Wednesday, March 30, 2011

What's in the Pool?



This afternoon Ben and Janae had their second swimming lesson of the season at our local rec center, and I thought it might be fun to take Alaina into the pool.

As often happens on these occasions, a child who was swimming alone came up and started showing me all the tricks she could do.

As also often happens on these occasions, the little girl was very interested in Alaina.




Something a little different this time, though, when I asked her name, she said it was "Aleena." (Incidentally, when Janae joined us, the little girl mentioned that her last name was "Janae." I'm guessing that her middle name was Benjamin, but I can't be sure, since I didn't ask.)



The final effect Alaina and I often have on children is that they start telling us their life stories . . . and sometimes even those of their parents and extended family, within moments of meeting.

This little girl, Aleena, might have waited a few minutes longer before letting us know: "My mom has ringworm, really bad. I have it, too, but not really bad. The doctor said I should not go to school, though, until Monday."

Today is Wednesday.

Another argument against public swimming, I guess :)

Hopefully, along with the ringworm, we were swimming in A LOT of CHLORINE!!!

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Three or Four

Most of the time there isn’t much difference between three and four:

I ate three or four cookies.
We have to leave in three or four minutes.
I’ve been there three or four times.
I need to lose three or four pounds.

Was it three or was it four? It doesn’t really matter; they are virtually the same.

Other times, though, there is a big difference between three and four.

Especially when it comes to how many children one is going to have.

When it comes to other people’s families, three or four children might seem almost the same ("they have three or four kids"), but when you have three children, and you are almost at that unmentionable age after which you don’t usually want to think about having another one, well, there is a difference, and you just have to decide.

When I was pregnant with Alaina I VOWED that I would never have another baby. The day I brought her home from the hospital, though, I was already thinking I would like to have one more. Jason, of course, thought I was INSANE, but I have talked to other moms who seem to understand.



Anyway, in the almost 19 months since then, I have probably debated this issue in my mind at least a hundred times . . . per day. I just don’t know if we should stick with three or have a number four.

Of course, I do realize I could decide on four and end up with just three, or decide on three and end up with four. In either case, I could end up with FIVE if you take twins into account (I prefer not to, but I thought I’d better throw that in there, since I am trying to be thorough!).

Still, it is wise to go through the pros and cons.

So, here it goes:

THREE is a nice round number. A lot of things come in threes—diamonds in my wedding ring, packs of Easter cream eggs, seatbelts in the back of many cars, leaves on most clovers.

I already have three, so this is also the path of least resistance: no more pregnancies with all their nausea, discomfort, gestational diabetes, constant worry, or money spent on maternity clothes; no attempts to rearrange all our rooms and stuff; no more adjustments to new members of the family or trying to divide my time among more little people; no need to replace all the baby items I have already given away/sold in an attempt to guarantee that I wouldn’t have another baby (seriously!).

This would--without a doubt--be the most sensible route to take.

FOUR, though, is a nice even number. I grew up in a family of four kids, so it’s sad to think of what life would have been like if my parents had stopped at three. I would get to have another little baby and another child to get to know and love. This would be the more exciting choice because it would bring change and then a lifetime of possibilities as the new baby grows.



It may sound like I am partial to four--maybe YOU are even considering having another baby just reading this! However, I must add that the mere thought of it makes me tired beyond description.

Four has a few cons: I have been pregnant and/or nursing for almost five years now (without even ONE day off!) and wonder if it would be wise to add yet another 2-3 years (I know I have no-one but myself to blame for this, but even I have to wonder sometimes if enough is enough . . .).



I also haven’t slept more than 3 hours at a time in the past year (and many nights total about 3 hours of sleep). If a person with three children is too tired to get out of bed most mornings, should this person consider having four? Probably not.

And then there is my age, to which I have already alluded (but will never actually say, you might have noticed). Am I already too old to have another one? Could I recover from another pregnancy?



So many questions, so few answers. Four is definitely the unknown.

So, three or four? What is my final answer?

I guess it’s three or four, or five if you account for twins.

But I have to admit, I am leaning towards three.

With these three, I'm sure I will be busy enough, don't you think?

Saturday, March 19, 2011

We Gave Hockey a Try

Last night our nephews Tyler and Trevor were playing hockey in a tournament--my sister Sheri called to see if we'd like to watch and we were really excited!

 


It was the first hockey game we'd seen all season . . . all year . . . maybe even all decade. We are not usually big hockey fans :) This was so fun, though, that I think we might even try it again!

