Wednesday, 29 October 2014

Black and White

A few years ago I was waiting for a bus.  There was a man standing beside me smoking a cigarette. A little kid, probably about three or four years old, walked by with his mom.  The child stopped, pointed at the man and said, "Mommy that man is smoking.  He is a bad man.  Smoking is bad for you and smells bad, yuck."  The mom was embarrassed and launched into an explanation about how smoking is bad for your health but that it doesn't necessarily make you a bad person.  The mom apologized to the smoking man and quickly dragged her child away.  The smoking man shrugged, smiled and took another puff.  This was the first time that I really noticed the black and white nature of toddlers/pre-schoolers and I found it fascinating.

On a slight tangent, a couple of weeks ago at Jack's speech appointment, we were talking about turn taking and how Molly and Jack (mostly Molly) are obsessed with whose turn it is to choose a movie  to watch.  The assessor stated that three years and two months is the "peak" of turn taking as a focus in a toddler's life.  This is another facet of toddler development that I find really intriguing.

Back to right and wrong.  My kids, like many three year olds, watch a lot of cartoon movies.  All of a sudden they are providing moral commentary on the films they are enjoying and it's neat because they've never done anything like that before.

Scar - Image courtesy of Wikipedia

"Scar is a bad uncle." Commentary from Jack on The Lion King.

"Malicent (Maleficent) is evil." Commentary from Molly on Sleeping Beauty.

"Tai Lung is a bad kitty." Commentary from Jack on Kung Fu Panda.

Jean Piaget was a Swiss developmental psychologist and a pioneer in the exploration of the thought processes behind children’s moral development. "According to Piaget, preschoolers are in a stage called Morality of Constraint. In this stage, children tend to think of right and wrong in black and white terms. That is, an act is always right or always wrong. There are no shades of gray and there is no room to negotiate. People are good people or people are bad. Good guys are always good and bad guys are always bad." explains an article in Early Childhood News.  Essentially this means, as pre-schoolers the minions think of right and wrong in terms of absolutes, how much physical damage was done, whether or not an act will result in punishment and the impact it has on their lives.

Tai Lung - Image courtesy of Kung Fu Panda Wiki

My big question is what can we do to help them develop their moral compass beyond shaming the smoking man at a bus stop.

Here are some of my favourite take-aways I learned in my research on how to help your child develop and flex their moral muscles:

  1. Deal with problems by talking it out and lead your child to consider other peoples thoughts and feelings.
  2. Allow your child to have free time so they can explore and problem solve independently when facing moral conflict.
  3. Discuss moral dilemmas.  During Kung Fu Panda, Master Shifu says that it's his fault that Tai Lung essentially turned bad.  When Molly informed me that "He was a bad daddy to the kitty" this was the perfect spot for a discussion surrounding grey areas and people trying their best to do what is right. 
  4. Encourage role play to have your children consider the perspectives of others.
  5. Praise your children when they put the needs of others ahead of their own.

Random Note: Why are there so many cats who are bad guys in childrens movies?  Cat lovers everywhere want to know!

To see eight life lessons Walt Disney taught me click here

I'm creating some posts on how to save cash this holiday and need your help! If you are interested in participating PM me or drop me a line to

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Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Here for a Good Time (Not a Long Time)

Halloween has always been a holiday that is near and dear to Chris and I.  Several of my family members even commented how they were surprised that we didn't host a Halloween wedding when we got hitched.  As an avid fan of Halloween I must admit I've been a little disappointed in the holiday post children.  Part of it has to do with autumn illness hampering festivities and other parts  to do with the fact that my children have free will and their idea of Halloween probably isn't exactly the same as mine or Chris'.  I started searching for ideas on trying to ensure that everyone has a good, low stress fuelled Halloween this year and thought that I'd share what I found/came up with.

Giant Pumpkin Plant World Toronto
Molly, Jack and The Great Pumpkin at Plant World.

8 Tips for A Stress-Reduced, Happy Halloween

You can't control the costume...Begrudgingly accepting this will make life easier
I have spent weeks agonizing over what Jack will go out as for Halloween, however I'm aware that come Friday night, it will be a game time decision as to whether or not he actually uses the pizza costume we've spent hours working on.  And that's his choice.  I won't be thrilled, but I'll take a deep breath and enjoy him going out as "Jack" (preferably at least in his Batman rain coat) if that's what he chooses.

Eat a Healthy Dinner Before
I know that a lot of candy is going to get consumed by everyone involved.  I can negate some of this by having the kids fill up on a healthy meal (that they'll enjoy) when they get home from daycare before the festivities begin.  Prime choices are home made macaroni and cheese or crockpot chili by creating somewhat of a base of food for them to sugar-coat as the evening progresses.

Go Out Early
The closer to bed time you Trick or Treat, the more likely you are to have meltdowns because of exhausted children who are eyes deep in CandyLand.  Going out early also means that you need to worry a little less about older, sometimes rowdy kids.

