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December 20, 2011

The Great Procrastinator


What is the saying about the road to hell being paved with good intentions?
I regret to inform you that after my last post on November 30, I have pretty much rested on my self-righteous laurels and have barely lifted a finger as far as my Christmas preparation pledge goes. Okay, I did bake 20 dozen cookies on the weekend for a family cookie exchange. The tree is up and the house is decorated. I have NOT designed or ordered my Christmas cards (think I missed the boat on that one) nor have I even addressed or mailed generic cards. I’m thinking that perhaps I can start a new tradition of sending Orthodox Christmas cards by January 7 as we do celebrate both. There are those blasted stocking stuffers to buy. And then there is the wrapping...
Instead of hauling out the gifts hidden in the basement, taking inventory and wrapping this morning, I am sitting at our new breakfast bar, listening to some Mumford & Sons on Sirius satellite radio, drinking my third coffee and thinking about all the other things I can do to put off the wrapping. It’s true. I have revealed my true procrastinator self. Give me a deck of cards and I’ll be playing solitaire for hours instead of working on my essay... Oh wait, this isn’t university anymore.
Granted, this year has been so much less stressful that previous years. It’s been pleasant not to be battling the multitudes at the dreaded malls, everyone in panic mode and miserable, inventory in array, with nary a salesperson in sight to help. The majority of my gifts were purchased by mid-November. Perhaps this is why I’ve put off the gift inventory/wrapping for fear that, although I’ve carried around my gift idea notebook and checked things off methodically, I may have missed some big gift and will have to get back out there. *shudder*
Can you tell that I’m seriously procrastinating now? I don’t have much more to say and yet I ramble on. Sigh. I guess I’m finished my coffee. Time to get to it. Watch me now. Here I go. I’m closing my laptop. Any minute now. Just one more cup of coffee and then I’ll start wrapping, I promise...

Image © Scott Hales | Dreamstime.com

November 30, 2011

Update: My Christmas Pledge


My children informed me this morning that there are only 25 sleeps until Christmas. 25 sleeps. 25 SLEEPS!! 
I have a confession to make: I’m way behind my schedule of finishing all of my holiday preparations by December 4th (see this post).
Okay, I’m way ahead of any schedule that I’ve had in previous years. Just last year found me scrambling at the malls on December 23rd and wrapping gifts way into the wee hours of Christmas Eve. Our lights were put up only 5 days before the big day. If I put it in those terms, I can feel somewhat better about letting myself (and my readers) down a bit with my ambitious timeline for this year.
Here is what I’ve accomplished so far:
  1. My gift list is nearly complete. It would be much easier if the girls had a more specific list than “everything at Mastermind” and “puppies, guinea pigs, hamsters and kittens.”
  2. About half of our gifts are purchased. About half of those are wrapped. (Thank goodness for stores that wrap for you. I think I’ll shop at them for the rest of my gifts too).
  3. The outside Christmas lights are up.
What needs to be done:
  1. Delegate more of these duties to my willing husband (right, honey??).
  2. Finish shopping and wrapping by Friday.
  3. Buy stocking stuffers by December 4th.
  4. Decorate the inside of the house (once our renovations are complete today!).
  5. Design Christmas cards and order if there is enough time. 
  6. Buy tree and decorate by December 13th. At least this is still on track.
  7. Bake cookies and other Christmas treats by December 15th.
So enough writing already. I’ve got work to do! I hope that the rest of you are having luck keeping to your Christmas pledge if you took it. Let me know! I’d love to be inspired by you.

Image © Lori Martin | Dreamstime.com

November 16, 2011

Trials and Triumphs of a School Lunch


Do you realize that between grades 1 and 8 there are approximately 4500 lunches made and packed for three kids who eat at school? 

One of my resolutions for this school year is to get the kids to make their own lunches. I am hoping that this will teach them responsibility- and that they might even eat all of their lunch if they pack it themselves. This isn't working exactly to plan but we have made some breakthroughs:
  1. The kids have become very well-trained at emptying their lunch bags when they come home from school. Their school employs the “boomerang lunch” approach, meaning that all garbage or uneaten food comes home. Sounds reasonable, right? I can see exactly what they’ve eaten (or not) and the school doesn’t have to deal with composting and other excess garbage. The problem is that certain food remnants do not travel well (think apple cores, banana peels, etc.). Eech. Now I don’t have to deal with the yuckies or, god forbid, food items left overnight in a backpack. They complain about it some days but they do it anyway (a triumph in my book).
  2. I have been struggling with getting two-thirds of the crew to eat more fruits and vegetables. They always go to school with two items from the aforementioned food group. Now when they get home from school and start circling the kitchen like vultures, they are instructed to first eat what is left in their lunch, most often a fruit and/or vegetable. After that I’m open to snack suggestions from the fridge or pantry.
  3. My children have finally discovered the joy of a hot lunch! After months of trying to be creative with sandwiches (not my personal favourite either), I finally persuaded them to take some hot leftover beef stew for lunch. It came home barely touched. Then I tried one of our go-to meals: pasta and meatballs. It was a hit! Two of them asked for it again today and the other for leftover shepherd’s pie. I think we’re finally on to something.
Baby steps mean progress in our house. Someday in the not-so-distant future I see them planning, preparing and packing their own lunches. Until then I’m happy with the direction in which we’re headed.
Bon appetit!
Image © Tomas Loutocky | Dreamstime.com

