Community centre

by , on
May 31, 2013

I was very fortunate to grow up in a real neighbourhood. I walked to school with friends, we biked around freely, and there was usually something to do.

My house growing up was within a few minutes from the school playground, a great park, a public swimming pool, a public skating rink.

Brewer Park will always be in my memory – three play areas, two fields, a splash pad, and you could usually find someone to play with. We used to race each other to the  swing set, and veterans of the park knew that if you aimed one of the sprinklers just right the water would go down the slide.

I spent hours upon hours of my childhood there, from the earliest days to those days when I might have been just a little too old to play.

That park, the pool and the rink were the centre of my life for years.

When I became a parent, getting outside was an important part of every day – fresh air, change of scenery – and getting out to the park where there are other kids for mine to interact with and other grown-ups for me to talk to is a highlight.

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Every child should have that centre – A place where they remember learning to ride their bike and scraping their knee, spinning around on a tire swing until they felt sick, the day they were strong enough to cross the monkey bars, taking picnics of whatever they could grab from the kitchen.

The Kraft Celebration Tour is giving away 10 prizes of $250,000 to communities for projects in those communities that promote community spirit and a healthy and active lifestyle. Nominations for the prizes are being accepted until June 7. The winning communities also get to host a live broadcast of TSN’s SportsCentre.

You can follow the contest on Facebook too.

Disclosure – I am participating in the Kraft Celebration Tour Blogger Campaign. I received compensation as a thank you for participating and for sharing my honest opinion. The opinions on this blog are my own.

The Art of Eating Ice Cream

by , on
May 30, 2013

There are lots of things I didn’t think about when I became a parent – things that didn’t occur to me and things that I guess I thought just come naturally.

It never occurred to me that when potty training a child you also have to teach them to wipe, as an example.

There is an ice cream truck that comes around our neighbourhood in the summer. He drives around, right after the school buses drop off their charges, with tinkly music blaring.

It was 30 degrees the other day, humid and sunny, and the kid was full of energy. I took her to the park to try and wear her out at least a little, and there was the ice cream truck, just down the block. I asked her if she wanted to ride her trike through the part to the ice cream truck and that was a no-brainer.

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I got her a vanilla cone and we walked back to the park where she could sit on the bench and eat, and then I saw the work ahead of me. When she tried to hand the cone to me so she could go play and come back for more later I knew we really needed to talk.

There’s no understanding of spinning the cone, preventing drips, and then she just hauled off and bit the bottom off the cone before the ice cream was done on top. (!)

I told her that this summer we’re going to need to get some practice in so she learns the right way to eat ice cream.

What I am

by , on
May 30, 2013

Sesame Street has a video that I love, with Wil.i.am singing a song called What I Am.

I love the song, I love its message.

This morning I woke up early. I’ve had a cold the past few days and my cough woke me. When I decided I wasn’t going to get any more sleep I grabbed my iPad and started reading Twitter. Amanda Palmer had posted a link to a speech she gave recently and I decided to read through it since I enjoyed her Ted Talk so much (here if you haven’t seen it).

In the speech she’s talking about being an artist and connecting the dots, as she says, but the part that stuck with me is when she talks about asking her followers a question – ‘What makes you feel like an actual writer?’

And my head immediately answered: I just am. I always have been. I feel it in the deepest parts of me. I am a writer.

I just am.

There’s no taking my writing away from me, whether I’m posting to different blogs, or keeping a journal filled with ideas, working as a journalist or writing my NaNoWriMo novel.

I remember the feeling of my poetry being published in the high school literary magazine, my first byline in college, my first paycheque for writing (which I still have a copy of along with the article in a frame). I have been paid for writing over the years, still occasionally am, but it doesn’t matter.

I have copies of stories I wrote when I first learned to write, copies of short stories from high school, files upon files of things that I have written.

What makes me feel like a writer? It’s what I am.

NO!

by , on
May 27, 2013

The kid got mad at me today, which is certainly not unprecedented, but it was a new kind of mad. She was mad at me, and yelling at me, and also running away from me.

When she’s at home and slamming her door it’s okay (except for the whole respect and temper thing, I mean). When we’re walking along the street and she’s running away from there’s a whole new level of anger and panic and fear.

I said stop and she would, but only to turn around and yell at me, “NO! I’m never stopping!”

She was mad because she wanted to turn back at the halfway point of our walk to get her trike because she had changed her mind and wanted to pedal.

So it was me, the dog who pulls, and a very angry preschooler on a walk I was regretting more and more.

