We won a free ride on the Agriculture Museum's Tally-Ho wagons and finally used our coupons on the last day of the season.
Merrill (4) and Ted (16) pulled the wagon. Elizabeth was charmed. Most of the crops had been harvested and the cows were in the barn, but the winter wheat was starting to grow. Hordes of Canada geese are consuming it nearly as fast as it can grow. Maybe the Occupy Ottawa protesters should be eating local goose instead sponging off various unions and churches. Clearly the geese need more predators!
The wagon ride was about 20 minutes long, which was much longer than I expected and tours the Central Experimental farm. The farm houses the Eastern Cereal and Oilseed Research Centre, but it looks to me like the guide was incorrect in claiming that ECORC has replaced the Experimental farm (she even pointed out they hadn't updated the signs). Am I alone in fact-checking my tours afterwards?
Anyway, we were quite interested to find out that those small buildings are part of Canada's oldest automated weather station. At least according to the guide.
Before having children, I never knew it was "a thing" for shopping malls to put on shows for little kids. In any case, I heard that St Laurent was hosting a free My Little Pony show this weekend and since we drive right past after Elizabeth's swimming class I thought it sounded like fun, if potentially overly merchandised.
It turned out to be surprisingly amusing, if rather unseasonal. I don't think Elizabeth has seen any cartoons yet, and while I had a few toy ponies as a kid I don't think they survived the move from Belgium. So she wasn't exactly singing along with the theme music like the other kids, but she did seem to enjoy the show. The plot was a rather saccharine story about all working together to accomplish your goals (in this case, clearing away the winter clouds to get ready for spring), but I couldn't help but be impressed by the athleticism of the dancers. They certainly could kick their legs up high!
After the show we visited Chuck the Truck. Unfortunately that was a bit of a disappointment since it was an opportunity to take a photo with a giant plush truck. Elizabeth thought they should have let kids climb it. We also visited the Playdoh activity center, where they were handing out free playdoh for kids to play with. Elizabeth really enjoyed that, though she was pretty tired by then. Later she made quite a credible chicken. I would have admired it more and taken oodles of pictures except that she brought it to me for oohing and ahhing during work time. After work she'd already mashed it into about six other different creations. Oh well! The Playdoh people also had a whole bunch of laptops setup with My Little Pony games, and toys still in the plastic on display, but nothing actually for sale. This surprised me, but I guess it's a more subtle branding exercise.
Elizabeth is into collecting fall leaves, glue and painting so I thought I'd put them all together in a fall-themed craft. Auntie Janice showed us how to wax the leaves so that they retain their colour better (and they stay flat!)
It's a bit involved but I think it turned out well and Elizabeth not only really enjoyed herself but she's proud of her leaf "pitcher" too.
Step 1: Collect leaves and sticks.
Step 2: Put the leaves between wax paper (waxed side towards the leaves). Cover with a tea-towel that you don't mind putting iron marks on. Not that we ended up with iron marks, but better safe than sorry! Iron the leaves on low heat. Patience is important, so you don't cook the leaves (they get smelly then). The leaves go shiny and adhere to the wax paper. Elizabeth loves ironing so she didn't mind how long it took!
Step 3: Peel the leaves off the wax paper.
Step 4: Paint half the paper blue (sky) and the other half green (ground)
Step 5: Glue on the branches and leaves
Elizabeth is really enjoying her library program, which she's taking with cousin Maria and friend Aidan.
She's long been a sleeping bunny expert, but it's amusing to see the children starting to really participate. Some of them even sing! Elizabeth is usually too inhibited, I'm afraid. But she does now go up among the throng of children without Mommy to demand her allotted shaker at the appointed time. More significantly, she also goes up with the rest of the kids to "feed" the animals that come out at Old McDonald time with said shaker. Sometimes she gets knocked off her feet in the hustle or decides there are a few too many kids in the way but when she succeeds she always comes back with a huge grin of accomplishment to tell me "tow (or whatever) was weelly hundry Momma".
Susan the librarian is impressed too at how much less shy she's been this term.
