Life Lesson #40: This is (a rambling essay on turning) Forty

This is 40.

This is a tough one. This is the age you remember your parents being, when you were a kid.

When I was a kid, my best friend Lindsay’s mom had a fortieth birthday. She had balloons and banners and hats that said, “Lordy, lordy, look who’s forty!” I found that kind of corny, even at age 10.

So it’s hard to believe that I’m here. I’m that age. I also have kids, although neither of them is ten.

I’ve realized a great many things recently. Maybe I’m becoming wise? Probably not. But one day, I do hope to be a printed-silk-scarf wearing plump lady on a bus, giving gentle wisdom to young people who sit near me. Maybe patting a hand, offering a listening ear. Occasionally giving a Kleenex from my well-stocked purse.

I hate taking the bus, though, so perhaps that version of me will never really exist.

One thing I have found is that people have a lot to say about forty. Like, a lot. There are a bazillion articles about how your forties are ‘supposed to be.’ I decided to play investigative journalist and compile a list of the most common things that are ‘supposed to’ happen in your forties. Let’s see what the next decade supposedly holds, shall we?

“You care less about what people think of you when you hit forty.” I suppose that’s true. I do care less about what most people say or think about me. But I care far more about those I love and their opinions. They are the ones that matter most and it would truly gut me if I disappointed them.

“You have freedom at forty to be whoever you want to be.” Okaaaaay. But I think it’s easier to be whoever you want to be if you spent the previous 39 years figuring that out. Thankfully, I’ve basically been myself since I was five, so I don’t see a great deal of change in my future. I’ve always been who I am, for better or for worse.

“You can calm the inner critic in your head.”  I don’t think that’s ever going to happen, even if I lived to be 140. Or 440. Or 40,440. She’s always there, and I fear she will be for life. Perhaps one day we’ll make some sort of peace.

“You’re happier when you’re in your forties.” I’m not sure if that’s true, as I’m not there yet, but my thirties have been pretty great, overall. And busy! I can’t imagine a more tumultuous ten years of life (buying a house, getting married, having kids, getting published) than the past ten. (Fate: “Hold my beer.”)

“You get rid of the toxic people in your life.” Well, to be honest, I don’t think I have any toxic people in my life to be rid of…and I don’t think I have had for a REALLY long time. I think I’ve done a pretty good job keeping the best people IN my life. I am surrounded by loving, caring, fantastic humans. These people are my ride-or-die. This is my crew. This is it. I am extremely, exceptionally lucky to have the people I have in my life. I do not take anyone for granted. I know how fast life can change.

“Public speaking becomes easier.” Er, this was clearly not written by an introvert. I know some really talented public speakers and I am 100% not one of them. Speaking publicly makes my stomach hurt and turning forty isn’t going to fix that.  What HAS become easier is speaking up. I know what I stand for, I know what I won’t tolerate and I know what I believe in.

“You rock your own style.” Sadly, that’s been true for my entire life. Being born with a total lack of fashion sense means that you cobble together whatever clothes look decent together (or at least don’t clash?) and run with it. I WILL say that I no longer dress in theme (see: Jess is a blueberry. Jess is music. Jess is a neon-yellow-pants- one-clip-on-earring-side-ponytail-poofy-blouse-wearing-pirate). But I won’t say I have a ‘style,’ per say.

“You don’t have to finish a book you don’t like.” Yup, I know. Pretty much if you don’t have me by page three, you’ve lost me forever. Life is too short for books that don’t interest you. Also, life needs more interesting non-fiction books that are at least 500 pages long. But maybe that’s just me.

There were suggestions that being forty lets you become silly again (having kids already made me goofy), allows you to say ‘no’ to going out (dude, I wish I could say YES to going anywhere right now), allows you to eat that second dessert (was there ever a time when I shouldn’t have been doing that?) and basically is the decade in which you become the best version of yourself.

I hope that is true. I hope I can keep my perpetual new year’s resolution: to be the best darn Jess I can be. I hope I never let down those I love, I hope I am the best mama, wife, daughter, sister, BFF, friend, auntie, neighbour, and person I can be. I hope to help those I know and those I don’t. I hope to be an all-around good human being. I promise to try, for at least the next forty years.

So here’s to forty. It’s been a helluva ride so far. I can’t wait to see what comes next.




Life Lesson #18: Time flies when you’re having fun.

Believe it or not, my tiny little Lily is about to turn FOUR. FOUR YEARS OLD. How the heck did that happen? I mean, I understand the concept of time moving forward but…holy cow. Guys. Wasn’t she just born?

OK, yeah. Four years ago.






She was mostly happy. But sometimes she looked like this.

So, what better time to write Lily a letter than now? No better time!

Dear Lily,

You are one amazing kid. From the moment we found out about you, you were a big surprise. Like, HUGE.

Although, looking back, it was KINDA obvious you were in there.







But this is how I found out:








Ah, but I was!






And man, was I happy to see you. Especially after barfing all day (and some nights!) for nine straight months. I even wrote you a poem.

Dear child of mine,
I love you dearly,
Even though,
My dear, quite clearly,
You like making me lurch
And hurl,
I still love you,
Little girl.
And though my waist,
Has long gone missing,
It’s your chubby cheeks,
I long to be kissing.
And every morning,
As I wretch and moan,
I dream of the day,
That I’ll bring you home.
So darling baby,
Grow big and strong,
Because you’d better be PERFECT
When you come along.

That’s love, right there. Love.

Then you were born. You were SO different from your sister. She was a hard baby. Let’s just leave it at that. You, however, mostly looked like this:





And, OK, occasionally like this:







You were always bound and determined to keep up with Vivi, which is why you walked at 9 months old, and why my hair is now totally gray.

I mean, naturally brown.

You kept me on my toes. You still do. You are extremely stubborn, very single-minded and easily offended.

I mean, (in positive teacher-talk): determined, focused and sensitive.

You love animals so much, cats in particular. I worry that you may one day become a cat-lady if these tendencies are left unchecked. You keep threatening to find a cat, sneak it into your room and feed it until it’s “quite furry and plump.”






I’m sorry about my crippling cat allergies, but that’s a hard no.

You love to play with your sister…until you don’t.





You dance really well, and thankfully seem to have avoided my clumsy genes. You’re a funny kid, although not always on purpose. Many of your jokes end up like this:







Better after a few drinks, I’m afraid.

You adore books and have memorized most of them. The ones you don’t have committed to memory, you read with your own words. Most of which have nothing to do with the book itself.

Which is so freaking cute.

I know I use that word regarding you far too much, but you’re tiny and little and…well…cute.

You’re also really smart. You have my memory (yay) and Daddy’s math skills (double yay)!

You cannot wait for your princess-themed birthday and you’ll be dressing up as Rapunzel. You’ve seen exactly NONE of the Disney movies, but you love my awesome recaps.

Here is The Little Mermaid as an example of a Disney movie, a la Jess:








“This is Ariel. She was a mermaid, yeah? She lived in the ocean with her dad and sisters and, since it was Disney, no mom. She had a pretty sweet life, really. She had a crab best friend named Sebastian and another friend who was a fish named…er…Flippy? That doesn’t sound right. Anyway, let’s go with it. He had a really minor part anyway. One day, Ariel was popping up to the surface of the ocean (a big no-no!) and she happened to somehow save Prince Eric. He was all “Blub, blub, blub!” and she was all, “Not today, ocean! Imma save me a hottie!” And she dragged him to shore or something. She realized, in that moment, that she was TOTALLY in love with this dude she didn’t know at all. So she decided to leave the ocean and chase Eric and marry him. She traded her voice for some legs (thanks to this really awesome sea witch) and ended up succeeding in her plan in a rather convoluted and ass-backwards kinda way. Moral of the story: if you want something bad enough, you’ll risk everything. And sometimes it pays off…and if it doesn’t, you’ll be a voiceless chick who scuba dives a lot.”

See? Just like watching the real thing.
I gave advice to your sister when I did a birthday letter for her at around this age, so here is yours:

1. Try to give your sister some space. I know you love her ALL the time (or most of the time), but when she’s in her head with her own story, try to find your own story as well.

2. Don’t be hurt if someone can’t play with you. It’s 99% of the time nothing personal. And sometimes people need to make dinner.

3. Keep loving with your whole heart, even if it hurts sometimes. It’s worth it.

4. Know that saying “Fine, but I won’t be happy.” will literally never change my mind re: punishment or plans. Sometimes you’re not gonna be happy. That’s OK.

5. You feel ALLLL the feelings. That’s good. Don’t let people tell you that you can’t. Don’t let your heart become dulled. Be yourself, big feelings and all.

6. You are perfect, just the way you are.

So happy birthday, my lovely Lily…my shorty…my munkin…my Lulu…my cupcake…my sweetie…my Minnie… (I’m sorry about the nicknames, but I promise to stop using, like, 50% of them by the time you get to high school). I wish you nothing but happiness this year. It’s a big one, four is, but you’re ready for it. You’re growing up so sweetly and I’m so glad I get to be part of that as your mama.

All my love, baby girl.








Life Lesson #17: What was normal when you were a kid might not be normal for your kids.

Hello, bloggy friends! Long time, no write! I have *3* (count ’em, 3) good reasons as to why I’ve been MIA:

  1. It was summer and I was busy with the kiddos. Also, we went places and did things this year! Ottawa, Haliburton, the zoo, visits with friends and family – all good stuff.
  2. Then school started and the weeks whipped by as I tried to maintain my sanity and coat everyone in a thick protective layer of Purel. (Note: this did not work because October came and everyone’s been sick – except me – at least once. Twice for Vivi! Because why? Let’s say it all together: because October sucks!)
  3. I was taking a super-demanding and intensely busy course at Ryerson through their distance education program. I learned a lot, but HOLY CRAP, THAT WAS A LOT OF WORK.


And so, I am back. Yay!

Today’s blog entry is one of those “compare and contrast” type essays your English teacher made you do in grade 10. You’d pad your answer with all kinds of big words and extraneous facts, hoping to distract your teacher from the fact that you really didn’t have enough depth of knowledge about one or more of the topics and could therefore neither compare nor contract effectively. (Or was that just me?)

Anyway, we are comparing and contrasting two topics about which I know many things:

Jess & Ken VS. Vivi & Lily

Or, put in another way, siblings: WTF, man?

To begin, I want to cite an article I totally wrote when I was 11. It was featured in the extremely local, totally indie ‘zine type newspaper, JAKE News (published Ottawa, March break, 1992, Poppa’s basement). The article was entitled “SIBLINGITIS” and the art was atrocious. Let’s take a gander at an exact reproduction of how badly I drew and read the wise words of tweenaged Jess, shall we?


‘Boy, is she cute?’ ‘Aww, what a darling!’ Just think of how the siblings of these ‘cute’ kids must feel. Always being tormented by people saying that their younger brothers or sisters are cute…well, what about them? These people are tormented victims of CUTEITIS, otherwise known as SIBLINGITIS. *Remember* older kids like attention by themselves too!

Let’s unpack this opinion piece, shall we?

  1. Jess you’re gawky and your brother is cute and your cousins are cute and, did I mention, you’re awkward? ‘Cause you are, girlfriend. So, you know, deal G.
  2. No one pays attention to you because you’re a weird eleven-year-old and eleven-year-olds know nothing about anything except Trapper Keepers and Lisa Frank products.

That’s all I got.

