The Purge – Stage Two

Eight pm.

The kids are tucked into bed. Mostly. Stories are read. They are showered. Hugs and kisses all around. It is that time of night where parents around the world sneak in their guilty pleasures. Television series they really do not want to miss, that last glass of wine, texting, instagramming, face booking or tweeting. Video games or gossip magazines. A really good book. Chocolate. Tea. Sex.

Whatever your guilty pleasure, most of us tread away from darkened bedrooms hopeful their darling ones stay in their cozy beds surrounded by a hundred Beanie Boos. Our shoulders loosen and our bodies relax. Sure there is “other” work to be done. Lunches to pack. Agendas to sign. Laundry to fold. However,  all of that other “work” can be intermixed between our guilty pleasure. After all, you can pack lunches during commercial breaks.

But (yes, there is always a “but”), all of this changes when life takes you in another direction. It could be a fitness goal, work to catchup on or for this mom of three, the renovation.

THE PURGE was only the first step. I came back from a glorious retreat from my everyday life inspired and motivated to patiently slog to the completion of my writing goal, to the reality that we had a renovation starting in a week. I knew it was coming. After all, I planned the dates. But somehow in the excitement of my own personal goals, I underestimated my time to get ready for the upcoming renovation.

Yet, I marched on ignoring Mr. L’s pleas,

“Why don’t we postpone? It can wait until September.”

I laughed at his lack of confidence. “Wait? Are you crazy? We need a proper office now! The money is sitting there.  We’ve committed to the dates. We can do it!”

Truthfully, I was putting on a bit of an act. Internally I knew it was going to be a struggle to move over fifty percent of our storage from the area in the unfinished part of the basement to the rec room as well as empty a spare bedroom/weight lifting area in less than a week. Throw in Mr. L being away for three days. Regular crazy work life not to mention passover at our house.  All of this is to be done so we can to bravely tear down a wall between two smaller rooms and make a dream office space.

Being a stubborn mom, I bravely faced THE PURGE for an hour each night since I returned from my retreat. Mr. L was away on Friday night, but I kept at it. Lugging boxes, rearranging storage space in the other half of our basement, taking out paintings not yet hung on the walls upstairs away from the inevitable drywall dust that will soon cover the area. Saturday was a write off. After a day full of kid activities, dinner and general mayhem, I fell asleep watching a horrible movie on some channel I cannot remember. Sunday too was a waste, being out of town all day at a family birthday party with no leftover energy to head down to the windowless basement.

But Monday! Surely Monday would be salvation day. Except Monday was Passover and I spent the majority of the day cleaning before the in-laws showed up. However, with two out of three kids out of the house at school, I took Jacob downstairs with me, showed him one of the wonderful toys I found that has not been played with in two years, and went to work, finishing up one room except for the things I simply could not lift. Yeah!

As I looked around the room, I realized Tuesday would be the final day. Two hours left. With Mr. L’s help, we can get the rest done in two hours. We have to. The contractor is arriving on Wednesday at 8 am meaning another night where guilty pleasures will have to wait.

With THE PURGE nearly complete, the rooms almost emptied and the excitement of having a proper office rising, my attention can go back to my guilty pleasures. Can’t it?

Damn!

Easter is this weekend. With one child in senior kindergarten, handing out Easter treats to your friends is still “a nice thing to do,” and I am a nice Mom, or try to be. So my nights will be filled with filling easter bags, secretly stashing filled-plastic eggs for our own easter egg hunt and planning an Easter Sunday dinner for our immediate family at our house.

But I can do all of that while watching Sex and the City reruns? Right?

Happy Spring! The season of rain (or snow), chocolate treats (or matzah), spring cleaning (or purging) and renovations.

Advertisements

The Purge – Facing your fears.

The last of the snow melts away in the warm spring sun. The ice cracks on the lake hissing and popping.  It’s coming. Be ready. The temperature begrudgingly moves up a few degrees into double digits. There are no more excuses. Is now or never. It is THE PURGE! 

Winter fades away in our little abode and I dream of washing winter clothes finally able to tuck them away into, some random closet shelf. Or do they need to be washed? Hmmmm….

I have ignored the robins arriving. My head down intently clacking away on my keyboard writing at my fiction project in anticipation of an upcoming retreat. It is not time yet. 

But it lingers. The thing that mother’s all over the world (or at least here in Southwestern Ontario) cannot seem to escape. In the shadows it presses on our brains at night. Boxes. Storage Containers. Garage Sales. These words filter through our dreams, never going away.  

