Wednesday, December 22, 2010

It's a Wrap!

I just read an article in the paper that said, and I am not making this up, 'Why put up one Christmas tree when you can put up three?'  I had to pause and read it again.  But yes, that's what it said.  The article talked about how three Christmas trees looks so much better than one.  Well, I've got three reasons why you should not put up three Christmas trees:  1) Sanity 2) Sanity and 3) Sanity

I guess these people subscribe to the 'it's not done until it's overdone' theory.

Then I read an article about how some people spend $20,000.00 decorating their 'homes' (yes, that's plural) for Christmas.  They pay interior decorators these outrageous amounts of money to do it!  Amazing!  I guess it's these people who can afford to put up three trees in one living room.  I say these people can take their trees and... decorate them!

This year I'm doing pretty well.  I've put up my one Christmas tree.  (I'm such a minimalist.)  I've gotten smart (you know, relatively speaking) and I've been doing some gift wrapping every night.

Last year I left all the wrapping until the very last minute.

I started off strong.  I wrapped each present with extreme care. I folded corners neatly and put nice little squares of tape discreetly along straight lines. I wrote lengthy and thoughtful Christmas notes on each gift card.  I matched the colours of the bows to the colours in the wrapping paper. I curled the ribbon painstakingly.  I chose wrapping paper based on the age of the recipient.  It was wonderful.

By hour four, I had lost it.  I was whimpering.  I had long ago run out of clear Scotch tape so I was ripping duct tape with my teeth and sticking it carelessly on the package.  I could have cared less if any part of the present was showing.  "Whatever!"  I snarled.  "They're going to find out soon what's in it anyway!"

I had abandoned all care for colour combinations.  Ribbon?  Ha!  It was just another obstacle in what had become a major fight to the death.  And those nice little festive notes of good cheer?  Vanished.  If I remembered I would scrawl an initial right on the wrapping paper and then throw the present viciously into a garbage bag.  I began to hate every last remaining present, feeling they were taunting me.  I vowed up and down that I would NEVER, EVER leave the wrapping until the end again.  "How can it possibly take so long to wrap every gift?  How?  How?  How?"  I would ask myself hopelessly and morosely.

Far from feeling the Christmas spirit, I felt like it was giving me a good kick in wrap.

Anyway, that was last year and this is this year!  Why am I posting in my blog anyway?  I've got to go wrap!! 

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Respect This!

My five year old was trying on an attitude for size.  I got down to his level and looked him right in the eye. 

"Listen, mister.  I carried you in my stomach for nine months.  I fed you, changed your diapers, and rocked you to sleep.  You WILL be respectful!"

He looked up at me and saluted.  "Yes, Sir Commander!"

That's more like it! 

I nodded in satisfaction at him.  "At ease, soldier!"

My son is funny.  He loves to give me zerberts all over my face and arms.  My husband says this is a boy's way of showing love.

I asked, "Is it also showing love when he burps in my ear?"

My husband nodded.  "Definitely."

So the next time Ryan blew a large, noisy zerbert on my forehead, instead of wiping it off, I said, "I love you too, Ry!"

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Merry Hanukkah!

We were enjoying the Christmas CD from the Barenaked Ladies.  My son asked me who sang it and I didn't even think about it.  I've known the name for so long that I didn't even think of the implications, so I told him.  Then I realized what I'd done. 

My eight-year old had a field day.  "The BARENAKED LADIES?" he asked incredulously. 

"No! You heard me wrong.  I said, 'The Fully and Tastefully Clothed from Head to Toe Ladies'.  Honestly."

Too late.  He was off.  "The BARE naked Ladies?  The bare NAKED ladies?  The..."

Thanks a lot, 'Fully Clothed Ladies'!

For the Christmas season I've been trying to teach my son manners.  I've been trying for the last eight years.  That's the hard part about being a parent, isn't it?  You have to repeat yourself constantly.  If you could just say it once it would be fine.  But no.  You have to say it about a million times.  "We do not sneeze all over our sister!"  "We do not punch our brother repeatedly in the head.  It's just not done."

Anyway, my oldest is pretty good now.  He says thank you when he receives gifts.  But it's that pesky honesty thing.  At his birthday recently when he received this one gift, he said, "I have one of these already."  I gave him the look of death, but he just breezed on anyway.  "I'll probably take it back or give it away."

So I had to go back to the drawing board to re-rehearse saying thank you with him.  I sat down with him.  I looked him right in the eye.  And I said, "Colin.  Listen to the words coming out of my mouth very, very carefully.  You get a gift.  You have five hundred of the exact same thing and you absolutely HATE it."

He looked at me with hesitation.  "Ummm...?"  

I leaned forward to emphasize my point.  "You say THANK YOU!  THANK YOU SO MUCH!  THANK YOU!" 

He looked at me doubtfully.  "You mean you want me to lie?"  

Finally he gets it! 

"Yes!" I said enthusiastically.  "I want you to lie.  Lie through your teeth!  It's all part of good manners, trust me." 

I don't understand the confusion, is it just me?

My 5 year old son has (some) manners but he is confused about the whole holiday thing.  I explained what Hanukkah was to him.  I explained about Christmas.  Then he watched the Polar Express in his class at school.  He came home with a little bell like they have in the movie. 

He said, "Mommy, listen.  If you ring this bell and you can't hear it, that means you're old and you don't believe in Christmas anymore.  So when that happens, that's when you celebrate Hanukkah."

Back to the drawing board!

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Anaphylaxis Angst

I had a bad experience in the grocery store the other day.  I had been trying to find a nut-free gingerbread house for my son to decorate.  I had gone to three different stores looking for one.  Finally I found one that was pre-assembled, which was crucial, because I've tried to put gingerbread houses together before, only to have them fall over or look terribly lopsided and it didn't put me in a festive mood, to say the least.  Anyway, I was at the check-out.  The cashier couldn't find the price of it on file so he had to call a manager over.  When the manager came back after looking for the price, he had a different gingerbread house in his hands.  He told me he couldn't find the price so he wanted me to take the other house.  I shook my head.  "No, I can't take that one.  It has nuts.  My son has a nut allergy.  That's why I picked THIS house."  The manager began to look panicked.  "But how do you know that one is okay?"  I was quickly losing patience.  "I have had a son with a nut allergy for eight years and I know what I am doing," I informed him, not very nicely.  The manager went away again and came back with a woman who worked there.  She asked me how I knew the house I was buying was safe for my son.  I showed them the label that listed allergens such as wheat and soy.  It didn't list nuts.  The woman told me that unless it had a 'no nut' symbol on the box that it wasn't okay.  I was really getting frustrated.  "No!" I insisted.  "That isn't true.  There is a law that allergens have to be listed.  That's why they listed the other allergens!  The product was made in Canada and that is a law here."  The manager looked anxiously at me.  "I'd hate to guarantee anything from our store."  Okay, that was it.  My son has to eat, doesn't he?  Food comes from a grocery store, doesn't it?  What do they want me to do?  Forage in my backyard for wild berries and mushrooms?  Start taking out the small animals that cross my deck with a slingshot?  Let's be rational, people.  Pour me an eggnog and make it a double.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Maternity Leave Mayhem

For our second child, my husband took some of my maternity leave.  Notice the language, there.  I said 'took' and 'my'.  That was how I felt, anyway.  People are divided on the issue.  Some people thought it was great that he was doing that, while other people couldn't believe it.  I wouldn't have minded at all if it didn't take away from my time.  (There I go again!) 

