picklesink

A mom, a dad, and two nutty kids.

Apparently I’m issuing a linguistic challenge!

I’m banning the word “apparently.” Blanket Ban.

Think about it – any sentence that you need to start with the word “apparently” is probably not worth saying.  We use it to repeat things that we don’t know to be fact without having to cite our sources:

“Apparently it’s going to rain tomorrow.” “Oh, did you check the weather?” “Uh, no…I just overheard one of the other moms at school talking about it, so don’t blame me if you don’t sunscreen your kid and it turns out to be 30°C.”

“Apparently Rob Ford saved $1 billion for Toronto last year!” “No way – Really? That totally overshadows that whole crack thing!” “Yeah! Apparently that video was a hoax anyway – we all know videos can be altered! Apparently he’s never been under the influence of anything in his life. And apparently he in no way had the video buried. In fact, apparently the guy in the photo with the dead drug dealer wasn’t even him – It was his evil twin from an alternate dimension.“*

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Molly chatting on Blackberry “Apparently 83% of people will believe anything you say if you start your sentence with ‘apparently'”

The trouble with “apparently” is twofold:

First, to quote The Princess Bride, “I do not think it means what you think it means.” “Apparently” actually means, “It is apparent that,” as in, “I can observe with my own senses that,” but we generally use it to mean, “I have read or heard that this is the case.”

Second, it lends an air of veracity to a subsequent statement that it does not necessarily deserve. In everyday speech, we frequently use “apparently” to mean “I don’t actually know firsthand if this is true, so don’t blame me if you later discover it to be false,” often with an undercurrent of, “And you probably wouldn’t be so quick to believe me if I told you where I had heard it.”

If you banish the word “apparently” from your vocabulary, you are forced precede your statement by actually stating your source:

“I vaguely remember hearing somewhere that…”

“I read on the Internet that…”

“Someone shared this picture on Facebook that said…”

“I got this chain email that said…”

“I read in the National Enquirer that besides Batboy being elected to the Vatican council…”

Try it for a day – banish “apparently” from your vocabulary and see how it changes what you do and don’t say.

Look at all the nonsense that would be done away with!

Pinterest hoaxes: Apparently if you mix hydrogen peroxide and Mountain Dew…” Have you tried it? NO! Then don’t spread it!

Facebook hoaxes: “Apparently there’s this new gang initiation thing where they leave baby carseats by the side of the road…” Did you Google it? What did Snopes say? *EEAANNNGHHH* Urban legend!!

Academic mumbo-jumbo: “My preliminary meta-analysis of my PhD research indicates…” <— Hey, when you put it that way, that one I’ll actually buy!

~ karyn

*NB – I made this joke BEFORE I came across the Daily Currant article. APPARENTLY great minds think alike!

Did you try my “No apparently for a day” challenge? How did it go?

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What do a firehose and the Energizer bunny have in common?

I’d better preface this with an apology: Ben, when you Google yourself in 5 years (oh, who am I kidding – you’ll probably do it this afternoon), I’m sorry. But is is a mommy’s prerogative to record these stories for future reference. If you play your cards right and become a rocket scientist like Uncle Chris, I won’t include them in mother-of-the-groom speech. Probably.

Part of our night-time routine involves taking Ben to the bathroom when we go to bed. He usually stumbles through this groggily, waking up just enough to cooperate. Some nights he’s sleeping more soundly – the tip-off is when I walk him to the bathroom, he tries desperately to go back to sleep on the bathmat. Last night was a particularly sleepy night – I walked him to the bathroom and gave my usual warning —

Oh, hey – let me interrupt myself for a second – if you are grossed out by pee, you might as well stop reading now. If on the other hand you enjoy bathroom humour, URINE luck!! heheheheheheheh

— Back to the story! So I gave my usual warning, “Ben, I’m going to take your pull-up off. DO NOT START PEEING until you’re on the toilet, okay? Don’t start peeing yet. I’ll tell you when. DON’T start when I take your pull-up off. Ready?” (You may think this seems like overkill, as warnings go. It’s not.)

