Tuesday, June 29, 2010

A(nother) Celebration!

Everything from daylight savings time to new shoes
is worthy of a celebration in this house. So finishing up a great year
at school is REALLY someting to celebrate.
In the past we went out for dinner
 Because we have an unusually busy social calendar this week, eating out wasn't a viable option, so we scaled down to Dairy Queen sundaes!
Not a lot of complaints from the honourees.
We give some gifts to the kids, which they entirely forgot about until we called a family meeting.
While I might fairly be accused of going overboard on gifts, and don't we have enough STUFF,
the emphasis for the end of the year bonanza is books.
And outdoorsy things.
Badminton racquets and water pistols this year.
You can see how those things work into the don't-drive-Mommy-mental plan.

Grade 1 + Grade 3 = Complete

It seems like just yesterday I was kvetching with the kids to get the perfect first-day-of-school picture
And now I am kvetching with them to get the best last-day-of-school picture:
Notably, the backpacks are in tact, if only just barely. The handle on Sydney's goes only half way up, which makes even me at a modest 5 foot 1 inch bend over to drag it around.  Jackson's handle won't go down without a lot of brute force, which he always enjoyed exerting.

But here we are at the end of another successful year and I reflect back.

Goals for grade 1: for Sydney to make friends and feel included and part of the class in school. In kindergarten, she was still finding her place.

She accomplished these goals in spades. She found a few closer friends who she played with more, plus a wide circle of friends with whom she played on occasion. She had play dates with well over half the class, some boys included.  She felt very a part of the mix at school.

While I worried about her sensitive soul surviving the playground battlefield, we had one issue, where she became the turf in turf war between two older girls. Remarkably I managed to stay out of solving this problem (quite a feat for a control freak) and the playground supervisors worked out a solution.

Sydney’s report card calls her an “exemplary role model”, “a cheerful child” and one who has a “strong work ethic” and “self motivated learner”.  We're proud of you Girlie Goo!

Goals for grade 3: for Jackson to adjust to new teachers, having left his teacher of 3 years and to become slightly more responsible. By the latter I mean for me to visit school lost and found at least twice during the year and not find something that belongs to him.

Jackson adjusted well to new teachers and to the increased structure and expectations of grade 3. While we have many epic battles over the practice of spelling, I do believe that his spelling has increased markedly.  He no longer spells light as "lhit".

My trips to the lost and found were largely fruitless this year. I mentioned to one of his teachers how pleased I was that he was becoming more responsible in keeping track of his things. His teacher pointed out that he walked by the lost and found about 8 times a day on his way to or from his class so perhaps he just had opportunity to see his hoodie/water bottle/gym shorts and retrieve it. I embrace even the fact that he may have noticed his wandering belongings.  We did not lose one water bottle or lunch bag this year.

Jackson is described in his report card as a “kind and helpful student”, “rather quiet” and one who “comes to school prepared to learn” and “has great ideas”.   You make us proud, J Boy!

One final note, these apples do not fall far from the maternal tree.

One of Sydney's learning goals was to check her writing for capitals and periods. Jackson also needs to take the time to proofread for errors in his writing.  That suggestion was on my report card every year until I went to law school, I think.

Regular readers of this blog will know just how inadequate my proofreading still is! I must remember to tell them to going into careers (as I have) where you can have someone proofread your work for you.  Good thing they were born in the era of (admittedly fallible) spell check and grammar check.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

R.I.P. Sydney's Dance Career

This will be my final post on Sydney and dance. I think.

Sydney began her dance career at age 3.5 at the local community rec centre.  She insisted she wanted to be a ballerina.  It's hard to remember back that far, but I actually resisted signing her up. I blogged about it, otherwise I may have forgotten about my aversion to words like "princess" and "ballerina".  Something about my feminist principles.  Her adorableness in her purple dance leotard with built-in tutu enchanted me and trumped all principle.

Then we took a break from dance.  The "dance" she had been participating in was not much more than running around the class with a hoop or ribbon and the occasional pirouette.

Last June, Sydney and I decided that she might try dance at a "real" dance school for the coming year. We saw a little potential in her. She really is more a fast music type of dancer so we were looking at hip hop or jazz.   I scoured dance schools in the TriCities area for a laid back school.  I found none.

So I picked a school which had a class that fit into our tight schedule. From September to June for 45 minutes every Monday, Sydney went to hip hop.  It's a class for 6 to 9 year olds. I think all the other girls were 8 or 9 so she was really the smallest, youngest and least experienced in the class.  She did kind of like hanging out with the older girls.

In April, she informed me that she didn't like being on stage in front of a lot of people.  So I had some low grade anxiety for the next couple months over how she would do.  She was not too vocal about it. I made sure to mention casually about her year end performance every few days, just so it wouldn't entirely catch her by surprise.  She seemed okay by it. Okay enough that I invested in dance tickets. For our family and my parents and my in-laws.

Then of course, dress rehearsal day, put everything in jeopardy.  I started to regret paying $150 for tickets to witness the dance spectacle.  Quite apart from potentially wasted money, was this just too much pressure for a 6.5 year old?

In the end she did well on the night of her first performance. She seemed pleased that Oma and Opa came and watched her.  She did well on stage (see photo).  Surprisingly, I loved the two hours I saw of the show, even if that was just the first half.

Sydney LOVED and I mean LOVED the backstage time with her pal V (both in costume and makeup in photo).  They watched movies, ate snacks and played games.

On Saturday, the day of her second and final performance, she was noticeably excited to have Granny and Grampa AND her Daddy and brother come to watch her.  I was backstage supervising the girls. I barely saw Sydney. Again, she hung with her girlfriend V.

