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 I understand how Neil Pasricha has easily filled two books! 

    camp chronicles: future olympian

    Last week my family packed up our car and a spacious, rented U-Haul trailer and headed off for what is traditionally my favourite week of the year: camp! For four years I was a camper there, and for four years after that I worked as part of the summer staff, spending eleven sun-filled, enthusiastic and life-changing weeks there. Now, after 19 years, I still return for just one brief week each summer and get the chance to re-live part of my youth, but I get to have my family in tow making it just a little sweeter.

    So with the SUV packed full of clothes, food and toys, and a trailer filled with bedding, bikes, wagons, a ride-on car and other assorted activities, we were off. Two very excited little girls, a dad with impeccable packing skills, a mum ready to go to one of her favourite places in the world, and a cabin awaiting our arrival.

    Last summer at camp I had to deal with one of my biggest fears: mice. (You can read about the experience here in 'camp chronicles: mouse in the house'). Now, if you're all up to speed, I'm happy to report that the mouse didn't return this year (or he was sufficiently trapped in the walls of the cabin thanks to Cal's handyman skills), so I slept a little more soundly each night, with a sky full of bright stars above me, the fresh, northern Ontario air blowing through the cabin and the girls safely tucked in their bunks.

    This year, at 4 1/2 years old, Lady M decided that she was going to take part in Dance camp; one of the many camp options that particular week. On the first night, she got all dressed to dance, and off she went to the Rec Hall where the camp is held.

    I'm told that she was right into the action, sitting up front with the counsellors (rather than the campers), offering a detailed introduction of herself, including telling her fellow campers about her dog who was staying "at my mum's mum's house", and participating happily in the session.

    Happily, that is, until her coach mentioned that it was 7:30pm. The session runs each night from 6:30-8:30pm, but as soon as Lady M heard the announcement that it was 7:30pm she told everyone that she HAD to get back to the cabin, because that was her bedtime. She was very determined that she needed to get back, apparently abiding by her bedtime more than she every has before! With some creative problem solving from the awesome coach who convinced her for the next hour that it "wasn't QUITE 7:30pm", Lady M stayed until the end and danced her little heart out.

    She was super happy after session, but after that decided not to go back. She never gave much of an explanation, but we finally learned on the last day of camp that the reason she didn't return to dance was because it was just too long! Granted, it did wipe her out for about 2 days, but she could've gone for 1/2 hour or 1 hour if we'd known. But that's ok - if she'd spent every session in dance she may not have had the opportunity to develop her new athletic love: badminton.

    Badminton is another session option at camp the week we're there, and Lady M was very curious about the game, and desperately wanted to grab a racquet and birdie and learn to play. With a couple quick lessons from the wonderful badminton gurus, she was striking each birdie with conviction! By Thursday she was so in love with her new past-time that Cal had to take her into the Canadian Tire in town and get her her very own lovely teal badminton racquet and a tube of birdies. He talked her down from the $50 racquet, and I'm sure she slept with her new $10 one under her pillow for the remainder of the week. She woke up asking the play, and went to sleep dreaming about her place on the Olympic Team for the 2024 Summer Games.

    Like her big sister, Little Lady A couldn't get enough of camp, and while she enjoyed a little bit of badminton herself, truthfully I think she just enjoyed the freedom...and all the toys that the U-Haul brought to camp. For the first time she was in control of the ride-on car, and she hit the pedal and drove all over the place in that little red jeep! When she wasn't driving the jeep she was riding her bike, pushing her dolls in the stroller or just simply running in the wide open fields. Really, what more can you ask for when you're two?!

    When the day arrived to leave camp, both girls were rather vocal about not wanting to go, but the exhausting week made it hard for them to protest too much. Lady M keeps asking when we get to go back, keeps singing camp songs and is already making plans for next summer. And when we pulled in the driveway at home last Saturday night, Lady A re-buckled her seatbelt and said 'no - I go back to cabin!' Clearly she would've stayed a little longer too...

    So I must admit, I love seeing my family up there enjoying the place that has always been so special to me. Getting to spend a week among amazing friends and people who we really see just once a year, but who are like extended family, is the best. And seeing the happiness in my kids with each new discovery they make confirms for me that we'll be going back year after year for a long time...

    April 13, 2013

    the big girl bed

    Tonight my little Lady A is snug as a bug in her new big girl bed, but the day did not go down in history as just a simple transition; nope, she added a little spice to the day to make it extra memorable for all of us...

    In less than three weeks Lady A will be celebrating her second birthday, and having gone from a little girl who was ridiculously easy to put to bed at night, to one who cried unless you stayed with her until she was completely out, we decided the time had come to move into a big girl bed.

    We had been storing a queen size mattress at my parents' house for some time now, so thought we should pick that up and get her little girl room set up. Yes, I did say queen size mattress. That may seem like a bit much for a 28 pound child, but my girls are both in them now because they just happened to be the mattresses we owned. The queen offers an extra buffer before they'll fall out of bed too, which is always good!

