Ever happy in Toyland

Girl and mother in funny hats in toy store

“Toyland, toyland
Little girl and boy land
While you dwell within it
You are ever happy there”

Lyrics from the holiday classic “Toyland”

The best way to discover your inner child is to spend an afternoon in a toy store.

Years ago, I worked for a company called Discovery Toys. I was their writer, so my job was to play with the toys and write all the catalogue and promotional copy.

Their slogan was “Play is a child’s work”.

Play is how children learn, but as adults, play serves a different purpose. Toys have the power to transport us back in time to when we didn’t have a care in the world. Our imagination immediately gets reawakened and once again life is full of possibilities.

Play allows us to forget our current cares and troubles. We can reinvent ourselves for a moment in time and be whoever we want to be: an astronaut, a ballerina, or a warrior.

Perhaps the greatest gift of all, play allows us to see the world through a child’s eyes again.

This week’s #HappyAct is to pay a visit to Santa’s toy shop, or MasterMind Toys if you can’t make it to the North Pole. Here are some pictures Clare and I took on a recent excursion to MasterMind. And if you happen to be in Quebec City, be sure to check out toy store Benjo—a magical place.

Girl and hockey game
Clare beating me at table top hockey

Girl and elephant

Girl and giraffe

 

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The crappy act revisited

Dog with sunglasses
Our one dog now, the Bellediot–beautiful but stupid as a bag of hammers

My life is starting to resemble a country song. We had to put my old dog down, two of my appliances died, our car was in the shop and we got a ticket for parking in front of a hydrant, bills are piling up and to make matters worse, I’ve had a throat infection that’s only getting worse which means I’ll have to go back to the doctor for another appointment.

As Dave says, there are weeks when the happy act should really be The Crappy Act. It’s made me reflect on how to keep chipper when life gets you down. Here are a few things that work for me.

  • Taking care of myself. Easier said than done, but I’ve always been a huge advocate of listening to your body, and when I’m feeling poorly I try to slow down and take care of myself. Note to self: make another doctor’s appointment tomorrow.
  • Being grateful for what I have instead of what I’ve lost. I loved Murphy our old dog, but we still have our Great Pyrenees, Bella, the stupidest dog on the face of the planet. Even though her various nicknames range from Bella the Fart Smeller, to Bella the Drywall Eating Dog, to the Bellidiot, we still love her and I’m grateful my big fluffy polar bear of a dog is still here to greet me every night when I come home.
  • Remembering that no matter what challenges we are facing, there is someone sitting next to me dealing with far more serious issues. I was reminded of this twice this weekend.
  • Knowing this too shall pass.
  • Oh, and chocolate and ice cream don’t hurt either (and are cool on the throat).

Hope everyone else had a happy week….and thanks for the kind words about Murphy. Our gentle giant is in a happier place.

Feel your heart fill with pride

Girls with silver medals

Any parent knows there is no greater joy than watching their child excel at something.

This past weekend, Clare competed in the Ontario provincial kayaking championships in Welland, Ontario. She qualified for two races: the K1 1000 metre individual developmental race, and the K2 500 metre competitive final with her kayaking partner, Parker Friendship.

This is only her second year competing with the Sydenham Lake Canoe Club so the fact she made it to the provincials is pretty amazing.

I’m not one of those crazy parents that loses it at sporting events, even though I do yell and cheer loudly at hockey games, much to my kids’ chagrin.  But when that horn blasted and Clare and Parker plunged their paddles into the water and powered their boat in perfect synchrony to the front of the pack, my heart started racing too.

It was the first time I experienced an actual physiological reaction watching my child compete, and my heart didn’t stop racing until they crossed the finish line in second place. Tears filled my eyes and my heart filled with pride. It was a moment to remember.

Congratulations to Clare and Parker on a phenomenal race and their silver medals making them #2 in all of Ontario. We couldn’t be more proud of you! Special thanks to Helen Parfitt and Roger Labbe who pour their heart and soul into making the Sydenham Lake Canoe Club the welcoming, supportive and successful club it is, and Rhiannon Murphy for being such a wonderful coach and mentor to all our kids this summer.

