Monthly Archives: September 2009

visualization technique.

..and some scrapbooking again.

It looks like every Wednesday I will be posting either a scrapbooking layout(s) and/or another creative project I’ve been working on or have completed.  My creative juices have been flowing.  I think my mind is assuming that there won’t be much creative “me” time once the baby comes so it’s filled with ideas and also a sense of urgency.

As we say goodbye to September, I truly hope we are saying goodbye to the transition phase of fall – the school anxieties and the adjustment to routine.  Slowly, we are embracing our new family rhythm.  There have been days this month where emotionally and physically I have been at my breaking point which does normally happen when one of my children are themselves going through something emotionally or physically.

I have frequently gone to “my happy place.”  Not literally but mentally.  An aunt of mine had mentioned going to her happy place whenever things got rough or she seemed overwhelmed.  Her happy place was actually doing yoga on the beach with me and my other aunts last year in Punta Cana every morning.  I thought about our time there with the whole family, celebrating my cousin’s wedding, and I knew that vacation experience was also my latest happy place.  I can recall my kids bonding with family and enjoying the outdoors everyday and generally, being in the present moment every second we were there.

When my mind gets cluttered, and I look at my daunting to-do list, or my heart breaks as I hear #2 tell me she just stood by the door alone at recess waiting for it to end, I go to my happy place and for a moment of my day, I find a small ounce of peace and I can just catch my breath.

my happy place.

my happy place.

What’s your happy place?

the costume conundrum.

I actually brought up the “Halloween” costume question in the summer.  #1 had no idea and really did not want to think about it as she lounged by the pool.  #2 had already made the decision after last Halloween that she wanted to be a scientist for this Halloween.  #3, since I have asked the question, has changed her mind at least 17 times with the most popular choices being mermaid, queen (she’s already been a princess), an American Idol, ballerina, vampire, little red riding hood, and the latest one that she has her heart set on – unicorn.  #4 says princess but little does she know that she will be actually wearing the ladybug costume that her older two sisters have already worn.

In Halloweens of the past, the kids have worn costumes inherited from the older sibling  while #1 has been quite the ingenue and has preferred to make her own costumes, injecting her own sense of humour and sarcasm into them.  For example, two years ago, she was a “black-eyed pea” so she painted one eye socket black and pinned a large felt “P” on a shirt.

#2 in the Pooh Bear costume..and my sorry attempt at a costume. (This was #1's first costume and of course, I can't locate a pic of her in it.)

2004: #2 in the Pooh Bear costume..and my sorry attempt at a costume. (This was #1's first costume and of course, I can't locate a pic of her in it.)

#3 in the Pooh Bear costume, #2 in the ladybug costume that #4 will sport this year and #1 as a "sporty devil."

2005: #3 in the Pooh Bear costume, #2 in the ladybug costume that #4 will sport this year and #1 as a "sporty devil."

#4 in the Pooh Bear costume...and #1 as the "Black-Eyed Pea," #2 as a "Joey Kangaroo," and #3 as a monkey..and a special guest that scared the crap out of #4.

2007: #4 in the Pooh Bear costume...and #1 as the "Black-Eyed Pea," #2 as a "Joey Kangaroo," and #3 as a monkey..and a special guest that scared the crap out of #4. (Missing 2006 pics: basically #2 was the monkey and #3 was a last-minute bunny because we couldn't find the ladybug outfit..)

#2008: 2 and #3 last halloween..yes, sporting the SAME costumes as the year before.

#2008: 2 and #3 last halloween..yes, sporting the SAME costumes as the year before (and #4 is the bunny rabbit this time around).

I’ve had mixed feelings about strongly persuading the kids to abandon their own ideas of costumes in order to ‘costume-repeat.’  I feel as though I am breaking some implicit law of child-rearing and am guilty of slowly killing their imagination and sense of wonder at this time of year.  However, I understand that paying $20-30 per costume is just not a viable option for 4 soon-to-be 5 children.  I also am very realistic with my time and lack of sewing skill at this point in time and as much as I’d love to whip up the perfect unicorn costume this year, I know for certain that it would just result in some horrid “Gordon Gartrell”-like incident.  Only Cosby Show fans will understand that reference but for those of you who don’t know…

Time is of the essence this year.  The baby is due on Halloween and I would love to avoid last-minute running around and tears of disappointment.  I would like all the costumes purchased and/or washed and ready for wearing by next week.  The last thing I need is to have my water break in the middle of the kiddie costume aisle at Party Packagers as I battle another desperate mom for the last size 4 horse costume on the rack which I can turn into a unicorn with a strategically-placed party hat.

