{RECIPE} Roasted Garden Vegetable Pasta Salad

While I cook all the meals in my home, I’ve become a lackadaisical chef.

There was a time when I enjoyed cooking. When my relationship was new and I cooked to impress. When I didn’t have fussy little mouths to feed. When new meals weren’t met with dry heaves and gasps of disgust.

Now, I cook to survive. To keep my family alive. My enthusiasm has dwindled, replaced with disdain. If I could hire a full-time chef – someone to nourish my family for me, I’d be in heaven. But at this time, I just can’t afford to make that dream come true. So I I cook away at my monotonous menu – 5, maybe 10 meals that I make in rotation. Meat. Veggies. Starch. Repeat.

The other day I was surprised with a package in the mail. A wooden box emblazoned with #CatelliFamilies. I knew the Catelli name well (homemade macaroni and cheese using Smart Catelli pasta is one of my trusty standbys), and couldn’t wait to see what was inside.

When I opened the box, I found 2 boxes of Ancient Grains pasta, a bottle of white wine vinegar, 2 yellow zucchinis, and a lemon.

Pasta Salad Recipe

What am I supposed to do with this? I thought to myself.

The note attached challenged me to come up with a recipe, create and share it, using the provided ingredients and anything else I’d like to add to make it my own. My initial instinct was to make my usual mac n’ cheese, and toss the rest of the stuff into the cupboard (aka let it expire and toss it out), but then I thought to myself: here’s my chance to make cooking fun again.

Challenge accepted.

With a little help from Chef Google, I came across a do-able recipe and went straight to work. Here’s what I came up with:

Roasted Garden Vegetable Pasta Salad

Pasta Salad Recipe

Ingredients:

  • 1 340g box of Catelli Ancient Grains Fusilli pasta
  • 2 medium eggplants
  • 2 medium yellow zucchinis
  • 1 large red onion, cut into 1/2-inch slices
  • 2 medium sweet red peppers, cut in half and seeds removed
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 3 plum tomatoes, chopped
  • 1-1/2 cups (6 ounces) crumbled feta cheese
  • 1 can sliced ripe black olives, drained
  • 2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley

PARMESAN VINAIGRETTE:

  • 3/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/3 cup white wine vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper

 

Directions:

  1. Cook pasta according to package directions; drain and rinse in cold water. Place in a large bowl and set aside.
  2. Meanwhile, cut the eggplant, zucchini, red pepper and onion lengthwise into 3/4-in.-thick slices. Brush with oil; sprinkle with salt and pepper. Grill vegetables, covered, over medium heat for 4-6 minutes on each side or until crisp-tender. When cool enough to handle, cut into cubes.
  3. Add the tomatoes, feta cheese, olives, parsley and grilled vegetables to the pasta. In a small bowl, whisk the vinaigrette ingredients. Pour over salad; toss to coat. Cover and refrigerate until serving.

Pasta Salad Recipe

Bee’s Take:

  • I thought it was so delicious, perfect as a light, vegetarian meal on its own, or as a great compliment to a BBQ’d meat (I served it with ribs and crusty french bread)
  • My kids didn’t like the roasted vegetables or feta (because THEY DON’T LIKE ANYTHING), but they loved the noodles! (thankfully they were healthy)

I’m looking forward to eating the leftovers for lunch. Healthy, filling and totally delicious. Adding this to my Summer list for sure.

Pasta Salad Recipe

{FOOD} The Art House Supper Club

I don’t think I’m the only one who wishes I could host intimate dinner parties with friends in my home, but the daunting task of creating a mouthwatering menu and a complimentary chic-yet-laid-back ambiance, keeps me from sending out the invites.

I had heard about underground supper clubs, and had been intrigued by the idea of dining in a secret location with unfamiliar faces and undiscovered dinner dishes, but I didn’t know that I had access to this unique dining experience in my own city.

When I received an invite to try out the new Art House Supper Club, I was excited. The idea of attending an intimate dinner party without the prep or cleanup sounded like the perfect way to spend an evening catching up with friends (and connecting with new ones).

