years of owning it, we sold the playhouse for $50 more than our purchase price... heh.]

I love Kijiji.

Seriously. It’s great. In the year and a half since we’ve moved, we’ve made $323 from selling items the kids have outgrown.

Yes, I keep track.

And I’ve purchased things from Kijiji, too. Seems to me we discovered the online classifieds site about four years ago, and since then it’s been my go-to for specific items.

Our play house is our biggest score. Literally and figuratively. It’s large and awesome. I’ve had three adults in there with a child, and sure, we were squished, but there was still enough elbow room for us all to be served tea.

New, it was listed on the manufacturer’s website for... a lot. With shipping and taxes. On Kijiji we found the same model for... about $500 less. With a custom wooden deck built for the floor, too.

And four years later? Our boys are still playing in it.

And Mr Lannis got a fancy-schmancy punching bag for kickboxing, gently-used, for $35. That’s about $150 less than what it was selling for at Walmart.

So I have plenty of good things to say about Kijiji.

Of course, the pitfall with Kijiji is aimlessly scrolling ads for things you don’t really need and talking yourself into needing them... but that’s why I try to keep my Kijiji interaction to specific items I would otherwise be purchasing new, or posting ads to get rid of useless junk extraneous stuff.

But as with life in general, you must sift through the mud to find the gold.

And dear Lord, I have encountered some random behaviour via Kijiji. Like, “where did these people come from and who gave them Internet access?!” kind of inanity.

Tuesday I received a response from one of my ads, where the potential buyer stated her husband would come by to look at the item for $20, either Wednesday or Thursday.

Erm. Well, that’s tricky, since you haven’t asked if I’m available those days (and at this point of the transaction, she didn’t have my address), but moreover because the item was listed for $35.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for haggling on a price, but telling me you’re buying it for $20 is not how you open good bargaining... something more polite would have been nice... a “would you consider taking $20?” would have received a “sure thing!” from me.

But the way this person worded the email made my hackles rise. Yep. I’m not (entirely) a bitch, but I am stubborn. You push, I push back. My response? “Sorry, it’s $35 firm.”

Well, she might as well figure out if she wants it $35 worth before roping her poor husband into coming to my house...

So yeah. I have a few etiquette beefs with Kijiji.

Please read the ad.

Is this a lot to ask? I’m pretty descriptive in my ads, and I always post pictures. I hate when I show up at someone’s house to discover what they posted as mint condition has scrapes or stains. (Ugh.) If it’s not perfect, take a photo of the imperfection and damn well say what’s what. Nobody’s going to diss you for honesty — actually, you’re probably more likely to make a sale.

In the same vein, please don’t ask me if there are smokers in my house because my ads always read, “smoke free, pet-friendly home.” And it says “pick up only.” So guess what? That means pick up only!

I’ve had one incident of meeting a buyer somewhere, and surprise, surprise — they were a no show! I blame my own Kijiji naïveté at the time, but now? Yeah, if you want what I have, you can come to my house and get it, thanks.

That said, if we’re arranged a pick up time? Please be on time. No, if something’s fallen through, just let me know, I’m cool with that. But I’m not cool with sitting around my house because someone said they were coming at noon and they don’t show up until 3pm.

Not cool, Kijiji-peeps. Not cool.

Another thing that gets me? People who respond to ads with their phone numbers. It kind of looks like this: “I’m interested in [whatever-this-is], please call me at XXX-XXX-XXXX.”

Um. Kijiji is set up as a go-between via email. Lord knows I’m a phone-talker under the right circumstances, but I’m not picking up the phone to call a complete stranger to sell something to them.

I don’t like telemarketers, remember? I’m not becoming one because you’re adverse to email. You managed to make it onto the ‘Net to find the ad, you can complete the transaction that way, too.

And guess what? Kijiji is not Twitter.

There’s nothing I hate more than the slapdash reply to an ad, “is this available.....???????”

Hey cowboy, is the ad posted? Then likely it is!

When I see this in my inbox, I want to reply, “yes” and nothing else. But I also realize that if I do, I’m likely to lose a sale, too.

I understand that not everyone studiously deletes ads when they’re no longer current, but you’re likely to look less like an idiot if you tweak your ice-breaking approach with, well, grammar, for one. Full sentences would be a bonus. Is it really that difficult to say, “If this is still available, I was wondering if I could arrange a time to see it?”

And newsflash: Kijiji is not Twitter! Why people scrabble and hold every character hostage is beyond me... using an extra few to say, “hi,” or “thanks,” won’t bloody well kill you!

If responding to an ad, you’re likely to garner a more positive response if you deign to use courtesy. Trust.

Also? Kijiji is not Facebook!

I know, shocker, right? If I post an ad, and you reply, and we get into a discourse about meeting times or price, that’s fine. But I don’t need to know that your husband’s having intestinal problems and has been in the hospital for two days and could I please hold the item for another day until your mother-in-law is back in the country and can come and pick it up...

