Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Keeping score

Entirely his own doing. Now running multiple pages. Requires that he check in with Sports Center each morning for the results. And he's loving every minute of it.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Having another tool in my kit now

Last Saturday night, Chad had some friends and family over. I'd told Mallory we could do a craft but instead she chose to hang out in the basement at the ping-pong table with the guys. At 8 o' clock I went downstairs to fetch her for bedtime, and she informed me that she was ready to do her craft now. I informed her back that she'd traded the craft for her playtime with the guys, that we could do the craft in the morning, and that we were now on our way to bed. She did not take this news well so I wound up scooping her up to carry upstairs, and in a fit of frustration she started slapping me to try to get me to put her down.

That SO didn't go over well.

In the past, when she has lashed out like this (which luckily doesn't happen often, but it has definitely happened), I have yelled, begged, reasoned, threatened, etc. And it's pretty much all been to no avail. This time, I tried something different. I waited for her to calm down a bit, and then I told her in a very sombre voice that she really hurt my feelings when she hit me. Mallory has picked this 'hurt your feelings' bit up somewhere. A couple of times, she has told me that something I have said (normally something like not letting her have more dessert or refusing to read another bedtime story) has hurt her feelings. This time, I turned the tables on her, and judging by her quivery lip, I know I got to her.

The extent of my victory wasn't fully driven home until after I'd put her to bed. A few minutes later, she was back in my bedroom. "I need to tell you something," she said. I beckoned her over to me and she whispered in my ear, in a sombre voice of her own, "I want to tell you that I really, really love you and I am really, really sorry that I hurt your feelings," she said.

I was so proud of her. The thing about Mallory is, she has a mind of her own. It takes a lot to get through to her sometimes, and it's frustrating as hell. At the same time, I am not interested in squashing her spirit. Her pluckiness is part of what I love the most about her, and I know it will serve her well in the future if she can channel it the right way. It was a breakthrough because I think I finally succeeded in getting through to her on her own terms, without falling back on my authority position to make it happen.

It remains to be seen whether this eureka moment will persist - time will tell...

Friday, March 25, 2011


I was away from home for a few days earlier this week, for work. Missed the kiddos like crazy. Came home only to remember that I had a hair appointment that night - a long, long overdue appointment. It was at 6:30 and I told the kids I thought I'd be home in time to tuck them into bed. Instead, I got home at 9:30. (All I can say is, there was a lot of highlighting going on, and it took forever.) The kids had tried to wait up for me. They were both in their beds. Mallory, of course, was still wide awake, jabbering to herself, and happy to see me come home. This was Liam, trying so hard to wait up with his desk lamp on... but too tired to make it. I felt so guilty. I gave him lots of kisses and tucked him under his duvet and whispered good night into his ear, despite the fact that he wasn't listening. I'm pretty sure that he heard me anyway.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

March Break wrap-up

A few double-page spreads from our March Break adventures, to go in the yearly family chronicles.

Monday - the Children's Museum in London:
Thursday - the Detroit Zoo:

And, the rest of the week. I also did a spread from the sugar bush, though those pictures have already been posted, so no sense in repeating.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

It wouldn't be St. Patrick's Day without...

...our annual End-of-the-Rainbow parfaits.

It also wouldn't be a normal day for Mallory if I didn't spend the time to make her one and then have her refuse to eat a single bite of it.

Don't worry though... I drowned my sorrows in a Shamrock Shake, and I feel much better now.

It also wouldn't be St. Patrick's Day without a trip to the zoo, but that will have to wait for another time. I'm exhausted. I need a break from March Break.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Sugar bush

