Saturday, December 25, 2010
My boys believe in Santa. They also know the real meaning of Christmas, but I don't see any harm in the magic of Santa when you're 3 and 5 years old. Since the Finnish Santa comes to the door at Christmas Eve to deliver his gifts, we have always had a Finnish-speaking Santa. When I asked the boys to have their pictures taken with Santa at Metrotown, Joonas asked, " does that Santa speak Finnish?". When I said "no", he answered, "then, I'm not going". Not even candy would change his mind...
Matias really wanted a tiger airplane for Christmas. It's what he asked for every time that I asked what he wanted. Unfortunately, by the time I started looking for it, I couldn't find one anywhere. I had to tell him one day that I didn't think that the airplane was coming since they seemed to be sold out everywhere. He said, "That's okay mom. Santa and his elves can make me one. That's what they DO!! "
So, Matias wrote a letter to Santa. He has gotten pretty good about sounding out words and writing them down. In his letter, he asked for the tiger airplane. Or, he thought he did. On the morning of Christmas Eve, he suddenly realized that he had forgotten the word airplane. "Oh no!!!! Mom, what if Santa brings me a REAL tiger because I forgot to say tiger AIRPLANE". I assured him that Santa probably knew (in his magical way) what Matias had meant. He was so happy (and relieved) when Santa gave him a tiger airplane and not a jungle cat.
This year, we needed a new Santa since my youngest brother Tim (our usual Santa) was in Finland. My dad agreed to step in. So, we snuck our Santa suit into the trunk of the car in a big garbage bag. After dinner, my dad went downstairs and put on the costume. The kids were busy playing and didn't notice, but came running when they heard him knocking. They all looked very serious, like what if they didn't get any gifts...Everyone got a gift and no one cried (bonus). Afterwards, my nephew Noah had said that Santa was grandpa. The other kids seemed to have thought Santa was the real thing. At home, however, Matias observed that Santa looked like grandpa, specifically, he had grandpa's hands and grandpa's rings. After questioning how grandpa would've known about the tiger plane, Matias said, "well, it WASN'T grandpa, it just looked like him". Ah, ok. Glad we cleared that up.
Friday, December 17, 2010
I recently came across a movement that is becoming popular among parents who don’t want to hover over their children like helicopters: free-range kids. The idea behind free-range kids is that kids should be given the freedom to play and explore on their own. Kids can learn a lot if they are encouraged to really observe and interact with the world around them. They don’t need to have every minute of their day scheduled with piano, French, swimming, soccer, and whatever other lessons are out there.
But the modern parent is a helicopter parent. They are constantly hovering to make sure their kid is sufficiently entertained. Boredom is considered the result of bad parenting. Playdates are scheduled onto a calendar. If a kid’s feelings are hurt, the modern parent never says: “well, did you bug him first”, or “suck it up”. They phone the parent or arrange a conference with the teacher. Kids are not allowed to just BE or to figure stuff out on their own. There are also a lot of new (unnecessary) rules thanks to modern parenting: no snowballs, no tag, no Red Rover and a long list of other “dangerous” activities that were commonplace when I was growing up. Seriously? No tag? Yes, kids do sometimes get hurt. That’s life.
Kids do need adult supervision. They hit and they hate sharing. But they also need to be left alone, to figure out HOW to play nicely. You develop social skills by being in a social situation.
Granted, you need to expose kids to things you think they may be interested in, or good at, but it doesn’t need to be so regimented and scheduled. Yes, the world is a scary place and there are some real dangers around. You can no longer just send your kids out to play and call them back in at dinner. But, I think we need to find some balance. Kids need to have some time to figure out on their own how to amuse THEMSELVES.
Thursday, December 16, 2010
I belong to a Facebook group called “Vähemmän, Hitaammin”, which translated directly means Less, Slower. Life seems to all about results, speed, getting more, rising to the top, being the best, having the most…the list goes on.
The group, on the other hand, is about slowing down. Consciously deciding to rest, think, give up, choose less. So, that’s what I’m doing. I am choosing to slow down and enjoy my life as it happens. Taking little moments to really enjoy my coffee. Finding time to play cards with the boys, and to fully engage in doing so. Giving up less time for things like tv. Stopping to listen to music; listen without multitasking on something else.
