Funky Monkey Photography: Spring is in Session

We were honoured to be asked by Funky Monkey to be models for their spring session.   As you know, we LOVED all the shots of our girls and our family during their Christmas promotion.  With many new backgrounds (I am so in love with the arrow background) and colours to choose from, it was hard to decide.  Luckily, James is a pro and he had it all in check.

Now besides all the amazing lighting and props that are always there, I first have to mention this.  Our two eldest daughters are generally shy girls (we left Baby C out of this session because I wanted James to have girls who could take fast direction).  It takes them a while to warm up to people and I’m including close friends and family.  Only seeing James for the second time, he had them in giggles and totally at ease.  Maybe it was the ease of the shoot or the fact they remembered his famous line, “Bingo bongo!”  It could’ve been the fact that he opened the session with a cool swing and they realized, “Hey, this is gonna be awesome!”  Whatever it was, I was in awe that he could make those two so comfortable.  They were into the photos, brought their great smiles, and tried whatever poses he suggested.  It was a fun time for all.

Like the Christmas shoot, the studio is always updating their stock and this time it was another enormous selection of backdrops and floor drops.  They had brick backgrounds, flowers, fields, patterns, you name it and it was there (he has a cool storage nook for his backdrops under the stairs too – excellent use of space.).  My favourite was the weathered wood floor drop and the matching background.  The cool thing about floor drops I learned was that they can be made of many materials and this one felt like felt.  They also come in vinyl, linen, canvas, and plastic.  The combinations are endless and really sets the tone and look of the photos.

The shoot took slightly over an hour, but time flew by with the enormous amount of choices we had.  If your little one is ready for some commemorative pictures (the only problem will be selecting your favourites) or you are finally ready for a set of family photos, think of Funky Monkey and the whole experience!  If you want a fun photographer and organized partner who helps with bookings and answers all questions fast, give them a shout.  Trust me, you will have a great time!

Contact them now by calling or texting: 416.997.0814.

 

 

 

Unionville Festival

       This past weekend, we popped by the Unionville Festival on Main Street to get our fill of parades and treats for the start of the summer.  It was amazing weather on Saturday so we spent some time soaking up the rays.  We arrived about half an hour before the parade began.  Usually, the hot spots are taken up already, but I think people were just milling around.  We managed to grab our favourite curb across from Starbucks.   We were excited to see how Baby C would like it.

      The parade lasted about an hour and we saw many local businesses such as dance studios, local clubs, and politicians with floats and participants handing out candy and treats.  The kids enjoyed it except for the gun blasts at the start.  They were quite loud and right in front of us.  We saw the huge horses up close, a school bus (Baby C LOVES them), and a fire engine.  To celebrate Canada’s 150th birthday this year, volunteers handed out flags.  There was free face painting and Freezies for the kids.  We saw lots of dogs and babies all out enjoying the great weather.  Our friend and coach of Big H’s basketball team had a booth to promote his basketball camp.  We ran into a couple of friends who also attend this annual event.  Local merchants sold soap, jewellery, dresses, fresh bread, and toys.  There was a big selection of food including corn, stinky tofu, and burgers.  There was a big Pikachu walking around and some clowns taking pictures with kids.

          We left around noon as Baby C was starting to get tired and we had been up pretty early that day.  Big H stayed with her friends at the basketball tent, popping over to other tents to make slime.  We enjoyed some fresh mango slush on the way back to our car.  It certainly reminded us that summer is just around the corner.  Can’t wait for more 25C days!

Meal Planning 101

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With so many things on the go, the last thing I want to stress over is food.  I’ve always meal-planned, but lately, the process has been fine tuned and everything seems to go quite smoothly.  My process starts on a Wednesday when my favourite flyer app, Flipp, comes out with next week’s flyers for our closest grocery store.  I plan the menu for the week, sometimes based on sales and other times just using the flyer for inspiration. After menu planning comes the store visit on a Saturday morning.  If you go early enough, no one is there and it’s a pleasant walk through produce and meat.  Sometimes, I’m even lucky enough to wrangle an older daughter to come with me for the trip.  Most times, I go at it alone and I find it relaxing.  The funny thing is, no matter how many things I have to get or whoever comes with me, it’s usually an hour trip. Going alone is easier though because then I’m not entertaining Baby C or convincing my girls that zucchini really is as delicious as its cousin, the cucumber.

