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November 21, 2012

There is an “I” in “Team”!




Two summers ago, I was convinced by a mom-friend in the school-yard to try soccer (see my post here). She convinced me that it would be fun. I was skeptical but I registered even though I had never played an team sport in my life. The last time I kicked a soccer ball was in grade two. I was terrified at that first game but what I found was an incredible world of supportive and encouraging women of all ages, backgrounds and skill levels, a new-found appreciation for team sports and the “beautiful game”, a fun and easy way to stay fit and some lovely abiding friendships. I’m going into my fourth “season” (two outdoor and now into my second season of indoor soccer) in the Toronto High Park FC. In fact, I think I’m more addicted to soccer than my kids. Talk about being a "soccer mom"!

Looking to expand my horizons even further, I asked myself, “What else can I try at the ripe old age of 42?” and the answer was... hockey. God knows, I watch a LOT of hockey with my son playing at a rep level this year (five times a week). Soccer mom...hockey mom... Why not?

Last year on Boxing Day, I traded in my figure skates for a shiny new pair of hockey skates. I have been skating for 37 years on figure skates so how hard could it be? It was not as easy as it looks. Keeping my legs bent and my head up was a challenge. I kept trying to use my non-existent pick on my skates. And using a hockey stick and puck handling? Ummm... It was definitely time for some lessons. 

First I had to get myself outfitted in hockey equipment. Unfortunately, my son’s equipment is too small yet and my 6’5” husband’s gear is far too big. I had skates, a stick and hockey gloves so what else did I need? More than you might think: shinguards, hockey socks (which are like knit stockings), pants (which I keep calling shorts because that’s what they look like), a jill (a woman’s equivalent of a jock- see what you learn?), neck guard, shoulder pads, elbow pads and a helmet with a cage on the front. I borrowed my husband’s vintage hockey jersey from his Dofasco Minor Hockey League days. I was exhausted just putting on my equipment! But I had to admit, I looked pretty good.

I’ve joined a group of other hockey moms in a “learn to play” clinic on Monday mornings at a local arena. Every two weeks we pay a trainer from Dominate Hockey to teach us skills and run us through very challenging drills. In the weeks in between we practice what we’ve learned and scrimmage (that’s hockeyspeak for a casual game). I’ll admit that I’m pretty "unskilled". My first week out, I spent a lot of time wiping out and trying to get back up. However with practice and determination, I’ve seen improvement in just four weeks. This past week I didn’t fall at all and I might have actually shot the puck into the net more than once.

I don’t know that I’ll ever be skilled enough to join a women’s league but I’m hoping to get out and play some shinny this winter while the kids are at school and with the family on weekends. I’m actually looking forward to the cold weather and I find myself counting the days until the outdoor rinks open up. No more winter hibernation for this mama bear!

Here are some things I’ve learned:
  1. Surprisingly it doesn’t hurt to fall when you are dressed like a gladiator. That doesn’t mean that I’m any less terrified to fall.
  2. It is harder to dress yourself in hockey equipment than it is to dress a 9 year old child.
  3. Hockey equipment takes up a LOT of space in your home, especially when you have three family members playing on a weekly basis.
  4. My 9 year old is so much better than me at hockey and I have a new-found respect for his skills.
  5. It's amazing how much you can sweat on the ice. Hockey is just about the best workout I've ever had.
  6. Hockey uses muscles you never knew you had- rib muscles, sternum muscles, side of the shin muscles, foot arch muscles, muscles in your lower arms and hands. It takes me a full week to recover.
  7. It is much more fun to vocalize your efforts. I sound like Serena Williams when I shoot the puck. 
And most importantly:

        8.  There is a place for me in team sports!




Images © Treva Thompson 2012

September 04, 2012

I've Finally Discovered Child Labour!



I’ve long suspected that I am too soft on these kids of mine. I’m a stay-at-home mom with a Type-A personality who thinks that in order to get things done right, I should do it myself. And I wonder why I’m so exhausted and frustrated with the household duties? 

In the past, we’ve had half-hearted attempts at chore lists. My biggest downfall was not being consistent and insistent, letting things slide and then never getting things back on track. I often made things too complicated. Charts are great but we spent far far too much time choosing our stickers then actually getting things done.

