Archive for the ‘birthday’ Category

25 Days of Christmas – Day 1: the Rainforest and Tangled

Wednesday kicked our the start of a new advent calendar for us, the 25 Days of Christmas. My youngest daughter turned four on that day so our advent activity was determined by her.

To the Rainforest Cafe for dinner.

The Rainforest Cafe is my daughter’s favourite restaurant, at the moment. Each of our kids has a birthday restaurant, a place we go on their birthday to celebrate their birthday as a family; the Rainforest Cafe is my youngest daughter’s birthday restaurant. I think she loved the show, the animals dressed in their Christmas finest dancing in during the storm, and the Volcano ice cream at the end. Reluctantly she shared. The big surprise was the show the kids got leaving the restaurant; an employee in a scuba suit submerged in one of their big tanks, cleaning it. Now there’s a job.

After dinner is was time to head open and open the presents. I think my daughter had an idea about what she was getting from us, due to no small part on my son’s end (he’s really not good at keeping a secret), but that didn’t affect her excitement. Although I love my iPhone, it doesn’t do a good job at grabbing clear pictures of a super excited child. She loved the Tangled movie and was ecstatic to receive the dolls and Tangled Tower for her birthday. The tower is so big standing at 3 feet it’s almost as tall as my daughter.

Of course the big surprise of the night was my 6-year old son’s enthusiasm for my daughter’s gift. Sure he was happy that his sister was excited about her gifts. He was happy that he played a part in making her so excited. He enthusiastically helped my daughter get all the castle parts out of the big box not because he wanted to wanted to help her set it up (that fell on dad to do), not because he wanted to play with her. No it turns out he wanted the big box for himself.

My daughter had a fantastic birthday and we kicked our 25 Days of Christmas in a big way. I think we’ll take it a little easy on Day 2.

Birthday Greeting and Stepping out of the Box

A birthday gives you time to reflect on the year that’s past and the year that lays ahead. I like to think going ahead I will push myself further beyond my comfort zone. Each time I do I gain a little more confidence in myself and open my doors and possibilities to new adventures.

So here I am, doing a video, exposing myself (no, not in that way; I’m not into discovering those avenues), putting myself outside my comfort zone. So when I received this birthday card from my family, which I love and speaks to me so well, I had to share it and what better way than in a video to you. Forget rehearsing and hesitating, I just did it in one take, no editing and here it is.

Hopefully doing this video will be a reminder to me, to you, to all of us, to forget hesitation, forget fear, forget what others may think, just take a deep breath and do it.

Top Ten Tuesday: 10 Things I’ve Learned from a Sleepover

My daughter just celebrated her eighth birthday by having her first sleepover. Actually it was her first, her friends’ first and our first as parents. Yup, we were all sleepover virgins. So as a first time sleepover parent I learned a few things and what better place to post them than as part of Oh Amanada’s Top Ten Tuesday post.

