Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Crafty for a Cause

I am not crafty. I am a good starter of projects, jumping in with gusto...and then. The glue oozes where it isn't supposed to and then I lose patience and measure haphazardly, and whatever I'm making ends up lopsided. And tossed aside.

I should also mention that I got tossed out of Grade 8 sewing. The small bit of my apron that I had managed to put together was looking rather asymmetrical and then I broke a sewing machine. My teacher sent me to the library to do a book report instead.

That's why I am totally amazed that I managed to make something useful and actually kind of cute!

I got invited to join a facebook group devoted to creating little, purple, knitted or crocheted baby caps to be sent out to new mothers along with a DVD outlining "The Period of PURPLE Crying." PURPLE is an acronym for:

Peak of crying
Resists soothing
Pain-like face
Long lasting

...and the whole point of the program is to prevent shaken baby syndrome.

When I first saw the facebook page I glossed over it thinking that I had nothing to offer, and then I saw a post with a link to a "super easy pattern anyone could do." How could I resist an invitation like that, especially during the summer when I had a little extra time?

So I got a crochet hook and some beautiful, soft, purple baby yarn, fired up "how to crochet" on YouTube, and here is the result.

As a group, they remain lopsided, but taken individually, they're pretty cute. The one on the top right will be just right for someone's preemie.

If you're interested in participating, hats can be dropped off until November 22.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

A Bad Case of Busy-itis

Look at me, three posts in one week?! Who do I think I am??

I just came across this post by Megan Francis about people who go around citing their laundry list of daily activities in an effort to sound busy/useful/productive but actually come across as self-absorbed and whiny. Because everyone is busy, why waste time one-upping each other over who is the busiest, right?

In reading this post, I realized I have had busy-itis in a bad way this fall. People who innocently ask me, "how's it going?" are just making chit-chat, but for some reason I find myself listing off all the craziness of our family schedule when a simple, "Fine, thanks, how are you?" would have sufficed.

I think part of the reason I keep doing this is because I cannot possibly hold all of the Google Calendar information for our family in our head for more than one day at a time, and my compulsion to recite the day's activities to anyone who will listen is really just an effort to try to keep track of everything I am supposed to be doing. You know, the way someone might repeat a phone number several times outloud in order to try to memorize it.... What, not everyone does that? Must just be me.

Anecdote to illustrate my point...Two days ago, Dave suggested we should all go to an upcoming hockey game on the weekend. I said sure. I didn't actually enter it on the calendar, he did, therefore it didn't enter my consciousness and wouldn't until Saturday morning when I scanned the calendar for the weekend of nuttiness. In the meantime, I got called to work at my second job because the Whitecaps are still in the playoffs. I panicked and made the fatal mistake of agreeing to take a shift without first consulting the calendar. Really, by now I should know better. Of course they conflict.

And of course, I realized the problem this evening when Dave, completely out of the blue, asked if we were still good to go to the game on the weekend. When I grimaced and said that I had mistakenly agreed to take a shift, the look on his face was of utter disappointment and irritation with having been saddled with such a space cadet.

Anyway, clearly I actually AM too busy...I can hardly keep things straight anymore. This has become my whole life and it's way out of whack. Time to start moving toward a lifestyle where I can honestly answer, "Fine," when someone asks how things are going.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Five Family Pictures

Here are five family pictures from the past several months that are some of my favourites. Actually, the real reason I am posting them is so that Trevor can use this for his school project...hope it works!

Dave, Amy, and Trevor on their way to the Women's Gold Medal hockey game.

Jill, Amy, and Trevor before the game.

Amy and Grandma McQueen, the Canucks fans.

Grandpa McQueen's birthday party, May 2010

Gavin at 16 months (August 2010)

Non-Beige Food

First, clearly, I can only do this about once a month these days. Like on a long weekend, because by the time I find time to actually write and post something the siren song of sleep beckons and wins. Since it's a long weekend I actually have 20 extra minutes, so here goes.

AMY ATE KALE!!!! Of all the non-beige things to eat, I can't believe it was kale which is basically a headless, curly form of cabbage. Not sweet potatoes or mild carrots. Kale.

I am new to kale myself and am trying to become a lover of it because it's good for you, not because I adore the taste so much. I didn't grow up eating it or watching my mom cook it so I had no idea what to do with it when I brought it home from the grocery store. I googled "kale recipes" and came across this little gem for something called kale chips.

Kale Chips:

1 bunch of kale

1 -2 tbsp. olive oil

seasoning salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spread the olive oil around on a cookie sheet. Wash the kale and tear the curly bits from the stalk. Dry the pieces thoroughly (this is very important!!). Smoosh the kale around in the olive oil and spread evenly over cookie sheet. Sprinkle liberally with your favourite seasoning salt. Bake at 350 for about 15 will feel and sound crispy to the touch when it's done.

There are several variations out there on the internet, this one was one of the simpler ones.
Kale. It's a miracle.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Jumping Back into School

This was originally part of a post I did last year on Back to School after watching my friends agonizing over their children's classroom placements. Hope it provides some helpful information.

... the beginning of September can be a really stressful time for a lot of families. This was really driven home to me this week as I watched my own kids and their friends begin the school year. So much worry! Uh-oh, my kid is in the job share class. Uh-oh, my kid is in a split class. Uh-oh, my kid is not with her friend this year. Uh-oh, my kid is in with the "dim" Grade 2's, does that mean he's "dim," too?I'm in an interesting position as both a parent and a teacher. I find myself making the same reassurances to my friends as I do to the parents of my students. So here is a summary of those reassurances that I hope will set parents' minds at ease:

1. Combined classes are not a bad thing. Notice I used the word combined and not split. Within any given group of children, you have a wide ranges of strengths and talents in a variety of different areas. Whether the children all have their birthday in one calendar year or the next doesn't make much difference to this range (this has always seemed like such an arbitrary division to me, but that's a subject for another blog post). Teachers teach children, not curriculum. In 10 years of teaching, I've yet to meet a teacher who teaches the children in a combined class differently based on the grade they are in. Teachers so their best to meet each child where they are and design instruction that best meets their needs. If anything, the advantage of combined classes is that there is usually a range of maturity that affords children a chance to be role models and learn from each other. Further, having combined classes allows schools to group children together to their advantage, and separate children who need to be apart from each other.