Here is team Sydney:
But lest you think the Girlie Goo has changed her mind, she is certain that she is done with dance. I am very proud at how she performed, even though it made her a little uncomfortable.  I am also proud that she knows herself well enough to say, despite the high of all the compliments and attention, that dance is just not her thing.

How to Ensure Chaos at a Year End Dance Show

Two years ago I blogged about creating chaos at a year end gymnastics show.  It was actually the most hits I ever got in a day on this blog because some rather well-known gymnastics coach, with whom I have no affiliation, posted a link to it on his website.

As one commenter, Annie said  "I think your gymnastics school and my dance school have the same business plan."  Turns out this year, Annie's daughter had a  painful experience at her dance school this year, due to the same organizational issues.

Little did I know, I would experience more of the chaos creating administravia.  So I am coming out with Chaos 2.0, how to ensure chaos at a year end dance show:

1. Make everyone thinks you are organized by sending a letter in September with the June dates of the dress rehearsal, technical rehearsal and performances. Make a big point of pointing out the importance of these dates. NO ONE SHOULD FORGET THEM.  MARK YOUR CALENDARS NOW.

2. Ensure that everyone at the dance school forgets about the dress rehearsal and has blank look on their face when asked about it.

3. Pretend that size matters when it comes to dance costumes. Have everyone measured in November for their June costumes.

4. Ensure that one small 6 year old who ordinarily wears clothes sized 3x to 6 gets a size 11/12 costume.  It also helps if you distribute the costumes at the latest possible moment, even though the costumes are on hand for  months.

5. When a size 8/10 becomes available for the small 6 year old and a seamstress measures for alterations, make sure that she only shortens the sleeves and legs.  The fact that the costume is 2 inches too long and 2 wide in the torso is of no consequence to anyone but the poor mother, who has so few sewing skills she staples or tapes hems rather than sews them, has to try to pin costume to fit.

6. Make sure the seamstress does not take the costumes home to alter so that the costumes are not available to try on any time before the fancy photo shoot. Also ensure costumes are in flimsy bags so pieces can easily fall out.

7. Send out email one month before the photo shoot weekend that the must be available for pictures in June, but don't tell anyone when they have to show up.  Make them block off the entire weekend because it's June and really no one should have anything else going on for any family member in June. If any agitated parents shoot any emails, first ignore them. When pressed make promises like "the info is coming out soon".  You can reassure parents by saying "we never send this information out early".

8. When the photo weekend arrives and costumes are finally available, if anyone sees a bag of "extra" costume parts which fell out of the flimsy bags, the MOST IMPORTANT THING is that every costume bag has three pieces. It does not matter that a little girl whose size 8 pants are supposed to be tailored down to a size 5 gets size 10 pants. What is important is that there are pants in every bag.  The pants don't need to match the top of fit the girl to whom they are intended.  Make sure if any parent is at all perturbed by the fact that her daughter has to again walk around holding her pants up, absolutely no one is available to deal with this.  You may not be able to help if the overworked seamstress and dance Mom does know what is going on and is able to facilitate a switch in pants.

9. Make an arbitrary rule that no one can get their individual photo taken unless their parent has already paid for it, but do not tell anyone about this rule. A few parents will hear about it from other parents in the know (Thanks C!)  but most will hear when it's too late. Do not let anyone pay for the photos early, like the week before.  This would reduce the amount of chaos that would happen when you have multiple groups of girls finding costumes, getting changed, getting makeup and false eyelashes applies and hair done up in specified formations. 

10. When anyone asks about the year end show, under no circumstances are you to tell anyone what night their child may be dancing, even if they might want out of town grandparents to attend.  Do not even know how many nights the kids will be dancing (or if you do, don't reveal that information). Or make guesses like "I think it will be just one night" or "I assume that she'll be dancing Thursday and Friday".

11. About two weeks before the show, send out a email and tell people where the show will be, but don't give the time.  Tell families they will have an initially minimal allotment of tickets, but don't tell them how many tickets are allotted. It's much more chaotic to require families to email requesting these details and for you to have to send a second email.

12. This part is very, very important.  Make sure that on the weekend when you are doing all the photos and  taking secret payments for the photos, make this the time when people must buy their allotment of tickets so the lineup will be snaking through the tiny waiting room. This ensures the staff, though giving it their level best, will be most frazzled.

13.  When people come to buy their tickets, do no give them a receipt or anything that acknowledges how many tickets they have purchased.

 14.  If you really want to be considerate of families, on Sunday night phone families who have not purchased tickets.  But call at least one family who DID buy tickets and tell them they should buy tickets before they run out.  Make sure you call the cell phone and not the home (main) contact number when anyone would be sure to get the message.

15.  When one of the families calls back after receiving the message that they should buy tickets, to say that they already purchased tickets, say to them "yes, you have 4 tickets for Saturday night" and when they say "no, 2 tickets for Thursday and 2 tickets for Saturday" express doubt. Confirm their name by giving them the name of someone else.

16. On opening night of the performances, have three lines: one to pick up tickets from the box office; one to check in dancers and one for people lining up to enter the theatre.  Have all these three lines going the same direction.  When people are streaming into the lobby, it is important that you have no one giving directions so people will have to wander around, even after the lineups have been separated, to try to divine just where they should be. Sure, families that have done dance shows before will figure it out, but it will seem and feel very chaotic for any families new to dance shows.

