Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Introducing the New Slim Guy in my Life

I am not typically a SUCKER for television infomercials . . . but once in a blue moon, when I am up in the middle of the night, nursing a baby, or perhaps a sick child, or even chasing my dog through a snow storm in my pyjamas, my groggy self will reach for my computer keyboard and I soon find myself ordering something online that I've been watching.

It is *always* something that will "change my life forever", is "a limited one-time offer", and more importantly - as luck would have it - I always manage to catch these infomercials at ironically the exact moment that "if I call now, I can save the shipping and handling fee and be sent four more items at NO EXTRA COST".

Is that fate, or WHAT?

On one particularly quiet night several weeks ago, I was nursing a sick baby who couldn't seem to get back to sleep. Bailing on my original plan to sit in a perfectly dark and quiet room to help rock her back to sleep, I headed downstairs to curl up with her on the couch and watch TV.

And there she was. She spoke directly to me. It was like she had stepped out of our flat-screen TV, just for a moment, to share with me all she had learned . . . and to offer her product to me for a one-time, limited price. She tossed around phrases like "30-day money back guarantee" and "one year warranty" and even beckoned me to view the online testimonials.

I instantly felt a connection with her. She was my new BFF.

Several days later, my husband suddenly became one of TWO slim guys in our house to which I have a very close relationship.

I give you - the H20 Mop:

Oh yes I did really buy a steam-cleaning water mop from an infomercial.

My stupid plastic mop had recently broken and I was fed up with trying to keep the floors clean. With three Things, a husband who habitually forgets to take his shoes off, and one dirty dog, I yearn for clean floors. Those floors on TV where you just know they're okay to eat off of.

And while I love my green cleaning products, some days I want to chuck out all my Pink Solution and grab a bottle of something filled with ammonia, bleach, and other cancer-causing chemicals that I at least know are actually removing grime from my floors.

This mop seemed like a good solution - no harsh cleaners, cleans with steaming hot water, it is lightweight, you don't need to fill a bucket or mix cleaner in it, and it genuinely works quite well. We don't have a big house, and I basically only do a small surface at a time - the kitchen after a dirty meal, the hallways after muddy paw prints make their way down them - so I'm not sure how this would fair in a large house with bigger floor space. I read some testimonials from people complaining that the floor stays wet after you use it - which I did notice a little, although my floors were certainly wet after I mopped, so it's not something I find that inconvenient.

No, I am not being paid by the mop people to write this, I truly think it's a neat, eco-friendly and green household product.

Not to mention that it's a good lesson in realizing that those voices speaking to you in the middle of the night may just have something valuable to share.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

A Crafty Mom's New Look!

Many of you have commented on my new look (and thank you, for that!). It is perfect for spring, a time of change and new growth.

I LOVE IT. It's so me, it's so amazing, I couldn't possibly be happier. This blog is an outlet for me and is something I cherish and consider a big part of my life right now.

The extremely talented Nap Warden did the entire design, and yes, that is ME in the header and she created the illustration. She oozes talent, without a doubt. If you are looking for a designer to meet any of your needs, be sure to check out her site. She is truly fantastic to work with.

She also created a new header for my menu planning and recipe site, A Crafty Mom Cooks. I'm thrilled with the complimentary header and how well it goes with this blog.

Also new to my blog (after nearly four pathetic years of blogging) is a new About tab, in which I actually highlight some information about myself. It had been sorely lacking for ages.

Thanks for checking out my site!!

Hitting the Open Road

Our Ottawa weather has been unseasonably beautiful and warm lately. To any boy of any age, that signals a busting out of one's bike to test it out on the open road. I assured Thing 1 that he was ready to embark on a bike ride sans training wheels. (He is a fabulous biker and didn't even need them last summer although I was reluctant to take them off too soon.)

We discarded the training wheels in a corner of our garage and headed for the street.

It was difficult to get decent pictures, because daddy was watching Things 2 and 3 at the same time he was snapping shots. But you can see Thing 1 biking on his own, with me running at break-neck speed to keep up with him.

Here I am running faster. Our neighbour John came out to catch a piece of the action. I mean, this was *big* news in Ottawa yesterday, folks.

I attribute Thing 1's success with biking to the fact that he learned how to bike on a Kinderbike. It is a bike with no pedals that teaches kids to learn how to balance the bike on their own, while pushing with their feet and forcing the bike to glide along. Here is Thing 2, now big enough to have graduated from his tricycle to the Kinderbike this season. Big thanks to my sister-in-law in Vancouver for getting the bike for Peter two summers ago . . . it has been well used!

