Category Archives: Family

Happy Halloween!

The first Halloween we were in our house, all of the neighbourhood kids were still babies or toddlers. When we took the boys out trick-or-treating, we only went to a couple of houses and then we parents all gathered on the sidewalk in front of our house to chat. The next year, someone produced a bottle of wine and a tradition was born.

Eight years later, the kids are old enough to go around the neighbourhood on their own while we parents hang out and party… on the sidewalk… all in full costume.

This year I was Boy George.

This year I was Boy George.

We have a communal table full of candy for the trick-or-treaters.

Our kids!

Our kids!

And treats for the adults too!

My shortbread zombie eyeballs.

My shortbread zombie eyeballs.

Up the street, they go all out with a wicked haunted house.

Truly scary!

Scary inside and out!

The kids have a blast, of course, but so do we. I love our street and our neighbours for so many reasons, but Halloween is one of the big ones!

(Thanks to Lorin for the pictures.)

Did you do anything special for Halloween?

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A backcountry adventure

Filtering water for breakfast.

Filtering water for breakfast.

My boys are away on their annual camping trip to Kejimkujik (while I’m stuck at work). But this year it is with a twist.

Yesterday, The Husband left the comforts of car camping and took the boys on a backcountry adventure. They are strapping their gear to their backs, portaging with the canoe, and venturing out to camp on a remote island site.

This is very exciting for us as parents because this is the way we always camped before we had the boys. We would hike or canoe for hours to get to a site. There is just something magical about being out in the woods with no one else around; no light to dim the stars and no noise to drown out the loons.

Fingers crossed that the boys love the experience as much as we do so that this can be something we continue to do as a family. Although, as long as they still get to roast marshmallows, I’m sure they’ll be happy.

Do you have a passion that you hope to pass on to your children?

Ode to My Uncle

Me and Uncle G

Me and Uncle G

My mother has three brothers. Only one of them has ever been an uncle to me.

One brother is presumed dead, no one has heard from him in over 40 years. I used to carry an old picture of him in my wallet. I had ever met him but I somehow imagined recognizing him on the street one day. He looked a lot like young Elvis. My youngest son’s middle name is in his honour.

Mom’s eldest brother treated her badly. We don’t talk to him anymore.

Growing up, Mom’s baby brother was a little bit legendary to me. He had a back-story that, as kids, my sister and I were ever quite old enough to know. (I now know it, of course, but it’s not my story to tell.)

He came to live with us when I was about eight and he worked for my parent’s construction company. All of our other relatives lived far away and having an uncle in our basement was something of a novelty. So much so, that The Sister and I used to sneak downstairs in the early mornings to watch him sleep.

Uncle G was extremely fit (and still is). I remember eating hotdogs with him in the backyard, and when I asked him to pass the ketchup, he would reach his arm around over-handed so that his triceps would flex in front of my face. He also used to do bicep curls with me and The Sister each hanging off a forearm. He was our private circus strongman.

I also remember him as being hilarious… except for that time he said my Corn Flakes looked like a bowl of scabs. I haven’t been able to eat them since.

Before this week, my children had only met their great-uncle once when they were too young to remember. He’s here this week, however, staying with my parents, and it has been a pleasure to watch him interact with them the way he used to with us. He and Auntie L brought beautiful totem necklaces as gifts for the boys and their cousins, and they have been wearing them with pride.

As I wrote about in this post, growing up so far away from extended family left me feeling out of touch and strange around them when we did visit. Uncle G was the exception. Because of the time he spent living with us, I have always felt a unique closeness with him. This was cemented when I was working with tennis out in Vancouver and stayed with him for a while.

He is always easy to talk to and is extremely smart. He’s one of those guys who knows something about everything, at least enough to bullshit his way through any debate.

Obviously, like my mother, Uncle G is a Newfoundlander. Unlike Mom, however, he’s proudly retained the majority of his “b’ys” and the lilting accent. Recently I was listening to an audio-book, and whenever the reader spoke as the Irish character, I heard my uncle’s voice. To this day, talking with him takes me back to our summer trips to Newfoundland. He may live and work in Vancouver, but he will always be a fisherman’s son from Brigus.