17.  Back stage, make sure that large numbers of girls are packed into one room. Don't have any official supervision.  Just hope that enough parents show up to keep the girls under control.

18.  At intermission, be VERY suspicious of any parents who want to go backstage and pick up their children, because taking a 6 year old home at 9:15 on a school night, instead of 11 p.m., is really something surprising.

19.  When that same parent goes to look for her 6 year old and she is not in her assigned room, or any other room or hallway, don't have anyone she can ask.  If a teacher does happen on the scene have her say very quickly "she should be in there", and point to one of the rooms the parent has checked 5 times, and run off. It's important that absolutely no one show any concern over a missing 6 year old.

20.  Allow at least one 6 year old to sneak out by "security" to see her grandparents in the lobby at intermission. This would be the same security that was loathe to let parents in to find their child. 

21.  Even with all this chaos you will not be able to help putting on a charming, funny and remarkable show.  The kids will make it so.  Despite the chaos.

[In the interests of full disclosure, by the final night of the show, they had the three line ups clearly delineated, and had the long queue for people lining up for good seats OUTSIDE the theatre. That meant much less chaos inside. Someone was posted at the door to direct people. And they have 2 people checking in the dancers.  So I give full credit for improvements.  Of course, this is not the first year of this dance company, and one might be tempted to ask why they didn't learn these things from last year]

Friday, June 25, 2010

Art of Persuasion

I estimate that I spend about 21%  of my waking hours persuading my children to do things.

If there is anything that prepared me for motherhood, it's three years in law school and fifteen years of practicing law before I released any progeny into the world.  All the legal training (which is really trying to persuade some one of something), plus two million odd debates I had with my parents growing up (e.g. persuading them to let me go to debating camp), really prepared me for persuading my children to do stuff.

In the last week I have spent a lot of time trying to get Sydney to lift her scatological embargo (previously known as bum sparkle see here is you're confused). 

On Sunday, I was persuading Jackson that he wanted to stop making his Lego movie and come to Father's Day celebrations at his auntie's. 

Most of last week was spent persuading Jackson to go to an appointment yesterday that he did not want to go to.

I think I have earned my persuasion badge many times over.  It takes a delicate mix of logic, compassion, understanding, empathy, love, begging, bribery, threats, guilt and the mean Mommy voice to persuade the seemingly unpersuadable.

It's one of the few things I have figured out about motherhood.

Tuesday brought new challenges.

Sydney had her dress rehearsal for her dance year end performance..  You may recall she has expressed enormous fears reticence about performing in front of a lot of people.  She says she has stage fright. I think she can have remarkable stage presence. It does, apparently, make her uncomfortable. At this point, I consider us committed to the year end show.  She has seemed, while not excited about it, willing to see this thing through. We have already agreed that this will be the last year for dance.

Tuesdays I work and Husband manages all matters domestic.  Usually this entails the ushering children to and from school, the attending the odd art class and the settling frequent squabbles.  Yesterday it required getting Sydney to the dance dress rehearsal.

I briefed Husband on getting Sydney into the dance costume. For a guy that has trouble getting Sydney into some bathing suits, he was quite game.  You dance Moms know of what I speak. For the non dance readers, think straight-jacket with sequences.  I also told Husband of the important hair requirement -- high pony tail with matching hair ribbon. Notably, I did not even mention the pink lipstick and blush -- I figured he had enough on his plate.

I admit was I was a bit nervous about the business and I actually tried to figure out a way to be at home to manage this, but the planets did not align.  Husband had it all planned out and was to leave the house at 3:40 to get to the theatre by 4:00. 

At 3:35 I received an urgent call from home.  I expected to hear about ponytail issues. Sydney was outright refusing to go.  She had a sore knee, she said.

Admittedly, she did skin her knee badly the day before which I'm sure was smarting.  Husband had tried the usual bandaid assortment to no avail. He suspected it was less about the knee and more about the anxiety about performing. He was getting twitchy. I asked to speak to my daughter.

My plan: get her to the theatre.  She did not actually have to rehearse, but I wanted her to see the stage before actual performance night or we were going to have a whole new set of problems. I also knew once she got there, she would likely rehearse. 

"Sydney, is your knee sore?"

"Yes!" she whimpered.

"I know.  Did Daddy give you a bandaid?"

"Yes."

"You don't have to dance but you need to go to the rehearsal."

She sobbed loudly.

"I know your knee is sore, but you need to see what the theatre looks like. You can tell Miss Nicole if you knee is too sore to dance. Okay?"

"I don't want to go."

"I know you don't and that your knee is sore, but you need to go."

After several rounds of I-don't-want-to / but-you-need-to she reluctantly agreed with the Mommy plan.

I told Husband the "good" news and hung up, leaving him to negotiate the costume, ponytail and drive to theatre.  Apparently it was a loud ride to the theatre as Sydney moaned and whimpered and did not seem to embrace the Mommy plan as I had hoped.

The remote Mommy persuasion, more than a little sweat equity by Daddy, and three sequential miracles accomplished the mission.

Miracle #1:  Sydney arrived at the theatre, and seemed somewhat willing to entertain the idea of dance IF she could have a bandaid exactly like the one Husband had just taken off her at home, at her insistance.  Husband does not travel with large bandaids that cover her entire knee and in fact we were out at home as well.

Someone at the theatre had the exact bandaid required..

Miracle #2: Jackson was an excellent accomplice in this endeavor.   He is known to be mildly helpful with Sydney at difficult times, but his reading of the situation was perfect. He spoke to her quietly in the car about going.  Once at the theatre he said "hey Sydney, I can do a dance routine!" and he did a break dance meets epileptic seizure for his sister. 

