In The Library Bag...

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

This week's library trip was a quick one. Normally, we camp out in the children's section at one of the tables. We take the kids' school work and spend a good couple of hours with our books before browsing and signing out their books.

Today I browsed the display tables. I browsed the young adult section for The Girl Child, looking for something without a lot of sex, drugs, teeny-bopper dramatics, teen angst or mean-girl politics. The kids browsed for graphic novels - but not the Manga kind.

Today's haul was a small one. It's going to be a busy week and we're still reading a couple of selections from last week's selections.

by Christopher Paolini

The second in the Inheritance trilogy, which is now going to be a four volume set. I'm reading it to keep ahead of the movies. I enjoyed reading the first in the series Eragon to the kids a few years back. I'm enjoying the story. If I were a more critical reader, I'm sure I would have a laundry list of complaints about Paolini's writing.
Every Christmas season, I try to have a nice read aloud on hand. This one should fit the bill this year. I'll let you know how it goes.

by Bobbie Kalman

This is a more 'schoolish' book. However, our studies are taking us through Canada's formative years so it seemed relevant. Written pre-Eyewitness books, it's not as flashy, but it's layout is in manageable chunks rather than in pages of text. The kids will pick it up and browse it if I leave it conveniently laying about.

Eat, Shrink and Be Merry
by the Podleski sisters

I've reached my library imposed limit of 3 sign-outs of the 'Crazy Plates' cookbook. I had to return it. I kept finding recipes in it that my kids - the pickiest eaters on the planet - would try. This selection is similar in style and ingredients so I'm hoping for more success and further expanded palates.

A Really Short History of Nearly Everything

by Bill Bryson
For The Boy Child with his incredibly short attention span and low-fiction tolerance. Nice layout with lots of white space.


And So It Begins...

Monday, November 30, 2009

December first is almost here. That means it is time to get Christmas out of it's box.

Over the years, I've undergone a Christmas transformation. While living at home with my parents, Christmas was always just done for me. I sailed through the holiday season on my mother's coattails. Once I actually had to think about pulling off a Christmas on my own, I started to panic. I hated the holidays and avoided as much as possible. Then the babies came along. What kind of a mother doesn't do Christmas for her kids? So I went through the motions. As the kids got older and I got over myself, I've come to realize that Christmas celebrations are what I make them. If I'm stressed, the kids are stressed. If I'm indifferent, the kids don't want to participate. So this year I feel I'm in a good place to enjoy the holidays. Hopefully everyone else in the A Household will too.

I feel pretty comfortable this year. The calendar is set; I know what I'm doing on each day throughout the holidays. Mr. B and I took a nice day last weekend and put up our one measly strand of Christmas lights. They're all ready to go come December 1. My Christmas bin has been located and, due to an early bath of cookies needing decorative tins, unearthed.

This weekend's company, needing an excuse to make our visit interesting and kid-friendly, attended the local Santa Clause Parade at my insistence. I also dragged Mr. B and the kids to a community lighting of a Christmas tree celebration. It's time to get festive, people! The holiday is about spending time together and enjoying seasonal traditions more than the gift-haul philosophy the local WalMart would like you to subscribe to.

And due to an unfortunate scheduling situation, I need 15 dozen cookies ready for this coming Friday (9doz.) and Sunday (6doz.). The Girl Child is also contributing to one of those exchanges, bringing the A Household take-home amount of cookies to 21 dozen. I'm not exactly sure what I was thinking. I'm sure it was something about not wanting to offend someone by declining to participate. I'm not freaking out about the mountain of cookies I will be carting home though. The local library is having a fundraising bake sale in a week or so. Whatever won't fit in the freezer will be contributing to the worthy new Youth Programs.

And so it begins. Hopefully a great holiday season that lasts all through December and into January. I can't believe I'm actually looking forward to it this year!


Field Trip!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Last Friday, the 20th, the kids and I piled into the back seat of a Honda Civic and journeyed to the Big City to visit the Royal Ontario Museum. I hadn't visited the museum in years and years. The kids had gone in October with my parents. When they came home, they were so excited to go back...and they all figured I should go with them this time.

Our main objective was to visit the Dead Sea Scrolls before the exhibit closes in January. The kids also wanted to show me their favourite areas that they had visited last trip. Isn't that sweet?

Fun times were had at the museum. The best part was watching how excited and engaged the kids were by the place. I think they would have spent the whole day in Ancient China/Korea/Japan. There was a beautiful display of Asian art through the ages. The Girl Child was very impressed. Her Chibi/Manga/Anime interest has some historical roots, she told me, as she was busy noticing all sorts of familiar elements in the artwork. The Boy Child was mesmerized with the Dead Sea Scrolls. He was a little ticked that there was so much exhibit before the actual scrolls. But once the scrolls were in sight, we had a hard time making him leave. He spent time finding the Tetragrammaton, pointing it out to anyone who would listen, drawing it in his Grandpa's notebook. I followed the rules and took no pictures although I was itching to.

We took photos in all other areas until the camera batteries konked out. I think I could reconstruct the entire Gems exhibit in photos. That would be the exhibit I handed the camera off to the kids. So, pics to follow:

REAL Samurai stuff!

Imperial Palace reconstruction.

Trying to find an elevator, we found The Girl's favourite animal.

The Boy takes a pic of himself and a giant geode.

Chillaxin' in the Gem Exhibit.


This Is The Welcome I Get.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

I went away.
I went for an overnight with the kids.
The Skittish White Dog stayed home with Mr.B.
The kids and I came home.
The Skittish White Dog stole my toothbrush and ate it.
The Skittish White Dog missed me.
I went out and bought a new toothbrush.
That is all.
Mrs. A.