Seriously. No offense, but I am not your friend. I don’t need to know the petty details of your day to day life. I understand shit happens. A polite, concise email requesting me to hold an item for another couple of days, or saying things fell through and you need to reschedule is fine.

I had a woman once beg me via email to deliver an item to her, because their van broke down, and she had four kids, and could I please-please-please deliver the item to them, she’d pay extra for gas money. It was also implied that I had no heart if I denied her...

This was all over a $5 item.

Not to mention my kid puked the day before and I wasn’t leaving the house to go anywhere any time soon, especially since I’d kept two boys home from school due to said pukage.

Of course I did what any self-respecting defensive mother would do. I replied with a polite email stating child-sickness and sympathy for their vehicle problems, but no, no I wouldn’t be delivering the item. The ad clearly states “pick up only.” It is not an unreasonable expectation!

So... your turn — share, please! Do you have any pet peeves for Kijiji behaviour? Any horror stories to tell? I want NEED to know!

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Happy Anniversary, Mr Lannis.

It's been nine—NINE!—years. Thirteen since we met, but nine(!) since we married. He's my grounder, my number one, and the best straight man a (not so) funny girl could ask for.

(Seriously, he doesn't think I'm funny. I'm "quirky," and "cute," and it's "adorable" when I make a joke because I'm his and so he's obligated to find me adorable, but he's clearly mortified on my behalf when I run away to Atlanta each year to play dress up with other would-be-but-not-really grownups, as well as every time I say "amazeballs," "awesomesauce," and "zombie tits!" in mixed company... Isn't he sweet?)

Over the years he's put up with more than anyone's fair share of my bullshit, regardless of whether they're married to me. He's supported me when others would say I'm bugnuts and move on, and picked fights over ridiculous things to make me realize how stupid it is to fight (or worry) about something so trivial.

I love him. And there's no one I'd rather be silly with.

Happy anniversary, Mr Lannis. (Even though you won't see this, because you're too cool to read my blog. True story. ::snort::)

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

The Lucky Ones

[Note: This post was originally published on The Mrs on September 3rd, 2011. In honour of our NINTH ANNIVERSARY TOMORROW (yeah, I don't know where the time's gone, either) I'm republishing this silliness. Because I love Mr Lannis to bits... even though he doesn't read my blog. Or think I'm all that funny—no, really, he doesn't. Heh.]

Mr Lannis and I have a deal: we don’t celebrate.

Our birthdays are three days apart, and our youngest was born three days after that. It’s a freaking week-long birthday bonanza around here, and we focus on the kidlets, of course.

Also? We’re cheap.

I’ll bake a cake, make his favourite meal. Maybe we’ll buy a DVD we’re both interested in adding to our collection.

The Mrs doesn’t have the corner on the cheapo market, no sir-ee.

Besides, we know how to have fun without spending money. As I restrain myself from inappropriate comments, please see visual evidence — my all-time favourite photo of us (circa 2001):

The only dollars spent that day were in developing a roll of antiquated film to display this adorable sideshow.

So when it comes to our wedding anniversary, we have a deal: we plan to go somewhere (Paris, or a dreamy island of sandy beaches) for our tenth. Somehow, over this past weekend, we managed to hit number seven.

Seven? Already?!

God bless that man, because I am not always an easy person to live with.

And Lord knows, if ever there was a year in which I was a trial, it was this one. Without going into details, suffice it to say we were both duly reminded that we need to be more appreciative of each other. We are partners first, parents second.

And I definitely appreciate Mr Lannis. I adore him to pieces.

And not just because he makes it possible for me to write “spoiled princess” in the occupation field on paperwork (SAHMs: do this. It’s much more satisfying than “homemaker”. Trust.)

So when I came downstairs to discover him proffering my favourite Tim Horton’s berry smoothie with a “happy anniversary!” kiss?

I bawled.

Over a three dollar smoothie. Yep.

Again, without details, I’d had a rough week. And Mr Lannis knew this. He also knows our deal (no celebrations). And I’ve said before: he gets a pretty good pass in the romance department*.

(Also? I think he is secretly tickled when he gets to be the rock in our relationship.)

But really? I didn’t just bawl. I crumbled. I melted.

And he panicked.

Not because I was crying, but because he’d arranged for the neighbour kids to come over in the next few minutes and now I was a puffy mess.

I’m not a pretty crier. Pale and blotchy, that’s me. One tear = highlighted streak down the cheek and instant bloodshot eyes. I’ll save you from the description of the full-out Ugly Cry. Because truly, it’s called The Ugly Cry for a reason.

Why were the neighbourhood kids coming over? Because it was our anniversary, of course!

And cheaper delivery doesn’t exist —

Friday, August 23, 2013


All my package squishing er, hard work has paid off...

Yes, we managed to get the bee girl I uh, the boys wanted, before Lego Minifigure Series 10 disappeared.

Which is great, but now I've had a look at Series 11... and it would seem the collecting will never end...

A lady robot, a scarecrow, a rollerskating diner waitress, AND a gingerbread man?!

