Sunday, October 6, 2013

Hunter, The Princess Bride & A Pit Of Love

This morning, I called Hunter over to the couch to tell him about the book I've been reading. It's not a book appropriate for preschoolers so I took the liberty of glossing over the numerous attempted murders and more mature details of the story. I simply told him that there was a girl named Buttercup and a boy named Westley who were friends when they were teenagers. One day Buttercup is captured and Westley chases after the men who took her. I told him about climbing the Cliffs of Insanity, the sword fight and when Buttercup falls into the snow sand. In my copy of the book, there is a map that depicts the Cliffs, the Fire Swamp, and other elements of the story I chose not to mention(Zoo of Death)! He was fascinated and we talked about that story and looked at the map together many times throughout the day. This new found interest lead to one of the best conversations I have had with my second born nephew.

Auntie Jenn: 'Westley and Buttercup fell in love! Do you know anyone who's in love?'
Hunter: 'No!'
AJ: 'You do! Mommy and Daddy are in love!'
H: 'Did they fall?'
AJ: 'Yup. They fell in love.'
H: 'Did they get out?'
AJ: 'Nope, they're still in love.'
H: 'Still?! How did they get to our house?!'

This is where I threw it over to Shannelle, who had overheard our conversation. I can only assume from his line of questioning that he believes you actually fall into a pit of love. And really, if you're stuck in a pit, how are you getting home? Completely reasonable question.

I love seeing his mind at work. I hope I can keep having these candid conversations about books and about life for years to come.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Tell Me A Story

The girls and I often tell stories at lunch time, and snack time, and really any time during the day. When I first starting telling them stories they all had the same format:

One day, (insert name of Friend #1) & (insert name of Friend #2) were walking through the (insert landscape) one day, when all of the sudden-they heard a noise! It sounded like this! (insert random noise). They didn't know what it was, so they kept walking. And then all of the sudden-they heard ANOTHER noise! It sounded like this! (insert different random noise). 

The friends heard a few noises and then found the source of the noise. It was usually a typically scary thing(bear, giant, monster) eating something that was gigantic and silly(bowl of ice cream, popsicle, corn on the cob), who turned out to be a nice guy. In the end, they all become friends and live happily ever after. The end. No matter how many different types of stories I tell, this is the format the girls request most often. They've even started telling stories themselves. It is brilliant. To listen to these girls tell stories from their imaginations, is, by far, one of my favorite things to do. They have such expression in their voices and faces, I could listen to them all day long.

Telling, reading and listening to stories is a definite highlight of my week. One of the primary places that takes place is at Monkeyshines Children's Books. Every Thursday they have story time, where the lovely Sue reads three kids books to a group of adoring children. There are days when I think, if the girls could, they would go home with Sue. She, and all the Monkeyshines staff, are wonderful.

Before we started going to Monkeyshines, I was a bit of a children's book addict, primarily picture books. Going for our weekly visit to the bookstore has sent my addiction into overdrive! I have shared in the past about books I would recommend for the preschool set, but I thought I should update the list, as Monkeyshines has exposed me to all sorts of fantastic books!

1. Otis and The Tornado(Loren Long)
This book is a daily read when we have it out from the library. The girls love it and have most of the words memorized. We've read it so many times that now, when they're playing, they don't get scared, they 'shake in fear!" I love the vocabulary the Otis books have! This book is a great book to spark conversations about friendship, kindness and first impressions.

2. Willoughby & The Moon(Greg Foley)
Willoughy & The Moon has marvelous illustrations. They're entirely black, white and shiny silver, which I love. Thankfully the story is equally fantastic. Willoughby is scared of the dark and one night ventures into his closet to find-the moon! There, Willoughby meets a giant snail and discovers that even when you're scared, you can still do something brave. This book can start conversations about being adventurous, trying things when you're unsure, and, of course, great imagination stories about the moon!

3. A Home For Bird(Philip C Stead)
Philip C Stead(author), and his wife Erin(illustrator), have a tendency to put out completely endearing children's books that I immediately fall in love with. A Sick Day For Amos McGee is incredibly sweet and won the 2011 Caldecott Medal. Bear Has A Story To Tell is just as charming! A Home For Bird, is, however, a solo effort by Philip and matches the loveliness of the collaborations he has had with his wife. A story of friendship that never gives up!

