Ser-VICE!

The club volleyball season that will suck up the next 3 months of our lives is, once again, upon us.
And now I’m sucking everyone else in with me.

Volleyball actually carries through the entire year now with very little reprieve between the school team, the club team and the beach team, between training, games and tournaments home and away – all multiplied by 2 girls. Dang good thing it’s mostly an indoor sport – soccer seasons were mostly COLD.

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While I’m completely sold on the benefits of a little bit of team (or personal) sport for kids, especially for girls (keeps them outta the malls and, so far, keeps them too busy for the boys 😉 ), just driving to/fro and sitting/yelling, although I do those quite well, isn’t quite enough for me to get out of it.

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My personal quest every season, every team, is to capture THE action shot.

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Unfortunately I don’t exactly have THE best indoor action shot camera, but I doubt Hubby would let me spend $3,000.00 on a camera just to get volleyball pictures for my scrapbook.

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Or, there is the possibility it’s not the camera, it’s just that I don’t know how to use it. The daylight/beach shots are definately easier to achieve.

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Either way, these were the best few (out of 200!) from today. (Although the one above looks kinda funny with no ball in the picture… Like she was just very awkwardly “posing”).

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It’s definately a bit easier to catch shots in warm-up – their moves are more predictable.

Well, on the challenge goes – 2 tournaments down, 8 to go…

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Empty Nester, Phase 1.2

WOOHOO! I won’t be abandoned quite yet!

I just might survive Kid #1 “leaving the nest” afterall. She’s staying in town!
Our eldest, B, has been diligently applying to universities for September, and much to my personal, selfish, mothering relief, they’re all in town.

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Oh, I know she could have – and probably should have – left town for a year or two to “get out on her own”. I even encouraged it. But that’s because I thought (and still think) it’s best for her, in her own life and situation, not because it’s at all what I wanted.

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I know our family dynamics will still be changed forever once Graduation comes. But I can rest awhile also knowing she’ll remain nearby until I can learn to deal with the changes. Kids growing up can be stressful, man.

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But she’s sure grown into a beautiful person.
Must get it from her Mom, along w/ her reddish hair ;-).

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Teenagers and MEDIA

Without the hardlined “Not in our house!” mantra, it’s pretty difficult to control teenagers exposure to all kinds of media that not only influence them and their actions/thinking, but also eat into precious family time. We’ve managed to find some happy agreements in our household, on most things. Here’s our take on it:

1. iPods : It’s “the thing to have” these days, and sometimes it’s hard to just say “no!” to these things, especially when they’re actually useful – and fun! My fear was that if we bought the girls their “own” iPods, they would be forever tuned out – headphones on, head down, no longer a part of this family (they have admitted they purposely do this to other people). Our compromise – a FAMILY iPod, that we can all download songs on (and Momma can keep an eye on what’s downloaded), and we can each take turns using when needed. Because seriously – nobody needs to be listening to anything all day long, every day.

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2. TV : WE CANCELLED CABLE!!! The girls both admit they actually don’t miss it at all. If we REALLY “need” to watch something, we can catch it on YouTube, get Gramma to “save” it on her Tivo for us or, in the case of hockey, catch it at a nearby pub. Otherwise, we buy a season’s DVD’s we think we’ll enjoy and watch it together, with NO COMMERCIALS – and actually turn it off when we’re done! The hours we save! We try to watch what the girls enjoy – Hubby even gets into Gossip Girl (what a trooper).

3. Movies : Well, the girls are getting older, and I can’t see every movie and rate it before they go. We’ve tried to teach them discernment early on, and now we just trust them to make the right decisions. At home, we have our own DVD library (some new, but most are off the “Previously Viewed” shelves) of movies we all really enjoy. Once a month or so we all sit down together and we make a huge batch of nachoes, fresh salsa and homemade guac and enjoy some family time. We used to call them “James Bond” nights, but we’ve since expanded our repetoire. Talking about movies you watch together can also be a great way to get into your teens mind and learn about them…

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4. Music : While I can’t oversee everything the girls hear, I try to listen to “their” radio station in the car with them, and I have my own favorites and talk to them about theirs. I think we have a very open communication about what we let our ears hear. I offer to buy their songs on iTunes (“we don’t steal, girls!”) and that way I can see what they’re buying, talk to them about it if it’s questionable, and REALLY talk to them about it if it’s just plain bad.