Have More Adults Then Children
By having several adults in rotation (for us usually Grandpa, Grandma and Aunt S) you can have a team handing out candy back at home as well as extra hands and eyes to make sure road safety is being listened to, umbrellas are overhead and adorable photo opps aren't missed.

Take Breaks if you Need To
We don't go too far from home yet, but if Trick or Treating gets to be too much and it gets *ahem* challenging for a little one to follow rules, maybe it's time for them to go home and hand out some candy for a while and try again a bit later.  This is another reason why going out early is a good idea, it takes bathroom breaks and mandatory intermissions into account.

Don't Be Afraid to Divide and Conquer
If last year is any indication of what's to come this Halloween, Molly is a bigger fan of Halloween. This means, likely, that she'll be out Trick or Treating for longer then her brother.  As much as I wish we could all trick or treat together this year, I suspect Jack will be happier handing out treats at our house on his own turf and that's okay too.

Have Fun and Remember It's Just a Day
We put a lot of pressure on ourselves to make holidays special which can set unfair expectations for everyone involved.  At the end of the day I need to keep reminding myself that Halloween is just another day and the important part is making it enjoyable for the kids, whatever their version of the perfect Halloween may be.  There is always time for us to celebrate by eating copious amounts of candy and watching Zombie movies when they've gone to bed.

Other Activities can Boost Halloween Enjoyment
By making the day about the journey and not just the destination you can stagger activities for kids to ensure Halloween itself isn't a "Make it or Break it" event.  Kids can enjoy pumpkin carving, Fall Fairs and Halloween movies (parent approved) in addition to Trick or Treating.

What are your Halloween Traditions?  What should we watch when the minions go to bed?  The choices lined up are: Nightmare Before Christmas, Zombieland and Warm Bodies.

For Halloween Costume ideas click here

For Halloween life hacks click here

I'm creating some posts on how to save cash this holiday and need your help! If you are interested in participating PM me or drop me a line to

Friday, 24 October 2014

Permanent Marker

As I've mentioned in the past one of my favourite things to do growing up was to colour.  One of the best birthday gifts I can ever remember getting was a set of smelly Mr. Sketch scented markers.  I loved those things so much.  I could make drawings of anything yellow for  lemons to the sun, smell like lemons and it blew my mind.  Those were simpler times, sigh.  A group of us spent several hours last Saturday night working on a home made pizza costume for Jack's outfit (yes, this was the only thing he'd agree to be for Halloween and I will post photos) and it rekindled my love of markers.  This post is inspired by our wild and crazy Saturday night...sadly we were using unscented markers.

Mr. Sketch Markers
Image Courtesy of Mr. Sketch

Here are 15 Awesome Things That You Probably Didn't Know About Markers

  1. The history of permanent markers dates back to 1910. At that time, Lee W. Newman patented the first marking pen.
  2. The first modern permanent marker was developed in 1952 by Sidney Rosenthal. 
  3. On April 22, 1953, Rosenthal filed for U.S. Patent No. 2713176, an invention that was described as a "marking device".
  4. Crayola makes about 465 million markers every year.
  5. In Australia a marker is called a "texta".
  6. One of my favourite books to read to the minions is Purple, Green and Yellow which talks about what happens when protagonist Brigid colours herself with permanent, never come off, maybe even after your dead, markers.
  7. “All books are colo(u)ring books, if you are in possession of a childlike imagination, and a box of markers.”  ― Jarod Kintz
  8. Mr. Sketch scented markers were introduced by Sanford in 1965.
  9. Despite being active for nearly 50 years, Mr. Sketch released their first television commerical about how they extract their scents earlier this year.
  10. Mr. Sketch offers packs of markers including 8, 12 or 18 different colours/scents. (eight year old SaraBeth would lose her mind with excitement over the 18 pack).
  11. Stain Removal: Permanent markers aren't always permanent, when permanent marker gets mistakenly used on a hard surface, try using a little toothpaste to remove the mark. Rubbing alcohol and hairspray saturated on an ink fabric stain and carefully blotted, then washed, should get the stain out.
  12. You can fix dried up markers by using a water and alcohol solution to extend their usefulness as found here
  13. “Black holes are darker than magic markers, but not as black as my mood.” - Jarod Kintz
  14. For 20 Great Project Ideas using Sharpies visit Happiness is Homemade.
  15. For a list of 34 Things You Can Improve Using Sharpies check out this list on BuzzFeed.

 To see 20 Awesome Things About Crayons That You Probably Didn't Know click here.

Want Multiple Momstrosity updates on Facebook click here 

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Let's Get Physical

A while back I posted about successfully completing a 30 Day Squat Challenge with a promise to report back on my next challenge, The 30 Day Little Black Dress Challenge.  I should have written about this in late July/early August.  That never happened, but I'm willing to own that.  I attempted to complete the 30 day LBD challenge twice - and lasted about a week each time.  The main issues about why I didn't continue can be summarized in two thoughts: 1) I remember why I hated middle school gym class! 2) There is a reason I am not a mountain climber, because I would fall off the side of the mountain.  Apparently Burpees are in fact awesome (someone compiled a list about why here), but that isn't enough to sell me.