November 11, 2011

Remembering


Last year just before Remembrance Day I came across a website called The Poppy Project. The researchers of the Poppy Project have created a map of Toronto with a poppy indicating every house that lost a member in one of the World Wars. The image is striking. The poppies clutter the map like blood stains, reminding us of the sacrifice that so many young men made for our country. 
On a whim, I zoomed in to my street and noticed a poppy. When I clicked on it I saw that the only house on our street to experience such a loss was ours. A 26-year-old man lost his life during WWII. He was a volunteer with the navy. In 1944, his ship, the HMCS Valleyfield, was torpedoed by a German U-boat in Canadian waters just off the coast of Newfoundland on May 6, 1944. The torpedo caused the ship to split in two and it began to sunk immediately. 
Here is a description that I found at the Naval Museum of Manitoba’s website:
As the ship was sinking, most of the ship’s crew entered the ice-cold North Atlantic water, which when measured in the last watch, registered a temperature of a mere 32 degrees Fahrenheit. In addition, oily water choked the survivors, as they huddled together, helping each other to survive. Some clambered on top of wreckage, or clung to carley floats. Others remained in the water, buoyed by the life jackets.
Now that the ship had completely sunk, they found themselves alone, with their escorts virtually unaware of the deadly occurrence astern. Finally, HMCS GIFFARD, realizing that the VALLEYFIELD was missing, came to the scene to rescue survivors. However, as was the doctrine at the time, the rescue did not begin until she had spent valuable time searching for the u-boat which had caused the tragedy. By this time many men had given up, let go their hold on Carley floats or wreckage and sank from sight. A total of 125 men perished that night, all within the coastal shores of Newfoundland.”
One of those men who died was the man who lived in our house nearly 70 years ago. This young man died at sea and his body was never recovered. He left behind his parents and his young wife.
Reading about the sacrifice that this young man made for our country and for our freedom left me imagining the moment when that terrible telegram was delivered to this very door. The tragedy is profound, the sense of loss almost tangible. Within these walls, his wife wept for her husband and mourned his death. His parents, who also lived here, comforted her while coping with their own loss. His father had fought in WWI. He knew too well the realities and horrors of war. He survived to lose his son to another terrible war. That son died so that we could be free.
Today I will solemnly and respectfully wear my poppy. I will attend a Remembrance Day service as I do every year and I will think of this young man. I will think too of both my grandfathers and my father-in-law who all fought in Europe during the Second World War. I will think of the horrors of war and the courage of those soldiers to fight for what they believed in. I will speak to my children of the sacrifices that people have made and continue to make for our peace and for our security each and every day, that we don't take them for granted.
And we will never forget.
Image © Fesus Robert | Dreamstime.com

November 04, 2011

Turning Over A New Holiday Leaf


51 sleeps until Christmas!

