Thursday, May 28, 2009

Flying Solo

Husband has a great family-friendly career. The hours are reasonable and allow Husband to be home each evening. He does bring work home not infrequently, but he manages to squeeze it in between bike rides and swimming lessons. He works from home one day. As I say really good.

Except for the travel. About 4 or 5 times a year he needs to travel for 3 or 4 days. When J Boy was a singleton this was mildly challenging only because I lacked for adult company and would have to wait for the nightly phone call to tell Husband about how J spat his peas all over me or how cute he looked in the new onsie I bought for $2.99.

When S arrived on the scene, each Daddy road trip felt like a marathon. I would count the meals, the bedtimes, the days, until Husband would be home. In the earlier years, we would encamp at my parents house. Two doting grandparents and prepared meals made it all manageable. Of course, when the kids were young they do want a parent a LOT of the time so even with willing and qualified help, I rejoiced when I woke up on the last morning, knowing Husband would soon be back in the family fold.

I found as the kids settled into toddlerhood, they were used to having Daddy around and with each day they would miss him more and would express their yearning in the form of a whine-fest. Or tantrum-fest. Or both simultaneously.

Things have eased as they get older. Once I was back at work, the trips that occur overlapping my workweek became more tolerable only because the hours of solo parenthood are minimized to the evening. Of course it meant more shuttling to swimming and tae kwan do with an extra kid now. I admit even the weekend trips I do not dread quite as much.

This week Husband had a three day-er in Ottawa. I worked two of those days and had previously arranged to take the third day off to go on a field trip with a group of rowdy kindergartner's. Also, one evening I had a sitter arranged as I had my class.

You know, it all went pretty well. I felt so comfortable in the shallow water of the pool of single parenthood, I jumped straight into the deep end: I offered to take the kids to a sit down restaurant WITH NO BACK UP.

Our kids, well they have mixed success in restaurants. J's predisposition to wiggling and boredom, intersecting with a certain degree of impatience (he gets that from me) combined with extreme volatility when hungry (i.e. when you're about to eat) is recipe for disaster. S is a fussy eater and has been known to reject meals because the mac 'n cheese noodles are not the right shape or it's not "regular cheese pizza".

Before any restaurant outing, Husband and I often read the menu on the internet. So were arrive at restaurant and upon getting a cheery "How are we this evening?" and even before hearing about the chef's magical creation that evening (and sometimes before we sit down) we are prepared:

"We'll have one order of the kids' chicken fingers with plum sauce, one kids' cheese pizza, 2 kids sized milk with extra straws please, one Thai chicken salad, no onions, dressing on the side, a Cajun chicken burger with garden salad with the vinaigrette, one iced tea, one diet coke, extra napkins, 2 glasses of water. Do you know how long that will be? Oh and do you have any brown crayons?"

Then Husband and I have a well-ordered routine. We get the kids settled on the colouring/puzzles that invariably come on the kids menu. Once they have finished the mazes, word finds, crossword puzzles or similar, and they are starting to play with the sugar packets, we take a trip to the bathroom to wash hands and play with the automatic paper towel dispensers. If we are really lucky (and we're usually not) the food will then come. If not, Husband will gamely take the kids "on an adventure", which may include checking out a water feature in the entry, looking for rocks in the parking lot or looking at the bar stools in the bar. The latter only usually happens when there is a hockey game on. In a pinch, we'll also play guessing games, tick tack toe on on the napkins or a few rounds of "please don't pick your nose". The last arrow in our quiver is to threaten to never take them to a restaurant in their lives again. Or give them a treat. Or do anything fun.

It's not always un-fun, but it's a mixed bag of success even with two parents.

Anyway this evening, I bravely suggested, knowing J's improving life skills, we go to Frogstone Grill. On top of the usual kid-friendly things (nuggets, pizza, menu with puzzles) then give the kids a frog with their milk. These fellas can entertain for quite some time. Plus the bathrooms have the sound of frogs croaking which never fails to entertain.

I did secure their solemn vows to be "super-fantastically-extra-amazingly-good". We also went at 4:15 when I knew almost no one would be there but a few seniors and a few people having beers after work, which would mean a) faster service and b) fewer people to annoy.

