Tag Archives: friends

Real Mother’s Day Moments

Let’s be real. Being a parent is no easy feat. Babies are amazing and exhausting. I’ve been doing this mothering thing for more than a decade and I still find I’m growing and learning from many botched attempts at perfect parenting. But I promise, there is no perfect in parenting. So don’t worry about it so much!

I’ll freely admit I’ve raised my voice at my kids needlessly, I’ve felt completely unable to help both my colicky babies from crying, I’ve served meals that no one at the table wanted to eat, and I’ve been woken up by kids wailing that the tooth fairy forgot to come more times than I care to say. And it’s okay.

Something I’m thinking a lot about now is making sure I’m staying present in the moments with my kids, and valuing those moments together.

Becoming the mom of a bonafide teenager this year has certainly brought to my attention that childhood is fleeting and I don’t want to miss any of it. How many more moments will she want to snuggle in bed with me and talk about her day? How much will she still want to hold my hand, walking down the street?

At my daughter’s 3rd birthday, I remember having a lot of fun creating a spring-themed toddler party with spring baskets and frilly balloons. I was snapping pics of the kids making their craft, capturing all the prettiness of the table when my very wise, Very-Inspiring-Friend whispered something quietly in my ear. “Don’t forget to enjoy the party, not just take photos of the party”. I looked up from behind the lens and noticed that my daughter was giggling away, both hands covered in paint while I was taking photos of the colour-matched decorations. I remember going over and picking up her paint brush and adding another coat of paint on her thumb and then my own thumb, making her giggle even more. It was ridiculous and so, so fun. No wonder she was giggling!

Uh-oh. Time to start being mindful of the moments, not capturing them.

As much as I love taking photos and creating beautiful photos, I also try to make sure I am enjoying these moments with my kids. The photos can happen, but the moments of being completely there, not just watching from the sides or through a lens, do not come back. And even though I’m still making mistakes and not quite doing everything right as a parent, I always feel okay when I’m thoughtful and present with my family.

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(Sssshhhh… I’m writing this as my kids and husband quietly make Mother’s Day breakfast for me. I’m supposed to be sleeping in, but my mother’s brain is awake and my heart is happily awaiting seeing their smiles as they come upstairs to surprise me. No photos will be taken).

Happy Mother’s Day!

How to Sign MOTHER in American Sign Language --www.growingsigns.com

To sign MOTHER in American Sign Language, tap the thumb of your open hand to your chin.

PINK Shirt Day

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Did your city wear PINK today?

PINK Shirt Day originated at a high school in Nova Scotia eight years ago. Travis Price was in grade 12 back then and a student three years younger was being bullied on the first day of school simply for wearing a pink shirt, and that didn’t sit well with Price and his friend David Shepherd. They went out that night, bought 75 PINK tank tops and encouraged as many of their classmates as possible via social media to wear the colour the next day.

“We didn’t know what was going to happen. We didn’t know if we’d be the only two in pink or if everybody would be in pink. We show up the next day, we were a school of 1,000 kids, and about 850 kids showed up that day wearing pink, and Pink Shirt Day was born just from that simple act of kindness,” Price explains.

Incredible. I love how those boys used the power of positive action to subvert a hugely negative force like bullying. Eight years later, Pink Shirt Day has come to be recognized as an international symbol against bullying. Every school in our city promotes and celebrates wearing pink. My son’s school sells PINK lemonade at lunch hour all week with proceeds going to the Kids’ Care Club fundraising for helping low-income families in our neighbourhood. My daughter’s school held a “Friendship Dance” with fundraising also.

Even if you didn’t wear a PINK shirt today, you can learn the sign!

To sign PINK in American Sign Language, slide the tip of your middle finger down your lips.

The I LOVE YOU Challenge

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‘I Love You’ in American Sign Language

Hold up your hand with index finger, pinkie finger, and thumb extended.

I’m challenging you to teach someone you love how to sign ‘I LOVE YOU’ in American Sign Language. Let’s learn and teach and spread some love this month!

Send me a photo of those hands – little or big – signing ‘I LOVE YOU’ on my I LOVE YOU CHALLENGE post on Facebook and Instagram for your friends and family to see & like. Make sure to tag @signingbabies and use the hashtag #SIGNYOURLOVE.

Be creative, make it cute, and show them how to sign. I’ve got some prizes to send some love back to those whose posted pics get plenty of likes on my sign language lovefest!