After this week’s negative Halloween post, I’d like to switch gears and tell you that I can’t wait until Christmas! I know some people out there are already getting stressed out about getting it all done with some shred of sanity left for New Year’s. I never get stressed in November about Christmas. Perhaps it’s because I have a warped sense of how much time remains until the big day. One week before Christmas, you will find me weeping in the fetal position in a corner because I’ve left it too long, vowing that NEXT year it will be different.
Worse than the panic on December 17th is the January freak-out. You see, we celebrate both “Canadian” Christmas on December 25th at my folks’ place and then we do it again on January 7th when we celebrate Orthodox Christmas with my in-laws. Some of you might think this is an ideal scenario. No arguments over holiday logistics every year- Christmas Eve here, Christmas Dinner there, etc. But now I ask you to consider the inevitable: Every year, we wait to buy gifts for Orthodox Christmas until Boxing Week. In our minds, the reasons are twofold: one, we get the great deals and two, we can get the gifts that the intended recipients didn’t get on the 25th. Now imagine shopping during Boxing Week for that specific item that will always be sold out in the size that you want after you’ve spent an hour finding a parking space at the mall. And on January 6th when you’re wrapping the gifts last minute, you try to find another roll of wrapping paper because you’ve run out. Seriously, try it this year. Sometimes, Orthodox Christmas gifts end up in birthday wrapping paper because that’s all I have.
This is not new for me. I honestly think I could win an award for being the world’s biggest procrastinator. All of my papers in university were completed the day of the due date. The night before an exam would find me playing Solitaire for hours and then staying up all night to study. It’s a wonder that I completed my honours degree at all, let alone with decent marks. I always have great intentions and am highly organized. I can make a great plan to get things done in advance and everything does get done - but always at the last minute.
Today, I was inspired by blogger Karen at The Art of Doing Stuff who is making a pledge to be completely organized for Christmas by December 4, in exactly one month. So here and now I am joining her in making a public pledge to all of you that I will be organized and I will get most of my holiday preparations completed by in the next month. And if I say it here, I have to be accountable. I will give you a progress update and see if I can do it.
What does this mean in real terms? Firstly, I will delegate some holiday duties to my husband instead of trying to do it all myself (control freak, anyone?). Next, I will start my gift list today. It will invariably be altered and corrected many times due to the kids’ ever-changing whims about what they want Santa to bring. When they arrive home from school today, I will have set out paper and pencil for them to start their lists. With my mother visiting next week, I will have good company to get out there and get shopping. I have marked November 15th as the day the lights will be put up. Christmas cards will be designed and ordered by November 7th and mailed by December 2nd. The house will be mostly decorated by December 4th. The tree will be up and decorated by December 13th (after my deadline but remember that it has to last until January 7th).
After December 4th, I plan to relax for the remainder of the holiday season, spending good quality time with my family and friends, cooking great meals, baking holiday goodies, volunteering with the kids at the local food bank, attending holiday productions like Messiah and the Nutcracker and generally enjoying myself and the magic of the season.
Cheers!
Image: © Treva Thompson

October 31, 2011

Happy Halloween? Bah humbug!


I have a deep dark secret to share...


I don't love Halloween.


When I was a kid, Halloween was almost my most favourite time of year. I planned my costumes months in advance and my mother, saint that she is, dutifully handmade each of our costumes (all four of us) year after year. Some of my past favourites were Scarlett O’Hara (during my Gone with the Wind obsession, winning top costume at school) and my sister’s outstanding chicken costume, complete with individual “feathers” hand-sewn on all over it and yellow stockings.

As a young adult, Halloween still held that fascination for me. I looked forward to crazy Halloween parties and late night screenings of the Rocky Horror Picture Show at our local cinema, pieces of toast ready for the tossing. Now that I have kids of my own you would think I’d be psyched for this pagan-turned-commercial holiday.
I face Halloween with dread every year. I’m no Martha Stewart and it seems as though the “sewing gene” was not passed down to me from my mother. I always feel like I'm letting my kids down. I will put up the meager decorations (this year: a Halloween wreath, skull LED lights, “spider webs” around the front porch) but my heart is never in it. Perhaps it’s that the holiday has become too commercialized. It’s Christmas on crack. Our society has gone over the top with the decorations and costumes. No longer can a kid go out in his father’s old jacket and tie and pencilled-on stubble. One has to truck over to the local fly-by-night Halloween superstore to drop a bundle on tacky, flimsy and overpriced “flavour of the year” costumes. One jack-o-lantern with triangle eyes isn’t going to cut it in my ‘hood. You have to have a minimum of three creatively carved spectacles. Each house tries to outdo the next and the decorations are often quite frightening to the younger trick-or-treaters (I’ve had to carry more than one of my kids up to doors for candy because they were terrified).
It could be that I’m feeling so down on Halloween this year because I’ve been sick for 3 weeks and don’t have the energy to fake it anymore. I also have one kid home sick from school today of all days. Which reminds me of a Halloween two years ago when my son came down with H1N1 the day before trick-or-treating. Thankfully he had picked out a surgeon costume weeks in advance. Grabbing a surgical mask from the emergency room that morning, he was good to go, nary a germ being spread to friends and neighbours.
Perhaps another reason for my negativity is that my next-door-neighbour and dear dear friend, Allison of Radishes & Rhubarb, moved to Hamilton in the summer. As much as I dread Halloween, if I had her in the trenches with me- glass of wine in hand- it was nearly enjoyable. We always planned to share a family meal with my three and her two little ones before we rounded them up for the obligatory neighbourhood candy-crawl. It’s just not the same without her.
So I’ll suck it up and the kids will get out there tonight, filling their bags with cavity-causing candy (from which I will have to carefully remove anything not clearly marked “peanut-free”). And on Saturday, as is our tradition, all candy will be dumped onto the kitchen table and the kids will be instructed to eat as much as they can (the remainder going to my husband’s workplace or to my 20 year old niece). After about twenty minutes, they will stop, declaring Halloween over for another year (thank goodness!). Maybe next year with a little more planning and energy, I’ll get into the spirit.


p.s. I do love Christmas!! Apparently there are 55 sleeps until Christmas Eve...

