Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Wordless Wednesday: Snoooooooo!

The first snowfall of the season! The kids were so amazingly happy. Miss. A played outside for THREE HOURS straight! Now I want to have a cozy fire and drink hot chocolate.

You Don't Have To Shop 'Till You Drop. Tips To Survive Your Holiday Shopping.

Every year I vow to do all my shopping online. Just like promising the dentist that I really will floss, I completely fail to do it. He's stopped giving me free floss now. I have literally stacks of it in my medicine cabinet. I might as well stack all my good intentions next to them, because I'm never going to do my shopping online. By the time I think of doing it, it's too close to the holiday and everything would be shipped late. If you, like me, find you have no choice to head to the mall, here are some helpful insider tips to get you through the ordeal.

1) Get Organized. You don't want to be wandering aimlessly through the mall on Christmas Eve wondering what to get everyone. (Yes I'm looking at you men) Make a list of who you need to buy for. What gifts and cards need to be shipped out and when should you have them in the mail by. Canada Post has a helpful guide on their website for you to refer to.

I find it helps to make a rough chart of who you need to buy for, ideas of what to look for, and ultimately what you ended up purchasing. Some people are easy to shop for, others not so much. A little chart you can keep in your pocket or wallet will help you stay focused.

2) Search From Home First. Once you have a general idea of what it is your looking for, search online and in flyers to see who is likely to sell what you want. You're not going to find everything at one mall or store. This will also allow you to compare price points between the retailers and make your money go further. Once you know what stores and malls to hit, you can organize your route accordingly. There's nothing more frustrating then backtracking through crowds and traffic when you could have avoided it.

3) Set a Limit. It's important to set a spending limit per person and for the items you're looking for. Overspending on one person often leads to overspending on everyone else. You know, to keep it fair. Think about what is reasonable to spend on each person on your list. That doesn't mean everyone has to be the same, just make sure there's a ceiling in place. No less important is making sure once you find a possible gift, is it reasonably priced. Don't be so desperate to cross things off your list that you'll let yourself be gauged at the register. Do your homework and spend wisely!

4) Get Out Early. This refers to two things. Firstly, don't leave your shopping until the last minute. If you can get started in November that would be great. There are less crowds and it is a lot less stressful. Of course people rarely do that. Those who do can't help but brag about it. Don't be that person! You risk immediately being put on someone's naughty list. Secondly, the early bird catches the worm. Wake up early, have a good breakfast, and get to the stores when they open. There will be less crowds and the staff will be better able to help you faster.

5) Eat! Don't leave the house on an empty tummy. Eat well and bring some snacks with you. We all know how pleasant you are when you're hungry and your blood sugar is low. Yeah, I'm talking to you. If you're out all day, stop for some lunch. Trust me. Everyone turns into three year olds when they're starving and tired. Keep your energy and spirits up!

6) You'll Catch More Flies With Honey Than Vinegar. When you're shopping and need a favor or exception made for you, be nice. The merits of this should be obvious, but many people don't get it. People are much more willing to help you if you're being respectful and reasonable. Those who are rude and demanding often don't get their way purely for that reason. Sure, the squeaky wheel gets the grease eventually. You could escalate it up the ranks, but is that what you really want to be doing right now? Plus, it's really not in the spirit of the holidays to act like such a...Grinch.

7) The When and Where of Asking Questions. You don't go to a mechanic if you have a question about your dishwasher. You need to ask the right person your question if you want to get the right answer. If you have a question about the merchandise such as the price or additional colours, ask a sales associate on working on the sales floor. They are equipped to answer these questions. If you would like a price adjustment or amendment to the return policy, ask someone that can give you a "yes". This might mean asking a sales associate to call someone for you or going to customer service. Don't stand in line and wait to ask the cashier! They are nine times out of ten not able to answer your question. This holds everyone up, including you, and will make you no friends. However, while you are at the register, ask the cashier the return policy. They are usually extended during the holidays, be aware of the deadlines. They will also have particular policies relating to how the item may be returned. Some may only issue store credit, others will return only in the tender it was purchased. Be aware of the particular return policies of the stores you purchase from. If you see it as potentially problematic, you may be able to ask the manager for an exception. Remember, be nice. If what you ask is reasonable people are more than happy to oblige.

8) Don't Leave Purchases In the Car! People are just waiting for you to do this. Often someone will dump off purchases and then go back to shop some more. Worse yet, the receipts will be in the bags! Very bad elves will watch you, brake into your car, and later return your hard shopped for gifts! I've seen it many times.

9) Make it Easy On the Giftee. Not every gift is a perfect fit. Some, regrettably, will find their way back to the store. Make the return as easy as possible. Keep tags attached wherever possible. No one wants to leave the price ticket on, but the more information the store has about your purchase, the easier and faster the return. If you can not rip off or conceal the price, keep the tickets separately in case a return might be made. Keep the receipts! If an item is returnable without one, and this is rare, they will require your personal information. Your Aunt doesn't want to give her phone number or drivers licence information away just to return a sweater.

10) Unwind Afterwards. Go home, soak your feet and enjoy a glass of wine. Or two. In fact, pick up doughnuts on the way home, your earned them.

