Saturday, October 31, 2009

A Spooky Checklist

Things to do for Halloween:

Decorate house. Check.
Put up Halloween craft projects. Check.
Carve Pumpins. Check.
Label Ziploc bags for this year's loot. Check.
Get candy table ready (without eating any of the candy). Check.
Prepare for gathering of Halloween statistics (number of kids by 15 minute intervals). Check.
A girl should get to have a little fun on Halloween.

Mommy vs. Halloween 2009 Edition

As I mused last year, sorting out Halloween costumes is challenging for me. I don't sew. I am not creative. And my name is not Rockefeller. A few years ago I finally got over my stinginess and decided just to buy costumes for the kids.

As I found last year, when I was blanketing the city in mid October trying to find a skeleton costume to fit the J Boy, you can't leave it too late. Ultimately he had a skeleton costume that was a size too small and he wore it daily so that on Halloween night I had to fix multiple seams. Have I mentioned I don't sew?

The problem with acquiring costumes too early is that the under 8 set are not known for making a decision and sticking to it. At least one year I had to put together a ghost costume the night before the Halloween party.

I decided this year that I would roll the dice and go with early acquisition. It was late September and when Husband got home from work I told him I was going costume shopping. He took my temperature. We had only just got through a crazy September, what was I doing borrowing trouble thinking about Halloween?

I was steadfast.

However, I needed the kids to pick costumes that:

a) they would stick with
b) were available for purchase
c) in my budget.

It was actually easier that I thought. Sydney was still on a fairy/princess high post Disneyland so she chose Tinkerbell. Jackson agreed to anything Star Wars. I headed out to the place that puts the most amount of costumes out the earliest: Walmart.

I went through rows and rows of smaller costumes, and found Tinkerbell only available in a size too big or a size too small. I opted for too big.

Star Wars was a little challenging as I had to goes through literally a hundred costumes to find Jackson's number one choice, Darth Vader, in his size. Major Mommy score! Really, I have this whole Halloween thing all figured out.

I came home and the kids were excited and obligingly tried on their costumes. Sydney's needed some adjustment as the wings flopped on the over sized fairy suit. No problem. I have over a month to figure that out.

Jackson was infatuated with his suit. He found his lightsaber, or lightsaver as he calls it and in no time was spreading evil throughout our house.

Much like other infatuations, Jackson's evaporated the next night when he decreed that he hated his costume (after tags and wrapping had been discarded) because it was only a Darth Vader mask, not a full helmut. Very uncivil words were exchanged along the lines of "I'm never wearing that costume!!" and "Then you owe me $25 plus taxes and you will have nothing to wear for Halloween!!".

On a trip to Walmart returning all the things that didn't fit on my first trip, I bought a yard of dark black shiny fabric for a couple dollars and hoped I could fashion some kind of hood to address the helmut situation.

I had well over three weeks to sort this out. But we had Thanksgiving. And then Husband was at a conference and before I knew it, it was the weekend before Halloween. Several times I tried to get unobliging children to try on their costumes. They resisted.

Monday night was my hard deadline. They would need their costumes for Friday at school and since I work Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, productive things at home don't happen in the evenings during the week unless they are getting out the next days clothes or practicing spelling.

Monday, as it happened, Sydney was home sick. She tried her fairy costume on somewhere during the all-day-movie-marathon and I figured out pinning the shoulder mostly solved the floppy wing problem.
The J Boy continued to deny me access to Darth Vader until Thursday evening, when I am exhausted and frankly not very good at problem solving. Armed with black electrical tape, craft scissors and iron determination and with Husband available as consultant we tried to figure out how to convert a mask into a helmet while Darth would not sit still for more than 8 seconds at a time and heaved heavy sighs of impatience. But we came up with a jerry-rigged solution.

I know it's really flying nun meets the forces of evil, but it's the best I could do:
And here it the dark prince with light saber:
Good and evil side by side:
And good and evil battling:

Monday, October 26, 2009

Yin and Yang, Part 2

I blogged last year about some of the differences between my kids. I am home with a very sniffly Girlie Goo and I am struck with another difference.

When Jackson's nose runs, he will let it. When it becomes too much he will use his sleeve. Or his hand which he will than wipe on any convenient surface. He could be used in the most lethal form biological germ warfare.
It's not like he never touches a tissue. He does quite frequently pick up a tissue and rip it into tiny tiny pieces and leave it on the family room floor to clog up the vacuum.
Sydney, on the other hand, went through well over a box of tissues yesterday. She has an exceedingly runny nose, I grant you. But not that runny. She does not want to really blow her nose, to empty her sinus passages. So she dabs her nose quite like a delicate southern belle, and then discards the tissue. And reaches for another.

Today, she is home from school and she informed me that her box of fresh tissues was empty. I opened that one for her that YESTERDAY. I went around the house to discover we are out of tissues, except for one cute,decorative, overpriced one that I bought for the powder room on the main floor (ask Husband sometime about my obsession with the tissue boxes matching the bathroom decor).
When the flow is just too strong, well she has a plan for that. Anything but actually blowing her nose:
Yes, those are custom made by the Girlie Goo herself.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Domestic Engineer: Part Deux (The Next Generation)

The rooms on my radar screen were my kids'. You can see what I am up against?

Actually Sydney's room was not too bad except for her changing clothes fetish which leaves a wide debris field. But I have been a little better about going through it on laundry day. The big project was putting a different bookshelf in her closet and then organizing the books by type (hard cover, soft cover, 'God' books, books that make noise, books she can read) and making it look neat. I dealt with accumulations of stuff on her window seat, her dresser and night table. Husband worked on the clothes, bravely went under her bed and even set up her princess canopy, which she has been asking for. A couple hours and it was in top shape:
Now, to boldy go where no Mom has gone before ...

