Golden Sunday

“Sunday is the golden clasp that binds together the volume of the week.”― Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

A picture-perfect Sunday! It is amazing how a scaled-down weekend can be so enjoyable creating a treasure-trove of memories in only two days. For a busy Mom of three (or any parent, no matter how many children one has,) weekends are typically filled with kid-related activities, running errands and playing catch-up in all domestic matters. As parents we are always going, gulping down a coffee or tea in between gymnastics classes or grocery shopping. Amongst all of this, we try to plan quality time with our children. Sometimes because we feel guilty we did not see them during the week as much as we would have liked or simply because we want to play and chat with them catching up on their lives. Whatever the reason it seems to be a common thread stringing parents together as we compare notes while keeping an eye on our child at a swimming class, asking each other, “what are you doing with the kids this weekend?”

Growing up my Mom would take us grocery shopping most Saturday mornings ensuring to plan a fun activity afterwards. Some weekends it was heading to the local “Pop Shoppe” distribution centre to take back those small empty bottles and choose replacements. Other times it was lunch out at the new McDonald’s in the neighbouring town. (Small town gal (@rhhouse) = growing up in a small rural town.) Once in a while it was a library trip to pick out new books or a visit to my Grandmother’s house.

Sundays were for being at home. We rarely had any activities planned on a Sunday. It was a day full of board games, watching movies, baking or simply playing while our Mom made the traditional Sunday night family dinner. My father was away for most of the week, driving his big rig truck making deliveries across the country and Sunday was generally the only day he was home.

Interestingly I have fallen into a similar pattern guarding our Sundays like a fierce tiger. We do not have any extracurricular activities on Sundays for the kids. Anything we do is family oriented unless an occasional birthday or holiday changes the routine. Often Mr. L will suggest having his parents come over for dinner. My knee-jerk response is often, no! It is very difficult for me to give up the quieter, less structured day I have come to cherish where I can float into an evening after dinner puttering my way through lunch-making and laundry. It is that special time of the week where I do not feel rushed.

Unfortunately life does not always allow for every Sunday to be my “ideal Sunday.”  Looking ahead to February, the month is full of events that will make it difficult to enjoy a Sunday in the way I would choose. Actually the month ahead is our family’s busiest month! Taking this into account, I have spent this past weekend and  especially this Sunday making the most of the relative calm before the storm. Napping, catching up on newspaper reading, a spa/beauty day with my girls, cuddling and reading stories with my little guy, watching a movie with Mr. L and even attending a hot yoga class are just a few of the items I enjoyed this weekend. All of this interlaced with organizing clothes, putting away laundry, changing sheets and going through the stack of papers that clutter up my buffet counter. And it’s amazing! Feeling relaxed and energetic, I am ready to face the upcoming week/month taking with me the small memories we made like tiny drops of water to refresh myself when I feel rushed or overwhelmed. Knowing that before too long, another golden Sunday will come once again.

Are Sundays the perfect day? What is your favourite day?

Hibernation – for humans too!

IT IS FREEZING OUTSIDE! Yes, I live in Canada and winters are traditionally cold but I live in an area of Canada that has seen mild winters for the last couple of years. This year for the first time, we actually had enough snow to take the kids sledding during the winter break and they loved it. But those were temperatures when a snowsuit was enough and the kids had their mittens off half the time.

 

The weather today is the bitter cold of January, the true period of hibernation. Suiting up my three little ones to trek them out to the corner bus stops is not something I can bring myself to do, so I have taken to driving them to school. It has not been too bad, we have a little more time in the mornings and it gets me out the door. Our poor dog, Jake, has not had a proper walk in a few days. After seeing another brave dog owner trekking through last night’s snow and stopping every few steps to warm their dog’s feet, I cannot face doing that with three kids in tow. On top of seeking a mature reliable babysitter, I am now looking for an occasional dog-walker. Both items come out of the budget line, “my allowance” and since I take care of the budget, I think an increase is required for the next few months until winter is over.

The last day or so I have been thinking that writing down my experiences as a Mom of three is a good start for an aspiring writer and getting a blog up, albeit a very basic one that requires much editing and “fancying” up, is a milestone. Yet, perhaps it is time my mind turned towards having a bit more structure to my daily ramblings. After all, I could ramble on for a year (which was my original plan) and see what I have at the end of it, but the hidden lover of organization and previous marketing genius craves a bit of goal setting.

How about it? Is there value in the raw words of an insider’s perspective to raising three or more children or could there be a deeper way to more thoughtfully post my stream of daily life?

Words to ponder while we hibernate…

Desperately seeking reasonably priced babysitter!

January 22, 2013

Thirty-dollars per hour! That is what one potential babysitter was asking to babysit three children plus meal preparation. What?? That is more per hour than I made in a previous life as a marketing freelancer. Perhaps I need to re-think my career choices.

