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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This kind of week.

Birthday week. The week I dread but look forward to. The week where I am thankful to be a SAHM because in truth, I have no idea how I would pull it off otherwise. Our two girls have birthdays two days apart. They are also now at an age where a mutual party is no longer acceptable. One wants a princess at the house with a few close friends. The other wants her girlfriends to dress up at a fashion party. Thank goodness for a local establishment, Sharkey’s Cuts for Kids, who provides a fashion party. Birthday celebrations started yesterday for Elizabeth, now eight years old. She requested a surprise breakfast, homemade angel food cake (she has no idea it came out of a box, but oh well!) and Chinese food for dinner. Thank goodness for delivery. Audrey turns six tomorrow morning. Being a Saturday, she is lucky to get her birthday party on her actual birthday. So Princess Rapunzel is arriving in the early afternoon. Which meant getting the house ready today and all the food. It meant attacking our rec room to make room for twelve little people to sit in a circle and listen to a princess for an hour and a half. Oh, did I mention the family party afterwards? The one where the grandparents are all arriving to celebrate with both the girls? Then Elizabeth’s friend party is Sunday. 

Unable to move after sitting to drink a cup of coffee, I crafted this email to Mr. L. 

Dear Mr. L,

I have grocery shopped, planned three birthday parties, ordered balloons, picked up decorations, ordered a cake, ordered food for our friends, cleaned up the rec room (you will be impressed), moved furniture and tried (in vain) to provide ice removal service for our driveway in anticipation that we have multiple people coming and do not want a lawsuit on our hands. I lifted bags of salt and sand to aid the ice thawing. My lower back is very very sore. I am very very tired. (I’ve given up giving up my afternoon coffee until Monday, what’s the point?) 

 Please come home. 
 
Your main duties before 10 am tomorrow include: 
Clean up of dog poop in backyard so our guests do not need to see dog shit when they eat.
Place a leaf in the kitchen table
Continue with the removal of ice in our driveway. It is fucking dangerous. The kids were falling all over. I have come to realize I do not have the physical capability to break up thawing ice and haul it upwards onto massive snow piles while trying to not slip myself and keep an eye on our kids who decided sledding down one of the snow hills on a sled onto said icy driveway was a “cool idea.” although I gave t a good shot. 
Pour your wife a glass of wine.
Rub her back and feet (sitting – did I do that today?) 
Do the dishes.
Stop at 10 pm and please watch a show with me. In our bed. Comfy where I do not have to move. 
 
I realize you are also insanely busy, but it is nearing 5 pm. Come home and take care of me and help me take care of the house. Please. 
Sincerely, 
Your very tired wife who isn’t sure how she is going to survive another birthday year.
 
Being a nice guy, he jumped the first train home. 
Maybe I can start moving, kick the kids off the TV which I haven’t the energy to turn off and get dinner ready before he gets home. Maybe. 

Reflection and Recuperation

Birthday season has ended at our house. As I sit at the computer on yet another cold winter night with glass of red wine in hand and think over this whole crazy month, I look back at February with a feeling of nostalgia. The highs and lows as well as the lessons learnt, memories cherished and let it all wash over one exhausted Mom of three or more.

This week’s theme is recuperation. My whole body feels as if it’s been on a permanent adrenaline rush and now that it is all over, I can finally feel tired. My brain is even so tired that this self-confessed television limiting mama relented today and let my exuberant and increasingly demanding toddler watch Sesame Street leaving the half-finished dishes in the sink. Cuddling with my little guy on the couch as he squirmed closer to me grasping me in a chokehold and grabbing my face to say, “Audrey crying again?” I knew there was no way I was going to our weekly tykes yoga class and permitted myself to doze in between squeezes from a pair of chubby little arms.

The weather seems to mirror my mood. Gray and wet with snow falling in between large raindrops, it is the worst part of the winter season. However, it has been one amazing month. Even through the huge to-do lists and stressing about loot bags, I tried not to lose focus on the important thing, ensuring each of my girls felt special and celebrated this month. Fortunately, I think we did that. Actually, with Valentine’s Day thrown into the mix and my decision to celebrate it this year with the family, I hope everyone in our family ends February feeling a little more special.

