Five minutes ago I had a great discussion with Sierra about He-Man so I wanted to capture it while it was fresh in my mind.
Yesterday I got word that the new Masters of the Universe Origins toyline had hit Wal-Mart stores in Canada so I was quite excited. These things look pretty much like the toys I collected as a kid.
With that, I figured I should introduce Sierra to He-Man and the Masters of the Universe. It’s probably been 35 years since I’ve watched the show. Would it stand the test of time?
I would like to thank John and Maureen for having the He-Man episodes available on Plex because they weren’t on Netflix. They saved the day!
I fired up the episode for the family and Sierra was skeptical at first because it wasn’t her new favourite show called Fancy Nancy (on Disney Plus), but soon enough, the show hooked her in.
There are so many incredibly cheesy moments but everything is super interesting to a kid and so after the show her and I went to her bedroom for storytime and instead of a story, we got to have an extended question period about He-Man.
Here are some questions that came from a four year old’s brain after seeing their first episode of He-Man. Sidenote: I don’t even know if I’ve ever seen the first episode of He-Man but I have to say that it did a really good job of introducing the good and bad guys.
Sierra’s questions about the first episode of He-Man
Why did He-Man not disappear from the ray?
Why was the skeleton man laughing?
How did the sword not disappear when the ray hit it?
Why did He-Man go into the crack?
Who was the floating guy with a wizard’s hat?
Why did the kid of the King and Queen hide? (this prompted a really interesting discussion about secret identities and heroes but I think it went over her head)
Why does Prince Adam and He-Man not look the same (didn’t we all have that question?)
Why did He-Man hit the guy on the blue flying thing?
Why did the lion have He-Man riding on his back?
I can’t even remember all the questions but they were great questions from a four year old after watching He-Man for the first time. Honestly, I was contemplating setting up a video camera to capture this moment because I knew they would be great and hilarious and thoughtful questions all at the same time!
I think I wasted my favourite series of Thundercats on her at 3 years old. She breezed through them but didn’t have the brain to ask questions about it. I think she just liked the fast moving pictures.
I’m really excited for the toys to hit the shelves and maybe her and I can play with them!
With a four year old, sometimes they look at what of your tabletop games on the shelf and say “Let’s play this!” This is kind of impossible when the game has strategy involved and is meant for kids over the age of ten.
But Dad, it looks fun! Let’s play it!!
I realized that with the power of creativity we could create a brand new game using whatever pieces are available to us.
These instructions are for a 2 player game but I’m sure you can use creativity to adapt to a multiplayer game.
What do you need to play this?
1 Splendor game
1 child who wants to play the game with you
What is the objective?
To have the most chips of each colour (minus the gold, we don’t play with them) at the end of the game.
Look at all those chips!
How to set up
Take out all the chips from the box except for the gold ones and put them on the table somewhere. It’s like a money for Monopoly, it’s off to the side somewhere.
Now take all the playing cards and separate them into the green, yellow and blue cards. Put the green back in the box.
Deal all the yellow cards between the two players. You should end up with an equal amount of cards.
Two piles. They are pretty neat.
How to play
Each player takes a card from the top of their deck and flips it.
Whoever has the largest number on the card wins the round. In this game, we are looking at the number which appears in the top left corner. Ignore all other numbers.
The winner of the round picks up a chip which corresponds with the gem that appears in the top right corner of the card.
In the picture above, the player that has the 3 wins the round against the 2. The player gets to pick up a green gem chip for their collection.
In the picture above, the 3 card wins the round against the 2 card. The winner gets to pick up a white gem (aka the diamond) chip.
Go onto the next round by flipping cards and battling it out to try and win the most gems!
What happens when there is a tie?
In our house, a tie breaker is battled out using rock-paper-scissors!
Only rock-paper-scissors shall determine the winner of this round!
What happens when we run out of yellow cards?
This depends on your kid. Some days the kid is really tired of playing and you can move onto figuring out who won the game. But sometimes they want to continue on so that’s where you can deal out the blue deck.
Ok, we’re done playing, who wins?
Now it’s time to put your gems against the other player’s gems and see who wins!
Each player moves their stack of gems against the other players, according to colour. Whoever has the larger stack wins one point.
In this example, I had a lot more white gems compared to Sierra’s one gem. Therefore I win one point.
What happens if there is a tie when counting the gems?
Rock-paper-scissors of course!
In the example above, you can see that we have battled it out. Sierra had the most brown gems (1 point), and the most blue gems (1 point). I had the most red, white and green gems (1 point each for 3 points total).
What skills does this game teach my kid?
Understanding numbers and how they relate to each other. “What number do I have? A three. What number do you have? A two. Which is the higher of the two numbers? Then who wins this round?”
How to revel in the happiness of winning a game
How to deal with the feeling of utter defeat when you lose a game and Dad dances around the room
Why do we put the green cards back in the box at the setup stage?
The green cards don’t seem to have numbers appear a whole lot so it was getting tedious to always have a tie. If you want to play with them, go for it, but you’ll end up with a lot more rock-paper-scissor challenges!
Is it fun?
I think so! I’m sure others may come up with variations they enjoy more. As long as you’re having fun with your kid inventing a game, that’s what counts!
