Thursday, December 27, 2012

Swimming Lessons

The girls had not had swimming lessons for a couple years, not since the spring of 2010 when they did their last lessons in Hamilton before we lost our ability to get the low-income rates because we were no longer Hamilton residents.  So this summer it was time to break down, pay the normal rate and get them back at it.  Matthew was also old enough to start the Swimmer 1 level so he started his first year of lessons.  I find it a waste of money to put them in before they start the Swimmer 1 level as they usually get enough water exposure on their own and none of my kids have had a problem with not being able to keep up once they started the true swimming lessons.  Matthew was scared of water for a little bit and just splashed along the edges, as did Rebecca when she was younger, but by time they are old enough to start the actual lessons they are plenty good at swimming and I didn’t waste my $45-$50 for the ABC level for them to learn to splash in water or to fight to get them in water because they’re scared of it.

The kids took lessons at the local outdoor pool and we were very impressed with the lessons they got.  Much better then what we got in the city where the classes were so big that they spent more then half the time just hanging on the edge waiting for a turn.  The ratio of teacher to kids here is pretty much 1 teacher for 2-3 kids in the first levels and it’s not until the older levels that they get up to 6 kids.  In Hamilton most of the classes had closer to 10 kids.

Matthew did really well with his lessons and it was good that the other child in the class was an excellent little swimmer that gave him incentive to work hard and keep up.  During the second week of lessons she started them on Swimmer 2 items since they were both ready to progress.


The girls also did well with their lessons and enjoyed their teacher and how she got in the water with them and worked with them … the last couple levels they had in Hamilton the teacher mostly just stood on the side and yelled at them what to do.

The biggest challenge for both the girls was learning to dive … Rebecca needed a bit more work on this but with some extra practice (staying for public swimming) she got the hang of this and both girls were able to progress to Level 5 next year.


Diving through the rings (there are actually two, the one she’s holding up and one laying on the water) really helped the girls to figure out where to dive and how to jump out a bit before they go down.


I wasn’t looking forward to the two weeks of going to lessons as I find it ties you down part of the summer, but I guess I gotta just accept that and learn to work with it now that we live in the country and the indoor pools are too far away to do weekly lessons.  Thankfully I booked soon enough that all the kids could go at the same time and we mostly had good weather except the last few lessons it cooled down and rained (much needed rain) and then Matthew wasn’t so interested in going anymore.

Matthew’s 5th Birthday

Our baby is five years old!  (Actually he’s pretty much five and half now!)

Usually when a birthday is celebrate it’s often a time to reflect on the past, especially when they were born.  Matthew especially brings some hard memories back as it was a difficult time in our lives, having just received the news that James was terminally ill a few weeks earlier (altho the reality of this had not yet set in), coming home for the hospital only two weeks before Matthew was due after being gone for 6 weeks.  I still had to unpack the summer clothes properly (the kids had just been digging through boxes), get the baby stuff out, figure out where to fit Matthew into the equation while also trying to fit all James’ new medical equipment into the house.  Those were crazy weeks!  And the next months were not any easier with little sleep and the reality of James’ illness sinking in.  Matthew was a disguised blessing at the time, an unhappy baby (like most of my kids), wanting lots of attention in a busy household with parents that were sleep deprived.  I remember very little of those first couple months of Matthew’s life, but we’ve made up for that since and now we watch as he gets bigger and bigger and we get further and further away from the baby stage of parenting.

I invited some friend’s over who have kids Matthew’s age for morning coffee and a swim. 


I totally shocked all those who know me, especially my children, by buying a cake for Matthew’s birthday.  It had been crazy busy and hot and time was limited and I had been debating what to make for a cake.  Matthew had requested the hamburgers and fries and I wasn’t in the mood to make a batch of regular “hamburgers” and gluten free ones.  I was totally excited when I happened to be walking through Wal-Mart and what did I see … a hamburger cake!  And on sale too … it was meant to be! 


