Monthly Archives: October 2017

Five Things Friday 

It’s been a tough slog, this October. But it’s almost November so I’m going to harness all my energy into making sure I do one all important thing next month: take care of me. How will I do that?

  1. Make sure I go out with friends once a month without kids. Turns out my last “social event” was my nephew’s birthday. 
  2. Read. In bed. Instead of watching TV. Or maybe read. On the couch. Instead of watching tv. 
  3. Actually watch tv. Put the phone down. Put the computer down. No grocery lists during Brooklyn Nine-Nine. No Amazon shopping during Murdoch Mysteries. If it’s worth having on, it’s worth paying attention to it. 
  4. Write. 
  5. Workout. It was tough getting to bootcamp yesterday, both literally and metaphorically (snow and rain meant travel on most bridges was not advised and we are a city of trains and bridges) but I did not regret it once I got there. I have to remember that!
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Five Things Friday

Is it Friday? Oh good. This week was long. Between trying to fend off the kid’s cold, it being a short week after a busy long weekend and M having more boot issues. But here are the things I’m hoping to accomplish this weekend

  1. Measure out and plan furniture locations for doing the grand gym/office/playroom/guest room switcheroo
  2. Decide (by measuring and planning… I’m sensing a theme) if I want the wall unit from my grandparents place to replace our IKEA bookshelves. 
  3. Plan (without measuring anything other than temperature) when we are going to the corn maze
  4. Clean garage. Again. Related to the next item. 
  5. Start Christmas shopping. This may titles Friday but I’m finishing the interrupted post at 5:45 on Saturday morning and having looked outside on my way to sooth a crying baby, I saw snow on the ground. Snow. The flaking white stuff we haven’t seen in about 6 months. I know it will melt but at least it’s a reminder to get all that shopping done?
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What are you talking about?

Has anyone noticed that preschoolers heat everything except what you say to them directly? That point came abundantly clear the moment C asked Scott and I what we were talking about at the supper table. 

The answer was Harvey Weinstein. How do you explain the sexual abuse this man has been allowed to get away with for decades simply because he has money and power to a preschooler? 

The same way you tell her about the atrocity of a mass shooting or the death of a family member – human or canine. 

In the last 18 months, we’ve experienced the deaths of a friend, a family dog and my grandfather. In each case, we gave C a simple explanation of what happened without any euphemisms. Even though we did encorporate heaven into the discussion, we centred our message around the basic facts: Erica/Bender/Great-Grandpa died. That happens when someone gets very sick or very old. It makes us sad, and we will miss them very much.

We oversaturate our lives with news stories. Rather than daily newspapers or hourly radio updates, we have access to live news streams giving us details as they are discovered — however relevant or salacious they may be. As a result, we centre around our screens to make sure we don’t miss a single piece of the puzzle that never fully explains the “why” of a tragedy. 

After Las Vegas and Edmonton, I saw a lot of social media posts with the same theme: an adult fixates on the news, a child asks what’s going on, and the parent puts away their screen, and hugs the child. The message is usually that instead of obsessing on the depravity of today, we should cherish our children who are the hope of the future. This is an entirely valid and necessary message. 

But the child’s question is never answered. 

We walk a fine line between shielding our children from having to grow up too soon and preventing them from seeing the truth of the world that we live in. We think they are too innocent or naive or young to face the reality. We don’t want to burden them with sadness.

But the strangest thing happened in the days following my grandfather’s death. While there were a number of awkward breakfasts where C would asks when she was going to die, how I was going to die and whether Daddy would be invited to M’s funeral when she died, there were moments when she showed more strength and maturity than I can most days. One day before the funeral we were putting on our shoes to go to my parents and she was listing everything she was going to do there: play in the sandbox. Water Nana’s garden. Tell Grandpa (my dad) that it’s ok to be sad. These were the simple facts that made up her life. 

Turns out that children are stronger than we give them credit for. So while they are these perfect capsules of hope for the future, they also deserve to know what direction that future is headed. While we don’t always go out of our way to tell C every detail of current events, we answer her questions as best we can in a way that she will understand. 

