Posts Tagged ‘lessons learned’

Write a Review Wednesday: Dream Big Little Pig

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 Banjo of Destiny. This week we read SourcebooksDream Big Little Pig (age 4-8), written by Kristi Yamaguchi and illustrated by Tim Bowers. I have to thank Crystal at Raincoast Books for my review copy.


Poppy is a pig who dreamed big. From a posh prima ballerina to a big-time splashy super model, Poppy had big dreams about what she wanted to be when she grew up. Even when she discovered she didn’t have a talent for singing on-key or that she wasn’t very graceful, Poppy always remembered the encouraging words from her family and kept trying. She kept trying new things that interested her until she discovered skating. Like her other career endeavours, she wasn’t very good at skating either but the more she tried the better she got; the better she got the more she liked it.

Kids are full of big dreams and I think that’s something that should be encouraged, even when things don’t turn out as planned. In Dream Big Little Pig, Poppy has great aspirations for her life and she takes a few risks following her dreams. Yes she’s disappointed when things don’t turn out but the encouraging words she remembers from her family and friends always keep her trying something new. Dream Big Little Pig gives kids a great example of having dreams and taking chances and sometimes failing and sometimes succeeding but always trying. It’s also a reminder to us as parents that our words, though we may think they aren’t being listened to, are being absorbed and referenced when the time is needed. Words of encouragement may be the difference from giving up to trying again or trying something new.

I like how near the end of Dream Big Little Pig, Poppy seems to have found her gift and made her dream come true, yet that doesn’t stop her from having new dreams and aspirations. That’s probably a lesson for some of us adults.

Kristi Yamaguchi,figure skating superstar, believes in and lives by the motto ‘Always Dream. This is seen in her Always Dream Foundation, founded in 1996, designed to support organizations that have a positive influence on children. The inspiration behind Dream Big LIttle Pig is to instill this motto and belief to ,always dream, in the hearts of children.

To add a copy of Dream Big Little Pig to your own library, visit your local bookstore or Raincoast Books. For other great book recommendations for kids, read through the past Write a Review Wednesday posts. What are you kids reading?


Teaching Life Lessons Can be Rough

My 8-year old is a lot like her dad in many ways, but there is one thing she takes after me on. Night time. Like me, my oldest daughter is a bit of a night owl. She seems to get a second wind when the sun goes down. This will come in handy when she enter post secondary and has to spend countless nights working on assignments (I turned in some of my best work at 2 a.m.).

But being a night owl means you’re not much of a morning person. This can work against you when it’s a school day and you need to get up and ready and out the door by 8:30 a.m. That being said you can understand how my usually happy and chipper daughter is a little unresponsive and very unco-operative in the morning. I should realize this but when I have 3 kids to get ready and fed and out the door my perspective (and patience) is a little warped.

One morning this week I had enough of the pouting and argumentative behaviour. My daughter was annoyed with something I had asked her to do and to teach me a lesson she decided not to come down for breakfast, that she wasn’t going to eat breakfast that morning.

This isn’t the first time this has happened. In the past I’ve cajoled and convinced her, albeit reluctantly, to come join us for breakfast. Usually after eating her mood has brightened and the day continues fine. But this morning, in my tired frustrated mindset (I told you I’m a night owl too) I didn’t go see her. I was tired of fighting in the morning and using breakfast as the rope we tug back and forth. This time I decided if she didn’t want breakfast then fine, I wasn’t going to push her.

I continued our morning routine getting the other 2 kids ready. When it was time to go I told my 8-year old to come down and get ready for the van. Of course she never believed I wouldn’t let her go to school without breakfast so she moaned and groaned and cried about needing something to eat. I gave her a larger morning snack for her to eat at recess but that didn’t help.

At this point I was debating if I had made the right choice, letting her skip breakfast, but it was too late to change anything, we had to go. We just made it to school with my 8-year old in such a state of tears about being hungry. After dropping my son off I took my daughter to the bathroom and had her splash water on her face to try to calm herself down.

I didn’t take her home, although she asked not to go because she was so upset; I made her stay in school. I didn’t want her to think her behaviour was a way to get what she wanted. I didn’t see her until the end of school at 3:30 p.m. She was back to her old self and didn’t seem to have any issues in the classroom. We both gave each other a big hug and apologized, both of us.

