I was a happy baby this month, but was most happy when I was precariously perched on top of a table or chair playing, the closer to the edge the better. I was still a voracious climber, and realized that I could push stools around to help me climb onto other things, or simply to access objects out of my reach. This past month, I did some toddling around behind push toys, and on a few occasions, ever so briefly, walked while holding onto someones hands. Books became my latest passion. Before going to bed for naps and the night, I requested as many books as Mommy would read to me. The top picks were ‘Old McDonald’s Farm’, ‘Busy Kitties’ and anything that had pictures of real animals. I was sure to give my index finger a workout each day as I insistently pointed out lights, fans, windows and whatever else seemed fascinating, accompanied with little grunts. My words were few (mama/dada) and non-specific, but I communicated very clearly with squeals. There was my high-pitched happy squeal for delight, my rapid panicked squeal for the moments I was in trouble, and my low-growly angry squeal to show my displeasure. Milk – It does a body good – but I had no interest in drinking the variety that comes from cows. As soon as it touched my lips, warm or cold, I made animated displays of spitting it out. It’s a good thing that I still nursed five times a day. The toys that regularly caught my interest were Calina’s crowns. Maybe it was because they are pretty and sparkly or maybe it was to help manage my hair that has gotten quite long and unruly. Much time was spent outside enjoying the snow – sledding at the hill in Unami park and down the snow pile in our backyard. To help pass the long winter days, Mom has been trying to get us out of the house. We spent an afternoon at Trailside Nature Center, and mornings at Kidzvillage and Pump-it-up. Although these adventures were great, I think my best outting was a play date with my friend Austin. I hadn’t seen him in a while, and we were like two peas in a pod babbling, pointing and crawling around together.
– Recently, I’m very generous with cuddles (even with people I only know casually), kisses and “I love yous”.
– One night at dinner, while playing a game of ‘what’s the opposite’, I did quite well. I was even able to get some of the tricky ones that Daddy was trying to stump me with.
– A recent fall, which resulted in scraped knees, developed into a week of complaining, and self prescribed bandage applications.
– I loved going sledding at Unami Park just after a recent snowfall. I was nervous, but after a few runs with Mommy or Monte, I was brave enough to go on my own.
– Although I really enjoying being at school, in the morning, I love to kick up a stink about going to school (“I don’t want to go to school! I want to stay home with you!”) and then it continues at drop off with a series of dramatic displays until my teacher, Ms. Karen, scoops me onto her lap and we settle into an activity. It’s not separation anxiety, it’s mostly that I get some extra attention with this ritual. Also, I know that on the mornings I don’t go to school, I get one-on-one time with Mommy while Becca is sleeping and Gus is at school. It’s just part of being a middle child. I do what I can to get attention.
– So, Rebecca has been around for a year now, and I’m REALLY aware that she isn’t going anywhere, and I’ve casually started to voice my opinion about this. For example, while sitting at the table one night with Mommy, finishing up dinner, I said “I wish we had no baby. Wouldn’t it be nice if our family was only two adults and two kids?”
– When I grow up, I wan to be a mailman.
– “I love Daddy the best, except when I get bumped, then I love Mommy the best.”
– When Mommy told me that I had turned three and a half, I replied, with my head cocked slightly to the side, and a perplexed look on my face, “But I don’t feel 3 /12″. Since this news sank in, I’ve been very excited about my new age, and about how fast I can run and how high I can jump now.
– Since our family always loves a good excuse to eat cake, we celebrated my half birthday with a red velvet cake that Gus lovingly picked out and surprised me with.
James and I were never ones to celebrate Valentine’s day and considered it nothing more than a Hallmark holiday. We didn’t need one special day to show our love – or buy over priced chocolates and flowers. But now that we have children, it’s fun to celebrate all the holidays, no matter what we use to think. And since our days often pass with regular routine and not much focus – we read, we craft, we play, we build with Lego – these holidays help to add some focus. This week was about Valentine and hearts.
We started our Valentine celebrations last weekend when we attended the Newcomers children’s Valentine’s party. The kids had a great time consuming ridiculous amounts of junk food, dancing and crafting. Throughout the week we worked on simple homemade Valentine’s to share with their classmates, read Valentine stories, made Valentine’s for the birds and various heart shaped treats for ourselves. Wednesday was Calina’s class party and Thursday was Gus’. They each arrived home with bags brimming with Valentine’s and assorted treats, as well as sweet Valentine’s they had made for James and I. Today was a low-key day at home, but each meal included hearts – heart shaped pancakes for breakfast (yesterday too), heart shaped pizza for lunch and heart shaped cheese ravioli for dinner.
