Tuesday, 30 June 2015

Welcome to summer party!!

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It didn't take a lot of effort. 

It didn't take too much time. 

It didn't cost a fortune.

But man was it ever fun.

The kids got off of the bus on the last day of school this past week and walked up the road to find balloons hanging from the trees on our court and the song "Schools Out For Summer" blaring from mini speakers (*thanks Steph!)....

"Who is the party for?!" they called out to us with smiles on their faces as they saw the sprinkler swaying back and forth...

"For YOU!!" we called back to them as they kept walking towards us..."Go get into your bathing 

So they raced to get into their suits and tore out to explore the little water stations set up all around the court...because school is out for summer...so a surprise water party just had to be had.

So as other neighbour kids raced towards the court, bathing suits carried by their parents who had the inside scoop ahead of time, and surprised little faces who knew nothing about it...it was just plain fun. Fun to see their excitement. Fun to watch them jump right into a full blown water gun fight. And fun to see that in a matter of a couple of days of prep, you can put together a little neighbourhood party without killing yourself to get it all done.

Because with some yummy treats set out...

some juice boxes ready for the taking...

and a bunch of water activities prepped to go...you've got yourself a party.

They soaked in the warm kiddie pool...

painted with water on our driveway...

sprayed each other with water guns and spray bottles...

tossed water balloons until they burst...

 blew bubbles...

drew pictures with chalk...

explored the water table...

tried to extract those darn little toys stuck in the ice...

and picked up coloured ice cubes with tongues (*made in muffin tins with a bit of food colouring)

These kids let loose...had a full blown water gun fight...ran through the sprinkler, splashed in the kiddie pool and got completely soaking wet.

 And the adults? Well, we just got to enjoy it all as the kids were entertained for literally hours...

So as water balloon tosses were organized on the fly...

finished off by a very serious game of road hockey

 I'd say this little last minute, pull it together quickly, get your parents to come over to hold the baby so you can pull the sprinkler and kiddie pool out the morning of kind of party ended up being a hit--which is really all due to the fun kids who decided that they were just as excited about summer holidays beginning as I was.

BUT...you know what else is exciting about summer beginning? 

My sister, Jeff and my niece and nephew are moving in 2 doors down from us in a couple of days (TWO DOORS DOWN!). In less than a year of us moving here, the stars have aligned and we've got them on our court. I just can't wait. The kids thought it was fun living just a street over from each other in our old house--but now they'll be literally steps away from each other. They'll go to the same schools all the way from elementary school up until high school and they'll be back to seeing each other literally every single day. 

I Just. Can't. Wait. 

Happy summer everyone! 

Go pull the sprinkler out. 

Erica xo

Tuesday, 23 June 2015

My plan for surviving summer with three kids

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Two more days. I just can't believe it.

Two more days until summer holidays begin and I get to have all three of our kids home with me every day.

I really can't wait.

I can't wait for days at the splash pad with friends, picnics outside, day trips to the beach, mornings at the park, swimming in our pool, sprinklers and freezies, ice cream cones and bike rides.

But, I also know that in order to make sure that our summer is as great as I hope it will be with three very little kids, I have to have a plan. Because having three little kids home with me all day every day means that chaos can ensue very quickly. Noise, siblings fighting, crying and the question "what are we doing today mommy?" will happen all day long if I don't have a plan. I know this all too well.

So my summer survival plan is simple. HAVE A ROUTINE AND A SCHEDULE.

It's nothing new really. I'm just stealing the idea of literally every place that I know of that cares for children. Schools have schedules and routines--for a reason. Daycares have schedules and routines--for a reason. Summer camps have schedules and routines--for a reason.

Now, in saying this though, I must say...I'm also a fan of just go with the flow. Just let the day take you where it is going to take you--be spontanious, be inventive, just roll with it and see what happens. I long for the days when I can just say to my kids "Go outside by yourselves and explore all day long--I'll have dinner ready when you get home:". But we're not exactly there yet.  

So, with a little work...and a little hope...I printed off a bunch of labels, laminated them and crossed my fingers.

Who knows if this will actually work--if this will actually mean that our days will feel short and full of fun, instead of long and full of "What are we going to do all day??". But I'm certainly willing to try it.

