Tuesday, August 31, 2010

"All I Need is a Stick"

In today’s computer age we all become so dependant on electronics. But what happens when electricity is not available. Children do not know how to play or travel or visit relatives any more unless it is on the television, computer or handheld device. It seems that if it is battery operated or if you plug it in it is fun. Playing outside and getting fresh air is now foreign to most kids.
Here is a personal example of what I am talking about. We visited friends at their cottage and a storm took out their electricity. Their son who at the time was 14 sat around all day complaining about how bored he was and could not think of one thing to do that did not include electricity. When the adults were sitting around complaining about how unresourceful this teenager was, my son came in the room and overheard the conversation. He took in everyone’s thoughts and finally added his own opinion. “All I need is a stick to have fun.” And he is right. To this day wherever we go if he is bored he finds a stick and turns it into a karate staff, a light saber, a sword, a crossbow, a walking stick, a tightrope. The possibilities are as endless as his imagination.
All children have imaginations, that is how they grow and develop, but it seems that at a certain age we as parents stop encouraging imaginative play and imaginative stories. How sad.

Sam went to a camp this week and was the muddiest I have ever seen him. It was also the most fun he has ever had at a camp in the city. He played with sticks and mud and built forts in the woods and fell in the creek. Every evening he came home happy and very tired. It was so good to see him actually taking part in nature and the environment around him.
This is my hope for all children to have a chance to take part in nature again and find joy in no way a video game can.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Information Overload

I have a confession, that I have to get out as soon as possible. I have a voracious thirst for knowledge. I love to read, almost anything, although I don’t like fiction, if I’m not learning something I have better things to do with my time. I also don’t like to read the newspaper, too much depressing news going on in the world that every time I read sad news I get sad for hours.

Hello my name is Susan and I am an information junkie. Definition: Someone who so frequently occupies themselves with receiving or sending information or communication that it resembles an addiction. Usually a computer, and often the Internet are used.

It all started with books on cooking, books on healthy eating, self help books to help make me a better person. Then the world of blogs opened up to me and I was hooked. I have 110 subscriptions to blogs on a very wide variety of information. Just look down the side of my blog at my blog list to see that variety.

While I ingest all of this information and it percolates around in my brain, I wonder if there is such a thing as information overload. Possibly yes, but it has not concerned me yet. I can read 50 or more articles in a day and take from it what interests me or what fits into my life and easily disregard the rest. Maybe in a few months or years I may have enough and give it all up, but for right now I am enjoying all of the resources I happen upon in a day.

The ways I keep information overload at bay:

I use https://www.instapaper.com/ read later feature to keep all of the articles I want to reread or read later in one place, that way I have no stress related to reading an article now.
A rule of thumb is that if in the first two paragraphs an article doesn’t grab my attention it never will. I don’t waste my time on something that does not captivate me.
Also, if I’m not interested in a topic, I don’t read it, I move on to the next, believe me no one will be hurt by not reading their article.
Reading and ingesting information should be a joy. If it is not find other ways to keep current with the world around you.

I think more people should read to learn more about themselves and how to make themselves, their families and the world around them better. More information can never be a bad thing.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Back to School

Back to school is still a week away and I am already stressing out. Last year was a difficult one an this is a new year in a new school. A lot to worry about. It is very difficult to not show my own anxiety when talking about back to school with my son. Middle school is equipped with it’s challenges, mostly different subjects with different teachers that have their own likes and dislikes when it comes to binders, notebooks and homework requirements. This school has a pool so more clothes in a normal week. Lockers are a new potential wasteland of forgotten items, and I thought his backpack was bad enough. I am envisioning many trips back to school before dinner to retrieve forgotten books or notes.

Today over at http://www.zenfamilyhabits.net/ I read a wonderful article by Mandi of http://www.organizingyourway.net/ on back to school routines. my life has just been made a bit less stress free.

With the help of the article I have put together my own list of routines that I will implement with the family next week.


Eat healthy breakfast which includes a a grain, a fruit and a protein in each meal

Put lunch in backpack (packed the night before and waiting in the fridge)

Leave for school on time (do not do anything that will distracting from that objective)

After School

Empty out backpack (so nothing is forgotten about, homework or food)

Put dirty lunch in sink (wash dirty dishes and refill water bottle)

Organize homework and notebooks (put everything in it’s place for ease of doing homework and assignments due)

After Dinner before Family Fun time

Do homework

Review your schedule, and day-timer for next day activities

Practice piano

Fill out any forms needed for school use (then put back in backpack)

Pack backpack for books and items needed the next day


Make sure backpack is ready to go and by the door

Pack lunch for next day

This routine should cut down on morning rushing around, enough to have that healthy breakfast. It may be a simple common sense approach to going off to school, but it is something that has always eluded my family. Routines are now becoming common place in our daily lives and it is making us a much happier family for it.