Sadly, last night the warning did not penetrate his sleepy fog, and when I pulled down the aforementioned pull-up, he went off like a FRIGGING FIREHOSE. (Did I mention that we had T-ball last night and he drank a FULL BOTTLE of water on the way home? Yeah, that.)

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Picture it: There’s pee spraying in all directions, Ben still fast asleep, and I’m shrieking, “No! Stop peeing! Stop!!” while simultaneously trying to sit him on the toilet and duck and cover. Unfortunately, when I sat him on the toilet, the pull-up wound up positioned in such a way as to pin his…er…nozzle straight up. Imagine on of those lovely garden water features with a statue of a little boy frolicking in the crystal spray. Except that instead of frolicking, he’s sleeping, and instead of crystal spray, it’s, you know, PEE.

A seeming eternity of urine-avoiding, pull-up ripping, and sleeping-Ben’s-junk adjusting later, the monsoon cleared up and I could start on the clean-up. Now, on any other sleep-walking Ben night, I could just point him towards the bathmat and he would curl up and fall asleep – in fact, I have had trouble getting him to the toilet BECAUSE of this zombie-like attraction to the blasted bathmat. Last night, for some reason, he seemed to be stuck in “on” mode, so when I pointed him towards the bathmat and said, “Okay, sit down while I clean up,” he started channeling the Energizer bunny and trotting in bathmat-sized circles. Over. And over. And over. I was tired just looking at him!

I managed to get his PJs off and drag him to his room where he continued to pace in circles like a wind-up toy, pausing ever so briefly to climb into a new pull-up. I gave up on the idea of fresh PJs and tucked him into bed, where with a sigh of relief he finally left perpetual motion mode.

Molly woke him up this morning with a “Hey, Ben! You’re nudie-butt!” and poor Ben just looked confused and said, “Yeah…”

~ karyn

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I’ve been bitten (and stung) by the gardening bug!

One of the first things that attracted us to our house was the amazing perennial garden – carefully planted to bloom all season and attract butterflies and hummingbirds and complete with pond, waterfall, and koi. I had a sort of naive belief that such an amazing garden would inspire me to become some sort of earth-mama tree-hugging wood-nymph magically endowed with the body of Gwyneth Paltrow, the fashion sense of Nicole Richie, and the horticultural knowledge of Luther Burbank.

I very quickly discovered that this was not the case and my naive belief switched over to, “No worries – these sorts of things take care of themselves, right?”

Not so very much.

Two  years later, with the koi dead and my garden replaced by a waving 3-foot tall sea of something I learned was called “goutweed,” I despaired and called for help, hiring a gardener to dig everything out and restart. She has been maintaining the garden for me for the last couple of years, but this year Ian and I have decided to take a leap of faith and go at it ourselves (with lots of advice and guidance from my neighbours and my fabulous sister-in-law Mel).

In progress

This plan has been somewhat complicated by poor Ian’s debilitating hay fever, which seems to be experiencing its worst year ever! The last couple of weeks have seen him sneezing non-stop even when dosed up on antihistamines, but it seems to be settling down now. He has been soldiering on though and we can happily report major progress over the last weekend!

Here’s the situation as it stands:

The Garden

We have a fully planted perennial garden – lots of green stuff, lots of flowering stuff, lots of bulbs and shrubs.

Before 2

Crowded garden – Pretty flowers, but way too many!

With all the lovely rain we’ve been having, EVERYTHING is growing and and spreading like crazy so the plants are encroaching on each other and there are no pathways to get through any of it to weed.

Before 1

Plants all vying for space – lilies, blue mystery plant, and sweet pea.

Where the pond used to be is now a bog garden (layers of rock and gravel under the soil to keep it moist for water-loving plants but without standing water on the surface for mosquitoes to bred). The goutweed was never fully eradicated – it’s still in our neighbours’ yards and spreads by its root system under the fences.

Before 3

Overgrown garden – clumps of lily, euonymus, clematis, and iris. The goutweed is poking through the fence into the grass on the right.

