November 25, 2015

7 year old scientist

IIn the whirlwind of house closings this November, I'm a little behind in sharing the tales of Lady M's 7th birthday. This year, I feel as though her birthday was a little taken over by our moving plans. but I think she still felt very special overall!

Last year, Lady M participated in a school-based program called Mad Science. Each week the group participated in different scientific demonstrations and hands-on activities, and every week she came home raving about what she had learned and observed. Fast forward to this fall, she decided that she wanted to have a Mad Science birthday party.

Her special day fell on a Satuday, so after happily being l'etoile du jour in class on Friday, she was ready for a full birthday celebration on Saturday! For some reason, I decided to host the party at our house. Typically, I felt that the house was a bit too small to accommodate a group of parents or kids, but decided to go for it. One final soirée in our home; what better reason than to celebrate our oldest girl!

We used a room in the basement as the "science lab" and the scientist, Dr. D. Enay, arrived promptly to set up her schtick while the kids congregated upstairs. When she was set, the kids headed down to enjoy the demonstrations and activities that she had planned, and they were mesmerized!!

From magic tricks to dry ice demonstrations, the scientist had the full attention of the group for almost two straight hours! It was awesome to watch the kids reactions to the experiments, and to hear the commentary they shared throughout. At the end, they all had an opportunity to make their own silly putty to take home, along with a science goody bag filled with about eight different at-home activities.

After some pizza and cake the crew left, family remained and we finished up her birthday by giving her some time to sift through the numerous presents she had received from her friends. Notable favorites this year - shopkins, rock 'n' royals barbie dolls and loads of Rainbow Fairy books.

That night, my freshly minted 7 year old climbed into bed and snuggled up with one of her new books. Although packing and moving was high on the priority list this year, I think she was well aware that her day was our #1 priority, and we had a great time celebrating her champagne birthday.

And in true 7-year-old fashion, she lost one of her front teeth about two weeks later...

goodbye, home

The temperature dropped below zero outside as we closed the door to our old home, and began a new season in our lives. We moved into our townhouse in 2008 when I was 37 weeks pregnant with Lady M, about to begin our parenting adventure. I spent hours waddling through Home Depot as we prepared the house for our new arrival. A couple of weeks ago we had her 7th birthday party at the house, and then began to pack our lives away in preparation for our move.

It's funny the amount of memories that linger in a home. Seven years may not seem like a terribly long time, but we've seen a lot of firsts in that house, and it's shaped many of our memories as a family of four.

We brought both of our girls home from the hospital to that house and watched them begin to crawl and take their first steps in the hallways. We must have walked six thousand laps around the kitchen island while trying to soothe the babies back to sleep. We've bandaged scraped knees, had thousands of family meals together, ridden bikes, drawn countless chalk pictures on the driveway and snuggled up for many family movie nights. We've celebrated 25 birthdays there, spent seven Christmases decorating, baking and celebrating. 

Thinking back on all of this started to make me a little emotional as we gathered up the last of our things. Thankfully, we squeezed in a final visit to our first home, complete with a moving box picnic dinner and an impromptu dance party in our bare living room. After that, we shut the door for the last time. 

I know that our new home will provide the setting for new memories, and the ones we've created in our townhome will always be special.

Thankfully, the new house we're now settling into is just what we all wanted. After a long journey to find it we are thrilled to be in our new town, closer to the girls' schools and in a lovely neighbourhood with a lot more space to play.

Paramount Drive will always be a special part of our lives, but we're all excited to shape new experiences, make new memories and ride our bikes on a brand new street.

November 2, 2015

our jamaican adventure

There's nothing quite like a family vacation. Even better when you get to head to a country that you've always wanted to cross off your travel list. For me, Jamaica was a place that I had always wanted to visit, so when Cal's cousin decided to get married there we were happy to accept the invitation to head south to celebrate with them.

