Thursday, 27 August 2015

Be True to Your School

Earlier this week we took the minions to visit their brand new before and after school program, where they'll be spending a great deal of their time in the coming months.  We wanted to ensure that they had some familiarity with the location, the kids and the Early Childhood Education workers who will be spending a significant amount of time with them, While Chris and I spoke with the program supervisor, they ran around giggling in excitement of what's to come in the next week and a half.  Each day, the number of questions they ask about their new life in Jr. kindergarten increases as they get ready to say goodbye to many of the friends who will either remain in daycare or will be attending different schools.
As the anticipation and nerves mount, from the kids, but mostly and mom and dad, I can't help but compare how similar starting kindergarten is to any beginning be it life at a new school, starting a new school year, or beginning a new job.  I have a recent and intimate understanding of life at a new job and hope that this experience helps me become a more understanding parent in the weeks to come, as Molly and Jack adjust to "the new normal".

Jack, reaching for the stars!

Here are 8 Secrets to Adjusting to a New Job, School or Experience

  1. You don't know what you're doing and that's okay.  Just Breathe.
    So you're the new kid?  Most people understand what it's like to be in your shoes, and good leaders and managers will be able to provide you with support, training and patience to help get you started on your way.
  2. There might be some culture shock.
    Any new situation will have distinct differences from your past. Change is a good thing and you can adapt, whether it's an adjustment from having your own office to an open concept floor plan, to a new way of holding meetings or a teacher with a unique style of explaining new concepts.
  3. It will take time to understand expectations from your teacher or supervisor.
    You probably aren't psychic (I know I'm not) and it's going to take some time to understand expectations (this isn't just about pop quizzes and new assignments - it's about everything from dress code/gym uniforms, to how to prepare a TPS report, to unspoken rules about recess/coffee breaks).  Be inquisitive, ask questions, ask for guidance and ask for feedback regularly.
  4. Sometimes you are going to feel overwhelmed.
    Change is scary and sometimes it can be downright terrifying, but without change we don't grow.  New challenges will help you master current skills and develop different ones. Who's ready to learn to read?
  5. What about the cool kids?
    Cliques are going to happen, both around the water cooler and the monkey bars.  Be pleasant, be kind and be yourself .  The people you meet or connect with on your first few days may not become your new BFFs and that's alright, you are there to work and learn.
  6. Patience is key.
    Despite what many experts say, it can take longer than 21 days or a month to form new habits and acclimatize to a new situation. A study published in The European Journal of Social Psychology found that on average it takes 66 days for a new habit to become automatic, with a range of 18-254 days for someone to form a new habit (two-eight months).  Give yourself enough time to decide if this is the right fit for you.
  7. Give it the old "college try".
    College try is an expression for a reason.  Work hard, but forgive yourself for newbie mistakes. Don't obsess.  Learn, adapt and move forward.  No one is perfect, and neither are you.  The sooner you accept that the better you'll feel about your grade on the spelling test.
  8.  Be kind to yourself.
    There are going to be good days and bad days and it's hard to keep up your confidence when you're learning so much new information.  Treat yourself to time with friends and family, a good book or a new Ariel Barbie doll or a He-man Merman figurine (these are actual things that my children want, which may be a part of our unconventional back to school shopping list) to celebrate how far you've come. 

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Sunday, 23 August 2015


An (almost) annual tradition of ours is to go to a Blue Rodeo concert at The Molson Amphitheatre. The  annual concert coincides nicely with The Canadian National Exhibition (CNE).  This timing means we get to go to the show and then afterwards, on our way towards the exit, play a few games and try to share whatever deep fried specialty food everyone is talking about that year.

This year Chris' dad won a 680 News contest for four free ride all day passes to the CNE and kindly gave them to us to enjoy.  We dropped Molly and Jack off for their first ever sleepover alone at grandma and grandpa's house, took a cat nap, and then hopped on the bus down to the Ex a few hours before the show with some friends.

Chris and I on the top of the Ferris Wheel

We had a great time as we walked around the Kiddie land and we figured that next year would probably be a the year to bring Molly and Jack to the Ex.  While we were enjoying the rides I kept being reminded of some of my favourite amusement park summer movies and wanted to share them in the last few weeks before school starts.