So how do you explain the sexual assaults of Harvey Weinstein to a three year old? Carefully. And with broad strokes. But never by avoiding her question. 

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Grow Your Own Way

We embarked on our first year of putting in a real vegetable garden. Since we have a rabbit issue (being the only house for blocks without a dog, we are a sanctuary of sorts, I suppose), we went with raised beds and tried our hand at square foot gardening.  How did it turn out?

Our garden by the numbers:

  • 121 days of growing
  • Two raised beds 5 feet by 3 feet by not quite 1 1/2 feet
  • Two planters (vegetable)
  • Two cubic yards of dirty
  • 18 varieties of fruit, vegetable and herbs
  • 8 items from seed, one item transplanted, remainder from greenhouse (Lacoste Garden Centre)
  • Just one red pepper.

The standouts from the experience?

  • I loved always having vegetables on hand. We still tend to forget to plan vegetables with our meals, so having a salad bar in our backyard made me feel like I was providing my kids with healthy choices.
  • Turns out I love beans. Love them. Roasted with ranch seasonings. Steamed and drizzled with olive oil, garlic and a touch of salt. Straight from the garden and raw.
  • The cherry tomato variety we chose –Sweet Million — flourished (read more on that later) meaning C was in tomato heaven.
  • Only a few things perished from my mid-July to mid-August neglect (which unfortunately coincided with a long stretch of hot weather without rain. Oh ya, we had a lot of those this summer).
  • Beets were a favourite of mine, (but I don’t think anyone else in the house cared for them at all). I was so proud of them though!
  • Obviously homemade salsa is the best

Veggie Fails (aka: Learning opportunities)

  • Sweet million tomatoes took over everything.  Choked out the steak sandwich tomatoes (of which we only got 5 total, and I’m hoping they will ripen in the cardboard box otherwise I will be pretty grumpy about not getting a single red tomato from that plant). Shaded my carrots. Dwarfed my bell peppers. Unseated the trellis they were tethered to.
  • Cucumbers never seemed too happy. I think it was also a tomato-related issue.
  • Carrots never really grew because they couldn’t get sun
  • Only one of my red peppers turned red, which gave me an overall success rating of 50%. I think there was only one or two green peppers too.
  • Sri Racha hot peppers grew much more abundantly, but were stinking hot at the beginning of summer and mild at the end.
  • My herb balance was off. My basil barely produced anything. My oregano took over. My thyme was constantly flowering. And it turns out I don’t really care for rosemary nor mojito mint if I have to make my own mint.
  • Garlic chives were not pungent enough, and once they flowered, they attracted wasps
  • Spinach was too high maintenance for me and died off early
  • Garlic never really grew. And then did really late. I’m leaving it in until the snow flies just to see if it actually produces anything.
  • I didn’t do my second planting of lettuce early enough.

Comparison to CSA

  • Much better selection of vegetables for our taste
  • Less spoilage (especially since we apparently started feeding a family of rabbits who lived under a hockey net next door?)
  • Less stress about making new and different things to accommodate the ingredients we had.
  • Fewer opportunities to branch out from our comfort zone
  • A lot more stress on me to make sure that it worked out, rather than it being a family experiment.

Conclusion

It just makes sense, as a family who is not into braised greens, rarely eats zucchini and loves cucumbers and peas more than any other vegetables, that we plant our garden to fit our needs, rather than participating in a CSA.  I was much less angry at vegetables by the end of the growing season that I was last year. That being said, it wasn’t necessarily that much cheaper (especially since we had to account for the building of the raised beds this year), and we didn’t get the same volume of vegetables. Since I will be back at work next summer (BOOO!!) Scott has said that he will take on some of the garden responsibilities. He has agreed to learning the difference between a plant and a weed. Maybe by next May, I can convince him to actually pull out those weeds.

 

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Five Things Friday

“But how can I calm down?” 

C wails this when she’s gone a bit over dramatic with something and I’ve told her if she keeps this up, we won’t [go to the playground/play outside/ go to the library…]. In her defence, it is hard to shake somethings off. 