  1. Air Mattresses aren’t really designed for sleeping on. Call me foolish but I always thought the purpose of having an air mattress was so you didn’t have to sleep on the hard floor. Turns out air mattresses are really designed to be slides off the bed, trampolines, lean-to tents, barriers to keep siblings out, basically everything and anything but sleeping on. The girls ended up sleeping on the floor UNDER the air mattresses.
  2. Labeling a room off-limits only attracts siblings. I think if you have the space, each child should have their own area, their own room. We’re fortunate enough that all 3 of our kids have their own rooms. The kids play well together but sometimes everyone needs personal time. Our kids know to respect each other space and stay out of each others rooms unless invited. That is until the words ‘Do Not Enter’ are attached. My daughter and her friends were in her room, the younger 2 were told to stay out but the ‘Do Not Enter’ label is just too enticing. Sometimes the 2 youngest would play together just outside my daughter’s bedroom door, flirting with the danger of being caught.
  3. The later the evening the louder the sleepover guests become. Maybe it’s because there’s less outside noise, maybe it’s because the girls are overly tired. Maybe it’s because I’m overly tired. Whatever the reason, as the sky got darker the sound from my daughter’s room seemed to get louder.
  4. The more warnings you give the louder the sleepover guests become. I expected the girls to be excited and get loud but I had two younger kids who were trying to sleep and I didn’t want to be the one trying to console them when they were woken mid-dream from fits of laughter coming from down the hall. You would think the obvious solution would be to tell them to keep their voices down. And each time I made that request they were quiet initially but the noise level would increase to the next level and rise from there.
  5. The term sleeopover is a misnomer. You would think by the term ‘sleepover’ the girls actually do some sleeping. Not these girls. I think in the future the sleepover should be called the stayover.
  6. Sleepover guests can function on very little or no sleep at all. It was 1 a.m. and my daughter and her friend were still awake chatting and giggling, though much quieter at this point. I was asleep before they were. In the morning they told me they all didn’t go to sleep until 6 a.m. I remember laying there thinking how much ‘fun’ it was going to be getting the girls up for church the next day. But they were up before more and they were cheerful! Why can’t my daughter wake-up like that every day (on more sleep)?
  7. Family rules don’t seem to apply. My daughter is usually very good at following the rules at home though I have noticed lately she’s been pushing the limits more. I’m sure this is just the start of what’s to come. But through friends in the mix and she’s a little more daring. She knows she’s not suppose to jump on the bed but at the sleepover bed jumping was the first thing on her list. No water before bed, but all 3 girls were in the bathroom many times getting a drink. Perhaps she wants to look cool in front of her friends. Maybe she thinks I won’t call her on breaking the rules. When I did remind her politely she stopped (at least when I was looking). It is a party so I tried to be a little flexible too.
  8. Kids at a sleepover require more food in a night than they do in a week. My daughter is a good eater, always has been. Some nights she eats more dinner than me, though I don’t know where she puts it. Oh yah, she eats it and I seem to wear it. There’s something about a sleepover that stirs up a kids appetite. They had snacks when they arrived. They ate dinner. They had snacks at the movie. More snacks at home. Midnight snacks. Crack of dawn snacks. And they still ate breakfast. It must be all that trampolining they’re doing (see point 1)
  9. I’m not as cool or as hip as I think I am. My daughter was excited about her sleepover and who could blame her. She was having 2 of her friends over for almost a whole day and night. No homework or school assignments just talking and joking and giggling all night. At first my only fear was some child wanting to go home early, a child not having fun, but that didn’t happen. No, as the night wore on I found myself worried about something getting broken in the room, the siblings being upset about not being able to join in, the kids not getting any sleep. I felt I was in there telling them to stop jumping, stop yelling, stop laughing so loud. I realized that I was behaving like a grumpy parent and not the cool, hip parent that I’ve always thought I was. (see all the points above)
  10. I would do it again. Yes, even with the late night and jumping and occasional fights, I would let my daughter host a sleepover again. I would be more prepared now having done it the first time. Okay, maybe not more prepared but certainly less unaware. Like anything, it can only get better the more you do it right? Now I’m off to console my 3-year-old. I told her she’s too young to have her own sleepover.

And so that was 2009

2010 is here and I’m excited but at the same time I can’t help but look back over the past year. I started this blog last Spring because I thought this would be a year of change and I wanted to record it. The year didn’t bring quite the change I was looking for but it did consist of a few (both big and little) important events.

We celebrated a few birthdays

My oldest daughter turned seven and I hosted my first kids birthday party. My middle child turned five and we surprised him (and everyone) with a trip to Disney World. My husband actually kept a secret and surprised me for my birthday (Disneyland‘s Haunted Mansion and I celebrated our 4oth birthday together). We even made a trip to Disney World just after my youngest turned three, but both her and her brother ended up sick (my oldest and I had to celebrate on our own)

We celebrated a few other milestones too

My seven-year old decided she wanted to two-wheel it and there was no going back. It was another summer of participating in the library’s Summer Reading Club, but this year we actually finished the program. My son started Beavers and my oldest daughter graduated into Brownies. My son is actually starting to read on his own. And we’ve been experiencing the ups and downs of potty training with my youngest.