The kids got into a serious Spy game on the drive over and the game bled over into the restaurant. I consented to their taking ONE tour around the restaurant searching for clues, which turned into ten. Then they said they weren't going all the way around, just going to the teleportal and they'd be right back (You have to hold hands to go through a teleportal, in case you didn't know).

I can't remember what required that they crawl on the floor, it was all very top-secret-hush-hush-need-to-know-basis.

Once I sensed the kids were getting too close to getting trays of nachos and beer dumped on them and sending waitstaff on Workers' Compensation, I convinced them to get to work on their puzzles. They were working hard, the food came, I was actually enjoying my meal, it was all going well. A little too well.
Then J made a mistake in one of the puzzles and erupted into tears. We had another kids' menu speedily delivered to our table, but by then the J Boy was under the table and definitely not in a super-fantastically-extra-amazingly good mood. He was growling at me.

To his credit he did recover without what we call a "forcible extraction" (pulling screaming/kicking child from under table and to van). I graded them an 8 out 10 on the outing. Saying they did pretty well, but they have room for improvement (S would not help collect up the crayons at the end, which is why she scored an 8 as well.)
The post script to this day are the five amazing things that happened at home:

1. I had homework to do for my course so I begged and pleaded to be allowed to do my homework. This not only required their not needing me, but not needing the computer. They generously granted me computer access almost the whole evening.

2. At one point I thought "what time does Husband get home tomorrow?". Then I remembered, he gets home TONIGHT. I don't just normally know what night he's getting home, but exactly when. Plus I calculate how long it will take to deplane, get luggage, take a cab so I usually know when the earliest he could be home. And I normally have a countdown clock running in my head "He should be boarding the plane now", "90 minutes till he lands". "He should be getting his luggage now".

3. J Boy came to the computer where I am working on homework and said "Is there a Kleenex box in here?". Now this is kindof strange because J is not a great consumer of tissue. He always has a sleeve handy for any necessary wiping. S came down with the sniffles that morning and I asked if he had a cold as well or if he thought it was allergies. "No, S asked for a box of Kleenex so I'm getting her some". This is very un-J. It's not that he's unthoughtful at all. He is just usually preoccupied with making his books, conducting science experiments or watching TV. He is not, to put is mildly, a great multi-tasker. So it's remarkable that he even HEARD S's request, let alone left the confines of whatever he was doing to track down some Kleenex. Pinch me, he's maturing.

4. We have a pretty set bedtime routine for J. He watches a particular TV show until 9. Then we tell him to turn off the TV before the next show starts. Quite frequently the show will be over and he'll head to the den and try to get a few more minutes on the computer. Husband and I will good naturedly tell him it's time to go upstairs. He spends the next 2 hours in his room doing his thing. When Husband and I are both home, one of us is usually on the ball enough at 9 to usher him upstairs. I was engrossed in homework I didn't look at the clock until 9:10. He hadn't come to try and sneak in some 'puter time so I went to the family room for the inevitable no-you-can't-watch-one-more-show showdown. The J Boy was not there. The TV was off. He was upstairs in his room. This is the stuff twilight zones are made of.

5. The final icing on the cake was about 10 minutes later. J decided he need to organize his (which is to say my childhood) collection of Nancy Drew books. He likes to have them in numerical order and he couldn't find some of them. So I was going through the piles of books on his shelf trying to find the #2 book which we know we have somewhere. He was a little on edge as he can get a little pathological about keeping track of stuff. (Don't know where he gets that from??). Then Husband walks into his room. I wasn't even expecting him. Normally, my ears would be peeled listening for the taxi arrival and car door slam. Progress indeed.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Spring has Sprung (A Leak)

Spring. The cherry blossoms, the tulips, the sunshine. It is all that plus potholes, a yard that needs resurrecting and windows that need to be cleaned (but likely won't be in our house).

It is also the time that kids, and boys in particular, seem to have a certain ennui.

Ennui –noun
a feeling of utter weariness and discontent resulting from satiety or lack of interest;


No doubt evolutionary physiologists (if there is such a thing) would have an explanation that has to do with hunting and gathering and the need to provide subsistence for oneself after a long winter. I feel sure that sending the 5 to 10 year old set on a safari to hunt elk and antelope would purge their ennui.

J Boy has allergies which peak in May and June and less sleep and more discomfort contribute to the situation. School has fewer hard academic days, and more playing, which exacerbates the situation.