4. Grumpy Goat(Brett Helquist)
 Brett Helquist tells the story of a grumpy goat who's never had a friend. The other animals on the farm try to befriend the goat, only to be rebuffed at every turn. After the goat discovers a bright and beautiful flower, he begins to soften. In the end, another story of friendship and opening up your heart!

5. Little Cub(Olivier Dunrea)
Little Cub tells us of a little cub living alone near the forest and of an old bear living alone in the forest. Both lonely and wishing for something more. One day, they stumble across each other's path and find their missing piece. A beautiful story for parents and children, especially those who came together through adoption.

6. Quiet! There's a Canary in the Library!(Don Freeman)
Don Freeman is most famously known for Corduroy, a children's classic to be sure. I was delighted to find this book on the shelf at Monkeyshine, having never heard it of! A great book about a girl named Cary and what she would do if she were the librarian! Liberal doses of imagination and lots of animals make for a great story!

7. Penguin and Pinecone(Salina Yoon)
I see a pattern on my kids bookshelves at home. They're filled with sweet stories of friendship. Penguin and Pinecone is no different. Penguin and Pinecone's friendship spans the years and shows that, "When you give love, it grows." Simple illustrations, not too many words, a new favorite.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013


I hate clutter. It bothers me to the point of distraction. I call it visual noise. This is why I sleep so much better when my house is tidy. My sleep, after I do my dishes and clean my kitchen, the oft ignored room during my tidy regiment, is a beautiful thing. I know I'm not alone in this. However, my need for clutter free spaces generally applies only to spaces I can see. My counter may be clear, but please don't look in my cupboards. Sadly, one of the deterrents from cleaning out my cupboards to set them straight is that I'd have to make the spaces I can see a mess before the inside cupboards are orderly. I just don't want to endure the visual noise of it all.

Another place that my clutter rule does not apply is my mind.

My mind is always running. Often, it takes a detour into Crazytown(What was that noise? I think I'm about to robbed. And murdered. Ah man, my place is a mess-the CSI guys are going to think I'm a slob!), but mostly it's just running with white noise. Things I have to get done, major life decision, that boy I liked in Grade 3*, how much soup I still have in my freezer, that email I have to sent, the time I got a perm, that other email I have to send, the dishes that have been sitting in the sink for far too long, that fictional character I care too much about, that other major life decision. It's endless.

This fact has not helped my writing. It has not gone unnoticed by me that I haven't written a thing since October. That's a far cry from my 'every two weeks' goal from July. I have things I want to write about on a weekly basis. Some things often come back to me repeatedly. For example, I wrote the title of this post in November. I've been thinking about the nuthouse that is my mind, since November, if not before. However, the other clutter that occupies my mind gets in the way of writing the posts I want to.

I was talking with a friend a couple weeks ago about insomnia, something we both struggle with, and she commented that it sometimes stems from stressors in her life. Not big news, but it made me think about my life and the stressors that may be keeping me up. The clutter makes it difficult to identify the things that are really bothering me. On occasion, when I do identify a stressor, it's just simpler, but certainly not healthier, to leave it in among the clutter. Like my cupboards, I'm afraid of the mess I might make trying to put the inside in order.

*His name was Cole. He wore a florescent green shirt and his house key around his neck. He had brown hair and was the handsomest boy I had ever seen.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012


In my pursuit of writing, I am often asked "What kind of writing do you want to do?" After much thought(maybe too much thought), I've landed on an answer. I'd like to write picture books. With that in mind, I took to the world wide web, to see if there were any classes being offered on penning the next great picture book. There is not. At least, not anywhere within 12 hours of my house. I did, however, come across Mem Fox's website. Fox is an award-winning, Australian picture-book author. Chances are, if you've been to a baby shower within the last decade, her book Time For Bed has come across your path.

She has a section on her website entitled "So you want to write a picture book..." Why yes Mem, yes I do! As I read through her thoughts, I was inspired and challenged and so grateful that someone has talented and experienced as Fox would have the compassion and thought to share her insights and experiences. It was most helpful and I'm sure I'll read it many times over as I travel further down this path.

