March 11, 2015

and then it was spring...

I'm really not sure where this winter has gone! Though it felt excruciatingly long at times, it's now March, the sun has started peeking out again, and the mountains of white snow are slowly melting. Looking at my blog, I just realized that I haven't posted anything since the New Year - apparently it's been a busy couple of months.

And it has! My sweet girls are both doing so well. I wrote a few months ago about Lady A and her 'big' reactions (read: tantrums) and one day a few weeks ago I realized that she just hadn't had any lately. It seems we've come out the other side of Tantrum-Ville, mostly unscathed. All of a sudden my little girl seems a little more grown up. No more tantrums, telling eloquent (and hilarious) stories, and keeping us in stitches all the time. The other morning she came to me, as I was doing my hair, and said "Can you make my hair straight like a Mummy, please?" - apparently she equates my stick-straight hair to all mummy's, and wanted me to straighten out her curls to she could look like me, and Lady M too. Life will Lady A is filled with sweetness, snuggles and a lot of laughter.

My budding 6-year old has become quite the linguist. Listening to her speak in French after 6 months of pure French school is really incredible. She's enjoying her language studies, and is really loving an in-school science program she's participating in right now. Each week she comes home with a new trinket from her science lesson, and is really getting into it. (Having read many articles on the lack of women in Science, Match and Technology professions, I'm all for her pursuing this passion!) She started Irish Dancing back in September, and continues to do so beautifully, and with a beaming smile on her face. And her calf muscles are amazing as a result of it!

Calvin has had a very busy few months as he works to launch a business (on top of his full-time job) with a few of his colleagues. He's been working tirelessly nights and weekends with the team to get everything ready, and will hopefully be launching the new company soon. However, he managed to sneak in a weekend in California for a Trade Show and nearly a week in Daytona for this year's Daytona 500, so at least he's finding some balance!! For a sneak peek of what's to come in Cal's world, check this out:

I've been working to finish up my current Masters course which wraps up at the start of April. Then I will jump right into course #10 - my last one! My 5+ year journey to this degree will be finished the last week of June, and the very next day, we're heading south! In 2007 when I attended my Bachelor of Education convocation, Lady M was just a wee little 9 month old. My favourite picture from that day is one my Dad took of Cal, Lady M & I, with me in my graduation gown. Throughout this whole M.Ed, I've often imagined the picture with now the 4 of us, and me in my gown once again. I love that my kids have been able to see my educational process and be a part of it in some way, and believe me, that picture is going to display proudly in my office when all is said and done!

So, as we sit on the cusp of spring, visions of warmth, no snowpants and outdoor activities dance in our heads. Life has not slowed down for my little family of 4, but I wouldn't have it any other way.

December 27, 2014

the apple doesn't fall far... (100th post!)

In the third week of November, Lady M received her first official report card. The reports received in kindergarten covered important details such as skills at the sand table, in the bean bag chair library and in the house centre. So, this one was exciting. This one was going to cover the real crux of my daughter's educational journey. This one was going to set her on a path to greatness.

Ok, not quite. But, I was curious to see what her teacher chose to say about her. I had my hunches, of course, but not getting to be a fly on the wall in her classroom each day, I was eager to read through her report.

It was very good, and she seems to be progressing quite well in first grade. Once I had a handle on everything that was said, I did my best to break down the lengthy commentary into an abridged, Coles Notes version so Lady M would know what had been said about her. 

There were two main things: first, she needed to improve in the area of 'personal responsibility' - I took that to mean that she needs to "pick up her stuff"; not surprising, as that's an ongoing challenge at home as well! The second theme that came up again and again was around leadership skills - she seemed to be exercising these skills quite frequently. 

"Lady M, do you like to be a leader at school", I asked her. 
"Yes. Today I organized all the kids into groups", she replied. 
"Did your teacher ask you to do that?", I queried. 
"Nope, I just decided to do it", she shared honestly. 

Clearly, my kid likes to be in charge...I have no idea where she gets it. :) 

I develop and deliver leadership programs for a living; so I am always thrilled when my daughters' show their tendencies toward natural leadership abilities; we foster and cultivate that skillset, but I needed to dig into this a little more. 