Please post your photos by midnight PST Feb. 14, 2015. Spread the love by sharing & tagging your friends so they can play & learn ASL, too!

Snow Day (indoors and out)

My in-laws live next to a lake about 10 minutes away from Whistler Blackcomb, host mountains to the 2010 Winter Olympic Games in Whistler, B.C. Their little cabin overlooks the lake with both mountains tucked in behind. It is gorgeous here year-round, but it’s especially snowy and beautiful in winter. Every year for New Year’s Eve we come up and stay with the grandparents and play in the SNOW!
Indoor snowball by Snowtime Anytime
(Disclaimer: lots of wintry words ahead, but if it’s not snowy where you are, I have a really delightful indoor solution for you and your littles at the end of this post.)
How to sign SNOW in American Sign Language --www.SigningBabies.ca
To sign SNOW in American Sign Language, hold your hands up in the air. Flutter your fingers as you move your hands down and side to side.

We don’t get much SNOW where we live in Vancouver, so the 90 minute drive up to Whistler always excites us as we watch the terrain slowly morph from shades of brown and green in the city into a frozen wonderland in all shades of white.

As soon as we arrived, I rushed outside while it was lightly snowing and took some photos so I could show you some snowy ASL signs!

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To sign COLD in American Sign Language, hold up both arms with closed fists, and shake them sideways like you’re shivering in the COLD.

Every SNOW day requires you make a SNOWMAN! Here’s our little guy ready to greet the trains passing by, not far from the cabin:
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Signing SNOWMAN is easy -just sign SNOW with your fluttery fingers (see sign above), then sign MAN:
How to sign MAN in American Sign Language --www.SigningBabies.ca
To sign SNOWMAN in American Sign Language, first sign SNOW, then MAN by tapping thumb once to your forehead and then bring thumb down to tap once on chest.

A good PLAY in the snow always tuckers out my kids, hallelujah!
How to sign PLAY in AMerican Sign Language --www.SigningBabies.ca
To sign PLAY in American Sign Language, twist both hands with pinkies and thumbs out (middle fingers stay tucked in).

Of course, a steaming cup of HOT CHOCOLATE is always in order after playing in the snow, right? It’s almost the best part, and always a fitting ending to all that snowy fun.

To sign HOT CHOCOLATE in American Sign Language, sign HOT by placing your open claw hand beside your mouth, then turn it away from your body (like it’s too hot to touch). Then sign CHOCOLATE by circling your ‘C’ hand on top of your other hand in a closed fist.
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*Okay, so here’s my find of the year, brought to me by my Very Inspiring Friend, who first found these incredible Indoor Snowballs online here.
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She then showed me they carried them at a local dollar store near her house and I promptly bought two dozen snowballs to tuck into everyone’s stockings for Christmas. We had a huge snowball fight right after opening our presents and it was completely hilarious. The kids didn’t get tired of chucking snowballs at each other but they did get just as tired as playing outside. The adults had the biggest child-like grins on their faces as they pelted each other, too. The snowballs are made of tightly bunched soft yarn so they aren’t likely to injure people or knock down things in your house. They’re incredibly realistic-looking and just plain fun to throw!

And that leaves me with one more word for you to sign with SNOW:
How to sign BALL in American Sign Language --www.SigningBabaies.ca
To sign BALL in American Sign Language, hold both open claw hands in front of you, like you are holding a BALL.

Are you having some fun this winter in the SNOW (inside or outside)?

Happy New Year!

-Lee Ann

Hurry Up and WAIT

No one likes to WAIT, especially kids. That’s why I’ve found the ASL sign for WAIT to be so incredibly helpful to me as a parent, especially at moments of great anticipation or angst.

Let me paint a recent picture for you: My family was at my 8 year old son’s holiday piano recital. It’s not a fancy event, but the kids get to play one song they’ve been working on from their lessons, and after everyone performs there’s a treat table of goodies that the families contribute from home. You see the usual suspects: cookies, cupcakes, brownies and squares, juice, and some fruit. To the kids, the open table full of sweets is worthy of WAITING through 20 performances, but not much longer. The piano and violin performances last just shy of an hour, and then it’s treat time! Time to race over to the table and fill a paper plate with desserts.

So imagine my son’s face when I pull out my camera and tell him I want to get a nice photo of him at the piano first, before he hits the treat table.