Even though I know how much more adorable/lovable Kenneth was, we still got along really well (as witnessed here, here, here and here). Aside from the ‘rock-collection-in-the -neighbour’s-pool incident,’ and the ‘I-convinced-Ken-to-put-lipstick-on-his-He-Man-and-now-he’s-She-Man-becasuse-lipstick-doesn’t-come-off-of-rubber-very-well’ situation, we were buddies. We used to:


Then, after that, we had fun with:


And don’t forget the times we…


And mostly we got along really well and I thought my brother was a great guy to play with and boss around and generally have crazy adventures with.

Which is why I am baffled by my daughters’ extreme love-hate relationship.

When they love, they love.

But most of the time, they threaten to not let each other play with their toys and mime ‘taking back’ pretend badges that they had previously pretended to hand out (side note: this is weirdly effective in instigating fury between sisters).

Lemme show you a typical situation at my house:



So then I ask:


But then, every now and then…


OK, so it’s all going great, then…





No, they’re not, Jess. They’re just not.

I don’t have a biological sister. I have many chosen sisters (shout out to Stephy, Marlie, Alydia, Christina, Sally and Erica) and sisters-in-law (big ups to Christine, Kathy and Biljana), so I don’t know if my girls’ relationship is ‘normal.’

If you have a sister and you are also female yourself, please let me know if this is normal/if it will improve as the years go on. Will they be besties at some point? Will this scene one day be more than a paper-cut dream?

Fast-forward 20 years into the future…
“I’m so glad to see you, sister!”
“Me too! God, why does Mom always lie about how we fought when we were little?”
“I know! I think she’s just getting senile. We’ve always been besties.”
“Agreed. She’s senile. Let’s not listen to anything she says from here on out.”

And now, ’cause I know you were DYING of curiosity, may I present: the rest of the JAKE News, 1992 March break edition, recreated in paper, avec text.

You’re welcome.


We had a lot of nerve to charge 50 cents for this. In case I forgot to mention, this ‘zine was the product of the imaginations of Kenneth, our cousin Emma, and myself. (Hence, JAKE…Jess and Ken Emma. Yeah, yeah. I know.)


OK, so this was an ad for the pretend resort we ran in my grandfather’s garage. The ad copy went something like (exactly like) this:
Jake resort is opening a new mini putt-putt golf club! We will supply golf balls but not clubs. But still! It’s a lot of fun!

News flash: Jake resort will be under construction tomorrow! You can make reservations the next day.

First of all, what kind of half-baked plan was opening a putt-putt golf course with NO CLUBS?! And next of all, you’ve never seen a news flash in the middle of an ad before, have you? Journalistic standards: we didn’t have them.




I must have the cutest little cousins in the whole world. In fact, I’m very lucky. I think the rest of the family is wonderful too, of course, but the babies take the cake! Look at baby Alan or Sammy or Devon. They’re incredibly cute! I really like coming up here, but how do the rest of you like having us up here? I mean, we eat you out of house and home!!! And yet, you guys don’t come to Toronto very often .

Thank you for being so hospitable to the Boyds. We appreciate it!

Let’s review:

1. Your title makes no damn sense. It’s like the time I called my mother “My fateful mother” in front of my grandmother and she laughed in my face. I meant “faithful” but I was six, dammit. I was trying.

2. Yes, my cousins were very cute. There were three of them in close succession, and with my love of The Babysitters Club, I was constantly pestering my relatives to let me “babysit” them (read: watch them as my aunts and uncles sat in the other room). Sorry, relatives.

3. Yeah, no one came to Toronto very often except my great aunt. Is it because they were actively avoiding us? I guess we will never know (yes, yes they were).



Emma always created the best coupons. For real, I wish some of these existed. Not the Donkey Dog Biscuits. I don’t know what that’s all about. But a ruby red ring for $28? What a steal!


In the interest of adding pages (and thus, value) to our ‘zine, I often had pages like this. Just random crap. But, you know, draw a picture and win…like…something? Whatever we can scrounge up in Poppa’s office? Paper clips and a racy picture of Super Woman?


Yeah, Little Jake Magazine wasn’t a thing. It was never going to be a thing. Unless someone had shown even a tiny morsel of interest. And then it TOTALLY WOULD HAVE BEEN A THING.


I always felt it was necessary to thank the person who lent us his office/let us use all his supplies: Poppa.


I wrote this poem to accompany this picture of…a crystal ball?

Do you want your fortune read?
Or the bumps on your head?
Come see Popdini!
Do you want to know your stones?
Or what clothes to wear?
Come see Popdini!
Who’s the Houdini of Ottawa?
Who’s the cream of the crop
Popdini, Popdini, Popdini…POP!

I don’t know what I was smoking, but I kinda wish I had some now.

Poppa had a lot of ‘interpret my dream’ ‘read my runes’ kinda books, so I guess those inspired this.




And let’s finish on a high note: with an adults-only Easter egg hunt. Which did NOT MEAN WHAT YOU’RE THINKING. Get your head out of the gutter! It was adults-only because I was…hiding…probably boring crap and only adults would put up with those shenanigans.


The early nineties were a weird time.


Life Lesson ##68: Some people have visual memories. Some people have auditory memories. I have memories based on candy. Sweet, sweet candy.

If you know me in real life, you’ll know that I have a *bit* of a sweet tooth. Real talk: if I could get by on a Cookie-Monster-approved diet, I would. I would a million times over every day of the year. I make myself eat healthily because I know I should. But dammit, in my heart I’m so much more Claudia Kishi than Dawn Schafer. (Yes, that’s another Babysitters Club reference. You’re most welcome.)

Anyway, I thought it would be fun to do a blog entry about candy. How much I love it, any associated hilarious stories. You know. That kind of thing. I was figuring I’d come up with maybe five, ten, possibly fifteen stories related to candy.

And then it dawned on me: most of the childhood-related stories I tell my girls are about candy. Like, 90% easily. Maybe 95%. Part of this is to avoid the more PG-13 related aspects of my upbringing in the ‘vern, but the other part is because my childhood was legit filled with candy. To an absurd degree.

So five became ten, ten became twenty, twenty became fifty and then I ended up with one hundred odes to candy. 100 little vignettes. 100 sweet, sweet memories (with a few terrifying near-death experiences thrown in thanks to peanuts and hazelnuts and their equally evil and reviled cohorts). And so, without further ado, here goes Jess’ Top 100 Candies: An Homage to Deliciousness (candies not listed in order of deliciousness)

Pep Bar: A Haiku
Round minty chocolate,
Always one of mom’s favorites,
You lived in our fridge.

Liquid 4 Flavors: A 4-sentence story
No one knows about this chocolate bar, but it was so dang tasty. The bar had eight squares; four flavours of crème, two squares each. The flavours, in case you were wondering, were vanilla, caramel, chocolate and bordeaux. To this day, I don’t know what bordeaux is.

See’s Lollipops:
I ate so many of these when I was preggers with Vivi. Of course, I also craved Nerds, popcorn (caramel only), steak and olives. Vivi is mostly made of those things. If you’re going to go for See’s, though, I have to highly recommend the vanilla. And the butterscotch. And the coffee. The chocolate is the last on my list. Because, really? Chocolate is for snarfing, not for licking.

Chocolate Broom: Walking down Queen St. East after seeing an art show of my dear pretend aunt (Barbara), Mom and I stopped in at the Nutty Chocolatier. It was October and they had chocolate brooms (homemade marshmallow covered in a deliciously thick layer of dark chocolate on a stick, for the uninitiated). The air was crisp, the candy was scrumptious and the day could not have been better.

Christmas Balls: A Sad Limerick
Mom bought Christmas balls,
I was so happy, I nearly cried!
But they were ill-fated,
With peanuts – I nearly died!

Laura Secord Butterscotch Lollies: If you’re going to have lollies from Laura Secord, butterscotch are by far the best. They’re so insanely sweet and sticky – it’s like condensed milk on a stick, really.

Gold Mine Nugget Gum: Honestly, I was more a fan of the presentation than the actual eating of these nuggets. They came in a prospector’s bag and they were supposed to be gum. When you chewed them up, however, they usually just kind of went into a weird cement-like paste. A+ for marketing, F- for delivery.

Chews: When I was in high school, I remember a friend telling me he didn’t know that Chews were gum for the longest time. He just ate them as candy. I couldn’t believe it until I realized that, despite their name, they’re not obviously gum. Your kind of had to suck on them for a bit and then work at it before they were chewable. They were also strangely acidic and tart. Nonetheless, if they were available at the local candy constabulary, I was likely going to buy and eat them.

Thrills: Picture this: Ganz, 2009-ish. I tried to convince my friend (and one time co-worker), Sally, that Thrills were delicious. She didn’t believe me and probably still doesn’t forgive me for making her try them (sorry, Sally!). They’re technically supposed to taste like rosewater, but they’re really quite soapy. Of course, Sally is a big fan of double-salted black licorice, so one can’t be too judgmental.

Jelly Lollies: These were the best of all worlds: kinda stiff jelly on a stick, coated in really grainy sugar crystals (for maximum crunch). They came in a little white plastic container with five spaces for the different lollipops. I think they were lime, cherry, grape, orange and lemon. Try as I might, I can’t actually find them on the interwebz. Maybe this was a Malvern-specific treat?

Gobstoppers: Not only did these really exist in Willy Wonka’s candy factory, they were an actual thing that I could really buy and polish off in, like, an afternoon. These jawbreakers were especially good for long car rides. I used to see how long I could make one last. 20 minutes? Great! Then I only needed (does some basic math, makes it look like she’s doing some really complicated math): 12 to last me to Ottawa.

Tearjerkers: When I was in grade seven, one of the girls in my class went up to the Hasty Market over the lunch hour. She returned with the BIGGEST bag of Tearjerkers I’d ever seen. She must have had a hundred or more. Anyway, she passed them out to everyone she liked. I got a red one, and holy hell was it ever sour. The rumour was that her family won the lottery. They left the ‘vern about a year later. And with that kind of money to blow on Tearjerkers? It must have been a big win.

Mini Chicklets: I would make like a Proclaimer and walk 500 miles for a pack of these. Heck, I’d full-on Vanessa Carleton it and walk 1000 miles if I could just see these mini-gum rectangles. So delicious. So addictive. So inexpensive at the Hasty Market when I was ten and allowed to go up to the top of Morningside Ave. on my own.

Bottle Caps: These were another ‘excellent presentation, lukewarm execution’ kinda candies. They were SUPPOSED to taste like pop. So the orange one would taste of orange soda! The brown one tasted like cola! The purple one tasted like…grape soda? Anyway, that was the idea. They all sort of tasted like a really chalky Flintstone’s chewable vitamin. But I enjoyed the concept of eating bottle caps. Side note: growing up, the one pop we were NOT allowed to have EVER in the house was cream soda. I didn’t really understand why until I was about six and had cream soda at my best friend’s house. Lindsay’s mom stocked ALLLLL the pops. Unfortunately, she often stocked ONLY cream soda. The pink was OK…but the other colors were literally the most disgusting things I’ve ever drank.

Nerds: Ah, Nerds. Beloved by me (and Kenneth) hated by my mother with a fiery passion that rivaled her hatred for Lik-m-Aid. (In case you were wondering, she hated those specific candies because of their propensity to be ground into the wall-to-wall carpets. Sure, we dropped a Nerd or two, but what’s eating candy in the eighties if you’re not ingesting carpet fuzz along with it?) Nerds were amazing. Heck, Nerds ARE amazing. The best flavours, bar-none, were in their 1980’s raspberry and blueberry box. OMG. I also appreciated the grape and strawberry box. At Halloween, I would constantly be on the lookout for the hard-to-find but oh-so-tasty hot and cold box. They say you are what you eat. Accurate!