    Anyway, we had planned to go pick up the mattress later this afternoon, after nap. But, in a ironic little twist of fate, Lady A chose to make her final sleep in her crib the most memorable. I put her down, and she was crying a little, so I went downstairs to have a peek at her on the monitor while she settled. However, I didn't even have an opportunity to turn the monitor on before I heard the giant THUD from the floor above me; Lady A had gotten her leg up high enough to dive right out of her crib. In about 2.5 seconds I flew up the stairs and into her room, checking on my little girl who was laying on her back and crying. Thankfully, apart from a bit of a sore hand, her big jump had a relatively soft landing. It scared the heck out of me, but all was well.

    So I scooped her up cuddled my little munchkin to sleep before laying her back in her crib for her final 'baby' nap. This afternoon we set up her big bed in her room, and she is now peacefully slumbering in it tonight. A successful transition so far!

    With her growing vocabulary, increasingly expressive manner, growing independence and now her real bed, my baby is growing up so quickly! I'll always remember the day she moved into her big girl bed, both because of her nose dive out of the crib, but also because of how sweet and small she looks laying on her big mattress.


    March 25, 2013

    move over, mary poppins

    Medicine + Lady M = nightmare.

    About a month ago Lady M came down with a bladder infection that had to be looked after with antibiotics, and oh what a challenge. My poor little girl was rather uncomfortable, and after a trip to the doctor, she knew that medicine was in her future. And we're not talking about penicillin (aka. banana medicine - your childhood favourite, and mine!), my little girl had to take a fruit-flavoured liquid concoction.

    Night one was a success - she took her spoonful of medicine like a champ, no issue at all. The next morning, however, was a completely different story. Though she told me 'it didn't taste so bad' on night one, a mere 12 hours later she was telling a new tale. Judging from her reaction, overnight it had begun to taste like a mixture of marmite and arsenic. It  eventually went with her to daycare that morning, and our wonderful caregiver convinced her to take it somewhere along the way.

    That night I thought I'd be clever, and I mixed the "horrible" medicine in with a small bowl of chocolate pudding. She couldn't taste it at all, but feeling the need to be an honest mummy, I fessed up to what I'd done. At first she thought it was great, declaring "I can't taste it at all!" But, the novelty soon wore off, and she gave up on the pudding.

    The next 10 days presented a series of battles, creative thinking and clever hiding places. Because Murphy's Law is always right, on the second day of the Medicine Escapades Cal had to head to Florida, leaving me to fight the medicine battle all alone for the next week. That weekend we visited my parents and they were privy to a very long standoff between Lady M and I as I tried to reason with her and convince her to take the fruity medicine. For the record, reasoning did not work with my little four-year-old this time around. She is a clever grasshopper.

    The situation required a new solution, and I had to channel my creative thinking skills and really find ways to mask the taste in foods she was already consuming. And though Mary Poppins sings its praises, I wasn't prepared to give my little lady a spoonful of sugar. I did, however, mask the medicine in maple syrup and cranberry juice quite well. And I had learned my lesson: sometimes you can't be Honest Mummy; being a little deceitful was much more effective in this case.

    In the end, Lady M got her 7-day course of medicine into her, and her bladder infection cleared up. I can't help but wonder though, with all the amazing discoveries that have been made to date, how can antibiotics not have been made into a little dinosaur-shaped gummy or a clear, tasteless powder that can covertly be sprinkled on food?

    Seems simple to me, and I'm sure Mary Poppins would agree!

    January 6, 2013

    life of crime: follow up

    As a follow-up to last night's blog post, and in case anyone feared that I had not yet overcome my youthful theft antics, please see the photo below. I'm happy to report that I returned to the scene of the crime today and paid a whopping $8.98 for the little radio.

    The nice girls at Indigo thanked me for my honesty, and we briefly traded stories of accidental theft. It seems that Lady M and I are not alone!!

    Have a good night!

    January 5, 2013

    and so begins a life of crime...

    I need to share something that may shock you, especially those of you who know me well. But, I think the time has come and I need to come clean. Here it is: when I was five, I began a life of crime. Petty theft to be exact. And as of today, I fear my oldest daughter may be following in my troublesome footsteps...

    Allow me to take you to my kindergarten room. The year was 1986ish and I spent every day in my classroom that was filled with toys, a piano and chattering children. One day I went to my cubby at the back of the room where we kept our recess snacks. I reached for mine but the vast cubby was empty; no granola bar that I had been eagerly anticipating. Apparently I had a grumbling stomach because at that moment I made the choice to reach into a different cubby, near mine I presume, and take the unassuming homemade peanut butter cookies that sat there waiting for another child.

    When peanut butter cookie boy (PBCB) went for his snack, sadly, he found that his succulent goodies had been taken from right under his nose. He promptly told our teacher, who then asked the class if anyone knew what happened to said cookies, and all of the class shook their head 'no'. I shook my head the same way, keeping my deep, dark secret to myself.

    That night I went home and told my mum that someone had stolen PBCB's cookies. "That's terrible", she said to me in her best mum voice. "Who would do such a thing?!" "I have no idea", came my weak reply. So weak, in fact, that I promptly burst into tears, and between sobs confessed my crime to my mum. "It was me! I stole PBCB's cookies".

