Welcome! I'm Cookie's Mom. You can learn all about Cookie and why I blog here: About Cookie's Chronicles. If you're new here, you may want to SUBSCRIBE TO MY RSS FEED. Thanks for stopping by! Pull up a beach chair and be my guest, won't you?

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Cookie's Mom Proudly Presents:
Seven Talented Guest Bloggers

Spring has sprung, the birds are singing, there are places to go and people to see. I'm taking a little spring vacation and a break from writing. I know, I know. I'll miss you too. But, don't despair! There's lots of fun happening over at Cookie's Book Club.

I'm handing the keys over to a gang of rebels otherwise known as authors. Visit Cookie's Book Club daily to hear what they have to say. While you're there, if you don't mind, have a look around the place for me and make sure they're all behaving themselves! Who knows what shenanigans this bunch will get up to in my absence! I'll see you back here in about a week.

Note added April 6, 2011: I would like to thank the authors who participated in this week's guest blog extravaganza! If you haven't had a chance to read their posts yet, do take a look. You're sure to be entertained and enlightened by what they have to say! I have added direct links to their individual posts below (just click on their names).

Christopher Bunn, author of The Hawk And His Boy and The Shadow at the Gate.

Karen Cantwell, author of Take the Monkeys and Run and The Chronicles of Marr-nia.

Gabriela Popa, author of Kafka's House and When The Moon Had Feet.

Andre Jute, author of The Larsson Scandal and Iiditarod.

Donna Fasano, author of The Merry-Go-Round and Taking Love in Stride.

Alexis Leno, author of Shifting Fate and Red Sand and Other Stories.


NOTE added April 6, 2011: Noah K. Mullette-Gillman will not be appearing on Cookie's Book Club this week. He's hard at work on the sequel to Luminous and Ominous, and it's far too noisy over there to get any work done.


Photo retrieved March 27, 2011 from http://jerriehurdnovels.wordpress.com/

Aw, c'mon guys! Somebody could at least take out the garbage.

Sigh... Writers!

Results of our March poll:
Are parents more or less involved in their kids’ lives today?
Is this a good thing or a bad thing?

The question posed this month is, Are parents more or less involved in their kids’ lives today, and is this a good thing or a bad thing? Here are the results of our March poll. Thanks to all who participated!

A. Parents are not involved nearly enough in their kids’ lives these days (25%).
B. Parents are more involved in their kids’ lives these days, and that’s a good thing (33%).
C. Parents are much too involved in their kids’ lives these days (42%).
Two data points that received no votes, were removed from the results. The two options not selected were, Parents today are about as involved as they were when I was a kid, and Parents are less involved in their kids' lives these days, and that's a good thing. 
We have an interesting split in the poll results this month. About one quarter of you believe that parents are not involved enough in their kids’ lives. A third believe parents are more involved and that this is a positive thing. The rest of you believe that parents are much too involved and would agree with critics of so-called helicopter parents who say they are hyper-parenting their children. 

Retrieved March 30, 2011 from http://blogs.studentlife.utoronto.ca/intersections/2011/01/24/helicopter-parenting/

Helicopter parents are accused of hovering over their children attending to their every need and protecting them from potential dangers, both real and imagined. Want to know if you are a helicopter parent? Take this quiz. I got a score of 15:

11-19 Nice job! You’ve found a good balance between being too hands-off and too involved. Encourage your child to make some easy confidence-building decisions like choosing what to have for dinner, or where to go for a playdate. Giving her a bit of freedom will benefit you both.

Phew! Thanks to that highly scientific test I can finally relax about this issue. “I AM NOT A HELICOPTER PARENT! Woo-hoo!”

But maybe I shouldn't be trumpeting my horn so loudly. I've come a long way since the beginning of my motherhood career. Not hovering over our children isn't always easy. It's not surprising that parents sometimes don't know where to draw the line. We live in a dangerous world, if we believe what the news reports have been telling us for more than a decade. 

When Jack was born three and a half years ago I heard about recall after recall and hazard after hazard. Suddenly, motherhood got a whole lot more complicated. I had to check toys for LBP and bottles for BPA. I had to tie up cords and cover electrical outlets. And every time I went anywhere near a nurse with my baby, I was warned about SIDS. The fact that I did not become completely paranoid is something of a miracle. 

Retrieved on March 30, 2100 from http://www.babylifestyles.com/tag/plastic-baby-bottles/

In addition to the physical dangers we're cautioned about, we are bombarded with warnings that our children will not get into the best schools if we don't put them on waiting lists before they are even born. Kids are in preschool at the age of three so that they'll be prepared for real school when they get there two years later. The pressure to develop a well rounded child is intense, so we start them in swimming lessons, register them for sport leagues, teach them art and music and language skills as quickly as they can possibly begin to pick them up. Our kids need to have an edge if they are to succeed in this world. 

Maybe we should give helicopters parents a break! Adriana Barton writes that "hypervigilance is often a rational – if misguided – response to dramatic changes in major social institutions." That is, parents are naturally influenced by societal pressure to protect their kids from every potential harm. Some even believe that helicopter parents have got it right. Brian Joura says the helicopter parent understands that his role is to protect his children "24 hours a day, seven days a week when they first come into the world and then gradually ease off." He claims that "while kids fight for more freedom, it is ultimately up to the parent to decide what they are ready to handle on their own." I see his point, but I think that, by definition, helicopter parents have a hard time knowing when to let go. 

Retrieved March 30, 2011 from http://www.maritz.com/News-Events-and-Insights/Social-Community/Man-vs-Brand/Neuroscience/Generation-Abstraction.aspx

With all of the external pressure to raise our children the right way, how do we know if we are on the right track? How can we avoid overparenting our children? 

