Archive for the ‘memories’ Category

Write a Review Wednesday: Banjo of Destiny

Welcome to another Write a Review Wednesday, a meme started by Tara Lazar as a way to show support to authors of kids literature. Last week we reviewed Me and Rolly Maloo. This week I look at Groundwood Books’ Banjo of Destiny (age 10-12), written by Cary Fagan. I have to thank Trisha at Groundwood Books for my review copy.

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Jeremiah Birnbaum is stinking rich. He lives in a house with nine bathrooms, a games room, an exercise room, an indoor pool, a hot tub, a movie theater, a bowling alley and a tennis court. His parents, a former hotdog vendor and window cleaner who made it big in dental floss, make sure Jeremiah goes to the very best private school, and that he takes lessons in all the things he will need to know how to do as an accomplished and impressive young man. Etiquette lessons, ballroom dancing, watercolor painting. And, of course, classical piano.

Jeremiah complies, because he wants to please his parents. But one day, by chance, he hears the captivating strains of a different kind of music — the strums, plucks and rhythms of a banjo. It’s music that stirs something in Jeremiah’s dutiful little soul, and he is suddenly obsessed. And when his parents forbid him to play one, he decides to learn anyway — even if he has to make the instrument himself.

I’ll admit, I was personally drawn to Banjo of Destiny because of my love of the ukulele. I realize they’re not the same instrument but they are viewed in the same way: strange, uncommon, lowbrow. But like Jeremiah, I was drawn to its sound.

You may think a book about a boy playing the banjo wouldn’t be that appealing to kids, but Banjo of Destiny is more than that. It deals with growing-up and finding your own voice. Jeremiah has let his parents have control over all his life: where he goes to school, what he wears, the classes he takes, even the music he listens too. But when the sound of the banjo strikes a chord with him (no pun intended), he doesn’t let his parents’ desires get in the way.

When his parents won’t let him learn the banjo, he decides to do it in secret, even going as far as building one in shop class to ensure he doesn’t break his parents’ rule about spending any money on the instrument. Jeremiah’s best friend Luella, who isn’t rich and has a wilder, more relaxed view on life, encourages his desire. Knowing how much playing the banjo means to Jeremiah, Luella even pushes him to let his parents know, to stop keeping it a secret.

Banjo of Destiny is a great story for kids about finding your passion and pursuing it, not letting others deter you. It’s also a wonderful story about friendship. I love Cary Fagan‘s writing too (Thing-Thing from Tundra Books is still one of my favourite pictures books to date).

To add a copy of Banjo of Destiny to your personal library, visit your local bookstore or Groundwood Books. For other great book ideas for kids, reach through the previous Write a Review Wednesday posts. What books are your kids enjoying?

Hawaii is for Families

Hawaii has always has always been one of those places you go on your honeymoon or something you save up for after your kids are out of the house. When planning a family vacation destinations like Mexico or the Caribbean or maybe Florida come to find before Hawaii does. Perhaps it’s because I’m on the east coast, or closer to the east coast, so getting to a sunny destination that is quick to get to makes sense.

But in January we decided to try something different. We had a little more time on our hands and thought of going somewhere that took a little more travel time, like Hawaii.

You may think that traveling with 3 young kids on a 12 to 15 hour plane ride is crazy, and I’ll admit I was a little worried, but it went rather smoothly. I was annoyed at first about being bumped and having to take 3 planes versus 2 planes but I actually think the breaks were good for the kids, especially since they weren’t that long. And coming back, with the longer flight, the kids slept most of the way since we were flying over night, so that worked our great too. With the entertainment on the plane plus our own entertainment (electronics, snacks and colouring supplies) the kids were more then content to sit quietly on the plane. I think flying from a border city helped also (I much prefer going through customs in a car versus at the airport and would recommend it to anyone who has it as an option.

Unlike visiting Mexico or the Caribbean, Hawaii is still a US state so you don’t have worries about currency or medical are or water safety or any of those issues that come up with visiting foreign resorts. Yet it still has a very tropical feel. Of course it helped that our hotel, Outrigger Waikiki on the Beach, offered a spectacular location and service. I even wrote how this trip was one of our best vacations to date. But that was my feelings; what about the kds? When I asked my kids where they wanted to go for their next vacation, Disney World or Hawaii, it was Hawaii all around. That says a lot since our family is a Disney family.

