Tuesday, August 31, 2010

The Face

Help. Please. Mom.  Three little words.  Three precious little words I would do anything to hear.  Instead, what do I get?  The Face.  The Noise That Goes With It.  

Somewhere along the way, Oliver has gotten it into his little noodle that the charming face you see above, accompanied by an awful "ehhhhhhhhh" wine that you're lucky enough not to hear, is the way to get my attention.  Since I'm striving to be both a more joyful and steady mom, I've mostly managed to giggle at my little dictator while showing him the signs for help, more or all done.  And while he has a sign or a word (or both)  for Silas, a word for Dad, dog and tractor and a variety of other things, including shoe, still nothing on the "mama" front.  What does that tell you about this kid's priorities?!

Instead, I get this odd, squinty-eyed, chin tilted, "ehhhhh".  In a variety of situations and settings, too.  See, here he is at my mom's:

Odd child.  But I have to admit, he's picking up the signs left and right.  It's only a matter of time, right?


This post was created as part of the 30-minute blog challenge!

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Tot School

Tot School

Another week of life school over here at Ranching Jeans, but more planning and organizing and paving the way for smoother life come September!  I'm back into the routine of rotating the toys weekly, and of course, the boys really appreciated the refreshed selection!

The pull toys were big hits this week!  I have the Pull-Along Snail and the Dancing Alligator from Plan Toys (whose toys I love!) and it's very fortunate I have two of these as both boys had a great time with them!  The pictures I did manage to get of Oliver using one aren't very good, as he traveled so fast I was just lucky if I got a shot at all.  The speed at which he's picking up walking and now running continue to amaze me.

Another big thing with Oliver this week has been hats and sunglasses.  He'll bring both to me, begging me to put them on.  Then he'll walk around the house with a big grin until he decides it's time to knock them off.  Then he'll pick them up and bring them to me again.  He'll do this over and over throughout the course of a day.

His other favorite toy I've had out this week has been the shape sorting hippopotamus.  While he has no clue as far as the shape-matching concept goes, he does realize that the shapes are supposed to go in the holes.  His favorite part is spinning the shapes out of the hippo's mouth and if necessary, he'll just stuff the shapes back in the mouth so he can spin them out again!

Saturday is my usual baking day but because the weather's been so hot (of course, because it's summer!) I haven't been doing much.  It has now cooled right off and we made up for some lost time by making a double batch of bread, a double batch of banana loaf and some breakfast cookies.  The boys love to help measure and pour, but by far their favorite part is the clean up!

Silas's make believe games have really taken off lately, and it seems like this laundry basket plays a big part.  He's now started packing things up to go on a trip in his airplane, car or train (all played by the laundry basket).  You can see him with his basket of books and toys he's packed for a trip above.  This laundry basket is also often his crib when he's playing baby, or his boat if he's catching us some fish for lunch!

We spent our usual time at Grami's house (my mom) this week, and this time I had my camera with me.  Here she is reading the boys a book by Bill Peet (one of my own childhood favorites!).  Of course, Oliver is more interested in the pictures of animals, while Silas takes in the story as well, but a good time was had by all!

On Saturday night, we attended a family barn dance on a ranch across the river.  Potluck style, no charge, kids welcome with great entertainment!  What more could a family ask for?!  Here's a photo of Silas playing on some unoccupied hay bales with his own best friend  (my best friend's daughter).  When it comes to dancing, Silas is pretty intimidated by all the tall, tall adults two-stepping around him, he loves to be held and danced with over and over!  Unfortunately, at this point in his life, it pretty much breaks off my arms to do it too much, but we did enjoy a few dances together!

Please see more tot school fun at 1+1+1=1

Monday, August 23, 2010

Tot School

The past few weeks have been a little crazy!  We were on holiday for five days, and with a quick trip to the Shuswap nearby, packing for the bigger trip, a wedding, the actual trip itself, then recovering and laundry afterward - August is almost gone now!  Here's a quick peek at what I managed to capture.  I'm looking forward to the more settled routines of September - I've got big plans!

We spent a long weekend with friends at their cabin on the Shuswap Lake.  It was really smoky due to forest fires further north, but it was a great time with a lot of fun people.  The boys' were adored and spoiled and had a blast!  Oliver wasn't so sure about the noise of the waves behind him, but there was a good supply of trucks and other sand toys to appease him!

This was Silas's favorite hang out.  He'd convince someone to push him for what seemed like hours, and in all honesty was probably at least a half hour at a time!

Oliver played with these badminton birdies endlessly as we sat on the front porch visiting.  He finally found that they fit in each other and was so pleased with his discovery!

This was a treat they all enjoyed.  Oliver has a milk allergy so I often provide all-fruit popsicles, homemade smoothie-sicles, or frozen yogurt instead.  Much loved!

The day before we had to go home, our friends' son arrived.  He spent a lot of time with his guitar, which pleased both boys to no end!  I'd love for one of my boys to learn guitar some day. . . 

This is me and my boys on the train ride to Edmonton.  We got home from the lake on Sunday night, and had a busy week preparing for the upcoming wedding (my cousin's - Silas was a ring-bearer - and I forgot my camera!)  and packing for the big trip.  It was such a relief to spend the day just sitting and interacting with my husband and kids!  Oliver's passed out here for a morning nap, which he's currently phasing out, but we were up at 4am that day!

