Tuesday, 30 September 2014

Happy Wanderer - Hiking High Park

We continue to search for hiking options for the minions in and around the city of Toronto in an attempt to give both kids their billy goat legs so they can master short trails without us having to break out the hiking carriers.

Our third hike was the west ravine nature trails off the beaten paths of High Park (about a two minute walk from the subway station to the gates of the park and another few minutes until the trail which is just past the west road concession stand).  We meandered on these trails for almost 3km before we made our way to the snack stand for Popsicles to reward our little hikers (which is near the head of the trail).  

Below are some things that make High Park a great destination for hiking training for kids.  

High Park Hiking Trail
Jack collecting acorns on the trail to feed the chipmunks.

High Park Hiking Trail
Molly quickly discovered that yelling, "Hey chipmunks, where are you?" may not be the best way to entice the critters to hang out with you.  Yes she is wearing winter boots with her summer dress...it wasn't worth the fight.

High Park Hiking Trail
This is the section of the trail near where we came across a small snake.  The kids were super excited.  The snake seemed less than thrilled about our meeting.

High Park Hiking Trail, Pond
Hiding behind daddy and crying that the chickens were going to get them!  Note that my children think that ducks are chickens.  This totally makes sense since they have never seen a yellow duck that is not made of plastic.  It turns out there is a duck called the American Pekin Duck that is in fact yellow and the most popular duck breed in the states.  Here in Canada we have Mallard Ducks (also known as chickens to my children) and hang out with yellow ducks at bath time.

To read about our hike at Lambton Park click here

To read about our hike at James Gardens click here 

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Thursday, 25 September 2014

When I Grow Up

The other morning, when she didn't want to go to daycare, Molly informed me that she knew what I did all day at work.  She insisted that she knew that I stayed at home and cuddled with blankets all day long.  Next she told me that she would be joining me for my day instead of going to daycare - since there was no way that she was missing out on cuddles.  When I reconfirmed that I was not sitting at home wrapped in a Slanket all day and that I was in fact going into the office, she reluctantly agreed to go to daycare.  She had assumed that my day was a lot like her day: snacks, colouring, running around in a playground and playing with friends.  Apparently it is quite common for children to assume that you are doing what they know and that your day parallels theirs.

When I am working at home in the evenings Molly will often interrupt me because she wants to look at pictures online.  I often wonder if that is what she considers to be "work"?

It later occurred to me that when your job isn't one that is routinely featured in story books (like astronauts or firemen) or a constant in their lives like teachers, cashiers or doctors, then why should we expect our children to have any clue what we are doing all day.

Sometimes I feel like Friends character Chandler Bing when I try to explain what I do for a living to adults, so the added challenge of the perspective of being three years old makes things a little harder understand.

purple slanket
What Molly Imagines I do all day, complete with Purple Slanket.

8 Tips to Help Your Kids Understand What You Do For A Living and Encourage Work Ethic
  1. For older kids it's suggested that you bring them into work with you, even if it's just for a few hours.  Across Canada the first Wednesday every November is Take Our Kids to Work Day: "Spending a ‘day in the life’ of a profession or workplace is a fun and fascinating way to explore the world of work, think about career options, and make informed educational decisions." - Take Our Kids to Work website.
  2. Show your kids something physical that you did for your work, like a campaign you worked on, a fence you built or the results from a project.  Take them to your company website, show them what you would show to a potential client about what makes what you do/where you work special.
  3. Speak in terms that they understand.  The other week, Chris was at a conference congratulating someone on an award they had won.  When I told the kids that he was telling a large audience about someone thad had done a good job they were excited.    
  4. Let them ask lots of questions and answer them in terms they'll understand.
  5. To give them an appreciation of your skill set talk to them about philanthropy (without the 50 cent words) and show them how you use your talents in your volunteerism.  There is a great video called Mommy and Daddy do it Pro Bono that champions describing your passion for your career path and making it about how you use this to help others.
  6. All of us have tough jobs and bad days.  It's called "work" because it's hard.  Show your kid that you respect the jobs that everyone does, not just the ones who are celebrated in story books.  Don't be the parent who talks down to their waiter or criticizes the stay at home parent. We are all working hard to make things work in our homes, period.  Little eyes and ears are watching.  No one should be ashamed of what they do in an honest days work.
  7. So junior doesn't want to enter the family business?  Encourage your child to explore what they're excited about and introduce them to friends, family and colleagues who are doing work that they show an aptitude and excitement for.
  8. Get your kids to research things they love.  Odds are they'll have numerous jobs throughout their careers.  Some they'll love, some they won't.

