Tuesday, November 27, 2012

'Tis the season...

Here we troll the ancient carols yet again. With my new home-based company Music & More I have started teaching music classes to young children. I haven't had a hectic carol singing season in a while, but here starts a new one.

Next to prepping lessons & practising carols on the piano or guitar for classes & the Doha Singers Choir that I participate in, shopping online for far-away family fills my evenings. Oh, and the Christmas baking!

Using Shutterfly, I have FINALLY been able to send out Christmas cards - 1st time ever!

It'll be a fantastic holiday season & we'll do our best to make it such, despite insane travel with 2 young boys for only 2 weeks of holidays in an 8hour time-zone difference. Bring on the insanity!!!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

"Train up a child in the way s/he should go..."

As a teacher, I thought I was pretty good at training children. I probably was... for an hour at a time! I kept up to date on classroom management skills, I was innovative in my lesson delivery in order to keep the children engaged, and I tried to make almost every lesson both informative and exciting. I had 'infinite' time to plan my strategies, units of inquiry, and to prepare my materials. However, being a parent and the primary caregiver as well, as having the full responsibility for my own children and their behavior is quite another matter. Now, with zero preparation time, little sleep, and spending 24-7 with my little boys, I more often than not see and feel myself failing and 'falling behind'.

At night when I go over my day in my mind, I can't help but think of all the times I was exceptionally irritable with the boys, how I could really have taken the time to read that book AGAIN, how I should have explained something properly instead of just saying "NO!", or how fast they're growing and wonder why I don't take the time to enjoy and celebrate this stage of their lives more.

In order to keep from feeling like a miserable mom and to try to keep my spirits up, I remind myself of little successes and positive moments in the day, the week or the month. Here are just a few:

* singing 'Sweet home Alabama' together in the car with my 3.5year old
* playing "moo" with a bell around my neck (my son made me the cow...)
* painting letters with water and my old cosmetic brush on the bathroom door
* dancing around the living room to old pop songs with my 1 year old
* listening to my older son tell my younger son how to say words in German while walking to the store (both in the chariot stroller -thanks Oma & Opa!)
* making monster & pumpkin men with pipe cleaners & popsicle sticks
* checking the jar of sprouts with my 3.5year old each morning to see how much they grew in the night
* watching my 1 year old's eyes glow when he sees trees
* receiving many dirty hugs and slobbery kisses from both boys

The way they shouldn't go...
It seems that various media are out to train up our children for us, and most often in ways that we really don't want them to go. I was always aware of violence in children's programming and I saw the results in my students at school. However, now that I am a parent, I am both shocked and infuriated by the amount of gratuitous violence in children's games, television, movies, etc. The recent movie 'Cars 2' is my main focus at the moment. My son watched and loved the first movie which had a fantastic moral story, NO GUNS, lots of clear friendship messages, no fighting and plenty of harmless humour. The sequal was the opposite: the positive message was conveluded and weak, the races and friendship scenes were all interrupted by scenes with fights, guns or anger and aggression that is unnecessary for most healthy 2-6year olds to be aware of. In fact, some of the older James Bond movies would have fewer fight and gun scenes than this animated children's film! In my opinion, it seems that many sectors of the media are trying to train our children for a violent future.

This is both saddening and frustrating. Sad, because I would hate to see that future and it is not the one I would envision for my boys. Frustrating, because I want my boys to equipped for the future and if the future is one of violence, then perhaps by keeping them sheltered from it, I am destining them to failure. This dilemma is really a harsh decision to make about who my boys will become... will they be weak and gentle failures, or will they become violent and sucessful leaders? How can I train them to be aware of violence and yet strong enough to steer themselves and others away from it? I don't know, but I pray that I'll find the answer one day before they get too big.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Crosshatches and Crossroads


Going away for nearly 2 months this summer brought up a number of changes and issues. Everything from where, when & how we want our next move to be, to thinking about buying a new bed for our 3year old. There have been so many changes in our small family, as well as our extended family. Being close to family members as they move, pass away, grow up and many other changes, has caused us to re-examine our priorities and values.

