My 3-year-old has a temper like Taylor Swift


45rpmMy two young sons were arguing recently. It wasn’t an unusual occurrence. However, when they
settled down, my youngest son turned to me and, with a huge smile, sang, “Now we have bad blood, it used to be mad love.”

Innocent enough. But what do I say when he asks me about the lyrics with more mature themes? What do I say when he starts quoting Justin Bieber?

Don’t want for us to end where do I start
First you wanna go to the left and you want to turn right

-Mama, what is he singing about?

-Oh, um…he’s just confused and doesn’t understand his girlfriend’s driving directions. Yeah, he’s just lost.

Is that the right response? Probably not, if I were talking to a teen. But for my 3 and 5-year-old, it’s good enough.

Of course, my concern isn’t anything new. From Elvis’ gyrations in the mid ’50s to Madonna’s videos that mixed religion and sexuality in the ’80s and ’90s – parents have always been concerned… and always will be…

…Like when I was nine years old, my mom was concerned about my watching the television drama/musical FAME – a show about teens at a performing arts school. It was my absolute favourite. I just really loved the dancing and the singing. I loved how they were going to live forever…how they were going to learn how to fly…HIGH.” But, at the same time, I also really enjoyed watching Fables of the Green Forest, an animated show about talking woodland animals.

The fact that I was still watching cartoons suitable for a toddler, should have comforted my mom – that there wasn’t anything to worry about. If anything, she should have been more concerned about my developing “starving-artist mentality,” rather than any of the “mature themes” discussed.

We Built This City…

Truthfully, in spite of some of the lyrics and videos, I like the music played on the radio today. So, really I’m the reason my kids know the songs and the lyrics. And, if I was really concerned about it, I would simply turn the radio off. But, I also know how important pop music is to young children and teens. Music unites kids. It’s what they talk about in the school yard. And it’s what makes the childhood memories so much sweeter.

My fondest memories of growing up are inextricably linked to the music of the 80s. The soundtrack to my life features Michael Jackson, Olivia Newton John and the Mini Pops…as well as some ’70s music….a little Earth, Wind and Fire and the Spinners. My brother and I loved dancing and choreographing routines. When I hear Point of No Return, by Nu Shooz, I close my eyes and am immediately transported back to our warm tv room…the sun shining in onto our golden-coloured shag carpet, while we hold our, like totally fresh, totally gnarly impromptu dance sessions. And truth-be-told, they were Solid Gold-worthy. No guff!

ballet class
This is as far as I got to fullfilling my career as a dancer.

Papa Don’t Preach

By today’s standards, the songs I sung and listened to back when I was nine, were relatively tame. And, the issues discussed on sitcoms and dramas of the past would be considered “not sexy enough” for today’s lineup. A quick google search for FAME’s episode summaries revealed “safe” and “inoffensive” story lines like: jealousy, competition, following school rules, managing a job and school work.

In another 30 years, my sons may have children of their own and they’ll also think wistfully back to how great Taylor Swift’s music was and how they just “don’t write good music like that anymore.” Until then, however, my husband and I will have to be aware of what our kids are listening to and encourage conversation, awareness and understanding.

My mom should have had the talk with me…she should have let me know that it was going to take more than a few pairs of leg warmers and off-the-shoulder shirts to make it as a dancer in New York City.

 

 

Parenting…mostly with my head above water


I’ve been treading water well lately. I can go for about 90 seconds. Knowing that I have two young sons and a pool in the backyard, my instructor wants me to be able to get to the point where I can tread, while managing the weight of a child. I’m fine when I have my two hands free to scull the water. But, as soon as she hands me a five-pound weight, I start to panic and all technique is forgotten. I struggle to keep my head from going under.

—–

Read more about my swimming lessons in an earlier post
40-year-old woman starts swimming lessons…
You won’t believe what she finds)

—–

Sounds kind of like the way I parent when I’m under stress. Whenever I think I’ve “got it,” something else pops up to challenge my patience and mental strength.

chili
©markstout 123RF.com

I think parents of young children, who are also dealing with work, family issues, sickness and life, in general, can relate to similar feelings of panic, fatigue, the feeling of being overwhelmed and the inability to simply “get ahead…”

…like when I was trying to figure out the whole breastfeeding and pumping thing. “They” say you should pump to keep your milk supply up…but how are you supposed to pump if your baby is feeding every hour or two?