I misplaced my camera the second day of the trip so I have literally no pictures.  Sigh.  What a catastrophe. At least I found it!  Once we got home, there was a lot of laundry to do, of course.  But that didn't stop my Ollie from making good use of the dryer - according to him!  Lucky I have a clothesline!


This toy was received as a gift for Silas's first birthday party from Scott's brother's family.  It's been a treasured part of our rotation ever since!  We call it a ball popper, but I'm not sure what it's real name is.  Of course, most of the time the kids put little cars, animals and trains in the tube rather than the balls, then get mad when they get stuck.  But when they use the balls, it's tons of fun for everyone!

So that's our past few weeks - starting in September I will have a more 'regular' Tot School post to show off. For more information and ideas on Tot School, please follow this link!

Ooooh, and stay posted!  Our little girl, Abby, the star cow dog, is going to have her puppies any day now!

Packing for Little Ones

I love to pack.  Not because I'm going somewhere or because we're going to be doing something fun, simply because I like to pack.  When I was thirteen I packed all my favorite clothes and books and keepsakes up in my cedar-lined truck just to see if I could get it all in.  I did.

Fast forward almost twenty (!!!) years.

My entire family recently took a trip to Alberta.  We were gone for five days, and I planned the entire thing.  The budget, the itinerary, the restaurants, the hotel.  Everything.  I was incredibly excited!  So it was no surprise that I began to pack on the Thursday before we left (which was Monday).  In my defence, I had a wedding to attend on Saturday and knew I wouldn't be the sharpest pencil in the drawer on Sunday - from lack of sleep of course.  What were you thinking?!  :-D

I was planning on putting all of Silas and Oliver's clothing together in one suitcase to make hauling them around a little easier, as neither of them would be doing it themselves.  Additionally, having Scott, Tawny, Tawny's friend and the two little ones in one hotel room was giving me some anxiety.  The boys are early risers.  Very early.  Five is not an unheard of number, five thirty is downright common, and six is practically luxury.  Combine that with an unfamiliar hotel room and I'm sure you can see why I thought it might be best if we made a quick exit in the morning so the others could get some sleep!  So then I was stressing over the picture of me fumbling around in a dim light, or under the counter in our hotel bathroom looking for shirts to match bottoms, finding underwear and diapers and socks and the entire time, in the bag ground, Oliver would be crying for breakfast and Silas would be arguing that he wanted to wear the "shark shorts, mama!".  And then once more for the diaper bag!  So I came up with a plan.

What did I do?  I filled my suitcase with ziploc bags!  I was so pleased to make this discovery - and I may be using an old idea here, but it was new to me!  I put an outfit for each of the boys, including a top and a bottom for each of them, underwear for Silas and a diaper for Oliver (see below for a sample)in a ziploc bag.  I also packed a second ziploc for each day to go into the diaper bag.  Each bag was then labeled "Tuesday" and "Tuesday - Bag" with a sharpie.  All I had to do was grab the bags, stuff one ziploc in the diaper bag, stuff the kids into the clothing of the other and hightail it out of there so the kids could eat (a priority to them!) and the others could sleep.  The bags kept the clothing organized, contained, and compact, never mind easy to grab!


So the row of ziplocs in the back on the left are the clothing the boys wore each day.  The middle row are all the ziplocs for the diaper bag.  The two big ziplocs on the right are full of warm clothes in case the weather took a turn for the worse on the day or two we'd be spending out side.  In the front, from left to right are swim suits, swim diapers and sun hats, sweaters and jackets, rain gear and diapers (which I packed into the diaper bag on an as needed basis each night).  The inside pocket on the lid of the suitcase contained everything for bedtime including soothers, teddy bears and blankies, pyjamas, bedtime stories and Oliver's blankets (we used one of the hotel's playpens).  

It worked wonderfully!  Anyone could easily dress the boys on our trip, and having all the diaper bag clothes together in a ziploc kept them compact and easy to find as we all know how much STUFF you need to take when spending the day out with a toddler and a preschooler (wipes, snacks, emergency toys, wipes, baby sling, diapers, soothers, did I say wipes?) If I needed to switch clothing for some reason it was easy to find what I was looking for as the bags are transparent and labeled - grocery bag may not work as well here.  And when I got home it was an easy matter to put away unused clothing and dump the dirty clothes into the hamper for washing.  

So, what do you do when you pack your kids?  How did it work?  Any tips or tricks you'd like to share?

This post is part of Steady Mom's 30 minute blog challenge!

Toy Closet is now Tot School Central

Recently, as I posted here, both my boys were spending time away from mom (a shocker as they weren't with my mom!) so I took advantage of the lack of helpful advice and uncontrollable impulses to clean out my toy closet.  This had been a goal for me in order to organize for and prepare to start Tot School with both boys (Tot School is explained here).  I didn't take before photos - my basement is NOT pretty lol, but here's what I ended up with at the end.

I wanted to kind of categorize things to make it easier to have a good variety of toys (I rotate about weekly) as well as find things I want for Tot school activities.  All of these toys are kept in my basement cold room (there's a lockable door to discourage foragers!).  I still use about 1/3 to keep my canning, and a little for storage, but most of it is toys now.  On the top shelf I have stuff for younger tots and musical instruments.  The next shelf is full of wheeled toys (and the aquarium because it didn't fit anywhere else).  The third shelf is construction toys (mega blocks, marble maze, cuisinaire rods) and the bottom shelf is full of boxed puzzle.  On the floor, which you can't really see, the room is too small to get it to fit, is a bin full of balls and outdoor toys such as sand gear and a slip 'n' slide.  Oh, and an empty aquarium and pump that I will probably use someday, but don't have time to keep clean right now!

