Category Archives: kids activities

4 simple goals.

I love this challenge.

I have decided to dive into it for a couple of reasons:

1) By posting my goals here, I will be accountable.

2) I like crossing things off a short list.

There is still time before 2011 to accomplish a few things so here goes…

Goal #1:  Create beautiful bedroom spaces for my family.

We have lived in our current house for almost 4 years and we are STILL trying to finish decorating the kids’ rooms and the master bedroom.  It’s always the same excuses: time, money, and general indecision.

Enough is enough.  I have decided to officially become accountable by confessing all of this here and now and by making a public promise to finish the rooms before the new year.  We’ve taken baby steps this summer.  For #2 and #3’s room (and technically #4’s room although she refuses to accept that fact and thinks her room is mom and dad’s room), we added a dresser which we inherited from some good friends.  Living in an older house means living with itty bitty closets so the dresser was  a much-needed piece.

Here is the before pic:

A solid piece of furniture.

And now it looks like this:

Love it.

It’s a bright fire engine red with coral-like knobs from here….though #3 argues that they look like mini antlers.

The kids also wanted to work on some type of decorative element to hang across their rooms.  They were inspired by this and decided to make their own circle-dot banner out of paper:

#1's room - she's going for a gray and orange palette.

The little ones decided they liked the look of floating confetti instead.

Like I said, baby steps.

Corresponding reward:  A guilt-free order from this catalogue.

Goal #2:  Sew and knit something.

I have recently acquired a sewing machine from a wonderful friend and have started knitting here and there.

I’d just like to actually finish a project.

Corresponding reward:  This workshop.

Goal #3:  Organize and print pictures to update the kids’ scrapbooks.

Looking at the kids’ scrapbooks, I have noticed that there are some holes that need to be filled and many moments I would love to include in their scrapbooks.  It’s important for me to record all the stories visually since they love spending time looking at their books and having me talk about what happened, how I felt, and what they said.

Corresponding reward:  This print and a subscription to this.

Goal #4:  Write every day until December 31, 2010.

Whether it be one sentence or 10 pages, I want to write every day.  I need to write every day.  I’ve lagged a bit since #5 has been born and I’ve been noticing how my thoughts have truly overwhelmed me on occasion.  I miss writing gratitude lists and general observations.  I’d say that this one is a biggie for me and will take some major discipline on my part with life being the way it is of course.

Some strategies to accomplish this:

1.  Carry a pen everywhere.  (I can always write on my hand if I need to!)

2.  Keep various notebooks/journals in the house, baby bag, and in the car.

3.  Blog, blog, and blog some more.

4.  Just WSD.  (Write Sh*t Down…even if I have to drop everything – except the baby – when something comes to mind).

Corresponding reward:  A GREAT BIG HUGE book purchase.

That’s it.

Want to join me on this little challenge?

(Oh and remember our family monthly challenges?  Well, we’ve put that on hold for the summer…but we will definitely be continuing them in the fall!)

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i wish i may…i wish i might…

After a super-busy weekend, the kids woke up yesterday completely burnt.  They wanted a lazy day but there was so much to do around the house.  I started rhyming off a list of to-do’s and they replied with some whines and a few “I wish we didn’t have to clean today” type of wishes.

I saw that they needed to get these wishes out of their system.

Enter the wish jar.

Keri Smith is one of my all-time favourite creative people/artists and her blog had previously been called The Wish Jar.  In fact, her 100 Ideas post is a favourite of mine and when I am out of my own ideas for interesting things to do (with and without the kids), I consult the list.  (We’ve done #s 4, 26, 47,and 59 a few times).

The idea of a wish jar has always been fascinating to me.  I worried that if I created on it would be an unproductive celebration of things we don’t have.  Then I realized that dreams and wishes are a big part of childhood and as adults, we get bogged down by too much pragmatism and personal limits.  Ever-Patient and I just don’t want the kids to dream…we want them to dream BIG.  HUGE.  THE CRAZIEST, MOST GRANDIOSE, AND MOST IMPOSSIBLE DREAMS.

