Locket Full of Sunshine

Every day for the first year of Connor’s life, I jotted a little note in a calendar we had made with pictures of him as a newborn. (Well, not EVERY day – I started when he was a few weeks old and we had the calendar done, but you get the idea.) I noted what we had done that day, his firsts, what he had started eating – all the usual new-mom stuff. We took lots of pictures too, and at that point my husband was still using our real camera. Of course when Ethan was born things were different.

Ethan, as loved as he is, has suffered the second-child baby-book fate. I think I actually got a baby book for him, but I couldn’t tell you where it is and I’m pretty sure there’s not much in it. Like his brother though, he does have a special keepsake box where I put things I want to save – pictures he draws, his boarding pass from his first flight, a snip of hair from his first haircut.

I love those boxes and will continue pulling them down from the top shelves of the boys’ closets to add to their contents (even if, in the end, I’m the only one who will appreciate the memories they bring back). But I haven’t been very good at doing anything with pictures and the day-to-day memories (which, thanks to iPhones, we have a lot of). Until now.

I’ve been using the Locket app, which I really like. I wasn’t sure if I would, since so many memory-capturing solutions seem to be great in theory but not so easy to use in practice. Locket lets you collect photo, audio, video and written memories and then presents them as an e-timeline or a photo book.

Here’s part of Ethan’s photo book. In this timeframe alone, he’s gone from his second birthday to having a Star Wars movie night with the big kids.

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Some of those are just pictures I’ve taken and added to Locket later, and some of them are based on prompts in cards in the system.

Locket sample card

They’re based on yours kids’ ages, so the ones for Ethan are appropriate for toddlers, while the ones that pop up for Connor have more options. Here are a few pages from Connor’s photo book.

Locket photobook page3

We played with the questions one day and he loved answering them and seeing the book about him come together.

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Locket photobook page1

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I appreciate an app with personality, and Locket includes little messages along the bottom or while saving new content that make me smile (“Did you take time for yourself today? Just curious.” or “1000 figurative words being saved.”) as well as tips for taking photos and videos.

If you’re trying to figure out how to collect memories for your kids and electronically save all those masterpieces they bring home from school, Locket is definitely one to check out. And it’s free!

Locket home screen

The usual disclosure: I am part of the Timewyse Locket blogger program with Mom Central and I receive special perks as part of my affiliation with this group. The opinions on this blog are my own.

A #GreatList and Giving Back

I have friends who are teachers, and friends of friends who are teachers, and family members who are retired teachers, and I’m so glad there are people out there who can do that sort of thing. I certainly don’t have the patience. Heck, I can barely handle my own two children sometimes, never mind 22 others. But despite (or perhaps because of) this gratitude-at-a-distance, one of the things that has always completely annoyed me is how much of their own money teachers have to spend to get some of the basic supplies they need for their classrooms.

I asked some teacher friends about this and here are some of the examples they gave:

The teachers get a classroom budget based on a per-student amount. Then I get $50 to buy my teacher supplies (pens, tape, post-its, chart paper, whiteboard markers, staples, etc. etc.) For the whole year. Obviously it’s never enough and I always spend hundreds of my own $$ on my own supplies each year. Ditto for students’ supplies. I have already bought some stuff for my students next year, plus replenished some of my own stuff on my own nickel, and it’s only July!

I always spend a ton of money on extras and supplies for things like dance costumes, building supplies for big projects like mousetrap cars or trebuchets. I also buy things for myself like baggies, alligator clips, a paper cutter, special paper, sharpies(!), magnets, etc. those things add up but make a significant difference in my quality of life as a teacher. There’s a lot more… I ended up expensing over $900 in supplies that my admin insisted I do and they found money elsewhere because they knew how much I had been spending.

I spend more on “luxury items” (my term). Most of what I spend is for books for my classroom library.

Books! I mean, c’mon. Books! Yes, some of the items in the above lists are more nice to have than absolutely essential, but I just don’t understand how we think it’s okay that a teacher is given only $50 for supplies like pens, staples, whiteboard markers, etc. How are these things not supplied by the school with care taken to ensure the very basics are available? On average, teachers spend $1,000 of their own money just to make sure their students have the resources they need to learn. 

(You’ll have to forgive me somewhat for being so indignant. It’s been that sort of week.)

In any case, there is a reason for this rant. I had an opportunity to partner with Great Clips, who have teamed up with AdoptAClassroom.org to help deserving teachers AND give families some help with back-to-school needs. (I know, I know, it’s only July. Stick with me here.) 

