A Moment of Distraction

Let’s face it, life is busy. Not just for me, for most people I know. Especially this time of year, just go back and read any of my annual May posts. One in particular that I seem to respost each year is From Overwhelmed Parent to Grateful Parent because it holds up over time.  When you have children, especially those families with three or more little darlings things get a little, let’s use the word, chaotic in the spring.  For fun, throw in some additional and/or unexpected life events and crazy takes on a whole new level of meaning.

Due to my continued (albeit it not intentional) lack of regular postings, let me give you a brief recap.

  • A puppy joined our household, Chip the Australian Labradoodle. He is loveable, goofy, sneaky and believes I am his bed or a cushion to sit on. It’s like having a toddler again.
  • I took on some paid writing work.  A few wonderfully complimentary small business owners decided I was a good fit as a writer for hire for their online content marketing strategies. Blogging takes a back seat when paid work comes along as well as my more creative flights of fancy via short stories and editing a manuscript take off all at the same time.
  • And the big one, THE MOVE. Because we are a little nuts, (after all who gets a puppy on labour day, right before all three kids go back to school full-time?), we have purchased a property on the other side of the province (Ontario). We decide to trade in our convenient and comfortable suburban life for a life in the country. Not too far away sit picturesque wineries and our new home is found along the shoreline of the gently lapping waters of the Bay of Quinte.
  • My eldest daughter is going for day surgery (tonsils) and will be off school, at home recovering for at least a week.
  • The kids are now ten, eight and five. If you have kids this age or have had kids this age, I do not need to write another word. You get it. If you’re kids are younger, just wait. You will soon learn the art of creative time management and juggling the demands of burgeoning little people with their own agendas.

As I swiftly change my hats faster than the Mad Hatter himself, I do try to slow down at times and enjoy moments of distraction. Right now basketball is a useful distraction for our whole family. It is huge in this part of the world and our whole family cheers when those Raptors sink another basket.

But the other thing I find helps is humour. Laughing at the absurdity of our crazy life is not unusual, but there are times when you realize you may be a little too distracted.

As a parent of three or more kids, I try not to take my kids grocery shopping with me. It is an ordeal, usually ending up with one kid trying to ride the shopping cart, another grabbing cookies and my voice in that special low growl that ensures their little hands are all affixed to the sides of the cart.  I often forget things if they are with me. So, you would think that grocery shopping would be a leisurely outing when I am on my own. Except, well see the above. Finding leisurely grocery shopping is a thing of my not so distant past. Oh sure, it will come again, but not right now. Right now it is all about survival.

So one afternoon about a week ago, I dashed into the grocery store noting (of course) that I had forgotten my list. I tried to rely on my lacklustre memory but all that came to mind were the dishes. I hate washing dishes by hand so yes, dishwasher tabs are a must. Even in my harried state, I always try to spot that special yellow or red tag that screams, “Sale! Buy me!” When I raced down the aisle, threw other random items into my cart, I spotted the  “Sale!” tag near the dishwasher tab section and grabbed an unfamiliar brand. “Oh well, it’s on sale.” I thought to myself. “It’s probably fine.”

Thinking nothing of it, I walked over to the cashier, paid and went home.

In our house, we keep our dishwasher tabs in a dark corner of the cupboard under the kitchen sink. We have to reach beyond the nearly full compost bin and grab the tabs from the bag or bucket each night.

After I arrived home, I threw the bag into the cupboard and went on my merry way.

It happened the first night. The dishes were still disgusting after the final wash cycle.

“What’s this?” Mr. L asked and held up a grungy glass.

“Hmm.not sure maybe the setting was on a quick wash. Run it again.”

We do that, over and over. The next load was a little cleaner but there were less dishes. We had spent a lot of time eating out over the weekend.

Sunday night. The dishes were supposed to be clean, after all it worked once, but they were still sort of grungy. “Maybe it’s the new dishwasher tabs, I got a new brand. Just use it and I’ll get a new one next time I’m at the store.”

I left Monday night for a mini trip to take pictures of our new rural digs and to order furniture. I arrived home Tuesday and my elder daughter, Elizabeth was unloading the dishwasher.

