Author Archives: Jan Moyer

About Jan Moyer

Embracing my inner child since 2005.

Summer on a Budget

Summer time! FREEDOM!

But let’s be real a minute, parents. Summer can be costly. Summer camps, road trips, stops for slushies (sometimes you might even buy one for your kids). Cha-ching! Long-time followers know I like to share my budget-saving ways so I’ve compiled the various activities and programs we have implemented to have an amazing summer, but not break the bank.

Games are always a fun and easy way to spend quality time together. The $1.50 to buy a fresh pack of cards is money well-spent. But you know what’s even better? FREE. Here are some games that are free or almost free and guaranteed to please at least some members of your family.

Stop Being Ridiculous

It’s Okay Not to Fight About Dumb Stuff

You Don’t Own Air

I Was Watching From the Corner of My Eye

He’s Allowed to Look Out Your Window

Games aren’t really your thing? Looking for a more structured program? Why not run your own summer day camp? Here are some that are consistently popular with our crew.

Camp Fend-for-Yourself. Young campers have the opportunity to learn skills such as sandwich making, cereal pouring, and juice distribution. Merit badges can be earned for Counter Wiping, Fridge Closing, and Eating Over Your Plate. Gold Star award presented to the camper who achieves “Leave No Trace Behind” status. Broom sweeping skills are recommended, but not required.

Camp Quityerbitchin. A popular one with parents, this camp teaches children that life involves chores, particularly if you want to live in harmony and for free. Ample opportunities are given to practice tucking shoes away, hanging up hats, and putting away the clean clothes that were washed, folded, sorted, and stacked for them in advance. Merit badges for Timeliness, Lack of Eyerolling, and Least Amount of Sighing.

A great one to pair with Quityerbitchin, is Camp Clean Your Room where the motto “If it’s on the floor, it’s out the door” comes to life. Merit badges include Under the Bed, Only Furniture on the Floor, and Bring Your Dishes to the Kitchen.

Finally, friends, nothing beats Camp Call on Your Friend to provide hours of fun and entertainment. A classic, this camp cannot be matched for simplicity. Unless they congregate at your house and keep asking for snacks. Then might I recommend a remedial session of Camp Fend-for-Yourself? Merit badges for this family favourite include Ring the Doorbell Once, Least Amount of Snacks Eaten, and Bicker-free Afternoon.

 

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Coming to my non-existent Etsy shop soon!

Break-out sessions are a great addition, if you have the resources. Some suggested titles include “Sunblock is Not Optional”, “Yes! You CAN Change the Toilet Paper”, and “Why Popsicles are Not a Meal”.

 

 


Change is the Worst

The other day I was listening to a podcast. There I said it. I am a podcast listener. It was the latest episode of Revisionist History and they were discussing The Paradox of Theseus Ship. The gist of it is that if a ship is changed gradually over time wherein planks are replaced one by one, is it still the same ship as when it was first built?

As always, I enjoyed the episode (it’s a good podcast, and it’s hosted by a Canadian, give it a listen) and it helped pass the time as I cleaned the toilets, put clothes away and packed lunches. It made me think, but only for a few moments and then I moved on to bedtime routines and planning for the week ahead.

A day or two passed in a blur and then we had a staff meeting. As a rule, teaching is all about change. We get a new start with a new class every fall. Teaching assignments are rearranged, rooms switched, staff try new things. So I was completely prepared to receive news that some of our staff would be moving on to new schools and new roles. We had already seen some gradual changes this year which were grieved, processed, then celebrated for our friends. But this round of staffing threw me (and many fellow educators) for a loop. Our leader, who has inspired, supported, encouraged, and guided us for over four years, was the one moving. THIS IS NOT THE CHANGE I WAS PREPARED FOR.

The morning was rife with emotions of shock, sadness, joy (current staff would be taking on the leadership roles – yay!) and back to mourning. Then I decided to put all my big feelings into a box and tuck it on a shelf to be opened later when I could process it all. This spring has brought about many staffing changes and I was losing some of my best work friends, teammates, and partners (yes, Bearded Husband is moving on to an exciting new role, too).

It is hard to be the ones left, no matter how good the motivation or opportunity being embraced.

During the quiet of my drive home I heard a whisper “the ship is changing gradually, piece by piece, but it’s still the same ship.” Sorry, could you repeat that? When did I start hearing voices? And such profound ones? Epiphanies can strike anywhere, any time.

You see, when discussing Theseus’ Ship, some argue that if the planks being removed are replaced with planks of equal structure and integrity, it is the same ship. The fundamental identity of the ship remains the same. I would say the ship is better for the change because it remains strong and voyage-ready.

I mourn the gaping hole that these people leave in the wake of their job change. I cry because I will miss seeing them daily, they are my friends. But they are leaving well. They are excited, but grieving, too. They are strong and steady and valued and they are off to replace the planks of other ships.

