When the robins say goodbye..

For the first time last week, I felt I could breathe. Although still busy my sense of panic about finishing projects has given way to a confidence it will all get done. I’m still not sure when everything will get done, but I know it will.  My mud room is still in disarray. The winter coats are clean but the mountain still lingers in my basement ready to be put into the closet.  When you have three or more kids, those small piles of clothes get bigger and bigger as the kids get bigger and bigger!

Jacob, my little man still at home with me, is a happy go-lucky type of kid (generally) who will help me clean windows, go grocery shopping or take the dog for a walk. He’s recently dropped his naps and I am happy (cautiously so) that he seems to be pretty  well potty trained, at last! I was not sure how I would feel about him dropping his naps. The hour or so I would get each day was a break for me, a chance to drink a coffee, catch up on  emails or finish some chores. But on the upside, we can take the dog for a proper walk. I can go and get groceries and not worry about rushing home before 1 pm so  he can nap. Maybe I can go to the gym early afternoons while he plays at the daycare. The opportunities are endless!

Last week, on a sunny but cold day, Jacob sat on our bench facing the windows that overlooks our small backyard. Rabbits are constant visitors at breakfast and during the summer months, the songbirds endlessly chirp. Since moving into this house, we are always lucky to have a robin’s nest tucked into one of the floodlights and hatchlings to watch in June. Since the onset of cooler temperatures, the last of the songbirds have vacated our Southwestern Ontario area traveling to warmer climates. Who can blame them as I dig in my massive hat pile to find a clean toque? Yet, last week, as I opened the windows to let in a bit of fresh air, I noticed a couple of red-breasted friends peering at us as they sat perched on the wood fence. Hopping down to our garden they searched for any stirred up worms who had not burrowed themselves deep into the ground or for seeds from the recently trimmed bushes. Jacob got so excited he started jumping up and down,

“Mom! Mom! See! The robins!”

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They chirped back at us as if to ask what we were having for lunch. After a half hour of hopping, peeking at us and enjoying the warmth of the late autumn sunshine, they flew off without a sound. It was a reminder that winter will be soon enough and being able to open the windows will be something I dream of when spring comes. However, winter also means more time. More time to spend with the kids inside playing board games, reading or watching a movie. More time to go through the closets and finally attack the cupboard of baby bottles still lingering from two years ago. It is also my last winter with a little one at home. So if I want to take a walk and search for a trace of the robins with the kids so we can say goodbye until spring, that seems more important than if my mud room is perfectly organized.

Volunteering, playdates and mittens..oh my!

Being a stay-at-home Mom can mean many things to many different people. To my kids it is day-to-day life that Mom is waiting at home with snacks, homework schedules and a hot dinner (most nights). They are so used to me being at home, their brief memories do not remember the days where I used to work and they had babysitters, daycare or a nanny to lend a hand as I scrambled from one meeting to the next trying to be home for dinner. My eldest asks me at least twice a month, “When are you going back to work? I want to go to the Y program after school with Ava!”

Usually I sigh patting her smooth hair and tell her, “One day you’ll appreciate Mommy being home. Mommy did used to go out to work.”

How do you explain to a seven and a half-year old the personal sacrifice from a career perspective you made because for your family, having at least one parent consistently home was something worth giving up other things? Mr. L is in no position to be home or share the “at home daily duties”  having a wildly successful law firm, to be “the one,” so it’s me. It’s always been me and I’m okay with that.

To Mr. L it means taking off his shoulder the day-to-day responsibility for the kids so he can focus on growing his business. It means usually, his laundry is done and he has dinner at night to come home to, or at least warmed up leftovers. It is security that I’ve got it handled and will call on him if needed. It also means less of a strain on our bank account to figure out adequate daycare, before school and after school programs plus dog walker to help with Jake, our oldest family member. After all, we do have three children seven years of age and under. Daycare costs in this province, in our area, are high. So when you have multiple children, no other familial support in the nearby area and facing this decision as a family it is a HUGE consideration in your analysis.

To others, well, some get it and some don’t. I’m okay with that too because after all, each SAHP (I’m going to put parent because there are lots of Dads out there who opt to stay-at-home too) has most likely came to their decision in a very personal way and no decision is right. It is right when it works for your family.