There is a section at one side of the garden that I tried growing vegetables in 2 years ago but didn’t plant last year that is now overgrown with weeds (plus a few clumps of an identified plant that my neighbour didn’t recognize but said I should keep).

The Plan

Thin everything out so there is space between plants, mulch EVERYWHERE, and edge with stones. Take out some of the repetition and experiment with new plants, especially hummingbird and butterfly-attracting plants. Plant my potted kitchen herbs in the bare (former vegetable patch) section. Prune back shrubs. Learn how to maintain everything (when and how to prune what) and weed regularly. Teach Ben and Molly to help out (if I’m not paying them, it’s not child labour, just character-building, right?).

Progress Report

Over the last couple of weeks, I’ve pulled out all the weeds along the fence and taught Ben and Molly to recognize the goutweed and pull it if they see it (“See these leaves? These are yucky! If you see them, pull them out right from the bottom of the stem and say, ‘Get out of our garden, yucky plant!!'”). On Saturday Ian bought 20 bags of mulch and we spent the afternoon weeding, edging, laying stones, pruning shrubs, and transplanting the herbs, and put down one bag of mulch in the back corner. I also transplanted a random patch of wild strawberry from the middle of the lawn to what I’ll now start calling the kitchen garden. Sunday afternoon we were back at it again but my efforts were cut short by an event that can only be described in rhyme:

There once was a pretty young lass,
Who was gardening up like a boss,
When a bumblebee thought
She had disturbed his spot
And stung her right up on her upper upper thigh.

After that I took a little break to nurse my injured…dignity.*

During 2

In progress – the kitchen garden has been weeded and edged with stones and my potted herbs planted – lavender, chives, and oregano. The little green patch in the middle is the wild strawberry tranplanted from the lawn.

During 6

This section is in progress – I haven’t decided whether or not to mulch the kitchen garden (left side). My rhubarb is in the centre and the bog garden to the right.

Despite the fact that it has been a literal pain in the rear-end, I am starting to feel the earth-mama vibe… I have found, weirdly enough, that I’m more comfortable barefoot while I’m gardening than wearing shoes, though I have to wear gloves because I hate getting my hands dirty and the bugs freak me right out. Yes, the irony has been pointed out to me. I’m also starting to get excited not only about the prospect of finishing what I’ve got but also about experimenting with new plants and sharing the ones I’m digging out.

Now I’m just waiting on that Gwyneth body…

Finished section

This is the first finished section! Dappled willow and forsythia bushes pruned and everything weeded and mulched. I may pull out the clump of whatever that is beside the fence (there is more of it in the bog garden on the other side of the shrubs).

Comment time: Gardening aficionados, help!!

Can you identify any of these mystery plants for me?

Unidentified 1

Mystery Plant #1 – fuzzy leaves, flowers starting but no discernible colour yet. This is the one that appeared and my neighbour said to keep.

Unidentified 2

Mystery Plant #2 – spiky stem, water pools at the base of leaves. Growing in the middle of the bog garden, so water-loving. About 2.5 feet tall and there is only one.

Unidentified 3

Mystery Plant #3 – Feathery leaves, flowers starting but no discernible colour. Sort of daisy-like.

Unidentified 4

Mystery Plant #4 – These are in clumps all over. The honeybees and black ants love them.

Do you have any ideas for other plants for me to try out – butterfly- or hummingbird-attracting, pretty, interesting? What are your favourites?

*I have since observed (and confirmed via my old friend Google), that bumblebees nest in the ground. Who knew? (Don’t answer that. It was rhetorical.) It seems that when I moved away from the clump of plants she was buzzing around, I wound up standing right on her house. Anyone know of a non-lethal way to get rid of an underground bumblebee nest in your garden?

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The coins on the bus go clink-clink-clink

….assuming you still use coins, and not tickets or some sort of magnetic swipe pass or retinal scan….

(Almost) since the dawn of time, parents have wrestled with the age-old question: When should you start teaching your kids about money?