Jackson's interest in Lego has skyrocketed. For the past 3 years he's acquired at birthdays and Christmas various Lego sets. He would take the box to his Daddy. Keenly would he look over his Daddy's shoulder for 3 minutes and then leave the room, only to return every 5 minutes to say "is it done yet?". Husband would toil away and Jackson would admire the finished product for 3 nanoseconds and then be back to whatever is occupying him that day. The masterpiece would then sit on our dining room table until we invite someone over and then it would get mothballed.

Well after Legomation camp in the summer, he has really taken to Lego, especially the Star Wars variety. This is mostly good as he plays creatively and is not near the computer, TV or his DS. He plays in his room at night when he can't fall asleep.

The downside of this is that when we creep into his room to turn off his music and shut his door and either Husband or I can be heard moaning, wincing and uttering words-we-don't-want-our- children-to-hear when we step on a light sabre or microscopic piece of Lego that we wouldn't be able to see even if the light was on.

It was really wear safety boots or clean his room.

On top of the Lego playing, in the nighttime hours he should be sleeping but can't, he writes. He makes lists, creates comics, makes signs, doodles, draws diagrams and makes books. Fantastic creative stuff. But the paper accumulates very quickly. And it's been a while since we did a major purge.

Jackson inherited my love of rearranging furniture. While these days I am generally too exhausted to do it, in my day I used to do it every couple months, just to change things up. One room mate I had used to joke that she could never sneak in late quietly in the dark as she was likely to trip over the love seat which I thought really should be in the kitchen.

The lad went on a furniture-rearranging bender about last June when he was adamant he wanted "to add a room onto my room" and you could hardly move in there even if it weren't for the carpet of kid stuff covering the floor.

Add to this the miscellanea of your typical eight year old boy -- plastic pieces from Happy Meal toys, bits of birthday loot bag toys, parts of Spiderman toys he played with when he was four -- and you have yourself a domestic mountain to climb.

Jackson actually likes a tidy room. He just, in the current state, does not have the skills to get it there. But together we can do it! I cheerfully asked Jackson to come upstairs so we could get to work.

"I'm playing a game" he said, telegraphing that this would be a bit of a battle.

"Just finish the game and come on up." I said very calmly as I started sorting between dirty and clean clothes on the floor.

"This game never ends" he informed me.

"Well we do need to get your room done."

Resignedly, he eventually came upstairs and informed me that he would only do one thing. A little back and forth and we agreed he would do four projects and that I would do the rest. He was thinking each task would be "move laundry basket". I had other plans.

"Pick up all the Lego pieces, sort them however you want them." It is pretty much saying "could you pick up all the sand off the beach?" Fortunately, he can be expedient at times and he agreed to put all Lego in one large Ziploc bag. Every time he thought he was done I pointed to another cache and he set about gathering up the Lego seeds.

Meanwhile I have rotated his long sleeves shirt into the alpha (top) shirt drawer and put the golf shirts into the out-of-season (bottom) drawer. I tucked away his shorts till next summer and made sure his drawers were otherwise organized.

When most of the Lego had been accumulated I gave out his next assignment: "Find all the papers in the room and sort through which ones you want to keep and which ones are to be recycled." It took him 15 minutes to accumulate a 3 inch stack and he gamely went through each one and only wanted to keep a few. I directed him to more and more paper until that task was completed.

I have accumulated his art supplies in one spot, tried to get all the books to one side of the room and took a lot of little toys he never plays with and put them in the hall for a trip to purge-atory, the basement.

Jackson set to his third task: picking up cards. Hockey cards, Pokemon cards, Bakugan cards. They are like leaves in the yard. He obligingly went through his room and gathered up his cards. He magnanimously agreed that we could keep all the cards in one place. He is sometimes a bit of a stickler for organizing things so this was a gift.

Then I dove into his closet and discovered that he was harbouring a whole bunch of ceramics projects from last year. He had my projects, Sydney's and his own. I looked at mine and agreed I'd throw mine out. He agreed to throw out about half of his (we did not have as good luck getting Sydney to part with her treasures but she came up with the idea of gifting them to friends, so if you ever receive a heavy gift from our Girlie Goo, just smile appreciatively and do with it what you want when we leave).

For his final task (and by now he had been in there over an hour) I asked him to get all the stuff out from under his loft bed. He resisted until I told him that if he didn't do that I would purge his room the way I wanted to and he wouldn't like it. He moaned for about 10 minutes before he finally relented, hauled out the last of the kid-crap and then resumed the regular life of an almost 8 year old.

I could then complete the makeover in solitude (well except for Husband's help doing some of the hard labour).

I organized his furniture so one could move, I removed one small unit of drawers that had 7 empty drawer and one "junk drawer", which I sorted through. Husband hung up some ceramic projects and a needlepoint sampler one of my Sisters made when he was born. A vacuum and the project was complete.

I brought Jackson up to do the big 'reveal'. I covered his eyes for him to absorb and admire our hard work.

Do ya see the beautiful empty floor?? Do ya notice the EMPTY closet. I was moved almost to tears. I couldn't wait for the J Boy's reaction.

He was squirmy. I could tell that he liked it, but he was also very uneasy. He immediately fixated onto two empty picture frames, the only thing unfinished in the room. He had taken out photos months ago. I thought we could pick a couple from Disneyland to display.

He was adamant that he wants a grainy photo of a former babysitter in the smaller frame, which requires it to be trimmed. We get that done, he chose a Disneyland photo and we went upstairs to hang them up. He was a little distraught about some of the nail holes have nails on them and his ceramic projects are hanging. He adapted to a new plan as we found space for the 2 frames to hang.

The next thing I know he has taken down the bulletin board and was reorganizing it. Things are too much askew for his liking. I hear him ask Husband for an iron his ribbons which have been squished and crunched up under beds, in drawers and inside books for the past year. However, he was busy. I am happy.

