Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Merry Mittens

Don't you hate how bare your house looks after you take down your Christmas decorations? That's what I had in mind when I came up with this craft - festive mittens that can stay up all winter long. It's super easy to do, and all my kids enjoyed putting it together. Yes, even the teen had a blast decorating her mitten.

What you need:

  • felt in different colours
  • glue
  • pen or marker
  • mini clothes pins (can be found at craft store)
  • scissors
  • decorations for your mittens (sequins, felt or paper scraps, glitter, etc.)
  • string


You can use the template below to trace a mitten shape onto the felt. It can be pasted into Word and re-sized. Mine was about 1/4 of the page. 



Once you have traced and cut your mitten, it should look something like this:


Next, decorate your mitten any way you like. I used a snowflake pattern for mine. The kids used sequins, glitter glue, felt scraps and fabric markers. You can also buy adhesive felt shapes at the craft store which are great for this kind of project. 


When your mittens are decorated, pin them onto the string with the mini clothes pins. I used a hemp string because I like the natural look, but you can use yarn, or ribbon or whatever you want. And that's it. Add as many mittens as you like to make the garland as long as you want and hang it up indoors over a door or window - somewhere it can be seen and admired.


While I was getting the things ready for this craft, I thought of some other ideas for felt mittens:
  • Make smaller mittens and glue a magnet to the back. Display on fridge or magnetic board.
  • Make two matching mittens and attach to the ends of a string. Display over doorknobs or coat hooks.
  • Attach a string and use as a Christmas tree decoration.
  • Sew two mittens together and stuff with potpourri. Attach a string and hang.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Goodbye, Dear Friend

I know I said I would post on a regular basis, and I have a lot I want to post about, but a sad event has taken the wind out of my sails. Two weeks ago we lost our good buddy, Bo, a beautiful little mongrel who loved nothing better than to play outside with the kids on cool evenings, then curl up with them for story time before bed. He was quiet and gentle, and we all miss him dearly.

We miss the soggy teddy bears left in the hallway, the dog biscuit crumbs on the couch, and the happy waggy tail that met us whenever we came home.

The kids are taking his loss especially hard. Why did he have to go? And they wondered, like little ones do, what will happen to Bo now that he is gone.

I explained the best I could that Bo was sick, and that his body was tired and it was time for him to leave. It's okay to be sad, but we should remember Bo and talk about all the fun we had with him. This lead to a discussion about all the things that Bo loved, and what he would do in dog heaven.

A friend introduced me to a wonderful book - Dog Heaven by Cynthia Rylant. In the past week, the kids have read it again and again.

"When dogs go to Heaven, they don't need wings, because God knows that dogs love running best."

Thus starts this colourful book about all the things dogs can do in Dog Heaven. There are biscuits as far as the eye can see, geese to tease, and soft clouds to curl up on. Every dog has a home, and they can stay as long as they want. They will greet old friends when they arrive.

I hope so, I really do.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Shower? More like Deluge

Ever get yourself into a situation that seems harmless at first, then spirals out of control? Yeah, I had one of those this week. But hey, it gave me something to blog about. How's that for ripping the silver lining right out of that cloud.

My situation started about six weeks ago. I found out some very good friends of ours are expecting. The Mommy-to-be's mother called me and asked if I would help host a baby shower. Sure, I'd love to help. Another friend, we'll call her Josie, would also be helping. She would get in contact with me to let me know the date.

Fast forward a couple of weeks. They'd picked the date, it would be October 29th. Could I find a venue and book it? Sure, I said, and even though it was Halloween weekend, and a lot of places were booked for parties, I managed to find a good place - close to Mommy-to-be's house, and near a grocery store in case we needed extra supplies.

Soon I got an email from Josie outlining all the things Mommy-to-be did not want at her shower. This included games she thought were tacky, food she didn't like, and decorations she didn't want. I replied and said no problem, but did either of them have any suggestions as to what we should have? No, whatever I went with would be fine.

At this point, the gentle whirlpool into which I had been sucked was starting to pull me in deeper. I could see it coming, but I couldn't get out. Swim, little Momster, swim!

Long story short, over the next week I put together party games and got the props ready, and I contacted Josie on several occasions so that we could go shopping for decorations and food. She couldn't make it on any of those days. I ended up going on my own. I knew that Mommy-to-be was planning a Sesame Street theme for the baby's room, so I ordered some cupcakes at the bakery near the venue that were decorated like Sesame Street characters. I asked Josie to pick them up on her way to the shower.

Finally the day arrived and Mommy-to-be's mother and I showed up early to decorate. We had everything ready to go when the guests arrived. Josie showed up 30 minutes late - with no cupcakes. She forgot. I ran next door and got the cupcakes, as well as some extra cheese and crackers that Mommy-to-be thought we might need. Everything else went perfectly. All that printing, cutting, shopping, cooking and decorating came together nicely.

At the end of the night, Mommy-to-be got up to make a little speech. She said how happy they were to share this joyous occasion with friends, thanked everyone for the gifts, and thanked her good friend Josie for all the work she did on the shower.

You've got to be *M#F@! kidding me!

So this is my question: How inappropriate would it be for me to send Josie a bill for half the shower expenses? Cast your vote in the poll on the left and help me resolve this situation in a way that is either socially graceful or will ensure that I will never be asked to do this again.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Monster Treat Bags

Here's a great little craft for even the least crafty of us, and fun for parents and kids to do together. These treat bags are good for Halloween parties (or any party) or for the special little halloweenies that come trick or treating. My demo monster is pretty basic, but you can get as fancy as you want.

