Friday, January 30, 2015

Growing Like Weeds

The days are long, but the years are short. 

I am living this cliche.  I think it happened somewhere during the holidays.  Visiting with friends and family you haven't seen in a while who all say:  "Wow, your boys are getting so big!"  "Oh my gosh, Jake is so tall now."  "Henry's catching up to his older brother!"  "George sure isn't a baby anymore." 

Then in mid-January, we started back up at the community center.  We hadn't been there since last spring, but this mom needed after school sports classes for some energetic boys.  It just so happened that their favorite counselor is scheduled to work the nights we're there.  They've known him since Jake was 3, Henry 2 and before George was a thought.  The look on his face when he saw the boys again was utter shock.  It was then I realized they really are growing up.

Literally.  Jake is now less than a foot shorter than that counselor. !!!

These weeds are growing in many other ways, too....

Someone's potty trained.  Halle-frickin-lujah.

I am not a master in potty training.  I actually hate it.  Diapers are a pain in the neck, but oh so convenient.  It's a beautiful thing when you don't have to navigate public bathrooms with a child who touches everything on, around or near a toilet when peeing.  Not to mention the standoff I had with my oldest when trying to potty train him at 2-1/2 or 3 years old because everyone said I should.  It was hell.  So I gave up, let it go, and made sure he could do it by the time Kindergarten came around.  And he did it.  In one weekend.

I have no idea how Henry did it.  Poor middle child.

But George?  I think he could have done it for months already.  He only needed some underwear of his own to get him going.  He started the first week of January and just did it.  Only one accident last week...he was having too much fun playing with his toys downstairs, so he forgot and soaked his pants.  Won't do that again!  Lately, even his overnight pull-up is dry in the morning.

Finally.  After 9 years of diapers, we are almost done.

Then there's this kid.  Henry has a lot of scratches on his face at all times.  He's the lover.  He needs to kiss, hug and be close to someone every minute of his life.  Unfortunately, that person is usually George.  And George lets Henry know he doesn't like it.  But Henry doesn't listen.  His heart won't let him.  So George pushes and pushes and pushes away until he scratches.  Poor Henry.  It's not good.  That scratch on his cheek is a scar.  But it's hard to blame George when I see him being suffocated.  By love.  Oh my heart!

But those scratches under his nose?  Not from George.  See, Henry is also curious.  You can warn him, beg him, even tell him directly not to do something, but he will do it.  He has to figure it out for himself.  When Henry wandered upstairs to find a band-aid (also not George related), he was gone for a long time.  Then he came back downstairs with those marks on his face.

Me: Hey!  What happened to your lip?  What are those marks?
Henry: Oh nothing.  I bumped into something.
Me: What?  When?  Just now?
Henry: Yeah!  It's fine.  It doesn't hurt.
Me: I don't understand.  What did you bump into?
Henry: Nothing!  It's fine!  Really!!!
Me: (getting up from the couch)  Show me.

He leads me to the bathroom, pulls out the toothbrush drawer and picks up Steve's razor.  My eyes get really big.  He shows and tells me how he went up his cheek, down his other cheek and then (in a fast voice) "went side-to-side" on his upper lip.  Aaaaaah!  Did it hurt?  "Yeah."  Are you ever going to do that again?  "No!!!"

And this kid.  The eldest.  His behavior's been off lately.  So over the holidays, I googled "9-year old behavior".  He's almost 9.  Actually, in two weeks he's 9.  Wait, one week from today.  Jesus Christ, he's almost 9.  I have a 9-year old.  What the hell happened???

So when I googled, the responses were "pre-teen" this and "pre-teen" that.  Wait, whaaaa???  Pre-teen is 9?  Well, yeah, the pre-teen age group is 9-12, especially when referring to behavior.  So we have a pre-teen.  Jesus *%^#*$^ Christ!!!!  A pre-teen!!!!  I'm not ready.

But he is.

Before the school winter break was over, I went to a brunch at a friend's house.  She lives in the neighborhood, but a few good, long blocks away.  As soon as I got there, I realized I forgot something at home.  An ingredient for the sparkly drink.  It wasn't worth leaving the party to get it.  But I felt bad for forgetting.  So I texted Steve: "get Jake to bring it over!"

