Monday, 30 December 2013

Sing Me To Sleep

In the early days with Molly and Jack, around months 3-9, we had a regular weekday routine.  In the morning I'd feed them, give them a bath, we'd enjoy a walk if the weather was nice enough, go home for some more food and tummy time and then I'd put them into their baby swings in the kitchen and listen to music while I tidied up and they watched.  One of the most frequently used CDs in this morning routine was an indie lullaby album that Chris bought for me after the kids were born called Sing Me to Sleep.  This morning routine was one of the many things that helped keep me somewhat sane during one of the more challenging phases of parenthood I have faced so far.

Fast forward a year and a half.  Chris was attempting to better secure the fish tank pump cord  to an extension cord and decided that it was time to pull the fridge all the way out and give it a good spring clean.  While he worked he discovered a set of Josten's school photo proofs for one of the children who lived in our house before we bought it, a fluorescent orange golf ball that is bedazzled with duct tape and tiny jewels that neither of us recognized, a toy car with Gremlin's Gizmo behind the steering wheel and the Sing Me to Sleep lullaby CD that had been long forgotten.

We chastised ourselves a little for being such poor housekeepers, gave Jack the golf ball to play with* and I cleaned off the CD and put it in the player to see what would happen.  As the soft voice of Amy Millan filled our living room something strange happened.  Our active, always busy toddlers stopped what they were doing, walked over to the table where the CD player was and stood, silently and intently listening to something that was familiar, but they hadn't heard in a long, long time.   They remembered.  I couldn't believe it.

I often wonder what Molly and Jack will remember about their childhood, particularly from when they were very small.  For now one of those memories is the soft music from this album and a routine that has been gone for over half their lives.  I will try to keep better track of this CD and bring it out for moments of quiet with the kids.  I have to wonder how long will they remember this for and what treasures lurk behind other appliances in our house.

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*It was a big hit.

Thursday, 26 December 2013

Long December

I thought I'd share some photo highlights of our past few days...

 Watching Papa grab gifts from the car on Christmas Eve.

 Frosty the Ice Cream Cake

 After a 3 day fight over peach bunny...suddenly he went missing.  Where could he be?  I think he must be hibernating.

 Opening presents after a breakfast of clementines, coffee cake and pickles.  Pickles were Jack's request.

Three days nap free means cranky Molly and Jack and mom and dad, but it also means they slept in until 9:40am this morning.

I hope you all are enjoying a little extra family time with your loved ones this late December as much as we are!

Tuesday, 24 December 2013

Ice Ice Baby

As the Ice Storm of 2013 has descended upon Toronto, I feel lucky.  We didn't lose power, we stayed warm, we were able to connect with our loved ones and make sure that they were okay.  Our neighbours, friends and family helped each other and despite the cold, the spirit of Toronto seems more Christmasy than usual.

I thought I'd share, on Christmas Eve, some Christmas Day traditions past, present and future and wish everyone a warm, safe and happy holiday!

The Christmas Goose
My in-laws owned this giant metal goose that they would put out by their fire place as part of their Christmas display.  For some reason, unknown to all of us, the goose has a secret compartment that opens with a little metal trap door.   Perhaps so you can stuff it for Goose-tur-ducken?  For as long as I've been around my husband, Chris, made it his Christmas "duty" to hide the Christmas Goose or place it in unusual locations around his parents house, often giving the Goose a time-out against some random wall for "foul" play.*  A couple of years ago my mother-in-law gave us a beautifully wrapped gift which turned out to be the metal Christmas Goose.  We are still deliberating on what naughty behaviour the Christmas Goose will engage in this year, perhaps a visit to Mississauga or even embark on a chance to fly south for the rest of the winter.

What is he storing in there?
 That's a bad goose!

Coffee Cake for Breakfast
Growing up, my mom was a big fan of healthy breakfast, except for vacations and on Christmas when she'd let the rules slide a bit.  Each year, after stockings but before presents, we would indulge in a breakfast of coffee cake, orange juice, coffee and tea.  We will continue this tradition with Molly and Jack beginning this year.