He was up in his room quietly and I know he is up to something. First he had hung the blue and red curtains that attach to his loft bed that creates a cool little clubhouse. The curtains came with the bed and rarely in the past three years have I been able to convince him to do this. He also had put up signs, as indicating the new hideaway was his study.

And I got around the corner to see yet more signs! Did we not just recycle about 13 trees from all the signs we just took down!?

As if that isn't bad enough, I am subjected to an interview to see if I am worthy to join his club! Fortunately (or not) he tabulated the results of my interview and I passed muster.

I thought that he had finally put his stamp on his room. Made it his own and he could just enjoy a peaceful night's slumber in his pristine room (I am jealous as ours is not nearly this tidy).

At about 11 pm. even Husband is sleeping and I went to turn of Jackson's music and the hall light and I saw the boy teetering on top of his wicker laundry basket trying to take down the needlepoint sampler. I tried to assist but he was adamant that he was going to do this himself. He relented and allowed me to act as spotter in case his cranium was headed for any sharp corners.

I then realized his problem. Apparently I over cleaned his room. He started rooting through the send-to-purge-atory box in the hall and put a little wooden "treasure box" and old camera back into his room.

Plus he found a soccer medal from when he was 4 years old and he wanted to hang it from his wall, the reason he was tottering on the laundry basket. He had taken down the pictures one by one but none of the nails had a big enough head and the medal kept falling down. Happily this last nail, the one that had held the sampler, was sufficient and the medal was hung. Okay, off to bed.

But he now had to find a new home for the sampler. I hung it on the only available nail and perkily said "that looks great! It's right by your light switch".

"It's covering half the light switch. And it's almost bumping into the door".

Apparently my powers of perky persuasion are dimmed as the midnight hour approaches.

"We can't nail any new nails in because it will wake Daddy and Sydney" he sobbed. He was not to be dissueded.

I grabbed a nail and the hammer and pushed the nail into the wall (without banging) with the sheer force of a Mommy desperate to go to bed. Fortunately it was just gyprock and not a stud and the mission was accomplished.

Today he held his first club meeting with Sydney. He had created 'stations' under his bed and has brought a bunch of crap back in there, from the purge-atory box.

AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH is all I have to say about that.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Domestic Engineer: Part I


I have not worked full time for greenbacks since 2001. I have learned a few things from this time where I have not been compensated for work in the home if you don't count sticky kisses and cuddles as compensation, which I don't only because they don't accept that at the grocery store.

First and foremost among those lessons, is I am a horrendous haus frau. I despise cleaning and tidying. I can tolerate laundry but only if it doesn't accumulate. My lack of ability to deal with paperwork has been documented. This fall Husband and I recommitted ourselves to a lot of things, chief among them reclaiming the house.

We're improving. Even this week, we really kept up the kitchen each evening. We wiped counters, washed pans and actually looked for stray dishes in other parts of the house.

Come Friday, the teachers had a day to professionally develop themselves, it's raining and Sydney is under the weather. Happily we have a set of brothers coming over at 2 pm for a play date which will hopefully hit before Jackson's boredness climaxes. I got a call while I'm still groggily drinking coffee from another mom who is proposing get-together at her house of us, plus the play date brothers and their mom. I filled her in on the play date at our house and invited her over with her kids. Six kids in our house, but I get a grown-up to talk to! She approved the idea.

I hung up the phone and looked at the work to be done. Even the living room, our tidiest room, had newspapers, toys and miscellanea to clean up. I set to it and tidy the living room and head to the family room for a clothing reconnaissance mission. I placed a ginormous pile of kid clothes on the stairs and dove straight into the deep end for a declutter and organize of the wall unit in the family room. I sent almost all toys either up the the playroom (organized and purged last weekend) or down to the final purging area (purge-atory?), the rec room in the basement. I organized books, puzzles and even repatriated most of the DVDs, videos and CDs with their cases. It was looking lovely.

I headed to the kitchen as it's lunch and while making mac 'n cheese for the kids for lunch, I started working there. Then I received a revelation. The kitchen was not as bad because we'd done that little bit extra all week. The counters were less cluttered. The stove was even semi-clean. The white sink was not as bad as usual (seven whacks with a wet noodle for person who thought white porcelain sink a good idea ... just a few toast crumbs and the think looks dirty). Because I was working less on the counters and the sink, I could actually vacuum the floor WELL and spot clean it. I admittedly did have to spend too much time on the kitchen table and counter (#@#^&* school notices!!) but in less time than normal it looks like other people's kitchens!

I think back to a time when we went to some friends for dinner (my capital G girlfriend). We were invited over for dessert and we arrived and they were finishing cleaning up dinner. They washed and wiped and when they finished their kitchen sparkled and I was thinking I wish ours could be that way. But Husband and I have a habit of leaving till after bedtime stories and by then we're near out of gas hence only dishes, foods and the worst of the rest of it gets done.

So THIS is how other people live!

Anyway, at 1:30 I got a call from Mom who was to come over and she forgot about an appointment so they won't be coming. So during the play date I drank tea, sat by the fire and read a magazine (I would possibly be blogging but there were 4 kids jockeying for their turns).

In the evening, I was a bit dispirited. Even though we had ordered pizza for supper, the kitchen didn't look as it had in the afternoon. There were plates and cups and pizza boxes. And DQ Blizzard cups for our very special treat. And dirty napkins. And the kids had played with a couple things and they were on the floor of my previously immaculate family room. I grumbled as Husband and I set it to right.