Did I do the right thing? If I had followed my old pattern and made her come downstairs and eat, like I’m sure most moms would have done, the morning drive to school would have been uneventful but we’d probably have the same issue with breakfast the next day. Did I push the lesson too far by sending her to school without breakfast and so very distraught? Maybe. I don’t know. Will my daughter pull the breakfast strike again knowing that I won’t cave in? Only time will tell.

Sometimes the best lessons to learn are the ones you experience yourself. I think my daughter and I both learned something from this experience. Hopefully we’ll remember and handle things without so many tears. I hate those lessons.

The Birthday Cupboard

A tweet by Real Life Sarah (@RealLifeSarah) this morning about buying gifts last-minute had me thinking. With 3 kids we have our share of birthdays, not to mention parties they’re invited too. I’m not very good at getting out to buy gifts. In the past I would be one of those moms who would buy it on the way to the party. Thank goodness most independent toy stores offer gift wrapping as a service or else I’d be putting a bow right on the store bag.

This started to become stressful. And shopping with the kids in tow meant having to explain to reluctant little ones that the shopping was for a gift for someone else, not them.

But I think I found a solution. We have a Birthday Cupboard. During toy sales, like the big Mastermind Annual Warehouse sale that just happened, I scoop up great finds and store them away. My birthday cupboard is full of Lego sets (big and small), Hot Wheels, Barbie outfits, books, games, arts and craft supplies and more.

For my son’s most recent birthday I had a Lego set we picked up on the Lego store’s clearance table. He didn’t care that it wasn’t the latest Lego. It was Lego and that’s all that mattered. I didn’t have to stress about running out to the store to buy something plus I got a great deal on what could have been an expensive gift.

Now when my kids come home with party invites we head to the Birthday Cupboard, I pull out 2 or 3 items that might be appropriate and the kids pick. This way they feel they’re still choosing the gift for their friend (versus mom choosing it) and they know what it is when their friends open it.

We’re lucky now that our kids’ interests are pretty generic; they’re not requesting certain gifts by name. And yes, sometimes we do go out and buy a specific gift item when the time calls for it but for all those other times the birthday cupboard has been a relief.

Getting Old versus Growing Old

I know I’ll grow old and I’m fine with that, sort of. What I want to avoid is getting old. Confused? There is a difference. Growing old is all part of your life-cycle; it’s inevitable. You body doesn’t have the same shape or react the same way but you have more free time, even if it’s just spent napping.

Getting old on the other hand has nothing to do your physical abilities. It can sometimes have nothing to do with your age, though many older people fall into the getting old trap.

People who are getting old are those who have quickly forgotten what it’s like to be young, to be a kid. I tend to notice these people more when I’m out with my kids, like at church today. Father was talking and yes you are supposed to be a good Catholic and listen quietly and attentively, but try telling that to a three-year-old. My daughter was pretending her fingers were people talking. It wasn’t loud but loud enough to disturb the ‘old’ woman sitting in front of us. How quietly would you sit while someone gave a speech on how calculus evolved. Not what father was talking about but the point is it’s hard for anyone to sit still and be interested when the topic isn’t of interest to you.

Old people seem to forget what it was like when they were young. Perhaps that part of their memory has eroded away. Along with the part that sensors the crazy things they say ‘I feel sorry for your son. If you don’t cut his hair he’s going to grow-up thinking he’s a girl.‘ Yes, we’ve had to deal with the ignorant side of those getting old too. And the part that stimulates logical thinking; why else would a person with a cane and the inability to move faster than a sloth decide to cross a busy street without using a cross walk.

I have to be careful though, I think I’ve noticed hints of growing old in myself. It usually comes out as impatience. My three-year-old wants to get herself dressed and her socks have to be perfect (seams lined up and everything). My son HAS to build the extra dungeon in his Lego fortress before coming down to dinner. Sometimes I find it hard to remember what it was like learning and practicing new skills or loving what you’re doing so much you just can’t stop. Or maybe it’s not that I’ve forgotten but rather I don’t think the skills my kids are learning (and I’ve mastered) or the activities that interest them (and not me) deserve the same consideration as my own new skills and interest. It’s hard enough getting through childhood without having people, including your mom, discourage or short-change what kids are doing. I think I need to work a little more on avoiding getting old. Hopefully my kids are patient enough with me while I learn.