Friday, March 27, 2009

PSF: Uh Oh

PhotoStory Friday
Hosted by Cecily and MamaGeek

Thing 3 is utterly fascinated with laundry baskets. Anytime she sees a bucket, basket, or box of any manner, she climbs inside. She's a curious little sprite.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

The Job Application

At the beginning of this week, I applied for a job.

I can assure you that it's been a dreadfully long time since I undertook sending my resume somewhere. Or even looked at it. You know, to edit it and make it, uh, current.

I've not kept it secret that I have a difficult time making decisions and that I often ponder and revisit my career/commitment-to-family situation.

Lately my brain has been in overdrive trying to figure out what I want . . . what is best for my family . . . what is best for me . . . what is realistic given the current state of the economy - and it is, honestly, just too overwhelming to deal with sometimes.

Since my last "what am I going to do with my life" post, some significant changes happened in our lives. My husband was unexpectedly laid off. Since I am currently not working, this had a huge impact on our family. For possibly the first time in my life, I was completely and utterly scared. To. Death. We have three children to feed, to clothe, to care for. How does one do this with no income? And for a short time, zero job prospects?

As luck would have it, March was a monumental month for decision-making. As Thing 1 celebrated his fifth birthday a couple weeks ago, I also hit a fairly serious milestone of my own. This month marked FIVE entire years of not working. I was flabbergasted as the realization dawned on me. Where in the world have the past five years gone? Oh wait, yes, I have been pregnant, delivering babies, nursing those babies, and taking full time care of each of them 24x7.

Right. O.K. At least I can confirm that I've been occupied.

With each baby I had a one year maternity leave, followed by an extra leave-of-absence as approved by my school board. In our board, a teacher may take up to five years leave and still maintain his/her full-time teaching position. Clearly, you can see where I'm going with this . . .

So here I am. Five years leave wrapping up and coming to an end, and the school board breathing down my neck to make a decision about the future of my career as a teacher. (Just to clarify, my current leave actually ends in June, so I am scheduled to go back to the classroom in September.)

Thankfully, Paul starts back to work at a new job next week. However, the job is a six month contract with a government department. That means no benefits, and no security that he will be hired on at the end of his contract for more work. Although it is likely, it is not certain.

And, thus, I decided that it may be in our best interest for me to go back to work in September after all. I once again started the onerous task of seeking out childcare for the three Things.

Yes, I am picky. Yes, I would like them all together. Yes, I would like them in a clean, happy, environmentally-friendly home where organic food is served daily. (There are seriously very few childcare providers who will take a baby in cloth diapers, I'm not judgin', I'm just sayin'.) Where they are outside every single day. In my neighbourhood, so Things 1 and 2 can attend the same school and take the bus with no issues or complications or having to cross borders or change school districts.

Oh wait . . . and could it be FREE?

I jest.

Due to the fact that teaching is my second career (in my previous life I was a PR professional/marketer/writer), I only have three years experience under my belt. This leaves me with a lower-than-average salary and a dollar amount per pay cheque that will leave me with very little (if anything) after paying for three children in day care, nearly full time.

But. I would get benefits. And job security. And summers and holidays off. And my salary will increase quickly each year I continue to teach. And that whole pension thing? Decent.

So a friend suggested I get a nanny. And I thought to myself, "a nanny - no, no, those are for very wealthy families . . . like people who have butlers". But I slowly began to think about people I actually knew who had nannies, and the list went from one to two, and kept ballooning, and I ran out of fingers to count on and I was suddenly struck with the realization that maybe this was a possibility for us. Upon doing some very basic research, it appeared that hiring a nanny would cost us the same or less than full time day care.

To cover all my bases, I requested one more year's leave from the school board. I have not heard back from them, and was told by their HR department that an extra year of leave is granted about fifty per cent of the time.

Ironically, the date of which your request letter for an extended leave is due, is within days of new job postings being listed for a new school being opened this coming September. Not knowing my status, I felt I couldn't not apply for a job.

