Why I'm Never Going to the Playground Again

>> Thursday, September 30, 2010

Today I was feeling guilty because I rarely take my son to the playground. We go to the library, the community centre, shopping, and for long daily walks. As soon as he gets over this cold we will start swimming. Still, he loves the playground and I should take him more often. So I put him in our cheap umbrella stroller (because our good stroller is too difficult for me to lug up and down the stairs of our walk-up), and we set off.

Halfway through our journey, I remember why we don't make this trek more often. Though there are about 3 elementary schools less than a ten minute walk away from us, none of them have playgrounds. In my opinion, this is a travesty, but I'll save that for another post. There are no playgrounds anywhere around. We have to walk at least 25 minutes to get to one, which may not seem so long. But then there's the actual playing, and then the 25 minutes back, and. . .

Anyway. When we finally arrived, I came to the end of the path, and remember the second reason why we don't do this more often. There are hiking and biking trails all through our city (one great thing about this crappy town), but for some reason they stop short of any playround structure. So I had to push my flimsy stroller across a giant, wet football field (apparently it rained last night) to get to the equipment. By the time I arrived, my feet were soaked.

I pushed my kid in the swing for awhile, but his eye kept going back towards a red soccer ball that someone had left behind (along with two pairs of shoes and socks--WTH?). He kept pointing and saying "Ba, ba" and because I am just so proud of him for picking up this new word, I decided to put him out of his misery and play a little ball with him.

We chased the ball through the wet grass. I kicked it to him, and then he'd pick up up and throw it back to me. It was rather unfortunate that he hasn't grasped the concept of soccer, because his hands were all wet and covered in sand and grass in no time at all.

Pretty soon a man arrived with his dog. His giant dog. One that resembles a wolf. He was trying to pull his dog away from us, I was trying to keep my son away from him, but of course both the baby and the dog wanted to be friends and it was a little bit of a challenge ensuring that my kid didn't run over there and poke the poor man's dog in the eyes. Or that the poor man's wolf-dog didn't bite my kid's face off.

When that crises was averted, we went back to playing ball. I noted that the umbrella stroller was much easier to push through the grass when My Sweet Baboo wasn't in it, so I thought, 'we'll continue to play ball, and we'll kick/throw the ball in the direction of the path while I push the stroller, and then when we get to the path the game will be over and we'll head home.'

I swear Baboo figured out what I was thinking, because the minute I started to push the stroller over, he took off in the other direction. I repeatedly tried to kick the ball in the general direction of the path, and he repeatedly threw it the other way and ran off laughing. Eventually he spotted a juicebox in the storage compartment of the stroller and toddled over to take a look. I seized this opportunity to grab him and strap him in, and he was not happy. He started to holler, and he hollered all the way home. No amount of juice boxes or Cheese Ritz could appease him. 25 minutes with a screaming toddler, hollering at the injustice of not being able to live at the park, is enough to drive anyone loca.

And that's why I'm never going to the playground again.

A rare photo of my actual kid.
 Where will you never again go? Tell me I'm not the only one whose had a monstrous experience somewhere that should have been fun!


A Few of My Favourite Things: Fall Edition

>> Tuesday, September 21, 2010

10. Hot apple cider

9. Corn mazes

8. Our annual trip to the pumpkin patch for hay jumps, tractor rides and photos

7. Candles that smell like pumpkin pie, mulled cider or creme brulee

6. The chance to photograph spectacular changing colours

5. Being reuinted with old, comfy sweaters

4. Shorter days that make kids go to bed earlier and sleep in later

3. The sound and smell of leaves crunching under my feet

2. Thanksgiving get-togethers with my massive extended family

1.Seeing my Sweet Baboo all dressed up in his costume, then eating his candy ;)

Add yours below!


Meet the Thrifty's (Part 2)

>> Thursday, September 9, 2010

Safe for our active kiddo to crawl around on.
When it comes to cleaning, it's so easy to both be green and save green. I have super cheap methods of keeping my house germ-free, while also protecting the environment and my family from harmful toxins. Ever since our Sweet Baboo was born, I've wanted to keep chemicals away from him. I've been making my own cleaning supplies with nothing but water, vinegar, baking soda, lemon juice, salt and essential oils. I feel really good knowing that my son is crawling around on a floor that's been cleaned with things that are harmless enough to squeeze on our salmon or flavour our french fries. I keep all cleaning materials away from him, but I know that even if he were to somehow scale the baby gate and unlatch the child safety on the cupboard, he'd find nothing but things that are essentially harmless.

Another benefit of this that I've LOVED, is the lack of waste. I don't have to buy supplies that come in their own plastic bottles every time I run out of cleaning products. I bought plastic spray bottles at the dollar store over a year ago, and I mix my cleaning supplies in those. For mopping, I either spray a re-usable microfiber cloth mop that I throw in the washing machine,

or I use a bucket, which I can also obviously reuse. It's great for the environment, great for my budget, and great for my family! Hope you find these recipes helpful.

All Natural Cleaning Supply Recipes:

Toilet Bowl Cleaner:

Combine Lemon Juice and Baking soda to make a paste.

Apply to toilet brush and clean under rim.

Put a cup of vinegar into the toilet tank and let sit for 30 minutes.

Optional: Add an essential oil, such as teatree oil or orange oil, to cut vinegar smell.