For the last couple of months we have been looking for a babysitter. A local person who can come once or twice a month in the evening to stay with the kids. The last few weeks, I signed up for an online service on a three-month subscription, Canadian Nanny. Initially, when I placed our ad, I received lots of inquiries. As mentioned in a previous blog post, one potential candidate came for an interview on a bit of a frazzled day. Instead of cancelling I decided to go ahead with the meeting. Needless to say, watching Jacob running around spilling an applesauce and my attempt to talk coherently in between managing the kids was less than impressive and resulted in her running out the door. I have yet to receive her promised email with references and availability, but I don’ t blame her.

Another candidate did not even respond when I asked if she would accept a lower rate than she had presented to me. One who was randomly calling me but not leaving messages finally emailed me but indicated the hours were okay for “right now” as she is looking for something more permanent and she has to find someone to drive her over. I responded that I would get back to her.  Today I received a very enthusiastic response but she charges thirty-dollars per hour! She must be an amazing babysitter to be able to charge that much and more power to her if she finds someone willing to pay that rate.

Why is it so difficult to find good quality, reasonably-priced babysitting? We are fortunate to have a couple of excellent sitters. Our previous nanny who loves our kids so much will come any Saturday we ask her. But I feel bad as she lives in Toronto and it is a hike for her to get here for a few hours of babysitting. However, she is planning on getting married soon so her flexibility now will not last forever. Our other sitter is someone who comes to babysit/house clean every Tuesday who we employed as a part-time nanny for nearly a year when I was still working. She loves and can handle our kids, but she also moved out-of-town and has to travel from outside our area for another full-time job.

Mr. L and I decided to try to find another local sitter that we can call for other evenings or possible daytime hours to stay with Jacob. Looking a head to this summer when I am on my own with all three monkeys, I could also use someone I trust to help out on a more regular basis.

The rates for a babysitter are all over map. Some candidates say $11-$12 per hour. Others are inching towards $13-$15 and then you have those (and I’ve had a couple over the years) who pull out the whopping $25-$30 per hour once they find out you have three children. A night out for Mr. L and I is rare enough but to have to pay even $12 per hour, which we figure is a reasonable rate for our area, means a very expensive night out.

Unfortunately we do not have regular access to parents or family members for babysitting. So if we want to go out or to even have a little additional support, we need to find someone to help us.

I am not sure if it is because of where we live some candidates will assume we make a lot of money and quote us these high rates. There are a lot of people in our town who would not blink at these rates but alas, Mr. L and I do not have a money tree in our backyard. We work for every dollar and need to keep track of every dollar.  After all, deciding to be a SAHM means you have to cut back on a lot of things. Not having that extra income does impact the family’s budget.

A little digging and it seems there is no written rate anywhere but lots of discussion on this topic! An article from last summer in the Globe and Mail provides a good starting point and rationale to babysitting and child care rates.

Generally, it looks like $10-$12/hour is a reasonable rate for three children for evening babysitting. Phew!

So the search continues. I am not desperate enough to pay someone thirty dollars an hour for babysitting three kids who are generally asleep within the hour a babysitter would arrive. At least not yet…

Laughter is the best medicine.

January 21, 2013

Yesterday was such a lazy day, well as lazy as a Mom of three can get. Jacob had his first birthday party to attend. A little girl from his nursery school. It was at our local YMCA and he had such a great time! Surprisingly, the fearlessness I often associate with him was not apparent. A huge giraffe bouncy castle was in the playroom and I had to convince him to go on with me. I think he wanted to, but it was something huge and new so he preferred the safety of the little cars or chasing the balloons. It is funny how you think you have something about your child figured out and then you look again, and they have changed ever so slightly.

Another late night and I forgot to set my alarm! Waking up late on a Monday morning is never ideal especially when you have to also get three little ones ready for the day. But, I got them all to school on time. Yeah! The days I have glasses on, am dressed in my Lululemon’s with a hat on to cover the crazy hair, you know it’s one of those days when I wish I could just crawl back into bed.

After dropping Jacob off, I rushed home planning to get a head start on some of the domestic stuff that I didn’t get to over the weekend. As happens when I don’t follow my own advice to get more rest, I’ve hit the wall. My energy is so low I contemplate crawling back into bed for a couple of hours. But, it’s skating night and I wanted to start a new crock-pot recipe night on Mondays. Getting home a little past the usual dinner hour means some planning ahead is needed to ensure food is nearly ready when we walk through the door. So instead of a date with my mattress, I gulp down a glass of cold freshly squeezed orange juice and begin chopping.

Today I’m trying a recipe I stumbled upon in my most recent issue of, Today’s Parent, Sweet Potato and Apple soup. Overall it’s the type of recipe I love. Easy, not too many ingredients and I can get it into the crock pot within a half hour.

