Thursday, December 16, 2010

Easy Stained Glass Paper Art for Children

It has most definitely been a long time since I've blogged.  I'm touched, and sometimes floored, by the number of friends, readers, and total strangers who often drop me a line to tell me how much they miss reading regular posts from me.  Yes, that kind of stuff means a lot to me. 

Yes, I did return to work in September and life has been more than harried and stressed since then.  There's a lot to say regarding that, but I think I will save that for a separate post.  For now, it's the holidays and I've missed blogging so much that I couldn't stand NOT to post a few holiday craft ideas.

I have done this stained glass paper art activity with several of my classes, and tried it at home with my 3 Things this year.  It's fun, easy, and looks fabulous on dreary, cold windows this time of year.

What you will need:  

Crayons
(they must be wax)

 Small dish of vegetable oil
Cotton balls or cotton pads
8 1/2 by 11 plain white paper
The first step is to draw your picture or design (with the crayons) on your paper.  Whatever your design is, you need to make sure that there are no white parts of the paper left visible - it should be completely covered in colour.

Coloured stripes or designs in the background work very well, and show up much better when you hang these in your window.  It is best if you outline the coloured areas with a dark black crayon, creating borders and edging for the picture.

When your picture is entirely coloured, you are going to dip your cotton ball or cotton pad into the vegetable oil. 


Rub the oil over your picture, until the entire paper is saturated with the oil.  


When you are finished, you will have a glossy sheen all over your paper.  Hang the oily paper to dry for a good 12 hours.


Last step is to hang the pictures in a window that gets lots of light. 
You'll notice the oil has created a "see through" effect, making your coloured paper look like real stained glass!


These decorations are sure to add a festive, colourful, holiday touch to any classroom or home window! 

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Home-made crayon muffins!

Do you have mounds of broken, old crayons lying around?

Do you have children? Then of course you do!!!

I was looking for something to do with all my bits and pieces of old crayons - this activity is a blast and my kids LOVED doing it.

Gather all your old pieces of crayon - unwrap them and peel the paper off. Place them all together in a bowl. The more colours you have, the better.
Then you take a sharp, large knife (make sure children are only watching at this point!) and chop all the crayons into little pieces, about 1/2 - 1 inch thick.
Place your crayon bits in a muffin tin (we used the small muffin tin). Have the kids mix up the colours and create designs as they wish.
Bake the crayon "muffins" in your oven at 350 for about 15 minutes. Let them cool for a good long time, and then place them in the freezer for half and hour - they will "pop" right out of your muffin tin for you!
Voila - you have created your own multi-coloured crayons!!! Lay out some paper and have your kids get creative . . .
These are a great idea to do for loot bags or birthday party activities as well!!

Monday, June 07, 2010

Reflecting: Part One

I have been feeling a sense of upheaval and change regarding my blog lately . As many of you know, I am returning to work full-time in September, and with that date approaching quickly, I guess I don't really know what will become of my blog. It scares me, it saddens me, but I am just trying to be realistic. A full-time job with three young children is likely going to be all that I can handle. I've considered taking the blog down, but I don't feel ready to do that yet. Last night as I walked my dog through the tree-lined streets in my neighbourhood, a song popped up on my iPod's shuffle mode that really spoke to me and made me want to write this.


The Cranberries' "Zombie" blasts from the dusty and archaic black stereo speakers in their ninth floor apartment. The girls had been painting for hours - all day to be exact. The upbeat music oscillating through their veins pulsed alongside their adrenaline, keeping them going long after they should have taken a break. Empty coffee mugs and the leftover pizza they had ordered for dinner were all that were visible in their plastic-covered condo.

"It looks fantastic!" first girl exclaimed to her roommate, her eyes wide like saucers from too much coffee and an overdose of paint fumes.

"Yes, it does," second girl admitted, giggling incessantly as she scanned her own handiwork. "We could totally ditch our degrees and become painters, you know."

The pair had just completed their third year of university. Their thrifty landlord had responded to their pleas to give the apartment a new coat of paint by offering them paint at no cost. So they could paint the walls themselves. As these young ladies matured, they would see how they were "swindled" by their landlord with an unrecognizably thick French accent. But at the time, they were pleased to have completed such an onerous task, a welcome reprieve from their final exams and a brief interlude before they started their summer employment.

"I'm exhausted", second girl proclaimed. "I could lay down right here on the carpet and go to sleep."

"Maybe we should have a beer to celebrate our success?" first girl suggested.

"We don't have any beer," second girl reminded her thirsty friend.

"We could go pick some up?"

Second girl was known by her friends to occasionally resemble a stick-in-the-mud. "I'm so tired," she said. "My entire body aches, it's late, and my face and hair are coated with thick, white paint."

"So what?" first girl demanded. "What if we just threw caution to the wind, hopped in the car, and headed over to the Beer Store?"

"You only live once," first girl added, as if it were an afterthought, either as worldly advice or as back-up to persuade her friend to put her petty reservations aside and have a little fun.

"Meet you in the car!" second girl screamed, grabbing a light sweater from a hook near the front door, and dashing to the elevator to beat her roommate, like she was ten years old.

