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Thursday, 07 April 2016 21:40

Marching Forward

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There is something that is at once melancholic and invigorating about looking at photographs of your own memories. The month of March has been a long and arduous time for me, beginning with what should have been a grand celebration of my tenth wedding anniversary. Tenth!! That's a big deal! Or it should have been... instead we spent it babysitting for friends and having tea with door to door evangelists. Why not?

The next day, my Grandma fell. Another phone call I will never forget. "Don't panic, but..." and at first it really was a 'don't panic' situation. Grandma had fallen and hit her head quite badly, but she seemed ok. There was bleeding in her brain, but since she showed no signs of damage, we were calm enough. I met her at the hospital that evening, feeling as though I was overreacting and should maybe rather have stayed home with my family - my Uncles were with her, and she seemed fine. But she wasn't fine. By about midnight it was clear that her brain was being damaged and I recognized the signs I had seen over five years ago when my Dad's brain was bleeding. 

She was not ok.

The significance of my relationship with her has struck me more and more as I watch my children grow, and go for advice and guidance to the person who saw me at the ages they are now - my Grandma. She was the 'mother' of my early life, and now that I have a three and five year old of my own, I understand a little better how much like a mother she must have felt towards me. I have already lost my Dad to a slow and painful brain-damaging illness, and I have been horrified at the possibility of losing another parental figure so soon. 

I struggle to rationalize my feelings, because most people are not as close to their Grandparents as incidentally I became, and many people lose their Grandparents when they are my age or younger.  So it feels like my excessive sadness about the situation is an overreaction that no one around me seems to understand. Even my husband has honestly admitted that he doesn't get it. I have decided, however, that it is better to be honest about my feelings - whether or not they are an 'overreaction' and admit them both to myself, and to others. It doesn't help me to pretend otherwise, and maybe sharing it will validate someone else's feelings about their own difficult circumstances. It's ok to be sad, and it's ok to feel deeply. 

In the midst of this sadness, though, I have become a less attentive parent, and that is not ok. It's possible that at first my daughters acted as though nothing had changed - for the most part my day to day behavior is much the same as it was. I don't sit and cry constantly, and I 'keep going' but at a much slower pace, and when the inevitable feeling of falling behind hits - when the house hasn't been cleaned thoroughly in much too long and we haven't even mentioned 'school' in weeks - I become frustrated and irritable, and I am no more capable of picking up the pieces than I was before. 

Then they began to change too, and maybe I didn't notice it at first, but all of a sudden I have two little girls who challenge me at every turn. Suddenly these two loving sisters who never fight are fighting at least every ten minutes.  When I ask them to do something they either behave as though they haven't heard me at all, or they reply with some rude comment. I am left to wonder if in the past few weeks I have ignored this behavior - if I haven't noticed its beginning and now it is clear and undeniable. My girls are badly behaved. 

It could be also that they are feeling cooped up. We are at the end of another winter, and everyone seems to feel a bit cabin-fevered at this point every year and it is time to get outside for more than just a few minutes here and there. We need to see the sun!

 So on Easter weekend, when some friends came in from out of town to visit, we headed to the nearby zoo to see what we could see at this time of year. Often the animals are much more active in the early spring and late fall, and this trip was not a disappointment.

 The girls were active and a bit over-rambunctious as they have been these days, but it was so good for all of us to be in a space that could handle their crazy. 

I just had to throw this next photo in because I love it. Something about having daughters seems to transform a man... in case you can't tell, he is painting their nails. 

I did something completely unnecessary and baked three loaves of this easter bread.  It wasn't exactly like the bread I had grown up having occasionally, but it was my first attempt at 'easter' baking, and it was nice to give it a try.  Our culture is shading away from the time when women had baking in the oven at least weekly, but sometimes I like to pretend our world is a bit more old fashioned. 

In addition to her attitude suddenly springing up into teenage-hood, Clara has made a few sudden changes in her life in the past few weeks. One of them is colouring. She used to hate it, or at least she seemed to hate it. She never asked to colour, and when she did colour she would scribble with one colour all over the page with no regard for where the lines were and would quickly decide to be done. Occasionally, when I would ask her to try to colour 'in the lines' mostly just to determine whether she was dexterous enough to do it, she would make a half-hearted attempt and then announce that it was 'too hard'.  

Then, all of a sudden last week she began to colour in the lines. Now she asks to colour multiple times each day and consistently colours appropriate colours inside the lines.  She also decided within the last week that she suddenly liked eggs - and she's eating them too, it's not just all talk.  