You can read all the reviews I posted on our Hawaiian trip over within EverythingMom‘s Family Travel section: from our stay at the Outrigger Waikiki on the Beach to visiting Pearl Harbor and a trip to the Polynesian Cultural Center and more.

Below are a few photo highlights. Makes me wish I was back there now.

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iPhone Art Installation Idea

I’m not a veteran business traveller. That’s probably why I get so stressed when getting ready for a trip. I worry that I forgot to pack something, that I’ll have some sort of issue going through secruity, I’ll miss my flight or worst yet, I’ll misplace my iPhone.

Misplacing my iPhone is a worry that hits me every once in a while but the concern was especially on my mind this trip since I was trying Westjet‘s e-boarding pass. This meant I didn’t have to print my boarding pass since it was emailed to me electronically. This also meant that if I misplaced my phone I couldn’t board the plane.

I forgot how many times you actually have to show your boarding pass when at the airport. Every time I pulled my phone out and handed it over, I worried about losing it or leaving it behind.

Which leads me to my art installation idea. (Funny what goes through your mind in high stress situations).

If you found someone’s iPhone unattended your first reaction would probably be to pick it up and see if you can find out who it belongs to, maybe try to call the owner. At least that would probably be my reaction. But you know there are some who would look at this as an opportunity, a free phone to use, even for just one call, maybe try to jailbreak it or sell it for cash.

What if you could trigger the phone to take a picture of the person holding it. As soon as someone touches the screen or presses the button, the phone’s camera is triggered. The image would appear on-screen with a message: ‘ah, ah, ah, you’ve been caught trying to use a phone that isn’t yours. I have your photo and it’s been sent to the authorities.’

As each person’s guilt sets in, they drop the phone, opening the opportunity for another person (and another photo).

Each photo could be uploaded automatically to a website, creating a history of faces and places where the phone travels. Now of course I’m not technically savvy enough to do this. And even if I was, I certainly wouldn’t chance my phone. but I’m tossing this out there for someone else to try. Mean? Mabye. Legal? Maybe not. But wouldn’t you want to who ended up on that website?

Now to start packing and obsession about my trip home. [Breath in. Breath out.]

Write a Review Wednesday: Mad at Mommy

Welcome to another Write a Review Wednesday, a meme started by Tara Lazar as a way to show support to authors of kids literature. Last week we reviewed Ten Big Toes and a Prince’s Nose (age 4-7). After the last few days with my 4-year old I think a perfect book to review would be Scholastic‘s Mad at Mommy (age 3-7), written and illustrated by Komako Sakai. I have to thank Nikole at Scholastic Canada for my review copy.

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A little bunny is so, SO mad at his mommy. She sleeps in and yells for no reason and tells bunny to hurry up and…and…and. Bunny is so mad that he decides he’s going to leave home. And does. But then he forgets something.

I think as parents we sometimes forget what it’s like to be a child, learning new concepts, being small, wanting attention. In Mad at Mommy, Bunny thinks his mom is unfair when he gets in trouble for making a mess in the bathroom but in his mind he’s just playing and doesn’t understand. Bunny thinks his mom is unfair when she rushes him to get ready but then stands and talks with friends when they’re out.

My 4-year old and I have been going through similar battles; she’s struggle to gain more power and independence and I’m working to implement rules and guidelines. We both think we’re right and the other one is being unreasonable but in a way we’re both right.

Mad at Mommy is a great book for both parent and kids. It shows kids that it’s okay to be frustrated; sometimes even kids need to air their feelings (even unhappy ones) and need reassurance that mommy still loves them. For parents it reminds us to be mindful of how we treat our kids and how frustrating it was when we were little. I remember battles with my parents on wanting to stay up late or wear certain clothes. It’s easy to get angry at water spilled out of the tub but instead maybe we need to remember how fun splashing in the tub can be and explain why we’re upset about the water.

Both my 6 and 4 year old enjoyed reading Mad at Mommy and it opened a great dialog on how everyone gets angry but we always love each other. Probably long overdue but Mad at Mommy also got us talking about things each other does that we feel is unfair.

