Silence is Golden

This past weekend I had the pleasure of spending one on one time with a single child in my clan. It was a tiny glimpse into another life where I had one child. And that one child was easy and quiet. The kind of kid other people rave about and who puts together puzzles in an airport instead of running up and down the aisles of seats waiting to board. It was one of those fairytale moments this mom of three imagines during the chaos that determines my life. Perhaps in that afternoon, I did have one favourite child, my middle child, Audrey. Yes, the typically emotional firecracker turned into every parent’s dream child.

It all started when Mr. L, looking at the beautiful forecast for the weekend, casually asked if we should accept an invitation to his business partner’s newly purchased lake house. A beautiful home on the shores of Lake Simcoe. But alas, Audrey had jazz class and with an upcoming recital and could not afford to miss a class. There was also a playdate scheduled for Audrey and one of her little BFF’s to make-up a long ago almost forgotten birthday party that I have been trying to plan since February.

“Let’s just go after jazz class.” Mr. L says.

“Would love to, but it took me forever to find a date and the school year is almost done. Audrey has been looking forward to it for days. I can’t cancel.” I respond shaking my head, firm in my belief it is important to teach our children the importance of keeping their commitments.

“Ask Audrey.” He says. “I bet she would rather go up to the lake house.”

“No.” I respond annoyed. “I’m not putting that on her. She shouldn’t have to decide between a friend and family. She’s six.” Then inspiration hits, “Why don’t you just go up with Elizabeth and Jacob? They have nothing planned for the day. We’ll divide and conquer.”

He likes the idea and makes plans to go.

Saturday morning arrives. I help get them ready throwing bathing suits, life jackets and pyjamas in a knapsack for him to take. Audrey and I bid them goodbye and settle into the rest of our day.

I let Audrey know I have to do a few chores and then we can go for a bike ride together. She happily agrees and before I know it, she is reading, quiet as a mouse on our couch. Silence. There is no chattering, no kids running laps around our kitchen/dining room as I try to guide them to the backyard, no requests for never-ending snacks, no clicking of keys tapping on Mr. L’s iPad or ever-present blackberry. There is only pleasant and welcome silence. I check in with her,

“Are you okay honey?”

“Yep.” She buries her head back into her book.

The morning passes and miraculously I get most of my chores done stopping to check on Audrey who reads, plays with her toys or colours only asking once what she can do and agrees to help me dust while I crank up the radio.

We head out for a bike ride, racing around the neighbourhood enjoying the sunshine together. I can’t remember the last time I spent a whole day with such a pleasant child!

Lunch passes quickly as we head to Audrey’s jazz class, stop and get groceries before heading home. Typically I avoid grocery shopping with the older kids and definitely not with all three. But with just her and I, there is no child touching every single item in the grocery story or preschooler asking over and over when is he getting a snack. She helps me find our items and I drive back home finishing up a few chores, shower and take Jake the dog for a walk before her scheduled dinner/playdate with her friend.

Audrey is so relaxed, my lovely cherub-cheeked girl falls asleep on the couch while I’m showering  This is a first for both of us. Me that I had an uninterrupted shower on a weekend and her having a nap during the day. I know she is her mother’s daughter, likes a good nap but I have only seen her actually have one when we’re on vacation and enforce mandatory afternoon rest time for the whole family.

The rest of the evening passes like a dream. Dinner out is manageable and without my attention divided between three of my own kids, I laugh and giggle as the two six-year olds try to drink their milkshakes out of curly straws. Afterwards, Audrey and her friend run around an empty indoor playground playing pirates and princesses.

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Audrey and friend

 

I realize a few things throughout this luxurious day.

One. I am in danger of having a favourite child. At least for the moment. Audrey is so easy compared to the other two chattering squirrels when she is on her own. She basks in the one on one attention and it brings out her best qualities. She doesn’t ask a million questions. She is happy to go along with whatever I am doing. She is a champion cuddle-monkey and content to sit outside in silence together having a cup of juice and a snack. She is still. I have one of those kids I dream about. I just never realized it.

Remember, this is the girl (if you’ve read past posts) that has temper tantrums, has trouble keeping her temper, is emotional and in some ways I would classify as my most challenging child. She is also the one I’ve spent a lot of time talking to, explaining about words are better than actions, helping find calm down strategies.  Do I dare and hope that my years of work with her have helped her in some way or that as some people said, age and time would help or perhaps a bit of both? It took a day on our own for me to realize how far she has come from the firecracker of unpredictable behaviour of only a year and a half ago.

Today, all of those things were non-existent. We had a pleasant day, one of those days where you realize you know parts of your child’s inner workings, but when you have three or more, you don’t get to see the breadth of their own unique little personalities until you get that one on one time. When her brother and sister are around, she feeds off their tendency towards hyperactivity and tries to keep up sometimes unable to control the roller coaster ride of emotional stimuli she is exposed.

