Wednesday, July 27, 2011

A natural organizer :)

1st time eating whole cherries & he does this!

Monday, July 25, 2011

We're parent-full parents who can relate to parentless parents

It's been awhile since I commented and based a post on a recent article I read. Reading the article "Parentless Parents: What's The Impact of the Grandparent Gap?" made me think about our own situation. Parentless parents are basically individuals who have lost one or more of their parents and then have children of their own. It could also be that when their children are very young, one or more of their parents pass away. When the children grow up, they are growing up without knowing much about their grandparents.

It not just about missing out on the support like free babysitting but also things like family history and stories your children's grandparents would tell them, and being able to share your child's milestones with your parents. If you have a close relationship with your parents and one of them passes away before you had a child or when your child is young, all this would affect you a lot more. The article also mentions that there are parallels between a parentless parent and that of a parent who has a disconnected or estranged relationship with their parents.

In many ways I feel like we can relate to the parentless parents. Ironically, both my parents and both of Jean-Louis' parents are alive and well. Tristan has four grandparents but no close relationship with any of them. Part of the reason is because they don't live near us. My parents live closest to us since they are in Victoria so Tristan sees them maybe once a month or two. Jean-Louis' parents are in France and Tristan visited them once. In terms of time spent with his grandparents, I would say that Tristan has seen his Victoria grandparents a bit more than his French grandparents.

Parenting has actually made me feel very alone. Sure my parents came over to see us when we were in the hospital when Tristan was born and then even stayed with us for two days. That was tremendous help but I often think that Jean-Louis and I are alone. We are somewhat socially awkward and have no close friends to turn to for help. Neither of us have close relationships with our parents. However Jean-Louis is an only child and does talk with his parents on the phone every week. Some times Jean-Louis shares milestones with his mom but at a later time and only if he remembers. In my family, we don't do that unless my mom or dad asks. In fact, I don't even know anything about my mom's parents. I was too young to remember them when we moved to Canada and then both of them died before I met them. My mom didn't really tell me stories about them. Their only existence to me is their picture in my parent's living room wall. It's sad really. We are a disconnected emotionally distant family. I think we are different from most families.

I think it's important that Tristan knows about all his grandparents. He definitely knows who they are but he hasn't been left alone with them much to really know them. He video skypes with his grandparents from France once every two weeks or so. He speaks on the phone or sees his Victoria grandparents for coffee about once a month or two. You know how certain children get super excited to see their grandparents and then they become shatter-boxes and tells them everything? Well, with Tristan some times we have to ask him to say hello or something because he would just look at the video screen and wave. He's also quite shy. Like me I guess.

Jean-Louis is extremely close to his grandparents from his mom's side. They practically raised him. When we asked his mom how she potty trained him, she had no idea. She just said that his grandmother did it :) I have fond memories of my grandparents from my dad's side. Grandparents are awesome and we want Tristan to discover that awesomeness. It's not only about Tristan though. We want his grandparents to get to know him well too, bond and develop relationships with him. I think the next best thing to being a parent is being a grandparent. Some may even say that being a grandparent is better :) We try to involve his grandparents when we can so that Tristan can spend more time with them. We invited my parents along on a vacation with us to Mexico last year and that was great for both of them. Next year when we visit France again, we're hoping to convince Jean-Louis' parents to go on a small vacation with us too.

Maplewood Farm is perfect for toddlers

We were already in North Vancouver for the Caribbean Days Festival so we thought we'd swing by Maplewood Farm to check out the petting zoo. That is more like something Tristan would enjoy. It was nice to get away from the crowds too :) When we told Tristan about the farm, his face lit up. He loves animals! He is somewhat scared of them but he loves them.

Kids are $4 and adults are $7 to get in. There are also additional things you can buy like little tractor rentals and pony rides. We had a voucher from Social Shopper so we used that for our admission. The farm even has a gift shop, playground by the parking lot and lots of parking spaces.