2. If your child is in the upper grade of a combined class, it does not mean that the school thinks they are "dim." I sometimes wish parents could see the process involved in loading classes. It's incredibly complex and usually begins the spring before the beginning of the following school year. We take into account balancing of gender, special needs, ESL, behaviour, friend groups that are socially supportive and should stay together, friend groups that are negative and should be separated for a year, school district staffing allocations, educational assistants and where they can be of maximum effectiveness. There are usually at least four or five different configurations proposed and debated before the staff and principal finally come to an agreement about the best one and can officially organize the school (in my district this does not happen until the first Monday of the school year). If your child is in a combined class, there were probably several reasons why he or she was placed there. If you have concerns about it, the very best thing to do is to have a conversation with the teacher about it...hopefully they can ease your concerns. If you still have them, then at least you've begun a dialogue about it and hopefully the school will work with you to resolve the situation.

3. Having teachers who job share usually works out just fine. Okay, I'm a little biased on this one having been in a fantastic job sharing situation for the past seven years...I've also dealt with this concern A LOT! Most parents are concerned about two things: a) the teachers are only part time, therefore, they are not fully committed to the job at hand, and b) it's confusing and inconsistent for the children to have two teachers. To the former concern, let me assure you that in all the teachers I've ever known who job share, they put way more effort in than their allotted percentage of the position. One principal I know used to say that she really loved having job shares on her staff because you ended up with way more than 1.0 FTE's worth of contribution to the staff and school community. To the latter concern, I can only think of one child out of the 24x7=168 or so that I've taught where he perhaps may have been better off in a situation with one single teacher. Kids work with all kinds of different adults in their lives (parents, coaches, childcare providers) and even within the school often have at least one other "specialist" teacher. They usually adjust to each of these adults' expectations for behaviour based on whatever context they're in. I can't speak for every job share situation, but certainly in mine and those of my close colleagues, we're in frequent communication about classroom issues to ensure that we're being consistent in our philosophy and practice. One added benefit of having your child in a class with a job share is that the children get to work with people who may have different strengths; for instance, I am passionate about teaching science in a very hands-0n way (more than my partner), and she is passionate about developing social responsibility through her personal planning and social studies lessons (fantastically, I might add). Plus, we always have someone to bounce ideas off and brainstorm with who knows the workings of our classroom and students inside-out. There are also advantages to having a single teacher; one situation isn't necessarily better than the other, they're just a bit different.

4. Your school is there to help support your child's learning journey, and that includes your input. You are your child's first educator. Of course you know them better than anyone. Parental input is crucial, and most teachers and principals welcome you it. With email, teachers are more accessible than ever these days. I routinely give out my cell phone number and email address to the parents in my class just in case they have a class-related question and it's never been a problem yet. I would never want a child to go to be worried about something that could have been cleared up with a quick phone call at 8:30 pm. A word of advice, though, 9:00 am drop-off time is not a good time to start having a conversation with the teacher as we're usually about to start the important work of providing an excellent program for your kids!

So take a deep breath and head into the school year expecting the best. Chances are your child will follow your lead and it will be a great one.

Monday, September 6, 2010

I'm Ba-a-a-ck!

What?! You mean, when you have a blog you're actually supposed to post stuff on it? Oh, ok...
Summer is drawing to a close, the weather is gray and rainy again, and it's back-to-school tomorrow. You would think that with all my free time this summer I would have been posting at least daily. Turns out, I need the routine of the school year/month/week/day in order to give my life structure. Without it, I revert to being a lazy 15 year old who would lie around and do nothing all summer, except crack open a cheesy novel. If my kids would ever let me have two minutes to myself, that is.

I have many posts floating around in my head as I write this, but I don't want to outline them all here or you might not come back to read me again. I'll start with the first one that comes to mind.

Gavin's speech....he's 17 months old and his vocabulary consists of grunts, squeals, screeches, cooing and the words "mum," and "mama." He kind of makes a sheep noise while waving which is getting closer to "bye." His noises are inflected in much the same way as speech is, but there are not a whole lot of words happening yet. I am not one for getting all wrapped up in development charts generally, and I know the kid is totally bright. He somehow manages to make himself mostly understood in spite of his limited vocabulary! But we are coming up on 18 months and I am getting a little concerned. I am hoping that one day soon he will wake up and say, "Mother, I am absolutely famished this morning, could you please whip up some pancakes with extra syrup?" or something equally articulate. I think I was a bit of a late talker, too....Mom, can you help me out here?

In the meantime, most of our conversations lately go something like this (only with him head butting me or hanging off my leg to get my attention):

The other day I rounded on him and growled, "Ok look, you seriously need to learn to talk because this is way too frustrating for both of us!"
Not my most shining moment as a parent.

I'll let you know when he starts spouting paragraphs.

Friday, July 16, 2010

I must be doing something right.

My daughter, Amy, is a famously picky eater. Most of the time I let it slide, try to make sure there is at least one thing in our dinner she will eat, and if she chooses not to she has to wait until the next meal or snack time. Occasionally, though, we butt heads and though I know intellectually I will never win, my ego has me digging in my heels in a battle of wills with my six year old. Ridiculous, but true.

Yesterday I made a delicious pork tenderloin with grilled veggies served on a bed of spinach. I knew she wouldn't touch it with a 10 foot pole, so I made chicken quesadillas for the kids. Whole wheat tortilla, a bit of pizza sauce (nice and bland), some shredded chicken, and mozzarella cheese. These are the exact same ingredients as her all-time favourite dinner, tortilla cheese pizza, except for the addition of chicken and the fact that it was folded in half. She whined, turned up her nose at it, nibbled a corner like it was made of lead laced with rat poison, and declared she wouldn't be eating dinner. I responded that I was not going to make her anything else, she could pick out the chicken if she didn't like it, and that she didn't have to like it in order to eat it. Line drawn in sand.

Trevor ate his up. Gavin ate his dinner. Since the grandparents were over, I got a little ice cream cone for Gavin knowing how cute it is when he tries to feed himself. Trevor said, "Can I have some ice cream?" I said, "Sure." Amy said, "Can I have some ice cream?" I said, "Sure, after you finish your quesadilla." (I know, I know you're not supposed to withhold dessert, but this child would live on ice cream and cookies given the speck of a chance). Trevor looked at her, knowing full well she was not going to let that quesadilla pass her lips. Then he turned to me and said, "That's ok, I don't want any ice cream. Amy won't get any and it will make her sad."

