Thursday, 3 May 2018

Project Proposal

In keeping with our desire to support Colin transitioning into his youth years, another opportunity arose to mentor his growth. Colin appeared in the kitchen after school yesterday, excited about an upcoming project. The students in his class were being given a carte blanche to design and build anything they want. Colin had two projects in mind: Makey Makey (an electronic invention tool that connects objects to computer programming) or Cardboard creations (using motors and other trinkets to build a working game). His enthusiasm gleaned in his eyes and I was catching his excitement. I talk all the time about design thinking and project based learning to the point that all three boys feel as though they are missing out. But then Colin hesitated. "The only thing is, we have to provide the materials. And it's pretty expensive."

I was impressed that Colin seems to really be internalizing the concept of money, spending and budgets. These are skills that are going to be really important to have a good handle on when he leaves home (parenting win!) He sheepishly said the Makey Makey kit runs between $50 to $75 dollars, and the motor and parts for the other project would also run a high cost.

In the split second of parenting think time that I had, these thoughts raced through my head:

That's a lot of money.
I really want him to have the chance to do this project.
It's great for him to work in design thinking and building.
That's a lot of money.
It's for school, we can cover that.
That's a lot of money for one project.
I don't want the money issue to prevent him from participating.
Maybe...there's a learning opportunity here...

After assimilating all this, here's what I proposed to Colin:

"In the business world, you can get people called investors to fund your projects. But in order to get the money you have to submit a proposal. So I'll send along a proposal template where you can outline your vision of the project, why it's a good project, what you think it will cost, where you will buy materials, and what the timeline for working on it will be. Then we will meet together and you can deliver a prepared "pitch" to sell us your idea."

He jumped on board right away. I have a feeling it might be because he really thought it would be a flat out "no" when he told me how much it was going to cost.

So this morning I sent an email:


I have attached a Word document that you can fill in for your design project proposal. You have a meeting with your potential investors (Mom and Dad) Saturday at 1pm. Please bring the completed proposal to that meeting and be prepared to “pitch” (tell us about) your project. Enthusiasm and knowledge will be very important to the success of your pitch in securing the money you need.

Good luck!

Mom and Dad.

If he puts the work in, I'm hoping this will be a really good chance to learn a business skill that will serve him in the future. I know I'll have to fight the urge to give him the money right away. If there are some holes in the proposal I hope to provide some feedback that he can revise before we "sign the contract" between designer and investor. In the end, however, I think it's a great little experience for him.

Wednesday, 2 May 2018

All that we are

As I complete my Bachelor of Education, I am now looking forward into another exciting chapter of my life. But I have also been feeling the tug of looking back from where I've come. It can be a difficult thing to process going back to school as an adult, changing directions mid-life. My mother once asked if I regretted not doing this 20 years ago, as though I may have wasted those years now that I've come back to the spot in which I once stood.

However, I'm coming to realize that all that I am, all that I will be going forward, is a culmination of where I've come. This week I received an offer to collaborate on an exciting project that directly requires my training in film. The collaboration will be with an inspirational partner about a subject I am deeply passionate. As I step into teaching I don't expect my career will be traditional (nothing I have ever done has been) and this opportunity will fit right into that vision. And I wouldn't be embarking on it without the years of experience in film.

It's interesting to consider "all that I am" and to see and wonder how it will piece together for this next part of the journey. Will I draw on my musical background? Theatre? Film? Travel? Languages? Writing? Mathematic competitions? Field hockey, volleyball or soccer? Church leadership? Motherhood?

Tuesday, 1 May 2018

Resisting the urge to pave the way

In the past month I had two experiences in which, after great resistance, I held out from spoiling Colin. Both resulted in a neat opportunity for him to grow.

The first was chipping away at the build up of ice on the driveway. I arrived home after school first that afternoon and began to try to dig out some of the ice. When Colin got off the school bus, he dropped his bag on the step and immediately picked up a shovel to help. The work was not easy. We were using a repetitive up-and-down motion with garden spades in an attempt to crack large chunks of ice off in order to clear them. Colin never spoke a single word of complaint; but three times I caught myself about to tell him to "go on inside, I can finish up." Part of me wanted to spare him the difficult work. Part of me didn't want to steal from his media time. But each time I swallowed my words, knowing that he would benefit not only from the physically demanding chore, but also from seeing a job through right to the finish. I was right. In the end, when we cleared the last chunk, the feeling of satisfaction in myself was exhilarating, and I can only assume Colin also felt that sense of accomplishment.