Well, my children have had a rude awakening this week. I was inspired in part by a recent visit to a friend’s house whose dutiful children (aged 9 and 11) assisted with the dinner set-up and clearing with nary a rolled eye in sight. I was awestruck! How could I get a piece of this action, I wondered? It wasn’t long before I was dropping suggestions at our weekly family meeting and drawing up various lists of daily and weekly chores, hoping that I could get the kids to buy into a paradigm shift in our home.

When the children awoke today for the first day of school, they were greeted by their expected updated-for-the-new-year morning and evening to-do lists. The usual items were there: feed fish, brush teeth, empty lunch bag, homework, etc. But there was something different.

This year I included some fresh new items: clear breakfast dishes AND put them in the dishwasher, make sandwich and assemble lunch bag, clear dinner dishes AND put them in the dishwasher and...”daily chore: see chart.” I directed the puzzled minions, I mean munchkins, to a new addendum to the fridge clutter: a list of daily and weekly chores, divided among the three of them. I’ve kept it simple: unload the dishwasher, help with dinner, sweep kitchen floor daily and clean bathroom (with help), dust & vacuum main floor and wash kitchen floor weekly.

With some gentle and persistent encouragement this evening, I was positively amazed at what these 7 and 9 year olds are capable of contributing to the household! I enjoyed their company in the kitchen before and after dinner and was thrilled to not have to do every little thing myself. Eureka! I am kicking myself for not getting this started earlier but I am looking forward staying the course. I’m hoping that if the kids feel more like a contributing member of the household perhaps they’ll feel like contributing more. It’s a long shot but I’ll let you know how it turns out.

June 27, 2012

No More Pencils! No More Books!




Today is the second to last day of the school year. I’m sitting here, enjoying the quiet and solitude but not completely relaxed as I know that in a mere 9 hours of school, the kids will be....wait for it...deep breath.......home for the summer!
Yes, I will thoroughly enjoy the lazy hazy days of summer with them, not having to set an alarm and rushing everyone through the morning routine. Yes, I am ecstatic that I only have one more day of lunches to pack. But I know that come Monday they will be haranguing me with “I’m booo-oored!” and “What are we doing today?”. And you thinking packing lunches for three kids is hard? Try having them scavenge the kitchen all day, leaving all kinds of messes behind them and then asking me “What’s for lunch?? I’m huuu-uuungry!”
I need to psyche myself up for summer vacation. Quite the opposite of what I would have done B.C. (Before Children). I need to plan now to find a balance between down-time, keeping everyone entertained and fed and perhaps carving out a little bit of alone time for myself periodically (thank goodness for neighbourhood sitters). 
So tonight after dinner- and before the mad rush to 2 soccer games at the same time, different locations- we will sit down together. I will show them the calendar, talk about our vacation plans (some of which we haven’t revealed to them yet) and make a list of things we’d like to do. We’ll talk about screen time limits and chores (they’ll love that) and end with a big cheer for summer vacation. 
I’ll toast to that! With a cold beer in my hand.

Image © Treva Thompson 2011

June 26, 2012

Who Wears the Pants In Your Family?



My 7 year old twin daughters share a room- and a dresser. They have a defined sense of ownership over each item of clothing but the ensuing mess in the drawers is a problem. Last night I spent an hour refolding each item, sorting them (who’s is this? who’s is this?? will you wear this??) and dividing the dresser drawers: one drawer for K’s shirts, one drawer for M’s shirts, etc.
Each of them own about 20 pairs of leggings of varying lengths and colours, not to mention skirts and dresses that I beg them to wear. They refuse to wear anything but skinny leggings. Even pajama bottoms are deemed “too loose.” I will add that they are about 50 inches tall and 45 lbs. soaking wet. The leggings tend to accentuate the beanpole look (perhaps this is the look that they are going for).
This morning they were thrilled to look into their neat and tidy dresser drawers to choose their outfits for the day. However, for the past 15 minutes I’ve heard nothing but arguing, pleading and negotiating through yelling and tears. And over what, you ask? The one single pair of long black leggings that are clean. Never mind the other 40 pairs of colourful leggings. No- they both insist on wearing the one pair of black leggings between them.
They tried (unsuccessfully) to have me mediate. I told them that I’m not wearing my striped referee shirt today and that they’d have to work it out. It pains me to hear my one daughter try to bribe the other with toys and books so that she can wear the leggings today but I know (hope?) that they’ll work it out.
Apparently in my house, it’s not who wears the pants that has the power, it’s who wears the black leggings that does.