C25K Week #3...Again

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

This week I'll finish the third week of C25K. Again.

I have to say, this time through, it's fairly painful. I don't know, maybe I need new shoes. Perhaps it's the colder weather. Maybe it's my dad 'stopping in' at 7:35a.m. just to chat.

Each morning I wake up and I get dressed and The Skittish White Dog and I head for the door. If I plan to do anything else, I never get out the door. Then, I spend all day trying to fit in a half-hour for a 'run'. Ha. Never happens.

This week in particular was interesting. On Monday, I was up and out, first thing. That's about 8a.m. in Mrs. A Land. Off I go on my Week #3 workout: warm-up, run 90s, walk 90s, run 3min, walk 3min, repeat, cool-down. I was ready. I was looking forward to it.

For some reason, I never stopped running into obstacles. At every turn, every bend, every step of the way I was hit up with some sort of interruption.

There's some guy who walks with his basset hound I see quite often. He walks too fast for the dog to keep up so he takes the dog off its leash. Of course, my dog wants to eat his dog and his dog wants to play. So I play tug-of-war with my dog while trying to stay on schedule. Another dog related obstacle is the Bag Man. Lovely gentleman, but for some reason he has his cargo pants stuffed with plastic bags. Lots of them. After I passed the basset hound, I came upon Bag Man with his two dogs. Bag Man goes out of his way to intercept me. Tangled leashes ensued. I ran an extra 30s hoping that would make up for my schedule confusion.

The next thing I know, I am wrestling with my dog. She had some sort of dead rodent in her mouth. And then there were kids at the skate park watching me stumble along. Who skateboards at 8:15 in the morning?! Path was muddy and flooded. Soaker. Off in the distance, I see another dog off leash. I turn around to finish my 'run' the way I had come.

I was thinking how ridiculous this Monday morning venture was. I was considering my motivation for this morning exercise silliness and wondering if it was really worth it. My butt jiggles. My feet get wet. I wrestle with my dog. The. Whole. Time. Is this really worth it?

So. I am halfway through my final 3minute run. It sounds easy, doesn't it? It's not. I'm sweaty. I'm tired. Thirsty. There's a bruise on my leg that really hurts when I run. I can't wait to be finished. I turn the corner of the pathway to an uphill grade. I know if I can make it to the soccer goal posts, I'm home free.

Firefighters, people. There were firefighters on the path. Like, 25 of them had just leaped out of their calendars and landed on my walking path. Walking down the hill like they owned it. They were dressed in full gear carrying their helmets. Cheery buggers, the whole lot of them. Who puts firefighters on a secluded walking path half a kilometer from anything?

Turns out that The Skittish White Dog is afraid of firefighters. I was not surprised. I had to tow her through them while trying to look like a runner. Thank goodness for big windbreakers and mirrored sunglasses. None of them will ever recognize me. I made it up the hill and made sure they had turned the corner out of sight before I stopped running.

I finished off my walk/run thinking about how ridiculous and mixed up my whole outing had been. Before the firefighters, I was ready to just give it up and thrown in the towel for good. But after the firefighters, I realized there is always going to be some obstacle, some interruption, some unforeseen circumstance. After the firefighters I had to laugh. I figured the Universe is telling me to get over myself. I just need to suck it up and get on with it. Be confident and take advantage of my morning exercise opportunities.

Today, when I was heading out with The Skittish and Very Bouncy White Dog and my dad pulled into the driveway, I smiled. I was not flustered and frustrated with the interruption. Dad and I enjoyed a nice walk by the creek. Once he was on his way, I debated. It would be very easy to just go inside and get on with my day. But I didn't. I went ahead and did my walk/run. Amazingly, there were no firefighters on the path this morning. No loose dogs, puddles or firefighters. Did I mention that I think the firefighters might have been a one time opportunity occurrence?

So I head into the end of Week #3 thinking I should stick with my plan. If I can stand another 6 weeks of this, I could actually finish the program this time. And who knows what I'll run into while I'm out there. If anything, wrestling frozen bloody voles from the dog and being surprised by firefighters is interesting and newsworthy in the otherwise boring and mundane life of Mrs. A.


I'm Going To Have To Make Another Chart. Damn.

Monday, November 16, 2009

If I could get someone around here to pitch in and contribute a little to their feeding and clothing and learnin', then perhaps I'd have a little more time to blog. Not everyone all at once now...let's not send me into culture shock or anything.

I had a brilliant brainwave this past summer: let's get rid of the chore chart we've been using for years with varying degrees of success. Just for the summer. The kids need a holiday, too, you know. Well. I'm trying to remember if I've ever come up with a dumber plan.

I'm on it though. Once I'm done reading this book, I'll have all the answers. The Boys Child was particularly concerned that I not skip the chapter called "Bribing Your Kids To Work".

One problem with this book, though. While reading it, I have come to realize that not only did I enter into this whole parenting game with inadequate tools, but I have developed bad habits along the way! My poor kids!

Hat tip to Lenore Skenazy over at Free Range Kids for the book suggestion.


Like vs. Love, Boy Style

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Sometimes it's a stretch to get the kids through their daily dose of book work. Add in a healthy measure of Hallowe'en candy and things begin to fall apart much earlier in the day.

Take this afternoon, for instance. I was explaining, with my indoor voice through gritted teeth, for the umteenth time, that the kids really had to quit and that I didn't like that kind of behaviour.

Of course The Boy Child, future Crown Prosecutor, Master of Twisting Your Words, pipes up:

The Boy Child: You don't like me anymore?!?

Mrs.A: Of course I like you. I just don't like the behaviour.