Sweet Potato and Apple Soup

Sweet Potato and Apple Soup

Once that is done, I prep Jacob’s lunch also hoping to get him into nap time a little earlier so I have some more time this afternoon. Before I know it, I’m off to pick him back up. He’s sweaty from running in the gym but so cuddly I cannot wait to get into nap time and take my own snooze with my little guy.

Mr. L arrived home a little earlier today and it was nice to have another set of hands help set the table. I enjoy the nights we actually get to eat all together. During the week it does not happen very often. Typically the kids and I are nearly finished when Mr. L arrives home and the kids are in the midst of either finishing eating, throwing food on the ground or slinking away plates uncleared. Some nights, if everyone has behaved and all the food on their plates has been eaten, they earn dessert and sit with Mr. L while he shovels his meal down. Post dinner he tries to be helpful but I wave away his attempts to do the dishes and tell him to read stories or do anything to keep the kids busy. As a Mom of three you need to take the rare quiet times where you can focus on nothing else but the dishes and re-boot from the last few hours.

Mr. L loved the soup as did Jacob. Elizabeth has learned to clear her plate, that girl is all about the reward system, so she finished her bowl. But Audrey, as in most nights these days, refused to eat on principle. Sometimes she isn’t hungry but most of the time it is an obvious power struggle. We leave her be, expect her to eat one bite of her food and then she can be excused. Some nights are better than others. Tonight she hardly eats at all but crawls under the table laying on the  floor. Picking her up and placing her back into her seat requesting she ask to be properly excused, she spies her sister grabbing handfuls of grapes from a nearby bowl. When she goes to grab one, I reminder her, “You did not eat all your food. Remember the house rule? Nothing else to eat. If you are still hungry there is lots of soup left.”

With her perfected glare she stomps away and as soon as I turn back to the sink I see her race over to the bowl popping a grape in her hand while looking at me from the corner of her eye. Flipping around I firmly say, “I said no. Give me the grape.” The little imp pops it into her mouth smirking at me. I see red, but keep my temper. (Yeah!) Calmly, I go over to her and force her mouth open, fish the grape out and tell her to go and sit on the couch. She is hysterical by this time crying with big crocodile tears, peeking up once in a while from her spot on the brown leather couch to see if anyone is watching. When she catches someone’s eye the sobs start again.

As I am dealing with Audrey, Jacob, who is removing his pants, hands them to me saying, “Too hot! Audrey crying again?” then proceeds to take the half eaten apple he somehow found from the snack bag, and throws the regurgitated pieces across the kitchen floor. Elizabeth is wandering around the house finding anything to do except go upstairs to get her pyjamas out as requested five minutes ago. Breathing very slowly,   Mr. L and I look at each other and start laughing as he says,

“I’m glad I made it home in time for dinner.”

Looking up I see his dark brown eyes so similar in a lot of ways to all of our children’s eyes complete with a mischievous twinkle that I can see Jacob has inherited. The growing bubble of tension melts away.

“Good thing they’re cute.”  I respond.

Handing me the sponge with the regurgitated food, we then try to herd our kids upstairs to a most welcome bedtime. Some days humour is the only recourse a parent has to survive the day.

New things to do – finding time.

January 17, 2013

Large snowflakes are lazily drifting off and on all day. It is as if the sky cannot decide whether to completely open and save us from the frozen brown ground since the rain last week or is just teasing us with a winter kiss, reminding us how snowflakes can be magical.

Jacob and I were having a lazy day at home. Well, not lazy in the sense that I’ve managed to get a lot of domestic chores done and there is only a handful of presents left to find places for. Jacob was having so much fun during our “time to get the dusters out games” peppered in between with story times or an impromptu dance party, that he refused to leave for our tykes yoga class. An epic battle of coats and boots later, we were late. As we entered the class, I then had to chase him down as he proceeded to grab the lunch bag carefully hidden underneath my coat, yelling, “Hungry!” I caved and we sat outside the class while he happily smushed pieces of ham into his little mouth gripping the plastic container in case I dare suggest we put it away until after the class.

Finally his little tummy stopped grumbling enough to participate in half the class and I realized how unrealistic my expectations were having our third child be able to eat on the go. When we signed up for this class I was a little wary of the 1145 am start time knowing he runs like a clock at meal times, but figured we would try it. Mental note:  planning an earlier lunch with snack afterwards may ensure we have a good time at our class.

Today, I will be interviewing a potential babysitter in between bus pick-ups

When interviewing candidates, I ask all the standard questions, request references and confirm hourly rate. But my real test are the kids. How do they interact with them and how do my kids respond to them? I will hire a babysitter who essentially ignores me and plays or talks to my kids rather than one who just kind of waits for the kids to come to them. That means their focus is on the kids, where it should be.