Sundays are meal prep days.  Although it doesn’t take a full day, it does take a busy three to four hours depending on how much chopping is involved.  A typical menu for the week may consist of using my Instant Pot at least once, some stir fry, and perhaps, something going in the oven.  I also try to plan healthy breakfasts to go for four of us (Baby C eats at daycare) and also snacks and lunches.

When I was on maternity leave, every night we had a different meal.  Oh, how spoiled they were!  LOL.  Now, I will often double Sunday’s meal and Tuesday’s meals.  Even though Hip Teacher Dada and I finish early at work, we don’t leave right away.  From coaching to planning and marking to the gym, we don’t usually get home until around 5:30 p.m.  Having something ready to heat up is much easier than doing an hour of cooking every night.

This is our menu for the week:

Girls’ Breakfast: fruit and yogurt parfait (granola sprinkled in the morning)

Parents’ Breakfast: chia seed pudding with fruit (granola sprinkled in the morning)

Girls’ Lunch: cheese, pita, veggie sticks and chicken drumsticks

Parents’ Lunch: salad with berries, chicken, and egg

Dinner: shepherd’s pie and broccoli, honey garlic drumsticks with rice and mixed veg (roasted mushroom, onion, peppers, and carrots), omelette with toast and asparagus

Snacks: fruit cups with apple, pear, strawberries, and cherries, veggie sticks with dip, and carrot muffins

As you see, the menu is simple and healthy.  On the weekends, we usually eat out, grab take-out, or have events with family and friends.  I’ll do a more substantial breakfast on weekends like crepes or waffles.   I will try to avoid making Sunday plans because I know being home sets up the rest of the week for success.  I try to mix up my protein so that no one gets bored of the menu and in the summer, we will barbecue.  Last week, we had shrimp wraps, chicken alfredo, and homemade chicken fingers.  Making up dinner menus is fun and often, Facebook feeds and cooking shows serve as inspiration.  Sometimes I just ask the girls what they want and we’ll just go with that.  Chatting about food with friends is also a regular thing so sometimes I get cravings so my menu is already done.

What about you?  Do you meal plan and prep on Sunday?  Any special tips to share?

 

 

 

 

Editor’s Pick: AquaMermaid

Have you ever watched The Little Mermaid and wondered what it was like to be so free, so swift, and beautiful under the water?  My eldest daughter certainly has and she had the wonderful experience of being Ariel (at least for the hour) at Aquamermaid in downtown Toronto.  She enjoyed her trial swim class and the time seemed to fly, er, swim by.  The class was held at University Settlement Recreation Centre (near the Art Gallery of Ontario).

Leah, an instructor, for almost two years, said that a great part of the experience was taking her favourite swim move, the butterfly stroke, and extending it to the dolphin swim.  She enjoys teaching the kids because it’s a fun experience that puts everyone on an equal playing field.  Everyone (boys and men too) can put on a mermaid tail and experience the freedom of swimming in the open water.  They have a merman instructor too and birthday parties are open to everyone.  They’ve had boys and girls for parties and everyone’s had a good time.  Certainly, the photo ops are awesome!

They started with an introduction and created a mermaid name.  After choosing their new monikers, they wiggled into their mermaid tails (made of stretch fabric that goes up to the waist and beyond) and learned some basics of mermaid movements.  For people with tiny feet, thick socks or swim shoes are recommended.  The main requirement is to swim independently for 25 metres, but Leah made an exception for my daughter and she wore a life jacket for the experience.  She had a blast!  From diving underwater to gathering colourful rings tossed into the pool to using a pool noodle to propel forward to swimming through a hoop, the girls couldn’t stop smiling.  Not only is the activity fun, it looks like a great cardio workout.  I felt tired just watching them go.