We found an empty jar, took strips of paper, wrote down our wishes, folded them up, and tossed them in the jar.  (#3 and #4 dictated or drew what they wished for…although #3 just wanted to write her name because she had “no wishes right now” – I was very jealous).  I didn’t ask to read their wishes and told them that they wouldn’t be read by anyone.  We would continue to add wishes over time and when the jar became full, we would burn the wishes, letting the desires and thoughts go, and accepting that life will unfold as it is intended.  I explained that if they are paying attention and are open to every opportunity and experience, their wishes can most definitely come true.

It was a quiet activity and it helped them ease into the mundane household chores.  There was still an adverse reaction to emptying the dishwasher but there was also more of a peaceful atmosphere throughout the house.  There is something magical about having this jar of wishes, these unfulfilled yet promising thoughts of possibility.  Maybe it’s the simple act of writing down the wish – seeing the words on paper that takes the wish one step closer to manifestation that creates this sense of the supernatural.  Maybe it’s the accompanying emotions of hope and anticipation that contributes to the magic.  Maybe it’s the feeling that the accumulation of wishes in one place enhances the strength of each individual wish and there is some imaginary magnetic pull for this ‘wish collection’ to enter the world of the real.

I began to write down my own wishes to add to the jar.  I realized that my wishes resembled more like hopes.  Is there a real difference between wishes, hopes, and dreams?  It had seemed for a long time that wishes were only for children and that hopes were left to the adults.  And dreams? Those were abandoned as soon as we grew up, childhood nonsense we buried when we had to worry about other things, grown-up things.  As I listened to #4 wish for a star or to be a tree, I felt envious with a twinge of sadness.  I looked down at my list of wishes that were never going to be read by anyone else and still, they were all very “adult” and “responsible.”  I wished for health, safety, and financial security…blah, blah, blah.  I tossed out those wishes and began again.  I wished I didn’t have to clean today and any other day for that matter.  I wished I could be 5 years old again.  I wished for daily foot rubs.  I wished for a perpetual chocolate fountain in my kitchen.  I wished for the power to control the weather.  I wished for everything to remain the same.  I wished for a weekly date night with Ever-Patient.  I wished for the kids to always be close.  I wished for a pastry diet that would shed pounds.  I wished for a fairy godmother.

#4 drawing her wishes.

#3 writing her name.

And I added some hopes and dreams in there…mostly about the kids and about my own life after the kids.

My hopes for their lives can be summed up by reading this manifesto.

The more I wrote and analyzed and wrote and analyzed, I realized that what I want is much simpler than I had originally thought.  I really don’t wish for the bigger house, the wealth, or even want more of anything.  I want to remember to use the precious time that I have on this earth to be happy, to actually enjoy what I have and to make sure that all the people I love know I love them.  I want less preoccupation with “things” so I can focus on what’s really going on – like #1 and #4 having a conversation at the table sharing a plate of cookies and a glass of milk at 10:00pm at night or #3 looking at herself in the mirror making different facial expressions talking to an imaginary friend or #2 curled up with #5 on the bed as they smile at each other or when I exchange a familiar glance of gratitude with Ever-Patient as we sit on the porch in silence at midnight.

My kids ARE healthy, happy, close, and we have made a nice little life for ourselves.

Isn’t it ironic that it is only with the creation of this wish jar that I realize that all my wishes have indeed come true?

how books save my life.

Ok.  Maybe I’m being a bit melodramatic.

But books do save my sanity.

The kids and I go to the library every week and we borrow 10-12 books of their choosing.  Some books capture their attention more than others but we read them all.  (Although we have 3 copies of “Goodnight Moon” by Margaret Wise Brown, #4 still insists on reading at the library and borrowing it.)

#4 perusing the book shelves.

#4 looking for "Goodnight Moon."

Before #3 goes to school in the afternoon, while lunch is in the oven, we read.  #5 normally nurses or sleeps while #3 and #4 sit next to me and hand me book after book.  After school, while dad is prepping dinner, the same thing happens but now #2 has also joined my little audience.  It’s become a routine.  Library books in the day and their own books at bedtime.