 


The "big boys" (aged 5-7) looked so tiny on the ice. Tyler and Trevor are amazing skaters. Trevor was playing goalie, and at one point his brother skated over to give him some "tips"--so cute.

 


Janae had a good time running around the arena with her cousin Brooke.

 


As usual, a lot of time was spent chasing Alaina rather than watching the game. She loved having a new venue to explore--all made of concrete, too . . . perfect for climbing, right?

 


Benjamin left with a new enthusiasm for hockey, asking if he could learn to play. Janae asked if we could go to Tyler and Trevor's games "every day."

 


I think we have finally discovered Canada's favorite sport :)

Thursday, March 17, 2011

My Hubby's Happy Green Birthday

 


It's fun having a husband who was born on St. Patrick's Day! This year I convinced Jason to take the day off of work and have a day of fun with the family :)

We talked about going to Victoria, but decided that might be too much with our three little kids. I suggested Science World, where we would get to see an IMAX film about a space telescope called Hubble. It was incredible!



Science World is always lots of fun, too.



I think my kids had all the shades of green covered.

 


And, if that wasn't colorful enough, volunteers were doing face painting in the kids area. Janae couldn't resist, and came out wearing a rainbow!

Ben was really disappointed that we wouldn't be going on a ferry, so yesterday I did a little research to see if we could find a smaller ferry, where we could go on a shorter ride. I found . . . the Aquabus :)

 


You can't get much smaller than that! It leaves from right outside of Science World and goes to Granville Island. And . . . it is mostly green!

 


It was so small that the driver let Ben and Janae have turns at the wheel.

 


 


I hadn't been to Granville Island before. It has lots of interesting little shops. Benjamin even got to do "the pigeon" there.

 


Before we went home we made sure Jason got back to his "roots."

 


After a full day, we came home, ordered dinner and had a shamrock birthday cake. Then Jason suggested watching Star Wars . . . which went over very well.

It was a happy birthday and a happy St. Patrick's Day all around.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Big Nursery Girl?!

We all know that Alaina is easy-going,

 


independent,

 


fun-loving and free-spirited,

 


but who whould have guessed that she would go to the nursery on her own?

Last week Alaina turned 18 months, which meant that technically we could leave her in the nursery at church for the hour and a half that Jason, the other kids, and I have our own classes to attend. Neither Ben nor Janae did this, however, until they were almost three . . . and a half.

Today I went with Alaina to the nursery as I'd done most weeks since she was born (we used to attend with Janae). Once she was settled, though, I thought I'd try leaving for a few minutes to see what happened.

I waited outside the room, peeking in through a little window at the top of the door every few seconds.

Finally Jason found me and took me to our Sunday School class. After 10 minutes or so of watching the door (sure someone would be bringing my screaming baby back to me), I left the class to walk down the hall by the nursery.

Alaina was still playing happily.

I repeated this compulsive act several times throughout the next hour, realizing I didn't know what to do when my children functioned without my help. I was much more comfortable when they were screaming and refusing to stay.

Finally, 15 minutes before the end of church, one of the nursery leaders came to the door with Alaina. I couldn't help but smile a little to myself. This was what I'd been waiting for.

But no. Alaina wasn't screaming, crying, or even frowning. She just needed a diaper change.

It's a good thing she's not potty trained yet :)

After the change (which unfortunately included the end of her undershirt and tights for the day) Alaina went back to the nursery and stayed until the end.

What a big girl!

 

Friday, March 11, 2011

Copper Kitty

On Wednesday Ben and Janae had a dentist appointment about an hour after Ben's school day ended. To pass the time in between, we stopped at my mom and dad's house. Ben loves hearing his grandpa's stories and the girls love talking to grandma and playing with all the toys.

This time, though, the pirate in my boy came through. As Ben was having a snack in the kitchen he noticed my mom's extensive collection of copper jelly molds. My mom has molds of all shapes and sizes--animals, hearts, fruits, fish--displayed high up on the kitchen walls.

Ben asked Grandma if he could have one, and she said yes. Ben chose a kitty cat, which he joyfully carried to the van as we left.

 


A few minutes later we were riding the elevator up to our dentist's office. A man got onto the elevator just after we did, and Ben immediately turned to him, looked up and said, "My Grandma gave me copper." The man smiled politely, gave me a bit of a confused look, and said, "That's good."

Later on at home, Jason came out of Ben's room holding the copper cat.

