November 28, 2008

Parent/Teacher Interviews

Yup, it's that time again. We recently received Cohen's report card - very positive, almost all subjects were graded "above grade level". Except two - Dance and Music. WHAT? MUSIC? Yeah. Sigh. Apparently he's only "at grade level". Sheesh.

Anyway, today we had the parent/teacher interviews. I'm very happy to say that it was actually JUST a parent/teacher interview - none of this "student-lead conference" crap. Call me old fashioned, but I prefer the teacher to be candid with me, and I don't think that this can be done with the child present.

It was a great interview. Cohen's teacher had nothing but positive things to say - he's quiet, funny, cute, gets along well with everyone, and is doing well in all subjects.

(Um... is this the same kid that I fight with every day? The one who gives me attitude and throws temper tantrums? Sigh. I suppose I ought to be glad that he's behaving at school. Perhaps he works so hard on being good at school that he just needs to blow off some steam at home. Too funny.)

Where was I. Oh yes - and, to my immense pleasure, she recommended that Cohen work with the Grade 2's for Language Arts, as he is doing exceptionally well with his reading.

This is a hard-fought victory. We've been working with Cohen on his reading since Kindergarten. At first, it was such a disaster - he would immediately burst into tears anytime that we asked him to try to sound out a word. One thing about Cohen - he HATES doing anything that he is not completely confident in. So, we backed off and just continued reading to him, trying again every once in a while. This year, there is such a big focus on reading in his class, and I think it helped him to see that everyone was struggling just like he was. We started working harder - 15 minutes every night, sounding out words with him, pointing out repeated words, etc etc.

Lately, in the last month or so, he has just flourished. He reads EVERYTHING - newspapers, any words on TV, signs, boxes, cartons, containers... He is also continuously asking me to spell words, or spelling them out for me to decipher. (this drives me crazy, but I try hard to be patient).

Understand - I believe that excellent reading ability is an absolute must for all of my children. I myself was an early reader, and voracious one at that - I read far beyond my grade level, and couldn't stand not having a book on the go. I am also a very fast reader - tested at nearly 650 wpm. Being able to read well - and so quickly - helped me so much through school. Never mind the wonders it did for my imagination!

So, you see why it's so important to me. I desperately wish to pass on the love of reading that has been passed on to me through the generations. Ian loves to read as the odds are in our favour!

Lili has been trying to read for a year. She has hundreds of books, and sometimes I wonder how she manages to sleep when her bed is covered in books each night. In a way I feel bad - if I put more effort into it, she could probably be reading by now. However, there are only so many hours in each day. She sits with us when we work with Cohen, so I'm certain she's picking things up along the way.

So proud, Cohen! What an amazing little boy. What a painless interview! "He's doing great, I love having him in my class, any questions?" is pretty much how it went!

November 26, 2008

The Good, The Bad, and The UGLY

I've had a few people this week comment on my previous post about our "Music Practice Time". Comments have ranged from kudos to disbelief...and one rather odd anonymous comment stating that I'm pushing my children too hard and they will grow up to resent me for it.

Well, to that person (whose comment I deleted, thank you very much) I would say that yes, I do push my children. I push them to work hard, try their very best, and bask in the rewards of success AND failure, which are, in my humble opinion, equally important.

A good example of this lesson came yesterday at Lili's swimming lesson. Last week, at the end of class, the teacher had all of the children jump off of the diving board. Lili has done this before, but not for several months. Last week she walked to the end of the board, and stood there for what seemed an eternity. Ian and I were frozen in the stands, silently urging her on. I could see that her teacher was talking to her, and I could also see that Lili wasn't listening - she was focused 100% on the water below. After a few minutes, she walked back to the ladder and it seemed that she was going to climb down. However, I could see her actually clench her fists, and then she walked back to the end of the board, took a deep breath and jumped.

I was overcome with pride - not only that she jumped, but that she came so close to giving up and made that decision to try it anyway. After class I asked her what she was thinking while she was up there. She said "my body was scared... but my brain kept telling me 'try, try again'". Success! Something we've long strived to teach our children has stuck!