Nancy Gibbs writes of a counteractive movement sometimes referred to as slow-parenting or free-range parenting. According to Gibbs, "failure is fruitful. You really want your children to succeed? Learn when to leave them alone. When you lighten up, they'll fly higher. We're often the ones who hold them down." Lenore Skenazy of Free-Range Kids asks, "Do you ever... let your kid ride a bike to the library? Walk to school? Make dinner? Or are you thinking about it? If so, you are raising a Free-Range Kid." You might remember the name Lenore Skenazy. She's the mom that let her son ride the subway by himself at the age of nine. I remember how horrified some people were that she would put her son in danger, however remote that danger might have been, and I also remember the overwhelming support she received for standing up to the paranoia.

Free-range parenting sounds reasonable. If we're not careful though, we run the risk of being accused of raising latch-key kids. A quarter of respondents in this month's poll think parents are not involved nearly enough in their kids' lives. Obviously we need to achieve some sense of balance here between hyper-parenting and uninvolved-parenting.

So what's wrong with being involved in our kids' lives? According to at least a third of this month's respondents, nothing! Kathy Seal agrees. She writes that "...much hinges on your definition of 'involvement.' Does it mean going to parent-teacher conferences? Watching kids play soccer? Checking their homework? Helping with school fundraising? There are infinite ways to take part in a child’s life." None of these types of involvement cross the line into overparenting. Seal advises that "more subtle forms of involvement, including the encouragement of autonomy, produce superior achievement [and] may help parents resist [the] pressure to push and control their children."

The reality is that pressures and conditions exist to produce hyper-parenting, and there is a risk of falling back to the equally undesirable rebound condition of uninvolved-parenting. It seems the goal should be to achieve a balanced position of involvement in our children's lives. Kelly Herdrich puts it nicely: "Just be sure to watch from the passenger seat--don't offer to drive." This statement accurately reflects my own view of parenting. Some of you have heard me call myself Jack's tour guide. The way I see it, my job is to point out the bathrooms and emergency exits, and to help him find his way in the world.

Retrieved March 30, 2011 from http://www.myspace.com/silverbirch1959

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

I'm twitterpated!

It's springtime! A time of year when all of the world's creatures become twitterpated.
Term:   twitterpated
Part of Speech:   adj
Definition:   confused by affection or infatuation
Etymology:   twitter + -pated 'pertaining to the head'
                                              Source: http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/twitterpated
If you've ever watched Bambi (it's ok, you can tell me), you're familiar with the term. If you haven't, here's a snippet:

I was lying in bed this morning, not sleeping (Jack woke me up to get him a blanket in the middle of the night), and thinking about the previous day. Yesterday I created a Twitter account. I kid you not. You can now follow me on Twitter - just click on the bright blue button somewhere over there------>.

Since it's inception, I've been talking about how ridiculous the concept of tweeting is. Why do I need to know what Amy is doing every minute of the day. Amy is waiting in line for coffee to go. Amy just found a quarter on the Subway! Amy is bored. Bored. Bored. Bored.

Well, I see now that it can actually be a useful tool, particularly if you're a blogger. There are a few interesting people and companies that I can follow on Twitter, and then decide if I want to visit their web page to learn more. It saves me time. I get many quick bits of info without having to visit many different sites. I can also tweet about my own blog entries, keep my viewers informed and save them some time too.

Still I was laying there this morning thinking to myself that I'd sold out. How could I have changed my tune seemingly overnight? And then it hit me. It's spring. And I am twitterpated! In that state a person will do all sorts of crazy things, like becoming attracted to something she once had no interest in.

Spring is in the air people. Watch your step!

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Children's Storytelling - Pregnant Pauses and Creative Substitutions

Last night Jack, his dad and I were having dinner. Dinner is a time for each of us to talk about the day. "How was your day today, daddy?" "What did you do today, Jack?" We're working with Jack on taking turns, since he has a habit of interrupting us when we talk. Maybe it's because he's an only child, but he likes attention and usually gets it, and he doesn't enjoy when someone else is in the spotlight. He is learning. Tonight he did a pretty decent job of waiting his turn.

When it was his turn to talk, Jack started to tell a story about the morning's events. "Well, we just watched a show, aaaaaaand then we went to visit our friends, aaaaaaand... (pause) ...we had some lunch... (pause) ...crocodiles can't clean their own teeth, did you know that?" There was another pause, a very long pause. Jack looked up and away as if trying to recall something. By now I was laughing uncontrollably. Jack and my husband just stared at me like I'd gone mad.

Retrieved March 28, 2011 from http://www.momaroo.com/709200435/kids-talkin-funny-as-hell/

Jack talks this way all the time - you may remember the "You're not a duck!" conversation - but yesterday Jack's pregnant pauses reminded me of a video I had watched recently that made me laugh so hard I cried. (Shout out to judester for sharing this video with me!) Maybe it's because of my station as a parent or maybe it was the sleep-deprivation taking over. Maybe this video isn't as funny as I think it is - I'll let you be the judge - but there's no greater nourishment than laughter, so I just had to share it with you.

Right! Here is the video. Make sure you have about 6 minutes to spare (plus the additional 30 or so you'll need to watch the other four once addicted), Kleenex (for the crying), and privacy - that is, if you don't want people to see you literally ROFL. And now, I present to you, Kid History: Episode 4.

Here is my second favourite of the Kid History Episodes, Episode 2.

And if you still want more, check out:
Kid History: Episode 1
Kid History: Episode 3
July 9, 2011 - Edited to add Kid History: Episode 5
November 12, 2011 - Edited to add Kid History; Episode 6 - this one is right up there with 2 and 4.

I found these videos so hysterically funny, because they demonstrate how differently kids think than we adults do. The things that they remember from the stories they are told, and the things that they make up to fill in the gaps, result in some very funny narratives. Seeing grown men act out the kids' scripts in these videos, and the way that these 'actors' interpreted their stories, sent me into fits of laughter.

How do you capture these moments with your kids? Last night at the dinner table I wrote notes on a napkin, so that I wouldn't forget the hilarity of the moment which again elicited strange looks from Jack and his dad. I really need to start carrying a tape recorder around with me!