For me, being someone who bounces between being energized by a to-do list full of potential to craving silence and solitude depending on my mood for the day, I spent September getting a feel for the rhythm of my days, training for a race, starting a writing class and potty training a toddler. I knew Thanksgiving weekend was going to be the time when “real life” started for me having two full days free a week as my little guy started preschool as I caught up on appointments and answered long forgotten phone calls and emails.  So much time! What would I do?

Volunteering. I have always volunteered in my kids schools. I started when Elizabeth went to JK and have kept on going limiting my hours to a reasonable once a month but still helping out. This year I took on more.  Taking on a coordinator position for a program at Audrey’s school for a snack program and volunteering in class at both girls schools. In truth, I could never be bored and just volunteer at their respective schools. So much help is needed in the classrooms and the teachers are so appreciative to that parent who takes an hour to come and read with a couple of the kids in class to help them get to the level of their classmates. As much as the teachers are wonderful, when you have a class of thirty students in a split JK/SK class that hour every week is precious time spent. I also like to be in the school and know what is going on. I think every parent should take the time to pitch in on something, even if working. There is always help needed to even drop off products for a healthy snack basket program and you can smile and get to know the administration who are the front guardians of your children.

Playdates. For some reason grade two means more social time requested by Elizabeth. She wants playdates, movie dates and each new parent I meet ends with an exchange of contact information to plan a playdate. As much as I prefer the kids to play in our neighbourhood and encourage spontaneous play and friendships with the neighbour kids, having a brood of three sometimes means that once in a while, one of them wants a little special time with a friend who may live a little north of us. Then of course, my younger girl wants her own playdate time with friends and so on down the line. I am surprised Jake the dog is not requesting his own playdates! This is something I will have to wrap my head around going forward as my little people turn into socialites.

Mittens. For the past few weeks I knew it was coming.  A warm fall would give way to the briskness as old man winter turns an eye our way. It happened this morning. Thankfully I have turned over that daunting job of putting away summer clothes and getting out fall/winter clothes in September. My little guy finally had proper warm Bogs on his feet. It is just the hundreds of mismatched hats, mittens and scarves I have to go through and wash for five people. The smell test was given this AM and the winter wear that passed were firmly placed on three children’s heads and hands. Decked out in new coats courtesy of an overseas grandfather who sends new sets of clothes each season for his only grandchildren, my kids were at least dressed to face the cold winds.

So what does being a SAHP mean to me? Never being bored. Each day brings a variety of tasks to be handled and new things to learn. I enjoy being able to put most of my attention on one main goal. Having lived the life of feeling like I wasn’t doing my best at anything; work, family, kids, my own stuff it works for me. Sure I miss lunches out with adults, a nicer wardrobe and reading on the GO train. But I do not miss having to report to someone. I am able to carve out my days exactly how I want and to me, that is priceless. Like right now, I am choosing to work on writing this blog piece. And tomorrow, if I choose to watch Y&R at lunch while my little guy naps, I can. (Okay, to be honest, that never happens but I can dream that it may one day.) Not everything gets done on my huge to-do list, but I feel way more relaxed (as possible) at the end of the day that I got some things done. Who cares if I’m wearing five-year old Lululemon pants because giving up shopping for myself was a sacrifice?  Jake the dog does not care what I wear to walk him.

 

 

A wealth of thanks.

In Canada, Thanksgiving is winding down as people across the country plunk onto their couches their bellies filled with turkey, pies and all the delicious goodness that the harvest brings. I wondered as I sat down to type this blog tonight, a cup of hot decaf early gray tea by my side, how to approach the topic of thanks. 

Of course I am thankful for my family and friends. I am also thankful to be living in a country full of such beautiful weather and colours. I am thankful we are all healthy. These are the obvious tributes of thanks this weekend. 

Our family took a different approach to Thanksgiving this year. We went on a mini trip to Ottawa, Ontario. Mr. L wanted to fit in one race this season and we stumbled upon the Fall Colour Run coordinated by Somersault Events in the colourful city of Ottawa a couple of months ago. “Why not?” we asked ourselves. A little family getaway could be fun and being a family who likes to explore new places, we booked it. 

