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Situational Explanation

I’m not a fan of excuses or complaints.  I think both are a waste of breath and precious time.  There are, of course, exceptions to every rule and to every sweeping statement.  One of my staff once pointed that out to me while clarifying her reasons for not having met a deadline – “I’m not complaining or making excuses” she promised “I’m just providing you with a situational explanation as to why this is late”.  I liked it.  It stuck.  So here’s my situational explanation for the week long lag between blogs lately:

Four weeks ago our son got one of those colds- not a little sniffle – the up all night, big cough, wet eyes, feel bad for me I can’t breath or eat or play cold.  My husband quickly caught the same bug and within 5 days so did our daughters.  Their cold got much worse and it turned out to be RSV causing bronchiolitis. Nice. Because of their young age and small size it became very dangerous to their health.  Fast forward two hospital visits, three prescriptions for the next two months, orders not to expose them to anyone sick (ie. no starbucks or mall) for three months, and about 2-3 hours of sleep average a night and we are at last Friday.  A lovely bath for one babe turned terrible when a stray hot kettle and feisty baby resulted in a hospital visit for 2nd degree burn on two fingers, and then back again the following night for when she ripped her bandages off in the middle of the night.  By Monday both girls were sick with a new issue; lets just say I changed 18 diapers the first day and 22 diapers the second day.  A diagnosis of rotavirus and various other side effect issues and my girls, who still have smiles despite their waning size and waxy colour, are just like newborns again – minus the lovely newborn smell.  They are up all night, eating when they can, in need of someone’s arms at all times and crying out for the various pains.  Did I mention they’re also teething?  So… no excuses – but that’s our situation and the reason I’ve not had the time to sit down and write – a new blog to come soon though, I promise.  In the mean time I thought I’d share the top 5 things I’ve experienced as a mom of sick little ones that have made my days more special and enjoyable… I’m sure you have been or know someone in a similar situation and extending any one of these might just evoke gratitude beyond your expectations:

1. The food drop: my colleagues did this when the babies were first born, and a couple of friends and my amazing mom have been thoughtful enough to do this for us in the past few weeks.  A drop off of food that just needs a quick reheat. No visit. No need to get out of sweat pants or shower.

2. The coffee visit: Again – Hurray for wonderful friends. A walk turns into a coffee run and during a time when I can’t take my kids inside the coffee shop that grande mocha that a pal walks up with is like a ray of sunshine in an otherwise grey and tired January

3. The no-door bell rule: I think this should be a general rule of etiquette when visiting any household with kids under three but it is especially important when sick kids come into the picture.  You don’t know when someone is catching a precious few minutes of sleep – so don’t be a ding dong visitor. I’ve heard this from lots of moms; knocking is so appreciated.

4.Text-in: A check-in that doesn’t require the investment of time (on either end).  Rather than a lengthy call drop a quick text to let the person know you’re thinking of them – this requires a one-handed 15 second reply and still lets the person know you are thinking of them and you care

5. The gift of sleep: I wasn’t aware of the need for this one before having the twins, our first was pretty great with sleep.  Now, when my mom offers to walk the girls for an hour so I can sleep, I run to the couch and don’t even remember closing my eyes.  Heavenly.  I will definitely pay this one forward to friends in the future, now I get it.

When I re-read this post it could be taken as both excuse and a complaint – my apologies if it reads that way-  my intent was to explain the down time between oh-so riveting posts, and that I look forward to writing about making each day special again very soon.

In the mean time, I’d love to hear your tips on getting through the winter blues ill babes, or acts of kindness you’ve received that pick you up with sick kiddos.

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Meat and Potatoes

In our household the dinner table is the one place and time where we all stop to take a breath together and enjoy a bit of uninterrupted time as a family.  Our days are busy and its often the only chance we get to catch up all together.  Like many of you, because we hold dinner time as a special time, we like to invite people to join us on occasion and have a big feast together.  It is one of my very favorite things to see people at ease around our table, enjoying each other over food my husband or I prepared.

We are trying to instill table manners with our son from a young age so that it becomes second nature to him, but at the same time we want meal time to continue to be a fun time that he doesn’t shy away from.  So from no tantrums and trying everything from his dinner plate once to dipping oatmeal cookies in milk for dessert we strive for that elusive balance of the fun but polite kid at the dinner table.

I’ve had many conversations over the years about dinner table etiquette with people more wise than I – and while we have our own set of rules – the following seems to be the meat and potatoes of dinner table etiquette according to the experts like etiquette daily  and housewife bliss (with a bit of my own bias thrown in there):

1. Gratitude:  Appreciate the person who cooked for you at the beginning and end of the meal.  This means more than a “mmm” or a “great meal – thanks” – it also means waiting for them to sit down before you dive in to the food (unless they ask you to start without them) and waiting to leave the table until everyone is done.

2. Chew chew chew. Swallow. Talk. : No one likes see-food.  It doesn’t matter if you’re four or forty, enjoy the food in your mouth, then share what you have to say.  It makes for a more enjoyable experience for everyone around you and people can concentrate on what’s coming out of your mouth rather than what’s in it.

