9.06.2015

Junior Kindergarten 101

You knew this day would come eventually.  Now that it's here though, you can't help but wonder how it came so fast. As you look at your child all you can see is that sweet baby you brought home from the hospital. Only now he has more hair, a mouth full of teeth, and the words to tell you how he is feeling.

Your child might be telling you that he is ready for school. Asking you everyday if it's time to go yet. Walking around with his new, super cool (insert favourite cartoon character here) backpack. Or your child might be telling you that he is not ready.  Usually with crocodile tears pleading to please let him stay home with you.

Then there is the feelings of you, the parent.  Likely if this is your first kindergarten send off you are feeling nervous or sad yourself. This could be true if this is your last kindergarten send off too. It doesn't seem to matter if your child is ready to skip off happily or is leeching onto your leg, either way you are left an emotional mess.

The important thing is that you hide it and hide it well. Your child will sense your uncertainty and it can affect how well your child adjusts to kindergarten. Talk about the fun they will have and the friends they will make.  Let them pick out their backpack and lunchbox. Tell them you will pick them up and something you will do together (i.e. go to the park, watch a show together, read a story etc).  This will give them something to look forward to.

Kindergarten brings a lot of independence.  Yes, your child's teacher and early childhood educator team will help with zippers and boo-boos. But there are plenty of simple things you can do to help your child be successful at completing many tasks independently.


  • Buy shoes that your child can easily put on by himself.  Either slip-ons or velcro.  Avoid flip flops, fancy sandals, and shoes that are not suitable for play. 

  • Dress for play. Messy, messy play. If paint or mud got on their clothes you don't want to be upset about it.  Save the fancy stuff for home. If your child will wear a skirt or dress put shorts on underneath.  Trust me. This is important.

  • Give your child time in the morning to practice dressing themselves.  The teacher can help with zippers but your child should be able to put their sweater or coat on. This is especially important in the winter months. I will write a separate post outlining my fool proof method for ensuring a warm and dry play experience.

  • Make sure your child knows how to wipe their own bum. No one can help your child in this area. They need to practice this at home.

  • Label everything you want brought back home. This included a zip up sweater that they might take off. 

  • Pack extra clothes including socks. Accidents can happen, and sometimes play gets too messy and requires a change of clothes for comfort.

  • Pack your child's lunch in containers that they can open. Pack foods they are used to eating. Include a spoon or fork if required.  You wouldn't believe how often kids have yogurt but no spoon.

  • Be early for pick up the first week or so. Many kindergarten classes will dismiss earlier than the regular school bell (ask your teacher for time). An anxious child will become upset when they see other children leaving and you are not there. Once they are settled in they will be ok waiting a few extra minutes to see your smiling face.

  • Avoid asking your child "what did you do today?".  Instead try asking "what was your favourite thing about school today" or "what did you do in gym or library". You will get a better response if you narrow down your question.
The first few weeks can be difficult.  It's an adjustment to new routines, new friends, new teachers, and new expectations. But it will get better. Your child will grow so much this year and amaze you with all the things they are now capable of. But don't worry too much, they still need you. They need cuddles, attention, love and encouragement, 

On the first day of school when you drop your child off at school, whether your child is skipping along or clinging to your leg, know that he will be okay and so will you. 

7.12.2014

Outdoor Movie Night

I don't know about you, but I like planning parties.  Usually they are to celebrate my children's birthdays. Occasionally, we have a large number of people over for a BBQ or something, but not too often.

This summer I wanted to host something different.  Something unique.

Well this idea was a hit; an outdoor movie night.  I realize I didn't invent this concept but I thought I'd share what I put together anyway.

Guests

We let the kids invite some neighbourhood kids and their families.  I invited some friends of ours and their families.  The key phrase here is "and their families" because I wanted to provide an opportunity for parents to spend some time making memories with their children.

Guests enjoying the movie


The Movie

We chose to watch The Lego Movie because we have two boys that love that movie and many of the guests also love that movie.  Plus it was a fairly recent family friendly movie.  Everyone had already seen it, but everyone was excited to watch it again in this setting.

The Technical Stuff

We have a projector so that part was easy.  My neighbour had a projector screen and he attached it to a wooden stand that he whipped together for us. It was much better than the cardboard I wrapped a white sheet around before I knew he owned a screen.

My husband hooked up the surround sound speakers to our DVD player and it was very loud.

The screen and stand, as well as the sign I made


Logistics

Everything was set up right on our driveway.  We asked guests to bring their own chairs and blankets since sometimes it's cold at night.  Guests arrived around 9:30 pm and the movie started at 10:00 pm.

Snacks, Snacks, and More Snacks

I wanted to make things extra fun by providing lots of awesome and authentic snack items, displayed in fun and functional ways.  We had several children with peanut allergies so all snacks were peanut free.  Here is what I came up with. 