What do you know, I guess I am doing something right after all.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Summer Job

Being a teacher, I have always loved having my summers off. I do not , however, love not getting paid in the summer and having to either pay for childcare that I don't need and/or spending all day with my kids. Every day. 24 hours a day.

This year is the first year we've had to pay for childcare over the summer. My nanny is totally worth it because she is WONDERFUL, but it sure puts a dent in my wallet, especially coming off mat leave. So I decided that since I have her around anyway, why not get out of the house and make a little extra money this summer. No one was more surprised than me to find out that I actually really like getting out of the house to do something different. And to get paid for it, as opposed to parenting (which may actually cost me my sanity).

I have two jobs this year. Job #1 is working at a concession stand at the Vancouver Whitecaps games. It's decent money and super-easy (if busy) work, the shifts are not too long and it's usually when Dave is home anyway. When I told Amy and Trevor about it, they thought it sounded like I get to work in paradise! Popcorn! Candy! Chocolate bars! Ice cream! Pop! Slushies! Chips! They can't wait to come and visit me while I work!
Job#2 is putting to good use all those years of education - I'm doing some tutoring. Right now I have two students I work with. It's so different than teaching a large group, I'm enjoying being able to work one-on-one with kids and can already see what a difference it is making for them.
I think I'm just tired of being home...all those years working 0.5 interspersed with various maternity leaves...I'm just feeling like I've been wanting more, and now I'm in a childcare situation that allows me to do more. For that I am grateful, and a happy me makes for a better mom.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Adventures in Sleeping

My favourite topic: sleep. Or lack of it.

My once perfectly perfect sleeping baby has fallen apart. First there was the separation anxiety episode of November/December. We weathered that and eventually got back on track. Then the teeth started to come along and we've been off the rails ever since. Gavin is up pretty much every night at around 2:00. I don't think he's hungry because he isn't nursing voraciously, just pacifiying, really. Actually, I think he just wants to visit with me. I've tried cuddling with him to settle him back down but he flops around like he's trying to get comfortable and can't. Or he does drift off but wakes up as soon as I try to put him back in the crib. If I bring him into our bed he just flops around in there keeping both Dave and I awake.

My latest strategy involves grumpily telling him that it's time for sleep and hustling him off downstairs (to the basement) where he settles down in the playpen. And settle he does! Maybe two squawks and it's off to dreamland. But I hate doing that because it's so far away from our bedroom floor and I don't think it's really promoting good sleep habits for him. Plus I end up on the couch so I'm not so far away from him and now my neck is sore.

At least at our house we have a buffer floor between the squawking and the sleeping. Last night we stayed in Birch Bay. My f-i-l's house has paper thin walls and the other Schweitzers were down here, too, so I was particularly sensitive to Gavin's noise level. He absolutely wouldn't settle down in the play pen after 2:00 am, so I brought him to bed with me. Amy had also crawled into bed with me, so of course he headbutted her in all his flopping around and then I had two crying kids at 3:00 am. Fun times.

Dave, having to work this morning, wisely decided to go home to sleep and avoid all this chaos. Smart guy.

Thursday, May 27, 2010


So you can already guess what this post is about.

We awoke Monday morning at the crack of dawn (about 5:00 am) to the loud, raucous cawing of crows outside the window. Right outside the window. Really, obnoxiously loud. I buried my head in the pillow and tried to ignore it until Dave finally got up and stomped over to my side of the bed to slam the window shut. This afforded us enough peace and quiet that we both fell back asleep. Until....

6:00 am. I opened my eyes because something woke me up. But what was it? Hmmm. Footsteps on the roof? Must be those damn crows again. I got up for a drink of water and laid back down ready to try to sleep again, when I heard it. Scratching and footsteps on the drywall ceiling over my head. I froze in denial that I had actually heard anything, my eyeballs darting back and forth as though that would help me to hear better. Nothing. Ok, phew, it was just my imagination. I closed my eyes and...scratch scratch in the wall, right behind my head. I jumped about five feet in the air and landed at the end of the bed facing the wall and my very irritated husband who had slept through the initial scratching and had no idea why I did a round-off back handspring from the bed to wake him up at 6:02 am on a holiday Monday. I made him listen for it, and we both headed downstairs to try to nap in peace, quiet and more denial.

At this point we still weren't sure what it was. Bigger than a mouse? Probably. A rat? Yeesh, I sure hoped not. Squirrel? Raccoon? Couldn't be a raccoon though, how in the world would it have gotten in?

Dave lost the coin toss to decide who would have to poke their head up into the attic to investigate. He popped the hatch and couldn't see anything (thankfully) so I very helpfully offered to tap our bedroom wall to see if he could see anything know, just to piss off whatever was up there. He still couldn't see anything, but I sure could hear it moving! Eventually I could hear it walking on the soffit outside our bedroom window, so I kept tapping along to wall trying to scare it back the way it came. Dave went outside to see if he could see it come out. I peeked back out the window at him and he motioned for me to come out and see. Sure enough, a raccoon was making its way along our roof line over to some hedges that I never would have guessed would be close enough for a raccoon to bridge the distance. I was wrong.

I know, right? You're thinking, it probably had babies up there. After much Wile E. Coyote type plans to seal off the house from ever being able to be penetrated by such pests again, I decided to call an animal control company and boy was I glad we did. Had we sealed it up and there were babies, the raccoon would have torn 10 more holes in the roof to get in. So the company came out, cleaned up the attic, found that (thankfully) there were no babies, and sealed it all up for us. We're getting the hedges trimmed, too. And that should be the end of the raccoon visitors.

Until they find my vegetable garden...

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Career Revelations...

So I've been teaching 0.5 for the past 7 years - give or take - with mat leaves interspersed along the way. Things have been humming along nicely and I couldn't have fathomed that any big changes would come my way.

Then my childcare situation changed after I returned to work this Spring from my mat leave with Gavin. After settling on a lovely nanny after our unfortunate first experience. We now have an excellent nanny with whom I feel completely comfortable leaving the kids. The thing is, she wants to work more than 3 days per week. So I thought, well, maybe I could work a little more, too. As I toyed with the idea, I was surprised to find myself feeling a little excited about the possibility.