Saturday, December 4, 2010
I love Christmas! Our tree is up, as are all our decorations and lights. This goes totally against the Finn in me. In Finland, the tree is not brought in until a few days before Christmas eve, sometimes as late as the actual eve itself. But that doesn't work for me. The best part of Christmas is the anticipation. The quietness of enjoying the sights, sounds and smells of Christmas before the crazy starts. My favourite thing to do is sit in the living room by myself (once the kids have gone to bed), listen to Christmas music and stare at the tree. This year, my favourite musician has been Chris Botti, who I only discovered recently. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n64lX4yhDY4
Friday, November 12, 2010
One of my friends decided to try for 25 random acts of kindness before the end of the year. I have decided to join her, but being me, I came up with some rules. Well, not rules really, but guidelines that would help define what a random act of kindness would entail for me. First, I decided that I would try to do kindness without money. I could not just go out and buy 25 cute little gifts to give away, since that would be too easy. I may at some point pay for a stranger’s coffee or parking meter, especially if I am running out of random acts to perform, but in principle, no money. Second, wherever possible, I would give the gift of time. For example, I would give about 8 hours of my time to Matias’ school. Although the volunteering would take place over several weeks, it would only count as one random act. Third, I decided random didn’t necessarily have to mean spontaneous. For example, the volunteering is scheduled; I can’t just show up to help out when I “randomly” feel like it. Or, if I decide to have someone over for coffee, I have to schedule it early enough so that I have time to clean. And bake. But mostly clean…Anyway, I will post my list (maybe) in the new year of my random acts of kindness.
Saturday, November 6, 2010
Friday, October 15, 2010
Wednesday, October 13, 2010
I like trying new recipes. But I find one particular kind of cuisine more challenging than most. Asian. I know that’s a broad category, but, mostly I mean Chineses and Thai food. I have found that more than with any other kind of cuisine, Asian food is an exact science. The kind/brand of sesame oil, or rice vinegar, or soy sauce makes a difference. The blend of ingredients has to be just right, or it tastes “off”. Or it doesn’t taste like anything, just horribly bland. I have made “bad” pad thai, chow mein, lemon chicken and more. I suppose I could blame the cook (me), but I choose to believe that the recipes have been at fault. Or the quality of the ingredients. Anyway. Today, I tested a recipe for Spicy Sesame Noodle Salad (from Chatelaine magazine). I plan to tweak it next time with some chicken and maybe some extra veggies, but even as is, following the recipe exactly, it was a keeper. Here it is:
- 1 head broccoli
- 1/2 (500 g) pkg spaghetti or fettuccine
- 3 tbsp (45 mL) dark sesame oil
- 1 egg
- 3 tbsp (45 mL) olive oil
- 2 tbsp (30 mL) rice wine vinegar
- 2 tbsp (30 mL) soy sauce, preferably light
- 1/2 tsp (2 mL) each hot chili flakes, coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 red pepper, thinly sliced
- 1 cup (250 mL) coarsely chopped cilantro
- 2 green onions, thinly sliced
- 1/3 cup (75 mL) chopped unsalted peanuts
· To cook pasta, bring a large saucepan of water to a boil over high heat. Add pasta and boil until al dente, 8 to 10 min. Meanwhile, slice florets from broccoli, then cut into small pieces. Add broccoli to boiling pasta water for last 2 min of cooking. Drain pasta and broccoli, then return both to saucepan.
· Meanwhile, heat 1 tbsp (15 mL) sesame oil in a small frying pan, preferably non-stick, set over medium-high heat. In a small bowl, whisk egg, then pour into pan. Tilt pan to make a thin omelette. Cook just until egg is set and light brown, about 30 sec to 1 min per side. Turn onto a cutting board. When cool, roll up and thinly slice into strips. Set aside.
· In a small bowl, stir olive oil with rice wine vinegar, soy sauce, chili flakes, salt and pepper. In a small frying pan, set over medium-low heat, add remaining 2 tbsp (30 mL) sesame oil. Add garlic and red pepper. Stir often until pepper begins to soften, 2 to 3 min. Turn over noodles and stir in olive oil mixture. Add cilantro, green onions and peanuts. Toss to mix. Taste and add more salt and pepper, if needed.