Kayakers on podium

Have a mother daughter paint nite

Painting of me

Last week, Clare’s school organized a paint nite, hosted by Salmon River studios in Tamworth.

Our project was to paint a portrait of each other. Our instructor Gabriel had us sit across from our partner, then showed us the technique of drawing the person first, then using a pastel outline, finished by light watercolours to complete our portrait.

Since most people who aren’t artists feel inhibited by portraits, Gabriel had us do a short three-minute warm-up activity. We had to stare at our partner and do a pencil drawing of the person without looking at our paper. The results were pretty funny, but I actually liked my blind pencil sketch of Clare better than my portrait of her.

It was inspiring to see the creativity in the room and the final portraits after the hour was over. Some of the kids used bold colours, painting their parents like cartoon characters or caricatures. One Dad painted his daughter as an amazing fairy-like Jedi. There were some incredible likenesses, and all were very special.

One tip Gabriel shared: when drawing portraits, there’s a tendency to make people’s eyes too close together. The distance between the eyes should be the same as the width of the eye itself.

I spoke to Gabriel afterwards, and he said while some instructors follow a very prescribed approach, he prefers to provide just a few simple instructions, then give people’s creativity full reign.

I especially loved that Clare painted me more beautiful than I actually am.

This week’s #HappyAct is to have a paint nite. I should add that while this is a perfect parent/child activity (perfect for Mother’s Day!), this would be a great activity for any teambuilding event, birthday party, or girls fun night.

More about Salmon River Studios: Located in Tamworth, the studio runs summer arts camps for kids, Sunday afternoon pottery workshops for all ages, school programs and more. Check out their website and sign up for a course today.

Drawing of girl
My pencil sketch of Clare

Group paint nite photo

 

Conversations with an 11-year old

reflection of girl in window

My 11-year old is one of the funniest, coolest people I know. She’s more comfortable in her own skin than most 40-year olds.

Here’s a compilation of conversations with Clare over the past week.

—————–

This kid Austin in her class tells her he’s planning a big summer blowout. It’s in 2019. Austin brought in a list for all his classmates to bring to the party. The list went something like this: bow and arrow, swan and pink flamingo floaties, Sunny D, chicken nuggets, and beer. Did I mention they are 11? Now that’s a party.

—————–

We’re driving in the car one morning, and there’s a news story about a NHL player who’s back playing after being injured. Now when injured players return, the NHL allows them to wear “red shirts” which means no contact.

I say to Clare, “Wow, isn’t that fantastic—I think that’s new, I don’t remember the NHL doing that before.”

Clare says, “What’s new for you Mom is 10 years old. What’s new for me is a few months old.”

Then a jingle comes on the radio for an adult fun store in Kingston. She starts singing along, then stops and says, “It’s really sad I’m singing to this right now.”

—————–

I ask her what time we need to be at her volleyball tournament. I say, “Okay, let’s leave at 7:45.”

She says, “No, let’s make it a quarter to eight.”

—————–

Clare asks if we can watch a movie. I say, “Can I choose the movie for a change?” Clare says, “As long as it’s not a chick flick or some old person’s movie.” Her favourite movie right now is Deadpool.

Her favourite line is “That’s why Regina rhymes with fun.”

—————–

She recites the full lyrics to Salt n Pepa’s Shoop at least three times a day.

Bright as the sun, I wanna have some fun
Come and give me some of that yum-yum
Chocolate chip, honey dip, can I get a scoop?
Baby, take a ride in my coupe, you make me wanna
Shoop shoop ba-doop (Baby, hey)

—————–

Then she lays a Yo Mamma’s joke on me.

“Yo Mama’s sooooo fat, I took a picture of her last Christmas and it’s still printing.”

—————–

I’m trying to convince her we should visit the Diefenbunker museum when we’re in Ottawa.

