Tuesday, October 22, 2013

A Truly Canadian Bookmark

Last week I had the amazing opportunity to visit my family in Toronto and experience my first Canadian fall! I loved everything about it: the weather, nature and especially family time! The only problem is that my sense of time is all messed up now because I celebrated Canadian Thanksgiving in October and my mind is scrambled thinking that I'm behind on my Christmas shopping! And we haven't even had halloween yet. Yikes! Apparently Canadians aren't aware that we can only be thankful after we have gorged ourselves on plastic pumpkins full of candy (although, they do have the whole candy thing on lockdown with the Kinder Eggs and Smarties).

Apart from the autumn leaves and chocolate, one of the highlights of the trip was going to my first hockey game along with my five-year-old cousin. (He's technically my cousin's son, but who's keeping track?) You may know him as the orca lover, so that's what we'll call him! Orca Lover's dad had the good fortune of picking up two coveted tickets to not just any hockey game, but a Toronto Maple Leafs game! Now, I'm no expert on Canadian sports, but from my understanding it doesn't get any bigger than this. And from the looks of the price tag on these things, I'm seriously thinking about opening my own hockey-themed version of Disneyland in Toronto, because I could make a killing!

Since Orca Lover and I had never been to a game, it was decided that we would be the recipients of the tickets and enjoy our first game together! After some secret adult spelling talk, Orca Lover's dad explained that he had a great surprise, as long as the five-year-old agreed to behave properly, despite the fact that the surprise might involve him being out way past his bed time.

Orca Lover agreed eagerly in anticipation for the great surprise.

"I have two tickets to the Leafs game tonight for you and Renée," Orca Lover's dad exclaimed! He pulled out the tickets from his pocket and waved them in the air like mystical cards that revealed our hockey destiny.

Orca Lover smiled brightly and cried out, "Yes! Toronto Maple Leaf Bookmarks!"

His dad half-giggled before correcting his son. "These are the tickets that you have to use to get into the game. They are very special."

After we confirmed with Orca Lover that he could use his ticket as a bookmark after the game, he ran to his room to find his Leafs shirt so he could go watch the game with "the best orca whale teacher cousin ever" (That's me, by the way).

We both loved the game and had a ton of fun. And when American Thanksgiving rolls around, I will be sure to express my gratitude for the great bonding experience with Orca Lover and the opportunity to see the most famous team in Canada win a game. But most of all, I'll be thanking the Toronto Maple Leafs for designing the coolest bookmark ever!

Friday, October 18, 2013

Don't Lick the Bowl!

Things have been a-changin'! The two boys that I nanny recently became big brothers and the eldest, my six-year-old friend, started big kid school! While their mom is out on maternity leave, I've been able to bond a lot more with my three-year-old friend, who we'll call Merlin. He is adjusting to his place as the middle brother and learning how to be a good example for "his baby."

While the eldest, Peter Pan, was growing his little mind at school, Merlin and I made a cake in honor of my birthday. And since their mom is home with the new baby, it's great to have someone to share in the hilarity of these kids and their adorableness! 

I cracked the eggs and Merlin plopped the yolks into the bowl and began to mix. His mom, who works in food safety, asked him if we eat the batter.

"No," he dutifully replied.

"Do you know why we don't lick the bowl, though?" His mom asked.

"Because we just don't."

"But, what's the reason?" She asked again, hoping that her profession had rubbed off on the now middle child.

"We just don't lick the bowl," he said again. "We're people, not cats!"

And that ended that discussion. And even though I am not a cat, I have been guilty of this crime many a time. And don't plan to stop anytime soon!

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Growing Up is Tough

I'm currently in the throes of a pretty gnarley quarter-life crisis. Growing up, trying to find a big-girl job, and figuring out who the heck I really am and what I want and where I'm going and how I'll get there and who I'll go with (deep breath) is driving me crazy! It's all exhausting and frustrating, plus it makes me long for the good ol' days of childhood when, for some silly reason, I thought this whole adult thing was awesome. Now I spend my days warning little ones of the risks of growing up.

So, imagine my admiration when my six-year-old friend (who just happened to do a bit of growing up by starting first grade) complained that his shoes were getting too tight. "You've got to stop growing," I scolded him.

"Well, I'm trying not to," he replied. "I just put some young cream on my legs the other day. Feel 'em, Ms. Renée! They're smooth like a baby now!"

Luckily, my little friend has found the resolution to my quarter-life crisis! The only problem is, with my glamourous 20-something income, a good "young cream" is out of the question.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Six Degrees of Separation

The family that I nanny for recently welcomed their third son into the world, so the house has been abuzz with lots of friends and family recently. My six-year-old and three-year-old friends have been getting used to the new family dynamics and visitors. Most recently, my three-year-old friend discovered how we are all connected when both of his grandma's came over to visit at the same time as Ms. Renée (me of course).

"Grandma doesn't have any kids," the three-year-old announced of his paternal grandmother.

"Yes she does," corrected his mother. "How do you think you came to be?"

