From overwhelmed parent to grateful parent. Repost.

I decided to repost this blog from May, 2014. It is still relevant, albeit with some minor changes in our lives but I thought it was a good reread for this time of year for parents of three or more kids. Happy reading! 

There are generally three times each school year that leave me feeling breathless, rattled, unsure of my ability to be supermom, flying from this to that. And that was when I had just one kid in school full-time. Having two this year and a third gearing up for kindergarten in September, I wonder how I’m going to handle it all.

The first time is back to school. If you have one or eight kids this is a crazy time as you prepare you little student for their upcoming year. Second is just before Christmas break. Concerts are planned, gingerbread house making nights, presents to buy and the holidays to prepare for. Third is right now – mid-May until mid-June. Four weeks of frantic activity from everyone involved.

The kids start getting their first taste of warm sunshine. They want outside. All the time. Desperate to soak up the rare vitamin D in our part of the world and chase the explosion of white butterflies and bumblebees. Especially after a year like 2014 that has been low on the sunshine and a what seemed like we lived in the movie, “Frozen” where snow and ice-covered our land.  Trying to get them to bed at their regular bedtime is challenging, even with blackout shades as the older ones know how to raise them up and peek out the window at the sunset.

“Mooom!! It’s not bedtime yet. The sun is still out. I can’t possibly sleep when it’s not dark.”

“I know honey, but while school is still on you have to go to bed at your regular time. Read for bit.”

So they read, chat and play and don’t fall asleep until after 9 pm and it is dark outside. For some reason it doesn’t phase them getting up with the chirping robins at 630 am. The only person in the house who is still going to sleep no matter what is Jacob, the three year-old.

“I’m done everything and ready for school. Can I go in the backyard?”

“No dear. There’s still a heavy dew on the grass. You’re feet will be soaked.”

So, trying to match their boundless energy I coerce them into completing homework and practicing for upcoming recitals and performances.

Yes, every single program my kids participate have their end of year performance, recital or celebration within this four week period. If you are blessed with children who like the performing arts, it means costume trials, dress rehearsals and early morning line-ups to buy tickets to your blessed child’s five-minute routine during a three-hour show. It also means trying to prepare them for these routines the best that you can while they blow bubbles in the backyard because how can you deprive them outside playing time when they have waiting almost seven months for warm summer breezes?

But we try. Oh do we try.

end of school year

Another testament to my patience this time of year is the endless “end of school” celebrations. I admire and appreciate the school’s desires to honour parental volunteers and celebrate the end of the year. But between you and me, having three kids means I have to squeeze in trying to attend all of their school-related stuff. Spring concerts, BBQ’s, Fun Fairs and volunteer teas. Not to mention the onslaught of trying to do that last-ditch attempt at fundraising so movie nights and art nights. Trying to attend them all,  I enthusiastically cheer and really do appreciate the time it takes to organize these things and have a lovely time when I’m there. But then my kids can’t complain when their summer clothes are being pulled out of the bins as the temperatures increase and I really can’t send them in cords and long sleeved-shirts any longer. A quick check to see if too wrinkled and a sniff to see if items pass the smell-test I throw summer dresses and short-sleeved shirts their way hoping they haven’t grown out of them. Something has got to give!

Oh, did I mention soccer started? Yes, all the spring activities start during this time frame as well and with that means extra nights for picture nights and Friday evenings fraught with on the go dinners to get two kids to soccer.

In between all of the above are teacher-parent meetings as teacher’s start collecting their marks for the year and parents try to encourage their kids to “give it all you got for these last few weeks!” Time to shop for year-end gifts and decide if other parents are giving the jazz class instructor a token of appreciation and who makes the cut and who doesn’t in my quick and dirty gift-shopping spree. Having three or more kids means you also have to remember, did I give that gift to that teacher last year? Will the bus driver appreciate yet another gift card from me for coffee at Tim Horton’s or should I do something new?

Oh and I’m trying to pack for our first summer trip of the year, finish editing a book (this is where I am glad I finished it before this time period), exercise to get ready for two and a half weeks at the beach and squeeze in those last playdates with my kid’s friends because goodness knows there are some kids they won’t see all summer (gasp!) and they absolutely must have them to our house one more time.

GratitudeCiceroquote

But yet, although I may complain about how crazy life is about to get I am aware this is brought all upon myself. I can pick and choose how absurd our life gets and for that I am thankful. I am thankful I have schools in our area that care enough about their students/teachers/parents to celebrate a successful school year. It is with gratitude I give tokens of appreciation to all the people who taught my children all different things this year or kept them in safe environments. I will buy tickets to support a local community theatre group and try to coerce my relatives to come and see our kids play pirates in an hour-long play or drive to the obscure theatre to watch my daughter dance for five minutes. For these are the markers of another year gone by. One where despite the full and crazy life we have, I manage to get out once a week for a run. I get to travel a little bit with and without the kids. I completed a novel. I took my son to his first professional baseball game. These are the memories they and I will have.

And that, makes it all worth it.

One last note.

Even though all worth it, do not think for a moment that this particular mom of three, will not hesitate to pour a big tumbler of wine after dinner while the kids sing “Let It Go” to the neighbours and sit with my feet up on my toy-laden patio table looking forward to bedtime each night. For it is only after my little darlings are finally asleep and the house is quiet can I permit myself to do nothing. Absolutely nothing at all and for the next four weeks and I refuse to feel guilty about that.

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Teaching Strength – Morning Musing

 

 

Browsing Facebook this morning I spotted this image on a friend’s timeline. Usually I read these messages, make a brief mental note somewhere in my brain and move on with my day. But this one stuck with me in so much that I went back and reread it for a very specific reason.