What you need:

  • Paper lunch bags
  • cellophane (or a heavy plastic food wrap) 
  • Large googly eyes
  • tape
  • Small sharp scissors
  • glue
  • pencil

Lay the lunch bag out flat on the table and draw a monster mouth shape near the bottom. Make sure you leave some room at the edges (about 3/4 of an inch). Cut out the mouth with your scissors. Be careful not to cut the sides of the bag. It doesn't matter if the edges are ragged, this is a monster mouth after all. 

Once the mouth is open, cut a piece of cellophane big enough to cover the hole. Now you have to tape the cellophane inside the bag. This is the tricky part. Make sure all the edges are securely fastened so that the plastic doesn't come away from the mouth. One piece of tape on each side should do it.



Next come the eyes. You can add as many eyes as you want. If you have different sizes it's fun to mix it up. This is something the kids like to help with. Just don't stick the eyes too close to the top. You want to leave room to fold and close the bag.




The kids can also decorate the bag any way they want. Use crayons, markers, bits of paper, or get fancy with glitter and sequins. Whatever you like. When the monster is finished, fill it with treats. Fold down the top and secure with tape, or you can use a hole punch and tie the bag together with yarn or raffia.

 


Not only do the kids have a fun treat bag, but they get a preview of the treats inside. You can do mini versions of these with paper candy bags.

Just in case you don't want to fill them up with sugar, here are some ideas for non-candy treats:
  • small packs of crayons
  • mini stampers
  • stickers
  • juice boxes
  • glow sticks

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

School Picture Day

Today is picture day at school for my youngest kids. Also known as the day that mom and dad shell out big bucks for mug shots. That was the last few batches looked like - Jr. facing straight into the camera with a blank expression against a lovely bright rainbow background.

It reminds me very much of the elementary school photos of yore. Mom would get my brother and I all cleaned up. She would have my hair done just right, have my brother's red curls tamed as well as she could. We wore uniforms back then, so what could go wrong?

Well, let's see. There was the photo of me with my hair all sticking up on end, the tidy ponytail from that morning a sideways shrub on the side of my head. I had pulled my sweater off over my head. Who has time for zippers when you're six? Then there's the year I fell on the playground and had a nice fat lip for my photo. That was a keeper.

But the masterpiece belongs to my brother. I wish I had a copy to show you. I think it was his first grade photo. His hair is a mess, the collar of his uniform shirt is all twisted and sticking up on one side. He has chocolate milk all over his mouth and spilled down the front of his shirt. To finish the effect, he has a glazed duh look on his face. Best. Photo. Ever.

In the high school it's a different story. Those photos all turn out lovely. How could they not with the touch-ups, and fancy backgrounds and soft focus. They are really good photos, and my oldest daughter is usually really happy with them. I don't know. I sort of miss the days when her school pictures had messy hair and toothless smiles.


Friday, October 14, 2011

Return of the BLOG

This morning my five year old came to me, wide eyed, after her ten year old brother told her about the scary movie he watched last night.

"Really! What was it?" I asked.

She wiggled her fingers and said in her spookiest voice: "The Blog."*

------



After some technical difficulties, I'm finally back and better than ever. Okay, that last part is a fib. I'm actually less than ever. Let me explain.

When this blog was first conceived, there were three Momsters coming up with the ideas and stories. By the time the blog went live, we were down to two. Now, there is one lonely Momster holding down the fort. That would be me. So while I am hoping to post on a regular basis, it may not be as regular as it once was. And no more procrastinating.

The return of the Momster Blog comes at a good time. The best time of year. Autumn. Halloween. Apples and pumpkin spice. All the good stuff. I'm not generally a crafty person, but I've got some cute Halloween ideas to share. I'll get on that.

Right after my coffee.

* We watched the 1958 version of The Blob with our son. A good movie for older kids who want to be a little scared, but not too much. Although, I think The Blog has some frightening possibilities as well.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Paper Trail

Hello friends, remember me? I'm sorry it's been a while, but you see I've been busy trying to dig my way out from under the mountains of paper that are the back-to-school notes. I'm a little tired from the sorting, and a little cranky from the paper cuts, but my living room is starting to look less like a land fill and more like a stationary store.

Let's see now, I've got this pile here that is for elementary school newsletters (I got the "welcome back" newsletter not once, but three times). This heap over here is from the high school. They request our cooperation in saving paper by signing up for email updates. It took them five pages to say this. I have signed these forms for three years now and I have not yet received one email newsletter.

This stack over here is for registration forms. Careful, it topples easily. It took eight volunteers to get me out from under that pile on Monday. Health forms, school registration, after school permission slips, drama club, choir, running club, basketball, canoeing permission form - it's all stacked right here. I'd move them, but it's hard to do with these bandages on my fingers.

These papers spread on my desk are the student handbooks and school policy updates. You can push those aside and have a seat. Careful there. That dark smudge? Oh no, that's not from the paper cuts. That's Merlot.

I'm just about done with all the signatures. I have writer's cramp and a huge blue smudge on my hand that's either ink or a bruise. I'm not sure yet.

Well, I'd better get back to the sorting. I hope your back to school transition is going smoothly. Happy reading!

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Book Recommendation: Pigs to the Rescue

They say you shouldn't judge a book by it's cover, but that's exactly what I did when I ordered Pigs to the Rescue. It looked hilarious, something silly the kids would enjoy.


The Greenstalk family have their share of problems, from a broken down tractor to a kite in a tree. Luckily, they have some very helpful pigs. Did I say luckily? Well, maybe not.

