Saturday, June 29, 2013

Washington - Last Full Day

Today we woke up to extreme heat - again. We started the day with a walk to the Vietnam Memorial wall. After that we saw the Lincoln Memorial - I love this one. It is so impressive how human and emotive the statue itself looks.

After that we walked through the blazing sun to the Martin Luther King monument. This one is relatively new and really interesting. The figure of Martin Luther King is carved into white stone, but only partially, as though he is emerging from the rock.

After all the walking in the sun, we decided to escape the heat in the National Museum. I have to say, even though I was really looking forward to it, this museum was the one I liked least. About 1/2 of it was being renovated and the remainder had some displays that were pretty sparse.

The transportation display in the basement was amazing - very well done and interesting to almost anyone.

I also really enjoyed the food section where I got to see Julia Child's actual kitchen.

It was bucketing rain as we left the museum and we had a long walk back to our hotel waiting out rainstorms beneath awnings and other doorways.

Washington, D.C. - Smithsonian Zoo

On our second full day in Washington we took the subway to the zoo that is a part of the Smithsonian. It was a short (and expensive) subway trip and then an uphill walk into the zoo. The zoo is beautiful, it is set up like a forested park with the animals in very private areas located off a number of pathways. I know this is probably the general set up of most zoos, but the Smithsonian seemed particularly park-like.

It was hot at the zoo. When we arrived we viewed some animals on the "Asia Trail." Most were hiding away because of the extreme heat.

We saw the octopus feeding and then things started to fall apart for Baby Boy. As I said, it was a very hot day. Baby Boy started to run a fever (I have had a sinus infection for the past few days and I think he got it too). It was just too hot for him to be out and about.

So, after about 2 hours at the zoo, I headed back to the hotel with Baby Boy while my husband took the bigger kids around the rest of the zoo. I have to admit I had a rather pleasant half afternoon with just Baby Boy.

In the evening we ventured out after a massive rain storm into Georgetown. I really like Georgetown. It reminds me of Old Strathcona in Edmonton (when I was little) but it is much larger.

Washington - First Full Day

Our first full day in Washington was hot - a continuation of the heat wave.

We woke up early because we were still adjusting to the time zone. We walked o we toward the Washington Monument, which is completely covered in scaffolding. Then we headed to the Smithsonian Castle to orient ourselves to the huge museum area.

We spent what was left of the morning in the Museum of Natural History. The kids loved the dinosaurs!

We had lunch in their (expensive) cafe. On our way out we saw a real Easter Island Statue.

After lunch we viewed the Hope Diamond and headed to the Air and Space Museum. The kids loved it! They had so many hands-on learning displays. We watched a demonstration about the International Spave Station.

The kids got to climb into cockpits and wander through SkyLab. I saw the actual Wright Brothers plane!

We had ice cream at the McDonald's in the Air and Space Museum before we left. It was nearly double the price of the same cone the night before - highway robbery!

It occurred to me that all of our activities for the day were free so the expensive food was all it cost us. It also occurred to me that I was glad I had granola bars and other supplies along!

After the museum we walked to the Capitol building and then walked around it. We had a long walk home (45 minutes in insane heat) and then we picked up a pizza to eat in our hotel room.

Journey to Washington, D.C.

After one day in Toronto we flew to Washington D.C. for a family vacation. The flight was short and uneventful. U.S. border control in Toronto was a disorganised nightmare. If avoidable we will not fly to the States from Toronto Pearson again.

Once we landed we took a (cheap!!) taxi to our hotel, put our bags into storage and headed out for a walk. We walked through the sweltering humid streets to the White House.

After that we checked in to our hotel and had a brief rest before we went out for a walk in Georgetown. We walked through the park connecting the locks and then had supper.

After supper we walked over to the boardwalk and fountains next to the Potomac. The boys capped off the day with ice creams from McDonalds.

Intercontinental Hotel Toronto



Last week we spent 2 nights at the Intercontinental Hotel in Toronto. The hotel is pleasant with large rooms. It is located downtown right next to the CN Tower. Unfortunately there is currently a lot of road construction in the area so the shuttle we took had to alter its route.

Our only complaint was that the room safe was not functioning. They offered to fix it but it did not work for our timeline so we left our valuables in a safety deposit box near the front desk.

There were rude and noisy guests one night making loads of noise at 3:00 am and the hotel quickly had security deal with the issue.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Toronto

Today we stayed in Toronto to have our annual visit with my husband's grandmother. It is very very hot and humid here - a sticky sort of a day. I'm actually worried I didn't bring enough clothes for the kids because I had anticipated they might repeat wear some clothes before we get to Edmonton but now they are constantly sweating.