(His mug reads, "Dunk Me." ::snort::)

Be still my Lego-loving heart...

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Of Nostalgia and Nonsense...

[Note: This post was originally published on The Mrs on January 14th, 2012.]

I’m not a pack rat.

Okay, so I’ve squirreled away things from my past as much as anyone, but despite Mr Lannis’ suspicions that the reason for the bigger house is so I don’t have to get rid of anything else (yes, I can read your mind, hon.), that’s not the case.

But a few things I do keep. And I don’t even know why.

Case in point? The pickled bums.


These are my pickled bums. They sit on an open-stud shelf on the stairs to our unfinished basement, proudly, inexplicably, for all the world to see. Well, if the world wanted to see our basement, that is.


Erm... because?

(I can hear my mother saying, “because I said, and that’s all the reason you need.” Ha ha!)

The pickled bums have been around almost as long as I can remember. I say almost, because I remember they were received as a gag gift when one of my parents had a milestone birthday. The details are hazy — I can’t even remember which one received them.

The bums, however, have remained clear. They’ve always been around, usually on a shelf in an unfinished basement (my father had the habit of finishing basements right before my mother would decide we needed to move. It happened three times. And then he helped finish our basement before my husband and I moved. Hm. Maybe he just likes finishing basements...?).

Back to the bums. Not the figurative jerks (though I’m sure they’re around — I had the pleasure of driving in rush hour to an appointment in the city recently, and trust me, they’re around...), but the jar of tushes on our shelf.

My mom was going to get rid of them at one point, and I’m not entirely certain why, but I couldn’t let that happen. Mildly inappropriate, they’ve always given me a smile, can’t I spare a spot of shelf for them in return?

(There’s probably a metaphor in here about assholes who stay with you, but I’m too scattered to nail it down.)

Actually, I think their original jar smashed at one point, and they’ve been relocated into another mason... it really doesn’t matter.

What matters is that they’re still around to make my kids smile.

Simply a nonsense gag gift, tushes made out of nylon stocking and a little thread. But fun.

A touch of goofiness tucked on a shelf, almost overlooked. But kids certainly notice them, and announce that jar’s presence to their friends, too (“Look at the pickled bums, guys!”).

My youngest is excited about his next sharing day at school, because he’s convinced he’ll remember he wants to bring in the bums. He just might.

And if it’s an object-of-child’s-choice sharing day, I just might let him. Ha!

So, what do you have lying around the house that inexplicably can’t be purged? Anything? Or am I the only nutbar?

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

McHappy Mommy

We are not fast foodies, this family.

My kids rarely get a McDonalds Happy Meal. It's usually healthier choices.

We're far more likely to hit Tim Hortons for soup, a Pit Pit for a chicken wrap, or (gasp!) pack our own lunch than stop at (as Mr Lannis calls it) McRaunchy's.

Of course, some days there are exceptions. (This particular day it was the end of a 4.5 hour drive after a weekend of camping, and exhausted parents returning home to empty cupboards.)

And I must say, it makes me very happy to see that on the rare occasion that my kids do get a Happy Meal, they are more excited about the prospect of playing with the box than eating the food that comes in it.

 Tee hee.

Monday, August 19, 2013


Here at Chez Lannis, I control the administrative reins. As the one who stays at home, part of my daily whatnot is household management—including paying bills, filling cupboards, managing money, etc.

Yes, I am the one who decides whether we replace our hot water tank (or what have you), because I'm the one who has the best idea what we use and what type of appliance we require to meet our needs.

Unless you're a telemarketer, in which case (::clears throat::), "Sorry, I don't have clearance to make administrative decisions. And no, you can't speak to Mr Lannis, because we are a shift working household, which means if he's not at work, he's asleep. And if you wake him up with a ringing phone you'll never make your sale/promote that special offer/get us on board with whatever you're selling because he's a holy terror..."

(She says, invoking a mystique of fear about one of the mildest men she knows... ha!)

But yeah. Banking, utilities, email addresses, points programs, online shopping, any financial or social accounts we have, and I have their log in information on a sticky note in on the laptop, written in code that only I can decipher.

As in: Mr Lannis is shit out of luck if he tries.

Okay, that's not true—he could probably decipher it. Maybe.

Okay, maybe I've walked him through it a time or two, but the reality is when faced with the code @.Y, he'll truly have no idea what to put in a password field, nor will he know what requires upper case letters, whether that @ symbol is actually involved in the password, or remember what that @ was supposed to indicate at all...

Yeah. He's shit out of luck. I guess he'd better keep me around (heh).

I, on the other hand, am also out of luck.

Or I was, until I had the smarty pants idea to copy and paste the contents of that sticky note into an email and send it to myself—mostly because I'm paranoid our creeping-up-to-five-years-old-MacBook is about to junk it on us any minute...

So I'll still know how to access all our accounts.

Um. Unless I forget how to access my email by their actual log ins, instead of through the desktop POP Mail... hm...


Friday, August 16, 2013

Career, er, Garden Paths

It would seem I have a new job.

As a bee.