When J was in preschool at age 4, I noticed late March that he was more difficult to deal with (and that is saying something). He seemed restless and the usual things didn't interest him. When the J Boy is at loose ends, no good comes of it.

Each year since then, we see the same pattern. After spring break, the J Boy seems not just bored (as he has boredness tendencies all year 'round) but restless. And agitated. And at times inconsolable. And decidedly unreasonable.

If I cast my mind back to last year, I seem recall some tortuous after-school pickups, some after-school hunger issues and days like this and this when I just had to go to my happy place.

I remember one morning last May or June resolving to be understanding of J and his issues. We were having a lot of conflict getting the boy to school. I self-talked, saying it would not endanger his education if he got to school a few minutes late. So instead of harping, nagging, sighing and eye-rolling, I sat quietly with him and tried to understand why he had to finish watching Kim Possible before he went to school and why, when Kim Possible was over, he still wouldn't get out of his pyjamas. After several rounds of cuddles, reassurance, empathy and talking logic, he was still not ready to go to school. I got him to school an hour late under considerable protest. And he still kvetched as I quietly and calmly dragged him to the office for his late slip.

The next day, I threatened to duct tape him to his booster seat if he didn't get his bony a$$ to the van. That worked better.

Another hallmark of spring for J is he is even more forgetful. If that is possible. Spring is also the season where I make semi-weekly visits to the school lost-and-found. I always find a jacket, a water bottle, a lunch bag or maybe even a shoe.

One afternoon I arrived at school and saw a green hoodie hanging over the fence by the parking lot. It's a distinctive one, and even money said it would belong to the J Boy. It did. (I know because I label everything not nailed down). A couple weeks ago, J only brought his spelling homework home the night before his spelling test, having forgotten it every day for a week. I don't fully (or at all) understand the correlation between the forgetfulness and the ennui or if one causes the other or both are caused by the same mysterious spring fever.

But, this blog is not another in an endless line of blogs on my inability to copy with J. On the contrary, this year we have less ennui. Sure he is going to bed at 10:30 most nights and some nights well past 11. I have actually had to keep myself awake until he fell asleep and I could turn off his music, shut his door and put out the hall light.

But apart from that, he is learning to cope. Yes, cope... J Boy, same sentence. I am giddy.

I did not think I would see the day but he is finding things to keep his mind active. And the most exciting part about this is I HAD NOTHING TO DO WITH IT. As much time as I spend finding the right activities to engage the boy, he has found his own things, such as:

1. Science experiments: This involves Husband, our resident scientist. A few years ago someone gave me a deck of "cards". Each had a science experiment that could be done at home with normal household items. So J came across these and has made pennies turn green, turned pennies from black to shiny, he is growing purple crystals, he discovered that he can drank water while standing on his head.

2. Math Practice : J started keep a journal and was a little secretive about it. So I took a peak over his shoulder one day and found out that he is practicing math. Double digit addition and subtraction. He often likes to work out problems in his head in the car and I've started noticing scraps of paper around the house that read:

29 + 23
30 + 22 = 52

3. Sky Navigation. He found the Microsoft Worldwide telescope website. He tries to figure out how to create solar eclipses and can view the galaxy from the perspective of different planets. Or dwarf planets in the case of Pluto, as J would tell you.

4. Writing books: This is a springtime favourite of his in years gone by. He creates his own books. Just this week he created a Figuring Out series of books. Figuring Out Codes, Figuring Out Strangers, Figuring Out Spys [sic]. He writes, illustrates and binds his own books. We sometimes have a few tense moments when he suggests he'll set up a bookstore at the end of our driveway and sell each book for $10 (what?? he can't sell lemonade like other kids??). But mostly, the joy is in the creation and the pride with which he presents his books to us.

5. Playing Spies: S joins J as they play spy ANYWHERE. The van is a Spy Pod. Their water bottles are spy juice. Any cars where they see headlights are enemy vehicles. Any cars where they see tail lights are friendlies. I of course play along as I am usually driving the spy pod.

6. Reading: J has been reading fairly well for a while. Only since Christmas has he been reading voluntarily when we don't suggest he do it (or must do it for school). He has discovered comics and continues to enjoy reading mysteries. With his bedtime approaching midnight, he thankfully will read in bed. Often with his night vision goggles.

