December 28, 2012

winter wonderland

I tend not to be a big fan of winter - the daily grind of getting bundled up, cleaning snow off the car, and struggling to get hats, mitts, boots and coats on the girls - each of these things make the winter a little less fun. Granted, here in Southern Ontario we don't seem to have a winter filled with five months of snow these days, but staying warm on the commute to work, or turning the kids into tiny little snowmen for a quick trip to the store makes it feel like winter is never ending.

However, there's one thing that simply makes every chill, every frozen nose and every salt-stained pair of dress pants worth it: the delight of my children when they get to play in the snow.

With the chaos of Christmas behind us, we headed up to Northern Ontario to visit some of Cal's family for a couple days. Apart from a small dusting of the white stuff that fell on Christmas morning (beautiful!) we hadn't seen much snow around here, so needless to say Lady M was very excited at the prospect of getting decked out in her snowsuit and taking her sled for it's inaugural run this season.

Five hours later we were up north, though it was a bit late - and a bit cold - to venture out in the snow. So first thing the next morning the bundling began - several layers of clothes, boots, snow pants, mittens, neck warmers, hats and jackets on, and two little girls were ready to waddle outside into the snow.

Last year Lady A was quite little  during the wintertime, so she wouldn't remember much about her first toboggan ride. Who knows if at nineteen months this one will remain in her memory, but her smile was awfully bright as we pulled her around in her polar bear shaped sled. Up and down some small hills, and she was thrilled!

Perhaps the cutest part about her was the fact that once she was bundled she could barely more her arms and legs, and walked around with limited ability to bend! It didn't stop her, however, from checking out the white stuff and enjoying her time outside. 

Lady M hit a small milestone on our visit - taking her first snowmobile ride! And boy, was she excited. Cal's uncle pulled out his snowmobile and attached the little yellow GT Snow Racer to it, towing her around their front yard, up and down their very quiet, and snow-filled road. Each time she came past us she was literally grinning ear to ear. Something tells me she'll be talking about this experience for weeks, even months, to come.

Moments like this easily make me a fan of winter; can't say I'll feel the same in a couple weeks when I return to work after the holidays, and have to scrape the ice off my car, but I'll try to remember moments like this to keep it all in perspective.

December 16, 2012

the christmas elf

Oh, Elf on the Shelf. It seems that everywhere you turn across North America these days that young families have one of these little red-suited, big-eyed elves taking up residency in their home throughout the first 24 days of December.

Our elf came to us last year when Lady M was three years old. We had learned about the whole Elf on the Shelf concept the previous December when visiting family in Florida. My cousins had one for their son and they told me all about it, primarily sharing how excited their little guy became each morning when he would search the house for his elf. This simple concept remained with me all year, so I went out to get one last year when the Christmas season was approaching.

However, in just one short year it seemed to have grown from a small concept into quite the phenomenon because when my procrastinating self went to go pick up our elf on November 30th (yes, the night before he was supposed to hit the shelf), I was very hard-pressed to find one. Thanks to online searches, I located one of these coveted little guys at a mall nearby my home, called to put it on hold, and ran over to pick him up after work that day.

The next morning, that little elf joined our family. Lady A was only seven months old at the time so certainly didin't notice much of what was happening on the elf front, but Lady M was quite intrigued by this magical little cloth man who had inhabited our home, and who moved from place to place each night. Well, most nights. You see it was then that I learned of the seriously annoying part of this sweet Christmas tradition - moving the damn elf every night!! There were at least four mornings last December that Lady M woke up saying "hey mum...he didn't move!", to which I would have to respond "well, I guess he's just REALLY comfortable there", my guilty conscience plaguing me.

This year has brought a totally different elf experience to the table. Lady M, now four years old, is completely enthralled with Jingle, the name we have fondly coined for our elf this year. She finds him quickly each morning, and discusses the finer points of his landing spot. Lady A, at 19 months, surprises me each morning with her ability to spot Jingle and giggle at him. It's nice to see that they're both getting something out of it. And I'm pleased to report that I have only forgotten to move him one time in 16 days.

On the flip side, I think most parents are hard-pressed not to notice the smaller group of parents who go quite above and beyond with the elaborate elf on the shelf set-ups that they seem to be creating each night. The elf making snow angels in the flour laid out on the counter...the elf scaling the Christmas tree like it's Mount Kilimanjaro...the elf having a little tryst with a Barbie doll, or playing cards with the G.I. Joes. Honestly, some ideas are incredibly creative - and I'm all for creativity - but some are extreme! I get a kick out of looking at the many websites dedicated to overachieving elf on the shelf parents - if you haven't already, google it! You can enjoy silently mocking them (not that I do, of course).

In our home, the elf locations may be a little simpler, but the impact is great. Beautiful smiles first thing in the morning, laughter at the funny, smiley little elf, and the happiness that exudes from my daughters. To me, that little elf has become just one of many wonderful family traditions.

November 28, 2012

french braids

I have a pretty fabulous husband. I probably don't tell him nearly enough, and with kids in the house I think sometimes taking proper care of each other gets swept under the rug while we place so much of our energy into taking care of our children. So, I thought that today I would pay a little homage to my fabulous hubby, Calvin.

But, I must begin with a tale about Lady M.

One night, a few months ago, I offered to braid Lady M's hair after her bath so she could sleep on her plaits and wake up with a head of wavy hair. For us straight-haired girls, having a little wave is pretty awesome. And for the record, if crimping was resurrected as a popular style, and somehow made appropriate to showcase in the office, I'd totally be on that train.