Aside from my rants that burpees are in fact the devil, it has been two months since my most recent failed attempt at The 30 Day Little Black Dress Challenge and time to get back on the horse or the mountain climber, but probably not the burpee (if you please).  I loved the 30 day squat challenge, and I would totally do that again, but that's just a piece of it. I want something that is going to work everything and will get me results in short bursts of time.  Something I can work on when the minions are watching the same episode of Mickey Mouse Clubhouse for the hundredth time, basically in 30 minutes or less that I don't hate with the fire of a thousand suns.

hiking with twin carriers
Chris and I hiking with the minions - 2 months after they were born.

In the beginning of August I embarked on an eating plan that I love.  It's called the No S Diet.  It has rules, but also flexibility and is based on slow but steady results.   "No S" stands for - No seconds, no snacking and no sweets, except for sometimes on days that start with S (Saturday and Sunday and special occasions like family birthdays and anniversaries).    In the three months since I embarked on "No S",  I have fallen in love with the way that it makes me feel.  No S reminds me about a piece of diet advice that Jennifer Aniston gave her fans a while back, "Just stop eating s#&t every day."  Simple, right?

Another motivating factor, beyond being able to sprint after an errant child who has decided it was a good idea to wander towards the street while I carry groceries into the house (they are incredibly fast), is that my brother is getting married in a few months and I want to tone up before I go dress shopping.

I bought Jillian Michaels (of The Biggest Loser Fame) 30 Day Shred DVD.  I know very well that I will not manage to complete 30 workouts in 30 days, but I have pledged to myself (and now online for everyone to see) that I will do it in 40 days.  Today is day two.  I am happy to report that the first level of the workout (which I should do about 10 times before moving on to level two) does not include burpees.

I'll check in with an honest account of my progress on becoming a more fit mom in 39 days.  There may also be some lamenting about burpees or that anyone who is above a C cup shouldn't be forced to do jumping jacks.

To read about my experience with the 30 Day Squat Challenge click here

To read some of my commentary on body positivity click here

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

The Apple Tree - Our Trip to Chudleighs Farm

This past weekend we decided to enjoy some autumn activities with the minions and their cousins. We went out to Chudleighs Farm (in Milton about a 45 minute drive from Toronto) for the hay maze, slides, petting zoo, apple picking and tractor rides.  It was a little chilly, but we enjoyed some hot apple cider to warm us up.  Cost for admission is $12 a person (free if you're three and under) or you can buy a family pack for admission of four people for $42.  You can pick your own apples or buy them at the store along with cider, pies and their famous apple blossoms.  There are only two more weekends to pick your own apples, as the orchard closes November 2nd.  

Chudleigh's Farm Moose
Molly and the Moose

Chudleigh's Farm Petting zoo
Jack and dad at the petting Zoo

Chudleigh's Farm Petting Zoo
The girls at the petting zoo

Chudleigh's Farm Apple Picking
Apple Picking

Chudleigh's Farm
Playground and slides

Everyone had a blast despite the nip in the air.  This trip was more expensive then our trip to Archibalds earlier this year, but the kids had a great time chasing after their cousins, so I'd go again next year. 

 I made my first batch of home made apple sauce in the slow cooker last night thanks to some McIntosh Apples we bought from Chudleighs store (it is too late in the season to pick McIntosh).

Home Made Apple Sauce Recipe:
10 apples peeled, cored and sliced into small pieces
1 table spoon of cinnamon
1/2 a cup brown sugar
1/2 a cup water
Heat on low for 3 hours and then mush with potato masher or cool and puree in a blender depending on your desired texture.
(the recipe was good, but a little rich...add some granola and it would taste like apple crumble.  Next time I'll lighten up on the sugar and cinnamon a touch)

To look at other Greater Toronto Harvest activities we've enjoyed in the past you can check out my pictures and thoughts on Downeys FarmArchibalds and The Royal Winter Fair (coming this November).

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Thursday, 16 October 2014


It's been a full week since our meeting with our daycare special needs consultant about Jack and things we can do to make his life a little easier. Over the past week we've rolled up our sleeves to really start to work with him.  Here's how week one has gone and how we've adapted our routines to help Jack based on the suggestions we've received so far and some things we've learned along the way.

8 Things We've Learned  So Far in Our Journey to Manage Anxiety, Obsessive Tendencies and Encourage Speech Development:

1. Correct Jack's Incorrect Usage of Words, i.e. "that's Lego, that's not a plug".
In just the span of a week we've found the more we correct Jack about his wrong use of words, the less likely he is to throw a fit about it.  He tests on a regular basis but is generally eager to tell you what the object really is now, most of the time. (Yes we are aware that Lego is in fact technically a plug).