Some interview questions are standard such as, asking about family background and their experiences. I also like to try to get a sense of how comfortable they are with handling three or more. A lot of babysitters are not experienced in the juggling of three or more children under the age of six. Some days Mr. L even admits he can’t handle it.

We will see how it goes today.

January 18, 2013

My first Zumba class in a long time and  I am feeling great! After a rush to get the three kids to their destinations, I drove to the health club Mr. L and I joined this past fall and which I’m lucky to make it to once a week, for a Friday morning class.

Hip-grinding music with a room full of generally uncoordinated people trying to shake all they got not caring who sees and something that gets my heart race up. I’m all in. I arrive a little late but after a few seconds, start shimmying to the latin beats along with the other women in the room and am so glad I dragged my tired self here this morning.

ZUMBA

ZUMBA

Last night (as in many nights) I went to bed way too late getting sucked into reality television after my brain felt strangely alert from writing. Of course, I get hungry so have a snack at nearly midnight and then I need to read before I go to sleep to relax. Being an avid reader, books are piled throughout our house and currently I am near the pinnacle of the latest Kate Morton book, The Secret Keeper. The part where you need to know what happens next! It is only when Mr. L pleads with me to turn the light off do I reluctantly put the book down to get some sleep. There is no way on these nights that I can wake up earlier than the kids so it is always a bit of a rush to get them and myself ready. I am actually stopping myself right now from just bailing on everything to go and finish it. But I don’t.

The Secret Keeper by Kate Morton

The Secret Keeper by Kate Morton

Back to exercise. Mr. L has been on a huge “get healthy and fit regiment” since last spring. I try to be as supportive as I can. I buy all the special foods he only eats and try not to make anything too unhealthy. After all, less carbs never hurt anyone. It has simplified our eating quite a bit as I focus on protein and vegetables for our meals and throw in homemade pizzas or Mommy’s mac n cheese to keep the kids happy. Currently he is into bodybuilding and I must say, he looks fabulous! He is trim and toned with more energy and it gives him a hugely needed personal area of his life to release any stress.

I am innately lazy. Although I love Zumba because it’s fun, I dread weight lifting, don’t see the point of running but will go to a yoga class any day of the week. Yoga helps with building strength, stretching out the most sore areas on a Mom, neck/back/shoulders and at the end I get to take a nap. In the fall, Mr. L, wanting to share his newfound hobby, put together an exercise routine to help me with all the areas I don’t want to do but realized I have to at least start. The older and more creaky I become, the more it becomes clear I need to take better care of myself physically. I got into the routine for about six weeks. It was nice to have the reprieve from the house and he really tried to be home at an earlier time so I could get to the gym. I do not like working out at home. I have no discipline and truthfully, the kids always find me and need something. So to work out I have to leave the house, but most days during the week I can’t leave until nearly 8 pm and truthfully, my energy level for anything physical when I know I have to come home and still make lunches, pack knapsacks and get all ready for the next day is very, very low.

Six weeks passed and then we had a vacation away. I was not feeling well and then the holidays were upon us and it all went out the window. Up until now I have not been motivated to get back on track. Even after a holiday of eating and little physical activity.

But, a friend of mine is really trying to get back in shape after the birth of her second baby and needs a goal. She asked me to sign up and do a “Tri-Tri” with her. What is a “Tri-Tri?” Well, it’s just as it sounds. It’s a sample of what a triathlon would be with reduced kilometers and meters in running, biking and swimming. A goal – why not I figured. It would give me a new experience this year.

Ears are for listening. Listening to our kids.

January 16, 2013

“Listen earnestly to anything [your children] want to tell you, no matter what. If you don’t listen eagerly to the little stuff when they are little, they won’t tell you the big stuff when they are big, because to them all of it has always been big stuff.”― Catherine M. Wallace

This morning was my volunteer time at Audrey’s school. I took on helping with their snack program when Elizabeth was in kindergarten and try to get in at least once a month. A wonderful program, it ensures at least twice a week the classes are all provided a healthy snack during their first nutrition break. The lady who has been running it since I started, pregnant with Jacob, is someone I admire. She has two kids, went back to work part-time, co-ordinates a few different programs at the school and still looks very unfazed when I see her rushing to drop off one thing or another in between work appointments. I sometimes wonder if she sleeps?

I wish I could do more at each of my girls respective schools, but juggling three different school schedules right now, this is the only thing I can commit to. Jacob is not the type of toddler I can have tag along to my activities. He can barely sit still at his own activities. I’ve seen other Mom’s bring the younger siblings along for the ride and admire the organized backpacks of snacks and activities. I wonder how they can get their children to sit still while they get their tasks completed. Bringing Jacob along (which has been suggested) would only be hard on me, Jacob and those around us. Thus, I plan my volunteer time around Jacob’s visits to nursery school with the hope that before too long I’ll be one of those parents who can come and spend a morning at my kids’ schools.

