Weeks 21-30

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WEEK 21: May 20, 2013 – May 27, 2013 – CELEBRATE SECOND BIRTHDAY

This week, as hard as it was for me to process, we celebrated Alexandra’s second birthday. The last two years have gone by in a heartbeat. I vividly remember the rainy Monday evening that we brought her home, tiny and helpless and perfect. I blinked and suddenly it’s two years later and although she’s no longer tiny or helpless, she’s just as perfect.

As I think happens to most parents, my excitement for Alex’s birthday far outweighed the anticipation of my own (which is a week before hers).  On the actual day, which fell during the work week, we had a nice early dinner, just the three of us. She’s anti-highchair at the moment so she sat in a “big girl” chair at the restaurant and enjoyed her birthday dinner. After our meal we headed to the park (her absolute favourite place) before going home to have cake and open presents. Her big gifts this year included an awesome red tricycle and a motorized pink ATV. She absolutely loves them both so I think we might be in trouble come her 16th birthday!

Her birthday party was planned for Saturday. We did it at Edithvale, an awesome community centre that they’ve recently renovated at Yonge and Finch. We’d gotten the idea of hosting a party there from a really cool birthday we’d attended in November. The theme of the party was a Treasure Hunt, which I have to admit I’d been planning for some time. I do invitations for fun in my spare time (you can see some here) and so kids’ parties always fill me with excitment. In line with our theme, I had printed up maps of the party room (which had 5 stations set up where the little ones could to to do a fun activity and also pick up a small “treasure”) as well as provided everyone with a small treasure hunting kit, including mini magnifying glass and compass.

I’m happy to report that the party turned out to be a lot of fun. The kids stayed busy at the stations and all of them were happy to fill their loot bags with the mini treasures. We even managed to incorporate some bubble time- it turns out all kids love bubbles just as much as Alex does! After lunch and some cake, we packed everything up and took a tired little 2-year old lady home; we were exhausted too, it’s amazing just how tired a three hour children’s party can make you!

All-in-all, I couldn’t have asked for a better end to Alex’s birthday week; she had lots of fun and so did we. And I’m also embarassed to admit that I already have some ideas for next year’s party…only 360-ish days left to plan ;)

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WEEK 22: May 28, 2013 – June 3, 2013 - GO TO THE UNIONVILLE FESTIVAL

This weekend was a bit of a first experience for all of us. A few months ago I decided to buy booth space at the Unionville festival. This festival is a small street event that they do every year along Main Street in the Unionville neighbourhood (around Highway 7 and Kennedy in Markham). We go almost every year, since Brad grew up in the area and has really nice memories of the festival from when he was growing up, so running a booth there had been an idea for quite some time.

During this event different vendors line Main street, which is closed off to traffic, selling a variety of items and making snacks that everyone can enjoy. I decided on a booth for myself as a way to promote my web and graphic business (click here to have a peek). I work full time as a software developer, which is work I love, but having Alex two years ago really changed the way I feel about how I spend my work days. Spending the whole day away from her is tough and so I’ve been focusing on expanding my side business so I can hopefully spend more time at home with her one day (soon?!).

Anyway, since Brad and I were going to be at my booth all day we had Brad’s mom bring Alex over to the festival so she could enjoy the festivities as well. She had a fantastic day, snacking on foods with P (check on the adorable pic of them munching below) and also dancing along with the different dance groups at the bandstand- they’re the tiny blue and pink figures in the stage pic.

It’s funny, before having a baby the shows full of little kids dancing were always super cute, but after a minute or two I’d lose interest and look to do something else. This time I found myself memorized with the performances. The kids seemed to be so sophisticated for their young ages, the way they kept time with the music and moved around in unison. I have a sense that this is the perspective of a toddler’s mom kicking in, because these skills are just developing for Alex right now and I acknowledge that keeping in time with the music isn’t super impressive if you’ve forgotten what it’s like to watch a 2 year old dance!

Watching Alex bopping with the music, and even trying to put her forehead on the ground to do a quasi-cartwheel when the kids on stage were doing them, has made me think that some sort of dance class is in her near future. Hopefully she has her mom’s rhythm and not her dad’s ;)

So Unionville festival Saturday was a good day for all of us. Hopefully my business gets some traction as a result of the exposure and as a bonus we discovered that maybe Alexandra might enjoy some organized dance/music classes? Brad and I are both definitely more “sporty” than “arty” so we’ll have to be sure that we encourage her to try everything and not just the things that we enjoy. Maybe she can eventually help get daddy out on the dance floor more often too.