So, braid her hair I did, and wake up with awesome waves she did. After being 'ooh'd' and 'ahh'd' over by the older girls at school who monitor her lunch room, Lady M was hooked. Braids were the new straight. It may have also had something to do with not having to sit under the heat of a hairdryer on a warm night, but whatever the reason, braiding has become the new norm after each bath. I've waited for a few years for her to really let me play with her hair, so I'm more than happy to braid away, and always shocked at her willingness to sit still while I do.

Fast forward now to this past Sunday night. Cal and I finished giving the girls their baths, but I was heading to a fitness class, so would not be participating in the full bedtime routine. We had hit a small snag in the plan, however, as Lady M wanted her braids. I had a hot date with my weights and boxing gloves, so my hands were not available that evening. But, my darling husband, and Lady M's loving Daddy said "I'll do it!".

But, you have to french braid, I said. "Well, what does that mean?", he asked. I explained that french braiding was the fine art of starting the braid right at the top and adding the hair in bit by bit as you go along, making sure that her waves went from the top of her hair to the bottom, not having straight hair on top, curls at the bottom. He confidently said "no problem', and I was off to my class.

When I got home that night, I snuck into the slumbering Lady M's room to give her a kiss, as I always do. I just about melted when I saw the four sweet little french braids that her daddy had lovingly put into her hair. Were they perfect? No. Were they well done? Yes, you bet they were. More importantly, I know he did it with love, and made his little girls' night.

The following morning I pulled the elastics out of her hair, though I noticed that the braids didn't go all the way to the bottom of the hair; instead, each braid ended with a small ponytail of loose hair. "What happened there?", I asked. "I ran out of hair", he told me. But, even with the lack of bottom braid, our little girl left for school with wavy hair and a twinkle in her eye.

I suspect not all dad's would be willing to learn to french braid, and I'm happy to be married to one who will. Cal's a pretty fabulous guy for many, many reasons, and this is just one of them.

November 10, 2012

four, part II

Ahh, birthdays. Tuesday night this week was a late one as I prepared for my Lady M's fourth birthday celebrations. We had 11 people for dinner on Wednesday night to celebrate the big day, so I had cake to bake, food to make, presents to wrap and decorations to hang.

Thankfully, I also had the US election results to watch, making for some great (yet nail biting) entertainment. This is in no way, shape or form a political blog, but yeah for Obama! It's funny because I can recall watching the elections on November 4, 2008 when I was (im)patiently awaiting the arrival of my little girl, and excited about the political milestone that took place days before her birth.

Lady M's cake...covered with M&M's because she thought
it would be fun to have her initial all over her cake!
But, back to the birthday... Everything was set to go, all tasks were complete and we had even hung decorations in her bedroom doorway so she would see them instantly when she woke up. Mission: accomplished.

At 5:45 am on Wednesday morning (very early for my little lady who normally likes to sleep until at least 6:30/7:00) I felt her tiny little self climb into my bed and say "mummy, there are decorations in my doorway!". I responded with "why do you think they're there?", to which she replied "BECAUSE IT'S MY BIRTHDAY"!!! Let the celebrations begin.

We had promised her a present in the morning, so I had placed it on my night table for the instant gratification of a first-thing-in-the-morning-birthday-present. Buried within the bag and tissue paper was a new Hello Kitty shirt to wear to school, Hello Kitty socks and a Hello Kitty bracelet. (Can anyone identify the pattern?!)
Of course I thought it would be more exciting to open a new toy, but the thought of giving her a new toy and saying "now put it away, because we have to eat breakfast, get dressed and get you to school where you won't be able to play with your toy" just seemed unkind! So, things she could wear to school were the plan, and she was thrilled.

I had sent a note to school the day before asking if there was any way to celebrate the kids' birthdays in class, seeing as the school has very strict rules about treats and sweets. The teacher let me know that we could donate a book to the class library on behalf of Lady M's birthday, and that they would read the story and sing happy birthday to her during circle time. So, I selected a story called Wild About Books and Lady M and I read it together the night before her birthday so she would be familiar with it. I added a little inscription to the inside cover, packed it in her 'important bag' in her backpack, and she was set to go. She tells me, however, that they already had that book in their collection, but oh well! It was a really cute story, so why not have two?!

So she'd had her morning celebration, her school celebration, then she was off to daycare where they had another little party for her. Whew, what a day for a four-year old, and it wasn't over yet!!

As I mentioned, we had the immediate family over dinner for her special day, and with contributions from the whole fam, it seemed everyone was well-fed and happy. But, nobody was happier than little Lady M who was delighting in all of her gifts - clothes, toys, shoes - and best of all, a beautiful new doll house. What little girl doesn't want a dollhouse that's taller than her, with three floors of fun?! And as it turned out, it was a total hit with both my girls, and my nephew Mr. F. They happily played together rearranging furniture, checking out all the rooms, and bringing more and more dolls and toys to the house to play. It was perfect.

All in all it was a wonderful day, and Lady M went to bed one year older, and happily exhausted. This weekend will be her dance party with eight little girls and my nephew, so the fun isn't over yet! I love a birthday that lasts all week...

November 6, 2012


Four years ago today, I was preparing to become a mum. I was eight days overdue with my first little bundle, and barely had the energy to walk for more than 10 minutes at a time thanks to the little person who had seemingly taken up permanent residency in my stomach. Thankfully, I had been to the doctor the day before, and when the ultrasound indicated that the baby could be as big as 10 1/2 pounds, my doc agreed to induce me. I was due to be at the hospital the following morning, at the crack of dawn.