Love ya Uncle G!

The Food Lady

So we’ve had Dexter for almost five months now and he has truly become part of our family. So much so that he has given us all names… did I mention that Dexter can talk? His voice is a mix of Yogi Bear and Dug from the movie Up. Squirrel!

Anyway, as I was saying, we’ve been named. Allow me to introduce the family.

Snuggles – In the evenings, my eldest son CJ likes to cuddle up with Dexter on his dog bed and they whisper sweet nothings to each other. Inevitably, there are are also some kisses exchanged.

Sorry to interrupt the moment!

Sorry to interrupt the moment!

The Pepperoni Kid – ET’s favourite bedtime snack is a stick of turkey pepperoni, which he eats as he changes into his PJs. Dexter sits patiently outside the bedroom door because he gets to lick ET’s hands once the snack is gone.

This licking session was actually pre-soccer peanut butter.

This licking session was actually pre-soccer peanut butter.

Fun Daddy – The Husband is the guy who is always down on the floor playing tug and giving vigorous belly rubs. There is always a lot of noise and hardly any of it is from the dog.

Poor froggie!

Poor froggie!

Food Lady – Dexter may be a mutt, but he is all Lab when it comes to his stomach. He LOVES food and, as a result, loves me too. I make his food and feed him all of his meals so, if I set foot in the kitchen, he is there by my side. Literally. He could be sound asleep and I just need a glass of water… tip toeing doesn’t work, I’ve tried.

Someone had to take the picture!

Someone had to take the picture!

Because it is apropos, the rest of the family has now taken to calling me Food Lady as well. Nothing like a chorus of “Thanks for dinner, Food Lady” to warm a gal’s heart!

Hey, I’ve been called worse things in my life!

Can your dog talk? What does he call you?

Then and now

So it has been just over a week since we adopted Dexter and, on the whole, it is going great. However, there have been a few little issues. Although Dexter is housetrained and can hold his pee all day while we are at work, he really isn’t trained in any other way. He bolts out the front door, jumps up to greet you and mouths your arm when he gets excited.  And tonight during our walk, he proceeded to greet another dog in a strange sequence of unbridled excitement, fierce growling and enthusiastic humping. Hence, we have enrolled in dog training classes. 

I’ve only been to one introductory class (without Dexter), but I’ve also been doing A LOT of reading and I’ve learned things have changed a lot since my family got our dog Pax when I was eleven.  When my dad was in charge of training, things were a bit more “old school”. Here are a few of the differences I’ve discovered:

Now          Clicker training – a small mechanical noisemaker is used to mark the behavior being reinforced and helps quickly identify the precise behavior that results in the treat. 
Then          Swat on the nose – a swat on the nose was given to mark negative behavior;  such as stealing and eating our Chapstick.

Now          Bitter Apple spray – used as a gentle taste deterrent intended to stop dogs from chewing and licking things they shouldn’t.
Then          Tabasco sauce – used as a not-so-gentle taste deterrent when the dog wouldn’t stop chasing and chewing our ping-pong balls.

Now          Bell training – used in house-training so a dog is able to communicate their need to go outside.
Then          Rub their nose in it – a post-event tactic used to communicate our profound anger at the clean-up job ahead of us.

Now           Gentle Leader – a head harness that reduces pulling by applying gentle pressure to the back of the head and snout – where the nose goes the body will follow
Then           Choke chain – a collar that reduces pulling by tightening around the neck until the dog literally chokes – if they can’t breath they longer have the strength to pull.

Now           Ignore them – what you do if your dog is “mouthing” you. They soon learn that a bite means no more play.
Then           Bite them back – what you do if your dog “bites” you. They soon learn that a bite hurts.

Now           Crate them – a crate in your bedroom is a good way for a new dog to settle at night and adjust to being away from their litter.
Then           Trick them – if you wrap a hot water bottle in a t-shirt and place a ticking clock in their bed with them, the dog will think it is still with his mom and sleep all night in the garage.

Now           Can of pennies – if a dog is repeatedly doing a “negative behavior”, you shake a can full of pennies at the same moment as a deterrent.
Then           Can of whup-ass – if a dog is “being bad” you screamed “No!” and scare him straight.