How have books saved my sanity?  Reading to my children calms them down and allows me a few minutes to sit and be present with them.  Books inspire creative endeavours.  For example, just recently we have been reading Knuffle Bunny Too by Mo Willems.  We’ve read this book dozens of times in the last year but it’s amazing how another read-through can spark an idea in the kids.  #2 decided she wanted to make a little book that mimicked the illustration style in the book.  The cartoon illustrations in the book are placed on top of black and white photos of backdrops in New York City.  She’s currently mapping out her story and what type of photos she’d like to take for her backgrounds.  Then she wants to draw her characters on paper and glue them onto the photos.  This has kept her busy for the last few days.  #3 wants to dramatize the story and has already cast the entire family into various roles (#4 is thrilled with her part as the teacher, though she is taking some artistic license with the character – she thinks she can boss her sisters around throughout the entire story when in fact she just has to mediate a conflict).

#1 and #2 love reading now.  I’ve never pressured them into learning how to read because I’ve seen how forcing a child to sound out a word when they’re not ready just leads to frustration and tears (and I’m not talking about the child!).  The result: they never want to try it again.  I now leave books all over the house at various reading levels and I have found that the kids pick them up without any prompting from me.  I don’t believe that there is a magical age children should be reading and writing by.  I take my cues from them.  When #2 was home last year, #3 wanted to master recognizing her numbers and letters just by copying her sister.  #2 was obsessed with this book.  She loved how letters were used to create images and objects and how different typefaces changed the shape of a letter.  Each time she didn’t recognize a letter, I would “sound” the letter out for her and she would create a little picture only using that letter.  #3 would become interested and would start identifying letters even in script form.  We would construct bumblebees out of ‘B’ and ‘b’ and fairies out of ‘F’ and ‘f.’  On their own, they began to associate the letters and their respective sounds.  We also have this large poster in our house with which the kids love to sing their ABCs.

Books are great jumping off points for conversations and introductions to new perspectives, ideas, and experiences.  I read at least 3 books at a time.  There is one on my bedside table, one on the coffee table, and one in the basement.  I pick them up whenever I have a few minutes and read as much as I can.  Being at home, I would often find that conversations with my husband started sounding the same when he asked me about my day: all about the kids.  I missed learning new things and just having an opinion about something.  In winter especially I tend to forget there is a world out there with other people in it.  (I am currently reading this book, this book, and this book.)  Passion for reading is infectious.  The kids see me read and follow suit…even if it’s them grabbing any book and “reading” through making up the story and mimicking how I read.

Lately, they’ve been reading a lot to each other.  For example, last night Ever-Patient went out to play volleyball.  I was exhausted and fell asleep on the couch with #5.  I woke up in a panic not knowing how long I had dozed off for and was uneasy because the house was just a little too quiet.  I went upstairs to find the kids all cuddled in #3’s bed while #1 was reading books to the rest of them.  It was beautiful.  I watched for awhile and left them before they could see or hear me.

I crept back downstairs and curled up on the couch and started reading a book.

march madness.

We kicked off our family year of “ADVENTURE” with our month of vegetarianism for the month of February.  Tonight we ate at a restaurant to celebrate our accomplishment.  We ate meat for the first time in 28 days and had an informal post-mortem meeting.  The kids’ chests swelled with pride as they talked about their vegetarian experience and what they learned.  In the end, we all decided that we would remain omnivores but reduce our overall intake of meat by half and continue to eat a large portion of veggies, lentils, and beans.  (As an aside, we did save money on food after we tallied the grocery bills.)

I was in the art store the other day buying felt for the kids’ valentine’s day craft when #2 wanted to purchase other items.  I told her that we didn’t have enough money right now and she said, “Just go to the bank.”  I started reciting my little lecture about money including the “money doesn’t grow on trees” rant.  Instantly I knew what our next family challenge would be.

This month we are exploring MONEY: teaching the kids the value of money, introducing financial tools like budgeting, defining purchasing power, investigating the importance of bartering versus using money, discussing the good/bad value judgments of the concept of money, and balancing want versus need when you have a finite amount of money.

