A Real Life Catch Up In 9 Paragraphs

It’s been a hot minute since I’ve done a life post. In some ways it feels like everything has changed and in other ways everything stays familiar and the same. The boys are very much growing up and the everyday dynamics of life with tempestuous moods and new responsibilities and privileges has been tricky to navigate at times.

This August we took our first family vacation in forever. The four of us packed into my new Mazda because – *surprise* – cars don’t last forever and the Journey I’ve been driving since Justin was in a baby seat finally called it quits. We headed to Hilton Head, SC for a blissful week on the beach and I only wished it was longer. This Christmas we’ll be using a part of the school break to head south and spend time with my in-laws.

In other news, Kaleb is now in grade 12 and driving with his G2. If you have a prospective male teen driver in your house, start saving for insurance now. It’s not pretty. Him having his license has been helpful in the shuffling and scheduling and he’s one less person that depends on me to get him where he needs to go. Excellent news because he’s working part time at a local grocery store and next semester he’ll be heading to Fleming College to start his apprenticeship program with OYAP. He’s not a kid anymore!

Justin is in 10th grade and still my uniquely wonderful kid. He’s the tallest in the family and a bit of a home body. He also works part-time at a local restaurant washing dishes. It’s a job he applied for on a whim and he’s been there almost a year. It’s hard gross work for my stringbean, but he shows up and does his job and smells strangely like grease, sweat, and soap at the end of every shift. His health continues to be unchanged – a good thing – following his surgery at SickKids a few years ago.

I’m trying to find balance still and always. Everyone being on different schedules has made family mealtimes a little more challenging but I so like having at least home cooked meals that pop easily into the oven or microwave for lunches and pre-shift dinners. I take a few hours here and there and use up what we have to come up with some ideas to keep the freezer full when there aren’t leftovers. Fast food gets old quickly and it costs a ridiculous amount to order Wendy’s everyday. It’s funny how the kids stop asking when they need to pay for their own meals.

Today, I’m feeling the cuddly nesting instincts of the changing season and prepped over 20 meals… entrees frozen in individual servings. We have pizza rolls, chicken pot pies, chicken enchiladas, Shepherds pie, and butternut squash soup. My pressure cooker usually cuts down on the time I spend doing this but, uh, someone who wasn’t me melted the Ninja on the stove the other day. Oops. Instead I cooked the old fashioned way and now I need someone to come clean the kitchen because it is a disaster. We’re not even going to think about the laundry piling up…

I’m still working part time at our church and Kevin is still with the family business. Both kids have started attending a youth program in Toronto once a week so we have built in date nights that we take advantage of. We celebrated our 18th anniversary this June and some days it feels like forever. Usually it just feels like it’s us. I’m still reading and Kev’s still pretending to watch Netflix but falling asleep on the couch instead.

We replaced our roof and made it through that crazy wind storm virtually unscathed. Unfortunately two days ago, one of our ancient maples decided to shed some branches on the back of the house. We are unscathed no more – if anyone has a good lead on lumber, a utility trailer, a garbage shed, and some replacement shingles that won’t require a second mortgage, hit me up. Some days adulthood feels like we have all our ducks in a row, but most days it feels like we have panicked chickens running around and tripping us every chance they get. Who signs up for this?!

All in all, life is good. Its normal with its ups and downs. And through it all… we have each other. (If you ever hear what a horrible house this is from my children though, please just ignore them… they’ll appreciate it all when they’re older!) I’m closing off with a paln to find a few mintues of quiet relaxation before the boys get home ridiculously early because our school schedule has changed again.

All the I Love Yous

Today I said I love you by letting you sleep in. We have things to do around the house, but I know you’ve been exhausted this week. It may be a slightly selfish I love you because this means I could sleep in as well.

Yesterday I said I love you by picking up your favourite fast food burger on my way home from work. You were home by yourself all day and I was sure you kept opening the fridge and the cupboards, but still managed to find nothing to eat. (There is fruit on the table… always!!!) When I show my love this way, I can only hope that you’ll still eat dinner (and you did.)

The other day I said I love you by sending a text reminding you how awesome you are before you headed into your first ever exam. I probably even used the words “I love you” in this one, but I never got a reply. I can only hope that you really, truly know your value and that beyond a shadow of doubt know you are loved, despite your grades (which I’m sure you rocked!)

Last week I said I love you when I folded your laundry. The three baskets of it that you let pile up just waiting for someone to fold. It’s one of those things you’re supposed to be responsible for now, but I didn’t mind taking the time to do this for you while you were at school.

Every day I say I love you. In the meals I cook – yes, even the ones you complain about. In the reminders to try your best. In the lectures about contributing to the society of our home. In the responsibilities given. In the trust exercised. In the chauffeuring. In the questions about your life that drive you crazy. In the call to wake you up each morning and the call again 10 minutes later because you haven’t made a sound yet. In the words “I Love You” when you’re frustrated with me or just passing you in the hall.