Image: © Darryl Brooks | Dreamstime.com

September 30, 2011

The Lady Who (Sometimes) Lunches


Tomorrow is the first day of October. Where did September go? Here I thought that I’d have all of this free time to write once the kids started school full-time. Suddenly I realized that nearly a month has passed and I’ve barely come up for air.

The question I get the most is “What do you do with all of your time these days?”. It’s not an easy to question to answer but I honestly find myself so busy that the clock seems to move from 9:00 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. in a nanosecond. The opportunity to do housework, laundry, groceries and cooking without kids underfoot has been refreshing. I’ve also found time to work out (somewhat regularly), volunteer at the school, install Sirius satellite in the minivan, help organize our local Terry Fox Run, start my French classes (with homework!), organize a street party, volunteer as a Sparks leader, finish training to work on Election Day and to do all the other little administrative things that fill my day.
The best part about being a SAHMOSAK (stay-at-home-mom-of-school-age-kids) has been the opportunity to catch up with friends. I will be honest here. I have become a “lady who lunches”. I have gone out with different friends about five or six times for lunch. A woman has to eat, right? And what better way to reconnect with a friend than over a meal you’d have to eat anyway! It’s hard to make evening plans when a spouse has to be consulted or a sitter has to be booked and we all get so busy with our lives. A break in an otherwise hectic or solo kind of day, midday get-togethers are made for this.
There are many many blogs out there that discuss the difficulties of making new mom friends. I used to worry about that. Am I connected enough? Do I have enough friends? Am I liked enough? I realize now that the relationships with the friends I already adore and the people that I meet with whom the friendship blossoms effortlessly are the women to keep close and the bonds to strengthen. If a friend makes me feel like I’m more of my authentic self, this is a friend to cherish. I am too old to try to be someone I’m not.
This is the part of my life that I didn’t realize was suffering from neglect. In a busy world of raising kids, tending to a family and running a household, it’s easy to forget how important these connections are. My friends enrich my life in so many ways. They are my sounding-boards, my shoulders to cry on, my fountains of advice, my standup comics, my pillars of strength, my partners in crime, my sisters-(and brothers)-in-arms.
And so to you, my friends, a toast! With a sandwich and a salad and maybe a beer. If this is what it’s all about, I’m thrilled to say that I am a “lady who (sometimes) lunches”.


Image © Melissa Schalke | Dreamstime.com

August 31, 2011

Happy New (School) Year!



It’s been a while! We've had a nice long busy but relaxing summer, enjoying lots of northern get-aways and day-trips around Toronto. All three kids have learned to ride their bikes, thanks to a week-long camp at Pedalheads. And we have all gotten along well- for the most part. Finally, here it is just mere days from... the start of school! “The most wonderful time of the year” to quote a well-appreciated and overplayed commercial.
This is it. This is the moment I’ve been waiting for. The day when all three kids enter full-day school and I suddenly have six and a half hours of ME time. Don’t get me wrong (and if you are a parent I know that you don’t), I love my children and I love spending time with them. But when you spend as much time with anyone as I do with my children, you’d also be anxious for a little breathing space.
I’ve always thought of the first day of school as my New Year’s Day. The memory of blank notebooks, freshly sharpened pencils, squeaky clean sneakers puts a bounce in my step. It’s a blank slate and a time of renewal. The crispness in the air, the crunchy leaves underfoot and a new year begins.
It’s time for a few resolutions: to get and stay organized, to stay on top of agendas and homework and reams of paper, to volunteer more in the classroom, to get the kids to make their lunches (a new resolution for this year).
I’ve learned a few lessons over the past school years. We’ve already printed our “Things to do in the morning” and “Things to go in your backpack” charts and posted them in bedrooms and at the front door. The dressers are organized, the kids have tried on pants which invariable shrink 2 inches the morning of the first chilly day. Extracurricular activities and our daily routine have been discussed. Homework plans are almost complete- most important as all three will have homework this year much to my dismay (but that’s another post). My next step is to draw up a list of lunch ideas with the kids and prepare our weekly chart to post on the fridge.
And me. What am I going to do with all my time?? At this moment with my to-do list for the next few days a mile long and not a minute to spare with three kids underfoot, I am fantasizing about the hours and hours of time to myself to read, to write, to drink coffee, spend time with friends, work out, nap.
But will those six and a half hours fly by if I’m not organized and will I end up feeling useless and frustrated if I’m not accomplishing a multitude of tasks? I am a chronic list-maker (if you haven’t already noticed) and that combined with my first-born personality traits means that I have to feel like I’m accomplishing something or I end up feeling like I’ve accomplished nothing at all. Talk about demotivating! My non-exhaustive to-do-in-September list includes gutting out the “not-so-spare room” (aka the office), purging and organizing ALL the toys and books, cleaning out and organizing the closets and cupboards, tackling a million other little jobs around the house, blogging regularly (I promise!), improving my French, becoming a Sparks leader and preparing fantastically nutritious and delicious meals in advance.
What will happen? Will I over-schedule and exhaust myself or will I turn into a couch-potato, hanging out in cafes, gossiping with other SAHMs and eating bon-bons by the case? Or will I hopefully end up somewhere in between? What is going to make me feel fulfilled? Please stay tuned...

