May 14, 2017

get back on the horse

Lady M takes horseback riding lessons every Saturday morning. Riding since this past September, she has really taken a liking to it and is incredibly respectful of these large animals, taking great care of them as she tacks and grooms, and genuinely enjoying her lesson every time she rides. Each week, she rotates between about 3 different horses, and had a chance to ride the pony one day as well.

Lady M - riding the pony at the barn
She talks about horses all the time, reads about them every chance she gets, and is constantly learning as much as she can. She's excited to try out horseback riding camp for the first time this summer, and frequently talks about getting a horse of her own. (I've gently let her know that she's welcome to get one when she's an adult!)

I'm always been a little leery of horses, knowing they are much, much larger than my little 8 1/2 year old - well, bigger than everyone who rides them, of course. But my little girl looks so small when she's on them.

So, you can imagine how small she looked last weekend as her horse - on it's first lap around the arena - all of a sudden decided to lower down onto her belly while my daughter was riding - certainly not a common occurrence in her lessons.

Lady M had the good sense to quickly remove her feet from the stirrups, and jump off as the horse lowered itself to the ground and began to roll toward Lady M who was pushed up against the arena wall. Thankfully, before she rolled too far, the horse took off and began cantering around the arena, relishing in her riderless freedom. I stood there, frozen, unable to help, but was grateful to the one helper who was in the ring who swiftly helped Lady M up and brought her into the centre of the arena, while the other girl in her lesson was quickly taken off her horse, and they tried to catch the rogue horse. They caught her, and immediately led her out of the arena then walked my quivering little girl over to me. The whole thing probably took about 45 seconds to a minute, but I've never felt so helpless.

Lady M crawled gently into my lap and cried very softly, clearly shaken from what had transpired. I was trying to keep myself together, though was fighting back tears, of course.

Although given the option of riding another horse, she chose not to get back on that day. Instead, she just wanted to stay close to her mum. Truth is, I didn't want to let her go either. After a short time and opportunity to relax, she decided that she just wanted to get home and get cleaned up since she was covered in dirt from head to toe, and her boots were full of it too.

Upon chatting afterwards, I learned that she was most upset because she thought she had done something wrong to make the horse behave like that. I assured her that she had done everything perfectly - as her teacher had shared before we left - and she seemed a little more relaxed, the colour returning to her face.

Following a nice, warm shower, Cal and Lady A called on their way home from her gymnastics class. Lady M shared that "there was a little incident" in her riding class, but had turned it around at that point, telling her Dad what had happened and already discussing which horse she would ride next week.

She has recovered well from it, and wasn't hurt at all which is most important. Yesterday she went back to the barn for her lesson and did extremely well - her confidence unshaken, she had a great ride.

Way to get back on the horse, Lady M!

this is 6!

Recently, our littlest lady celebrated her 6th birthday...that's right, she needs two hands now to show us how old she is! What happened to my little baby? Getting ready to graduate kindergarten and start grade one french immersion in the fall, our youngest girl is no longer a baby.

Because all good things come back around, Lady A has fallen in love with Care Bears this past year. Basically a throwback to my own childhood in the 80's where I had plenty of Care Bears, she has now started a fresh, new, colourful collection.

Her birthday was on a Tuesday this year, so we began the day bright and early with a couple of presents before heading off to school. We had chosen a rainbow dress for her to wear, and had wrapped it up the night before with a new headband so she'd have a sparkly new outfit to wear on her special day. When she opened it, she loved it...but there was just one problem. The sales clerk hadn't removed the security tag from the dress. So, rather than let it appear as though we stole her birthday present, I quickly grabbed another gift that I knew had more clothes in it and we were all good!

That day when I picked her up from school, she was SUPER excited and practically yelling as she told me all about her day. Turns out that she had "happy birthday " sung to her numerous times....once by me in the morning, then by her before-school group, then by her class, and once again in her after-care program. As she loudly shared the details of her day, we drove over to Lady M's school to pick her up.

