Thursday, 31 October 2013

Splish Splash - A Halloween Story

It's raining like crazy today in Toronto and will likely do so all night, but that's okay.  Instead of building an Ark this Halloween I'm thankful for the expertise of veteran parents I know, the interwebs and the great strides and inventions that have occurred in Halloween related products since I was a child in the 1980s.  Below are the Halloween inventions/life hacks that I am thankful for, hopefully they will also help you this Halloween or next.

  1. Clear garbage bags for rainy Halloween nights to wear over costumes means no complaints from your kids that no one can see their awesome costumes under rain coats.
  2. Spray in hair colour that washes out.  In 1981 my mother and my older sister had an epic battle because my sister wanted to colour her hair orange to make her Bat Girl costume "more authentic".  My mom refused to let my then eight year old sister dye her hair orange, but instead sewed orange yarn as fake hair into the hood of the costume.  My sister looked more like a Muppet than Bat Girl, as did I five years later when I was Mary Lou Muppet  Bat Girl in my hand-me-down epic fail of a costume.
  3. Polar fleece and good warm long johns that can go under costumes.  This prevents having to put your butterfly wings on over top of your winter jacket. 
  4. Bright (neon) coloured tapes, arm bands, glow sticks and stickers to integrate into a child's costume so they can be seen by cars while they trick or treat.  I'll never forget the year my mom tried to convince me to wear an orange crossing guard pinny over top of my costume.  This is one of the only childhood battles I ever remember winning.
  5. Tea lights with watch batteries to fuel them instead of wicks. This prevent burns and rain or wind from impacting their glow.
  6. Travel mugs that parents can fill with warm tea or "Irish" coffee to keep us parents toasty while they take their kids out to Trick or Treat.

Happy Halloween Everyone!

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Wednesday, 30 October 2013

Achtung Baby - Everything ADHD - Part 3 (Conclusion)

October is Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder ADHD Awareness Month. In order to help promote awareness and education to parents, teachers, caregivers or anyone touched by ADHD Jaime-Lynne is providing some much needed information.

This is Part Three of a Three Part Series: To read Part One Click Here, To read Part Two Click Here

 Jaime-Lynne & T

What's the craziest thing you've ever been told about ADHD, weirdest thing anyone has said to you?

Not many people try and tell me things about it because I've done my research and I end up schooling them on the topic.  But if I had to choose one thing it would be that I caused ADHD and that if I had done things differently when I was pregnant that he wouldn't have it.  I was 20 years old when I was pregnant with T, so EVERYONE had an opinion about that they were happy to share.

What have you learned from this that has made you a better parent?

That you can have multiple children with the exact same influences, same environment, same EVERYTHING and yet they will be so different from each other. Also that the ADHD isn't the hardest thing about parenting at all.

How has ADHD challenged you most in your identity as a mother?

The greatest challenge would be feeling like a failure and a horrible mother, and sometimes the feelings you have toward your child aren't ones you want to feel, but you have to let yourself feel them.   You just need to be prepared to never let your child know when you're having one of those moments or feel what you are.   Then you need to accept them and move on.

What is your biggest success as a mother?

Success is seeing them grow and learn and develop regardless of the roadblocks they face. T had made so much progress in art, drawing and writing in such a short period of time.  It shows that all of the effort and frustrations are worth it (most of the time).

How do you cope with the most challenging days?

By taking breaks when I can, whether it's one on one time with our three year old when my older two are at school or on weekends when I try to disappear for just a little bit, until they come looking for me. 
Do you have any resource recommendations for those who want to find out more?
Taking Charge of ADHD is a great book.   Another great resource is

Monday, 28 October 2013

Achtung Baby: Everything ADHD Part 2

October is Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder ADHD Awareness Month.   In order to help promote awareness and education to parents, teachers, caregivers or anyone touched by ADHD Jaime-Lynne is providing some much needed information.