The illustrations in this book add to the hilarity, and the kids love looking for the sneaky snouts and tails that show the pigs are nearby and ready to help. And face it, you've always wanted to shout Pigs to the Rescue!

This is the second book in John Himmelman's "to the rescue" series, falling between Chickens to the Rescue and Cows to the Rescue, though the books stand well on their own. Pigs to the Rescue is recommended for pre-school to grade two, but this is a fun book the whole family will enjoy.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Back To School

Early rise, lunches packed, book bags ready, clothes laid out, kids dressed, washed, and out the door to start a new year.

Whew.

This is a milestone year for us with one child starting first grade (first year of full days), one in the last year of elementary and one in the last year of high school.

I think I have to open the windows. It must be dusty in here. My throat seems scratchy and there's something in my eye. Sniff...

It's eerily quiet around here. The dog and cat are both sound asleep, well deserved after a summer of playing and hiding respectively.

I'm not quite sure what to do with myself today. Organize the cutlery? Polish the doorknobs?

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Fred Penner Coming to Mile One

The Association of Childcare Administrators are putting off a children's carnival this fall. I don't have all the details yet, but one piece of news has me very excited:

Fred Penner!



As part of the Family Fun Fest, Fred Penner will be appearing at Mile One. The date is October 1st, and tickets go on sale tomorrow (Friday, September 2). Tickets are 28.25 + surcharge.


Fred Penner was the last word in children's entertainment back when I was a wee lass. Who didn't love The Cat Came Back, Sandwiches, Word Bird, and that super cool hideout he had in the woods?


Other activities will include crafts, juggling, dancing and more. I'll add more details about the Family Fun Fest as they become available.

Momster



PS: Anyone remember this?


Wednesday, August 24, 2011

How Do You Explain That?

I ran into an old friend this week. She was with her three children, all under ten, beautiful little steps of stairs. She and her husband were very good friends of ours, and we spent a lot of time together before children came along and our social lives disappeared. Over the years I often wondered why we never kept in touch.

While her kids wandered a short distance away, she told me she had tried to track us down on Facebook with no luck. She did manage to find some of our relatives. That’s when she asked the question she was so obviously itching to ask from the start, whispered behind her hand in a way made famous by paperback spies:

“Is Hubby’s brother gay?”

Yes. He is.

It was her next question that caught me totally off guard.

“How do you explain that?”

I haven’t seen this woman in five years and this is where she wants to take this conversation?

Before I could answer, she went on with a monologue about how she couldn’t imagine trying to explain anything like that to her kids. When something “like that” came on TV she would rush to change the channel. She was trying to raise her kids with old fashioned morals and values, but it was hard.

I took the hit to my values and morals and absorbed it like a pro. Perhaps she was expecting a sob story of family shame and denial, of how we were all so disappointed. I answered her question as simply as I could.

How do we explain that?

We don’t. It just is.

Our kids don’t ask us why their uncles are together. To them it is no different than their other uncles and aunts, grandma and grandpa, mom and dad.

It just is.

And thank God for that. Thank God that my children will grow up believing that same sex relationships are equal, and that, as far as gender is concerned, there is no right or wrong when it comes to love.

It just is.

And if they ever do ask, that's the explanation. Plain and simple. And without a hint of scandal.

So we said our good-byes. I gave my regards to her family, and she told me to send her an email or look her up on Facebook. Then I watched her walk away with her three precious children.

I won’t be in touch. I remember now why we lost contact to begin with. I’m doing her a favour really. Her children would surely notice our lack of values and morals, and I wouldn’t want her to have to explain anything. I pray that her children will never have to explain things to her.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Book Recommendation: Tracks of a Panda

My youngest daughter has a wonderful fairy godmother who believes that books are the best gift (and I agree). The latest gift was a book called Tracks of a Panda by Nick Dowson.


The story follows a Mommy Giant Panda in her quest to find food and protect her new baby. Each page is beautifully and delicately illustrated by Yu Rong. My little one also enjoyed the facts about Giant Pandas that are included beside the story. The text is simple but poetic, and is a joy to read aloud. A perfecting blending of fiction and non-fiction.

Any child that is interested in animals will enjoy this book, especially children in the 1st - 3rd grade range. I highly recommend it.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Momster Memory - First Kiss

All this talk of vacations, and having just returned from my own family trip, has stirred up some interesting memories. We had a lot of great family getaways when I was a kid, but the most memorable of all of these was the year I had my first kiss.

Our family vacation that year was a road trip to PEI. It was the year before seventh grade so I was smack dab in the middle of that awkward tween stage. I didn’t have braces, but I was growing out a bad perm. It had been a pretty rotten trip for me. Long drive, long ferry ride, annoying younger brother. You get the idea. I stepped in an ant nest during a picnic and my ankles were covered in bites. I got car sick for the first time in my life. There was sand in my hair.
My swimsuit had disappeared somewhere along the way and my mom took me to the nearby tourist mart to get another one. It was a horrible red and white striped one piece that made me look like a barber pole. Unfortunately, the white stripes on the suit became see-through when I hit the water. Fortunately, I had some sort of allergic reaction to the suit and broke out in hives. You may think this was unfortunate as well, but it got me out of wearing the hideous thing. I ended up just lounging at the side of the pool, watching the other kids.

He was going to grade nine that year. He was tanned and handsome and looked just fine tossing the younger kids around in the water. He was the son of some of my parent’s friends, and much to my delight, we ended up getting tossed together (not literally, like the other kids). To the parents, it was a convenient babysitting situation. To me it was fate.
We were watching the younger kids one evening while all the parents went to dinner. There were seven of us crowded into one cabin. After a couple of hours of bed jumping and wrestling, the boys were finally asleep and I stepped out back for some fresh air and peace. It was a beautiful night, the sky full of stars. He came outside to push me on the swing.