Spring arrives. The smell of fresh soil in the air as the first crocus pushes through reaching for the sun. Droplets of water, slightly warmer, tap on our rooftops. Random pieces of furniture appear on fronts lawns as if fairies brought them for a party. Still I write, desperate to cling to the last few days of winter hibernation before I am swallowed up, consumed with THE PURGE!

Plans are made.

“Of course we need an office. Extra money you say? No, we shall not save it. We’ll spend it and get our office. A wonderful brightly painted spot where the shelves will be forever organized and the children are not allowed. A dream come true.” 

“Mid-April start date? Sure. I can clean out the basement by then.” 

April 6th.

“Hon, did you start the basement yet? You know I”m away until Tuesday. You did say you would help… No? Really? Nothing? Maybe you can get it started? Okay..guess it will wait until I come home.” 

Night.

Sleep escapes me. I dream of random sleeping bags thrown in a pile from the last cousin sleepover. Fragile glassware spread on long white plank shelves. Gift bags from baby showers and birthday parties decorate the floor. Tissue paper crinkles underfoot. Unopened boxes sit in corners waiting to be discovered. The purge searches for me, reaching it long tentacles hoping to drag me down. But I will not give in. Not yet. 

For one more day I will hide. Tucked away in a silent cottage overlooking an ice-encased lake. The purge will not find me here. I am too far away. Tomorrow. Tomorrow as I hug everyone tight upon entering my house I will tell them,

“Yes, yes. I missed you!” 

Then after I tuck the children into bed after one more story, I will succumb. I will head to the basement to face THE PURGE and we will battle. For a week. And I will win. I always do.  

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.

Invite in the crazy.

Twilight was descending on a perfect spring day. After another crazy day, (typical at our house) of appointments, managing babysitters, picking up dinner and squeezing in a precious hour at the gym my older girl and I were driving off to her musical theatre class. If her year-end performance was not approaching at top-speed, I would have almost asked her if she wouldn’t rather go to the park with her brother and sister. But, teaching her responsibility and keeping commitments is an important parenting task, so instead we drove down the highway at top speed singing to the radio as it blasted above the whoosh of wind through the sun roof. 

After I dropped her off and managed a quick chat with her very intimidating but kind musical director regarding her costume pick-up, I hopped into the swag wag again to quickly run a couple of errands in the forty-five minutes I had left. Sipping my lukewarm Grande Bold Misto coffee (which had already been re-heated twice since picking it up a few hours ago) a huge breath escaped me and I turned up the radio enjoying listening to the music on my own. It was the first time I actually remember consciously taking a breath the whole day. 

Thankfully the stores were not crowded on this Thursday evening so I quickly grabbed my items in between chatting to my mother on the phone wishing her a good trip. My parents were heading for a weekend get-away and part of me wished I could go with them. 

Time-management is essential as a parent of three or more. Oftentimes and not unusually the hours slip away and I find myself running at top speed to cram as much as I can into twenty-four hours. I can see the effects of such a life on myself, Mr. L and three busy munchkins. They all can tell when Mom needs a break or is feeling the heavy load of trying to manage all their lives. I know Friday afternoons exhaustion kicks in. That is probably why I keep our weekends tightly controlled and protected. The week is busy enough with activities, daily dramatic occurrences, work and basically life. This weekend there are some family and friend visits planned, but I do not push the kids to do homework and try to nudge them to finish up their chores Sunday mornings. However, the times I love best are the ones where the house is fairly tidy, tummies are full and we can just sit outside watching the kids play on the swings.

It is in these quiet moments, such as a beautiful spring night where no children are in the car and it is simply me, that I remember, busy times pass. Getting through them is the toughest part. When we are all treading water desperately trying to keep our heads from sinking below we need to remember that sometimes, treading, is all one person can manage. And it is enough. With that thought at the top of my  mind on yet another busy weekday, I drive back up the street to pick up Elizabeth. I smile to myself, crank up the radio as Thrift Shop pulses from the speakers, open all the windows and of course, my cool sun roof, and without a care in the world sing at the top of my lungs. I do not care that I have become that Mom, the one in a huge van still acting like she is eighteen, and I invite the crazy in. After all, what else is a mom of three or more to do? 

5547_10152670036415363_1482046434_n

 

Dancing around the maypole.

