Less is More, More or Less

November 25, 2012

A couple months ago I was in a karate class and the instructor said “If you’re in a good fighting stance, the fastest way to punch someone is to just straighten your arm. You don’t need all this extra movement to the back or side.” Ah, apparently the old cliche “less is more” applies to martial arts as well. Who knew?

Here are a few ways I have embraced the idea of less is more in my everyday life. Sadly, this list is “less” but I’m getting there, so don’t judge.

  1. Kids’ birthday loot bags. No more money spent on a ton of dollar store crap. I buy one or two higher quality items and I’m done. Our guests, their parents, and our local landfill truly appreciate the effort I have made in this area.
  2. My pantry. Goodbye to “food-like” items that could survive a nuclear holocaust. I’d rather make an extra trip to the grocery store and eat food that appears in nature.

Some areas of my life that I’m trying to improve with the “less is more” philosophy;

  1. My closet. Why am I keeping old, tired clothes? If I’m feeling great, I should be dressing in a way that shows that off. If I’m feeling crappy, dressing like I’m trying out for a part in Oliver does not help in any way. Now that my last child is potty trained and can wash his hands independently, I really have no excuse. Plus, I’d rather address a small load of laundry more often than deal with an avalanche of clothes spilling from my “hers” basket. (My husbands does his own laundry. And yes, it does make me love just a little more.)
  2. Craft supplies. When I go too long without making something, I start to get… restless. Then I go on a crafting bender until someone finds me in a glue-fume-induced coma covered in beads and paint and bits of yarn. At this point my project(s) may or may not be complete. If I could take the less is more approach here, I would buy only the supplies I needed for the project at hand and no pipe cleaners or styrofoam balls would be squating in the area reserved for winter hats.

There are some things where “less is more” does not apply. Anything to do with love and hugging your children is out. So is reading and napping. You can never get enough of those two. Oh and good food, which of course includes copious amounts of chocolate. If anyone tries to enforce a “less is more” on chocolate, well, I will just straighten my arm.


Summer Strategy

May 26, 2012

Sparring is not my forté. But I’m learning that strategy can be my best friend in the ring. If I can think ahead and get my opponent to do what I want them to do, the chance of me scoring a point is so much higher. Not to mention that it also reduces the risk of me getting hit in the head, which you know, I favour.

This is the approach I’m taking for summer vacation. I know my kids aren’t my opponents (usually), but eight weeks with four kids and no thinking ahead will pummel me. It will go from them happily swimming in their cousins’ pool, to bickering about what goggles belong to whom, to the aquatic version of the Hunger Games in very short order.

I am a lazy mother (“mother” as a noun, not an adjective, thankyouverymuch). It’s true though. I could easily wile away day after summer day doing absolutely nothing except yelling at the kids to stop fighting. But this year I have a goal and a strategy. My goal is to get all of my kids making the majority of their lunches next year for school. My strategy to make this happen is a double installment of “Mom’s Cooking Camp”, one near the beginning of July and the other closer to the end of August.

I sent my girls to “Bon Appetit” camp last year and let me tell you, not much cooking happened at all, unless you count spreading canned frosting on white bread. I am totally serious. My then eight year old did learn a plethora of swear words though, which I believe belong in the kitchen, so she’s got a good head start there. When I think about the money I spent on two kids going to that camp it makes me want to cry a little. This year I’ll spend a fraction of that amount on a few extra measuring spoon sets and pans so that each kid can get their chef on. It’s points all round for me because not only is it less work for me in the long run, I’ll have assistants for the baking extravaganza that happens just before school starts, and I’ll be helping my kids gain some independence. All good.

I also have Book Camp, Art Camp, and possibly Community Service Camp in mind for the weeks in-between.

All this came from a desire to score a point in a sparring match. So sparring may not be my forté, but I’m getting the hang of this strategy business.

How about you? What are your plans for summer?

Come up swinging

May 16, 2012

A couple months ago I took a kickboxing class after my karate class. It was my first “double” of the year. Actually, it was my first “double” in about four years, but who’s counting right?

One of our exercises was to bend down, touch the ground, come up and hook punch the bag. In the middle of this particular drill my instructor yelled “Come up swinging!”. Those three words resonated with me and thought “Damn right I’ll come up swinging.”.  Since that class I’ve been thinking about all the ways that “Come up swinging” applies to my life. I want to get back in shape and be healthy and fit, but I have to fight for it. I have to fight the vortex that is my couch. I want to go back to technical writing after 11 years of being a stay at home mom with only a handful of random projects that are suitable for a resume. I have to fight for that too. Yes, I need to bring my skills back up to par, but mostly I need to fight those niggling thoughts of “Who will hire a part time tech writer that wants to work from home as much as she can?”. That couch and those thoughts try to drag me down. Little do they know, I fight back…and I come up swinging.