Full size chocolate bars displayed in a wire bread basket

Full size, retro boxes of candy displayed in a basket tray

A variety of popcorn seasonings displayed in a box hidden by the bandana


Cardboard popcorn boxes with each person's name on it displayed in a basket 
chest with a bandana for added decoration.  I displayed the straws in a mason jar 
and tied checkered ribbon on it.

The completed concession buffet table. Popcorn is in the yellow tubs and I used 
mustard dispensers for the melted butter. There was also a cooler of drinks on 
the ground at the end of the table

The table without the popcorn or butter added yet, so you can see it in daylight


Overall, this get together was fabulous.  Everyone had a great time and I know it was an experience that will be talked about for a long time.  If you are looking for a unique way to enjoy summer with friends and have a projector handy, I highly recommend an outdoor movie night. 

10.27.2013

Halloween Party Ideas

I have always wanted to host a Halloween party for my kids but every year we dedicate all our time and energy into my uncle’s Haunted House attraction in Mississauga; Lou Cipher’s House of Terror .

This summer we moved out of the area and will not be participating in the Haunted attraction this year, so I took advantage of the extra time to put together a Halloween party, FINALLY!

I warmed up my clicking finger, sat down and got down to business searching and pinning all the things I thought the kids would love, and ‘love’ they did.

Decorations

I like creating the mood for a party but need to do it without breaking the bank. When I decorate, I try to create focal points in places people will gather the most.

    












Witch Table














Graveyard Hall
























Costume Contest Trophies

Food

When I was selecting items for the menu I had a few things in mind; that the kids would be excited about them, that they would add to the presentation of the table, and that they would be easy to make.
Here’s what I came up with.














Chocolate pudding graveyards















Veggie Skeleton Man














The Great Pumpkin Cake














Rice Krispie Jack-O-Lanterns and Leaves

I put out some candy, and orange coloured popcorn and chips. I also froze plastic spiders into ice cubes for their drinks which was a huge hit with the kids.


Party Itinerary

• Guests arrive and paint their own pumpkins, and enjoy some Halloween treats
• Pizza for dinner
• Costume contest (show and vote)
• Watch a scary movie (Our selection; Paranorman)
• Candy Hunt
• Cake
• Announce contest winners

Party Highlights

As the boys arrived they got to paint a pumpkin to take home. We did this activity first so that they would be dry by the time they went home.














For the costume contest I had the boys take turns showing off their costume.














Then I gave them a voting sheet with the categories, and they voted for their favourites. Voting for yourself was not allowed.














Then they settled in to watch Paranorman.














While they peacefully watched the movie...My husband changed into this costume…














…and then this happened...















I was busy while they peacefully watched the movie too. I put their pumpkins into a Halloween treat bag and set up the candy hunt; all of which would become their party favours.



























After they settled down from the zombie scare, they had their candy hunt and enjoyed some cake and more treats. Then they all posed for one more group photo before going home but they got zombie photo bombed.














Overall, this was my favourite party to plan and host. It was fun from beginning to end and I can’t wait for next year. Happy Halloween Ghouls and Boys.

7.17.2013

Yes, I am Judging You!

I often hear people (especially on Twitter) say that as parents (specifically moms) we need to stop judging each other. In many cases I do agree with that; breastfeeding vs. bottle feeding, co-sleeping vs. crib sleeping, cloth diapers vs. disposable diapers. Those are all trivial matters to which I say: as long as your baby is being fed enough, has a place to sleep, and diapers are being changed often enough; who are we to judge?

But some issues are serious enough that you're damn right I am judging YOU.

My latest irk that has me on judge overload is parents leaving children in cars. Especially hot cars. There have been countless news stories over the past few weeks of children (and pets) being rescued in sweltering hot cars and even a couple tragedies of children who lost their lives due to this kind of negligence.



When you decide to have a child you are deciding to put that life above what is convenient for you. That means taking your child out of the car, bringing them along for a one minute errand, and then putting them back in the car. I don't care if you have to repeat this sequence 20 times a day. I don't care if your cranky baby just finally fell a sleep and you don't want to wake them. I don't care if your child is having a mega meltdown about going in the store. I don't care if you're so busy you 'forgot' you have a child with you. Nothing you say, no excuse you make to make yourself feel better will ever make you leaving your child in the car okay. It's wrong. This isn't a debatable issue. It's a judge-able issue.

On a hot day your car becomes so hot you could bake cookies in it or fry an egg. Imagine what that powerful heat does to a child.



When you first shut your car off it may not feel that hot because you had your A/C blasting the whole time, but when you shut the car off the temperature rises fast. According to weather.com If the temperature outside is 32C, after about 10 minutes the inside of your car will be 42C and after 20 minutes it will be about 50C and so on. A child's body cannot regulate that kind of heat. A few minutes in the car can cause serious damage to your child's health (shock, stroke, etc) and it can even cause them to die.