For the Kids

Tiny Toons -  How I Spent My Summer Vacation
When my brother and I were kids we watched this movie all the time and thought it was hilarious. This Looney Tunes spin-off has the same crazy antics but with the next generation cast.  We watched the movie with Jack and Molly this past weekend and despite some of the jokes geared at adults being a little dated, it was an enjoyable hour and twenty minutes.  Both Molly and Jack stayed engaged throughout the entire thing.

For the Older Kids (Tweens/Teens)

National Lampoon's Vacation
Show your kids why John Hughes was awesome.  This classic movie (the original Vacation) has the whole family, including Anthony Michael Hall as Rusty, make their way across the country to "Walley World" theme park.  Keep your eyes peeled from roles from some people you may recognize.

For the Adults or Teens - Some darker comedies about Theme Parks and how I spent my summer vacations.

Adventureland (on Netflix Canada right now)
A ride that plays Falco's hit Amadeus on a loop, Jesse Eisenberg being awkward, Kristen Stewart pouting, and Martin Starr practicing his sharp wit.  This movie is set in the 1980s and features the life of recent college graduate James who takes a dead-end job at a local theme park and learns a lot about himself in the process.  Not to be confused with Zombieland, which also stars Eisenberg.

The Way Way Back
Fourteen year old Duncan is forced to spend his summer vacation in a new town with his mother, her terrible boyfriend and his boyfriend's daughter in a strained "family" situation,  Unexpectedly he finds a lot more than a pay cheque at his summer job at the Water Wizz water park (I'm noticing a theme here in these movies).  Starring: Sam Rockwell, Steve Carrell, Toni Collette, Allison Janney and Maya Rudolph.

What are your go to summer movies?

The Canadian National Exhibition is open until Labour Day!

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Wednesday, 19 August 2015


Now that we're past the toddler age we've upped the game in terms of dining expectations.  When we're at home sippy cups have been traded for real, albeit plastic, cups. Forks and spoons are required for most meals.  Overall, Molly and Jack have excelled in finer(ish) dining and only a few reminders need to be stated in terms of what isn't acceptable during dinner.

Recently there has been less clean-up required around the dining table and we're less likely to need a drop sheet every time we eat anything remotely saucy, that is until the past week or two.

Molly has been a bit clumsy lately.  So spilly that we had to go out and purchase additional mopping supplies between regularly scheduled grocery shopping for fear that ants would run us out of our house.  She's knocked over cups of juice, milk, water and food items nearly every day (sometimes several times a day) for well over a week now.

"Molly did you finish your dinner?"

"Yes. Those are just meat crumbs at the bottom of my juice."

Last night Molly dropped yet another item of food, I think it was applesauce, onto the kitchen floor.
Chris reminded her to be more careful, as she had spilled, again.  Once the kids had vacated the kitchen to watch some TV, I  reminded him that she's probably just growing and that he might want to go easy on her.  She has been very hungry lately, which I assume means another growth spurt. Chris called shenanigans, reminding me that a number of the spills involved trying to store a drink on a couch instead of the table or accidentally knocking over something with a toy, even when she was warned about playing during meal time.  He wasn't buying a simple a case of growing pains. I reminded him that she is my daughter and I am quite spilly myself.

I looked it up and most kids are supposed to have their motor skills catch up with their growing limbs by the time they are 8 or 9, until puberty sets in and they go into growth overdrive once again,

To minimize and contain mess we've been trying to implement the following meal guidelines most of the time, but sometimes the minions need reminders:

  1. Don't over-stuff your mouth (Jack).
  2. No, we don't need to see what your food looks like now that you have chewed it.
  3. Unless you have to go to the bathroom, please stay at the table.
  4. Your food is not a toy, so please don't paint the table with your soup.
  5. My preference is that you NOT sit in my lap while we both eat our dinner.
  6. When you "share" your food with each other, I know you aren't doing it just to be kind, you're trying to get out of eating something.
  7. If you spill, we will get you to (try to) help us clean up your mess.  If you spill because you're being silly (making a toy dragon that we've told you to put down six times swim in your milk), you can't have any more milk.
What rules have you set up around meals?  Is it working?  Does someone want to come over and help me scrub our floors?

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Sunday, 16 August 2015

The Whole World is Our Playground - Review of Valleyridge Park

A while ago I came across this list of free/cheap things to do with children  and we've been slowly exploring some of the destinations mentioned.  Another 40 degree day (with Humidex) seemed like the perfect time to visit this Oakville playground and splash pad.