2. Set Boundaries Using First and Then Statements 
When we notice Jack obsessively playing with plugs, rocks, whatever, we need to take him to another activity.  To do this we've been using "First and Then Statements", an excellent tool, often used visually to help kids establish routines and transition from activity to activity.  We've found that "First and Then" helps Jack get over an obsessive moment - "First dinner, then potty, then plugs (if you'd like)".  It's also been helpful with both children to make transition to bed time easier with statements like "First bath, then pajamas, then stories, then bed" so they both have accurate expectations on what's next.

visual schedule for pre-school kids
Sample visual schedule for pre-school kids on Pinterest
(a pictoral version of First and Then Statements) care of Kim Simon.

3. Play with "Normal" Kids Toys 
Several times over the course of a day we've been taking Jack away from "plug or rock time" to play with puzzles, cars, tea party or other standard games that he can play with other children.  If he puts up resistance we reiterate the, "First puzzles, then cars, then plugs".  A lot of the time he has been forgetting about the plugs and continues to play with whatever we've been working on.

4. Expect Jealousy
On the first evening I sat down with Jack to play with some puzzles, Molly defintely noticed.  She was watching one of her favourite shows on TV but immediately joined in and eventually tried to take over once she saw that Jack was getting extra attention.  It became quickly apparent that Chris and I will need to divide and conquer to get Jack the time he needs.

5. Shut Down Commentary
Jack has a peanut gallery at his side constantly in his twin sister.  The special needs consultant commented that it was like he has a little wife, and he's only three.  When Jack is stressing or having a meltdown moment it's for a very different reason compared with his sister acting out.  He has trouble getting the words out to express his frustration and can shut down.  He does this often via a tantrum.  Since we have been reacting differently to tantrums for Jack and Molly, she has noticed and will comment that "Jack is being naughty" because we give her a lot of crap when she throws tantrums.  The trick here is calling her on the fact that this is none of her business without triggering a second tantrum in Sensitive Sally (noted calling Molly Sensitive Sally can also cause a tantrum).  Simply saying, "Who's job is it to talk to Jack about this tantrum?" and most of the time you'll get, "Mommy, Daddy and Jack." out of Molly without any tears.

6. Focus on Positive Attention
We've tried to praise Jack for all of his positive milestones as opposed to laying on a lot of attention when he acts out.

7. Research, but not Too Much  
The following items helped me feel better surrounding speech delays and challenges in general with kids.  I had to stop myself from over-analysing and falling down a deep Google black hole filled with "What ifs" about Jack, but these really helped me.

  1. Twins or multiples are more likely to have language delays when compared to singletons.  It's hypothosized that, "Parents are busier with two or more children the same age to care for and have less time to help them develop language skills. This means they may answer the children's questions more briefly, engage in less dialogue with just one child, brush over mispronunciations and generally have less time to be a good model for adult language. It does mean the children are better at understanding when something is said quickly!" says Curtin University
  2. A study, published in the journal “Nature Neuroscience,” reaffirmed gender differences in language delay. Analysis also confirmed that parents are not treating boys and girls any differently. The University of Washington publication also stated, "Boys are more at risk for this, just as they are for just about everything else."
  3. “We know half of them won’t have problems and will catch up with their peers. The other half will have problems and we would like to know how to identify those who won’t catch up. From this study, we know that part of the reason is genetic and we would like to look for specific genetic markers of both temporary and more enduring delay in future research.” said a University of Washington publication.

8. Laugh at Fun Moments, Especially During Challenging Times and Roll with it.
Jack has been showing noted improvement already in imagination play with other kids.  One of the workers at daycare gave him an item out of the lost and found box to take home for a while and play with as a reward his for good behaviour.  It is a Mr. T. In Your Pocket Talking Keychain.  On top of meeting so many of the milestones of language development at age three, our son can now say, "Don't Gimme No Back Talk, Sucka", "Shut Up, Fool." and "Quit your jibber jabber."  Jack likes to pretend this is his "phone" and he has frequent conversations with "First Name Mr., Middle Name Period, Last name T."

Mr. T Santa Clause and Nancy Reagan
How have I never seen this picture of Nancy Reagan and Mr. T. before? (courtesy of Wikipedia)

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Tuesday, 14 October 2014


Last week I threw myself a parental pity party.  It was epic.  I really hesitated over whether or not I was going to share it on the blog, until I realized that I really should reveal some of the harder paths we take in parenting and not just the adorable photos of happy moments that clog everyone's newsfeeds.

We went to our meeting with our special needs resource consultant about Jack and his speech therapy goals now that he is three years old.  The good news is that he has reached most of the milestones in terms of his communication checklist: he uses longer sentences (at least 5-8 words long), he is able to answer questions and tell short stories that (most) people can understand.

I love this picture because it has both Molly and Jack's face in it as if they are one.

