picklesink

A mom, a dad, and two nutty kids.

To My Favourite Ben-Magoo on Your 6th Birthday

Oh, my Ben-Magoo…what can I say? You have been full of surprises literally* since the day you were born! I can’t post a pregnant belly picture of you because I don’t have any. I was so busy with school and daddy with his new job that we hadn’t gotten around to taking an artsy belly picture when you decided to make your surprise appearance at only 33 1/2 weeks.

Tiny Ben

Tiny baby Ben in his isolette. His chest is smaller than my hand.
©PicklesINK 2013

You got it in your teeny head that you were ready to be born and there was no stopping you! I was scared at the time but I should have known you had it all under control. They told us that preemies usually have breathing problems – not you! They told us that preemies usually stay in the hospital until their due date – but you made sure you were home in time for my first Mothers’ Day!

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA

We could have fit 5 baby Bens in this Moses basket!
©PicklesINK 2013

Have I told you before how smart you are? I know all moms think “My kid is so smart!” but my Magoo, your intellect continues to astound me. I haven’t been able to win an argument with you since…well, since you learned to talk…and ever since you started moving around you’ve been building and creating amazing structures – first “simple” towers and now extensive multi-level train tracks like Brio Peak.

Stacking

Ben, around 18 months, creating a stack of jars taller than him.
©PicklesINK 2013

You have what your Uncle Chris calls “the knack,” and not only that, you have the single-minded drive, when you come up with an idea, to keep working at it until you see it through. You can get frustrated when things don’t go the way you envisioned though, so don’t be afraid to ask for help. Sometimes all it takes is a different perspective or a second pair of hands to finish the job, and asking for help is just a way of effectively problem-solving.

You are so kind and loving, my Magoo. We had a bit of a rough patch there for a while after Molly was born. There were times when I got really frustrated yelled too much, and I know that I hurt your feelings and made you sad sometimes, and you still loved me more than anything. But just like I said, asking for help is a way of problem-solving, and knowing how much you loved me gave me the strength to do that. Do you know what else? Me being able to talk about that hard time has given lots of other people the courage to do the same thing, and that’s all thanks to you!

Mommy and Ben

Mommy and Ben snuggles
©PicklesINK 2013

I bet you didn’t know this, Magoo, but there are some kids who are unhappy or mad when a new baby comes home because they have to share their mommies or daddies. I don’t think that ever even crossed your mind, though, because you have loved Molly more than anything since the moment you first saw her.

Grinning big brother Ben holding his brand-new sister Molly.
©PicklesINK 2013

I don’t know if I’ve seen you so sad as the day I told you you couldn’t marry her because she’s your sister! And boy, does she ever look up to you. She thinks that you are just the coolest person ever, and I think she believes you could do absolutely anything.

???????????????????????????????

Ben plays a private guitar concert for Molly in her jumperoo.
©PicklesINK 2013

I know that now that’s she’s getting older there are times when she gets on your nerves, but even when you two fight you work it out together and go right back to being best friends. I hope you two keep on appreciating and loving each other as much as you do now, even when you grow up.

???????????????????????????????

Ben and Molly hugs
©PicklesINK 2013

Ben-Magoo, one of the most wonderful things about you is your integrity. I will never, ever forget when you knocked over a pile of socks that Molly had folded, and I said, “Don’t tell Molly you knocked those over because she’ll be sad.” She overheard me and said, “Did Ben knock over my socks?” and I said, “No, monkey, I put them in the laundry basket.” You leaped up and said, “Oh Molly, I did knock them over! I’m so sorry! It was an accident. I’m really, really sorry,” and Molly said, “That’s okay, Ben.”

Then you looked me in the eye and said, “Mommy, you shouldn’t have told that lie.” You know what, Bud? You were absolutely right. It it always better to take responsibility for your actions and face the consequences then to tell a lie to get out of trouble, and you were right to remind me of that.

???????????????????????????????

Stern Ben dressed as Santa
©PicklesINK 2013

We had something sad happen in our family this year, didn’t we, Bud? Our Papa, your great-grandfather, died. You were so very special to Papa because you were his very first great-grandchild. The first time he held you in the hospital, he looked at me, his face aglow, and said, “Can you believe that I actually have a great-grandson?

Papa and Ben

Papa holding Ben – can you ever see the resemblance!
©PicklesINK 2013

Papa was very special to you, too. It must have been hard wrapping your head around the fact that you were never going to see him again, but you thought about it asked the questions that you needed to to understand, and sometimes I think that you understand better than us grown-ups – Like when you said, “Chris and Caitie are sad because Papa isn’t going to be at their wedding. But really he is going to be there with us, isn’t he?” and when at Christmas you said, “This Christmas our family just isn’t the same, is it, because Papa died.”

You also have  real gift for creativity, Magoo. You and daddy share a special bond with your love of photography. (I know, I know, you don’t have that camera any more. You figured out pretty quickly that kid cameras just couldn’t capture the shots that you wanted and you took over mommy’s!)

???????????????????????????????

2 year-old Ben with his obsolete kiddy camera
©PicklesINK 2013

You and daddy definitely share that photographer’s eye. I don’t think there are many people who could guess which of you took which of these pictures!

Ben's sunset pic

Sunset on the St. Lawrence
©PicklesINK 2013

(Your artistic shots are great, of course, but my favourites are your self-portraits!)

???????????????????????????????

Self-portrait by Ben
©PicklesINK 2013

And your creativity and ambition don’t stop with just photography. How many other just-turned-6-year-olds can say that they are published authors?

???????????????????????????????

Ben opening up his debut book,
Your Favourite Brio Peak Collection
©PicklesINK 2013

 So, my favourite Ben-Magoo, keep on being your super-cool self, just like you have been from the day you were born, even if people tell you it’s wrong. (Except mommy. If mommy tells you you’re doing something wrong, you’d better listen. Because I’m mommy, that’s why.)

???????????????????????????????

