Summer 2019 – All The Feels – Travel Tips

Fitz and Tantrums put out a song recently called, “All The Feels.” The phrase has become used by, pretty much everyone the last couple of years, but especially my kids. I re-listened to the song today and realized why it was an instant hit. It comes at a time when everyone, our kids included, attempt to deal with trying to figure out “all the feels” they have each and every day.

As a parent, trying to navigate “all the feels” can be tiring, exhausting but so important. In fact, dealing with “the feels” is something I navigate daily especially as a parent of three or more children, sometimes those feels come at me all at once, and I forget what kid is feeling what. Thank goodness that two out of three have no issue telling me their feelings.

Our family just got back from our annual summer trip. (More to be written about this later.) There were lots of feels revealed on that trip. After working tirelessly to provide a balanced journey of exploration, rest and fun – as always when we travel with kids – it doesn’t quite work out that way.

This year our family traveled to Italy followed by a cruise on the Mediterranean. Planning a trip this way is the first time we have experienced combining two types of trips – one exploring a new part of the world combined with a place where (we hoped) everyone could relax.

In preparation for our trip, I asked our 8-year-old, 11-year-old and 13-year-old  for input. I tried this tactic and am a firm believer that they should have a say on at least one activity. I got standard answers of, “I don’t know,” or the best response, “I just want gelato.” So most of the details were left mainly to me. (Not to say Mr. L didn’t pitch in – he did on so many logistical levels to flights, hotels, and navigation.) My kids, like so many other kids, even when I emailed the older one’s articles or left out Italy travel books hoping to spark any ideas – had almost zero interest in helping plan a family trip. That is fine, I could do it myself. But I also know how it will go – or should have known.

The feels started the second day. Italy was under an intense heatwave – unfortunate timing, but in reality, nothing to be done. We also rented a house that did not have air conditioning. Now most accommodations in Italy do not have a/c, and I prepped all the family members for when we talked about heading to Italy about this fact, but it was promptly forgotten as the house turned into a sauna during the day.

So, keeping the heatwave in mind, time differences and the ages of my kids – I tried to be patient. I did not, as past experience has taught me, expected full-on enthusiasm for all the details on the trip. After all, traveling with 7 people (my parents came along for the ride) leads to “all the feels.” But the days when the whining would not stop, one kid was crying, or I was lecturing in a rental car on behavioral issues, the thought once again crossed my mind, “Why do I keep doing this? Is it worth it?”

I hope so. I wish on some level the kids take away some good memories, some unique experiences, and eventually, an appreciation for the amount of money and effort parents put in to pull off traveling as a family. This kind of travel isn’t for the faint of heart and not for everyone. I’m not sure it will be for me every year. Patience is an ever-elusive trait I am constantly trying to reach for and thank goodness I had some yoga breathwork in my toolbox to take me through the tough moments.

I also am cognizant that if anyone follows any other social media, I am on – the pictures show only part of the story. They tell the happy moments – the beauty that I cannot capture in words – the full heart I carry home, thankful that travel is a priority in our lives. I have to cling to the belief that for them, the experiences they have had, the parts of the world they have seen and the privilege they have to travel with us nestles itself somewhere in their beings.

But in mulling over “all my feels,” and to sit in reality for a moment – here is a cheat sheet of a few lessons that I learned while on this trip. I take these lessons very seriously and apply as many as make sense for future trips. I have to –  if I ever want to book another family trip again. They keep me going when I think, “what’s the point.”

