Great fun

“Childhood is a short season.”    ~Helen Hayes

“When we protect children from every possible source of danger, we also prevent them from having the kinds of experiences that develop their sense of self-reliance, their ability to assess and mitigate risk, and their sense of accomplishment.”    ~Gever Tulley

My sisters and I shared wonderful experiences in the 1970’s. This was a decade where children could be free. When the sounds, tastes and smells were wonderful with a heightened sense of joy. We did not have parents or grand parents running after us, urging caution. We were not fearful or worried. We skipped and jumped for the pure delight of it.

Maybe I was lucky to have an unusual family. Perhaps bordering on being hippies? Maybe my parents were too young to know better. But somehow, by luck or by sheer cleverness, we managed through without any serious injuries. In fact, we thrived.

I can remember, so often, being told to “go play”. Which, (I now know from being a Mother), was also code for “leave me alone for 5 minutes”.  But, we didn’t know that then. We took the directive to heart. Go play, have fun, be children. Do what kids do best, live in the moment.


Imagine the joy of riding on a plastic duck?

Children_fire_marshmallowsChildren_camp chairs

Standing free and clear on those old school camp chairs? Cooking your own marshmallows over a fire?


Have you ever cracked open peanuts with the back of a hatchet?

Children_merry go round

Planting your feet to keep from sliding off the merry-go-round?


Trampolines with no cages around them?


A slide that was 4 times as big as you?

I guess we weren’t the only family who experienced the 1970’s in this way:

I am this…

On the Sunday of May long weekend, seven of us girls piled into my SUV and headed over to Black Bond Book Warehouse. I’m not sure what other families do, but we are readers. In no time we all had piles of books. My sister decided that another person could add a book to your pile, giving you a reading challenge. That puts an interesting twist into things!

I had to admit that I was a reading baby. Even a book a month was a challenge. My Aunt was astonished. I think she reads one a week. Which is why she makes good use of the library. I often have to renew a novel from the library, once or twice!

But this day we were on a mission. Grab an armful of books and get back to the sunny patio. Not only could we more carefully look at our own purchases, but we had the added bonus of looking through the balance of the loot.

I am a sucker for books which are part self-help, part productivity, part management, maybe slanted toward business. That is why I came to own the latest addition to my collection titled, “Do More Great Work“, by Michael Bungay Stanier. What I didn’t realize when I bought this book is, it’s a workbook. Which is a huge added bonus for me. There are so few of these kind of books on the market, it was almost like finding treasure. In fact, the activities are called “maps”. Who doesn’t love to pour over a good map?

The first map was easy. I breezed through it so quickly, I thought I might just make it through the whole book in a weekend. (Given my track record, who knows why I thought that!) Anyway, turn the page to map two and that is where I came to a dead halt. I could not, for the life of me, figure out how to complete the assignment. 6 days later, I dug down and pulled out the wisdom I needed.

That was today. Things were going so well, I went on to map three. This was equally tough to complete. These exercises require some serious soul searching. But the results are so worth it. OK, now I am gong to be very vulnerable and share this map. So be kind.

The first word describes what I am when I am doing great work. The kind of work that I love. The place where I loose track of time and when I’m in the zone. The second word is not necessarily bad, or the opposite, but it represents, at best good work, at worst bad work.

  • Visionary not task master
  • Analytical not routine
  • Earnest not complacent
  • Comprehensive not lists of half formed ideas
  • Organized not winging it
  • Knowledge seeking not taking it at face value
  • Engrossed not simply covering the bases
  • At ease not cautious
  • Mindful not quiet
  • Dedication not just 9 to 5

I think this is a pretty powerful list of words. The book advises you to keep a copy near your desk and have a laminated version to travel with. I’ll admit, before I completed this map, I immediately dismissed the notion of laminating. But, now that it is done, and I see it here in print, maybe I’ll pop over to Staples and create that hard copy.

The idea behind this list is to steer to the left. Staying on the left is where great work can occur. Tendency is to veer right. Although good work is still good, it is with great work that I feel most alive and vital.


Yarn along

Just now I stumbled across 85 other people who think reading and knitting are 2 of their favourite things….me too! Or maybe 86, in this case. Who knew! A yarn along….love it!

