Plenty of Books to Read

Plenty of books from Beth-Anne 

The Girl On The Train by Paula Hawkins

It was arguably the blockbuster novel of the summer and devoured by many hoping to satiate a whetted appetite for mystery, thanks to the smash-hit book turned Hollywood favourite Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn.   In contrast, The Girl On The Train is easy, predictable reading but sometimes that’s just what a lazy day calls for. The mystery starts with Rachel, down-on-her luck and fragile as can be, with her days following a familiar pattern. Her daily ride on the commuter train takes her past the same junctions, the same scenery, the same homes and ultimately, the same people. Rachel becomes enthralled with a young couple she sees from her carriage and fantasizes about their lives. But then one day, the woman she calls Jess goes missing and an all-out manhunt is launched to find her. Rachel believes that she knows what’s happened to her, but how can the police trust this woman? As I was reading, I couldn’t help but imagine my favourite British duo cast as leads, Kate Winslet as Rachel and Jude Law as Tom. If you’ve read the book, what do you make of my casting ?

They Left Us Everything: A Memoir by Plum Johnson

Toronto-based author Plum Johnson wrote this tender memoir in the years following her mother’s death. Her parents met and fell in love during the Second World War. Her orphaned, British father was a decorated solider and her mother, a passionate Southern belle with an opinion about everything. After years of living in the far East in the late 1940s, they came to settle in a small town on the shores of Lake Ontario. There they raised their four children in a twenty-three room home, accurately name Point O’View, that for decades served as the backdrop to numerous dances and arguments, love stories and heart aches and the occasional tantrum. Plum is now tasked with sorting through the family’s antiques and tchotchkes, but each treasure reveals more than a memory; it brings closure and understanding to a mother-daughter relationship that for years was strained and fragile.

A Fall of Marigolds by Susan Meissner

Tenements of New York City, shirtwaists, turn-of-the-century immigrants, two stories -past and present – woven together . . .this book is right up my alley and I anticipated reading it for weeks; waiting for just the right time to sink into it. But I was disappointed by the syrupy dialogue and poorly developed characters. I found myself skimming over the pages just to reach the end.

Plenty of books from Nathalie

In the Woods by Tana French

The Likeness by Tana French

Faithful Place by Tana French

Broken Harbour by Tana French

The Secret Place by Tana French

 

Plenty of books from Carol

The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business by Charles Duhigg

To purchase these books please visit Indigo, by doing so we receive a small compensation (a few cents per book) to help keep Plenty on-line. Thank you for your support!

There are Plenty more books we recommend: click May 2015 and November 2014 and November 2012. 

Goodbye to 4Mothers1Blog, Hello to Plenty

As you may have seen on our social media channels, 4Mothers1Blog is shutting up shop.  Beth-Anne, Carol and Nathalie are launching a new site.  It’s called Plenty, and it looks gorgeous, if we do say so ourselves!

 

Plenty FB Cover

Come on over and have a look.  We have imported the best of our content from the past five years, and we are pleased to be able to keep sharing the archive of our 4Mothers work on Plenty.

It goes without saying that we could not be growing without all of you.  A thousand thanks for reading, sharing, and commenting on our posts.  We have loved our little nook of the blogosphere, and you have made it a welcome home for us.  We have loved being part of this community, and we very much hope that you will continue to read us on Plenty.

We’ll see you over there!  Bring your friends.  Stay a while.

Coming Soon: A Bigger, Bolder, Better Us!

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As some of you may have noticed, things have not been running all that smoothly in our corner of the blogosphere the last week or so. For the first time ever, we experienced a significant glitch and lost piles of data on our blog!  (Media. Nightmare.) Anyway, after coming to, we have been working diligently to restore the blog to itself. Please accept our apologies if you have been flooded with updates as we hammer away at our blog – it should be over soon.

BUT –  we couldn’t be more excited to tell you that these growing pains are a precursor to a bigger, better us!!  We are thrilled to announce that we are migrating to a new format which we hope you will love as much as we do. Don’t worry – all the great content that you’ve found here over the last five years will remain – it will just look better and be easier to find!

We can’t wait to show our new look to you but want to do it right🙂.  Please bear with us while we work as fast and as hard as we can to prepare for our transformation as we’ll be posting less frequently. Just know that this hiatus is temporary and all geared towards getting ready to launch our new site on November 1!

Thank you, as always, for being the amazing readership that you are. We are so happy to write for you and share your virtual company, and so we’re striving to make your experience here the absolute best it can be.

Stay tuned!  We’re coming back soon…

Multiplicity in Schools: Uniform or Free Form?

colour-pencils-450621_640Initially I didn’t think I had strong views about school uniforms, although so far I haven’t been interested in a school that uses them. I can see their advantages, which might most simply be distilled to the fact that they are, well, uniform. There’s something to be said for leveling the class playing field and for cohesion. But their disadvantages also distill to the fact that they’re, well, uniform. Because there’s something less to be said for sameness.