Image © Natalia Klenova | Dreamstime.com

May 16, 2011

Confessions of a Soccer Mom

© Cathysbelleimage | Dreamstime.com

I am sitting down with ice on my legs as I write this. I am not tidying the house or carrying loads of laundry up and down the stairs because I simply cannot. Last night I played in my first soccer game...ever.
Registering the kids for various activities and schlepping them all over town to ballet, hockey, skating lessons, soccer, Sparks and Beavers (just to name a few) is something that I do with love. I make a concerted effort not to over-schedule our time, not only for the kids’ sake but for my own sanity. However, two activities each multiplied by three kids and a spouse who is often out of town makes mom a little nuts.
So I had a brilliant revelation: if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em! Yes, I confess. I signed up for a Women’s Over 19 Soccer House League on the urging of a school-mom friend of mine. I bought my first pair of cleats (black with hot pink) and my first shinguards (also hot pink). I arrived early to pick up my uniform and surveyed the other players. Most of them looked just over 19 and I figured that I must be in the wrong spot. Thankfully I saw the more harried (and older) moms rushing in after the dinner rush at home. Phew! My jersey is navy blue with red trim and I managed to snag my favourite number: lucky number 7. I was all set.
On Sunday night, I arrived trepadatiously at the field in the cold wind and rain praying that someone might have the sense to cancel the game and give me a week’s reprieve. They did not. And even with my repeated “I have no idea what I am doing” and “I have never EVER played before” my teammates encouraged me and still put me on the field. My heart was pounding. I was afraid of the ball (not a good start), the other players and generally of embarrassing myself.
Thankfully all those hours spent on the sidelines cheering on my uniformed kids on the pitch has somewhat paid of. I think I played my position (after I figured out what that meant). There were a couple of times that my foot actually made contact with the ball and moved it in the general direction to which it was intended. No one yelled at me for being an idiot or told me to get off the field (hooray!). And best of all? I didn’t sustain any injuries to my creaky 40 year old body. (At least not that I know of yet.)
Our team ended up on the winning side at a score of 3-1. We were wet and cold and sore but it felt good. The feeling of camaraderie was palpable and I’m looking forward to my practice this week (and the promise of beers after our next game). Instead of sitting on the sidelines, it feels good to be doing something for myself even though adding two or three more items is seriously complicating our weekly schedule. Once I am able to regain full use of my legs I think that it will be worth it in the end, showing my kids that I have a life of my own and that we have some commonalities. My kids can probably teach me a thing or three about the beautiful game and I can’t wait.

May 09, 2011

Just Like Riding a Bike

Image  © Eti Swinford | Dreamstime.com


I have been remiss lately on posting and I do apologize to my faithful readers. What started out as a hectic schedule turned into mental fatigue which was then compounded by some emotional stuff and suddenly I found myself feeling like I had forgotten how to ride a bike. When I was posting somewhat regularly, I found my internal dialogue sounding like a blog post. As with any kind of routine once you fall out of it, it seems hard to get back into the swing. But just like riding a bike, I am jumping back on and pedalling with all my might, hoping that I will remember how to.
Yesterday was Mother’s Day. With all of my choices of how to spend my day, I wanted us to go to our local Canadian Tire store and buy some shiny new bikes for the kids. Over the years, my children have endured hand-me-down and second-hand bikes and never complained about the rust and scratches. But this year is different. Now we are at a turning point in our bike-riding lives.
My nearly 8-year old son has asked for a 2-wheel bike. I tried to teach him a couple of years ago and it only took one accident where I lost my balance and grip, let go of his bike seat and he wobbled, skidded and fell hard on the asphalt of our back lane. My bad. Last year, he cautiously tried his hand with his rusty old 2-wheeler in the safe confines of our backyard. I could tell he was ready to stretch his bike-riding wings. My almost-6-year-old twins have clearly outgrown their 12-inch bikes with training wheels. The dead giveaway was their knees hitting the handle bars and watching their long legs pump furiously to get those wee tires in motion.

After a lovely breakfast in bed and a few errands, we hit Canadian Tire. Apparently we weren’t the only parents with this brilliant idea. Perhaps the fact winter ended only 2 days ago might have something to do with this rush to get bikes. Nevertheless, after some quick negotiations (the girls simply cannot have the exact same bike) we found ourselves wheeling three shiny new bikes to the cash register.
When we returned home, the kids literally grabbed their bikes from the van and pleaded to ride them straight away. We have a small dead-end lane behind our house and although it has a small incline and some nasty potholes, we thought it was a good place to start. My son grabbed his bike helmet, hopped on his bike and...rode!
It was unbelievable to watch him riding away from me down the lane, like a baby bird who had learned to fly. I started to get teary-eyed while cheering and applauding like crazy. When he turned around and rode back to me, the look on his face, his cheeks flushed with excitement and his eyes glowing with self-pride made my heart nearly burst. This is what being a parent is all about. Giving your children the foundation and the encouragement to get out in the real world, stretch their wings and soar.