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A part of my traditional soul regretted forgoing the crazy Thanksgiving dinner where my sister cooks a delicious meal relegating me to sous chef in my own house while trying to fit in visits to two sets of parents. I had not realized how alike my elder girl and I are when in a bout of unusual silence this weekend, she confessed missing the usual family gathering and having a traditional Thanksgiving meal. (To note she typically eats next to nothing except corn, bread and pie.) I had to admit as we munched on delicious pizza, duck breast and spaghetti  at an empty local venue, The Black Thorn, in some ways the idea of Thanksgiving on our own sounded better than it was. 

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However, the weekend was fun and for that I am thankful. Mr. L finished his race well. The kids got to do a 1 km Wylie Ryan’s Turkey Trot getting their own medals. We showed them the wonders of Parliament Hill, Byward Market and the Canadian Museum of Nature in our nation’s capital city. I am thankful I have a curious little crew who did not mind walking the streets of Ottawa with their parents finding wonder in every statue we came across.

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But, as a parent of three what am I most thankful for this weekend? Patient people. Traveling with a potty-training toddler has its ups and downs. We had a lot of downs as our increasingly vocal Jacob announced at every restaurant he had to pee or poo and then would refuse to go but still complained about his sore tummy in increasing louder tones. Multiple visits to restaurant or coffee shop washrooms passing the same smiling server. Pulling the potty out on the road at an empty park begging him to just go and the boys on bicycles passing by who pretended we were not there.  For these people, I am thankful. 

I am thankful for naps. Naps that allowed the five of us to have a bit of downtime and where all was peacefully quiet for a little while. I am thankful for the waiter who smirked in good humour as my kids hung off the bars at the Moulin De Provence in the ByWard Market while my kids munched on cookies, I tried to drink a lukewarm coffee and Mr. L scarfed down a late lunch. I am thankful for the market vendors who did not mind little hands grabbing trinkets off their tables or the people at the check-in desk at our hotel where the kids had to wait until our room was ready, pulling brochures out of their holders. 

All of this patience was a force that held up my own resistance to give into frustration (for the most part) that can come when families travel together. For the kindness and patience of others, I am thankful. 

Happy Thanksgiving! 

 

Achoooo!!!!!

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This past week I have felt the sympathetic looks from many people. Teachers. Friends. Other parents at the bus stop. Random strangers in the stores. These silent pats on the back have kept me going through nearly two weeks of runny noses, coughs, sinus infections, sore throats and a very, very grumpy family. Cold season hit our household like a tsunami. Large waves of kleenex rose up as a tidal wave as the mantra became, “Go get a kleenex to wipe your nose.”   This mom of three is so tired she turned on the television so she could nap for twenty minutes. Soups and chillies were made through a sinus headache in an attempt to battle the colds away. Orange juice and almond milk was poured into glass after glass to lessen the fluids seeping from every nose of nearly every single family member. We have a dad so tired he plods through the house after work still in his untucked button up shirt too exhausted to go upstairs to get changed. 

How do we do it parents? When we are sick ourselves and fighting exhaustion, how do we still manage to put one foot in front of the other to make lunches for the kids (who are lucky that day not to have a fever), go to work, start up a volunteer snack program at an elementary school or simply function when this kind of week hits a household?

We are the soldiers. We may have larangtyis, drink green tea with honey instead of wine (hell, I haven’t even wanted wine for the last two weeks) sit zombie-like under a warm blanket watching whatever is on the television, sleep when we can, pop tylenol to numb the pain of a headache or sore throat, but we get through it. Or so I keep telling myself this week. 

How do I manage when fall colds hit our house? Besides the above already mentioned I try to remember: 

1) At least it’s not the stomach flu. 

2) It’s only 5-10 days. Colds do end. 

3) It is a good excuse to get that hired cleaner in and scrub every surface in the house to get rid of lingering viral intruders. 

4) Water. Water. Water. Make sure everyone is drinking lots of water. Good habit anytime. 

5) The kids think it’s great to get juice every day as it is usually a treat. Super Mom points. 

6) It is kind of nice to sit cuddled with one (or all three kids plus the dog) watching a movie because frankly, we are all too tired to do anything else. 

7) Never run out of kleenexes. Good excuse to hit Costco. 

8) Green tea is better for you than a glass of wine. Instant detox program. 

9) My body needed a break from exercising anyway to heal up from last race. 

10) You can cancel almost everything. No other excuse is needed. Who wants to be around someone with a bad cold anyway? All obligations can be re-scheduled and you actually have free time to write, nap, catch up on tv, read whatever your fancy. 

How do you manage when colds hit an entire household?