Whistle Pop: So for a long time everyone I asked about this candy insisted it did not exist. But thanks to the miracle of the interwebz, I can now confirm that I’m not insane (not in this regard, anyway). The Whistle Pop was a THING! I clearly remember getting them on Halloween and taking one (a pink one) to school the next day. I was in third grade and I tweeted and warbled and whistled the entire recess long. I remember a yard duty teacher making some not-so-kind comments about my musical abilities, but whatever, jealous teacher. Whistle Pops FTW!

Watermelons: Candy that looks like fruit sort of counts as fruit, right? Like, kinda? Because if not, I don’t think I fulfilled my daily fruit requirement until…uh…I moved out of my parents’ sugar-filled house. Fruit candy probably has fruit juice of SOME kind in it, yes? And just because these little jelly watermelons were covered in sugar, that didn’t take away from their potential fruit content, right? Right? Somebody with a medical degree back me up here.

Baseball Gumballs: OK, so I might be the only person in the world who legit likes these bulk-food gumballs, but I seriously do. Maybe it’s remembering all the times I had them at various birthday parties, or maybe it was the fact that I’m so terrible at sports that chewing sport-shaped gum made me somehow feel victorious over my clumsiness. Whatever it is/was, I loved the weird spearmint-y/super-sweet taste of these gumballs. And the gumballs said stuff on them! Like Home Run! Bunt Save!
Triple! Other baseball terminology that I totally didn’t understand!

Bonkers: For a short time in the ’80’s (probably from about 1985-1987), these were the candy of choice for the Boyd siblings. I always went with strawberry – both for the pinkness and the tastiness. Kenneth, on the other hand, was a bit of a grape or orange kind of guy. Once, I really went crazy and tried the chocolate ones. That was a mistake I never repeated.

Garbage Candy: I tried explaining this concept to my kids. “You get a cute little plastic garbage can, right? The size that you imagine would look really perfect in your dollhouse, once it was devoid of candy. Then you open it up and – hilarity ensues – you find all kinds of ‘garbage’ shaped candy! Like, fish bones! And an old running shoe! And a dog bone! And – where are you kids going? Get back here, mama’s reminiscing!”

Bubblegum Cigarettes: If you know my mother, you’ve surely been privy to her “smoking’s bad, mmm-kay?” lecture. God knows, I was. Every day. Forever. Even now, sometimes. So I’ve never smoked. Buuuuut, I was a pretty hardcore bubblegum cigarette smoker. The gum was, admittedly, gum-cuttingly bad, and the paper always got stuck to it and you ended up eating some of it. But it was all worth it when you could blow that cornstarch-and-icing-sugar cloud and hold your ciggy like a pro. It felt pretty bad-ass, Imma tell you. Side note: when I was in grade two, Candice Moss brought in some Popeye’s cigarettes. I thought they’d be similar to bubblegum cigarettes. Imagine my surprise when I almost broke a tooth on the damn thing. Lesson learned: smoking is dangerous.

Caramilk: For some reason, my dad decided to take me to Ottawa one random week in May, 1987. I should’ve been finishing grade one, but instead I went with him to help my poppa build a deck. Kenneth and mom stayed home and, I don’t know, ate peanuts or something. On our way to the ‘twa, we stopped for gas. While in the gas station, it occurred to Dad that I should probably eat something. He told me to pick out a chocolate bar. I tried to look for one that I knew wouldn’t result in instant death. ‘Caramilk’ seemed safe enough, so I went with it. It was the first big chocolate bar I’d ever had to myself. I sat with it on my lap in the car so long that my dad said, “Aren’t you going to eat it?” and I seriously considered NOT eating it, just because it was so perfect the way it was, all gold-wrapped and whatnot. But eventually my sugar-addiction kicked in and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Side note: for no less than seven years after, this was literally the only chocolate bar my father would bring home for me. Eventually, I told him that although I LOVED Caramilks, I was also OK with other non-deadly treats.

Mars: There’s nothing like a Mars bar when it comes to complete candy gluttony. These were such coveted treats that I’d eat the teensiest bite to make the bar last as long as possible. Interesting side note: I used to thing the Mars slogan (“A Mars bar a day at work, rest and play”) meant that Mars bars were to be eaten during EACH of these activities, every day. So that’s 3 Mars bars per day. I also, for some reason, thought this was doctor recommended.

Rolos: In case you missed one of my previous entries, I enjoyed my first Rolo at age seven. Coincidentally, on the same day that my great-great aunt Jean informed me that I was never going to be as pretty as her, have as nice hair as she had, or as clear skin. So it was also the time I realized that my great-great aunt wasn’t really all that great after all. You might remember that an actual ant was promoted ahead of her on the ‘favourite aunts/ants’ list.


Lemonade Bubblicious: Sitting in the backseat of my parents’ old station wagon, on our way to pick my mom up from a cake decorating course, I remember my dad had purchased me a pack of Lemonade Bubblicious . Five-year-old me was savouring every sticky chew of it. It tasted like happiness and sunshine. I also remember that earlier that day, my brother and I had decided to play with our neighbours. In their sandbox. Which we then turned into a quicksand box by adding a LOT of hose water. Fast-forward to Jen and Mel’s mom (Mary) finding out, us getting sent home and my dad hastily throwing us into a bathtub saying “What on earth were you thinking? Do NOT tell your mother.” I think she figured it out when she found the sand-covered shorts and t-shirts in the wash.

Bubblicious 4-Pack (raspberry, bubblegum, grape, strawberry): When I was eleven, I got braces. Full on, up and down, metal-mouth, brace face. The hardest thing was to give up gum for three years. Truthfully, I didn’t. I secretly bought myself the Bubblicious four-pack and carefully chewed half-gum pieces. I always flossed and brushed after and prayed my orthodontist wouldn’t notice (he didn’t). Dr. Schweitzer was hard core and gave lectures that would scare anyone straight. But even he couldn’t make me give up my beloved raspberry gum. The best flavour ever.

Dentyne Orange: A Limerick
When your dad’s a workaholic,
And you need a break from mom,
He’ll take you to work,
Where your only small perk,
Will be eating some sweet orange gum.

I swear, this flavour (before they discontinued it) always reminded me of the smell of copier toner and stale coffee.

Runts: Kids, gather ’round. Mama has more reminiscin’ to do. Back in my day, you could get these boxes of fruit-shaped candies. They were hard as a rock, so one didn’t crunch them immediately (unless one was incredibly brave and enjoyed being yelled at by one’s dentist). They came in a plethora of shapes (strawberry, cherry, lime, orange, grape and banana) but the only ones that really mattered were strawberry and banana. And, if one was forced to choose a single flavour to eat forever and ever, banana was the only answer. If you got sick of eating them, you could also paint them with clear nail polish, glue them onto an earring backing (clip-on, natch) and wear them as ‘stylish’ candy earrings to match your fruit salad outfit. As one does.

Big League Chew: A Poem
Big League Chew, Big League Chew,
How I love everything about you.
Your gum is a spaghetti of sorts,
I eat it always, though never playing sports.
One tinfoil pack will last all day long,
Or perhaps a bit less, I could be wrong.
And maybe if I really cared,
You would be something that I shared.
But I am a candy hog, it’s true,
And I shall never share my Big League Chew.

Lik-M-Aid: You know how some drugs are more dangerous than others? LIke, if Smarties are the cigarettes of candy, this would probably be the heroin. THIS was our dangerous drug. Why? Because eating it was downright terrifying. And addictive. And did I mention terrifying? My mother literally banned it from the house (“ANTS! STICKINESS! STICKY ANTS!”) and Kenneth and I would huddle in the shade in the side yard and snarf the sweet powdery goodness as fast as we could. One time, I convinced Kenneth that Lik-M-Aid would make really great Kool Aid (something else we weren’t allowed to have). We dumped a whole pack into some water and mixed it up. You cannot imagine our disappointment in the result. Spoiler alert: it tasted like very weak cherry medicine. Epic fail.

Chocolate Letters: These were straight from Denmark! Dad would travel overseas (a lot) from the time I was six through to…uh…when he retired four years ago. Anyway, when we were young, he would bring us the first and SOMETIMES middle letters of our names in milk chocolate. They were quite delicious and even better straight from the fridge

Chupa Chups: In high school there was nothing better than having a big bouquet of Chupa Chups. You can have your fruity flavours – the best, best, best ones they ever created were the coffee shop flavours. Which, incidentally, I also can’t find on the internet. Why, internet? Why don’t you remember the same candy I do?

Yankie Bars: My dad used to go to Denmark quite often when I was in first grade and, for some reason, he brought home a bunch of Yankie Bars for my grade one teacher. Mr. Denny LOVED them. Like, LOVED. To the point of asking (politely) for you know, a few more. When Dad produced an entire CASE of them, Mr. Denny was flabbergasted. Also, I was his favourite student ever. He never actually SAID that, but I could tell.

Dubble Bubble: So everyone had a gum can when they were a kid, right? Like, a can where you stored your gum and other candies for easy access? No? Just Kenneth and me? Welp. Anyway, Mom had a gum can of her own and it was full of actual gum. Dubble Bubble in the bright pink wrapper! And it was split down the middle so one might get half when one’s mother was having some. Sure, it was super-sugary and only kept its flavour for five minutes at most, but it blew some pretty great bubbles.

Piña Colada & Vanilla candy canes: Man, the nineties were great for so many reasons. Neon colours, wacky fashion, smiley face everything, dressing in theme…wait…that last one was just me, right? Well, fine. But another AMAZING thing about the nineties was my discovery of more than one type of candy cane. I mean, don’t get me wrong, peppermint is, has and always will be my most loved flavour. But the day I discovered vanilla and piña colada candy canes at my local Wal-Mart (Morningside Mall represent!), my life changed. For the better. Those things were addictive and delicious and super-sweet and I love, love, LOVED them.

Giant Candy Canes: One of my dreams has always been to have a candy cane I could use as a walking stick. I figure that if I ever need a cane, Imma paint it all stripy and pretty and be one of THOSE old people (read: weird). When I was a kid, there was a No Frills at Malvern Mall that stocked candy for stores to purchase. I don’t know if you were supposed to show some kind of retailer’s ID or something, but literally no one batted an eye if you wanted to buy, say, a large bucket of deliciously fat candy canes. Which was always on my Christmas list. And was usually my favourite present ever. One year, I actually managed to save one (there were 30 in a container) for summer. That was always the dream: sitting in the sun, eating a candy cane like a badass. Let me tell you: sometimes, dreams come true.

Pan Eggs: I had the best grade two teacher ever (shout out to Mrs. Lee!). Not only was she kind and patient, but she also had a huge sweet tooth. At Easter, she hid these fabulous neon-coloured eggs around our classroom and set us loose to find them. In hindsight, it was kind of gross to have completely unwrapped candy eggs on various germ-riddled classroom surfaces, but when I was seven it was amazing. I remember finding a blue one, a purple one and the most coveted of colours: pink. Can I just say that the world was a better place when everything was neon?

Cinnamon Hearts: A Poem
Cinnamon hearts, oh cinnamon hearts,
You’ve broken my teeth into cinnamon parts.
Even though you’re sweet and yummy,
Sometimes, I find, you hurt my tummy.
But even though you hurt me nearly,
It’s very true, I love you dearly.