I have to say, I don’t associate with many people who are the same as me. My chosen profession, or maybe the companies I have chosen to work for, are not exactly full of creative types. At least not in fibre arts. This form of community becomes super important, I dare say essential for my creative expression.


I’m working on so many knitting projects right now, but the one that I worked on as recently as last night and will add more rows tonight is Linate Classic Mohair scarf. I picked up the yarn at a second-hand store. It has been worked before, at least the first 2 balls. But it is so decadently soft. I love it. Won’t see the light of cold days for a while yet. But I’ll think of these days when I wear it.

I’m reading an amazing book called “Creating A Life Worth Living”, by Carol Lloyd. I have quite a few other books on the go, but this one is my main go to right now. It is a combination of reading, creative workshop and designing new habits, I just love it. It is meant to take 12 weeks to finish, which I think I can do.

Of course, it bears mentioning, I can’t knit and read at the same time. I can’t even knit and watch TV all that well together. Somehow I am managing to watch Glee with my daughter and knit this scarf at the same time. But that is probably because the plot line is fairly predictable. I have to stop knitting when Kate Hudson, Sarah Jessica Parker or Jane Lynch are on – I love them.


“Creativity, as has been said, consists largely of rearranging what we know in order to find out what we do not know.  Hence, to think creatively, we must be able to look afresh at what we normally take for granted.”  ~George Kneller

“Once we rid ourselves of traditional thinking we can get on with creating the future.”   ~James Bertrand

After I bought tickets for the LEGO movie yesterday, I started doing a little research about the LEGO company. Other than selling online, (finally) and having a few small stores in Canada, we are still a long way from Denmark.

First I found The LEGO Foundation. After poking around there for a while, I watched a great talk by the foundation’s CEO Dr. Randa Grob-Zakhary. She describes what happens to creativity as we age. As we progress through school, we become very focused on finding “one” answer, (presumably the correct answer), to standardized tests. Our brains begin to mold towards these repeated expectations and our creativity levels decline. By age 25, we are pretty much the opposite of where we were at age 3, in terms of creativity. What a shame.

LEGO Foundation

Our modern world tends to marginalize people who are creative. They are artist types. Occupations in the arts are not considered serious ways to spend your time. Most companies, who employ most of the workforce, do not honour and foster creativity or creative thinking. Chief Creative Officers are typically found in organizations who sell a creative-based product such as advertising agencies, design studios, etc.

There are many programs available, (guest speakers, seminars, conferences, etc.) where companies can help foster creativity. One of them is LEGO Serious Play. Facilitator’s use LEGO brick sets to enhance innovation, which leads to increased productivity. This seems like an extremely interesting way to spend some time, both as the participant and the facilitator. Can you imagine having that job?


Then I stumbled across LEGO Education. OK, this was not offered when I was a kid. There are classroom packs designed to enhance core learning across a variety of subjects and home school versions. As we embark on a new chapter in education for our son, (Eaton Arrowsmith School), we will be looking for new ways to enhance his learning.


I guess timing is everything. Just as we took in all this new information yesterday, then watched the movie, our dedication to creativity, (specifically through LEGO play), was ramped up a notch. Our house is getting some renovations this Spring & Summer. Part of that is moving the Master Bedroom and a re-purpose of the small room off the dining room/kitchen. We had planned for a library/sitting room. After yesterday, there needs to be a build table and room for LEGO. This will be a family affair. Creativity will live and thrive here.

P.S. the movie was awesome. It inspired the sound I love to hear…the tinkling of LEGO bricks as a creative mind searches for the next piece. (I’m not telling who it was, it is a snowy Sunday day here)

Secret Santa

My husband bought me a gift for Christmas that we have hidden from the kids. I know what you are thinking, and no – it is not x-rated.

It is very strange to be hiding presents from the children which are not meant for them. Usually we are waiting until the last-minute to buy, or hiding presents in cars, at work, wherever. My husband and I must have been devious children, because on many occasions we had discovered the hiding place of Santa. For anyone who has done this, you know what a huge let down that was. But it was an addiction and we kept on hunting each year. So we expect our children to be the same and strangely they are not.

It could be that our children are smarter than we were, (are). Why ruin the fun of Christmas morning by snooping around in closets when your parents will be furious if they found out what you had done or were trying to do? Or they are too lazy to bother. Or they have everything they could ever want.