Two. She is more like me than I imagined. Which means I know that a day off once in a while for her, where the house (her favourite environment) is quiet and still is nourishment for her soul. A day where she can nap on a couch without siblings crawling over her asking when do they get to play their iPads is as welcome to her as it is to me.

Third. To cherish this special time where her and I can simply be content in loving silence holding hands while we both look at the blue skies above enjoying the golden silence.

 

 

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It’s been weighing on my mind…

Three years and a month. That is the amount of time that has passed since I hung up the working mom suit that nows hang in the very back of my closet and traded it for the uniform of lululemon pants, hoodies and on those days when I am able to actually get semi-dressed, jeans and a simple long-sleeved solid colour shirt or chunky sweater with this cold winter we have been blessed with this year.

It has been a whirlwind. A decision discussed and discussed at length with my partner, my parents, my close friends and myself, I sit here on February 4, 2014 having no idea if it was the right decision for me. At the time, the pros outweighed the cons. I was burnt out trying to juggle marketing clients, helping my husband with his business, being pregnant for the third time, managing a household including a live-in caregiver and well, life. The path seemed simple. Being home meant I could focus on one main thing, care of our children. Being home meant I would not have to manage anyone but myself and said children. No dog walkers, no caregivers, no well-intentioned grandparents. I could pick and choose what I wanted help with versus what I needed help with. I could be home when they were sick instead of feeling insanely guilty I had to cancel a meeting because goodness knows Mr. L in a thriving and essential business to pay for the majority of our expenses could not. I would not feel resentful doling out more than half my paycheque to child care and babysitters wondering why I was working to pay for someone else to spend time with our children. I could rest my brain. Sort of.

It has been an adjustment. I still cringe when someone asks what I do and I try to fumble out the words, “I’m at home with the kids.” I know it’s hard work and well-meaning people pat me on the back saying, “I could never do that. Good for you!” But I dread each and every time I meet someone new and have to divulge I am a SAHM, (stay at home mom). My life revolves around three little people’s schedules. When they eat meals, snack time, when they need to do homework, when does someone need a nap or (my favourite), who is being the most naughty and I can use that to make them help me fold laundry still sitting in a basket from two days ago and call it a learning moment?

Logically, I know the choice was a right one for our family at the time. Being on our own in our suburban town, no close by parental support, one of us had to be the go-to person. The one that was nearby in case a kid got sick at school or forgot their mittens. The one that could drop them off and pick them up after school and have the flexible hours to do so. Mr. L works in the nearby “big city” building his life dream. He was not the go-to person. It was me or hired help and honestly, the salary for a reformed corporate marketing professional to marketing consulting for the not-for-profit sector would barely pay for all the support a family with three or more kids would require between day care, after school care, extra help with housework and dog walkers. Any pay I brought home would be eaten up, nearly every cent. It was not worth it.

But part of me resisted. I still kept one eye open for that “perfect” opportunity. In between nap time and I even updated my resume and sent it out as a feeler to a couple of potential employment situations. Then I would smack myself on the forehead and think, I barely keep it together some days just handling the kids and the house. If I had to add a job on top of that, I think I would cry. What am I thinking? Then my brain tortures me saying, I did do it. Once upon a time I was a corporate marketing on-the-path to becoming an executive career gal. The only thing was I hated it. It was an easy job for me to slide into that utilized my innate skill set. I took my first corporate marketing gig being uber paranoid about paying off my rather large student debt from university and post-graduate school. I got on the wheel and got off, sort of. Trading corporate for not-for-profit kept me going for another two years and then life hands you a BAM moment. A third pregnancy with complications that required being in the maternity ward on a weekly basis for tests during most of my final term combined with having a beautiful but early and small baby boy who required intensive medical attention and blood transfusions over a three week period robbing me of that blissful first month with your newborn and I was changed. Changed so much that no matter how alluring the pull back to work was and continues to be, I will never do it. At least not in the same way I did before.

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From womenonthefence.com

However, the dilemma remains as my now thriving three year old enters the brief season before starting full-time kindergarten next September, what do I do now? It is a question that is asked quite frequently when people learn our youngest is off to full-time school in the near future. It is assumed I will pick up where I left off. But how can I? I am changed. Different. Those suits look real nice in the back of my closet, but I have no hidden desire to try them on again. I have learned to love the casual look I get to enjoy every day sparkling it up when I can with a scarf or new bracelet. I like having every day be a new day.