Here’s how our Valentine’s week ‘shaped’ up…
After our two week Christmas vacation, January was a quiet month as we returned to our regular routine. Falling back into routine was pretty tough and arriving late to school every day for the first week back was our indicator that we needed to pull our socks up.
– Gus helped his friend Colin celebrate his 6th birthday with a morning of bowling. This party allowed Gus to reconnect with a few friends that he attended school with last year. A few weeks later, Gus helped Michael celebrate his 5th birthday by jumping the morning away at Screamin’ Parties.
– Mid-month we started teaching Gus to read. We picked up the level one set of “Now I’m Reading” from the library, and excitedly got started. These books focused on short-vowel sounds with simple word and sentences. Gus worked diligently through at least one book a day, sounding out words, practicing letter sounds and READING! I was thrilled as he put sounds together and figured out words, and I could see how excited and proud he was of himself. After finishing that set, we started on the “Bob Books Sight Words Collection”.
– Over the holidays, Gus was hooked on the How To Train Your Dragon game “Rise of Berk”. Gus was eager to build and improve his Viking village, which made James realize that Gus might enjoy playing SimCity. Well, he doesn’t just enjoy it, he’s totally addicted to it. He navigates through the game quite well, playing mayor to the various cities he builds. It’s fun to listen to him as he learns about city requirements and planning. There is much talk about taxes, residential density, sewage treatment plants, water supply, electricity sources, health and safety etc.
– By mid January, both Gus and Calina were registered for school in the fall. Calina will attend pre-K4 five mornings a week and Gus will attend 1/2 day kindergarten 5 days a week. This will allow some one-on-one time with Rebecca (when she won’t be napping) so I’ll be looking for some classes for her and I to take then too – swimming? music?
– The 19th was a holiday for Martin Luther King Junior Day. Our community hosted ‘a day of service’ where people of all ages could get involved to help/reach out to others. Various work stations were set up around the church hall, and we let the kids choose which activities they wanted to do. We packed lunches for school students that would be distributed by the food bank. As well, Gus & Calina made book marks for veterans, created Valentine Day cards for patients at the sick children’s hospital, coloured pictures for soldiers and decorated place mats for Meals On Wheels recipients. It was a lot of fun, and gave us the opportunity to talk to G&C about community service, and helping people, no matter who they are.
– We celebrated Rebecca’s 1st Birthday! The past year has flown by so quickly, but every day has been brighter because of her infections, continuous smile, happiness and silly faces.
– I enjoyed Holly’s holiday brunch in December so much that I wanted to do something similar. So, I hosted Katie, Layla & Dyaln and Holly & Sean for a New Year kick off brunch/play date. The kids played really nicely, which allowed us Mom’s to catch up on each other’s holidays, while we stuffed ourselves with baked French toast, coconut chocolate chip muffins, egg and veggie bites and fruit. Hanging out with these two ladies and their children always makes me so happy!
– The last week of January’s forecast called for a huge blizzard to hit – Blizzard Juno – which would dump up to two feet of snow. I was excited, since it’s been a while since we’ve had a good winter storm. Before the snow even started to fall, school was already cancelled for the next day, state offices were closed, driving bands were in effect. We awoke the morning of the 27th to a HUGE disappointment. Yes, we had received snow over night, but maybe an inch or two. Juno was a no show for us. We took full advantage of the fresh snow and met the Nesheiwat and Friedman families for a little sledding. We had a fabulous time! The hill we went to wasn’t huge, but perfect for young children, and I even felt comfortable taking Rebecca on the slid with me. Nobody complained about the cool weather and everyone happily shared and traded sleds for the hour and a half we were at the park.
– We returned home from sledding to start preparations for Daddy James’ birthday party. Here’s how James summed up his birthday…”Erin threw together a decent lasagna, meaning no squash or flax or sweet potato or eggplant this time, at my special request. We had upside-down apple cake, and the kids were excited to decorate the house with hand-drawn snowflakes, whack a dragon piñata, squish little dragons into the cake, help blow out my one candle, and open their gifts for me. It was strangely similar to Rebecca’s birthday the week before, right down to the Happy Birthday banner, and much more festive than same time last year, though my gift last year was as of yet unsurpassed.”