First girl had the music in her car blaring and the windows all the way down as they drove the couple of kilometres it would take them to get to the Beer Store. They belted out the lyrics to those mid-1990s songs on the radio like they owned them. They laughed as the ridiculousness of their situation set in and they began to wonder if people would mistaken them for gangsters with their painted-covered faces.

They stepped into the front doorway of the Beer Store minutes before it was closing. First girl walked up to the cashier and asked for Labatt Blue. Second girl - as if on cue - stuck her finger down her throat to convey her distaste for the prolific Upper Canadian beer.

"I'll take twelve Moosehead," she told the young man behind the cash. "Only because you don't sell Keith's in Ottawa yet."

Other customers must have been inspecting the two young, paint-stained, seemingly care-free girls arm themselves with the alcohol they would need for a night of fun. The girls paid for their beer and headed back to the small red hatchback that they had arrived in. They acknowledged a couple whistles and a hoot and holler from several college guys in the same parking lot. They waved, grinned, and hopped in the car and drove away.

To Be Continued

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

The Front Garden

We've lived in our house for seven years now. When we bought this - our first home - we had a puppy. As we unpacked our moving boxes and started our new life, I was about eight weeks pregnant with Thing 1. Life has certainly evolved for us. Seven years later we have a beautiful (small) home, a seven-year-old dog, one six-year-old boy, one four-year-old boy, and one two-year-old little girl.

When we moved in our front garden was cedar hedge-heavy. Meaning, they were everywhere, even blocking our front window. The summer after I had Thing 1, I ripped out all the shrubs and plants from the front garden area and committed to starting from scratch. My gardening-expert mother-in-law helped me select a variety of hearty shrubs and plants that would not only look good in front of our home, but would survive deadly Ottawa winters. I planted them and was told to be patient, that in a few years things would fill in nicely and my garden would be complete.

That time, my friends, has come. I'm really happy with how this looks today. I spent a long time weeding and trimming yesterday, but it seems that the bulk of the work I've already put in has paid off. Not too much to do now other than basic maintenance. I'm hoping to add some flowers over the long weekend.

If you look very closely at the above photo, you will see that seven-year-old dog! He is a very serious watch-dog.

One of the best aspects of this garden is that the plants bloom at different times of the season, showering our front yard with a variety of vivid and deep colours just when you least expect it.


This tree started from almost nothing and is thriving today!


Monday, May 17, 2010

South Beach - The Update

Why, yes, I did manage to successfully complete the first two weeks of the South Beach diet! I finished day 14 of the dreaded "Phase One" of the plan on Sunday.

And since so many of you have asked me . . . .

I lost NINE pounds in two weeks!

That takes me only nine or ten pounds away from my goal weight, which means I am halfway there. Having started Phase Two of the plan today, I am already thoroughly enjoying reintroducing some whole grains back in my diet. After two weeks of eggs, omelets and frittatas for breakfast, I found it heavenly to dip my spoon into a luscious bowl of oatmeal sprinkled with cinnamon and walnuts (followed by a bowl of strawberries!).

I am hoping to remain committed to Phase Two for as long as it takes to lose the rest of the weight. But I can already tell that this is slowly becoming a way of life for me. I truly feel fantastic. My energy level is soaring, and my mood and outlook are also reaping the benefits of my new healthy lifestyle. There is no more bloated, full feeling after eating a bunch of carbs. I feel energetic, and truly and honestly, never hungry when I am following the plan. I have reached the point where I don't crave the cookies, ice cream, chips, and other "bad" snacks anymore. I actually want to reach for something wholesome that will give me energy. My husband says he has not seen this much of a change in me since I took anxiety medication for my anxiety.

If you're looking to lose weight off your middle, or are "apple-shaped" than this is the diet for you. Unfortunately, I am "pear-shaped" and am looking to lose the extra pounds around my hips and thighs. Most of my weight did come off my torso and belly in the past fourteen days. So to combat that issue I am planning to increase my exercise this week and make sure I do at least 20 minutes of hard cardio every day, and strength training every second day.

I thought I'd summarize a few positives and negatives of my past two weeks.

PROS

1. After nearly 20 years of drinking coffee, I am now drinking coffee without sugar!
2. I can honestly say I am not craving sugar or junk food in any way.
3. I have never eaten so many healthy, organic, vegetables in my entire life. And loved them.

CONS

1. I did slip up and drink the occasional diet Coke - which I am usually against and I never consume products with aspartame in them - but hey, there was really not that much I could drink!
2. I'm wondering if I actually am measuring all this olive oil properly. Eyeballing "one tablespoon" of olive oil can be pretty dangerous, I think I consumed a lot more than I should have.
3. There is SO much preparation. It has been very hard on me to plan and cook separate meals for me and the other four members of my family. It is ridiculously time consuming. I doubt I could continue it long term, so after I lose the weight I will need to brainstorm some ways to make this work for all of us.

I'll be sure to post more results next week!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Easy Toddler Teddy Bear Craft

This toddler craft is so easy, I took it in to use with the preschool liturgy class I help teach at our church. They had a blast with it!

The craft is a simple teddy bear face, and is based on circles. Great time for a lesson on shapes.


