Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Me, myself, and Kathleen Kelly

Every year in late August, I start channeling Kathleen Kelly from You’ve Got Mail, and waxing poetically about bouquets of freshly-sharpened pencils. Glossy duotangs! Packages of crisp white looseleaf! Brand-new boxes of crayons with perfectly-pointed wax tips! 

I can't believe I'll be taking one of the photos again soon. TIME! HOURGLASS! SOBBBBBB!

I’ve always said that if I wasn’t a journalist, there’s a good chance I would have been a teacher. Not because I would particularly enjoy the “teaching” aspect, but because I’m addicted to school supplies, and I’d love to decorate and organize a classroom. That’s mostly what being a teacher is all about, right? (I totally feel all of my teacher friends frowning at me right now.)

At this stage of my life, however, I don’t really get to buy school supplies — and I certainly don’t get the fun of stapling pretty cardboard borders around a classroom bulletin board ...

<< Continue reading in my weekly column, The Mom Scene ... >>>

Monday, August 18, 2014

A new (better) kind of camping

Alternate title for this post: Why Camping Is Totally Way Better When You Figure Stuff Out.

I wrote last week about our last (and longest-yet) family camping trip, and the ... uh ... frustrations that I felt during that trip. (Why no, I didn't threaten to push the trailer off a cliff! That would be too, too dramatic!)

We spent this past weekend away (for two nights this time, instead of three), and it was really, really fantastic. 

What made it different, you ask? ... 


We got side-by-side lots with my longtime friend, A, (we're talking from our university days, which were A LONG TIME AGO a.k.a. 2005) her husband, and two kiddos.

We stayed at one of the (many) Yogi Bear/Jellystone campgrounds, and I'd highly recommend it. Lots of stuff to do. Lots of kids and families. Plus, it was "Christmas weekend," so that's why my kids are wearing Santa hats in some of the pictures. (I haven't just lost my mind)

One of their kids is right between D and C, age-wise, so the three of them played together really well. It was awesome to have two extra sets of parental eyes as we set out on walks or went to activities, because we were all collectively watching all of them. Ahhh, reinforcements.

Once the kids were in bed, the adults got to sit around the fire or play cards (or dare each other to pee out in the open, while camping neighbours may or may not have been peeping on us). It was like having two date nights without getting babysitters, because the kids were 20 feet away in the trailers!

And you know what? I feel like I cracked the Camping Code.

If you're anything like me, this may help you ...
  • Only camp when you are with friends to make things fun (also known as the You Will Not Squabble With Your Husband If People Are Around clause)
  • Camp with friends who have kids! The kids will (mostly) entertain each other, and it will be blissful.
    Only camp for two nights, so you can shower the morning you leave and the afternoon you return home -- meaning you only have one gross-ish non-showering day (Related: Yes, campgrounds have showers, but you try finding a free one!)
  • Camp at places with tons of non-stop activities for the kids, so there is always some scheduled to look forward to and/or skip if you feel like it.
  • Find pockets of alone time. I'm very much an introvert, I work from home, and I require a certain about of alone time. EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. Even when camping with my husband, kids, and good friends. Not having any alone time has really affected my mood on previous camping trips, so this time I made sure to get a little. I volunteered to stay back and wash the dishes while everyone else went to an activity, and it was really nice. (Will you unfollow me if I admit I enjoy washing dishes? It's true.)
  • If the bathrooms are disgusting and/or far away, pee in the kids' potty. Yes, you read that right. I've embraced the potty. It made the trip significantly better for me, because I don't do well with smelly/foreign/line-uppy public bathrooms.
  • Wash up and brush your teeth before seeing a single living soul, and your mood will be 300% better. Normally when we're camping, I skulk out of the tent-trailer and run to the (disgusting) public bathroom while screaming DON'T LOOK AT ME! and hissing and flapping my cape. Pretty much, anyway. But this trip, I had Darling Husband pour the leftover hot water (from making tea/coffee) into a basin, add a little cold, and BAM! I had a little bucket of warm washing water. Once the kids were dressed and sent outside to Daddy, I could scrub up -- as well as you can with a travel bar of soap, a washcloth, and a plastic razor -- before getting dressed. I also taught myself to brush my teeth using a bottle of water and a cup. But lest you think I'm a total diva, I left the tent-trailer without any make-up on (and put it on at the picnic table). 

