In my daughter’s school playground there is a small log. It’s big enough that I can stand on it and try to balance as it moves under my feet, but small enough that the kindergarteners can move it around easily. The other day, I went to pick up my daughter and saw some kids trying to stand on it as it rocked back and forth. Their substitute teacher rushed over and told them to get off: “That’s not what it’s for!”
What is a small log in a school playground for, exactly?
Silly teacher. Nature is for playing on and in and through.
And with that in mind, we went to the Natural Playground yesterday at the Royal Botanical Gardens in Hamilton. To play outside in the warm sun. Welcome back, spring!
#mom, #Hamilton, #Blog, #HamOnt
Last Sunday, I bought a bike. A beautiful bike. So lovely that I’ve gone down into the basement to hug it a couple times when no one was looking.
Earlier this summer, my friends started going for bike rides down at Bay Front park in the evenings and I was really jealous. Before I had kids, I used to roller blade there in the evening at least twice a week and I loved being by the water. Even in the dead of summer, a cool breeze comes off the water and it’s easily one of the most beautiful places in Hamilton. Back them I’d fly around the paths, passing bikers and more bladers and people out for an evening stroll as the sun set over the water. We’d share a knowing smile as insiders who were in on the secret that Hamilton is really an amazing place to live and play. I longed to be part of that group again and I started thinking seriously about purchasing a bike.
A bit of research made me realize that bikes can be really expensive, ranging from a couple hundred to several thousand. I certainly don’t need anything fancy but I wanted something decent. Sure, I could have purchased one used from Kijiji and I know there are a lot of inexpensive bikes at Canadian Tire. But I wanted a bike that I would love, one that I would be excited to carry up from the basement every single day. And after writing about supporting small business, I was really hoping to buy a bike from a local shop in town. Thus began the great bike hunt of 2012. (Sounds official, doesn’t it?)
The first thing I had to do was justify my purchase. A bike plus a trailer for the kids plus a new helmet for The Pixie was adding up to a lot of money. Big purchases stress me out. I think it works out to equal parts of self-doubt (will it be a waste of money in the end?) and guilt (there are better things I could spend my money on). I often feel the need to justify the purchase to my husband, my friends, even my mother.
So I went to work. I reasoned that we could park one of the cars for the summer and save money on insurance. I argued that a bike would make it easier to transport The Princess to school in September. I said that I would be even more motivated to declutter so that I could raise funds for the bike (and in fact I did sell about $500 worth of our stuff to help pay for it).
While I was busy justifying the purchase to anyone who would listen, I started doing some research. I decided that I wanted a bike that allows me to sit upright. I wanted one that was about having fun and enjoying the ride, not one that was built for speed or rough trails. I wanted one with a few gears - but not too many – and hand brakes instead of coaster brakes. And I wanted a bike that would allow me to quickly attach a children’s trailer.
To test the waters, I first went to Freewheel Cycle in Dundas and I rented a bike with a trailer for an afternoon. The girls and I rode through the side streets and up to Dundas Driving Park where we enjoyed the splash pad and a picnic. It was an idyllic day and afterwards, I was even more excited about getting a bike of our own.
The following weeks were a bit of a bike shop blur. I dragged my family to Downtown Bike Hounds, the New Hope Bike Co-op, Main Cycle, Central Cycle, and Ancaster Cycle. I kept searching Kijiji as well. I was pretty much sold on the Manhattan Green bike from Central Cycle – I liked that I was so upright and that it was a bike my husband would use too. But before we bought it, I asked if we could swing by and test drive the Bobbin Birdie that had caught my eye at Bikehounds.
“Why?” asked my husband, “So you can fall in love with that one and then always be unhappy because you didn’t buy it?”
“No,” I retorted. “So that I’ll see that its not really that different and then I won’t have a silly lingering doubt in the back of mind for years that I made the wrong choice.”
So we stopped off at Bikehounds and I took the Birdie out for a quick ride. Oh my goodness, it was so much fun. It was light and zippy and I couldn’t believe how much i enjoyed every second of my ride.
“Damn, that’s a sexy bike.” a parking attendant commented as I biked loops in the lot.
“Oh I’m just trying it out, it’s not really mine.” I quickly responded.
“It should be!” the woman replied.
The bike ship owners denied being in league with anybody working the local parking lots, but I’ve got my suspicions.