"What's this?" he asked.
"My mom gave it to Ben," I replied without even looking.
"Why?" was the obvious question.
"I think Ben wanted it for his pirate treasure collection," I explained.

Just before bedtime I realized Ben had the "sharing bag" for school the next day (that's what my generation used to call "Show and Tell," for anyone who might not know). "What are you going to take?" I asked my son, bracing myself for another broken Star Wars ship that we would have to re-build after school the next day.

"I have a great idea," Ben said, running up to his room. He came down with . . . you guessed it: the copper cat.

"Are you sure?" was all I could come up with to say.

I know kids sometimes take unusual things for sharing, but I doubt anyone has ever taken a jelly mold . . .

or loved a copper cat as much as Benjamin loves this one.

 


Hopefully it is safe to assume that this is just a phase and that it, too, shall pass :)

Thursday, March 10, 2011

An Amazing Story I Almost Got to Finish

*
Today is Thursday, which means it was library day.

On Thursday mornings we leave our usual activities behind

 


(which is often a welcome break), and head to our local library for storytime. We enjoy browsing for books, looking for fun DVDs, and chasing Alaina around.

 


Sometimes it's my favorite day of the week.

This week, however, I was dreading Thursday because I was frantically trying to finish an amazing book I had for only two weeks :)

The book was Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand. It told the true story of a man named Louis Zamperini, who started out as somewhat of a juvenile delinquent then became an Olympic runner and a World War II soldier, then a prisoner of war.

 


When I started reading Unbroken I wondered if I would like it, because the author used an objective, journalistic style (I usually prefer a first-person narrative style). It only took a couple of chapters, though, for me to feel drawn into the story.

As I got further into the book, I even told Benjamin and Janae about some of the incredible experiences Zamperini lived through, including being shot down from a plane and living on an inflatable raft for an extraordinary amount of time--without food or water--and all the while being pursued by sharks and/or enemy gunfire (I don't want to give too much away!). After the experience on the raft, he lived over two years in a prison camp--once again enduring things I could hardly believe.

I had to leave out many of the gruesome parts, but I still had both children wide-eyed and completely enthralled.

Unbroken took the author seven years to research and write--it is well documented (with footnotes explaining many of the story's details and giving additional information about minor incidents) and has a part at the end that describes Hillenbrand's interviews with Zamperini and several other prominent figures in the story. I learned a lot about World War II and also about what human beings are capable of living through.

In fact, this morning, when I had to put on jeans that were slightly damp from the dryer, I halted my complaints, thinking about what people living in war camps had to endure (How about the same pants you'd been wearing for over two years while mining coal and cleaning outhouses . . . not to mention sleeping in fleas and eating worse than rotten food--and even that, only on good days?). It kind of puts things in perspective :)

Unfortunately, I had to skim the last hundred pages last night to find out all that happened. (This included some severe post-war trauma that Zamperini experienced and then finally overcame through his religious faith.)

I will have to request the book again so I can read the end of it in more detail.

 


Anyway, it is a book I would highly recommend!

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Fun Turning Four

I think Janae had a good time turning one,



turning two,



and turning three,



but I think she REALLY had fun turning four! She was so excited for her birthday this year, and her special day was about as good as a day could be.

She woke up to a present right beside her pillow from her big brother (which Benjamin had picked out and bought with his own money!). She opened it to find . . . Tinkerbell slippers!!

 


Then Janae helped me in the kitchen . . . to make a cake that looked at least remotely like her favorite stuffy, a kitty named Seraphina :)

 


Janae knew she was getting a swimming suit for her birthday, but I didn't know that once she tried it on there would be no getting it off of her--or putting anything on top. It is a unique time of life when one can attend her birthday party wearing nothing but a swimming suit . . . at least for most of us.

 


I did manage to get her into a princess dress for a little while :)

 


Janae had cake and opened more presents with both sets of grandparents, and two aunts, an uncle, and a few of her cousins. She got new dolls, puzzles, clothes, books, and a DVD, most of which had a Princess/Barbie/Hello Kitty theme, of course.

Even Janae's favorite Cinderella doll got a beautiful new dress, courtesy of Grandma.



Janae ended the evening watching Twelve Dancing Princesses . . . and Ben broke down and agreed to dance with her during the final song. What a great brother!

Reflecting on the past four years I have spent as Janae's mother, I have to say she is a girl who loves everything beautiful. She is full of emotion and creativity--and brings music and dancing into every day.

I am so grateful for my little "G" :)

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Prenatal Programming?

 


Yesterday I signed Benjamin up for a spring break robotics/Lego day camp.

