Monday, July 29, 2013

DIY Neighbourhood Food Drive

My family and I have organized a food drive on our street for the last four years.  The first two were held over Thanksgiving weekend, when people were feeling thankful and generous.  Last summer, we decided to move it to July, when we knew kids and families would be more in need while the schools (and their breakfast/food programs) were closed for the summer.  It’s an easy way to make a huge impact in your community, a nice way to stay in touch with your neighbours and, in our case, a natural way to talk about community needs with the kids and discuss ways to make a difference as a family.

Here’s how you can organize a food drive in your neighbourhood:
1.       Pick a couple days to stay home so your neighbours can drop food donations off at your house and decide which food bank you would like the donations to go to.

2.       Let your neighbours know!  We printed a half-page flyer for each house on our street with all the details and my husband and daughter dropped them in each mailbox on one very hot morning a week before the drive.  The flyer also reminded them of the 545 pounds of food and $90 we raised over our two-day drive last summer and thanked them for their generosity.
3.       Collect the donations from your neighbours over your scheduled days and then deliver the food to your chosen food bank.   
4.       Thank your neighbours!  Most food banks have the capability to weigh the total donation and will usually send a thank you card with the weight noted.  We photocopy the card and deliver one to each house on the street so they can see the impact of their generosity.

It really is that easy.  We weren’t sure how this year’s drive would do, since less than a week before our chosen dates, most houses on our street lost their power for 24-hours due to a crazy storm and our neighbours likely had to restock their own fridges as a result.  We were pleasantly surprised when the scale at the food bank read 482.5 pounds and we handed over $140 in cash donations.  Another amazing year for the food drive and further proof that people really do want to help, sometimes all you have to do is ask.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Control, Control, Control

What I’m about to say will definitely not come as a surprise to those close to me: I have control issues. 
I need to know what everyone is doing at all times and things need to be a certain way or I feel out of sorts.  I am always the driver, (unless I’ve had a drink or two), and, if I do find myself in the passenger seat, I’m always quick to point out if someone is going “the wrong way”, even when it’s simply a different way to get to the same destination.  It’s not something I’m proud of.

These control issues have really been slapping me in the face lately.  Sometimes, it’s funny.  Like, when I sat down for a pee at work and found myself OBSESSING over the way the toilet paper was placed on the roll.
It was like this:
When clearly, it should have been like this:
That’s right, I changed it.  I WASN’T IN MY OWN OFFICE!!  I was likely never going to use that toilet again, but I couldn’t bear to know that the toilet paper would remain on the roll THE WRONG WAY.
Other times, my realization that I need to be in control saddens me.  My husband doesn’t usually go out after work or on the weekends unless we have plans together.  Sometimes he does though, and if he were to call to say he was staying out later, the conversation would likely go something like this:

Me:        Hello?
Him:       Hey Champ, we've decided to go for wings after the movie so I’ll be home a bit later.
Me:        Okay….so, I’m putting the kids to bed by myself then?!
Him:       Is that alright?
Me:        (Big passive-aggressive sigh) Whatever, it’s fine. (Although clearly, it's not),
Him:       Are the kids not being good?  Do you want me to come home?
Me:        Forget it.  Don’t worry about it.  I’m fine.  (Again, I’m clearly not fine.)
My husband thankfully has a backbone and will stay out to enjoy some time out with his friends despite our conversation, as he should.  I respect him for that.  He likely feels guilty the whole time he’s out, though and I despise myself for that.

Especially when the tables are turned. 
I met an old high school friend for coffee last week and returned home eight hours later.  I called about four hours in to let my husband know that I would be later than expected.  The conversation went something like this:

Him:       Hello?
Me:        Hey!  We totally lost track of time and are starving so we’re about to go for dinner. 
Him:       Okay, take your time.  Are you having fun?
Me:        Yeah, we’re having a great time!  Are the kids okay?
Him:       They’re awesome, like always.  See you when you get home.  I love you.
Just like the toilet paper incident, this conversation was a wake-up call.  My husband supports my time out of the house and I make him feel bad about his.  I need to stop this behavior.

Like most things in life, I think a huge step is being aware of the behavior to begin with.  I’m sure marital interactions like this are not uncommon but are probably denied a lot of the time.  I’m happy that I can see it; I now just have to change it.  I owe it to my husband now and to my kids as they get older. 
I make no promises about the toilet paper, though.  Hanging it under is simply incorrect. 

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Starting Another New Chapter

I have always had a strong love of books and reading.  As a little girl, I loved the Anne of Green Gables series, Little House on the Prairie, and of course, Little Women.  In high school, I fell in love with To Kill a Mockingbird and The Chrysalids.  During my study-free university summers, I was crazy for the Harry Potter series, Memoirs of a Geisha and The Colour Purple, (which still remains my most read book of all time).  There are books that remind me of falling in love with my husband (anything by David Sedaris), of each of my pregnancies (The Time Travellers Wife, The Memory Keeper’s Daughter) and of my first year being a mom (Water for Elephants, the Twilight series – but let’s not talk about that one, okay?).   Over the last year, I’ve been reading a lot of parenting books while the stack of fictional goodness on my nightstand just keeps getting taller and taller. 