The war versus the battle

February 10, 2012

“He who knows when he can fight and when he cannot, will be victorious.” Sun Tzu

In my mind I’m 18. I’m young, healthy, strong, and a bit of a risk taker. In actuality, I’m 38 with a knee that acts like it 90. Last night I had to fight that 18 year old perception of myself and just take it easy after my knee popped out on me. (Yes, that is a highly accurate medical description of what happened.) At first I did not want to give up. I did not want to be, or appear weak. My knee cap was in place, I adjusted my brace to be tighter and I was ready to get back out there. With the exception of the first few minutes, it honestly did not feel overly painful, just a little wobbly and maybe like it might swell a bit later.

My karate instructor, being the sage man he is, said “No.”. He also said “Win the war, not the battle.” and  ‘You can take it easy now or push it and be out for four weeks.” And of course he was right.

I hear a lot of reminders to moms to go after their own goals and to take care of themselves. Last night I had to combine those two things. My goal is to be fit, strong, and ultimately to take (and pass) the 3rd degree black belt test. I went to class last night in pursuit of that goal.  The taking care of myself part came as me doing  situps while everyone else was kicking, and aiming all punches head-high while everyone else was bending low for the kidney punch. I took care of my knee so I could fight another day. I also got an ab workout that my four-baby-belly desperately needed. I took care of myself not by giving myself a “pass” and bugging out of class, but by refocusing my efforts without losing sight of the goal.

What will you do for yourself today?

Closing the Distance

January 13, 2012

Gaging your distance in sparring or self defense is hugely important. If you’re too close you might not have room to maneuver and get your technique out. If you’re too far, well, you miss (like I have so many times).  It’s the same with kids, especially if you are trying to long distance parent. I don’t mean when moms and dads have split up and kids are going between homes, I mean when the kids are in the living room and you are yelling at them from the kitchen.

With four kids in a three story house there are only certain things I can yell and have them all listen to me. For example, “Dinner! Sorry it’s so late guys.” or “Who wants ice cream?” or “Who wants to come to Toys R Us? “.  But these examples aren’t really on the parenting critical path. When it comes to getting chores done, curbing some misbehavior or sometimes even getting a simple question answered, I have to be up close and personal.

I think that parenting up close serves a couple functions. It lets whoever is speaking know that they have been heard and it lets the listener actually focus and listen. This is very important regardless of whether it is the parent speaking and the child listening or vice versa. Plus there is a certain amount of intention when you actually make the effort to go to your child and talk to them. If you are telling them to “Please stop sitting on your brother’s head or you’ll be in the naughty corner” (yes, these are words I have spoken), then you are letting them know that you are physically there monitoring their actions, and there to enforce the punishment if need be. There is also the flip side to this – catching your kids doing something extra nice. It’s great to look them in the eye and say “Thank you for taking the pudding lid off for your brother. I know it is very tempting to lick that piece of foil, but you let him do it. Well done!”. When you respect the distance (or lack of it) when communicating with your child, the greater the chance of your child respecting what you say.

Who knew that a pathetically short back fist would remind me of this basic parenting technique?

Making an Entrance

December 4, 2011

Any martial arts student can tell you the proper way to enter a dojo – you bow. It’s a sign of respect. If you don’t bow on your way in you are asked to go back and enter properly or in some cases you are instructed to kneel at the edge of the training area and wait until you are invited to join class. It quickly becomes routine and at some point the idea of not bowing is almost offensive.

I want that for my house. Okay fine, you don’t have to bow (although secretly I would love that), but no trapesing through my kitchen with muddy boots please. Also, no leaving random shoes, and sometimes socks *shudder*, strewn about my entryway. It has been almost ten years of reminding kids to put their shoes on the rack, their coats on the hook , and their hats in the basket and yet they still don’t do it by rote. Why is this? I think kids’ minds have a “Test For Breakage” rule. This rule basically says to the child “if you get away with breaking this rule once, then that rule no longer applies”. I’m almost tempted to make them put on all their outside gear and enter again, and again, and again, in a continuous cycle, until it sticks.

Hmm, the idea in that last sentence actually seems pretty good. All I need is a good night’s sleep and a little time to mentally prepare for endurance that will most definitely be required. I’ll let you know if I can teach my children how to make a proper entrance. Maybe I can even get them to bow.


My Weapons of Choice

October 26, 2011

In a previous post I wrote about how I am blessed with an inner cheerleader.

Last week that peppy little minx cheered me right into my karate uniform that had lain untouched for three and a half years. First let me say that a karate uniform (a.k.a. gi) would give LuluLemon a run for their money when it comes to comfort. Unlike yoga pants, a gi hides a multitude of doughnuts sins and is therefore my favourite thing to wear. Its comfort however did nothing to alleviate the nausea that accompanied the thought of going to a class. But I went.