More winter

More winter

Having kids with birthdays so close together can mean many things. Fights between siblings about who received the better presents or had the bigger party. Having to slowly wean my children off the belief that cake, cupcakes, chocolate hearts and leftover Christmas candy is not a third food group can be daunting. My own stomach is starting to reject the sugary temptations that still litter my kitchen cupboards.

My body may complain of sore shoulders and arms from carrying bag upon bag of food for parties, juice boxes, and presents back home but all of these things are unimportant when I hear Audrey say to me, “This was the best birthday ever!” Or when I saw the look on Elizabeth’s face as she splattered paint all over herself and her friends.  The look of awe and excitement in their eyes on Valentine’s Day morning when they discovered I had decorated the table and they could have chocolate with breakfast. These are the memories I hope they will cherish. Not the few times Mommy snarled at them to get ready faster as I tried to find my breath to calm down repeating the favorite phrase of Frank Costanza, “Serenity Now! Serenity Now!”

I hope they remember the carefully written cards I had placed with their now cherished (and put away for weekend use) new iPad Minis  that Mr. L insisted on buying them. Cards with cursive writing where I told them how much they were loved and cherished by their parents and how proud we were of them both. It is hard to believe these two girls are now seven and five years old. Smarter than I will ever admit and more loving than I give them credit for, Mr. L and I have now entered the era of the girl. I only hope their little brother survives it without being paraded in the neighbourhood dressed as a girl in order to amuse his two older sisters. What girls would do that?

The girls

The girls

Have I mentioned I also come from a three-child family? Two girls and a boy. My father said it best tonight as I complained about having to pick-up and dry three pairs of soggy mittens, an age-old adage that is so true, “what goes around, comes around.”

But how will I remember this past February? Full of birthday parties, surprises and balloons that are still bouncing around our floors? Or a time when a whole group of people, family, friends, neighbours and schoolmates came together to celebrate birthday after birthday. Where at a birthday party full of thirty-one children I had hands to help without even asking. At a family get-to-gether post birthday madness as I zipped around my house pouring drinks for immediate family and ensuring all the food was ready I saw my brother and sister who have been at odds for the past year finally have a proper conversation. Where cousins snuck off together to plan the best way to get us to open all the presents at once.  What I will take away from this busy, crazy and fun-filled month is a feeling of thankfulness. Thankful that my family is fortunate to have this many people who care about my girls being happy.

As we leave February behind (and hopefully winter as well) and enter into a new month it is with a resigned notion that although I got through one of our family’s busiest months intact, the hustle and bustle of holiday/birthday season will be missed.

What are your memories of February?

Another day. Another birthday.

Feb 22, 2013

It is snowing lightly and I remember heading to the hospital in the wee hours of the morning. Torn between not wanting to leave Elizabeth who had just turned two but leaving her in the capable hands of our live-in caregiver at the time, Mr. L and I entered the phase of our lives where our little family was about to become larger. The only pregnancy that was not fraught with health complications although painful sciatica and grumpy emotions, Audrey was not in a hurry to arrive and the planned c-section was as close to forty weeks as possible. Not being an emergency, we were bumped for a poor woman who had labored for forty plus hours. Finally, into the OR I was wheeled and in no time, we had a mad, screaming tiny 6 lbs 6 oz baby. She quietly settled in my arms and nestled in. At one point during our hospital stay I told Mr. L, this one came out mad and she will not be afraid to state her feelings.

Five years later, my passionate, life-embracing superhero has tested my patience as a person but is also the most loving and life-filled child. When she smiles and welcomes you into her circle, you run with open arms. When she bats her big brown eyes at the little boys, they all scramble to play with my curly-haired ball of energy.

Younger girl

Younger girl

When planning her birthday for this year, she was insistent we invite her whole kindergarten class. No pleading to perhaps invite just the junior kindergarten class or only the girls would do.

“But Mom,” she pleaded “I play with Amar and Grae and Emma. How do I choose?”

Her list of social acquaintances are huge and in truth when watching her, she does bounce from boys to girls to her age group and older. Always ready for a lively game of tag or hide and seek she can switch between playing house to superhero ninjas without batting an eye.