And finally, after at least a year of being able to sound out each letter sound - and even occasionally reading words when she thought we weren't paying attention - Clara decided she wanted to know how to read. Now she picks books out of the library and reads them herself. 

I would love for this post have been about how I have conquered the challenge of parenting during hardship, but unfortunately I haven't. This post is just simply an honest reflection of what is happening in our world these days and how I am feeling about it. Completely inadequate and too tired to really make a difference, but we hold on anyway.

Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.   James 1:2-3

Even in the sadness and struggle, there is joy.  

Thursday, 31 March 2016 08:30

The Internet

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There are times when my life throws sticks and stones in my direction...

And there are times it throws grenades

Then, in the stillness, when the dust is falling around me

I find myself sinking and unable to see through the haze

Sinking into a sadness, a numbness, that I can't escape

I try to speak, I need to speak, to ease this burden

but you seem not to understand

I hear my words being twisted around me, until I can no longer remember what I said

Why would you assume the worst?

I have life weighing on my shoulders, the masks of all the roles I play

And on top of that, in the casual quiet conversations

I must be afraid

Afraid that each word I say will be seen through your eyes

Eyes that search out constantly, reasons to find offence

I try to speak, I need to speak, because I'm sure I'm not alone

I hear sad voices joining mine, and maybe together we can become strong

And even when I speak words that aren't your words,

With views that you don't see

Can we find that we are all hurting, put down our defences, stop trying to be offended

Learn each others lessons, and be kind?

 

There's my attempt at poetry for today... anyway, I have been debating getting more into this blogging thing. Blogging more regularly - I do love writing after all, and I have been feeling lonely. A lot is going on in my life, and I'm honestly struggling emotionally with a lot right now. Being an extrovert who NEEDS people in my life, I find talking through things therapeutic and helpful, and I need to hear about others' lives and struggles to keep mine in perspective. So much good in the blogging community for someone like me...

But today, as I was perusing some of the blogs and sites I haven't read in months, I was reminded of another beast - commenters. Commenters who show up just to tear down the words you have spoken or written, just to cut you down. Commenters who seem incapable of putting forth a respectful disagreement, but must - at best - quip passive aggressively, somewhat sarcastically - or, at worst - insult you completely.  I would suspect that most of us who write about our lives feel sad and lonely at times, and even self-conscious and worthless at others - WHY do they come just to kick you when you're down? 

Why do so many people online seem ready and willing to be insulted and offended by everything? Can we please, just sometimes, try to assume that a blog post we read - or Facebook post we see - was posted by someone who is sometimes sad, and lonely, and who cries. Picture a sad lonely puppy if you will, before you choose your response. Even puppies bite sometimes, but they usually have a good reason. 

Can I get past this? Can I become ok with the fact that there will always be some who will not give me the benefit of the doubt? That there will be some who - instead of choosing respect and honesty, will choose anger and bitterness and to hurt back.

There is NO ONE I would ever deliberately hurt or offend. I will assume the same of you, internet user, until you prove me wrong. Typically, that means you have to choose meanness repeatedly, because the first couple times I will be confused and saddened by your responses, assuming myself to be worthy of how belittled I feel. You have power, because I want to choose to be kind - and to expect kindness from you. 

Can this naive little Saskatchewan girl handle the big kid playground that is the internet...? I'm not sure. 

Tuesday, 29 March 2016 21:28

Excavation Fun!

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When it comes to planning homeschool science activities or experiments, I have so far proven to be quite terrible at planning ahead. This one is super simple, though, and when I got the idea I set it up - even though I had no specific plan to do this activity with the girls - and it was ready when I wanted it!  I got this idea from Lemon Lime Adventures , and I love their use of a lego man in an ice column. My girls aren't so into lego, however, so I thought gemstones would work fine!

Materials: 

  • Empty plastic containers in which to freeze water
  • Small toys, stones, or marbles to freeze into water
  • A tray or plate (Ikea child's plate) on which to conduct the excavation
  • Digging utensils - I used a tupperware orange peeler and spoon
  • Additives - I used warm water coloured red with food colouring, and salt
  • Tools to add additives - I found the pipette really helpful for the water, but a spoon would work also, and I just put a small spoon in the salt

I used small plastic apple sauce containers to freeze, and I'm glad I did - my girls don't have the longest attention span, and any more ice would have been more than they would be able to remain interested in. I had two each for back-up, but one block of ice was more than enough for each of them for one day - and I did a fair amount of prompting and helping.

I froze the stones in layers - first filling the containers with a small amount of water and freezing solid, adding a stone and then a bit more water, freezing again until solid and repeating until the container was full and had 4 hidden trinkets. Then I saved the completed blocks in my freezer until I was ready for an impromptu science lesson!