Here's the shelving to the right of that above.  It's directly across from the door, so it was easier to get it all to fit.  Toys that can be grouped together into shoe boxes are on top - notice there are only three of them!  Most toys we own are bigger than this!  We have Melissa and Doug's cutting fruit set in one, matchbox cars in another, and the third has old cell phones, unused remotes and wallets.  Silas's pet duck its on these (it's a real hunting duck that he adores and drags around behind him!), as well as a basket of home made bean bags and a little barn full of stuffed barn animals. Ha!  You can see my one lonely jar of pickles next to the Mr. Potato Head!  Will be adding more soon!  More construction toys (Melissa and Doug coloured blocks and alphabet blocks together and a bag of foam blocks - I also have a plain set of wooden ratio blocks but they are at my mom's right now) sit with our purposefully small stuffie collection.  Below that are board games - most of them too old for Silas, and I mean to correct that! - and then more outdoor toys and bulky toys that don't fit.  Oliver's walking toy, his busy table, and Mr. Potato Head.  In the bumbo box are books that are too old for my boys, and too young for Tawny, but I love so I keep.  Empty bins are under the chair (which I use when I need to get the Christmas, Halloween and Easter Decorations off the top shelves).  Note:  the floor looks really dirty, but I swear, those aren't lumps of dirt on the concrete, it's just the way the concrete looks!  Granted I could mop down there, but it's really not worth it.

Finally, just outside the cold room (you can see the edge of the door here) I've collected some dressers tother to store mostly Tot School supplies in.  Alphabet games, stickers, scissors and glue, collage and transferring materials like pompoms, beads, activity books and all sorts of things are gathered here!  This will probably be where the bulk of Silas's activities come from.  I intend on adding an accordian file box full of homemade games (such as the parking cars game etc) filed by goal - colour games in one file, number games in another etc.  Also different containers etc used in activities will go on top of the third dresser.  To the right, you can't see it, but my deep freezer sits there.  In the past, when teaching SigningSmart workshops and playgroups, I've used it for prep space and really liked it because I had to clean up after myself right away or I wouldn't be able to get into the freezer!  I'll be using it again, I'm sure!

And finally, I just had to post this.  With two rapidly growing little boys and changing seasons and friends and family handing me bags of hand-me-down clothing almost weekly, I find it very hard to keep up with all the piled up clothes.  This pile is to go to the basement, this pile almost fits, this pile is too small, this pile is for years down the road.  It was getting out of control both upstairs and down!  So I bought some bins on sale at Canadian Tire, and got to work!  Here's a picture of the finished product downstairs:
So, except for some camping gear on the lower right, this is all clothing ranging in size from newborn to size 7+.  Some bins are still overflowing still - I need more bins! - and will have to be divided into two - or just sorted through a little more critically!  The bag in the floor is full of coats and snowsuits for babies and toddlers, as is the big trunk-like bin behind it.  I'm thinking I'll hang a clothes road between two support columns nearby and hang them all up.  They're hard to fit into any kind of bin as they're so bulky!  I'm pretty proud of this corner, it took a lot of doing. There's even a box of clothing missing right now as I've lent one of the newborn size bins (for boys) to a friend for her little one.  I'm going to keep watching the flyers and buy more bins when they come on sale for future expansion!

Morning View

Yup, summer's over.  The mornings are getting chilly, lots of dew that will soon be frost.  And misty mornings, so pretty!

Fall is on its way in!

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Fall Plans!

It's that time of year again!  Time to review and update my current goals.  Way back in June (seems like a decade ago - that's how summer is!) I posted some short term goals for myself.  Here's a quick update on how those are going:

1)  Pre-home school for Silas and Tot School for Oliver:  I did this for four or five weeks, and loved it.  So did Silas!  I can tell he's definitely ready for a few informal but focused preschool sessions like this each week.  It's also been great focusing on something specifically for Oliver, as I'm finding he mostly just tags along, which is fine some of the time, but he deserves something just for him too, right? With planning for and actually going on a holiday and trying to squeeze in all the last minute summer plans this month, I decided to give it a break and pick it back up in September.  I haven't taken leave completely, however, as I'm getting things better organized to make planning activities and gathering supplies easy and efficient.  I've also been on the lookout for good toys and tools to purchase for a good price that I can use in Tot School for both Silas and Oliver as well as organizing helpers such as drawers and shelving to keep everything tidy and easy to access.  I plan on putting up a post showing what I've done and how I keep everything together soon.

2) The Garden:  Well, let's just say this one was a bit of disappointment. My brother and sister in law (in laws?) are a very busy family and are often not home so I never did connect with her and get those outdoor toys.  Such a shame, and my fault entirely.  I'm sure if I'd have made a bigger effort, I could have brought them down somehow.  However, the garden isn't a complete failure.  While a far cry from perfect, it's still growing well, weeds and all, and I look forward to a great potato, tomato, corn and pea crop!  Oliver, it turns out, is allergic to me weeding.  As soon as I begin, he begins to cry, no matter what neat thing I've set up for him or long-forgotten toy I brought for him to use.  Even snacks didn't help!  So not a lot of weeding has been done, and I've learned to accept that my garden will not be picture worthy for years to come - my youngest will probably be three or four at least!