In an effort to simplify our Christmas gift giving this year, I came up with a new scheme. We pick a mall, (Oakridge) we pick a day, (Saturday Dec 7) we have a limit, ($33 per person) we make a list. The idea is to enjoy a day shopping together, although we are all suspicious of what fun can be had in a mall fighting crowds. We only spend one day on shopping, which makes my life so much better. We have a low limit so we target less expensive gifts which foster creativity on the side of the list maker and the shopper, (kids are completely disappointed as the super expensive things they want are not getting bought. I guess that is like finding Santa’s stash and realizing not much of what you wanted was in there.)

The plan for this day sounded good, but my husband was dismayed. “What about my gift for you?” (I think he already bought it). Oh that is exempt from this scheme. We are teaching the kids a lesson. What we didn’t learn already is not going to be gleaned by this exercise. We are grown ups, do as I say, not as I do!

And that is how I come to be in possession of a new iPad. Can’t very well put it under the tree. The kids will immediately call us out. No, better to be a bit discreet. If they ask, this new one is a replacement for the old one that died. Which is partially true, old one is not dead yet, but on its last legs.


Ultimately, we are the parents, making up our own rules as we go. Someday they can too!

The girl next door

Last week, there was a discussion at work about consumer profiles and the characteristics for “the girl next door” were being described. I was amazed to learn that I have become HER.

I spent so many years trying on other personas. There were the rocker-chick years. Then my early University days were spent trying to perfect the high-powered, corporate, business, pant-suit type. Then I switched to design school and it all changed again. The bohemian, free-spirit, creative type came into play. There was a constant search to be someone and look a certain part. I was clearly not comfortable in my own skin.

But that is one of the perks of getting older. I am comfortable now. And whilst I never thought I wanted to be, “the girl next door”, there is nothing wrong with her.

As if “the universe was conspiring to help me”, writes Paulo Coelho writes in The Alchemist, I came across a blog post this morning that describes this new age “girl next door”. Sheri Salatin, who writes for Polyface Hen House was describing me to a tee. Somewhere along the line, this is who I have become.

What I find interesting about discovering someone else who is just like me, is a validation of myself. Maybe I have not found many friends that think the same way I do, in my neighbourhood. Now, with the help of the internet, I have easily discovered kindred spirits, in serious numbers. Who knew?

Here are some of the characteristics of the “girl next door”:

homebody - humblebea

Humblebea Gnomes

  • Homebody – this was a real problem for me because everyone thought clubbing was the only way to meet men. But I thought, intellectually anyway, that there was no kind of drunk man I wanted to meet at a club. I met my husband at the beach, probably the only place on earth where you can wear less clothes than a night club. And probably one of the few times I sported a bikini!
  • Family values – probably closely linked to liking home base.
  • Confident – this can be tough for a young woman. Easily misinterpreted as standoffish by other women. Men find this quality off-putting, they prefer a woman who needs them.
  • Nurturing – a great quality that young woman need to grow into to become comfortable with.
  • Low maintenance – I have never understood the hours and hours of make-up, hair and other primping ceremonies so many women go through. If I’m going to spend hours at something, it will be a massage. I think a 3 dressed up as a 9 is a waste of time.
  • Straight forward – no games. I could never be bothered to make-up elaborate stories to make a man feel more confident so that I looked weaker for it. As I get older, my husband does appreciate a little softening here.
  • The buck stops here – this is an adage that I learned early on and really took to heart. I’m not going to pass blame, I’ll do everything I can to fix things and try to create solutions to problems.
  • Likes to have fun – within the context of all the values above. Travel, meeting new people, have great experiences – being at ease with changing circumstances, finding the bright side of things.

Disclaimer – this is not to say that I portray these characteristics all the time. In fact, my husband may argue that the girl next door is more of a latent attitude. In any case, this gives me hope for the woman who I am becoming.

Ski for the whole family

Jerry Seinfield was quoted as saying, “There is no such thing as fun for the whole family.” I had never heard anyone dare to say what many of us have always thought. How can one activity, on one day, truly be fun for the whole family? This idea landed, for me, at a perfect time. I was breaking away from my parents as a young adult and wanted to create my own fun. So I did.

