September 29, 2012

miss manners

I wholeheartedly believe in instilling proper manners in my daughters. I am a big fan of both 'please' and 'thank you', and believe that there is nothing sweeter than a child with nice, genuinely good manners. I like to think that Lady M even remembers to say these little pleasantries without prompting when I'm not around.

When I moved to Sweden for school I was completely taken aback when I learned that there is no direct translation for the word 'please' in the Swedish language. WHAT?! It was one of the first words, after 'hello' (hej), 'goodbye' (hejdo) and 'thank you' (tack) that I felt I had to learn in my newly acquired home. So, imagine my surprise when I learned this news. How would I communicate? How would I express my manners to people I came in contact with?

Well, I supposed I could hold doors for people when entering or exiting a room or building, right? That was a nice idea, in theory. In fact, Swedes find it rude when you hold the door for them because somehow you are robbing them of their general life liberties. So, I couldn't say 'please', I couldn't hold doors...what was left?! Well, traveling to countries where manners were valued, and not stressing about it when I was in Sweden, that's what was left. And that's how I dealt with it.

In any case, back to present day. Tonight Lady M and I went to the Pita Pit to pick up some dinner. It was a no-cooking-kind-of-night, and the pitas just across the road beckoned. Off we went, and we worked our way along the counter, placing our order, then selecting our vegetables, cheese and sauce. Lady M indicated each of her desired toppings, then politely said "thank you" to the young girl behind the counter. The Pita Pit girl didn't hear her, so Lady M politely said it again. "Thank you!" came her sweet little voice, but because of the glass separating them, and her sometimes rather soft voice, she couldn't be heard.

She tried one last polite little time to say thank you to the kind girl who had loaded the peppers, cucumbers and cheese into her whole wheat pita, and kindly put the tzatziki in a little container on the side, to no avail. Apparently she didn't like the fact that she didn't get a response because the next thing I heard out of her well mannered little voice, was "HEY LADY! I SAID THANK YOU!"

I almost fell over. The girl seemed to look up and giggle a little, but I'm not totally sure whether she heard that comment either. But, I did my best to contain my laughter while letting Lady M know that she really didn't need to say something like that. Just one thank you would do the trick.

So, perhaps you can go a little too far with the whole manners thing, but I still believe in them. And I want my girls to believe in them too...we'll just have to work on when to stop saying thank you.

September 10, 2012

giving blood : a virgin tale

I have always felt compelled to donate blood. I'm not entirely sure why, but it has always just seemed important to me. I used to walk past blood donor clinics when  I was in university thinking "I should give blood". Then, years later, I would see signs at the College where I work and think "I should give blood". But, I just never have.

Last year, for my 30th birthday, I created a list of 30 Things I want to do - outlining both long and short term goals for myself. In that list of 30, I identified a number of goals that I wanted to complete this year, specifically. One was to give blood. With my birthday quickly approaching, this was one goal that was lingering on my list, and I was determined to meet my deadline. I set an appointment for Saturday, September 8th.

I arrived to the Canadian Blood Services office to be greeted by a very friendly woman, welcoming me and thanking me for taking the time to donate. Upon learning that this was the first time I was donating blood, she gave me a sticker identifying me as a 'newbie'; I was to wear it on my shirt. After a brief wait, I was summoned by the first nurse who checked my iron levels to ensure I was okay to give that day. Three points above what was needed, I was cleared. Onto the next station where I had to enter a 'privacy booth' and fill out a short questionnaire.

Following that, my next stop was to visit nurse number two, a very friendly blonde woman with a warm smile. She led me into a private room where she took my blood pressure and temperature, and then proceeded to ask me a number of more personal questions ensuring I was right for a donation.

This particular nurse asked me what made me decide to donate blood, and I told her about my list of goals. On my form she could see that my birthday was just 8 days away, and said something that struck me. "Wow, what a great birthday present", she said. "And even better, your blood will likely be infused into someone on your actual birthday, allowing them to have another birthday". Well, if I wasn't happy to be doing this already, I certainly was now.