Scene: A Cave, 500,000 B.C.:

*grunt* *grunt grunt* *grunt* OG *grunt grunt grunt* *grunt GRUNT* [Translation: “How many times to I have to tell you, OG?? The pointed stick is worth 5 flat rocks, not 3!!”]

And when you do talk to your kids about money, HOW do you do it? How do you translate such an abstract concept into something they will understand?

“Experts” suggest starting to talk to your kids about money around age 5-6, talking your kids through the transactions that you make and looking at the relative value of coins and bills. That was hard enough for our parents back when they had, you know, actual money as a frame of reference. I don’t know about you, but it’s an even more intangible entity now since my kids see me making purchases using a plastic card, a series of numbers, or simply by tapping a password onto a touchscreen.

I hadn’t even begun to give any serious thought to this issue, but with Ben’s help, I accidentally stumbled upon an amazing technique that has helped Ben and Molly grasp the concept of money beautifully.

A few months ago, after watching an episode of Franklin the Turtle, Ben said, “Mommy, I have an idea. I think I should do chores, and every time I do a chore, I get a sticker, and when I have 5 stickers, I get a new engine. Okay?” I said, “All right, bud, I love the concept but I think the terms some adjustment.”

After some discussion, Ian and I came up with this plan:

Ben’s Sticker Chores

  • A grown-up assigns a sticker chore or determines if something counts as a sticker chore (Ben can suggest a chore or ask to be assigned one)
  • When Ben completes a sticker chore, he puts a sticker on the calendar, and each sticker on the calendar is worth $1
  • Ben decides how and when he wants to spend his stickers (but we control the rate at which he earns them)

Ben keeps a tally of his stickers in his head (counting them on the calendar to double-check), and keeps revising his plans of what to do with them. Originally he was going to earn 100 stickers so he could buy a double-decker roundhouse for his trains, but he has now changed his mind and is working towards smaller goals. Molly loves to help Ben so many of the chores are actually communal efforts and Ben assures her that she will share in the rewards!

Two days ago was the big day when he spent his first 4 stickers on the Thomas Day of the Diesels app (which was enjoyed by all).

Ben, daddy and Molly with iPod

Daddy, Molly and Ben listening to a Day of the Diesels story at bedtime.
©PicklesINK 2013

When we put this together, I thought it was going to be a simple chore/reward system – I was not thinking of it as a way of addressing the concept of money at all! Around the same time as we started, though, Ben got very interested in doing keyword searches which lead to his finding DVDs and apps on iTunes and asking to download them, saying, “But you just have to put in your password!! It’s easy!”

He just wasn’t understanding why we kept saying “no” until inspiration struck and I said, “Ben, the trouble is, downloading that DVD actually costs 15 sticker chores!”

The lightbulb went on for both of us! Ben said, “WHAT? FIFTEEN! But I only have 5 sticker chores now and I need 100 to get the double-decker roundhouse!! That’s WAY too many!!” and I said, “I know! If we got it, that means unloading the dishwasher FIFTEEN MORE TIMES! That’s a LOT of work, isn’t it?’

stickers on calendar

Money Smarts: Brought to You by the Canadian National Bank of Princess Stickers
©PicklesINK 2013

Since then, everything money-related has been framed as “sticker chores,” and through this analogy Ben has come to understand:

STUFF costs money & money = work; therefore getting stuff = WORK

Whether “money” is represented by stickers, coins, plastic cards, or a password on the computer is irrelevant.

As a grown-up I do well to remind myself of that every once in a while too – when I think back to what it takes to earn that money, sometimes I think twice before clicking “Add To Cart”!

~ karyn

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Yep, this post is going to be about poop.

Molly has been almost completely toilet-trained for about a year, with one notable exception:

Her utter refusal to poop on the toilet.

Now, I’ve done all the right things. I know (theoretically) not to get emotional about it, not to make it into a power struggle, not to let her see that it bothers me…

Molly with iPad on toilet

Molly on the toilet with the iPad. Yes, I went there.
©PicklesINK 2013

I’ve calmly cleaned her up and washed pair of underpants after pair of underpants. I’ve read stories to her while she “has a try.” I spent an hour on my hands and knees scrubbing the carpet the day she (unsuccessfully) changed her own diaper. We’ve discussed the pros and cons of wiping a bum after pooping on the toilet versus changing a diaper.