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Monday, 22 September 2014

Rainy Days and Mondays

When Molly and Jack were babies we blamed days that they were cranky and grumpy on colic, teething, poor sleeping patterns or impending developmental milestones.  Now that they're older and better able to express themselves, whether it be through ridiculous demands, whining, bickering or temper tantrums we are better able to face the fact that sometimes people get into bad moods and that bad moods aren't exclusively for adults.

There are certain things that always put Molly and Jack in bad moods.  Jack, like his mom, falls victim to getting Hangry (so hungry he gets angry), and 80% of any behavioural issues can be resolved by handing him some raisins or crackers.  Molly is a bit of a "Sensitive Sally", so anything you say can set her off.  The other morning I called her honey bee instead of Molly, she lost her mind, screaming "I AM MOLLY AND I AM NOT A HONEY BEE."  Additionally, both children, consistently throughout their entire lives, get into terrible moods on rainy or gloomy days.

Here are two of our favourite books to read to Molly and Jack to talk about bad moods and bad days. Cause who doesn't feel better after being read a story and some cuddles?

Grover's Bad Awful Day

Grover's Bad Awful Day
From morning to dinner time, Grover has a bad day.  He's late for playgroup, forgets what letter comes after Q and drops his ice cream on the ground.  It's a good thing that his mommy can help him feel better.  Kids who love Sesame Street and old lovable Grover will appreciate knowing that sometimes he has bad days too.

Alexander and the Terrible Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day

Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day!
A friend of ours has always described her bad days as "terrible, horrible, no good, very bad days". Obviously this book had a significant impact on her as a child, so when I saw it on a shelf at a local bookstore I had to grab it for Molly & Jack.  Alexander's laundry list of complaints are wonderfully kid focused and so entertaining they'll bring a smile to almost any "Grumpy Gus".  The artwork that corresponds with the story truly captures the essence of little boy grumpy face.  It's as if Jack posed and pouted for this book himself.

For younger kids there is a board book called Happy Hippo, Angry Duck  that talks about different moods including an Angry Duck who's always kinda grumpy.

Apparently, Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day! is coming to theatres this October starring Steve Carrell and Jennifer Garner.

What are your favourite cures for a moody day with little ones?  Or for yourself?  I like to bake while listening to British divas (Adele, Amy Winehouse or Lily Allen are personal favourites).

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Thursday, 18 September 2014

Boy Inside the Man - Movie Review Boyhood

The other night Chris and I went out to see Richard Linklater's film Boyhood.  This groundbreaking movie was filmed over several weeks a year for 12 years as we watch main character Mason grow-up in front of our eyes.  The script had input from all of the actors through the entire process with scenes being written often the night before they were filmed each and every year.

Here's a quote from Ethan Hawke on the movie, "I play the father, and it's Tolstoy-esque in scope. I thought the BEFORE series was the most unique thing I would ever be a part of, but Rick has engaged me in something even more strange. Doing a scene with a young boy at the age of 7 when he talks about why do raccoons die, and at the age of 12 when he talks about video games, and 17 when he asks me about girls, and have it be the same actor - to watch his voice and body morph - it's a little bit like timelapse photography of a human being. I can't wait for people to see it."

Boyhood movie review

Movie Review:  Boyhood

As I clock in more and more hours on my parental time card, I have a broader point of reference of what it means to be a parent.  In the past I have credited my generation's (Generation Xennial - not quite a Gen X or a Millennial)  arrested development as evident by the portrayal of parenthood as inherently uncool.  Boyhood is about "Boy" Mason growing up, but it also tackles issues of adult maturation as portrayed by Ethan Hawke and Patricia Arquette who play Mason's parents.

When I was younger I loved the movie Reality Bites, particularly Hawke's dreamy Troy Dyer, for his slacker approach of sticking it to the man and being way too smart for his BS retail job, but not committed enough to do anything bigger or better for himself or anyone else - other than be cool guy Troy Dyer.  Today I can't watch that movie without cringing because I don't "get" broody Troy any more and have a growing affinity for sell-out, corporate Ben Stiller's character Michael who represents everything my generation is supposed to hate.   This movie embraces what happens when a "Troy Dyer" type has a kid and then eventually, slowly grows up alongside him and for this it is truly brilliant.  Both Reality Bites and Boyhood are set in Texas - coincidence, probably entirely, but in my opinion serendipitously so.  I believe that the generations before us struggled about becoming grown-ups just as much as we do, they just don't complain about it constantly.  Maybe that's going to be our trademark.