My middle daughter, trying to keep up with the reporting tendencies of her older sister, spills all of her daily news as soon as her snowsuit clad legs hit the sidewalk. In the three minutes it takes for us to walk to our driveway, she has tried to fit all her social angst into one conversation ignoring my pleas that we wait until we are inside, warm and all sitting around the kitchen table where I try to negotiate three kids spilling to me about the good and bad of their days.

Yesterday, (as it typical of an almost seven-year old) her daily dose of problems were friend related. For weeks I’ve been quietly observing her kindergarten neighbourhood crew, two other girls, make the transition from “we all play together” mantra to refocusing their energy on each other leaving my girl as the third wheel. It is little things, not intentioned meanly (I hope!) that I can see when they get on the bus together in the morning. Simply put, the other two girls have grown closer leaving my girl feeling left out. Being a bright little girl who listens, she attempts to discuss her feelings with them telling them they are leaving her out and she feels bad.  In reality, they hear her but they are not processing it the same way as she is. They don’t see the big deal. Some days are better than others but my sense is that she is played with on their terms and only if they allow her to play instead of her deciding if she really wants to play with them.

Now in no way do I think these two girls (whose parents I know and this has been discussed how difficult a three-kid friendship can be) are intentionally leaving her out. However, the social nuances pointing to a change in their friendship.  They are increasingly avoiding her and my girl is picking up on that. So what to do?

I have tried the whole, “we should all play together” mantra which is wonderful, but she looks at me like I’m crazy.

“I’ve tried saying that. They ignore me.”

 

“Maybe you can choose to play with someone else?”

“I don’t want to. They’re supposed to include me.”

How do you tell a child that in a perfect world, yes, those kids who were your BFFs in kindergarten would always want to play with you, respect when you feel left out and alter their behaviour accordingly? She gets it. These children do not and truthfully, are only six years old. Her understanding of the situation and how to deal with it may be above what they understand. They are simply playing with who they want, each other.

Being conversation number five on this subject matter, I decided a different approach was needed.

“Do you want me to talk to their parents again? Maybe try to help them understand you feel left out? They are still your friends you know. Friendships just change sometimes.”

“No. I’ve tried telling them. They just ignore me.”

Personally, at this point I don’t think their parents would do anything that hasn’t already been done. How many times can you tell your own child they must include someone when they just don’t want to for whatever reason?

“Well Audrey, let’s think. What are the other options?”

“I could find new people to play with.”

“Yes honey. You know what, stop letting them decide what you do. You do not have to play with them. There are other girls who would love to play with you. You’ve been so focused on these two, you kind of ignore other people. Let the other girls, maybe those in your class get a chance to know you. Ask to play with them. You make the decision. Stop waiting for them to decide to include you. Take charge of what you do.”

“Yeah. I am interested what the other girls play at recess.”

“Then ask to join them. If E. and A want to play with you, let them come and find you and then you can decide if you really want to play with them or your new friends. Just be polite about it. If they want to play only together right now, it doesn’t mean they’re not your friend. But that also means you do not have to drop everything if they come and ask you to join them. You are in charge of your time. Not them.”

“Okay. I’ll try tomorrow.”

My stomach is in knots for her. Then I read this message this morning and think, exactly. That is what I want to teach her. Love yourself more.

We strive so hard to teach our children to be kind, polite and inclusive to all their peers. All wonderful attributes. But do we sometimes forget  to tell them, especially our girls, that you do not need to stay in a friendship that makes you feel bad? That friendships sometimes do not last forever and only so much can be tried before a change is needed? It may be sad, but it will be all right because another friend may be waiting around the corner, perhaps a better suited friend. Or perhaps that friend will come back one day and your friendship will be stronger.

Why are we afraid to tell them that people are agents of their own fates and should not be beholden to others for their happy moments? As long as relationships are managed with consideration, politeness and respect it is okay to walk away. I want to teach my girls to be masters of their own universe and not let their peers dictate what they do. A grand plan that will not always work out I’m sure, but I can try. Is that not my job as their parent?

With bated breath, I await her report at the end of the day and hope for the best.

Where did the pumpkin seeds go?

Minutes ticked by.

“Is it Halloween yet?”

“I want to get my costume on. Now!”

“When are we carving pumpkins?”

“No kids. Chill. It’s Monday. Halloween is Thursday.”

This was the conversation that started early last week at our house. Having to downgrade this blog to a once a week posting due to my other writing committment, a preschooler who has dropped their naps and Halloween, it is only now with Jacob taking a bit of a rare nap due to the time change, that I can try to post something about our Halloween experience.

Usually in our house, pumpkins are carved the weekend before Halloween. It saves my sanity instead of trying to squeeze carving jack-o’-lantern faces during the after school rush. In our house, three kids equals three pumpkins to gut and carve. However, Mr. L and I took a rare opportunity having my in-laws babysit the Saturday before Halloween and whom agreed to stay overnight to go on a “super date night” complete with renting a hotel room in downtown Toronto and ordering room service for dinner. (And yes, for breakfast the next morning too.) A little reprieve which was so exciting that Mr. L fell fast asleep halfway into the rented movie we were watching from the king size bed. Another luxury.

Room Service Dinner at Intercontinental Hotel, Toronto, ON

Room Service Dinner at Intercontinental Hotel, Toronto

Although a little piece of personal heaven, getting back mid-afternoon on Sunday rushing through homework, dinner and all the rest, the pumpkin carving time was pushed to early in the week, after school.