  1. For each leg of a trip – have each person in the family make at least one decision either on an activity or restaurant to eat at – or not. Sidenote – 11-year-old Audrey wanted to try all the pizza in as many different areas of Umbria as she could. She also asked for a pizza making lesson. This “goal” saved us a few times from her “feels” as we hunted down a pizzeria in medieval villages. She even kept a diary of all the pizza she tried.  This particular child does not do well in humidity/heat and felt the almost forty degrees celsius temperatures the most out of the five of us, leading to more than one breakdown. The pizza-making lesson set up by the owner of the Airbnb and was one of the most pleasant nights during our time in Umbria.
  2. Plan relaxation time – this seems obvious, but sometimes parents forget that everyone needs downtime, especially kids. Less can be more sometimes. I tried my best to do this – we were never out late or all day and I still got complaints. If they wanted it, they had oodles of time to lounge at the house with a book, in a hammock or in the pool.  
  3. If traveling with kids – a pool is a useful distraction. It limited our choices in accommodations in Italy, but being a family of five, hotels are not always set up for our needs.  I did a lot of research to find a house that had a pool. It helped a lot with Jacob – the busy 8-year-old boy as he always had the pool to jump into. I would say either hotel or rental home – if you can – get a pool. 
  4.  Let go of any restrictions, (unless of course an allergen). It was hot and humid. They ate as much gelato and drank cold pop – even (gasp!) coke. My mantra became – will it make you happy and cool? Then eat or drink it. All you want is gelato – fine. I was drinking cold white wine at lunch and sweating it right away – who was I to judge, and it was a trip. Regular monitoring of junk food started again upon our return home. 
  5. Book the Skip The Line tickets with whatever provider you choose – do it early. I had handpicked a few things to see in certain places, but this is most important when traveling with kids. For some reason, during the planning of this trip, I didn’t even think of booking things ahead of time. I had a brain wave at the airport at the start of our journey and I am very, very glad we did it that way. None of us were prepared to wait in a 3-hour line-up, in a heatwave, to see the statue of David in Florence. It wasn’t that expensive and worth the splurge. The tour guides kept the kids entertained, provided some historical context, and we did not wait in any line ups in Florence or Rome. If you have marked something as a must-see – get the tickets and put it in the budget. 

These are the top five that I think are the most important when traveling abroad with three or more little people. The tips from the cruise we jumped on with Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines can be put into a few points:

  • Get two rooms. It’s worth it for the bathrooms alone, and if you have a kid that craves a little alone time (Audrey), then they can get it. Our introvert was a much happier camper when I told her she had an entire room to herself for an hour. I realized on this trip that sometimes it’s hard to travel with five other people, even for kids.
  • Kids clubs are places of refuge after coming off a heatwave with three kids and spending a week together. Don’t feel guilty.
  • Get the drink package – you’ll use it.
  • If your kid is too old for the kids club and too young for the teen club – they actually can be fun to hang out with. We took Elizabeth with us to a sushi-making class, Chef’s Table dinner, and she spent time with her grandparents playing bingo and hanging out with us by the main pool. It was nice to have one on one time with her, and the other two were happy in the kids club.
  • Book excursions – but not any that require a considerable amount of walking. They had walked enough the week before through Umbrian medieval villages. Air-conditioned coach buses or tours with boats are always good with kids.

No matter where you travel, be prepared for “all the feels” that comes with traveling with kids. Someone will be sad, happy, excited, angry, and frustrated, including you. Look for those particular special nuggets where everyone smiled for a picture or you think, “well that was a nice hour,” it may be how you get through some of the days. My hope – for anyone who travels and for my family – is the realization that it is worth it. Capture the best moments – learn from the not great ones and plan the next trip.

Where are you traveling to with your family?

Any tips for our next trip? Choices are: Universal Studios, Florida, Vancouver, Hawaii, Israel/Greece – or maybe we’ll be crazy and do all of them next year as different trips. Funnier things have happened.

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Third Article Up – Big Family Trip

I am happy to announce that the third in my article series about our family trip to Israel is online. You can visit the article for tips on where to go and what we did in Masada/Dead Sea and Eilat at SixSuitcase Travel.

You can find all the articles about that trip to Israel as well as all the other destinations we have traveled in my profile on the SixSuitCase Travel blog. Have you ever wondered where to travel with a large family? Ideas, tips, and pics can be found on the very informative website SixSuitCase Travel for many destinations across North America, Europe and worldwide.

Travel Article

Best Travel Tips – Travelling to Israel

During the summer our family of five travelled across the ocean to Mr. L’s home country, Israel. This was our third family trip to this amazing country that is full of sea, sand and everything you need for a memorable experience.

In this first of a 3-part article series on the trip, I provide the Top 10 Family Friendly Places To Visit in Tel Aviv. 