Monday, March 28, 2011

Sleep Solutions: Getting up too early

I've had a few requests to post about the issue of sleep, or the lack thereof. Arguably the biggest problem that parents of babies and young children face is how to get their kids enough sleep, and how to get enough sleep themselves. If the kids aren't sleeping, the parents aren't either.

Retrieved March 27, 2011 from http://hilltownfamilies.wordpress.com/2011/03/07/bobnar-19/

Just look at this peaceful face: it's every parent's dream! There are a multitude of ways that our families can be robbed of sleep. Today I'm going to talk about the problem of waking too early.

One thing that we have struggled with is helping Jack to stay in his room until 7:00 am. The light outside changes week after week and it's hard for little kids to know when it's time to get up. Particularly if they are using the bathroom now, their bodies often wake them up early. They'll get up and go to the bathroom - this is a good thing! - but then have trouble getting themselves settled again.

The only way that I can think of to help Jack settle back to sleep is to remind him that even though his body wakes him up in the middle of the night, he can still go back to bed and get some more sleep. He doesn't have to stay up once he gets up. Ultimately though, I have no control over whether he goes back to sleep or not. That's his choice.

What I can do is help him to know when he can come out of his room and start his day with me. Around here that happens at 7:00, so all I have to do is help him to know when that is. He has a clock on the wall in his room and he's learning how to use it. It's typically dark in his room though, so he can't easily read his analog clock in the early hours of the morning.

One idea is to give your child a digital alarm clock. If you decide to go this route, the experts at Parenting Power suggest you cover up the extra two digits. That way your child will see only the change that you want them to see, for example from 6 am to 7 am, and not be distracted by the other numbers that don't mean much to them right now. We've decided against the digital alarm clock because we don't want to bombard our son with neon light throughout his sleep, and because frankly I find most alarm clocks to be offensive. I hate being woken up by some beep, clang or other annoying sound. I do have an alarm clock, but it's one of those lovely ones that wakes you up slowly with light.

But back to Jack. What we DID do that has worked like a charm, is to buy him this product: Good Nite Lite. This handy little nightlight has a moon setting for nighttime and a sun setting for the morning. You can, if you wish, leave the moon on all night. I find it to be too bright, even at its dimmed setting. We set the PM time for the moon light to one minute before the AM time for the sun light. The moon lights up at 6:59, and the Sun lights up at 7:00.

This product is not perfect. I'd rather it had the option for the moon to not come on at all, or to have it stay on at a much lower light level. Even dimmed it is brighter than most night lights. I'd also rather the sun didn't stay on as long as it does - I think it stays lit up for two hours which seems unnecessary to me as light from the window has spilled into the room long before then. I've mentioned these things to the owner of the company. Perhaps a future version will be more customizable.

Despite these minor annoyances, we have found it to work consistently well. We have told Jack, and he now knows, that he is to stay in his room until the sun comes on. Once the sun lights up, he can come out of his room (he can also leave to go to the bathroom at any time but knows to go right back to his room when he is done). Every day - for something like a year now - he has come out of his room in the morning saying cheerfully, "The sun is out! It's time to get up!" I don't even need an alarm anymore, unless I want to get anything done in which case I need to get up an hour earlier than Jack.... but that's another post.


Please note that my ramblings should not be substituted for the advice of a professional - I am only qualified to speak about my experiences with my son - however, I do hope that reading about what we have done is of some help to you. Sleep well!

Sunday, March 27, 2011

How do you find time for this?

A question I get asked a lot is, "How do you find the time?", usually in reference to this daily blog. Well, the answer is, I don't. I wish I could, but still haven't figured out where or how to find more time. Besides, if someone gave me an extra few hours a day, eventually I would just fill them up and want more. My oft used purse analogy works well here - ladies, you get this - the bigger your purse, the more crap you put in it.

My husband laughs at me when I say, "I don't have anything written for tomorrow's blog post." He laughs at me because he hears me say this at least four times a week, and so far I have not gone a day without posting. He laughs at the mild and unnecessary panic in my voice. Somehow something always occurs to me and away my fingers fly.

We all do things that we don't have time for, else how would we ever do anything that we want to do? There are so many have to dos in life, especially if you're a parent. Sometimes the only way to find time for the want-to-dos is to steal it from somewhere else. In my case, laundry and other household chores get less attention. Gee, what a sacrifice. I'm pretty sure that my last words are not going to be, "If only I'd spent more time with the vacuum!"

Retrieved March 26 from http://health.howstuffworks.com/diseases-conditions/allergies/what-is-an-aafa-certified-appliance.htm

Multi-tasking helps. I'm currently writing this post, while chatting with a friend on Facebook, participating in an online forum and having a conversation (in person, if you can imagine) with my husband. Sleep sometimes get robbed too, but I figure there'll be plenty of time for that in the afterlife.

I love to write. I used to write every day before I decided that there were more important things to do. Well, I am stealing that time back!

What would you do with an extra few hours a day? No one is going to give it to you, so I say, Take it! You're worth it!

Retrieved March 26, 2011 from http://www.watchmojo.com/tv/Grab/Howcast/3972669/

Saturday, March 26, 2011

The End of Marking Time: Book Review and Interview with CJ West

Last year, I read a book called The End of Marking Time by CJ West. This book is very well written and impossible to put down once started. 

Story description, from Amazon.com: “Gifted housebreaker, Michael O'Connor, awakens inside an ultramodern criminal justice system where prison walls are replaced by surveillance equipment and a host of actors hired to determine if he is worthy of freedom. While he was sleeping, the Supreme Court declared long term incarceration to be cruel and unusual punishment and ordered two million felons released. The result was utter chaos and the backlash from law-abiding citizens and police departments reshaped the United States. Felons now enter reeducation programs where they live freely among the population. At least that's what they think...”

Please enjoy my interview with CJ West, and consider picking up The End of Marking Time. It’s just $0.99 at the Amazon Kindle store. Information about CJ’s other thrillers can be found following this interview. 

Click here to access my review and interview with CJ West.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Spring Break Ideas

It's hard to tell looking out my window, but spring has officially begun.

