Breanna turns six!

Today, although I tried to be in denial, Breanna went and turned six years old. When she woke up, the first thing out of her mouth after stretching and looking down at herself was, “I didn’t grow!” I guess she was expecting to actively grow in a noticeable way but I assured her that based on the things she’s been outgrowing lately she has indeed been growing!

This afternoon we had some family over to celebrate her special day with supper (spaghetti, garlic bread, and salad), cake, and good times. She was very eager to open her gifts but she managed to hold off until after we ate – but before the cake!

Gift time!

She got some very nice gifts including cards with money to buy her own presents, a cute outfit, a bathrobe, some DVDs, and a dinosaur Play-Doh kit. Hayley gave her a pink Yoshi doll which she loves, and George and I got her Just Dance 3 for the Wii; Breanna loves to dance and enjoyed the first one so she was very excited to get this version.

Birthday gift

Breanna had asked for a chocolate cake from the store so we got her one with her name on it and she was very proud to have us all sing to her and bring it lit up for her to blow the candles out.

Happy birthday!

Making a wish

Six years old

After people left I went down into the basement with the kids and the three of us played four rounds of the new Wii game and although I did win twice, Breanna kicked ass and scored more than double what I did on one of them. I’ll bet she’ll be playing it after school tomorrow.

Six years ago I went through a fast labour that was under four hours from start to finish and I always said that Breanna was just too eager to get on with life to wait any longer. That was more or less the way she treated today – too eager to have fun to bother with sitting around waiting for fun to come to her.

It was a good day. Breanna said it was the best birthday ever. That’s good enough for me.

I went downstairs

Things I love about our new school

I’m going to open this with a very important disclosure: I miss our old school. I miss it terribly. I miss the people I got to know, the PPO, being on the Governing Board, volunteering, a lot of the great kids, and some of the rules. One of the rules I miss is the healthy food guideline. Our old school was pretty strict on insisting on no junk and our current school is much more lenient. In the end it doesn’t matter I suppose because it doesn’t change what I pack for my own kids (sandwiches, cheese, yogurt, vegetables, fruit) but it does mean I sometimes have to listen to complaints about what everyone else brings from home. Meh. If everyone jumps off a bridge, etc etc.

So anyway yes, I miss the school back home quite a lot and I still check in regularly for new pictures and I took a peek to see who had replaced me as PPO secretary and Vice-Chair of the Governing Board. However, it’s not all doom and gloom. There are some AMAZING things about the new school. For instance:

1. Art taught by a trained art teacher. Instead of just doing some basic artwork with the homeroom teacher, they’re taught by someone who teaches nothing but art, period. At Breanna’s level it’s just stuff in the classroom with her regular teacher because they’re still really young but Hayley has a teacher who graduated with an art degree and not only teaches them new techniques but also teaches art theory and history to them so they understand what and why they’re doing something. I really love that.

2. Music! They have a regular music program as part of their curriculum and each of them gets taught music twice a week. There was no music at the old school and I was always kind of sad about that. It makes me happy to know that they’re learning some age-appropriate music theory and about various instruments.

3. Violin. Seriously. Hayley is taking violin at the school right now. Once a week she goes to violin for one period of her day and every second week she has an extra lunch hour of violin. By the new year, if the kids taking it are still enjoying it they can continue with a bit more practice and will get to start bringing their instruments home to practice. I find this very exciting that something that can cost a fortune to study is being offered for free in the school. Hayley is enjoying it tremendously.

4. Choir. Do you sense a theme? Lots of creativity in this school! Hayley has joined the school choir and practices once a week as part of their music program and today she had her first performance at the school for their in-school Remembrance Day assembly. She told me she did really well and Hayley loves to sing so when she brought the permission slip home I didn’t even hesitate before signing her up. Dressed in black and white for choir:

Hayley dressed for choir in black and white.

5. No homework. No joke! Breanna’s only homework is to read two books with us and keep a reading log. I read with her every morning after breakfast and fill the reading log out and that’s it. That’s something we’d be doing anyway so it’s barely even work. Hayley also has a reading log to hand in once every two weeks and it’s not much work either because Hayley reads a lot all on her own anyway. She’s also had one presentation project to prepare but it didn’t take much time and last year she did presentations once a month on a variety of topics so it wasn’t too tough for her to do.

