Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Our Halloween

    I'm going to start with the obvious, we go all out for all of the holidays... oh and I'm pretty sure that there's something wrong with me.  I am pretty much just a big kid.  I enjoy being over the top, and watching the looks on my kid's faces.  I sound like a broken record, but I really want to give them a special childhood, filled with amazing memories.  That lofty goal comes with the price of not much sleep for me on the night before special occasions, but in the long run I think it's worth it.
    The kids woke up to see above table.  We made a run for the border (Watertown New York) a week or so ago, mainly to buy Halloween cereal.  We can't get Count Chocula, BooBerry, or Franken Berry cereal here in Canada.  The kid's got a huge kick out of their bleeding bowl and scary cereal this morning.

    We stayed up until 12:30 last night putting the finishing touches on everything for today.  12:30 actually pretty early for us on the eve of special occasions.  I had to make two cakes (two instead of three because Elly's class can only have snacks that are prepackaged and say "peanut free").  The kid's get a real ego boost when they bring in special cakes to share with their class.  Some years the class has actually given them a standing ovation.  Not only did I have two decorated cakes to make but I decided (here is the there's something wrong with me part) to make them extra special lunches too.

    I have Wilton letter presses that are intended to be used for cakes.  You press them into your cake, and it gives you neat letters to follow with your fine cake tip.  I accidently found them in my cake decorating drawer and had a great idea.  I cut my cheese into small cubes and then pressed the letters into the cheese to spell out "BOO".  I gave myself a pat on the back for that one.  The above lunch is Elly's.  One of the children in her class has a severe allergy to peanuts and there is one (or possibly the same kid) has a severe egg allergy.  This means that I cannot send boiled eggs for Elly's lunches, and she loves boiled eggs.  The big kids all got eyeball deviled eggs, but I gave Elly strawberry yogurt with Halloween sprinkles in it's place.

    For Grace I changed up her sandwich.  She's 11, and the small ghost sandwich (which I cut using a cookie cutter) just would not cut it.  To give her a maximum sandwich and still make it festive, I just cut the top out of it using my pumpkin cookie cutter.  I gave her smoked turkey and cheese, putting the orange cheese on top.  I found candy googly eyes made by Wilton and attached them with a tiny bit of butter.

    I was pretty stoked about the deviled eggs.  If the kids don't come home tonight and ooh and awww about them, I might ground them all.  They were time consuming, but soooooo worth it.  I used food gel and a wooden skewer to make the outside of the "eyes" look blood shot.  This was time consuming, very time consuming, but gave a really cool effect, if I do say so myself.  I then made my yolk filling (mashed egg yolk with mayonnaise), but I added some blue food colouring gel to it.  The last and maybe most important step was to add a sliced black olive for the pupil.  I made Christopher stop what he was doing to come over and look at my art pieces, I mean deviled eggs.  I kept congratulating myself on a job well done, at one point Christopher just rolled his eyes and walked away (to be fair to him I had really been congratulating myself on making mother of the year for a while).

    So at 12:30 a.m. my feet hurt, my hands could barely close by my own free will, and I smelled like icing.  I had made a skeleton cake, a creepy pumpkin cake (which I forgot to photograph), deviled eggs that looked like eyeballs, Halloween themed lunches, and had decorated the breakfast table.  I walked like a zombie upstairs to shower (although maybe some men find the smell of icing to be an aphrodisiac, I don't know, some people have weird tastes).  I can tell you that my bed felt pretty darned good last night.  It was one of those rare nights that I do not wonder what I could have done better in the day.  I felt pretty pleased with myself.  The kid's would have a great morning, and I felt like a good Mom.


Tuesday, 30 October 2012

Our Pumpkin Carving Contest Tradition

    I'm not sure how this happened, but Halloween seems to have kind of snuck up on me this year.  I feel totally unprepared.  Halloween is a big deal for us.  We don't have our yard display out yet (that's due to the fact that we have had workers and torrential rains), I just feel unprepared.  I guess really that our yard takes us about an hour to decorate, we have it down to a fine science, maybe we will do that this afternoon, if the rain and high winds hold off.

    One Halloween tradition that I am actually on top of this year is our pumpkin carving contest.  We have done it for so long that I don't even remember how long we have done for.  In the early years we would just carve one pumpkin.  That was a problem when the kids began to exhibit free will and want a say in it.  It was then that we decided that everyone should carve their own pumpkin.   Even my parents bring over their pumpkins to carve.