The big challenge we have set for our family is to limit our spending this month to $100.  This doesn’t include groceries or our fixed expenses including mortgage, cable, phone, utilities, insurance.  The $100 includes toiletries, gas, school expenses, gifts, restaurant bills, and any other incidentals.  (We are not counting tonight’s meal.)  Part of this will be including the children on our expenditure planning and giving them an opportunity to participate in the decision-making process.  For example, #3 is invited to a birthday party this weekend and as a family, we need to decide if we are going to purchase a gift or try to come up with an inexpensive way to create a gift for her friend.

A lot of the activities this month will incorporate the use of math and logic.  For example. at the grocery store, there are plenty of ways to challenge the kids.  If we give you $5.00, how many apples can we afford if they are $1.79/lb?  Which is the better deal: $9.99 for 355 ml of contact lens solution or $18.99 for 2 bottles with 355 ml of solution in each?  These are questions the older one can try to figure out while the little ones can simply try to look at the prices of products and compare which one is the cheaper choice or even just indicate what the price is and practice number identification.  The kids can keep the receipts and tally up our expenses for the month.  We also plan to play games like Monopoly and research the purchasing power of other currencies in relation standard of living in different countries.

At the end of the day, it is about opening up a dialogue with our children.  We want to make sure that the kids have a healthy view of money with no emotion attached to it.  Money in and of itself is neither good or bad.  It is a necessary means for exchange in our society.  However, too often people have the perception that money can solve any problem or the lack of it is used as an excuse for being in a difficult situation.

Ideally, I would hope this ongoing education about money will prevent the kids from falling into that perilous mindset of instant gratification and at least become aware of the truly important things in life that money can’t buy.

Happy March!

hello february.

Our family word this year is ADVENTURE.

Each month we are going to embark on some sort of adventure as a family, essentially leaving our comfort zone in some way.  We realize that being a family of 7 is an adventure in and of itself but a family challenge that we all can participate in will open up discussion and reinforce a feeling of unity as we experience it together.

This month we are going vegetarian.

(At first we contemplated about going vegan which means eliminating meat and all animal by-products like dairy but we thought we should ease into this new eating habit first…we don’t want the natives – the kids- to get too restless and mutiny too soon.)

After seeing this movie and reading this, this, and this, Ever-Patient and I are looking closer at the kinds of food we eat and why we eat them.  It’s not as if I have suddenly become a PETA activist and want to save all the animals.  I do enjoy a good grass-fed piece of steak.  The decision to go veg is a way for us to experiment, to eat more consciously, and to seriously challenge our eating habits.  Culturally speaking, meat has always been in the forefront of our diet and because of this, it has become a focus on our children’s plates which in the end, results in less room on the plate for veggies.

For the last two days, my family has been conscious of everything we put in our mouths.  Not only have we excluded meat from our diet, we are also eating organic produce, sprouted grains, quinoa, kamut, millet, spelt, and every green known to man.  By dinner time, greens are taking up more than half of the kids’ plates now and they are eating every last morsel.  It has opened up conversation about food.  #2 is curious about where food comes from, frequently quizzing me if an item is plant or animal.  At one point, I told #1 to forget about her homework because our little discussion on knowing what exactly we are putting into our bodies was more important for her to participate in.

#2 is allergic/anaphylactic to peanuts, tree nuts, and shellfish.  Eating a peanut could kill her.  I am vigilant about monitoring what she eats wherever we go and the kind of food we have in our own pantry.  Then after seeing a movie like Food Inc. and reading about the health hazards of processed food and food that comes from factory farms, why would I let my children ingest these foods knowing the effect it could have on their health?  Not to sound melodramatic but even feeding this food to my kids (which in the end teaches them that it is ok to continue eating this food in adulthood) is just like giving #2 a peanut butter sandwich.

Since this is new to us, we are now experimenting with new foods and recipes.  We are involving the kids in the entire process – meal selection, preparation, and an evaluation of the meal after we’ve eaten it.  For yesterday’s dinner, potato and mozzarella croquettes with sauteed string bean and black beans, we made everything together – the kids took ownership of the food and in the end, enjoyed eating the fruits of their labour.  We plan to take them on excursions to a few local vegan/vegetarian restaurants.

