Monday, 25 March 2013

A shoebox jewellery castle

I have mixed feelings about crafts. 

I love it when they keep my kids busy, but I am easily flustered by the mess that ensues.  And as a bit of a neat-freak, I am certainly not a fan of the junk that is often produced. 

As I'm sure many a parent can attest to, there is enough junk accumulating in my house as it is.  So when a craft project produces something to control the clutter, instead of contributing to it, I'm all in!

We have a subscription to a Disney princess magazine, and every time it arrives in the mail, I cringe as my daughter gets all excited about the not-so-easy-
to-make-with-materials-I-don't-usually-have-in-my-house craft that is featured that month.

Fortunately, my daughters recently got excited about a jewellery castle that they saw in a princess craft book.  It looked relatively easy, and it seemed like a good solution to our growing beaded necklace* and kids' jewellery problem.**  Plus, it was a great feeling to actually volunteer to make a craft with them, and then to sit down and help them with it.  A welcome change from my normal groan and 'maybe-on-the-weekend' response I usually give when they ask about a craft project.

*For the record, I think beads and necklace- and bracelet-making are great craft-y activities for kids.  Except for inevitable spillage of beads all over the 
floor.  But that point aside, it keeps even my attention-challenged daughter focused on a task that ends up producing something that serves a purpose.   Of course, we are amassing a large collection of beaded jewellery, but at least it is something that can be worn, put away easily or given as gifts. 

**I also want to note that each daughter does have her own music-box style jewellery box, but as these have been subject to a lot of wear and tear, the figurine is either bent out of shape, broken or missing.  And the boxes aren't quite big enough to contend with our growing collection.

So, for our shoebox jewellery castle project:
  • We took some grown-up sized shoe boxes and covered them with card stock or construction paper.  This seemed easier and more time efficient than painting them.
  • Empty paper towel and toilet paper rolls were used to make the towers.
  • Turrets were made by taking a semi-circle of card stock and gluing the folded cone into place. 
  • The favourite part, of course, was decorating with stickers for the windows, and jewels to make it fancy.
The towers, turrets and balconies give lots of places for draping necklaces and bracelets.  But the best part: the big shoe box that can be used to hide and store a vast quantity of rings, bracelets, necklaces, hair accessories, favourite rocks... you name it - all out of sight! 

So while the swathing of necklaces across the turrets can look a little messy, it's a small sacrifice for knowing how much more jewellery is hidden inside!

Friday, 15 March 2013

Extracurricular Activity Guilt

I know... cute, right?

That was me, age 5, in costume for my first tap routine, "At the Codfish Ball", at my first dance recital. 

That was just the beginning.

Within the next two years, I was taking even more classes, and entering dance competitions and I continued dancing all the way through high school. 

I also remember swimming lessons, soccer and even theatre classes for a while.

Fast forward to today, and the extracurricular activities of my children.

My oldest is 6 and half.  The middle daughter is almost five.

They've been in swimming lessons, and a smattering of ballet classes and sports programs through the city's parks and recreation department.  And last fall, in our first attempt to commit to a more structured extracurricular activity, they took a weekly class at a local gymnastics club.

It was a weeknight class. From 6 to 7 o'clock for Kindergym.  And 7 to 8 o'clock for the older kids' recreational class.  The program lasted about ten weeks, and it nearly killed me.  Rushing home from work to pick them up from daycare, driving them to the gym, eating a packed dinner to eat before class, during class, or after class, waiting for my husband to arrive at the gym on his way home from work, him driving the younger two home once Kindergym had finished, me sticking aroung until 8 o'clock, taking transit home and ushering the oldest to bed.

We decided that weeknight classes are not worth the stress. 

But weekends are precious.  Do we really want to schedule more than one activity per weekend?  Potentially multiplied by three.

With two full-time jobs plus commuting times, and our desire for priority on family dinners and down-time, will we ever be able to commit to the time and schedules of extracurricular activities for our children?

It's not that I want my girls to follow in my footsteps.  And let me be clear: I do not want to be a dance mom.

But I worry that I'm not giving my daughters the opportunities they deserve to find a passion.  Or at least an extracurricular activity to pursue.

I know.  They're pretty young.  And I know this sounds crazy.  But I don't want to be responsible for denying them the chance to get good at something.  I think of talented musicians, elite level athletes, and skilled artists. It kind of goes with the idea that it takes 10,000 hours to achieve mastery

My daughter is coming up to 7.  If she doesn't start at something soon, how will she ever get good at anything?

How do you decide what activities for your children to pursue?  And how on earth, do you manage to fit it all into your busy schedules and life?

Monday, 4 March 2013

On why the option to work-from-home is so important

I'm sure you've heard about the recent decision by Yahoo! to ban telecommuting.  There has, of course, been much discussion among working moms about this latest decision of Yahoo CEO and new mom, Marissa Mayer. I particularly like this post at Working Moms Break, one of my favourite working mom blogs. 

I also really enjoyed listening to this fascinating radio segment from CBC's The Current, which addressed the question "Is there a future for working from home?"

Although part of me can appreciate the rationale behind Yahoo's decision to put an end to their working from home policy, mostly,  I can't even believe that it is a question that needs to be debated. 

I don't work from home on a routine basis, but I believe that for jobs where it is possible and makes sense, having the option and flexibility available to work from home is important to all employees, with children or not.  And that it is incredibly important to parents, maybe even to moms in particular. 

I've written about the wonders of working from home before.  But working from home isn't just about having a day every so often to catch up on laundry in between focused, uninterrupted writing and editing sessions, or doing the dusting while on a teleconference. 

It's more than just a wonderful opportunity to gain some ground in the struggle for work-life balance.

Some parents consider the option to work from home as a necessity.  A friend and former colleague and fellow mom to young kids, recently told me about her difficult decision to turn down a job offer because the position did not include the option to work from home:

"I truly struggled with this decision and feel (the need for) work from home is going to ruin my career possibilities... Until I look at the kids... I also felt weak.  I should be able to have it all.  But I just can't.  I love being home for the kids and having flexibility when they are sick."
Being given the option to work from home when needed empowers the employee.  It reduces the stress of worrying about caring for a sick child, following daycare and school protocols for keeping kids home with a fever or lice, or scheduling appointments with teachers or physicians during the school day. 

By having the ability to work from home when we really need to, employers are validating that employees are more than just automatons pushing for a bottom line.  That they recognise that there is more to our lives than work.  And that makes employees feel more committed to their employers. 

I mean, how could I work positively or passionately, even, for an employer who didn't value me as a whole person? 

We have the technology.  It doesn't make sense to me to not let us use it.