3) Dairy Cow:  I was SO disappointed to learn that my perfect little Jersey (whom I was going to name Florabelle) broke into the grain storage and ate so much grain, she died.  This is not uncommon among cattle but I was devastated.  This cow, by all descriptions, seemed absolutely perfect for us.  So now we begin to search again.  I still plan on obtaining a cow in the near future, as soon as I find the right cow for us.

4) House and blog:  This has fallen a little to the wayside over the summer.  I've been assisting my mother and father in law (again, in laws?) in designing their own little house after their current home burnt to the ground.  That's been accomplished, I think, and hopefully their home will be built early next spring.  Over the winter, I would like to continue working on this blog and a house planned with our family in mind - I look forward to it!

5) My computer time:  I feel fairly successful here.  I've been using my early morning time for things that can be interrupted easily (read: not make me as grumpy!) and late night quiet time - and some nap times - to work on this blog and my newsletter.  I SHOULD be more disciplined about writing on the newsletter instead of leaving it to the last minute, however!

So what now?  Where do I go from here?  As you've noticed, most of the above goals are not done. Actually, none of them are - they are all ongoing.  Huh.  But once summer's over, the craziness goes away and I find I get a lot more done.  So here's what else I want to do:

-Move Scott's office stuff (mostly storage) into an empty room on the ranch somewhere and let Silas have an entire bedroom - not half! - for his room. Then move Oliver's crib into his room and out of ours.  I'd also move the piano into their room (unplugged!) so there would be room for dressers and a clothing rack and shelves in the laundry room and I'm going to make a real live family closet. Then there would be room in our bedroom for a cozy reading corner and the desk in the laundry room so I could have a quiet place to go in the evenings and I could enjoy all my books I keep shelved in our bedroom.  I've already asked permission from my dad's cousin to use an unused room upstairs in the shop right near our house, so now I just need a chunk of time, preferably childless, to get this done!

-Besides just a home school routine, I want to get my old-fashioned weekly housecleaning and menu routine going again, along with fun stuff for me and the boys to do (like Muffin Tin Mondays - see this blog, errand day, mopping day, park day, whatever).  I used to this before Oliver was born, but after, especially while I was babysitting so caring for three under three, I was satisfied if the dishes were done, the kids fed and changed.  September is a month I always look forward to because things go back to normal.  I plan months ahead of time for 'what I'm going to do when September comes'.  This September is no exception.

-Lastly, I want to start once a month cooking.  First I need to empty out my freezer!  I'm sure I could eat out of the freezer for at least a few weeks, so for the rest of the month I'm hoping to only buy milk and cheese and a bit of fresh food (that my garden or business doesn't provide).  I've read on Life as a Mom that a great way to keep up with things in your freezer is by keeping a list of contents inside and crossing things off as you use them up, adding things as you put them in.  This would be an answer to my problems!  So, that means I need clean out my freezer, only put back what I know I'll use, and write it all down.  Not only will packages of hot dogs and peas get lost in the back or bottom, I'll save up the money I'd normally use on groceries so I can do a big shopping trip in September or October and get started!

Anyone else? Do you have Big Plans?  Do you get an uncontrollable urge to plan your life when August comes around?

Hold the Phone!

Stop everything! I have big news!  I FOUND MY CAMERA!!

I was digging in the bottom of Oliver's diaper bag to find his spare shoes and lo and behold, pulled out my camera!  I do recall switching things back and forth a lot from purse to diaper bag trying to decide which one to bring with us, I just couldn't for the life of my remember if my camera was included in all that.  Hurray!  Too bad it went missing on Tuesday - so many great photos I didn't take.  I'll post the few train pictures I have, probably into the post about the train trip.

My posts will have pictures again, yippee!

Trip to Edmonton - Part 3: The end!

Hard to believe that we were able to get away for five whole days!  As ranchers, that very rarely happens.  The last time we went away for this long, Tawny was ten.  A few years ago, we all went camping with extended family but I believe that was only for three or four days and we brought our dogs with us.  So getting to visit friends in Alberta was really a delight, as it's often us receiving visitors.  Don't get me wrong, I LOVE having guests and visitors - but it is a real treat to see others on their own turf and do the visiting ourselves!

We spent all day Thursday with friends near Bowden, which itself is near Olds, Alberta.  They are busy people with all sorts of things going on their property from cows and ropings horses, to trail and wagon rides and cabins for rent with a little restaurant.  They have a little boy just a few months older than Silas and the two of them got on like a house on fire and had a wonderful time together.  They are very comfortable and welcoming family and it made for a real relaxing day after the busyness of the last few.

We left them Friday around lunch and made a beeline for the airport back in Edmonton.  Tawny's flight left at 3:15 and by the time we had dropped off the car and made it to pick up our passes, taken Silas to the bathroom a million times - she was late!  Her final boarding call was broad-casted as we were waiting in line for security. Talk about heart in my throat, oh my goodness!  Tawny was travelling by herself to Nanaimo to visit with her biological family, so luckily it was just her to rush through security and race for her gate.  They actually called her name while she passed through the metal detector!  Thankfully, she made it - the gate was the nearest one. Unfortunately, she didn't get to say good bye to anyone - no hugs or anything!