One induction, two epidurals and fourteen hours later, I was a mum. I was also in shock, because I thought I would only ever have boys (given the track record in Cal's and my families), but in my arms was an 8 pound, 8 1/2 ounce beautiful baby girl. (Thankfully, the ultrasound tech's weight assumption had been quite off!) I was a mum, and I've never looked back.

It was, easily, the best choice I've ever made.

Tomorrow my little Lady M turns four. She is now two months into full-day junior kindergarten, as tall as a first grader, and clever as can be. She's a beautiful little girl who is the perfect combination of kind and silly, quiet and funny. She's a great blend of Cal and I, and is the best big sister I've ever seen in action. She adores Lady A, and acts like a second mum to her, lavishes her with attention and enjoys that they can now play together.

Over the last week we've had a great time counting down the days to her birthday, and this morning was especially exciting because there's only one sleep left until the big day!

I love birthdays. They've always been a big deal in my family, and especially important to celebrate them on the actual day. As I've gotten older I realize that not everyone does that, and it really makes me appreciate our little tradition more and more. My Dad is the real stickler on this one, making sure we not only celebrate on the actual day, but he makes sure that everyone in the fam has a fantastic day, making it special in any way her can. As my brother and I climb through our 30's (Greg's MUCH further into his 30's than I am, for the record), our parents still make our big day's special. Only now we get to celebrate with our kids and spouses, making the party even better.

Tomorrow night most of our immediately family will be over to celebrate Lady M's 4th birthday, and I can't wait to spoil my not-so-little girl. Knowing that she can go to sleep tomorrow night feeling celebrated, loved and just plain exhausted is all I need!

Happy 4th birthday to my sweet Lady M.

September 29, 2012

miss manners

I wholeheartedly believe in instilling proper manners in my daughters. I am a big fan of both 'please' and 'thank you', and believe that there is nothing sweeter than a child with nice, genuinely good manners. I like to think that Lady M even remembers to say these little pleasantries without prompting when I'm not around.

When I moved to Sweden for school I was completely taken aback when I learned that there is no direct translation for the word 'please' in the Swedish language. WHAT?! It was one of the first words, after 'hello' (hej), 'goodbye' (hejdo) and 'thank you' (tack) that I felt I had to learn in my newly acquired home. So, imagine my surprise when I learned this news. How would I communicate? How would I express my manners to people I came in contact with?

Well, I supposed I could hold doors for people when entering or exiting a room or building, right? That was a nice idea, in theory. In fact, Swedes find it rude when you hold the door for them because somehow you are robbing them of their general life liberties. So, I couldn't say 'please', I couldn't hold doors...what was left?! Well, traveling to countries where manners were valued, and not stressing about it when I was in Sweden, that's what was left. And that's how I dealt with it.

In any case, back to present day. Tonight Lady M and I went to the Pita Pit to pick up some dinner. It was a no-cooking-kind-of-night, and the pitas just across the road beckoned. Off we went, and we worked our way along the counter, placing our order, then selecting our vegetables, cheese and sauce. Lady M indicated each of her desired toppings, then politely said "thank you" to the young girl behind the counter. The Pita Pit girl didn't hear her, so Lady M politely said it again. "Thank you!" came her sweet little voice, but because of the glass separating them, and her sometimes rather soft voice, she couldn't be heard.

She tried one last polite little time to say thank you to the kind girl who had loaded the peppers, cucumbers and cheese into her whole wheat pita, and kindly put the tzatziki in a little container on the side, to no avail. Apparently she didn't like the fact that she didn't get a response because the next thing I heard out of her well mannered little voice, was "HEY LADY! I SAID THANK YOU!"

I almost fell over. The girl seemed to look up and giggle a little, but I'm not totally sure whether she heard that comment either. But, I did my best to contain my laughter while letting Lady M know that she really didn't need to say something like that. Just one thank you would do the trick.

So, perhaps you can go a little too far with the whole manners thing, but I still believe in them. And I want my girls to believe in them too...we'll just have to work on when to stop saying thank you.

September 10, 2012

giving blood : a virgin tale

I have always felt compelled to donate blood. I'm not entirely sure why, but it has always just seemed important to me. I used to walk past blood donor clinics when  I was in university thinking "I should give blood". Then, years later, I would see signs at the College where I work and think "I should give blood". But, I just never have.

Last year, for my 30th birthday, I created a list of 30 Things I want to do - outlining both long and short term goals for myself. In that list of 30, I identified a number of goals that I wanted to complete this year, specifically. One was to give blood. With my birthday quickly approaching, this was one goal that was lingering on my list, and I was determined to meet my deadline. I set an appointment for Saturday, September 8th.

I arrived to the Canadian Blood Services office to be greeted by a very friendly woman, welcoming me and thanking me for taking the time to donate. Upon learning that this was the first time I was donating blood, she gave me a sticker identifying me as a 'newbie'; I was to wear it on my shirt. After a brief wait, I was summoned by the first nurse who checked my iron levels to ensure I was okay to give that day. Three points above what was needed, I was cleared. Onto the next station where I had to enter a 'privacy booth' and fill out a short questionnaire.

Following that, my next stop was to visit nurse number two, a very friendly blonde woman with a warm smile. She led me into a private room where she took my blood pressure and temperature, and then proceeded to ask me a number of more personal questions ensuring I was right for a donation.

This particular nurse asked me what made me decide to donate blood, and I told her about my list of goals. On my form she could see that my birthday was just 8 days away, and said something that struck me. "Wow, what a great birthday present", she said. "And even better, your blood will likely be infused into someone on your actual birthday, allowing them to have another birthday". Well, if I wasn't happy to be doing this already, I certainly was now.

