Wednesday, November 28, 2012

The Holiday season has begun!

Now that we have had the first snowfall and the holiday's are officially less than one month away, I feel like I can now begin to prepare for the celebrations. I had planned to finish all of my Christmas shopping in November, however, it does not look like that is going to happen. Although, I have done the majority (well, maybe half), I have also decided that I am going to make most of Ewan and Isla's gifts this year, which is taking a little longer. The reason being is last year we had a wonderful Christmas but we went way overboard and Ewan decided that he did not want to open any gifts at all. 

So this year, and hopefully something we maintain over the years to come, is to have essentially 5 gifts for each of the kids. I really like the idea of 'something they want, something they need, and something to read'. I also would like to add something to wear and something I think they should have. I have also moved very much in the direction of open ended and simple toys for both my home and the nursery school program and I am really liking the way these items inspire and require the children to use their own creativity and imagination. A great article can be found here about the benefits of simple, open ended toys for young children.

Here are a few of the items that I am aspiring to make for the kids this year. 

Dying more play silks for both kids - larger ones for Ewan and smaller for Isla. I first did 5 this past spring and Ewan absolutely loves them, they are definitely one of his favourite activities. He uses them for dancing, as superhero capes, making birds nest - it really depends on the day!

Another idea for Ewan is a felt crown and two swords that I have sewn for him to go along with a wooden hobby horse that I purchased. He has begun to get into knights and dragons, so I think this will be big hit. Both were very simple projects and I really like the way they turned out. I found the crown pattern here and the sword pattern here.

I have also made a Fort Building kit for Ewan as he is all about using blankets to create his own little spaces. I found this idea here and I loved the simplicity of it. With a some suction hooks, a flash light and clothes pins from the dollar store, a bed sheet and some fabric scraps I was able to make this kit and I am sure he will be so excited to start building.

I also made both kids some Christmas pyjama's. I have just recently learned to sew and these were considerably harder projects and I kind of got bored of doing them by the end. Also, I messed up Isla's pj's and all of her penguins are standing on their heads, lol, I am not going for perfection with any of these items! I do like the idea of making them Christmas pj's each year though -  a tradition a may try to keep up.

I have also invested in a set of Schleich animals for Ewan, which I expect should last forever and can be brought to A Gym Tale after he is finished with them. To add to this set, I am making a play mat using felt with trees, water, mountains etc. as a dedicated space for him to use with the animals.

And yes, I realize I have gone over the five gifts. But not nearly as much as last year and I am really happy with the potential each of these items have to hopefully inspire his imagination.

As for Isla, in addition to the play silks, which I order online from Dharma Trading, I will be making her a set of bean bags - ideally the alphabet, but she may only get her name depending on time;) I found a great pattern for them here. For Isla's age I think the bean bags will be great for stacking, throwing, dumping or just eating.

I have also ordered a soft doll and a little wooden stroller for her from various shops on Etsy - a great site to check out for both ideas and to purchase the hand made items that you do not have time to do yourself! 

 So all of these projects are the reason that I have not blogged in quite some time! Hopefully some of these items will inspire your own creativity this year! I would also love to hear about how you decide what to get for your children for the holidays as well as any other open ended activities that your children absolutely love.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Helping Hands in time for the Holidays

I have been following a blog for some time and I really enjoy the authors sense of humour, her stories as well as the many initiatives she takes to help others. One of which is her 'Helping Hands' project currently underway in which she tries to match families with needs to those that have extra to give and encourages those that have 'just enough' to watch miracles take place. If you are interested in reading more about it or simply looking for a good read please visit Momastery for more information.

Although I very much like the Helping Hands project, I like the idea of helping someone a little closer to home. I would like to share a story that took place this weekend - not a 'look what I did' story, but a 'look what happened' story.