“Ewww.these are still dirty.” She shoved her small hands into the the large, yellow gloves not wanting to touch the clean/dirty dishes.

“Just leave the dirty ones.” I told her, tired and worn out after a very busy forty-eight hours.

Mr. L peeked at the dishes as well, and then at the unusually dirty dishwasher. “I hope it’s not the dishwasher.”

Remember, we are moving in six weeks.

Wednesday morning arrives. We tried to wash another load and this time, Audrey, the younger daughter was unloading the dishes.

“These feel gross.” She holds out a dirty knife like it was covered in something disgusting. I stood to the side, continued to cut up vegetables for their lunches, tried to organize my  day in my head, fed the dog and threw in some laundry.

“Just leave it. I’ll hand wash them.”

Later that day, when I finally got around to hand washing the dirty/clean dishes, I realized they were dirty, really dirty. The dishwasher soap in those little plastic tabs must be really bad. No wonder they were on sale. I managed to get out to the grocery store in the afternoon and picked up my regular brand. I was very happy, my regular expensive brand was on sale, score!

I got home, pulled out the not great dishwasher tabs from deep within the cupboard, and was ready to trash them when I actually stopped to read the bag.

Laundry Detergent. 99% natural ingredients. No perfumes. 

I bought laundry detergent tabs and have been using them in my dishwasher.

This my friends is the epitome of distraction and life’s wry sense of humour. Just when you pat yourself on the back on how well you are handling the chaos of life, you realize you not only bought laundry detergent instead of dishwasher detergent, but have been using it for the last six days.

Well, at least my kids will have no internal stains and the product was the most natural on the market.

Parents of three or more kids, find the humour. When life seems out of control, busy as hell just remember, at least you didn’t wash your dishes with laundry detergent today.








A Sunday Family Outing

January 6, 2013

Sunday is family day in our house. There is no rushing or planned extracurricular activities. One of the advantages of being a SAHM is that I try to plan the kid’s activities during the week as much as possible to keep Sunday as free as possible. We keep the kids busy in the evenings and Saturday mornings, but Sundays are for lounging. Having that second cup of  coffee with a second breakfast or letting the kids watch morning cartoons while we read the paper.  Mr. L and I take turns sleeping in (the best that you can when a two-year old is screaming, “Mommyyyy!!!!”) and we all relish in the lazy but comfortable feeling of not having to be anywhere. That is, until one kid starts getting stir-crazy, then another and when the third begins climbing up on the kitchen table once again, we know it’s time to get moving.

Today was a planned tobogganing day but unfortunately the weather did not co-operate. Instead of nice powdery snow, we had snowy rain, the worst kind of wet slushy weather you do not want to go out in. So instead Mr. L, taking initiative, suggested a trip to the bookstore where the kids could play with the toys while we took turns grabbing a few items for ourselves, then groceries with lunch out afterwards.

“Sounds good!” I agreed and off we went piling into the van. My only suggestion to the plan is that we head to the nearby big box bookstore that has a Starbucks attached. Starting my “remove addiction to Starbucks coffee” resolution on Monday meant I needed one last fix.

After scoring on a close parking spot, ordering green tea for my health conscious guy and a grande “full of fat” bold misto for myself, we head to the kids area at the back of the store. The girls are nearly running in their excitement to see the beanie boo collection and Jacob is yelling, “Choo! Choo!” over a new obsession, Thomas the train. We get there and stand in horror. They have revamped the kid area and it no longer has any toys to play with!!! Just books, in a bookstore!

We are shocked and confused. The kids are looking for the train table, or the colouring table or anything to keep their little hands busy. Six sets of hands start fiddling nervously and Jacob having wriggled free from Mr. L’s arms starts running as only a toddler boy can.

I look behind the neatly lined chapter books and sales tables thinking I am missing something and see two other parents with the same confused look on their faces.

“Does this store have the toys?” a lone Dad asks while keeping an eye on his much-behaved girls who are politely looking at the titles on the shelf in front of them.

“I guess not…” I respond.

“How about the one on the other side of town, does it have a play area?” he inquires while his girls start sitting on the ground their faces planted in their hands.