Before I left that private room, the nurse handed me a piece of paper containing two stickers, one labelled 'yes', the other 'no' on the page, but containing only a barcode on the actual sticker. The nurse explained to me that I could choose one or the other, and place it on my donor form when she left the room. Once the sticker was taken off that page, there was no way to tell which I had chosen, just a barcode that would be scanned after my blood was taken to be processed. The nurse informed me that this was for people who knew for some reason that their blood should not be used, but enabled them to go through the process without fear of stigma. For example, they have a number of workplace groups who come through, and it allows a staff member to go through the motions of donating, but perhaps having a reason that their blood should not be shared, ensuring that it is never used. I was very impressed with that option.

So, I placed my 'yes' sticker on my form, and moved along to the next stop on my donor journey: the actual donation! Laying in a relatively comfortable bed, the next nurse came to greet me and ask me which arm I would like to use. I chose my right, seeing as Lady A likes to be carried on my left side, and we were off to the races. It took me only 7 minutes to complete the one-pint donation, and it felt like mere moments as I was chatting with the people around me, and the nurse looking after me. There was music playing, tv's on, smiling people and friendly staff making the whole environment seem very civil and casual.

I had to hang out in my bed for a few more minutes than the seasoned donors; thanks to my newbie sticker, they wanted to make sure that I was ok, not feeling faint or nauseous. I had a delicious apple juice drink box delivered to me and instructed to drink it while still there. I felt great; both physically and emotionally. Once I convinced them I was ok, I was off to the refreshment station where I chatted with some lovely volunteers who were there to fetch juice, speak with people and to complete the already pleasant experience. Of course they're keeping their eye out for fainters, bleeders, etc., but thankfully I wasn't one of them. As I sipped my apple juice I decided that one of the best perks of the experience were the guilt-free oreos I ate!

One of the sweet volunteers brought me a first-time donor pin, and a pin pad where I can collect my pins moving forward, should I choose to give again. I'm told you get another pin on your 3rd, 5th, 10th visit, and so on. I think I'll be quite happy to continue collecting those pins.

You can donate blood every 56 days, so I have already scheduled my second appointment for the first weekend in November. Now that I have taken the uncertainty out of the experience, and finally taken the leap to give my first donation, I know that I'll be doing it again.

waterproof mascara

We made it through week one, and my budding scholar has had a great first week of school. Wondering how it all went? Well, I’ll tell you!

On Tuesday we went and met the teacher, an hour-long orientation that was geared toward showing the children their classroom, their cubby, washroom and various play stations. Ultimately though, it was a chance for me to fill out an immense amount of paperwork.

Her teacher and ECE were both extremely nice, and made the children's environment instantly welcoming (surely putting parents at ease too). The only small glitch is that the school's new kindergarten room is not ready, so Lady M's class will be in the library until at least Thanksgiving. They did a great job of setting up the important spaces though: the sand table, painting station and colouring table, and more was being arranged following the orientation. Lady M happily visited the different stations, colouring a picture for her cubby hole, and then playing at the sand table until it was time to go see the two pre-existing kindergarten rooms.

In the meantime, I sat down at a munchkin-sized table with a couple other mom's to fill out the necessary paperwork. I couldn't help but wonder as I filled out each colourful sheet whether the things I was writing would follow her until the day she graduates high school. What are her greatest strengths? How do you diffuse situations when she gets upset? Is there anything else we should know about your child? I just answered simply and honestly, and refrained from writing "she's super-awesome" in every blank spot.

Cal put it all into perspective for me shortly after our orientation when he said that sending her to kindergarten seems strange because "it's the first time she's out of our control". It's true...every other step of the way Cal and I have been holding the reins, and now we have to put all of our trust into two teachers we don't really know.

On Thursday morning I woke up with a knot in my stomach. My little girl was officially starting Junior Kindergarten.The day had arrived; Along with half of her class, Lady M had to be at school for a full day on Thursday. She woke up excited and full of smiles. Her new runners, change of clothes, and made-with-love lunch were zipped into her backpack, identified clearly by her Mabel's Labels with butterflies on them. I was trying to reassure my nervous self by thinking about all of my friends kids who had made the leap to kindergarten already. They managed, they were ok, and I knew we would manage too.

But, all of that didn't seem to matter when I was already fighting tears and had the sinking feeling that my little girl was growing up; at three years old, she was off to school full-time, five days a week. It was definitely a waterproof-mascara-kind-of-day.

When we arrived at school, Lady M was excited, though clinging tightly to my hand (or maybe I was the one holding on so tightly?). We had decided that just I would take her so she wouldn't  be overwhelmed by also having to say goodbye to her dad and her sister, so it was just she and I. We headed to the kindergarten area to find her class line-up, and she was almost instantly greeted by both of her teachers. Most kids were calmly standing with their parents, or sweetly posing for their first-day pictures, but there were a couple little ones who were having full meltdowns on the blacktop. And since I was already on the verge of tears, they were really bubbling to the surface then as my heart went out to both those children and their parents, silently thankful that my little one was calm. But, I took a deep breath, held back the tears, and just clung to my little lady's hand a little tighter.

When the time came for her to follow her class into the school, she walked in the door and stopped to peek back at me. She then took her teacher's hand and in she went. Calmly, amazingly. It was in the hands of the teachers now, and I walked away from the school just hoping she would have a fabulous day.

That night, when I went to pick her up from daycare I stepped out of the car and her little voice rang out - "Mummy!!! Kindergarten was AWESOME!!" Well, what more could I ask for? She was all smiles, so proud and I was overwhelmed by an amazing sense of relief.

Later on, at home, we were sitting together when Lady M said "Mummy, I don't call it school. I call it school-errific"! Amazing.