Best Parts of the Movie
I love photo albums.  I think I'm one of the only people I know who still prints and keeps photo albums.  This movie is like a live action photo album where you get to watch the good, the bad and the ugly of growing up - with moments that most albums and social media just don't capture. Arquette is wonderful as a struggling, mostly single, mom in a way that is sometimes painful to watch.   The growth of Hawke as Mason Sr. into manhood and real fatherhood is the unsung subplot of this journey.  It's an interesting choice that Linklater's daughter is a family member along for the ride as Mason's older sister Sam with a natural fraternal chemistry between the two actors.  The soundtrack is a definite highlight with music from each specific year and new and old classics including: Gotye, Wilco, Flaming Lips, Cold Play, Bob Dylan and Arcade Fire.

Worst Parts of the Movie
I would argue that the actors got stronger in their performance as the time line continued and as they aged, however the actors have had years to get inside the heads of these characters by the time the film comes to an end.  I struggled with the mixed messaging about drinking surrounding the romantic partners that Arquette chose and the way they plagued her family's lives - but this may have made the character seem more real, I haven't quite decided yet.

When would I Let Molly and Jack watch this movie?
I'd say this is a PG 13 type of movie that I would be comfortable with Molly and Jack watching as they approach their teen years and I don't know how much interest they would have before that anyway.

Overall Rating
This movie is a trailblazing accomplishment that the entire cast should be proud of.  If you are expecting pivotal plot points or a definite climax, this isn't the movie for you.  If you want a cinematic experience that's more about the journey then the destination, strap yourself in, you're going to enjoy it and all of its beauty.  I would rate this movie 4.5/5.

Ellar Coltrane is Mason

To read my review of the movie Neighbors click here

To read my review of Saving Mr. Banks click here

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Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Who Am I?

Today is my birthday and as I turn 36 I feel a weird cyclical sense of familiarity to the way I had felt about things exactly half my life ago, the fall that I turned 18.  I feel like this is going to be an inspiring year and it's going to be a tough but rewarding year, but I'm going to work to earn it.

In grade 12 I had a "career planning meeting" with my school`s guidance counsellor.  Essentially I was told that my grades (mostly Bs, some As) weren't that great and specifically my marks in math and science would make me an undesirable candidate for university.  I felt defeated and resigned myself to the possibility that I would take some sort of program in college in something generic like "BUSINESS" and then become a grown-up.  They gave me some brochures about programs that I wasn't passionate about and then sent me on my way.  I wasn't even done high school and felt like a failure.

Christian Slater's character in Pump Up the Volume sums up my experience with my grade 12 guidance counsellor, "If they knew anything about career moves would they have ended up as guidance councillors?"

After a few months post-meeting with my guidance counsellor I had an idea inspired by an acquaintance who had also changed schools and moved to a school that focused on arts, creativity and a proactive community spirit.  I was going to spend my last year of high school focusing on whatever I wanted to study before I hunkered down to my career path to become: Generic Employee, at Something I Don't Give a Crap About Corp.

The World Studies program offered at this school featured trips to local food banks, a Holocaust Learning Centre, Model Parliament at City Hall and museums. The English program focused specifically on books that were currently banned in other local high schools at the time like Othello, Being There and Cat's Cradle. Writing courses featured workshops led by real published authors and journalists.  It was going to be amazing.

mom and infant son
Jack & I, both trying to figure out "who" the other person is.

On my first day of classes the loudest personalities I was surrounded by were either very artistic, free spirits, vegans or politically minded nerds.  I sat quietly on the sidelines as I watched people become fast friends while I was ignored.  When asked questions about my activist and political leanings I had very little input to give and people seemed disinterested in me, so I disconnected further.  The entire day felt like I was standing outside looking in. That night at home I sat in my room and cried my eyes out, quietly - alone.  I didn't even fit in on the Island of Misfit Toys and I didn't know what to do.  I had decided there was no way that I was going back to my old school.  I'd spent months convincing my parents that this new school was the right choice for me, so I'd have to suck it up.  I put on a smile for my family and pretended that everything was okay.

