Wednesday, June 29, 2011

It's just about that time of year again

I'm planning to take the kids strawberry pickings in the morning. It'll be the third year in a row that the three of us go so I guess that officially makes it a tradition. And I figured it would be a fun way for us to start off the summer holidays.

I'm excited about the outing - I love strawberry picking - but I'm even more excited for what we get to do when we come home with a big bucket of freshly picked strawberries...make jam. Last summer, I really got into the canning, making four batches of jam (strawberry, peach and two batches of grape), two batches of salsa, a batch of relish and a batch of pickles. And now suddenly, I find myself tracking down all my recipes and looking for new ones. Who knew canning could be so much fun!

Sure it's a ton of work, but, last summer at least, the kids helped with the cooking part and I don't see why they wouldn't this year. And getting to eat fresh-made jam...yum!

Although this year, I'll try to make the strawberry jam a little less syrup like!

Wordless Wednesday: Last day of school

No more pencils, no more books, no more teachers....well actually, Austin's JK teacher was a wonderful woman who we will all truly miss next year when he starts at the French Immersion school in the fall.

But no need to think about that right now. Right now, there's just one happy boy as he heads off to his last day of school before summer vacation. It doesn't feel that long ago that I was taking first day of school pictures....

Friday, June 10, 2011

My office: Before and After

When I started working as a freelance writer two years ago, I didn't have a proper home office. My office was also the family room, was also the kids' play room. In other words, I had a desk and a computer at one end of our all-purpose room.

It worked sometimes.

But other times, it was challenging. If I needed to get some work done in the afternoon, it was hard to just put a movie on for the kids to distract them -- because the TV was in the same room. And on a weekend -- especially in the winter -- if I needed a few hours to work, Ryan couldn't exactly just take the kids downstairs to play. Because their toys were in the same room.

So late last year, we decided that our so-called spare room would become my office. I call it a so-called spare room because it was really a pretty sad room. Which is part of the reason I resisted the idea at first. The thought of working in such a sad room was depressing. It's a tiny room in the basement. And it's windowless.

So already it had two knocks against it. But then there was the way we had treated it for the last five years or so which made it even more depressing.

First of all, it had a bed in it. A double bed which took up most of the space. It was such an old bed that one side of the mattress now had a hole in it (and some people when staying over requested to sleep on an air mattress in the family room rather than on the spare bed in the spare room.). Yes, it was that bad.

But secondly, even more important than the sad bed was the mess in the room. The spare room was where we sent everything we didn't know what to do with to die. Extra pieces of it in the spare room. Old baby stuff...spare room. Presents we're not quite sure what to do with....spare room. Random items that should really be thrown out...spare room. And every time someone would come to stay, we would do a quick clean out of the room -- which usually invovled hauling as much crap out of it as we could and putting it somewhere else in the basement. When they left, the crap would go back.

And because of all the crap, the room was rarely dusted or vaccumed. So it was crowded, dirty and full of crap. Oh yeah, and it was wall-to-wall dark wood panelling (and don't forget, I said it's a tiny room).

Not exactly an appealing place to park myself day in and day out to work.

So, in early February I got to work. First a friend helped me clear out some of the crap -- it always helps to have someone else who has no history with any of the stuff to be ruthless for you. Then, we put the bed on the curb for the garbage truck. Then I packed up everything else that wasn't being thrown out and started painting.

By the end of February, the room was primed and painted By the end of March we had a new futon (because this tiny little room had to serve two purposes -- an office for me and a guest room for anyone who may need to stay over.) By early April, I had a brand new IKEA desk.

And I did it almost all by myself. I say almost all because I did the planning and the painting. Ryan did the electrical (because he knows how), the baseboards (because it was faster for him to just do it than to show me how) and put together the newly-bought furniture (because I think he actually likes doing that kind of thing).

I moved in what was absolutely necessary and now I have my VERY OWN HOME OFFICE!

I've been waiting a couple of months to write this post because the one thing I haven't finished yet is to put art on one wall. There's art over the futon, but not over my desk. I've planned out what to put there, but I just haven't had time to do it yet.

But without further ado, here is my before and after look:

Right before I took these before pictures, I thought about cleaning up the room first and then thought "why, it looks like this most of the time anyway".
The built-in shelves were always, always, always a disaster of stuff -- 90% of which we didn't even need!