And then it happened. His lips were kind of hard, and I could feel the peach fuzz on his face. My heart was pounding, probably more from sheer terror than anything else. It lasted about three seconds. And that was it. My first kiss.
They say you never forget your first. It’s always special. And I still think about it now and then when the sky is full of stars. Or when I break out in hives.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

The Book of Lunchbox Fails

The first day of school is only 2.5 weeks away, and my inboxes are overflowing with back to school tips. The best of these are the lunchbox recipes. With three picky eaters, I’ll take all the help I can get.

Now every year there is at least one recipe in each bunch that includes peanut butter. This surprises me. Is there a school on the planet that still allows peanut butter? I thought the stuff was only to be handled by hazmat teams.
No matter, I skip the peanut butter crunchies and peanut brittle and focus on the other suggestions. But this year I got a booklet with 5 lunch box ideas your kids will love. Each one of them contained an ingredient guaranteed to send my kids to the principal’s office by way of the decontamination area.

Here are the offending suggestions:
Tuna and Veggie Sammies

Pro: Tuna is fish, and fish is brain food
Fail: Tuna is fish and fish is forbidden

Sesame Seed Chicken Strips
Pro: Healthier than the cafeteria strips, and easy to make ahead
Fail: Did you say sesame seeds. Yep, they’re on the list.
Egg Salad on whole grain crackers

Pro: Again, easy to make ahead and have ready for lunch the next day
Fail: Eggs are high on the list, a big no-no at this school.
Peanut Butter Banana Rolls

Pro: Peanut butter and a banana rolled into a tortilla. What’s not to love?
Fail: Peanut butter and bananas are both on the forbidden list, so this one is a double whammy.

Fresh Fruit Skewers
Pro: Fun, healthy, and easy to make.
Fail: The recipe contains watermelon and kiwi. Another double whammy, but at least this one can be replaced with less fatal foods, like grapes or other kinds of melon.

In all, these lunch box tips were a bust, but I might tinker with them to create versions that don't come with a side of anaphylaxis for some poor child.

How about you? Do you have any lunchbox favourites for your kids? Are your schools strict when it comes to appropriate lunches?

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Five is Not a Family

I’m a firm believer that every experience should be a learning experience. When you stop learning you stop growing, right? So what I learned on my vacation was this: Five is not a family. It might be a clan, or a gaggle, or a mob, or a boy band, but it is most definitely not a family.


Now anyone out there with more than two kids probably already knows what I’m talking about. You go to a motel/hotel/campsite that advertises a family rate. Excellent. Come right in dear sir and madam and your one, two, three…oh dear. I’m sorry. The family rate only applies to families of four. You’ll have to pay extra. You’ll also have to pay for a cot as the room only has two double beds.

Off to the restaurant. How many? Five? Oh my. Well, you’ll have to wait an extra thirty minutes for us to push two tables together. There must be an extra chair around somewhere.

Only two can sit together on amusement park rides. Two plus two is four (too bad).  No groups greater than four on the mini golf course (drat). The waterpark has a family rate (yay!) but it only includes four towels (boo!). It became a running gag during our vacation, and by the fifth day our son joked that we should vote someone out of the family just to keep things simple.

In the end we decided to keep everyone and put up with the inconvenience of being a herd rather than a family. More is merrier, even if it does cost extra.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Car Trip Must Have

I've been off the grid for a little bit. 'Tis the season of vacation and we were car tripping across the maritimes, camping and having a grand old time with the family. A lot of work and preparation, but it's worth it.

There is a very precise formula when packing for a long car trip. There is much debate about what should be included, but there is one thing that my car never leaves home without - wet wipes.


I have two packages of wet wipes on hand at all times, one in the glove box and one in the pocket of the back seat. There's also a small pack in my purse. They're good for everything. Kid gets chocolate all over hands and face - wet wipes! Teen spills Dr. Pepper all over the seat - wet wipes! Dog upchucks in the back - wet wipes! Mom has a meltdown on exit 82 - wet wipes!

So I might forget to bring toothbrushes, pajamas, or earplugs on the trip, but I will never forget wet wipes.

What's your never forget car item?


Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Down for the Count

Ahh, that Robbie Burns. He knew what he was talking about when he spoke of the schemes of mice and men. Does anyone ever have their plans go exactly right? Anyone? Show of hands.

There are many simple and spectacular ways a family's scheduled events can go asunder, but nothing beats a stomach bug for efficiency.

* Warning! Stop reading here if you:
        - are emetophobic
        - are faint of heart
        - have a low "ick" tolerance
        - are not at least this tall 

We planned for a nice long weekend visiting the in-laws around the bay. The weather forecast was good, and we had visions of hikes and kayaks dancing in our heads. By Wednesday evening we had everything packed and ready to hit the road very early the next morning so we could be there by noon.

Our littlest one woke crying on Wednesday night, mere hours before we planned to leave. She didn't know what was wrong, but climbed into bed with mama and daddy to make it all better. Probably just a bad dream, we thought, until the leaned over the side of the bed and upchucked everything she ate in the past week. So we cleaned, and comforted, and got a bucket for the bedside just in time for her to yell "MOM! HOLD MY HAIR!" which I continued to do for the next six hours.

By morning she was bright as a button again, so although we were hours behind schedule, we pushed ahead with our plans. We arrived just before dark. We lost a day, but we'd make do with the time we had left.