You don’t always hear “I love you”, but child, my I love yous are being shouted loud and clear or soft and quiet every single day and I’ll be sharing them until I’m no longer here to tell you. Never, ever doubt you are loved and know that I hear your I love yous too, even when they’re not spoken.

Chubby Cheeks & Endless Love

By all outward appearances, today was the same as any other day. My boys bickered over breakfast. I had to remind them to feed the dog three times. I’m pretty sure they both forgot to put deodorant on this morning and I’m not entirely sure they brushed their teeth. Some punches were thrown in the backseat of the car. We tripped over things lying around in the house. There are dishes in the sink.

But today was a special day as well. Our youngest is twelve years old. For those who are familiar with our J, he is one of a kind special. He’s quite adept at pushing buttons and to be honest, he can be a little bit annoying. He’s also remarkably curious. He’s creative. His imagination will keep him entertained for hours. He loves to talk (he gets that from his dad, of course.) He struggles with school at times (but I think it’s boredom and how easily he’s distracted) but he gets pretty good grades. He doesn’t have many close friends, but he’s friendly with everyone. He doesn’t walk – anywhere – he dances, he skips, he wiggles. He can be impulsive, he can be mischievous, he can be sweet as sugar. He’s a cuddler and a thinker and just a wee bit weird.

As he ages, I want him to be all of those things. I want him to have a plan for life, but be comfortable marching to the beat of his own drum. I want him to be respectful of others, but never compromise who he is at heart. I want him to indulge his curiosity and share his learning with absolutely everyone and everyone. Taking inspiration from the words of Thor’s mom in the latest Avenger’s movie, “Everyone fails at who they’re supposed to be… a measure of a person, of a hero, is how well they succeed at being who they are.” – along these lines, I want him to have the confidence to be the very best version of himself without ever bearing the weight of other’s expectations. I pray he is successful and follows his path and that he remains true to himself and God’s plan along the way.

2007 | Cuddles in the NICU

I look back over the last 12 years and remember the chubby cheeked babe who spent a week in the NICU. I remember the baby in the backyard who couldn’t stand the grass. The toddler who loved the mud and always had a grin on his face. The toothless wonder cheeky in school pictures. The young student who got in trouble for having a collection of erasers in his desk – and using them to enact battles during class time. The boy who loves art shows and takes so. much. time. selecting. art. cards for his room. The one who participates in craft shows and volunteers to set up our church kids’ camp every summer. The boy who wanted to buy a book about birds and spent hours lying on the trampoline bird watching. The one who gets emotional in books but claims to hate reading. I miss the chubby cheeks and endless rolls – the innocence of the whys and hows of the toddler years – but I also love and cherish every moment that is shaping his future as a man. I hope he nevers forgets how amazing we think he is and that in another twelve years he can look back on his time in our home and know that he is loved beyond measure.

Book Review: The Sugar Smart Cookbook for Kids

I have to curb my impulse to purchase cookbooks and magazines featuring delicious looking recipes. I don’t have the space in our small home to properly store the hordes of food-related gadgets and books that I could easily adopt. Gratefully, I didn’t feel guilty about this one as it was complimentary via NetGalley… and I was provided with a digital copy.

The quick and straightforward dishes from The Sugar Smart Cookbook for Kids by Georgia Varozza will have you plating familiar food in no time – with no strange ingredients and less added sugar. Our big win? Pear and Cheddar Crisp.

Written in a neighbourly way with well-categorized listings, this cookbook is not overwhelming, but it also may not wow you. I’m a very visual person when it comes to cooking – some photos may have jazzed things up. It’s a good basic resource for standard kid-friendly meals with a healthier twist and a strong encouragement to switch out highly processed foods for whole grains and made from scratch meals.

The one disqualifier that I will post here that was not included in my Goodreads review is that I find healthy and nutritious very subjective. Overall, these are fairly healthy recipes… if you’re okay with higher fat, you’re not vegetarian, you aren’t avoiding gluten or dairy, etc. You may have to make some swaps to make it work for your family, but it’s a start and if you don’t know where to start and rely heavily on convenience foods, this may be a good one for you. I didn’t find it overwhelmingly different than many of the recipes we’re already using.

I received a copy of this title via NetGalley courtesy of the publisher and/or author. All opinions expressed are my own.

Publisher: Harvest House Publishers
Publication Date: March 5, 2019

Thinking Outside The Box

If you live anywhere along the Great Lakes corridor, you were probably blasted with the ice storm. Slippery roads, mix of ice pellets and wet snow, yucky travel conditions. No one was surprised when they cancelled the buses for an inclement weather day yesterday… once again! (I feel like this is a record for January/February. Kaleb’s ski club keeps getting cancelled too – boo to that!)

