Summer of Awesome – RCMP Stables

Recently my two daughters have become obsessed with horses. They both claim that they want to learn to ride – no doubt they have images in their heads of their hair flowing in the wind as they race towards the sunset, bow and arrow in hand just like Merida in the film Brave.

I have to admit, I am pretty skeptical that their reaction to riding a real-life horse will be quite so dreamy.

So I thought I’d ease them into it by visiting the RCMP Stables. It’s where they train the horses for the Musical Ride, and I was hoping an up-close-and-personal encounter with an enormous, black horse would knock the request for riding lessons right out of ’em.

The stables are in Rockcliffe and are open every day in the summer from 9:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. This is where they train and house the horses for the famous Musical Ride. During the summer, the 36 horses that are part of the Musical Ride are on tour, but there are still about 60 other horses in the stables – these are horses that have been retired from the ride, or young new horses who are just starting their training.

So the first thing you need to do when you get there is find the entrance, which (memo to the RCMP) is not very clearly marked. Here’s the building:

RCMP Stables Building

The entrance is the one on the far left hand end, behind the giant tree, that has a sign that says, “Lost and Found.” OF COURSE.

The door leads you straight into the gift shop (OF COURSE), and you have to go through the gift shop to get to the museum part. The museum is a few small rooms that talk about the history and function of the RCMP, and the details of the Musical Ride.

We learned about the RMCP’s bomb disposal unit:

Bomb Disposal Unit helmet

The kind of horses that are picked for the ride (must be almost all-black, 16 hands high):

Museum Display

And we saw the carriage that is used for visiting heads of state, including Will and Kate last year on Canada Day:

Will and Kate sat here!

There’s also a video playing with footage of the actual Musical Ride, if you’ve never had a chance to see it.

A tour leaves about once every half hour from the museum section and lasts about 20 minutes. You’ll get a chance to see the Musical Ride practice area:

Musical Ride rehearsal area

(This area is also open to the general public, you can come and watch them practicing which takes place most weekday mornings in the winter – call them for the schedule.)

You’ll see the tack room and the ferrier’s workshop:

Ferrier's Workshop

You’ll see horses (yay!):

Horse
RCMP Stables

You’ll learn about how they name the horses (did you know there’s a naming contest every year, in the spring?), how they choose the horses, and how the selected officers learn to ride.

Name Tags from Retired Horses

After the tour, you’re welcome to walk behind the stables where they have a training area. When we were there, two riders were working with a new young horse and we were allowed to watch if we were VERY quiet.

Training Area

Out front, two RCMP officers in full uniform allowed us to get up close and personal with the horses:

RCMP Officers

That was probably the best part. We were able to pet the horses, chat with the officers (SO NICE), and we learned a few extra details, like how they brush-in a maple leaf pattern on the the horses’ backsides before taking them out on rides. Cool.

I liked this visit because it felt like we were really learning something about Canada. We have, unfortunately, never actually seen the Musical Ride itself, so this was a great introduction. However, it was a pretty small place – we were able to cover the whole museum, the tour, and the visit with the officers in about an hour and a half. So it fits nicely in between naptimes, but if your kids are older, you can probably combine this visit with another event.

Also, word of warning: your secret plan to avoid riding lessons may backfire, and the budding love of horses may turn into full blown adoration. DAMMIT.

The Passage Of Time

Some things have changed around here lately.

Captain Jelly Belly’s pants no longer fit lying flat in his dresser drawers. They have to be folded in half.

The little bin of “baby” toys I used to keep in the TV room is gone; everyone is allowed full access to the playroom now.

Gal Smiley doesn’t need a stool to get up on the potty anymore, so our bathroom floors are a little clearer (at least, for another year or so).

Just yesterday, Little Miss Sunshine learned to crawl down the stairs. Now that she can go up and down by herself safely, we’ll likely remove our baby gates soon.

Captain Jelly Belly can reach all the light switches in the house now, which comes in handy when you’re heading downstairs in the morning with a toddler in one hand and a dirty diaper in the other.

Gal Smiley finally outgrew the undershirts she’s been wearing for the past two years.

We no longer have a high chair in the dining room — just one booster seat strapped to a chair.

I sold the exersaucer, playmat, and Baby Einstein DVDs; I gave away the bouncy chair.

Little Miss Sunshine’s feet hang so far over the end of the change table that we rarely use it anymore.

I’ve been noticing that the diaper bag is no longer stuffed to the brim — I no longer carry extra baby clothes, toys, nursing cloths, or binkies. Time for a new bag!