This morning Husband made pancakes for breakfast. He took Jackson to skating lessons and I received another revelation. If I actually clean up breakfast in its entirety, the kitchen will be clean again. So I emptied the dishwasher and refilled with pancake dishes and washed the fry pan, put away a couple food items and wiped the counter and table. I very much doubt it took me more than 4 minutes. Yet I rarely do it, opting to leave some or all of it for later.

As I found earlier this year after a similar reclamation project, I am struggling not to get cross with the kids over a tiny bouncy ball migrating into the living room and over their noxious habit of sitting on the couch and throwing the cushions on the floor.
Next project? The kids' bedrooms. Sydney's is not too terrible as I spent a couple hours in there not too long ago, but I want to swap some furniture which will lead to a reorganizational domino effect. Jackson's room is almost beyond recovery. I've told him all week "you room is going down ..." I think he expects ME to do all the work.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Daddy

Daddy was away the past few days and we all missed him very much.

Sydney missed the cuddles. I asked her yesterday if she missed Daddy a bit.

"No Mommy" she said soberly "I miss him a lot."

Jackson missed being able to share his conquests on his DS. He told me that he unlocked R2D2, but he doesn't think I appreciate it the way Daddy does.

I missed Husband's even and stable manner. He is the ballast in our family. The stability. I am the (over)enthusiastic and (over)dramatic one. When we're faced with a crisis, like a missing character in the Dora Candyland game, I envy Husband's ability to remain calm and start quietly over turning furniture looking for Diego while I melodramatically say "that's why I tell you to put the game away -- so pieces would go missing!!"

Just before Husband was due home, I was busy tidying and cleaning the kitchen. Sydney asked me to do something with her. I told her "I'm cleaning the kitchen. When Daddy gets home I want him to say 'WOW, WHAT A CLEAN KITCHEN!!!"

"Daddy wouldn't say that." Sydney said with a great deal of certainty.

"What do you mean?"

"Daddy isn't a fully exciting person. If he saw the clean kitchen, he would just say 'oh' "

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Rainy Days

It's a rainy Saturday in suburbia and Husband is on "vacation" as Sydney calls it. Really he is at a conference in Windsor hearing about the latest discoveries in lipids for 12 hours a day. It doesn't really count as a vacation even if he does enjoy immunity from bedtimes, homework and dishes.

Anyway, these are the days we dread because Jackson has boredness issues. He's not one you want to be idle. Idleness leads to boredness. Boredness leads to ennui which results in the convergence of grumpiness, intransigence and volatility.

The only thing on our schedule was skating lessons for both kids. I just couldn't muster up the energy to suit them up in warm clothes and schlep them to the rink and lace up four skates. Especially when Sydney started complaining about it last night. I secured their promise that if we missed today they would go to the remaining four lessons without a complaint. They pinkie swore and everything. Really, I was setting myself up for disaster.

While I remarkably mustered up the energy to do 28 minutes on the elliptical machine, the kids had a long stint (as they did last night) watching pre-screened YouTube videos. Then they took turns designing Lego creations online.

Then I told them of my plan to go out to dinner and gave them four restaurants that we could choose from, none of them starting "Mc" or ending with "onalds". I told them we needed to have a consensus and no one was allowed to get mad over the decision. I was thrilled when they both picked the same place. As a joke I said a different restaurant. I know, pushing my luck. Instead of laughing or dissolving into incivility Jackson said "we can eat anywhere" and Sydney said "wait, wait, I think I am changing my mind" and then named the restaurant I had fake-chosen. My heart might just melt.

So I told them we would go to their choice but then Sydney wanted us all to vote like she saw on an episode of Totally Spies. We each wrote down two choices and put them in an empty DVD box. Then we each drew one out and the one, with the most votes won. Remarkably, we had two votes for the restaurant the kids have both initially chosen and one vote for my fake first choice. So Frogstone Grill it is.

Then Jackson and I played a game of Battleship. Then Sydney wanted me to read her this week's school library book which I did after she read me her sight words. Really all top shelf activities, the TV was only on during breakfast. I am Mommy, hear me roar.

Then Jackson told us the exciting news -- he had a contest! With exciting prizes! But first he needed some alone time on the computer so he could work on PowerPoint. He then distributed prize selection sheets:

Sydney and I each selected a prize we would want if we could win the contest. We waited expectantly for the contest to begin. It was then that Jackson realized he did not have a contest for us, just the prizes and the award certificate prepared.

"Why don't you do a trivia quiz about you?" I suggested.

About five minutes later he came back and presented us with the following questions:

1. I wish for what?

Sydney: widescreen TV
Mommy: Wii

We were both wrong: he wants a Nintendo DSi (not to be confused with a DS, which of course he has).

2. My favret couler is?

Sydney: red
Mommy: orange

Advantage Sydney.

3. My favret holeday?

Sydney: Great Wolf Resort

Jackson clarified, "holeday like Easter".

Sydney: Halloween
Mommy: Halloween

Everybody scores.

4. My favret food?

Sydney: apples
Mommy: garlic bread

Point to Mommy.

5. My worst flaver?

Sydney: minty
Mommy: minty

After regulation the score is tied and we went to the bonus round.

Bonus 1: What is my third favret couler?

Sydney: yellow
Mommy: blue

No one scores.

Bonus 2: My favret vacashon?

Sydney: Great Wolf Resort
Mommy: Cultus Lake

Sydney wins!

And receives her chosen prize: comics by Jackson.

I'd like to talk more but it's the afternoon and as you may have observed, Sydney is half in pyjamas and Jackson is running around in underwear. Plus I think I need to work on some spelling.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Me Time

It's elusive. But it's necessary. Every Mom needs some time to herself when she is not thinking about play dates, spelling practice and laundry.

On the Monday of the thanksgiving weekend, I told Husband I wanted to go to the mall. I desperately needed pants. If you ignore the fact that PANTS shopping is best done at any time OTHER THAN the day after indulging in a Thanksgiving feast, it was a good plan.

