All the I Love Yous

Today I said I love you by letting you sleep in. We have things to do around the house, but I know you’ve been exhausted this week. It may be a slightly selfish I love you because this means I could sleep in as well.

Yesterday I said I love you by picking up your favourite fast food burger on my way home from work. You were home by yourself all day and I was sure you kept opening the fridge and the cupboards, but still managed to find nothing to eat. (There is fruit on the table… always!!!) When I show my love this way, I can only hope that you’ll still eat dinner (and you did.)

The other day I said I love you by sending a text reminding you how awesome you are before you headed into your first ever exam. I probably even used the words “I love you” in this one, but I never got a reply. I can only hope that you really, truly know your value and that beyond a shadow of doubt know you are loved, despite your grades (which I’m sure you rocked!)

Last week I said I love you when I folded your laundry. The three baskets of it that you let pile up just waiting for someone to fold. It’s one of those things you’re supposed to be responsible for now, but I didn’t mind taking the time to do this for you while you were at school.

Every day I say I love you. In the meals I cook – yes, even the ones you complain about. In the reminders to try your best. In the lectures about contributing to the society of our home. In the responsibilities given. In the trust exercised. In the chauffeuring. In the questions about your life that drive you crazy. In the call to wake you up each morning and the call again 10 minutes later because you haven’t made a sound yet. In the words “I Love You” when you’re frustrated with me or just passing you in the hall.

You don’t always hear “I love you”, but child, my I love yous are being shouted loud and clear or soft and quiet every single day and I’ll be sharing them until I’m no longer here to tell you. Never, ever doubt you are loved and know that I hear your I love yous too, even when they’re not spoken.

The Dream of Silence

This morning as the alarm went off, I had visions of a leisurely day ahead. I pictured myself resting in some comfy clothes, book in hand, between loads of laundry, cups of tea, and dishes. The dog would snuggle up to me, I’d turn the ringer off on my phone, I’d bask in the silence.

Then real life set in and my dreams were but a puff of smoke. One child yelling about how much he dislikes school and telling me I’m not his mother (a familiar 7 a.m. refrain.) The other boy slept in a little and woke up grumpy. The buses were late because of the cold and my hard won silence was more of a mad, rapid descent into pandemonium.

J. made it onto the bus, albeit late, bundled up head to toe. Once he made it out the door, I though we were in the clear. Kaleb made it out as well, without any posted delays. I erroneously prepared to indulge in my comforter again a short time before meeting the day.

But the text messages started. “Mom, the bus isn’t here. It’s cold. Is there a delay?” This followed by him coming into the house asking the same questions. While I try to track the bus, I hear it from the recesses of my bedroom, driving past my driveway – child still in the house. No big deal. Just a little hiccup. I will drive him in. He’ll still be on time and no, child, you’re not missing school. It’s an organized study day before your exams.

Except, I forgot to plug in my car last night and it wouldn’t start. Now what? We plug it in for a short time and I get him to school just minutes after the bell rings. It’s not perfect, but it’s good enough. I’ve taken care of the immediate fires, but I’m frazzled and the bliss of silence needs to be fought for again. It’s fine – a great excuse for a chai latte and a muffin… and now that I’m out, I might as well do something with my day. Shopping, anyone?

Living the Dream… On Drama Behind the Scenes

Today’s post is brought to you in total transparency. It’s so easy to see things that are Insta-worthy without seeing behind the scenes. A perfect snippet of someone else’s life is never the full story and while many people have it all together, I don’t think anyone has it all together all the time. Not me. Definitely not me. We’re a hot mess over here and I’m not even sure about the hot part.

Today was one of those days. I’ve written about them before. It started out with potential, but slowly went downhill. I quit running my errands because I thought life would be a bit smoother from the comfort of my home. Alone.

I had about 10 minutes. Then I heard rattling in the drawer under my oven (I keep nothing in this drawer anymore.) Child #2 came in off the bus. No big deal. Compromise over snacks and how many episodes of Bizaardvark he could watch. Told him to check the drawer before sitting his butt down on the couch.

We’ve caught a mouse… but he’s a feisty little guy and somehow only got his back leg trapped. I cried. (I hate mousetraps, but I hate mouse mess even more.) Little buddy decided to try and escape the drawer while dragging the trap and he is frantic and fast. I ended up bagging him and slipping him out of the trap out the back door. I have no hopes for him and now think I’m the worst kind of person. At least I didn’t poison him and the birds of prey too.