It really came to light last week as my elder girl came down with a four day stomach flu. I was able to be at home, altering the slightest plan in my flexible schedule so she could be in her bed, resting and drinking plenty of fluids. It hit me again when on their PA Day, I was able to take the girls an hour away to a lovely ski resort and enrol them in private lessons and then take the kids out for lunch and hot chocolate afterwards.

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Jacob lovin’ the hot chocolate.

I wouldn’t trade being able to be there when they got home from school bubbling with stories about their day, fighting with them over homework, seeing how happy they are if and when I manage to actually force myself to bake blueberry muffins as a treat. I am lucky. Lucky that I am able to do this because it won’t be long until they won’t need me so much or only as a driver. Not long at all and my heart will break thinking back to these days when I could pick all three up from school and have them safely tucked where I can keep an eye on them hugging them whenever I want.

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Taken at Chicopee Ski Hill. Elizabeth private ski lesson. She’s in the purple.

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Elizabeth and Audrey at lunch post-ski lessons.

I have managed to carve out my own time over the last year as Jacob is potty-trained and can play more with his sisters. Slowly but surely I realize my dream is not working my fingers to the bone for someone else, but working them to the bone to try my hand at my dream, writing. At least this makes sense for me.

I admire all parents, mothers in particular for making whatever their decision is in the SAHM vs working mother discussion. There should be applause that for many of us, we have the option to work or not work. It may take sacrifice (Alas, no I am not shopping at Coach all day, I only did that once!)  Most importantly we all have a sisterhood that should support whatever one’s decision may be for whatever reason. Goodness knows either decision comes fraught with doubt and guilt we inflict upon ourselves. We do not need anyone else helping us deconstruct why a mother chooses her path.

Next September I will get the first real taste of how I sculpt my days around writing. I plan to immerse myself in what I write. At least form 8:35 am until 3:10 pm. I’ve been cobbling hours or evenings here and there to produce blog posts, edit scenes from my story or come up with a new idea that I hope to start in the future. I can research rather than scan the results on google. And maybe if there’s time, I’ll get the damn basement organized. Maybe.

So until then, when I can legitimately say, I’m a writer instead of a SAHM, I will try not to cringe as I say it but realize it ‘ain’t’ so bad. It really is not.

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….

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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.

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….

Taking vows.

The air inside our modest suburban house is damp. The humidity levels are quickly rising as we move from a rather cool spring to a what I believe is going to be a humid summer. My hair is frizzing at rapid pace and the windows let in a cool breeze. Thunderstorms are imminent. My printer is chugging along, thankfully finally set-up properly on my make-shift desk, or rather our kitchen counter, printing out my first complete fiction piece.

This mom of three finally finished a full fiction story! Over one-hundred pages it classifies as a novella in its current state and part of me dreads the next step of editing and re-writing, but an accomplishment it is. My spring chores were put on hold, my house is passably clean on at least the ground level, no one ever goes upstairs but us anyway, my fitness goals were curtailed (truthfully I don’t need much to put those aside,) and other writing endeavours put on hold, but finally the first, first draft is done!

Our neighbourhood cardinal is still singing his morning song and the mother robin who has made a nest outside our kitchen window in a pair of flood lights chirps angrily anytime someone moves in the house. All of this is background noise to the sweet sounds of the printer that will soon complete its task and I will see my words in print. The story I have written in those moments of stolen mornings with coffee in hand in between school pick-ups and rushed lunches.

The actual craft of writing feels intimidating in this moment. Words written by those with much more experience suggest leaving the story for a bit. Taking a break. But a large part of this aspiring writer wants to continue. To take that plunge into the murky waters of a complete writer’s experience from idea to organic writing to learning the craft to attempt at publishing. I have no illusions that my little piece of fiction will garner much more than a friendly reading by those who support me and a pat on the back to “keep going,” but I still have that feeling in the pit of my stomach or that need at the end of this process to say, “I did it! I did not just pour out a bunch of words on paper but I went through the whole experience of a writer.” Where I decide to go from there is still a bit of a mystery but I look forward to the journey.

Now the question becomes, in the days ahead and the looming deadline of summer vacation when this mom is home with three small kids and a dog how do I fit in learning the craft? The answer is simple, continue how I have been doing it. Fit it in at nap time. While the kids are playing contentedly in the backyard or watching their favorite movie for the tenth time. I take a vow.

I vow to not be a superwoman/supermom but to take the best moments with my family each day and enjoy them.

I vow to let my kids to continue to learn how to entertain themselves to foster their imaginations.

I vow to keep my main floor tidy, dishes done and healthy meals/snacks prepared and otherwise let things be.

I vow to keep myself healthy.

I vow to keep on trying to delicately balance the different aspects of my life the best I can and not beat myself up when the balance tips one way or another.

I vow to just take each day as it comes.

And finally, I vow to keep writing.

Am I missing anything?

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? 

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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.