The rest of us made it - just barely - through a quick meal and flight home with a 45 minute stopover in Calgary.  Both boys were at the end of their rope and as we flew out of the Calgary airport I was worried Ollie was going to screech all the way home.  I nursed him after take off though, and he fell asleep, not to wake up until we were into the airport proper to be greeted by the same woman who dropped us off - Scott's mother Val.  Silas was delighted to see her and ran right up to her for a hug to begin chattering about everything we've seen.  It was very cute and it did a little something to reward Val for all her extra time and effort spent carting us around.  We dropped Tawny's friend off at his house and arrived at our own home around nine-thirty.  Both boys collapsed into bed, and we followed very soon after.  We were exhausted - but so satisfied!

Having organized the trip by myself, with some input from tawny and Scott, it was so gratifying to see my family enjoying all the things I'd organized for them as well as seeing all the little bits and pieces that make things easier (like stroller rentals and roomy hotels) fall into place just as I'd hoped.  I realize now as I'm writing this that there's a reason we only go away every few years - it's hard work and, while fun, very tiring!  Tawny is due back this Tuesday - we all miss her and can't wait!  And then it's just preparing for back to school.  Can't wait for things to settle down and become more routine. . .

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Trip to Edmonton - Part 2: The Mall

Honestly I'm feeling a little guilt, or at least a twinge of remorse.  I've been known to say that if I were going to spend money travelling, I wouldn't use it to take my family to Disneyland or the Pacific National Exhibition or something similar.  I'd want them to see how other people live their everyday lives the same way we do, but differently.  I'd like to take some history, some culture, something different than the over-commercial, consumer-driven theme parks that support a company that already makes way more money than I'll ever dream of in my lifetime, never mind a year.  I'd felt so right saying it, and I believed in what I was saying.  So, as soon as I do get a bit of money together, where do I go?  West Edmonton Mall.  Yeah.  Feeling just a little hypocritical.

I'd visited West Edmonton Mall with my family when I was 12 and with my husband's family when I was 15.  Both times I'd enjoyed it to no end and fervently vowed that I would come back.  When we adopted our sweet Tawny, then added a few babies to the family with a gap of 12+ years, we decided that someday we'd take them all there on a holiday.  Because honestly, there is something there for everyone, kids, adults, teens, tots and babies.  That and Tawny, despite our best efforts, LOVES shopping.  Thankfully, she's a sensible girl and always sets goals and seeks out sales and she works hard all summer to earn extra back-to-school shopping money.  So, for better or for worse,  hypocritical or not, as Tawny herself is now 15 and we knew that soon she would be working enough that going on holidays with her would be harder and harder, we planned a trip to West Edmonton Mall.

And man, did we enjoy it, each and every one of us!

Oliver's favorite part, I believe, was riding the tractor on a kiddie ride in Galaxyland.  It was an older model that rode around in a slow, steady circle and he'd spend the entire time wrenching the steering wheel back and forth making deep, growly "rrrrroooom, rrrrrroooom" noises that made me laugh.  Kids under two are free in Galaxyland, as are their chaperones (which are required when children are under a certain height) and I think Galaxyland may have bit off more than they could chew when Oliver first laid eyes on the tractor ride.  So, while Scott watched Silas fly the planes on the ride next door, I spun around in circles over and over again next to Oliver on the tractor.

Silas enjoyed the airplane ride in Galaxyland, as I mentioned above, and he had a lot of fun in the waterpark.  I was pleasantly surprised how much he loosened up when it came to playing in the water.   He enjoyed seeing the monkeys and loved the lagoon and playing his own version of mini-golf (kind of marbles meets bowling!) but he LOVED, and I mean ABSOLUTELY LOVED the fish.  For $30 we purchased a family pass to visit the underground aquariums as often as we wished in a day and I feel we definitely got our money's worth!  There was a shark show, a turtle show - where divers fed them "charge" (chard), a touch pool with starfish and anemones and a pool with stingrays one could also pet (they're the softest, smoothest things ever!).  In addition to the tanks, there was a penguin display, frogs and snakes and lizards and a giant bull frog.  Actually, he loved these displays so much that Scott ended up buying him another ticket the following day so he could see them one more time . . . who'd a thunk that's what would appeal to him the most?  Have to take the boy to Vancouver aquarium again soon!

Tawny's favorite part was probably a close call.  Shopping I'd say, was extremely enjoyable for her.  And man, the shopping was endless!  I feel like I barely skimmed the surface as I was too busy keeping track of kids to really look around and get into shopping (in fact, I only spent $25 dollars on myself and this was to replace the only sweater I packed that Silas spilt Yop on before we even left home!).  Not having such responsiblities and money burning a hole in her pocket, Tawny had no such inhibitions.  Stores we never frequent, not being in our area, were there.  Some stores were there two or even three times!  Closely following the shopping would be the water park.  Having a good friend to share it with probably made this much more fun for her!  They spent at least six hours in this park!