This trip has been planned since early this year, and with plans to go to Florida, then camp over the summer, we didn't tell the girls about it for quite some time. We figured they could enjoy the other adventures we had planned, then they could learn about the trip to Jamaica to shorten their waiting time. We told them around early September, showed them the website for the resort, and they began to count the days...

On October 22nd, we boarded the plane to Montego Bay and headed to the Grand Palladium Resort & Spa. Lady A hopped into her plane seat, buckled up and surveyed the area. She promptly looked over at Cal, eyeing her armrest and asked "Daddy - which button do I push to get a massage?"

From the moment we got to the resort, we had two little girls who settled very easily into the all-inclusive lifestyle; gladly sipping on virgin Pina Coladas (Lady M) and virgin strawberry daiquiris (Lady A) when desired.

Upon arrival we realized that we'd had a slight mishap with our luggage. I had carefully packed all of the toiletries into large freezer ziploc bags before putting them in the suitcase. In my preparation back home I had tried to distribute these items between Cal's bag and mine to ensure neither bag was overweight when we got to the airport. Well, the weight distribution was excellent, however, it seems that the sunscreen fully exploded in flight, bursting out of the ziploc and spraying all over the suitcase it was in. That suitcase was not mine. Suddenly Cal's wardrobe for the week was cut in half.

Thankfully, that was the worst thing that happened all week; the rest of our days were happily filled with swimming, relaxation and fun.

Some highlights:

  • Lady A mastered the fine art of swimming through the pool with her drink held high enough, to the laughter and cheers of many of the adults at the pool.
  • The girls loved the variety of pools to choose from, and moved happily from the kid pool (filled with waterslides, waterfalls and fun), to the enormous main pool, to the beach. Lady A even began to swim on her own, under water about 20 feet between Cal and I. 
  • We had a great day trip to Negril on a catamaran where we had lunch at Jimmy Buffet's Margaritaville, visited a local mall and watched the cliff divers at Rick's Cafe
  • Part of the day trip was having the opportunity to snorkel too. This was a first for all four of us, and the tour guides from the catamaran were awesome with the girls! One guide had a life preserver that both girls held on to as he pulled it through the Caribbean sea. He would dive down into the water and bring something special up for them. On various dives he brought up a sea cucumber, female sea urchin, starfish, sand dollar and assorted shells and the girls were mesmerized while happily splashing around, and peeking under the water throughout the adventure. 
  • Lady M bravely took the plunge (from the lowest platform) at Rick's Cafe into Cal's arms, and was quite excited about it! I played my anxious mom card and said that Amelia would have to wait until next time. 
  • Both girls got to head to the resort spa one afternoon to get some braids in their hair. Now I realize that the woman who did them was skilled in the area of braiding, but DAMN, she was FAST! I was mesmerized by her speed and efficiency. I should have taken lessons; it would make our morning routine at home much faster.  
Of course the reason we headed south was to celebrate the wedding of one super fabulous couple with Cal's family, and their special day was lovely. The ceremony was at noon, followed by pictures and pool time, then the reception was at 6:30pm. After a full and fun day, Lady A passed out in my arms during the speeches. Lady M lasted a little longer, happily playing with her older cousin until about 10pm when she hit her limit and Cal brought her back to the room for a good night sleep.

The rest of the week was really just filled with lots of swimming, eating and relaxation. I polished off a couple of books, worked on my tan and just enjoyed being disconnected for a while. Lady M certainly settled into the caribbean life, and proved that when she was out swimming one morning and asked:

"Is it 10 o'clock yet?".
Me: "I'm not sure, why?"
Lady M: "Because that's when the swim-up bar opens!"

Clearly my almost 7-year-old girl has her all-inclusive priorities straight!

It's always a treat when we can take some time away from the real world. Waking up when we wanted, not having to rush to school/work and having lots of extra hours in the day to spend time as a family was wonderful. The girls were not ready to leave when Thursday came around again, but they were rockstar travellers, even on the flight that didn't land until 2:00am. Lady A was sleeping against the airplane window before we ever left the gate in Montego Bay, but woke up four hours later in Toronto telling us she'd been awake the whole way. :)

Though we were all sad to see the vacation come to an end, we'll happily look forward to our next travel adventure, wherever that may be!
Lady A wistfully saying goodbye to the resort! 