Enjoy!

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An ode to True Love..

True love, unlike what it says in the Princess Bride..

true love

…does not always mean finding that perfect person – the soul mate which you spend the rest of your life. Nice ideals bred out of the romantic illusion sold over the last few hundred years since Prince Charming slipped that slipper on Cinderella’s foot.

For us, Valentine’s Day is a panicked rush where I scrounge to help three children make Valentine’s Day cards for their classes while loading them up with dollar store chocolates hoping most of them are nut free. Valentine’s Day means staying up late to set a table laden with felt hearts and small gifts because a tradition was inadvertently started when your eldest child was four years old and you are now locked into it –  even if all you want to do is get yourself to bed and watch a show on Netflix or read a book. Valentine’s Day means rushing home and not getting any work done because you need to make those chocolate heart cakes for their afternoon snacks – even if it is out of a box.  You do all of these things – even if you don’t want to –  because you’re a parent. If that isn’t true love, then I have no idea what is.

From what I have learned being a parent means living every day for true love.

You know it’s true love when:

  1. Get up early every morning to make sure little people get a half decent breakfast before school.
  2. Become a taxi cab driver who works for free and drives everywhere.
  3. Sleep in your car because you’re too tired to take a walk outside after the morning school drop off and ensuing arguments in the car because a kid forgot something.
  4. Wash and fold clothes non-stop. (Or until you give up and close the door pretending laundry doesn’t exist.)
  5. Give up caring how messy their rooms are because you want them to express themselves – even if it secretly drives you a little crazy.
  6. Still say “I love you” at the end of the day – even if they are being argumentative, moody or downright rude.
  7. Walk away – at any point – without losing your cool and put yourself in a time out.
  8. Try not to cry or make a big deal when they do the dishes for you without asking.
  9. Force yourself away from the playground after you heard someone was bothering them.
  10. Finally – you know it’s true love when you keep waking up each morning and say to yourself – “It’s a new day. Today will be better.” But you secretly know it will be the same and you get up anyway.

For all the tired parents out there who may wonder who are the people who go out for a nice adult dinner on Valentine’s Day – once your kids are off their chocolate highs from the copious amounts of candy they had at school (or brought home) – give yourself a pat on the back. You know what true love really is and you live it each and every day.

vday

Will It Ever End?

blog post jan 30

Mornings. When you have three or more kids (and 4 pets), it is mayhem, pure and simple. Each day some creature needs attention, does something wrong and I look like a crazed lady with uncombed hair trying to feed, manage and send other people out into the world.

Yes, yes. I have tried all the following:

  1. Up early to have morning coffee, feed myself first, do something productive towards my writing. Plus gotten myself completely ready.
  2. Exercised with gentle yoga and meditation to enter a calm zen-like state before the first animal or child wakes up.
  3. Slept in ensuring a solid 7 hours of sleep and then, rushed alongside my children and pets to get ready.
  4. Tried to stay in bed with the hopes that the days Mr. L works from home – he would completely take over and let me rest a little more that day. (Which has never happened yet!)
  5. Taken deep breaths and tried not to raise my voice while at the same time telling myself, it is not my responsibility to ensure they have water bottles filled IF they have lost all said water bottles or to throw things out of cupboards in some bizarre attempt to ensure they stay hydrated all day. They will find a water fountain.

Some days one of these things may work but most days – nothing works. I still find myself scrambling, coaxing, pleading, begging, shouting and ultimately raising my hands in exasperation as the new kitten knocks over a bucketful of water, one kid has no mittens for winter carnival day and the third has come downstairs with unbrushed hair and clothes that fit her two years ago.

On top of that, usually some of the kids are fighting over something petty and I am again saying “hands off please,” one is in tears because of a bad dream they just remembered or a third is arguing with me that they don’t need to double-check they have proper gym clothes. (Typically she forgets at least one item resulting in the teacher finding me at pick up to tell me she forgot her gym uniform, again). So is it a surprise that I ask myself every morning – will this get better? What is the magic trick to less stressful mornings? In truth, I have tried a lot of things to keep myself and our household calm with  no long-lasting solution.