Maybe I shouldn't have felt ownership of it; I guess it is only fair.  I think dads taking parental leave is a great idea.  I just wanted the whole year to myself.  First of all, I was breastfeeding.  And yes, as the time approached I began pumping milk, but my pump and I did not get along.  I thought of it as an instrument of torture, to be honest.  Which doesn't exactly pave the way for a positive relationship.  Anyway.  My husband and I argued about it.  He wanted six months and I didn't want him to have any, which is how we settled for three months. 

I felt like after carrying our child for nine months, conscious of everything I was doing and eating and its effect on him, and abstaining from alcohol, and don't get me started on giving birth to him, that I deserved the whole year.  I admit it!  And I was still breastfeeding through the night.  Jerry would lie there without a care in the world snoring while I sat there wanting to gouge him with a fork just to even out the sleeplessness....but I wasn't bitter.  Do I sound bitter? 

It was really hard for me to leave my son when he still seemed so small.  I mean, I had trouble going back to work (part-time) with each and every child (it doesn't get any easier) and I'm sure I would have at any age (except maybe when they were 16 years old). 

I was getting all upset and anxious and wondering to myself how I could possibly leave my sweet vulnerable little baby with - gasp - his FATHER?  What was I thinking?  (Okay, I was a little irrational.  Give me a break.  I hadn't had a good night's sleep in three years!)

I think my husband was picturing time alone with a sweet little baby who would laugh and smile and then sleep the rest of time while he napped on the couch.  Unfortunately, life at home with children is not a Hallmark card.

I warned him.  I said he didn't know what it was really like.  While I wanted to stay home, I also had already had one maternity leave and I realized how hard it could be.  He waved off my concerns.  "Pfffft! I'll be fine!  No problem!  I can handle it."

On my first day back at work he paged me at 11 a.m. with a #1 page.  That means a crisis.  I called home in a panic.  My husband yelled, "You've got to come home RIGHT NOW!"  Apparently Ryan was refusing to drink milk out of the bottle.

Another time he asked me seriously, "Do you ever have to psych yourself up to get through a day?"  (Ummmm, is that a rhetorical question?  Do I love chocolate?)  As someone I talked to about it said, "A day?  Try every day!"

Another day he met me at the door when I arrived home, yelling that Ryan hadn't napped all day and that he was teething and he couldn't handle it anymore. 

The good thing was that it really helped Jerry understand how hard it can be at home, and how the parent at home isn't just lying on the couch watching TV and eating truffles.  I was just visiting a new mom and she lay there on the couch holding her sleeping baby and saying hopelessly, "I planned on painting the entire house while I was on maternity leave...but I haven't even done one room yet."  I patted her hand, saying gently, "No more crazy talk, please.  Don't say another word.  It's enough just to deal with the baby!"

I remember how the midwives visited me at home a few days after the birth of my first child, and I had struggled to have a shower and get changed into clothes.  When I greeted them at the door, they looked at me in horror.  "You shouldn't have gotten dressed!  We expect to see you in your pyjamas still!"  I collapsed against the door in unmitigated relief.  "Well, thank GOD for that!"  It was the greatest feeling ever.  I've never forgotten it.

And of course there are great things about being home.  You get all the hugs and get to see all the developmental milestones happening in front of your eyes.

When I was expecting our third child, I said casually to my husband, "So, this time...are you planning to..."  My husband interrupted me quickly, "No! NO! Nooo!"

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Cutting Down a Christmas Tree

We got our Christmas tree today.  We did it the old-fashioned way.  We drove out to a tree farm and cut it down. 

It was so festive.  Especially when the kids were fighting over which tree to pick.  "MY tree is better."  "NO, mine!"  "Mine has character!"  "We don't want character, we want perfection!  Who's with me?"  Surprisingly, no one.  So we got a tree with character.  It's beautiful.

And when we were tying the tree to the top of our van, that was great too.  Especially after we had painstakingly thrown the rope through the double doors and the front doors several times until it was good and rolled up in the rope.  And then we realized we couldn't shut the van doors with all the rope.  "Okay!  Plan B!"  my husband announced, still smiling but not quite so cheerfully.

While we undid all the rope, the guy beside us set off his car alarm while tying his tree on his car roof.  And it was the alarm to end all alarms.  The macho-guy alarm.  The 'you touch my car you will pay and so will everyone within a 5 mile radius' alarm.  It sounded like a fire truck siren.  And he couldn't shut it off.  We were trying to sing 'Jingle Bells' but we couldn't hear ourselves.  So we sang louder.  I think all the people around us really appreciated it.

Once the tree was on top of the van and we could shut all the doors, it didn't seem that secure.  My husband told my son he would have to sit on top of the car and hold the Christmas tree all the way home. 

My other son thought he was serious and panicked, shouting, "If you sit on the top of the car, you could FALL OFF AND DIE!"

We assured my son we hadn't really meant it - that it was just a little Christmas joke.  My husband and I were laughing until Ryan yelled, "The Christmas tree just fell off the top of the car!"  My husband jolted upright in his seat and the car swerved while he checked the mirrors to see if he could still see the tree.  For some reason, he didn't think that was a very funny 'little Christmas joke'.

When my husband saw the price list for the tree as we were driving out of the lot to pay, he paused.  "You know," he remarked, "there are Christmas trees for $20.00 at the No Frills."

"Yes,"  I conceded, "but you can't put a price on memories, honey.  Does anyone ever say, fondly, 'Remember that time we drove down to the No Frills parking lot and picked up a tree?  I'll never forget that shiny asphalt.'  Of course not!  But will they say, 'Remember that time we drove hours to the tree farm and froze our @sses off?'  Yes, they will! They will LOVE it." 

My husband handed over the $50.00.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

The Embarrassment...

I remember fondly the time another mom came to our door to drop off her son for his first play date at our house.  Before I could even say hello, my son informed her that his little brother had bitten everyone in the house that day, including him.  "That's FIVE times!"  he concluded emphatically.  "And it really hurt, and I have bite marks.  See?" 

Shoving my son behind the door (gently, of course), I laughed nervously, "Ha, ha - yes, Ryan is in a little tiny biting phase...I'm sure it will all be over, you know, soon.  Please - feel free to leave your child here.  Everything's fine.  Your son is going to wear his snowsuit the whole time, though, right?"

It wasn't as bad as the time my toddler started singing a line from a Johnny Cash song, and of all the lines in all the songs Johnny Cash has sung, of course it was the "I shot a man in Reno just to watch him die" line.  And he came out with it as clear as a bell.  Oh, sure, when he tells me he loves me it's a bit garbled, but he got the 'just to watch him die' part right on target.  I was so proud.  "I'm a great mother, honestly.  I don't let them watch any violence on TV.  But, hey - if it's in a song, I'm all for it.  Isn't everyone?"

One really embarrassing moment was when I took my son to another child's house for the first time and I didn't know the mom at all.  Right when she opened the door, my son ran around behind me and started slapping my butt, and yelling, "Drum roll please!"  I was in shock.  I hoped I was dreaming.  I shut my eyes but - surprisingly - it didn't help.  When I opened them I was still in the same moment!  Before I left, I said modestly, "I've always taught my son to make a good first impression.  So...I'll drop him off same time next week?"

The other day we were in a dressing room in a hockey arena.  Another parent was escorting his hockey player out the door.  Before he left he said kindly to my three year old daughter about the stuffed animal she was clutching, "You take good care of your bear, dear!"   She sat there for a second, nonplussed, and then yelled after him, "It's a BABY MONKEY!"  She didn't say it, but the 'DUMMY' was clearly implied.  The poor man will probably never be nice to a three year old again.