I made a couple of calls and lined up an extra day each week doing a job share mat leave starting in September. Then I got to thinking about summer coming up with no income in sight and thought, what the heck, I might as well do some TOC-ing (teacher-on-call) to make up some full time hours to help bridge the summer gap in employment. I don't have much TOC experience at all having fluked into a classroom position almost immediately after starting my career, so I was a little bit nervous about going to other classrooms, especially intermediate classes.

On Thursday I TOC'd in a Grade 7 (?!) class and I absolutely LOVED IT! I had to relearn how to convert repeating decimals into fractions, but aside from that it was a great day. The kids were so different than primary kids in so many ways, but in some they were still just like little kids in great big bodies. Then I worked on Friday in a 3/4 at my school and it was really fun because I had taught all of the kids except for 3 at some point in their Grade 1, 2, or 3 years and we were all excited to see each other again.

This week was my first week of working full time in 7 years. I expected to come home on Friday absolutely wiped out and resentful of the time spent away from my family. I was completely shocked to find myself full of energy and pumped up about teaching for the first time in quite a few years. I feel invigorated about the new challenges, and at the same time grateful to be able to return to my "home base" classroom on Monday morning. I'm tired but satisfied when I get home from work and quite frankly, I feel like my kids appreciate me a bit more when I've been away.

I have a few things working in my favour that not every working mom has: 1. Teachers have (usually) the same vacation time as their kids, so I don't have to schlep them off to a series of very expensive day camps and/or day care in the summer or during winter/spring breaks.
2. I have a wonderful nanny who takes great care of my kids and the house so I come home to an orderly house with happy children. I've always joked that I need a wife, and she basically is doing that job!
3. I have the flexibility to work almost as much or as little as suits my family at a given time. There aren't many careers that have the flexibility that teaching offers, and I think it forces many women to make an all-or-nothing choice that leaves them wanting.

I'm now seriously considering the possibility of working close to full-time hours next year. I'll be 0.7 at minimum, and maybe even 0.9 or 1.0 with TOC days. I'm sure this won't be the last post on this subject....

What about you? How do you balance work and family, and what has shaped the choices you've made in this area?

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Mother's Day

I can't believe how different this Mother's Day is than last year. Last year, to put it bluntly, sucked the big one. I was 5 weeks post-partum and the Prozac hadn't begun to kick in yet, still crying at least once an hour. Add that to an emotionally charged day full of unrealistic expectations, a tired, over-scheduled husband also feeling the weight of those expectations, me having to nurse a baby and an electric breast pump every 2.5 hours, and two older kids scrambling to make sure they still had my affection. It all imploded by 1:30 pm and I literally ran away from it all to my own Mom's house to cry on her shoulder for a couple of hours. Days like Mother's Day should be totally optional for families in the kind of transition that we were last year.

Fast forward a year, and my how things have changed! We are still in the midst of transitions galore, but I feel like I have some degree of choice in the matter so it's all so much more manageable. We are settling in with our new and wonderful nanny who will be with us for at least the next couple of years; she is great with the kids and I feel completely confident leaving Gavin with her during the day. I've returned to my part-time teaching job and am enjoying it so much that I have decided to take on some more on-call work this year as well as an extra day next year. I'm even looking at doing some part-time work over the summer for a bit of extra cash and something to do outside the home.

As a family we have all made our own adjustments to our new normal. And because we are more relaxed about the way things are, I don't feel the pressure of living up to those greeting card expectations about Mother's Day this year. So I stayed in bed for 10 extra minutes this morning reading my book (which I almost never get to do these days), I had my toast and water in bed with Amy, and cherished the gifts the kids both made for me at school. I'm going to take in a movie with my mom and my daughter this afternoon, too. I don't expect to be waited on hand and foot all day because that's just not how we roll around here.

And I wouldn't change my family or my Mother's Day for the world.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Smelly Boys

My boys are smelly. Not all the time, mind you, but man oh man the two of them can get pretty funky.

Gavin has an excuse, that whole still in diapers and my mom feeds me prunes things. It'll make anyone smelly. Easily fixed with a bath and fresh diaper.

Trevor, though...hmmm. Eight year old boys who eat, sleep and breathe hockey and lacrosse (often on the same day) become especially sweaty and crusty, and, well, smelly. Add NHL playoff games and highlights that simply must be watched on TV (while eating his eighth meal of the day because the kid is starving after all that activity) and it doesn't leave much time for bathing.

Today I noticed a funky smell coming from beside me on the couch as we watched the first period of the Canucks game. I could actually see the sticky, grimy layer on Trevor's hands, gunk under his toenails, and his hair was crunchy around the edges. I threw down the gauntlet: bath or shower, because you're having some sort of water touch your body, pal. He tuned me out, eyes glazed in a hockey trance until I finally said, "I'll give you a candy if you have a shower or a bath. And scrub."

Cue the choir: Ha-a-al el u jah!

He is now squeaky clean and smelling wonderfully of Dove shampoo, Body Shop shea butter soap, and toothpaste.

Oh, and I reneged on the candy. Well, actually I postponed it until tomorrow. If he actually remembers and asks me for it and it's not too close to bedtime, he can have it then.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Intermittent Blogging and a Must-See

It's lacrosse-spring hockey-dance recital season so you're lucky I'm here at all.

Seriously, I keep going to my home page so I can check out my favourite blogs and think, I should really write something...or I could go to bed at a reasonable hour for a change. Or fold some laundry. Or something equally as exciting.

Then I sat down this evening and realized that I haven't written anything for about three weeks!

So why bust up a good thing now. Instead of actually writing anything, I'll leave you with this. I MUST see this when it comes around.

Everybody loves... Babies. This visually stunning new movie simultaneously follows four babies around the world - from first breath to first steps. From Mongolia to Namibia to San Francisco to Tokyo, Babies joyfully captures on film the earliest stages of the journey of humanity that are at once unique and universal to us all.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

My Baby is One!

Ok, so I'm a little late. You should see his (mostly empty) baby book. The kid is lucky I have a blog.

I made a cake! He shares his birthday with his 3 year old cousin and I figured this was the simplest way to handle it.

