Friday, September 18, 2009

The Mommy Stress

September. The lollapalooza, the pinnacle, the climax of The Mommy Stress.

Top job for Labour Day is making sure the kids are outfitted for school: backpacks, lunch kits, water bottles, jackets, shoes, and clothes. The latter I actually got off pretty lucky this year. The kids had a fair bit of summer and winter clothes leftover that still fit. Jackson needed a Vancouver winter jacket (i.e. rain jacket able to repel deluges) and both kids needed a pair of jeans. Even taking into account Jackson's small circumference but close to average height, often an impediment to finding jeans that fit and normally requiring what I affectionately call 'the shopping shuttle' (buy, try on, return, repeat), I got these items with a minimal of effort.

Oh yes, and underwear. While Jackson had plenty of underwear, I made the bold decision that he would no longer wear character underwear. He is in grade THREE and will be changing into gym strip at school. I thought going with plain underwear is best. Now if he was wearing even close to age appropriate underwear, i.e. Transformers, X Men, Pokeman, Chaotic, Harry Potter, I might be less inclined to throw away perfectly good gaunch. But Jackson's licensed underwear is Bob the Builder and Blue's Clues, which, for those not in-the-know, are not geared to almost 8 year olds. Jackson had a Bob the Builder party when he turned 2 and Blue's Clues when he turned 3. You might say I'm a little late on this. Do not ask me why all this underwear still fits. I am also sending to the dump all the no name firetruck, car and puppy dog underwear. I actually have asked Jackson a few times over the past year if he wanted me to get him more plain underwear and he didn't care one way or another. So I deferred the expense. Come the Labour Day weekend I threw all the unsuitable underwear out and headed out to the mall to buy fresh.

Now, I do not know if I have unearthed a vast retail conspiracy but I consider it my public duty to inform you: boys briefs are almost impossible to find. Now perhaps it's available in shady backrooms off dark alleys or from guys with trench coats loitering near the drop off lanes at elementary schools ('hey lady, do ya need some boys briefs...'), but I have not found them in regular department stores and believe me I have tried.

I have found plenty of boxers. Even more of the hybrid 'boxer briefs', but briefs in the J Boys size are not to be found. I started off looking for our favourite brand, Fruit of the Loom. I ended up looking for any brand and come the third week of September I had one package purchased but they are too big so we'll tuck them away for middle school. Note to self, next time I think a wholesale change of underwear is needed, wait until I actually buy the new underwear before I throw out the old. Less laundry that way.

On top of outfitting the kids for school we Mommies are getting used to the routine of the new school year. Different classes, different teachers. Of course in our school the kids had different teachers and classrooms in week 1 so one has to reorient oneself again in the second week of school. We have to not only assemble lunches and snacks but we have to try and find something Sydney will eat at school that does not contain nuts. The kids must be managed through their adjustments to school and periodically reassured. The play date landscape must be assessed in particular for Sydney who is still in the process of finding her place at school.

My and Husband's schedules have been rejigged this fall. Since Sydney is in school for the full 6 hour school day, we have worked my work days around the school days and I trade childcare with another Mom at school. Husband has had his work-from-home day on Thursdays for 4.5 years. Now it's switching to Tuesdays and that is taking some getting used to.

Fall activities are starting and we have to commit the new schedule to memory. This not only requires remembering, for example, that Hip Hop for Sydney is at 3:15 on Mondays, but remembering that we need to go straight from school pick-up so I need to bring snacks for both kids and importantly something to occupy the J Boy since his sitting still for 45 minutes directly after school is about as likely as President Obama actually setting up death panels for senior citizens.

And then the biggest job of all: Notice Management. I do not know how parents work full time and manage all the notices coming home in the first 2 weeks of September. I work part time and I am waving the white flag. Notes about school supplies, fundraisers, Terry Fox run, classroom routines, homework projects, field trips, nut allergies, class calendars, open house, planners and H1N1 have all been sent home. Most have come in the kids' planners and a few via email. So far I have only written 2 cheques, but I know that it is early and we will see more notices and requests for money.