We all laughed as she explained that Grandma C has three children and that Daddy and his aunt and uncle were all her children, just like Mommy and all of her siblings were Grandma J's children. My adorable three-year-old friend stared at his plate of chicken nuggets in bewilderment, contemplating the relationships between the people that he treasured most in life. I have become a pretty regular fixture in his house, so I love seeing him learn and explore the world around him. He finally looked up at the group of family members surrounding him before he turned to me and asked: "So, Ms. 'Enay, who do you belong to?"

Oh, bless his little heart! It was all making sense until we threw in the complexities of the babysitter!

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Makin' Me Proud

My nephews and niece are getting older. That's how this whole childhood thing works, right? Sometimes it pains me to learn that my nine-year-old nephew is now too old to hold my hand or give impromptu hugs. But then the kids will do something that makes me appreciate their growth and beam with admiration at the thought of being their aunt.

I recently visited a local theme park with my three nephews and niece. The oldest two boys each had some money that they had chosen to spend on stuffed animals. The younger two leaned over the table of plush toys, snuggling and hugging the fluffy stingrays as the older two decided which toys they would buy, when Kai, my nine-year-old nephew turned to his older brother and suggested, "Why don't I buy one for me and Ashleigh, and you buy one for you and Cody!"

What an idea: A selfless, adorable and fair way to spend his very own money. Although my oldest nephew didn't agree, Kai decided that he had enough money to buy a toy for himself and both his younger brother and sister. It's moments like this is that make me happy they are growing and leaving behind the "mine, mine, mine" mindset of early childhood.

And while my eldest nephew didn't spring for the toy for his little brother, he surprised me later on by donating his change to conservation, completely unsolicited. While I'm sure their parents, friends and teachers have a lot to do with these kids' wisdom, I like to think that they take after their dear aunt in  some way or another. Makes an auntie proud! 

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Here's to You, Marine Life Lovers

As a kid I appreciated animal science, but never really got behind it. Especially when high school biology came a long; then we became arch enemies. In elementary school I enjoyed making clay polar bears and learning about the layers of the ocean, but it gets fuzzy after that. That's why it's so ironic that I now teach marine biology to people everyday at a marine life park.

Now, it's no secret that I love kids, especially kids that are passionate about learning and can even teach me a few things about aquatic animals. Seriously, though, they usually know more than me. Whether it be where random species of penguin are found, or odd facts about shark poop, these kids know their stuff! And they even have awesome jokes to back up their facts.

I explained to a family group that the dolphins at our park eat a variety of fish, including herring and capelin. No sooner than finishing my sentence, the little girl's hand shot up and she declared that she wanted to share a joke. Here it goes:

Her: Why couldn't the fish hear?

Me: *serious thought* Hmmm, I don't know. Why?

Her: Because he needed a herring aid.

It makes me so proud!

Monday, April 8, 2013

Connections to the Animal Kingdom

I have the joy of leading a variety of animal tours and interactions at my job. One such tour involves sea lions, seals and occasionally walruses and otters. Oh, and it always includes entertaining kids.

Boy: What kind of otters do you have?

Trainer: We have Asian otters.

Boy: (To mom) YOU'RE ASIAN! *Light bulb illuminates over head* And I'm half Asian!

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Shark Bait

As a tour guide at a local zoological park, I have the awesome opportunity to introduce guests to animals they never even imagined getting close to. On one of our tours, I instruct groups on how to touch a shark. No, no, no. Not a big scary one. It's a tiny white spotted bamboo shark. But that doesn't stop the imagination of some from wandering.

Before I invite everyone up for their photo op, I go over the instructions and demonstrate. "You're going to use two finger and touch the shark right along the back. After that, come and get a paper towel and some hand sanitizer."

Pretty simple, right? I asked the group if they had any questions and one of the younger guests raised his hand. 

"Should we use our two least favorite fingers?" he asked.

Best question ever! And now I've got a new line in my spiel.

I made it out with all of my fingers still intact! 

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

A Tale of a Grownup Child

Usually I like to tell stories about children, but yesterday my husband said something that you've just got to hear!

When we first got married he insisted that our dishes only be washed by hand because, obviously, the dishwasher can't clean as well as my poor little hands. Our dishwasher was used as a glorified drying wrack until he decided to turn it on one day when he "did" the dishes. Jerk move, but I followed suit and eventually he got used to the idea of the dishwasher.

Last night as I put away a huge load of clean dishes, I decided to reminisce about the not so good ol' days with the silly Moroccan man.

"Remember when you used to think that we can only wash dishes by hand?" I asked. "What were you thinking?"

"Yeah," He said. "It's getting better."

"What's getting better?"

"My brain."

At least he is willing to admit it.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

A Job to Fill

There's nothing like the admiration of a child to boost your ego and make you feel loved. My sweet little four-year-old Canadian cousin and I were Skyping (is that a word?) together the other night and he told me all about his plans for my life. I'm going to move to Canada and come to his school and be the orca whale teacher who shares lots of information about all sorts of marine life with his class. That's what I do in Florida, after all, right? Somehow though, I don't think it'd be as interesting without the visual reference that the real life animals provide.

