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Summer Holidays are stressful, right?!

Sidewalk chalk shouldn't be just for the sidewalk!

Sidewalk chalk shouldn’t be just for the sidewalk!

For many of my friends back in the UK the summer holidays are only just starting but here in ‘Tronno’, we’ve been at it for 3 weeks now. We get to have 8 weeks of attempting to keep kids active, interested and off each others backs! So far I think I’m doing OK but it’s still early days.

I am sure, like many parents, I desperately searched for activities to do, places to go and camps to enlist with before the holidays happened but as per usual, I left it too late! Parents sign their children up in March for camps! I always assumed camps where just made up things that you saw in kids movies but it’s a real thing! I suppose I did a version of camp…it was called Boarding School.

So here I am in one of the biggest cities in Canada and I have absolutely NO IDEA what to do with my kids! It isn’t as if there isn’t any choice; we have museums, parks, an aquarium, pools, galleries, beaches, you name it. What fills me with dread is the fact that every other kid in Toronto will be there too. I once did the Science Center during a holiday and I swore never again – chaos, tears, stress, even my poor children hated it and they usually love to learn things but they don’t like having to fight for something and they don’t enjoy being watched by impatient children who are attempting to telepathically will them off a toy/ride/game. They will happily fight and bicker with each other but not with other children so I always take that into consideration whenever we decided to go somewhere. Nine times out of ten we usually stay close to home and play and I will make each week a specialty week. For example, during March Break, I devoted a week to Science. We made Ooblek, Volcanoes and sun-catchers using glue and food coloring and the children loved it. With the summer holidays I have 8 weeks to plan for and the more I investigate, the more excited I become about doing things at home.

I know I am lucky because I work from home so I have the time to be able to spend with my kids. Many parents don’t have that option and find sending their kids to camp the only choice until they have their vacation too. I dread to think how expensive it all becomes; a week long camp at Ripley’s Aquarium is close to $400 per child. I have a friend who just put both her kids, aged 5 & 7, into 4 separate camps; over $1,200 to cover just 2 weeks worth of the holidays.They are also planning to go on vacation for a week which was in the region of around $3,500 (flights, hotel, etc). I know having children is expensive but these days it seems just unrealistic at times. Having said that this sort of thing seems to apply to younger kids; the older they get, the more independent they become and the money once spent on camps is re-directed towards other ‘essentials’ teenagers ‘need’.

Today my kids have drawn life-size silhouettes of themselves on paper and are currently embellishing them with a ridiculous amount of tissue paper, sequins, and fuzzy balls. (I’m looking forward to that clean up later…) The point is, they have been occupied for over an hour with this. I’ve broken up 3 fights, all from the comfort of my desk chair, and they are learning (with some degree of stubbornness) the art of sharing. The TV is off, Jazz music is playing softly in the background and I’m sure once everything is done we will have some pretty spectacular pictures!

I live in the city so there are programs and camps all over the place so here is a question: Is it easier or harder to plan summer holidays if you live in the country vs the city? Working parents vs. stay at/work from home parents; how do the long holidays effect you?

Whatever you get up to this summer I hope you have an enjoyable holiday and get to enjoy some quality time with your children.

 

The Great Parental Debate

Before we had kids my husband and I didn’t really give flying whatsit about how people were as parents. We would see all sorts of things and judge in a way we had no basis to do so. Living in a city I see a lot of kids being brought up by nannies because Mum and Dad are working. For many this isn’t a choice if bills are to be paid and for others a career is too important. The weekends are clearly a massive nightmare for the biological parents and some simply don’t know how to handle their kids; we once over-heard a father says to his small boy, “Behave yourself! Stop acting like a child!” His son could not have been older than 6 years old. Perhaps this father works hard to provide for his family and was tired that particular day, I don’t know, but to tell a kid to not act like a kid…?

Anyways, my husband and I are parents to two fantastic children who are rambunctious, fun, artsy and loud. They are also two of the most loving and caring kids I have ever known. My youngest son adores his older sister and follows her around like a puppy while my daughter pretends not to enjoy the constant attention and bosses him around like a diva! As parents we haven’t really attempted to mold our young breed too much as we want them to learn for themselves, we just like to guide them and try to stop them from nearing danger so it stuns us when we see other parents going against the grain and doing things that we feel is potentially dangerous and incredibly selfish.