She says, “Mom, I don’t learn about history. I make history.”

—————–

It’s 9 o’clock and we’re playing HQ Trivia. Clare is sitting beside me. I bug everyone in the house to join in so we have a shot at winning. Third question, and I know the answer, but Clare is yelling in my ear the wrong answer and I tell her to be quiet.

She leaves in a huff and says, “You know Mom, sometimes with you, it’s damned if you do, damned if you don’t.”

She knows me so well.

At least it’s nice having a kid in the house that will actually talk to me.

This week’s #HappyAct is to have a conversation with a cool 11-year old. Mine’s free if you want a kid for a week.

Clare shooting a bow and arrow
Clare practicing her archery for Austin’s big summer blowout

Enjoy a sick day

Dog on couch
My faithful companion on sick days

Last week, I came down with a nasty cold Clare gave me. I ended up taking two days off work, uncharacteristic for me.

This may sound crazy, but I actually enjoy sick days. Sick days are the only days of the year that I give myself complete, unfettered permission to do absolutely nothing. No chores, no laundry. No dishes. No phone calls. No social media. No emails. Nothing, except rest.

This particular virus left me weak and sleepy, but hungry, so I still cooked. I slept. I read in bed (unheard of!). On day four, I worked a little, listened to podcasts, but mainly slept and rested. I didn’t even watch TV.

Murphy and Bella were by my side the entire time, although I did have to fight them for the couches.

This week’s #HappyAct is to enjoy a sick day. Take one day and give yourself permission to do absolutely nothing.

Ed. note: Clare and I are still dragging and have been debating this question: would you rather be very ill one day, but then recover quickly, or have a long, drawn out, but milder illness? I said the latter–she says the former. What do you say?

Eight tips for achieving family life balance

elephant balancing on a ballForget work life balance. Some days I think the biggest challenge is family life balance.

In the past six weeks, we’ve had friends or family over three weekends, went to a friend’s cottage one weekend, attended two country fairs, one regatta, one baseball tournament, shuffled our work schedules so we could be home during the day for two service provider visits, and chauffeured kids to various camps, practices and friends’ houses.

Some days it’s exhausting, but most of the time it’s busy, fun and manageable. That’s because we learned the importance a long time ago of always scheduling in down time.

Here are eight tips that we’ve found helped our family maintain a healthy balance on the home front:

  1. Keep one weekend a month completely open. Dave made me promise this years ago and it’s been our saving grace ever since.
  2. Don’t feel pressured to spend time doing something you don’t want to do. If I don’t have the time or feel like baking for a potluck or school fundraiser or dinner party, I’ll just buy something. Same thing with our house—our friends and family know they are always welcome to drop by and there will be a cold beer for them, but we don’t spend hours cleaning or tidying up—they take us as we are.
  3. Keep things simple when you do entertain. I’d rather spend an extra hour with guests chatting on the dock than cooking and cleaning on a beautiful summer’s day, so we often serve what’s simplest and easiest.
  4. No matter how many chores or things need to get done, carve out one hour a day for down time.
  5. If your child asks you to play cards, read, or play a game, say yes. I remember when the kids were little, they would always want to curl up in our big green chair and read after supper. I’d leave the dishes in the sink and read with them. The dishes could wait.
  6. Know what time is most precious to you and protect it. For me, it’s the first few hours of the day on the weekends. I can face just about anything as long as I can enjoy my coffee and read the papers before jetting off somewhere.
  7. Say no sometimes. Where we live, our kids often want us to run them into Kingston for something. It can kill up to half a day since we live north of the city. If we’re really busy the rest of the weekend, and it’s not something important, I’ll just say no.
  8. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. When Dave had his knee replaced last fall and I was juggling kids, work and running him to appointments, I asked my neighbour to take him to one of his doctor’s appointments—it was a huge help.

This week’s #HappyAct is to share your tips for finding the right family life balance. What are some of the things you do to keep your non nine-to-five life in a happy state of equilibrium? Leave a comment.