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september

This has been a month of lessons for me.  Long, tiring, enlightening and educational.  Among other things I’ve learned that Sebastian the crab was right, that sometimes too close is comfortable, that little girls can run fast, the harder you push the further you slide, that quiet is okay, and that one really is the loneliest number.

It’s been a long time since my first day of school.  I remember the excitement of new clothes and a real backpack, I remember holding my sisters’ hands, I remember my mom’s reassuring looks.  But I don’t remember how tired I was, how overwhelming it was to need to change my clothes after a long day at school, or how many thoughts, worries and emotions ran through my head and heart.  Seeing it all this month in the kindest little person I know is – a lot.  Not knowing what actually happens in the classroom; not understanding the context when I get half-thoughts about an ‘owl card’ or needing to work on writing the letter ‘d’ or partial french songs and a full lunch bag at the end of the day.  Wondering if it’s a good thing that so-and-so is his best friend today and then not at all mentioned for a week, wondering why he is enamored by the tough boys, wanting to ‘get’ it and be the on top of it mom.  And then seeing my two babies – at pre-school singing and learning up a storm – not a care in the world.  The two I thought would cling to me – skipping away holding hands, thriving in ballet and sportball, telling secrets and being little… people.  Don’t get me wrong – it’s all wonderful – but it isn’t unfolding the way I thought it would.

Experienced moms – cue eye roll here.

I am using some vacation time to be with the girls a little more right  now – there’s a lot on the go and I had romantic visions of being a soccer mom, of family reading time, and outings to the aquarium, of me finally organizing our office and putting up pictures in our house, of knowing every kid in Matt’s class and the parents in k&c’s school… of being like those amazing moms who get to be at home with their kids and really be ‘in it’.  Or at least of making sure they knew their ABCs.

That is not what September has been about.  ‘The seaweed is always greener in somebody else’s lake’ … that little red crab and his damn catchy little lessons for Ariel echo in my head as I stay up all night trying to work a ten hour day from 9pm-2am to make up for a vacation day spent feeling less than adequate as a parent, coach, teacher, chauffeur, cook, arbitrator, warden or cleaner.  It seems I’ve tried to take the seaweed from everyone’s lake and bring it to my little puddle – and I might be ‘in it’ but i can’t see a thing.  The vision of creating from that ever-growing list of ideas in my head and sharing with you my concoctions on this crazy little blog… squashed by the reality of too-much-stuff-to-do disorder.  The little red light flashing on my phone telling me I have mail/text/msg (yes, I still use a blackberry – please park judgement on this issue here) taunts me to waiting work while the shrill shriek of a child who has just had a favorite toy-of-the-moment ripped away from her (again) reminds me of my priorities.

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Enter my sweet husband.  For my birthday he took us all to Seattle for a weekend  Our first family get-away all in one hotel room, our first time trying out the zoo, and our hopeful attempt to bring the kids to our favorite (very nice) restaurant down there. All on the heels of him returning late the evening before from a week-away for work and me scrambling all week to stay on top of work, house, activities, school, and… life.  Totally set up for success right?

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It was amaaaazing.  If you’re ever in Seattle – go to the zoo.  You will not be disappointed.  Our kids were thrilled and their happiness lasted all the way through our amazing dinner out at our favorite place, right through a late evening family swim in the hotel pool and a viewing of Mary Poppins before all sleeping a 9 hour night in one room.  We were unplugged, and happy, and we even ran through a water fall all holding hands… it was right out of a movie.  Including the part at the end of the weekend on our way home when our three-year-old disappeared in an outlet mall.  It’s a long story – I can’t even think about it still – but the coles notes version is that she thought we’d left so she ran out of a store screaming.  All we heard was her scream and then nothing.  The silence after that screaming is deafening when you can’t find your baby.  She was no where. Finally found too far away crying and running … fast… trying to find us.  Terrifying doesn’t quite do it justice.

And so – after weeks of trying to be too many things – I stopped trying.  I didn’t push M for info about his day, or who he was hanging out with – because he just needed to do crafts.  I didn’t feel guilty for writing fast and furious emails to colleagues at work during my precious few hours “off” with my girls – because there are just too many demands at work not to right  now.  I didn’t clean up the hedge that I clipped in anticipation of the rain, or do laundry, or read to Matt, or prep tomorrow’s dinner – because I wanted to watch a show with the kids.  And ironically – they were all happy.  They went to bed early.  And for the first time in weeks I’m writing this, instead of trying to word emails.