So a couple hours at the mall looking for pants was the plan.

Plus, I thought to myself, Sydney needs at least one more pair of pants for school. I did not buy many back to school clothes because in the past I noticed everything went on sale around thanksgiving.

Okay, then:

pants for me
pants for Sydney


Plus we need more DS Stylus because I am spending WAY TOO MUCH TIME looking for those puny little pens in couches and under tables.

Right.

pants for me
pants for Sydney
DS pens
(I don't know the plural of stylus so I'm going with pens, which is what the kids call them)

Oh and Sydney has a birthday party next weekend, I should get a gift.

Fine.

pants for me
pants for Sydney
DS pens
birthday gift

Husband reminded me that Jackson needs gloves that go up to his armpits but are not too big that they fall off. We have chronic snow-up-the-sleeves issues.

Recap:

pants for me
pants for Sydney
DS pens
birthday gift
gloves for Jackson

And I remembered that the Pastor from church asked us to bring a gift for a family new to Canada about to have a baby boy.

Maybe I should write this down:

pants for me
pants for Sydney
DS pens
birthday gift
gloves for Jackson
baby gift

I headed to the car before I could think of anything else. I got to the car and saw the collection of booster seats and remembered we need a new LOW booster seat.

Alrighty then:

pants for me
pants for Sydney
DS pens
birthday gift
gloves for Jackson
baby gift
new booster seat

I started the car and remember I have some PJs I bought Jackson that are too big and I needed to return. I run back into the house to retrieve them and miraculously find the receipt in the bag.
The final list:

pants for me
pants for Sydney
DS pens
birthday gift
gloves for Jackson
baby gift
new booster seat
return PJs

And off I went. I started at The Bay, a department store and looked for PJ's that would fit Jackson. I found none but thought I scored when I saw a fresh display of winter accoutrements including some possibly suitable gloves. They were $35. I absolutely could not imagine my reaction when Jackson comes home from school with one glove "YOU LOST A GLOVE??? THAT COST $17.50???"

I returned the PJs. (tick)

I then went to Children's Place and found a pair of cords for Sydney on sale (tick). I picked up a long sleeved shirt for Jackson because they were almost giving them away. He'll wear it in about grade 5.

I headed to Eddie Bauer and find they only have one style of pants in petite sizes (i.e. pants made for people under 5'4"). They fit perfectly but were on sale for $60. All in all not bad for good quality pants but I was hoping for a non black colour. I move on but make mental note. I may come back.

I swung through Please Mum but leave empty handed. I grabbed some DS pens at The Source (tick) and headed toward Old Navy where they disavowed all knowledge of either actually carrying any petite pants or even understanding what they are. "We have size zero!!" the clerk told me repeatedly.

I ran into H and M and SCORED. I saw pants in Jackson's size that looked like they might actually fit his skinny butt. Picked them up even though not on my list. I may be buying all his pants there in the future.

Finally I headed to my final stop Zellers. They have a lot of petite things and I thought I might get lucky. A LOT of polyester, rayon, and other fabrics ending with 'ester' that are definitely not natural and they look like they should be sold exclusively in gift shops in senior citizen homes, with apologies to all the trendy seniors out there.

I popped by the kids' department and found some mitts for Jackson, after debated with myself whether Jackson needs mitts or gloves (tick). I also checked for underwear for Jackson, on which there is apparently a trade embargo and as usual came up empty handed.

I picked up a booster seat (tick) and I was thinking I was done. But then I consulted my list and started looking for a baby gift and spent 20 minutes schlepping my bags, the car seat, the gloves around trying to decide what size and what items I would get for the baby. I finally made some decisions and then stumbled on a sale rack and changed my mind (tick).

Then I remembered the birthday gift and headed to the toy aisle and pick up a reasonably priced remote control car for Sydney's classmate (tick). By now, I am really doing a balancing act and a kind-hearted Zeller's employee assisted me in getting to the checkout.

I felt pretty good. A lot of things ticked off my list. My arms are burdened. And of course I realized that the one thing I don't have yet is pants! I resigned myself to the Eddie Bauer ones.

Then it dawns on me that I haven't checked the one place I always find clothes. Reitmans. I am, however, exhausted and just want to go home. Or to Starbucks for a pumpkin spice latte. With whip.

I persevered knowing I have only one pair of pants that I can wear to work this week. At Reitmans I found the one thing that gives me adreniline enough to drop my packages and start trying on clothes.

Pants in petite sizes.

On sale.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Giving of Thanks

Thanksgiving happens a little earlier in Canada because the harvest is a little sooner owing to the more northerly location. It is not a big a deal as it it in the US of A but still most people spend at least one night rolling around wondering why they had a full plate of seconds and went back for a third of stuffing and potatoes.

The interesting thing here is people are much more flexible as to when it is celebrated. In the US, in my observation, turkey day IS Thanksgiving Day. The Thursday. Some people shuttle from turkeyfest to turkeyfest to turkeyfest to ensure some part of the day is shared with each branch of family and step family. In Canada, people celebrate on Saturday, Sunday or Monday of the Thanksgiving weekend. Or the week before. Or after.

This year we celebrated with my family last weekend and Husband's family the Sunday of Thanksgiving. We dined at my sister-in-law who has an apartment right at the ocean so we took the kids to the beach to burn off excess energy before dinner.
That appeared to tire them out as they hunkered down and watched a movie while the grownups had seconds and thirds and then played a couple games.We combined the celebration with a few family birthdays.Here are some of the things I am thankful for:I will close with a poem written by Jackson. You may recall his heartwarming mother's day and father's day poems. Get out your hankies folks. The ending gets me every time:

I'm thankful for my fish and the earth and my parents.
My family is thankful for our clothes and ther food and water and ther jobs.
Everyone should be thankful for trees and grass and animals.
Most of all I'm thankful for my D.S. Because it's fun!