Now, in case everyone out there is thinking that I'm either a) a super-mom wannabe or b) full of bs, let me tell you about yesterday's swimming lesson and indeed, the subsequent "Music Practice Time" that followed.

Yesterday, Lili got on the diving board and once again walked to the end. She stood there, once again, for a long period of time. Longer, even, than last week. I could tell because the kids waiting in line behind her were actually yelling at her to jump. Her teacher was gesticulating like crazy. Lili just stood there. And stood there. And stood there.

Finally, after what must have been a solid 5 minutes, she gave up and climbed back down the ladder.

My heart sank.

After class, I asked her again what she was thinking about. This time she replied "Mom, I was sure if I jumped I'd sink down to the bottom". "Lili," I reminded her, "you were wearing a life jacket, you can't sink" "OH YEAH!!!!" she laughed, "next time I will make sure my brain remembers that".


When we got home, the kids were hyper. Ian and I tried to get them calmed down so that we could have some good practice time. Well, let me tell ya - we had practice time all right... after 3 time-outs and one very poorly-thought-up bribe involving ice cream before bed.

In case you don't know, solfege sung through tears is a pitiful sound.

This doesn't happen often here, but it does happen. I don't want them to be turned off of music because of these infrequent bad evenings...but on the other hand, if they think that they can get out of practice time just by acting up, well, then I'm really in trouble.

So, rest assured - practice time is not always a walk in the park. I'm strict about it though, I'll admit. I'm hoping that regular practice time is paving the way for regular homework time. We always follow regular practice time with regular reading time (followed by regular brush-your-teeth-time, and let's not forget regular whine-because-we're-not-tired-but-it's-bedtime time).

And don't forget - I've had a few years to develop the routine that works for us! Cohen has been in Kodaly for 3.5 years now, and I can honestly say that this is the first year that we are not practicing his songs for the first time while driving to class. I think a lot of it has to do with me being home this year.

We're not perfect... no-where near. But I'm proud that we've made music a priority in this house. I know that as reluctant as they may be now, they'll thank me later.

Which reminds me... thanks mom and dad!

November 25, 2008

Well Said

Empty Nest

It's 11:20am, and I am all alone in the house.

I can count on one hand how many times this has happened in the last 6 years.

Ian has taken the kids on the bus downtown for an adventurous day of buses, trains, turtles (at Devonian Gardens) and who knows what else.

I am on my own for at least 3 hours. Possibly more.


I haven't a clue what to do with myself. The strongest urge is to clean house... but I promised I wouldn't do more than 30 minutes of that. I have a new book... and I vow to spend at least 45 minutes with it. I should probably go shopping for Ian's birthday, only 4 days away. Also a good chance to get some stocking stuffers purchased. But somehow the idea of spending my time in a noisy mall seems to defeat the purpose.

Maybe I'll take myself out for lunch. Get a manicure. Hah. No, can't justify that.

I could make some serious headway in the laundry. Go through the kids' clothes and make room for winter stuff.

I'm paralyzed with indecision.

November 23, 2008

Date Night

With only a few days remaining in Ian's vacation, we figured we should probably try and have some alone time together. It has been over 6 months since our last "date", and lord knows we deserve some off time. My dad and step-mom graciously offered to take Cohen and Lili overnight, and even to watch Luci until 11pm or so.

The date got off to a rough start - Ian and I were bickering most of the day, and were pretty worn out from the usual array of cooking, cleaning, feeding, driving, comforting and the like that goes into a typical day of parenting. We almost decided to cancel date night.

However, the promise of a meal cooked by someone else and no dishes to wash convinced us to hang in there.

We went to Olive Garden for dinner. This, for us, is fancy dining. Basically, if the napkins aren't paper, we're impressed. It was packed there, so we decided to eat at the bar rather than wait for a table and potentially be late for the show afterwards.

Dinner was great - we stuck to our old scheme from University, whereby you eat as much of the unlimited bread and salad as you can, and then eat only a few bites from the entree, getting the rest of it to go. This allows you to spread the eating-out experience over two days.