Yup, you imagined right. Full pouty face quickly morphing into an angry “no way” face, which does not suit an 8 year old at all. Then I had an AHA! moment and quickly asked him to sign WAIT for me, too (oh, yes, sometimes being a signing mom has its moments)! He knows that sign quite well because I pull it out whenever my kids are practically jumping out of their shoes to go do something or ask me something while I’m busy.

Here’s the one photo I took before I allowed him to join his musical friends at the treat table (I’m pretty sure there was an eye-roll that I missed on camera):

How to sign WAIT in American Sign Language (www.signingbabies.ca)

To sign WAIT in American Sign Language, hold both hands up with one slightly behind the other and wiggle all your fingers.

Use the sign for WAIT when you want your kids to know you are listening to their request but they need to understand it’s not quite time for what they are asking.

One more story: two years ago, I was speaking with Ian’s teacher after school about an upcoming field trip. I could see Ian hopping around us trying to get my attention, but he knows the rule about interrupting adults when they are speaking, so he didn’t barge in. He kept visibly trying to meet my eye, but I didn’t break away from the conversation with Mr. C. Finally, I held up my hands and signed WAIT to Ian, and he signed back BATHROOM. I nodded and said, “Go ahead, meet me back here” and continued my conversation.

Phew, another moment where Ian and I were so glad we could sign, and I was proud that both he and I could be polite and respectful to Mr. C. but still get what we wanted. It felt like a win, and those moments are simply wonderful.

Have you had some signing wins?

Light the Night

My family is participating in Light the Night in Vancouver this evening -a walk to raise funds for The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society of Canada. It occurs to me as I write this that many of you don’t know my father because he died of cancer at the age of 43, when I was 10. He was one of those incredible people that embodied life and charm and vitality, and I miss him every single day. He’s been gone much longer than I ever had him, and although I know he’s with me and my family today in different ways, it’s not the same as having him here, alive, with us. Not even remotely the same.

I have two other friends whose fathers passed away of cancer, one specifically of leukemia. My husband, Scott, lost his grandparents to cancer, and his cousin, Chelsea passed away from an incredibly rare form of brain cancer just last summer leaving 4 small kids under the age of five. The list goes on.

We all know someone.

This cause is very close to our hearts, and we are joining this walk with our dear, dear friend, Sara Sutton and her family, who bravely and thankfully showed lymphoma that it was no match for her two years ago.

Tonight, we will be walking for them, with them, and to benefit them. Maybe you want to light a candle or lantern tonight and think about those you know and love who felt the impact of cancer. I felt it was really important for my kids, aged 8 and 12 years, to participate and perhaps begin to understand how we can try to make a difference while we celebrate the triumphs and mourn the losses. They are old enough now to be a part of change, not just hear or learn about it. So we will be walking and lighting the night.

Of course, these two ASL signs are very usable signs for babies and kids, too!

LIGHT in American Sign Language -middle finger and thumb are connected, then middle finger thumps chin twice lightly  -www.signingbabies.ca
The ASL sign for LIGHT -middle finger and thumb are connected, then middle finger flicks upward on the underside of the chin twice lightly.

NIGHT in American Sign Language -one arm is held horizontally, palm down, while other hand arcs forward from behind flat arm to rest its wrist on the back of your flat hand.  -www.signingbabies.ca
NIGHT (or “evening”)
The ASL sign for NIGHT -one arm is held horizontally, palm down, while other hand arcs forward from behind flat arm to rest its wrist on the top of your flat hand.

If you are interested in donating, here is the link for our family’s team within the mighty Vancouver Team Sutton.

Thank you!

Le port de Cannes en fête

imageOn our second evening in Cannes, families and music lovers were warmly welcomed onto the boardwalk for the second annual Le Port de Cannes en Fêtes, a free festival celebrating summer fun. Why, yes, we’d absolutely love to celebrate in Cannes! We scrubbed up from our beach day and headed to the Esplanade Pantiéro just past the beach where there was a carousel, a picnic area, food trucks, a massive stage and carnival games set up in the seaside square.
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Scheduled onstage that evening were performances by French music bands Miss America and the Sisters G, and headliners Kool and the Gang. Those of you old enough will remember Kool and the Gang’s huge dance hits from the 80’s like Celebration, Get Down On It, Ladies Night, and ballads like Cherish and Too Hot.