I know that all too well. I’m slowly unwinding after my morning was derailed by an email from a contractor that was inexplicably rude. Yes, 6 hours later. But my blood boils hot sometimes. 

While these aren’t always the best options for a toddler, these are the things that help me unwind (when I remember to take the time to do them, instead of just trying to brush it off like I did this morning)

  1. Take a walk. A long walk. Outside. Preferably with music. 
  2. Talk to my mom. Talking to friends often riles me up because we share stories and that builds the anger. My mom is usually a bit more calming. 
  3. Dance party. My sister was/is a music therapist and she would probably tell me the theory behind it but it works
  4. Rocking a sleeping baby. Not a baby that refuses to sleep. That doesn’t work. But the repetitive motion and the peaceful face always help. 
  5. Writing. Whether it’s a blog post, a letter, or an email response (“Thank you for making this an easy decision. You are incorrect. I will not be shopping around for a lower quote. I will in fact be choosing the other contractor whose quote was higher, because it is true that you get what you pay for, and sometimes, that extra money gets you some basic human decency”*). 

I’ve done four out of five (number 4 precludes number 3), and now feel much more calm. Just think how much easier the day would have gone if I’d done that all six hours ago!
*that is not verbatim what I wrote, but is pretty much the point. 

Categories: The new identity | 2 Comments

Currently: In October

Seeing the end of September is really bittersweet. September is always a time for new beginnings, but the weather doesn’t know whether it’s summer or fall, and there are days where you need mitts in the morning and shorts in the afternoon. October is a little more settled.  This month, I am…Screen Shot 2017-10-03 at 9.55.00 PM

styling: Fall layers. I finally got mad and told Scott that if he gets a new wardrobe every time he starts a new job, I should get one every time I go back to work after mat leave. He looked and me and said: “yes. That makes sense. Stop throwing these fits as if I’m the one saying no, and actually go out and buy clothes”.  So I picked up a few casual pieces to get my shopping muscles back in shape and I’m having fun styling them.  Army green cords are rocking my world right now, as are puffy vests.

saving: nothing. We’re switching around three areas of our house and it means that we’re downsizing our office/games room/sewing room into a smaller space. I’m (slowly, according to my daughter who will be upgrading her playroom) purging all my fabric and yarn stashes.

searching: for contractors willing to repair our garage. Not just say they will repair and then spend the entire quote saying: “It’s totally possible. But for only $15,000 to $20,000 more you could get a whole new garage”.  We need to replace the bottom plate on our garage because of years of spring flooding has caused rotting (which the previous owners cleverly covered up to help make a quick sale…grrrr). Yes, we’ll end up replacing the whole garage eventually, but I was hoping to at least push that off until we had two full paycheques coming in.

picking: pumpkins.  Ok, not yet. Soon. We go to a farm every fall that has a petting zoo, corn maze, horse rides, a zipline and a barn full of pumpkins. It’s Instagram gold. The first year, C wasn’t having much of it. At all. Last year, she liked the petting zoo, tolerated the corn maze, and then *may* have had an epic meltdown at the pumpkin barn. Here’s hoping this year, she’s a champ (as we’ll have to deal with the moods of M this year, too). I’m tired of abandoning whatever perfect pumpkin I’ve found because someone is making a scene.

…making: freezer meals. Fall seems to be the start of freezer meal season in this house — usually because I’m within a few weeks of having a baby or going back to work after having a baby, all of which really benefits from having freezer meals. I made a double batch of shepherd’s pie last night, freezing half for sometime in the nebulous future.

Thanks to Anne and Dana for this month’s link up!

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C Reads (2)

Apparently it’s been a while since I’ve talked about the books we’re reading these days. Here are six months worth of kids book we’ve taken from the library. Yes. There are 28. No, not all of them are good. Just want the good stuff? Look for the * proceeding the title!

