How we marked the end of school

It was a half day today so after dropping the girls off and then running errands it was back to their schools to pick them up.  I started with Katrine.  When she first saw me she looked like she was about to cry over leaving her friends and teacher.  “Schools over”  🙁  Then she saw the park.  After five minutes of free play she came to the realisation that summer vacation had begun.  Which to her means….nope not swimming (although that begins Tuesday morning), nope not picnics (although we will likely have some)….come on you can guess…SKATING!  Seven weeks of full or half days of skating with no pesky school or homework distractions.  That was when this face came out.

Next stop, nursery school.  Now I must admit that I am not sure Elspeth understands that there will be no more nursery school.  We have tried to explain it to her but I am still not sure.  She did pick up on Katrine’s excitement over summer vacation and left with a smile on her face as well.

Well, there is a bit of a skating dress fiasco going on right now but that is another post.  The effect of said fiasco is that we needed to drive into the city to return a dress and begin the straightening out process.  This meant stopping for lunch.  The pair of them were thrilled to get a special order meal to share from Thai Express — beef fried rice, no veggies with egg and soysauce no spice.  They almost finished their heaping plate.

After our errand it was off to….guess…skating!  Both girls were on ice today so I got a break and some photos.

Elspeth doing a two foot spin (kinda) with “pretty hands”

The spread eagle is my favourite of the two.



Yup, that time of year again, so off we headed to the berry patch for some picking.  We tried a new patch this year.  Well, not really new because we picked at a patch on the farm where we go to pick apples each fall.  They had a lovely large field that is close enough to home that Katrine was able to bring a friend with her.  That was really nice as the pair of them went off by themselves down one row while I was able to focus on helping Elspeth fill up our basket.  Even though they were off by themselves picking and giggling in the sweltering sun, I was able to keep an eye on them.  Not sure how much ‘quality control’ they carried out but I know that Elspeth ate about as many berries as she picked.

After a short tractor ride back in from the field, the older two went to play with a water pump (“Hey look mom, just like pioneers!”) while Elspeth prefered the swings and slide.  The morning drew to a close with a snack of fresh made strawberrry rhubarb cruellers.  These left all three in a sticky mess and led to another visit to the pump.  All in all a very fun morning made all the better by a return home to air conditioning.

Oh!  Check out the baby apples.  It looks like it should be a better crop than last year.  Already looking forward to that fall outing.

Santa’s Village

Katrine is rapidly reaching the end of the line in terms of belief in Santa.  This past Christmas she began questioning the physics of Santa and hinting that she has her doubts.  It seemed like a now or never moment to head up north to Santa’s Village.  Now we live so very close to Wonderland that it might seem silly to head all of this way for less rides.  The difference is that Elspeth can go on ALL of the rides which NEVER happens.  And I don’t have to go on the rides with her.  Besides, I am a bit of a rollercoaster chicken.  Plus, they have climbing ropes, go karts, batting cages and mini putt which got Katrine excited.  Then there is how excited the girls were to be wrapped up in Christmas in June (have I mentioned that Christmas is a big deal in our house?)  Throw in a beach and a boat cruise on the Muskoka river and it is a fun outing.  It also gave us the perfect excuse to visit with one of Elspeth’s China sisters.

Upon arriving the girls were given elf hats.  Now I had to bribe Katrine for the photo with candy but it was worth it.  I love my two elves.

As much as Katrine would rather have been at Wonderland, as you can see we all had fun….well maybe neither Glenn nor I did on the Jumping Stars ride.  Him because he was squished and me because I hate falling from heights.  The very idea of choosing to fall from high up makes my stomach turn.  We are dedicated and Glenn forced himself on twice while I could only man up once (this was the soul ride that the wee one couldn’t go on by herself).  He also had to take both girls on the Christmas ball ferris wheel alone while I watched from the shade.  I mean, how is riding up high in a not fully enclosed ball fun?  You lean over to far and you fall.  (I am really not a fan of falling.)

Baba was in a festive mood and let both of the girls play one of the games.  They now have matching pink alligators in their rooms named HoHo and MoMo because Elspeth is heavily into copying her sister.

While Katrine and Glenn were off doing big kid things in the Sportsland section, Elspeth and I were hanging out with one of her China sisters.  They were so very cute together.  It was very funny because Elspeth couldn’t understand that she is a year older than her meimei.  “She big like me mama!”  Nevertheless, they had a lot of fun on the various rides, playgrounds and beach.

We topped the trip off with both families having dinner together.  I love seeing the girls together with their China families.  I know that Elspeth will grow to appreciate these connections from watching Katrine.  These are kids who get what it means to be different at school, to not be a matching set in a family, to have questions or worries about their pasts but also kids who are just wonderful kids that they can have lots of fun with.  Both of our girls have been truly blessed.