Monday, November 21, 2011

A Case of the Mondays

Today I took Baby K to her music class. She of course loved it, despite having to miss a nap to be there. She can't walk yet, but she sure loves to try! Gravity and balance are still foreign concepts to her. The class is geared towards toddlers who CAN walk at her age. So I have to hold her hands and walk in the circle with her. Often it starts as walking, but quickly moves to running. It so funny to see her little legs moving so fast! Of course she's in seventh heaven because walking and running is all she wants to do all day anyways. She has me trapped for a full half hour to indulge her.

Miss. A watched Alice In Wonderland with Dad while we were out. Then did some crafts and finally begged him to play Skyrim! She likes to sit on his lap while he plays and fight dragons and search castles. After lunch we all bundled up and went to the park. Miss. A found a little friend to play with and Baby K enjoyed playing on the swing, it was cold but everyone enjoyed themselves.

DH made a great dinner, as per usual. Now that the kiddies are I bed, we're enjoying a nice glade of wine and watching some TV. It was a good Monday. I'm not sure why people dislike Mondays so much.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

When Zombies Are Afoot There's No Time For Blogging

It took a long time to get the kids in bed tonight. Well more accurately, it took a long time for them to stay in bed. So considering The Walking Dead was on tonight there is no time to write anything. Except this. And that, too. So instead I will entertain you with something I found on the interweb. An interesting business model if nothing else.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Swimming Lessons and Other Acts Of Self Sacrifice

Up until recently my three year old daughter has hated swimming. I totally relate to that. You'd have to work pretty hard to convince me to get in a pool. It just doesn't appeal to me much. You're hair gets all messy and wet, your mascara runs, and a wet bathing suit just feels gross! As a kid I enjoyed it, but as an adult it just feels like too much of a hassle. I'm fun, I know.

Most kids do like swimming though. It's one of those childhood staples. We wanted to encourage Miss. A to go in the water. As a toddler she really didn't want to have any part of it. She was going through a I-don't-want-to-get-dirty phase. She was the only fourteen month old I know that kept a napkin at her highchair and used it. I'm not kidding at all. She was totally OCD about staying clean! Now at three years old she has relaxed a little bit. Not a lot, but just enough.

We had her birthday party at my parents house because it has much more space than ours. It was while there that Miss. A actually went in the pool! Dad managed to convince her to "test out the water" for him to make sure it was OK. She still clung to him, but she wasn't crying or begging to get out. In the past the mere suggestion of going in the water resulted in a panicky "no!". The next day she went in again, and then again and again. Each time enjoying it more and more. Yay! She's normal!

So considering that our parents have a cottage or a pool, we thought swimming lessons were in order. The first day it was loud, the water was cold, and she was not at all prepared to entertain them. The next lesson she did better. The third much better. Now she's really enjoying them and looks forward to them every weekend. I asked her favorite part last weekend and she replied "going under water". What?? That amazes me that she's come so far in such a short time. However there is a hitch to all this.

DH was supposed to do the lessons with the kids. I would watch one while the other was in the pool and then switch them out. You know, tag team like. The problem is that somehow I got stuck in the pool! Me! I HATE going in the pool! Plus, I have to put my face in the water. Don't get me wrong, I love taking her. She has so much fun and is so proud of what she's accomplished. It just seems like a weird irony that now I have to learn to like swimming. Yuck! The universe has a cruel sense of humour.

Friday, November 18, 2011

If I Had A Million Dollars...

I would buy you a green dress. Hey, I know you were all thinking it. Don't lie. I'm sure every one has been asked, or at least thought about it themselves, what would you do if you won the lottery? I'm talking millions of dollars! You would never have to worry about money troubles again. Oh man! How good would that feel? I thought getting a good parking spot was awesome. I'm not sure I'd be emotionally equipped to handle that much good news. I suppose my first response would be to faint and my second to pick myself off the floor.

I think if you asked most people you would get some very similar answers. I'd buy a house, car, go on vacation, a shopping spree! Then, remembering themselves, add give some away to friends and family and give some to charity too. I'm not sure I'm the best person to win the lotto really. I don't think I could spend that flamboyantly. I'm sure it would be fun, but I would feel totally self conscience about it. My millionaire list, I imagine, is a bit different from the norm.

1) Firstly I wouldn't by a super car or anything too flashy. Something nice and dependable with all the bells and whistles. I need room to fit in two car seats and possibly additional passengers. Oh cripes! I think I'm suggesting that if money was no object I'm buy a minivan! Well it would be a really FLASH minivan.

2) I'm also completely clueless and lazy in the kitchen. So I would hire a personal chef and nutritionist. That way I know there will always be healthy meals on the table for everyone. No more popcorn and Kraft dinner for supper! Yippe!

3) I would pay off my mortgage and the mortgage of my friends and family too. Then I'd invest some money back into this house. There are a lot of things that could be improved. The deck, new carpets, new kitchen cupboards and counters, fence in the yard and some really class act landscaping. Why not just sell it you ask? We will, but I want it to look nice for the next person. We love this house and want it to be a nice home for someone else too.

4) Buy a bigger home. Something not far from the city but not right in it either. Lots of land. Scott likes to mow the lawn on one of those riding mowers. Maybe get him a nice umbrella for it.

5) Travel. I'd like to take the kids to see family that don't live near us. We'd go to Toronto, Winnipeg, Germany, Scotland and the like. We'd make sure we saw Canada coast to coast. I've always wanted to go out east for some sea food fresh from the ocean.

