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Summer Ends and Autumn Begins

As the new season starts, it is time for me to start writing again.

Most of my summer was dedicated to house renovations. I am so grateful we were in a position to get some things done, so I could not bring myself to write daily how frustrated I was that things were getting done. Looking back at the process, I see that the stress and anxiety were not entirely warranted. Everything worked out beautifully and I am extremely happy with the results.

Before

Summer Renovations

After

 Summer Renovations

I posted more Before and After renovation pictures on my Flickr account.

Not only is the exterior of the house different, the inner routines are different too. All my children are attending school now. My youngest entered into Primary (kindergarten) bravely, with her cute, sassy, creative, intelligent way that is completely her own. She adores her teacher and has a close friend in her class.

I confess the first few days were very lonely. I missed them all and longed for a few more summer days with my happy children. Sadly the weather here has turned chillier so our days at the beach are over (although we did sneak one last trip out to a local lake with friends after school once!)

Now, my tan is fading and my days are filled with volunteering at the school, working out, catching up with friends on runs or dog walks, organizing closets, cleaning and all the other things I have done even when the children are home. However now I can listen to music that does not refer to the alphabet or the colours of the rainbow while I do what I do.

In my mind, I am trying new recipes, sewing halloween costumes in advance, planting tulips, reading constantly, knitting toques & mittens, always wearing makeup and my house is spotless.

My imagination is fun that way!

I am in a good place, doing what I enjoy.

How was your summer?

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The Summer of Yes

the summer of yes

You may have noticed that once Suzanne and I posted our Summer Bucket Lists, our posts screeched to a halt. My list was long, Suzanne’s was pensive. Both of us dove into our lists to make them a reality. Note neither of our lists including blogging about our experiences! Oops!

So far there has been a resounding theme in my household, that this summer is the summer of Yes! My children hear the word “no” a lot. They also ask for a lot of screen time, so that negative response is warranted. However, when it comes to adventure, creative endeavours, trying new things, changing course and those things that would be a positive thing in our lives totally warrant a “Yes!” However there are times when chores are mounting, or I have not had enough sleep, or I am hungry or generally stressed that I have over used the word “no”. Seriously sometimes it is really hard to say yes to that super messy craft or to set up the sprinklers. Change is hard for me. If I have something set in my head, it takes me a moment (or two) to switch over. Sometimes that comes off as super negative. I am working on that.

The theme of The Summer of Yes, extends beyond the children. I am also saying yes to me. Or rather I am trying to. I am struggling to find my footing, one friend said it sounded like I was trying to force things like exercise and healthy eating, rather than flowing with, accepting it. That really resonated with me. I can feel a shift in my life occurring, I am just not sure where it is taking me yet.

So in the meantime, I am saying Yes! to polymer clay, painting, bike rides, swimming in the rain, that glass of wine (for me not the children), to quiet times reading a book or exploring some yoga. It has been a great summer so far, which reinforces that this theme of saying Yes! is totally working for us at this time.

How is your summer going?

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Just Another Summer Bucket List


Suzanne posted a super awesome Summer Bucket List yesterday. Seriously the concept is all the rage lately on Pinterest. Part of the reason I wanted to write again was so that I was accountable and did stuff that I longed to do. So I am jumping on the Summer bucket List bandwagon and will share with you our list for the summer! I made this one printable, so I will order an 8×10 print and frame it, so we have a visual to refer to all summer!