The secret dinner location is set in a serene multi-level backyard garden, tucked under a canopy of lush trees and filled with flowers. The house itself is cozy and quaint, its walls filled with colourful paintings by the talented owner/artist. The hosts, a lovely family with a shared passion for food and the arts, are warm, welcoming, and attentive.

Yard

Art House Supper Club Gardens

Dining Room

Art House Supper Club Indoor Dining Room

The unique dining experience is a perfect fit for social foodies. As you mingle and sip, the lovely Chef Rose cooks up a decadent 4-course menu filled with dishes that perfectly balance sophistication, skill and culinary passion. Each menu has a different theme – ours was French cuisine, which I was excited to try.

1st Course: French Onion Soup

Our meal began with a healthy serving of French Onion soup – steaming hot, cheesy, and perfectly baked. It was the best I had tried and I couldn’t wait to see what else was in store for us.

French Onion Soup

French Onion Soup

2nd Course: Galette de Pomme de Terre with Smoked Salmon

The 2nd course and main entree was the most delicious French dish – a surprise to the palate. I hadn’t heard of this dish before, and was pleasantly surprised as I bit into the cool, light, flavourful dish. I could taste the capers which perfectly complemented the freshly smoked salmon and fluffy pomme de terre base. Magnifique!

Galette de Pomme de Terre with Smoked Salmon

Galette de Pomme de Terre with Smoked Salmon

3rd Course: Floating Islands

The 3rd course was the most delicious sweet treat – Floating Islands. Fluffy clouds of meringue propped on top of a rich and creamy pool of caramel, and sprinkled with finely diced almonds. I moaned with delight as I savoured every bite.

Floating Islands

Floating Islands

4th Course: Cheese Board

The 4th and final course was a carefully-curated cheese board. The hearty selection of cheeses perfectly complemented the French menu, including 3 cheese options of various textures and tastes. I couldn’t stop sampling each variety and continued to nibble until the plate was empty!

Cheese plate

Cheese Board

Each dinner includes sparkling water, coffee & tea, but due to licensing restrictions, guests are invited to bring their own alcoholic beverages. Not sure which wine to pair with the menu? Their sommelier includes a list of suggested pairings with each menu. Each seating includes 10 spots. Bring a friend, book a group, or go solo and meet some new friends with a shared love for fine dining.

For around only $50 per person, this 4-course dining experience is a steal. Interested in trying out this unique “underground” dining experience? Book your spot here.

{FAMILY} In My Mother’s Shoes

On the night of my high school graduation, my mom handed me a wrapped gift and, teary-eyed, asked me to open it. As I ran my fingers along the edges of my present, I could tell that the item underneath was encased in a picture frame. I assumed that  it was a family photo or a piece of artwork that she had selected for me to hang on my wall, but when I tore the carefully-taped paper away, something unexpected appeared before my eyes.

My mother had composed and scribed (in calligraphy) a poem, written straight from her heart to mine. It went like this:

For Bianca

I had a dream and believed in it.
I had a faith and trusted in it.
I believed in miracles and God delivered you into my heart.
You were my precious dream come true,
Illuminating my life forever.
As you graduate, I experience mixed emotions,
Nostalgia,
Memories of hugs and kisses,
Laughter and tears.
You let me share your innocence.
Now you’ve emerged, a beautiful young woman,
A butterfly from a chrysalis,
Poised to spread your wings and fly.
The years went by too fast,
But I feel happiness and pride,
Awe and wonder at all you have become,
And I pray you will always have faith and dreams for yourself.
For dreams do come true,
And God will deliver yours too.

I thought the poem was beautiful, but at 16, the heartfelt words went a bit over my head. I thought it was cheesy, but I knew it was special. I gave my mom a big hug, thanked her for her gift, and tucked the framed memento away.

Tonight as I celebrated Mother’s Day with my mom, I read through the poem again, which now hangs in a gold frame in her hallway. Reading it as an adult – and especially as a mother brought new meaning to her poem for me.

I could feel her love seeping out through her written words. Tears welled up in my eyes as I pictured her sitting at a table, pen in hand. Scribing these words – pouring her heart out through her fingers and onto the paper.

