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?

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Ears are for listening. Listening to our kids.

January 16, 2013

“Listen earnestly to anything [your children] want to tell you, no matter what. If you don’t listen eagerly to the little stuff when they are little, they won’t tell you the big stuff when they are big, because to them all of it has always been big stuff.”― Catherine M. Wallace

This morning was my volunteer time at Audrey’s school. I took on helping with their snack program when Elizabeth was in kindergarten and try to get in at least once a month. A wonderful program, it ensures at least twice a week the classes are all provided a healthy snack during their first nutrition break. The lady who has been running it since I started, pregnant with Jacob, is someone I admire. She has two kids, went back to work part-time, co-ordinates a few different programs at the school and still looks very unfazed when I see her rushing to drop off one thing or another in between work appointments. I sometimes wonder if she sleeps?

I wish I could do more at each of my girls respective schools, but juggling three different school schedules right now, this is the only thing I can commit to. Jacob is not the type of toddler I can have tag along to my activities. He can barely sit still at his own activities. I’ve seen other Mom’s bring the younger siblings along for the ride and admire the organized backpacks of snacks and activities. I wonder how they can get their children to sit still while they get their tasks completed. Bringing Jacob along (which has been suggested) would only be hard on me, Jacob and those around us. Thus, I plan my volunteer time around Jacob’s visits to nursery school with the hope that before too long I’ll be one of those parents who can come and spend a morning at my kids’ schools.

It is always enjoyable visiting the classroom and letting my daughter know I’m at the school. It’s also a rare chance to chat with some of the other parents at the school and Audrey’s teacher. Today she told me that she couldn’t believe how quickly Audrey was bringing back her reading club books. I just nodded and smiled saying, “I’m not sure what I’m going to do with her if she keeps this pace up!”

This is round two of our kids with this particular teacher. Mrs. R had the distinct pleasure of teaching Elizabeth for two years who became the Queen Bee in the classroom and Mrs. R was very good at recognizing Elizabeth’s need to have individual projects when she finished her work and helped build her presentation skills. We were thrilled with her as a teacher.  Audrey on the other hand is less of a show boat and takes a bit longer to warm up in a large group. Their class also has an increase in students this year, twenty-eight little children ranging in age from three to nearly six. At her fall meet-and-greet,  I actually had to point out to the teacher that Audrey could read most of the words on the word wall. She looked surprised and said, “Really? She hasn’t said a word!”

“No, she wouldn’t.” I replied reminding her how different she is than her sister. A week after that meeting, my four-year old was enrolled in the kindergarten reading club which was something typically only introduced to the majority of the students closer to the end of their first year of junior kindergarten. She hasn’t looked back.

One thing I am quickly learning as a parent is that you have to try to be as visible as you can to your children’s teachers and in their schools. Being involved as a parent and communicating with your children is also extremely important. I have a fairly good understanding of how each of my kids schools work, what the staff is like and just based on the simple questions like, “What was your favorite part of the day?” glean an abundance of information from my children.

When Elizabeth started school, we implemented a little chat time when she arrived home. Even when I was working part-time, usually from our home office, I would stop whatever I was doing to sit down with her for a few minutes to hear her answer to two standard questions, “What was your favorite part of the day?” and “What was your least favorite part of the day?” We continued that tradition and will continue it with all three of our children no matter how busy life gets. What better way to wind down an afternoon than with a cup of coffee listening to my little ones chatter about their days?

Today, after they are all home, we sit down at our long kitchen table that overlooks our backyard and a majestic maple and have a snack before homework time. It can be tricky to pay attention when one is telling me about a boy who pushed her on the bus and another is excitedly shouting about the snow crystals they made in class while Jacob wanting to be part of the conversation starts shouting to be heard. A steady flow of information is presented to me from these chats about their social interactions, school work, what the teachers were doing that day to how they loved I put a treat in their lunches. Two questions become a steady stream of conversation that I try to absorb and relay advice, encouragement or just listen when needed.

Being a Mom of three or more requires very precise listening ears. You need to know when one child needs a hug or another wants to be told again how smart she is and one just simply wants to be part of the conversation. All while dispensing snacks, trying to drink a last cherished cup of coffee for the day and attempting to organize the kitchen before dinner. Some days it feels as if I’m being pulled in three different directions, but I try my best and hope, as they get older we continue these types of conversations.

The three kids off to school.

The three kids off to school.