Scott and I were thrilled to see them appearing at this free outdoor concert. That song, Celebration, made it on our wedding CD and kicked off the very-important dancing portion at our reception 14 years ago. Who knew they were still touring?

(Click here if you still can’t quite hear the disco rifts and need a little Kool and the Gang while you stroll with us on this festival evening!)

“Celebrate good times, come on!”

But before the sun set and the concerts began, we had time to wander the area and see all the wonderful family entertainment that was set out on the esplanade. Scott and I quickly realized that the French manage to attain an air of sophistication even with something as simple as carnival games.
imageThis first game we saw was very simple but oh, so tricky! With 2 pulleys, you had to balance and manoever the wooden ball up to the top of the board around all the holes without letting it drop. There were so many games to try, and it was very civilized as kids and adults waited their turn to try them all. Line ups weren’t necessary, everyone just watched for who was next. See what I mean about the civilized stuff?

Mini Ropes Course, Ball Balancer, Tilted Maze & Mini Shuffleboard
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Mirror Puzzle
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This one really tested my own left-handed/right-brain synapses, but Ella found it quite easy to assemble the half-a-picture puzzle pieces into one full picture using the mirror.

Nope, none of those silly pay-up-and-give-it-your-best-shot-but-you’ll-never-win kinda games here, and no ratty stuffies as prizes like we’ve always found in our hometown. In Cannes, they set up handcrafted wooden games that actually challenge your body and brain, and they’re great for all ages! No prizes necessary, it was just plain fun. My kids and hubby and I had a blast trying out all the free games, and testing our varying levels of hand-eye coordination. We enjoyed watching how other people solved the puzzles, too. Hands down, it was the best carnival I’d ever seen, and I loved seeing it all through my kids eyes as much as I enjoyed participating in such simple pleasures.

Street performers, magicians, jugglers, and marching bands passed us by on our way down the esplanade towards the boats in Quai St. Pierre.
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Then we doubled back towards the square as it started getting dark and we could hear Kool and the Gang taking over the stage. We found out that this concert was a surprise announcement, not on Kool and the Gang’s official touring calendar. Apparently they love Cannes, too, and added it to their European concert dates this summer. Our kids thought we were nuts, but Scott and I were so chuffed to see them perform and there might have been a little boogie-ing in the streets (cue the eye rolls). I caught a quick pic of the scene as we four regretfully headed back to our apartment from the fête with sleepy, smiley faces.

“Oh, what a night!”

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And here’s a great video that shows all the entertainment, games, performers, and Kool and the Gang in action that night at Le port de Cannes en fête 2014.

To the Beach!

We had a great time in Avignon, but like it or not, we had a train to catch.
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And actually, we kinda liked it -we were heading to the beach! More specifically, the south coast of France to the gorgeous city of Cannes. Yes, you’ve probably heard of the Cannes Film Festival and you’ve maybe seen photos of gorgeous yachts in the harbour and glowing celebrities on the red carpet in Cannes. That’s where we were headed!
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Palais des Festivals building

But the film festival wasn’t on, of course. If it was, there wasn’t a hope in heaven for us to find accommodations or even a seat at a restaurant, no matter how early we could book. The city fills up entirely with the rich and famous during the film festival in May, and stays busy throughout the summer after that, so luckily we had picked the one week in summer that was slow in Cannes. So slow, that we were able to nab an apartment rental smack dab in the middle of the toniest street in Cannes –La Croisette. Which also happens to run along the city’s entire harbor lined with a white sand beach. Oh, la la!

Yes, we have friends in all the right places.

Back in Vancouver, many months before our trip, I realized that we had a hole in our itinerary and needed a place to stay after Avignon and before our week in Paris. I sniffed around on the internet in the usual places, but then I remembered meeting good friends of friends, Dean and Laurie Horvath, who own Mason Horvath Travel. Their company specializes in planning personally tailored trips for both business and vacation, with all the little touches that make a trip perfect. I remember them describing their last trip to Europe back when we were thinking about visiting our friends in France. I crossed my fingers that they would know of a good place to stay. Bien sur! Turns out Dean and Laurie had been to Cannes many times (they travel the world often with their two young daughters) and knew exactly where to look. I struck absolute gold.

