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.

Child_Duck

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?

Child_axe

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?

Children_trampoline

Trampolines with no cages around them?

Children_Slide

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:

Before & After

I’m nearing the end of my second round of “6-Weeks to a New Body”, and I thought it might be time to show some pictures. A few things to consider, as these pictures scroll up.

  • The photos of me are 10 years apart. I thought it might be nice to reach back in time when I still had little ones running around. The time gap is a nice round number.
  • I wanted to show real contrast, and to make myself feel really amazing.
  • I was clearly in a “costume” for the after photo’s. I do not run around getting photo’s taken with a wig on.
  • The costume theme was, “someone famous from the year you were born”. I was going for Goldie Hawn from the TV series Laugh In. (OK, maybe a stretch…)

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  • It is an odd sensation to create the “before & after” photo’s of yourself. When these kind of images are put up by magazines it is easy to dismiss them as fake. I’m telling you, this is the real deal.
  • I’m not done yet. I’ve made progress, clearly. But I want more. Not so much for the photo’s, but for the amazing feeling of being able to move my body around with so much less of me in the way!

This journey has not been easy. I could have accomplished the milestones more quickly with a higher level of dedication. It would have meant far more sacrifice. I’ve never been one to do things exactly as I’m told. So, I’m getting there, at my own pace. At a slow and steady rate of change, the efforts are manageable, the pain less severe. Maybe this way will be more sustainable over the long haul. At least, that is my story and I’m sticking to it.

CW Sitting B&A CW Standing B&A

Technology break

My kids balked at the thought. They were filled with panic….and then questions. How does one go without technology for a whole long weekend? And, why?

I think my kids are like most of their age. Access to computers at home, and in the case of my son, takes one to school. They both have iPhones, sans SIM cards, so basically iPods. But they run IOS version 4, which allows for robust parental controls. Yet, still – they manage to navigate into territory we had not imagined or intended.

But that is not the reason for the ban, I mean break. I have been wanting to do this for a long time. Give it a try before our children became so entrenched that a weekend break would not be possible.

For two and a half weeks in Mexico last year, we had no computers for the kids. The compromise was iPhones. They stared at those little blue screens everywhere but the beach. The devices are like pacifiers. In an effort to well-behaved children, the technology is a big help. But I miss something about spending time together. The interaction is not the same.

For this weekend, I asked the kids to imagine we were living in the 1980’s. The reaction to what life was like then is interesting.

  • They both had visions of Pac Man. Yeah, only if you got on your bike and rode to the arcade with a pocket full of quarters, which your parents likely wouldn’t allow.
  • How do they talk to their friends without texting? The telephone is not how kids communicate these days.
  • I allowed Netflix and movies from iTunes, (we don’t really have regular cable TV and video stores are not available anymore). Last night, we watched “Saving Mr. Banks” and my children are so fixed on knowing what happens next, (immediately), they drown out the onscreen action with – “what happens next?” Effectively, their attention span has dwindled with their increasing need for immediate gratification.
  • My husband loathes board games, but has agreed to play “21”, which is really blackjack, which is really endorsing poker. But, I was raised on this card game, it was a staple in my 1980’s home.
  • Settlers of CatanI agreed to purchase a new board game – Catan. That was the kind of thing that would have captured my imagination as a child, not surprising my Son is very interested. But, not until Saturday. No stores are open in our community on Good Friday!

 

We’ve got a break in the rain today, sunny skies and an adventure into the world before technology as my children have grown accustomed to.

Creativity

“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?

LSP-starter-kit

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.

LEGO_2013

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)

Speed

When did my little baby turn into the young man who could confidently launch himself into a 40 degree pitch of knee deep snow and accelerate to 70km per hour? Then sustain that intensity for the better part of 6 kilometers? And hike for 475 steps along a ridge to get there in the first place. Enjoying every bit of it.

As a parent it is amazing to watch how he has transformed. As predicted, it happened so fast. Like the speeds he was reaching in the Tayton Bowl, time has sped by just the same. We have these little snap shots to record the moments – the go pro video, some iPhone photo’s, the app which gives us the stats, the facts. It is the feeling of being there, present in the moment, burning it into my memory. The taste of poutine, classic rock and exposed wooden beams in the chalet will always be associated with skiing, my family, my children, the most important people in my life.