I was observing in my son's classroom the other day, and the teacher complimented one boy on his homework.  He told her nonchalantly, "Oh, I didn't do that work.  My mom did all of it.  I was watching TV while she did it all."  Hopefully the mom gets an A on it; that may help her recover from the embarrassment.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Aging Gracefully....or Not

Okay, I've got a glass of wine beside me.  I'm ready.  Let's get right into it.  Getting older.

One day you're the youngest person at work and you're trying to convince your clients that you're mature and that even though you have relatively little experience, you are still competent and are perfectly able to assist them professionally.

And then, the people you work with are suddenly many years younger than you, and talk about bars they go to that you've never heard of, and have words in their vocabulary that you don't know.  (They say, "Oh, I just BBM'd that person."  And you nod seriously, as if you understand completely, and then say, "You....what?")  And your student has to teach you how to text.  How does that happen?

And when did I become my parents?  You swear you're not going to make the same mistakes as your parents, and then either you do or you make other ones.  And the day comes when you realize it's inevitable and maybe even good to make mistakes, but it still is a bit hard to swallow sometimes.

Sometimes aging creeps up on you and other times it hits you in the head with a hammer.  Like that day a year or so ago. 

My husband and I were outside in our backyard and it was a bright and sunny day.  We were chatting, and all of a sudden he stopped me.  "Honey,"  he began, "I'm going to tell you this because I love you dearly."

Uh oh.  Nothing that starts that way can be good.  He should have poured me a glass of wine or something first.  And put a chair behind me with a blankie on it.  But no, he just kept going relentlessly.  "You have the most gray in your hair I have ever seen!  I've never noticed it before!  Look at it!"

I'd like to say I took it well.  That I laughed it off, and said, "Oh, gray.  That's the new brown, you know.  It's on all the runways.  Lucky me! Yay!"  But what actually happened next...well, it wasn't pretty.  I always hoped I would age gracefully (see above re: making mistakes).  I ran to the mirror.  Then I ran to the phone and made a hair appointment.  Then I got in the car and drove straight to Tim Hortons and had a doughnut.  (I couldn't remember the last time I had a doughnut.)  After that I drove home and had a mojito.  A double, I believe, but the details are all a bit hazy.  Like I said, not pretty.  I'm not completely sure, but there may have been a mention of my husband's thinning hair....I'm not proud of it, okay?

But like I said to him, I'm not one of those women who change their hair colour as often as they change their underwear.  In fact, I had never coloured my hair.  And I have pretty long hair.  I felt that this was the end of something, that it was a huge turning point after which I would never have my normal hair colour again.

Luckily I only have to dye the roots and not my whole head...but I'll get back to you when that happens.

My next birthday is the big 40.

I have options. I could stay in bed with a pile of chocolate and cry.  Or I could go out and enjoy a good party. 

Here's to a celebration!  Who's bringing the mojitos?

Monday, November 15, 2010

Things I Never Thought I Would Say

Today I said something to my sons that I will add to my ever-growing list of 'Things I Never Thought I Would Say As A Parent':

"Instead of taping yourself to the kitchen chair, how about doing something SLIGHTLY more constructive?  I mean, I'm not talking about designing a rocket or anything.  Just....not taping yourself to the kitchen chair!"

Others on my list:

"We do not step on our brother."

"We do not pretend our penis is a fire hose."

"We do not pee in the backyard in full view of the neighbours and all the friends they have over for their party."

There are many more things on my list but I can't remember any of them right now because I'm too tired.  Last night I tried to take out my contacts three times before I realized I wasn't wearing any.

I'll update this list after I have a good night's sleep. least by next month, then!

Birthday Breakdowns

We just had my oldest son's 8th birthday party and I have lived to tell about it!  The boys played road hockey and we did a Lego hunt and build.

It made me think of the party I had for Colin when he was four years old.  It was the morning of his party and I was running around quickly with the vacuum when suddenly I smelled burning rubber.  I noticed a long plume of thick smoke pouring out of the side of the vacuum.  This is the thought that instantly raced through my head: "Oh no, the house is going to burn down before we can have the party!"

(Notice that I didn't seem to care much about the house burning down, I just thought that it would be bad timing.  Hmmmm.  Anyway, moving on.)

Luckily the house didn't burn down and I had a great excuse to stop vacuuming, so - so far, so good.

I was taking a shower and Colin, who was very excited, kept messing around with my makeup on the bathroom counter.  He finally announced, "Mommy!  I have a great idea! I'm going to take pictures with my camera."  He had a little disposable camera.  I thought, 'That IS a great idea.  I can finish getting ready in peace, and it will keep Colin occupied.  He can take pictures of the balloons, and the cake, and the pinata.'  I said enthusiastically, "Great plan, honey!"  I heard him running off. 

I sighed happily.  Finally, a moment of calm.  I could just take a deep breath and prepare for the coming party.  Suddenly I heard the shower curtain being swept back and a little voice yelling, "SAY CHEESE, MOMMY!" 

I screamed in shock, and then tried to swipe at the curtain, yelling frantically, "Just my head!  Just take a picture of my head!"  (I think I burned that particular roll of film.)

After that excitement, the party went pretty well.  It was utter chaos, of course, but reasonably well-controlled.  No one was injured or had a nervous breakdown.  (You have to set your standards low.)  I didn't do too much - I only had some play stations with crafts, and lots of food.

I had looked up ideas online before the party, and I read one woman's account of how she and her husband had done a Thomas the Train party.  They both dressed up as train engineers and re-created the entire Island of Sodor in their backyard.  In one 'scene' it was snowing, and her husband stood on a ladder and shook boxes of white Styrofoam peanuts over the children.  I felt like posting this comment: "Did you get divorced before, during, or after the party?"

Celebrations are such fun, aren't they?  Pass the wine!

Monday, November 8, 2010

Road2Hope Half Marathon

It was a cold but beautiful day for the 2010 Road2Hope Half Marathon.  I loved running down the Red Hill.  It was a beautiful view, and it's not often you get to run down an expressway like that.

Recently I did the Run for the Toad 25K, and my knee/IT band hurt for the last 8 K, so afterward I swore to myself I would take some time off running and let my IT band heal.  Instead, I signed up for the Road2Hope 21 K for one month later!  So of course I had to train.

I was hoping my IT band would be okay but I think the combination of the road running (when I'm used to softer trails) and the long downhill took its toll, and I started to feel the twinging of my knee at 3K.  This is very bad when you have 18K left to run, because the twinging turns into stabbing pain, and then my other IT/knee started hurting and pains were shooting up both hips.  This was where my 'This is Easy' mantra turns into 'I Feel No Pain', 'I Feel Great', 'I Am Strong' and occasionally '!#$%^&*' although this last one isn't too helpful and I don't recommend it.  It also makes other runners stare at you.  I think it's true that running a marathon, even a half one, can show you what you are made of.  I'm just not sure yet if I'm made of strong or idiotic stuff.  (Don't answer that.)

I knew I had to run because people had pledged donations, and I wanted to get the pain over as quickly as possible.  Also I felt great, breathing-wise, and I was frustrated I couldn't just take off and have a great run.

I stayed with the 2:15 pace bunny for almost the entire race, and honestly I felt like I was holding back.  But by the time we got to the waterfront trail the pain in my knees was really hard to take, so I had to keep taking walking breaks to recover, and then I would run again.

Those last two kilometres were the longest of my life, but when I finally saw the finish line I sprinted across it because I was so happy to be finished!  I finished in 2 hrs, 19 minutes.  I am very happy with that, especially as I was running with the worst knee pain I have ever had to run with and it was my first half marathon.

