To My Damien on his 3rd Birthday

Dear Damien,

Today you turn three years old! THREE! As you proudly ask every day of late, “I’m bigger now?”, you have been excited about the prospect of growing up and getting to do all the things you see your brother doing. There’s really very little that stops you now anyway, but you so want to go from being a “little boy,” as you say, to a “big boy.” I, on the other hand, have mixed feelings about you growing up. 

Last year, we saw the emergence of your love for music. This year, it’s blossomed into nearly your whole life. When you’re not drumming (which in all honesty is most of the day), you’re playing guitar (du-gar, to you). Your biggest wishes in life are about “one day I have a red electric guitar” and “one day, I get a biiiiiig drums.” We talk a lot when you’re asleep about when is the appropriate time to indulge you with a drum set. So far, not yet. You rock out with far too much enthusiasm (and volume) for us to go there. 

Damien, your enthusiasm for life is infectious, just like that cheesy grin of yours. You run up and hug those you love. You run when you could walk. You speed down the path on a two-wheeled scooter, fearless of falling. You brave new heights at the playground. You play your music with a whole-body abandon that makes us want to laugh from joy. You LOVE, Damien. And those around can’t help but love you back. 

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Your enthusiasm for life does make you, at times, quite a handful. You want all of me, all of the time; I’m your ‘MumMum,’ and you always want to share your love with me. You want to dominate – to have your turn, or your choice, or leave when you want. Your emotions burst out with your opinions, though it’s always short lived. In the end, you’re an optimist and will find another way to be happy. You may sometimes be a handful, clingy, cheeky, or a crazy monkey, but I’d never call you grumpy. It’s not your way.

You love your music. You love playing cars. You love driving outdoor cars and scooters. You love bike rides. You love the swing at the park. You love running and jumping and skipping (at least you think you’re skipping). You prefer to use your imagination than play with a specific toy. You love books and drawing. You love life, and always show it. How many kids say “Oooh, I love shopping!” That’s your outlook, right there, even if your enthusiasm makes shopping with you less-than-easy. 

You are growing up, my little Damien. And I’m so proud of seeing you change. I’m proud to see you take your steps into independence, forging relationships with friends your own age or challenging yourself to play like the big kids on the playground. I’m always excited to see your laughing little face waiting for me after preschool. Or to watch your mind and soul expand as you listen to live music. 

The light shines from you, my boy, and it shines on all of us around you. I can’t wait to see what adventures this year bring for you. Embrace the world and make it yours. I hope that joy continues to burst forth from you always, for it brings such a rare light to this world. 

Happy birthday to you, my Damien! 

All my love, 
Mommy 

On Managing To-Do Lists

The last few months have been scheduled to the brim. Although our issues are very much “first world problems,” managing our overflowing schedule has been a struggle. After purchasing our cottage a few months ago, we have found ourselves juggling endless things to do and to buy, each with its own set of complicated steps. Since the cottage is on Keats Island, we often have extra things to consider when taking items over. Since our car only fits us and the stuff for one trip (bin & cooler & other small items), we often have to make a special trip with anything larger. This means finding a spot in the week where we can both pick up and take the larger item to the boat, without the kids (since the car seats need to be removed to fit the bulky item), or arranging for it to be shipped on the water taxi (like we did with the mattress and golf cart). We only have one car, and some set evenings that the car is in use for activities, so scheduling is key.

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Buying a boat (though super exciting) was more complicated and time-consuming than we expected. It took us about 4 months and 3 brokers to accomplish. Once that was done, it came with its own set of lists: things to fix, equipment to buy, mooring to secure. And of course, learning how to drive it. Each step has its own set of steps yet again, it seems. To get the mooring, we had to deal with local politics, make a trip out to choose & measure the depth of the spot, order the custom buoy and chain / rope, have those delivered, work with someone to order the mooring anchor and then finally we’ll drop the anchor once it’s all assembled. This has taken weeks and endless phone calls as well as quite a large learning curve on our part. 

Yes, we’re accomplishing a lot of stuff in a very short period of time, but it’s not been easy. Since we’ve been juggling so many projects at once, I’ve found the key to our sanity has been careful planning on both our calendar and in our list app. I wanted to share some of our tips for staying on top of so many projects.