Friday, October 9, 2009

Birthday 6.3

In case anyone is counting, we celebrated Sydney's birthday like this at Disneyland. Then had a surprise party with her best pal and family which looked like this. But still we had the GKP to come. The Gigantic Kid Party. As I talked about last year, I used to openly mock people who had GKP. Then when Jackson was in grade 1 and trying to find his place in school, it seemed like a good idea to us to let his classmates get to know him.

And so GKP is a one time deal in this family at age 6. I have mostly given up the right to mock other people's GKP's.

As mentioned, we went with a Build-A-Bear party which I used to think were very showy and splashy but I have changed my tune on that one as well. We went for the basic party, since we have 19 children and, you know, still have to cover the mortgage his month. The up side of the the BAB party is the kids go home with a cuddly bear instead of a bag full of plastic dollar store items. So I limited the good bags to a homemade cupcake and a pencil. I actually went a little Martha Stewart and put them in bags with ribbons and a little thank you note that Sydney obligingly sign 18 times. I impressed even myself.
Sydney was pleased as punch at even the idea of her party. Her classmates were asking her all day how old she was, when her actual birthday is and she was very pleased with the attention.
The Party Bears, as they call the party attendants, were spectacular. While I would not have personally kept saying "I can't hear you!!!" so that they screamed louder and louder, they seemed to keep them under good control. The kids participated eagerly in all the games including a group hug:
The kids initially were eyeing the expensive bears, but they gamely each pick one of the three bears allowed. Here is Sydney at the stuffing machine.This of course cannot be Jackson seen getting a bear stuffed since you know how firm I was about the Build-A-Bear consequence with him only a few hours ago. It's his long lost twin, obviously, separated at birth. I am all about sticking to my guns.

Happy Birthday Girlie Goo!

Deal Maker

Well it's been a pretty good week around here. Seriously above average.

After just surviving a slightly off kilter week, we seemed to have turned the corner. Jackson managed to master his spelling words. Sydney had her first week of spelling homework and we manged this with a minimum amount of resistance..

We actually implemented a MAJOR shift to the bedtime routine: turning the TV off 30 minutes earlier. Normally those kind of changes require a lot of planning, scheming, manipulation, bribery, negotiation and often we are rewarded with outright failure. Last week that might have resulted in histrionics, but this week we pulled it off with barely a complaint.

Husband even had a meeting one night this week and we managed to deal with that and watch some parts of two hockey games on TV. Really, all top shelf.

We had a brief issue about WHEN the Halloween decorations were going up. Jackson was getting a little tense until I realized he just wanted a date. "October 16th" I told him. He was entirely satisfied.

We have Sydney's birthday party, to which her entire class is invited, set for Friday night, but even that seemed doable. I mean 19 kids at Build-A-Bear. Piece of cake.

I got home late on Thursday, about 7. I grabbed a quick bite and Sydney and I had plans to make cupcakes for the party. While we were getting ready to do that, Jackson and Husband were playing Texas Hold 'Em on the DS's. Jackson has been learning poker and Husband might have tried to throw the game but he got a royal flush. I hear that is good and how can you fold with that?

My Mommy radar detected some frustration in the boy's voice so I asked if I can play against Jackson with Daddy helping him. Trying to head things off at the pass. This is really top drawer parenting. I should have my own show. And book deal.

Jackson decided he wants to play darts instead, which we do. He won handily and he seemed satisfied. Then Sydney and Jackson decided to play darts, which Sydney is incredibly good at. I was a little worried about the J Boy losing. He prepared himself "Sydney always wins at darts. She's really good at it" he repeated with every dart he threw.

"She is very good, isn't she?" I tried to help but really, I have really no idea whether that makes it better, as in you-are-fighting-a-force-stronger-than-all-of-us. Or worse as in rub-your-nose-in-it-that-your-little-sister-is-better-at-this.

Imagine my relief when Jackson said a few minutes later "Hey, I won! I never win!" He does a happy dance.

Crisis averted. Everybody stand down.

"SYDNEY TURNED OFF THE GAME!!!" Jackson inexplicably lunged for her. Husband and I were there to intervene. In trying to keep Jackson from his intended action I took an elbow to the face. Twice.

In these situations, punishment, in the traditional sense is throwing gasoline on the fire. Jackson was only slightly in control of his emotions and I knew I needed a big big hammer to get him to pull himself off the ledge.

"Jackson" I said firmly but evenly "you calm down or you will not be able to go to Sydney's Build-a-Bear party".

He stopped in his tracks. He then proceeded to continue his uncivilized behaviour. He lost his Build-a-Bear. And anything with a screen. Plus I told him I would feed him and clothe him, but in a stroke of moderation, told him I would not do anything nice for him.

When the waters seemed calmer -- well I was still seething, not to mention smarting, but Jackson was calmer, Sydney and I attended to project cupcake. Because of the new grocery schedule for the fall I did not manage to remember LAST Friday that I would need to make cupcakes today so I am forced to make them from scratch. Sydney brought her chair to the counter and Jackson asked in the pleasantest of tones "hey, what are you guys doing?".

If I didn't know better, I would think he has an evil identical twin who was the perpetrator of the earlier events. He thinks it's perfectly natural that he should participate in anything interesting going on. The only hint of his acknowledging any responsibility in the events are that he is not even asking to use TV/computer/DS.

I left it up to Sydney and she wanted Jackson to participate. I made him have the further away chair but otherwise really made an effort to keep an even tone. We all maintained our composure for the rest of the night.

I admit I was still quite angry with him while Husband and I were making lunches etc. and then Jackson came down with a comic he had made for me, in a homemade envelope entitled "Sorry Momy". I melted significantly. The comic had nothing to do with the apology but was a peace offering.