I could also picture myself. Sitting at a table, pen in hand. Reminiscing over my oldest daughter‘s childhood years and trying to find the right words to express my love and pride. I pictured myself in my mother’s shoes, and hoped that my children would one day look at me with the same full heart and gratitude that I feel for her today.

Mother

{TRAVEL} A Sweet Escape To Summerland

At first it may seem strange that I passed up the opportunity to bring my whole family along on a press trip to Summerland, BC this past weekend. Finding a destination that can accommodate a family of 5 can be challenging (and often unaffordable), so one would think that I would jump at the chance to travel with my whole family in tow.

Bringing my little swarm of bees did cross my mind. I knew that there would be other families in our group – families with babies, toddlers, teens, moms and dads, and even pregnant moms filled the roster of guests who would be joining us. But I had been longing for a getaway with my oldest for awhile, and I knew that she would benefit greatly from some one-on-one bonding time with mom. So I packed our bags, created a “Road Trip” playlist for our 5-hour drive, and we hit the road for our mother-daughter weekend excursion to the Okanagan.

Summerland

Mother-daughter road trip!

My girl was full of questions, and as we drew closer to our destination, I could feel the air fill with anticipation. She wanted to know every detail of our itinerary, the names of the people who would be joining us, and whether or not there would be girls her age. I did my best to answer, and hoped that she wouldn’t be overwhelmed by the unfamiliar faces and surroundings when we arrived.

Summerland Resort

Summerland Waterfront Resort & Spa – I took this photo (no filters needed)

When we arrived at our destination, the Summerland Waterfront Resort & Spa took our breath away. We squealed in unison as we dashed towards the sparkling lake, and skipped down the dock to soak up the view. Our anticipation subsided and we were bursting with excitement.

When we opened the door to our two-bedroom suite, our jaws dropped. We had stayed at several BC resorts, but none had been as spacious as this one. With 2 full bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, 3 TVs, a large deck, and a fully-equipped kitchen, we realized that we would have had more than enough room for our whole family.

We were mere minutes into our trip, and we were already eagerly planning our next visit.

When we met up with the rest of the Vancouver Mom bloggers, I could feel my girl seize up, her 8-year-old shyness taking over. She locked eyes with a few of the girls who looked on wearily in her direction, but was hesitant to make the first move.

My fellow moms and I sat the girls at the same table and wandered away chatting, and it didn’t take long for the girls to introduce themselves and start playing together. They became fast friends, and were inseparable for the rest of the trip.

Fireside s'mores with new friends by the lake

Fireside s’mores with new friends by the lake

Our weekend was a blur of adventure. Saturday started with a visit to the beautiful Okanagan Crush Pad winery, where we sipped on an array of wines while the children visited farm animals and strolled through the vineyards. Then a pop in at Summerland Sweets where the children sampled 20 flavours of gourmets syrups while the adults sipped on fruit wines from the on-site Sleeping Giant Fruit Winery.

Taking a stroll through the scenic Crush Pad vineyard

Taking a stroll through the scenic Crush Pad vineyard (Photo by Jessica)

Summerland

The girls hanging out at Summerland Sweets

We stopped at the Trout Creek Trestle Bridge to snap photos of the Kettle Valley Rail Trail, and then hopped over to Tickleberry’s for some sweet treats and some highly-anticipated ice cream cones.

A gaggle of happy kids and their cones

A gaggle of happy kids and their cones

After our treats, we headed over to the main event of the day – the Pig Out Festival. Full of activities for kids (including the hours-of-fun jumping pillow pictured below), food and wine samplings from over 30 award-winning BC wineries and restaurants, and live music, the family-friendly festival was the perfect place to spend the afternoon sipping, sampling and mingling with friends.

Summerland

The kids had so much fun bouncing, they barely ate lunch!

Our day full of adventure was all thanks to the expert planning of our tour guide, Karen of Authentically Okanagan, a custom travel tour company who knows how to marry the popular wine hot spots with the kid-friendly hidden gems of the Okanagan to make the perfect visit for families and friends.