As I mentioned, for some reason, that one particular week in summer was a seasonal low week in Cannes, and Dean was able to secure us a 2 bedroom apartment right on the beach for the dates we needed. Mind you, it was slightly out of our preferred budget, but Scott and I decided to go for it. When would we EVER find ourselves in this area again and be able to stay on the beach in Cannes in our lifetime? Yeah, probably never. Decision made. And boy, were we glad we did it!

After the 3 hour train ride and a 10 minute schlep through town with our rolling suitcases and backpacks, we followed our noses towards the salty, sea air and located our very glitzy building.
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Our apartment building on La Croisette

In between designer boutiques and café’s, there was a strip of buildings that housed beachfront apartment towers and hotels. Our building was sandwiched between the Giorgio Armani boutique and café, and the Céline boutique, places I had only heard of from Vogue magazine. The mirrored lobby inside reflected our open-mouth, gasping faces with a hundred different panels of silver and gold. We checked in, rode the elevator to the 5th floor, walked into our apartment and saw this:
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(photo by Scott Steyns)

Yeah, we didn’t know what to say either! It was breathtaking, and unbelievable, and so completely awesome. Gratitude filled my chest. It felt palpable, like I’d swallowed too quickly. But still, I had no idea places like this existed! All four of us were so excited to go explore Cannes.

But can you blame me for dropping my suitcase, backpack and purse and kicking up my feet?

Stay tuned for lots more photos of our adventures in Cannes, including a Kool and the Gang concert…”Celebration time, come on!”

Birthday Class Giveaway

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Win a Signing Babies class of your choice!

Today is my birthday, and I’d like to give back some of the love that I receive in bunches and bunches all year long from my family, friends and clients.

So here’s something from me to you (and to your family, friends, and clients)!

I’m giving away a full session of one of my upcoming Signing Babies classes in Vancouver, Richmond, or West Vancouver, B.C. -a 6-8 week session of classes, worth up to $130. Here’s the schedule of classes the lucky Vancouver-area family will choose from. The winner will pick one full session of classes at any location.

To enter, comment below on this blog post, or hop on over to my Signing Babies Facebook page and comment on today’s contest post (you can enter once by blog, and once by Facebook, with bonus points for liking both pages).

Please spread the love and share this giveaway.

I will be picking randomly from the entries received before midnight on August 4th, 2014.

IMPORTANT CONTEST DETAILS: Winning family must have a baby aged 0-36 months and be able to attend a scheduled Signing Babies class in the Vancouver area within the assigned class dates. Private & drop in classes are excluded from this giveaway. Families with twins aged 0-24 months are eligible. Winning family will be announced on August 5th here and on Facebook.

To Market We Go

Processed with RookiePart of the greatness of visiting friends who have already lived in Avignon for a year is learning all about the local French culture. Our friends, a family of four, jumped into life in France with all 8 feet!

In the short week we’ve joined them, they have demonstrated how decisions about where to go, what to do, and what to eat in France are based on what is nearby, what is available, and what is fresh. As a rule, the French eat fruits and vegetables that are grown locally and in season. Period. Imported produce is bought very reluctantly by locals. If it’s not apple season in France, you don’t buy apples. And if you aren’t sure what’s in season, you’ll realize soon enough when you see the price of imported apples next to the local apricots.

In the city Avignon, there is Les Halles market that is open most days selling fresh produce, meat, dairy, and fish, which we visited soon after arriving here. And once a week on Thursdays, just outside the city walls across the bridge there is a weekly outdoor market in Villeneuve-Lez-Avignon, a small town originally built as a fortress to protect access to the bridge to Avignon.
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We strolled over to Villeneuve-Lez-Avignon’s market day, our cloth shopping bags in hand. It’s a large, lively outdoor market, with food as well as goods and clothing.
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The booths were dazzling and the smells were out of this world -how do I describe the olives stall?! It took my breath away and my feet instinctively stopped dead as I just breathed in the pungent scent of freshly picked olives of every size and colour. Handcrafted tapenades and olive-based spreads were also tickling my nose. It was heaven for an olive lover like me, and soon my two olive-loving kids doubled back to see what I was staring at.
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It was so great to be able to eat some of the local olives we had seen growing in the groves we had passed by in our daily excursions to Tavel and Orange this week. We enthusiastically bought a few assorted kinds of green and black olives and started to munch right away. We chomped as we strolled the market and bought incredibly fresh, local produce for our last homemade dinner with our friends in Avignon before leaving the next day for Cannes.
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