I have resorted to the hard a$$ mom who says, “If you waste my time in the morning by not being ready to go and I have to help you find a pair of waterproof mittens again, (and by the way you have lost two pairs this year), then the consequence is that I can’t get ready or feed the pets or do the marathon list of things that need to happen before we leave and all of you will be late, again, for school.”

This kind of worked. The kicker – being late stresses all of us out more and makes my whole day start late.  Or it is a bus day and they have to be ready to go by an earlier time that adds a whole other layer of crazy.

So -what is the trick? Is it just a matter of accepting that for now, while they are these ages, it’s just mayhem? That because they are not old enough to let go of all the mom-checks before they leave, (Do you have your homework? Do you have the permission form signed? Do you have your water bottle, gym clothes, indoor running shoes, mittens, coat? You do know it’s -10 degrees celsius outside? We need snow pants.), but old enough to get themselves ready and be responsible for their things this age is more difficult? Add to all of this that we have two dogs and two cats who also want outside, treats and food and need to be crated and contained before we leave unless I want my house totally trashed.

Should I just accept that these mornings, the ones that have all been on me for the last eight years with a growing brood of children, takes a toll and I need to give myself a break? Do I go back to work full-time and hire a morning nanny to help a poor mom out or just grit my teeth and wait out the winter so we can all go back to leaving the house in a t-shirt alleviating some of the pressure?

I have no idea. If you do – let me know.

Otherwise, pass the coffee- the house is now quiet. Today, I may pour a splash of Irish Cream in lieu of milk into my mug.

Little bit of this, little bit of that..

Good early, early morning!

As I have been squirreled away, typing out dark fiction stories, I realized that this blog is long overdue for an update. In truth, I’ve been struggling. Like so many of us, trying to find the secret mixture to balance children, household, travel, pets, health and of course, my own creative desires. Something had to give, so I apologize for the lack of posts but here’s another confession – I didn’t know what to write.

Being embroiled in fiction writing in 2017 with a mandate to tell as many short stories as possible, I had no ideas left on what to write about from a parenting perspective because in truth, I felt I didn’t have a handle on anything.

I know, I know. None of us do – not really. We pretend and we do our best each day but let’s face it – as these kids get older although some things are much easier – some things are much harder. The stakes are higher. You want to reach them, guide them, mentor them and give them the solid foundation – and they resist. Oh boy, do they resist. So you drink your glass of wine (or martini or tea – whatever your preference), and you realize how mentally drained you are at the end of the day and certain things, like this blog, go by the wayside. Scattered remains leftover by a busy life where we possibly cannot do everything.

And you know what? It’s okay. Blogs, books to read, projects to finish will be here when I have a bit of time or the spark of creativity focuses its lens on something other than monsters under the bed. So, this morning,  I am taking the time from my bed, still in pyjamas with our two dogs keeping my feet warm (oops!) and simply write.

Sparred by a podcast I listen to with sincere awe and dedication every Tuesday and Friday, I started realizing I had something new to say. A parenting challenge the last little while that I could share. That I even had a strategy in place when I wrote it out that I had not even realized. A simple response to For Crying Out Loud‘s last podcast turned into a huge Facebook post because something resonated – how I handle one of my children.

Being a parent of three or more kids – any kids for that matter – requires being part investigator and therapist with a dash of imagination. Each child is unique, there is no one size fits all and you know what? It’s hard. Damn hard to try to tweak your own instincts to suit another human being with their own whole host of personality quirks. But we try to do it – figure out these little human puzzles every single day – why? Because we love our kids and want the best for them.

Here’s my FB post in response to a situation that one of the hosts of FCOL when she described a challenge she was having with her older child. It resonated with me because I heard so many things – the personality, the struggle to reach that child –  that I was like – hell yes! What’s up with these type of kids?

Posted on January 16th – For Crying Out Loud – Reel It In (A closed group for listeners of the show – so go and listen to podcast and then join the conversation.)

Listening to today’s podcast where Stefanie Wilder-Taylor is describing Sadie, she could be describing my middle girl (who is almost 10). I have STRUGGLED with how to reach this bright, artistic kid who is often out-talked and overshadowed by a chatty older sister and charismatic younger brother. I’m slowly figuring it out, for now. I was fighting a losing battle, so here are some tips I am trying:

1) Listen – she often feels no one listens to what she wants.