Other than that, there’s just no homework. No sheets of math to do or verbs to study. They get their work done in class. If they ever goofed off too much and didn’t finish up I think they’d have some extra catch-up to do but that’s it and it hasn’t happened yet. I don’t mind important homework but I hate obligatory busy-work and so I’m loving this school’s approach. It gives kids more time to be, you know, kids.

*******

Speaking of school, I’d like to take a moment to do the bragging Mom thing. The school had their parent-teacher night on Wednesday and although I couldn’t attend, George went and brought back excellent reports. Breanna’s doing very well, meeting all the expected targets for her grade and age and although she’s a bit shy sometimes she’s adjusted super well.

As for Hayley, she was described as being well above average in her class, very intelligent, and having a lot of talent for different subjects. There was one shock that came out on parent-teacher night about her. A few weeks ago one of her teachers spoke to George about the fact that Hayley is a bit too chatty in class and talks to her friends sometimes instead of paying attention. This isn’t news as this has been something we’ve heard before so we spoke to her about how important it is to really be there and listen and save chatting for outside.

The shock was when the same teacher told George on Wednesday that last week Hayley came up to her – without any prodding or suggestions from us – and said, “Miss, I know that sometimes I talk to much when I should be listening or doing my school work. I just want you to know that I’m going to work on not doing that.”

It blew me away, that was such a grown up thing to do and I had no idea until George told me. I told her I was very proud of her!

So thus far everything is going quite well with both girls in the new school and I’m fully expecting excellent report cards in a couple of weeks.

The very first day

Today was a big day in our household since it was the first day of school. It meant the first day in a new school for Hayley and the first day ever for Breanna.

IMG_6086

(Hayley’s bag is on the left with a keychain she got at the end of last year from Breakfast Club and Breanna’s is the one with Super Mario on it.)

I was so incredibly happy that I got to come into work an hour (or so) later just so I wouldn’t have to rush off and miss the first day. We got to take them right to the school and go in with them. I think that helped with the nerves a little bit – theirs AND ours!

The kids each picked out their own outfits when we went shopping. Hayley’s choice:

First day!

Breanna’s sparkly choice:

First day!

Outside, ready to go with a combination of excitement and apprehension:

Ready to go

Since each of the kids needed to be in different areas of the building George and I split up; he took Hayley with him and I took Breanna. As a result I don’t have many pictures of Hayley but I think George might have taken a few extras on his phone so I’ll have to get those.

Breanna and I went to the gym with all the younger grades and she looked so small sitting on the floor amid so many other kids. She was very quiet, just looking around and taking it all in. I offered to take her sweater and stick it in her bag since it was quite warm but she knew she had a hook outside her classroom and insisted on wearing it until she could go hang it up in her designated spot.

Little

Once they called her name for her teacher’s class, she got up and filed out of the gym to go to her classroom for the first time. By then Hayley had also gone over to her own classroom so George headed over and got to see Breanna in her class before we left. I helped her find her desk, put her name tag on, and then she went to sit on the floor in front of her teacher.

Nerves

We said goodbye and then left so we could get to work and class could start. I’m very proud that I didn’t bawl. I did tear up but not until I had left. :)

I was actually quite happy to have to go to work since it gave me a distraction. Had I been home (I would have taken the whole day off if I could have) I would have ended up pacing most of the day until school was over.

It was so exciting to come home and hear all about their day. Hayley had been pretty nervous about being the new girl but she wasn’t the only one who was new to the school and all of her stories were positive. Her teachers are very nice and friendly and were eager to help her get settled, and she already had a few names of girls that she had talked to, including one that had asked her to play at recess.

Meanwhile Breanna was just brimming with excitement, telling me about how her teacher had read them three stories, including The Kissing Hand which was apropos since I had kissed their hands before taking them to school. Breanna even brought home her very first piece of school-made artwork based on the story.