I also want them to be able to express themselves since Halloween is the one time of the year where you can disguise who you really are and live out your alter ego.  You are allowed to pretend, to mask, to play, and to just be someone else for a day.  I’ve tried over and over again to convince Ever-Patient that the purchase of costumes is a win-win.  The kids love playing dress-up and all the costumes can go into one big tickle trunk for future make-believe sessions.  I love their grand ideas as they try to imagine who they’ll be and how they’ll “sell” their personas – #2 thinking about props to make her seem more “scientific,” #3 practicing her unicorn sounds, and #4 flitting around like a ladybug.  #1 is straddling that kid/young adult fence.  She is wondering if she should still dress up and if she does, she wants a costume that is more on the clever and witty end of the spectrum as opposed to the childish end.  I know that she’ll be able to improvise if it does come down to wire.

I would love one year if my kids wanted to be part of a group costume like The Von Trapp Family, The Wizard of Oz characters, a basketball team, or even just some indie rock band.  But alas, they all want to be unique and I want to celebrate their individuality.  As for Ever-Patient and I, we have avoided dressing up although the kids have begged us each year.  I normally explain to them that I am dressed as a “Tired and/or Pregnant Mom” (depending on my state that particular year) and they groan and mutter things like “party pooper” and “oh, come on Mom, that’s you everyday.”

Next year, I promise to make the attempt to create their costumes in the most inexpensive way and I promise to dress up too.  They will just have to settle for some homemade Halloween sugar cookies, spooky decor, and some store-bought costumes this time around.  I think they’ll survive.

By the way, here’s a little sneak peek at #5’s costume for next year:

"sometimes you wear stretchy pants.."

"Chancho. When you are a man, sometimes you wear stretchy pants in your room. It's for fun."

fall activity #2.

A good old-fashioned game of TUG-OF-WAR can be played of course all year long but since flag football is still in the distant future for our family (although #3 could make an excellent linebacker right now because she has stellar lateral movement and her natural shoulder strength could intimidate any wideout), we took out the rope and gave it a try…

The 3 girls...#4 is in Big Lolo's safe arms watching the madness from the sidelines.

The 3 girls...#4 is in Big Lolo's safe arms watching the madness from the sidelines.

Ever-Patient...all alone...though this time next year he may have an ally.

Ever-Patient...all alone...though this time next year he may have an ally.

The full view.

The full view.

A few things:

  1. The kids could barely lift the heavy rope so if you have little ones, a skipping rope or even a scarf would probably do the trick.
  2. You may notice that I did not participate in the activity.  Due to my current state of perpetual imbalance and overall joint dysfunction, I thought it would be safest (for everyone) if I just took the pictures.
  3. Basically, Ever-Patient tugged on the rope once with probably 10% of potential effort and they all came tumbling down.
  4. The kids found the whole activity hilarious and just loved the ‘falling down’ part.
  5. Ever-Patient’s dad, lovingly referred to as “Big Lolo” or “Lolo Sweetheart,” is smiling in the background although we really know that he is secretly freaking out at the low standard of safety this activity possesses.  I presume his thoughts look something like this:  “The kids will suffer from rope burn, fall down the hill behind them, pull a muscle, be mentally traumatized at the realization that they are just not as strong as they think they are…” and so on and so on.
  6. This is a perfect activity for a large family but can also be adapted for a small one – use a smaller rope and let the child win of course.  Kids love it when adults over-exaggerate falling over and pretending they are seriously injured (at least our kids do).
  7. Apparently, according to Ever-Patient, tug of war is also a great exercise that works your abs, legs, blah, blah, blah.

Happy Monday.

25 reasons to get excited for fall.