I tried to plan the week carefully. Monday – piano lessons equals no time for pumpkin carving. Tuesday – free except normal homework.  So an early dinner was planned, homework for my grade two student completed so we could get right into pumpkin carving as a post-dinner activity. I even managed to paper the table pre-bus pick-ups and lug in three good-sized pumpkins to warm up. Homework went a little later as did dinner prep and the light outside was fading fast as were my three little monkeys. Gulping back a scalding cup of coffee I rolled up my sleeves, put away the spelling duotang and opened up each pumpkin letting each kid start digging. While they made their first foray into the still cold, although thankfully not freezing pumpkins I tried to capture their grossed out faces on my camera, finish dinner and help the smaller ones. Dinner was served alongside pumpkin guts and seeds plunked onto the waiting baking sheets and my crew took bites in between pulling out stringy orange goo. Mr. L walked through the door,

“Where am I supposed to eat?”

Shrugging I suggested he get changed first or risk a splatter of pumpkin juice on his nice blue suit.

Thankfully, after a meal, he got right into the last part. The carving. As each kid chose their face, I stenciled and he carved I was able to clean up from dinner and finish the final cleaning of the other waiting pumpkins. Team work at its best. Elizabeth wanted to roast the pumpkin seeds that night but I explained they had to dry.

“Can we have them Halloween?”

“Sure.”

Pumpkins complete.

Elizabeth digging into her pumpkin.

Elizabeth digging into her pumpkin.

Next came the dreaded Halloween cake.

“Mom, I want a homemade Halloween cake this year.” Said my 7.5 year old Elizabeth her hazel eyes pleading with me.

“Oh honey, you know Mommy doesn’t bake very much. Really?”

She looked so forlorn that I immediately gushed, “Of course I’ll bake you a Halloween cake.”

“From scratch?”

“Ummm..sure.”

Wednesday. Time was running out.

“You’re making the cake right?”

“Yes.”

“I want to help.”

“How about I make it before you get home from school and we’ll decorate it together?”

“Okay!”

So after gymnastics, lunch and all the rest I started the cake. Not hard. I’ve done it before. Devil’s food cake from Betty Crocker. Best mix ever. Actually got it done before bus pick up and the three cakes were cooling on the racks. I was so proud of myself when I realized. Crap. Dinner. Wednesday is also the night I have a writing class. A must-go for me. So scrambling I pulled out leftovers for another attempt at an early dinner. During homework time, I quickly made the homemade icing. Three little hands reached for the beaters and I passed them off ignoring the “you’ll spoil their dinner” mantra in my head. Their faces were amazing. I vowed then and there always to make homemade icing. After half eaten dinners, we melted marshmallows and four sets of hands reached into the warm gooey mess stretching the white goodness all over the iced cake making spider webs. Lastly, Elizabeth added the plastic spiders. Cake complete.

“Can we have a piece?”

“No. It’s for tomorrow night.” I call blowing kisses as I run out of the door. Thankfully I am only five minutes late to class.

Spiderweb Cake

Spiderweb Cake

Halloween Night. Costumes are all tucked into three knapsacks ready for costume day at their respective schools. Little treat bags, made post-class last night at 11 pm for my kindergarten daughter and her friends are ready to go. It’s pouring outside. One nudged onto a waiting bus.  Another is gratefully picked up by a neighbour as she doesn’t want her son’s costume getting too soaked before he gets into school and has offered my daughter a ride.

“Don’t forget to roast the pumpkin seeds!” Elizabeth calls as she skips out the front door.

Wonder Woman, Batgirl, Thor and Supergirl

Wonder Woman, Batgirl, Thor and Supergirl

The third is dropped off with his big hammer. Little blonde Thor in all his glory.

Halloween celebrations have started. Having all three out of the house allowed me time to finish decorating, get the dinner table ready for a planned pre-trick or treating pizza dinner with another friend and her two sons.

After school is a blur as the kids anxiously await their friends dancing around the table. Soon our friends arrive with pizza balancing pizza boxes and we commence convincing five kids (all 8 and under) to eat at least one slice while we give out popcorn and cut up veggies. Finally it is  cake time and it is a success. All of them got a huge piece, took two bites and then the doorbell rang. Our first trick or treaters of the night. That ended our dinner as five kids went flying to get their costumes back on and out the door not caring if they had coats on or it was drizzling rain. Thankfully, we got a reprieve from the rain and spent an hour and a half chasing the kids up and down our neighbourhood.

The pizza party.

The pizza party.

“Mom, where are the pumpkin seeds?” Elizabeth asked as she counted her candy warming up on our family room floor.

Shoot. Caught red-handed. They were still on the baking sheet in the oven, but not roasted. I had forgotten about them.

“Umm…how about we do it this weekend? They still have to dry.”

“Okay.” Distracted by the bucket of candy, she is easily distracted.

Halloween complete. Week complete. Thank goodness for the extra hour on Sunday night.

But then I wake up this morning. Puttering around the house, cleaning up while Jacob nicely plays with his toys. We go to get groceries. Come home and I’m opening the oven door to get some pans out. I spot them.  There they are. The pumpkin seeds, still “drying.” Damn. Thankfully Elizabeth hasn’t mentioned it yet. Maybe I can surprise her and roast them this week. A nice reminder of Halloween.

Post-Race Round Up

It is hard to believe but autumn is upon us! The first official day today and the weather has gone from balmy humidity to crisp fall air in a microsecond. All I am thankful for is that I finished my first mini Tri race last weekend when it was cool but not crisp outside!

Yes, I finally reached my own personal fitness goal. The race was swam, cycled and ran last Sunday at Lakeside, Ontario organized by MultiSport Canada. A four-hundred meter swim, ten kilometer bike and two-and-a-half kilometer run all in one shot. I reached deep into my own stubborn nature and pushed my training the last two weeks getting ready determined not to let my first race intimidate me. How do you train with three small kids? In truth, pockets of time are so precious that more and more thought goes into how I spend any time I can carve out for myself. This race took precedence over everything else. I had committed to it and was determined to finish it. I went swimming at night after I had kissed my babies good night at a local health club. I ran in the dark the last couple of weeks. I cycled on the weekends as Mr. L napped during a mandatory quiet time in our house.

