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By Jocie Ferron

The Christmas just gone was such a lovely, relaxed family time. It really is one of my favorite holidays of the year.

There is something about the snow reflecting the coloured lights from the houses; decorating the Christmas tree with the many memories I have been collecting over the years; and the carols (oh yes! I love love LOVE Christmas carols and I begin playing them in November… I have even been known to play them in July!).

To top it all off, we had snow on the ground this year for Christmas Day. There was no studying, no work and no school, just lots of eating, watching movies and enjoying the outdoors.

Then the change came.

It seems family life is a series of constant changes. Just when one routine becomes normal, something happens and the whole family struggles to adjust to the ‘new normal’. We knew it was coming with my studies finally completed, but it was still a shock to the system when it eventually did happen.

The first day back at school and work for my hubby and boys was my first day back working as a nurse in over six years. Re-entering the nursing profession was daunting to say the least. I was excited to get back into it and about returning to my area of nursing interest, the Operating Room. I was also extremely nervous, apprehensive and unsure of my nursing abilities.

It wasn’t the work itself which made me nervous, but more the meshing and meeting of people and personalities. It is one thing to learn how to do things according to the facility, the techniques, the policies, but trying to figure out the personalities and idiosyncrasies of the people you work with can either make for a relaxed or tense working environment. So far so good, and I have jumped headlong into it with a thick skin, smile and an eagerness to learn that I don’t remember having as a 21-year-old graduate.

On the home front, it's busy. The days seem to fly by faster than ever before. I thought life was crazy when I was studying full time, but now that I am working full time our home life last year seems like a breeze.

At times I feel that the boys get lost in the melee. My youngest told me last week that he wished we could return to ‘normal’, when mom was at home after school and they didn’t have to go to after-school care. It has made me really appreciate these last few years of staying home with the kids. I had never planned to be a stay-at-home mom but in hindsight I am so glad I got that chance.

The trick now is trying to find time to just relax as a family. Quality "family time" is a struggle with two parents working, one travelling away regularly for work over the winter season, kids in piano lessons, swimming lessons, day care, birthday parties, scouts, homework … and the list goes on.

We have had to be creative in trying to spend quality time together as a family and these are some of the ideas that have worked for us:

  • UNO: Yes, that wonderful card game that was invented in the 1970s has been a great game for our family. The boys request it above any other game.
  • Walks: Although there is the whinging and whining when we suggest a walk in the woods, it only takes a couple of minutes for the boys to get into the spirit once we are there. We sometimes take sunflower seeds for the squirrels and birds.
  • Movies: An outing to the cinema can be a great ‘special’ treat for the kids, with the added extra of popcorn and pop (something they don’t get very often). Movie nights at home are a huge hit too, especially when there's pizza, popcorn, M&Ms and a film of the boys’ choice. They're as happy as clams!
  • Drives: Random drives with a picnic or fast food is always a winner. We get to explore and the kids get to look forward to something. Of course this works better in summer but we have also done it in winter with a thermos of hot chocolate and sleds.

On another note, the battle of the lost mittens is still raging! Bring on spring…

More articles from the joyful Jocie Ferron:

Australian nurse Jocie Ferron was volunteering in Mongolia when she met her French-Canadian husband, who was working in the mining industry. After a few years living in Australia they decided to settle in Canada with their two young children. They enjoyed a few years in a north Quebec mining town (where Jocie had daily adventures navigating life in French) and they've now settled in New Brunswick.