Ben and Molly at Day Out With Thomas
©PicklesINK 2013

Happy 6th Birthday, our favourite guy!

~ Love, Mommy, Daddy, and Molly

???????????????????????????????

Team Pickles self-portrait. Can someone explain why 3 of us look goofy while Molly photo-bombs the shot with utter adorableness?
©PicklesINK 2013

*and y’all know I don’t use that word lightly.

3 Comments »

Molly’s (last-minute) Crock-A-Doodle Birthday Party

Things got a little crazy around Molly’s birthday this year, what with March Break and my mom’s broken hip and all that jazz, so we didn’t manage to plan Molly’s birthday party until a month after her actual birthday. (Poor second-born children, always getting the shaft…)

???????????????????????????????

“Happy Birthday Molly!” message on chalkboard
©PicklesINK 2013

I had glanced at the Crock-A-Doodle pottery-painting website a while ago and put it on the back burner, thinking, “Probably better for an older group,” but then went back to it and decided to give it a shot – Best. Decision. Ever.

???????????????????????????????

Crock-A-Doodle logo on plate glazed with paint choices
©PicklesINK 2013

A birthday party at Crock-A-Doodle includes use of the party room for 1.5 hours, 1 piece of pottery for each guest to paint,

???????????????????????????????

Some of the pieces from which to choose – plates and wands
©PicklesINK 2013

a tile decorated with the birthday child’s handprint and guests’ thumbprints, staff to organize everything and instruct the children (In fact, for older kids, they require the grown-ups to leave – “No, no, we insist! You MUST go and have a coffee and leave the chaos to us!”), and crayons and colouring sheets for children who finish their pieces early.

???????????????????????????????

Ben hard at work painting his ice cream bowl
©PicklesINK 2013

The paint is all washable and non-toxic.

???????????????????????????????

Paint palette with 6 paints and paintbrushes
©PicklesINK 2013

Once everyone is finished painting, you use the rest of the time for food and cake.

???????????????????????????????

Molly blowing out the candles on her pink and purple princess cupcakes!
©PicklesINK 2013

Package pricing is based on 8 participants – if you invite more guests, you pay for each extra piece and if you have fewer, you receive the balance on a gift card.

???????????????????????????????

Friends hard at work on their cereal bowls
©PicklesINK 2013

Once your party is finished, the pieces are labeled with the children’s names, glazed and kiln-fired to a glossy, food-safe finish, packaged, and ready for pick-up in a week to deliver to your guests as a “loot bag” that will last forever!

???????????????????????????????

Finished “cat” tile by Emma
©PicklesINK 2013

The kids all had a great time and made some really lovely artwork. The time flew by – there was just enough time for painting that the kids (aged 3-6) didn’t get bored or frustrated, and then time afterwards for some snacks and cake.

???????????????????????????????

More friends concentrating hard on their pieces!
©PicklesINK 2013

The staff were attentive and knowledgeable and kept things moving along. They were able to gauge the kids’ abilities and let the younger children do their thing while giving the older kids (and parents) tips like how to make polka-dots (you use the wooden end of the paintbrush, FYI). The handprint tile was a great birthday souvenir for our family.

???????????????????????????????

Staff member helping Molly make her pink and purple handprint
©PicklesINK 2013

The whole Crock-A-Doodle party concept was a great fit for us. It was a perfect party for Molly, who loves doing any type of craft, as do most of her friends. For the last few years I’ve been trying to stay away from “treat bags” with lots of little things in them, so the idea that the item they painted became each guest’s take-home treat suited me to a T, and as an incentive to return Crock-A-Doodle throws in a $5 gift-card for each guest.

Finished products

Ben’s ice cream bowl and Molly’s magic wand.
©PicklesINK 2013

Finally, the recyclable tissue paper and paper bags within a reusable shopping bag that everything was packaged in was the sustainable icing on the cake!

Packages 1

Ben and Molly hold up their carefully packaged pieces
©PicklesINK 2013

The cake, by the way, was from Sobeys, which was also a great choice: The cake and icing are yummy, prices are very reasonable, and the bakery only requires 24 hours’ notice. Molly requested pink and purple princess cupcakes, and as you can see, we got exactly that!

???????????????????????????????

Molly’s birthday cake/cupcake combination
©PicklesINK 2013

In sum, I would be all fired up to do another birthday party at Crock-A-Doodle – You might say Crock-A-Doodle is kiln it with this birthday party thing. All in all, Molly was pretty happy with her 3rd birthday party, and that was the most important part!

Handprint tile

Molly shows off her handprint tile (while making a very silly face!)
©PicklesINK 2013

~ karyn

Do you do birthday parties? What has been your favourite idea?

Leave a comment »

10 Ways to Save the Planet

As parents, we can all relate to Kermit – It’s Not Easy Being Green. We are constantly bombarded with “BUY BUY BUY” messages — You need to get the latest toys! You need to get the DVD as soon as it comes out! Look, this one is EDUCATIONAL! Second child a boy? Well, that pink corn-popper ain’t going to cut it – better pick up a gender-neutral one!

Fisher-Price Corn Popper toy – pink
Photo: http://www.toysrus.ca/product/index.jsp?productId=2688007

And don’t forget to buy NEW CLOTHES NEW WASHCLOTHS NEW RECEIVING BLANKETS NEW SHEETS SOPHIE THE GIRAFFE NEWBORN BABY SHOES AT LEAST 5 PAIRS THE LATEST NURSERY MONITOR TECHNOLOGY AND YOU DEFINITELY NEED THAT WIPES-WARMER BECAUSE THERE’S JUST NOTHING WORSE THAN THE FEELING OF A ROOM-TEMPERATURE WIPE ON YOUR BUM CHEEKS.

Ever since my kids memorized The Lorax I’ve gotten much more in touch with my inner tree-hugger, so in celebration of Earth Day I’ve put together a list of 10 ways that Team Pickles tries to Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle.