This is Part Two of a Three Part Series:  To read Part One Click Here 

Jaime-Lynne's "Boys"

What is the biggest misconception of ADHD you and T have faced since his diagnosis?
There are two major ones we have faced 1) That it's not real and that it's just an excuse to "drug" your child to "keep them in line". It has always been T's choice to take his meds or not as it's his body.  I actually took him off them for a while and he came to me at the ripe old age of six and said, "Mummy, can I have my pills, my head feels better when I take them." He went back on them, and if the day ever comes where he doesn't want to take them anymore then we'll sit down and talk about it all together. 2)  That diet or keeping them away from sugar will "cure" them.  ADHD is caused be the absence of a chemical in the brain, if it's "cured" by what they're eating or not eating, then they don't really have ADHD.

How does T feel about having ADHD?
He doesn't really understand what it all means yet because he's only seven.  He knows that he gets "silly" and has inappropriate behaviour sometimes and he works on it.  The pills he takes in the morning are to help him concentrate while he's at school.

What about the costs of medication?
If you don't have a good insurance plan you could pay upwards of $200-$400 a month for medication depending on the diagnosis and the medication(s) that work best.

What coping strategies can you recommend for families dealing with an ADHD diagnosis?
Never let having ADHD be an excuse for anything.  Yes the child is "different" but that doesn't mean they're "bad" they just need help in a different way than a neurotypical child. ADHD kids can be brilliant, advanced in some subjects while others they need more support.  They just need to be challenged while still working on the things they're behind in.  T is advanced in reading and math - he was doing multiplication in kindergarten, but he HATES writing and it isn't his strong spot.  When T gets a little spun we send him outside and have him run around and work off a lot of energy and that helps a lot.

What advice do you have for teachers in providing the best possible tools for a student with ADHD?
Keep an open line of communication with both the student and the parent.   It is also paramount for the teacher to understand that it is not a choice and it can't just be turned off.  They can't learn "inside the box".   It has to be interesting and different.  They need an outlet and sometimes recess isn't enough.   Be prepared to give them an out like have them go do an errand for you or just take a break or walk and then come back to whatever they're working on.

How does ADHD impact your parenting style with T's siblings?
When you have more than one child you need to adopt many different parenting styles, especially when only one has an invisible disorder.  What works for one kid, won't/doesn't work for the others. Sometimes it may seem like you are playing favourites, but you're not.

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Friday, 25 October 2013

Achtung Baby - Everything ADHD Part 1

October is Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder ADHD Awareness Month.  In order to help promote awareness and education to parents, teachers, caregivers or anyone touched by ADHD Jaime-Lynne is providing some much needed information.  This interview is from the perspective of a parent of a seven year old who has ADHD.  Jaime-Lynne is  mother of 3.75 boys (baby boy four is due any second now) and is apparently a master of time-management as she was able to provide amazing and thoughtful answers to me in short order while managing her brood of little men.  This is a multi-part series, so stay tuned...

Image Courtesy of Wikipedia

How did you find out that your eldest son had ADHD?
We had a hunch that something was going on with T so we approached his Senior Kindergarten Teacher (who had also taught him the year before).  We were curious as to whether or not issues that were coming up in the classroom on a daily basis could be a result of ADHD.  She gave the matter some thought and said yes, so we looked into how we would go about testing and found out that we could have the school board do the testing (which is free in Canada as it's deemed a special need). 

What was your experience with the school board testing?
In Ontario they wait until Grade 1 and then put the child on a waiting list (depending on when you get on the list you could wait anywhere from one to three years), which we weren't willing to wait for since we wanted to find out how we could help T sooner.  We felt these delays would be frustrating for us and T.

So what did you do instead?
So then we looked into private testing - We took T to a pediatrician who specializes in ADHD.  During our first meeting and assessment the doctor looked at me and said " I don't usually like saying this the first time, but if you need ANYTHING before you see the child psychologist, let me know!"  Our hunch seemed to be correct. 

We were then referred to a child psychologist.  We then met with her and alongside his teacher we filled out information forms on his behavior at home and school for review. When we met we had one on one sessions including us as parents as well as sessions with just the child psychologist and T.  We met with her one on one and she assessed T on his own before she diagnosed him with: Combined Inattentive and Hyperactive ADHD, with an anxiety disorder and signs of Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD). 

