Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Adapting Success

Once upon a time I posted about our success with our Readathons.

The basic rundown is that one day on the weekend you drop everything on the hour, every hour, from 9-5ish and take a moment to have your child read to you for practice's sake. At the end of the day they get a prize.

Our kidlets love Readathons.

Unfortunately(?) their reading skills are no longer lacking, and the readathon—while much enjoyed—could be time better spent on other skills needing some honing.

And I'm tired of tossing out prizes (dinky cars, Lego minifigures, Trashies, Kinder Eggs, whatever's left in the prize bucket) for easy-peasy acts.

Oh no, Mom doesn't hand out prizes for nothing—you need to work for these little mofos, children.

Enter the math-athon. My oldest needs math practice. The youngest does not. And nothing viscerally irks the one that needs help more than having his little brother bouncing with the answer because it comes easily to him.

I get it. Know-it-alls make me stabby, too are aggravating.

Thus it became evident that we needed to manage the oldest's morale by handing a not-so-likeable task to the youngest in order to keep said frustration in check. Enter the printathon...

Yes, our six year old is in grade one and his printing is horrific, chicken scratch, could be Chinese characters I wouldn't know the difference, erm, less than desirable.

Handily, he's been sent home with sight words to be used for quizzing him on his reading—200+ sight words the kid got right the first time through and clearly doesn't need to study in order to repeat the act.

These same booklets I'm repurposing as source words for his printing.

And after a few printathons over the Christmas holidays, he's already showing improvement.
 
Believe it or not, that's improvement.


Now that he's focusing on an area he needs to work on, his know-it-all attitude has also been knocked down a peg and his older brother isn't nearly so defensive and defeated when approaching his own studies (the hated beast that is math).

I'll call this a win.

Friday, December 27, 2013

Cats For Sale

If you've been hanging around here long enough, you'll know I have a love-hate relationship with Kijiji.

This ad is one of the more positive reasons I keep browsing on the classified site, and couldn't help but snag a screenshot. I hope these two have found a loving home, hopefully with someone who shares the ad poster's sense of humour...

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Merry Boxing Day

Yes, because savvy blogger I am, I've had a whack of posts scheduled over the last few weeks to cover the December frenzy here at Chez Lannis and completely forgot to whip up a merry Christmas post.

Oops.

So Merry Boxing Day. Enjoy.

Or don't, since despite being paired with envious savings, the culture of Boxing Day (or Boxing Week) sales ultimately ends in frustration--grabby shoppers, rude parking lots, and general disgruntlement.

Unless you do as Mr Lannis says and "pack your patience."

Or do as I do and go solo and pack my Kindle...

A long line to wait? No worries--I've got 212 books in my purse. Truth.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Capturing a Moment

I like Scrabble.

To Mr Lannis' dismay, I don't play it much with him (no, seriously--he's bugging me all the time), but not because I don't like the game.

I'm a lazy points tallier. The really truly actual board game requires math.

Math and I? We don't play well together (heh).

Besides, I like to do fancy pants moves on the board and make three words at once just to screw with my opponent (right, Tricia? ::smirk::).

No, we haul out our Scrabble board once or twice a year if it's lucky, despite it being one of our favourite games.

I do, however, play Scrabble online--or rather, currently its counterpart Words With Friends on Facebook.

The math, she happens automatically. It's lovely.

And I'm a believer that this game is part vocabulary, part strategy, part mental altertness, and part luck of the draw--shitty letters are shitty letters. No matter what's on the board, sometimes your tiles just blow and there's nothing you can do about it.

Today's board selection made me giggle. I'm sharing, natch.

Sometimes, despite your best efforts, your tiles are booshit. Heh.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Words of Wisdom

[Note: This post was originally published on The Mrs on December 17th, 2011.]


Okay. I don’t have an anecdote or silly story to tell today, but I have a present for everyone just the same.

Wisdom. Perhaps a touch of much-needed mental breathing room?

Regardless of whether you’re decking your halls in anticipation of a birthday that happened over two thousand years ago, or (secularly) for a fat guy to break into your house because he’s been watching your kids all year (yeah, because that’s not creepy at all), or well... I’d touch on other celebrations but I’m going to err on the side of “I don’t celebrate it, so I won’t mock it” because I’m friendly (read: ignorant) like that...

Anyhow, point being: for whatever reason, there seem to be plenty of reasons for people to get-together this time of year. In Canada we call it “keeping warm.”

A lot of us will be seeing family soon, be it our family by blood, or the one by choice. And we all know what happens when you get a lot of people together with different opinions, philosophies... perhaps a little alcohol poured in there, too...