I feel that this post may be a long one so fair warning!
With two weeks left until I return to work after four months on parental leave, I figure I should document my thoughts surrounding my parental leave during the spring/summer of the year 2020 considering everyone under the sun will be asking “Well, how was it?” I also feel that it’s always good to document this type of thing for future generations. If Sierra or Ezra or any other future children that I don’t know about are wondering how my parental leave was, read on!
What I was thinking about when I was approaching parental leave
My original plans were shaping up nicely. I was going to go on parental leave in April which is the start of the fiscal year at work. All projects were neatly finished up or passed along to more competent folk than I. Everything was in its place.
In the month approaching parental leave I had visions of hanging out with Ezra and getting to know him a little better. It was still winter but I had visions of visiting a different brewpub each Wednesday of the week. We were going to find a different park to try out every couple of days. We were going to learn different skills like passing a ball across the floor and how to hold a bottle up with our own two hands (he witnessed me doing this quite a bit on my own during parental leave). We were going to take off to Kapuskasing for at least two weeks and heck, while we’re at it, why not head down to Gaspe at the same time? He was going to take two hour naps in the morning and the afternoons where I would work diligently at finishing up recording some music that has been sitting in unfinished forms for the past decade. If the muse hit, I would write songs each day. Daycare was still an ongoing activity for Sierra so we would drop her off each morning and walk around Vars to get some exercise in.
A month before parental leave and I can already see how amazing it would be!
It was going to be a glorious four months of bonding and learning what it takes to ‘parent’. I already knew what parenting was…we already had Sierra under our belts. This was going to be a different beast but not impossible.
The impossible happens
Enter: Covid19 pandemic. Aye aye aye. What a gong show. As I type this I’m still in the thick of it. No live concerts. Still haven’t seen half of my friends yet and it’s August next week. Things are opening up more than they were in the beginning but still, the spectre of a virus still lingers on.
It was getting bad enough that I decided to work from home in mid-March. I packed up some things from the office and bid adieu to my colleagues as I had no idea when I could drop by to a pub with Ezra to see them again. When I left I knocked on my director’s door and jokingly said “See you in August?” thinking I would definitely see her before that.
The day I start working from home we get the word that everyone will be working from home. Ok. Things are getting a little scary around these parts.
Bam. Daycare shuts its doors permanently for Sierra. People are stockpiling toilet paper. I’m trying to figure out how much beer and pepperettes I currently have in the house. I have to hand it to Vero, she was a trooper during these times and went out to stores and stocked up the garage with essentials.
Vero, every time.
Bam. My parental leaves starts a few weeks later and my day has morphed into taking care of a four year old along with an 8 month old.
One of the first days on the job and I forget to actually strap him in. Note the lack of straps on top! Good thing I didn’t bend over too much and thank the Lord for his giant snowsuit holding him in!
A typical morning for us. Have breakfast, rush out and rush back so Ezra can have a nap at 9;30am. It was pretty brutal getting them dressed and running out to give them 15 minutes outside and return.
I doubled down and thought “Ok, what do I need to do to be the greatest parent ever?” Activities! Every morning I would bring these two outside after breakfast but then have to return quickly for a nap. Then I would think of something to do with Sierra. Then before you know it I would have to think of what to do for lunch. The days went by fast with this schedule.
This routine only lasted two weeks.
My only reprieve was that nap time around 2Pm but I can’t even remember if Sierra was taking naps at that point of it we had transitioned her to quiet time then. Either way, it gave me an hour. Gone were the thoughts of making music, watching a tv show, or doing something I wanted to do. Here were the days of just taking a nap along with them to regain my energy!
I still tell my friends that my first month was a real shock to the system. Gone were my ideas of travelling around with one kid and having fun. Now I’m stuck with two kids and one of them had a real stubborn streak to them not unlike any other four year old! I felt (and still feel) that 90% of my attention is now devoted to Sierra and Ezra is an afterthought. More of a “hey, I’m keeping an eye on him so he doesn’t lose a hand, but other than that, I have other things to deal with here!”
The first month was Hell, would the second one be the same?
I’m not entirely sure what changed my attitude come the second month but it was a complete opposite direction for me. I felt elated (not gassy!) and I was the happiest any human could be.
Perhaps it was seeing this Guy Smiley every day?
Perhaps it was seeing these two interact each day for all hours on end instead of maybe 30 minutes if Sierra went to daycare every day?
Perhaps it was because Spring was in the air?
Perhaps it’s because I finally got some spicy eggplant for my sandwiches?
Whatever it was, I was a changed man. I didn’t care if I didn’t get any personal time. My time was 100% devoted to my kids, my wife, and trying to maintain the chaos in my house. I tip my hat to my good friend Holly who I drew inspiration from. I can only imagine she had moments like these raising three kids for five years. Maybe I’m completely wrong and she was hanging on by a thread every day.
The last two months
I felt that the last few months balanced out a bit. I wasn’t riding a high of being with my kids and spending time with them on the back porch all the time. It was still amazing and I still cherish the moments I have with them. I had more time to do simple things for myself like return phone calls to friends. Claude still was surprised to hear my voice after me telling him I would call back the next day (that was two months ago). I started finishing some books that were on my nightstand for years. I even started a new book called The Stand by Stephen King. It was new to me at least. Who knew it was about a pandemic? I had no idea. I’m only a few hundred pages into it so a lot more to go. I started watching movies more and more. I started watching special features of movies. I can tell you a lot about the first Hobbit film.