Photo retrieved March 24, 2011 from 

If you are looking forward to a spring break with your kids, next week or sometime in April, you're probably also wondering what to do with them. The kids are used to having their days scheduled and packed full of activities. Like many parents, you may be wondering how to keep them occupied during the break. In every city there are fun and educational places to go and things to do that your family might not have time for otherwise. You could:
  • visit a science centre, museum or zoo
  • take in a play or concert
  • enroll the kids in a camp for a half day, full day or for the whole week
  • hit the skating rink, toboggan hill or ski hill if you live in the Great White North
  • go to a public pool or a kids' play centre
  • some recreation centres have drop-in activities planned for the week
  • participate in an art class or visit a craft studio (e.g. to make your own pottery)
  • spend some time at the local library where kids can run their eyes and hands over hundreds of books, choose a few books to take home, and have their favourite stories read to them by a lively librarian
  • schedule a play date with friends, maybe combined with one of the above

If you're like some other parents who think the spring break should be just that, a break from scheduled activities, there are still loads of laid-back ways to have fun:
  • knock a few things off of the to-do list - young kids in particular like to help, so let them!
  • bake a special treat and enjoy it with chocolate milk or hot chocolate while watching a family-themed movie together
  • give each of your kids their own day and allow them to plan the food and events for the whole day
  • put out a whole bunch of craft supplies and let the kids create to their hearts' content
  • go to the farmers market and let the kids pick out the vegetables for that night's meal
  • have the kids purge their closets and toy bins and pack up unwanted items to give away, then take them to a second hand store or garage sale to pick up a new book, puzzle or toy

Looking for something completely different to do with the kids? Why not give Geocaching a try? Geocaching involves using a GPS navigator to locate a hidden container with a logbook inside. Once you locate the container, you add the date and any other relevant details to the logbook. You might also find a small, inexpensive item inside, which you may take if you replace it with an item of similar value. Visit Geocaching - The Official Global GPS Cache Hunt Site to view the caches in your area. Also at this site you can download an application for your iPhone or Android that gives you real-time access to the more than 1.3 million caches worldwide. I haven't tried this yet, but it might even be possible to use an Amazon Kindle to hunt caches


However you plan to spend spring break with your kids, remember that the best gift you can give them is your time. If you have the time, take time to capture a few memories from your spring break. Snap a few photos or a bit of video, and write a few notes about what you did. You might include some memorable quotes from the week. Above all, have fun!

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Hide-and-seek fun.

Jack loves to play hide-and-seek. Lately, we've been playing it inside the rec centre. I run ahead and hide behind a pole. Next it's Jack's turn, but finding no pole in sight he squishes his body against a wall, hoping being flat also means being invisible.


Yesterday was another wintery day. Cold but beautiful, the snow falling gently. Tired of the same old hiding places, we took our game outside. The rec centre is surrounded by evergreen trees. There, Jack had the advantage. I would try my best to hide behind a tree, but Jack could always see me. Jack is small enough to practically climb inside the tree. I could still see him, of course, but I pretended not to.

"Where could Jack be? I don't see him anywhere."
"Tee hee hee"
"Oh, but I hear him giggling"
"Tee hee hee"
"Peek-a-boo, I see you!"

Jack would have stayed out there among the trees for hours, I think. Back at home the game continued, and it was still being played when daddy came home. Jack hid behind the couch while dad covered his eyes and counted to ten. Jack would have been hard to find, but again the giggles gave him away.

I have to say, there really is no better sound than a giggling child.

Here are some rules and variations on the game of hide-and-seek at the Teach Kids How website. Have a happy and playful day!

Kids Playing Hide and Seek outside Gulou train station

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Eat a Rainbow!

Trying to figure out what to feed the kids can be a daunting task (see Lunch should be a four letter word), especially if we want to serve healthy meals. If we don't work at it, our kids could go days (weeks? months? a lifetime?) without ever eating a vegetable.

Lately, my family has been trying its best to eat a rainbow of fruits and vegetables every day. Canada's Food Guide recommends eating 4-10 servings of fruits and vegetables a day (see suggested daily servings by age). A serving is defined as one piece of medium-sized fruit or half a cup of fresh, frozen or canned fruit or vegetables (see examples of serving sizes). It is further recommended that we eat at least one serving of leafy greens and one serving of an orange fruit or vegetable every day in order to meet daily folate and vitamin A requirements (see Tips for Fruit and Vegetables).

Some of the ways we try to eat a rainbow every day:

We like fruit for breakfast and snacks. The only rule is that it has to be something we haven't already eaten that day. It's fun for Jack to remember what he's already had and to remember what we have in the fridge or pantry that he hasn't had yet.
example: strawberries or banana cut up into cereal for breakfast, grapes with a muffin for the morning snack, apple slices with crackers and almond butter for the afternoon snack
I try to include vegetables with the lunch and supper meals. Jack can choose between a salad and cut up vegetables. The same rule applies as for fruit. He needs to choose vegetables he hasn't had yet that day. He is also encouraged to pick at least two vegetables per meal that are different in colour.
example: carrots and celery sticks for lunch, red pepper and cucumber chunks for supper

We try to eat foods from the five basic colour groups every day, and vary them day by day. What Color is Your Food? is a gorgeous article that outlines the properties of each of the five colour groupings. Kids can try creating sample menus by adding fruits and vegetables to meals. Here you'll also find tips on how to increase the number of fruits and vegetables you eat. Some of their suggestions that we like the best are:
  • Keep cleaned fruits and vegetables in the refrigerator — ready to eat.
  • Have vegetables with low-fat dip for a snack.
  • Drink 100% fruit juice instead of fruit-flavored drinks or soda pop.
  • Keep a bowl of apples, bananas and/or oranges on the table.
  • Choose a side salad made with a variety of leafy greens.
  • Add lettuce, onions, peppers and/or tomatoes to sandwiches.
  • Enjoy fruit smoothies for breakfast or snacks. 
  • Pack fresh or dried fruits for quick snacks.
The Mix It Up! web site also has some great tools and information about fruits and vegetables. You can download a colour chart, place it on your fridge and track how well you did each week eating the colours of the rainbow. For information about what to look for when buying, nutrition information and storage and preparation tips, see Fruits from A to Z and Veggies from A to Z. There are also some tasty looking recipes on the site.


