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...