"I yam the Yorax! I 'peak for the fwees!" ©PicklesINK 2012

“I yam the Yorax! I ‘peak for the fwees!”
©PicklesINK 2012

  1. When it comes to the 3 R’s of living green, REDUCE should always be at the top of the list. We try as much as possible not to consume too much. I try to always shop with a list — if it’s not on the list, we probably don’t need it, and if I can resist the impulse to buy it right then, I probably won’t miss it!
  2. I try to buy things used as much as I can – partly because I’m CHEAP and partly because it’s more environmentally friendly. Second-hand stores are GREAT sources of books, toys, and clothes for kids and adults. Most sports stores have swap programs which can reduce your costs when it comes to getting your kids involved in expensive sports like skiing or hockey. The exception of course is safety equipment like helmets and carseats, which it is best to buy new or receive used from a source you trust.
  3. Make use of hand-me-downs if you are lucky enough to have friends or family members with kids older than yours, and pay it forward (or back to them) when your kids outgrow the items. For a lot of big-ticket baby items, such as crib mattresses and particle-board furniture, used can actually be healthier than new because they will have finished off-gassing their chemicals into your home’s air.
  4. Buy local! You don’t have to follow a strict 100-mile diet, but as much as you can, buy local and in-season to reduce your carbon footprint and support your neighbours and your local economy. I try to plan meals around what is in season and to shop at my local farm stands and farmer’s markets.
  5. REUSE containers, and use reusable containers — my kids go through A LOT of yoghurt, and I use the empty tubs to freeze things like soups, wine (for cooking! Not winesicles! I swear! Although as ideas go…hmmm), and cooking stock. And if you have the choice, store things in washable containers instead of disposable bags.
  6. Think outside the (craft) box — before you recycle cards or paper, think about whether they might be still be useful. I keep pretty paper scraps, Valentine’s cards, post-cards, etc. in a Ziploc bag in Ben and Molly’s craft cubby for their “cutting and gluing” projects. The scraps can also find new life as grocery lists or even the rough notes for a blog post!
    ???????????????????????????????

    Rough draft of this post on remnants of a Ben and Molly art project.
    ©PicklesINK 2013

     

  7. Be prepared when it comes to food and travel — I toss snacks and water bottles in my bag for the kids if we’re going to be out for an uncertain amount of time. Apples and bananas are grab and go (and come in their own handy packaging); bagels with cream cheese and plain waffles are easy-to-prepare favourites of my kids as well; and bite-sized crackers and cereal, on their own or in a mix, make great car snacks. (And I’m sure it goes without saying, but of course packaged in reusable containers rather than baggies.) This avoids those grouchy hungry kid meltdowns and saves you money!
  8. REUSE gift bags. Having kids generally means working the birthday party circuit pretty heavily, and I think the same gift bags have been making the birthday party rounds through Ben’s group of friends since they were all born (the friends, not the bags)! Let’s just say I’m pretty sure Ben got a gift last year in a bag that we gave a gift in the year before, and it NOT to the same friend. Now that’s recycling!
  9. On the subject of birthdays, get your kids to make their own birthday cards for their friends (or, in a pinch, use their already made artwork to make a card). It’s fun, inexpensive, green, and personalized. These are two of the cards Molly got for her birthday – Hallmark’s got nothing on these two!

    ???????????????????????????????

    Molly’s handmade birthday cards
    ©PicklesINK 2013

  10. Instill these values in your kids as early as you can. Instead of just saying “No!” to buying that toy at Walmart, explain WHY – because they have so many toys already or because we might find it used at another store without all that plastic packaging that will just go in the garbage. Explain that you are having asparagus for dinner because it is in season, which means it’s growing fresh at the farm right down the road instead of being shipped on a big truck across the country using up fuel and making smog. Have them help you pack up the clothes and toys that they have outgrown and talk about how exciting it is that someone else is going to be able to use them now.

If you get your kids involved and invested early, you’ll soon find that they’re the ones keeping on top of you when it comes to saving the planet!

Happy Earth Day, everyone!

~ karyn

How do you reduce your carbon footprint? If you have kids, do you find it easier or harder since having them?

2 Comments »

The Tao of Time-Out

The other morning I watched as a parent cornered one of Molly’s teachers and asked, “So do you subscribe to that whole ‘time-out’ philosophy?” and she struggled to answer in a way that satisfied – not because one was wrong and the other was right, but because it often seems like when two people talk about “time-out” they might as well be speaking two completely different languages.

I don’t know when exactly “time-out” got such a bad rap, but I think a big part of the problem is that 99 percent of people who do “time-out” don’t do it right and 99 percent of people who don’t do it have only ever seen it done wrong. Most people who don’t believe in “that whole ‘time-out’ philosophy” have tried it out at some point – you know, the old,

“If you don’t stop that right now I’m putting you in time-out! DID YOU HEAR ME? That’s ONE! If I have to come over there, I’m going to…THAT’S TWO! I MEAN IT! DON’T MAKE ME GET TO THREE! I’m not kidding around! You are going in TIME-OUT, MISTER!! I TOLD YOU TO STOP! OKAY, THAT’S IT!! THREE!!! YOU GO AND SIT ON THAT TIME-OUT STEP RIGHT NOW!! You’re sitting there for five minutes because you didn’t…HEY, GET BACK ON THAT STEP! I TOLD YOU TO SIT DOWN! NOW THAT’S 10 MINUTES!! WHERE ARE YOU GOING? I THOUGHT I TOLD YOU TO SIT THERE!! NO TALKING!! DON’T MAKE FACES AT YOUR SISTER!! GET BACK ON THAT STEP RIGHT NOW! NOW YOU CAN SIT THERE FOR 10 MORE MINUTES!”

– and found that for some reason it didn’t work. We’ve all been there. The key to time-out is no different from any other discipline technique: Discipline techniques that work are those that are calm and consistent. Even spanking will be effective if it’s done within those parameters. I take issue philosophically with teaching children not to hit by hitting, but as long you consistently follow through, it will certainly change the behaviour that you want it to change.