5. Facebook/MSN : We’ve had to, once or twice, put a time limit on “computers” for the girls. We reinforce that they need to make sure they’re balancing their life – time indoors, time out; time alone (computer), time with family, time with friends, time for homework. We’ve debated buying them their own laptops for their homework, but in the end I think that’s just giving them MORE ways to tune out from the people around them. We have a family laptop that is beside the kitchen, that we can see the screen of any time we happen to walk by. Done. And if I see the same boys name on the screen many times over, I know to start asking some questions…

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6. Cell Phones : The girls have each had their own cell phone since Gr.8, which admittedly has been very handy. I haven’t figured out how to control the texting, though… Not that I mind, but when I’m talking, I prefer to be listened to, not kind of heard while you’re texting someone else. That said, I probably text more with each of the girls than any of their friends… They’re simply not as interested in actual talking – other people might HEAR! Anyone have more ideas on this one??

7. Videogames : This hasn’t been an issue since Gr.7. We have a Nintendo Game Cube, and a Wii, but usually when the girls play it’s with their friends over, or we’re ALL playing (can you say ROCKBAND!?) together. Back in Gr.7, though, we had to put a time limit on it. We told them that if they could manage their time themselves, it wouldn’t be an issue, but that if they were spending too much time on the computer/videogaming and not balancing their time, we’d have to start making some rules. That was enough – it never became an issue again.

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8. Fashion Mags : A + I have a weakness for fashion mags! While I don’t get the impression she is overly influenced by body-type, it’s nice to sit together and read through the latest In Style or September Vogue and actually TALK about what catches her (or my) eye on each page. The 3 of us girls sit sometimes and we each pick a best/worst item (not person!) on every page.

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Best of quality-time-with-your-teens to you all!blog-signoff-215

Travelling with Kids – Extra Advice

A few more things that have come to mind that we’ve learned while travelling with our Kids.

1. Plan. Have an itinerary. For Italy (and Paris before that), not only did we have an itinerary, we had addresses, maps and photos of each place we would need to find. It was a crazy amount of detail, but when you have 4 cranky kids and you don’t really know where you are or where you’re going, you need all the help you can get. Besides, photos of what your hotel looks like from the street, and a walking map from the train station to the hotel – it’s all available online nowadays.

dsc_9137(Our lose-it-and-we’re-screwed, EVERYTHING folder. It kept our passports, air tickets, train tickets, emergency information, stubs, souveniers, hotel confirmation numbers, detailed (!) itinerary – you name it, it was in what I lovingly called our “FOLDER OF FUN”, as in “KIDS!! Who’s seen the FOLDER OF FUN??? I left it RIGHT here!”)

2. Plan more. I had pre-researched a number of things to do in each city, with, of course!, maps and photos. Then we kind of went with the flow – if we wanted on the spur to visit a museum, I already had the hours, fees, directions all handy.

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(The itinerary to beat all itineraries – even including how much a cab should cost (but didn’t…), check in/out times, maps between our hotels + the train stations, and sometimes what the hotel breakfast buffet would look like!)

3. Got milk? Foreign countries don’t drink milk. If your kids gotta have it, it’s best to try to find out ahead of time where your next milk will come from. We didn’t, and paid for it a few times. Next time I would pre-locate a number of supermarkets about each town. Also, we didn’t prepare for the 11 hr plane ride back home and, so everyone knows, airplanes don’t drink milk. Again, next time we’ll better prepare.

4. Be aware if you have an “Extra Kid”. I’ve learned over the years to treat Hubby as an “extra kid”, who rarely knows where we’re going, needs to have something also of interest for him, needs daily naps!, gets cranky without food… Generally, he needs all the same care, attention and concessions as the other 4 kids do. On holiday, he IS the 5th kid. (Which, you may realize, means it’s never really a holiday for ME.).

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Happy travels!

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Crafting Time – Part 1

The most “random hits” I get here are people looking for either things to do with teenagers (see post) or homemade craft ideas, so I thought I’d post some of our oldie but goodies.