It is always enjoyable visiting the classroom and letting my daughter know I’m at the school. It’s also a rare chance to chat with some of the other parents at the school and Audrey’s teacher. Today she told me that she couldn’t believe how quickly Audrey was bringing back her reading club books. I just nodded and smiled saying, “I’m not sure what I’m going to do with her if she keeps this pace up!”

This is round two of our kids with this particular teacher. Mrs. R had the distinct pleasure of teaching Elizabeth for two years who became the Queen Bee in the classroom and Mrs. R was very good at recognizing Elizabeth’s need to have individual projects when she finished her work and helped build her presentation skills. We were thrilled with her as a teacher.  Audrey on the other hand is less of a show boat and takes a bit longer to warm up in a large group. Their class also has an increase in students this year, twenty-eight little children ranging in age from three to nearly six. At her fall meet-and-greet,  I actually had to point out to the teacher that Audrey could read most of the words on the word wall. She looked surprised and said, “Really? She hasn’t said a word!”

“No, she wouldn’t.” I replied reminding her how different she is than her sister. A week after that meeting, my four-year old was enrolled in the kindergarten reading club which was something typically only introduced to the majority of the students closer to the end of their first year of junior kindergarten. She hasn’t looked back.

One thing I am quickly learning as a parent is that you have to try to be as visible as you can to your children’s teachers and in their schools. Being involved as a parent and communicating with your children is also extremely important. I have a fairly good understanding of how each of my kids schools work, what the staff is like and just based on the simple questions like, “What was your favorite part of the day?” glean an abundance of information from my children.

When Elizabeth started school, we implemented a little chat time when she arrived home. Even when I was working part-time, usually from our home office, I would stop whatever I was doing to sit down with her for a few minutes to hear her answer to two standard questions, “What was your favorite part of the day?” and “What was your least favorite part of the day?” We continued that tradition and will continue it with all three of our children no matter how busy life gets. What better way to wind down an afternoon than with a cup of coffee listening to my little ones chatter about their days?

Today, after they are all home, we sit down at our long kitchen table that overlooks our backyard and a majestic maple and have a snack before homework time. It can be tricky to pay attention when one is telling me about a boy who pushed her on the bus and another is excitedly shouting about the snow crystals they made in class while Jacob wanting to be part of the conversation starts shouting to be heard. A steady flow of information is presented to me from these chats about their social interactions, school work, what the teachers were doing that day to how they loved I put a treat in their lunches. Two questions become a steady stream of conversation that I try to absorb and relay advice, encouragement or just listen when needed.

Being a Mom of three or more requires very precise listening ears. You need to know when one child needs a hug or another wants to be told again how smart she is and one just simply wants to be part of the conversation. All while dispensing snacks, trying to drink a last cherished cup of coffee for the day and attempting to organize the kitchen before dinner. Some days it feels as if I’m being pulled in three different directions, but I try my best and hope, as they get older we continue these types of conversations.

The three kids off to school.

The three kids off to school.

Teaching ourselves and our kids. A thought.

January 15, 2013

Jacob’s new phrase is “Go Away Mama!” This is followed within the last couple of weeks of “No fair!”and “No way!” All of these phrases said with the stamp of his chubby little foot as he waves a finger at me. With two older sisters who think he is the cutest thing ever, he copies all their good and not so good phrases and actions. Part of me wants to scoop him up and laugh but the other part that has gone through this twice before, will not succumb to the little smirk on his face and twinkling hazel eyes. Putting on my best “Mom is serious” face, I sink to his level and ask him to look at me. In a firm voice I say, “Not nice Jacob, we do not talk to Mommy like that.”

“Ok.” He responds in his little voice and proceeds to fling his arms out, “Huggie?” After a quick squeeze, I quickly leave the room to laugh out loud. For the life of me I can’t remember laughing when the girls were toddlers and said things like that. Perhaps it’s the third child syndrome. You just have a better sense of humour about things like this.

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Mr. L was home this morning having a nearby meeting so I had an unusually easy time managing with breakfast and bus drop-off with his help. I love these mornings. Once upon a time Mr. L had promised he would try to work from home or arrange meetings weekly to help in the mornings at least once a week. This hasn’t happened yet. The odd time I’ll bring it up and he brushes it aside stating how busy it is at the office. He owns his own business and I do know how busy it is so it’s just one of those things that I’ve let slide and enjoy the times he can be here.

Our neighbour came over this morning for a playdate. Apologizing for the yet put-away Christmas and birthday presents that have been piled in a corner of the front room and thanking her for picking up Starbucks, we proceeded to chit-chat in between managing the toddlers. Thank goodness for our basement which is kid heaven with toys, colouring and is the room I care about the least as long as the toys are reasonably put away at the end of the day. Our two older kids are at the same school so it’s nice to compare notes on how they are handling the transition to Grade One and French Immersion.