We managed to fit it in my training and Mr. L was supportive, for the most part. I tried to run anywhere I could. My little guy, still at home with me most of the week, would jog with me to the park his cute little laugh echoing down the quiet streets once the older kids went back to school. At times it was tough to fit in training. Family events, a friend who needed a shoulder for support, Mr. L’s insanely busy schedule. They all took precedence over the training because for me, my training does come second. It is as important, but being flexible and creative organizing my time was paramount. I had to be okay if my Sunday morning planned run was delayed because we decided at the last-minute to squeeze in one more family outing. I still did it, just later that day.

Two out of three kids with me at starting line.

Two out of three kids with me at starting line.

Race day came. I plunged into crisp lake temperatures on a gray day as my family looked on cheering. I ignored the weeds at the bottom of the lake and used whatever stroke felt right swimming to the  finish line praying I would not have to pull the cap off and wave down one of the nearby aides. I shook off the stiff fingers as I pulled socks over wet feet and tried to do up the laces on my shoes ignoring the others bypassing me in transition as I stumbled over what shirt to pull over my wet bathing suit. I groaned but kept pedalling up the rolling hills of the Ontario countryside cursing myself for only road bike training on the flat and safe streets by Lake Ontario. I threw my bike onto the rack and hit the pavement during the run ignoring my feet that had gone numb from the cages on my bike and let my legs do their job. And I finished, not last and not feeling like a truck hit me. My family was at the finish line cheering me on as I sped up and I felt great. Great for finishing and then cold. Asking for a sweater to pull over my quickly cooling body, my sister-in-law asked, “Wasn’t that fun?”

Finish Line. Photo by Zoomphoto Inc.

Finish Line. Photo by Mike Cheliak My Sports Shooter

Fun? No. No it wasn’t. Challenging. Satisfying. Absolutely. I had set a goal and accomplished it. But fun? It was not the first word that came to mind. My hip hurt, a residual post-pregnancy ache that will probably haunt me whatever I decide to do next for the rest of my life. I was tired. I was cold. I was hungry. It was absolutely nice to see all the encouragement from my family, the other racers and the great spirit of camaraderie at the event, but for me, fun? Not really.

A week post-race where I indulged in massage, chiropractic care, a facial and even a new pair of running shoes (Hot pink Saucony pair much lighter weight than my old clunkers. This alone is new behaviour!) where my only exercise was chasing my kids and a couple of much-missed yoga classes (something had to give during training and it was yoga which I desperately missed), my hip is still aching. I got some writing done for my new class I started as well a couple of weeks ago with my new free time. However, as much as I resist, the fitness mama has been born. My body used to the regular activity and exercise craves a run down by the lake or a few laps in the pool. Even a quick bike ride. Something that gets my body moving. I know something has shifted, slightly, when yesterday morning during the girl’s tennis lessons, instead of hiding drinking another cup of coffee typing on my laptop, I asked Mr. L if he wanted to play tennis instead. I needed to move.  To help my hip, I have to balance light running with training to give it a chance to rest but my body is starting to scream…no! Get out before it snows. This alone is a new outlook for this parent who craves a good nap, warm bed and good book.

So what is the lesson learned from this experience? Do it. If you’re thinking about it, go for it. It may be fun, challenging or a goal but whatever your reason, if you want to do it, you can.  If I can find time to train for a mini tri, you can find time if that is what you want to do. I did this as a goal and truthfully, to get my behind moving knowing I needed a bigger goal than “let’s go to the gym” to reach for helping create what is I hope a regular lifestyle choice for me that includes some fitness. The biggest question people have asked me this past week, “Are you going to do it again?”

Without hesitation I answer, “Yes. I want to better my swim in open water.” Even six months ago, I had no idea I would say something like that and mean it. Than I usually add, “And maybe have some fun next time.” Because, at the end of the day, if you cannot find the fun in what you are doing, what is the point?

Refresh and Recharge

Drinking wine at lunch on a sun-soaked patio overlooking a glorious turquoise pool. Having a nap, in the morning after a full breakfast complete with egg-white omelette that I did not make. An impromptu massage before a 9 pm dinner. Glasses of wine served in pristine glasses overlooking beautiful vineyards. Feeling a cold wave crash over your head fighting the Niagara Rapids in an open jet boat. Having a conversation with adults (including a husband) that is not interrupted by “please do not eat with your hands.”

These are a few of the precious memories this mom of three took with her into this past week from a luxurious, too-short mini trip away with Mr. L to Niagara-on-the-Lake. An agreeable grandmother who took on all three of the kids (plus the dog) for a weekend so we could sneak away for some much-needed R&R led to a weekend full of food, wine, friends and fun. And much too short….

IMG_6208

I could write away with abandon on everything we did, the amount of wine consumed, the delicious food, but all I will state is that if in the area, Niagara-on-the-Lake and Pillar and Post are two of my favorite things right now and if you can, run for a visit.

Poolside at Pillar and Post

Poolside at Pillar and Post

Instead, it became clear to me how much I needed a little recharging. As parents, couples well, people, I find if we don’t find a balance in life and slow down, life can turn from being busy and full to difficult and something you have to endure. As a mom home alone with three kiddies, dog and on her own for much of the time, it was a necessity.

The whole trip was based upon another couple. Good friends who were celebrating their twentieth anniversary, they had never been away from their son for one night. He is now sixteen. At dinner a winter ago, and after a cocktail or two the subject of their upcoming “china” anniversary came up. I volunteered to take them on a wine tour, something they have never done and we would make a weekend out of it. Planning is a strength for me, even in these crazy days, so with a little research I booked everything and then tacked on an extra night for Mr. L and I as a belated anniversary gift to ourselves.