2) Let her go at her own pace as much as possible.

3) Make deals – she had to take organized ski lessons last year – she hated it although she’s really good. I told her if she finished the session, (I explained how all I wanted was for her to learn basic skills to which she replied, I know enough.) I would not ask her to take lessons again and she could free ski. She went out for the whole two hours just last weekend, on her own, happy as a clam while the other kids were at lessons. She was happier and was skiing.

4) Give her time to think about things. I make suggestions and give her space and time to consider what she wants. Basketball this year, she wanted to go last year, she got frustrated as she was behind other girls but she stuck with it because she had asked for it. This year, I haven’t pushed her into it, I just asked what she wants to do and the date I need to know. She’s thinking and I have to practice patience and respect our agreed upon timeline.

5) It takes time to find a good fit – I have had to accept that the right teacher/coach is key for this type of child. She needs someone to bring her out of her initial shyness. Example: She is an awesome drummer/musician – was ho-hum with last year’s instructor and was unmotivated. (She’s already given up piano due to not liking structure lessons) New teacher the past two weeks and it’s like a light went on. She’s motivated and excited. 

Lastly, keep on telling her I’m on her side – that sometimes I want her to try new things but ultimately I will listen and respect what she wants to do. I found this mindset has helped, she talks more to me about what she wants and has opened up a bit – at this point I’ll take anything she gives as I feel like it’s been a long road to get her to open up and trust we’re all on the same side. If this helps anyone with a kid like this, great. At the very least, I am so glad to hear my kid is not the only one who is like this – sometimes I have no idea what to do with her!!

At the end of crafting this hugely long FB post – unusual for me – I realized maybe I do have something to share and more importantly – some semblance of a plan for my middle child.

Audrey has been brought up before on this blog – for a while I have been frustrated trying to find a way to reach this amazing child, one who remains a bit of mystery to me but who is also a mirror of some of my own inner challenges as a person and a parent. She has taught me patience, to listen and joy because when you reach her and she lets you into her world – a light goes on that makes you feel wonderful.

Do you have a child in your life that you struggle to reach? Love to hear how other parents handle these types of situations and children.

When A Carefully Built House Of Cards Collapses – You Build It Again

Yes, yes. It has been a long while since I paid any attention to this little blog. I do have my reasons.

  •  I started a new blog about our move to a rural life at Small Town Gal that I am trying to keep updated.
  • I took on paid writing work.
  • I decided to participate in NaNoWriMo again to flush out a story idea that a few encouraging people told me to finish.
  • I started binge watching Netflix, again.
  • I began excercising more seriously, again.
  • I realized I require more sleep.
  • I have three kids.

Nonetheless, I also wasn’t sure if I had anything of value to share on parenting three or more kids that I haven’t either already wrote about or was written about in the general blog, Facebook, Twitter space. After all, I’m just one mom in a million who have multiple kids and I struggle with time management, to-do lists and priorities just like everyone else.

I also had to take a step back, is it really different having one versus two versus three or more children? I think so, but maybe it’s just because I’m not great at the juggling act as others. Of perhaps it’s because I feel guilty that I find managing three little people at times, challenging and unrewarding. Maybe it’s because I just turned forty and I’m tired. Or finally, is it simply that this is my reality so I think having three kids is unique or different in some ways and I tell myself I deserve a space to vent so I don’t go out of my mind. Who really knows? Not me. It could be all of it or none of it.

mother-free-work

From mycity4kids.com

 

But now that I’m here, I have noticed that spending the last few months having little bits of time with one or only two of my adorable munchkins, it seemed, well easier. A breath of fresh air. This small thing along with discussions with others about kids made me realize something. Having kids is hard. Having more than one kid is hard. Having three or more is crazy. Crazy fun sometimes, but crazy.

This fall, I’ve been dealing with a lot of emotional management. Sometimes I do okay and other times I fail, big time. I find having kids that sponge off me physically and emotionally although necessary and wonderfully empowering as a mom who tries to be there for them that they take my advice, hugs and want me there is not so great for me as an individual who requires some personal space and time. The whole thing is sometimes very draining.