  1. I can’t wait to see this.
  2. Fall is my mother’s favourite season.  For as long as I can remember, she would articulate in detail how much she loved to see the leaves change colour.  I suppose this could be due to her growing up in the Philippines where the lush tropical vegetation is immune to seasonal changes.  Growing up, I took the colour changes for granted but having children of my own and seeing them spot the first signs of fall as they spot a few leaves turning colour, I am again excited at witnessing the change in our landscape through their eyes.
  3. Baby #5 is set to arrive this season…excitement doesn’t really encompass the crazy anticipation that is buzzing in our house right now.
  4. Halloween…for many reasons.  The baby is due, the kids in costumes, and candy for me who up to that point will have been on a reduced-sugar diet for two months.
  5. Baseball playoffs. The return of football.  (The kids are not so excited about this one.)
  6. Apple picking.
  7. Thanksgiving in Muskoka.  This year my extended family and our little family will be enjoying Thanksgiving weekend up north.
  8. Pumpkin and/or Sweet Potato Pie.
  9. We missed it the last time this exhibit was here but Ever-Patient and I plan to make it a date before the baby comes.
  10. The return of the Pumpkin Spice Latte from Starbucks…sorry hard-core espresso-loving Ever-Patient, I said the ‘S’ word.
  11. Seeing cute little tuques on the kids.

    #2 sporting her fall headgear last year.

    #2 sporting her fall headgear last year.

  12. Playing in the leaves at Sunnybrook Park.
  13. The plethora of fall fairs – from school fun fairs to fall fairs across the province.  We normally try to attend this one if the weather is accommodating.
  14. Cardi weather.  I am loving this one and any of these classics.  (I just won’t be able to button any of them up at the moment.)
  15. Comfort food: soups, meat pies, beef stew, pies of all kind, hot cider…
  16. This event at the Zoo.
  17. It’s one of the busiest literary seasons in awhile according to this article. (Though not really getting caught up in the hoopla over Dan Brown’s newest book, “The Lost Symbol” and more excited on getting my hands on “Generation A” by Douglas Coupland.)
  18. To go with #17 above, this event is perfect for all book-lovers.
  19. The end of #1’s rep soccer season.  As much as we love supporting her and cheering her on, the commitment to 3 practices a week plus a game a week (which tends to be somewhere inconvenient) has been a logistical challenge for our family.  But the kids will miss playing in their tent, chasing each other, and having picnics while dad is assisting the coach and mom is yelling on the sidelines.
  20. #4’s first ballet class.  #3 has her class right after her.  So far she is excited but she has never left my side so she will be probably sitting on my lap for most classes as we watch all the other toddlers twirl until they get dizzy.
  21. One word: scarves.
  22. Updating the home with more cozy home accessories like this pillow.
  23. Volleyball season begins in our house including Ever-Patient’s latest project for our girls: starting a girls’ club team in our area.  (He already has recruited #2 and #3 as his assistants and #1 as his star player.)
  24. The days are getting shorter which means I will hear less of this at bedtime: “But Mom, it’s still light outside.”
  25. The holiday season is around the corner…

something to think about.

As I marvel at the speed at which time flies, I frequently have thoughts about a future career path for myself.  Multiple visions encompassing creativity, writing, and children often swim through my head.  At some point, unless I take the path of homeschooling, I will be alone between the hours of 9am and 3pm.  I will no longer have a child to breastfeed, to change their diaper, or to feed lunch (and morning and afternoon snack).  Still, I am unable to fully embrace the thought of my babies outgrowing me in some fashion.  But I know that they unavoidably will.

Considering how fast the last 6 years flew, the next 6 years are going to pass in a blink of an eye.  I plan to enjoy every moment and relish the random snuggles under my arm, the curious questions, and imaginative yet humourous responses to the everyday.  But I know time will creep up on me.  The one thing I fear is that as I say my final goodbye to the last child as they embark on their first day of school full-time, I will drive home in an empty van, come home and look in the mirror and not know a thing about the person in the reflection.