Saturday, October 9, 2010
I am an avid reader. Anyone who knows me knows that I find time to read no matter how busy my life is. As an avid reader, I really hope that my kids also become avid readers because I think that reading is so strongly connected to good literacy skills.
So far, so good. I often find the boys lying down on the living room floor reading to themselves, or to each other. They also love the library and have had their own cards (almost) since birth. They approach one of us many times a day with books under their arms and ask us to read aloud to them. I love that they love books.
That's why I found the latest article in the NY Times about parents forbidding the reading of picture books so appalling. Apparently parents are feeling pressure for "little Johnny" to get ahead. In order for that to happen, they think that picture books should be discouraged after kindergarten. What?? I love picture books. In fact, I read them to grade 3s. Picture books can have a lot of thought-provoking ideas. Plus they are usually beautifully illustrated and not too long. But whether the vocabulary is simple or sophisticated, I think that the number one most important thing to get kids reading is to capture their interest and imagination. Reading should be fun. And entertaining. You should WANT to do it.
I have not met too many kids who are such voracious readers by grade one that a chapter book would maintain their interest. In fact, quite frankly, a lot of the early chapter books are quite boring; the text needs to be very simplistic for an early reader to be able to decipher it.
So, I would rather see Matias reading picture books all through his primary years than to see him turned off of reading completely.
(If you're interested, here is the link to the NY Times article http://www.nytimes.com/2010/10/08/us/08picture.html?_r=1&pagewanted=1&ref=general&src=me )
Tuesday, October 5, 2010
I recently had a conversation with someone who scoffed at the idea that safety has become the number one priority in schools. I think he was mainly thinking of safety in terms of school violence (knives, guns etc). Granted, real physical violence is important and probably a much greater problem than say 20 years ago. However, I think that safety takes on a much broader context within schools today and really is of primary importance.
Schools today focus much more on the student as a whole being. It isn’t just about whether you can memorize your timestables or name all the planets. Or even about whether you can read and add/subtract. Learning cannot take place in a meaningful way if your needs as a whole person are not being met. If you are starving. Or if you are uncomfortable and fear ridicule and scorn from your classmates (or teacher). If you are being bullied. If you have been made to believe that you are stupid.
In an ideal world, children come to school from stable loving homes. The schools they come to are welcoming. Everyone is friendly and courteous and helpful. Teachers are caring and inspirational. Everybody’s opinion is valued and they know it; there is no risk involved in voicing your opinion.
However, if a student feels ashamed, or not good enough. If he is scared to have an opinion in case he is laughed at or worse. If he feels alone, without any friends. If he is taunted. If he is…(the list goes on) Then, in all of these cases, I would say that the bottom line is that he doesn’t feel safe. And if he doesn’t feel safe, then he is not ready, or perhaps even able, to learn. At best, he is distracted and unfocused because of all these other worries that fill up most of his mind.
So yes, to me, safety is important. With students, it is especially true that “if you don’t care about them, they don’t care about your ideas”.
Friday, September 10, 2010
“For those unfamiliar with the expression, “To Eat Crow” (or “eating crow”) is an American English expression which refers to humbling yourself by admitting that a previously (and often strongly) stated opinion was wrong or incorrect.” (The linguistic mystic provided the definition).
As I’ve openly admitted before, I tend to have strong opinions. I tend to be an extremist. I try to see things as shades of gray, and yet I find myself evaluating everything as black or white. I don’t have a lot of mild reactions, or indifference or tempered opinions. I hate it or I love it. I love coffee, reading, bread, chocolate. I hate ketchup, seafood, Charles Dickens, rude people, traffic, arrogance etc. Although I think that it is good to have strong opinions and spinelessness drives me absolutely crazy, there are some drawbacks to being so definite in my opinions. Namely, I have to eat a lot of crow. This really sucks, since I don’t like eating crow. Who does?! Here are some examples of my crow-eating culinary delights of late:
When Matias was born, I used to wonder how one of my friends ended up with such a wild child. I secretly wondered, was it her parenting? I thought I was such a great parent because Matias was quiet and obedient and well-mannered. I would never let my kid run around wild like hers did. Then I had Joonas.