First you will need to cut out one large circle, two smaller circles for ears, and then two slightly smaller circles for the inner ear area. Cut out one small black circle for a nose.

You can use two small circles for eyes, but we happened to have some craft eyes on hand. They added a very cute touch.


* Getting the circle shapes is simple if you are an avid crafter like me - I have a variety of different shape circle shapes, and I also own a circle cutting system. So it only takes me about two seconds to get the circles ready!

Glue your smaller ear circle onto the larger piece.

Add the same to the second ear. Take both ears and glue them to the back of the big circle. Now the bear has his two ears!

Glue on your black nose circle and your two eyes.

Have your toddler then draw the bear's mouth and voila . . . your teddy bear head is complete.

We glued our faces to the back of a piece of cardstock, but you could also construct a body for the bear out of bigger circles, or glue a popsicle stick to the back of the bear's head to make it into a puppet!

Monday, May 10, 2010

I can proudly proclaim that I just survived the first seven days of the South Beach diet.

If you're not familiar with the plan, the first two weeks are known as "Phase One". In that time, you cut out mostly all carbohydrates and focus on protein, "good" fats, and the lowest glycemic index carbs needed for satisfaction and blood sugar control. It is aimed at ending unhealthy cravings for sweets, baked good, and starches (unhealthy cravings? - yup, check). After 14 days you begin to reintroduce more carbohydrates into your diet.

I am not a fat person, and by most weight charts I am not overweight. I have had at least a dozen people tell me they can't tell that I have gained weight, and I guess that is a by-product of my genetic make-up and structure. I'm fairly tall, and tend to gain weight evenly, throughout my body. I carry weight well. I can easily gain or lose ten pounds and you won't be able to tell. (Not so fun when you lose the ten and a friend tells you she didn't notice!)

By the time the new year rolled around, I had gained about ten pounds since last summer. So I instituted big, lofty New Year Resolutions. Admittedly, they fell through with a resounding thud. I wasn't really into it, and I don't think I took the weight gain seriously. Fast forward to a few months later, and I had gained yet a few more pounds, taking the total up to a jaw-dropping EIGHTEEN pounds. I began to become more than a little alarmed. 90 per cent of my wardrobe wasn't fitting, and I was suddenly wearing yoga pants every day . . . and not looking so great in them.

I was one of those people who lost their baby weight from nursing. I really, truly could eat whatever I wanted and not gain weight (don't throw heavy bricks at me!). When Thing 3 weaned last summer, my metabolism took an unexpected jolt and plummeted. Suddenly a new reality set in and I was not able to eat whatever I wanted any longer. . . although I still did. And for the most part our family does eat very healthily - my issue has always been snacking. If I'm stressed or overwhelmed, out come the chips or cookies or ice cream.

It seemed simple. Summer is coming, and I refuse to buy new clothes. I am determined to fit into my summer wardrobe from last year. Most importantly I wanted to feel better, physically and emotionally. I want to have more energy, to have more even, balanced moods, and to lose that full, bloated feeling I always seem to get after filling up on carbs and high-sugar foods. I had heard great things about the South Beach diet and witnessed first hand the success my husband's cousin had on it (she looks fabulous!). I toyed with the idea before, but was always nursing or pregnant, so I knew I could never take on the task of eliminating so many carbs like that. Now seemed like the perfect time to try it.

Yes, it's hard. But not nearly as hard as I thought it would be. I've completed the first week and am into the second week of Phase One. It's been an absolutely gigantic lifestyle change for me. "Bad" carbs were a staple for me before, and usually the center of my meals. We are aggressive casserole and pasta eaters. Now I am usually eating a salad with protein for lunch, and maybe a grilled chicken breast with vegetables for supper. The snacks (there are two a day) are really filling me up, so I was surprised to find that I wasn't starving all the time. I have an abnormally large appetite - possibly because I have never been filling myself up with the proper foods in the past - and have often been known to eat more than most men sitting at the same table as me. So not being hungry or feeling that dip in my blood sugar is of crucial importance to me.

The absolute best part is I have indeed started to lose my cravings for the "bad stuff". I am feeling good - no, great - and it's affecting my whole personality. I don't feel exhausted or worn out, I feel energetic pretty much throughout the entire day. My moods aren't up and down, I'm not "tense" and "edgy" by the end of the day with the Things. I don't feel yucky or bloated, and there are no sugar crashes. Everything is more on an even keel. I haven't weighed myself yet so I don't know how much I've lost (I have committed to not weighing myself until the two weeks are over) but I can tell it is something. My face is thinner, and I can now button up a couple pairs of pants! Placing a little emphasis on my own personal self-care is doing me a world of good, I'd say.

Baby steps.

Tune in next week when I move into Phase Two and reveal my results from Phase One!

Sunday, May 09, 2010

Mother's Day

One of the best parts of Mother's Day for me is the hand-made art from school. Nothing warms my heart or tickles my emotions like receiving handiwork from my children.

Beautiful and thoughtful notes only sweeten the deal.

Isn't that cute? Four-year-old Thing 2 came home from school with this on Friday. I think I am supposed to be flattered that he thinks I am . . . . TWELVE? Yet not feeling so flattered over his affirmation that I love "all the foods".