Before I left that private room, the nurse handed me a piece of paper containing two stickers, one labelled 'yes', the other 'no' on the page, but containing only a barcode on the actual sticker. The nurse explained to me that I could choose one or the other, and place it on my donor form when she left the room. Once the sticker was taken off that page, there was no way to tell which I had chosen, just a barcode that would be scanned after my blood was taken to be processed. The nurse informed me that this was for people who knew for some reason that their blood should not be used, but enabled them to go through the process without fear of stigma. For example, they have a number of workplace groups who come through, and it allows a staff member to go through the motions of donating, but perhaps having a reason that their blood should not be shared, ensuring that it is never used. I was very impressed with that option.

So, I placed my 'yes' sticker on my form, and moved along to the next stop on my donor journey: the actual donation! Laying in a relatively comfortable bed, the next nurse came to greet me and ask me which arm I would like to use. I chose my right, seeing as Lady A likes to be carried on my left side, and we were off to the races. It took me only 7 minutes to complete the one-pint donation, and it felt like mere moments as I was chatting with the people around me, and the nurse looking after me. There was music playing, tv's on, smiling people and friendly staff making the whole environment seem very civil and casual.

I had to hang out in my bed for a few more minutes than the seasoned donors; thanks to my newbie sticker, they wanted to make sure that I was ok, not feeling faint or nauseous. I had a delicious apple juice drink box delivered to me and instructed to drink it while still there. I felt great; both physically and emotionally. Once I convinced them I was ok, I was off to the refreshment station where I chatted with some lovely volunteers who were there to fetch juice, speak with people and to complete the already pleasant experience. Of course they're keeping their eye out for fainters, bleeders, etc., but thankfully I wasn't one of them. As I sipped my apple juice I decided that one of the best perks of the experience were the guilt-free oreos I ate!

One of the sweet volunteers brought me a first-time donor pin, and a pin pad where I can collect my pins moving forward, should I choose to give again. I'm told you get another pin on your 3rd, 5th, 10th visit, and so on. I think I'll be quite happy to continue collecting those pins.

You can donate blood every 56 days, so I have already scheduled my second appointment for the first weekend in November. Now that I have taken the uncertainty out of the experience, and finally taken the leap to give my first donation, I know that I'll be doing it again.

waterproof mascara

We made it through week one, and my budding scholar has had a great first week of school. Wondering how it all went? Well, I’ll tell you!

On Tuesday we went and met the teacher, an hour-long orientation that was geared toward showing the children their classroom, their cubby, washroom and various play stations. Ultimately though, it was a chance for me to fill out an immense amount of paperwork.

Her teacher and ECE were both extremely nice, and made the children's environment instantly welcoming (surely putting parents at ease too). The only small glitch is that the school's new kindergarten room is not ready, so Lady M's class will be in the library until at least Thanksgiving. They did a great job of setting up the important spaces though: the sand table, painting station and colouring table, and more was being arranged following the orientation. Lady M happily visited the different stations, colouring a picture for her cubby hole, and then playing at the sand table until it was time to go see the two pre-existing kindergarten rooms.

In the meantime, I sat down at a munchkin-sized table with a couple other mom's to fill out the necessary paperwork. I couldn't help but wonder as I filled out each colourful sheet whether the things I was writing would follow her until the day she graduates high school. What are her greatest strengths? How do you diffuse situations when she gets upset? Is there anything else we should know about your child? I just answered simply and honestly, and refrained from writing "she's super-awesome" in every blank spot.

Cal put it all into perspective for me shortly after our orientation when he said that sending her to kindergarten seems strange because "it's the first time she's out of our control". It's true...every other step of the way Cal and I have been holding the reins, and now we have to put all of our trust into two teachers we don't really know.

On Thursday morning I woke up with a knot in my stomach. My little girl was officially starting Junior Kindergarten.The day had arrived; Along with half of her class, Lady M had to be at school for a full day on Thursday. She woke up excited and full of smiles. Her new runners, change of clothes, and made-with-love lunch were zipped into her backpack, identified clearly by her Mabel's Labels with butterflies on them. I was trying to reassure my nervous self by thinking about all of my friends kids who had made the leap to kindergarten already. They managed, they were ok, and I knew we would manage too.

But, all of that didn't seem to matter when I was already fighting tears and had the sinking feeling that my little girl was growing up; at three years old, she was off to school full-time, five days a week. It was definitely a waterproof-mascara-kind-of-day.

