picklesink

A mom, a dad, and two nutty kids.

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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Confession Cam

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Admit it – you’d confess too!!
©PicklesINK 2012

I feel like I should have a little video camera set up on a tripod in a closet in front of a bare wooden stool for this. Okay, here goes – Confession time – A big old truth-storm coming right at you, just between you and me:

I Hate Kids.

*phew*

That was a weight off my chest.

Now for the explanation: I love my children. I love your children. I am fascinated by child development, both normal and exceptional. I have always connected easily with children, and I spent most of my adolescent spare time babysitting and helping out with the children’s programs at my church.

It logically followed that I skipped off to university starry-eyed and determined to become The Very Best Kindergarten Teacher Ever. By the end of my very first day of my very first placement in a preschool classroom, I found myself (figuratively) rocking back and forth in the fetal position muttering, “Oh god. I hate kids. I hate them. What on earth made me think I wanted to do this?”

Some soul-searching later, I realized that a love of children does not necessarily equate a love of working with children, and even a love of working with children does not equate a love of working with lots of children. In mathematical terms, ∴ I love kids ≠ I should be a teacher.

I have many, many wonderful friends who are amazing teachers, and I have so much respect for their being able to do and love a job that I would rather stick needles in my eyes than pursue. They make it seem so effortless when all I can think is “But HOW? How do you get them to all sit down at once? What do you do when one of them runs off? How do you get them to all listen to you? HOW DO YOU DO IT WITHOUT YOUR FREAKING HEAD EXPLODING??”

Last year, I started up a Cherub Choir at my church. This was rather a frustrating exercise, due I think to a combination of lack of enthusiasm/participants and the fact that it coincided with the height of my (untreated) depression, and throughout last year I felt a constant push/pull within myself between “If my friends really cared, they would bring their kids out to support me!” and, “I am choosing to provide this service and it’s not my friends’ responsibility to populate it!”

I was on the verge of calling the whole thing off one Sunday morning as I arrived, yet again with just my two kids in tow, only to find a strange 12 year-old girl waiting, alone, in the church – her name was Aimee, she said in teenaged upspeak. “I saw your sign downtown? I’m here for the kids choir? To be a youth helper?” She had come with the grudging consent of her mom, who had given her permission to go for choir practice but not to stay for church because she wasn’t dressed properly for it. Aimee’s arrival ended that push/pull in my head with a swift kick in the butt of, “Okay, now I get it – I’m doing this for that shy, lonely 12 year-old who took a chance and found a place where for half an hour every Sunday she felt like she belonged.”

This year, my choir grew from two (Ben and Molly) to three and now to FIVE kids. Can you believe it? MORE THAN HALF of the choir is now NOT the fruit of my loins!! I’m torn between delirious excitement and abject terror – which brings us back to the part where I Hate Kids, because this is starting to feel suspiciously like a teaching gig. But weirdly enough, it’s also feeling kind of fun. And rewarding. And not as hard as it used to be.

Maybe the times, they are a-changin’, just a little bit.

Cherub choir, January 6, 2013

Cherub Choir and Senior Choir singing together
©PicklesINK 2012

~ karyn

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Beluga Grads having a Whale of a Time

Subtitled 3 Generations Go Bananas at @Raffi_RC Concert

Raffi ticket

Raffi #BelugaGrads Family Concert Ticket

DREAM COME TRUE DREAM COME TRUE DREAM COME TRUE!!!

Like practically all Canadians of a certain age (*cough* 27 *cough* No, really! *cough* *cough* Well, the specifics are unimportant, so…moving on…) I spent my childhood immersed in the music of Raffi . I played my Singable Songs for the Very Young and More Singable Songs LPs until I wore out the needle on my Strawberry Shortcake record player (and my dad kept…forgetting…to pick up a new needle…I’m beginning to suspect that he may have been enjoying the peace and quiet).

Singable Songs

Singable Songs and More Singable Songs
album covers

Moving on to the modern world of cassette tapes, One Light, One Sun was my absolute favourite. And even as an adult, “Joshua Giraffe” is guaranteed to send terrified shivers up and down my spine.