September 30, 2015

fairy fox

Sometimes I love the way that stories come out of my kids' mouths, especially when they're still so little. Lady M has been in school for 4 years now, so has become quite familiar with the legacy of Terry Fox, and her understanding as to why she participates in the Terry Fox Run with her school every year.

But this year, our little Lady A will be participating too with her friends in kindergarten. She announced this by coming home from school and declaring: "we have to bring in a toonie. Because Terry Fox was running, but he died, and so he couldn't run the money any more". Yes. Amazing. I love the way she explains things, and the way they interpret what they hear at school.

Later that night, at dinner, she further explained "Fairy Fox got sick, and had to have his leg tooken off, and he got a robot leg"! Even though she knows his name is Terry, it accidentally came out 'Fairy' making her story even sweeter. It was so important to her to help raise funds with the rest of her classmates, so was sent into school with her contribution the next day.

Of course Lady M was itching to help fill in the blanks as she understands the story of Terry Fox more clearly than Lady A, but she was patient and gave Lady A time to share her understanding.

October 1st is the day that she'll be participating in her first Terry Fox Run, and we'll be eagerly waiting for her to come home from school and tell us all about it.

September 15, 2015

lessons in moving

We started looking for a new house around the time that hieroglyphics were becoming obsolete. It's been a long haul. Why, you may ask? Well I'll tell you.

First of all, Cal and I had two very different dream homes in mind:

Kristin's dream home: a newer house, mud room for all of the damn boots and shoes that are strewn about my front entrance, move-in ready, large kitchen, space for entertaining, fence for the dog, pretty kitchen, no renovations required. Easy, right?!

Well, then there's this:

Cal's dream home: significant acreage, space for guitars and other musical goodness, fence for the dog, separate family room, hot tub, happy to complete renovations.

Hmm. Slightly different. To summarize, we were on different pages of the MLS. 

Knowing each other's housing wants, we spent a lot of time looking for some kind of mystical home that combined all of these elements, and we spent plenty of time viewing houses that were better suited to his wants, and ones that were better suited to mine. At times we considered whether buying two houses and working between them both might be the better solution! But, with each new showing and open house we attended the end result was always the same: not quite what we wanted. And the months of searching kept flying by...

Fast-forward somewhere between 18 months and 2 years: we went to see a house that seemed to fit the bill. Having clearly identified our shared wants, and somehow finding common ground over time, we found the house that was right for us. On a Saturday morning we viewed the house at 11:00am, wrote the offer at 1:30pm, presented it in competition at 3:30pm, and won it shortly after 4:00pm at which point we signed the papers on the hood of our real estate agent's car. Whew! After a couple years of house hunting, we had a new house in 5 short hours!

But there's just one little thing that remained...selling our current house...and before that, prepping it. You see, we have our lovely 10-year-old dog, Dakota:

She looks sweet, right? Well she is...but she's also taken a little toll on our house over the 7 years we've been here. So with our listing date upcoming, we shipped her off to my parents for a few weeks so we could complete the few little restoration projects that she created for us in the house. We also took on a number of other small projects to finish beautifying the house and have learned a few things along the way...
  • Re-screening doors has become a new forte for Cal and I! Those damn things are annoying, but with the right tools (thanks Rona!) and some patience, our screen door (previously ripped by Dakota's determination to get into the backyard one afternoon) looks fabulous! 
  • The laundry never stops. Now this is not really a new revelation, but how is one ever supposed to stop doing laundry long enough so that the house can remain looking like a museum for those coming to see it? 
  • My sweet children are so patient, and are hopefully developing lifelong habits of tidiness seeing as they must pick up every toy, marker, hair elastic and morsel of food that finds itself out of it's 'proper' place. Lady M commented the other day "I don't like bossy mummy"...apparently I've been a bit, shall we say, directive lately. I like to think I'm just demonstrating varied types of leadership for them in an effort to help them build up their own repertoire of leadership skills. That's just good parenting, wouldn't you say? 
  • Running around the house in the morning chopping pillows, folding toilet paper edges, and picking up stray hair elastics does not help me in being on time for work each day! 
  • Though all four of us enjoy home reno shows (with Property Brothers, Love it or List It and Flip or Flop being some of our faves), and Lady M regularly makes comments such as "it's okay, we can just reno it", we are not going to get into the business of home flipping any time soon. 
Although we've put in a lot of late nights, plenty of elbow grease, and I may have upped my bossiness leadership quotient a little bit lately, the end result when we move to our new home will be well worth it. And not having to look for houses anymore is the best pay-off of all! 

September 10, 2015

waterproof mascara: the sequel

We knew this day was coming...we knew that our little girl was well prepared for school...but waterproof mascara is still one of those key items required to make it through this milestone.

The last couple weeks in our house there has been a great deal of chatter about school. With Lady M heading into grade two, and Lady A preparing for junior kindergarten, the excitement has been mounting!

School supplies were purchased and packed into fresh new backpacks. First day outfits were purchased and laid out with care. We had a wonderful summer filled with memories to last a lifetime, so when Labour Day weekend hit, we knew the first day of school was just moments away.

Tuesday morning, first day part 1
Tuesday was the first official day of school. Lady M had been fighting an upset tummy all weekend thanks to an extended case of the butterflies. Though she looked confident in her zebra dress, and matching hat, the nerves were kicking in. The school was familiar this year but she was still clinging to my leg a little bit when we stepped into the gym that morning. (It was a very rainy first day of school this year - no outdoor organization possible!) Once she learned who her teacher was, Lady M relaxed a little bit, and by the time we were leaving, she was happily walking down the hallway toward her new grade two classroom.

Next we headed to Lady A's new school. Though she was prepared to go to one school close to our current home, we bought a new house a few weeks ago so decided to start her at the school in that district to save her from changing schools in November. Until Monday morning, she had never stepped foot in the building. And her school is BIG! There are 8 kindergarten classes alone (that's almost double the population of Lady M's entire school). But, she walked in with confidence and we headed to her new classroom to participate in her 30 minute 'meet and greet'.

The meet and greet mostly consisted of me completing paperwork, and Lady A sitting quietly beside me observing everything around her. She was quiet until she finally said "mummy, are you almost done? I'd like to go play with the play-doh" that she had spotted at another table. I finished up, and she happily played with the delightfully familiar dough and that seemed to be just the icebreaker she needed. Apart from that, the orientation consisted of looking around the classroom and writing her name on the whiteboard (a highlight for her)! And as we walked out of the school, she looked up at me and said "I don't want to leave". Ahhh, music to my ears. My sweet little 4-year old was feeling comfortable.

Later that night, Lady M came home raving about her day at school, and declared "I think I have the best teacher in the school"! The butterflies were long gone, and she was holding tightly to a goody bag, and a kind note that her teacher had given everyone in the class. Clearly, a super start to second grade.

Wednesday marked Lady A's first full day of school. She bounced out of bed and was beyond excited to get the day started. She may have been most thrilled about her new outfit that consisted of a flowered skirt, and t-shirt that read "Hooray for today!", and boy did she look cute when she got dressed. Seeing as I had taken her to Tuesday's orientation, I was needed back in the office and Cal was on drop-off duty. In my office I anxiously awaited some pictures via text message and was thrilled when I received a beautiful picture of Lady A, in front of her school, grinning ear to ear.

Wednesday morning, first day part 2
Cal said she was watching her crying classmates with concern, but kept looking back at him and smiling broadly. While he was holding back tears in the school yard, I was barely containing mine in my office. But when I picked her up at the end of the day her smile was still enormous and she told me she had a fantastic day. All we can ask for, really.