Clara took to this a little easier than Audrey who needed more help and prompting. Occasionally I would jump in and add a considerable amount of salt and say 'see how that works' and let them continue. Once they had extracted their first stone, though, both girls became increasingly interested in unlocking the others!

I must remember that part of planning ahead should include assembling the materials - and setting up, like I did here - because I find myself reluctant to come up with an idea AND implement it on the same day. And since I enjoy the planning part most... often things just don't get done. Having these at the ready gave me no excuses - I didn't even have to think! 

The finished product - each girl unearthed four stones, and learned a little bit about how ice reacts to salt and warm water. 

Monday, 21 March 2016 22:25

I Won't Be Your Friend Anymore

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It happened one day, as I was blissfully believing my children would stay young forever. I hear "I won't be your friend anymore!!" screamed across the downstairs playroom, followed by more unintelligible screaming and a sudden clamor of feet stomping up the stairs. 

"You WILL be my friend!!" I hear my 5-year-old daughter scream. Followed by "Don't tell on me!!! AAAAAHHH!!!"

I understand as a parent, that there may be times when you prefer your child to stop spending so much time with a particular friend - they may be a bit too bossy, or a downright bully. Or, maybe they just have a negative influence on your child that you would prefer to minimize.  The difficult part of understanding this - is understanding that someday that could be MY kid that another parent would prefer their child to avoid. 

My daughter is bossy. And selfish, although that seems almost universal in young children. It is a bad combination, though, because it means that she frequently wants all the things, as well as wanting everyone around her to play her games in EXACTLY the way she would like. 

This is another one of those character traits that I thought I had possessed because I was an only child (and Grandchild) for the first seven years of my life, who was a tad bit spoiled... evidently that is not always the reason children are like this.  

We are working with her on this - not that we have any real clue how - by talking her through the 'whys' of everything, and trying to make her empathize by turning the situation around and asking how she feels about it. It doesn't seem to work, but my parenting experience so far has told me that doesn't necessarily mean it isn't.  So we press on. 

In the meantime, how to deal with the 'I'm not your friend anymore!' concept? Thankfully, the mother of the child who yelled this at my daughter shares my view on this and we have told our daughters that this is not something you say to a friend - it is just simply not ok. As for my daughter - I try to make two things clear to her. The first is that friends fight, and that even adult friends fight - but it doesn't mean you are not friends. In fact, the closest friends are almost guaranteed to fight sometimes, and it is in the weathering through this that friendships become even more valuable.  

*I should note that by 'fight' here, I do not mean throwing punches, but rather frustrating disagreements that are not always as civil as you'd like to admit the next day. 

The second thing I would like my daughter to understand is that her actions are what makes her friendship desirable. Certainly not everyone is perfect and pleasant all the time, but it is important in a relationship to give back sometimes and not always be taking from your friend. This is a good thing for me to remember, as I write this, it seems to be just as fully an adult friendship issue as a childhood one. I want her to understand that meanness and bossyness WILL eventually make her friends prefer to spend time away from her. That although I can tell her that SHE is not allowed to end a friendship because of a fight, I can't control what another friend or parent might do - and at that point, it will be too late. I want her to know in her attention-challenged childhood that even in the moment, kindness really matters.

We had a number of discussions with her after a week of incidents similar to this one, and I think things have improved since then. Has anyone else encountered a similar situation? How did it turn out? How did you handle it? 

Tuesday, 16 February 2016 13:41

Overwhelmed by Illness

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My five year old has been wearing the same pyjamas since Saturday night... out of curiousity I quickly calculated and that's... at least 66 hours. Oy.

I have been looking forward to this weekend since Christmas. Since before Christmas, actually, since Christmas is always such a blur for us and I LOVE Valentines Day. It might help that Valentines Day falls the day after my Birthday, and so I tend to get a little spoiled this weekend.  Call me a narcissist, because yes, I look forward to a weekend that (mostly) is all about me. Some people hate their birthdays because it reminds them they are getting older... I can't imagine that ever being an issue for me...

Anyway,

it was gearing up to be a wonderful weekend. A bit busier than I would prefer, but still great. I had Valentines gifts ready for my girls (because they WILL love this weekend too!), and we had a full and exciting itinerary. Friday and Saturday nights our girls would spend with their Grandparents, which would give Brian and I some romantic time alone, as well as a night to go out with our friends kid-free! Sunday I would invite my family over for supper and cake, and Monday we would visit a nearby salt-water pool & spa with the kids and then have my in-laws over for supper and cake (I was super excited about all this cake... any obvious excuse for dessert, right?).

