Gift Guide for a Five-Year-Old

Topher is turning five on Thursday and when it comes to gifts he has lots of suggestions.  The items he’s asked for this year include a drum set (which we refuse to buy until we have a house!), a real motorcycle (which we refuse let him drive as long as he’s living under our roof!), and a tub full of ice cream that refills itself after every bite (which doesn’t exist!)

We bought him rollerblades.

If you’re shopping for a four or five-year-old, here are some of Topher’s current favourite toys:

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Hot Wheels.  Topher has been into cars for a few years now, but he’s just starting to get interested in the Hot Wheels world.  He still prefers to make his own roads (he fluffs out his blankie and drives his cars through the wrinkles) but his favourite cars are all Hot Wheels, and he spends a lot of time playing with the one track that he does have.  Ellie enjoys it a little bit more than he does – she pretends it’s a slide for her lego men.  “Weeeee!”

Leapfrog Leappad.  I think there are two newer versions, but Topher has a LeapPad2 – and it is, without a doubt, his favourite toy in the whole entire world.  He loves to play the games and I love that he’s learning while he plays!   Some noteworthy games:  The Letter Factory, Mr. Pencil Saves Doodleburg, and any of the Get Ready for Kindergarten games.

Paw Patrol Racers.  We bought the racers separately at Target, for about $7 each.  We have the entire set except for Skye, who is impossible to find!  Topher loves to come up with missions for the Pups to go on – he”ll drive two at a time to their destination, with Ellie right behind him!

Kinetic Sand. I originally ordered some when Ashley posted about it on her blog – and she’s right, it is fun stuff!  I  usually pull it out when I have grown up friends over so Topher will sit quietly at the table and be entertained while we visit.  (He thinks anybody who comes over is here to see him and will otherwise completely monopolize my friends!)   Sometimes he’ll play happily for an hour or more!  Nathan and I may or may not play with it occasionally after Topher’s in bed … It’s really soothing, especially after a stressful day!  We have since added blue and green to our collection but the original “sand” colour is definitely Topher’s favourite.

What toys do your kids play with the most? 

A Letter for Cindy

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I’m not exaggerating when I say that I spent more time at the barn than at home when I was growing up.  Some days it felt like the barn was my home.

My mom was in and out of the hospital  when I was a kid.  She was diagnosed with bipolar disorder shortly after I was born, then with schizophrenia when I was a teenager. She was a different person each time she was released from the hospital:  There were some aspects of the Mom I remembered, but it was like getting to know an entirely new person.

I love my mom, and over the years we have been able to develop a close relationship – but when I was growing up, the woman who taught me about life wasn’t my mom, it was Cindy.

This letter is for her.

Dear Cindy: 

You taught me how to ride a horse, but over the years you’ve taught me so much more than that.

You taught me to put others first.

You taught me that having fun is more important than bringing home ribbons.

You taught me that words of encouragement go a long way.

You taught me that kids come first.

You taught me that sometimes distraction is the best way to get through hard times – and that’s okay.

You taught me that what’s in the past is in the past; to cheer for others and be happy for them even when they’re hurt you.

You taught me responsibility.

You taught me that details matter.

You taught me to stand up for myself.

You taught  me to treat others with kindness and respect.

You taught me to be positive.

You taught me to work hard for what I want, that dreams may take time but they’re worth it.

You taught me to let a horse be a horse. 

You taught me to be myself.

 

I don’t know if you realize what an impact you’ve had on my life.   My mom was in and out of the hospital when I was young, so you became my role model.

It may have been a long time ago, and I may live thousands of miles away, with a family of my own – but I’m the woman I am today – the mother I am today – because of you.

Thank you.

Happy Mother’s Day!

Goats & Growing Up

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Yesterday was busy, as Sundays typically are in our household.  We had to be at church early for Topher’s preschool concert, then rushed home to call our realtor to request a second look at the absolutely perfect house we toured on Saturday.   Both kids have been sick all week so there was an extra dose of grumpiness and whining thrown into the mix.  I really wanted to put together a quick lunch and tuck both kids in for much needed naps (so I could nap myself!) – but then I glanced over at the couch.  Topher was curled up under his blankie, watching Special Agent Oso and sucking his fingers.

