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.

baby girl turns 4!

It's hard to believe that it's been four years since our littlest lady completed our family of four. All 9 pounds, 2 ounces of her came barrelling into this world at nine days overdue and she's provided us with smiles and laughter from that moment forward.

Four is a big age! Lady A is very chatty and full of stories, prints her name, her alphabet and lots of other words, sings along to her favourite songs (Uptown Funk!) and cares for her collection of babies with more love and affection than you could possibly imagine.

This week I even went and registered her for Junior Kindergarten. Despite how grown up she's seeming some days, it's hard to imagine dropping my baby off at school in September. Where has the time gone?

My cousin and I were joking last month about how every veteran parent wants to tell rookie parents this one thing: "it'll all go by in a flash"! And while you'll (hopefully) never hear those overused words pass my lips, it's very true. These four years have gone by in a blink.

Birthdays are big in my family; always have been. We love to celebrate them well, and most importantly, celebrate them on the actual day (right, Dad?!). Lady A's birthday fell on a Saturday this year which was a nice treat, so that afternoon our immediate family all went out to lunch together. Then we spent a nice evening at home, just the four of us. A chance to relax, and get ready for Sunday's "friend" party!

On Sunday Lady A had a group of friends to a local dance studio where they had an hour-long dance class, followed by lunch (chicken hot dogs, at her request!), cupcakes and then a few games and present opening to cap off the two-hour block. The theme of her party was The Octonauts, which is presently her favourite show (though seems to be in the process of being replaced by Sofia the First at the moment...

All of the celebrations made for a great (albeit tiring!) weekend. I think our little girl felt very special, and she is certainly adjusting well to her new position in life as a four year old.

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, Math 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...

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!