I had been in charge of planning what our main entertainment for the night would be. Typically we see a movie, but there was nothing I was interested in seeing. We tossed the idea of going to the symphony back and forth, (it was, after all, Beethoven's 2nd and 3rd), but neither of us were in the mood to dress nicely and act civilized. We considered bowling, but I didn't feel like doing anything that would bring out Ian's nasty competitive spirit (it's actually quite funny, but I'm equally competitive, so it can get pretty tense when it's just the two of us).

Eventually, I had a great idea, one from my teenage years. I decided to keep it a secret (not because I wanted to surprise him so much as I didn't want to give him a chance to poo-poo my idea). I finally told him after dinner, as we were leaving. His response - "oh, that sounds like fun... I'd kind of like to go home and just hang out though".

Nuh-uh. Dammit this was our night out, we're going! He reluctantly agreed, and off we went.

Where, you ask? Loose Moose Theatre, to watch some Theatresports. I used to LOVE going when I was in junior high and high school, but for some odd reason I haven't been in a decade. If you don't know what Theatresports are... well, did you ever see the show "Whose Line is it Anyways?".... I much preferred the original British version (as always) but the Drew Carey version was funny as well. Anyways - that's an idea of what Theatresports are like.

We arrived at the Theatre an hour early (go figure), and decided to wander around a little. Well, oddly enough we wandered into this deserted lounge area. The lights were all off, but there were several arcade games there, including my favourite, Police Academy. Well, GAME ON! We spent the next 45 minutes laughing hysterically at my poor skills. It was great. The last time we played Police Academy was on our honeymoon cruise!

When we reluctantly left the arcade games, it was time to go into the theatre. It was a great deal - $12 admission, with a wacky array of snacks for sale as well (we went with water and twizzlers, at a cost of $2.25 total).

The show was great. It was JUST as I remembered - you never know what to expect, but you know it's going to be funny. Ian and I were both wiping tears of laughter off of our faces all night. Fantastic fun. I'm not one for comedy, typically, but improv just does me in.

Afterwards we came home, cleaned up, and went to sleep (no, really). I woke up this morning to him serving me breakfast in bed... amazing what a night of good food and laughter can do for a relationship!

Date night was a success... and I think we'll be making many trips to the Loose Moose in the future!

November 21, 2008

So You Want To Have Children?

This is hilarious, and all too true.

So You Want To Have Children?

Posted using ShareThis



* Put on a dressing gown and stick a beanbag down the front.
* Leave it there.
* Every week, add another beanbag.
* After 9 months, remove 2 beanbags.


* Go to your pharmacy.
* Empty your wallet on the counter.
* Tell the pharmacist to help himself
* Go to the supermarket.
* Arrange to have your salary paid directly to their front office.
* Go home.
* Read the newspaper… for the last time.


* Find a couple with children.
* Berate them about their lack of discipline, lack of patience, low tolerance, and how their children run wild.
* Suggest how they can improve their child’s sleeping habits, toilet training, table manners and general behavior.
* Enjoy it while it lasts. It's the last time you'll have all the answers.


* Turn the radio on to some loud screaming station.
* Walk around the room from 5 to 10 PM carrying a 10 pound bag of wet goo while the station screams.
* At 10 PM, put the bag down, set the alarm for midnight and go to sleep.
* Get up at 11 and walk the bag around until 1 AM.
* Set the alarm for 3. Since you can’t get to sleep, get up at 2 and make tea.
* Go to bed at 2:30.
* Get up at 3 AM when the alarm goes off.
* Sing songs in the dark until 4.
* Set the alarm for 5. Get up when it goes off.
* Make breakfast.
* Repeat for four years. Look cheerful!

Dressing Small Children

* Buy a live octopus and a string bag.
* Attempt to put the octopus into the string bag so that no arms hang out.
* Time allowed: 5 minutes.


* Sell the BMW.
* Buy a 5-door wagon.
* Put a large chocolate ice cream cone in the glove compartment. Leave it there.
* Put a peanut butter sandwich in the CD player.
* Mash a box of chocolate cookies into the back seat.
* Run a garden rake along both sides of the car.