When we walked in the room, Lady M declared "you're here early!", to which the little one replied (loudly) "BECAUSE IT'S MY BIRTHDAY!". Well, that was all we needed for Lady M's after-care group to launch into the 5th rendition of "happy birthday" that Lady A had received that day. She was glowing with happiness.

That evening, we had family over for dinner. The week before I had questioned Lady A as to what she wanted to have for her bday dinner, to which she replied "grilled cheese". Not the fanciest of options, but hey - you only turn 6 once! So for the evening Cal and I had purchased and prepared numerous grilled cheese toppings - ham, turkey, bacon, tomato, guacamole, sauteed onions and peppers, numerous types of cheese and bread - so we could have a 'gourmet' grilled cheese bar. Everyone received a menu upon arrival, and chose their favourite topping combination which was then made to order by the short order cook (me)!

And for the record...should you ever need to make grilled cheese for a crowd, did you know that you can do them in the oven? Yup - it's brilliant. I was cooking 9 grilled cheese sandwiches at a time, and they turned out perfectly!

The day was capped off with homemade chocolate cupcakes, and - you guessed it - one more rendition of Happy Birthday, which brought the day's singing total to 6. Six times on her sixth birthday made for one very happy (and very sleepy) 6-year old.

That weekend, we continued the celebration with 10 little girls at the house, and a Care Bears themed party. The girls played "pin the tummy on the Care Bear", we had rainbow coloured everything, assorted games, prizes and the piece de resistance - our face painter!

We hired a face painter to come to the house, and he was amazing. He did these beautiful, high-quality paintings on each of the girls' faces and they were super excited.

Overall, I think Lady A had a great birthday week, and has had a great start to being 6.

playing catch up - winter 2017

This winter has been filled with travels for both Cal and I. I kicked off the year by heading to Denver for a conference in January, which was fantastic. As someone who is typically developing and delivering learning sessions of all kinds, it was sooooo nice to sit back and just be a learner. I soaked up my three days there, and enjoyed my first trip to Colorado, though I didn't get to travel much beyond the hotel. Of course I was there just days after Trump's inauguration which made for an interesting time to travel to the States. But that's probably a story for another day! 

At the beginning of February, I also got to hop on a plane to Vancouver for a quick wedding weekend! Much of my dad's family - including my mum, dad, brother and sister in law - were in attendance as my cousin was married in a lovely winter ceremony. Of course, we choose only to come to town at the most exciting times, and Vancouver was experiencing their biggest snowstorm in years, shattering many snowfall records seen in their history. For us Ontarians, the snow was pretty minimal, but it makes you appreciate the city services we have in place for snow removal! It sure made for some stunning wedding pictures though! More importantly, we had the majority of our cousins together for the first time in years. I was only in town for about 48 hours, but I soaked up every minute with the cousins who I adore, and just wish that I was able to see more frequently. 

A couple weeks later, it was Cal's turn to hop on a plane, when he headed off on his annual Daytona 500 trip. He certainly didn't experience any snowfall, and instead enjoyed a week of fun in the sun with the other side of my family! The girls and I held down the fort while - I assume - he drank beer, attended races, hung with my family, drank beer, drove fast cars and drank a little more beer. A well deserved mini-vacation for my hard-working mister. 
In April, Cal was off once again to spend Easter weekend in Calgary with one of his oldest friends and his family. Living multiple provinces apart means that we don't see these friends as often as we'd like, so it was such a nice opportunity for him to go visit, and spend time with D, Katie and their three sweet little kiddos. While most of the time was spent in Calgary, he and D also took a 3-hour detour for a night in Edmonton to see John Mayer on his recent tour.