The school is a junior high school. It is a brand spanking new school in a fantastic area and I could tell from an info session I attended that it would be a fabulous place to work. I checked the listings as they were e-mailed on Monday morning, and faxed in my resume. I worried that I wouldn't be contacted for an interview - for two reasons. Number one, I have no experience teaching grades 7-9 (although I am qualified) and have only taught grades 4-6. And secondly, my resume is EMPTY for the past five years. I've been told repeatedly that mothers who have been on leave are shown the same consideration as other teachers, but I couldn't get past the fact that I had nothing compelling professionally to show for the past five years of my life.

I can multitask like nothing you've ever seen? Finely honed time management skills? I have a fun little blog?

I wasn't contacted for an interview.

It was the first time in my life I was not even called for an interview. I have a lot of experience, in a wide variety of areas. Aside from the chunk of time that is the past five years, my resume is fantastic. I am extremely well-educated. I am passionate. I am creative. I am a team player. And I won't sugar coat it. I was devasted.

Where do I go from here?

I wait and see if my leave is accepted. If it is not, I will apply for the next round of jobs that open up in a few weeks. If I don't land one of these *better* jobs, the board assures me I will be placed somewhere comparable to where I had previously been teaching. Oh joy. I will do some soul searching and penny-pinching to see if going back to work is best for all of us. If I choose not to go back, I lose my position, my job, my seniority, etc.

If my leave is accepted, I will also do some soul searching so that I can be certain that being home for another year is best for all of us. I will go back to school and finish the last few credits I need to complete my Masters. I will commit myself to finishing the book I started writing.

I never in a million years could have foreseen this struggle I would encounter as I try to balance my career with being a mother. How do you balance both? How do I do what is right, and not lose me? How do I not lose them?

At the same time that I love it, it is so incredibly difficult sometimes being home all the time with three kids. As highlighted in Little Princess Chronicles, there are no performance reviews in parenting and no measurement of your success as a mother.

Being a mother is hard, hard stuff some days. It can really suck the life out of you. That's not to say that I don't adore my children and take pleasure in raising them every single day, but I'd be lying if I didn't admit that not every day is a bowl of cherries. They are more like a box of chocolates.

"You never know what one you're gonna get . . . "

I read this poem yesterday at the Noble Savage and was completely struck by its realism, its accuracy, and also by the deep feelings it elicited within me. Some days this SAHM thing just totally burns me out. I yearn for adult conversation, for my intellect to be stimulated once again, to be useful, to be important, to step outside the confines of my front door and WEAR HIGH HEELS AND A SUIT.

For today, I tackle the one job for which my resume is exploding with silent accolades.

WANTED: One passionate, experienced and loving mother to three Things.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

WW - Exploring Colour

Thing 3 and her little buddy had an absolute blast with these.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

A Valuable Lesson in Damp Clothes

Just over two weeks ago I tiptoed downstairs to the basement to pull out yet another load of laundry from the dryer.

A family of five - one of whom is a fourteen month old in cloth diapers - creates an inordinate amount of laundry. Even after instituting such laundry rules as "don't throw it in the laundry hamper if it's not dirty", which soon evolved into "don't throw it in the laundry hamper if it's not terribly dirty", I still manage to do at least one load a day. Doing one load each day seems to exponentially decrease the chance that I will have to spend one day a week with my head lodged inside my front-loader watching 45 loads spin themselves squeaky clean.

In the summer, when I am fresh, tanned, happy and organized, I put one load in the washer at night and set the handy dandy timer for 5:30 a.m. the next day. This ensures that the load is done by the time I get up, and I am able to place the clothes on the clothesline to dry before any Things even wake up. If I need to do a second load, the first load is always dry before noon, affording me ample time with which to hang up another set of clothes.

In the winter - or spring as it appears it is now, even though there are still traces of snow on the ground here - I am forced to use my dryer to dry our clothing unless I care to bring them in off the line as crisp and hard as overcooked bacon. The dryer is an integral part to the smooth running of life in my household. It means the baby has clean, fresh diapers. It means the jeans that "fit" me can be worn. It means the twelve outfits Thing 2 changed into and out of throughout the day and shoved in the laundry hamper totally clean can be once again . . . cleaned.

You can imagine my despair and utter dismay when I realized my dryer was not working. The clothes I had placed within its round confines with care were still damp when I retrieved them. Damp clothes have no place here, I thought to myself. I quickly scooped up the load and rushed over to my mother-in-law's to complete the drying process.

