Feeling rattled and finding calm

It was one of those weeks. The after-glow of vacation, cherished family memories and yes, help from Mr. L and others was over and it was little old me once again, the go-to person in charge of most things kid and home-related. The purge I went through getting ready for our guests for our weekend away only scratched a tiny surface of the disorganized chaos that is my house. One pile is put away and another pops up. It is a constant battle. Late nights had caught up with me and I was tired, beyond tired but exhausted. Early mornings, dragging kids out of bed in the still dark morning corralling them to their buses or driving them to school provided little relief as I looked around wondering where to start. Do I organize? Do I write? Do I go grocery shopping? Do I pay the bills? Do I sleep? It was one of those weeks where everything seems overwhelming and you are feeling underwhelmed to start anywhere. But I got the kids to school. Fed and managed to hold onto my self until mid-week. The kids, either dealing with their own tiredness from trying to get back onto a schedule, a mom whose temper was a little shorter than usual, pressure to ramp up at school as report card time nears or all of the above seemed to break down one by one.

The first morning is was Audrey. Now the last year I have seen a huge improvement in how she deals with her emotions and my message of “talk rather than yell” when feeling frustrated seemed to finally be getting through, until Wednesday. Full-on meltdown because she didn’t like the pants she had picked out and wanted her point back for getting ready in the morning although she had already lost it due to her dithering upstairs. It continued through a forced breakfast and resulted in my having to haul her off the floor, our voices raising in unison, her screaming about her pants and me yelling that the bus was driving down the road. With a deep breath I got her out the door, onto the bus and went to deal with round two of kids.

Jacob was next. Having been to his preschool rather erratically over the holidays because of days off for vacation it was his first full week back. We started walking into the coat room when the tears started. “I want to say with Mommy!!!!” Kissing him goodbye, I handed him over to his teacher for hugs and bolted out the door trying not to let the mom guilt settle in too long. After all, I had a full day of writing planned to catch-up on editing some scenes.

Back home, messages were flying, texts beeping as I tried to first answer my ignored emails. The snack program I am coordinating needed attention, no one had the schedule. Had I made the schedule? Yes, thankfully one late night I had popped names into the calendar and emailed it off. After all of that, I had three hours left to write, prep dinner and take the dog for a walk. I could feel the frustration building.

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A few uneventful days provided relief until Friday. Friday, the day Jacob decided to have a full-on hitting tantrum like no three-year old because I would not let him watch television when he wanted. Thinking he was tired, I decided to forgo lunch and get him into bed. Tantrum continued until I was roaring like a she-lion and he was roaring right back as I tried to restrain him from biting, kicking and hitting me. Being on the petite side, a little boy’s kicks and slaps hurt!

I hovered above watching myself wondering what was going on? How did a generally sweet three-year old and his mom get to this point?  After I pulled out scary mom voice to shock him into stopping, I knew it was enough. Taking a breath, he was gulping back sobs and I was on the verge of tears, I managed to pull myself together and talk in a softer but firm voice about how he needed to stop. He blubbered, “No, you stop!” followed by a weaker attempt to hit me. My soft voice turned to a soft growl in warning, “Do not hit Mommy.” I had visions of Jacob entering kindergarten September 2014 unable to control his actions, flailing when he didn’t get his way and my stomach twisted. This was new territory, the preschool boy tantrum. My middle child certainly had her share of breakdowns between 2.5 yrs and nearly 4 yrs old (and still does at almost 6 yrs old) but I always knew the worst of them were saved for us at home. I wasn’t as confident with Jacob.

I tried again, firmly grabbing his little arms, looking him in the eyes in a firm voice, “Do NOT hit. It hurts.” His little body tensed up but then just as quickly and violently it came, the fight went out of him and he threw his arms around my neck. “Okay.” We held each other for a few minutes as I regained my composure and tried to turn this into a positive parenting moment. Then, the talk where he apologized, I apologized for using scary mommy voice and he looked contrite as I went over, again, why we use our words and do not hit, kick, bite or scream and also when mommy says no, it is no. I had him repeat it to me back and then put the tired guy into bed so we both could have a bit of “calm down time.” Kissing his tear-stained face, I gently closed the door and promptly went down to the kitchen to cry. Tears of frustration, shame and guilt flew into my eyes as I took deep breaths. Another mommy fail-moment.

Mr. L happened to be home listening to this whole encounter, asking me just once if I wanted him to take over to which I had waved him away. He came over and placed his hand on my arm, “You okay?”

