Affection Journey

When I was a kid, my dad would intermittently pop little notes in my lunch bag. “Daaaad. That’s so embarrassing” I would moan after finding one of his I love you, Princess! post-its. (He also liked to torment me by cutting my sandwiches into 8 or more pieces, but that’s a story for another day).

Confession: I acted like it bothered me to discover these written displays of affection, but I secretly liked it. You’re never too old to be surprised at lunch time. Who doesn’t appreciate an unexpected note of encouragement?

Recently I realized that although I occasionally send similar notes to my boys, I could improve my performance in this area. Pinterest will tell you that you should use hand-crafted paper, calligraphy, and flowery rhymes to create odes of love to your offspring, but I’m here to tell you that any gesture is valued. I’ve recommitted to speak love into the lives of my children on a more frequent basis. Won’t you join me?

Here are a few samples, to inspire you on your Affection Journey.

photo 1-24

photo 2-21

photo 3-14

I like to have a theme, but it’s not essential. You be you.

photo 4-5

photo 2-22

The direct approach is always in style.

photo 3-15

Above all, be specific.

photo 1-25

Are you with me? Let’s do this.

Have an inspired note you’ve sent with your little angel? Share it over on my Facebook page and help inspire other like-minded parents. Alright, alright, commiserate, we can commiserate together.


Smug Laundry

It was after a sleepover trip to Grandma and Grandpa’s house. I can remember where I was when I heard, time stood still and the moment was instantly ingrained in my memory.

My oldest son looked at me with bewilderment and quietly said, “I saw something at Grandma and Grandpa’s house. They had this machine.”

Okay.

“Yeah, and it was so weird. She put the wet clothes inside it.”

I think I see where this is going. Did the clothes come out later on and they were dry?”

“YES! How did you know?”

Well, son, I guess it’s time you learned the truth. Some people in this world, yes even people in our own family, these people, they own “dryers”.

“What’s a dryer?”

(Big breath) it’s a machine that dries your laundry.

“Wait, they have a machine that is just for drying clothes? Well, that’s dumb.”

Now before you judge your grandparents too harshly, a lot of people do that. Alright, most people. Most people do that.

“But why would you bother having a machine do that when you can just hang stuff up?”

Why indeed.

——-

Secrets. We all have them. I feel compelled to share one. Some people are privvy, and you might have pieced this together already, but others might be shocked to learn that…

We don’t own a dryer.

You read that right. Not “we don’t use our dryer much” or “we hang some things to dry”. We really don’t own one.

Missed a day? Look for alternate drying arrangements. Again.

Missed a day? Look for alternate drying arrangements. Again.

I’ve hesitated to spill this somewhat little known fact because I didn’t want to seem smug. It’s kind of hard to tell someone “Oh, I don’t own a dryer” without lumping yourself in with those who tell you they “don’t watch TV” and sometimes “forget to eat.”

To be clear, I’m not ashamed, but I don’t feel the need to flaunt our “green-ness” or rub your nose in our energy efficiency.

We started hanging clothing to be more environmental. There was occasional use of the dryer for heavy things like towels and jeans that tended to get “crunchy” when exclusively hung to dry. Once we bought a front loader washer, the drying time was cut in half as was the crispiness of clothing. When we sold our first home and the buyer wanted our dryer, it wasn’t difficult to agree. I had intended to buy a cheap one for the new house, but we adapted to being dryer-less and never bothered.

I can hear you asking “Why?” maybe accompanied with an eye roll. Don’t worry, I get it. You’re not there yet. It’s hard to imagine life without the convenience of tossing wet laundry in a machine and an hour later poof! it’s ready to fold. It’s really not a big deal. Once you get a routine going, you’re all set. All you have to do is NEVER FORGET TO PUT A LOAD OF WASH IN AT LEAST ONCE PER DAY. Wet laundry takes a while to air dry, if you skip a day you are behind for a week.

What's underneath this bed sheet? More laundry, of course.

What’s underneath this bed sheet? More laundry, of course.

After a while you get to know some tricks and develop effective strategies. For instance, jeans take longer to dry and will smell “off” if you don’t hang them near the top of the rack with room to breath. Socks and underwear take hardly any time at all. Same goes for sheets, sports shorts, and lightweight sports clothing.

A word of warning, if you put off hanging laundry one evening, you have guaranteed that someone will throw up or wet the bed. It’s a fact.

Do my husband and I always agree on laundry-hanging techniques? No. But that’s okay because even though he’s wrong, the laundry still dries. Eventually.

Yes, I have tossed a blanket over the drying rack when there is an abundance of underwear on display. And yes, there have been times it looks like I’m taking in other people’s wash to make an extra buck (please see previous note about not getting behind). But overall, it’s not that much extra work. And it’s worth it.