I'll try to stay away from mentioning my favourite story from his Calgary trip - the one where Cal left for his flight that first morning and called me just before 6am from his airport gate to let me know he'd lost his wallet...and his keys. Thankfully, he was flying out of the Hamilton airport, so the girls and I hopped in the car and saved the day with his spare set of keys that opened the truck where his wallet had fallen out. After holding up the plane, he hopped on and made his way to Calgary... but right, I'll stay away from mentioning that. :) 

Now it's May and we're staying put a little bit more! The boat is out of storage, and once it actually warms up around here, we are so ready to get it out for a ride. Lady M has the countdown on until the last day of school, and I'm looking forward to getting through the push to the end of the school year, and taking a little time off over the summer to spend with my fam. 

playing catch up - fall 2016

Well, talk about falling behind in my blogging duties! It seems I haven't written in nearly a year, which is just crazy seeing as there has been no shortage of stories and happenings in our little world...but it just goes to show how time really does fly. With a summer filled with boating, vacation time and another visit to our camp, September was quickly upon us. So, let's play a little catch up, beginning with the fall of 2016:

Starting School 
In September my beautiful girls began another year of school with Lady M heading off to Grade 3 and her little sister, Lady A, making her way into the trenches of Senior Kindergarten. Lady M began on the Tuesday after Labour Day and was quite excited about the teacher and classmates she had. Her happiness lasted just one month before school numbers forced some reorganization within the school and she found herself moved into a grade 2/3 split class with a teacher whom she feared quite a lot. It seemed that the change wasn't working so well for her, and my little girl was coming home in tears most days which was absolutely heartbreaking to Cal and I. So, with my parent advocate hat on, I paid a visit to the school, had a great meeting with her teacher and things have only looked up since then. She's had a great year so far...even now that the dreaded EQAO testing is on the horizon. (Provincial-wide testing required in grade 3 for those of you reading outside of Ontario!).

Lady A didn't begin school until the Wednesday after Labour Day which meant she had one whole extra day of summer. Lady M had distinct memories of her extra day she had before beginning SK and recalled that she got to spend the day with her Daddy and visit Marineland. Of course she shared this information with her younger sister, who was SUPER excited that she - naturally - would get this special treatment too! So off she and Cal went to enjoy their father-daughter day (and they had a blast!). Lady A began SK the next day, and while she's very ready to move onto the bigger challenges that grade one will bring, she's had a great year. She loves to take on leadership roles with the younger kids in the class (who are we kidding - she leads the older ones too). When I went in for parent observation in the fall, two little girls (both in JK) were sitting with Lady A and I at the round table and one told me "Lady A is so nice. She always helps me when I need it" - completely melting this mama's heart. Then the other one piped up to add "Lady A always helps me too!". Awwww.

Country Livin'
Ladies M&A watching the Horse Pull at the Fair
Since moving to our new house, we are completely embracing our 'country livin'' lifestyle. Where we live may not be true country to most people, but to us city kids, we basically live in the sticks. (Just ask my brother, who basically thinks I've moved to northern Sweden). We even had a wild turkey run in front of our car the other day when we were heading somewhere; and that happened right near the tractor yes, I'd say we're kickin' it country style!

One of our favourite events this fall was heading to the Fair in our town...complete with rickety rides that look like they're going to fall apart, a demolition derby (Cal and the girls went to this!), a goat show and the horse pull which my girls watched with rapt attention! And one of the best parts, is that it's all just a 3 minute walk from our house.

We have also managed to move many of the girls lessons really close to home. Lady M began horseback riding this year, and the barn is just 5 minutes away. She is absolutely loving it - she seems so grown up and responsible when she's around the horses, and has taken to riding like a complete natural. She also started ballet for the first time, and the dance studio is one-minute from our home. Truthfully, I always thought ballet would bore the heck out of her, but after watching her dance a lyrical number at camp this past summer, I was converted. She absolutely loves her ballet class, appreciates the amount of french words in this style of dance, and pirouettes around our house all day long.

So, it would seem that country livin' is treating us quite well.

A Marrying Muffy 
Over Thanksgiving weekend, I happily hopped a plane to Vancouver, then continued on to the small town of Prince George in Northern BC where my beautiful friend Ashley lives. Visiting PG for the first time, Ashley and her fiance Jason showed me around and gave me a chance to see a little bit of their lifestyle after hearing about it for many years.