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WEEK 23: June 4, 2013 – June 10, 2013 - PLANT A TOMATO

My parents were raised in a small village where farming was a very important part of their lives. As a kid this translated to a huge vegetable garden in our backyard, full of tomatoes, peppers, onions and cucumbers. I learned a lot about how to put together a great garden just by watching (and occasionally helping) and acquired an appreciation for just how much better home-grown vegetables taste.

Coming from that kind of upbringing (with the added influence that Brad’s parents are big gardeners as well), we of course have a vegetable garden in our own backyard. It is very modest in comparison to either of our parents’ set-ups, but it’s still something we take pride in. This year, thanks to a super cold spring we didn’t plant our baby tomatoes and peppers until just this week. And of course, we saved a special tomato for Alexandra to plant and call her own.

She loves digging in sand (and getting dirty in general!), so she really took to the planting activity. It also helped she’d just gotten a super cool set of gardening tools for her birthday (Thank you Kaitlyn and Noemi!) so she was excited to try them out “for real”.

Miss. Alex was very good about listening to instructions and doing things in the order that daddy said to. She dug a small hole in the corner of the garden, filled it up with water from her water bottle was really gentle with her plant when we told her she had to be careful (this part was especially sweet). The planting itself went wonderfully, but the real challenge is going to be keeping her out of the garden since it was her own personal “sandbox”  prior to this week. We’ll try our best, it’ll be nice to have her actually try some veggies in the fall and experience the fruits of her labour.

Now onto this week when Alexandra starts pre-school…here’s hoping it all goes really, REALLY well for our little angel.

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WEEK 24: June 11, 2013 – June 17, 2013 - GO TO PRESCHOOL

This week Alexandra started preschool. That is such a simple sentence to type, but it has caused endless anxiety for months as we worked up to her first day. Making the decision to put Alex in a full-time program hasn’t been an easy one. We were very lucky to have my mom taking care of her throughout the last year (while simultaneously working full-time!) . It was by sheer force of will and determination that we made it work, with my mom having to leave for work at 3:00 pm everyday there was a crazy juggling of schedules to cover off the two hours until either Brad or I could come home. We enlisted the help of our sister-in-law Karen, Brad’s dad and aunt and occasionally my dad and brother who all very graciously helped us out to make it happen.

The plan had always been to put Alex in a preschool after her second birthday when we thought she’d benefit from being with other kids and we could also all relax our insane schedules a bit. In theory this seemed fine when she was 18 months old, but as the time drew near it was really hard to think about leaving her in the care of people we really didn’t know very well. My mom repeatedly offered to continue watching her and we searched for ways to cover off those two hours, while still trying to decide if the school setting might actually be a beneficial change for her. At more than one point I even considered quitting my job, like seriously considered it.

In the end we decided that the best thing for everyone was to give preschool an honest try. Alexandra is a smart, inquisitive, energetic little girl who loves seeing and trying new things and although this first week was tough (and sadly I know the next few will be as well), I believe that it’ll be good for her. She already has two friends she talks consistently about (Gabby and Vlad!) and loves playing in their toy kitchen and on the playground they have outside (Brad went to pick her up early on Friday and watched her having a ball from the parking lot). I’m hoping it only gets better from here.

So this last week, as we experienced something many Canadian families go through at some point with their kids, I started to really wonder why we’ve set up our society in such a way that we work all day to pay other people to watch our kids. It doesn’t seem to make a lot of sense- in an ideal world there would be more part-time work or job sharing or flex time, or whatever, so that we wouldn’t have to make these tough decisions- so that we could still work, but also see our children more than a few hours a day. Maybe by the time Alex has kids things will be better…or maybe I’ll be a retired granny and will help take care of her kiddies while she’s off making her family proud by doing work that she really loves.  Only time will tell, but here’s really hoping.

P.S. After the chaotic week, over the weekend we made time to celebrated father’s day and attended a really fun family baptism. It was really nice to hang out together and see the rest of the family too. Why can’t every day be Sunday? Until next week…

 

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WEEK 25: June 18, 2013 – June 24, 2013 – HAVE LUNCH WITH OLD/NEW FRIENDS

After an exhausting second week at daycare this past weekend couldn’t come fast enough. We were all really relieved to have a break from our weekday morning routine, especially Alexandra. As usual for a summer weekend we had tons of things planned, but one of the highlights was a BBQ on Sunday morning at my old friend Haruko’s house. Haruko (aka “H”) and I have been friends for over 24 years (reading that in black in white is surreal!), so it’s always a lot of fun to get together and catch up. As an added bonus, our other good friend Jody was coming as well (Jody and I have known each other a few years LONGER than H and I, as unbelievable as it seems).

Both Jody and H have kids that are a little bit older than Alex so it’s always nice to hang out and see how 3, 4 and 5 year olds act (so I can mentally prepare myself for what’s coming!) and also to see how Alex is going to interact with older kids.