A Family Activity on Christmas Day
This year we're going to watch a new kids movie DVD on Christmas afternoon.  In a couple of years we're hoping to go somewhere together for a family activity to one of the few places open on Christmas Day: bowling alleys and movie theatres.  I can't think of a better family activity to wear off some turkey malaise than a game or two of five pin or a Blockbuster movie and some popcorn.  For a number of years we would all head out Christmas Day to watch a movie from The Lord of The Rings Trilogy, a tradition enforced by my then 80 something year old grandmother.

Christmas Day is Games Day
My family is a big fan of games and we'll often play board games together on Christmas Day.  It's easy to make time for a fun classic, like Yatzee, or try out a new game someone got as a gift.  Yesterday I learned from a friend that her family sets up puzzles all around their house on Christmas Day and picks away at them while they eat, drink and be merry.

What are your some of your family's traditions on Christmas?

*Pun sort of intended.  Geese are in fact fowl, I looked it up.

Friday, 20 December 2013

Rock a Bye Baby

Christmas Eve has always been a bigger deal in my family than Christmas day.  Maybe it has something to do with anticipation, but many of my fondest Christmas memories are actually from Christmas Eve.

Here are some Christmas Eve traditions past & present I thought I'd share:

Christmas Eve Road Hockey Game
This started a number of years ago and has evolved into the annual In-laws vs. Outlaws street hockey game.  My father plays net and you have to circle back and cross a sewer grate to make sure the orange, hard as a rock ball is in fact in your own possession.  It's super violent and usually isn't over until my sister, brother or brother-in-law elbow someone in the eye and get into a "game related dispute".  It's usually my sister and my brother and it gets extra weird when they are on the same team, yet still fighting.  Last year it got so intense I may be joining my kids and the nieces for a less violent mini sticks version in the driveway, likely with 20% less crying.

Special Christmas Eve Dinner
We each used to pair up and then do a draw for courses for a grande meal preparation.  The dream team was always on appetizers and they wrapped everything in bacon or ensconced it in cheese.  After the grand-kids entered the picture we wanted to go simple, so now our grande meal is takeout Chinese. No fuss, no muss!

One Gift on Christmas Eve
As kids we were always allowed to open one gift on Christmas Eve, it was usually pyjamas to ensure that we were appropriately stylish for photographs the next morning while we poured over all of our presents.  There was always one catch though, we'd need to complete a scavenger hunt created by my father before we were allowed to open our "select" gifts.

Scavenger Hunt
This was my father's ingenious way to have us wear off some hyperactivity on Christmas Eve, in hope that we wouldn't stay up all night  in anticipation of St. Nick.  Random written clues by my father, often targeted towards certain children so they'd be "age appropriate", led to other clues until finally, 8-20 clues later, we were allowed to open our select gifts.  We were most excited the year that my father wrote a clue in my mother's lipstick on a bathroom mirror.*  To provide an example of how my father's mind works, here's a clue from the 1990s: "Scary Rebecca".**  Nowadays clues are geared to us and our children.  Needless to say it can be a lengthy ordeal.

Twas the Night Before Christmas
My dad used to read it to us, now he reads it to our kids.

What are your favourite Christmas Eve Traditions?  Stay tuned for my Christmas Day list...

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*She was unthrilled to say the least.
**The answer, logically of course, is the baby cradle that was in the basement, because Rebecca De Mornay was "scary" in the movie The Hand that Rocks the Cradle.

