Wednesday, 30 December 2015

New Years Musings From A Modern Mom

When I was younger (and not yet a Mom) my New Years Resolutions were pretty simple, or so I thought.  I'd consider "try to lose weight/be more active"; "read more books" and "keep my home neat and tidy" to be good, attainable ideas.  They were - or should have been.

For the first 2 weeks I could keep track of calories, and set aside time to read and clean.  Soon after that I lost interest.  As I feel everyone (or mostly everyone) does as the new year crawls forward.

Now that I'm a mom, and I've succeeded (very slowly) in losing some weight and increasing my activity level on a daily basis, my ideas for resolutions have changed.

This year I'd like to resolve to be a more involved parent.  I want to be active with my kids, not just for myself.  I want to eat healthier, and cook more, for all of my family to reap the benefits.  I can still try to "read more books," but now that has to include time with the girlies sitting with me and reading together.  And quite frankly "keep my home neat and tidy" has never worked for me, so it's not about to start now.  But this year I can resolve to teach the girls how to be more tidy and clean up when they're done.  They do that sometimes now, but not consistently.

I know the new year is an excellent time to start new things, or to renew those things that got lost over the year or in the holiday hubbub.  I think this past year has been a very successful one for me.  I started doing a few more things for myself that I had let go by the wayside after I had kids.  Being able to get out one night a week, I think, is making a big difference in my mindset - and my activity level, since it's a dance class!  I truthfully don't feel there is anything I need to add or change in my lifestyle right now.  I'm maintaining my weight loss, the girls are happy and healthy, and besides trivial things like "try to eat less take-out" or "magically find a ton of money on the sidewalk" I think we're doing pretty well here.

I want to wish all my readers (and "fans" if I have any of those!) a happy and prosperous new year.  Thank you for your interest in my blog over the past months - I hope to keep to posting fun and interesting things for you all to read.  I am always open to subject ideas as well - just comment any ideas or topics and I'll do my best to craft up something interesting!

What resolutions did you (or will you) make this year?  Have your resolution ideas changed over the years, or after having kids?  Share with me in the comments.

Wednesday, 23 December 2015

Now I Am A Dance Mom - 6 Weeks Later

Somehow I have survived 6 weeks of dance class.  True, I do only go once a week, but I need that down time to recover so I can manage the next class!  If you missed my first blog post about starting dance class, catch up here.

The exercise I get is not exactly a cardio powerhouse, but I definitely do notice some positive body changes.  While the scale does not reflect what I feel is going on I do notice a stronger core.  I actually have some abdominal definition now (up by my ribs, not down in the "belly" area which I can't seem to tone up at all!), and my hips and legs are toning up but also not getting smaller.  I've always had "big" legs - I'd like to call them muscle-y and now they are!

All the ladies that I've danced with over the weeks are so great!  When I am sure I have no idea what I'm doing they are there with positive words, or they take me aside and show it to me again and help me learn what seems so easy for them.  The environment is amazing for learning with little to no pressure to "keep-up!"

I have learned so much over the last weeks.  The words now mean something (most of the time!) and the steps come a little more easily.  I think part of the enjoyment of these classes is the mental workout of all this learning.  I'm not too worried, I still have a lot of learning to go!

My parents, upon hearing I'm taking ballet classes now, sent me this blast from the past.  This is me at 4 years old.  I have no actual memories of taking ballet, but I've heard rumours.  Now I guess I have proof that this is not my first time at the barre.

I did spend a Wednesday evening at Kingston School of Dance while Emma had her 2 hours of dance classes.  That's the night that Adult Ballet II happens.  The ladies that do both classes were asking if I was there for that, and when I said no they tried to tell me it's just the same as Monday nights.  Well, I watched that class and, while the steps are the same (as they should be - it's ballet!), the class moves at a much faster pace.  No time for me to be stumbling around and not knowing what I'm supposed to be doing.  There may come a day where I feel I'm ready to try that out, but it's sure not now!

This week's class was the last before Christmas break.  We got to wear tutus to dance - it was so much fun!  There were only 4 ladies that night, myself included.  I think there are about 12 ladies that may be there at any given week.  Of course with Christmas looming people are very busy, so I wasn't surprised that attendance was down this week.  It was a great class - as it always is.

Since we all felt so fancy in our tutus we took a few photos at the end of class.  I would have liked to get one with Ebon (the teacher) in as well, we did get a nice one.  Here we are, the ladies of Monday night Adult Ballet I.

I am planning to continue with dance for as long as I'm enjoying it.  Maybe someday some of the grace and poise the other ladies embody will be absorbed by me.  I can dream, right? 

Wednesday, 16 December 2015

A Sallamong's Story - Children's Book Review

I was offered the chance to review a children's book.  I totally jumped at the opportunity!  The only minor issue I had was how long it took to receive this book.  Apparently mail takes a long time to arrive from New Zealand - who knew?

This is the story I read.  I (wrongly) assumed it was short picture book for kids.  Turns out it's more of a "reader" style, which is great because that's right where Emma is in her reading now.

The story consists of 8 small chapters - about 3 pages each.  Of course there are pictures as well.  My 7 year old found it a bit tough to read - she's easily frustrated with a ton of words on a page.

The story is very cute.  A little green Sallamong is starting to grow up.  The struggles he encounters are easily relate-able to real life.  For my kids the subject matter was a little beyond their life experiences right now.  (My kids are 4 and 7.)

I am always a fan of stories that make use of the caterpillar to butterfly life cycle.  I feel that is such a great metaphor for growing and changing and all kids understand that the butterfly is that caterpillar (their core stays the same) only "grown up."

One small criticism I have is that I feel the story could have been broken into two, with the part about the drought expanded upon as a separate storyline.  I like the shed the skin and start to grow up as one story, and family stresses about outside the home influences turned into a second story in the series.  It does all work together as a story of increasing stressors to add to Santos' mental anguish about changes in his little life.

Overall, great story: good imagination, easily relate-able to real life, cute little guy, and nice "reader" format.  I'm going to ask my older daughter to break it into even smaller chunks so we can read it together again as a learning tool.

Tuesday, 8 December 2015

When Parents Get Sick - An Introspective

Having sick kids is tough.  Being a sick parent can be much tougher.  (Is tougher a word?  I'm not sold on it.)

Our house had about 4 days of sick daughters.  Fever, lethargy, vomit, the whole bit.  Then they got better!  Yay!  The plague has moved on!  As the primary parent (and all I mean by that is the one who is routinely at home more often and therefore able to do more household chores and all that) I took it upon myself to wash all the sheets, all the barf buckets and whatever else I thought might keep us from re-developing this particular plague.

Fast-forward a few days to my busy Christmas Party weekend.  Hubby's party and my work party routinely fall on the same weekend - luckily we do Sundays and they do Saturdays.  Usually it works out pretty well.

This year, not so much.  We had lunch on Saturday with the family after the newest cousin's baptism but I didn't feel my sandwiches sitting quite right.  Regardless I went ahead and ate, and then got ready later in the day and hubby and I went out to his party.

It was a good time - roast beef buffet, wine, and good company.  Until my dinner and drinks did not like their accommodations.  It was so bad I threw up twice at the venue.  Went home, threw up a few more times and then slept.

Sunday morning I had to get up with the girls (at 6:30, of course.)  This is all routine with us - I thought I was alright after a night's sleep.  I stayed up for half an hour and that was all I could manage.  I ate 2 tiny pieces of fruit and I had to go lay down.  That was pretty much the last time I saw the girls until Monday morning, in those precious few moments before school.

I couldn't get myself together well enough to do anything that Sunday.  Every time I tried to do anything, or if I managed to eat a few crumbs of something, I had to go lay down.  For at least an hour at a stretch.  I was so glad the girls were out for the day.  I even had to skip out on my work Christmas party.  That really bummed me out.

Hubby collected the girls from their Nanny day while I was upstairs sleeping off another smidgen of food I thought I should eat.  I didn't see them, they didn't ask to see me, and when I awoke he had just finished getting them down so I didn't dare peek at them yet.  Cue the mom guilt!

Overall I missed 3 nights in a row with my children and, rather than it feeling like an escape, it was a huge guilt burden for me.  Of course the kids have no idea - I tried to tell them I was sorry for not being there for 3 bedtimes and they just looked at me like I was weird for apologizing.  That didn't stop me from having a tear or two in my sentimental mom moment the girls didn't know I was having.