Great Clips did a classroom makeover for two teachers, fulfilling their wish lists and helping their classroom vision come to life. If you need a pick-me-up, check out the video (though you might want to have some Kleenex handy, because oy).

Before and after classroom makeover

Help teachers

If you want to help more teachers, Great Clips is giving you a chance to do that simply by downloading their check-in app. With every download, Great Clips will contribute to AdoptaClassroom.org (up to $20,000) to support teachers and students. You can get info about the app on their site as well.

We take the boys to Great Clips to get their hair cut, and Rich discovered their app a while ago. It’s totally awesome, especially if you have fidgety kids, because it lets you add your name to the waiting list. It’s not an appointment, so there’s no pressure if someone has a meltdown as you’re trying to get everyone in the car. It just lets you put your name on the list so you don’t have to wait as long (or at all) when you get there. You can also look to see how many people are in front of you and time your departure appropriately.

Help yourself

Support teachers and win your school supplies

And that’s not all! Between now and September 5, 2014, you can upload your school supply list to the #GREATLIST site for a chance to win your supplies. Daily winners will get their back-to-school supplies shipped free to their front door (up to $100 value). The contest is open to individuals 18 and older who are legal residents of the United States (including the District of Columbia) or Canada.

As well, if you enter you’ll get a coupon for $2 off at Great Clips with your confirmation email the first time you submit a school supply list.

Good deeds and good deals for everyone, wouldn’t you say?

 

Thanks to Great Clips for sponsoring this post and giving me another way to do a little bit of good in this world.

Waiting for Perfection

Thanks to Grammarly for sponsoring this post. Use Grammarly’s plagiarism checker because it also checks your grammar, and no one wants to be the person everyone thinks about when they post bad-grammar memes on Facebook.

I haven’t been writing a lot lately. Largely because of time—I’ll put 75% of the blame there—but also because the topics swirl around in my head and I wait for them to position themselves just so before committing to putting words to my thoughts. I only want to write if it’s meaningful. I only want to write if I get it right.

atwood-on-writing-perfection

There’s no such thing as perfection. I know that. And there’s especially no such thing as perfection in writing. Words are living, breathing things and a piece of writing is never truly done. It’s just finished, and the writer has to release those words to the world and let them continue to live on through readers. As you peruse the words and unravel their meaning, the words breathe. As you comment, continue to ponder, or share, the words’ breath, their very being, carries on.

Often, when I really have something to say, I will think and write and revise and think some more. I will edit and re-write and let the words lead me to making sense of my world. And when I finally let them go, I wait for the answer to one question: Did I get it right?

But there is no right. There is only right now. Whatever I write, whether I publish it or not, is my reality in the moment. It’s part of how my world evolves. The words I use and the paragraphs that form don’t have to be perfect. They don’t have to be right by anyone’s judgment. Not even by mine. Those words are merely part of the picture.

I know this, and something someone shared recently (that originally inspired this post but that I can no longer find) has reminded me of it once again.

I don’t have to finish writing. I just have to start.

Embracing Easy with Just-Eat.ca

I’ve now been back at work for a month, and just about everyone I know has asked me how it’s going. The truth: It’s going pretty well. I’m enjoying using my brain in a different way again (and am pretty happy about having a Starbucks in the building too).

The other truth: Life is kind of overwhelming. No one told me being a working mom of two is infinitely harder than being a working mom of one, and I think I underestimated the logistical crunch having two kids would bring to my working life.

I think I’ve found a groove for the busy mornings, though of course now that winter has decided to come to Calgary I have to build frost- and snow-removal time into my routine. It’s the evenings that are tough.

My commute is 45 minutes each way, and I work until 5 p.m. Ethan is usually approaching meltdown stage by 6 p.m., which gives me a very small window to get home and have dinner before transitioning into baby-sleep-whisperer mode. (As we all know, tired babies do not necessarily easily transition into sleeping babies.) Then I still have to do dishes (Rich cooks) and tidy and walk the dog and ignore the unfolded laundry and so on before attempting to get to bed at a reasonable hour so I can do it all again the next day.

I won’t lie. I’m tired and most nights my brain is ready to explode.

Chinese food takeoutSo…I’ll happily take any efficiency tips you care to share and in trade I’ll offer you one of mine: I’ve recently been introduced to Just-Eat.ca and I think it’s absolutely brilliant.