And as I write this I know there is a lot that goes unsaid.  There is so much else that happened this month, so many hard moments, so little time.  And I find I cherish the quiet seconds in my car or in the middle of the night.  Cam doesn’t go away often (thank goodness), and it’s all doable, but two weeks in a row makes for some lonely parenting moments… and some interesting dinner decisions.  It’s only now that I get a chance to stop and realize I haven’t peed in 8 hours, or eaten the bagel from breakfast that’s still in the toaster.  I need the solitude to think and it’s only then that I realize none of this is bad, or hard really … it’s just a series of lessons – getting us ready for the next set of adventures.  Some months are ‘coaster’ months – easy, uncomplicated, comfortable.  Those are awesome days.  But I think it’s months like September that really challenge us to step up and look at life and figure out what the heck we’re doing, and what comes next.  I’m okay with that.  Typical Virgo.

Adios September … see ya next year.

1tired

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why?

I work in branding. But more specifically in ‘experience’. What brings you back to your favorite coffee shop time and time again? What website do you love surfing (and why?) what bank did you choose to stay loyal to (and why?)  What is the experience you want, expect and need?

At work we get to do a lot of research. We use stats as a starting point and then dig from there. If 3000 people acted in a certain way in one place in one day – we want to know who, where, and most importantly why?  A lot of the work I get to be a part of is around social change – motivating people to change their behaviour.  So instead of buying something or voting for something or clicking through something on the web we want to understand what drives people and how we can positively impact their decisions with the right information at the right time.  I love that part of what i do.  Getting to try to understand people a little more. What drives you? what’s most important to you? what music do you like? what are you afraid of? why do you choose that option? when are you happiest?  With all those answers we can build a message, on a platform that really speaks to you.  But you already know all about this because you are on Facebook and see the eerily targeted ads in your feed, and amazon hunts you down with special deals on what you have been secretly thinking about lately, and even Shoppers Drug Mart reminds you when your favorite shampoo is on sale.  Sometimes it goes a little too far.  Sometimes we forget to ask “may i please” before we hunt through to understand the why.  And that’s not cool.  Still – I find the “why?” question very interesting.  And never ending.

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Which is why i find the questions I get at home so ironic these days. My kids are ‘why’ kids. If you don’t know what I’m talking about – just count yourself lucky and read a different blog post tonight.  If you do know what I’m talking about … holy moly… grab a glass of wine and help me out here – how can i possibly answer all these whys?

Today I was asked (insert massive gasp of air here): why asphalt is black, why some drivers are too fast, why some milk jugs are cardboard and others are plastic, why we have to wash our hands so often, why llamas are sheered the way they are, why when one has a cold one’s nose is often full (and a whoooole lotta questions followed that one), why we are ‘sinners’ (learning a new prayer in school), why killer whales are also called orcas, why sharks sometimes eat people, why if my birthday is before daddy’s i am not older than daddy, why dolphins are so smart, and why sleep helps our brains … to name a few.  Sometimes I answer “I don’t know” and that is almost the biggest insult I could throw their way.  “Just try Mommy! Think! Why?” Like I’m not tuning in to my actual brain and somewhere in the depths of being I am aware of how to answer the question about why farmers take the baby eggs away from chickens for us to eat before they become baby chicks. ahh!  I don’t know … and now that you’ve made me think about it – we are no longer eating eggs.

I do admit that I love the “why” question. because with it comes infinite possibility. and often very imaginative answers. Rather than jumping in with the answer, or correcting the wrong, I have started to ask why a little more at home this week …

  • to my daughter who can’t seem to count to 10 in order – ‘why does the number 11 come after 6?’.
  • To my daughter who you might have heard screaming in our yard yesterday  ‘why are you screaming like a banshee?’
  • To my son who takes out everything and never puts it away – ‘why do you have all the blankets and pillows in the whole house set up that way?”

It’s crazy.  It forces me to slow down. Instead of assuming I know what’s going on and impatiently needing to fix things so that they are right and orderly – the answer to ‘why’ often puts me in a whole different place.

  • ‘because there are 6 pieces of treasure and 11 pieces of gold … on Jake (favorite tv show)’
  • ‘because I need you to (s)nuggle me. I’m cold and i can’t find my sweater. (and at that I discovered a fever)’
  • ‘because I’m making a bridge across the water for explorers searching the sea for blue whales and i don’t want anyone to drown’.

huh.

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At work I ask ‘why?’. A lot.  It’s my job.  And it’s cool to see how the answer can completely shift the way we attack a problem.  Instead of going at it the way we assume is right – we look at it from a different perspective.   At home I don’t make the time to ask why enough – but  i will try more now.  I love the answers.  Sometimes I dread being asked the question – with it comes a conversation I’m seldom prepared for.  But that’s the beauty of it I guess.  Why?  It’s such a good one for putting a whole new perspective on what I thought was right.