At home, I asked The Princess what she thought.
“Oh mommy, you have to buy that beautiful yellow bike. You looked so graceful.” she answered.
Hmmmmmm… I can’t say my four year old tells me I look “graceful” on a regular basis. Sold.
It ended up taking a bit to save up for, mostly because we had a few unexpected things come up, like the gas pipes that needed to be completely replaced, and all the dental work The Princess needed, and the property taxes that I forgot about til the week before they were due (oops). But last Sunday I went in and bought my bike and then took The Princess for a spin on James Street, which which was completely shut down to cars for the Open Streets festival. I like to think that they planned the day specifically for me: “Let’s celebrate! Tamara has finally picked and purchased a bike! Call the record books! The slowest decision in history!”
Since then, we’ve gone out for a bike ride almost every day. My goal for the summer is to ride more times than drive. I’ve decided against parking the car just now – I’m worried that I’ll start to resent the bike if I force myself to ride it on really hot days or farther than I’m ready to. But maybe in a month choosing the bike will be second nature.
Now that I’ve got a bike and a trailer and even a bike lock (handy things, they are), all I need now is a “Share the Road” magnet for my car and I’ll be a certified biking enthusiast. I found a store that has them and I’m going to stick one on my car’s bumper, reminding other drivers to give bikes a bit of space. But of course, you’ll never see it. My car will be stuck at home in the driveway while I’m out riding my fabulous yellow bike.
http://www.teaforthree.ca/2013/07/07/my-babywearing-project-emeibaby-review/ #babywearing #wovenwraps
I don’t know about you, but when I get into a TV show, I really get into it. I’m the kind of person that watches “just one more episode” at 2:00 am and frets constantly over the characters in the show. Battlestar Gallactica left me wondering which one of my friends could be a Cylon. Project Runway had me looking up contestants on Twitter so I could tell them they didn’t deserve to be cut. And Downton Abbey? Season three left me with stabbing chest pains and the overwhelming need to call a therapist. And I can’t WAIT for season four.
But with no new episodes coming out for awhile, I thought I’d get a quick Downton Abbey fix by visiting Hamilton’s Dundurn Castle, which I’ve heard has a similar vibe to Highclere Castle in Hampshire, England, where the show is filmed. Perfect.
Yesterday after school, the girls and I headed over for a quick visit. We showed up at 3:30, and at first I wasn’t sure if we would be able to catch a tour since the museum closes at 4:00. Luckily, there was a tour set to leave right as we arrived, and because we were the only ones that decided to stop by on a Tuesday afternoon half an hour before close, our guide was able to give us a fast-moving tour that was perfect for my girls’ short attention spans.
As we walked to the entrance, I asked if more people have come to the castle because of the show. She laughed and said that Downton Abbey is a popular topic. She told us that the show is actually set a few decades later than the museum display – season one starts off in 1912 with the sinking of the Titanic whereas Dundurn Castle has been restored to 1855, when Sir Allan MacNab was a the height of his career.
Regardless, when we walked in, I was delighted by how much it felt like the show, despite a 50 or so year difference. But really, how much difference would a few decades make? It’s not like the fictional Crawley family rushed out and bought the latest in furniture each year – they passed down their belongings from generation to generation. Oh, can’t you just hear the delicious disdain in Lady Mary’s voice as she responds to the suggestion that they purchase new furniture to furnish Hacksby Park? “Your lot buys it, my lot inherits it.” How I love Lady Mary.
The tour of Dundurn Castle was great and I’m so glad we went. The beautiful chandeliers, the bells lined up in the kitchen, the servants quarters in the basement – they all had that Downton feel. And rather than seeing the cook’s bedroom and the butler’s office, I imagined Mrs Patmore’s heading to bed and Carson working away. During my last tour, I didn’t really know what a butler did (Mr. Belvedere was not super educational) and having characters I could refer to really made the place seem more alive and less like a museum.
I think The Princess enjoyed herself too. She liked seeing the children’s bedroom and sampling the shortbread made in the old-fashioned wood stove in the basement kitchen. We both enjoyed looking at a large painting of children wearing surprisingly fancy dresses and trying to pick out the boys from the girls (the girls have their hair parted in the middle while the boys had their hair parted on the side).
I wonder what The Princess thought of Dundurn overall. When I was small, I thought the castle was enormous and a bit intimidating. Now that I’m older, it doesn’t seem nearly as big (though still ten times bigger than my own house).