Okay, you got me—I haven't donned a striped costume and makeshift coat-hanger-gossamer wings (yet).

But I'm doing a far finer job of pollinating our garden than the actual bees in our backyard.

If only this asshole would do his job.

Last year, despite a plethora of blooms, our garden squash (butternut, zucchini, and pumpkin) didn't do so shit hot. So my Google-fu kicked in and I turned to the Interwebs to find out why.

Oh. Female flowers + pollen of male flowers = veggies. Got it.

But female pumpkin flowers + pollen of male zucchini flowers = nada. This also applies to any variations thereof.

In other words, my bees were confused and I needed to step in and help my veggie plants have sex.

I wish I were kidding.

So this year I've been carefully watching for when my female blooms open so I can use a cotton swab to dust them with the appropriate male flower's pollen.

Again: I wish I were kidding.

And it's one of those things that has to be done in a timely manner. As in: before the bees zoom in and screw it up on me, as they are wont to do. These flowers open first thing in the morning, and as soon as they're fertilized (by whatever pollen), they shrivel and drop off... like, by the end of the day.

If they've been hit with pollen from a flower from their own species, then their bounty grows into a consumable vegetable success. If not, then the veggie in question shrivels and drops off with the poorly-fertilized flower.

Yes, this foray into backyard gardening has reminded me of much of what I've forgotten of high school biology.

Case in point: we went camping. Then the bees fertilized some flowers for me. And clearly failed at their life purpose.

I was gone for two days. Stupid bees.

So you can bet I've been watching our butternut squash vine like a hawk...

Back off, assholes, she's mine!

I'll be damned if I let those little buggers screw up our first butternut squash of the season...

Thursday, August 15, 2013

The Blackmail Archives: A Song by Dictation

[Note: This post was originally published on The Mrs on December 2, 2011.]

Yep. It’s exactly how it sounds.

My youngest is a performer at heart. Loves to sing, loves to dance, loves attention in any form, really.

And recently, he honoured me, serenading me as he lay on his back on the floor fiddling with his action figures. As he sang, he stood, threw his head back, and began belting out his impromptu lyrics at the window.

So I did what any good blackmail-collecting parent would do — I grabbed the camera, then began transcribing, so I could share it with you all.

No, I’m not claiming it makes sense (I gave up looking for sense long ago). And I’m sure this transcription isn’t nearly as entertaining as the actual performance, and I’m missing the first verse or two, but I hope you enjoy it nonetheless! Ha!

Bakugans, Bakugans don’t exist
because that girl isn’t my wife
red and green and yellow
planes are green and yellow
in green and yellow and red apples

In one minute
it will be a patter-erns
red, blue, yellow
because this is the patter-ern I picked
sometimes it’s fast, it’s slow, it’s light, it’s dead
Bakugans, Bakugans don’t exist
she’s not my wife

Girls don’t have rocks
and the boys don’t have rocks
that girl will be mine
that will not be in one minutes
Bakugans, Bakugans don’t exist

Get that thing before it does
never fall because I do to you

[4.5 yr old: Mommy, it’s a long song.
Me: Yes. I’m noticing this.]

Don’t look at me
I say sometimes it’s laugh or low
and sometimes it matches
Bakugans, Bakugans don’t exist

[Now with more gusto!—]

Girls do all day!
In one minute
Why? Why? In one minute!
Never on fire!
I’m back,
but I still have green eyes

And the guy says
I only like red eyes
in one minute
I will have a black tail


Bakugans, Bakugans don’t exist!

4.5 year old [stops singing]: Mommy, do you like my song?
Me: Yes. I loved it.
4.5 year old [grins]: I knew you would.

I love my kids.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

A GREAT AND TERRIBLE BEAUTY by Libba Bray - Book Review

[Note: This review was originally published on]

Rating: 3.5/5 -  Great if you’re in the mood for it, only okay if you’re not.

Title: A Great and Terrible Beauty

Author: Libba Bray

Format: trade paperback


Genre: young adult, historical fantasy

Delacourte Press

Landed in my hands: purchased myself

(from the cover blurb):

Gemma Doyle isn’t like other girls. Girls with impeccable manners, who speak when spoken to, who remember their stations, and who will lie back and think of England when it’s required of them.

No, sixteen-year-old Gemma is an island unto herself, sent to the Spence Academy in London after tragedy strikes her family in India. Lonely, guilt-ridden, and prone to visions of the future that have an uncomfortable habit of coming true, Gemma finds a chilly reception. But she’s not completely alone... she’s been followed by a mysterious young man, who warns her to close her mind against the visions.

For it’s at Spence that Gemma’s power to attract the supernatural unfolds; there she becomes entangled with the school’s most powerful girls and discovers her mother’s connection to a shadowy group called the Order. It’s there that her destiny waits... if only she can believe in it.

A Great and Terrible Beauty is a curl-up-under-the-covers kind of book... a vast canvas of rustling skirts and dancing shadows and things that go bump in the night. It’s a vividly drawn portrait of the Victorian age, when girls were groomed for lives as rich men’s wives... and the story of a girl who saw another way.