I like our annual visit and I think it's very good for the kids, but every year she is a bit older, a bit frailer and her living conditions are a bit worse. It's hard to see - it would be easiest to perpetually think of her as about 10 years younger -but that's not reality!

The kids are adjusting to the time zone change and the deluge of Tim Horton's. Little Boy lives riding the street car!

Journey to Toronto

Yesterday Baby Boy set foot on (or at least was carried) Canadian soil for the first time!

We got up very early and flew from Aberdeen to London Heathrow and then to Toronto. The trip was largely uneventful. The kids were well behaved and enjoyed the entertainment system on the plane. Baby Boy cut his second tooth during the journey.

Arrival in Toronto was not so good. It is really hot and humid here and Baby Boy's eczema went wild.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Little Boy - Unclear Speech

Little Boy loves to talk.  He never stops, he's a real chatterbox!

As the days go by his words get clearer and clearer.  There is one sound that he is hung up on now, and it gives us a giggle almost every day.  He says the sound "tr" as "f"....and he is constantly talking about trucks!  It sounds so inappropriate....

He also says "s" as "f" and for the life of me I could not understand him when he was saying "sweater"!

Drizzly Playdate

Well, the fine weather is coming to an end - could it be that summer is over for Aberdeen?  Time to go on vacation!

Yesterday we had another great day.  We drove out to see a friend and the kids played in her house.  It was wonderful because, during the playdate there was almost no fighting or whining!  I'm not sure why, but for some reason it all just "worked."

After their big play session, we took the kids to Raemoir Garden Centre for lunch and a play in their play area.

By the time we got home around 3:30, the kids were exhausted!

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Home Made Yogurt....the Easiyo Way

After Christmas I bought an Easiyo yogurt maker.  To the uninitiated, this is a yogurt maker that does not require a plug in.  You add boiled water to one "chamber" and cool water with yogurt starter in the other and it makes yogurt as the cool chamber warms.  Easiyo sells a broad range of powdered starters for flavoured yogurt and different types of yogurt like low fat or Greek.  Here is a link to the website:  http://www.easiyo.com/index.html

So far, I have made the low fat Greek yogurt, the raspberry yogurt, the lemon yogurt and the vanilla bean smoothie.  They have all been delicious, and the kids love the raspberry and the lemon.  Before purchasing the Easiyo I did some Internet research about it and it seems that you can also make yogurt without an Easiyo starter sachet, there are many, many recipes posted on various websites.  I haven't tried to make my own yet because the kids love the purchased sachets.

So far I could not be happier with my Easiyo maker.  It is easy to use, it consistently makes great yogurt and it makes very tasty yogurt.  The yogurt from the Easiyo tastes how I remember yogurt tasting as a kid....before it had a load of aspartame or sugar in it.  The downside to the Easiyo is that it is very large and it makes a very large portion (1 kg)....this is not a downside in our house - the kids love yogurt and eat a tonne of it!  The sachets are not cheap, but overall I spend less than I was spending on yogurt before I started with the Easiyo.  The yogurt maker was on sale for £7.50 when I bought it and I think it was a great investment!

On the far right is the Easiyo maker and in the middle is the container that the yogurt is made in.  The container holds 1 kg of yogurt.  The Mr. Muscle is included merely to give some scale.



Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Newton Dee

Today we had a wonderful visit to Newton Dee Village (here is the website:  http://www.newtondee.co.uk/), a local community for persons with develpmental disabilities.  It is a pretty amazing place, it has an organic farm, a store, a cafe, a bakery and lovely grounds for a stroll.

We met friends at Newton Dee today and with all of our children combined (including a friend that Big Boy invited) we had 8 boys along!  What a crew!  We took them for a walk down the main road and they looked at the calves and different birds in the farmyard.  Then they had a good play at the playground and climbed the trees nearby.

We took a trip to the bakery and then headed to the pond, where they watched the ducks diving for food.  This queued up their hunger so we went to the cafe for lunch.  I love taking my kids there for lunch because they always gobble their bowls of soup and fresh bread.  Not all of the boys we had along seemed to love it as much as my boys, but everyone had something to eat.

It was gorgeous and sunny - a perfect summer day!

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Summertime Days

We've had another busy couple of days.  Yesterday (Monday), the kids got haircuts and we did errands in the morning.  We managed to squeeze in some outdoor playtime before we went to a welcome lunch at Little Boy's new playgroup.  Big Boy was well impressed with the toys, games, books and activities at the school.