Try it, your clothes will last longer, your house will never need a humidifier, and the extra damp really opens up your pores.

I forgot to mention, we also used cloth diapers.

For nine years.

I’ll see myself out.

Please note the careful placement and spacing to maximize drying.

Please note the careful placement and spacing to maximize drying.

More of the backstory can be found here.


Outdoor Education

Spring has finally arrived which means tugging on our rubber boots and heading out for walks in the local “forest” after the morning drop-off at school.

“I’m just going to get that big stick.”

“Actually, it’s still in the ground, so it’s a tree, not a stick, we’ll find another one.”

“Ok. Hey! Look at the bird’s nest – another one! Another one! ANOTHER ONE!”

And so it went. We tromped around in the newly thawed earth, enjoying the sound of our boots sticking in the mud.

“There’s that green stuff! And there, and THERE!” Today we learned that “green stuff” is moss and likes damp, dark places. Followed by a timely reminder of why we empty our lunch bags every day.

“I can see that tree used to have three parts. Why is it on the ground now?”

As we discussed the possible reasons a tree might fall, I basked in the glow of the intermittent sunshine, the smell of the world finally waking up to spring, and the sounds of birds chirping. I might have even been feeling some pride at my laissez-faire approach to the day. I have no agenda, I’m just going to relax and savour this time with my little guy, look at me being so “in the moment I’m not even taking any pictures.”

My reverie came to a screeching halt.

“AHHH! AHHHH!”

On the path, less than one metre away was…

a

dead

duck

And it was HORRIFYING.

We both gawked in silence for a moment and then ran away. I mean RAN.

I don’t know why I was running, I’m an adult, but Little told me “I thought he was going to eat me.”

At this point, I tried to get back to our previously fun adventure mode. I suggested we take the long way home, maybe check out the creek. Little wanted nothing to do with that. Offers to go to the park were declined. “Let’s just go home,” he told me.

I could not get the dead duck image out of my mind and wondered how much it scarred my youngest until he chirped up, “I HAVE to tell the boys what we saw.” And moments later we spied a worm on the sidewalk that he concluded was “napping.”

Childhood innocence remains intact.

As for the duck? I took care of it. I left a long, detailed voicemail for the people who take care of those things. I’m sure they’ll have no trouble finding the duck corpse “in the forest behind the school right near the fence that lines the soccer field, not the field by the road, the one at the back of the school yard. On the mud path, by a tree.”

Now I know what to do if I come across a dead dolphin.

Now I know what to do if I come across a dead dolphin.


House Rules for a House Full of Boys

Nothing prepares you for being a parent of a house full of boys. You can read a multitude of online posts or buy all the parenting books you like, but reality is the best teacher (and she’s merciless). Since I’m in the midst of raising four boys aged ten and under, I will try to help you out a bit and share a few of our house rules. Shake your head and dismiss them if you like, but one day you’ll discover your son cleaning his penis with a toothbrush and you’ll whisper, “She was right, about all the things.”

House Rules for a House Full of Boys

1. Pants are not optional. Ok, they are, but there are conditions. For instance, when we have company. If the doorbell rings, you find those pants and put them on as quickly as possible. Also, you are not permitted to suggest pants removal to any of your friends. Mommy doesn’t want to get arrested. And no matter how much you enjoy the “comfort” and “freedom” of wearing just your skivvies, pants must be worn for any and all meals. Especially in the dining room. Yes, even if it’s just pizza.

2. Change your underwear. Every day. Clean ones. They might look clean, they might smell clean, but no. It’s non-negotiable.

Clever, but seriously, stop it.

Clever, but seriously, stop it.

3. Potty Talk: There’s a Time and a Place. I get it, farts are funny. I can appreciate a well-executed burp, I’ll even join in. But you have to know when and where this is okay. Hanging out in our basement? Sure. But the grocery store line is not the place to announce that your “penis is sticky.” If you do let a silent and deadly one rip, don’t feel the need to announce it, especially in the middle of a restaurant…with your grandparents. Randomly tossing out phrases like “butt crack” and “poop” are only hilarious to you and your brothers, move on.

4. We only lick food. Preferably your own. Doorknobs, seat backs, and other people are not recommended. And please refrain from telling your brother he will get super powers if he licks the bottom of his shoe.

5. If the bathroom door is shut, walk away. I get it, you know I’m trapped and you’ll get my undivided attention, but your request for “more Netflix” or the need to tell me your pants “feel weird” will be better received once I’m done. Same goes for tattles about your siblings. I’m not willing to play Judge, Jury, and Executioner from behind a closed door. Go away. And while you’re at it, ignore any sounds that resemble candy wrappers being opened, that’s strictly your imagination.