The upshot of all of this is that J is less at loose ends. He does have a bit of a short fuse at times on top of his nocturnal tendencies and absent-minded professorness, but he is not as difficult, unmanageable and I have not threatened duct tape even once. He'll even occasionally listen to a little reason.

I know we're not through June yet and things may take a turn for the worse. But I am enjoying May and the sun, the blossoming trees and a more harmonious home. Now, if I could only get to those windows ...

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Sporty Girl!

On the pitch!

Ready!

Much easier with no keeper. Way cuter than that other Sidney who also plays a little hockey.
Is this thing regulation?Future javelin thrower?Keeping hydrated.

Half Birthdays

I take a certain amount of abuse because of my insistance on marking the kids' half birthdays. I know I have a certain (large) amount of disdain for the way holidays (Valentine's Day, Halloween) have become over-celebrated. And that may make one think that I am anti-celebration in general. But I am not.

I did not come from a half-birthday celebrating family, though for some odd reason, I always knew that my half birthday was October 8th.
Once I had kids, I became slightly (massively) neurotic about keeping track of their age. I gave it far too much thought. I had a whole system.

I counted in days until they were 2 weeks old. So for example on December 4, 2001 if you had met my bleary-eyed self and asked me how old my charming baby was, and I was alert enough to understand your question, I would have said "11 days."

I then counted in weeks and half week until 18 weeks. J was born on a Friday, so until Monday I would call him "9 weeks" and starting Tuesday "9 1/2 weeks".

I made the huge transition to counting in months at 4 months. It did seem a little imprecise to me, so I may have said "4 1/2 months" on occasion. I counted in months until the kid were 24 months and then I changed over into years, with my own twist.

For the first month they were any given age, I would say when asked my kids' age "She just turned two". For months two, three and four I would say "He is just over two". For month 5, 6 and 7 I would say "two-and-a-half". Months 8, 9 and 10 I would say "just over 2 1/2". Months 11 and 12 I would say "almost three". Like I said, way too much thought!

So with this micro age awareness and with perhaps had too much time on my hands when J was little as we celebrated his half birthdays at 6 mos. and 18 mos. And once you start, you just can't quit because a) you have to keep this equivalent for the younger child and b) the kids won't let you stop once you start.

I should perhaps add that by "celebrated", we either have a cake, cupcakes or the traditional family cinnamon buns. And the birthday child gets a modest gift and a couple other gifts, either re-gifted, free stuff I came across or something from the dollar store. This year, S got the "disco" dress pictured at left. It doesn't photograph very well due to reflective nature of mirror sequins. She was pleased as punch with it. [note, party hat and balloons are for her cousin's 4th birthday not her half birthday. I'm not yet that out of control.]

Most importantly, half birthdays bring the right to add to their age " ... and a half". The kids are quite strict about this. If I am asked their ages, I will say, for example "seven-and-a-half and five-and-a-half". If the 1/2 birthdays have not been yet celebrated I will get a stern "Mommy, J isn't 7 1/2 yet".

So today our J Boy turned 7 1/2. I forgot to buy the cinnamon buns, as he had requested. He granted me a pardon from my sin and promised to accept Dairy Queen as a substitute (it's a warm weekend, so why not?). This parallels S's half birthday when I remembered to buy the Pillsbury product but Husband forgot to make them for breakfast and toast had been consumed by the time I was awake enough to notice (I should add that Husband said not one word to me on my forgetting to purchase cinnamon buns, but I was MUCH less gracious with him on his forgetstration - new word I just made up).

J requested the book Mythology as his gift. It's one in a series of "Ology" books (Spyology, Pirateology, Wizardology, Dragonology...) that are interactive, interesting and engaging. Perfect for our insatiably curious 7.5 yr old.

One may wonder why I would have chosen to add this insanity to my already busy life, where days are spent finding activities for the kids? Well, the kids will not, in a couple decades, remember just how hard I tried to find the right set of swimming lesson, or how we bought groceries for them every week. Or made sure they had semi-clean clothes to wear to school each day. But they may just remember that we took the celebrations of milestones very seriously, and made those days special. At least, that's what I'm hoping for.