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She ran into the first crossing we came to. I was totally shocked. It was a delivery lane and there was no traffic but she knows the rules and how to stay safe and she just blew that all away because she was angry.

I caught up with her and stopped her at the second crossing, but when she started running towards the busy intersection of a major street I had no idea if she would just run right out into traffic. Everything in me told me she’s smart, she knows.

And a very real part of me screamed at my legs to go faster and stop her.

If she had gotten hurt because she was mad at me I would never forgive myself.

I grabbed her and sat with her on the corner holding her tight. She cried – still mad.

I cried.

The little things give you away

by , on
May 23, 2013

This kid, she just keeps growing. She says she wants to be a baby again, but then she goes and does the most big kid things.

She had her first solo swimming lesson. We’ve been swimming since she was tiny. She’s always been a lover of water. People warned us about giving her that first bath – babies scream bloody murder they said – but she loved it. She’s never stopped. She loves her baths and she loves to swim.

I didn’t know, though, if she would go with the teacher and jump right in the pool or if she would hang on my leg and refuse. I expected the latter.

She was just full of surprises today. Not only did she say hi to both of the boys who were also waiting for her class to start and ask them their names, she told her teacher her name and walked right off with him. She even told him she had already had a shower when he took them over before they got in the pool.

When she hopped in and he handed out some toys to get them started tears came to my eyes. There she was being grown up. It’s happened so fast.

She laughed through her entire lesson. She danced to the aquafit music when it wasn’t her turn. She followed instructions. He even got her floating on her back in the water, which she has always hated.

She was swimming.

She got angry when the lesson ended. She wasn’t done swimming.

I used to take pictures of her every day to send to the grandparents. Now every day she’s so busy and it’s hard to keep up with her, let alone slow her down long enough to get a clear shot.

She told me again today that she wants to be a baby again, but I think that’s becoming less and less true.

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Best sound in the world

by , on
May 22, 2013

A couple of weeks ago the kid and I went to visit some friends. While she was off playing the recently walking baby girl of one of my friends was cruising around, trying to find some mischief. Every time she was stopped in her tracks she would let out a burst of uproarious laughter. It was awesome.

I remember when my baby started laughing. Something – blowing on a tummy I think – triggered this little gurgle and as soon as I heard it all I could think was that I wanted to hear that sound again.

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Of course, the kid laughs a lot these days – she’s not afraid of a good tickle fight – but it’s still pretty cool to watch an old video of her with her daddy just giggle away.

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Fisher-Price is launching a new Laugh and Learn site and the launch includes a contest where you can win just by sharing your baby’s best little laugh – and who doesn’t want to share that? Just opening the site and hearing Puppy start talking got my little one interested and giggly.

I’ve talked on this blog before about the Laugh and Learn products my daughter has loved – she was just showing off her Say Please Tea Set to Grandma and Grandpa. They really are great products to get down on the floor and play with and watch your child learn shapes and colours, numbers and songs.

Disclosure: I am part of the Fisher-Price Blogger Campaign with Mom Central Canada and I receive special perks as part of my affiliation with this group. The opinions on this blog are my own.

In My Place

by , on
May 21, 2013

It’s been just over a year now since we moved into our own house. (And since I left my jobs to take on contracts and stay home with our daughter). We’ve settled in, we’ve made changes, and finally this week we painted two more rooms – the master bath and the living room – bright beautiful colours that are mine.

I am so happy with the glorious yellow that I chose for the bathroom. One of my favourite things about this house is the tub in the master bath. The tub is large and allows me to sink right in and soak and read and relax. It also happens to have a window directly above it. There is a blind on the window but the light seeps through, and taking a bath at dusk is satisfying to my soul.

The colour – this orangey yellow called Calgary Sunset on the chip – fits perfectly with my sunset baths.

Our living room is now a beautiful bright blue that reminds me of the sunny beach that matches the picture above the mantel.

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My free and wild little girl.

When we found the listing for this house it seemed too good to be true. When the open house fell on my birthday and the house lived up to expectations it felt like it was meant to be. Within a week we were signing all the papers. Now it’s been a year.

A first of 30.

I hope.

A heart full of love

by , on
May 20, 2013

In my previous post I mentioned that I’m terrified of how I will react when we lose my grandfather. There is another reason for this, beyond his being one of the most important people in my life.

I haven’t experienced a lot of death in my life. I remember knowing my great-grandparents, and I remember being at a funeral when I was a kid. I knew my paternal grandmother, who died when I was 8 or 9 years old, but she had Alzheimer’s so I never really knew her and we never had the relationship I had with my maternal grandparents. My maternal grandmother died after years of Alzheimer’s too, and by the time her body passed I had already mourned her.

