Saturday, August 6, 2011


{This post was written by 7 year old Maya.}

Marley is my ten month old puppy. He is very big. He is very strong also and has very sharp claws. Marley is a terrier cross puppy. We don't know what he is crossed with though. We got him from the Humane Society. He was at a home and back and a home and back. We brought him home because he was so adorable. He was puppy eyes were so cute. Whenever I visited his cage he would jump up and it was so amazing.

Today there was a thunderstorm. Marley stayed out for just the beginning. When he came inside he was so scared. He was going really fast and it was like he was going "huh? huh? What's happening?" He was getting so scared but then he calmed and now the storm is over.

We are going to go on a trip and Marley has to stay home with Daddy. I am going to miss him when we are gone, but I am still going to have fun.

I'm super happy that we have a puppy named Marley. Thanks for listening!

Friday, August 5, 2011

Grammy Jammies

A parcel arrived today. It was addressed to me with a return address from my parents. Suh-weet! We ripped it open on the deck this afternoon, excited to see the treasures Grammy and Grandpa sent the family.

There were a new pair of Grammy Jammies for each of the kids, a hand-knit lavender sweater for Maya, a book for each of the kids, and three new movies for the kids. Ben and Maya both cheered when each gem emerged from the package. Seconds later they sat silently, snuggling with their new jammies on their laps, engrossed in their books.

Grammy Jammies are the handiwork of my mom. Each of the grandkids has several pairs of pyjamas sewn by Grammy. She makes jammies for all weather: fleece and flannel for icy winter nights, lightweight cotton and seersucker for hot summer sleeps. Fabric is carefully chosen for each of the kids; today there were pink flowers for Maya and Thomas the Tank Engine for Ben. Maya prefers the nightgowns Grammy sews, while Ben loves to wear different patterned tops and bottoms (or as he calls it, "mich-match").

Ben couldn't wait until bedtime to get into his new threads. He quickly ran inside, changed, and proudly came back out. His friend across the street saw him riding his tricycle on the sidewalk (in his pyjamas) and came out to join him. "Like my new 'ammies? Gammy make 'em for me!" They both oohed and ahhed over the trains.

Maya waited until after dinner to put hers on. She came into the living room with a slightly teary grin on her face. "They still kinda smell like Grammy," she said. I drew her close to me and sure enough, there was the faint aroma of my mom's perfume. It was comforting and heart-wrenching all at the same time.

After seeing the kids in their new Grammy Jammies, Eric asked "so. . . was there anything in there for you or I in the package?" Hmm, maybe he was on to something. After all, the package was addressed to me.

I checked the envelope again. Nada. Yeah, they're pretty much over us. They have been ever since those two short people came along.

I can't say I blame Mom and Dad. Just look at these two little monsters. They are pretty irresistible. And I say that as a completely unbiased person.

Truly though, I couldn't have asked for better folks. And the best part of having my mom and dad as parents is my kids having them as Grammy and Grandpa.

Monday, May 23, 2011


Our kids had a gift from a very generous family this week. One of the incredible education assistants I get to work with told me that her kids had outgrown their trampoline. She wanted to know if Maya and Ben would like it. Gratis.

Um, yes please.

On Saturday morning Eric went out back to set up the trampoline, or as Ben calls it, the pompoleen. The tubes frame all went together quite easily. It took all of 5 minutes for Eric to put the frame together. The kids put the springs on the frame. Everything was going smoothly. Everyone was smiling. Everyone was excited to jump on the pompoleen.

Until we tried to attach the mat to the frame.

It took over an hour to attach the mat. We would get halfway done, but then the mat would pull so tightly in one direction we couldn't attach it on the other side. After about three different tries, 46 curse words, and 11 cigarettes, Eric finally relented and googled trampoline assembly. Ten minutes later Maya and Ben were bouncing happily. Eric and I were collapsed in lawn chairs, totally spent from the sheer effort.