Tuesday, 17 December 2013

Blinded By The Light

This post is quite literally being transcribed by Chris as I dictate it to him.  It all started Saturday night when Jack projectile vomited all over his crib while we had company.  I bathed Jack while Chris stripped the sheets, got out clean pyjamas, and began to launder Jack's collection of now soiled stuffed bears.  Sunday, we were housebound with a snowstorm and two kids with the runs, but the wheels really fell off after nap time.  Chris was changing Molly on the change table while I dressed Jack on the floor of the nursery.  Jack caught a glimpse of a laundry basket full of clean bears, got really excited, yelled "Bears!" and thrust his finger outward to point at them.  The only issue was that my face, mainly my eye, was in the path of his finger.  I dropped to the floor screaming and writhing in pain.  Chris asked me to leave the room because I was scaring the children and, after I got over the initial shock, we tried to move on with our evening.  The next day, my eye was completely swollen shut, watering profusely and it felt as though a thousand tiny knives were stabbing my eye socket.  After a referral from the doctor, I was sent to Emergency where under their special blue light they determined that there was a scratch on my cornea in the perfect shape of a toddler's fingernail.  For the past two days I've been stumbling around the house while Molly repeats "Mama hurt" as I lay an ice pack over my eye.  I am finally able to open my eye a bit this evening.  Tomorrow I will go to work with an eye-patch and sunglasses on, so if you think you see a cool-guy pirate on the subway, don't be alarmed.  It's just me with yet another toddler induced injury.

Chris and I had a bet as to who would get injured sufficiently to send us to the Emergency room first.  I said Molly, he said Jack.  We were both wrong and I got the prize.

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Friday, 13 December 2013

Brass Monkey

I want to start off by saying that I don't have a sponsorship deal with IKEA, but I really like the store.*  From their "easy to put together items" to the endless sea of  couples fighting over which shelving unit to buy in the show room and market place, to the child's play area or the complimentary diapers available in their washrooms **: I think it's tops.

Last week I went to IKEA and I ended up finding some great deals on some holiday gifts that I thought I'd share, all for under $13.00 Enjoy!

Gifts for Toddlers

 I paid $4.99 for this cute owl puppet for Molly - apparently this weekend it's on sale for only $2.49!

We got these two for Jack.  Perfect for acting out some of our favourite bed time stories (perfect compliment alongside Robert Munches classic The Paper Bag Princess, "HEY DRAGON!"$3.99 each.

Gifts for Older Kids

Remember your first IKEA couch?  It was cheap, yet stylish and made you feel like a grown-up.***  They now sell IKEA Dollhouse furniture sets in classic signature styles $12.99!  We bought this for my 9 year old niece as a part of her gift.

Know a kid who wants to play with some dolls or action figurines on the go?  Enter the portable dollhouse book, $3.99, we bought this for my 5 year old niece!

Need something to go with that IKEA wooden train set?  How about this awesome bridge?  Just $9.99, I'm itching to go back to IKEA and grabbing this for Jack.

This year Santa is Swedish for Common Sense!

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*IKEA if you want to offer me money to review products or create a fictional children's series about Darwin the Monkey I swear I'll fill my house with Poang chairs.
**But no wipes, what gives?
***Chris and I had our first IKEA couch destroyed by a house guest who who passed out and "over-stayed their welcome all over the couch", wish I was joking.

Thursday, 12 December 2013

Pork Soda

It's been a while since I've posted some of the minions "artwork" and I feel that this is something share-worthy. We received a big pile of masterpieces a week or two ago when they transitioned the fall display into the Winter Wonderland that is currently gracing the walls of daycare.  Molly is onto our "game" of recycling a great deal of their artistry and yells, "My art, My art!" as she encourages us to oooh and ahhh over her creations.  To my family members and dear friends, if your gifts this Christmas include finger paintings from my children, please respond with an intense amount of adoration and we will never speak of it again.

Among the most recent items that came home is the creation below, care of Jack.   I believe that the children selected the foods that they would choose for a Thanksgiving feast if they were in charge of the meal.

Apparently Jack is one part Homer Simpson (donuts, ham, some sort of pie waffles and pork cutlets) and one part woodland creature (berries and mushrooms).

Much like their father, the children will be forbidden from unsupervised grocery shopping for at least a few more years.  Coming soon, I'll be posting emotional photos of fictional families from magazines that they've turned into collages.  Spoiler alert, these are being given to my brother, perhaps in frames, for Christmas.