When we arrived at school, Lady M was excited, though clinging tightly to my hand (or maybe I was the one holding on so tightly?). We had decided that just I would take her so she wouldn't  be overwhelmed by also having to say goodbye to her dad and her sister, so it was just she and I. We headed to the kindergarten area to find her class line-up, and she was almost instantly greeted by both of her teachers. Most kids were calmly standing with their parents, or sweetly posing for their first-day pictures, but there were a couple little ones who were having full meltdowns on the blacktop. And since I was already on the verge of tears, they were really bubbling to the surface then as my heart went out to both those children and their parents, silently thankful that my little one was calm. But, I took a deep breath, held back the tears, and just clung to my little lady's hand a little tighter.

When the time came for her to follow her class into the school, she walked in the door and stopped to peek back at me. She then took her teacher's hand and in she went. Calmly, amazingly. It was in the hands of the teachers now, and I walked away from the school just hoping she would have a fabulous day.

That night, when I went to pick her up from daycare I stepped out of the car and her little voice rang out - "Mummy!!! Kindergarten was AWESOME!!" Well, what more could I ask for? She was all smiles, so proud and I was overwhelmed by an amazing sense of relief.

Later on, at home, we were sitting together when Lady M said "Mummy, I don't call it school. I call it school-errific"! Amazing.

So, I think I can confidently say that she had a great first day. She was very tired by the time bedtime rolled around, and soon snuggled into bed. And I was off to packing her lunch for day number two.

September 2, 2012


This spring, Cal and I started playing 3-pitch in a rec league with my brother and a bunch of his friends. Admittedly, we were one of the worst teams in this beer league (aptly named "Team Fun"), but the important part was that we had a great time playing. After more than ten years together, this is the first time Cal and I have played an organized sport together, and it was such a fun opportunity. So much fun, in fact, that when the spring season ended we signed up for the summer session and just kept on playing!

Role modelling is obviously an important job for any parent, and when it comes to physical fitness I wholeheartedly believe in its importance. Seeing Lady M mimic many of our activities in my stroller fit classes this past year demonstrated very clearly to me that it's important to always let my kids see me as an active mum. (She would bring her own yoga mat to class and lay it beside mine; grab one-pound weights to do the weight training; get into a plank position, and race me up and down the gym, just to name a few.) Over the summer, bringing the girls to our softball games on several occasions sparked frequent conversations about baseball.

At daycare she has been introduced to t-ball and that started to add to the conversation we were already having. The other day I popped by my parents house at lunch (I work around the corner from my childhood home) and in my dad's trunk he had two t-ball sets; one blue, one pink. The blue one was heading to my brother's house for my nephew, and the pink one was coming home to entertain my budding t-baller and her lil' sis.

Today we pulled the adorable pink set out of the box, took it out back and started playing. Lady M is a natural, and kept getting better with a little bit of coaching from Cal. (Aside: I told Cal I was having visions of him coaching her future t-ball team; believe me, it'll happen. I have also had visions, though,  of us one day living in a small town, and him being Mayor. But I digress. End of aside.)

Lady M wasn't the only one getting in on the t-ball action today; Lady A (celebrating her 16-month birthday) was certain to get in on the action too. Her technique needs a little work, but she never missed the ball!

However, Lady A may have been a little bit closer to the action than she would have liked when Lady M bopped her square on the left cheek with the big, pink plastic bat. Yikes. That, of course, came right on the heels of the conversation that went something like this: "Lady M, always be sure to check the space around you before swinging the bat to make sure nobody is there!" Lesson learned.

Despite the small altercation, both girls carried on to have a blast hitting balls, playing catch, and as any normal children would, playing with the box it all came in!

When we came back inside, Cal and I did a little research and discovered that there is, in fact, a t-ball league in our town. Even better, it starts at the age of 4, so Lady M will be the perfect age when next summer rolls around. There is still a good eight months between now and then and interests could surely change; So for now, we'll just enjoy our little pink t-ball set. Thanks Grandad!

school days

When you're pregnant with your first child, everyone likes to share the same few pieces of wisdom:
  1. Get your sleep now
  2. You're never going to sleep again
  3. Enjoy every moment - the time passes by in a flash
The first two, I would like to personally guarantee, you'll never catch me saying to any pregnant woman, mother- or father-to-be because I think they're rather ridiculous. You can't possibly bank hours of sleep before a newborn arrives, and eventually sleep will return (though it may be done with one eye open).

