40 Plus MOMS

Raising children at 40


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Being an inspiration to your children

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Working Together

After a long hiatus from school, I’ve decided to take a course at the University of Toronto’s School of Continuing Education. My intent is to test my ability to obtain a Certificate in Public Relations as a precursor to applying into a full-on graduate degree program. My thinking is that if I can’t manage a continuing education course, there’s no way I can fit in a graduate degree, children and full-time work!

If I think about it for more than a second, I quickly realize how insane it all seems, i.e. trying to do it all with four and six-year olds at home?! What am I thinking? Does something have to give, will they miss out, and will I miss out by not spending as much time with them?

 As I rationalize my choices, I draw upon my own experiences growing up. My father was a bona fide workaholic. He’s a carpenter by trade, and although he retired with an office job managing building inspections at a Montreal university more than 20 years ago, he continues to seek out carpentry work at 84! A few years ago he insisted on putting up crown molding at our home. As he put it, he wanted us to have a memory of his work at our home. When I asked him why he wouldn’t want to just relax, his response was quite simple, “if you love what you do, it’s not work.”

So as my dad inspired me to seek and harness a lifelong journey to grow and learn, I thought why not give graduate school a go! As I witnessed and admired my dad’s interest in learning, I hope that my children may be equally inspired by my actions. Despite being up very early and often working many hours, there were set times of the day may dad was always there. Every morning, he made it a point to say goodbye to us, even if it meant waking us up. He always came back home for dinner to have a meal with the whole family. Consequently, my very busy dad always felt present even though he’d often come back home late at night after dinner. Several weekends and weeknights every month, he’d bring us along to be a part of his unique hobbies, such as mushroom picking.

Admittedly having a demanding career is at times not easy for me and piling on university courses doesn’t help. However, I have to believe, that the satisfaction I am feeling for breaking ground with this first course and learning something new has to have an osmosis effect on my kids as my dad did on me. My kids seem to get a kick out of it when I tell them every Wednesday night, “mom still goes to school,” kind of just like them. My support system, though, is what really makes it all work. Whatever your support system may be: spouse, nanny, siblings, or friends, work colleagues, it’s without a doubt, critical to your sanity and success.

By the way, in case you were wondering what my picture has to do with this post, here’s the background story. I had quite a bit of work to do one night, so to get my daughter to hang out with me while I did my work at the same time; I described what the office can be like to her. That is, folks often work side by side on assignments in the same room. I gave her a few assignments to do while I got to complete mine. Surprisingly it worked, so I had to snap a picture of it.

 Photo: Liliana Polcari

Capturing your child’s special moments

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Priceless Memories

Video: Liliana Polcari

There are many days I catch myself saying, “I will miss that laugh, that little voice, those funny little things my children do.” Lest I forget, I take plenty of spontaneous pictures and videos with my smartphone, and when it’s a planned occasion, such as a birthday, I use my digital SLR and video camera.

The benefits of having this terrific technology include the ease at which great moments can be captured. A common pitfall, though, is an immediate collection of thousands of images and videos that can quickly become overwhelming to review. Since it is difficult for me to delete pictures, I focus on carefully selecting the ones I want to print. I’m still old school in that I like to curate the pictures I take by printing selected images and displaying them through photo albums and scrapbooks. To simplify this process, I create two file folders with every monthly download from my smartphone or camera. One folder name contains the month and year within its title and the other has the word “prints” appended to the month and year the pictures were taken. For example, the file folder name containing the keepers would be “May 2014 prints.” Once printed, I’d know they were the best of the pack.  Also since they are printed chronologically, it makes it easier for me to organize the pictures in photo albums or scrapbooks adding quotes or keepsakes along the way. Alternatively, companies like Black’s, Shutterfly, and snapfish, to name a few, make storytelling easy with their custom photo books product.

Video, in my view,  is the ultimate way to capture those special moments of your children enjoying the things they love doing. Many parents will commemorate on how quickly their children have grown. A quick look at your own child’s baby videos will surely make you concur. Similar to making photo albums, I’ve committed to learn how to make video albums; editing the countless videos of my children into several story books for them. An idea I thought of would be creating videos according to specific themes such as a compilation of all birthday videos or vacation videos. Another idea I read about was taking a video of your child the same time every year answering the same questions. 

 Although I’m not quite there yet, I hope the opening video of my daughter taken several years ago made you chuckle and inspired you to find creative ways of preserving those special moments. 

Share your ideas on capturing your children’s memories.

Works of Art with Kids

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Art as depicted by a 4 and 6-year old ; Photo: Liliana Polcari

At last, the paintings my children worked on over the weekend have fully dried and ready for display. My children, aged four and six, love painting; seems like the messier they can get the more fun they have with it. So I indulged them last weekend by setting up a huge round plastic table-cloth on our family room floor with washable finger paint and gouache at their disposal.  I also had several plastic plates set up for them to use as a palette and avoid cross-contaminating the paint colours.