Interestingly, she is contemplating what to do when her daughter goes to kindergarten and this has been something that rolls around in my brain in when folding laundry at 11:00 pm as well. The possibilities are huge. Each of us are both mainly responsible for the kids education, health, extra curricula activities and the majority of the home stuff so it’s a concern thinking once we get into the middle of actual homework for the older kids and increasing demand on being a taxi service, does it make sense to also put time into more schooling, or does a part-time local job seem a better fit? We both seem to want to do something “when we grow up” but figuring out what that is can be a challenge.

My mother had three children as well and worked. I was on my own watching my brother and sister by the time I was twelve. We did not have very many activities that weren’t doing school hours because of cost and frankly we had no one to taxi us around. When I was younger, my memories are laced with babysitters after school and visits to my grandmother’s house on the weekends. It is also very different in schools these days. Homework is more intense and parental support is expected. Generally my homework was all done during school hours or at recess in the school library. Very rarely did I have things to bring home. Our children’s experiences with schoolwork and thus my own compared to my mother’s experiences will be very different and require a much different role. Thank goodness we are not at this point yet!

Another birthday to plan.

January 12, 2013

Mr. L’s birthday today and another December to February event checked off the list!  December to February is our family’s busiest time of year with Hanukkah, Christmas,  Jacob’s birthday, New Year’s, Mr. L’s birthday and the girl’s birthdays (not including the other kiddie and extended family birthdays that fall in the same time frame) there is lots of event planning, cake eating, presents and a Mom in the middle coordinating everything. Mr. L and I recently had a conversation and I stated my need for us to start getting away during March Break, even somewhere local where we can all just have a little R&R!

Yesterday was a bit of a scramble finalizing everything for Mr. L to menu for breakfast, wrapping presents, coordinating card creations by two little girls and finalizing dinner plans. Every year I always feel badly that his birthday is more thrown together than planned carefully.

Being a Mom of three or more with all birthdays falling at an already hectic time of year, it is imperative to have the big items pre-booked before the rush of the holiday season. It helps lessen stress levels after the holidays as parents try to get their kids back into a regular routine in early January and off their preference for sugary desserts over healthy balanced meals. All three of my kid’s birthday parties were planned and booked nearly a month ago. Now that Mr. L’s birthday is off my list, it is time to focus on the smaller details of the girl’s parties.

Tonight I have booked the babysitter, given him the afternoon to do whatever he wants and we’re heading for dinner at an upscale steakhouse. Being a carnivore, Mr. L’s favourite restaurants are old steakhouses. The more red velvet upholstery and dark lighting the better.

The weather is unusual for mid-January today. It is warm enough for a sweater and a toque. I am itching to get outside and convince the kids a walk in the fresh air will be fun if we take hockey sticks. Once upon a lifetime ago I could play decent field hockey so can actually handle a stick. Mr. L being originally from a warmer climate can’t even skate, so winter activities fall into my domain.

The girls picked out Mr. L’s birthday cake but the healthy eating conscious guy (who is in the midst of a no carb fast) blows out the candles and cuts the dark chocolate ganache cake pieces for our little brood while fondly looking at the small piece he is pretending to eat on his plate. I have to admire his willpower!

Dinner cannot come soon enough! A fabulous meal complete with appetizers, mains and wine where we can use proper utensils,  we finish our meals when they are hot instead of stone cold and relax into a proper adult conversation. What else do you need for a birthday dinner?

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January 13, 2013

Too much wine at dinner last night meant a crappy night’s sleep! But overall it was a really pleasant evening. The restaurant was lovely and food was divine. Mr. L and I chatted and then took advantage of the warm trend and walked down by the lake on the boardwalk. I did not even mind walking in my spike-heeled knee-high leather boots in the mud. Watching the swans swim lazily along the shore their brilliant white a stark contrast against the black night, it was a peaceful way to end the day.

January 14, 2013

Monday morning and back into another busy week. The girls start skating lessons tonight so I was checking helmets and skates last night. Missing Elizabeth’s bus by one minute meant that I had to pack her and Jacob up a little early to get her to school before dropping him at nursery school. Mr. L was running late this morning and we had waved to him as he sped down the street in his rusty Sante Fe with expired plates (for two years!) at Audrey’s bus drop off. Little did I know that him rushing out the door meant he neglected to take our nine and a half-year old lab out for a proper walk.