The Marvelous McKeowns

Two years ago, I was in a holding pattern of sorts. I was working at the bookstore and I had just let my contract with the school board run out. I was adrift, wondering what was going to happen next, where I would go from there.

A few months later, a bittersweet job offer came my way. To work at a daycare isn't where a trained teacher dreams of ending up but I would be working with kids and it would be a full time gig-something my bank account was sorely in need of. My mom's words of encouragement were "Maybe this will lead to something else." A large part of me doubted her words, but I took the job, donned the uber-flattering daycare scrubs and hopped on the bus every morning to head to work.

A few weeks later, my supervisor informed me that our infant room would be receiving two new kids, twin girls. Not thinking much of it, I began to prepare the room, labeling cribs and baskets with the new addition's names-Emily and Clara.

I distinctly remember the first time these two peanuts came to visit our room. Light-as-a-feather Emily was plunked in my lap with Clara right beside on the floor. Clara slowly started to explore with Emily content to sit in my lap and have toys brought to her as her eyes scanned the new people and place that surrounded her.

Over the next months, I fell in love with these two precious, distinctly different girls. One cautious and observant, the other daring and wild. But both extremely clever and so loving. As the time for their graduation from our room approached, I cherished their smiles and cuddles all the more. On their last day in my room, the girl's mom asked me, "So, would you ever consider being our nanny?" I had considered it, many times actually, and although the job would be only be part time, there was another part time opportunity that had come my way, that seemed to fit perfectly. After a weekend of debate and much (positive)input from my family, I decided to accept their offer. Two months later, I left the daycare and began work as their nanny.

I've been with Emily and Clara for one year now. I love watching them grow into their personalities and discover new things.

Clara, the wild one. This little girl loves adventure. She loves to climb and jump and spin and do anything that is active. She plays hard and she also loves very, very deeply. She gives hugs to anyone who will accept them. This was true, even back in the daycare when she would tackle the other kids with hugs and kisses. When Clara loves you, you know it. :)

Emily, the contemplative one. This peanut is whip-smart. She likes to have things explained to her, to really understand why things work the way they do-which is one of the reasons we sometimes spend quite a bit of time at lunch talking about what different foods do for us. Although it might take a bit longer for her to warm up, Emily has such a loving heart and easy laugh. She loves to be tickled and to be "a team" with her sister.

Along with these two amazing girls, this family also comes with two fantastic parents. Mike and Peggy are among the most generous and kindhearted people I have ever known. In the early stages of our working relationship, I honestly thought they were too good to be true. However, over the past year, I have seen time and time again how loving and supportive these two really are. They have supported me, not just as the care-giver to their girls, but as a friend and I am forever thankful.

When my mom said that she thought the daycare job would lead 'somewhere', I don't think she thinking 'to a nannying job' but I do believe that job was used to lead me to this amazing family and, with their support, will lead me further.

So thankful for these monkeys.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

MOH Anniversary Toast

I am a sucker for a good wedding and tears are a regular(and sometimes welcome) occurrence during the proceedings. I love being in a wedding party even more. I've been lucky enough to be in 3 wedding parties, each time as Maid of Honor. 8 years ago, I stood up with my sister, as her MOH, as she married Jeff. I was an emotional basket case for much for the day. Laughing one minute, crying the next, I rode that roller coaster all day. It was fantastic. However, I do have one regret from that day.
During the reception, the two bridesmaids and myself got up to give a toast to the bride/advice to the groom. Shockingly, I had nothing prepared ahead of time and in my mental haze of dizzying emotion, there were tears and some laughter but I've never been satisfied with what I shared. It was scattered and not up to snuff in my opinion. I've often thought of what I could have said about Shannelle and Jeff, or what I would say now, knowing them as a pair for 8 more years. So, for this, Shannelle and Jeff's 8th anniversary, I thought I would give it another shot. I give you the toast that should have been.

  Shannelle, there are few words that can describe all I'm feeling today. I've chosen a few and hope they will suffice.