We get to welcome and create a space for the new planks on our ship. And we will be stronger and better for it. I know this because this change isn’t new. Our ship has undergone this change multiple times. And it was scary and sad and full of tears every time. Yet here we are. Steady, strong, and valued.

It’s time to open that box and let those feelings out. It’s going to be okay.

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Me, on the last day of school

 

 


The Mysterious Case of the Stabby Hydrant and the Zombie Mouse

In case you’ve ever wondered about how I feel about mice. (spoiler: they terrify me)

Tough Bananas

Bad days. We’ve all had them. In fact, I have a had a few reaching epic proportions. There was Brown Tuesday back in 2003. And then the Perfect Storm of 2011, and then there was yesterday.

The Year of Jan is coming to an explosive conclusion. After twelve months at home full time, I’m going back to teaching in a few days. To maximize my school-prep efficiency, I went into school in the evening. I’m easily distracted so working at night is best for my time-management.

Sit back and I’ll tell you the tale.

It was a dark and stormy night. No, for real, it was. I spent an hour or two organizing my space and getting settled back in to school. There was no one else in the building, but I’ve been in after hours before and no longer jump when the lights automatically turn on. Knowing ahead…

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The Best is Yet to Come

I cried when I went on the hospital tour twelve years ago before having my first baby.

I felt the same tonight at the middle school tour.

Twelve years ago Bearded Husband rubbed my back and asked me what was wrong. It was as difficult to articulate then as it is now.

I’m excited about the next step, but I am frightened to lose what we have. This is the point of no return. This baby is coming out soon and our lives will be forever changed. As thrilling as the future will be, I am mourning the loss of what is right now. We are moving from the two of us and changing into a family of three.Am I excited to become a mom? Of course. Am I scared of losing my identity, my freedom, my career, my “me-ness”? Definitely.

But that seemed selfish, to be afraid of putting someone else’s needs first, of giving up my naps/free time/flexibility for this new little person we cannot wait to meet. And so twelve years ago I replied, “I’m just scared, this is all becoming real. And you know I don’t like hospitals.” O's feet

And now it is here. The moment I have anticipated and dreaded since last year when I realized this was our baby boy’s final year in his elementary school. He is moving on.

He has already moved on. I know that. He has increasing freedom which means we have decreasing insight into his daily life. He spends more time with his friends and less time with us. He is developing his own identity, his own set of values, his own experiences. As he should.

But I feel sad.

Sure, I feel happy and proud and excited for him, and grateful for who he is becoming. I am thankful for the friends he has and the young man he is turning into. But I feel sad.

And that is okay.

I can mourn this change. He is moving onto a life apart from us. We are no longer the centre of his life. I grieve that soon I won’t walk him to school or meet him on the playground when the day ends. I can cry at the loss of my little boy as he slowly transform into a teen.

It’s okay because I keep that part of my heart tucked away. I put on a brave face and attendws the middle school open house. I joke about wearing matching t-shirts and blaring VBS music out the windows when we arrive at his future school. I toured the classrooms and explained “home room” and “rotary” to him and told him that “yes, we will give you permission to go to the plaza at lunch time” and “sure, we can buy you a combination lock for your locker” all the while holding back by shuddering sobs that our days of Lego and Hot Wheels and reading at bedtime are done.

When I got home from the tour, my husband commented that “wow, you’re really having a hard time with him growing up, aren’t you?” I tearfully replied, “Yes, yes I am.”

But that is not all of the truth.

I am not sad that he is growing up, I know that is a reality of life. I am sad that a chapter of our life is closing. This is the point of no return. Again.

As he headed upstairs tonight, my boy stopped and turned, and gave me a big hug. And I didn’t let go until he did first.

Just like when we welcomed him into the world, I need to remember that despite my mourning, the best is yet to come. No, correction. It is already here.


Rhubarb – It’s Time to End the Conspiracy

It’s that time of year again. The time when pro-rhubarb “friends” try to convert me.

Nope.

Tough Bananas

It’s almost that time of year – summer! Strawberries, asparagus, corn on the cob, peaches, oh, and of course, their awkward cousin, (you know, who makes everyone laugh a little uncomfortably while avoiding eye contact): rhubarb.

Seems innocuous enough - don't be fooled. Seems innocuous enough – don’t be fooled.

Before this time of seasonal enticement begins, I’d like to get ahead of the inevitable propaganda that comes along with it. Why are we all still pretending that rhubarb is delicious? I have a theory. Someone put it in a pie by accident and no one wanted to hurt their feelings. Kind of like The Emperor’s New Clothes, but with dessert.

Rhubarb can’t stand on its own. Somewhere along the line someone thought, “Hey, strawberries are just too sweet and delicious, let’s add just a smidge of bitter and stringy stalk bits – oh, perfect!” Rhubarb is Strawberry’s longstanding friend that poor Strawberry just can’t…

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Curb Couch

We took you for granted, I see that now. All those years you sat by, quietly supporting us. You welcomed our friends and family with no questions asked.

