Friday, 20 December 2013

Lesson 9: Don't sweat the holidays.

 Twas five days before Xmas and all through the house,
 No kids were fighting or making a fuss.        
 My presents were wrapped and placed under the tree, 
 School was now done until January.  
 All snuggled in blankies were the boys on the couch,
 So, over my Macbook I tried to slouch.
 It was mama's time to blog and I put on my thinking cap,
 Cause this was the closest my kids would ever get to a nap.                   

  Between having my youngest home full time and holiday prep, I've barely had time to shower on a regular basis, let alone post any new blogs.  At this very moment, I am "watching" old Looney Tunes Christmas shows with the kids and hoping they'll stay quiet long enough for me to finish this post.  All I have to do is nod when they address me, then I answer "we'll see" to every question they ask.  It gives them the illusion that I am actually paying attention while buying myself precious minutes to write.  Hey, at least I'm sitting with them.  That's got to count for something, right?

  I haven't exactly been in the Christmas spirit lately.  My mind has been preoccupied with M's new diagnosis, my break up with Z's daycare, and a badly-timed basement/playroom reorg that I can't seem to finish.  I hurriedly did all my shopping online last week and managed to toss the three dozen presents into overpriced gift bags.  (There was no time to waste on paper, tape or ribbon.)  I spent a whole day handwriting Christmas cards and cursing myself for not sending holiday cheer via email instead.  Plus, my lopsided tree looks like it could use a makeover.  I guess you could call it shabby chic.  OK, maybe just shabby.  I contemplated leaving it bare until my kids made me feel like a grinch Tuesday night.  Blame it on fatigue, the abnormally bad weather, or my busy calendar, but Christmas was starting to feel like such a chore this year.

  This afternoon, I stood folding a daunting pile of laundry, wondering how so many socks manage to disappear into the washing machine's Bermuda Triangle.  I quickly grew bored and flicked on the TV for some company.  House Hunters International?  Yes, please!  A commercial came on soon after and grabbed my attention.  It was a holiday ad for Apple called Misunderstood.  If you haven't seen it yet, you can click play on the video above to watch.  It shows a teenage boy glued to his iPhone throughout his family's holiday vacation. He seems disengaged and uninterested by the festivities and his relatives.  Then, on Christmas morning he reveals that he has actually been filming and editing all the special moments.  It was really touching.  I cried.  (Nothing new these days!) At that moment I remembered that Christmas should not feel like a burden or a chore. Christmas is not about beautiful trees, perfect presents, timely picture cards or gourmet homemade gingerbread cookies.  The holidays are about appreciating and enjoying the little moments in life with your loved ones: breakfast in our p.j.'s, playing in the snow, watching a Muppet Christmas for the fifteith time, hearing my parents' laughter as they play with their grandkids, reminiscing with my sister about Christmas shows we used to put on for our relatives. Simplicity is what the holidays are about.

  So from my family to yours, I wish you a holiday brimming with thousands of happy little moments.   xoxo
“Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night!” (Clement Clarke Moore)

Monday, 9 December 2013

Lesson 8: Make a date with yourself.

It's officially winter and I've got the blues.  I woke up this morning to blowing snow.  It had taken over the neighbourhood overnight.  All I could make out from my bedroom window were white outlines of cars and roofs.  Everything outside was buried in the fluffy stuff.

Winter makes me feel trapped.  The big snow banks looming by the side of the road induce claustrophobia.  The kids' soggy mitts, hats and boots piled in my shoebox sized mudroom make puddles on the floor, which inevitably leave us with wet socks and cold feet.  Going anywhere requires  an extra 15 minutes  because I have to shovel out the driveway then brush off snow from my car before attempting to carefully pull out onto the road.  I won't even mention the battle to get the boys into their snow suits.  But I guess it doesn't really matter these days because I've got nowhere to go now that Z is home full time.

Last week I suffered a traumatic break up with my little one's preschool.  After months of unresolved complaints, I had no choice but to pull him out.  So he's home with me... 24/7. My precious three days of quiet are suddenly gone and it's wearing me down.  As I'm trying to write this blog, he's yelling out for more M&M's.  Note to self: 20 M&M's only buy you 12 minutes of peace and quite.  Next time double the amount.

I had a taste of freedom for the last year and a half.  I had a few days a week to post my blogs, to start planning my freelance business, to do some projects around the house, and to just have some quiet time to think.  Those days are no more.  I seem to be back to full time mommy mode.  If I'm lucky, I get to sneak in a couple of minutes of me time on the toilet... although the broken lock on the door often causes a problem.

I keep thinking about the movie Date Night, where Tina Fey tells on-screen husband Steve Carell that her biggest fantasy is to spend time in a room alone, where she wouldn’t be bothered by anyone's  demands.  Although it doesn't always seem feasible, isn't that what all mom's want at some point or another?