"Watch me do one!!" she said and did a similar seizure performance.

"Hey Sydney", he said matter of factly, "looks like you can dance after all".

If anyone else had said that she would have probably collapsed into tears and moaned about her knee.

Husband saw his opening and ushered Sydney toward the green room where her instructor ushered her right to the stage where she performed her whole routine.

She came out of her 3 minute practice on an even keel, which was really as much as we could have hoped for.  Husband called me to triumphantly report that he actually got her to the rehearsal but warned me it might be a very tough sell to get her to perform on Thursday or Saturday.

Then, along came miracle #3, in the form of my girlfiriend C. She is seasoned dance Mom to three girls.  She saw Sydney and complimented her on her costume.  Quite without knowing it, she said everything to Sydney that she needed to hear.  C. wanted to see Sydney perform, she said how much fun it is to be backstage and that Sydney could play with V (C's daughter).

By the time I came home, Sydney said the rehearsal went well and was excited that she'd get to play with V on Thursday.

We have one performance down and one to go.  I will be blogging in excruciating detail about the unbridled chaos that is (or seems to be) the year end show.  If you care to do any advance reading, you might peak at my blog from 2 years ago How to Ensure Chaos at a Year End Gymnastics ShowYou'll find some striking similarities.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Father's Day

Sharing a little art and written word:
Sydney decided to show Daddy her hip hop dance routine, which was a surprise to all.  She has been reluctant to practice (year end show this week!). It would help if you would admire the costume, which cost us 4 months of my Starbuck's allowance:
Though we don't usually exchange gifts purchased at stores, Husband was treated to a new lounge chair.
It also doubled as a brain teaser as he (and I) spent the next 45 minutes doing this:
And finally, success!!  Recline. Sit. Recline. Sit. This must be good for the back!
I think this is where the grumpy portion of our day started (I'll let you divine who is grumpy).
I still don't know about what.
This year's poems:

 My SUPER Dad
One special thing about my dad is ... he loves me and I love him.
My dad's favourite thinkg to do is ... read me a story.
My favourite thingk to do with my dad is ... to swim with him.
My dad's favourite food is ... chocolate.
Here's why I love my dad!  He picks me up evin when he has a sor bake.

Happy Father's Day Dad!!
Love from Sydney

Why My Dad is the Greatest 
He likes to work in the garden with me.
My dad is happy when we experiment on the computer.
MyDad's favourite food is steak on the barbeque.
My dad hardly ever gets angry at me and he is very kind.
My dad looks great when he puts on his exercising clothes.
I like to play with my dad.
My dad is the greatest!!! 
HAPPY FATHER'S DAY, DAD!!!!!!
Love, Jackson

Saturday, June 19, 2010

To me: Three Decades Ago.

Dear Me in 1980;

This is a letter from 30 years into the future.  I have so much to tell you.

There are going to be some really cool inventions that will change your life.  Take telephone communication. You have yet to experience the answering machine.  You can actually leave a message for someone who is at home ignoring your calls. 

Oh, and one day you will be able to talk on a phone at home and go to the bathroom at the same time because of the wonder of the cordless phone.  I don't recommend flushing while you are speaking to someone, unless it is your husband (more about that later). 

Even further into the future, there are these phones that work almost anywhere.  Think Get Smart, although no one I know has one in their shoe. Most people have them surgically implanted onto their waist or at their ear.

And you know those buttons on the phone, the * and #, that everyone is always wondering why they are there? Well, there will be exciting uses for them in the future that will negate the need to ever speak to a human being at any business in the western world.  Really fabulous technological advances.

Plus if you want to communicate with someone in another city, you won't ever have to write a letter. It will be cheap to phone them.  I would tell you about thing called the "internet" where you can write someone and your letter will magically go to the other person, but I didn't believe it until I saw it and then I thought it would never catch on, so I'll just let you discover it yourself.  You will be glad you took Typing 10 even though there is little chance you will ever be a secretary.

So to the more personal stuff, you know how at 105 pounds you think you are a little chubby and you really want to be 95 pounds? Forget that nonsense and enjoy the milkshakes and french fries while you can!

What I think is important to tell you, which you will actually discover in the next few years, is that in the real world, no one will care who you were in high school.  I have yet to hear anyone say "you know I was a jock in high school" and have anyone think that this is anything but sad and pathetic.  Being a former high school geek will not impair your life.  Once you're in the real world you just make friends with people with whom you have something in common. It is much simpler.

While I'm on the subject, you will make a lot of great friends over the years -- some you will have for decades.  Some will  be for a season in your life.  Find people with whom you can be yourself and laugh and talk and cry.  You will come across people that are really annoying, stupid, rude and pushy.  These are not your friends.  Be polite, but don't spend a lot of time worrying about what any of these people think of you.  Just minimize your time with them and enjoy your real friends.

Friends will be important because it is going to take you two decades to find someone to marry who will put up with you treasure your uniqueness.  IT WILL BE WORTH THE WAIT -- DO NOT SETTLE! 

For the next 21 years,  I would really enjoy being able to sleep in on Saturdays, to finish a cup of coffee every morning and to not have your IQ diminished by TV cartoons (yes, they are still around, only they are worse).  Once you hit 39 you will not be able to do any of these things.

In closing, I will say that the next three decades are good ones. You experience many things, grow in ways you didn't know possible.  You will have some losses, some setbacks, but you have 30 fantastic years ahead of you. Enjoy the ride!