Image courtesy of Sears Canada

June 21, 2012

Life's Great To-Do List




As I’ve mentioned before, I am a chronic list maker. I make lists of all kinds: grocery lists, packing lists, chore lists and especially to-do lists. I’m not sure if it’s just the sieve-brain that I feel I’ve acquired since becoming a mother but the minute I think of something to do, I have to write it down or I’ll forget it. And if I forget something then the groceries won’t get done, dinner won’t be prepared, that permission slip won’t be signed and the entire house of cards will come crashing down.
Did I mention that I put a lot of pressure on myself?
I also get an extraordinary amount of pleasure from checking things off. It’s a sickness.
But the one thing that I haven’t kept on top of is my “bucket list,” i.e. that list of life’s great to-do’s (get married, have kids, find a cure for cancer, etc.). I have a mental list but it always gets buried under the pile of the more mundane everyday lists. Once in a while, I get to cross things off my bucket list even if things don’t always turn out as planned.
Nearly two years ago, my husband and I went to Paris to celebrate our tenth anniversary and my 40th birthday. It truly was the trip of a lifetime. I had always dreamed of going to Paris, sitting in cafes, soaking up the culture and language and enjoying the food...and exploring the museums, especially the National Museum of Picasso in the Marais District. Forget the Louvre! (I hear it’s a bit overrated anyway, too big to tackle in a day.) I wanted to see Picasso’s personal collection of art in Paris. It was on my list.
Our last full day in Paris, we mapped out our final stops- breakfast on the Sienne, Notre Dame, Marais District, Picasso Museum, lunch in St-Germain-de-Pres, walk to the Eiffel Tour with a stop at Luxembourg Gardens. All went according to plan until we arrived at the entrance of the Picasso museum and found this sign:

The museum had closed a few weeks prior to our arrival for a renovation expected to take up to 3 years! I was devastated but vowed that I’d be back to see the collection when it reopened.
As luck would have it, the touring collection made only one stop in Canada right here in Toronto! Last night I had the pleasure of attending a special event at the AGO with my husband and having a private tour of the exhibit. Given that I couldn't see the collection in Paris, perhaps this was even better. I strolled through the neary-empty rooms, not a crowd in sight, pausing and admiring each piece of work, taking it all in: his sketches, drawing, paintings, sculptures. I was so absorbed in my own experience that I didn’t realize that I was the absolute last one left in the museum and that the security guards were patiently following me and my husband so they could lock the doors behind us. 
Did the exhibit live up to my expectations? Most definitely. And if I couldn’t see it in Paris, having a private tour made up for that in spades.
Life doesn’t always turn out as planned and our bucket list sometimes gets set aside by any number of obstacles that get thrown our way. But with some patience and an eye for opportunity, life has a way of working itself out.
Next on my list: Macchu Pichu!
Image 1 © Lane Erickson | Dreamstime.com
Image 2 courtesy of http://www.indulgedecorblog.com

May 23, 2012

Today Is the Day!



Today is the day that I have been dreaming about for 7 years since my son was diagnosed with a peanut allergy. Today we go into hospital where his allergist will slowly and carefully feed him peanut butter. If he passes this "oral challenge", our lives will change forever.

I just bought Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups as per the doctor’s instructions. It’s the first time I’ve bought them in 7 long years. Apparently many peanut-allergic children don't like the taste of peanut butter so it can be hard to distinguish distaste from an allergic reaction. Hence the Peanut Butter Cups (what's not to like about chocolate and peanut butter?).
L is thrilled at the prospect of never having to wear his Epipen again, taking off his MedicAlert bracelet and just eating whatever he wants. I’m excited to possibly buy peanut butter again, to grocery shop without reading every single label and to send him to play-dates and sleepovers without worry. I'm sure that friends and family are looking forward to preparing and serving food without fear of causing an adverse reaction.
I’m also a bit terrified. What if he has a reaction in the hospital? He’s (thankfully) never had full-blown anaphylaxis and I don’t want to see it. I tell myself that he will be in hospital and closely watched with all modern medical technology at hand. I’m thankful that my husband will be there with me so I’m not having to put on a brave face by myself.
Please keep all fingers and toes crossed and pray to your divine connections. I’ll keep you posted...

Image Copyright © 2012 Dysprosia

May 07, 2012

Summer Camp Available in the 'Hood


(This is a special message about a summer camp available this summer in my neighbourhood. Regularly scheduled posting will resume soon.)