As classes commenced something changed.  I got engaged.  I became more confident.  I was passionate about everything we were learning and anxious for more, new information.  Teachers and classmates alike became more like colleagues (with a sprinkling of friends) and I was okay with that because I was learning so much about myself each I didn't have time to notice.  I didn't have dramatic high school friendships to manage or crushes to swoon over.  It became one of the best years of my entire life, albeit a very solitary year.

The next year I went on to university, on partial scholarship for a program in English Literature, at the encouragement of the amazing guidance counsellor from my new school.  After graduation I took some courses in play writing, sitcom writing and journalism while I worked.  This fall, half of my life later, I will be completing my post graduate certificate in Public Relations and I'm excited to ask myself what I'm going to learn about next.

I've had some trouble relating and connecting with people over the past few months and I don't know why, but things have seemed different lately.  Instead of focusing on isolation, I have embraced my "me time" using it to read, research and follow my curiosity down the rabbit hole.  On my 36th birthday I feel like it's somehow that infamous first day of school all over again.  I am learning to be a mom of genuine kids because Molly and Jack aren't babies any more.  I am learning to take time for Chris and I.  I'm going to jump in with both feet and ask the question, "what am I going to learn next?". Maybe I'm a little bit closer to figuring out who I want to be when I grow up.

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Monday, 15 September 2014

Red Apples

This past weekend we decided to take the minions out for the first of what I hope to be many "Harvest" focused activities.  Both kids have been paying keen attention to everything fruit and vegetable with an unprecedented and unusually high level of excitement every Monday when our Tupperware full of produce arrives at our front door.  We figured that this interest would translate well to a trip apple picking.

We decided to try somewhere new this year that was a little off the beaten path and without admission fees.  We went to Archibalds Orchards and EstateWinery in Bowmanville which is about an hour drive East of Toronto - If you don't get lost which we totally did because of my poor ability to navigate Google Maps.  The kids had a blast and we walked away with a giant bag of apples (cost is $24 for one giant overflowing bag of apples).  They did fairly well picking the apples themselves and I'm fairly certain Molly ate her weight in apples.  

Archibalds Orchards and Estate Winery, Giant Tire
Repurposed Farm Equipment in a  play area

Archibalds Orchards and Estate Winery, re-purposed farm equipment into a playground
Enjoying some hide and seek.

Archibalds Orchards and Estate Winery, re-purposed farm equipment into a playground

Archibalds Orchards and Estate Winery, re-purposed farm equipment into a playground
Recycled material train, complete with bell.

Archibald's Orchards and Estate Winery, apple picking
Apple picking.

Archibald's Orchards and Estate Winery, apple picking
Jack and dad doing some heavy lifting.

We didn't have a chance to check out the cider or the winery, but now we have a reason to go back.  We are open to other harvestesque suggestions this fall if anyone wants to float some ideas.

To check out other harvest themed activities we've enjoyed in the past click here

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Thursday, 11 September 2014

Monster Hospital

We've had some issues with Monsters in our house lately. We've also had a run of nightmares....maybe it's time for some new feng shui in the nursery..or maybe it's just life with preschoolers.  Either way we are working on creating a calming sleep environment for Molly, Jack and everyone in our house and have done our research, behold:

14 Tips to Help Make to it the Other Side of the Nightmare Phase

toddlers sleeping, dealing with children and nightmares

  1. Go to your child right away when they call out for you and give them a hug or rub their back while they calm down.
  2. It helps to give them a change of scenery, but keep them out of your bedroom to prevent ongoing requests to sleep with mom and dad from becoming a reality.  Our office and living room are bright rooms without a television to get them away from the "scene of the crime" even if it's just for a few minutes.
  3. Let them tell you about the nightmare, if they want, but don't push too hard if they don't want to talk about it that night.  It can wait until tomorrow, in the light of day. 
  4. Tell them that it's only a dream and that a nightmare isn't real, but again remember how real this might seem to them.  You may want to turn on some lights and show them that there are no monsters hiding under the bed or in the closet, but try to avoid turning it into an all night expedition (complete with pitch forks and torches).  Remind them that you are nearby so you can keep them safe.
  5. If they share a room with a sibling let them know that they can jump into bed and cuddle each other to help feel better (and keep the parental bed child free for the night).
  6. Help them make a dream catcher craft and hang it above their bed to help snare bad dreams and only let the good ones in.
  7. If they are still talking about the nightmare (or monster) during the day, have them draw a picture of it and then have the child tear it up or throw it in the garbage.
  8. They may be scared from listening to a scary story (It drives me insane how many children stories focus on monsters.  I am talking about you too Grover!)  Maybe it's time to put them aside for a little while or keep them as afternoon reads.
  9. Same goes for upsetting TV or movies.  If these are favourites of your kids (Molly loves Sleeping Beauty, but Maleficent and the dragon are pretty scary) remember the further you keep movies with dragons and evil witches away from bed time, the better.
  10. Keep creepy music off of the play list for a while.  You can listen to Marilyn Manson or your Slipknot album on your own time. When Chris was a kid he listened to the radio when he was trying to fall asleep and would get scared every time the songs Ghostbusters, Thriller or Somebody's Watching Me came on the radio - which in the 1980s was a lot!  
  11. Let them rub a little skin lotion (I've heard it called "good dream cream") onto their tummy or forehead before turning in for the night.  Maybe let them decorate the bottle and make it a part of the bed time routine.
  12. Some parents have found that putting a few drops of a relaxing scent into a spray bottle (like vanilla or jasmine) and spraying it in the nursery before bed can make for excellent "monster repellent" or "Stay AWAY Monster Spray"
  13. Stick to bed time routines and schedules to avoid kids getting over-tired and sleepy mean.  This helps everyone.  Go to bed on time yourself so you can be patient when it's "Bad Dream Go Time".
  14. Don't underestimate the power of a new nightlight or bad dream fighting toy.  When I was having tons of snake nightmares, my mom bought me a giant woollen stuffed snake (meant to go along the bottom of a door to block winter drafts).  She told me it would scare away all of the other snakes - and most of the time it did!
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Wednesday, 10 September 2014

I Must Be Dreaming

Growing up I had four vivid nightmares that haunted me.  Two were generic dreams featuring snakes and witches (sometimes both).  One was about having to decide between two routes to get somewhere and always selecting the "wrong" route which always had an unknown monster that I never saw but always knew existed at the end of a long, dark tunnel.  The fourth one involved being abducted by a stranger who used puppets to lure children into his trap, whenever I ran for help and knocked on a door of a house it always seemed to be the home of my abductor.  Puppets still make me a little uncomfortable, cause they're creepy even in the light of day, but for the most part nightmares are generally stress or anxiety dreams in my adult life.

A gorgeous photo of Sleeping Beauty that a friend took on a hike last summer.

About a month or two ago Molly and Jack both became interested in talking about monsters at bed time.  We weren't sure what brought it on, but they wanted reassurance that there were no monsters in the closet, none under the bed and wanted to know what actions Chris or I would take should monsters try to invade their fortress of solitude.  Our standard answer is: There are no monsters allowed in this house, there are no monsters allowed in your room.  When answering the question, "What are you going to do if monsters try to come in?" Dad's standard answer (that I and our babysitters have also been using) is "I will punch them in the nose and say, go away monster!"  I don't know if I entirely agree with dad's stock answer, but it seemed to be working so we just sort of went with it.  The Cruelty to Monsters Association (patent pending) is sure to come knocking on our door because Chris is uttering threats surrounding trespassing.

The other night Molly told me that a monster ate her hoodie and that was why she was cold. Jack is also convinced that my brother's dog, or monsters, are going to eat him.  I guess now is not the right time to bring out the Cujo pop-up story book.  Monsters have been constantly on their minds lately.

Sidebar: I don't really believe in telling my kids that monsters aren't real, because they are very real in two distinct ways.  They are very real in the minds and imaginations of our children and an abstract knowledge that they don't exist doesn't exactly help when you're three years old and see the horrific shadow that your Frozen poster is casting and are convinced that it moved. They are also very real in the sense that humans (or puppets in the case of my childhood nightmares) are capable of doing unspeakable and monstrous things.  I'm not going to launch into that conversation in the middle of the night with a scared toddler, but I'm not going to deny their existence.

The other night curiosity about monsters bloomed into a full blown nightmare with a very upset Molly at 3AM causing the entire house was awake for about half an hour.  We know that this is just the beginning on the next stage of preschool development.  Yay?