But, we have had a lot going on and they have required more attention than normal. We moved. Across the province. Away from our support systems, friends and schools. Big picture it makes sense for us. After all, this was not an easy or whimsical decision but a well thought out, hard one. Regardless, the last few months have been an emotional roller coaster for us and the kids. Happy one minute, enjoying their new home and exploring  the area with unbridled passion all seems wonderful. Then, in a snap they can be in tears. Homesick for what they know, friends they used to see everyday. So much so that it tugs at our heart strings and we wonder if we robbed them of their idyllic childhood.

I almost wonder sometimes as a parent of three or more kids, do they secretly strategize out a plan to keep me on my parenting toes? To see how much I can stretch as a mom?

This past week or so,  just as I finished dispensing hugs and encouragement to my almost eleven year old, told her  that she will indeed find new friends in her new school, the next day my eight year old starts to well up, her eyes full of tears as we leave a playdate back in our old town and wham! I’m back in the therapist chair. The house of cards is starting to fall.

Then, (oh yes..not done), I get her calmed and excited about seeing her new friend at school the next day when the next day wham! My little man, the five year old, breaks my heart when he draws a picture of two very sad stick people, separated by a line. With crocodile tears running down his face he sputtered,

“It’s me and P. Separated forever.” (P was his very good friend from SK last year who we haven’t yet visited since we moved this past summer, although they’ve exchanged a few letters only the way five year old boys can.)

The house of cards is down. Something has been triggered in all three of them. Maybe an unseen hand knocked my thriving kids backwards and I was back to square one. At least it wasn’t all at once, someone had the foresight to only give me as much as I could handle. One emotional tailspin at a time.

I picked Jacob up, he sobbed onto my shoulder and part of me wondered at the sensitive nature of my usually happy-go-lucky man. (I secretly hope he maintains this side of himself and doesn’t hide it away. ) In this moment, although he needed me both physically and emotionally, I had to reach over to stir the taco meat on the stovetop. I rocked him back and forth and told him it was okay to be sad. For on this night, I also have a starving and cranky tween daughter who kept hollering that I can’t expect perfection from her, a reaction because I made her rewrite her messy assignment.  I bit my lip and looked longingly at the glass of untouched red wine on the counter. It had to wait. At least the eight year old seemed content today.

The house of cards is down and I woke up today and started to rebuild. Because that’s what we do. Thankfully, all three of them are seemingly better this morning after a week of roller coaster emotions, the only thing I can think is thank goodness it wasn’t all at the same time.

But it  never ends, not really. There will always be one of them out of sorts. Always. For that is life as we know it and I think I’ve learned to accept that. It’s part of the deal being a parent to three or more kids, the difference if you will between having one or two or three or more kids. You oftentimes will have a fire to put out, a flare-up to manage or a full out storm so intense it takes your breath away, there are no real breaks in between. And perhaps that is what I can offer; how to survive the constant barrage on your own self. I can offer strategies to cope, suggest how to be kind to yourself and most importantly be someone who can empathize when you say, I have three or more kids. For I get it. I really do.

So for today, for all those parents who throw up your hands and ask will I have a day where there isn’t any drama from one of my multiple children? My answer is yes, yes you will. It may not be a whole day, it may be an hour, but take it. Grab tight and do something you love. For me, it was yoga first thing this morning. It calmed me. Maybe I’ll get to do it again this week, maybe, if I’m not busy with the hose.

 

 

Surviving Social Media

Bit by bit we are settling into our new digs, but it will be a long process as the five of us, plus Chip the Labradoodle and Sally the Cat, as urbanized as the rest of us, get used to country life.

Back up. What?

Yes, this urban mom, along with her even more urban husband and three children up and moved to the country a month ago. Crazy? Perhaps. But so far we’re enjoying it.

I won’t get into the whole backstory here, you can check out those details at my other site, www.smalltowngal.com where I am capturing our journey and acclimatization to the country.