Getting some inspiration to write music again
I tried my best during all of this to find activities to do with Ezra and Sierra during the mornings. I mentioned how when we started out I tried to take Sierra and Ezra out on activities in the morning before Ezra’s nap. That crashed and burned after two weeks on the job and I convinced Vero to take care of Sierra during the mornings. She could take care of breakfast and have her watch TV until Ezra took a nap. That was definitely the modus operandi of the first couple of months.
But after awhile I started seeing Sierra sneaking into my routine again. I would prepare her some Cheerios if I had the time. I would let her watch TV upstairs instead of watching Your Morning on CJOH. She was starting to become part of the morning team of Ezra and Dad. As I type this, a typical day consists of getting up with Ezra, giving him 8 ounces of formula while watching the news (unless Sierra is up and then we watch something on Disney+). Ezra and Sierra then get fed and we figure out what activity we want to do before Ezra’s nap. He’s old enough now that I don’t need to get him back around 9:30am. I can push it to 10:30am without any major repercussions and we’ve also pushed it to 11am a few times and there’s nothing earth-shatteringly different about our schedule. I have searched out good forest areas to explore.
Searching for dinosaurs, crocodiles and bird houses was our adventures in Tweed conservation area
Du Moulin park, while small, offered up some great view of the Ottawa River
Barnett Park was a quick favourite as it got our feet into the river. We didn’t end up here a lot but we were happy when we found a spot of our own to have a snack.
There was one area that I fell in love with so much that I had to bring Eric and Mike one Thursday evening so we could have a beer while sitting in the river. As of July 28, 2020 as I type this, I have deemed this to be the night of the summer. Ezra, Vero and Sierra love this spot as well.
After our morning activity Ezra will go down for a nap and Sierra and I will find a small relaxing activity to do. If it’s sunny outside that may be learning new words. If it’s rainy or really hot outside, it will be playing a computer game.
Lunch comes and goes and then we either play in the living room for awhile or go for a bike ride. Ezra’s nap comes along with Sierra’s quiet time and I either have a nap which I don’t really need anymore (I suppose I have gotten used to the chaos which is two kids?) or read a book.
After quiet time Sierra and I have a snack and wait until Ezra wakes up and generally Maman is off of work during that time which gives me time to make supper while she plays with the kids.
That’s a typical day, of course!
What did I not enjoy?
It was ridiculous how much stress could come from making lunch and supper every day. I don’t know if it was the thought of making something extraordinary or not, but I would say this was the major headache of each day. But let’s be honest, I’m living a pretty good life if that’s the worst part of my day!
I do have to admit that I didn’t get to spend the time I wanted with Ezra. Even when I found myself alone with him from time to time, I was either exhausted or there were bottles to be washed or activities to plan for Sierra who I knew would be coming every two minutes to demand our attention. Can’t blame her…a kid living within a pandemic needs something other than TV to entertain them. Wait, is that true? I’m not sure. I’m pretty sure if I armed her with a TV and an iPad for three months she would be happy!
You might think this is an adorable picture, but she constantly stole my hat and ice cream. COME ON!
I didn’t enjoy being a man taking care of kids full time. You get no sympathy from anyone. It was a very strange experience. I would talk about some of the hangups to various people and most people would offer up a response like “Well, women have had to do that forever and I shouldn’t complain!” or something like that. I realized early on that I should just shut up when trying to express how frustrating my day could be taking care of two kids.
I tip my hat to my pal Ben who was a stay at home dad (SAHD) for many years on his own and he also told me tales of weird things that would happen to him while taking care of his kids. My favourite story was being at a public library and his kid needed changing but the kid’s changing table was in the women’s washroom and they told him he couldn’t go in there so he said “Well, can you find someone who can change my kid’s diaper for me then?” I could be mixing up the finer details of this story but I do remember laughing at the ridiculousness of it all.
I didn’t enjoy how sometimes I would feel that I didn’t accomplish much personally. If all I accomplished during the day was make my kids laugh, keep them fed and unhurt, and not have the house burn down, is that an accomplishment?
What did I enjoy?
To respond to the question above, I would say yes. I did accomplish a lot while on parental leave. While I didn’t come up with amazing activities each and every day, I did try my best to get the kids out and do an outdoor adventure each morning. Whenever it was windy we would try and fly a kite. If it was rainy, we would play pretend we were the Big Bad Wolf and the Three Little Pigs (this morphed into a daily fun activity for awhile). When the days were 40+ degrees we would jump in the best pool that $15 could buy.
Mom taught me how to fly a kite
I would spend time with Sierra learning new words and looking at videos on YouTube about apples and acrobats and any other word with the letter A. We finished King’s Quest together which was a big moment for me. I taught her how to use a mouse on Mixed Up Mother Goose.
Ezra can now roll a ball pretty well across the floor. He has managed to stand up on his own quite a bit and is almost ready to walk. He is always after my beer or glass of wine.
They play together quite well (although Sierra can be pretty rough on him!). They are learning to be a brother and a sister. That wouldn’t happen as easy if they only had evenings and weekends together.