Lucky- I'm lucky that you didn't kill me when, as kids, I tricked you into cleaning my room time and time again. For that matter, you're lucky I didn't kill you for repeatedly manipulating me into doing, pretty much whatever you wanted(Just go down the laundry shoot, Jenn! It's not that far!). I'm lucky that I've blocked out the summer road trips fights we must have had and mostly remember the ridiculous games we played(How much of your fist can you put in your mouth without it actually touching your mouth?).
Today, I'm lucky I have waterproof mascara on. I'm also lucky that you have brought Jeff into our family. He will make a fantastic, somewhat calmer addition to our loud family and maybe, one day, he'll get to a point that he'll join in on our antics, or at least doesn't internally(or externally) roll his eyes at our crazy Tattrie behavior. More than anything, I am lucky, and blessed beyond belief to have you as my sister. We over-share together(something I've learned it's best not to do with everyone), we talk about fictional characters as if they were real, and share some of the same perfectly logical neuroses. You encourage me, push me and I admire you more than you know.

Happy- When we weren't driving each other 'round the bend, we were a team, a pair, for all of my 21 years. There were secrets shared(or so we thought-Mom's really do know everything), clothes borrowed, Barbie's divvied up and much, much, laughter exchanged. I'm happy today to pass you off to a man I trust to share, hopefully not your clothes, or Barbies for that matter, but your secrets and much laughter. Today, I am truly and unabashedly happy for you. To see you start a new chapter of your life with this man who you love and who clearly loves you makes my heart smile. 

Excited- I'm excited to see where life will take the two of you. Maybe one day, if you so choose, I might have a couple nephews that are cuter than anything I've ever seen. Your call, of course. Perhaps, I'll start to follow golf and trade texts with Jeff during golf tournaments. Although, I really don't see that happening. Whatever happens, know that I'll be there cheering you on, praying for you and coming over to your house whenever possible.

Shannelle, I love you. Jeff, you're alright too.


Sunday, July 8, 2012

What 29 Looks Like

Before you read this post, you should probably read this one. I'm sorry but I'm not going to write that all out again. I'll wait.

You read it? Okay, then read on.

I'm looking to have a different sort of year. In order to do that, I'll be setting some goals for myself. I'll be adding to this list throughout the year. Some of the goals will be super small, possibly a bit silly(check out #3), some will be a bit more substantial. I'm the kind of person who takes a shower, then writes "Take a shower" on her To Do list just so I can cross it off. There may be a bit of that this year, but I'm okay with that.

1. Write a New Post Every Two Weeks
       Writing is something I love to do and I`d like to work my writing muscles a bit more than I have been. I`d like to get better. At first I thought I should write a post every week but seeing as how it`s taken more than two months to write my two most recent posts, I thought every two weeks was probably a bit more realistic.

2. Pursue Writing
   What this would look like, I'm not sure. It's been suggested to me that I pursue getting my work published. My first(and second and third) response was "What? No way! What if they say no!" Who is 'they' and what are they saying 'no' to? I'm not sure. I don't make sense a lot of the times. However! I`d like to see where it might take me. If you have any tips or advice, send them my way!

3. Watch Braveheart
  This is one of those silly goals, obviously. I’m fairly certain that pop culture has ruined the whole, “They’ll never take our freedom!” for me, but I’ll give it a shot regardless.

4. Create More Structure at Work 
  I am a nanny to amazing, two-year-old twin girls. They are hilarious and adorable(as many two-year-old`s are) and I love them so much! We go on a number of awesome outings(Calgary Zoo, Science Center, Monkeyshines) and have lots of fun at home, but I`d like to step up the educational component. They`re whip smart, so all I need to do to provide them with more opportunities to learn! It`ll also give me an opportunity to use that BEd I’ve got! :)

5. Plan For Something a Year in Advance
  Since I graduated from university, my ability to plan anything more than a couple weeks into the future has gone to seed. This is a skill, I feel, a functioning adult needs to have a better handle on. And so I plan. Well, I plan to plan. I`m thinking a 30th Birthday trip. We`ll see.

Stayed tuned for more! And hey, if youve got some goals ideas, let me hear ’em!