Every year when we head up to my camp, Lady M observes the leadership camp that I co-teach. So I asked her "Lady M, when we're up at camp, is mummy always the one leading the group?"
Lady M: "No"
Me: "Who else leads the group?" 
Lady M: Well, T and R (my co-teachers) do"
Me: "That's right - and who else leads the group?
Lady M: (pausing to think...) "The campers lead sometimes!
Me: "Yes! So, what does that mean to you?
Lady M: "I see mummy...I need to give others a chance to lead too."

EUREKA! Thankfully, she seemed to get it very quickly, and hopefully I didn't squash any of her budding leadership skills in the process; I just want her to know that there's a time to lead, and a time to let others do the same. 

So a week later, I headed to the school on a PD Day to have my first official parent-teacher interview. Another exciting moment in my mom career! Lady M's teacher is a lovely woman who has made a really positive impact on her so far this year. We discussed her conduct in class, and worked around to discussing the 'personal responsibility' piece that had come up in her report. As it turns out, this is coming from her penchant to travel around the class to ensure everyone else is completing their work properly, to the detriment of her own work at times. The leader strikes again! I'm told that many kids go to her for her opinion, assistance etc., so her tactics are working, but striking a balance is key...I just need to make sure my 6-year old is clear on that. 

It's true that the apple doesn't fall far from the tree. I'm more than happy to see her budding leadership skills...we'll just have to work to ensure she learns that the fine art of leadership consists not of telling others how to do things, but empowering them to become leaders themselves. 

Maybe that enhanced skill will be captured on her next report card!

December 26, 2014

christmas comes this time each year

Ahh, the magic of Christmas time. With a 6 year old and 3 1/2 year old in the family, this was one of the most exciting years yet, that's for sure. Lady M is enamoured with the holidays, and loves everything about it. This year, she happily helped her little sister remember the many traditions we have over the holiday season. Lady A didn't remember much from Christmas past, but this will be the year that she really starts remembering everything, which is super fun.

I could recount a million different stories over the past couple of weeks, but I thought perhaps I should make a little point form list to bring you up to speed on our Christmas season, and to serve as wonderful memories for our family when we look back on 2014 one day.

So here are some things that made our family Christmas magical this year, in no particular order...
  • Lady M's spirit of generosity (see: A Tale of Giving, if you missed it!)
  • Both girls singing duets of this year's favourite Christmas songs, including I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus, and the 12 Days of Christmas
  • Holidays crafts - this year, along with some crafts done at home, one of my girlfriends put on an amazing craft day for Ladies A & M. She has two older daughters who my girls think the world of, and they were so excited to spend a whole day with them making ornaments, christmas trees, sparkle jars, and more! 
  • Our tree (though put up extremely late this year - we're talking, like, the 23rd of December) filled with beautiful handmade ornaments that the girls have made over the years
  • Lady M's Irish Dance recital - after four short months of dancing, she's rocking it! More importantly, she is sooooo happy when she's dancing...and super adorable. 
  • A visit to Mountsberg Christmastown with our friends - a very magical night filled with a horse-drawn wagon ride singing carols, cookie decorating, and capped off with a visit to Mrs. Claus and the big guy! 

  • Christmas brunch with my mum and dad
  • Our annual shopping bonanza day - Cal and I save it all until the 11th hour, then embark on a marathon shopping trip. Some people think we're a little crazy for leaving it so late, but seeing as I have a list that's been cultivated over a 2-month period, complete with gifts, prices, and order of stores we are going to visit, it's just a really fun (and well organized) day! Don't worry though, there are several random purchases that jump into our carts wouldn't be fun if it were totally regimented! 
  • Finding the girls' most-wanted gifts - this year, Lady M wanted holiday barbie (easy!) and Lady A wanted a stuffed hippopotamus - a little more challenging. But, we did it! Thank you, Hallie the Hippo from Doc McStuffins. (Last year all she wanted was a stuffed "baccoon"...let me tell you that raccoon was not easy to find...but we did!)

  • Lady M's holiday recital at school - her first in French. She sang Petit Papa Noel with her classmates, then they narrated a little play. Lady M had quite a long solo line, and nailed it! We listened to her practice her line (backwards and forwards!) for about two weeks, so she was well prepared! 
  • The beautiful fire burning on Christmas morning... ok, we don't have a fireplace, but this Netflix fire was the next best thing...