What was your initial reaction to the diagnosis?
My initial reaction wasn't really anything because we were the ones that were seeking out answers, it's different for others who are told, "this is what's going on with your child, now deal with it "  but we were the ones that were looking to figure things out and help him in every way we could.  It actually explained a lot of things.   In the past we just thought it was him being a difficult child.  We also learned that it's not just ADHD - there's almost always a co-morbid (in conjunction) with it and that's what was hardest and I say I because as the primary caregiver I'm the one with him 24 hours a day 7 days a week. I had to learn all about anxiety disorders and how they effect not only kids, but kids with ADHD and then I had to figure out what the hell ODD was - and once I did, a light bulb went off and I was like " YES! that's why he does this and this and this" while also trying to figure out how to parent a child that laughs in the face of authority.

What are some major challenges you face on a day to day basis?
The hardest thing about it is trying to always remember that this is how his brain works.  It's not his choice, although some of the things he does are 100% in his control, and we never let him use it as an excuse.  There are many, many things that aren't (in his control) and we have to remember that.   It's also trying to deal with everybody else that either chooses not to see what's going on behind the scenes and blames it on him being "bad" or that it's just "lazy parenting".  If they lived 24 hours in my house, they'd understand what it's really like.

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Thursday, 24 October 2013

The Whole World is Our Playground - Jean Sibelius Square

This Toronto playground was recommended via Torontoist in their Best Playgrounds feature.  This central park was conveniently close to a weekend errand to exchange a warped record that Chris purchased in the Annex.  What can make Chris's first world hipster errands a little more fun?  A giant spider web climbing structure of course!

My park review disclaimer: If you don't live in the area I hope you enjoy the pics and can use some of the ideas to inspire and explore in your own city. If you have any recommendations for great playgrounds (or new criteria I haven't thought of) please post a comment on this post or email me.

Park Name:
Jean Sibelius Square

50 Kendal Ave (Near Bathurst and Dupont)

 There is a decent amount of parking on the street by the parkette.  The playground is a 12 minute walk from Bathurst Subway Station.

Theme of Park:
 Small spaces meets big fun in central Toronto.

Ground Coverage:
 Sand, much to Miss Molly's chagrin.

Variety of Equipment for different ages:
 This park has playground equipment in two main areas, a gated one for toddlers who are more likely to make a beeline for the street and a more open area for older kids.  There were washrooms and drinking fountains in big and little kid sizes available for use.  Most of the children around the play area ranged from two to ten years old.

Best Part(s) of the Park:
This playground has great equipment for all ages and some strategic viewpoints/perches for adults supervising kids of a variety of ages.  The spider web climber, climbing wall and flying saucer swing were actively used by older kids as well as our little acrobat Jack.  Molly preferred the little play house in the toddler area and the slide embedded in the hill.

The spider web equipment and wall climbers requires active supervision for younger kids which would be difficult if you were dividing your attention.  Many of the adults present in the park while we were there paid greater attention to their tablets than their children.  A guardian of a four year old sat idly by while his son threw toy cars, trucks and bikes into the playhouse (at Jack) while he was playing.  When I stepped in to protect Jack from a concussion little Connor was simply told to watch where he was throwing things.  The guardian's eyes never left his iPhone, even when 30 seconds later Connor grabbed the ball Jack was playing with, shoved Jack and ran away.   I know my children are also capable of Connoresque behaviour, but I'm right there to correct and umm, supervise, phone video game scores be damned.

Overall Rating:
I rate this playground a 4/5 but it could grow a half point as the kids get older and as I gain more confidence in Jack's ability to navigate the spider web without earning a concussion from a fall or blunt head trauma from Connor. 

To read my review of Jeff Healey Playground click here

To read my review of Marie Curtis Playground click here

To read my review of Dufferin Grove Playground click here

To read my review of Neshama Playground click here

To read my review of Vermont Square Playground click here

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Wednesday, 23 October 2013

The Itsy Bitsy Spider

Toddlers are destructive forces, just ask the four pairs of sunglasses I've had to replace over the past six months that have faced the wrath of Jack.  Chris keeps telling me to move them to a higher shelf when I'm not wearing them.  The issue is I'm only 5 foot 1 and unless I want to carry a foot stool wherever I go, other things like my real glasses and cell phone take upper shelf priority. 

Because of Captain Destructor* we've had to be very cautious about which seasonal decorations we put within smashing reach around the house.  The plan was to focus our decorations on the outside of the house this year.  Unfortunately, our front porch was literally crumbling down and to avoid a lawsuit from angry parents of Trick or Treaters we opted for an early October renovation.  This however has put my outside and inside non-breakable festive decorations on hold as it's currently unreachable until the porch is complete.