Trying to teach from my mistakes

Do you ever have those moments when you wish knowledge you gained now you actually had back during an earlier stage of your life? Me? All the time. But some things you can’t learn until you go through a situation and discover what does and doesn’t work. Sometimes you have to go through that situation many, MANY times.

Then you have kids and you hope they don’t make the same mistakes you did; that it doesn’t take them as long to learn what works and what doesn’t. We try to impart on to them life lessons that we’ve learned, trying to save them from embarrassment or frustration or sadness.

When my seven-year old was getting ready for school she became very agitated about brushing her hair. She has long, thick hair that’s prone to getting knotted because my daughter tends to twirl and spin and flip and stand on her head often so she doesn’t like when I brush it because it will probably pull. But this morning she started crying and I wasn’t brushing that hard, really.

When we talked, she confessed she was upset because one of her good friends didn’t seem to want to be her friend anymore. With a little more discussion I discovered that my daughter didn’t know why this girl didn’t want to be her friend. I remember school and the importance of friendship. I also remembering being so concerned about having and keeping my friends that I was always on guard for the slightest warning, a sign that my wonderful friendship community would crumble down around me. Why did my friend choose another library partner today? Why did my friend not ask me to be on his team at gym? Talking to my daughter was like a flashback.

So I gave her a hug and offered one of many lessons I learned later in life:

talk to your friend. Ask her if she’s upset with you and why. Perhaps you did something inadvertently to upset her, but you’ll never know. And if sadly it’s true she doesn’t want to be your friend at least you’ll know for certain and why.

When I met up with her at lunch she was in better spirits. It turns out her friend just wanted to play with someone different, someone she hadn’t played with before, but that they were still friends. My daughter was happy. I was happy. I’m glad those stressful, obsessive and embarrassing moments of my youth could benefit my daughter. Hopefully in the future instead of guessing and assuming and predicting the worst case scenario, my daughter will talk to people to get the whole story. If she can learn that in elementary school, she’ll be years ahead of me.

Now if only I could get her to learn the lesson of no mittens and cold hands.

Literacy based curriculum

Well school is in full swing. Although my oldest is at school all day for grade two, I still have my younger two at home with me (my son goes to senior kindergarten in the afternoon).

Recently I discovered a great blog Raising Itty-Bitty Bookworms that’s about instilling the love of books with kids. They recently celebrated their second anniversary. And it was actually during their anniversary party that I discovered the true secret behind the Raising Itty Bitty Bookworms blog. It’s their preschool curriculum program; a curriculum based on literature.

When I read more about the program I was intrigued. They have two programs: Baily (for children 18 to 36 months) and Bo (for children 3 to 5).  I’m always trying to find new ways to enrich my children’s knowledge while they are at home with me so I’m trying out the Bo curriculum with my two youngest.

Each of the four weeks in October focuses on a different book so my plan is to post a summary of the weeks events, my thoughts and my kids thoughts. So if you’re looking for a program for your kids, stay tuned.

Lego: More than just a Toy

What do I do next?

What do I do next?

Lego is big in our home. We own a number of construction sets and buckets of free-form pieces and still we keep adding to it. Lego is a great toy that all three of my kids can play with, usually without fighting too. But my son is the real Lego king in our house.

I’m always amazed when I watch my son play with, no immerse himself in his Lego. My son is no different from most boys. He is a bundle of energy that never seems to fizzle out. It’s hard to get him to sit still, even to eat dinner. But put a Lego construction set in front of him and I have a hard time pulling him away. He can sit for hours with such concentration and follow instructions and build a complete Lego set (the record has been 3 hours so far). I’m talking a set for kids 8 and older with over 1000 pieces. He can sit on his own and follow the steps from start to finish.

And if there’s no set to build he’s full of his own creative ideas. I think it’s his love of Lego and the creative flexibility it offers that has led to his new career desire: car designer.

So yes, Lego is a great toy, but with my son it’s more than that. It’s a tool. It teaches him to focus, to follow instructions, to explore his creativity. Nothing else seems to do that, not school, no even me. So anything that helps can’t be all that bad.

That’s my boy

My oldest was great at following rules when it came to house proofing. I’d tell her once to not touch the stove and she wouldn’t. Ask her to stay in one room to play and she would. I honestly thought the whole parenting thing was pretty easy.

