Archive for December, 2008

Smells of home

Sunday, December 21st, 2008

When Reid and I got to the top of the ramp from the arrivals area at Union Station in Toronto, we could smell cinnamon, or at least I could. Before I had a chance to comment, Reid sniffed the air and said, “Mama, it smells like Beavertails!” That’s my Ottawa girl. ;+)

I explained that people use cinnamon in cinnamon buns, too, and we went to Cinnabon for a demonstration. Reid chose a chocolate milk In the past, Reid has been uninterested in the cinnamon bun but decided on Friday that she should taste it. And, oh bliss, it was good. She didn’t seem to think me a bad mama for never having forced the issue before but she definitely wanted her share of the bun in front of us. It’s good to have someone to share one of those cinnamon buns with since they’re crazily high in calories and sugar (and I’m to cheap to buy a mini bun because the cost per gram is too high).

Give Something Big … at the last minute

Saturday, December 20th, 2008

 I received a comment last week on the post that I wrote last year about gifts that warm the heart of the recipient and also the giver. Samantha McGavin, the commentor, invited me to check out the site Give Something Big. The site helps visitors to make a donation to Interpares, a social justice organization. The process to make the donation is straightforward and secure. The minimum suggested donation is $50 but you could easily specify a lower donation by entering a different amount in the text entry box. The thing that I most liked about the donation process was that you can send up to 10 cards – electronic or paper-based – for any given amount. I’m most used to the World Vision catalogue and site where there seems to be a one-to-one correspondance between the gift of a piglet or the education of a girl and the card. It’s easier to cover off a number of people with a single transaction throught the Give Something Big site.

I’ve been searching for something that would be appropriate for Ken’s grandmother. You know the type: she needs nothing; she wants nothing; and she is so sweet and loving that you want to honour her presence in your life with a gift. I’ve donated to the Snowsuit Fund in her name in the past and also bought World Vision blankets. I selected the “social equality” card for her. It depicts a woman holding up the world and, really, if Grandmama isn’t a woman who has had her turn holding up the world, I don’t know who has.

Charities need our support more this year than ever, even though most people are looking for ways to save money this Christmas. When you Give Something Big, you save others from some measure of social inequality and injustice and that’s a savings that may count just a bit more. And, if I step off my soapbox for just a bit, I would remind you that last minute online donations are great for my fellow procrastinators out there. I made my donation at 6:10 am while sitting in my pajamas. The e-card that I’d selected arrived moments later (but could have been scheduled to arrive at a later date). The paper cards need time for mailing. If you’re thinking of this Christmas, I think you’re too late.

My only advice to Interpares would be to prepare a printable certificate to compliment their e-cards and print cards. There are some of us out here on the Internet who procrastinate until it’s too late for the print cards to be delivered but who want to give a card to a non-wired loved one.

Disclosure: Samantha offered to publicize my blog in exchange for me writing about Give Something Big. I’ve decided not to take her up on the offer in the spirit of the season but thought you might want to know it was on the table.


Thursday, December 18th, 2008

I got my language exam results back this morning. I got the “C” that I needed and so I was doing a little dance of joy as I walked home from dropping Reid off at school. It was a sort of French country dance, if you were wondering, and I was whispering “Youpi!” over and over. That’s how bilingual I am now!

Thanks to all of you who sent best wishes and also to everyone who restrained themselves from saying, “Enough about your French training already!” ;+)

The first day of the rest of my …

Wednesday, December 17th, 2008

Oops. I was posting this bit that I wrote yesterday but forgot to change the time stamp. It only makes sense for yesterday.

With my oral language exam behind me, I’ve taken time off until the New Year. At that point I will either return to work or school but for a few days I will be in limbo. And so today might not be anything as dramatic as “the first day of the rest of my life” but it is at least the first day of the rest of my week, at least. I’ve lots planned, of course.