We're in the thick of March Break here, and have been busy cramming as much action-packed fun into each day as possible. I did want to take a break to post about what we did today though, because it's something you can only do for a few weeks each year and I'd really urge anyone looking for some fun family entertainment to consider this.Today I took the kids to the McLachlan Family Maple Syrup Camp and Pancake House in Komoka, a little bit west of north London. How have I hit the age of thirty-five, having spent my whole life in Canada, and never visited a sugar bush before? It seemed like an appropriate March Break activity and the weather man promised that today would be ideal. It rained all morning and in fact, as we drove up to Komoka, we were driving back into the storm. But after stopping in London to run a few errands - (tangent time. Today I took the kids into Memory Lane. Is that nuts or what? Would you take a 4-year-old and a 6-year-old into an antiques mall? How many times did I say don't-touch-stop-running-look-OUT!!?? But it was actually a lot of fun. They really enjoy looking around places like that, places that are so crammed full of stuff, and they love spotting things that tickle their fancy like the vintage Mickey Mouse phone and the clock shaped like an apple. We didn't break anything so we didn't have to buy anything, though unfortunately, I also didn't find the devilled egg plate that I would like to have in my possession before Easter - I thought those things are everywhere, and perhaps they are. Just not when you are looking for them.) - ANYWAY - the sun was shining brightly by the time we came out of Old Navy with a few getting-ready-for-warmer-weather items in hand, and it turned into a glorious spring day to go watch the sap run.
I did a lot of internet research before we went, comparing the various sugar bushes in our neck of the woods and trying to pick out the one with the most to see and do. But let me tell you - sugar bushes really do not have much of an internet presence. Most of them have a small write up that says something like "Fun for the whole family!" without spelling out what that fun is. If I'm going to drive for an hour for some pancakes, I want to know what else I'm getting.In this case, the gamble paid off. We arrived with empty tummies and immediately headed into the pancake house for brunch. Liam ate more than Mallory and I combined. (I just don't understand how he functions sometimes.) We had a full spread of pancakes, sausage, ham, maple baked beans, hash browns, and fruit, washed down by McDonald's Orange Drink, which felt a little incongruous but who am I to complain? $10 for adults and $6 for kids. Liam ate his own; Mallory and I split the adult plate.

I love pancakes but never order them when we go out because the vast majority of places don't serve them with real maple syrup, and I hate table syrup. I'll be accusatory here: I am not 100% convinced that the McLachlan Family Maple Syrup Camp and Pancake House serves 100% real maple syrup with their pancakes. It didn't taste like the stuff I am accustomed to. I suppose I should give them the benefit of the doubt, but with the weird aftertaste lingering in my mouth, I didn't buy a souvenir bottle to bring home.Bellies comfortably full, we headed back outside to partake in the fun stuff. The kids could not keep their eyes off the Clydesdales so we immediately boarded the horse-drawn wagon for a ride. $1 for adults, 50 cents for the kids.After that, my favourite part of the day. There are 3km of wood-chip trails through the bush where you can get up close and personal with the tapping process. The taps close to the pancake house all drip into sap buckets, the old-fashioned way. Those further back in the bush are connected with clear vacuum-powered lines that let you see the sap running through them. You can hear the sap whooshing. It's pretty cool.The small lines connect into larger-diameter lines to bring the sap back to the boiler room at the front of the property. This is where my knowledge of pipeline operations came in super handy. I was talking to the kids about the sap laterals and how they loop from the distribution network into the high-pressure transmission line. I don't think they really got it though.It was one of those days when it finally hits fifty degrees and you can actually allow yourself to believe that winter might end sometime soon. There were little streams of meltwater forming across the trails and the kids had a fabulous time splashing about in their new rainboots. The sky was blue and Liam came home with a noticeable uptick in the number of freckles on his nose. I think my Vitamin D levels may have finally been restored to normal, and I just might survive this winter after all.Following the trail led us up to the boiler room where the sap actually gets condensed into maple syrup.If I'd been thinking straight, I would have stuck my camera on a tree stump, set the self-timer and gotten a shot of us in the bush. But it didn't occur to me until we were well on our way home. Our own driveway would have to suffice for the self-portrait.Chad just looked over my shoulder and asked why I'm writing about the sugar bush when I haven't written about anything else we've done this week. It's been a busy week, and part of it was even featured on TV! I've guess I've chosen to spend my time living it instead of writing it, but more will be coming soon.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Budding sports photographer (subtitle: giving me a run for my money)

On Saturday, Liam had a hockey game, which is not all that different from any other Saturday since last September. Mallory has been going to the arena week after week for almost seven months now, almost always behaving well and almost always being gracious about the fact that for this hour of the week, the focus is not on her.

This week, I brought my camera, and she suddenly asked if she could bring a camera and take pictures of Liam too. Liam was none too pleased about Mallory using his camera, but this time I overruled him. Mallory deserved it after spending so many hours in that rink.

By the time we got home, she had taken 183 pictures, beating out even ME in sheer numbers. I loved all the little glimpses into her mind and thought process. First of all, she set the stage before the game even started, getting some shots of her environs:
Empty ice:Spectators filing in:Bleachers waiting to be filled:The Zamboni being put away:Sometimes, she managed to catch Liam in action:Sometimes, she went for the wide-angle, scene-setting shot:Sometimes, she missed all the action:Sometimes, her shot was full of action:
She caught the mundane aspects of our immediate surroundings - my camera bag and purse at my feet:
The back of my coat:Us spectating:The dude sitting beside her:
And even the classic photographer's self-portrait. The fact that there were at least a dozen of these on the camera convince me that it was no mere accident.I wonder where she gets all of this from???