Gavin enjoying said cake. Really enjoying it. This is his look-how-cute-I-am fake smile.

A rumbly toy truck to play with. Note the basketball game on in the background. Poor kid will forever have his birthday competing with the NCAA playoffs.

Happy Birthday, my darling!

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Childcare Void

I'm just writing off the top of my head here....but maybe if our government made providing more high-quality daycare spots a priority, I wouldn't have to resort to Craigslist to try to find in-home care. The group daycare in town has a waiting list a mile long and I can't afford it anyway. The other option is to try to secure care in a family daycare for Gavin and out-of-school care at a separate setting for Trevor and Amy. And for all that trouble I would be paying more than having someone come to the house.

Do I have solutions? Not really. But there has to be a better way.

Friday, April 16, 2010


It's been an interesting week around here to say the least. We parted ways with our nanny. She was with us for a whole four weeks. Truthfully, her psycho-ness began to show up during the first week, but I wanted to believe that I had made a good decision and wasn't willing to face the possibility that I had made a mistake and might have to do the whole quest-for-childcare thing again.

So if the universe sends you trials and tribulations in your life in order that you may learn and grow from them, I really must reflect on what the point of dealing with psycho-nanny for the past month was supposed to teach me. Because I don't ever want to deal with THAT again.

I should have listened to my instincts.
I should have been more thorough in my interview with her.
I should have questioned her decision making the moment I felt uncomfortable about her.
I should have viewed her with a skeptical eye until she proved otherwise (as opposed to my usual rose-coloured glasses).
I should have gotten it all in writing.
I shoud not have let her take the key off our premises.
Instead, because I was afraid of being seen as difficult, or demanding, or bossy, I let her put my children in situations that were at best, questionable, and at worst terribly, even potentially fatally unsafe.

So needless to say the next nanny search will go a whole lot differently.

On a more positive note, having this whole thing blow up on me has also hammered home what a fantastic community I live in. No less than six families offered to do what they could to help out with childcare until I can get something more permanent in place. I'll probably get more offers as word of this gets around (it's only been 24 hours so far). All of these families have their own kids and busy lives and work to juggle, but they happily offered their help. New Westminster is the best place in the world to live.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Tiger is Icky

(A couple of days late, I know....)

I managed to take in a bit of the Masters over the weekend. It's one of my favourite golf events to watch on TV. Over the past five months I've managed to dodge much of the Tiger media frenzy by simply tuning it out. Really, there are more important and pressing things for me to worry about. Like global warming. And switching to decaf.

So I was surprised at my own vitriol against him when I sat down to take in a few holes. Yes, he is an amazing golfer. But there I was, rooting against him as loudly and as obnoxiously as I could. It was a visceral "ICK YUCK BLECH" reaction.

SO glad he tanked as the weekend progressed.

And SO glad Phil Mickelson's wife and mom were well enough amid their concurrent breast cancer treatments to be there to watch him win it.

Karma, baby.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

(Grand)Parents are People

I had an experience over the weekend that brought the above into sharp focus. On Saturday, my mom and dad were over visiting and it was such a beautiful day that we (them, Amy, Gavin and myself) decided to go for a walk down to the ravine near our house to look at a duck pond and enjoy a bit of nature. It's a moderately challenging walk back up to our place involving a pretty serious set of trail stairs and a steady uphill climb; we made it almost all the way back to the house when my mom stumbled and fell. After she took a few minutes to gather herself, she felt she would be ok if she just sat for a bit and took it easy. My dad had planned to watch Trevor's hockey game out in Surrey it was time for him to leave; I said I would stay with my mom and for him to go ahead.

About 10 minutes, a very alarming looking bruise on Mom's hand developed so we decided that a trip to the ER for an x-ray was in order. She insisted that she could take a cab, or that I could just drop her off and she could cab home; I insisted that I would take her and we would wait with her.

Before I had my own children, I saw my mom as a wee bit superhuman. If this had happened when I was in my 20's and she had insisted that she could handle waiting on her own I would have taken her at her word and gone on my merry way. But really, faced with an unexpected injury and a yucky visit to the ER, most people would appreciate having some company along for the ride and a bit of TLC. Even if they are superhuman.

And since having my own children, I finally realize that my Mom is human and sometimes she needs help even when she says she doesn't. And not coincidentally, she shares many personality traits with me...including a tendency to re-assure others in order to ease their worries, regardless of the cost to herself. Hmmm...

Mom's hand will be alright in a few weeks. I was glad I bought the three hours' worth of parking and stayed for the duration, kids and all. I don't know that we were particularly helpful while we were there but I hope it showed how much I love her and that I finally see her as a whole person, not just as my mom.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Stupid Easter Chocolate

Why oh why don't I learn from myself? I handled Halloween brilliantly, if I do say so myself. Easter....not so much.

Easter morning, Amy woke up at 4:30am and started to head down the stairs with her basket in hand! I only bumped into her because Gavin and I were having a little nighttime visit. Needless to say, she was just a little bit stoked about the egg hunt. I made her go back to bed and she managed to hold off until about 7:00am.

That dumb Bunny visited our house and left what I thought was a not-obscene amount of chocolate eggs to find and a hollow bunny for each of the kids. I cursed that Bunny every hour for the following 48 hours for ever bringing that wretched substance into my house.

They argued over the distribution fairness of the chocolate. At one point while Trevor was at lacrosse, I caught Amy "dividing" up the eggs between her basket and Trevor's after she ate a sizable amount from hers - not her most shining moment.

They beg, plead, cajole, and bargain for the right to eat the chocolate. One is not enough. Five, ten, twenty...there is never enough, they must always try for more.

Their behaviour is off the wall as they ride a roller coaster of blood sugar highs and lows. I almost pity them except they are driving me mad.

So, today as we approached dinnertime, I started to say no to the chocolate for the bazillionth time that day. Instead, I said, "Sure you can eat the chocolate. Eat it all. I am tired of this conversation and I want it gone. BUT. You must eat at least some of your dinner which we are having in one hour, because Grandma and Grandpa are here to have Easter dinner with us and I won't have it ruined by all the chocolate. AND, if you whine and complain that you are full and cannot eat dinner because you are full of chocolate, I will be emailing the Easter Bunny and asking him not to bring chocolate next year. And if you think I'm kidding, just try me."