We had a hot and sunny long weekend, so the two monsters had plenty of time to jump their hearts out. It didn't take long for word to spread through the neighbourhood that Ben and Maya have a trampoline. Soon our yard was swimming with children all wanting a turn. I innocently stepped into the backyard with a cup of coffee and my laptop, hoping to enjoy a bit of sun while watching the kids revel in their new toy, perhaps even get a little blogging and planning done. When I walked behind the house I found fourteen children back there.

Seriously. There were fourteen kids in the yard. And I only knew the names of about three of those children, including my own.

All hopes of a relaxing spring afternoon were gone as I was instantly transformed into the role of yard supervisor. To keep my own sanity amongst the chaos, I actually started a Word document to record a waitlist of names and used an online stopwatch to keep track of the time.

On the up side, I now know the names of the neighbourhood riff raff. Maya and Ben both made some new friends. After watching all of them play I know who  will and won't be invited back to play.

On the down side, it was crazy, chaotic, and definitely not the relaxing Sunday afternoon I had in mind. My arm is still aching from pulling on the springs while trying to attach the mat.

But seeing how much those two crazy kids of mine love the pompoleen makes it all worthwhile.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Wise Beyond Her Years

Out of the blue yesterday, Maya asked me "Mama, who's that Bin Laden guy I keep hearing about?"

Ugh. What a kick in the gut. I was hoping I wouldn't have to explain to my seven year old quite yet about the evils of the world. I was hoping to shelter her from the fact that world is sucky place sometimes, shelter her from ideas of terrorism and hatred.

However, I am a firm believer in giving age appropriate answers to all questions my kids ask. She asked, so I did my best to explain to my sweet girl about a man who claimed responsibility for the 9/11 attacks and the ten year hunt that ensued. We talked about why people choose to terrorize others and how it might feel to be on both sides of that terrorism. I told her about how the US Navy Seals had been watching a home for months and decided to swarm and kill the man they believed to be Osama Bin Laden.

She listened very quietly while I told her about how sucky the world can be sometimes and then said "but Mom, that doesn't make any sense."

Crap. I thought I had done a pretty decent job explaining the situation in terms she could understand. I needed to find out what she was confused about so I could clarify it for her.

"Mom, it doesn't make any sense that they would just burst in and kill him. Why didn't they take him to jail and then talk him through it?"

So wise beyond her seven years. Children have such a simple, innocent, and yet thoughtful view of the world and solving conflict. When do we cross over to cynical and jaded views of the world? And how can I help her hold on to this incredible judicious wisdom?

Maybe I don't need to shelter her from the world at all. The world needs to hear her seven year old voice.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Dirty Socks

This month Maya's school held an oratory competition. She was a finalist chosen from her class to go on to perform her piece in front of the school. Maya did very well and won a bronze medal! We are very proud of her.

Students in the primary grades were given poems to memorize and perform for the competition. Maya's poem was "Dirty Socks" by Bruce Lanksy. She spent so much time practicing the poem that Ben learned it just from hearing his big sister rehearse.

          Dirty Socks by Bruce Lansky
          My socks were very dirty
          So I washed them in the lake.
          It wasn't long before I knew
          I'd made a big mistake.

          The water changed from clear to mud,
          Then fumes began to rise.
          And soon a cloud of air pollution
          Covered up the skies.

          When bullfrogs started croaking
          And ducks began to quack,
          Some campers started chanting
         "We want our clean lake back!"

          I've got a pile of dirty socks,
          I'm in an awful bind.
          I guess I'll have to bury them.
          I hope the worms won't mind!

Here is Maya performing the poem and showing off her medal:

Here is Ben performing the poem he learned by ear:

I asked Ben and Maya this morning if they knew how I got so lucky to have TWO kids as awesome and smart as they are. Maya said it was because I have such a wonderful husband. Yup, it's definitely due to the guy who spins stories about child-eating dragons. Whatever the reason is, the fact remains those two munchkins are awesome and they're mine.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Dad Stories

One of the innumerable tasks of fatherhood is to impart knowledge to your children: teach them about the world and how to behave within it. Dads are bottomless wells of expertise. They seem to know how to do anything, build anything, fix anything. For a young child, Dad = superhero.

