April Fools’ Day!

Posted by on Apr 1, 2015

We were able to pull off a few April Fools’ Day tricks on the Princess this morning. We stayed up late last night to get them set up – super late, because just like Christmas Eves and the nights before birthdays, the Princess couldn’t fall asleep and was awake until after midnight. When she fell asleep, we sprang into action. Well, sprang is probably the wrong word. Stumbled sleepily through the kitchen would be more accurate.

I prepared a bowl of cheerios with milk and put it in the freezer. James poured two glasses of “juice” using Jello mix and put them in the fridge to set. I wanted to add food colouring to the remaining milk in the jug but we couldn’t find the food colouring anywhere and used Kool-Aid instead. A word to the wise – that’s a bad idea. It curdles and comes out like grape-scented vomit.

This morning, I couldn’t wait for the Princess to come in for breakfast. As soon as she got up, I told her to start eating because we needed to meet the homeschool group for a hike.

Then April Fools’ Day began.

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cheerios-with-koolaid   jello-juice-prank-2

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The Princess was served a bowl of frozen cheerios, then cheerios with purple milk, and then a glass of “juice”. She was absolutely delighted – The Princess loves the idea of April Fools’ Day. She loves to listen to the Spring Sillies episode of Sparkle Stories and when she hears it, she spends the rest of the day trying to come up with a good prank to pull on April 1.

Which is actually a bit terrifying, because seven year olds don’t quite know where that delicate line is between joke and total disaster.

For example, one day she ran in to the kitchen to ask me if James would be working on April Fools’ Day. We checked the calendar and found that he would be off for the day. She was disappointed. Her plan was to fill his work boots with water so that when as he rushed out the door for work, he’d discover that his feet were soaking wet. I laughed, but it was that nervous sort of this-girl-is-going-to-destroy-the-family kind of laughter.

So far it’s been okay: she offered to brush my hair, then used a brush that she ran under the tap first so that my hair would get wet. “APRIL FOOLS’ DAY!”

Hopefully that’s the best she’s got. Either way, I’ll be hiding my suede boots until the day is over. And maybe James’ work boots too.

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My Misadventures with Chalk Paint

Posted by on Mar 10, 2015

It’s the Royal Botanical Garden’s fault, I think.

James and I took the girls there a few weeks ago to check out the frog exhibit (it’s awesome, by the way). When we passed by the gift shop, the girls noticed the small aquariums with the African Dwarf Frogs for sale. They of course asked if we could buy one and I of course said no and James of course said yes and so, of course, I vowed that he will not be coming out with us anywhere ever again.

Luckily we didn’t buy a frog right then – James figured they’d be cheaper at a fish store and that we could use one of the five aquariums that we have stashed in the basement. Perfect, I thought. Everyone will forget about buying a frog by the time we get home.

Never underestimate the determination of a man with five empty aquariums.

The next day, James wandered from room to room, trying to find an acceptable place to set up. We finally agreed that it would go on top of the credenza that’s behind the couch (and by credenza I mean the old dresser that was passed down to us).

Picking a Paint Colour

You might remember this dresser from my kitchen, pre-reno. White. Kind of boring. I’ve been meaning to paint it for the last year or two or seven but I never had the time or motivation. Suddenly I knew it had to be painted immediately or I wouldn’t get the chance again until we upgrade to a larger tank. And goodness knows I’m going to fight that with every fibre of my being.

pre-chalk-paint

When I saw my husband hauling aquariums up from the basement, I knew I didn’t have long. I pulled out my collection of chalk paint sample jars and started holding them up to the couch, squinting at them through one eye and then the other. James looked at me with disbelief, certain that I was just looking for ways to stall his aquarium set up.

I promised that if he would just let me paint, everything would be done by the next day. And that it wouldn’t even cost anything since I already had everything I needed. I even had clear wax for finishing.

But first I had to decide on a colour. I knew I had to pick fast – no time to paint sample swatches. I turned to Facebook instead.

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I got some good advice and lots of encouragement and one perfectly-timed quip:

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The general consensus was that my favourite, the light aqua colour, wouldn’t look terrible. Good enough. That I needed so that evening I grabbed a brush and started painting.

The paint went on beautifully and the colour was gorgeous. But when I stepped back to admire my work, I realized that the aqua was somehow different than I expected and I was pretty sure I hated it. It looked terrible with my couch.

Uh oh.

Also? I was running out of paint, which was going to put me over my budget of “spending nothing.”

The next morning, I sat on a chair and stared at the dresser. The morning light was more flattering but I still wasn’t certain that I liked it. Then I threw a chartreuse-coloured table runner over top and suddenly, like magic, it was perfect. The table runner colour matched both my couch AND my new turquoise dresser and I was much happier.