The Boy Child: If you don't like me, then you don't love me! <insert theatrical wailing>

Seriously? He does this on purpose. I'm going to be insane before I'm forty. I told him that I love him, always will. I may have sighed.

The Boy Child: But 'Like' and 'Love' are the same thing Mom!

Mrs. A: No, they're not the same thing. For example, I will always love you, no matter what. But I may not like you very much if you keep this up. Get off your sister's head and get to the table like I asked.

The Boy Child: Roots, Mom, it's ROOTS!

Mrs. A is now confused. What is roots?

The Boy Child: Listen, Mom: The root Aimer means to like or to love! It's the same thing!

So, obviously, something is getting through to him. The curriculum we're using, Vocabulary From Classical Roots, does indicate that with use, the student will begin to draw connections from the words they use. I don't think they meant french verbs, though. Oh well, can't blame a boy for trying.


Happy Hallowe'en

Monday, November 2, 2009

These people living in my house have turned Hallowe'en into a full-fledged holiday. Between the requests for baking and the requests for decorating I've been busy! Granted, Mr.B has been saying for years that Hallowe'en is his favourite holiday. This year, though, we put a little thought and effort into it.

There were snacks.

During the week, Mr.B made his seasonal candy apples. We used small apples so he was left with a pot of candy coating...which he poured into maple leaf molds to make hard candy. Inventive.

The Boy and I spent Hallowe'en afternoon making treats: spiderweb cupcakes, bat krispies, apples with homemade caramel and witch hat cookies. There was cider. Our best batch yet!

There were decorations.

The Boy took it upon himself to frilly up the outdoors. There was an epic glow-in-the-dark battle being waged in the garden between spiders and ants. The spider web was strewn, pumpkins displayed, jack-o-lanterns carved and the ever present painted spiders. Painted last year at this time.

Inside I made a fence in our hallway. The kids helped make silhouettes to put on the fence. We also had a tree branch hung with candy filled treat boxes, gourds, candles and coloured fabric leaves.

There were costumes.

The Girl explored her deep, dark desires and went Goth. The Boy found a ninja/samurai get-up to go with his sword that Grandma and Grandpa had brought him from Japan. We were joined by three of the kids' friends for trick-or-treating.

A couple of hours before we set out to pilfer the neighbourhood, the new-to-Canada Philippine neighbour kids came by. They invited themselves along with our group for trick-or-treating. We all thought we were doing them a bit of a favour by showing them the routine. The kids and I thought it was great that we would be able to share a tradition that we enjoyed with our new neighbours. As it turns out, they just weren't sure how we Canadians go about things on October 31. Back home, they enjoyed a full day of celebrating - trick-or-treating throughout the day, parades, tonnes of food, visiting and bonfires into the night. Mr.B is a bit jealous.

Mrs. A.


Back To The Beginning.

Monday, October 26, 2009

I've had a confession brewing for a while. I've also had some really good intentions sitting on the back burner for a while. Today I woke up and reconciled the two.

I fell off the C25K bandwagon. I fell off over halfway though the program as I was ready to start week 7 of 9. I had worked up to a route that was about 4.5km. I ran a good portion of it. And then I stopped. I do admit, I was a little discouraged at the time. It had taken 8 weeks to get me to this point in the program and other than a bit of cardio-vascular endurance, I wasn't seeing too many benefits.

As well, I smashed my toe while trying to walk through an office chair. With all the swelling and bruising, I couldn't get my runners on. That lasted almost a week. Shortly after, I poisoned my dog. Not on purpose, mind you. But it was a month-long situation involving copious amount of puke and poop. Now, who wants to analyze my belief that I can only get some exercise if I take the dog along? Because if you understand the reality of taking the Skittish White Dog out and about, you'd understand that it is an undertaking all in itself. SO really, I make my C25K intervals frustrating as well as physically taxing. Clever, huh?

Fast forward to the recent future: Lately I've begun to feel fed up with myself. And I'm not just a little guilty for stopping all attempts at exercise completely. I read a timely message somewhere out there in cyberspace that talked about getting over yourself and just getting your stuff done. I am my own worst excuse. So I decided that before eating, before getting the kids up, before starting the laundry, putting the garbage out or pulling the day's school work, I just had to go outside and walk the friggin' dog already! I reasoned with myself: if you're walking the dog, then you might as well do the C25K thing again.

To cement this plan in my daily to-do's, on the weekend I went to the local Zeller's and picked up a sports bra, some yoga pants and a couple of layering athletic shirts. I was going for the 'now that I have it, I'd better use it' personal guilt trip. Last night I loaded up my Shuffle and prepared mentally for 8 x 30second running intervals. Only it wasn't 8 x 30seconds. It was 8 x 60second running intervals. Happy Monday Morning to me.

In summary:

  • Most important thing: I got up and moving this morning.
  • Most surprising thing: Noone I passed stared at my jiggling bottom.
  • Most gross thing: the dog stopped running on the path and ate some bloody dead furry mass that I don't want to think about.
  • Most encouraging thing: I'm going to get up and do it again tomorrow. Not the running part, just a nice half hour walk with some peppy music.
  • Most inspiring thing: I really forgot how much I love fall. Great colours. One really should be outdoors some every day :-)


Life In The 'Hood #2

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Today I looked out the window and I saw this:

There was a man in my tree. Of course, 'my' is a term I have absolutely no right to use. It's not my tree. It's just situated next to my yard. Again, not really my yard, but for all intents and purposes, I'm Queen of this postage stamp. Back to the man in my tree...

The man in my tree was here to divest the tree of some of its limbs. You see, there were a few incidents this summer. Some of the local kids discovered they had attained the required height for climbing this particular tree. Not a problem. The problem began when a couple of them started running off at the mouth. Things heated up nicely when they argued that they were not staring in the neighbour lady's windows. Unfortunately, they were arguing with the neighbour lady who was sitting in her living room behind her six-foot fence. She wrote a letter to the building managers and copied the owners.