It's funny how these days are bittersweet - I want my kids to find great success and happiness with their schooling, and enjoy all of the wonderful social and growth opportunities that come along with it; but I also want to keep them small for as long as possible.

Three years ago I was writing about Lady M's first day of school (read 'waterproof mascara' here!), and suddenly 1,095 days have passed by in the blink of an eye. My older beauty is settling into second grade, my baby girl is in full-time school, and I'm still just 29. {wink, wink}.

August 12, 2015

camp chronicles: tiny dancers

This year marked 21 years since I first went up to my camp in Huntsville, Ontario. 21 rather formative years, that have seen me go from a nervously excited 14-year-old volleyball camper, to a confident 33 year old, excited to arrive with her sweet family. As you may have gathered from past camp chronicles, I love this place! There's something about the air, the space, the water, the stars, the sunsets, and the people that just make it such a special home away from home.

Over the last few years Lady A and Lady M have become increasingly comfortable there, and this year was easily their best one yet. They began to gain a little more independence - being allowed to go from the dining hall to another coaches' cabin without Cal or myself taking them there, for one thing. It's amazing what an open space, filled with people who will care for them, and no cars zipping by can do for a child's independence!

The family of coaches and kids who come up this week every summer are like no other. They're the group of friends who you see once a year, can always pick up right where you left off, and feel a comfort and familiarity that makes you feel at home instantaneously. We share much of our time catching up, sitting around the campfire, participating in happy hour (our brilliantly created daily activity to gain extra time together), and rehearsing our spectacularly choreographed coaches dance! Seriously, we have moves like you've never seen (and never will...)!

The leadership camp I teach is awesome. Though we were missing one of our teaching team again this year, Rene' and I did our best in her absence! (We missed you, Trishy!). We had a diverse and interesting group of campers who hailed from Russia, China, Iran, Ontario and Quebec, and as always it was fascinating to watch the group gel and work together over the course of our week. These kids always surprise me in unique and incredible ways - through their experiences, their thoughts and their ideas. Throughout the year I am always teaching adults, so I sure love my foray into the world of teenagers once a year. (Hopefully they're sufficiently preparing me for when Ladies A & M hit that stage...).

Though the best part of this summer was watching my girls. Yes, there was the independence, but they also challenged themselves in new ways that made me extra proud. Lady M braved one high ropes element last year, and this year she climbed a different, more challenging one, and also tried the climbing wall and the zip line! Lady A tried a high ropes course for the first time, and tried the climbing wall too! (My nerves put a limit on her trying the zip line...maybe next year for that one!). I loved watching their sense of curiosity come out, and seeing their determination as they attempted each new challenge, even though my heart might have been racing a little bit... Also, Lady A's harness was the tiniest, cutest little thing I've ever seen.

Beyond that, they both did Dance camp this summer. One of the benefits of coaching up there is that my girls can participate in any camp they want throughout the week (and there are a lot of choices). Though Lady M was leaning toward badminton camp this year, she pulled a last minute switcheroo and chose to join her sister in dance camp. This particular camp is fuelled by one incredible instructor who manages to take a group of girls - with very widely ranging dance abilities - and create a show at the end of the week that is spectacular. My girls did two of the dances in the show - lyrical and musical theatre - and the smile on my face was as big as the gym they danced in. And they haven't stopped singing the song "Best Summer Ever" in days...

Lady M is the kid who jumped off a stage into Cal's arms about two years ago when she froze at her dance recital in front of 40 people. To see her get up there and shake her groove thang in front of about 500 people was amazing!

Lady A, much younger than most of the kids out there, stole the show. She watched her sister and counsellor for the moves, and tried so hard to keep up, all the while with a giant grin on her face. Watching my kids, and the other coaches' kids in this dance was just the best part of an already great week.

From new found independence to first canoe rides (Lady A); high ropes experiences to unplugged family time, this week at camp is my favourite of the year.