Thursday, August 26, 2010


I have read that to pay for a money management system defeats the propose of saving money.
I heartily disagree. To me it is worth the 30 bucks a year to have everything laid out in front of me in pretty colours and all I have to do is just plunk in the numbers from any computer. The website generates the bottom line for me. I can, at a glance, see exactly how much I spent in the month or on any given item. To me it is money management as well as time management. Yes I could develop a spreadsheet at home and spend hours colour coding each expense update it when expenses come in and change it every month. I have done this in the past and it did not work for me.

Mostly my spreadsheet at home didn’t work because it was in one place on one computer. If I were to spend money I would have to:
a . remember the little things I spent money on every day and
b. remember to chart it on the spreadsheet.

With an online system I can log on from anywhere, home, the office, travelling or visiting family members in a different city. That way all of the little items that we really don’t think of until our account is empty are accounted for.

Less stress and less hassle is what I need at this point in my life and if I all I have to do is pay for the assistance then I will use and abuse that assistance. To me peace of mind is worth paying for and ease of application is most definitely worth paying for.

Having an online budgeting system also helps with my minimalistic goals as well. Once I input a bill or a receipt I no longer have to keep that receipt. It frees up so much space in my filing cabinet, wallet, purse, pockets, desk drawers etc.

I have tried out many online budgets and the one that works for me is https://www.pearbudget.com/.

It may be too simple for some but that is what I specifically like about it. The colours and general look of the site is calming, it is uncluttered and has minimal functions. It gives the bottom line on the main page and if you need more detail than you click on a few buttons and it takes you to more answers.

With tracking all of our spending we have discovered how much money we are really spending on certain things like tea in the morning, lunch out at work, dinner out when we are too tired to cook. It also helps to see how much in a year we spend on clothing, camps and other extra curricular activities for my son. This has made us much more conscious of our spending. We know that we can’t eat out every night if we have big payments coming up, like back to school. Before our spending seemed to be the fly by the seat of our pants type and if we had money left at the end on the month we were great. Unfortunately that never happened, always the last week before pay day we would be eating peanut butter because we had no money to spend on real groceries.

A budget is a great thing but only if it is used correctly and everything is tracked. PearBudget is what helped me.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010


I have been wanting to become a minimalist for years. The idea of having a clean and uncluttered home is so appealing to me. You see it magazine layouts, clear coffee tables, a dining room table with only a bowl of fruit on top. But alas, that lifestyle was destined for someone elses life and not mine for I married a collector of things, comics, figures, anything Star Wars, elephants. I love my husband dearly, it’s the crap slowly filling our tiny house that I can do without. And now our son is following in his father’s footsteps. Oh joy. This is not to say that I don’t have my faults as well. I love cookbooks and I also love the elephants we have collected throughout our marriage, but I think I have come to a point in my life where the stuff we own is drowning me. I need space. I need to find that item I placed down a week ago that has now completely disappeared. I hate that. I also hate that I seem to be responsible for all of the items my family has placed down and can now not seem to find.

Aww, the ever elusive minimalism. It has been rattling around in the back of my mind for years and not it has come to the forefront. About a month ago I happened upon a blog 365lessthings.com and a light bulb went off over my head. I can eliminate one thing every day. It will be painless, it will be fun and most importantly it will go mostly unnoticed by the boys in my life.

And that was what happened until one day recently they started noticing more room in each room, more boxes being filled and donated to charity, more things in those boxes that they didn’t even realize were gone. And then became the paradigm shift. They became involved and excited in minimalism as much as I have. My husband, on his own, went through his overflowing bookshelves and got rid of a few boxes of books. My son, on his own, went through his room and got rid of old clothes that no longer fit and toys no longer played with. It was a revelation, who knew that a clean and uncluttered house is everyone’s wish.

My house is still a mountain of stuff, but it is getting better. I still remove one item every day and on Saturdays we are not busy running errands we pick a room and declutter as much as possible. There is still the odd item of sentiment that can’t be parted with, but I figure that eventually we will come back to that item and it will be removed when the emotion of the clear and clean rooms overtakes the emotion behind wanting to keep an broken thing that was a favourite six years ago.

I am figuring it will take a few years of this to declutter to the point of clarity but I am willing to wait, I have a vision of my living room being on the cover of a magazine, tidy, clean and with only the necessities.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Thinking about stuff

I think quite a few mothers are thinking what I do:

we want to work less
we want to sleep more
we want to show our love to our family more
we want to eat better
we want to exercise more
we want to save the planet for our children's future
we want to get our of debt and save money
we want to travel more
we want our family to be proud of us
we want to be part of our community, locally and globally.

I have been doing a lot of reading lately, books, blogs and news articles.
I have been reading on any topic that I find interesting on any given day.
When I need information, the Internet is the first place I look.
The trouble is that there is too much information out there. Weeding through all of that information to find what fits my needs is a somewhat daunting task.
I have found that I need one place to organize all of my thoughts, research, ideas and projects.

Each day I will try to blog about a different topic of interest to myself and my family.

Some of the key topics I have been focused on lately are:
healthy eating
raising happy children

It is a big world and I am one tiny mom who wants to conquer the big tasks to help my family stay happy and healthy. 

Stick around.  Enjoy