Sunday, 15 December 2013

Bilingual Jingle Bells


Nevin and his classmates have been practicing a lot in preparation for their Winter Solstice concert.  He's been wondering around the house practicing.

The other day he called out to me, "Mommy, I can sing Jingle Bells: Jingle bells!  Jingle bells!  Jingle all the way..."

"That's great, Nevin."

"And Mommy, guess what?  Ms. Barbrick is helping my sing Jingle Bells in French: Vive le vent!  Vive le vent!  Vive le vent d'hiver!"

"That's pretty cool!"

"And Mommy listen.  I can even hum it in English, too!"

"Can you hum it in French?"


Sunday, 1 December 2013

Hamilton Hotel

Dear Shawn,

Remember that time we took our kids to the unsafest hotel in Ontario?  You know, the time our son almost witnessed a murder?  I've been thinking, and I’ve decided next time we go to visit Hamilton we should stay somewhere else.

I know, I'm being a real stick-in-the-mud.  The indoor pool was a lot of fun, and the complimentary waffle breakfasts were a hit with the kids, but I'm just not sold on the night life.  You can call me a country bumpkin, but all the sirens made it hard to sleep that first night.  And it's very convenient to be right beside a Tim Horton's, but it just looks kind of eery at 4am illuminated by red and blue flashing lights and surrounded by yellow crime scene tape.

It was super kind of Hamilton Tourism to give us an authentic downtown experience.  I felt like I was on a movie set while I watched the forensics team place the numbered evidence placards on the ground for pictures.  And really, it was pretty convenient that we didn't have to find stuff for the kids to do - they thought all the emergency vehicles that cordoned off the parking lot were better than any silly museum or theme park.

Its just - here's the thing: stray bullets hurt children.  I know those men planned out the murder, and I'm sure they were quite careful about the efficiency of their work, but what if their plan had gone awry?  Bullets go through walls.  And children.  So next time, lets forget about the pool and waffles and do a little Google search.  Because after all, if we'd looked into it we would have learned about the other guy who was murdered in the same parking lot two months ago.

Lots of love,

p.s.  I'm really glad we decided on the "home before dark" rule at check-in.  Saved us from those pesky witness subpoenas.  How 'bout the next time we look around and decide its the kind of neighbourhood that we can't leave our car parked outside at night, we just check back out?


Sunday, 17 November 2013

Learning to Read


This week, Nevin and I were sitting in front of the fridge playing with magnets, when he turned to the letters and read a word.  No help from me.  Showing, with pride, his independence.

Colour me red and call me Elmo because I was tickled.

Sunday, 10 November 2013

A Movie and Westboro Date Night

Date night, as told in selfies.





Birthday Cake


Tuesday was Shawn's birthday.  He is a remarkable man celebrating an unremarkable age and, unfortunately, it did not take priority in my mind until it was too late.  I arrived on the day with absolutely nothing planned.  My mom watched the kids that day, but since I was at work, it afforded me no extra time, beyond stopping briefly at the grocery store on the way home for hamburger -- in a predominately vegetarian household, hamburger is noted.   But its not steak.  Its still just hamburger;  a small token to distract from the 88 cent pasta smothered in canned tomato sauce.  Truly, it was a woeful birthday feast.  When I showed up to pick up the kids, my mom handed me a homemade birthday cake, decorated by the children, and said, "wish Shawn a Happy Birthday for us!"  She saved me from trying to put birthday candles in left over Halloween candy.

After the cake -- chocolate with chocolate icing -- Nevin was nutso.  To keep him busy and maintain my annoy-o-meter in the green, I challenged him to run around the kitchen island 10 times while I did the dishes.  He stopped for a rest at 43.  He called it a day at 59.

All in all, it worked out.  I do not think it will go down in history as the best party he has ever had, but Scarlett, who can be shy, sang Happy Birthday for the first time, and he was beaming.  He said her jumble-worded, out of tune version of the song was the best he's ever heard - and you could tell he meant it.

Sunday, 3 November 2013

Compost Cookies


I think my favourite Halloween tradition is making Compost Cookies.  We take a sampling of all the different things the kids have received and put them into a basic chocolate chip cookie recipe.  I wish I could say this was my own invention, but it is not.  Momofuko invented Compost Cookies a number of years ago.  Their recipe is much more involved than mine, I'm sure it is much more delicious, and it has nothing to do the spoils of Trick-or-Treating.

Just to be clear: in our house, they are only Compost Cookies if there are some sort of pretzels, chips and graham crackers involved.  This year's version also included Butterfingers, M&M's, Wunderbars, Coffee Crisps, Skor Bars, and Chocolate Graham Goldfish.