A Great and Terrible Beauty
is the quintessential tale of a girl bound to a destiny as tight as her corset; a road that leads past finishing school to a quiet and uneventful life as a wife and mistress of a household. In a time when girls are groomed for marriage and not much else, it must be difficult tread against the grain.

Even worse: to not fit in at all, even when you long to do so.

So imagine the temptation of magic strong enough to change it all.

The girls who feature in A Great and Terrible Beauty each have their own cross to bear, reasons why they loathe the path ahead of them; be it being too plain, hiding an un-marriageable flaw, wanting more to life, or fearing the unknown magic within her.

Funny enough, deviating from society’s plan is exactly the kind of dream that would be put down as girlish fancy by the adults around them.

Hence the focus: the dream of more is all they have; their lives are plodding along on a direct course for boredom. Every dance lesson reminds them they will be on display for eligible men to cluck over, as they choose wives much the same as they might choose a new pocket watch.

What surprised me in this book? The cutting. There’s an underlying gravity to the longing of these girls, a quiet desperation, and it was refreshing to see the unlikely topic of cutting appear — even peripherally — in the narrative. Because it’s what would happen in real life, and for that, I appreciate Bray’s candor with her audience. It pays in spades, of course, because the severity of cutting underlines the desperation the girls share, creates tension, and emphasizes the allure of magic and the ability to change their lot.

What didn’t surprise me, and kind of disappointed me? A particular cultural group being cast as the “other” and source of magical wisdom. Of course, it is a historically accurate opinion, but it is a little too handy that mystical help happens to be in the woods just outside Spence Academy.

What also wore on me was the rather stereotypic “new-girl, new-school,” social trials and pitfalls, including the duality of being the popular girl’s favourite as well as her next potential victim. It feels worn to me, regardless of the novelty of the path that leads Gemma to her new school. (Though I loved the irony inherent in her wish to be in London, only to get there and regret the circumstances leading to her arrival.)

And Gemma’s voice is refreshing. Especially since the last thing I want to read when I open a historical novel is a dry dusty telling of life at a finishing school. Gemma is feisty. She has a sauciness that doesn’t fit with London Society, and I enjoyed her narration. Her quest for proper behaviour and good manners may quiet her tongue, but certainly not her thoughts, and she’s full of quirky fun tidbits. Take, for instance, her introduction to the school’s Assembly Day,

“Today is Assembly Day. My dictionary has no formal entry for this occasion, but if it did, it might go something like this:

Assembly Day (n) A boarding school tradition in which the family of the schoolgirl is allowed to visit, resulting in the mortification of all and the enjoyment of none. (p295)

It’s dry, but it’s funny, and I had many laugh-out-loud moments with Gemma’s internal monologue. A Great and Terrible Beauty granted me enough entertainment to look up the next installment of The Gemma Doyle Trilogy. Bray has succeeded in painting an excellent portrait of life as young lady in the Victorian age, and the next time I’m interested in going somewhere different, I might see about picking up Rebel Angels to see what’s in store for Gemma Doyle and her mysterious powers...

Monday, August 12, 2013

Saying goodbye to sanitarium white...

After living in this house for three years, I've finally committed to painting the main living space.

Yes. The front entrance, the toy area, the living room, the kitchen, the stairwell, and the upstairs hall are all about to get a facelift.

Everything but the kitchen (which receives less natural light) will be a soft sophisticated grey.

Since it's such a large area, it'll be slow going.

Mind-numbingly slow.

We'll have to rent scaffolding (or haul out Mr Lannis' jimmy-rigged platform from this post) to paint the stairwell, but it'll be done.

And gone will be the sanitarium white walls.

Gone will be the kidlet fingerprints and smudges that a good scrub refuses to remove.

Gone will be the swirls of grey where I've attempted to remove said kidlet smudges only to reveal drywall underneath a barely-there coat of paint.

And (hopefully) this place will feel more like a home.

This past long weekend in August, it began... the upstairs hallway? DONE!

Give me a week or two (and a pair of boys back in school), and I'll be tackling the front entrance next... muahaha!

Friday, August 9, 2013

Minifigure Madness

It's happened.


I am now THAT person...

You know, that one in the store who stands at the display of Lego Minifigures, frantically squishing the 3" bags with her fingers while staring off into space, attempting to discern which tiny collectable person is hidden inside...


Because dammit, I wanted the chicken man in Series 9, and I'll be damned if the bee girl of Series 10 gets away, too!

Thursday, August 8, 2013

The Kindness of Strangers and the Fickleness of Childhood

[Note: This post was originally published on The Mrs on November 29th, 2011. Um... and I currently have no idea where Zeebee is hiding. I'm sure he's around here somewhere.]

I was purging this week. No, not that kind — the healthy kind. The kind that gets unused crappit out of your house and gives you more room to breathe.

That kind.

