picklesink

A mom, a dad, and two nutty kids.

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.)

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

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

Advertisements
Leave a comment »

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

Leave a comment »

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

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

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.

29 Comments »

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.

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

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.

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

Where to cut child’s shirt
©PicklesINK 2013

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

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.

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

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!

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

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

3 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 »

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 »

Dear Neighbour (Ben’s Thank-You letter)

There is a house in our neighbourhood that is just…no other word to describe it…spectacular. It is on a massive corner lot and is known as “The Mayor’s House” due to its history, and every year the owner puts up the most amazing Christmas light display.

The first December that I noticed it, I raced home to get Ian and by the time we got back to the house they had been turned off…and off they stayed for weeks. “Karyn’s imaginary Christmas lights” became a running joke and I endured weeks of teasing before I finally dragged him over to the house in the daylight to triumphantly point out the thousands of tiny LED bulbs scattered over the many trees and shrubs on the property.

They finally turned on again for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, and for the next 11 months we mused over whether this was going to be a yearly tradition – Was this incredible display meant to be a secret known only to those select few who happened to drive by on one of the three days it was randomly turned on?

Lights 2

One view of the property showing lights on trees, a wreath on the gate, and the lighted eaves. ©PicklesINK 2012

Happily, the following year and those subsequent have seen the lights on far more frequently! I’m afraid the pictures really don’t do it justice because it’s impossible the capture the extent of the display in one shot, but all of the trees and shrubs on the property are strung with tiny LED lights in all different colours, the eaves of the multi-peaked roof are hung with white lights, the two large driveway gates are adorned with huge pine wreaths, and one tall pine tree by the house is decorated with baubles and ribbons. Above it all shines a large star, seemingly suspended in mid-air but in reality mounted on a pole atop the tallest tree. When driving up the hill from downtown, all you can see is that single star suspended in the sky and the effect is truly breathtaking.

Lights 1

Second view, showing the tallest multicoloured tree, lighted eaves, and the star on the right.
©PicklesINK 2012

Needless to say, Ben and Molly are pretty enamoured of the whole display, and throughout the Christmas season any time we came home in the dark the anticipatory conversation took place: “Do you think the lights are going to be on?” “I hope so!” “I love those lights!” “I see the star!” “Yay, the boo-ti-ful lights are on!” We have been talking a lot this season as a family about the idea of gratitude and Ben is a big fan of thank-you notes, so when he suggested that he could write a thank-you card to the owner of the house with the lights, I agreed that it was an excellent idea (Woo-hoo! Voluntary practice for my reluctant printer!), and away he went.

Ben writing letter

Ben, hard at work writing his letter, with the list of words he had requested spelled beside him.
©PicklesINK 2012

The finished letter, Ben’s original composition, read:

to Neighbour

Thank you for the beautiful lights.

Me and my sis love to look at them when we drive by.

Do you use a remote to turn them on?

From Ben and Molly

Finished letter

Completed letter and card.
©PicklesINK 2012

When he was finished, we folded the letter into a Christmas card, walked down to the house, and dropped it in the mail box. Who knows if we will get a reply, but Ben was very proud of himself and hopefully he brightened someone’s day!

~ karyn

PS – Readers who are Angie Nussey fans should have this song in their heads by now and readers who are not yet Angie Nussey fans should definitely check her out!

How do you feel about thank-you cards? Do you write them? Do you expect them?

3 Comments »

Chalet trip: Black Diamonds are forever and Happy New Year

Ben went away after Christmas for a “special trip with Nana and Grandad.” We perhaps should have prepared Molly better, because she was absolutely devastated when he left:

Sad Molly

The saddest Molly face EVER.
©PicklesINK 2012

She cried for hours – “But I need BEN! I can’t go to sleep without BEN! No, you can’t sing me a lullaby – ONLY BEN CAN SING ME A LULLABY!” She finally rolled over in bed and poured her heart out to her doll, Charlie – “Charlie, I miss BEN! Will you do a craft with me tomorrow, Charlie? With pink, and sparkles, and then we can call Ben and tell him about it?”

Ben and Molly’s reunion three days later was a sight to see. Unfortunately I didn’t get a picture of it, but he threw open the car door and jumped in and they embraced and cheered and gushed, “I missed you, Molly!!” “I missed you too Ben!” “I love you, Molly!!” “I love you, Ben!!” and you couldn’t pry them apart for the rest of the day.