Going For a Walk

* Wait.
* Go out the front door.
* Go back inside.
* Go outside.
* Come back in.
* Go outside.
* Walk down the front sidewalk.
* Walk back up it.
* Walk down it again.
* Walk very slowly along the street for 5 minutes.
* Stop at every piece of used chewing gum, dirty tissue, and dead bug along the way. Inspect each minutely. Ask at least 6 questions about each.
* Retrace your steps.
* Scream that you have had as much as you can stand until the neighbors come out and stare at you.
* Give up and go back into the house.
* Repeat for 5 years.


* Repeat everything you say at least 5 times.

Grocery Shopping

* Go to the supermarket. Take along the nearest thing to a pre-school child: a fully grown goat. (If you plan to have more than one child, take more than one goat.)
* Buy your weekly groceries without letting the goat(s) get out of your sight.
* Pay for everything the goat eats or destroys.

Feeding a 1 year-old

* Prepare a bowl of cornflakes.
* Hollow out a melon through a small hole in one side.
* Suspend the melon from the ceiling.
* Swing it back and forth.
* Spoon the soggy cornflakes into the swaying melon while making airplane noises.
* When at least half of the cornflakes are gone, pour the rest on your clothes and the floor.


* Learn the names of every character from every episode of the Wiggles, Barney, Teletubbies, and every Disney movie.
* Watch nothing else on television for at least 5 years.


* Smear peanut butter on your sofa.
* Smear jam on your curtains.
* Hide a fish behind the stereo. Leave it there all summer.
* Stick your fingers in dirt. Rub them on your walls.
* Color your other walls with crayons.


* Make a recording of someone shouting “Mommy!” over and over. (There may be no more than 4 seconds between each shout.)
* Include the occasional crescendo to the approximate decibel level of a fighter jet.
* Play this tape in your car continuously the 5 years.


1. Start a conversation with another adult.

2. Have someone else continually tug on your pants and shirtsleeves while playing the tape prepared above.

Get Dressed

1. On a day when you have an important meeting, wear your nicest work attire.

3. Put 1 cup of lemon juice into a cup of cream. Stir.

5. Pour half of it on your shirt.

6. Saturate a towel with the other half.

7. Attempt to clean your shirt by rubbing it with the saturated towel.

8. Do not change clothes. You're late already!

9. Go directly to work.

You are now ready to have children.

November 18, 2008

6 Months

I'm a little late on this, but a week ago, Luci was 6 months old! I'm in utter and complete shock about it. I knew it would go fast, but this is absolute craziness. She's so big! So sweet! So many changes already. Here are some of the things I miss already:

Having her curl up on her tummy and fall asleep on my chest.
Snuggling just because.
Hearing her chuff and coo (nowadays she mostly squawks and screeches).
Her wrinkly feet.
That smell. You know, THE smell. Newborn smell.

Here are some of the things I love about this age:

Eating (and I use that term loosely) rice cereal.
Baths - I end up just as wet as she does!
Sitting up.
The way she stares into my eyes and touches my face.
Her ability to bounce herself in the bouncy chair (third-child syndrome - self-sufficiency)
The fact that she can't crawl or speak yet.

I love Luci. I love her so much that there have been a few weak moments where both Ian and I wondered if maybe another child wouldn't be so bad. I know! Craziness. But, we've both agreed that short of winning the lottery, we just can't do it.

I love being a mom - and I love being home with her. I am SO much more relaxed the third time around. I can't believe how easily she fit into our lives. For anyone out there considering a third child, my advice is, go for it! I will admit that I am glad we waited as long as we did.

Little Luci. 6 months! Darling girl. I can't wait to see who you are at 1 year, and every year afterwards. Your sister and brother still surprise me every day, so I can only imagine how interesting life is going to be as you all grow.

November 17, 2008

Why I Can't Live Without Girls Night

Every second Sunday at 6:30 (or occasionally, like tonight, 5:00), you will find me at the neighborhood pub. I'm typically there for 3 or 4 hours, and it is the most important 3 or 4 hours of my week.

Sometimes I'm there with 5 or 6 or even 7 people, and sometimes just with 1. Doesn't matter - it is equally enjoyable either way.

Sometimes I'm with my closest friends, and sometimes I'm with someone I've just met, or a friend of a friend, or a neighbor.