Looking for a summer camp in the Junction this summer?
The Junction Daycare (located in Annette Public School) is offering day camps this summer for children aged 6-12 years. In addition to fun and creative weekly themes, every week includes either a special trip away from the daycare or a visit to the daycare from a special guest. There are also arts and crafts to complement the theme of the week. 
Junction Daycare is a non-profit daycare centre operated by a parent board of directors. They are staffed by Early Childhood Educators and Teaching Assistants, with first aid training. Activities and trips are planned by staff with input from parents. Activities are all safe, fun and developmentally appropriate.
For more information: 
Junction Day Care Centre
265 Annette St. Toronto, ON M6P 1R3 
416-767-2991 and speak to Virginia, Verona, or Laura

March 09, 2012

Never Wake a Sleeping Mother


I am not a morning person. I never have been and I never will be. My parents know this. My siblings know this. My university room-mates know this. My friends know this. My husband knows this.
You would think that my children would know this by now.
I have discovered that to function at peak levels, I require a full 9 hours of undisturbed sleep. I know it’s a bit extreme. But left alone to sleep without interruption I will guarantee you that after 9 hours I will wake on my own, refreshed and ready to tackle the day with a smile on my face. Many people function well on less, some on as little as 5 or 6 hours a night. This person is not me.
This 9 hour block of time is my holy grail, forever out of reach ever since I conceived my son almost 10 years ago. Any pregnant woman will tell you that the hormones and body changes combined with the little person practicing soccer moves in utero is not conducive to catching decent winks. Once that baby is born you can forget about sleep for the next few years. 
But then these little creatures trick you. They lead you to believe that they have mastered the art of falling asleep and staying asleep for up to 13 hours at a time...until around the age of 6 1/2 years when they reach the developmental stage of the dreaded nightmare. And fear of the dark. 
For over a month now, my darling daughter K has been waking up at some point between 1:30 a.m. and 5:00 a.m. calling my name like a foghorn: Mooo-ooommm! Moooooo-oooooom! MOOOOO-OOOOM! I stumble out of bed like something undead to discover that she’s scared of...something. I’ve tried reasoning with her, comforting her, negotiating, threatening, shouting. These are not my proud mommy moments. As I mentioned, I am not a morning (or middle of the night) person. If you want to live, Do. Not. Wake. Me. Up.
I have tried putting her in my bed, an obvious solution for both of us you would think. Except for the fact that she insists on sleeping snuggled right up against me and the minute her twin sister finds herself in her room...alone... all hell breaks loose. Then I have two cranky girls, one refusing the leave my bed, the other refusing to sleep alone. And an extremely cranky mother to boot. So for now I’ve decided that she should stay in her own bed, full-stop. This means that I am up and down the hallway a hundred times, rubbing her back, trying desperately to persuade her to go back to sleep. And if it’s after 5am, there’s nothing doing. She will wake up her sister, there will be words exchanged, perhaps items thrown at each other, they will wake up their brother- and likely the poor neighbours on the other half of our semi-detached home. Everyone starts the day miserably. Except for K who can metamorphose into sweet chipper little thing the moment the sun rises. This morning (after at 4am wake-up), I came to the breakfast table to find my seat reserved by this:

She had made me a breakfast of toast with No Nuts pea butter and a glass of water chilled by a cooler pack from the freezer. How can I stay upset at that?
For now, I will continue to search for a solution and nap whenever I can to catch up on my elusive 9 hours. I will trust (and pray) that this phase will be short-lived. And I will thank the heavens for little girls- and coffee.