I used to belong to a Facebook group called something like, “I don’t care how comfortable those Crocs (shoes) are, you look like an idiot”. Then someone bought Matias some crocs and they looked super cute. I left the group.
When I was younger I used to say that “I would never marry someone from Finland and definitely NOT someone younger than me”. Need I tell you that Pentti is born and raised in Finland and two years younger than me?
I have always touted the evils of open area classrooms. Guess where I am currently working? And guess again whether I have to begrudgingly admit that I rather like it?!
I promised anyone who would listen that I would never go to another concert at GM Place. I went to a terrible Il Divo concert, which was mostly terrible due to the venue. A huge stadium with acoustics that aren’t great, sticky floors and a smell of beer, popcorn and urine isn’t my idea of a worthy concert hall. But then Michael Buble came to town. At GM Place. Yes, I went.
I have always been a firm believer in the public school system. I would certainly never put my child into a private school. Well…I still absolutely believe in the public system. But when it’s chronically underfunded and unstable, you have to rethink your stance a little bit. Especially when we are suddenly talking about my own kid, starting his first year of school. Yup. Private it is.
I would never have kids and then get someone else to look after them. Oops. Turns out I am a better mom when I get out of the house sometimes. Right now as I write this I am on emergency parenthood leave and loving it. But I do plan to go back to work. And yes, I will require the help of someone else to watch my kids.
When Uggs came out I thought they were the ugliest thing ever. I couldn’t believe people would spend good money on them. Guess what I’m secretly dreaming of buying? Yup. Uggs. They look so comfortable. And actually kind of cute. What’s next shoe booties? Now those things are truly disgusting. Well, at least that’s what I think today. But how about a year from now? Will I still be firm, or will I see some cute pair somewhere that will make me forget??? Perhaps I’ll put off condemning them on the off chance that in a week, or a month, or a year I’ll change my mind and have to eat crow again. Because quite frankly, I don’t like eating crow. I’m tired of it. And no, it doesn’t taste like chicken…
PS. If you happen to have been at the receiving end of one of my extreme, “I will never” opinions, you have the right to take pleasure in my crow-eating experiences of late.
Monday, September 6, 2010
Wednesday, September 1, 2010
Tuesday, August 10, 2010
2 cups flour
1 3/4 cups sugar
2 beaten eggs
2 tsp baking soda
1 cup chopped nuts (walnuts or pecans)
1- 19 ounce can of crushed pineapple and juice (unsweetened)
Mix all ingredients together with spoon or wooden spatula.
Pour into 9 x 13 pan.
Bake for approx. 35 mins at 325.
For frosting, mix together following and pour over cake as soon as it's out of the oven.
8 oz. cream cheese (almost a whole 250g package of Philly)
1 stick margarine (1/4 lb)
2 cups icing sugar
1 tsp vanilla
Cool cake. Put in fridge and serve the next day.
Monday, August 9, 2010
by Author Unknown
To laugh is to risk appearing the fool.
To weep is to risk appearing sentimental.
To reach for another is to risk involvement.
To expose your ideas, your dreams,
before a crowd is to risk their loss.
To love is to risk not being loved in return.
To live is to risk dying.
To believe is to risk despair.
To try is to risk failure.
But risks must be taken, because the
greatest hazard in life is to risk nothing.
The people who risk nothing, do nothing,
have nothing, are nothing.
They may avoid suffering and sorrow,
but they cannot learn, feel, change,
grow, love, live.
Chained by their attitudes they are slaves;
they have forfeited their freedom.
Only a person who risks is free.
I have to laugh at myself. I was looking through archives of my blog and found a piece I had written a few years ago about how change is evil. Fast forward to present-day and I am advocating taking risks.
But. This is a good thing. I have (hopefully) changed and grown as a person and so my opinions have evolved. In the last year or so, I have consciously decided to get out of my comfort zone. I have signed up for things which have scared me or made me feel uncomfortable. Some of the risks have been successful and some have not. But every single one has been a learning experience. Even a risk that has resulted in failure has still produced new understanding and knowledge. But, if you risk nothing, you gain nothing.
Thursday, May 27, 2010
I came across this quote in a magazine and it really struck a chord. See, I have this overwhelming desire/need/obsession to be right. All the time. Ask Pentti…he knows.