3-Flavor Toffee: A Limerick
Some people love three-flavour toffee,
Some people say “Oh, ew!”,
But I think we can agree,
It’s easy to see,
The flavours all taste like glue.

Toffifee: POISON CANDY! Every Thanksgiving when I was between the ages of 1-11-ish, we’d go to Ottawa to see the fam. They always, always had a box of these chocolate-and-hazelnut poison bombs. I was fascinated by the chocolate pieces, nestled in their little plastic cups. I couldn’t eat them, of course, but everyone else seemed to enjoy them. When the candies were eaten, my mother would sometimes wash out the little tray and I’d flip it upside down and make it into a typewriter. Yes. I was THAT kid.

Blow Pops: OK, confession time: I hadn’t actually eaten a Blow Pop until I was a teenager. I SAW them on TV. I LOVED their Saturday-morning-between-cartoons timeslot. I ADORED the commercial with the kids all popping their Blow Pops and then saying “from Charms” at the end. I really wanted to try this lolly-gum mash up. Alas, neither the Hasty Market nor the local drug store had Blow Pops – or cheap knock-offs. I wasn’t /am not picky. Interesting factoid: when my BFF (Jay) ran for school president, we purchased a crap-ton of blue raspberry Blow Pops from the local No Frills (Malvern, represent! Also, why did you have so much wholesale candy for sale? Where did you get such a – wait, never mind. I know the answer already). Say what you will, but I’m 99% sure that free lollipops = votes for Jay.

Tootsie Roll – When I was nine, right before March break, I had the chicken pox – badly. VERY badly. I had an extremely high fever and was seriously not in my right mind. This wouldn’t have been a problem, had we not had train tickets to Ottawa the very next day. My dad wasn’t joining us (he had to work), so he thought it would be nice to pick up some candy for the trip. I was laying on the couch, hallucinating and staring at the moving shapes in our popcorn ceiling. Dad handed me a Tootsie Roll and I remember thinking, “Why is this kind stranger giving me candy?” Yup, didn’t even recognize my own Dad. Twelve hours later, we were on our way to Ottawa to give the cousins chicken pox. (Back in the day, that’s what you did. If you got the ‘pox, you spread the love.) You’re welcome, cousins.

Push Pop: These were amazing. Mom was not a fan, of course, because they were sticky and kind of gross when you pushed them back down, after slorping them for an hour or so. And, truth be told, I never actually FINISHED a Push Pop. It was a one-time deal. After that, it was too gross for me, too.

Smarties: Alright, let me just have a moment of real talk here: the Smarties of today are NOTHING like the Smarties of my youth. Yes, they’re still pretty decent. Yes, they’re still OK to snack on. BUT they taste weird. All this ‘natural colouring’ business has made them taste different. Heck, I’ve been eating Smarties so long, I remember a time pre-blue-Smartie. The colours were red, orange, yellow, green, purple, pink and TWO shades of brown (light and dark). I could close my eyes and put a Smartie in my mouth and tell you what colour it was based on how chemically it tasted. And THEN, when I was eight, they created a blue Smartie. And not just ANY blue – the brightest, most neon blue you could imagine. And I LOVED it. To an absurd degree. And I’m still sad they don’t make them anymore. Chemicals-shemicals. I want me some late eighties Smarties goodness. Epilogue: My grandma used to buy movie-sized boxes/bars of candy (Smarties being popular among her stash) and I used to eat them by the handful, pretending they were peanuts and I wasn’t fatally allergic. Hey, a girl can dream.

Rockets/Rocket Cocaine: As you might remember from a previous entry, when I was a kid my dear friend Stephy used to crush up Rockets and make ‘cocaine’ to wear in a vial around her neck. And I didn’t honestly realize how absolutely not normal this was until I left the ‘vern and worked with a class of fifth graders who did not make their own cocaine.

Bubble Tape: My mother had a pretty serious addiction to Bubble Tape for many years. When I was a kid, it was a rare treat, but when I was in my twenties, it wasn’t uncommon for Mom to chew a roll every couple of days. Fortunately, she’s given up the tape addiction. Which is good, because we were getting ready to stage an intervention.

Seedling Gum: Remember Beaver Lumber? No? Well, I do. It was the place I went to with my dad pretty much any weekend he was home from 1985-1987. And after traipsing through aisle after aisle of lumber, timber, wood bits, tools and random flotsam, I was rewarded with a nickel. And do you know what I did with that nickel? I spent it as soon as we hit the gumball machines! And I always got seedling gum. My favourite was the strawberry, but truthfully they were all delicious. I mean, really? A hollow gumball full of little candy seeds? Does life get any better than that? For 5-7 year old Jess, the answer is clearly a solid no.

Candy Buttons: A Limerick
They’re really as cute as a button,
But they’re not entirely dandy,
Because it’s quite the caper,
To not eat the paper,
And just eat up the candy.

Bubblegum Ice Cream: Maybe I’m the only person in the (adult) world who likes bubblegum ice cream. Maybe NO ONE in their right mind would first eat the brilliantly pink, sickly sweet ice cream only then to devour a pile of partially frozen gum pieces. But bubblegum ice cream is my favourite Baskin Robbins flavour. And you can judge all you want (go ‘head), but I’ll be too busy chomping my giant gum wad to care.

Dina-Sour Eggs: I can still taste these egg-shaped jawbreakers. Their taste will be with me until the day I die. Kenneth really liked these candies as well, and we both had our favourite ‘starting flavour’ (the colour of the egg). I was a fan of red or yellow, he liked purple or orange. It didn’t matter because the flavour changed in, like, five seconds (and they all tasted similarly vaguely sweet), but whatever. The egg part in the centre was always a *bit*disappointing. I found it really sour and kind of like powder and why wasn’t it just a cute little gummy dinosaur like I thought it should be?

Egg Carton Gum: This Easter-time candy was a favourite of my childhood. Not that we had it at home, but a friend (maybe the neighbours?) gave us these tasty little egg-shaped gumballs. They were pastel! They came in a tiny egg carton! I used it later to pretend my Barbie dolls bought eggs! Easter was always the BEST time for candy.

Freezies: For two summers, I was good friends with a little girl who lived right down the street. Laurie was a bit of a weird kid, but heck, so was I. She was small and feisty and her older sister was obsessed with Anne of Green Gables, circa Megan Follows (ditto). Anyway, Laurie’s mom always stocked freezies and Laurie was kind about sharing. My mom literally NEVER stocked freezies (although we did have the standard orange-purple-pink popsicle trio). I loved white and blue freezies (they were the best by far). Eating either flavour now takes me right back to being seven. Or being pregnant, as I was also extremely dependent on freezies for my liquid intake. (Yay for almost having hyperemesis gravidarum! Twice!) Unrelated side note: many moons ago, Karl and I created an alcoholic drink with a blue freezie base. We call it a Frozen Smurf and it’s basically blue freezie + blue Curacao + vodka. Karl made me one once and, after drinking it, I slept for four hours. #lightweight

Kinder Surprise Eggs: A Poem
You’re such a big part of my life,
My sweet little Kinder egg,
My kids really love chocolate,
It’s you for whom they beg.
They enjoy eating your shell,
But the thing they love always,
Is the semi-crappy toy inside,
That’s broken after two days.

Double Lollies: These were just giant rockets, yes? We can all agree on that, right? Which is why they were so disappointing as lollipops. They had a weird drying effect on my lips and they were sort of tart and didn’t taste that good and…why are they on my list again? Right! Because they were really cute and pastel-coloured and I was OBSESSED with pastels. Like, REALLY obsessed. I had this pastel-bead bracelet when I was 10, and it was my most prized jewelry possession for awhile. It lives in my purse now, for luck.

Cotton Candy (a poem):
My favorite cotton candy was pink,
But I couldn’t get quite enough,
No, I never ate it,
Mom would just take it,
And snarf every sugary puff.

M&Ms: OK, so these guys kind of belong in the ‘deadly’ section, but I’m giving them a pass because they remind me of one of my dearest friends who is kind of obsessed with M&M-themed items. (Shout out to Marlie!) But seriously, guys? In the eighties, M&Ms were all kinds of dangerous for an anaphylactic chick like me. I had SO many minor reactions to these little demons. These days, it’s all “peanut free” this and “no nuts allowed” that. In the eighties it was all “good luck eating these candies, I hope you don’t die Jess.”

Beanos: Oh, man. Don’t make me tell you about Beanos again. Just go here, kiddos.

Jellybeans: When I was in high school, I was the editor for the paper (Smoke Signals). I was kinda not super qualified for this role, but neither was anyone else, so there you go. I was willing to work hard/work late/hang up newspapers at all hours of the day and night. (Fun fact: we just printed out the pages and hung them around the school on the walls because we didn’t have the budget/interest from the students to make the paper an actual, you know, newspaper.) ANYWAY! My staff sponsor was my English teacher/the director for all the plays. Mr. Lalor! He looked like Santa and he was a genuinely good person. I called him Uncle John, because a friend of mine had the same last name as he did and she called him Uncle John. So. Jellybeans! Right. Mr. Lalor LOVED jellybeans. But he especially loved the black and red ones, which are actually my least favourite colours. He’d eat the dreadful colours and I’d eat the rest and we’d use the sugar rush to push through the final columns and get the paper up on the walls, ready for defacing the next day.

Quizmo Candy: Mrs. McKercher was my fifth grade teacher. Everyone called her Mrs. McCreature (behind her back) because she was weird. Really weird. One perk of being in her class, however, was the fact that she played this game that was basically math-based-bingo and gave out candies to the winners. And not just a Smartie here and there, but real, choke-hazard hard candy. I think I earned, like, two throughout the year. This other girls, Olivia, however, earned so much candy that she had a special shoebox in her desk and it was filled to the absolute BRIM with candy. That taught me two things:
1. If only I had a math brain, I would also have tasty candy.
2. It’s a total status symbol to have a shoebox of candy in your desk when you’re 10.

Hugs: When these little striped Hershey kisses came out, my mind was blown. Like, blown. They have STRIPES. Of white chocolate! They were absolutely delicious, and every time we went to Ottawa, we’d stop in Smiths Falls at the Hershey factory (now closed!) and buy our molecular weight in chocolate.

Gumballs (pastel & regular): Three things you should know about gumballs and Jess:
1. I love gumballs to an absurd degree. When I was in fifth grade, a pretend secret admirer (revealed later to be my friends Steph and Linda) sent me gumballs as presents. Also, bouncy balls. I loved both, but gumballs were the true path to my heart.2. My childhood BFF (the elusive Lindsay) had a gumball machine in her house that was ALWAYS stocked with gum.  Whenever I’d go to her house, I’d kind of hope that she had a spare nickel    and I could get myself a gumball or two. Or three. Yes, you had to PAY money to get gum from         her machine…but it was worth it. Anything for gumballs.3. When I was in sixth grade, I had a surprise birthday party. For some reason, I sorta knew about it and helped make the treat boxes. I have no idea how that happened, except that my   mom is horrible at keeping secrets. Anyway, I chose pastel gumballs as my centrepiece. Pastel. Gumballs. The perfect marriage of 11-year-old Jess’ favourite things. OMG. They didn’t taste  GREAT, but the cute factor outweighed any issues I had.