Sometimes we talk about our kids (although not all of us have them), our relationships, our anxieties, our fears. We catch each other up on what was missed if someone was absent at the last gathering. We bring news from those who cannot make it for a night.

We laugh, giggle, chuckle. We offer advice, support, humour, kindness and inspiration.

We drink, enjoy great food, and more often than not, share delicious apple pie at the end of the evening.

I can't tell you how much I look forward to every second Sunday. It's a chance to be more than a mom, more than wife, more than a cook, more than a housekeeper. It's a chance to be a friend, to the most amazing women.

So ladies, if you ever need a chance to be a friend, give me a call, and clear your schedule on every second Sunday evening!

Music for Breakfast

This morning my son Cohen demonstrated just how complete and sound his understanding of form in music is.

He pointed out that the form of our breakfast was A, A, B, B, B variant, B variant.

That would be waffle, waffle, toast with cheese whiz, toast with cheese whiz, toast with peanut butter, toast with peanut butter.

After a long night with Luci (she was up from 3am - 7am), that little bit of humour went a long way to making me feel human again. That, and the massive cup of coffee I'm still working on!

November 14, 2008

Orchestra Olympics

Today I was the class chaperon for Cohen's school trip to the CPO. I've been very excited about this - I actually volunteered last year, and then was unable to get the day off work. Luckily, Ian was able to take my place last year, but Cohen was mad all the same - he's proud of the fact that I'm a musician, proud that I know all of the instruments and many of the members of the CPO etc etc. Anyway, last year, I PROMISED him I would volunteer this year...but go figure, when he came home with the news that they were going to the CPO this year, I was booked to teach a clinic... in Caroline!
I tried desperately to find a sub, and couldn't. A week prior to the event, I had to make a decision. I sat down with Cohen and tried to gauge how important this was to him. Answer? VERY important. So I had to back out of my clinic, which is never good.

Regardless, I was excited for today. Despite feeling somewhat under the weather (after a few cups of tea, I was feeling somewhat human), Cohen and I were all smiles as we drove to school today. I elected to stay and visit his class for the first hour before the field trip started, and I'm SO glad that I did. Cohen's teacher let me work with the class a bit, talking about all of the instruments, concert etiquette, etc. I also was able go through this book with them - what a GREAT book! I have ordered it for our family already.

Today was important for many reasons - besides loving spending time with Cohen in the classroom setting, it was musically important as well. We spend a lot of time here learning about music - from 7pm - 8pm every night, it's music practice time. With the kids involved in so many aspects of music, we typically rotate activities and kids (when Ian is home... when he's not, it typically takes me more than an hour). I'll work with Lili on her Kodaly songs/lessons, while Ian helps Cohen with his piano homework. Then, I'll work with Cohen on his Kodaly songs/lessons (which are QUITE intense at level 3) while Ian helps Lili with her piano pieces. Finally, Cohen and Ian act as an audience while Lili practices her violin (a big part of her lessons is playing in front of an audience, so we applaud after every piece, and she bows). I'll end the violin session with a few games that both kids can participate in (thanks Theresa). Then we all take a turn on the violin (Ian, I'm proud to say, is the resident virtuoso-in-the-making. No joke, he seems to have an incredible natural instinct for the violin).

I then sing/sign a few solfege melodies and have the kids sing/sign back to me (I'm ashamed to say that they are all ready better than at least half of my first year University musicianship class). We finish up with more fun - listening to music with our eyes closed, and then talking about how the music makes us feel or what stories come to mind.

(I have to mention here - amazingly, last night we listened to Barber's famous "Adagio for Strings". Cohen, when asked what it made him think of, he said "soldiers fighting and dying"- guess the writers of the movie Platoon had it right on!)

Anyway - it's a lot of hard work and sometimes it's like pulling teeth - but once we all get into it, it's typically an amazing hour in our house. The TV is off, the computer is off, and it's pure, 100% family time. And through music! I love it! On nights that the kids seem especially reluctant or tired, we'll spend more time on the games and less time working on notes. Thanks to the incredible teachers that my kids are blessed with, our practice time is usually fun and varied - we have a large felt stave and felt notes, to help the kids learn their letter names. We use the tuning fork EVERY day to learn about relative pitch. We sing letter names, rhythm names, solfa, and words to songs that bring me back to my childhood. We clap, tap, and try to confuse eachother with complicated ostinati. We write in the form of each piece, and mark in breath marks and phrasing.

