productivity tally

13 02 2010

Well, it’s been a typical Saturday.  Reasonably productive – in fact, madly busy (save for the 3-hour nap that everyone in our house indulged in!).  So what is gnawing at me?  I have accomplished virtually NOTHING that was on my original list for today!  Here’s is the tally for today’s activities:

Original To-Do List

  • organize closets (some things are getting out of hand and with the boys getting more into puzzles, cutting, gluing, and colouring, the craft materials and puzzles need a more accessible location)
  • work on presentation – I am giving an OT talk to the Mom’s Group at church this week on posture and upper extremity injuries/pain related to baby care and household activities
  • read a book — I have three magazines, Setting Limits With your Strong-Willed Child, and Lauren Conrad’s new book, Sweet Little Lies, sitting in the cue
  • work on pendants – have to add bails to a custom order I have just completed (www.deirdrespeak.etsy.com) and would love to get started on a new set
  • clean the bathroom (3-year-old little boy – enough said!)
  • tackle boys’ laundry
  • complete my personal binder project – thank you so much for the inspiration from My Favourite Everything; I put together my own little project organizer and I love it!  It just needed a couple of extra touches.

Actual Got-Done List

  • change freshie #1
  • make coffee
  • supervise kitchen sink play (the boys’ new “IT” activity)
  • check emails, Facebook, Cafe World
  • make Original To-Do list
  • empty dishwasher
  • Bible readings for yesterday (oops!) and today (from Exodus, instructions for the building of the Temple)
  • clean up kitchen sink play
  • serve breakfast
  • finished my binder project – it’s very lovely with its personalized cover, dividers and tabs, and the bonus item: a pink plaid binder clip!
  • change freshie #2
  • take inventory of jewelry making materials
  • 3 puzzles with C1
  • supervise cutting and gluing; help to make a Chinese lantern (destroyed by C2 within about 10 minutes)
  • discuss tomorrow’s Sunday School craft with J — but, *phew* she volunteers to handle it and I’m off the hook!
  • bathe 2 boys (and not too much on myself)
  • 4 loads of laundry interspersed throughout the afternoon, including all of the boys’ clothes (woo hoo! and they’re all in the closets, too!)
  • serve lunch
  • sort laundry (P & C1 are passed out on the couch; C2 flops around in the pile of clothes)
  • get bedding back on bed
  • NAPTIME! for all
  • car ride with family to SBux, car wash, and bottle return
  • resume laundry and sortation
  • errr… did not make dinner – P served cereal and fruit to boys
  • pajama boys
  • BEDTIME for boys
  • attempting to organize thoughts for presentation – so much to talk about and I don’t want to overload
  • write a blog to justify the day’s activities
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who am i?

1 02 2010

I attended a ladies’ Bible study last year in my neighbourhood – what a fabulous group of women; we had a great discussion on the book of Romans throughout the year.  At the first meeting, during the obligatory introductions, I was struck by an intense realization.  My identity – at least the one I used to have – had vanished. “Hi, I’m Deirdre.  I’m an Occupational Therapist, and I’m working on my Master in Rehabilitation Science (completed last year before C2’s arrival).  I’m originally from Alberta and have been living in Toronto for almost 10 years.  I love canoe tripping, playing ultimate frisbee, taking adult ballet classes at the National Ballet School, trail racing, and I’ve completed two 1/2 marathons.  I used to weigh over 200 lbs and lost 60 lbs.  I’m a gym rat – you’ll find me lifting weights or on the treadmill at least 4 times a week.  I will always be an Edmonton Oilers fan.  I’m active in the 20-Something group at Rexdale Alliance Church.”  WHOA.  Wait a minute.  That’s not me.  Who am I?

When each of the women in the Bible study group introduced themselves, they listed how many and how old their children were and the names of their spouses.  It was only through getting to know them better over the course of the year that I discovered that among them were a lawyer, an engineer, a Yale graduate and PhD, and a theologian.  Ack!  Those are amazing achievements!!  But, what happens when the achievements and interests of our previous lives, if you will, are consumed by motherhood and buried in the domestic responsibilities of being the homemaker (in particular, those of us who have elected to stay home with our young children)?

Perhaps this isn’t true for everyone – but, for me the impact of losing and subsequently re-inventing my identity have really been at the forefront for the last three years and has represented a perpetual internal struggle, sometimes positive and sometimes not so positive.  It’s part of what makes the shift to motherhood – days that can be filled with mundane tasks, (seemingly) lacking in measurable productivity, loss of personal interests (not because of depression, but re-structured time), and altered and diminished friendships (in some instances, this has been the worst thing) – seem like it’s the toughest place I have ever found myself at in my life.