From www.clipartof.com

All during the spring and early summer I looked forward to our weekend knowing that my hard work at home with the kids would be rewarded. And it was, very nicely. It was a picture-perfect weekend, (except for my red-eye due to severe allergic reaction this year to ragweed) and it seemed the weather gods had even listened providing the perfect weather to take a wine tour and enjoy the posh amenities at the Pillar and Post.

The other couple was so grateful  and had enjoyed themselves so much, another tentative trip back is planned in January. I have a feeling now that they have a taste of alone time away from the responsibilities of house/child they will crave more of it. Or perhaps they were finally at a place where they felt comfortable to leave their son for a night or two with good friends or family. Either way, the embraced the weekend.

For me, a SAHM who spends most of her time catering to the demands of four other people,  these carved out chunks of time are a welcome respite from well, normal life. I learned on this trip that it was not only me who craved and appreciated these times. Mr. L and our friends enjoyed a couple of days away from, well, the kids. Time away could be something as simple as a visit to my mother’s house, alone, but to be able to hear one’s thoughts for even a day is welcome. I have been known to take long walks to clear my head in order to achieve a little clairty.

In the everyday rush of life, I think sometimes we forget a bit of silence, rest and enjoyment from pleasures like a bike ride down a country road can work tiny miracles upon ourselves. It has done wonders for me this week. I feel calmer. My head feels a bit clearer. I can see things not as a constant to-do list but the big plans ahead with time to complete what I need to do. Life does not seem as overwhelming. I call it the “post-vacation high.” Sometimes it lasts a few days, sometimes longer. But I will soak it in while I can.

And on the upcoming days when things seem to start to spin out of control, I will close my eyes and picture the vineyards and remember I can go back. Even for a day. Soon.

Summer Musings.

Monday. The day I have been looking forward to.

“Really?” you may find yourself asking. “But why?”

In the most basic way, I am free this week from camps. It was a day we could wake up and just float through the day puttering around. Last night as my pen wrote at a frantic pace filling in plans for August followed by the quick tapping of inserting all of the plans in my iCalendar, I came to realize how fast these summer weeks can fill up. My lofty dreams in June of hiking down the local trails with three little kids have given way to blocking out precious time at home where the most exciting part of our day is a trip to the library. I have no idea how this snuck up on me. Trying to plan a park/picnic playdate with a friend who I have not seen in a long time, I realize with horror we only have three open days in all of August. How is this possible?

Part of me embraces the rich experiences we will have and people we can share our summer with and the other wants to run and hide playing board games with two older ones in our rec room while Jacob naps and stop answering calls, texts and emails.

So, I will protect those days like a fierce tiger mama and try to remember it is all brief. Soon enough school bells will ring and my voice will become once again raspy as I plead with three kids to get out the door. I want my kids to have a fun and full summer. I have the rare opportunity of being able to be with them for two months and see all their little eccentricities.

Now all of the above is coming off a crazy mixture of insane baseball playoffs for our two girls Saturday morning followed by trying to celebrate our eleventh anniversary Saturday night. Having three or more it was a “divide and conquer” type of weekend. I took Audrey to her baseball play-off/fun day and Mr. L took Elizabeth. We flipped to see who would take Jacob with them. I won. Now we love spending quality family-time with him, but a rambunctious two-year old trying to emulate his older sisters in well, everything, would spend some of the time running onto the field trying to also play baseball. So, I ensured to pack his mitt and plastic bat along with a few choice Tonka trucks to play with in the gravel dug-out if need be. The text messages from Mr. L started as soon as we arrived at our noon hour game,

“It’s raining here and I didn’t bring an umbrella.”

‘”:(” I wrote back while trying to grab Jacob’s attempt to hug his sister as she went up to bat.

“Damn” I thought to myself, “hope it doesn’t rain here. Good thing I brought my umbrella.”

Audrey and her baseball trophy.

Ten minutes later another text from Mr. L.

“It is POURING here and they are still playing. I have to go to the bathroom but can’t find it. I am soaked. There is nothing to eat, you said there would be a concession stand.”

“:(” Then I added, “Look around, they said there would be a concession stand. That is probably where the bathroom is. I don’t think there is one here either.”

As I pop up our umbrella watching the drizzle of rain start to fall but happily watch Jacob munch on the pizza organizers of the league had brought over to the parents/siblings.

I can’t help myself. “They brought us pizza, thank goodness. Jacob and I were starving! ;)”

After that I don’t get too many other text messages.

After eleven years of marriage, kids and everything in between, I’ve learned how to get my digs in now and then. After all, I spent the entire baseball season driving one, two or sometimes all three to various baseball diamonds since May sitting through freezing cold nights wrapped in blanket, arranging babysitters for the other kids when he couldn’t make it home on time, boiling in the heat and sitting in the rain. I thought it fitting I get the better end of the deal this last Saturday.

The day ended with Mr. L taking a nap once our babysitter arrived and waking upon my  nudges (and a huge cup of coffee) so we could make our dinner reservation. Good thing he sent me a beautiful bouquet of roses earlier in the day!

Eleven year anniversary!

Eleven year anniversary!

After the baseball frenzy of Saturday, a quiet Sunday was very much welcome. Our first inaugural family bike ride with two out of three riding was a milestone for our family. How much I look forward to future bike rides!

First family bike ride!

First family bike ride!

Yet, as it goes during the summer, my parents stopped by with their anniversary gift. They had brought beautiful plants for our backyard, which they planted, bonus!  I have learned over the years to welcome last minute visits, embrace them even, especially during the summer. After all, it was a couple of hours the kids had doting grandparents to entertain and all I had to do was get out a casual picnic lunch eaten on our patio enjoying the garden. Bliss.