Tristan had a blast. He especially loved petting the goats, sheep, and rabbits. When it was time, he sort of didn't want to leave. The goats really are friendly. They don't care that tons of people are touching them and they don't even respond much to interaction. I noticed they seem ticklish around the ears. Tristan touched their ears a lot since that made them respond the most. Whenever the goats made noise, Tristan would get scared. Just a bit. It was funny because every little noise they made, Tristan would make a noise back. Bark at him, he barks back! Little kids :)

There were horses, goats, donkeys, cows, chickens, goats, sheep, geese, peacocks, pigs, birds, ducks, rabbits, and a talking parrot. Tristan loved the talking parrot! After that, he was trying to get every animal to talk back to him :) He even yelled at them at some point because they wouldn't respond. Yeah, we tried to explain that not all animals can talk. Or more like only the parrot can talk.

Maplewood Farm is a small but charming looking farm with plenty of animals to entertain small children. I personally think it would be a blast for kids 5 and under. In fact, most of the kids we saw there were very young, just like Tristan. I also loved that there were clean bathrooms and plenty of washing stations outside the petting zoo for washing hands. We stayed there for an hour and that was plenty of time.

Caribbean Days Festival in North Vancouver

A friend I met in grad school is from Barbados. When she learned that I was planning to go to Jamaica with Jean-Louis, she suggested I go to the Caribbean Festival in Vancouver. That was five years ago. We were interested but we just never got around to going. It's kind of like how we only went to the Greek festival this year.

Yesterday we finally went to the Caribbean Days Festival. It was held at Waterfront Park in North Vancouver. There was food, live music, vendors selling crafts and clothing, rides for kids and bouncy castles. The view of Vancouver was also spectacular. Unlike the Greek festival where there were lots of free kids activities, the Caribbean Festival was charging for everything. We put Tristan in the small bouncy castle so he could jump around a bit. He had a blast but it was $2 for only 3 minutes. There were only about 5 kids in there too and no one else around. Even the food was pricey. A chicken roti was $12 and a smoothie was $5. We ended up spending $28 and we weren't even full. In comparison, we spent maybe $12 at the Greek Festival and we were stuffed. It's not really fair to compare the two since the Greek Festival didn't make any money from their event. All profits went towards funding the Greek event, which I heard was billed at $150 000. Crazy. It was a huge success though.

We will most likely go back to the Greek Festival but probably not the Caribbean Festival. The food was good but too pricey at the Caribbean Festival and I didn't like that the kids activities were not complimentary. Jean-Louis thought the food wasn't good at all. The venue itself was too small and impractical. The walkway separating the food vendors from the crafts and entertainment was too narrow and crowded. Okay, I'm going to stop complaining. It was nice to finally experience it and the weather was beautiful. I even wore my Jamaican t-shirt for the occasion :)

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Tristan is potty trained! (knock on wood)

It has been at least three weeks since Tristan had a wet underwear. He went for nine days at one point earlier and then in the middle of a tantrum, he peed in his underwear. I have a feeling that it wasn't an accident though, if you know what I mean ;) Since then I believe we haven't seen any accidents and daycare hasn't reported any either.

It's been long enough that we're calling it a pass. He is officially potty trained! This of course doesn't count the wet pullups he wakes up in. Somehow he just isn't holding his pee while he sleeps. Maybe I should give him underwear to wear anyway and train him in bed? I hear that some kids will even wet their beds when they are four years old :(

Being potty trained makes it so much easier to go out with him. Being a little boy who can pee standing or sitting makes it THAT much easier! :) We some times will tell him to try and pee before we go out if we know that he hadn't gone for awhile. However, most of the time he just tells us and the odd time, he will just head to the bathroom alone. It's great because we don't have to keep track of his bathroom routine anymore!

On a related note, Tristan has been eating so well lately and is pretty much pooing at the same time every day! Hooray for balanced meals and being regular :) The bad news is that we're now nagging him to hurry up because he takes forever to eat. It's funny because there really is always something bugging us :)

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Why I need to go on weight-loss bootcamp

I made all these desserts in the same week!

I know I am a mom when...

