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
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Top 10 Happy Acts of 2017

Happy New Year, from our family to yours

Got the post-holiday blues? Tired of winter already? Why not brighten your day by revisiting some of the best happy acts from 2017.

To inspire you in 2018

  1. Be a child genius: see what Aldous Huxley and Ron Howard have in common
  2. Always see with your heart: a tribute to a very special dog
  3. Swimming in a fish bowl: My eyes filled with tears reading this post again.

Happiness at work

  1. The rise of incivility in the workplace: fight stress and the impulse to snap back when the pressure is on at work
  2. How to be happier at work: learn three simple things you can do to up your happiness quotient in the workplace

Life on the home front

  1. Eight tips for achieving family life balance: struggling to keep up with your to do list at home? Read this post or watch Bad Moms Christmas.
  2. The most important decision you’ll ever make: a must read if you have kids.
  3. Make friends with fearsome creatures: I was surprised at the vociferous reaction to this post on snakes.

Just for giggles

9. What if your best friend was a robot? 2018 may be the year machines take over the world. We might as well make friends with them.

10. Check out my top predictions for 2017—hey at least I got one call right—my dogs did manage to get off the couch once this year before 11 a.m.

Happy New Year everyone! Here’s to more happy acts and the world being a happier place in 2018.

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.

The most important decision you’ll ever make

Picture of girls in newspaper
Grace and Clare on the front page of The Frontenac News

Last weekend, both girls competed in a regatta in Carleton Place. It was a long, 14-hour day, but they both did amazingly well for their first regatta and were featured on the front page of our local paper this week, showcasing their fourth place medals for the K4 500 metre race.

For years, Dave and I tried to minimize the amount of scheduled activities our kids were involved in to keep life sane, but we always knew there would be a time in our lives when our weekends and evenings would be spent chauffeuring our kids to various tournaments, races and activities.

With 4H, kayaking, hockey, and baseball we are finally there.

Life is busy and good, but it does mean we have to sacrifice our own interests for the kids, and I’ll admit, some days I resent not having any time to myself.

I was complaining this to a friend the other day, and asked her how she dealt with raising two children. She said she had felt exactly the same way, and asked the same question years ago to a friend of hers who had four teenagers. Her friend’s answer was “I just decided that this would be the best time of my life.”

In a few years, Grace will be off to university. Clare will be in her final years of high school. The day is nearing when it will just be Dave and I staring at each other over the dining room table.

So I have decided these are going to be the best years of my life. I will embrace every practice and local fair, cheer at the top of my lungs at every baseball and hockey game, and occasionally steal time for myself to keep me sane.

For I know I will never get this time back with my children. I will never be able to rewind time. I resolve to make these the best years of my life.

A tribute to my beautiful daughters on Mother’s Day

The author's daughters on a boardwalkThere was a time in our lives when Dave and I didn’t think we could have children.

Then Grace was born.

Followed four years later by another baby girl, Clare.

We always said we would be happy even if we weren’t blessed with children. I know this to be true, but I always thought of having kids like a kaleidoscope.

Without children, the wheel of life takes us on a journey of twists and turns, revealing an array of pretty patterns and colours. With them, the cylinder opens wide, to unfurl a mesmerizing display of brilliance and untold adventures. Children are not are whole lives, but they make our lives whole.

Today, on Mother’s Day, I want to pay tribute to the greatest gift in my life: the gift of being a Mom. Here is my love letter to my beautiful daughters.

Thank you Grace and Clare.

For making me laugh,
For hugging away my tears.
For making our family and table full,
For the endless hours skating on our beloved lake, and talking on our evening walks.

For filling our house with music
For infuriating me,
For doing your chores even when I don’t ask you to
For the highs and lows and all the in betweens

For your silly, stupid jokes,
For making me feel like a child again,
For telling me I’m beautiful when your beauty outshines us all
For being my friend.

It has been a pleasure and joy to watch you grow into the spirited, independent young women that you have become.

Be bold. Be strong. Be true to yourself. Live your dreams.

And know that I will always be here for you.
Love, Mom.

Girls in bathtub

Girls at a Santa Claus parade

Surround yourself with youthful enthusiasm

Last week, I had the opportunity to spend an hour at the Frontenac, Lennox and Addington Science Fair at Queen’s University. The fair is for students in grade 5-12 and this year there were 289 exhibits. Clare was the very first student to register her exhibit on global warming.