Things settle down. Cue the drama surrounding chores and homework. No more negotiations. Child 1 comes in off the bus and stirs the pot. Okay, then… it’s going to be one of those nights. Cue the raised voice reminding both brothers to leave each other alone and do. their. things. without causing a hassle.

Child 2 decides that instead of chores, he needs to use the bathroom. Fair enough – except he always seems to need to use the bathroom ONLY when he should be doing something else. It’s remarkable how his 12-year-old body rhythms work with hardly an interruption to TV or other screen time.

While in the bathroom, he got bored. Bored! So does he finish and go about his (other) business like any child who isn’t interested in driving his mama to near-meltdown status? NO. He starts playing with the spring-like doorstop near the baseboard (with his stinky toes, I’m assuming.) He’s pushing my buttons. He’s irking his brother. For the love of pizza, please just use the toilet quietly, wash your hands, and GET. TO. WORK.

Silence. Sweet blessed silence. Followed by a frantic, “Mom, you’re not going to be happy.” (Hate to break it to you, kid. Mom’s already unhappy.) What did my darling delight of a child do? Not use too much toilet paper. Oh no, he did better than that.

He managed to get the doorstop IN THE TOILET with his turds. Thank goodness he didn’t flush. That would have done a number on our pipes… Mom to the rescue with fury on her face (“Why didn’t you listen and stop when you were told to???”) Trusty tongs in hand and problem solved. Apparently, he has grounded himself for a month… plus the dishwasher was unloaded in record time and he’s now doing his homework quietly. Does that count as a victory?

So parents, when you’re feeling like you don’t quite measure up and life isn’t always picture perfect, at least your almost-teenager didn’t make you stick your hands in the toilet today. Dad says he’s not sure whether he’s angry or proud. Mom thinks we have more than one pest problem. We’re living the dream, right here.

Thinking Outside The Box

If you live anywhere along the Great Lakes corridor, you were probably blasted with the ice storm. Slippery roads, mix of ice pellets and wet snow, yucky travel conditions. No one was surprised when they cancelled the buses for an inclement weather day yesterday… once again! (I feel like this is a record for January/February. Kaleb’s ski club keeps getting cancelled too – boo to that!)

My kids were home again. Emails and texts went around with leadership at one of my admin contracts regarding programs and meetings today – they were all postponed. I made the decision to work from home. Fortunately, I can tackle some of my essential commitments from the comfort of my couch and it also affords some time to dive into some of the research projects that get pushed to the side. (If you’d like to do a survey on what parents and caregivers look for in a playgroup for toddlers and preschoolers, click here.)

I called a pause to TV watching in the living room because I can only handle so much Spongebob before my irritability rises and my productivity plummets. Besides, the TV watcher had a speech to prepare. We worked side-by-side, laptops in hand, both investing in our projects. We broke for lunch. Then the contractor asked the boys to unpack the new vanity which took all of three minutes and me constantly reminding them to avoid scratching the vanity with their pocket knives, please and thank you.

The Box / 24 Home

We were left with a box. A big, beautiful box. A box in slight shambles and needing some TLC. The 11-year-old has transformed it into a hut of sorts – hinged windows, level on each side, double doors, and a shower mat as the flooring. It’s covered in green painters tape (whatever works) and is currently sitting in the middle of my living room. The construction alone (including things velcroed to the interior walls and ceiling) kept him occupied for hours. And I am thrilled. I am thrilled that he hasn’t outgrown the wonder of imagination. I am thrilled that a cardboard box still provides hours of entertainment. I am thrilled that he gets caught in the excitement of creativity.

I am, however, less than thrilled that I may have agreed to a 24-hour-box-fort-challenge (What? Something he learned on YouTube?) “Mom, you can fill up my water bottle and bring me snacks.” “If I put it the right way, I can still see the TV.” (Apparently, we’re not quite victorious over the screen yet…) “There’s enough room that I can have a pillow and blanket.” “I guess I can leave the box to pee.” (Oh, thank goodness! My relief knows no bounds.) As long as it leaves my living room, he can kill time in his box as long as he’d like to.

Here’s to big boxes and big ideas. Here’s to tape and pocket knives. Here’s to creativity and imagination. Here’s to thinking outside the box or, sometimes, being different enough and confident enough to even stay in it!