On my second day there, the three of us hopped in a car and enjoyed a four hour ride to Jasper, Alberta taking in the beautiful scenery along the way. I was over the moon to be her only guest, and maid of honour, at a picturesque wedding in Jasper that weekend. Between rock slides, autumn snowfall, changed flights and countless stories, my best friend married the man of her dreams in a beautiful cabin in the mountains, and we toasted the happy couple at the Jasper Brewing Company for their reception. Now, that's the way to spend Thanksgiving!

8 is Great!
In November, my beautiful oldest girl celebrated her 8th birthday. Seeming more grown up by the minute, we hosted a party for several of her friends where they had the chance to do crafts, decorate cupcakes, play games and just enjoy each other's company. The theme was Harry Potter, and we had a blast putting everything together to somehow recognize her current favourite book. It was Lady M's first birthday in our new house and we had  great time.

Just a few days before, Lady M and I had taken a piping class at our local Michaels store - learning the finer techniques of piping icing onto cakes and cupcakes. The class was just $10 each - a real steal! Having signed up weeks in advance, as they day drew closer, I was fearful that I didn't have all of the cake decorating supplies we needed. So, the morning of the class, I called the store to confirm whether I needed to bring any additional items. The person on the phone said "didn't you get the list when you registered?" Ummm, no. I did not. He then began to rattle off the looooong list of items that Lady M and I required...oh, and we'd need two of everything of course.

So, thanks to the recommendation of a good friend, we learned that the Wilton items were much less expensive at Wal-Mart, so off we went. Well over $100 later, we had everything we needed - so much for that $10 steal of a deal! We arrived to the class to find out it was just the two of us who had registered, which was awesome. We also learned that the kind sales clerk on the phone had only given us 1/2 of the required list of items.

Oh well! We managed just fine and learned all sorts of techniques and had a great time doing it. Lady M is a natural when it comes to this sort of thing, but more importantly, I love having time where she and I can just be together. At 8 she is growing so quickly, and I love any time I get to spend with her.

A Decade 
Just a few days after Lady M's birthday, Cal and I celebrated our 10th wedding anniversary. We even managed to take a day off work and get away for one night, which was lovely. We had a nice escape to Collingwood where we enjoyed dinner out, got our boat into storage and warded off one woman's best attempts to get us to buy into a timeshare!

Most importantly, I'm so grateful to have spent the last ten years happily married to him, and look forward to the next ten!

Holiday Fun
Heading downstairs on Christmas morning
I'm always a fan of Christmastime, and this year was no different. Though I started to wonder if some of the magic was slipping away when Lady M began questioning whether the big guy was real in November. While it seemed like the jig may have been up, she did a complete about face and continued on through the season a true believer.

Both girls had a holiday recital at their school, and unfortunately I couldn't attend Lady A's this year, so Cal and my Dad were there to support her. Lady M had one at her school, and Cal couldn't attend that one, so my dad and I did! Clearly, Dad was the constant on the 2016 recital circuit - I believe he also made it to both of my nephews shows too! Lady M joined the choir this year, so on top of the presentation her grade 3 class did, she also sang numerous songs with the choir - so lovely.

I took the full two weeks off over the holidays, which I just love. I enjoy the time with the kiddos, and knowing that their holiday break is also mine. We visited with family and friends, did crafts, had outings and just enjoyed the down time where we didn't have to wake up and rush out of the door each morning.

On Christmas day, they crept down the stairs in their matching jammies and the day and the rest of the holiday was just lovely.

Cal was able to take some time off over the holidays too, and we headed up north to visit some of his family. Though snow was minimal all over this year, they certainly had more than we did, and we all had a chance to go snowmobiling. It was Lady M's second time, and Lady A's first. It was also my first time - a great experience!

As usual, our fall and early winter were filled with fun adventures, and it was a great way to end 2016.