So, I think I can confidently say that she had a great first day. She was very tired by the time bedtime rolled around, and soon snuggled into bed. And I was off to packing her lunch for day number two.

September 2, 2012


This spring, Cal and I started playing 3-pitch in a rec league with my brother and a bunch of his friends. Admittedly, we were one of the worst teams in this beer league (aptly named "Team Fun"), but the important part was that we had a great time playing. After more than ten years together, this is the first time Cal and I have played an organized sport together, and it was such a fun opportunity. So much fun, in fact, that when the spring season ended we signed up for the summer session and just kept on playing!

Role modelling is obviously an important job for any parent, and when it comes to physical fitness I wholeheartedly believe in its importance. Seeing Lady M mimic many of our activities in my stroller fit classes this past year demonstrated very clearly to me that it's important to always let my kids see me as an active mum. (She would bring her own yoga mat to class and lay it beside mine; grab one-pound weights to do the weight training; get into a plank position, and race me up and down the gym, just to name a few.) Over the summer, bringing the girls to our softball games on several occasions sparked frequent conversations about baseball.

At daycare she has been introduced to t-ball and that started to add to the conversation we were already having. The other day I popped by my parents house at lunch (I work around the corner from my childhood home) and in my dad's trunk he had two t-ball sets; one blue, one pink. The blue one was heading to my brother's house for my nephew, and the pink one was coming home to entertain my budding t-baller and her lil' sis.

Today we pulled the adorable pink set out of the box, took it out back and started playing. Lady M is a natural, and kept getting better with a little bit of coaching from Cal. (Aside: I told Cal I was having visions of him coaching her future t-ball team; believe me, it'll happen. I have also had visions, though,  of us one day living in a small town, and him being Mayor. But I digress. End of aside.)

Lady M wasn't the only one getting in on the t-ball action today; Lady A (celebrating her 16-month birthday) was certain to get in on the action too. Her technique needs a little work, but she never missed the ball!

However, Lady A may have been a little bit closer to the action than she would have liked when Lady M bopped her square on the left cheek with the big, pink plastic bat. Yikes. That, of course, came right on the heels of the conversation that went something like this: "Lady M, always be sure to check the space around you before swinging the bat to make sure nobody is there!" Lesson learned.

Despite the small altercation, both girls carried on to have a blast hitting balls, playing catch, and as any normal children would, playing with the box it all came in!

When we came back inside, Cal and I did a little research and discovered that there is, in fact, a t-ball league in our town. Even better, it starts at the age of 4, so Lady M will be the perfect age when next summer rolls around. There is still a good eight months between now and then and interests could surely change; So for now, we'll just enjoy our little pink t-ball set. Thanks Grandad!

school days

When you're pregnant with your first child, everyone likes to share the same few pieces of wisdom:
  1. Get your sleep now
  2. You're never going to sleep again
  3. Enjoy every moment - the time passes by in a flash
The first two, I would like to personally guarantee, you'll never catch me saying to any pregnant woman, mother- or father-to-be because I think they're rather ridiculous. You can't possibly bank hours of sleep before a newborn arrives, and eventually sleep will return (though it may be done with one eye open).

But the third statement? Well, the third one is very accurate. 

This week, my sweet little girl, Lady M, will be starting Junior Kindergarten which is really hard to believe. Though she will be on the younger side of the class at only three years old, I have no doubt that she is well prepared for this new adventure. She craves stimulation and knowledge, and somedays I genuinely think she's smarter than me! She flourished in preschool, and I know that she's missed a formalized school environment since graduating from preschool in the spring (in her 'prom dress', as you loyal readers may recall). 

In anticipation of the start of the school year the JK preparations have begun: 

Shopping - of course there are things that need to be picked up before I can send her off to school. Not to mention she is growing like a weed and her existing wardrobe is slowly becoming just a little too short. With a little help from my most fabulous mum, Lady M now has a lovely, growing collection of new clothes and she's going to look very adorable each day when she leaves for school.

In preparing to shop, I asked Lady M what clothes she would be most comfortable in, explaining that she will be playing, sitting on the floor, being active and requiring comfort. So what is it, in the mind of a three year old, that would fulfil this criteria? According to her, "I'm most comfortable in pyjamas mummy!" So, following a brief explanation as to why PJ's wouldn't be the best choice for school, we decided that leggings, cozy skirts and t-shirts are where it's at. 

She also got an awesome new pair of in-class running shoes that will stay in her cubby in the classroom. Oddly enough, she had these exact same shoes when she was around two. I remember being quite sad when she outgrew them and the white slowly faded to gray...I was thrilled when we found the same pair in her current size at Marshalls!

School Supplies - ahh, school supplies. This was, hands-down, always my favourite part of the back-to-school routine, and really, that hasn't changed. Maybe that's why I'm still in school at nearly 31 years old! Ask any of my colleagues (past or present) and they'll tell you that when I open up the Staples catalogue and order myself some new pens, folders or desk organizers, I'm like a kid at Christmas. 

I'm not really sure how many actual school supplies she requires, but a backpack and a lunch bag were a must. Thankfully, The Disney Store was the first shop we entered on our shopping extravaganza, and they had these awesome sets on a great sale. Lady M decided that the purple Tinkerbell set was the one she wanted, and I thought it was a great choice. She's going to look super adorable with her little matching set. (Sorry Ainslie, it's not quite as big as she is, but we tried!)

But, perhaps the most exciting and difficult part of getting ready for school is the Mental Preparation. For me, and for her. Sending your little baby off to school for the first time seems like a big step. When I walked into the parents' meeting at school in the spring I felt far too young to be walking in there as a parent of a school-age child. In many ways Lady M seems so young to be starting school, but like I said, I really have no doubt that she is totally ready. 

