As the plates spin

School is back in session and I fully admit to being excited about it. Similar to the start of a brand new year, I love the beginning of a school year even more. Probably because I have a couple of things I don’t have to worry about for awhile during the day – and by a couple of things I’m referring to my children.

After a busy summer juggling work and family, I am now relieved to see Sam and Daisy in the full swing of their regular routines, mainly so that I can get back on a regular routine myself. Working and simultaneously trying to show your kids a good time is harder than it sounds. Well, it was for me anyway.

“Hallelujah,” said one of the parents I met out in the parking lot on the first day of school. “I can breathe again.”

Phew. I’m not the only one.

This summer was hectic, but it was also fun and I was lucky that I had the opportunity to spend more quality time with the kids than in summers past. Did my work suffer as a result? Yes, it did, and the reason for that is because I had too much on my plate. 

“You need to edit yourself,” my cartoonist Jim Hunt advised. “You don’t just have a lot on your plate, you remind me of those Vaudeville plate-spinning acts.”

He’s right, and he’s not the only one who’s said something to that effect. I’ve been counseled many times over the years by friends and family to slow down and I’ve finally realized that the reason I do too many things at once is that I’m falling prey to my tendency to self-sabotage.

“Narrow your focus,” Jim continued. “Spreading yourself too thin will keep you from attaining your goals.”

In theory, his words made perfect sense. I thought about all those plates I had spinning in the air and started thinking about which ones I could put down. I would say drop, but I don’t like the thought of anything breaking and having to sweep up more than I already need to.

While the kids have started a new year at school, I’m also enjoying a fresh start by re-evaluating where I’m putting my energies so I can focus on what’s important and let go of some other tasks.

“Everyone’s busy,” the parent from the parking lot said. “It doesn’t matter if you’re a working mom like you or a stay-at-home mom like me, we seem to fill up all our time regardless.” How true. I remember my own stay-at-home mother being incredibly busy too.

And busy is okay, as long as we remember that we can’t do everything, a lesson I continue to learn.

“Life is short,” my dad once said. “Some people spend all their time doing the things they think they should be doing and don’t have enough time left over to do the things they actually want to do.” 

Keeping focused on what matters most and eliminating some of the other stuff is key. To help, I’ll be taking the “Editing Myself 101” course – a self-imposed class I plan to pass with flying colours.

More columns, blogs, cartoons and videos can be found at LoriWelbourne.com

Back to School Bliss

Ever since I was a child, I’ve loved back-to-school time. For me it used to signify a fresh start and an exciting new school year. Now, as a mother, it signifies a fresh start and well needed breathing space.

Working primarily from my home for the first time since my kids were tots, I found this summer to be both a blessing and a challenge. It was wonderful to have the opportunity to spend more time with them, but it was also difficult getting all my work done without losing my marbles.

Turns out, I’m not that productive with a house full of kids who have ten times the energy I do.

If you’re reading this column for the first time you might be wondering how many children I have. Okay, so I’m not exactly Octomom with her 14… or even Kate Gosselin with her eight. I only have two. But listen, kids multiply.

“Can I call a friend to come over and play?” my eight year old daughter would ask every morning before she even had breakfast.

“You have Sam,” I said early in the summer, referring to her 11 year old brother with whom she had tons of fun. “That’s why we had two children… so you’d have a built-in friend.”

“I can’t play with him,” she said, scrunching up her nose. “He likes playing video games. And boy stuff!”

Oh yeah, I thought, remembering my beloved brother and his unexplainable obsession with Lego and sports when we were younger. Yuck.

So, this summer, I had a house full of kids on most days. And, just to be clear, in my mind a house full of kids is anything more than two.

“Wouldn’t you all like to play at someone else’s house for awhile?” I’d find myself asking on occasion, particularly when there were more than five of them flying around like wild monkeys in the jungle.

“No, we’re good,” was quite often their happy reply.

As much as I wanted them out of my hair at times like this, I recognized that I’d created what I always wanted: a home where my kids wanted to hang with their friends. If only they could do it in silence.

But silence is what I’ll be getting soon that glorious day after Labour Day when the kids are back in school.

With time to miss them I’m looking forward to returning to civilization, getting back into our regular routine and having some breathing space again.

“Summer vacation was invented by a man who didn’t have children,” my friend just said when I ran into her at the grocery store. Clearly I’m not the only one anxious for the school year to start. To see how others feel about back-to-school time, watch my On a Brighter Note Video by  CLICKING HERE.

Lori Welbourne is a syndicated columnist. To read her columns, watch her videos or contact her, visit LoriWelbourne.com

LOOKING SHY IN THE EYE

There were a lot of happy parents dropping their kids off at school on Tuesday, and I’m not afraid to admit that I was one of them.

It’s not that I don’t love having my kids around, but having them around for six hours less every day will be a welcome break.

I’m already starting to think about all the stuff I can get done with some quiet, uninterrupted time each day to work, exercise and clean the house. (My husband will laugh when he reads that last part.) Cleaning’s never been a huge priority to me. But I do clean whenever it becomes exceedingly necessary, or if I’m trying to avoid a particular work project that’s not as much fun as I’d like.

I was worried the children wouldn’t be looking forward to school as much as I was, but they were. They’re at a new school this year and are excited to make new friends. They’re both much braver than I was as a little girl.

I was exactly my son’s age when we moved and I changed schools and became the new kid. I suddenly went from being an outgoing fourth grader with lots of friends to a shy, insecure, fifth grader.

This sudden change was probably due to one particular incident when I threw up on the floor of an overly packed school bus and quickly made myself known as the “new girl who stunk us out.”

Hearing the kids screaming and choking and desperately trying to get off the bus when it came to a stop was a mortifying experience. Not surprisingly, I kept a low profile after that and didn’t actually start coming out of my shell until well after graduating from high school.

After being shy for such a long period of time, I feel like a bit of an expert on the subject. I’ve always told my kids that life’s more exciting when you can be brave and outgoing, and that it’s important to forgive and laugh at yourself when you do something embarrassing. I missed out on a lot of fun in my adolescence because of my severe insecurities.

I would say that I regret that now, but I don’t believe in regrets.

What I do believe in is sharing my experiences and hoping that people will be able to relate and get something out of them. When I tell my kids about my shyness, they find it hard to believe, because I’m considered outgoing now. But I think it makes them feel confident that if there’s something they’d like to be able to change about themselves, they have that ability.

This morning we sat in the school library with all the other new kids and their parents to listen to an introduction followed by a tour. I looked at my ten year old son and seven year old daughter and they looked nervous. Almost all the kids in the room looked nervous, and I felt anxious for them when it was time for the parents to leave.

But when my kids got home from school they were ecstatic.

“It was super fun, Mom!” Sam said, walking in the door with a big smile on his face.

“Yeah,” agreed Daisy. “And we didn’t throw up or do anything gross like you did!”

As always, I’m glad that I shared.

Lori Welbourne is a syndicated columnist. You can contact her at loriwelbourne.com