  1. I splurge on the purchase of raspberries only to taste 1 berry and give the rest to Tristan.
  2. I walk outside by myself and I look for sidewalk entry points that have the dip in them, even when I am not pushing a stroller.
  3. I enter a store and immediately go to the kids section to look for deals.
  4. I follow mostly parents who love to talk about their kids on Twitter.
  5. 90% of all my photos in iPhoto have Tristan in them. Ditto with the videos.
  6. I eat a luke warm or cold meal that is meant to be eaten hot.
  7. I can no longer eat a meal from start to end without having to get up at least once.
  8. I drink cold coffee that was made hot.
  9. I start to bribe and give rewards for every day achievements like peeing in the toilet or eating most of the dinner.
  10. I use the word play date, instead of just date.
  11. I know the names of at least three of Thomas the Tank Engine's friends.
  12. I travel with a sippy cup of water because I can't find my own water bottle.
  13. I scan a new room for danger the moment I step in.
  14. I walk around with cute little stickers on my clothes and have no idea.
  15. I spend as much time planning a kids birthday party as I do planning a vacation.
  16. I know when to give out loot bags and what to expect to find inside.
  17. Halloween becomes one of my favorite holidays because I get to live it through Tristan's eyes.
  18. I give out a lot of Valentines cards, but none to my husband.
  19. I know about all the cool playgrounds, parks, StrongStart, Neighborhood house, and toddler story times in my area.
  20. I know the lyrics to Zoom, zoom, we're going to the moon.
  21. I know how our local Toys R Us store is organized. And I know where or how to find all the cool and trendy toys in my city.
  22. I think and care more about the environment. For instance, I look at ways to save the planet by reducing waste of plastic and reusing as much as possible.
  23. I wake up to the sound of "Daddy!!!!" instead of my alarm clock.
  24. I can't stop but think about my child 90% of my day.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Happy 125th Vancouver!

We had another busy weekend. Saturday we went shopping everywhere at Metrotown (e.g. Superstore, Zellers, Save-Ons, T&T, Chapters) and then we headed to North Vancouver to shop at Jack & Lola. When we finally finished and got home, we all went running, then Jean-Louis took Tristan out for a bike while I made ├ęclairs au chocolat and prepped dinner. Yup, just your typical Saturday really :)

On Sunday, we did chores in the morning, skyped with family from France and then headed to the bank for an appointment. From there we headed downtown on the skytrain to Stanley Park in hopes to catch some of the festivities for the Vancouver 125 celebration. We had a nice 30 minute walk from Waterfront Station and even saw a harbour seal along the way. Tristan enjoyed watching the float planes land and take off in the water. Wow, those things are pretty loud! They remind me of my old skydiving days. As we got closer to the seawall, we saw more and more people. I have never seen so many people walking along the seawall. It was such a nice day for walking though. 

We arrived at the park after 2PM and stayed until 5:30PM. We mostly hung out around the Family Stage and walked around the kids zone, which closed at 5PM. There were line ups so we couldn't do the face painting in time but we did do the boat-making, which Tristan enjoyed. Overall, it was a nice outing. I would have enjoyed it more if we had actually sat down and watched the shows more. We didn't have anything to sit on and there were so many people! We tried catching the free shuttle to Waterfront Station but the wait was too long so we ended up walking. We got to hear parts of the Vancouver Symphony performance while we waited though.  It wasn't until 6:15PM did I finally get to use the potty and sit down for the first time. I was kind of pooped!

We had dinner at Water St. Cafe. It's an Italian restaurant in Gastown and I have been meaning to try it for awhile now. The food was good and Tristan ate well too. We took the skytrain back home and stuffed ourselves with fruit. We normally don't ever go out so late on a Sunday but it was the only day we could fit in the Vancouver 125 event. It was around 8PM when we got home but it was still light outside. Aren't summers great? :)

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Strawberry picking at W&A Farms

This past weekend, we went strawberry picking and then hosted a barbecue. It was our first time picking strawberries and our first barbecue of the year. Hooray for summer! :)

We went to W&A Farms in Richmond since that was the closest u-pick strawberry farm to our home. They also advertised that they don't use chemical sprays on their berries, which I liked. We headed out late in the morning so that it wouldn't be too hot. There weren't that many people there and we saw that there were tons of unpicked strawberries in the field. I would say about 85% of the berries were ready to be picked too. In fact, I'm not sure they will be able to pick them all in time.