Sealing the Paint with Wax

As soon as James woke up, I left him with the kids and drove across town to buy more paint so I could finish up. I also decided to switch my clear wax for dark wax after an hour or two of looking at chalk-painted projects on Pinterest.

The dark wax adds more depth and an aged look and seemed easy enough to use. Thankfully, the store was kind enough to exchange my clear wax for dark wax. I asked if I’d need supplies, since most people used fancy wax brushes in the YouTube tutorials that I watched.

“Nope, just a cloth, like an old t-shirt.”

Perfect. I went home with my paint and new dark wax.

We finished up the painting that afternoon. The drawers were painted a slightly different colour, a green/turquoise blend, on the suggestion of my seven year old and over all, the dresser looked fabulous. I love chalk paint.

My husband wasn’t convince though. “This stuff scratches right off?! It’s useless!”

“Well that’s what the wax is for,” I assured him. “It seals the paint.”

That evening, I was set to wax the dresser. James was raring to get the fish tank set up so I had to finish my project ASAP.

“Are you going to do it in the living room?” he asked. I thought I would. I mean, the wax has virtually no odour; I specifically asked about that when I bought my can of clear wax a couple months back. The sweet girl working at the store assuring me that it hardly smells at all – she even let me smell an open can and I could barely detect an odour. After all, it’s wax, right? That word makes me think of happy bees.

James looked at the can. “It says you need a layer of clear wax first.”

“What? No it doesn’t.”

“Yes, right here.”

“Nobody told me that!” It was 5:30. The store was closed for the day.

The next morning, as soon as James woke up, I left him with the kids and I drove across town to buy more wax.

When I got home, James asked once again if I wouldn’t prefer to wax it in the garage. Sigh. Oh, fine. We (okay, he) hauled the dresser downstairs and into the garage and finally I got to work.

As the World Turns

The wax actually did have an odor once you start to work with it, but it was tolerable. I happily worked on the six drawers, and then I stood up straight the garage suddenly tilted a bit to the left.

Whoa. I attributed my shakiness to the sudden change in temperature – the garage is way colder than our living room.

Just to be safe, I closed the door from the garage to the house so that they wouldn’t smell it upstairs.

I began to work on the dresser body. My head started to feel terrible. I opened the garage door, despite the fact that it was 15° below zero. I worked as fast as I could so that I could get away from the wax. What kind of sadistic bees made this stuff? Probably the petroleum-based, man-made kind of bees.

Finally I went upstairs and casually mentioned to James that I didn’t feel so good.

“Because you’re as high as a kite?” he asked.

Um … what? I was confused. I definitely wasn’t as high as a kite – maybe a telephone pole, but certainly not a kite. And the thought of a kite spinning through the air was making my head feel worse. Do kites spin? I don’t know. I leaned against the refrigerator.

James walked to the back of the house to open the bedroom windows.

“We can smell it back here,” he called. “I was just coming to open the garage door.”

I sank to the floor, still leaning against the fridge. “I opened the door 15 minutes ago, but I didn’t know it it was that bad.” I responded weakly.

This was actually comical – I’m always complaining that his model paints stink and opening the windows dramatically while James swears he doesn’t smell a thing.

I closed my eyes. “Some of the YouTube tutorial videos were inside. Nobody mentioned the smell in them.”

James came back to the kitchen and opened both windows wide.

“One video even had a kid making faces behind her mother. And another one had a baby laughing adorably somewhere off camera.” I continued feebly.

“Maybe they used a different wax.” he suggested.

I lay across the floor. “No, it’s the same name brand and there are only two options, clear and dark.”

“Well then maybe the laughing baby was high too.” he responded.

“That’s a terrible thing to say!” then suddenly I realized my three children were all exposed to this horrid stuff too and immediately began to cry. Because, you know, I was pretty loopy.

“I’ve damaged our baby!” I blubbered. “Can he breathe? Is he okay?” And then I whispered “Am I going to die?”

I should probably mention at this point that I have the same reaction to fabric softener and perfume and scented room plug-ins. Walking down the detergent aisle at the grocery store is akin to torture. I might be a teeny bit sensitive to chemicals. And a touch hypocondriac.

James looked at me and gave me an encouraging hug. Because sometimes the only thing you can do when your overly-sensitive wife is sprawled across the kitchen floor crying that the baby has just caught cancer is to just humour her as best you can. And hide your laughter.

“No, Tamara, people huff turpentine and paint thinner and stuff like that to get high. On purpose.”

I don’t know if that’s true, but it was encouraging.

We left the garage door open for the rest of the day.

The next day, I woke up with a sore throat but a clear head. James asked me if I was planning to do coat of dark wax. Are you kidding me? I told him that I wanted that stuff out of my house as soon as possible.