Even Fergus got in on it.
    We throw down a plastic table cloth and/ or garbage bags.  There are lots of kid friendly carving tools and scoops that I have collected over the years.  I put out lots of bowls to collect the pumpkin guts.  I try to keep the mess confined, but inevitably I am finding pumpkin seeds all over the living room for weeks.  I have finally learned to bring the pumpkins into the house a day before carving so that they are room temperature.  One year I thought I was so smart and kept the pumpkin in the house the whole time (I try to buy the pumpkins early in October.  There have been a few years when we were not able to get our hands on all of the pumpkins that we needed).  I picked the pumpkin up and it disintegrated into a smelly mess at my feet.  Rotted pumpkin is a smell that you don't soon forget, or get out of your skin, trust me on this one.

Grace looked on Pinterst before carving her pumpkin.
She decided to use cookie cutters.
    I am pleased to report that this year none of the kids were grossed out by the pumpkin guts.  Most years one or all of the kids are super excited to carve pumpkins, until the lid comes off of them.  I usually try to capture on film the reactions of my more squeamish kids.

    Everyone has their own tried and true method for carving the pumpkins.  I like to sit back and watch, oh and take lots of pictures.  Christopher cleans out his pumpkin like it's a race.  You can hear the whip, whip, whip of his frantically digging.  The kids work slowly, biding their time, waiting for Speedy Gonzales to be finished with his gutting, so that he can do theirs.   I am slow and methodical.  I cannot begin to carve until every last string is out of that pumpkin.  It was to be completely clean before I begin (boys and girls can you say OCD).

I have no idea why Rowan was wearing
shorts and a long sleeved shirt.

    The same thing applies to carving.  Some of us have a plan, some of us like to wing it.  I have to have blue prints (I get that from my Dad).  I have little doodles, and stencils before I begin to even gut my pumpkin.  The kids kind of fall into both camps.  Some of them are planners, some of them are fly by the seat of their pants.  

    I spent time in the afternoon pulling up images of carved pumpkins that I liked.  I like to be creative, but I do better at stealing ideas than coming up with my own, that's why I like Pinterest so much.  I found lots of them that I really liked, but there were only a few that I could believably do.  I thought the same thing that I do every year, one of these years I am going to invest in one of those Dremel saws.

    I like to cut the bottom off of my pumpkin.  I find it so much easier than trying to fit the top on exactly.  There have been many a year that my top just fell in on top of my candle.  After I had cleaned my pumpkin I drew my picture on using Sharpie marker (I love Sharpies).

    I knew that the design would be tricky.  The idea was to have the ghost stand out, with the pumpkin around him cut away.  That design spelled out breakage.  I carved the eyes and mouth first.  I then cut out the bits of pumpkin one small piece at a time.  I used my Pampered Chef paring knife, praying that I would not snap it (I didn't).  It was no small miracle, but my pumpkin turned out just the way that I had wanted it to... I was amazed.

    A couple of years ago we discovered the battery operated tea candles.  It was love at first sight.  There would be no more struggling to get the stupid tea light to light.  There would be no more burned fingers and hands dropping the candle in.  No more struggling to light the stupid candle, only to have it blow out immediately.  No, battery operated candles are the way to go for us!

    After the pumpkins are all carved, and lighted, the next part of the tradition is to set them all up, and turn out the lights.  I know that it's corny, but I really love that part.  To the kids it's magical, well to me too.  We all ooooh and awwwww over everyone's pumpkins, and tell each other what we really liked that they did on theirs.

    The last part of the "contest" is to hand out prizes.  My prize titles are super lame, I admit it.  Only an idiot would pick out "The Best" pumpkin.  My kid's are ultra sensitive to criticism or not being in the spot light (who am I kidding, who really is).  I come up with titles such as "Rowan win's for the best 8 year old boy", "Riley wins for the best 8 year old girl", "Grace wins the oldest girl category", "Elly wins youngest girl category".... you get the drift, lame.  I always have prizes.  This year chocolate bars were on for a super cheap price, so I bought full sized candy bars for prizes.  My Mom's reaction was my favourite.  She excitedly picked out a Kit Kat bar, only to be devastated to discover that we had Bounty Bars (after she had already begun eating her Kit Kat).
    It's a good tradition.  It's a night of fun and family.  We capped it off with hot chocolates with marshmallows.  Now I just have to decorate the front lawn... in between hurricane force winds and torrential rain.