However, as I joked with my friends later, "I may not be able to walk anymore, and now both my knees are shot - but hey - I got a GREAT time!  Woo hoo!  Anyone know the name of a good physiotherapist?"

Friday, November 5, 2010


This morning I asked my five year old son to feed the cats.  He answered, "Hmmm, what's that word I'm looking for?  Let me think...  Oh, yeah.  NEVER!" 

I remember the first time he pulled that 'never' thing on me.  He was two, and I was just getting used to his love affair with the word 'no'. 

(You think it's so cute when your children start talking, and then they start saying things like 'NO!'  And 'Mom, just RELAX!'  And 'Mommy, Daddy just said a bad word three times.'  And 'Mommy, the sign says maximum 50 K but you are going 60 K!'  And in case any police officers are reading this, of course my son was mistaken.  I would never speed.  Never!) 

Anyway, we were in the drugstore and my son had started knocking things off shelves so I told him he had to get in the cart.  "NEVER!"  he shrieked.

"Great,"  I thought grimly.  "He's really upping the ante!  Where will it end?"

My husband and I were travelling in Germany, and in an airport we saw an unhappy little German girl.  She was screaming at her parents, "NIEN!"  So apparently it's universal.

However, I've learned a few things since that day in the drugstore.  I wasn't about to let my son get away with refusing to feed the cats.  Two can play this game.  I said to him,  "I have one word for you.  Hmmm, what is that word I'm looking for again?  Let me think...  Oh, yeah.  GROUNDED!"

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Halloween Happiness

Halloween was great fun this year.  All of my children were able to get into the spirit.  The best part was that my boys carved their own pumpkins and scooped out all the seeds!  Usually this is my job every year, but this time I bought those pumpkin carvers that are safer than knives, and it was definitely worth it.  The boys were happy because they could carve whatever face they wanted, and I was happy because I didn't have to carve four pumpkins.

The boys ran from house to house pretty much without stopping for about two hours.  I think the amount of calories they burned may have helped with the ones they took in immediately upon getting home for the night.  I mean, we're not talking an equal ratio here - but still.  At the end of the night my one son and his friend were so exhausted that they were lying down on someone's lawn, clutching their pillow cases tightly.  (I think my one son slept with his bag of candy, he loved it so much.) 

As we were trick-or-treating, my five year old son said that the only thing he didn't like about Halloween was walking door to door.  Hmmmm.  He's getting free candy!  Tons of it!  For free!  What does he want, to lie on the couch and munch popcorn while people drive the candy to his doorstep?  For them to tiptoe inside so they won't bother him, and deposit the free candy in a bowl beside him while he rests??  I mean, how much better does he want it?  I think that's what they call looking a gift chocolate horse in the mouth.  Although if the Trojans had done so....

As my older son yelled as he ran from one house to another, "Halloween ROCKS!"

Friday, October 29, 2010

Socks and Other Random Thoughts

My son got socks out of the treasure box in his SK classroom for reading ten books.  I have never been so thrilled with a treasure box item.  Socks!  That match!  And it was a set of three. 

"That will last for at least a week," I thought happily.  I have a real problem with socks.  There are five of us in the family, so I have five different kinds of socks.  I don't know where they end up, but it is not in the same load of laundry.  I have a huge basket full of unmatched socks.  It drives me crazy to keep on top of what I call 'the sock situation'.  And it is a situation.  I am barely hanging on, here.  Socks 1: Jen 0.

Laundry in general is a real problem.  Lately I've been fishing silly bandz out of both my washer and dryer.  You know you're a parent when you have crayon marks and stickers all over the inside of your dryer, and pennies and rocks in the bottom of your washer.

You also know you're a parent when one of the happiest thoughts of your day is that it's pizza day, and you don't have to make lunch.  Is there anything better?  Anything more wonderful than the realization that you don't have to make sandwiches that day?  When I'm running around in the morning making three breakfasts and signing agendas and checking whether it's library day so I have to return a book, and setting out clothes and those annoying socks, and then I remember about pizza day, it's a great moment.  I always think with a huge sense of relief, "Thank GOD it's pizza day!  That just made my day!"  I don't want to say the sun breaks out of the clouds...but it does.

When my son was four he was helping me make pancakes.  I let him pour the batter and flip a pancake all by himself for the first time.  He said proudly to me: "I'm really becoming a man now, aren't I Mommy?"  I answered, "Yes, you are.  Now if you can just learn to do laundry and sort socks...there is nothing more manly than that!"

Friday, October 22, 2010

Grocery Store Spa!

It had been a long, difficult day with the kids, so by the time my husband came home I was very irritable and I told him I needed a break.  Apparently he was irritable too, because he said I could take a break while I was grocery shopping.

So there I was, sulking and pouting as I stomped down the grocery store aisles, grumbling to myself.  "So much for a break!  Who goes grocery shopping for a break!  Hey, let's go to the spa.  No, wait - even better - let's go to the...GROCERY STORE!  It's so calming there.  You can really recharge while deciding whether to buy salted or unsalted butter!"  I was feeling pretty sorry for myself.

And then I saw her - the mother who was shopping with her three children.  One of them was actually rolling around on the floor in the middle of the aisle.  Two others were chasing each other around, and while doing so knocked a big cereal box off the shelf.  She had that look on her face that I have had on mine countless times; the 'if I could just be somewhere else right now I'd be happy' look.

Suddenly I realized that in fact, it was a break to go grocery shopping without any children at all.  It was wonderful!  Blissful! I was free of all distractions.  I could read labels!  From the beginning to the end!  I could compare the nutritional value of cornflakes compared to rice cereal, without having to listen to cries of, "I'm hungry!"  "How much looonggerrr?" "I want to buy that box full of sugar covered in candy and rolled in chocolate!"  It was a beautiful thing.

I pushed my cart along, and sighed happily.  "Mmmmmm.  How relaxing!  Maybe I'll get a coffee and linger over which roasted chicken to pick up.  And I'll be back....same time tomorrow."

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Multitasking Mishaps!

Multitasking is practically a prerequisite of being a parent.  When you have three children yelling different things at you, you need to be able to remember which child wants chocolate soy milk mixed with white milk in a red cup, purple juice in a princess cup, and lemonade with ice cubes in a blue cup.  And when your son complains that he didn't want a princess cup, you say, "Look, princesses are great.  DEAL WITH IT."

I have never done so much multitasking since I've been a parent.  As a new parent with my first child I just lay around all day with my son on my lap, and I would call out to my husband for a glass of water.  When you have your second child, you just can't do that.  With your third, you can vacuum with one hand while the baby is in the front carrier while changing a poopy diaper of your older child with the other hand and watching TV.

Once I was grocery shopping, and I had my daughter sitting in the front of the cart.  I was reading her book to her upside down while pushing the cart along and grabbing items and trying to keep my older child occupied so he wouldn't start knocking fruit on to the floor. 

Of course there have been other times that haven't gone so well.  Like that one time I was doing several loads of laundry as well as washing a poopy sleeper in the laundry tub.  I put the sleeper in the tub, put in the plug, turned on the taps full blast, and then walked away.  I just walked away.  I went upstairs, and I think I started folding laundry.  Nothing was happening in my brain at all, to tell me that I had just done something really stupid.  There was no little nagging voice.  Perhaps it was asleep.  Anyway, later on, my older son suddenly starts yelling that water is pouring down the hallway.  Still no voice.  I ran downstairs, actually wondering where on earth the water was coming from.  It wasn't until I saw the overflowing laundry tub with the sleeper floating on top that something clicked.  It was really fun to clean up all that water, let me tell you.