When the girls were young, we used to do 1 or 2 crafts a week together. They thought I was sooooo smart to know all these crafts just “outta my head”, but frankly I’d just buy a Martha Stewart Kids mag once a month and figure it out on the fly… (They still think I was just being real smart!). WELL, thank goodness for scrapbooks – here are some photos of a few of our efforts:

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dsc_9144aBeady critters and people and things of all kinds were a favorite past time for awhile. We even had a big book of all kinds of things – including little 3D shoes! They could become keychains, car mirror hangy things, earrings – you name it. B made this one, and I kept it in the scrapbook.

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dsc_9147aA bit of a fuzzy pic of a pic from my plastic-covered scrapbook, but they’re soaps. We made them for Cmas gifts one year with molds we found at Michael’s (where else?!).

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dsc_9149Gingerbread houses DEFINATELY count as crafty – especially when you turn it into a contest ;-). We did a few back then, and now I started doing them with the boys (see blog). We even have a cast iron mold from Lee Valley.

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One day A + I decided our “craft” would be to plant some mini flowers in a bunch of molds. They all died, but she went on to plant many a bulb with Hubby, even though she confessed she does NOT like bugs. Or dirt.

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dsc_9153We didn’t get a photo of the actual craft – this is the drawing that’s in our scrapbooks. We did little bejewelled t-shirts! They were a lot of work even for B + I, and prompted A to say (in fun) “This is the WORST day of my life!”. Such a drama queen.

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dsc_9159aThere are always other family members willing to craft, too! Aunts + Gramma all have their own interesting stamping and card-making materials that are fun for crafty visits.

Stay tuned – more to follow!

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I miss GIRLS…

I miss my girls.

I need a break from being jumped on, complained to, talked at, bossed around, COMPLETELY NOT LISTENED TO, pulled at, yanked on, cried to, demanded from, hit in the head with swords and generally just life-sucked from the 3 boys that live here! Far too much testosterone some days.

dscn3052(WHY must one – or both – of them always be sitting on me?!)

With the girls… Ahhhh. So civilized. I can sit. And relax. And my nails get re-painted. And I get caught up on the lastest from Gossip Girl, or In Style. And I am talked TO. And – ohmygosh – HEARD (or so they lead me to believe, which is good enough for me).

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I need me some girl-time, before the pony tail gets completely ripped from my head. (WHY must boys pull girls hair???) (and don’t say it’s because they like me…).

Is it Friday yet??

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Oooohh, that laughter…

Our eldest, B… *sigh*. She’s applying to colleges, big league volleyball teams, taking driver exams and soon to apply for an actual JOB.
Where did it go? Wasn’t it just a few months ago she was just this little punk 8 yr old with long, messy hair and nothing but sweats and ratty old running shoes for fashion?

dsc_5975(OHMYGOSH – seriously – I looked so much younger without the bags and wrinkles under my eyes!! What DID happen to all those years?!?!)

She’s always been the quieter, more serious of the bunch, much like her brother, Boo. Concentrated. Even when she plays sports, she’s even, steady, but very much present and ready to spring into action when needed. And only when needed ;-). (Her and I are lazy bugs at heart).

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Although the odd quick smile comes often enough, true from-the-gut laughter is her real charm. You can just feel her letting go of the “serious” side and moving into her “freer” mind. I smile, inside and out, every time I hear her laugh.

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Now, most often around here, when she’s laughing it’s at one of her silly brothers (Tt was taking these shots and making B and her friends laugh)…

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(even mid-summer, after pre-trip fake’n’bakes and a trip to HOT sunny Italy, I’m still white as a ghost! GEEZ! oh, ya, this is about B…)

Or her equally silly daddy…

img_0524(ok – REALLY bad shot, but this is B laughing at her Daddy trying to sing to RockBand – it was hilarious and I loved her laugh)

But, regardless. It just warms my heart and I hope she still finds time to just sit and laugh after she officially begins to take on the responsibilities of “adulthood” in a few more months. *sigh*.

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dscn27981(AHHhahaha – I could post this one a million times – they were all just laughing so hard!)