– I hosted 15 ladies for our Newcomers Club monthly board meeting on a Wednesday evening.
– We closed out the month with a lunch play date at Annu & Diederik’s house. Our little friends Willem and Luuk were so excited to introduce us to their sweet 8 week old sister, Aanya. During our visit, Willem and Gus were playing, not paying close enough attention, Gus turned around and was hit in the nose with a toy that Willem had in his hand. This accident resulted in Gus having a mild bloody nose, and the two boys continued to play as they always do – giddily and rambunctiously. Once home, Gus recounted the story to James. When James asked Gus what he learned from that situations, Gus’ reply was “Don’t turn your back on Willem”.
Conversation with Gus on the drive to school one morning:
Gus – “Mom, when are you going to grow another baby?”
Mom – “Oh, Gus, I don’t think we will. We’re all done having babies.”
Gus – “But there is one more seat in the van for another baby. And since it takes a long time to grow a baby, Becca would be a big kid by then.”
Hmmm, it’s hard to argue with good reason.
Wow! That was fast! One year old already. Gus and Calina were so excited about my special day, more so than I was. Gus arrived in my bedroom first thing in the morning with his gift for me, already unwrapped! It was a very cool blue dinosaur. Just after lunch, Calina sat beside me and opened the thoughtful gift she had for me – a board book all about reptiles! With such helpful siblings, I may never have to open my own gifts. To mark this momentous occasion I invited my friend Anne over for a morning play date. We had a lovely time playing toys and snacking on banana muffins. That evening, for my family celebration, we dined on chicken pot pie with biscuit topping and homemade carrot cake with cream cheese icing. While Mom and Dad were trying to get a quintessential photo of their birthday girl with her cake, the corner of my face collided with the Mom’s masterpiece. It was traumatic, and huge tears fell from my eyes. Afterwards, I was sitting in my high chair, when the cake was placed in front of me again, I started to bawl! I wanted nothing to do with this must-have-birthday dessert. I wailed while everyone merrily sang happy birthday! It was my party after all. Once the cake was cut, and I was nestled onto Mom’s lap I was finally able to recover from this cake debacle, and enjoy the delicious sweet treat. It turned out to be a lovely day. I also received many thoughtful gifts, cards, phone calls and Facebook messages. I don’t think anyone forgot my birthday! I sure did feel special. Thanks so all my family and friends that made my first year so very wonderful.
And just like that, I’m one year old! During the last 365 days I: ensured Mom didn’t have more than 5 consecutive hours of sleep and gained 10 pounds, 5 ounces and grew 9 1/4 inches to finish off the year weighing 17 pounds, 15 ounces and measuring 28 3/4 inches tall. In the past month I: sprouted my first tooth, fell in love with clementines and tried peanut butter. To accompany my ample babble I started using a few signs regularly. Pointing to the lights to indicate their location, and signing spin when looking at the fan where the latest additions. I also realized that shaking my head “no” was pretty fun. I was sure to clearly speak my mind with an assertive squeal if Gus tried to move me around. I was very capable and more than happy to move myself around. And move I did, as I learned to climb up and slip down the little slide, discovered how to climb onto the couches, realized I could hoisted myself onto low beds and tables. I was delighted by every opportunity to play along with Gus & Calina, but was quite content to play and explore on my own. Another time when I enjoyed engaging with others, was when I was eating. I was eager to share my food, and insisted on doing so until the food was consumed by someone else. In the year ahead I will: continue to brighten the world with my beautiful smile and practice my many funny faces.
The notable events this month, besides Christmas vacation, were a chilly day at the playground where I excitedly crawled through tunnels, and participating in our community’s day of service for Martin Luther King day.
Half of the month was spent in Canada, celebrating the holidays with family. At times, it takes Calina a while to warm up to people, even people she knows well, but over the holidays, she was very social and generous with hugs and conversation with everyone.
Being three, and having an older brother, made the magic of Christmas very real for Calina this year. She was very aware of all that was going on and was very much caught up in the excitement. She was excited about gifts, but not greedy.
Calina is becoming much more adventurous with food, which is wonderful! But sometimes her choices are quite strange, like a hard boiled egg, peanut butter, and ketchup pocket.
Rebecca sprouted her first tooth just after Christmas, and Calina has been so excited to share this news, with everyone!
Making crafts is one of Calina’s favourite activities. Without an adequate supply of toilet paper rolls in her over-flowing craft box, she thoughtfully unrolled a full roll of toilet paper just to get the supply she needed.