I did a little writing (beyond just this blog)

Not only did I participate in Writer Digest‘s Poem-A-Day competition, writing a poem each day in April based on a prompt, I completed it. I’ve actually met a lot of amazing people through blogging and twitter, one is Tara Lazar. I started participating in her weekly post idea Write a Review Wednesday and have enjoyed sharing great children’s books each week (and have met some amazing book publishers in the process). I even participated in my first book blog tour with Tundra Books Medina Hill book launch. Along with my weekly book reviews, I started writing a monthly book review post on Allie‘s amazing site No Time for Flashcards (she’s an amazing lady online and I hope one day to meet her in person) as well as a book review post every second week on the blog Best Tools for Schools. As for fiction writing, I submitted two children’s picture book stories and started an outline for a middle grader story. I wrote an article for Today’s Parent magazine also (it appeared in their November Toy Issue) and they even sent a photographer to our house for a photo shoot to accompany the article.

There were even some personal gains

It was hard, but I came to terms with becoming a van mama. I discovered twitter which as a work from home mom can be a lifesaver. I joined Mom Central Canada as one of their Canadian mom bloggers and test panel members (I had the chance to meet Kathryn, the head Mom Central Canada lady which was pretty awesome too). I spoke with and eventually met Erica Ehm, Yummy Mummy Club founder. And through the Yummy Mummy Club I’ve actually had the chance to meet some other amazing ladies. I even learned how to deal with ignorant parents with the help of my son. I started an additional blog on Michelle‘s mom site Everything MomMichelle also gave me the opportunity of a lifetime and offered me the position of Review Editor on Everything Mom, which I still enjoy doing. And of course I can’t forget about catering our Christmas dinner (okay, maybe that’s not a real gain, but I don’t regret it).

Yes 2009 has been eventful but now it’s time to move forward. And I have high expectations for 2010. I hope it can deliver.

Chicken, Pig, Cow want to go to your house (giveaway)

I’ve been very fortunate to have reviewed a number of great books for kids as part of my weekly Write a Review Wednesday post. But today isn’t about me, it’s about you or rather what I can give to you.

Recently I wrote a review on Ruth Ohi‘s wonderful picture book Chicken, Pig, Cow as well as her follow-up book Chicken, Pig, Cow On The Move, equally as wonderful. If you ever get a chance to hear Ruth Ohi read, you should. My oldest daughter and I had a chance to meet her recently at the Word on the Street festival. She is so energetic and enthusiastic and really talks to and involves her young readers in her presentation. It was so much fun (and I learned a thing or two as well).

So how is this post about you? In addition to the copies of both Ruth Ohi’s books for my reviews, my friend Joanna from Annick Press sent along two additional copies. That’s right, I have an additional copy of Chicken, Pig, Cow and Chicken, Pig, Cow On The Move. I know, pretty awesome!

So I’m offering both of these books together to you my blog readers, book lovers. And since my birthday is today, I’m feeling really generous and I will send these to anyone in Canada or the United States. If you would love to add both of these books to your personal library, leave a comment below telling me one of your favourite kids books (I’m always looking for new book suggestions). Don’t forget to leave your email address so I have a way of contacting you. I will accept entries until Monday, October 12, 2009 (midnight EST) at which time I will randomly pick a name. Good Luck!

Update: We have a winner. Random.org has picked a winner and they have been notified. Thanks for your interest.

Today is the day

Happy Un-Birthday Surprise to Me

My husband and I aren’t very good at keeping secrets from each other. We’re not very good at keeping secrets at all. When we planned our surprise visit to Disney World in June for our son’s fifth birthday we were only able to keep it a secret because we could tell each other. We’d call each other or send texts with little messages about the trip. We were so excited.