When I returned to our house, I found Mr. Fix It (aka my husband, the Things' daddy) behind the dryer, disassembling it and working feverishly to target what the problem was. After several such attempts, and numerous more trips to his mother's to dry my clothes, we decided we would need to purchase a dryer. New or used, it didn't matter, it just had to dry fabric to the point that it is not "damp".

Since we are no longer "unemployed" and Mr. Fix It had recently secured himself a most excellent contract job with the Canadian Federal Government, we felt we would completely splurge and buy ourselves a brand new Kenmore dryer from Sears. There were several models on sale, and we ended up getting a fabulous price for the matching counterpart to our faithful old front-loading washer that we purchased over ten years ago.

Remaining loyal to his ever-frugal tendencies, Mr. Fix It told the young salesman that, no, he would not have the dryer delivered to the house, but rather he would save himself $100 and come pick it up himself. Mr. Salesman then explained to Mr. Fix It that he could also drop off his old dryer at the same time (usually they charge you $20 to remove the old appliance from your home when they drop off the new one). Wow, it's like we're making money here.

After reorganizing the entire laundry/craft room, Mr. Fix It and I were able to remove the old dryer, carry it up the stairs and load it into the van. After removing the car seats, and van seats from the van. And then vacuuming the van, because, heck, how often do we have the seats out and the ability to clean it, anyway?

Mr. Fix It called upon his trusty neighbour and friend to assist him in picking up the new dryer from Sears and bringing it back to the house, so that I could stay home and watch the 3 Things. Trusty friend rocks. He came. They went. Dryer arrived. Dryer was assembled, set up, plugged in and . . .

New dryer also doesn't work.

The old brain doesn't work like she used to, but it didn't take a rocket scientist to figure out what happened. However, after much trickery and white lies, Trusty friend and Mr. Fix It tried to pull a fast one on me. Not happening. Busted. I may not be "handy" like Mr. Fix It but I am certainly "crafty" (and intelligent) enough to ascertain that we needed a new fuse and not a new dryer.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

WW: Spring is Coming to Ottawa

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Taking the Dog out of Dog Park

We are fortunate here in Ottawa to have a couple of beautiful dog parks where you can take dogs to roam free and run around off-leash.

As animal lovers and dog owners, we have always taken advantage of our close proximity to Bruce Pit, Ottawa's West End dog park. We have been taking Rudy there regularly for his entire life, and started taking him there when he was about three months old (he is six years old now). When Thing 1 was a baby and trekking over to the park was much easier than it is now, I used to walk Rudy there every single morning, seven days a week. I'd carry Thing 1 in my baby carrier and we'd hike through the trails with Rudy running free and following us through the woods.

It's a beautiful park. It encompasses several acres of wooded area, paths and open fields with plenty of room for hundreds of dogs to run free and play. On a weekend at mid-day, it is not uncommon for a couple hundred dogs and their owners to be at the Pit. Now that we have three Things, our excursions to the park are fewer, but they still exist.

We took advantage of today's beautiful spring-like weather to take the kids and the dog to the Pit just shortly before lunch. Things 1 and 2 are hearty enough to walk the trails now (at other times we have pushed them in our double stroller or pulled them in the wagon), and I carried Thing 3 on my back in her backpack. We were at the park less than ten minutes when we approached a group of people walking their Boxer. There were several adults and a young girl. I am always slightly timid around bigger dogs, as Rudy has had a couple of run-ins in the past where a larger dog has been very aggressive with him.

I should note that Rudy is a very social dog and is well adjusted and in tune with the "unspoken" rules of pet behaviour at the dog park. He has completed dog obedience courses and is very comfortable around other dogs. He is submissive and will lie down or roll over when he is hassled by another dog. He plays well with other dogs and is an extremely friendly pet.

Before I knew it, this Boxer was playing very aggressively with Rudy. I firmly said "Rudy, come" and tried to urge him away from the other dog - I could see early on this was going down a bad path. Rudy backed down and tried to walk away but the Boxer wouldn't have it and kept egging him on, jumping all over him. Within seconds he was starting to attack Rudy, biting at him and jumping on him aggressively. With Thing 3 on my back, there was no way I could bend over to pick Rudy up (something I have done in the past when he was attacked). The path was extremely icy. Paul had Things 1 and 2 by the hands and could also not let go because of the ice. We felt so utterly helpless. Eventually the owner managed to pull his dog off of Rudy, at which point the young girl with him states, within earshot of us, "Why does he always act like this?????".