You can add a copy of Mad at Mommy to your own personal library by visiting your local bookstore or Scholastic Books. For other great books for kids, read through the past Write a Review Wednesday posts.

The Best Vacation and Why

The memories of our recent visit to Hawaii still linger in my mind (excluding the disappointing start with United Airlines). I’m sure most people would agree that any vacation is a good vacation but a good vacation isn’t necessarily the best. As a family we’ve taken quite a few vacations but my husband and I both agree that this last trip was by far our best.

But what makes this trip so much better than our last trips? What should we plan next time to ensure we have one of the best family vacations? Here’s what worked for us:

Time and Timing
We were away on vacation for about 10 days, much longer than our regular vacations. I know with school schedules and work demands, taking an extended vacation can be difficult but if you can swing it, do. Flying to Hawaii took us 15-hours, 3 planes and a 5-hour timezone change. It took the family almost 2 days to really get settled into vacation mode, including adjusting from jet lag and loosing all the stresses of work and home behind. And you know prior to a vacation ending your mind will already start thinking ahead to what has to be accomplished when you get home. An extended vacation ensures you still get quality vacation time after these adjustment days. There’s nothing worse than going away for a week and just getting settled in when you have to head home.

We also like to travel on non-peak times. This usually means during school time but it also means less crowds (and usually less heat). Visiting Hawaii at the end of January, also their winter, is a low season but the weather was perfect, sunny yet not too hot. It can also be their rainy season but we were fortunate and didn’t get hit with one bad weather day; that’s saying a lot for a 10 day trip.

Location, Location, Location
Well you can’t go wrong with visiting Hawaii in general I’m assuming. We had never been before so we just stumbled upon the Island of O’ahu, Waikiki specifically. Most people commented on how we should have planned our trip to the Island of Maui, that Waikiki was a little too touristy. But for a first time visitor I think Waikiki is perfect; it offered a nice transition from the big city to a taste of paradise. Perhaps another time will get a chance to visit Maui but I don’t regret our Waikiki visit at all.

Our hotel, the Outrigger Waikiki on the Beach, offered both great access to Waikiki Beach as well as the bustling atmosphere of Waikiki itself. The Outrigger Waikiki on the Beach is located right on Waikiki Beach. We could walk off the elevator right out to the sand. And out the front door of the hotel was Waikiki’s main street, with restaurants and shops and entertaining street life. It was wonderful.

The People
Of course the people in our hotel were amazing, from the front desk to the cleaning and maintenance staff. They always had a smile on their face and a pleasant greeting. Matt, the gentleman who taught the cultural activities at the hotel, remember my kids and was so helpful and friendly; Ryan, our server at Hula Grill, remembered what the kids ordered and always made sure we were happy. But it wasn’t just the hotel staff; cab drivers, police offers walking the streets, shop keepers, everyone seemed very pleasant and happy to be there.

This was our first trip to Hawaii but I think after our amazing experience it won’t be our last. Be sure to visit the Family Travel section on EverythingMom over the next few days as I will be sharing more detailed reviews on the hotel, some of the restaurants we enjoyed as well as activities while visiting O’ahu.

Christmas Day: 12 Hour Photo Essay

We had great fun participating in Andrea‘s 25 Days of Christmas blog post. We sailed with Santa and ate with him too, did crafts and puzzles, even went to the symphony and many other things, some of which I just never got around to writing about. Instead of focusing on work and general household tasks, we actually took time to enjoy the days leading up to Christmas. I would definatly do it again.

Another activity Andrea did this year was create a photo essay of Christmas Day, capturing 12-hours of Christmas, one photo each hour, giving you a peek into what Christmas was like in her house. Christmas always seems to be over in a flash so what a great way to capture it all: the frenzy, the calm, the chaos. So I did the same thing, capturing one photo every hour on my iPhone starting at 7:12 a.m. and ending at 8:12 p.m.

Here’s a peek into our Christmas Day.

