Wednesday, 30 September 2015

Baseball Boogie

There's no doubt that Blue Jays fever has taken over the city of Toronto and Canada, especially now that the Jays have clinched the American League East.  While we have enjoyed taking the minions to a few games this season, I highly doubt (barring a lottery win or a windfall of free tickets) that Molly and Jack are going to make it to a post season game.  That doesn't mean that they can't enjoy some Jays excitement.  Jack has recently discovered that by saying, "Dad can I watch baseball with you?" and tilting his head, bedtime can be delayed for at least twenty minutes and sometimes more, depending on the game.

As we all ramp up our "Let's Go Blue Jays!" chants, it's a great opportunity to enjoy some books about baseball with your little ones, as you probably aren't going to let them see every inning, right Chris?

Three Baseball Books to Enjoy with your Kids (between innings):

Hit the Ball Duck

Hit the Ball Duck by Jez Alborough
Duck tries to play a pick up game of ball with his animal friends, but unfortunately the ball gets stuck in a tree and calamity ensues as they try to knock it loose.  The game is saved in this rhyming story by a clever play by MVP little frog whom everyone thought was too small for the game. A great read for kids 3-5 years old.

Freddy and the Blue Jays

Freddy and the Blue Jays by Tina Powell
Freddy loves playing baseball but doesn't like to practice. Fortunately he learns a thing or two about the importance of sportsmanship and trying hard when the Toronto Blue Jays join his team for practice.  Ideal for kids 4-7 who are beginning to develop an interest in competitive sports.

Who's on First

Who's on First by Bud Abbot and Lou Costello
This book takes young readers through the classic Abbot and Costello comedy routine with adorable illustrations.  I bought this book for Molly and Jack and was disappointed that they're just not old enough and don't understand the game well enough to really "get" the joke. It entertains me, but that isn't really the point of bed time stories.  I'll try it again next season and see if it becomes a fast favourite.  I'd say that while this is a storybook marketed to all ages it would have the best reaction for kids over 6 or 8 years old and baseball fans.

What are your baseball reading essentials to install a love of the game with your little ones?

To read about Major League Baseball that supports the next generation of fans and families click here.

For 10 Tips on surviving a sporting event with pre-schoolers click here

For 7 Tips on attending a sporting event with infants click here.

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Tuesday, 29 September 2015

If I Was Your Vampire - Movie Review Hotel Transylvania 2

We discovered the original Hotel Transylvania on Netflix a few months ago and everyone enjoyed it. This past weekend we decided would be a good time to have Jack attend his first movie in the theatre and checked out the sequel.

Movie Review Hotel Transylvania 2

Hotel Transylvania 2 movie poster
Hotel Transylvania 2 Theatrical Poster courtesy of Wikipedia.

What's in it for the Kids?
A great opportunity to kick off the Halloween season by enjoying some time with your favourite vampires, werewolves, zombies, mummies and Frankenstein friends without scaring little kids. Neither Molly or Jack has ever complained about being scared of either film in the Hotel Transylvania franchise, so for us it's been a nightmare free option.

What's in it for the Adults?
Some good classic horror jokes that are geared at two levels leaving the adults mildly entertained. Like the original there is solid voice work from Andy Samberg, Adam Sandler, Steve Buscemi.  The Mr. Invisible "fake" girlfriend bit care of David Spade made me smile.  A nice addition of Nick Offerman and Megan Mullally as Jonathan's human parents who are trying super hard to be accepting of their son's new wife in an awkward an intolerant sort of way.

Best Parts of the Movie
Unfortunately a lot of the best gags in this film are covered in the trailers, but Jack giggled maniacally at them anyway.  The scene with Blobby on the road trip was one of the few times that I laughed out loud during this film.

