Thursday, January 22, 2009

The sound of music

I'm sitting outside Isabelle's music class - behind the door, I can hear the cheerful pixie piano going and the trample of little feet across the wooden floor. Stay at home motherhood is funny - this weekly hour as I sit and wait for her class is a quiet break when I can write and think or just play brickbreaker on my cellphone. Or it would be if this week was not also music exams at the conservatory. As I type, a poor examiner is witnessing a crime against violins being comitted in the next room. I don't know how bad it must sound in there, but I'm about ready to go in there with a pair of scissors and snip every hair on that bow, so the examiner may be hard of hearing if he's let it go on this long.
Dan and I were talking about this the other day. Growing up, I didn't have much interest in music and it wasn't particularly encouraged: the result being that I can't dance and my sister gently suggested that it might be kinder to the kids if I played CDs for them instead of singing. Dan grew up in a very musical household - and he has the piano skills to prove it. Yet, he doesn't have all warm fuzzies about those early experiences either.
Honestly, I'm not sure if I can handle the years of noise that it takes to be a competent player. I don't know if I want to be trucking the kids around to all the different lessons or monitor the praticing on top of homework. I worry that their time is already so structured and there are other things (like sports) that are important to their development too. And what if they've taken the wrong combination, inheriting none of their father's talent, all of my tone deafness and yet his confidence to play blythely in front of crowd. An American Idol disaster in the making.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Happiest place on earth...

Almost 5 years ago to the day, Dan and I left Disney World vowing never to return. The trip had been too much for us: too much junk food, too many jingles, too much happiness, too much... well, everything. Today, I also booked yet another 10-day Disney trip. We didn't start down this path when we started thinking about getting away with the kids in the winter.
We toyed with the idea of doing a winter trip - I much prefer a snowy afternoon spent by the fire to an afternoon in the blazing sun on the beach. I could trade guacamole for hot chocolate. Between pregnancy and breastfeeding infants, haven't been able to get much skiing done in the past 5 years - I don't really know if any of my gear still fits (though good sense would say no). Neither kidlet skies yet and we learned when Isabelle was 2 that having a nanny tag along is bad news (I threatened to take the train home by the time we arrived in Montreal, I believe). So, it wouldn't be much of a family vacation. To say nothing of the fact that half the reason I hate winter is the bundling and unbundling of children - for the uninitiated, it's similar to the effort require to dress two very large and ill-tempered cats in the same get-up, only the cats have the dexterity to undress while you are dressing the other. I have considered putting on the snowsuits backwards, but it would only buy me a little time.
Our family trips have thus far been to all-inclusive resorts in the south - Mexico mostly, though we gave st. Lucia a whirl last time. While these are fun and Isabelle is finally able to go to the kids' clubs, it's pretty exhausting. Again, since neither kidlet is safe in the water alone, there's a lot of hands-on play time. Not that it's not fun, but the "wheeee" appeal of the slide wears off a lot faster on grown-ups than kids... like a 100 times faster. And I have a weird fear of the kids getting sucked out to sea, so the sand/surf part is primarily anxiety-inducing in me. (Every parent has their thing, don't judge me).
I also kicked around doing something more exotic - maybe a cool eco-lodge in the Ecuadorian jungle or a beach resort on an atoll an hour off the Belizean coast. Dan nixed both ideas - anything that put a float plane or jet boat between us and a basic emergency clinic was a little adventurous to be sure. Especially, since on our last Mexican vacation, I was the one who hauled us up to the in-house doctor for a bug bite. "What kind of bug?", I asked. "Snr. Branco, this is Mexico, there are a lot of bugs but I do not know all their names," was the doctor's patient reply.
So, the criteria was somewhere warm (no snowsuits), somewhere fun for the kids, somewhere with enough variety of activity that we wouldn't get bored of their fun and somewhere reassuring professionals could be found in a moment of need. And oddly enough, Orlando seemed to fit the bill.
For a while, we pretended it wasn't a Disney trip, it was an Orlando trip - Disney would not be the focus, we'd just drop in. We chose a condo off-site, rented a car - Disney would be an activity on the trip... just one day, maybe two. Well, you know how this goes... you can't cover the whole Magic Kingdom or Epcot in a single day with two small kids. And, oh look at that, the Magic Passes (get used to the lingo or perish), cost the same for 3 days as 7 days. Isabelle, who has seen only one Disney movie in her whole life, was immediately dialled in - expecting to see Minnie Mouse and Cinderella right away. Would we see Belle and Ariel? Oh, and go to the Castle? See the fireworks? How did she learn about all this??
No matter, next thing I know I'm on hold with the Disney Reservation Centre making all our 'ADRs' (reservations) and hoping against hope that I can squeeze us in (more than two months in advance and it was dicey). Sheer insanity.
Let the Magic begin.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

What's a weary parent to do?

With the new recommendations out from Health Canada on cold medicines for children under age 6 and then today from other researchers on the dangers of menthol in chest rubs for infants, you may be feeling like there’s nothing you can do to make your ill child feel better.
Here are some ideas that we like around here (they’ve been getting lots of use lately):

  • Humidifier: while cool mist humidifiers are often recommended, I like the warm mist humidifiers better. Just be sure to air out the rooms well and be very careful to place the unit well aware from where it might be reached by little hands (it is boiling water).
  • Honey: for babies over a year only, a teaspoon of honey has been shown to be to more effective than cough syrup. (Honey isn’t recommended for babies under a year because of the risk of botulism spores in the honey attacking their wee immune systems).
  • Non-menthol chest balms: the trouble with Vicks and the like is primarily the menthol irritating the airways and causing an increase in thick mucous. This chest balm from Erbabviva contains no menthol, is all organic and is much milder on the skin.

Finally, hang in there – cold and flu season stinks, but it always ends. Try to look on the bright and think of all the extra cuddles you can get in now that your kids have been slowed down a bit.