My Own Personal Polar Vortex

* directly opposite in character or tendency.

opposite, opposed,  opposing,  oppositional,  diametrically opposed,  extreme, contrary,  contradictory,  antithetical,  antagonistic,  conflicting,  counterbalancing;

a mass of whirling fluid or air, especially a whirlpool or whirlwind.

whirlwind,  whirlpool,  gyre,  maelstrom,  eddy,  swirl,  swirling, countercurrent, counterflow;

By mid-Friday afternoon, my brain is beginning to liquefy. I don’t work a traditional 40-50 hour work week. I don’t work a regular 9-5. I don’t work from a single office. I know that I have to be “on” come Sunday. I know I have client projects and prep work to tackle on weekends. I often work from home. I tend to juggle my family life with client obligations and can be found processing spreadsheets, checking emails, and designing flyers surrounded by piles of laundry, a cup of tea on the table, book close at hand, and the beast snoring away wherever he can find a warm comfy spot. (By the beast, I refer to my dog… not my husband. I can see how that last line confused you. The similarities are astounding.)

The flexibility of this arrangement has its perks. Inclement weather day? No problem! I’ll work from home. School assembly? Let me slip out of the office early and add an extra hour on Wednesday. Oh, you need that flyer tomorrow, but just got me the information I need? I’ll work on it after I make dinner, clean dishes, and tuck the kids into bed. You may just have to wait until I get them on the bus in the morning. 

The downfall of being surrounded by the comforts of home while I’m supposed to be productive with other people’s projects, is, honestly, distractions. I have to work hard to balance family life, homemaking, and self-employment and it’s not always as easy as it sounds, especially as some days I resemble the dog in UP. (Squirrel!)

Balance is my own personal polar vortex. Distraction and non-productivity at one end. Hustle and accomplishment at the other.

Log in to Facebook to schedule a client’s updates for the week. Check.
Get distracted by motivational videos. Uncheck.

Fold the laundry and write up the meal plan. Bookmark recipes for later. Check.  Read one chapter before changing the next load. One chapter turns into 4. Uncheck.

Send out an update to support regarding some current client projects. Check.Research relevant information for said projects to support ideas and development. Get lost in a land of Narnia-like proportions with a ton of other ideas to save and develop for later projects. Uncheck.

Some days I get frustrated with my “bounce” – meaning I feel like I give some time to one thing, dive into another, and never quite settle on anything. Things get done… but it’s not all housework at once, or business at once, or sit and watch a movie without doing something else.

However, I’m learning to give myself grace. I’ve come to realise that just because I don’t follow a linear plan, it doesn’t mean I’m doing things wrong. I rely on checklists and if my to-do lists are being accomplished even if it means a few chapters of reading, followed by a load of laundry, followed by some document review, with some unscheduled brownie making or a lunch date with myself before I pick a new camp curriculum, that’s okay. No one is hungry. No one is waiting for important documentation. No one is losing hours from me (in fact, I’m probably owed some…) No one is hurt by my methods, so why do I allow myself to feel inferior as I juggle as best I can? I need grace.

I give myself grace to: allow myself to research. To pin. To dream. To follow rabbit trails. That’s okay.

I give myself grace to: take moments of rest. To find elements of humour. To be inspired by a blog, or devotional, or Facebook video. That’s okay.

I give myself grace to: fold ten loads of laundry. Forget one in the washer. Rinse. Repeat. That’s okay.

I give myself grace to: sit down for a reading session in the afternoon. Cook dinner. Spend time with my family. Ignore the emails pinging in after 7pm. That’s okay.

I give myself grace to: ignore the laundry basket. Ask the kids to quietly play elsewhere while I work. Leave the dishes in the sink. Develop a new flyer. Strategize a teaching plan. Update a product catalogue or website. That’s okay.

I give myself grace to: recognize that there is always room for improvement, but unreasonable expectations and pressure isn’t for me. Know that I work in my own way and am still productive even if my version of productivity isn’t the same as societal norms. Embrace rest, and boundaries, and balance amidst the hustle to get things done. Recognize that my own personal polar vortex may look like a whirlwind of chaos and a dizzying array of unrelated tasks to the outside world, but it works for me. That’s okay.

Snow Day Sanity

We’ve had three snow days – AKA inclement weather days – in the last week and a bit. I’ll admit that with the drama of yesterday, when I heard bus transport was canceled again, the thought of having them underfoot made me quiver.

Fortunately, we’ve had heat and hydro and haven’t been truly snowed in. One day the roads were a bit slick. We weren’t truly stuck at home, but who wants to head out when the weather is icky?!