The bad news was the behaviour he's been demonstrating over the past several weeks has been impacting a lot of his day to day interaction with other kids.  We discussed his regression in terms of toilet training, his obsession with "plugs" (caps and lids) and his attention span (or lack thereof) when he's obsessing over specific toys or ideas and the way that it's causing other children to disconnect with him, even though it's very clear that he seeks out interaction with his peers.  Staff at the daycare seemed just as frustrated as we were at this recent backslide.  In retrospect Chris and I think that they were bracing themselves for the worst - us denying that anything was wrong.   We explained how we were experiencing the same thing and we were on board with taking the steps to ensure that he is better equipped to build and maintain friendships with other kids in his class.  He was throwing a lot of tantrums and the other kids were starting to take notice.

It was a very productive meeting where we worked out a game plan that included a session with a child psychologist (to determine whether or not Jack has any anxiety or obsessive tendencies to flag or whether it's just a part of his personality) and a request for trained support staff to help the team at the daycare keep Jack's learning on track with the other children.  Chris and I can both be pretty odd ducks and Chris regularly admits to having issues as a child in school relating to other kids.  The difference being he wasn't age three dealing with this.  He was older, had better language skills and coping mechanisms in place by the time he had to have regular interaction with anyone besides his older sister - he still struggled with kindergarten and didn't like it very much.  That being said, Chris's finicky nature serves him well as an adult who analyses business opportunities and has an affinity towards Excel spreadsheets and statistical analysis.  Chris also admits that he really didn't like or want to play with other kids as a child "because they played wrong".  Despite the productivity and the fact that we are doing something to help him, all I wanted to do was to curl up into a ball and cry.  Jack may have inherited some of his father's quirks, but Jack wants to play with the other kids and the thought of him being rejected, because he's weird, was breaking my heart.

Prior to the meeting, I had assumed that the difficult stage we were going through with Jack was a normal transgression like the ones we had experienced in the past, often right before he reaches another major milestone.  It was just nothing had evolved out of this transgression.  His constant need to hold and label small objects (plugs) and  freak out whenever anyone corrected him just became something he did, so we had stopped correcting him because we thought it would just pass on its own.  Only it hasn't yet and it's time to intervene.

Both Chris and my mother take a very active problem solvers approach to any problem, while I prefer to wallow and lick my wounds for a while, whereas they both focused on what we could do to start helping Jack right away (more on that later).  I wanted to reach out to some friends but was embarrassed about the struggle and don't want Molly and Jack compared to each other or someone elses children (whether it's intentional or not).

The next morning my mother sent me an email that helped me turn it around and focus on helping Jack rather than feeling sorry for myself.  She reminded me that Jack was around the same age I was when I was expelled from nursery school for being an absolute terror.  I wiped my eyes, laughed about it for the first time in a long time and we began our plan on how to help Jack.  More on how that's working out tomorrow.

To read about Jack's initial speech therapy assessment last summer click here

Friday, 10 October 2014

The Whole World is Our Playground: Park Review - Lakeshore West

We went for a walk along Lakeshore west via the chain of parks that line the lake this past spring, but I never got around to posting a review of it, so I figured why not now in case anyone else wants to do some exploring on a long weekend.

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.

Marilyn Bell Park, Marilyn Bell Boardwalk

Park Name:
Marilyn Bell Park (Lakeshore Boardwalk west)

 There is metered pay parking just west of Ontario Place/Exhibition Grounds.  By TTC you can take the 509 Harbourfront or 511 Bathurst Street car to the CNE grounds and walk from there. 

Marilyn Bell Park, Marilyn Bell Playground equipment
Chris clearly had no clue that Jack was capable of climbing this!

Theme of Park:
Long wooden boardwalk along the lake that is peppered with playgrounds, statues, snack stands and the occasional cafe. 

Grass, sand, wooden board walk and flat concrete bike paths. Some trees along the paths.

Variety of Equipment for different ages:
 The playgrounds here are pretty retro with some basic old school equipment (not always in the best repair) including slides, swings and climbers.  

Marilyn Bell Park, Marilyn Bell Playground equipment

Best Parts of the Park:
The view of the city, the lake and the boats is amazing! I should note the importance of the dinosaur statues. The boardwalk allows for toddlers to toddle without the threat of cyclists or roller blades. I recall Jack constantly trying to throw himself into the lake for most of the journey - which is likely why I hadn't posted a review until now, nearly six months later.  There is also a biking area complete with ramps for BMX biking near the paid parking.

Marilyn Bell Park, Marilyn Bell Playground equipment, Marilyn Bell Dinosaur Playground Toronto

 This is more about the walk, the view and the ambiance than the playground equipment.  There is very little shade, so bring some sunblock and a hat.  This would be a great stroller walk with younger ones or biking expedition for little ones who've had some biking experience.  The water could pose a danger....we had Jack on his "tether" the entire trip to prevent a spring time polar bear dip into the lake.  I recall spending a lot of time waiting for tantrums, but that's hardly the parks fault. 