Compost Cookies
(Adapted from

1 cup butter, softened
1 cup white sugar
1 cup packed brown sugar
2 eggs, room temp
2 tsp vanilla
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
2 tsp hot water
1/2 tsp salt
3 cups chopped chocolate bars, M&M's, pretzels, graham crackers, plain chips

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Cream butter and sugars until smooth.  Beat in eggs and add vanilla.
3. Dissolve baking soda in hot water and add to batter, along with salt.  Mix in flour, one cup at a time.
4. Mix in compost ingredients, until just combined.  Add the chips last, so that they break apart into smaller pieces, but are not completely crushed.
5. Bake for about 12 minutes, until the edges are golden brown.

Flowers and tigers and dinosaurs, oh my!




Thursday, October 24, 2013.  6:03am.  Sasha's bed.

Sasha: Nevin, what would like to be for Halloween this year?

Nevin carefully considers the question.

Nevin: Well, my dinosaur costume is way too big for me, Mommy... sooo I think I should be a dinosaur for at least a couple more years.

Sunday, 20 October 2013

Hitting the Snooze Button

Today was disaster.  Shawn and Scarlett have colds - miserable colds.  Nevin has no excuse, but he had the kind of morning where he pushed his sister.  I say "push", but for accuracy's sake, let's just call it a hip check.  Scarlett was so sick that after seeing left over pizza - which was more than she could bare - she annouced "me no lunch" with a whimper, flopped on the couch and passed out cold in two minutes flat.

We were all at each other.  If life was a Charlie Brown comic strip, the rain cloud was situated directly over the Warner Residence.

Then after lunch, this happened:


I hit the reset button.  We slept.  I didn't wake up to the kids whispering and laughing downstairs; Shawn did.  I woke up to him saying "I told you so."  I got up in a huff, contemplating sending the hounds -- that's polite speak for "monsters" -- up to him, whilst I nestled in for a dreamless slumber in some corner in the basement.  Instead, kindly, I shut the door, turned on some white noise, and let him sleep.

Two hours later, he woke up and thanked me.  Some people just need a little more snooze.

Behind the Scenes of Our Photos

We love taking pictures.  We are amateurs, so it does not come easy for us, but we love the adventure and using our minds in a creative way.  It is invigorating to look for a new cool backdrop as we drive through town or to walk through the raw, ugly spaces of our town on deserted weekend mornings.

As much as we enjoy the pictures that are produced, we adore the process.






Sunday, 6 October 2013

Drive-In Political Pundits


Parenting a four-year-old is a lot like being a politician.
Kindergarteners are curious and they ask a lot of questions.  Their line of questioning is like that of a seasoned reporter, and in this simile, the parent -- with their honest and elusive answers -- is left to be the inexperienced, blundering politician.

Case in point: yesterday on our first family trip to the drive-in theater.

Shawn: There's not very many drive-ins left anymore.
Nevin: Why?
Shawn: A lot of reasons.
Nevin: How many?
Shawn: Oh, a whole bunch.
Nevin: How much is a whole bunch?
Shawn: Probably 10.
Nevin: Can you tell me all 10?
Shawn: No.

Nevin takes the win.

Sunday, 29 September 2013

Our Last Name


Our daycare shared this gem with me the other day.

"I asked Scarlett if she knew her whole name and she said 'Yes, Scarlett Warner.'  She said mommy was 'Mommy Warner, ' daddy was 'Daddy Warner,' and her brother was 'Me Brother Warner.'  She is so cute!"

Sunday, 8 September 2013


Q: What's a Vegetable's favourite martial art? 
A: Carrotee!

Nevin didn't think it was very good, either.  Fortunately, eventhough he doesn't like carrot jokes, he loves carrots.  Straight from the garden, unwashed and uncooked.  Lucky for us, my parents have an abundance of them: its our little bit of consolation at the end of a short summer.


(Yes, Scarlett is still working on learning rights from lefts.)

Sunday, 1 September 2013

Run or Dye 2013

The smart people always say "live in the moment."  Well, this weekend I did something that was sooooo 2013.  YOLO?

I'll let the pictures describe all that was Run or Dye, but since we're being all 2013 up in here, indulge me while I throw in some year book style superlatives.

Most likely to be mistaken for wearing a shirt: Me.
After I stripped my dirty shirt in the parking lot, revealing my fluorescent white skin.  As in:
Me: Look, guys!  It even stained right through my shirt onto my belly!
Friend, completely serious: (Squints) Oh my God, Sasha!  I thought that WAS your shirt!