Parental leave has been great. If I won the Lotto Max tomorrow I wouldn’t say that my life would be much different than this and that’s pretty awesome.
Of course, I can’t end this without mentioning the other parent in this equation. Let’s be honest, the pandemic has actually been quite nice to me (I say this now while giving my deepest, deepest condolences to all those who had a hard time during the pandemic), it allowed Vero to stay at home with us while she worked.
A common sight after 4PM hit. Vero taking the kids off of my hands.
Let’s be honest here, being on parental leave when you know another parent is in the other room if you REALLY NEED THEM is a pretty easy job. I didn’t have to rig up any elaborate hoist mechanisms to hold the baby while I took a shower. I just asked Vero if I could take a shower while she took care of the kids.
After lunch, Vero would give me a break for a bit before she returned to work.
After work, she would take the kids off of my hands so I could do whatever I wanted to do (typically this consisted of preparing some supper in silence which was awesome, downloading some new bootlegs that I stumbled across during the day or listening to Rebel Force Radio (best podcast ever)).
“Whatchoo lookin at?”
After supper she would give the kids a bath so I could relax.
I suppose what I’m trying to say here that if Vero was a piece of music, she would be the part in Mind Flood by the Sam Roberts Band after the song slows down and then explodes with the energy of a hundred typhoons…she’s the one that gives me the most energy and keeps me going each day! THANK YOU!
She’s also the one who puts up with the hair that I haven’t cut in seven months.
Short version elevator pitch of this entire post: Before parental leave if someone would have asked if I would like to take care of my kids during a summer I would have said no. Put them in day camps.
After parental leave, I have completely changed my opinion and if I had the opportunity to do so in the future, I would do it every time.
It’s been a parental leave ride and I encourage anyone to take time with their kids whenever they can!
The final stretch before Ezra turns one year old! Pretty crazy to think that the sleepless nights almost a year ago are long behind us and we have a kid that hits the sack around 7:30pm and wakes up between 6:30-8:00am. I have no complaints. I’m pretty sure if I wrote that comment on Facebook I would have dagger eye comments coming at me from other parents, but this is my domain and it’s all about historical facts!
There’s quite a bit I can chat about but I feel sometimes if I get right into the pictures the stories tend to come out so let’s go on the journey. I try and write these on the tenth of the month but I’m sitting here on July 22nd thinking “I should get around to this!” Let me tell you, being on a parental leave is no piece of cake and there are friends who I haven’t responded via email in six weeks! But hey, the kids are my focus.
Now here’s a happy eater! Ezra generally likes a lot of the foods we give him and he hasn’t had any issues like Sierra had with dairy products or peppers. He’s taken it all in like a champ! In hindsight, if all goes along the same trajectory I would say the first year with Sierra was a trial by fire with all the issues she had, whereas Ezra is smooth sailing for the most part.
This is a typical afternoon for us after lunch. Our routine has become: Breakfast and then zoom out the door to find somewhere fun to explore outside, then come back by 10am for Ezra’s nap time, then lunch, then hang out like this around the house before Ezra’s naptime at 2PM, then Maman is usually finished work by the time Ezra wakes up so she takes over while I prepare some supper.
A Palmer and his piano
It’s not often that we spend our evenings outside after bath time but Sierra and Ezra insisted on hanging out on the front porch.
The face of patience while Dad and Sierra run around with a kite and leave Ezra sitting in the middle of a field
Judging by the eyeline of Sierra, she is probably watching TV while feeding Ezra
There are so many things to talk about concerning this video. 1) This was around the time that Ezra started to bounce his bum up and down whenever a song came on which is amazing. 2) This is a video of a very typical time for us during this summer. We tried to get onto the deck as much as we could. There were a lot of 40+ degree days so Ezra couldn’t really last 15 minutes in that, even with us feeding him water. But we tried to get out as much as we could. 3) I am now realizing why Dad was asking us why we didn’t cut the tags off our cushions. We flipped them over because it rained on them but now I’m realizing how silly they look! 4) The end of this video is classic Sierra taking care of Ezra…as in she’s hauling on him to make him do something. I swear the second child in a family learns a lot about balance and surviving a situation after being yanked around!
Ezra isn’t the biggest fan of crawling up stairs
The pool was in full use during this summer. Ezra is always chewing on something as seen here. The kid still only has four teeth but uses them up!
Ezra and Sierra testing out the new binoculars from Abbey
A typical morning walk
On the real hot days we hang up the tarp
Whenever Ezra sees an open door, he motors for it. Here we found him climbing into Sierra’s bed so we had some fun with him
Ezra is really starting to enjoy the pool
What a great way to start Father’s Day!
Ezra really gets excited by this fridge magnet toy that Aunt Holly and the family gave him
I’m not entirely sure the pool we bought is rated for this many people!
This speaker that is in Ezra’s hands is his best friend while out on the deck. You can see his slobber on it from where he chews it while there is music playing from it.
Ezra could be in a different town and as soon as he hears the water run for the bathtub he would zoom over like the Road Runner!
Maybe this is the birth of some better golfers than their father?
One of the great conservation areas within Russell. Here we typically look for dinosaurs, foxes and grumpy old trolls under the bridge.