To which Amy replied, "You don't have his email address." Whaaa?!

To which I replied, "Not yet, but I have Google. I'll find it." Aha! Take that.

Next year I am sending a copy of this post to that dumb bunny in mid-March. I'm sure he'll figure out something different for next year.

Sunday, April 4, 2010


I haven't been posting much since I went back to work. Honestly, I don't have a lot of mental energy left by the time I get a few uninterrupted minutes at the computer these days. I have these starting fragments floating around in my head...oh yeah, I should write about that. But then I sit down to do it and realize that I forgot to make the kids' lunches or download a science activity.

Here are a few of the things going on around here lately:
  • Easter
  • Gavin's FIRST BIRTHDAY (well that was the fastest year of my life!)
  • My niece's birthday on the same day
  • Report cards (sending out at school and receiving Trevor and Amy's)
  • The extra-curricular activity shift to Spring (lacrosse, spring hockey, pre-teen yoga...)
  • Gavin is starting to walk
  • Fitting in my workouts (they're still kind of sporadic, but I'm pretty amazed I'm doing anything at all since I've hit my usual "quit" zone)
  • the GI Diet...who knew kale was so tasty?!
  • the garden is actually happening this year. Things are even growing already!

So, I shall stumble off to bed. Hopefully I'll re-read this post and actually get to elaborate on one or more of the of these days.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

This May Be TMI, but...'s good, kids are good, house is good enough, Dave's good (in spite of our constant state of interrupted-sleep-fogginess). My breasts, though...not so much.

When I returned to work the first two times, both kids were already weaned. In retrospect, I think I probably mistook their increasing awareness of the their surroundings as a miscue that they weren't interested in breastfeeding anymore; this time around I'm a bit more patient and as a consequence, Gavin still nurses periodically throughout the day.

I didn't think anything at all of managing breastfeeding when heading back to work until about 2:00 in the afternoon on the first day. I was suddenly very aware of my left breast which hadn't been emptied since the night before! I nursed Gavin as soon as I got home, and figured if I could tough out dropping the midday feeding for a couple of days, my supply would adjust.

The problem is, I don't really want to go to formula on the days that I'm home, and I still really like being able to nurse Gavin when we are together. So my supply adjusted on my off-days and picked up again. And again, I was pretty uncomfortable by Monday afternoon at work. Maybe I'll try bringing my breast pump, the thing is that I doubt I can find a quiet place and 15 minutes to myself anywhere at school. But I will try. Because...

My hormones have gone berserk. I have been in a constant state of PMS for the past two weeks, my body isn't sure whether or not it should start ovulating again, my skin is a broken out mess of acne and I want to eat chocolate non-stop. So if pumping evens all that out, I will do it. And if it doesn't even all that out, well, we might just be doing morning and evening breastfeeding from here on out. It's just about time to introduce whole milk, anyway.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Oh yeah....

Now I remember one thing that sucks about working again: having to battle the crowds to do grocery shopping on the weekend with kids in tow. SO much busier.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Like Riding a Bike

Here's a paraphrased transcript of about 25 conversations I've had this week:
Me: Hey, how's it goin'?
Other Person: Oh, pretty good, how about you? You're back at work now aren't you?
Me: Yep.
Other Person: (sympathetic look) Oh, that must be rough... (or something along those lines)

The truth is...not really. I love my job, and doing it part-time is the perfect balance for me. For once I'm returning from a maternity leave to a familiar school in my old classroom and working with families who missed me. The teaching part was like riding a bike; I had a few wobbly moments on Monday morning but we quickly found our groove as a class.

When I'm working outside the home, I'm a happier person and consequently a better mom. I have a greater appreciation for the time I get to spend with my kids and I think they appreciate me more when I've been away for a bit. I'm also a bit easier on myself about the state of tidiness (or lack thereof) of my house because I've got other stuff going on. This being my third leave, I had much less worry about leaving the kids having been there, done that before. (Though as an aside, I wasn't preoccupied with Gavin while I was at work, but boy did I want to just gobble him up when I got home!)

It feels like the year of being home was really a dream that seemed like a year but then I woke up and it was actually only a couple of hours. It was lovely, but I definitely prefer the reality of my life humming along to the rhythms of my part-time work week and the school year.

Of course, it's only been three days. I might be singing a different tune when the end of June rolls around....

Sunday, March 14, 2010

A Change is Gonna Come

There is a seismic shift about to take place at my house. I'm going back to work tomorrow! Not that being on maternity leave with three kids isn't a lot of work, but it can be done in pajamas if necessary, whereas being a teacher requires a bit more decorum.

What does this mean for us as a family? A new (and wonderful) child care provider, "easy" dinners at the end of my workdays, Sundays of frantically rushing around trying to get the family ready for the upcoming week. Just as busy as my SAHM life, but in a very different way.

There is also the tricky business of re-negotiating the division of labour of household work. Dave and I have a pretty good system and he definitely carries his fair share of the load...I'm referring more to the under-5-feet-tall set at my house. When they are home, the house generally looks like a tornado has followed in their wake. Which is fine as long as they clean up after themselves at some point before they go to bed. (Gavin gets a pass until he actually hits 12 months, then he's on the chain gang, too). Unfortunately, they've become accustomed to me picking up the slack while I've been home for the past year; this hasn't done them or me any favours as I predict it will be a challenge for me to get them to PICK UP THEIR JUNK ALREADY!

It's a big transition for the whole family. I like change. I embrace it. But it's still kind of stressful.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Why I Love My Dentist

I don't want to jump him or have a dentist fetish or anything, I just think my dentist is really cool. A few reasons why....

1. When I recently referred another family to his office they sent me a Starbucks card by way of thanks. (please note, Starbucks bribery will always get you compliments when it comes to me!)

2. When I had something stuck under my gum earlier this week, they got me in the same day and after much freezing and coaxing relieved my poor, inflamed mouth.

3. While I was there, I eavesdropped on the coolest conversation to EVER take place in a dentist's office. There was an older fellow just finishing up with his teeth cleaning in the room across the way from me. The receptionist told him that since he had recently had his 90th (!!) birthday and he had been coming to this office for such a long time, the dentist decided to give the patient a special rate as a birthday gift. His file dated back to 1964, so he got the rate he would have paid in 1964: a whopping $4.00! So cool, because that was probably actually worth close to $200. Also cool because I know for a fact that my dentist was only a gleam in his dad's eye in 1964, but he is honouring the practice and patients who came before he took over about 10 years ago. And finally, the coolest thing, the old guy still has his own teeth at 90 years of age!