“The wind is tossing the lilacs,
The new leaves laugh in the sun,
And the petals fall on the orchard wall,
But for me the spring is done.

Beneath the apple blossoms
I go a wintry way,
For love that smiled in April
Is false to me in May.”
–  Sara Teasdale, May

Has spring actually finally arrived in my little piece of Southwestern Ontario? Within less than five days all the spring flowers have bloomed, the trees are budding, birds are chirping happily building nests and my children are running for the warmth of the sunshine like butterflies eagerly awaiting the warm temperatures. It has been a long wait this year, but with confidence I think we can state, it is spring!

A person can feel their mood lifting with the onset of constant sun. This week is the longest stretch we have had consistently warmer temperatures and sunshine in a few months. I can already feel my whole being sigh with relief and my house is welcoming the open windows.

Last weekend we packed up the family for an hour long trip to a very close friend’s house. R and S are like family to us and we lament that they live so far. Last year we started an annual family sleepover tradition all having young kids still requiring parental supervision where the adults can enjoy some drinks out on the threadbare patios and the kids can giggle and do well, kid-stuff. The girls bunked with their little girl and Jacob bunked with us. It was glorious. The first real taste of a warm spring. A nice change to our little pocket of Ontario where we left gray skies and lower temperatures down by Lake Ontario.

Beauty in the sun.

Beauty in the sun.

This week my two girls have been obsessed with fairy houses and have been diligently writing note after note hoping for the fairies to visit. Currently our playset in our backyard is being turned into a fairy playhouse. Some of my cherished moments are of hearing them playing in harmony instead of the petty bickering that inevitable arises when there are multiple children in a family. I have learned the art this past month of taking a step back and firmly encouraging them to work it out themselves. A constant phrase is, “Is this an emergency? Have you tried to work out? Talk to your sister about it.” A phrase I hear echoed in the classroom and it is with hope I leave them to it turning back to a household chore or chasing a little man who has decided to empty a bag of rice chips all over the kitchen floor.

With spring also comes the reality of taking stock of the winter damage to your property. Gardening, washing windows, finally putting away the winter gear. We also realized that our stone steps although lovely to look at have loosened and sloped to such an extent that measures need to be taken to rebuild or replace them. Add it to the project list. Do they every truly end?

After sneaking away in early April to a writer’s retreat and a renewed dedication to finish a fiction project I am working on, I spent last month forgoing other activities (including this blog) to re-focus myself on finishing a project in the pockets of time I am able to grasp in between family life. A routine has been set-up and to my delight, a fiction novel has developed and I am nearing the last quarter of the story. I can see the finish line!

Now I cannot pretend a lot of hard work is in store as I re-write and edit but the story will be complete which is an accomplishment for this newbie writer and busy mom. On top of that,  I also implemented a new fitness training routine to help prepare for some goals later this summer and truthfully, am feeling stronger each time I pull myself to the gym and leave feeling that natural high that comes after a good work-out.

So what is in store for May? Outside time with the kids. Baseball season starts next week for the girls so I will be trekking to fields across the 401 highway in between spring concerts at school and packing for a big family trip in June. Fitness is on my mind this month. Now that I have a base routine in place, it is time to amp it up and with that figure out how to include the kids.

What are your plans for May?

My dance around the maypole continues.

Enter the spring!

No winter lasts forever; no spring skips its turn.” Hal Borland

The first day of spring is here and the snow keeps on falling! Audrey has been very upset the last couple of days as she was determined to make one last snowman before this winter finally wraps up. However the wet snow melts in the warm sunshine every single day thwarting her attempts.

With that in mind, it may be time to dig into our massive children’s library for Sadie and the Snowman by Allen Morgan to read to her later. A delightful book about a little girl who makes a snowman every day until it starts to warm up and she has to save a little bit of her snowman for next year.

sadie and the snowman

On the domestic front, the first of two consultations on window coverings is checked off the list. It  will be interesting what another consultant may suggest as today the very nice lady who came to provide an in-home quote, quite honestly tried to dissuade me from the ideal California shutters for our four bedrooms. As an alternative it was suggested honeycomb shades would fit our windows better.

Still seeking to complete decorating my girls’ suite, they have both expressed interest in having a fairy tent surround them as they sleep so that will aid in finishing their room décor.

Looking at my to-do list this week I shudder and go grab another coffee. It keeps growing!