…like when I wake up in the morning and start to panic because I have no idea what I’m going to pack for my son’s school lunch.

…like when I find my perfect, go-to, one-pot meal that is both easy to make and healthy for the family and my husband starts to say, “Honey…although I love chili, SERIOUSLY – we can’t be eating it so often.”

…like when you spend your Sunday making extra meals for “emergency” nights…and the next week ends up being your “emergency” week.

Fortunately, (and this is to especially comfort the new moms out there) you do “figure it out.” The constant feeding sessions will end and you’ll realize, albeit in hindsight, what you should have done while breastfeeding. You will also acknowledge that you did your best…which was the best!

You will figure out that leftovers from last night’s dinner are a great thing for your child’s lunch. Forget the cute cut-out sandwiches. Quick and tasty is the way to go.

And, you’ll eventually develop your cooking skills. You’ll find new and clever ideas for easy and quick dinners…Hey! Anyone ever hear about rotisserie chicken from the store! My new “discovery!” It’s great for a variety of different meals – chicken salad sandwiches, fried rice…

3 chickens in 3 weeks…he’s not complaining yet!

I hit the wall, but kept going


Back in June, when my cousin first asked me to do WIPEOUTrun, I was immediately taken back to grade 8 gym class. “Ugh…my face feels kinda hot…did I miss the ball? Where’s the ball?”

Fears and negative self-talk filled my mind.red balls

“What if I can’t make it over the wall?”
“Monkey bars? Oh man, I can’t do that.”
“You want ME to be on your team?”

I was always picked last to join a team during my elementary school years. But, you know what? She wanted me!

Wait a minute…Hmmm?

(Note to cousin: Did you want me because I was the only one willing to risk injury and you knew that I was familiar with embarrassing falls?)

In the end, I decided to accept her challenge. If nothing else, I was certain we would have some humorous stories to tell our future grandchildren. So, I registered for the September 12th – 5K run, which would feature larger-than-life obstacles, inspired by the TV Show Wipeout.

Larger-than-life obstacles

As I am my own self-help guru (“positive thinking” ingrained into my psyche after years of listening to my dad’s Tony Robbins’ cassette tapes in our blue station wagon), and one who tends to think in analogies, I started to see that these larger-than-life obstacles were much like the “obstacles” I faced in my writing. They were simply a perceived threat.

This month marks the first anniversary of this blog, but I haven’t posted anything since May. Although I’ve received positive feedback from readers and those who say they are patiently waiting for another post, I still face fear and anxiety when writing down my thoughts and when it comes to pressing the “submit” button.

sweeperAnyway, participating in the WIPEOUTrun made me realize that the obstacles really weren’t that scary. They were big, but they were manageable. All I needed to do was to commit and go for it.

With that said, thank you for reading my blog. I look forward to reading your comments. I love to share my writing and connect with my readers…I will continue to write stories about parenting and parenting the soul and whatever else comes to mind.

For the next year, I plan to commit and go for it. And even if I “hit the wall” I will get up and keep going…because when I actually HIT – THE – WALL at the run, I ignored my fears – there was no time for any attempt at grace, as my face got really hot and… uh…there was a huge crowd of people waiting – I pulled myself up, straddled the wall and jumped down, to be greeted by my laughing cousin. She heard the thump from the other side. Still, it was a moment of victory.

So yeah, some of my writing will be fantastic. Some of it might just be “okay.” And, a lot of it may be just plain ugly…but, I’m certain it could never be as ugly as this:

happy endings slide

 

 

Inspired to do some cool sh*t…but wait, I have to change my son’s diaper first


diaper changeI recently read the book “Do Cool Sh*t,” by Miki Agrawal, thinking it would give me some much-needed inspiration after being at home with the kids for almost five years. And, although it is a very good read – filled with practical business-start up tips and memorable anecdotes – I was left feeling old and unaccomplished.