Being sick sucks - did I say that already?  Luckily when I felt better I saw that hubby and the girls did a good job of looking after each other.  Sure, there were dishes in the sink, and the laundry wasn't magically done or anything like that, but overall the house was still standing and all the advents hadn't been opened, and even Elf on the Shelf had managed to find a new resting place each day.

What happens in your house when one or (god forbid!) both parents are under the weather?  Do routines have to change?  Do the kids leave you alone to rest up?  Share your experiences in the comments below!

Friday, 4 December 2015

How Kids Change Your Sleep Habits

When I was young I could sleep through anything.  I never heard my sister calling out or talking in her sleep (unless I wasn't asleep yet.)  Once we were camping and there was a thunderstorm so intense it shook the ground - everyone else woke up (we were sleeping in a tent) and I missed the whole thing,  That made me mad because I love thunderstorms - I did even when I was a kid!

Now I can't sleep through any tiny sound my children make.  I definitely think it's a biological parent thing.  I call it "Mom sleep" although I'm sure Dads suffer from this as well.  Although definitely not in my household...

I can still sleep through storms or other disturbances in the night, but I cannot sleep though noises my offspring make in the nighttime.  Especially when they are sick, as was the case this week.  I'm sure my "mom anxiety" is partly to blame for this lovely sleep disturbance.

Any noise (a cough, an excessive rustle of bedclothes, a door opening) is cause for me to be instantly wide awake.  Both my girls used to have no compunction about throwing up in bed, all over themselves and all the bedding, and even on their toys. So gross!

My eldest still doesn't wake up fully before the need to vomit overcomes her - I'm sure this is the cause of my "Mom sleep" from early on.  She used to cry until she threw up as a very small toddler - back in the controlled "cry it out" and "sleep training" days.  Although now that I think of it I co-slept with my first child, and I'm sure for the first year of her life I slept in a continual state of "Mom sleep" where I would close my eyes but never fall into a good sleep.  I was always so exhausted back then!

When my second child was born she was a pro sleeper.  No co-sleeping required.  As a result I had to move her out of my room (she was in a bassinett) very early on.  Her asleep rustling disturbed my sleep so much that I would lay awake listening to her breathing and moving slightly, waiting for her to wake up to nurse.  She slept so much longer in a stretch right from birth than my first did in her entire first 4 months of life.  Once I moved her to "her" room my sleep quality increased dramatically!

Between bouts of sick children I am revelling in my sleep.  There are no more diapers, training pants, or nighttime accidents.  There is rarely a need to get up in the night.  The girls will even get up and pee and then go back to bed without any outside assistance.  I'm loving it!

But what that really means is I'm way out of practice when I do have to get up in the night - especially multiple times, or for 3 or 4 nights in a row.  I actually thought I would fall asleep in the middle of my workday this week because my girls were sick and I was only getting about 4 hours of "real" sleep while everyone was quiet in the night.

Do you suffer from "Mom sleep"? (even if you're a dad!)  How do you deal with sick kids in the night?  Any tricks to train older kids to the cues of their body (so they don't barf everywhere!)?  Please share with me in the comments!!

Friday, 27 November 2015

What Is My Brand? - How A Modern Mom Blogs

I started blogging because I like to write.  I'm not creative enough to compose a story, but writing about everyday things is easy for me.  I used to use LiveJournal (back in my University days...) and I had a little community there of friends, mostly from the Wide Mouth Mason fan sites, and I loved it!

Now that I have kids, and a husband, and I juggle work and home lives I thought I could easily write a blog.  I was right on that.  Subject matter abounds, whether anyone wants to read about it or not.

Turns out there are a TON of things I didn't know about blogging:

  • I didn't realize you could make money from blogging.
  • I didn't know you needed a "Brand"
  • I didn't know you had to be on every form of social media
  • I didn't know you could get stuff for free if you wanted to write about it
  • I didn't know you needed more followers than God to qualify for some "sponsored posts"
  • And I definitely didn't know it would totally take over my life at some points

I've read more about blogging in the past 6 months that I have read about anything since I was at school.  Sadly, I still don't "get" most of it.

I've joined Twitter - that's going okay except I've followed so many people now there's no way I can keep up with (or even focus on) all the tweets.  I have not gotten onto Pinterest or Instagram - I can barely keep up with Twitter and Facebook. (aside: I love that the spellcheck does not know either the word Pinterest or Instagram.  Makes me think the world has not gone as digital as I've thought!)

And this "Brand" business - what is that even?  I mean I get it, if you're an author, or a crafter, or a parenting magazine.  But why do I, the average mom blogger, need a "Brand"?  My brand is just me writing about stuff that I do, or my kids do, that's interesting - or maybe some drama that's happened in our lives that I want to share.  I see so many posts and sites about having a "brand."  Do I need one?  Does it help define me in some way?  I don't really get it.

I would so love to make money from my blog.  I do not have nearly enough readers to allow me to qualify for anything really interesting - and I refuse to belong to every possible social site just for promotion's sake.  I also can't fill my blog with ads - I want people to read my material, not navigate around ads!

I have done a book review, where I got the book for free.  That was cool because I love reading.  I'm getting another book (this time a children's book) for free and I will write a review for that as well.  I've applied for a few other things to review, but it doesn't usually work out since I don't have a lot of "unique pageviews" for my blog.  Some sites and companies want you to have over 1500 unique pageviews - say what?  That's unattainable for me right now.

I was super excited to see my ballet teacher share my last post about my adult ballet lessons.  Sure, my hubby sent the link to him to read, but still - someone new reading (and sharing!) my stuff!  Excitement!

I'm trying very hard to not be bogged down by all the "shoulds" of blogging.  I want to share my events, thoughts, feelings, milestones, and interesting tidbits with people who appreciate them.  If I get free stuff, or make $2 that's just a bonus.  I don't want to obsess about "unique pageviews" or Twitter followers, or whether I qualify for any specific reviews, sponsored posts, or anything else.

Friends, I hope you appreciate my candour - I will always be sure to tell you if my posts are sponsored in any way.  And let me know if there's anything you'd like me to post about.  Or if there's posts you didn't care for and don't want to see more about.  A blog is only as good as it's readers!

Wednesday, 25 November 2015

Now I Am A Dance Mom

Emma has been taking dance lessons (ballet) since she was 4.  Rose has been going since 2 and a half.  They like it a lot (most of the time.)  Emma has expanded to Ballet and Contemporary dance so she dances 2 hours once a week.  They were both in the Santa Claus Parade this year on the Kingston School of Dance float (while their Dad drove the truck to pull the float!)

KSD is a great learning environment for the girls.  It's the only non-competitive dance school in town.  Everyone learns at their own pace, and no one is pushed beyond their limits.  We have only had positive experiences with this dance school.

For a few months now I've been thinking about punishing myself by trying out the Adult Ballet class.  This ties in tightly with my idea that I need more music in my life - there's a post about that here.  Also I need more active time in my week.  My hubby works late one night (at least) a week, and I'm home every night, for every dinner and every bedtime.  This could also be my escape, once weekly, from bedtimes!

The girls don't let hubby put them to bed if I'm home - who knows what he's missing out on (besides a LOT of reading) when he doesn't put them to bed.  Sometimes, but not often, tidbits about the day are shared at bedtime.  I love it when that happens!  But I would also love him to share in the routines.

The Adult Ballet I happens Monday nights - there's also an Adult Ballet II on Wednesday but I am so not ready for that.  I can get to the Monday night class right from work.  I work until 6 and class is at 7 so I leave the store, walk back to the car and drive to dance.  Then I change into whatever Flashdance inspired outfit I managed to create that week and then wait.  Most weeks one of my friends is there as her daughter is taking Contemporary dance as well (but in the class one lower than Emma - she's only 5.)

I've been to two classes now.  The first one had only 5 ladies in it, including me.  I was comfortable with the crowd, but not at all with the ballet.

Everything is French.  I guess I should have anticipated that, but somehow it didn't figure into my decisions.  I know a lot of French words, but somehow I can't apply them to my feet or my body.  Also everyone else is a dancer.  You can just tell by the way they move, and how they seem to know all these French code words for everything.

The workout was great - my legs were sore for about 36 hours, with some lingering stiffness as I tried to stretch out the pains the next few days.  I was fully recovered before the second class.

Second class had 8 people total.  That was more daunting as they mostly all knew all the French code words as well.  And when the teacher says things like "lunge" what he's really saying is "do the splits!"  There was a lot more barre work, and extra stretching, in the second class, but I really liked it.  I must have been warmed up enough as I managed to actually get my leg onto the barre to actually do the stretches!  I needed some technique critiques as the class went on, but I managed to pick up on a lot of it the second time around.