Only one month until S turns 5.75 -- though this has so far not become a gift-giving occasion.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Politeness Personified

S is a rule follower, much as I am. Her first kindergarten report card put it in this understated way "fairness is important to S". She knows the rules, wants to keep them and does not know why everyone doesn't.

In ever so many ways, this makes parenting easy-ish (can't ever say parenting is easy, even though some days it is, as I may jinx myself and find myself in parental quagmire tomorrow).

I have seen her run into the house excitedly after her brother who has run straight onto the carpet in muddy shoes. Before I have a chance to squawk my complaints S will freeze in her tracks as if a might forcefield stopped her before she steps on the carpet, knowing the all important Mommy rule "NO MUDDY SHOES ON THE CARPET".

If ever she get parental dispensation from one of Mommy's crazy rules, she'll triple check "are you sure I can have a treat with no fruit first?".

Lately, this has translated into particular politeness and fantastic manners. She says "may I" "please" and "thank you" and makes her requests in the pleasantest of tones. I burst with pride daily.

On the weekend at her sleepover, she requested a banana for breakfast. She further made a request (no doubt politely) that the bananas be cut into "wheels". My accomodating sister-in-law cut up a banana into wheels.

S politely ate her bananas. She saw that they were not cut exactly as Mommy or Daddy did it at home, but she was on her best Sunday manners so she did not make a complaint over the manner in which the wheels were cut.

A few minutes later, S had a request for her Auntie:

"We don't eat the banana peels at home, would it be all right if I spat it out?"

Turns out Auntie's cuts banana wheels with with skin on. I am ever so impressed that our Girlie Goo managed to eat most of the peel of one banana wheel as she cannot tolerate apple skin, and even grape skins are sometimes too much for her to process.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Nutty Things People Are Getting Rich Off

I have created a new label Nutty Things People Are Getting Rich Off because in this economy, I think people getting rich selling or marketing ridiculous things should be applauded for their resourcefulness and unmitigated gall.

The first entry is Office Supplies, where I discovered anti-bacterial pens, which I hypothesized could be used for emergency tracheotomies.

This is the latest entry to my new category:

Can guess what this is?? We saw it on our recent Escape at a stylish airport hotel. It was available in the mini-bar along with extortionately-price cashews and Budweiser beer. I thought hair spray or shaving cream initially. It costs $14.95 if you break the cellophane wrapping and $79.95 if you take the cannister home with you.

And the answer is: Seriously, how much oxygen could fit in that little can!

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Escape!

Husband and I recently began swapping kids with my bro and sister-in-law. Well not swapping like at the same time where they take our kids home and we take theirs (though, that is an interesting notion...). We took theirs for an overnight in April and last night was our revenge, er, turn. The kids, it turns out, love sleepovers and we adults, desperate for a meal uninterupted, are more than happy to oblige.

The blessed event was to start Friday after school. The plan was to bring the kids home after school for a quick snack, load the van and off we head into long weekend traffic.

In order to ensure perfect execution of this plan, I should have been at the school during the lunch hour when J and his friends accidentally sent a ball down a path just off the schoolgrounds, where it landed in a hole. Then I would have known that when I picked him up at 2:45, he would have an urgent need to go explore that path. I do not really understand why as the ball was retrieved in maneuvers that included making a "human ladder" (chain).

J Boy, to put it lightly, was not to be dissuaded of his intended mission. In a generous effort to compromise (if I do say so myself), I said they could have 5 minutes at the park. But it would take at least 5 minutes to reach the path, never mind the time for the exploratory missions, so I could not allow that. I tried to be firm, calm, even if I did roll my eyes at any sympathetic Mom I saw.

J edged down the path away from the parking lot and toward his target. My voice started to get a little high pitched as I could see this going in a very very bad direction.

In a flash of brilliance, the glow of which I am still basking in, I uttered five magic words which made him stop in his tracks, run up the path to the van and even threw in a "Yes, Ma'am!" The magic words:

"Uncle Buck has a Wii!"

J wants to play Wii in the worst way. S has the pleasure of playing earlier in the week at a playdate and he is desperate to have his chance. My brother has the object of his desire and I used that to full advantage.