Lion Image © David Crippen | Dreamstime.com

March 02, 2012

How Not to Name Twins


I haven’t written much in this blog specific to having twins. I recently spoke with a dear friend of mine who is 33 weeks pregnant with twin girls. She has an 8 year old son and a 6 year old son. Wow.
Talking to her about the experience of twin childbirth and early days brought me back to a very very busy time in my life. It was a time where days blurred into the next and I wasn’t quite sure if I was coming or going at any given time. I remember feeling like it would never get easier and that I would never again sleep through the night.
But taking the time to remember those early days has also brought back sweet memories: of watching my identical twin baby girls sleep cuddled up to each other in the same crib or holding each others’ hands while nursing; of my 2 year old son making the girls giggle uncontrollably with his antics; of seeing the girls laying on the bed together in their infant sleepers, moving in sync like they had rehearsed some beautiful dance together. They were crazy days and I wish I had taken more time to just enjoy those moments.
When people ask me what advice I would give to expectant parents of twins, my answer is always the same: GET HELP. If it is difficult financially to hire a full-time nanny, do whatever you can (short of selling your older children). I had illusions of being super-mom and handling a not-quite-2 year old as well as newborn twins, keeping house, making meals, doing laundry, sleeping (!!) and maybe even taking care of myself. You can guess which went first. I contracted strep throat when the babies were only 3 months old. Weeks/months of exhaustion and a perceived lack of time to get myself to a doctor in a timely manner left me in intensive care in hospital, close to death from heart failure caused by septic shock. My dear husband had to face the prospect of raising three babies on his own.
Scary stuff.
The minute I was released from hospital, we hired a full-time nanny and a babysitter to help in the evenings. They worked for us until the girls were a year old. Rest assured that I am now the picture of health with no long term effects from the heart failure. Trust me that the minute I get a sore throat, I get myself to a doctor. No more messing around. If I don’t take care of myself, I’m no good to anyone. Lesson learned the hard way.
On a lighter note, my second piece of advice to new parents of twins is this: think very very carefully about the names you give your children. Personally I’m not a big fan of the “cutesie twin names” that rhyme or match but that is an individual choice. The one thing that most people never consider is how their names sound when they are blended. You know, when you are frantically calling out names hoping that one will be the right one, blending the first part of one name with the name of another. If you have more than one child, you know what I’m talking about. 
Our kids are Luka, Klara and Milena, who goes by Mila (pronounced Mee-la like Mila Mulroney for those of you who remember her).

In our house, it goes something like this:
Lu-Mila! (Lu-Meela!)
Kla-Luka!
Lu-Klara! 
Mi-Klara! 
Mi-Luka!
And finallly... (say this next one out loud)
Kla-Mila! (Kla-Meela!)
Enough said.
Image ©  2008 Treva Thompson

February 28, 2012

Tooth Fairy Busted!


Did you know that February 28 is National Tooth Fairy Day? I’m serious. You can go here if you don’t believe me. (It was National Wine Drinking Day the other week- I didn’t Google it for proof. I just believed and poured myself a glass).
Not long after I wrote my post about kids losing their teeth and the joys of playing the Tooth Fairy, my curious and surprisingly sleuthy 6 year old twins discovered my treasure trove of baby teeth. I have been keeping them, hesitant to throw them out. It seems somehow sacrilege to just toss these little baby teeth in the trash. So I have carefully placed each little fang into a separate labelled bag and have hidden these bags in a decorative wooden box on my dresser, a relatively innocuous box with no other purpose. Seemed the perfect place! Or so I thought...
The other day K and M were playing nicely in their bedroom when they wandered down the hall to play in my room. I’m not sure exactly how they came to open the box but I can only imagine their delight when they found the bags of baby teeth. When the unusual quiet drew me to investigate, they declared with great excitement that they had found some teeth! (They didn’t realize at that point that they were their own.)
I stood stunned for a moment and quickly went into crisis control mode, whipping up a story about how I had left a note for the Tooth Fairy asking her to leave the teeth for me. I told them how she took their teeth from under their pillows, replaced them with money and then, instead of bringing the teeth to new babies (!!), she came into my room and left the teeth under my pillow so I could save them. I might have even joked about making them necklaces out them when they are adults (*shudder*). I used my happiest “wow- isn’t this exciting!” voice and they seemed to buy it. Or perhaps the joke is on me and they really know the truth and are just humouring me. Either way, we remain co-conspirators in the fantasy. 
There is just something so special about kids believing in magic. Perhaps it's a way for us parents to recapture some of the innocence and wonder of our lost childhood, the belief that anything is possible if you only just believe. I know there are nay-sayers out there who claim that these childhood myths are harmful lies, causing our children to never trust again. I believe that there is no other time in our lives where we have such faith, such hope in the joy of life. What is more magical that Santa, the Easter Bunny and of course, our beloved Tooth Fairy! Why wouldn’t we want to keep the magic going a little longer?
(Please? Just a little bit longer? At least until I have those tooth necklaces done.)