Raffi talking

Raffi speaks onstage at Roy Thomson Hall
December 2, 2012 ©PicklesINK 2012

Raffi Cavoukian fell into children’s music by accident, or perhaps serendipity. Originally a folk musician, Raffi accepted his mother-in-law’s invitation to sing for her nursery school and then took her suggestion to record a children’s album – proof positive that mothers (or mother-in-laws) know best! The rest, as they say, is history.

Raffi guitar 4

Raffi plays guitar and sings at Roy Thomson Hall
December 2, 2012 ©PicklesINK 2012

Raffi’s authenticity and genuine love for children comes through in his music as well as his activism. Raffi has always been a strong proponent of children’s rights, from his song “All I really need,” inspired by the 1979 United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child; to his 1997 founding of the Centre for Child Honouring, dedicated to advancing a vision of societal transformation based on respect for children and the earth; and most recently, spurred by the tragic suicide of Amanda Todd, to his founding of The Red Hood Project which aims to make the internet safer for young users.

Having been a fan of Raffi’s music from a very young age and his philosophy from more recently, I introduced my children to his music early on. Ben has always loved music – these two pictures, taken a year apart, show Ben jamming with his favourite busker, Keith, at a farmers’ market.

Ben jamming 1

Ben, age 3, jamming with Keith the busker
©PicklesINK 2012

Ben jamming 2

Ben, age 4 –
This time Keith gave Ben the stage to himself!
©PicklesINK 2012

He spent several months around the age of 3 obsessed with watching Youtube videos of vintage Raffi concerts and then putting on his own Hawaiian shirt, picking up his ukulele and recreating them for Molly, who appreciated the private concerts very much!

Ben as Raffi

Ben puts on a concert for a captive audience,
baby Molly in the jolly jumper.
©PicklesINK 2012

So when I heard in August about the upcoming #BelugaGrads Family Concert tour, I wasted no time getting my tickets…and not just mine!

Nana and Aunt Jane

Aunt Jane (left) and Nana watching the show
©PicklesINK 2012

Nana, Grandad, and Aunt Jane were delighted to come and share the Beluga nostalgia…

Grandad, Molly, daddy

Grandad, Molly, and daddy welcome Raffi onstage
©PicklesINK 2012

…and Ian, an English import and therefore a more recent Raffi convert was excited to experience the magic as well!

Ben and Kiara 2

Ben and Kiara dancing together
©PicklesINK 2012

Ben and Molly were also happy to have their young friend Kiara and her mommy Keri along for the ride. Kiara may turn out to be one of Raffi’s most fervent admirers – she didn’t stop bobbing her head and clapping the whole time!

Kiara clapping

Kiara clapping along with the music
©PicklesINK 2012

Ben and Molly’s reviews of the concert were glowing: Ben told me that his favourite part of the concert was every part and his favourite song was every song! Molly was more specific – her favourite song was “Molly’s song,” which she said went, “Monkey monkey monkey monkey. Monkey monkey monkey monkey. Monkey monkey monkey monkey. Monkey monkey monkey munchkin.” I’m not convinced I remember that one but perhaps it will provide inspiration for Raffi’s next album!

Grandad’s favourite part was when Raffi crouched behind his chair to slip on a red jersey before singing a new song, “On Hockey Days.” He was slightly disappointed when Raffi stood and revealed that it was Team Canada rather than Habs but enjoyed the song anyway.

Raffi hockey 2

Raffi can handle a hockey stick
and sing at the same time!
©PicklesINK 2012

One of the most touching moments in the concert was when Raffi led us all in singing “Happy Birthday” to 3 year-old Mason – read more about that in @Clippo‘s touching post “On Music, Love, and Raffi.”

Thank you so much, Raffi – It was a wonderful concert and an excellent way to spend a Sunday afternoon for kids and adults alike – As I said to the other obviously Beluga Grad parents in the elevator on the way down, “Our kids enjoyed it, but let’s be honest with ourselves – we all came here for us, right?”

~ karyn

Do your kids listen to Raffi? Did you? What’s your favourite Raffi song?

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Happy Wedding, Chris and Caitie!!

It’s been a crazy couple of weeks with ups and downs and LOTS of family but the highlight was DEFINITELY my little brother Chris and my new little sister Caitie’s long-awaited wedding!! (Well, at least the engagement was long-awaited…the wedding happened with a fair bit more efficiency, eh Chris?). “Wedding Week” started with last Sunday’s bridal tea.