The rest of our visit was spent by the pool, visiting, splashing, and bonding, enjoying the comforts of a first-class resort with a laid-back family-friendly feel.

The pool at Summerland Waterfront Resort & Spa

The pool at Summerland Waterfront Resort & Spa

I fell in love with Summerland, and will definitely be back – next time with the rest of my family! And I brought some of the weekend’s good vibes home with me to save for later.

Good vibes only

Good vibes only

For more on all there is to see and do in this beautiful BC destination (beside golfing and wine tours), stay tuned for my story on BC Living.

{FAMILY} Middle Child Problems

Hi I’m Gavin and I’m five and a HALF. I was the baby in the family for four years until my baby sister came along, and I love her so SO much I just want to squish her and cuddle her and kiss her and hug her SO HARD. ALL. THE. TIME. But I get in trouble a lot for not giving her space. They say I’m “smothering her” but whatever, I know she loves me.

middle child

I’m the only boy in my family which SUCKS cause no one wants to play ninja CHOP with me. HI-YA! My big sister plays with me sometimes, but it always has to be what SHE wants to play and that’s SO ANNOYING. But when she doesn’t want to play with me, that’s the WORSTEST so I yell at her and bug her and make her as mad as I can. Maybe if I make her mad enough she’ll change her mind and play ninjas with me.

Sometimes I like to just run as fast as I can and then JUMP and CRASH on the ground and roll around like I’m on a stealth mission, like a ninja spy. It’s the FUNNEST, but my mommy always tells me to be quiet and stop thumping because my baby sister is trying to sleep. It’s like she’s sleeping all the time. Nap times are SO no fun.

Being the middle child is the HORRIBLEST. Here’s why:

My big sister gets to do all the fun stuff. My mommy is always taking my big sister to do things that are fun, like going to concerts, and ballet shows (even though ballet is SO GROSS, and so is Taylor Swift, YUCK).

My baby sister gets ALL the attention. My mommy is always carrying her around and kissing her all the time. I wish I was still a baby so my mom would carry me around. Or I wish that my baby sister would let ME carry her around all the time cause then I could SQUEEZE her and HUG her SO MUCH.

I ALWAYS have to share. When my baby sister came home I had to share a room with my big sister. Then she wanted to be alone so now I have to share a room with the BABY. And I’m not a baby I’m a BIG BOY. So it’s totally no fair. PLUS I have to always share my toys with my baby sister. Whenever I have something she takes it away.

Don’t feel bad for me though cause I have a plan. I’m going to be LOUD, and IN YOUR FACE to make sure no one forgets about me. And I do get lots of kisses which I really like. And snuggles and hugs. I like those a lot. Being the middle child can be rough, but hey, at least I’m not HER.

{FAMILY} 5 TV Families I Can Totally Relate To Now That I’m A Family of 5

I was watching an old episode of The Simpsons the other day, when it dawned on me: I’m Marge.

Instead of laughing at Bart’s ridiculous shenanigans, or Lisa’s witty banter, or Maggie’s innocent attempts at achieving toddler independence, I found myself sympathizing with Marge. She too has 3 children (all the same genders and ages as my own). She has big hair, and is the moralistic force in her family- faced with many of the same daily challenges as a parent of three as myself.

Family of 5

In realizing my commonalities with Marge Simpson, other TV families suddenly began to make sense to me as well.

I can remember watching other shows in my childhood days – shows highlighting the lives of families of five. In one childhood favourite – Roseanne, I remember laughing as D.J. antagonized his sisters. I thought Roseanne’s sarcastic humour and ability to “tell it like it is” was a welcome departure from the typical family-focused sitcoms of its day. Now that I’m a mom of three like Roseanne, it all makes so much more sense to me.

Family of 5

Another childhood favourite was Family Ties. I loved the dichotomy of the two older siblings – Alex, the politically-charged suit-and-tie wearing son, and Mallory, his underachieving, slacker sister who was primarily focused on shopping and boys. Similar to my family, their family was completed with a young blond girl who was completely unique from her older siblings. And the mom, Elyse Keaton, a career-focused self-employed mom, seemed to easily manage the overwhelming task of juggling career and kids. But like me, she was also faced with the typical challenges of a career mom of three.