Which makes me wonder if he was in cahoots with his father, who bought me these lovely rollerblades for Mother's Day. I suspect they will keep me busy and away from "all the foods"!

I used to be a big inline skater, and can still be found scooting up and down our street with the Things on my other pair of rollerblades . . . which my father purchased for me in 1996. I am most definitely looking forward to trying out this sweet, and definitely more modern, ride!

Happy Mother's Day to all you mothers out there. It's your special day, and you certainly deserve it!!

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Book a Spring Mini-Session with Anna Epp Photography


Anna Epp Photography, one of A Crafty Mom's sponsors, is hosting a Spring Mini-Session day on May 15th, 2010. This is a wonderful opportunity to get your family portraits done at a discount of 50% of her regular session fees in addition to 25% off your print purchase. The Mini-Sessions will be held at Andrew Hayden Park, with the opportunity to have the lovely park and the Ottawa River as your backdrop.


Head over to her blog for more information or contact Anna to book your session time. Don't delay, as there are only a limited number of spots and they are filling up fast!



Friday, April 23, 2010

A Tribute to CHEO

I've been putting off writing this post for some time now.

A week, to be exact.

I'm not sure what's made it seem so difficult, but I just couldn't gather the energy to put together my thoughts and get them all out.

Some of you who follow me on Twitter will know that I spent much of last week at CHEO (the Children's Hospital of Eastern Ontario) with a very sick Thing 1. It was an experience that truly touched me, and left its mark on me. Often certain events and circumstances in our lives affect us in ways that we are not expecting - surprising us and taking us aback in an unprecedented manner - and we are left at the event's conclusion searching for answers to a plethora of questions.

On Easter weekend Thing 1 seemed a little "under the weather". He had no clear or strong symptoms, but he was extremely lethargic (so entirely unlike him, if you know him at all), run down, and not eating. Here and there he had a low grade fever, but in general I felt like the situation was not dire. His general malaise stuck with him for the next ten days, until finally we noticed a slight bit of redness near his left eye. Over the course of roughly 48 hours, the eye area became more red, swollen, and eventually painful to touch. He complained of light sensitivity. I marched him in to our family doctor immediately.

He was incredibly miserable by the time we arrived at our doctor's office. As a matter of fact, I carried him from the van up to her fifth floor office. When he failed to read his eye test perfectly in the infected eye, our doctor directed us straight to CHEO. She handed us a letter that would supposedly gain us quick entrance and short wait time.

Time is relative at a children's hospital.

Although we were immediately classified as "priority" at the Emergency Room, that didn't seem to solidify our one-way ticket to meet with one of the white-coated docs. After many hours, we did see a first year medical student, who suggested Thing 1 looked "fine" and felt that we would be okay to go home. His supervisor (thankfully an actual medical doctor) diagnosed him with orbital cellulitis. X-ray results showed that he did have sinusitis and an assortment of infected tissue around his eye. The poor kid's white blood cell counts were through the roof, and thus he was admitted immediately and given intravenous antibiotics and fluids (he was slightly dehydrated).

We were in the hospital for four days, and he was released a week ago today. He reacted well to the antibiotics, and the swelling started to improve within 24 hours. Extensive tests with ophthalmology showed no damage to his eye, the eye tissue, or any problems with his vision or optical mobility. We saw flocks of wonderful, dedicated, and talented young doctors who treated both my son and I with compassion, respect, and patience. And the nurses? Really deserve their own post. The nurses at CHEO are special, fantastic, and unique people. They took superb care of us - and I mean both Thing 1 and I.

I was unaware preceding this visit that parents are allowed to stay with their sick children 24/7. It was possible for me to never leave his side. A large chair beside each bed folds down into a cot for sleeping, meals are delivered to the rooms for parents at a fraction of the cost you would pay for decent food anywhere else, and there are showers and other amenities to make moms and dads alike comfortable. The nurses carefully explained every detail of what there were doing to both he and I - they were gentle, caring, patient, loving - and provided answers to every single one of our questions.

There are volunteers and staff on hand to entertain the children and provide activities for them. After chatting with Thing 1 for several minutes, a staff member returned with a box full of markers, stickers, glue, and paper, play-doh and cutting tools, books, and a Scooby-Doo movie and DVD player. These workers are clearly bringing their A game to work for every single shift. The thanks I'd like to extend to them is broad.

So Thing 1 got better. He was released. We came home. We are thankful. We are blessed. And so the story supposedly ends.

Except it doesn't.

One common theme from every conversation I have had with parents who have stayed at CHEO with a sick child is how difficult it is to recover from the "other" sick children.

The teeny tiny sick babies. Full of tubes, on intravenous, attached to machines to keep them alive. The children injured from car accidents or other horrifying events, in pain, disfigured, burned. The cancer patients. Children who have spent much of their short little lives inside the confining walls of this special little haven for small people. Some who will never leave.

I expected last weekend to be joyous. We celebrated Thing 1's return home from CHEO with a special dinner of his choosing. Things 2 and 3 were flabbergasted with excitement at seeing their older brother again. Yet for days I found it difficult to focus. I forced myself to smile on the outside and not show my healthy, vibrant children the darkness and pain I felt on the inside.