Mr. B and I got involved when we clearly saw unsafe things happening. 7 and 8 kids crawling all over each other in the tree ignoring my tree-climbing 'rules': stay off any dead branches as well as those thinner than your arm. Then there was the day I found a few of them using bricks to gouge the bark off the tree. Sure, they put the bricks down when I asked them to, but then they tried to rip branches off the tree...and proceeded to swing from them when they were only partly successful. I asked the building manager to step in because of all of this and I was concerned. The kids had stopped listening to me and it was becoming incredibly inconvenient to look out the window all day. Someone was going to get hurt.

So much to my surprise, the tree guys showed up today - a month and a half after the last kid lost their copious amounts of summer free time - and did a very good job at trimming the tree. I was surprised because there had been no response to my - nor the neighbour lady's - complaint. I'd like to say that the building manager/out-of-town owners are the proactive, pride in ownership, get-'er-done types but I'd be lying. They're more the squeaky wheel, bring along the property standards guy and then they start to wake up type of people.

But, in the end, the tree has been trimmed. One more thing around here got taken care of..or 15 things, if you count the number of kids who can't spy on the neighbour lady before falling out of the tree, cracking their backs on 'my' fence on the way down.

On a more personal note, The Boy and The Girl both learned a thing or two about how the professionals trim a tree and then clean up after themselves. The Boy was quite intrigued by the ropes and harness. The Girl is responsible for all the photographs. And for talking the tree guys' ears off - from well out of the way - throughout the entire job.


Apple Picking

Monday, October 19, 2009

Can you believe that until last weekend, I had never been apple picking?

I'd been to the orchard for a tour. I'd seen a demonstration of apple picking. But I'd never done the deed until last Sunday.

It didn't occur to Mr.B that we'd actually have to use all the apples we picked. Hello apple crisp! One bushel of apples makes six and a half recipes of apple crisp and one giant pie. I halved the crisps into smaller pans.

The kids ate two of the bigger pans over the next couple of days and we delivered a few pans to friends and family. The rest were destined for the freezer.

Apple crisp is a favourite around here - warm with ice cream - for breakfast.

I don't know why we hadn't done this apple picking thing before! It's awesome! I think that this might just turn out to be the A Family's newest Thanksgiving tradition.


Library Days

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

I am so loving our library lately!

We have a wonderful, dynamic, organized, creative, helpful new Children's Librarian. I think she has been the driving force behind my new found excitement about the library.

A Little Background. For the last five or six years, I've encouraged the kids to participate in the summer programs the library offers. As Summer 2008 wrapped up, I honestly thought I had seen the last of our summer library days. The kids were tired of same ol' program formats and over-enthusiastic or uncommunicative staff.

Enter New Librarian. I must admit, I was not very impressed to find out our library had fired the children's librarian. For every personality trait the kids didn't like, there was something that endeared her to me. She greeted the kids by name. She suggested books to them that were generally bang-on hits. She ordered just about any book I mentioned to her that wasn't in the collection. She called my house to invite the kids to special events they might not otherwise have heard about. I grumbled unhappily for months (yes, months) before I met the new part-time children's librarian.

A Surprising Summer. Perhaps I was blindsided by the colourful array of new program advertising. Maybe it was just the idea of 'summer break' that was putting me in a better-than-average mood. It could have been the fact that I held no expectation that we would be spending time at the library over the summer. Whatever it was, when I met the new librarian 'Miss L.', I was blown away. The new summer programs looked great. Colourful. Interesting. Up-To-Date. Cool.

The kids were actually looking forward to summer library programs. There were movie afternoons. There was a drop-in hang-out time. There were themed programs that weren't 'stupid'. And the summer book club looked good too. It was like a breath of fresh air had invaded the library. I think we hit the library twice a week.

Lovin' The New Librarian. Now Miss L. greets the kids by name. She listens to their stories. She recommends books and asks them what they've been doing/reading/playing. She asks their opinion. She put together a phenomenal Library Orientation for the local homeschoolers as soon as school was back in. With scavenger hunt. On her day off. When the library was closed to the public. Who does that?! She followed up with a How To Research module for the older kids. I'm really looking forward to what she'll throw at us next.

Happy Homeschoolers. Every Friday we've been taking the majority of the kids' schoolwork to the library. We camp out in the children's section for a change of scenery. We read. The kids do their bookwork. The Girl practices her research skills. The Boy practices his diabolo (in the library and noone yells at him!) I have time between kids and supervising schoolwork to pull books for our next week's reading aloud, histories and science. I help the kids find books for their own library bags. I take the time to explore the CDs, DVDs, the magazines and the reference sections. It's relaxed and enjoyable and our work gets done - even the straggling, end-of-week stuff - because the kids won't whine and complain and I won't plead and yell in public.

Soon to come is a special night for a few of the homeschooling moms. We were so impressed by what the kids learned during their tours that we've arranged for a mom version of the same. I'm especially looking forward to learning about the various databases the library has access to. A night out, a Morebucks coffee and good company is nothing to shake a stick at either.

It will be interesting to see how our library time evolves this year. I hope we continue to get good use of the space and resources they have to offer. Now, I need to know: what do you get that special librarian in your life for Christmas?


I'm Having A Strange Morning...

Thursday, October 8, 2009


Life In The 'Hood

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Some neighbours come and go quickly. Some live quietly. Some neighbours lay it out all over their driveway for everyone to see. Some share food. Some neighbours need to learn manners. Some teach your children. Some play nicely with others. Some have pets. Some have jobs. Some keep strange hours. Some neighbours just keep to themselves. Some are friends and some are just downright scary.