Jumping on over-sized inflatables is really fun. Classmate Richie’s 4th birthday party was at Screamin’ Parties, and the whole class had a great time celebrating with him.
“Tootsies” = feet
After passing gas: “Oh! Ducks! Nobody invited the ducks.”
“What is a Sparkle Box? If you haven’t read The Sparkle Box book, written by Jill Hardie and illustrated by Christine Kornacki we’ll let you in on a little secret. The Sparkle Box is a special box you put under your tree for Jesus. It’s a gift for Jesus, and you fill it with things that will honor Him and bring Him joy on Christmas Day – His birthday!” [http://thesparklebox.com/giftideas.aspx]
This is a tradition we started last year, and hope to continue. I wanted to record our “sparkles” so we can look back over time and see how they change and develop. The kids caught onto the idea really quickly, and were often looking for “sparkle” in their day to day lives, but it gave James and I a really good reason to look outside of our family and teach the children about giving sparkles to other people too. Here are our sparkles for this Christmas…
– Gus made Lego decorations for our Christmas tree.
– We had a fun family day at Sesame Place.
– Gus & Calina played nicely together.
– Donated new toys to Toys for Tots: a puzzle, 2 reading books, a colouring book and a package of mini animals.
– Donated 3 new baby blankets to the Girl Scout’s blanket drive, which benefits the Specialized Children’s Hospital.
– Shopped for and delivered 2 Angel Tree gifts. For a 6 year old boy: pajamas and super hero Lego. For a 5 year old girl: winter coat, hats & mitts, and a doll.
– Delivered beef barley soup, buns and fudge to a family who has a new baby.
– Gus, Calina & Mommy went Christmas caroling to the housebound members of our church. We made it to four places.
– Gus played the role of a shepherd in his school Christmas chapel service. He sang the carols loud and clear: Go Tell It On The Mountains & Joyful Christmas.
– Donated money to Heifer International in lieu of traditional gifts for Gus & Calina’s teachers.
– Donated money to help buy an outfit for Gus’ class’ Angel Tree child.
– Gus & Calina each put a bag of pantry items together to donated to the food bank, since the Turtle Back Zoo was accepting donations in lieu of admission to see the Holiday light display.
– Donated 3 pair of pajamas to the Pajama Program.
December 20, 2014 – January 3, 2015
Since Christmas is about spending time with those you love, it was clear in my mind that I had to be in Canada for the holidays. My two-week vacation was a festive merriment of family and friends, relaxation and activity. The days leading up to Christmas were filled with family – seeing Nora & Felix at our mandatory first stop, having an impromptu Muldoon cousin play date upon arrival at G&G’s, dinner with Gram Berny and Aunt Tina, an amazing day of play with Abby, Isla and Sam. Christmas eve day was a spent crawling around with Fallon, and that evening everyone was at G&G’s house. We shared a dinner of appetizers, opened a gift of new pajamas and a book, and went to bed early. Christmas morning was a flurry of gift opening, which I really had no interest in, although the thoughtful items inside did capture my attention. By early afternoon we were at Gram Berny’s, where my entire Mortimer family – 8 adults and 8 cousins – joined together and spent more than 24 hours in each others company – opening gifts, playing, eating – just being together. It was so nice! The days following Christmas included our Moodie/Nixon/MacPherson play date where there were 10 adults and 15 children, meeting new cousin Claire, painting ceramics and lunch with Andréa & Jamie. To bring in the new year, with Gram Berny’s company, we enjoyed a dinner of Mexican food at the Santa Fe restaurant and then returned to her house for a quiet evening. New Year’s day was an amazing celebration with my Clarke family. Forty-six of us gathered at the Horton Community Center for a delicious pot-luck dinner. It was the perfect opportunity to introduce myself to a few of my cousins. To close our vacation, I had one last dinner with all my grandparents. We packed in a lot of activity in the two short weeks, and despite my cough and runny nose, I had a wonderful time!
How is it mid-February, and I still haven’t completed my Christmas blog? Long over-due, so let’s get it done! We pack so much into our trips home, and for some reason, I feel the need to remember all of it. Please forgive the overly detailed, day by day account of our holidays.
20th – Lisa, Erick, Nora & Felix welcomed us for our mandatory first-stop across the boarder! We always enjoy this snack/pee/play break. We arrived at Mom & Dad’s that evening and were delighted to find everyone there, with the exception of Ryan & Jen, who were at a work Christmas party. It was an instant cousins play date with all 9 of them playing excitedly together.
