”Kids spell love T-I-M-E.” -John Crudele
You are probably wondering if I had fallen off the face of the earth. Its been a long time since I dazzled you with the morbid details of my domestic goddessery. Fear not, mere mortals. I was simply in Saskatchewan (similar to falling off the face of the earth har har). It was a whirlwind vacation filled with a 9 hour drive with four children, hotboxed in a fart filled mini-van, bronchiolitis, trips to the tiniest hospital in the west, sleepless nights, bloodthirsty gift exchanges and more turkey than any human should be legally entitled to in any one sitting. We survived (barely) and I have returned to share with you the provisions which I lavished upon my offspring.
Now this is going to sound about as cliche as they come…but HOLY GUACAMOLE does time ever fly by when you have kids. Everybody says it BECAUSE ITS TRUE. Somehow the last 7 years have zoomed past at lightning speed meanwhile I swear I don’t feel a day older than fifteen. Then just today I happened upon this at Lay Baby Lay and it tugged at my heartstrings in a big way.
There is no truer truth than that. Savour these babies every second of every day. Don’t blink! Love them til it hurts. And with this in mind I present you with my top 6 gifts to my children:
1. FAMILY TIME
I am sure we are not the only family out there that struggles to fit in FAMILY TIME. Life is crazy-flat-out-hair-blown-back-busy. It seems that each year gets busier as our kids begin school, join the hockey team, expand their own little world to include peers, birthday parties and sleepovers. In light of this it is crucial to make a concerted effort to schedule some family time.
This year our playschool had a fundraiser for those student union coupon books. You are probably familiar with these tiny volumes with huge savings. I went through and was amazed at how many coupons there were for activities and outings the boys would really enjoy. I also realized that we’d have to make a real effort to make use of the coupons or the expiry would pass and the book would remain untouched. I made a list of the 12 months of the year and a family outing for each month. We will surprise the kids each month with an exciting family activity where the focus is being together and making memories. I tried to incorporate a good mix of outings that would be a little pricier (and more planning involved) with more carefree, inexpensive options. A look at our list:
January – Waterpark at West Edmonton Mall
February – Skiing (my first time too – GULP!)
March – Royal Tyrel Dinosaur Museum
April – Calgary Zoo
May – Calaway Park (amusement Park)
June – Go on a hike in the mountains and pack a picnic
July – Go to the beach
August – Camping
September – Heritage Park
October – Corn maze/pumpkin patch U-pick farm
November – Science Centre
December – Tobogganing
This year we are making some real effort to do the following:
-Make a standing date: Sundays are for family. Period. We always wake up to Daddy’s homemade pancakes, head to church and spend the rest of the day enjoying rest, each other’s company and a family meal in the evening with Grammy, Pa and GG (“Great Grandma” to the rest of yous) if possible. By delegating one day per week to focus on our brood I hope it will become a habit we can keep.
-Supper time is family time: We all need to eat so we might as well do it together each night. It is the one time of the day we can reconnect. I always love to ask my kids “What was your highlight?” I love hearing what moment shone the brightest for them out of their long day.
2. ONE-ON-ONE TIME
Anyone who grew up in a large family can relate to the perks: you are never alone, you have tons of playmates (or scapegoats depending on the situation), the camaraderie and sense of belonging to a clan is incomparable. But there is a downside: sibling rivalry. There are certain resources that are finite and you must battle tooth and nail to get your share. And one of those things is parental attention. It is tough to divvy out one-on-one when there is a whole litter of pups howling for attention. It was with this thought in mind that I came across Let’s Explore. This creative mama made her kids a year of dates for Christmas so the kids could spend one-on-one time with each parent. My Hubs* and I both loved this idea so we decided to replicate it within our own family. We tailored each date so it was something special that they would only get the opportunity to enjoy with that specific parent. For example, I can’t forsee me taking the kids to watch a hockey game anytime soon, nor Hubs painting pottery. I am sure these dates will give the kids a real sense of importance and help us forge stronger relationships with our kids while making lasting memories. I suspect this will be all the more important when our twin babies get older as it will help foster a sense of independence and self to get to do special one-on-one things with their parents.
*Not his real name.
Our Dates with Mom:
1. Go out for lunch and paint pottery at The Hot Pot Studio.
2. Go on a trail ride.
3. Pick out a new book at the book store and go out for cupcakes.
4. Go bowling.
5. Bake a fancy cake.
6. KIDS CHOICE!
Our Dates with Dad:
1. Go to a Rebels hockey game.
2. Go fishing.
3. Go golfing.
5. Go pick out a new book at the book store and go out for frozen yogurt.
6. KIDS CHOICE!
3. PARENTS UNPLUGGED
Have you ever gone out for dinner with a friend and they spent the entire night on their phone? How did you feel about this? I know this makes me feel like I am not the priority in this person’s world at the moment. I am second best, a diversion from something far more pressing. I find it rude, hurtful and distracting. I realize that this is the message I am sending to my children when I am on my phone constantly, half paying attention while I play Draw Something or update my facebook status. I decided its time to pull the plug.