Clare didn’t win any prizes, but was rewarded in so many other ways.

Dr. Neal Scott spent a full 40 minutes talking to her about the Arctic and promised to email her pictures of polar bears from one of his summer expeditions to the Arctic with his students. The very next day we were looking at incredible photos of polar bears in our inbox.

Dr. Arthur MacDonald, one of the leading physicists in Canada, and the keynote speaker at the fair also spent time talking to Clare about her project. In his keynote address, he talked about her, saying it was wonderful to see such youthful enthusiasm and passion in students today.

Here were a few things I learned touring the exhibits:

  • Even though music has no scientific impact on the growth of plants, plants that were exposed to heavy metal music grow faster than plants exposed to classical music (go figure!)
  • An arch bridge made of popsicle sticks is stronger than a truss bridge made of popsicle sticks
  • Swell water bottles are the best for keeping water cold and were twice as effective as a regular plastic water bottle
  • Ball spin, and the dimples on a golf ball help make them fly farther
  • Beet juice is a secret weapon for melting ice, and could help reduce the amount of salt we use on the roads in Canada (although I couldn’t help thinking it would be weird to be driving on pink roads all winter)
  • Potatoes may be our next fuel source

It was exciting to see these wonderful bright minds tackle some of the world’s problems.

Then this week, I had the pleasure of spending an evening with an equally inspiring group of young people. Grace was asked to speak about her transition to high school to a group of Grade 8 students with autism as part of an orientation night.

We spent time learning how to open a combination lock (kids with autism often struggle with fine motor skills), reading schedules and talking about the challenges they’ll face making friends. Their honesty, courage in facing the unknown and often unfriendly world, and sense of humour impressed me beyond belief.

The next time you hear someone despairing about the next generation, and “kids” today who seem to be forever on their devices, I can safely say, don’t worry, our future is in good hands.

This week’s #HappyAct is to spend some time with the future leaders of tomorrow. Let their passion and youthful enthusiasm infect and inspire you.

science fair exhibit
Clare’s wonderful playdoh depiction of the earth 30 years from now when our green forests and blue oceans transform due to global warming

Desperate times call for desperate measures

funny quote on houseworkWe are living in desperate times. No, I’m not talking about Trump, Syria or ISIL. I’m talking about the division of labour in our households.

Let’s just say I was not a happy camper last week. It started last Sunday. We got home from Clare’s hockey game. Dave went to lie down and do his exercises for his knee, Clare flaked out on the couch reading a book, Dave’s Dad sat in the sunroom reading the papers and Grace retreated into her lair to do homework and spend endless hours on her iPad.

Instead of curling up with the latest People Sexiest Man Alive issue, I did laundry, drained and scrubbed the hot tub, made supper and did the dishes. At one point I asked the kids through gritted teeth for help with sweeping the floors and folding some laundry.

Help. I hate that dastardly word. It implies the sole responsibility for keeping a household running is one person’s, with the others just “helping” out.

Then Tuesday came. After a 10-hour day, I came home to find supper not started, the wood not brought in and the dogs unfed even though my children get home 2-3 hours before me and my husband was at home all day (albeit still recuperating from his knee surgery, but well enough to make a salad I reckon).

I resorted to the most shameless, childish trick of all time—the silent treatment. I admit it. I’m not proud of myself, but I was angry, tired, and frustrated. The worst part was I had this utopian hope that with Dave’s surgery, the girls would step up their game and help with the cooking and cleaning. I was so wrong.

One brisk walk and one quiet night helped restore my equanimity, but I wasn’t happy with how I reacted and worse, knew it wasn’t a long-term solution. So the next day I came up with the idea to introduce a new rewards system, “Two Things a Day”. I made a chart and explained that everyone in the house had to do two things a day to keep our house running. If at the end of the week, the chart was full, there would be a special reward.

What a change. Yesterday morning, the girls did chores around the house without being asked. We had fresh sheets on the bed, swept floors, wood in the wood box and sand for when the snow and ice comes.

It’s early days yet. But I’m hopeful my evil master plan will work, and my family will accept that we are all responsible for doing housework and keeping our busy household running and I will be a happy camper once again.

Ed. note: When Dave and I first got married, we had to take a marriage course. The minister asked, what is the biggest source of most arguments in a marriage? People answered finances, family issues. I answered housework and the class laughed. Guess what? It was housework.