Alex and I arrived at Haruko’s place first (Brad stayed home to finish off our new tool shed) and were greeted by her adorable son Liam (who at 5 1/2 is the oldest of all our kids). Alex was shy at first, with both Liam and Haruko, but warmed up really quickly which was reassuring (I was worried that her tough first weeks at school might make her clingy!). It was also nice to sit and chat with H about Liam’s transition to preschool a few years ago- you know logically that adjusting is tough for all kids, but it’s nice to hear about a similar experience from someone you know and trust.

Shortly thereafter Jody arrived with her two little girls Abigayle and Ava. Her little ones are about to start summer vacation and Jody was telling us about her struggle to find summer care that she’s happy with. Another challenge to look forward to in a few years!

While talking with the girls was great and Alex was having fun exploring her new surroundings, the BBQ piggybacked Alex’s nap time and after an hour or two her crankiness started to come through (we are officially smack dab in the middle of the terrible twos!). We left a little earlier than anticipated, but had a fun morning catching up with old friends for me and new ones for Miss. Alex. A fun start to the summer of 2013 :)

 

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WEEK 26: June 25, 2013 – July 1, 2013 – CELEBRATE CANADA DAY LONG WEEKEND

This Canada Day we had a lot to celebrate and so our weekend was very busy as a result. The long weekend started for us on friday night when we had arranged a surprise 40th Anniversary party for Brad’s parents. Brad, his brothers and the two kiddies (Alexandra and Peyton) kept the unsuspecting honorees busy at dinner while Karen and I decorated and got the food ready for the big party. Everyone arrived on time and the surprise went off without a hitch (which was really quite amazing considering how many people knew!!)- it a fun start to a super packed long weekend.

On Saturday morning we packed our things and made our way to the cottage in Wasaga Beach. We just recently bought a small place and were excited to finally be able to spend a night there . Although our furniture is not set to arrive until August, we made due with a futon and Alex’s playpen as make shift cottage beds. To make Alex comfortable in her new surroundings and to make her new room at the cottage feel more like home we got some decals for her to decorate her new space. She had a great time putting them up and took the trouble to line them up as straight as she could, but by the end of the weekend all but two had come back down again!

We rounded off our weekend with a relaxing Canada Day. We enjoyed a BBQ and pizza along with a nice walk to the local ice-cream parlor where Peyton and Alex indulged in some fruity frozen yogurt. It was REALLY nice to spend some quiet time together after the craziness of the past few weeks. Sadly, we were all back to our regular routine this morning, including a tough daycare dropoff :( Looking forward to another quiet cottage weekend in two weeks.

Next week we’ll be going to a family wedding…can’t wait to try on the little Miss’ party dress!

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WEEK 27: July 2, 2013 – July 8, 2013 – GO TO A WEDDING

This technically wasn’t Alexandra’s first wedding; Brad’s first cousin Alex got married when our Alex was about four months old and since she was still nursing she came to enjoy the festivities (or rather sleep through them!). So while she’d been to a wedding before, this weekend was the first time she was aware of what was going on.

We started off our day at the ceremony which was held at a lovely Greek Orthodox church they’re still finishing up in the Warden/Elgin Mills area. At the beginning Alex was somewhat interested in what was going on, the music and the pretty girls walking down the aisle, but the bride had barely made it up the altar before she changed gears and was more interested in an apple snack! Brad and my mom took turns keeping her occupied while I sat back and enjoyed my cousin Tanya’s wedding ceremony.

Later in the evening we of course attended the reception. The huge open hall and lobby area left tons of room for young Miss. Alexandra to run around at full speed and make her parents, dressed in uncomfortable shoes, chase her around. Alex loves to run, her energy and excitement are two of the things I love most about her, but these qualities also make for an exhausting time running after her, especially in heels. After a good three hours of eating a little and running around A LOT, we decided it was time for the little lady to go home to bed. Luckily for us Brad’s parents live right around the corner from the hall, so he drove her to grandma’s and came back in time to enjoy dessert and dancing.

What I had really wanted for Alex was for her to see the bread dance, which is the first dance in any wedding for folks from our part of Greece. It’s my favourite tradition and I thought she’d love it, but since the dancing usually starts late, WAY after the point at which her two-year old body has reached its limit, we’ll have to save that first for another day. Just something else to look forward to :)

P.S. Congratulations to Tanya and Peter who are now happily married!

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WEEK 28: July 9, 2013 – July 15, 2013 – MAKE A PIZZA

This week, like most Toronto residents, we found ourselves in the center of the surprise rainstorm on Monday night. I work in the west-end and had a somewhat harrowing drive home passing cars stranded in half a meter of water on the Gardiner.  While it always feels like a waste to spend any of our precious summer nights indoors, after experiencing how fast Monday’s storm rolled in when it turned dark on Thursday night we decided to spend our evening indoors. To keep the little Miss occupied and also to get an early start on dinner we thought this week’s activity could be to introduce her to the art of making homemade pizza.