From, Me in 2010.

p.s. if you have a minute, you might copyright the words "Facebook" and "Twitter" and that will allow us to have a really fantastic retirement. Also, do not buy stock in Enron, Worldcom, General Motors or British Petroleum no matter how profitable they look.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Married, With a Kiss

Sydney and I were watching TV and a clip showed a couple on their wedding day.  The bride and groom kissed in front of the church.

Sydney: Are those people married when they kiss?

[not the first time the kids have thought the KISS is what makes one married]

Me: Well there's a ceremony where they are married, then they kiss.

Sydney: So after the ceremony and the kiss, then God sends them a baby?

[DANGER  ...   DANGER   ...   DANGER]

Me: Umm ... well  .... ya see ...

Sydney: How does He know when?

[Sydney keeps asking why A, our former Nanny, doesn't have kids. We attended her wedding last year]

Me: Well, when the wife and husband decide the time is right.

Sydney: But I thought God made the babies?

[not this again]

Me: Do you want some chocolate?

Monday, June 14, 2010

Thirty Thankful Thieves

Sydney has a tiny issue with her hard TH sound. She sometimes almost always says F instead of TH.

"I fink so Mommy"

"I told you FREE times Jackson!!"

"Fank you Daddy"

It was be a gross understatement to say that Sydney is resistant to any suggestion that she could stand to improve at all on her pronunciation.

Tonight, with only a few weeks left in grade 1, I thought that again I might make a tiny suggestion (even though I think it is supremely adorable and part of me wouldn't mind if she went to high school talking like that).

"I fought you did do that Mommy" she said to me tonight.

I put my tongue between my teeth to make an exaggerated TH sound and said to her "you THought I did do that?"

Sydney puts her teeth exaggeratingly into her lower lip and says (with a smile) "yes, I Fought you did"

So I tried to get her to say THirty THankful THieves.

"Firty, Fankful Fieves" she repeated again and again.

Jackson is aware of the whole TH vs F debate going on in this house.  In fact he's taken to pointing out the Girlie Goo's mispronunciations with the slightly mocking voice that only one sibling can torture another with.

Tonight whilst I was trying to get her to pronounce thirty thankful thieves correctly, he said to Sydney,  "Hey Sydney say thuck"

Which she did.

And that is how Sydney learned the boy F word.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Betty Freakin' Crocker

One thing I have been making the past few years is Mennonite meat buns or fleisch piroshki.  They are buns with a little ground beef mixture inside. My ethnicity is Mennonite (and yes, it is more than a religion or faith) and I grew up with meat buns and regular buns or swiebach. Both my grandmas used to make them, and then my mom became the purveyor of the Mennonite.

In the olden days it was alot of work. I remember my Grandma N. getting up very early and getting started on her buns.  She would mix up the dough which involved kneading and punching for what seemed like hours. The Tupperware bowls of dough would be wrapped up in about 4 blankets to keep the dough warm enough to rise.  The meat was cooked and then put through the manual meat grinder -- the kind that attached to the kitchen table.

I was so not made to be my grandma.

As you can well imagine, I don't get up early to make my meat buns.  I don't knead. I don't swaddle the dough or grind any meat.  I have a Kitchenaid mixer, a microwave and a Magic Bullet to do the heavy lifting in this project. 

Clean up is a challenge, I grant you. Especially the way I do things.  But I make these so we have another lunch option for the kids, who love them.  Husband who partakes in the nightly lunch-making ritual is so grateful for the meat bun stash he often enthusiastically clean up after me.

Our church is having a pot luck tomorrow.  Last night, I called the woman who is organizing to see what hadn't been volunteered.  It seemed there was a dirth of breadstuffs so I said "I'll bake some buns tomorrow".

Husband looked askance at me after I got off the phone "You were joking, right?"

I had a plan. I was overdue to make meat buns and sweibach is made in my family using the same bread recipe. So, I ventured, I'll just do an extra batch and make buns for church.

So Saturday afternoon operation Mennonite was underway.  I had enough of all the ingredients to make a triple batch.  I thought I might just need do double, but it's good to be prepared.

I warmed up the milk in the microwave, exactly 2 3/4 cups. One thing about making buns, because of the yeast, it is a little unforgiving.  But I've done this enough and made pretty much every mistake, that I confidently, if not cockily,  measured in the sugar and salt before plopping in the entire 3/4 cup of shortening in one block.   I am so ahead of the game because usually I forget to take the shortening out of the fridge before hand and it's not soft. But today, it's at room temperature. So I skipped a key step of breaking the shortening into bits. 

I turned on the Kitchenaid, a little too high, as it turns out. That big block of shortening was basically a paddle which splayed the milk all over the counter, the floor and me. 

I was less concerned about the mess than I was about losing an unknown quanity of milk.  The proportions could easily be all wrong.  Husband and I approximated the spillage and I hoped I could make up for the margin of error with flour.

Mistake two, which I don't realize until it was well too late, was mistakenly putting on the cookie dough attachment instead of the dough hook.  I don't know whether the cookie dough attachment would knead the dough appropriately.  I didn't get that far.  The dough squished up the attachment and into the top casing and caused grease to start leaking out. I initially thought the contaminant was contained and I used way too many dinner napkins (easy at hand) to clean up the mess. I was ready to resume the mission when I saw grey swirls of grease in the dough.

Down the sink.

Meanwhile, Husband was gamely cooking up the meat for the buns.