6. Mommy’s appearance is off limits. Unless of course, it’s a compliment. Please refrain from observing that my arms are “floppy” or my bum is “fluffy”. I don’t need confirmation that I look tired or that my legs are “scratchy”. I have a mirror, I’m self-aware. Please resist pointing out my gray hairs or a new wrinkle. Those are your fault anyways. I’d like to blame you for stray chin whiskers, but let’s at least pretend they aren’t visible. And my tummy is squishy because of you and your brothers (possibly from apathy and chocolate consumption, but mostly from you.)

7. Outside Stays Outside. Water guns do not get used indoors. I don’t care how much you love and cherish the cricket you found in the garden, it’s not a pet you’re keeping in your room. Baseball equipment was specially designed for outdoor use, act accordingly. Snowball fights in the front hall would be amazing. No.

8. Listen to Your Mother. I might not have pinched my penis in a dresser drawer, but I have life experience on my side. If you drop a bouncy ball in the toilet, I recommend you just throw it out, but at the very least do not put it in your mouth. If you breakdance naked, you will get carpet burns. Just because you “tried it with Daddy and no one got hurt” does not mean it’s a good idea.

Parting words of advice: It helps, but saying “voila!” after you do something naughty will not get you off the hook.


The Long Game and Exercise DVDs

It’s been a busy week for contributing at other sites.

Moms Magazine just published The Long Game.  Parenting doesn’t get easier, it just changes. Moving on from the baby years and raising kids with the long game in mind.

For those who want to get fit, but gradually start plotting an elaborate plan to “take out” the instructor on home workout dvds, fear not. My recent post A Workout DVD for the Rest of Us was shared at What the Flicka (while you’re there, check out some other funny posts from some pretty witty ladies).

Thanks for reading – you guys are the best.


Riding the Waves in Winter

A Weekend Warm Up at Niagara Falls’ Americana

It’s been a long, cold winter here. So cold that as we left the house for our most recent road trip I was asked, “if your penis falls off from frostbite, can you grow a new one?”

Yes, it was that cold.

What is a good, hearty-ish Canadian family to do (on a budget) to get a break from the constant indoor recesses and mad dashes to and from the van? Any more long days stuck together enjoying each other’s company could start to turn ugly.

A short trip out of town to an indoor waterpark is just what the meteorologist / Travel Bureau of Ontario ordered. And so we did.

Destination: Americana, Niagara Falls

Niagara Falls has several indoor waterpark resorts from which to choose. They vary in accommodations, amenities, and price range. A few years ago we took our then six and four-year-old sons to the Americana Resort. We were expecting our fourth son and wanted to get away for some special time with the oldest two. Do not feel badly for the third-born, he had Grandma and Grandpa exclusively to himself all weekend.

We had a great time back then, so when we decided to take the whole family, the choice to return there was easy. It is a great entry-level park. They have a variety of features including a wave pool, four slides, splash pad for water play, and a wading pool spot for the younger family members. There’s a hot tub, but unfortunately I did not get to try it out because the first visit I was pregnant and this time there were too many kids to track. Towels and lifejackets are readily available, so no need to pack those extras.

More Than Just a Pool

Our room had two queen-size beds and a pull-out couch so all six of us could sleep in comfort. The boys pleaded their cases as to why Mom and Dad should get the couch but we pulled rank, so at least four of us were happy (my apologies to the youngest two, but they were the least likely to appreciate a comfy bed, and yes, they slept just fine. Mostly).

Must be broken, weird.

Must be broken, weird.

Standard in every room are the usual coffee maker, mini-fridge, hair dryer, etc. The fridge and microwave came in handy since we brought food for a lunch, breakfast, and snacks. This also helped us with our bottom line (kids eat a lot).

The entrance to the waterpark is through the arcade. Yes, it is very much like Las Vegas for kids. The trick it to never start putting the coins in the machines.

Anticipation, Amenities, and TV Angst

Everyone had a great time, and as usual, the excitement began well before we even left the driveway. The boys all had their bags packed two days prior to departure. When he spotted juice boxes in the cooler, the five-year-old cried out, “this is the best day EVER!” We all agreed it was going to be one of our favourite experiences, that is until the same five-year-old began reading all the house numbers out loud. After we shut that down, he thought we’d all appreciate a constant update on the speedometer, “120…117…121…”

As we pulled into Niagara Falls, the oldest two read aloud various signs: “Oh, heart-shaped jacuzzies,” “heeeey, efficiency sweeties,” “are we staying in a sweetie?” “It’s pronounced “suite” and no, we’re not millionaires.

Shhh...we're busy watching the security camera channel.

Shhh…we’re busy watching the security camera channel.

The hotel TV did not function like Netflix which caused much angst for our youngest son, “WHY CAN’T YOU SKIP THIS? SKIP. IT.” He also couldn’t understand why the TV didn’t cater to his personal viewing needs, “I said I want to watch ’Sponge Bob’”. Once he realized he had to deal with commercials or we would turn it to the French-only channel, he simmered down.