Yeah. Shit show, ahoy.

So. In the interest of keeping our lovely family here at The Mrs aneurysm-free over the holiday season, I give to you some words of wisdom.



This is in our main floor bathroom. Because everyone needs to see it.

Everyone.

Everyone who comes into my house long enough to use the bathroom, that is.

I’ll admit I need the daily reminder. Thanks to the copious amounts of tea I drink, I receive this reminder often.

My sanity — and my blood pressure — are much better since I hung this handy sign. (Psst — someone posted it on Pinterest and you know how we feel about Pinterest around here.)

But, if this mental mantra doesn’t work — because not everything works for everyone — I give to you —

(Are you ready?

...

Now?

...

Like, seriously ready?)

Peace!


Or, well, pieces of people, I suppose... written in zombie font.

And if visualization’s your thing, might I suggest imagining any aggravating offenders (offending aggravaters?) you meet over the holidays as participants in said font?

If that doesn’t work, there’s always defenestration...

Merry, merry, and all that jazz from the Lannis Clan!

Monday, December 16, 2013

DIY Ribbon Wreath

When going through the Christmas decoration bins it occurred to me that I have a problem...

Apparently I'm addicted to buying ribbon.

Yes.

So, faced with oodles of spools of wired cream and gold ribbon, I did what any rabid avid crafter would do—grab the nearest old wire coat hanger and go to town.

And I did.


This is old ribbon that I've used and reused for years (wrapping bannisters, swirling about the tree, folding into bows for our pillars), so I'm unsure of how much I actually had, but there's at least three spools (possibly four) of 2" wide, 15' long ribbon used.

Upcycling, ahoy!

I can't stress enough how much you need to use wired ribbon. The ability to manipulate your loops is what gives you the look of lovely fullness.

Staples (and a stapler, natch), an old wire coat hanger, and copious amounts of wired ribbon is all you need to make yourself a Christmas wreath.

This is not rocket science, people. One morning after taking the kids to school I was struck with the inspiration to do this, et voilà! Using shit I had laying around and 45 (somewhat spare) minutes I magically had a new wreath.

Mind you, the ribbon hoarding helped on the availability of supplies on hand.

Step 1: Bend your coat hanger into a circle.

Note: not the actual price I paid for the ribbon. I refuse to buy it full price and always hit up clearance sales—probably why there's so much... I forget what I've squirreled away from the previous year and insist on buying more when I see a bargain.


Step 2: Bend your ribbon into 2" loops and staple them on, clumping them together and twisting the ribbon in another direction occasionally to create variety in the direction of the loops. You'll want to use plenty of loops to create a full look. And I didn't even crack out the heavy duty stapler, either—the cheapo paper thing I have kicking around the kitchen just in case was all that was necessary.

Don't get hung up on neatness. It's all hidden.
Step 3: Uh... Repeat until your coat hanger is full. That's it, peeps.


There. My cheapo crafting is done for the week. This not-so Martha Stewart has earned the chance to crack open a wine bottle and relax (heh).

Friday, December 13, 2013

A Christmas Decorating Philosophy

Last year I didn't decorate for Christmas (much), thanks to surgery being scheduled December 20th.

Yeah, it sucked.

Mostly for the kids, I think. It didn't look too much like Christmas around this house.

(This would be thanks to my micromanagement, trust issues, inability to let other people help me--I knew Mr Lannis wouldn't put away the delicate Christmas decorations to my satisfaction, so I decided it was best for our relationship, the breakables, everyone involved if I just kept things to a minimum.)

Flash forward to a year later, and our house has exploded with ribbon, lights, and merry doodads freaking everywhere.

It's almost nauseating.

Regard the nasty vinyl tablecloth. It's ugly, but its primary purpose is sacrificial--the kids can destroy it and I don't care.


Why?

Well, the more socially acceptable reason is that I'm trying to rewrite my children's memories--one day they might remember the year we didn't have many decorations out, but common things being common, they're going to remember how the house transforms (almost) every year with light up ceramics, gauzy ribbons twining bannisters, something Christmas-y every direction they look, and a cheer so infectious its insistence is borderline militant.

Ahem.

The underlying reason for the storage room vomiting forth its red and gold abundance?

Well, my Christmas decorating philosophy is pretty straightforward: overkill.

Yes. Make it so over the top that you're grateful for the chore of putting it all away come boxing week.

It's that simple.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Pointless Popcorn Spiel

[Note: This post was originally published on The Mrs on April 14, 2012. This popper remains in use.]


