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!

 

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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.

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.

How to Stay Calm During the School Storm

For many parents back-to-school is the unofficial “new year” and like January, resolutions abound. I’ve heard a lot of them from “I will not over-cram the schedule this year!” and “I will not get so involved with their homework!” to “This is the year they we’re going to keep our paperwork organized!”.

Sound familiar? I’m sure you could add more to that list.

Here is mine.

I resolve to stay calm during the school storm. Lofty ambition, wouldn’t you say? It’s right up there with the promise to cut back on chocolate that I make every January. But this year, I hope to set myself up for success by doing the following:

  1. Delegate more.

Lunches are no longer my sole responsibility. If you eat it, you can pack it (or at the very least help). The boys’ school FINALLY has a hot lunch program and I signed them up for two meals per week and have ZERO guilt imgres-1about this. Positive peer pressure has added more foods to my son’s lunch repertoire and that’s worth it for me!

  1. Scheduling family time.

Adding more to the schedule sounds a bit counter-intuitive to what it is that I am trying to achieve but between the five of us we’ve got a lot on the go, and spending time “just us” is important. So important that it deserves to be penned onto the calendar. Come Sunday night, I am planning.

  1. Scheduling me time.thelma&louise

Recently I had one of those much-needed dinner with girlfriends and we all said the same thing. Our kids are not so little that the need us every second of the day – it’s time we start living! Can the excuses (can’t get a babysitter, don’t have the extra money, I’m too tired, I’ve too much to do . . .) and start living! I resolve to model to my children that my activities count too. I’m a well-rounded person who knows more than just where his socks are (under the couch) and to be quite honest, I rarely say no to the boys, so why do I always say no to myself? I live in one of the greatest cities in the world and it’s time I start exploring it. Sans kids. Nathalie recently signed up for an adult drawing class. Bravo! You inspire me.

  1. Giving up on the should-dos.

The Mommy Marytr thing is overplayed. I retired my cape some years ago, but sometimes, when I have nothing imgres-2to wear, I reach for it. Reading The Gifts of Imperfection, Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are by Brene Brown should be required reading for any mother whose cape is ratty with wear. When that nagging, self-loathing voice whispers to me everything that I am not and should be, I am much better at telling it to STFU and do something that makes me happy.

all images (and so many more goodies) are from http://www.annetaintor.com

Before Summer Slips Away

476I had a whole post lined up for today, a post that celebrates productivity and finding bounty all around us.

And yet I find myself not quite able to post it. I still want to share it with you, but maybe not today.

The truth is, on what is basically the eve to the start of the new school year, I feel pretty bluesy. Good old fashioned dread has reared its head when thinking about the unrelenting school schedules, the details I can never remember, and all those lunches and snacks. Yes, dread has settled in but not quite enough to prompt me to re-stock the reusable lunch containers or fill the pantry with things that will make day-to-day school life manageable. Because if I did that, I’d be looking at the end of summer right in the eyes, and I don’t want that. I’m looking away and hoping to go unnoticed.

I want to hang on to summer to the very end, and put productivity on pause just a little longer. Don’t get me wrong – the end of a summer’s day (and sometimes its middle) has me crashing into bed – but summer has been so good in so many way. If you don’t mind, I’m just going to hail her one last time before she finds my gaze and slips away.

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Back-To-School Blues

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It’s with great sadness that I write, summer is unofficially over. I always consider back-to-school the “new year” and even though there are technically many more days left of summer, I equate school with Fall and Fall with, “winter’s just around the corner”.

Back-to-school time is when we are bombarded with lists of what we need. Christmas is the only other time of year where wish lists meets crazed parents and the result is a frenzied shopping spree. We’re hoping to make things a bit easier for you with our back-to-school guide of must-haves and nice-to-haves.

Let’s all try to keep our sanity for as long as possible once the busyness of school, work, activities, homework and reports takeover. We’ve got some tips for finding your zen . . . or maybe just surviving the dinner hour!

As always we’ve got some great guests lined up. One mom shares the experience of taking her first-born to kindergarten for the first time, and to contrast another mom bravely shares the emotions she felt as she pulled away from the university dorm for the first time.

Our theme week is definitely going to be “bookmark” worthy because we are sharing our best, time-saving, sanity soothing mom hacks.   The debate over school uniforms and dress codes proves to be a hot-button topic and is this month’s At Issue.

We are introducing a new feature this month What We’re Watching, a roundup of binge-worthy television and movies with the occasional podcast thrown in for good measure.   WWW will replace Best of the Blogosphere and we will continue to share content from fellow bloggers on our Facebook page, so be sure to follow us there and share what you’re reading too!

Wishing you happy school days!