But Wait, There’s More

Staying overnight in a hotel is very educational. Did you know there is no escaping a fart in a hotel room? Truth. Also, no one will own up to it, but many a finger will be pointed.

Fun fact: if a five-year-old says he packed extra underwear, he’s lying. Related note: hotel room heaters dry clothing remarkably quick. And yes, your mom is a genius.

Maybe not all hotels have this feature, but apparently the dresser in our room smelled exactly like Grandma and Grandpa. It remains unclear if they meant that my parents smell like a bureau or their house does, I was too busy trying to brew a tiny pot of coffee to seek clarification.

Parting Wisdom

A word of advice if you stay at the Americana in Niagara Falls: take the roll pillows and hide them before you even let your kids in the room. I spent approximately 1/3 of our time there uttering threats through clenched teeth for them to “stooooop iiiiiiit” because:IMG_8247

Anything can be a weapon if you just try hard enough

Bottom line: this was better than camping and I almost have all the chlorine rinsed out of my hair.


More Oreo in Review

I like Oreos.

When Oreo Double Stuff was introduced, adrenaline coursed through my eight-year-old veins. When I learned that US Oreo fans have access to dozens of flavours that are not stocked on Canadian shelves, I was moved to write a letter to Mr. Christie himself. Sadly, I have not heard back from Mr. Christie nor an Oreo representative. I’d settle for a tweet.

Bubble wrapped to maintain cookie integrity

Bubble wrapped to maintain cookie integrity

Don’t worry, this has not stopped me from trying those cookie sandwich treats. Once friends caught wind of this injustice, packages of Oreos started flooding in. Some arrived via friends who had travelled across the border, while others were sent from new friends living in the states who shared my love of chocolate wafers hugging sweet filling. It was almost hard to keep up, but I managed and shared my thoughts on these exclusive-to-America cookies.

When Mr. Christie rolls out a new flavour, my twitter notifications start pinging. My inbox houses numerous pictures of Gingerbread Oreos, links to Fried Chicken Oreo (please tell me that’s a joke), and offers to pick up not-yet-tried varieties on an upcoming trip. Christmas brought me a special delivery of White Fudge Oreo. Recently, Red Velvet Oreos were launched and only a few weeks later, a package of them arrived in my mailbox. So this is a thing and it shows no sign of stopping.

My last review was one year ago, so it’s high time I updated with all the flavours we have tried within the past twelve months.

Coconut Fudge Cream Oreos 

Technically not a sandwich cookie, but who cares?

Technically not a sandwich cookie, but who cares?

These were a birthday gift and they delivered. My only negative criticism is that the package is deceptive. Although it looks like a regular size package of Oreos, they house this variety in a special plastic tray (likely to prevent them sticking together, but you won’t eat just one anyways, unless you’re a robot, or my husband). You only end up getting about half the amount of cookies.

I stand behind my decision to eat them alone in my locked bedroom. There is no point wasting fancy cookies on small children.

Rating: 5 out of 5 cups of coffee (and yes, they pair nicely with a cup of Joe).

Banana Split

Allegedly amazing

Allegedly amazing

Dropped off unexpectedly by a friend last summer, these were a huge hit with the children of the house. I maybe had one, the rest vanished while we were poolside. Even the son who detests bananas deemed this flavour “highly acceptable”.

Rating: probably a 4, can’t say for sure

White Fudge

Yes, please

Yes, please

Ho! Ho! Hold the phone! Even if you don’t like white chocolate, you will love these. Yes, you will. But you’ll have to wait until next Christmas or never, if you live in the Great White North (ahem, Nabisco Canada). These were a pleasant surprise included with a Christmas card from friends made via the internet. I have to learn not to open these packages in front of the boys because they get all “you always say we have to share”.

Rating: 4 out of 5

Red Velvet 

I'm a believer

I’m a believer

I admit, I had my doubts about this one since Red Velvet in general makes me punchy (I just don’t understand, Red Dye 40). The filling has a hint of cream cheese which contrasts well with the lighter chocolate taste of the cookie. Pairs well with apple juice, milk, coffee, okay, okay – anything. It pairs well with anything, especially more Oreos. This flavour was a very pleasant surprise and one I begrudingly shared with my offspring and few close friends. If you got one, you know I like you.

Rating: 4 out of 5

Dishonourable Mentions:

Gingerbread: meh.

Everyone has Oreo hiding spot, right? Well you should.

Everyone has Oreo hiding spot, right? Well you should.

Pumpkin Spice: yes, it tasted like a Yankee Candle.

Caramel Apple: also resembled a candle.

Candy Corn: still a firm no.

______

Not sure if you should indulge in your next Oreo? I’m here to help with a useful Oreo Flowchart. 


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