February 21, 2012

Living With(out?) a Peanut Allergy


When L was barely 2 years old, he ate peanut butter toast for about the fiftieth time and developed hives around his mouth. A few months later he ran to me from across the room at a New Year’s Eve party, his mouth and tongue swelling after eating a snack-sized Crispy Crunch bar. His pediatrician referred us to an allergist who confirmed our worst fear: a peanut allergy, potentially anaphylactic.
Our lives were turned upside-down. We bought Epipens (at $100 a piece- thank goodness for drug plans). We educated ourselves and learned how to read labels carefully. We ordered a Medic-Alert bracelet for him to wear everyday. We constantly made decisions about what was or was not safe for our little guy to eat. Dinners at restaurants became fraught with potential danger from cross-contamination and we learned how to speak to servers and managers about it. Traveling outside of North America became too great a risk for us to take. Just flying in an airplane gave us reason to worry.
I had to learn how to bake when I realized that most birthday cakes made at bakeries could not be guaranteed nut-free. I figured out the allergen-labeling policy of major manufacturers. Did you know that Canada does not yet have a law requiring companies to label for potential allergens? (It comes into effect in August, 2012). Did you know, for example, that Loblaw does not have a policy about labeling potential allergens in their products? I had to learn to call the 1-800 numbers for these companies and asking if specific products may contain any traces of peanuts.
When L started school, we had to figure out how the school was going to keep him safe. Thankfully, the teachers and administration have always been supportive and the Toronto District School Board has an anaphylaxis policy. L learned to wear his Epipen when he started JK and we have Epipens stored in the classroom and school office as well as in my purse. 
L has been very good about his allergy. He grumbles from time to time about wearing his Epipen but asks questions about the food he is offered and has no problem refusing something he isn’t sure about. That’s not bad considering much of what he has to refuse is candy or a baked treat!
We have negotiated play-dates and sleepover camps and birthday parties. I am eternally grateful to parents who aren’t intimidated or put out by his allergy, who ask the appropriate questions and take the necessary precautions. Just knowing that you care so much about his safety makes me want to hug you.
When L was 6 years old, he was retested. He was so hopeful. I could see the dismay on his face as the hive developed on his arm where the peanut serum was placed. I reminded him that nothing would change and to stay positive. His peanut allergy had remained but he had not developed any new allergies nor had he had any accidental exposure. His chances of outgrowing the peanut allergy were between 20% and 50% as a result. We were instructed to come back in 3 years time.
This afternoon, we visited the allergist again. My big boy (almost 9 years old) didn’t have to sit on my lap this time nor did I have to hold his arm down and instruct him not to scratch. She tested both saline and a histamine as well as peanut serum. And the peanut serum did not react! She placed actual peanut butter on his arm and did another skin test....and nothing. Now he has a requisition for a blood test and if that is negative, they will conduct an oral challenge in a hospital setting, feeding him actual peanut butter (likely this summer).
It all seems a bit surreal. We’ve learned to just live our lives around this allergy. It is our day-to-day reality. To think that in a few months there is a decent chance that we can eat out without worry, go to an ice-cream parlour, buy goods at a bakery or even eat peanut butter in our own house... I could cry with the relief over the thought of it. I’ll try not to get too excited and hopeful lest L sense it and become potentially disappointed. But I have all of my fingers and toes crossed!
Many thanks to organizations such as Anaphylaxis Canada, Medic-Alert, the Toronto Anaphylaxis Education Group and publications such as Allergic Living.You have made our lives easier by giving us the information we need.