As other stay-at-home parents can probably attest to, it is easy to identify yourself completely in the role of mom/dad.  It is easy to define yourself in terms of your children – how you care for them, what you do with them, and most dangerously, in who they themselves become.  It’s easy to fully cocoon yourself in the trenches of parenting where you isolate yourself from world events, your community, and maybe even your spouse.  With 4 plus children, I find myself so engrossed in their development and ensuring that time is spent with them individually to nurture their unique qualities, I often forget that I too still need to nurture myself and realize that I am also in a form of personal development.  Giving myself time to write, read, explore, create and even to think outside of my comfort zone which includes anything related to my children, allows me to remember my life before kids and also helps me to envision the life I want to lead as the kids get older.

In 6 years (when #5 will be entering full-time school), I hope to be engaged in some creative endeavour that still allows me to be fully accessible to my children at home and allow me to continue to be actively involved in their schools.  This creative pursuit will naturally (fingers crossed) lead to career that will contain characteristics that reside in the centre of this venn diagram:

venn_diagram

venn diagram courtesy of whatconsumesme.com

In the meantime, I think doing the following may help keep me from losing myself in complete identification with motherhood:

  • Blog daily.
  • Write daily in my journal.
  • Do something creative weekly.
  • Follow Twyla Tharp’s creative exercises outlined in “The Creative Habit”
  • Share the products of my creativity with others who have the same passions.
  • Be open to opportunities for creative expression.
  • Observe and document the everyday for constant inspiration.

Don’t get me wrong.  I plan to enjoy every moment that my babies still need me and will make time for Ever-Patient.  I am just making more of a commitment to myself because as Ever-Patient always says, “A happy mama means a happy household.”

Where do you fall on the above diagram?

s’more scrapbooking + a family picture.

We were hit with our first sickness this school season this week.  #2 has been home for the last couple of days sick with some sort of raging cough which kept her up all night on Sunday.  She was pretty wiped out all day yesterday except for the occasional plea: “Mom, please can you make them be quiet?”  When she refers to ‘Them,’ she means  #3 and #4 of course who love to giggle, sing, and shout all day long (which is why we normally spend our mornings outside).  So between taking care of #2, attending doctor and diabetic clinic appointments, celebrating family and friend’s birthdays this past weekend, and the normal household responsibilities, I was only able to churn out one little layout this week (and really, I just finally finished a layout that had been lying around for the last month):

#2 and #3 becoming friends for the first time...

#2 and #3 becoming friends for the first time...

(For the scrapbookers out there:  In case you were wondering, I painted the flowers and the edges with some iridescent silver paint just to give it some texture.)

I love scrapbooking about these two and their friendship because now that #2 is in school full-time, they are losing a little bit of their dynamic duo-ism.  But even as #2 has been sick at home these past few days, #3 can’t help passing by her on the sofa, asks her if she needs anything and proceeds to stroke her head very gently.  To which #2 replies, “Stop touching me…let me sleep.” I then give #2 a look as if to say, “Be nice!” And she turns back to #3 and says, “I’m ok, thanks.”  #3 skips away and loving every minute that her big sis is home.

Our new family portrait, courtesy of #3:

L-R: #2, Mama, Dada, #5, #4, #3, #1

L-R: #2, Mama, Dada (wearing a dress), #3, #5, #1, #4 (who just has a head because #3 was not amused with her at that moment).

Happy Wednesday.

farewells.

JULY 2009 – Some favourite moments…
july_2009_mosaic

1. harbourfront, 2. harbourfront3, 3. churrosbythelake, 4. harbourfront4, 5. at_the_beach, 6. playground_fun, 7. 4_climbing_a_ladder, 8. 2_finding_patterns, 9. 3_at_the_park, 10. local_market, 11. bonjour_brioche, 12. raspberry_fun, 13. at_the_hairdresser, 14. science_week1, 15. science_week2, 16. scienceweek3, 17. growing_buds, 18. indoor_picnic, 19. harbourfront2, 20. lolo_greenbeans, 21. alpha_project, 22. leslieville_icecream, 23. storytime, 24. tiger_watching, 25. zoo_pals