She has been asking about 'big girl school' and kindergarten for months now, and has taken to waking every morning to ask "do I get to go to school today?" Though I keep telling her 'not quite yet', full-time school is just four sleeps away now. Her school has just gotten all-day, every-day kindergarten this year, so it will be a new adventure for Lady M and her teachers. At least they're all in it together! 

On Tuesday Cal and I head to the school to have a one-hour meeting with her new teacher, and for Lady M to see her classroom and meet a few classmates. Then Thursday she goes for a full-day with half her class, then as of Friday she'll be there full-time. 

The whole idea of sending my three year old to full-day school seemed ok to me, but there was one moment that really struck me, making me realize the huge life milestone that we have reached. The school Principal was speaking at the aforementioned parents meeting (where I felt like a teenager in a parent's body) and he said "we really like to get to know our families here at X School because you're going to be with us for the next ten years..."

TEN YEARS?! Suddenly this seemed like an immense commitment, and a REALLY long time for them to have my baby! But, I knew the time would come...and I know my sweet little lady is going to flourish. Truth be told, I'm really excited for her. 

So, bring on the milestones: first day of school, first class pictures, first packed lunch, first kindergarten craft, first field trip, first assembly and first report card... I'll get the giant bin ready to house all of the keepsakes. 

August 26, 2012

camp chronicles : one direction

Each summer when we are up north there are fourteen different camps going on over the course of the week. I teach the leadership camp, and the camp that is physically situated closest to us is Dance Camp. As we carry on with the fun that our camp includes, I constantly find myself grooving to the tunes that are emanating from dance camp...usually a broad range of songs from hip hop to disco.

This year, Lady M was a little bit intrigued by the music, and we ventured over to visit dance camp on a couple of occasions. She particularly enjoyed the disco rehearsal, and though the coaches were more than happy to have her join in, she stuck closely to me and quietly observed. As the week progressed, she kept wanting to go into the Rec Hall to have a look at what they were doing, but always stayed near to me for a measure of comfort.
Every summer, thanks to the fabulous dance coaches, the remainder of the coaching staff end up learning a choreographed dance routine that we then perform on skit night in front of the whole camp. This year, our fine instructors chose the One Direction song "What Makes You Beautiful". Trust me, if you don't know the song by name, you've certainly heard it. For three consecutive nights, after the camp was asleep, we coaches took to the Coaches Lounge to practice our dance. Coaches representing Badminton, Tennis, Baseball, Leadership and more pretend that we have the best moves on camp as the very patient dance coaches teach us what they have in store.

One day after lunch we had our last rehearsal before the big performance so Lady M joined us for the fun. Well, she was smitten from that point forward. She learned to do a side-to-side step clap, and also learned to shake her hips like a champ! (My future Zumba girl, naturally). The night of the performance, she was front and centre cheering us on, and at Closing Ceremonies the next day, she was practicing her new moves. When one of the dance coaches asked her if she would be doing dance camp next summer, she emphatically replied "Oh yesssss!"

About a week after camp we were driving along when a song started playing faintly in the background. "Mummy! It's your song", she announced from the backseat. You guessed it - it was One Direction, the boy band du jour. As visions of my childhood love affair with New Kids on the Block danced in my head, I indulged her and turned up the song. (Confession: I quite like the song too). From that point forward, she kept asking to hear it; she couldn't get enough!

Finally, last night, Cal downloaded it and (somewhat begrudgingly) addd it to his iPhone. We then headed to have dinner with my family where Lady M requested the song over and over from our house to theirs (about a 25 minute drive). She forgot about it for a little while upon arrival, but at the end of the night, she requested the sweet sounds of One Direction to be shared with everyone so she could dance.

Thanks to the magic of AppleTV, the song began playing, and Lady M mimicked just about every dance move from our coaches dance, adding in her own little hair flip for extra flair! Little Lady A boogied right alongside her sister and I and we had quite the little dance party in my parents family room.

As I mentioned in an earlier post today, we're looking to put Lady M in dance classes this fall. So long as they play One Direction, I suspect my little girl will be hooked!

soccer star

This summer, Lady M took her first crack at organized sports. You may recall me talking about her experience as a Tiny Tumbler in the springtime; a gymnastics class at our local rec centre that found the kids sitting and waiting their turn more than being active. After that experience, Cal and I thought it might be better for her to try something with more constant activity. Enter: Timbits Soccer.

Back in May, the marathon season began for Lady M and her teammates, all aged 3-5. She, at 3, was on the younger side of the team, but as a little girl who can really hold her own, we had no concern about her participating right alongside the other kids.

We had heard lots of things about little munchkin soccer before starting the season; the way the kids chase the ball around the field like a swarm of bees, the frequent game stoppage when a plane flew overhead, and the desire to pick grass at somewhat inopportune times. Our experience? Much the's pretty darn cute.

Lady M was really keen to start the season, and very excited to 'be the fastest runner on the team' as she kept telling us. From day one, she was excited but always a little tentative. She played every Saturday morning for one hour; the first half hour was practice, and the second was a game.

During the skills practice she would normally be pretty engaged, but after a typically hot half hour, when game time rolled around she was ready to do her own thing, and being a team player wasn't really on her agenda! I think she may have been a little put off by the swarm of running bees, and tended to stay on the outskirts of the group of kids running for the ball. Granted, sometimes she was so far out on the outskirts that she was standing with Cal and I while we tried to convince her to re-join her team. Often, this was slightly painstaking, but I was raised to finish things, and Cal and I both thought it was important that when she was having an 'off' day, she still had to stay, cheer on her team and give high-fives at the end. Of course, though we thought we were instilling good values, and encouraging her to commit, she may have really been committed to the snacks she knew were forthcoming, but the lesson is still good, right?!