Somewhere in there I got a burst of energy the night before Matthew’s birthday to make some GF ones as well altho I did debate just letting us eat wheat for the day, but I hate to do that when I know I am quite capable of providing a similiar GF option.  I did ended up staying up past midnight and regretting that moment where that burst of energy came, but when the next day arrived it was all good.


Lighting the candles and getting ready to sing


My big boy!


Opening cards and presents


The kids then proceeded to go swimming.  A bit of a challenge when the pool is not really that big and there are lots of kids, but after everyone cooled off a bit they rotated between the trampoline and the pool.


or playing with the birthday presents … this is a rocket bubble blower.  The kids jump on the blue square which pumps air to make the rocket go flying up and it’s a bubble wand so bubbles follow behind it.  Great fun for a bunch of boys who just want to see how far they can get that rocket to fly.


Matthew’s patience for dad to come home to open the remainder of the presents was a bit tried, he had oepned a couple presents in the morning when Jada was still there, he had presents from his friends, and then he opened another present at lunch time as he just couldn’t wait until after supper.  We had soccer that night, so it was an early supper and off to soccer.  When they got home he was able to open the remainder of his presents.

One of the best presents of the day was a watch.  He was told when he learned the basics of telling time he could have his own watch and he had accomplished this by being able to tell when it’s on the hour and half hour. 


He had also asked for an alarm clock for when school starts so he could be just like the girls and have an alarm wake him up (not that he needs that as he’s almost always up before the alarm).  We found him a rocket ship alarm clock that shines the time on the ceiling (a Zeller's store closing find)

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The day ended with some more hamburger cake and off for a good night sleep.  Another year older, they grow up way too fast!

Matthew’s Birthday Prep

July 25th was Matthew’s birthday and also the day that Jada had to go back to New York.  This meant we had to be up on time that morning to catch the bus and since I decided to invite some friends down for coffee and cake that also meant I had to have everything prepped the night before.

Jada stayed up and helped me make icing and get Matthew’s cupcakes cake ready.

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Matthew wanted the same cake as he had the year before … Hamburger and French Fries  Over the past year I had found a better cake recipe so this years cupcakes turned out more yummy. I made them using my molds for making GF buns so they were bigger but also more shaped like a burger and then instead of making brownies and cutting them in circles I added a bit of cocoa to the last bit of cupcake batter and made some chocolate cupcakes with the bun molds.  It turned out quite well.  Jada loved the idea and so we backed one of the hamburgers and some french fries (sugar cookies) for her to take home to show her family and eat when she got home … not sure if it made it all the way home.

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Matthew and Jada had requested green eggs and bacon for breakfast.  So we enjoyed a hearty breakfast before sending Jada on her long trip (9 hours) home.

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Before going Matthew opened a couple presents.

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Rob had to go to work and could not go with to the bus, so he stayed home for breakfast and said good-bye after breakfast before he headed off to work.

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Two weeks passed already and the kids gather to go back to New York.

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The dog that Jada found while garage saling went home with her as well. Good thing for extra space on the bus!

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We had a fun time with Jada and look forward to seeing what next year brings.

Winter Wonderland

Well I am still months behind being caught up on the blog and the first week of Christmas Holidays is nearing the end, with some busier days ahead again.  I am quite happy that I managed to get myself organized enough before the holidays began so that I could actually have holidays this year, instead of running like crazy.  This year our focus was on relaxing.  We all have been very busy this fall and we were more then ready for a break.  But the kids told me I was allowed to spend time at my computer to  “blog and blog and blog and blog”.  We have been enjoying the sleeping in and casual slower paced days where Rob is actually home for a bit as he has a few days off as well.

So while my Aussie readers may be feeling right at home with all my summer posts … reality is it’s winter here and we just had our first snowfall … yes, once again we did NOT have a white Christmas, I’m quite sure those don’t really exist anymore … at least not in this area, just on TV and in the movies.   But last night, one day late, we did finally get a bit of snow to enjoy.