My son has years of skiing adventures ahead of him. His path will twist and turn along the highs and lows. His passion and dedication will carry him along. I’ll be waiting at the bottom of the run to hear the stories of adventure from his journey.

Fast friends

There was an 11 year old girl in grade 5 who met my daughter on our ski vacation this past week. It was an instant connection. All they shared was tied up into numbers and gender. These criteria are virtually meaningless when it comes to adults becoming friends, but to a child on vacation we are talking fast friends.

It makes me wonder, why can’t adults accept each other as easily as children can? What have we lost in our ability to find similarities to spin a conversation around? The instant communication turns to shared activities, (a.k.a. play), and then a friendship is formed. Just like that.

There is no need for further investigation, what kind of job do you have, where do you live, who are your other friends, do we think alike in most ways. Children take things at face value. 5 minutes ago I had no friends, now I have one. Simple. Easy. Great day!

My daughter skied with her new friend and treated her with a gentle kindness you would expect from old friends. That is a good thing, the ability to live in the moment. Be present, be happy with what is happening now, be open to new experiences.

I’m not sure if this new friend will be in my daughters life for a long time, but my daughter will always remember meeting her and enjoying her company on this family ski trip. This is a special gift unto itself.

Ullr the god of snow

It might be our last journey along the Crowsnest Highway from Cranbrook to Vancouver. At least our last unplanned trek, in the winter. If you look at the map, it is a twisty tour through Southern BC, with short stretches where your forward progress is completely opposite of your intended heading. In the winter, it is a frozen land with little reason to stop along the way. Not much traffic to contend with, but an eerie feeling of isolation at times through the snowy glades.

What makes for great driving conditions in the winter, does not make for great skiing. In the last 8 years of this family ski vacation, we have pretty much experienced all the different types of weather. Dry roads with speedy progress through the mountain passes to black ice which could send you off a cliff in the blink of an eye. When the roads are covered in snow, the plows can’t keep up and the fluffy white stuff keeps falling, it is time to slow down, take it easy and be thankful for the fresh powder on the ski hill.

This year, skiing was as good as it gets. Big overnight dumps, fresh powder in the morning, blue bird days and heavy snow days, blanketing the runs while we ate lunch. Ullr was smiling down on us, but it was not without sacrifice. A single ski lays somewhere outside the extremely large hole dug in the snow searching. A gift to Ullr, at least until Spring.

Over the years our children have grown tall and become very good skiers. We have come together as a family to enjoy one of the sports that best celebrates Winter. We have learned to respect the danger of winter driving while enjoying the fun that comes with snow accumulation at high altitudes. These are just a few of the perks, living in a Nordic country like Canada.

Fancy Dress Party

I work for a company where the global headquarters are located in Europe. Therefore the rules are always slightly different. (And by slightly, sometimes I mean A LOT). We are used to that, living in Canada. All our laws are written for all provinces, except Quebec. We have a second official language on everything from cereal boxes to road signs to official government communication. Living in the West, where 10 times the number of people speak an Asian language over French, it can seem quite strange. But we deal with it. (And I digress from the point).

The term “fancy dress party” comes from British English. More commonly known here in North America as a costume party. The zest for dressing in costume tends to fade after the age of about thirteen. Teenagers and adults who still love the idea will attend or host costume parties at Halloween. There are a few other reasons to don a costume for a party, but the real driver is October 31st. Evidently, not the case in Europe.

OK, there is another reference to fancy dress, or costumes that will only be known to those of us in Canada who watched the CBC TV show called Mr. Dressup from 1967 to 1996. There was a segment of the show where a trunk of costumes would get pulled out and Mr. Dressup would put on a familiar costume and act out the part, (policemen, fireman, doctor, etc.) Sometimes the trunk would not open and it had to be tickled, hence the name.

Mr. Dressup, Casey and Finnigan

Mr. Dressup, Casey and Finnigan

I must have been a bit too old for this show when I was watching it, because I didn’t really like the tickle trunk. Also, maybe I was too literal. Why was this man acting like a policeman? Now that I have had young children of my own, I better understand how much normal children like this kind of play acting. So, late in life, I have come to enjoy this fancy dress thing.