  • Putting up the Christmas lights - again, this one was done quite late this year, but the house looked festive, just in time! 
  • Christmas dinner with my family
  • Lady A squealing with excitement when she saw her new baby that Santa brought her
  • Christmas movies! My favourite has always been National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation, so Cal and I watch that one on Christmas Eve every year while finishing wrapping our presents. Love Actually is my other favourite. The Santa Clause is a favourite with the girls, among many others! 

  • Matching Christmas pyjamas for the girls. I figure they'll grow out of this eventually, but I'll enjoy this every year I can until then! 
  • Annual Christmas cookie exchange with my girlfriends
  • Time off from work to spend time with my sweet family
  • The mess of toys in our home on Boxing Day, mixed with the happiness and exhaustion of the holidays
We are now blissfully worn out, and happy to be spending a day at home together with no plans at all. 

November 20, 2014

snapshots of 2014...the year in pictures

Here in Southern Ontario we've experienced our first snow storm of the year, which means that 2014 must be drawing to a close. Judging from my obnoxiously long commute last night (a typically 30-minute round trip to pick up the girls took more than an 1 1/2 hours), the winter is undoubtedly upon us.

Though I never post on my blog as much as I intend to, I find myself taking pictures year round with stories in mind. As you've likely noticed, my kids faces never appear on here (or in any other online spot), so my phones are always filled with pictures of the backs of them! I have lots of pictures of their sweet faces too...but they're just not for internet consumption. :)

However, as I scrolled through my photos, I thought I'd share a pictorial retrospective to let you in on the little happenings that I never ended up sharing in full this year.

Here is a snapshot of 2014...with a little commentary along the way:

Braving the cold out on family walks...

Celebrating Father's Day with my Dad and Cal - the girls were practicing their golf swing. And if memory serves, Lady M crushed me. Future LPGA'er?

 Waterfall walks and bike rides...

First independent swimming lessons and fresh haircuts...

I experienced my first week away from my girls in their lifetime. I've never been terribly good at leaving them, but thankfully Calvin is an awesome daddy, and I got to head to Lake Tahoe, California for an incredible conference with some colleagues. And the hugs when I arrived back at the Toronto airport were priceless...

 No summer is complete without a packed truck, and a trip to camp. (My little dancer is getting her camp-rope bracelet put on by my friend Trishy, and one of our awesome counsellors).

Lady A experienced her first pedicure on our mother/daughter trip to the spa. Lady M is a seasoned pro, and declared this past weekend "Mummy, I really need another pedicure". Ahhh yes, an absolute 'need' for any 6-year-old. But, let's be honest, I'll take her to get some cute Christmas toes in a few weeks. :)

Lady A's colourful tootsies
Lady M's flowery piggies
Mummy/Daughter spa date!

Lady M started Grade 1 with her snazzy new Hello Kitty backpack, which was really just a 'filler' until we could locate a Frozen backpack (which were sold out EVERYWHERE!). Hello Kitty now belongs to Lady A, because I ended up locating a coveted Elsa & Anna bag shortly into the school year. The first picture is at home, before school...the second is of her holding her teacher's gladiolus - Lady M was quite nervous about starting at her new school, but when her teacher allowed her to come to the front of the line and hold her flowers, she was good to go!

We celebrated my mister's 36th birthday in September with his favourite - carrot cake! 

Having built up a little courage to go away for a week thanks to my time in Tahoe, I took another week away to head to Florida with my mum. We were there to celebrate the wedding of my cousin Casey, and his beautiful bride Alex. Wedding, family visits, outlet shopping, sunshine and sleeping in - a wonderful week away!

Halloween this year gave us one Queen Elsa and one squishy little monkey. Cuteness abounded!
Lady M's homemade Elsa wig!

And with our first snowfall this week, we are into the thick of it again...

So, there's a little glimpse into our year - it's been a great one!

November 14, 2014

three (and a half)

Lady A is now officially 3 and a half. If I had to select one word to describe this age for her, I would choose "big". 