6) Save for the kids education. Not just school, but things they're interested in too. If they want to learn the cello or steel drum, I'm sure someone can teach them. Mind you, if there's a private school that would be right up their alley, I'd like them to have the option of attending. I'd want them to be able to go to whatever college or university they wanted to later on too.

7) Go back to school. Yes, again! I'm sure there are a few classes I haven't taken yet. Maybe I'd even go to law school when the kids are older.

8) The multitude a worthy charities to give too. I'd like to help out different ones every year some how. There are so many worthy causes, I don't think I could advocate for just one.

9) I like to have my own comic book shop. It's stupid I know, but I've always wanted one.

10) Become a foster parent. I'd really like to be able to do this. So many kids need a new start and the system seems so broken. I'd like to help the few that I could. We have a good family and come from good families. I think everyone should have a chance at that.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Working Retail at Christmas? You Can't Choose You're Customers, But You CAN Choose Your Attitude

Being on the front lines during the Christmas shopping season can be a stressful endeavor for even the jolliest of hearts. At first, your heart is buoyed by the holiday music playing, the festive decorations and the merry demeanour of customers and fellow employees alike. Everyone is looking forward to the holidays and it seems to put a spring in their step. However, as the calender counts down and there are fewer days between now and "C" Day, those happy smiles tense and those footsteps lose some of their spring.

As a retail worker, whether it be at cash, customer service, the sales floor, or even in behind the scenes, it can be one of the hardest times of the year. Quite frankly, I found it took all the fun out of the holiday for me. It simply just wears the cheer right out of you. When I worked, you weren't allowed to take time off during the holidays. That meant working until 11pm Christmas Eve, Christmas Day off, and then back the next day to face the crowds looking for deals on Boxing Day. There is no time to slow down and enjoy the holiday. However, it is what it is, so you might as well make the best of it. It would be very easy to turn a difficult situation into a terrible one if you let it. You can't control a lot of things in life, but the one thing you can control is your response to it. My advice to you is choose your attitude. It is probably the one thing I learned from my former employer that has really stuck with me all these years.

There are a lot of things that can make working during this busy time of year stressful. Poor management, not enough employees on hand, scheduling conflicts, sick calls, the crowds, the noise, the increased workload, and the equally stressed out customers. Why are they playing Rocking Around the Christmas Tree for the sixth time already?? There really isn't a lot you can do about these things, they are, for the most part, out of your control. Wait, don't burn that Christmas tree down yet! How you respond may make a huge difference to how your day goes and every one's as well.

Customers are why you have a job. That's a cold hard truth. If not for them, there would be no store and you'd have a lot more time on your hands. As stressed as you and they are both, they are not the enemy! How you respond to them and your job is very important. This is the choose your attitude part. That being said, there are some difficult situations you may find yourself in. Here are some helpful tips.

1) Smile! A lot of customers are already stressed out and angry before they even get to you. Don't give them a reason to lash out. A surly expression is just the excuse some people are looking for to let off some steam. Acknowledge that they're there, say hello, smile, sympathize with how busy it is. Make eye contact. People just want to be recognized half the time.

2) Don't stand for abuse! Some customers, despite your best efforts, are looking for a fight. They can be rude and down right abusive at times. It is not your job to stand there and take it. Though perhaps some customers think it is, and that's why they think they can get away with it. If you find yourself in this situation call a manager or supervisor to diffuse the situation. That's their job. Do not lose your temper. Move on to the next customer as soon as you can.

3) They are always watching. An important thing to remember is that other customers are always watching you. How you interact with another customer has an impact on future interactions. This applies equally to how you interact with other employees too. When it's really busy, no customer wants to see a bunch of employees goofing around when they should be working. It totally peeves them off! Why shouldn't it? If they're standing in a line of fifteen people they are probably wondering why you aren't helping out. Don't add fuel to the fire!

4) Be aware and proactive. If you notice the lines are getting bigger and it's getting increasingly busier, call for back up! Call before it gets out of hand. Know who you are going to call if you think you'll need someone. If no one is available, call a manager or supervisor. Again, it's their job. You do not control how many people are working that day. At least the customer sees you're trying to do something. Be prepared! It's not just for boy scouts.

5) Pay it forward. It is the holidays after all! If you see a customer that is in need of assistance, give them a hand before they ask. Be friendly. Take an interest in what they're doing. While you're working it doesn't hurt to make a little small talk. Don't slow anyone down by any means, we're all busy these days, but it's nice to feel like a person every now and again. If another employee needs some help, by all means give them a hand! These are the sort of things that brighten a person's day! By going out of your way to make someone's day better, you make everyone's day better. Even your own.

The basic golden rule here is treat others as you'd like to be treated. You might work in retail, but you are a customer too. You have certain expectations when you're looking for assistance and on the other side of the counter. Make those your Jiminy Cricket while at work. After work, have a stiff drink and soak your feet!

Monday, November 14, 2011

Music In Your Heart And A Song In Your Step

Parents always love to dish out advice or recommendations to other parents. I think that's part of the job description. Most of the time I'm sure it feels like your spinning your wheels trying to solve some parenting "problem". When we finally find something that works, usually by accident, we want to share it and spare others the learning process we went through. It's only natural to want to share our experiences. It builds community and a sense of I'm not alone in this.