It was perfect.  He was home.  I was there.  We both had our phones.  We knew how long it would take him.  Jake could walk from home to me and back while Steve and I texted his departure and arrival.  And...his route would be the same as the walk to and from school.  No brainer.  My palms were sweating. 

He showed up at the door with delivery in hand.  In the other hand was a post-it note with my brunch friend's address and Steve's phone number.  I gave him a huge hug and tried to lean in for a kiss.  Nope.  He just said, "Ok, ok, I gotta go, I only have 10 minutes to get home." 

That's my pre-teen boy!!!

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Merry Christmas Card

Every year, I get a Christmas picture of the boys taken at the Superstore.  I don't take it seriously.  They might wear red, I try to brush their hair and they pick whatever props they want. 

I expect the shots to be terrible, and I pick the best of the worst.   It goes in the Christmas card. 

Except this year.  I forgot to make the appointment until it was too late.  So I searched for a family picture on the computer.  AND COULDN'T FIND ONE.

Ok, I found one.  From Easter.  I don't even have the same haircut. 

So instead, I did this.

It says: "Wishing you moments of peace in your house, too"

I think Jake hates it.  But our friends and family love it.  And so do I!!!

(proven here and here)

Here's to a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. 

During which time, I might know a mother who runs to the Superstore for a belated Christmas picture that could look terrible.  ;)

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Holiday Downtime: 5 Amazing Netflix Documentaries

It's the homestretch to Christmas.  A couple more days, and that's it.

It's over. 

What to do on those nights when the holiday movies aren't on tv and neither are any of your favorite shows?

Netflix.  Docs.

These are my five recent faves that are available in the US AND CANADA!  (Those of you up here with me know that is not always the case...)

Bill Cunningham New York

"We all get dressed for Bill." - Anna Wintour, Vogue Magazine

This documentary is based in my favorite city in the whole wide world.  But it's more than that - it's about a fixture in and the character of that city.  Bill is an unassuming, humble artist who simply loves fashion.  Not the celebrity or the attention, just the clothes.  This film shares a part of New York that I'd never really paid close attention to, and introduced me to someone who has dedicated his whole life to it. 


Sad, yet eye-opening.  What struck me most about this film was its attempt at being objective.  The presentation of the history of captive whales and the bloodline to the main character.  Though I knew theme parks weren't the best habitats, now I can tell you why.  This film moved me and changed my perspective, which is why it should be shared.

Brooklyn Castle

Uplifting, hopeful, heroic.  It's that inspirational story of the less fortunate working hard to change their future.  But the difference here is they are doing it themselves and within a public school setting.  I will never look at chess the same way again.  And now I really want my kids to play...


Oh I cried.  And you will, too.  But that's why you need to watch this film.  Life isn't the same as it was when I was growing up.  Environment, circumstances, cultures - they are all different.  It is mortifying to think this actually happens today in our schools and neighborhoods, but it does.  Being aware of it and communicating with others can make a world of difference. Watching this documentary reminded me to keep this discussion going with my own kids.


You don't have to like football, you don't have to like an underdog story, and you don't have to like feeling good after watching a documentary.  But you will get all three.  It's a story of a school who's football team never (NEVER) had a winning season, but a volunteer (VOLUNTEER!!!) coach changed all that.  And their lives.  It's hard to believe this is a real story.  It's stayed with me since I watched it.

Happy Holiday Netflix-ing!!!!

Monday, December 15, 2014

Holiday-ing Around Here

We don't really go all out.  There are 3 weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas.  And we're away for both.  So we have two small bins of stuff and a tree. 

Translation: the kids do the decorating. 

My 1% is the niche above the tree.  This year, I found two glass trees at CB2, which were the perfect height and depth.  I only stopped in early November to measure them, but the salesperson said they sell out immediately, so home they came.  True to his word, they are gone!!!

But, as with children decorating, that cute little snowflake in a globe was vetoed because he had to come down and live with the other closer-to-the-touch decorations.  

Here is the other 99%. 