???????????????????????????????

“THERE’S NO SMILING IN TIME-OUT, CHARLEY!!”
©PicklesINK 2013

1-2-3 Magic devotes an entire chapter to the false notion or “wish” (which I think is a really interesting way of looking at it) that is behind why most discipline attempts that don’t work: The Little Adult Assumption.

The Little Adult Assumption is the belief that kids have hearts of gold and that they are basically reasonable and unselfish. they’re just smaller versions of grownups, in other words. and because they are little adults, this notion goes, whenever the youngsters are misbehaving or not cooperating, the problem must be that they don’t have enough information at their disposal to be able to do the right thing.

Imagine, for example, that your eight-year-old son is torturing his little sister for the fifteenth time since they got home from school. What should you do? If your boy is a little adult, you simply sit him down, calmly look him in the eye, and explain to him the three golden reasons why he shouldn’t  tease his sister. First of all, teasing hurts her. Second, it makes you mad at him. Third — and most important — how would he feel if someone treated him like that?

Your son looks you in the eye, his face brightening with insight, and he says, “Gee, I never looked at it like that before!” Then he stops bothering his sister for the rest of his life. (1-2-3 Magic, pp. 15-16)

Even well into adolescence and young adulthood, our brains are still developing and changing. Children are simply not capable of understanding or thinking rationally at the same level as adults. Part of our job as parents is give your children a safe space in which to express their feelings and opinions, but another very important part of our job is to teach our children how to act appropriately  – “I understand that you are very angry, but it is not okay to throw your toys, and there are consequences to that choice.”

The parent talking to Molly’s teacher said, “We do a lot of getting down to their level and talking to them.” 1-2-3 Magic explains that while one explanation can be appropriate – it could be that your child really did not have the necessary information to act appropriate – it’s attempts at repeated explanations that can lead to trouble, adding, interestingly, “too much parent talking irritates and distracts children” (p. 17). I can certainly see that – if I’m already feeling overwhelmed by a situation and consequently acting out, the last thing I need is for someone to get right in my face and talk at me! The teacher replied, “We use a lot of redirection, but then if we have to we remove the child from the situation.” Well, ladies and gentleman, in accepting this explanation that parent may not have realized it, but what that teacher described was…drum-roll please…a time-out!

I absolutely subscribe to “that whole ‘time-out’ philosophy.” It is one of the most important discipline tools I have as a parent. In a recent blog post, Alyson Schafer noted that the word “discipline” is derived from “disciple,” meaning to teach or guide. I see time-out as a tool for teaching as well as an important skill for my children to learn, and in fact part of that involves them seeing ME taking a time-out when I need to.

As I mentioned before, the two keys to effective discipline are consistency and calmness: Firstly, in order for any discipline technique to effect a change in behaviour, it must be consistent. This means that if you say, “If you don’t do/stop doing X, I am going to Y,” and the child doesn’t do/stop doing X, you HAVE TO do Y. If you don’t do Y EVERY SINGLE TIME, your child will actually not do/not stop doing X even MORE OFTEN than if you never did Y at all. In operant conditioning, this is called a variable-ratio reinforcement schedule. In fairness to anti-time-out parent, as long as he/she is consistently “getting down to his level and talking” EVERY SINGLE TIME it will also eventually work to change the child’s behaviour – the only danger is that if the child interprets this as positive attention, it is possible that the change may not be the one the parent intends.

Second, in order for any discipline technique to work the way you want it to, it must be calm. 1-2-3 Magic calls the use of too much (negative) emotion in trying to discipline a “parental temper tantrum.” When you let your emotions get the better of you while trying to discipline, several things happen: a. You show your child that he or she has the power to cause you to lose control; b. You upset and frighten your child; and c. You probably aren’t applying your chosen discipline technique consistently.

It’s the combination of parental loss of emotional control (temper tantrum) and lack of consistency that derails most attempts at “that whole time-out philosophy.” Remember that whole, “I’m telling you, IF I GET TO THREE YOU ARE GETTING A TIME-OUT, MISTER!!”?

My goal in using time-outs is to teach my children that there are times in life when you become overwhelmed by a situation or by your surroundings, and a way to deal with that instead of “having a freak-out” is to briefly step away from the situation, calm yourself down and gather your thoughts, and then return. At this age, most of time I have to tell them when that time has come – “Molly, there is no yelling and throwing. You are going to sit out on the stair for 3 minutes because you yelled and threw your toys,” or “Ben, you need to calm down. You can go and take a time out in your room and look at books until you’re ready to stop yelling and whining,” – but my hope is that they start to recognize these times for themselves.

Just think how much simpler life would be if it were socially acceptable for us adults to say, “Could you excuse me? I’m going to take a moment to gather my thoughts.”

~ karyn

8 Comments »

Next month in Cosmo Parenting: How to live your dreams through your kids and look great doing it!!

Wow. This parenting thing is complicated. Every time I sign Ben or Molly up for an activity I have to ask myself:

1. Am I doing this because they like it, or because I like it?

2. Am I choosing this activity to conform to some outmoded gender stereotype, like “girls are supposed to do dance, and boys are supposed to do hockey?”

3. Am I choosing this activity to deliberately DEFY some outmoded gender stereotype, like “wouldn’t it be SO COOL to be the parent of the ONLY boy in ballet class?”

4. Can I even afford the fees, let alone the equipment?

5. What if they don’t like it? Will I make them stick it out, or let them drop it?

I have no coordination. Zero. In fact, less than zero: I have negative coordination. When the good lord was handing out coordination, ze not only skipped me, ze came back and took extra away from me and gave it to Kerri Strug. When I tell people that, they always laugh and say something like, “Oh, yeah, I totally know what you mean, me too, like back when I did my twelve years of dance and gymnastics I was totally awful…” and I think to myself, “I don’t think you quite ‘totally’ know what I mean.”