Summer-Bucket-List

  1. Go on a road trip (or two) – We have a super awesome new vehicle that will be awesome for road trips. I can hardly wait to pack up and GO!
  2. Head to the BEACH! – YAY! One of the best parts of living here is all the amazing beaches, both at lakes and the ocean!
  3. Enjoy our new Deck – Ok so it hasn’t been built yet however I am super hopeful that it will be before summer ends.
  4. Take more photos – I have been seriously slacking taking photos. We have THREE amazing cameras (including one that takes photos UNDERWATER). There is no excuse. I must take more photos.
  5. Build a Sandcastle – See #2
  6. Make a summer soundtrack – Every year we end up with a list of songs (some super cheesy, think “I can Feel this Moment!”) that become part of that summer’s memories.
  7. Make some friendship bracelets
  8. Run through the sprinklers, set up the slip & slide, put out the kiddie pool – Enjoy all that we can in the heat!
  9. Have a Silly String war on the trampoline!
  10. Go camping – Hopefully as much as we can!
  11. Star Gaze – We have a telescope that we must learn to navigate this summer
  12. Paint the treehouse – The outside is painted, but I thought it would be fun to paint the inside with the kids this summer!
  13. Go for bike rides
  14. Pick Blueberries! Mmmmmm
  15. Have a water balloon fight
  16. Host a Potluck BBQ on our new deck!
  17. Watch Fireworks
  18. Read, Read, Read – The kids will join the summer reading program at the library and i have a summer book list too!
  19. Visit a museum
  20. Family movie night
  21. Visit a farmer’s market
  22. Head to the valley for fresh veggies
  23. Try some new recipes
  24. Kids cook dinner
  25. Make Smoothies
  26. Paint rocks
  27. Go beachcombing
  28. Visit the library, often
  29. Play catch
  30. Blow Bubbles
  31. Head to a variety of playgrounds
  32. Visit an Amusement Park
  33. Have a few lazy days
  34. Make some chalk art
  35. Get together with friends – so often summer goes by and we are so into ourselves we do not hang out with many friends.
  36. Go for a picnic
  37. Head to the movie theatre
  38. Roast marshmallows
  39. Take Farley for loads of walks
  40. Most of all, have fun, relax and bond as a family

Do you have a Summer Bucket List?

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My Summer Bucket List

My Summer Bucket List.jpgWe have one week left of school…and schedules…and trying to get kids out the door on time…and eating lunch in a rush, right at noon…and I cannot wait!  I love the freedom the summer brings – I just hate how fast it always goes by.  This year, I’ve made a bucket list of sorts, so that when it is all over and done with, I’ll look back and be happy with what I accomplished.  They’re not all tangible items, but that’s ok because they’re all things I want to focus on over the next few months…and it’s my bucket list, so it can be anything I want, right?!

  1. Enjoy every. single. day. –Even if the weather isn’t perfect (which is often the case in Nova Scotia), I’m going to make a point to enjoy every day during the summer break.  I have to remember that each day is a break from the scheduled insanity that is the rest of the year for us and therefore, is truly a blessing.
  2. Make a summer reading list – and then actually read the books on it!  I always read a book here and there throughout the summer, but have never made an actual list.  The kids are old enough now that I can take a book and get in a chapter or two when we’re out enjoying the lake or ocean, so this is my year! :-)   (I’d welcome any suggestions for great summer reads, btw!)
  3. Try stand up paddling – this was something I had hoped to try last summer, but it never happened, so it’s on my list for this year.  I’m hoping we can buy one to use on the lake at the cottage and then I can work all summer on becoming an expert. Ok, so I’d settle for being able to stand and paddle on it for more than five minutes without falling off!
  4. Enjoy plenty of quality time with my kids – this goes hand in hand with enjoying every day.  With the kids growing up at what seems (lately) to be an exponential rate, I want to be sure to say ‘yes’ more often to them during the summer.  I want to work on less of “we can’t do that until I get everything else finished”, to more of, “sure, we can go to the beach!” When they’re all at the point that they don’t want to be hanging with mom in the summer, that’s when I can get all the ‘other stuff’ done.
  5. RELAX!  I love the lack of schedule in the summer, but it can get a tad stressful with the kids home every day, wanting to do different things, in different directions.  My goal this summer is to relax more (something I have to consciously teach myself to do, sadly), not get stressed out so easily (again, need to learn) and add a yoga class once (or twice) a week to my life.  I’m trying to convince my hubby to do the same!

What’s on your summer bucket list?

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Decisions, Decisions, Decisions – Building a Deck & Planning the space

Decisions,-Decisions,-Decisions---Building-a-Deck-&-Planning-the-spaceIt has been a dream of mine since we purchased our home five years ago, to build a deck off our second story dining room. It is a big project, outside the scope of our DIY scope. I am super excited to finally make this dream a reality.

I am also super stressed about the entire process. We are investing a lot of time and money so everything has to be perfect. While I think we totally picked the right contractor for the job, which eases the anxiety a lot, there are still so many decisions to make. We chose to hire an engineer to design the structural aspects of our deck. There are some tricky aspects, like how the deck is secured to the house when a large portion of our house is brick. What I think is awesome about having an engineer, is that he will be overseeing the construction of the deck , to ensure it is built to his specifications.

Now I am freaking out over what patio furniture to purchase for our space. It is a rather large deck 12″x27″ so we have space to fill. Initially I was determined to purchase a table and chair set, large enough for us to all sit to eat at. While I still think that is important, I would also love to have a seating/lounge area. I want to be able to curl up and read or knit or have a glass of wine with my honey.

