What My Graveyard of DIY Projects Taught Me About Parenting

Behold the graveyard of DIY projects.

There is a box of papers, colorful scissors with various edges, a hodgepodge of stickers, stamps and decals residing on a shelf in my office closet.  Last year I discarded a two-inch stack of recipes torn from magazines promising mouth-watering delicacies.  A clear, plastic, zippered pouch that contains two spools of soft, chocolatey brown yarn and a partially completed scarf resting on needles has followed us to two homes and remains under my bed.

I had never given much thought to the DIY culture until I became a mom and then I couldn’t escape it.  Personalized Valentine’s Day cards, hand-stitched Halloween costumes, laboured over meals, ornately designed snack foods, and play dates requiring more scheduling and production than a low-budget highschool musical seemed to be the norm. I mean, WTF ever happened to just knocking on someone’s door and playing with a Skip-it in the yard while eating FunDip?  And then just when I thought I had it somewhat figured out, Pinterest came along and upped the game.

I spent years on that hamster wheel trying to do it all and do it “right”, but the years have brought me three busy boys, and an acceptance that “good enough” is really good enough.  I learned to identify, appreciate and accept my limitations.

This year I did make my son’s skeleton costume for Halloween but it was the process more than the end product that proved to be “pin-worthy”.  My son and I worked together to turn my son’s vision into reality.  He learned the importance of communication and teamwork.  I learned there are no perfect skeletons but there are happy kids.

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Being honest with myself is difficult.  I used to feel that doing everything for myself was somehow a reflection of my worth as a mother.  If the Valentine’s Day cards were perfect, than somehow this meant that I was a good mother, a kind mother, a patient mother, the mother that we are all supposed to be.  Never mind that it was a grueling process with me snatching the scissors from my boy’s hand while muttering with exasperation, “I’ll do it”.  Never mind that while eating a store-bought birthday cake at little Jimmy’s party or surveying the parade of made in China Buzz Light Year costumes knocking on my door, it never once crossed my mind that these mothers were “bad” mothers, lazy mothers or not the mothers that we are all supposed to be.

I thought that people were judging but it was really me who was doing the judging.

There is a part of me that does long for DIY projects.  I am nostalgic for the lost arts that generations before were commonplace.  I am amazed when my husband fixes things around the house without consulting You Tube.  It’s his confidence that I admire as much as the skill.  Now when I find myself lost in a chosen project, it’s the sense of calm and the absence of expectations that I find as rewarding as the final project.

My experience with parenting and DIY projects is very similar.  At first I was lured by the glossy images promising picture perfection but it’s the fails: the shattered glass, the burnt dough, the botched hemline – that’s when the real learning occurs.  It’s often the most basic projects, the ones that are the least glamorous or fun, that most need mastering and bring about the greatest sense of accomplishment.

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Stuffed Pork Chops: Skip the restaurant and stay home this Valentine’s Day

pork-chops-655486_6404Mothers welcomes Jillian as our guest for the day.  Jillian is a mother to her 10 month old daughter and an Air Force wife.  She is currently taking a year long break from her job as a news anchor.  Jillian blogs about her love for food, entertaining, travel and fitness at News Anchor to Homemaker.

My husband and I will be celebrating our seventh Valentine’s Day together this year.  I’ll never forget our first.  We were in college and I came home to a home-cooked meal…it was awful.  He made a shrimp dish, but he must have forgotten every spice in the recipe because it was pretty bland. To be honest though, I was so head over heels I didn’t care.  After dinner, he took me to the surprise part of the date at his apartment complex.  We pulled up to an outdoor fire place and  taped above it was a note that read, “Reserved”, signed by management.  He informed me he was “management.”  He was afraid someone would take his idea, so he made it look more official.  Smart guy!  He opened the trunk of his beat-up 4Runner and took out a blanket, champagne (one of his older friends must have bought it for him) and an assortment of chocolates.  It was perfect.

Thinking of our first Valentine’s Day together got me thinking about our favorite restaurant in our old college town, Athens, GA.  If you’re ever in Athens, then you should stop by The Last Resort Grill.  They used to make a dish similar to this.  It would be a great option for you and your sweetheart this February 14th.  Just my humble opinion of course!

Spinach Stuffed Pork Chop:

Prep: 10 Minutes

Total: 20 Minutes

2 Pork Chops, with a pocket cut

8 oz. Spinach, chopped, cooked and well-drained

Sea Salt and Pepper to taste

Splash of Chardonnay, divided

2-3 Tbs. Butter, divided

Directions:

Drain your cooked spinach and pat very dry.  Toss into a pan with a splash of chardonnay and about 1 tablespoon (or less) of butter. Cook for a couple minutes then stuff the pork chop with the spinach. Season pork chop with Sea Salt and Cracked pepper.  In a pan, melt more butter and add a more chardonnay. Cook your pork chops for several minutes on each side.

Sweet Potato Mash:

2 Large Sweet Potatoes, peeled.

2 Tablespoons of Butter

1 Tablespoon of Maple Syrup

1 Tablespoon of Brown Augar

1/4 Cup of Milk

Directions:

Boil sweet potatoes until tender, about 20 minutes. Drain and mash in butter, syrup and sugar, then mash with milk until desired consistency.

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Valentines Day Crafting – Sweet and Easy Bookmarks

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Something has to be done about February, yes?  This short but immovable month that asserts spring is yet a good way away.  Enter Valentines Day, for we could do worse than a day dedicated to love  and friendship.

When love and friendship means 20 or 40 cards though, for all the kids at school and/or daycare, one must keep her head to keep Valentine’s Day fun rather than fanatical, especially when walking the homemade path.  I found the simplest solution this year, and homemade can’t get much easier or quick.