Here are some interesting facts about children and nightmares:

  • I once read somewhere that toddlers/preschoolers live magically, not logically which is one of the reasons why nightmares seems so real.  They have very active imaginations and that is one of the most amazing (and sometimes frightening) things about being a kid.
  • Nightmares are most common in preschoolers (kids aged 3-6).  This is also the age when normal fears develop.
  • Some research indicates that as many as 50% of children in this age group have nightmares.
  • It is perfectly normal for children this age to experience nightmares 1-2 times a week (so much for sleeping through the night).

Now that we understand that this is normal, it's time to come up with a nightly game plan...Check in later this week to see some tricks and tips we'll be testing on dealing with nightmares in a way that is 50% less cruel to monsters.  Monster safety not guaranteed.

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Tuesday, 9 September 2014

Slow Down

I first noticed the "Slow Down Kids at Play" signs popping up in our neighbourhood when I was out for a walk a couple of weeks ago.  The design is more aesthetically pleasing than others I've seen previously and I didn't think much about it at first.

We live in a very community focused area of Toronto's almost gentrified "The Junction".  We are not a main road, but are often used as a bipass road by people trying to avoid traffic issues on larger streets.  Unfortunately many of the people who utilize our street to avoid traffic, speed.  A lot.  I'm talking Road Runner fast.  They also often skip the stop signs and plow on through without looking. It's an issue that I've always noticed but been particularly aware of since the minions have been mobile.

Letters, email and requests to city counsellors surrounding traffic calming, speed bumps and stronger speed surveillance in the area have gone out with little to no movement (to my knowledge) from the city's transportation department.  I understand that this is a lengthy review process and items like alternate transit and emergency vehicle routes need to be considered. Implementing traffic calming on one street or area could cause a ripple effect of applications for calming measures in the surrounding areas.  The City of Toronto website states that they receive 50-100 requests for speed humps (that's what the City of Toronto calls them) per year and install over 100-150 a year.

slow down kids at play sign

I also suspect when people start purchasing Slow Down signs for their houses it's because they are attempting to take matters into their own hands because they feel like they are not being helped. I have only once seen police monitoring trafffic speed on our street in my six years on our street and as a parent of two toddlers that terrifies me.

After a fatality of a little girl in Leaside Toronto earlier this summer the community has, with the financial support of some local car dealerships, produced slow down signs in hope that drivers will take note.  They are spreading around the city quickly.

When contemplating whether or not we would purchase a slow down sign for our house I began to research their impact.  Do they work?

The following are reasons I found in my research as to why many areas in North America do not approve Children at Play signs:

  • The generic message of the signs does not command sufficient motorist attention.  Others argue that the signs are in fact too distracting to motorists - If an unauthorized sign and cone caused a motorist to have an accident, this could lead to liability issues for those who placed the signs and/or cones in the street.
  • Most motorists are generally aware of the increased possibility of children playing in yards, driveways and sidewalks when driving in a residential street.
  • Some believe that these signs are inappropriate for public streets since they convey the suggestion that playing on the street is acceptable behaviour.
  • These may create a false sense of security to parents as to the safety of their children and cause less watchful eyes.
  • It is believed that most accidents involving children are not caused by driver behaviour, but by the unsafe actions of the children. 

What can we do about road safety and our kids?

  • Educate our children on road safety - this really is our first line of defence.
  • Contact the city and city counsellors about your concerns, multiple points of contact will draw attention to your cause.
  • Some areas of the US offer programs where you can participate in a neighbourhood speed watch program and borrow a radar dolly to educate people about how fast they are going and can record speeds.  Some programs will use this radar system to  locate the registered owners of the vehicles and send a letter to them asking for their cooperation in reducing their speed.
  • In 2012, Spacing produced a great article on traffic calming beyond speed bumps that included street trees, raised pedestrian crossings and authorized street games.  The article notes that in Toronto, "We have not really explored the possibilities of giving communities some space to experiment with their own lower-cost solutions for residential streets." This is something to consider in your requests to the city.

Do I think the signs are going to help create awareness?  Maybe.  I don't think it could hurt and at the very least it has us talking about road safety with each other and hopefully our kids.