I let Reid sleep in today since she fell asleep on the way home from school last night (though she claimed to be pretending) and since I was thinking I’d start running my errands right after I dropped her off and I didn’t want to be waiting for stores to open. Ken, Reid and I, joined by Bruno, shovelled the theoretical 5 centimetres – given what we shovelled, I’d be 6 feet tall – from our driveway and even from our neighbours’ half. Finally, I gave Reid her breakfast, refilled the dishwasher and chatted with Ken while he waited and waited and waited for his ride. Do you remember about the bus strike? Rush hour starts about 6am and lasts til 7pm these days. Between the strike and new snow, it took me twice as long to get Reid to her class. Still, I got her there safely and was dropping cookies off to Amanda just after 9:00. My next stop was the train station to exchange my on-line transaction receipt for actual tickets. The last time we took the train, I waited until the morning of the trip and we ended up having to run for the train. It was all going so well until I heard the car door shut and realized that I had broken a cardinal rule of being me: I locked the door with the switch instead of my keys! Remember the extra cars on the road because of the strike and the snow I may have mentioned, say 3 sentences ago? They’ve got CAA tow trucks all tied up.

I remembered something my older, wiser sister told me about getting a key from the dealership (fortunately located near the train station) to get in the car for $13.56 (cost of the key) plus $19.22 (cost of the cab), I’ve escaped the hours-long wait for the tow truck. Imagine if I’d left when Ken thought I should, I probably wouldn’t have locked the keys in the car – it wouldn’t have been my turn – and I’d be two errands to the good. Ah well. Hope your day is going more smoothly.

And how was your day

Wednesday, December 10th, 2008

The first winter storm of the year is just wrapping up – 25 centimetres of snow and some freezing rain/ice pellets thrown in for good measure – and the city buses which normally bring me to school aren’t running because of a strike but my day is going much better than I expected. Peter offered me a ride downtown and we left early enough that traffic wasn’t horrible. I got to school really early but was safe and not stressed. There are 2 of us here instead of the usual 6. I feel bad for the woman who is sick and for the others who couldn’t make their way in but I have to admit to be glad of the extra time to talk this close to my exam.

I hope your day is going well despite any weather challenges, labour disputes or what have you. I know Ken’s commute was more challenging and I don’t know exactly how I’m getting home after my extra class tonight but I’m focusing on this morning’s successes for now.

Mega, mega clipboard

Sunday, December 7th, 2008

I finally figured out what Reid has been singing off and on this past week. It’s “mega, mega clipboard.” I think that I’ve always heard it and known what it was but since it didn’t make sense I decided I was mistaken. Friday night, though, I made the connection between her song fragment and the Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer play we saw on Sunday and it finally clicked. Santa used a clipboard and every time the word “clipboard” was mentioned, the other actors would sing “mega, mega clipboard” a few times (or maybe they said, “magic, mega clipboard” which is how Ben remembers it). It was funnier to see and hear than to read, I think.

Reid has also been asking for what she calls “the Christmas song” but what is actually “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer”. We sang it at least a dozen times Thursday night alone. Now that we’ve moved the tv to the basement (and by “we”, I mean Ken), I can’t listen to the Christmas music channels that we get via cable and I’m not sure where my few Christmas music cds are. I’ll have to find an “all Christmas music, all the time” Internet radio station since my repertoire of songs is much more limited than Grandma Joyce’s.

Christmas comes early to Ottawa

Thursday, December 4th, 2008

We’ve had a couple periods of heavy snow and a few days worth of light snow and flurries here in Ottawa but these aren’t the only signs that Christmas is just around the corner. Reid and took part in our first Christmas activity last Tuesday when she got her picture taken with Santa and then on Saturday we attended Santa’s Parade of Lights in the Orleans part of Ottawa. I’d heard that the Help Santa Toy Parade (held downtown) was disappointing because of the low number of floats compared to minivans with signs on them and was a bit worried what Reid would think of her first-ever parade. (I don’t think we should count our experience 2 years when we waited in the bitterly cold weather for 45 minutes before abandonning the parade route without having seen a single float or having heard even a note from a marching band.

The temperature on Saturday seemed a good omen, though, hovering around freezing with no rain or snow. We went to Melissa and Peter’s for supper and then headed to the parade route to stand with friends of theirs who went earlier to save us a spot. It’s good to have friends who have friends like that. There was a bit of a scramble to find a place to park since we were later than we’d planned to be but we found a school parking lot. Since I’d decided to bring a stroller for Reid even though she is getting big for it, we were able to travel as fast as Ben’s 7 year old legs could carry him rather being limited by Reid’s speed – or my top speed while carrying her – over the 2 plus kilometres between the van and the meeting spot. We arrived with about 10 minutes to spare. There was a mat on the ground for the bigger kids and Reid sat in her stroller.