    So my mum did what any good parent would do and made me call up PBCB to firstly apologize for my wrongdoing. Then, I was told I must ask him what his favourite cookie was. That night she and I baked a batch of homemade peanut butter cookies and took them to him the next day at school, a clear apology for my bad behaviour. I had surely learned my lesson, my guilty conscience making me feel like a terrible person.

    And you'd think I'd tell you that I never did it again...but that would be a lie.

    Two years later, now seven years old, I'd had a clean record since the great cookie heist of '86. I was with my mum and brother and we were heading to a little delicatessen that we often went to in our town. After collecting our groceries we headed for the checkout where they had a large jar of small candies and gummies with a clear sign that read something to the effect of "Take Only One Candy, Kristin". As you may have guessed, I covertly took a couple of extras.

    Driving home in the car my brother looked into the backseat where I was and said "Mum! Why is Kristin still chewing? How many candies did you take???", disdain (and jealousy) evident in his 10-year-old voice; guilt rising up in my chest. When mum peeked back to see that I had obviously taken more candies than the one that I was supposed to, she once again led me down lesson lane. She immediately turned the car around and headed straight back to the delicatessen, took me inside to the cash and asked me to apologize to the woman for taking more than my appropriate candy allotment. I apologized, and my mum offered to pay for the others.

    Now here's the kicker - the woman said ok, and made my mum pay 10 cents per candy! 40 cents later we were out the door again, and I had paid my debt. Well, mum had. In all honesty, I always imagined that they had my head shot up in that little bakery so staff could easily identify me in case I ever returned. I didn't return until I was in my early twenties.

    And that's truly the end of my early path of crime. I have never taken anything again in my life, and in fact, I have the most guilty conscience of all time. If I so much as feel like I said something that may have slightly offended someone I just feel terrible. Now perhaps I'm a bit too sensitive, but I like to think that I'm instilling my post-seven-year-old morals into my two children. However that was drawn into question this afternoon.

    We had a birthday party to attend for my friend's daughter today, and being the self-professed procrastinators that we are, Cal and Lady M headed out to pick up the birthday present at Indigo near our house while I packed up everything we needed with Lady A at my side. After traipsing around the store, getting what they needed and paying (yes, paying), Cal and Lady M headed back to the hockey store where Lady M's new skates were being sharpened. (Did I mention it was a skating party?) As they headed to the next store Lady M said "oh no! Daddy, I forgot I had this!". Enter: the stolen radio, clutched in her little hand.
    It's probably about three inches wide, and two inches tall, and my little lady walked right on out of the store with it. Oops! Thankfully, she quickly told her daddy about her mistake, but as I mentioned we had procrastinated a slight bit and were due to leave immediately for the birthday party. This is why I have a picture of the offending radio. They didn't have time to go back and return it, so that's on my agenda for tomorrow.

    So I don't think she's really headed for a life of crime, and I'm clearly not since I'm planning to return it as soon as the store opens again, but I hope you will heed my tale. Don't's bad.

    Clearly that moral has been well ingrained in my head. Thanks Mum.

    January 4, 2013

    cutting the curls

    This week my baby girl, Lady A, hit her 20-month 'birthday'. She has a vocabulary that is growing by the minute - baby, mine, no, mama, da-yee (daddy), up, more, bum, bubbles and "ho ho ho" being some of her favourite right now. She's starting to string small sentences together - mine baby, no gaga (our dog, Dakota) more bubbles mum (for the show Bubble Guppies) and juice peas! With her combination of sign language and vocabulary she's starting to communicate really well.

    She thinks she is absolutely hilarious, and she truly is. She makes us laugh all the time with her silly faces, extended games of peek-a-boo and her endless laughter. For a little one her age she has hit all the appropriate milestones. But, there was one big thing we've been holding out on - her first haircut.

    You see, my little Lady A has these beautiful curls and as a mum with straight hair I'm completely hesistant to cut them for fear that her hair might lose all it's natural bounce and turn straight. But, I knew the time had come - she was getting a little shaggy all over, and I've always felt terribly for girls whose baby pictures look like they had a genuine mullet. I swore when I had my first daughter that I wouldn't have a baby girl with a mullet!

    Lady M had her first haircut when she was about 366 days old, immediately after her first birthday becuase her straight locks were quickly heading the way of the mullet. However, I let Lady A go quite a bit longer. But this week we bit the bullet and took her to the salon for her first trim. Thankfully, I trust our family stylist 100% and knew that she would ensure some curls stuck around.

    So here's the before hair; a little shaggy, with her beautiful auburn curls:

    And here's the after, all trimmed up!

    In truth, it doesn't look terribly different! The curls are all still in tact, she just looks a little tidier; still cute as a button.

    We've made it through one more milestone, and Lady A sat in the chair like a champ. (She had a little coaching from her big sister who showed her where to sit, the dinosaur cape she'd be wearing, and how the chair swiveled, of course!)

    So, my little sweetie is all trimmed up, and I'm happy that we finally had it done. Onto the next milestone!