It's interesting living in such a ...diverse neighbourhood. I've earned my stripes in this neighbourhood; done my time; learned the ropes. I've called the police, the property managers, the ambulance - each on more than one occasion. I've looked for lost children, lost pets and lost mail. I've been the mean lady and the nice mom. I happily invite friends in to our crowded space and I've successfully banished the Jehovah's. I've been surprised by strangers on my roof and I've kicked strangers out of my yard. I figure after ten years in these trenches I can now say a thing or two every now and then.

Today The Boy was playing outside while I was inside preparing lunch. He thundered in the house, slamming the door like he was being chased by the fires of hell. Generally this does not happen. The Boy normally needs to be dragged in from the Great Outdoors by his heels. Even for food. I was upset to find out that he had been heckled.

There he was, practicing with his new Diabolo when some idiot individual started hooting and hollering out their back door, finishing up with a very clear: 'Get to school, kid!'


The Boy saw this adult person was who was yelling at him. The Boy was very anxious about going back outside after he had already made a successful escape to safety. However, under the guise of wanting to see his Diabolo tricks and in the spirit of getting back on the horse after falling, I went outside with him and he enthusiastically showed me his complete repertoire.

Lucky for us, we were treated to a repeat performance of Get To School Kid. This one, not as good as the first as it was preformed by a less confident, very stubby seven-year-old and it was abruptly choked off when he noticed me standing there. The Boy was not frazzled and was happy to resume his practicing. I went back to the kitchen to finish up lunch while listening to The Boy yell a running commentary to me through the patio door.

Outwardly, I encourage the kids to ignore such immature, ignorant behaviour. Inwardly, I'd like to take a page from Mr.GetToSchoolKid's book and slap him up the side of the head with a witty Get a Job, Idiot. I think the 'hood is rubbing off on me.

And there you have it, folks. Just another day in the 'hood.


Trivial Tidbits

Monday, October 5, 2009

The kids had a wonderful trip last Friday. Not only did they make it to la Cirque, but they enjoyed a quick visit to ROM. They picked the three exhibits they wanted to see the most and had a blast. They arrived home very late - or early - and were pretty beat the next day. We're homebodies at heart and a super long day generally makes us useless noodles the next day.

My life has become a never ending nightmare of dog hair. The Skittish White Dog is blowing her coat. Unless one has had an animal which has seasonally embarked on this journey to become naked, one simply can't imagine the sheer accumulation of shed. I vacuum (twice a day) and still there are clumps of dog hair escaping to all corners. This has been going on for the month of September and continues. Now that pink skin and ribs can be seen I am hopeful that the end is near. We've taken to letting Skittish White Dog sleep on the couch: it's easier to pick up hair off of leather rather than carpet. On the flip side, the Dyson is proving itself worth the financial sacrifice.

An emergency trip to the grocery store has unearthed a wonderful treat. I like Green & Black's chocolate. There's not a wide variety available around here. I've had the Milk Chocolate and the Maya Gold is a special treat. But today I found the Mint bar. I am officially in love. Lindt, you may have to up your game to regain your lead.

And, finally today, a little bit of linky-love. For fresh, interesting, non-homeschooling reading, I've been enjoying the writing over at The Women's Colony. Giving some intelligent - and sometimes sarcastic - words to a parenting style that has made sense to me for years is Lenore at Free Range Kids.

The Boy is flinging around a hacky-sack in the living room and The Girl, for some reason, needs help to research 'the slave trade that was before the slave trade that everyone writes about'. Wish me intact furniture and luck.

auf wiedersehen,
Mrs. A.


Oh, What To Do?!

Friday, October 2, 2009

Today, I have had a day to myself. Sans kidlets. To tell you the truth, I have felt a little lost.

Today, I woke a bit early and pried The Girl and The Boy out of their warm beds. I put The Boy in the shower and gave The Girl a wide berth. (She needed a minute...or twelve.) They dressed nicely, packed a bag of electronics stuff to do on a car trip and meditated on the couch while I made breakfast smoothies and packed a cooler lunch.

At 8, my mom and dad picked them up to whisk them away to lands unknown. Ok, I - the responsible adult in their lives - know where they are going. However, my parents wanted to keep it a surprise for the kids. The Boy was a little anxious and The Girl a little grumpy about this, but I was prepared to let my parents deal with the consequences of their Very Good Plan.

They are off to the big city to see a very good show - Ovo. They will love it. It will be their second Cirque show. Last year, we saw 'O' in Vegas and it was the highlight of the trip.

Today I have walked the dog, dropped a baby crib on my toe, been to the library, registered the kids for indoor soccer, coloured timeline figures, watched the Cosby Show and Extreme Home Makeover, enjoyed a quiet lunch with Mr.B, admired the new grass growing in the backyard and completed only a very minimal amount of housework. When Mr.B completes his workday, we will take the Thanksgiving turkey from my freezer to my mom's fridge, return merchandise to WalMart, walk my dad's dog, drink expensive Starbuck's coffee (we call it Morebuck's) and figure out some dinner. If I am very sneaky, I may even be able to trick Mr.B into pant shopping at Winner's and some chick-flick viewing. Keep your fingers crossed.

I suppose that I have made good use of my day. I'm not really sure what I should be doing when the kids aren't here. Sure there are things I should be doing. I could go out on a limb and actually plan something significant when I know they're not going to be here. But October crept up on me unbelievably quickly and I found myself getting everything ready for the kids' trip yesterday. Noone around here makes plans with 12-hour notice. And really, I have no kidless, non-working friends to make plans with. I feel a little caught-off-guard without my regular entourage and regular weekday schedule.