Patio furniture comes in all sorts of designs and materials. I would hate to get steel framed furniture when we live next to the ocean, the thought of it rusting out quickly is frustrating. I suppose I just haven’t found the perfect set for us yet. I also feel the pressure of the stores ending the summer season before it starts, leaving even less options.

Despite all the stress involved with all the decisions, when I close my eyes and envision our future deck, I smile and feel so calm and happy. Perhaps we will not have the deck in perfect design, it will be such a blessing to have the deck built, our very own outdoor oasis to enjoy. I wish I could enjoy this process more, instead of allowing the anxiety to work through me so much.

Do you agonize over design decisions? Where did you find your outdoor furniture?

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Summer Experiences – Classic 1970′s or Not?

Summer-Experiences-Classic70s-or-notA few days ago I came across the article 10 Ways to Give Your Kids an Honest-to-Goodness 1970′s Summer. Since I was a kid in the late 70′s I read it smiled and thought heck yeah that is the summer I want for my kids …. except do I? When getting ready for this post I came across another well written post, Why My Kids Won’t Have a 70′s Style Summer. While I am not going to let the kids unlimited amount of television, I am not going to have a lesson plan for every week of the summer either.

I absolutely love the concept of expecting the children to be outside ALL DAY. However when we were kids, we had an entire neighbourhood, an entire town to explore during that day not our backyards. We have a treehouse, a trampoline and a wilderness like backyard yet it still has its limits. Our kids cannot walk to their friend’s houses to see what they are up to, then wander off to the store to buy candy then back home to eat some lunch. It is not what is expected in society today. I have just started allowing my children to walk to school in the mornings (afternoons I still go and meet them). I had full on anxiety letting them do it. What if someone hit them while crossing the road? What if some one kidnaps one of them or both? That fear has been ingrained into our psychs and honestly we are judged if we dare go against that. There is a ton of pressure to hover over our kids, never allowing them an opportunity to think for themselves, or heaven forbid make a mistake on their own. When did the stakes get so high?

I try so hard to enable my kids to figure out things on their own. I have a strong desire for them to be creative, thoughtful and imaginative children. I want them to have the freedom to make mistakes, get scared and problem solve. I remember watching Goonies with them for the first time. My children were absolutely MORTIFIED that the children in the movie, left home after their mother told them not to, ALONE; they did not wear helmets when riding their bikes; and they stayed out ALL night without calling their parents! The other aspects of the movie were not all that scary compared to having that much freedom.

Granted the flip side of all of this doesn’t really work for me either. Oh sure I stalk Pinterest, and pin all these super awesome things. And seriously I have maybe complete 10% of what I have pinned. I do love to decorate and organize parties and Pinterest is awesome for that. I cannot buy into planning our whole summer out with lesson plans (I also am not bothered if I don’t, totally respect people’s differences, do what works!) While the kids do well with a schedule, as much as I wish on every star I don’t schedule well. I do well with routine but hard core scheduling my inner rebel totally and utterly (scoffs) and does not stay on a strict schedule, ever.

Our summer will probably land somewhere in the middle, while my kids will not be drinking kool aid, chances are they won’t be acting out Macbeth either. We will go to the beach when the sun shines, we will turn to Netflix when we are tired of the rain. We will make homemade pizza and eat tons of fruit freezes and run through the sprinkler. I do hope they will have plenty of time on their own to explore, not only for their benefit but mine. Yes I am a self centred mom. This is my summer too. I want to read my summer book list. I want to swim in the ocean and camp and walk my dog. I want to watch the house renovations unfold and welcome family for a visit. I want to drink wine on my dream deck and gaze at the stars.

Where will you land this summer? Lesson plans? Free range kids?

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Six Awesome Year-end Teacher Gift Ideas (that won’t break the bank!)

6 Awesome Teacher Gift Ideas.jpg.jpgThe school year is almost finished (YAY!) and with that brings the need to get teachers’ gifts.  It seems like I’ve been buying teacher gifts forever…at least almost forever…and every year I try to come up with something a bit original and/or that the kids can have a hand in creating.  Now that I’m at the point that a lot of the teachers have already had one or two of my children, it’s getting harder and harder not to repeat ideas!  These are some of the cool ones we’ve done and also some I found searching for what to get this year:

  1. Painted Clay Pot and Annual Flower – This was a perfect idea for little ones and all said and done, it was easily under $10 per gift…when I did these, I had four and five teachers to buy for, so it really helped keep the cost reasonable. I bought the pots and paints from the dollar store and let the kids go at it all on their own, painting the pots however they wanted to decorate them.  After the paint dried, I let them plant the flowers. This is a picture of one I found from My Happy Place (ours weren’t quite as fancy!).