We have had a few issues with Sydney eating the meat buns because first I tried to use some whole wheat flour. Rejection.  Then I had the audacity of using ground turkey instead of ground beef. Thumbs down. Finally the only sin was "they don't taste like Oma's".  After consulting with my mother, the culprit seemed to be the consistency of the meat. Oma still grinds her meat, so I used the Magic Bullet to replictate the meat grinder.

I told Husband about the magic of the Magic Bullet in this application.  I mentioned I did it in small batches. I neglected to say "do it only for a few seconds". And Husband and I define "small batches" quite differently. 

The result was ground beef mousse.  I wasn't sure how our panel of judges was going to treat this development. 

We talked about aborting the mission entirely at this point.  I mean really, the signs were all there.  But nothing would be worse than having to clean up a huge mess and have nothing to show for it.

So Husband somehow salvaged the meat and I washed the Kitchenaid business and got to work on attempt number two.

It was all going pretty well. I put the bowl of dough in the microwave on the lowest setting for 15 minutes. I let it sit another 15 minutes to rise. And I pulled the bowl of dough out of the microwave. 

Fully cooked. And not having risen.  It was about the size and consistency of a basketball. (We know the consistency because Husband and I ate way too much of this undercooked gigantor bowl shaped bun).

The  garborator was the only one benefitting from this endeavor.  We decided we'd buy buns for church and that I would make my third and final attempt solely for meat buns for the kids' lunches.

I am happy to report on my third try the dough behaved, I blobbed in the shortening appropriately, I used the right attachments and figured out that when the microwave says PL10 it means "power level 10" not "power level 10%" as our last microwave did.

A little more elbow grease and the buns were formed:
Cooked:
And ready for lunches:
Now, about the clean up:

Friday, June 11, 2010

Activity Day 2010 Style

It was activity day today. Also known as sport day or track and field day.  The school makes it all about being active and runs it more like a carnival and less like a track meet.  Kids travel from station to station sometimes enjoying an individiual event and sometimes put into ad hoc teams.

I just read last years blog about same and I am struck with how similar things are for us this year. Last year,   Jackson was up very early (well, he was up late today, but yesterday of course was a 4:32 wakeup call); I had a similar refusal to take allergy medicine and similar confrontations over the computer.  I guess June will always be like this until they invent time travel and we can jetison ourselves from June 1st to July 1st with ease.

Back to this year.

In a multi system SNAFU, every weather source we consulted said  "cloudy in the morning, clearing in the afternoon" or forecasts to that effect.  The rain, which has been here all week was to have stopped last night.

We woke up to rain. 

In uncharacteristic and unwarranted reliance on the meteorological science, I put the kids in shorts, and brought hats and sunglasses.  I should have brought umbrellas and dry socks.  It misted through the morning but turned to heavy rains in the afternoon (when fortuntately all events were over). But the staff had a full array of indoor activities that were enjoyed by all.  The misty rain, which came and went throughout the morning, did not stop any of the fun. Like ...
Face painting
Bean bag toss:
Hula Hoop:
Scoop ball:
Skipping:
Ring toss:
Good old fashioned dancing:
And the ever popular tug of war:
I, on the other hand, participated in the parent events. Such as:

1. The Weave and Bob: this event requires enormous dexterity getting photos of ones own children participating in events, while protecting camera gear and all body parts from bean bags, hockey sticks, rings, bowling balls, skipping ropes, and most especially young children playing musical chairs, which is developing into a full contact sport.

2.The Elementary Shuffle: this event takes timing, intuition, logical deduction and speed as one tries to locate ones children in one of 15 events held inside and out of the school, on two levels and in one portable.  The rotation is not in logical order and one must anticipate the rotations.  Advanced version of this event involves doing the shuffle while caught in a starwell with at least 4 classes charging to their next event.

3. The Fairness Foxtrot: this event, often combined with the elementary shuffle, requires parents to spend equal time with at least 2 children in the school, without being absent from either for too long.  The children must barely notice you left. Extra marks awarded for parents who are actually with their child who suffers an injury and no other parent is required to do the Elemenary Shuffle to repatriate patient to parent, while stopping by the office for an ice pack.

Good bye Sparks; Hello Brownies!

Sydney has been involved in Sparks, the youngest group of the Girl Guide organization.  This week she was "advanced" to Brownies, the next group up.

Of course we are all about celebrating in this house, so we went en famille to see Sydney advance.

One could have made a valid argument with Jackson's declining composure and the increasing grass pollen counts that none of us should have to endure a bored J Boy on such an outing.

But Sydney has been to three tae kwan do ceremonies celebrating Jackson so we thought (okay mostly I did) that the boy could go outside himself and celebrate his sister for once.

We left nothing to chance and brought his Nintendo DS along for company. 

Jackson played more DS than we initially wanted but he did close down his game to watch Sydney recieve her plaque from here leaders.
Once the ceremony was over, he took more than a passing fancy to her plaque. And she enjoyed being celebrated, most especially by her brother.
Lest you think there was nothing in it for him, he was rewarded with a cupcake with about a cup of icing.
As was she.
Sparks has been a great experience for Sydney.  She has enjoyed outings, service projects, making friends and one rockin' sleepover.

It has been an organizational challege for me.  There are many events and times and days change as needed, and particular things required on particular nights.

One night it was heritage night.  The girls were supposed to bring something from their heritage.  Sydney decided to bring the Scotland flag as her grandparents (on Daddy's side) emigrated from there.  We had it sorted out days in advance.  She coloured a flag and had it ready to go. And then it got buried under piles of impromptu craft projects, spelling practice sheets and school notices.

I completely forgot about it.  I didn't notice other people bringing in plates of Italian cookies or Dutch wooden shoes.  By what can only be explained as divine intervention when I got to the van, I suddenly remembered. 