 Benefits of painting for children

So once it was all set up and the kids were ready to go with their paint smocks, they were set free to produce their works of art. My four year-old son loved using the paint brushes but loved dipping his fingers into the paint even more. At the same time, they were learning first-hand how to combine different colours to create new ones. There are a number of benefits associated with painting for your children stretching well beyond the sheer joy of creating and strengthening eye-hand motor coordination by holding paintbrushes. Through painting they have a forum to express their ideas and get to experience success through a tangible piece of artwork. They will also gain self-confidence and self-esteem through their proud displays of their work and the positive feedback they’ll receive along the way. In my daughter’s case, painting is also a stress reliever; she can spend hours painting and storytelling through her artwork. It keeps her occupied and focused by feeling a sense of accomplishment with every piece of art.

Displaying their masterpieces

I purchased several meters of canvas so that over the years I can collect and display several key pieces of their artwork. I have a storage box with their paper based artworks, but I wanted to make an effort to get them to paint on canvas so that I can frame it and keep it over the years and follow their progression. I’m setting up a wall in our house where their artwork will be displayed; a new piece will be added each year. Along the same lines as having annual pictures taken of your children at the same location every year to map their growth, I want to have their art keepsakes in an active displayable format. There are so many creative ways of displaying children’s art versus burying them in a storage box. I’m starting with simply unframed canvas but plant to progress with framing them in vintage frames. The ideas are endless and seeing my daughter’s satisfaction with her latest work makes me know enabling the whole process is all so well worth it. Oh, and the kids help with clean-up too, so on a practical level, they also learn responsibility through painting.

 

Feel free to share your art projects with kids.

Enjoying the winter with KIDS

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Here’s the snow dog – Photo: Liliana Polcari

Sometimes it’s the simplicity of the activity that makes it so fun and genuine. Last week’s snow fall was dreaded by most: longer commutes and colder weather are not the sort of combo folks look forward to, especially when winter is officially still one month away.

My kids, on the other hand, were completely excited. In their words, “let’s go sledging!” There wasn’t exactly enough snow to go tobogganing, but the snow had that perfect consistency to make snowmen. Or as my daughter prefers – snow dogs. It’s actually her way of campaigning for a real dog one day.

We have lots of fun getting the kids enjoying winter and the snow. One of my favourite childhood memories was trying to build the largest snowman ever with my older siblings and friends.   Rolling the snow ball into this massive boulder was awesome including about five kids, at one point, pushing it along!

So when the snow falls and the temperature hovers around the freezing mark, with great packable snow, it’s snow building time! Add some food colouring, old clothing, or twigs to your snowy creation, the possibilities are endless!

I’m hoping that our kids’ current love for snow persists, after all winter returns at roughly the same time every year lasting longer than any other season in Toronto. There’s a lot to do with snow in the winter with kids. Enjoy and get creative out there!

What are your memorable snow building experiences?

 


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The joy of family portraits

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How wonderful, let’s hire a photographer and get great family pictures. Sounds easy enough, not so if your children don’t want to cooperate. Lessons learned, schedule times around your children’s nap and feeding times. Seems obvious, but sometimes, you end up booking the time according to the photographer’s availability.

Two weeks ago, we had a photographer friend of ours come over to take pictures. Kids don’t like standing still for long periods of time, (adults don’t either for that matter), so work fast and have fun. Even the shots where the kids are trying to get away or crying can be cute years from now.


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Eating out with Children

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I can’t count the number of times we had to dash out of a restaurant with food in our mouths while one of us is paying and the other is chasing the kids. At one point I thought, is it just us? Is it because we’re older and we don’t have the energy to discipline them? I was in Amsterdam one month ago and couldn’t help notice how many parents were dining with children younger than ours and were just so well-behaved. What’s their secret? How do they do it?

For one, it seemed like they went out with their kids more often. Just as we go to Montreal every other month with our kids, going out to a restaurant isn’t a novelty. In our case, we gave up quite early after a few times of large mishaps, we just opted out. We avoided going out to restaurants with them for a while until, lo and behold, our kids got some practice. In our case, what helped us was making sure we’d go to a restaurant that served kids fast so we weren’t lingering. Our kids have an expiry time when it comes to going out. They need to move, so as long as we were able to order and eat within one hour max, we were fine. Anything beyond that would make it tricky. Typical crayons, paper, and other small toy kits helped too.


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An alternative to hockey

 

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Skiing with a hula hoop

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Next stage: pizza style skiing

 

Continuing on the theme of doing the things you love to do with kids, my husband and I decided to expose our kids to skiing last year. We love skiing and thought that if our kids see us enjoy it so much, that they might want to pick up it up too. It also beats exclusively being a spectator in the stands. Turns out, they really liked it.

Our daughter who was five at the time advanced quickly through the lessons and we were soon able to ski blue runs together. It took our three year-old son a little longer to feel comfortable. A few early wipe-outs spooked him out. I used a few tricks a good friend of ours taught us; one was going down the hill with him using a hula hoop. It works in getting a little one to feel comfortable and get stability. They also make ski harnesses but they tend to make the kids lean back, a big ski no-no. Hula hoop is effective and inexpensive. The other is letting go, and letting your child learn, you can ease them if with the smallest of bunny hills.

Photos: Liliana Polcari