a peek inside the fishbowl

19 Nov, 2014

Big questions and some screen-free family time

Posted by andrea tomkins in: Misc. life|parenting


It happens practically every night here at Casa Fishbowl. One of the girls turns to us and asks, “So what are we doing tonight?” This, of course, does not include the usual things that happen after dinner, such as kitchen cleaning and dog walking. My reaction to this question depends upon a lot of variables, including but not limited to (a) how tired I am (b) if I have work to do (c) my mental state in general. Sometimes (er, who am I kidding) MANY times I just want to collapse in a big heap with my book and read all night, but I understand I probably shouldn’t do that all of the time. Our kids want to do things with us, and for that I am grateful. We all watch a TV show together more often than I care to admit, and now that the weather has turned this has become the default. And I don’t want it to be the default, in fact, I don’t want any screens to be part of our evenings together at all.

I understand this is probably more for my sanity than yours, here is My List of Things to Do With The Kids After Dinner, broken down into categories, just because I need to get my act together:

Chore-like a.k.a Things That Need to Get Done 

  • Homework and music practice – Note: I’m not doing this, the kids are.
  • Focused 15 – We stopped doing this, but I’m bringing it back!
  • Laundry – Are the kids washing their clothing frequently enough? To be honest, I’m not sure.
  • Basement 911 – if we all spent 30 minutes organizing our basement every night, maybe we’ll have a habitable space by 2017?
  • Grocery shopping – I’m seriously considering doing this at night instead of using daylight hours for the tedium.
  • Baking/cooking/lunch prep for the next day. (HA. Yeah right.)

In home activities

  • Games! Card games, dice games, word games, strategy games… all of these make the basis of quality family time. Unfortunately, sometimes I don’t have energy at the end of the day to play a rousing round or two. What games require zero energy output?
  • Puzzles – I recently discovered a love for puzzles, and the kids came around to doing it with me too. We need more cool puzzles around here! All I’m seeing online is magical unicorns, snowy Christmas, frolicking bunnies, and underwater scenes. Methinks: a trip to Hobby House is in order.
  • Crafty things – This might be a good time to thinking about homemade Christmas gifts and the like. Our youngest has expressed an interest in sewing. Perhaps some sewing machine practice would be useful?
  • Having friends over for dessert – (I read this article awhile back and it’s stayed with me. I’m not sure if I can do dinner, but I think I could do dessert!)
  • Mani/pedi – Unfortunately this leaves Mark out of the equation.
  • Vegetating. Doing nothing. There is nothing wrong with doing nothing, right?

Out of the house

  • A trip to the library (this can easily take up a couple of hours)
  • ?? **

** Notice I didn’t mention shopping as an option. Shopping for leisure equals expenditure, and I am not sure I really want to encourage the idea of shopping for fun. Shopping for fun can be an expensive habit that’s hard to break.

Is it the season? I am so uninspired right now. When it gets colder we can go skating on the canal, or for a night ski. We used to go swimming at the pool, and the Kanata Wave Pool. Maybe it’s time to revisit this again? (Question: do I still own a one piece??) If I’m honest with myself I have to admit that going on a big excursion with the kids at night is generally not something I want to do because I’m so burned out by the end of the day.

Last night we took the dog for a walk, someone cleaned the kitchen, we had a rousing game of Trouble, and spent 20 minutes organizing the basement. And a minor miracle occurred. The girls sorted some old toys that had been taking up space. Some went into the garbage, some to charity, and some to keep. And then the girls got ready for bed and Mark and I watched a stupid episode of Castle in which he travelled to another dimension. Sigh. I should have just read my book.

9 Responses to "Big questions and some screen-free family time"

1 | Sarah McCormack

November 20th, 2014 at 8:49 am


I really love this post, Andrea and can relate! we do a lot of things with our boys (13,10) and this time of year it is a bit tougher for sure. the evenings are so long, I am ready for bed by 8pm most nights!

currently, my DS10 and I are working on photo books together. He does one every year as a “review” of the holidays we took. this is a fun thing to share and then we also have the books forever :)

and we are big into BOGGLE in our house. It is a low commitment game (re. time!) but we often play 5 or 6 rounds. I can rarely beat my boys.. they are so impressive with their vocab! and my husband is scary good at it. but it is a lot of fun! YAHTZEE is another favorite around here!

we always love the Springbox Christmas puzzles (my Mom lends us many) but so many on amazon for order like:

and I think the temporary calendar store currently at Billings Bridge has lots of puzzles too!

nice to hear about your family in this way :)

2 | Sarah McCormack

November 20th, 2014 at 8:51 am


p.s. I would never pay $50 for that puzzle! lol…..just an example of the type we do over the holidays!!!

3 | Marc Savoie

November 20th, 2014 at 12:43 pm


I love puzzles too, but haven’t done one in ages. I’d need to get a puzzle mat, cause I have 2 cats, so puzzle pieces left sitting out would NOT last very long.

Anyway, I took some time to search for some cool puzzles after reading that you can never find anything interesting. I found this website:


There are lots of really cool-looking puzzles that would be a ton of fun, and a challenge in some cases, to put together!

4 | andrea tomkins

November 20th, 2014 at 3:04 pm


Boggle is a great suggestion Sarah! I will dig ours out of our game shelf.

Marc, there are definitely some interesting puzzles there. Thanks for sharing the link. But I wonder why there are only three under the Canadian Art category! I’d love to get a Canadian art puzzle now that I think about it.

5 | Tricia

November 21st, 2014 at 11:02 am


Tis the season of church bazaars…puzzles galore to be had for cheap!

6 | andrea tomkins

November 21st, 2014 at 11:29 am


Tricia, but what if there’s a PIECE MISSING?!>!

7 | Peady

November 23rd, 2014 at 10:59 am


I love this post!

This is the exact kind of “stuff” we do with the Things and it can be and all year round focus.

Christmastime is a great time for the annual pre-holiday purge.

Guess what we are doing today! ;)

8 | Alina

November 23rd, 2014 at 4:39 pm


I recently bought this weaving kit for my 5-year old son and he loves it:


It might be too easy for your 13-year old daughter, but if she has no experience sewing yet, this might be the right kit to start with.

I loved your list. Using your list and the other commenters’ ideas, I made my own list and I stuck it to the fridge.

We love music night. My 5 year old and myself play the keyboard and my husband plays the guitar. We also have a tuba. And my 2 year old dances :).

9 | Mike

November 28th, 2014 at 5:00 pm


Hey Andrea, if you are looking for some puzzles, Jean has a ton of those Puzz-3D puzzles. If you’re interested, let us know and we’ll bring them up the next time we come up to get our Christie fix.

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The Obligatory Blurb

My name is Andrea and I live in the Westboro area of Ottawa with my husband Mark and our dog Piper who is kind of a big deal on Instagram. We also have two human daughters: Emma (20) and Sarah (18). During the day I work as a writer at The Royal Ottawa Mental Health Centre. I am a longtime Ottawa blogger and I've occupied this little corner of the WWW since 1999. The Fishbowl is my whiteboard, water cooler, and journal, all rolled into one. I'm passionate about healthy living, arts and culture, family travel, great gear, good food, and sharing the best of Ottawa for families. I also love vegetables, photography, gadgets, and great design.

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