Not only is it a novel idea, the physical benefits are enormous.  Since the legs are bound together, it keeps the swimmer in good form for a dolphin kick.  This move is apparently incredible for the abs so I can see why grown women are into this new hobby.  I saw another little girl (who is a very advance swimmer) swim the length of the pool back and forth and it certainly was enchanting.  I was mesmerized by how fluently she swam.  There was also a party in session and the girls played games while a mom also joined in the fun.

While we were wrapping up, a group of young ladies came to wait on the bench.  They were clearly there for a bachelorette party.  What a fun idea!  It reminded me of Ariel and her sisters (yes, I’m a Disney fanatic).  They looked super excited for their swim and I couldn’t blame them (totally made me want to take swim lessons.  Am I missing out?)!  Glistening tail, fun games, and a solid cardio workout?  Somebody grab me a tail, stat!

If you are interested and want to dive right in (see what I did there), please check out their website at here and book your free trial.

INTERVIEW WITH Sarah Hicks: TORONTO SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA GUEST CONDUCTOR

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Sarah Hicks, the conductor for the Toronto Symphony Orchestra’s Disney’s Ratatouille, was gracious enough to take the time to answer some questions for me about music, the industry, and kids and music.  Here is what unfolded.

HTM: Welcome to Toronto!  You picked a great time to make your debut as Winterlicious (annual food event in Toronto where popular and high-end restaurants have special lunch and dinner prix fixe menus) just wrapped up.   Is cooking something you enjoy?

SH: I loooove to cook.  I grew up with a mom who went to cooking school in her youth so I picked up a lot of pointers growing up.  I love the tactile and meditative qualities of chopping and mixing and sauteing.  And, of course, eating is fun too.

HTM: How did you choose Ratatouille as your next performance?

SH: Conductors don’t necessarily get to choose what they’re going to do – at least I don’t as I’m booked all around the world to conduct various films as orchestras want to perform them.

HTM: That’s amazing!  Did the movie that appeal because of the food aspect?

SH: Pixar stuff is so genius.  And Michael Giacchino writes the most charming scores!  Have you seen UP?  That’s his music too.

(*I have seen UP and some scenes were particularly difficult to watch due to past health reasons).

HTM:  You trained at Harvard and have spent many years travelling around the U.S. and being a part of different orchestras. You’ve also worked in Korea and overseas.  Is there a particular city you’ve enjoyed the most and can you tell me a bit about it?

SH: It’s too hard to choose a single favorite, but I’ve most recently really enjoyed working in Prague with the Czech National Orchestra on a Frank Zappa project.  They’re a great group, the music was really out of the box, and being in that beautiful city is always so special.  (I lived there in the 90’s for a year, so that’s part of it too).  Film side note:  did you know that “Amadeus” was filmed there?

HTM: I’ve watched Amadeus numerous times as a child.  Some scenes were just embarrassing to watch with my family, but it’s a great movie.  (Ha ha.)  I’ve read that you started out with piano, but due to health reasons, you turned to conducting.  Your dad told you to “stop crying” and “you can still hold a stick.”   How did you manage to accept that harsh reality and turn that into a positive?

SH: I think kids are more resilient than we think – certainly looking back at my 17 year old self I give myself credit for being able to bounce back from disappointment, but I also think of it as accepting a new challenge;  I’m always looking for things to master or conquer or kick butt at, so I think that had a lot to do with it.

HTM: Perseverance is a virtue I always try to instill in my students and yours is a real-life example.  I’m not sure how the conducting world works.   Tryouts?   Have you ever missed out on the job you wanted?  What did you say to yourself to bounce back on your feet?