If you're still having trouble convincing your kids to eat their fruits and veggies, check out this product: Today I Ate A Rainbow!™. Kids get a colourful chart, magnets, a bookmark, shopping list and story book, all designed to help them eat fruits and vegetables from each colour of the rainbow. There's also a great Kid's Zone on their website where kids can get colouring pages and play games.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

My son likes pink!

People are afraid of colour. Wandering around in a bright purple pant suit is going to get you nothing but the label of crazy. Don a nice neutral ensemble by contrast, and people will respect you for your common sense and good taste. Colours have such social significance, and nowhere is this more true than when it comes to gender stereotypes.

My son likes pink. There I said it. When we go to the grocery store, he'll choose the cart with the pink car attached to it every time, even when the cart with the green car is available. He'll often choose the pink version of a thing over other colour options.

Maybe I'm imagining this, but as the guys in the grocery store pass by and do a double take of my boy in a pink car, I feel them judging me: And that, ladies and gentlemen, is how a mama's boy is born. I assure you, it has nothing to do with me. I have a pathological fear of the colour pink. I also did what the majority of moms do and surrounded my son with blue clothes, bedding and toys. I didn't specifically set out to surround him with the colour blue, but the things that interested him came only in primary boy colours. You won't find many pink police cars or fire trucks.

I exaggerate my dislike of pink a little - I do like pink tulips - but pink = princess, pink = Barbie and pink = girlie. There could not be three words that are less descriptive of me... I hope. I'm not alone there. Friends with girls have told me of their pink phobias and their efforts to avoid all thing princess-y.

Despite the fact that I don't like pink, I have no problem with Jack's enjoyment of it. I figure Jack should be himself as long as he can. Plenty of time to be influenced by peer pressure. I expect him to one day hear a friend or idol say "pink is for girls" in that derogatory tone of a bully, and for Jack to never again, at least publicly, admit to liking the colour pink. Worse, he'll probably learn to identify with other so-called masculine colours whether he prefers them or not.

It happened to me, in the reverse sense. In an effort not to be controlled by society's wishes for me as a girl, I embraced primary colours and abhorred pastels. Maybe my avoidance of the colour pink is what has resulted in Jack's attraction to it.

What's your favourite colour? What would it be, do you think, if society hadn't played a role in forming your opinions of colour? What do our colour choices say about each of us (see Colour Significance)?

Finally, just for fun, take this quiz: What colour crayon are you?

Monday, March 21, 2011

Stitch 'n Kibitz

Last night I participated in a get together with a group of women who share an interest in knitting: An event commonly known as the Stitch 'n Bitch. A friend suggested the gathering and prepared the invites. The word bitch upset her internet service provider's anti-spam filter, and her invites kept bouncing back to her. After finally figuring out what was happening, she sent out my invitation to a Steetch 'n Beech.

Yes, the word bitch has an offensive meaning as a noun, but here we're talking about it's use as a verb to convey the natural propensity of people who gather to complain about various aspects of their lives. Perhaps we should use the word kibitz to more clearly and less offensively indicate our intention. At least that word wouldn't set off the anti-spam filters, and it still sort of rhymes with stitch. I'm not sure it has the same allure though. It does have a slightly less depressing feel than the word complain, which doesn't convey the amount of laughter that occurs at one of these events.

The phrase Stitch 'n Bitch may have been around since the Second World War when women often gathered to knit clothing for soldiers (see Knitting for Victory -- World War II). These days women often form groups and meet regularly, knitting projects in hand, to discuss knitting techniques and other topics of interest. This site (stitchnbitch.org) lists more than 1000 such groups worldwide, and offers tips on how to start your own group.

Whatever it's called, the opportunity for women to gather and share their interests, ideas and concerns is a healthy one. It's good for us to kibitz from time to time!

Retrieved March 21, 2011 from http://www.ssplprints.com/image.php?id=83885

Knitters still gather for philanthropic reasons too. If you're interested in learning more, you can visit Knitting for Charity for ideas on how to get started.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Junior's first hockey game

Today we have a special treat for our Jack. We're taking him to a professional hockey game!

The exclamation point is for his dad. I think it will be a fun day. The excitement in the air. The hot dogs. For Jack's dad though, this is a rite of passage that moves Jack from mere Canadian to hockey fan (which includes all other features of being Canadian). With this one event, Jack's hockey-loving identity may be formed, if it wasn't already encoded in his genes before he was born.

He's still at that age where he could be just as interested in seeing how many times he can climb and descend the steps in the arena as what's happening on the ice, but my husband is hoping for more. He's hoping, like all other Canadian dads, that Jack will love the game, become a professional hockey player (despite his ancestry), and support us in our old age. I can get behind that!

One of the many great things about young children is that they are full of potential. At this age, it's still true that they can have and be anything at all. Of course we will support Jack in following his own dream, whatever that turns out to be - as long as he's happy and healthy, we're happy - but while he's little we may as well indulge our fantasies!

Have a wonderful Sunday!
Four women were having coffee and bragging about their children.  The first woman says, "My son is a priest.  When he walks into a room, everyone calls him father."

The next woman tries to top her, "Really?  My son married the princess of a small European country and when he walks into the room, people call him your highness!"

The third woman chirps, "Well, my son is a cardinal of the church.  Whenever he walks into a room, people call him your eminence!"

The fourth woman is just sitting there sipping her coffee silently and the other three look at her in a subtle way, as if to say 'well...?'  She smiles and says, "Oh.  My son is a very large and handsome hockey player.  Whenever he walks into a room, women say, "OH MY GOD...!" 
Retrieved March 20, 2011 from http://web.ncf.ca/ai151/jokes2.html

Retrieved March 20, 2011 from http://www.flickr.com/photos/42135626@N05/5138557123/

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Children's Author Spotlight: Julia Donaldson

Today I bring you the first in a series of posts featuring children's authors. There are so many great books out there for kids, and I'd like to share some of our favourites with you. The first author featured is Julia Donaldson, creator of the famous Gruffalo series.

