Camp Rules!

Camp counsellor in training.
Camp counsellor in training.

Trying to decide if a summer day camp is for your child? Debate no longer! The answer is “yes”.

Day camp is a great opportunity for friends and strangers to gather together for a week or more to explore a common interest. Lego, sports, nature, faith, games and crafts – there’s a camp for you!

Concerned about the qualifications of the camp leaders? Not to worry! Camp counsellors are born with special DNA programmed for this very role.  Most CCs come out of the womb chanting, “Peel bananas, peel peel bananas.” As toddlers, you frequently here mini CCs telling their playmates to “Stop, Look and Listen” – any kid who doesn’t reply with a speedy, “oh, yeah!” is stricken from future play date lists.

Still not sure? Maybe you’re worried that there won’t be enough structure and rules. Or maybe too many rules. Nope, not at camp. There is just the right balance of routines and freedom. Okay, there are a few rules, but they are important (and universal).

Camp Rules

Stick with your crew.

Follow the leader.

Keep it peanut-free.

Wear sunscreen.

Grates are not for jumping on.

Stay with your crew.

Don’t lick other campers.

STAY WITH YOUR CREW.

Socks stay on your feet.

Wait.

STAY. WITH. YOUR. CREW.

Camp is a rite of passage – whether as a camper or a leader. You start learning life’s lessons at camp. Look out for your group. Travel with a buddy. Ask for help when you need it. Take turns. And always stay with your crew.

Queen for a Day

This week I had the privilege of co-leading the story telling station for the week at Vacation Bible School. My partner felt I should be the one to take on the role of Esther. She said it was because I had done this station last year, but really, I think she sensed the royalty bubbling up inside me. That, or she recalled that I am the sole female in a house of 5 males and thought I deserved some dress-up time as a girl for once. Either way, it was a win.

It's okay to be a little jealous of my Esther costume.
It’s okay to be a little jealous of my Esther costume.

After playing Esther five times in row for the morning, I felt I really had a handle on this Queen. Then I got home and the differences between her highness and myself became quite stark.

Esther is touted as a brave and godly woman. I am not disputing that. She really stepped up when it came time to save her people and all that, to the point of possible death. But ASIDE from that, she had it quite easy. Before all the bravery and whatnot, her life was pretty cushy.

Let me paint you a picture.

For a year, one WHOLE year, she received beauty treatments. Twelve months. Fifty-two weeks. Three hundred sixty-five days of pampering. I’m guessing no one pounded on the door while she plucked her eyebrows – nope, because someone did that for her. She probably remembered to put mascara on both eyes since there was no preschooler digging around her make-up bag and applying excessive eye shadow on himself. Probably.

If you read the book of Esther, you’ll see that she also had special meals prepared for her for a WHOLE year. That’s about 1095 meals she had that were not leftover Kraft Dinner. Or brown apples from morning snack. Or Goldfish crackers (okay, if I was Queen, I’d still eat those, they’re delicious).

Esther also had seven attendants at her disposal. This is in addition to the free spa treatments and all-inclusive meals. Vacuuming? No, my attendant will look after the rugs. Laundry? Nope, another servant takes care of that, thanks. Run out of toilet paper? Got it covered. Chances are, Esther had people laying her clothes out for her and helping her change. I’d settle for getting dressed without discovering the toddler is using my bra as a helmet or the 6 year old commenting on the size of my underwear.

Do I wish that I were Esther? No, not really. I can’t say I like the odds she faced of being killed to save herself and her people. But I wouldn’t mind being more like her: brave, wise, respectful, and humble. And a working lock on the bathroom door wouldn’t hurt either.

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Thanks to Carolyn Marles for the picture. I can’t seem to shake the paparazzi. 

Robotic Teacher Agents – Guest Post by Ricky Anderson

Today is a BIG DEAL.

My first guest blogger! Ricky Anderson is funny. No, not funny, really REALLY funny. Still not enough. He is super really funny. Nope. Hilarious. Yes, hilarious. See for yourself over at his blog www.rickyanderson.net or on twitter @Arthur2Sheds or why not both?

Ricky is not nearly the procrastinator he makes himself out to be. Thought I’d have a lot of nagging ahead of me, but he got this post done in a timely manner. Ricky, you ARE special. Well done, Ricky’s mom.

———

It’s time we talked about it.

Everyone’s been thinking it for years, but until now it’s been the topic nobody wanted to bring up.

Robots.

You’ve failed us, Science. You pretend to know everything, what with your Mars rovers and particle destroyers and anti-aging creams.

But the truth is – you’re stuck. You promised us robots. From The Jetsons to I, Robot to The Matrix, you’ve been making us promises for years. And yet the only robot I have access to is a Roomba.