TLDR (too long, didn't read) version of my camping advice: 

  • Only camp with friends
  • Pee in your kids' potty
  • Don't tell the internet you peed in a Baby Bjorn potty

Happy trails!


Thursday, August 14, 2014

15 lessons learned on our first big family vacation

Other than our few memorable camping trips, our family had yet to go on a real, actual vacation. The kids had never even left the province! 

(Despite my husband being an airline employee, they have yet to go on an airplane, either, but that's a story for another day ...)

But this summer, our first real trip was to none other than Anne-of-Green-Gables-Land (Prince Edward Island or PEI, for those of you who aren't familiar with Anne Shirley). 

Of course, it was yet another camping trip. *facepalm*

We went for three days/four nights, so it was ... lengthy? But also good? But also ... three nights is a long time to camp, you know? You feel me?

We're heading out on another camping trip tomorrow, so I thought I'd better record all of this for posterity before I forget it.

Without further ado, here are the 15 lessons I learned on our longest family (camping) vacation:
  1. Research the bathrooms before going to any campground. I would have taken a photo of the bathroom stalls that didn't come up as high as my armpit, but it was too depressing. And I was probably crying too hard to take the photo.
  2. Four people in a tent-trailer (circa 1990) without a bathroom means you will walk to the bathroom -- or clean out a potty -- far, far, far more times than you would ever imagine.
  3. New playgrounds are the best playgrounds. Because they're new.
  4. The beach is amazing. Any beach. All of the beaches. Even for indoorsy people like me, beaches are awesome and make everyone in better moods.
  5. It is impossible to keep a tent-trailer's floor clean with two small children. (Hello, pine needles)
  6. Waterparks/theme parks require a lot of packing and preparation, cost a lot of $$$ to get through the gates, and sometimes cause moments of frustration, but they are worth every penny. (At least this one was!)
  7. Never go anywhere without snacks and water. Ever.
  8. When you're camping, your clothes will be perpetually damp and possibly sandy/dirty -- even if you hang them up. (Especially if you hang them up?) It's a law of camping.
  9. Vacationing with good friends -- even if it's just meeting up here and there -- is awesome, particularly when there is a "match" for each member of the family.
  10. I discovered that waking up and immediately brushing my teeth and washing my face is VERY, VERY, VERY important for my sanity. When that's not an immediate possibility, well ... yeah. Not good.
  11. Treats go a long way to improve everyone's moods.
  12. When your children are being whiny little bastards in the car, remind yourself that their cuteness frolicking on the beach and squealing their way down a waterslide will make up for it ... well, mostly.
  13. Bring a travel mug so your tea stays hot enough to drink, because there are no microwaves in the great outdoors. (Or else see #9 RE: cranky-pants)
  14. Take advantage of fun extras. We rented a four-person bicycle ($15 for 90 minutes) and had a blast huffing and puffing our way around the campground. 
  15. Vacations are awesome. Even when they're not.

All photos stolen from my Instagram account

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

SAHMs, WAHMs, WOHMs, and ... WWSPs? / Working from home while your kiddo is napping

We all know about SAHMs (stay-at-home moms), WOHMs (work-out-of-the-home moms), and WAHMs (work-at-home moms).

But I’d like to invent a brand-new acronym: “WWSP,” for work-while-they’re-sleeping parent.

 There are more and more of us WWSPs, and we really aren’t the same as a work-at-home parent -- because we don’t have childcare.

We also aren’t the same as a stay-at-home parent — because our naptimes and post-bedtime hours are busy, busy, busy with work.

 I know work-at-home parents who have full-time or part-time childcare — either in their own home, at a sitter’s, or at a daycare facility. Their child are safe and happy with someone else, and they’re free to get down to work — it just happens to be in their own home.