When I was in Godspell, our Judas, who was also a choreographer, bravely tried to teach us a simple dance number and I had to take him aside and explain, “I need you to understand that when I say ‘I have no coordination and I’m not going to be able to do this,’ I’m not just being self-deprecating – I can try my very hardest to learn it and I can practice it for months but when it comes down to it, I will get up on stage and I will %$&* it right up.” In the end, I got to stand in the back on a sawhorse  playing rhythm sticks, and damn it, I nailed it!

“We Beseech Thee” from Godspell
That’s me in the back – NAILED IT!!
©PicklesINK 2012

With this lack of coordination both coupled with and contributing to my lack of interest, I was a dismal failure when it came to athletic pursuits. I hated every minute of ballet as a preschooler, loved swimming lessons but despised competitive swimming, and never went back after one brief season each of soccer and softball. Skiing was the only exception. Artistic endeavours were more up my alley and I sang in multiple choirs and played in multiple orchestras through my school career and recently discovered a love of acting. I am also amazed by the seemingly effortless skill of dancers, gymnasts, and figure skaters and love watching them. Ian brings the love of competitive and team sports to the equation, with childhood success in swimming and judo and an adolescent and adult rugby and soccer career under his belt.

So when it comes to Question 1, things get pretty complicated. I would LOVE to sign up Ben and Molly for everything under the sun, especially those things I would have loved to do but couldn’t – Wouldn’t it be amazing if Molly became a champion gymnast? A pro hockey player? A prima ballerina? If I get Ben into lessons early enough, he could be a  concert violinist! A pro baseball player! A musical theatre triple threat! All of these things that maybe I could have been if only my parents had started me in lessons when I was 2 and forced me (for my own good, damn it!!) to continue!

Or Ben could be a professional busker…
©PicklesINK 2012

And then Question 2: When Ben was 3, we signed him up for hockey, but we’ve got Molly in dance. What if Ben would like dance better? Are we pigeon-holing him? What about Molly? She seems to like dance, but am I just seeing that because she looks so cute in her pink dance outfits? What if her niche is actually judo? Am I selling her short?

???????????????????????????????

Seriously, how friggin’ cute is Molly in a dance outfit?
©PicklesINK 2013

Then there’s the flip-side, Question 3: I’m a liberal-minded, enlightened, feminist mom, and I should make sure everyone knows that! Am I letting down the cause by dressing up my daughter in her pink leotard and packing her off to dance class with all the other girls every Saturday? Maybe I should sign Ben up – PEOPLE need to SEE that boys can do ballet too! Ian is really good about calling me on that one. Having grown up as one of four brothers in a fairly traditional family, he leans towards being more comfortable with Ben in gender-normative “boy” activities while being happy to consider trying Molly in anything; and in my “enlightenment” (and those are deliberate air quotes) I am biased towards putting Molly in gender-normative “girl” activities (because SHE LOOKS SO DARN CUTE!) while wanting to push the conformity envelope with Ben. Together we meet in the middle and make a pretty good team.

Not to mention, how friggin’ cute is Ben in hockey gear?
©PicklesINK 2012

And of course Question 4: How privileged I am to even be able to ask this question, and to have it so far down on the list, when for so many families this is Question #1 and none of the other questions even factor into the decision!?! I have to be mindful of just how amazingly lucky we are that we have these opportunities available AND that we can afford to provide Ben and Molly with at least some of them.

Finally, Question 5: What will we do? I don’t know yet. My parents were really good about making us stick things out for long enough to know for sure that we wanted to quit, and I’m thankful for that. I think I’ll have to play that one by ear, and activity by activity. It kind of links back to Question 1, doesn’t it? We will have to make sure that in making that decision, we’re focusing on what Ben and Molly want or don’t want and not what Ian and I want.

With that in mind, of course, I’ll sign Ben and Molly up for violin, piano, hockey, tap, ballet, t-ball, soccer, swimming, acting, gymnastics, ringette, curling, skiing, tuba…or maybe not! I’m trying my best to provide them with a variety of options to see what peaks their interest (so far DEFINITELY dance for Molly, but we haven’t hit on a real love yet for Ben) while not falling into the trap of signing them up for something Every. Single. Night!

Of course, when Molly is a pro tennis player and Ben a Broadway star, I’ll let you know so you can say, “I knew them (or at least read their mom’s blog) when…!”

~ karyn

How do you navigate the crazy world of kids activities?

3 Comments »

The Rainbow Connection

I picked up a really lovely book a while back at the Grand River Book Store at the Five Oaks Retreat Centre outside of Paris, Ontario: God’s Dream, by Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Douglas Carlton Abrams.

God’s Dream
Cover art by LeUyen Pham

It’s fitting that I picked it up at the beginning of February, Black History Month, as telling Ben and Molly about Archbishop Tutu sparked a conversation about apartheid and racism. Ben was shocked at the idea that anyone would think that people should be treated differently because of what they look like, citing examples of his friends at school who had different-coloured skin but were just the same as him. We also talked about Archbishop Tutu’s own experience of growing up in South Africa during apartheid and witnessing and experiencing the mistreatment of black people by white people, but always advocating for both change and forgiveness.

God’s Dream comes in both a large hardcover edition with a dustjacket or a smaller board edition; I chose the board book in the interests of durability. The language is simple and the pictures bright and appealing, making the book suitable for children from infancy to school-age. In 28 sentences and 15 illustrations, the book covers love, racism, ageism, diversity, apology, reparation, forgiveness, theism, and universality, delivering as its core message that we are all God’s children, worthy of love and respect, and called to love and respect one another.

The engaging illustrations depict cultural and religious diversity (sadly, as with so many children’s books, it is missing pictures of children with disabilities) and the universal message makes the book relevant to and suitable for families with any theistic worldview not specifically Christianity (or organized religion at all): You could read the story to a group of Muslim, Christian, and Jewish children, for example, and they could each recognize their faith’s core message.

God’s Dream ends with the message that when people fulfill God’s dream by loving one another, “God smiles like a rainbow,” and ends with a picture of a rainbow made up of children’s handprints.