Everyone is entitled to parent in their own way but I ask you this: is putting your child’s health at risk because of your beliefs really worth it? For example, not getting your child vaccinated because of all the hype around autism. I recently listened to a parent on CBC news radio claiming vaccinations weren’t safe and posed more of a risk than the disease itself. ‘ARE YOU CRAZY!’ I screamed at the radio. If you decided not to vaccinate your child, are you really keeping them safe or are you potentially putting them at even greater risk? Do these parents stop to consider just how  lucky they are to have access to these potentially life saving drugs? Do they stop to consider how many children and adults have died throughout history before vaccinations were found? How many parents would have begged for a way to save their dying child? Some of the diseases and illness are still around today and children do die so flip that coin and ask the question: Do I want to protect my child or do I want to put them at risk?

I feel the same way about parents who try to mess about with feeding young infants. I read an article on the web about a mother who kept her 6 month old daughter on breast milk alone. No other foods. She went on to say she knew her daughter was hungry all the time and woke up every 1-2 hours through the night yet she continued to say nothing was better for her child than what she was giving her. Well, correct on the breast milk but NO to consciously letting your child be hungry. Again, there are children in countries that don’t have the access to foods and here is a mother actively denying her daughter nutritional foods. Iron, Vitamins, essential nutrients are all babies need for healthy development and it can be found in egg yolks, bananas, vegetables. Why, why, WHY do people do this? Why doesn’t she try living purely on breast milk and see how far that gets her before she keels over?

I understand there are some children who, for heath reasons, really can’t have the vaccinations and I know of children who have such severe allergies that their diets are a minefield of trial and error so I understand that some parents and children just don’t have a choice but for all the others, there is no excuse. Do the research, learn about Andrew Wakefield and his little ‘conflict of interest’ while putting out his so-called research on the MMR vaccine and it’s ‘link’ to Crohn Disease and Autism. Look for those magical words that say, ‘no real evidence has been found,’ because it pops up quite a lot.

I am no doctor, healthcare provider or medical guru; I am a mum who knows that I will let my kids be as healthy as they can be by putting their needs first before my own. I will vaccinate them so they can go to school  and travel easily, I did eat peanuts and sushi while pregnant and I even had a beer – all in moderation. My kids adore couscous and quinoa and snack on bananas, not because I force them to but because they like it and want it. I let my kids try anything once so they learn what they like or don’t like and of course I stop them from trying to eat a whole tub of Nutella! Parents are bamboolzed by ‘expert advice’ and some of it is complete rubbish. Global news reported last week that ‘experts’ are now saying pregnant women shouldn’t be driving because they are more at risk of having an accident. Again, no real evidence to support this and pregnant women are at risk no matter what they are doing and sometimes they can have something go horribly wrong while sitting at home, reading a paper.

Right, that’s my 2 cents – if you have a view, if you think I’m wrong then I’d love to hear why. As I said previously there are two sides to the coin. If you are expecting your first child, what horror stories have you been told? If you have kids have you had people try to sway you into a different mindset? Which side are you on?

“Mummy, are you happy?”

Those are the words that are recently leaving my soon-to-be-three years old son’s mouth. I’m not sure what has sparked this off but it happened just after my parents left to fly back to the UK in April. They came to visit us for a week and reconnect with their grand-kids and it was wonderful! So much fun and laughter. Obviously when they left we are all a little sad and that night my son turned to me with his big brown eyes and said, “Mummy, are you happy?”

I was quite taken aback by the question and hastily replied, “Of course I am!” before adding, “I’m sad because Grandma and Grandpa left though.”

“Don’t worry,” my son replied, rubbing my arm affectionately, “It’s Ok. They on an airplane. They has seat belts!”

I had to laugh! He was so re-assuring and confident that his answer would fix my sadness which, I have to say, it did.

A few weeks later and he’s asking me The Question a lot and I don’t have to be upset in order for it to happen. In fact as I write he is sitting next to me playing with my iPad; I just yawned. He asked The Question. He also added, “Are you OK?”  Now I’m paranoid – am I constantly and unconsciously oozing unhappiness or some sort of negative energy?! I don’t think I am but I’m now aware that my son is asking about my happiness quite often and its all quite genuine, but it’s funny when The Question is coming from someone who cries when he has finished his ice cream and his sister won’t let him finish hers! I’m fairly certain it’s all part of growing up because the wonderful site Reasons My Son is Crying helps to reassure us in dark times.