AUGUST 2009 – Some favourite moments…
august_2009_mosaic

1. family_playground, 2. happy_bday_4, 3. sam_4_bro, 4. 2_and_shades, 5. wowo_and_4, 6. 2_and_3_at_the_pond, 7. a_tanned_2, 8. aqua_girl, 9. 4_and_bro, 10. Uncle_oli_the_human_playground, 11. more_swimming_fun, 12. ago, 13. art_class, 14. 1_at_the_market, 15. st_lawrence_market, 16. apple_fritters_with_lola, 17. ains_and_sam, 18. lolo_at_brunch, 19. 1_comforting_a_sick_3, 20. bff_2_and_3, 21. high_park_wading_pool, 22. high_park_train_2, 23. 3_and_the_llama, 24. coffee_at_school, 25. family_craft_night

(FYI…To view descriptions and the full-size photos, click on the link of the corresponding photo you want to view.)

As we welcome the fall season officially, we have had to say goodbye to summer in our house.  It’s been a difficult letting-go of shorts and tanks and especially hard parting with the summer dresses (as #3 has tried to convince me over and over again to just wear them one last time).  The last thing on our list to put away will be the flip-flops which I personally am having trouble saying goodbye to.  The no-nonsense flip flop has been my go-to footwear for the season.  But alas, I know it’s time to wear socks again.  The above snippets of summer don’t even scratch the surface of all we did and with whom.  I’m sure that in the coming months, when we are in the dead of winter, you’ll be seeing more “I miss summer” posts with more pics that I haven’t included here.

The end of summer also was the end of independent living for my grandfather.  We, mostly my aunts, cousins, and my mother, packed up his apartment and said goodbye as he moved in permanently with my mom.  He wasn’t ready to let it go and frankly, some part of me wasn’t either.  I had spent a large portion of my childhood there and it was our last physical link to my grandmother who had passed away 3 years ago.  I remember watching my grandfather watch my family go through his things and purge and pack and purge in an almost whirlwind fashion.  This was his life.  It wasn’t like they were doing so in a flippant manner but you could see that the whole thing was still difficult to digest for him, especially the fact that he would not be returning there.  This was his home for the last 23 years, a home that he had shared with the love of his life for 20 of those years.  And in one afternoon, it was empty and he had to close the door there one last time.  For the last 3 years, we have lived around the corner from this apartment, always a phone call away for a much-needed trip to the bank, the grocery store, or just to go have lunch.  I remember that he also ran out of rice one time at 9:00 at night and he phoned us to bring some over asap.  I will miss the physical proximity and the kids shouting, “There’s Lolo’s house!” as we drove by it every day.  At 90, going on 91, there was just no way that it was safe for him to be by himself at this age and he admitted to me that he knew physically, he couldn’t live there anymore but still, his mind was just not ready to let it go.

Farewells are one of the most challenging things to do in life.  Doing so willingly allows you to accept change and be grateful for the experience itself.  Trying to hold on too tight to specific moments, things, and people makes the inevitable letting go more painful than it has to be.  But as we let go, let go of one of the best summers we’ve had, let go of our children and watch them grow, and let go of a home that has given someone some of the best years of their life, we unwittingly make room for even more rewarding life experiences and we embrace the fullness of life and the endless possibilities it has to offer.  The trick is to trust that these experiences will in fact happen and to realize that more often than not we will miss out on these opportunities the longer we hold on to the past.

So, just like quickly ripping off a bandaid, we are saying a final goodbye to bathing suits and flip flops and a warm (albeit lukewarm) hello to scarves and socks…

fall activity #1.

To celebrate the fall season, I will be having a series of Monday posts dedicated to fall activities we do with the kids to celebrate the season and just to keep them enjoying the outdoors with each other.  Some will be extremely simple while others will involve excursions to some favourite places in the city.

I have to first say that this first idea is all thanks to a friend of mine, Shanley.  I am eternally grateful that she shared this simple yet brilliant crafty outdoorsy activity for the kids.  This activity isn’t particularly fall-themed but because mornings without #1 and #2 have become a challenge for #3 and #4, this has been a perfect 20 minute activity that lets me sit down outside and enjoy our extended summer weather.