It began to affect me to the extent that I felt resentful and wistful.  I love my husband and children very much and am so unspeakably proud to be wife and mother in this family.  But, seriously… who am I now?  My identity seems to be wrapped up in who I am in direct relation to three other individuals … and not myself at all.

I believe what has made this shift manageable is the discovery of re-inventing myself.  My creativity is stretched to the maximum — I think that’s just the richest part of all of this.  What a tremendous opportunity and it couldn’t be more timely!

So, today I am 34 (for 6 more days!), a Christ-follower, a stay-at-home mom, super-wife (lol!), OT Reg(Ont.) but not working for pay, MRSc (I have always wanted that title), a huge fan of my oldest son’s artwork, a speech coach, policewoman (in my own home), super-shopper, super-saver, blogger, Wii-er, family photographer, jewelry-maker, librarian, head chef (does that make me a sous?), lead creative director, head janitor, chauffeur, personal assistant to 3 amazing men, treater of booboos, finder of toys, researcher of how to set limits with my strong-willed son (another blog post to stay tuned for)… limitless is who I am… and excited to find out more about who God intends me to be.

To encourage you Moms who may have felt the same way and wrestled with any resentment around your shift in roles… I am right there with you — and we can embrace this re-inventing of ourselves together!

And, speaking of getting creative… check out my shop on Esty: DeirdreSpeak:ArtWorks. It’s cool and I am donating 25% of all sales to relief efforts in Haiti!





give meaning

10 12 2009

I wanted to follow up on a guest blog that I posted on Lovable Labels’ blog: Label Me Crazy! Taking a reduce-reuse perspective, I commented on a few tips to minimize the traditional holiday paper pile-up…. from holiday postcards to recycling kids’ art as gift wrap… making fabric gift bags to buying alternative Christmas gifts – gifts that don’t need flashy gift wrap.  I have really settled in to contemplating alternative gift giving.  My boys are still very young and our nuclear family is still in its infancy so it’s a perfect time to start traditions.  At Christmas we celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ and the priceless gift of salvation that he gave us.  Santa Claus (and I’m referring to the iconic jolly man in the red suit) is incidental.  To me, he’s kind of like Mickey Mouse – cartoonish, fun, you can get your picture taken with him and we might pretend that he gave you a present, but he’s just a character in a story that, coincidentally, is told at the same time as when we celebrate the coming of God to earth.  I just don’t want them to grow up anticipating presents, presents, presents under the tree.  I want them to learn early on that at Christmas we give – and we are intentional about being creative and giving to those who have more need than we do.

So, here are a few great ideas for alternative gift giving:

Buy Nothing Christmas – I think this initiative has had the greatest impact on me so far.  “Buy Nothing Christmas is a national initiative started by Canadian Mennonites but open to everyone with a thirst for change and a desire for action.  Buy Nothing Christmas is a stress-reliever, and more people need to hear about it… The point is to get people thinking. It’s an idea whose time has come, so get out there and make a difference!”  These guys have hit the proverbial nail on the head (and I’m not partial because I have a Mennonite heritage!).  If you go to their website and click on “alternatives” you will discover over 50 special gifts you can give that require little or no spending.  I have one of my own which I’m keeping under “wraps” … if you will pardon the pun!

TOMS Shoes – I think this is really cool.  “TOMS Shoes was founded on a simple premise: With every pair you purchase, TOMS will give a pair of new shoes to a child in need. One for One. Using the purchasing power of individuals to benefit the greater good is what we’re all about.”  When Blake Mycoskie, Founder of TOMS shoes was in Argentina in 2006, he realized that he wanted to help children who wore no shoes to protect their feet.  Today, when you purchase a pair of TOMS shoes, another pair will be given to a child who has no shoes.

World Vision – “Canada’s Most Meaningful Gifts.”  For $30 you can give 3 soccer balls to children in an underdeveloped country or for $100 you can gift immunizations to a community.  It costs roughly $15,000 to drill a well that will provide up to 11,000 litres of clean water a day.  You can purchase a share in a well project for $2500.  We have friends who are raising money for this special gift by selling bottled water for $10 a piece… something you could bring to a party as a hostess gift.  How awesome to have a global impact and demonstrate ways our children can connect with children overseas.