I think they must be watching for the ice cream truck that never comes in the year 2020?
I love how all I can think about in this photo is that it was taken at 4:52Pm and he was having his snack that close to dinner?! I am my own mother.
I bet Sir Elton John has a photo like this of him as a kid!
Hahaha! The surefire way to get Ezra laughing his trying to eat him!
I laughed at this during the pandemic. Maybe this was the reason it all happened?
The monster in the tunnel!
We were cleaning up the closet and we came across this hat. Let me tell you that while he reminds me of my good pal Etienne, I cannot stop loving him in this hat. He is the cutest! Is this because kids are cute if you dress them up like old men?
Ezra sure loves his music speaker but especially gets excited when Sharon, Lois and Bram come on!
I’m pretty sure if there was one picture that captured the happiness of our summer, this is it. It is really a special opportunity to get to have the kids together this long.
“Whatchoo lookin’ at?”
Maman and her man
He sure loves this hat. Also, I can see from this photo that this was when I trimmed my goatee. I think I took a little too much off.
Happy Canada Day!
Probably the best of the 832 photos we took
But this one wins my heart every time!
We have been teaching Sierra to use the iPhone camera which is the birth of the ever-rare photos of just Vero and I. I quite like this one.
Here was one of her first attempts where we are trying to teach her to center on our eyes!
No joke folks, we went for a bike ride and stumbled upon our very own parade on Canada Day!
We have started to notice the signs when Ezra is getting overheated so a nice visit to the basement (with a bonus Mr. Freeze!) is always welcome.
I went over to Mike and Melanie’s place on Canada Day afternoon. It was a great yet strange experience to finally see friends after months of Zoom chats and funny email chains. Mike’s birthday gift of tickets to see Corb Lund will have to wait until a future date!
We took our first step towards hanging out with others along with the kids when the neighbours invited us over for a fireworks display around supper. I didn’t know what to expect with fireworks at that time but it was surprisingly great and the kids loved it!
Neat panoramic photo that Google photos stitched together from my separate photos
Ah yes, this was the day that I thought I would see if the Limoges park had a splash pad that was operational since I heard Ottawa was opening up theirs. We showed up and all the park equipment was still ‘cautiontaped’ off. What’s worse is that they had sprayed pesticide on the grass so we couldn’t even go on it! We stuck to the path which had distance markers painted on it which was entertaining for Sierra.
End of the path!
Future superstar right there!
Must have been a hot day again if we jumped into the pool!
Where we spent most of the summer. Vero and I are really happy that we decided to extend the deck like we did. Now all we need to do is to find a sun shade that fits perfectly!
Great photo of the family when Nanny Sybil was up North
The two people in this photo had never been strawberry picking before
I will definitely go strawberry picking again. It’s an amazing experience with the kids as it doesn’t take too long…maybe 20 minutes? Plus they had fun! This was taken at Rochon Gardens which wasn’t too far from us. Can I also point out that for many years I thought this shirt was pretty cool and then Vero pointed out that the shirts I wear are ‘very geeky’. The nerve!
Look at the haul!
I had a good evening with Eric and Mike. There was a perfect moon that night that I will always remember. Eric had just laid new sod down and his backyard looks mint!
Ezra and his first box of Kraft Dinner to play with
After! I’m trying to think if Ezra got a haircut before me in the span of 11 months. I definitely didn’t care what my hair looked like during my time at home.
I was getting tired of him tearing off his big so I started trying the full shirt version.
Another pool day!! This pool was great for the most part. There were three rings to fill with air and the middle one never kept its air but for $15 I really wasn’t going to haul it back to Canadian Tire for a return. A typical game we would play is “What’s under my hat?” where we took a toy from the pool and had the other person guess what it was.
Will Vero kill me for posting this picture? Probably. But I want it to be here to point out that exercising on a beautiful summer night it NOT advised and she had very sore shoulders for three days after! I can only imagine it’s from this yoga move and not the slouch for eight hours in her office chair!
Oh boy this was a fun, quick trip to the Ottawa River. I was missing the sea and I thought the closest thing I could get to is the Ottawa River so we ended up going to a park in Rockland which was great!
But I think the park in Cumberland beat the one in Rockland solely because we could dip our toes in the water. This was the beginning of my thoughts of “OH man, I only have a month left on parental leave and it’s super hot all summer and my kids needs to get near the water so where can I go?!”
God bless parents cleaning out the house and finding gems like these. Carol sent me this. I believe it may have been from Remi Lake in the winter?
A guitar case. A useful item in many ways, including keeping your kids occupied!
One month until my birthday!! I hope I get a Baby Yoda!
The first burrito bowl recipe I made was an instant hit with Vero. Then I forgot to save it and couldn’t find it ever again. Then I tried some others which were good as well but not as good as the first.
Today I stumbled upon the recipe which I think was the original. I can’t be sure. But we both loved it so this is it. I’m not going to find another recipe again.
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1-inch chunks
1 (1.25-ounce) package taco seasoning
1 cup low sodium chicken broth
1 (15-ounce) can corn kernels, drained
1 (15-ounce) can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 cup salsa, homemade or store-bought
1 cup long-grain rice
1 cup shredded Mexican blend cheese
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro leaves
Add chicken, taco seasoning and chicken broth to a 6-qt Instant Pot® and gently toss to combine.