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5 Minute Berenstain Bears’ Stories
Stan, Jan & Mike Berenstain
3/5
Can I just say that Mike ruined this franchise? Oh well, C doesn’t seem to mind. I love these 5-minute story type collections because they introduce us to stories that we may not have otherwise picked up. All the stories in this collection are available individually, which may be the way to go with Berenstain bears, as this collection skips the foreshadowing moral at the beginning which is one of my favourite parts. And so you can skip all the Mike Berenstain ones.

Chicken Soup With Rice
Maurice Sendak
1/5
Does anyone else remember this from roughly grade 2? Roald Dahl’s Matilda and Chicken Soup With Rice are two books I can remember so clearly.  We read one poem from this book at the beginning of each month and got to colour it. Turns out with out the colouring aspect, it’s not so much fun. Even buying chicken soup with rice didn’t seem to make this book any more fun.

Chu’s First Day
Neil Gaiman & Adam Rex
3/5
We had to pick up Chu’s first day, between starting pre-school and enjoying Chu’s Day. Gaiman box are oddly written. He also allows the pictures to tell part of the plot, which I find unsettling, but the comic book / graphic novel reading father in our household isn’t quite as put off by that.

*The Dark
Lemony Snicket
3.5/5
Jon Klassen illustrated this book, and so I was looking forward to this one, since he illustrated and wrote my favourite kid’s book, I’ve Lost My Hat (plus the fact he’s from Winnipeg? That’s pretty great too). I was a little worried this would encourage C’s latest “fear” stage but obviously it’s been written with kids in mind so maybe it’s more reassuring that I thought?

*A Garden Of Opposites
Nancy Davis
4/5
I like picking up one book “for M”.  While she likes flipping through board books at random, I usually get one concept book for me to try to read to her. Usually C just ends up getting far too attached to it, and I read it to her more than M. This one was simple and clear, with bright coloured, bold graphics.

Good Night Owl
Greg Pizzoli
2.5/5
I liked the illustrations of this book, but can we just discuss the elephant in the room? Owl has a rage problem. Is it really acceptable to destroy your house because of one mouse? Maybe owl is sleep deprived. Also, why is an owl going to sleep at night? But the illustration are pretty good.

*Good Night Yoga
Mariam Gates and Sara Jane Hinder
5/5
You know a book knocks your socks off when you buy it… and it’s companion Good Morning Yoga.  C loves yoga, and so this book was a great option for a bedtime book. She can get a little riled up and I’m never sure if it really calms her down, or whether I just think it does. It does bug me that they’ve taken some liberties on the names of some poses, but all in all, it’s a solid book.

How I Became A Pirate
Melinda Long
3/5
A little boy goes to the beach and ends up on a pirate ship. This book had some touching moments (there was a slight catch in my throat when I read the part of where he misses his teddy bear, his bedtime stories and his bedtime kisses. C liked this one because it ended at soccer practice.

*I am Jim Henson
Brad Meltzer
3.5/5
This was a throw in one week at the library, and it was definitely worth it for the number of times we read it. C loves the Muppets, and while this was definitely aimed at kids older than her, she studied this book like no other I’ve seen.

If You Give A Cat A Cupcake
Laura Numeroff
3/5
Considering it was about 6 months ago, C couldn’t make it through If You Give A Pig A Pancake, I shouldn’t be surprised that she could make it through this one a million and a half times. It’s a good standby, but nothing revolutionary on its own.

*Is There A Dog In This Book?
Viviane Schwarz
3.5/5
Lift the flap books make me nervous because I’m afraid I’m going to rip them. Lift the flap library books? Ya, I don’t know whose idea it was to get this one! It was a cute book with flaps within flaps.

It’s Picture Day Today
Megan McDonald and Katherine Tillotson
1/5
Pretty sure this is my least favourite of the 28 books we’ve read in the last six months. It was such a quick read, I can only imagine it being geared at toddlers, but the “plot” was too vague. This is such a hard pass.

Just A Little Luck
Mercer Meyer
2.5/5
Once we figured out the pages had been taped back in the wrong order, this story improved.  C still sometimes pulls out “Sometimes, you just need a little luck”.  It’s not one of the strongest Little Critter stories.