And she is off to middle school

Katrine’s current school is Grades 1 to 3 which means that she is entering her final week at this school before moving on.  The teachers and parent council put together a very nice ceremony to mark the transition.  I thought that it might be a bit hokey but there I was sitting in the audience tearing up as my daughter got her “transition” certificate.  Sigh.  The kids all looked sharp dressed in various combinations of white and black (for me this meant a last minute shopping trip to find something black that would be cool enough for June heat).  Katrine was super excited (as you can see).  Now it is off to middle school.


There is not a lot that our girls truly need for their birthdays.  We have been blessed with a lot of hand me downs from our older cousins – both clothes and toys.  Sooo, what do you get a nine year old for her birthday when she has a lot?  This year the family went in on theater tickets for her birthday and then did the same for mom and my niece. 

Cats is the perfect first trip to the theater.  It is fun and lively with beautiful music/singing, fabulous dancing, fun stage decorations and great costumes.  The fact that it was my first musical might also have affected the decision.  Well, both girls had a wonderful time and throughly enjoyed the whole experience.  My mom and I were honoured to share the experience with them.  Oh, and to make that little bit better the girls got to go up on stage and meet Old Deuteronomy during intermission.

While we were at the theater my dad, brother and family went swimming.  Elspeth and Glenn decided to take advantage of the sunny afternoon and go for an extended playdate at the park.  Of course she had to take her stroller with her.


Garden Update & The Girls

The girls have been having a blast the past few days.  In between the bouts of rain they have been exploring our small berry patch in search of ripe berries that have been left untouched by the local free range bunnies.  Below is our first haul.  Not bad.  Unfortunately they are a bit on the tart side.  I have had to break down and mix them with sugar to get the girls to eat them.

Glenn had a fun Baba’s Day.  The girls woke him up with presents in bed.  Katrine with a hand made CD case card showing him getting a goal at hockey.  She was greatly relieved that he did not think that the puck was too large for the stick (she had been worrying about that since bringing it home on Friday).  Elspeth was super proud to be able to give him her hand made card along with the popsicle stick tool box.  “Baba, you have to put tools in it when you make tools.”  Not sure which tools Glenn will end up storing in it, but he can honestly say that he does not yet own a handcrafted popsicle stick tool box! (Don’t worry, his real gift was a bottle of wine and some beer)  Then the girls made him breakfast which meant that he was able to have a nice lie in before his bacon, eggs and veggies were ready.  The rain today also left our yard too wet to mow and the garden too soggy to work in so he ended up with a relaxing day instead of the planned day of chores!  Happy Father’s Day to my hubby and my wonderful dad.

Being Celiac can be an…Adventure

I have lived as a celiac for a long time now.  Usually it does not phase me.  I have truly been blessed.  My familyand friends have embraced feeding me.  They have learned to check ingredients, create ‘Heather friendly’ menus for family dinner, allow me to check the ingredients on things that they have used in their cooking and most importantly, they do not get insulted if I just don’t eat something.  I love them all for helping to normalise me in the outside world.  

I have navigated re-learning to bake.  In the process I also learned that I was no longer capable of making my famous pastry.  This process  began as very frustrating and turned into a more academic pursuit especially once I began to encounter baking with food allergies.  Along the way I had many, many failures and some resounding success.

After my diagnosis I rarely went out to eat.  I was sure that they were going to kill me with food.  With time, we ventured out more.  I think that surviving our first adoption trip to China went along way to help.  I mean, if I could eat there without dying (granted I ate mostly rice) then I should be able to eat here at home.  I am always excited when we find another restaurant with gluten free options.  Most of the time if a restaurant has gluten free options they are aware of making “safe” meals.  Then other times you are lulled into a false sense of security.  They can answer your questions and you think that they Get It but they don’t. 

 This past weekend this point was brought home to me.  I was out for dinner with friends enjoyed a lovely gluten free cesar salad and got halfway through a bowl of rice pasta when there it was – a wheat noodle.  Carelessness in the kitchen.  An uncleaned strainer or frying pan caused by a rush?  A new cook who just didn’t get it yet?  A server who had not properly conveyed who the chef was cooking for?  The manager was beside himself with concern but once the gluten has been eaten there is not much that can be done.  Does the free meal help me feel better as I am curled up in pain?  Will it give me back energy the next day to play with my kids? Unfortunately no but I can appreciate the gesture.  It will also not help me to ever eat at your restaurant again.  That said, I refuse to go back to those early days where I ate only a baked potatoe and had my drink.  I simply will not.

