September 30, 2015

fairy fox

Sometimes I love the way that stories come out of my kids' mouths, especially when they're still so little. Lady M has been in school for 4 years now, so has become quite familiar with the legacy of Terry Fox, and her understanding as to why she participates in the Terry Fox Run with her school every year.

But this year, our little Lady A will be participating too with her friends in kindergarten. She announced this by coming home from school and declaring: "we have to bring in a toonie. Because Terry Fox was running, but he died, and so he couldn't run the money any more". Yes. Amazing. I love the way she explains things, and the way they interpret what they hear at school.

Later that night, at dinner, she further explained "Fairy Fox got sick, and had to have his leg tooken off, and he got a robot leg"! Even though she knows his name is Terry, it accidentally came out 'Fairy' making her story even sweeter. It was so important to her to help raise funds with the rest of her classmates, so was sent into school with her contribution the next day.

Of course Lady M was itching to help fill in the blanks as she understands the story of Terry Fox more clearly than Lady A, but she was patient and gave Lady A time to share her understanding.

October 1st is the day that she'll be participating in her first Terry Fox Run, and we'll be eagerly waiting for her to come home from school and tell us all about it.

September 15, 2015

lessons in moving

We started looking for a new house around the time that hieroglyphics were becoming obsolete. It's been a long haul. Why, you may ask? Well I'll tell you.

First of all, Cal and I had two very different dream homes in mind:

Kristin's dream home: a newer house, mud room for all of the damn boots and shoes that are strewn about my front entrance, move-in ready, large kitchen, space for entertaining, fence for the dog, pretty kitchen, no renovations required. Easy, right?!

Well, then there's this:

Cal's dream home: significant acreage, space for guitars and other musical goodness, fence for the dog, separate family room, hot tub, happy to complete renovations.

Hmm. Slightly different. To summarize, we were on different pages of the MLS. 

Knowing each other's housing wants, we spent a lot of time looking for some kind of mystical home that combined all of these elements, and we spent plenty of time viewing houses that were better suited to his wants, and ones that were better suited to mine. At times we considered whether buying two houses and working between them both might be the better solution! But, with each new showing and open house we attended the end result was always the same: not quite what we wanted. And the months of searching kept flying by...

Fast-forward somewhere between 18 months and 2 years: we went to see a house that seemed to fit the bill. Having clearly identified our shared wants, and somehow finding common ground over time, we found the house that was right for us. On a Saturday morning we viewed the house at 11:00am, wrote the offer at 1:30pm, presented it in competition at 3:30pm, and won it shortly after 4:00pm at which point we signed the papers on the hood of our real estate agent's car. Whew! After a couple years of house hunting, we had a new house in 5 short hours!

But there's just one little thing that remained...selling our current house...and before that, prepping it. You see, we have our lovely 10-year-old dog, Dakota:

She looks sweet, right? Well she is...but she's also taken a little toll on our house over the 7 years we've been here. So with our listing date upcoming, we shipped her off to my parents for a few weeks so we could complete the few little restoration projects that she created for us in the house. We also took on a number of other small projects to finish beautifying the house and have learned a few things along the way...
  • Re-screening doors has become a new forte for Cal and I! Those damn things are annoying, but with the right tools (thanks Rona!) and some patience, our screen door (previously ripped by Dakota's determination to get into the backyard one afternoon) looks fabulous! 
  • The laundry never stops. Now this is not really a new revelation, but how is one ever supposed to stop doing laundry long enough so that the house can remain looking like a museum for those coming to see it? 
  • My sweet children are so patient, and are hopefully developing lifelong habits of tidiness seeing as they must pick up every toy, marker, hair elastic and morsel of food that finds itself out of it's 'proper' place. Lady M commented the other day "I don't like bossy mummy"...apparently I've been a bit, shall we say, directive lately. I like to think I'm just demonstrating varied types of leadership for them in an effort to help them build up their own repertoire of leadership skills. That's just good parenting, wouldn't you say? 
  • Running around the house in the morning chopping pillows, folding toilet paper edges, and picking up stray hair elastics does not help me in being on time for work each day! 
  • Though all four of us enjoy home reno shows (with Property Brothers, Love it or List It and Flip or Flop being some of our faves), and Lady M regularly makes comments such as "it's okay, we can just reno it", we are not going to get into the business of home flipping any time soon. 
Although we've put in a lot of late nights, plenty of elbow grease, and I may have upped my bossiness leadership quotient a little bit lately, the end result when we move to our new home will be well worth it. And not having to look for houses anymore is the best pay-off of all! 