With the J Boy in my pocket, we hit the road nore or less on schedule with my threat that I would not allow J to play the Wii at Uncle Buck's if he were to behave irresponsibly on the drive over. The trip was long because long weekend traffic is not bad enough in Vancouver, so the major highway was closed down for a bit, which creates backlog on all main arteries.

We had some tense moments when J, acting as the truth police, thought S was not being truthful when she told of what happened at school: a ball went down a path and into a hole and it had to be retrieved. A human chain was required to save it. Sound familiar?? The J Boy thought so as well and was determined to find a way to prove whether the story had happened and whether the only original part of this tale was true: that S had fashioned a bungee cord from a piece of rope and hook that she found near the hole.

"I'm going to ask Ms. M on Monday if that really happened."
"She'll probably forget."
"Who is the best rememberer in your class?"
"I am."
"Who is the second best rememberer in your class?"
"Ms. M."

You can see the bad direction this might head in.

But with a few more Wii-threats we did make it to my brother's where Husband met me and we made a hasty exit.

Where did we go? To a hotel. At the airport. We are likely the only people to have stayed there when we weren't leaving the next day, or about to get on a cruise. (We got a good deal).
It was pretty fun watching the planes land and takeoff, watching routine maintenance and seeing how they hook up those little machines and push the planes back from the gates.

Our first order of business was a hotel picnic! We decided to enjoy the room and relax with wine and cheese and meats and bread and crackers. (I even remember to bring a table cloth).

Oh, here is the guy I went with (he is kind of serious about his wine):
And, if case you didn't know, this is what $43 gets you for breakfast at the Fairmont Vancouver Airport (coffees and juice excluded):

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Calender Girl

Anyone who has been to my house and looked on my fridge knows how my calender looks. Between Sharpie requirements and strict rules about what goes on the calender it's downright pathological.
Though I think I'm learning to let go. In February, the kids wants to put their animals' birthday on the family (my) calender. AND I LET THEM. See the YELLOW notations on the calender. That is not my handwriting (cleansing breath).Of course the calender is just the manifestation of my scheduling psychosis. The productive energy I expend in sorting out the kids activities could no doubt light up a football stadium. For me it about getting the right amount of activities THAT WILL MAKE MY LIFE EASIER. Sure, I want them to be well rounded, and they must learn to swim, but it's about finding the right mix of things they (especially the J Boy) find engaging and physical exercise to adequately wear them out. The what of course is less than half the battle, the when is the real killer. With our "no 2 days are the same" schedule, finding slots for activities is like looking for needles in haystacks.

Which brings me to the whole issue of summer activities. Anyone that was around here last summer may remember the J Boy was bored as soon as the bell rang at school signalling the beginning of summer vacation. Actually, I think he was bored for all of June and most of May too, but we had 6 hours a day of babysitting (grade 1) so maybe we didn't notice as much.

We had some great activities planned, but I thought having a less busy July and a more busy August would be a good thing. Wrong. By halfway through the summer Husband and I were on the brink of insanity and we spent our precious Airmile points so we could each have a weekend away from the nuthouse.

This year, I am heeding the advice I gave myself last summer and am determined to make July busier and to try to engage the J Boy in longer and more engaging (for his brain) activities. This has the domino effect on his sister as though she would be happier to have a mellow summer, she will not tolerate being at home alone, stripped of her favourite playmate for weeks on end.

This summer we have ten weeks to fill instead of nine. It's always been nine, I do not understand how the earth's rotation could have changed to give us ten weeks this year!

Now putting the summer together starts just after Christmas. In fact, I think at least one camp opened its registrations in October! Most places put out their catalogues in March or April, with the city rec centres waiting until May, if only to drive people like me insane.

So what was I doing in January? Well, first we had to sort out where and when to have our family vacation. We settled on renting a place at Cultus Lake. Lots of kid friendly activities, including a lake, water slides, a pool and hot tub. We picked the week (cross referencing my and Husband's work schedules, factoring in J's boredness proclivities and looking at weather trends) and then haggled over whether we would send a cheque to someone we only connected with over the internet. One week down, 9 to go.

Then I started looking at the calenders for camps and classes from last year. I tried to guess when things would be offered. Some things I know would be offered many weeks and I could choose. A few things only one or two weeks. So I gathered intelligence and printed out a calender and started piecing together the summer. I had to make calls and email people to try to divine when VBS and Legomation camp would happen.