It was the best Mother's Day gift I could have received.

March 24, 2011

Turning The Frown Upside-Down


Image © Ivaylo Sarayski | Dreamstime.com


I usually get the urge to write when things aren’t going well. I suppose it’s a natural impulse to vent frustrations on paper (or a computer screen). It is often easier to complain than to sing praises when things are challenging. After a particularly difficult couple of days with the kids, I can feel a rant or three coming on. But I’m going to try something different and turn this frown upside-down. If you will indulge me, I’m going to talk about what I love about my kids.
I have three very different children with their own unique dispositions. In fact, my identical twin girls are so different in their personalities, I can’t for the life of me figure out how people mix them up.
L is my first-born. I think back to when he was a baby and all those precious moments when it was just me and him. I recall thinking how difficult it was in those early days of diaper changes and all-night feedings. But it was just me and him when my husband was working- and little did I realize how easy things were in comparison to adding twins to the family.
Back then, I was all about attachment parenting. I fed him when he was hungry, cuddled him when he needed it (even if that was all day). I don’t regret it one bit even if it meant rocking him to sleep until he was 2. He is now approaching 8 years old and he is a confident, happy, curious, active child. He plays hockey and soccer with a passion. He asks a million questions and has mastered the art of googling. One minute it’s about space and the planets and how hot it is on Mars, the next he is looking for art that he likes: landscapes and street scenes with bright colours capture his interest. He wants to know about the Arctic and climate change and how an airplane works. He draws comics, lives to read and loves to tell a good joke.
M and K are my babies. They were born when L was almost 2 years old and my days of leisurely attachment parenting were over in favour of a more scheduled approach. They are almost 6 years old now and will be going into grade one in the fall. They are identical twins but of course to their mother, they look and behave (even sound) as different as night and day.
K is precocious, athletic, gregarious and high-energy. She has a fantastic sense of humour and attacks life with a gusto that is contagious. She is already reading well likely because it was a challenge that she wanted to master. She has developed a fondness for cooking and is usually by my side with her apron on, getting her hands right into whatever I am preparing for dinner. She is usually the “director” of whatever she is playing with others which is often some variation of school or office or store, anything that she thinks of as “grown-up.”
M is my introvert. She is a perfectionist and therefore is cautious, taking her time to try something new until she is sure that she can do it “right.” Both girls are taking ballet and it is there that M is transformed into a confident and skilled dancer. She is highly sensitive to others’ emotions and can usually be found playing with one or two close friends instead of a large boisterous group where K usually is.  She loves to be read to and to tell wonderfully imaginative stories. For a relatively quiet child, she has a fantastically bold approach to fashion, creating great ensembles and mixing things up with accessories and footwear. I only wish I had half of her fashion sense.
Well, that did the trick! Thank you for indulging me. The dark cloud over my head has moved on and I feel the hint of a sunnier day ahead. For all the challenges of parenting, it is watching my children grow and develop their individual personalities that provides me such joy and wonder. This is going to be a good day.

March 21, 2011

Stickin' To My Guns

Of all the parenting challenges, the hardest for me is discipline. I’m sure it is for most parents. We’d all love for our children to be perfectly behaved and when they’re not, to just do as they’re told. That is certainly not reality, at least in our household. My children are strong-willed (willful), creative (manipulative) and, as mentioned in a previous post, outnumber me.
I subscribe to the theory of democratic parenting: respectful leadership that requires parents to be both firm and friendly. It encourages rather than discourages the child and gives them the independence to make choices while holding them to the consequences of those choices, both natural and logical. In theory it is wonderful and when I am consistent with it, it is incredible, strengthening my relationship with my children and boosting their self-esteem. But when I’m tired or just tired of the grind (which is often), I find myself slipping in the vicious circle of empty threats, bribes, nagging, yelling, all the things I detest hearing come out of my mouth.
After a particularly trying couple of weeks (first the stomach flu then being with the kids 24/7 during March Break), let’s just say that the behaviour in our house has deteriorated. The sibling fights have escalated, the talking back has reached an all-time high punctuated with curse words and one of my daughters has developed a violent streak that has resulted in bruises on her brother’s arms and back. It’s not a good scene.
After a successful (and peaceful) trip to buy new rubber boots with the kids, I thought it would be fun to cap off the week with take-out from a favourite burger joint. The kids convinced me that we should dine in instead. I figured, “Why not? It is the last day of March Break after all.” Within 5 minutes of me placing the order, the nonsense began, the unrelenting teasing, crying, shouting and retaliation. The place was full of patrons and I tried to quietly admonish the kids to behave themselves. After the third warning I sensed all eyes on me (how I wished there a whole in the floor somewhere into which I could disappear). And it dawned on me. Enough of the empty threats. I turned around and changed our order to take-out. I’m not sure who was more surprised, the kids or me.
I then had to wait for our order to be prepared while the kids disintegrated into full-blown meltdown: tears, wailing, begging, pleading. I knew that I had to stick to my parenting guns. Certainly if I backed down now they would learn that I will never follow through on my “threats” and that tantrums will always get them what they want. I did some deep-breathing, stayed calm, took our food and left with the children to join my husband to eat at home.
When the tears stopped and we had a talk, we ended up enjoying a pleasant family meal. While the “restaurant incident” wasn’t pretty to watch I’m hoping (praying!) that when I’m ready to attempt another meal out, they will know that I mean business.