First drawing

She also told me all about the toys in the classroom and that she had played with the wooden kitchen, some wooden blocks, and the sand table. She also ate every bit of food that I had sent her, not a surprise to me!

I’m so happy that they both had a good day. I know it will take a little while to really get settled in, but the school has a good vibe for me and I’m pleased with the teachers and the vice-principal that I met so far. We have a curriculum night coming up in a couple of weeks so I’ll get to know more about everything then, but so far so good.

I can’t believe I have two kids in school now!

Holding on

One of the hardest things for me when it comes to parenting (you know, aside from breaking up the neverending sibling fights) is knowing that the whole time you’re raising your kids you’re also preparing them for the time when you have to let them go.

And really, you have to let go bit by bit as time goes by. It’s not just a big event when they leave home for college or move out to their own place though I can guess that’s huge. Honestly, you let go just a little bit on a day to day basis. The first time you watch them head off to school. The first time they go off to a birthday party where you weren’t invited to come along. Heck the first time they don’t need you to push them on the swings, the first time they take those first steps, the first time they turn away and don’t need to be nursed anymore. It’s all letting go and some of it is so easy and seamless you don’t notice it at first. Other times – like waving goodbye at school – it’s like a little knife in your lungs when you try to breathe with a big smile plastered to your face and tears that you command not to fall just yet.

That’s why sometimes you have to hold on to the little things, those little moments when they still need you. Sometimes those moments can be a nuisance at first glance but if you can remember they won’t be there forever you can realize how important they are to that particular child and to you.

With Hayley it happens the mornings that I volunteer at the school for the breakfast club. She’s not one to cling to me but on those mornings she sticks close to my side while I prepare the food. When she eats she waves and smiles at me frequently while I stand behind the table serving breakfast to her fellow students. Then the first bell rings and she has to get ready to leave and she suddenly comes over to me again and again for hugs. Sometimes I have to insist that she must leave to collect her coat and bags and get out of the way because she’s blocking the line for the bus kids who have only just arrived and who need to hurry to get a chance to eat before the last bell rings. Then I think of high school looming in the future and I wonder how likely it is that she would run to me for more hugs and kisses in her teenage years. That’s when I put the tongs down, apologize to the student waiting for an English Muffin, and I wrap my arms around her and I hold her tight before finally shooing her off to class.

Breanna is still more attached to me than Hayley but I can see her slowly growing further and further away from me just like all kids do as they get older. She doesn’t need as many hugs and snuggles anymore. She still wants to tell me every little thing and she still likes to snuggle up to me when she’s tired or upset, but she’s always been independent at the same time and that independence is growing stronger as time goes by. Sometimes I look at her and wonder where the heck my baby went. Then I remember this was the kid who started walking at nine months of age and so maybe she’s been stepping forward for longer than I’ve realized. On the other hand, last week George had an appointment that started before I’d get back from breakfast club so he took Breanna with him. While they killed time, they went to McDonald’s for breakfast. When they got home he told me that she had only eaten one of her pancakes because she missed me and she kept telling him, “I wish Mommy was here.” I swooped down to hug her and held on to that moment where she was still small enough to want her mom around for something as simple as breakfast.

They grow and they grow and they grow, and when they’re babies we excitedly write down all their milestones in their baby books (or our blogs) and we marvel at how fast they’re progressing. Later we realize how much they’ve changed, how far they’ve come, and we’re appalled at how fast time slipped by.

That’s why I have to hold on to the little moments in between and never forget them.

Bubbles, bubbles, bubbles

(Yes, I’m going to completely ignore the fact that I didn’t update ONCE the entire month of April. Ahem.)

Is it only Tuesday? Really??

Today I thought it was Thursday. Considering it’s only Tuesday, that’s pretty bad. Being off by one day is annoying enough, being off by two sucks. On the other hand I still have Christmas shopping to do so it’s good to keep from rushing forward too much, right?

(Christmas shopping. Ugh. The easiest way to suck out all my holiday cheer and joy is to set me loose in a store with other Christmas shoppers. One year everyone’s getting gift cards and hand-drawn cards, I swear.)