A week later I am still recovering. The best I can come up with is to find some way to give back to CHEO. Maybe I will make a donation. Perhaps I will volunteer my own time. I'd like to make some crafts and send them in. In the meantime, I'm overflowing with love for my children, and am thankful for their health and well-being.

I refuse to take it for granted.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Family Makes the World Go Round

When I was in my late teens, I moved from a small fishing village in Nova Scotia to the big, bustling city of Ottawa, the capital of Canada. I left home to go to Carleton University to follow my dream of becoming a journalist. (Yeah, and now I am a teacher, go figure.)

As I approached my graduation from Carleton, I met a boy who had grown up and still lived in Ottawa. We ended up getting married and the fact that we both found steady employment in the nation's capital seemed like a good reason for us to stay here.

Years later, I still find it hard to be so far away from my family. I can't see my relatives any time I like, I can't pop over for a coffee and chat, and I can't even hit them up for free babysitting. This means that the time we do spend together is appreciated that much more.

I was fortunate enough to have a visit last week from my sister, her husband, and their two bubbly and remarkably gorgeous children. All together their ages are 1 (although nearly two), 2, 3, 4 and 6. We had a fantastic visit and it was nice to see my sister and brother-in-law and hang out. The kids love playing together so much, we always wish their time together was longer.

Thing 3 with her older cousin. The two gals in the group.


Makin' pizza the old fashion way . . . from scratch. Was enjoyed by one and all.

And to finish the meal, my nephew polishing off an ice cream sundae we made.

After eating it's time to get washed up. Hmmmm. . .Thing 3 is noticeably paler than the others.

What says "cute" more than five cousins cuddled up in their PJs?

Thursday, April 08, 2010

The Honest Scrap Award

The lovely Lisa from the newly re-named "Forever In Mom Genes" awarded me the Honest Scrap Award. I should be upfront and come clean about the fact that I am horrible about gracefully accepting awards and participating in memes. Usually I nod and smile and then forget to post them and never pass them on to anyone else. I felt it was time I broke that bad habit.

You can read Lisa's blog at www.foreverinmomgenes.com or find her blogging for the Yummy Mummy Club here. She is intelligent, witty, funny, and most importantly, honest and real. Hard to ask for better qualities than that, isn't it?

The Honest Scrap Award Rules say that I must:

1. Brag about the award.
2. Include the name of the blogger who gave you the award and link back to that blogger.
3. Choose a selection of blogs that you find brilliant in honest content.
4. Show their names and links and leave a comment informing them that they were prized with this award.
5. List at least ten honest things about yourself.

Hmmm, ten honest things about me?

1. I am related to Anne Murray.
2. I can touch my nose with my tongue.
3. I lie about my age all the time.
4. My dog Rudy is named after the football movie. If he had been a girl, however, he would have been Ruby.
5. I played touch football for a long time.
6. I went to a Green Day concert nine months pregnant. It was awesome.
7. I saw the Watchmen last concert when I was seven months pregnant.
8. I gave birth to all three of my children at home. They were the best experiences of my life.
9. I have caught my daughter eating dog food and stopped to go get my camera to take a picture before I took the dog food out of her mouth. It is ridiculously expensive, organic dog food - how bad can it be?
10. If it kills me, I am going to have a book published before I die.

And to continue on in the Honest Scrap tradition, I would like to pass this prestigious award onto the following bloggers:

Beach Mama from Life is Good at the Beach
Capital Mom from Capital Mom
Lynn from Diary of a TurtleHead
Julie from Thoughts of a Smother Mother

Monday, April 05, 2010

Well Worth Waiting For

In anticipation of my graduation from six years of carrying a diaper bag to, well, not carrying one anymore, I decided to splurge on a new bag. I finally established that for my birthday in February I would get the PERFECT bag.

You know the one I mean. Your favourite bag. The "go-to bag". The one you grab first, the one that makes you feel . . . whole again. And it holds everything and anything. It seems to fit exactly what you need, nothing more, and nothing less. I searched for months and months before I found the one I was looking for.

The bag needed to be big enough to stick a sippy cup or stuffed animal in, yet small enough that I could comfortably carry it anywhere. It needed to be fashionable (read: not ugly) yet not high fashion (because I am simply not that kind of girl).

The deal breaker? I hoped it could double as a shoulder bag *and* a backpack. But not a hideous one. I have a big MEC backpack that I carry with me on major outings, day trips, and hikes. The bag I was looking for would be for daily use, running around with the three Things, stopping for the afternoon at the museum, shlepping down the street and around the block. I yearned for the ability to quickly transform my bag into a backpack so that I could have my hands free immediately if the need arose.

And it arises. Frequently. If you have one, or two, or three Things you know exactly what I am talking about.

One afternoon in early February I finally found my dream bag on etsy. The crafter from whom I bought it is MimsMaine and her custom bags are absolutely phenomenal. I had no idea how much I would love this bag until I received it in the mail last week (each bag is custom made, so you need to allow 4-6 weeks for delivery). The detail and workmanship is beyond anything you would see on a runway in Paris - it is stunning and superb. And, no, I am not being compensated in any way for this post, I am legitimately just writing it because I am obsessively in love with this bag.


