Monday, October 5, 2015

Not Grieving

Yesterday my mother's brother died.

It wasn't totally unexpected. He had cancer and had actually just gone in to start a new and aggressive experimental treatment. From what my mom had explained, they either expected it to kill him or to help him recover almost completely.

And while I'm sorry for her loss, especially as he was her only sibling and last surviving family member, I do not have any strong emotions either way regarding his death. Nearly fifteen years ago, when Jen and I started dating, he made his (disapproving, to say the least) opinions clear. I believe it was just after we got married that he disowned me. Other than a very brief exchange at my sister's wedding, I have had no interaction with him since that time.

This place of not feeling affected by a family member's (I use that term loosely) death, is odd. I can see that people expect me to be sad. To be grieving. But I feel like I lost my uncle a long time ago. We were never particularly close to begin with, and any mourning period I went through has been over for a long, long time.

So far there has been no news of funeral arrangements. I am actually hoping that my mom doesn't even tell me about them. While I feel emotionless about his death, I think I would be repulsed by his funeral. He was in the military, and I'm sure whoever gives the eulogy will say something about what a wonderful, brave, courageous, honourable person he was. If that is the case I would have a hard time biting my tongue and not saying anything about how prejudice and hateful he was. Nobody needs to feel that or hear that someone feels like that at a funeral. Hopefully my mom understands.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

October Already?

I cannot believe it is October. Tonight I'm sitting on the couch in my flannel pajamas and sheepskin slippers while the wind blows outside. Just a month ago we had air conditioners running.

I naively thought that with The Bean starting school in September that I'd suddenly have all sorts of free time to start  blogging more (among other things). Turns out things are still pretty busy with one kiddo at home... and I have a feeling that even if both of them were in school there'd be plenty to do to fill the days. 

So, a quick update on some of our going ons over the past month...

The start of September was still warm enough for a trip to the beach. This was definitely one of our favourite spots this summer. I have a feeling we'll be back again even more often next year. 

We took a very impromptu trip to Niagara falls when my friend called me and told me that she and her girlfriend were going to be coming in for a weekend trip. The kids were impressed with the size of the falls. Sprout's favourite part was taking the trolley up the incline. The Bean liked the arcade.

We spent a Saturday afternoon at the apple farm with my cousin and her son. Going apple picking has become an annual tradition for us. While we don't usually bring many apples home, we still enjoy going. The place that we go to has a ton of activities for kids, but this year they both said their favourite part was picking the apples.

After having two other local bloggers/friends recommend it, we decided to go Treetop Village. The Bean LOVED it. Sprout had a harder time navigating the ropes, but loved it just the same. I'm sure it helped that Mommy and Mama piggy backed her around a good bit.


We celebrated Jen's 40th birthday with her birthday treat of choice: donuts.

We went down to Harbourfront for Word on the Street. It's been a few years since we last went and Jen and I agreed that it was much harder to navigate with mobile children. Both kids got to pick out a book. The Bean selected a Magic Treehouse book and now I think we're going to be in the market for more of that series. We read it to him, but it is remarkable how well he is reading these days.  Sprout picked out a Little Golden Book called Theodore Mouse Goes to Sea. I had a copy when I was a child. She may or may not have been encouraged to pick this over the Disney Princess book. The kids convinced us to take them on a paddle boat ride while we were down there. Their identical smiles kill me.

Starting us into October, The Bean, Sprout and I all participated in the Terry Fox Run at The Bean's school this past Friday.  

Many more adventures to come, I am sure.  And hopefully a little bit more time to write about them. 

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

It's Easier to Leave Than to be Left Behind

I knew that Sprout would miss The Bean when he started kindergarten. I didn't really realize how much she would miss him.

I've tried to have some fun activities planned with her. I've taken her to SkyZone (an indoor trampoline park), the Brickworks (an awesome nature preserve), the library and some really great parks around the city. Still, nearly everyday I get some variation of "Where's [The Bean]?", "I miss [The Bean]" and one time when we were driving home I heard the saddest little voice from the backseat of the car saying, "I'm ready to pick up [The Bean] from school now." Poor bug.