Possibly it wasn't as fun as the time I locked the keys in the car with the engine running, and didn't realize it until after I'd played with my son at the play farm.  I was taking him back to the car, and as I approached I thought, "Hmmm....the van seems to be....but no, it can't be running.  I mean...surely I would have noticed that?"  Apparently not.  I had to go inside and call the CAA, and of course I'd locked my CAA card inside the van as well.  I mean, that would have been too easy, wouldn't it?  While I was waiting another mother told me her story.  She said she had locked all the car doors, and then just threw her car keys onto the seat and slammed the door.  "I just threw them right in!  I didn't even think,"  she laughed.

I think we're all multitasking so much that we've lost our minds!  Or possibly it's the sleep deprivation.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Sibling Suffering

I didn't think sibling rivalry would be such an issue.  But boy, do my boys fight.  I remember my oldest child's first negative comment to me about his little brother.  "I remember when I was the only child...I was happy then."  Of course he was!  The world revolved around him.  He didn't have to share his parents' attention or affection.

My younger son had his turn too, telling me earnestly when he was three that he didn't want Colin to belong to our family anymore.

They would argue over the silliest things.  I remember the time we were driving in the van, and Ryan was beside himself because Colin was looking out 'his' window. I was outraged.  How dare he??

My boys beg me to let them wrestle.  They literally plead with me, saying they both like it, and they promise not to really hurt one another.  Once they even bargained with me to let them wear all their hockey pads so they could wrestle and not hurt each other.  What is that?  It's obviously a boy thing.  I let them wrestle that day, with all their hockey gear on, and my daughter and I sat on the couch and watched them roll around on the rug in amazement.  They're very physical and they have so much energy and it needs to go somewhere, I guess.

I know it's not only boys; I've heard of girls wrestling too.  I think the worst sibling rivalry is with two children of the same gender.  That seems to be my experience, anyway.  I guess there is more of a competition factor.

I've tried several different ways of approaching the fighting.

The other day I made them hug each other, hoping this would help.  They hugged each other, all right.  Like the 'entertainers' on Wrestle Mania!  I had to break it up.  So much for that plan.

The best thing to do seems to be to send them to their rooms until they can work out a plan together for them to get along.

Now that my youngest child is three, she is also getting into the rivalry with her older brother.  For example, my five year old usually always races my three year old to our van and then yells that he won, and my daughter cries because he always wins.

The other day he was letting her get ahead of him, and I thought, "Wow, what a nice brother!  Things are really turning around.  He cares about his little sister; he's being so unselfish..."

He said, "Ella, you were first.  FIRST IS THE WORST!"

Friday, October 15, 2010

Mess: Mission Impossible!

My son was having a play date and when his friend got into our van, he said, "Wow, this van is REALLY messy.  It's WAY messier than ours." 

"Thank you!"  I replied brightly.

A few days later another child was going to come over for a play date.  "Your car is really dirty,"  he remarked. 

"Mmmmm Hmmmm.  Yes, I'm aware of that!"  I answered, clenching my teeth just a little.

When we opened the door to our house, he said, "And your house smells."  (My husband's hockey bag is really atrocious; that's the only word for it.  He won't let me wash anything because it might wreck the 'fit'.  Priorities, priorities!)

Anyway, clearly it was time for action.

All the toys and books and pens and assorted shoes and mittens (yes, from last winter, I'm laying it all on the table here) were cleared out of the van.

I took the van to the gas station and used the industrial vacuum to clean it all out.  (I had two of my three children with me, which is a feat in itself.  My five year old only vacuumed up his sweater once.)

When it was all done, I was so happy.  The van looked new again!  It was spotless!  Sparkling!

I took a moment and just enjoyed the feeling.  This was the start of a brand new page for our family.  From here on in, we were going to keep the van clean at all times.  Whenever someone dropped something, it would look so incongruous against the spanking clean floor that it would be picked up immediately and deposited into the garbage can that would NOT be completely overflowing with used coffee cups and granola wrappers.  When someone played with an activity book, they wouldn't drop it on the floor after; no!  They would place it back where it belonged (a truly novel concept) in the pocket in the back of the chair.

I sighed with happiness.  This was a turning point!  A step toward a more organized life! A...

My son kicked over my extra-large travel coffee mug.  Coffee...everywhere...

Reality kicked in, hard.

As I was watching my dreams of a clean car go up in smoke after literally less than a minute, my son yelled, "Mommy!  I'm tired, I'm hungry, I'm thirsty, AND I have to go to the bathroom!  Right NOW!"

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Birthday Party Boundaries

I've heard of a school at which the parents have been told that when having a birthday party, they must invite every child of that gender in the class.  The rationale is that this way no one will be excluded and no child's feelings will be hurt.

I understand the thinking behind this rule, but I think it's going too far.

We can't keep our children in bubbles.  Their feelings will get hurt; people will exclude them.  They need to learn to cope.  Coping skills are extremely important, and children will never develop them if they are constantly protected from every life experience.

If it is a case in which one child is consistently excluded from every party, this problem is another issue altogether that should involve the entire class as well as school staff to address.  Forcing the parents to invite every child will not effectively address one individual being excluded in my opinion.

In addition, imagine having to invite thirteen boys to your home and then entertain them.  It would be chaos!  Do you think the person who instigated this rule has ever been forced to do that?  I'm all for birthday parties and I love to celebrate. I want my children to feel they've had a great party with their friends, and I put time and effort into their parties.

But having a huge party like that makes it much more stressful and less fun - it makes it a kid demolition derby instead of a celebration.

Once I had a large birthday party for my child, and even though it was not in my home, it was so chaotic that the only two words I had time to hiss into my husband's ear that night were, "Never! Again!"

And birthday parties can get so expensive!  You can have them hosted elsewhere but you pay through the nose to do it.  And that often doesn't include cake and loot bags.  Imagine how much you are paying for thirteen loot bags, let alone any entertainment.  Plus, it's emotionally expensive.  All you moms out there - you know what I mean.

I just had a birthday party for my five year old son, and I followed the amount of children per age rule.  I had five boys.  It was great!  I wasn't stressed out; I wasn't chasing boys around the house; I wasn't yelling.  It was all very civilized and I had time to eat and drink.  That's the way it should be.

Claim token: F8EVSKNWX86Z

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Childbirth...Need I Say More?

Well, I'm tackling the big one.  What parenting blog is complete without a post on how the children arrived?  I'll try not to overshare, because no one wants that.

I was lucky enough to give birth naturally to all three of my children.  I know I was lucky; I don't think I'm special or anything.  My midwife said there are three different kinds of pelvis structures out there, apparently, and obviously mine is the kind that is good for giving birth.  I knew my hips had to be good for something!

I'm not going to lie and say there wasn't any pain.  There was definitely pain.  As a friend said, "People say you will forget the pain.  Well, I won't. I will NEVER forget that pain!"  And honestly, I don't think I will either.  But after the first experience and you are handed your new little child, it all seems worth it.

My first labour lasted a very long time.  I had initially wanted my mom, sister, and a doula, but my husband got all sentimental and said that this would be a special moment for the two of us, and it should just be him and my midwives.  So it was...until my husband left me during labour!  (Sorry, honey, you know I love you...)  It was too hard for him to see me in pain.  Apparently he went to the waiting room where family members were waiting, and sat down and said he couldn't go back.  I believe it was one of his sisters who roughed him up and forced him at a quick march back to the labour room, but I'm not sure.  Anyway, even once back inside the midwife told me he needed to rest and put him on a chair in the corner.  I was thinking, but I was far too tired to yell it: "HE needs a rest??"  Anyway, my mom and my sister then came in and my sister helped until my son was delivered.  (I should say right now that my husband was a star for my next two labours, which were much shorter and easier all around.)