And in my dusty travels through our storage bins, I found this—

This would be Zeebee. Zeebee was acquired years ago on a trip to our local zoo (yes, we have a local zoo. It takes about two hours to run through the entire thing — it’s perfect for little kids — and it has giraffes. I love giraffes. So much so I really want to buy this shirt).

Anyhow, back to Zeebee. Once upon a time I had a little boy — little enough to walk on his own but not speak, or at least not any language we understood — who fell in love with Zeebee and brought him home from the zoo.

Zeebee went everywhere. Zeebee was essential. Zeebee spent more time in my toddler’s sticky hands than food.

Yes, I know, you’re looking at that photo and thinking, “that toy does not looked well-travelled-loved.

That’s because it’s not the same Zeebee.

You see, one day we silly parents did our requisite inventory list while leaving the grandparents’ house and somehow overlooked Zeebee.

Quelle horreur!

Oh yes! And the hours that followed were full of tantrums of epic, epic proportions, of the like never seen... the kind which, thankfully, I have blacked from my memory because they were that bad.*

It lasted, oh, I don’t know, some inconceivably long period of time until Papa was able to bring Zeebee back to his rightful owner and appease the toddler rage.

So. I did what any parent in need of spare sanity would do. By this time it was October. I drove back to the zoo to discover that since it was a seasonal production, they’d sold out of Zeebee’s counterparts!

YES! I mean, NO!

Yeah. Not pretty. Not, not pretty at all...

So. I did the next best thing. I collected a business card. And I went home and called the number, which was for a toy import company in Mississauga, Ontario.

And I actually reached a woman! A woman whom, when I requested a Zeebee double for future insurance purposes, said her own children were now grown, but she knew exactly what I was going through, and she would love to send us a complimentary stuffed zebra since I’ve gone to the trouble of tracking down their company.

(Yes, it was the same kid from The Secret Weapon — apparently his super powers can work over phones lines and from great distances...)

Anyhow. A few weeks later, a box arrived in the mail. Stuffed inside, were these —

A replacement Zeebee, who apparently decided to relocate his entire family!

I was so touched. And then what happens?


You guessed it. Despite having a whole family of zebras to play with, suddenly my kiddo wasn’t that into black and white stripes anymore. Or their cuddly relatives.

But it’s nice to know other parents have your back. And finding Zeebee was a nice reminder that yes, other people have been there, and yes, they commiserate.

I’m sure this nameless woman would understand toddler fickleness, too.

So I put Zeebee back in the storage bin, where he’s destined to one-day-down-the-road remind me again that there are people out there with good hearts.

People other than those who read this blog, that is, because we all know the ones who hang out here have the biggest hearts. ♥

*Who’m I kidding? My memory is shitty and I’m 99% sure if you’re reading this blog, you probably know that. I forget everything. Apparently whole people, but that’s another (probably not appropriate) story for another day. Actually, my memory’s so crappy I’m not even sure I’ve mentioned my crappy retention before because I forget everything!. But what I do know is that I announce the faulty memory all the time so chances are good that I’ve said it here, somewhere, sometime... maybe?

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

A Peaceful State

So I decide to check on the kidlets, because I can't hear my noisy rambunctious one (L, 6 years old), and that's never a good sign.

I step onto the front porch to find this:

Me: Erm, what are you doing?

L: Meditating.

Me: Okay. [Explains the quiet.] Why?

L: Because meditating loads your mind with good information and keeps you calm. It's good.

Out of the mouths of babes...

Monday, August 5, 2013

Cancer Bombs: In Conclusion...

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

There are a few items I wanted to address at some point in this series, and the perfect moment never arose. So I'm going to plop them at end of this series, because it's my show and I can do what I wish. Heh.

Regarding being mentally balanced/on board for proactive surgery:

You might remember from the early posts that initially I had been afraid that my surgery might be cancelled if I spoke my mind or acted my normal eccentric self. As I discovered after that first surgery, my (ahem) overflowing cup of personality probably worked in my favour.

Yes, it was perfectly okay for me to be me, because my regular-for-me (if bizarre for others) behaviour is illustrative of excellent coping skills.

Yes. Gallows humour and a penchant to spout sarcasm and nonsense is indicative of a healthy psyche. I’m not back and forth and woe-is-me... my terminal realism has me grounded and while I may say things that appear off the wall, it’s okay.

Here all that time I’d been worried about possible derailment of my surgery... heh.

From my experience, apparently showing up for your appointments indicates to the powers that be that you’re on board. Never once did I encounter someone poking me verbally to see if I bled anything other than confidence that this was the path I should choose. If my remarks were sarcastic or self-deprecating, apparently it assured them I was a person and not an automaton.

The professionals I dealt with chuckled at jokes, and (lo and behold!) were people. They understood that opting to chop obsolete feedbags off your chest in the name of longevity made sense. If I happened to slip from my self-imposed severity and laughed at the absurdity of being able to put in an order for your own breast size, or drew similarities in unconventional ways, no one blinked an eye.