Until we can reclaim our front stoop I've had to allow one decoration and festive craft to fill my Halloween spirits.  Inspired by the Martha Stewart Halloween Magazine, behold my Halloween bouquet.  Martha does it better, but I'm fairly certain she didn't purchase most of her supplies from Dollarama.

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*Jack was promoted to Captain from Officer after he broke six of our sandwich plates and two Correlle pieces which I thought were supposed to survive the Apocalypse.

Monday, 21 October 2013

Drop the Leash

I've had limited amount of exposure to toddler boys until I became a mom.  Previously my experiences reflect time spent with my little brother D and some children I used to babysit for.  In that time and since, something has become inherently clear to me: little boys dedicate over 50% of their awake hours to: suicide/murder.*  In the past two weeks we have struggled with Jack and his disregard for self-preservation.

At home he figured out how to unlock the front door.  Did I mention that we were in the middle of replacing our porch railing and Jack was just one chain lock away from plummeting into the giant renovation dumpster one story below?  He's also been practicing the baby gate pole vault (no pole required).

Jack in time-out following a burst of speed onto a bicycle path at a local park.

In public we've hit an impasse where the kids both want to walk rather than be strapped to us, a stroller or a shopping cart, yet walking/running skills supersede listening skills.  For short errands we are encouraging the minions to walk, which has been incredibly successful for Molly who ALWAYS holds an adult's hand in a parking lot, roadway and actually stops when you tell her to.   For Jack it has been a little (A LOT) more stressful as he sees each excursion as sensory exploration seeking to touch every object he passes, lick anything germ filled and disgusting,  manage to doddle at a cross walk only to enter a spirited 100 metre dash towards a giant unknown dog while screaming, "DOGGY!" at the top of his lungs just a few minutes later.

Below is the debate on whether or not we employ the use of the harness for Jack.  Chris and I have been on both sides of this debate, together and separately so long as little Jack's feet hit the ground running.  To date we have used the harness once to prevent Jack from lunging into a cooking fire while camping.  It was an epic failure and he dangled screaming like a possessed marionette the entire duration of the 20 minute experiment.

Hence I Unleash The Great Harness Debate:

AGAINST: Your child is not an animal, you shouldn't put them on a leash. 
FOR: A harness and leash protect dogs (or toddler boy puppies) from getting run over by cars, lost or hurt, period.

AGAINST: It's lazy parenting.
FOR: And it's aerobic parenting when we have to chase down a disobedient toddler who's on the loose while yelling, "FREEZE" at the top of our lungs?

AGAINST: If you treat your child like an animal, they will act like an animal.
FOR: Pets need to be housebroken and trained, so do children.  It's part of my job as a parent, leash or no leash.

AGAINST: Other parents (people) will judge you.
FOR: It is hard not to judge a parent of any screaming toddler, whether they are carried over the shoulder or secured via a sturdy piece of rope.

AGAINST: How will they ever learn if you keep them on a leash?
FOR: Like anything else, with practice, under the supervision of a care-giver.  I am guessing that these kids are not just tied to inanimate objects everywhere and allowed some free range play.

 If Jack is behaving and holding hands and walking close by he can get by under the watch full eye of one adult.  So far the best solution we've found when Mr. Jack doesn't want to hold hands and behave is to put him under the strictest possible watch.  We make him hold both Molly's hand and an adult's hand.  So far Major Molly has been able to keep him in line.  In the mean-time there may or may not be a harness in the trunk of our car, just in case. 

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*Cause it's much more fun if you take your sister down with you. 

Thursday, 17 October 2013

The Whole World is Our Playground: Sherwood Park

This is another Toronto playground that was recommended to us by our sitter A as a must visit.  Before the temperatures drop too much for monkey bars, we decided to try to fit a few more field trips out to explore some more of the best our city has to offer. 

My park review disclaimer: If you don't live in the area I hope you enjoy the pics and can use some of the ideas to inspire and explore in your own city. If you have any recommendations for great playgrounds (or new criteria I haven't thought of) please post a comment on this post or email me.