Now add to all these responsibilities, I have been coping with the following:
  • my work which has been busy all summer with a looming and important deadline of September 18th,
  • half of last weekend was spent at the Sarah McLachlan festival and the necessary planning beforehand,
  • my Dad had some angiography on September 17 to find the source of his angina the past number of months,
  • our car need its regular maintenance and a new oil pan which meant in addition to relieving us of close to $1,000, meant leaving our only car for an entire day, and
  • Sydney has had a cough for the last week. For the first half of the week I was stalking her with a thermometer praying that it wasn't the H1 N1. Now I'm chasing after her with the inhaler as she sometimes needs that to get over a cough and I don't want the good folks at US Customs to even hear her cough and deny us entry into the U.S. of A.

You might think that I am lucky not to be temporarily housed in a psychiatric ward.

Filed under "what were you thinking???" is the fact that on September 19th we are going Disneyland. It seemed like a good idea at the time. For all my neurotic over planning, we ended up booking for September despite our long intentions of going in December (for reasons of getting a good deal). I did consider that the kids are back in class only a couple weeks but I neglected to consider what the first weeks of September are like for me.

No matter, Disneyland here we come! Speaking of neurotic over planning, I believe I have elevated Disney research to a new level. With the Unofficial Guide to Disneyland as my constant companion, I have gone through the book and summarized what every ride, show and event is like. I have indicated the best time to go, and rated every single attraction on my own personal 5 star system indicating the appeal I think that attraction will have for our family. Then I made a sub-list of "must sees" for our family, all things rated three stars and above, which compactly fills two pages and I have highlighted all those items on maps. I have a tentative schedule of where we will start on the different days, factoring in that some things (e.g. fireworks) are held only on the weekends, and some things will be better left for Monday or Tuesday when the crowds are likely to be less and allowing for breaks to return to the hotel for a swim in the pool or a nap (the former for the kids, the latter for the grownups).

Of course there is also the minor task of packing for four people, which must include sufficient entertainment items for the kids. For the plane, bus ride, the primary entertainment will be Jackson's Nintendo DS. He bought it last June and almost since then he has told us he is starting to save up for one to buy his sister. Sydney has a birthday next week coincidentally while we are in Disneyland. We couldn't really think of what to get her for her birthday, having decided we are not going to give what she has asked for: a TV in her room. She talks about a DS and does like to play with her brother's. So we decided that we'll get HER a DS in time for the trip plus a game. We are justifying this extravagant purchase by deciding instead of "giving her allowance" in September as planned, we'll defer that to January and apply the allowance toward her DS.

As you might expect, I am not the kind of person who can pop into any store that sells DS games and say "hey this one looks good, I'll buy that". Husband who researches for a living, is not wired that way either. While I accessed the Mommy network for game recommendations, Husband happily took on the task of researching reviews of every DS game ever made. We decided that we'd get Jackson a new game too. Husband spend the equivalent of a day looking into various games and we settled on one for each kid.

On Tuesday night I started looking at on line inventories of DS games hoping to find a cobalt blue DS available at the same store as both the games we wanted. I quickly discovered that the Lego Indiana Jones game we had selected for Jackson was not generally available. However, the closest Best Buy had the blue DS and Sydney's game so Husband ran out to Best Buy hoping to get the Lego game, hoping for either inaccurate inventory control or a fresh box of DS games sitting on the loading dock. We were not so lucky.

On Wednesday Husband phoned our local EB Games and found that they had the game in stock. I went to the mall to continue the underwear mission and planned to pop in and pick up the game. Either someone lied to Husband or the last copy was sold just before I went to the mall. I checked our 5 more stores in the mall and discovered that Husband must not be the only one doing DS game research. Or someone, somewhere, is hoarding Lego Indiana Jones games along with all the boys briefs and is going to make a fortune on EBay. I was having a very hard time picking a different game with all that time and effort invested in this particular one. I was saved from that gut-wrenching decision by the good folks at HMV who had the game in stock for me. I believe I may have freaked out the guy at HMV by offering to bear two children for him.

What have I neglected this September that I should have been doing?? Planning Sydney's birthday party, kind of one of those tasks I usually obsess about. I'd hate to come back from the Happiest Place on Earth with Husband at a conference and have nothing to do.

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