Looking ahead to August, it may be busy but I will look forward to the things that fill our days. After all, summer will be over before we know it.

Chucking the checklists, at least once in a while!

From sheknows.com

From sheknows.com

Checklists. A parent (or parents) of three or more kids rely on checklists. Checklists on my iPhone. Checklists on my calendar. It seems there is a constant checklist in my brain. Sometimes I can turn it off and remember life is not about checking items off a list. Other times the list seems so huge I give up and take the kids for ice cream.

How many checklists can one person have? For myself; one for me, one for the household stuff I am responsible for (which is most of it), one for each child (so that is three), the dog, the occasional request to help with Mr. L’s business and then if we make any plans, an additional checklist of packing items for road or overnight trip. Each day I have anywhere from eight to ten checklists to be considered. I love them and I loathe them.

However, the feeling I get from checking off a major item is very satisfying. For example, I have a fitness checklist for myself. It is more of a goals list, but at its essence, it is still a checklist. Finish a 5K run. Check! (Yeah!) Immediate pat on the back. Borrow road bike. (Check!) Plan out another mini checklist for training for said Try a Tri. (Sort of check.)

My training, as with other parents, is very dependent on other people’s schedules. My kids, our family commitments and life in general including weather. There are some days when it seems easy to fit it in. Kids asleep, weather fair, head out for scheduled bike ride. Check! Other days, all good intentions fall to the wayside. Pick kids up from camp. Head to health club to fit in swimming laps while kids splash around in pool with Mr. L and eat their Friday night pub-ready grilled cheese. Swim five of ten laps and realize Mr. L cannot chase two-year old and fight off wasps attacking our food at the same time. Reinforce my belief that men (or my guy in particular) although great in some things, cannot multi-task children with other activities. Swim-time aborted. Black clouds roll in. Winds and pouring rain ensue. Bike ride planned for the evening cancelled. Take kids home and feed them microwaved s’mores. Indulging in the gooey deliciousness myself because lets face it, who can resist s’mores? Summer fun. Check!

Wait, all of that was not on my check list! However, seeing my kids messy faces and happy smiles as we put on a rare evening cartoon after indoor s’mores and then tucking them into bed after followed by continuing to watch the amazing lightening display last night over our house. Mr. L finishing some work so we could enjoy Saturday without any distractions. Perhaps not on my planned checklist, but it is okay. Sometimes life cannot be planned by a checklist.

One thing I try to remember each summer is that for us, summer is short. Before too long we will be in the midst of school and activities wishing we could return to a July night eating treats before bed. As much as I depend on our checklists to keep us semi-organized, letting them fall by the wayside is sometimes more fun.

As the sun sets in Tel Aviv.

Being the first day everyone seemed to be feeling better and after lounging poolside for most of a day, Mr. L and I leaped at the opportunity to sneak out for dinner on our own. My in-laws were kind enough to offer to babysit, so after showers and tucking them into bed with kisses on their sunburnt cheeks, I finally got to play dress-up with one of the few dresses we had bought on our shopping trip.

Mr. L and I chose a restaurant close by and within walking distance. Just in case we needed to make a quick escape home. After all, we were coming off all three kids not feeling well and it was the first time his father and his wife had looked after our kids. As we walked hand in hand we ventured through Nahlat Binyamin, a lovely pedestrian area full of textile shops where an Arts and Craft market sets-up twice a week.

Nahlat Binyamin

Nahlat Binyamin

Continuing on, we came upon, Tracklin, a romantic candlelit restaurant. We were seated and promptly greeted by a charming server who introduced us to a local Israeli wine. Sipping our glasses we placed our order and settled in. It was refreshing to be out on our own enjoying each other’s company, good food and wine. A plate of warm bread was placed before us and we nearly devoured it.

Tracklin Restaurant

Tracklin Restaurant

A delicious combination of Italian artichokes with goat cheese later and a melt-in-your-mouth slow-cooked ribs that was one of the specials of the night later we were feeling very full so we nearly passed on dessert. I am so glad we chose not to! On the dessert menu was a chocolate mousse, a dessert that is my kryptonite, so we decided to share it. Although in hearing about the dessert choice, I had inquired about a dessert I did not recognize, (Shocking but true!) called Mallibee.  Mallibee is a custard dessert that is garnished with fruit, fruit sauces, dates, nuts – pretty much any topping. Our kind server brought us one “to try” and we were delighted not only with the service, but the dessert. Mallibbee will be my new favorite dessert when eating out in Tel Aviv.  Later that week when telling Mr. L’s family about it, D. our host at one brunch, made this “little piece of heaven” for our last family get-together. We so much enjoyed it that I am currently trying to score the recipe. After a pleasant night out and feeling re-energized, we were ready to continue our family adventures in Tel Aviv.

Italian Artichokes Appetizer

Italian Artichokes Appetizer

Slow-cooked ribs

Slow-cooked ribs

Walks on the boardwalk after dinner one night, trips to Carmel market where Elizabeth took her cherished ten shekels she had been saving to buy a large cup of freshly squeezed orange juice and visits to the park we soon found ourselves in the last few days before our trip back to Canada.

Elizabeth loving the orange juice stand!

Elizabeth loving the orange juice stand!

Jacob on the boardwalk.

Jacob on the boardwalk.

Low-grade fevers prevented some of our pre-planned activities from happening, but we did manage to get out to the Arts and Crafts market. Another great place to spend a morning when travelling with kids (or solo!). But ensure to get there early! By eleven am the place is busy and hot! Amongst the jewellery stands, hand-glass blown vendors and dragging our kids away from the people making huge bubbles with bubble sticks, we managed to pick up a few gifts for loved ones back home. The kids also got to see a glass artist torching his pieces of glass to make unique necklace pendants or animal shapes. A must-see for any visitor to the market.

