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 smal!l) 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 brough 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

September 2, 2014

grade one: the french journey begins

Today the little girl who made me a mum started first grade. 

For the last couple of days we've been dealing with some nervousness on her part as she has prepared for a bit of a change. After two years at one school, this year Lady M started at a new elementary school becuase she has begun french immersion. 100% of her studies this year will be in French which will be a big change, but I'm so excited for her to learn another language. 

Calvin was a french immersion student, studying in that stream from grade one through high school graduation. I was an immersion kid too, but I started later with it, in grade 7. I figure I'll be able to help Lady M with her homework through until about grade 6(!) while her bilingual daddy will have her covered much further along her academic journey!

After waking up this morning declaring that she wasn't going to school, I brushed the comment off with very little discussion, and she happily carried on with her morning routine. Our little 5-year-old got dressed in her new outfit, put her lunch and pencil case (yay for school supply shopping for the first time!!) in her Hello Kitty backpack, laced up her Converse and we were set. After snapping a slew of pictures on our front lawn, we set off.

The french school is about a 10-minute drive and we chatted on our way. When we arrived she was still chatty, but once we got around to the playground and reality started setting in, she began clinging a little bit more closely to my leg. 

Out on the playground, the two grade one teachers began to call attendance for their classes, and we soon learned Lady M was in the second class. All of the kids began to line up in front of their new teacher and my little girl pressed a little closer into my left leg, the nerves clearly taking over. Thankfully her teacher noticed this, and asked her if she wanted to join her right at the front of the line, and my little mini-me jumped at that opportunity. Her teacher was holding some flowers, and when she asked Lady M if she could carry them inside for her, her happiness was apparent. She marched inside the school with her new classmates, looked back and gave me a huge smile. Tears filled my eyes, of course, but all that mattered was that my baby girl was happy. 

She goes to the after school program, and when I got there to pick her up, her after-school teacher commented "it's like she's been in my program forever!" Clearly Lady M had fit right in and was having fun with the other kids, which is all a parent wants to hear. 

We decided to walk down the hall so she could show me where her classroom is. As it turns out, her teacher was still there so we got to say hello. Her teacher let me know that Lady M had a great day, telling me she was very bright, and extremely participatory. Hooray! 

My morning tears had long since dried up, but I felt a huge amount of relief seeing her so happy at the end of day one. We can definitely declare the first day of grade one, and french immersion, a great success!

Now in 365 days I have to prepare myself to send my littlest lady to her first day of kindergarten...I may as well stock up on the waterproof mascara now... 

August 23, 2014

camp chronicles: milestones

This year marked my 20th year up at my camp. I was just 13 years old when I first boarded a bus in Toronto with my friend and headed up to Northern Ontario for a week of volleyball camp. Two decades later, it's been an incredible part of my life. 

If you are a regular visitor to my blog, you've seen my posts about camp for the last couple years and you know that it's a big part of my life. But as my life as a mum and wife continues to evolve, the thing that makes me happiest is seeing how much my family has grown to genuinely love the place. 

Perhaps the person in my family who gets the 'super camper' award this year is little Lady M. From the moment we pulled off camp property last year, she has been asking to go back. For 365 days she has talked incessantly about her experiences, played songs that remind her of camp on repeat, and has made plans for her return. And let me tell you, this little 5-year-old made the best of her time there this year, hitting the following milestones in one short week: 

1. After completing just one dance session last year, this summer Lady M participated in one or two sessions every day, dancing her little heart out! One fabulous teenage boy may have helped to encourage her with the promise of some ice cream early in the week, but after that, she didn't require any bribing to continue! She chose not to show off her skills in the week-end performance, but we had told her all along she didn't have to do that. We just wanted her to have a great time, and you better believe she did! 

2. That week Lady M also participated in her first badminton tournament. Last summer she developed a love for the sport, and was happy to hone her skills a little more this year. Participating in this tournament (run by the finest tourney convenors!) kept a mile-wide smile on her face the whole time, deepening her love for the game just a little more. 2028 Olympics - here she comes!! 