I decided that I was going to stick to the no Build-A-Bear edict for Sydney's party. But if he could manage to keep control of his emotions for a few weeks, I would take him back to get one. I told him I would get a babysitter for him or he could come along and be a "party assistant" but not get a bear. He chose party assistant. No bear.

I picked the kids up after school today and Jackson said, and I think he was floating a trial balloon, "Sydney, after your party, I'll have 2 Build a Bears". I am pretty sure he knows what he's doing.

"Um Jackson, remember what we talked about last night. You were going to be a party assistant?"

"Yeah, but a party assistant is at the party and if I'm at the party, I'll get a bear."

"Well, we said last night that your consequence was no bear." I took a deep breath. "BUT, I do have a proposal for you."

"I have one for you" he said in a tense tone, arms crossed.

"If you can keep control of your emotions and not be physical, we'll go back in a few weeks and get you a Build-a-Bear."

"That will only work if I can get a bear by the end of the week."

"Nicer tone Jackson. The end of the week is tomorrow. The whole point is for you to show us that when you get frustrated or disappointed, you won't react like you did last night. So you need some time to show us that."

"I'll extend it till Sunday"

"That is only one more day." I was ready to cave.

Jackson presented a good alternative "why don't you come up with a different consequence and exchange it so I can still get my bear but I will still have a consequence."

Now we're getting somewhere. "Well, that might work. But it needs to be something that is important to you. It can't be 'no vegetables for two weeks' ".

"I can't really think of anything", he replied.

We both sat in silence in the garage.

IDEA!!!!

"How about, you can put up the Halloween decorations this weekend but you'll still have no bear tonight, but can still earn it with good behaviour?"

"Deal" his says.

Using the spooky obsession for good and it cost me nothing as it will be Husband doing the decorating with the J Boy.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Course Correction

One of the things Husband and I talked about at length on our week off together this summer was a joint course correction. We both agreed that we had drifted off course in several areas and the time has come to reverse the trend.

High on our list of objectives was to solidify our attempts to reach and maintain a reasonable fitness level. Both of us have been working on this in 2009 and we've made some modest progress. Progress is defined as the elliptical trainer not accumulating as much dust as before and the workouts are no longer spaced so far apart that we can't remember where our workout duds are.

But the time has come to ink it into our weekly schedules to make fitness a priority as opposed to being committed to fitting it into the schedule when we can. We we've both got trips to the gym and trips to our playroom where the elliptical is housed worked into our schedule. I won't go so far as to say we're on schedule, but we're definitely getting better.

Next on our list was the housework. We have been very reactive in terms of keeping up with the house. Apart from tending to the kitchen nightly, weekly cleaning of the only bathroom I let guests use and the occasional collecting of dirty laundry from the family room floor, housework has been getting done when things get really bad. Or when we have people over. In fact sometimes we invite people over JUST to force us to clean up (with apologies to anyone that has ever been invited over: I don't actually mean YOU).

We decided to come up with a rough plan weekly. Since I work part time more of this fairly falls on my shoulders. But Husband is more than keen to do his part which includes vacuuming of floors (a task he took on when I was pregnant with Jackson. Please don't tell him I am WELL past gestational age if you see him. I don't think he's noticed).

Our theoretical goal was always to focus on one floor of the house per week. I'd do the heavy cleaning, we'd both tidy and Husband would do the floors. This theory rarely translated into practice as Husband doesn't know which floor we are working on in any given week and I've been very lax and get easily side tracked by an unfinished project or something shiny. To that end, I bought his and hers white and cork boards where I can boldly name the zone we are working on and we can both try to keep up our end of the bargain.

While I have the best of intentions, on Monday this week, my theoretical main cleaning and laundry day and I cleaned one bathroom and observed how dirty the kitchen is but did not get much cleaning done. I did however get all the laundry done AND put away, which includes changing all the sheets. Notably, and I say this so you might forget I didn't really do any cleaning, this was done before Husband got home. Work in progress, I am.

Next on the list was to be more intentional in our parenting. While we spend a lot of time with our kids, we admittedly have abdicated in certain areas, often because we are fighting battles on other fronts.

We think the kids are at an age where they can take more responsibility at home. Helping clear the dishes, tidying up after themselves in addition to the assisting in housework is a start.

We want to improve their meals and up the vegetable to non vegetable ratio in their diets. We may have to include potato chips, chocolate and anything chewy in the "vegetable category" to make any real headway, but I think offering more fruit and the occasional vegetable can easily be accommodated.

We want to have more quality family time during the week. School nights feel like a blur of meal prep, dishes, homework. Often the kids eat earlier due to extreme hunger and Husband and I enjoy a quiet meal in the dining room. While it is not all bad for Husband and I to have a semi-uninterrupted conversation, we thought having family meals in the dining room is a good practice at least a few nights a week. This requires more attention to the timing of snacks so, as I said, being more intentional. The reward: real conversations with no cartoon characters interrupting us.

All of these thing take up time and where, you might ask, is this time going to come from?? Of course I have the mythical 6 hours a day on Mondays and Fridays. But am I going to have to give up sleep?

I have been reflecting a great deal on how I'm spending my time, inspired by examining the life of the late Senator Ted Kennedy. He lived so intentionally, spent his time doing things he loved, that were important to him and that fulfilled his duty. I want to do that too.

I realized that I spend far too much time on the computer. What I do enjoy and want to continue to do is blogging. While I think keeping up with friends on Facebook does add value to my life, checking for any new Facebook statuses every 10 minutes every waking hour I am at home is a little obsessive. I am a bit of a news junkie but even I have admit that scrolling through my five favourite news sites about five times in a row desperate for any new headlines, is unnecessary. It is okay if I am NOT the first one to hear the latest volley in the Jon versus Kate saga.