I read up on about the castle some more when we got home. It was the home of Sir Allan MacNab, Premier of the Province of Canada (before Confederation) and apparently Dundurn Castle was famous across Canada for hosting grand parties. Sir John A MacDonald and King Edward VII were both guests of Dundurn Castle – AND they were both guests of Highclere Castle in England too. I also learned that Sir Allan MacNab was the great-great-great grandfather of Camilla Parker Bowles – some trivia for fans of the royals.
We will be hitting a lot of museums in the next couple of weeks because – and this is what I really want to share with you – we’ve taken out a Hamilton Civic Museums Family Pass for 4 from the Hamilton Public Library. For three whole weeks, we can visit SIX museums completely free:
Battlefied House Museum & Park
Dundurn National Historic Site
Fieldcote Memorial Park & Museum
Hamilton Children’s Museum
Hamilton Museum of Steam & Technology
Whitehern Historic House & Garden
That’s a lot of museums. For FREE.
All you need to do is log onto the library website and place a hold on a museum pass. Don’t be put off by the waiting list of nearly 100 people – there are 84 passes and we waited a week or two to get ours. We’re going to head back to Dundurn this week and check out the Military museum, which has costumes to try on and a big play area. And then maybe Whitehern? Battelfield? We have a couple more weeks, so really we could hit them all.
Do you have a favourite museum to visit around Hamilton?
Confession Time: It’s been five years and I STILL don’t know how to get my child to go to sleep at night. And I’m a bit tired.
A lot tired.
My husband is a night owl, so I guess I shouldn’t be too surprised that our daughter, The Princess, turned out to be a night owl as well. I didn’t expect it though – I kind of assumed that all kids just ran out of steam eventually. Usually at about 8.
We’ve approached sleep in many different ways throughout the years – early bedtimes, late bedtimes, (attempted) naps, no naps, early morning wake up times – they all created a lot of stress in our home and nothing worked. And I feel like we’ve been struggling with sleep since day one.
Once after trying to get The Princess to nap for well over an hour and a half, I plunked her down in her crib and left the room. It was a sanity thing – I desperately needed five minutes away or I thought I would lose it. No less than 90 seconds after I sat down at my computer, I heard angry footsteps as The Princess stomped out of the bedroom and the stubbornly sat down in my lap. She was 13 months old and had just learned to walk weeks before, yet through sheer determination, she had apparently mastered flying too.
“It’s easy,” well-meaning people keep telling me, “just wake her up earlier in the morning!”
And of course we tried that. For a full year, The Princess attended a morning pre-school program that ensured we were up early yet she still laid awake until 11 or 12 each night. And the poor thing was exhausted.
Eventually I just gave up. I decided that bedtimes just aren’t worth the daily stress that they cause, and I relaxed about times. And that was okay, I suppose. My husband works wonky hours and letting The Princess stay up later than the typical bedtime means that she is able to see him after work more often. And because her school is in the afternoon, we don’t really need to get moving in the morning at all beyond church on Sundays. She sleeps in and I feel better knowing that at least, for once, she’s getting enough sleep.
This relaxed approach has given our home more peace overall, and a peaceful home is very important to me. However, it leaves almost no time for me to be child-free. If you read my typical daily routine in my Sleep or Sweep post, you saw that The Pixie wakes up at about 7am and The Princess falls asleep at 10:30 (or later). If I’m going to get 8 hours of sleep, this schedule gives me 30 minutes to frantically cram in as much relaxing “me time” as I can. By the time The Princess drifts off I’m too tired to actually do anything but sneak a second bowl of ice cream and watch 90s reruns on Netflix. 90210, anyone?
And then we discovered Sparkle Stories (imagine some sort of heavenly choir-like sound effect right here.)
Sparkle Stories is a collection of delightful stories that you download one week at a time. The site offers five different series of original stories to choose from, plus another series of classic stories. Be sure to check out the site – you can download samples for free! We started off with So Many Fairies and now we’ve been listening to At Home with Martin and Sylvia. It reminds me of the Adventures in Odyssey stories that I listened to on tape each night when I was a kid. (Anyone remember those? Adventures in Odessey? Cassette tapes in general? Anyone?)