My kids were home again. Emails and texts went around with leadership at one of my admin contracts regarding programs and meetings today – they were all postponed. I made the decision to work from home. Fortunately, I can tackle some of my essential commitments from the comfort of my couch and it also affords some time to dive into some of the research projects that get pushed to the side. (If you’d like to do a survey on what parents and caregivers look for in a playgroup for toddlers and preschoolers, click here.)

I called a pause to TV watching in the living room because I can only handle so much Spongebob before my irritability rises and my productivity plummets. Besides, the TV watcher had a speech to prepare. We worked side-by-side, laptops in hand, both investing in our projects. We broke for lunch. Then the contractor asked the boys to unpack the new vanity which took all of three minutes and me constantly reminding them to avoid scratching the vanity with their pocket knives, please and thank you.

The Box / 24 Home

We were left with a box. A big, beautiful box. A box in slight shambles and needing some TLC. The 11-year-old has transformed it into a hut of sorts – hinged windows, level on each side, double doors, and a shower mat as the flooring. It’s covered in green painters tape (whatever works) and is currently sitting in the middle of my living room. The construction alone (including things velcroed to the interior walls and ceiling) kept him occupied for hours. And I am thrilled. I am thrilled that he hasn’t outgrown the wonder of imagination. I am thrilled that a cardboard box still provides hours of entertainment. I am thrilled that he gets caught in the excitement of creativity.

I am, however, less than thrilled that I may have agreed to a 24-hour-box-fort-challenge (What? Something he learned on YouTube?) “Mom, you can fill up my water bottle and bring me snacks.” “If I put it the right way, I can still see the TV.” (Apparently, we’re not quite victorious over the screen yet…) “There’s enough room that I can have a pillow and blanket.” “I guess I can leave the box to pee.” (Oh, thank goodness! My relief knows no bounds.) As long as it leaves my living room, he can kill time in his box as long as he’d like to.

Here’s to big boxes and big ideas. Here’s to tape and pocket knives. Here’s to creativity and imagination. Here’s to thinking outside the box or, sometimes, being different enough and confident enough to even stay in it!

Meal Plan Monday: February 3rd Edition

How is it February already? Last week it was so cold and I didn’t want to leave the house. Today it’s plus 8°C and it feels absolutely spring like! It makes me want to garden… mmm, rhubarb, lettuce, and zucchini, oh my! (Pretty much the only things I grow with any success… plus the crazy walking onions that do their own thing!)

Yesterday after church we had some brocolli cheddar soup that I had picked up from a local restaurant that I love. (They freeze and sell their soups!) We paired with a fresh cheese loaf from a local bakery. So good! Comfort food…

One of my goals lately has been doing the whole meatless Monday thing… but only at breakfast and dinner. Lunch still tends to involve meat for both kids. Baby steps. My decision has more to do with hiding things like beans in food and getting more veg in without complaints than any real altruistic motives. Whatever works.

Our meal plan this week will look something like this.

  • veggie samosas and mango salad (tonight!)
  • double stuffed turkey taco sweet potaoes and salad
  • frozen pizza and veggie sticks (K’s meal)
  • roulades with garlic mashed potatoes and whatever vegetables are hiding in the crisper
  • chicken wings, bacon poutine, veggie sticks (J’s meal)
  • jerk pork, rice, salad
  • jerk pork quesadillas and veggie soup

Because we’ve been doing so well sticking to the grocery list and the plan lately, I am giving myself leeway to do convenience food if I need to. I have some evening meetings to get to right at the dinner hour and other extra commitments here and there in general. No guilt. A fed family is as high as I’m aiming some days!

My Own Personal Polar Vortex

* directly opposite in character or tendency.

opposite, opposed,  opposing,  oppositional,  diametrically opposed,  extreme, contrary,  contradictory,  antithetical,  antagonistic,  conflicting,  counterbalancing;

a mass of whirling fluid or air, especially a whirlpool or whirlwind.

whirlwind,  whirlpool,  gyre,  maelstrom,  eddy,  swirl,  swirling, countercurrent, counterflow;

By mid-Friday afternoon, my brain is beginning to liquefy. I don’t work a traditional 40-50 hour work week. I don’t work a regular 9-5. I don’t work from a single office. I know that I have to be “on” come Sunday. I know I have client projects and prep work to tackle on weekends. I often work from home. I tend to juggle my family life with client obligations and can be found processing spreadsheets, checking emails, and designing flyers surrounded by piles of laundry, a cup of tea on the table, book close at hand, and the beast snoring away wherever he can find a warm comfy spot. (By the beast, I refer to my dog… not my husband. I can see how that last line confused you. The similarities are astounding.)