It is interesting that my son has such a passion for robots, considering his background. And by background, I mean way back . . . before he was even born.

During my entire pregnancy with Benjamin I was teaching communications at a technical institute, and many of my students were studying robotics.

When I initially received this assignment I was more than just a little intimidated. I had never taught technical writing before, but—worse—I’d never even heard of robotics. (I had, of course, heard of robots and assumed that’s what it was all about).

 


Even after a bit of research, though, I had only a fuzzy idea of what my students would be studying outside of my class.

On the first day of school I actually gave them an in-class writing assignment to produce a one-sentence definition of robotics.

Unfortunately this was their first semester in the program and some of their ideas were even fuzzier than mine.

My second semester I had a different group of students who were taking their final courses in the intensive two-year program, and they really knew what robotics was.

I taught them how to write reports and make presentations on their final projects, then watched all the presentations and graded the reports. I learned a lot.

Benjamin was with me through it all, from the size of a sesame seed to the 7-pound-15- ounce boy who was born the day before the semester officially ended.

 


I think he was listening in.

I know people sometimes think that music played to developing babies makes a difference in their brains or that stories read to a fetus become lifelong favorites.

Is it more of a stretch to claim that a baby who listens in on robotics presentations has a natural inclination towards that field?

 


If this is so, we are very fortunate that Ben picked up only what he did, since at least 90 percent of my students were also chain smokers who were very fond of four-letter words.

The more I think about it, the more I think I might want to sit in on the first couple of days of Ben’s camp. After all, I was with him the first time. . . .

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

No Yelling, Screaming, or Shouting, Theoretically

*
 


Throughout my parenting career—which spans more than seven years now if you count the time I was reading up on how to parent my soon-to-be son Benjamin—I have been known to consult a parenting book or two.

In fact, I do not think I am exaggerating when I say that I have probably read EVERY WORD that has been published on at least a couple of parenting topics, including getting babies/toddlers to sleep at night and how to wean a toddler (without finding anything really helpful in either case, unfortunately).

There are, however, many parenting books and articles that I have found very helpful, and dozens of topics that I have read very little about so far.

A couple of weeks ago we had a parenting class at our church, where a behavior therapist presented some information and then answered questions.

Since I arrived late and had to leave early, I was grateful the presenter had a handout . . . with a reading list. A reading list that comprised a number of books I hadn’t read or even heard of, several of which sounded not only interesting but helpful.

These included Raise Your Kids without Raising Your Voice, The Explosive Child, and Setting Limits with Your Strong-Willed Child.

 


As you might have noticed, there are a couple of parenting issues (besides sleep and weaning) that I have to admit I have been desperate for help on.

As soon as I got home, I went to our library website and requested these books, confident I would be first in line since—as I mentioned—I had left the meeting early :)

Within a week I had my books. As I surveyed the material, and then began an in-depth reading, I had to wonder where these books had been all my parenting life!

All three are excellent.

My favorite, though, which I highly recommend (and plan to buy and re-read constantly for the next few years), is Raise Your Kids without Raising Your Voice.

 


Anyone who has known me a long time might be puzzled by this. Not only am I not the type of person to scream and shout (being calm, serene, mild-mannered, and infinitely patient), but whenever I try to raise my voice . . . well, it doesn’t really work. All that comes out is a high-pitched squeak.

All I can say is JANAE (or—probably more fairly—being the mother of three small children including Janae).



Unfortunately my middle child has brought out the high-pitched squeak enough times that it’s had a bit of practice and almost does sound like a yell now.

Of course, I am not proud of this accomplishment and have thought there must be a better way to get my almost four-year-old daughter—who really is very sweet and small, and who needs love and patience as much as any other child—to listen and learn.

Anyway, this book not only outlines the damage that can be done by parents raising their voices, it also teaches parents how to prevent a lot of yelling, screaming and shouting.

This book also provides ways to increase positive interactions with children, the goal being to maintain a better relationship with them—since parents’ relationships with their children has turned out to be their only source of lasting influence on them.

 


Of course, there are still issues the book hasn’t fully solved for me, such as what to do if your children are shrieking in such a way that they cannot hear the parents’ calm, rational voice, or what to do if the parent asks the children to get into the van when late for school and the children continue to wander around in the front yard (just joking—neither of those ever happen with my kids!) .

So, if you hear high-pitched raised voices coming from our house . . . hopefully it will only be happy screams :)

Theoretically, it won’t be coming from me!