Stir in corn, black beans, and salsa. Without stirring, add rice. Try and pour it evenly over the mixture.
Select manual setting; adjust pressure to high, and set time for 10 minutes. When finished cooking, quick-release pressure according to manufacturer’s directions. Stir in cheese until melted, about 1 minute.
Serve immediately, garnished with cilantro, if desired. Let’s be honest, cilantro is a must.
Want to make it plant based? Just leave out the chicken. The beans and corn are enough. Now, if you want to talk about how I added chicken broth into a plant based meal, I suppose you could just add water as a substitution? You know us, we’re not 100% plant based!
So here’s the thing about kites. If you have one this big, it’s never really going to get up into the air. I ran A LOT of times to try and get it up and it may have got up a few feet.
Enjoying some hot chocolate from the cup that Matante Vero dropped off for her birthday
A couple of days later the wind conditions were perfect to try out a kite another time. Luckily this time we had another kite that she got from Uncle Ben and Aunt Krista. This was a $3 kite and was light as a feather! It went up with no issues. After this day I promptly deposited my giant jet of a kite into the trash. Funny enough, Sierra got the line all tangled up on the $3 kite that I had to go and fish out the old kite from the trash can and get the line off of it a few days later!
I’m not entirely sure why I took a photo of a smoked meat brisket that I did in the Instant Pot, but I’m pretty sure it was to send to Mom and make her jealous!
In the mornings when Ezra takes a nap I am always trying to think of an activity to do with Sierra. I find that, along with figuring out what to make for meals is the hardest part because I’m not exactly planning ahead. Luckily she received a necklace craft set for her birthday so we made a bunch of necklaces.
I had a good laugh when Sierra came up the stairs one morning and asked me what this was!
This is what it is! Yeah baby, yeah! I loved Austin Powers years ago. I should rewatch them.
If the pandemic wasn’t around, we would probably have Sierra in some sort of dance classes. But when that isn’t available, then a Frozen themed dance class on YouTube does just the trick!
Sierra quite likes the board game Trouble that she received for her birthday. We realized that it’s a lot easier to just play with two pieces at a time instead of the standard four. Here is her butterfly Alex playing with us.
Hanging out around the campfire
This is what I like to see when I come in after an hour of quiet time. However, there have also been cases of crayon markings on the window and walls that I’m less impressed with!
Getting a drink on a hot, hot day. This was probably taken during an early heat wave of +40 degree weather. You can’t have Ezra out in that weather for more than 15 minutes. But Sierra quite likes it. However, she decided she prefers this smaller sprinkler than the regular one.
Sierra can’t finish a cup of water if her life depended on it, but somehow she managed to gulp this entire smoothie down after running around in +40 degrees! Smoothies remind me of Brazil. There were tons of smoothie bars on the streets in Rio because it’s just so hot.
This must be some sort of butterfly superhero!
Sierra is quite helpful in the garden. Here she is planting potatoes with Maman.
Here are the two gardeners for the summer of 2020.
Vero decided to plant one tomato plant in the middle of our yard because in theory it will get a lot more sunlight. If it results in a substantial difference we may make raised beds the next year and put them in the yard instead of our fairly shady garden.
There is a fantastic forest in Russell that we go a couple of times a week. Vero gets to come out with us on weekends when she is not working.
Pretty sure this creature is more annoying than a mosquito when you’re trying to take a nap!
I’ll have to remember to take a video of our storytime routine but it goes like this. I read Sierra a story, generally something from Frog and Toad. Then Mr. Froggy joins us for question time. I do the voice of Mr. Froggy who somehow sounds like Kermit the Frog. Generally Sierra’s questions are “What do you want to do tomorrow?” and “What did you do today?”. I then ask her things like “What was the most fun thing you did today?” and she replies with “Sleep.” I then have to prompt her (as Mr. Froggy) to tell me about her bike rides, or her times playing with Ezra. Then when Mr. Froggy goes to sleep she somehow has the same questions for Dad and I have to answer them before leaving the room. Sometimes these questions go on for 30 minutes! She is quite conniving when she wants to delay her bed time.
What a shot Maman took! This was probably the day that we didn’t teach Sierra that she needs to hold onto the line and the kite went flying over into the trees in the park! The neighbours across the street witnessed me hightailing it across the field trying to catch this kite! Because the wind was so strong I did manage to get it out of the tree but it took about a half hour. What an adventure!
I love this photo Vero took just because you can see the immense joy she is having. Kite flying should be a mandatory class for all kids.
The same day we had high winds, a giant wind gust caught our sun shade and snapped one of the posts! Sierra was on the deck and Maman had her run away in time. Pretty scary stuff! Luckily we had a spare post in the shed so it didn’t take too much work to repair it. Nowadays, if there is a storm coming we take this shade down.
I was very excited to see that my favourite spot in Hull reopened!
Sierra insisted that Red Rooster comes to bed with me because my eye was hurting. Vero wanted to use this photo as blackmail.
Another windy day, another kite adventure!
Checking out some worms
Sierra likes to go in the front lawn with Maman. I believe they wait for the ice cream truck to pass by. They’ll be waiting a long time! But I did show up with a couple of bowls of ice cream one evening.