In between classes I went online.  I read at least a dozen websites about "basic ballet."  Foot positions, arm positions, and French words and how they apply to your movements.  I watched videos (and some I even tried to follow along to), read up on beginner sequences and what they're called and basically just increased my ballet vocabulary.

Guess what - it worked!  I felt like I remembered things from last week, and retained some idea of what the words were and how they related to foot and arm positions.  I stumbled through the second class more easily, and I felt more confident that I wasn't quite 1,000 years behind everyone else.  The second class went more quickly and I felt like I got much more out of it when I wasn't worrying quite so much about how the basic moves went.

I guess it can only get better from here.  The ballet barre workout is great, and the sequences are pretty simple.  Half the class is barre work but then we move out to the floor.  That's where I lose all my coordination - but it's still fun.  And no one is judging.  Everyone is at their own level and working toward their own goals.  They support you when you're doing well and don't criticize when you have no idea what's going on.  It's a great group of ladies (who were all dancers is seems, except for me!)

Have you ever taken a ballet class?  Or done those "barre workouts" that seem to be popular now?  What did you think?  How was your coordination?  And was it fun?  Please share your experiences with my in the comments!

Wednesday, 18 November 2015

Head Lice - One Of Many Parental Nightmares

Every time I get an email from the school I have to read it right away.  I have anxiety about the lovely principal emails, and not for any actual school-related reasons.

Whenever an update appears in my inbox I immediately tune out everything around me until I can scan the email for those dreaded words: Head Lice

We've been lucky so far this year.  I've seen a notice twice that there was a "suspected case" but there was never any follow-up or school head checks.  Not like in years past.

The girls have had their fair share of head lice so far in their little lives.  The first time we experienced it I was pregnant with Rose, and Emma was probably barely 3 years old.  I had a little breakdown because I didn't think I could deal with all the things expected of a household who finds head lice.

I didn't want to use the horrible chemical shampoo on my 2 or 3 year old.  I didn't think I could vacuum every surface in my house before she came into contact with the surfaces again.  I couldn't imagine corralling all her toys and either washing and drying them or putting them in a bag for 2 weeks (and/or in the freezer - who has room for that??)  And how do you get a 2 or 3 year old to sit still for an hour while you nit comb her entire head?  Especially with a pregnant belly in the way?  Ack!

Luckily I have great family nearby so I asked for help - mostly to do Emma's hair.  She was a star that first time.  She hated it, but she sat and let me pick and pick and pick.  The girls had thin hair as toddlers so mostly I could see what was going on in there.  I put on a movie and (no joke) she sat for a hour.  And this is after I picked through while she was in the bath getting the shampoo washed out as well.

We've been fortunate that neither girl has had a serious infestation.  I've managed to find it early every time (and there have been 3 large bottles of R&C amounts of times!) and alert daycare, which is where I think they came into contact with it - but not necessarily in the daycare house.  They used to go to all sorts of programs and other places (which is also why I loved my daycare!) where the girls came into contact with lots of kids.  Never have I been sure where the lice came from.  I find that very frustrating.

A few things we do now (that may or may not be helping!) routinely:

  • Tea Tree Oil - I put it right into the kids shampoo bottles, and then add a few drops to the squirt I put into my hand as well right before shampooing.
  • Check the hair all the time - like while we're watching tv and the kids are cuddly.  Catching it early is key!
  • Wearing hair up as much as possible - this isn't often in my house because no one likes their hair brushed, and that's a vital component to being able to put it up!
  • Using conditioner - I know there's conflicting evidence about conditioner use and head lice, but here Emma uses conditioner now (if she didn't there'd be no hair combing after!) and I often forget to do the tea tree oil, and she's not had lice in years.  May be a coincidence, may not.
  • Teach the kids about head lice - how it's spread, how early detection is key, and how to stick their hats into the sleeves of their coats.  If they understand why we need to do this stuff, they are way more likely to comply.  At least that's my experience.  For a bit Rose was confused about "hair bugs" and "sugar bugs" (you know, the ones that cause cavities)  That made for interesting teeth brushing conversations because that was often when I would try to look through her hair as well.
Do you have any other tips or household things you do to help keep lice under control and out of your house?  What we're doing is working right now, but I read so much about the "super lice" that I'm still hyper aware that my kids spend a huge amount of time with kids I don't know!  Please share in the comments if you have any helpful ideas!

Saturday, 14 November 2015

My Life Needs Music

I've been wanting to craft up a post about music for a while now.  I'm just not sure how to start or what, really, to say.  Let me give it a try.

I love music.  I have for as long as I can remember.  I learned to play piano around age 4 and I did Royal Conservatory up to grade 8, which got me a high school credit.  How cool!

I still try to play, but truthfully I don't make the time much anymore (which goes for all my hobbies right now: knitting and crochet; "real" gardening - not just pulling a few weeds and watering when I absolutely have to; I wanted to learn to paint but didn't get past buying some paper and paints; and I'm sure there are more hobbies I had that I haven't done in so long I've forgotten!)

Music I still fit in, mostly because it can be a very passive pastime.  I put on the radio, and I use my phone and headphones when I walk from the car to (and from) work every day.  That gets me maybe 30 minutes of music a day, once you remove the commercials and talking from the radio shows in the morning.

There was a time when I had my finger on the pulse of current music trends.  In highschool and university I prided myself on knowing all the "cool" bands as well as the more obscure, but still great, other bands that toured around our area.  I would go to concerts all the time - so much so I'd try to schedule classes around the late nights I knew were concerts nights at the nearby bars.  That didn't really work out that well, but I tried!

Being a Canadian I got a lot of my music information from MuchMusic.  That was back in the days when they played more music videos and much less "shows."  Now they've gone back to videos an hour at a time randomly through the day, but there was a point where I'm sure they didn't play more than an hour of videos a week.  Anyway, I digress - but the network had great VJs and writers who managed to get all the good "music news" out to the public and had bands in the studio all the time.  It was worth watching if you were a music junkie, like me.

In the 90s and early 2000s I knew so much music news.  And my parents loved rock, so right from the beginning it was "classic rock" and "80s rock" (from the radio at the time) all the time in my household.  Of course my sister and I went through the "pop" phase, and I don't know if I ever fully left it behind.  I like so much varied music that I find it hard to pinpoint a favourite genre.  I'll listen to most anything, but less of the twangy old country music, and I have a low tolerance for old-fashioned rap. Personally, I feel that music genres do not exist the way they used to.  I know a lot of artists "cross-over" but I believe that us fans just like things in a broader scope that it's hard to classify artists in one genre anyway.

My favourite bands are from the 90s and early 2000s, and they're mainly Canadian Rock.  I can't define them any more than that.  And finally they are resurging.  The I Mother Earth, Our Lady Peace, Moist, The Tea Party, Wide Mouth Mason era bands are either touring again, or releasing new singles.  I'm returning to a happy place these days.  I saw Hawksley Workman here in Kingston earlier this year, for free, in the pouring rain.  No one was brave enough to come with me, so I said "to hell with everyone!" and went myself.  There was a small showing of people for the concert, but the rain stopped, the stars came out, and the show was fabulous!

Later this past summer Big Sugar came for a free concert as well.  It rained a smidge for that one, but they're cooler (or just more popular!) than Hawksley Workman and there was a huge turnout for that show.  I still got to be in the very front though!

The biggest thing I miss right now is the time I used to have to just absorb music.  I remember buying a new cd, taking it home, fighting with the wrapper (because those pull tabs never worked!) and then lovingly placing the disk in the player in my room.  I would just lay on my bed absorbing the new tunes, reading along to the lyrics if the band provided them in the liner, or just mellowing out to the tunes.  I would listen over and over until I had the song order memorized, and most of words (and all of choruses) learned well enough to get me by until I could just lay around some more and listen.

Those days are long gone.  Now I know the words to the choruses of the songs on the radio, but sometimes (okay, most times) I don't even know who the artists are.  It's a sad decline in my life.  Almost as bad as my loss of reading time (the post about that is here) but I still try.  Concerts are few and far between, but when I do get to go I totally soak it in - even if it's in the arena setting, and not the up-close-and-personal bar scene (because I physically can't stay up that late anymore and then function at 6:30am for the kids!)

I know all is not lost - I still make a little time for music - but I will never be as tuned in to the music scene as I was when I was younger.  I don't even know when I bought a cd last, and I'm so resistant to buying "albums" digitally.  I like to hold these things in my hands - cds, books, movies and so on.