Book illustration

Final page of God’s Dream
Art by LeUyen Pham

Ben and Molly immediately asked if we could do a craft like that, and I suggested that in the interests of size we try fingerprints instead. We started with rainbow-coloured paints in an egg carton…

???????????????????????????????

Rainbow-coloured paints in an egg carton
©PicklesINK 2013

..then took turns painting each others’ fingers with cotton swabs…

???????????????????????????????

Molly painting Ben’s finger yellow
©PicklesINK 2013

…and stamped the painted fingers on the canvas to make the rainbow.

???????????????????????????????

Ben stamping his yellow fingerprints
©PicklesINK 2013

???????????????????????????????

Ben painting Molly’s finger purple
©PicklesINK 2013

???????????????????????????????

Molly painting my finger pink
©PicklesINK 2013

Finished painting

Finished rainbow fingerprint painting on canvas
©PicklesINK 2013

The finished product was a complete team effort and is now proudly displayed on the playroom wall.

~ karyn

Have you read any particularly meaningful children’s books lately? What would you recommend?

Leave a comment »

How to make 187 palm crosses without completely losing your…ooh, shiny!

Last Sunday was Palm (or Passion) Sunday in the Christian calendar, which commemorates Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem, where crowds greeted him by waving and covering his path with palm branches, and marks the beginning of Holy Week. Many churches distribute palm branches or fronds for people to wave as part of the worship service.

For our Palm Sunday service, I rashly volunteered to go looking for individual palm strips that could be folded into crosses for Easter. “Who will fold them?” they asked. “Oh, I’ll do it,” I said. “How much work could it possibly be?” *Cue evil laugh track*

After the Palm Sunday service, I came home with the bag of still fresh palm strips and I asked my good friend Google, “Seriously, Google? How hard COULD it be?”

Palm fronds

Bag of (purportedly) 100 palm strips. Actually more like 150 as many of them were made up of 2 layers stuck together.
©PicklesINK 2013

Google replied, “Mwah hah hah hah hah…!” but also helpfully directed me to some instructional websites and I got to work.

I found a lot of the instructions and pictures tough to follow, so I decided to try my hand at making one of my own. Please note that unlike the actual palm strips, the paper I used is blue on one side and white on the other so you see how the folds really go! The wider end of the palm/paper is the bottom and narrower part the top; if it’s really stringy at the top, trim it. If it’s extra wide (more than 1.5″), cut a notch at the bottom and peel the two halves apart to make 2 strips.

Paper palm

Blue strip of paper cleverly trimmed into palm strip shape
©PicklesINK 2013

Fold #1: Fold the top straight down over the bottom at the height that you would like the cross to be (in this case, about 5″).

Fold 1

Fold #1: Fold top down over bottom. From bottom to fold will be the height of your cross.
©PicklesINK 2013

Fold #2: Fold to the right at a 45° angle to start to form the first arm of the cross.

Fold 2

Fold #2: Fold to the right at a 45° angle
©PicklesINK 2013

Fold #3: Fold straight back towards the left to complete that arm and start to form the second arm of the cross.

Fold 3

Fold #3: Fold straight back towards the left.
©PicklesINK 2013

Fold #4: Fold underneath to complete the second arm. The paper/palm should pass behind the cross.

Fold 4

Fold #4: Fold underneath to complete the second arm.
©PicklesINK 2013

Turn over.

Fold 4 over

This is what is should look like when turned over after Fold #4.
©PicklesINK 2013

Fold #5: Holding the cross together in the middle, fold strip at a 45° angle to pass behind cross from top left to bottom right.

Fold 5 flat

Fold #5: Holding the cross together, fold strip at a 45° angle to pass behind cross from top left to bottom right.
©PicklesINK 2013

Fold #6: Fold from bottom right straight across to bottom left (keep holding middle of cross together).

Fold 6

Fold #6: Fold from bottom right straight across to bottom left.
©PicklesINK 2013

Fold #7: Fold up at 45° angle so strip passes behind cross from bottom left to top right.

Fold 7

Fold #7: Fold up at 45° angle so strip passes behind cross from bottom left to top right.
©PicklesINK 2013

Fold #8: Pass top of strip over top right and tuck into where the strip wraps around the bottom of the cross.

Fold 8 and tuck

Fold #8: Pass top of strip over top right and tuck into where the strip wraps around the bottom of the cross.
©PicklesINK 2013

Then pull tight.

Fold 8 and pulled tight

Fold #8 pulled tight.
©PicklesINK 2013

Turn over and trim excess to finish.

Finshed and trimmed

Trimmed, completed cross.
©PicklesINK 2013

Here are some of the real thin, front and back, in various sizes.

Work in progress

Completed palm crosses, front and back.

And here I am with crazy eyes having just spent the last 4 hours making 187 of them!!

Completed (with crazy eyes)

Karyn with crazy eyes and 187 palm crosses in a basket.
©PicklesINK 2013

It was strangely soothing, as repetitive tactile experiences go. When we delivered them to the church, Ian proudly declared, “Oh, it was easy! At least, it didn’t look that hard…”

~ karyn

Leave a comment »

Giving myself a pat on the back

This morning was rough. Ben and Molly clearly woke up on the wrong side of their beds and everything I asked of them was met with flailing, screaming hysterics resistance. Now a year ago, thanks to a mild but chronic chemical imbalance in my brain commonly known as “dysthemia” or chronic depression, I would have been all:

Baby Ben in full tantrum mode
©PicklesINK 2013

But this morning, with the aforementioned chemical imbalance under control, a good night’s sleep under my belt, and my Supernanny and 1-2-3 Magic inspired parenting toolkit in hand, I was all:

Grinning baby Ben
©PicklesINK 2013

So when I told Ben that he couldn’t have his usual morning cereal bar because I was ready to give him his actual breakfast and he screamed, yelled, and hit the table with his hand, I led him to the time-out step and calmly explained that he was sitting out because he had yelled and hit and needed to calm down.