Family of 5

Today’s entertainment scene isn’t short of sitcoms featuring families of five either. One of my favourite shows, and one that I can definitely relate to is Modern Family. While there are of course inherent differences between their family and mine, I can definitely relate to the Dunphy family – especially the mom, Claire Dunphy. Claire is an overbearing perfectionist, a helicopter mom, and  a soccer mom who means well but is often misunderstood by her goofy husband and strong-willed three children. I get it Claire, I feel your pain.

Family of 5

And last but not least, the family depicted in Blackish is hilariously loveable and realistically relatable to this mama of three. Like Andre and Rainbow Johnson, we are mixed-race parents raising our children in a predominantly caucasian neighbourhood. Like me, the mom struggles to juggle her career and family, and her big hair and sarcastic humour are familiarly enchanting.

Family of 5

If these 5 shows were to blend into one, I think you’d have something pretty close to a reality show about my family!

What are some of your favourite shows that depict a family life similar to the one you currently lead?

Table For One, Please!

Have you ever been out for dinner with your family, and noticed someone sitting alone at a table? Maybe you wondered to yourself why that person was eating alone. Perhaps they’re single? Or maybe they’re travelling alone and dining out as they pass through town?

Well last week, that solo diner was me.

I’ve always found the thought of dining out alone somewhat intimidating. What would I do while I waited for my food to arrive? How would I react to the curious stares of other diners who were enjoying the company of friends – who would wonder why I was sitting alone?

Stepping outside of my comfort zone has been one of my goals for this year. That, and taking time out for myself to keep sane amongst the happily chaotic life I lead as a career mom with 3 kids.

I was out enjoying one of my first-ever facials at Skoah, thanks to a free certificate I had received recently at a fundraising event (side note: I’m adding “get regular facials” to my list of things to do just for me – it was fabulous). I felt relaxed and refreshed when I left, and wasn’t ready to call it an evening, so I strolled through the shops nearby. But I was hungry (as I always am).

My first instinct was to rush to my car, hit a drive-thru, and gobble down a burger and some fries on my way home. And then my eyes fell on one of my favourite restaurants, Trattoria, and my mouth began to water as I imagined gobbling down some of my favourite dishes.

I hesitantly walked up to the entrance, and waited for the hostess to greet me. And to my surprise, she didn’t seem phased when I asked for a table for one. Instead, she warmly asked me how my day was going, and let me know that she was available if I had any questions.

As I sat alone at the table, I glanced around the room. Instead of judgy stares, my eyes were met with friendly smiles. No one seemed to care that I was sitting alone!

I played on my phone (you know, to look busy), and chatted with the server who seemed happy to engage in conversation. I sipped on a glass of wine, and slowly nibbled and noshed on my delicious meal. I didn’t have to cut up food for anyone, or repeatedly ask anyone to stop raising their voices or to take another bite. I just ate. In peace. And I was having such a lovely time, I even ordered dessert!

Dining out alone doesn’t have to be scary. In fact, it’s just the opposite. It’s a great way to take a time out, collect your thoughts, and enjoy a little time just for you.

The next thing I’m adding to my bucket list: a weekend away, alone. Fingers crossed I can take this whole “me time” thing to a whole new level!

Table For One

10 Things Your Mom Friends Don’t Tell You About Babies And Sleep

When you’re a new mom, one of the first questions you’re frequently asked is: “Does (baby) sleep through the night?” And while it may seem nice to think that another mom truly cares about your baby’s sleep patterns, the truth of the matter is: it’s a test.

If you respond with an eye roll and spew out a sob story about how you’ve been up every two hours and haven’t slept in months, you’re in. If you respond with a confident, “oh yes, at least 8 hours, my baby is a fabulous sleeper!” you’re not only out, but you’re being judged by doubting moms who secretly think your time is coming. I’ve been on both sides.

sleep baby

The thing is, sleepless nights with babies can be worse than child birth. And like child birth, mom friends who have “been there, done that” will never tell you everything about what goes down.