It is simple and easy to transform into a backpack, it literally takes about 15 seconds, and, voila, your hands are free.
I absolutely adored this patterned fabric, but she has dozens and dozens from which to choose.


I think this was the perfect graduation present . . . don't you?

Do you have the perfect bag? What do you love about it? Or are you still searching for the elusive "perfect bag"?

Sunday, April 04, 2010

Holiday Weekend

We had an absolutely beautiful Easter weekend here in Ottawa. Temperatures reaching the upper 20s in the first few days of April. Sunscreen being deployed. Sunhats donned. Smiles and joy on the docket as the hustle and bustle of regular life took a back seat to just chilling out and enjoying each others company.

I find I have so little stress and anxiety on long holiday weekends, it makes me think that perhaps we should lobby to have a few more thrown in annually for good measure.

Since a couple of us were slightly under the weather this weekend, we decided to opt out of some of our bigger plans of heading downtown, fighting the line-ups at the Experimental Farm, or hitting one of the capital's national museums and just lay low around the 'hood.

It was the best decision we've made in a long time. Here's a quick glimpse.

If Thing 3 in her Easter dress can't plaster a smile on your face, I doubt anything will.

I plan on showing this photo of Things 1 and 2 together to anyone who gives me the stereotypical "what were you thinking having them 18 months apart?" third degree. And, yes, I get that a lot.

The three Things. United in their solidarity.

The beauty of a little sister who looks up to her oldest brother is unimaginable.

My three Things - filling my heart with a joy I never could have believed possible.

Thursday, April 01, 2010

April Fools


The following is a guest post from a very talented and inspiring blogger. Please read her insightful and very serious reflection on April Fools from years past.

April Fools


I have a deep distrust of April Fools Day. I worry that the joke is always going to be on me.


Maybe it isn't true. Maybe my memory is playing tricks of time on me. Maybe it was the day before or the day after or even the next week. What I remember was that it was April 1st.

April 1st

I stood in front of the bathroom mirror taking my time adjusting my side ponytail like only a girl in grade six can. When I was satisfied I went downstairs and joined my parents and sister at the kitchen table. I think we eating pancakes. It was breakfast. Or maybe brunch. Maybe there wasn't even any food at all.

But the four of us were sitting there. And then the earth titled.

There was crying and yelling and tears and sadness. One of us left. Three remained.

Two years later

My mother, sister and I were heading downtown on the bus. I was sent ahead to by bus tickets from the corner store. Coming out the door, I saw them waiting for me on the other side of the street. The light changed green and I tore across the intersection to meet them.

A car coming from my left decided to keep driving. It ran a red light and into me.

I hit the hood. I rolled up onto the car and then flew fifteen feet in the air, landing on my back. Somehow, most likely the puffy ski jacket I was wearing that day, I manged to walk away. I was fine. Except for some bruises and a broken spirit.

April fools

I am cautious on April 1st. Ready for the worst. Ready for it to be over.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Graduation

I'm not a very emotional person when it comes to my children's milestone achievements.

Unlike many, I didn't get all that weepy when I finished nursing my last child (although I thoroughly enjoyed nursing all three Things).

When holding a newborn and friends or family members ask me,

"Doesn't that make you want another one?"

The answer is always a resounding, "NO".

When, as babies, the three Things spoke their first words, took their first steps, peed on the potty for the first time, and got their first haircuts, I was not a hormonal wreck. I didn't cry or get nostalgic, I simply felt proud and was confident that things happen for a reason and all these goals were being reached, not to lament the loss of something in the past but to reach for future achievements and celebrate the inevitable.

And although I'm fighting this one, I think I possibly noticed a glimmer of something wet and shiny in the corner of my eye the other day when I disassembled this:

And placed two-year-old Thing 2 in her new big girl bed for the first time.


She handled the whole situation with grace and dignity, as she always does. She's slept in her bed two nights in a row and hasn't once gotten out to explore the new accessible world around her. I suspected she was ready to move into the bed a couple months ago . . . when she began climbing in and out of her crib with no problems.

So, there we have it friends. The crib that hosted all three Things for some crucially important months of sleep is no more. There are really no more "babies" around here and I am the mother to three little people who sleep in beds.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Bicycle Helmet Safety


March's mild temperatures and beautiful spring-like weather have opened garage doors across the Capital. Adults and children alike have pumped up their tires, greased up their chains, donned biking attire and hit the open road.

What am I missing? Oh, right. BICYCLE HELMETS.

I am appalled at the number of Ottawa cyclers who do not wear helmets. It truly disgusts me. It is becoming a daily occurrence for me to deal with the following conversation:

"MOMMY!! That man is not wearing a bike helmet!" Thing 1 belts out at the top of his lungs.

"That is SO dangerous, mommy, he could really get hurt and could injure himself and do damage to his head," he adds.

Mental note - kid is actually taking in some of the information I throw at him.

"WHY isn't he wearing a helmet, mommy?" Thing 2 chimes in.

Pause. Deep breath.

"He should be wearing a helmet, shouldn't he?" I proclaim. "Sometimes grown-ups don't make the best decisions, and I think that not wearing a helmet was a poor decision for this man to make."

