Netflix Newbie

This is one of those posts that I start with a disclaimer. This means that I was offered something cool and I took it, because life is short and cool things are not as plentiful as I would like. This time the cool thing I was offered was membership in the Netflix Stream Team. In exchange for writing about Netflix I received a free subscription for a year and an iPad Mini. The opinions in the post are my own, but take the free gift part of it as you will.

netflixThe truth is that when I got the email in my inbox offering this opportunity I jumped on it because I have wanted Netflix forever. And so have my children. I had seen it at other people’s houses and even in my dentist’s office, and I knew I wanted it for myself. Plus I’d heard good things about shows like House of Cards and Orange is the New Black. So, whether I had been offered this or not I would likely have jumped on the Netflix bandwagon at some point. It was really only a matter of time.

We don’t have Netflix on our TV yet because we’re waiting for the new Apple TV to use as a streaming device. In the meantime, though, we’re all watching it on our iPads. And a not-so-small part of me is lamenting the fact that every member of my family has an iPad (the kids got our old ones after my husband and I upgraded). Remember when I was TV free for two years? The mighty have fallen, and we’re consoling ourselves with TV and movies. I’m looking forward to when we can actually sit together as a family and enjoy some flicks, because I think that will feel better. A family movie night is in order, with popcorn and candy and all that jazz. And when I say “candy” I mean “Twizzlers” because those are the best movie candy hands-down.

Anyways, now I have it and I love it and my kids love it and even my husband (the lone voice who was sort of meh on Netflix) has watched it and enjoyed it.

I like that I can set my kids up with their own user IDs, and configure those user IDs to reflect the fact that they’re kids. The shows that are suggested to them are appropriate for children under 12. I was worried that there wouldn’t be anything that would appeal to my daughter Hannah as a 10-year-old but there are plenty of shows and movies that she likes. She’s watched Ever After High and Anastasia and Dear Dumb Diary. My 7-year-old Jacob has also found some new favourites, mostly involving superheroes. He’s also very much into The Adventures of Puss in Boots, which is a Netflix series.

So far I have watched some movies (I am happy to say that I am now up-to-date on the Hunger Games) and I’ve started The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt. As a Netflix newbie, though, what I really want is your recommendations. Help me out!

netflix question

I haven’t seen a single episode of Scandal, House of Cards, Orange is the New Black or The Walking Dead, and I’m considering starting all of them. I don’t want to have too many going at once, though. Which one do you think I should try first? My brain needs a break from school, and I’m counting on you to help out. Or if there’s another series that you think I really must see, I’m open to hearing about that, too. Just let me know!

Day Three

Back on Labour Day I shared some of my thoughts and concerns as I prepared to head back to school full-time. That was nine days ago. I am now mid-way through my first week as a student teacher, and I wanted to update you on how things are going so far.

The Kids

My kids had their first day of school on September 8, and I was fortunately able to be there for it. It was very short – less than 45 minutes – as they reported to their classes from last year and took attendance. That was all par for the course and went well.

The next day, one week ago, the kids had their first full day of school and their first day of daycare. My daughter Hannah was concerned. Would she know anyone? Would she have any friends? By day two of daycare she was good. My son Jacob was excited to go and settled in right off the bat. When I pick them up now they complain and ask to stay longer. I take that as a good sign, and I’m feeling really relieved. It’s so much better when you know your kids are having fun while you’re away from them.

The Interval

plate impulse purchase

Impulse purchase while waiting for my car to be serviced

Because my school didn’t start until this past Monday, September 14, I had a few days at home with not much to do while my kids were at school and settling into daycare. I vacillated between enjoying it immensely and feeling totally panicked. I didn’t know much about what would be happening when I started school myself. I had a time and place to be for orientation, but that was it. As a planner, this freaked me out. On top of that, I’m used to working from home so just sitting around twiddling my thumbs left me with an uneasy feeling that I was forgetting something.

I ended up making myself busy polishing off last-minute details. I got my car serviced. I got a haircut. I met with people. And I also enjoyed the free time a little by watching too much TV. In the end those three days of peace and quiet went by way too quickly.

Student Teacher

student teacher burnaby mountain park

View from where I was sitting yesterday

Finally, it was just before 9:00am on my first day of school. I joined the other new student teachers in the line-up outside the theatre where our orientation session was being held. A woman beside me struck up a conversation and we discovered that we were both in the same module (a module is like a class of 32 student teachers). It felt good to make a friend right away.

The orientation session lasted all morning, and it was great. I found it very helpful. Then we met the rest of our module briefly before lunch. After lunch we headed off with our modules and got to know each other a little. We’ll be meeting together throughout the semester, which lasts until December. Yesterday we went for a walk to a local park and did some reflecting and got to know each other a little more. Today we’re going to a film, culture and art festival that celebrates diversity – Project EveryBODY.

What I’ve discovered so far is that my fellow student teachers are amazing people. They are mostly (but not all) younger than me by at least a decade, but they’ve done some pretty cool things and we all share a love of working with children. Many of our hopes and fears are the same. We are going to be spending a lot of time together, and I feel privileged to be working with them. They knocked my socks off, quite honestly.