There were many floats and contingents from local schools, sports and arts organizations as well as politicians and other folks. There were some bands who marched and a couple who rode on flat bed trailers. There were quite a few fire trucks, historic and new, and there were fire fighters collecting money and toys for charity. I didn’t think to bring a toy but had some change for Reid to dole out. My favourite entrants were the high school volleyball players who played while their net rolled along and the OC Transpo bus that was “dressed up” as Santa Claus. Since the bus is red and white to begin with, the addition of the beard, eyes and hat made for a convincing St. Nick. If you could ignore the size, squareness and the people riding inside, that is. Throughout the parade, people were passing out candy canes and round hard candies. I remember scrambling in the gutter for candies thrown toward the crowd but people handed the treats directly to the kids. Reid must not have looked needy enough or worthy enough because she ended up with only 3 mini candy canes and 1 hard candy (that I wouldn’t let her eat for fear she’d choke, like I did on a cherry candy when I was her age and Roger had to do the Heimlich Manoeuvre to dislodge it). Ben, on the other hand, got enough candies to fill his toque and also a pencil. I was glad that Reid didn’t get more since it means that I don’t have to decide when she can have the treats. I’m lazy, I guess.

On Sunday afternoon, Reid and I joined Melissa, Sarah and Ben for a play called “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer”. The script followed the same story line of the tv show except Herbie the elf who wanted to be a dentist wasn’t in it, the abominable snowman wasn’t particularly menacing (for which I was glad) and Rudolph’s parents were entirely absent and so I didn’t  have to be angry at them for their failure to nurture his uniqueness. The cast consisted of 3 men and 1 woman from London’s Duffle Bag Theatre, plus 2 boys chosen from the audience to play Santa and Rudolph and a girl who played Vixen. There was a lot of audience participation – we all said “eee” when the smiles of the Christmastown residents (that was us) were mentioned and said, “hohoho” when the actors said, “Santa” and that sort of thing. Reid wasn’t scared at all (unlike at Goldilocks and the Three Canadian Bears) but watched with a bemused but happy expression. The staging of the play was minimalist – just a screen, a chest (the “duffle bag” I suppose) and the imaginations that each of us brought with us. The absence of elaborate scenery, coupled with the super-simple costumes, mainly hats and a red foam nose for Rudolph, wasn’t as overwhelming as the tv show is. Okay, confession time. I find the television version of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer to be more than a little creepy and I think Rudolph has mange or some other skin condition. Not that I could handle a repeat of trying to watch a Christmas special with commercials in it – the trauma caused by Reid’s incessant questioning on the existence, meaning and role of commercials is still to fresh in my mind. She is such a Treehouse and TV Ontario kid!

After the play, we went into the Canadian Children’s Museum and heard a couple of members of a klesmer band play some songs before going to do the craft for which I had registered everyone. We made lanterns out of balsa wood stars covered with tissue paper that held a small baby food jar and a votive candle. As we left carrying the kids’ works of art, I told Melissa that I was pretty sure that Ken would never allow Reid to light her lantern. Melissa grinned and agreed that Peter would hold similar views. Ken’s reaction didn’t cause me to doubt myself. When he saw the lantern he said, “That looks flammable,” in the sort of tone that made me think maybe I could light the candle in the lantern if I were far from him, Reid and our house but Reid wouldn’t see it. She hasn’t asked about it since Sunday but perhaps it should disappear anyway, eh?

Knights and boys

Wednesday, December 3rd, 2008

I have a pretty good idea of what Reid watches on television or hears in books, at least when she is at home. Someone, somewhere is talking to her about knights and dragons and monsters of other types. I wish whoever this person or persons are would stop. This morning, my sweet, little girl was telling me about a dream she had (not a nightmare) in which a knight “died” a monster. I resisted the urge to supply “kill” as the correct verb in this situation and decided I would ignore the sentence in the hope Reid would change the subject. When she continued talking about how the knights killed the monsters who didn’t share (apparently she *does* know the right verb), I told Reid that it made me sad that in her stories the knights killed the monsters rather than teaching them the right way to act. Reid explained that the knights tried to teach the monsters but if it didn’t work, then they killed them. Talk about a school of hard knocks! How does my little princess get so blood-thirsty?

I blame the boys in Reid’s class for the knights and the killing. If I weren’t even more afraid of an all-girl environment I’d be pouring over the brochures for a new school already. Just kidding. Well, mostly just kidding.

On the bright side, Reid isn’t afraid of the monsters.