Monday, 8 September 2014

My Yellow Crayon

This weekend I attended a public relations class where we chatted about the importance of human interest stories in a time when negative news is so prevalent.  There is a prominence of child abduction and other worst case scenario hitting news desks, not because they are common in North America, but because they sell copy.  In turn we see the dichotomy of the rise of fun, funny or heart warming news to help lighten programming.  I suspect that some of the popularity of cute cat videos and viral YouTube videos is because we need good news.

One of the examples that was brought to the table was highly successful campaigns that Crayola has run where they have crayon aficionados voting surrounding "retiring colours" from their catalogue, favourite crayon colours and everything colouring.

When I was a kid one of my favourite things to do was to colour.  In the spirit of a time period where the minions are spending more and more time learning about colours, colouring and expressing themselves I thought I'd share some awesome facts about everything crayons.

20 Awesome Things About Crayons That You Probably Didn't Know

original crayons
Some early packages of crayons courtesy of Wikipedia
  1. The first box of Crayola crayons came off the production line in 1903.
  2. Since the beginning Crayola has produced over 130 colours (not including speciality colours).
  3. The name crayon comes from "craie," the French word for "chalk," and "ola," for "oleaginous," or "oily."
  4. Early crayons included red oxide pigment used as barn paint and carbon black used in car tires.
  5. Crayola produced their first box of eight crayons and sold them for 5 cents.
  6. In 1962 Crayola renamed their crayon shade "Flesh" peach....as not everyone's flesh is "Peach".
  7. It took over 35 more years for them to rename "Indian Red" to "Chestnut" in 1999.
  8. Americans voted in an online poll for their favourite crayon colour...it was blue.
  9. The World's Largest Crayon was unveiled at Crayola's 100th Birthday party in Easton, Pa., on Oct. 11. Breaking the Guinness record.
  10. The World's Largest Crayola Crayon weighed in at 1,500 lbs., 15 feet high, 16 inches wide, in America's favourite colour --blue.
  11. Prussian blue, was the first Crayola crayon colour to get renamed as,"midnight blue." Teachers lobbied for the change arguing that children could no longer relate to Prussian history.
  12. Smosh produced a list of the 10 Worst Crayola Crayons including: Asparagus cause this colour is responsible for, "ruining a perfectly good drawing with the one veggie famous for making your pee smell funny" or Bittersweet: "Has there ever been a crayon colour better suited to let small children capture both fleeting joy and enduring sadness in their drawings of a house, family, and sun?"
  13. In 2003 Crayola launched it's save the shade contest where people voted from a list of crayons on the chopping block on which colour would be spared from retirement, Burnt Sienna won. Teal Blue, Blizzard Blue, Mulberry and Magic Mint weren't so lucky.
  14. I am convinced that somehow this vote on saving crayon colours was partially responsible for this personal favourite book, The Day the Crayons Quit. - cause crayons have feelings too!
  15. How do you remove crayon drawings from the wall (cause come on we knew this was coming).  Suggestions include: Damp Rag and baking soda, vinegar, WD40, Toothpaste, Mayonnaise, pencil erasers, or steel wool. (Is it just me or does this list somehow seem like the escalation in the Simpsons episode where Lisa Simpson gets gum stuck in her hair?)
  16. For tips on getting crayon out of fabric, drapes and carpet try some of these suggestions. You know they aren't going to just attack the walls!
  17. If you're looking for another crayon story check out the classic Harold and the Purple Crayon.
  18. Looking for some non-traditional crayon activities for kids, check out this list from Spoonful.
  19. Want a colouring book of your own?  Here are 8 super strange colouring books you can buy for the adult who has everything.  If anyone wants to buy me the romantic goth colouring book I'm game.
  20. Does your kid prefer rocks to crayons like our Jackie does...you can purchase them a little sack of crayon rocks.  Friends got them for him for his birthday (they were a huge hit). We need to periodically hide them from him because he gets a little Gollum with them yelling, "They're mines..."whenever his sister wants to use them. 

Some retired crayons care of Wikipedia

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Thursday, 4 September 2014

Why Can't We Be Friends?

A long while back I wrote about what it was like to be the first of your group of friends to have kids and how it is truly a double edged sword.  I was somehow under the impression that once some of our friends dove into the pool of parenthood that it would be a great equalizer.  I was wrong.  I understand that part of this divide comes with the fact that I have two toddlers/pre-schoolers while most other people have one infant and from time to time I fantasize about how easy breezy life would be with one child, but that is not our reality (nor would I ever really want that).