I’ll be the first to admit we’re a little behind the times in the Lannis household. Santa finally brought us our first gaming system this past Christmas, and we don’t have cable or satellite TV.

I also don’t have a data plan on my smart phone, but that’s a whole other post for another day.

Last week, though, we opted to upgrade. A little. Like, how most of you probably did in the 1980s (or perhaps earlier)...

We went from popping popcorn on the stovetop (yes, the old shake-the-pot method), (dun dun DUN!) to an air popper.

It all started when Mr Lannis read somewhere that it was healthier to air pop popcorn (duh). Of course I knew this, but aside from a short stint of microwaving popcorn when I was in university, I’ve stovetop-popped popcorn all my life.

“It’s easier,” Mr Lannis said. “It’ll be better for the boys when they’re older--they’ll be able to pop popcorn themselves with less supervision.”

The latter, I highly doubt. Probably because I micromanage the kitchen in general (except for Mr Lannis’ eccentric eating habits--another whole post for another day).

And so the hunt began. I went online. I researched. I frugally found our $10 reward card for Sears, and scrolled through what they had to offer.

Warning: ranting semi-digression ahead.

Handy time-saving tip: Sears is overpriced. Holy moly, are they ever.

And I knew this, but I was that girl who grew up leafing through the phonebook-thick Sears catalogue--and not just the Christmas Wishbook, but the other seasonal catalogues, too, just as thick.

I was trained from childhood that Sears is the go-to. And I’ve shopped there plenty, taking advantage of their catalogue store pickups to keep from having to travel all the way into the nearest department store location for the item of choice.

Overall, it’s always been a decent experience. Basically the free-shipping-little-travel sold it for me. So I figured my $10 reward card would compensate for the air popper’s overpricing, and I would be able to pick it up in my town at the catalogue pickup location.

The air popper I chose was $19.99...

Yes, you could argue I could wait until garage sale season and find sixteen being sold within walking distance of my house for $2.

But Mr Lannis wanted it NOW!

Okay, so, maybe he just mentioned it twice and I took the opportunity to shop because, let’s be frank, I’ll take any excuse to do so--I’m far worse when it comes to books, trust.

My point here is that by the time I had that $20 air popper in my online shopping cart, it was $28 after taxes and shipping.

Shipping?!

Whoa, whoa, WHOA.

Excuse me, Sears. This is new to me. It was always free to have items sent to the pickup locations... now you’re charging $3.95?! And applying tax to that?!

And it seems to me I’m still using my gas to drive to your location to get it?!

OH, HELL NO!

Off to WalMart (no, it wasn’t a special trip--I had a whole list). For $14.88 plus taxes I got a simple Rival air popper. A similar popper from Sears would have been $18 after I’d applied that $10 reward card!

Yes, basically the same price, but I still have my reward card.

Oy.

Digression over.



So I brought home the popper, to decidedly less fanfare than I had anticipated, but whatever.

Mr Lannis, God bless him, read the instruction manual cover to cover. All eight pages, including warranty information.

Uh... it’s an air popper.

Recklessly, I poured in the kernels and plugged in that bad boy.

Actually, it wasn’t my first time manning an air popper. Once upon a time I worked for a local museum, and part of our education programming was teaching school classes about Native Canadians and their relationship to farming. They grew corn, and they were brilliant folks.

They used to toss it with maple syrup.

I KNOW!

Point being, I’d manned an air popper a time or two at the museum...

But Mr Lannis hadn’t. So I get it. But as I’m setting in to watch Game of Thrones on DVD, he’s got kernels flying willy-nilly, into and out of the bowl set to catch them, as he leafs through the manual.

And then he speaks, “Uh, hon. It says here that kids and pets are supposed to be kept forty inches away.”

“Hm. That’ll be tricky,” I reply. He catches my eye. “Are they recommending we tie them, or staple them to the floor?”

He may or may not have thrown the manual at me.

I may or may not have deserved it.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Gift Ideas for Kids

Having trouble coming up with gift ideas for a child in your gift-giving circle?

I'm a big fan of books. (Not that this surprises anyone.)

I find a lot of the same titles repeated while perusing the bookshelves of my friends and their children. There are plenty of tried and true classics that turn up everywhere (think Dr Seuss, or Robert Munsch), and I try to avoid giving them because they are so popular.

You never know if the child already has it or not. It's a pain.

Anyhow.

Might I humbly suggest my number one go to author for kids?

Graeme Base.