Candy watch: A poem
Candy watch, I wore you often,
In my youth and my prime,
Though you were good to taste,
It was kind of a waste,
Because you never told the right time.

Pez: When I was growing up in Malvern, we had really awesome neighbours. (Except for the drug dealer on the corner. He wasn’t great.) The couple across the street (Val and Arnie Cooper) had two boys (Martin and Steven) and both boys were of the teenaged variety at that point in time. Enter Kenneth and Jess: cute, small, spunky – mostly delightful. Val kind of LOVED us and at one point mentioned this fantastic candy she had when she was little and she wanted to get us some. She never really established a timeline for this candy-giving, nor did she really explain what kind of candy we would be getting, so we were left to wonder. And ask her about it every single time we saw her (sometimes multiple times a day). Poor Val. I would apologize, if I knew how to reach her. Anyway, one day she called us over to her driveway and she gave us…Pez! Kenneth got Kermit and I got Miss Piggy and four little packs of tablets (grape, cherry, lemon, orange) and I was honestly in heaven. As soon as I loaded my little pink Pez dispenser and figured out the mechanics, I proceeded to snarf down all four packs within two days. I was buzzed on sugar and Val became my all-time favourite neighbour.

Coffee Crisp: A Haiku
Chocolate layers,
You were my poppa’s favourite,
Straight from the freezer.

Easter Egg with Your Name: Remember back when Allan’s candy made really good hollow Easter eggs? Y’know, the big milk chocolate ones with a royal icing rose or chicken on top? Then your mom would make royal icing and pipe your name on top too? And you’d feel so special because your egg SAID YOUR NAME. Ah, those were the good ol’ days.

Eggies: Let me just say three things about Eggies:
1. They are damn delicious and addictive.
2. They used to be even more damn delicious and addictive when the chocolate was better and the candy coating was thicker.
3. They were instrumental in potty training both of my daughters (I’m all for bribery, what can I say?)

Chlorophyll Gum: When I was in grade nine, my friend Stephy was OBSESSED with this gum flavour. I have no idea why, because the gum itself was dark green and, honestly, pretty darn awful. I think it was more the fact that you were chewing on, like, plant blood or something. I don’t know. Maybe it was just that annoying part of adolescence where you insist on liking weird stuff that other people don’t understand.

Pick your own chocolates: I think I’ve covered the awesomeness that is the Laura Secord pick-your-own box. If you missed it the first time, check it out here!

Junior Mints: Is it just me, or does the ‘coating’ on Junior Mints not really qualify as chocolate? I mean, it’s chocolate-coloured, but it’s…sort of waxy? Like, if you melted a dark brown crayon and dipped mint fondant into it, it would probably taste the same way. Nonetheless, these were great for movies, if for no other reason than there were a lot of them and you could make them last for two hours. (Shout out to Alydia and my peeps who snuck bulk barn candy into the STC movie theatre!)

Sugar Daddy: A Haiku
Rectangle of goo,
On a stick, like a sucker,
My fillings are gone.

Licorice: I believe there are two types of people in the world: people who love fresh licorice and people who let their licorice ripen and harden and enjoy the gum-cutting goodness of a stale licorice whip (me). I guess there are also people who like only black licorice and think red is just a weird candy that stole the licorice name. And then there are those who like salted licorice. OK, fine. There are a lot of different types of people in the world.

Maple Ice Cream Cone: Does anyone else remember these? They were tiny ice cream cones filled with what was sort of fudgy-maple-caramel…hard on the top, slightly chewy underneath. The cones were stale about 99% of the time. But damn. They were tasty. My neighbours (big ups to the Bissonnette family!) always had the most delicious and strange candies. Richard, the dad, worked as a manager at KMart, and he had access to candy that I never saw anywhere else. Another interesting one he had? Marshmallow banana things. I’m not even sure how to describe them, except “styrofoam-esque.”

Beer Nuts: A Short Poem
Almond beer nuts, I love you,
Your sweet crunchy shell,
But if you’re secretly peanut,
You can go right to hell.

Jordan Almonds: Another Short Poem
Jordan almonds, so pretty,
So pastel and sweet,
To eat you, delicious!
You are quite the treat.
However, I must say,
I don’t enjoy in the least,
When your crunchy coating,
Chips all my teeth.

Kraft Caramels: I know, intellectually, that these are terrible for your body and teeth. I know these caramels should be eaten, at most, once a year at Halloween when they’re used to coat apples and make them 100% less healthy. I get it. But daaaaang, these are some good caramels. And don’t try and offer me any Bulk Barn knock-offs because I am not here for that. Kraft or nothing, peeps.

Chocolate Chips: When I was six, I had a boyfriend named Jeff. We went ‘steady’ for three years (grades 1-3) until he moved. I was kind of heartbroken. Jeff was always so kind to me. Not that we didn’t fight. We did. One especially memorable argument involved me telling him he was bossy and couldn’t tell me what to do (I wanted to read a book at the Big Park, he wanted to, you know, play at the park). Anyway, to make it up to him, I grabbed a handful of chocolate chips from the glass bear-shaped jar and we sat on the curb and at them as they melted into my hand.

Tubblegum: I admit it: this was one of those things Mom was right about. Toothpaste gum? It sounds like a legit disgusting idea. And it was. But I REEEAAALLLY wanted to try it, so I convinced my mother to get me a tube. It literally disintegrated as soon as it hit my tongue. It tasted so nasty. But I had to pretend it was good. I had nagged far too much to admit I was wrong.

Rittersport: When I was in grade 11, I went on a band trip to Germany (with stops in Switzerland and Austria). It was amazing for three main reasons:
1. Traveling with your fellow band geeks is waaaay more fun than traveling with your parents.
2. Getting ditched on top of a mountain with one of my best friends and her sister, our amazing teacher and our student teacher and having to walk down asking random Germans walking UP the mountain about whether they’d seen a bunch of teenagers wearing unflattering red and black band coats in broken German was hilarious. As was singing the *entire* score of The Sound of Music as we walked.
3. Rittersport for breakfast.I was bus-buddies with one of my dear friends (shout out to Khary!) and he and I indulged in a *little* chocolate. And by *little* I mean *crap ton.* We ate Kinder Surprise sticks/eggs for breakfast. Peppermint Rittersport for lunch. Coffee Rittersport for snack. Rittersport for everything! If you haven’t tried a Rittersport, let me fill you in on what you’re missing: it’s a 4×4 square of smaller squares of dark chocolate (usually…sometimes milk chocolate, but don’t waste your time with that) filled with something delicious. If you want the best, go peppermint and never look back.

Mr. Peanut Bar: My grandmother didn’t tell many stories of her youth, but one that she told many a-time took place when Blackstone, the magician, happened to be swinging through Ottawa. Grandma was in the audience and she saw a kid (in some versions, she was the kid…or her sister…but in the one I remember, it was a random kid). Grandma said that Blackstone asked the kid to think of the thing they most wanted. The kid thought really hard and then…Blackstone produced a Mr. Peanut bar. The kid was thrilled and was all “OMG, you were right, Mr. Magician person! Now I have a bar full of peanuts to eat! Best. Day. EVER!” (I might be taking some liberties with that last part, but the point was: the kid was super-happy because who wouldn’t want a bar full of tasty peanuts. Oh, wait. Don’t answer that.) Side note: I always wondered why the kid didn’t think of, I don’t know, a new house or a million bucks or something. I guess that’s why an adult didn’t get to think of what they wanted.

Almond Joy: Sometimes you feel like a nut. Sometimes you don’t. I never feel like a nut unless it’s an almond. Which, in the case of Almond Joy, it is! Mounds are also delicious, but Almond Joy are outstanding. Jay always sang the Almond Joy jingle to me and it never failed to amuse me. What can I say? I’m an easy audience.

Fruit Rollup Cutouts: Do you guys remember these? Fruit Rollups with a design in them! The goal was to pull out the shapes and eat them. The problem was the fact that Fruit Rollups are super-sticky and the shape never came out cleanly and…well, everything was mostly a blob. But still! Tasty. Peach and strawberry were the best, bar none. I remember being in junior kindergarten and having one of these dental nightmares for a snack. For some reason, known only to little Jess, I decided to paste the Rollup on my hand and lick it. So it would make some kind of Fruit Rollup glove then I could then devour? I don’t know the logic behind my actions, but it was along those lines. Anyway, when my beloved kindergarten teacher, Mrs. Sawision, found me with a guilty/bewildered face and a peach-coloured, gooey hand she sent me to the bathroom to scrub with those awful scratchy school paper towels. The moral of the story? Just eat your Rollups normally, dummy.

All Sorts: OK, to be fair I hate black licorice. BUT also to be fair, my poppa LOVED it. In fact, he loved All Sorts and often had a pocketful of them. I liked the way they looked. I liked their bright colours. I liked pretending they tasted like flavours like vanilla or chocolate. But I did NOT like licorice. So I never actually ATE one. I just admired them from afar.

Bubblegum Juice: OK, OK so it’s not actually JUICE, but it was bubblegum in a juice container! And, unlike the other presentation A+, taste F-, bubblegum juice gum was delicious. And you could use the little container after to make your stuffed bears appear to have a healthier lifestyle than you do.

Ovation: Do you remember these kinda elongated, hard After Eight wannabes? They were around at Christmas and they were relatively good…and, fun side story, they totally ended up breaking off many brackets of my braces over the holidays one year. I had to swear to my orthodontist that I hadn’t been eating gum or chomping on rocks or anything untoward. After my nearly-tearful confession (he was a tough guy, that orthodontist), he was all, “Meh, I didn’t think the glue set properly on those brackets.”
Say what, now?

Pixie Stix: The first time I ever had Pixie Stix, I was six and it was GIGANTIC. Like, one of those mega-straws full of unnaturally coloured sugar (I think mine was vibrant yellow and vibrant pink). I was with my aunt and cousin and although she was three years my junior, she seemed to be far more aware of the awesomeness of Pixie Stix. I honestly had no idea it was all sugar…and after I tried it, I was equal parts grossed out and in love. I didn’t eat another Pixie stick for about ten years after that.

Popsicle Pete: OK, so Kenneth and I were kids when the whole “collect popsicle sticks with points on them and then send them to Popsicle Pete HQ and trade them for prizes” promotion was featured on YTV. And when PJ Fresh (Phresh?) Phil told you to do something, you did it. So we spent a summer eating popsicles and collecting the sticks with numbers on them. Sure, we could’ve traded them in for a yo-yo here and there…but why? We wanted to save up for the BIG prize – a bike! Or, you know, fifty yo-yos. The only thing was, the promotion ended as we continued to collect points. Our currency was worth nothing. We had a fortune in popsicle sticks. Life lesson learned: cash in your points when you get a chance.

Tootsie Pop: Can I be honest here, fam? I don’t love Tootsie Pops. I know, I know. Sacrilege. But I just can’t deal with the ‘TOOTSIE’ part of the pop. And, truthfully, the ‘pop’ part ain’t that great either. Overall, I would feign enthusiasm if I ever got one of these suckers, but on the inside I would totally be shaking my head and wondering about the candy-giver’s taste in sweets.

Lucky Elephant Pink Popcorn: I think I only ever had this once or twice, courtesy of our awesome neighbours, but it stuck with me for life. I can still taste the odd-crunchy-popcorn flavour. You know a candy is something special/incredibly strange tasting if it sticks with you for over 30 years.