I couldn't have done it naturally without my midwives.  I can't say enough good things about midwives.  I had them for all three of my children's births and they were all great.  I found that using the tub, breathing exercises and focusing was all very helpful. I think you really need to be prepared for the pain or it will be too hard to manage.  It was so nice to be able to get up and shower afterwards, and be able to walk around.

And I just have to say, so people know that it can be done, that my last child was 11 lbs (all my children were heavyweights and also extremely overdue) and I still gave birth naturally without a single stitch and it was all fine.  And there weren't any problems, either - no diabetes or anything else for either of us.  Sometimes I think women get the message that they can't do it naturally, which I wish didn't happen.

I've heard women who have had C-sections complain that other women judge them.  I don't think moms should judge other moms at all.  It's just like when you have all these smug thoughts before your children are born.  Crazy things like how your house won't be so messy and chaotic with kids.  How YOUR kids will never talk back or throw terrible tantrums or engage in inappropriate talk.  And then you have your children, and everything changes.  And even though we're moms, we're still not the mom of someone else's child.  That child could be spirited or sensitive, and we don't know how our decisions would change based on those different experiences.  Obviously the baby's health is the most important thing.  Labour can be an amazing experience, but it's really holding your baby for the first time that is life-changing.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving!

My family was eating dinner together tonight and I asked everybody what they are thankful for this year.  We haven't had our big family Thanksgiving yet, but I thought we'd start early.  It started out pretty well.  My three year old daughter Ella said she was thankful for Strawberry Shortcake.  And I mean, really, who isn't?  She's just so cute!  So resourceful! 

Then my five year old son said he was grateful for our Wii game system.  That hurt a little, but I recovered quickly and we moved on.  My seven year old son said he was thankful for all the animals and all the trees, which I thought was nice.  Now we were getting to the true meaning of Thanksgiving.  I asked my husband, thinking he would back me up and help our children understand how lucky we all are.

My husband said he is thankful for hockey.  No surprise there.  All three of my boys play hockey.  That's two sons and a husband!  You know you're a hockey family when your oven is named Ovechkin.  Get it?  Oven, Ovechkin?  Anyway, fine, he's thankful for hockey.  Great.  Anything else?  No, only hockey.  So far, so okay.

Then things deteriorated.  My five year old son said he was grateful for his head.  That struck him as pretty funny.  Then he started saying he was thankful for his underwear.  My seven year old thought that was completely hilarious and said he was thankful he could burp.  My boys were falling out of their chairs laughing.

Well, things hadn't exactly gone as expected - I find that happens quite often as a parent - but now it was my turn, it was my big moment, and I could rescue the whole operation.  "I am so thankful...just extremely grateful...that my children have good table manners!  Let's eat!"

Friday, October 8, 2010

A Child with Anaphylaxis

It happened when I gave him a bite of a cashew chicken dish I had made.  He was two years old.  He asked to try it, and I thought, "Why not?"  No one that I knew of in either my family or my husband's family was allergic to nuts.  My son was a choosy eater and I was always trying to find new things that he liked.  He tried just one small bite and instantly vomited, which I didn't know was a sign of an allergic reaction.  It happened so fast that I thought it must be related to milk he'd had earlier.  Then he began getting hives all over his body, his ears swelled, and he began to have a dry cough. 

I gave him Children's Benadryl and took him to the ER.  I had just sat down on a hard plastic chair, thinking I wouldn't get up again for several hours, when they called us right in.  That was my first indication that this was a serious issue.  They gave him more Benadryl and told me I'd done the right thing.  The ER doctor prescribed an Epi-Pen and gave us a referral to an allergist. 

I was in a bit of shock.  I couldn't seriously believe that my son really had a life-threatening condition.  I didn't know what anaphylaxis meant.  I'd never seen an Epi-Pen and I had no idea how to use one.  When the allergist confirmed the allergy and asked me how I felt I remember saying, "I was hoping he wouldn't have to deal with this."

As a parent, we all want the best for our children.  I remember when all of my children were born, feeling the huge responsibility and wanting to protect each one of them and have them be safe.  The thing with a food allergy is that food is everywhere.  You can't avoid it completely.

The first thing we had to do was rid our house of all nuts (in case of cross-reactivity) and everything with traces of nuts.  The 'traces of nuts' concept is really where I run into the most confusion with other people.  People don't understand (and why would they unless they have a child with an allergy) that even food without any nuts at all may cause a reaction because the food may have come into contact with nuts or been made in a factory that also makes other food with nuts.

I was relieved when I heard that Colin's child care centre and school were 'nut-free'.  However, I soon realized this wasn't a guarantee.  I still have to be completely vigilant, because parents and even some teachers don't fully understand what nut-free really means.  There have been many school events in which the food provided has had traces of nuts.  Every year I give Colin's teacher a bag of nut-free treats so he can have one of those when parents send in cupcakes or other snacks.  If I can't read the label or know how it was made I can't be sure it is safe.  Even seemingly innocuous foods like vanilla icing can have traces of nuts.

I've had a friend think I was overprotective because 'he will just get an allergic reaction' until I explained that anaphylaxis can result in death. 

Birthday parties took on a whole new meaning.  I have to check on every kind of food that is being served, and I always send a cupcake for Colin because very few bakeries will guarantee a nut-free cake.  We are not able to go to many restaurants or get take-out unless I check all of the allergen information.  Some places including bakeries still use peanut oil to fry pastries in.

I was worried that parents wouldn't want to have Colin over to their homes because of his Epi-Pen, but I've found other parents to be really good about this and very willing to accommodate him and I appreciate it.

Colin has to take his Epi-Pen with him wherever he goes.  I also have one in his hockey bag, one in my backpack/purse and one in the school office.

I am grateful that Colin doesn't have anything worse to worry about.  He is almost eight years old now and he does everything every other child does.  We have never had to use his Epi-Pen and I hope we never will.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Eating Epiphany

My oldest son barely eats anything at all.  He eats like the proverbial bird, except that most birds seem to have a healthy appetite.  Not my son Colin, I'm afraid.  It was very stressful when he was younger.  He has almost always been the smallest and shortest in his class.  He's just not that interested in food.  I have tried everything I can think of and everything other people think of, but nothing really worked. 

When my second son Ryan came along, I was afraid I was going to experience the same thing.  Right from the beginning he was in the 90th percentile for weight and height, however, a number I can only dream about for my eldest son.  When Ryan started solid food, he ate everything, in large quantities.

My husband and I watched him in amazement.  We gave him pieces of avocado and mango with hopeless looks on our faces, and when he would happily eat every piece and look for more, we would be astonished.  We avoided eye contact so as not to jinx this incredible phenomenon.  Finally we couldn't deny any longer that he was a fabulous eater.  Jerry reached out and took my hand.  "Honey", he whispered, "I can't quite believe it, and I could be wrong... but it looks like our son is ... eating!"  We looked at each other with tears in our eyes.  "Isn't it wonderful?"  We observed a moment of silence.  It was an epiphany; it wasn't our fault that Colin didn't eat very much.  It was just...Colin!  And Ryan was just Ryan.