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Wednesday, 11 December 2013


Every year from the end of November until mid-January our grocery cart contains a wooden crate filled with clementines.  On our first Christmas together Chris insisted on going out to the fruit market to get "Japanese Oranges".  I didn't know what he was talking about, told him that this wasn't a real thing and mocked him for inaccurately labelling fruit with a nationality. I don't call kiwi "New Zealand Green Fruit",  his retort; "What about Florida oranges?" Well played.   Then I brought this up with a couple of friends who were raised on the west coast and apparently I was wrong, this is a thing in BC and has been for 120 years: Japanese Mandarins.  Apparently these were a huge deal and a great Christmas gift, particularly in war times and the depression era, with the wooden crates being converted into sleds, shelves, doll beds and other useful items.

In our family the smell of peeled citrus fruit has replaced the cheap chocolate of dollar store advent calendars and this makes me happy.  If I can encourage even one holiday tradition that doesn't result in the onset of type two diabetes, I'll consider it a victory.

An attempt at a Christmas shot last year.

On a daily basis the minions will insist upon at least one "Japanese Orange" each.  Molly likes hers divided into halves, not segments, where she sucks out all of the juice like some sort of fruit vampire (Bunnicula anybody?), handing me back the husk of fruit proclaiming, "Here Mom, gross!" and then demanding more orange.  I've been informed by daycare that Jack can get so excited about whenever they have oranges that he tries to eat the peels.*

Last year I was a little sad that family allergies have prevented us from getting a real tree anymore.  Nothing beat the smell of a real pine tree in the house to tell me that it was December and Christmas was coming, until now.  I am so happy that sticky sweet fingers and the smell of oranges will remind me of the holidays with Chris, Molly and Jack. 

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*Extra fiber?

Monday, 9 December 2013

The Sound of Music

This weekend Chris and I had our first gift wrapping party after the minions went to bed.  And by wrapping party I mean Chris wrapped gifts while I wrote up labels, criticised the boxes he selected and drank cream soda while we watched The Other Guys on cable.

To get further into the festive spirit we have been cranking the holiday tunes daily.  Because of family rules we only listen to Christmas music from December 1-25th, so I really like to get my money's worth.

Worst Wrapping Job Ever!

Every year we look to increase our holiday music collection, but it's rare that we come across a complete gem!  Below are some of my favourites:

Indie(ish) Christmas Albums

Maybe This Christmas Tree - Compilation Album
This holiday treat from indie darlings from 2004 is my most played Christmas album.  It has the perfect blend of traditional songs and modern covers.  My favourites include a cover of Christmas for Cowboys by Jars of Clay and a melancholic version of Wonderful Christmas Time which can be sure to render the too many egg nog smoothies weepies in all of us.  The only song on this album I routinely skip is Lisa Loeb's cover of Jingle Bells because it's terrible.

Songs for Christmas - By Sufjan Stevens
I have been fighting with Sufjan since his self-indulgent concert of a couple of years ago that included a 27 minute auto tuned rendition of his song Impossible Soul.  This holiday album is so good that I've determined that I have to get over it and move on, I'm sure Sufjan was heartbroken.  Perfect for listening to while you sip morning coffee, or drink PBR ironically with your hipster friends.

Modern Party Classics

A Very Special Christmas 3 -Compilation Album
Proceeds from the sales support the Special Olympics.  This is a great album to put on and leave on.  A great mix of rock, light rap and pop(ish) country.  If I were to download just a few tunes from this album it would have to include: No Doubt's Oi to the World and Chris Cornell's haunting rendition of Ave Maria.  I also have a weird soft spot for Blue's Traveler's Christmas.

'Tis the Season for Los Straitjackets
A couple of years ago our friend dragged us to see EL Vez, the self proclaimed Mexican Elvis so we could celebrate Mexmas, I'm not joking.  This instrumental band opened for him and is a great instrumental option when you've had enough holiday cheese whiz but still want to feel a little nostalgic for everything red, white and green.