Now before you start pulling out the violins and asking if I want cheese with that (because clearly I'm a spoiled princess), please understand that I KNOW that this is not all about me. I enjoy a bit of indulgence in my direction occasionally, and mostly I like to be reminded that there are people out there who actually love me - believe it or not, I doubt this regularly. But that's normal, really, isn't it? So at the risk of sounding completely melodramatic - my birthday weekend wasn't what I had hoped it would be, although it wasn't all bad... more on that later...

About a week ago, my Grandma suddenly landed in the hospital. She has been having issues with exhaustion - and apparently oxygen deprivation - for a number of months now, and the doctor finally decided it was urgent enough to send her in to emergency. One of the first things they did was hook her up to an oxygen tube to bring her blood oxygen levels up, which was great except that it reminded her horribly of my Grandpa who died of lung disease over a year ago.  Also, they had no idea why her O2 levels were so low, which began a series of testing - which still isn't completed, because they still don't have an answer. 

Life with a family member in the hospital - as I know all too well - is much different than normal life. Normal life is peppered with spare time, or at least time filled with 'less urgent' tasks to do - like laundry, or dishes, or homeschooling... When you have a family member in the hospital, suddenly all of those things are thrown into the air and you reprioritize, making time to visit that person as often as you can.  And this is completely natural and worthwhile, because I love my Grandma, and I don't mind the upheaval for her sake - and because I know the time she has no visitors is spent basically staring at blank hospital walls and eating bland hospital food, I absolutely want to break that monotony for her as much as I can. But I hate the hospital. And I miss our 'normal' life. 

So that was last week. Saturday was my Birthday and Brian and I had an entire childless day alone, during which we visited a used bookstore and found Grandma a large-print novel I thought she would enjoy and then visited with her in her tiny room for a couple of hours. I got my free Birthday Starbucks on the way :) Given the circumstances, I wouldn't have spent this day any other way - but I would have preferred my Grandma to be comfortably at home...

Sunday morning I woke up feeling terrible. I chose not to go to church in the morning, and Brian went without me. Our girls were to be dropped off after lunch. I got a call saying that Clara had been sick since the day before and that my in-laws were going to drop her off before lunch. She arrived home and walked straight to her room (still pyjama clad since the night before) and fell instantly asleep. When I went to check on her a few minutes later, her skin was burning and when I tried to wake her to give her tylenol, she wouldn't properly wake up. Her eyes opened, but it was clear she wasn't seeing me, and when I tried to lift her to sit, she writhed away from me, and flopped back onto her bed. She wouldn't respond or speak to me in any way.

This was pretty scary. I called a healthline, Brian came home and we took her to a clinic, both of which suggested we take her to hospital (my in-laws had taken Audrey for lunch after all, which was really helpful in this situation), and of course by the time we arrive at the hospital Clara is much more alert than before. Still clearly lethargic, but not enough that we would be concerned. The doctor assumed that the previous unresponsiveness was due to her fever, and that we probably didn't need to be too concerned unless she started having seizures. The ER staff was awesome, though - we were in and out quickly, and no one made us feel silly for bringing her in when she was clearly ok by that time. The doctor even said that if we were truly concerned, to bring her back and they would be happy to look at her. 

By Sunday evening, Audrey was feverish, and we were giving both girls Advil and Tylenol at alternate intervals. Their symptoms were - and still are - discomfort, I assume in the form of headaches since that is the worst of what I am feeling, some coughing and fatigue. Except Audrey skipped the fatigue part at first, and was irritatingly rambunctious throughout the day on Monday. Today they are cranky and tired, but bored and obviously feeling a bit cabin fevered, and still have slight temperatures. I'm feeling better than yesterday, and Brian - who started feeling sick yesterday evening, is still about the same, although he's gone to work today.

My Sunday and Monday dinner and cake 'parties' were cancelled, which honestly, I'm only a bit sad about. My Saturday was lovely - even though it was spent mostly in the hospital, and we had a wonderful evening with friends that day. If we did have to have a 3-day illness, I suppose a 3-day weekend was a convenient time to do it. And we spent 'Family Day' (Monday) just the four of us, spending time together. 

Now I am praying that we didn't get anyone else sick on Saturday and Sunday - my Grandma in the hospital first, then any of the Grandparents who watched the girls on the weekend, and our friends with whom we spent Saturday evening.  And I am praying that we (and all of those people) are healthy for this upcoming weekend for the Homeschool Convention that I have been looking forward to for even longer than my Birthday weekend... 

Monday, 25 January 2016 22:42

Just Checking In!

