Tag Archives: parenting

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”.

 

 


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.


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.


I Don’t Want Another Baby

Enjoy each moment, they go by so quickly.

Savour those cuddles, before you know it they won’t want to hug anymore.

Don’t blink – they grow up so fast.

I listened to those wiser, more experienced moms. I heeded the words of grandmothers in grocery stores who doted on my newborn offspring (except for the advice to put socks on, it was summer after all). I enjoyed babyhood while it lasted. Just as I love the stages that our boys are at now.

And yet, I want to go back.

I do not want another baby. Our family is complete, of that I have no doubt, but I want to go back.

Oh, to relive the moment I laid eyes on each of them for the very first time and heard the announcement, “It’s a boy!” Meeting that tiny person who I already knew so well.

I want to have a newborn lie on my chest sleeping and feel his breath on my cheek. But not just any newborn, I want to hold one of my boys like that again and take it all in. For a day, an hour, a moment.

If only it was possible to travel back and see that little face peeking through the rails of his crib. To hear the way my second-born snorted when he laughed at seven months, how our oldest pronounced “restaurant”. I remember these things just fine, but I wish I could experience them again.

I’d savour it a bit more. I’d pay a little bit more attention. I’d appreciate those small things for the fleeting experience that they were.

This is not to say I regret anything. I’m not sad to see these boys turning into young men. Life is good and each day brings something new. I love reading chapter books at bedtime, watching Star Wars through their eyes, playing games that are more complicated than Candy Land.

And yet, I want to go back.

I’d like to see my third born dancing as a toddler, push one of my babies in the swing at the park, see a little face turn because he recognized my voice above all others.

This desire to travel back to those moments makes me cherish this time with my boys now. It causes me to stop doing dishes or folding laundry when I hear a small voice ask me to play cars, or ride bikes, or take a swim. When my oldest asks if he can sit on my lap after dinner, I always say “yes” because one day soon I will long to travel back and relive that moment, too.

Enjoy each moment, they go by so quickly.

Savour those cuddles, before you know it they won’t want to hug anymore.

Don’t blink – they grow up so fast.

 

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Tension and Turntables

It was a typical Saturday in that the boys were oscillating between playing nicely and pushing each others’ buttons. In an attempt to keep the peace and remove a certain younger brother from the mix, I retrieved our old record player from the basement.

Sometimes I think I need a life coach, or at the very least a Jiminy Cricket-type friend who will caution me when I’m about to make a huge parenting mistake. Someone who will whisper, “Really, do you not remember the last time you got that out and how many times they played ‘Snoopy Versus the Red Baron’?”

But I digress.

Old favourites from my childhood were dusted off and played. If you haven’t heard “Itsy Bitsy Teeny Weeny Yellow Polka Dot Bikini” on high speed (but just the chorus) you haven’t lived.

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In general I would be described as a laid-back mom. I don’t tend to micro-manage and the general chaos that is our family life does not phase me (except for tapping, that’s the worst). However, I seem to have strong feelings about playing records. I was unaware of this side of me. What follows is a sample of phrases I uttered while my old LPs were spinning, unedited.

Gentle.

Please pick a speed.

Stop flipping between the speeds.

How about we let the whole song play right to the end?

Gentle.

Leave the volume at one setting.

No jumping, it’ll scratch the record.

Put the record back in the sleeve.

The sleeve, the box-thing it came in.

GENTLE.

Just let the song play the whole way.

That record made it through my entire childhood, it better make it through this afternoon.

GEN.TLE.

Stop jumping.

Hey! I have an idea – just let the song play through.

Pick a speed and commit.

We can’t repair it if it breaks, stop fiddling with the switches.

JUST. PICK. A. SPEED.

We don’t put Lego figures on the turntable, I don’t care if it looks cool.

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Here’s the part where I say something profound about how I changed my perspective and savoured the sweet moments of them having fun together. How Psalty the singing songbook isn’t creepy in hindsight and the boys delighted in my ability to recount all the lyrics to Muppet Movie soundtrack.

Nope.

They had fun, the record player still works, and no albums were damaged.

Okay, okay, it did bring back good memories for me. It conjured up images of the old blue velour couch from my childhood home where just yesterday I was curled up listening to The Three Little Pigs on my portable player. Or cozy winter nights spent indoors while another album dropped onto the turntable (our hi-fi was quite fancy and held up to five records in the queue). Rifling through the large selection of LPs in our family collection – Burrell Ives, Bobby Vinton, Rick Springfield, Tom Jones, and of course Kids Praise.