The tickle trunk

The tickle trunk

The legacy of the TV show is quite strong across Canada and the Northern USA where the signal was picked up for CBC. The tickle trunk has become a pop icon symbol. There are people who have amassed a good collection of costumes into a tickle trunk of their own and it is affectionately referred to as such. I know this first hand from a grown man working at my company who admitted to having one. Ours is a large Rubbermaid container marked Halloween costumes. It now holds the relics of my costumes as my children are too sophisticated, (spoiled), to recycle a costume. In truth, these “Made in China” costumes are cheap, cheap, cheap. Partly in the actual cost, but mostly in the sense that they barely make it through one season of trick or treat.

Now, I am in the process of collecting all the bits for the upcoming party in Malta. The theme is toga. Appropriate for the location. I’ll be more of a Roman Goddess. The jewelry is secured. My own, “Made in China” gown is the starting point. A trip to the fabric store is in order. (I can’t have the thing falling off me). The other bits have been purchased online and should arrive the day before I leave. ($25 in expedited shipping for that). I’m not going to bother adding up the total cost. I should look priceless. (That is a sarcastic, back-handed compliment to myself.) In any event, another costume for the tickle trunk.

Web_Jewelry

I have written about this before, exactly 6 months ago…Dress up Parties.

Actually doing

My husband and I have been struggling with setting a limit for screen time in our household. Not so much for ourselves, (although we should probably reduce that as well), but for our kids. Although every type of screen is considered cumulative towards the total, we wonder if certain video games, (minecraft) are worse than Saturday morning cartoons?

While we continue to research what the limits are going to be in our household, we have put extreme rules into effect. We have been running a bit of an experiment. Most of July was a complete ban because we were on holidays and the computers stayed at home. In August, we let them play for hours on end. Once they were back in school, the workload and activities have forced us into weekends only and we have curtailed that even further.

In the place of video games and youtube, we are encouraging our kids to do real stuff. Play actual card and board games with each other, instead of virtual ones against a computer. Invent ways to entertain yourself and your friends. Get out the crayons and draw something for real. It is surprising how quickly they embrace all this, “old school” activity.

While these are the children of the iPod generation, kids who are born into technology, it is not an evolutionary change. In other words, they are still normal kids like we were and in the absence of technology they are inventive, creative and capable of entertaining themselves. Or not. But being bored is OK. Getting yourself out of being bored is an important life skill.

So on a sunny, crisp October morning, when the salmon are running, my husband has taken my son out in a boat to “actually” have an adventure. Maybe they will catch something, maybe not. But when my son thinks back to his eleventh year, this day will be a highlight, not how many points he racked up in a video game.

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!

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.

Cabin life – Bubbles day 5

It never ceases to amaze me how bubbles, particularly gigantic ones can transport a person of any age right back to being a 2-year-old. This fact is for certain because the joy of the 2-year-old in our group was contagious to all.

I remember that feeling ever so slightly. That rush of adrenaline, an adult size bubble must look almost frightening to a toddler. And then the euphoric feeling as the bubble gets bigger and bigger and still has not popped. And then finally the surprise ending when it finally does disappear with a light spray of soapy solution.

It is one of the fun parts of being a parent when you take advantage of the opportunity to re-live your good childhood memories.

Cabin life – Old friends day 4

It is especially interesting to me when I experience something completely unexpected. That is not to say that my old friend from school dropped by with her kids unannounced. The visit was schemed and dreamed many months ago.

The most delightful thing happened for me. I got to experience all our usual cabin life activities through the eyes of my friend and her children. They found novelty, fun and excitement in what we sometimes may be taking for granted.

There was bike riding around the complex for the kids on their own. They could come and go and roam as they pleased. No-one telling them the strict boundaries they must not go beyond. When a sudden rain shower drenched them in rain and mud, no worries – quick dip in the hot tub to warm up and lift spirits. Free play on gameboys and iPods and that was all enjoyed in the first few hours.

My sister and I had a lovely time chatting with a fellow working mother who is doing her best to juggle an ever complex life.

Blackfoot Crossing

What made the visit almost magical was how well the 2 interlopers merged right into the established foursome of children who have vacationed together since being babies. It was like the six had been playing together for years. That was a special treat to behold.

What this time has taught me is that the rewards of doing something different and new benefit everyone involved. It is by enriching our lives with deep personal experiences that we continue to be better people.

Trades

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.