As part of a way to de-stress over the past few months of packing, moving, boxes, end of school, I listened to podcasts. At first it was just a few and then I got finger happy and downloaded a whole slew of podcasts on parenting, short stories, current events, all things I could play in the background as I drove from place to place and packed up my house.

Now, living a more rural lifestyle, the trips in the vehicle are longer with kids in tow, (shockingly not enrolled in camps this summer as I had no idea about the landscape here), so my podcast listening is reduced to Story Pirates and other kid-related podcasts. Until a couple of days ago.

Having found a reliable babysitter and knowing my kids were bored to tears with my company, I took advantage and started having her babysit at least once a week so I could run into town. You see, errands that used to be quick jaunts to the grocery store have been replaced with planned errand days that take double the time. The kids are beyond grumpy and hungry by the time I drag them in and out of three or four stores to get all my groceries. A babysitter seemed a good option halfway through summer break.

On this particular errand day, I got a chance to listen to a parenting podcast called, Only A Parent (June 28, 2016 Episode). They were discussing a topic I quite enjoyed called, I’m Bored. I loved their discussion and nodded in agreement as they reaffirmed what I knew. It is okay for kids to be bored. I have witnessed (after some prompting and whining) some great imaginative moments when my three kiddies (without planned playdates or friends as of yet) coming up with ways to entertain themselves.

Part of the discussion entered around the pressure parents feel to be “the entertainment” for their kids and dove into a slight side topic of social media. You know what I mean, the Facebook, twitter, Instagram and Pinterest boards where well-meaning parents post beautifully organized crafts or ideas for “How to keep your kids busy this summer.” or “10 DIY Crafts for Summer.” I am not of that ilk, I’m the mom that pushes my kids outside with bottles of water and tell them to play in the backyard so I can get something done. But, I also try to balance that with fun stuff. We go on outings, parks, beaches, hikes, I love exploring and take the kids with me.

And I post on social media, I have for years before it exploded. What I realized listening to this podcast discussion was that I may be considered one of those people who posts only the good, never the bad and ugly side of parenting. Some people would construe my social media participation as trying to depict “perfect family moments.” And, looking back over my posts, I can see their point.

Most of my social media centres around a few things; family life, where we travel, pets, flowers, food and my personal writing. I don’t tend to concentrate on the hard days, parenting or otherwise, when I’m going nuts trying to control the puppy, wash a dish and mediate a new punching game between my two eldest girls. Or the days when I give up and just let them play WiiU and watch movies so I can think for a couple of hours. Maybe I should, but honestly, why?

In truth, social media is a way for me to connect with people. Most of our family lives overseas or away and they enjoy seeing the places we visit and pictures of the kids. Grandparents don’t want to see my kids embroiled in a nasty argument with me as I patiently try to talk to an emotional ten year old and sometimes succeed and oftentimes do not. They see that when they visit. Posts about us enjoying life, well it brightens their day, or so I’ve been told.

I also like to receive and share information. A great place to take your kids, or go on a rare date night, or even finding those quiet spots to go by yourself. I love it when I connect with someone and they tell me, I went to that place too or those times a small business sends me a quick thank you for promoting their business in my small way. Really, how else are people going to be aware of what is in their communities if we don’t share the information? Social media for me is about informing and sharing. If you notice, I’m hardly in any pictures. Because most of my social media is captured by my own personal lens, how I view my tiny area of the world, that does not lend itself to being in front of the camera.

I also like to remember where I’ve been, (okay, to be honest my memory sometimes sucks and by posting where I’ve been I can recommend things to people or go back, so part of it is journal-esque in that way). I capture a special moment and record good things about a day. Life and news feeds can be really hard to read some days and heart-breaking. By putting a little more joy or happiness out there, maybe it will help someone else who is having a bad day.

I live with my feet well planted in reality and by capturing something wonderful or memorable about our simple lives it also helps to remind me that everything will be all right. It is therapeutic for me and I realized listening to the podcast that posting on social media has replaced a regular journal. Life also moves very fast, so on those busy or harder days when I want to just stand still and yell for help, I can scroll back over my posts and remember a lunch somewhere with friends, the way the waters looked at sunset and the precious smile my youngest had eating a huge ice cream. Self-serving? Perhaps, but if it also helps others in the same boat, wonderful. Win-win.