She's told me she doesn't have any friends, and when I list her friends she often asks me to call them so they can meet up with us. Sometimes it works out, but I do think she would rather have her brother around.

She actually cried when we dropped him off on the first day of school, sad that she wasn't going with him. I'm not sure why she had it in her head that she'd be going to kindergarten too, but she did. While she now understands that she won't be going to kindergarten until next fall, she often says, "But I can go to daycare." I think it's fair to say she doesn't like that she's been left behind.

At home she plays school. She asks me to write her notes for her lunchbox like I've been doing for her brother. I have to be the teacher and read her stories or direct her to different activities.

We're starting some programs in the next few weeks and I'm hoping that the routine and structure helps her out a bit. I'm also hoping that we make a few new friends for her. I think she'd like that.

It's been a bit bumpy, but The Bean seems to be adjusting well, overall. Day 2 was tougher than day one, and many mornings he will say that he doesn't want to go to school. However, he has made at least three new friends that he talks about often. The one friend even gave him a huge hug when I dropped him off one day last week. I liked seeing that. He won't give us a full run down of his days, but he is starting to sing some new songs and will give us little snippets of what's been going on over the course of the evening. He's usually pretty tired in the evenings and often a bit grumpy, I suspect because most days he hasn't been eating much of what I've packed. He can be impatient and snippy with Sprout, which makes me sad, because I know how much she misses him. Things seem to be getting better though. Hopefully by October we'll all have settled into a new routine and not be finding things quite so difficult.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

First Day of Junior Kindergarten

Today The Bean started Junior Kindergarten.

I'm still a little bit in shock that our baby has started school. We've been saying for a while now that he is ready. And really, he is. Still, we were all a little bit nervous about his first day. 

The Bean is very social; for that reason alone I think he will enjoy JK. He's ready to interact with people outside of our family and close friends. He is also so ready to have the educational experiences he will receive at school. He is curious and learns so much naturally. The student-directed, play-based experiences he will have this year will fulfill a lot of his natural curiosity. He is also ready for some independence. 

Except that's hard too. Our kid is a homebody. He's likes getting hugs and snuggles. He loves his sister fiercely. He knows his boundaries here. He knows even if he pushes those boundaries that he is loved without exception. Being away from this space, his home and family, for 6.5 hours a day will be a big transition. 

I think that's just a bit of what we saw today. Excited yes, but also not so sure. He put on a brave face this morning and marched into the playground with hardly a backwards glance. As we waved goodbye he shouted to us, "I already made a new best friend!"  Oh sweet child.  

At pick up, he reported that he had a "great" day. He made a new best friend. He was the only kid in the class who called his teacher by her full name, and not just "Miss". But someone pulled on his shirt on the playground. Fortunately a neighbour a grade ahead comforted him and told the teacher what had happened, which made him feel better. He fell asleep on the carpet during quiet time when there was quiet music playing. Tomorrow he wants us to send a blanket so he can be cozier. The family photo we tucked in his backpack "helped a lot," but he missed us when he went out for recess and forgot the photo inside. (My heart broke a little when he told me that.) They had an assembly, but he wasn't sure what it was about. The only classroom activity he reported was listening to music on headphones ("for a very long time"). He barely ate any of the lunch I packed, didn't see the note I had tucked in there, and was pretty much sobbing from exhaustion at 4:45pm. He fell asleep before 6:30pm, approximately 3 minutes after his head hit the pillow.   

We talked about changes being hard. About how being away from your family is hard, but how things would get easier as he made new friends and got used to being at school. I know he will be fine. Better than that, even. (At least I hope he will.) Still, I'm going to feel a bit guilty sending him back tomorrow knowing that it's not going to be that much easier for him right away. My baby. Growing up.

Not so sure.

Putting on a brave face.

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Not on the List

I had a hard time coming up with things for the Summer Bucket List. I knew we would be busy, but most of our business came in the day-to-day form of a parent keeping their little ones happy. That hardly seemed list worthy. (Though maybe it is!) As our days came and went there were a lot of list items that got crossed off, and a lot of things that we did that were never on the list, but could have been.