But the third statement? Well, the third one is very accurate. 

This week, my sweet little girl, Lady M, will be starting Junior Kindergarten which is really hard to believe. Though she will be on the younger side of the class at only three years old, I have no doubt that she is well prepared for this new adventure. She craves stimulation and knowledge, and somedays I genuinely think she's smarter than me! She flourished in preschool, and I know that she's missed a formalized school environment since graduating from preschool in the spring (in her 'prom dress', as you loyal readers may recall). 

In anticipation of the start of the school year the JK preparations have begun: 

Shopping - of course there are things that need to be picked up before I can send her off to school. Not to mention she is growing like a weed and her existing wardrobe is slowly becoming just a little too short. With a little help from my most fabulous mum, Lady M now has a lovely, growing collection of new clothes and she's going to look very adorable each day when she leaves for school.

In preparing to shop, I asked Lady M what clothes she would be most comfortable in, explaining that she will be playing, sitting on the floor, being active and requiring comfort. So what is it, in the mind of a three year old, that would fulfil this criteria? According to her, "I'm most comfortable in pyjamas mummy!" So, following a brief explanation as to why PJ's wouldn't be the best choice for school, we decided that leggings, cozy skirts and t-shirts are where it's at. 

She also got an awesome new pair of in-class running shoes that will stay in her cubby in the classroom. Oddly enough, she had these exact same shoes when she was around two. I remember being quite sad when she outgrew them and the white slowly faded to gray...I was thrilled when we found the same pair in her current size at Marshalls!

School Supplies - ahh, school supplies. This was, hands-down, always my favourite part of the back-to-school routine, and really, that hasn't changed. Maybe that's why I'm still in school at nearly 31 years old! Ask any of my colleagues (past or present) and they'll tell you that when I open up the Staples catalogue and order myself some new pens, folders or desk organizers, I'm like a kid at Christmas. 

I'm not really sure how many actual school supplies she requires, but a backpack and a lunch bag were a must. Thankfully, The Disney Store was the first shop we entered on our shopping extravaganza, and they had these awesome sets on a great sale. Lady M decided that the purple Tinkerbell set was the one she wanted, and I thought it was a great choice. She's going to look super adorable with her little matching set. (Sorry Ainslie, it's not quite as big as she is, but we tried!)

But, perhaps the most exciting and difficult part of getting ready for school is the Mental Preparation. For me, and for her. Sending your little baby off to school for the first time seems like a big step. When I walked into the parents' meeting at school in the spring I felt far too young to be walking in there as a parent of a school-age child. In many ways Lady M seems so young to be starting school, but like I said, I really have no doubt that she is totally ready. 

She has been asking about 'big girl school' and kindergarten for months now, and has taken to waking every morning to ask "do I get to go to school today?" Though I keep telling her 'not quite yet', full-time school is just four sleeps away now. Her school has just gotten all-day, every-day kindergarten this year, so it will be a new adventure for Lady M and her teachers. At least they're all in it together! 

On Tuesday Cal and I head to the school to have a one-hour meeting with her new teacher, and for Lady M to see her classroom and meet a few classmates. Then Thursday she goes for a full-day with half her class, then as of Friday she'll be there full-time. 

The whole idea of sending my three year old to full-day school seemed ok to me, but there was one moment that really struck me, making me realize the huge life milestone that we have reached. The school Principal was speaking at the aforementioned parents meeting (where I felt like a teenager in a parent's body) and he said "we really like to get to know our families here at X School because you're going to be with us for the next ten years..."

TEN YEARS?! Suddenly this seemed like an immense commitment, and a REALLY long time for them to have my baby! But, I knew the time would come...and I know my sweet little lady is going to flourish. Truth be told, I'm really excited for her. 

So, bring on the milestones: first day of school, first class pictures, first packed lunch, first kindergarten craft, first field trip, first assembly and first report card... I'll get the giant bin ready to house all of the keepsakes.