When I pencilled in something for J, then I had to consider what to do with S that week. I also have to consider which and how many weeks we would need Nanny as some weeks with the kids in full day camps, I could adjust my work schedule around their hours.

So I made made slips of paper and started arranging on the calender, moving the pawns until I thought I had the right mix and combinations of weeks. I didn't want two "heavy" weeks in a row and wanted things to change up a bit. I also did not want the kids in week long activities all summer long. As the spring plodded on, the calender was starting to come together. Some things the kids were registered for, others I at least knew the schedule so I could pencil it in and then spend my nights having nightmares that I would miss the registration day.

I thought a couple weeks would do for every day swimming lessons as the lessons are only 30 minutes and would be good for an activity but would still leave time for beach trips and visits to the Aquarium. Of course, I had to wait for May and the rec centre catalogues to come out.

Swimming lessons was problematic as I could only find back to back swim lessons at an outdoor pool at starting at 9 a.m. I phoned and had conversations with the Head Lifeguard hoping that I could sneak S into the next set of lessons, which you start at age 6 and not age 5 and 11 months. I was not granted dispensation and had to live with the schedule as published. We ultimately went with the early a.m. lessons. I'll have to get S a neoprene swim suit like J has to make sure they stay warm enough in the cool summer mornings (hoping for a heat wave for 2 weeks this summer!).

Yesterday I dropped off a cheque (and I am fearful of adding up what this summer is going to cost us ...) for S's dance class and that was the last official act of organizing this summer. The plans are in place, the die is cast, the ducks are in a row. I feel like a brass band should be playing to mark the occasion. Of course, I now have doubts about whether we have scheduled too much in an over-correction last summer...

In case anyone is wondering where we'll be this summer, we'll either be gassing up the van or at the following places:

The second last week of the summer,
"Camp Sasamat", Husband and I learned from last year and we both took that week off work so while the kids are kayaking we can golf, do home projects, or just try to figure out the fall schedule.

You may notice the last week of summer is "FUN WEEK WITH MOMMY!" I'll let you know how that works out.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Wedding Bells

Weddings.

An excellent time, because you always have plenty of that, to photograph extreme adorableness of my children.
Also a good time to practice good table manners.

Socialize a little. Work on dance moves.
If all else fails, play with the cutlery.
Play spy games. Take some self portraits.
And maybe dream of things to come.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Teachable Moments II

Faithful readers of this blog may remember last fall when S taught me a few things. Well, she is at it again.

It's kilometer club time at the kids' school. All students run laps around the school field and accumulate kilometers. This was the Girlie's Goo's first year of course and she was, to put it mildly, excited to be accumulating her ribbons. J Boy was also thrilled, although the bloom was a little off the rose as he chose to walk and socialize some days so his ribbon collection is not quite as extensive as last year.

S had a substitute teacher for a couple weeks in peak kilometer club season and for a few days they didn't get their running in. S was getting a little tense over this. She sighed a little when she said they didn't run. Eventually, the sub got with the program and S was earning her ribbons.

One Friday, I was in the class for "noisy reading" and I noticed she had only 2 laps until she earned her 15 kilometer ribbon (it's on a big chart in the class). I remarked and the teacher overheard and said that they would be running that day.

After school, I supportively asked her how many laps she had run, knowing that she does at least 2, usually 3 or 4 and sometimes 5.

"Zero", she responded, just a little despondently.

"Didn't your class do kilometer club today?"

"Yes, but I had to take Sp back to the class to get her jacket and then I had to take her to the bathroom, so by the time we got back kilometer club was over".

Hmm. Of course I am tempted to lodge a formal complaint with the Czar of Kindergarten over why S had to be the chaperon for another 5 yr old when those bloody ribbons are so coveted. But I have learned that the kids (and I) have to learn to take the lumps at school (and I do know this is not much of a lump). Things are sometimes beyond our control and we all need to be good-natured about it.

"Well you were a good friend to Sp today". (Sp does not speak much English, which is likely why she required a mini-chaperon.)

Fast-forward to Monday after school. "S, did you do kilometer club today?"

"Yes."

"Did you get your 15 kilometer ribbon?"

"No. I only did one lap."

"Did you only have a short turn today?"