I’ve also discovered that this experience is going to be very hands-on and challenging in a totally different way than my other university experiences. It doesn’t appear that it will be very academically rigorous, in the sense that I won’t be spending a lot of time studying and writing research papers and sitting exams. Rather, it will be extremely challenging and stretching on a personal level, as I confront my biases, work hard, and transform myself into a teacher. And spend lots and lots of time with kids. I can’t wait.

For now, I know I’m right where I need to be. It’s a pretty awesome feeling.

Poem of the Month: Summer

Recently I re-embraced my adolescent love of writing poetry. Many of them are written just for me, but I have written enough that are not as personal and I’d like to share some of them. And so, a blog series is born. These aren’t necessarily my deepest poems, but I do enjoy each of them.

And now, here is this month’s poem, inspired by this summer that is just drawing to a close for me, as I prepare to start school next week.

poem of the month poetry summer

Summer 2015

This is the summer of scorching heat
Electricity thrumming over your body
Crackling brown grass on hardened feet

This is the summer of hugging both
Sides of the border skirting the dividing
Line (imaginary?) between here and there

This is the summer of running farther
Pushing your feet your lungs your heart
Go fast enough and you can outrun time

This is the summer of being betwixt and
Between one thing and the next sitting
In offices and waiting waiting waiting

This is the summer of a rat in the garden
Parsley and potatoes but no peas or
Corn and struggling saggy sunflowers

This is the summer of video games and
YouTube and catching up on TV shows
Way too much screen time for everyone

This is the summer of swimming lessons
And visits to the outdoor pool and drives
To lakes washing yourself clean in the water

This is the summer of racking up PC Points
And Joe Fresh clothes indulging in the cheap
Extravagances of modern North America

This is the summer when it all began or when
It all ended depending on your perspective
A single truth to bridge the gap: I was here

Back to School

It has been a long time since I went to work or school full-time.

In February of 2005 I was working full-time. Then, six weeks ahead of schedule, my daughter was born. Thanks to generous Canadian maternity leave, I didn’t return to work for a full year after her birth. When I did return, I was fortunate to be able to negotiate a part-time schedule, where I went into the office three days a week and did some work from home the other two weekdays.

When my son was born in 2008 I went on another year-long maternity leave. Nine months into that I received notice that my job was being eliminated. I decided to shift gears and started working from home. I landed one small freelance job and then another. Eventually I was working 20 hours a week from my family room.

I was lucky. I was able to spend time with my children while they were small. I spent time in their classrooms, volunteered on field trips, and explored what I really wanted to do with my life. I know that not everyone has this freedom.

back to schoolNow, things are changing. Tomorrow my kids start back at school. They are now in grade five and grade two. The day after tomorrow my kids start before and after school care. And five days after that, I have my first day of school as a student teacher. I will spend the next 12 months studying full-time, doing practicum work in classrooms, and earning my teaching license. It will be the first time in more than a decade that I have done anything full-time.

This is a good time for me to do this. My children are in school all day themselves. They are well settled in their routines. I am ready for the next thing. But still, I’m nervous. It feels like a big change.

There are seasons in every life. I am entering a new season in mine. I feel just as scared as I did more than 20 years ago when I graduated from high school and first started university. The stakes feel so much higher. The demands on my life are already much greater. And I have two little people watching me. I want to set a good example. I want to build a good life for them and for me. I want to show them that you’re never too old. That learning never stops. That you can set a goal and make it happen.

I also want to do well for myself. I have always been an overachiever.

I know things will work out. If I just take things one day at a time, one task at a time, I will get through this. My kids will get through this too. I will figure out my part, and they will figure out their parts, and when all is said and done I will be a teacher. Hopefully I will find a job, eventually, and we will go on vacation at Spring Break. And I will have the privilege of working with children every day. If I keep my eyes on the prize, it all sounds good.

But still, it’s a big change. I feel it. I can’t think about it too much, but I feel it.

So, deep breath. Here I go. Wish me luck.

The Tween and the Death of the Landline

My daughter Hannah is 10 and a half years old. In a week and a half she will be starting grade five. And the fact that no one has a home phone anymore (including us) is killing her social life.

landline tweens home phone cell phoneWhen I was 10 I had a number of friends in my neighbourhood. I also had their phone numbers, for the family phones that sat attached to the walls in their kitchens or living rooms. If we wanted to get together to play we could call each other and find out if we were free. I remember asking my mom if I could go to my friend’s, or have my friend over. Sometimes the answer was yes, and other times it was no, but we could make plans for later. It made summer vacations, when we were bored and missing each other, much more palatable.

We got rid of our home phone about four or five years ago. Both my husband and I had cell phones, and it just made sense to cut what had become an unnecessary expense. By the time we got rid of the landline we mostly only got telemarketing calls on it, anyway. A lot of other people have made the same call and gotten rid of their landlines. According to an article from this past February more than half of children and adults under the age of 45 (i.e. – my family) live in a house without a landline, and the number is only growing.