I’m not talking here about some assertion that one should be able to wear whatever one wants and bear no social consequences. This is, to me, absurd, since the truth for almost all of us is that we dress in ways that attend to how we want to be received by our world: whether to stand out or blend in or rebel or fade away.

Rather, I worry about how a school uniform can be limiting in more fundamental ways. It’s understood that boys wear one set of clothes while girls wear another and Nathalie has already spoken to how the sexism of this can be damaging. Also, especially somewhere like Canada, how is the bursting collection of diversity that makes up our population reflected in one type of pants or a knee skirt?

The constraints of the school uniform do not end there. I remember as a girl feeling so uncomfortable in skirts; I never felt like myself in them and would have hated to have worn a skirt just because I was a girl. More pointedly though: what about the children who don’t necessarily or always identify with the body they were born in, and certainly not to its allocated clothing?  Where do they fit into a school where there is no spectrum to express who a person might be, but only two discrete end points?

As it turns out, my problem with a school uniform isn’t only because it’s uniform, but because it’s binary. You are either a (specific kind of) boy or a (specific kind of) girl. A school uniform posits these two exclusive options, and basically I think they are too few. It excludes quite a few of us, for whom getting dressed in the morning becomes not much different than putting on a costume, except more painful.  Here the argument against a school uniform becomes an assertion not only of a person’s individuality, but of the right to be recognized as a whole person regardless of sexual and gender identity.

There may be times when the good of the many outweighs the good of the few(er). But the school uniform? I’m not sure it’s one of them.

A Uniform Double Standard

Eldest attends a school with a uniform, and I love it.  In September, October, May and June, he’s in khaki shorts and a navy blue polo shirt.  Easy and casual.  From November to April, he wears grey slacks, a belt, a white shirt and a school tie.  There’s a navy blazer, too, for special days.  Easy and crisp.

The uniform does everything it’s supposed to do: he looks good in it, it takes the thinking out of what to wear, it makes the kids look as crisp as can be expected for teen boys, it demarcates the school day as a time of work, it makes laundry easier and I don’t have to shop as often.

I love it.  For the boys.

The girls in the middle and upper school have to wear skirts and knee socks and, frankly, I don’t think anyone over the age of 10 should be in knee socks and a skirt.  It’s ridiculous.  The uniform, which is supposed to take how you look out of the equation, becomes about how to pull off a skirt and knee socks without looking ridiculous.  I would not want to appear in public in one.  Skirts, especially knee-length or shorter skirts, require a certain demure disposition that I have no time for.  Skirts require a level of prim and proper that makes the freedom of pants look all the more appealing.  I’d be happier to see all the students in pants all the time.  (It’s telling that when I looked for illustrations for this post, my search turned up more sexualized images of girls in uniform than I care to mention.)

So, while I love the freedom that the uniform gives me as the parent of a boy, I hate the way that a uniform skirt limits the freedom of the girls who have to wear it.

A uniform double standard.

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Thumbs up!

thumbs-up-515796_640I wish that I had more “parenting hacks” to share with you; the truth is that most days I feel like I muddling along like everyone else but I have had the good fortune of receiving lots of support with my boys from family, friends and their pre-school.  The boys attended an Adlerian pre-school where much emphasis is placed on feeling connected and part of a team.  The teachers are a priceless resource, offering much advice that is much appreciated.

I had mentioned years ago that I found it challenging to get my boys to talk about their days at school.  Their one-word answers were a stark contrast to the endless blather their little girl friends would unload while we walked home together.  As much as I tried to get them to open up, they kept their responses short.  I tried every trick Facebook recommended but still, not much more than a grunt or a “good”.

Then a teacher suggested that I try the Thumbs Up approach.

On the way home from school I ask the boys for their “thumbs up” moment of the day, followed by their “thumbs in the middle” and “thumbs down”.  This simple engagement lends itself to meaningful conversations and insight into their day.  I discover what was the highlight of their day and what may be weighing them down.  I learn who they’ve played with, topics they are covering in school and sources of anxiety, stress or sadness.

They’ve responded so well to this technique that they ask me to give my thumbs up moment too!

It’s a simple thing, but it’s worked wonders at opening the lines of communication.

Carol’s Parenting Hack: Get More Sleep

animal-931355_1280I can’t write here with any authenticity about an organizational parenting hack to help you get through the year. For this, you should listen to Nathalie or Beth-Anne, because those women have their act together, and you could learn a thing or two from them. But I do have a tip that I think would really improve the lives of almost everyone (and certainly every parent) I know, and that’s simply this:  Get. More. Sleep.

Simple, but not easy to do. I know, because I believe it, and often don’t do it either. And I have my reasons, same as you: chief among these being that I want to have a bit of time to myself, after the kids and house are finally tucked in for the night. Also, I’m usually not noticeably tired at my proper bedtime. I can easily stay up for a couple more hours, and I’ve often thought that what I really need is a 26 or 28 hour day.