I once, back in my server days, had a lovely family come for dinner to celebrate their sons’ graduation. The mum and I got chatting and the usual subject of kids came up. My son was quite small at that time and I commented on how emotional he was and that he cried a lot.

“Oh, mine did that too when he was younger and he just came out to us a few weeks ago!” she laughed. “We’re meeting his boyfriend tonight for the first time.”

I guess I might have looked a little taken aback because she quickly reassured me my son probably wouldn’t turn out gay just because he cried a lot now and that I shouldn’t be worried about it. I wasn’t, and I won’t, but the answer caught me off guard! Most of the people I spoke to would say, ‘oh that’s normal’ or ‘mine still cries and he’s 14!’

I have no idea how to handle this; I don’t want to tell him to stop asking as I’m sure his concern is real but it feels almost weird being asked such a big question from someone so small! Usually I just reply ,”Yes!” and move on but maybe I should say “No” and see what happens. It’s funny because of all the people to get emotional I would have picked my daughter but I have a sinking suspicion she’s saving that for her teens…

Thieves, Wall-Lickers and Hello Kitty Enthusiasts.

Those are just a few of the delightful creatures in my daughters class at kindergarten. When I was going through the processes of signing my little girl up to go to school, never in my wildest dreams did I think I would be entering her into a world of the weird, slightly odd and down-right bizarre habits and traits small children have. Within the first few weeks I watched as a small boy, waiting in line to go in for class, started to lick the outside wall he and his mates were leaning against. He did it slowly, as if every lick was like the best ice-cream he’d ever had. My eyes then wandered further down the line to a another little boy who clearly had a cold; his nose was dripping like a melting icicle…and then he sneezed. The sneeze hit a poor, unfortunate little girl next to him smack  in the face…and she laughed. He laughed too, snot and goodness knows what just all over his face. Ugh!! I looked at my little angel-child at the back of the line and thought despairingly, ‘what have I done?’

My family and I have never been so ill as we were that first winter while my daughter was in school! Constant colds, sniffles, sneezing and general grossness engulfed us and we wondered if we would ever be at full health ever again. Mind you, the parents weren’t much help either; ‘hey, your kid is sick and yet here they are in line, coughing their little germy heads off into the mouths of their friends.‘ I know some parents claim to not be able to take time off to look after their kid but in my humble opinion children should be more important than work, you know? There was a time last year when my husband witnessed a child vomiting in the playground at the beginning of the day and rather than take him home, his mother left him at school. She practically ran away from him before his teacher came out. My husband called the school to warn them of the situation, they then apparently called the mother back and told her to take her sick kid home – they were pretty disgusted she would leave him and angry she would put the rest of the class and teachers in such a situation.

Now we are into Senior KG and things are getting ruthless. My daughters immune system is crackerjack strong and we have only had about 3 confirmed sniffles all winter, which is pretty good considering the fact we have had a reeeeeeally long winter. Now we have a new foe to deal with: Snitches, thieves and the power of Hello Kitty. Every generation has their fads and they can change quicker than anything and right now we are heavily into Hello Kitty. Previously it was Disney Princesses and we had to have everything that remotely hinted of pink, princess, sparkles, you name it. Now it’s stickers, sparkles and all things hinting at the little white cat that has as many careers and hobbies as Barbie. My daughter has quite the collection now and every month or so she has her Special Helper Day in which she gets to do Show and Tell. Naturally she will bring her latest HK toy and proudly show it to all in class before placing it back into her backpack for safety. However, while she is doing this there is a very small, 5 year old girl who is watching her with something close to lust and she is trying to figure out the perfect time to quietly snitch the pretty object from within my daughters backpack and stealthily place it within her own backpack. This has happened a few times now. At one point the girl in question tried to physically take something from my daughter while she was showing the teacher. The teacher realized the plot and decided the Hello Kitty would be safest on her desk! A few days ago we were not so lucky; my daughter was walking home with me when all of a sudden she burst into tears, declaring her favourite plush toy had been stolen from her backpack. We knew exactly who had taken it but declined to accuse until the next day when her teacher came to us and gave us the toy in question. Thankfully this delightful girls parents had found the toy and upon interrogation, realized what had happened and returned it the next day. Our suspicions were confirmed and the teacher decided it was time to have a stern talk with the class in general. Now we make sure nothing of any special feeling goes to school! I tells ya, you can’t trust a 5 year old with a serious Hello Kitty obsession.