So there you have it: the meandering thoughts of a homeschooling mother who finds herself kidless for the first time in a very long time.


Happiness Costs...

Sunday, September 27, 2009

...$8/hour. Or at least it did last week. 4 skaters x $2 = an $8 hour of ice.

Skating has begun! We homeschoolers have infiltrated the 'Parent & Tot' daytime skate.

We started doing so many years ago when the kids were actually just-barely school age. Back then, happiness cost only $1/child. Fast-forward a bunch of years and the ice time is the same although the cost is more: $2/ included. Still, you can't get better bang for your buck.

We usually have the ice to ourselves. Those who are interested bring sticks and pucks. Some unseen rink attendant even puts the music on for us. Occasionally there's a parent with an actual tot in tow.

Last season's Most Interesting Event was the day a couple of 20-somethings showed up to skate. He had never been on skates. She thought it was the most hilarious, photo-worthy event of 2009. By the end of the hour, Mr. Never Had Been On Skates was playing a very cautious one-handed game of hockey with the kids (one hand being required to hold the stick, the other hand being required to fan about for balance). As he got off the ice, he thanked us moms for having such supportive and encouraging kids. It was great to see that ever elusive 'socialization' in action.

We will walk to the rink at least once a week. We will be joined by various homeschooling friends. We will get some exercise. We will improve our skating. We will have a great season, as usual.


Extended Family Dynamics

Thursday, September 24, 2009

I'm beginning to get a complex.

What is so difficult about visiting? Just a plain ol' family visit. Drop by, come in and catch up on everyone's personal current events.

My dad was doing well. He's semi-retired this year - very available to visit - and I very nearly had him perfectly trained: call first, don't tease the already-skittish-enough dog from the street side of the screen door on your way in. He would come to visit during the day when I wasn't making a meal or chauffeuring a kid. He would have a coffee and we would chat. Nice chats, too. We'd talk about his parents, my grandparents, who have both passed on. He'd tell me about spending time in 'the bush' or at 'the cabin'. It's always quite amusing to listen to him go on about my mother's latest exploits. I especially liked our conversations about religion - there's no better way to worship than to find a big ol' field, plop yourself down in the middle of the grassy sunshine, count your blessings for an hour or four and call it church.

Most recently, my dad's visits have consisted of him dropping in (whats happened to the pre-visit phone call?!) and dropping off. My front hallway was the repository for a rogue PC that my sister knew something about. She'd be by to explain. The explanation involved a couple of hours of my Mr. A's button pushing. Colour me not impressed.

Then, there was a mysterious bolt of fabric in a bag with some other lumpiness that was, thankfully, retrieved by someone or other while I was out.

Then, there was today's box. Just a box. Again, my sister would be by to retrieve it. And she was: There was a discreet tapping on our door at 1pm today. Just quiet enough to not interrupt my reading aloud to the children. And just loud enough to send Skittish White Dog into a bristling, barking, scrambling slide across the hardwood. I got a 'hi' from sister dearest as the door opened, a 'thanks' as I handed her the box that I knew she was here for and then, as she was closing the door on her way out, she turned back to me and said, 'Oh, how's things? What are you guys up to today?'

Dishes and schoolwork, I answered. Because that is the crazy-ass, adrenalin pumping, risky business that I am attempting today. If I'd had a bit of notice (or if I thought she was dropping by to visit) I could have come up with something a little more creative and conversational. Perhaps if I knew she was coming I could have invited her to lunch where her inquiry might have seemed a little more genuine.

I know what a genuine inquiry sounds like because just two days ago my brother called with one. He genuinely wants me to purchase the products he is selling. Granted, he didn't drop anything off in my hallway. But I find it curious the way he is available to stop by any time to 'talk business' yet can't show up when I make him a dinner he's accepted an invitation to.

I figure I must be missing something. It's like my extended family has it's own code of conduct and I missed the memo. Perhaps my status quo isn't exciting enough for them. Perhaps I need some more drama. I suppose I could think back and pull out a spectacular stunt from my highschool era. Although, if I recall correctly, that never really accomplished anything conducive to family visiting. Sort of the opposite, actually...

I suppose I'm just a little boring compared to the globe-trotting, gestating, house-buying, business-starting, wedding-planning hoopla that is going on amongst my collection of siblings. After all, I've been playing the same gig in the same club for ten years now. I suppose the novelty of my life choices has waned.

I really don't know why I worry about such things. I've got enough going on just trying to keep myself organized and on track. Who knows, perhaps the weekend will bring something positive and newsworthy. My complex and I will just ride it out.


A Day In The Life...

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

~Monday, September 14, 2009~

Monday morning dawned brisk and chilly. Not that I went out in it. I was in the kitchen as soon as I pulled myself out of bed as Mr. B was travelling for work. I made him lunch and coffee and sent him on his way. After a quick shower, I started the laundry.

While I was doing a quick perusal of the blogosphere, The Boy Child emerged. Normally, he cozies up on the couch for a wake-up, but yesterday he was stoked: First Day of Hockey. We went downstairs to try on his gear. Nothing like leaving it to the last 9 hours. I rebooted the laundry while The Boy showed me he could put all his gear on by himself. Except for a jersey...and skates...This is an improvement compared to the years I have all but poured him into his gear. My goal is to be out of my dressing room responsibilities by Christmas.

The Girl Child was up and about before we were done with the hockey gear. She hits the computer and the kitchen immediately upon stumbling downstairs in the mornings. I don't mind that much. She has two friends she keeps in touch with via chat, email and private webpage because they live out of town a ways.