I struggle to remain diplomatic when what I really want to explain to my three children is that this man, and other adults like him who don't wear helmets, is a #$@*&% jerk who should know better. Who should wear a helmet for his own personal safety and well-being, as well as to be a role model for younger generations also hopping on their bikes and taking to the national capital's roads and streets.

The situation worsens as we see a young girl about eight years old at our neighbourhood park, riding down the bike path helmet-less.

"That girl should be wearing a helmet!!" the three Things exclaim in unison.

"Yes, she should," I tell them. "It is not safe for her to be riding her bike at the park without a helmet."

And since an adult - who I assumed was her father - was within ten metres of her I decided to toss some of the responsibility his way.

"It is also important that a parent checks your helmet for proper fit and makes sure it is on correctly," I add. "A parent or guardian should be making sure that little girl has a helmet to wear."

I work hard to instill in my three Things a sense of safety, a desire and responsibility in them to be careful, play safe, and to follow the rules. I don't appreciate when other members of society decide to throw caution to the wind and make their own decisions about safety. Every time you don't wear a helmet - and my children see you - you are causing them to question the reasons I ensure they wear a helmet every time they ride their bikes, use their skateboards, or jump on their scooters.

It is the law for anyone in Ottawa under the age of eighteen to wear a helmet. Accidents happen all the time, and absolutely no one is exempt from this. I remember with sadness the untimely death of Carl Gillis in 1996. Carl was a popular and well-known leader of Carleton University's student council when I was a student there in the mid nineties. He was athletic, smart, and well-liked. He was a fellow Nova Scotian and I looked up to him as a leader and role model. While roller-blading along Dow's Lake in 1996, he fell backwards on a bump in the path, hit his head, and subsequently died. You can read more on a bill that was proposed to make helmets mandatory for adults and on Carl's death here.

I think what this taught me was that this can happen to anyone. If it could happen to Carl, then it could happen to me. It may not be your fault if another cyclist or rollerblader swerves and hits you, but the potential most certainly exists for you to fall, and hit your head. Head injuries are not pretty (as a teacher and past skating coach, I have seen many), and they can create long-term brain damage, or in the worst scenario, death.

Please wear a bike helmet. Please ensure it fits properly. Wear it all the time. Set a good example for the children in your neighbourhood, and all across Canada, by being a responsible cycler.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

hydraSense® Nasal Aspirator Blog Tour

I don't usually participate in blog tours or promote products on my blog, mostly because I rarely come across a product I really love enough to discuss it openly here.

However . . . I am making an exception this time.

Having encountered the "baby years" with a grand total of three children, you can imagine how many times the dreaded cold has made itself comfortable in our home. No matter how careful I was, or what heroic steps I took, all three of my Things managed to succumb to colds and stuffy noses when they were infants.
If you're a parent, you can undoubtedly relate.

There's no feeling like the panic of waking up in the middle of the night wondering if your baby can breathe properly, or listening to her struggle to get any into her tiny windpipe.
The experienced developers at hydraSense® have designed a new product that provides quick and effective relief from a baby’s nasal congestion and helps avoid excessive crying and poor sleeping. Which is a huge benefit to mom *and* baby.

The hydraSense® Nasal Aspirator is a gentle and safe way to relieve baby’s nasal congestion quickly and effectively. The aspirator is easy to use and allows you to control how much suction is being used to remove mucus. The nasal tip is gently placed in your baby's nose, and then you inhale through the mouthpiece to draw out the mucus.
I'll admit, it did sound a bit "gross" to me at first, but my curiosity got the best of me and I had to give it a try. It's truly easy to use. My daughter is two and I tried the Nasal Aspirator on her and it worked fabulously . . . until she yanked it out of her nose. It does say clearly on the box that it is for newborns and infants, and I am sure it works much better on younger babies!

If you don't believe me, check out this
youtube link and see the Nasal Aspirator in action. Pretty cool.

As a chronic worrier, I would be filled with angst and frustration when my daughter had stuffy noses as a baby. With two older brothers in school picking up germs everywhere and bringing them home, she was often sick when she was an infant. She couldn't breathe, she couldn't sleep, and the bulb nasal aspirator we had at home never worked (although once Things 1 and 2 realized they could squirt water with it, it worked as an excellent water gun). I couldn't do anything to clear her nasal passageway and would basically sit up for hours every night holding her tiny head upright so she could get in as much air as possible.


Another product with which I was quite pleased was the hydraSense® Easydose®, which enables you to liquefy mucus prior to aspiration. It is a nasal solution composed of isotonic, undiluted, sterile, 100% natural-source desalinated seawater. It contains more than 70 trace elements and minerals naturally occurring in seawater and is preservative-free. The small doses allow you to put a couple drops of the solution in your child's nose - and this product is for older children too, so it worked well for four-year-old Thing 2 and six-year-old Thing 1.


My husband's cousin introduced me to the world of the
neti pot last summer when I was suffering from allergies, and it really changed my way of thinking about noses and nasal care in general. I love the neti pot and use it often, so I was thrilled to find a similar nasal solution that was easy to use for my children.

For those interested, click
here by April 10, 2010 to sign up for the Dolphins Club and download a coupon. Enter the code MC2010 under the online coupons tab, in order to get an $8 off coupon to be used towards the purchase of the hydraSense® Nasal Aspirator (Coupon itself expires December 31, 2010).