Worst Parts of the Movie
Despite being only an hour and a half in length this movie felt very long to the entire family with a definite mid-point dip in plot and momentum.  While Molly and Jack were well behaved, they got quite restless after about 40 minutes.  SPOILER ALERT: While the movie works towards promoting unity and acceptance of people (or monsters) who are "different" from each other as the Papa Drac faces the possibility that his grandson Dennis could be a human, the eventual, painfully drawn out path to acceptance is in fact a moot point when we find out that Mavis and Jonathan have in fact produced a little vampire.  Why not let him be a human too?   It also weirdly annoys me that in the first movie the character Jonathan was called Jonathan and in the sequel he goes by "Johnny" (I have the same issue with the Escape from New York/Escape From LA series where main character Snake Plissken is insistent that everyone call him "Snake" in one movie and "Plissken: in the other.) It's unnecessary, distracting and doesn't make sense.

Overall Rating
I would rate this movie 3/5.  The kids enjoyed it, but mostly for the novelty of attending a movie in the theatre and eating tasty snacks and not the actual film.  When asked about the best parts of the movie both children told me the snacks, Jack also commented that he enjoyed specific scenes of the movie, all of which were highlighted in the trailers. When I asked them if they wanted to own the movie they both said "not really".  A good time out to get into the mood for Halloween, but wait until it's available on Netflix or whatever live streaming service/video provider you use.

To read my review of Inside Out click here.

To read my review of the 2015 Cinderella click here.

To read my review of Maleficent click here.

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Friday, 25 September 2015

Lean On Me

I was unrealistically hopeful about a seamless integration into school life, but issues in adjusting to new expectations and routines in jr. kindergarten have begun to rear their ugly head. Jack has begun to rely on a self soothing technique that involves sucking on his hands and shirt sleeves.  Unfortunately this is isolating him from his peers and is reminiscent of his difficulty in the transition into pre-school last year.  We had a talk about it and he says he does this when he's nervous.  Because of Jack's easygoing nature and ability to quietly parallel play, adults don't always recognize that he's often standing on the sidelines looking in and stressed out about it.

I went back and looked at everything I've written about Jack, his speech therapy journey and tricks and techniques that he's thrived with as a resource for his teacher.  After feeling discouraged and overwhelmed about the recent turn of events I found something I wrote a year ago about our journey managing anxiety, obsessive tendencies and encouraging speech development that made me really happy, because it reminded me about how hard Jack has worked and how far he has come.  Everyone involved has been extremely supportive and I've been told that Jack is slowly beginning to join in with other kids and play, which is fantastic news.

Yesterday Chris sent me an article that he found about Christian's Buddy Bench, this spoke to both of us because of our ongoing discussions about some of the feelings of isolation and loneliness we had both felt as children among our peers, particularly Chris who often admits that he didn't really like playing with other kids.  Most people don't realize this, but Chris is an Extroverted Introvert and Jack is a lot like his dad.  Chris finds situations like big meetings and networking absolutely exhausting, even though from the outside people think he's thriving.

The Buddy Bench is a simple idea to help kids on the playground who are lonely and want someone to play with, but not really able to ask other kids to join them.  It has been created to encourage friendship and companionship for kids when they need it most.  Despite some skepticism, The Buddy Bench has been successful in many schoolyards around the world.  My favourite inscription on one of the Buddy Benches is "kindness is contagious".

Being a kid is stressful, and this is something we all seem to forget.  As an adult we are expected for create our own network and build on our own relationships, when truthfully making new friends becomes harder and harder as you age, this is something that I wrote about earlier this year and I still think about a lot.  I'd argue that the adult world is too jaded for the Buddy Bench, but truthfully how amazing would it be to find someone to go for coffee with at your new job or to talk to when you're bored and lonely?

The Buddy Bench gives me hope for my kids about the kindness of other children.  As for us adults, maybe we can learn a thing or two from Christian and his playground altering idea.

To read about the beginning of our speech therapy journey with Jack click here.

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Wednesday, 23 September 2015

Big (Pig) Girls Don't Cry - the muppets pilot

Both Chris and I were looking forward to catching the pilot episode of ABCs new show, The Muppets, a mockumentary style show designed for those of us who grew up with The Muppets.  I went in expecting something along the lines of The Muppets meets 30 Rock.

Note: This is riddled with spoilers...don't say I didn't warn you!