Friday, March 11, 2011

An art project we think you should try

A while ago I heard about a new Crayola product (and what mom doesn't love some Crayola?): window markers. I searched all over for these babies and finally found them a couple of months after I first saw ads for them (and in one of the first stores that I'd originally checked). I guess it takes longer for us to get things in than it does in most places??The kids thought it was hilarious when I told them we were going to colour on the windows. We divvied up the windows in the breakfast nook, from which we'd removed the screens last fall when we were battening down the hatches for winter. (The kitchen seems a lot brighter that way.) Since his newfound reading and writing skills are playing such a major role in his life right now, I love love love this photo of Liam's window. Before he drew anything else on it, he staked his claim to it in the bottom corner. His spelling is not perfect but I love that he is trying to do it himself, without running everything past me first. Then he climbed up on a chair and got to work: his name (again), a goldfish, a tulip, and an Easter bunny.
I definitely recommend these markers. They dry with a chalky kind of finish and wipe off easily with a damp cloth. They are sort of fluorescent, like the markers you see written on a restaurant's menu board. Our pink marker seems a bit tempermental, and of course that is somewhat upsetting to Mallory, but the rest of them write really nicely. For $5 they will buy you a few hours of entertainment - totally worth it in my book!

Thursday, March 10, 2011

I bet the parents of real Olympic athletes don't make the same mistake I did

From mid-January to mid-February, Mallory missed a lot of skating lessons. She was sick one week. There was a blizzard one week. There was one week that there was legitimately no ice time, and another week when we were all tired and just didn't feel like going. By the time we got her back on the ice, she had decided she didn't like skating lessons any more. She started crying each night as we headed for the rink. "Just a few more weeks," I promised her each time, feeling terribly guilty for dragging her out there when she clearly didn't want to go. She was usually OK once she got on the ice, but the whole thing was really an ordeal.And then last night, it was the Skating Olympics. We told Mallory there would be races and for the first time in probably months, she was genuinely excited to go. "I'm going to win!" she kept telling us. It made me smile to think she was looking forward to it.And then, one hundred percent on account of my own ineptitude, we got her there for her usual 6:30 ice time... but the Olympics had started at 6 and were already half over. I couldn't believe it. I felt awful. Thankfully, Mallory didn't notice that everyone else there seemed to have already settled in. (And, luckily, there were a few other families in the same boat as us.) Still, I would probably count this among my Top Ten Worst Parenting Moments. I just felt really, really stupid, and really incompetent. The skating club had handed out flyers the week before, for crying out loud. I just didn't read far down enough to see that the ice time was different. It's kind of a silly thing to let bother me so much, but on account of how much Mallory was looking forward to it... it really did get to me.
Maybe too it's because I'm almost done reading Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, the controversial new book about how the Chinese method of parenting is superior to Western parenting. I picked this book up expecting to dislike it immensely, and I disagree with about 95% of what the author says and does. But, it's a hilarious read, and it does make you question your own approach to things. (In a nutshell, the author advocates being extremely harsh on your kids, criticizing them constantly, badgering them to spend hours a day doing math drills and practicing classical music, and never allowing them to have a sleepover. There is one part of the book, where the author describes receiving handmade birthday cards from her two young daughters, that had me howling. She knows that her husband had the kids make the cards at the last minute and that little effort went into them. "I reject this card!" she tells her daughter, and orders her to go back and do it again but this time put more thought and effort into it. I mean - can you imagine??)

But I bet the Tiger Mother would never, ever have missed the first half of the Skating Olympics. As much as I heckle her, that adds to my guilt.Regardless of my own shortcomings, Mallory adored the Olympics. She took to the ice and won the first race she was in. When she puts her mind to something, she does it. I like that about her... even though it's the root cause of many an argument around here.

Unfortunately, I think the standings for the Skating Olympics are calculated on a cumulative basis. The fact that Mallory won one race out of ten matters little when she gets a DNF for five of them. She was skating so hard, she had a few tumbles. In each case she was back on her feet in - literally - seconds. Her determination amazed me.OK... there was some waiting around between races, too.
She is starting to master the gliding aspect of skating. She takes a running start and then lets the momentum push her across the ice. She just needs to stop being so fascinated by her feet, and watch where she is going.

She was crowing about that victory in her first race as she came off the ice, and I think we should be able to get her to the rink for the next three weeks with far fewer tears than we've had recently. Unfortunately, we are going to have to shield her from the awards ceremony that is being held after her lesson next week. She is not going to qualify for anything, and will have an awfully hard time understanding that after she just got finished kicking her classmates' butts.