And when I told Molly to go to the bathroom before she finished getting dressed and she refused and collapsed to the floor crying, I told her that if she didn’t go pee before I counted to 3, I would NOT take her underpants off Ben’s head and give them back to her.

Thinking back over the morning routine, of the about 40 minutes of actual routine parts — feeding breakfast, doing bathroom stuff, getting kids dressed and out the door — probably 3/4 of it was spent with one or both of Ben and Molly yelling or crying (NB – I think an early night is in order tonight). But amazingly, in that time I didn’t cry or raise my voice, and what’s even more amazing is I didn’t FEEL LIKE crying or raising my voice.

And the end result was that by the time we were ready to go, Ben and Molly were all:

This is actually Ben and Molly last week when they decided to play a funny joke on me and switch outfits!
©PicklesINK 2013

And I call that a WIN for everyone!

~ karyn

How do you handle it when your kids are melting down? How do you keep your cool?

 

9 Comments »

Who decided to call it March “Break” anyway?

I’m ba-a-ack!! Sorry about the bloggy hiatus. It’s been a bit of a hectic couple of weeks around here! My car has been fixed, no thanks to Mazda (I won’t get into that though…feel free to scroll back through my Twitter for details). So far I haven’t received the bill, so I’m just pretending it doesn’t exist…not necessarily a sustainable plan over the long term, but it’s working for me right now!

It seems that Mother Nature has decided to tack the winter she forgot to give us last year onto the end of this one. Watching the blowing snow out my living room window day after day I’m starting to feel like I’m trapped in a Laura Ingalls Wilder book. But I digress.

We had a great March Break but I don’t think you can really call it a “break!” We went up to my parents’ ski chalet for the week, bringing friends and our babysitter Victoria with us. When we got there, Ben and Molly spent an hour bouncing off the walls – “When are Noah and Ella going to be here? Are they here yet? When are they going to get here? AREN’T THEY HERE YET???” I think that was when Victoria started wondering what she had gotten herself into…

Noah and Ella and their parents arrived and the kids settled right in together:

Hanging out 1

Ben and Noah and Molly and Ella giggling together in chairs (no plans for bedtime any time soon!)
©PicklesINK 2013

Ben and Noah went to ski day camp in the mornings and both improved immensely skiing-wise. Michael (Noah and Ella’s dad) and I got some great skiing in too. I think we managed to go through every snow condition possible – warm, sticky spring, fresh powder, icy pellets, freezing cold dead of winter. It was like the entire ski season compressed itself into 3 days!

Ben skiing 2

Ben skiing. I think this was the really cold day – note the icy patch on his left
©PicklesINK 2013

With a 2-hour group lesson every day, Ben and Noah both improved immensely. Ben continues to work his way through the fast-food metaphors, having now graduated from doing “pizza slices” and onto “french fries.” They also became quite well-known at the hill – “Are you Ben’s mom? Oh my gosh, he and Noah are SO. CUTE. They are so chatty! And they were holding hands while they were waiting for the lift.”

Noah skiing

Looking good, Noah!
Photo credit: Karen Topper

Ben skiing

Ben’s kind of halfway between the pizza slice and the french fries here.
Photo credit: Karen Topper

Much to their mommies’ terror, the reward for a good day of skiing seemed to be a trip down the free-style terrain park. There’s nothing quite like seeing your 5 year-old sliding across rails and off ski jumps to strike cold fear into your heart!

Molly also tried her hand…er…her feet at skiing. Boy, was my back sore after that…

???????????????????????????????

Mommy and Molly skiing together
©PicklesINK 2013

As I’m sure you gathered from her expression, she hated it! She wasn’t totally satisfied though – I asked how she liked it and she said, “Great! But faster next time, Mommy, okay? Faster!”

???????????????????????????????

Mommy helping grinning Molly back up at the bottom of the hill
©PicklesINK 2013

Ben finally got to experience his first sleepover. We’ve tried a few times letting him and Molly share a room, and sadly it always ends in disaster. The closest they came to making it work was a few weeks ago when Ben finally fell asleep and stayed that way, despite Molly sitting up beside him kicking him with both legs yelling, “Ben? BEN? Wake up, Ben! I want to play! BEEEEENNNNN!!!”

Ben and Noah, happily, were able to make it work, much to Ben’s delight – “A sleepover with my BEST FRIEND? THIS IS THE GREATEST NIGHT EVER!!” Towards the early hours of the morning we did discover that Ben, like his parents before him, is a cover-hog. My advice for marital harmony, folks? Two words: Separate duvets.

Sleepover

Ben and Noah’s sleepover
©PicklesINK 2013

Thanks to Victoria, we grown-ups were able to enjoy a lovely night out at a beautiful local restaurant called Mrs. Mitchell’s, named after the last and longest-serving teacher at the one-room schoolhouse that now houses the restaurant. If you’re in the area, don’t miss it! (If you can’t get there, at least try making their famous spoon bread at home). The waitress told us one of the best stories ever about my mom and aunt (identical twins): “You know how they look exactly alike but one of them is chattier than the other? For years I thought they were the same person but with multiple personalities. Then one day they came in together and I nearly fell off my chair!”

Mrs. Mitchell’s is also famous for their afternoon tea, which has been a favourite of mine (and hasn’t changed much!) since I was little. Karen and I brought Molly and Ella for a “Princess Tea Party” on our last afternoon.

Princess tea party 2

Molly’s first taste of tea
©PicklesINK 2013

Really, what could be better than an individual basket of fresh-baked scones and sweet potato and walnut muffins served with strawberry preserves, cream, and whipped butter? Not much, say I!

Princess tea party 1

Molly enjoying her muffin
©PicklesINK 2013

Ben and Noah made good use of their time while the girls were gone, converting the chalet into a bookstore, complete with window display and “employees only” area.