My love of reading is something that I’m so happy to be passing down to my kids.  They have always been surrounded by books and they love them all.  There has rarely been a night since they were born where we haven’t snuggled up before bed and read a story together (or five).  There are books I’m saving for my kids because they were so loved that they have fallen apart completely (Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?), and books that I just can’t seem to part with even though they have outgrown them (That’s Not My Dinosaur, Goodnight Moon).

That’s why I’m so excited to announce that I have once again joined Usborne Books as a sales consultant.  I first started with Usborne in 2010, while on my second maternity leave.  I loved booking home parties and sharing my love of these amazing books with other moms.  I would get irrationally excited every time the delivery truck pulled up to my house with boxes of books that I could see, touch and smell.  I LOVE NEW BOOKS!  I took a break from selling once I headed back to work but I’ve missed it so much and am ready to re-launch my business – Books From the Red House.   

Be sure to check out my Books From the Red House Facebook page for exciting updates and more information on Usborne Books and how you can get involved.  If you’re in the Hamilton area, I’m currently booking home parties into August – let me know if you would like to host a party and receive free books! 

It feels so good to be surrounding myself with these amazing books once again.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

The Incredible Years Program Part 2: Praise the Sh*t Out of Your Kid

Before I get into this section of the Incredible Years Program, let me just say something about praise.  I’ve read endless parenting books – some are in support of praise, others not so much.  The main argument against it suggests that it creates praise junkies meaning that the more praise children receive, the more they rely on adult evaluations instead of forming their own judgments.  Other theories suggest that praise manipulates children, casts judgment on them and decreases their pleasure.    

That being said, I am a huge supporter of praise.  This is where my husband and I found we were most falling behind and also where we saw the most improved behaviour.  It is also important to note that some parents state that they don’t praise their children but rather, they encourage them.  I say whatever.  We’re all talking about the same thing here, so use whatever verb you want.  I’m calling it praise, even if it’s not the most popular word in parenting circles right now.

Here are some suggestions for praising your kid:
·       Catch your child being good – don’t save praise for perfect behaviour.  This was a HUGE light bulb moment for my husband and me.  We realized we were waiting for full days of no hitting, kicking, scratching and swearing before we would offer any praise.  Instead, we started praising every 15 minutes of good behaviour.  It was A LOT of praise and definitely seemed like overkill but our son loved it and really responded well to knowing that we were paying attention all the time. 

·       Choose one behaviour you would like to see your child engage in more frequently, and systematically praise it every time it occurs for a week.  For example: playing quietly, going to bed when requested, picking up toys and sharing with others.  The idea here is rather than point out (and in doing so, reward with attention) every time they don’t do something, praise them every time they do.   Once you’re seeing the behaviours you want to see more often, you can ease up on that specific praise and move onto praising other behaviours you would like to see.

·       Give labeled and specific praise. Rather than generic “good boy” or “good girl” sentiments, which are vague and generic, make sure to tell your child exactly what it is you’re praising.  When we started focusing on praise, my husband and I were constantly saying "wow, you're playing so nicely together", "I like the way you're using your words" and "you really know your manners". 

The program also suggests a tangible rewards system with charts, stars and stickers for desired behaviours.  After a week, the stars and stickers can be traded in for toys, screen time or other sought after items.  We chose not to go this route.  Our praise naturally comes with social rewards such as hugs, smiles, eye contact and enthusiasm so we decided to leave it at that.  I’m against giving our kids an allowance based on the household chores they complete each week.  I think that rather than pay kids to help out around the house, they should be contributing simply as members of the family.  We felt the same way about good behaviour – it’s just expected in our family and not something that we’re paid to do.

Try this out in a way that works for your family.  Just remember to be specific and to praise often!  Good luck and be sure to let me know how it goes.

Friday, July 5, 2013

One week down.

This is now where I spend my days, surrounded by photos of and drawings made by my family.
Well, I did it.  I made it through my first week back at work.  Here are some things I’ve learned:

·         Humans really are creatures of habit.  I mean, I’ve been gone for 9 months and started right back into the same routines I was in before I left.  I drink my coffee and catch up on emails first thing, sip tea and work through my to-do list for the rest of the day. 

·         Kids are totally adaptable if you have put the proper resources in place.  Picking the most amazing childcare provider for our family has made a huge difference in our son’s behavior this time around.  Sure, it’s only been a few days but it’s already so different from this time last year when he was sent to what we now know was the wrong daycare for us.   

·         I really like being outside.  I spend my windowless office hours thinking about my garden and when I’m going to find the time to harvest those beets already.  I miss the sun and the fresh air and the feeling of my bare feet in the grass.

·         It turns out, I like my coffee hot!  I forgot what it was like to finish a hot cuppa joe before it got cold.  There are definitely some perks to working outside the home.

All in all, my week was good.  I have found it easier to settle in than I thought I would and my family seems to have already adjusted to the change.  Maybe it won’t be such an awful summer after all.