Seriously? A vacuum cleaner. How exciting. I guess it beats a colon cleaner.

We interrupt this post for a message from Ricky’s agent, Ricky (no relation).

I would like to apologize for this post. It was written in a sleep-deprived haze, fueled entirely by caffeine. Ricky has strong opinions on the subject of robots. However, his boss needed him to do some database fiddling, so he had to leave this post incomplete…

…JUST LIKE SCIENCE AND THE ROBOTS.

Note from Ricky’s agent, Ricky’s agent, Ricky (some relation, but we don’t talk about that side of the family since the Thanksgiving incident):

Oh, sorry. I just remembered that Jan asked me (Ricky, not Ricky or Ricky) to write about being a teacher’s kid.

My mom was a teacher. A fantastic and real good awesome one.

And clearly she made me special.

So take note, Science…and go make me a special robot!

Oh, Canada!

The Maple Leaf forever
The Maple Leaf forever

July 1 is Canada Day and I thought it would be good to test the boys on their Canadian facts.

According to the 8 year old:

Canada Day is Canada’s birthday which means it got alive that day. It’s 100 years old and before that it was a whole bunch of different cities. The boss of Canada is Prime Minister Bob Kevin (he’s very clear that Bob is his first name, Kevin is his last name). Canada is the second biggest country in the world. We speak French and English. The only difference between the US and Canada is that the US is more famous.

As most countries do, Canada has it’s share of ethnic foods, including ice cream, yogurt, lemonade, olives, pickles, and pickled corn (coincidentally, all of the 8 year old’s favourites).

Canada’s national animal is the beaver, but it is also famous for polar bears, squirrels, spiders, birds, amphibians, and reptiles. Canadian money has a beaver, a loonie, a caribou, a maple leaf, and a boat. Our money also has the Queen of England on it. The Queen is the boss of the Prime Minister, in case you were wondering how that all worked.

As far as famous Canadians go, we’ve got the Toronto Maple Leafs people*.

In Canada you can do anything, like swimming.

A little geography lesson: Ontario is a province, there are ten in total. There are three territories. Territories are cold, provinces are not.

If you’d like to double check any of these facts, click here for verification.

*The six year old chimed in that we also have Don Cherry, you know, “The hockey guy that does stuff, just talks. He’s

Our most famous Canadian
Our most famous Canadian

old and that’s it.” I was saddened that they did not know about Megan Follows or Anne of Greengables. Also disappointing was that David Suzuki was overlooked. When questioned further, eight year old said, “he’s the guy that’s on Daddy’s shirt.” (See “So, I Married David Suzuki” for more on this famous Canadian and his connection to our family.)

The four year old’s session was more question and answer.

What is Canada Day? I do not know.

What should we do on Canada Day? I do not know.

What is Canada? I do not know.

Where is Canada? I do not know.

That's Anne with an "e"
That’s Anne with an “e”

Where do you live? With you

Where do I live? With me!

What can you find in Canada? Don’t know

Who is Don Cherry? I do not know.

Who is Megan Follows? I do not know.

What is the Littlest Hobo? I do not know already.

What’s the Canada song? Waving Flag.

Do you like Canada? NO ONE likes Canada.

Do you have any interesting Canadian trivia to share? Any questions about Canada? Ask away, we’re pretty polite.

*Click here for the follow up interview

Who Wants to go for a Swim?

I grew up with a pool and it was awesome. We were in there all the time. We made up the best games and were exhausted by bedtime. So, when we were house hunting a few years ago and found a place we loved and  it had a pool, the decision to put in an offer was very easy.

This is not me.
This is not me.

We are not a family that goes camping (not sure why I’d chose to spend a week living in third world conditions, but more on that another time). We also don’t really cottage; however, if you have a cottage you’d like to invite us to, we’re game. So, having a pool is the perfect fit for us. We love having people over for the day or an hour (it’s a sliding scale depending on how much we like you and how well-behaved your children are).

Swimming as I recall it from growing up was fun and almost limitless. You throw on a bathing suit, run out back and jump right in. Take a few warm up breaks, eat some chips or Rice Krispie squares, maybe go on the swing set or read a book, then right back in. That has not been my experience as of late. Being a parent has really been a killjoy when it comes to pool time. (Obligatory good mom disclaimer: I do love my boys and mostly enjoy swimming with them.)

Now when I want to enjoy the pool, I have an entourage, which is fine, but the whole process is way more involved. Bathing suits to start: we have a drawer full of trunks – at least 23 pairs. Once people know you have a pool, you get a lot of bathing suits as gifts. However, even though there are 23 to choose from, only one pair is the right pair. Searching bedrooms, railings, and random piles on the floor takes time. Multiplied by three at the very least.