Here’s the problem, though: I don’t want to let my daughter use my cell phone as her phone. My iPhone feels much more personal to me than my home phone ever did. I’m not okay with Hannah using my phone to call her friends. I’m not okay with getting phone calls from her friends on it. And I’m definitely not leaving it with her when we’re in different places. And most of Hannah’s friends’ parents? As far as I can tell they have the same deal.

Hannah does have her own phone – my husband gave her his old iPhone, but it doesn’t have a SIM card. It’s essentially an iPod that could be a phone but isn’t. She can use FaceTime and iMessage, which means that she has a way of connecting with other iPhone users, including me and my husband and her grandparents. However, many of her friends don’t have iPhones, or don’t have any kind of phone at all. And many of her friends also don’t have landlines, or email addresses that they check regularly. So Hannah’s “phone” is essentially useless and she has no other good way to get in touch with her friends in the neighbourhood. As a result she sees her friends less than I saw my friends when I was her age.

In a few years, once these kids are 12 or 13 or 14, I’m guessing they’ll all have cell phones of their own and be more than able to connect with each other. In the meantime, though, the onus remains on us as parents to manage their social calendars. Since the kids can’t get in touch with each other the parents have to text and email to set up play dates or arrange to meet up somewhere. By giving up the landline we’ve become responsible for keeping our kids entertained for a few more years, until they all have texting apps of their own.

It’s not all bad, staying connected to our kids. And I certainly wouldn’t want my 10 year old to be glued to a texting app. There’s plenty of time for that later. For now, though, I’m realizing how a decision you make for one reason can reverberate in unexpected ways in other areas of your life. So if you have a six year old and you’re considering whether or not to keep your home phone, you might want to hold off on your decision for a few years yet.

Jacob + 7 years and 6 days

Last Thursday my son Jacob turned seven.


Seven year olds climb trees and ride scooters and read comic books. Seven year olds have skinny legs and knobbly knees and gap-toothed grins. Seven year olds go to school and swimming lessons and baseball practice. Seven year olds are not babies. Although sometimes they are still your baby.

Even so, this birthday isn’t hitting me as hard as his last one. Seven doesn’t really feel so much older than six. Grade two doesn’t really feel so much more sophisticated than grade one. Maybe I got all the tears and bitterness out last year, and this year is only sweetness. Maybe. I suspect the more likely reason is that I’m enjoying having older kids. I am really grooving on the increased independence (for them) and freedom (for me). I like that my son can wipe his own butt and choose his own clothes and pack his own backpack. Watching him become a more fully-formed person is cool.

So what is my seven year old son like? He’s funny. He loves to tell a joke and he loves to make people laugh. He is still a little bit scared of the dark. He is always delighted when he receives a gift. He gives me the silent treatment when he’s angry. He’s friendly with everyone. He is super into Minecraft. He dreams of being a scientist. He tells me that when he’s old enough he’ll be a YouTuber. He is better at math than his big sister, although he is much less coordinated than she is and definitely cannot touch her artistic abilities.

Sometimes I look at Jacob and just feel gobsmacked. Can this person really have grown inside me? Is this really the tiny baby I gave birth to seven years ago? Did I really have any part in creating this person? It boggles the mind and even though I was there I don’t really know how it happened. I guess I am always too busy living in the moment to observe the journey from point to point to point. I can’t remember how I got here, but I know what I need to do now that I am here, and it probably involves cleaning a mess.

Because parenting? It is a beautiful mess.

So a happy belated birthday to my son, one of the best things that ever happened to me. I can’t wait to see where you go next.

Poem of the Month: Ode to a Tween

poem of the month tween(Let’s just ignore the fact that it’s been, er, several months since I shared a poem of the month, shall we? Good.)

Recently I re-embraced my adolescent love of writing poetry. Many of them are written just for me, but I have written enough that are not as personal and I’d like to share some of them. And so, a blog series is born. These aren’t necessarily my deepest poems, but I do enjoy each of them.

And now, here is this month’s poem, inspired by my daughter who earned her yellow belt in tae kwon do yesterday.

Ode to a Tween

Her hair has gotten much longer lately
I noticed it yesterday as she brushed it
She is independent and private now
Her fashion sense is not half bad
Her sentimentality has reached an all
Time high because she senses that
Her childhood is drawing to a close
I sense it too filled with ambivalence

I can’t believe I haven’t broken her
But she survived my awkward first-time
Parenting, overly earnest and tentative
Here we are and she insists I am the
Best ever – does she protest too much?
I think maybe she senses my flaws and
Is reassuring herself and delaying the
Inevitable realization: I am imperfect

I want her to know my imperfection
So she knows she’s not alone when life
Sucks so hard the fight goes out of her
We all struggle and that struggle does
Not make us weak or unworthy
Every day we get up and show up we have
Won and that is the thing I admire
Most: she always, always shows up

From her early arrival heralded by her
Strong lungs to first steps to her
Own prolific writing she lives life
Whole-heartedly even when she is
Afraid always offering the best of
Herself without a second thought
This girl-child, this old soul, this
10-year-old with long honey hair

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