So moms, I’m here to share with you the 10 stages of crazy that you will likely experience when struggling to survive a long night with a fussy, sleepless baby. And please note: the stages may vary depending on your comfort level, tolerance level, and amount of coffee/wine you’ve consumed before bedtime.

1) False Hope. It starts with a midnight waking – as your head finally hits your pillow after a long and exhausting day, your baby squawks and your night from hell begins. You pick her up, and rock her in your arms lovingly, convinced that a few kisses will coo her back to sleep.

2) Denial. She doesn’t stop crying, so you start the bounce walk. Looping around the dark hallways of your house, humming a tune quietly in her ear, you think to yourself: at least I’m getting some exercise. She’ll fall asleep soon.

3) The Bandaid. She doesn’t fall asleep, and your legs are tired so you give in and nurse her. Gently rocking your baby while she suckles, you fantasize about the slumber you’ll enjoy once she feeds herself into a milk coma.

4) Acknowledging You Have A Problem. She finishes nursing, wide eyed, and starts to cry again. You sit down in the rocking chair in the unnerving darkness of her room, and you start to rock as she thrashes in your arms, wailing like a cat in heat.

5) The Horror. You lull into a mad, sleepless coma. You sit there, rocking, eyes wild, and stare straight forward as you wrestle with the possessed babe in the dark who continues to howl like a coyote at a full moon. Rocking like a madwoman in a horror movie, you stare. Lifeless.

6) False Hope (Part 2). She suddenly stops crying, and her head flops lifeless on your chest. You’ve done it! She’s out! You celebrate with a series of silent fist pumps as you prepare for the final transfer. You’ve survived.

7) Remix. No you haven’t. Because as you begin the ascent out of your chair, she stirs, looks down at your slowly moving arms, and screams a blood-curdling cry worse than the ones before. Back to #1.

8) Doubt. You’ve been walking, rocking, cooing, wrestling your baby now for 2+ hours. You’re mentally, emotionally, and physically drained, and you are back to rocking your wildly kicking goat in the rocking chair again. You’re in a daze, perhaps making lists in your head of the places you’d rather be, or the things you’ll never get done in the morning because you’ll be so tired.

9) Full Submission. You doze off while the baby’s still crying in your arms. When you come to, you realize that she’s stopped and is dead asleep in your arms. Doubtful that it’s over, you get up, and apathetically transfer her into her bed. You pause. She’s still sleeping. Could it be?

10) Ninja Win! You ninja roll the eff outta the room, slowly closing the door like a thief in the night. The floor creaks as you step away, and you pause with an overwhelming fear that you’ve ruined everything – that life as you know it will truly come to an end and your days in the solitary confinement that is a night alone with a sleepless baby is all you’ll ever know. But she’s still quiet. Success.

baby sleep 2

Your baby has finally fallen asleep and you’re free to tuck back into bed. You have 2 full hours before it’s time to wake up to start your day, and you can’t sleep. What if she wakes up again? Why bother falling back asleep if I’m going to have to wake up again anyways? You lie there. Half dead. And watch the sun rise through the curtains.

Your alarm goes off, waking the baby, and your day begins.

Leading Moms: Be Inspired

This year’s Leading Moms event is coming up on September 26th and I couldn’t be more excited! My first experience with this inspiring and entertaining event was in 2012 when I attended Leading Moms as an event ambassador. I was introduced to a community of extraordinary and inspiring women from all walks of life, and left the event feeling invigorated and connected.

Last year I was on the organizing team for Leading Moms 2013 which was focused on the theme of “the importance of play”. I had a blast connecting with amazing women such as Anna Rice, Badminton Olympian, and Kelsey Ramsden, Profit W100 Winner. Through inspiring stories, anecdotes, musical performances and a fashion show, we reconnected with our inner child and were reminded of the importance of play in everyday life. For a recap of last year’s event, check out this short video:

Leading Moms 2014, hosted by VancouverMom.ca, Entrepreneur Mom Now and JellyBeen, will be another inspiring experience. The event boasts an all-star speaker line-up, including veteran broadcaster Tamara Taggart and philanthropist Andrea Thomas Hill. You’ll hear about personal journeys in motherhood through a mix of performance, video and intimate talks delivered straight from the heart, and free childcare will be available for little ones in tow.