The new water pistols are working great!
With the hot tub broken Vero kept asking for us to buy a pool. In my mind pools were a couple of hundred dollars. Little did I know that a kiddy pool this size was $15! This was the best $15 we have ever spent. We had another heat wave and we went into this thing every day.
First swim of the year!
We found a bird house on our adventures to the Tweed forest. It seems to move its spot each time we visit.
We had to ask Nanny Sybil how to make a cucumber sandwich. It came out quite good!
Fun in the pool. You will see that there’s a little more shade. We just hung the tarp up over us which is great for the kids in the early afternoon when the sun is coming down.
Learning how to eat a Mr. Freeze
Photoshoot for all the Christmas calendars this year!
Vero recreated some favourite photos of her Dad and her for father’s day
When Sierra heard it was Father’s Day she thought “Well that’s the birthday of fathers so we need a cake!”
You can’t say no to cake on Father’s Day!
Milk and Bananas is destined to be a great song.
Early morning walk
Sierra has a good songwriting talent. Here is her ‘Bumblebee song’. I think it’s about the time when Vero was a kid and walked into a bush and a bumblebee stung her.
Sierra was very lucky to see one of the daycare providers when we were out biking one day. She just happened to be visiting her sister in Vars! We had not seen anyone from the daycare since early March. Sierra was shy at first but asked some questions later on.
Just hanging out in a princess costume
Is this a dance routine or an exercise routine?
Enjoying a drumstick
Sierra received a funny video from her grandparents for her birthday. So for Grandpapa’s birthday Sierra did another video which was a copy of exactly what happened in the the video they sent her. She was really great at listening to direction and she did all of the parts in one take! We were very impressed. Vero did a great job editing it together. The end part of alternate endings happened because Sierra thought it was so funny to have all of us be in the greenhouse at the end.
First off, this has nothing to do with an instant pot but I know that when I search for recipes I wasn’t smart enough to have the keyword ‘recipe’ but I sure have the keyword ‘instant pot’ that I search for! So I would hate to see this recipe get lost because I don’t use the right keyword.
I did a variation on this salad and it was a hit. It was a variation because I didn’t have some of the ingredients. Listed below is what I changed for me to remember what I did!
12 ounces uncooked orzo
0.5 large handfuls fresh baby spinach, chopped
1 (398 ml) can chickpeas (garbanzo beans), rinsed and drained
1 English cucumber, diced
0.5 cup basil leaves
Lots of lemon juice (recipe asked for 1–2 lemons, zested and juiced)
1/4 cup olive oil
sea salt and freshly-cracked black pepper, to taste
1/2 cup of feta cheese
1 small can of sliced black olives
– I didn’t have the 2 cups of baby spinach they asked for.
– I didn’t have 1/2 red onion on hand
– The recipe asked for roughly cut basil leaves. I didn’t have actual leaves on hand but I had some in a spice rack. I ended up using 1/2 cup of basil leaves which I was worried about but I think it came out well. On the other hand, Sierra didn’t like the ‘black bits’ on the salad and didn’t want to eat any so…maybe I should make her a non-basil bowl the next time?
– The recipe asked for a 1 cup of roughly chopped mint leaves and I had no mint.
– I didn’t have any lemons on hand to zest and juice. I added some lemon juice. Then when we ate the salad we wanted more. A lot more. So I think if we had lemons on hand it would be great if they were zested and juiced.
– The olives were a great addition and I think would be even better if we added sliced kalamata olives the next time.
There is quite a bit left over. Probably eat another meal.
Last night I experienced the future of concert watching and it was through a platform called JuJu Live.
I caught wind of this as Neverending White Lights were going to do a livestream on this website in a few weeks. This was big news to Neverending White Lights fans considering Daniel Victor had disappeared from the scene for the better part of the past decade. Rumours of a new album coming out would be squashed and that was that.
But here he was, ready to do a livestream to the comfort of our own homes! I have never had the opportunity to see him live so when the day came, I plucked down my $3USD ($4 CDN) to see his livestream.
I am no stranger to livestreams. Every Friday night during the pandemic I would catch Adam Baldwin’s Cross Country Chin Up session and on Saturdays I would check out Matt Mays’ Mantle Music. It was great to see an intimate performance but the quality of video has been a little lacking. The audio was great though. But was there somehow the ability for live-streaming to level up and bring us a high definition experience?
I suppose so and Juju Live did it right!
9PM rolled around and sure enough, the page reloaded with a play button to a video. I clicked play, and you have the option to have it a smaller size so you can also read the chat comments flying by on the side, or you can choose full screen.
This was a 720p high definition stream and they explain a little about their magic. They buffer the stream! So people who are leaving comments are warned that there may be a minute delay because the entire performance is buffered!
It was great. There were no hiccups to the feed, the sound and video were superb and I’m pretty sure I could have paused it if I wanted to. What’s even better is that the next day I found that they have archived the video for people who may have come in late or missed it completely. Gone are the days of buying a concert ticket and missing out on the show because of some emergency that pops up.