By the middle of day two, the boy was complaining of an upset tummy. An hour later we were scrubbing the bathroom floor and he was quarantined to the room at the end of the hall. I started the washing machine while Hubby went to the store for ginger ale.

Around 8:00 I started to feel a little woozy. It's been a long day, I thought. My head ached. All that scrubbing, I said. Did I feel nauseated*, or was it just in my head, I wondered.

Glurk!

By the end of the weekend, the only ones left unscathed were Hubby and his dad.

Things I learned this weekend:
  • Five year olds can throw up way more than you would think
  • You might think the worst is over. It's not. Don't say it out loud.
  • If your flight is cancelled and you decide to wait in the airport closet, don't talk to the guy selling maple syrup (This may have been a dream).


* Nauseated means feeling sick. Nauseous means sickening. If you tell me you are nauseous, I might laugh, and that wouldn't be nice.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Lester's Farm Market

Thought that Lesters farm was only for pumpkins? Think again my friends. Autumn is a great time to visit - the animals, corn maze, and pumpkin patch will keep the little ones entertained. But summer is also a great time to drop by. Here's a list of reasons why you should go right now.

Reason #1 - Strawberries
Juicy, sweet, and oh so good. There is nothing better than farm fresh strawberries. Put them on cereal, or on waffles, or smother them in rich, creamy chocolate. Have a whole bowl of those with a glass of wine....what was I talking about? Oh yes, strawberries. The kids love them. Come mid-July you can even pick your own, which is always great fun. Personally, I like to have that part done for me.



Reason #2 - The Greenhouses
The greenhouses at Lester's farm are teeming with plants and flowers of all kinds. If you're looking for flowers for your garden, chances are you'll find it here. The flowering baskets are gorgeous. And there are all sorts of vegetable plants if you are that way inclined. The kids love to pick out flowers for our front garden. Choices are usually based on the ones with the weirdest names. It makes for a good reading exercise too. If they can read Astilbe or Helianthemum then come September Go Dog Go should be a snap.




Reason #3 - Baby Animals
The farm animals are always a big hit, but the baby animals are extra squeee worthy. Bunnies, calves, kids (the goat kind), and lambs all clamber for attention and food. The baby goats are super cute because they looks like they should be evil, you know, with the whole cloven hoof thing, but the only evil thing is how cute they are. Just make sure the little ones wash their hands before they go inside for ice cream. Baby germs are just as gross as grown up germs.


No matter your reasons, getting out to the farm is a great way to cure the mid-summer blahs, and prevent a full week of "MomI'mboredMomI'mboredMomI'mboredMomI'mbored..."

Don't live around here?
Check out your local petting farms/zoos, or U-Pick farms for some summer fun. Another great choice is a local farmers market.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Storytelling or Lying?

“I’m going to have a new baby brother or sister.”

My husband and I nodded and listened as our daughter’s friend, Amy, explained that her mom would soon be going to the hospital to get the baby.  When she left hubby asked “Is her mom pregnant?” I shrugged. She didn’t look like it, but it was possible. As time passed, however, it was obvious that the new baby was just a story.
It didn’t take long to figure out that Amy had a habit of “telling stories”. That’s how her mom described it. “Amy is such a story teller.” The new baby was one of her favourites, but she had no shortage of tall tales. She had our neighbour’s child convinced that her thumb fell off and she had to get a new plastic one. One day she ran home crying because the kids refused to believe that her stuffed toy dog was real and only sleeping.
These stories would be harmless if not for Amy’s insistence that they were absolutely true. Most children have very active imaginations at that age. It is important to let children create and make-believe. It is equally important to make sure they realize the difference between “pretending” and “lying”.
One morning, shortly after we got our new puppy, we met Amy and her mom, Linda, at the bus stop. Amy started in to tell us about the new puppy she was getting. Linda said nothing, but winked at me over her daughter’s head. It was obvious that Amy was spinning another one of her “stories” and I was to play along. This would have been a perfect opportunity for Linda to gently tell her daughter that making up stories is ok, as long as you don’t lead people to believe them to be true. It could be done in a way to spare the child the embarrassment of being caught in a lie. “That’s a good make-believe dog! If I were going to have a dog it would have brown spots all over and a fluffy tail.”
Linda’s reluctance to address her daughter’s habit did not help her child. While her stories may have seemed harmless, they were detrimental to her relationships with other children. Kids don’t like to be fooled, and they won’t play along the way adults sometimes will. It was also difficult for Amy when the children didn’t believe her.  
Young imaginations are a beautiful thing, but sometimes kids need a little help reining them in. Telling stories is a wonderful talent to cultivate, and helping children develop a healthy imagination is fun, not only for kids, but for everyone. 

Friday, July 15, 2011

Friday Cheer at the Supermarket

I'm in a really good mood today so there is no jeer. We really don't need one for the supermarket edition do we? I mean we've all been there, or at least seen it: Kids screaming for candy, eating the grapes, dropping jars of  pickles on the floor, performing death defying stunts in the carts - and the parents standing by as if they were watching an infomercial. There's one at every market. No need to go into the gory details. But on the flip side:

Cheers: To the mom and her little one at the local market. Small child sitting quietly and buckled into the cart. She wasn't crying, whining, or trying to wiggle free. Why? Because you made her part of the process. She helped choose the type of cereal, cookies, jam, helped pick the fruit and veggies. When I got close enough I could see a genius touch - a shopping list that had not only the words, but pictures of the items. The little one happily did her big girl job of reading the list with help from the visual aids. Smart move on the part of mommy.