When Ryan started eating sand in the sandbox, my husband let him do it, figuring that he would realize it didn't taste good and would stop.  After he ate five handfuls, Jerry realized he wasn't going to figure it out.  He has also eaten bark, a bite of library book, grass, dirt and toilet paper.  I'm surprised he didn't get to the big floor plant; he tried for months to eat it.  Don't misunderstand me; I'm not complaining.  If he could eat sand with total equanimity, it's no wonder that vegetables don't faze him in the slightest.  I love it!

As my doctor says now, "Well, Colin will be the runner and Ryan will be the football player!"

Colin is a wonderful, sweet, thoughtful, smart and very active boy.  So is Ryan.  And he'll be able to take out his older brother any time now.

Monday, October 4, 2010

The BIG Question...You Know the One

When my oldest son was about five years old, he asked me the big question.  I didn't see it coming at all.  I was changing my daughter's diaper, and my son said, "She has a baby in there."

"Oh no, no.  Ha, ha.  No, she doesn't."  I continued changing her diaper, blithely unaware of the trap I was hearing toward.  My son fixed me with a determined look.  "Well, then, Mommy - how does the baby get IN there?"

I started to stammer:  "Aahhh, well, you see..." but then broke off.  I was aghast.  I wasn't prepared for this.  Pre-parenting (and pre-sleep deprivation) I'd had pleasant thoughts about what a fabulous parent I would be, and how I would know exactly how to answer every single hard question my children asked me because I would be completely prepared.   Well, somehow in the tumult of raising three children, I had forgotten to prepare notes for this day.  And most importantly, I hadn't had NEAR enough sleep the night before in order to be able to answer this properly!  I looked around for help.  My middle son was throwing his crackers on the floor and stomping on them.  No help there.

My oldest son seemed to realize I needed a nudge.  He leaned toward me, saying earnestly: "Mommy, I'm going to be a Dad one day, and I don't know how to do it!"

I cast about desperately for an answer, and then it came to me:  "When a Mommy and Daddy love each other, they can create a baby." Colin accepted this, thank goodness. 

I threw myself on the couch.  Whew!  That was exhausting.  How am I going to handle puberty?

I remember the time I was at a gas station, and I heard some music being blared from a car stereo.  A flashy sports car sped in, and screeched to a stop.  A teenage boy jumped out on a wave of testosterone.  His hair was all gelled and spiky and he sauntered over to the gas pumps.

I was speechless, shocked by the realization that I was raising two of those!  The responsibility seemed overwhelming.

Now I realize that I just have to do my best, and teach my children (all of them, including my daughter) how to be good to other people, to respect themselves and others, and how to take responsibility and be able to do the hard work life requires.  Just a small, easy job, really.  No problem. 

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Run for the Toad 25K 2010

I did it!  I ran my first 25K.  We started off in a very light drizzle, which actually felt good.  I was glad that it wasn't hailing as it did one year.  The first 12K went really well; my friend and I were running at a good pace and I was feeling fine.  I was looking forward to food at the halfway mark because I was starving, but I didn't see any out yet, only water and Gatorade.  That was a disappointment, but we kept going and luckily at the next aid station there was food out.  Those potato chips were the best chips I'd ever eaten!  The salt was delicious.  There were also M&Ms, cookies and Coke.  That was the boost I needed to keep going.  The first time around the loop there were some muddy places but they could be avoided and the track was pretty good.  You have to watch your footing carefully due to all the tree roots and rocks, but it was great to run through the forest.  However, the second time we did the loop it was a different story.  The rain came down much harder and with all the people running through the path it turned into a mud bath.  I was really wishing I had trail shoes.  Many parts of the path were literally unrunnable.  In some parts I was just skating on the mud and I could barely walk without falling, let alone run.  I was frustrated, because with 8K to go my IT band started hurting and my knee was in pain, and I just wanted to power through the rest of the race but I couldn't because of the mud.  My friend and I finished in 3.5 hours and we were happy with that, although it wasn't our best time, but the mud really slowed us down.  I can't believe we ran almost continuously for 3.5 hours!  Another friend (who ran a great race and came in way before us) has a GPS watch and it told him he burned over 2,000 calories during the race.  Bring on the M&Ms!  The race is very well-organized and I like Pinehurst Park; it's a nice setting.  They had Tim Horton's there and a tent with physios doing sport massage; that was wonderful.  It was a cold rainy day but I'm so happy I did it!  My knee is totally shot but (crazy as it sounds) it was worth it.  Now the only question is which trail shoes I should buy for my next race...

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Parents Deserve Awards, Don't We?

Who's with me?  Shouldn't we get awards for our hard work?  I just found an old pin that I received from my previous place of employment, as recognition for five years of work.  And it made me think.  In the business world, employees are presented with certain perks that represent encouragement.  It's not the same when you work at home.  I know that parents do get lots of perks.  For example, the artwork.  Also when your children kiss you and hug you and tell you they love you.  And when they say you are the 'bestest' mom in the world.  That is great!

But there are days that seem pretty thankless, aren't there?  Like the day I was dealing with an irrational three year old and a cranky, teething eight month old.  That day I came downstairs, fully dressed (which deserves an award in itself) and my three year old son saw me and instantly threw himself on the floor, wailing. I looked around.  What happened?  Had Thomas the Tank Engine retired?  Had Bob the Builder stopped building?  No, my son wanted to get dressed before I did.  You can't possibly anticipate these things.  And of course when I refused to go put my pyjamas back on so he could get dressed first, he had an even bigger tantrum.  I was struggling to put him on the time-out chair while holding my eight-month old daughter who was biting me really hard on my shoulder (teething).  It was at THIS exact moment when I thought, 'Where are the perks?  Where are the thanks?'

Several ideas for awards come to mind:

The 'I Took Two Children to the Doctor to Get Immunized and I Did It Alone' Award
The 'I Cleaned Poop Off the Wall, Vomit Out of My Hair and Pee Out of My Carpet and I Remained Unfazed'
The 'I Had a Home Birthday Party for Too Many Overactive Children and My Sanity, Although Damaged, was Not Completely Shot'
The 'I Have Been Vomited On Too Many Times to Count and I Have Done Far Too Much Laundry But I Have Done it Without Complaining Much' Award
The 'I Drove Several Hours in a Car While Keeping Three Active and Intensely Bored Children Occupied and I'm Totally Exhausted and In Need of a Relaxing Glass of Wine But I Didn't Cry' Award

I don't know if we should get money or what, but I'd settle for thirty minutes alone.

Maybe we could present our children with certificates stating how many hours we spent rocking them to sleep, feeding them, spending time in the ER, and so on.  Maybe when they're teenagers they would respect and appreciate us more.  Okay, maybe not.  But it would sure be a great guilt trip, I mean great leverage, for the next time they need a drive to the movies...

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Crying...and crying...

I remember when I was just getting used to having three children.  This was when I had three children under the age of five.  It's called 'extreme parenting'.  At least it seemed like it at the time; now having three children seems great and perfectly manageable.  In fact, I'd recommend it highly.  But when a newborn is involved plus two other small ones, it's definitely a challenge.  I had come to accept that, at any given time, one of us would be crying.  As long as it wasn't me, I figured we were doing okay. 