September 10, 2015

waterproof mascara: the sequel

We knew this day was coming...we knew that our little girl was well prepared for school...but waterproof mascara is still one of those key items required to make it through this milestone.

The last couple weeks in our house there has been a great deal of chatter about school. With Lady M heading into grade two, and Lady A preparing for junior kindergarten, the excitement has been mounting!

School supplies were purchased and packed into fresh new backpacks. First day outfits were purchased and laid out with care. We had a wonderful summer filled with memories to last a lifetime, so when Labour Day weekend hit, we knew the first day of school was just moments away.

Tuesday morning, first day part 1
Tuesday was the first official day of school. Lady M had been fighting an upset tummy all weekend thanks to an extended case of the butterflies. Though she looked confident in her zebra dress, and matching hat, the nerves were kicking in. The school was familiar this year but she was still clinging to my leg a little bit when we stepped into the gym that morning. (It was a very rainy first day of school this year - no outdoor organization possible!) Once she learned who her teacher was, Lady M relaxed a little bit, and by the time we were leaving, she was happily walking down the hallway toward her new grade two classroom.

Next we headed to Lady A's new school. Though she was prepared to go to one school close to our current home, we bought a new house a few weeks ago so decided to start her at the school in that district to save her from changing schools in November. Until Monday morning, she had never stepped foot in the building. And her school is BIG! There are 8 kindergarten classes alone (that's almost double the population of Lady M's entire school). But, she walked in with confidence and we headed to her new classroom to participate in her 30 minute 'meet and greet'.

The meet and greet mostly consisted of me completing paperwork, and Lady A sitting quietly beside me observing everything around her. She was quiet until she finally said "mummy, are you almost done? I'd like to go play with the play-doh" that she had spotted at another table. I finished up, and she happily played with the delightfully familiar dough and that seemed to be just the icebreaker she needed. Apart from that, the orientation consisted of looking around the classroom and writing her name on the whiteboard (a highlight for her)! And as we walked out of the school, she looked up at me and said "I don't want to leave". Ahhh, music to my ears. My sweet little 4-year old was feeling comfortable.

Later that night, Lady M came home raving about her day at school, and declared "I think I have the best teacher in the school"! The butterflies were long gone, and she was holding tightly to a goody bag, and a kind note that her teacher had given everyone in the class. Clearly, a super start to second grade.

Wednesday marked Lady A's first full day of school. She bounced out of bed and was beyond excited to get the day started. She may have been most thrilled about her new outfit that consisted of a flowered skirt, and t-shirt that read "Hooray for today!", and boy did she look cute when she got dressed. Seeing as I had taken her to Tuesday's orientation, I was needed back in the office and Cal was on drop-off duty. In my office I anxiously awaited some pictures via text message and was thrilled when I received a beautiful picture of Lady A, in front of her school, grinning ear to ear.

Wednesday morning, first day part 2
Cal said she was watching her crying classmates with concern, but kept looking back at him and smiling broadly. While he was holding back tears in the school yard, I was barely containing mine in my office. But when I picked her up at the end of the day her smile was still enormous and she told me she had a fantastic day. All we can ask for, really.

It's funny how these days are bittersweet - I want my kids to find great success and happiness with their schooling, and enjoy all of the wonderful social and growth opportunities that come along with it; but I also want to keep them small for as long as possible.