I've mentioned in the past that when I had my first daughter I was reluctant to leave my comfort zone. My comfort zone being my house. However, my daughter was shy and nervous around others, so I felt we needed to get out and socialize. I didn't want her to be a shy wallflower forever. It's no fun. The best way, in my mind, to overcome something is to just do it. So we signed up for a host of Mommy and Me type classes and thrust ourselves into the outside world. Yikes! It was one of the best parenting decisions I've made thus far. Hopefully I'll have another one before she's a teenager.

This is the sharing part. One of the classes I signed her up for was called Making Music Meaningful. This is an amazing class for both parent and child. Actually, lots of grandparents take their grand kids too. The program includes children from four months up to four years. Classes are divided into different age groups all with music, songs and activities appropriate for that group. The kids get to explore and have fun with instruments like maracas, drums, and bells. There are lots of songs and nursery rhymes accompanied with bounces, dancing and skipping. They also listen to music played on the guitar, flute and xylophone. Often when the kids are older they find their way into the circle to clap and dance along with the music.

I started taking my oldest daughter with she was fourteen months old. For the first term she was quiet, taking everything in, but enjoying it all the same. By the next term she surprised me. She wondering into the circle by herself and danced and bopped to the music! She only became more outgoing and happy as time went on. It was something that we both really enjoyed and looked forward to attending together. She stayed in the class until she was two and a half and loved every minute of it. Now my second daughter attends the same program. She's been going since she was three months old along with her sister. Music is in her blood. It calms her when she's sad or stressed and it makes her smile more broadly when she's happy. She's fourteen months now and claps and bops to the music when she's there. It's made a huge impact on my kids and for the better. Now songs and music are part of our lives everyday. If you're looking for an activity to share with your kids I highly recommend it to everyone. If you want to learn more, check out the Making Music Meaningful page.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year. For About The First Hour.

It's November and everyone is starting to feel the stirrings of holiday excitement! It seems as soon as Halloween is done, the very next day the stores are brimming with Christmas music and gift ideas. I have to admit it gets me in the holiday spirit! I think ahead to decorating the house, putting up the tree and visiting with all my family. It wasn't always this way though. Once apon a time I worked in retail and the sound of Frosty the Snowman filled me with dread!

In retail, as soon as the calender flips from October to November, you are existing in a perpetual state of Christmas EVERY DAY. The human psyche is just not equipment to maintain that level of holiday cheer for nearly two months straight. Not helping the matter is the holiday music play list. There are not that many songs on it. If you're only shopping you may not notice this. However, if you are in the store the whole day you're the lucky soul who gets to hear Walking In a Winter Wonderland about a dozen times. I had two saving graces that got me through the shopping season. The first was that I was in charge to doing the Christmas and other holiday displays. To your horror, I'm sure, there is a period where Thanksgiving, Halloween and Christmas displays are up at the same time. I'm soooo sorry! The second was that I didn't have to run a cash or, heaven forbid, work at customer service. I've done this, and it is amazingly stressful.

I have had the good fortune of working on both sides of the counter. Most people who work in retail would love if everyone has to work there at some point in their lives. It teaches you a lot about yourself, about others, and about human nature in general. I'd like to think that I have a certain amount of wisdom in this area that I can share. Granted, it's not glamorous by any means, but if you aren't learning something in whatever you're doing, you're doing it wrong. So I plan on doing two more blog posts. One from both perspectives; the retail worker and the customer. The holiday cheer can quickly run on empty when you're stressed, waiting in line FOR EVER, and generally feeling like NOTHING is going your way. YOU ARE NOT ALONE. Hopefully I can provide a survival guide for both parties that will keep you all from strangling each other.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

And So Begins the Charade

It seems early, but the holiday season is now in full swing! The stores are decorated to the nines and Christmas music is being piped it with a gusto! I've even seen a house with it's Christmas lights on this evening. Of course I'm sure some would be quick to point out that we haven't actually taken ours down from last year. The big difference is we won't turn them on until December. There just comes a point where you've procrastinated so long you may as well just leave them up. I doubt anyone would really notice anyways. The garland in July, however, may be a different story altogether. Meh.

Our oldest is three, and has a general idea about Christmas and Santa, but I'm not so sure how real it has been to her in the past. After all, she was only two and a half last Christmas. During work "holiday parties", she was even terrified of Santa! We've talked him up a bit since then. She's old enough now that we can plant the seeds of Santa Blackmail in her little mind. Muhahaha! "You better eat all your dinner. Santa is always watching..." Most of all though, she's at the age where we can really start to get excited about the holiday as a whole.

Today we took the kiddies to their first Santa Claus parade! I don't think Miss. A had any idea what to expect. We went with a bunch of friends and their kids too. It was a really wonderful time out with everyone, if a bit on the chilly side. When the parade started, Miss. A was curious but cautious. It wasn't long before she really got into it. She waved at all the people and the floats. When marching bands came by she was excited about the music and the instruments. "Look Mom, music!" The costumes, the candy, the floats; she waved her flag excitedly and gave out high fives to those marching by. When Santa showed up she stared at him in child like awe! Which is quite fitting what with her being three. Baby K sat and watched everything with interest. She seemed pretty happy being entertained by the events passing in front of her. She must have been because it was LONG past her nap time and she didn't fuss once. She's such a sweetie!

