Josée in Ottawa


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Sweetness

I’m sitting on the couch in the living room, working on my laptop. Bonhomme sidles over. He’s got his Pokemon Go book in his hands; it’s his latest obsession. “Mummy?” He’s almost eight but the way he says it brings me back to when he was four, five. He puts his hand on my knee and waits until I look up. “What’s up?” I ask him. “I know which Pokemon I want to catch next…”

He’s got my attention and he’s off, talking about his favourite thing ever. As he talks he puts down his book and clears away the papers that are beside me on the couch. I close my laptop. He sits in the newly cleared spot and scootches over a millimetre at a time until he can’t get any closer. I interject the occasional “Uh huh…” or “Hmmmm.” He leans his head on my arm, still talking.

I’ll listen as long as he wants.

 

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Help! I’m Going to be a Hockey Mom

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Photo by Pascal, Flickr Creative Commons

Does the fact that we’ve never encouraged our kids to learn to skate make Hubby and I terrible Canadians? We haven’t actively discouraged them from learning – every winter we take them out on the canal a few times, and we go skating on the Rink of Dreams at City Hall now and then. But to be honest, we’d really prefer not to get up before dawn to go hang out in a freezing arena, and the time and financial commitment required for either child to play on a competitive team or – heaven forbid – a travelling team fills us both with horror. Not to mention the potential scheduling issues caused by having only one car.

We might not have encouraged them to become great skaters, but we did agree that if they showed an interest we’d support them. They never have until a few months ago, when Bonhomme suddenly announced, “I want to play hockey.” As if they’d choreographed it, B.G. chimed right in, “And I want to be a figure skater.”

Uh oh.

Besides that whole knowing-that-I-don’t-want-to-be-up-at-the-crack-of-dawn-on-a-weekend thing, I don’t know much about the logistics of participating in either sport. I assumed that a basic ability to skate was probably a prerequisite, and I had a brilliant idea: I told them that I’d sign them up for skating lessons and that if those went well, next fall we’d sign B.G. up for figure skating and Bonhomme could play hockey. I was thinking that if it was anything like music lessons, Jiu-Jitsu, dance, and the million other activities they took an intense but short-lived interest in, this too would pass.

Now it seems that things might be different this time. Every week Bonhomme heads out onto the ice for his skating lesson, and he is In. The. Zone. I’ve never seen him work so hard or so consistently to master something. It only took him a few lessons to go from barely-able-to-propel himself to doing small jumps on his skates. B.G. isn’t as focussed during her lessons, but she’s been hanging out at the rink in our local park and making good progress too.

I’ll feel very Canadian as I spend weekend mornings in the freezing arena bleachers next winter. I’ll be sure to stop at Timmie’s for an extra-large double-double on the way to the rink.

 


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Camping: I Think We’re Doing it Wrong

Alternate title: We’re a Bunch of Wusses

*I just found this one in the drafts folder and thought it might be nice to forget about cold and snow for a minute!*

 

Not our camping trip. "Camping" by Roderick Eime, Flickr Creative Commons

                       Not our camping trip!                                    “Camping” by Roderick Eime, Flickr Creative Commons

The first sign that we might not be a camping family was that we each insisted on bringing two pillows. I should have called it right there. But I had a vision (had I been silly enough to share it with Hubby he would have call it a delusion): the four of us by the side of a pristine lake, each having brought only what we could fit in our backpacks, the kids frolicking in the water, Hubby and I relaxing on the shore, having possibly even travelled there by canoe.

Before you call me crazy, know that I have learned a thing or two about myself and my children over the last few years, and so I also had a more realistic, attainable vision (though apparently Hubby knows us best -he actually did call this one a delusion): the four of us in a provincial park, no more than five lots away from the bathrooms, sleeping in a ten-person, two-room tent (if the kids are in the same room together, no one is getting any sleep) equipped with cushy air mattresses, having travelled there in our car over a distance of no more than 100 kilometres.

When I tried to sell Hubby on the realistic vision he shook his head and said, “You and the kids will hate it.” On some level, I must have known he was right; I never had the confidence to put my money where my vision is and gear up.

And then my parents bought a trailer.