Three years ago I was writing about Lady M's first day of school (read 'waterproof mascara' here!), and suddenly 1,095 days have passed by in the blink of an eye. My older beauty is settling into second grade, my baby girl is in full-time school, and I'm still just 29. {wink, wink}.

August 12, 2015

camp chronicles: tiny dancers

This year marked 21 years since I first went up to my camp in Huntsville, Ontario. 21 rather formative years, that have seen me go from a nervously excited 14-year-old volleyball camper, to a confident 33 year old, excited to arrive with her sweet family. As you may have gathered from past camp chronicles, I love this place! There's something about the air, the space, the water, the stars, the sunsets, and the people that just make it such a special home away from home.

Over the last few years Lady A and Lady M have become increasingly comfortable there, and this year was easily their best one yet. They began to gain a little more independence - being allowed to go from the dining hall to another coaches' cabin without Cal or myself taking them there, for one thing. It's amazing what an open space, filled with people who will care for them, and no cars zipping by can do for a child's independence!

The family of coaches and kids who come up this week every summer are like no other. They're the group of friends who you see once a year, can always pick up right where you left off, and feel a comfort and familiarity that makes you feel at home instantaneously. We share much of our time catching up, sitting around the campfire, participating in happy hour (our brilliantly created daily activity to gain extra time together), and rehearsing our spectacularly choreographed coaches dance! Seriously, we have moves like you've never seen (and never will...)!

The leadership camp I teach is awesome. Though we were missing one of our teaching team again this year, Rene' and I did our best in her absence! (We missed you, Trishy!). We had a diverse and interesting group of campers who hailed from Russia, China, Iran, Ontario and Quebec, and as always it was fascinating to watch the group gel and work together over the course of our week. These kids always surprise me in unique and incredible ways - through their experiences, their thoughts and their ideas. Throughout the year I am always teaching adults, so I sure love my foray into the world of teenagers once a year. (Hopefully they're sufficiently preparing me for when Ladies A & M hit that stage...).

Though the best part of this summer was watching my girls. Yes, there was the independence, but they also challenged themselves in new ways that made me extra proud. Lady M braved one high ropes element last year, and this year she climbed a different, more challenging one, and also tried the climbing wall and the zip line! Lady A tried a high ropes course for the first time, and tried the climbing wall too! (My nerves put a limit on her trying the zip line...maybe next year for that one!). I loved watching their sense of curiosity come out, and seeing their determination as they attempted each new challenge, even though my heart might have been racing a little bit... Also, Lady A's harness was the tiniest, cutest little thing I've ever seen.

Beyond that, they both did Dance camp this summer. One of the benefits of coaching up there is that my girls can participate in any camp they want throughout the week (and there are a lot of choices). Though Lady M was leaning toward badminton camp this year, she pulled a last minute switcheroo and chose to join her sister in dance camp. This particular camp is fuelled by one incredible instructor who manages to take a group of girls - with very widely ranging dance abilities - and create a show at the end of the week that is spectacular. My girls did two of the dances in the show - lyrical and musical theatre - and the smile on my face was as big as the gym they danced in. And they haven't stopped singing the song "Best Summer Ever" in days...

Lady M is the kid who jumped off a stage into Cal's arms about two years ago when she froze at her dance recital in front of 40 people. To see her get up there and shake her groove thang in front of about 500 people was amazing!

Lady A, much younger than most of the kids out there, stole the show. She watched her sister and counsellor for the moves, and tried so hard to keep up, all the while with a giant grin on her face. Watching my kids, and the other coaches' kids in this dance was just the best part of an already great week.

From new found independence to first canoe rides (Lady A); high ropes experiences to unplugged family time, this week at camp is my favourite of the year.

August 11, 2015

summer in the south: road trippin'

On June 30th, after a journey of nearly 5 years, I attended my final M.Ed class, with my support squad in tow. Presenting my research with my mum, dad, Calvin, Lady M & Lady A in the room was fabulous. They've been my cheerleaders through every stage of this journey, and I was happy to share the celebration with them as they've earned it as much as I have. Immediately after class, we hopped in the car and my family of four headed south.