Hardwood Floor Cleaner:

2 cups vinegar

1 gallon of water

1/2 a cup of lemon juice

Tile Cleaner:

1/4 cup of vinegar

1 gallon water

optional: 8 drops essential oil

Window Cleaner:

2 cups water

2 tbs vinegar

1 tbs dish soap

Tap Cleaner:

Make a paste with lemon juice and baking soda. Scrub with old toothbrush.


Evolution of a Dream

>> Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Yesterday I sat in a cramped school hallway, painted pea-soup green. My hands gripped the arms of a faux leather chair, and I smoothed and re-smoothed my hair, my clothes, and the piece of paper that was my job references. A fluorescent light flickered above my head, and a fly buzzed lazily around a pile of cardboard boxes. I prayed because I wanted the job. I told God this was my dream.

Compared to what I pictured myself doing when I was younger, this dream seems small. I think most people would squint and wonder why I would want to do this. Why I would want to while away my days here. And the truth is, I guess I wasn't being entirely honest with the Man Upstairs when I told him that this was my dream job. It was more that this school program, run by this popular not-for-profit organization, was my chance. My foot-in-the-door to bigger and better things in the not-for-profit world. This organization has so many different areas that I could work in. If I ever got bored or burned out on one, there would always be something new to do. From early childhood education, to teaching, to career counselling, to parent support workshops, from recreation to group homes to working with the differently-abled. It's a not-for-profit employee's dream. It's my dream. Still, I wondered what brought me here, to this place, where I was crossing my fingers and whispering silent prayers that they would choose me.

The first thing I wanted to be when I grew up was an actress. I wanted to be on TV, because even though movie stars got all the glory, I knew, even at the age of 10, that I wanted to play one character for years. I wanted to figure out and become that person. I wanted a chance to really get to know them.

The next thing I thought about being was a writer. I loved writing. Fiction, essays, opinion pieces, poems, even song lyrics. I rocked English class from the age of twelve on, and of course, loved the idea of creating a character. I felt that I was building a person. The thing that, once again, appealed to me most about writing, was conveying a personal truth--either through creating a fictional character that was as real to me as I was, getting my own thoughts on paper in a way that made them make sense to others, or writing a poem or song about how I felt about something or someone. It was about connecting, about drawing out my inner life (or the inner-life of some imagined person) and making sense of it.

Enter high school. I took a mandatory career studies class in my second year of high school. We had to do a series of assessments to find out what jobs we'd be best suited for, and I was matched with Child and Youth Worker. I hadn't even known that that was a job, but it made perfect sense to me. I would counsel children and youth. I loved children. I'd been baby-sitting since sixth grade, and always preferred to spend my Sunday mornings at church helping out in the nursery rather than attending Sunday school myself. I liked kids. I liked getting inside people's heads. I cared about social issues. I would help kids by getting inside their heads and helping them overcome their issues.

That summer I went away to camp, and we had a speaker who talked about all of this inner-city work that he did. He invited us to come for a few weeks later that summer and work in inner-city Toronto with at-risk youth. I immediately knew that I needed to be there.There were no ifs, ands or butts. I had to go. And I did. And it was everything I thought it would be, and more. It was as though everything inside me, my past, my future, everything, just came into focus and clicked. I wanted to spend my life on the mean streets, handing out sandwiches, talking to people about their futures, encouraging them and helping them find necessary services.

I even went to college for a program geared towards preparing people to work with the high-risk population in the inner city. I was dismayed to find out that since only 6 people registered for the program, by the end of my first year, it was cancelled. However, now I am so thankful that that happened. I transferred into the counselling program, which allowed for a much wider range of what I'm able to do. I can basically do anything that requires working with and helping people, and I'm not limited to the inner city, which is a good thing.

Let me tell you something that I'm not necessarily proud of:

I don't want to work in the inner-city anymore. And you know what did it? Living here. It's one thing to come down from a comfy suburb and hand out sandwiches and talk to colourful people (something I did all through high school and college). It's another thing entirely to live among them. To listen to their domestic disputes and hope they don't taint your child. To deal with the fact that they care so little about their own community that they would literally rather chuck their garbage all over the nature conservation area, than walk ten feet to a trash can. To step around the broken glass bottles all over the side walk, the thudding music through the night on the weekends, and the fact that no schools anywhere around here have any playground equipment for my son to play on.

I don't like these people. I don't. I'm not going to lump them all into one group, because I know that there are obviously exceptions to what I see and observe. I know that in this neighbourhood there are probably a lot of good parents. I know there are probably a lot of people who don't litter, who don't blare their music, and who don't beat their spouses. But the ones who do overshadow the ones who don't. I don't want to live here and I don't want to work here. I'm done. Especially because I have a child now to think about.

So. That leads me to where I am now. My current dream. Community Services Worker of some kind. I will not be approaching people on the streets to tell them about help they can receive. I will not be going to their shelters or offering them blankets as they sleep on sidewalks. I will work with the people who care enough to want to better their lives. The people who care enough that they come to me. I want to work with parents who want to better their relationship with their children, not those who were ordered to by the courts. I want to work with kids who want to get ahead, not those who have to choose community service or juvie.

I've been poor. I've been desperate. I've been damn-near hopeless. And I think that experience has made me see that there is help available. Everyone has a choice about what kind of life they're going to live. Anyone can get an education. Anyone can get counselling. Anyone can get emergency housing. For every problem (at least in Canada), there is a service. You just have to find it. I want to work with the people who care enough about themselves to seek out help. Those are the people who will ultimately succeed.

That's my dream.



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