We made bookmarks made from paint chip strips.  Pretty, and possibly useful, if like us you actually use them in your reading!

Once you’ve picked up the colours shades that you like (I stuck with reds, but no need really), trim off the edge with the printed paint names (I did this, but an older child could too).  Punch a hole in one end, and string through some pretty ribbon or yarn.  Bonus:  kids love using a good hole punch.

My five year old focused his energies on writing out the names of the kids in his class, and we made some also for family members – which meant the little fellow was writing for a good while.  We used a Sharpie, as regular markers smudged off.  He wrote the names in one sitting, but he’ll be signing his own on the reverse in a second sitting.  (A key to successful crafting is pacing – know when to end a session – there’s always tomorrow.)

They’re simple , we “made” them and without further ado, the boy has a stack of Valentines worthy of the day.

A final word:  if, once you are seated at the table, your other child ditches your Valentines craft idea and decides to create this own from plain construction paper, then sit back and enjoy the virtues of being ignored.

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Valentine’s Day Round-up

It’s that time of year again.  Whether you think Valentine’s Day is a Hallmark holiday better left uncelebrated or a reminder to tell those closest to you how much you love them, February 14 will be here before you know it.

If your plans include track pants, take-out and a bottle of wine (my dream evening!), I say enjoy!  However, if you are looking to add something extra special to your Valentine’s Day be sure to check out this round up of easy-peasy, simple ideas.

Martha Stewart always offers a variety of crafts and recipes that appeal to all skill-levels.  These crayon-melted hearts are an easy craft to do with children and would add some much-needed colour to gray and gloomy windows.

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This simple to construct candy and tulip bouquet would make any special lady smile this Valentine’s Day.

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Karissa Goss of Piece of Cake Events by Karissa, was featured on Salem County Woman.  Her marshmallow lollipops are simple to create and an instant favourite with the kids.

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Jennifer Hallissy of The Write Start dedicates her blog to exploring literacy in the everyday.  I am a big fan of her blog and often look to her for inspiring ways to engage the boys in fun, creative activities where they get to flex their reading and writing skills.  This Valentine card was created by Jennifer’s daughter and would be a fantastic activity for a quiet Saturday afternoon.

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Every night I tell my boys, “I love you, I love you, I love you.  For now and forever to bits and pieces, more than you will ever know.”

My middle-son always responds, “Do you love me to bits and pieces of poo?  Because that is the most you can love anyone.”

And I always say, “Yes, to bits and pieces of poo.” 

What can I say?  Love is strange.

EAB Designs is a visual delight and this year they are offering readers a free download of their elegant tags inspired by Browning’s “How Do I Love Thee?”  The download comes with 12 tags for you to write 12 individual messages to the one you love.

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If you are not into the craft or creating, why not just add some heart-shaped food to your table?  At our local salumeria, salami d’amour is always available and makes for an instant Valentine’s Day treat.

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image courtesy of Chef-Girl

Still Saying Yes, One Day at a Time

Proposals gone right.  I have one.  And like most of us who said yes and don’t regret it, I love mine.

It featured a suburban apartment that I had chosen but immediately hated, hoping it would give me insight into whether I wanted to move to the country (it so very much didn’t), plus a landlord who suggested we open the oven door for heat when the furnace gave out in February, and a bonus crazy basement renter below us.  Crazy as in:

1.  Coming to our door on Valentine’s Day and telling us that she knew we were young and that this was a day for romance and she had her TV on nice and loud so she couldn’t hear anything downstairs (thereby precluding any possible sex that day).

2.  Offering me her used lingerie, including thong underwear, smashed into little paper gift bags that she’d hang from our apartment doorknob or hand me in person (with the proviso that “I kept the crotchless panties for myself”).

3.  Trying to help me relax on moving day, when the moving trucks didn’t show up and we had to use my uncle’s cube van for five trips to Toronto, by throwing a bucketful of cold water in my face:  “I thought you needed to cool off!”  (I managed – just – not to annihilate her.)

But.  In this apartment inferno there was a bedroom, and in that was a bed, upon which I lay one day feeling particularly miserable and defeated when my now husband asked me to marry him.  There was no ring (we would buy it that afternoon together), there was no view, there was no good ambiance.  But the Eiffel Towers and Taj Mahals and all the carats in the world can’t compare in riches to me.

I can’t quite tell you more about it; I hope you don’t mind.  Adding a newborn to our family, the three times that we’ve done it, puts some strain on our marriage.  Our latest little one has ushered in the easiest transition by far, but thereare still some adjustment kinks, and my mood isn’t leading me to bask comfortably in the glow of our proposal gone right.  Rely on it, yes, that I do, but no basking, nothing smug.

We’re just working at it, one day at a time.  But it is nice, this little opportunity to remember how we were in those moments when we decided that we were in it for good.  I think it may have demonstrated a little of the stamina and sincerity that we would need to see us through, and is kind of reassuring that way.

Proposals Gone Right

Will you marry me?

Such a simple phrase, so easy to say yes to, and so impossible to understand the implications of when acceptance will entail.  Valentine’s Day is just about upon us, and to mark the day, 4Mothers will be talking about proposals gone right.  For the record, we four are all (still, currently) married, so we may end up talking about our own proposal stories, but then again, proposals come in all shapes and sizes, so who knows?

Do you like the celebrations?  I know many people get annoyed at the forced and commercial nature of the day, but I always remember my university roommate who defended Valentine’s Day by saying, “of course we don’t need a special day to remember our loves because we can celebrate them all the other days of the year, except that we don’t”.

So, before we talk about proposals, we’d like to be among the first to wish you a good day tomorrow, complete with a virtual box of chocolates.  Happy Valentine’s Day, readers.  We are so glad you come here.