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

Park Name:
Valleyridge Park - 2524 Valleyridge Road Oakville 

 The dry side of the playground.

There are about 20 parking spaces right near the park and street parking available.

Theme of Park:
Jungle Theme.

Ground Coverage:
Grassy area and pavement surrounding the actual playground that is made of rubberized material.

Variety of Equipment for different ages:
There is some great equipment here for all kids under about 10, but I'd say the main focus of the playground is for little ones under 8.

Best Parts of the Park:
The splash pad is by far the best feature of this park.  There are sprinklers that shoot out of the ground, hippos who squirt water and as Jack and Chris put it, "an elephant who throws up water on you".  It has a giant gazebo in the centre of the playground to provide shade for a picnic, snack or for parents to monitor their kids.  Molly said she liked the castle climber and the hungry, hungry, hippos who squirt water the best, while Jack liked the ground sprinklers and that he was able to somewhat control the sprinklers by pushing buttons placed in the plastic willows.

The castle climber was a big hit.

Without the water feature this park isn't really worth a far drive for us, but on a hot summer day it is totally worth it.  Unfortunately, there were a number of families who threw their stuff on some of the picnic tables in the shady gazebo to mark there territory, but then never actually sat at them throughout our entire hour and a bit at the park.  It was frustrating to people (such as Chris and I) who were then forced to stay in the sun.

Overall Rating:
I would rate the splash pad a 4.5/5, and a great place to go when it's hot outside.   The overall park itself has some innovative playground equipment and we would be regulars if we lived in the neighbourhood, but without the splash pad open I would only rate this park a 3.5/5.

To view my post about the Lakeview Promenade Park in Mississauga click here

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Wednesday, 12 August 2015

Money, Money, Money: Daycare Expense Reflections

In less then a month Molly and Jack will graduate preschool and go to Jr. kindergarten.  One thing that will be a huge relief is that our daycare expenses will reduced by nearly 40% as they enter a new school and a new before and after school program.

Over the past three years Chris and I have spent nearly 90K in childcare.  Today I want to indulge in a list of 10 crazy things we could have purchased over the past three years if we hadn't been spending our money on daycare fees.

  1. According to my internet research we could potentially host a triple threat concert in our backyard featuring the vocal talents of Hanson, Joan Jet and Sugar Ray.
  2. Hire a private jet that flies us and our four closest friends to Bermuda, complete with staff, gourmet food and a chef.
  3. Radical SR3 RS Race Car.
  4. 120 pairs of designer shoes (I'm talking Manolo Blahniks and Christian Loubtin designer!)
  5. Add to our antique and rare book collection by purchasing: Alice in Wonderland (edition illustrated and signed by Salvador Dali) 20K, An uncorrected proof of Harry Potter and the Philosophers Stone (16K), signed original first editions of Tortilla Flat and Dune (30K) and a signed second edition of Tolkien's The Hobbit (11K)...and purchasing a giant secure safe to keep them in.
  6. 100 World Series tickets for 2015 (GO JAYS GO!)
  7. A house in Niagara Falls.
  8. 25 giant amethyst cathedral geodes.  
  9. I could get a complete face lift and body do-over including: nose job ($5.5K), upper and lower eyes ($5.5K), brow lift (5K), cheek implants and chin lift ($7.5K), neck lift ($10K), lip lift ($3.5K), breast implants (7K), tummy tuck (9K) and Brazilian Buttocks implant (15K).  There would be plenty of money left over for teeth capping and whitening.
  10. 6 of the world's most expensive (yet apparently super delicious) pineapples...from Cornwall.

 Original uploaded by Suniltg (Transfered by sreejithk2000) - Original uploaded on ml.wikipedia. Licensed under CC BY 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons 

I am very thankful for the superb care and love that Molly and Jack have received at our daycare and I wouldn't change a moment of it (okay, maybe I'd skip some of the stomach viruses they picked up). The past few years of life with children, particularly twins was financially challenging, but not impossible.  Our tight budget worked, but things became tense whenever there was a financial emergency, like when our washer broke, when our car died or when our front porch crumbled to the point that it was a lawsuit waiting to happen, all during the time between the minions first and third birthdays.   I was fortunate enough to have been offered a few part time jobs to supplement our regular salaried income, which helped us float unexpected expenses without accruing a crazy debt-load, this also took time away from our family, time that I won't get back.  Thinking back on tougher times financially over the past few years, it really makes me realize just how lucky Chris and I have been.  There are so many parents trying to make things work on a shoestring.  I admire them and wish that there could be a way to make their lives easier while supporting their families.