Share your feelings with me - who are your favourite bands or artists?  Do you still make the time for hobbies that you enjoyed when you were younger?  Are your kids "coming around" to your tastes in music, movies, books etc?  I'm desperately curious to hear how other parents deal with the loss of what made you "you" in your younger years.  Or have you managed to hold onto everything you loved, and enjoy it the same?  Let me know in the comments!

Tuesday, 10 November 2015

Adventures in Baking - Marble Cake

Alison's Marble CakeMy sister's birthday is in early November.  We are a family who tries to get together for everyone's birthdays and just have a nice family dinner.  Since my mom reads my blog (Hi Mom!) she knows I've been getting my bake on more often.  So when I asked her what I should bring to dinner, she told me (okay, asked me) to bake a cake.

Not only did I rise to the challenge, but I also made the non-decision to make a marble cake.  Does Alison like chocolate or vanilla cake better?  Who cares, let's make one that's both!

So I Googled cake recipes for an entire night.  I never know how to know if this recipe works, tastes good, or any of that.  I will read an entire page of comments and still not really form an opinion because for every person that struggled with it, 2 more loved it, and then 3 people made it, but with substitutions, or add ons.  If there are enough positive reviews I'll make the assumption that it must usually work out okay.

The recipe I used was at (That's the link directly to the recipe, not just the Real Simple website.)  It tasted good but as you can see it turned out more like a chocolate cake on top of a white cake.

I found the original batter quite thick and almost tough to work with.  I scooped the 2 cups out and into the cocoa/water/sugar mix and that batter was much more workable.  Were I to make it again I would add a little more milk to the original vanilla batter before I poured it into the pan so I could "swirl" the flavours together better.

My second struggle was actually baking the cake.  I have a nice glass 9x13 dish that has a lid.  I thought "Great! I can travel with it!"  What I didn't realize was baking in glass is different than in metal pans.  Of course the recipe didn't specify pan material, but I put it in at the temperature suggested for the smallest allotment of time suggested and it was nowhere near done.  The toothpick came out coated in chocolate batter.

Logically I thought this was due to the runnier consistency of the chocolate batter, and the fact that I put the timer on for the shortest time.  I put it back in for 2 more minutes.  Then 2 more, and then another minute and thirty seconds.  I think in total I cooked it for almost 10 extra minutes.  At that point there was one spot where the toothpick still came out fairly coated, but I wanted to be able to eat at least some of the cake so I decided it was done enough!

 If you look closely at the photo you can see a small spot in the middle where the cake sank a bit.  I was quite worried that it would still be runny in that section!  Of course it turned out fine, and once I'd iced and decorated it you couldn't tell it had a sunken spot at all.

I made some icing from scratch using this recipe, but I really had to read all the comments as there was a confusing part about the icing sugar.  At any rate it tasted really good and I didn't thin it out too much so it spread on the cake beautifully.  After the white icing I used the various decorating stuff I had from doing the cookies for Emma's Halloween party.  Who doesn't love black and pink decorations on their cake?? (I think my artistic handwriting needs some work, but no one complained about my block letters!)

I then put the lid on thinking there was lots of space, but it did squish the letters a bit.  To make up for that we took our girlie coloured sprinkles (pink, blue, yellow and purple) with us to dust the cake with right before the candles went on.  The girls love putting sprinkles on stuff.

Here's the last photo - the cake all ready to go!

We had a nice birthday visit with Alison and the parentals.  My kids didn't eat the cake (I didn't think they would) but everyone else said it was good.  I tend to agree.

Do you have any baking catastrophes (or successes!) that made a good story?  Share in the comments, and thanks for reading!

Tuesday, 3 November 2015

5 Things We've Learned About Night Terrors

My older daughter experienced Night Terrors.  We had no idea what was going on with her, and it was scary for us!  I thought I'd share a few things we learned while dealing with Emma and her Night Terrors.

Emma Asleep
  1. They are distinctly different from Nightmares.  Emma would sit up quickly, exclaim loudly (sometimes screaming or crying) and be completely unresponsive.  She would then just lay down and be asleep.  It's really freaky, especially when it happens the first time!
  2. Having a child be completely unresponsive, especially at night, is a heart-stopper for anxious moms! (or Dads or other caregivers.)  I don't know how many times I went in to see her knowing she was having these Terrors and I felt so completely helpless.  I would hug this stiff-as-a-board little girl while she cried or carried on, or sometimes just gestured wildly, and would just get absolutely no response.  Eventually she would relax and just be completely asleep.  It was mind-boggling for me.  I did finally manage to acknowledge there was nothing I could do, but while it didn't really make me feel better, it did allow me to go back to sleep myself after tucking her back in.
  3. Being over-tired made them worse.  If Emma had a really drawn-out bedtime (which she always had, so I mean an extra-long 'drawn out for at least an hour' bedtime) there was a greater chance she'd wake with a Terror.  Same deal if the day was really busy or she didn't nap (which she never did for me anyway...)
  4. They will almost always happen just after you fall asleep.  Most of the literature about Night Terrors suggests they happen 2 to 3 hours after the kid falls asleep.  For most households that's likely the time parents are getting into bed and falling asleep themselves.  Of course.
  5. Kids grow out of them.  Our daughter didn't really start with them until after our second was born.  Correlation?  No idea.  Emma would have been approaching 3 and a half.  Most things I've read suggest kids between 4 and 12 can have them.  Emma is now 7 and hasn't had one in a long while (maybe even a year.)
Rose Asleep
Strangely Rose, our second born, has never had a Night Terror - although Murphy's Law dictates it will happen now that I've said that.  Rose has also always been a good sleeper who had no problem taking naps and going to bed when tired.  I suspect that could be part of the reason.  She also had no problem sleeping through Emma's carrying on back when she was afflicted with these Night Terrors.

We didn't actually have Emma checked out and diagnosed with Night Terrors, but Dr Google and Dr Mom agreed that that was definitely what was going on with her some nights.  She didn't remember any of the episodes she had, so much so that she would argue with me at the breakfast table that she never woke up once (which I guess she technically never did!)

If you think you're experiencing Night Terrors with your little one, take heart!  They will pass, and they aren't dangerous (unless your child is prone to falling out of bed, which did happen at least once here!)  They're scary, but more for the parents than the child.  Read up on them online like I did and maybe understanding what they are will give you some measure of reassurance.

Please share your experiences in the comments, and if there's any other helpful tidbits I didn't touch on, share those too!  But remember, nothing can replace the advice of a physician when diagnosing anything anywhere ever.

Sunday, 25 October 2015

7 Things I Learned Hosting Emma's Halloween/Birthday Party

This weekend we threw a party for Emma.  It was a birthday-Halloween party.  We had 11 kids total, ages 4 to 8.  We had lots of food (and lots of sweets), presents, cake, and games.  We also had very little spills, and only one kid had tears (she stumbled on the stairs) so I'd say it was successful!

That being said, here are a few things I learned throwing a (fairly) large party in our (fairly) small house:

  1. No matter how organized you feel, you are never adequately prepared for a kids party!  We had all the food ready, the loot bags done, and the crafty area prepared well before kids started to arrive.  As the kids were arriving I was thinking "Ya, this is totally do-able."  Then more kids came, and then more, and more, until there was no floor space left for anyone else to squeeze in and colour.  At that point I started thinking "Man, we're doomed!"  Plus they all had costumes on which flowed out beautifully and were ridiculous tripping hazards!
  2. If you have watched all these lovely children eat hot dogs in the past, it does not mean they will eat hot dogs at your house/party.  Of course no one went home hungry, but we did have a few bits of resistance to the hot dogs we served (both Pillsbury wrapped "mummy dogs" and regular hot dogs with or without buns)  Luckily most kids like carrots, and there were cookies, crackers and cheese.
  3. 7 and 8 year olds have more energy than 4 year olds when collected together at parties.  I always thought as kids get older they mellow out a bit.  Toddler energy is boundless (unless they miss the recharge of nap times) but these kids were wild and crazy in a way toddlers and younger kids can't be.  Maybe my 7 year old is abnormal, but when these kids get together they must feed off each other's energy and it's somewhat disturbing.  I had to play "teacher" and clap my hands and holler for quiet more than once.  I was glad to see them go outside!
  4. If you were hoping the kids could play outside, it will rain.  The weather was not great, but that actually did not really stop the kids from going outside.  We have a play structure with swings (only 2) and most of the kids ran outside in the spitty rain to play for a bit.  I think hubby was concerned all those kids may collapse our second hand wooden structure, but it's still standing this morning!  There was easily 30 minutes of outside play (for most of the kids) so it did work out this time.
  5. If there's a toy collection you were hoping to keep out of your house, every child will buy that as a gift for your kid.  We are desperately trying to keep Shopkins to a minimum.  Emma wants them desperately.  What are they even?  Tiny choking hazards that we will lose, that's what.  So now we have 3 "collections" from different "seasons" whatever that means.
  6. I will refrain from drinking alcohol when hosting a children's party - no matter how much I need that glass of wine!  It was only 3 hours, and they weren't that uncontrollable.
  7. Kids are cute.  I mean they were all dressed up in costumes, most were using their best manners, and they were actually policing each other without anyone getting too upset. ("Can you please be quiet so so-and-so can finish telling their story?  We were all quiet for you!")  I love watching the interactions and the different personalities of all these kids and how similar or different they are from my kids.  Parties can be such a social experiment!