For the past month, The Princess – the child who has fought tooth and nail against sleep for five years – has happily gone off to her room at bedtime with the promise of some stories on the iPad. She doesn’t necessarily fall asleep any sooner, but she generally stays in her room quietly until she falls asleep. No nightly tears, no regular tantrums.
I cannot tell you what a difference this has made for me.
For the first time, I feel like I have my evenings off. And I’ve been fairly good about sticking with my January resolution to stop working and cleaning at 8:00 and enjoy the rest of the evening when I can.
And guess what? I get to share some Sparkle Story magic with you too! Click over to my blog post for details!
I know, I know. As far as resolutions go, this one is kind of boring: January’s goal is to head to bed early, which doesn’t seem to need much explanation, right? But it’s not just about hitting the sack at 10:00 pm – there’s a bit more involved:
I resolve to get the girls into bed at a decent time,
I resolve to take time to actually relax (or knit, which isn’t necessarily relaxing), and
I resolve to be asleep at a decent hour too.
I’ve been more or less successful.
Back in November and December, I thought a lot about how I use my time. This is a typical weekday for me:
The Pixie wakes up. And she has to use the potty NOW.
I make tea, load/unload the dishwasher and take a clean load of laundry upstairs.
The Pixie and I eat our first breakfast. I clean the kitchen and check Facebook, then suddenly realize that I’ve entered a black hole of time and that 40 minutes has suddenly passed. Then I wonder where The Pixie is … She appears to be jabbing her finger into her sleeping sister’s ears. Okay, then.
The Princess wakes up. She immediately heads to the table to make some art. After realizing that I’ve already wasted productively networked for an hour on Facebook, I fold laundry and put the toys away. I make another cup of tea.
When (and only when) her art is finished, The Princess eats breakfast, and the Pixie and I eat our second breakfast (we’re kind of like hobbits). I find the laundry hamper upside down and full of dolls who absolutely must not be disturbed because they are using the hamper as a bed/boat/castle/spaceship. I refold the laundry and tidy the bathroom.
We eat lunch, then everyone gets dressed and I try to get The Princess ready for school. She would prefer to dance. We are ready to head out the door when I notice that The Pixie has had an accident. While I clean it up, one or both girls will completely undress. And hide the clothes.
After dropping off The Princess at school, The Pixie and I run errands, head to work, or come home and tidy the bedrooms. I might attempt to organize the office. Usually I’m not that ambitious.
The Princess is home from school and I tidy the kitchen while the girls have a snack and practice Spanish watch Dora the Explorer. I move the laundry to another room and tell myself that I should really put it away.
Time to make supper. The counters need to be wiped down and I wonder why there are no clean cloths. Then I wonder where I put the clean laundry.
I find the laundry and put it away. I will loudly ask why there are toys everywhere when I’m sure that I’ve already put them away 16 times.
We eat supper.
I start to tidy up, but The Pixie is tired. I put her to bed.
I clean up after supper and attempt to tidy the living room.
We start getting The Princess ready for bed. This is a one to two hour process that leaves me exhausted.
The Princess finally falls asleep. I try to catch up on work. After I spend an hour on Facebook.
The Pixie wakes up. I go crawl into bed and as I fall asleep, I realize that I didn’t read any of my books, start my latest sewing project, or pick up my knitting. I think about the blog post that I had hoped to write. I resolve to do better tomorrow.
What a lousy day! I spend the whole time puttering around, trying to keep my house somewhat organized, and every night I discover that my whole day has been wasted (but I continue to act surprised. It’s more fun that way).
All I do is clean. And my house is still a mess. So as part of this month’s resolution, I’ve decided that the madness ends every evening at 8:00. At 8:00, The Pixie is asleep and The Princess takes a bath and I STOP cleaning. At 9:00, we turn the lights out and I REFUSE to do work. I reserve those last hours for reading or knitting or watching TV with my husband. And its been nice. I haven’t managed to get to bed by 10 yet, but I’ve been knitting some socks and I’m currently reading a couple books.
The house doesn’t seem any different, but I feel like I have more free time. I am falling behind in my work at the store though, but I’m truly hoping that I’ll be more productive there if I take time to relax here. And let’s be honest – I’m usually behind in my work, regardless of what time I go to bed.
How about you – how are your resolutions going? If you’re blogging about it, make sure you include a link so I can track along with you!
- Barefoot BabiesCo-Owner, present
- McMaster UniversityPolitical Science
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