It had been three years since we last had the girls in Florida to visit my extended family who live there. Though Cal and I had each been down separately, Lady A had only just learned to walk on her last visit. Seeing as she now runs, talks a mile a minute and is prepping herself for kindergarten this fall, she had changed a fair bit since her last visit!

Having only flown the kids down there before, driving was to be a new adventure for us. We set off with excitement, and made it to Erie, PA on night one, thanks to our late start. Lady A stayed awake until we crossed the border in Niagara Falls, and Lady M - determined not to miss a moment - stayed awake until we pulled into our hotel in PA. The next day proved to be a little more eventful with the stomach flu hitting Lady A just outside of West Virginia, so we stopped a little earlier than planned that day in North Carolina. Feeling much better by morning, we pulled into Ormond Beach, Florida the next evening. The kids were amazing in the car - reading, watching movies, playing various car games, and only asking "are we there yet" a handful of times. (Impressive, because they like to ask that question on a 20-minute drive!). Much of the time was passed with Lady A listening to Taylor Swift, Fight Song, Call Me Maybe and Stompa through her headphones while singing loudly, to the tune of Lady M frequently asking "Lady A, could you PLEEEAAASSE sing in your head?".

We spent a little over a week in Florida, and it was wonderful. Always nice to reconnect with our family down there. From family dinners to trips to the beach, 4th of July celebrations, plenty of swimming and shopping, we had a great time.

My method of travel is "don't plan too much", as I like to just take each day as it comes. The rest of our lives are so scheduled between work, school, after-school activities, etc. that it's nice to just come off schedule for a bit and enjoy the freedom of loosely planned adventures.
Fun at Daytona Beach
Shoe Shopping!
4th of July, Lady A
4th of July, Lady M
The only thing we did have scheduled on our trip was one day at Disney's Magic Kingdom. Our girls had been to Downtown Disney before, but we decided at 6 & 4, it was the perfect time for a park. And it was. Lady A went on her first ever rides (beginning with the Peter Pan ride, and Ariel's 'under the sea' ride, and she was hooked! We made the choice to stay on the Disney property for a night too so we could make the most of our day passes. That allowed us to head back to the hotel in the later afternoon, go for a swim and relax for a bit before heading back to the park for the electric light parade (which I'm sure hasn't changed since I was a kid) and the beautiful fireworks display. The next morning we got up and went for another swim, visited the gift shop, then headed back to Ormond. A great first experience for the girls, and Disney still feels as magical to me today as I did when I went at their age.
Cal & I at the Disney resort
The girls checking out Cinderella's castle
After a couple more days, we began our drive home. Normally everyone feels a little sad on the way home, and is just eager to get there, but we had one more thing to look forward to. One of my best friends has lived in North Carolina for several years now, and we were planning to stop there on our way home. So we drove to Winston-Salem where we were greeted by my sweet friend Elana and her hubby, Blake. It was awesome to see where they live and work, and we squeezed in a NASCAR museum, visit to the Richard Childress Racing shops, Richard Childress winery, and Rescue Ranch. All in a day! We spent two nights there before heading on our merry way once again.

My lovely Shme & I 
It was a whirlwind two weeks, but was so relaxing and fun. We got to catch up with so many people, enjoy the sunshine, and take our kids through a number of States they hadn't seen before. What a great way to kick off the summer of 2015!

May 13, 2015

mother days

When one of your children is born just a few days before Mother's Day, it's pretty hard to top that! But this year, my sweet girls (and their fabulous Daddy) gave me one that was just terrific.

Leading up to Sunday, the girls would give me little hints about the crafts and surprises they were making at school and daycare, struggling to keep the secrets for nearly a week! The newly minted 4-year-old, Lady A, kept telling me that "Mother Days" was coming on Sunday, and it was so cute that I tried not to correct her too often!