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kid kreativity

When i was a kid i was not very good at spelling.  As an adult I’m perhaps a little bit worse.  i blame spell check.  I remember growing up that some people thought you became a good speller by reading more.  I always wondered why anyone would ever think that.  I read quite a lot, and my parents always read to me. For me, the words didn’t matter – it was the ideas that I hung on to.  I enjoyed stories, and reading – very much.  But instead of learning excellent spelling and vocabulary – the words skipped into thoughts and the sentences all swam into paragraphs for me – falling away and building ideas like towers to new worlds… until I was literally inside the story – living the adventures of the protagonist.  Is that weird? please tell me I’m not alone here.  i guess i was a pretty imaginative kid – and i am forever grateful that my parents nurtured that in me.

Our kids are all pretty creative – at this point we see it the most in Matty.  The stories he tells, plays he puts on, and artwork he creates all jump right out of his imagination and we couldn’t ask for a better way to see him work through all of his ideas.  Today, while the girls napped, he made an ocean with sand, a coral reef, a sea turtle and fish.  Then he made a boat with men fishing, and then a dock for the boat to tie up.  The only time he asked for attention during that 30 minutes of creativity was for some tape so that he could connect all of his creations.  To you it might not look like much – but to me – this is my 4  and 3/4 year old creating a masterpiece.  The best part was when the girls woke up he told them all about it like it was a story that had come to life on his paper … and they played sea turtles and pirates and fisherman for 30 minutes. so cool.

I try to bring art and creativity in their lives every day.  Sometimes I’ll be honest – the most creativity they witness are the new words we make up to express our profound frustration at speed, behaviour, or pitch of one of their siblings in a given moment.   But we try the good stuff too – either by making sure our crafts cupboard is stocked so our amazing nanny can work her creative wonders with them, or by making play dough, baking, drawing or acting our random dinosaur plays each night.  I dream about opening up a space for kids to learn and be creative in our area.  I won’t ever do it because I don’t have the patience.  As much as I love creativity I love discipline and order too … nothing like a control freak creative with a secondary passion for manners and respect to get your kid going eh?  I love the people who have had the courage to open spaces like that though, and we often find ourselves back in Vancouver at places like Collage Collage.     I also can’t wait to bring our girls to their very first Four Cats art class next week.

I read a lot. Still.  And as the marketing and branding books I’m used to enjoying seem to be fading into similar messages that lack ingenuity and original thought – I’ve turned to enjoy books about creativity more and more. Especially about how to fill our home with fun, art, and limitless imagination.  In case you’re looking for some similar inspiration – here are a few of my recent favs:

1. The artful parent by Jean Van’t Hul. She writes a great blog the artful parent  where she not only chronicles her own creative adventures with her kids but she uses her background to suggest positive ways to encourage kids  – there are no gorrrgeous projects – just raw creativity and messy fun (like don’t say “wow that’s beautiful”  or “what a great house!” – instead “wow – what a work of art – tell me about it!” or “that must have taken a long time – look at all the colours you used” because it encourages the right thoughts… as opposed to encouraging ‘pretty things’ you are encouraging original and creative thinking… huh.)

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2. I really like Lorena Siminovich – she’s a beautiful childrens’ book author and illustrator.  She sells creative pieces for kids and homes – and has launched her first book about craft projects for kids called Petit Collage. The steps in this hot-to book are easy enough to follow with 2 or 3 kids in front of you – all wielding scissors and crazy ‘whaddoidonext?!’ faces.  (please tell me that’s not just my kids).  Some of the projects are beautiful.  some are meant to be and end up as messed up fun all the same.

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3. My third favorite right now is actually a cook book – I LOVE to cook with our kids.  Tonight C was at hockey … so I asked the kids what they wanted for their first week of school next week for snacks … and we made all of their requests.  cheese crackers, granola bars with chocolate chips, brownies, and oatmeal cookies.  I got two of the recipes from The Supper Club by Susie Cover.  She makes things that are sort of healthy, that kids actually enjoy, and that are easy to make with kids.  As a family we love her grilled chicken tacos, granola, mini muffins, chinese chicken salad, and her roast beef sandwiches.  I can’t wait to try her soft pretzels (page 48)!

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Finally – I love reading blogs of creative parents – too many to recount here – but one great one is from Tom Hobson who pushes me to think beyond what i would normally think is ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ for my kids regarding age-specific play (read his thoughts on glue guns).  I really enjoy a lot of mom bloggers – most of the time because I find bits of myself in their stories or ideas … but I have to say it’s refreshing to see bloggers who think in a totally different way than i do … I love the gold jelly bean – for cute creative ideas to do with kids that I wouldn’t think of.

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Okay – that’s it from me tonight … hope you get to do something fun and creative tomorrow – and I’d love love love to hear if you have a favorite creative book or blog that you enjoy!