Image © Martin Maun | Dreamstime.com

February 09, 2012

The Dreaded "H" Word


My son is 8 years old and the world’s best procrastinator. He must have inherited this trait from me. He is one of those bright kids with “great potential” that frustrates the hell out of teachers (and parents) because if he doesn’t want to sit down and do the work required of him, he simply does not.
I’ll begin by saying that I am not the biggest fan of the amount of homework that children get these days. I don’t remember ever getting homework in primary grades and I’m sure that most adults don’t end their work day by eating a snack and flipping open their laptop to do more work the minute they get in the door. Energetic and growing kids need an opportunity to unwind, get fresh air, run around and get their ya-ya’s out. What they don’t need is to sit down the minute they get home from school to do more of the what they did in class (where they sat and did work most of the day).
That being said, homework is a reality in our world. I have chosen at this point to suck it up and help the kids develop good homework habits because I don’t think the homework conundrum is going away anytime soon. I try hard not to roll my eyes at the amount of homework they are given. All I can do is empathize (“it must be frustrating when you just want to play”) and work with them at making it enjoyable. I try to give them some outside play on the way home and make sure a snack is at the ready when they get in. My kids are vultures the minute they hit the kitchen- something about “not having time to eat lunch at school” (another post altogether). We’ve even installed a breakfast bar so there is another homework station within quick reach of Mom’s help or another snack.
What frustrates me the most is the amount of time my son spends sitting in front of his homework doing anything but. He breaks and sharpens his pencil about 30 times, asks for more food or another drink, fidgets and scribbles, taking 60 minutes to complete something that could have been done in 15. I try not to stand over him, encouraging/pleading for him to get it done. I try to gently remind him of the consequences (handing in incomplete work to his teacher who he likes and respects) but I can’t seem to find that inner motivation button. Trust me when I say that the reward system doesn’t work in our house (tried and failed numerous times). Sticker charts and bribes don’t resonate at all with him and I personally disagree with this approach. I don’t want to raise kids that will only participate in life because there is some kind of personal reward in it.
Last night L revealed that he had an art project due the next day. He also had other homework to complete before dinner and his Cubs meeting. That meant that he was up this morning, attempting to complete some pretty complex drawings and colouring before I hustled the three kids out the door for the bus. He didn’t finish it. And L loves to draw. He is passionate about it (not as passionate as he is about hockey but close). I often have to tell him to put away his sketch pad and pencils to go to bed. This should be an easy A for him. Instead, he tells me that his teacher says that he will be lucky to get a C+ in Art this term. I believe that it related to him not having good work habits and not completing his assignments on time. It feels a bit cruel when I know that he can do well but I appreciate where his teacher is coming from. He needs to learn that there are things required of us in life that aren’t pleasant but simply must be done in a timely manner (making dinner and doing laundry come to mind).
So I am biting my tongue, letting the chips fall where they may. We’ll find out what the teacher had to say and see if he gets an “R” on his assignment (I think it stands for incomplete but it’s in French so what do I know?). I'm going to go back to my Alyson Schafer books and scour her website for tips on dealing with homework (she isn't a fan of it either). We’ll sit down with L this weekend and try again to come up with better homework strategies together. And I will continue to search for that elusive inner motivation button. If I find it, I'll let you know!
Image © Reiulf Gr√łnnevik | Dreamstime.com

January 30, 2012

Try New Things

Not long ago, I bought a fantastic print from Homesense called “Family Rules.” It is strategically placed above the kitchen table so we can refer to it often:
One of the rules that we talk about a lot is Try New Things. This applies to everyone. K could try a taste of that dinner she is turning her nose up at. M could try that dance workshop at school tomorrow even though she is afraid of making a mistake. L could try that new hockey skill he picked up at last week’s practice. My husband could try to cook a new dish. And I should also set an example of trying something new.
I have vowed to try at least one new thing each season. Last winter, I started my blog. Last spring it was soccer. I hadn’t kicked a soccer ball since grade two (and then I recall taking one in the face). But I squared my shoulders and got out there. Despite the butterflies (read: terror), I got on the field and just did it. My teammates were so wonderfully supportive and knowledgable. I was hooked. When the season ended, I immediately signed up to play indoor soccer. This past week, I finally showed improvement and received some kudos from women on my team. As I watched our Canadian women’s national soccer team play twice this weekend and qualify for the Olympics, I was inspired to keep going even if I’m not going to compete at any level but house league. In fact, I felt a pang of regret that I hadn’t started earlier in life but better late than never. Who says you can’t teach a 41 year old dog new tricks?
I have also tried my hand (paddle?) at kayaking and if there is ever any snow this winter I plan to strap on some snowshoes for the first time. Last summer I planted a vegetable garden. I am about to register for my second photography course and I continue with my French lessons. I attended a wine and cheese pairing course at our local LCBO (a fantastic Christmas gift from my husband). I am signing up for a Standard First Aid Course with CPR and AED with the Red Cross. This winter, I bought my first pair of hockey skates and I am looking at some “learn to play hockey” classes in the neighbourhood. (My sister-in-law take the cake at trying new things, however. She started roller derby at age 35 and after training, she made the team! She hadn't been on roller skates in years.)
As I tell my kids: take a chance, just TRY something new or you’ll never know how much you could like it. The world is your oyster and the sky is the limit! 