Marilyn Bell Park, Marilyn Bell Playground equipment, Marilyn Bell Dinosaur Playground Toronto

Overall Rating:
This is a really pretty walk.  I highly recommend it for spring and fall to avoid big crowds, especially if you're travelling with little ones.  I rate this park 3/5, but it will get a higher score when I'm confident that Jack isn't going to walk the plank.

To read my review of Jean Sibelius Square click here

To read about an autumn hike in High Park click here

Tuesday, 7 October 2014

Behind the Mask

We thought we had an epiphany moment the other night when Jack announced that he wanted to be Peter Pan for Halloween.  Then he quickly took it back and acts like we're insane every time we bring it up by saying, "No, I don't want to be Peter Pan." and laughing.  I strongly suspect he's messing with us.

Here's the thing: Chris and I both love Halloween and we're very excited to share our enthusiasm with the minions, but we're hitting some road blocks with the boy child.  In order to avoid permanently scarring him with respect to Halloween I have been researching costumes that meet (or mostly meet) his detailed specifications: No masks, no hats and limited costuming to go over his clothes.

A very sick Bam Bam who never made it Trick or Treating circa 2012.

Here are 6 simple, affordable costumes that we're pitching to Jack for Halloween, (all of which he'll probably reject):

Knight Costume: I really think he'd dig this costume because he'd get to carry a sword and he'll even match Molly in her dragon costume.  The big issue is the eye poking, dragon/Molly slaying and tears that will follow with the eventual confiscation of the sword.  
Props required: Crested shirt, boots, cape and sword.

Prisoner/ Jail Bird: This bright costume will keep him visible to cars at night, but may result in several conversations about what a prisioner is and why someone would go to jail.  We could, unintentionally, be glamourizing a life of crime to Jack in a pivotal point in his life that we are then forced to discuss at a therapist's office for years.
Props required: black and white or orange jump suit, possible hand-cuffs, ball and chain.

Scare-Crow: I'm pretty sure we have most of these supplies, but Jack will likely rub the nose paint everywhere and refuse to wear the hat, but then I guess he's a farmer?
Props required: Overalls with patches, plaid shirt, hat made from burlap sack, face paint for nose.

Skeleton: We had to remove a print of Jack and the Bean Stalk (it's a cartoon of a little boy and a bean stalk)  from the nursery because it scared Jack, so I'm not sure how dressing up as a skeleton will work.
Props required: Black outfit and white construction paper (we actually have a skeleton hoodie, so we'd just need to make the pants) This Martha Stewart Idea on creating a skeleton costume only using a black and a white t shirt is amazing

Pizza: This is Jack's favourite food and my vote for most likely candidate. 
Props required: Bristol Board, various coloured construction paper, pipe-cleaners, fabric and glue, string and a little imagination.

Caterpillar/Butterfly: Jack talks about Caterpillars and Butterflies a lot...this could be what we're looking for.
Props required: Striped clothing and cardboard wings.

minion halloween costume infant
Minion Molly on her first Halloween.

If anyone has any other ideas or strategies I'm listening....Otherwise we may be heading out in a Batman raincoat....and I guess that wouldn't be terrible.

To read about Halloween stories to get you and your kids in the mood for everything October click here

To see some easy Halloween decor/crafts that even uncrafty me could pull off click here

Monday, 6 October 2014

Too Spooky for Me

One of my strongest points of reference for little boys prior to Jack is my little brother D.  While he's a grown-up now, there are so many things about Jack that remind me about my time with my brother.  For example:  the way he plays and the things that make him giggle or cry.

When my brother was about Jack's age, he convinced my mom that he wanted to be Spooky the Ghost for Halloween.  For those of you who don't know, Spooky the Ghost is Casper the Ghost's cousin, a tough guy with a derby hat, freckles and a Brooklyn accent.  My mom cut a bed sheet, bought a derby hat and some white and black face-paint.  She carefully painted his face white and gave him Spooky's trademark freckles and little black nose.  When she showed D his finished costume in the mirror he panicked and started to cry.  Eventually she calmed him down and convinced him to go out Trick or Treating...before bed there were more tears when she washed off the make-up because he wanted to stay Spooky.

spooky the ghost
Comic book image of Spooky courtesy of Wikipedia.

I am not sure Jack "gets" Halloween yet.  Last year he certainly didn't.  We set out in the rain with Jack dressed up in his elephant costume (Molly as Red Riding Hood) and knocked on the first door.  A little boy answered.  Jack immediately tried to push past the boy and run into the house.  We wouldn't let him, so he threw a tantrum.  It took us nearly five minutes of him laying on the cold wet sidewalk blocking other trick or treaters until we were able to calm him down and convince him to go the next house.  At house number two he pushed past the person who answered the door and sprinted down their hallway as fast as he could.  At that point we decided that the naughty little elephant wasn't ready for Halloween and took him home to give out candy instead.   We took shifts with Molly, who spent the entire night relishing compliments on her costume while she collected treats.