It’s like 1972 around here

This morning Sir Monkeypants put on a music mix over breakfast, as he often does. One of the songs he selected in this morning’s playlist was Be My Yoko Ono by the Barenaked Ladies. It’s a sassy song about how they don’t think Yoko should be blamed for the Beatles breakup.

Captain Jelly Belly asked me what the song was about, as he often does, so I started to explain about this band called The Beatles. The kids actually know of The Beatles, because songs like Yellow Submarine and Here Comes The Sun are regulars in our morning music mixes. I explained how The Beatles were one of the greatest bands ever, but then they broke up, and some people thought that it was Yoko’s fault.

Suddenly, Gal Smiley burst into tears.

She was sad that The Beatles had broken up. Actually, she was more than sad — she was distressed. Beside herself with grief. She wanted to know WHY, WHY did they fight? WHY did they get broken? WHY wouldn’t they make any more music?

I tried to explain that The Beatles had made hundreds of songs before they broke up, and there were many more of their songs left for her to discover and love.

She didn’t care.

I tried to explain that even though they didn’t make music together anymore, they were probably all still friends and got together at Christmas. (I didn’t think it was a very good time to bring up the fact that two of them were deceased.)

She cried even harder.

I tried to explain that once they had broken up, the four of them still made music, good music in fact, and that maybe, just maybe they’d reunite one day.

No dice.

Eventually she was getting so hysterical that Sir Monkeypants took her off by herself and rocked her in our rocking chair and somehow got her to stop crying. She calmed down enough to go to school but she was still sniffling and sad as she left.

As Sir Monkeypants said, “I guess we’re all upset about the breakup of The Beatles, but some of us have had more time to get used to the shock.”

Heaven help us if the Barenaked Ladies ever break up!

Dream Car

Way back before we had kids, Sir Monkeypants and I invented a car game called “Dream Home.” We’d each take turns describing one feature that our Dream Home would have. It started out grounded in reality — my dream home had straight stairs and a finished basement; his had four bedrooms and one of those big bathtubs. Eventually we let our imaginations fly, and I added things like a conservatory and an indoor pool, while Sir Monkeypants wanted a room just to hold his bikes and another one for all his computer equipment.

Eventually we spun off this game to create Dream Car (mine has a mini-fridge and a bathroom; his has various engine-related special modifications that I listen to politely but don’t understand at all).

Recently Sir Monkeypants has revived Dream Car, both because he’s thinking of replacing our second car in a few years, and because he and Captain Jelly Belly can’t stop watching Top Gear.

The other day we were playing Dream Car in the car (of course). The kids are really into this game now, and they crack us up all the time.

(And then we have to spend the next 20 minutes explaining what was so funny, Daddy.)

Gal Smiley says that her Dream Car is big enough to have a whole house inside, so when you need a snack or to use the bathroom, it’s all right there! She would like it to have an “automatic” mode so she doesn’t have to actually drive it around, and she would like a giant mural painted on the outside of herself and her three favourite stuffed animals. Also, it can fly, and it would constantly play rock music at top volume (preferably The Killers or Tegan And Sara).

Captain Jelly Belly would like his Dream Car to be a Mini Cooper, but with giant monster truck wheels so it can drive over anything. It’s the fastest car in the world (while Sir Monkeypants claims that his Dream Car’s speedometer goes to INFINITY, Captain Jelly Belly says that his goes to AND BEYOND). It can crush anything and it is very good at fighting and keeps Captain Jelly Belly safe under all circumstances because it cannot be damaged by guns or fire or big rocks falling on it. It has a special little seat for his stuffed monkey Big Wheel, and Big Wheel also gets his own tiny Nintendo where he can play Star Wars Lego, but all the characters are monkeys. Even though it’s a Mini, there is room inside for anyone in the whole world who would like to come for a ride, and there is a special machine that constantly doles out chicken nuggets and french fries. Oh, it is filled to the top with all manner of Star Wars toys, each described in great detail.

I don’t really think I need to explain what was so funny!

Mr. and Mrs. Turtlehead

When we were kids, all of my parents’ friends were “Mister” and “Missus” to us. When I hit adulthood, many of them asked me to start calling them by their first names, but there was no way I could do that. They were “Mr. Smith” and “Mrs. Jones” to me, and always would be.

In university, I met many of my friends’ parents, and they usually introduced themselves by their first names. I couldn’t do that, either, though. It just seemed unnatural. I either called them “Mister and Missus,” or, for a few parental sets that I came to know very well, I’d call them “Mom Williams” or “Dad Goodfellow.” I hope they took it in the spirit of respect that I meant it — the parents of my friends seemed to require some sort of title, and I just coudn’t go any more casual than that.