On weeknights Rich has been fantastic at getting dinner ready in time to feed Ethan before he totally loses it and so I can eat before my second shift (as it were), but there are some nights we just don’t have our dinner ducks in a row. And when it makes life easier we don’t hesitate to order in.

We get a little sick of pizza though, so Just-Eat.ca has been a great solution. Enter your postal code on the site and it will show you the places that will deliver food to your area at that time (and if they’re not open then but will be for dinner, you can preorder). All the menu items are listed so you can add them to your order with one click, and you can add a tip for the driver as well.

The first time I looked at the site I got lost in all the possibilities. With Thai food, Mexican, Italian, Indian, and more, it was easy to break out of our pizza rut. In the end we ordered Chinese food on a busy Wednesday, which is the night I’m on the hook for all the evening stuff because Rich goes to an art house event.

Italian takeoutEmbracing the easy way to take care of a weeknight dinner saved a little bit of my sanity (and bonus – no dishes!), so we tried ordering in on a Sunday as well. Rich was working (he’s getting into freelance illustration work, which is very cool and which I will share more about another time) so I’ve been doing kid and dog and laundry and grocery and dinner duty (on top of trying to get a run in now and then and still blog and do other freelance writing) and some Sundays the last thing I feel like doing is getting dinner ready while I’m trying to prepare for the week ahead. On this particular Sunday we ordered Italian (and discovered a place we hadn’t tried that serves zucchini sticks, which are a sentimental favourite for me). It was delivered exactly when we had asked for it and for a reasonable price fed the four of us with a good amount of leftovers for lunches (another bonus).

Telling you all this – with my good job and a husband who stays at home and family in town who support us – feels a little first-world-problemish. But you know what? Life is busy and it’s never going to get simpler if we don’t embrace the things that can make it easier. So I say lean in to ordering in. Your sanity is worth it.

 

This post was generously sponsored by Just-Eat.ca, but the opinions and images are my own. For more information, including ordering information for Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton, Toronto, Waterloo, Kitchener, Guelph, Ottawa, London, Montreal, visit www.just-eat.ca. (There’s also an app.)

Stealing Nemo

It’s tough being a younger brother. Especially when your big brother thinks your toys are cool and wants to play with them himself.

Poor Ethan. The older he gets, the cooler his toys, the more Connor steals them. We’ve taught Connor the art of distraction; originally intended to give him a tactic to use when Ethan has stolen something of Connor’s (find something else he’ll like and you can take your toy back), Connor has started using it to take Ethan’s toys so he can check them out. He’s not always terribly smooth, though, and we’re usually alerted to the heist by Ethan’s wail. Man, can that kid wail. I’ll have to try to take a picture at some point, because his facial expression [You stole that from me! How COULD you?!] is priceless.

I’ve started feeling a bit like a bodyguard for baby toys, but we had a bit of a win recently. A new toy for Ethan came in the mail, so he and I opened it while Connor wasn’t home.

I think he likes it.

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Hey, there’s Nemo! 

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It’s the Disney Baby Finding Nemo Amazing Animals Rollin’ Round Ramp, and when Connor got home later that afternoon, he was pretty excited about this new toy too. He scooped Nemo up, rolled him down the ramp to make the starfish sing, and then tucked him behind the open-and-close door. He greeted Bloat and gave him a spin. (The magic of Disney is strong in this house, I tell you.) Ethan watched, enchanted by all the toy could do, but behind the curious eyes I could see the wail building.

Luckily I was able to use the distraction ploy on Connor: the jumbo-sized bubble wrap the toy was packed in was immediately appealing and we avoided any loud complaints from Ethan.

As long as I keep the bubble wrap handy I think Ethan will have Nemo to himself.

morning

*****

Disclosure: This post is sponsored by Disney. I received this toy and financial compensation in exchange for sharing it with you. Sharing the information, I mean. Not the toy. Because that’s Ethan’s. Oh, you know what I mean…

About the toy:

The Disney Baby Finding Nemo Amazing Animals Rollin’ Round Ramp is a fun play set for baby that features characters from Disney’s Finding Nemo, plus adorable tunes and SFX. The play set includes a brightly coloured Nemo character, complete with a fun roller-ball on his belly. The lively tunes & SFX are activated as Nemo slides down the ramp or as baby pushes the starfish button. The tote features an open/close door for put-and-take play, a roller-ball Bloat to bat at, and a seahorse slider. The richly detailed handle makes this play set perfect for play at home or on the go!