You could certainly claim that entrepreneurship "runs" in the family, so maybe it won't surprise you to know that Elizabeth already has her first job. She's had a social insurance number pretty much since birth, so clearly child labour is sanctioned under Canadian law. I kid, I kid! Although we did register for her number online when we registered her birth as it was needed for RESPs.
Elizabeth is a bit young to really worry too much about allowances and all that, but she is quite interested in money, so Brendan and I started talking about what we wanted to do. Plus it didn't seem fair telling her that she can only get that toy if she bought it with her own money (a great way of stopping store-whining!) unless she had some source of income.
Usually parents either pay their children an allowance on a pre-set time schedule, or they pay them for certain defined chores. My parents took both approaches. I don't really remember what we did when I was very small, though I remember washing and vacuuming the cars for money. When I was sixteen my allowance was dramatically increased to a fairly generous $250, out of which I had to buy bus passes, clothing, shampoo and anything else I felt I "needed" or "wanted". I think they probably made money on that deal (my reluctance to spend money on clothes and shoes perhaps related), but I also learned a lot about budgeting and delaying expenses. I learned how to iron after I learned that my dad was paying the laundromat $2 for every shirt they ironed. I rashly offered $1/shirt, which I regretted after the first one took me more than an hour. I didn't quit though and eventually I picked up my speed... My parents never required me to save or tithe, but I managed to pick up both concepts anyway.
Brendan and I agreed that we wanted to avoid paying for chores, mostly because no one pays us to do them! We feel that Elizabeth needs to learn to keep her room tidy, help with supper, wash dishes and clean the bathrooms as a basic life skill. Brendan also recalls skipping his chores if he felt he didn't need the money, which we would not find amusing. We may revisit this later of course, since we're making this up as we go along.
We weren't terribly keen on just forking out money on a pre-defined schedule either. Cue brilliant if not terribly original idea: Elizabeth gets to "come to work" with Mommy and Daddy a couple of hours a week, and we pay her up to three shiny coins for doing so. The actual amount has tended to vary depending on what kind of change we have lying around. Luckily she doesn't know the difference yet!
In theory she loses a coin if she bothers Daddy at any point during "work time", and another one if she bothers Mommy. In practice we've only had to remind her a few times and the threat of taking away a coin is enough to get her back on track. Quite amusing though - the few times she forgets we'll ask her if she's talking to us. "No!" she whispers back. Most of the time she lets us work about an hour without any interruptions - assuming that she is sufficiently fed, watered and rested of course! We usually target somewhere between an hour and an hour and a half, though she completed two hours well enough.
She has her own desk in the office and when "working" she can use non-messy craft supplies or play with her toys. The key is that she must be "quiet like a mouse" so that Mommy and Daddy can work too. If everyone works hard, then clients pay us and she gets her own portion. Brendan and I usually trade-off looking after Elizabeth which works well, but means that we don't have a lot of time to work together. This has the advantage of giving us time to collaborate on those projects that need it.
We've tried to save certain toys and craft materials for "work time" only, so that there's a bit of novelty to working as well. Elizabeth's favourite activity is cutting up paper into teeny tiny little pieces. I'm happy to report she has not glued anything to the walls, coloured on anything unsanctioned or cut any blankets. We had to ban unsupervised access to tape though, at least for the moment. We often put on some music in the background, mostly classical since Mommy finds it easiest to tune out!
On the whole it seems to be working well for us, aside from the time we had to raid Elizabeth's piggy bank in advance in order to be able to pay her (ahem). We're also still working on figuring out a transition out of "work time" - the timer tends to come as a surprise and then Brendan and I are scrambling to finish up what we were doing while trying to encourage Elizabeth to clean up her mess. What? Of course there's a mess! I'm thinking maybe a "clean-up" timer might help. Aside from scissors (and oh - how she loves her scissors), the other thing we bought for "work time" was a new garbage can. Elizabeth's inordinately proud of having her own. She even sometimes puts garbage in it, though it only took about fifteen seconds for her to figure out that it makes a cool hat with a portable echo.