I asked my Dad if he would set it up for us for a few days  since our car doesn’t have the capacity to tow a trailer, not to mention that we have no idea what we’re doing. He graciously agreed, and we found ourselves spending two nights on the shores of the St. Lawrence river in a 21′ foot trailer. Thanks to my mom, the trailer came equipped with the following, in addition to a bathroom and queen size bed:

  • plates, cups and cutlery;
  • condiments; tin foil, garbage bags;
  • marshmallow sticks and at least ten bags of marshmallows (my mother refuses to acknowledge that my kids are pukers);
  • more Tupperware than we have here at home;
  • a stove with three burners;
  • an oven;
  • a 21″ flat-screen television and a DVD player (sadly no blue-ray – the kids were forced to survive on SpongeBob videos alone);
  • a mix-master (“In case you want to make a cake”, my mom said. Sometime I wonder if she’s ever even met me.)
  • two containers of Rice Crispie squares;
  • one container of homemade soup.

Here is what we brought, in addition to the aforementioned pillows:

  • enough food to last a week;
  • enough clothing to last us each a month;
  • a Rubbermaid bin full of Play-Doh and Play-Doh accessories;
  • three sleeping bags;
  • three flashlights that provided ten minutes of light each before the batteries burned out;
  • four camp chairs;
  • sunscreen, bug spray, children’s Advil, and children’s Benadryl;
  • Bunny.

What we didn’t bring:

  • booze (looking back on the camping I did when I was in high school, booze seemed to be a key ingredient to ensure a good time- perhaps this is where we went wrong);
  • Tylenol.

Here’s what we learned:

  • We are not a camping family.

We had reserved the only lot in the park without one square inch of shade. The kids weren’t interested in playing on the beach, swimming, playing at the playground or doing anything else we suggested. All they wanted to do was fight over the Play-Doh, but they had to do it sitting in the blazing sun.  I fought with them every hour on the hour when it was time to reapply sunscreen.

To offset the day’s blazing sun, it rained the minute we tried to start a campfire. The first night I shared the bed in the camper with B.G. while Dan and Bonhomme slept in a puddle in our small, leaky tent. B.G. couldn’t fall asleep and spent half the night crying about it. On night two we switched kids (though I still got to sleep in the bed – no way was I sleeping outside in the tent! So much for my “vision”). Bonhomme slept like a baby but he kept elbowing me in the kidneys all night.

The best part of the camping trip occurred when we left the actual campsite and visited Upper Canada Village on day two. We expected to blow through the village in a couple of hours, but the kids loved the working sawmill, the horse-pulled boat ride and exploring the houses, and we ended up closing the place. I’ve tried unsuccessfully to block the rest of the weekend out of my mind.

Hubby was right all along. We’ve decided that on our next camping trip, we’re going to skip the actual camping.


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The Yes Experiment: Results

Say No to Yes by teresatrimm (Flickr Creative Commons)

Say No to Yes by teresatrimm (Flickr Creative Commons)

Results, short version: This experiment was a complete failure.

Results, long version:

Day 1 – Saturday

The experiment was off to a rocky start as the first question I was asked was, “Can I play on the iPad?” Normally not a problem, but the iPad was in the bedroom where Hubby was still asleep. So that was the first no, right out of the gate. I didn’t even think before answering. Would Hubby have understood if I had snuck in to get it and woken him up in the process? Probably. But saying no is a hard habit to break and the word was out of my mouth before I even realized what I was doing.

And here’s a tip for you if you’re planning on trying this type of experiment: don’t take the kids to Ikea on day 1.

Days 2: Sunday

I tried – I really did.

Days 3 to 7: Monday to Friday

I gave up.

It became painfully obvious to me within the first few days that saying yes to everything was just not practical. Had I said yes to everything, the kids would have spent every single moment they were home zonked out in front of the TV eating Vegetable Thins. (Have you every looked at how much salt is in those things?)

I may have completely missed Hubby’s point that watching TV while eating nothing but Vegetable Thins for a week would not have brought the world to an end, but:  I. Just. Could. Not. Do. It.