Safe homes for spotted owls

My own Dad is exactly that. He wired our childhood home to have a phone and stereo speaker hookup in pretty much every room. He taught us all about computers back in the days of Commodor e. He built us our own rollerskates out of old trucks and Chuck Taylors. I forgot just how smart he is when I was between the ages of 13 and 20, but since then I have remembered just how resourceful he is. When I was 22, I received a stacking washer-dryer set. For the life of me, I couldn't figure out how to install the set in the storage closet of my apartment. My dad arrived with just his toolbox and within minutes he had McGuyvered the set securely in the space. With this kind of knowledge and ability, why would I question him when I was a kid and he told me the red and white power line marker balls are homes for endangered species of birds?

Yeah, I believed that one until I was well into adulthood.
Prosperity lantern
aka Boy Eating Dragon Home
Dads seem to take great joy in pulling the wool over their innocent children's eyes. Last summer Eric and I took the kids to our favourite sushi restaurant for one last meal before moving to Saskatchewan because really, how fresh is that sushi going to be in the prairies? Our kids love sushi, so a trip to Sushi Osaka is usually an enjoyable excursion. This particular afternoon, however, Benjamin was not in any mood to sit. I pulled out all the tricks from my purse: Hotwheels, crayons, juggling sharp knives. Nothing was working. The two year monster sweetheart could not be dissuaded from jumping on Mom, standing on his chair, or climbing under the table. In a moment of "brilliance" Eric pulled out a dad story and told Ben that the decorative red lanterns contained dragons that would come out and eat little boys who weren't sitting nicely on their chairs. Nothing says family time like a terrifying story of being gobbled up by a fierce dragon.

This past week Maya did a great job of preparing Ben for Easter. She told him both the biblical story and the Easter Bunny story in an attempt to get him excited about the upcoming holiday. However, Ben couldn't quite grasp the idea of a bunny rabbit sneaking into our house and leaving us chocolate treats. So Maya enlisted her dad's help and asked Eric to google a picture of the Easter Bunny to show Ben. And what does a kind, loving father google to show his son the Easter Bunny?

A kind, loving father googles Donnie Darko.

Here comes Peter Cottontail
Hopping down the terror trail

Poor Ben was not looking forward to Easter. He took a look at the images Eric pulled up, turned to me, and said in his sweet, little 3 year old voice "oh, no thank you, Easter Bunny. I no like Easter Bunny. Easter Bunny too creepy." I'd have to agree with that appraisal.

It took us all week to convince Ben that the Easter Bunny was actually a cute, fuzzy bunny not a creepy, terrifying, evil rabbit who likes to go to the movies. On Easter morning, Ben discovered the Easter Bunny had brought both he and his sister lots of chocolate as well as some bubbles, sidewalk chalk, marigold seeds, and a set of elbow pads, knee pads, and bicycle gloves. "Mommy, I like Easter Bunny. Easter Bunny not too creepy anymore."

And yet he insists on wearing all that safety gear at all times.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Parent-Teacher Interviews

Recently we attended Parent-Teacher Interview night at Maya's school. This is the evening where we go and listen to other adults tell us what a sweet, quiet, well-behaved, and brilliant daughter we have. Luckily for Eric and I, Maya's school does this twice a year. It's nice to have an evening like this tip the behaviour scale in Maya's favour. It more than makes up for the sassy attitude she cops at home.

Maya's classroom teacher is wonderful. She's sweet, kind, but very firm with Maya. She shared some of Maya's writing with us, which included one particularly sweet drawing of Eric and Maya on a "date" at Tim Horton's. Maya's attention to detail was remarkable: Dad was dressed in camo shorts, a black t-shirt, and a backwards baseball cap.

Her teacher went on to tell us all about what a great student Maya is. She told us how she relies on Maya to the "caboose" of the line when the class walks down the hall. Maya is quick to keep the other kids in line, telling the teacher when the arrive at their destination who was talking, running, or pushing. We had a good laugh at this, because we have long referred to Maya as our little hall monitor. She is sure to let us know when someone else breaks the rules!