The podcast was great, it mad me dig into a topic I really didn’t think about much. How I use social media and made me stop and think about the lens I captured our life. It also reaffirmed for me, that however you use social media, it is a personal choice. I choose to share the better in life or what I hope people may find useful or interesting. I guess at the end of the day, if you do not want to see my posts, you can always unfollow although I hope you stay. But just know, the story of my life is not carved on social media.

What you see is what I’ve mindfully chosen to share because I hope it helps, informs or brightens people’s days. The rest of it, that bad and ugly part, ask me. I have war stories to tell of being in the parenting trenches and the scars to prove it. I’m happy to share those things if someone wants it. It’s just not going to ever be part of my regular social media presence and that suits me fine.

 

I May Not Be The Best Cook But..

I had a dream, of creating home made meals from scratch, learning to bake more than muffins and having an expertly designed meal plan each week. Reality check. Three kids later and on the average, this doesn’t happen. Most times I scramble, (as a lot of parents do), to make healthy, well-balanced meals. But once in awhile, I surprise even myself.

Last week, I had a craving for pasta. Not whole wheat pasta topped with tomato sauce, the tiny frozen meatballs mixed into the pot. But pasta like I used to prepare, before the kids. The kind where I tossed it with olive oil, added whatever spices I had on hand, vegetables and protein.  Nothing complicated but always good. I would mix and match from different recipes I had learned over the years as I experimented in the kitchen. With a crusty bread and glass of wine, Mr. L and I would sit and enjoy each unique dish. It took him awhile to accept pasta as a main course, for him it had always been a side dish, an afterthought. But when he did, it was a staple each week.

Last week I went for it. I grabbed the remaining regular pasta, (the kind I keep on hand and mix with the whole wheat most of the time), leeks, garlic and some Italian deli meat that needed be used up and set them all out on the countertop. I coated the bottom of the pan with olive oil and caramelized the leeks. Added the garlic, fresh basil, salt and pepper. Threw in the deli meat and let it all simmer down, scraping the bottom of the pot so nothing would burn. The already cooked pasta went in next along with a cup of shredded parmesan cheese. It smelled, heavenly.

Once it was done I slid the whole pot into one of my pasta dishes, used rarely these days, and presented it to the family. They tried it. In a family of three or more kids, if at least one finishes your meal, it’s considered a success. I had two finish it, the third picked at it but ate half. Mr. L finished the whole thing off when he returned home that night from work. I loved it. For the adult dishes, I added a couple of dashes of Turkish Red Pepper, sent directly from a friend who lives overseas straight out of the Turkish spice market.

It was divine. It was like drinking  a cold beer after a long hike, much needed and refreshing. I may not be the best cook or have the prettiest presentation. I will never win Pinterest awards or Instagram mentions for my everyday fare. But, I can whip together a gourmet pasta dish for my family to enjoy.

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Recipe – Quick and Easy Carbonara Twist:

Half package of pasta (I find spaghetti, capellini, spaghettini works well.), Olive Oil, crushed garlic, diced leeks, Italian deli meat (I used pastrami but anything), 2-3 eggs frothed, cup of shredded parmesan cheese, salt and pepper, spice of your choice.

Directions: Boil and cook pasta al dente and set aside but try to keep warm as possible. (I strain the pasta, put it back over the pot to drip and place a lid on top. Keeps pasta moist and warm.)

Coat pot/deep pan with olive oil, add leeks. Simmer until softened. Add garlic. Cook 1-2 minutes. Add deli meat. Throw in salt and pepper. Stir in your spices of choice. Simmer ingredients scraping at bits until all the ingredients are slightly sizzling. Add warmed pasta. Add frothed eggs, toss pasta with all the ingredients in one pot and remove from heat. Cover the pot for a few minutes then add in parmesan cheese, and top with whatever other spices you want. I added the Turkish Red Pepper afterwards for the adults. Egg should be cooked and well mixed. The heat from the pasta and the ingredients will cook the eggs quickly leaving small pieces throughout. Toss together. Serve.

Enjoy!

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.