Monday, 29 October 2012

Giving The Gift Of Life

    When I was a kid I could not wait until I hit 18.  When I was 18 I could donate blood.  For the life of me I do not not know why it was that that was so important to me, but it was.  I felt like I could change the world I guess.  I gave blood for the first time my first year at York University.  There was a Blood Donor Clinic in Central Square.  I felt like I had hit the big leagues, I was now an adult, because I had donated blood!  From that time forward I would give blood whenever I saw a blood donation.  I could not understand why on earth everyone that could would not donate blood.  It's no big deal, it doesn't hurt (o.k., it's a little uncomfortable), it takes about an hour of your time, and you can save someone's life.
    This pride in donation became more pronounced after I needed to have a blood transfusion.  When I ruptured my spleen in our accident, I very nearly bled to death.  I had lost so much blood that by the time that the inept hospital noticed that I was bleeding to death, I had nearly bled to death.  When I was transported from the Napanee Hospital to the Kingston General, I had a bag of blood going into both arms.  If people had not taken the time out of their day to donate blood, I would be dead.  That sounds extremely overly dramatic, but it in fact completely true.  That accident had used almost the equivalent to the amount of blood I had donated over 15 years ( I had needed between 8 to 10 units of blood).
     Today there was a blood Clinic in Tweed.  Apparently there were no more spaces to be filled, and I was unable to donate today.  Unknown to Christopher his name had made the list.  He went for his appointment at 4:30.  He rolled his eyes when he noticed that I had brought in the camera.  "You're writing a blog about this aren't you?"  I just smiled and nodded.  "I'm here to make your life more interesting." I told him.  He rolled his eyes and sighed.  I was a little put out that I was unable to donate, and then I began to think about it.  The reason that I was not able to donate was because they had filled every space.  That was a good thing, that was a really good thing.

    It was kind of interesting watching blood donation from somewhere other than the chair.  I noticed that there were like 5 bags all stuck together, and I knew that we did not fill up that many bags, so I asked the nurse who was taking Christopher's blood.  Christopher just shook his head.  Apparently if any air touches the blood at any point it is contaminated and not able to be used.  The bags are all linked so that they can test the blood without it ever being contaminated by air.  I have to say I felt a little more secure knowing that our blood is that well protected.

    I also discovered that this branch of the Canadian Blood Services comes from Kingston.  They travel all around this area collecting blood.  They stay in Kingston three days a week, and travel the other two.  I guess that it wouldn't get boring.

    After Christopher had filled his bag of blood, and then waited the prescribed five minutes with pressure on his arm, it was time for him to move along to his favourite part of blood donation, the snack table.  At the snack table nice volunteers offer you cookies and your choice of juice, coffee, or water.  The big kid, I mean Christopher chose a juice box.

    He was most delighted to discover that he had the very last package of Oreo Cookies.  Somehow the very last packaged tasted so much more delicious. He was a little disappointed when one of the volunteers heard him comment on the fact that he had the very last Oreos, and she went into the back and brought out several more bags.

    From start to finish I think it took about an hour for Christopher to fill out his forms and donate blood and then eat his treat.  An hour of your time is nothing when you think about the life that you are saving by doing this.  When we donate in Tweed it is more like a social visit with all of your friends and neighbours.  If you are a regular blood donor I say THANK YOU, maybe you were one of the people who helped to save my life.  If you are not a blood donor... why not?  I can assure you that you are going to feel like a hero when you leave, knowing that you have given someone the gift of life.  I dare you all to get out there!

Sunday, 28 October 2012

Being Nostalgic About York University

A stub from the dance that sealed our future.

    Last night Christopher and I went to see my cousin Fiona's play The Rocky Horror Picture Show.  The theatre was one street over from York University.  We got to reminiscing about "the good old days".  We drove past Sentinel Street, the street that would take you to York.  I looked down that street thinking about our wonderful past.  We decided that after the show we would take a trip to the University... just for old times sake.