Sunday, February 7, 2010

I'm Moving Up in the World

You may recall back around Christmas time I got some very special hate mail from Amy. I'm all for purposeful writing for children in the primary grades, but a picture of a grumpy mommy with a big X over it was a little tough to take.

Turns out I've jumped a few notches in the opinion of my esteemed offspring. Check it out:

When she read it back to me she realized she forgot the word "favourite," so I added it in for her. Can you dig it? I'm the second favourite, baby!!

I didn't ask her who is her first favourite.

(Dave, obviously).

Friday, February 5, 2010

12 step program for baby carrier addiction

Do you know of one? Because I need one. First I spent all the money I made on Craigslist (a whole $35) on a Hug of Joy carrier that I found on....Craigslist! It's beautiful and simple, and is essentially the same as my Hotsling, but a bit stretchier. Did I need it? No. But I just had to have it.
Then I got a note on my FB news feed that the Babyhawk page now has a blog, which took me to see their new fabrics, which took me to trying out different colour combinations with the straps, and the next thing I knew, my memorized-credit-card-number was flying into the order section and I will soon be the owner of ANOTHER Babyhawk. Did I need it? No. But it's soooooo gorgeous. And I love my other Babyhawk.
I hope Dave isn't reading this.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Wherein I Get Chills

I feel like I just got a phone call from a long-lost friend and we picked up almost right where we left off.
I shudder to think of how abominably I've cared for this piano. We got it when I was 12 and it was my go-to friend, my confidante, my punching bag through the perils of adolescence. Having said that, I think we only got it tuned once as it sat in our chilly basement in my parents' old house. Then I took it with me when I moved out, and moved again, only getting it tuned one more time. That's twice in about 25 years. Somehow setting aside $100 for a tuning just never figured in as a priority.
The kids have started piano lessons; Trevor last year and Amy this past fall. And it was becoming downright painful to listen to, especially when Trevor started practicing chords. CRINGE! I finally called a piano tuner and he worked his magic for a couple of hours. He told us things I never knew about our piano, such as it was manufactured in the mid-70's in Quebec, and was later sold in a store in Manitoba (we got it second-hand from another family when we lived in Portage la Prairie). I started feeling like it was a neglected and misunderstood old dog or something; I had started to take it for granted as a heap of wood and strings in the corner of our living room. I hardly ever get to play since we had kids. When I did play it just didn't sound so great...but it wasn't the piano's fault, and I wasn't THAT rusty, we were just out of sync.
Once he finished tuning it, I thought I'd try it out to hear the difference. I picked out something easy and tonal: Imagine by John Lennon. Just the first few bars. It was warm and delicious and was ringing around in my ceiling and my head long after I finished playing it. I can bring up the sensation just thinking about it. It made me resolve to get my old friend tuned up annually and to sit down and practice a little bit more regularly so she never gets so run-down again.
p.s. Did you know not everyone gets chills from listening to music? I was SHOCKED to learn this from my husband while we were dating. He looked at me like I had sprouted an antenna when I showed him my goosebumps from listening to a particular passage or chord. His family is all the same.
More's the pity for them.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Magic for Little Bums

During the entire three-and-a-half years that I dealt with my first two kids being in diapers I can only recall one instance of diaper rash. Poor Trevor. I had my m-i-l watching him while I played nine holes of golf. He had Raisin Bran for breakfast. She had an aversion to poopy diapers. The result: a bleeding, raw diaper rash that made both of us cry. It was easily resolved in a couple of days with lots of bare bum in the fresh air (it was summertime so that was pretty easy) and some Vaseline at night.

Fast forward to January 2010...upon our return from Mexico where I had bought some disposable Huggies and Huggies wipes (with the slightest bit of fragrance in them). After two days in these diapers, Gavin had a horrendous red rash. It looked like blistering little pimples and they were rapidly getting worse. In the past, I've used Vaseline for sore-looking baby bums, or zinc oxide if it looked really on the verge of getting rashy...but my usual arse-nal (groan) didn't even make a dent in this rash.

I remembered hearing someone raving about Bum Bum Balm, made by Dimpleskins Naturals and resolved to give it a try. There is a company store down in Sapperton where the owner/founder, Jen Casey, first started out in 2001. I sent Dave out to try there first, but he must have caught them on a coffee break...this rash would not wait! He then hit Choices at the Crest where I can only imagine Dave asking a clerk for "Bum Bum Balm," (lmao!). He gulped at the $12 price tag for the 30 gram tin, but dutifully bought it and brought it home.

Let me tell you this stuff is MAGIC! Within a day I noticed a marked improvement and in two days the rash was pretty much gone. The product is 100% natural and smells great. Also, I tried putting some on a nasty little patch of irritated skin in the folds of his neck and it cleared that up, too.

Buy some for your little one's bum. It works like a hot damn and you'll be supporting a local business. :-)

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Indulge a Proud Mommy

On Friday night, Trevor got to go to GM Place to participate in Canucks First Strides. There were REAL Canucks there: Kyle Wellwood,
Andrew Raycroft, Tanner Glass and Fin. Trevor's in the third row in the middle of the gray jerseys.

Hard to believe he did Preschool IcePuppy (or whatever that level is) three times before he finally passed.

That's Andrew Raycroft and Trevor's at the front of the line for a passing/shooting drill (he got the pass from Fin!).

I was super impressed by the whole evening and the education component they offered for the parents - GO CANUCKS GO!

Saturday, January 23, 2010


I hired myself a butt-kicker.

Like many people, I struggle with my weight and (lack of) fitness. There are gazillion excuses too numerous to list here. Over the years I've joined gyms, bought exercise dvd's, joined Weight Watchers, etc. etc. I start out great for the first two or three weeks, but I have never been able to make it an integral part of my life.

So I hired my friend, Patti, to kick my butt. Not literally, but it sure feels like she did when I'm done with my squats. Also, she wants to see a food log from me every couple of days. This is a cornerstone of the Weight Watchers program, but I always gave up because no-one cared if I actually tracked or not. It's amazing, though, how much more inclined I am to write down what I eat when I know someone else cares if I've done so. And believe me, I'd better have a damn good reason if it's not done!