Today we headed downtown for some errands before we met friends for a play at Duthie park.  The park was busy even in slightly cool weather and the kids had lots of fun in the sand.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

The Weekend

Another gorgeous weekend is coming to an end here in Aberdeen.  We've had a fun couple of days in the sun.  On Saturday we did chores around the house before Little Boy went to his "first" birthday party.  By this I mean that he went to the first birthday party that he was invited to without Big Boy being the primary invitee.  He was so excited!

After the party, we had a lovely dinner with friends at their house.  They are new in town and we were very surprised when their house was one that old friends of ours lived in!  The house seemed so different decorated with the possessions of a different family.

Sunday was Father's Day and Big Boy made his dad a cake!  He did a great job and Daddy decided to share it, so we all know it was delicious.  We had a quiet day around home and the kids enjoyed the sunshine on their bikes and playing outside.

The only problem we had this weekend was that it was actually too hot for Baby Boy and his skin condition flared up.  What a mess!  And....just think about that....it was too hot for him in Aberdeen...bet that doesn't happen very often!

Friday, June 14, 2013

Just a Friday

We had one of those days where you get stuff done but you interject a few fun activities.  We did errands at the post office and ASDA this morning before going on a lovely walk with our bikes and scooters.  The kids had fun at the playground and then we went home for a nice lunch.

The kids went to see their daddy at work in the afternoon so that I could go to the hair salon and we all met at home for dinner.  

At some point during the day, Baby Boy cut his first tooth.  This morning it wasn't through the gum and now it is...thanks to teething powders we didn't have too much fuss.

I had a "proud mommy" moment today with Big Boy.  We were listening to a Johnny Cash song that has the lyrics "Don't take your guns to town, son."  Big Boy said "Or just don't have guns....that's safer."

Here are some pictures of the lawns near our house.  Now, I know the little flowers are weeds - but I think they are beautiful!





Thursday, June 13, 2013

First Day of Summer (Holidays)

Today was the first day of Big Boy's summer holidays and we had a lovely day.  It was hot and sunny today and we drove out to Crathes to have a play and lunch with friends.

Our friends took us on a walk down the Deeside Railway Line to the Milton of Crathes.  On the way the kids: hunted (successfully) tadpoles; threw sticks off of a cute bridge and ran down a dirt track.  In the Milton of Crathes, they checked out a waterwheel and played in the Horn of Leys playground.

Our friends fed us a great lunch and we made our way back home for naps.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

School's out for the summer!

What a whirlwind the last few days have been!  On Tuesday (yesterday), Big Boy was awarded his red belt in Karate.  We are so proud of him - he worked hard for this achievement!

Today (Wednesday) was the last (half) day of school.  There were a lot of activities planned at the school, so I took all of the boys with me and we made a day of it.  First thing in the morning we attended Big Boy's class, where some of the mothers presented the teachers with gifts from the students.  The teachers and the students were incredibly excited as the teachers tore off the coloured paper - and the gifts were just lovely.  The children made memory books for the teachers that were scanned so that the parents could each have access to an electronic copy.

After this, I took the two younger boys with me to the school assembly.  The assembly wrapped up the year nicely with recognition of departing staff and students.  Entertainment was provided by 2 choirs.  The assembly wrapped up with a lengthy slide show - I was disappointed that Big Boy was not in any of the pictures.  Oddly enough - neither were most of his friends.

After assembly Big Boy had about an hour of school left so I took the smaller boys to have a snack while we waited for him. 

The school went from a scene of relative calm to one of chaos after school let out.  There were children and parents everywhere.  Many (possibly most) people were crying - so many students are leaving this year!  We are all losing friends as families move on.  From looking around at the kids it seems that this loss is incredibly difficult for kids in middle school and older.  Many of the elementary students did not seem to fully "get it."

After we made our way through the crowd, we piled into my tiny car and we all drove out to Wynford Farms for one last play and lunch with one of our friends.  I have to admit I was exhausted by this point, but the kids had fun.

Summer has officially started for us...and Big Boy has informed me that he is no longer a "kindergartener" he is now in grade 1!


Monday, June 10, 2013

Busy Weekend

Whew!  It's Monday and I'm taking a deep breath because our weekend was packed!

On both Saturday and Sunday, we attended an international Karate festival at the International School of Aberdeen.  On Saturday, Big Boy did 3 hours of Karate - he was exhausted!  I had Little Boy and Baby Boy with me and we had fun riding bikes and playing in the playground as well as watching Big Boy.