Monday, March 07, 2011

Photoless, because I wasn't about to lug my camera along the course.

Chad and I spent the weekend out of town. In Burlington, to be precise. We dropped the kids off for a much-anticipated sleepover at Gramma and Grampa's on Saturday afternoon, and then drove up the 401 and down the 403. We had to be in Burlington by 3 p.m. in order to pick up our race packets, because yesterday we ran the Chilly Half Marathon. Signing up for this race was pretty much the only tool I had in my arsenal to keep myself motivated over the winter months, and even though I let the snow and ice (and 100 day cold) get to me from time to time, overall the race did just that - kept me motivated.

When I first signed up - probably in November last year - I was thinking I wanted to PR at this race. My last half marathon was 5.5 years ago and my time then was 2:06 and some change. For a few blissfully ignorant weeks, I thought this would be the race where I broke 2 hours. Then reality set in: cold dark mornings, slow and ice, sidewalks that don't get plowed for 3 days so there is no place for me to run other than the road (and irate motorists when I take to the road), and of course, the congestion that just won't quit and doesn't make heading outside to face all of the above seem like such a great idea. Pretty soon I became comfortable with the idea of just running the race and not caring too much about my finishing time.

(the caps key on this keyboard has just officially quit.)

it poured rain the entire day before the race, and then a cold front came in overnight. we woke up sunday morning to a fresh 4-6" of snow. this made for some pretty icy and slushy conditions, but the temperature was fine and there was no wind. the course was a flat, out-and-back route. i had zero nerves starting this race. chad's training over the winter was sidelined by illness even more than mine, so rather than deciding to try for his own pr, he decided to run with me, and we ran the entire thing together. though if you check the results you'll see that i beat him by 3 seconds. (no idea how that happened as we crossed both the starting and finishing lines together!)

people always tell me they could never run, and i always tell them of course they can - do a bit today, then a bit more tomorrow, and so on, and sooner or later you've hit five or ten km. i understand exactly where they are coming from though, because my own personal demon seems to be 13 km or so. once i hit that distance my hips seize up, and it was no different yesterday. i was fine to that point and every step after that was agony. but there is nothing to do but keep going and get back to the finish line so that you can stop, and so that's what i did.

we finished in 2:10 and some change, which is perfectly fine by me. there was a chili party at the end of the race, in fitting with the Chilly theme, but after i have run that far, eating anything at all is the last thing on my mind, especially not mass-produced chili!! gross. we did stop for a celebratory shamrock shake on our way home, but even that didn't sound good to me and chad finished the last half. i will make up for it this week though - i use the week after a race as the perfect excuse to loaf around, skip a bunch of workouts and eat junk. i like post-race week. :)

next up on my calendar of events: it's time to leave the road behind, and focus on the pool for a bit. this is what i'm eyeing:i just need to get over my fear of sharks first.

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

Easter around the house. Subtitle: Buh-Bye, Winter.

On approximately February 15th of this year, we packed away all of the Valentine's Day goodness that was sprinkled around the house, and out came... Easter.I think I love Easter decorations more than any other. Something about seeing the pastels when we're right at the tail end of a long and dreary winter makes me happy and hopeful. It makes it feel like spring and summer are not all that far off. Even when we're supposed to be walloped with more snow.I picked up these old candy jars a few months ago at the thrift store, and I'm trying to keep them stocked with goods that make them look seasonal, but that we don't dip into too much. For Valentine's Day, I succeeded. I don't think any of us actually like the conversation hearts, but they sure do look nice in the jar. (I know they are not Easter candy, but the colours work. I may keep them out a while longer. That photo of Liam with the candy heart in his mouth is also not Easter, but I don't really have anything else to fill the frame at the moment!) These candy-covered chocolate eggs are my absolute weakness, when they come in a Cadbury bag. These ones are from President's Choice and they are AWFUL. So once again... they look pretty in the jar, and hopefully we will stay out of them.
In addition to what's pictured here, I have also hauled the kids' Easter buckets out of the cupboard, and I've resorted to buying flowers weekly at the grocery store. It's $4 for a bunch of tulips - much cheaper than therapy.

Liam has not yet rotated the various pictures he drew of himself and his family sledding and building snowmen off of the bulletin board in his room, but I expect that will happen shortly. He has a shoe box in his closet where he is hoarding some of his crafts from last Halloween so that he can hang them up in his room again this Halloween. He seems to have caught the seasonal decorating bug from me. Attaboy, Liam.