I remember when we used to swaddle him in that blanket – now that he’s almost five, his feet stick out and get cold unless he wears socks!  He has the same blankie, the same special stuffies, and gets the same comfort from sucking his index and middle finger –  but in his mind, he’s all grown up.

“Hey, buddy,” I called into the living room.  “Wanna go on a date?”

We started the tradition of regular Mommy and Topher dates two days after Ellie was born.  She was getting so much one on one time with me that I worried he would feel neglected.  Sometimes we go to Waves and order Belgian hot chocolates and pastries, sometimes we take the dog for a long walk, sometimes we wander the mall and tell knock-knock jokes.  It doesn’t really seem to matter to Topher what we do, as long as it’s just the two of us.

He threw his babies to the ground and leapt off the couch.  “Now?  Can we go now?”

Why the heck not?

We put on our sunscreen and our sneakers and headed out the door while Ellie climbed into  Nathan’s lap to watch hockey.

We had no sooner set foot on the sidewalk than Topher reached up to hold my hand.  “Where are we going on our hot date, Mommy?”

I squeezed his hand.  “How about the farmer’s market?”

He wrinkled his nose.  “Do they have bouncy castles?”

“They might today.”

“Okay!  Let’s go!”  He skipped beside me, chatting the entire way.  “Is that an owl?  I like owls.  Wow, did you see that ant?  I think ants are beautiful, Mommy.  Why do they call them dandelions?  They’re yellow like lions but they don’t roar!”

The first thing we saw as we entered the market was the bouncy castle.  Of course.  Topher wouldn’t budge until he’d had a turn, so we waited in line while the attendant let five kids go in at a time for as long as they wanted.  I’m glad I was wearing comfortable sneakers!  Topher bounced and fell and squealed in delight – until he noticed the petting zoo.

“Can we go, Mommy? Can we? Can we?” He scrambled out of the castle and dove for his shoes.

The petting zoo was packed but Topher had one goal: “I want to hold something, Mommy!”

“Do you mean like a rabbit?” I asked, reaching for the fluffy brown furball under the chair he was sitting on.  “We-ell … okay.  But I really want to hold one of those.”

I looked where he was pointing, expecting to see a puppy or a kitten or something equally cuddly.

But no.

It was a goat.  

I didn’t think that was such a good idea but one of the attendants plopped the thing on Topher’s lap – and it actually seemed quite content to sit there!  Topher wrapped his arms around his new friend and gave it a big kiss on its hairy little head.  “Ooh,  you’re such a cute little goaty goat!  I just love you!  Aren’t you just the cutest little thing?

Clearly he’s heard me talk to puppies.

He gave that goat some serious snuggles before it got bored and jumped off his lap.   His lower lip was staring to quiver (“Mommy!  The goat doesn’t love me anymore!“)  but two of his friends from school showed up at just the right time!

As a mom who works from home, I’m with my kids all day, every day.  When Topher whines for me to spend time with him, my first instinct is to say “I spend time with you ALL THE TIME.”  What more do you need, child?  But it’s become increasingly clear that one of Topher’s love languages is quality time.  Mommy and Topher dates are the highlight of his week!

But the truth is, sometimes I don’t feel like going out.  Sometimes I have work to do, or things to get done around the house – sometimes I really just want to take a nap!  But yesterday I was reminded that it really doesn’t take much effort on my part to make a huge impact on my little man.  (Seriously, give him a castle to bounce in and a goat to cuddle and his day is made!)

And last night it hit me:  It won’t be long before he’ll be reaching for a different girl’s hand, squeezing it three times to say “I. Love. You.” And it won’t be long before that lower lip will start quivering – over a girl instead of a goat.

In his mind, he’s already all grown up – but it won’t be long before that’s the reality.

I wish he could stay little forever.

May Baskets

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When I was a kid, May 1st was a day I looked forward to almost as much as Christmas.