Butter Rum Lifesavers: Remember those Lifesavers ‘books’ you’d get at Christmas? They’d have eight rolls in them. The best, best, best flavour was bubblegum Lifesavers (this doesn’t exist anymore). In the Lifesaver book, I was a HUGE fan of spearmint, peppermint and that other clear one…like, Ice Mint or something? Anyway, mint. I hated Butter Rum with a fiery passion. It tasted like mushrooms. And if you know me, you know my feelings on mushrooms.

Wax Bottles (NickLNip): This was another candy introduced to me by the Ottawa relatives. I was at my aunt’s house and she gave me a little wax bottle full of…red? I had no idea what to do with it. Did I squish it? Did I eat it? Did I…uh…put it in my pocket and forget about it? She explained that one was meant to nibble the top off the bottle, suck back the contents and then chew up the wax. I was onboard until the final step. A mouthful of tasteless wax is really, really gross.

Dunkaroos: When I was in high school, I had hella bad stomach problems which I later realized were just endometriosis problems, but that’s neither here nor there. (But if you wanna talk endo, I’m your chick. Just sayin’.)Anyway, for some reason my mother figured that by giving me all kinds of simple carbs and sugar-filled foods, my stomach would be healed. So Dunkaroos were a regular staple in my lunch. And for snacks during play rehearsals. My friend (shout out to Ty) used to obsess over them, so I’d share these icing-covered-cookie monsters with him and stave off cavities just a little bit longer.

Sour Keys Large: Jay and I used to get candy on the regular. One of his favourites was large Sour Keys. He would always pick up one or two from the little box on the counter at whatever 7-11 we were frequenting (usually for cigarettes for him). These days, you won’t catch Jay near a cigarette or a Sour Key, but they will always remind me of our late teens/early twenties when we were younger and more carefree.

Stroopwafels: You know what’s delicious? Cookies. Also, caramel. And waffles. OK, now imagine a cookie-like waffle (it’s waffle-ish in taste and shape, but cookie-ish in its chewiness) sandwiched together with caramel. And that’s a Stroopwafel. How does someone like me know about something like this? When I was in grade nine, the band went to Holland. I didn’t know anyone in the music room very well when the money was due, so I missed out on this *epic* trip. I regret that enormously. BUT I don’t regret learning about the delicious Dutch treat known as Stroopwafels. If you ever get a chance, pick up a pack. (They used to be available at Morningside Mall’s European-bakery-kinda store…but they tore the mall down and now it’s a Starbucks and what’s even happening to my old ‘hood?) Have them with some nice strong coffee. You can thank me later.

Glossettes: Know what’s like playing Russian roulette? Eating Glossette raisins and not knowing if one of them is a Glossette peanut in disguise! Ha ha! Get that Epi-pen handy because you might (or might not) need it, girlfriend! And all for what? Chocolate-coated raisins which are usually stale anyway? These candies weren’t just disappointing, but they were also terrifying. Boo!

Mr. Misty/DQ Kiss: This was a thing that you could get in the Ottawa mini-Dairy-Queen location. (Apparently it was called Mr. Misty. I always called it a kiss. I don’t know.) It was a sort of popsicle-push-pop dealie. The popsicle wasn’t exactly hard; more like if you took a slushie and made it slightly less slushy and slightly more frozen. Anyway you cut it, the lime ones were terrific. My poppa took us to the DQ often and he didn’t even freak out when I spilled most of a Mr. Misty on his car’s plush interior.

Maple Candy: My mother has a *slight* obsession with these delicious maple sugar leaves. OK, so I do too. They are the most quintessentially Canadian thing you can put in your mouth. Well, except maybe beaver tails. (Which I had to explain to my girls recently. You know, that they’re doughnuts with sugar and cinnamon, not actual tails from large rodents.) Or, like, poutine. Or buttertarts. Anyway, the point is Canada has some damn delicious foods, but these candies are perhaps the best.

Maple on Snow: Have you ever been to Quebec City? Jay and I went when we were young and unencumbered. We ate at this restaurant that served a dessert that was the most maple-y thing I’ve ever eaten. It was a crepe stuffed with maple cream, topped with maple syrup and whipped cream with maple sugar on top. It was *maybe* even too sweet for me. Maple syrup on snow, though? No. It’s the best thing in winter. Funny side-story: when I was in grade eleven, we had an exchange with the German band we visited in Lindau. They came back to Canada and I had the pleasure of hosting the adorable Martin and Philip. Their English was so-so and my German was and is terrible. We mostly communicated in broken French. Anyway, one day we were having pancakes and we offered them maple syrup. Apparently that’s not really a German thing, because they had no idea what we were talking about. We gave them some and they were SO grossed out. We explained it’s kind of like tree blood (we couldn’t figure out how to say ‘sap’ in French) and they were SUPER grossed out. To that, I say: aspic. That is what my dinner was buried under one night in Germany. So. You know. Grain of salt.

Soft Mints: My grandmother had a candy collection to rival that of any good confectionary. Yes, despite being rather salty herself, she had a killer sweet tooth. One thing she had in abundance was soft mints. You know the ones; they’re white, wrapped in white and green paper. They’re super-sweet and kind of hard on the outside, soft on the inside. I am not ashamed to say that when I attended drama camp as a ten-year-old, I unabashedly requested handfuls of these suckers with my lunch. Which, on reflection, was an unrefrigerated ham sandwich. I guess I should’ve requested Pepto Bismol as well.

Pillow Mints: Know one of the things I’m looking most forward to about getting old? Eating hard candies with abandon. And pillow mints, although not terribly hard, definitely fall into the ‘preferred by the elderly’ category. They’re so weirdly minty and spearmint-y and lemon minty (why is that even a thing). Anyway, if you’ve never tried them and you want to set your inner octogenarian free, I can only recommend you pick up a bag of these little sweeties.

Candy Shells/Rocks: When I was at Disney World for the first time (I was eight) we went to the big candy store on Main Street. We were told that we could get any candy we wanted. I was just like a kid in a…well, you get the idea. Kenneth chose Runts. I had a much harder time. I figured I should choose something local…something from Florida. When in Rome, right? So I found this clear, square container of candy seashells. They were SO CUTE. There were a few rocks in there too, for a truly beachy feel. I glued my favourite one in my scrapbook (where it still remains) and ate waaay too many myself. About halfway through the container, I started sharing them with whoever expressed any kind of interest. Truthfully? They weren’t very tasty. 100% for style, 60% for execution.


Whew. That was an insane tour of my very sugar-filled life.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to chew my weight in gumballs.

Hey, some things never change.

Life Lesson #53: You only have one chance to make a first impression. Unless the person forgets you, and then you can totally make a second impression. But that’s it. No third impressions.

I’m sure you’ve noticed that April’s weather has been…how shall we say…absolute crap. I’m a huge fan of spring, so this has irked me like few things can. (Real talk: lots of things irk me. People being super-late. Germs. Lying. Super-late lying germs. You get the idea.) Anyway, since the weather outside was frightful, I decided to clean my office.

You guys, I think I’m a hoarder. Or at least I have hoarder tendencies. For reals.

Karl has always suggested that this is true (it first came up when we cleaned out the storage room in the basement. I pared down about 12 large Rubbermaid containers to a far more manageable 11).

I think he’s right. Gah. It pains me to say that. It pains me more to type it and know it will exist on the interwebs for all eternity. Karl. Was. Right.

Anyway, over the course of this ill-fated weekend, I managed to stumble upon even more journals/diaries/reams and reams and reams of paper with my scribblings on them.

(I seriously owe the forests of tomorrow quite a few trees. Note to self: buy seedlings.)

I found this absolutely *delightful* journal of my writing from grade 4-5. Are you ready to take a trip back to 1989-1990? Are you ready to learn about some sweet baby-sitting techniques from someone who had, at that point in time, never babysat anyone in her life but had read many, many, many Babysitters Club books? Are you ready to learn about what was fashionable in my mind in those days?

If you answered yes to any or all of those questions, read on, fair reader! Read on! (Or, you know, just head over to the ol’ couch and binge on some Netflix. Here’s your chance to leave gracefully. Still here? OK. Don’t say you weren’t warned.)

Let’s start with an intro. I have absolutely NO idea why I felt compelled to introduce myself every time I began a new book of writing, but there you go. This one’s a doozy:

All About Me (chapter 1):

“Well, there are a few things you should know about me. For instance, that I’m 9 years old and have brown hair and green eyes. Oh, by the way, my name is Jessica. As you can tell by my description, I’m not very attractive.”

Er…OK, so here’s the thing: you AREN’T very attractive, dear Jess. Things will improve somewhat in time, but for now, you’re not wrong. But your description is so non-descript that it’s just painful. Let me show you what I mean (you’re a visual learner):

I’m the least-fashionable one. Which one is that? You choose!

See? Work on that. Be more…descriptive…in your description.
Moving on. Same introduction, bear in mind:

“I live in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. I’m in grade 4. It was our March break and I’m just about to go back to school. I was visiting Ottawa for March break and I spent all of this afternoon frantically calling my best friend but she was not home. Then I remembered I forgot my budgie, Polly’s birthday because I was away on March break. So all afternoon, I decorated his cake. It was delicious.”

I have notes.

You’re all over the place, girlfriend. First, you’re on March break. Then you’re frantically calling the probably-at-a-rink-or-some-nonsense-BFF, then you suddenly remembered your bird’s birthday and, in typical Jess-style, decided to whip him up a birthday cake.

“I forgive you for forgetting me!”

1. Why did you make a bird a birthday cake?
2. Why did you call someone ‘frantically’? Like, were you on fire/being attacked by a large peanut?
3. Did anything of note happen on March break?
4. I’m still stuck on the bird cake thing.

Chapter 2: The Summer Vacation: Part 1 – Ottawa

“Well, it was approximately 11:21 AM and we were halfway to Ottawa (in Kingston). And I promised myself I’d write in here, so if anything exciting happens today, I’ll write. Here’s a basic picture of the scenery:

I call it ‘boring.'”

I agree, young Jess. Your scenery picture was terrible, btw. Like, your trees are barely recognizable. I guess it makes sense, though, because you get so carsick if you read or write in the car.

Chapter 3: Friday
“I know I didn’t write on Thursday, but that’s because nothing happened. Well, it was Poppa’s birthday. Today, all we did was shop at Carlingwood Mall. I got a pair of Reebox for $28 and we didn’t even know the people.”

A few things:
1. Sorry about dismissing your birthday, Poppa. You always loved the lawn flamingoes we ordered and how we pretended you were still 39.
2. Carlingwood is, as far as I know, the only predominantly carpeted mall in the greater Ottawa area. If you fall down, it won’t hurt. If you drop pizza on the rug, you’ll have to leave.

3. The comment about Reebox made me laugh. In the ‘vern, you had hookups. Always hookups. And you had to know peeps to get those hookups. So to get a cheap pair of (potentially knock-off?) shoes when you didn’t even know the person selling them was something to note. In your badly written journal.

Chapter 4: GUESS WHAT?!!?


Chapter 5: Babysitting

“Oh boy, what a babysitting experience. We all went skating with our first grade reading buddies and I swear I spent more time in the change room than on the ice.”

I remember this trip. I remember helping kids with lacing up their skates (hence the “spent more time in the change room” comment). I remember my reading buddy being really bad at skating. I remember feeling pretty good about my skating skills. It was literally the ONLY time in school I felt I had any ‘athletic’ prowess over anyone else. Probably should’ve noted that.

Chapter 6: Dressing for Babysitting

This chapter needs no words. Just really, really badly drawn pictures.