    Painted flower pot

    Great teacher gift idea from http://myscraphappyplace.blogspot.ca/

  2. Paint Your Own Pottery – As my first two got older, they weren’t as interested in painting dollar store pots (or planting flowers), but they loved the idea of going to the local ‘paint your own pottery’ place.  I gave them a limit of $15 and let them pick what they wanted to make and sat reading my book while they did so…a win for everyone!  I also get the kids to paint their name and school year on the back or bottom of the piece…the teachers loved that.  The only thing with this one was that it required a bit of planning, to make sure I got them in there early enough to allow for the time between painting and pick up, after they had been baked in the kiln. paintyourownpottery
  3. Bookstore Gift Cards – This is definitely one of the easiest gifts we’ve given and likely a favorite of the teachers.  It’s not all that original, but it’s great when the insanity that comes with the month of June gets overwhelming (and you haven’t allowed enough time for ‘paint your own pottery’ ;-) ) and you need something quick and easy.  I always get the kids to make their own card to stick the gift card in, so at least they’re still able to add a bit of a personalized touch to the gifts.bookstore gift cards.jpg
  4. Beach towel, Magazine & Sunscreen Wrap – I found this idea on Pinterest, from Sprinkle It With Fabulous and I think it’s so cool!  Such a simple thing to put together – a beach towel, magazine and bottle of sunscreen, wrapped in a ribbon – but a perfect gift to kick off the summer break.  If you know your teachers’ interests, you can include a specific magazine for those, but if not, I’m sure there aren’t many teachers who wouldn’t appreciate anything they can flip through while relaxing by the pool or at the beach!

    towel:mag:sunscreen wrap

    Awesome teacher gift idea from http://heidiswapp.typepad.com/

  5. Summer Relaxation Buckets – I found this awesome idea from Coffee Cups and Crayons.  She did it as a group gift from the class (which I think is a fabulous idea that, unfortunately, is never done at our school), but would also be great individually.  Grab a couple gift cards from a coffee shop and/or bookstore, a magazine, a bottle of sunscreen, and maybe a small bag of chocolate and stick them in a sand bucket (from the dollar store).   Teacher-Gift-Idea-Summer-Relaxation-Bucket
  6. Double Walled Straw Cup with Gift CardEveryday Savvy had this gem of an idea and I think it’s perfect for the summer.  Grab a double walled straw cup (Bed Bath & Beyond, Walmart,Target) and stick in a gift card from a coffee shop, or a variety of tea bags/coffee samples.  These cups are perfect for anyone on the go in the summer, fit in most car cup holders and won’t sweat in the heat at the beach!

    Affordable-Teacher-Gift-Tea-Double-Walled-Cup-e1367442054736

    Teacher gift idea from http://everydaysavvy.com/

Now I have to go and decide which of these great ideas to get for our teachers…the beach towel/magazine/sunscreen wrap and the double walled straw cups are my favorites, but I’ll leave it up to my kids!

What are you getting for your teachers this year?

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Letting Go…SO Much Easier the Second Time ‘Round!

Letting go - so much easier 2nd time!.jpgMy second oldest left yesterday morning for her grade 9 trip to Toronto, for three nights.  This is the second time one of my kids has gone on the grade 9 trip and BOY was it ever easier for me the second time ‘round!

It’s been two years since my oldest went on his grade 9 trip and I have to say…I’ve grown up so much since then! :-D  I was a bit of a basket case the first time when my son went (which, I know, will come as no surprise to anyone who knows me)…I was simply not comfortable sending one of my children off on a plane to big, bad Toronto, with people I hardly even knew, let alone trusted.  A tad melodramatic perhaps, and I didn’t actually tell anyone that (other than my husband), but it was exactly how I felt at the time.  I knew he should go and would never have had him miss it, but I was freaking out.  I even ended up booking a quick trip for myself to visit a friend in NY during the same time he was away, so I had something else to focus on besides what could happen.  (It worked, by the way!)