Arts and Craft Market

Arts and Craft Market

Stained glass art.

Stained glass art.

Our last few days were filled with family/friend visits where we lingered trying to get in our last piece of conversations and make plans for future trips. The kids were spoiled with treats and hugs from the warmest people I have had the pleasure to meet and we lamented that our visit had to end so soon.

Jacob with Israeli cousins.

Jacob with Israeli cousins.

Mr. L and I managed to get in one last dinner out. Dutifully researching via TripAdvisor, he had chosen a place that was again walking distance again from our apartment. Upon sharing his choice with the cousins one sunny afternoon lounging in the backyard looking upon a lemon tree, they chastised him for choosing a good, but too casual of a place for a date night with your wife. A phone call later from M. and we had scored a table at one of Tel Aviv’s top restaurants by the sea, Raphael.

Getting fancied up in my LBD, (another new purchase courtesy of my FIL), we hailed a taxi and walked down the steps into a modern, low-lit restaurant decorated in black and whites. In no rush and ordering one of our last plates of humus, I enjoyed a wrapped vine-leaf appetizer stuffed with fragrant rice and lamb followed by a light and refreshing dish of white fish. Deciding to go easier on the desserts, we opted for a gelato dessert and I ordered a pot of delicious mint tea that came in a stunning silver tea set. Walking down the boardwalk after dinner, we talked about our trip and plans for next year.

Raphael Restaurant, Tel Aviv

Raphael Restaurant, Tel Aviv

Tea Time

Tea Time

Our last day in Israel was spent, where else? At the beach. We relented and got the kids their heart’s desire, frozen ice cream treats from the guy shouting on the beach, and they devoured them in between eating snacks and ordering our last meal beach side.

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Audrey looking at the waves.

Jacob and I.

Jacob and I.

Elizabeth enjoying ice cream at the beach.

Elizabeth enjoying ice cream at the beach.

As we packed up the apartment, trying to stuff extra clothes and gifts into already full luggage, doling out Advil to still lingering low-grade fevers we dealt with the onset of tummy troubles that would follow us on the plane and home to Canada for a week. The kids were awesome going through line-up after line-up at Israeli security and enduring a twelve-hour flight.

We arrived home at YYZ (Toronto) just in time for Canada Day and are now straight into the first week of summer vacation.

One trip was over. The biggest trip this Mom with three kids has taken and we not only endured but I learned a lot about my kids and our family. Most importantly was that we can do it. We can travel, survive and have a good time. We will be planning our next family adventure soon.

Last sunset overlooking Tel Aviv.

Last sunset overlooking Tel Aviv.

Through illness and hot days we continued…

The morning I woke up with the feeling that someone was stabbing knives into my stomach, I knew that was it. I was going to be down and out for the day. My new mother-in-law’s words came floating back to my mind the night before at dinner, “You are looking pale. Are you okay?” (Translated by Mr. L as she speaks only Romanian or Hebrew.) I had brushed aside her comment with a smile stating, “I am always pale.” Being a freckled redhead I am quite used to these comments.

Yet, here I was, the morning after, clutching my stomach in pain and cursing a very contagious viral bug we had all picked up. Steeling myself, I made a decision to try to at least make something of another beautiful day in Tel Aviv for the rest of the family. After all, had not we dragged two ill girls to a family meeting a couple of days before? If they could do that, I could do this.  Certainly I could return the favour. So after a shower, two sips of coffee and breakfast of plain toast, we piled everyone into the rented large vehicle to check out Old Yafo.

Mr. L and I had been here on our last trip eight years ago and I had loved the old buildings and stone staircases. It is one of the must-see tourist attractions  when visiting Tel Aviv. Feeling my adrenaline (and Advil) kick-in we walked down by the old Yafo Port by the boats and warehouses that are being turned into artist spaces and lounge-type restaurants. Finally finding the staircases up to the square, we made a go in the increasing heat with Mr. L carrying the stroller and me carrying Jacob when his legs got tired. Step after step the girls were squealing in delight at the secret passageways and doorways that opened up into artist studios.

Old Yafo-Tel Aviv

Old Yafo-Tel Aviv

Finally reaching the top, we felt the full force of the heat as it radiated off the white stone and the kids ran to the fountain in the hopes of feeling a spray of water on their faces. Feeling light-headed myself I looked anywhere for shade when Mr. L suggested an ice cream stop at a nearby umbrella-clad Gelato place. Sitting under the shade as I sipped water to calm my rumbling stomach the kids tried to eat their ice cream before it melted. Knowing I had reached the end of my ability to be out, I suggested we walk back to the car, quickly. Although not feeling well, I could appreciate the open square and remembered the main staircase from our last trip. I lamented it would be nice to come back for dinner to one of the many restaurants looking over the sea.

Staircase to Old Yafo

Staircase to Old Yafo

However, we walked back down the hilly street to the waiting car and I made it back to the apartment just in time and put myself to bed for the rest of the day.

The next day, I was feeling shaky and but we decided to head out for a morning at the beach to get some fresh air. Afterwards we met up for dinner with my in-laws for an Italian dinner on Rothschild Avenue. The deliciously fresh spaghetti mariana with fresh mozzarella cheese felt like heaven in my empty stomach. Jacob was getting a bit grouchy, so I took my girls up to the rooftop patio for ice cream as we looked at the sunset. As they drew pictures of the sunset and ate their dripping ice cream bars, I relaxed knowing that even though illness had hit our little family, we could still enjoy something simple as ice cream and a sunset.