I'm really looking forward to celebrating Christmas this year. It's so exciting to see a little person really experience it for the first time. Miss. A is super excited. I can't wait. I feel like a kid a Christmas!

Friday, November 11, 2011

The "How I Hate Hydro's Time Of Use Rates" Rant

Recently Hydro has instituted "time of use rates" for electricity use. It is supposedly to provide a financial incentive to conserve energy and to shift some consumption away from on-peak periods. Originally when I first heard of this proposal I thought it sounded like a good idea. We all want to save energy and money, don't we? In some way it must be good for the environment, you know, reduced our "carbon foot print" and all that jazz. Of course that was before it was actually implemented.

Now I absolutely HATE it! For a number of reasons. Firstly it just seems like a cash grab on Hydro's part. Before the rate change we paid about 7 cents a kWh regardless of when it was used during the day. Now it's 10.8 cents a kWh at high peak, 9.2 cents at mid peek, and 6.2 cents at low peak. So if I use electricity between 7 pm and 7 am, I save at the most 1 cent. However, I'm not likely to do laundry at three in the morning. At the most I might have a two hour window in the evening when I have time to do any. Of course the weekend is low peak at anytime, so I can use more electricity then as well. You're probably thinking that's not too bad. However, if you are forced to do something during high peak times you are seriously dinged! Even so, that's not my biggest problem with it.

I stay home with the kids during the day. It was really easy to start the laundry in the morning and come back to it through out the day. It was very workable and the kids even helped me sort and match things. It was a good opportunity to get some work done and the kids liked being included and "helping". One of the other things I did a lot during the day was bake. It's been an activity I've done with Alice since she was a toddler. It's a fun mommy-and-me activity and also a learning one. On top of cookies and muffins we made together I had started baking our own bread. We go through bread at a staggering rate in this house! It was much cheaper to make the bread than to buy it. Plus who doesn't love the smell of fresh bread? These are all things that use a lot of electricity so we can't do them together anymore. I can't afford to ignore the fact it will cost nearly twice as much to do a load of laundry or bake cookies with my daughter.

Normally these things would all be done during the day. I would have my evenings and weekends free to spend with my husband and family. Heaven forbid I want to do something just for "me". Instead I spend my "down time" doing laundry or baking when I would much rather be putting my feet up. Yes, yes, I know. First World Problems. It still bugs me though. Like I said, this is a rant, not an argument. I also don't like people who don't signal before they switch lanes and those who text in theaters. Seriously? Cut the cord already. Has it effected your routine too? For the better or worse?

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Now Is the Time

When I was little my Nana gave me a plaque with a poem on it. She made me memorize it and would even quiz me on it when I saw her until she was convinced that I knew it back to front. I still remember it today and think about it from time to time. It's a good poem to reflect on when you need to stop, catch your breath and regroup. Life is so busy and it's easy to get lost in the multitude of tasks and concerns we face everyday. Sometimes it is overwhelming! When you lose your focus and need to re prioritize, I'm sure my Nana would encourage you to remember this poem too.

Now is the time to be happy,

To delight in the joys of today.

For yesterday's only a memory,

And tomorrow is still far away.

So don't put of those things that you're planning

Make an effort to do them somehow.

Especially the ones that you treasure the most,

For the time to be happy is now.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Edgar and Other Imaginary Friends You Made Up

Like most parents, our bedtime routine with our three year old daughter involves a story. We have a VERY large selection of books to choose from and Miss. A has her favorites out of it. She loves Alice the Fairy by David Shannon, Alice in Wonderland, The Night Before Christmas (which we read a lot regardless of the season!), Cat In The Hat, and pretty much any other book that's L O N G. Reading is one part winding down at night and one part stall tactic.

More than anything else, however, Miss. A loves when we just make up a story. "Tell me a story? About me?" Her favorite story topics involve friends from preschool (re: her new boyfriend), a family friend's son, and her cousin. They inevitably end up all going to the park, the zoo, or on a picnic. Sometimes she wants to hear a story about Princess Alice and her sister Princess Kaylee. They often ride their horses out into the forest and discover all manner of mythical creature. Usually dragons, but not scary dragons, friendly ones.

Miss. A woke up in the middle of the night a few days ago. She does this sometimes and is very upset. What made matters worse was that the more she cried, the harder it was to breath. So this made her cry more. You get the idea. I needed to distract her and calm her down so that she could breath again, and hopefully, we could all get back to sleep. That's when Edgar was born. I told her a story about how Princess A and Baby K went to an apple orchard to collect apples for a pie. There they saw a bright pink bird in an apple tree with a funny call. It had long legs, curvy beak and long pink wings. They didn't know what it was, so they went quickly home to ask Mommy and Daddy, only to discover it had followed them! Mommy and Daddy looked the bird up in the Big Book of Birds and discovered it was a flamingo. He liked to eat tomatoes and must have mistaken the apples for them and gotten lost. ( At three in the morning I didn't know what flamingos ate and I didn't think Miss. A did either) Miss. A and Baby K fed Edgar tomatoes from their garden and he was so happy. Then a man from the zoo came and said thank you for taking care of Edgar and for feeding him. They were welcome to visit him at the zoo any time. The End.

