Give Me Five More Minutes, Kids

Summers are tricky when you work from home

Give Me Five More Minutes, Kids

Although I quit my full-time job, moved 300km and began a completely new and different life to be able to spend more time with my kids, I still have to dedicate a chunk of my week to working.

I can manage this during the school year, even though my youngest only goes part-time. But soon, we’re going to have to come up with a new game plan.

Summer is coming.

I love summer. I’m all for lazy, unscheduled days, and impulse trips to the lake or the movies or the stables or the children’s museum. I’m all for picnics in the backyard and afternoons at the splash park. I know that the word-count for my novel won’t be advancing much for two months, and I’m ok with that. But I am a freelance writer, and the important part of that title is not the ‘free’ part. At some point, even if the sun is shining, I’ve got to do some paid work. The ever-elusive concept of balance will have to be addressed.

So what to do with the kids?

They’ll be in camp for a few weeks (not in a row), and they are old enough that I am able to say, go play in the backyard, but they are young enough that they will only play for so long before they come looking for me. Short of locking myself in the bathroom (tempting), I’m going to have to find a way to keep them busy while I keep working.

Last year, I gave them the Lego challenge — they had all summer to create a universe using every single piece of Lego that we have. And we have a lot. On rainy days, on really hot days and on days when I was otherwise occupied for a bit, the girls went down to the playroom and went to town on the Lego. By time school began again, we could see the bottom of the 60 litre bin that the Lego had been stored in. The challenge had been a success, on many levels.

This year, I’m trying to come up with something similar, but I don’t think the Lego thing would work again. So what should I do? I could have them organize the Tupperware cupboard — it would probably take all summer — but I don’t know how enthusiastically that would be embraced. So I’ve come up with a shortlist of activities that will consume their time, hold their attention, and allow me to get a little bit of work done with two young kids in the house.

Buy a 1,000 piece puzzle and have them complete it without my help. PROS — will take all summer. CONS — 5 year-old will lose interest almost immediately.

Gather materials for them to create a scrapbook of the previous year. PROS — creative, nice keepsake, good for 5- and 8 year-old. CONS — I hate scrapbooking and don’t want to have to keep procuring decorative photo corners that will end up all over the house anyway.

Challenge them to colour every picture in a gigantic colouring book. PROS — not messy. CONS — boring.

Come up with a ‘craft-a-day’ calendar; put ideas into a jar, have them choose an idea when necessary. PROS — fun, creative, different every day. CONS — that’s a lot of planning.

Create-a-Cookbook – give them access to all of my cookbooks and have them copy all of their favourites into their own volume. PROS — transcribing recipes by hand takes a really long time. CONS — boring

Latch-hook a pillow, needlepoint a picture on plastic canvas, cork a rug. PROS — kids will learn valuable, sustainable skills, and have something nice to show for it. CONS — just because it takes me 10 years to complete a craft project doesn’t mean it will take them as long.

In the end, I think balance will be achievable only if I have buy-in from all parties, so I’m off to hit Pinterest, scour the bookstore, and of course, pick the kids’ brains for ideas.

And like it or not, I forsee a lot of late working nights or early working mornings in my future, where the only thing I’ll be balancing is my computer on one leg, and a cup of coffee on the other.

So what will you do to keep your kids busy this summer when you need some time for yourself?






My Children's Reaction To Princess Merida's Makeover

A terrible princess makeover becomes a teaching moment

My Children's Reaction To Princess Merida's Makeover

When Disney announced that they were giving Merida a makeover, I rolled my eyes (hard) but wasn’t that surprised. If there was ever a concept I would never expect to see, learn or pass on to my children from Disney, it’s gender equality. To whit: the kids finally get a realistic, relatable, strong female protagonist, and Disney wants to whore her up.

Like I said, it’s disappointing, but I expect no less.

I am not a Disney cheerleader, but we have visited (some of) the parks, watched (some of) the movies and owned (some of) the merchandise. I am not keeping Disney from my kids, or keeping my kids from Disney, but it’s not that special to our family either. It’s one aspect of their childhood, just like it was mine. No biggie.

But I am conscious of the fact that I have daughters, and the Disney princesses of today do not look like the Disney princesses of my youth. In fact, Disney wasn’t big on the princesses when I was little; they were more into animal heroes, so the princesses I grew up with were the retro, original princesses of the 30s, 40s and 50s. Still not beacons of feminism for sure, but neither had they been subjected to 21st century tarted-up makeovers yet.

Brave was the first Disney princess movie I took my girls to see, and the fact that Merida was stubborn and carried a bow and arrow had a role to play in my decision to take them to see it. They loved it. I loved it (more for the mother/daughter dynamic than the bear-wrestling, but still). I felt good about them seeing it. I was fine with them later owning the DVD, and a doll version of Merida as well (gifts, both).