Pseudo-chocolate advent calendars - check.
Random statues, globes and mini-trees grouped together - check.
Stockings that can't be left alone* - check.
Random reindeer in the corner because he can't stand up - check.

*They lasted about 5 minutes.  The next day, George pulled on one as he walked by, causing the reindeer holder to fall, dent the floor and break into a million pieces.  Lesson learned, next year we're going with command strips.

Last but not least, although we went with the broken-tipped silver star on the big tree, warm-hearted Henry didn't want our homemade star from nobody-knows-when-it-was-made to go unused.  So he wrapped it around the top of the mini-tree on the table.  Which is in everyone's way when they eat dinner and want to watch the end of Spongebob ;)

Here's to the holidays of 2014.  And maybe next year George will finally learn not to open multiple random numbers on his advent calendar and run out of chocolate with 9 days to go. 

Merry Christmas ;)

Thursday, December 04, 2014

Inspiration: Boys Bedroom

When I walk down the hall, I love to peek into their room.  Natural light bounces off the white walls.  The dresser is still in good shape.  And it's so small, it only takes 3.0937523 seconds to tidy everything up.

But this wall?  I'm stumped.  They need more storage, now that Lego and Skylanders are a major part of our lives.  And I need a place for dirty laundry.  It just has to be shallow and it can't be another dresser. 

Pinterest to the rescue...with its partner in crime, Ikea.  


I'm kinda in love with this set up.  The double-wide Ikea shelves would fit between the door and the wall.  Hanging shorter shelves on top towards the wall would help the narrow entrance to the room (because of the bunk bed).  And I'd use these adorable bins under the lowest shelf. 


This set up is a close second.  Ikea's shelving unit or wall cabinet would do the trick.  Stacked or spread out, the cabinets have major potential. 


And then there's my absolute fave.  Maybe it's the yellow brackets?  Or the chair?  Or the plants?!?!  Or the fact that I can close my eyes and see this in their room just like it is. Right. Here.

Suddenly, I picture Henry balancing on that chair's edge while George hangs from the bottom shelf as Jake cheers them on, racing to see who can get their toy down first...  

So...maybe it's a mix of all three.  With the rule: shelves are for toys, not boys ;)

Saturday, November 22, 2014

The Week Before Thanksgiving

Another kid-filled post.  Avert your eyes!  Unless you're my dad.

For the last few years, I've been lucky enough to spend the week before US Thanksgiving back home with my folks.  Steve drives us down on the weekend and flies back to Toronto to work.  Then we meet him in Niagara Falls on the way to our big Thanksgiving get together in upstate New York.  It's a highly orchestrated event involving a car, an airplane, a train and sometimes a bus. 

But it's all worth it because we get to do stuff like this:

Green Bay Packers Autograph Signing

Since I've managed to successfully turn my children into enormous Packer fans, this random event completely blew their minds. 

The only lead up I gave them was: You only get a few seconds with these guys.  Maybe you should ask them a question!?!

Henry: What's your favorite animal?
Quarless: A Lion!
Pennel: An Elephant.
Jake: Is it easier to catch the ball in the heat or in the cold?
Quarless: Haha, good question! Definitely the heat.

Mike Pennel #64
Andrew Quarless #81

I heard about it on the radio the day before.  It was taking place at a local haircut chain.  We stood outside in a freezing cold lineup for 1/2 hr.  But only about 35 people showed up, so we could have arrived 1/2 hr after the event started and walked right in. 

Oh, smalltown, WI.  You're so not Toronto. 

Then we took a roadtrip.

Ella's Deli - Madison, WI

The state capitol is Madison, WI...only 60 minutes away from my parents' front door.  So why not?

The State Capitol

It was really really cold.  But still, I told them to run around as much as they could outside, because it was gonna be all business inside. 

2nd Floor

But, by looking at this picture, you can tell that middle child was anything but business. 

State Senate Chamber

Thank goodness, our close family friend sits in that very desk.  I only found this out when my mom was reading the self guided tour info.  "...and the president of the Senate sits in the desk at the front of the room.  Oh!  That's Mary!!" 

She was elected to the position by her Senate peers just a few weeks ago.  The first female Senate President of the State of Wisconsin.  I've known her since I was in 4th grade.  Go Mary!!!