Classic Kid Albums I Grew Up With & Love

Merry Christmas Sesame Street
I can't even link to this one on Amazon it's so old, but it features songs and Muppet versions of classic holiday tunes and stories, Including a Bert and Ernie version of The Gift of the Maji involving a cigar box and Ernie's beloved rubber duckie.  If that doesn't have you longing for your childhood 1970's and early 1980's babies, Mr. Hooper is on this album.

A Christmas Together - John Denver & The Muppets
This is Chris's favourite holiday album and he was thrilled that we found it at Goodwill for $1.49 a couple of years ago.  A Muppet spin on all of your favourites.  Buyers beware, I was reading reviews on Amazon and apparently the most recent CD release is missing three of the classic songs.  You may do better searching thrift shops for this one.

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Friday, 6 December 2013

Silent Night

A while back we had Jack assessed for speech and language development and it was determined that he was a normal child who was a little slow to speak.  We were happy and we started to employ some of the tips and tricks we had learned to help encourage language and saw some slow but steady progress.  A couple of months passed and things started to falter: days went by without new words, he began to replace words he had already known with syllable sounds in place of the actual word.  He was getting frustrated and so were we.  Molly and other kids at daycare were belting out full sentences and we were lucky to get two words in a row out of Jack.  We never want to compare Jack to his sister or to other children, but he was falling behind, quickly and it was growing more apparent by the day.

We connected with our childcare providers, who have access to language and development assessment services that are covered by the city and one of the many benefits of licensed care within Toronto.  An independent assessor would come into the daycare and observe Jack "in his natural habitat"* several times, during different times of the day over several weeks, provide us transcripts of each observation and then eventually a recommendation report on suggested follow-up testing and/or learning plans.   

Part way through the assessment period our worker recommended that we record words that Jack says spontaneously and ones he repeats back after hearing.  So we did, when we remembered, in the evenings and weekends over a one week period.  Below is a sample of a three day period we observed on evenings.

Jack Spontaneous Words:
Box, Ping-Pong, Monkey, Bear, Pink Bear, Blue Bear, Temper, Open, Stuck, Beep Beep, Diaper, Powder, Balls, Coin, Bye, Time-out, Backpack, Coat, Shoes, Hat, Light, Necklace, Glasses, Fish, Cup, Cat, Coke, Pop, Thanks, Uh-oh, Bye, Banana, Apples, Tasty, in the box, Closed, Help, Molly, Jack, Bath, Delicious, Phone, Car, Truck, Mom, Dad, Nana, Poppa, Drew, No, Yes, Drums, This, Knock Knock, Milk, Cracker
Sings Ba Ba Black Sheep (disjointed), Sings Ring around the Rosie (disjointed)

Jack Repeated Words:
Hungry, Cookie, Bar (granola), bottle, pull, candle, juice, mushroom, elephant, soup, pasta, contacts, chicken, meat, brushes, broccoli, Katie, Erika, fork, doggy, treasure, potty

We noticed, happily, that in just a three day period Jack shared over 60 words (many more if you count the random lyrics of the songs he sings).  We also noted that over 57% of his repeated words were related to food!

On Wednesday I went in to get the results of Jack's assessment.  Once again they reported that he is a normal, sweet and social child who is slow to speak. He also participates in all aspects of his program at daycare well.  This sounded familiar, but there was more: he isn't picking up lower tones or sounds which could be as simple as cleaning his ears at the doctor, or could involve more testing.  He has trouble hearing in a room with a lot of noise and conflicting messaging, this could be a hearing issue or could be a focus issue on filtering messaging.  But what does this mean for us and Jack?

It means that next week his ears are getting checked (and likely flushed) by his doctor and then we'll see if we notice improvements.  It means more one on one sessions with Jack at daycare and home to help him get words and labels for things in his life.  It also means a referral to the waiting list for TPSLS so we can supplement the help from daycare if/when we need it.   It's going to be a lot of work and learning for all of us, but it is getting better and it's going to be worth it.  Chris and I can't wait to have a conversation with our little boy! 

