As the kids get older, I struggle with how much information about them to include in publicly available blogs. Although I may continue to post stories here from time to time, I am no longer maintaining this as an active blog because I wish to keep my children's childhoods for them rather than providing them for public consumption.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Some Days are Almost Magical

It has been ages since I posted to this blog. I blame two things: (a) I directed at play in the beginning of the year which took all my time and (b) I have spent the time since then catching up where I fell behind.

But, today was something special.

I woke early. I intended to write, but sat with a cup of coffee and caught up with my online social networks instead. It was peaceful and comforting and wonderful.

William, Michael, and Jocelyn were up soon and came down to join me. I had printed out some very basic phonics books for Michael, who has shown a drive to learn to read. I showed the first one to the kids and they proceeded to read it to me, helping each other out and relying on me for almost nothing. I had been confident that Michael would manage, but the other two surprised me.

After books, we had breakfast and then I took Patrick off to his swimming lesson. This is often a part of the week that includes several struggles, but today was excellent. On the way home, we stopped at a couple of stores to look for a cage for the butterfly larvae that we will be picking up tomorrow - from a family that has too many and just wanted to share.

As we arrived home, Andy was serving brunch: eggs, bacon, sausage & fried tomatoes. William showed me the comic book he had made while I was gone. A quick meal and I was off again. This time to the doctor with Michael, William, and Jocelyn for their annual physical and shots. We talked about the shots on the way there and I informed them there would be treats in the car afterwards for all brave children. In the waiting room, Michael continued to march through the phonics books, learning words as fast as I could give them to him, while the others played with toys.

3 shots, a few drops of blood, and one tender shoulder - but no tears - later, we were back in the car sucking on lollipops, ready for the next adventure.

We piled 4 bikes, 4 gloves, 4 balls, a T-ball tee, and snacks into the car and headed off for Heber Down, one of our local conservation areas. Heber Down has a flat path in the bottom portion of one of the hiking trails and we hoped that it would be a good place for the kids to learn to ride bicycles. A few hundred yards from the parking lot, the path turns a corner and the parking lot is hidden from view by stands of enormous conifers. We didn't go any further.

Patrick has had an incredibly difficult time learning to ride a bike and was frustrated to discover that he had forgotten the balance that he had finally found last summer. But, after a short practice session, he was riding up and down the path with glee. He rode off to the end of the flat path and back by himself several times while everybody else stayed in one place.

William, Michael, and Jocelyn have proper bikes (with training wheels) for the first time this year. Last year, they had tricycles and balance bikes. This was our first outing with the new bikes. By the time folks gave up, both William and Michael had managed to ride a bit.

After snacks, we played around with the T-ball equipment. I haven't played baseball since elementary school, but I found myself in a classic catcher stance as soon as I knelt to throw a ball with Michael. And even Patrick's glove felt manageable in my hand despite being several inches small. It felt good to be playing ball again. Patrick ran off with a butterfly net and we caught glimpses of him chasing butterflies.

But the best was yet to come.

Eventually, the children started playing tag - using the butterfly net as a tagging device. And then, suddenly, I realized the net was down and my children were calling me from within a grove of conifers. As I approached, I determined both that the cries were gleeful and that they were coming from above my head. William and Patrick had found a path into the stand of trees and had discovered that the trees had only grown branches on the outside edges of the grove. They had access to the trunks of the trees, and the branches were kindly spaced for them to climb easily. Jocelyn and Michael soon joined them and Andy and I had a bower full of children above our heads.

It would have been impossible to leave the tree-climbing fest without tears in most cases. But, Andy announced that there were water guns waiting for them at home. These have been much anticipated, and the kids came to the car with little trouble. Our back garden was a toasty 32 degrees Celsius: perfect for a water battle to end the day.

And this is where the story really ought to end. It will come as no surprise to parents reading this that such an exciting day was somewhat overwhelming to the children and bedtime was on the messy side. But, it wasn't bad. Certainly not bad enough to spoil the magic of the day that had come before.

I am hoping that by taking the time to reflect and write about this, today will become one of the days I remember when I look back from what is now my future. It was the kind of day upon which glorious memories are built.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Math with Aliens and Boots

I try to work mathematics literacy into our day. For breakfast, for example, we have often have toast cut into several different varieties of quarters. Most popular are ″finger quarters″ which involve dividing the toast in half vertically and then dividing each half vertically again. ″Square quarters″ and ″triangle quarters″ are also popular. ″Halfs″ and ″eighths″ are less popular, but known options.

Michael was playing with numbers this morning. He was doing a maze where he was supposed to figure out which path had the numbers in order. Patrick found a path with the numbers from 1 to 8 in order and then skipping to 10. So, he introduced Michael to the Barenaked Ladies song "7 8 9." The lyrics are "1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 10. What about 9? 7 ate 9." Michael knows his numbers well enough to think this is hysterical.