Lately, the kids are addicted to sidewalk paint and not in the crack-cocaine sort of way but in the I-wish-these-summer-type-days-would-last forever-so-I-can-paint-on-the-sidewalk way.

cornstarch+water+food colouring=happy

cornstarch+water+food colouring=happy

This is how easy it is to make:

Ingredients (per colour) –

2 tbsp cornstarch

2 tbsp water

food colouring

As Shanley suggested, I used a muffin tin to house several different colours of paint which I mixed in each cup (which took about 5 minutes).  Then I armed the kids with brushes and they went paint-crazy on the sidewalk.  #3 and #4 just loved painting big blobs and mixing colours while #2 went for a more Jackson Pollock effect and would scold her sisters if they tried to paint on her sidewalk square.  The one thing we did find when experimenting with the different colours was that brighter colours showed up better on the pavement and the lighter pastel colours just turned out white.

#4 and her messy masterpiece...aggravating her sisters by dipping her brush in multiple colours before painting.

#4 and her messy masterpiece...aggravating her sisters by dipping her brush in multiple colours before painting.

muffin tin - ingenious.

muffin tin - ingenious.

#2 taking her stance, ready to flick the wrist...

#2 taking her stance, ready to flick the wrist...

#2's final product.

#2's final product.

Just thought I’d share this completely non-toxic, low-cost, and laundry-friendly activity that has been completely kid-approved in our household.

(I am always open to any inexpensive yet creative endeavour to do with the kids so leave a comment if you have any favourites that you want to share…I think next I am going to tackle building a cardboard kitchen for the little ones…)

25 things i am proud of right now.

We are slowly settling into a good groove in our household after many tears, anxieties, and high-strung moments (and that was just me and my hormones this past week).  I thought that I would give myself and our family a little pat on the back for working hard at accepting and adjusting to change with this list.  Frequently, we have regrets floating around in our heads of things we should have done or should be doing so when we do in fact accomplish things be it small or large, it should be celebrated.  Here is my list and it is in the spirit of just being happy for the way we have responded to recent challenges…

  1. I am proud of #2 and her attitude to school this week.  Last week, every morning, I would find a large pile of crumpled tissues on her bed (from crying herself to sleep in the middle of night dreading the next day) and now, I’ll find one or two which I know are from morning sneezes rather than twilight tears.
  2. I am proud that I have stuck to a crappy “meal adjustment plan” (they don’t want me to think of it as a “diet” per se) to keep my blood sugar in the normal range (it has now been too low for their liking).
  3. I am proud that I mopped the floors today.
  4. I am proud of #1 and the maturity she has shown in dealing with a situation with soccer.  It showed me how she is developing her character and really trying hard not to suppress her feelings.
  5. I am proud of #4 as she showed restraint this morning and only pushed #3 once.
  6. I am proud of #3 not pushing #4 back but walking away.
  7. I am proud of Ever-Patient and his positive career momentum.
  8. I am proud of #2’s courage at her allergy testing this week and not being phased by by big and scary words like “anaphylaxis” and “Epipen.”
  9. I am proud that #3 has made friends easily at school, at her Wednesday morning preschool class, at the playground, at the grocery store, at the library…
  10. I am proud of my children in the morning.  I am in awe as I see #1 help #2 prep lunch and #3 and #4 get their bowls ready and sit quietly at the table talking to each other, just waiting for breakfast.  They have been bright-eyed and ready to go before we even have to leave so we end up sitting on the porch or sitting together on the sofa just talking.
  11. I am proud that we have been able to stick to a bedtime routine for #2 and #3.  After all is said and done, they are in bed by 7:30pm and there is no whining for water, more book-reading time, or for their big sis to sleep with them.
  12. I am proud that I have been more patient with #4 and her whiny outbreaks.  Instead of thrashing herself on the floor for more attention, she goes upstairs to my room, whimpering all the way.  After 2 minutes, I follow her upstairs, give her the biggest bear hug, and she is ready to go on with her day.
  13. I am proud of how the 3 youngest ones are able to play together in an unstructured and free way after school.  #1 has been busy with soccer every day this week which leaves me with the little ones for meal time, bath time, and bedtime routines.  In order for me to get dinner ready for them, they have been able to occupy themselves but with #2 at the helm of course.  For example, last night, they had  an impromptu puppet show that #2 had directed, #3 sang all of her lines and #4 held up the backdrop.
  14. I am proud of how #3 has accepted #4 as her morning playmate.  I can tell that she doesn’t mind it so much when this morning, as I swiffer-vac’d the floor, #3 held #4 on the sofa as close to her as possible and said, “Don’t worry baby, everything’s going to be ok, I’m here” (as if she and her sister were in mortal danger from dust bunnies).  #4, who normally would push #3 away loved it and hugged #3 right back.  (Then they fought over a hair clip as soon as I stopped vacuuming.)