Park Name:
Sherwood Park

Sherwood Avenue (Near Mount Pleasant and Eglinton)

There is a decent amount of parking by the park, but I imagine it would be busier in the peak of the summer when the splash pad is also open and more challenging than it was for us on a sunny autumn Saturday.  The playground is a 20 minute walk from Eglinton Subway Station.


Theme of Park:
Nature meets urban playground in uptown Toronto.
Ground Coverage:
Wood chips surrounded by green park land.

Variety of Equipment for different ages:
This park has playground equipment for all ages with a big focus on little ones.  There were a lot of smaller slides, bridges, swings and ladders for wee ones with two pieces of equipment designed for older kids including a mini climbing wall ideal for climbing beginners and mini monkey bar zip line.  There is one of the biggest splash pads I've seen available for use during summer months.  Most of the children around the play area ranged from one to five years old.

Best Part(s) of the Park:
This playground is fantastic for little ones because of the age appropriate equipment and how friendly the other parents and children were.  I've never seen Molly and Jack play so much and be so welcomed by kids they do not know.  The park also has some nature paths for adults and older kids to explore.  There are change rooms in the summer for the splash pad.

Older kids might get bored and need to explore other parts of the park (like the trails) which makes it hard if your trying to supervise kids of a variety of ages.  While we were there, a six year old girl complained to us that all of the kids in the park were too little for her to play with. 

Molly beside the bull rushes from the splash pad

Overall Rating:
I rate this playground a 4.5/5  based on the age of my kids, although it may remain a favourite if  Molly and Jack develop their parents love of hiking.  We will definitely try and come back next summer and explore the splash pads and trails using either the carriers or letting the kids toddle along beside us. 

To read my review of Jeff Healey Playground click here

To read my review of Marie Curtis Playground click here

To read my review of Dufferin Grove Playground click here

To read my review of Neshama Playground click here

To read my review of Vermont Square Playground click here

Wednesday, 16 October 2013

Dancing Scarf Blues

At one of my first "grown-up" jobs I had a really eccentric boss.  She was big on her version of what was professional and would often critique our level of professionalism in dress if we dare to enter the office in snow boots in the middle of January, even when our regular shoes were under our desk.  She'd have you reprimanded if your slacks were too loose or too tight.  She called my pointed toed pumps my "witch shoes".*

This boss was no fashionista. herself.  She somehow felt  she could wear any clothing whatsoever and it would be professional if she paired with a set of pearls and a scarf.  One of her meeting staples included a variety of brightly coloured polar fleece sweaters** paired with her signature "professional" accessories. 

Needless to say I had a scarf and pearl aversion for some time afterwards and didn't explore the world of scarves until, like most women I know, I approached 30*** after I noticed what the scarf was really capable of. This was no polar fleece league and I was hooked.  Now that I'm a mom scarves can be so much more than a fashion accessory.

Festive autumn scarf at a hockey game check, sarcastic smile, double-check

These are the reasons why scarves are amazing from the perspective of a mom & a stylish lady:
  1. Sling them around your neck or tie them to your purse for a pop of colour.
  2. Someone I know recently revealed that she was expecting and had kept her baby bump under wraps until her third trimester by disguising under carefully selected scarves.**** This woman clearly deserves to join The Alliance of Magicians because of her mad scarf skills.
  3. One of my favourite authors Jen Lancaster brags about her "eating scarf" that is stylish, brightly coloured and hides anything that she spills.
  4. Parachute game with toddler while waiting at the vet, doctor's office or as a distraction to prevent a fight over a coveted toy.
  5. They are warm, which is especially important when your office could double as a meat locker eight months of the year.
  6. Toddler drops their blanket in a giant puddle while you're out and is freaking out?  Mama scarf to the rescue.
  7. The feeling you get when your son makes one of your scarves his lovey (security blanket) and wants to carry it everywhere because it smells like you.
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*I think I was just fashion forward.
**AKA dog walking sweaters complete with half zippers.
***Anyone who I spend a lot of time with knows that I talk about how much I love this comedy sketch about women in their 20s compared with women in their 30s ALL the time.  It also features polarfleece free scarf love.
****I doubt this would have worked with a multiples pregnancy, but still AMAZING!

Sunday, 13 October 2013

My Time for Beer!