Big is not the word I would have chosen for Lady M, but our younger daughter has never been one to blaze the same trail that her big sister has followed. Nope, this little lady is fiercely committed to her individuality. (This makes me very happy, of course)

However, the word 'big' brings different experiences...

Big laughs...Big stories...Big kindness, and Big reactions. 

Lady A is one of the funniest kids I've ever met. She recounts detailed stories that draw an even bigger laugh. Friday night at dinner the facial expressions that accompanied her supper time stories were amazing; she has so much character and expression packed into her wide brown eyes and chubby cheeks, and the way she expresses the tales of her day is priceless. 

But with this big character comes big reactions that are not always of the priceless variety. Lately she really likes to pitch her larger 3.5 year old fits in the morning when we are all trying to get ready. When I'm trying to make it to the office for 8am, and take her to daycare en route, a hissy fit is the last thing on my anticipated agenda. However, these big reactions seem to surface just then! Throwing herself on the floor because she doesn't want to get dressed/doesn't like the outfit I chose/is sleepy but won't admit it/isn't allowed to watch a show/just wants to be a monkey, etc. tends to set our routine back a few minutes, but we manage, and are always smiling on our drive to daycare together.

Lady A is also extremely lovable and caring. Where Lady M was never terribly into her dolls (preferring to pass them over for her various dinosaur toys at the age of 3), her little sister LOVES her dolls. Friday night at dinner (like many other meals) we were joined by her favourite doll whose high chair was lovingly set up right beside our kitchen table.

After dinner she rocked her and put her into her playpen, which was then carried up to her room so she could have a good night sleep. The way she cares for her dolls - and the real people around her - is so genuinely sweet. Somehow it makes up for the big tantrums that come our way! 

3 1/2 might be an age filled with big things, but Lady A also fills our days with huge hugs, enormous smiles and incredible love. 

so i got to do 'that mum thing'…

Sometimes you have to appreciate the little things in life.

Last week, the little girl who made me a mum – Lady M – turned 6. It’s hard to believe that six short years ago, as I was growing a little person, I had absolutely no idea what life would be like as a parent. Now that I have a little girl who needs two hands to show us her age, I have had so many incredible experiences.

Lady M is a truly sweet person. She cares very deeply about others, has a silly sense of humour, is a quick learner, and is beautiful inside and out. She’s been through a lot of change this fall as she adjusted to a new school, new friends, 100% French education and a new daycare too. That’s a lot to throw at a not-quite-six-year-old, and I must say, she’s adjusted beautifully. Sure, we’re still struggling with the bedtime fears (see Scooby Doo post) but that’s just a bump in the road.

As for celebrating the little things: on her actual birthday I was able to leave the office early and pick her up from school. Now, to many of you this may seem like a mundane, every day activity. For me, this was beyond exciting. I never get to pick her up from school (not until after work, when she’s been in the after-school program for almost 2 hours), so this was a rare treat for me – and for her. We talked about it for more than a week, as we counted down the days to her birthday, and the day mummy would be there after school.

Up until a year ago, Lady M and Lady A used to go to a different daycare that was down a country road. I recall, as I was phasing the girls into that daycare (and was finishing up maternity leave) I would drive down the country road at the same time as the local school bus each day. I vividly remember seeing all of the mums (and the odd dad) standing at the end of their country driveways, waiting to greet their bouncing children as they got off the bus. Working mum guilt would kick in strongly each day – wishing that I could be the mum at the end of the driveway, knowing that it’s just not the way things are going to happen for us at this point in time. Don’t get me wrong – I enjoy my work, and can’t really see myself staying home, but there are some things that I sure would love to be able to do.

So having the opportunity to be ‘that mum’ for a day, and join the masses of sweatpant-wearing mums who were there getting their kiddos was a great moment. I didn't know anyone there, and couldn’t join in on their parent-to-parent conversations that had clearly been going for 2 months now, but I was elated when Lady M’s happy little face, and bouncing self came bounding out of the school door and she jumped up into my arms. Clearly she was just as excited for the change in routine as I was, and that tree-frog hug she gave me was just perfect.