7:12 a.m. Bedroom Surprise, Puffle Gifts from Santa

8:12 a.m. The Token LOUD Gift from Relatives

9:12 a.m. Countdown Clock Christmas Greeting

10:12 a.m. Disney Princess Overdose

11:12 a.m. Chocolate and TV for Breakfast

12:12 p.m. Army Men Protect the Santa Train

1:12 p.m. Merry Christmas Greetings with Grandma via Skype

2:12 p.m. Enroute to Visit Nana and Gramps

3:12 p.m. Quality Street Chocolate just for ME

4:12 p.m. Driving Back Home

5:12 p.m. Tiki Inspired Rum and Eggnog

6:12 p.m. Turkey Dinner

7:12 p.m. What’s Left after Christmas Fun

8:12 p.m. Relaxing with a Christmas Vacation Moose Glass

I sort of thought I’d end up with a lot of photos of us sitting around but our day was actually pretty busy. I’m looking forward to enjoying this week and not doing too much. How was your Christmas?

Thanksgiving Outing: Leaves, Running and Slide Stunts

Last weekend was Canadian Thanksgiving which we celebrated at my mom’s house north of the city. My sister and her ever increasing family were coming over to celebrate with us on the Sunday so we arrived a day early. This gave me time to spend with my mom and the kids to hang out with grandma.

My mom’s home backs on to the escarpement so it’s like a natural wonderland for the kids when we show up.

Not far from my mom’s house is a park with a modernized playground for kids. It’s one of those parks that are suppose to be more accessible to everyone. I loved the musical playground as we entered. They had steel drums and pipe drums the kids could play but my favourite was the standing pipe instrument made with steel and plastic pipes. Kids could run their hands across the pipes to make sound.

They also had a lot of climbing structures and a triple slide. The competitive side of my son had him setting up races between himself and his little sister. But these slides have their own built-in fun with turns and bumps so when my son tried to do some crazy stunt by sliding down on his feet he ended up riding the rail for a short part. Thank goodness he didn’t fall off. Of course I wasn’t quick enough to stop him but I did capture it on the camera. Funny how these things happen.

Remember merry-go-rounds in school playgrounds when you were growing up? I do. They were one of my favourite, running around to make it spin fast and then jumping on to enjoy the ride. I was saddened to hear that many of these merry-go-rounds were actually removed from playgrounds as they were deemed dangerous. But at this playground they had a super structure merry-go-round. Imagine a rope ladder wrapped around in a cone shape then put on a spinning platform. That’s what this was and my two kids loved it. My 3-year old climbed up near the top and sat there as the thing swung around. My son loved jumping in and out of the cone, swinging out from the top and all sorts of crazy stunts. Sounds so much safer than the merry-go-rounds we use to use right? [snort]

Big Boy, Little Boy

When my son transitioned into grade 1 at the beginning of this year that was a big milestone. It seems my little boy is growing bigger and more independent each day. This is all good. I love to see him take on responsibilities that were once too difficult for him to manage. Even conversations with him take on a more mature tone, excluding the occasional toilet joke.

Sometimes though this sense of growing up can be misleading. I sometimes think I expect too much from my son, grow impatient with him when he doesn’t understand something that seems so obvious to me, get frustrated when things aren’t done a certain way, the way I learned how to do them.

Yes he’s getting bigger and he certainly isn’t my baby boy anymore and I’m proud of that and encourage his growth where I can but sometimes it can be a fine line between the big boy he’s growing into and the little boy he still is.

When I was saying good night to my son one night I found myself just staring at him, eyes closed, peacefully sleeping. I looked at his blond curls on his forehead, his long lashes curling up against his skin, his small fingers clutching his bedtime buddy. Those little fingers, with their chubby dimples still there. Seeing these fingers reminded me that my son is still a little boy, that although being six and all that he’s accomplished so far is another step towards being big, six-years old in the scheme of life is still pretty young.

I’m trying harder to keep this in perspective, balancing his need for independence and growth with his need for patience and understanding. Trying.

Kindergarten and My Baby

We had a busy and fun summer but my kids were excited to be heading back to school. This is a big year for us: my 8-year old is entering grade 3, the first year where standardize testing takes place; my 6-year old is moving into grade 1, full-day school, lunch away from home and a step toward a more structured classroom environment; my 3-year old is starting school for the first time, venturing on her own and leaving me without any kids in the afternoon.

My two oldest were great. They headed into the school yard without even a glance back. My 3-year old, who attends school in the afternoon, was disappointed that she couldn’t go into school with her siblings; she wanted to start school now.