Stoic.

Solid.

Slightly greasy in some spots.

Oh, Curb Couch, you’ve come to mean so much to us. And it wasn’t until now, as we set you outside for pick-up that I recognize your true value.

You, our faux-sueded wonder.

Majestic two-person sofa.

As with all things, your season has come to an end. You can no longer take a jump like you used to. Despite my many Pinterest-inspired cleaning attempts, that black Sharpie isn’t going to come off. Nor will the half-eaten red lollipop I recently discovered behind your cushions. So to the curb you must go, old friend.

Not many pieces of furniture receive a custom-made photo essay farewell tribute. But not all are worthy enough to be called the Curb Couch.

Gone, But Not Forgotten: a Tribute in Photos Taken on My Phone

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Passive aggression is tiring. Thank goodness for Curb Couch.

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Curb Couch has the best lighting for a selfie with a reluctant participant (please see above).

Was I worried that we would look less than classy with living room furniture sitting by our driveway? I don’t think Curb Couch is going to change our neighbours’ opinions of us me that much. They’ve seen me strolling to the park in my pajamas or shuffling slowly by looking for a signal when our wifi is out. There’s little I can do to surprise them at this point.

 

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We’d left good old scuff-armed sofa out for 24-hours and it was still there. As was I.

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Say what you like, our house has become quite the hot spot. Curb Couch is an ideal perch for heckling with friends.

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No shoes on the couch, boys. We are Canadian after all.

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Curb Couch at Sunset

But wait! Our time is not over. We have been gifted with another two weeks of our mystery-stained, but surprisingly comfortable, chesterfield. How? Our youngest child informed the garbage collectors that “nope, it’s staying” when they stopped to collect it. Never trust a five-year-old sitting on a curb couch. THEY ARE NOT RELIABLE.

And now, sweet Curb Couch is being held in furniture purgatory in our garage.

 

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Will we be moving it back outside to bask in the sunshine reflecting off the worn armrests? Only time (and lack of calls by our neighbours to by-law complaint) will tell.

Come on by.

Sit a bit.

I’ve got mediocre snacks and a great view.

We’re the house with couch sitting by the curb. Intermittently.

 

 


Cleaning With Kids

It’s important to have your children learn responsibility. Teaching them to be part of something bigger makes them think beyond themselves and become outward-focussed.

At least that’s what I tell myself when it’s time to clean the house.

When I was home full time, I shouldered most of the house-keeping duties and that was fine. Now that we are both working, we’ve required the boys to step up their involvement in some of the household chores. Don’t worry, it’s not that extreme – clean their rooms, help out with a job or two in the general home, hang up their own stuff. We’re not monsters.

I’ve learned a lot through the process of making house-cleaning a family affair. Topping the list is that calling dusting a room or mopping a floor a “bonus job” does not convince anyone that it’s a fun thing. I know that now.

Also, predicting that something should only take “a few minutes” does not guarantee that it will. For example, “dust your rooms and vacuum, boys, it’s easy – fifteen minutes max” translates into approximately forty-five minutes once you factor in the complaining and pleas for mercy help.

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“I didn’t play with this either.  DO YOU HEAR ME COMPLAINING?”

And so, dear reader, based on my dubious experience, I present to you:

My Five Rules for Cleaning With Kids

  1. Be Prepared.  Make sure you have had your coffee, you’ve eaten, you’ve charged your phone, and you’ve hidden some chocolate in various locations because trust me, you will need it.
  2. Be Realistic. Kids are not going to be as thorough as you are when cleaning. Manage your expectations. Give them jobs they can handle. Want a streak-free mirror? Do not assign that task to your offspring. Stick with things you can touch up easily when they aren’t looking. Like putting photos back in their original place (that seems quite challenging).
  3. Be Specific. Kids hear what they want to hear. When you say “dust the living room” the part about “every surface, make sure you move things, maybe put any dishes you find in the dishwasher” might be implied, but is certainly not inferred.
  4. Be Appropriate. You might feel frustrated, peeved, dare I say even angry. That’s no reason to use salty language. However, I have found a loophole. It’s not a bad word if you say it quickly and drop a letter or two. For instance, totally okay to tell your reluctant cleaner to “quityerbitchin” because that’s not actually a word. Don’t worry, I checked. My mom said it’s perfectly fine and I turned out alright.
  5. Be Prepared. I cannot stress this enough, hence it gets a repeat mention. We all have our systems, find what works best for you. Personally, I like to finish with protein and chocolate. Like after a Dementor attack, your body will need to recover from the trauma. You are going to find random socks strewn under coffee tables even though they promised they had picked them up. Chewed gum will have been stowed behind the couch. But you’re going to be okay. Deep breaths.
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I certainly did eat the whole thing. Eventually. Didn’t share. Didn’t apologize.

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Sometimes we have to manufacture joy during a weekly cleaning, and that’s okay, too.