I've been at it for a few days and am feeling more energetic and just generally better than I have in a long while. Sore butt and all.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

As Heard from the Back of my Minivan

Amy: Mommy, do you know what we're made of?

Me: Ummm, are you asking me or do you already know?

Amy: I already know! Bones, and dreams, and blood.

Me: not sure I heard correctly...Bones and what?

Amy: Dreams! Like in your head.

Me: Oh did you figure that out.

Amy: I just know.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Five Cool Things

1. My next door neighbour has fashioned a display of Olympic rings out of hula hoops and Christmas lights (don't tell VANOC). Pictures to come when I find my camera...

2. Amy beat me fair and square the first time we played Scrabble Junior and I was actually really and truly playing. She was even strategizing ahead on how to not leave spots for me to score. Shark.

3. Trevor got chosen to do the Vancouver Canucks First Strides program at GM Place this week! Many many pictures are sure to follow...

4. Gavin has a favourite book. Night, Night, Little Pookie by Sandra Boynton. He laughs as soon as he sees the cover!

5. It's mid-January and my kids were out riding their bikes today. I love living here!

Saturday, January 16, 2010

I Luv New West

I've been meaning to sit down and pen a heartfelt tribute to my city for quite some time. New Westminster is an amazing place; everything in a city but with a small town feel. When we moved here I had no idea how quickly and deeply I would feel a sense of finally being at home.

I came across this on my FB news feed; fellow New West'rs Marty Benson and Peter Birovchak have written and performed this song about our fair city on the occasion of the upcoming Olympic relay. They did a much more moving tribute musically than I ever could in my clumsy prose. Enjoy!

p.s. Those are some darn cute kids!

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Wear Your Helmet

Some of us just have to learn the hard way, I guess.

Tuesday night, adult skating lessons at Moody Park Arena. I'm a decent skater, I can skate forward, I can stop and turn in control, I can even skate backwards. I took lessons as a kid (no helmets required), but I'd like to be a better skater (especially backwards and edges).

I was tired having been up with Gavin and his cold the night before. I probably should have turned in early, but I really wanted to hit the adult skating lessons. So I went. About 20 minutes into the lesson, I bailed. Hard.

I wasn't even doing anything difficult, just a simple glide and one-foot stop which I've been able to do since I was 6. But I caught an edge and lost my balance and fell backwards. I imagine the sound my head made when it hit the ice was a sickening thwack. I'm not sure, though, because the next thing I remember is some darkness and trying to sit up but feeling very woozy. I literally saw a ring of stars when I tried to focus my vision on anything for three hours afterward.

I split the back of my scalp, got blood all over my clothes, and was diagnosed with a pretty good concussion. I couldn't drive home, my hubby had to wake me up every two hours that night, I still felt like crap today as I caught the bus back to the arena lugging Gavin in the car seat to pick up the van.

As I tried to fall asleep last night, I couldn't stop thinking about Natasha Richardson and what an idiot I was for not wearing a helmet. What a stupid risk to take! I'd never let my kids skate without a helmet. It's the same sort of mentality that many in my generation used to share about wearing bike helmets; great for the kids, but we've been fine so far so we don't really need them. It wasn't until it became the law that helmets were worn widely by cyclists. I'd like to look up some data on head injuries in cyclists before and after that law was enacted, but my head hurts and I need to lie down again.

Even if you're an awesome skater, who's to say some out of control beginner flailing around isn't going to come careening at you from behind and take your feet out?

I will forevermore wear a helmet when skating. I urge you to do the same. And, in my opinion, parks and rec should require everyone (not just children) to wear helmets during public skating sessions.

Where's my ice pack?

Thursday, January 7, 2010

All You Need is Love

Spotted this on Bacon is My Enemy. Brilliant. Pass it on.

What's for Dinner

One of my resolutions for this year is to bring some new recipes into my repertoire of dinners. I'm a decent cook, but after a while it's easy to fall into a rut of buying the same old ingredients each week and then when you try to make something new and interesting it ends up tasting the same anyway.

This week I sat down with my new cookbook, Crazy Plates, planned out dinners for the week, and made a shopping list from my plan. I love this cookbook because the recipes are low fat with accurate nutritional information, and it's really funny! So far we have had Chicken and Mango Tango (a warm chicken salad), Obi Wonton Kenobi Soup (who knew I could make my own wontons?!), and Piled-High Veggie Pot Pie (meh, would have been better with chicken). Tonight we are having Lanky Noodle Dandy. I'm having fun making new things - and eating them - and so far everything has met with good reviews from the dinner table. Except for one.

Amy, my famously picky eater, has soldiered through my culinary adventures this week with only the occasional slightly rude comment about how gross everything is. She actually nibbled on a tiny - and I do mean tiny - corner of a lettuce leaf on Monday, and once I convinced her the wontons weren't actually brains and picked out all the carrots and bok choy, she ate her soup on Tuesday. But yesterday was the last straw. Faced with a bowl full of vegetables and a biscuit crust polluted with sweet potatoes, she wrinkled her brow and demanded, "Why can't we just have plain food?! Like a cheese bun or tacos?" Tacos? Really? Since when are tacos plain? She eventually choked down some of the biscuit topping so as not to completely starve herself, frowning all the while. Trevor, on the other hand, had two helpings. Even Gavin ate some.

Do you have a picky eater in your life? Any tips aside of serving them bread and butter until they're old enough to fend for themselves?

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Why I Can Never Find a Soother When I Need It...

Turns out I don't just have mommybrain...Gavin has a secret stash of soothers going up against the wall (sorry for the weird camera angle). I found them when I went to change his sheet the other day.
The problem is that it's so secret he doesn't even know where it is!

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Hola! or what I did on my vacation

Feliz Anonuevo (I think)!

Don't hate me, but we were in Puerto Vallarta for Christmas this year!

It was amazing. We stayed at a beautiful resort with a gorgeous beach and pool areas, no-one in our group got sick, and we actually relaxed. On the third day of our trip I turned to Dave as we splashed in the waves with our kids and boogie boards, "This is the pace that life should be."

I can't wait to go back!