My challenge to you: come up with one way this year to simply change your perspective on gift giving and re-orient to the meaning of Christmas.  Engage your creative side!





the danger years

17 11 2009

Confession: I have been completely consumed playing Cafe World on Facebook – mostly trying to come up with the most efficient layout to serve my customers and recently with figuring out how to time the cooking and serving of dishes to maximize profits.  Check it out – the “Buzz Rating” (the thumbs up in the top right hand corner) maxes out at 105.0 when everything is flowing perfectly in your cafe!  I admit it — I am a little bit obsessed with Cafe Revolution.  I mean, in many ways, it’s much like managing my household.  Keep high traffic areas free of clutter, make sure there’s enough money in the bank account for groceries (and upgrades!), keep the hungry mouths fed throughout the day, create an inviting and homey atmosphere for friends & guests – add a bit of personal flare – and there you have it!  A home away from home, so to speak!  (And, if you’re not convinced, start playing the game and you’ll understand!  Hey – we all need an outlet.)

In light of my recent online gaming addiction, some of my domestic duties have fallen by the wayside — just a little bit.  But, I DID do ALL of the laundry this weekend, including the linens.  Made amazing carrot muffins for C1’s pre-school class.  And, did a fair bit of reorganization – I had to re-locate a number of items out of a certain pre-schooler’s reach – childproofing is an ongoing task.  Never assume you are completely safe.  Always be on your guard for the new thing your little explorer will Houdini his way into – especially those curious boys!

So, what I have been meaning to share for awhile are simply a few of my favourite childproofing items – I’ve tested and tried many, many different items with varying degrees of success.  You will ultimately need to do the same as you are figuring out what degree of lock-down you need your home to be in through these early years.  I am not a safety expert.  There are many exhaustive lists and materials for you to read on baby- and toddler-proofing (I am a big fan of the Ann Douglas The Mother of All… books – very comprehensive Canadian information).  These are just a few products that are functioning well in our home right now.

Right now, these door stoppers are by far my favourite.  Patrull, from IKEA retails for 4.99 for a pack of 2.  Kidco (available at Babies R Us) are 7.99/pair.  I have three doors leading into my kitchen and I have two boys with an affinity for doors.  If it weren’t for the stoppers I would have pinched fingers and doors slamming every 2 minutes!

These are the Safety 1st door knob covers, 4.99 for a pack of 4.  Note that these ones have the open finger holes that only a bigger hand can manipulate – and have proven challenging for many of our friends!  Other door knob covers with the grey buttons on the sides were ineffective.  I have to reinforce the seams with duct tape, because C1 can pop the covers open with minimal effort.  They even fit over our front door knob – otherwise, he’d be perpetually wandering around our neighbourhood.

Of course, outlet covers are a must. Safety 1st has a 24-pack for approximately 2.99.  I like these “press n’ pull” ones.

The multi-purpose appliance latch (4.99) by Safety 1st (along with other adhesive cupboard latches) have been most effective at keeping the boys out of the fridge – until now, C1 has figured out how to unlatch and now is learning that he must ask permission to open the fridge.  I have had to replace them every so often, but well worth it.

I don’t have a personal recommendation for a good gate – we haven’t had to use one (in a condo for awhile and now we have a locked door to the basement).  But, if possible, the best type is one that bolts to the banister and/or wall.  I wouldn’t cheap-out on a safety gate.  $70 is the ballpark.

Tub stickers – the Safety 1st package contains 10 and is 7.99 at Babies R Us.  I think you need about 15 to adequately cover the tub.  If you install them according the the instructions, they adhere perfectly.

What hasn’t worked – and again, this is just for us – toilet locks (didn’t suction well enough), adhesive corner protectors (not sticky enough), drawer/cupboard latches (the kind that screw inside the drawer – too finicky).  There are some great-looking safety latches for closet doors and windows, but I haven’t found one that seems to work on ours.

The majority of childproofing in our home has simply involved the removal and storage of contra-ban items, which is why, when you come to our home, it looks like we’ve just moved in – it’s pretty sparse.  With boys on the loose in the house, I’ve found it’s pretty much futile to keep anything beautiful or decorative.  No plants, nothing on the mantle, no lamps, and probably no Christmas tree again this year *sigh*.  Home electronics are up high (although they could be climbed to by a determined child).  I have just removed everything from the under the sink in the bathroom… until now, the bathroom has been locked, but since C1 is toilet trained, he spends a lot of time going in there… and tends to linger… *groan*.  It’s just for a “season” of our lives, right?