The Bridal Tea

Last weekend we held a very entertaining bridal tea for Caitie. My event-planner-extraordinaire sister YY found a lovely venue, The Waterside Inn in Port Credit, that was willing to put up with us and we took over half of their dining room.

Guests seated around one of our three tables with window views.
©PicklesINK 2012

In place of presents, we asked guests to email their favourite recipes to put together a recipe book for the bride-to-be (if this idea sounds familiar to one of my email followers, shhhhh… but please thank your bridesmaids for me – best shower idea EVER!). Then we provided piles of sticky scrapbooking doodads and bling and had them go to town on their pages!

And of course, since no bridal shower is complete without a little healthy competition, we did the classic “forbidden words” game, giving each guest a set of clothespins when they arrived and warning them that they were subject to forfeit if they said the words “bride,” “ring,” or “wedding.” In the end, through a dangerous combination of trickery and sheer cuteness, there was a clear winner.

The winner of the contest, bedecked with her 26 clothespins.
©PicklesINK 2012

We also made a rehearsal bouquet out of advice and wishes for the happy couple using paper flowers with button centres on pipecleaner stems. I’m in a play coming up soon (shameless plug – COME OUT AND SEE ANNE OF GREEN GABLES AT THE PARIS FAIRGROUNDS NOVEMBER 15-18 & 22-25!!!) involving a lot of teenagers who have been very good sports about helping out with all of my bridal shower preparation, including the cutting out of many paper flowers and the making of about 100 beaded bracelets that wound up being used for the bachelorette party instead!

By the end we had gorged ourselves on crust-less sandwiches, tea biscuits, quiche, cookies, and cakes and had lots of fun!

Caitie, her paper bouquet, and me.
©PicklesINK 2012

The BIG Event Itself

The bride looked stunning, the groom looked dashing, and my kids looked adorable…what more could you ask?

The maid of honour signs the register while the minister, groom, bride, and best man look on.
Photo by Ben ©PicklesINK 2012

Once his walking-Molly-down-the-aisle duties were discharged, Ben made himself the unofficial wedding photographer, trying to give the talented Bruce Zinger a run for his money!

Ben with his trusty Olympus camera.
©PicklesINK 2012

Ben captured some great moments:

The rest of the bridal party watches the signing of the register, except for Uncle James who can’t resist a grin at Ben!
Photo by Ben ©PicklesINK 2012

Nana and grandad in matching blue.
Photo by Ben ©PicklesINK 2012

Close-up of a bridesmaid’s bouquet.
Photo by Ben ©PicklesINK 2012

The reception was spectacular – Kelly and Christine at Flowers Plus truly outdid themselves! (Make sure you click on that link because I discovered when I went to their site to link to it that they had also posted about the wedding with much more detailed pictures!)

Stunning decorations in the ballroom.
©PicklesINK 2012

The newlyweds being dedicated musicians, there was naturally a lot of musical talent represented at the ceremony and reception but the highlight was a trumpet duet by the bride and groom.

Chris and Caitie performing with the
Skule™ Stage Band behind them.
©PicklesINK 2012

After that I don’t know what got into them…they couldn’t keep their hands off each other. I mean, get a room, guys. Geez.

Newlyweds smooching.
©PicklesINK 2012

Of course, as often happens at weddings as the night goes on, the music plays, and the food and drink flow, the young people started getting friendlier with one another.

Molly with a tattooed boy.
©PicklesINK 2012

We finished what had to have been Ben and Molly’s latest night ever by heading back to the hotel around 11:00 pm. Fortunately we were thinking ahead and put them in their PJs before we left,  because Molly was asleep in Ian’s lap as soon as the taxi started moving. As we left, Ben yelled over his shoulder the question that had been bothering him all afternoon and evening – “Chris? CHRIS? Why didn’t I get to do my proper job? WHY DIDN’T I CARRY THE RINGS??”

The Aftermath

The weekend was a blast – we recovered the lost sleep quickly – and the only lasting effect seems to be that since the wedding, Ben and Molly have been insisting on candlelight, tablecloths, and chair covers every night at dinner.

Eating spaghetti and meatballs by candlelight.
©PicklesINK 2012

~ karyn

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