I think that if I only had Bonhomme to contend with, this experiment may have worked. When Bonhomme’s wishes are granted he is very happy and enthusiastic. But B.G.’s personality is such that if you give her an inch, she takes not just one, but at least one thousand miles. If I agree to let her sleep in our bed one night she wants to sleep in our bed every night, and doesn’t understand why it’s ok on day one but not so much on day five. If I say yes to a small bowl of Vegetable Thins at snack time she doesn’t understand why she can’t have a large bowl of Vegetable Thins any time she wants. I swear she’s going to be a lawyer when she grows up (heaven help us) as everything that is said or done in this house becomes PRECEDENT. If the circumstances last week were such that thing A happened, for instance, then whenever the same circumstances arise thing A should be inevitable, in her view. Especially when thing A is something she wants or looks forward to. Case in point: since she stayed home sick with Hubby and he didn’t make her nap, he will never, ever be able to get her to nap on a sick day ever again.

Though I couldn’t go through with it, the experiment did get me to start pausing and thinking before answering the kids’ questions, and I will continue to try to say yes more often.

It also made me realize that we need to stop buying Vegetable Thins. Those things are addictive.


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A Small Experiment That Might Go Horribly, Horribly Wrong. Or Not.

In my last blog post I mentioned that B.G. has dubbed Hubby “The Yes Man”, which makes me “The No Mommy” by default. So I’m going to try a little experiment. For the next week, I’m going to say yes to everything the kids ask me. I considered doing this without telly Hubby, but then I decided that I might need some backup:

Child: “Mommy, can I eat all three of these chocolate bars?”

Me: “Ummm…. go ask Daddy.”

I warned Hubby that if one of the kids asks me something like that I’ll just look at him and he can feel free to jump right in with that no. I’ve also been thinking of how to manage open-ended questions, and I think that a conversation along the lines of…

Child: “Can I stay up?”

Me: “You’d like to stay up another ten minutes? Sure!”

…would be perfectly acceptable. It’s not saying no, it’s just qualifying the yes (parents are sneaky that way).

I’m not sure what I’ll do if I get into a situation where saying yes would make me late for work, or if I’m asked to do things which are mutually exclusive:

Child (just as I’m about to leave to catch the bus): “Mommy, can you play a game of Uno with me?”

or

Child 1:”Can you play Uno with me?”

Child 2 (at the same time):”Can you colour with me?”

but maybe I’m overthinking this.

Hubby assures me that the world won’t end if I say yes to everything for a week. We’ll see.

Go ahead - have as much as you like! (Chocolate Bars by Brockamer - Flickr Creative Commons)

Go ahead – have as much as you like! (Chocolate Bars by Brockamer – Flickr Creative Commons)


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Hubby, aka “The Yes Man”

yeah yeah yeah by Tim Snell (Flickr Creative Commons)

yeah yeah yeah by Tim Snell (Flickr Creative Commons)

When the kids stay home from school because they’re sick, we follow one simple rule: They must nap in the afternoon. Knowing this, they usually think twice about pulling the “I don’t feel well” card unless it’s really true. B.G. stayed home from school with Hubby last week, and when I got home and mentioned The Rule, she let it slip that “Daddy didn’t make me take a nap”.  Hubby exclaimed, “Hey, you weren’t supposed to tell mommy!”

A few days later when I was out of earshot she told him, “When I want something, I ask you. You’re the Yes Man.”

Such wisdom at such a young age. I can’t decide whether to be amused that she’s figured this out, or upset that this makes me “The No Mommy” by default. Either way, Hubby’s in trouble now.


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Living the American (Girl) Dream

For the past few months, B.G. has never wavered when asked what she wanted Santa to bring her for Christmas: “An American Girl® doll”, she answered every time. When we wrote our letter to Santa she dictated, “Dear Santa, I would like an American Girl® doll for Christmas. That’s all.” We explained to her that these dolls are very expensive and that if Santa did decide to bring her one, he probably wouldn’t be able to bring any other toys. She said that was fine.

Luckily Santa got the message loud and clear, and our typically reserved seven-year-old actually squealed with delight when she unwrapped her American Girl® doll.  She carried her around all morning and gazed adoringly into her eyes. I put what we call “twists” in her hair and did B.G.’s hair to match. The doll has pierced ears, just like B.G., and she changed her earrings to match the dolls’. Names were hotly debated and she finally settled on a variation of her own name, (B.G.-ia :)) since the doll “is supposed to be a mini me.” (It’s a fine line between creepy and adorable.) Hubby and I had discussed the pros and cons of paying so much for a doll when many other dolls were similar and might have brought B.G. just as much joy, but on Christmas morning I was very glad that Santa had gone for the real thing.