I'm so amazed at how much they know. And yes, a little jealous! But ultimately, so proud and happy for them. I hope they will carry music with them for life, no matter where their dreams take them.

ANYWAY. With all of the above, I was obviously excited to accompany Cohen to the orchestra. The kids were very excited as well. The concert started with the Olympic Fanfare by John Williams. Cohen immediately turned to me and said "this sounds a LOT like Indiana Jones music, MOM!" Nice ears, yeah? Next was a brilliant 13 year old pianist performing Chopin with the orchestra. Very impressive, and, as it turned out, the favourite of most of the kids. The finale was an actual composition, new to me, entitled the "Orchestra Olympics" (or something like that), which was narrated. I thought it was ok, not great. I didn't find that the composer utilized the instruments very well. The potential for humour in a piece like this is tremendous... but I felt that the piece worked too hard to be educational, with just a little bit of humour mixed it. The kids were restless and somewhat bored within a few minutes. Honestly, I was as well.

Despite the somewhat dull finish to the concert, I still enjoyed myself. Cohen and I (discreetly) whispered back and forth with eachother about the different instruments and sounds. I was able to see how he interacts with his classmates, which was a treat.

A successful day, for sure. I was planning on taking the kids to Saturday Morning at the Symphony this weekend, but I think that Cohen in particular may be orchestra'd out for now!

November 8, 2008

Tis the Season

I'm SO excited for Christmas this year! It is such a different feeling, being home. The last few years, Christmas was more of a hassle - it meant scheduling in all of this extra stuff when I was already exhausted from working. Trying to find time to shop after work. We gave up throwing our annual Christmas party - too tired.

This year is going to be so amazing. I've already started baking Christmas cookies. And - get this - 98% of the Christmas shopping is DONE!!!! Ian and I got everything for the kids while they were at school today (minus stocking stuffers), and after we picked the kids up, we all headed to the mall and shopped like crazy!

Amazing. And - I think we're going to have a Christmas party this year.

And - Lili and I are already brainstorming crafts to make to celebrate the holidays.

And - Cohen has already made 3 snowmen.

And - I've started a list of Christmas baking that I want to accomplish.

And - the kids and I are making goody bags for their entire classes!

And - I'm learning all the words to the Christmas carols that I've forgotten over the years. AND learning them on the piano, so the kids can sing along with me.

And - we WILL go tobogganing this year.

And - the kids will have hot chocolate after school.

And - I WILL send out Christmas cards on time for a change.

And - maybe - just maybe - we'll actually get photos done this year too!

Did I mention how excited I am?

November 3, 2008


We had a great Halloween this year. It's amazing the difference between this year and last. Last year was: rushing home after work, frantically throwing together dinner, getting the kids into costumes, and getting all the trick-or-treating done in an hour so that the kids can be home and in bed by 8, since they have to be at daycare at 7am...Kids in bed by 8, me in bed by 9:30, the house a mess.

Compared to this year... spent the day making halloween cupcakes and cookies, decorating the windows and the lawn... took the kids to their respective halloween parties at school, went grocery shopping, got Lili's violin fixed... the kids came home and we hung out and made dinner together. Watched a scary movie, and then decided it was time to go trick-or-treating. We all went as a family, and leisurely walked around the neighborhood for 2 hours, chatting with the neighbors and enjoying our time together. When the kids got tired, we came home and examined our loot. My brother, his girlfriend and their daughter came by and we hung out with them for awhile. At 9 the kids went to bed, Ian and I cleaned up together, and snuggled up to watch a movie.

Great night.

Maybe there are some women out there who can make each holiday special while working full-time and raising their kids...And MAN do I admire those women, and wish I was one of them. I can't though. Sure makes all of the decision-making difficult. I guess it comes down to what is the value of this time I spend with these wonderful kids?

Anyway, here are some terrific photos of the night.

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