The trouble with working from home without childcare is that you are still in charge of your kids while you’re working — and they may or may not be sleeping!

Yes, we WWSPs can do laundry while we’re at work — it’s great! Yes, we can make ourselves a hot lunch in the kitchen and never have to pack a yucky sandwich in a rush — it’s wonderful! Yes, we have no commute, we can use our own bathrooms, and we can wear whatever we want — probably the best parts! 

But when you’re only able to work when your child is sleeping — or safely “resting” in their bedroom, at least — it puts a lot of limitations on what you’re able to get done.

<< Continue reading in my weekly column, The Mom Scene ... >>

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Who says plastic kiddie furniture has to be ugly?

I've ranted before about how plastic kiddie playhouses, vehicles, and furniture often come in really ugly colours. I have no idea why this happens, but perhaps the manufacturers are in cahoots with the makers of plastic-safe spray paint?

 This little teal, red, and beige desk — a hand-me-down from our nieces — was no exception. But the kids adored sitting there to colour and work on their letters, so I knew I had to make it look a little prettier.

Since I planned to spray-paint the desk a few different colours, I decided to take it apart — rather than just taping off certain areas. So I started by dragging the whole thing out to the backyard, and attacking it with a screwdriver. There were little white plastic caps over all of the screws, so I did my best to not lose them in the grass.

It was a really hot day, the screws were stubborn, and there was possibly (definitely) some complaining happening. I’m not really into manual labour — I just like results.

Continue reading in my weekly DIY column, My Homemade Home ... 

Friday, July 25, 2014

Stumbling out of the ‘Mommy haze’

I constantly feel overwhelmed about how much my kids need me, until the moment when it seems they don’t need me at all.

The other night, the kids and I came in from the backyard — sandy, grassy and wet with pool-water — and they ran ahead of me upstairs. I stayed back for a minute, clearing off the counters, and then headed upstairs after them. But the door to my daughter’s room was shut, and they were happily playing inside with her dollhouse.

I almost went in and told them it was time for a bath, but I decided to go back downstairs. They were playing nicely together — sharing, even! — so who I was to interrupt that?

I swept the entire main level, watered my hanging baskets, and checked Instagram. Then I just sat on the bottom step, and listened to the giggling from upstairs. Our son was a year and a half when our daughter was born, and now they are two and four. I have been in a near-constant state of frenzy for four years now.

Continue reading over in my weekly parenting column, The Mom Scene ... 

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

P is for pollen

Hey there, hay fever.

There’s nothing like a hot, dry summer day to bring out the itchy, watery eyes — and the sneezing, sniffling, and dry cough that can go along with it.

If your child has a pollen allergy, you’re no doubt going through a rough time right now. This might be the time of year when you’re first noticing the symptoms, actually. Many parents first mistake environmental allergies for a common cold ...

Continue reading my post over at Scratch or Sniff ... 

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Lighting exersaucers on fire, and other things parents dream about ...

’Tis the season for getting rid of plastic kiddie gear! We have been yard sale-ing a few times so far this summer, and seeing all of those bulky items lined up along the curbs makes me glad we are (almost) rid of all of ours.

Honestly, you don’t realize how much STUFF babies have today until you get rid of it. The swing, the bouncy chair, the activity mat, the high chair, the exersaucer (a.k.a. Circle of Neglect), the Bumbo, the Jumperoo, the Jolly Jumper, the playpen, the crib, the ride-on cars, the learn-to-walk push thingys — and that’s not even counting the actual toys!

People who don’t have kids will walk into a house of baby crap and think ‘Wow, what a lot of baby crap.’ Parents who have babies are fully aware that they’re wading through mountains of baby crap — literally and figuratively — but they also know a bouncy chair allows them to shower in peace for five minutes is priceless.

As your babies get older, your hatred for every piece of once-valuable baby gear gets more and more intense. I used to dream about lighting the ugly exersaucer on fire and watching it melt, but no, I wasn’t going to give it up until my kids could no longer squeeze into it ...

Continue reading in my weekly parenting column, "The Mom Scene" ...