When we had kids we decided that we’d like them to call our friends by Mister and Missus, too. It was very, very strange, at first, to be referring to people we’ve seen drunk and people we’ve seen stick pennies up their nose as “Mr. Sagan.” However, we felt it was the right thing to do. Both Sir Monkeypants and I liked the idea of our kids respecting their elders — in Sir Monkeypants’ culture, it is especially important. So we forced ourselves to use the new names.

It was harder for our kids to learn, I think; Captain Jelly Belly is well entrenched in the idea now, but Gal Smiley is still getting the hang of it. Still, I think it was worthwhile; we like hearing our kids treat our friends politely, and I think it does help them to listen to other adults.

In fact, I’m so used to it now, that when friends of my kids call me “Lynn,” I find it weird. It’s not like I would correct them or anything, but it just creates an odd moment with my own kids. I can tell they are thinking, “Hm, I don’t get to call my mom Lynn.” And “Why do I have to call her mommy Mrs. Jolie, but she gets to call my mommy Lynn?”

I don’t know why, but when my own kid is screaming, “MOMMY, can I have a juice?” I can handle it so much easier than when a playdate friend screams, “LYNN, can I have a juice?” I don’t know, using my first name seems to put me at a disadvantage somehow. Like, instead of being the one in charge, I’m now just the humble serving wench. Leave your tips on the table.

I can see some reasons why using first names for other adults is just easier. If you’re meeting a bunch of new adults all at once, learning the Mister and Missus versions of their names does seem to be harder for the kids. If it’s a bunch of adults you don’t know yourself — like other parents dropping off their kids at school — maybe you don’t know their last names yourself. And very young kids — less than three — often don’t understand why one person could have more than one name.

Still.

I would say that our use of Mister and Missus puts us in a minority, but we’re definitely sticking with it. They call me Mrs. Turtlehead!

Getting The Message

Over breakfast this morning:

Captain Jelly Belly: Who did the best sleeping last night?

Sir Monkeypants: Well, Gal Smiley was the only one who slept through the night, so she did.

Gal Smiley: Does this mean that I WIN?!?

Sir Monkeypants: You slept well and we are proud of you. It’s not about winning.

Gal Smiley (sighing with disappointment): Is it about having fun?

Carrot in the Nose

Last night we were sitting around the table, having a nice family dinner. Little Miss Sunshine was having some chopped, boiled carrots, because at 17 1/2 months, she STILL ONLY HAS TWO TEETH.

So anyway, the Little Miss is having her carrots, eating them quite happily, and then for no apparent reason she took one of them and shoved it up her nose.

We weren’t sure which was more horrifying — that she had a carrot in her nose, or that she seemed completely nonplussed at having a carrot in her nose. In fact, the only part that really bothered her was when we pinned her arms down so I could go in there and fish it out.

MyFriendJen is the oldest of four, and her mother always said that if her last child had been born first, there would have been only one. I’m starting to think that the Little Miss is on to that plan. Maybe I should tell her that we aren’t having any more kids, so she can cut it out with her terrorist activities aimed at preventing any more babies from taking her place.

In other kid-related news, I made my annual pilgrimage to the movies on Monday with LuckySevens and FameThrowa, and there were dozens and dozens of teenagers clogging the hallways and doorways. I just could not get over the teenaged fashions of today. What is it with boys and their need to wear their pants around their butt? If you’re going to show off your undies, at least invest in some Spiderman underoos or some Buzz Lightyear underpants so I have something to entertain me. It also seems to be a real fad these days, for both boys and girls, to wear their hair either spiked up or completely covering their lovely faces. I hated it.

I always thought I’d be a laid back parent when it came to personal appearance, because that’s something that is important to a kid and doesn’t really matter in the long run. As long as we could talk and my kid was responsible and kind, it wouldn’t matter if they had purple hair or liked to wear lime green fishnets. But seeing those kids at the movies totally brought out the old fogey in me.

I am SUCH a square. Sorry, my future teenagers!

Second Week of Advent

We’ve been having a lot of fun doing our advent activities…it’s been fantastic overall. Here’s a few highlights from the past week.

Several days ago we made books about Christmas. It was super fun — I think it was the best activity we have done so far — and we’ll definitely do this one again next year. I asked the kids to think of things we do at Christmas — a lot of their ideas came from things we’d done because of the calendar — and then they drew pictures of their ideas with pretty sparkly markers. Then we made a cover page and stapled it all together.