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Hello Blog, remember me? It has been so long, I actually had to wander the back end of this site - refamiliarizing myself with how this whole thing works! It took me awhile to figure out how to post a photo... 

But here we are!

A close friend who has recently moved to a galaxy far, far away informed me that she misses my blog posts as they are sometimes they only thing she sees from us between visits (we haven't figured out Skype yet... very technologically deficient over here). So, despite the fact that I am still floundering a little to find a direction - in life and on the blog - here is an update post from the past year.

We have no huge changes to report - Brian is still working from home, and that has been fabulous! He wishes sometimes that he had more reason to leave the house sometimes, I'm sure he misses the sun some days, and then he might also have a case for an additional vehicle... I am still teaching piano, and I have more students this year than I recall ever having. Only two days of teaching, though, so my week isn't has hectic as it has sometimes been. We are also still homeschooling...

This year is my second year of 'homeschooling' Clara - I don't know why I put that in quotation marks, except that I still feel a bit like a fraud. She's just barely 5, and I can't even register as a homeschooler in my province for another two years, but homeschooling really is more of a lifestyle than a specific sort of action, and so I suppose our lives do reflect that. I'll try not to use quotation marks in the future...  In regard to our homeschooling, I carried over my intention to homeschool for 'some' time, 3 days each week, and we are still far from what I would call consistent. Clara can read a bit more than she could a year ago - she has been *almost* reading for more than a year, but she hasn't moved into actually reading books on her own yet. I don't want to push her, because she doesn't respond well to that, but it's hard to see her so close, but not quite there... 

We have been reading the Chronicles of Narnia to her before bed each night, and she loves it! Even though there are almost no pictures, and many of the words I'm sure are over her head, she seems to grasp the story and really gets into it. She has no idea of the world that will open up to her when she can read to herself.

Despite our lack of structure in homeschooling, a friend of mine has asked me to speak at the upcoming Homeschool Convention in our province, as a new homeschooler - I probably should be scared, but at this point I'm just thrilled to be asked, and really excited. 

Next year would be Clara's first year of Kindergarten if she were to attend public school (I wave as the Kindergarten registration nights sail past, and we have missed the boat - our committment to homeschooling is seeming more real), and so my expectations of her will vaguely match what her peers are doing every year - adapted to her own strengths and weaknesses. We have been working through Kindergarten curriculum this year, and we will continue that as well as some Grade 1 curriculum starting in fall of next year. Audrey has begun with the same preschool curriculum I used with Clara - and never completely got through. Chance #2.

The girls moved into bunk beds this fall - their mattresses were falling apart, and since they needed to upgrade to twin beds soonish anyway, it didn't make sense to buy new toddler mattresses. The bunk beds were necessary because their room is much too small to accomodate two beds otherwise.  Clara was apprehensive - she seems to dislike change - and so Audrey happily claimed the top bunk. Go figure. I spent weeks scouring the internet for the 'perfect' bedding sets for the two beds, and was totally frustrated by the lack of options unless I wanted to spend more on the bedding than the bunk bed itself, which I didn't, and finally settled for an old blanket we found in a closet and bought a cheap one from Walmart that I really don't like, but it fit our budget for the time. Even sewing my own was going to be completely impossible because of cost. Frustrating.

Anyway.

On a personal note, I have been... good? In some ways really good - I feel like I can see things in my life more clearly than at previous times in my life, if that makes sense. In some ways, I've been really disappointed in myself - I am fighting with my levels of motivation and the fact that I have very little consequences for laziness, and I am often choosing laziness. It mostly shows up as me sleeping in until 10:30 with my children lying beside me watching Netflix on my phone... 

At some point last year, my computer became so slow that one blog post with five photos would take fifteen minutes of waiting for pictures to load, and I lost patience for that. My husband has since built me a faster computer, and although it is no longer portable, I expect I will use it more - and I would like to blog more frequently. Seven months is ridiculous.

Thursday, 02 July 2015 16:46

By George, She's Got it!

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Early last month I ran out of excuses and finally decided to try again - potty training Audrey, that is. We had started talking to her a bit about it, and when we asked if she wanted to be a 'Big girl', wear panties, and pee in the potty, she occasionally responded positively, which was an improvement over her responses last fall when we had begun our first disastrous attempt with her. 

We had been spoiled by Clara, back in 2012, who had potty trained quickly and easily. I had read about the 3-day method which made a lot of sense to me, and I prepared myself fully for three days of constant vigilance.  The method suggests being at your child's side for 3 days straight - no babysitters or even swapping parents - giving them snacks and drinks frequently to encourage peeing as often as possible - and repeating the same phrase 'Tell Mommy when you need to pee' over and over and over... In the end, I had to swap babysitters because I was teaching piano and couldn't find a 3-day stretch where I could abandon everything else. I was also babysitting another toddler each morning, and so my time was a bit divided between the two girls. It worked beautifully anyway, though, and I had it in my head that the method demanded a level of vigilance that maybe wasn't completely necessary.