The flexibility of this arrangement has its perks. Inclement weather day? No problem! I’ll work from home. School assembly? Let me slip out of the office early and add an extra hour on Wednesday. Oh, you need that flyer tomorrow, but just got me the information I need? I’ll work on it after I make dinner, clean dishes, and tuck the kids into bed. You may just have to wait until I get them on the bus in the morning. 

The downfall of being surrounded by the comforts of home while I’m supposed to be productive with other people’s projects, is, honestly, distractions. I have to work hard to balance family life, homemaking, and self-employment and it’s not always as easy as it sounds, especially as some days I resemble the dog in UP. (Squirrel!)

Balance is my own personal polar vortex. Distraction and non-productivity at one end. Hustle and accomplishment at the other.

Log in to Facebook to schedule a client’s updates for the week. Check.
Get distracted by motivational videos. Uncheck.

Fold the laundry and write up the meal plan. Bookmark recipes for later. Check.  Read one chapter before changing the next load. One chapter turns into 4. Uncheck.

Send out an update to support regarding some current client projects. Check.Research relevant information for said projects to support ideas and development. Get lost in a land of Narnia-like proportions with a ton of other ideas to save and develop for later projects. Uncheck.

Some days I get frustrated with my “bounce” – meaning I feel like I give some time to one thing, dive into another, and never quite settle on anything. Things get done… but it’s not all housework at once, or business at once, or sit and watch a movie without doing something else.

However, I’m learning to give myself grace. I’ve come to realise that just because I don’t follow a linear plan, it doesn’t mean I’m doing things wrong. I rely on checklists and if my to-do lists are being accomplished even if it means a few chapters of reading, followed by a load of laundry, followed by some document review, with some unscheduled brownie making or a lunch date with myself before I pick a new camp curriculum, that’s okay. No one is hungry. No one is waiting for important documentation. No one is losing hours from me (in fact, I’m probably owed some…) No one is hurt by my methods, so why do I allow myself to feel inferior as I juggle as best I can? I need grace.

I give myself grace to: allow myself to research. To pin. To dream. To follow rabbit trails. That’s okay.

I give myself grace to: take moments of rest. To find elements of humour. To be inspired by a blog, or devotional, or Facebook video. That’s okay.

I give myself grace to: fold ten loads of laundry. Forget one in the washer. Rinse. Repeat. That’s okay.

I give myself grace to: sit down for a reading session in the afternoon. Cook dinner. Spend time with my family. Ignore the emails pinging in after 7pm. That’s okay.

I give myself grace to: ignore the laundry basket. Ask the kids to quietly play elsewhere while I work. Leave the dishes in the sink. Develop a new flyer. Strategize a teaching plan. Update a product catalogue or website. That’s okay.

I give myself grace to: recognize that there is always room for improvement, but unreasonable expectations and pressure isn’t for me. Know that I work in my own way and am still productive even if my version of productivity isn’t the same as societal norms. Embrace rest, and boundaries, and balance amidst the hustle to get things done. Recognize that my own personal polar vortex may look like a whirlwind of chaos and a dizzying array of unrelated tasks to the outside world, but it works for me. That’s okay.

Snow Day Sanity

We’ve had three snow days – AKA inclement weather days – in the last week and a bit. I’ll admit that with the drama of yesterday, when I heard bus transport was canceled again, the thought of having them underfoot made me quiver.

Fortunately, we’ve had heat and hydro and haven’t been truly snowed in. One day the roads were a bit slick. We weren’t truly stuck at home, but who wants to head out when the weather is icky?!

Since my boys started at this school, in JK and Grade 1, they’ve been bussed. There was a period of time that I would drive in as I helped with the breakfast program and they would bus home. Our policy has always been that if the bus is cancelled, they can stay home.

This has been easier for us than for others due to the flexibility of being self-employed with tasks I could do from home. Childcare has not been an issue. Boredom, however, can be a big one.

So how do we bust the snow day boredom? We become a bit more lenient with the screen time with movies, game systems, and YouTube. Not wanting to zombify the boys, however, we try to balance the electronics with other activities.

Here are some of our tried and true boredom busters:

  • Puzzles – the bigger, the better!
  • Board games
  • Books (they don’t love this one, but I still make them do it.)
  • Play outside or go explore in the woods (weather permitting)
  • Baking
  • Chores (another one they don’t love!)
  • Lego (not as popular anymore)
  • Cooking shows or wildlife shows (yes, it’s screentime but it isn’t superheroes or Spongebob.)
  • crafts or painting

I don’t think parents need to entertain their children every second of the day and boredom is great for spurring creative. I don’t see a problem with offering a list of suggestions though and spending some time interacting and making memories.

What are your go-to snowy day activities? What activities do you enjoy doing together? How do you survive snow day madness?