Too Much Stuff

 

DSC_0014This past Sunday morning I watched my three kids partake in a neighbourhood egg hunt.  There were about fifteen kids who took part.  It was quite the experience.  I don’t know how many items there were to find but it was a lot, spread over three different backyards.  They had a blast and as parents, it was a lot of fun watching them explore the backyard and squeal with excitement when an egg was found, and inside of them were chocolate eggs, erasers, bouncy balls, pencils, stickers, little figurines, and trinkets.  Most of which still sits in my children’s woven baskets on our kitchen counter, although the joy of the hunt was fun

This morning, I was brought to a realization as I started to “thin” the loot.  I’ve struggled lately with the over abundance of stuff in our home.  So.  Much.  Stuff.  For the last 10 months we’ve had our house on the market and it sold just last week (yea!).  In an effort to make it look “buyer friendly”, we packed away a lot of items that were not needed on a daily basis.  Some of these things I dearly missed – family photos, a couple of board games, and a few mementos from past vacations that were lovely memories.  However when I look at the ten full boxes in our back room I realize that most of them are probably filled with “stuff” that we don’t need.  Quite frankly, I don’t even know what is in those boxes.  I obviously don’t miss it.  And neither do my kids as I know many of them were toys and other items from their rooms.  And even though we have those ten boxes packed away neatly, there is still a ton of things in our children’s rooms and playroom.

I read a really interesting article yesterday about a mom who took away all (yes, all) of her children’s toys in an attempt to recognize the lack of contentment that was happening in her home.  My husband, Tom, and I have noted this lately too.  We both think that our children have way too many toys to keep them busy.  They also have bikes, art supplies, a scooter, a movie collection, computers, a tree fort, books, and a huge backyard to keep them busy.  And yet every once in a while we hear “Mom, I’m bored…there’s NOTHING to do.”

Nothing?  Really…..

I remember growing up in the small village of Midhurst, Ontario.  Other than the school, a small library and a general store there were no indoor areas to go and play within walking distance.  There were lots of parks, walking trails, and neighbours yards.  I played with other neighbourhood kids.  We would have neighbourhood-wide games of tag, hide & seek, and Capture the Flag.  We would build snow forts and mazes in our backyards in winter.  Yes, we would also do sports and activities but there was no shortage of play for us growing up.

Even though both Tom and I encourage active play and imagination in our kids, we find that they default to the toys and other items in the house to keep them busy.  So, I’m hedging.  Hedging on what to do.  While I don’t think the answer is to get rid of ALL of my kids’ toys, I do think a  minimalist approach is in order.   Unlike the author of the other article, I do feel that it’s important to have my kids involved.  I want them to make the decisions on what stays and what goes.  I also want to hold onto items that inspire imagination, for example with art supplies and books.  Anything that encourages physical activity like sports equipment is definitely being kept. Whether we donate or have a garage sale (quite likely with our move coming up), the removal of toys and other items from our home will be a great step in the right direction.

Have other parents done this?  What was your experience like?  Did you have your kids involved?  I would love any advice you can share.

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Play

How often, as adults, do we truly play?  It’s become a four letter word.

Those people at the beach you see throwing a frisbee at 2PM on a Wednesday?  Slackers.

As you duck into the mall at 11AM on a Monday, do you wonder what all these people do with their lives if they’re at the mall?  (Never mind the fact they’re likely wondering the same about you)

People who go to the gym in the middle of the afternoon, do they not work?

What does the guy on the park bench reading a book do for a living that allows him to just….read?

I’ll admit I’ve thought similar thoughts.  My thoughts used to come from a place of disdain or envy.  Now they come from a place of appreciation and wonder.  I imagine that each of these people have created a life that allows them to do whatever they want, whenever they want.  Whether it’s frisbee, shopping for new clothes, working out, reading, or so much more.

Play time for me has become vital.  I carve out time in my schedule to work out.  I create time each day to play with my kids.  I love to do puzzles so I now work on a mess of 1000 pieces and try to create order out of its chaos. It helps me reconnect to my inner kid.  It helps me be a better parent.

This weekend we had an extraordinary adventure up to my mom and stepdad’s cottage on Lake Kawagama.  It was the type of day that we had been waiting for and expecting in August – hot, sunny, and just plain gorgeous.  We lounged on the dock.  We drank wine.  We ate.  We kayaked.  We swam.

The lake was chilly, I’m going to guess around 70 degrees.  It has been my experience that water temperature doesn’t make a difference to kids.  It’s summer.  They must swim.  So they do.  My inner water loving personality wanted to jump in but my toe told me differently.  That water was cold!  And I could have easily sat on the dock and sipped on my wine without jumping in.  But as I watched all three of our kids go in (even Maggie was dunked up to her waist or she sat on a rock in the water), and then Tom go in, the prevailing thought was “why not?”