“I think so,” I say. As I look to see my girls taking fairy books of the shelf one by one to examine each title. Jacob is nowhere to be seen and I only hope Mr. L is keeping an eye on him.

The Mom with an older boy responds, “the one over by the Toys R Us definitely has a play area.”

“I guess we’ll head there, thanks!” the Dad responds and the girls are looking confused as he sits on the only wooden chair in the whole area contemplating his next move.

“What do you want to do?” I ask Mr. L who is tall enough to tower over the book stacks. “Shall we just go get groceries?”

“All right,” he responds. “I also got a call, want to meet J. and the girls for lunch?”

“I guess,” I say desperately trying to see if he has Jacob in his view. I see a blue hat bobbing around and around in a circle in the middle of the kid area.

So, with not even five minutes in the store we try to convince our brood to leave.

“Mooommm…you said we could pick out a magazine or a book for $3.00!!” my younger girl pleads her big brown eyes welling up with tears.

“Moommm..are you sure I can’t get another fairy book?” the elder girl whines.

“Mommyyy!!! No! No! I play Thomas!!!” Jacob shouts.

“I can’t drink my tea with all this going on.” Says Mr. L.

Picking up Jacob who is kicking and screaming, I hand him to Mr. L nodding towards the door.

Taking each girl in hand as I put back the fairy books they have accumulated on the floor I gently start dragging them towards the exit.

“Jacob, Mommy is right here. We go to the grocery store now!”

“Audrey, I understand I said that but our plans have changed because they don’t have a play area and Jacob has nothing to do. We’ll do this again some other day. We’re going to the grocery store and then out for lunch with your friends!”

“No Elizabeth, you just bought a new fairy book and we have ten at home to read. You don’t need another fairy book.”

“Mr. L, could you please just help me get them out of here?”

With my breath spent on managing all of them, we make our way to the van and I breathe. A lot. After all, we have the grocery store and lunch out to face today.

The grocery store we go to has lots of samples on Sundays. It’s guaranteed that we can let our kids nibble for free (which I appreciate considering how much I spend at their grocery store for our family of five) if we dare take all of them out that day. As a general rule, I try to do the shopping alone. It’s relaxing for me to putter through the store planning the week’s meals. I can appreciate the rows of red apples neatly stacked and smell the coffee beans roasting at their gourmet coffee area and everything else melts away.

When we moved into our current house, this grocery store just opened and it still has that new store feel to it. I fell in love with it, knowing I spend nearly an hour every few days here, I have emotionally invested in my local grocery store. But being alone doesn’t always happen so some weeks we trek all of them to the grocery store and rush through grabbing small bites of whatever baguette, cheese or yogurt sample they have out that day.  Today the kids are actually well-behaved and my list is smaller than usual so soon enough we are out the door and meeting our friends for lunch.

Love the grocery store!

Love the grocery store!

Our friend J. has recently separated from his wife. They have also have three young children, all girls. Mr. L and I have talked at length about the sadness of their marriage not surviving, how hard it is for all of them, how it won’t happen to us. We are also trying to maintain friendships with both parties. I met his soon-to-be ex-wife at a Mommy exercise class when Elizabeth was an infant and have had many playdates and lunches cherishing the “Mommy Group” time.

Then as our friendship moved past the “Mommy Group”  we started having couple nights out and got to know J. very well. At this time, we consider both of them our friends. Their separation was a bit of a shock as they were very private about any issues they had and always seemed to have it together. Mr. L and I feel frazzled most of the time and feel like we have nothing together.

This past year I have had three couples I know separate, one of them being my sister. It’s been one of those years. During our conversations about this, Mr. L and I both acknowledged that having kids, and sometimes when you have three or more, can put a real strain on any relationship and the reality is some of them won’t make it. It just makes it that  much more important to take a step back sometimes and not lose your relationship because it can be fragile when you both are not sleeping, worried about money, arguing over how to handle the kids and feeling overwhelmed.

In any case,  it’s nice to get together with him when he has the girls and catch-up and it gives him a bit of break. I can only imagine how going from a couple to a single with three young kids would be hard and adult conversation, even over a chaotic lunch of grilled cheese and chocolate milk would be most welcome.