In “Do Cool Sh*t” Agrawal said, “I wrote this book because I wish someone had told me earlier that this kind of life was possible…”

She started her first business, a farm-to-table pizza restaurant called WILD, at the age of 26.

What was I doing at 26? Uh…drinking way too much bubble tea.

~~~

After the birth of my second son and after the initial chaos of getting used to caring for an infant and preschooler subsided, I started to mentally prepare for all the things we “had” to do – school schedules, swimming lessons, mandarin classes. My older son was only 3, but as the “experts” say, you’ve gotta start them early, right? During this time, I started to feel a tinge of sadness, but I couldn’t pinpoint the reason. After this feeling persisted for a while, I realized that I was completely focused on fulfilling “their” dreams, even though I wasn’t finished fulfilling my own.

As I wrote in a past post, I bought a $100 clothes rack from the art store, from the moment I came home with my first baby, my thoughts and actions were consumed with caring for them – feeding, bellychanging diapers, bathing, sleeping. It took me, perhaps, longer than others to realize that I could let go…a little.

~~~

I’m now two years older…and a little wiser. And although I’m still working to fulfill my own goals (it’s never too late), every time I read with my little boy, I caress his soft, chubby belly and think, “I wish someone had told me earlier that this kind of life was possible.”

Common sense parenting in spite of my ocean of fears


childhood
©Igor Yaruta 123RF.com

Since the death of 24-year-old Canadian track runner Daundre Barnaby on March 27, I’ve been thinking a lot about how I’m raising my children.

Daundre’s tragic accident (he was swimming in the ocean at a training camp in St. Kitts, lost his footing and due to the undertow, was swept out) reminded me of our family trips to the beach in Florida and how my brother and cousins (I was too afraid), dove into the waves with their flutter boards, flipping many times and occasionally struggling to get back. As a parent of two young boys, I am now wondering…. How could they let us play in the ocean? What were my parents thinking?

Of course, I write this in jest. My mother and father were great parents…we survived (another joke…because they’ll be reading this). And, if I had to label their parenting style (as it seems that’s the thing to do these days), I would say they used a common sense style of parenting. I, on the other hand, well, I’m a different story.

On a recent walk to the park, I told my son not to pick up any sticks because he might get a splinter. I proceeded to describe how it would hurt and how I would have to take it out with a needle. My husband stared at me in disbelief, shook his head and told our son to pick up the stick.