Most likely to be hospitalized:  The Petite Friend.
I've heard being little is lovely, but it left Petite Friend ear-level with overzealous powder throwers.  As in, someone accidentally threw it directly in her ear, filling it, and she had to seek medical advice to remove it and ease the ear ache.

Most Valuable Runner: The Sick Friend.  (a.k.a. the Kerri Strug Award)
Things didn't look good when we arrived to pick her up and she had laryngitis and a cold.  She said, "I'm okay guys, it'll be fun!"  And it was.  She ran her first ever 5k with us.  Not just her first 5k race - her first ever 5k run with no stopping.  She was all smiles and encouragement.  Back in the car, she said, "I'm okay guys, sometimes I just get a little car sick."  By the time we got home she admitted she was running a fever of 102 F, and just wanted to crawl into bed, but her teething baby had spent the morning at the hospital to get diagnosed with pink eye, so there was a decent chance she might never sleep again.  And with that, she earned MVP of the decade.



Sunday, 25 August 2013

Roasted Tomatoes

I don't know why, but I am intimidated by canning.  Every year I say, "next year I will can my tomatoes."  I do not.  This year, I am not saying that, because I have new technique that I adore: roasting tomatoes.  Slice the tomatoes in half, seed them with your fingers, drizzle with olive oil, and cook at 275*F for 5 hours.  The result is favourful tomatoes that can be frozen and used in the winter.  I've been popping them like candy.


Sunday, 18 August 2013

Happy Anniversary No.7

Next year will be the year that I will remember the date of our anniversary.  I think I came up with a mnemonic that will do the trick, but I think I made the same resolution last year.





Sunday, 11 August 2013

Cottage with Friends

This is summer: a lake, a cottage, friends.

cottagecollage copy


We are so lucky.

Sunday, 4 August 2013

Savory Blueberry Peach Pizza


Friday night is Pizza Night at the Warner residence.  Its easy and kid-friendly, but by week 47 the taste starts getting tired.  This week, I decided to get a little crazy.

Introducing my first ever totally delicious, pinterest-worthy, completely self-created and nicely photographed recipe: Savory Blueberry Peach Pizza*.  Oh, the pride.

This recipe makes one and a half homemade 10ish inch pizzas.  Only one and a half pizzas because my picky-eater son prefers his pizza deconstructed, so we have to leave half of a pizza with nothing on it (the punchline is that he tells everyone his favorite food is pizza, but its actually just bread).

Savory Blueberry Peach Pizza
2-10in homemade pizza shells
6 oz cream cheese, softened
1 tsp dried thyme
1/4 tsp cinnamon
3 peaches, sliced thinly
3/4 cup blueberries
1 chicken breast diced**
3/4 cup marble cheddar cheese, shredded***

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.  Sprinkle two cookie sheets with cornmeal and place the pizza shells on the cookie sheets.
2. Mix the cream cheese, thyme and cinnamon together.  Spread one and a half pizza shells.  Leave a 1 inch perimeter for a crust - it will puff up to prevent any blueberry juice from escaping and making a mess.
3. Arrange the peaches on top of the cream cheese mixture.  Sprinkle the blueberries and diced chicken around the peaches.  Sprinkle the cheese on top of the toppings.
4.  Cook for about 20-25minutes, until the crust is golden.  Broil for 2 minutes at the end if you like your cheese crispy.  Enjoy!

*Still working on creative recipe title writing.
**I used a leftover BBQ'd one from two nights ago.
***I'm sure mozzeralla would be better, but all I had was cheddar.  Or goat cheese.  Goat cheese might be amazing.


Hell Climb 2013

A friend of ours told us about a little race up a little mountain.  It's organized by a bike shop called Tall Tree Cycles in Ottawa.  I know very little about the cycling culture of Ottawa, but through this experience I have learned the following:

Tall Tree Cycles is amazing.

This was not your typical bike race.  It was a stopwatch-timed jaunt up a mountain, in which costumes and fixies are strongly encouraged, all money raised goes to charity, and the real winner is the one who comes in last but has the most spirit.  We thought it might be fun, so I signed up for the arts and crafts part and Shawn volunteered for the actual racing part.  Racing on this day meant towing the kids in the trailer while dressed as a horse.

In case you can't tell from the pictures, Nevin and Scarlett are Spartans in a chariot (with rockin' paper maché-ed golden helmets thankyouverymuch), and Shawn is the self-proclaimed "Trusty Steed".