So when my husband and friends in Michigan had a little birthday celebration for me on the long weekend it was a big surprise, especially since my birthday is a month away.

Did someone say party?

Did someone say party?

It started with an innocent suggestion: let’s visit some friends for the long weekend. It doesn’t take much to convince me to travel. And since it had been some time since we visited our US friends the whole request didn’t seem that odd to me.

Surprise!

Surprise!

There were Halloween decorations, balloons, noise makers (a favourite with my kids). And of course cake, a wonderful Disney themed cake (a huge cake). That wasn’t the best part. All parties have gifts. And this party was no exception. And boy what a gift. It turns out my husband and our friend have been working secretly to plan a trip for all of us to go to Disneyland to celebrate Halloween and attend the Halloween party October 31.

With my secret party planning friend...

With my secret party planning friend...

...and my secret party planning husband.

...and my secret party planning husband.

And of course that means visiting the Nightmare Before Christmas revamped Haunted Mansion ride. That last part, the revamped Haunted Mansion, that is one of the things on my ‘Must do before I die’ list. I hope this isn’t a sign of my impending demise. And did you know that the Haunted Mansion is celebrating it’s 40th anniversary this year and I’m celebrating my foeinvjsjhth birthday this year too. It’s like my destiny that I should visit California this year, though I don’t actually believe in destiny.

It’s not like I wast dreading this birthday but now I’m actually looking forward to it. And I’m giving you fair warning now that I might toss in the occasional post or tweet about Disneyland. Well, wouldn’t you if you were me?

So a happy un-birthday to me.


Some Fun with Children’s Literacy

I love children’s books. Love to read them. Love to write them. Love to review them. Books and reading are such a big part of my family’s life. All my kids love to ‘read’ and it’s the one activity that can occupy all three of my kids quietly for a couple of hours (even my two year old). But I don’t think my family is unique with their love of books.  What parent doesn’t love reading a good book with their kids or listening to their budding reader take turns reading to them. That’s why I thought you might be interestested in the following two things:

Literacy Lava 2

I blogged recently about a FREE online magazine produced by Susan at the Book Chook and other writers, parents and children’s literacy advocates. Well the second issue is now live. Be sure to hop over to check out Literacy Lava 2, where you’ll find ideas: for motivating reluctant readers, for literacy on the go, for developing the imagination muscle, for linking math and literacy, for having a pirate party and a book picnic, for rhymes, games, activities and more.

Literacy Lava 2 final-sml

Itty Bitty Bookworms Party

I’ve only recently discovered Tara and her blog Raising Itty Bitty Bookworms, another great site promoting literacy and the love of books with young kids. Raising Itty Bitty Bookworms is having an anniversary party until September 9, 2009. You’ll  find some great book giveaway’s and other literacy surprises. Be sure to jump over and celebrate a site that celebrates the love of reading.

Review: T-Rex Cafe in Downtown Disneyworld

On our recent surprise trip to Disneyworld I wanted to plan a special birthday dinner for our son’s fifth birthday (the reason we were on the trip). I had heard about the recently opened T-Rex Cafe in Downtown Disney (from the owners of the Rainforest Cafe, it had been open since the fall of 2008). My kids love the Rainforest Cafe and dinosaurs are always popular with my three so I thought we’d give it a try.

The restaurant is located at the end of the market portion of Downtown Disney, just before you cross over to Pleasure Island. Visitors are greeted by a large dinosaur skeleton at the entrance. It was a good thing we made a reservation since the wait time when we arrived was an hour and a half.

Enter the dino zone

Enter the dino zone

We arrived early so we could hang out in the gift shop. You could by dinosaur books, hats and shirts; dinosaur place settings and toys and fossils. We picked up some great Dinosaur fossil ice cube trays that I can’t wait to try out. The Cafe also has it’s own version of Build-A-Bear in the form of Build-A-Dinosaur. It seemed to be pretty popular judging by the number of Dino boxes we saw leaving the Cafe and throughout the Marketplace.