SH: Conducting is a tough profession.  In my early days, I certainly went to tons of auditions (there can be a hundred candidates for a single spot).  It’s challenging from a practical standpoint because if you think about it, an orchestra may have 100 musicians in it, but there is only a single conductor.  So jobs are pretty scarce.  I’ve certainly not gotten jobs I wanted.  And often you have little choice in where you end up living because you need to go where the gig is.  Very few conductors make their living simply conducting – many also teach or play or have non-performing jobs as well.  I feel lucky to be doing this full-time.  As for getting back on my feet after a disappointment, I remind myself “this is the life I chose.”  It ain’t easy, but the rewards for me are worth the disappointments and rejections.

HTM:  That’s a wonderful attitude to take.  You’ve been great at merging pop and classical in the past working with artists such as Sting. You present yourself as not only as a strong conductor, but I feel someone who is very comfortable in her own skin, a bit of a rock star.  Are women growing in this industry as conductors and not just musicians?

SH: Absolutely.  There’s a ton of young female talent out there, so different from even a generation ago.

HTMHow have you been treated as a female conductor? 

SH: Musicians generally don’t care what you are as long as you know what you’re doing, but I have gotten a lot of comments on what I wear (sleeveless tops) and my hair (I don’t put it up, ponytails give me headaches and I like it long and down).  I don’t think men would garner the same sort of attention for their appearance.

HTM:   I can totally see that.  Have you faced any challenges in the profession in general?

SH: I think men and women have different approaches to leadership.  Not to generalize too much, but men can get away with being a bit more authoritarian – if a woman behaved in the same way she risks the backlash of being called “difficult” or worse (b**** comes to mind).  I tend to lead more by persuasion and consensus and with the understanding that everyone has their own individual responsibility and my job is to create a cohesive vision out of it.  It’s a slight different approach than some are accustomed to, but generally people start to understand my groove pretty quickly when I’m working with them.

HTM:  I understand.  It’s still different how men and women are viewed in a leadership role.  Now what do you think about technology?  It is everywhere now.  At school, I came back from maternity leave to a school with whiteboards instead of blackboards, iPads and Airplay instead of overheads and transparencies.  What’s your take on technology and music these days?  Does it take away from the basics of sound or enhances them?   Do you like incorporating technology when you compose?  Does the TSO use it?

SH: That’s an interesting one.  I think of technology and music, from a performing standpoint, as incorporating things like film and amplification.  I think there’s a place for everything.  I’ve even done a piece with a live DJ onstage, which was totally fun.  I don’t really compose anymore.

HTM: That’s too bad.   Finally, my students are really into music.  They are usually into Top 40.  If I could introduce a few symphonies to them, what would you recommend?  Do you have a favourite composer?

SH: In terms of accessible music I think of pieces like Ravel’s Bolero, Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker Suite and The Triumphal March from Verdi’s opera, Aida.  My favorite composer changes a lot, depending on mood.  I love Chopin and Mahler and Bartok and Mozart for different reasons at different times, but nothing cleanses the mind and soul like Bach!

Thanks very much to Sarah for taking the time out of her extremely busy schedule to answer my questions about music and the industry.  Wishing her well in the future and certainly, an open invite to pop into my classroom whenever she’s in town!

Please check out the Toronto Symphony Orchestra here.

EDITOR’S PICK: Toronto Symphony Orchestra Disney’s Ratatouille

    We attended the Toronto Symphony Orchestra’s performance of Disney’s Ratatouille about a month ago. We arrived about thirty minutes early and had a chance to explore the beautiful venue.  My older girls have never been to Roy Thomson Hall before.  They loved the large circular layout and the high ceilings.  They were excited to see the snack venues as well as the baby grand piano in the foyer.  We enjoyed a beautiful sunny walk as we parked at the Eaton Centre so we were doubly excited for the performance because the sun just brightens up our moods!

      The doors opened late and a few of the kids outside were getting a little antsy.  Luckily, popcorn and snacks were abundant and subdued most of them.  It was adorable seeing some young attendees all dolled up for the big show.  The buzz was in the air and I overheard a couple of the kids oohing and aahing over the seats as we entered.  It was adorable to witness!