Here’s some pictures from the Captain’s book:



That last one there is not actually a pregnant Santa, but rather, Santa carrying a bag of toys (very close to his body) with a doll inside. Just in case you were wondering.

And here are some from Gal Smiley’s:



Aren’t they adorable? I’ll definitely be keeping these forever. I should mention that for many of the Gal’s pictures, I drew her an outline — the outline of a tree, say, or a stocking or a gingerbread house — and then she “decorated” it. The Captain was able to draw most of his pictures himself.

The Captain also decided to make a book about Star Wars, of course. Check out his totally awesome picture of Jabba The Hut:

These are definitely keepers.

Another thing we did was make gingerbread houses. I used graham crackers for the sides and roof, so we didn’t have to do any actual cooking. The Captain is allergic to eggs so we could not use the traditional royal icing for glue. Instead I made up a mixture of icing sugar and orange juice (1 cup sugar to 4 teaspoons juice) and it worked okay in that it dried hard and solid, but it was very runny at first and our houses kept falling over. Next year I’d give the icing 15 or 20 minutes to harden up a bit before assembly.

Once we got the houses to stand up, we braced them with cups and let them dry for an hour or so. Then the kids went nuts with the decorating:

And also the eating. They didn’t last long.

We also built a fort. Here are the kids inside it:

At first the kids were like, okay, nice fort, what the heck do we do with it? But once I gave them flashlights they were totally hooked. We left the fort up for a week and I barely saw them during the day — they were always off reading books or playing games in the fort. With flashlights.

See? Advent is fun!

Yesterday our activity was to make this:

This is called Peppermint Bark. IT IS GOOD. Also, it’s surprisingly easy to make and a very fun activity for kids of all ages.

I’ll put the instructions after the jump, since this post is already long enough!

Continue reading “Second Week of Advent”

Stay or Go

A while ago I was reading a post on Quinn Cummings’ blog about how some kids are Stay kids and some kids are Go kids. Stay kids are homebodies who will stick close to home as they turn into adults; even if forced to move somewhere for school or work, they’ll put down new, deep roots and refuse to go anywhere else. Go kids are born with the wanderlust in their eye; they’re always looking away for the next big challenge, the next new adventure.

Since I read that post I’ve been thinking a lot about my own kids. Captain Jelly Belly is definitely a Stay. The other day he was helping Sir Monkeypants tidy up after a house project, and Sir Monkeypants showed him where to put the marker he had been using. The Captain said, “It’s a good thing you showed me where we keep these markers, so I will know where to put them when this is my house some day.”

I’m not sure if we are alive or dead in this dream scenario of his — think of it, the markers AND the drawer will all be his — but he’s made it quite clear that he is never moving out, ever. Ever.

Gal Smiley is a bit of a harder read, but I think she is a Stay too. I can tell by the way she gives us hugs — so tight, it’s like she can never be close enough to Sir Monkeypants and me. She is the one who feels responsible for everyone else’s well-being and I think she would worry about us too much if she were off travelling the globe. I think she’d like to have her own place some day, but maybe just the house across the street. With the Captain as her roommate.

I like to think of her taking care of me one day. She’s bound to be a better cook than I am, at the very least.

As for the Little Miss…she’s a Go, for sure. She loves the people, she loves new places. She likes to try new things and be independent and eat exciting new dishes. A day when she doesn’t get to go outside and see something new or meet someone new is a dark, cranky day for her. When we’re out and about, she’s never looking over her shoulder to make sure I am there — she’s always just pushing forward, looking for whatever is coming next.

I miss her already. It’s good to imagine it, though, I think — otherwise I just won’t be prepared for the heartbreak when she announces that she’ll be going to British Columbia for university, or marrying some Australian dude she met while on vacation. Sniff.

Did you Stay, or did you Go? And what do you think your kids will do?

Stocking Pee

Today at lunch, Gal Smiley and Captain Jelly Belly decided to make up some jokes about Christmas.

Their invented jokes are quite hilarious, mostly because they are so very very UN-funny. For example, here’s one from Gal Smiley:

Q. Why did the jingle bell jump in the sleigh?
A. Because it wanted presents!

The Captain made up this one:

Q. Why did the elves fly?
A. Because they were riding on reindeer!

Oh yes, they are quite ready for SNL.

The Captain did crack me up with this one, though:

Q. Why did the boy attach a long string to the bottom of his stocking?
A. Because he really liked pee, and he wanted it to look like his stocking was peeing!

Ah, five year old boys. They never change.