Today I am thrilled to bring you a Magical Days interview with the fantastic Sandra of Raincoast Cottage. I love visiting Raincoast Cottage because I can always be sure that I will leave feeling full of inspiration to create. Sandra has a wonderful way of fostering community – her readers are intelligent and engaged – and I enjoy reading the conversations generated in the comments as much as Sandra’s thought-provoking posts.
Sandra’s interview is such a lovely read – insightful and enchanting…
1. Did your family have any memorable family traditions when you were a child?
I come from a fairly large extended family although I only have one sister. My dad comes from a family of 8 kids and my mom from a family of 4 kids. My most memorable family tradition is getting together at my grandma’s house to celebrate each and every holiday. You can only imagine the chaos and fun and noise and play with all of those aunts and uncles and cousins.
My grandmother didn’t have a formal dining room – just an eat in kitchen. To get all of us together at one time to eat a holiday meal, she cleared out the furniture in her living room and put together a few long tables. We all squeezed in.
And at every meal she served rice with pineapple. She never told us the recipe but I suspect it included whipping cream of all things in addition to the rice and pineapple. Almost a rice pudding but served as a side dish.
In addition to the holiday get-togethers we often met on the weekends for a picnic in a park. Same crew expect now on blankets with a picnic lunch. None of us were very well off so it was pretty basic. But you know, as a kid you don’t remember that part – you just remember the fun and getting together with family.
2. One of our favourite times of day to connect as a family is story time. What have been your favourite books to read to your children?
We are BIG readers over here. I always have a book or two on the go. And BIG book buyers too. I might be frugal about toys and clothes but I can’t deny my girl her books. We have a space at the top of the stairs that was too small for pretty much anything so I turned it into a reading nook with a couple of chairs and bookshelves.
Favourite books are of course anything well written with good illustrations. Tyrannosaurus Drip by Julia Donaldson. The Dot by Peter H. Reynolds. Doctor De Soto by William Steig. And clever retellings of folk tales: Jack & the Beanstalk by Richard Walker and anything by James Marshall.
I’d say that right now birthdays are the biggest celebration in our family. For a six year old girl, it’s ALL about her seventh birthday. The party, that is. She is ALL over planning the celebration – who to invite, what to do, what kind of cake.
We celebrate achievements but also the effort too.
I think right now we enjoy celebrating Halloween the most. I don’t know if it is that big a holiday where you are but here in Canada kids get dressed up in costumes and go trick-or-treating house to house on October 31. Many houses are decorated too, inside and out. Our house outside is decorated with many skeletons, witches, cobwebs and pumpkins. We also have a HUGE inflatable cat that moves its head. I think it’s about 7 feet long. That’s a big hit with the kids.
Our neighbours have a party just before the kids go out. We’ll gather there for snacks and drinks and then start trick-or-treating.
Last year the girl was Harry Potter and this year she is going to dress up as a unicorn.
We recently celebrated Canadian Thanksgiving at my sister’s farm. The girl has four cousins within two years of her age and they have a wonderful time playing whenever we get together. My sister lives 1 ½ hours away by plane and we try and visit a few times a year.
It sounds like SUCH a cliché but I really never knew what joy and love were before I became a mom. Seeing her happy. Seeing her grow and learn and make friends. It all gives me so much joy.
I love making a home for the three of us. I love cuddling and snuggling with her before bed reading stories. Just walking her to and from school is fun. All of the day-to-day things that we do as a family.
6. Any words of wisdom for making life both easier and more joyful?
It all goes by so quickly, especially the younger years – make sure that you enjoy all of the stages. Remember that when it’s tough, it WILL get easier and when it’s going well, you know that some bumps will appear at some point.
Let yourself off the hook when you aren’t perfect, because you AREN’T perfect, right? None of us are. As long as we are doing our best, that’s all you can ask for.
I’d also say, get to know who your child really is rather than focusing on who you want them to be. A confession here – my husband and I are both pretty Type A personalities while our daughter is more Type B, happy-do-lucky. She’s also more of an extrovert than we are. It’s been a good lesson for us to parent who she is, especially where her personality differs from ours.
7. What are some of your favourite ways to spend time together as a family?
We’re a pretty active family so we get out and do a lot together. Skiing and snowboarding in the winter and biking in the summer. We go to a lake cottage each summer and spend it swimming, wakeboarding and water skiing. At home we do crafts and cook together. We have a pretty rainy winter here in Vancouver so you WILL find us on the couch watching a movie together on the weekends. And playing board games.
We’re big travelers and usually end up going many places during the year, whether by car or plane. I think that must be part of being Canadian – it’s such a big country that you DO travel a lot.
We also are exploring street art and yarn bombing. We started decorating the tree in front of our house with a knitted scarf. More to come!
Luckily the girl is up for anything so it’s easy to find something to do.
8. Who inspires you?
This may sound crazy but my daughter inspires me to be a both a better person and a better mom. I want her to grow up knowing that I was happy to be her mom, that I cared about our family, and that I saw many of my own personal dreams come true.
I’m also inspired by my friends, both online and in real life who are working hard to be the best moms that they can be. And also to be fulfilled in their creative pursuits too.
I just love what Sandra wrote about celebrating achievement, but also celebrating effort. I think that is so important, and I’m intrigued to see how other families accomplish this. And I’m also a big believer in adjusting parenting styles to suit the child. I think before we had the girls, I thought parenting was more of a one-size-fits-all… now I’m learning that different children need different approaches. What do you think?
Yarn bombing and street art sound awesome – I can’t wait to see some more pictures of how it all turns out!
Sandra is an amazing source of children’s book recommendations… you can check out many of them here. Also, if you want to read my favourite conversation about creativity on the internet… look no further. And if you just want to get your creative juices flowing and get involved in an engaged and supportive community, be sure to check out Raincoast Cottage.