Which is all dandy to muse about, but since the 24 hour day doesn’t seem to be going anywhere, I’m trying to adapt to getting closer to 8 hours a night. That this assertion is seen by many people to be luxurious, unrealistic, or even slothful, speaks to a strange culture that prizes more what we can “do” rather than how we feel or how we can “be”. Because I don’t know about you, but I am a lot nicer after a good night’s sleep, and I’m pretty sure the universe and everyone I know in it prefers that me to the red-eyed crab me who managed to steal time to read/write/craft/plan/watch-mindlessly-something the night before. And of course, I prefer that me a whole lot more too.

But waking time is precious, and we all need reminders of the reasons why we should not compromise on getting enough sleep.

  1. Enjoy Better Physical Health. While sleeping, your body repairs itself and works toward healthy brain function. Sleep also helps to maintain hormone balance and sustain a healthy immune system. Skimping on sleep means slowing down your body in all kinds of ways, and makes you more vulnerable to illness. Basically: you’re stressing your body out. And if you keep at it, you can burn your body out.
  2. Think Smarter. As in, you’ll be better able to problem-solve, multi-task and prioritize. The brain fog you’ve gotten used to may actually lift if you get enough shut-eye.
  3. Remember Things. There is a direct correlation between lack of sleep and impaired memory. Remember what you could remember before you had kids?  I can’t either. But if I get enough sleep, I might.
  4. Eat Less. Sleep helps balance your hormones, and when you don’t get enough of it, you secrete more of the hormone that makes you feel hungry. I don’t know all the details, but I do know that I absolutely eat more when I’m sleepy. It’s like I’m trying to get energy from somewhere, and food’s all I have, and I’m not usually reaching for the kale. Not helpful.
  5. Live Safer. I’m suspicious that in the parent set, there are quite a few of us who have driven when really quite sleepy, and when we really shouldn’t have been. Some studies liken driving while sleep-deprived to driving while drinking. I have made the former mistake before, and I committed a long time ago to not making it again. If I’m sleepy, I don’t drive.
  6. Improve Your Mood. If you are even a little prone to depressed moods, or even if you aren’t, you are much more likely to experience the blues if you are sleep-deprived.
  7. Increase Patience and Compassion. It is very difficult to have give positive energy to the vagaries of the people around you (unpredictable children, for example) if you scarcely have any for yourself. One sure way to lower my patience as a mother of young kids is to eat into my sleep. It’s almost never worth it. Tame the lunatic within with some zzz’s.
  8. Have More Sex! Of course this one gets an exclamation mark! How are you supposed to channel your inner goddess when all she wants to do is nap? A sure libido killer is fatigue. There are many complex reasons why your sex drive may wax and wane over time, but go for the low-hanging fruit first and see if getting adequate sleep does the trick.

Seriously, do yourself (and your spouse, children, parents, siblings, friends, boss, employees, fellow drivers and general strangers everywhere) a favour, and go to sleep. It could change everything.

Nathalie’s Parenting Hack: Google Calendar

It’s not a hack at all, actually, but it’s my most useful tool: Google calendar.

Our online family calendar is the alpha and the omega of all our planning.  It’s the first thing I look at in the morning and the last thing at night.  It’s the first thing I consult when making plans, and it’s the most-used app on my phone.  I’d be totally lost without it.

61lvzl2H+2L__SX258_BO1,204,203,200_I used to love my Filofax and my Sandra Boynton Family Calendar.  I loved the ritual of writing in all of the lessons at the beginning of each term, and seeing the months spread out before me.  I will not lie: the stickers in the Sandra Boynton calendar were a definite highlight.  The Kate Spade refills for the Filofax made my heart go pitter-pat, and I loved handwriting all of the birthdays of friends and family each January, when I replaced my Filofax pages.  The way the pages would gradually warp and soften as the year progressed was so satisfying.  All of that tactile and visual joy.

BUT, once the boys started hockey, not only did it become a challenge to actually fit all of the information in the little boxes, it became impossible to stay on top of it all, to effectively communicate it all, to make sure that something did not get missed.

So, while it gives me a lot less tactile and visual pleasure, my google calendar gives me enormous peace of mind and security.

The Almighty Schedule is its own entity, and we all feed it information constantly.  Between three boys, we have five hockey teams (two play House League and Select).  We subscribe to all five teams’ online calendars so that the information gets uploaded automatically.  Games, practices, meetings and tournaments all appear (in different colours for each team, no less, and with links to the maps to the arenas–double plus bonus).  Eldest’s school events and school sports teams also each have on-line calendars to which I subscribe, so those also appear automatically.  Lessons, after-school activities, swimming, playdates, doctors and dentists–they all go on as soon as I book them.  All of the Things are collected on that calendar, and if they aren’t on the calendar, they don’t get done.

Those of us with computers subscribe to the main family calendar, so everyone has access to all of the information all of the time.  This, by far, is the biggest advantage of an on-line, shared calendar.  I do not have to be the person responsible for reminding everyone else where to be and when.

It’s not very pretty, and it does not come with 500 nifty stickers or Sandra Boynton’s wonderful humour, but it gets the job done better than my beloved pen and paper.

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