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*I know I make it sound like Jane Goodall and the monkeys, but they really didn't describe it like that when they explained the assessment to Chris and I.  It's just if you spend enough time with toddlers you really can appreciate the jungle reference.  

Wednesday, 4 December 2013


Much like Fiddler on the Roof's patriarch Tevye I am a huge fan of tradition.  The holiday season is always a wonderful time to create, hopefully, many great memories with your family.

Below are some of our pre-holiday traditions that I thought I'd share.  Some are ones Chris or I grew up with and others are ones that we've started over the past few years while we established our own little family.

Christmas Music
You are only allowed to play holiday music in our house between December 1st -25th.  Much like the McRib the limited time offer makes the festive tunes feel all the more special. 

Holiday Card Face-off
Chris and I have a competition each year to see who gets referenced first in the most Christmas cards (i.e. is the card addressed to Sara & Chris or Chris & Sara?)  Whomever gets mentioned first the most is declared grande champion and receives bragging rights for the year, although now that I proclaim this publicly I suspect a lot cards will be addressed to the children first, but we'll find a way to adapt the rules. 

Christmas Tree
The tree goes up on the first weekend of December, this was always the case in both Chris and my childhood home, so we decided to keep this one going.

1 Meaningful ornament Per Year
We select and name one "meaningful" ornament a year to reflect on the year that has just gone by.  Sometimes it arrives as a gift, other times we make something or go out bargain shopping post-Christmas to pick out something we really like.  Examples of meaningful ornaments are: the house key ornament from the year we bought our house or the two frogs on an engagement ring from the year we got married.

What are your favourite traditions to help you get into the festive spirit? 

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Monday, 2 December 2013

What's My Age Again?

Often times I'll get jealous about products for babies and I wish there was somewhere I could access these goods as an adult.  Then I think a little more about it and  I understand exactly why they don't offer the product to adults, because it's ridiculous.

Below are 5 items I often wish they offered for adults, but am secretly relieved that they don't and the reasons why:

1. Polar fleece lined jeans.  These are an amazing way to keep little bums and legs warm on a cold winter's day without the added bulk of snow pants.  When I'm standing at a street car stop on a gusty day and I feel like I'm being physically assaulted by Jack Frost, I long for these pants.  Although practically I know that for 90% of adults, wearing these pants would be a fashion no-no.  We would all look like we'd just had collagen injected into our thighs and rump implants, but we'd be warm. 

2. Snaps on your pants for ease of diaper changing/ bathroom.  I love these on my kids, especially now during toilet training.  I know they offer these to people larger than two feet tall, they're called tear-away pants but unless you are a semi-professional athlete, I recommend you proceed with caution when wearing these.  As a teenager who was on swim team, these were a Wednesday wardrobe staple, although as a common prank when you'd spot a friend in tear-aways, you'd pretend to tie your shoes beside them grab the bottom corner of their pants, pull and run as fast as you can.

3. Bodysuits with snaps at the bottom.  I hate when my shirt gets untucked as much as the next gal and I lived through the 1990's in all of it's spandex body suit glory, however after living through the wedding decade (aged 25-35) my tolerance for snaps, corsets, Spanxs and anything that makes going to the bathroom lengthier is highly unnecessary.  Unless there are professional photographers present, my shirt can come untucked and I'm not going to get upset, muffin top be damned!

4. Adjustable pant waists.  A lot of baby/children's clothes (jeans and trousers) have an elaborate button and elastic system which allow you to tighten and loosen the waist as often as you like. This is great because toddlers are shape shifters and clothing size can change by the day.  As an adult this would come in handy for big holiday meals, but would give new meaning to the phrase "mom jeans" and we're all better off that it doesn't exist.

5. Flannel sleepers or footie pajamas.  For a holiday photo these are cute in adult sizes in a novelty kind of way, but for everyday wear, a little less practical. As someone who changes into sweats (or yoga pants) and a t-shirt  the second I get in the door from work, wearing footie pjs would be taking it a little too far, even for me.  There is something about an adult in one piece pjs at 7pm on a random Tuesday night that says, "I give up".

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