Of course, they hit all the extreme slides meant for strong swimmers, but I also found that there was lots to do with young children too.  There were two children's play areas, tubes that looked like figure eights and snowmen so you could ride tube rides as a group without worry, hot tubs with steps for children to sit on (so they didn't have to submerge completely) and the pool is beach-like in that it doesn't plunge immediately to four feet deep, but instead oh-so-gradually deepens so the little ones can play and run and jump in the waves with no danger or fear at all.  All of these were really, really fun, but let me just touch on the newer children's water park.  It was built similar to the new playground structures you see in parks everywhere today, with ramps and bridges, and a few slides.  It went up quite a bit higher perhaps than a regular park structure, but it was quite safe.  The neat thing was that it had big taps and wheels and hoses and buckets that tipped, sprinklers and attached water guns and there was water everywhere!  You could tip buckets onto others manuallly, others tipped by themselves.  There was so much to to and it was so much fun!  I think the parents accompanying their children had as much (or more!) fun than their children!  To top it all off, literally I suppose, for it was at the very tip top of the structure, there was a giant bucket, I'd guess four feet in diameter but I'm not sure, that filled with water by itself, then tipped itself over pouring out in a big rush onto the roof and splashed ALL OVER.  It was exciting and wet and fun!  You can tell we really enjoyed ourselves there!  I'd guess that was my favorite part of the mall, although perhaps I didn't realize it until now.

Scott also had some fun.  He really cherishes time spent with his children, especially Tawny as he really feels the time slipping away quickly with her.  I think he enjoyed spoiling his kids, letting Silas buy a gumball from the machine each time we passed, taking Tawny and her friend mini-golfing.  He also tried out the Segway carts on a little course - which was kind of funny, but also interesting! - and shot some kind of pistol in the shooting range.  We went on a few roller coasters and other rides too.  We also had a date night!  One of the advantages to staying right in the hotel was that we were perfectly comfortable wandering around the mall late at night while Tawny held down the fort.  We went to a piano bar and had some appies and drinks (I tasted alligator!) followed by a movie in the theatre.  First date in a looong time and I'm happy to report it went very well.  Even after all these years of parenting, we still have other things to talk about than just our kids lol!

Finally, before I close this post, I just want to say how glad I am that we chose to stay in the Fantasyland Hotel, located right in the mall.  It was a bit more expensive, but in our case, so worth it!  The mall is full of fountains, which is very nice and makes for some interesting walks,  but it also makes the mall a very noisy place and with people talking, and music, and animal shows, not to mention noises from rides and the pool etc that mall is VERY loud.  It's exhausting!  Having a quiet place to retreat was a lifesaver.  Also, two days is not a long time to spend there.  We didn't want to waste any time!  Having immediate access to the mall was appreciated, as well as a place for the boys to nap that didn't require a long walk, or worse, any kind of driving, was extremely convenient.  I will definitely stay there again!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

What I'm Reading: July

Do you have a favorite author?  Do you like every single book they ever wrote?  Can your favorite author write your best read ever, as well as books you don't bother finishing?  While I'm not the kind of girl to not finish a book (except in extremely rare circumstances - ahem, Skinny Bitch) I definitely believe that most authors, even my favorites, can write both extraordinary books that are almost impossible to put down as well as books that are readable, but get set aside easily when other things pop up (like folding laundry or shining the bathroom taps for example).  Diana Gabaldon, for me, is such an author.

Let me make this clear:  I adore Diana Gabaldon!  I recommend her first book, Outlander, more than any other book I know.  The third book in the series is also quite good.  The rest of them kind of blur together, possible because I've never reread them like the first and third.  And now I'm reading her latest publication, An Echo in the Bone.  It's one of those great books that cause dishes to pile up, clothes to grow mold in the washer and drifts of dirt and dog hair to gather in the corners!  I've been enjoying it a lot, to say the least, and read it every chance I get, then think about it when forced to put it down.  If you haven't read any of her books yet, I HIGHLY recommend you check out the first book and read on from there!  I admit, I was skeptical at first, as the plot involves time travel which did not appeal to me in the least, but one I began to read, I was completely hooked.  The author does incredibly thorough research and history comes alive and her characters and stories make me laugh out loud which is practically guaranteed to annoy your spouse while reading in bed!).

Honestly, now that I'm reading the latest Gabaldon book I haven't been reading much else.  On the back burner are "The Untold Story of Milk" by Ron Schmid, M.D., a book that discusses the benefits of raw milk and the history of pasteurization.  I just figure that if I'm going to get a milk cow and possibly consume raw milk (still on the fence!) I should know a little more about it.  Also waiting to be read is the book "Once a Month Cooking" by Mimi Wilson and Mary Beth Lagerborg.  I'm really interested in beginning this process, possibly as early as September, but more than likely it will be October.  I'll keep you posted!  Finally, I'd like to be reading "Five Love Languages of Children" by Gary Chapman and Ross Campbell.  I gained a lot from the original Five Love Languages, so I thought I'd see what I could learn about my kids as well.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Our Trip to Edmonton - Part 1: The Train


That's it in a nutshell.  Wow.

A few more details?  Okay.  We had a fantastic time - all of us, from the just walking tot to the just about grown up teens  (and the parents too!).  Let me just say that using the train and the plane is a great way to travel for the whole family.  The train takes a bit longer than it does to drive - but while driving you'd have to stop and let kids out to run, to pee, to eat and drink.  You'd also have to listen to them scream, something Oliver is NOT shy about in the car, let me assure you.  And while the plan is somewhat more confining, it's much quicker and has the novelty factor the family vehicle lacks.  And between getting there and coming back?  We had such a great time!  Action packed, but incredibly fun, with enough down time to keep us all (mostly) upbeat and positive.  Let me start from the beginning.

Monday, bright and early (four a.m. to be exact!) my mother in law pulled into our yard.  Our alarm somehow didn't go off when it was supposed to but luckily I'd almost killed myself getting everything ready all week and it wasn't too big of a deal to jump out of bed and get dressed and ready to go.  I was hoping Silas and Oliver would sleep on the way, and Oliver did after a short time, but Silas was wide awake and eager to get there the entire one hour trip to the train station.