Since my boys started at this school, in JK and Grade 1, they’ve been bussed. There was a period of time that I would drive in as I helped with the breakfast program and they would bus home. Our policy has always been that if the bus is cancelled, they can stay home.

This has been easier for us than for others due to the flexibility of being self-employed with tasks I could do from home. Childcare has not been an issue. Boredom, however, can be a big one.

So how do we bust the snow day boredom? We become a bit more lenient with the screen time with movies, game systems, and YouTube. Not wanting to zombify the boys, however, we try to balance the electronics with other activities.

Here are some of our tried and true boredom busters:

  • Puzzles – the bigger, the better!
  • Board games
  • Books (they don’t love this one, but I still make them do it.)
  • Play outside or go explore in the woods (weather permitting)
  • Baking
  • Chores (another one they don’t love!)
  • Lego (not as popular anymore)
  • Cooking shows or wildlife shows (yes, it’s screentime but it isn’t superheroes or Spongebob.)
  • crafts or painting

I don’t think parents need to entertain their children every second of the day and boredom is great for spurring creative. I don’t see a problem with offering a list of suggestions though and spending some time interacting and making memories.

What are your go-to snowy day activities? What activities do you enjoy doing together? How do you survive snow day madness?

Deep In the Trenches

I always read about the mamas with toddlers who are seemingly stuck in the trenches, whether stay at home or working. They’re fighting a battle to remember their own identities while helping beautiful little humans find their own. They’re juggling sippy cups and missing socks and finger paints on the walls and mashed carrots on the floor and diaper cream in the most unexpected places… never mind the joys of potty training.

As I reflect on these mamas, I breathe a slightly smug sigh of relief and think we survived intact. I miss the cuddles and the mispronunciations. I don’t miss the temper tantrums, need for naps, and stubborn I can do it myself independent attitudes that mean everything takes 3 times as long. My kids are well past these stages when the days can feel so long, exhausting, and sometimes just hard.

And then I enounter a day like today, and a light bulb goes off as I realise I’m still chin deep in the trenches, staring parenthood in the face while fears and tears and situations escalate. Arguments about snow pants and breakfast choices and whether it’s necessary to brush their teeth. (It is.) Questions about why they didn’t have their backpacks ready the night before when they’ve been asked to do this every day of their school years thus far. Why didn’t you feed the dog? (“I slept in and then I forgot!”) Day becomes dinner and the battles over chores and meals and the sibling start again.

I lose my cool while silently berating myself on the inside for losing my cool. Threats are made and grow exponentially and I can’t cave because then the point is lost. Next thing I know my kid is ready to move in with Oma. (If he makes it to your place, Mom, pile on the chores and make him eat dinner and no junk food and go back to dial-up, k? He doesn’t believe we grew up with rules when we lived under your roof.)

So now my heart (and head) is pounding, a kid is crying into his soup, and the internet is gone. There’s a lot of disappointment festering from the kitchen table and I’m not sure my dishes will survive when the dishwasher is emptied. While I may have won the battle, I question whether I’m actually the victor. We’re living in a house that’s just happy, happy, happy…

Maybe one day he’ll be engaged in conflict with his own teen or pre-teen. He’ll recall the time that I made him eat healthy dinners and not live off of junk food; the time I reminded him that as a parent who has done nothing to betray him, I’ve earned his respect; that being a part of a family comes with responsibilities and love before it comes with privileges like screentime and sleepovers. He’ll understand and appreciate the importance of showers and face wash and being a contributing member of society.

Maybe that day he’ll be locked in a stare down and his kid will hold his own in a very vocal disagreement. Of course, said kid will be tall enough to stare him in the eyes. He’ll wince, dagger to the heart, when he hears that this kid wants to live with me instead.

Maybe that will be the day that he’ll realise parents never leave the trenches. That every day is a battle to find balance between stability and independence, freedom and frustration, while hoping our failings and frailties haven’t scarred them for good. Every day of parenthood we’re doing our best but sometimes our best is a little broken. He’ll remember the love and the purpose behind the rules and reasons. Maybe he’ll look back, feeling a little battered and bruised from this latest test of wills, and will realise that those toddler days really weren’t so bad…

Waiting Room

It’s 10:30 PM and I’m sitting in our local E.R. waiting room with my youngest, hoping that we shouldn’t be here at all. In a time when our healthcare system is notoriously overcrowded and E.R.s are seemingly overwhelmed and understaffed, I don’t want us to be yet another burden on the system. Inside though, I’m secretly hoping that I’m just an over-vigilant mother and they’ll roll their eyes and send us home to our own bed.