Then my son arrived.

That's my little amazing guy

That's my little amazing guy

When it came time to setting house rules we found out pretty quickly that what worked for my oldest wouldn’t work for my son. (You’ve seen the circus trick video right?) So now when I outline the house rules, instead of following them my son views them as a challenge; he tries to find ways around them. Perhaps it’s a boy thing. I was having this same conversation with the photographer at our Today’s Parent photo shoot (he has a three year old son).

There are many things my son does that are amazing. He’s very affectionate and out-going and the amount of patience he exhibits when working on a LEGO creation is awe inspiring. I find I don’t praise him enough for the good things. Well, not today.

My oldest goes to school all day, my son just in the afternoon and my youngest doesn’t start school until next year. In the mornings when my oldest is at school, I like to work with my son on his school knowledge. There’s so much data supporting how boys struggle in the early years at school and I want to help him past that stage or better still, avoid it all together.

Today we were reading stories and going over some common words (like ‘the’ and ‘and’ etc.). My son started sounding out the letters to say the words. I was amazed. Okay, it’s not like he’s two and reading, but I’ve only gone through the process of sounding letters out with my oldest. Perhaps he’s learnt it from watching his sister. Where ever it came from, I was so excited. And he was excited because I was excited.

Sometimes I don’t give my son enough credit but not today. I was very proud of what he did on his own, without my guidance, and I made sure he knew that. And maybe if I acknowledge all the amazing things he does more often, he’ll surprise me again.

Did the weatherman call for rain?

The morning started well with a walk over to Brad’s for a late breakfast full of chocolate chip teddy bear pancakes, warm apple crepes, fruit and salad. But when we started our walk home the sky grew dark except for flashes of light. Thunder rumbled in the background. Since we didn’t bring umbrella we picked up our pace walking home. But even dodging under the large tree canopies couldn’t save us.

No need for a bath tonight!

No need for a bath tonight!

When My Daughter Does Lunch

Ice-cream for lunch

Ice-cream for lunch

Yesterday I had planned on revising some stories I have been working on (trying to stay on top of this weeks Next Steps). My son was at SportPlay camp this week so I only had the two girls and they both seemed to be content in their play.

As I was working through revisions on one of my stories, my seven year old started asking me for lunch. I put her off saying it was too early (it was only eleven o’clock) and said she had atleast sixty minutes before I would even go in to get lunch ready.

Ten minutes later she was asking again, asking what we were having for lunch. Of course she didn’t like what I was offering and stated that she was going to make her own lunch. I was so frustrated with the constant interruption that the words out of my mouth, before I had a chance to think about them, were ‘You think you can do better? Go ahead. Make your own lunch.’

Well my daughter jumped at the chance. And when my brain realized what my mouth had said I almost corrected my mistake. But I hesitated. This isn’t the first time my kids have bugged me about what I’ve made for them: ‘Not pasta again’, ‘You know I hate chicken’, ‘Why can’t dad make dinner tonight?’ I thought maybe this would be a lesson for my daughter. Maybe if she made her own lunch she wouldn’t be so picky next time I made something (I know, who was I kidding).

To my surprise, my daughter started with salad, tortilla chips and an apple. Wow! Maybe some of my parenting has rubbed off, in a positive way. As I started to compile my acceptance speech for my Mom of the Year award, my daughter asked if she could have some ice-cream. Okay, so she wants a treat. If I was her age and in control of my lunch I’d probably try to push the envelop and ask for something I wasn’t allowed to have. Ice-cream done, she had a croissant with cream cheese…..and icing sugar! Then it was a popsicle. When she asked for another popsicle I almost said no, but I hestiated. (I know what you’re thinking, hesitating the first time got me into this mess).

Okay, change of plans. My daughter didn’t seem to be learning the lesson of appreciating her mother’s food, but maybe she would if I let her eat a whole bunch of crap. Sometimes kids need to learn things by experiencing it themselves. An upset tummy from eating too much bad food = a revelation that mom is right.

Well as you can probably guess, my daughter enjoyed her experimental lunch so much that she asked to do it for dinner and breakfast and lunch….My senses finally kicked in and I said no.

So I guess there will be no award in my future.