Then came Audrey. 


I was convinced that because Clara's experience was so easy, that it was a sign of the effectiveness of the method, and that Audrey was certain to catch on just as quickly. Don't get me wrong - I do still think the 3-day method is a good one, for parents who resonate with it and for kids who are willing. Some friends of ours began their process with their daughter and it started off similarly to Audrey's first attempt - but they stuck with it - for weeks. This little girl had accident after accident and wasn't reliable for probably months but they didn't let go once they had begun. They were diaper free long before we were, but it required a lot of stubbornness on their part.  I'm sure we could have done the same, but I got through 4 days with no improvement and decided that life had to go on - and Audrey wasn't even two yet, so it wasn't something we needed to do right then. It was at that point that I got rid of all of our cloth diapers - mentally I was so done with diapers - and I set potty training on the shelf until nearly a year later. 

We arrived at the beginning of June, and I was no longer teaching piano or babysitting. We were also running out of time, if she was going to meet the potty training requirements for Awana in September.  Three months is plenty of time, but I couldn't wait too long. And although I was hopeful that things would be easier this time - I knew that if she was reluctant again, this time we had to just pull through until it was done. 

So we started with Day 1 saying 'Goodbye to diapers!' and spending the day outside so the accidents weren't all over my house. I was relaxed again - not spending every moment by her side - in case this was going to take weeks, I needed to preserve my sanity. The first day was hopeful - she hit the potty once or twice on purpose, which was leagues above where she was last time on Day 4. 

By Day 2, she seemed nearly potty trained completely. 

We then had a few days of one or two accidents a day, but by Day 4 or 5 she was keeping her panties dry for most of the day. 

I was stunned. Shocked, even. And extremely grateful. She got it!

And she cared this time, which was so different from last September. 

Almost one month later, we have had a few setbacks. She spent about a week with every poop coming out in her panties, and after her first two weeks of waking to a dry bed most of the time, she started wetting the bed routinely and we have now been putting her in diapers for night. She still won't pee in the diaper once she's gotten out of bed, and makes a beeline for the potty, but so far she hasn't woken to a dry diaper. I'll give this some time - her mattress, and my laundry routine, couldn't handle much more!

Thursday, 02 July 2015 12:23

Squirty Sidewalk Chalk

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I've been following a blog called Growing a Jeweled Rose for inspiration on activities to do with my girls.  She has two daughters as well, and they are each a few months older than my girls, so I feel like her activities have all been 'tried and tested' for little girls like mine, and I can see a few months ahead into what kinds of activities will be appropriate for my girls' ages. Here is her post on the Squirty Sidewalk Chalk that we attempted a few weeks ago. 

I used only 3 colours because I had 6 bottles and wanted each colour in baking soda paint AND vinegar paint, for mixing.  Also, my girls haven't done a lot of primary colour learning, so this seemed like a good opportunity to do that.

Ingredients: Baking Soda, Corn Starch, Paint/Food Colouring/Liquid Watercolours, Vinegar, Water.

You also need some squirt bottles and a sidewalk or driveway on which to squirt the paint!

The first three bottles I filled about 1/3 with corn starch, and 1/3 with baking soda, then added a splooch of paint and filled the rest with water. Then I put my finger on the tip of the squirt lid and shook them until everything was mixed together. Once the dry ingredients had started to dissolve in the water, I was able to add quite a bit more water to fill the bottles. This was the squirty chalk paint, and I made one each of red, blue and yellow.  I labelled the bottles with a big 'R', 'B' and 'Y' also, since I couldn't see the colours through the bottles.

Next, I divided the vinegar I had into the remaining three bottles and added another splooch of each colour paint and shook those until they were mixed and started foaming out the top of the bottles. 

 Made a mess of my deck.

 I gave the girls the three chalk bottles and let them make designs all over our driveway. The concrete is in really bad shape, but it did what we needed it to.  They were less interested in drawing pictures (or, squirting pictures, as I suppose they would be doing) and more interested in watching the liquid run down the slope of the driveway. They had fun squirting the colours together and watching them blend into one big puddle. 

 When they had emptied the chalk bottles, we walked around a bit and talked about the different colours. I noticed that the thinnest layers of paint had dried very quickly, and they looked just like chalk!