My stalwart travellers having breakfast in Frankfurt Airport
One important issue that has been eluding us for some time has been health & wellness. You might think I'm crazy for bringing this up, as we tend to eat 'home made' all the time, but there are other aspects of our family's health that need more attention. We decided that fitness needs more energy & attention, and that a healthy environment for our children should be higher on our priority list. Seeing how healthy our boys were for 2 months (not a sniffle or cough, despite travelling half-way around the world) was wonderful. Seeing them both visiting Doctors within a week of returning to Doha was a STRONG reminder that this is not the healthiest environment for their developing bodies. Others may have differing opinions on the matter, but this was our conclusion.

GianLuca thoroughly enjoyed running and rolling on the freshly cut grass at a Farmer's Market in Langley.
Enjoying fresh air and greenery in Italy.
Both boys enjoyed 'pizza night' at Casorelle in Italy.

We particularly  enjoyed spending time as a couple (without kids) on several occasions this summer. Thanks to wonderful family and friends, we were able to enjoy a few nights out, as well as a night away! This is something that we have missed incredibly in Doha. The generous & caring support of our extended family would really help to keep the 'fun' in our marriage.

Our relaxing night away at Harrison Hot Springs, BC.

Extended family and close friends are also dearly missed. Those who continually love and support us in thoughts and prayers were a really blessing as we spent time together this summer. Although I didn't see many friends, I thoroughly enjoyed watching my boys play, fight, giggle and get into trouble with their cousins. That comraderie & bond is something that we dont seem to be able to find anywhere else.
Tavian wasn't too sure about playing in the tent.

Checking out amazing animals at the Toronto Zoo with Aunty Karen & Esther.

Upon spending so much time with the family & becoming so close to all of us, my husband also examined his workload and work-life. He found that when he forced himself to relax and let go of certain work-related issues, he was so much more relaxed and enjoyed both his family and life in general so much more. It will be a constant challenge for him, but with support I hope he will be able to continue focussing on family and not getting overly-preoccupied with work. It made us all more relaxed and so much closer to one another.

Peter & the boys having fun at the park with cousins.


I've come to love 'sweet and salty' cookies. I made my 1st batch in July and tried them again in the summer. I found a new recipe recently and everyone seemed to enjoy them. They're called Salted Butter Break-ups  and reasonably easy to make (I made the dough the night before & baked them in the morning). After a hectic couple of weeks with no baking, dragging my fork across the dough to make crosshatches felt strangely theraputic and relaxing.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

New Shoes

My son is VERY picky about his shoes. He will become attached to a pair of shoes and never want to give up wearing them even though they are pinching his feet (until they 'disappear' mysteriously). This spring I ordered some new shoes for him via Shoebuy . My family received them, paid customs & posted them to Qatar. I have never received them, but apparently they are in Qatar customs (whom I can only presume are confused by the red flashing lights on them). I then decided to get an Aramex shop and ship account to order the next pair. They did arrive, but I had ordered a size too big. My son was thrilled to have them, but could only clump around the house in flashing clown-sized shoes. He wore his sandals to Canada & once there, we finally bought him the right size shoes with flashing orange lights. Thankfully, I have another little boy, so whenever Q-Post decides to deliver the shoes, I can save them for my second son.

"Hey I put some new shoes on & suddenly everything is right" (Paulo Nutini).

Spray, Spew, Blow the man down!

Spray painting

We hosted a spray-painting craft for pre-schoolers at our home last week. Using old and new spray bottles (the kind you use for cleaning or spritzing your hair with water), we created amazing art on giant sheets of white paper. The results were fantastic and very colourful. We did it outdoors because it's very messy, but a simple hose-down and everything was quickly cleaned up.