I will not let this beat me.  I will continue to force myself to push the boundaries.  Try new recipes at home, hang out with friends, travel.  This all involves risk but without risk there is no growth.  In that I will be showing my girls resiliency and strength; something that they will need as they grow.

A Field Trip/Playdate & BBQ

Have you noticed how busy the end of school can get?  Today was no exception.  A field trip for Katrine and I to Black Creek Pioneer Village.  A playdate adventure for Elspeth (thank you Ashley).  Topped off with a nursery school barbeque.  End result?  Happy kids who have already fallen asleep and a slightly rosey faced mother who got too much sun.

1. Black Creek:

In 15 years of teaching I have been on many field trips.  However, I have never gotten the opportunity to go on one as just a mom.  Today I got the chance.  I put on my mom hat, climbed aboard the bus and went to learn with a group of third graders.  It was a lot of fun because I had none of the stress!  I was warned not to embarass her as we left the house.  I tried to stay good all day but I may have pushed the limits when I gave her a quick hug.

We had a really fun tour guide in the morning.  She explained a lot of things to the kids and worked hard to make history begin to come alive for them.  I think that the highlight of the day for me was lining up with all of the students (and grownups) to learn a pioneer dance.  We all sashed, skipped and turned without crashing into a unruly pile which is pretty darn good.

I also learned how many children Katrine’s age already have their own cell phones and ipads.  It seems like we are behind the times in our house.  It was surprising to see almost 85 – 90% of the kids walking around snapping photos with their phones or using them on the bus.  Some of them aren’t even 9!  Heck, my cell phone is older than some of theirs.  Below is an example ot the type of photo that they were taking about half of the time.

2. Playdate Adventure:

Elspeth was a super happy little girl today because she got to spend the whole day playing and interacting with a close friend.   To top it off, they went swimming!!!   Who wouldn’t enjoy being the center of attention? Apparently she also ate her weight in watermelon today so we know that she is well hydrated.

3.  BBQ:

Our second last BBQ function of the month (the last one is tomorrow).  Yet another round of burgers could have been redundant but it was in actual fact quite fun.  The fact that there were apples hanging from trees, even more watermelon and ice cream cones may have greatly influenced the evening.  As usual, I did not get to eat there but it is always nice to have an excuse to chat with Elspeth’s teachers and her friends parents.

Then the cherry on the cones…we saw a baby bunny on the way home.

National Celiac Conference

It seems that I have been posting a lot about food recently but then, food is an important aspect of my life.  This past week I was able to attend the Canadian Celiac Association National Conference.  A whole weekend focusing on food, fellowship and learning about recent research developments.  I can sum up the research as exciting.  The idea of a pill which will eventually help to guard me against intestinal damage caused by ingesting gluten accidentally!  No more being scared while eating out.  A great piece of insurance still some years away.

I can sum up the fellowship as providing a sense of being normal.  At the conference, I was normal because I was surrounded by celiacs.  Some newly diagnosed, some old pros but all just like me and all interested in the food!

Cocktail reception on Friday, 3 meals and snacks each day.  All safe.  No questioning if there is any hidden wheat.  It was great to just have to worry about nuts instead of it and gluten.  Top it off with a marketplace full of vendors offereing free samples.  Mmmm.  Now that makes for a delicious weekend…although not to good for the waistline!

The free samples at the Gluten Free Marketplace offer an excellent way to taste various products before purchasing.  This is pretty important in my food world.  The taste, texture and quality of gluten free products has improved drastically since I was first diagnosed, as has the amount and variety of products available.  The price of such products has remained high (almost like I get one small box of cookies for the same price as two ordinary boxes).  It feels good to be able to pick up a bag of bagels and know that I will enjoy them because I have already eaten them.  I pay without worry that I will end up with an expensive batch of breadcrumbs.

I can’t wait until the national conference is once again in Ontario!

Exciting accomplishements to start the month!

Elspeth has been scared of going up inside of indoor playgrounds.  We recently went to two of these places in one weekend.  I must admit that I was a bit nervous going in that it would become a cling – on weekend instead of one full of play.  I was delighted when Elspeth allowed herself to be led into the bowels of the playground.  At first it had to be Baba or her sister (Did I mention that they are both awesome?)  but then friends were okay and then she actually tried it out by herself!!!  So very proud of her.

Katrine got to get yogurt again today and it is all the fault of her coaches. (Yes, I blame them.  They are simply too good at what they do!)  She landed her double salchow and immediately started signing to me that it was to be a frozen yogurt night.  Only this time it had to include her coaches too.  Proud of her too.