Over the holidays we had a discussion how he needed to make more of an effort to take our sixth family member out in the morning, even up and down the street to help with some of the weight gain over the last year from eating Jacob’s dropped food. He had agreed, yet he was slipping back into his usual routine. Of course, our poor dog trying to get my frazzled attention, could not wait any longer and I emerged from brushing my teeth to find dog poop all down our staircase. Now this is a dog who feels so bad when he does something wrong, he hides with his long yellow tail behind his legs. Cursing under my breath, I put Jacob in a safe spot, asked Elizabeth to get ready and proceeded to clean up dog poop  knowing I would need to come back home and sanitize everything. “Oh buddy,” I sighed and muttered curse words in Mr. L’s direction already planning my phone call to him as soon as I dropped the kids off while trying not to make an already nervous dog feel worse.

After all that Elizabeth was of course late to school and being only in grade one I took both of the kids into school, all of us sweating in the wool hats and winter coats. Thank goodness one of her school mates was also late and her mother nicely offered to take both girls up to their class. Welcome Monday morning.

A mother’s lament

January 11, 2013

Patience. Something a Mom and definitely a Mom of three or more has to have an abundant storage of. It is also something I’ve noticed since having my third child that I run out of once in a while and as they get older once in a while happens more frequently than I would like. Characterizing myself as a patient person, it’s one of the things that when patience reaches its saturation point, I feel extremely guilty. Those are the times when I snap at the kids or Mr. L and lose my temper very quickly ranting about something or another. It is difficult for me (or anyone to admit) but I am not very nice to anyone when I lose my temper. It is something I continue to work on, but when it is triggered a fiery blast blows over my family and leaves me feeling like the worst mother/wife/person in the world. I once told Mr. L, no one is harder on me, than me.

Audrey is emotional with a similar nature to my own so when she loses it as a four and a half year old does, it takes every ounce of my being not to snap back. After all, I am the adult. For the most part, I have learned how to talk calmly to her and talk her down when she’s in hysterics because she got milk on her pants or know when she’s reached her breaking point and needs some “calm down time” in her room. I’ve tried to teach her to deal with her “hot” feelings and use words to express herself instead of screaming for attention. I never felt I was allowed to be angry as a child and thus am trying as an adult to deal with my tendency to be explosive in a more constructive way and at the same time teach my children it’s okay to be angry but it’s not okay to scream, yell or have hands on anyone when you’re mad. Most days we work through everything and reach the other side unscathed.

However, yesterday being the whole day by myself with all three kids, pulling Audrey and Jacob with me to Elizabeth’s musical theatre class and then back home to put them all into bed on my own when I knew Mr. L was having a quiet dinner with his partner, I was more than a little stressed and pissed off. Mr. L and I had agreed that Thursday nights was the one night he needed to be home so I didn’t have to take two cranky younger children to their sister’s activity. He let me know he had a mediation in advance. To be fair, it didn’t happen often so I had told him I  would manage. But then for him to casually go out for dinner instead of getting on a train home to at least help with bedtime, well that was a choice and not mandatory. The plans were also thrown at me as he walked out the door to work with no opportunity for discussion.

When Audrey appeared screaming and curling up on the living room floor after a difficult bedtime with Jacob who refused to sleep and I had spent an hour holding him until he finally drifted off,  it was my first chance to sit down all day. She was making no sense to what the problem was except yelling her legs hurt and I could hear the snap in my voice and patience quickly head out the door. Letting her yell for a minute, I calmly tried to ask her what was the matter. She proceeded to scream at me. So I did nothing. I let her yell praying she would not wake up Jacob. I told her when she stopped yelling I would talk to her. She kept going and going until I lost my temper. Pulling her out of the chair, my voice was getting louder as I was telling her to be quiet, telling her I would not talk to her until she stopped, trying anything to stop her screaming. At this moment as we were both yelling, Mr. L walks in and calmly says, “What is this?” Snapping at him to mind his own business, I sat my little one in a kitchen chair and reminded her of the house rules, no screaming and after a week of her yelling for everything, I had enough. She either followed the rules or she could leave. Not a shining parenting moment and as soon as the words left my mouth my gut wrenched and I calmed down taking steady breaths as her big brown eyes looking through her curly blonde hair glared up at me.

Stooping to her height, I gently held her arms and asked her, “Are you done?”

The crescendo started again so I then told her she was to sit on that chair until she could talk to me without screaming and left to go back to the living room. Sitting down I steadied my breath and waited, and waited until she finally slunk over telling me she was ready to talk normally. Scooping her up and holding back my own tears, I told her I loved her and took her back to bed.

After all that, I was mentally drained. Going downstairs and apologizing to Mr. L for snapping at him but stating that I was a little angry that he had basically bailed on a Thursday night in favour of dinner out I then got a chance to explain the situation to him. As soon as I was done, waves of Mommy guilt and of how badly I had handled the situation came flooding back and for the next three hours, I mentally chastised myself  for not keeping my own temper. How dare I allow my deep well of patience to dry up? I let myself be overcome by emotion and stress. I promised myself, to walk away if I felt my own blood pressure rising. After all, they are kids and if I can’t teach them by example how to handle their emotions, good and bad, then who will? When you’re a Mom and a Mom of three, you need to be able to handle your stress levels. You can’t let them see you sweat. For yours and their own good. It’s a lesson I need to continue to learn.