So why not make it happen?  I think I will start making dates with myself.  If I can't get away while the sun is up, then I will wait until Mr. Sandman has paid the kiddos a visit.  Once a week, I will take myself out.   Think of the possibilities: the movies, the book store, the coffee shop... even the mall!  And when the weather has me bummed and housebound, my iPad or a good book will do just fine.  

I'd love to hear about any original "me" dates you ladies have been on lately.  Send me your pics and a brief description and I may just post your ideas on my next blog!  And don't forget to share my posts with your friends or sign up to follow me online.  

Thursday, 28 November 2013

Lesson 7: Don't forget to pat yourself on the back.

Update!  In last week's post, I ranted about the sugarless birthday policy at my son's preschool.  Most of you agreed that having a birthday with no cake is a sacrilege.  Yet I was forbidden from bringing anything other than fruit or yogurt for Z to share with his classmates on his special day .  So I complied and brought in fruit and yogurt... sort of.  I mean, the really yummy mini cheesecakes I made contained some fruit and yogurt, along with lots of cream cheese, gelatin and graham cracker crumbs.  Of course, I didn't divulge the real recipe to anyone at preschool for fear of having my cheesecakes banished.   Instead, I told an itsy bitsy lie.  I said the graham cracker crust was crushed All Bran mixed with spices and I didn't even mention the gelatin or the two pounds of Philadelphia.  I felt like a drug mule smuggling in some powder from south of the border.  I was sweating and shaking as I handed over the goods to teachers.  But they bought it!  And the kids loved every morsel. Victory is sweet.

Now back to the lesson.  My husband and I had a meeting at M's school yesterday to discuss his IEP.  M is in first grade and has sensory processing disorder  which means he needs a little extra help to get him through a long day of school.  We sat down with his homeroom teacher, resource teacher as well as the principal to go over strategies that will help him become a more successful and well adjusted student.  Although I was stressed going in, it was a great meeting and I was elated to discover that M is surrounded by such supportive individuals.  

Being a parent of a special needs kid is tough.  There is a lot of guilt involved ("Is it my fault he has these issues?") and there is a feeling that if you keep looking hard enough, you can find that magic cure to make your kid "normal".  So you don't ever stop thinking about the next kind of therapy you can try, or the next specialist you can visit.  It becomes consuming. And it's never enough because, if you stop worrying about your special needs child, then it's like you are giving up or giving in.  And I don't want to admit defeat.   

Obviously, I sometimes I feel like an inadequate mom.  At the end of everyday, I reflect about all the things I could have done differently.  I rarely take time to highlight the really good things I've done for my children.  This critical internal dialogue goes on day after day. I'm my own bully.  Trust me, she can be a mean bitch.  

M and I were talking after school yesterday and he said something that made me want to stand up to my cruel self.  "You came to visit Mrs. I today.  You know, my teacher said I have really nice parents.  She said you guys help me a lot and let me express how I feel.  She thinks I'm a lucky boy.  I am lucky, mom," he blurted as he looked me straight in the eye. We hugged.  I teared up,  and at that moment I realized I have been too hard on myself. Here was this brilliant, happy, insightful little boy telling me he loved me and his dad unconditionally.  Sure we've screwed up at times, but we have succeeded in making our kids feel special and loved.  Now that deserves some praise. 

I resolve to give the bullying the boot, and I challenge my fellow mommies to do the same. Be your own cheerleader.  Give yourself a pat on the back each day for a job well done.  I've earned it, and so have  you.

Wednesday, 20 November 2013

Lesson 6: Give your kids sugar.

Someone call child protective services.  I feed my kids sugar.  Gasp!

I put sugar in the sweets I bake for my boys.  I buy Lucky Charms and let them pick out the marshmallow shapes.  We have ice cream for dessert at least once a week, smothered in chocolate sauce.  After school, we sit around the table and dunk Oreos in milk while we talk about our day.  I stash chocolate bars in the pantry and use them as bribes to get my boys to a doctor's appointment when reasoning doesn't work.  And damn it, I love having cake with gooey frosting on birthdays... with a scoop of vanilla on the side!  

My son is turning four next Tuesday.  This morning I asked his preschool if I could bake something for his class to celebrate.  I know they have a heath food policy in place so I didn't suggest chocolate cupcakes, my usual birthday go-to.  But I figured an apple pie, oatmeal raisin muffins or even banana bread would be fine.  After a whole 10 minutes trying to plead my case, I was politely informed that the only thing I could bring in was fruit skewers or yogurt.  My jaw dropped.  Pardon my French, but what the FUCK?  Who blows candles off a fucking fruit kabob?  How blah.  How pretentious.  I was pissed.   I'm sorry, but kids should eat cake on their birthday.  It's tradition!  Why are we obsessed with feeding our children low fat, low carb, low sodium, no sugar everything?  Why does their food have to be organic and all natural.  Hell, let's make eating totally boring and just give them vitamin supplements instead of real meals.   