*A special note of thanks to my cousin Jenn who told me about this print available at Homesense*
Image © Treva Thompson 2012

January 28, 2012

Toothless Wonders


The transformation of a child’s mouth from a set of sweet little baby teeth to those large awkward adult teeth (that will need a mountain of cash to straighten) is a long and winding road. It starts when those sleepless nights and drooly cranky days turn out a little pumpkin mouth, those sweet baby smiles with little wee teeth poking through. Soon these little ones are able to chew steak and bite apples and all the good stuff in between.
Then one day they declare with great excitement, “My tooth is wiggly!!” (even though it may not be wiggly yet). They are usually around the age of 6 and the look of anticipation and excitement on their face is priceless. They will soon have those grubby fingers in their mouth at every opportunity, practically willing that tooth to come out. Rumours have it that a certain fairy will bring money for a tooth! So they tirelessly wiggle and wiggle and wiggle. They will show you every 5 minutes how loose that tooth is. This is not fun stage for those of us with a low heeby-jeeby threshold especially when that tooth looks like it is hanging on by sheer will.
My mother on the other hand was probably a dentist or tooth-fairy in another life. The wiggly tooth is like a magnet to her. She simply must wiggle any loose tooth within a 5 mile radius. My kids are thrilled to visit “Noni” when they have a loose tooth. They ask to make the trip to Barrie just to have Noni work on their tooth. When they visit, all of her attention is on them. She gets them to lie down and relax. I remember this as a child, laying on the couch for what seemed like hours while she worked her magic on those resistant teeth. She gets a good grip and gently (but persistently) wiggles this way and that, back and forth, side to side, a little twist here and there, stopping when there are cries of pain and then gets back at it until the child has had enough or the tooth has come out.
A couple of months ago we paid a visit to my mother because of a very wiggly tooth that wasn't coming out. My mother had K lie down and she worked on her tooth for about 45 minutes (my patient girl!). There were moans of discomfort and a little blood. After a short break, they were back at it, my mother coaxing out the tooth with a little “c’mon toothie, come to Noni, c’mon toothie toothie tooth” and there it was: a little white pearl in my mother’s hand and an expression of sheer joy on my daughter’s face.
When the commotion died down, I asked my mother what it is about wiggly teeth that fascinates her. She told me that it isn’t the tooth but the child. It is a small window in their life (usually only lasting for the first tooth or two) when they can see something tangible about growing up. In an instant, they are that much closer to being “all growed up”. Their excitement is contagious. 
If we are lucky, our toothless wonders are still naive enough to believe in a little invisible fairy that takes that baby tooth to a new baby and leaves some shiny coins in its place. That is a treat to witness in itself (like the magic of Santa on Christmas morning). The squeals of delight in the early morning are worth being awoken for.
(God forbid that you forget to work your magic! I’ve awoken at 5am in a panic realizing that I had gone to bed without playing my tooth fairy role. I dread the day that someone wakes up and still has their tooth under their pillow. There will certainly be some explaining to do!)
My son has lost 8 teeth and the girls have now lost 5 teeth between the two of them. This tooth fairy business can get pricey! I caution you not to start asking other parents on the playground how much the tooth fairy leaves. They are some (annoying) tooth fairies that think nothing of a $20 bill for a tooth. And trust me, these kids talk. In our house, it’s $5 for the first tooth, $2 for subsequent teeth unless you lose two in a day like my son did ($5 for both) or have them pulled by a dental professional (a premium for pain and suffering at $3 a tooth).
When those awkward adult teeth start popping up, your child’s face changes completely. I keep reminding myself that they will grow into their teeth but it does take some getting used to. At least when the adult teeth come in, they can start eating regular food again (try to pack a lunch for a kid missing four top teeth).
Here’s my question to all of you tooth fairies out there: Do you keep your kids’ baby teeth? I simply can’t bear to throw them out. I have a growing collection of teeth in three labelled ziploc bags in a special wooden box. It sounds (and looks) incredibly creepy or sentimental, depending on your point of view. I recall a story of a grown woman who was going through the home of her recently deceased father. In his top dresser drawer, she found a carefully stored box of all of her baby teeth. She recounts how deeply moved she was that he had kept them all of those years. She had never known that he had played tooth fairy in their house. Hopefully my kids will feel the same way when they come across my collection of their childhood choppers.
Image © Treva Thompson 2011
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