I was a little surprised at the casualness of the train station.  We piled our suitcases into the back of a pick up truck to be loaded onto the train once it arrived, then stood around in the dirt parking lot next to the tiny station waiting for the train to arrive.  When it did finally come, we trooped down the track along with all the other waiting passengers to  get to the front cars of the train.  To me this seemed odd to be walking all that way with all of our carry on luggage, but in retrospect, what else are you going to do?  Have the train stop each time each car arrived at the station so people could board on their car without having to walk?

Anyhow, because we were a group of six (the five of us and Tawny's friend) we were directed to the next car back and given a group of four seats facing each other and two more seats across the aisle.  This car was less crowded the first one we boarded and I was pleased with the arrangements.  It seemed another eternity (to the boys especially!) before the train was moving, but once we got going it was quite exciting!  I've been waiting years to go on a train journey and I was so stoked to be taking my family with me.

I'd packed a giant bag of sandwiches, fruit, muffins, cookies and other snacks and now we dug in and had breakfast while Kamloops fell behind us.  The track ran along the North Thompson River almost all morning and the scenery was beautiful.  Not that I had a lot of time to admire it.  For the first few hours many passengers were still sleeping so I felt obligated to make sure Oliver didn't blunder into them or start digging through their bags or making off with some interesting little tidbit.  Silas was way to excited to sit looking out the window, but luckily with two young kids and two involved parents, it wasn't an overwhelming task to keep them out of trouble, it was just time consuming.

We raised up the two aisle seats' footrests and corralled him this way, just to give ourselves a little break:

It didn't take us long to head out looking for the observation car . . . it was two cars back.  Far enough away to make it interesting for the boys, not so far it was a chore to go back and forth (which we did, MANY TIMES!).  The observation car has a glass dome over the middle portion of the car as well as an upstairs and downstairs portion under the dome.  Upstairs are seats, a few with tables, and downstairs was a small snack shop.  In the front third of the car there were more tables and padded benches, a neat place to enjoy one of the provided board games or eat your snacks.  There was also a dining car, although we didn't venture that far.  I had originally thought we'd eat supper there, but I'd brought enough food and we'd snacked so much, we didn't feel it was worth the cost and hassle for all of us to go.

Here's a snapshot of Pyramid Falls, just out of Blue River (I think!):

At nap time we pulled out all four foot rests to create a platform with the seats.  Scott managed to convince Silas to sleep with a combination of cuddles and threats - Silas was exhausted and hard to manage and really needed the sleep so I was so glad he was there to help Silas off to sleep while I coaxed Oliver into a nap.  Of course, then Scott fell asleep too . . . I had a great picture of the three of them passed out among blankets and backpacks on the platform, but it was of course lost along with my camera : (  .

Edit:  Found my camera!  Here's the photo:

All this time Tawny and her friend Kyle did what they wanted to do. They played scrabble, napped, snacked and wandered.  They admired the scenery, took a few pictures, napped some more, and teased each other.  It was really neat to see them together for that long as we usually just get little snapshots of their relationship.  It kind of reminded me of Scott and I fifteen or more years ago!  But that's another story altogether, isn't it?

We had a stopover in Jasper for an hour so we rushed up and down the main street next to the station and checked out sports shops, bakeries, candy stores and souvenir stands.  Scott and I got coffees, Oliver got a cinnamon bun and Silas got an ice cream cone.  We all came back full and sticky, but refreshed.  Something about 'canned air' in both trains and planes really wears you out and I was glad to sample some of the mountain air outside!

Of course, by this point, we'd been traveling through the rockies for some time.  It was awesome to drive through them - the tunnels were a big hit! - and so nice to be able to crane your neck and look around all you liked without worrying for the road.  I love being a passenger because I want to see it all!

Toward the end of the trip we all sat in the observation car and admired the lightening storm ahead of us.  It was spectacular to see the clouds so far off (not something you can do in BC!) and then oooh!  and aaaah! everytime lightening lit the sky after dark.   There was a fair bit of rain and some really loud thunder, but the lightening definitely took the show.

We chatted with many interesting people of all ages, from 7 year old Shelby who lives just across the river from us, to a family on holiday from England, to a man heading back home to Ontario after working for six weeks in BC for his company.  There were many, many different languages spoken, many different journeys and holidays and just one loooooong train.  I highly recommend train travel to everyone!  If the 15 hours we spent on board seems like too much, there are much shorter routes to sample.  If that seems like it's not enough, heck, go for the whole she-bang and travel from one coast to the other!  I hope I get a chance to try that!

More on our trip coming soon!

Monday, August 16, 2010


Okay, perhaps disaster is a little dramatic, however something bad did happen:  I lost my camera!  I'd like to say it was stolen, but I think I just left it on the train . . .  I was editing some photos while we traveled, that's the last time I remember seeing it.  It was late, around ten, and both Oliver and Silas really needed to sleep but neither of them would settle.  The train pulled into the Edmonton station and we left as quickly as we could so everyone else on the train could get a bit of peace!  It was dark and I may have just missed the camera laying around somewhere.  At the time I was sure I'd checked all of our nooks and crannies but since I don't recall seeing it since we were on the train, I'm now not quite so confident.