The second opportunity happened on a shopping trip. Colin needed a new soccer ball, new cleats, and new school shoes, so we headed out of town to a sports outlet store. As we shopped, I felt the urge just to buy all the items for Colin. He's a good kid, hardworking, helps out around the house, and I wanted to spoil him a little. Instead, I fought the urge. I told him that I would pay for a maximum amount for each item, and if he wanted something more expensive he would have to kick in the rest. I then watched as he carefully considered how much money he has, the different items offered, and compared the cost of each. To see him weigh all these options and come to sensible decisions (including one item of indulgence he had been wanting for a long time) made this mama's heart sing.

It's tough to hold out on these types of things, but the long-term benefits will be worth it.

Sunday, 4 March 2018

Purposed, not perfect

I listened to a podcast the other day that when we think about raising our children, we should remember that we are not raising perfect children, but purposed children. Perfectly behaved children who immediately obey all those little commands that bark out from our mouths cannot be our definition of parenting success.

There are so many days when I get caught up in those little things:

"Pick up your clothes from the floor."
"Did you do your homework?"
"Tidy up your room."
"You didn't make your bed."
"Don't tease your sister."
"Hang up your coat!"
"Wet mitts can't stay in your bag."

If I'm being honest, 90% of what I say to direct my children falls into this category. But when I really consider it, if my children suddenly behaved in all these areas, would I consider it a job well done? Would I think that I had done everything exactly right in raising my children? Would I consider it a success?

The real answer is no. Tidy, quiet, well-behaved children makes for a quiet, well-run home, but it does not make for children who mature into stable, serving, contributing adults in our community. It does not make leaders who shake off the chains of habit and complacency and make real change in this world. It does not make servants of God's kingdom who really see those suffering around them. It does not make smart, critical and creative thinkers who can make wonderful discoveries and advancements in their field.

This - this is what I want for my children, and I can see how "purposed" instead of "perfect" children is how to get there. I want my children to look inward and see who they really are, the talents they have and gifts they can give. I want to help them cultivate a vision for their lives, to discover their purpose here in this world and set them on the course to fulfill that vision.

And if I'm to do that, I need to readjust those every day foci I have as a mother.

Wednesday, 28 February 2018

Family Stories

One year when the kids were young (maybe 3, 6, 8 and 10) we were on our way down to the US for a two day trip. Our morning schedule to leave was very tight, and not wanting to fall into the usual pitfalls of having young children, I sat down the three boys and very seriously explained that they were going to help get ready. They were do as I said, exactly as I said, and nothing else. Three little heads bobbed up and down in agreement.

"Go and get two pair of pants, and put them into your knapsack." Off they scurried to comply.
"Now get two t-shirts and put them in your bag." Instant obedience.
"Two pairs of underwear."
"Two pairs of socks."
"One pair of pyjamas." Back and forth they went, strictly adhering to my instructions.

"A book and something to do in the car."

Yup - I was winning at this parenting thing.

Meanwhile I had packed away everything else you need for a road trip with young children - DVDs, Juliette's special diet, our clothes, Juliette's clothes, a bed rail, snacks, pillows and blankets for the it all went. And when I turned around and everything was ready...we were early. Oh yes, I should probably write a book about this, I thought.

"Into the car!" was the last order and one, two, three, four in they went.  We pulled out and were on our way.

Just as we were pulling up to the US border, I turned around to give that lecture to the kids - the one that goes "don't say or do anything!" so that we will sail right through. And just for good measure, I added "But if they do tell us to get out,  just quietly get out of the car and follow Mom and Dad-"

"But I'm not wearing any shoes."

Say what?

"I'm sorry - what did you say?" I ask my 8 year old.

"I'm not wearing any shoes."