One of the times that I missed drinking the most while I was pregnant was St. Paddy's Day because I had to skip my nice dark Guinness and settled for a Dad's Root Beer instead, still good but not nearly as satisfying.

 I love fall and everything orange, yellow and Halloween, I also love the dark beers harvest and Halloween beers that come out this time of year!  So in celebration of the long weekend and my autumn vacation I picked up some dark ales and wrote some reviews.  If you aren't interested in beer, you may want to check out the giant pumpkin photos below!

 If you don't seek Pumpkin Beer, but are looking for somewhere in Toronto to pick out a pumpkin that's a little more exciting than your local grocery store, go to Plant World.  The pumpkins cost a little more, but your kids can play inside a giant pumpkin.

Enlightenment, Great Punkin
Origin - New Zealand
Boasts recipe including "New Zealand Fuggle"
Dark, High alcohol ale with dark amber red colour, initial taste red wine.  No pumpkin taste.  Pretty sure I hate fuggle, whatever it is, because this beer was heavy on my tongue with a chemical plastic smell.  I couldn't finish it.

Brooklyn Post Road Pumpkin Ale
Origin - New York
This beer is the ale answer to fruit beer with a refreshing pumpkin and spice taste.  It's as if Belgium fruit beer married an ale and it's bliss.  The $2.50 price tag doesn't hurt either.

Spooks Ale
Traditional ale, tasted like a coffee porter.  Good Halloween party gift for an ale fan host.  If you like Mill Street Coffee Porter and want something seasonally spooky, this is your beer.

Spoiler Alert, there may be a few more reviews to come this autumn.  Enjoy!

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Jack inside the giant Jackolantern.

Thursday, 10 October 2013

Elephant Song

I am a typical middle child.  At Halloween many of my costumes were hand-me-down, homemade costumes that used to be my older sister E's: Super Chicken, Clown, Bat Girl and a Cheetah.  As we got older and my parents were outnumbered by the addition of my brother we were "on our own" with costumes using our dress-up boxes, our closets, craft materials and negotiation skills for supplies to figure out what we wanted to be.

Some of my favourite costumes came from that time period, mainly because I chose them myself: Phantom of the Opera, a Butterfly and Marilyn Monroe.

Last year I used Halloween to really celebrate Molly and Jack's twinness by dressing them in corresponding costumes: Bam Bam Rubble and Pebbles Flintstone.  I enjoyed the joint costume efforts more than I ever thought I would and planned something similar again this year, figuring that this would be the last year that I could have so much influence over what they would be.  My plan was either: The Paper Bag Princess and Dragon or Little Red Riding Hood and the Big Bad Wolf.

My sick little Bam Bam from last Halloween.

We had every intention of going to an annual costume exchange to get costume supplies, but life happened as we faced a family birthday party, a work trip, a home renovation and ran out of time to participate.

So last night we went to Value Village to look for our costumes, because used costumes are still recycled goods and much more affordable.  I was thrilled at the gorgeous red and white dress and red cloak with white trim we were able to get for Molly for only $11.00.  We didn't have the same luck with Jack.  As we scoured the racks looking for something that would help him be a wolf, he was immediately drawn to a grey elephant costume.  Chris coaxed me into letting him trying it on.  He was ecstatic, raising and lowering his trunk and making elephant noises with gusto.  A couple passing by told us, "You need to buy him that costume!"  Jack grunted an elephant call and giggled in appreciation.  

We looked at a few other costumes, but nothing compared to my little grey elephant that was ruining my Halloween vision.  Molly later tried on a froggy costume, which was cute, but when we let her choose what she wanted to be, she ultimately selected Red Riding hood as her costume.*

Now I'm in search of a basket and a stuffed toy wolf to go along with Molly's costume.  My children are unique people who will rarely match.  I should have known my days of twin dress up would be limited.  Halloween is supposed to be for the kids and you can't put a price tag on your son's happiness, right?   Especially when the price tag is $5.99 in a used costume bin.  

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*Cause who doesn't like a beautiful crimson cloak?

Tuesday, 8 October 2013

Love Song for a Vampire

Halloween is kind of a big deal in our house.  Unfortunately last year our festivities were dampened by daycare plague and Jack quite literally turned into a zombie.  This year I'm optimistic will be better, because it kind of has to be.