For Ever-Patient and I, we are most interested in seeing the effect that going veg has on our wallets and our health by the end of the month.  Is it cost-effective for our family of 7 to go vegetarian?  Will we notice a markedly different feeling health-wise?  Will we notice a difference in the well-being of our children?

The key with this challenge is that this is an adventure for our family.  We are cooking and eating dinner together.  We are talking and researching and inquiring.  We are becoming active participants in our lives, choosing to live just a little bit more consciously.  By going on these adventures, we can remove ourselves from the daily grind of life and grasp these opportunities to make life more exciting and to expose our children to unconventional ideas.  Our hope is not that they become lifelong vegetarians but lifelong learners that will never stop questioning and having the courage to step out of the box.

I asked #3 the other day if she understood why we are going vegetarian.  She said, “Because chickens have families.”  Then she picked up her broccoli and took a big bite out of it and said, “But broccoli doesn’t!”  Chomp.

goodbye january.

January…

Jan 1-7: Sick mama, sick #5…Kids going back to school and futile attempts at getting their bodies to sleep before 11pm again.

Jan 10: Lunch and movie with my mom, my aunts, my female cousins, and Ever-Patient and Q who eventually moved to sit at a separate table due to the surplus of estrogen and the never-ending dress/shoe combination conversation.  I immediately noticed how some daughters sat voluntarily right next to their moms sharing their meals while others tried (but couldn’t) sit at other ends of the table from their mothers especially the mother who decided to order a scotch with her Thai meal at 11 in the morning.  My loving and oh so ever-patient husband then hung around so I could feed the baby right before I could see a movie with the ladies and then he took Q by himself for the first time to run some errands.

Jan 15:  I went to watch my friends play in their indoor soccer game where almost exactly a year ago I had been playing.  I cheered enthusiastically and with much envy.  For me, the best part about playing with these girls for the last 6 years (though I’ve had to take breaks every other year) is the camaraderie and kid-free conversations before, during, and after the games. They’ve seen my kids grow on the sidelines, have kept me in the loop during pregnancy, and they give me a reason to get back in shape for summer.

Jan 16:  Bon voyage Lola!!  My grandmother (my dad’s mother), we’ll call her Elizabeth Taylor, who will be 88 this year, has left for the Philippines for 6 months.  She travels alone and anyone who has ever had a conversation with her knows that she credits her exquisite health to blueberries, apple cider vinegar, and of course, ginger.  She changes her outfits at least 3 times a day and insists upon walking in a kitten heel or platform even if she is just at home.  She also loves her plants more than her own children.  My kids call her Lola Philippines and if that country had a pageant for senior citizens, she’d hands down take the crown.

Jan 20:  Yoga with #4.  I signed up for a free toddler/mom yoga class that is held once a month in a small downtown studio.  She really needed some alone time with me so I thought this would be perfect for us.  I thought it would be more of a singing and playing type class but in the end I was seriously sweating, cringing ever time I heard a crack doing downward dog.  #4’s favourite parts were lying right on top of me during the meditation portion at the end of the class and going for hot chocolate after.  She now tells everyone she meets, “I do yoga.”

Jan 21:  #3 had her first playdate.  She could hardly sleep the night before and woke up at an obscene hour, excited over her little friend coming over to play.  She waited by the window singing repeatedly, “Oh where oh where could she be?  Could that be her?  Oh where oh where could she be?”  #3’s friend and her little sister came to play which meant that #4 had a playmate as well.  This could be one of the most successful playdates I’ve ever seen.  Their mother and I also get along and they were having so much fun that I let #3 skip school in the afternoon.  When the girls left 5 hours later, #3 turns to me and laments, “Mom, that was quick.”