This is probably one of the hardest things I’ve ever voluntarily given up. I live in a remote rural area and my phone is my lifeline to the outside world. Its a vital link that makes me feel not quite so isolated and alone. I’m not entirely thrilled about it to be honest, but I know its important and my kids are going to reap the benefits of it more than I can imagine. My hubby and I are quite “plugged in”. We have our iPhones on us at all times and it is far too easy to tune out of everyday life for an online game, texting friends, pinning some crap I will never make or checking out the latest on facebook. We are making a very concious effort to put the phones down and live in the moment. We have designated “No Electronics Hours’ in our home from the time the kids are home from school til bedtime. This means no phones, no TV and no video games. We will be forced to make eye contact, conversation and time for one another. We have also designated “Phone Free Zones” in our home. We spend the vast majority of time upstairs so we are ensuring that the phones are only allowed downstairs (ie. for business or to catch up with friends/tasks online during the day while the kids are at school). To help reinforce this we are moving all the phone chargers downstairs as well. This will probably reap tons of other rewards as well, such as getting more sleep and actually communicating verbally with my spouse!
4. MAMA VERSION 4.0
I truly feel that parenting is the biggest and most important job I will ever have. I owe it to my adorable little employers to be at my very best so I can give 110% everyday. For this reason I am striving to be my best self. I am aiming to get enough sleep, exercise regularly, eat healthier and be happier each day. I believe that to be a great mom I need to take care of myself, and that includes putting myself first some of the time. This is a very foreign idea to a lot of moms because we are naturally driven to be nurturing and selfless, consistently putting other’s needs ahead of our own. But to be a truly healthy, happy and well balanced human sometimes you need to put your needs as #1. I am focusing on my own riding this year three mornings per week. I am always happiest when I have horses in my life, and reaching goals that have nothing to do with my kids is good for my mind, my heart and my health. Devoting a little time to yourself makes it easier to be present, cheerful and energetic when you’re at home slogging through the trenches filled with poopy diapers and math homework.
5. A STRONGER RELATIONSHIP WITH MY HUBS
Now don’t get me wrong. My Hubs and I have a good relationship. We are each other’s best friend, we have so much fun together and we are loving life with our 4 boys. We enjoy each other’s company, we try hard to share the workload around here and share the same values. We have a good marriage (well, if you ask me HA!) but I don’t ever want to take that for granted. It is all too easy to put your marriage on the back burner when you are running on empty and have 97 kids to care for. Lots of time we are on opposite shifts with the babies so somebody can at least get some sleep. We often divide and conquer so we are headed different directions to ensure the kids get to hockey, birthday parties and the dentist. I also believe that your children learn how the world works from within the walls of your home. They model your behaviour, your compassion, your love and respect for one another. I want my boys to grow up to be strong men, great fathers and loving husbands, so that is what I want them to see within our home. And I want them to choose a mate that will love, support, respect and honour them. By investing in our relationship we will provide a solid backbone for our family and an example of love for our children to model as they grow.
How exactly do I plan to accomplish this lofty task? By remembering to speak kindly, show respect, love wholeheartedly, forgive openly, express my gratitude daily, laugh often and never, ever forget that being in a relationship is a choice we make (and remake) every single day to spend our brief time on this planet with that special person by our side.
I made Hubs a gift of Can of Dates after seeing this on Pinterest. I took a clean, empty baby formula can and came up with 52 fun dates for us to do throughout the year. Again I was able to find lots of coupons to use from the student union coupon book. Some of the dates were at home (so no sitter or expense such as playing board games and cooking at home), others were a moderate expense (ie. going out for pancakes and playing Mad Libs) and some were a little more costly and required planning (ie. going whitewater rafting). All in all I am hoping that the dates will remind us to make time for each other, help us reconnect outside of our roles as “Mom” and “Dad” and help us make some new memories along the way. Its also good for the kids to see that it is important to make time for those that you love and not everyday revolves around the under 4 foot tall crowd around here. I had so much fun with this project that I ended up making a few more for gifts as well. I’m interested to hear feedback if this was as much fun as I anticipate it will be!
6. SOME PLASTIC CRAP
Yup, we do Santa. I feel that childhood is such a fleeting time, lets make it as magical as we can. We do Elf on the Shelf, we sprinkle reindeer food outside, we leave out milk and cookies. And in the morning there is a whole heap of plastic junk that the kids will roll around in like Hugh Hefner in a pit of money and forget about/break in 6 minutes. It just doesn’t matter. We realize that the gifts of time and memories are going to be what sticks with them forever, but that sense of wonderment and magic of Christmas morning is something pretty special to look back on too.
PS – Check back soon as I plan to blog some of my Christmas DIY projects now that the festive season is over and blabbing about them on here will not be spilling the beans! My family celebrates Recycled Christmas so all gifts must be made/found/traded/recycled or as my sis-in-law likes to say “Gluing garbage together”. Be sure to read an article my BroMo wrote on the subject in The Scope HERE. Bet ya can’t wait for the thrilling conclusion, eh?!