Ben has even demonstrated for her, repeatedly, the art and science of pooping – “See, Molly? You just push your tummy like this *ERGGHHH* and the poop comes RIGHT OUT – see?!”

I even anthromorophised “Poop” in a long dialogue begging her to please, “Push me out because it’s dark in here and I’m afraid of the dark and I really want to go swimming!” (FYI – Poop has a high, squeaky voice. Don’t judge me. You ain’t seen what I seen.)

I finally concluded that she just wasn’t physically ready, but as of last night I know that this is not true. The problem isn’t that she isn’t capable of controlling her bowels.

The problem is that she’s a JERK.

Last night as we were snuggling together at bedtime, Molly pulled her usual stalling tactic of, “Oh! Mommy! I have to pee and poop!” “Fine,” I sighed, and took her to the bathroom.

As usual, she sat on the toilet, smiled at me, and said, “Nope! No pee or poop!” and I said, “Good! You’d better not poop. In fact, don’t you dare poop. Don’t you push out a poop…because if you do…”

Molly looked me dead in the eyes, grinned an evil grin, said, “I WILL!” and did.

~ karyn

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Don’t be fooled by the cuteness. This shirt isn’t some cutesy ironic saying. It’s a warning. (Shirt reads “TROUBLE”)
©PicklesINK 2013

Update (May 21, 2013): My thoughts are with the moms and dads in Oklahoma who would give anything to change another poopy diaper. Like many of you, I’m going to be hugging my kids a bit tighter today, jerks or not.

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What’s ha-pinning?

What, me? NO! I don’t know what you’ve heard, but I would never…NEVER!! I SWEAR!! I mean, probably never… NO! There are FOUR LIGHTS!!! I’ll never crack so OMG JUST STOP ASKING OKAY OKAY OKAY FINE I DID IT I JOINED PINTEREST NOW ARE YOU HAPPY???

How do I feel about Pinterest, you ask? I hate it. HATE IT. In a weirdly irresistible way. Do you remember Choose Your Own Adventures? I despised those books. I would read them through once the way you were supposed to, and then I would go back, choice by choice, to read each of the other possible paths in a logical, step-wise fashion, until I had uncovered all of the possible permutations. Pinterest is one giant, frustrating, inescapable, Choose Your Own Adventure. Trying to take it all in is like, as my big brother so aptly described the internet in 1995, drinking from a fire hose.

As a blogger, I decided that I needed a Pinterest presence, so I joined, but I have composed a Pinterest Code of Conduct  to keep my usage under control:

1. I will NOT travel more than 2 layers deep from any 1 pin (if I click on a pin, and it shows me a board, and I click on another pin on that board, I will NOT go any farther).

2. I will ONLY repin those DIY or craft ideas I can envision myself ACTUALLY DOING in the foreseeable future. Or ever.

3. I will NOT repin a pin without first clicking through to the original link, thus saving myself from the embarrassment of repinning something like this

Water marbles

Screenshot of infamous “water marbles” pin.
©PicklesINK 2013

with the caption, “Water marbles! Crazy how a few kitchen ingredients will make these. Weird, I can’t wait to try,” which when clicked, directs you not to the instructions you are expecting but instead to an article decrying the whole concept as a video hoax.

4. If I try something, and it doesn’t work, I will comment on it to save others the frustration. (WD-40 to clean your burner pans? DOESN’T WORK. Just FYI.)

Signed ______________________

I encourage you to take the Pinterest Pledge too!

Having waded through Pinterest for a couple of weeks, following the rules I set for myself, I do have one amazing success story — yesterday, combining ideas from a couple of pins (how to make a skirt out of a men’s shirt and how to make a child’s dress out of an old t-shirt), I FREAKING MADE A DRESS FOR MOLLY.