Look at my big hair, and
much smaller body

    After the show we drove up Sentinel Street.  "This is all new" Christopher said.  We rubber necked looking at everything.  "That's not new."  I said of the apartments we passed.  "There's the pond" I shouted out excited.  "Remember stealing cafeteria trays and using them as sleds to go down that hill?" He just got this wistful smile.  "I remember", he said and reached over and squeezed my knee.

More BIG hair.
   We drove right up to Stong Residence and just sat there looking up at it.  So many memories.  Just looking at it I could almost smell the way the corridor smelled.  I could visualize every part of that place from the mailboxes at the front to the mildewy smell of the bright orange elevators.  Christopher pointed up to the third floor window "There's Slip's Bar".  He had a bar in his room that was very popular.  He charged dollar drinks.  Everyone would stop off and see "Slipper" before they headed down to the Orang Snail Pub.  We got a cheap head start.  His room was always packed with people.  Our rooms always had the doors open.  You were never lonely at Rock House (the name of our floor), unless you wanted to.  It was nice.

    While we sat there, someone buzzed into the residence.  "I wish we could follow him in" said Christopher.  "I think I'd rather live in the past.  If we went up there they would think that we were someone's mom and dad."  I said it with a laugh, but then the reality of my words stuck in my throat, choking me a little.  If Gabe were still here, we would be doing the university circuit this year.  We are old enough to have kids at university.   It was a little like a punch in the stomach.  I had two equally stong emotions.  The first was how could we be old enough to have a kid going to university, when it feels like five minutes ago that we stopped going there?  The second was the longing for Gabe.  The thought of all of the things that we have been robbed of.  My little man will never get to go to University and experience all of the wonder that Christopher and I did.  

Oh he was so stinking cute
    On the way home we talked about York.  It was such a wonderful time, maybe some of the best years of my life.  I was that small town girl, living the dream in the big city.  Sunday nights were touch football in the lot behind the dorm.  We had so much fun.  There was a big group of us that would play, usually only two or three of us were girls.  I learned how to throw a spiral with a football at York.
We played broom ball, and I spent much of my shifts in the penalty box for roughing.  Our house won the championship my first year.  There was a lot of celebrating at Slip's Bar that night.  So many great memories were had at York.  We had so many great friends there that over time we have lost touch with.

    It was a Stong's "Last Supper" that the shy nice guy, Slip from down the hall finally danced with me.   He liked me all year, and I knew it.  It was nice to have someone like you like that.  I had been a nerd in high school, university was a chance to a fresh start.  No one knew that past me, only the present me.  I was sowing my oats, living, I had no time for steady boyfriends, or so I thought.  That dance... Christopher's friend Ian asked me to dance.  I got up, but instead of walking to the dance floor, he walked me over to Christopher and put our hands together.  We danced all night.  From that one dance came 19 years of marriage, and 5 beautiful children.  From that dance and a lot of hard work.
    When we got home last night I pulled out the old photo albums.  I lovingly turned each page, looking at the young faces before me.  We were so young.  My hair was so big (it was the early 90's).  It took me quite a while to get ready to leave my room.  I kept a curling iron plugged in 24 hours a day... just incase.  I look back and marvel that I did not catch my room on fire.  I needed to look perfect before I would leave my room.  My make-up had to be just right, my clothes, my hair, everything.  It was shortly after we were married that I stopped wearing make-up, stopped taking hours on my personal appearance.  I just sat looking at those pictures, my face hurt from smiling.  We were so young, so happy.  York University, you sure gave us some really great memories.

Saturday, 27 October 2012

The Rocky Horror Picture Show - Curtain Call Players Style

shhhhh don't tell that I took a picture during the play.
    I have never actually seen the whole Rocky Horror Picture Show movie.  I have seen bits of it, I would have to live under a rock not to have.  I just have really never felt the need to watch it, it didn't never has really interested me.  I'm not too into the whole "campy" camp.  I don't really understand going to the theatre dressed in costume and throwing things at the screen... I just don't really get it.
    Having said all of the above I had to go and see the Curtain Call Players version of The Rocky Horror Picture Show, my cousin Fiona was in it.  Growing up Fiona was so much older and cooler.  She was the cousin that you followed around like a puppy.  She and her sisters (and my Aunt and Uncle) lived in Toronto.  Toronto to me was Nervana.  It was big and exciting and I promised myself that when I grew up I would move to Toronto.  Fiona did all of the things that I wished that I had the nerve to do.  She was in plays and she took singing lessons.  She wore cool clothes and wore make-up.  She had cool friends who were really nice to her pesky annoying little cousin.  Fiona was one of my idols.  Now that I'm a grown-up she is not that much older (7 years), and now we are not just cousins, but are now friends too.  I still idolize her a little (don't tell her I said that it might go to her head).  She does what I would love to have the courage to do, she follows her joy.... she does community theatre.  I would love to have the courage to do a play.