Image courtesy of the A.V. Club

Pilot Plot Summary
You are introduced to the team behind the scenes on set for Miss Piggy's late night talk show,Up Late With Miss Piggy.  You are put back in to a Muppet style show featuring timely bands and actors who are late night guests.  In this particular episode the main focus is around Kermit trying to acclimatize to his life as show producer, post break up and navigate the many moods of Miss Piggy as she demands that he cancel Elizabeth Banks as a featured guest.  Subplots include the introduction of Kermit's new girlfriend Denise (with a voice more annoying than Janice's - I didn't think it was possible) and Fozzie Bear's attempt at impressing his human girlfriend's parents.

Best Parts of the Pilot
Familiarity of classic Gonzo attempting to showcase ridiculous skits with Pepe the Prawn brought me back to The Muppet Show I grew up with.  As a show that is geared towards adults, complete with a warning for explicit content and language, I appreciated the acknowledgement that time has passed for all characters and that their "lives" are somewhat different.  The highly anticipated introduction of Denise, Kermit's new girlfriend (also a pig) re-affirmed I'm still totally "Team Piggy".  While calm and supportive Denise may be a better fit for Kermit, she's passive and boring (I've renamed her Dullnise).  Kermit seemed to be eating his feelings throughout the episode with Dullnise as the enabler.  In the end of the episode we were brought back to Kermit and Piggy and their breakup for some closure on what happened, and to get Piggy's perspective on her demands surrounding Elizabeth Banks.  Musical guests were Imagine Dragons.  The hidden gem in this episode for me was the cold and blatant acknowledgement and treatment of C and D level celebrities - well played.

Worst Parts of the Pilot  
I get it, pilots are hard, you're trying to introduce the audience to a whole new world in an entertaining way. There seemed to be some disjointed themes between a darker, more adult show and classic goofy Muppets and they'll probably need to find a balance that works.

Overall I was disappointed, but just like I give a book 50 pages before I tap out, I'll give a show like The Muppets another few episodes before I stop watching.  Some of my favourite shows, like Parks and Recreation, had lack luster pilots but produced a fantastic series.  I think they can do some really great things here and I want to see it happen.

What did you think of the first episode?

To view my thoughts on Miss Piggy as a role model click here.

To read my review of Muppets Most Wanted click here.

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Tuesday, 22 September 2015

(un)Happy Wanderer - Hiking at Crothers Woods

Autumn is just days away and Chris and I continue our annual mission, to get the minions "hiking ready" so they can gradually gear up for some of the longer hikes that we used to enjoy pre-children. We decided that we were going to abandon the safety net (hiking carriers) for this first journey and rely on the kids to use their own leg power to get them through the beginner trail at Crothers Woods, along the Don Valley.

Unfortunately due to poor signage for trail heads and construction along the borders of the trail we had to park quite a distance away from the trail.  This hike is accessible by TTC and can be reached using the 56 or 88 Leaside bus.  I am proud to say that Molly and Jack fared very well, probably better than mom and dad did.

 The beginner trail is a loop that that is relatively flat, with some hills and fine gravel.  It is a great trail for children and dog walkers and sections may be workable for wheelchair access (but check with Parks and Recreation to be sure).  This path felt more like a visit to the park than a full fledged nature hike.

 The kids enjoyed a pretty view along the river and even got to see some ducks from the bridge.  (Jack decided that it was imperative that he wore a dollar store lei on this hike)

 Molly and Jack enjoying a snack on one of the rocks along the trail.  

There were a lot of pretty flowers out along our hike, like these. Molly and Jack really wanted to pick some flowers, but we kept reminding them that when we hike we take only pictures and leave only footprints.  We ran into a handful of dog walkers who had been picking flowers themselves.  Thankfully the minions were so distracted by the puppies that they didn't seem to notice, although I would have been okay with either child telling people that it's not cool to pick flowers in a public park or on a trail.