He's got amazing talent, this one. Imaginative brilliance, really. Lavish, engaging artwork, and fun stories. And apparently they've published some board books of his titles aimed at little ones (though they've yet to cross my path).

He's got many titles to his name, but here's my top three Graeme Base books to gift:

The Eleventh Hour was my first encounter with Graeme Base, when my mother gave it to me for my eleventh birthday. Yes, I've been a fan that long. The book is a mystery, and the reader need decode the hidden messages to solve the puzzle. I'd say ages 10 - 12 would enjoy digging through its pages.

The Water Hole is a numbers-based story about animals across the continents and a shrinking water hole. And the animals of the previous pages are hidden within the artwork of the later pages. I'd recommend this for ages 3 - 7, and have gifted this many times.

Animalia is the alphabet done with animals (and a single boy hidden in every scene for eagle-eyed readers). This is great for ages 4 - 9, have gifted this often, and my boys have burned through two copies themselves.

The Legend of the Golden Snail, Little Elephants, Jungle Drums, and Uno's Garden have all marched through our house via our local library and also have their merits, but those first three are my top choices.

When I've been really on the ball, I've given them as teacher gifts for their classroom, too, heh.

The tricky part, though, is remembering who I've given Base books to after I've done it once... any suggestions on where to turn after that? A good picture book author that spans across age groups yet isn't so popular it's almost guaranteed to already be on a kid's shelf?

Friday, December 6, 2013

Minor Adjustments

Some days I wonder how much my kids are aware of what went on around them in the last two years.

We explained some elements of our journey in language they would understand--basically they're aware that Mom had surgery because the doctors were fixing the part of her that would make her one day have cancer.

And of course they knew I had surgery. Twice. The recovery was long and definitely affected my ability to care for them, so it was, er, noticeable, for sure.

But then I run across something like this, and it's both completely random, and particularly insightful, and so I wonder...


Thursday, December 5, 2013

It could always be worse...

[Note: This post was originally published on The Mrs on June 9, 2012.]

Apparently a memo went out this weekend, one dictating that since Sandi had so lovingly posted about BARF, it was A-okay to start the intestinal pyrotechnics in the Lannis household, too.

Okay, so maybe the five-year-old was the only one who read that particular memo (which is kind of odd, seeing how he’s the only bipedal member of the family who can’t really read yet), but he followed through just the same.



Yep. Went to Nana’s for dinner, and—like always—had the boys put on their PJs before leaving for the hour-long drive that would end at Home Sweet Home slightly past their bedtime.

Drove to Papa’s (it’s on the way home) for a quick hello, and then proceeded to our house, arrival time adjusted now to slightly more past their bedtime...

And there were some uncharacteristic complaints from our five-year-old. Too hot. Thirsty. Are we home yet?

(By the way, that last phrase is outlawed in our van, due to its repetitive rudeness—completely NOT allowed. Best. Idea. Ever... trust.)

Arrived home. Kidlets unloaded. Entered through the garage. Boy one. Boy two. Lannis. Mr Lannis. Then...

L: I don’t feel good. [sits on laundry room step] BARF!
R [6.5 year old]: OH! EW! He puked on me!

No, he didn’t really puke on his brother. Just on his own clothes, his shoes, and the accumulated mangle of footwear that migrates into a disordered pile in the laundry room—seeing how that’s where the garage entryway is, it makes sense to me.

Mr Lannis, bless him, took our oldest boy upstairs, helped with toothbrushing and returned moments later after said boy was in bed.

The pukey one, however, was still sitting on the step. With a new accessory: a puke bucket. Which was good, because the BARF was still happening. Until it wasn’t anymore.

I was rinsing shoes and tossing them into the garage while sickly boy emptied his belly. It didn’t take long. The rinsing or the belly-emptying. Thank goodness.

Oh, and in there somewhere I’d wiped his face with a cool cloth and helped him blow the ugly from his nose.

By this time, Mr Lannis had found clean PJs for sickly one, and a glass of water, and was attempting not to gag as he helped his son undress.

Have I mentioned lately how much I love that man?

And I don’t know if it’s an innate mom-skill, or if it’s an acquired one, but I mindlessly rinsed those shoes, rinsed and scrubbed puke from PJs, a sweater, and the laundry room floor, put on a load of wash (Lord knows we had a good one by then), then scrubbed the laundry sink with bleach before I realized it...

It was 9:30pm, and I was on my hands and knees scrubbing my laundry tiles, and was thankful.

Yes, thankful, because sickly boy had his colour back and for all the world it looked like he’d eaten too much delicious food at Nana’s, then added a smattering of exhaustion, heat, and car sickness...

