Thursday, September 29, 2011

Halloween Tips & Tricks

Halloween is still a month away and my 4-year-old is already asking to make decorations to scare the neighbours! ("But not really scary ghosties, mama... friendly-looking ones!") Other than Christmas, Halloween has got to be her favourite holiday. I mean, the opportunity for decorating is immense (she decorates everything), so this is just another chance to dive in and have fun!

To put it mildly, decorations and other Halloween-related items (costume, candy to hand out, giveaways for classmates at school, etc) can really add up. And, in this economic climate, who has money to burn? So, I thought I'd share with you some great tips (courtesy of our amazing Facebook and Twitter fans) for having a blow-out Halloween without blowing your budget.

  • Do a costume exchange
  • Get a costume that your child(ren) can spend the next year playing dress up in; the cost won't seem so bad then.
  • Never buy a NEW costume; source them at thrift sales, consignment stores, etc.
  • Find a theme the whole family can do! The kids love when you get dressed up with them!
  • We always make a trip to the farm in late September for hay and corn stalks to decorate the front of our house. It gets the kids in the fall mood and they start looking forward to Halloween.
  • For classmates, make gift bags without candy for once - foam stickers and craft halloween paper from the dollar store did the trick! Parents and kids alike loved the idea.
  • With leftover pumpkins, my toddler loves hammering golf tees into them - a great way to practice his fine and gross motor skills.
  • Buy your costume at Old Navy the day before Halloween - all costumes are $2!

And, on that note... happy money-saving to you all! :)

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Having It All

When I hear the phrase “work-life balance”, I kinda chuckle. It seems to be this elusive thing that everyone wants (and some claim to have), but for me it’s a daily work in progress.

Years ago, I worked for a big corporation – and they espoused the merits of the work-life balance. (Despite the references to it in their HR manual, they actually didn’t do much to promote it… but that’s another story!) At the time, I was married with no kids, so it wasn’t much of an issue for me. Years later, I knew we wanted to start a family and made a move to a smaller company where, I thought, I would be able to have some work flexibility. And I did – for about two years – until my department suddenly had a new manager… who didn’t have children. 

Yes, that was the death-knell for my coveted work-from-home-two-days-a-week routine. It didn’t make sense to me because I had not missed one deadline, conference call or quarterly goal. In fact, because I worked from home part of the week, I actually worked harder – if only to prove that I could do it and not let my job slide. Yet, because of one person’s closed-mindedness, I lost my work-life balance. Oh, how I enjoyed being home with my little girl… it made me feel like I was raising her, not her daycare. I cherished those two weekdays, even if it was challenging to get work done; I’d gladly work into the night (after her bedtime) to finish my tasks.

Fast-forward two years, and another baby, later. Now, I can say with all honesty that I have it all – time at home with my kids, a wonderfully fulfilling career… and a dirty house and bags under my eyes! LOL 

I’m truly blessed to be able to spend so much time with my kids and still do what I love, but there will always be trade-offs. The bags under my eyes can be camouflaged, the crumbs on my floor and dust on my furniture can be (eventually!) vacuumed, but my kids won’t be kids forever. So, yes, I feel like I have it all. And, so can you – if you don’t sweat the small stuff. :)

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

I Could Do Without The Back-Talk...

What do you do when your kid talks back to you? Any suggestions?

I’m at the stage where my 4-year-old knows how to push my buttons...with the word "no". If you were to walk by my house on any given day, you may hear raised voices and defiant cries. In an attempt to better deal with these trying times, I’ve been doing a lot of reading about why kids do what they do. And, when it comes to defiance, it’s a completely normal developmental stage – more about kids asserting their independence than wanting to make us miserable. (Good to know!)

The experts admit that when power struggles happen, many parents feel a sense of urgency to gain control over their kids; they feel that this is a sign their child will run amok later in life. In fact, (and I quote Today’s Parent magazine) “obedience isn’t all it’s cracked up to be; after all, we want to raise a child who has the gumption to stand firm in the face of peer pressure down the road.”  True... but, isn’t it always easier said than done? I mean, when it’s YOUR kid who's refusing to leave the local pool when all the other kids have willingly done so, it's tough to think “hey, this is normal!”. I have definitely learned that I don't need to control my child, and when I loosen the reigns and give her a bit of slack, she's more open to my requests. I've also tried to make sure I devote a good amount of time each day to her and her alone; time she knows she has me all to herself (when her little brother is napping). This has helped build a more cooperative bond between us. 

This parenting gig is definitely challenging… and, one that doesn’t end at 5 o’clock! But, if I treat these moments as opportunities to build up my child's confidence, mould her wonderful, witty, personality, and help her realize her full potential, then it's all worth it. What an exciting and inspiring challenge, indeed.