We were suppose to have a get-together with Rob’s side of the family yesterday but since they were forecasting this storm it ended up not happening and instead we go together locally with the family members that live in this area.  The girls decided to go sleep over at their cousins afterwards and so it was just Matthew and I today … and Matthew spent the majority of the day outside


Matthew worked hard to try shovel the walkway.  He did call Mom out to help him for a little bit, but he was in and out most of they day slowly working on making the path longer or wider.  That there is one of the reasons I love snow … it gives the kids something to do outdoors in this cold weather. And I much prefer they come in with snow on their boots then mud!  The novelty does wear off if we don’t get fresh snow from time to time but even so if I kick them outdoors for a bit they usually end up finding things to keep them busy for a while.

So I only have about six more months to catch up on … by time I make it to the cold weather it will be warm out again.


The local town had a parade one Saturday while Jada was staying as well as a townwide garage sale.  Rebecca is a 4-H member this year and they had a float in the parade and she wanted to go on the float.  So we headed into town early enough to go garage saling for a couple hours before the parade.

I gave Jada and Matthew $2 to spend at the garage sales (the girls had their own money) and the whole way to town Jada told us how she was going to save the money and give it to her mom because her mom collected coins.   Well, we didn’t make it past the first garage sale and her money was gone.  She purchased a couple stuffed animals, one as big as Matthew and then some book ends and notebooks.  So the rest of the garage sales she was part bored and part asking if she could buy this or that and we had to keep reminding her that she spent all her money

A parade is a new experience for our family as we’ve never really been to a parade.  The only time we seen part of a parade is one year when we happened to be in town the same night as the Santa parade.  Of course now that they know you get tons of candy at a parade they are quite eager to go to a parade.


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We sat near the beginning of the parade and watched and looked for the 4H float and Rebecca.  The entire parade went by and we did not see either.  We’re still perplexed on how 4 of us could have missed it.  We were sitting on the opposite side of the street as Rebecca was sitting on the float, so we wouldn’t have really seen her,but we should still have noticed the 4H wagon, but we didn’t see that either. 

So when the parade was over there was a little bit of a panic as to what happened to Rebecca.  We had run into another 4-H member while trying to figure out where to go for the parade and had left Rebecca with this member as they walked over to the parade float area. I didn’t even know who I had left her as Rebecca had known the member but I had not. That was the last we seen of her. So we decided to head to the end of the parade and wait there with the hope of finding her …. and we did … we got to watch her come in on their float at the end of the parade and we still have no idea how we missed seeing them the first time.


The part the kids loved the most was that we watched the parade twice, so that meant we got double the candies!

Summer Picnic

The kids picked one of hottest days of summer to go off for a summer picnic together.  I’m told that Marietta also made them walk a long ways to find the “perfect” picnic spot that had appropriate shade and a good view. But they were creative playing games and having a good time altho they were more then ready to hop in the pool when they got back.


Bissel’s Hideaway


We scooped  a Groupon deal for a cabin at Bissell’s Hideway for only $20.  We decided to go when Jada was here.  Since we were over the 4 people allowed for the $20 and it was more expensive to pay for two extra people we just got two cabin.


As far as camping goes Bisell’s is not the place to go … unless you like community camping where you have a tiny little lot with no real trees so that you get to thoroughly (or not-so-thoroughly) enjoy a view of your neighbour who’s just a few feet away from you.  But we were just staying for one night and while we were enjoying some of the camping aspect we were really there for the pool and other activities that were included with the cabin rental, which in itself were worth the $20 spent.

We arrived in the morning so we could make full use of the park for the two days we had.  A cabin was even available right away so we could unload right away and head off to the pool and such.