Click here to learn more about Julia Donaldson's books for toddlers and preschoolers at Cookie's Book Club.

Friday, March 18, 2011

I love lemons: A short story

You may recall my telling you of a writing exercise in which I wrote down whatever "first lines" came to my mind (you can read that post here if you missed it). One of those first lines is the one you see below. Last night I decided to freewrite to this first line, and developed the short story that follows.


     I really need to quit stealing lemons. I don't mean to do it. I mean, I want those lemons. They make the best lemonade. They're perfect for stuffing a bird. And they make my hair really shiny! I love lemons, but I don't mean to just take them. I can afford to buy them.
     I have a great job. I'm a dog walker! Oh, I'm not just any dog walker. I walk some pretty well-off dogs, belonging to the rich and generous couples living in those condos right over there. It's a great job. I get lots of exercise. I get to spend time with my favourite creatures - the dogs, I mean. And the job pays really well.
     I meet the nicest people too, when I'm walking my dogs. Randall owns a Bichon Shih Tzu. Cutest little thing you ever saw - the dog, I mean. Oh, Randall's cute enough, I suppose. The ladies at Shady Acres sure do love him. They always rush out to meet him and Felix as we walk past. Felix is a charmer too. Mrs. Wumple always gives him three little treats when she sees him, pats his little head as he licks her nose, and then gives him three more. I think she must have had a dog once that she misses very much. She always gets a little teary when Randall and Felix say goodbye. She must be very lonely. Boy, do I know how she feels!
     I live alone. Well, except for my guinea pig, Charlie. My landlord doesn't allow dogs. Charlie's sweet. He nuzzles right up under my chin every night and makes the cutest little snuffling sounds when he sleeps. Every now and then he stretches out his little limbs and lets out a big sigh. I love Charlie. But I wish Charlie was a man and not a guinea pig. I mean that I wish I had someone to love and curl up with at night.
     There's such an ache in my heart. Well, that's why I keep stealing all those lemons, you see? The grocer, Nick, is the most beautiful man I have ever laid eyes on. When I see him I freeze and melt at the same time! I can't think straight. I never make it past the lemons. I roll them around in my hands, smelling them and squeezing them. I stare at Nick for the longest time and then run away like a fool when he turns to look my way. And so it happens. I arrive home with five or six lemons. Stolen! I don't mean to do it. He's just so beautiful.
     Our eyes have never met. I don't think he's ever even noticed me. Well, how else could I keep getting away with stealing all those lemons? I need to find another grocer. I can't keep stealing lemons! Anyway, it's getting harder and harder to shop at Nick's. Every time I go there the lemons are in a different place. It takes me quite a while to find them. Maybe I'm imagining it, but it seems they move further and further into the store every week. Maybe lemons aren't selling very well these days. Or... oh no! Maybe he knows someone is stealing his lemons and he wants to keep a closer eye on them!
     Oh, now I don't know what to do. I need lemons. Here they are at the top of my list as always, and here I am now at Nick's. I should go somewhere else. No. No, I'm here now, and you know what? I'm not going to run away this time. I'm going to pick out some lemons, pay for them and walk calmly out of Nick's store.
     Where are they today? Oh, here we are. One. Two. He is so beautiful. Focus. Lemons. Three. Four. He's wearing the periwinkle shirt again today. Oh, help! Five. Five lemons ought to do. Help! He's coming this way! He knows. He knows I stole the lemons! Don't panic. Don't run. Just drop the lemons and... Is he... smiling at me? Maybe the woman behind me. No, he's smiling at me, and handing me a basket. Don't move. Don't panic. Help! Nick is putting lemons in my basket, smelling and squeezing each one first, never taking his eyes from mine. And he's smiling! 
     Oh, how my heart aches at this moment.
     I'm so glad I didn't run today.
     I really do love lemons. 

Retrieved March 17, 2011 from http://ecosalon.com/its-a-lemon-its-an-orange-its-a-meyer/


The previous account is purely fictional. I like this character, but she is not me... assuming she is a she and not a he (she sounds like a she to me, but I could be wrong). I like lemons, but not any more than the next guy. I'm not a dog walker. I'm more of a cat person. I don't live alone and don't have a guinea pig, but I think pigs of any kind are very cute. I don't know anyone named Nick and I'm not stalking a grocer. I do like the colour periwinkle. I'm pretty sure I've never stolen a lemon.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Paying for the Party

You may recall my recent post about the realities of date night (see We know how to par-tay!), and how hard it is to stay awake long enough to enjoy it. Well, despite how bad an idea we know it is, sometimes we parents do push ourselves beyond our natural limits and successfully 'tie one on'. We still have as much fun as we used to - more, because it's such a rarity and we're so proud of ourselves for still having 'it' - but, boy do we pay a price the next day. I recently had one of those days, the day after my night of invincibility.

Forget the to-do list. Forget anything that you wanted to do. Forget personal hygiene. The day after the night of pretending that 40 is the new 20 is for sleep. Sleep and water and ibuprofen and more sleep. If you're a single parent, you deserve a medal for even attempting a late night out. At least with two parents, you can tag in and out, and provide some barely sufficient level of care to your children.

By the way, if this never happens to you (you're not one to over indulge) that probably means you have the good sense to know your limits and as a result you enjoy the priviledge of mocking us over-indulgers for our weaknesses. Mock away. We deserve it.

We know it's going to hurt to stay up late, to try to keep up with our still-single-and-loving-it friends, but every now and then we have to give it our best effort. It lets us know we're still alive. We feel young again for just a few hours, and the next day our bodies remind us that we are mortal. That day after, when our headaches pound out all other stimuli, we remember all of the good things about our lives that don't involve over-indulging. We swear we'll never do it again. But we're human and our memories aren't that great. We soon forget the pain of the day after, and think... well maybe just this one more time.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Why do we enjoy that first sip of wine the most?