21st – The day was spent sledding and playing in the snow, visiting the chickens and collecting eggs. Grandma Cathy taught Gus & Calina how to make snow ice cream, which was a fun treat. In an effort to reinforce the gift of giving, Gus and Calina each shopped for their siblings, choosing simple gifts with the other person in mind. Calina was much better at this than Gus, as he was certain that Calina & Rebecca wanted everything that was on his wishlist.
22nd – We were greeted at the Bissett’s by an excited Abby, who, upon our arrival exclaimed “I’m so excited for the rest of the day!”. This relaxing cousins play date as so nice, with everyone playing happily together.
23rd – A quiet day of James, Gus & Calina building a quinzee, while baked cookies.
24th – Christmas eve was a drizzly day, but that didn’t prevent Carter, Gus & Calina from spending a good part of the day outside sledding. That evening most of the family gathered at Mom & Dad’s for a dinner of appetizers and a few presents. Everyone was tired, so we called it a night and put the kids to bed early.
25th – We awoke on Christmas morning at 8am! The best Christmas gift the kids could have given us! Gifts were opened in rapid succession, and the kids were delighted with their finds. Amazon Fire Kindles for Gus & Calina were a huge hit. By noon we were packed and heading for Gram Berny’s. We were greeted by Gram & Tina, and had a little bit of time to get settled before everyone else arrived. The afternoon was spent opening gifts, greeting the Bissetts and DesRochers as they arrived, playing and preparing Christmas dinner. Our goal for Christmas dinner was to feed the children early, put them to bed and then have a quiet adult dinner. We knew that sleeping 16 people – 8 adults and 8 children – in a four bedroom house was going to be tricky, but well worth it to spend time together. We attempted to sleep the five oldest – Gus, Abby, Isla, Nora & Calina – together in the playroom. Uncle James read stories, and tucked everyone into bed. This went as expected – there was lots of chatting, musical beds and playing. Many shushes were uttered, reminders were given and various children were moved in and out, until at last each child was on/in their own couch/bed/room and sound asleep. The adults did enjoy a somewhat quiet dinner together – although we were still orchestrating the bedtime in between bites, we didn’t have to clean up spilled milk or cut anyone’s food while we ate.
26th/27th – Two days with no agenda! Lots of relaxing time to catch up and chat. The kids ate too many sweets, consumed too much screen time and didn’t play outside nearly enough, but it was okay, because it was a nice change of pace for the adults.
28th – We joined the Hunter’s, MacPherson’s & Nixon’s at the Moodie residence for some lunch, playing and many laughs. We reminisced about our days pre-children and wondered how in 9 short years us 10 adults created 15 children! We were delighted to meet the newest memebers – Foster at three weeks old, and Andie at just two weeks old. That evening we returned to Mom & Dad’s to celebrate Ryan’s 39th birthday.
29th – I so look forward to seeing my high school girlfriends on each visit. Christina, Amanda, Joy, Andréa and I met for dinner and drinks and had a great time catching up with each other.
30th – I finally had the opportunity to meet my newest little cousin Claire, when Teri and Nana visited for lunch. Claire, at just two and a half months old, had a full head of dark hair and was just too sweet for words. That afternoon, we met Carla, Abby & Isla and Lisa & Nora at a ceramics studio for some painting. Calina fell asleep on our drive to the studio and remained sleeping for most of the visit. Gus happily painted a hockey puck (not a lot of creativity and skill required for that one) and a Christmas ornament.
31st – To close out the year, Andréa & Jamie joined us for lunch, the kids ‘book skated’ on the frozen ‘pond’ in the front yard and we had Mexican dinner with Gram Berny at the Santa Fe restaurant. The evening was very quiet as we uneventfully saw in the new year. Before putting Gus and Calina to bed we asked them what they wanted to do in 2015. Gus: go to the beach and the National History Museum. Calina: go to the zoo.
1st – There was no better way to start 2015 than with a huge Clarke Family pot luck dinner at the Horton Community Center. 46 of us gathered together, each bringing something yummy to share. Having a huge venue made this gathering extra fun since the 16 cousins were able to run and play exuberantly. The part of this dinner that I love, is that we can all sit down eat together.
Calina’s quote of vacation: “I know how to stop Rebecca from steeling the Weebles. Put her in a box, close it up, put tape on it and stick stamps on it and mail her away to another family.”