With school starting on Tuesday, it feels like the summer is coming to a close. I think it's been a pretty great one. We've been a lot of places. We've spent a lot of time with friends. Many mornings started with the kids asking, "Where are we going today?" There were so many possibilities.

Here are some of  the things we've done that weren't on "the list" but that are noteworthy nonetheless...

The Bean got a skateboard just before we left for Paris.  He was so admiring the "big kids" at the skate parks and on our street that it seemed like a perfect gift to give him to enjoy on Grandma and Grandpa's super-long driveway. Some of the novelty has worn off, but he certainly loves it. I think he would love it even more if I were more willing to take him to the skate park to practice.  Sprout uses the ramps as slides (and RUINS her clothes), so I don't jump at the opportunity....

These two have become best buds. I mean, they were before, but they so clearly just adore each other. There is nothing that could make me happier.

Buskerfest. So exhausting, but SO much fun. We met up with Ashleigh and the girls for the first bit. The kids get along well and so do Ashleigh and I, so it's a winning situation all around. They left earlier than we did, so they missed out on the acrobats (which I was keen to see) and The Bean's "performance" with the trampolineists. He was called up to volunteer and one of the guys did a flip over his head, and then the other guy flipped him. He was even paid for it! He used his earnings to buy himself and his sister each a tub of cotton candy.

MudHero Kids' Mud Run. Ashleigh told us about this one, unfortunately we weren't free the same day her girls were running. Still, The Bean had a great time. He ran the course, minus the mud pit (which he hated) three times! Sprout wanted to participate but was too young. The kind ladies at the end of the race let her have a medal regardless. That seemed to make up for having to sit at the sidelines.



Niagara Falls. My friend, who lives in Boston, unexpectedly messaged me to ask if we'd want to meet up with her and her girlfriend in Niagara Falls this weekend. We love to see them every opportunity we can get, and we had a day with no plans, so it was an easy decision to make. The kids had never seen the falls, so it was a special experience for them in that regard... though the funicular trolley was Sprout's favourite part and The Bean's was the arcade. (Kids!)

I'm sure that there were other things we did that are noteworthy, but it's late and there's only two days until school starts for our biggest little one, so I should go to bed so I am rested enough to enjoy those days to their fullest.  

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

SBL #12 aka Mama and Mommy's Trip To Paris!

This blog entry is going to be a photo-heavy, but PARIS.  I don't think an apology is really necessary. 

I have to admit, I cheated a little bit by including entry #12 on our Summer Bucket List.  This trip has been in the works for at least the past six months.  It's something that we knew for sure would be happening, but still, I felt like too big of a summer event not to include.

There is really so much I could say about this trip.  Paris is somewhere Jen and I have talked about going together before The Bean was even born.  Her 40th birthday is coming up next month, this coupled with having a job this past year that provided enough "extra" money to afford such a trip plus not having gone anywhere since before the kids were born and now having kids old enough to leave for a week meant that this was actually something we could make happen.

Making the effort to do something special with just the two of us also seemed like something that would be good for our relationship. It's very easy to get bogged down in the day-to-day of family life. Spending time on us has taking a backseat to spending time on the family. It was a great opportunity to spend time together, have actual uninterrupted conversations, and just enjoy each other's company. 

Jen's parents agreed to watch the kids while we were gone. I don't think there's anyone else we would have asked or trusted for that amount of time. And even though we have every confidence in their ability to care for our kids, it was still hard. I have never been away from Sprout overnight. She still nurses. And even though he's much more independent, the longest I've been away from The Bean is under 24 hours. I managed to hold things together, but almost broke down when Jen's mom grabbed my shoulders and reassured me that "THEY ARE GOING TO BE JUST FINE!" as I warned her about reading labels to make sure foods she was giving The Bean didn't contain dairy.

(For the record, I did tear up when we got back and both kids gave me the biggest and best hugs, proclaiming "I love you, Mama!  I missed you! I'm so happy you're home!" It made missing them all week almost worthwhile in itself.) 