I was up at the school bright and early to help out with the used toy sale. I brought Breanna in with me and I was worried that she might get bored or have some sort of meltdown and I’d have to leave early. She ended up being perfectly behaved and had so much fun that she didn’t want to leave at lunch time.

While I was there I bought her a huge (HUGE) tub of MegaBloks because she loves those, and I also got her a book of Princess paper dolls and a Caillou storytelling game. She was really happy to bring them home, and with the 50 cents I had leftover she picked out a little bus and a Sleeping Beauty figurine (no surprise there, it’s her favorite Disney princess).

Hayely was ecstatic to see me (and my money) when she came in for her classroom’s turn to browse around. She scored big and with only five bucks she bought a little Barbie house, a Barbie horse, a stuffed turtle, a rubber frog (no, I have no idea), a necklace that glows, and a hair tie that looks like a poodle. Lucky girl!

It was so busy and so much fun to help kids find toys they’d like that the time flew by and I couldn’t believe it when the bell rang for lunch. I thought I was only halfway through my shift. It was a pretty good way to spend the morning.

Meanwhile Breanna drew a ton of pictures, played with some of the toys (then put them back on the tables), talked to the other kids, and felt like a big girl having her snack at recess. She would have stayed the whole day but she was more tired than she realized.

Somehow I managed to eat some lunch, do all my work, make supper, and then get the kids out for a 45-minute walk around the neighborhood to look at all the Christmas lights.

Breanna fell asleep like she was knocked unconscious when I put her to bed. Hayley is still up because that’s just the way she is, but at least she’s reading quietly in bed.

As for me, I’m having my tea an hour early so I can go to bed and pass out too.

The things I didn't do, the things I did

Today I had a sudden urge to clean up in a major way. Unless these types of urges hit me at inappropriate times (such as 11 pm or 15 minutes before I have to walk out the door) I generally try to run with them because to be perfectly honest I don’t love cleaning. Our home isn’t filthy but it’s often messy and I do the basics because I have to, not because cleaning is something that I naturally enjoy (I hear there are people who actually do enjoy it. I think they may be certifiably insane, but I can’t be sure.).

In the end I washed the breakfast and lunch dishes, made supper, and washed those dishes. I didn’t de-clutter or fold laundry or dust or any of the things that floated through my head in the morning. Hayley went out with her aunt and grandparents and they were coming back to pick Breanna up in the afternoon for supper. In the meantime she had nothing to do and was bored and lonely.

Instead of cleaning I helped Breanna make some soap with the (kid-safe) soap activity kit that her aunt gave her for her birthday. Then she had a huge bubble bath that contained more bubble than bath – though she decided not to use her new soaps so that she wouldn’t ruin them.

After that she helped me make some scrambled eggs for her lunch and once I had eaten a couple of sandwiches we embarked upon an epic Wii extravaganza, playing some party games and then some sports. Much to my embarrassment she kicked my ass at bowling. In the worst of the games she scored 178 while I managed 119. And I swear, I wasn’t trying to lose to make her feel better.

As if it’s not enough that she beats me at bowling she also laughs when I miss a spare and trash talks me while I set myself up. Sheesh.

In the end, my kitchen is clean. My living room is tidy as long as you don’t look at the fluff and dog hair and other things that spring up on the carpet at will. Beyond that, laundry still waits, papers are still unfiled, and my bedroom still resembles a warehouse more than a haven of great sleep.

But I don’t care because I made my daughter laugh (even if it was AT my expense) and we had fun. That’s more important.

Canadian pride

Normally I’m a quasi-Olympics fan. I like to watch them but won’t go out of my way to do it. I keep track of how Canada is doing, and if there are athletes competing that I particularly like then I check up on how they’re doing as well.

However, with the 2010 Winter Olympics being held in my own country (albeit at the complete opposite end!), there’s a certain level of excitement that I can’t ignore and I’m really looking forward to watching – and hoping that we don’t end up an embarrassed nation. There’s nothing more sad than the host country doing poorly!

In particular I enjoy watching the aerial skiing, alpine skiing, luge, and figure skating. Hockey is always fun too and seriously, Canada should totally win at that one so here’s hoping.