Our kit included...
toilet paper, a newspaper, fully loaded water gun,
rice, a bell and playing cards.
    We drove to the York Woods Library Theatre.  I was feeling a little nostalgic, York Woods Library was just a street away from York University, the place where I spent some of the best years of my life, and met my husband.  I arrived at the theatre with a little dumb grin on my face.  Christopher dropped me at the doors and I went in and bought our tickets while he parked the car.  I then went and bought us "participation kits".  The kits came with a script and instructions.  We took our seats and began to read our script.  It seemed a little complicated.  We decided that perhaps we would just "watch the play".  We would allow those around us to participate.

    I sat there hoping it would be good.  I was already trying to come up with positive things to say to Fiona if I hated it.  I have seen a couple of Curtain Call Players productions (South Pacific, some original play about one of the World Wars, and last year we saw Hairspray).  All of their productions are excellent, so much better than you would expect community theatre to ever be.  Basically you are seeing actors of similar quality to the "BIG" theatre actors, but for a fraction of the price.  Our tickets were $26.00.  The York Woods theatre was small and intimate.  The seats were a little small and a little cramped, but lucky for me there was no one beside me on one side, and my husband that I don't get to spend enough quality time with on the other side.  I just snuggled into my sweetheart and waited for the show.  At that point in time, life was a bit of all right.
    The "Phantoms" came out first.  I strained my eyes searching for my other cousin Andy (Andy Kirkness is actually Fiona's nephew, my Cousin and Fiona's sister Heather's son).  Even with all of the white make up on he is still a really good looking kid.  I got this big grin on my face when I saw him up there.  There was this young man who I had seen from a baby.  He, like his Auntie was following his joy, and doing community theatre.  Shorty after, Fiona came on.  I just sat watching her.  She is this tiny little person with the big personality and this huge singing voice.  She commanded the whole stage.  I also got a kick out of seeing the productions director Keith O'Connell playing the role of Riff Raff.  Keith was one of those cool kids that I would see at Aunt Jean's house.  He and Fiona have been friends since at least high school, maybe longer.   There on the stage was that grown up teenager wearing white make up and having fun.

Fiona Johnson as Magenta
    The whole production was great, although if I were to tell the truth, for me Fiona stole the show (she might hurt me if I said otherwise), Fiona and Andy.  What a gutsy kid that Andy is.  There he was up in front of strangers wearing women's lingerie and wearing high heels, and I should say dancing in high heels and doing a better job in heels that I ever could.  Everyone in the production was so talented.  I was blown away by Adam Holroyd (Brad).  He was this mild mannered Clark Kent looking guy, quiet and unassuming.  When he began to sing I was stunned.  He had the most beautiful singing voice.  I really wished that "Brad" had more singing opportunities.  I really enjoyed watching Twaine Ward in the role of Frank "N" Furter.  There was a fireman's pole in the middle of the stage, and he was so much fun to watch coming down it in his cherry red lingerie (which by the way I wished I could look as good wearing).  I had the pleasure of meeting him after the show and he was one of the nicest people that I have had the pleasure of meeting.  Another show stealer for sure was one of the "Phantoms", Jesse Perreault.  He had a solo part at the very end of the show.  What an amazing voice that young man has.  Here's a hint Keith, if I may be so bold... make sure you give him bigger part in future productions, that kid has big talent.  I was surprised to find out that Jesse is actually a really good friend of Andy's from Sudbury.  Another easily overlooked stand out for me was the narrator, David Rudat.  He did a really great job.