For years I have been saying that live concerts need to adopt the pay per view model. I believe Juju Live is a very strong step in the right direction for this type of service. It’s definitely a different type of experience. As Vero put it, these livestreams are very intimate because there’s no crowd interaction so the performers spend more time talking in between songs and sometimes explaining things that you wouldn’t normally see in an arena.
– high quality audio and video
– probably the ability to pause for a bathroom break
– even if there is no ability to pause you can catch the stream again the next day (they say that they will keep it up for a few weeks)
– the price is right. $4 CDN is a really great price point to get people to tune in. Imagine a large band like Pearl Jam charging the entire world $4CDN to tune into an intimate concert.
All fun and games until something is about to hit a ceiling fan
Usually Ezra is standing up after his nap but this time around he was just lazing around
A typical morning
Ezra is super excited when this toy comes out to play!
Sierra showing Ezra how to repair his car
Ezra loves his patio time
Dancing with Maman
Showing off the salad spinner
Sometimes we lose Ezra under the pile of clothes
Could his first word be “Wow”?
Ezra gets pretty excited when someone comes up the stairs and sees him
A typical scene before bedtime
Enjoying a snack together
The kids get to hang out with Maman after the work day is over
Ezra sometimes straddles the line between happiness and being tired
Ezra checking out the magnolias
I find this photo hilarious. I swear he’s really concentrating hard to try and stand up but needed a break.
Future bricklayer just like Grandpapa
What kid doesn’t love peekaboo?
When there isn’t a heat wave we hang out on the swing set for awhile
Look who’s getting adventurous and standing up with one hand!
Ezra is not a fan of the sprinkler
Maybe he’s more a fan of the SS Rubber Ducky? Nope.
A typical sight from the patio. “Oh, if only I could walk!” You will see to the right of him that we set up some lattice as a gate. It has worked ok so far. It’s a little flimsy but it does the trick. Not sure if we need to build an actual gate considering by next summer he probably wouldn’t need it.
It’s not often we have supper outside because of the mosquitoes but this must have been an exception. I can tell it’s suppertime judging by the beer on the table that is for Ezra. If it’s nice out, we would generally have lunch outside to give Vero a break from the cold basement where she had her office set up in until mid July when she finally got a desk from work to set up in our bedroom. Our bedroom now feels like my college dormroom with a computer in it!
I had a good laugh when Maureen sent me this letter that Abbey wrote her so she could stay up a little longer.
I’m currently on Month 3 of parental leave and I wish I could say I have a lot of time to spend with Ezra but to be honest, with Sierra in the mix it’s a tough gig. Even without Sierra involved there’s a lot more to being on parental leave than playing with your kid. Probably at this point I’m sitting on the couch thinking of what to make for lunch for the family. So seeing him play in the closet is a common sight, followed by a sandal being chewed on!
A few years ago we didn’t do much with our garden but Vero was keen on resurrecting it this year. This photo looks like we had just tilled the dirt.
It’s not all that often that I take the time to look at our house from the road.
This was probably after a morning meal of oatmeal with some banana, or maybe some apple sauce. A typical morning consists of a bottle of eight ounces, then around an hour later we have some breakfast and usually facetime Grandma and Poppa to chat awhile.
It’s taking him awhile to get the hang of this thing.
Ezra is always happy when Maman is around!
Ezra laughs up a storm when the zerberts come in! Hilariously he is starting to give zerberts of his own!
Doug at work showed me his wife’s office setup and I thought it was hilarious so I told Vero she should use it. Here’s my office desk while sitting down.
Here it is standing up! Genius!
Ezra showing off a bruise on his cheek
Everyone loves the water wall
Ezra really loves listening to music and chewing on this speaker.
Teaching them some skills
And so started the month of him being able to hang off the desk and kitchen table.
A rare family photo
We took the plunge (heyo!) and bought a hot tub. Unfortunately for us, our dreams of using it as a cool tub were squashed when we got word that we wouldn’t see it until August. Ah well, it’ll be ready for the Fall!
I pulled this out of the fridge thinking it was a summer worthy beer. I was completely mistaken. I should read the label before cracking it open!
In honour of Bob and Doug on the SpaceX flight.
Snuggle time around the fire
Testing out the finger after wiping out a few weeks before. Not too shabby! Ezra really loves it when I pull out an instrument.
Yet another ride in the bike trailer. It’s a tight squeeze. Sierra has been saying it’s too hot in there so she doesn’t want to go as much anymore. I will have to choose a cooler day.
This is a killer shirt!
Ezra seems to like his new car seat!
Still don’t know what these trees are in my yard nor do I really care? But I’m sure someone with a green thumb will like this photo.
It’s getting warm enough to not have shorts on! His knees take a beating on the wood though. But any kid’s knees must take a beating I suppose.
Favourite beer of the summer? Most definitely.
It’s great to have frozen strawberries on hand to whip up a smoothie
Mom sent up some masks she made for us. A funny story about this particular one. In this photo it fit great. Then a few weeks later I grab one and I’m in the store thinking “Man, this is ridiculous, it’s tugging on my ears something fierce!” I didn’t realize until later that Vero had shortened the straps because they were too long for her face!
The pandemic rules were being loosened and we could go out into the forests again! This was taken from one of many visits of the Tweed Conservation Area. We had never walked the entire trail until today and it’s a great 30 minute trail.