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So, I jumped.  And I jumped, and jumped, and jumped.  It was so freeing to get in, get my hair wet, and have my entire body immersed in the cool water.  And then to jump in holding my six year old daughter’s hand (that won’t be a memory soon forgotten).  It was pure mama bliss.

I hope every mom has a picture like this.

I hope every mom has a picture like this.

 

So, jump.  Have fun.  Play.  You won’t regret it.  Promise.

I got over my guilt yesterday

Sometimes I find it fascinating that the Monday to Friday workweek puts such rules and restrictions in our society.  It’s not something I think about a lot, just every Monday when I enjoy my day with the kids while my husband, and most other working people, go off to work.  Four years ago I was told by a very wise chiropractor to organize one day of the “work” week to be home with my kids.  I took it to heart and  two years later was able to prioritize my life to make that a reality.  At first it was Fridays and then once Maggie arrived it became Mondays.  I love my Mondays.  It’s my day with the kids to do whatever we want to do.  We often go to the gym (if nothing is planned in the morning) but then we also have adventures to the park, the beach, a trail, the library, a museum, our backyard, or some other exciting locale.

Usually around 2PM though, in the midst of all this fun, I feel a twinge of guilt.  Guilt that asks if I’m being too self indulgent to be home with my kids during the “work” week.  Guilt that says I could be working and making money and contributing to my family in that way today.  Guilt that says “oh, I wish Tom were here because he would love this moment….but he’s at work….ooh, maybe I should be too…..”.

Yesterday it happened in the middle of three brilliant hours of PLAY.  It was a hot (HOT!) afternoon and even the idea of packing up to get to a beach felt like too much work.  So, instead, we blew up this big inflatable crocodile in our backyard that sprays water down the head and tail slides, where it settles in a fun pool at the bottom.  The kids went up and down those slides for an hour straight and then splashed about.  While Maggie was awake, I read in the shade and toddled around with her.  When she slept, I joined in the kid fun.  I went down the slide (and by the way, the reason there is a 100 pound weight limit on that crocodile is because when you are over 100 lbs, you go flying off the side of the slide and land on the grass).  I did cartwheels (in my bathing suit).  We ate popsicles.  We played tag.  We threw the frisbee around.  We ran around yelling, screaming, laughing, and giggling.

Basically, I let go and played.  For three hours straight.  And at some point I felt that twinge of guilt.  I think it was in the midst of trying to show Caleigh how to do a handstand (which failed epically, by the way).  The adult in me said “It’s Monday!  Get some work done!”.  But when I righted myself after falling over from the handstand to see Caleigh’s look of glee on her face, that guilt vanished.

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Quote from the book I’m currently reading, The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin.  Although I’m pretty sure I’ve heard it long before this book so I’m not sure exactly who to give credit to.

One day, I am going to look back on these Mondays and be so grateful for the time I get to spend with my children.  I love what I do in my office.  I love the time I get to spend there.  Unlike most Canadian moms, I went back to doing what I love in the office six weeks after my kids were born (most Canadians moms take 12 months).  I don’t work full time but I do get this lovely balance between being at home and being at work.  It would be a lie if I didn’t say there are times at home when I wished I was at work.  It would also be a lie if I didn’t say there are times at work when I wished I was at home.  But 95% of the time, I am truly happy where I am at that moment in time.

And I hope that you can say the same.  If not, here’s a chart that might help.

are-you-happy1

first goal

My amazing daughter, Caleigh, is six and a half years old. She has now played soccer for two years and before that took soccer “lessons” in the form of Playball (which I highly recommend to any parents looking to not only get some activity in their child’s lifestyle but also to learn the real skills of soccer).

Each week on the way to soccer we have recited the following:

“I’m an awesome soccer player! I’m going to play hard! I’m going to run fast! I’m going to pass well! I’m going to score a goal! I’m going to have fun!”

It’s become somewhat of a tradition, much like our bedtime routine.

For two years, Caleigh has wanted to score a goal. Two years of practice both on the field with her team and at home with us. Two years of manifesting the ball going into the net and then practicing her celebratory dance. (That dance is awesome. I don’t have video but imagine her hips shaking, fingers pointing into the air, and head bobbing side to side with a big goofy grin.)

Also, though, two years of no goals.

Which, let’s be honest, is also the situation for 85% of her teammates. Not many of these amazing girls have scored a goal. Watching six and seven year olds play soccer is great because they are no longer the beehive of kids chasing the ball aimlessly BUT strategy is still not a strong point. They basically like to kick it as hard as they can and hope it goes somewhere in the vicinity of a teammate or the net.