I'd say it was successful and I've had a few moms message me that their kid had a great time.  It's nice to get that feedback.

Next year we will have fewer kids.  And maybe not do a Halloween theme, although the kids were quiet entertained with each other and their costumes.  I'm already planning and scheming ideas for the 8th birthday next year!

Tuesday, 13 October 2015

Making Time To Blog Is Hard - I Need Help!

When do you blog?  I was going great gangbusters when I started this blog (in the spring and early summer) but now that we're back to school and other life is happening I don't feel like I have time!

Currently I've spent a lot of time increasing my Twitter followers (and following) and trying to share my FB page with more folks.  I've been checking my affiliate sites, reading other blogs, and also trying to have a home life.  All that seems to have eaten into my blogging time.

Also we just had Thanksgiving, so that ate up an entire (long) weekend.  Don't get me wrong, it was a delicious, beautiful, family-type weekend, but it didn't leave me much quiet time.

I know scheduling is key when trying to build up a blog.  The problem I'm having is one part writers block and one part hoping to have time to me - and just to me, not blogging, gardening, cooking, laundry doing, working etc.  Those moments are hard to find.

My schedule currently involves working 4 eight-hour days, with one day off for me to get stuff done.  This week I have appointments on my day off, and I need to get stuff together for my daughter's Halloween party next weekend, as well as my foray into a live Rocky Horror Picture Show performance - think costumes, hair, props, the works!  And I'd like to get groceries and do laundry - regular mom stuff.

So then there's evenings after work.  I get home (at 5:30 or 6:30 depending on the shift) and either make, or just eat, dinner.  Try to get Emma to do homework before Rose has to go to bed (at 7:00) and then get Emma to bed by 8.  All that is often accomplished by 8:30 and then it's "my time."  So I clean up dinner, do dishwasher stuff, start or switch laundry, and sweep the dinner mess off the floor, if I didn't get that done before bedtime starts.  Some nights I also clean up toys and then, if I'm lucky, I sit down.  Hubby will have the tv on but I'm only good for maybe an hour before I fall asleep on the couch.

I try, often, to blog while the tv is on.  Some nights it works, some nights it really does not.  Depends on what's on, or how tired I am.  I'm one of those people that needs 8 hours of sleep almost every night to be functional the next day.  Yes, the newborn and baby years were hell-on-earth for me.  Luckily my sleeps are much less disturbed these days, so I can pull a few later nights if I have to.  But when I'm tired I can't form coherent thoughts, let alone interesting blog posts!

Tonight I've been crafting this post while the girls eat dinner - I've had an upset tummy all day, so no loss to me if I'm not eating with them - and now they're watching some tv and looking through the costume bin and Halloween decorations.  By the time I'm done here I figure I will have been "writing" for 45 minutes.  And really, what have I written about?  Mostly nothing.  No deep thoughts or well-researched articles.  Just fluff about how I don't have time to post anything!

So share with me your schedules, or routines.  How do you blog (and promote!), as well as do affiliate stuff and keep up with other blogs - and be moms or dads, husbands or wives, or any other functioning members of society?  Maybe with the cooler weather creeping in I may have less desire to be outside, or be doing anything else, frankly.

Really I'm just desperately curious to hear how fellow bloggers manage it all.  I really thought I'd just be writing stuff, I did not realize so much came with blogging (if you want people to actually read your stuff!)

Sunday, 27 September 2015

The Ancient Art Of Breadmaking - My First Attempt

Last week I read a thousand recipes for bread.  I found a few that sounded good but I didn't have any yeast, so I downgraded my ambition for kneading bread and made a quick bread loaf instead.  It was a bit less than stellar, but totally edible.

My quick loaf tasted just like banana bread, but without the bananas, so a bit lacking in the deliciousness area.  A nice layer of jam made it much better, and now that loaf is gone.

When I was at the grocery store this week I indulged in some yeast packets and today I am making "real" bread.  I guess they call it yeast bread in the cooking world.

Never before have I felt the desire to bake bread.  Suddenly the idea struck me, so I've acted on it.  My household doesn't actually eat a lot of bread, but maybe homemade bread will change that.  I guess time will tell there.

The recipes all look so easy.  Activate the yeast, mix the few ingredients together and knead, let it rise, knead again (or not depending on the recipe) shape and bake.  For me the hardest part is knowing when the dough has risen enough.

I've read about 5 websites about baking bread, proofing dough, and measuring and knowing how to tell if it's time to bake.  They are all similar, but all have differences.  My method is to read a ton of ways, then use my best judgement and hope for the best!

The recipe I chose is from  It was called Traditional White Bread.  The only thing I changed (after reading other reviews) was to lessen the salt to 2 tsp, and I used one cup of whole wheat flour in place of 1 cup white.  I also didn't have "bread flour" so I used regular all purpose.

I have a lovely Kitchen Aid mixer with a dough hook.  I actually had to dig out the manual/recipe book that came with it to do a quick read on their bread-making ideas.  I used the dough hook and after my yeast was "activated" I added the first few ingredients and got started.

Everything was going swimmingly until I tried to add my 3rd cup (or so) of flour.  The dough was coming together, starting to pull away from the sides as the recipe suggested and then I poured in another half cup of flour (which is difficult to start with as the bowl lip is close to the top of the mixer) and when the hook got going it "poofed!" half the flour back out the top and all over the counter and the mixer.  It did this every time I added more flour.  I know I lost at least half a cup, but I don't know how to stop that from happening.  I think part of the deal is that my mixer is too small to make 2 loaves at once - although that's how almost every recipe is written.

After the first "proof" I kneaded the dough and split it into the two loaf pans and left it to rise again.  Just when I was pre-heating the oven we had to leave unexpectedly for 2 hours.  I imagined the bread was toast (nice pun, eh?) but my hubby said we could likely salvage it if we put it in the fridge while we were out.  Apparently hubby makes delicious cinnamon buns - says his family; I've been with him 12 years and I've never seen him bake anything - and he used a 24 hour recipe.  So that's what I did - left it to slow-rise in the fridge 2 extra hours over what the recipe suggested.

The bread baked for 35 minutes and turned out of the loaf pans beautifully.  I didn't decide until after baking that photos would have accompanied this post wonderfully.  So here's one of the loaves fresh out of the oven.

I couldn't wait for the loaves to cool completely.  I cut into the more rustic looking one, slathered some butter on it and ate it.  To my surprise it was good!  It's a smidge more dense than the recipe led to me believe, but since I added whole wheat flour and proofed in the fridge for some extra time, I'm not surprised by this.  I don't anticipate it will be hard to eat these loaves of bread!

I welcome any critiques or suggestions on my process.  One of the loaves is perfectly rounded and the other is lumpy and uneven on the top.  When I put them in the pans I could see this would happen, but short of removing it from the already greased loaf pan and re-kneading and shaping it I couldn't see a way to alter the appearance.

Also readers, if you have any other delicious easy bread recipes, feel free to share those in the comments as well!  Or tricks for add-ins or changes to make better/different tastes to my bread - I'm hoping to continue making bread, but maybe only one loaf at a time so I don't overload my mixer again!

Sunday, 20 September 2015

No Rest For The Wicked - Book Review

*This is a sponsored post - Dane Cobain sent me a copy of his book to read and review*

I read, and enjoyed, Dane Cobain's book No Rest For The Wicked.  This is my first book review, so I hope I can share my opinions in a clear fashion for you readers!

The copy I was sent was a pre-publisher print, so I now have a collectors item complete with a note from the author inside.  This appeals to my inner book nerd.

I took the book with my to the auto shop while I was having work done on my car.  I read the whole book (123 pages) in about one and a half hours.  That was fine, except I still had to wait another one and a half hours before my car was done.  That's a post for another day.