Naturally, we do a LOT of teaching, re-directing, reinforcing, re-directing, reminding,  But, it’s a lengthy process and until the age of about 4, it’s difficult to rationalize the concepts of danger and safety with a child.  And, as you have probably already guessed at this stage, it’s much easier to teach your child to do something good than to UN-TEACH him to do something that’s not particularly good or safe.  Let’s face it.  Patience is a virtue.

I’m curious to know what others like, dislike, and have used with some degree of success.  There is tons to discuss on this topic which I haven’t even touched on. It could be a good forum for sharing.

We are not by far out of the danger years… just trying to keep them happy, healthy – and alive!





one card

30 10 2009

THORNTON FAMILY BIRTHDAY CARD

A note or email is always welcome encouragement, but I love the sentiment of a paper greeting card… especially “just because” or one with a lengthy, endearing message like the ones that my maid of honour often writes… so heartwarming, so personal.  I have saved every birthday card my mom has given me since I was about 4… I remember that one vividly – it had a photo of a collie pup.

$3-7 for a greeting card… that, unless you’re a saver, is likely heading for the recycling box.  Plus, an envelope – more paper.  As your family grows… more occasions, more cards!  The tally of the cost and the impact of greeting cards started to tweak my conscience.

So, in our home, just among our immediate family, I have designed one card.  Starting with C2’s first birthday, we will use this greeting card for every birthday from now until….. ?  Well, it will be interesting to see how long we can stretch out the tradition of the one card.  I love entertaining the thought that we will bring out the family birthday card 25 years from now and read about all of the memories written there.

For other occasions – birthdays, Mothers Day, party invitations – I have been designing postcards using my own photos and an online photo editing website called Picnik.  Unique, personal, with limited environmental impact.  Nice.

Olivia's Birthday Card joan birthday cardFathers Day Card 2009Mom's Birthday Card





the only thing you need in your makeup bag

27 10 2009

Smashbox Fusion Soft Lights - DuskIf, in the process of getting you and your kids out of the house, you have 2 minutes to yourself to brush your teeth (and floss!) and splash some water on your face…. but, you don’t want to look like a haggard housewife on 3 hours of sleep — even though you feel like one — I want to share with you my #1 go-to cosmetic product.

smashbox Fusion Soft Lights is a bronzer – with 5 hues that work on any skin tone and swirl together for a soft, shimmery look.  AND, not only do they work to give your face a lovely sun-kissed, but not shiny, glow… you can use the individual palettes for eyeshadow and blush as well!

Ever since my wedding day I have loved using smashbox cosmetics… and now that they’re available at Shoppers Drug Mart (and I can strategically get 20x Optimum points when I time my purchases just right!)… they are readily available.

I know that this totally sounds like a gratuitous marketing for smashbox and Shoppers… but, I get so many compliments on my bronzer, I just had to tell you!  If you don’t have time to put anything else on your face, Fusion Lights is all the makeup you need!





out of the box

22 10 2009

Krusteaz Apple Crisp mixNormally I would cringe at using a mix for baking … (NOTE: I don’t judge anyone who uses mixes or pre-packaged food.)  But, for me – I have total joy when I bake something delicious from scratch, including my Gramma’s Apple Pie, complete with flaky, pastry crust.

Ahhhh… when planning Thanksgiving dinner this year, the task was monstrous, so (as the hostess supreme) I elected to short-cut a couple of dishes – well, namely one – dessert!

I had a solid review from my cafe latte about Krusteaz‘ Blueberry Pancake Mix.  So, when I spotted the Apple Crisp in the baking aisle at Costco…. I walked past – initially.  It took me a few weeks to actually get up the nerve to cave and buy pre-packaged Apple Crisp (especially since P’s mom was coming for dinner and her apple crisp is the best).

Well – am I ever GLAD that I did!!  Krusteaz Apple Crisp is so unbelievably easy to make – just add butter to the crumble topping package, empty the apple filling package into the pan, and sprinkle crumble topping on top.  Bake for 45 minutes!  It is unmistakably the best Apple Crisp (from a box) you will ever lay your taste buds on!  Kind of has this nice, sticky caramel-ly texture.apple crisp

And – you know what else is great?  With the same mix you can bake a Caramel Apple Cheesecake, a Dutch Apple Pie, and Spiced Apple Bread Pudding.  I love a mix with such versatility!

Check out Krusteaz’ other great mixes for muffins, pancakes, cookies, scones, and even for your bread machine.  I am officially a “mix” convert!