(A particular anecdote relating to my oddball linear train of thought: I heard one doctor hospitalizes her single mastectomy patients one night, but kept her double mastectomy patients two nights. Guess who opted to say “oh! One night per boob!” at an awkward moment? Yep. It was one of those instances when I wondered if my life were secretly being filmed, it was sitcom scripted for canned laughter and mortification.)

Overall though, it was as if it were assumed I was human, and expected to be a touch odd, especially considering the circumstances.

Go figure, during grief counselling years ago I’d been told the ability to find quirks and humour in odd situations was indicative of strong coping skills.

Guess what I have in spades? Heh.

Regarding bravery:

This genetic testing and surgery was never a secret. Sure, I may not have shouted it from the rooftops, but I’ve never been silent about it.

I did, however, become quiet.

Whenever it came up in appropriate discussion (or inappropriate discussion, as the case occasionally tends to be with me—ha!), I’d find myself inundated with praise.

“You’re so brave...”

“You’re so strong...”

“I couldn’t do it...”


“I wouldn’t know what to do in your place...”


No offense meant, folks, but I’m a fighter. Always have been strong because I have no stomach for the alternative (being a victim).

But here’s where it gets complicated...

This prophylactic mastectomy? This surgical bypassing of genetic destiny?

It was cheating. I was ducking from the battlefield before the fight had begun.

Those seven months waiting for surgery were occasionally awash with guilt...

My predecessors had fought cancer, and won or lost as nature saw fit. I was tagging out of the fight before the rounds had even begun.

How was that fair? How was that strong? How was that brave?

But here’s the other thing: when faced with overwhelming evidence that I was likely to have breast cancer at an early age, and likely to have more if I survived, how could I not choose the path I had taken?

For me, it was do or die.

And anyone who said they couldn’t fathom doing the same simply hadn’t taken the time to assess the landscape from my perspective.

I get that everyone has their hang ups. If you’re afraid of surgery and can’t imagine going the mastectomy route, well, I figured my choices were have surgery while healthy and hale and able to recover, or wait until cancer is slowly riddling my body tumors and then have surgery and attempt recovery while poison is shot through my veins on a weekly basis.

For me it was a pretty simple decision to make.

The geneticists may not have been able to officially say my BRCA2 mutation is cancer-causing, but it’s an awfully big gamble to make considering my family’s medical history.

In the end I figured there was no choice at all: surgery healthy or surgery ill. Life’s mortality rate is 100%, and you can only affect how long you’re given by so many factors.

Sure, I may have dodged the big prize, but what if I’m hit by a bus? There’s no way to predict for sure if I’ve managed to lengthen my life or not at this point, but no one can fault me for trying.

(Welcome to why I wish they could’ve kept those cancer bombs somehow living on ice in a lab until they exploded in the name of science, and I could dance away gleefully untouched yet sound in the knowledge my decision was directly related to my longevity.)

This guilt, though, it still fluttered within my mind, an irrational butterfly flitting into perspective at will.

Thanks to long periods of introspection and the support of amazing friends (near and far), I came to the realization that I was not guilty of ducking from the cancer-ridden battlefield before the fight. No, in reality I was simply ambushing the would-be attacker before it had the chance to do the same.

The first strike, as it were.

That is a rationalization I can appreciate as a fighter.

Though I understand it’s not the path for everyone, I urge everyone to make an informed decision based on education. If you have a heavy legacy of cancer in your family, educate yourself—learn what you can about your own situation, and make the choice that is right for you.

Either way, fight for yourself. Be proactive. In this world we live in, ignorance is a choice.

Regarding life:

In the aftermath of these surgeries, I’ve been left in an anticlimactic place.

I always expected to get breast cancer—so much so I was startled by the lightness of realizing that was no longer the case. For a long time I have been hell bent on living my life to the fullest, however short that may have been.

Anyone who has met me in real life can attest to this: I speak my mind, I do what I want, and I’m not afraid to enjoy what I like, regardless of other people’s understanding (case in point: costuming and JordanCon).

But after this prophylactic mastectomy, I had a paradigm shift of proportions that surprised me. While I no longer am overcome with the urgency to live outside of the box and to make the most of my time (and do all the other clichéd shit people will spout when reminded of their own mortality), I find life is too much fun to change what I am doing.

Go figure, shedding concern for society’s norms and the expectations of others in favour of doing what you what makes you happy will do that. Not a giant leap.

At my first post-op appointment with Dr D, I thanked her for giving me another lifetime to enjoy. I had been cramming my life full—for my own enjoyment and as an example to my children—and she had effectively lengthened the amount of time I was alloted to do so.

So am I going to slow down? Pfft... never.

And at this point, I’m certain people will wonder what is wrong with me if I do.

And it's not just doing what you want—it's not being a doormat to other people's bullshit.

(Besides, I don’t care how much time you have, life will always be too short to put up with bullshit. Ha!)

As for my children, well... I will be calling the hospital’s genetics department annually to find out if they’ve made any discoveries as to whether my specific genetic mutation is cancer-causing. And when the time comes I hope my boys have themselves tested. It will be their choice, of course.