    #2 and #3 sharing a brief moment of happy sisterhood.

    #2 and #3 sharing a brief moment of happy sisterhood.

  15. I am proud that I have avoided buying maternity clothes throughout this pregnancy.
  16. I am proud that we have been making time for extended family although it may mean driving through traffic or re-arranging our schedules.
  17. I am proud of myself that I won my first fantasy football game of the year considering last year’s embarrassing team…this gives me a one-up on all the smack-talking….for now.
  18. I am proud of Ever-Patient’s and my attitude lately.  We are more and more seeing the glass half full as opposed to bone dry and completely broken.
  19. I am proud of #4 as she has begun to open up to others, although she is still attached to my hip 75% of the time.
  20. I am proud of #2’s extravagant ideas about space, time, and the possibility of constructing a swing that could fit an entire family.  #2: “All we need is a very very big tree.”
  21. I am proud that #1 is a team player – on the field, in our home, and at school.
  22. I am proud that I have been able to keep up with the blogging thing.  It’s been a great cathartic release for me these last few weeks.
  23. I am proud of myself that I have not let myself be overwhelmed with worry over situations I can’t control.
  24. I am proud of #3 and how well she can ride her bike now uphill without constantly needing a push in the back to get going.  We are pleasantly surprised at her coordination.  Ever-Patient was able to tell her exactly how to turn around while still pedaling and maintain her balance and she knew exactly what he meant.
  25. I am proud that our family has survived this recent transitory period together.

Now it’s time to get ready for the next big change coming in about a month’s time…

home ec revisited.

According to Wikipedia, Home Economics…

“is a field of formal study including such topics as consumer education, institutional management, interior design, home furnishing, cleaning, handicrafts, sewing, clothing and textiles, cooking, nutrition, food preservation, hygiene, child development, and family relationships.”

When one sees the term, “home economics,” a vision of a June Cleaver-type goddess of domesticity teaching young ladies in poodle skirts in the 1950s is immediately conjured up in one’s head.  I still remember having my home ec class in grade school – the projects simply alternated between sewing lunch bags and miniature pillows to baking chocolate chip cookies and apple muffins.  At the time, this class held the lowest value in my opinion and I took a similar course called “Family in Canadian Society” in high school for easy marks.  I didn’t take the lessons on marriage and parenting seriously.  I often worked on my English and Math assignments during the class – the bread and butter of my secondary education.  I was going to have a high-powered career which would be far more rewarding than anything else I would do with my life – chasing the almighty dollar and being “successful.”  I scoffed at all things domestic, as if they were obsolete skills that went the way of the dinosaurs.  My mother is an excellent cook, baker, seamstress, and gardener, and I never took an interest.  Actually, I almost looked at her with such contempt because I thought that women should not have to assume these roles in this day and age.

I don’t have many regrets in my life but I do regret not paying more attention to her everyday lessons in “home economics.”

Since having my children, I have drastically redefined the term “success” and “happiness.”  The definitions no longer include material acquisitions and monetary accomplishments.  They no longer include symbols of status or a future destination.  It is amazing how I never expected to live the life I have but I also can’t imagine how I could not live this way.

Yes, I love the daily grind with the kids, but more often than not, I must admit that I often find myself overwhelmed.  While my top priorities are stimulating and motivating the kids, I also am responsible for scheduling school and extra-curricular activities, doing a load of laundry daily, keeping the house reasonably tidy, feeding and caring for 4 children, and occasionally cooking a meal or two once a week.  I must also be financially aware of incoming and outgoing cash flow to properly plan for major expenditures.  The constant purging, organizing, planning, and trying to simultaneously enjoy the present moment and not worry about the future is quite the challenge.  Our household to-do list is daunting.  We do a little jig when we get to cross something off the list only to have two or three more items be added to the bottom.  We have learned to accept that the list will always be there and that managing and prioritizing is the key.