Then our journey went south.  As we neared the end of our hike Chris suggested that I walk a bit further, over the bridge towards the parking lot with the kids while he ran to the other exit to bring the car around for us so Molly and Jack wouldn't have to walk on a busy road again.  I agreed.  Chris took off with the backpack with our water, food and both cell phones and said he'd see us in about 10 minutes.  Sadly, there was no parking lot beyond the brown bridge.  Molly and Jack and I wondered around the park for over an hour looking for a parking lot that didn't exist and then eventually Chris.  Every 15 minutes or so I'd commandeer a random stranger's cell phones to try to get a hold of Chris, unsuccessfully.  After Molly asked me if I was crying (I was crying, tears of frustration over what idiots Chris and I both are) and aptly pointed out that mom and dad shouldn't take short cuts, because it's foolish (that's how you run into the big bad wolf or get lost) I was finally able to get in contact with Chris who got us to wait for him on that same infamous brown bridge.  Once we were reunited we walked back to the car together.  We were exhausted and ready to leave only to discover that Chris had lost his cell phone in the park while he was running to meet us at the bridge.  The kids and I waited at the car while Chris ran into the park, again.  He didn't find the phone.  We returned home sweaty, discouraged and disgruntled and tried calling the phone every half hour or so, all evening long with no luck.

Thankfully this story has a happy ending.  A kind soul found the cell phone, called me yesterday and returned it to Chris.

We have implemented two new hiking rules to the hiking motto, leave only footprints, take only photos.  Leave as a group and take your cell phone with you at all times (fully charged) and take-off.

To read about a more successful hiking adventure at High Park click here.

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Friday, 18 September 2015

Looks Like Rain - 5 Rainy Day Activities to Enjoy With Your Kids!

We've been looking at the long term weather forecast and although there are still many nice days to look forward to we recognize that we're slowly going to become more and more housebound as the weeks go by.  As much as we enjoy watching endless hours of loud cartoon programming on a loop, it's a lot more fun to try to engage our imaginations together.  It's also a great way to avoid having to say things to your kids like, "Only boring people get bored." or "Being bored builds character".

Here are Five Rainy Day Activities to Enjoy & Help you Forget That it isn't July Anymore.

Form a Rock Band
Grab whatever musical instruments you have (toys or real) and get the "band" back together!  Don't want to sacrifice your own guitar?  Put together a pretend drum kit using pots and pans.  For older kids you could teach them about musical glass.  You can come up with a band name (visit Band Name Maker to get some fun suggestions and vote on the best one), make posters together or even work out a dance routine and go the karaoke route.

Build the Ultimate Pillow Fort
Remember how awesome forts were when you were a kid?  Fatherly provides some input and ideas on potential materials, information on the three basic types of forts and encourages you to "think like an architect" to help make your forts epic.

Make Some Cloud Dough
You can buy kits, or have your own sandbox indoors using a homemade recipe.  To learn how this worked for us this past spring click here.

Indoor "Spring" Cleaning, Kid Style
Favourite toys get dirty.  Well loved stuffed animals (or stuffies as we call them at our house) need some TLC too.  Try having an indoor toy/ toy car wash or opening up a Stuffed Animal Hospital where you can stitch up loose buttons and seams. Be sure to have plenty of band aids and lollys available for Mr. Bear.  To learn more click here.

Go Indoor Fishing in the Bath Tub
Get some toys from your local dollar store, attach magnets and build your own rods (suggested materials, string, paperclip "hooks" and a wooden spoon).

What are the best indoor activities you've come up with on a rainy day?

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Thursday, 17 September 2015

It's My Party

It's my birthday today and I was debating writing a reflective post about all of the changes in my life over the past year, because there have been a lot, especially lately, but then I decided this wasn't an exercise that I wanted to practice, not today.  Once we become adults, birthdays don't have the same celebratory flair as they once did when we were kids.  Sure there's cake and maybe a glass of champagne, but the excitement and glee of turning say 37, isn't the same as turning four or maybe so I thought.

One of the many gifts my children have provided me, particularly in recent years, is an infectious and contagious excitement about birthdays. The sheer pleasure they get from celebrating anything to do with the people that they care about is amazing.  Whether it's the way they belt out Happy Birthday over the phone, completely convinced that the person on the other end of the line should be able to see them, how Molly insisted on buying me a blue dress for Mother's Day this year, so I could be more like Cinderella or the time they both picked out a greeting card that has a running vacuum on it when you opened it up....said card almost immediately made it from my hands into their toy collection.