I began thinking about what "extra's" that I have to give and came up with a few ideas. I have had a set of winter tires for a car that I no longer own sitting in the garage. I decided to look online to see if anyone had posted a 'need' for winter tires. I found plenty. So I offered them to one of these individuals and they were over the moon with excitement and picked them up the next day. I also realized that I no longer needed an exersaucer or a playpen that just did not get enough use to warrant saving for any future babies. So again I looked online for someone who had posted a need. Once again, I found plenty. One individual caught my eye -  a single mother with a 4 month old son who had left an abusive relationship with only what she could fit in her car. So she essentially needed everything baby related from a place for him to sleep, clothes, toys etc. I emailed her and offered her my exersaucer and the playpen. I then posted on Facebook asking if anyone had any extra's to give someone in need. The response I received was overwhelming. With the extra's offered I was able to give her everything on her 'wish list' for her son all within 24 hours of posting on Facebook. I had families dropping things off at A Gym Tale, neighbours of those families wanting to help, I picked things up this afternoon and brought the entire car load (I could not actually fit another single item into my car) to her by 1pm. She was thrilled. She couldn't believe that within 2 days of finding the courage to ask for what she needed, she had received everything and more. Hopefully we have shown her that there are people in her community that care for her, even complete strangers.

Maybe this will inspire you to reach out to the community during this holiday season to offer someone in need a helping hand, or if you are in need maybe give you the strength to ask for what you need, or simply to watch for miracles around you.

If you know a family in need of help this holiday season please email me ( and maybe we can make another miracle happen in our very own community.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Can it be true? A Gym Tale's 7 year Anniversary!

I cannot believe that this past week was A Gym Tale's 7 year anniversary! It feels like so long ago Alan and I began our journey - our little small business in the green roofed building on Larkin Dr and Greenbank Rd. Then again it feels like it was just yesterday that we decided to begin our Nursery School program - I have been running into some of our 'original' families who began with us 7 years ago and the children are now 12 years old! That is crazy!

A Gym Tale originated from Alan's Entrepreneurship final project in University. I did not get into my Master's program of choice and decided to take a year off to help Alan open up his business. Little did I know that we would go on to create a dream career for myself and a life style that we would not trade for anything. It really has been wonderful being able to use our creativity to fill a niche within the very community that we grew up in.

In the above picture - taken from my scrapbook, Alan and I are sitting at our giant desk on the very first day that we opened - we were only 23 and look like kids!

Anyone remember our original logo with the little caped boy and all of the t-shirts with capes that my aunts and I made?
It still shocks me at how much our vision of what A Gym Tale would be has changed and grown over the years. We began with a vision of 'gymboree' type classes which encouraged children to develop their imaginations while at the same time promoting an active lifestyle. These classes have drastically changed in format - a big thank you to all of the families who gave us a chance as well as feedback to help us develop the program that we have today. We very quickly realized that filling 40 hours a week with Gym & Music classes was not realistic - and so the idea of beginning a Nursery School program came about. This really gave me an opportunity to use my skills and challenge my imagination to create a program that fosters the natural development of young children through play based learning. Once again this program has changed and grown over the past 6 years to become one of my projects that I am most proud of. It also provides the opportunity to really get to know so many children and their families within Barrhaven. Birthday parties have also changed drastically over the years. It absolutely shocked Alan and I that within two months we were consistently hosting 8 birthday parties a weekend every weekend. I will not get into how we used to offer personalized invitations and change the colour of streamers after every party to coordinate with the theme. Have I also mentioned that we more or less lived at A Gym Tale and did not sleep for the first 2 years?!

After two years in the green roofed building, we came to the realization that what we were getting out of A Gym Tale simply was not worth working 7 days a week, night and day, and all holidays (except Christmas day). We had to make a very difficult decision - either close A Gym Tale and walk away knowing that we tried our best or to take a leap of faith and create something bigger. We have always liked the saying 'go big or go home', and so Alan fulfilled his life long dream and we bought a pirate ship and a castle! Our move to the new location (our present location) was both the most stressful time in our lives as well as the most exciting time. This was a huge undertaking and we were so very fortunate that the client base that we had gained supported us and we were able to attract so many new families to give us a chance to become a part of their children's lives.

During the past five years in the new location we have continued to grow and change in order to try and meet the needs of our community and to challenge ourselves to create higher quality programming and active entertainment for children. We now also offer Kid's Night Out, Before & After School care, Camps, New Year's eve Sleepovers (we did anyway) and group visits.

It is also incredible the number of staff that have helped to shape A Gym Tale along our journey. In our first location we had 4 staff members at a time and now we have 14. Each and every individual who has worked with us has brought with them ideas that have helped to shape what we have become.

We are so very grateful to everyone who has helped A Gym Tale become what it is today and to all the families that have invited us to become a part of their lives. We love what we do and we will continue to strive to provide the best quality programming and children's entertainment.