I call the first one “fancy baby-sitting” and the second one “baggy-sitting.”

Chapter 7: Back to School

This is what 10-year-old Jess thought you might wear to a back-to-school occasion of some sort. Potentially a costume party set in the 1870’s? What’s with the half-glasses? What of them?!

Chapter 8: Road to Avonlea
“Road to Avonlea is a wonderful show. It’s a take-off of Anne of Green Gables. It’s partly filmed in Pickering and partly filmed in PEI (that’s Prince Edward Island). It supposedly takes place in PEI. I wrote to the Avonlea fan club and received a letter from Sarah Polley, the main character who plays Sara Stanley. In the show, Sara moved from Montreal to Avonlea because she had relatives there. Sara and her cousins, Felicity, Felix and Cecily, have many exciting adventures. There are lots of other characters in the series, like Colleen Dewhurst who plays Marilla. All the younger actors and actresses have tutors who travel along with them and teach them on the set when they’re not filming. I’m really disappointed that they’re having their season finale next week.”

Well, that was a whirlwind tour of Avonlea. Truth be told, I was a GIANT Road to Avonlea nerd. Years later, when I was in high school, my BFF (Jay) and our dear friend (Tyler) used to trek downtown to see a talk show hosted by Mag “Aunt Olivia” Ruffman from RtA. Jay had a HUGE crush on Mag and we legit had the best time at the tapings. Man, there are pictures somewhere…if only I could find them. Hopefully I’ll tackle that part of my hoard sometime soon.

It looked roughly like this.

Chapter 9: A poem about Halifax
“Halifax is not so far away,
You can get there many ways.”
1. Terrible poem.
2. Er…plane? Car? Train? End of list?

Chapter 10: Elvis
“Elvis is the king,
He lived where you look,
It is written about,
In many a book.”

1. What are you on, girl?

Chapter 11: Kings
“Where king and queen meet,
It’s not far away,
Maybe you’ll find them,
If you look someday.”

1. Were you writing a poetry-based treasure hunt or something? That’s the only reasonable explanation I can imagine. Or you’re writing while on some cheap, Steph-created, crushed-Rockets-cocaine. Maybe that? Probably that.

Chapter 11: Names I like
Note: I guess I was planning on having kids at some point? I mean, one never can be too prepared? But at 10? Even in the ‘vern, that was pushing it.


From this we can discern that:
a) I liked the Golden Girls
b) I was secretly 89 years old
c) I didn’t figure I’d need boys’ names (accurate!)
d) I’m such a giant nerd that I planned out potential kids’ names when I was a kid myself.
e) All of the above

(The answer is E)

And end of book. At the end of this particular volume, I ended up drawing more ‘fashionable’ ladies. Like, good lord. Girl, you ain’t no artist.

I think we’ve all learned something today: if you knew 9-10 year old Jess, let me apologize. If this notebook is any indication, I was weirder than I remember. Of course, I was also a really nice kid, so that probably outweighed some of the weirdness. I hope so, anyway. And if you didn’t know me at that particular juncture of my life, please don’t let this second impression overshadow the first one you had. Unless the first one was just awful, in which case: overshadow away!


Life Lesson #14: You can plan and plan all you want, but sometimes you gotta go with the flow.

Here’s something you might not know about me: I’m not exactly…what’s that word? Ah, right. Easy-going. On the surface, I try to be all, “Oh, sure! Whatevs! I’m not picky! I’m totally fine with changing plans and doing stuff in a different order than I was mentally planning on. Cool. Cool. COOOOOL.” But on the inside? I’m all “OMG, that’s NOT in the script!”


I’m working on it. And kids are helping! We had to move Lily’s birthday party (small though it was) not once but TWICE this year, due to endless kid-sickness. And my plan for a quiet Sunday a couple of weeks ago was totally thrown off when we took Lily to emergency for pneumonia. And then Vivi got sick, and then I got sick and then Karl got sick and for a few days we were just all so miserable and sick that it was…well, it wasn’t anything I had planned for.

So, along with stocking up on enough Purel  to disinfect an elephant, I’m also going to take a trip down memory lane to some plans in my past. Some went off without a hitch, some were somewhat ill-thought-out, and some were just…well, let’s just take a trip back to 1991 and find out what 11-year-old Jess had up her extremely un-stylish sleeve. For some reason, I have several entries about what my plans for various weekends were. Buckle up, kiddos.  Things about to get exciting up in here.

“My plans for the long weekend include:
Friday: Lindsay is coming over ALLLL day. Her mom is at work and her brother is at high school.
Saturday: I’m going to look for that pesky mouse (he was in my room). We don’t have the heart to trap him (he’s just a baby – so cute!)
Sunday: I’m going to my neighbour’s house (unless my dad happens to come home. Not much chance of that happening!)”

Whoa. Slow your roll, pre-teen Jess. Slow. Your. Roll. Best friend Friday, followed by mouse-hunting Saturday and THEN neighbour-visiting Sunday? Girl, you cray. That’s exhausting times, right there. Also, can I just give you a piece of advice from somewhat older-and-wiser Jess?
Here’s how mice work:


So you gotta trap that little bastard, is what I’m saying. (Side note: we had a couple of mice in our basement this year. I didn’t mess around. We had a guy in with traps ASAP and I caulked any and all entry point and we’ve been mouse-free since December. And WE SHALL STAY THAT WAY FOREVER. Because the mouse infestation of 1991-1992 BROKE ME mentally. I’m not even kidding.)

Mice trigger a certain kind of panic and fear that not many other things do. This was basically what happened:

There was  a mouse climbing my sweater in my closet. I was initially so shocked I couldn’t make noise. Then I screamed my brains out and ran from my room, throwing a match behind me and salting the earth so nothing ever could ever grow there again.

I saw a mouse crawling up through my vent. My mother said that was impossible. Dude who came to get rid of mice at our house this year said it was TOTALLY possible, and that’s normally how mice get around.

There was a mouse in my room who literally ran from one end to the other, over and over again all night long. I could hear it running and running…until it found the trap in the hall. Then snap. Oh, God. The humanity.

So I figured I’d move out at age eleven and just start a new life on a mouse-free continent (Antarctica?)

Moving on. Moving on quickly.

“My weekend plans are to work on my bookworm costume (have to have it ready for the dance), Lindsay and I are going to go skating (roller skating/roller blading) and I will wait for my dad to come home. He probably will because it’s Thanksgiving.”

Wow. OK, let’s unpack:

  1. Bookworm costume = appropriate for 3-4 year olds. 5-6 max. But 11? At a DANCE, no less? GURL, WHAT?
  2. Roller skating was totes my life. I loved it. I was good at it. Then I slammed myself backwards on the sidewalk (with no helmet, natch) and hurt my back in a way that still hurts today. So that dampened my spirits *slightly* toward roller skating. As for blading, I sucked at it. I always forgot the brake was on the back and ended up pitching myself forward onto various grassy/non-grassy embankments.
  3. Yeah, my dad traveled a lot. Like, a lot, lot. So whether he was home or not was always a crap shoot. Also, when he was home, he was usually asleep. So…I didn’t really see much of him from about 1985-2005. Maybe a bit of an exaggeration, but not much.

“This weekend is going to be fun! I’m going to a sale with Mom, then doing homework (not so fun, actually), and on Sunday I’m planning to veg in front of the TV ALL day. Sunday is a day of rest, after all!”

I have follow up questions:

  1. What sale? Car sale? Bake sale? This was in November, so I have to assume it was Christmas-related. But maybe not? Maybe it was on multicoloured stretch pants and matching shoes at Zellers? We will never know.

    I had so many Zellers pants. Don’t be jealous of my mad fashion skillz.
  2. Why do you need to rest? Your life consists of glitter glue, holding meetings for a baby-sitting club that has literally had zero paid jobs, getting your braces tightened and planning hideous themed outfits. Your life will never be this easy again.

Let me tell you what your weekends looked like a few years down the line.

Grade 11: Sew skirts for band with parents/Ms. Hart/other students, plan/edit next week’s newspaper, do homework (dear lord, do your homework), volunteer at information desk (at the hospital), hang out with friends, visit library and take out as many books as you can physically lift.


University, year 4: Plan lessons for first graders, tutor 2 kids, plan volunteer activities for the week (diagnostic kindergarten, preschool, grade 4), finish all papers that are due, read, read, read, contact friends and assure them you’re still alive

First year of work: Answer eighty-billion customer service emails all weekend. Return to work on Monday to regularly scheduled writing job.

Now: Play with children. Clean. Cook. Play with children. Contact family/friends and assure them you’re still alive. Play with children. Write stuff.  Take evening publishing course. Try to make something of publishing business. Collapse in bed at 10:00PM.

So enjoy your freaking youth, kiddo.

Speaking of the hospital (see: grade 11-12), I really ought to devote a whole entry to it. I volunteered there for a couple of years and it was nothing if not very educational, exciting, humbling and super-gross.

Just as an example, here’s a random 1997 summer day of delivering flowers (something I did, along with helping the elderly and, my favourite position of all, info desk biatch).

“Well, delivering flowers was a ton of fun. Three HUGE arrangements were delivered from a funeral home and Shalini and I had to arrange them so they looked moderately presentable. Almost 20 vases later, we had discovered that you shouldn’t take the main elevators to floor five because you’ll end up in a little steel room that you can’t get out of.”

Er, yes. There were all kinds of things like that to remember that I forgot about on the regular. I was not/am not/will never be destined to work at a hospital in a paid capacity, and I have endless admiration for those who do. Nurses/doctors/everyone who does hospital-related work are the bomb-shnizzle.

Also, interesting side-note, so many emergency cases came through the front door, right to the Info Desk, because Centenary’s “Emergency” sign was written in red printing on a dark brown background. Know what’s hard to read from any kind of distance? Red on dark brown. Yes. Not good planning. So I saw many a horrible injury/gross thing during my time.  Which I will detail in a future entry. With a barf bag handy.

Anyway, I got waaaay off topic, but that’s likely because I actually REALLY suck at going with the flow. I’m not sure this is a life lesson I can claim to have learned.  Let’s just call it a life lesson in progress.


Life Lesson #67: Even if you’re crafty, it doesn’t mean you wrap well. Or rap well, for that matter.


(More beats)

Now this is a story all about how,
My gifts look like they were trampled by a cow.
And I’d like to take a minute, just sit right down,
And by the time I’m done, you’ll wear a puzzled frown.

In east Scarborough, I was born and raised,
At the Big Park is where I spent most of my days,
Baking cookies and cakes, they were so cool,
Feeding my friends at my public school…

Ahem. Serious apologies to Will Smith. And also an open invite to my house for dinner anytime. Will, I loves you.

Ahem, ahem.

Anyway, yes. In news you won’t find surprising, I am not a great rapper (although I did impress a friend once by rapping along to Uptown Funk, but I think she was just super-sleep deprived thanks to her adorable baby and probably being overly generous in her praise). In news you might find surprising, I am also a terrible wrapper.

As in, my wrapping jobs look like they were done by:
* a blindfolded orangutan in a wind tunnel
* a distracted toddler wrestling a muddy dog
* a robot whose job it is to clean the floors, not wrap the gifts

You get the idea.