Now Edgar is a permanent part of our waking hours. We talk about Edgar and how he's doing at the zoo. We colour pictures of him eating tomatoes. If we see a bird on TV or outside we wonder, did they know Edgar? Are they friends? It's funny how some things you desperately make up on the fly stick. Have you made something or someone up that's become a part of your children's own imagination and play?

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Where does the time go?

I seem to suffer from a chronic lack of time. Yet no matter how busy I feel I've been during the day, at the end of it there seems to be little to show. I'm totally convinced this must be the result of some sort of curse forced upon me. What else could it be? In what uncursed world can you run around all day and then find that you actually have more work to be done at the end of it? If it's not a curse it's some time-space-paradox-thingy. It's the only rational explanation.

Some people may blame it on the kids. How can you expect to get anything done with a three year old and fourteen month old under foot? This is a good point, but there are times when they are napping or at preschool and still nothing gets done! OK, if I have a little time to myself I might have a cup of coffee and watch a little bit of TV. BUT, it's usually only thirty minutes and I'm VERY busy during the commercials! I surely deserve a little "me time" don't I?

Sometimes I find that my day is so busy I have little time to connect with anyone. Thank goodness for the Internet! It's nice to use some of the social media sites to keep in touch with people I see rarely, or even people I see on a regular basis. You can use Facebook, Twitter, Google +, Flickr, texting, email, and huge number of other mediums. I often have Facebook and Twitter open and running in the kitchen. You know, to save time reopening them. I can walk by and take a quick check to see if anything is happening . It only takes a second, even on my antique laptop, to check in. So that can't be that.

Honestly, it doesn't make any sense at all.

Monday, November 7, 2011

The Jokes's On You

Chicken - "One day we will be able to cross the road and not have our motives questioned."

Yeah, I don't have time to post anything today. Hehe

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Your Kids and Technology

Now let me be up front from the beginning. I'm not rocking the newest tech by any means. I hardly use my cell phone. In fact I bet you ten bucks (Canadian admittedly), that it isn't even charged right now. I don't own a watch. Our family didn't even get a computer until my first year of university. The idea of ten year olds texting just blows my mind. However, I know that a lot of families have a more personal relationship with technology than our family did.

In contrast, my husbands family always had some sort of to media related technology in their home. His father worked for the CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation) and was always bringing his work home with him. They watched National Film Board movies on a movie projector. When laser discs came out...hold on I'm stifling a laugh here...they were one of the first to be watching them. He was playing with a Comodore 64 while I was trying to set my digital watch. Tech has been a part of his life as much as it hasn't been a part of mine.

For our part, technology does play a part in our kid's lives, but a limited part. I've felt that there was plenty of time to become familiar with it later. Like I mentioned, it wasn't really apart of my life and I've been no worse for wear for it. We rented VCRs for our birthdays! That's how far from technology my family was. I can not overstate that enough. Apparently. I would much rather my daughter learn to put a wooden puzzle together than a virtual one on the iPad. I perfer colouring with crayons than with a fill tool. For me it's more than just the act. It's more social and interactive to do these things for real. When Miss. A was young she would just tune out the rest of the world if she was fiddling with the iPad. You could try talking to her, but she was really immersed in what she was doing. Whereas puzzles, games, colouring, and other activities in person were much more social and interactive. We would talk about what we were doing and spending lots of quality time together.

That being said, she does LOVE the iPad! She can navigate through it like an expert. In fact she has a better idea how to do things on it than I do. Her favorite game currently is Tiger Woods Golf. She is good at that game. Better than me and better than her dad. I always end up in the sand trap. As much as she does love it, and TV and movies, it's a sometimes treat. It's too easy for her to feel some sort of sense of entitlement to these things. Other children may have a different relationship. We find it is much too easy for the negotiation of its use to turn into a battlefield. Perhaps with time and maturity this will change, but for now it stands as it is.

When do you feel it's a good idea to introduce technology into your children's lives? It's obviously going to be a big part of their future everyday. What kind of technology is appropriate and at what age, and for how long? What sort of rules and restrictions should there be? It seems like a complicated Pandora's box once it's opened.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Vegan Cupcakes; It's What's for Dessert. Shhhh!

I'm not that great a cook. OK, I'm a pretty bad cook. My husband is fantastic though. He just seems to have a intuitive ability to combine tastes and flavors in just the right way. More often than not he doesn't follow a recipe, but just sort of wings it. His ribs are famous! They're different every time because he never writes anything down. A pinch of this, a dash of that, and voila! Even the presentation is good. This man should be a chief, really. He's that good. I'm so glad too. If it were left in my hands we would probably starve or be food poisoned. For some reason when I cook everything turns out orange.

Since I lack this intuitive, instinctual ability to cook anything remotely interesting, I find that baking is much better suited to be. It's like chemistry. Exact amounts of specific ingredients combined a precise way. This keeps me in line. Don't deviate from the path and things will go just fine. In fact I quite like the nature of baking. I'm a very precise person. I make lists. I organize. I budget out my time so I'm never late. (OK, I'm sometimes late. I have kids, it can't be helped) I time things exactly. At work I would listen to the radio, and at precisely one o'clock it would chime. I would sync my watch and clock. Every Day. Baking and I get along very well.