"I wrote this post while participating in a blog tour campaign by Mom Central and received a Mom Central gift pack to thank me for taking the time to participate."

Friday, March 26, 2010

Cleared the First Hurdle


I turned off the van and rotated my keys to release them from the ignition. I opened the door and stepped out and squinted in the bright morning sunshine, suddenly jolted awake by a crisp, cold March breeze. I shoved the keys in my jacket pocket and stood in the parking lot for a solid thirty seconds.

I walked.

I opened the huge doors to this large, mammoth building and cautiously granted myself permission to move inside.

People were busy working, some moving around from room to room, some walking down hallways and entering doorways. I nonchalantly stepped over to the sign marked "Reception". A woman in her fifties sat busily typing at her computer, oblivious to the bundle of nerves and hormones standing in front of her.

I shuffled my papers around to make some noise. She looked up. She made eye contact and gave me that once-over that seemed to demand, "what do you want?". I cleared my throat.

"I'd like to drop some paperwork off for HR," I somehow managed to blurt out.

I wasn't sure how I had summoned the courage to speak.

"There is a mailbox in the Client Services room. You can put it in there."

"Where is the Client Services room?" I heard myself asking, even though I knew very well where it was and had been there dozens of times in the past.

She pointed.

I took a deep breath which I hoped would provide me with enough emotional fuel to make it across the spacious foyer to the other side of the building. A couple of women dressed in appropriate work attire walked past me, their high heels clicking rhythmically across the unyielding, cold floor. I glimpsed my own white, scuffed Skechers and somehow felt inadequate. I felt hundreds of eyes on me as I squeak, squeak, squeaked my way to the Client Services room.

Hmmm, I thought. There was no one there to "serve" me. I immediately found the mail box labeled "Human Resources" and moved closer to it. I paused. I breathed. My heart began to beat quickly and my hands started to tremble ever-so-slightly. Anxiety. A feeling with which I am very familiar.

I yearned for somebody - anybody - to reach out to me.
I ached for some lone School Board employee to place a gentle and reassuring hand on my shoulder and comfort me, to let me know that everything was going to be all right. To tell me they'd been in my position at some point, and that things turned out fine for their family, that everyone adjusted and was happy and healthy. As I began to feel I was drowning in my own narcissism, I stepped forward and did what I had come there to do.

I dropped my paperwork through the mail slot. It hit the bottom of the box with a resounding thud. I stared. I contemplated sticking my own hand through the 2 cm slot and pulling the envelope back out, or running back to Reception to beg the middle-aged receptionist who'd seemingly had no compassion for my emotional state to open the box so I could retrieve my paperwork. I would tell her I'd made a huge mistake, that I shouldn't have checked off the "returning to work" box at all. That I had meant to check off "resign" but in a moment of weakness had decided to go back to work after all.

Instead I just stood there for a few minutes. Incredulous that no one else entered the Client Services room while I was there, I took my time and gained my composure. I took deep breaths and walked out of the building, just as I had entered. I walked back to my van, I opened the door and sunk into the driver's side seat.

I placed the key in the ignition and I turned it gently clockwise, listening to the roar of my starting engine as I backed out of my parking spot.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Steering His Own Path

A warm, spring-like breeze whipped across my face as I crooked my neck to turn around and see what all the commotion was about.

"DADDY'S COMIN' " Thing 3 screamed at the top of her very tiny, but surprisingly loud, two-year-old lungs. This was her regular 5:00 p.m. ritual. To ensure that everyone in a 500 yard radius knew that her father was returning home from work for the day.

I could see my husband's silhouette walking toward us in the western sunlight. (Western meaning he was coming from the west, not that we live in the west. Because we don't. We live in Eastern Ontario.)

I held my breath for a moment as I watched Thing 2 glance down the street and see his father walking toward him, halfway down the block. He looked at me, for encouragement, for direction, waiting for me to guide him and tell him what to do.

"You can do it," I said softly. I nodded, my non-verbal cue for him to give it a go.

He pushed several times with the tip of his left brown, velcroed, Geox sneaker and then ever-so-cautiously jerked that left foot onto the black, rectangular bike pedal. The bright green bike's handlebars wobbled like a Weeble for a brief second, and then my boy's strong, firm, four-year-old arms steadied them. His tiny legs began to pedal and he drifted down our crescent only looking up to meet his dad's face as it practically exploded with pride.

Things 1 and 3 sprinted down the street behind their two-wheelin' brother as fast as they could. My heart was melting, which somehow made their screams of "HE DID IT!!" and "WE LOVE YOU AND ARE SO PROUD OF YOU" somewhat inaudible.

His father's hug and approval and encouragement made the hours we had spent that afternoon, falling off the bike, getting back on the bike, kicking the bike, screaming at the bike . . . unequivocally and completely worth it.

You all know that I worry about Thing 2 because he is the middle child. And it's for that reason that I really revel in the little glories and successes my little man encounters. Like riding a two-wheeler bike, on his own, with no training wheels, at four-and-a-half years old. At an earlier age than his older brother had.

Yup, that's my boy.

 
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