Sunday morning began with the girls telling me I had to stay in bed, and I could hear all of the effort that was being put into my breakfast just one floor below. Perhaps Lady M was down there helping (or directing) Cal, but Lady A spent much of the prep time up in my room telling me exactly what breakfast I could expect - chocolate chip pancakes, bacon, strawberries, bananas and tea. When she got tired of me being in bed, she asked if I could come play Mouse Trap with her, and so I did - and hustled back to bed when I heard the others coming up the stairs with my special delivery.

With kids who are 4 & 6 I truly think the best part of Mother's Day is the homemade crafts. Lady M proudly gave me a handmade potted plant, paper flower and a necklace with three handmade charms: a star, a heart and a flower. Lady A gave me a variety of paper crafts including a big flower pot with a picture of her in it, a paper purse that had all of 'my favourite things' in it, and a handmade card. I loved each thing they made for me, and I love even more how excited they are to give it. I was even serenaded with a song that Lady M learned in school - listen/watch here!

These homemade gifts really are special. To this day, my dad still has a giant tie that my older brother made for him one Father's Day hanging in his walk-in closet. If I remember correctly, it's an acrostic poem that Greg wrote using Dad's name, Richard. Goes to show that these sweet crafts really do mean a lot! My brother is 36 after all...

As a quick aside since we are on the subject: I would be remiss not to mention that my Dad doesn't seem to have any of MY Father's Day creations adorning his closet. Might have to have a conversation with him about that. Maybe mum has some of my things hidden in her drawers, little gems she's been keeping safe since the 80's...

In any case, back to this year's crafts! Here are a few of the adorable items I received:

Lady A's gift bag for me

The inside of Lady A's card

Handmade charms by Lady M

My flower from Lady M in my office window 
The sweet note from Lady M

We spent the rest of the day together as a family, and had our usual Sunday adventures to the pool (kids swimming lessons) and the baseball diamond (adults softball game). It was a perfectly lovely Mother's Day made absolutely wonderful by the two little ladies who made me a mum, and my sweet husband too.

May 6, 2015

toothless wonder

At 6 1/2, Lady M has been waiting (not-so-) patiently to loose her first tooth. Approaching the end of grade one, she was frequently reminding us that she was the only kid in her class who hadn't lost a tooth, and to my knowledge, everyone else had lost at least two.

They have a tally posted in her classroom, and each time one of the 18 kids in her class bids adieu to another tooth, it is symbolically replaced with a tally mark. Sadly, and much to her dismay, Lady M, had contributed nothing to the 33 marks adorning that chart.

But all that changed on Monday afternoon...

When I went to pick Lady M up on Monday after school, she proudly displayed her bright smile, reached to her bottom tooth and began to wiggle it. Finally! She had a wiggly tooth, and an excitement that was palpable! Monday night, after Irish dance class, she spent the remainder of the evening with her fingers on those pearly whites, wiggling away, in the hopes that the tooth would come out. But no luck.

On Tuesday, Lady M headed off to school and I found myself wondering all day if she would have a gap in her teeth when I picked her up that night, but nope - still just a wiggler!

Driving home Tuesday night, Lady M asked if she could have a piece of gum, then thought better of it, saying "oh, maybe I shouldn't because of my tooth". To which I offered "or, it might help your tooth come out faster!", so in she popped the gum.

Minutes later, just before turning the final corner to our house, she exclaimed from the backseat "my tooth came out!!!". There in her hand was the tiniest little tooth, and buckled in her booster seat was the happiest little girl of all time.

Before bed that night, she thoughtfully bundled up her tooth in a paper towel, and tied it together with a yellow hair elastic! She wrote a nice note to the Toothfairy letting her know that she really wanted to keep her tooth, and tucked into her bed.

My toothless wonder woke up this morning, ran into our room to show us the $5 that the Toothfairy had left her, along with the precious little tooth.

Today she went to class, and proudly added her first tally mark to the class chart.