One moment stands out above the others, though.  I had just pulled the van into the driveway, and Ryan started crying because he didn't want to get out of his car seat.  (Although earlier he had started crying because he didn't want to get IN the car seat.  When he was smaller we called him 'Cryin' Ryan' but that's another post.)  Anyway, so Ryan was crying very loudly.  Then Ella started crying, out of solidarity with her brother I suppose because I couldn't see any other reason.  I was taking a deep breath while putting Ella into the front baby carrier, and thinking, 'Okay, well, two out of three children are crying but look at me, I am handling it very well.'  Then Colin shut his hand in the door of the van.  And he began shrieking, and I mean shrieking.  And instead of shocking his siblings into silence it just made them cry louder, so now I had all three children screaming and I didn't know what to do!  I considered crying myself but quickly rejected that idea, although it was tempting.  Ella still wasn't buckled into her carrier and of course the van doors had locked automatically and I had already zipped the keys in my backpack.  I finally got the keys out and unlocked the door, and luckily Colin's hand was completely fine.  However, the whole episode took years off my life, I tell you.  I still haven't fully relaxed!

Keeping the Kids Occupied: Is It Possible?

I took the kids apple-picking at Frootogo Orchards in Waterdown Ontario.  It's a great place to take the kids. It's very child-friendly.  Admittance is free.  There is a huge (and I mean huge) play area, with slides, swings, ride-on toys, hay bales, sandbox and other toys.  There is a corn maze, orchards, animal pens and a pumpkin patch.  Children love apple-picking.  You can also buy fruit and vegetables and pies.  I took my children there many times when they were younger.  I have a nice memory of breastfeeding my son there.  I went to one end of the apple orchard and sat on a rock in the sunshine and fed him; it was great.  I just made apple muffins and the kids helped.  They love to participate in cooking and baking.

Other good places to take children that you might not generally think of and that are free include garden centres.  I loved going to these because it was such a nice place to go for all of us.  Even the air is different there; full of moisture and the scents of flowers.  There are often waterfalls or ponds with fish.  Some places even have sandboxes.  The kids love to run up and down between the trees and smell the flowers and look at the different kinds of plants.

Forest trails were also good, because the children could run (and if you have boys you know they need to run) and it was fun for all of us.

Three great things that keep children occupied include scavenger hunts (inside or out); treat hunts (inside or out); and 'painting' things with water.  Give them buckets of water and clean paintbrushes and they can paint the deck or the house or the trees.  They love it and it's not messy.  You can't ask for much more than that.

Good luck!

Friday, September 24, 2010

Feel the Burn!

I am in training for a 25K race.  I love just saying that...25K.  I started running a little over a year ago.  The first race I did was a 5K and I hadn't even trained for it, but running it inspired me to train to do better the next year.  I remember my friend saying that I would soon be wanting to do a 7K, and at the time I thought he was crazy!  I just wanted to be able to run an entire 5K without feeling desperate to stop and walk.  But I've become completely hooked.  I've seen such progress, which is very motivating.  Now I really want to run whenever I can, and I feel upset if I'm not able to run.  I love trail running.  I've always loved hiking on trails, but trail running is even better because you can go farther and see more trees and creeks.  I've seen so much wildlife since I started trail running.  After I felt good at the 5K (I took 12 minutes off my original time) my friend and I signed up for the 10K.  And that went so well that we felt we needed a real challenge, and signed up for the 25K.  The race is coming up and I've ran 25K twice, and 20K twice, plus lots of 10K and under runs.  I think we're ready!  It feels great to do something that I never would have believed I could have done only a year ago.  Can't wait to feel the burn!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Where Has My Mind Gone?

The other day I tried to return items to a different store than where I bought them.  That's right.  It wasn't on purpose.  I've just been sleep-deprived for seven years.  I was heading to do some grocery shopping, and I needed to return two things.  I even had the receipt.  Midway through driving to the store in question, I decided to go to a closer grocery store, since I had two of my three children with me.  Anyone who has small children will not need any further explanation.  Anyway, although the car took a detour, apparently my mind was unable to grasp the implications of it.  I went to the different grocery store, waited in line, and even helpfully circled the items on the receipt (with the chain name in big block letters at the top).  The cashier tried to ring the items through before saying, "Um...actually, we don't even carry this item."  Of course they didn't.  Because it was the wrong store!  I felt like a complete idiot.  Of course, there is a lot of that going around for me lately.

Twice I have driven off in my van with my coffee travel mug on top, causing the mug to hurtle by my window and crash onto the road, spilling coffee (that's the worst part).  The second time, I even said to my oldest son as I put the mug on top of the van, "I can't forget to put my mug in the van this time!"  And yet, just a few minutes later, that's exactly what I did.  Of course, that was after I had put my youngest child in the car seat, buckled in two out of three, and put in hats and sunscreen and water bottles and see where I'm going with this.

The third time I remembered to put my coffee mug in the van.  As I was backing out of the driveway, I gave the thumbs up to my son saying, "Finally I remembered to put my mug in!"  CRASH.  I had backed into the green bin.  Oh, well.  Coffee over the green bin any day.

Feeling the Pain

Isn't it fun to go to the doctor's office with small children?  I mean, what parent doesn't want to experience that particular form of fun that is the waiting room?  That term should tip off most parents immediately.  Waiting + small children = torture.  Yes, the office has toys.  But if your children play with them, they will instantly contract a cold worse than the one they came in with.  And usually we are called in immediately, only to wait in the doctor's room - with no toys - for even longer than we were in the waiting room.  We are now in the 'I am desperate to keep my kids happily occupied' room and we haven't even seen the doctor yet.  I am usually well-prepared.  I have snacks, water, toys, and colouring books.  But the kids don't want to use them.  They want to jump off the exam table and figure out how to take the stirrups off.  They want to root through the garbage can and tip over the jar of Popsicle sticks (perhaps they're called something else but I'm a parent - to me they are popsicle sticks).  My kids can't wait for their toast to pop up - how can they wait for an hour and a half?  I don't know where they get their impatience from, either.  Are we still talking about this?  Let's move on already!

The other day I was trying to arrange a doctor's appointment for a time when I would only have two children with me as opposed to three children.  The receptionist was giving me a hard time about my negotiations, stating I should just be happy to get any time the doctor has available.  I wanted to say, "Listen to me very closely.  This is not only for my benefit.  If I have to bring three children to this appointment, trust me: you, me, the other people waiting, the doctor and the nurse - we will ALL be feeling the pain!"

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Growing Up!

My seven year old son informed me that he is now too old for me to kiss him good-bye in the school line.  I took it really well.  I was devastated!  He is only in grade three.  I expected this when he was a pre-teen, but not yet.  Had I known this earlier, I would have made the most of kissing him all through grade two in the school line.  I mean, I know it's not that big a deal.  I can still kiss him at home.  But suddenly, in public has become out-of-bounds.  He said that some kids might laugh at him.  Can you believe it?  Thankfully I have two younger children.  My son in SK was there throughout this conversation.  After I had watched his brother walk away to his school line (alone!) I asked him (only slightly tearfully) if I could still kiss him at school.  He said, "Yes, Mom!"  The poor kid could probably tell that I would have started sobbing if he had said no.  I should have taken my chance then...I should have made him commit to letting me kiss him in his school line until he was in grade six!


My seven year old son brought home a big book from the library.  He and his five year old brother were poring over it.  They were completely entranced by it.  I walked by his room, and saw both boys staring at the book, and thought happily, "It's so great that they are getting into reading so much!  They are both into it.  It's nice when they find a book that they both really like."  I was walking away when I heard one of my sons say, "Those are the biggest things I have EVER seen."  I paused.  Hmmmm.  I walked back into the room to check exactly what book my grade three son had brought home from the elementary school library.  It was a Guinness Book of World Records book.  In 3D.  The boys kept trading the 3D glasses and giggling.  And yes, what they were entranced by wasn't the words on the page.  It was the woman with the biggest breasts in the world!  So much for literacy!