I put it up in the kitchen the other day for the first time (just using sticky tack to keep them up so we can change the activities up each day depending on the day) and I showed our kids the little clothes pin (*found at Dollarama in the craft isle) that they can move down onto each label each time we finish a part of our day, so they can see where we are throughout our schedule...and they've totally bought into it already. Mya loves looking through all of the labels and picking out what she wants to do each day, and Carter just loves pointing to each picture and telling me what he thinks it says.

But I also reminded them that none of this is written in stone--that our days are also flexible, not ridged...so if a friend calls and says "Come on over"...well, you better believe we're heading out the door. Or if we decide to spend all afternoon in our pool or just playing outside on a beautiful day, when we originally had other plans, that's cool too. But at least we have a starting point--some goals for the day and some fun activities planned. Because if "water fun" is on that board, you know I'll be filling up water balloons the night before or hauling out the sprinkler. And if "chores" is up on the board, it will force me to take a minute and do something productive--throw in a load of laundry, or hand out wet rags to the kids so they can dust every square inch of the house (their favourite).   

And if the plan is to get together with Grandma, Jen and Jeff (and co.) or Nana and Papa...well, I made up labels for that too.

I think the resemblance is uncanny.


If you're interested in trying this out yourself, here is the link to where I printed off free labels. It was a good starting point, but I also made up a ton myself since things like outside play, special activity and arts and crafts wasn't in the mix. Let me know if you want the ones that I made up as well and I`d be happy to send them to you. Then all you need is a printer, a trip to Dollarama to buy about 6 rolls of laminating paper ($1 each, found in the office supply section) some sticky tack and some time.  

So, here is to having our kids home. Here is to the great, fun, memory-making kind of summer days...and here is to the chaotic, crying filled, time-out filled, exhausting days too...because, it's all a part of really the best time of our lives. And I don't want to miss a minute of it.

And now excuse me while I go figure out how to bake some cupcakes with a baby in my arms--because Thursday afternoon my kids (and the other kids on the court) don't know it, but they'll all be getting off the bus after school and be told to go run inside and get their bathing suits on--because they'll be coming home to our court full of treats set out on a table, sprinkler on the grass, bubbles, freezies, painting with water on the driveways, spray bottles, water balloons and a water table full of coloured ice cubes and water toys. Because for just a bit over $20, you can pull off a little WELCOME TO SUMMER bash, with very little effort, that they hopefully won't forget.

Carter is already getting a head start on the water fun...

Happy last couple of days before summer starts everyone. Enjoy the quiet while it lasts.

Erica xo

Thursday, 18 June 2015

Sprinkles and kindness

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This was the moment.

The very moment that it happened. 

The very moment that this little boy, this excited little boy holding the most glorious treat in his hand, got a little too excited---and before a bite was even taken, that glorious big treat slipped right through those little fingers and landed smack on the floor. Sprinkle side down, of course. 

I had the split second thought of "10 second rule! Pick it up--it won't kill you". But then took a second look at that floor in the donut shop and decided that those sprinkles had met their fate. So, back up to the cash register we went...sad little boy holding my hand.  

And as I met eyes with the same man who had just handed this little boy his special treat moments before, I handed him my change and asked for another sprinkle donut please--because the first one didn't exactly make it. 

But instead of taking my change, he handed me a new donut and told me to put my money away. 

Because kindness will sneak up on you sometimes when you least expect it. 

And as the words thank you..thank you so very much!  came out of my mouth, I wanted to keep going. I wanted to tell him not only thank you for the donut that has now made my son so happy again--but thank you for showing him that kindness can come in so many forms. And kindness in the form of a free donut was right up Carter's alley.

But what I also wanted to tell that man behind the register was that what he didn't realize is that this donut--this very special treat--was a big reward for our little boy. A reward that was weeks in the making...dropping each jewel one by one into his special jar each time that he showed kindness, love, listening, patience and sharing. as I wrote about HERE.  So thank you for showing this to my son in return. Because it can feel sometimes like all we're doing all day long is trying to make sure that our kids are showing kindness, patience and love. And just when you feel like you're on a roll--when little people are showing the kind of positive behaviour that we're trying so hard to instill in them...well, in the blink of an eye all is forgotten for a moment and we're back to square one, reminding them again of the importance of kindness.

So to those kind eyes behind the counter at the donut shop...