Last week’s March Break, although fun with a little mini-vacation thrown in, (review on March Break to come another time!)  set back my goals for home organization this month. But I will solider on!

Fortunately, with Passover and Easter right around the corner, addressing those “hot spots” are high on the priority list this week. I have identified at least five “hot spots” within my house, not including the basement which I am leaving until summer to tackle. With family quickly gathering next week, the Dining Room is the first priority.

Dining Room "Hot Spot"

Spring cleaning is also starting to become something I need to deal with. Fortunately, I am going to hire a bit of help this year to do some of the hard scrubbing on key areas like kitchen cupboards and baseboards. I would rather my focus be on de-cluttering and home organization rather than removing many little fingerprints from the wallsToday the dining room table de-cluttered, tomorrow the world!

How do you keep your “hot spots” from becoming out of control and encroaching into the rest of your house?

Decluttering life

Part of trying to maintain a clutter-free semi-organized home for the five of us is keeping my “hot spots” cleared. A “hot spot” is that area where things accumulate that you just do not have time to put away in the moment. Ours is the dining room table. We only utilize the dining room when having a formal family event or dinner party. In vain I have tried to convince Mr. L the uselessness of this room. The room has so much potential but is generally cluttered that I try to clear off at least once a month (or two). Usually corresponding with an event at our house.

In the spirit of home organization month, I am trying to remember to put things away promptly instead of letting the large oval wooden table become a haven of found Christmas decorations or birthday presents to be wrapped. As such, I have spent the last two days driving to Elizabeth’s friends homes to drop off the lingering birthday reminder, beautiful canvas paintings, Jackson Pollock inspired, that her guests painted during her splatter paint party. Today was a successful day with four of the eight paintings delivered to their rightful owners!

Taking a break from a writing deadline on another project and casually checking in online, I noticed a blog written in the same spirit of the de-cluttering I am trying to undertake this month. mommacan is a website dedicated to home management for busy moms. My kind of site! The particular article was on the 100-club. Picking up 100 items a day until you feel clutter-free. Being all in and having the kids home on March Break next week, one of those days will be a perfect day to challenge myself and my family to pick up and put away, give-away or throw-away 100 items!

The last couple of days I have also made some initial calls for our handyman to come and finish some home decorating (end of March) and book consultations for our much-needed black-out bedroom window coverings. Waking up at six am on the weekends needs to be stopped and this Mom of three is determined to find a solution to the early morning sunshine penetrating our bedrooms!

Slow and steady progress towards my organization goals for this month, but progress all the same!

Following the trends – March!

Moving into the first week of March and unfortunately the cold winter weather is lingering. This Mom of three is ready to ditch the soggy mittens and boots and am itching to break out the running shoes and lighter jackets. Thankfully, my bunch do not seem to mind playing in slowly melting snow and ice even through my attempts to dissuade them.

As father winter keeps us in his clutches a bit longer my attention turns towards my goals for this month. Home projects and organization! My mind must be attuned to the media as everywhere I look flashes of stark white titles screaming, “How to De-clutter your home!” or “Organize your entire life!” Picking up the random magazine to spur myself into action a plan slowly forms and I decide to focus on three main goals this month.

The magazine currently reading!

The magazine currently reading!

1)   Finish decorating girls bedroom and living room.

2)   Purge old toys from the downstairs rec room.

3)   Find a proper office space in the house.

In addition to these three main projects I want to dedicate this month to not just reorganizing the home but taking the time to appreciate the elements of my home. The organized and disorganized, the piles of books in my room, the little figurines gathered on the girls’ dresser and piles of clothes to be donated.

We have lived in our current house for just over two years. Making the necessary move just before Jacob was born it has all the elements a family of five, plus dog, can need. One of the criteria when we purchased a home was that it had to be move-in condition. Meaning no painting, no big projects and decor we could live with. Slowly we have started to put our own stamp on the house but with three little ones underfoot things have been done addressing the must-haves versus the want-to-haves.

Finally having my first six months with a little more time since both girls are now at school and Jacob is in nursery school a few hours a week, I have been able to start thinking about next steps. A place we all love for years to come and that will grow with our family.  I am a firm believer in a home as a sanctuary. Part of my personality loves puttering around the house doing random domestic chores, baking cookies or simply sitting at the kitchen table with coffee in one hand and newspaper in the other casually looking into our backyard at the red squirrels practicing their gymnastics on our fence. I am never bored at home.

Is it not time I made a real effort to change our space into a space we love?