    The orchestra was introduced as well as the guest conductor, Sarah Hicks. This was her Toronto debut as she has worked all over the world from the U.S. to Japan.  As prominent as RTH is, once inside, everything seemed even more grand and yet intimate.  We had seats near the back and yet our view was still amazing.  (I had a scheduled interview with Sarah, but due to time zones and her busy schedule, we were only able to touch base via text.  Once she has a chance to answer my interview via email, I will write another post.)

     Once the movie began, it was enchanting.  I almost didn’t realize the frequency of sound in a movie like Ratatouille until I noticed and anticipated when the musicians picked up their instruments.  I braced for the bravado of the music, the strings of the violins, and the staccato of the notes.  We LOVED every moment of it and soon it was intermission.  I spent quite a bit of time watching the musicians too because it was just amazing to see their passion come through their instruments.  Without them, the silence of the movie certainly wouldn’t have moved me as much as it did.  The music touches all emotions (yes, I cried) and stirs up memories.  It was a great flick for foodies and aspiring cooks alike (my girls love food and cooking and constantly obsess over the latest food competition shows).  Seeing it come alive, however, is a whole new experience!

    Ratatouille is the story about a little rat named Remy who is a connoisseur of French cuisine.  It’s not enough for him to be satisfied (much like his brothers are) with a piece of stale bread and moldy cheese.  He will create scrumptious dishes based on the remnants he finds from various trash bins around Paris.  Lucky for Remy, his circumstances and his new friend, Alfredo Linguini, land them both in the finest restaurant in the city.  With a mean head chef and a female mentor in Colette, these Remy and Alfredo find their way through many food adventures including trying to win over the city’s most feared food critic.

  Disney movies have always been magical to me, but this live performance at Roy Thomson Hall was beyond compare!  It certainly was an experience for my family and I encourage you to check it out next time a Disney movie is shown this way.  After the movie, we headed back uptown to host get together, but if we did not have plans, we would certainly have sought out the nearest bistro.  It was a beautiful sunny day and what better way to enjoy it than with some ratatouille.

EDITOR’S PICK: FUNKY MONKEY PHOTOGRAPHY

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*This post was ready to go soon after the November shoot, but I wanted to wait for the photographer to get his website up and ready before promoting how awesome he is.  The husband and wife team have spring props coming in the next couple of weeks so book an Easter session while you can!

It’s been a few years since our last family photo shoot (we weren’t a family of five then) so when the opportunity popped up on Facebook, I knew it had to be.   Being in Markham and just ten minutes away, I knew that was just another sign that it was time.  It was the best hunch ever!

We arranged an evening appointment last fall and headed out to meet with the photographer and his wife.  Jenn and I had been in Facebook contact from the start and she is AMAZING at responding to questions and concerns quickly. For myself, instant replies are important and Jenn is all over her messages so that was already a step in the right direction.  She also warned us about their two big dogs and was happy to put them in the backyard when I said that my little girls wouldn’t be too thrilled.  They like dogs, but not ones bigger than themselves.  Jenn was happy to accommodate.

James was still setting up when we arrived so we headed downstairs first.  They had just come back from a cottage photoshoot (yes, they will travel).  There were so many amazing props! As Christmas is our favourite holiday, Hip Teacher Dada and I couldn’t help but oooh and ahh over their collection.  Since acquiring pieces from various Winners (some as far as Hamilton) and garage sales, James was excited to show off his stash during the shoot.  I’m sure we didn’t even get through half their holiday props, but it was Baby C’s bedtime.

James was very easy going and gave us directions for poses. Mostly, he spent his time coaxing Baby C into giving him some smiles to work with. It’s hard for her to just smile (she doesn’t even do it for us when she’s not in the mood and this was just an hour before bedtime) especially since she was in new environment and with a complete stranger.  Big H and Middle A are quite comfortable in front of the camera so that part was easy.  James was patient and broke out all the knick-knacks for C including the sled and fluffy snowballs.

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His backdrops are amazing. We only used two, but there are about ten holiday backdrops including forest, holiday lights, snow, wooden door, etc.  James has tons of props including a sleigh, mailboxes, giant ornaments, and fake snowballs.  His instructions were easy to follow and the kids complied quickly.  They also have new backdrops for Valentine’s Day and Easter if that should interest you.