But, my favourite math moment of the day so far was in the car taking Michael, William, and Jocelyn to school. Jocelyn likes to kick her boots off in the car. This morning, we had this conversation.

J: I kick my 2 boots off yesterday.

K: How many boots do you have on if you kick 2 boots off?

M and J: No boots.

W: Only socks.

K: If you kick one boot off, how many boots do you have on?

W, M, and J: One.

K: What if you kick 3 boots off?

J: You can′t kick 3 boots off? *rolls eyes*

W: Only aliens have 3 feet.

J: And aliens have 5 eyes.

Math lesson over.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Ready to Hibernate

My busiest season is ending. The fall always seems to be a mad rush from event to event without time for planning or reflection and I get to the end of the year desperate for rest.

This pattern started when Patrick started school. Every year, the process of getting the kids settled in their new classes seems to take until mid-October. And, now that we are in Canada, that means that we are still in that chaos when Thanksgiving arrives. Then, Halloween rushes up and the kids change their minds about what they want to be too many times.

November brings NaNoWriMo, a writing challenge that should be simple now that the kids are all in school but isn't, because November is also the month of never-ending colds.

And, by the time I have decompressed from NaNoWriMo, I am late for Christmas planning.

There must be a better system, but I haven't found it.

Although it has been a hugely busy time, I am proud of what I have accomplished:
  • William, Michael and Jocelyn have transitioned to a very different school where they are in separate classes for the first time.
  • Patrick's school situation in September was bad enough that he changed schools in October. The change was rough but it was necessary.
  • My brother took me to England to visit our aging Grandmother and uncles, aunts and cousins.
  • I threw a highly successful Halloween party for Patrick and his friends.
  • We celebrated Thanksgiving in Canada and the United States.
  • I have started writing an irregular column for Durham Region Kids.
  • I have started writing a more public blog.
  • I have continued planning a website of play and creativity resources.
  • I have joined ongoing conversations about advocacy for appropriate education for underserved gifted children.
  • My NaNoWriMo project was successful.
  • I have connected with some InterPlayers and many writers on Twitter. These interactions inspire and motivate me.
Despite the fact that I am exhausted, I would not give up any of the above. Without the creative endeavours, the work involved in raising 4 intense and precocious children would be unbearable. But, new schools and big festivals in the fall combined with my personal projects is a lot to handle.

I am looking forward to the winter. The school situation will be calmer and there are no major holidays. I have a play to direct and a novel to revise, so I will not be resting, but I expect the balance will be better.

Monday, November 1, 2010


We had an eventful Halloween weekend. On Saturday, we had a party for Patrick and some of his friends. I invited a few family friends and kids William, Michael, and Jocelyn's age, but most of them couldn't make it.

I had fun planning the food (including punch with plastic spiders in ice cubes) and decorating the house. Cleaning the house enough for company and making room for a lot of 6-8 year olds reminded me of why we only have a few parties a year.

The kids had fun and Jocelyn and Michael made some nice crafts that are now decorating the kitchen. I had planned a good number of games. Most successful was turning the kids into mummies by wrapping them in toilet paper.

I went out with some other moms of triplets on Saturday night. After the younger trio were in bed, Patrick and Andy watched Coraline. Patrick had read the book the previous week and was interested in how the film and the book differed.

On Sunday, we spent much of the day finalizing costumes. Michael's costume needed hemming. Jocelyn needed accessories. It was forecast to be cold and costumes needed to be adapted for layers underneath. William had originally asked to be Spiderman, but changed his mind on Halloween. After considering Buzz Lightyear, he settled on Batman, so I had to improvise a costume out of black trousers, a vampire cape, and some of Patrick's old pajamas (which included a hood with ears). Patrick needed a scabbard attached to his ninja outfit. We got everthing together just in time to taske pictures and go out trick-or-treating.

Patrick went round the neighborhood with some of his peers and their older siblings and Andy and I took the others out. We saw Patrick briefly out in the neighborhood and he was having a great time. Jocelyn, Michael, and William got into the spirit of things and were running up to the doors and ringing the doorbell. We had to help them open their bags as the straps got tangled, but they were otherwise quite self-sufficient.

It was a cold night and we kept it short. Even so, Andy was carrying one bag of candy at the end of the evening as it was too full for Michael to manage with the claws that were part of his costume. William took the lead both in assessing whether there were enough lights on to indicate that somebody was home to give out candy and in making sure that people were thanked for giving out candy. It was wonderful to see them sharing the joy of trick-or-treating with each other. Last year, they had fun, but didn't quite seem to get it. This year, they knew exactly what they were doing and how to do it.

There was much glee in the running from door to door and much melting down when we got home and informed them that they could eat one treat before heading off to bed. But we expected that. All in all, it was a great weekend.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Starting School

We are now well into our first month of the school year. Patrick is continuing French Immersion for his grade 2 year. William, Michael, and Jocelyn have started at a local Montessori school. So far, so good.