Enter my new home management system.  Thanks to the blog, SimpleMom, I stumbled upon a step-by-step guide to creating what I like to call: The Everything Binder (a.k.a “The Home Management Notebook” according to SimpleMom).  Here is a photo of my new best friend:

The Keeper of the Sanity.

The Keeper of the Sanity.

I went to Staples (one of my all-time favourite stores – there’s something about aisles of writing utensils and reams of paper that bring me such joy) and I purchased dividers, page protectors, divider pockets, plain white cardstock.  I went to purchase this kraft-coloured binder made out of recycled paper and just made it my own with some few stickers and stamps and of course, decked it out with a nice little title, part of our family mission statement: Live Simply…a constant reminder to choose the simplest route for myself and for our family when planning our lives.

In this binder, I have taken suggestions from SimpleMom and also OrganizedHome (where there are tons of printable forms, lists, and categories) to start the binder.  I have divided the binder based on what we do on a daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly basis – e.g.  housekeeping, car maintenance, banking and finances, school, events, schedules, contact info for everything and everyone, health records, home inventory, meal planning, birthday planning, occasions…it is basically a repository for all the crap that comes into my house and ideas that pop in my head in the middle of the night.  No forms, phone numbers, invites, or other important information are misplaced because they are all in this binder.  We have even included a visual list of what the baby needs in the binder:

The girls are more excited when they can visually see the "baby stuff"...

The girls are more excited when they can visually see the "baby stuff"...

My brain, after 5 pregnancies, has to be the consistency of tapioca pudding at this point.  In the past, I have forgotten playdates, doctor appointments, various commitments, promises made, and my own phone number.  During the day, I carry my trusty Moleskine notebook and write any and everything down that I don’t want to forget and the information is transferred into the binder.  The kids’ schedules, school information, forms, and extra-curricular activity reminders are all in there.  I have even inventoried their clothing for the season and have it in there as a reminder of what they still need and what they have too much of.  I took pictures of ALL the shoes I have in storage and the shoes that fit them now and have written down the sizes so I know what we have as each child’s feet grow.

Don’t get me wrong.  My home is still not in the shape I often fantasize it to be in when I will be walking through our door 6 weeks from now with a bundle in my arms, but at least, I am no longer running around asking the kids, “What were we supposed to do today?  Come on guys, think!  I know we have to be somewhere this morning but where???”  Then we play twenty questions as they help me try to retrieve vital information from the growing chasm that is between my ears.  It’s really like the Bermuda Triangle in my head – you could tell me things now and they will be lost forever.  But for some reason, I can remember the details of a fight I had with Ever-Patient in the fall of 1994 and the lyrics to “Nothing’s Gonna Change My Love for You” by one-hit wonder Glenn Medeiros (circa 1987).

I digress.

Back to the home ec lessons.  I have seen the light.  I have seen how much I have underestimated the difficulty of managing a household can be.  My mother made it (and still makes it) look effortless – the sewing, the baking, the cooking, the cleaning, AND she worked (and still works full-time).  Being a home manager, which is what I call myself these days, requires skills that a CEO of a Fortune 500 company possesses – mental stamina, negotiation skills, creative thinking, the ability to act quickly and make decisions that directly affect the lives of others.

It’s funny, I find that the one thing I have learned that has been one of the more important lessons from school actually came from my Economics class.  The lesson of opportunity cost.  I am constantly weighing my choices throughout the day.  For example, if I spend this hour cleaning, what am I giving up?  Spending time with the kids?  Eating breakfast? What is the value of that to me?  More often than not, I look to our family mission statement to give me direction and remind me of what I value especially when I can get caught up in the messy details of life.  Normally, the answer is staring at me in the face with a arms out ready for another round of Ring-Around-The-Rosy.  Oh, if the CEOs of the world had someone to play that with every morning, the world would be a different place.

(I’d tell you again what our complete mission statement is but I just have to take a moment and look it up in The Binder…)