THIS is what ticks me off. If this dog had exhibited aggressive behaviour in the past, why bring him to a public dog park and then proceed to let him off his leash? Why not keep him on his leash, put a muzzle on him, or - even better - STAY HOME?????? This is the third or fourth time this has happened to us in the past couple years, and I've just had it. Paul and I basically feel like we cannot go back. Irresponsible dog owners like this are making it impossible for families and friendly dogs to feel comfortable walking in this public park.

I've also heard stories of children getting bitten or attacked by dogs here as well, and there is no way I am going to put my kids in danger of getting hurt because some ridiculously careless dog owner brings his/her aggressive and uncontrollable dog to a public park. And, for the record, my children are typically belted into a stroller or wagon, although this was not the case today because the weather did not permit it. They have been well instructed never to approach a strange dog and they know well to never touch a dog they don't know.

Neighbours a few houses down from us had their dog attacked a few weeks ago at Bruce Pit. The dog (I'm not certain of the breed, but she is slightly smaller than Rudy, who is a 30 pound cocker spaniel) was mauled by a Pit Bull and was so terrified she ran out of the park and got lost. She was gone for 48 hours on two of the coldest nights of the entire winter. By some miracle, a woman found their dog, called them, and after several visits to the Vet, she lived and is recovering well. I thought about this incident this morning as we drove over to the park, and perhaps I lacked adequate judgment when I took my entire family over there today. To enjoy some time together and go for a hike on a beautiful, sunny, glorious March morning.

Thanks to the irresponsible, reckless behaviour shown by some Ottawa area pet owners, I truly doubt that we will go back. Get a clue, people. If you can't control your dog, or don't want to, don't take it to a PUBLIC dog park. And if there happens to be a next time, and one of your dogs decides to attack my absolutely precious cocker spaniel again, you can be guaranteed that I will a) kick your dog's ass, or b) take you to court.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Happy Fifth Birthday, Thing 1

Five years ago today, my precious Thing 1, you were born at 8:09 a.m. in the master bedroom of the home in which we still live.

From that moment on, our lives were to be changed forever. And then, faster than we could say "Thing 1", you turned five years old and it was almost as if someone had momentarily taken the remote of life out of the tight clutches of my fist and pressed fast forward. I can hardly believe five years have passed, yet in other ways it seems as if you have been with us for an eternity.

It's undeniable that parents - mothers especially - have a deep, intense bond with their firstborn child. As luck would have it in my case, you are evolving into a miniature version of your mother, in ways too numerous to count, or to name. (Thankfully it appears as if you father's intellect, however.)

Where could I start? You have a certain zest for life, my young boy, and a passion that carries you through each day with pizazz. Like me, you are a deeply emotional and sensitive individual. You listen carefully to those around you, to what others say, and you listen intently to those who are your friends or your family. Hurtful words can sting you and leave a lasting impression, yet words of hope, encouragement and praise can lift you up higher than the clouds. You aim to please and seek praise and love as you carry out your daily tasks and as you tackle new experiences. Yet as a loving mother, I know in my heart that you already feel and take pride in everything you do, that you yourself are proud of the flowering little plant you are each day becoming.

Watching this growth is fascinating to me. I revel in the absolute joy that is your childhood. Small and inconsequential things amaze you, as do the bigger, more rich and significant things. Yet you give them equal weight, not preferring one over the other.

You are still happiest when you are playing. You beg for "ten more minutes" to play before school, before meals, before your bath, and before bed time. The world is an unexplored game to you, and you are able to create with your vivid and expressive imagination just about anything, anywhere, at any time. Perhaps it is because I am such a creative person that I find such satisfaction in contemplating and admiring your unleashed creativity. I have never, in all my years as a babysitter, teacher, coach, parent, or friend seen a child make something out of anything. When you didn't have the latest Transformer "Bumblebee", you hardly blinked before picking out a yellow matchbox car from your toy box and christening it Bumblebee. When you became an avid Indiana Jones lover , you immediately reached into your dresser drawer for the freshly-ironed, new brown dress pants I had bought you for church and put them on "because they are exactly like Indy's". You found a crisp, white shirt in your closet and put it on without an undershirt "because Indy had a bare chest too". You searched through the special, secret box under mommy's bed for the bag that was just the right size and colour to replicate the bag that Indy carries over his shoulder on all his adventures.
I've enjoyed your journey in school this year, and am pleased to be such an integral part of it. Our walks to and from the bus stop have become special times for us to bond and discuss the intricacies of your afternoons in kindergarten. You are an extremely bright boy - something we certainly didn't need your teacher to tell us - and it is so satisfying to me as a parent to see a child of mine excel at school. You are starting to become more comfortable in French and are blurting out more and more words in la langue francaise.