Together again 3

Ben and Molly sitting in a chair watching a show
©PicklesINK 2012

Ice cream

Ben and Molly sharing a chair and dessert
©PicklesINK 2012

For days after we got home, Molly would occasionally smile and say, “Now Ben is back where he belongs – with Molly.” I know they’ll have their sibling ups and downs, but as one friend put it, we must be doing something right!

The purpose of Ben’s special trip, aside from having a fun time with Nana and Grandad, was to give him the opportunity to learn to ski. In my family, we traditionally are put on skis pretty well as soon as we can walk reliably and there’s snow on the ground, so we started both Ben and Molly on skis the winters before their 2nd birthdays. At that age, though, you’re mostly just holding the child up and getting them used to the idea of sliding down the hill standing up.

A friend who is an extremely talented pianist and piano teacher (shameless plug – if you’re in the Toronto area and looking for piano lessons, check her out) suggested that in most cases it’s good idea to hold off on private piano lessons until a child is old enough to have the fine motor control to physically do what they want to do on the instrument or they will get frustrated. She suggests starting lessons at 6 and notices that in general children who start piano lessons at that age very quickly catch up to their peers who started at a younger age.

I suspect that the same is true of sports like skiing – I think that each child has a threshold for when they are physically capable of learning the sport, and while introducing them to it earlier will help them become comfortable with the sensations, once they hit that threshold they will literally and figuratively take off.

In Ben’s case, that threshold was age 5 1/2! He left with Nana and Grandad on Boxing Day to go up to the chalet, and Molly and I joined them on the 29th. He left a non-skier who hadn’t even been on skis in a year, and this is what I found when I went up:

Zoom 1

Ben zooming downhill without a care in the world
©PicklesINK 2012

Ben and grandad 2

Ben, in the lead, racing Grandad
©PicklesINK 2012

Ben and nana 2

Ben and Nana stopping for a chat
©PicklesINK 2012

Ben just a dot

Ben, just a dot in the distance
©PicklesINK 2012

Ben on Chair

Ben riding the chairlift like an old pro
©PicklesINK 2012

Helmet hair

Ben showing off his helmet hair in the bar…er…cafeteria.
©PicklesINK 2012

He was skiing down the freaking black diamonds!! In skiing speak, those are the “Advanced” slopes, as compared to the green circles (Beginner), blue squares (Intermediate), and double- or triple- black diamonds (!!☠☠!! and !!!☠☠☠!!!). This is all, of course, relative – Ontario black diamonds are not the same level as BC or Quebec black diamonds, let alone others found worldwide. But still – pretty amazing stuff for a 5 year-old after 4 days of lessons!

Please also note my prodigious talent at photographing a moving target whilst skiing myself – I may not excel at many sports, but when it comes to skiing I got mad skillZ! And if you don’t believe me, take it from The Evil Snowman:

Evil snowman

I am The Evil Snowman, and I endorse this message.
©PicklesINK 2012

After skiing, it was back to the chalet for some (EVIL) snowman-building followed by warm chocolate with marshmallows (Ben and Molly feel that hot chocolate would be too hot) and a dip in the hot tub.

Molly's bathing suit

I forgot Molly’s bathing suit, but a tankini top and some creative strap-tying did the trick.
©PicklesINK 2012

Ian and I reprised the dip in the hot tub on New Year’s Eve and participated in the classic chalet tradition of making snow angels in bathing suits. Before you say anything, let he among you who can resist a double-dare cast the first stone snowball!!

Snow angel

Brrr….snow angel…..brrr….
©PicklesINK 2012

Ian went for a wander with his camera and took some great pictures:

Snow falling

New Year’s Eve snowfall
©PicklesINK 2012

S

Snowy riverbanks
©PicklesINK 2012

S

Snowy woodland trail covered with cross-country ski tracks
©PicklesINK 2012

S

Icy river close-up
©PicklesINK 2012

And along with Nana, we managed (just) to stay up until midnight, raise a glass, and then collapse into bed.

Evil snowman celebrating

Happy New Year
from The Evil Snowman!
©PicklesINK 2012

I know it’s a little late, but from our home to yours, I hope you had a very Happy New Year and that your hopes and dreams for the coming year all come true!

~ karyn

Leave a comment »