Steve Lavoie the Musical Director,
and my cousin the shrinking violet,
Fiona Johnson
    I feel I would be complacent if I did not mention the talented band.  Just before the end of the show Christopher leaned over to me and whispered "Make sure you mention the band in your blog.  They are FANTASTIC.  If it weren't for the talent of that band, that show would only be half as good as it was!".  To be honest until that point I had not even noticed the band.  After that I really listened and saw the band.  They did such an amazing job that I did not notice them, but Christopher was right, without them the show would not have been as good.

Twaine Ward a.k.a Frank N Furter

    Christopher and I had a really nice night out in the big city.  We enjoyed the show, even though I am not really a Rocky Horror Picture Show fan.  That production has spurred me to check the TV guide tonight and see if I can catch The Rocky Horror Picture Show.  I also have not been able to get 
"Science Fiction Double Feature" out of my head!

Andy Kirkness, all grown up.
    My advice to you... spend $26 and go and see The Rocky Horror Picture Show, you will get your money's worth, oh and wear a rain jacket because those "Participation Kits" contain fully loaded water guns.  We did not join in the "participation", nor did we do "The Time Warp" dance, but we had a fun night.  It was nice to see my family, and to see that cool kid that hung out at Aunt Jeans.

    I should add that this is not for the prude.  It was really fun and funny, but quite risque.

Friday, 26 October 2012

Class Projects

    There is a good chance that I stand alone on this one, but I like big class projects.  I know there are many of you reading this swearing at your computer screen, but I really enjoy doing class projects with the kids.  Let me share the obvious, I am and always have been a nerd.  I look at pretty much everything as a teachable moment.  I also really like to learn, and hope that I can pass that joy of learning along to the kids.  I view class projects as an opportunity to bond with my child one on one.  When we are doing that project they have my undivided attention, which is a rarity with 4 kids.

    Grace had to do research and a paper as well as a homestead for a native people of her choice.  I suggested to her that she do a project about a local native group.  She chose the Mohawk.  We are most fortunate to have the Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory just half an hour from us.  I made arrangements to go and speak to a Mohawk researcher (I blogged about it a few weeks back).  She was so helpful and nice.  She supplied Grace with an abundance of information.  I also was able to borrow books from the Tyendinaga public library.  They had a huge native section.

    Before we began doing Grace's homestead I asked her to draw a diagram of what she thought it should include.  I then showed her a picture from one of the books and suggested that we could replicate it.  It took us weeks to put all of the small details into place.  I found beads and after much trial and error Grace and I strung yellow and brown beads onto fishing line.  I then wrapped the beads around a little skewer to make tiny cobs of corn.  We made several runs into local woods to procure supplies.

    When it was all said and done Grace stayed up until 10:30 p.m. putting the finishing touches on her homestead.  She had hot glue burns on her fingers to proved that she had done the work.  I helped her with a lot of her project.  I really wanted to take over and do it all myself, but it was her project.  What would she learn if I did it all (even though I really wanted to). She left the house with this big smile on her face, she was really proud of her project.  
    Grace's teacher invited parents to come in this afternoon and look at everyone's projects.  As I commented on some of the projects many of her classmates told me "Dad/ Mom did all of mine, he/ she wouldn't let me help."  There were also kids there that it was obvious no one had helped them with their project.  I am not sure who I most felt the saddest for, the kids who had no help or the kids who were not allowed to help.  I really enjoyed Grace and I discussing what we were doing for the project. We decided to fill the long house with cedar bows (really small ones), because that is what the Mohawk people would have done.  I enjoyed trying to make the long house using the materials and trying to be semi-authentic in our technique (although I am certain that the Mohawk peoples did not use glue guns to put together their long houses).  I enjoyed talking about making corn, and then the two of us making the corn.  Corn was a staple for the Mohawk people.  There were parts of the project that I had to walk away from, or risk blowing a gasket.  The long house was a lot of work.  We cut green branches and bent them.  We had a lot of trial and error with everything on this project.  The thing that I liked the most was our time together, and that Grace was really proud to show her class.