I think that something that stands out to me over the past year is how much I have witnessed your maturity level flourish. Five certainly seems to be the age in which you are becoming polite, thoughtful, empathetic, and even more kind hearted than you were before. Your thought processes are deeper and on such a different level than they were when you were three or four. Conversations with you are some of the best parts of my day. Your increasingly quick wit and humour brighten up even the most difficult of days.

Although I sometimes worry that I have not enrolled you in enough activities, I know that you are still young and I take pride in the fact that you play so well with your brother. At only 18 months apart, you and Thing 2 are inseparable for the most part. He worships his big brother, and you let him . . . graciously. You're a born leader and I can see in your eyes how eager you are to teach Thing 2 the ways of the world, as seen from the eyes of a slightly older brother. You don't have to be patient and understanding (most of the time) when Things 2 or 3 take your toys, but you choose to do that. It is important to you to include them in everything you do, and that inclusiveness is what makes the three of you so close.

As much as I value our family time together, I adore our special one-on-one time. You have reached that distinguished age where it is possible to take you out in public and truly enjoy your company. We can go to movies, go the library, go out to lunch, without the worries that are attached with carrying out these tasks with a toddler or preschooler.

Happy Birthday, Thing 1. Thank you for adding that little bit of spice to our lives, for enriching each of our days, and for reminding me on a routine basis that I am, indeed, the luckiest mom in the world.

Sunday, March 08, 2009

The Indiana Jones Cake

Thing 1 had his fifth birthday party on Saturday. He turns five on Thursday. I have hardly come to terms with the fact that he will be FIVE. Years. Old. Wow.

My plans to keep his party simple evolved nicely and the party was a fantastic hit!

I stayed up late Friday night putting together his Indiana Jones birthday cake. It cost me next to nothing and was ridiculously easy to make. I got the cake idea from Life As Mom, and just adapted a few parts of the recipe. Thing 1's face exploded with excitement when he saw it, which made every minute I put into it more than worth it.

As the birthday boy readied himself to blow out the candle on his cake, I reminded him to close his eyes and make a wish, and that if he were to blow the flame out, the wish might come true.

My heart strings were hardly prepared for what oozed out of his little lips next.

"I wish that everyone here will be my friends forever."

Gah. Pass the tissues, please?

We had 10 little boys over for pizza and cake and games and general craziness and chaos.

They had a blast. Chocolate-smudged lips to prove it!

After I had recovered from my post-party clean up and my blood pressure dove back down to a healthy reading, I enjoyed a cup of tea with my husband while we chatted about the amazing group of boys with whom Thing 1 is friends. They are really fantastic, and we are just so blessed to have a group of friends with such wonderful boys. We can only hope that this same group of boys is back around our kitchen table sharing a slice of chocolate cake in ten years.


Life has been unseasonably mild here in the nation's capital. After a beautiful and sunny weekend with temperatures above freezing on both days, we have seen a significant amount of our snow melting away.

We are not complaining, in any manner.

Just to put this in perspective, here is a photo taken one year ago tomorrow, right outside our home.

This was me, the first in the house to get up, surveying the damage after the storm and trying to dig out two square feet for our dog to sneak outside to use the bathroom.

When you live in Ottawa, you are ready for Spring as soon as you flip that calendar over on February 28th. You yearn for sunshine and the ability to be outside for longer than five minutes at a time. And while NOTHING could come close to how much snow we had last year, we are still eagerly counting the days until we can bare the white flesh of our toes in sandals and run freely across our front lawn.

Thus, with unbridled excitement and anticipation, the 3 Things huddled in front of our living room window to watch Daddy chip away at the sewer grate so the melting ice and subsequent water could flow underground and not flood the street.

As luck would have it, I caught a moment here between Thing 1 and Thing 3.

Thing 3 waved at her Daddy for 20 non-stop minutes. (See? She DOES have hair in the back!)

Managed a close-up of the not-sick-but-teething-red-blotchy-mouth-and-runny-nose face.

Upon asking Thing 1 to go to his room to "cool down" on Friday evening, I returned to invite him to join the rest of his family for dinner. His pre-birthday party excitement was too much. He passed out on the carpet of his bedroom. Ah, to be five again.