Realistically, I’ve been advised by a trusted friend in the healthcare industry and by the on-call haemotologist that the E.R. is exactly where we need to be. I have to admit as well that the triage nurse also agreed. So we wait. We pray. We hope that in this case medical professionals are wrong. My kids been working his way down a list of symptoms that may indicate he’s in an anaemic crisis.

Thank you to friends who support and check in and answer my million questions when I’m second-guessing myself… and for telling me to cool it when need be.

If you stumble across this in the next few hours, and think of us,will you pray for wisdom and grace for the medical team and for mom wishing hospital waiting room seats were just a wee bit more comfortable?

Mama Said There’d Be Days Like This…

I had some hours owing this week and decided it was time for an overdo salon visit followed by lunch with a friend. However, despite my best intentions and contingency plans and schedule adjustments, when my feet hit the floor I just knew that today wasn’t going to be “my day” – even though, for everyone else’s safety and my own sanity – I really need a day for me.

The oldest got ready with excitement and speed as it’s the first ski club session of the year. The youngest lagged and lagged and eventually moved from the bed to the couch, looking decidedly pale and green. He’s currently tucked up beside me in our bed because whether you’re 11 or 37 years of age, we all want our mamas close when we’re feeling crummy.

As parents and partners this is often what our days look like. We make our plans and our plans change because life throws some little hiccups and giant monkey wrenches our way. We’re up to our necks in chaos and tears and laughter and cookies and completely forget ourselves. (What’s my name again?!) We understand the importance of self-care and independence, but also know that sacrifice and caring for others are just as important in the balance of a healthy relationship.

So today is not my day, and if I wasn’t consumed with endless love for this child of mine, I’d be upset that he sabotaged my plans… and I’m human enough to admit I’m frustrated – with the curveball, not with him. I’m feeling a little helpless because my care doesn’t seem to be soothing and a little angry that we’ve been hit with something again. I’m definitely irritated that I can’t make things better and have been washing my hands like crazy.

There are days… days when it seems to a stressed out mama or other caregiver that they’re always the ones who have to bend. There are days when they’ll feel like they’re stuck in the trenches with no hope of ever climbing out. There are days when they’ll be holding puke buckets or little hands or bottomless laundry baskets…. and all they really want is a Frappucino and a spa day. These are the days that they need you.

Let your fellow mamas know that even though life can change at the drop of the hat or gust of the wind, they are never alone. Let them know they have a comrade in the nitty gritty ins and outs of this parenting gig. Check in on the strong and silent ones too – not everyone knows how to reach out when they’re drowning.

Be a comfort – send an encouraging text, commiserate over the phone, surprise them with some takeout and offer to fold a load of laundry (but don’t mention the dishes in the sink) and remind them that their day is coming.

And if it is your day? Think of all the strength you can lend! I’m a little jealous, to be honest. Maybe tomorrow will be my day…. in the meantime, those laundry baskets are mocking me and I have a great excuse to dive into a new book without feeling guilty!

Burritos and Purpose

My youngest son is not picky, with the exception of pizza, hot dogs, and breads (unless it’s a bakery loaf.) He loves new restaurants, enjoys picking out new recipes (“Mom, we should try this one!”), and will usually eat any home cooked meal he’s served.  His faves include potatoes in any form, butter chicken (but not the way I make it), and rice and peas. (Grandpa’s are still his favourite.)
The last few weeks he’s been asking for burritos… but not at-home burritos – fast food burritos. The closest burrito bar is about 25 minutes from us.  Considering it’s the last official day of winter break… and that I have to pick up Kaleb’s skis from the pro-shop across the street from a Mucho Burrito, we decided to have a lunch date today and finally get our burritos..
That is my priority. I have a million other stops to attempt, and I know running a full day of errands means he’ll most likely get on my nerves. (Honestly, we haven’t left yet and I’ve already spent most of my vocal time encouraging him to stop.  Stop what? Well… everything.) But lunch today is more than just a burrito. 
It will be a phones down, one-on-one pause in our busyness. It’s recognizing that the days are long, but the years are short… and one day, I’ll be fighting for his attention. It’s reminding him that he’s a person of importance in my life. It’s a chance to laugh, dig into what’s on his mind, and make memories together. It’s solidifying that presence is important, family matters, and that relationships take intentional nurturing – even if it’s just over fast-food burritos.
God grant me patience… and here’s hoping for no heartburn.