Last night I gladly assisted in baking my own birthday cupcakes, alongside my two trusty helpers, who giggled hysterically when cracking the eggs and tried to lick the batter spoon when I wasn't looking.  Tonight we will adorn the cupcakes with frosting and press on Smarties that Chris picked up with Jack for purely "decorative" purposes.  I can't think of a better way to celebrate, the sushi dinner and glass of wine we have planned while Grandma and Grandpa babysit doesn't hurt either.

How Molly and Jack enjoy the moment has allowed me to decide not to reflect or look forward today, but to just enjoy this birthday alongside my wonderful family.

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Wednesday, 16 September 2015

The Whole World is Our Playground: Trinity Bellwoods Park

We had been hearing about how amazing Trinity Bellwoods Park was long before Toronto's hipsters turned it into their own personal beer garden.  A couple of weeks ago, on one of the blistering Humidex heat alert days, we decided to head over and give the playground and splash pad a try.

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:
Trinity Bellwoods Park 790 Queen Street West

This park has a lot of local street parking around the perimeter of the park.  It is also steps away from the Queen Street Car Stop (Crawford Street Stop). 

Theme of Park:
Green escape in the city.

Ground Coverage:
Primarily sand in the playground with grassy areas on the exterior.  Pavement around the wading pool area.

Variety of Equipment for different ages:
There are some great climbers for a variety of ages in this park.  I'd argue that there aren't enough "baby" swings here to meet visitor's needs, so there is a lot of waiting if your little ones like swings or slides.

Best Parts of the Park:
On a hot and sunny day this playground area provides a great deal of shade coverage to keep little ones and their caregivers cool.  This playground area has a number of picnic benches in a wooded area adjacent to it, allowing for some great picnic space.

The playground equipment is spaced very close together, which makes the park seem busier than it is.  We spent significant time waiting for other kids to finish with more popular pieces of equipment like the twisty slide and swings. There were also a number of older boys who were roughhousing and being rowdy and pushy, climbing up the slides and not really being super considerate of the younger kids trying to play - they ignored my dirty looks and appeared to be unsupervised.  We were told that the wading pool would open up at 12 o'clock and anxiously waited in the 30 degree heat.  By 12:10 it was apparent that it either wasn't opening at all that day (despite what was posted on the city website) or the person running the water was late for work.  We packed up and left for another park at that point because both kids really wanted to cool off and everyone was tired of waiting for the water.

Overall Rating:
I would rate this park a 3 out of 5.  If you live in the area, don't let my review scare you away from enjoying Trinity Bellwoods, it's just not a playground that I would go out of my way to visit but a solid local option if you live nearby.  It was too crowded to merit the distance for us.

To read my review of Perth Square Park in Junction Triangle click here.

To read my review of Jean Sibelius Square in the Annex click here.

To get access to the newest posts from Multiple Momstrosity and more on Facebook click here and follow today!

Monday, 14 September 2015

Snack Time! - 10 things the Parents Learned in the First Week of Kindergarten

Last week was the first week of junior kindergarten for the minions.  All things considered, for such a huge change in their lives, they are doing great.  I'm sure they learned a lot, but I'm convinced that maybe, just maybe, the parents learned more this past week.  You be the judge.