Surely, it was better than the lessons offered by the crazy parents who were screaming from the sidelines, yelling at their child like he or she was playing in the world cup. Thankfully most of the really obnoxious ones we came across this season were from the opposing team; we were lucky to have a really great group of parents on Lady M's team. But seriously, how tough can you be on your child at this age? They don't even keep score yet! Some parents are a-holes...but I digress!

Yesterday marked Lady M's last day of soccer for the season (that's right - it ran from May to August...quite long!). In our city we have a great soccer program, and the day was set up so kids played just a short, 15-minute game, then received their trophies and could go get food, their face painted, and enjoy one of the four giant bouncy castles. Lady M just wanted to bounce, and so she did. And she is so proud of her trophy; she got out of bed this morning, and brought it down from her dresser to display in the family room. It may travel with her for a few days, and it's really cute - it makes her beam with pride.

Her first soccer season may not have indicated to us that she's a future Mia Hamm, but I think we'll try it again next summer if she's still interested. Though lately, her team sport interest has shifted to t-ball, so we'll see what happens! Whatever makes her happy. This fall I think we'll be exploring dance, and some more swimming lessons; so many activities, so little time...

August 14, 2012

camp chronicles : mouse in the house

I'm terrified of mice. This is a relatively new fear that I have developed, and one that I wish I could go back and reverse, but unfortunately I don't think that's possible, unless I'm willing to fork out some cash for hypnotherapy or something.

This little story begins last week when we (Cal, the girls and I) headed up to one of my favourite places in the world, my summer camp. I started attending this camp in 1995 when I was 14 years old where I was a volleyball camper for four years. Following that, I spent four full summers on staff, but that just wasn't quite enough for me. I started teaching the one-week Leadership camp back in 2000 (with a couple other fabulous individuals) and really have never looked back. Now, just weeks from my 31st birthday, I'm happy that I still get to spend one week each year at my favourite summer spot. Even better? I get to take my husband and our two little ladies so they can experience how much this place means to me.

This was Lady M's second time to camp; she was last there in 2011 because we skipped last summer seeing as Lady A was only about 12 weeks old at the time. Lady M didn't remember much about camp, but she settled right into camp life within moments of stepping foot on the property and breathing in the beautifully clean northern Ontario air. Lady A was also in her element, happily toddling all over the place in her little pink crocs for the next six days.

I love absolutely everything about my camp, except the potential for having mice nearby. But as I mentioned, this is a new phobia that I developed a few short years ago. Let me explain:

In the summer of 2009 we headed to Florida to celebrate my Aunt's birthday; a big, fabulous family reunion. Cal, Lady M and I landed in Orlando and were met by my parents who had already arrived in town a day or two before. While Cal and my Pops waited for the luggage, my Mum entertained Lady M and I ran to the bathroom. I promptly RAN out of the bathroom when a giant sewer rat walked into my stall and brushed past my feet. Please note, I really hadn't had much issue with rodents to that point. In fact, I can recall having a mouse run across my stomach one night when I was sleeping at camp (back when I worked there full-time) and that barely phased me. The sewer rat at my bare toes, shielded only by a pair of flip flops? That creeped me out BIG TIME.

Fast forward to camp life now, and I'm terrified of having mice in my cabin. But, when we arrived last week I saw that our cabin had nice new flooring, improved windows and several other enhancements from the last time I was there. Relieved, I knew I would sleep well.

However, just one night later, I was dozing on the couch (I didn't say I was roughing it) when Cal woke me up to say "what's that sound?" After exploring a little, I suddenly saw a little rodent run from our bathroom toward the front door. As I cowered and trembled on the couch, I told Cal that it might be a chipmunk or a mouse. Either way, ick. I was shaking...Cal was mouse-hunting. He flung open the front door, and a few minutes later the mouse stopped making noise, so we went to bed assuming that our little visitor had taken leave.

An hour or so later, I jolted awake when the sound returned, and Cal jumped out of bed with one of our trusty flashlights. I decided to run to the coaches lounge (our evening hangout) and grab my friend and co-teacher Rene, who I had seen firsthand look after a cabin mouse in the past. I figured he would be a bigger help to Cal than I, who was shaking like a leaf, alternately wanting to cry and scream. I ran to the lounge, and bumped into another coach I know who told me Rene had gone back to his cabin for the night, but suggested that since she had a couple beers in her, she would be brave enough to come join the mousehunt. Awesome - I had reinforcements! She and Cal found the hole, patched it up, covered it with the fridge, and I semi-relaxed and fell back to sleep. I awoke in the morning feeling like I had just completed a killer ab workout, apparently having trembled and clenched my body all night long, but at least we were mouse-free.

The next night, I was playing in a badminton tournament with the other coaches, and returned later in the night when Cal immediately told me that the mouse had returned, but he had found another hole, patched it up and gotten the mouse out. He had discovered that mice don't like bounce sheets, so he devised a clever solution to stuff powder-scented dirty diaper bags into the mouse hole (in the absence of bounce sheets, of course!). I gently suggested that he probably should have just lied and told me that the mouse had never returned, then climbed into bed once again shaking, and somewhat wishing that Saturday would arrive quickly so I could return home to my own, mouse-free house.

Just to ease my rodent worries a little more, the next day we took a trip into town and stopped into the local Canadian Tire where Cal picked up spray insulation. He very kindly filled in absolutely every hole he could possibly find, inside and outside the cabin, to really keep our visitor out. Well, it must have worked because between Thursday and Saturday, the mouse never returned. Phewf.