This is who I pretend to be when I do a killer handstand.
This is who I pretend to be when I do a killer handstand.

Once bathing suits have been procured, we begin the “Put your Clothes Away” dance. I tell the boys to put their clothes away, they say they did. I tell them that “away” does not mean they are left in the bathroom. Sighs and blustering ensue, but they go back upstairs. I ask again, they insist they did, I remind them that “away” does not mean on the floor of their bedroom. Repeat.

Alright, bathing suits are on, clothes are “away”. Now we move on to the “Sunscreen Debate”. It’s short, I win, sunblock applied. This quickly moves into the “When can we go in?” chant.

We’re at a good stage of pool life with the Bigs. They jump in, play games and have a blast.

This is me in 30 years.
This is me in 30 years.

Mostly they just ask me to watch their super cool pencil jumps or cannonballs or ask me to count how long they can hold their breath under water. But the Littles – they seem to think that I am out there solely as a conduit for their personal swimming fun. And neither of them can swim on his own yet. So, I’m doing a lot of bobbing up and down and “helping” and promising not to let go.

“Don’t let go, Mommy.” “Hold me, Mommy.” “I want to be with you, Mommy.”

And now, right now, as I type this, I realize that maybe it’s the Littles who are at the good stage.

“Don’t let go, Peanut.”

Rhubarb – It’s Time to End the Conspiracy

It’s almost that time of year – summer! Strawberries, asparagus, corn on the cob, peaches, oh, and of course, their awkward cousin, (you know, who makes everyone laugh a little uncomfortably while avoiding eye contact): rhubarb.

Seems innocuous enough - don't be fooled.
Seems innocuous enough – don’t be fooled.

Before this time of seasonal enticement begins, I’d like to get ahead of the inevitable propaganda that comes along with it. Why are we all still pretending that rhubarb is delicious? I have a theory. Someone put it in a pie by accident and no one wanted to hurt their feelings. Kind of like The Emperor’s New Clothes, but with dessert.

Rhubarb can’t stand on its own. Somewhere along the line someone thought, “Hey, strawberries are just too sweet and delicious, let’s add just a smidge of bitter and stringy stalk bits – oh, perfect!” Rhubarb is Strawberry’s longstanding friend that poor Strawberry just can’t shake. They both know it’s time to move their separate ways, but clingy Rhubarb just doesn’t take the hint. Strawberry knows he’d be better off solo, but doesn’t know how to break it to Rhubarb.

The enemy within
The enemy within

This cover-up in modern cuisine is everywhere and social media is the biggest tool in this propaganda machine. Yes, Facebook, I’m talking about you.

“I just made the YUMMIEST rhubarb muffins.” Nope, ‘rhubarb’ and ‘yummiest’ are mutually exclusive.

“Check out this strawberry rhubarb cookies – SO good.” Stop dragging strawberry into this.

“Oooh, rhubarb coffee cake for dessert – can’t wait!” Liar.

Deception in a jar
Deception in a jar

Now, you might be thinking that I have it out for rhubarb, and you’re right, I do. But let me close with these two indisputable facts and then you can decide which side to support.

1.  Rhubarb is a vegetable. (yup, I looked it up)

2.  Rhubarb is a result of the fall:  “Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat food from it all the days of your life. It will produce thorns and thistles and rhubarb for you.”  Genesis 3:17b-18

 I rest my case.

Le Dentiste

Every six months I get to visit the dentist for what they call a “Check Up”, but we all know it is much more than that.images-2

They start off with the chit chat. How was your day? How are the boys? Are you back to work this year? Oh, kindergarten? How nice. This is all just to put you at ease before they ask about their hidden agenda. The answer to “How many cups of coffee do you drink”  is, “Mind your own business”. 

I’m quite certain that dental teams attend a workshop in “mhmmm”. There are many different meanings behind all those little “mhmmms” and it is up to those of us on the receiving end to interpret them:

Option A: “not too bad, just a little plaque, well it has been six months”

Option B: “more tartar than I’d like to see, but it’s on those back teeth, that’s tricky”

Option C: “ok, no flossing has been happening here”

Option D: “The horror! I will be using every sharp tool I have on this tray”

We know, dental hygienists, we know.

Dentists and hygienists have also mastered the art of shaming:

“I’m sorry I have to keep going back to this spot, but there is just SO MUCH plaque.”

“Do you floss? Ever?”

“Here, hold this mirror and watch while I show you how you are supposed to floss, *dummy.”