So less computer, more exercising, cleaning and parenting. I think I will have to throw in an occasionaly spa night, girls night or date night to keep me going.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Six Hour Milestone

I have been counting down the years to this one. An important Mommy milestone. My baby is gone to school for the whole school day.

That means on the days I don't go into work (Monday and Friday) I have SIX HOURS with no kids. That is a staggering amount of time, I said to myself over the summer. IMAGINE HOW MUCH I CAN GET DONE WITH TWELVE KIDLESS HOURS A WEEK.

It turns out having a few extra hours on my hands is like having a few extra dollars in my wallet. They tend to slip through my fingers without my notice.

I can account for a couple hours for my workout each day. The aerobic classes are an hour and you add in early arrival to sign up and the drive to and from. That is time well spent even if I am discovering muscles long neglected. I throw in some laundry, make a few phone calls, take a peak at Facebook and maybe write a blog and another hour is whittled away.

What I can't figure out is what happens to the other three hours? If you've seen them, I'm offering a $1 reward.

Monday, October 5, 2009

The Help

Since long before we had kids, Husband and I had a ongoing lament about our houseboy, Julio. We would lament about his inability to keep up with the laundry and his failing to make dinner in a timely manner. We then began to complain about Alice and the fact that the dishes were never done on time. We would sigh at the end of any lament and one of us would say "you get what you pay for", which is course true because you need not pay for fictitious help.

Since we had kids, Husband and I have needed more help than ever because my failings as a housekeeper are accentuated when there are two extra people messing up the place. One of them likes to change her clothes six times a day and despite our protests the discarded outfits are strewn everywhere, which means we not only have to pick them up but we have to divine which ones are dirty. Or we have to ask her to do it ninety seven times. The other addition to our household likes to collect up stuff, like lids to Tupperware, some pieces of Lego, a Pokeman card plus the lens of a telescope and play some spy game which leaves us with piles of crap to repatriate to their homes.

We keep talking about getting a cleaner in every couple of weeks. I would also like a washer woman, a cook and a personal assistant. In short, I would like a good wife.

But then this happened: And this:
And then finally, one morning when I was completely neglecting my motherly duties, I came downstairs and mumbled a "sorry" to the kids and something about getting their breakfast and Jackson said half matter-of-fact and half oozing with pride "It's okay Mommy, I'm making breakfast."
Finally having children is starting to pay housework dividends. Now, if only I could train them to make my coffee in the morning.

Yesterday Husband was pruning our laurel bush. He was a little unhappy with the result and I suggested that we have a gardening service come and trim that one and 3 other trees that are beyond the scope of our ladder. Jackson heard us and said;

"WE'RE GOING TO HIRE A GARDENER?!?!?! Mommy can we hire a housekeeper too??"

"I'd like that" I responded.

"Sydney did you hear that, we're going to have staff!!!! You know what, I'd like to hire a mechanic too. Then he could build a launch pad and a communication device. That would be sooooo cool.'

Keep dreaming big, little boy.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Disequilibrium


Disequilibrium. That is the word that best describes our week. It wasn't chaotic or unmanageable or too terribly traumatic. Just a little off balance. Things weren't quite clicking.

We had a bit of a false start to our fall. We had 2 weeks back at school and in the thick of things for Husband and I and then we made a trip to the happiest place on earth.

We followed that up by the XX chromosomes in the family suffering colds and Husband making a trip out of town which coincided with a professional development day for the kids and a weekend. We all know how those pro d days go around here.

With Husband home, we spent Sunday getting ready for the surprise birthday party. So none of us were really ready for the week that was to come.

Monday went okay. I managed to get groceries (which is supposed to be my Friday job), do laundry and a few other home chores before school pick up and the dance class shuffle where I attempt to not let Jackson notice he has nothing to do for 45 minutes (my having forgotten his DS at home). This all went surprisingly well and I thought we were off to a good start to our week.

Tuesday, I headed back to work and received a phone call from Husband, who was on school drop off duty. The Girlie Goo, who is incredibly keen about being in grade 1, cried and screamed and did not want to go to school. The drama carried on right to her classroom. We are at a loss as to entirely why and it is likely a combination of things, including withdrawal from a lot of Mommy/Daddy time on vacation.

Jackson also seemed off on Tuesday evening, pitching a minor fit over something I cannot recollect. He is nothing if not consistent and did the same thing every evening after dinner.

I have not been getting up early enough in the mornings and that allows far too much drama in the get-your-jacket-and-shoes-where-is-your-backpack-can't-you-please-put-your-shoes-on-NOW scenario. I didn't have the pressing deadline at work but still have a large backlog and things weren't quite clicking the way they should.

Also on our list of things to do is get Jackson to study for his spelling test. He is not one to write out words and best handles this in small batches. So every time he's walk by I'd say "how do you spell learning?" and he'd give it his best shot. We broke out Aretha Franklin at one point as one of his words was respectful so we listened to a little R-E-S-P-E-C-T.

Sydney seemed to recover from her Tuesday episode at school and was okay about going to school but mentioned a few things that were bothering her on and off and her stress did seem to be seeping out. We tried to accommodate with extra cuddles and reassurance.

But now it is Friday. Jackson managed to get ALL the spelling words correctly (why don't they send home stickers for the parents -- I feel we earned one this week). I made it to the gym for step class and then got groceries (again). The kids came home from school very happy and only wanting to cook their stuffies which they did and then cleaned up after themselves. And I made an actual dinner that included two vegetables and only a modest amount of calories. Husband and I enjoyed it with a glass of wine, even if we were interrupted by the play dough twins about 37 times. We can breathe a sigh of relief that the week is over.

Now, if we could just convince the kids that the week is over and get them to their beds, we could really exhale.