View From The Glen

Monday, March 30, 2009

Secret Guilty Pleasure

I have a secret addiction.

As I mentioned recently, we are TV challenged . And for the most part, that is fine by me. Sometimes I hear about a show and think I'd like it (I used to love Masterpiece Theatre), and sometimes I'll rent a show on DVD (recently saw Seinfeld for the first time and enjoyed it, and Sex and the City and didn't). Last year, I heard about The Tudors and thought that might be good - but my mother-in-law (whose opinion I value) said not to bother, that it was pretty trashy, and I forgot about it.

Until January when I found the show on Itunes and downloaded an episode. And another. And yet another. And without realising it, I was hooked. I'm halfway through Season 1 now, and have been made aware of three things:

1. That though my mother-in-law is usually right, sometimes trashy is okay;

2. That there is a place for TV in my life - albeit a small one as I can barely manage one 45 minute show every 2-3 weeks;

3. That having this as a vice is pathetic - I must come up with something jucier than watching a TV show on my Ipod! Maybe I can start guzzling wine. Oh wait, I already do that.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

March Break in Quebec City

We had a terrific time in Quebec City over March Break. We drove into Levi and crossed on the ferry giving the kids a first hand look at the ice floes drifting down the St. Lawrence and getting the best view of the Chateau Fronenac going.

I love old Quebec - it's where Andrew and I met for one thing; I also have a good many memories of my time living in this 400 year old city. I could have wandered the old streets for hours.
The kids thought that was great - for about five minutes.

Still, they liked the battlefields and we took the dog for a long windy walk over the Plains of Abraham, after watching a great multi-media show about how the city was settled. Kids like bloody history, so they were enthralled by the knowledge that both General Wolfe and the Marquis de Montcalm died after the battle.

They also liked the caleche ride through the city gates, although it almost ended prematurely when Anna lost her hat in a gust of wind. Good old Dad ran after it all the way down a cobbled hill and then back up again. Whew!
But the real hit was the aquarium where polar bears caught fish, a playful walrus played tag with us, and a multitude of sealife could be observed.

And that was it really. Fun filled days in Quebec.Yup! That's pretty much how we all felt at the end of it all.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Girls and Food

As a pre-teen and teenager, I never had any hangups about food. I never dieted or worried about my weight, and any image-awareness I had was just the regular self-consiousness of your average teenage girl.

As a mother, however, I am a lot more conscious of some of the issues that girls (in particular) have, and although my oldest girl is only turning 8 later this summer, I am on alert. Girls - even girls who live in rural area - are growing up faster these days, and it shocks me when I hear of girls in junior grades talking about their weight and who is thin and who is not. Particularly as their Italicnotions are driven in part by a media-obsessed society.

Anna has a naturally slim build. She is lanky and fit and healthy and seemingly un-self conscious. But I've noticed recently that she is "not all that hungry" at dinnertime more than usual, and while I'm not alarmed (it's quite possible that she just isn't that hungry), I am watching just a little more closely.

I'm taking the opportunity to talk more about food and healthy choices. Anna already likes to cook, so I make the effort to involve her more - my rationale being to encourage her to forge a good relationship with food, one that she controls - and while we're in the kitchen we are also communicating which is paramount for any number of reasons as we head towards the pre-teen years.

She's only 7, I hear you say. But those 7 years have flown by, and in 7 more it will be too late. I've spent the past 7 years raising her to be the confident, healthy child she is, and my job now is to nurture that child so that she becomes a confident, healthy teen, with the tools she needs to navigate the minefield of adolescence.

N0-one said being a mom was easy!

White Spaces

Most of the time I'm pretty relaxed. Erik's 900 piece lego set strewn across the family room doesn't bother me. Grace's muddy boots dropped casually in the middle of the kitchen floor doesn't faze me. Anna's mountain of papers is a mere molehill in the chaos of daily life. (Aside: Anna is attempting to write an abridged version of Lord of the Rings, including Questions For Discussion after each chapter: Why do you think the ring consumed Gollum? That girl is destined to be a schoolteacher.)