10 Things the Parents Learned in the First Week of Jr. Kindergarten

Litterless Lunch
  1. There is a fine balance between the size of the backpack, the size of the lunch bag and the size of the child.  If any of these ratios are slightly off, there will chaos including: left behind lunch bags, smushed class calendars or complaints that your child simply expects others to carry their bag for them, like they're royalty (or in that famous shopping bag scene in Pretty Woman).
  2. Apparently, touching numerous garbage cans and then sticking your hands in your mouth is an awesome game to play on the walk from before and after care to school.  Thankfully our child care providers assure us that it is now understood that this isn't acceptable behaviour.  There has also been a newly developed appreciation for saying the word "disgusting" in our household this week, coincidence? Thankfully garbage day is only once a week!
  3. Stories about a child's day at school can sound surprisingly similar to the movie Kung Fu Panda and The Lion King.  I'm pretty sure that someone's "bad" uncle didn't show up on the playground and steal a red ball from the entire kindergarten class.  Even if he did show up, I think we'd have been notified and he'd be in police custody by now.
  4. The teachers have assured us via email that all children have been wonderful at school and are saving up all of the grouch for the evenings.  Thanks for that.
  5. I previously thought there was nothing more disgusting than the remnants of pudding in an opened reusable container in a lunch bag....(litterless lunch has become the bane of my existence)
  6. That is until I discovered what a banana peel can do to the insides of a lunch bag (seriously, it's like a banana crapped everywhere).
  7. Neither of my children will accept a spork as a multi-functional form of cutlery and keep telling me how "silly" I am for packing your a fork with apple sauce.  
  8. The homework is for the parents.  I spent over an hour and a half on paperwork and forms on the first night of school.
  9. It will rain, a lot, but only during the fifteen minute time period when school children are walking to and from school.  The rest of the time they will refuse to wear their rain coats, attempt to fit them into their backpacks, but sadly the coats just won't fit because of all of the other random objects from the house that have been jammed into said backpack for no particular reason.
  10. Uncertainty surrounding whether or not one of my children has become a sarcastic genius in recent weeks because they've either come up with a clever pun for their teacher's name, or simply can't pronounce it.
What did you learn as a parent during the first week of school?

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Thursday, 10 September 2015

9 Tips for 9 Months

When I reflect back on my pregnancy with the minions I am aware that four years later I am wearing rose tinted glasses.  I would never say that I've forgotten how difficult carrying twins to full term was, but I think my time as a mom has made all the back pain, hormone overload, morning sickness, afternoon sickness and evening sickness fade slightly.

I have prepared some suggestions that may help those in preparation for the arrival of little ones.  If you have a friend who's expecting maybe you can send this list to her, because pregnant women LOVE unsolicited advice!

9 Tips for 9 Months - Pregnancy "Best Practices"

  1. Take lots of pregnancy photos to share with your kids when they're older
    I know you feel sick, or gigantic, or sore and that sucks, but still take some photos during your pregnancy.  You don't need to post daily or weekly baby bump updates on social media.  It's nice to have a few pictures throughout your entire pregnancy that you can show to your children when they ask, because they will.  There are very few photos of me in the first six months of pregnancy, and most of those in existence are from before I even knew we were expecting.  For the first and a good chunk of the second trimester I felt too sick to go out or do anything, so there weren't any photos, and now, in retrospect,  I wish there were a couple that I could show to Molly and Jack.
  2. Enforce a Kid Programming Boycott
    My husband and I both enjoy cartoons and kid focused movies, likely more than most adults. For the entire time we were expecting (and during infanthood) we avoided seeing kid movies because we were preparing for what was coming.  In the future you are going to be spending a ton of time watching some great movies and kid focused programming (there will also be some absolute garbage) over and over and over again.  Why ruin the surprise?  Wait a bit...the children's movies are coming!  If you are expecting your second, third, fourth child you already know the pain of some of the children's programming out there.  (DORA PLEASE STOP YELLING!)