Helicopter parent? Maybe a bit.

~~~

I love the feeling of walking barefoot on a sun-drenched, wooden deck. I love the warmth…the feeling of freedom…but, I do not love splinters.

I remember getting splinters when I was a child and hating it because my grandmother would take them out with a needle. I remember her taking one out of my foot and another out of the back of my thigh.

But, aside from the occasional splinter, I had a very happy childhood. I grew up with my younger brother and two cousins, who lived down the street. During the long summers we spent the days catching grasshoppers, running through sprinklers, playing at the park until the sun set and walking to Mac’s Milk to buy Popeye cigarettes, Gobstoppers, Nerds and Fun Dip. It was a carefree and innocent time – a time when girls just wanted to have fun and we wore sunglasses at night.

In retrospect, I had a very fulfilling childhood. Although, my parents kept a watchful eye, they let me have fun. They let me feel the soft sand between my toes and they let me taste the salty ocean water as I “jumped” the waves. And, they gave me the opportunity to get a splinter or two.

Travel Review – Great Wolf Lodge


Great Wolf Lodge is an ideal option for a quick getaway with the family. And, although the priority of the great wolf lodgemagical forest-themed resort is to cater to the imaginations and the size limitations of their younger guests, the entertainment factor engages children of all ages.

My family (including two young boys – two and four years old) visited the Niagara Falls, Ontario location in February.

Here is an overview of our visit:

Length of stay:      
2 nights (Mon – Wed) February 2015
(Tip: Visiting throughout the work week is cheaper)

Describe in one sentence:   
It’s all about magic, fun and smiles.

Recommendation:  
We would go again!

What we enjoyed:     
– It was very kid-friendly – example: high and low hand railings
– Water Park safety – the staff were very diligent when it came to safety and would stop the children from sliding down until all was clear
– Spa – the most relaxing feature for me!

Highlights:
– MagiQuest, an adventure game that allows children (or their parents, as you will definitely say, “Let me try”) to “make things happen” with the wave of a wand. Point your wand at a picture and it will speak. Point your wand at a statue and the eyes will light up.

– Huge indoor Water Park with various slides and areas for the very young children, as well as for the older children. I don’t know who enjoyed it more – my sons or my husband!

Tips:
– Bring snacks and cold food for breakfast/lunch (i.e. fruits, bread, cereal, etc.). There is a semi-private living area, a microwave, fridge and a coffee maker in the rooms. Although there are restaurants on site, it’s helpful to have some food on hand, as it can get pricey.

In terms of policy, the GWL website says, “No outside food or beverages are permitted in the water park, however, there are areas designated outside of the water park for guests to dine on their own food.” Suggested meal plan for our next visit: Quick, easy breakfast in our room, pizza lunch (available at resort) and dinner at Camp Critter (buffet restaurant at resort).

– Another way to save on a booking, is to become a “member,” which means you will receive emails notifying you of price deals. You can become a member by signing up on the Great Wolf Lodge website.

The night the dishes piled up


On a typical evening, at around 7 pm, this is what you will find in my kitchen:

the dishes can wait
The dishes can wait!

Obviously, I’m not very good at the practice of “cleaning as I go.” So, after cooking dinner and feeding the kids, I’m usually faced with this huge mess. While my husband bathes the kids and gets them ready for bed, I’ll clean the kitchen. On this particular night (last Monday), our dishwasher was temporarily out of service and I had to – Wash. The Dishes. By Hand. On top of that, I had a challenge to meet and I was panicking.

In an earlier post, I bought a $100 clothes rack from the art store, I wrote about buying an easel and having it collect dust.  Heather Humann, (who writes the blog Raising Up Humanns,) made the following comment:

Heather Humann says:
January 10, 2015 at 9:01 am (Edit)

I have a sewing machine I just bought, I’m motivated to create, however fear the same demise. Lol

So, I responded with a “challenge”:

Christina says:
January 10, 2015 at 9:09 am (Edit)

How about we meet back here in a few months and share our progress…even if it’s small…are you up for the friendly challenge? I work well when there’s pressure:)

~~~

Heather Humann says:
January 10, 2015 at 9:12 am (Edit)

You’re on!

I love challenges. Truthfully, though, I needed someone to give me a little push.

So, I started and this is what I did:

bruce lee

Bruce Lee, always a great subject for pencil studies. But, it wasn’t good enough. I needed to go back to the basics:

sketching a realistic eye

As usual, after the initial excitement wore off, I procrastinated.

But, the self-imposed deadline (March 1) was fast approaching. I started to panic. And, on that Monday, I debated: Do I wash the dishes and clean the kitchen? Or do I start painting? I initiated the challenge. So, I’ve gotta do this.

I was nervous about painting, as I haven’t done it in a long time. I wouldn’t be able to achieve anything adequate in such a short amount of time. Ironically, I chose to do a Van Gogh piece – Starry Night. Makes sense, right? My title should be: “A wannabe attempts a masterpiece!” But I thought the Impressionist style would allow for my own interpretation (translation: accuracy wasn’t that important). As well, the style reminded me that I had a box of my dad’s old soft pastels, purchased back in the early 80s:

soft pastels

And, this is what I did (while husband bathed and clothed little bodies and brushed their teeth):

starry night work in progress by christina

I thought it was decent. Mostly, though, I was thrilled to have simply started.

After an hour of drawing, I tackled the mess in the kitchen. Amazing! There was, in fact, time to “play” and time to clean.

And, the next evening I finished the picture:

starry night painted by christina

starry night painted by christina2
The Starry Night or Scary Night?