So, as running out and buying a new camera isn't something I can do on our budget, the posts may be necessarily bare for a few weeks (or more).  My mother-in-law is often able to get really good deals through the school district in September and I may ask her about opportunities there - or just start searching through flyers and websites for the best camera deals.  Please bear with me - I'll try and post as many older pictures and use online photos as much as I can in the mean time.

A post regarding our fantastically fun and renewing (but exhausting!) trip is forthcoming!

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Summertime Tot School

Tot School

I'm not really sure I should label this Tot School as we didn't do any formal activities this week, however I want to stay in the habit of Tot School.  This might be what Summer Tot School looks like around here.

And boy, is summer in full swing!  I co-own a seasonal organic produce delivery service so summer is busy with bin-packing, trips to pick up boxes of beautiful ripe peaches or bags of just-picked baby carrots.  I also write the newsletter and share some of the weekly ordering duties. These things pretty much take up all of Wednesday and part of Thursday, as well as a lot of evenings and the odd Tuesday too.  I find this takes away a lot of time that I could be using for preparing activities (especially as I am fairly new at this and don't have a big stockpile), as well as a lot of my spare mental energy - there probably wasn't a lot to begin with!

But other than that, this is what we've been up to over the past two weeks:

My sister and her two children and a friend showed up for a spur-of-the-moment visit, so me and the boys spent most of our time at my mom's visiting and swimming in the pool.

Silas is pretty timid around the water - at least in this pool, where he can't touch.  It saves me worrying about him some, but I wish he was more comfortable in it at least when he's in my arms.  Oliver, too, has some issues with the water as he cries every time my mom or I go for a swim.  Yeah, not so fun.

There were some pine beetle killed trees in one of our corrals and the kids were all fascinated with the process.  It was quite a show!  We watched them for about an hour before moving on (reluctantly!).

The Saskatoon berries are ripe!  We've been enjoying these little beauties right off the bush for about two weeks.  In the above picture my sister, Silas and a friend are climbing on the feeder to reach the higher branches.  My sister is feeding a demanding little baby bird who squawks as soon as his mouth is empty again - what a little prince!  In the foreground is my neice and somewhere in the branches of this good sized bush you'll find my nephew.  This season has  been wet enough that these berries are absolutely divine!  In dry years, the berries are also dry and somewhat bland.  In the past, I've frozen these berries, but I find they're just not as good as fresh - too many seeds - and we don't use them.  So this year I didn't save any, and it felt really luxurious just to eat, eat, eat!

Oliver too has been enjoying the delights of the season.  Now that he's walking I'm much more likely to let him roam the ranch as it's usually just his feet getting dirty (occasionally his bum!) rather than his whole darn body!  While he was perfectly content in the stroller, he's certainly liking these new opportunities to explore!

Here he is at my mom and dad's place.  He adores his swing!  He cries until someone lifts him up and gives him a few pushes, and grins the whole time he's in it.

I got new toys - ah, ahem, I mean, Silas and Oliver received some new possessions.  We went to my most favorite baby store in Kelowna, Baby and Me, as well as one of my most favorite stores in the world, Chapters, and my (Oliver's!) order of diapers arrived by mail from Nicki's Diapers.  All in the same week!  I was so stoked!  Another post to follow on the diapers and shoes in the picture above, but here's the skinny on the books and toys:

 I've said before that Silas is a little weak in the area of fine motor control, so I thought I would focus a little more on that.  Having said that, I'm not sure a pencil and work book approach is going to work best with him, however he did enjoy the Kumon Let's Cut and Paste activities we did a few weeks ago, so this might work as a supplement to other more "real life" fine motor activities.

 Same idea with this one. Silas is really into letters right now, so I bought this with more of an identification idea than an actually getting him to write each and every letter.  Of course, I'm also pretty sure he'll like the idea of writing in a book ( a big No No in our house lol!) and being able to wipe it right off again.

Last but not least, I also bought Melissa's and Doug's Beginner Pattern Blocks.  I love almost anything that Melissa and Doug make, and although Silas may be a bit past these, I know Ollie will be able to use them for a long time!

I'm looking forward to using all of these in the near future, but it won't be in the next few weeks - let me tell you why!  We're going on a real, live holiday!  This doesn't happen often when you live on a ranch (just trying to find someone to care for our six dogs and one cat, never mind the real livestock is a challenge!) so I'm really excited about this.  Another challenge for our family is the fact that we consist of two adults, one teenager, a preschooler and a just-barely-a-toddler, so finding a destination that will please us all, within our budget, is quite a task! But I did it - I hope - time will tell!

We leave on the train bright and early on Monday morning, arrive in Edmonton late that night, transfer to Fantasyland Hotel in West Edmonton Mall, spend two fun-filled days there (and back to school shopping for Tawny!), visit with some friends for a few days, then fly home.  I think we have all the elements for everyone. Trains, shopping, roller coasters, hotel on-site (that's for my sanity so it's easy to 'nap' the boys), relaxing with friends (Scott's really looking forward to seeing this and it will be nice for the boys to have some time to run around outside with other kids), and of course the plane.  Which might totally freak Oliver out as he's scared of them when they fly overhead, but it's better than having him strapped into a car for an entire day!  I'll give a full report when I get back, with lots of pictures, but, as I'm sure you can imagine, I'll not be posting Tot School this coming week.  Sheesh, I barley got it done this week!

To learn more about Tot school  please see here.

Thanks for stopping by!