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Last year we bought a little house on a large lot in a neighbourhood we loved. We gutted it, adding two floors and digging out the basement. The whole job took eight months. My husband, our five kids, our dog and me lived in the house the whole time.
It was one wild adventure. It made us a better family and I think it made me a better person. I learned a lot about parenting, about marriage, and about kids while living in the reno zone.
There were good reasons to stay in the house. For one thing, there were no houses to rent in the area and no apartment could house our brood. We wanted the kids to settle into the neighbourhood. We wanted them to stay at their school. Despite the mayhem around them, we wanted them to continue on with all their normal activities.
Oops. I used the word “normal”. Looking back on it from the comfortable confines of my renovated house, I think the biggest lessons I learned from this adventure had to do with the words normal and change.
While living in the reno zone, we chose to recognize and embrace change. The kids, who slept on single mattresses stuck together like Scrabble pieces, knew things were different. Why hide it? There was no TV, no computer, only books and board games surrounded by tools and materials. The kids, all powerfully driven by the pursuit of fun, adapted immediately. (It took my husband a little longer.)
I learned that some things shouldn’t change. We ate every meal together, sitting around the dinner table each night reviewing our days. By the way, an unplugged table saw makes for an excellent sideboard. Bedtime is bedtime, homework is homework, and the dog needs to be walked.
By keeping the basic structure of family life together, I realized that home is simply any place where we are all living together. It was rather liberating. This is probably the best reason why living in the reno zone felt so normal.
The first year I met my husband, we had a tomato-growing contest. We spent one lovely spring morning in his backyard, scratching in the earth and planting our seeds (surprisingly romantic). The sprouts took on a symbolic meaning and I poured my energies each weekend into nurturing, weeding, and fertilizing.
He ignored them and watched football most weekends
His tomatoes, planted in a nice spot exposed to sun and rain, were left alone. He checked in on them regularly, making sure they were safe, but not interfering with nature. My tomatoes, flooded with love and nurture, all primped and preened and spoiled rotten, were lousy. His were amazing.
The renovation made me think about the tomatoes because for kids and tomatoes, there is some magic balance between nurture and neglect. (I realize neglect is the wrong word—it sounds ugly but I think that is why I like using it.) Put it this way: there is a fine line between mothering and smothering.
It takes courage to leave your kids alone—more courage than I usually have. If they know they are loved, it’s often the right thing to do. I thank the renovation for forcing me to let the kids fend for themselves more than I otherwise would.
The greatest challenge of parenting is allowing kids to develop self-reliance and independence while knowing they are loved and supported.
I was busy through the renovation and had less hands-on time with the kids. I missed them. It made me really focus on improving the quality of my time with the kids. I made sure it was intense, fun and loving.
The rest of the time they were left to their own devices. Lo and behold, the older two became attentive shepherds to their younger siblings. They developed a whole bunch of games that all five of them could play. They became better friends. The middle boy, following the lead of his older siblings, became a voracious leader. The five year old learned to ride her bike and now explores the neighbourhood on wheels.
I am really proud of them. There is a part of me that thinks if I had had more time last year, they might not be doing as well. Like my husband’s tomatoes, they got just the right amount of love and sunshine—all on their own.
Let’s be clear from the get-go: I have six kids and I am the co-founder of Mabel’s Labels Inc. Clearly, labelling is a huge part of my life and essential for keeping me organized. In fact, the thought of not being organized makes me shudder.
Recently, I had a chat with our Customer Service guru, Martha at Mabel’s HQ to get her frontline opinions about some of the creative ways our customers stay organized with labels. All I can say is…WOW, I am inspired! Indeed, it appears we are providing labels for some pretty clever mamas!
The Snow Day
Moms are finding wicker baskets great for all the kids’ hats, scarves and mittens. Give each kid a basket, attach a personalized tag like our Bag Tag to the basket handle and call it home for all their snow paraphernalia.
Off the Hook
Pop a label like one of our Sticky Labels above each child’s coat hook. Each coat should then be able to find its way back to where it belongs. No excuses—labels don’t lie.
The Spice Girls
Try our custom Canister/Spice Labels for your spice jars and kitchen canisters to keep tabs on everything. Small labels like this are so versatile you can also personalize them for video games, cosmetics, craft paints and supplies, DVDs, book plates, etc.
The “I’m Addicted to Rubbermaid Totes” Mama
For the woman who locks it all away in handy plastic totes, but can only find the Christmas tree garland when she needs Easter Eggs—label the totes after each holiday with what is inside (Custom Bin Labels are your answer and at the end of the year you’ll be back on track with all the holiday paraphernalia!
The “If I Lend You this Book, Will I Get It Back?” Dilemma
Label those books with your name and phone number to ensure they make it back to your bookshelf.
The Litterless Lunch
Line ‘em up and start slinging sandwiches. Put small labels on the food containers, the thermos, cutlery, etc. These little labels will ensure all your lunch bag components make it home, while also guaranteeing the right lunch finds a home in the right stomach.
The Monster Under the Desk
If your computer and electronic cords are looking more like an angry octopus, get some cord control by labelling these as well. No more guessing whether you’ve unplugged the phone or the PVR.