Bookstore 1

Ben and Noah’s bookshop window display (visible from outside as we drove up!)
©PicklesINK 2013

Bookstore 2

Sign reads “Noah and Ben’s book store – staff only”
©PicklesINK 2013

When we got back, they were down in the “staff only” area hard at work writing and illustrating their debut novel, “Journey To The End Of The Pine River.” [*Spoiler alert*] I assume that part of the story will deal with the existential futility of trying to play Poohsticks with pieces of ice…

Bridge 3

Noah, Ella, Ben and Molly playing Poohsticks with ice – sadly, a losing battle.
©PicklesINK 2013

All in all, an excellent but exhausting week! Like I said at the beginning, I don’t know if you can really call it a “break.” Perhaps the concept was pioneered by a childless school principal – “EUREKA! I’ve just had the Greatest! Idea! Ever!!”

Bridge 4

Definitely worth it, though! Look at those grins!
©PicklesINK 2013

Or maybe it’s actually a clever acronym: March B.R.E.A.K. (Begetting Really Exhausted parents And Kids).

Aftermath

The Aftermath: I think Ian and Molly could have slept for a week!
©PicklesINK 2013

7 Comments »

To My Silly Munkin-Bum on Your 3rd Birthday

Dear Molly,

Time sure flies, eh? Four International Women’s Days ago, I went from this:

Me with pregnant belly
March 8, 2010
©PicklesINK 2013

to this:

Ian, me, and baby Molly – March 8, 2010
©PicklesINK 2013

…and now suddenly, somehow, you’re turning 3! Really – 3, even though I know you sometimes fudge the truth a little. I’ve heard you tell other kids that you’re 4 or 6, and you say it with such conviction that despite all evidence to the contrary, they actually believe you. Because really, who wouldn’t believe this face?

80s Molly

Grinning Molly in 80’s dance outfit
©PicklesINK 2013

I think it’s fitting that you were born on March 8, the day that we celebrate the achievements of women around the world as well as remind the world how far we still have to go. You are well on your way to becoming a strong-minded and empowered woman and I sure hope the world will be ready for you by then, whatever you decide to do or be!

Molly fixing sink 3

Molly fixing the sink
©PicklesINK 2013

As it is, by your 3rd birthday, I’ve already experienced your single-minded determination – like last summer, when you refused to wear anything that didn’t match, which meant that you left the house every day dressed from head to toe in pink (except for the one day a week that you wore your green outfit).

Pink-tastic Molly on rope bridge in Germany
©PicklesINK 2013

Or all those nights you decided that instead of going to sleep when you were tucked into your nice warm bed, you would read some books, rearrange your furniture, and make a couple of wardrobe changes before falling asleep in your favourite pink dance outfit and tights. (Thanks for that, by the way. I enjoyed that middle-of-the-night strip-off-your-leotard-and-tights-to-put-your-diaper-back-on-fiasco. We’ll call it mommy and Molly bonding time.)

Molly in bed 1

Molly asleep on her Dora couch in her dance outfit surrounded by the evidence of a wild night
©PicklesINK 2013

Yes, my funny bum, you may look cute, but your impulsiveness may one day get you into real trouble. Take this morning, for instance, when you were downstairs making a craft and I heard Ben say, “Molly! You’re not supposed to do that with TOYS! You have to go show mommy!” and then you came upstairs, seemingly abashed (although I could still see that gleam in your eye) as you showed me what you had done.

???????????????????????????????

Molly’s “craft” – a black toy car, now with hearts, glitter, and a face.
©PicklesINK 2013

We will have to keep working on the principle of “look before you leap.” At least we know that Ben has always got your back. He loves you SOOO much – and I know you love him too!

Ben and Molly – BFFs!
©PicklesINK 2013

I love hiding around the corner and listening to the two of you play together. You can play and chatter for hours, and even if you sometimes disagree, your arguments blow over as quickly as they started with both of you apologizing and working out a solution together.

Ben and Molly drinking their fuzzy water on our Valentine’s dinner out
©PicklesINK 2013

I should probably apologize in advance for the nicknames you’re going to endure as you grow up. It started out so innocuous, with “Molly-Moo” and then “Monkey,” which you quickly grew to answer to more consistently than your given name…then it devolved to “Monkey-Bum,” even given your Auntie Caitie’s dire warning that It. Would. Stick. After that came “Munkin” (I have no explanation…it’s kind of a combo of “Monkey,” “Munchkin,” and “Pumpkin” that slipped out one day…), “Munkin-Bum,” “Molly-Magoo,” “Funny-Bum,” “Silly-Munkin,” and I’m sure a multitude of others that have slipped my mind right now but will be equally traumatizing when they slip out in front of your middle school friends. I apologize in advance for being that mom.

Molly first pic

My favourite newborn Monkey-Bum!
©PicklesINK 2013

So, as you move on to the wild world of 3 years old, whether you’re getting your hands dirty…

Molly in the garden covered with dirt (that Ben was shoveling over her head)
©PicklesINK 2013

…or keeping them clean…

Molly at playgroup playing with shaving cream
©PicklesINK 2013

…just make sure you keep on being your awesome self, even if that means sometimes being a square peg in a round hole.

The dental floss that Molly discovered would fit perfectly in a toilet paper roll.
©PicklesINK 2013

Dance to the beat of your own drummer…

Molly in her own production of “Blackbeard Takes Swan Lake”
©PicklesINK 2013

…show the world that there are two sides to every story…

Molly wearing her Santa costume over her ballerina dress
©PicklesINK 2013

…and when life gives you pepperoni sticks, lie down on placemats and eat them on the floor!

Molly enjoying a snack of apple, pepperoni stick, and pretend tea lying on the floor
©PicklesINK 2013

Mommy, daddy and Ben love you millions and millions and millions, our favourite Molly-Moo! To quote your favourite song, “Molly is my favourite monkey, favourite monkey, favourite monkey! Molly is my favourite monkey – She says, ‘Ooo-ooo, ah-ah!” We hope you have a very, very happy 3rd birthday and that you are always as happy as you are today!

Love,

Mommy

9 Comments »