"Ha ha ha, that's great! But does she have any friends?" I asked. I'm picturing Maya as an annoying little bossy pants, barking orders at her peers. Mrs. D assured me that she does, in fact, have lots of friends. She's never alone at play time and all the kids want to play with her.

After we met with her classroom teacher, Eric and Maya wandered upstairs to find her reading teacher while Ben and I popped into the pre-K classroom to check things out. Maya's school starts pre-K at 3.5 (which Ben will be in the fall) and I wanted to know how to get him enrolled.

We walked into the pre-K room Ben's eyes got very large. The toys and books and puzzles were a little overwhelming, I think. He kept turning around and taking a step towards one thing and then stop and see something else and start heading in another direction. He finally settled on the kitchen and got to work making soup with a whole chicken with a side of scrambled eggs and pizza. Looks like all the time spent watching Food TV are paying off.

The pre-K teacher was lovely and encouraging. She watched Ben play and asked him a few questions. She said he was a very cute, sweet little boy. I can't say I disagree with her. We put Ben's name on a list for her to call when they open up registration in a few months. Keep your fingers crossed that he gets a spot in the class!

It took some skill to get Ben out of that magical room, but the lure of real cookies down the hall finally did the trick. We stopped to chat with a woman at a display about ordering boxes of fresh, local fruits and vegetables. I was asking her questions about the program when it all came crashing down.


Ben had crawled underneath the table while I was talking to the woman and one table leg buckled, sending her perfectly arranged display of pamphlets, information, photographs, water, and veggies sliding to the hallway floor. Luckily Ben wasn't hurt. He was just so embarrassed that all he could do is stand there and cover his face. The woman wasn't concerned about her display, thankfully, she wanted to make sure Ben was ok. And he was. Physically. Once I got everything picked up, dried off, and rearranged I was able to get the poor little guy out of the scene of the crime and talk to him. He came around once he saw the cookies. I'm fairly sure he immediately forgot all about the table incident. Cookies have a similar amnesia-inducing effect on me in that I immediately forget how many I've eaten.

It wouldn't be a Whitbread family outing without at least one thing being broken and somebody in tears. I'm just glad it wasn't me for once.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Sunday Morning Phone Calls

Most days when the phone rings at our house, we all try to avoid answering it. I can't put my finger on why exactly we dodge the phone because we do enjoy talking to our friends and family so far away. But the fact is, as soon as the phone rings on most days we all shout "NOT IT!" and immediately try to look busier than each other in an attempt to evade the telephone.

Most days that is.

But not on Sundays.

When the phone rings on Sunday mornings it turns into a pushing, shoving, screaming race between Maya and Ben to pick up the phone first. When the phone rings on Sunday mornings they fight to answer the phone because they know it's Grammy and Grampa calling. On Sunday mornings, instead of everyone shouting "NOT IT!" we all shout "it's GRAMMY!"

It should be noted here that Eric and I stopped fighting for the phone first because even if we do reach the receiver before the short people in the house we can't have a decent conversation for the shouting in the background:

"Can I talk to Grammy? Is it my turn yet? I want to talk to Grampa! Can I talk on the phone now? How about now? It it my turn now? Can I have a turn? Why can't I have a turn? I want to talk to Grammy and Grampa! I want to talk to Grammy and Grampa! I want to talk to Grammy and Grampa!"

"Me talk? Me talk? My turn? Me talk? My turn? I talk now? I talk to Grammy? Me talk? I talk to Papa? Me talk? My turn now?"
So we just stand back and let them duke it out politely talk about who goes first. Maya usually wins this "discussion".

Maya prattles on to Grammy and Grampa about her week, telling them the minute, intricate details about her week, the books she reading, what she did during the week, things she is looking forward to in the next week.

They talk about how freezing cold it is outside here in Saskatchewan and how pretty Grammy's flowers are in BC. Grammy really likes to rub it in that they can be outside without risk of frostbite. Maya really likes to rub it in that it hardly ever rains here. 
Ben tells Grammy and Grampa all about his toys, his favourite blanket, and the cat. He tries to show them things in his bedroom; he's only three and doesn't understand that Grammy and Grampa can't see him over the phone. They ask him all sorts of questions about his week. He babbles on and on. I'm sure Grammy and Grampa don't understand most of what Ben says, but they love to listen and chat with him.