I don't begrudge the salaries of the hardworking people who have cared for our children.  I know that there needs to be some significant changes to the system in Ontario, Canada and North America.  Change in terms of flexibility for telecommuting parents, part-time childcare and job opportunities that allow for people to care for their children and maintain a career, better childcare subsidies, shorter waiting lists for affordable care and time-shifted or condensed hours that allow for parents to pick-up and drop off their children from care. If you enjoyed my list, I'd like to encourage you to share it and spread awareness of the costs of childcare.  Any call to action can help get the support that is needed by local government and employers to support families of young children.  Lend your voice whether its being accommodating and understanding to people you employ or speaking up for those who need support.  Because it really does take a village.

To view my top 10 extravagant purchase potential list from last year click here.  To view my list from 2013 click here.

Sunday, 9 August 2015

I Don't Want to Grow Up: Reflections on Turning 4

Each year I've written a little bit about Molly and Jack on their birthdays. Last year on their third birthday, they were old enough to answer some questions themselves.  Along with their annual "night before birthday" photo, I've added this annual list of questions to the many traditions we want to enjoy with the minions.  Here is what they had to say this year.

Molly rides a pink gator in Florida

Molly Age 4

What is your favourite colour?
Purple and pink

What is your favourite toy? 
Elsa, Ana and Sleeping Beauty Barbies

What is your favourite food?
Pizza and cupcakes

What is your favourite song?
Castle on a Cloud from Les Miserables 
Molly describes this as the song about a princess and her mommy.  Her observations about this entire play (as interpreted through our Les Mis record) are pretty spot on.

What is your favourite movie? 
The Princess Bride

To read about Molly and Jack watching The Princess Bride for the first time, Or The Princess Bride Drinking Game click here.

What is your favourite animal? 

After extensive questioning I am fairly certain that Molly doesn't actually know what a camel is.  I asked her if she preferred camels with one hump of two and she told me that camels don't have humps.  

What is your favourite book? 
Snow White in New York 

This is essentially Snow White set in New York City in the 1920s.  It features the seven "Jazz Men" and a poisoned martini along with some other Art Deco twists to the traditional story. 

What is your favourite drink? 
Milk and Water

What do you sleep with at night?
Giraffe, my purple teddy bear and my elephant blanket.

What do you want to be when you grow up? 
"I am already a princess, so I guess I might as well become a doctor too."

Jack enjoying the cherry blossoms at High Park this spring.

Jack Age 4

What is your favourite colour?

What is your favourite toy? 
Domo is a Japanese Monster character that Jack is crazy about

What is your favourite food?

What is your favourite song?
Iron Man by Black Sabbath 

Whenever this song comes on Jackie rocks out.

What is your favourite movie? 
Jack refused to answer this question, insisting that he preferred television shows (Peppa Pig and Domo)

What is your favourite animal? 

What is your favourite book? 
Fairy Tales by Terry Jones 

Earlier this spring Chris and I went on a road trip to Chicago for a long weekend away.  While we were there we wandered into a Myopic Books (an amazing used book store) and picked this up as a gift for Molly and Jack.  The stories inside are unusual, fantastic and a huge hit with both kids.  

What is your favourite drink? 
"Bubble juice, Apple juice....Can I have some?  I am so thirsty mommy!"
Bubble juice is our pop's simply some juice with carbonated water.  The kids love it and it's a healthy(er) treat.

What do you sleep with at night?
Blue Bear

What do you want to be when you grow up? 
A Dinosaur....a green dinosaur.
I suspect that this is not the most lucrative career choice and that Jack will be listening to Black Sabbath in the basement until he's 40 if this remains his number one option.

To read about Molly and Jack on their third birthday click here.

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Wednesday, 5 August 2015

Revolution (Resolution) - Part 2

Once again I find myself dividing my New Year's Resolution update into two parts.  Perhaps I was too ambitious this year and will tone it down next...I don't know, but I doubt it.  To read my first update at 6ish months into the year click here.