Sunday afternoons spent playing games, napping, or reading. The house buzzing with the sound of friends and family visiting. The smell of coffee brewing.

You can’t hang on to everything, but we should hang on to some things. Today I’m grateful for vinyl, varying speeds and all. It’s okay, Jiminy, I’ve got this.

 

 


Poke-a-what now?

“Mommy, see this card I got. It’s an EX.”

“My skirnigorf has evolved!”

“I thought that was a good trade, but then I realized that mine had way more energy than the other one so I didn’t.”

Hold on – cards can have energy? They evolve? Tell me more no wait, that’s okay.

Pokemon.

I’ve tried. For years I have tried. I think I am a reasonably intelligent woman. I can hold my own in a conversation and can even watch movies with subtitles. But Pokemon is something beyond my comprehension.

And that, dear readers, is a problem because not only do I have four offspring who are all into Pokemon cards, our house is the trading hub for such activities. On any given day there could be up to nine or ten kids congregated on our front porch actively discussing and negotiating with these playing cards. They stroll over with their binders full of plastic sleeves housing these colourful and shiny bits of paper and huddle on the cold concrete for an hour or more. They only stop to pee or hydrate. And I teach in an elementary school so basically 75% of my waking hours have some element of Pokemon in it. I want to be an engaged mom and neighbour, but I’m struggling.

In an effort to be an invested parent and a teacher with a working knowledge of this craze, recently I agreed to let my son show me his Pokemon collection. It took a long time. A really, really long time.

What follows is a photo essay of sorts chronicling the longest 45 minutes of my life.

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I am watching you and trying really hard to follow along, honest.

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Those are a lot of cards

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I mean, when did you get so many? WHO IS FUNDING THIS CARD-BUYING FIASCO? 

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HOW many pages?

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No, I’m listening. Really. I am. Something about energy and wait, I’ll be right back, your brother needs me to move the van.

Do I want to see your Pokemon? Depends. Will you be serving snacks?

 


How to Feed a Family of Six and Not Lose Your Mind

People often ask me how we manage to feed our four boys and not break the bank or lose our sanity. For real. They ask me (like I actually know what I’m doing).

“You must meal plan really well.”

“Have you had to take out a second mortgage?”

“Your grocery bills must be astronomical!”

The answers are yes, no, and not really.

Yes, we meal plan. No second mortgage or job (yet). And the bills are high, but not ridiculous.

What’s our secret? There are a few things. We have a large chest freezer that we use faithfully. This allows us to buy in bulk when things go on sale. A few dollars on chicken fingers can add up to big savings when bought in large quantities rather than week-to-week. We also buy pasta, sauce, crackers, cookies, and other staples and pantry-type items in bulk when the deals are found. And anyone who knows us is well-aware that we have an entire section of our fridge designated solely to cheese. WE STOCK UP, SON.

When it comes to planning, we do it, but nothing too complicated. I was going to just share my most recent plan with a friend or two, but since others have expressed an interest, I’m sharing it here. This type of post is new for me, so be gentle.

First step: I make a list of well-liked meals based on past experience. This time I loosely broke it down into categories to ensure I had a balance.

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I really like paper and pencil. I mean, REALLY like them.

Second step: I slot five meals into weeks for the month. I don’t worry about selecting seven because sometimes we eat out/order in and often weekends we play by ear.

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It’s not that I CAN’T use technology. It’s that there’s something satisfying about using a freshly sharpened pencil. Trust me.

Third (this is a new step): I take an inventory of the staple items we have on hand and then make a list of general grocery items we need as well as things for specific meals. The number beside some items refers to the week we are planning to use that ingredient. That way we can wait until it goes on sale and also stock up.

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As the week begins, we tentatively decide which nights we are having each meal and which one of us is cooking it. Creating this in pencil allows us to adapt as the week or month requires.

I’m no hero. Life gets busy. Sometimes I double up a recipe and freeze one for a tough week or an evening when we have a sitter. And sometimes I accept that the thought of making a meal will break my spirit and we just heat something up. It’s important to go easy on yourself, too.

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*disclaimer: Vegetables are implied. I do not plan that part in advance since Bearded Husband  makes bi-weekly trips to the Farmers’ Market (or is it Farmer’s Market?)and stocks up on produce. We eat them, but we eat what’s in season or on sale.

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GRAPES FOR EVERYONE

Interested in reading more about our budget-friendly shopping? Here you go.