What am I talking about? I'd settle for 25 again!!!

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Keep It Simple, Stupid

It's uncanny sometimes where a mother's priorities lie.

When Paul was laid off from his job in January, one of the first obstacles that popped into my head was the fact that we had a son turning five in March. And that he would require a birthday party of some sort. How would we pay for that??

Not . . . how will we feed and clothe ourselves or provide a roof under which our Things could safely live - no, this mama's stress level skyrocketed because of a birthday party.

Now, thankfully I have done a lot of research and have figured out a way to have this entire birthday celebration cost us very little money. We are not big "party" people and I am outspoken about not being a fan of the over-done, lavish, and ridiculously expensive children's birthday parties that are taking place on a regular basis around the globe. So this wasn't a stretch for us, although I did want to take extra measures to keep us within budget.

Here are some simple tips:

1. Make your own invitations. Better yet - send them online or use e-vite. Have your child help - you can use paint, crayons, chalk, sponges or any simple craft materials to create a simple, personal invitation in a few minutes. I made this very basic card out of stamps and cardstock that I already had on hand at home. Nothing too flashy or complicated, and a set of ten took me about 45 minutes. So far the response I've had from the parents who have received them has been fantastic. People always appreciate that extra personal touch.

2. Make your own cake. I rarely attempt this myself, but I found a cake for Thing 1's Indiana Jones' themed party that appears to be fool-proof. I think that even I can make this. I found a design at a local bakery, but it was going to cost close to $50. No thanks.

3. Plan party activities that don't cost money. It was easy to find Indiana Jones inspired games and activities online when I googled it. I got some great ideas and plan to do an obstacle course and have the children search for hidden "treasure". Some of the tips I came across were very indepth and totally overboard, but it is easy to take any idea and simplify it.

4. Keep food inexpensive. When asked what his choice was for lunch, Thing 1 insisted he wanted to order pizza from his very favourite pizza shop around the corner. If it were my other son, I'd make the pizza myself and he'd be happy, but since this tends to be the only pizza that Thing 1 enjoys, we will splurge on the pizza. A couple of pizzas are not going to run us into the poor house, and I assume all the children will be happy.

5. Don't go crazy on the loot bags. I'm dumbfounded by how much crap parents are sending home with kids in their birthday party lootbags. Remember when you were a kid and you got a pencil, a balloon and a stick of gum and you were elated? Not anymore, people. Loot bags are big business. And since I am anti-crap, I took the $5.00 per kid I would have spent on junk and bought each child a Lego fireman or policman, as pictured in the picture below. (They don't sell the Lego Indiana Jones characters separately, or I'd have been all over that like Raiders of the Lost Ark.)

My Things are obssessed with little "guys" and carry them around with them everywhere and play with them non-stop. I've noticed a few of their friends share this obssession, and I assume each little boy will be pretty excited to go home with a new little city employee of his own. And I can't take credit for this fabulous idea, my friend Julia did this at her son's party last fall, only she sent them home with Playmobil knights. Thing 1 and Thing 2 played with their knights for three months solid, every single day. And they still bring them out at least twice a week.

I didn't mention decorations, because we plan on just keeping it simple. A few balloons and a Happy Birthday sign that I already have will be perfect for a bunch of four and five year old boys.

So it appears we will celebrate Thing 1's birthday this Saturday, completely within our budget and with stress levels in check.

Stay tuned for results of the my temple making debut . . .

Sunday, March 01, 2009

We Feelin' Better

I'd like to extend my apologies for the lack of interesting and thought-stimulating content on my blog the past few weeks. The never-ending sicknesses, unemployment woes, and general harsh winter climate in which we live have rendered my abilities just short of useless.

The end, however, may be in sight.

My three Things are on the mend and are looking and feeling much better.

A huge thanks go out to everyone who commented, e-mailed, and twittered me with well wishes and kind thoughts for Thing 3. Yes, she has indeed turned a corner and is looking like she has almost kicked her pneumonia for good. She snuck in a few smiles over the weekend, a sure sign that better days are upon us.

Back to exercising her climbing abilities . . .

And sticking stuff in her mouth . . .

Did you know Spiderman gets his super spidey abilities from eating a daily portion of blueberries???

I can't believe they're gonna make me eat this stinkin' puddin'.

A really long scarf keeps everyone's necks warm.

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