 Then I let them loose with the vinegar. The vinegar reacted with the chalk paint - even the spots that had already dried - and fizzed up into a new colour (unless they squirted blue on blue, etc. which they did often because they seemed to be kind of missing the point).  They again were less interested in the point of the experiment - colour mixing - or the fact that it fizzed - than creating more giant 'oceans' of puddle together. I let it be and decided that the entertainment was worth it anyway, and we could try it again later in the year - or next year - and it would certainly still be fun!

 The paint in the vinegar didn't quite mix perfectly, although it worked well enough. I think liquid food colouring, or liquid watercolour would have worked a lot better. Next time.

This was where the blue and yellow paint had overflowed on my deck. The girls had fun making paint footprints. It's an old deck that is scheduled for demolition as soon as possible, so I definitely didn't care about the mess. As it happens, a few weeks later the deck is completely clean - everything washed away perfectly, in case you were worried!

Wednesday, 13 May 2015 21:12

Just Be There, Mom!

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Last Sunday was Mother's Day, and along with all of the 'Happy Mother's Day!' sentiments plastered across the internets, I over heard and saw a few sad comments as well. Comments from Moms who feel inadequate. Comments from Moms who feel overworked and underappreciated - even on Mothers day.  And comments reminding all of us to remember that for some people around us, Mother's Day might be quite difficult - when Mothers have died, or when they have left their children to be raised by someone else. 

For the first seven years of my life, Mother's Day was a day of longing.  My school teachers would adapt my 'Mother's' Day gifts and cards to say 'Happy Grandmother's Day' instead - even though I knew it wasn't Grandmother's Day, and I knew that none of my friends were making crafts for their Grandmas. I tried calling my Grandma 'Mom', but she wouldn't allow it. I don't remember if I ever wrote 'a Mom' on my Christmas list, but I remember dreaming of a life that included her.

I suspect that my lack-of-Mom for those seven years is something that I could not adequately describe to anyone - and that anyone who has been raised by a mother who birthed them, and loved them, will never truly know the value of what they have.  I expect my own daughters to take me for granted in so many ways, and that is completely ok with me, because it means they have the luxury of... well, me!

 Just as someone who has never been without running water will never truly appreciate the convenience of a kitchen tap, and someone who has never been without food - and I mean truly without food - will never really appreciate a full pantry. I think it's ok for us to recognize our ignorance in some situations, because these are places we are ignorant because we have been blessed. Someone who has had two loving birth-parents who were there to watch them grow, will not truly appreciate their parents.  I can say certainly that I took my Dad for granted completely - but I only realized that after he had died, and I couldn't take him for granted any more.

So, I wanted to write this to all of the Moms out there who might be feeling overworked, underappreciated and the worst - inadequate. Trust me to know that being THERE is the greatest gift you can give your child.  I'm sure that making it clear to your child that you also love them dearly is important too, but in order to do that, you really have to be around.  Whatever choices you make for your kids and your family, and however frequently you fail in your own plans and goals, know that it is not the success of these things that matters most - it was always the attempt. Whatever choices you make, I know that all of you Moms out there are making choices that you believe are best for your family - and whether or not they turn out to be, it matters so much that you are there and trying.

And if your kids take you for granted, which they will - from one little mother-less girl, be glad that they don't know what it's like to be without you.  They are lucky. They are blessed. Just because they have you.  Please do not ever feel inadequate, because who you are to your children is amazing and incredible.

Obviously this post is written for birth mothers, who are raising the children they carried inside them. Because of my experience, I feel an overwhelming admiration for the Moms out there who choose to raise children who were birthed by someone else.  When I was 8, my Dad remarried and I was given a 'Mom' - finally.  Choosing to be my Mom was the greatest thing she could have done for me, and nothing she did after that mattered as much as that initial choice.  

Just be there, Mom!

*If my birth mother is reading this - please know that I believe every path my life has taken me down has been because God had this plan for me, and you were a part of that plan.  I am not angry with you for leaving, and although I understand how I struggled as a result of missing you - I also understand how that has shaped the person I have become and for that I am completely grateful. 

Monday, 27 April 2015 20:56

Snowstorm in April

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This past Sunday morning, April 26, we woke up to this. 

It's true, we live in Saskatchewan and we get a lot of winter here - I don't think the winter snow had actually completely melted until early April, but it WAS gone, and last week we had spent jacket-free days in the sunshine.  I even used sunscreen one day last week! And then this happened... 