We were thrilled at the results.  Frankly, we were surprised that Baby C looked at the camera and even gave some smiles.  We weren’t sure how she was doing as the evening went on.  I highly recommend a photoshoot with James for you and your family.  Jenn is a dream to work with and the turn around time took just a week.  The edited pictures are amazing (please let me know what you think) and I am eager to use them all over our home.

To be honest, kids grow up way too fast these days.  If you are able to get family portraits for Christmas (or any occasion), do it. It’s memories that will last forever and you can’t beat the experience.  I’m so happy these pictures turned out the way they did.  It’ll be Christmas all year long in our household.

Check out http://www.funkymonkeyphotography.ca or contact them on Facebook.  SMILE!

MNO (Moms’ Night Out)

I came across an article this weekend about Moms’ Night Out.  Read it, liked it, and decided to put my two cents in.

Every so often, I want to get out.  In fact, I think it’s more of a need than a want. For my sanity, my mental health, and sure, for all the idle chit-chat.  Whatsapp groups are good, but with everyone all over the place, not everyone is on at the same time.  That’s what makes Moms Night Out so awesome.

You can’t just be 24-7 all work and home.  At least, that’s for me.  It’s the attention you need to give yourself.   In teaching, you give attention to 30 kids at a time.  At home, you have your own lovelies to deal with.  Your brain is wired and you can never turn it off.  With friends however, it’s a different feeling.  For me, if I don’t get out every couple of weeks, I start to get antsy.   I need to get out, do the girlfriend thing, and come back all refreshed.  Otherwise it’s just the same routine.

6:00 am Wake up.
7:30 am  Drop off the baby at daycare.
8:00 am Get to work.  For me, I like to work through recess and most of lunch so when I’m at home, I get a chance to focus on home.
4:30 pm Kickboxing twice a week.  When I get home, Hip Teacher Dada takes off for basketball practice with Big H (did I mention how I love and hate rep ball?).
6:00 pm Home and it’s a slew of dinner, homework, dishes, lunch prep, and bathtime.  Sometimes it’s vacuuming and dinner prep.
8:00 pm Put Baby C to bed and then the big girls bedtime routine rolls around.  Then it’s watch some TV, do some marking or planning, and it’s bedtime.  A lot of action during the day, but not much time for the brain to chill and body to relax.

MNO are leisurely.  I don’t care about the dishes in the sink and which lunch I have to pack because of an egg allergy in this classroom or a seafood allergy in this one.  I’m not picking up saucy noodles off the floor or wiping up spilt milk.  Does Baby C want to read the same Happy Baby Colours book for the 17000th time?  Sure, let my husband handle that.

MNO aren’t even a big deal for me in terms of location.  It can be a movie, bubble tea, or noodle bar.  Heck, I’m good with a quick lap around the mall.  I just want to chat with my friends and get out.  I also don’t need to get dolled up.  I just need to be out.  Half of my closest friends happen to be teachers so work talk inevitably comes up.  However, the stories become more humorous as the night goes on.  Sometimes even getting together to watch The Bachelor will do it for me simply because it’s a break in everyday routine and something to look forward to at night.

Now don’t take this the wrong way…my girls are my soul, my heart, my everything.  I love spending time with them.  My husband is my best friend and we both love movies, hanging out at Chapters, and going shopping.  We love to watch shows together or hanging out in the basement while I craft and he sorts his basketball cards.  He’s awesome, but giving him some alone time with the girls is great too (he calls them “Boys’Nights”).  Our girls say the funniest things when we play “Restaurant” or board games.  Big H likes to play games together while my middle ones loves to colour with me.  The baby wants her cuddles.  I love those moments too, but sometimes having a night to myself is just as sweet.

I think a work-life balance is important. It refreshes you, destresses you and now you are ready to tackle it all over again.   Ninety worksheets to assess?  Bring it on.  Happy Baby Colours for the 17001 time?  Get it off the shelf.

