nodding & smiling

ceci n'est pas un bébé lala


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Gimme Gimme Gimme

Little Cousins' Gift Exchange - aka "FamJam"

Little Cousins’ Gift Exchange – aka “FamJam”

Christmas and the holidays are a wonderful time for families. We get to unplug, reconnect with loved ones, spend time together. There is also the magic of the season, with all its treats and treasures.

If you’re like me, you love spoiling your kids and seeing the delight on their faces when they unwrap a special gift, but also worry that they will lose sight of the spirit of the season focusing on “getting stuff” instead.

This year, I’m happy that we will be going almost gift-free among my family. That means that aunties, uncles, parents and grandparents won’t be showering the kids with gifts as we usually do. Instead there will be a single gift exchange at the kid-level (read: no adults participate), and then Santa will do his “thing” (which at our house is a bountiful stocking and one or two special gifts for each child).

The focus will be on finding ways to spend special time with our family, playing games, baking, watching movies, going on walks etc. rather than gift-giving. Best part is the kids seem totally fine with the whole thing!

Happy Holidays to all!


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Sporty

Hoping the secret to getting this one to enjoy sports is sticking with one. Wish me luck!

My daughters have been raised with the understanding that exercise is a necessary part of healthy living. It’s as important to our bodies as are fresh air, sleep and good nutrition.

My elder daughter did swimming from a young age, started soccer at age 4 (and never left), started ringette at age 9 (and never left), with a bit of volleyball thrown in. At 18, Alex plays ringette for the Dalhousie Tigers, and continues to play and work out regularly.

Katherine, my 10-year-old, has also swum from a young age, and has tried: ballet, soccer, gymnastics, rugby, ringette, volleyball and cheerleading… and never liked any of them. Worried she might just not like being active, our deal had always been: she picked the activity, and I made sure she stuck it out till the end. Her latest sport is basketball, which she “kinda, sorta” likes.

This summer, her swimming instructor asked whether Katherine was normally uncomfortable trying new things, because she seemed reluctant to “put herself out there”. Quickly, I recalled childhood memories of Katherine being especially averse to embarrassment, notably when she was learning to read and would refuse to sound out the letters. She only wanted to read the word out loud once she was certain she got it right in her head.

My “a-ha!” moment: it wasn’t that Katherine didn’t enjoy being active, it was that she didn’t want to be embarrassed for not doing as well as the others (made more obvious being the “new kid” all the time!)

So, our new approach will be for her stick with a sport until she’s mastered a few skills, which will hopefully boost her confidence. I’ve decided she’ll keep with volleyball, and she’s decided she’ll keep with basketball.

And time will tell, I guess. In the meantime, my reluctantly-athletic kid gets sweaty 3 times a week 🙂

 


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Moving Out

It fits. She's happy. I'm....?

It fits. She’s happy. I’m….?

Not gonna lie – it’s hard.

This… all of it…

I know she’s going to enjoy university, I know it’s time, I know she’s totally ready and excited and looking forward to all that moving to Nova Scotia and attending Dalhousie will bring, but…

It’s hard.

My friend Joanne is also going through the same thing, she was excited, she said, until she was at the supermarket, loading her basket with her daughter’s faves, and then realized she would not be there to enjoy them (Joanne’s daughter is going to King’s also in Halifax).

My other friends, Kim and Jane, have lived through this with their sons leaving for university last year (Bishops and McMaster), and their daughters following this year (Guelph and Waterloo) and have helped prepare me for the feelings I’d have. They told me that it wasn’t the end, it wasn’t “my kid moving out” but rather, “my kid living elsewhere for a time”. That made it an eventuality easier to accept. Knowing that Alex would come back.

Although we’re only leaving on Thursday, we packed the car today, to ensure we had enough room in my SUV and wouldn’t need to rent something.

It all fit.
Gulp…

 


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As You Go To University…

Now university-bound, my then 6-year-old athlete

Now university-bound, my then 6-year-old athlete

Dear Alex,

I won’t begin this letter with “I’m going to miss you”. You know that already.

I also won’t regale you with stories of my youth and my lessons learned – you’ve heard them all before and make much better choices than I ever did. TBH, sometimes I just tell you them to see your face pale. Ha!

I know you appreciate the quality education you’re about to receive, and the gift of living in residence (because not all kids are as fortunate). You’re thankful for all the hard work that has gotten you here (your own included). I know you won’t waste it by getting poor grades.

I also won’t use this space to tell you how proud I am of you. Once you decided on a field of study, you worked tirelessly toward your goal. You’re probably rolling your eyes now with an exasperated, “Oh Mom!”

This letter is about the other people. The people you can’t expect to meet, the kind I wouldn’t want to ruin your excitement with by warning you about. They can enter your life in the form of biased teachers, grabby guys, thieving classmates, backstabbing friends, deceitful boyfriends, sneaky strangers. I want you to keep yourself safe from them.

They’re impossible to identify simply by their actions or words, you just have to be aware they could be anywhere. Think back to what I told you when you were learning to drive. Relax, but check your mirrors and blind-spots frequently. Drive defensively and above all, trust your instincts.

I love you,

Mom xo


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4 Weeks

My girl's new school!

My girl’s new school!