As we head over to our table, the hostess walks us past the bar and aquarium dining section. There’s a large fish tank and many automated over sized sea creatures hanging from the ceiling One large table was lit by a giant hanging jellyfish overhead.

Hanging out with sea creatures

Hanging out with sea creatures

Another part of the restaurant was in the lush jungle. Guests ate surrounded by various dinosaurs who moved and roared occasionally throughout the meal. We sat in the Ice Cave, a translucent coloured cavern with icicles hanging from the ceiling. The cavern colour would change periodically. Once it was blue, then it would turn pink. This made reading the menu a little difficult as your eyes had to adjust to each colour change. But during the rest of the evening it was fine. The kids enjoyed it because it made the colour of their drink go from white to blue. The restaurant was very busy and very noisy but I think the Ice Cave reflected the sound more than the rest of the restaurant. But even with that said, I would still request to sit in the Ice Cave on a second visit. It was a completely different experience then just a dinosaur version of the Rainforest Cafe.

Eating in the Ice Cave

Eating in the Ice Cave

Meteor shower in the Ice Cave

Meteor shower in the Ice Cave

The Rainforest Cafe is known for it’s interactive storm that erupts in the jungle every twenty minutes or so. The T-Rex offers similar entertainment in the form of a meteor shower. Approximately every twenty minutes the sky in the main entrance fills with scenes from a large meteor shower. The creatures all around the restaurant talk and move throughout the crazy event. The Ice Cave area flashes into bright colours of red and orange.

The food on the menu is similar that offered at the Rainforest Cafe, but with a Dino theme and works from water (drinks), fire (main food) and ice (desserts). The kids menu is also similar in offering pasta and chicken nuggets and mini burgers. But no matter what you eat, you need to save room for the Eruption, a delicious concoction of chocolate brownie, ice cream, whipped cream and chocolate sauce. Servers bring it to the table with a cup in the centre full of dry ice. The presentation is like an erupting volcano. We ordered it for my son’s birthday finale and it was a perfect dessert for all five of us to share.

Surprise!

We recently hosted my seven year old daughter’s birthday party and barely survived.  Imagine hosting a party for my boisterous, energetic son, times five. Not a pretty picture. So we convinced our son that instead of having a party we could go away for a family celebration, like to a water park hotel. He was sold.

Then two weeks before his birthday I received my weekly Top 20 email from Travelzoo.com. Next thing I knew, we had a trip to Disneyworld booked for my son’s birthday.

So now the task was keeping it a secret, for two weeks. My husband and I use to call each other on the phone during the day with little messages like “I’m going away and I can’t tell anyone where”, or “M-I-C—K-E-Y—M-O-U-S-E”. To be honest, I never thought we’d make it; either my husband and I would crack. And there have been a few slips, thankfully unnoticed.

Our first obstacle was the border crossing into New York State (see we were staying overnight in Buffalo and flying out the next day to Florida). As my husband was telling the boarder guard our plan, my seven year old let out a little squeal. Damn, so close. I look back to my relief to find out she was excited about a move she made on her DS game. Phew.

My husband and I were so excited about our plan, we didn’t really think how the kids would react when  they discovered their  plan, going to the waterpark hotel, wasn’t going to happen. Pulling into the Red Roof Thursday night, my son was a little disappointed, to say the least. It was so hard keeping things a secret with my son’s sad face in the back of the van.

But come Friday all was revealed and I’m glad we waited. (Though I have to point out the secret was revealed by a woman in the airport line and not us. Oh well).

We're going where?

We're going where?

Of course now we’ve set a terribly high bar when it comes to birthday celebrations. I’m  expecting my three year old to request her birthday be celebrated in Hawaii now.