Rub The Nose For Luck

Then we found the bronze badger, our official state animal, and rubbed the nose for luck.  He sits right outside the Governor's office, so we had to ask the security guard to let us in.  He asked if we might be Packer fans.  I have no idea why.

And here's a picture without children...

The Dome

The inside of the Capitol Dome.  It's gorgeous.  Even the kids were drawn in. 

Oh yes!  Those kids...

Loving It
Turning In Tickets
His Loot

Today was our Grand Finale.  We leave tomorrow for my brother's house and then on to the east coast.  So, of course, we hit Chuck E. Cheese for lunch.  I never ever EVER go there in Toronto, so it's a real treat for these guys.  The games, the tickets and the prizes.  I don't think I've ever paid so much for a twisty lollipop in my life. 

But look at that face.  He's just so happy.

And part two of the finale?

Helium Trampoline Park

My kids are the three blurs in the foreground.  There is nothing more satisfying than burning off energy, and this is the place to do it. 

These videos kill me.  He's 3-1/2.  I had to drag him out kicking and screaming.



Happy almost Thanksgiving / Black Friday!!!!

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Halloween...And Then Some

I've decided to get into the mode of posting less more often instead of a lot less often.  I'm short on time.  Like everyone.  So if I put it out there, maybe I'll do it. 

After this one.

My "blogiversary" came and went.  November 1st.  Three years!  I did a Halloween recap then, and again, and again, so I must do one now.  No matter how late is is...

George and I visited Henry's classroom Halloween party.  This black cat got to pose with The Hulk...aka his 3rd costume choice in the week leading up to the big event.  Argh!!

After school, we ran home to decorate.  I just can't get it together to decorate even one day in advance.  It's last minute every single year.  But the joy of kids getting older, means they pitch in.  Jake did the caution tape and I took care of the faux-pumpkins.  (For a full explanation, visit this link, we will never carve again!!!)

Recurring themes:  Zombie (this year there were two), Rain (at least it's not snow) and CANDY (more than ever).  We have the kids pour all the loot onto the table for a picture right after trick-or-treating.  This makes for no individual stashes.  I can't believe they haven't caught onto my trick yet. 

And because it's been two weeks since Halloween, here's some other random things going on in our terribly busy lives:

Winter Is Coming
Winter gear goes on sale incredibly early.  I gave him the chance to pick out his own hat.  I think he loves it.

This came home in Jake's backpack.  His class was taking a trip to the "Century Schoolhouse" here in Toronto, and he was actually excited about it!  I was skeptical.  I know my resistant-to-any-kind-of-change child, but he really wanted to participate.  So we headed to Value Village and Dollarama.  He picked it all out.

And then this happened. 

He settled down, went off to school and met up with his classmates who looked just as crazy cute.  A friend of mine called it "adorkable".  Yes.  Every 3rd grade child must go through the rite of passage.

Then he came home and told us how he got "punished" and had to hold a log for 2 minutes.  A classmate got her hair pinned to the wall and another had to stand on his tippy toes and hold his nose to the wall for a minute.  Awful field trip that it was.

"Henry, you're gonna hate it next year."

Since we're going with a Jake theme here, I have to mention how insanely into football he is right now.  I admit, we've been brainwashing him with my beloved Green Bay Packers from very young.  But he not only watches it, he plays it.  Daily.  At school.  Begs us to go outside and "throw the football around."  His brothers, too.  I love it. 

(And we loved watching the Packers dismantle the Bears on Sunday Night Football.  All three boys may have been a little tired at school the next day...)

And on this active note:

Random iPad Picture

We're neck deep in the electronics war.  Our kids have taken over the iPad.  And an old laptop.  Yesterday, Jake found my old iPhone. 

It's still the kid phase.  Facebook, Instagram and Twitter accounts aren't in our near future.  But usage is getting out of hand.  Our general family belief is: everything in moderation.  So we're doing our best to limit the time spent on electronics, taking turns, managing the games. 

But some days, that iPad just seems to disappear.  Nobody can find it!  Hmmm...let's go play football, instead ;)