Just two weeks

Tuesday, December 2nd, 2008

By this time two weeks from now, I will have finished my oral exam for French. I am sure that I will be stressed and eager for the results but dreading receiving them all the same. In the meantime, I’m attending extra French classes from 5-7 on Monday and Wednesday nights and also 9-11 on Saturday mornings. This means that I saw Reid awake for about 34 minutes yesterday. That made me sad. I really want to succeed and so I suppose the extra training will be worthwhile if I receive my level. I have friends who have activities – school and/or sports – in the evening two or three nights a week and I don’t understand how they do it. Maybe Reid will tell me at some point that I need to get my own life and give her some space but until then, I want to be there to eat supper with her and do crafts and read bedtime stories. I’ll share these experiences with Ken, of course. Don’t worry, I’m adapting to not being a single parent.

What I meant to do when I started writing was ask you to send me positive vibes on December 16th between 9 and 10 EST. Good luck charms, rituals and all other strategies will be gratefully accepted.

Advent calendar activities

Monday, December 1st, 2008

Andrea over at Peek inside the fishbowl wrote a few days ago about creating an activity-based advent calendar. She made little envelopes to contain the activity statement. I’m planning to reuse the advent calendar that I got from Starbucks last year. It has a box for each day. I love it and had planned to refill it with candies but, really, Reid isn’t that keen on candy and I don’t need the candy tempting me. I had started scoping out what we’ll do a few days ago but didn’t get finished until this evening. Rather than marking myself down for missing the first activity, I changed it. I love being in charge! Here is what I have planned for the next 24 days:

1. Read 1st of Christmas stories in Children’s Rhyming Bible Finalize the activities for the advent calendar 
2. Make photo ornaments with Melissa and her kids from the Oriental Trading Company kits that I bought 2 years ago only to discover they were too complicated for Reid.
3. Read 1st of the Christmas stories in The Rhyme Bible Storybook
4. Decorate the house
5. Shop for a client of the Shepherds of Good Hope homeless shelter. I received a bag and wish list from my Curves.
6. The Story of the Nutcracker by Orleans Young Players Theatre School
7. Make fudge for cookie exchange at Mama’s work after E’s birthday party
8. Write a letter to “Any Canadian Forces Member” 
9. Decorate a picture to include with the letter to Santa that Reid and Ken wrote a week or so ago
10. Read the 2nd of the Christmas stories in The Rhyme Bible Storybook
11. Visit Taffy Lane in Orleans (a street that goes all out to decorate) to see the Christmas lights
12. Bake shortbread for cookie exchange with Mama’s friends
13. Attend the Bare Naked Ladies “Snacktime” concert with a school friend and her mom
14. Attend the Humpty Dumpty pantomime put on by the East End Theatre Company OR visit Ken’s parents
15. Take a toy to Toy Mountain and have supper at A&W in the mall
16. Visit the reflecting ball at National Research Council. Take hot chocolate in a thermos. It’s about 3 minutes by car from our house and we’ve never went gone to look at it up close. It is particularly beautiful in the winter as this photo (not mine) shows.
17. Read the 3rd of the Christmas stories in The Rhyme Bible Storybook
18. Reid’s Christmas school concert (thank goodness my French exam is on Tuesday and I’ll be able to attend!)
19. Take the train to Grandma Joyce’s house. Dylan will join us in London
20. Attend storytime at the Leamington Library for a reading of The Polar Express
21. Attend Sunday school at the Wheatley United Church
22. Decorate Christmas cookies at Grandma Joyce’s house
23. Picnic under the Christmas tree
24. Have pictures taken of all of the kids in matching pajamas and go to Uncle Roger and Auntie M’s for a pizza party
25. Give Christmas kisses to everyone we see

I didn’t find a date for volunteering, something that I really want to start doing with Reid, or a visit to see Alight at Night at Upper Canada Village but I think that we could do these after Christmas. I didn’t write what book we’ll read when, but I did unpack a bunch of Christmas books this evening – I try to keep them collected together because Christmas stories in July seem a bit odd to me. We have more than enough books to do an advent calendar of only books but I like to read and re-read the same books throughout the month. Ken would probably support a one-a-day schedule for Christmas books, though ;+)

To read how some other people are tackling these activity advent calendars, visit Andrea’s post on the activities she has included and read all the way through the comments, even follow links to folks like Porter at Porter’s Ponderings and Lynn at Turtlehead.