Shaking my head no, I looked out the window at the cold winter day. “Another bad Mom moment…”

He shook his head at me, “I heard the whole thing, you are not a bad mom.”

Although his words helped a little, the feeling deep down when you know you stepped a little over the line between the mom you want to be and the bad mom you are scared you really are did not diminish but was buried with the other notches of guilt parents pull around inside of them. It was covered with warm feelings as my kids tackled me one night all wanting a hug at once and the little guy in his three-year old way tried to smooth over the bumps not leaving my side all night but showering me with hugs and kisses. As I read stories to my girls and patiently watched yet another “show” from my natural comedian guy before kissing him goodnight, I tried to hold firm those memories and let the not so great ones fade a little.

After all, each day brings a whole new set of parenting challenges, and as a mom of three or more, that typically means parenting challenges times three.

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It really does take a village…

The first week of 2014 and the last week of our family holiday break came to a relaxed end. I took my eldest daughter, Elizabeth, to the Toronto show of the Nutcracker upon her request. It was just the two of us off for a fancy lunch, dressed to the nines braving the bitter winds and walking over ice patches. She surprised me with her patience at waiting and one of her greatest attributes, going with the flow, even if I did have to pull out a few reminders about sitting still during the ballet.

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A friends birthday party and some family snuggles later it was back to school and work for our brood. A little bit out of sorts for everyone the first early morning, ice storms and freezing temperatures, the kids went from having tons of free time to being cooped up inside with no recesses due to the weather which was a bit of an adjustment. While they were busy dealing with school, this mom went into full-tear down Christmas mode at the house and started organizing the chaos that comes with having three small kids full-time for two weeks. I was on a deadline, for Mr. L’s birthday was fast approaching as well as a pre-planned trip with another couple to Las Vegas!!! However, as exciting as the prospect of some adult time alone after a very full, but kid-oriented three weeks over the holidays, my mind was on two things:

1. How do I pack for Vegas with just a carry-on?

2. How do I get my house in  order in three days to accommodate the various family members pitching in to come and stay with our kids?

So off I flew in a caffeine sleep-deprived state. One day dedicated to getting all the Christmas decorations away. No way was I having my mother arrive without that done. Not only would she sigh and ask, “THIS is all still up?” but would then proceed to tear everything down and carry the huge plastic containers to our basement down two flights of stairs. One day while Jacob was at daycare to get necessary errands done including groceries for food for the kids plus family members favourite drinks of choice, book store for supplies for the trip, drugstore for toiletries. One day to clean, change sheets on beds where guests sleeping, make sure towels/soaps and toilet paper are all stocked up in each bathroom, pack my own suitcase, write lists for three groups of people, ensure dog has food and finish the laundry. Thank goodness our twice a month cleaner was scheduled to come on the Thursday! All of this in between trying to keep three kids busy after school and making dinner for everyone. I even managed to check in on-line for our flight Wednesday afternoon. Needless to say, the night before our flight, I went to bed at two am. But it was done. I had done all I could do to ensure our guests comfort and ease the only thing I could do to show my gratitude at having help with the kids.

As the first shift of caregivers arrived early Thursday morning, I flew around making sure health cards were accessible and the van cleaned out. My mother and aunt arrived with two nieces to take the kids on an outing to a local aquarium. I even remembered to call the kids schools to alert them of their absence before Mr. L shoved me to the waiting vehicle. Our kids barely said good-bye, excited at the prospect of a special day with grandma.

As a mom of three or more kids knows, finding reliable care for your kids can be tricky, especially if for an extended period of time. You need someone who can take the exhausting fun and multi-task at lightening speed. You need someone who gets it. My mom gets it having raised three kids herself. She also gets when she needs back-up and thus my aunt had come along for the ride.

As Mr. L and I drove to the airport he asked,

“So, what’s the schedule again? Who is coming when?”

Rolling my eyes but remembering as a birthday trip he had been left out of most of the planning I went over it again.

Shift One – my mom and aunt. Taking kids on adventure and I’m pretty sure my mom can handle the school stuff Friday.

Shift Two – another person who gets it. My sister surprised me when we were chatting over the new year and I was expressing my frustration at trying to accommodate two sets of grandparents schedules and needs as I had a gap that needed to be filled due to  my mom needed to leave a half day earlier. An afternoon and overnight. She graciously offered to come, bring my nieces and have a slumber party with the kids. I was so grateful tears sprang to my eyes knowing someone was here who could handle it.

Shift Three – my mother-in-law. She was the only one able to stay very late the Sunday night being retired and our flight returned quite late as everyone else worked.