My to-do list for this week included:

To-do list

To-do list excerpt:
– learn to sew
– make cool stuff
©PicklesINK 2013

Simple enough, right? I had been looking at tutorials for how to make grown-up tank-top/t-shirt/men’s shirt dresses and got all excited to make one for myself. Then I tried to wrap one of Ian’s old shirts around my waist and realized that for it to work, either my hips had to be a size XXXS or the shirt had to be an XXXL.

New plan: Dress for Molly!

Molly in dress

Molly in upcycled shirt(s) dress.
©PicklesINK 2013

Without further ado, I present to you:

How to make a toddler dress out of a child’s t-shirt and a men’s dress shirt.

Please note I am the most NOVICE of sew-ers so my sewing instructions will be vague and the terminology probably entirely inaccurate.

You will need: scissors, child’s shirt, men’s dress shirt, sewing machine, pins.

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Child’s shirt, men’s shirt, scissors (not pictured: sewing machine, pins)
©PicklesINK 2013

1. Cut off the child’s shirt 1″ below where you want the skirt to be attached and cut off the men’s shirt just below the armpits or just below the pocket if there is one.

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Where to cut child’s shirt
©PicklesINK 2013

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Where to cut men’s shirt
©PicklesINK 2013

2. Sew a gathering seam on the men’s shirt: Set your stitch length to a long setting (4 or 5) and sew a seam all the way around about 1″ below where you cut. Knot one end of both threads and then pull on the other end, sliding the fabric back on the thread to gather it. Gather it until it is the same circumference as the bottom of the child’s shirt and then spread the gathers evenly and knot the other end of the threads. If I’m not explaining this well, Google it or check your sewing machine’s instruction manual, but you probably know how to do it better than I do!

3. Pin the top of the men’s shirt (now the skirt) and the bottom of the child’s shirt (now the bodice) together with the outsides facing in to each other.

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The inside of the dress at the waist seam.
©PicklesINK 2013

4. Sew this seam together. I tried to do this with a straight stretch stitch, but I don’t think I was particularly successful (it doesn’t really stretch) and still seams (heheheheh) fine. Now turn it right side out and admire your work!

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Finished dress. PRAISE ME!! PRAISE ME!!
©PicklesINK 2013

5. If there is a pocket, and if you want to, carefully detach the pocket from the leftover piece of men’s shirt and reattach it to the skirt (Molly LOVES pockets, so this was the highlight of the dress for her).

6. Show it to everyone you know, either in person or through the use of social media, because you are SEW FREAKING AWESOME!!!! <—- see what I did there??

Who knows? Maybe there’s hope for me and this Pinterest thing after all.

~ karyn

Four lights

There are FOUR lights (Pinterest logo).
©PicklesINK 2013

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Not to toot my own horn, but I am friggin’ SUPERWOMAN!!

A few days back, in the middle of a marathon laundry session, my front-load washing machine started gushing water out of the soap dispenser drawer. I shrieked for help and Molly and Ben raced upstairs and brought me back every towel in the house.*

Now, the last two times I have had appliances break down on me (washing machine and dishwasher), I called a local appliance-fixing guy named Dave, who each time spent about 15 minutes unscrewing a panel, unclogging a hose, and laughing at his own sexist jokes, charged me $300, and left, both times leaving the panel off and saying, “Yer husband can put that back on when he gets home from werk.” I mean, don’t get me wrong, he was nice and all…

So this time I thought, “What the hell? I’ll give it a shot. The worst that happens is I can’t fix it and have to call someone anyway.”

The next step was of course to contact my old pal Google for inspiration. Google said, “Hey babe! Been missing you! We should totally catch up some…what? Washing machine issues? Wow, so much for small talk. Whatever. Anyway, I know this guy…” and turned me on to the most entertaining washing machine repair video ever. No joke. Watch it through to the end.** Awesome, right?