For reasons of peer association (re: my husband has a friend that is over from time to time) I have found the need to make the occasional vegan recipe. I know what you're thinking. Whatever you make isn't going to be as good as it could be. You know, if I had snuck and egg or some butter in. Which of course I would never do. This means getting, OMG, creative a bit! Jeez! We're all going to be poisoned! Not to fear though. There are many great vegan recipes out there that I have followed precisely, and therefore no one has died yet. In fact, to be honest, they are probably some of the very best things I've ever baked. Even my three year old LOVES them, and she is a super picky eater. So here's one that I know you'll love.

Dark Chocolate Almond Cupcakes

These cupcakes are the first vegan thing I ever made and they are amazing! They are the yummy creation of It Ain't Meat, Babe who is obviously a talented person in the kitchen.

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/4 cup almond meal
6 tbsp cocoa powder
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 cup vegan margarine
1 cup unrefined cane sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 tsp almond extract
2 tbsp ground flax seed mixed with 6 tbsp water
1 cup unsweetened almond milk soured with 1 tsp vinegar

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Grease muffin tins (or fill with paper liners). Sift flour, almond meal, baking powder, baking soda, and cocoa powder together in a small bowl. In a larger bowl, cream margarine and sugar. Add flax and water mixture and both extracts. Alternately add dry ingredients and soured almond milk to margarine mixture, stirring until smooth. Bake for 25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the middle of one cupcake comes out clean. Makes a dozen large cupcakes.

Chocolate Almond Frosting

1/4 cup vegan margarine
1/4 cup vegan shortening
1 3/4 cup icing sugar
1 tsp almond extract
2 tbsp almond milk
approximately 1/4 cup sifted cocoa powder

Preferably with an electric mixer, combine the margarine and shortening, then add all other ingredients.Top with toasted almonds.


Friday, November 4, 2011

Sleep "Problems"

People always say enjoy your children while you can, they grow up so fast. One moment they are dependent on you for their every need, the next they want to do everything on their own. Our oldest daughter has always been very independent. As soon as she could do something on her own, and even well before, she wanted no help or advice. Even as a baby this was clearly part of her personality. I enjoyed singing and rocking her to sleep, but by five months old she would have none of it! I placed her in her crib alone, closed the door, and she went fast to sleep. Already Mom wasn't needed. I had only been rocking her for a month at that point; do moments pass that fast?

As she grew older a common phrase heard around the house was "Me do it!" or "Me turn!". She was very eager to do everything herself, but grew very frustrated if she couldn't. She suffered from the same character flaw as her dear old Mum. She wanted to know how to do something, not learn how to do something. Is stubbornness genetic? As frustrated as she would get, and as I would get being held hostage during the whole learning situation, I really couldn't blame her. I recognized a lot of myself in her frustration. Patience has never been one of my strong suits. Nor is asking for help when I know I should. I have no idea why, and I doubt Miss. A understands why it bothers her as well.

She is nearly three and a half now. Very confident and independent as ever. She still gets upset and frustrated with things she finds challenging, but she's starting to learn patience. (Maybe she'll teach me!) She even says "thank you for teaching me" when she allows us to walk her through something. She is definitely growing up quickly. Which is why the occasional sleep problem isn't really a problem per se.

The poor sweetheart, from time to time, wakes up crying for no particular reason. Most of the time she's still half asleep. If you go to her and ask her what's wrong, it just seems to make things worse. "Do you need a drink? Do you need to go to the bathroom? Did you have a bad dream?" Bombarding her with questions sends her into a full bodied meltdown. There's really only one thing you can do. Just hold her until she calms. This post is only being written now because this is one of those nights. I gave her a big hug and held her until she quickly fell back to sleep in my arms. Then slipped her back into bed with her little pink Foo Bear. Snug as a bug. As she gets older she she won't need me to do things for her, but she'll always need me to be there for her. No one ever out grows that.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

What's Life Without A Little Music?

Blogher has provided writing prompts for those participating in NaBloPoMo (National Blog Posting Month) for the month of November. Today's prompt is about music and whether listening to it influences how you write. My answer? No. No it doesn't. Only because I've just started writing. I haven't actually listened to music and tried to write at the same time. Maybe I'll do that later. However, it DID get me thinking about music in general.

Growing up one of the things I remember was that the house was always filled with music. Some people get up and turn on a pot of coffee first thing in the morning. My parents turned on the radio. No matter where we were, music was always playing. In the backyard, in the car, camping, it was as much a staple of our home as anything else could be. I have distinct memories of certain songs and what we were doing at the time. Opening Christmas presents while listening to Michael Jackson and Paul McCartney's Ebony and Ivory. My dad putting on Weird Al's Eat It in a futile and desperate attempt to get me to eat my dinner. His proclamation that Glenn Frey's The Heat is On was a great driving song while he drummed his fingers on the steering wheel. Mom entering my room in the morning , throwing open the curtains, and singing Judy Garland's Good Morning. The house being flooded Christmas morning with Loreena McKennitt's To Drive the Cold Winter Away, in a not so subtle signal that it was time to get up.The house seemed empty if there wasn't music on somehow.