I think this year’s event will outdo the rest, with the introduction of The 2014 Leading Mom Award, a great new venue, and a lineup of speakers who will focus on the topic of “inspiration” – a suitable theme for an event that does just so.

Early bird tickets are available until September 9th so buy yours now! Click on the image below for your tickets and to learn more about this amazing event.

Leading Moms Speakers poster

Join the conversation and attend the Twitter party on September 9th at 8pm – a great way to connect with likeminded moms and win some fabulous prizes from the event sponsors. Be sure to follow @leadingmoms on Twitter and join the party following the details below.

Leading Moms Twitter party

 

I look forward to seeing you there!

 

The Extracurricular Jigsaw Puzzle

If you have (or have ever had) a school-aged child, you’ve likely engaged in an exchange similar to this one:

Mom Friend: “Ugh my schedule is so busy, my kid’s in soccer, ballet, t-ball, singing, piano, and swimming this year! What are your kids doing?”

Me: “Oh, well.. we’re still trying to decide, there are so many options…”

Translation: I’ve failed as a mom.

Or at least that’s how I feel.

For some reason, selecting extracurricular activities for my children feels as though I’m selecting numbers on a lottery ticket. Each number seems equally as legitimate, but how do I put them together to get the big win? How do I pick the right activities to create the best future for my children?

I’ve always thought that when the time came, I would let my children decide what they’d like to do, but the tricky thing is, when they haven’t tried anything, how do we know what they’ll enjoy?

My daughter was crazy for tutus, princesses and twirling, so putting her into ballet when she was 3 seemed like an obvious choice. For 3 years she stuck with it, and loved every moment. But by the end of last year, she was starting to get antsy. I could tell that it was time for her to try something new, but what? I didn’t want her to give up dancing because I could tell that she loved it, but I also didn’t want dancing to be her only activity, at least not until she had tried other options.

Just like mommy?

Throughout my childhood I was a passionate dancer. I started with ballet at 3, and as I grew, so did my roster of dance classes. By 8 I was taking ballet, jazz, tap, and modern, and was dancing for approximately 10 hours a week. I danced in a professional dance company, and my performing even led to my meeting Princess Diana. I was fortunate to have parents who supported my passion.

But one thing that I kind of regret, is that because I was so wrapped up in dancing, I didn’t learn the sports skills that many of my peers had pursued. To this day, I can’t catch a ball. I throw “like a girl” and my running is atrocious. I envy women who play soccer in their spare time, who can toss a football with a perfect spiral, and jump into a game of beach volleyball without a second thought.

I’d love for my daughter to have a well-balanced roster of after-school activities, but I also want her to enjoy what she’s doing.

Over the Summer, I enrolled her in a one-week dance camp where she was able to try several genres of dance. I promised that at the end of the week, I would let her decide which style of dance she would pursue for the upcoming year. Giving her the independence to choose seemed to thrill her – finally a decision that she could own.

Dance

She enjoyed every day of dance camp, and to my surprise, she came out of it feeling confident in her decision: she was to take tap.

I signed her up and thought my job was done.

How much is too much?

But now that she’s back in school, and I’ve engaged in more than a few conversations similar to the one above, I’m second-guessing myself.

Should she be doing more?

Should I enrol her in soccer even though the mention of the word brings her to tears?

Is there harm in not having my child enrolled in more than one activity?

Most families that I know have signed each of their children up for at least 2 extracurricular activities. I can’t help but wonder if my children should be doing more, but I’m also stuck wondering why it’s so important to keep them so busy.

They’re six. They’re in school for almost 7 hours a day. They have homework, and siblings, and wild imaginations.

The questions I can’t seem to answer are these:

Is it better to have them enrolled in as many activities as possible so they can find their true passion through experience, or are we signing them up for too much to keep up with the norm? Are we doing it for bragging rights?

How did you decide which extracurricular activities to choose for your children, and how many they should do? How did you piece together the extracurricular jigsaw puzzle?