Now I think I’ve mentioned before how Steph and camping work … the combination of the two equals rain!!  As if to prove the point that’s exactly what happened.  We were simply going for an overnight trip and we could not change the dates as then Jada would no longer be there.  It was so dry and we had no had rain for long enough that there were fire bans in place.  We actually found it interesting the the firehall by the campground said there was a fireban but when we inquired at the campground they said it was okay to have a fire.  So … it’s dry with no rain for weeks and weeks and we decide to go camping for one night and what happens????  It rains!!!  It pours!!! It pours buckets!!!  I always tell the farmers that if they want rain they just have to send me camping.  The only problem is it has to be locally.  We were only about 25-30 minutes away from home but there was no rain at our place … notta drop

But needless to say we were able to fit in all that we had planned and we still had a good time. Since we had two cabins it worked out okay when it rained … I read and snoozed in our cabin and the kids played house in the other cabin.   The rest of the rain came at night after we managed to fit some fire time in, so it all worked out okay … it was just rather chilly at times.

The kids played in the splash pad for a bit before they headed off to the big pool


The pool is one of the lake style pools with a gradual entrance.  I really like these kind of pools as the little ones can have fun splashing along the edge or going slowly in to the level of their choice and the bigger ones can enjoy the middle part … and all without the sand or undertow that comes with a beach


The other thing we liked about this pool was it had a dock.  We have also enjoyed Bying Island in previous years but the high diving board is a little intimidating for younger kids.  The kids all spent a ton of time jumping off the dock and it was nice to be at a pool where they aren’t so strict that the little ones can’t do anything (like Hamilton Public pools where Matthew would never be allowed in the deep water or jumping off the diving board and such) and where the lifeguards are actually there to be lifeguards and not to just bark at parents to stay closer to their kids.


It would take too much work to photoshop the other kids out of these pictures … otherwise they would be great pictures, especially the last one … which truly show how much fun they were having.


The water slide was also a big hit.


It took some time but the kids finally convince Matthew to give the slide a try as we thought for sure he would love it.


Unfortunately he hit his head on the end when coming off the slide and that meant he wanted nothing more to do with the slide.  But at least he gave it a try.


After swimming for a while we decided to try get some paddle boats and mini golf in before the rain came tumbling down as the dark clouds were starting to roll in rather quickly.  It started to lightly rain while we were at the paddle boats and the rain started coming down heavier when we got to mini golfing.  We gathered up our stuff and managed to get back to the cabin just as it began to pour down.  So the kids gathered up some snacks and drinks and took them to “their cabin” while I did some reading and snoozing.

Rob still worked the days we went and just joined us at night.  He arrived around 5:30 as the rain stopped and so we headed off to the pool for a bit … I watched while they all froze trying to make the best of their swimming time.


Thankfully the rain held off for several hours so we could enjoy or supper and campfire … seeing as supper had to be made over the fire.


We roasted weiners:


Made quesadilla and grill cheese over the fire with our double pie iron


And for dessert we roasted marshmallows and made banana boats while sipping hot chocolate and tea



The rain came back about the same time we ran out of firewood …. so that was a good sign that it was time to get off to bed.

The kids helped themselves to breakfast in the morning, making a table for themselves out of the bench in their cabin


It was a cold day and so we started off with mini golf, then headed for the paddle boats and they spent some time playing on the playground, but even after that the kids were not feeling warm enough to go swimming again so we headed home.

Mini golf:


Paddle boats … you can tell by how we’re dress which day the pictures were taken on.


Everyone wanted their chance to drive/steer and to paddle.  Eventually we split up into separate boats smaller boats once Marietta and Rebecca had it figured out




Jada was not tall enough to actually reach the peddles to be able to do anything useful, she was pretty much laying down to reach them


We had seen this little boat sitting there (reminded me of a dutch wooden shoe) but did not realize it was for use, though it was for show or something.  But then they took it out for someone to use and after that there was a line up.  Had we known that earlier it would have been a whole lot more fun for Jada and Matthew, but unfortunately we discovered this as we were leaving.

It was a little one seater paddle boat that you “paddle” with your hands.  Both Jada and Matthew had a short turn and really enjoyed this as they were able to get somewhere this way.  We know for next time (Matthew’s been asking if we can go back there again this summer … hopefully another deal comes up, otherwise it won’t be happening)


So the local (fruit) farmers can thank me for the nice rain they got … but at least we still enjoyed our time.