I do not want to discount the actual race course.  It was only a little over six kilometers, but to give you some insight: at one point, I started positive self-talking, telling myself "you're at least a 1/4 of the way there," only to look down at my computer and find out I had gone 500m.  Ouch.  Shawn chose to do it pulling 80 pounds of pure cheering power.  No exaggeration: the whole way up they cheered, "Go, Daddy, go!  Go, Daddy, go!"

We plan on making this an annual family tradition and were already talking about next year's costumes on the way home (I'm picturing a Rainbow Brite theme - lots of glitter and rainbows).  The whole atmosphere was so great and we want to be a part of it again.  The shop guys even hung out just in front of me to make sure I made it up okay, since I was one of the last people to go and the very last person on the course for most of the race.  They are real community builders, and the charity they chose was a good one - a family who delivered their baby early so the mother could start intensive cancer therapy.  Unbelievable.

It was a definitive highlight of our summer.




(photo credit: Tall Tree Cycles)

Sunday, 28 July 2013

"Motherhood" (or "It's Criminal")


Motherhood is last Tuesday morning.  The morning you choose to make waffles for a treat on the too small waffle iron that seemed romantic on the wedding registry.  Waffles are made and doled out, two squares at a time, with you at the end of the queue. Every time it seems like you might be able to eat, a child calls out, "one more, Mommy?" 

And just as it seems your moment has come, 45 minutes later, long after the kids are done, and you sit down with your waffles and newspaper with a sigh, both children (soon after exchanging a glance - how else could they coordinate?) yell at the top of their lungs "poop!"  As if there has never been an emergency so great as at that moment.  So you leave the waffles to get everyone where they need to be on time: "go, go, go!"  As you hustle along, you make sure the underwear is out of the way, and upon request deliver the proper reading materials. 

With everything settled, you return to your cold waffles, but with grunting on the potty ten feet away and the other in the powder room still within sight, you've mostly lost your appetite.  And now the living room no longer smells like waffles.  As you go to open a window, you do so in frustration, and your hand slips, and you rap you knuckles hard on the sill.  "Arg!" you proclaim (though you want to say something saltier), as you shake your hand in pain.  And just then, you daughter jumps up: "oh, mommy!  Oh, mom!  You okay?  Me kiss, me kiss!"  She runs over to kiss your hand and hug your leg.  And then your ovaries betray you and launch chemical warfare on your logic and you can't help but think, "I suppose another might be nice."

Pizza Muffins


Summer lunches have gotten tricky.  My picky little vegetarian has decided he would like a break from nut butters.  Some sort of butter on some sort of bread or fruit was our routine.  I'm looking for suggestions.  So far, my brilliant neighbour has suggested waffle sandwiches with cream cheese and fruit (he ate cream cheese!) and pizza muffins.  Both delicious.

The pizza muffins will take time - our first go, his were strictly the batter - but I have high hopes that he will venture into the land of the unknown (the unplain, oh my!) gradually as it becomes more familiar to him.

Wicked Good Pizza Muffins
(from Canadian Family)
  • 2 cups (500 mL) all-purpose flour
  • ¼ cup (50 mL) granulated sugar
  • 1 tbsp (15 mL) baking powder
  • 1 tsp (5 mL) each salt and dried basil
  • ½ tsp (2 mL) baking soda
  • 1 cup (250 mL) tiny cubes orange cheddar
  • 1 cup (250 mL) plain yogurt
  • 2 eggs
  • ¼ cup (50 mL) butter, melted
  • ½ cup (125 mL) finely chopped red sweet pepper (optional)
  • ¼ cup (50 mL) pizza sauce, or sliced tomato
  • ½ cup (125 mL) shredded mozzarella
  1. Preheat oven to 400 F (200 C). Line 12 muffin cups with paper liners. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, basil and baking soda until combined.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together yogurt, eggs and butter until smooth. Stir into flour mixture just until well combined and no dry spots remain (this is where you take a little batter out for a picky eater).  Stir in sweet pepper and cheddar cheese (batter will be very thick). Spoon batter into muffin cups, dividing evenly. Spoon 1 tsp (5 mL) pizza sauce on top of each muffin or 1/2 slice of tomato; sprinkle each with shredded mozzarella.
  3. Bake about 20 minutes, until golden and a toothpick inserted in centre of one of middle muffins comes out clean. Let muffins cool in pan at least 5 minutes before removing, then let cool completely on a wire rack. (Freeze muffins in an airtight container for up to 1 month; defrost at room temperature.)
Fun Fact:
In the winter, when he would try new things, his common most logical response was, "I don't like it.  I think I will like it in the Spring."

Not-So-Fun Fact:
He did not like any of it in the Spring.