First thing yesterday morning, we drove our 14 year old beauty out to the airport to send her off on a plane to big, bad Toronto, with people I know only slightly better than I did two years ago…

and I wasn’t freaking out one little bit!

There was no sign of the anguish or worry I had the first time and also none in the days leading up to it.  I truly didn’t have any issues with her going on the trip.  In fact, I was even super excited for her to have the opportunity of such a great adventure.  She couldn’t wait to go and other than a little bit of anxiety about flying without us, she seemed to be very comfortable with it all.  I think my anxiety about my son going was magnified somewhat because he was a little apprehensive about being so far away for the first time…which, incidentally, lasted only until the end of the flight there, after which his apprehension was long gone (and he still talks about that trip as the best time of his life!).

On our way home from the airport after dropping her off, I actually started feeling badly for being so excited for my daughter, but feeling so much dread when my son went.  Thank goodness for my hubby…he quickly (and logically) pointed out that:

  1. Pretty much everything we go through with our kids is more difficult with the first child, and
  2. For our son, the grade 9 trip was really his first taste of complete independence from us, but our daughter is naturally a very independent soul, so even though it’s her first time going that far away, it’s not such a new thing for her to do something independent of us.

His reasoning was completely on the mark.  I think of all the things I stressed about (and still do) with our first and how different a lot of it is with our second (and subsequent kids).  I really believe that’s nature’s way of making sure you have enough sanity left to actually make it through every stage with all of your children until they leave the house…I’d have been completely off my rocker by now if I hadn’t learned to pick at least a few less battles!  And in spite of how much of a worrier I still am, I have come a long way over the past 16 years…and for that, my children and my hubby are very grateful!

Do you find most things easier to get through with your second than you did with your first?

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Fitness Friday – We got a trampoline!

fitness-friday-we-got-a-trampolineIn an effort to keep, especially the bigger kids active this summer I finally convinced my husband we should get a trampoline. So far it has been well used and the children love it.

It was getting to a point that the kids needed something else to do in the yard when sent out to play. When we were young we could explore the neighbourhood, as long as we were back for dinner! Now that is simply not possible, at least it is not happening in the city we live in.

Besides I am always looking for ways to get the kids more active and away form their screens, the trampoline is perfect. In the week that we have had it, the kids have all been on it everyday. Their friends are excited to come over and jump with them as well.

Of course there are some safety concerns. I worry most for our youngest that is not quite 5 years old. She spends a lot of time kneeling on the trampoline and is bound to get jumped on. I think with supervision and rules the benefits of the children getting outside, exercising and having fun out way the risks of injury.

Do you have a trampoline?

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Parenting a Tween

Parenting a tweenMy oldest will be turning ten this summer, and we are in the eve of her entering her “tween years”. I find it ironic that my premature baby is rocketing quickly into pre-puberty and is taller that almost everyone in her class. We have had a few talks with her about the new stage of life she is creeping towards. I want her to feel somewhat prepare and hopefully confident when the moment comes that puberty begins for her.

We have noticed a remarkable change in her over the last year. She is so much more responsible, aware and considerate. She is taking pride in her work and in her self so much more than she ever did. With this amazing positive change, we have also witness some major mood swings, acne and other signs that puberty is not far off for her.

Life feels like a whirlwind these days. I remember all too clearly wondering if some days would ever end! When the kids were small, so dependent and it felt like everyday was hard and I was dying for my husband to come home so some of that pressure would be relieved. Now the days are disappearing so quickly and the stresses are so different. Quite often my husband strides through the door and I am surprised that the day is concluding!

As my daughter shifts into her becoming a tween, I constantly worry that I am guiding her down the right paths, that I am feeding her confidence and shielding her from the “grown up” world. I worry about her school work, how she is relating to her peers, and how we will handle the moment she starts her period. The issues we are going to face are going to become more deep and complexed. And some I can take in stride, like when she noticed she does have hair on her legs and perhaps it is time to shave? I am delaying her on that one, however I did teach her to shave her underarms.

It isn’t all worrisome. Her new found interest in the kitchen is fun. We as her parents need to catch up a little and involve her even more in the preparing and cooking of our food. We share a love and passion for books that is still my favourite time of day. Right before bed we read together, we talk a bit then she off to sleep. I am so grateful we have always established good sleeping habits for the children that we continue to push with her.

As we entre into this new era with a tween I am excited and totally and utterly freaking out. I am so thankful to have a few great friends that have survived and are amazing moms.

Do you parent a tween? Any tips you are willing to share?