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: 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.

Thursday, June 2, 2011


My little one pointed to a hill covered with dandelions yesterday.

"Mom, look! No one ever picks the flowers there!"

I took a quick glance as we waited for the green light. "They sure don't," I said.

"I call those yellow flowers drops of sunshine, because they're like little drops of sunshine."

And in that instant, all those tufts of bright yellow did look like little drops of sunshine. It made me wonder when I started seeing weeds.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Organized Chaos

I believe that a good relationship is built on honesty, so I'll tell you right up front - I am terribly disorganized. I am a total scatterbrain. I lived in blissful ignorance of this for years. But by the time the youngest child started school, I knew I was in over my head. There were just too many misplaced lunches, missed appointments, and forgotten field trips, not to mention that last minute panic at the bus stop when you remember that it's Blue Day and your child is dressed entirely in pink. The guilt was crushing. The whining was unbearable. I had to do something.

Now don't get me wrong. I'm still a scatterbrain, but I've managed to create a sort of organized chaos with the help of a few tricks.

First of all, we stick to a 2 activities per child rule. This does not include school related activities like after-school sports or performances. Swimming, dancing, music, karate, gymnastics, gator wrestling - whatever. They get to pick two and stick with them. We also try to choose things that are nearby, to cut down on travel time.

The next step is to remind myself of all these goings on. 2 activities x 3 kids = 6 + other appointments, meetings, outings...too much for the old string on the finger trick. So I set up reminders in my email program (I use Microsoft Outlook). It works beautifully. I can set it to give me as much notice as I need. If preparation is necessary, I set it to remind me a few days in advance. For regular activities I just need an hour or two. These reminders also get emailed to hubby as a back-up plan (yes, I'm that bad). Then he can call out "Frankie has swimming in an hour?" and I can say "Sure does!" and pretend like I hadn't forgotten all about it.

So now I don't have to worry about forgetting, but I still like to see at a glance what the whole family has going on. Scheduling new appointments and outings is much easier if you know who has swimming, who is working, who is running away to join the circus (you wouldn't believe how often that's put on the schedule). The best way I've found to keep track of the whole family (short of microchipping everyone) is with a family organizer/calendar. My favourite is this one by Sandra Boynton. It's colourful, fun, and it comes with stickers and a magnetic phone list to put on the fridge. There is enough space to keep track of a family of five. I use different coloured markers for each family member, so the month is usually a beautiful array of scribbles (with Hubby's column suspiciously sparse).

So this is how I've managed to juggle the daily family madness. These tricks are expecially handy at this time of year when all the field trips, sports days and year end activities are clumped into a three week period.

Now, if someone could tell me a good way to remember where I put my car keys, I'd be smiling.