First off, let me say I enjoyed this book.  I did have to check back a chapter or two a few times, but we have to remember I was sitting in a waiting room which is rife with distractions.

The layout is 34 chapters over 123 pages, so not long chapters.  It's also a book that jumps around in time, which I think is where my slight confusion snuck in with my distractions.  I liked that he had a date under each chapter title so you can place the content of the chapter.  As I got further into the book the jumping around was much easier to follow as the character integration and development was more complete.

I'm a sucker for any sci-fi or fantasy story.  Usually the more complex, the better (as long as it's well written, of course!)  This book did not disappoint.  The story managed to explain itself after a few short chapters, and the end was about what you'd expect.  I'd draw a parallel to some Stephen King endings where the resolution isn't quite resolved and it can leave you wondering.

There isn't a lot I can say about the actual story without giving big pieces away.  I will lend the book to my friends and family - it's definitely interesting enough to want to pass along.  If you like supernatural, science-y, sci-fi stories than I would recommend you check out No Rest For The Wicked by Dane Cobain.

I'd love a review of my review.  What else should I be talking about?  Since this is my first one, I'm quite unsure of what I'm doing!  Please leave me a comment below.  And thanks for reading!

Saturday, 19 September 2015

7 Things I Forget When September Rolls Around Again

Back to school is always a busy time.  It was busier than normal for me this year because little Rose started JK this year.  She seems to be enjoying it so far.  No fights with either of them in the mornings (yet - I'm sure they'll happen somewhere along the way.)

This September I've managed to forget everything we were doing in June, as it pertained to school.  Here are a few of things I forgot about during the carefree days of summer this year:

  1. The bus comes early.  And I mean really early.  We have to leave the house by 7:40 so we aren't late.  So I have to get the kids up at 6:30.  That is also early.
  2. My kids don't really eat lunch.  During the lazy days of summer they often just graze, and we don't have to prepare a "main course" style lunch.  At school I've had notes sent home in the past that suggested Emma didn't have a "lunch" when I packed many different snack options in the hope she'd actually eat something.  So far this year lunch has gone alright. *fingers crossed*
  3. Library days (and library books).  Emma managed to lose track of her first book she brought home from the school library this year.  Luckily we located it, but where do I keep these books that are "theirs" but not "ours" without losing them in the mountains of books we have at home?
  4. How tired kids can be after being at school all day.  I'm pretty sure Rose could go to bed at 6 most nights now.  Granted, she's still adjusting to the whole school idea, and a 6pm bedtime would be a 5am wake-up so we won't go there, but she's so tired!
  5. How small my big kids are.  Rose in a backpack looks so tiny!  And once you put a full lunch pail, her communication book and a water bottle in there she can barely walk in it.  But also it's super cute.
  6. Germs!  We are two weeks into school and we've already had one bout of night-time vomiting, and right now both girls are working on colds.  Now my kids go to daycare during the summer months full time, so I feel like we should be somewhat immune to the early colds, but we're not.  Also I work in a pharmacy so I must bring home all sorts of crazy bugs, but still September is the start of everyone rotating through colds all fall and winter.
What school- or routine-related things trip you up in September?  I'm sure I'm not the only one out there who lets things slide until 2 days before school starts, am I?  I am actually surprised how smoothly things have been going so far this year. *touch wood*  Now we're amping back up into ballet lessons, and this modelling stuff has events right now so I'm feeling a bit overwhelmed in all of the extra-curriculars as well.  I know it will all become routine before long, it's just a matter of getting settled into it, right??

Monday, 14 September 2015

Do You Find Time To Read? A Voracious Reader's Decline In The Face Of Family Life

I received the book I'm supposed to review.  Dane Cobain mailed me the book from the UK.  It's a first-run copy, with a personalized note to me in the front.  So awesome!

Angels by Dane Cobain
Angels by Dane Cobain
I am totally a book nerd.  He asked me if I wanted the digital copy.  I don't do "digital" reading, unless it's blog stuff or interesting articles (or anything on Facebook...)  I need a book in my hands, otherwise my focus wanders.  So here is my new book!

So I would like to hear from other busy family people.  If you liked to read before (significant others, kids, careers etc) do you still find time to read now, as much as you'd like?  Now that my daughters are older, I'm finding it a tiny bit easier to sneak in some book time, but it's still rare.

I often try to read before bed.  That is never a good idea, as I drift off after about 10 minutes, unless it's a really (and I mean amazingly, crazy, super) riveting read.  I found the Game of Thrones series great for putting me to sleep - not because it wasn't interesting (I actually loved the series!) but because it was complicated and so many things were going on over so many books I really had to be awake to focus on it all!

On my quiet Wednesdays I can usually carve out an hour, at least, to read whatever I like.  This week it will be this book (to be reviewed as No Rest For The Wicked - watch for that to appear in the next week or so!) and I hope to make a sizeable dent in it.  I'd love to finish reading it for the weekend.

In my previous (before kids) life I could polish this little book off in about 2 days.  I don't think that will happen this week.  When my husband saw it he joked I could read it in one sitting.  It's true there was a time I could, but that time is not now.

This is a pic of the inscription.  In case you can't read it, it says:

Hi Jess, Thanks so much for agreeing to review No Rest For The Wicked.  This is one of fifteen copies that I had printed before I signed with Forsaken - enjoy your rare book. :)
All the best, Dane Cobain

How fun is that??  If my review of this book makes him an international superstar, I'll have a super rare pre-publisher copy!

So needless to say, I'm super stoked to read this book.  It better be good, I don't want to have a write a bad review!  But I don't want to start reading it until I know I have some serious time to devote to reading.  Occasionally I have a tough time getting into a story, and I don't want that to be the case here.

How do you find time to read in your busy family lives?  Short of going outside to read on the deck, I find it hard to fit reading into the daylight hours.  Well, unless I'm at work where I can read on my breaks.  But then it's getting through a book in 15 minute chunks which isn't ideal (at least for me and my reading style).  And then I often have 2 books (at least) on the go, one at work and one at home, which can cause it's own confusion if they're similar at all.

Well, wish me luck setting aside time to get lost in my new book.  And watch for my review sometime in the next week.  I'm sure I'll enjoy this story, and hopefully you'll enjoy my review of it as well!

Monday, 7 September 2015

Labour Day Weekend Party - Fun and Frivolity - Then Back To School!

We had a party.  A family friendly, everyone we knew was invited, party on the Sunday of the long weekend.  We didn't inspire many more people to show up than the usual suspects, but we had a great weekend.  So much so that I hosted a party Part 2 on the holiday Monday.  I mean I had a ton of wine and foodstuffs left over (even after I sent people home with stuff!) so a second gathering seemed like a great idea!

I guess at peak population there were 25 people.  My boss came, as well as a prior co-worker (with her 2 little ones).  Hubby's business partner came with his little guy and a family friend with his 10 year old.  Of course our neighbour friend Abby was by - she even showed up early!  Plus some of my family members, and Hubby's mom.  Our daycare lady, and her daughter - our babysitter - arrived right on time.  It was a great afternoon.  Some people I thought may appear did not, but that didn't dampen our spirits any.  Food and drink was plentiful and I think most folks had a nice time.

I was genuinely surprised at my kids.  They sat at the kid's table with the other kids (both big and small) and really didn't mingle with the adults at all.  No lap sitting, no begging to be pushed on the swing (they all pushed each other), and not much fighting.  I forget how old my kids are now, and how easy it is for them to amuse themselves with each other!

So summer is over for the kiddos now.  It's back to school tomorrow, although technically summer doesn't end until the middle-end of September.  Hopefully the weekends stay nice and "free" so the kids can hang out and do their own things before the weather starts to turn cold.  I hope to have a few more nice weekends for barbeques and outdoor time.  It was nice to squeeze in the extra visits this afternoon with some friends.

I love hosting parties since it gives us a serious reason to tidy the house.  We have reorganized so much stuff even I feel like I have no idea where stuff is.  The kids rooms easily turn into disaster zones now that we've put all their stuff upstairs.  Life is always a work-in-progress, but when I can't find my stuff it definitely feels more like "work" than "progress"!

I hope everyone else's summer ended on a high note.  We've had a great season and I hope to continue it into the fall.  Once this humidity breaks I'll be one happy mama!  Fall weather is my favourite for sure.

Happy Back-To-School to everyone out there - enjoy the season!  Toodles!

Saturday, 5 September 2015

Using Your Blog To Help Others - And Sometimes Get Free Stuff!