For some reason, James decided that he would do it himself. He assured me that he would wear a mask and gloves and have the garage door open and even seal the door between the house and the garage with duct tape before he started. I told him that I wasn’t certain that I wanted to sacrifice my husband in the pursuit of pretty furniture but he didn’t listen and off he went to the garage.

An hour later, he came back inside and had a coffee. He wasn’t bothered in the least. That’s annoying.

We left the garage door open all day again. The next day, we brought the drawers up to the living room, but even though I tried to pretend they weren’t bothering me, James brought them right back down with barely a word and opened the garage door again to air them out.

The next day, we brought everything up and admired our work. It was over zero outside and I figured this might be out only chance to throw open all the windows if we needed to (clearly I had no idea today was going to be so nice).

Anyway, it’s done. Isn’t it gorgeous? I love the colours so, so much.

post-chalk-paint

I don’t know if I’m ready to paint anything else though. I might try something small and using a different brand of wax. I’ve heard of a Canadian brand that uses actual beeswax and is supposed to smell amazing. I might even try my own concoction. Or I might just wait until a windy summer when I can be sure the breeze will carry any offending odor quickly away. From James. I’m not touching that stuff again.

I’ve had a sore throat for a couple days now but I’m not sure if it’s related to this adventure. I’m not seeing double anymore, although I suppose that wouldn’t be the worst thing. This dresser turned out so well that I wouldn’t even mind seeing two of them, spinning around above me with a kite or two as I lay on the kitchen floor.

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Unexpectedly TV-Free

Posted by on Mar 6, 2015


Unexpectedly TV-Free

My four year old and I do not see eye to eye on the value of potty training and she reminds me three to four times a day that I have no control over the situation.

No control? Oh, we’ll see about that. A couple weeks ago, after changing the Pixie for the 507,954th time, I finally decided to Assert My Authority and to Create Concrete Consequences (I’ve been reading parenting books again): I told her that there would be no more television until she’s figured out the toilet thing.

So now I’m locked into a battle of wills and my opponent is a four year old child. It’s difficult to predict who is going to win.

This is the kid that asks if she can watch TV before she opens her eyes in the morning. This is the kid that nags us all day long because there is nothing she likes better than passively being entertained. Of course, I don’t give in right away. I tell her 463 times that it’s not time yet – we don’t let the kids watch TV until 3:00 at the earliest.

Why 3:00? Because that’s when I need a break. I kick the kids out of the kitchen, pour myself a glass of wine or tea, and start cleaning the kitchen and prepping dinner. I listen to the radio or some podcasts and poke around Facebook for awhile. 3:00 is mom o’clock and TV makes that happen.

And now I’ve gone and taken that away.

But here’s the thing: it’s going great.

The day I told The Pixie that she had lost her TV privileges, she just said OK and went on her way. The next day, as I changed her, I reminded her that TV was off limits. She listed off the shows that she wasn’t going to watch and then ran off to play. On the third day, I changed her and reminded her that there would be no TV. With a look of utter exasperiation that would befit a teenager, she replied “I know, mommy.”

And that was that.

Huh.

I thought it would be hard. I thought we’d give in after days and days of relentless nagging but our days have been better by far. Even The Princess has grudgingly accepted that books are the new Netflix.

On most days, the girls play for hours, sometimes together and sometimes apart. I hear so much less “I’m bored” – I suppose that’s been code for “can we watch TV” but I didn’t pick up on it.

They’re not completely free of screens. The Princess has been playing on the Wii and doing a lot of math games on the iPad. The Pixie tends to sit and watch her, but somehow I don’t mind as much. Because really – watching your sister answer math questions? How long can that possibly last?

Famous last words, I’m sure.

Almost two weeks into our TV-free life, I backed down a bit and agreed that we would do a movie night once a week, regardless of the progress made in the bathroom.

The first movie night featured popcorn and donuts and hot chocolate and Megamind. I was afraid that I would undue all the progress that we made, and it took a few days for my four year old to get that movie night isn’t a daily ritual but we more or less survived.

I can’t say we’ve been perfect though. A week or so ago, we all got sick and I sent the girls downstairs to overdose on Disney while I stayed upstairs with the baby to catch up on Downton Abbey. A few days later, once the worst of it had passed, we all turned off the screens, emerged from our rooms and let our eyes readjust to natural light. I don’t mind the lapse – movie marathons are a part of being sick, right?

Though I do have to admit that since that week, I haven’t been as strict as I was before. I’ve been letting The Pixie watch a show or two on the iPad while she sits on the toilet trying to poop. My hope is that an episode of Bubble Guppies will help her relax and keep her there longer, and she humors me by making grunting noises if I walk by the bathroom.

Which means she might have won our battle of wills after all.

Crap.

How do you manage keep TV time under control in your home? Send me ideas, either here or on Facebook!

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