Patrick continues to struggle with the fact that school-based learning has too many worksheets and not enough interactive experiences for his taste. But, he is being a good sport about it. His favourite times of the school day are reading his novels on the bus and playing computer games when he has completed his assigned school work.

Jocelyn, William, and Michael have adjusted remarkably well to a full day of school and they seem to be thriving in separate classrooms. For some reason, Jocelyn has decided she would rather have William's teacher, but her teacher says she is doing very well in the classroom. Michael loves the school and talks about wanting to go back when it is time to leave. William loves the other kids that he is meeting. They all get excited when they talk about the work that they enjoy. There is a small amount of discomfort when it turns out that they are not all doing the same thing in their different classes, but not much. Mostly, they just seem excited to see each other at the end of a day apart.

As for me, I'm still adjusting. I have not figured out how to make 4 lunches, feed everybody breakfast and get the breakfast put away before getting the kids off to school. I know a lot of parents make school lunches in the evening, but Patrick likes to have a hot lunch, so I have to make it in the morning. And, I'm not making 2 different lunches. So, for now, I need to make 4 lunches in the morning. Nobody has been late for school or missed the bus, yet. I just have a breakfast mess to clean up after everybody else has gone. All in all, not a bad start to the year.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

What I Did on My Summer Vacation

This summer, I didn't make time to write about individual events as they happened. So, rather than overwhelm you with details, I will give you the summary, InterPlay style. In this InterPlay storytelling form, players take turns completing the phrase "I could tell you about...." Like this:

I could tell you about hiking in gorges and walking under waterfalls.

I could tell you about face painting, roller coasters, and cotton candy.

I could tell you about Highland Games and Renaissance Festivals.

I could tell you about taking the kids to Niagara Falls to meet their grandparents who were there for a brief stop as part of a bus tour. I would make sure to tell you about the way their ice cream treats melted all over their faces.

I could tell you about catching millipedes and slugs with butterfly nets. And how the slugs got out of the collecting jars.

I could tell you about enormous chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream cones, vegetable gardens overflowing with produce, and picnics in beautiful places.

I could tell you about Patrick's excitement that he passed the swim test to swim in the deep end of the pool on his first day of Soccer Camp. Or about the fact that he was tall enough to ride all the rides by himself at the Trumansburg Fair.

I could tell you about Michael, William and Jocelyn taking their first swimming lessons. Or taking their first ferry ride. Or going on their first sailboat.

I could tell you about going to Stratford with Andy for a night away from the kids and watching Christopher Plummer as Prospero. Or about being allowed to sleep in as my mother took care of the kids for a while.

I could tell you about bruises, of splinters and bee stings. But I would much rather talk about fire truck rides, balloon toys and playgrounds, or swimming and sailing and sand-castle building. But mostly, I could tell you about adventure and fun that we shared with lots of friends and family.

It was a good summer.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

On Bicycles

Teaching Patrick to ride a bicycle hasn't been easy. It is not a skill that has come naturally and Andy and I have been short of opportunities to teach him or even inspire him to practice.

For at least three years, we have been failing to help him master a tricycle or a bicycle (with or without training wheels). At some point, we decided pedaling, balancing, and steering was too much for him to figure out at once, so we gave up on the bike and got him a scooter. We had a summer of frustration with the scooter, too.

Then, this spring, his grandparents came to visit for two weeks and met him at the bus stop after school every day with the scooter. That was the magic. For two weeks, he scooted the block and a half home every day. Andy and I heard stories about his improvement, but he wouldn't show us.

After my parents left, I started walking to meet him at the school bus with the scooter and he improved rapidly. At the same time, we got scooters and balance bikes for the trio. Balance bikes are undersized bikes without pedals used for learning how to balance and steer. Once everybody had bikes and scooters, it became possible to hang out on the driveway every so often with everybody playing with whatever suited their fancy. Within a few weeks, Patrick had mastered the scooter.

For Patrick and the bicycle, the moment of magic was when a babysitter got him out on the driveway using an undersized bike as a balance bike. He was able to take the balance and steering he had learned on the scooter and transfer them to the balance bike. By regularly meeting him at the bus stop with the undersized bike, I gave him an opportunity to master the balance bike in small practice sessions.

In the past week, he spontaneously started trying to pedal the undersized bike but was unable to squeeze himself into a position to make it possible. At the same time, he has been unwilling to try the bigger bike.

Today, I took a risk and took the big bike instead of the undersized bike when we went to meet Patrick. At the bus stop, he complained he was not ready for the big bike yet, but got on anyway. After a few false starts, he managed to get himself pedaling. As he turned onto our street and got the extra momentum of a downward incline, he got it all together for a glorious 10 yards before braking hard. Beaming, he turned for me to acknowledge his success, which I did.

He still is a long way from just getting on his bike and riding, but it looks like this will be the summer Patrick learns to ride a bike.