Well, I have decided that I need to let go of being right all the time. Having strong opinions and knowing what’s right is commendable, but I tend to do that to a fault. If my opinion is always the right one, then that means everyone else is always WRONG. That’s not possible. And, it’s highly self-righteous and obnoxious. So, I’ve come up with a new motto, which is actually found in the Bible: “Make every effort to live in peace with all men and to be holy”. Don’t know how long it’ll last, but I’m gonna give it a try.
Sunday, May 16, 2010
-if a notice comes home that says “cut here”, I will cut it and keep the top half that is for me
-I will show up for conferences with the teacher, (preferably at the scheduled time)
-I will not ask the teacher to provide extra homework if I choose to take my child out of school
-if the teacher has a rule, like no birthday cakes to school, then I will NOT bring a birthday cake to school
-I will not buy cheap crap from the dollar store as a gift; a $5 gift card to Starbucks is always a better choice or even just a handmade card
-I will not drop off my older son with the younger one in tow and then hang around after the bell letting the younger sibling run wild in the classroom
-I will make sure my child is on time for school
-I will check my child’s backpack for notices etc
-I will not use the classroom as an economical birthday party venue and waste an entire afternoon of class time having a birthday party for my child
-if notices and permission slips are not returned, I will take responsibility rather than blaming my child
-I will not phone the classroom teacher/my child during school hours unless it’s an emergency
-I will not send chips and cookies with pop as a lunch for my child
-I will not refuse to pick up my child if he is sick
-If my child is not super keen about school, I will try to find a way to make it interesting, rather than resorting to medication to “help him focus”
-I will not go to the school to video every single dance/walk/pajama day/etc
-I will not send my child to school if he is sick
-I will not send my child to school with money, toys, or shoes that light up and/or sing
-I will not refuse to meet my child’s teacher saying “I’m too busy”
These are the ones that come to mind right now. Sadly, they are all things that I have witnessed at school. Some are trivial, like forgetting to cut the notice on the dotted line. Others are plain sad. I hope that next year, when I become the “parent” in the parent-teacher relationship, I could have a positive relationship with my child’s teacher. I have had the privilege to work with many wonderful parents and I aspire to be like them.
Saturday, April 3, 2010
I really love my boys. They are so cute and funny. They constantly surprise me and say things that make me laugh. And yet, there are things that I miss sometimes, from those carefree days before kids...
-sleeping in. I am lucky since Pentti often gets up with the boys, but then I feel really guilty, so this still applies.
-putting on clothes in the morning and not worrying that anyone would wipe his face, nose or jammy hands (or worse) on them
-leaving the house without a suitcase full of wipes, extra food, extra clothes, toys etc.
-being able to leave my stuff anywhere and everywhere and knowing that no one else would touch it, or mess with it, or break it
-eating in peace. without having to share.
-spontaneity, as in being able to leave the house in minutes. Now, there are potty breaks, negotiations, tantrums, packing that suitcase of "stuff" to bring along. It is not possible to leave the house, be in the car and on the road in less than 20 minutes. Am I doing something wrong?
Despite all these, I enjoy the boys so much! I (obviously) wouldn't trade them for anything. Still, there are things that I miss about pre-kid life.
Monday, March 8, 2010
So, I was really surprised to hear over and over on last night's show that they were announcing the WINNER. Good for whoever made that decision. Because let's face it. If I run a race, or take a test, I care who wins. Let's not pretend that we are all winners, since come on, some people are losers. And if we're really honest, all people are losers...at something. So tell the truth.
And since we're on this topic, who are we really helping in pretending that no one ever fails? Some of my friends who have kids have laughed at how teachers (like me) write report cards so that you need a degree in report card encoding in order to understand them. They are right, but it wasn't my decision to hide the truth. Because that's what we're really doing. Instead of coming out and saying your kid is disruptive and has no friends because he annoys everyone around him, I have to say something like "X has found the class expectations to be challenging and is working on becoming a group member". The latter statement may be easier to swallow, but wouldn't you rather know the truth?
Maybe not. Maybe people want to be lied to because the truth is too hard to deal with. Not me. I believe in healthy competition. I believe that in order to grow as a person you have to be self-aware enough to realize that you have failures in certain areas. That you need to try harder if you want to be first. That someone who comes in first deserves recognition. Yes, I also believe in the importance of the journey and trying to do your personal best. But at the same time, let's not kid ourselves and hide the truth.