    Image courtesy of Teletoon
    Attention: Anyone who has been forced by your children (or other people's children) to watch Calliou
    Check out 19 Things That Look Exactly Like Calliou on Buzzfeed - you are welcome!
  3. Date nights
    First Time Parents: Go out, go out tonight and go out often.  Check out a live band, a comedy club, have some dinner, watch an R rated movie, eat at a diner at 1AM and enjoy yourself because you can do this without having to pay for a babysitter (or bargaining with the grandparents to give you a break).  Second Time (and beyond) Parents: Remember how demanding the feeding schedule is for a newborn?  Time consuming, huh?  Take a little time to go out on some dates and enjoy couple time, knowing that your older little ones are well taken care of while you enjoy a date night.
  4. Get Cooking
    You don't need to start at week 1, or even week 10, but I suggest that at around months six to seven you prepare and freeze some of your favourite meals so all you need to do post pregnancy is heat them up and enjoy.  This also ensures that in the first few months post baby you aren't surviving solely on a diet of cereal, Little Caesar's pizza and Zoodles.  If friends offer to make you food, say yes!  I was such a fan of all of the tasty and healthy food I received once the minions arrived, I began the annual tradition of a soup exchange to keep my freezer stocked each fall (click here to read more about it).
  5. Prenatal Massage
    Towards the end of my pregnancy my sciatica went crazy. You are going to be uncomfortable, but there are things that will help, including splurging on a prenatal massage which is AMAZING.  Don't have insurance coverage?  Ask for gift cards as birthday and Christmas gifts and save them, particularly for month 6-9 when you get really uncomfortable.  A nice hot bath or a swim at a local pool is another great pain reliever in later months of pregnancy.
  6. Speaking of Insurance Coverage
    Many of the things you may need during pregnancy may be covered by your insurance plan, especially something your doctor has recommended.  The special physiotherapist approved support belt that I purchased for the above-mentioned sciatic nerve issue was reimbursed by our insurance.  All I needed to do was provide a doctor's note along with my receipt.  This saved us $200.  Some employers even have extended wellness coverage which can pay for items including fitness (prenatal yoga), an upgrade to a private room during hospital birth or prenatal classes.
  7. Save Your Money
    I always assumed that my time on parental leave would be the most financially draining because significantly less money was coming in while I was home with the twins.  We saved up to prepare for this and lived very comfortably during the first year of the minions' lives. What we didn't prepare for was double daycare expenses for the three years that followed.  Set aside whatever you can during pregnancy to prepare for future expenses.
  8. Sleep When You CanThis tip also applies to parents of infants and toddlers as well.  If you can't sleep at night, but are exhausted when you get home from work, take a nap.  By trimester three of my pregnancy I would take a half hour nap during my lunch break just to make it through a work day.  Just get some rest, you're going to need your strength and energy.

    someecards, napping
    Image Courtesy of Someecards
  9. Be Kind to Yourself
    I mean this in all sorts of ways. Growing a baby is tough work. It's exhausting, but amazing. Don't push yourself too hard, remember all of this is temporary. Asking for help is not a weakness, it's smart. Be kind and thankful to those who are making your life easier during pregnancy. Take good care of yourself so you can take care of the little baby you are about to bring into this world.

What are your best practice tips during pregnancy?  Please share!

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Wednesday, 9 September 2015

On Top of Spaghetti

Yesterday was the first day of school and everything went surprisingly well.  The minions returned home tired, but in good spirits, despite getting caught in a torrential downpour on their walk from kindergarten to after-school-care.  Today we packed umbrellas along with raincoats in preparation for another rainy walk.

I have been stressing about the transition to school, likely more than either child.  Will they make friends quickly?  Was it the correct decision to put them in separate classes this year?  And, how do I deal with packed lunches and snacks when currently I'm scoring about a 60% on the adult front for sack lunches?  Clearly I need to step up my game, and I'm trying, but mostly failing so far.

When we attended kindergarten orientation back in the spring I learned that the expectation is that we provide a litter-free lunch (and two snacks) for the kids.  For years we've been reliant on daycare providing all of the nourishment that the kids need 8AM-530PM.   Now we've been left on our own and can't provide any litter trail without getting what I assume is a finger wag from educational providers about our inability to provide our children with some semblance of nourishment.

We researched packed lunches and learned that kids are more likely to eat their lunches if they are involved in selecting the foods and helping to pack them.  I asked Molly what her favourite item was to eat at daycare...her response: Ice Cream.  Helpful, right?  Next I went out and bought what I thought was a ton of containers, reusable cloth bags and juice boxes.  When we went grocery shopping this past weekend, we selected favourite meats, crackers, cheeses, fruits and veggies together.  The night before kindergarten Molly helped me whip up a batch of oatmeal chocolate chip muffins for snack and we packed everything up together.

Spider Man says, "EAT YOUR LUNCH!"

Yesterday afternoon when I picked up the kids I discovered two things.  1) I had not prepared for the fact that Molly's lunch bag, with everything in it would immediately disappear into a black hole, ravaging me of a good portion of litter-less lunch supplies and 2) Jack's refusal to eat EVERYTHING we packed (together) for his lunch and snacks.  He had maybe 2 pieces of meat and drank all of his apple juice and took a bite or two of cucumber, but that was it....all day long.  Molly claims she ate all of her food yesterday, but I won't know for sure until tonight, hopefully.