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

Raising Kids With Good Self-Esteem

    I was speaking to a friend yesterday.  She was letting off some steam, venting about her daughter's lack of self-esteem.  "We encourage her, we do everything that we know how to do, but she doesn't think that she's good enough."  I wished that I had the magic answer for her, but I don't.  I guess that the best that you can do, is well, the best that you can do.
    Growing up I never felt like I was pretty enough, thin enough, or that I was good enough.  This chronic lack of self esteem led me to make decisions that I would have never made if I'd had great self-esteem.  I come from a long line of women with poor self-esteem.  I am bound and determined to break this cycle.  I think that the first step in breaking the cycle is to learn to accept myself.  It has taken me a good many, many years, but I am o.k. with me now.  Could I loose some weight?  Oh you bet.  Does it make me feel badly about myself that I am overweight?  Not really.  I have a husband who loves me for the me inside, it's hard to do much better than that.  I feel like I no longer need outside validation to be alright with me.  I sure hope that I have figured out part of the puzzle.
   From the time my kids were born I have told them how beautiful they are, are smart they are, how loved they are.  I wanted my children to be bathed in love and admiration.  This to me at the time seemed like the perfect way to give them self-esteem, I would force feed it to them.  I have come to discover that although done with the best of intent, perhaps my methods are flawed.  I was force feeding them self-esteem externally, depriving them from discovering it and growing it themselves.
    If you ask my girls who is the prettiest girl in the class they will tell you without missing a beat that it is them.  Perhaps they are too confident.  I have tried now to back off a little on the force feeding, but that too has back fired.  My kids need to be praised.  If they ask if I like something that they have done, they expect me to tell them that it is the best thing that I have ever in my whole life seen.  If I tell them that they did a great job, but I think that they could do better if they tried just a little harder, you would think that I had told them I hated them.  I have created praise junkies.
    I guess that it is back to the drawing board.  My new approach is to still bath them in love, but to encourage their own growth of self-esteem.  I am trying not to "over praise", but also to not be overly critical.   I am trying to model good self-esteem, and I hope that helps too.  I'll let you know how this new approach of mine is working in 20 years or so.  Man this parenting thing is hard.

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

Spooky Kid's Lunches

Salami with a pumpkin face, a dollar store
mini-treat bucket filled with rainbow Goldfish
crackers, a Mott's applesauce
 and El Cheapo cookies (That's not the brand).

    I promised myself that I would make school lunches more interesting this year.  So far I have been true to my word.  I really have been seeking inspiration from the Bento blogs that I now subscribe to.  Those ladies have a lot of time on their hands and come up with some amazing stuff!  I told myself in the beginning that I would make one interesting lunch a week.  One a week is not a huge time commitment.  I find that I am really enjoying the creativity involved in making them fun and interesting lunches.  It's more like one lunch a week isn't fun, at least for now.

    Halloween is one of my favourite times of the year.  I do not enjoy being scared, but I take sick delight in scaring / scarring others.  I have been having a blast making their lunches with the Halloween theme ( I know I really do need a life).  The dollar store is a veritable cornucopia of delight when it comes to Halloween lunch extras.  I made one lunch and put in plastic eyeballs.  I giggled the whole time I was making their lunches.  Christopher looked at me like I had lost my mind (there is a good chance that he was onto something.)  The next afternoon when they came home I asked them "So did I freak you out to day?"  They gave me a blank stare.  "You know the creepy eyes in your lunch?"  "Oh yeah, really scary Mom, you'll have to try much harder than that to freak us out." My little smart alack Rowan replied, rolling his eyes.
    The next day I made them wraps for their lunches.  I hid a gruesome plastic severed finger under their wrap.  I gave a slightly sadistic / some may say evil giggle making their lunches.  Christopher gave me that look like he knew his earlier suspicions had been confirmed, he was married to a lunatic.  When they came home the next day I could hardly wait.  I was pretty sure that they were going to congratulate me on "Freak'in them out".  They said nothing.  "So, how was school?"  "o.k."  Finally I could take the suspense no more.  "So did I freak your out?"  This time it was Grace's turn to roll her eyes at me.  "Do you mean the lame plastic finger?"  I nodded.   "Epic Fail!" She said with a smile on her face, a smile that said "Oh my mother has lost it."   This "Epic Fail", is a new term I have not heard before. Maybe tomorrow I will cut off one of my own fingers and put it in their lunch.. maybe that will freak them out!

I have problems.

Monday, 22 October 2012

My Brand Spanking New Huffy Bicycle.