I called Husband to get him to a) look for the flag Sydney had coloured or b) print out one from the internet as I raced home.  This might have worked perfectly if our printer wasn't on the fritz. When I stormed in the door looking for the flag to quickly shuttle back to Sydney at Sparks and Husband was tapping his fingers on the printer, while Jackson, who had been unceremoniously bounced off the computer, waited impatiently and sighed excessively.

We eventually got the printer to relinquish its hostage and I raced back to Sparks.  I wheezed a huge sigh of relief when the girls were still going around the table sharing their items. I slipped the flag quietly to the Girlie Goo.   I waited for her turn and she stood on her chair and said in a loud and clear voice that her grandparents were from Scotland and this was the flag.  I was so proud.

But even prouder when, after Sparks, I asked her what she would you have done if I hadn't remembered at the last moment.

"I had it planned out Mommy. I was just going to say that my grandparents were from Scotland and that the flag is blue and white and I forgot it at home"

She took her circumstances (forgotten flag) and accomodated.  I know grownups who aren't equipped with that kind of coping skills.

Brownies here we come!

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Dear Teacher,

I know that you basically only ask two things of parents: that we send our kids to school well rested and well fed and that we ensure they do their homework appropriately.

About that first one, you should know that is was not our idea to get Jackson up at 4:32 this morning. It was entirely of his own doing.  "I can't help when I wake up" is what he told us.  We made some feeble efforts to get him to stay in his room until a respectable hour, say 5 a.m. but those efforts were met with Taliban-like resistance. 

If it makes you feel any better, the entire family was up early because when an 8.5 year old gets up that early and tries to get on the computer and gets messages like "google chrome is about to crash", they are not known for being quiet, reserved, measured or controlled. 

About the whole homework thing, I know when you asked Jackson to write his name in cursive writing 2 days ago, you perhaps did not envision that he would do it in a lime green felt marker.  We assume you wanted him to redo it last night because the homework came back, but in the absense of his planner we were only guessing. 

If you wanted him to redo his cursive in something really off-the-wall like pen or pencil and not a lime green felt marker (again), then perhaps you could mention that to him.  He is not ceding to our suggestions in that regard.  He did do his cursive on lined paper, as you requested. But you didn't mention anything about actually following the lines.

Let me close by saying, for the next 6 hours in which he is in your charge, good luck with that. Better you than me.

Jackson's Mom

Monday, June 7, 2010

Search and Resue: The School Years

What seems like an eternity ago (two years) I blogged about Husband and I conducting reconnaissance missions to find the kids' stuff. Most notably at bedtime when various and sundry loveys are required for nocturnal peace.

Nowadays, for the most part I have solved ever having to look for anything by never putting anything away.  Every is strewn from corner to corner of our house.  I am blessed with a very good memory which, in addition to carrying me through law school by allowing me to memorize ridiculous number of cases and facts, also helps me to (mostly) remember where stuff is.

So in the morning when Sydney can't find one shoe, I'll remember that it's in the main floor bathroom behind the toilet plunger.  When Jackson asks where his DS is, I'll know he left it on the bathtub ledge in our en suite bathroom underneath a towel and two magazines.  If you ignore the fact that we live in far too much clutter to ever let us exhale, it's a good plan.

So while I have to search for an occasional library book, for the most part our search and rescue days are over.

Or so I thought.

Sydney had show and tell scheduled on June 7th. The last show and tell (it's monthly or so) I neglected to take note no doubt because we were down one parent (i.e. me) to get stuff done and my brain which normally keeps this outfit running was overtaken by physical fatigue of lunch making, bedtimes, discipline and chauffeuring.  Since I didn't know about it I didn't  mark it on the calendar so I would remember. Which meant Sydney had nothing to share at show and tell.
Which she has not let me forget about in the last two weeks.  Every four hours without fail she reminds me that she had nothing last time, she asks when the next show and tell will be or muses on what she will bring IF I don't forget again.

Since June 7th was show and tell day, a Monday.  In a remarkable feat of advance planning and organization, I told Sydney to pick what she wanted for show and tell on Friday and put it in her backpack.  In a remarkable feat of lack of follow through we all forgot about it as soon as I uttered those words. 

Until it was Sunday after dinner and Husband and I were in the "what-homework-do-they-have-let's-clean-up-this-place-make-lunches-and-we-definietly-need-to-change-the-beds-tonight" mode. A few hours to do things we had neglected all weekend.

I asked Sydney about shows and tell.  She wanted blankie. Or by-ya, her purple blankie that has been her lovey since she was a baby.

"I haven't seen that in a while" Husband said foreshadowingly.

"It hasn't been that long since we've seen it" I said naively. I so have this. I am hands down the best finder in the house.  Jackson tells me all the time.

"Mommy, since you're the best finder in the house, can you tell me where I put that rock I brought home from school in grade 1?"

And I will check a few spots and I usually find it and I will get a congratulatory hug from my son. It's one of the few mystical powers I have left since the kids have figured out that I don't actually have eyes on the back of my head.

Back to the search on Sunday night, as Husband finished up in the kitchen, I went upstairs to look for Sydney's blanket.

I figured a thorough search of her room would yield results. I was wrong.  A quadrant search of the the entire upstairs proved fruitless. I moved down to the main floor where I checked every nook, cranny and empty void except the kitchen cabinets and found no purple blanket.

I did find my Teva sandals, which went missing circa 2007, underneath the sink in the laundry room.