Spagetti - good for an empty stomach!

Spagetti – good for an empty stomach!

 

Post-dinner ice cream.

Post-dinner ice cream.

Taking advantage of a day when we all seemed to be feeling well, Mr. L suggested we take a break from the beach and head to the Gordon Pool.  Packing up our gear and picnic lunch, we navigated traffic, parked nearby and walked down towards the pool. An oasis from the sand and sun in downtown Tel Aviv the lounging chairs and large umbrellas provided a luxurious and kid-friendly environment. Overlooking the marina and sea, it is a beautiful place to take in the sun, play in the kiddie pool, splash around in the salt water pool or swim your lap at the designated swimming lanes. Clean change rooms and showers  inside the corresponding health club made a nice change from the quick beach-side showers we had become accustomed. It was a pleasant way to spend a day after the last few days of illness for nearly everyone.

Gordon Pool, Tel Aviv

Gordon Pool, Tel Aviv

More to come….

In the heart of Tel Aviv lived a family…for awhile.

Tel Aviv, Israel

Tel Aviv, Israel

Downtown Tel Aviv is a compact city full of white cement buildings. Laundry hangs from rooftop lines or on patios and you quickly get used to hearing the clanging of pots through open windows as neighbours prepare dinner.  The nearby sea provides an occasional breeze during the heat of late June and is beautiful backdrop full of ever-changing shades of blue. The Kerem neighbourhood near the Carmel Market is busy as people hurry to buy flowers, wine or cheese from the local cheese stand and our family quickly became part of the ebb and flow of people walking around the neighbourhood. One morning the corner coffee shop barista started making my morning cappuccino as I sluggishly walked towards his shop and he cracked a long-awaited smile confirming, “One sugar? To go?” I knew then we were starting to feel at home in downtown Tel Aviv as I placed my ten shekels on the glass deli counter with a nod in exchange for a piping hot cup saying “Ken. Toda!” and made my way back to the apartment we had rented up the street.

Around the corner from our apartment is the Shuk (Carmel Market) and is a hub of activity from early in the morning until end of day. You can buy pretty much anything you need at the market and it is very convenient to be able to run out on a moments notice to pick up food or supplies. Trays of freshly baked chocolate croissants or burekas lay in tidy rows or various piles of fresh olives to taste to help you choose just the right one to take home are hard to resist amidst the fruit and vegetable stands. If you cannot wait until later to eat, there are falafel stands or fresh melon grilled right in front of you to appease hungry stomachs. The best tip for heading to the Carmel market is to go early before the crowds appear and you are swimming like fish upstream trying to pile your groceries into your cart or stroller. When travelling with kids it can be a bit overwhelming and hot for little ones so going early is a must. For older kids it can be an interesting experience once they realize they can dip into that bag from the baked goods stand and munch on fresh pita or know that the juice guy will toss them a slice of freshly cut orange as they squeeze a frothy concoction of apple and orange juice into a plastic cup. Elizabeth quickly got used to our daily morning stroll as the two of us joined the crowds to grab croissants still warm from the oven for breakfast, coffee for Mom and a glass of fresh juice for eight shekels, which she insisted on paying for herself. We would navigate around the forklifts delivering produce to the stands and motorcyclists heading to work carrying our groceries the short walk back to our apartment.

Baked goods at Carmel Market

Baked goods at Carmel Market

Fresh olives and eggs.

Fresh olives and eggs.

After one particular morning, we thought a reprieve at the nearby park was a must for our kids after a larger grocery day letting them munch on snacks as Mr. L quickly took our groceries back to the apartment. A huge benefit to having an apartment in the heart of downtown Tel Aviv is everything is five minutes away.

Park near our apartment.

Park near our apartment.

One evening we decided it was time to check out one of the other fabulous beaches near my in-laws. As much as I enjoyed the downtown Tel Aviv beach, it was a fabulous break to go to Tel Baruch Beach on the north side of the city. Reminding me of downtown Miami with palm trees and manicured lawns and streets lined with pristine apartment buildings, this particular area is popular with seniors and families.

The beach was quieter and very family oriented with a playground. Heading away from the lifeguard area to a quieter area on the other side of the cove, the water was warm and although a little deeper, the kids had a blast finally seeing sea shells to collect. The nearby restaurant, Blue, was relaxing with couches to lounge in for a casual dinner after our swim. There was a huge sand pit for the kids in the middle of the restaurant complete with cube shaped bean bag chairs and we enjoyed dinner as the kids ran in between the table and the sand pit. It was a lovely way to end the day.

Little man checking out another beach.

Little man checking out another beach.

Blue Restaurant, North Tel Aviv, Israel

Blue Restaurant, North Tel Aviv, Israel

Unfortunately, the tummy troubles hit again the next day and although we attempted a morning in Old Yafo and managed to explore the oldest stone staircases of Tel Aviv grabbing ice cream to cool off, we quickly headed home where I was put to bed for the rest of the day.

Climbing the steps in Yafo-Tel Aviv, Israel

Climbing the steps in Yafo-Tel Aviv, Israel

Entrance to main square in Yafo-Tel Aviv, Israel

Entrance to main square in Yafo-Tel Aviv, Israel

The duration of the trip we spent changing plans as on again and off again low-grade fevers combined with rotovirus symptoms hit most of us. Unfortunately it did cast a bit of a shadow on the rest of our trip, but we managed to take things day by day and see how different family members felt. Dealing with illnesses, thankfully not serious, while travelling means you quickly learn to just enjoy each day or sometimes each hour. The times when the five of us could all go out together became quickly limited as Mr. L and I switched off being at home with one or two of the kids while the rest of the family went out, even if only for a stroll to the park.

More to come….