 

So, I managed to complete the challenge. And, really it wasn’t a challenge between Heather and myself. It was a personal challenge. For me, I needed to challenge myself to simply “do it,” to do whatever it is I want to do. And to get things done, regardless of my situation. I am proud: My first “masterpiece” was completed while bare bottoms ran around me and dirty dishes beckoned.

“Diapers are expensive, eh?”


In spite of the frigid temperatures (a high of -16C) on Family Day (this past Monday), my diapersfamily and friends came out for a skate and to donate diapers to the Diaper Bank of Toronto.

A huge thank you to everyone who came out and contributed to the *2500 diapers* that we collected.

The organizers at the Diaper Bank were thrilled to receive so many, especially the large sizes that are desperately needed. Some of the diapers have already been delivered to a refugee house and others to a food bank.

My husband and I organized this event after an earlier post, My baby gets to eat and he gets clean diapers, too, in which I wrote about “diaper need” – how some people in the city are “struggl[ing] to provide babies and small children with clean diapers.” The overwhelmingly positive support and generosity from our friends and family indicate that…we get it…we understand.

After thanking one of our friends for his generous donation, he said, incredulously: “Diapers are expensive, eh?” He doesn’t have children. But, he gets it, too.

kids1
kids2

skating

40-year-old woman starts swimming lessons… You won’t believe what she finds


swimming badge
Coincidentally, I found this in my junk drawer before starting my lessons. My kids laughed when I told them I would be taking swimming lessons too…and that “Miss Debbie” would be my instructor!

When I was approaching my 40th birthday I started to hear the term “bucket list” a lot. I actually don’t like the term. It seems to imply that I am only doing these things because death is imminent. However, I recently signed up for swimming lessons and I fear that’s what it will be perceived as – a “to do” on my bucket list.

Regardless of the reason, I signed up and I am proud…and extremely excited to be on my third lesson. It has been a genuinely eye-opening experience. I don’t think I can adequately express how surprised I was that… I can actually swim! Of course, I probably don’t have the perfect stroke. And, I need to work on my breathing. Nevertheless, I was able to swim the length of the pool.

For 39 years I was afraid to put my face into the water and open my eyes. (Background: I got my “Tadpole” badge in 1985. So I knew how to float and tread water. And after years of simply “playing” in the water, I figured out how to do the basic stroke, but never with my face in the water.)  And, after the instructor gave me a simple explanation about buoyancy, I realized that there is really no danger in going into the deep end.

Hahaha…this must all seem amusing to the seasoned swimmers out there, however, the fear is real. And, when you start telling your children (in a voice of authority), “You don’t know if you dislike (or can’t do)  something, if you don’t try,” you realize that you have to face your own fears.

So, in the end it doesn’t really matter why I signed up…what matters is that I did it.

And what did that 40-year old woman find?

She found her confidence!

Book Review – Ravi’s Revenge


ravi's revenge If you subscribe to the “Ignorance is bliss” attitude, then don’t read Ravi’s Revenge. On the other hand, if you are a parent, a caregiver or a teacher, responsible for the lives of one or more children, it’s a relevant story that you will want to read.

Ravi’s Revenge is an enduring story; one that is still relevant and unfortunately more dangerous than ever. Although fiction, the story reflects reality in 2015 – the negative effects of social media, online bullying and mass shootings at schools.

Heather Anne Hunter tells the story of a troubled teen who simply wants to be heard and wants to be accepted. She does a fantastic job of describing, in great detail and with realism, the characters and their personalities.

For this reason, I became more than a simple observer. I had an emotional “involvement” with the story and the characters. I wanted to intervene on behalf of Ravi. Perhaps it was because I was reading it from a “mother’s perspective.”

I enjoyed Hunter’s writing because it was so down-to-earth and relatable. For example, there were many details – “She sucked her teeth and rolled her eyes, much to the amusement of the students sitting around her.” – that perfectly captured the true essence of the teenage character.

Ravi’s Revenge is an enjoyable read. More importantly, however, it gives genuine insight into some of the thoughts, concerns and attitudes of teenagers.

DETAILS
Title:           Ravi’s Revenge
Author:       Heather Anne Hunter
Available:   Amazon.ca

This review originally appeared on Goodreads.com.