If you find your To-Do lists growing exponentially, or your calendar filling up, I suggest the following:

  • Divide and conquer – share your to do list with your partner, if you can. When one of us feels overwhelmed with too many items on our list, we split up the tasks. Additionally, there have been many nights or days where one parent has to take over solo parenting so the other can run around getting ‘stuff’ done
  • Set aside time to make calls – I find that it’s more efficient to set aside a block of time to make many calls at once than to field or make many calls throughout the day
  • Use your calendar for everything – My husband and I have shared calendar streams, as well as personal streams. This way, we don’t book things on days when the other is not free. Most of our days overflow, but that’s ok. It’s nice to know exactly when everything needs to happen and to be able to spot days or times when you can book in meetings or shopping trips.
  • Manage your lists in an app – we use the app ShopShop, which is by no means glamorous, to manage all our shopping lists and to do lists. The app is shared in the cloud, so if one of us updates the list, it’s reflected in all versions. We have granular lists, from a regular grocery list to lists for the cottage (one food, one ‘stuff’), the boat, and specialty stores like Costco. For projects, I’ll often create a to-do list as well. 
  • Work backwards & keep it granular – if we know the final step in a project, I find it best to set a date for that (if possible), then work backwards, scheduling in all the tasks that run up to the completion of the project. Marking out individual steps to anything makes them easier to tick off (this is also how I work on decluttering our home). 
  • Co-ordinate projects – if we know we’re taking a trip to Keats, I try to think of which project could be completed prior to that date. For example, which large things could be arranged to take onto the boat, or which specific items could be taken to finish certain renovations on the island. Space is limited, so items get checked off based on both space and priority. 
  • Meal plan once a week – who has time to think of meals and grocery shop? We try to take most of the thought out of dinners (which for us happen at 5pm, so we need to be organized) by meal-planning and doing our grocery shopping once a week. Our shopping is a combination of delivery with Spud and local grocery stores (Save-On-Foods, Loblaws) with occasional trips to Whole Foods or Costco for specialty items. If we’re eating seafood or a meat other than ground beef, I’ll often make a day-of visit to a butcher or seafood store, since we prefer both fresh and organic whenever possible.
  • Schedule in downtime – make sure you have days that don’t involve endless errands. Get out and enjoy some relaxation too. 

A Special Mother’s Day

Today I was invited to Aiden’s class for a special Mother’s Day tea. We were treated to a song (“Inch by Inch”), a poem, some treats plus some beautiful gifts. Each child created a piece of art about what they love about us (that I sing to Aiden at night), spoken to the whole group, a booklet with our portrait and favourite things, some jam they each made, plus a necklace they created in pottery class. It was so beautiful! I totally cried while Aiden sang.

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Every time I see Aiden perform I totally tear up. He used to hate it, and he almost never sings at home, despite the fact that he LOVES his music class at school. I don’t think he likes being on the spot! The only time I hear him singing is if I’m in the other room or if he’s falling asleep at night. Today, he stood right in front of me and proudly belted out the song! Such a beautiful boy. I was so proud!

 

I totally cried #mothersday

A video posted by Arieanna Schweber (@arieanna) onMay 8, 2015 at 10:32am PDT

Third Beach: My New Favourite Spot

When it comes to beaches, Vancouver has a lot of options. We really are very lucky. But as parents in North Vancouver, we’ve become kind of lazy about going to the “best” beaches (you know, Jericho or Kits). With young kids still napping, it’s a long trek. Most often we head to Ambleside or Deep Cove or Cates Park. Late this past summer, we realized that Third Beach in Stanley Park is really not that far away! And it is downright amazing!

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On days when the tide is out, the beach spans forever with beautiful sand bars. The sand is wonderful here, with fewer rocks for little feet to navigate. 

You can get to Third Beach by biking around Stanley Park or alternatively you can drive there. There is a small pay parking lot above the concession stand. Near the end of the summer, it was not a busy beach, but my guess is you need to arrive early to secure your parking on busy summer days!

Splashing Outside the West Van Community Centre

Did you know that the fountains outside of the West Vancouver Community Centre are kid friendly?! Since as parents we often have to tell our kids “No” whenever we encounter fountains and water features, it is so nice to be able to say “Yes” sometimes! Whether you’re in the Rec Centre for another activity (swimming, skating, bouncy castles in the summer – our destination last year), or want to enjoy a coffee while your kids cool off, consider this as an option!

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You might say, why would I go here instead of a spray park or beach? Well, if your kids are like my kids, spray parks are too overwhelming. Water always gets in their faces and too many things move around unexpectedly. Wading pools, which we grew up with, do not exist in North or West Vancouver anymore. This is the closest you can get!!