My heart! In 4 weeks, we will be making the 19-hour-long trek to Halifax, Nova Scotia to settle my girl into her residence at Dalhousie University.  She’ll be studying Commerce. We decided to do a road trip because it will be fun to have time to bond and because she’s bringing a lot of stuff for residence, including ringette gear. My daughter is keen to get there already, to get started with school and settled into her new life. Over the past few months we’ve felt both trepidation and anticipation with respect to the start of the school year and her university career, and while my anxiety level is growing because I am going to miss her so much, I also smile at how eager she is to experience it, so my heart is full. It’s a trip, let me tell you.


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Short Shorts

Short shorts circa 1983 (me) & 2014 (my 10yo who thinks these shorts are “way too long”)

A recurring argument in my house revolves around clothing. With two girls who love to express themselves through clothing (and then leave the discarded outfits on the floor for Mama to pick up), it’s a topic that comes up a lot.

My eldest grew up loving the Spice Girls and their crop tops, and there were always stores ready to satisfy that “want”. But this mama said no way. Next came sweats with text on the bum. I put my foot down there, too. “I can’t, with good conscience, send you off to school at 13 years old knowing that men, on their commutes to work, will be reading your bum.”

Fast-forward to 2014. My younger daughter already looks older than she is (10), and she sees her older sister’s and friends’ style and wants to mimic. But they are 18. It’s challenging for me to give a good reason why I don’t want her wearing shorts with a 1.5″ inseam without sounding judgy, and when that’s all that seems to available for teens these days are short shorts. My 10 year-old has long outgrown kids’ sizes. So for now, I say no, and my reason is “because I’m your mom and I said so.” I wonder how long that will satisfy. (Look how short my high-waisted velour babies were in the eighties! Adding insult to injury, my 10yo asked why I was wearing a “diaper”.)


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Sex Ed

Mama and her babies

Mama and her babies

I am not shy about sex. Not even a little bit. I laugh at a culture that is okay showing our kids movies full of non-sensical, gratuitous violence but that blushes at showing people enjoying sex, which is something that happy, healthy people are hard-wired to do.

One of my favourite documentaries is Let’s Talk About Sex due to it advocating a frank, open dialogue within families, and I read Dr. Laura Berman’s book Talking To Your Kids About Sex so many times that I probably need a new copy. It’s thanks to her that sex is an ongoing, open topic of discussion at my house (rather than a single, awkward “talk” to get through). I highly-recommend both, if you have kids and don’t ever want them to feel ashamed of their emerging sexuality. I’ve even talked with writer friends (sometimes using a pseudonym, based on how embarrassed my kids might be) about my views on parenting and sex education. Check out my points of view in Ann Douglas’s article and Emma Waverman’s article.

Sex talks at my house include the nuts-and-bolts of sexuality, reproduction, sexually-transmitted infections and contraception/protection – as well as pleasure, love, expectation, the future, risks, rewards, feelings. I think they all go hand-in-hand and should be discussed together. I also make sure to pepper the discussion with some first-hand experiences of my own, letting kids know that there were things I had been confused about and experiences that had surprised me when I was a teen and what I learned.

I want my kids to know that nothing embarrasses me about sex, they can ask me anything, at any time. I also tell them they should not be embarrassed, but that a good rule of thumb is that if they aren’t comfortable talking about sex with a boyfriend/potential partner, it’s probably a good sign that they aren’t ready to take that step.

 

 


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Allies

So blurry but taken by a kid! My friends & I. We met at our kids' ringette games!

So blurry but taken by a kid! My friends & I. We met at our kids’ ringette games!

One thing I’ve discovered over my 18+ years of parenting is that it’s important to have allies. Allies in the form of friends and family who “have your back”. Sometimes an ally comes in the form of your child’s friend’s parent, forming naturally by virtue of the amount of time you spend with the same people. Other times, you meet a parent who just seems like “your kind of person” and you make the effort to become their friend.

Even though a few of the kids’ friendships have waned a bit with their evolving interests and groups of friends, I’ve remained friends with certain parents. Other friendships I’ve also let wane, as some relationships are finite and have a beginning and an end. I’m okay with that.

Allies when parenting are amazing. Being able to text your friend about the naughty thing her child and your child just did on their playdate at your house (come on – it was funny!), and know you’re both on the same page and “get it” is invaluable. Having someone you can call in a panic because you won’t be home in time to get your kid after school is also comforting (yes this has happened to me). And car-pooling? Don’t even get me started. With all the driving around we do, it’s nice to have someone to take turns with, or someone cool to share a drive with.

Allies. Get some!

 


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Puberty

Beauties on the beach, 2011

Beauties on the beach, 2011

I started puberty early, as did my girls. Mean boys called me “Wonderbra” in grade 5, even though I spent the better part of my time trying to conceal the fact that I was wearing a bra.

When it came time to have the talk with my elder daughter, I thought I handled it pretty well: Years later I learned that I left out a VERY IMPORTANT DETAIL: I never told her that her period would end. That’s right: I didn’t say, “don’t worry – it only lasts 3-5 days”.  The poor kid thought she’d bleed forever from that day on! No wonder she was devastated.

Ugh.

So with my second daughter, I had an opportunity to redeem myself. Had the same talk, presented the same useful books, and was super-clear about the fact that her period would both begin, and end, monthly. She asked questions, wasn’t embarrassed, and has practically worn out the books since then.

The problem?

My younger daughter was SO open and comfortable with the subject that she decided to impart her newly-acquired knowledge to her (very religious) friends.

“Hello [mother of friend 1], this is Natalie, Katherine’s mother? Yes. I’d like to apologize for her impromptu sex-ed tutorial at yesterday’s playdate. I understand that you’re pretty upset…”

Facepalm.