March 17, 2011

What's It All Worth?



It’s tax-time in Canada. That time of year when we look at the numbers and realize our monetary worth. For a stay-at-home mom, it can be a bit depressing.
As I assemble all of our tax documents and start plugging the numbers into the latest tax software, it is like a slap in the face. Yes, here it is in black-and-white. My personal total income for 2010 was...$2400. And that was courtesy of Canada’s Childcare Benefit program that provides me with a whopping $100/month per child under 6. (For childcare? Really?? How far is that going to go? But I digress). Surely I am “worth” more than that!
Each year, Salary.com releases it’s Annual Mom Salary Survey. For 10 years, Salary.com has been calculating how much an employer would have to pay to hire someone to do all that a moms does, figuring that a mom does a hybrid of ten different jobs at a small “company”: laundry machine operator, janitor, van driver, computer operator, housekeeper, day care centre teacher, cook, chief executive officer, psychologist, and facilities manager. In 2010, they calculated that a stay-at-home mom would earn CAN$132,288/year for working about 99 hours/week.
Now that’s more like it. Or is it?
Last week, a “plague” descended on our house. It started with my son then within hours all three kids were vomiting every couple of hours for three days straight. The cleaning, the laundry, the nursing, the comforting! And to make matters worse, I started to feel ill on the second day and by the time the kids started to feel more like themselves, the plague had felled its fourth victim: me. For at least three days, my bedroom looked like a M*A*S*H unit with four bodies strewn across our king size bed- and puke bowls scattered among those bodies.
Upon reflection, I’d like to amend Salary.com’s figures. They should include a nursing salary (at least part-time) as well as hardship pay (did I mention the laundry and cleaning of all kinds of bodily fluids?) and of course hazard pay (if I wasn’t cleaning all those bodily fluids, I likely wouldn’t have been exposed to that nasty virus myself). Add that all up and I’d estimate my hypothetical salary at least a million dollars. Maybe two. At least I don't have to pay hypothetical income tax.
Now if only I could get a non-hypothetical paid vacation.

Image: dreamtime.com

March 05, 2011

It’s Not Me, It’s Them

Image: www.picable.com


My children have taken misbehaving to a whole new level. They start by getting silly and fooling around by themselves. A sibling will join in the fun and they feed off of each other’s energy and antics. The third will attempt to join in and all hell breaks loose. Usually, two will turn on one. There will be tears. Maybe some retaliation, some violence, an object or two might be thrown. Then they join forces in the world of silly. The volume reaches ear-deafening levels and all rules are thrown out the window (maybe with a toy or two). Suddenly, as quickly as it all began, it feels like the three of them have turned on me, conspiring to make me yell or cry or crazy or any combination of the above.
It’s hard not to take that personally.
I know deep down that it is not a conspiracy. There are no clandestine midnight meetings where they are secretly planning ways to make me lose it. But how is it that they know exactly what drives me to drink?
Children are masters at learning which of their parents’ buttons to press. Mine definitely have my number. Loud noises, silliness that escalates until someone gets hurt, whining, stubbornness... Well, they have a long list to choose from.
Parenting guru Alyson Schafer writes in her second book Honey I Wrecked The Kids (aka my bible) that the most likely reason that children fight or misbehave is a subconscious effort to gain undue attention. It’s true. When my children are playing quietly and getting along fantastically, I breathe a sigh of relief and find ways to make use of the quiet time: tidying the house, cooking dinner, checking email, blogging. I am not paying attention to them. But one wrong move and I’m all over them. Things can escalate quickly and although it is negative, they most certainly have my attention.
So what can I do? I reread Alyson’s chapter on dealing with attention-seekers and will try her suggestions of ignoring the behaviour (that’s going to be a toughie), distracting and redirecting (takes some creativity but works) and natural/logical consequences. What is more important, I’m going to try to “catch” them being good and give them positive attention when I can (read: put down my iPhone and spend more focussed time with them). Hopefully they'll feel their "attention quota" is being met and they won't look for it in negative ways.
And I will remind myself NOT to take it personally when they do.