Okay, that’s a slight (ly huge) exaggeration – but I did look forward to it!

My sisters and I would get off the bus and my mom would have a stack of tissue paper waiting for us on the kitchen table.  She would help us make May baskets and later in the evening, when it was just beginning to get dark, we would sneak across the yard with our May baskets in our hands.

According to tradition, you’re supposed to hang them on the door of someone you love, yell “MAY BASKET!” and then run as fast as you can.  The other person is supposed to try and catch you to give you a kiss.  Of course, none  of the three of us had boyfriends (we were all late bloomers, what can I say?) so we hung them on the doors of our elderly neighbours.  They got a kick out of it, and none of them could catch us, so it was a lot of fun!

This year I’m passing the tradition on to Topher.  We worked hard all week, making May baskets to hang on the doors of our neighbours in our building.  We put some candy in each basket (well, the candy I could pry out of Topher’s tight little fists!) and later this morning we’re going to sneak out of our apartment and distribute them.   Topher loves the fact that it’s a “top secret operation” (though to be honest, he’d love grocery shopping if I told him it was a top secret operation!) – and he’s very enthusiastic about doing anything that will fill someone else’s bucket.

But there will be no chasing and absolutely no kissing.  He’s only four, after all!

As far as I know, May baskets are a maritime tradition (nobody I’ve talked to in Alberta had ever heard of them!) so I’m guessing none of our neighbours will have any idea what they are – but who wouldn’t like to come home to a pretty tissue paper basket with candy in the bottom?

Here’s how we made them:

Supplies:

  • Coloured tissue paper
  • Scissors
  • Stapler, taper, or brad
  • Wrapped candy

Unfold one sheet of tissue paper.  Smooth it out.  Fold one corner over to create a square.

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Cut the extra piece off.  Keep it, because it will later become the handle.

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Take the right corner and fold it over to the left corner.

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Repeat twice more (or more, if you have an especially large piece of tissue paper.  Fold until the tissue paper is about 2 inches wide at the top (widest) part.)

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The next fold is a little bit tricky.  I usually put my thumb about an inch up on the left, like so:

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Then fold the point up, so it looks like this:

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Start cutting a couple of inches from the  bottom point.  Cut one side close to the fold but not through the fold.  Then cut the opposite side the same way.  Alternate sides.  Cut until you’re a couple of inches from the top.

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Carefully unfold the tissue paper.

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Gather the four corners and the piece you saved earlier for the handle, and attach together.  I either cut a strip from the remaining piece or fold it over a few times to make a thin handle.

Place a piece of candy in the bottom …

And voila!

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Around Here

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I feel like I’ve spent entirely too much time sitting in doctor’s offices lately.  I had wisdom tooth surgery in early January and since then it’s been one thing after another.   Sick days don’t exist when you’re a mama and it’s been hard on all of us!

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Topher was on Spring Break earlier this month and we took advantage of a rare day off for Nathan and went to Galaxyland, the indoor amusement park at West Edmonton Mall.  The kids spend most of the morning playing in the huge indoor playground, which Nathan and I thought was absolutely perfect since we both get motion sickness on rides!  We did have to stop for a carousel ride on the way out, though!

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We’ve been enjoying the nice weather and taking every opportunity we get to play outside! Topher and Ellie go everywhere in rain boots these days – even if it’s +18 and sunny.  I’ve learned to choose my battles!

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Last week we came across this guy on one of our walks – a definite highlight for my two city slicker children.  Ellie couldn’t decide if it was a duck or a chicken and Topher was convinced it was an ostrich.

Nathan is allergic to spring so he’s been spending lots of time inside, lying on the couch, waiting for his Reactine to start working.

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And finally – we’ve been counting our pennies, talking to our mortgage broker, and meeting with our realtor, trying to decide if now is the right time to purchase a house!  We haven’t made any final decisions yet but I’ve spent so much time purging, cleaning and organizing that I never want to shop again.  How did we get so much stuff?  Ugh.

What have you been up to lately?  

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