Today, Grampa was really funny.

Being the sweet boy that he is, Ben often tries to pass the phone to the cat next. That's when I swoop in and rescue Grammy and Grampa.

They don't speak Catonese.

I try to hide away in my bedroom to chat with my mom because even though Ben and Maya have just had their turn on the phone and had been functioning just fine without my help all morning up to this point, they need my attention. NOW. I don't understand what it is about holding a phone to the side of my head that suddenly renders my children completely helpless. They require my assistance, my attention, my refereeing skills, my opinion on the economic crisis, my next breath. I tried talking to my mom about it one Sunday morning. I think she said something about how my siblings and I were the same way, but I couldn't quite hear her over the din of my children clambering for my attention.

The magic of a Grammy phone call is strong enough to overcome the family's phonephobia (that's a real word, google it) for one morning only. The next time the phone rings we are all back to calling out "NOT IT!"

Until the subsequent Sunday morning, that is.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

An Afternoon Spent Sledding

Or, Why I Shouldn't Ever Need a Gym Membership in Winter

 It's Winter Break here in the arctic tundra Saskatchewan, which means a blissful week free of marking, commuting, and early mornings. A week to sleep in late (7am), lounge around (catch up on laundry), and spend quality time the fam damily.
This afternoon we decided to go sledding. Looking outside and seeing the bright shining sun we thought it would be a perfect afternoon to spend outside. Windchills of -28C won't keep us inside, we're Canadian! We don't wait for warmer days, we brave the wintry weather with smiles frozen on our faces!

Getting myself and my two kids ready to brave the boreal weather is no small feat. The task of finding enough toques, mitts, scarves, snow pants, etc. to prevent frostbite and whining is enough to exhaust anyone, never mind the job of stuffing everyone into said toques, mitts, scarves, snow pants, etc.

By the time everyone was dressed, I was sweating, panting, and weary, and we hadn't even stepped outside the door.

I sent the kids outside to play in the snow fort Eric built last week and I ran around the house like the madwoman, grabbing the truck keys, the camera, and some batteries.

 I made my way outside, helped Maya get the snow tubes in the back of the truck, wrestled the kids into their seats, and we were off! And it only took 45 minutes!

I was so warm from just getting ready and being layered in my winter gear that my sunglasses fogged up.

We got to the sledding hill and Maya and Ben cheered. We were the only ones there! We had free reign over the hill. We could slide like crazy people in all directions without having to worry about running in to anyone else. Suh-weet!

Then we opened the truck door and realized why nobody else was there. It was ridiculously cold. The wind was so biting I had an instant brain freeze.

But hey, we're Canadian! We don't wait for warmer days to go play! We brave the wintry weather with smiles frozen on our faces!

Maya jumped on her snow tube and rushed down the hill. Or, at least, she *tried* to rush down the hill. Her tube stopped half way down the hill. I plunked Ben on his tube and gave him a push. He didn't make it as far as his sister.

Being the good mother that I am, I laughed hysterically at my sweet children stuck on the hill.

Don't worry, I helped them back up the hill. Eventually.

We attempted a few more slides down the hill, but the 40 km/h winds and fresh snow proved too much for my two light weights. They never did make it all the way to the bottom of the hill. After 5 minutes of unsuccessful, freezing-arse-cold sledding effort, I convinced Maya and Ben that we should head home by bribing them with offering a pleasant alternative activity: hot chocolate at home. They were really excited about this idea.

Or not.

The stripping of winter layers thankfully took less time than putting on the layers. All told, it was nearly an hour to get dressed and undressed for 5 minutes of sledding. Right now Maya and Ben are colouring happily, warm and content with bellies full of hot chocolate. I'm exhausted and spent, needing another cup of coffee.

I'm thinking next time the kids want to go sledding I'll trade spots with Eric. He can brave the wintry weather with a smile frozen on his face. I'll spend the afternoon the way he did - having a long winter's nap.