Once again we're faced with a win-lose situation with a variety of pros and cons of what it's like to be parents of pre-schoolers in the land of babies.  I thought once my friends had children that I wouldn't have to send out apologetic texts about my divided attention and the trail of chaos we've left behind after we attempt to have a conversation while everyone is distracted and exhausted.

Baby proofed is not Toddler proofed, and toddler proofed is not pre-schooler proofed
Your friend is super stoked that they secured all of their baby gates, latched all of their cupboards and their baby is barely crawling.  You come over for a visit and your children open all of the gates and knock over knick knacks that are too high for a baby to reach.  In the end you end up doing just as much hovering and recovery work as you would in a house with absolutely no baby proofing.  We regularly offer up Molly and Jack's services to "test" baby proofing, toddler proofing and raccoon proofing: their fee - Popsicles that they'll use to help destroy your new couch.  Sorry!

Sharing isn't an issue, unless it's an issue
My kids won't likely want to play with the same toys as a baby or toddler, but sometimes they'll insist on sharing an age inappropriate toy with your baby out of the kindness of their own hearts.  As soon as your baby accepts said toy (which is guaranteed to be riddled with choking hazards) they will want it back, immediately.

toddler in hand knit purple bonnet and sweater
Just because Molly has two balls doesn't mean that she's willing to share.

The more you want my kids to interact with your kid the more indifferent they'll be and vice-versa
My three year old probably thinks your six month old is boring and doesn't want to play paddy-cake with them, unless you are trying to feed them or get them to sleep, in that case they'll be yelling: "HEY BABY!" at the top of their lungs in your childs' face or insisting that you let them hold them while they stand at the top of a staircase and pour a sippy cup of juice all over them.

Toddlers can talk
This can be entertaining when they say cute things like, "I like your hair" to a friend or recite the alphabet song.  Not so much when they declare their dislike for you child/cooking/house loudly, vocally and repeatedly while you're trying to have a discussion.

Toddlers can fetch things
This is super handy when you need a diaper from the nursery, or a beer from the fridge.  Not so much when you drop your baby's binky and they take it hostage insisting that it's their own personal "plug".

Toddlers are Divas
My children used to be the only kids on the block, literally.  You used to cuddle them and talk about how cute they were, but now you've got a baby on "their" lap and you haven't commented once on how adorable they are today.  In their minds they are Beyonce* and your offspring is Destiny's Child.  It's not personal.  Okay it's kinda personal, but they'll forget because they're three.

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*This MAD TV Skit on Beyonce and Destiny's Child still cracks me up

Wednesday, 3 September 2014

Happy Wanderer - Hiking at Lambton Park

Chris and I have continued our mission to get the minions "trail ready" so they can share one of our favourite activities with us, hiking.  As I've mentioned previously, we are trying to give both kids their billy goat legs so they can master short trails without us having to break out the hiking carriers (which are fantastic and can hold up to 45lbs, but not ideal for exploring and working on trail walking).   

We've been seeking out nearby parks and trails that are toddler friendly to help better prepare them (ahem) for "the roads ahead" and hopefully provide them with an appreciation of something that we can do together as a family.

Our second hike was a series of short trails off the Humber river in Toronto in what I believe is called Lambton Park (we entered the paths off of Howland and Dundas Road).  The 55 Warren Park bus will also take you to this location. 

Below are some things that make Lambton Park a great destination for hiking training for kids.  Our biggest issue to date has been trying to teach Jack the old hiking motto of "Take only pictures, leave only footprints".  We had to stop several times to get him to unload the rocks, sticks and other souvenirs he was attempting to collect.  I'm convinced he's building a nest.

hiking at Lambton Park Toronto
Easy access to the Humber River bike paths, park (with mini playground) and open fields to play.  Wide trails that make you feel like you aren't even in the city.

hiking at Lambton Park Toronto
Some debris, roots and logs to climb over to help train agile hikers.  Molly and her hide and seek tree.

hiking at Lambton Park Toronto
Some mini bridges to get over muddy areas.

I'd say our "hike" was about .5km each way and both kids fared well, I however had to take allergy medication for the ton of bug bites I got while we went on our late afternoon/early evening stroll, but the mosquitoes seemed to favour parental blood to that of the minions.

To read about our hiking adventure at James Gardens click here

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