3. Once again this summer we packed Lady M's bike into the truck, but this year, Calvin took the training wheels off! Equipped with her helmet and Disney Princesses elbow pads, knee pads and sweet riding gloves, she took to the grass like a champ! It was a week of freedom for this little girl, and riding a two-wheeler was the icing on the cake. 

4. Thanks to some friends who brought their boat up north for the week, Lady M was able to add "first tubing ride" to her list of milestones. [Brace yourself...shocking news alert!] I tend to be the more nervous of the Calvin/Kristin parenting team so was slightly anxious as my little girl (who cannot yet swim on her own) climbed out onto that tube. But our friends' teenage son was out there with her, and she had a blast! The boat may have been travelling at it's slowest speed in a perfectly straight line, but the smile on my little girl's face made it feel like she was travelling at top speeds! 

5. Finally, when Cal, Lady A and I were off with my leadership campers one session, Lady M was at the high ropes course with her fellow dance campers. When we were able to make our way over to her, she was standing under the course watching some of the other kids conquer the elements. We asked "are you going to try it?", thinking that her nerves had likely overcome her. She responded with "I already did!", and apparently she not only loved it, but according to her Coach and Counsellor, she flew up the telephone pole, and walked across the suspension bridge like she did it every day before school! Cal suggested that perhaps it was best that I, the nervous mum (see #4), was not there as I may have made her a little more nervous! All that matters is that she bravely scaled the high ropes course, and had a blast doing so! 

So, it was clearly a week of firsts for her. But if that doesn't help to explain my love for this place, let me  share one other quick thing: 

This year we sparked up "coaches' happy hour", a fun gathering that came from the fact that our family's cabin is on a completely different side of camp than the rest of the coaching staff. Many of them really never knew where we were located! So, my fellow coaches and I concocted a plan to help solve this problem, and each afternoon a different coach would host 'happy hour' at their cabin, providing snacks and a welcoming atmosphere where we could all gather and hang out. 

On the day that we were to host, the girls and I made our way across camp to where most coaches stay, while Cal finished preparing the trays of cheese, crackers and fruit. My little girl brought her red Jump Rope for Heart skipping rope, and invited a number of coaches to hold the rope (a la preschool field trip!) and she led them across the field to the side of camp where we reside. Here's the magic of it: only at camp would a group of 10 grown adults hold a skipping rope, led by a 5-year-old for the five minute walk to our cabin, not once letting go. The vision of this was priceless, and the kindness of the people holding the rope is a moment I won't forget. The people who become your camp family are like no other. It's an incredible group of people, who help to make the place amazing for every camper and person on camp. 

I'm very lucky to have had the chance to spend 20 years enjoying this place that I am proud to call one of my homes. 

June 15, 2014

my popsy

I have a pretty incredible dad. For more than 32 years now he's always gone above and beyond the call of fatherhood, and that's not something that's changed as I've grown into adulthood and motherhood. Somehow, he continues to be more and more supportive every year. 

At 6'2", with his booming voice, my dad was equal parts disciplinarian and snuggler when I was growing up. Along with my mum, the two of them kept my brother and I in check and provided us with an enviable childhood; one that I'm trying to recreate for my children to the best of my ability. 

But today, on Father's Day, I'll share my favourite story of dad that pretty much sums up who he is... 

When I was in about grade 1, we had the "smoking talk" at school. We were warned of the dangers, the possibility of sickness and even death. Well that was enough to scare the pants off this 6 year old - good work Ontario education system! My dad wasn't a smoker, but he did keep cigars in the basement, and I knew their whereabouts though I can't recall ever seeing him smoke one. 

Shortly after "the talk" at school, dad was looking for his cigars, and they weren't in the downstairs fridge where he ways kept them. He tells me he looked everywhere before asking my mum, then my brother if they knew where the cigars were. No dice. Nobody could find them, or knew about their mysterious disappearance. 

As a last resort, he came to his little brown eyed girl who surely couldn't have them. "Kristin, have you seen my cigars?", he asked. "Yes", I said. "But I'm not giving them back unless you promise me not to smoke anymore" (likely recapping some of my classroom learnings for him!). "I promise" he said. With that, I promptly reached right beside the fridge, in the dark space between it and the freezer, and pulled out his box of cigars. (He later told me he'd looked everywhere, but never thought to look from the perspective of a 6 year old!) 