Then the problem landed right back on my shoulders when I had children of my own. I was not so smug now. This was a real challenge. What I came to realize is, family fun with small children, is fun for small children. The fun for adults is trying to enjoy themselves through their children’s fun. This works best with adults who are close family members. Trying to invite along some child free friends usually doesn’t work. They have not become masters of sacrificing themselves for these tiny little people who are running rough shot around your life.

Through a lucky set of circumstances, my sister and I decided to pick skiing as a family activity. We each pursued this within our own communities, but each year we came together for a week to ski. This turned out to be a good idea due to a number of factors. Things like willing spouses who also enjoyed the sport, (super important and probably a show stopper if they had not been skiers already), and parents who could get us free accommodations near a very family friendly, beginners ski hill.

Over the years, all 4 kids learned their turns and fully enjoyed the week at the local mountain. But, as these things happen, when you start kids early, they have a tendency to become so good, they pass their parents in ability. My sister likes to attribute this to confidence and no fear of falling and hurting themselves. Whatever the reason, the 3 boys that once used to follow us down the hill like little ducklings, are well into expert terrain this year. My daughter really applied herself to parallel turning in an attempt to catch up to the boys. It won’t be long and she too will have passed me by.

So we are in a very lucky position to have found something to do in the winter that is fun for the whole family. It required a lot of work, nurturing and care. Almost like another member of the family – the perfect ski run that we all yearn for each time we go up the lift.

Family ski

Other related posts:

en Cinemex La Paz Platino

I never wanted to be one of those people who you hear of, who go to the movies on holidays. It seems like a waste of time. Why would you do something that can be done at home?

That was my more productive, goal oriented and rather uptight self. The person who judges the quality of the activity, not how much it is enjoyed. And who am I to judge, if I never take part?

After 12 days of relaxing in the sun and slowing down to the pace of life in the Baja, my mind has started to relax. There are so many things different here, that even a movie, surely, will be quite different.

To start, paying for movie tickets in Spanish is a walk on the wild side. Particularly when we wanted Platino, (Platinum) service and were not standing at the correct ticket counter. We just about got frustrated enough to walk away at that point. The young woman at the counter did not want to speak into my husband’s iPhone translator. But, she summoned someone else to help, who spoke a fraction more English and practically held our hands, walking us over to the “back” ticket counter.

Tickets paid for and seats selected, we were through the sliding doors to the VIP room. Full bar and menu, where the order is placed and then waiters bring everything to your seats. This took awhile with the iPhone translator. I went with empanadas and cerveza. That is something we could not get at home. (My old self is still lurking there, close to the surface).

Cinemex lounge

Off to the theatre. We were the first to arrive and instead of the room smelling of stale popcorn, it smelt like leather. The seats were plush, with foot rests and reclining backs. A glass table swings in front for eating and holding drinks. There is a call button. When the movie started, I almost felt like I was on an airplane and should be buckling up my seat belt. (If only I flew in those kind of seats!)

Cinemax seats

After the movie, I marvelled at how amazing the experience was. And to think, I was not even sure I wanted to do it in the first place.

Family time

It is one of my goals this year to spend more time together as a family, doing stuff. We try to be together now, but I don’t think individual play on a computer, all 4 of us in the same room really counts. Or at least, that should only be one of the activities we do together.

Sunday we skied together. It has become such a fun way to spent the day as a family. The kids are old enough and competent enough to ski on their own, but they like to be with us. I know this will not last, so it is with immense pleasure that I hold on to these days as long as possible.

So far, I have come up with the following activities:

  • games
  • movies and live theatre
  • skiing and swimming
  • bike rides
  • walks
  • reading aloud
  • cooking and eating
  • volunteering
  • camping and fishing
  • arts and crafts

I have found that, by spending time together, we discover what is going on in each other’s lives. In a chance conversation with my son on Sunday while sharing a plate of poutine, he mentioned a ski club at his school. We come to find out that registration is almost closed and the club only had 6 spots left. To think he almost missed out on night skiing and taking lessons in the dark!

Friday night in the ‘burbs

We participated in 2 of the hottest social activities on offer in the Peninsula Friday night. Of course, that is tongue-in-cheek, but for my daughter especially, there were no other places she would rather have been. I remember what it felt like to have so much fun packed into a few hours that you could hardly stand it. The novelty of it, breaking with routine, having fun with your friends, running a bit on the wild side.