The proven risk of death or serious brain injury to your child in a matter of minutes should be more than enough reason not to leave your child in the car, but in case you need more convincing of how stupid it is to do so think about it from the eyes of the Children's Aid Society. The CAS doesn't have clear guidelines on when it's okay to leave a child alone, but it does use 10 years old as a guideline paired with the parental knowledge of their own child's readiness. They still point out that a parent is responsible for providing adequate care arrangements until the child is 16. So we should be able to agree that if you shouldn't leave your young children alone at home until (let's say 10 years old) then you shouldn't leave your 9 month old, 2 year old or 4 year old alone in the car either. No matter the weather. No matter the location. No matter the reason. They are too young. It's neglectful for a parent to do so. And neglect is a form of child abuse.

"But my parents did it to us and we didn't die"

Congratulations! You survived! But many did die. You just weren't aware of it and because of it many things have changed since you were a kid. For instance, we now use seat belts, we put our children in car seats, we don't ride in the back of trucks, we don't use lead paint, and we don't leave young children home alone.

So stop making excuses for when its okay to leave your child alone in the car. Stop trying to reason that it's only a few minutes and they'll be fine. Stop being a lazy parent with no control over your kids. Remember that you are the parent not your child. You know best, not them.



MY PUBLIC SERVICE ANNOUNCEMENT:



1. I think it's a sad world when we have to suggest that you leave your purse or cell phone beside your child's car seat in order to remember you have a child, but since that's the advice from the police then I'll pass it on here: do what you have to do to be the best parent you can be. If you think this habit will help you remember that you have children, then do it.



2. Lock your car when parked so other children playing won't open your door and lock themselves inside your car.



3. If you see a child left alone in a car call 911 and get the child out of the car.



2.15.2013

It's in the Cards




Some people think that cards are a pointless part of a gift. That they just end up in the garbage without a second thought. But I have always viewed greeting cards in a different light. I love them, I cherish them, and I have kept every single one I've ever received since I was 8 years old, every single one my husband received since we've been together, and every single one of my children's since the day they were born.

That is a lot of cards.



But, we are getting ready to move and I had to clear some of these collections out. Before I could even think of parting with any of them I had to read them ALL again and in doing so I discovered a few things that I wanted to share with you.

1. We have received cards for everything. Every possible occasion you could think of, I have cards for it: birthday, Christmas, Halloween, Valentine's Day, baby shower, new baby, christening, thinking of you, wedding, new home, Easter, get well soon, sympathy, and so many others including one given to me when I sliced my finger on a can of baby formula.

2. The hand written messages from so many people made me realize that I'm loved, I'm liked, I'm appreciated, and I'm thought of. Reading these messages really lifted my spirits and were probably even more meaningful read years later than they were at the time I received them. I think it's sad that most people today do not take the time to hand write a message to anyone.

3. I was reminded of different chapters in my life from the barely understandable teenage lingo we used to use, to the many parents and co-workers who appreciated my work as an Early Childhood Educator and as a party entertainer, and the love expressed to me by my family, husband and children.

4. I enjoyed looking back on the cards from my children because it shows the progression of their writing abilities from year to year.

5. Looking at cards from my childhood was like a blast from the past because some of them were very time specific such as one shaped like a cassette tape and another with a girl talking on a phone with a spiral cord. Also seeing the names of friends I haven't seen in over 20 years brought back a lot of childhood memories.

6. It was interesting to see how many friends had given me a card over the years. There were so many, but only a few friends were around long enough to give me many, many cards.

7. My grandmother gave me the exact same card on two separate years that said "To My Grandmother" (I'm sure she meant grand daughter)

8. My other grandmother passed away in 1998. It was so nice to see my name in her handwriting again. (These ones did not make it to the garbage pile)

9. A friend wrote inside my son's first birthday card that he would never see the card, but I proved her wrong because he did see it. (Albeit 8 years later).



10. I found a Rexall gift card from 2003, a Shoppers Drug Mart gift card from 2005, an Old Navy gift card from 2006, and a cheque from 2007.



I ended up keeping quite a few cards because I might like to read those messages again some day. I will take many to work for the daycare children to reuse and the rest did make it to the garbage. It was a difficult thing for me to do but it was time to declutter my greeting card hoarding.

The moral of this post is to prove that greeting cards do have a purpose, some times far greater than even the gift itself. I don't remember what gifts accompanied any of the cards I received (except for the baby shower cards as someone wrote them down inside)but I do remember the kind words of each person's personal message to me and my family. If you have ever given me a card please know that I have always cherished it.