Did I mention we live an hour from all of these people?

During our trip we received random reports: Kids doing well! Had to put Jacob in time-out but it worked. Loved the aquarium. Kids got to school. Feeding your children copious amounts of sugar and watching movies. (Their Aunt). Happy Birthday they are all well, safe flight home.

Overall we knew they were in good hands and expressed our thanks many times to each and every person.

Thinking back the only phrase that comes to mind is that it really does take a village to raise a family, whatever you village entails. Each person’s village may be different; parents, siblings, cousins, friends or neighbours. Whomever your village is, knowing you can call on them when needed is important. Mr. L and I love traveling with our kids, but it was nice to visit a new place and come back tired, (it was Vegas!) but refreshed. I know we’ll need to call on our “village” again in the future but I also know, if I’m called, I would help any of them in a heartbeat. Isn’t that what family is for?

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From cheomoms.com

Heading back to “normal.”

The wind was brisk but my girls spent their days after new year’s trying a new outdoor sport, skiing. I signed them up for private lessons and as my winter-averse better half entertained the three year-old in the chalet, I tried to photograph their first movements across the snow watching them shuffle along following their instructors before clicking my boot into place to try and fit in a couple of runs before their lessons were done. What a feeling of satisfaction and pride I had as a parent seeing them both barely look back at me as they went up the magic carpet. 

Spending some time setting my personal intention for the year of finishing my novel, I feel it’s just as necessary to set an intention for our family. To take time to play each day. That could mean something simple as doing puzzles with my little guy or taking my girls out skiing. 

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Getting the girls ready for school this morning, dreading the icy cold that has come down upon our town, I realized the part of my day I was looking forward to was some special playtime with my little guy. After all, September will be here soon enough and off he will go to kindergarten, five full-days a week. I could not remember the last time I had floor time with any of my kids. I have cherished memories with Elizabeth of our year together at home, Audrey’s first few years there were definitely fewer of these instances, but I do remember reading and singing to her a lot.

However, little Jacob, being the third child, although receiving lots of attention from his sisters, has had me as more of a chauffeur taking him along for the ride or to an activity. This winter seems to be a perfect time as the temperatures drop to intend to have some sort of playtime each day with the kids. 

The last few weeks being home with all of them, although a part of me was looking forward to settling back into a regular routine, I missed the impromptu dance parties in pajams, hearing my girls come up with their own little games or their hilarious conversations. I miss having those rare days where we just decide what we are doing that same day. January is already being scheduled as people seek out playdates and dinners. 

Elizabeth was in tears before bed last night, feeling the pull towards wanting to go back to school to see her friends and teachers but it was intermixed with sadness that vacation was over it resulted in my usually calm nearly eight year-old gulping back sobs. As I stroked her hair trying to calm her down, I explained to her we all feel like that. 

So today, as I scrambled to finally get the last of the decorations off our tree, clean out the cold storage, organize our mud room a little better and make that dreaded trip to Costco to stock up on essentials, I took some time. I had a coffee lingering over lunch with Jacob and then we played, placing puzzles pieces together before story time before I went to attack the never-ending laundry. What a nice, tiring but satisfactory first day back to normality. 

New Year, New Possibilities

Happy New Year! December’s snowy skies with days full of holiday madness, kid holiday concerts, buying presents, food and packing or unpacking for trips or overnight excursions to my mother’s house were flanked by evenings sipping wine with friends, sharing joyous times and creating traditions hopefully to be carried forward into future years.

The quiet onset of 2014 has been a welcome respite in the last few days and for the first time my own thoughts turn towards the new year. Today as I drove through the arctic temperatures starting to shake the last few weeks of passivity off heading towards the regular routine of life, the radio stations discussed resolutions. One expert suggested that instead of resolutions, people should instead make intentions. One simple intention and work on it until that intention becomes a habit and then, set another one. The likelihood of success would be much higher when someone is focused upon a single task. 

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With this idea tickling my brain back into action, I wondered what is my intention for 2014? My first intention. Fitness? Writing? Family Life? Food? Travel? 

To better understand what my intention could be, I had to think back over the past year. I checked a few things off my own personal bucket list. The majority of them fitness or travel related. I moved a few projects forward although not finishing them. 

Writing. The thing in my crazy household that is mine. The thing I have been holding off on because I feared the commitment. The single thing, the only intention that I cared enough about to set this year.

So, here it is. My intention for 2014. To finish my novel. 

Through travel, fitness and family times I will try to remember and work towards my intention. After all what is a new year for but the opportunity to move something forward? 

Wish me luck!