When my two older kids entered school I wasn’t too worried about how they’d adjust; they are both outgoing like their dad. My 3-year old is more like me, content to be on her own and somewhat overwhelmed by new people and new environments. I sort of expected that her first day of school would be one of those stereotypical crying and fussing about leaving me but then she went to summer camp. My shy, introverted little girl spent 5 days, from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. for 4 weeks at camp without me. She loved it.

When September arrived my concerns about my 3-year old adjusting to school subsided. Even her first day of school, with both me and her dad there to see her off, she was in the school without a second thought. Yes! This last trip through kindergarten will be much smoother than I thought.

Famous last words.

Day two. A completely different story. My 3-year old was fine when we arrived before the bell, she even played hopscotch with some of the other girls, but when the bell rang and the kids were lining up she didn’t want to line-up with them. As all the other kids walked in my 3-year old stood behind me, gripping on my leg. Eventually her teacher was able to lure her in with the promise of a new smelly markers in the writing center.

Day three. The morning was great but as we sat down to lunch my daughter confessed she didn’t want to go to school. In the playground she relaxed a little when she recognized some of her friends but as soon as the bell rang the leg grabbing started again. This time I was able to persuade her to go into the class, walking in with her friend.

Day four. This was the hardest day. My daughter was fine in the school yard though I couldn’t convince her to play with the kids at all. The bell rang and her little hands wrapped around my legs but this time she wouldn’t let go. Her teacher and the teaching assistant couldn’t get her in without prying her off of me. I left with her crying and pleading not to go. It was awful. Even writing about it now upsets me so.

I may have lamented in the past about my two older kids venturing off into the next stage of their lives without so much as a tear or glance back. But now that I’ve experienced that reluctance, I still felt sad, a gut wrenching sadness. I would rather feel the mom sadness you feel as your child moves on without your assistance over the sadness you feel because your child is unhappy.

At the end of school she was fine. Her teacher said she was fine the first few minutes she entered the classroom. I expected that much; that’s the only reason I could walk away from her with tears in her eyes earlier that day. I hope, for both her sake and mine, things get easier; I’m sure I won’t feel this way at the time, but right now I look forward to the day when my daughter rushes into the playground to join her friends and I’m a second thought.

I knew having kids would be hard but I guess ignorantly I thought it would get easier after three kids, easier as they get older. The opposite seems to be true.

Today is another school day. Only time will tell if it starts off with tears or smiles. I’ll probably be sad either way.

Top 10 Tuesday: 10 Things I said I Would Never Say as a Parent

When I was growing up I remember thinking how unfair my parents were. It always seemed to me that I wasn’t allowed to do things or was always the one getting blamed for things. ALWAYS! You too eh?

My parents use to have some pretty lame excuses or reasons for why I had to do certain things or why I couldn’t do other things. On more than one occassion I muttered under my breath that I would be a better mom, a more understanding mom, a mom who wouldn’t have all these silly rules.

Then I became a mom myself and my perspective changed. Now with three young kids of my own I find myself saying things that I swore would never come out of my mouth. So for Oh Amanda‘s Top Ten Tuesday post I am sharing with you the Top 10 Things I Swore I Would Never Say as a Parent.

  1. Eating too much of one colour in food will cause your skin to turn a shade of that colour.
  2. I need to be on the computer longer becuase I’m working; you’re just playing a game. (and if anyone asks Twitter is a research tool).
  3. I can have a slice of cake twice as big as yours because I’m twice as big as you.
  4. It’s okay that your peas are mixed in with your potatoes. They’re all going to the same place anyway.
  5. The burnt part of the toast is the best part.
  6. I think I hear a bumble bee. Maybe we should walk home faster so we don’t get stung.
  7. Becuase I’m your mom and I said so.
  8. If you don’t like the rules in this house, you can make up your own when you’re bigger and have your own home.
  9. Older people need less sleep therefore we can stay up later.
  10. There’s not enough chocolate cake to share with everyone so I’ll finish it off.

Yes, not some of my proudest parenting moments I agree. But it’s amazing how much smarter and wiser my own parents appear now that I have kids. Have you said anything you swore you never would?