So I'm branching out.  I've been selected through to review a book.  The author has contacted me directly and I'm very excited to be able to read this book (for free!) and then talk about it.

I won't receive any direct compensation for this, but I feel I'm finally starting to figure out different ways to reach out in the blogging communities and help others.  My blog following is not nearly large enough for some of the "money making" sites and companies, but I feel quite lucky to have this opportunity.

The author I'm reviewing is Dane Cobain and his book is called No Rest For The Wicked.  I know, it sounds good already, right?  He told me he was hoping to get the book in the mail yesterday, but it may not be until Monday.  I assured him I'd put aside whatever I'm reading when it gets here and start right away.  I also warned him that sometimes I just can't read.  Life is busy and this week the kids go back to school, so there's that extra layer of things to do that I am out of practice with!

If there's anyone out there, dear readers, who has other connections to opportunities for product reviews or other interesting things, please let me know!  I'm happy to tailor posts that are still my own to include mentions of things that I like, can use, or are enjoyable for me and the family.

This was a short post tonight, but I'm formulating a post for my other blog (2 Talented Daughters) about the modelling opportunity they - my 2 cutie girls - both took part in at the end of last week.  I've got photos to sort through before I can illustrate a good post!  Please be patient with me, I've got some stuff on my plate this weekend at home.

Thanks for any suggestions blogger friends, and I'll be back soon!

Monday, 31 August 2015

It's Nice To Be Wanted, Right? RIGHT??

So my kids love me.  Of this I have no doubt.  None.  And they love my husband as well.  Absolutely.  But somehow I am needed to do everything, all the time.

Why?  I have no idea.  Maybe it's the two X chromosomes.  Maybe it was the acting of birthing out these children.  Maybe it's just my dumb luck.  But when the girls need help with something (anything) it's "MOM!  I need you!"

Hair brushing, bath washing, teeth brushing, clothes choosing (or just helping to put on), food getting, drink filling, swing pushing, walk taking, driving to events, and especially bedtime facilitating - all seem to need Mom.  Dad will do if Mom is not around (or is busy, or put her foot down) but he is never really the first choice.

Sometimes I think the kids are jealous of my book, computer, quiet time, dishes doing, laundry folding (and putting away), or whatever else I'm trying to do at any point during the day.  But that can't be it since they let Dad be on his computer, cut the lawn, cook on the BBQ, or whatever he's trying to do at any point in his day.

Can anyone explain this?  I'm open to any theories.  If I am not at home I hear they rarely ask about me, or refuse to do things since I'm not there.  A big change from a year or two (or maybe three or four) ago when I was needed even when I was not at home (thank goodness for this change!)  But if I'm home and I dare to suggest that Dad could put whomever to bed there is usually a sizeable resistance.  Again I'll say it's much better now, but they still want me.  Most of the time.

People keep telling me I'll miss it when the girls are older and they don't need me.  Right now I don't believe that.  I know they'll grow out of bedtime stories, and needing help with their clothes, and all that stuff; but at this point I'm kind of excited for the day I don't have to drag them out of bed, ask them 100 times what they'd like for breakfast, and then get it for them, then rush them through eating and getting dressed so we can get out of the house on time.

Life with little kids is always an interesting adventure.  No two days are the same, and no one will eat the same food twice.  But there is one constant - needing Mom.  I love that they need me.  I enjoy the mom-kid time.  But sometimes it's just too much.  I'm so glad I have a loving husband along on this journey who's ready and able to wrangle the kids when I've really just had too much.

Domesticated Momster

Tuesday, 25 August 2015

Organization Is Key - No Matter How Much You Hate Organizing

This weekend we cleaned up.  And I mean reorganized our entire house.  Okay, well not our bedrooms, but we reorganized the main living spaces.

We have a lot of stuff.  We also live in a semi-detached, multi level home.  We have lots of games and toys in their boxes still (for storage purposes).  There is Lego, and Barbies, unlimited craft supplies, and 2 bedrooms worth of stuffies.  We also have board games, Playmobiles, My Little Ponies and Littlest Pet Shops.  Oh, and books.  SO MANY BOOKS!

I spent an afternoon on Wednesday (my weekday off!) rearranging cupboards in the kitchen so they made more sense.  Now the kids can find their snacks (and help pack their lunches this school year?  Maybe?) and I can find the soups and dressings without having to crawl under the counters in the kitchen.  So far it's working out.  We'll see how long it lasts, or how many more cupboards I can get organized before I quit all together!

I'm loving the new, organized and tidied areas of the house.  I'm wondering how to keep people from just dumping everything either on the dining room table, or the table by the door.  Both are easy receptacles for the everyday "stuff" but these things need a home.  All of my pigeon hole cubbies are filled already.  All I have left is floor and hallway (and the lovely dining room table covered in stuff).  Storage solutions (ideas?) are great if have somewhere to put them.  I do not.  I realize there is still potential in what I do have, but it's still not going to be enough.

We loaded 4 recycling bins with stuff over the weekend and recycled it.  We gave stuff away, repurposed stuff, and stuffed a bunch of toys and other kid things upstairs in the girls rooms - which is an organizing project for another day (year).  And I still feel the clutter is overwhelming.  I've lived with it this long, I'm sure I can hold out longer still.

The bonus to this new organization is it prompts the girls to now put things back in their places when they're done with them.  The toybox holds all the stuffies on the main floor, and everything else seems to be going back to its boxes/bins/designated area.  I can only hope this trend will continue.

If any of you, loyal readers, have suggestions for small space (or no space) organization, please share!  I am always interested in good ideas for my home!  Thanks in advance, and toodles for now!

Sunday, 23 August 2015

My Mom Confessions Part 3 - Random Mom Thoughts

*This post is personal and not meant to offend anyone, or spark any great "child care" debates.  Read at your own risk*

Some of the "confessions" I'd like to share are more general, more about me than the kids.  So this post will outline some of my more personal mom thoughts about the way I've been raising my daughters.  Read on and (hopefully!) enjoy.

  1. I've spent about 6 years perfecting "mom anxiety."  From the minute my first child was born I was anxious about everything relating to her.  My most anxious moments happen when someone is sick - like throwing up sick.  I feel compelled to be by that child's side every minute, and always with a receptacle at hand to minimize future clean-up.  This lovely anxiety lead to...
  2. I did not gain a pound during my second pregnancy.  I'm not saying this to make anyone jealous, by any means.  I topped out at 200lbs during my first pregnancy, so I was definitely not a "skinny minny" by any stretch.  But my toddler was almost as rough as she was as a baby, so I was still experiencing "home time" anxiety at work, which led me to not be hungry for dinners.  Also I had awful, all day, "morning sickness" at least through half of both my pregnancies.  Looking back from where I am now, I had a terrible time for those 4 or so years!
  3. My daycare lady was (and still is) one of my favourite people of all time.  I am not at all ashamed to think that she has been with my kids more during their waking hours than I ever have been.  She loves them just like I do, and they love her too.  I don't know if I could have found a better day care, and I don't care.  She is a blessing to our family, and I hope she remains our friend long after the girls are done being in her care.
  4. My house is a disaster.  My kids have too much stuff.  Even I have too much stuff.  And don't get me started on my hubby!  We live in a multi-level semi-detached house.  It was too small when it was just hubby and me.  Now we have kids, and toys, and craft supplies, and so so so many books.  I mean it's great, but I need about 10 more hours in a week to deal with the messes that we make just by living.
  5. The recycling bin gets most of my kids crafts.  It's not that I don't love their art and other stuff they create, but what am I going to do with 1,000,000 pieces of construction paper with scribbly drawings on them?  I do keep a few good things from every time frame (which is now becoming every grade) and put them in a Rubbermaid bin with their name on it.  Even this practice is becoming too much!
  6. I leave my kids unattended a lot.  Even when they were smaller, I would go upstairs while they were playing in the living room.  If I wanted a minute to myself (like to read a book) I had to be away from them.  If I was in eyesight they would constantly talk to me and ask me to play.  Sometimes I love to play with them.  Sometimes I really don't want to.  This summer I've been escaping to the deck, under the pretence of hanging out or bringing in laundry, where I would then relax (after the work was done) with my book and a drink - sometimes an alcoholic one!
  7. The idea of the girls stretching out their bedtimes terrifies me.  I enjoy basking in the quiet after the girls go to bed.  Watching something on tv I'd like to see, having tea and a cookie before bed, or just taking time to read my book may all disappear now that kid #1 is approaching 7 and already trying to darnedest to stay up late (like past 8:00).  I really don't want to lose my "me" time, and I know as they get older their likes will change and eventually they'll watch my shows with me, but we're really not there yet. 
I'm sure there are other moms out there who identify with these things.  I'm also sure there are parents who are disturbed by these confessions of mine.  And some who have completely different confessions of their own.