Since it is October we've begun to dress the minions in some Halloween themed shirts and are teaching them how to say "Trick or Treat" for when we go and visit our six neighbours who they know.  So far they can both say "Treat", not totally shocking. 

Below are three stories to help get kids and adults in the mood for one of my favourite times of year.

Favourite Halloween Story for Wee Ones:

Vunce Upon a Time - J.Otto Seibold
This is a story about Dagmar, a vegetarian vampire with a sweet tooth.  When Dagmar runs out of candy his friends tell him about this wonderful tradition called Halloween.  He sets out in the scariest costume he can find (garlic) amongst horrifying creatures (human children) in order to satisfy his sweet tooth.

One of Chris's favourite (childhood) chapter books:

Bunnicula - A Rabbit Tale of Mystery - Deborah & James Howe
 A mystery/comedy about the new pet in the house who doesn't quite fit in.  Harold the dog and Chester the cat set out to find out the truth about Bunnicula, a rabbit with fangs.

 For Older Kids (who don't scare easy) or Adults:

Coraline - Neil Gaiman
After their family moves to a new town Coraline feels ignored by her parents.  She begins to explore her new apartment and the old house around it and discovers a small door.  When she opens the door she finds herself in the Other World.  Despite numerous warnings, Coraline is enchanted by the Other World and the Other Mother who pays lots of attention to her.  She soon learns the truth about the wicked Other Mother.  Can Coraline save herself and her parents from the evil Other Mother before it is too late?

If you have any other suggested Halloween reads, please let me know, we're always looking to expand our library!

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Monday, 7 October 2013

Let's Go Bowling

We were going to go to the Harvest Festival at High Park with the minions and their cousins this Sunday, but it was really rainy so we decided on an indoor activity instead.  Chris thought that the activity I proposed was inappropriate, as if I'd suggested to taking the children to a three hour opera.  I'd suggested 10 pin bowling, with the bumpers up and that we go with: a seven year old, a five year old, twin two year olds and a one year old. 
Here's what we learned while bowling with an army of munchkins:
  1. Most bowling shoes for kids start at size 8.  If your kids feet are smaller, you may be able to talk staff into letting them bowl in their runners.
  2. Your daughter may insist on wearing her rain coat the entire time you bowl.  Don't fight it, embrace it.
  3. The bowling balls will move down the lanes at a glacier pace.
  4. There will often be more balls in the lane than pins standing, all moving at above-mentioned glacial pace.
  5. Your toddler may insist on waving and saying, "Bye, Ball! Goodbye!" each time they throw one down the lane.  It's only polite.
  6. The purple ball is the best.
  7. The purple ball stolen from the lane next to you is even better. 
  8. The older children's patience will be tested as their turns are stolen by over-eager toddlers who will throw many balls down the lane screaming, "BALL!" crazed like a Cookie monster touring the Mr. Christie factory.
  9. It is possible for a bowling ball to move around the pins, when it is going slow enough.
  10. One bowling game for five children can take an hour and a half.   Bring snacks.

 I'd say overall it was a chaotic success, however I'm not signing anyone up for a junior league any time soon. 

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Thursday, 3 October 2013

What You Waiting For

Before I go on a tangent inspired by Alan Cross's blog on Rock Star Mom's and work life balance, I want to promote Alan's music blog because it's amazing.  I don't have many celebrity crushes*, but I have a number of nerdlebrity** crushes who I'd love to hang out with and befriend.  Fortunately I have had a chance to talk to Alan once or twice while I was doing research for what later became a Three Day Novel Contest novella written by my friend "The Granken" and I entitled, Finding R.S., a coming of age story about a rock journalist and her friend obsessively searching for an ageing rock star.  Alan is both approachable and knowledgeable.

Life for the past few weeks has gone by really fast.  Like Ferris Bueller fast.  I've had some evening work events and once you add in chores to make sure that we have groceries in the house, it's utter madness.***  I've felt that by the time we get home from work, break-up a couple toddler fights, drink some tea, play a few games, make and eat some supper that it's almost time for bed.  We then allow the minions their daily half hour allocation of television.  While the kids are distracted Chris and I scurry around like Chicken Little: running baths, loading dishwashers, washers, selecting bed time stories and picking out pyjama's and clothes for daycare.