I have never had someone central in my life just pulled away from me in that one moment, and I don’t know what it will do to me.

I remember in 2007, the day London was bombed we didn’t know if my father was there or at home in Ottawa. My sister found his partner’s phone number in London and we found out quickly that she was fine and Dad was in Canada. My father and I have never had what I would consider a close relationship but the fear in that time of not knowing shocked me.

Meanwhile, my family has grown, I have a husband that I scared to lose, a daughter, a second set of parents, a whole new part of my family – aunts and uncles and a new set of grandparents that I adore.

Years ago I planned to be lonely. I was going to be a spinster, traveling the world, writing. Now I’ve surrounded myself with more people to love and be loved by, more people to lose.

It’s a ridiculous thing this heart.

On death and dying, and a preschool mind

by , on
May 19, 2013

My mother and father are both one of two kids in their family, and my Dad’s sister lives in Denmark, so I didn’t grow up around a lot of cousins.

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My grandfather had two brothers and my grandmother was the oldest of seven and I always had great aunts and uncles in my life. The closest geographically were my grandfathers brothers, Uncle Paul and Aunt Judy in Peterborough, and Uncle Gilling and Aunt Lib in Almonte, Ontario. We lost Uncle Paul in 1998, and Aunt Judy too soon after. My grandmother died 10 years ago. Aunt Lib died in 2008.

Last week we lost Uncle Gilling.

He was 90. He had been sick, in the hospital. It was a shock but not a surprise if that makes any sense. We heard early Monday morning before I dropped the kid off at preschool that it wasn’t looking good, and he passed away before I went to pick her up.

She knew Uncle Gilling. We had visited him a few times, including a couple of weeks ago in the hospital. She had actually told me that she wanted to go back and visit him in the hospital again. He had taken in a cat that ended up having kittens and he let her play with the kittens, which was great since we can’t have a cat.

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I have told her in the past that people have died. She asked what happened to my grandmother, I was honest and said she had died. We went to the memorial for Jack on the Hill and she asked me where Jack was and I told her he had died – but she’s never asked follow up questions. It’s never been someone that she was aware of before they died.

When I picked her up I told her. I asked if she remembered visiting Uncle Gilling in the hospital and if she remembered that he was sick, and when she said yes, I told her that he had died.

She continued on with whatever she had been wanting to tell me.

A little later, in the car and driving home, she asked me why. That was more of a struggle. I told her that it’s the way life works – we’re born, we live a life and we die. It’s the way it’s always been.

She hasn’t asked me again, but I know it will come. My grandfather is 93 years old. I am thrilled that they have been able to share enough time together that she will remember him as she grows up and he is gone, but I live in fear of how I am going to react when we do lose him. How will I be able to explain how sad I am to her? How will I explain why something that is part of nature is still so hard to accept?

Push and pull

by , on
May 16, 2013

I was listening to Q for a bit as we were driving around today and he had on a guest, Rasmus Ankersen, who was talking about how parents help their children when it comes to creating skilled athletes.

This former professional soccer player has written a book about high performance athletes and he and Jian Gomeshi were discussing how parents involve themselves in the activities/careers of their children. Now, I’ve heard more than once that an NHL player would have quit hockey after his first practice if his parents hadn’t made him keep going. I’m sure there are similar stories in other sports. Ankersen’s thesis is that ambitious, committed parents play a vital role in creating great athletes, and that parents can push kids to excel in other ways in life as well.

Part of his thesis stems from Malcolm Gladwell’s theory that you need 10,000 hours to become proficient at something and that young children will have to be pushed to train that much before they develop a passion for something.

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We are a household that loves hockey, my husband is also a musician and we both want our daughter to learn an instrument. Since she was born I have put her in different activities to keep her active and see what she likes. I’m hoping she’ll find a passion. She’s done swimming and gymnastics, skating and dance. We let her play often enough, with us and by herself, we try to get her around other kids, but activities are important and her Dad got a lot out of his time in hockey and playing in a band.

I have often thought about how much pushing is too much, what’s encouraging and supportive and what’s overbearing?

When she didn’t want to go to dance class should we have made her? She still says she wants to be a dancer and I’ve tried to explain that it will take a lot of practice and classes, but we’ll support her if that’s what she wants. Being a dancer will certainly take going to classes without her parents, when she doesn’t feel like it, eventually when something hurts.

But how do I know when she’s choosing and what we’re choosing for her? What does she want with that 10,000 hours?

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