Spewing & Blow-outs

Of course, the morning when we're planning to have a couple families over for brunch, our 11month old decides to have an upset tummy. When he vomits, it's not just a little that dribbles down his shirt; he sends it flying all over whatever and whomever might be a few feet away from him. After cleaning him up, I picked him up to comfort him. A few minutes later, I noticed a bad smell and some brown smears on my arm... uh oh! Yes, he had done a 'blow-out', the diaper had leaked & he had smeared it all over himself and me. Then it was into the shower for both of us and promptly into bed for him! I had to get brunch on because our guests were due to arrive in 10minutes and there I was in my skivvies with only a bit of spinach and onion fried up for the frittata that I had planned. Brunch did work out and the food did get made, but I was sure panicked for that hour!

Sunday, July 3, 2011

MacGyver and the Nip-Napper


My oldest seems to take after his father in many respects, both positive and negative. My husband is an amazing 'Jack-of-all-trades' and fixes, or finds someone to help him fix nearly everything around our house. His ability to repair & do handiman jobs is one of the traits I appreciate so much. Our son is trying to be just like his Papa. He takes whatever 'tools' he finds, sometimes hit toy tools and sometimes random utensils from the kitchen, to 'fix' his toy cars and trucks. The other day, he informed me that he was 'fixing' his toy car. I mumbled some positive reply and continued with the laundry. Sometime later, he appeared with a door-less, window-less toy car and proudly informed me that he had 'modified' his BMW. I asked what tools he had been using and he produced our wine opener and a tea-ball-strainer. How my 3 year old  managed to remove toy car doors & a windshield with those household objects, I will never know. I think that even MacGyver would have been impressed with those skills!
The 'tools' and removed car parts

The Nip-Napper

My husband and I LOVE the affectionate kisses, slobbers and hugs we receive from our two boys. As they have grown, those small acts of affection have changed from an open-mouthed, silent, slobbery sucking action to a quick hug or a silent peck on the cheek. Our favorite is the "AAAHH-BWAAAH!" kiss that our boys gave us from around 10 months through to 2 years. My husband enjoyed it so much, that he re-taught our 3 year old to kiss that way, even though he had started kissing normally with a slight smacking sound. Our younger son has just started giving those slightly slobbery "AAH-BWAH" kisses. He seems to notice that we like them & enjoys giving them to us repeatedly, especially after naps. However, recently he's started starting with the "AAH" part of the kiss and leans in as though to kiss, but does a large chomp on my shoulder or cheek. With only 4 teeth, he manages to clench his jaw so tightly that it inflicts a huge amount of pain. As a result, I shriek "OUCH!" He lets go & smiles at me. He got what he wanted: an exciting response. Regardless, we will continue to enjoy all those physical tokens of affection while we can because we know that a day will soon come when they won't want to be hugging or kissing us anymore.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Long Overdue: Father's Day

My husband is a wonderful Father. His parenting skills extend from wrestling diapers onto a wriggly baby to wrestling with a rambunctious pre-schooler, from re-wiring a baby mobile to re-routing wiring, so that the children won't be able to attack it, from creating simple meals when Mama is at her wit's end to simply putting up with Mama at her wit's end, from disposing of dead birds to reposing with earphones and a squalling newborn, and the list goes on. He's my 'Knight in Shining Armour' on many an evening when my patience has worn thin and the boys are heading into 'the witching hour'. He's devoted and dedicated to his family which means so much to me, especially in an era when the only thing anyone seems devoted or dedicated to is pleasing themselves, or making themselves look and feel better.

Each year since he become a father, we've made him a handprint in clay as a present from our oldest son. With 2 children, that would be a lot of clay and not easy to display, so we painted a picture for him, using handprints. It includes all three of our handprints and took more than a week to complete since each of the boys could only do a few prints at a time before getting bored, and because a lot of layering was needed. However, I was pleased with the end result. My oldest can't see the whole picture & when asked what it's a painting of, he says very matter-of-factly, "Handprints!"