Just as we had predicted, Santa did not bring any accoutrements for the doll. She came only with a skirt, boots, underwear (!) and the shirt on her back. Oh, and I should mention that she came with a catalogue. After lunch B.G. decided to put the doll down for a nap, and I got the impression that she didn’t really know what to do with her. B.G. sat at the dining room table wistfully looking through the American Girl® catalogue. I started looking through the catalogue with her, and never has flirting with minimalism caused me so much internal strife.

On the one hand, the stuff that you can buy for these dolls is unbelievable – as are the prices. For $95 (US) you can buy a Dreamy Daybed for your American Girl®. Custom bedding will put you out another $34.  For $85 you can buy the Gymnastics Set which includes a practice bar (with grips to help her hold on), a floor beam covered in vinyl, a starry gym mat and a pink foam block. For $64 you can get the Purple Peacock PJ’s for Dolls & Girls so that your child and her doll can match at bedtime. To ensure that your child’s doll is never lonely when your  child isn’t around, you can purchase a pet for $22. For $100 you can buy the doll a Trail Bike; for another $48 you can also buy pet carrier that rides behind the Trail Bike. And for the bargain-basement price of $48 you can buy the doll her own horse.

I actually felt physically ill as I looked through the catalogue. For the past while I’ve been working so hard to get rid of clutter, to stop buying unnecessary things, and to really figure out what “stuff” will make me and the kids happy and what provides only a temporary high. B.G. loves dresses and I have had great luck buying fancy dresses for her at Value Village, for $5.99 each. We bought B.G.’s first real bike at The Bike Dump on Catherine and paid $5 for it. She rode that bike for three summers. Prices have gone up a bit but this summer we bought a bike for Bonhomme at the same place for $15. I’ve had moments of excess but overall our frivolous spending is way, way down and so is the amount of “stuff” in this house. Looking through that catalogue I started questioning my sanity in ever buying the doll in the first place.

On the other hand…B.G. is seven. She’s innocent and sweet and smart and funny and I want all her Christmases to be amazing. To be astounding. We are so lucky that we can give her that doll. I am so thankful that we were able to give her that doll. A part of me wants to buy her every damned thing in the catalogue and build a room to house it in too.


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Fools Rush In

Fighting Meerkats by tkspencer

Fighting Meerkats by tkspencer (Flickr Creative Commons)

I’m doing the dishes and the kids are upstairs. They’re quiet for a few minutes and then it starts – I can hear them talking and though I can’t make out the words, I can tell that they’re bickering. The volume rises. B.G. yells “GET OUT!” A door slams. Bonhomme starts wailing and yelling “Let me in!” I drop the cup I’m holding into the sudsy water and prepare to dry my hands. If the past few days have been any indication, things are about to go from bad to worse. Yet I hesitate. I’m a big fan of parenting guru Alyson Shafer, and she is a big fan of letting kids work things out on their own. Plus, after a rough few weeks dealing with illness and weather and much fighting between the “worst little brother ever” and his “bum-butt” of a big sister, the last thing I feel like doing is heading up there and trying to sort things out. I hold my breath.

A bit more yelling. The volume is lower. A door closes then opens. Some fast talk. Something heavy and hard falls to the floor. Silence.

Has one knocked the other out?

I’m about to head upstairs when I hear the stampede on the steps. They’re coming down, both of them. No blood. No tears. Phew.

“We figured out how to share”, Bonhomme announces proudly. B.G. pipes up, “We both wanted to play with the magnet set, so we decided to separate the pieces into two piles and each take half.”

Amazing. I beam at them. “Wow, you guys are great at figuring out how to solve problems! You both wanted the magnet set and you decided to split it up and each take half! I’m so proud of you!” Reinforce, reinforce, reinforce. I bring up the wonderful sharing at least two more times. I make sure to mention what they did and how proud I am of their sharing to Hubby, within earshot of the kids.

Then I make a mental note of this moment to help get me through the next inevitable fight. I’m not so delusional as to think that it will always end this well. But I must admit that having it turn out like this every know and then – it sure helps.