Next comes the polishing stage which is almost the worst (fluoride rinse is the worst, and needs no further discussion). She’s polishing and rinsing and polishing and rinsing and I do my best to be a good patient, but all I can think is: “DON’T YOU SEE I AM DROWNING ON MY OWN SALIVA?! THAT SPIT SUCKER THING IS NOT A DECORATION – GET THE SPIT! GET THE SPIT!”

Okay, the worst is mostly over, but this visit I noticed a new tool. No, not the tiny instruments of torture they use for plaque removal, a Sales Tool. I’m guessing our dentist office recently bought shares in SonicCare’s parent company because as I’m getting poked, prodded, and scraped, she keeps reminding me that an electric toothbrush would considerably reduce all that plaque and make cleaning easier. When I don’t grunt agreement, she seems to find a little extra something that needs scraping on my already tender baby tooth (I still have 3 of them). Well, played, hygienist.

But the dental team is not the only one with a plan. I’m pretty wily myself (comes with being the youngest of four). You can’t just floss the night before, that’s no good. Floss once or twice a few days beforehand. Then you can truthfully say, “Well, I don’t floss EVERY day…” and trail off, just like that (take a second and practice, I’ll wait). Also, flossing a few days ahead of time will reduce the bleeding and toughen up those gums a bit. It builds stamina, trust me.

If you’re lucky and don’t have any cavities or abnormalities, don’t cheer or say “really?!” that just tips your hand. Maintain a cool veneer like you fully expected the appointment to go that way, because you are a flosser who drinks just the right amount of coffee and does not eat Sweet Tarts or Zingy Zaps before bed. Ever.

(*Dummy is said with the eyes, pay attention.)

So, what’s your deal? How often do you floss? (nevermind, no matter what, I’m going to assume you are lying).

Exercise: It’s Hard

images

Exercise is hard.

That’s obvious, I know. But really, it’s hard.

Finding the time is hard. Wanting to find the time is harder.

I plan to work out, but then there is a super funny post on Facebook with these animals saying hilarious things with British accents.  Can’t pass that up, and doubtful I’ll remember to watch it later.

Ok, I’ll get out for a morning run. I’m a firm believer that you really need to have that first cup of coffee to start the day right. And you can’t run on an empty stomach, so better eat some breakfast first. The 3 year old has all his Little People set up waiting to play with me. I can’t say “no” to him. Maybe later.

Riding the bike tonight could work. Well, the things is, I really want to eat my M&Ms in peace while I instant message with people I just spoke with 3 hours earlier.  Coworker friends matter.

I’d have more time to exercise if my library book wasn’t due tomorrow. Gotta avoid those fines, I’ve already racked up quite a few.

I could just do that 20 minute DVD workout. Twenty minutes is manageable. Oh! But I need to call my sister back before she thinks I’m avoiding her. And then there’s a candy crushing game I need to play, wouldn’t want to let my fellow gamers down.

Alright, I can do a sprint around the neighbourhood right after dinner. Wait! Canadian Tire has asked me to fill out this survey and I might win an iPod. Think of the great things I could do with that iPod. It’s for the boys. Let’s think of the boys.

Exercise is important and good for me. Then again, so is quality time with my husband. I know! We could workout together! Yes! But he’s in better shape than I am. I don’t want to hold him back.

Alright, alright. Guess I just have to make the time. And I will. Tomorrow.

Gloomus the Sketchy Cat

Gloomus the Sketchy Cat

Hey. Yeah, I see you there, looking at me. What’s up?

I know I don’t live here. You’ve made your anti-pet policy perfectly clear, but you know what? I like your porch and on your porch I will stay.

About that policy. What’s wrong with a pet or two? Word in the neighbourhood is that you already have like 10 kids living here, so what’s one little cat added to the mix?

Oh, you’re “allergic”. Got it. Ever heard of antihistamines? They were made just for that ailment. Start stocking up, they’re on sale at Walmart this week.

Don’t even try using the “we can’t afford to feed a cat” excuse. Do you see how scrawny I am? I’ll just eat whatever falls on the floor. We both know your kids are messy eaters.

I know your not-so-secret fear of mice. I’m sure we can come up with a mutally beneficial arrangement.

Come on, everyone gets a little itchy now and then. YOU scratch behind your ear, but that doesn’t mean YOU have fleas. Give a cat a chance.

The bald patch on my tail is nothing to concern yourself with, and frankly, I’d rather not talk about it. Let’s just say that sometimes a cat has to take a stand and we’ll leave it at that.

What? This? Oh, this catnip isn’t mine – I’m just holding it for a friend.

Now, let’s talk accommodations…