If this is how things are going down now, what on earth should we expect later on?! These kids are 5-6 years old! I left the best story until last though. My daughters first term was difficult. She got picked on and bullied a lot by a bigger boy in her class. He was not a nice kid and the teachers had a lot of trouble with him. Unfortunately, his background was not a supporting one and his mother was just shy of a complete tramp who clearly didn’t give two whatsits about her son. This was made very clear one afternoon when I walked past the playground and heard him yelling at another little girl, (Warning – offensive language) “F**K YOU, BITCH!”  Not long after than he was removed from the class and ultimately left the school altogether. I have to say I felt sorry for him – it wasn’t his fault he was the way he was. Nevertheless, my husband and I taught our daughter to stand up to bullies and she does, for both herself and her friends and she is now one of the most liked kids in class! Pretty cool :)

Good Heavens; is that sunshine?!

Yes, for the first time in over 3 months, I can open my windows and actually enjoy the beautiful, spring-smelling air that drifts into my home. It really is a wonderful thing! Now, as I sit in my kitchen, Jazz FM playing softly in the background, all is quiet in the house again. March break (half term as it is known in the UK) is now over and the house suddenly feels empty, although my soon-to-be-three-year-old is next door watching Toopy and Binoo, laughing hysterically at their antics!  When I opened the window I heard birds chirping away and it is a sound I missed heavily during the cold winter months. This morning my son also heard the birds and listened with fascination at the happy sound. It was as if he had never heard birds singing before. When I came home from dropping my daughter off at school I felt happy and energized and ready to clean a house that had previously been victim to two whirlwinds of mess and chaos. We had a science themed week and the kids learned that water could bend, we made volcanoes, sun-catchers and Borax crystals. Our absolutely favourite was Magic Mud, or Oobleck. My daughter thought it was the best ever invention whereas my son was quite disgusted with it and wanted his hands washed every 2 minutes (which is odd to me because I always assumed boys loved anything sticky and dirty?) Everyday was something new and I had a blast doing the ‘sperriments’ with them. After my husband finished work, he then took over so I could collapse in a heap somewhere, anywhere in the house. It worked out quite nicely.

Here are a few pictures of the adventures;

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Spring officially begins March 20th and it really will be most welcome after the winter we’ve had. Although the snow is not over yet there is still some comfort to know there is now a definite light at the end of the tunnel and the weather will get warmer and the snow will melt. I’ve noticed many magazines are now all exclaiming about spring cleaning, de-cluttering and making yourself feel fresh and renewed. I loves a good de-clutter session! It took a few years to be able to do it though as I was a bit of a hoarder in my younger days but thankfully my husband coached me out of that and now I am ruthless when it comes to organizing and cleaning.

My husband bought me a book a few years ago which I read every year or so, mainly because it is that good. It’s called ‘The Happiness Project‘ by Gretchen Ruben (her website can be found here.) I loved the simplicity of everything she wrote about and how easy her methods could be incorporated. She didn’t just write about cleaning up your home; she wrote about love, marriage, family, work and health. Her research is quite extensive and little nuggets of information are scattered throughout. I highly recommend reading it if you want something a little more in depth. She also has a follow up book entitled ‘Happier at Home’ and she is currently writing a book on habits, or why we make and break them.

For now, I will tackle The Spring Clean. Children will forever confound me with their natural ability to make mess in a very short space of time. A particular favourite of mine are the landmines they leave right by the front door – coats, snow-pants, boots and book-bags – perfectly discarded in the right place so I cascade over them while attempting to bring in the shopping. Before you ask, yes, I have asked them to hang up their stuff on the hooks we put in specially to combat this habit, but to no avail. I’m told that may happen later on. In the meantime I will summon my courage and ambition to get this house back to a form of normal, one where if we had a friend suddenly drop by I would not go into a panic. I will begin my Spring Clean with utter ruthlessness, determination and a few glasses of wine later on in the evening to bolster my enthusiasm for the job.

Here’s to Spring Cleaning! Here’s to Spring!