The dog barks at nothing. Someone thunders elephant-like down the stairs. There are two different songs playing in two different rooms, and Grace is spinning the Wheel of Wow on the Webkinz internet - and the sounds from all of this compete with Erik's sound effects as the good guys blow the bad guys out of the air in a Star Wars re-enactment.

It's the normal sounds of a happy household. And usually none of it bothers me.

But every once in a while it all overwhelms me. It's like all the activity, all the clutter, all the noise spins together so fast that it ceases to make sense and all I can do is focus on the tiny pinprick of white space at the centre of the vortex. That white space is a lifesaver. I fix it in my mind and expand it, pushing out everything else until my whole universe consists of nothing but white space and light. It's not a place to live - just to visit. And I never stay long - just long enough to take some deep breaths and rejuvenate before I slowly let the world back in.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

TV Challenged

We don't have TV at our house. Or rather we have a television, but only for movies. No TV channels. This is not for any smug holier-than-thou reason, but because I can't stand the constant droning and mediocre programming. And because I always feel worse after I've watched TV - like life and energy have been sucked out of me. And because I never have time to watch TV anyway.

Still, there are plenty of people who don't understand. Like the cable guy who refused to accept that we could live without being plugged in to TV. Or well meaning family members who knowingly told us we'd cave once the kids got older. Or the friends who tell us of all the educational shows their kids are watching.

None of it sways me. I barely notice we don't have it anymore, and the kids don't seem to care. But I had to laugh last week. While we were in Quebec City for March Break, we booked adjoining hotel rooms. And the kids were thrilled because there was a TV with channels in their room. It was mostly in french, but they didn't care - they happily watched TV every evening before bed. The night before we left they watched a hockey game, and I laughed again when Anna, needing to get something from another room, shouted out How do we pause this thing?

OMG, my kids are TV-challenged!

Friday, March 20, 2009

Why Moms Blog...let me count the ways!

All moms that I know are busy moms. How we find the time to blog always amazes me. But why we blog...! There are a hundred reasons.

We blog because we want friends and family around the world to get a snapshot of our daily lives. We blog because we have stories to share and pictures to show that we don't want to keep to ourselves. We blog about extraordinary achievements- and sometimes we blog about ordinary moments just to celebrate the importance of everyday life.

We blog because we have something to say, or sometimes because we just need to vent . We blog because we know our families are unique and because at the same time we need to know that we're not the only family in the world whose sweet children are sometimes disgusting or who have lambs living in the kitchen.

We blog because we need advice, or because we've found a way to do something that makes our lives easier and want to pass it on. We blog because forgotten lunches, messy houses, and lost homework are real and in this great crazy world, it's good to know we're all in this together, and that no matter what we do or say or feel, we can find reassurance that the kids will all okay as long as they are loved. We blog because we know that we can learn from each other, and because any community - even an internet one - is a positive thing.

If you're reading this, check out some other members of this great big community at Blog Party 09 hosted by 5 Minutes for Mom. Bloggers will link from that site to their own blog where there will be a post telling you a little about themselves with links. Take a look around, and enjoy.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

March Break

March Break Day 1: while I work (boo) the children have friends over and spend the entire day outside leaving their father free to catch up around the garden. Fabulous weather - as long as you don't mind a bit of mud. But that's what wellies are for.

If only they made wellies for dogs! (Actually they probably do, and for the record I would never ever buy wellies for my dog.)

March Break Day 2: while I work (boo hoo) the children have friends over there a pattern here?

The big yay for the day was from Anna who beat a poodle at checkers (webkinz - see post) on the new computer (whereby the kids discover that newer models have sound aka speakers that work!!!)

The dog was happy too because I bought a couple of new toys for her. And because she gets to chase the kids around all day in the mud, and nothing is happier than a tired, muddy, befriended labrador.

Monday, March 16, 2009

World of Webkinz

I bought the girls webkinz pets for March Break.

Boy was that a ticket to a whole new world.

For the uninitiated, these are pets with a secret code you use to log into the internet and create an entire webkinz universe.

You can decorate your home, play, dress up, visit other webkinz, go to the gym, learn new stuff...once we learned the basic navigation tools the girls had a great time.