I Am Not a ROBOT

heartbroken-breakup-quotes-crying         Yesterday I taught the lesson that my students cringe about, giggle through, and try to avoid at all costs.  Yep, it was THAT chapter in Family Life, the dreaded Chapter Three aka How Babies Are Made.  I’ve done the whole “let’s be mature” and “see it through a doctor’s eyes”, but where our lesson paused came suddenly and unexpectedly.

         The students were great and all was well with the naming of parts and the actual science of it all when a student raised his hand and said, “My mom had a miscarriage.  What is that?”  I was ready to turn off my emotions and turn into robot mode, but I am who I am so I couldn’t and there it was…the waterworks flowed. Biting my lip and turning away just didn’t work.

       I briefly got up from my spot in the class (dead centre, of course, all eyes in me) and turned towards my desk, but heck, it couldn’t be stopped.  Tears welled up quickly and soon, I was an overflowing bucket.  Leaks everywhere and no mop.  One boy even stated, “I wish I had a tissue for you.” I remember saying, “Sorry, guys.  Just a second…” when in reality, if they were willing, I could’ve sat there for ten minutes to let it all out.   I looked up and saw compassion and I didn’t feel embarrassed.  They looked worried. Some looked sad.   They know me by now and know I’m an emotional person.   Ironically, we’ve been studying traits of science fiction and had read a story about future teachers being robots.  They all said the good thing about human teachers is that they are able to have feelings and express there.   Well, I’m certainly Exhibit A.

          After a minute’s pause, I was able to get back to it and finish the lesson.   I briefly explained what miscarriage is (though it is in the upcoming pages in the book) and why it was hard for me to discuss (I had three experiences).  We ended the lesson with a slew of questions and genuine interest in the topic of twins and genes and which parent they look like.  They asked more questions at my desk.  Some came up to say they were sorry about my situation (cue the tears).  The student who asked the question was apologetic, but no, I’d never want anyone to feel sorry for asking questions and said so.  After all, that’s how we grow, it’s how we learn.  As I was cleaning the whiteboard, another boy came up and said he felt sad when I cried.

        Right after everyone left, I went to my neighbour teacher to tell her what happened.  She reassured me that some days, even on that day for herself, tears are necessary and justified.  The students need to know that we don’t just work and live at school, we are actual human beings.   We feel pain and frustration too.

        A minute later, three other colleagues popped in because they heard what happened (wow, this wasn’t even the power of social media).  We had a brief powwow and they all said the same thing.  Emotion is nothing to be ashamed about.  It was okay.  My students are certainly mature enough to handle it. If anything, it gave them a real understanding about babies and loss.  There is no disconnect between creating a human life and having a life grow inside you for a while.  You love him or her even if the end result is not a baby in your arms.  The bond you have from the moment you find out you are pregnant is indescribable.   I ended the lesson with the fact that they are there meant that God had wanted it just so, it takes just the right pieces to come together.  They are made from a loving union, healthy and blessed.

EDITOR’S PICK: THE STRONG MUSEUM OF PLAY

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  Happy New Year, loyal followers and new readers!   Is everyone ready to start 2017 with a bang?  How about with a new adventurous road trip?

     If you ever wanted to spend an entire day playing with your children and never be bored, The Strong Museum in Rochester, NY is perfect for you.  I reconnected with my inner child during the Christmas holidays and did NOT want to leave the establishment.  In fact, I’m hoping to go back for a spring visit to see which new exhibits will be there.

     From the moment we arrived, we were enthralled with The Strong.  Baby C loved the aquarium and we could hardly tear her away.  She had to convince her that more fun activities would be inside.

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     The first section we went in housed all the classic toys from Barbie to Elmo to I Spy books.  The girls were particularly excited because these were familiar toys.  We enjoyed pressing buttons and playing with a variety of activities.  They didn’t know much about the OUIJA board so I had to explain that phenomenon.  Does anyone else remember that from the 80s?  I remember my friend said her grandmother told her that Marilyn Monroe’s ghost lived in their house for a week.