Do you have a shopping do or don't to share? We'd love to hear it.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Picnics

After almost two weeks of computer troubles, I'm finally back online. It couldn't have happened at a better time though. We finally got the weather we've been waiting for. Beautiful and sunny and warm. Perfect weather for outdoor fun.

One of our favourite things to do on a warm summer day is pack up some grub and head out for a picnic. There is a knack to knowing just what to pack for a picnic, and after a few years of trial and error, we have it down to a science.

Food
When packing for a picnic, it's important to keep in mind ease of serving and eating the food, as well as food safety.

A few of our favourite picnic spots require a long walk from the car to the picnic grounds. We don't want to lug any more items than absolutely necessary. We try to keep it down to one cooler that can hold all the food. Potato salad is considered a picnic staple, but because it requires extra dishes and doesn't do well in the heat, we keep it off our picnic menu. The following is a typical momster picnic:

  • Baked ham and apple sandwiches on oatmeal molasses bread
  • Pasta salad with Italian dressing
  • Chocolate chip cookies or rice krispie squares
  • Lemonade (served from large mason jars)
  • Snacks such as goldfish crackers, cherries, watermelon, etc.

Food is packed among layers of ice packs to make sure everything stays cool and fresh. I will also throw in some frozen juice pouches which do double duty as extra ice packs and nice cold drinks once they start to melt.

Fun
Once again, we don't want to carry unnecessary items to our picnic place, so we try to keep our extra supplies to one bag or basket. Sunscreen and bug spray are essential. Plates, cups, utensils, and napkins are all packed and kept to only what is necessary. This leaves room for some extra fun things to help make the day memorable for the kiddies. We usually pack something to play catch, a Frisbee or ball of some sort. I like to toss some surprises into the bag to take out during the afternoon.

  • Bubble mix and wands
  • Jump ropes
  • Bug/guppy/frog catching nets (we make sure all the critters are set free)
  • For evening picnics we bring along glow sticks and sparklers for night time fun 

Picnics are a great way to get the most out of summer family time. These are the times your kids will remember.


Do you have any picnic tips or recipes to share? We'd love to hear them.

Monday, July 4, 2011

A Bad Day is OK

"I cried because I had no shoes, until I met a man who had no feet."

This is a favourite saying of my sister-in-law. She quotes it whenever her teenage son or daughter is moping about the house. She used it a few days ago when her sixteen year old son was in a grump because his bike chain broke and ruined his plans to join his friends. This day he was frustrated enough to have an answer.

"Mom, I get what you're saying, and I feel bad for the guy with no feet. But it also really sucks to have no shoes."

I had to agree with my nephew. 

Ahh, the carefree days of youth. No worries, no stress. Just fun, fun, fun. Right?

I think we too easily forget what it's like to be a teen. They may not have the worries of a mortgage, or car payments, or a full time job, but their problems are real. We're all entitled to a bad day. Knowing someone else has it worse may encourage empathy, but it doesn't cancel out how your teen feels right now. A little understanding goes a lot further than platitudes.

Bad days happen to us all. Give your teen a break. And maybe a wide berth. 

Friday, June 24, 2011

Cheers and Jeers: At the Movies

The weather here in the Capital City has been the pits, so we've been looking for alternate ways to keep the kiddies occupied (and get out of the house ourselves). Seems like everyone is heading to the cinemas to avoid the rain and cold.

Cheers to the parents making movie night family night. You got your kids settled in nice and early, made sure they went to the washroom, and gave them their treats once they were comfortably seated. You kept them entertained until the movie started. When the movie was over you cleaned up your mess, everyone taking their own trash to the exit. You took the time to ask your kids what they liked best about the movie, and laughed together about your favourite parts. It was family movie night done right.


Jeers to the parents who brought the four year old to the evening showing of Pirates of the Caribbean. The movie was much too long and much too late, not to mention inappropriate, for a small child. At first she was merely bored and fidgety. You made no attempt to keep her in her seat, which was probably just as well. Soon she was frightened and started to cry, but still you stayed. Finally, she was tired and whining loudly that she wanted to go home. The movie was just about over when she nodded off in her seat. Next time, why not spend the extra money on a babysitter and rent an age appropriate movie so that your little one can have a fun evening of her own.

Have a movie "do" or "do not" to share? We'd love to hear it.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Why Homeschooling is Not For Me

I was at an event a few nights ago and some of the women seated at my table were talking about resources for homeschooling parents. Until then, I hadn’t even realized that homeschooling was an option here in the province. So at the risk of looking like a Nosy Nellie, I horned in on the conversation.
It turned out three of the moms homeschooled their children. It was interesting to listen to their experiences, and I learned a few things that evening. Mainly that homeschooling is not for me.
Let me break it down:


Organization. As I said when we first started this blog, organization is not one of my strengths. In order to be a homeschooling parent, you’ve got to be ultra organized. Not only do you have to run the daily household nonsense, but you are totally responsible for your child’s formal education. This means hours of research, planning, and organizing. Some mornings I have a hard time just remembering to feed the dog.
School teaches more than curriculum. We’re lucky that we live in an area with excellent schools. The teachers are wonderful, and the quality and range of education is second to none. But there are things my kids learn at school that are not found in textbooks. They learn social skills. They learn to be independent. They learn responsibility and organization skills (and those I certainly can’t teach at home).
One of the mothers that evening said she decided to homeschool because she wanted her child to have a more faith based education. Fair enough. For me, that is another reason not to home school. I went to a Catholic school in a very Catholic area. I knew all about my culture and faith, but knew nothing of others. I want my kids to learn about many cultures and religions. I was them to experience them through others with different beliefs and traditions. Granted, St. John’s is not the most diverse place, but it’s a heck of a lot more diverse than our house. And on the flip side of that, I think my kids have something to offer as well.
Parent does not equal teacher.  While the mothers I spoke with had some very good points, one of the moms said something that I did not agree with at all. Her opinion was, “I am the most qualified to teach my own kids.” Being their mother might mean you know your kids the best (and this is not always the case either), but it does not mean you are the most qualified to teach them. Do you hold degrees in math, history, science, social studies, English, and literature? In education? Maybe, but I’d guess not. I wouldn’t even attempt to teach my teenager chemistry or math. Heck, I wouldn’t attempt to teach my ten year old math. Even if you did have the knowledge base to teach all these subjects, there’s no guarantee that your methods are the best ones, even for your own children. My father was a brilliant man, and a very good teacher, but his style of explaining French and math just didn’t work for me.
I enjoy reading and discussing books with my kids, and helping them write stories and poems, but I want to do it as their mom, not as their teacher.
I need time away from my kids. I’m a stay-at-home parent. 98% of my day involves doing things for other people. I need that 2% for myself, my own interests, my own sanity. I love my kids dearly, but those few hours each day when they are at school give me a chance to do other things; housework, errands, and yes, selfish “me” stuff too.
My kids need time away from me. Even more important than the above, my kids need space to grow and become their own people. I don’t want to be a helicopter mom, with my fingers in every aspect of their lives. The need to play, learn, and grow, without my interference.
I believe a good education extends beyond the classroom, beyond books. The experiences they will have at school help to prepare them for the real world. Will they get bullied? Maybe. Will they make mistakes? Without a doubt. But the experience they get from those mistakes is a far better teacher than I could ever hope to be. C.S. Lewis said it best:


“Experience: that most brutal of teachers. But you learn, my God do you learn.”

What do you think? Is homeschooling for you? Do you homeschool? Tell us your side of the story.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

The Creation of Frankenpuppy

Rusty has been in our family for a long time. For ten years he was a bedtime favourite, well cared for and in very good shape for a puppy his age. He used to look something like this:


Then along came Bad Dog. Bad Dog has only been with us for a short time. For ten months she has been terrorizing the household, and especially the stuffed animals, with her dripping jaws of destruction. We all took precautions to prevent tragedy. Bedroom doors were kept closed, favourite toys were stored in hard to reach places. Then it happened. One day, Rusty was left alone and vulnerable on the arm of the couch. It all happened so fast.

I'll spare you the gruesome photos of the aftermath. Rusty was in horrible shape. Seams were split, one ear was chewed completely in half. And his face. Oh, his poor little face. His snout was chewed to pieces, all the stuffing exposed. It was the stuff of nightmares.

Needless to say, Rusty needed some major reconstructive surgery. Now, I'd mended a torn foot or two, replaced a few button eyes, but this...I didn't even know where to begin. But then the crying and the begging started. "I just can't sleep without Rusty" was enough to send me in search of some rust coloured thread.

The first stage of the surgery involved repairing the extensive damage to Rusty's snout. There really wasn't much left to work with. The edges were ragged and still stiff with dried slobber. I pieced it all back as best I could, and stitched some shape into his little face.


Then the second round began. I tidied all the little holes and lumpy spots, stitched up his side and fixed his ear. There wasn't much we could do there, the bottom half was gone, but at least there is no gaping hole. 

The hardest part was giving Rusty a new nose. He had a cute little button nose once. It was shiny and smooth. Then it was gobbled up with slobbery glee by Bad Dog. So now Rusty has a hand sewn nose. It's different, but he'll get used to it. 


Now Rusty, all mended and fresh and clean, resides on a the highest shelf in the safest bedroom. Bad Dog looks up at him, licking her chops. I wonder how much it would cost to put in a motion sensitive laser perimeter?

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Five Things the Dad Does Right

The Dad of the house. In ours he's the bread winner, the guy who brings home the bacon. The big cheese. Sometimes he's taken for granted, sometimes he's misunderstood, sometimes he's a thorn in my side. On father's day, I'd like to point out the things he does right. Just this once.




1) He says no and means it. He's strict, but in all the right ways. The safety of our kids is his top priority, and he aims to make sure they grow up to be responsible adults. That's why he says no to breaking curfew, enforces study time, and supervises weekly chores.

2) He gives good advice. He has a few choice bits that the kids will carry forever (mostly because he says them so often there's no way they will ever forget). Always carry extra money - just in case. If you fall down, keep your head up. Admit your mistakes and learn from them. Don't put that in your nose.

3) He's the planner. I'll admit, 98% of the fun family activities we do are because Hubby took the time to plan them. Bike rides to the park, weekend trips out of town, a day at the movies, family vacations - you name it. He works hard, and he likes to spend his down time doing fun things with the kids. He helps make good memories.

4) He's not afraid to get silly. As much as he likes to pretend he's the macho man, he doesn't mind slipping into silly mode. Coincidentally, this always seems to happen at bedtime. My favourite is watching from the bedroom door as Piglet dances his bedtime dance, with daddy's help. It's very hard not to laugh out loud and ruin the moment. His bedtime stories are second to none, and usually end in some sort of melted ice cream catastrophe.

5) We're a good team. Raising kids is a team sport, and if you're going to do it right, you need good team players. No one wants to be left running the plays all alone, and no one wants to work with a ball hog. I think we do a pretty good job of working together, and playing to the strengths of the other. If I fall down on the job, I know he's there to pick up the slack. He's the defense to my offense.