And the crazy part is, I’m crafty! I am, for reals! I love to sew and cut and paste and glitterify pretty much everything all day every day. I suggested to Karl that perhaps the reason for my ineptitude when it comes to wrapping gifts stems from the fact that they’re so temporary. People are just gonna tear off the wrapping and get to the good stuff inside, so why sweat the two seconds they’ll see it ahead of time (or, in the case of our house, the three weeks it will languish under the tree before someone opens it)?

And then Karl pointed out that I love to decorate cakes and cookies and really, how is dessert MORE permanent than gift wrapping? And I had to give the point to Karl, so it looks like he won this round. (Shakes fist)

Anyway, if you’re wondering what the secret is to making a gift look like it’s been tumbled in a washing machine before you give it away, wonder no more! Here, in eight handy steps, is how I wrap my gifts. You’re welcome.

First, obtain wrapping paper, scissors and clear tape.



Eyeball the size of the gift. Cut a piece of paper that will likely cover it.


Realize the paper is too small/the gift is too large. Glare at the stupid gift.


Add the too-small paper to the ever-growing pile of wrong-sized paper.


Cut a VERY generous piece of wrapping paper and then fold! Fold and tape for all your worth! Scrunch and fold and tape like no one’s watching!

And now, your gift looks like it’s been through some kind of major trauma. Put a bow on it and try to find its good side.


Put the whole mess into a gift bag and cover it with tissue paper. Encourage the recipient to open the bag in the dark/with their eyes closed.

When you give the gift, lie about who wrapped it. Blame the shoddy wrapping job on a child, young relative or pet.

And after all that, I think I’ve discovered the real reason I’m the worst at wrapping gifts. It’s because I’m super-excited to give the thing inside, and I don’t want to detract from its awesomeness with an overly awesome exterior.

Or maybe I just have questionable motor skills and hand-eye coordination when it comes to paper folding. Related: I also suck at origami.

Either way, I hope you have a wonderful holiday, whatever you celebrate. And if you don’t celebrate anything, enjoy a few mandatory days off of work! And if I’m giving you a present this year, just smile and nod along with me when I say Lily and Vivi wrapped it. It’ll be your gift to me.

Life Lesson #29: If it’s described as “terrorizing,” maybe don’t eat it. Also, peanuts. Avoid those too.

As many/most/some of you know, I have a love-hate relationship with most foods. That is, I love the ones that won’t kill me, and I’m not a HUGE fan of the ones that will. (Notable exception: I hate mushrooms. They won’t kill me, but I hate them.) Yes, I’ve been blessed with food allergies.

I hate you! Die, Jess!

When I was a kid, it was a novelty. When I was in elementary school I can only remember one other kid with food allergies to ANYTHING (I think hers was milk). These days, food allergies are everywhere! My daughter can’t bring peanut ANYTHING to school (which is fine by me), and the entire school is a nut-free zone. OMG, how I would’ve loved that when I was a kid. A safe, non-nut-filled environment in which to spend my days! I know there are those who are all, “Oh, you’ve got to learn to live with it, kiddo! In the REAL WORLD, no one will protect you, snowflake. You’ve got to learn to man up and deal with those peanuts in a strong, proactive and non-reactive way.”

To them, I say this: “Dude. There’s lots of time for kids to learn to deal with fatal allergies when they are in the world outside of school. But school should be safe. And sorry if Brayleigh/Aydan/Jaylan/Kaidyn can’t have their PBJ at lunch, but you can always feed them whatever the heck you want after school/on the weekends. And BT dubs, if YOUR kid had a fatal radish allergy or something, you’d be insisting on banning radishes, like, forevs.”

Every kid is Phayden these days.

When I was a kid, I had several food-based scares. And it’s all the scarier to look back on NOW, because I didn’t have an Epi-pen until I was in university. I depended on crushed Benedryl and a crap-ton of water to ward off any food reactions. (Why didn’t I have an Epi-pen? GREAT question. Mostly because my doctor at the time was a crackpot and just told me that I should “avoid nut-products and any kind of all-you-can-eat-buffet situations.” Thank you, Dr. McRisk-Taker.)

Ahem. Anyway, I’m not here to reflect upon the many times peanuts/their evil cohorts tried to hunt me down and thwart my attempts to live,* but instead I’m here to discuss that time I opened a milkshake restaurant.

Oh, yes. Hold on tight, kiddies. My milkshake brings ALL the boys to the yard. Wait…what?**

Now, to be fair, this wasn’t my first foray into food service. No. Not by a long shot.

“Today, I baked a cake for Uncle Phil. I THINK I might have put a few too many chocolate chips on it.” (Jess, circa 1989)
I recall this very clearly. It was one of those little mix cakes I used to get for Christmas. It did have far too many chocolate chips on it. I kind of went nuts. And…well…it was maybe a bit inedible (sorry, Uncle Phil).

“I gave my dad a bowl of chips…plastic ones! He thought they were real! Ha ha!” (Jess, circa 1986)

He probably would’ve eaten them  anyway. He likely just arrived home from gawdknowswhere and was really jet-lagged. So…sorry, Dad. Hope you enjoyed that dental work!

“I baked a LOT of sugar cookies today. Unfortunately, I didn’t realize that one of the pans had just come out of the oven. I grabbed it with my BARE hand, and I now have a HUGE burn on it. I couldn’t remember if you were supposed to put butter or ice on it, so I put both.” (Jess, circa 1992)

Um, no. Just ice. But good try.

Anyway, those were all nifty little jaunts into baking/making stuff for people. But my REAL love, when I was under 10, was milkshake creation. And so, without further ado, I present:

“Jessica’s Menu of Milkshake Delights.” (Circa 1990)

Now, sometimes in your life you find something that basically suggests you were predestined to do the job you ended up doing. My job in Webkinz World initially involved writing copy for plush pets, their tasty foods and various items you could purchase for your pet.  I found a type-written (as in, on a typewriter) menu that was basically a precursor to the work I’d eventually be paid for. And this trip down memory lane will prove that I was always meant to do that job:

“Visit Jessica’s restaurant and enjoy one (or many!) of these tasty delights!”

  1. Hawaii Cooler – This drink comes in a frosty cold glass. It is flavoured with coconut and even comes with a cluster of coconut and a cherry on top. It quenches your thirst and satisfies the traveler in you! One of our best sellers! (Oh, God. Little Jess, no one has even visited your restaurant at the time of this menu printing. If by ‘best-seller’ you mean ‘one that I like drinking the most,’ then fine. You’re right.)

  2. Peppermint Twist – Now here’s a shake with pizzazz! The amazing peppermint taste is one thing, but the candy cane at Christmas is another! So get off your chair and shake it! (OK, two notes: 1. You’ve never ‘shaken it’ in your life, darling. Unless ‘shake it’ refers to the inhaler you used to carry around. 2. Pizzazz? How old are you…10 or 70?)

  3. Almond Joy – Sure, you’ve seen the candy bar, but here’s real joy in this milkshake! This combines the amazingly pure taste of vanilla with that unique and wild taste of almond (comes with almond on top if requested and available). (Um, unique and wild? Almond? Girl, what? Also, why you playing with your life like that? You’re technically NOT allergic to almonds (only safe nut!), but why tempt fate? Cross-contamination is totally a thing, although they don’t really have a word for it in your world yet.)

  4. Nutty Crunch – A smooth creamy taste of vanilla blended with chopped nuts – a nut lover’s dream! Perfect for the nut in your life! (Nut types and flavours may vary. If you require specific nuts, please inform your server). (GIRL, WHY?! Y’all are going to DIE. Y’all need to wear gloves and a face mask when making this horrendous creation. NOT WORTH IT, GIRL!)

  5. Very Cherry – Wow! A real burst of fruit! A cherry-flavoured milkshake with REAL chopped cherries.* Yum! (*Maraschino cherries.)

  6. Snowstorm – A plain vanilla milkshake with sprinkles on top (may remove sprinkles if desired). Most children love this old-timer! (What kind of monster removes sprinkles from a milkshake?)

  7. Chocolate Chip- Our customers love this vanilla milkshake (also comes in chocolate). It’s a dream, mixed with fine, fresh chocolate! When they leave, they are often still singing “Chip, chip hooray!” (No one does this except you. This is why we can’t have nice things.)

  8. Shamrock Delight – With this mint green milkshake, you’re sure to have the luck of the Irish! Comes with pretend clover. If you are a lucky winner and receive a clover with four leaves, you’ll automatically win a prize (see your server for details). (Thankfully NO ONE ever ordered this, so I never had to come up with a prize. It likely would’ve been a gumball.)

  9. Christmas Carol – A red milkshake – comes with a candy cane or a cherry on top – not flavoured as anything in particular. Also, this comes with the words to one of your many favourite songs. (I’m guessing I meant “Christmas-related songs/carols,” but it wasn’t really clear. Also, how can something not be flavoured as anything? Perhaps there was a lot of water and…red food colouring?)

  10. Have a Heart – Yes, we’re also here for Valentine’s Day! Here’s something to get for the light of your life on that special day! A red coloured vanilla milkshake AND a coupon for your next milkshake – on us! (No one wants another milkshake, chica.)

  11. Chocolate Lover’s Dream AKA Easter Bunny – Yum! For all of you chocolate fans, this is for you! A creamy blend of chocolate eggs and chocolate chip swirl. This is truly the one for Easter. (Sounds yummy, not gonna lie.)

  12. Chocolate – Well, this is one of our oldest but sometimes the best seller of the month! (Welp, someone is never, ever gonna be a marketing expert. Like, for realsies. “Try this. It’s something that has been on the menu for a long time. It’s…you know, OK. Like, some months people like it a lot.”)

  13. The Terrorizer – The true freak of Halloween! This yellow milkshake will spoil anyone’s appetite after your server tells you what it’s made of! (Um…what? What the holy hell did you put in this milkshake, young Jess? Oh, just yellow food colouring? Just that? Welp. Good marketing, I guess. Forget what I said earlier.)

  14. The Secret Garden – This vanilla milkshake is covered in flowers! Oh no! What happened to the cook’s recipe book? (Er, how were you gonna pull this one off, J-Skillz? Like, paper flowers? Cookies? Um…real flowers? We didn’t have a TON of edible flowers nearby. I guess the dandelions on the hill behind the house? I think they spray those, though. Maybe not those.)

You can ALSO order EXTRAS!
* Chocolate Sauce
* Cherries
* Chocolate Chips
* Red
* Green
* Blue
* Yellow
* Orange
* Purple

(Um…they can be that colour? Or…the colours are…on the side? Er?)
Happy Drinking! (I’m sure many an alcoholic drink was consumed after visiting the Restaurant of Milkshake Delights)

* Every time I visited Ottawa, I had an allergic reaction. Two super-scary ones (one while my parents and Benedryl were away) and several minor ones. One at leadership camp. Many at home (including a very scary one that I honestly thought would be curtains for Jess). And THREE from effing Blizzards. Eff you, Dairy Queen! Clean your mixer better between Blizzards, dammit. Oh, also honey on “Honey Day” in first grade. Why honey day? I have no idea. But yes, you can be very allergic to honey. Like, REALLY allergic.


** I taught an all-boy grade five class in my final year of teacher’s college. Kelis'”Milkshake” was very popular at that point, and the boys would absentmindedly sing the song during recess. One day, one of the boys came up to me while I was on yard duty and said “Why does her milkshake bring all the boys to the yard? It must be a pretty tasty milkshake if that many boys like it.” I kind of paused and then another one of the kids said, “Wait, it’s not really about milkshakes, is it?” I pretended to see a fight breaking out between a couple of first-graders and ran for the hills.