Sunday, 21 July 2013

Stress and the Abnormal EEG


It has been a stressful week.

The picture above wasn't stressful at all -  it is from a month ago, when we were just "making sure."  It has been a busy month.  Nevin has had a couple fainting episodes, so our doctor ordered a whole battery of tests:  ECG's, bloodwork and an EEG.  We have a fantastic doctor - he is kind, thorough, and cautious.  The results started coming back: normal, normal, healthy.  Last Tuesday, I got a call from our family doctor: Nevin's EEG results were back, and they were abnormal.  Sure, I am science literate, but when it comes to this sort of thing, I haven't a clue.  That is when I got stressed.  I had no idea what "abnormal" could mean, and unfortunately, since its not his area of expertise, neither did our family doctor.  We would have to wait until Friday, and our appointment with the pediatrician from the city for more answers.  (Another huge applause for our family doctor: he referred us to a pediatrician long before the tests were in, to make sure nothing was missed).

So stressed.

Fortunately, on Friday we were calmed.  The pediatrician told us that yes, Nevin does have some abnormal patterns, but it is nothing to be concerned about.  It likely means that when he "fainted", it was actually seizures, but his risk of seizure is only slightly higher than an average person, and only when he has several stressors that would contribute.  He is a perfectly normal abnormal boy (which is probably how I would have described his mind long before any professional looked at the circuitry).  The best part was that the doctor took the time to walk us down every path possible, and was completely unambiguous.  He thought it was best to refer us to a neurologist and get an MRI to confirm what he believes to be true, but he was completely forthcoming about why, and explained to us why it wasn't likely epilepsy or a lesion.  When he took the time to describe the different scenarios, it made perfect sense and put our minds at ease.

So why share?  Have you Googled anything health-related recently?  I tried to stick to brushing up on my brain anatomy and seizure vocabulary in preparation for the appointment, but in the periphery there were a lot of unsettling stories.  Sometimes its nice to have a health-related story that says, "nope, there's nothing to worry about - abnormal can be normal and everything will be fine."

Folks, my boy had an abnormal test, and everything is fine.

Sunday, 14 July 2013

Accents and Beer

(Dispatches from Shawn's iPhone)

Beaupre, Quebec.  Thursday, 4 July 2013.  6:00pm.

Waitress, with thick French Canadian accent: Would you be interested in trying one of our local beers?

Me: Definitely.
Conversation ensues and beer selected.  Waitress leaves.

Shawn:  At first I thought it was kind of presumptuous that she would ask us if we were interested in Low Cal beers.

Ste. Anne de Beaupre

Last weekend I visited the Ste. Anne de Beaupre Basilica.  I spent a couple hours there on Saturday, and returned on Sunday morning for mass.

It was moving.  There is so much to see and so many invitations for prayer and reflection.  It is hard to describe the experience without sounding evangelical, but even an atheist would find an indescribable serenity, beauty and truth at this place.  I prayed a lot.  The Santa Scala.  The Stations of the Cross.  The statues of Saints.  The mosaics and murals.  Sitting on a park bench watching the wind in the trees, listening to the Stations of the Cross being recited and sung by a young priest.  I was so glad I went alone and uncluttered - it allowed me the opportunity to linger.  My cup was filled.

If you ever do go, although impressive just to see, the basilica can be better appreciated with a guided tour.  Every window, mural, and mosaic has meaning and significance.  The time and gifts were used to create the space awe-inspiring.

When I took the kids the next day, Nevin really soaked it up.  His eyes were wide and he kept asking his sister to slow down.  There is this steep hill that he wanted to climb to see the view from the top.  The easiest way takes you past the Stations of the Cross.  Somewhere along the way, he started asking about the statues.  This place draws you in.  We ended up going stopping at all the Stations and talking about what was happening and how the people in the scene must have felt.  At the last station, when I told him it was the end and Jesus died, he responded, "Oh!  Don't worry, Mommy.  He comes alive again on Easter."  (Who knew?  I guess he is paying attention at mass when he's humming his Hot Wheels around the pew.)

When we got back to the hotel both kids were excited to tell Shawn about their experience.  Nevin's highlight, besides how short mass was ("Mom, it wasn't like at home at all... it was waaaay shorter!"), was that it was big enough for two masses to be going on at the same time and the English mass was in the basement.  Nose-scrunching, mind-blowing news for a four-year-old, I guess.  Scarlett's experience would be much more profound if she were any older: when Shawn opened the door, she opened her eyes wide and exclaimed, "me saw JEEDSUS!"




StAnneNevinicecream copy


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