After we all had a bit of something to eat (I have to remind The Boy to eat every day), I jump-started our morning with a half-hour of housework. We had a busy day planned and after my feelings about last week's first week of school, I was not looking forward to schoolwork. But, I figured perhaps it would be an ok day since we had so much more to do.

We were at the table together at about 9:45. We motored through a bit of journaling, a math lesson each, a reading in Story of the World 3 and the chapter review questions. The Girl surprised me by asking to take notes while I read aloud. She continued to do so through the Q & A. Then she composed a very thorough paragraph. The Boy composed a paragraph, but the agreement is that I will scribe it into his notebook for him. Neither of the kids were looking forward to the 'narration' part of things this year, but I'm hoping that they will come around. This was our second attempt and I was impressed with the results. We then cracked open the French we're using this year and began the first unit. The Girl really likes this program we're using: L'Art de Lire (book 3). The Boy is not in love with it at all. I might have to find something different for him later on if he can't find his French Groove. It was noon; we were done with the books for today.

The Girl ran off to get ready to go for our afternoon. I helped her out with the hair straightener and then I had a go at my mop. The Boy needed to tape his stick. Again. This required the use of the beloved Swiss Army Knife. Pretty much any job that might possibly maybe probably could use a Swiss Army Knife becomes a priority for The Boy these days. We made a quick lunch of sandwiches and fruit. We had a bit of a talk about the propaganda pamphlet that showed up in the mailbox regarding the H1N1 Flu.

Before we left the house, I pulled up a couple of webpages and the kids and I figured out the most efficient way to use the city bus to get us downtown and back home later on. Round trip: $12. Cheaper than taking a cab. Our co-operative plan worked out perfectly. Walk .5km, grab a bus. Transfer. Argue politely over who gets to pull the stop-cord. Arrive near our destination and walk a block.

We were meeting up with a large-ish group of homeschoolers to attend a Library Orientation. The new children's librarian put together a really great, interactive program for the kids. I was very impressed because, as I'm sure you can guess, a library tour can get a wee bit dry. The kids learned a lot about the reference areas and they spent a good amount of time looking at the resources they don't really use: books on CD, microfiche, newspapers and magazines. They got pretty good at using the search catalogue as well. The Girl will head back in two weeks time for the 'advanced' orientation program. I'm going as well. I'm interested in learning about the online databases available to library users.

We had just enough time after the program to grab a junkie snack at a nearby Tim Hortons. We walked over to the bus stop and waited, snacked and talked. The bus ride home was uneventful as was the walk home.

I was surprised that Mr. B was not yet home from his day when we arrived home at 4:30. We peeled the Skittish White Dog from the ceiling and got her to stop bouncing around shortly after we managed to force our way past her and into the house. The kids were dispatched to do a wardrobe change while I attended to a mouthguard fitting in the kitchen. THe kids had to fed for themselves when they announced they were famished. Snacks were had in front of a favourite cartoon - Phinneas & Ferb - while I did the laundry and tracked down Mr. B.

The Boy dressed for hockey in the living room and we were back out the door at 5:10. I hadn't arranged dinner and was a little worried that it would be chaos and low-blood sugar fits when we returned home.

Hockey was great as usual. The Boy was anxious, as usual. It was shortlived. The kids on the ice did skills and drills before a scrimmage. It's a good thing they use the first couple of weeks to get to know the players and balance the teams. The Boy was quick to let me know that he scored 3, assisted 2, saved 2 and set 'Spencer' up for a goal. He likes to keep track of stuff like that.

After we got home I played short-order cook in the kitchen. We did a bacon and eggs dinner. Four different types of eggs. I tossed a last egg on the hot pan as I was clearing the stove once everyone else had their dinners. I made it to the table just as the kids were finishing. I'll get better as the season progresses. Note to self: Don't make plans on the afternoons The Boy has hockey. Especially if Mr. B. is out of town.

At 8, The Boy turned up with a bad headache so he carted himself off to bed. The Girl was deep in a book enjoying the first quiet time of her day. The laundry was done, the kitchen cleaned up and Mr. B finally shut off his work PC as The Girl went off to bed at 9:30. He and I vegged on the couch for an hour and then we turned in ourselves.

All in all, a busy day. I was very impressed that it all turned out as well as it did. Now, the next time a busy day rolls around, my goal is to make sure the Skittish White Dog gets her walk.


First Week Blues

Friday, September 11, 2009

Well. That was a disaster.

Perhaps there is something to these "Fly By The Seat Of Your Pants", No Planning Required", "Let's See What Tomorrow Brings" homeschooling philosophies. Because this week I proved that the "Mom Looks Forward 6 Months By Buying Next Year's Books At This Year's Conference" and the "Take A Month Of Your Summer To Plan" methods can make one feel woefully inadequate in just three short days! (Really, short days. We didn't even attempt a full course load yet, people.)

But we all know a very relaxed way of approaching things simply doesn't work for me. Relaxed, even 'slightly scheduled', quickly slides down into lagging which spirals to a tepid intermittent which makes those nasty adjectives like 'procrastinating' pop up in conversation between Mr. B. and I. It's a dirty, slippery, self-loathing slope with two backward, lazy and unfortunate children waiting at the bottom. Ahem.

Thankfully, the weekend is here. These two days will give me time to recollect my enthusiasm, my encouragement, my creativity and, perhaps most importantly, my indoor voice. I will also run errands, get a few groceries, plant late grass in the backyard, help Mr. B. rebuild the carbs in the outboard, take a load to Goodwill and wean the dog off her meds. But I digress.

Next week will be better. On Monday, we will be motivated to finish up our work early in order to meet up with the local homeschoolers for a special library date. The kids will get a kick out of having the run of the place. It's usually closed on Mondays. Next week will be better. They'll be expecting a schoolish schedule. Maybe they'll be less shocked when I wake them up at 7:45am. Next week will be better. By then the initial shock of writing a paragraph/doing math each day/pick your poison will surely have worn off. Next week will be better.