Happy Father's Day, Hubby. I hope you enjoy every kiss, every snuggle, every hand drawn card, and every toast crumb in the bed. You deserve it.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Cheers and Jeers: Playground Edition

Cheers to the moms who were playing with their kids, and took the opportunity to teach them some playground manners. You made sure they took turns, and explained why that was important. You also made sure they were aware of the other children running around, a very good idea. It avoids accidents, and also helps your kids learn to interact with others. Spending time at the playground is a great way for the kids to expend some of that extra energy, but it's also a great place to teach them how to get along with other children. Taking turns and playing fair are lessons that will serve your child well. 


Jeers to the shouting dad. Not only were you screaming like a crazy man at the playground, the kid you were shouting at wasn't even your own, and the incident was entirely your fault. You weren't paying any attention to your toddler as he ran around, and he was trying to climb up the spiral slide as some older kids were trying to slide down. There's was no way that little boy could have known your kid was at the bottom. It's your responsibility to make sure your toddler is safe at the playground. If you were concerned that he would get hurt by the older kids, maybe you should have taken him to the toddler section. Screaming at another child for something that wasn't his fault was just disgusting. I hope you're proud of yourself.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Tuning In

Listening to the car radio with your little ones can be tricky business. Dangerous even. They sit back and take in every word while you furiously punch the buttons to protect their tiny ears from F-bombs. Then you pray that they do't go to school and share this new vocabulary.

The safest way to prevent musical mishaps is to bring along some parent-approved tunes on a CD or MP3 player. Fred Penner and The Wiggles will never steer you wrong. But once your kids reach grade school, they want to listen to real music.

Last week Hubby picked our seven year old up from his karate class, and of course the first thing Junior did was flick on the radio. They drove along, chatting and listening to some tunes. All was going well until one particular song - The Lazy Song by Bruno Mars. Now Hubby just recently had satellite radio installed in his car. The local radio station has an edited version of this song, and the offending sex word is removed. Not so in this version. Hubby frantically pushed at buttons, but too late, the damage was done.

When they arrived home, Hubby related the incident in all its sordid detail. What would happen? What if he asked what that word was? We'd have to have the talk a bit earlier that we thought. What if he went to school and talked about, you know, it?

Just then, Junior came strolling down the hallway, singing the dreaded song. We froze. We listened. Junior sang:

...meet a really nice girl, have some really nice eggs
And she's gonna sing out this is great
All that worrying washed away in fits of laughter. Hubby learned that kids are not so easily corrupted as he thought. He also learned to listen to the kids station when Junior is on board. 

Friday, June 10, 2011

Cheers and Jeers: Waiting Room Edition

Cheers to the dads overheard in the swimming pool waiting area. While watching your kids during their lessons, you discussed your plans with them for the weekend (which included spending time at the new skateboard park) and which movies were entertaining and age appropriate. You also talked about how they were doing in school, and your pride in them was obvious. It's great to see parents take such an active role in their kids lives.



Jeers to the mom in the same waiting area. You couldn't be bothered to watch your pre-schooler as he climbed up and down the bleachers, or ran back and forth in front of the other parents. In fact, the only time you interacted with him at all was when he tried to speak to you. You stopped texting long enough to tell him to "sit down and shut up". Next time, bring something for him to do. A colouring book and crayons would go a long way to help pass the time. Or, heaven forbid, play some games like I Spy, and use the time to have some fun with your child.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Curse you, Supermom!

I see this woman every week at my daughter's dance class. She says her name is Gwen, but I think it's an alias, like Clark Kent, or Peter Parker, or George Stroumboulopoulos. She is Supermom.

You probably know her, or someone like her. She's never harried or flustered. She's always on time. Her hair is always perfect. Her shoes always match. She keeps anything you might ever need in her designer tote, like a grown-up version of Dora's backpack.

Supermom, I mean Gwen, is an elementary school teacher. She speaks perfect French. Her children are always clean and well behaved. She wears tailored dress pants and stylish jackets, and none of her clothes have cookie crumbs or dog hairs on them. She volunteers with after school groups, and tutors kids on the weekends. She reads poetry in the waiting room.

And she's thoughtful. At Christmas, she brought treats for all the dance school teachers, complete with handmade name tags. She actually knew all the names. She delivered them in a red riding hood style basket.  

Sitting across the room in my jeans and hoodie, reading the latest Stephen King, it's easy to feel intimidated by Gwen. She's always one step ahead. I study her from behind my book, hoping to learn her secret. If only I had mind reading abilities, or some sort of superpower stealing laser. I want to know all her tricks.

Then our kids come skipping out of class, her perfectly coiffed ballerina and my hip hop girl with the messy ponytail. The hug I get is just as big as hers.

We exchange pleasantries on our way out. Her shiny, just waxed car is parked next to mine. She waves and says "See you next week!" I could really detest her, if only she wasn't so nice.

I bet this is how Lex Lutor feels.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Cheers and Jeers: Parked Car Edition

Cheers to the dad parked on the side of Kenmount Road. Too many people drive around town chatting away on their cell phones. Way too many of them have children in the car. You pulled to the side of the road to talk, your children safely buckled up in the back seat. Not only were you keeping the roads and your children safe, you were setting a good example. Good for you!


Jeers to the dad in the mall parking lot last night. Your window was barely cracked as you sat inside smoking. A child seat and "baby on board" sign were clearly visable through the back window. Sure, you didn't have a child in there with you at the time, but your kid would eventually have to get into that stinky, smoky car. Yuck! Do your kid a favor, get outside and smoke. Or better yet, quit.


Have a Yay! or Boo! you want to share? Tell us about it.