Fast forward about 13 years. I was 19 and in my first year of university. The phone rang mid-day at my apartment and it was my dad. He was out for lunch with some colleagues/friends and one had just returned from a trip with some cigars, offering one to my dad. I still remember him saying into the phone "Krin, do you mind if I have one?"  Dumbstruck, I said "dad, have you not had one all these years?" He answered simply with "no. I promised you I wouldn't"

I'll never forget that day because though I knew my dad was an incredible person, that day he really showed me his amazing character. My dad continues to do everything he can for my brother and I and our families, but this story has always just summed it up for me. 

Reliable, trustworthy, loving. These are all words that describe my dad perfectly. I'm very lucky to have a dad like him! 

May 22, 2014


Has it really been nine months since I last posted here? Oh my; so many things to catch up on. I could have had another child in that time! (No, no - I didn't, don't worry. You're not that far behind!)

Well, let's get caught back up here. We'll start with something recent...our little Lady A has just celebrated her third birthday, which seems crazy to me. It feels like it was only moments ago that she came flying into this world (literally, flying - the doctor barely made it in time to catch her 9 pound, 2 ounce self!) and was placed into my arms, completing our family of four, forever outnumbering my sweet husband.

Cake #1 - May 2nd
Cake #2 - May 3rd

At 3, Lady A is one sassy little lady with an enormous personality. Sure, she has the typical three year old moments - larger, more dramatic moments than her big sister ever had - but she is so full of love and sweetness. She likes to tell me when she thinks I look pretty, has the most expressive little face, gives the best hugs, and keeps the rest of us in stitches every day. She looks just like Cal, and behaves a little like him, a little like me, and a little like her sister. And a lot like herself.

How can I sum up Lady A's personality at the moment? Well, the other day she was offering us the sassy side of her personality, and Cal finally had to say "Lady A, the bottom line is, you have to listen to Daddy". She promptly responded to him with "what's the top line?"

And what do any good parents do in that moment? We roar with laughter, naturally!

To cut through the laughter, she continued with her line of questioning: "you said that's the bottom line, Daddy, what's the top?", and her big sister piped in to add "and is there a middle line?". Ok smartypants'. At every line, you just need to listen to your parents! 

Her 3rd birthday was marked with a number of celebrations. We ate cake and cupcakes for three days straight, and she was given lots of lovely presents. She lives to look after her 'babies' these days, so we got her a doll playset, and I crocheted her a little doll as well. It's been cast aside in favour of her more lifelike dolls, but making it for her was fun!

This year, I had her help me create the guest list for her birthday party, and before I knew it, we had 20 children coming! Thankfully, we were not cramming all of these munchkins and their parents into our home - we had rented a local dance studio for the occasion, and all turned out very well! Two of my wonderful friends helped me paint the kids' faces, we played 'pin the tail on brown bear', had a beanbag toss and had assorted play stations set up. Of course when DJ Daddy turned the music to the Frozen soundtrack, we also had an impromptu performance from many of the little girls in the room. And let me tell you, these girls can really belt out an enthusiastic version of "Let It Go"!
Cupcakes on May 4th!

All in all, each celebration was great, and it was nice to see Lady A really enjoy her birthday, seeming to understand what all the fuss was about this year.

Our littlest girl continues to surprise us every day with her wit, intelligence and the simple fact that she's no longer a baby any more. At 3, she's officially a little girl.

August 23, 2013

kribble the frog

Swimming: an essential skill for any child, as far as I'm concerned. I may not have a perfect swim technique, but I swim well and have always loved being in the water - pools, lakes, oceans - anything goes. Now, I look forward to the day when my kids are strong enough swimmers that we can spend hours in a pool playing Marco Polo, doing underwater handstands, and having cannonball contests. But first come the swimming lessons!

When Lady M was 3 1/2, she took her first independent swim class at the rec centre near our house. She was excited to take the class, but when it came to the end she hadn't passed. According to her water stained report card, she was unwilling to splash water on her face, and put her face into the water. Fair enough; these seem like essential skills to demonstrate before graduating from Splash A to Splash B.