Jan 22-23:  My first time pumping breast milk for #5 in anticipation of going to a crop (scrapbooking event) in the evening located 45 minutes away.  I finally leave the house and once I get to the crop, I just want to hang out with my friends and lie my head down on the table due to sheer exhaustion.  Instead, I push through and actually end up creating something.  It was maybe the most productive 2 hours I’ve had in a long time.  The next day I am back at the crop for the day with #5 strapped to me in this and again, I am productive and create some layouts, have inspiring conversations, and leave fulfilled.  Ever-Patient is about 2 hours away with #1 at another volleyball tournament and the other girls are with their cousin and grandfather seeing a movie.  During the crop my mom calls me and says, “We’re right around the corner from your house, do you want to go for lunch?”  I tell her the whereabouts of my family across the province and she says, “So, no dim sum I guess?”

Jan 24: Surprise birthday lunch for Ever-Patient.  Two days before his actual birthday we went out for lunch, just the two of us.  This was my birthday present for him (really, this is all he wanted!).  We were seated right by the kitchen and tried to talk over the noise of clanging pots and pans and the wait staff belting requests to the line cooks.  Almost immediately, Ever-Patient requests to be moved because come on people,  just once, could we not have to try to yell to try to be heard among a crowd of people?  So we sat in front of each other in a quieter part of the restaurant in silence for a few minutes.  I look deep into his eyes and say, “Man, you look tired.”  And he says back romantically, “You do too.”  And then there’s the most comfortable silence for the next 10 minutes.  The best part?  We sat and had coffee watching the NFL playoffs at the bar in…you guessed it…silence.

Jan 26:  Happy Birthday Ever-Patient!  We celebrated his birthday at #1’s volleyball practice as she played an exhibition game against a boys team from our neighbourhood.  One of the team’s uber-supportive parents bought Coach Ever-Patient a birthday cake and all the girls (our own and his team) serenaded him with “happy birthday to you.”  (A quick apology for all of you who had to endure his lewd comments on Facebook on his birthday that prompted grotesque images to be imagined by many family members.)

Jan 29:  Bon Voyage to my aunt!  She too has gone to the Philippines for a vacay.  We celebrated and said our farewells like most families – ingested some alcoholic beverages and exhibited some drunken type behaviour at a local family restaurant.

Jan 30:  We closed the month out with a bang at a Family Dance Party at the Guvernment – a night club that was turned into what I can only be described as a night club that allowed children to dance under a disco ball.

Cover charge:  $12 Adults $10 Kids

A Bag of Over-priced “All Natural” Chips:  $5

Specialty Drinks for the kiddies which included a twist on the perennial favourite “Shirley Temple”:  $2.50

Watching #3 get her groove on a top a platform in the middle of a dance floor as if it were her second home:  Priceless

#4 and #3 on top of the platform doing their thing to "Kiss" by Prince.

#4 collecting snowballs in the champagne room.

Our aerial view of the dance off: Yeti vs Mountie

#3 letting loose on the stage beside the DJ.

The girls and cousin J lounging it up after some serious dance floor action.

Dinner at a friend’s house (the playdate of all playdates’ house) capped off the evening but #3 could not stop moving to the music that apparently could not stop playing in her head.

Good times.

a belated happy new year.

For some reason, we experience some type of chaotic event around this time every year of which I am just too exhausted to recount at the moment.  As we celebrate each new year, we have a little tradition that we started.  Each member of our family writes a letter to themselves a year from now, e.g. “Dear Me on Dec. 31, 2010.”  We write about who we are at the moment, all our likes and dislikes, and what we hope to do this year.  We then read our letter that we wrote last New Year’s Eve, e.g. “Dear Me on Dec 31, 2009.”  This is fun to see how we have changed (or haven’t changed) and the kids also trace their hands on the back and they love to lay their hand down to see how much they’ve grown.  #1 and #3 are basically still the same – sporty and dramatically inclined respectively.  But how #2 and #4 have changed.  Last year #2 was still into sparkly headbands and dresses whereas now her favourite outfit has become jogging pants and a hoodie with Converse shoes.  #4 was a baby last year, barely putting together sentences, and now, she has definite preferences:

Me: “What do you love right now?”

#4: “Mama, Dada, and baby.”