How Parents Worry

January 9, 2013

What two-year old shows no signs of a double ear infection until his ear “explodes” at nursery school and when that happens, he doesn’t even notice? Plans are delayed today with an impromptu visit to the doctor resulting in late lunch, late, short nap and early piano lessons for the girls. Dinner time is here before I can say, “coffee break!”  I was going to get out to the gym after Mr. L got home and start my “get back in exercise routine,” plan but exhaustion has kicked in and my comfy pillow atop my blue-striped fresh sheets sound like a dream come true.

 January 10, 2013

It’s awful when your heart aches for your child but you’re not sure how to help them! Elizabeth is having some trouble at school with friends and I’m not sure the best way to counsel her. At breakfast this morning she confided that she is feeling left out of the games at school and feels as if the other girls are not picking her for their games. I could have cried, but keeping a stiff upper lip and resisting the urge to scoop her into a hug, I calmly ask her why she felt that way? Being the type of child whose strength is being a problem-solver she then told me she would try to talk  to some of the other girls in the other grades at recess and if not, just talk to her sprites.  She is a big believer in fairies and sprites and we have encouraged her rich imagination. After applauding her attempt to figure it out on her own, I gently remind her that we had started packing a book as another option instead of maybe talking to her sprites on the playground all the time. There is a fine line between encouraging her to keep marching to the beat of her own drum and navigating the increasing emotional world of little girl friendships.

Elizabeth has always been a bit of an “absent-minded professor” kind of kid. She is very comfortable talking to adults and a little shy around her own age group. Once she makes a friend she would stick to them like glue. I never envisioned she would be the type with a crowd of friends around her but with a chosen few friends who she cherished. However, in the early grades it can be hard to find like-minded little people. She was always content playing on her own, but recently in a busy big kid playground she is bright enough to be aware she is the odd girl out sometimes. She has no desire to play house or princess games like a lot of other girls and would rather play something that has some action to it or good old hide and seek. Elizabeth is one of those kids who doesn’t notice if her face is dirty or her pants are falling down and we continue to work on her public manners. She is a bit goofy with her pumpkin smile and off-beat sense of humour. I admire her but I know she may have a bit of difficult road ahead with regard to the social aspect of school. Sometimes I wish they could stay in kindergarten forever, innocent of all of this. My instincts are to ensure she knows her family all accept and love her just as she is, make some gentle suggestions to help her cope but really, this is something she has to figure out or go through so let her go through it. It’s part of daily life and she has to find the best way to deal with it. But it doesn’t stop me wishing I could hand her all the solutions on a silver antique serving tray.

My oldest girl!

My oldest girl!

Giving her an extra hug as I dropped her at the bus stop, the sunny mid-January thaw type-of-day forces me to open our windows to let in the fresh air.  Jacob and I putter around the house until it’s time to run a few errands and then off to our tykes yoga class. With a toddler, two errands are all I can fit in at one time. My active little guy will not sit in his stroller so it’s either walking (or chasing) him into the post office and then thankfully the grocery store cart is nearby as we quickly pick up some necessary items. The van desperately needs a wash, it is embarrassing. The kids are coated in dust from brushing up against it, but two out of my three kids have near hysterics when we go through the carwash so I have to time this errand when I have no kids in the van.  I have found it easier to plan most of my errands, grocery shopping, personal appointments without the kids. It’s just more efficient and some weeks, it’s the only break this mom of three gets! Who doesn’t love strolling in a store with a cup of coffee in hand?

Being early for a change to our class, Jacob is yelling, “Yoga?” down the quiet halls of the recreation centre. The building is a beautiful refurbished high school that opened up nearly two years ago but unfortunately it is not being utilized. There is so much potential in this cultural and community centre but people just haven’t found it yet. I really hope they do.

Yoga class is a hit! Jacob surprisingly remembers a few moves from a class we took last spring. It’s a small class and he is the youngest. (A fact I’m going to have to get used to as his birthday is the end of December.)

Mr. L is working late tonight so I’m on duty taking Elizabeth to her musical theatre class with two younger tired kids in tow. I had planned some nice steaks tonight for dinner but as he casually mentioned, going out the door with black briefcase in hand, he was going to grab something to eat with his partner afterwards (which meant fancy steakhouse), I put the steaks in the freezer and think we’ll have something easy like grilled cheese and soup for dinner instead. At least the house his clean today. One indulgence I cannot give up is our bi-weekly cleaner. For one hour I bask in the cleanliness of the floors and kitchen before the girls are home from school.