Being from Saskatchewan, though, means that an unexpected snowstorm doesn't really mean anything. No one changes their plans, unless it was something they didn't really want to do anyway. The only reason anyone might actually stay home from work would be if they attempted to leave the garage and the car got physically stuck in the road - unable to move. This happened to me once. It took me an hour to free my vehicle enough to pull back up onto my driveway and off the street.  This day would be no different, and Brian started nagging me to get ready for church, because I'm a crazy procrastinator and my greatest joy in life is to make him late for things.  He thinks, anyway.  Oddly enough, though, there was a power outtage in the area where our church building is located and we were suddenly bombarded with texts and emails informing us that church was cancelled. 

An actual snow day.

So, with a long lazy day ahead, and no other plans, I was gazing out at the brilliantly white, clean snow and I remembered that nagging idea I kept having - always too late, after the snow had melted and become covered with dirt and leaves -  Maple syrup snow taffy! I remember my Mom telling me about this - it's supposed to be a Canadian 'thing', what with the maple trees and all - and I had never tried it. Here was my chance.

I brought the snow in on a cookie sheet so we could do this at the kitchen table. Maybe when the girls are older we'll take it outside, but for now this seemed best.  *See recipe at the bottom of this post.

Pouring the syrup in short ribbons of liquid gave us the best results. Picking up the syrup within about 5-10 seconds or so also made it easier to shape around the lollipop stick. 

Then I let the girls play. 

Clara made a few small pops, while Audrey made one giant blob and ate it as quickly as she could. When the syrup was all gone, I left the pan on the table and let the girls continue to play in the snow from the warm comfort of the kitchen. Audrey kept eating - the girl will snack on ice like it's popcorn.

 I gave them excavation tools - small spoons and forks. They got a bit over-exuberant and I was glad I had used a baking sheet that I wasn't all that fond of. 

Excessive giggling ensued, the cause of which I couldn't quite say. They had fun, anyway. 

I followed up with another snow recipe I found online - Snow ice cream with sweetened condensed milk. I didn't exactly 'follow' the recipe (I don't really like doing what I'm told...) and I can't find the blog again now, so I apologize I can't link it. It involved an ice cream pail full of fresh snow plus a can of sweetened condensed milk. I actually thought it was really good - icy and cold, yet sweet. My husband didn't really enjoy it, but he also doesn't like snow cones and it was similiar, just creamy. I decided I would appreciate it much more on a hot summer day when it would be impossible to make... so I probably won't make that one again. Oh well. 

The maple syrup taffy, though, that was a hit and we'll definitely do it again. 

I looked up about a dozen recipes - as I typically do - to get the 'idea' of it, and set about to try this myself.  So, again, I can't link to any particular recipe - my apologies, you're stuck with my unsure variation. 

Ingredients:

  • Fresh, clean snow - one recipe I found suggested packing it down, which I did. Since I brought it in on a tray, though, I think I'll skip this part next time. The syrup didn't really sink into the snow, and I wonder if the effects would have been better on softer snow. 
  • 100 % Maple syrup - I used about a cup (didn't measure precisely), and it would have served 8 people easily, although I try to limit our sugar intake, so take that as you will. 
  • Some kind of lollipop sticks, or popcicle sticks for picking it up
Instructions:

I put the syrup in a small sauce pan and boiled it until a drop of syrup in a glass of cold water formed a soft ball.  The boiling took quite awhile (I didn't time it), and occasionally it threatened to boil over and required pretty much constant attention and stirring for the time it took.  If you had a candy thermometer (I don't), you could research the exact temperature required - that would probably be easier than what I did. The syrup drop appeared to be quite liquid still, but I could pick it up and shape it with my fingers. I wouldn't have wanted it to get much firmer - although some recipes said that this would just create a harder, crunchier candy. 

Immediately after cooking the syrup to desired temperature, I drizzled it onto the snow. We waited a few seconds for the syrup to solidify slightly in the snow, but we found it worked best if we didn't wait too long either, or the syrup became too hard to pick up with the stick. We could still pick it up with our fingers, though, and it still tasted fine, so not a complete waste. Our best technique was to poke the largest end of the syrup strip and roll it up as much as possible around itself to form a lollipop on the end of the stick. 

I set the saucepan down on the stove with the remaining syrup - only half comfortably fit in drizzles on my baking sheet - and I don't know if it became too cool, or what changed, but the rest of the syrup didn't produce very good taffy. It had become opaque - maybe with tiny bubbles - and didn't have the smooth, glassy consistency that the first amount had.  Audrey still ate it, and it was still sugary and candy-like, but not as nice as the earlier stuff.

There you have it, next time you have a random summer snow day - try something you can't do after the snow has gotten old and trampled.

Looking forward to plus 20 (celsius) temperatures this week!!

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