Today the Olympic Torch was coming to an area that allowed me to go and see it. I didn’t follow the torch route (though I might have for part of it if the kids were older) but the four of us went together to the end of the relay route to wait for its arrival. Yes, we kept Hayley out of school; I felt like it was a historic event that was really important for her to see and we wanted to see it as a family.

It was REALLY cold. It wasn’t technically that bad, but with the wind it was nuts, especially just standing around. Luckily the kids were well bundled up.

Breanna tries to figure this out

All smiles

They also had a stage set up with some entertainment, including these guys who played drums and got the crowd all hyped up.

Hyped up

Drummer

And then finally, after a lot of shivering, and after Hayley got to the point where she was just really cold, the Olympic Torch showed up. With it came a huge surprise for me. I had looked up the path and the destination and the schedule for the torch but I never looked to see who was going to be carrying it. It was mostly because I had figured it would be a local person I had never heard of. I was so excited when I found out it was being brought in by Josee Chouinard who is one of my favorite Canadian athletes.

Lighting the flame

Olympic flame

I wish I could have gotten closer to take a picture without all the chains and stuff, but it was really packed. Still, it was really exciting to see the torch and to see her. I shouldn’t have been surprised since I tend to cry at the drop of a hat, but I was actually a bit unprepared for how emotional the whole thing was. It was so amazing to be there and I’m glad we got to go.

Next on my list of things I want to do to show my support – I desperately want the official red Olympic torch bearer mitts!

I know that today was probably not quite as exciting for Hayley (Breanna didn’t care, she was just happily playing in the snow the whole time) because of her age, but I think she’ll be happy to look back on it when she gets older and knows that she got to take part in a historical Canadian event.

Like aunt, like niece

It’s not uncommon to – even involuntarily – compare your kids to their parents. Is she more like Mom or more like Dad? When it comes to Breanna though, she has a habit that always reminds me of my sister which is funny since they don’t see each other very often due to Geography so it’s not something that she picked up from her aunt.

When Amanda was younger and going to school I vividly remember that my mother had a particular way of packing her lunch on certain days. My sister loved a ham and cheese sandwich. However, she didn’t care for it as an actual sandwich. My mom would pack a couple of slices of buttered bread, a few slices of deli ham, and a slice of cheese. All the pieces you need to make a ham and cheese sandwich, but they had to be packed separately.

Once it was lunch time, Amanda would then eat the individual pieces of her non-sandwich and she loved it. God forbid you actually built the sandwich for her though, because then she lost interest. It was a funny quirk and from what I remember it was only that particular sandwich that had to remain disassembled. Also, as far as I know she now eats all her sandwiches as actual, you know, sandwiches.

Fast forward many years (not too many, we’re not THAT old. Much. Yet.) and here we have Breanna. Breanna loves when we order Chinese food although in truth she mostly only wants the egg rolls. She’ll eat a few bites of other random things but the egg rolls are the main attraction and she’s been known to devour many of them in one sitting and then eat the leftovers for breakfast. I know.

Last night she wanted us to order Chinese but to be more budget-friendly we bought a box of frozen egg rolls and I just made those with some rice and vegetables. That was just as good as far as Breanna was concerned – more egg rolls for her!

Regardless of whether it’s take-out or frozen egg rolls, Breanna has a particular way of eating them. She won’t pick them up and eat them like your average person will. She bites the end off and then she essentially peels it. As she goes on through her meal she will eat the battered “peel” of the egg roll and then she eats the inside.

Essentially she’s eating the entire egg roll in one sitting, just not in one piece. It’s weird to me but she likes it that way and she doesn’t waste any of the food so I can’t complain. However, as I watched her eat one at lunch today it struck me that she’s just like my sister in that way, at least at a young age.

Kids are peculiar beings. I wonder if she’ll eat them that way forever or if she’ll eventually eat the whole thing at once.

(Then again I used to nibble the cheese off of my cheesies before eating the middle so what can I say? Maybe my family just breeds strange eaters?)

Did you have any weird eating habits as a kid?

Laid-back Saturday

This is exactly the kind of weekend that I like – we had plans but weren’t overly busy so it was a laid-back enjoyable day today. Tomorrow promises to be much of the same.