Make Family Health a Priority
I am super proud of Chris and I both for making bigger dinners (that result in us packing more lunches and buying less food on the go).  I've been trying out a number of new recipes, although probably not the one new recipe a week I'd hoped for as we enjoy plenty of fresh salads and the BBQ lately.  I wanted to share another loved recipe of ours that came via my nutritionist for lentil burritos.  This freezes well and can be easily be used for dinner, a packed lunch or a rainy day when you don't feel like putting a lot of effort.

As for exercise it's been pretty easy with it being so beautiful outside most days. On weekdays I've made an effort every day to get off the subway a stop or two early and walk into work each morning and go for at least a half hour walk to run errands on my lunch.  We've been consciously walking with Molly and Jack to the grocery store for small hauls to get their billy goat legs ready for the walk from before and after school care to and from kindergarten each morning.  We've only managed a handful of hikes so far this summer, but hope to get more in over the next three-four months before autumn turns cold.

Molly and Jack lean in for a Panda Bear Hug

Book Two Dates with Chris Every Month
We go out without the kids regularly, however a lot of the time it's to events with our friends and not "dates", although we both really value the time we spend at beer gardens, playing rec league softball or enjoying some great concerts and catch up with our pals.  Later this month is our 10 year wedding anniversary and Grandma and Grandpa are watching Molly and Jack while we go out for a romantic dinner.  We have a few more things planned over the coming months to celebrate the big TEN, but more on that another time.

Focus My Energy on Important People in My Life
I have been trying to say thank you more to show how much I appreciate all of the wonderful people we have in our and Molly and Jack's lives.  I am trying to figure out something to do for all of the wonderful ECE workers who have spent so much time with Molly and Jack over the past three years and continue to try to be more giving to the people who have been so great with us.

An inspirational quote I used to motivate myself this winter that I saw at the Douglas Coupland Exhibit this past winter/spring.

Stop Complaining and Take Action
This can mean so many things. Sometimes you need to vent, other times you just need to roll up your sleeves and jump in.  This past December I successfully completed my post graduate diploma in Public Relations and decided to take this knowledge in the pursuit of new career challenges. The job hunt was exhausting, exciting, frustrating and a little bit scary. I am now one month into a new job and proud of my leap off of the diving stop a focus on promoting my writing!

Back to enjoying my summer as I listen to the crickets in the backyard....hope you're enjoying yours!

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Monday, 3 August 2015

Come & Buy My Toys

I have been forced to revisit, again, that whenever Chris and I figure out something that we think is super clever parenting, it totally bites us.  The minions, being very lucky pre-schoolers, have a lot of toys.  They have toys they inherited from Chris and my childhood, they have the spoils of a fairly lengthy claw-machine addiction Chris had in the mid-to-late 2000's and a hefty supply of toys from very generous friends and family.

For a long time I sought out a solution to house all of "the stuffies" in the nursery.  I was sick of our living room looking like a daycare centre and Molly and Jack's room was getting pretty ridiculous. After some significant time on Pinterest, we discovered many versions of a "stuffed animal zoo" to host Molly and Jack's toys and I asked my father to make it.  The Stuffed Animal Zoo (AKA "Toy Prison" when we are out of the minions earshot) has been a great way to keep the room neat and tidy and has made clean-up faster. Our new toy organization system has been so effective that I debated skipping our semi-annual toy donation cull, until tonight.

The Zoo (AKA the Big House)

When we put Molly and Jack to bed each night, there are rules to what they are allowed to do post bedtime:

  1. You can talk quietly.
  2. You can play with toys in your bed.
  3. You can look at books...
  4. But you have to stay in bed.  

Tonight those rules were broken.  Molly decided that the three stuffies that were provided at bedtime were no longer meeting her needs.   Molly needed: ALL OF THE STUFFIES! The obvious solution was to have her brother facilitate a jail break, while she lay in bed and he piled all of the toys around her.

When I went upstairs investigate the rowdy noise of intense giggling an hour post regular bed time I was met with a surprise.  I opened the door and noticed a larger than usual mass on the bed, so I turned on the light and discovered a mountain of toys that had been freed around my daughter.  The escape artist was nearby, he was shockingly not in bed!

Mount toys!

The big "problem" with having all the stuffed animals in one central location is simple: EASY ACCESS to late night adventures and midnight jail breaks.  As we put all of the toys back into the zoo we decided that it probably is time for some toy donations and that papa needs to work on improving security at the stuffie zoo.

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