    Growing up my bike was my best friend.  I rode my bike for literally miles and miles.  I remember when I was 11 my Dad coming home from work one night and telling me to look in the back of our blue station wagon.  Lying there was a the most beautiful shiny green bike I had ever seen.  It had three speeds!  There were brakes right on the handlebars!  I was in love.  Dad had bought it from a guy at work.  I think I was on that bike before Dad had even finished pulling it out of the car.  I was so proud of my new bike, well as new as we could afford.  The next day I had a bike race with the boys from down the road.  I knew that with my new bike I could beat them all.  I could ride like lightening on my new green bike, I even named it "The Green Machine".  The race was on, I was way in front, I knew that bike could ride like lightening.  I don't know why I did it, but I hit my brakes half way down the freshly graveled rode on the hill.  I flew like a bird over the top of my handlebars and skidded to a halt on my face.  I gingerly picked myself up and tenderly walked what felt like miles and miles up the road, pulling my bike.  As I walked up to the house I saw my Dad and told him that I thought I'd broken my nose.  He took one look at me and informed me "I think that you have broken more than that."  My right hand was only being held together with my skin.  I had broken all of the bones in my wrist.  I spent the next few weeks covered in bandages (I looked like a mummy) I had taken the skin off of most of my body with the skid.  Gravel burn really smarts.  I also spent the first part of my summer in a cast.  "The Green Machine" and I were still in love, even though he had bucked me.  I fell off that bike a lot, mainly because I have never really had the best coordination. 

    I had not ridden a bike since I was 17 years old.  I don't really know why, I just didn't.  For the last 17 years I have talked about wanting a bike, but things have always come up.  The kids needed new bikes, someone always needed something, and I did not get a bike.  Christopher taught all the kids to ride.  He runs along side them holding them.  When they master riding he rides his bike with them.  I never felt any jealousy that he had a bike and I didn't.  I always talked about wanting one, but never followed through, letting excuses be my guide.  I guess I forgot how much fun it was to ride a bike, and remembered how much it hurt to fall off a bike.

    Last Friday found Christopher with the day off work.  We have been wanting to go to Watertown, New York for some time now and do some cross border shopping, but just have not found the time.  When he had the day off and all of the kids were in school, and the workers were no longer at the house, it seemed like a great time to be spontaneous.  "Spontaneous" is a word that we generally do not recognize, but we went for it on Friday.
    When we were in Walmart there, we just happened to walk past their bikes.  The mauve Huffy Bike yelled out my name.  It was so pretty, I could see myself riding it.  That was my bike!!!  I mentioned to Christopher how pretty that bike was.  It had a cute little basket in the front, and a cup holder and best of all shock absorbers under the seat.  When he asked if I would like to buy that bike I did my dutiful "Can we afford to buy me a new bike?"  His response was "No, no we can't, but we're gong to."
So we put the van seat down and loaded in my brand new bike.  I was proud to pay the duty on my brand new Huffy bike.  I wanted to ask the border control officer if he liked my new bike, but thought better of it (Christopher sweats pretty hard when we go across the border).
    At the ripe old age of 41, this Huffy bike was my very first brand new bike.  I never really felt done out not having a new bike.  All of my friends growing up were poor too and none of us had new bikes. But there is something to be said for being the very first person to own this bike.  I really like that feeling.  We arrived home from Watertown at 9:30 p.m..  I immediately took my new bike out of the back and wanted to ride it.  I ran into the house to see if the kids were still up (Mom and Dad picked them up from school for us), they were.  Everyone all came outside to see my maiden voyage.  The girls were oooooowing and ahhhhhhing over my pretty bike.  I felt a twinge of guilt because Grace and Rowan are currently sharing a bike.  Grace kept telling me how much she like my new bike.  I told her that we could share my new bike.  She was a happy little girl.
    My maiden voyage was met with much fanfare, and a lot of wobbling.  The girls were gasping and groaning as I nearly fell more than a few times.  They say that you never forget how to ride a bike, but that's not 100% true.  I remembered the basics, but remembering how to balance is another thing.  I raced up the school driveway in the dark.  I had forgotten how good it felt to have the wind blowing my hair.  I had forgotten how good it felt to ride a bike.  I will not be winning the Tour De France anytime in the near or foreseeable future, but I am really enjoying my brand new pretty bike.  The best part about my new bike was yesterday afternoon Riley and I went for a bike ride.  She was so excited to go bike riding with her Mom.  Why did I wait so long?