I bravely went to the basement.  The kids have been playing carnival down there lately and there are chairs set up with one stuffie on each chair. They are waiting for some sort of show to start.  It makes walking, never minding searching difficult.  But I dug to the bottom of the dress up box, I looked in every doll bed, stroller and empty box as I know they use blankets so everyone from  Simba the lion to Woody the cowboy can sleep comfortably.  I even checked in the freezer, in the shop (where children are STRICTLY FORBIDDEN) and in every empty bag or pretend oven I could find. No purple blankie.

I did find the "chocolate blankie", the one the kids are always fighting over in the morning. It's normal place of rest is family room but it went missing circa April.  It was in the storage room (also off limits to kids).  I also found a hallogen flashlight. Turned on. Inside a wall cavity. (Do you see what I'm up against???)

I headed back to the top floor to start the cycle again. This time with the Halogen flashlight to aid my search.  I checked under and behind furniture more carefully.   I momentarily thought I had struck paydirt when I felt something wadded up in a set of sheets waiting (patiently) to go on our bed.  It turned out to be a towel.  I searched through both linen closets without success.

I checked Lego bins, in large boxes of too-small clothes waiting to get hand-me-downed and in dirty laundry baskets.  I did a second sweep of the other two floors before heading upstairs for sweep number three.

I should add that I asked Sydney quite frequently, with increasinging annoyance, if she remembered where she put it / when she last played with it / when she last slept with it.  She disavowed any knowledge of its whereabouts and really any responsibility for keeping track of her things. (I know, that is my fault.)

Somewhere between sweeps 2 and 3 I started to get really concerned. That blankie has a lot of sentimental value for all of us (well, not sure about Jackson, to be honest).  We would collectively be very sad if it were never to be found.  It was Sydney's constant companion for about 4 years of her life. It's hard to remember Sydney as a 2 or 3 year old without thinking of her with her by-ya, her pink puppy and her soothie.

I called down to Husband to ask for the fifth time if he has any more ideas. Sydney wandered onto the scene. I'm hoping ONE of them will have a brainstorm, an inkling of where it might be.

Then I see it. 

A pink backpack that Sydney used in preschool when she was 4.  She re-discovered it a couple weeks ago and has been filling it with random things and carrying it around the house and unpacking said random things in various spots in the house (you see how we get overwhelmed by clutter).

"CHECK THE BACKPACK!!!" I shouted. 

Husband bent down to pick it up and Sydney said with equal parts confidence and disdain:

"Mommy, I KNOW my blankie isn't in there."

But Sydney proved to be a very unreliable source and Husband pulled the blankie triumphantly from the backpack.

Nothing feels as good as a big find even to a champion finder like me.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

The Other Squeaky Wheel

I just blogged about the squeaky wheel that is the J Boy.  And the next day I was confronted with my own prejudice as to just who is the ungreased wheel.

On Friday (the day after operation birthday card),  I was looking forward to going to my bootcamp-ish fitness class. I've been on quite a fitness kick lately and part of that is getting my bahookey kicked at bootcamp at least a couple times a week.   Normal bootcamp classes are either early in the mornings ( I don't even consider that option) or in the evenings which conflicts either with the kids' activities, or my desire not to do anything more strenuous than make lunches and load the dishwasher.

So I hit the jackpot when I discovered a Monday/Wednesday/Friday 9 a.m. class because I can get there straight after dropping the kids at school. And I don't work Mondays or Fridays and Wednesday I work from home and I still have time to exercise.  Often some such activity happens on one of those days but I have made it at least twice a week for six weeks.

So, as I said, Friday I was looking forward to bootcamp getting my workout over with, and it dawned on me that I hadn't been to family math in Jackson's class since April.  Because I've been going to bootcamp.  Family math is where parents are invited to supervise math games in the class for about 20 minutes on Fridays.   The first few weeks I had the bootcamp vs. family math dilemma, I asked Jackson if he wanted me to come to family math and he gave me his usual "I'm okay with anything", so I took him at his word and went to develop a few long neglected muscles.

Part of my justification well thought out rationale for not attending family math was that when I go, Jackson becomes extremely intense if he gets frustrated with the game and hurls incivilities at me.  I'm pretty sure that when he's playing a math game with anyone else's parent and he momentarily thinks 6 times 7 is 45, he won't say to them venomously "that is YOUR fault".

But we are nearing the end of the school year and it dawned on me that not many family math days are remaining.  So I asked the J Boy if he wanted me to come. He gave me a familiar response.

"I'm okay with anything. You can come or not. Whatever you want is fine with me."

Sydney, in contrast to Mr.I'm-Okay-With-Anything, LOVES and I mean LOVES it when I come to her class.  I think once all year I couldn't stay for family math and it was a grave hardship she had to endure and I heard about my parental neglect for weeks.

So on Friday last, in the name of excellent parenting, I decided to grease the non squeaky wheel and pushed myself at the gym for one Friday and forewent bootcamp.

I would love to tell you it was a Hollywood ending with Jackson saying "thank you for coming to family math.  It really boosted my self-esteem and made me proud that you are my Mom. I'm pretty sure I'm going to mention this at my wedding when I thank you for all you have done for me."

No, I got an intense "you're going to pay for that" under his breath when I committed the unpardonable parental sin of suggesting he add his numbers up vertically instead of horizontally.

But I will continue to grease both squeaky and non squeaky wheels in the hopes that when my kids end up on a therapist's couch (which is a given) it won't be because they think I favoured the other one.  Or, it will be because BOTH of them think the other was favoured. Which will be evidence enough for me that I got it right.