It doesn't help matters that Molly has become obsessed with TV, and wants more than we're prepared to allow; throwing (surprise, surprise) tantrums when she doesn't get her way.  Only she doesn't call it TV she calls it TB and yells, "More TB, Want TB!" It's hard not to laugh when you try to explain to your daughter that she probably doesn't want Tuberculosis, that she wants television and that you won't allow for either.

The Old Days, when Entertainment was a tube of diaper cream and a plastic ant.

Articles like Alan's where Gwen Stefani talks about how you can't really have it all provides me some limited comfort knowing that someone who hired Japanese women as fashion accessories/dancers also feels she can't have it all as a mom with a career.  Although I'm guessing she isn't rummaging through drawers looking for two clean(ish) matching pairs of socks while her children watch The Backyardigans.  I imagine she delegates that to the Harajuku Girls.

If you have any tips on work life balance, or convincing my daughter that she doesn't want strains of mycobacteria attacking her lungs, I'm listening.

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*James Franco, Johnny Depp, Robert Downey Junior and Alec Baldwin.  I have yet to determine my fifth for my list.
**A nerdlebrity is someone mildly to moderately famous who I really want to hang out with, have a few drinks with and learn from based on their expertise on things I think are cool, interesting or want to know more about.  My nerdlebrity crush list includes: Alan Cross, Chuck Klosterman, Douglas Coupland and Gretchin Rubin.  I have been blessed to be able to connect with two of my nerdebrity crushes, albeit briefly.
***I'm lying we don't have groceries in the house right now.  I ate a tin of Zoodles for dinner last night and Chris ate brown sugar beans.  We do however have clean towels.

Wednesday, 2 October 2013

Ba Ba Black Sheep

I was a little worried about teaching the children that it was okay to draw on a specific item of furniture when we implemented the chalk board table.  When we were shopping for chalk board spray paint Chris was excited that they also sold whiteboard spray paint and for a moment suggested that we run with that instead.  It didn't take me long to convince him why arming two year olds with magic markers wasn't the best idea. 

So far our new drawing centre has been successful, with some exceptions. Below are the things that Jack finds most exciting and we find most horrifying about the drawing centre:

  1. Did you know that chalk makes a great noise when you throw it on the floor?  Added bonus, it breaks giving you more pieces of chalk!
  2. You also get an explosive reaction when you throw it at your sister.
  3. Chalk is a tasty between meal snack.
  4. For experiment sake, what do you think would happen happen if you shoved a piece of chalk into an electrical outlet?
  5. Anything black must be a chalk board, including the front door.

When Chris came home from work the other day he asked me why there was a giant pink chalk mark on our front door.  I pointed to the boy. Chris said that he thought that there may be some biblical symbolism about marking the front door of the house and the oldest child.

We debated, we researched and we deliberated.  Chris was thinking of the Passover story where the family roasts, consumes a lamb and collects the blood in a bowl as a sacrifice to substitute for the first born child.  The family then paints the front door with the lamb's blood to notify the Angel (of death) to passover their house and move onto the next, thus leaving the eldest child safe.*

 As a former undergrad who focused her studies in literature, including biblical reference analysis, I think this comparison is a little weak.**   Jack is either 6 months early or 6 months late for passover. Perhaps the 6 months could be seen as an homage or a threat to the eldest child, his sister?  Second, Jack has no access to sheep blood, but besides pouring cranberry juice on the door, which would be truer in colour, the pink chalk is the best representation available.  No one in our family would likely notice cranberry juice poured on the door until our front hallway was filled with colonies of aunts (aka locusts), exactly the opposite of Passover in my crude interpretation.  His obsessive singing of Ba Ba Black Sheep seems a little more ominous when you place it within the context of the above analysis. 

Final assessment -  no biblical symbolism going on here, just a toddler thinking that any furniture type objects that are black make excellent writing surfaces.  Thankfully our front door and the contents of our fridge are now "safe" from the angel of death.

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*I apologize for the "Bible Stories for Beginners" gloss over approach, but you get the gist.
**Although not so unfounded that I'm unwilling to write about it and examine it as if I was in Bible Studies and Literature Today all over again.