....and after. Over my desk is where I'm going to hang the last of the art. Mainly so I'm not staring at a blank wall all the time.
The guest bed. To be able to pull it out, I have to move my desk chair out of the way.

And finally...the built-in bookcases. Painted with a bit of contrast and only holding the stuff we need -- well mostly. What the heck am I supposed to do with all those CDs that no one listens to anymore?

Thursday, June 09, 2011

Be careful what you wish for

I haven't worked in over a month. That's just the way life is when you're a contract worker. Contracts come whenever they come. And often, no matter how often you stay on top of keeping in touch with your contacts, there's no work to be had.

Until there is.

For about six weeks now, I've been trying not to be anxious about not working. Trying to enjoy my days with the kids and enjoy the fact that I had a little spare time to do other things -- like blog and scrapbook and plant my garden (and of course, all the typical day to day chores). I say try because when I'm not working, I feel a little anxious about it, and when I am working I'll start to feel guilty for not spending enough time with the kids (double-edge sword, I know.).

So here's hoping that my last six weeks of trying to not be anxious and enjoying my time with the kids will pay off. Today, I picked up not one, but two contracts. One's a big one that will be a fair bit of work and is due in early to mid-July. The other is a smaller, proofreading job that is also due in early to mid-July. Oh yeah, and then there's the third contract that is sitting on the horizon that I've been asked to quote on. It's a big one -- a proofreading instead of a writing job but still a 400-page proofreading job.

All three in one day. I went from no work to a hell of a lot of work in one day. So don't be surprised if you hear from me only sparingly in the next month and a half.

Seriously, a few weeks ago I was wishing for more work. I've really got to be more careful what I wish for!

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

Wordless Wednesday -- Water slide!

Hot is the word of the day today. It's really, really hot out there. So after Alex and I picked up Austin at school, they put their bathing suits on and played in the sprinkler for the first time this year. And managed to move the sprinkler around the yard until they discovered that they could turn the climber into a water slide!

Find more of this week's Wordless Wednesday (or Wordful) posts at 5 Minutes for Mom.

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

The end of the world as I know it

My world is coming to an end. Alex is giving up napping.

I know I shouldn't be surprised, she's over 3 years old and many kids give them up way earlier, but just because I'm not surprised doesn't mean I have to be happy about it.

Nap time routine has been a part of my life for pretty much 5 years. Because even after Austin gave up his nap 2 years ago, Alex still napped. And since she napped, I could convince him to go into his room most days and 'rest'. Sometimes he'd read books, sometimes he'd play, sometimes he'd even lie down. Heck, to be perfectly honest, he's 5 years old and I still make him go into his room most days to play quietly for a little while. Partly because the downtime is good for him and mostly because that means I get 30 minutes of peace and quiet every afternoon.

The routine for the last two years has been this: Alex lies down for a nap, Austin and I play quietly for a little while and then he goes into his room to play by himself while I do some work or play around on the computer if there's no work to be done. It's my time (or my clients' time).

But now, she's going into her room -- and more days than not, not sleeping. And the days she does fall asleep is usually because I threatened her to do so. (The other day, I knew we were going to be out late so I told her if she didn't nap, we weren't going. Needless to say, she slept.) But overall, she typically only sleeps 3 days a week if I'm lucky. The other 4 days she lies in her bed and complains that she doesn't want to sleep. And so I eventually cave and tell her to get up and play quietly in her room. She does for awhile and then she'll open her door and yell "can I get up yet?".

The plus side is it's happening at a time when the kids are old enough to play on their own together and therefore don't need me to constantly entertain them all day long. Many days after lunch, they go off and play and I've gone down to my office to get some work done. They don't need me, so I try not to 'need' them. It's not exactly peace and quiet, but it's still a little bit of time to myself.

Of course, the problem with the end of nap time is always the same -- she may not be tired at 2 p.m., but she sure as hell is a miserable wreck by 7 p.m. without one.

But as the end of nap time draws near -- just in time for school to let out -- I'm going to have to relook and rework how I balance my stay-at-home, work-from-home life. Because now, I'm going to have 2 kids all day for 2 months and no one is going to want to stop to sleep.

Well, except maybe me.