Me: “What about your sisters?”

#4:  “No.  I don’t like them.”

Last year I wrote the letters for #3 and #4 and this year, #3 is perfectly capable of writing her own (with a little help).  These letters are a great way for you to reflect on the past year and are a way to track how your kids are growing into themselves.

On New Year’s Eve, we also came up with our favourite moments of the year as a family, and individually.  There were lots of hellos and goodbyes in 2009.  It was a huge year in our household and last year at this time, we would have never have guessed that our lives would be this different.

Here is my own TOP TEN Moments of 2009:

  1. Hello #5. We welcomed our boy.  Hello family of 7. Goodbye family of 6 with dad heavily outnumbered (now he is just moderately outnumbered).
  2. The ankle incident.
  3. A Summer to Remember.  Swimming lessons at my mom’s house.  Marineland with cousins and uncles and aunts.  Family memories by the pool.  Science week.  Art week.  #4 jumping in the pool with just water wings.  Savouring every moment with the kids before September.
  4. Hello new schools. Goodbye old schools. I have had to watch my eldest daughter start middle school and slowly let go as she maneuvers her way through a social sphere complete with dances, lockers, and cafeteria food.  I have also had to persevere through a tough transition with #2 as she began her journey in grade one at a new school – her fourth new school in four years.  I’ve said goodbye to #3 as she has wholeheartedly and enthusiastically embraced school leaving me each afternoon with a wink and a “See you later, alligator.”
  5. A Guilt-filled trip to Disney WITHOUT the kids. Early in the year, before the ankle incident, Ever-patient and I went to Orlando for our first trip away together since 2001, leaving the girls behind to cope with blizzards and wind chill.  Ever-Patient had a business conference and I enjoyed time alone.  I actually read books, ate meals in solitude, and did everything on a self-imposed schedule.  We even went on a backstage tour of Disney to see how the place ran seamlessly.  I couldn’t even look at Mickey Mouse without feeling like I was cheating on the kids.
  6. Goodbye to my neighbour. My grandfather gave up his apartment which was just around the corner from us.  This was an apartment that he lived in for over 22 years, and many of those years was with my grandmother.  It’s difficult to pass by there still and know that he is not there watching “Jeopardy” in his boxers or sitting at the dining table planning his horse-racing bets for the week.  It was hard saying goodbye to a place where I would frequently stop by for afternoon snack where he would make me tea and toast with butter or where I spent a lot of summers in my childhood.
  7. Goodbye to Urban Scrapyard.
  8. Hello Family Mission Statement. “Live simply. Live healthy. Celebrate relationships. Learn continuously.”  Creating this mission statement has allowed us to make decisions quickly and has helped remind us of what we value and how we want to live our life.  We have set life goals using this mission statement and it has also helped us cope with many challenges we have faced this year.
  9. Hello Blog.  This blog has been many things to me: a place to document, a place to vent, a place to share ideas and thoughts, a place to keep in touch with family and friends, a sanctuary, a love letter to my children and my husband, a source of inspiration for some, and most importantly, a way for me to tell my stories.
  10. Pancrea-what?? We closed out the year with a hospital stay and an overwhelming feeling of gratitude.

My word for 2009 was “RELEASE.”   At the beginning of the year, I promised to let go.  Let go of unrealistic expectations, of sweating the small stuff, of accepting what is and letting everything unfold the way it was supposed to unfold.  It has been one of the most eventful and life-changing years I have experienced.  Everything that has happened this year has forced me to focus all my energy on remembering this word release.  Every obstacle or unexpected occurrence was met with surrender.  On many occasions, when I thought I couldn’t handle any more, I simply surrendered and immersed myself in that particular moment – feeling the exhaustion or the pain or the anger or the shock or the frustration with every ounce of my being.  Not fighting it, just letting myself be “in” it.  I look back at this year and am grateful for it all.

2010 has already started off with a bang with more trips to the emergency room and the doctor’s office but we’re all still hanging in there with a smile no less.

My word for this year is “SIMPLIFY.”

Goodbye 2009.  Hello 2010.