At home I try to make music a part of the kids lives too. During dinner and bath time we listen to different music. Sometimes we listen to reggae, sometimes jazz. Both girls have attended a music class since they were wee tiny things. They absolutely love going. At home we have lots of instruments and sing songs every day. My fourteen month old, Baby K, dances as soon as she hears anything with a rhythm. In fact, when she was a newborn, singing calmed her faster than any other trick in the book. Miss. A even sings the songs she learns at preschool into a marker microphone when she gets home. Mind you, she gets very embarrassed if she catches you watching.

Actually, I suppose that music has affected my writing. It's given me lots of fond memories to draw on and is still a part of my life everyday. I wonder what memories my kids will have when they think back? Hopefully they'll continue to enjoy it and share it with their families too.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Why I'm Writing, Again

When I was young, I loved watching Murder She Wrote. What kind of kid in grade five didn't? Of course I also listened to Barbra Streisand, so maybe I was in the minority there. Either way, that's when I decided that "when I grew up" I was going to be an author! I was very excited about this. I saved up all my money and went to the toy section of Zellers and bought a typewriter. I think it may have been a Winnie the Pooh typewriter, I'm not sure. I do know that it only typed in uppercase letters. I typed up short stories, and when I couldn't think of any, I typed up agendas for play dates. 1) Bake a cake 2) Go to park 3) Come home. Eat cake I wasn't very good in my new found career.

Later, in junior high, we moved to a small town. Everyone new each other either through generations of family relations or by blood. I only stood out in two ways. First I was new, which made me different. Secondly I was good at writing poetry. They didn't even rhyme. Classy. I had profound difficulty writing short stories though. A few months into my new academic home I read Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy. It changed not only the way I wrote, but my own inner monologue. The day I closed the cover of that book my sense of humor was born. Oh dear. That first year I won my first, and only, award EVER. That little creative writing trophy still sits on a shelf at my parents house under, what I would suspect, about an inch of dust.

Our high school was very small. As a consequence some classes were only offered once a year. I very much wanted to take the one creative writing class that was offered, but, alas, it conflicted with other mandated classes. The only English class I could take was Essay Techniques. Snore. Many of my friends DID take the class, so naturally, I did all there assignments and projects. I always eagerly awaited "their" marks. I have no idea how I did in my class. It didn't seem important somehow.

Once in university I decided I would put time aside everyday to write. I would take my three ring binder and pen and sit in some out of the way corner of campus and write. And I totally sucked at it. I felt a lot of pressure to write as well as all the authors I admired. Their characters were flush with life and dimension! Mine were paper dolls and just as two dimensional. If no one cares about the characters they won't care about the story. The characters ARE the story! I concluded that I didn't have enough life experience to write anything of worth. I would have to "get a life" so to speak, before I could even have a hope at writing anything worthy of the paper it was on. I put down my pen, closed the binder, and it stayed closed for nearly fifteen years.

Now I have a husband, two wonderful daughters, and a host of interesting people in my life. I've done things I've never expected me to be capable of. I by no means have a life time of experience to draw on. BUT, I do have experience enough to know we all have a voice, a story to tell. I have a voice and many stories. They are equally worthy to be told as all the great writers combined. Experience has also told me that the best way to learn is by doing. Well duh! So as clumsy as it is, that's what I aim to do. Start again. I owe it to that little girl with the Winnie the Pooh typewriter. She had big dreams and who am I to stand in her way?

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Beware the Tooth Fairy

When my daughter turned two we (re:me) decided it was time to do away with the soother. Yeah, yeah. She was two and still had one, but I have a whole bunch of ready excuses for you. She only used when going to bed and was otherwise not attached to it. I was VERY pregnant and was lucky for any sleep I was getting, which wasn't a whole lot. This was not the time to mess with an otherwise good napper and sleeper. At the time we had zero problems putting her to bed. Not a lot of people can say that with their toddler.

Once the new addition came we didn't sleep much. Almost not at all. So in our sleep deprived logic (re:mine) we (re:me) decided "Hey, since I'm not sleeping anyways why not deal with this soother issue now?" On maybe three hours of non-consecutive sleep a night for, oh, about three months, one could not argue with the pure insane logic of this. One night I hatched a fiendish plan...

Rooted in the combined wisdom only found through multiple Google search on the subject, I introduced my daughter to the Soo Soo Fairy. The Soo Soo Fairy takes your soother and gives it to little babies who need it. As a thank you, she replaces the "donated" soother with a gift of some kind. Miss. A seemed totally on board with this idea. Especially the gift part. We labeled a big envelope addressed to the Soo Soo Fairy, put the soother in it, and popped it in our mail box. After lunch we checked the box and "miraculously" a new envelope appeared addressed to her. We opened it. Score! The Soo Soo Fairy left her a very thankful note about how kind and grown up it was of her to help the little babies out. She also left her some hair clips and Dora lip gloss. Everything was going to plan perfectly.

Until we put her to bed anyways. "Where's my soo soo??!" I explained that the Fairy took it and gave her those great gifts. "Nooooo!" No amount of consoling and convincing would help. We eventually had to leave her to her own and hope for the best. After about forty minutes of calling out to Santa for help (the toddler God), she feel asleep. The next night was better. The third she had given up on the cause. It was heart breaking, but worked out in the end. No harm done.

She's nearly three and a half now. To this day if anything goes missing she blames the Soo Soo Fairy. She proclaims it with the total resentment and bitterness of someone who feels they've been double crossed. Now I'm afraid to tell her about the Tooth Fairy?