"No, I was running, and then I saw K walking all by herself so I walked with her. She hurt her neck."

"You are a very good friend", I say and meaning it. Nothing warms a mother's heart such as unselfishness.

The next day, in what I thought was a pep talk for S, I said "when you run kilometer club, remember while it's good to be a friend, it's also okay to run".

"Mommy, it's only a ribbon. If I hadn't walked with K she would have been all by herself."

Ouch.

Muvver's Day

I will be sad when S starts pronouncing the "TH" in Mother the proper way. It's the last vestige of her toddler hood and this may be the last Mother's Day I hear it.

All occasions worth celebrating (Easter, birthdays, Christmas, New Years ...) in this house, include a Pillsbury cinnamon bun breakfast. They bake in 8 minutes and one package does our family for a delicious breakfast without over-doing it. S and J eat the tops with the icing first, having honed their skills eating the tops off cupcakes for as long as we've been allowing them to have sugar. I had my morning coffee made for me.

We then headed to the living room for the opening of presents. Along with lots of cuddles. The presents is my favourite part. And not because Husband bought me the purple mini laptop of my dreams. We have a firm "don't spend money on anything except for the cinnamon buns" on special occasions such as these. The gifts are handmade at school and the pride with with the offerings are presented is overwhelming.

J Boy said "I spent ALL afternoon on Friday on your gift!" (who cares about arithmetic!).

S wanted to augment her gift and so had Husband carefully undo the packaging so she could add a red marker and Diego's field journal.
The gifts were precious and even practical enough to be enjoyed throughout the year.

It was pretty much your storybook, Hallmark Mother's Day.

And then J wanted to show off the progress he had made on his computer game. He wanted my help to finish the level. He then got frustrated on my behalf when I kept "dying". He slammed doors and oozed hostility but eventually drifted off to another room. I finally made progress on the level and, as is our custom, I called him when I knew I had it figured out so he could enjoyed the victory music. He demanded that I re-do the level so he could see how I did it. Not an unreasonable request for a boy whose brain demands understanding the hows and whys of life. I was willing to do so but I was still in my pyjamas and we needed to be leaving for church shortly. The delayed gratification of completing the level after church caused a circuit to be blown and it was a long road back.

On the way out the door to church Husband knocked over a large bag of Skittles (fruity candies), which I had placed in a bad spot on the stairs as I needed a proper container for them before leaving them in the car for bribery purposes (usually so S doesn't fall asleep at 4 pm).

At church I taught Sunday school and had 11 kids 8 and under making peacocks out of paper plates and foam shapes (Praise the Lord for Google ... you can find crafts on just about anything). The noise level and energy was worthy of Richard Simmons.

It took us a while to leave church as we had to find J's keys (some old keys) which he had hung on the chain of the bulletin board in the Sunday school room. On the way to the car, J wanted to jump down 6 feet into a flower bed. He ignored my direct order not to do so. I didn't want him to crush the small plants.

I leave church making such uplifting statements such as "next Mother's Day I am spending alone". and "thanks for taking the fun out of my Mother's Day".

I was feeling more than a little sorry for myself. I lectured J on respect and flower beds and LISTENING TO YOUR MOTHER.

I was ready to fax my resignation to the Mothers' Central office. I walk in the door and see the carpet of Skittles. "WHO IS GOING TO CLEAN THEM UP??" I asked no one in particular. This Mother's Day was really starting to blow chunks.

"I will", says the chore-averse J Boy. And he did quite willingly.

That gave me a minute to remember some Moms won't have their kids with them this May because of cancer or car accidents or other hideous circumstances. And some kids won't have their Moms.

And I know in a few years, I'll be lucky to get a "Happy Mother's Day" from my kids, when their worlds will revolve around friends, activities and computer games.

And so I embrace being a Mother to the kids at this age, which includes frustration, aggravation and defiance. But also joy, sweetness and a great sense of fun. And lots of cuddles.

I close with J's Mother Day Poem:

Guess How Much I Love You ...

I love you more than my favourite game in the universe.
I love you more than the juicy taste of a gummy bear.
More than S loves babies
More than Dad loves chocolate bars!
Guess how long I'll love you?
I'll love you until a meteor lands on earth.
Till the sun runs out of energy.
Till the earth explodes.
Until everyone in the world dies.