Before you draw any conclusions, let me tell you that Pax was a sweet and gentle dog and the occasional nose swat and taste of Tabasco didn’t seem to cause any long-standing psychological trauma.

However, I think I have to go with the science…

Studies that have placed the two dog-training methods head-to-head have almost universally shown positive training to be more successful than punitive methods in reducing aggression and disobedience. The dogs became more obedient the more they were trained using rewards and, when they were punished, the only significant change was a corresponding rise in the number of bad behaviors.

Also, positive reinforcement led to the lowest average scores for fear and attention-seeking behaviors, while aggression scores were higher in dogs of owners who used punishment. In one study on Belgian military dogs, positive training methods routinely resulted in better performances than punishment.

I guess the path of least reprimand, and more reward, will be the one we’ll be taking. I better bake some more treats!

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11 ways I know we’re parents of little boys

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I know none of these are exclusive to a house with boys but, as a whole, I think the gender of our children is pretty clear.

1) Random toy collections litter every surface of our home. 

2) There is a high-tide line in our bathtub. 

3) “Wash your hands before you touch anything!” is a standing order. 

4) We have a mysterious “trail-mix” factory in our car.

5) We are grateful everytime the puddle on the bathroom floor is only water.

6) We know the excruciating pain of stepping barefoot on Lego. 

7) The only “F word” in our house is fart. 

8) We have a “no bugs/rocks/sticks in the house” rule. 

9) We can’t make plans until we check the kids’ hockey schedule.  

10) The laundry never ends. 

11) Our house had a stinky dog odor before we even got a dog!

Do you have boys, girls or a mixture? Does your house have a particular gender flavour?

Games my children play

International Quidditch at Oxford University

International Quidditch at Oxford University

It’s been a while since I given you a List of 11, so today I present…

11 Games my children play

1) Zip cord – Invented on a rainy day, a string is tied from an upstairs baluster to a piece of furniture in the living room below. Every possible toy imaginable is then slid down the rope. Scores are awarded based on speed of slide and distance travelled.

2) Baby Koala – One of my least favourite because it involves ET crawling around whining like a baby… or baby koala, I guess. CJ takes care of him and supplies the eucalyptus leaves.

3) Hug Match – Wrestling, but given a cute/sly name so that Mommy won’t get angry when they break something.

4) Yeti! Yeti! Yeti! – A throwback to the annoying Pablo the Yeti character from the Backyardigans. My boys’ game has nothing to do with the Backyardigans except for the loud and grating call of “Yeti! Yeti! Yeti!” that CJ makes as he crawls around the floor chasing ET while covered in a blanket. The game always ends when my last nerve is frazzled and I order them outside… NOW!

5) Spy – Self-explanatory, I think. The beauty of this game is that it is inherently quiet and can be played in any venue. Indoors and outdoors, at home or at the grandparent’s… even once in church!

6) Slinky Kitty – This might sound a bit like an adult bedroom game but it’s much more innocent in our home. ET stands upstairs and drops poor Kitty wrapped in the end of a slinky. CJ is down below and tries to grab Kitty before he springs back up.

7) Wipeout – Similar to the TV show but a winter sport played around obstacles involving telephone poles, shovels and snow banks.

8) Quidditch – Just like J.K Rowling’s version but played in our backyard while riding hockey sticks in lieu of brooms… oh, and goals are scored in garbage pails.

9) Minecraft – Yes, I know everyone’s kids play Minecraft but mine play it outside without a computer. From what I have observed, the game is rooted around BDN’s son being a villager who makes an unacceptable barter trade. Of course, this leads to the arrival of an angry horde and chaos ensues.

10) Catch – A pretty standard game of catch but my boys stand only a few feet away and toss gently underhand. Apparently, they are aiming for a world record number of catches rather than an impressive degree of difficulty.

11) Queen Elizabeth – It is played outside with the whole gang of neighbourhood boys and CJ always plays the part of Queen Elizabeth. I have absolutely no understanding of this game.

I’m not sure what this list conveys about my children… I just wanted to share some of the craziness!

Do you have a favourite invented game from your family or your own childhood?