February 28, 2011

They Smell Fear



Disclaimer: I am about to whine about solo-parenting while my husband is away. I can only imagine what single parents go through every day. My hat is off to you if you are a single parent.
Have I mentioned that my husband travels for work? A lot? When he started this job almost two years ago, we anticipated a few trips to NYC, maybe Montreal and Vancouver a couple times of year. Then they hired a new CEO who loves to travel and loves to travel with my husband. Apart from 2 or 4-day trips here and there, I can expect him to be gone most of the week for an entire month at least four times a year. I just spent part of my evening updating my giant colour-coded fridge calendar with his business trips for the next three months. Then I had a big glass of wine.
You’d think I’d be used to it by now. I mean, it’s been almost a year of this. And yet, when he has a small break from the road like the past 3 months, the beginning of another period of solo-parenting fills me with dread. John left yesterday for Florida. Yes, in the middle of winter. For a conference in Hollywood Beach. Life’s tough.
Like dogs, I honestly believe that kids can smell fear. As his departure time approached, I could feel the panic building up in me, the anxiety about dealing with three kids on my own for five days with no pinch-hitter or respite from the grind. The minute his car pulled away from the house, the kids went berserk. I don’t know if I can accurately describe it but imagine a play-date that has gone horribly wrong, “punks gone wild” or something similar. I had just over an hour to cook dinner, feed the animals and corral them into the minivan to get my son to a play-off hockey game. Gah.
When the game was done, we were home and the kidlets were wrestled into bed, I had the revelation that the kids feed off my stress. If I’m freaking out inside, I’m not going to be parenting the way I want to be. The kids will take this as their cue to behave like miscreants. And then I’ll freak out even more and then... You get the picture. 
Looking at my calendar, I have to psyche myself up, keep calm and carry on, get and stay organized and most importantly remember to have fun with my kids. I know that when I hit my solo-parenting stride, things run surprisingly smooth and I feel like I can handle (almost) anything.
Still...it’s going to be a long three months.

February 26, 2011

And what do you do?

Image credit: www.zeroratio.wordpress.com


The scenario: Any social gathering. I’m introduced to someone. After a few pleasantries, the conversation invariably turns to a discussion of career.
“And what do you do?”
“I’m a stay-at-home mom of a 7-year old boy and 5-year old twin girls.”
This is often followed by uncomfortable silence and a meager attempt to acknowledge how busy I must be, a quick change of the subject then a thinly veiled excuse to extricate themselves.
It’s a conversation killer.
I have always wanted to be a mother. As the eldest of four children, I knew at a very early age that I wanted to have children of my own. When my husband and I decided to start trying after 2 years of marriage, I was thrilled and couldn’t wait until that little stick showed me a plus sign.
When I became pregnant with our first son L, I was working on Bay Street for a brokerage firm (not exactly a family friendly environment). I loved being home for the 12-months of maternity leave and hated leaving him at daycare to return to a job that I had discovered I didn’t love. Soon after, we decided to start trying for a second baby and were quite surprised to become pregnant with twins when my son was only 14-months old. And so when L was not quite 2 years old, we were blessed with identical twin girls- K and M.
Yes, your math is correct. That is three kids in less than two years.
A review of finances and some soul-searching confirmed that it would make sense for me to stay home with the kids until they started school. My husband’s career was on the cusp of taking off and having a stay-at-home spouse would enable him to work late and travel if necessary. I was thrilled (and a bit trepidatious) to be fulfilling my lifelong dream of making a career of parenting.
Nearly six years later, I’ve weathered a gazillion diaper changes, potty training x 3, kids learning to walk, talk and talk back, starting school and homework, mountains of laundry, endless meal preparation and housework. My son is in grade two. My daughters are in SK. In six months (yes, I’m counting), all three will be in school full-time.
So where does that leave me? I’m still at home with the kids. My husband’s job has him traveling at least twice a month for up to six days at a time and it still doesn’t make sense for me to go back to working outside the home, at least if I want to maintain my sanity. How do I justify my existence? I consider raising healthy and considerate kids to be my full-time career. My days are filled with the usual unending household duties, coordinating school activities, obsessively reading parenting books and blogs and, from time to time, finding a few moments for self-reflection.
I hope you’ll join me on my journey of redefining my identity as a SAHMOSAK (stay-at-home mom of school-aged kids). I am certainly no “lady who lunches”. Commiserate with my (mis)adventures in raising pre-tween kids and the joys and challenges that are sure to follow. Perhaps I’ll find that being a SAHMOSAK isn’t such a conversation killer after all.
Happy reading!
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