"How can you not be wearing any shoes? How did you get into the car-"

"I'm not wearing any shoes either," pipes up the six-year old.

This is the part where I nearly lose my mind.

"Are you kidding me? Are you kidding me?" I don't even know what to say.

"Well, you told us to do exactly what you said, and you never told us to get on our shoes."

Mouth drops. Speechless.

He got me there.

Tuesday, 27 February 2018

When life is normal...and then isn't.

There have been a few tragedies close to home lately. Not people I've known personally, but people within a close degree of separation. As I tried to gather information, I often used Facebook to follow the story and updates. As I scrolled back on their loved one's pages, something similar struck me about each page. If you scroll back far enough, just past the very first post that trembles the details into the world wide web, you'll come across the most normal, inauspicious, innocuous posts. Posts like "Can't figure out what to make for dinner." Or a viral video of someone doing something funny or embarrassing. Or a picture of their kids in the car. Or a question for friends like "anyone have a tent I can borrow?"

Life is normal, and then it isn't. The following posts are filled with love and fear and medical jargon and tears. Sometimes there are long bouts of silence filled by close friends and family. A semi-permanent record of when life was plodding along and then tragically interrupted.

If one had the time and the desire, it would be interesting to read through all those difficult posts and see how those bits of normal eventually make their way back into a person's thoughts and Facebook page. For the reality is that life goes on for those left behind, or it goes on in a new way for someone forever physically altered by an accident. But while the tragedy never disappears the deep pain of it starts to fade - the gift of time, I suppose. And perhaps inadvertently at first, those little bits of every day life start to emerge once more.

Friday, 12 January 2018

Capsule Wardrobe

I am really not a big fan of trends. Ever since Doc Marten shoes when I was a tween, I always had trouble adapting to new ideas. I look at a new trend and I think "that is terrible, I would never wear that." Or do that. Or try that. It's not an aversion to new things: I would jump a plane in a heartbeat to somewhere I've never been, or jump into a new sport, or pick up a new hobby, or try a new instrument. I just don't have an eye for fashion trends, I suppose. Give it six months, or likely even a year, and then I'll come around.  Leggings and a long shirt or sweater are my go-to now - finally something comfy when I want to get down on the ground with the kids, or hiking up and down the stairs all day, or running around getting everything done. The first time around I saw them I swore I'd never put them on.

But I came across something today...a fashion trending idea...that has piqued my interest. It's called a capsule wardrobe. The idea is that you have basic, essential pieces in your wardrobe that never go out of style, that can be mix and matched together, and that pares down your closet to nearly nothing.

Oh my, that I love.

I've written before about my yearning for simplicity and less stuff around me, and sometimes it's just so hard. The truth is, I don't usually have the fashion sense to stand in the store and know "that, that there is a perfect basic, essential piece for my wardrobe." Fashion involves colour coordinating and figure fitting and budget balancing and I just don't have the knack for it. If I ever really committed to the capsule wardrobe, it would likely mean that I've downloaded a picture of a collection and I simply go out and pick out those exact objects, and then mix and match as indicated in the picture.

Ah well. Can't have all the talents.

So I tore into my closet and drawers a bit today to see what overflow lay behind the doors. What I discovered is that:

1) I actually don't own a ridiculous amount of clothes, and I own even less shoes
2) My closet was stuffed because I only do two switches a year, meaning that although it's winter I still have all my fall stuff in there. And once spring comes I'll also stuff in all my summer stuff.

That's what comes from living in a small space. You get to use storage bins really well. I have a huge amount of standard size large Rubbermaid totes, each one filled and labelled and stored by frequency of access, and every single one is accessed often. Seriously, when they were stored in my basement I accessed a tote at least once a week. Now that they are in a storage unit I try to wait until I need to get a few things. But I'm still over at the storage a couple of times a month. I don't store things I never use; I store things I don't need on a daily basis.

So until I have the budget and desire (and most likely a shopping/fashion advisor) what I do plan to do is to have only one season in the closet at a time, and three totes each storing the other seasons. That way I only have one tote of clothing in my closet at a time, leaving the breathing room I so deeply yearn for.