This year isn't looking much better.  We have been out twice and ransacked the dress-up box at my folks' place with no success.  Jack refuses to wear anything on his head or over top of his regular clothes and has rejected all of our costume suggestions.  Molly selected her costume immediately.  She's going to be a dragon and can't wait - after we selected her costume at Value Village she spent the rest of our outing hiding behind racks and jumping out at people roaring.  I'm going to be researching costumes that don't require anything over your regular clothes or involving hats or masks.  I'm open to ideas....

To read my tips on surviving a rainy Halloween click here

To read about my failed attempts at coordinating twin costumes click here

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Friday, 3 October 2014

5 Little Pumpkins

Everyone thinks you're the autumn Grinch because you're not keen on the whole pumpkin spiced EVERYTHING trend?  Here's my list of some harvest related things to enjoy this fall that have absolutely nothing to do with pumpkin.  I dedicate this to anyone who just doesn't get the big deal and is sick of hearing everyone talk about how awesome pumpkin spice is.  For the record I like pumpkin spice, but I don't like like it, we're just friends.

Tiki carved Pumpkin
Tiki Pumpkin from a few years ago!


  1. Starbucks Dark Barrel Latte - This is supposed to taste like a Guinness.  I can't say I've tried this yet, but I will, preferably at a time of day that if I think it's yucky, I can chase it with a good old fashioned stout. 
  2. Baked Parmesan Zucchini Sticks - I tried this recipe a little while ago and I'm in love.  This is one of the best fall dinner sides ever!
  3. Garlicky Baked Butter Nut Squash - I found a recipe in Oh She Glows that described this as "the best way you will ever, ever, ever eat butternut squash." I'm intrigued and ordered Butter Nut Squash in my next fruit and veggies delivery basket. 
  4. Soup Exchange -  This has been a fall tradition for years now.  I wrote something about how to host your own soup exchange on How Do You Do It last fall (the irony is not lost on me that I have also provided a recipe for spiced pumpkin soup in the mentioned post).  You can determine a way to punish anyone who brings pumpkin soup to your exchange (scalding with hot soup, forbid them to dip bread...whatever you choose).
  5. Mulled Wine -  I love sitting on a lawn chair in my backyard with a warm blanket on my lap and a tasty cup of mulled winey goodness while I watch the stars.
  6. It's Decorative Gourd Season Mother... - Read McSweeney's Internet Classic on Decorative Gourd Season (not for those who are offended by *ahem* colourful language.) 
  7. Apple Picking, Pies, Cider EVERYTHING APPLES - Enjoy the many forms of apples, perhaps with a good cheese plate.

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Thursday, 2 October 2014

Nine - Resolution Check-In

Earlier this year I posted my New Year's Resolutions (nitty gritty details here).  I don't think I've ever followed resolutions this far into the year, but it's definitely kept me honest.   This is my third quarter Resolution Check In.

toddler dipping feet in lake
Molly in a reflective pose this summer.

Read More Books for Me
In 2013 I only read 10 books for pleasure.  So far this year I've read 17 books which, hopefully, will allow me to more than double last year's numbers.

Here's what I've read lately along with my summaries:

The Psychopath Test  by Jon Ronson - Ever wonder if someone you know with the "killer" instinct and no remorse is really a psychopath?  This is a highly addictive and entertaining read that talks about applying a checklist developed to track psychosis in everyone from convicted killers to Wall Street CEOs.

Scott Pilgram Volume 1 by Brian Lee O'Malley- The movie adaptation of Scott Pilgrim is quite similar to this book, so if you like the movie you'll probably like the book. Integration of Toronto culture into this comic zine is great.  Really quick read, but then again there are 6 volumes to the story.

Double Time by Jane Roper - As a parent of twins I enjoyed and could relate to this memoir.  I've had a number of multiple moms approach me about writing something about increased odds and effects of post-partem depression in mom's of multiples and I was hoping this book would bring me there.  I wanted a little more content on Roper's post-baby journey on her tendencies of depression that evolved into her story coping with twins and a diagnosis of bi-polar.

Coreography by Corey Feldman -  This book is kind of like a car's a depressing and sad look on what can happen to child stars and you can't help but rubberneck.  I had more sympathy for Feldman after reading the book, but was confused about his thanking his mom in his end notes despite a major theme in the book being how awful she was to him.  When I told a few people about the bio they forwarded me an article in Vice Magazine about his parties where guests can pay to hang out with Feldog...not quite the sympathetic picture he painted in his memoir.

Attachments by Rainbow Rowell - Think Office Space meets predictable romantic comedy. Even though I could guess what was going to happen next I liked the characters enough to want to find out more.  A solid debut novel.

After I do.  by Taylor Jenkins Reid - A very quick read in classic chic lit formula.  A lighthearted look at a couple who decide to take a year off from their marriage to find themselves separately before they decide whether or not they'll be together.

Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell - Even better than Attachments, these characters are just so likeable you root for them.  Park would make both highschool and 36 year old me swoon.  This would make a great young adult book, some parts can seem a little unbelievable, but was such a can't put it down story that I didn't care.  I gunned through it in three days.