So, we drove down to PA on Friday, returned to Toronto on Saturday and then boarded our flight to gay Paris on Sunday. Quite a whirlwind. After climbing the ninety-one (yes, ninety-one!) stairs leading up to our fifth floor apartment, we stepped out onto the balcony to take in the view. Totally worth it.

We lay pretty low our first day there. After unpacking and a mid-day nap (!) we walked down the street to Notre Dame and for a bit of a neighbourhood exploration.

Tuesday we hit up the Arc de Triomphe. We opted not to walk up the stairs to the top and instead window shopped along the Champs-Elysee before heading over to a park to walk around some more.  

The Pompidou Centre was a stone's throw away from our apartment, and we walked by it most nights.  This piece of graffiti art was pretty awesome.  

After dinner on Tuesday we took a river cruise along the Seine.  It was beautiful, but too dark to capture most of the landmarks we passed.  

The next day we went to see the Eiffel Tower up-close. We walked through the Trocadaro Gardens, then up to La Tour Eiffel. After waiting in the line for the elevator for a ridiculously long time, with an even ridiculously longer wait ahead of us, we decided to take the stairs. After a much shorter wait we were headed up to the first level. We rewarded ourselves with gelato at the top. We walked through Champ de Mars on our way home.

That evening we walked up Rue de Rivoli to the Louvre. We didn't go in, but walked around the outside and watched the sun set as we headed towards the Tuileries to enjoy a bottle of wine. From the gardens we noticed that the Ferris Wheel wasn't so far away and decided to walk over. Turns out there was a whole fair set up, so walked through stopping at the fun house (Jen's choice) and for a crepe (my choice).  

Thursday, before heading towards the Opera House, we searched out the flower market. The market itself was a bit of a bust in that it was more houseplants than the beautiful cut flowers I had been envisioning, but it was nice walking along the Seine just the same. 

The Palais Garnier was probably the most surprising highlight of the trip. Jen, who loves The Phantom of the Opera, really wanted to see it. We did an iPad guided tour that was fantastic. I would definitely recommend it to anyone travelling to Paris!

We then headed over to Sacre Coeur. After climbing the steps and deciding that the motto "City of Lights" should be changed to "City of Stairs" we enjoyed the spectacular view. Afterwards we roamed the streets of Montmartre before finding a Metro station and heading back to the apartment.

Friday was our art gallery day. I love impressionism and post-impressionism, so the D'Orsay was an easy choice. The gallery itself was gorgeous and there was just enough of the art that we were most interested in seeing to make it not so overwhelming yet still worthwhile. We actually left and then went back in because I realized we had missed all of the Toulouse-Lautrecs. 

After that we headed back towards "home" and the Picasso Museum. This, sadly, was one of the biggest disappointments of the trip. I adore Picasso's early works (particularly his rose period) and was really looking forward to seeing it. There was ONE painting from this period in the gallery. And one from his blue period, the next group of his works I was the most interested in seeing. I did find this gem, which made me think of our kiddos and smile, but miss them.

Saturday, our last day in Paris, was reserved for Versailles.  We took the RER out of the city and found the palace without any issue at all. It'd be pretty hard to miss. Opulent is the word that comes to mind when thinking of Versaille. The size! The furniture! The art! The gardens! It really is something to see!  Unfortunately the insanely large crowds made touring the actual palace quite unenjoyable and we ended up leaving before going through the whole thing.

Our last evening in Paris we went out for a nice dinner in Marais and were treated to the most beautiful sunset from our balcony after arriving back home. The last photo I took was inadvertently almost identical to the first photo I took. 

We started dreaming about our next trip before this one was even over...

UPDATED: The Two Moms to Be Summer Bucket List for 2015
1. Check out new parks and go back to old favourites.
2. Swim in Lake Ontario. 
3. Visit animals at the zoo.
4. Spend time in nature. Look for new "nature spots" in the city.
5. Donate books to the book bank.
6. Smell flowers at botanical gardens.
7. Go to the Toronto Islands.
8. Make popsicles.
9. Meet up with local bloggers.
10. Paint rocks that we find at the beach.
11. Go to a fair.  
12. Take a moms-only trip. 
13. Eat things that we have grown and/or picked ourselves.