Monday, January 25, 2010
Unfortunately, I have come across a lot of people who fit into the latter category. Since I work with primarily teachers, a lot of these “hoarders” that I have run into lately have been teachers. I find this highly ironic. Teachers are the ones who teach social responsibility. They are the ones that you find constantly droning on and on about sharing and working together. And yet, the reality is that a lot of teachers are hyper sensitive, hermit types who hoard all their ideas and lessons and resources to themselves. They don’t share.
Thankfully, there are also those who fit into the former category. Teachers who offer you books, and lessons, and music and even entire units. Teachers who clean out their bookshelves and donate extra books to you. Teachers whose support you can count on.
Teaching to me is (or should be) collegial. Teachers should be engaged in an ongoing conversation about practise and theory and ideas. Teachers should be role models of sharing and communicating and working together.
So, last week I was faced with a dilemma. I had gotten some cool units on the Olympics from an awesome teacher friend. Should I share them with my colleagues? Normally, this would be a no-brainer, but these were colleagues who had never shared with me and had in fact gone out of their way to exclude me. Should I be the bigger person? Should I act according to my beliefs or according to what they deserved? I decided (begrudgingly) to be the bigger person and share. May I never become one of "those" teachers who forgets that everything I need to know (about sharing) I learned in kindergarten.
PS. The teachers did not so much as glance at the units I offered. I am wondering whether perhaps the hoarder-types are also all-knowing and not in need of any help from anyone?
Wednesday, January 6, 2010
1. Life isn’t fair, but it’s still good.
2. When in doubt, just take the next small step.
3. Life is too short to waste time hating anyone.
4. Don’t take yourself so seriously. No one else does.
5. Pay off your credit cards every month.
6. You don’t have to win every argument. Agree to disagree.
7. Cry with someone. It’s more healing than crying alone.
8. It’s OK to get angry with God. He can take it.
9. Save for retirement starting with your first paycheck.
10. When it comes to chocolate, resistance is futile.
11. Make peace with your past so it won’t screw up the present.
12. It’s OK to let your children see you cry.
13. Don’t compare your life to others’. You have no idea what their journey is all about.
14. If a relationship has to be a secret, you shouldn’t be in it.
15. Everything can change in the blink of an eye. But don’t worry; God never blinks.
16. Life is too short for long pity parties. Get busy living, or get busy dying.
17. You can get through anything if you stay put in today.
18. A writer writes. If you want to be a writer, write.
19. It’s never too late to have a happy childhood. But the second one is up to you and no one else.
20. When it comes to going after what you love in life, don’t take no for an answer.
21. Burn the candles, use the nice sheets, wear the fancy lingerie. Don’t save it for a special occasion. Today is special.
22. Overprepare, then go with the flow.
23. Be eccentric now. Don’t wait for old age to wear purple.
24. The most important sex organ is the brain.
25. No one is in charge of your happiness except you.
26. Frame every so-called disaster with these words: “In five years, will this matter?”
27. Always choose life.
28. Forgive everyone everything.
29. What other people think of you is none of your business.
30. Time heals almost everything. Give time time.
31. However good or bad a situation is, it will change.
32. Your job won’t take care of you when you are sick. Your friends will. Stay in touch.
33. Believe in miracles.
34. God loves you because of who God is, not because of anything you did or didn’t do.
35. Whatever doesn’t kill you really does make you stronger.
36. Growing old beats the alternative - dying young.
37. Your children get only one childhood. Make it memorable.
38. Read the Psalms. They cover every human emotion.
39. Get outside every day. Miracles are waiting everywhere.
40. If we all threw our problems in a pile and saw everyone else’s, we’d grab ours back.
41. Don’t audit life. Show up and make the most of it now.
42. Get rid of anything that isn’t useful, beautiful or joyful.
43. All that truly matters in the end is that you loved.
44. Envy is a waste of time. You already have all you need.
45. The best is yet to come.
46. No matter how you feel, get up, dress up and show up.
47. Take a deep breath. It calms the mind.
48. If you don’t ask, you don’t get.
50. Life isn’t tied with a bow, but it’s still a gift.