I've heard it said that the first sip of wine is the best. That seems to makes sense. After the first sip, your palette becomes accustomed to the flavour of the wine. Subsequent tastes might be less distinct, less powerful and potentially less enjoyable. 

Yesterday, I thought about this relationship between the initial experience of a thing and the thing's evaluation. I was in the car... alone. It's amazing what thoughts creep into my mind when it's not busy answering the deep questions of a preschooler, such as "Where does that truck live, mommy?; Does it talk?; Do you drive fast, mommy, or slow?;" and "Are there more mean cars or are there more nice cars?" These are all very complex questions that drive out any other thoughts I might try to think. Further, Jack's important questions about driving are especially hard to ponder while actually trying to drive a car. But I digress. 

Alone in the car, it occurred to me that many things seem to be the best of what they are when we first experience them. Think of a first kiss, the first few beats of a really great song, the first time you saw mountains/the ocean/Niagara Falls. All of these firsts are exhilarating or in some other way emotionally-charged. Is that the measure of quality we're talking about when it comes to our first sip of a wine? Does wine become less exciting the more of it we drink? That seems counter-intuitive. After all, wine contains alcohol!

Consider that when we taste something, we also smell it through olfactory nerves that travel to the brain (see How does our sense of smell work?). The first whiff of something is usually the strongest. After living with a scent for a period of time, it's power diminishes (sometimes, that's a very good thing). It is possible that if the first sip of wine is the best, it is not because of how it tastes, but rather because of how it smells. According to Jim LaMar (see Three Wine Myths), "A great deal of the pleasure of wine comes from smell," and I would wholeheartedly agree based on my own experience. I can spend several minutes just smelling the wine in my glass before taking a drink. LaMar writes, "The smells in wine are comprised of Volatile Organic Compounds." These compounds can evaporate very quickly. To experience the wine as fully as possible, you need to smell it as soon as possible after opening or decanting the bottle. Since we can smell by tasting, this might explain why the early sips of wine are the best, at least if we define best as being the most accurate representation of what's in the bottle.

How many of our exhilarating firsts are enhanced by the sense of smell? Certainly first kisses qualify. The ocean and Niagara Falls have strong smell components. One of the areas of the brain stimulated by smell is associated with memory (see From Tongue and Nose to Brain). Anytime we smell a familiar scent it can transport us back to an earlier time, reinforcing the memory and creating a still stronger attraction to the smell. This makes me wonder, if we enjoy that first sip of wine the most, is it really the wine that we are enjoying, or are we instead drinking in the memories that its scent evokes?

Whether that first sip of wine is the best sip may be debated. What we can likely say is that if it is taken soon after the bottle is opened in order to savour the wine's delicate aroma, the first sip is the closest representation of what is in the bottle. It may be argued that it provides the fullest experience of the wine. Part of that rich experience may result from powerful memories associated with the wine's aroma. Knowing that makes me appreciate wine even more!


Retrieved March 15, 2011, from http://www.trendir.com/dining-entertaining/glassware_bar/?start=10

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Dealing with Temper Tantrums

The other day I wrote about a temper tantrum Jack had and my feelings about not having handled it in the best way possible (see Reason and the Common Preschooler). If it had been the first and only temper tantrum in a long while, you wouldn't have heard about it. I didn't really provide any solutions that day, which is not really how I want to roll. I've been pondering a follow-up and here it is. I know others are facing preschooler temper tantrum challenges right along with me. I hope this post helps some.

This time I enlisted some help from the professionals. Gail Bell of Parenting Power writes:
It is quite normal for younger children to have temper tantrums – however, how adults react (vs. respond) to them in the moment will have a huge affect on whether your child will keep having them.  Parents need to remember that they cannot (and should not want to) control their children.  The only people we can truly control are ourselves.  Therefore, if tantrums are a repeated “dance” in your home take time to make a plan on how you can handle yourself in the situation next time, right down to the specific script for the moment if necessary.  Also, let your child know more positive ways to handle  their negative feelings when they come up  – because they will. This way you will know how you want to respond and you can respond with consistency each and every time.  Allow your child to learn that they too can control their feelings actions, and learn from consistent consequences (good and bad).
"Parenting Power provides practical and realistic tools to help parents and caregivers feel confident, capable and calm in meeting the numerous challenges faced in real life parenting."
This is a great article on tantrums too. Here is what I understand about them, and essentially this is my plan for dealing with Jack when he is feeling frustrated. These statements are directives to myself about how to handle tantrums in the future, but if they seem helpful, feel free to adopt them. Don't, please, mistake this for advice about how to deal with your own children. All of our little angels are different, and we're all different, and the plan that works for your family may look very different from what works for mine.