It was nice to get to do that mum thing.
From there we got to go home, make icing and decorate her birthday cake in preparation for her birthday dinner that night. It’s also rare that we get to spend time together – just the two of us – so that was an added bonus on her special day.  

I suppose the novelty might wear off if I were able to pick her up every day, but maybe not. No matter what, I look forward to the next time I can be there when the bell rings…

October 6, 2014

scooby doo and the restless little lady

Most kids love movies; they get excited for them and enjoy the action, adventure and story, whatever it may be. My little Lady M, on the other hand, has always been a little bit fearful. From the time she was quite young she has steered clear of anything 'scary'. Not that we were introducing her to Chuckie as a toddler or anything, but if there was a 'bad guy' of any sort, she would ask us to turn the show or movie off right away. Of course, we always have.

But some things are out of our control...

Lady M is in grade one this year, and she is settling in beautifully. A couple of weeks ago, her entire school (it's very small) headed out on a field trip, enjoying a conservation area nearby. Returning a little bit early from their day-long excursion, a movie was put on in the gym for all kids, grades 1 through 8. Though it's a challenge to find a film that will suit kids who range in age from 5 to 13, Scooby Doo was the chosen movie, seemingly appropriate for most littles in attendance. 

As a child of the 80's, my big brother and I indulged in our fair share of Scooby Doo. I quite enjoyed Shaggy, Scrappy, Daphne and the Mystery Van, and I even married a man who does an impressive Scooby Doo impression. I can't ever recall feeling scared by their misadventures, or by the mysteries they were solving. But let me tell you, Lady M sure did. 

It's been about three weeks since the fateful school movie viewing, and in that time, Lady M has not been able to fall asleep by herself at night. She's terrified that 'bad guys' are going to climb in her window and has been in fits of tears and sobs if we try to leave her room before she falls asleep at night; what an awful way to feel as you're trying to close your eyes. She simply needs someone here with her, so Cal and I have been taking our turns ensuring she's well asleep before we leave her room. As I write this, I'm sitting at the end of her bed, on my iPad, waiting for her to drift off into a dreamland that is sweet, peaceful, and free from "bad guys". 

Truth be told, this phase has been simultaneously breaking my heart and frustrating me. Seeing my kids upset is awful. But of course, as any parent knows, the small window of adult time between the kids' bedtime and my bedtime is a sacred thing and it's being interrupted every night! 

However, I can recall a fear like this that plagued me when I was a little girl, which helps me put it all in perspective. The year that I was 7, The Little Mermaid was released in theatre. I went to see it, as many little girls did that year, and I instantly fell in love with the underwater world, laughed at Sebastian's bad attitude, giggled at Flounder's cuteness, and felt thoroughly  happy when Ariel received her human legs. What I didn't realize was the significant impact that the very beginning of the movie would have on me. If you've seen it, you may recall the boat fire scene at the outset of the story. Apparently that really stuck with me, beyond singing 'Part of Your World' and 'Under the Sea' because for months after, I couldn't fall asleep at night. 

Thanks to the movie colliding with one of the fire safety talks at school, my 7-year-old self was terrified that there would be a fire in my house, and I incessantly reviewed the fire escape plan in our home. Mainly, I needed to know how my parents planned to get my brother, myself and our two dogs, Bandit and Pirate, to safety in case a blaze broke out in the middle of the night. I can still recall needing one of my parents with me each night to fall asleep almost 25 years after the experience. 

Lady M and I are similar, I suppose, in the way we react to things. Apparently animated features really wreak havoc on us! Having worked at a renowned Animation school for many years, I tried to explain to her tonight how all of these animated characters are simply made up out of someone's imagination, then then brought to life by a pencil or a computer, explaining that I've seen it with my own eyes! I suppose that's hard to fathom, but she seemed to soak it in a little. Maybe it will ease her worries over the coming nights...but maybe not. 

My Little Mermaid memories flood my mind when the selfish part of me wants my 'adult time'. Sitting here while my little girl falls sweetly into dreamland is worth it giving up a little extra of my 'own' time, and in the time it's taken me to write this, she has fallen into a deep, restful sleep. 

I know this phase won't last forever, but if I can make it a little easier on her - as my parents did for me - then I'm happy to do so. 

Kristin xo