So, we invited the whole class. All twenty-eight students. In an attempt to include cousins and family friends for both girls we decided to invite the world. At the end, we had thirty-one kids confirmed. Thankfully the location we chose was an indoor playground and we smartly made the decision to have it private, meaning the whole facility to ourselves for two hours. Little Goobers is the place to go for young kids who have huge parties! It is clean, safe, huge and reasonably priced.

In any case, my Audrey was the happiest five year-old running between different social groups while eating pizza and cake. Her proclamation that it was the “best birthday party ever!” was well-worth the effort.

Having pizza

Having pizza

Whenever I think of Audrey turning five, I see elements of the girl she will become. Although still emotional and dramatic, she is starting to learn how to express herself and is very much considerate and kind to those around her. Her sensitivity to her own feeling and those around her will serve her well. Her ability to stand up for herself as well as the focus and drive to get what she wants will shape her into a force to be reckoned with.

When people ask me how I picture my little girl, I tell them, “a hockey player in a tutu.” A girl who loves Barbie and princesses but can knock down anyone who stands in her way. How much do I admire these things about her!

Happy Birthday my younger girl! May your year be full of fun, more laughter (and less tears) and love.

A Birthday Wish For a Daughter

Feb 20, 2013

Birthday week is in full swing at our house. The last couple of weeks have flown by as I order party balloons from Party City, double-check RSVP lists, hide secret presents and organize loot bags from The Loot Lady. As much I like planning things for the kids, this is exhausting! But only four more days and my reward at the end will be a huge glass of wine, putting my feet up and a bubble bath. I already have Sunday night planned out, unless I fall asleep.

Not only do Elizabeth and Audrey have their birthdays and parties this week, we started festivities for other birthdays last weekend with an adult only dinner for my Mom and a quiet but hour-long drive to my in-laws for my father-in-laws birthday. The month of February is worse than December in some ways and I do not look forward to opening up all those credit card bills in March! On top of all of this, RRSP contributions and taxes need to be handled as well as organizing all the kids spring and summer activities. Needless to say, strategies for trying to keep calm and organized are key for me this month.

However, today is my elder girls’ special day. Elizabeth is growing up so fast, I seem to barely be able to hang on to try to remember the moments when she will still crawl into my lap or bite my lip in frustration and then amusement as she tells me “I’m brushing my hair myself – it hurts when you do it!”

Once in a while I catch a glimpse of the girl she will become. A certain phrase or look on her flawless olive complexion which is wise beyond her years, and then she hears “Gangam Style” starts shaking her bum in an awkward dance in all of her uncoordinated merriment and I see how young she still is. Her innocence is precious to me and I protect it all costs. She has never known real hurt or disappointment. She has been loved and cherished by those around her. A girl who questions everything and is curious about life and loyal to those she loves. She reminds me of a pleasant summer’s day basking in sunlight and singing off-tune a pop song she heard somewhere.

My favourite memory of her from this past year is after school one day late spring when the weather was pleasantly warm, she got out her bike as we went to pick-up her younger sister from the nearby preschool. With her blue helmet on and streamers flowing from the handles, she did not care her training wheels were still on or she was getting a bit too big for the bike. Hopping on she began leisurely pedalling down the street, ensuring to stop at every corner until I caught up pushing Jacob in the stroller.  Telling her it was okay to go ahead I noticed her weaving back and forth on the sidewalk. Worried she would tip over I picked up my pace only to hear her well-projected voice singing as she looked all around her clearly enjoying the moment.  Hanging back, I watched her as she slowed down and then sped up again until finally she stopped and without a care in the world went to pick up a few dandelions scattered across the grass. She did not care we had to be anywhere, in that moment she probably did not even remember. All she cared about was her bike, her song and the dandelions. My birthday wish for her as she turns seven is that she keeps some of that wonderment as the world (including myself) pushes her onwards. Happy Birthday my elder girl!

Elizabeth at Jack Astor's. Her choice for bday dinner.

Elizabeth at Jack Astor’s. Her choice for bday dinner.