But now? With this potential makeover, Merida enters the ranks of the helpless; clear eyes replaced with come-hither expression; bow and arrow replaced by resplendent gown, practical for saving herself from neither suitors nor ghost-bears.

Like I said earlier — hardly surprising, but disappointing nonetheless.  

But what was more important to me was not what I thought, but what my daughters would think. Would they too reject this Merida as a churlish, weak version of a beloved hero? Or has the media machine, despite my best efforts and despite the values I have tried to instill in my kids, exerted its influence beyond my own? Because the truth is, my girls like to play dress-up. They like to play Mommy and Baby where gender roles are paraded in their fullest, most traditional, hetero-centric, societally-normalized way. They like to pretend to slay dragons, but they also like fancy dresses and fancy things.

Would they like this new, fancy Merida better than the original, too? I took a deep breath, called them over, and showed them the two Meridas. I held my breath as they studied the pictures. Then we talked about it. 

Me: So which one do you like better?

Mischa, age 8: This one (points to original Merida)

Cassidy, age 5: This one (points to original Merida)

I exhale and thank god I’ve raised my babies right.


Me: Why do you like that one better?

M: Because it looks way better.

C: Yeah, that’s the real life one. The other one looks like she was drewn. {Ed’s note: yes, she said drewn, and it was really cute. Correct her and I’ll cut you.}


Me: And what do you think of the other (new) one?

M: (Makes a face) I don’t like it. It’s weird.

C: Yeah, it’s weird! And her hair is all messed up!

M: And MOM!

Me: Yes?

M: WHERE is her bow and arrow?

Me: Good question.

M: She needs her bow and arrow. Merida always has her bow and arrow.

C: Yeah, to fight bad guys and bears and her little brothers and stuff!


Me: So why do you think they want to change her?

M: I don’t know! Who would do that?

Me: Disney would.

C: Disney doesn’t know what they’re talking about.

M: Yeah, Disney doesn’t know what they’re talking about.

Me: I couldn’t agree more. Now run along and slay those dragons.


Image: Disney/Pixar


Turning the Hurt into Happy

How a new Band-Aid Brand app helps to distract

Turning the Hurt into Happy

I knew before it happened that the bike was about to skid out from under her. The rock was too big to ride over, the sidewalk too narrow to go around it. I called out in warning and concern, but it was too late.

By time I reached my seven-year-old daughter Mischa, she had crawled out from under the bike and was wiping the gravel from her hands and her knees. I pulled her close to me and she burst into tears.

“You hit the dirt!” I exclaimed, surveying the damage to her legs, arms, and chin. “That was quite a trick—I didn’t know you wanted to be a stunt rider!” My daughter laughed as I wiped away her tears, and we headed for home and a little TLC.

Not surprisingly, as soon as we got in the door and Mischa found a new audience in her sister and father, the tears started again in earnest. “Oh no! We’d better amputate!” Her father’s joke helped distract once more, and we began to clean her up.

The business of being a kid means falls off bikes, scraped knees, and scratched chins.

But the business of being a parent means making the tears disappear and the boo-boos go away.

My first-aid kit includes the essentials like bandages with their favourite characters on them, but it also has to include tricks for distracting from the hurt, comforting and making them feel safe and secure.

A mother’s kiss can work wonders, but when my five-year-old, Cassidy, got her finger caught in the zipper of her school bag, even my magic touch wasn’t enough. (And seriously, how do they manage to do these things in the first place?) A sticker for bravery, a special place next to me on the couch, and a favourite book that we read together finally quelled the tears, but quite frankly, the dramatics were draining on both of us. I needed a new trick to have up my sleeve.

Happily, Band-Aid Brand's award-winning augmented reality Magic Vision app featuring Disney’s The Muppets is now available in Canada from the iTunes App Store, as well as the Google Play Store! When you scan the Band-Aid Bandage with your favourite character on it, Kermit, Miss Piggy and Gonzo all come to life on your iOS or Android device! Kermit sings a special rendition of Rainbow Connection, Gonzo shows off a thrilling new stunt, and Miss Piggy struts her stuff.

The distractor-factor is instantaneous with the Magic Vision app, and helps the tears dry up in no time. And let’s face it—we all know a boo-boo is no fun, but if the kids are going to put on a show, they may as well have the help of their friends, The Muppets.

As my kids and their worlds get bigger, there will be more falls off of bikes, more scrapes, and more bruises. There will be more boo-boos to kiss and owies to fix, and it will be my job to hold their hand without holding them back. Like it or not, letting them grow means letting them go, and though there will be bumps along the way, when you have the things you need to turn the tears into laughter, it helps the hurt go away for everybody.

We're giving away eight $300 Happy Distraction Prize Packs on Twitter — including The Muppets Band-Aid Brand Bandages!

Find out how you can win a prize filled with everything you need to act and distract your child when she has a scrape or cut.