What I liked is that they start off with 2000 in Kinzcash, which they of course spend on furniture, clothes, food etc. To earn more they have to go to "work" (answering quiz questions on the arts, sciences, math - all age-specific). Anna in 7-year old frustration said, It takes much longer to earn the money than to spend it.

Hmmm. Welcome to reality.

Overall, I started out sceptical and pretty much got converted. There are some great games and interactive areas where they can talk to other kinz pets (in a carefully scripted environment). They can send each other mail, and gifts (all for webkinz cash that they have to earn), and they can adopt other webkinz pets along the way.

The girls love it. I guess they are now officially Webkinz Girlz.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Signs of Spring

The kids were outside without their jackets all weekend. The girls even went so far as to wear capris, which seemed more than a little optimistic to me.

We have a beautiful wood framed play structure in the back, but do you think that's what they played on?

Of course not. Not when they had Hay Bales.
Like this...

Lords of the Hay Bales...

Leaping across the chasms...

(Hey, how come I can't get up there...?)

Time for a well-earned rest...

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Silver Sunrise

One benefit of turning back the clocks on the weekend is the view in the morning...

...once I've had that 3rd cup of coffee and my blurry eyes are able to focus, that is.

Friday, March 6, 2009

A Little Down Time

Sometimes when the world is rushing by, we forget the importance of just sitting down with our feet up and hanging out together with nothing on the agenda.
The importance of sipping a hot mug of tea. Of solving a puzzle. Of reading books - each member of the family lost in their own worlds but fortifed by each other's presence.
The importance of conversation that isn't about anything in particular. Just thoughts, voices, observations.
We could all do with a little chillin', a little down time.
Grab it while you can.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Get Up & Go

One thing I'm loving about my Ipod is that I can set playlists. Music to run to. Music to study to. Music to cook to. But my favourite by far is the one I created last week: 8 songs that have made my life better, my mornings less chaotic, and my days more organized.

It's pretty hectic in the mornings at our place. Andrew is out by 5 some mornings, and I'm left to make sure the kids are dressed, have had breakfast, have packed lunches and homework and notes in their bookbags, have fed the dog and cats, and somehow get to the end of the lane to meet the school bus at 07:30 am.

And some days - okay, many days - it sounds something like this:

No time to dawdle. Finish your breakfast. Have you put the milk away? Don't forget your homework. Where did you put your mittens. The bus will be here in 5 minutes. Let's GO!

Until this week, when I put my brilliant Get Up & Go playlist into action. 8 upbeat songs over 30 minutes. When the first notes of Who Let The Dogs Out start blaring at 0650, they know they need to be getting dressed. Green Day and Coldplay songs are good for eating breakfast, and by the time Blackie and the Rodeo Kings roll around, the bowls are being loaded into the dishwasher. Three more songs to go - lots of time to load up bags and run back upstairs for whatever it is we've forgotten. The rule is that when Great Big Sea begin to belt out End of The World, you'd better be wrapping up whatever else you're doing because when the song is done, it's time to put on coats and boots. With a 10 minute post-playlist window, we have time to find that missing mitten, grab the recycling box, rebraid messy hair, toss in a load of laundry... and still make it to the car and down the lane with minutes to spare.

I confess I get tired of the same songs in the same order every morning. But the kids love it. They thrive on it. And it works. The best part is that I don't have to say anything at all - the songs set the pace, and mornings have become a lot easier.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Secret Ingredient

I make banana bread (or muffins) about once a month or so - using up a pile of over-ripe banana's that the kids refuse to touch. That roughly equates to a dozen or more loaves a year times 8 or 9 years - for the sake of argument let's say I've made around 100 loaves.

So how come I've only just discovered the secret ingredient that takes it that one step futher up the yummy scale?

With thanks to Nigella Lawson, I have to say that the addition of rum-soaked raisins adds a whole level of sophistication to the humble Banana Bread.

The recipe couldn't be easier.

Simply bring 1/4 cup rum to a boil; add raisins and simmer 10 mins; remove from heat and let sit until they have absorbed most of the liquid. Add to your favourite Banana Bread Recipe.