Next week will be better.


The Obligatory 'First Day of School' Blog

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Like any good Canadian, I must begin by remarking on the weather: What a gorgeous day we had today! It started out thick with fog, then cloudy with sun, then sunny and warm. We seem to be having some threatening thundershowers to finish things up.

It was a perfect day to spend outside with friends. We had our 4th annual homeschoolers picnic today. I'd add capitals and title the event, however there seems to be some local haphazardness to the naming of our get-together. To some it's the Not-Going-Back-To-School picnic. To others it's the Home Learner's Picnic. To me, meh, it's a day in the park.

As so with sun, sand and socialization, we mark the beginning of our 7th (7th!!!) year of homeschooling. Did I mention I still have rookie jitters and second-guessing stress about homeschooling? Crazy.

For a couple of weeks now, I've been getting together our books and papers. I camped in the local Staples store last weekend and photocopied a ream+ of paper. Really. 613 pages. I have to go back this weekend and do more. But not a lot more. Thankfully. And, no, the copyright police are not out to get me.

Not only did I map out our year in worksheets and student pages, but I built a weekly timetable. It is mostly for the kids' benefit - they who like to check things off and ask 'when are we done?' - however I do admit to an inkling of perfectionist satisfaction when I see our days all perfectly planned. With time allotments. Because if I see The Boy Child spending more than 15 minutes on Handwriting Without Tears, I know it's going to be a bad day. I don't want bad days. I want Happy Homeschool days. Please refrain from sending helpful emails detailing how over-planning sets up unrealistic expectations and dooms the planner to ultimate failure and disappointment. I know. Still...I plan.

Today the timetable said 'Picnic' and 'Library'. We stayed too long at the picnic and therefore missed the library. See, I'm behind already. But that's ok. The timetable (and the calender{s} and the lessons plans and the subject guides) is more of a guideline anyway. Thank you Donna Young.

So, a lovely back-to-school...or Good food, good company, good times. I'm looking forward to the change of season. For the most part, the kids are as well. I'm excited about some of the plans we have with the local homeschoolers. I'm stoked about our bookwork. I'm so glad the local kids will be out of my tree and in a classroom. The kids are looking froward to getting back to hockey and soccer and library days and new notebooks and bike rides. (I know. Bike rides? But that's what they said.)

Happy September, All

♥Mrs. A.


Week 2 Day 1

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

I know, it took me long enough to get to week 2.

Let's focus on the positive though: I finished Week 2 Day 1! And I'm not dead or injured!

I had a problem getting the week 2 podcast onto my The Girl Child's iPod. So in a desperate attempt to maintain some personal accountability, I did an extra day of Week 1.

Week 2 consists of 6 intervals of 90 seconds of running. The first 4 intervals were ok. Not easy, but manageable. Then I started to flag. Then I had to stop and tie my shoes. And pull my dog off of some hound creature that wanted to play. Whose owner was talking to me as my iPod blared a particularly annoying mix of electronic music. I just nodded and smiled. While sweating. And panting. Attractive, no? At least I wasn't jiggling.

Cripes, I hate my ass.

Not only am I out of shape: Poor Skittish White Dog was quite spent by the time we returned home. Now, remember, Skittish White Dog is a husky with a big thick coat. Skittish White Dog heats up really fast this time of year. So even though today I got out the door before 7:30a.m., Skittish White Dog towed me to the creek on our cool-down walk, ignored a large family of ducks, stood in the water and drank to her heart's content. She loves the runs though, (short as they are) and never stops bounding ahead as soon as I begin a running interval.

I didn't think I would continue with the same route that I've been using. Surprisingly, I am not looking forward to finding a new route when I outgrow this one. This one is semi-private. I start on my street and continue through my neighbourhood to a local green space. There I pick up a paved walkway that is hidden from the road. The walkway goes for quite some time before connecting to a local school campus. I run across the campus and connect up with the greenbelt that runs behind our house. It's a big loop, about 3km. I suppose that as my distance increases, I can reverse direction on the paved walkway to extend the route. That way I won't have to run in full view of traffic. Good plan, Mrs. A.

On another positive note I have two tidbits of happiness to report. Between my C25k and some off-day television stretching/yoga, I am happy to report that a nagging knee pain has disappeared. For a good year or more, I've not been able to sit comfortably on my knees because my right knee would not let me. Another shred of happiness is my lack of muscle soreness this evening. I was very sore after my first two 'runs'. I was expecting to be very sore this week. Not so, my friends. I'm cautiously optimistic for improved physical health. Since it took me ten years to get to this dismal, depressing point in my life, I don't expect to see tangible results anytime soon. So I must pay attention to even the smallest glimmer of physical change for the better.

There's a measure of nervous anxiousness motivating me this week. If I fall off the 'getting fit' wagon, I may just implode...or at least spiral downward into a jiggly mass of depressed worthlessness.

Looking forward to Friday's 'run',

Mrs. A.


The Ugliest Sock In Creation

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

I cast this sock on as a learning experience. I learned a number of things so the process was a success! I don't like the two-tone colour scheme with this particular heel. I need to make it smaller so that it will fit just so. I don't think socks classify as mindless tv knitting. I can handle instructions and a simple pattern with no problem. I easily see mistakes and can fix them.

On a more positive note, I'm looking forward to get started on take #2. I'll just use the variegated yarn (On Your Toes Bamboo in Iris Print) instead of adding a second colour. I will also make two socks. I'm going to try a different heel and perhaps a different pattern. Wish me luck!


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