3. Technology be gone: I’m hard and fast on this rule.  No smart phones at the table.  Checking email, texts, playlists, apps or anything else at the dinner table sends the message that the people you are sitting with are not as interesting and important as you are.  It’s rude.  This also applies to game devices for kiddos. It’s one of the biggest reasons family dinners fall apart into tiny one person islands of self absorbed consumption. If you are awaiting an urgent call, let the host know (even if its just you and your spouse) and apologize, having your phone discretely beside you.

4.Try it: This is one of the toughest ones for picky eaters like me.  Being a gracious guest means trying what your host has prepared, you might just be surprised and find a new favorite.  My tip for this one is to serve yourself a smaller portion to start, that way if you dislike it, there is only a little bit left on your plate ;)

5.Shop Talk: Be aware of who is at your table.  It might mean avoiding topics that are noninclusive to certain guests.  In our case at our family dinners it often means catching up a little bit on our day and then including our son in on conversation topics to encourage his participation in a positive way at the dinner table.  Also be wary of the old taboos with company of religion, politics and family drama.

I’m sure you have different table etiquette and would love if you’d share yours with us.  I’ve heard everything from cutlery together to wide apart when finished a meal (Emily Post says together and handles facing 4 ‘oclock), children should be seen and not heard to kids get a free “graze” pass – we all hold different aspects and levels of dinner table etiquette dear – but we should all be aware of the basics.

As for our meat and potatoes – last night we had great lamb chops, I wanted to try a new recipe and found one on a favorite site; recipe finder. We enjoyed them with fresh raw carrots, broccoli with the ever enticing cheese sauce and scalloped potatoes.  And the reward for our little man trying (and enjoying) lamb for the first time?  Strawberry Grenada – the snow outside made me think of a snowy dessert (this one is also fun to make with kids if you are so inclined…)

prep time: 10 minutes     total time: 5 hours 10 minutes

ingredients: I used 1 cup fresh strawberries, 1 cup simple syrup (1/2 cup sugar boiled with 1 cup water), and 1 lemon zest and juice but you can choose any assortment of fruit you enjoy and sub orange juice or pinaple juice for the simple syrup

  • blend up your fruit with the liquid so that there are no chunks of fruit
  • run through a sieve if you don’t want seeds or small pieces
  • pour mixture into a non-conducive pan (like glass or Pyrex) and freeze, covered for 5 hours
  • shave off with a fork into small dishes for a delicious way to end your meal – even on a cold winter night

It just comes down to being nice

I started this blog because I wanted to write about how each day can still be made special for our families and friends despite our busy lives.  I believe that it’s in the details.  The extra care and ten minutes you put into a meal, the homemade thank you, the creative activity you think up on a rainy day.  Its about thinking of someone else first.  I also believe its about how we treat one another.

I was raised in a strict but loving household where values are held high.  Over the years I’ve felt increasingly self conscience to emulate those values and etiquette at times for fear that my actions appear over the top.  I’ve had a lot of conversations about this over the past number of months as to whether it is a generational difference or a shift in the overall mindset of people in general.  From serving a big homemade feast, to a hand written note, to expressing gratitude and respect, it seems life has changed into a gear that often doesn’t allow for those very details that make each day special, so rather than coming across with the intended sentiment of love and care, there is often a lingering unspoken question of pretense versus a genuine act of kindness.  Rest assured, as our family and very best friends know, in my case it’s not only genuine, but filled with passion.  I live for this stuff.  And I would even argue that values, etiquette and acts of kindness are making their way back “in”.   I will be their biggest proponent, and seek to share with you along our journey wherever we see those sentiments making a concerted comeback in the main stream.  Today I have three examples to share:

ONE:

Recently we’ve seen the ICBC ads on television encouraging drivers to give “a wave” of gratitude when someone lets you in – simple act of respect that the insurance corporation understands will go a long way to reducing road rage and resulting accidents.  They have also found it has increased the amount chatter about appropriate driving etiquette through their online campaign; “Lose the Attitude. Gain the gratitude”. The corporation raising awareness about the wave has made for many a happy motorist, finally getting a little appreciation again for the small acts of kindness that make ‘getting there’ all that much easier.

TWO:

You may have seen a recent commercial, facebook post or news story in Canada on People for Good.  The drivers of the campaign are simply asking Canadians to perform random acts of kindness in the effort to change a day, an attitude, a moment in someone’s life and ultimately to make Canada a better place.  Small things each day that can make life a little bit better.

THREE:

At values.com the not for profit Foundation for a Better Life (before you roll your eyes: non religious/non political) seeks to embrace values – what ever you value – and to share them.  The sentiment is that people who live and share their values can help make our world a better place.  It doesn’t pass judgement on what should or should not be valued it just stops us in our tracks and asks us to think about the word, and what it is we really do value.  Then to live out those values.

To me these examples are vastly different but all roll up to the same thing: it just comes down to being nice.  Good etiquette, showing courtesy, random acts of kindness, living our values – its about looking to give back to a world that we all take from every day.   And we can all do that.

PS: I took the quiz at values.com and was surprised with the huge number of values I came out with – I have a lot of work to do! Among them were: love,compassion, honesty, appreciation, loyalty, optimism, innovation, determination and passion.  What are yours?