Darling You Can't Do Both by Janet Kestin & Nancy Vonk - This is a really inspiring book (which I imagine is akin to the next generation of Lean In - I should probably read that). It's about using your feminine instincts, breaking the rules, standing-up and not being afraid to ask for what you need to succeed in your career.  Pioneers of Dove's Real Beauty campaign tell their story honestly with BS Free advice that is peppered with humour and advice.

1982 - Jian Ghomeshi - It's 1982 and young Jian wants to be David Bowie...the only problem is he's 15 years old, Persian and lives in Thornhill.  His mom wants him to be more like his neighbour Chris who keeps an immaculate lawn for his parents and has a nice haircut, like Mark Hammill.  A great coming of age tale about new wave and trying to fit in, despite wanting to be different.  It was a bit of an A side story, but I enjoyed it all the same.  And Yes Jian Ghomeshi is the CBC personality who was also in Moxy Fruvous - I'm pretty sure this book came with a Canadian flag.

Have More Date Nights With Chris:
With summer going on we used a lot of vacation time to catch some matinee movies while the kids were in daycare and even fit in a fishing trip.  We still don't get to go out together on a "date" as much as I'd like, but this resolution has been a nice, motivational reminder.

Read more stories to Molly and Jack
We continue to manage to get in 1-3 stories most nights.  On weekends when one minion (usually Jack) is up earlier than the other I've read a story or two solo and take the time to ask questions about the story and the pictures.

Be Less Strict with Toddler TV Time
The kids are obsessed with the show Mickey Mouse Club House, which is great when Chris and I want to get house work done, but can get a little bit ridiculous.  If we get tantrums for turning something off after the allocated time (we try not to shut down in the middle of an episode) the program gets banned for a few days.  Interesting Note: Mickey Mouse Club House catchy tune "Hot Dog" is performed by 90s band They Might be Giants.

Book More Time For Me
I managed two brunches and two mani-pedis in the past three months.  I had booked a yoga workshop designed to stretch out common ailments of office workers only to have it cancelled the day of, which was pretty disappointing.  Sometimes going to the grocery store solo is all I need for a break or for Chris to watch the kids while I take a nap.

How did you do on your New Years Resolutions?  Do you have any book recommendations for me? What are you planning to change next year?

To read my three month check in and mini book reviews click here

To read my six month chick in and mini book reviews click here

Wednesday, 1 October 2014

Girl Afraid

Have you ever wondered how far heredity goes in making up who you are as a person?  What about beyond physical traits, like fear, or is that something that we learn?

This past weekend we came across a snake on a trail we were hiking. I am very afraid of snakes and was haunted by them as a child in my nightmares and terrified of them in real life.  I made a concerted effort to talk to Molly and Jack about the snake and to show it to them as an exciting addition to our hike.  I was proud of myself for keeping a brave face in front of my kids even though  logically I understand that a skinny little garter snake isn't going to harm anyone. I don't want them to be afraid of something because their mom has an illogical fear.  I know I wasn't exactly conquering my fears like Indiana Jones but it was a big step for me.   They thought  the snake was cool and even commented they wanted to see another snake.

Indiana Jones
"Why did it have to be snakes?" photo courtesy of Wikipedia

The other night, at 4AM, I heard a lot of coughing, whining and whimpering from the nursery.  I waited a few minutes and it didn't stop.  I got up and went to the nursery to investigate.  I found Molly, crouched on the floor behind the door.  She told me that there was a snake in her bed.  My first thought was, "that's ridiculous" followed by, "What am I going to do if there really is a snake in her bed?" It was 4AM anything could happen.  After some cuddles, a drink of apple juice and a thorough check of her bedding, she was satisfied that there was no snake in her bed and was content to go back to sleep.

As I climbed back into bed I was concerned.  I had tried so hard to be brave in the face of a snake so Molly and Jack wouldn't be afraid and now it seemed it was all for nothing.  I did some research and discovered that fear can be inherited.  Earlier this year Science News reported that, "Mouse parents learned to associate the scent of orange blossoms with a shock. Their children and their grandchildren startled in response to the scent — a sign of fear — even though they had never smelled it before. Offspring also had more neurons that detect the orange blossom scent than mice whose parents weren’t exposed to the scent."   The article concludes that, "Ancestral experience could be an under appreciated influence on animals’ and people’s brains and behaviours."

My mom has told me stories about my Grandfather (Jack) up at the cottage carrying a cane/stick with a fork on the end of it in case he came across a snake.  It turns out he was also terrified of snakes.

Even though I set a brave example for Molly and Jack, maybe we should still have a conversation about being afraid and what that means, even if it means me admitting how I feel about snakes.  This week nature beats nurture, but that's okay because I'm a little more Indiana Jones than I was a few days ago.

To read  14 tips on dealing with nightmares click here.

To read about how my dad and my sister used my fear of snakes to terrorize me at a theme park click here.

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