One of the Biggest Killer Whale (and Renée) Fans Around

After he was done explaining my future, he reminded me just how much he missed me by saying that he wished I could come out of the computer and be in his house for real. Yikes! Just rip my heart right out, why don't ya?! If only employers and peers felt the same... But that might make my head a little too big, so I guess I'll stick to having kid and animal friends for now.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Somebody Needs a Haircut

Apparently my two-year-old friend needs a haircut, but nothing more. He told me yesterday that his hair kept getting his his eyes, so I suggested we find him some gel to keep it out of his eyes.

"No, Miss Enay!" He said with raised and worried eyebrows. "I don't want to go to Jail. That is for bad people."

Language is so tricky. I've watched him go from babbles to complete sentences and conversations, but sometimes words just sound too much alike for the little guy. Good thing "haircut" is difficult to misunderstand. Or so I think.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Phone Chats and Slow Races

Today I had the privilege of chatting with my four-year-old cousin in Canada over the phone and I must say, he is quite the conversationalist. He is especially good at coming up with intriguing topics when it's time to go to bed or hang up the phone. The only problem is, he has such good things to talk about that I hardly want to cut him off because it's so interesting.

For instance, today we talked about how his soccer outfit makes him look like a killer whale, reminisced about feeding dolphins and how following the directions will lead to a bite-free day when interacting with animals, discussed how superior halloween is in Florida because your costume isn't limited by coats and cold weather, and finally we came to triathlons. Triathlons are perfect for kids. They love swimming, running and biking. A lot. Why hasn't someone capitalized on this market? Anyway, my four-year-old cousin also informed me that he is really fast and he wants to race his friends. But he would only pick his slow friends to race against. Good idea.

On a slightly related note, I've recently caught the 5K bug and may be moderately addicted to running through theme parks and streets for charity. If only they had the same race requirements as my little cousin. I'd finish in much better standing, I'm sure. 

Thursday, January 24, 2013


So, it turns out that being sick makes life much less entertaining for me because I try to avoid talking to children for fear of passing out in front of them. I do get to talk to the people at the drugstore though, since I've been there about five times in the past week. Today the lady in front of me in line purchased 12 (yes, I counted) cases of soda and ended up getting them half off with some sort of coupon. Maybe she is stocking her own soda machine? Whatever she decides to do with them, I just hope she and the people drinking all that soda don't catch whatever I have. And I also hope that she doesn't live on the third floor like me. Yikes!

Saturday, January 12, 2013


Most of the kids in my life have an interesting fascination with hand sanitizer. Not just any ol' hand sanitizer, but the Bath and Body Works selections that can smell like anything from pumpkin, to candy cane, to Paris (allegedly).

In October my five-year-old friend and his two-year-old brother got a mini pumpkin sanitizer with a glow-in-the-dark keychain. When I walked in the door to babysit the boys that day, they grabbed my by the wrists and tugged me towards the bathroom. I smiled nervously at their father as he waved goodbye. "Oh, they just want to show you something," he reassured me. Potty training success, I wondered?

My five-year-old friend gathered the three of us into the bathroom, closed the door and switched off the lights to reveal the glowing emblem of cleanliness. "Look, Ms. Renee, my hand sanitizer glows!!!!"

Well, I only thought that was as cool as it gets, but no. Not until kids are introduced to candy cane hand sanitizer. This past week, my four-year-old cousin from Canada asked for some. I was wedged between his booster seat and his baby brother's car seat when I squeezed out some of the glorified lotion into his hands. He rubbed his hands together, cupped them around his face and proclaimed, "That smells AWFUL!"

"It's supposed to smell like a candy cane. You dont like it?" I asked, slightly saddened by the waste. Most people love the smells; unless they've been lying to me all along. Maybe my whole life is a lie!

He took a deep whiff of his hands again after it had dried and changed his tune. "Can I have some more? Mom, Dad, smell my hands! I smell like a candy cane!"

Oh, dear. My cousin ended up loving it, only after it smelled awful. But then two days later my five and two-year-old friends got a glimpse of my keychain and begged me to share.

"Ms. Enay," smiled my two-year-old friend. "Can I have some of your hanitizer?"

It looks like I need to go restock my supply of hanitizer, because when kids say something that cute, how could I possibly say no?

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Things Only a Five-year-old can Say

"Nay, you're hair's really pretty. Can I smell it?"

Yep, this is what my youngest nephew asked me the other day. It's adorable for now, just as long as he doesn't ask me the same thing when he's 25.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Three Wishes

Yesterday my four-year-old Canadian cousin and I watched Aladdin together for the first time. Of course, I had to ask him what he would wish for if he had three wishes. Here they are:

1. A Nerf gun (apparently he already has one)
2. To live in Florida (I'd love that too! Come on down!)
3. To drink Faysal's tea (my husband's Moroccan tea has really made an impression on him)