I chose a weapons class to go to for a couple of reasons. They are usually a little less intense when it comes to conditioning, and you know what you’re getting, or rather, what you are not getting – no sparring, no self defense, no jump kicks. As much as I was very nervous about taking the class, it was like riding a bike after I actually bowed in and entered. I warmed up, stretched, and prepared myself to eat a huge helping of humble pie. Don’t get me wrong, even when I was training often I would prepare to eat humble pie, it’s part of the sport for me.  And did I eat humble pie? Well, yes, a little. I hit myself with my bo (5′ long stick). Twice. And my shoulders were crying from spinning that stick around. But so what? I was there for me and it felt awesome. My best moment though was at the very end of class.  All the other students performed in front of the class and I had the choice to go up too … or not. I got up there and did my thing. I feel like in that moment of saying “yes” to doing something I was queasy about doing, I said yes to so much more. Now the word “yes” is among my weapons of choice.

Where are my pom-poms?

October 21, 2011

Like most other people, I have an inner critic. She’s stealthy and persistent. However, I am also blessed with an inner cheerleader. She’s feisty, loud, and has delusions of grandeur.

My inner cheerleader has dominated for most of my life. Even after I had three babies my cheerleader took good care of me. She told me that I needed to give to myself so I could give to my children. She told me that no one can force guilt on me. If I bore the burden of guilt, it is because I agreed that I deserved it, something she would never let happen. Most of all she reminded me that I am an example to my daughters about how a mom should treat herself.

When I had baby #4 something happened to my inner cheerleader. She got a little quieter. I’d tell the whole sad story of how I lost her for a while, but now that she’s back she won’t let me. I can say that while she was away I was like an agitated bottle of champaign. All the fizz and bubbles were locked up inside just waiting to either burst from the pressure, or for the cork to pop. The combination of reading Sharon DeVellis’ posts about speed skating, the Blissdom Canada conference, and a little shaking of the bottle on my part resulted not in a exuberant explosion of positivity, but more of a deafening “get off your ass woman and just do it”. Whatever “it” I choose, she’ll be there rooting for me. Take that inner critic! Rah, Rah, Rah!

I have been to two tweet ups. The first was about a month ago. I was so nervous that a cold sore spontaneously erupted on my lip and rivers of sweat poured off me. I recently overheard someone say that a tweet up is like a first date. You are always wondering if you have spinach in your teeth and if the other person likes you. I felt like that, but worse because I was undermining my self confidence with the destructive thoughts that all the other women had their acts totally together whereas I did not. When asked ‘So, what do you do?’ I stammered something half under my breath about having four kids, lots of ideas, and no real focus yet.

Then I changed my mind. I decided that after ten years of being a stay at home mom it was perfectly okay to not know what I was going to do next. Instead of comparing myself to other women I would learn from them and open myself up to be inspired by them. I signed up for the WomenInBiz / Blissdom tweet up. I went with the intention of soaking up the creativity, encouragement and drive of the ladies around me. It was a very liberating experience and I am so thankful I had the sense to just be myself and let the positivity come to me. I met moms just like me trying to figure where they fit in, and moms that had spent years finding the balance between motherhood and business. This time when asked ‘So, what do you do?’ I had a perfectly confident answer, ‘I’m a stay at home mother of four. I was a technical writer before that, and now I’m trying to figure out what’s next for me.’ All true, all me and no self judgement or criticism.

On my way out the door, I saw Julia Rosien. I had been following her on Twitter and knew she was super smart with a ton of experience. I told her how I had been writing blog posts, but had only published a few, with the rest sitting in the Drafts folder. Her advice to me was to give myself permission to push the Submit button. By the time you read this I will have taken her advice, literally. I have a feeling though that those words will help me outside the blogosphere in whatever venture I chose to undertake. Thanks Julia, and thank you to all the wonderful women at the WomenInBiz / Blissdom tweet up.

The gift of giving

February 26, 2011

Just before Christmas my 9 year old daughter loped off her beautiful blond mane. She had been growing it out for a year or so. She had talked about donating her hair before, but she got serious about it when her classmate and grandpa got diagnosed with cancer within weeks of each other.  She wanted to do it before Christmas so that she could “give a child with cancer a great Christmas gift”.  To say that I was proud of her would be an understatement. Not only did she donate her own hair, but she inspired her aunt and myself to do the same. I got mine chopped off just a couple of days ago. What a gift! I don’t mean the hair donation, I mean the great feeling of doing something kind for a total stranger, especially one that’s having a hard go of things. This post is to say thank you to my daughter on behalf of those receiving our hair and for reminding me how fulfilling the gift of giving can be. You rock Olivia!


Olivia Before

Olivia After

Olivia After

Kelly Before

Kelly Before

Kelly Before

Kelly After