Tom and I have never put pressure on her to score a goal – our focus has always been fun. However I don’t know anyone who has played soccer without dreaming of making the perfect shot. Caleigh included.

Last night her scoreless streak ended. With just a couple of minutes left in the game, Caleigh had the opportunity to run with the ball. With two of the opposing team members on both sides of her, she stayed focused and bam – one final kick and in the ball went.

Big cheers from everyone on the sidelines. Tom and I high-fiving one another (yes, we are THOSE parents). Caleigh with a big kool-aid grin on her face. She’d done it!

Best part for me was on the way home, she piped up from the backseat “Mom? You know what? Now that I got a goal, I don’t think it will be hard to do it again!” I couldn’t agree more. I find that in life once I reach a goal, it’s easy to do so again AND set higher goals for the future.

Bend it like Beckham!

Bend it like Beckham!

Best part for Caleigh? A stop at the ice cream shop on the way home for a celebratory cone.

Two lessons from my 3 year old Philosopher

Blake, my three year old son, has two life lessons for you this morning.

1. “Today is a new day.”  This is the statement he exclaims each morning as he comes bounding down the stairs.  He usually stands on the second or third step and declares: “Mom?  You know what?  Today is a new day.” and then continues on his merry way to do whatever his beautiful heart desires.  Each day is a new day.  It reminds me of the old saying “Yesterday is history.  Tomorrow is a mystery.  Today is a gift, that’s why they call it a present.”  Don’t get caught up in what happened in the past.  Learn from it and move on.  Today IS a new day and you can do whatever you want with it.

2.  Yelling “Yahooooo!” while running around in your underpants or on the way to the bathroom or when you find out you’re going to get to play outside in the snow is a perfectly acceptable thing to do.  Blake’s most favourite expression is “Yahooo!” and he yells it with such gusto, such excitement, such fervor.  He sees the simple and absolute joy in every moment.  Do take time to smell the flowers today.  Do take time to find a moment where you can, and will, yell “Yahoooo!”.  I dare you to not smile while doing it.

Blake Collage

Growing My Own Organic Food

There is something incredibly satisfying and rewarding about growing my own food.  Back in May I planted these tiny seeds in neat rows.  And with water, sun, soil, minerals and love (the genetic requirements for these seeds), they sprouted and grew into these unbelievable plants.  Plants that flower and then fruit the most luscious, delicious, outstanding vegetables.  Heads of greens growing in perfect bunches – spinach, kale, and lettuces – with my favourite being the aptly named Drunken Woman Frizzy Headed lettuce, a stout 8 inch mint green bunch of leaves that are tinged red at the ends.  Huge stalks of zucchini, cucumbers, and tomatoes that are growing so wildly this hot summer that they are hard to keep up with.

What I love so much about gardening is it teaches me patience.  These tiny seeds need 45 to 90 days to be ready to be picked and consumed.  It starts off slowly and at first you wonder if any of the seeds will take.  But then quietly one morning a small sprout emerges and over the following days and weeks the sprout continues to grow and flourish as long as the requirements are met.  Each day I tend as necessary – water when dry, cut back the shoots that aren’t taking, ensure good sunlight, cover them if the weather dips and risk of frost is imminent, mulch to protect young plants, and check pH and nutrient levels of the soil – and then I sit back and try to be patient.  If I miss any of these requirements (no water, for example) then the vegetables will fail to thrive and the likelihood of a good crop is pretty low.  When the fruits do come, it’s hard to resist temptation.  While some tomatoes may have turned a yellow, orange, pink, or even red colour, if I pick one too early,  it’s hard and sour.  It needs that few extra days to ripen beautifully and be perfect in flavour and texture.

As a chiropractor, it reminds me of how I take care of myself.  I’m no different than that tomato in that I have specific genetic requirements.  I need clear communication between my brain and body (chiropractic adjustments), good nutrition, physical activity, rest, play, and a clearly defined purpose so I stay on track in life.  If I lack in any of these, my health fails.  I haven’t taken proper care of myself.

The second thing I love most about gardening is that it helps me fulfill a couple of my genetic requirements.  Firstly it gives me exceptional organic vegetables or my nutrition.  Secondly it gives me time to play.  Time to play, toil, putter, and enjoy my garden.  Each day I take 15 minutes to tend to it and those 15 minutes are just for me.  My patience is rewarded when I go to the garden one fine Monday morning and the fruits of my labour have paid off.  Fresh, delicious vegetables ready for the picking.

A cucumber ready to be pickled!

Cherry Tomatoes at different stages.

My one and only sweet pepper that took.

Strawberry spinach – leaves have a slight strawberry taste to them and the fruit is great for smoothies and added to salads!

The last of my green zucchinis.  The first of my black zucchinis are just starting to fruit.

English cucumber ready to be sliced for dinner tonight.