The Costco Creeper
Buy in bulk? Can’t lift your 40lb tub of shampoo or family-sized barrel of pickles. Downsize to smaller containers and label!
What’s your best label hack? Tell us how you use labels in your life and enter for your chance to win some Mabel’s Labels. Here’s how:
For the next week, each time you post a comment with a labelling tip, you will be entered to win one of three prizes courtesy of Mabel’s Labels. We have two Big Combo packages and one set of Mama Cards to give-away. The more comments you leave in response to this post, the more chances you have to win! (Click here for contest rules and regulations.)
Big Combo Package
In honour of Earth Day, I have some simple suggestions on how to ‘green’ your home and improve your family’s overall health.
Still rocking the Teflon, non-stick pan set from your wedding registry? Stainless steel, cast iron, and the latest in earth-friendly cookware are a better alternative. The ‘King of Non-Stick’, Teflon, is produced with highly toxic chemicals that are a likely human carcinogen. While on the topic, avoid using the self-clean option on your oven because these ovens are lined with non-stick services that emit toxic fumes during the ‘cleaning’ process.
Avoid using chemicals to mask odours. Room deodorizers (or plug-ins) are the worst culprits for spritzing chemicals around a room. Instead, open your windows and let the sunshine and fresh air into your home. Sunlight is a natural killer of bacteria. Fresh air and plants will also remove odour, improve air quality, and save you money!
There’s no need for fabric softeners and dryer sheets. Dryer sheets provide a double whammy of skin irritation and airborne toxins for your family to ingest. Walk around your neighborhood on a beautiful, clear morning and you’ll smell the homes that are using dryer sheets from outside. Think of how high the chemical concentrate from those sheets must be if you can smell it in that context. There are healthier alternatives to keeping your clothes soft.
Start cleaning and laundering with eco-friendly cleaners. Not only will the fish thank you, but your health will improve, too. And your children can safely help you clean using a microfibre cloth or washing dishes with eco-friendly soap because the toxic ingredients are gone.
Being green definitely has its benefits.
The melting of winter into spring is a great time to bring order back into your home after the chaos that hibernation brings. Spring cleaning can be a daunting task, but you can simplify it by enlisting your family to help and make it into a fun activity. Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to pull it off.
Finally, at the end of a productive day, reward your team with dinner out at a favourite restaurant. You won’t feel like cooking—or worse—cleaning up after the dinner mess!
While there are many advantages to working from home, there is no point unless you can find an appropriate space to do business without interruption. Here are some simple recommendations on how to run a successful home office and keep the peace at home.
Last week was fire prevention week, but I bet not many savvy moms knew about that. So I don’t mind telling you about it now—even though it’s over. The fact is that fire safety in the home is relevant any week. I also think it’s a great time of year to take stock on all systems in your home and be sure you are well prepared for the winter months ahead.
Here’s an article on establishing an escape plan and some reminders we received last week from Home Depot on making sure your house is safe are definitely worth noting.
Insomnia is the worst. Why is it that everything seems way scarier and more stressful in the middle of the night? Trying to turn those thoughts off can be impossible when you’re tossing and turning, viciously aware of the dwindling hours between you and the sound of the morning alarm.
According to a survey by website Manilla.com, the number one answer among women of “what keeps you up at night?” is financial worries. That’s right—30 percent of women said money stress is keeping them up at night.
Next to money, work stress and ‘to-do lists’ are the second-most common reasons for insomnia among women; 18 percent of women blamed these for keeping them awake.
Nothing keeps men awake
Interestingly (or perhaps frighteningly), the number one factor keeping men up at night is ‘nothing’—as cited by 35 percent of men. We presume this means these men are enjoying peaceful and untroubled sleep. Or perhaps ‘nothing’ means: “As if I would tell a survey what keeps me awake at night! Nothing scares me, of course!”
Organizing makes us happy
According to the survey, disorganization and clutter are driving more women crazy than men (surprise, surprise—not). In fact, 73 percent of women claim they are frustrated by household disorganization, 38 percent of women complain about the waste of paper mail and 32 percent complain of the clutter. By comparison, fewer men (59 percent) complain that they are similarly frustrated.
Apparently, 50 percent of women and 41 percent of men feel relaxed when they are organized. Indeed, 41 percent and 37 percent feel downright happy as a result. (We concur!)
Whether you are extremely organized…or not, one survey finding is none too surprising: half of women and half of men surveyed say they forgot to pay at least one bill over the past year. Uh oh…
Tips to quell the chaos
Here are a few ways you can get your household finances more organized:
Yoda and sleep
As Yoda said, “Fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.” It’s usually an element of fear (and avoidance of fear) that leads you to toss unopened bills aside and not make them a priority. And then you get angry with yourself when you can’t find the bills, or forget to pay them and you end up paying more in late fees and credit card interest. Which in turn makes you hate the service provider. And you suffer by not sleeping at night, wondering which utility you forgot to pay. (It’s all so complicated!)
The solution: by keeping your finances organized and up to date, not only will you avoid the dark side (i.e. chaos and disorganization), you will have a much better chance of sleeping at night.
And with that—sleep tight!
Whether across the city or the globe, change can be scary for adults and children. These tips will set your family up for success.