Armed to the teeth with information, I dropped the kids off at school, dug up Ian’s socket set, and went to work. This is the machine, soap dispenser drawer removed. I’ll recap what you already know from watching the best video ever – When you start the wash cycle, water flows from the pipe in the wall into the “ceiling” of the soap dispenser thingy and dribbles through little holes into the soap/fabric softener drawer, then flows out through a hose which feeds into the drum. If the water is coming out the dispenser drawer, it is most likely because that hose is clogged.

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Washing machine (right) with soap dispenser drawer removed.
©PicklesINK 2013

The first step is to remove the washing machine cover. There are 3 hex cap screws/bolts (Some of my engineering-inclined readers may have differing opinions on the terminology so I included both. For their clarification, the items in question are threaded with a tapered end and a hexagonal head requiring the use of a socket tool rather than a screwdriver.) on the back of the machine that must be removed, and then the metal lid lifts off.

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Washing machine with cover removed. The white rectangle on the left is the top of the soap dispenser.
©PicklesINK 2013

The black rubber hose in the centre plugs into the drum casing but is not attached with any other hardware, so it just pops in and out. I thought at first that was the hose in question, so I pulled it out and checked. It wasn’t clogged so I plugged it back in. Since I thought that was the only hose, I then removed the panel at the bottom of the machine to check the drain trap. A clogged drain usually results in the washing machine just refusing to drain or to start at all, so if you have that problem, make this the first thing you check. It’s a good idea to check it occasionally anyway as a preventative measure.

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Bottom panel removed. The white cylinder is the drain trap. Quite a lot of water comes out when you take the lid off it – I needed more than just that one towel.
©PicklesINK 2013

That also required the removal of 3 screws and then a little bit of wiggling before it popped off. The white thing that looks like the Eye of Sauron is the cover of the drain trap. If you twist it anti-clockwise, stinky water will start dribbling and then pouring out, and if you remove it all the way (I recommend putting some sort of container underneath), the rest of the water plus many small objects you never knew you had lost including usually a couple of dollars in very dirty coins will emerge. It’s a good idea to place a fairly large shallow container underneath to catch the water before you open it (unlike I did).

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Containers of narsty water, 2 small socks, and several coins.
©PicklesINK 2013

After emptying the drain trap, I put the cover back on, put the soap drawer back in, started the machine, and…as it turns out, I had not in fact solved the problem. Remembering my Youtube friend’s need for a flashlight, a lightbulb went on over my head and I thought, “Eureka! I didn’t check the right hose!”

On closer inspection, there is another, larger hose from the main part of the dispenser that you can’t see from above. I felt around inside (sticking my hand under that white box you see in the second picture and reaching towards the front of the machine) and found it, unplugged it (by feel), and lo and behold, a small, wadded up blue sock fell out, rather the worse for the wear for its adventure.

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The hose in question, as seen by my camera and flash.
©PicklesINK 2013

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The sock that was at the foot of it all. I toed you I could do it!
©PicklesINK 2013

I stuck a finger through to see if there was anything else (there wasn’t), plugged the hose back in (again by feel), and started her up again, and Ta-da!! Success!! No more gushing water, it only took 45 minutes, and I saved $300 and the possibility of assault charges if Dave-the-repair-guy had made another crack about Ben’s kitchen toys being “women’s tools.”

Then, because I’m a jerk, I sent Ian this text:

Screenshot_2013-05-08-11-01-55

Text reads: So…Um…Remember when I said I thought I could fix the washing machine by myself?

~ karyn

*I hereby confess to a slight degree of plot-enhancing hyperbole. When I told the story to Ian, Ben corrected me. They did not bring me EVERY towel – as he correctly points out, there were still many dishtowels in the kitchen.

**My favourite part is, “I’ll try to find flashlight to see if I show you hose better. Just bear vith me vell I find flashlight…*camera pointing at floor and bumping around* Ah. Here is flashlight. Sorry about the vait.”

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!)

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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!)

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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?

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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.)

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Ben and Molly at Day Out With Thomas
©PicklesINK 2013

Happy 6th Birthday, our favourite guy!

~ Love, Mommy, Daddy, and Molly

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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.

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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?

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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?

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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

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