Little Critter Storybook Collection
Mercer Meyer
3/5
While I usually love collections like this, we read this forwards and backwards so many times, I don’t think I could read another Little Critter book as long as I live! That being said, most of them are pretty good in here. Especially the one that explains why it’s a good idea to eat vegetables and exercise!

Lunchtime
Rebecca Cobb
3/5
Since we’re in a “I don’t want to finish my meal” stage, I thought this might help. Nope. Turns out there are no alligators to eat lunch in our house. It’s cute, though.

M.O.M (Mom Operating Manual)
Doreen Cronin
n/a
We didn’t quite make it through this one. It’s a touch above C’s head, as most parodies are for toddlers.

*Magic School Bus: In the Time of the Dinosaurs
Joanne Cole
4/5
Can you think of a better book for a kid who loves Magic School Bus and Dinosaurs? I was surprised she let this one go back to the library. Then again, I am pretty sure after the yoga book,s he thinks if she likes something enough, we’ll just buy it for her. It was a little weird that the parents didn’t think the video tape of the dinosaurs was strange, but let’s not knitpick everything!

Mosquitoes Can’t Bite Ninjas
Jordan P Novak
3/5
Prerequisites for this story: having your kid know both what a mosquito and a ninja is. I guess we got this book a little too early in the summer (and it was a strange year for very low bug counts up here!) It was cute, but nothing super lasting.

Mr. Tweed’s Good Deeds
Jim Stoten
3/5
We’re getting close to the Where’s Waldo Age, so the seek and find books are starting to get fun. Of course, it’s mostly C’s razor sharp memory that is being exercised here, not her seek and find skills.  The hidden objects are spread in a logical pattern (ie. if there are 8 objects on a two page spread, four are on each page). The plot is a little stiff.

Olivia The Spy
Ian Falconer
3/5
I really liked the original Olivia book.  After being steered astray with Olivia books not written by Falconer, I was looking forward to this. It’s not quite as good as I wanted it to be. It should tell the story that eavesdropping is wrong, but it has this weird zag where suddenly Olivia is on stage?

Pete the Cat and the Missing Cupcakes
James Dean and Kimberly Dean
2/5
I hate Pete the Cat. And this one is probably one of the worst I read. That being said, C liked it. And there was counting, so not completely irredeemable.

Pirates Don’t Take Baths
John Segal
3/5
C doesn’t hate baths, so she didn’t care for this story. It was cute. Maybe it could be persuasive a time or two for a bath resisting kid?

The Pout-Pout Fish Goes to School
Deborah Diesen and Dan Hanna
3/5
This story. On repeat. I think it helped with the first day of school nerves. How couldn’t a rhyming, rhythmic story of a fish finding his way in school help a kid nervous about starting preschool? That being said, it wasn’t gripping enough to pick up any other pout-pout books.

*Stella Brings the Family
Miriam B. Schiffer and Holly Clifton-Brown
4/5
I like that stories are tackling non-traditional family models. This book focuses on a little girl who has two dads and doesn’t know who to bring to the Mother’s Day party at school. It’s a sweet look at all the different people who fulfills a parental role in raising a child.

*Three Triceratops Tuff
Stephen Shaskan
4/5
It’s the three little pigs of the dinosaurs! Only no triceratops are hurt in the reading of this book, and every gets to munch on fresh greenery, except the big bad t-rex who is never heard from again.

Wet
Carey Sookocheff
2.5/5
There’s certainly nothing wrong with this book, but other than the sloppy kisses at the end, it doesn’t really resonate with me, nor really C. I do like the colours of the illustration.

Who? What? Where?
Olivier Tallec
2.5/5
While this book probably teaches problem solving skills, some of the details needed to answer the question (which is always who, and never what nor where, which is irritating) are very subtle, even for adults. Fortunately, the answers are at the back, so you can come up with the reasoning once you know the “who” of it all, but that seems like a tall order for kids.

Your First Word will be Dada
Jimmy Fallon
2/5
I have never been so disappointed in a book. Sure, it’s aimed at children younger than I expected (though really, that makes sense, given its about verbal development), but it’s more interesting to read to yourself in your head than aloud.

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