  • If Jack is being unreasonable (e.g. demanding that no one else but him eat the strawberries, or demanding that daddy put the recently extracted piece of lint back in his hair), consider that he needs to gain a sense of control, and consider why this is. Jack has been sick lately, as have mom and dad. Mom and dad have not been all that well rested throughout, and it's possible that we just survived some of the days. Routines may have been interrupted, and Jack may have felt a little lost. Okay, we can fix those things. We recently instituted "Jack's choice", which is a morning, afternoon or full day where Jack gets to decide what the whole family will do (outside of the stuff that we all have to do - cook, do dishes, brush our teeth, etc.). Jack really seemed to get a thrill out of this. We'll probably try to keep at least one morning a week available for this in the future.
  • In the moment, stay calm! This really is easier said than done, but it is also THE most effective tool, at least with respect to my son. Getting upset along with Jack only seems to extend the tantrum, whereas using a calm but firm voice helps Jack to calm himself as well. Don't give in to the request made in the tantrum state. Giving him what he wants when he's raging, will only ensure that he rages again in the future to get what he wants. Simply state, "That's not how to get what you want," or "I don't respond to screaming/yelling/whining" and wait. When/if the request is made more calmly and politely, be sure to acknowledge it. Of course, if it's a completely unreasonable request, don't give into it at all.
  • In order to avoid at least some temper tantrum behaviour, be sure to keep Jack informed of plans and changes to the routine. Involve him in decisions where possible. We have, for a long time now, had a calendar that we review each day. What day is it? What do we typically do/what happens on that day of the week (e.g. is it a preschool day or a grocery shop day, does the garbage truck come today)? This provides a sense of stability. Things like which day will be "Jack's choice" this week can also be discussed. We also mark things on the calendar like when we will go on a trip, for example with a little drawing of a plane or car.
  • Edited to Add: Acknowledge what Jack does right outside of the temper tantrum. When he asks for something nicely (e.g. using please, no whining), compliment him on his manners and respond to the request happily!
Well, that sounds pretty good. We'll go with that. I'll report back if there are any developments. Best of luck with any behaviour challenges you are dealing with! And now for a little light humour. Where is THIS guy when we need him?
As a crowded airliner is about to take off, the peace is shattered by a 5-year-old boy who picks that moment to throw a wild temper tantrum. No matter what his frustrated, embarrassed mother does to try to calm him down, the boy continues to scream furiously and kick the seats around him.
Suddenly, from the rear of the plane, an elderly man in the uniform of an Air Force General is seen slowly walking forward up the aisle. Stopping the flustered mother with an upraised hand, the white-haired, courtly, soft-spoken General leans down and, motioning toward his chest, whispers something into the boy's ear.
Instantly, the boy calms down, gently takes his mother's hand, and quietly fastens his seat belt. All the other passengers burst into spontaneous applause.
As the General slowly makes his way back to his seat, one of the cabin attendants touches his sleeve. "Excuse me, General," she asks quietly, "but could I ask you what magic words you used on that little boy?"
The old man smiles serenely and gently confides, "I showed him my pilot's wings, service stars, and battle ribbons, and explained that they entitle me to throw one passenger out the plane door on any flight I choose." 
Retrieved March 13, 2011 from http://www.basicjokes.com/djoke.php?id=2186

Monday, March 14, 2011

Thanks Ben!

"Early to bed, and early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise." - Benjamin Franklin

I used to like Benjamin Franklin. In grade school, I wrote a paper about his discoveries and made a clay likeness of him, hand extended to hold onto a kite with a key at the end of the string. (He and Einstein were my childhood heroes. That probably explains a lot to friends who sometimes wonder about me.) Today, I'm not so happy with Ben. You see, it was Ben who first suggested we adjust our days with the seasons. Ben thought it would be wise to save money on candles and make the best use of the daylight. To be fair, he had nothing to do with Daylight Savings Time (DST) as it exists today. DST was first proposed by New Zealander George Vernon Hudson, and later by William Willett in London.

According to Wikepedia (I'm too tired to verify that their sources are correct. Blame DST or one of the guys above), "Adding daylight to afternoons benefits retailing, sports, and other activities that exploit sunlight after working hours,[3] but causes problems for farming, evening entertainment and other occupations tied to the sun....DST clock shifts....can complicate timekeeping, and can disrupt meetings, travel, billing, recordkeeping, medical devices, heavy equipment,[8] and sleep patterns.[9] " Sleep patterns, yes. Yawn.

I just don't get it. The original purpose of DST was to reduce the costs of supplying power to lighting our homes at night. Today, people use electricity in a multitude of ways and work a variety of shifts across all hours of the day and night. Does DST make sense anymore? Well, not to me anyway. I had the hardest time rolling out of bed this morning. Taking an hour away from an already sleep-deprived parent is some kind of abuse, I think. It's almost worth moving to Saskatchewan just to avoid DST altogether. Or, better yet, Arizona. Ah... Arizona this time of year would be grand. Yes, there are some places that don't observe DST. They get it!

Ben, I'm sorry for being so upset with you this morning. I know you meant well, and I still heart you, as the kids say (or at least that's what they said last week). But, if I have any way of affecting things, I plan to stop this madness! Who's with me? Ya, I know. You're all just struggling to get enough coffee into you to make it through the day. Alright, fair enough. For now, we'll take a cue from Scarlet O'Hara and think about that tomorrow. Good day everyo...zzzzzzzzzzzzz.

Edited to change the word effecting to the word affecting. You see what a lack of sleep does to me?

Sunday, March 13, 2011

More E-Book Deals For Just $0.99!

Good morning readers. I have posted another list of $0.99 e-books on my book club blog this morning. There are some really great deals out there! You can view the list by clicking here.

I hope you are all cozy and warm this Sunday morning!

Saturday, March 12, 2011

The Hawk and His Boy: Book Review and Interview with Christopher Bunn

I recently read The Hawk And His Boy (The Tormay Trilogy), by Christopher Bunn. The story was beautifully crafted. It grabbed my attention right away and held it to the end.

From the author’s website: “The first book of the Tormay Trilogy, The Hawk And His Boy begins the story of Jute, a young thief who is hired to steal an old wooden box from a rich man’s house. On pain of death, he is instructed by his masters to not open the box. Being a curious boy, he opens the box and finds a knife inside. He accidentally cuts his finger on the blade and thus begins a series of events that soon has him on the run from his former masters in the Thieves Guild, the rich man (a particularly vindictive wizard), and the Guild’s original and anonymous client who hired them to steal the box in the first place. The client, who happens to be the Lord of Darkness himself, will do anything to catch Jute, even if it means plunging the entire land of Tormay into war.”

I wanted to reread this book the moment I finished it. The author’s writing is efficient at the same time that it is poetic and beautiful. Christopher has a way of saying just what needs to be said to convey a message and nothing that is obvious. The landscape that he created is dreamy, gauzy. I felt swept away with the characters in this book. There were a large number of questions left unanswered at the end of the story, but presumably they are dealt with in the upcoming books two and three of The Tormay Trilogy.

Please enjoy my interview with Christopher Bunn, and consider picking up The Hawk And His Boy. It’s just $2.99 at the Amazon Kindle store!

Click here to access the interview.