And my boys are going to remember my surgeries. At six and seven years old, they’re old enough that they will, I know this. One of my many reasons for a prophylactic mastectomy was the knowledge that they would always remember my surgeries, whether they were proactive or reactive to breast cancer.

I lived through a parent with breast cancer. Twice. I don’t want that for them.

My ability to recover from a proactive surgery is obviously much better than having cancer and also needing chemotherapy or radiation. (Treatment my children would also remember.) Sure, I required Mr Lannis’ intense support post-surgery, but I managed to save him from the grind that is being a spouse’s primary caregiver while at the same time carrying desperate fear, wondering if that spouse will survive the battle with breast cancer.

And I saved my children from wondering and witnessing the same.

This proactive surgical course will be a smaller blip on their childhood memories in the long run. They’ll remember the year their mother went through this. They’ll (maybe) read these posts and understand why.

And I’m hoping the lesson they learn will be to stand up for themselves. No matter what. Even when the bully is something as intangible and inconceivable as cancer.

You can still win.

Friday, August 2, 2013

A Solution to Puzzles

Our kid cupboard is overflowing with boxes.

Toys, games, puzzles.

Generally I like to transfer toys with itty bits into a plastic tub with a lid and label it. Easy to sort, right?

Puzzles, though, they were driving me bugnuts--getting mixed together, the boxes jammed into the cupboard, refusing to compact.

They just take up space.

Then I had an idea:

Why P? For Peter Parker, of course! And because S was taken by the Star Wars puzzle...

So I had the kids put them all together to check for missing pieces, and then marked the back of the pieces with a letter to identify which puzzle it belonged to.

Then I put them in a dollar store pencil case and labelled it, cutting the picture of the finished puzzle out of the box to add to the bag.

Suddenly those puzzles weren't taking up as much space, the boys were proud of taking part in the organization, and I was smiling.

How do you keep your kids' toy cupboard in order? Any rearranging?

Thursday, August 1, 2013

The Secret Weapon

[Note: This post was originally published on The Mrs on November 12, 2011. No, he hasn't stopped.]

Yes, ladies and gentlemen, my youngest has a secret weapon.

On top of this, he’s a flirt. A charmer. A regular little Casanova.

He’s only four-and-a-half, but he’s got women of all ages wrapped around his little finger, doting on his every whim, insert-appropriate-love-is-blind-and-easily-manipulatived-cliché-here.

The last time Mr Lannis took the boys to the rink to help them learn how to skate, the four-and-a-half-year-old was on the ice for thirty seconds before he’d roped a ten-year-old girl into holding his hand for balance.

My dear husband returned home, stumped. Apparently our youngest had not only never met this girl before, but he’d cited “I need help to balance” as the reasoning behind the hand-holding. (Mr Lannis had asked the girl—  who had declared our boy’s approach, her own age, and that no, she didn’t know him from school, as Mr Lannis had previously assumed).

And this clingy behaviour from a child who usually steadies himself on the boards, but doesn’t need much help, even though this venture into skating is relatively new.

Now, to be honest, I’m usually the one bearing witness to our little Casanova in action. I’m the one with him in the grocery store, where he chats up girls from 6 months to 60+ years, be they in a shopping cart, pushing a cart, or behind the cash register.

If she’s breathing, he’s flirting. It’s that simple.

And he’s usually the first to toss out his name, age, and where he lives, too (don’t worry, we’re working on street-proofing).

When put on the phone recently with a female (my auntie), the first words out of his mouth were “When are you coming to visit me?”

Understandably, she melted.

And over Hallowe’en, once the trick-or-treating had been burned out of their systems and the boys were home helping dole out candy while checking out the neighbourhood kids’ costumes? There was my youngest, at the door, looking every little girl in the eye and telling them, “You’re pretty. And you’re pretty. And you’re pretty, too.”

Of course these girls were more concerned with thanking me for their candy and moving on to the next house. Some tittered and giggled.

Most clearly thought he was weird.

I asked him why he was giving the girls compliments, and he threw his arms wide and said, “I want all the girls in the WORLD to know they’re pretty!”

Well, isn’t that lovely!

My mental cynic reasoned that either he’s genuinely trying to express his appreciation for girls’ beauty, or he’s tapped into a vibe of insecurity that not many males tend to notice until they’re well into puberty (and sometimes beyond).

And my exuberant little four-and-a-half-year-old is in love with life, too.

He’s bouncy, and energetic, and oozing positivity until you want to bang your head against the wall because he’s just so dang cute in his never-ending-optimism, it makes you want to puke.

He’s freaking adorable.

Which is why, when he’s told to Sshust! in a restaurant or in public because he’s yapping away in his plucky, upbeat way (and interrupting the grown ups), he usually ends up winning. Because whatever random female we’re chatting with will bend down to say hello to him, because, well, even silent, the secret weapon lurks.

(Cutest unibrow you’ll ever see. Trust.)

So hide your girls, parents. He’s got a way to go until puberty, but he’s clearly just using the time to hone those skills...

Lord save us all.