So, I don't think that my fear of mice/rats has eased at all, but I do feel a little pride in the fact that I managed to make it through the week sleeping in the same cabin, and not going to my friend Trish's cabin and climbing into bed with she and her husband (though I let her know not to be alarmed if I did at some point!). Hopefully if we return to the same cabin again next year Cal's handyman skills will have all held up, but I guess we'll wait and see.

It's all worth it though to get to spend a week at camp with my family.

July 9, 2012

the million dollar dress

I've been meaning to share this particular story on my blog for several weeks now, but haven't made it to the computer very much. I currently have a small list of things I want to remember to write about, so let's start here...

At the end of May, Cal was given the opportunity to go on an awesome trip to Germany courtesy of one of the suppliers he works with in his professional life. Of course my love for Europe made me terribly jealous of his European adventure, while simultaneously being super excited and happy for him. It was a quick trip, only five days in length, so he and the other people he was traveling with really made the best of their time - rarely sleeping, and consuming as much German beer and liquor as they possibly could. I mean, how else do you experience Germany in less than a week, right?

Not altogether surprising, shopping wasn't high on their agenda over those few days. However, his hotel was conveniently located next to a children's shop, so he stopped in there on his last morning, before flying back to Toronto.

Arriving later in the evening on a Saturday, I left little Lady A with my mum to put her to bed, while I took a very excited Lady M to the airport to pick up her Daddy. After arriving home safely and on time, we returned to my parents house to pick up a happily sleeping Lady A. My mum and I naturally wanted to see the German purchases, so opened up the bag to see what Cal had chosen for the girls. In the bag was a gorgeous pink gingham dress for Lady M, and a cute Diesel top and leggings for Lady A. Great choices! However, when I pulled the bill out of the bag, I noticed he had paid 85 Euros for the three items of clothes - approximately $105 Canadian. Yowza. The majority of that bill was for the dress.

But, it's not every day you get to add a little German flare to your wardrobe, so we laughed it off and headed home.

The next day, Cal happened upon the credit card receipt for the same purchase, and to his surprise it read 185 Euros...yes, a full hundred Euros more. Uh oh. It seemed the nice lady in the children's clothing store had incorrectly input the amount and severely overcharged him for the already expensive children's clothing. He immediately called Visa who said that once the charge posted (it had only been about 24-36 hours since the purchase at this point) they could correct it.

In the meantime, I asked my Dad to check the bag we had thrown out at their house the night before for the actual receipt. He nicely dug it out for us, scanned it and sent it over. I received it to my email, as did Cal. As soon as I opened it, it was clear:

My darling husband had not spent 85 Euros on the clothing purchase; he had spent 185 Euros (approximately $230 Canadian). My sweet Lady M essentially received her prom dress, and Lady A received the most pricey leggings and t-shirt that she will own any time soon!! Cal's comment? "In my defense, I think I was still drunk when I bought them!". 

Oh well. The girls got some lovely clothes, Cal had an incredible trip that he will always remember, and we have a story that will allow us to look back at and laugh. And Lady M looked beautiful in her prom dress when she wore it to her preschool graduation a couple of weeks ago. 

May 14, 2012

mothers day in pictures

I had a wonderful Mother's Day weekend; it was low-key and relaxed. We had nothing major planned, just time with my little family of four (and the dog). After being back to work for three weeks now, I'm reminded how special the weekends are, and how I savour every moment with my little ladies.

On Saturday morning, I decided to have a little 'mummy & me' time with Lady M. She and I have made a tradition out of going to the garden centre, choosing the flowers, and planting the front garden at our house. Its not a large garden; just the right size for a three year old and I to work on. (Truth be told, I only like maintaining a small garden, as I am no green thumb, as you can read here!)

So off we set for the garden centre. We decided to try a new one this year that we hadn't been to before. Imagine Lady M's excitement when she stumbled upon this water feature when we were there...

She was so happy to stare at the beautiful fish pond, but eventually we made our way back to the flowers and chose this years winning blooms. After one more visit to the pond, we paid and were on our way home to tend to our little garden. First things first, we pulled all the weeds and prepped the space...

With her trusty little watering can, and specially designed kids gardening tools, she's a fabulous helper! Soon enough, our garden looked like this:

Is she a green thumb, or what?! (FYI: Just the flowers are ours. The overgrown plants belong to the neighbour). We also planted flowers all around our tree in the front yard, and everything looked great. My sweet little helper was awesome, and would be out there constantly watering her lovely plants if she could!

That afternoon, I got some time with just Lady A, as we took a little trip to the grocery store. Once home, she was my trusty little sidekick as I slaved away in the kitchen...

Ok, so she pretty much played with Tupperware while I worked, but she was happy to be at my feet, and I am always happy to have her right there with me.

On Sunday, Mother's Day, I got to sleep in (all the way to 7am!), and awoke to Lady M running up to me with a lovely handmade card, and handpainted picture frame with a picture of the girls in it. Is there anything sweeter than homemade crafts from your kids? I don't think so. (Apparently my parents don't think so either - my Dad still has a giant paper tie hanging in his closet that my brother made for him as a kid. My brother is now 33). I plan to have my kids crafts around for that long too...

To make my morning even sweeter, Cal made me a cup of tea in my very favourite mug as soon as I woke up...

Lady M chose this mug for my 30th birthday last year...its she and I on the front, and she tells me the little one in the second picture is Lady A. Makes me smile every time I drink from it.

So, all in all, a great mother's day weekend, and I got to see my mum too. :)