Thank you for the most perfectly timed moment of kindness...all in the form of the most delicious treat.

Because this little boy worked hard filling up his jar full of many tiny jewels, and you have now shown him in the most perfect way that kindness can come in the most simplest of forms.

Happy Thursday everyone, from one happy little boy...belly full of sprinkle goodness!

Erica xo

Tuesday, 9 June 2015

Good wins, every time

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Good and kind always wins.

That's at least the message that we're trying to send to our kids.

So, shiny jewels (or, glass beads really) are now the ultimate reward. A reward for any time that we catch them doing good, kind, loving things.  A reward for any time that we catch them encouraging people, loving people, listening, showing respect, being polite, or sharing. A reward for being the types of people who we are hopefully helping them to be. Because in the end, if we have raised loving, caring human beings, then I feel like we have made it. We have done our job. We have succeeded. Because little people are still learning a lot. They will make mistakes, have bad days, have bad moments, use the wrong tone of voice, say the wrong words, get angry, test the boundaries and test our patience--everything that us as adults also do sometimes. Because we're all just human.

So we came up with a little way to encourage them--to praise them, to celebrate them and to focus on all of the great things that they do. Because, I may not have all of the answers that I'm looking for as a mom--but the one thing that I do know is that whenever we praise children for the good things that they do, they want to do it more...then it begins to become something that they think about more often, then it becomes habit, and as the years go by, eventually it becomes just who they are.

So jewels have been dropped into their special jars one by one as we have watched little people go above and beyond what we expect of them...and the excitement of filling up their entire jar full of jewels meant that they had something even more exciting to look forward to...one-on-one time.

They knew that once they filled up their entire jar full of jewels, they got to choose either mommy or daddy to take them somewhere special. Their choice. One-on-one time. All of the attention on that one child. Something special that I know that they won't ever forget.

So as Sunday rolled around, the last jewel was dropped into Mya's jar and it was officially full--so we all did the happy dance, gave out high-fives and hugs and had the very serious discussion about where we would be going and who she wanted to go with.

So with ice cream being the request and mommy being the one to take her, Mya and I said our goodbyes to the rest of the family and we snuck out for our special time together. Just her and I. Just one little girl who told her Papa that "Mommy is taking me out to get ice cream to celebrate ME...because I got so many jewels!"...which made me realize just how special she felt.

And special she certainly did feel. 

Because good and kind wins, every time. 

And ice cream proves it. 

Because as she sat there, thrilled...completely thrilled with her big melting ice cream cone out in the sunshine, she looked at me and said "Mommy, I'm going to save my ice cream and take it home, because I want to share it with Carter". 

So I of course tried to hold back my tears as I watched her staring at her special delicious prize that she was so happy about, wanting instead to make sure that her brother felt happy too.

And although Carter is only a few jewels away from being able to pick his special time with either mom or dad too, he's not quite there yet. Because, having a two year old means that you learn very quickly that two year olds need a lot of extra encouragement...a lot of extra praise, and a lot of boundaries being set---because being two is not always easy (on anyone).

So instead of bringing home a melted ice cream cone for her brother, we headed out to the store and I let her pick out a special treat of her choice to share with Carter, because "sharing is caring, right mom?", she said.

And I nodded as my own words came out of her little mouth, and I realized that all of the times that I said those words over and over again, thinking that they were going unheard..well, it turns out I was wrong.

So she picked a bag of licorice, and held it the whole way home until she walked into the front door and excitedly ripped that bag open and handed out piece after piece to all of us.

Because, sharing is caring, right mom?

Then we all headed outside on a sugar high and spent the rest of the afternoon encouraging Carter on his bike--because this little two year old can now officially ride a two-wheeler. No training wheels. Just the wind at his back and some nervous parents watching as he speeds off like a pro.

High-fives from his big sister...

and mom and baby cheering him on from the sidelines after weeks of me running around every day on that court holding his shirt as he wobbled and fell...and then got up again to keep trying...

because he is our determined little two year old who we love and adore...even when he shows us why being two is not always easy.

Can't wait to see where this little guy decides to go on his special day when that last jewel is dropped into his jar. And on those days when a four year old and two year old are having bad days, I'll remember that good always wins--always. We just have to keep going.

Erica xo

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