Parenting is just a continuous learning experience.  I am so looking forward to seeing where my kids take me next.  This life is a fabulous adventure, and I look forward to sharing more confessions in the future.

To catch up on my previous two "mom confession" posts, click here for Part 1, or here for Part 2.

Thanks for reading - please share with me your "mom confessions" or things that drive you crazy sometimes in your own home life.  I'm always interested to read other people's observations and life experiences.


Friday, 21 August 2015

My Mom Confessions Part 2 - Pre-schooler Years

*This post is personal and not meant to offend anyone, or spark any great "child care" debates.  Read at your own risk*

My way of doing things changes every day.  Sometimes I feel like a helicopter mom, while others I'm totally free-range. I try hard to be consistent for the kids, but it isn't always possible.  Anyway, here are some confessions I have from the "little kid" years.

  1. I sent kid #1 to daycare when I was on mat leave with kid #2 - purely for my sanity.  Kid #1 was such a needy baby I was so concerned that kid #2 would be too, so I kept kid #1 in daycare in the beginning just because I thought I needed to.  Once I realized kid #2 was so much more relaxed than my first I could have had her at home more, but she loved her daycare and the other kids, so I left her going full time.  This still, to this day, I maintain was the best idea I've had, with regard to my kids, so far!
  2. I let my kids play alone at the park as early as age 4 (for kid #1) and 3 (for kid #2 out with kid #1).  I would still walk them across the street, but then "play on, kids!  Come home if you need anything or get hurt."
  3. I also let my kids cross the street alone at age 5 (for kid #1) and age maybe 3 (for kid #2, when with kid #1).  They haven't got hit by a car yet!
  4. We don't do much "learning specific play" - and by this I mean we don't really sit around and write letters or numbers, or do math in any obvious math-y way.  I can sometimes work it into play, but I really didn't focus on learning at home.  At least not during the toddler/preschool years.
  5. Sometimes dinners were (and still are) whatever the kid will eat.  Applesauce, goldfish and a cheesestring would be supper some days.  I'm not ashamed of this - it was my choice not to have that fight on those nights.
  6. I still hated bedtimes at this age and stage.  Both my girls were drawn-out bedtime kids.  A million stories and a huge fuss if I tried to put my foot down.  It was much easier to give in and read "just one more story" four or five times until they really were ready to sleep.  And it always had to be me.  Why?  No idea - but I hated it.
  7. My kids had lots of screen time.  TV in the morning, usually more tv in the evening, and sometimes (more rare at this age) phone or computer time.  Once they learned how to turn on the tv, all bets were off.
So far both the baby stages and the toddler/preschool stages have been incredibly difficult for me.  My second child is now 4, so we are leaving the pre-school stage behind this September.  It's one of those happy/sad things for me.  Where did my tiny people go?  But also yay, they're growing past these terrible stages where you can't communicate clearly, or reason with them!

Stay tuned - I may have more confessions as the days go along.  Some will be kid-centred, but some may be more me-centric also.  Only time will tell where my ramblings take us next time!

What did you allow your toddlers or pre-schoolers to do that you felt may have been frowned upon by society?  And did you care?  I subscribe to the philosophy of "Hey, it worked for us!" and I try so hard not to judge others on their parenting decisions.

Toodles for now!

Wednesday, 19 August 2015

My Mom Confessions Part 1 - The Baby Years

*This post is personal, and not intended to offend anyone, or spark any great "child care" debates.  Read at your own risk*

I always thought I'd be a great mom.  My mom always seemed to know what she was doing, and I hoped I could continue that family trend.  I was so wrong.  And since this blog is where I can just talk about whatever I like (and hopefully people are enjoying it so far!) I'm going to publish a list of the things that I've done during the baby years that may not have gone along with the current trends.

  1. In the beginning I couldn't stand my baby.  My first baby.  The thing I had been waiting 9 months (and 2 years, I think, trying to conceive) for.  If she wasn't nursing, she was crying.  If she wasn't crying or nursing, she was sleeping - only for a short period, and only in someone's arms (usually mine as she fell asleep nursing).  Eventually the baby swing became my best friend, but it took a bit for me to figure this out.  Hand in hand with this was...
  2. I co-slept with my first baby until she was almost one year old.  Or maybe past her first birthday, I don't really remember.  Funny how a year of barely sleeping muddles your memories...
  3. I introduced baby #1 to rice cereal at 5 months.  It was just a day where I couldn't take the nursing every 10 minutes.  Thank god for random samples of everything that you get if you sign up for stuff when you have a baby.  If you're so hungry, eat this instead!  And guess what, she ate it and loved it!  I think this may have been a small turning point for me - meaning I finally realized things will get better.
  4. Going back to work after maternity leave almost felt like a vacation for me.  Someone else is now watching my fussy kid (who, by this time was becoming quite cute and interesting and less of a time-consuming monster) and I get to go interact with other humans who actually speak and listen and have to be nice to me (at least some of the time).
  5. Escaping the house was such a great relief to me that I would work myself into minor anxiety attacks at the end of every work day when I had to go get the baby from daycare.  Sometimes there would be tears before I pulled into the driveway to pick her up.  And then that would cause yet more mom guilt.  Vicious cycle.
  6. I hated reading bedtime stories.  Bedtime is supposed to be this nice, relaxing, bonding time with your child, right?  WRONG!  We would read stories for an hour and she would still put up a fuss.  This is around age 2 or 3.  And of course toss a new baby into the mix and all bets are off.  Luckily baby #2 was a blessing - she slept on her own right from the beginning.  I thought she had died the first time she did it, as I had never experienced a newborn going to sleep.  I don't think I would have made it if she hadn't been a "good" baby from the beginning.
  7. I liked baby #2 better from the get-go.  That's not saying I love one child over the other, I just enjoyed baby #2's baby stage much better than #1's.  Is that because I now "knew what I was doing?" and was less of an anxious first-time mom?  I'm sure that's a factor.
This is definitely not an exhaustive list.  Just some highlights that I think may be helpful, or interesting, to other moms (and dads!) who may be dealing with some of these things.  I know it's always helpful to me when I stumble upon other people who are coping with the things I'm going through, and hearing about their trials and tribulations usually makes me feel better about my own scenario.

Share in the comments, if you have any similar (or completely different) confessions or things you've done with or for your babies that may have gone against popular opinion.

And stay tuned as I plan to continue this "confessions" series into the now ages of my kids, and on.  Thanks for reading!


Tuesday, 18 August 2015

Our Top 5 Ways To Keep Cool

We're having a heat wave right now in Ontario.  It's hot.  When we leave the house in the morning, it's hot.  When we come home at night, it's hot.  I have to water my plants like crazy because - you guessed it - it's hot!  While we wait for a break in the weather I thought I'd share with you the ways we stay cool when the temperature gets hot.

  • Swimming in "Nanny's Pool."  Hubby's mom has a pool and lives nearby.  This is a no brainer, although we don't take advantage as much as we could.  The girls spend every Sunday with their Nanny, so they take more advantage that we parents do.  But it's nice to know it's there and to take a dip on sunny Sunday afternoons.
  • Putting on the sprinkler.  This is an oldie, and a goodie.  I remember sprinkler play from when I was a little kid.  Sometimes we get a few neighbour kids joining is as well.  This makes for a very fun afternoon for the girls.
  • Outings to cooler places - like the mall, or the movies, or even just downtown on the waterfront.  There is almost always a breeze by the water and it does make for cooler days.  Plus the kids love looking at boats and other interesting waterfront things, or just taking a walk.
  • For them - Freezies and popsicles.  For me - cold Palm Bays or White Wine.  Also, lots of hydrating liquids for everyone.
  • The number one way we stay cool at home is, of course, air conditioning.  It is the hugest blessing you can imagine.  Because of our central air I can sleep at night.  And we can cool down after some fun outdoor play (in the crazy hot weather).

So there you have it - my top 5 ways to keep my cool in the sweltering hot days of summer.  My hope is always that the hot days will bring some good thunderstorms (which will water my gardens) but that has not come to pass as much this year as some.  Clouds do appear to be rolling in as I write this.  My eternally hopeful soul prays for a storm, but only time will tell.

How do you, faithful readers, keep your cool in the dog days of summer?  Share in the comments and we may put your ideas to good use as well!  Thanks for reading.