Cooking or baking of any kind where Alexandra is an active participant always requires the clean freak in me to sit back, relax and not worry about the state of our kitchen. Easier said than done, but with the help of some well-placed towels and a solemn promise from Alex that we would not spread pizza sauce all over the floor, we commenced our pizza making endeavour.

We started with kneading the dough. We actually buy pre-made dough (a mini cheat in our “homemade” pizza, shhh), but I gave Alex a hunk to play with and pretend knead. She got the hang of adding flour to her dough fairly quickly and started to get over-exuberant about what else needed flouring, so that part of the process had to be sped along! Once we had our base, we carefully added sauce to our dough (my angel was true to her word and did not spread sauce anywhere else) and I started to grate some cheese to put on top. I had a cute mini grater set out for Alex to use as well; it’s nice and small and would be safe for her little hands to use, but she was much more interested in sampling the cheese vs. grating it! After putting cheese on our pie, as well as a few pieces of bacon (yummy!), Brad took over for the hard (and unsafe) part of putting the dough on a hot pizza stone and in the oven.

A short twenty minutes later Alex got to sample the fruits of her labour. This included her little hunk of dough (which we’d put on the edge of the pizza stone and had cooked like a mini bun) and a slice of delicious pizza. As we ate Brad commented that the pizza tasted better than usual, which wasn’t solely for Alex’s benefit, it DID taste really good. Maybe things made with “love” really do taste better?! haha…or maybe we were all just really hungry :)

P.S. A special Happy Birthday goes out to our goddaughter Chloe who celebrated her first birthday this past weekend. We all had a fantastic time at the party on Saturday. Check out a pic of all the girls below- the ‘big’ girls are all holding their ‘little’ girls. We love you Chlo-chlo!

 

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WEEK 29: July 16, 2013 – July 22, 2013 - GET ARM PAINTED & GO TO THE BEACH

At many kids events you go to these days there seems to be a resident face painter on hand. More and more lately we’ve seen them popping up at birthday parties and other celebrations as well. Getting her face painted was one of the items on our original list for Alexandra- (just because it seems like so much fun!), but our baby has always been resistant to getting anything put on her face. While this continued this weekend at her cousin Mario’s birthday party (Happy 4th little guy!), she surprised us by being receptive to having her arm decorated a little bit. Heather, the friendly face painter, gave her some cute purple flowers to match her purple romper and Alex seemed to like the experience overall- she kept looking down at the flowers to be sure they were still there. Brad and I also both noticed that she seemed to really hit it off with little Noemi, my good friend Annarita’s daughter. That was especially nice to see, it’d be great to see the next generation become friends as well :)

We spent the remainder of the weekend at the cottage, enjoying the fresh air and sunshine. Alex had her first official beach day of the season which was lots of fun (although somewhat late considering it’s now already July 22nd!) and we sadly headed back to the city on Sunday night, exhausted but content.

A somewhat low-key week for new experiences, but a good time for the little miss none-the-less. Next week we visit the ROM!

 

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WEEK 30: July 23, 2013 – July 29, 2013 - VISIT THE DISTILLERY DISTRICT

The initial plan for this week had been to visit the ROM, but some scheduling conflicts and an unexpected family function meant we had to put off the museum for at least another few weeks. Inspired by young Peyton and his mom Karen’s recent visit to the Distillery District, when we found ourselves free on Sunday morning we decided that would be our family outing for the week.

The distillery is great for any person looking for a cool place to have dinner or a coffee or just browse cute shops, but it’s especially awesome for parents with a toddler because it means not having to worry about cars. We really enjoyed our cobblestoned walk on Sunday, just letting Alexandra run ahead as fast and (almost) as far as she wanted, since the mostly open space meant we wouldn’t lose track of her.

While on our leisurely walk Brad and I had the added pleasure of reminiscing a little bit about the locations within the district where we took our wedding photos, once upon a time. Hard to believe that this August we’ll have been  married for four years. Time really flies…and twice as fast it seems when you have a kid in tow. I read the other day that “the days are long, but the years are short”- that’s been especially true for me since Alex came into our lives. Some days are endless, but then the months seem to melt away.  And I often remind myself that before we know it she won’t be as interested in Sunday mornings with mom and dad anymore and we’ll find ourselves thinking back to those days when we chased our fearless toddler down the cobblestoned streets of the distillery.

Forgive me a sec while I wipe a tear from my eye (sigh)…and think ahead to next week, when I think we’re going to move the little miss from her crib to a “big-girl” bed!

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