Rather than stick her right into another class, we gave her some time to practice these skills in the bathtub and in the pool when we went swimming as a family. Slowly her confidence grew, and our little lady was happily sticking her face in the water, blowing bubbles and splashing herself (and her sister) in the face. However, with all of the other extracurricular activities happening in our world suddenly more than a year had passed.

This spring, we signed her back up for Splash A to try once again, and in a few short weeks she had breezed through the class, splashing and kicking all the way to Splash B. Though we're not on the pool deck to observe the lessons (rather, we're behind the glass, watching from afar) it's clear they spend a good amount of class time singing songs. With these merry tunes stuck in her head, Lady M would come home singing them.

Her best song reiteration was "dunk, dunk went Kribble the frog one day, dunk dunk went Kribble the frog". Yes, it was meant to be Kermit, but my child of the new millenium is unfamiliar with the fabulousness of Jim Henson and all his muppets.

Unlike I did, Lady M isn't spending part of her youth watching The Muppet Show, or Muppet Babies, so has never heard of Kermit, Miss Piggy or the Swedish Chef. No, to my sweet little four year old, "Kribble" is just some frog who likes to dunk himself in the water. Maybe this Christmas we'll pull out The Muppet Christmas Carol, or introduce her to the updated movie with Jason Segel & Amy Adams. But for now, we'll just stick to Kribble.

Over the last two weeks, we put Lady M into the boot camp of swimming lessons, with a lesson every night for 9 weekdays straight. Getting home, eating an express early-bird dinner, getting changed and to the pool by 6pm each night was a brutal, frustrating, delightful challenge to say the least. Little Lady A wanted to watch her big sister swim too, so the whole family would pile in the car and rush, scramble, head to the pool each night for her half hour lesson. As one other parent said to me, it was basically a swimming boot camp, but 9 days later my little lady collected her report card, complete with Splash B sticker, and instruction to sign up for Splash C next.

Lately she's been telling us that she wants to complete every level and become a lifeguard when she's bigger, which I think is great. But, one step at a time. For now, she and Kribble will just move along to Splash C...

August 18, 2013

camp chronicles : my list of awesome

Each summer at camp I teach a leadership program for teenagers; it's the most wonderful week for so many reasons, but one of them is simply because I get to spend so much time chatting with my two co-coaches, Rene & Trish. The three of us have been teaching this program together for 13 years, and it's just so easy now. We have a vast repertoire of lesson plans and activities to pull from, and change and adapt our delivery each year depending on the group that we're working with. But one of my favourite things is just the things that we talk about after each session, or as we paddle out on the lake on our annual canoe trip.
One of the (many, many) things we chatted about this year is The Book of Awesome. It's been around for a bit now, and you've likely read it, or are at least familiar with it. It's just as simple as it sounds: a book of things that are simply awesome.

On that note, I've decided to put together a little list of awesome - things that we talked about over the week, or the things that are simple reminders of how special it is to get to spend this week with my little family each year. Read on for my 2013 Camp List of Awesome... 

  • Snuggling in the bunk beds with Lady A & Lady M
  • Canoe trips
  • Lady A calling the cabin "our new home"
  • Unbridled energy and enthusiasm of the counsellors, campers, coaching staff and families
  • Morning dew on your toes while walking to breakfast
  • Lake water
  • Lady M's impromptu dance performances
  • Kids riding around on bikes & trikes
  • Reconnecting with old friends
  • The beautiful waterlilies on Long Lake 
  • Simplicity
  • The coaches' dance
  • Not having to cook breakfast, lunch or dinner
  • Rainbow headbands, legwarmers and armbands
  • Developing future counsellors 
  • Spending time with teenagers from whom I learn the new 'hip' lingo... 
  • My summer tan
  • Living in comfy clothes and flip flops
  • The annual badminton tournament
  • Puddle jumping on rainy days
  • Breathtaking sunsets
  • Family fun
  • Memories that last a lifetime... 
This list could absolutely go on for ages...now I understand how Neil Pasricha has easily filled two books!