12.08.2012

Christmas Traditions

I have two boys; a 9 year old (DS9) and a six year old (DS6). They are at an age where they have had enough Christmases for our family's traditions to really show themselves.

As we prepare for Christmas this year, I am often asked by one of them if we are going to do certain things that they have come to expect to happen. "Are we going to open a present early (Christmas Eve) this year?" was one DS6 asked when he saw me put some gifts under the tree. "Are we going to put out carrots for the reindeer" DS9 inquired. It got me thinking about all the things we do every year that they will always remember.

Here are the top 10 traditions we follow each year:

1. Opening a gift on Christmas Eve.

The kids each open a gift on Christmas eve that consists of new pajamas and a Christmas story book. They wear the pajamas that night so they will have them on in the photographs the next morning. We read the books before bed.



2. Leave out cookies and milk for Santa and carrots for the reindeer.

As a token of thanks to Santa the kids leave him and reindeer some traditional treats. Santa enjoys them :)

3. Watching Christmas movies together each week in December.

We watch different Christmas movies each year together as a family. This year we will introduce the kids to the Home Alone series.

4. Decorating a gingerbread house

The kids and I decorate a gingerbread house together each year. After Christmas the kids enjoy eating it.


5. The kids buy me new ornaments

My husband takes the kids to the Disney Store to pick out a new ornament for me to add to my (huge) collection. What I love about this is they tend to choose what they like best and I have token to remember what they were interested in every year.


6. Go to my dad's house for dinner.

I know this tradition can't last forever, but right now I enjoy it. I love our Christmas traditions there and seeing my family.

7. Getting pictures taken with Santa

I keep all the Santa pictures with the Christmas decorations and put them all up at Christmas time. I enjoy looking back and seeing how much the kids have grown.

8. Baking cookies

What fun is Christmas without some holiday treats? We usually bake 3-4 different kinds of cookies each year. We don't have specific traditional recipes that we use. I just look for interesting recipes online.

9. Watching the TV fireplace channel

When we wake up on Christmas morning we turn on the fireplace channel to watch while we open our gifts.

10. New this year: Mistletoe

When I was a kid I remember my grandmother always hung mistletoe. I saw one by chance in a store the other day and decided to add this as a new tradition at our house. It's only been a few days since I put up and it's already a huge hit with the family.

What are some our your family's Christmas traditions? Share them in the comments.

5.14.2012

Conquering Fears

I was in the passenger seat while my father drove along the 400 Highway. My husband and 6 month old son slept in the back seats. The road was busy that night. I can't remember but most likely it was a Sunday after a long weekend. My father usually drove us home after a family holiday get together.

We were between two tractor trailers when it happened. The truck on the right decided he was switching into our lane right now. I could feel myself unable to breathe. "My son is in this car and we are trapped" was all I could think. There is no where to go.

My father was so calm as he slowed down and laid on the horn allowing himself to fall back behind both trucks. It felt like forever before the truck driver realized what he was doing and returned to his own lane. He was no more than a few inches from my window. I was so shaken up I cried. Perhaps tears of relief. Maybe because I realized how precious my son's life really was. Most likely because of fear because I knew that I didn't know what I would have done. I believed that had I been driving my son would be dead. I decided right then and there that I did not ever want to operate a vehicle with my child inside. Isn't that what everyone always says? "If you can't drive, stay off the road". I planned to steer clear off any and every road. If I didn't get my license then I would never have to drive and be responsible for putting him in danger.

That was about 8 years ago.

As time tends to do, the 'trauma' I felt that night subsided and I was able to get a grip on reality for periods of time. It started in 2008 when I decided that I would get my G1 and face this fear, or deal with my lack of photo ID issue. One or the other. It must have been the latter because it wasn't until March of this year that I actually forced myself to get behind the wheel and get rid of this fear once and for all.

Ironically I was forced to learn to drive with my 2 kids in tow. Nothing could make me feel more better than the two of them cheering me on when I managed to get the vehicle between the lines in the parking lot. It reminded me of the cheers I used to give them for peeing on the potty.

For the past 3 months I did all the driving I could do and actually began to like it. "Turn here. Go this way" my husband would say and I'd go straight saying "I want to go this way". I want to go this way. Yes, I want to make my own choices. I want to be in control.

Today I took my driving test for my G2. Wearing a necklace my son made me for luck I took a deep breath and; turned left, turned right, 3 point turned, parallel parked, parked uphill and down, and parked between two lines and you know what; I passed.

More than that I conquered a fear that has burdened me most of my adult life. I feel so free to no longer have this desire to run free but feeling trapped between two trucks. Now I know what I would do in that situation, just as my father knew so many years go. I am glad that I waited until I was ready, but I will not allow fear to hold me back like that again. From now on I will look fear straight in the face and conquer it. Unless of course it's a creepy crawling insect or a bumble bee. Those are fears for another day.