This morning I woke up at 8 am and realized that everyone else was still sound asleep out in the living room. It was the first time that Breanna had made it through the whole night for a living room camp-out. She usually wakes up around 3 am wanting to know where I am. However this time I actually had a chance to marvel that it was morning and I had not been poked awake by a small child needing to pee and then I even fell back to sleep for awhile. That was awesome.

After lunch we drove out to see my parents for the afternoon and Breanna opened up the present that they got her. My family knows how much Breanna loves dinosaurs and got her this little guy. I sometimes really despise battery-operated toys because they’re usually obnoxiously loud and take away from the chance to use your imagination but there are some that I do like. I definitely like this one. He chews on your finger (or a toy spoon, bottle, etc) and “eats”, then makes little cooing baby dinosaur sounds. No overkill and it’s really cute; she loves it.

Hayley and Breanna spent most of the visit trying to convince my parents’ cat to come out to play but unlike the first two cats my mom and dad owned, this one isn’t used to kids at all so she’s just not very interested in seeing two overly enthusiastic children who try to chase her around with toys. Alas.

It wasn’t cold out today but it was chilly by the time the sun started going down so we had a simple comfort food supper of grilled cheese sandwiches and tomato soup. When I was a kid my mom sometimes made tuna or salmon sandwiches and a mix of tomato and celery soup on nights when my dad wasn’t going to be home for supper and I always loved soup and sandwiches as a comfort meal.

Tonight it’s all quiet. Both kids were tired because they didn’t go to sleep until well after ten last night. Meanwhile, George is out at a friend’s house so it’s just me (and the dog, but she’s not much for conversation). I’m taking advantage by watching a movie that I know doesn’t interest George in the least, a foreign film called Osama. It’s about a family in Afghanistan during the rise of the Taliban. The father dies and leaves behind a wife and 12-year-old daughter. Since the Taliban prohibits women from working the young girl cuts her hair short and disguises herself as a boy so that she can work to support herself and her mother.

As you may have noted in my reading material post, that’s the kind of movie that is right up my alley.

So on that note, I’m off to read subtitles and relax. Enjoy your Saturday!

(The pictures of Breanna on her birthday are over here. Unfortunately the quality is kind of ech because it was pouring rain outside, leaving practically no natural light to use. My external flash needs new batteries so I had to use the dreaded on-camera flash. Alas. But the subject matter makes them cute anyway!)

Four years old

Four years ago today I went into a very fast, very short labour and in under four hours this little girl was born.

Breanna and Daddy

And somehow four years have passed and this morning when she woke me up to go pee and whispered that she didn’t want to go back to bed, I whispered back that it was okay because it was almost 9 am anyway and it was her birthday. She had forgotten about it despite being excited the night before. I reminded her that she’s four and she asked, “no more three?” No kiddo. No more three.

Birthday girl

In four years she learned so much. She knows her numbers, her alphabet, countless songs, how to color inside the lines, how to play board games, and how to climb up everything at the park, among so many other things. She can turn on her (and Hayley’s) computer, log in, open Firefox, and navigate her way through the bookmarks of all their kid sites. Most recently she loves to help me make supper and has learned not only to assist me in adding ingredients and stirring them up, she can also crack her own eggs and scramble them at the stove (with direct supervision, obviously).

It’s hard to believe someone who couldn’t even hold up her own head this time four years can do so much now. Time flies.

She had a pretty good birthday. George and I gave her a Hungry Hungry Hippos game because she desperately wanted one, Hayley gave her a play tool set that she wanted, my sister sent a dinosaur playset (I’m not going to be surprised if she becomes a paleontologist one day), and she got a cute little outfit from George’s parents. We ordered pizza over there for supper and when we came home she had her birthday cake. Right now George and the kids are camping out in the living room after having had a movie night.

Tomorrow we’ll go see my parents and spend the afternoon over there and we’ll do her party in a couple of weeks since that will be the only time the majority of friends and family can make it.

I have many more pictures but my glass of wine and my book are calling. I’ll get to them while still trying to ponder how my little baby is a big four year old girl!