First up was the annual “Welcome back BBQ” at our kids school. For the students, this is like a penny carnival, mini midway and sugar eating feast rolled into one. For the PAC, it is one of the first big fundraising initiatives. For the parents, it is fun to watch the kids start out excited, planning their fun strategy, then end up completely wound up on sugar.

My husband volunteers to BBQ, and we were really fortunate to have hot and sunny weather. To contrast what September can be like, Sunday morning we woke up to the power being out from the wind and rain overnight.

The “jars” however are the most anticipated part for the kids. We created 5 of our own for the donation. Then for $2 each our kids bought 4 in total. My daughter was super disappointed when she got one of the jars we donated full of action figures. But my son found one of his friends that gladly traded a mixed jar of odds and sods.

Then at 6pm, we had to round-up the troops and head over to the belt ceremony. I finally found my son, just about to have his face plastered with a pie! That would have been interesting to try to clean up with napkins from the car.

Our children are learning a unique blend of mixed martial arts offered by Tong Moo Do. It has been a real pleasure to watch them advance through the ranks. There are a series of belt colors, starting with white. Testing is done frequently and the members perform their routine as a group in front of family and friends. Our daughter was advancing to a blue belt. This is the big time, as she will now be sparring and grappling. But for us, we have both kids in the same class, so for at least the next 6 months we are only going to the studio 2x per week instead of 4.

There is a new TV show on NBC called “Up All Night”.  The new parents are fairly young, hip professional types and are having a tough time adjusting to family life and all the constraints and changes that go with. I think it is safe to say that we have fully adjusted to life with kids. Which is probably why we find the TV show pretty funny. We are the older and wiser parents cringing at the situations these new parents are finding themselves in.

So this Friday night of fun is not young, hip or cool but for me it was the good stuff. These are the times when we look at each other and our children and really enjoy the whole experience of being a family.

Organizing LEGO

It was not all bad.

I like to organize most anything, but going through LEGO is a good deal more fun than other kinds of stuff. And it has been awhile since I helped my son get a little control over his collection.

For awhile now, the pieces that are most sought after are the mini-figures and everything to do with them. So we started there, with a small cabinet and tiny drawers for all the little pieces. A drawer for heads, legs, hands, hats, visors, etc.

Our system has changed over time with the ever-increasing quantity we seem to have taken custody of. The 2 tower clear bin system was at its limit. There were probably 4 to 6 other smaller containers stacked on top at any given time.

The breaking point was this past week, when I went into my son’s bedroom and there was little bits of LEGO covering every surface. Floor, bed, every shelf on the bookcase, window ledge and it was spilling into my daughter’s room. There was no room to walk, read, go to sleep, etc.

Something had to be done. It was a complete set-up for failure to send my son down to his room to do anything and expect that the millions of pieces were not calling out his name in a far more charming way than I was.

So just like the TV show called “Hoarding”, we moved all the LEGO out into the living room. A clean, controlled space to sort it all out. You can see though, that a fair amount of playing was going on as well. But, my son diligently marked each new bin and decided what would be stored in each one. Then they were filled up.

Of course, his room had to be moved around a bit to accommodate the new shelving system. But thanks to IKEA, (what is it with these Scandinavians?) and less than $200, we are sorted.

And I will sleep really well tonight with one room in the house, just the way I want it, for now.


There a bunch of things that kids are trading these days. The old standbys like hockey cards, (I live in Canada) and some newer ones. Pokemon cards and the latest at my son’s school Yugioh cards. These new trading games are the invention of very creative people who have devised a way to continually make new cards that kids “must-have“, but have no basis in reality. (Only so many players on a team!) But, the kids relish making the trades, keeping track of what they have and coveting the next addition.

The best trade that my son is dabbling in, is also one of the oldest around. But instead of trading healthy food from his lunch for junk food from a buddy, he has a new twist. My husband and I overheard a conversation between our kids the other day. They were getting their lunch organized and my son was happy to see a large supply of bits and bites. He informed my daughter that he was trading them for seaweed snacks. And my daughter was wishing she could make such a trade! At other times, he has traded a single mini cookie for a piece of sushi.

It was quite funny to listen to this discussion between my children. It was one of those times when you get a glimpse of the independent little people they are becoming. And it is all these moments strung together that make parenting a rewarding experience.