After the Karate festival, naps were in order and then we all went out for dinner.  The dinner was an early anniversary dinner for my husband and I - it was our 12th wedding anniversary on Sunday.  We ate at Jamie's Italian on Union Street.  I chose the restaurant because I like Jamie Oliver's cookery books and I've always wanted to eat at one of his restaurants.

Dinner was a disappointment - the food was good but the service was not.

On Sunday, I opened some lovely gifts (my husband spoiled me this year) and then we headed to the school for another 4.5 hours of Karate.  After an exhausting day, we finished off the weekend by making a big roast chicken supper.


Saturday, June 8, 2013

Funny Kids

Over the past couple of days the bigger boys have both made me laugh.

We were driving home from M & S in a nearby community on a tiny, windy road that is basically only 1.5 lanes.  The speed limit is 50 mph, but I wasn't comfortable going much more than 40 mph because I kept meeting oncoming traffic and because there are giant potholes along the size of the road and I don't want to hit them too fast.  Cars were stacking up behind me a bit because it was during the Friday rush hour.  (Just in case I'm raising concerns - 40 mph is a completely reasonable speed for the size and condition of the road, but at rush hour on a Friday afternoon, many drivers are impatient).

Big Boy looked out the back and said "It's funny Mom, all of the cars behind you are so slow."

***

Big Boy is in Karate and has been practicing at home.  Karate seems to require the participants to say "Hi" in a grunting voice over and over.

Little Boy wants to do everything Big Boy does, so he "practices" his karate too.  He mostly punches the air and says "Hoy, Hoy" over and over.  He is earnest and it is hilarious!

Friday, June 7, 2013

Wrap Up

School is coming to an end and we are getting busier every day.  This weekend should be a doozy...I'll write all about it on Sunday night!

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Dissappointed

I have been trying to think of creative teacher's gifts as we near the end of the school year.   I didn't want to buy yet another little ornament praising teachers or a gift card, so I talked to Big Boy about what he wanted to do.  He wanted to bake his teachers a cake for them to eat.

He couldn't decide what cake to make, so we made 2 - a cinnamon twist and a chocolate jelly roll.  We took them into the school earlier this week to avoid the "end of school chaos."  I also took a small packet of disposable plates and some napkins.  Big Boy hand wrote a thank you card for each of his teachers.

We delivered the whole lot to the teachers one morning and Big Boy thanked his teachers.  He gave them their cards and he told them that he hoped they would enjoy their treats.

Imagine my surprise when I got a call a couple of hours later from the teacher inquiring about the ingredients in the cakes.  They had misunderstood and were serving them to the children!  What a mess and what a waste!

I explained to the teacher that the cakes were intended for the teachers/staff, as we had discussed when I dropped them off.  It was too late as some of the kids had already been served so they had to give everyone some cake.

I'm sure almost none of either cake was eaten as they were not very child-friendly flavours.

What a disappointment.  I'm sorry I tried.  I also can't fathom where the confusion came in.  We talked about sharing them with the other staff if Big Boy's immediate teachers had too much.  There was not enough for the kids and I hadn't provided appropriate plates/cutlery with which the kids could eat the cakes. 

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Guest Post: Children Can Have Hearing Problems

A few weeks ago, another blogger, John O'Connor emailed me and asked if he could write a guest post for my blog.  I was flattered that he would see my blog as an effective medium for communication, and I said "yes."  Here is his guest post on the issues of children's hearing problems.  The content is all his.

Children Can Have Hearing Problems

Many people suffer from hearing loss daily, but unknowingly, children make up a large percentage of these people. There are many reasons as to why children may suffer from hearing loss. Some may suffer because of an injury; however, others are simply born with this problem or develop it because of some environmental factor. Since children are prone to having hearing problems, parents and other adults should understand how this will affect them.

Symptoms

If parents are afraid that their child may be suffering from hearing loss, there are certain symptoms that they may notice. First, the child may have a hard time communicating verbally.  If the child’s speech is to a point where he or she cannot pronounce certain words or syllables, there is a good possibility that he or she may be suffering from hearing loss.

Causes

Unfortunately, in many situations, doctors are unable to determine exactly why the hearing loss has occurred. For example, if the child is born with a hearing loss, it simply may be a result of the child being underdeveloped. However, if the child gets a type of head injury, then hearing loss can result. This is especially true with concussion injuries. Finally, environmental factors can also be a cause of the hearing loss. Usually, environmental factors are related to some type of sickness the child may experience.