Last night, after filling out six forms for each child I returned to the land of lunches.  I took some of their "feedback" into consideration.

Today I have three goals for the children: 1) Molly returning home with two lunch bags 2) That I won't get in trouble from school authorities over the apple core and two banana peels my kids will (hopefully) be producing at lunch and snack and 3) That Jack actually eat some of the food I packed.  Okay, I guess I also hope they have fun today.

What do your kids eat for lunch? Does it count as a litter-free lunch if your children refuse to eat anything you send them to school with and return with bags filled with warm apple sauce that you end up throwing out at home?

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Thursday, 3 September 2015

The Fairy Tale Song - Our Trip to Storybook Gardens

Molly and Jack received some birthday money this year and we decided this was a good opportunity to speak to them a bit about buying power and how they wanted to spend the money.  It was decided that the money would be used to go on a couple of family friendly activities together. A few weeks ago we packed up, headed west to London Ontario and had a day at Storybook Gardens.  This southwestern Ontario theme park based on fairy tales is a destination that Chris remembers fondly from his childhood and we thought we'd go and check it out.

The cost to enter the park is $27.00 for a family of 4.  Below are some photos from many of the  activities and sights that are covered in the price of admission.  Storybook Gardens recommends that you plan about 3-5 hours for your visit, depending on the activities you want to enjoy and whether or not you break for lunch.  We stayed for 3.5 hours and that seemed just about right for our four year olds.  There is also an elaborate splash pad in the summer months.

Storybook Gardens, Castle
 The castle entrance to Storybook Gardens.
The Cheshire Cat Wishing Well, Storybook Gardens
 The Cheshire cat wishing well (or if you're my children, the Treasure Cat well).

foam building blocks, storybook gardens
 Giant foam building blocks.

frog prince, storybook gardens
 Molly looks to see if she can turn this frog into a prince, unfortunately this was not a love connection.

Lily pad giant pillow, Storybook Gardens
 The Frog Kings Lilypad (Giant bouncing pillow)  - This was Jack's favourite activity in the entire park.
Pirate's Island, Storybook Gardens
 Pirate's Island features several large play structures and a giant boat to help all of the little pirates in training prepare for life at sea.

The Old Lady's Shoe, Storybook Gardens
Around The Village Square kids can play in the "Old Woman's Shoe" house, a  grocery store, a bank a fire station and more. 

For the "pay to play" activities, ride tickets can be purchased for $2 each or 20 tickets for $28.  Each ride requires one ticket per rider, kids under 24 months can ride appropriate rides for free.  These ticketed activities  include riding the Ferris Wheel, the flying elephants, a carousel, the train and the potato sack slide.  Tickets can also be used towards face painting, which the minions both enjoyed.  Note: the tickets don't expire or you can get ride all day passes for $12 a piece.  We purchased the 20 ticket pack, but could easily have gone ahead with about half as many tickets.

Basic food items like fries, chicken fingers, burgers, sliced veggies and sandwiches available for purchase (although when we were there they ran out of fries and it was an hour wait for those who wanted fries).  We bought our food there which ran under $20 for all four of us, however in the future we will pack our own lunches to save a bit of money.

Storybook Gardens remains open for summer hours until Labour Day Monday and then moves to fall hours.  The kids had a great time and say they want to go again.  If the kids are interested we may go back this winter to take the skating trail through Storybook Valley and visit Humpty Dumpty and some of our other Fairy Tale friends.

The only glitch in our day was that Chris had mentioned that we'd get to visit the Three Little Pigs at Old McDonald's Farm before we arrived.  Unfortunately because of a fire last February the farm animals have been relocated elsewhere.  Molly was pretty annoyed that she didn't get to see the pigs (particularly Practical Pig) or her on again, off again boyfriend The Big Bad Wolf.  I would say that the "sweet spot" age to bring your kids here is about three to six, but younger and older kids (parents included) will still have a great time.

Humpty Dumpty, Storybook Gardens
Assessing the stability of Humpty Dumpty

To read about Molly and The Big Bad Wolf click here.

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