Compared to blueberries, strawberries were easy to pick and we filled our two buckets in maybe 20-30 minutes. We picked 10.5 pounds and were charged $2/lb at this farm. Our total came to $21, which wasn't that cheap but they were local berries so they definitely tasted better than store bought ones. I heard that Emma Lea Farms is a larger farm and they charge $1.50/lb down there. Both berries taste great!

Tristan helped pick some for the initial 5 minutes and then he wasn't too interested. He just wandered around nearby. He was pretty well behaved considering Jean-Louis and I were both picking. He never tried eating any berries since we told him he wasn't allowed to before we got there. He did step on berries trying to hop over the berry lanes though. Oops.

Strawberry season doesn't last long in Vancouver so if you want to go picking, go now! If you are curious about picking, I recommend browsing Chef Heidi Fink's blog post on strawberry picking. There are some good tips there and I made sure I showed Jean-Louis the post before we headed out.

I think we did good, don't you? :)

When life gives you strawberries, you make strawberry cake with strawberry meringue buttercream!! Right? ;)

Monday, July 4, 2011

Lightning McQueen cookie puzzle (tutorial)

My nephew recently turned 4 years old. I wanted to bake something for him but wasn't sure what. We had a gift for him already but I wanted to supplement it with some bakes since I know he likes sweets. Okay, which kid doesn't like sweets, right?!

Now that I think about it, it was the perfect idea and could be the perfect gift for any kid really. Kids love cookies! Kids love puzzles! Especially my nephew! Ta da! I've seen cookie puzzles before but in smaller form. I wanted something simple and something big so that I would only have to decorate one cookie, in theory. I kind of thought up this idea at the last minute too. That one big cookie turned out to be more work than I thought!

I brainstormed online with Tristan on what I could use for my cookie design. When I think of little boys, I think of trains, cars, dinosaurs, etc. A car would be simple enough. Then I thought about Cars 2 playing in the theater right now. Lightning McQueen! My cookie puzzle idea only got better and better :)

Since I had no giant cookie cutter of a car and I didn't really want to hand cut one, I decided just to do a rectangular cookie with a car inside. I typically bake lemon flavored vanilla sugar cookies but for this particular occasion, I made a chocolate cookie. I've made the chocolate version before without icing and it was quite good, plus I knew my nephew loves chocolate. Did I not say this idea was getting better and better?! Not only would it be a hit but the color of the cookie would make a great background for the car since it would look like dirt. For anyone thinking of making a puzzle cookie and needs a background in color, tint your cookie dough the color of your main background. That would definitely simplify the decorating process :)

Here is the basic process for making a cookie puzzle. Make and bake your cookie as you normally would. Once they are removed from the oven, cut them into desired pieces while they are still hot and soft. Let the pieces cool. When it comes time to decorating, put all the pieces together and then decorate. While the icing is still wet, separate the pieces again and let each individual piece dry.

Drawing the car was a bit tricky, especially since I used a lot of icing, some on top of each other and the colors were bleeding into each other. Oops. I couldn't let the colors dry beforehand since the cookie had to be separated into its parts before the icing hardened. The challenge here was that the heavy icing started to drip off the cookie and I had to cut and clean off the excess. If I didn't, there would be no way to assemble the pieces close together. The other challenge was that I didn't know how to carefully separate the pieces without breaking the cookie up. Luckily, Jean-Louis had taken a picture of it when I had cut it up into tetris pieces. I used his photo to help guide me into cutting and pulling each piece apart. Phew! :) I realized at this point, I was aiming for just a recognizable red car, rather than a sharp clean Lightning McQueen :)

The next morning, when the cookie was completely dried, I put the pieces back together and did a bit of trimming so that they would fit together nicely. I then took a new tin container, decorated it with some wrapping paper, printed out a picture of what the car would look like assembled and taped it on top of the tin. Voila! It looked like such an amateur job but it was just a great idea and I managed to pull it off in time for the party! Since it was my first cookie puzzle attempt, I was quite proud of myself :)

Happy baking and make sure to take lots of pictures, before and after each step! You never know when a photo will come in handy :) If you're going the rectangular cookie route, I would also recommend giving your cookie a border to help with putting the puzzle together. It will also allow you to make use of more icing on the cookie.
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