Treatments

If a child has suffered from hearing loss because of an injury, there is a possibility that surgery may help to correct it. However, there are ways to manage the hearing loss. First, the child can opt to get a hearing aid. The hearing aid will help to amplify sounds, and this will make it easier for the child to hear. Also, the child can learn sign language.

In many situations, children are often teased or bullied because of their hearing deficiencies. Once other kids notice the hearing aids or differences in speech, they may begin to call the child names or even physically abuse him or her. Because of the many misconceptions about hearing loss, the other children do not realize that the child with the hearing loss is just like them. Hearing loss does not mean that the child is not smart; it simply means that the child needs some type of aid to help with his or her hearing. Children who are bullied for their hearing loss should not let this name-calling deter name from pushing forward and striving to reach their goals. 

Many people have suffered from hearing loss, but they were still able to live successful lives. Tamika Catchings was an All-American basketball player at the University of Tennessee, and she went on to have a successful career in the WNBA and the Olympics. However, as a child, she suffered from hearing loss. Even though she was often teased about this, she still had confidence that she would be successful.


Thomas Edison also suffered from hearing loss; however, this did not stop him from inventing the light bulb and many other famous inventions. Edison realized that his hearing loss could have been a hindrance, but instead of letting it affect his work, he used it to allow him to concentrate more on his research.

If a child suffers from hearing loss, parents should be sure to encourage him or her to strive for excellence. Their hearing loss does not make them any different from a child who does not have hearing loss.  By doing so, the child will have a better opportunity to live a high quality of life.

Hi my name is John O'Connor, I am a father, outdoorsman, sports enthusiast and passionate about living a healthy lifestyle.  Check out my new blog at bloggingwjohno.blogspot.com!

Monday, June 3, 2013

My Second Jelly Roll (Roulade)

I made my second jelly roll and decided to put less whip cream into the filling (to make it closer to what the recipe called for).  What a mistake!  The whip cream in my first jelly roll provided cushioning for the rolling action.  So when I tried to roll the cake with less whip cream, I immediately cracked it.  Luckily the crack is on the inside of the roll, so it is hidden - and it's still yummy!

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Home Made Bread Machine Bread

What a gyp!  I thought if I bought a bread machine I would simply toss in the ingredients for perfect bread every time....not true.  I bought a second hand machine for a song and then tried out my theory - the bread was rubbish!  It didn't rise or it over-rose causing it to sink into a pit in the middle of the loaf.

So I had to turn to my friend "science" to learn what to do.  With a little patience I came upon the formula for the perfect loaf.  Basically because we are at sea level, if I make the recipe as it is written it will make a dense, short loaf.  What I need to do is add more flour to get a good rise.  I experimented a bit, and when I add about 15-20% extra flour, the bread is perfect.  It has a lovely domed rise and nice texture inside.  

The bread is delicious and the kids love it for a snack!

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Dining Out

Eating in a restaurant is a behaviour that requires training.  Children do not necessarily want to decide what to eat, ask for it, then sit a while before being served the food.  The process of eating in a restaurant is different than our family meals at home - at home I decide what we will all eat, prepare it and then the rest of the family is called to the table when the food is ready.

Our lifestyle as expats means that for short periods of time we eat out a lot.  When we travel (which is constantly) we eat out and during every move we eat in restaurants after our accommodation will not allow us to cook and before we move into new accommodation.  Because of this I see restaurant manners as paramount.

I have been training the kids to eat in a restaurant by taking them out regularly (weekly) for a meal (breakfast or supper) to our local Sainsbury's Cafe.  I picked this cafe because it has a nice selection of food for the kids, the price is good and it is somewhere that I need to go anyways to get groceries.

At the cafe, we wait in line to order and then sit at a table and wait for our food to be prepared.  Once the food arrives we sit and eat it and then stay at the table until everyone is ready to leave.  These are tough skills for a toddler to master, but Little Boy has a good handle on them.  He waits well for the food - he either chats, plays with small toys that I bring along, or draws in a small notebook.  Big Boy will either draw or tell me about his day.  Baby Boy just watches everything.

Big Boy and Little Boy seem to be able to co-ordinate their eating so neither waits too long for the other.  I generally feel proud of their behaviour and how much they ate when we leave the cafe.  These skills transfer over to other restaurants nicely.

The top thing that I have learned about kids in restaurants - never ever let them drink anything until they have eaten part of their food.  We usually drink water with our meals at home but in restaurants it is generally a large serving of juice or milk.  My kids like to drink their drinks right when they get them (which is generally before the food) and then they are no longer hungry.