And he’d picked, of all places, one of the easiest areas in the house to clean.

Not the carpet, not his bed, and GOD BLESS HIM NOT THE VAN!

Sure, it was puke. But it could have been a hell of a lot worse!

Rationalization. It’s the underrated super-power.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Patches, Patches, Patches


If it's one thing I can rely on my kidlets for, it's their ability to make a liar out of me, it's their ability to blow the knees out of any given pair of pants.

I'm lucky if we get six months out of a pair of hole-less school pants before they need to be relegated to the play clothes drawer.

This means I absolutely refuse to pay full price for jeans (because we'd lose our house). In fact, what is new for my kids is usually only new to them.

Yep. The majority of their name brand (Levi's, Gap, Old Navy, Children's Place, and Osh Kosh) clothes come from second hand stores. Local small businesses or, when I travel to the nearby metropolis, second hand chains like Value Village and Once Upon A Child.

Experience has told me the best place to find gently-used-can't-tell-them-from-new (and sometimes brand spanking new, original tags still on them) jeans is Value Village. For $20 after 13% tax I walked out one day with four pairs of perfect condition jeans for the boys, and a toque (WTF is it with toques in our house?!).

And when Mr Lannis went hunting I went on a rampage, I whipped through this house getting things done and came upon the mending basket which prompted me to dig through the boys' play clothes drawers for pants in need of help, and heaped them all together in the kitchen.

Lo and behold, the pile was huge.

About a dozen pairs of pants, some with both knees blown out, some clearly unsalvageable (that's fine, someone needs to be the sacrificial meat to save the herd). Three pairs were Mr Lannis' too.

Hm. None of them were mine.

Weird...

Anyhow.

I patched. And patched, and patched, and pricked my hands with pins desperate to keep denim in place, drove myself crazy scrunching up pant legs so my sewing machine could properly zip those squares (or circles, as the case may be) into place.


I'm not saying it was easy--there's an art to sewing thick denim within the confines of a pant leg, but I'm saying it can be done.

And as they are bored with their monster patches, I opted for something a touch different this time. Easier, too, believe it or not--or at the very least less prep work overall.


Remember folks, sometimes the key to pulling it off is to veer away from perfection, artsy and fun, that's the way to go. If they look like they were never meant to be identical, it'll never look like you missed the mark.

Or at least that's what I tell myself... ::snort::



Monday, December 2, 2013

The Transformative Power of Music

There’s a long history of the creative arts being linked—visual artists garnering inspiration from musicians, visual artists moved by poets... music begetting dance, dance begetting poetry, poetry begetting song. A tradition of creative growth, an evolution of inspirational symbiosis that continues forevermore.

(That’s pretty much straight from my first year of creative writing, by the way... feel free to Google it. I’ve basically remembered—and lived—that, along with the internal struggle of killing the baby, which I’m currently living..)

Er...

(Note:  No worries, said baby is figurative—there’s no actual baby killing going on, so don’t call the authorities. The baby is my manuscript, and the entire phrase is a metaphor for embarking on the editing process, so chill.)

Music has always been inspirational for my writing. Not simply lyrics, but musical scores as well. Atmospheres, emotions evoked—it doesn’t always follow a song to the letter, but if it does, it can give me the chills.

Even if only one line applies to my work in progress, I can fluff up a vision all my own; a personal, mental music video that I will relive every chance I hear that melody.

Of course this is equally a blessing and a curse.

The blessing of course being the ease with which I can slide into an emotional atmosphere conducive to the tone of a particular scene, and motivating myself to write.

The flip side of this is the ease with which can slide into an emotional atmosphere conducive to the tone of a particular scene—regardless of situation, be it at the laptop or driving the car—and have reality melt away in the onset of mental immersion, or find my mood affected instantly.

Mr Lannis knows certain songs to avoid, certain artists I gravitate to and therefore shouldn't be on a playlist for a long drive. Others I’ve managed to hide from him, but there are some he knows without a doubt transport me elsewhere.

I think the easiest way to explain the sensation is when a particular piece of music is tied to a something of your past, and whenever you hear it you’re suddenly shifted; you find yourself reliving that moment in time.

In my case it's usually reliving a scene I've written.

Many writers have playlists for particular works. I know I do.

And sometimes I need to remember the basics; to use the tools I have to help bridge the gap I’m living.

Music will get me back in the mindset of my broken manuscript, and hopefully allow me to fix what needs fixing. And I've been putting it off far too long.

I need to let music return me to Jane.