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         From there we moved onto a section geared towards toddlers and exploratory themes.  Middle A loved putting the rice through a giant circle drum and listening to the tiny tinkling sounds the grains made.  Baby C liked to bring the ball up the different ramps just to run alongside the rolling ball.  Next we discovered the LEGO monitor where moving around gave us the shape of LEGO people.

        Down the way was Sesame Street!  My girls don’t watch that show much, but for me, it was brilliant.  I had to sit on the stoop!  Middle A had a chance to chat with Abby Cadabby via the green screen, we waved to Big Bird, and saw the whole gang on a giant poster.  They role-played with a hot dog cart, cinema, and news stand.  Who doesn’t want to live on Sesame Street?  The girls even took a minute to get cozy in a little reading nook.  If this was near us, I would’ve had a season pass for sure.  Lucky people who are on maternity leave and live nearby!

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     We walked by a phone booth and the girls had a quick lesson on what that was.  Seriously, how times have changed!  Many activities on Sesame Street had the “up”, “inside”, and “under” labels which were awesome!  Not only were those educational, but I felt like the show really came to life.  Does anyone else remember learning prepositions this way?

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    After Sesame Street, we went to Wegmans, which was the girls’ favourite section.  Armed with mini shopping carts, they set out for their weekly shopping trip like Mommy.  I really liked that the girls were given instructions about their three jobs: shopper, cashier, and stock person.  They were allowed a limit of five items (it was a very busy day) and had to put everything back after they checked out.  The girls didn’t get a chance to play cashier, but they enjoyed the experience nonetheless.  The best thing is that you really get a receipt of your items so that is an awesome souvenir.  Baby C actually picked out diapers for herself.  How self-aware!

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       After a lot of exploring, we decided it was time for lunch.  The lunch room had a good selection of foods such as Taco Bell, Pizza Hut, and Subway.  The prices were very reasonable ($5 for a personal size pizza) and you can eat in that area if you were purchasing.  There were separate rooms if you brought your own food.

        After filling our bellies and regaining some energy, we headed towards the comic zone known as American Comic Book Heroes: The Battle of Good VS Evil.  This was Hip Teacher Dada’s favourite section as his love for all things Marvel is well known.  From giant models of Iron Man and Spiderman to a photo opp where it appears our children are scaling a wall, this area was brilliant.  Colourful and informative, it’s a definite must-see for comic fans.

     We ran into a couple of friends at The Berenstain Bears: Down a Sunny Dirt Road exhibit.  Here, Baby C played with the tangrams and the light table.  She sees this at her daycare so it was a familiar activity.  She had a blast climbing up the stairs to the treehouse and sliding down quickly on the baby slide.  Her sisters enjoyed exploring other parts of the exhibit particularly the learning activities involving sound.

       Now finally onto my favourite part of the museum, Reading Adventureland.  Numerous different fairy tales and stories depicted through buildings, activities, and displays.  It was a dream come true!  This was stuff that Baby C actually knew!  Reading is one of her favourite activities, but for her to see things come to life.  Amazing!

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   We were only there for about four hours and certainly not enough time to explore it all!  For the next trip, we would definitely want to spend the entire day there and hope that Baby C can fall asleep in her stroller while her sisters play.  Better yet, maybe skip nap altogether?  We made the drive from Niagara Falls and thank goodness, Mother Nature cooperated and it was a very smooth drive.  The only hiccup was the parking (it took us about 15 minutes), but we were told that we went on a very unusually busy day.  The friend we ran into gave up after looking for parking for an hour so he dropped off his family and went to the nearby Footlocker instead.  There are nearby apartments, but signs strongly warned us about illegal parking.  Unlike Toronto where Green Ps are abundant, this location didn’t have much choice so circling was our best bet.

    I’m excited to see some new spring exhibits and to explore more parts of the museum.  I’d say the target audience would be age 2 to 12.  Please check out their website for further details.  It is a great way to spend your day with your little ones.