Call me crazy, call me old-fashioned, but I think every kid deserves a little sugar now and then.  It tastes good, it makes everyone happy and it doesn't hurt anyone.  Our family exercises and eats balanced meals and snacks.  We are not overweight or diabetic.  We have a sweet tooth which we indulge, in moderation.  No one has grown a third arm from it yet.  Even my dentist condones the sweet stuff, so long as the kids brush their teeth twice a day. 

When did sugar become so taboo?  My generation grew up on the stuff, along with hot dogs, Nutella and so much Lipton Soup it's a miracle our skin didn't permanently yellow from the salty bouillon.   We all turned out all right.

So let's all loosen up and let them eat cake!  

What do you think I should bring in next week?  Should I smuggle in some good stuff?  Do you have any sugar free cake recipes?  HELP!

Happy Birthday!  Have a fruit skewer kids.  Mommy ate all the cake.  

Tuesday, 12 November 2013

Lesson 5: Kids will spread disease and nits faster than pigeons.

Anyone in my inner circle knows I am a complete germaphobe and suffer from anxiety.   As you can imagine, being a mom to two young boys can often gross me out.  And with flu season right around the corner, I am on high alert.  I've stocked hand sanitizer, Lysol wipes, disposable gloves and every flavour of fever medication.  

Every September, my mommy friends and I dread back-to-school for two reasons: gastro and head lice.  Last year, my oldest caught gastro three times within six months.   And guess what?  No one in this house went unscathed.   That shit (no pun intended) spreads like wildfire.  No amount of Lysol or bleach saved us.   Why?   Because kids have absolutely no sense of timing or aim when it comes to puking and crapping their pants.  They pooped and barfed on every square inch of this house... except for the toilet!

Our elementary school sends home a note about lice each fall.  They advise parents check their children's heads for nits at least once a week.  Every Friday night I turn in to a friggin mama chimpanzee.  I put on rubber gloves, stick my kids in the bath and search through their hair with a fine-toothed comb.  Any time they scratch their heads I jump on them and inspect their scalps like the CDC would jump on a sick chicken during a deadly bird flu outbreak.  Just the thought of these teeny tiny creepy crawlies makes me itch all over.  What's worse than the itching is that lice are a giant pain to get rid of.

Let's be honest here.  Kids are pretty disgusting.  They may look cute and sweet, but I assure you they are disease ridden.  I had an inkling this was the case way before I had kids.  I'd see them at the park or at the grocery store.  They almost always had snot dried up under their nose, dirty fingers or weird crust caught in their tangled manes.  But now that I've caught almost every documented communicable illness from my own boys, it's clear I didn't understand to what extent children could be a health hazard.

Fact: Children are vessels for germs and bacteria.  (I read an entire chapter on the subject in one of those parenting books childless friends like to give expectant moms.)  Here's the proof.  For some reason,  kids like to lick things that shouldn't be licked.  My oldest's tongue is strangely attracted to everything from bank machine keypads to elevator buttons.  But give him some grapes and he'll suddenly dry heave.  Preschoolers enjoy sharing sippy cups at playgroups with the most mucousy children in attendance.  Boys and girls alike can't keep their hands to themselves in public washrooms.  They are obsessed with touching every toilet seat and used paper towel.  And sometimes- I speak from experience- kids like to fish out turd from their BabyBjorn potty and bring it to you as your cooking to prove they've gone poo-poo like a big boy. 

My unexplained rash this summer.  It spread all over my back.  Could my children have been the cause? Probably!

Clearly, I know what I'm talking about.  Based on my experience, I've come up with some practical advice for parents to stay healthy. Here are some tips to keep those viruses, bugs and diseases at bay:

•   Wash your hands frequently.  You get used to the chapped, stinging skin after a while.
•   Always carry hand sanitizer.
•   Never eat the icing on a kid's birthday cake.  Chances are the birthday boy or girl, and all the underage guests, unintentionally spit on the cake while blowing out the candles.
•   Don't sniff any unidentified hard or dried out matter on the floors or walls of your home.  I can tell you from experience that it's probably poop.  
•   Don't share a tube of toothpaste with your little ones... it's most likely been up a nose or for a dip in the toilet.  
•   Never eat from your child's plate... you don't know where that mouth has been.
•   During a bout of gastro, line the beds and sofas with plastic.  It makes them easier to clean.
•   Keep your distance.  You can love your kids from afar.  

I'd like to know if you have any tips for keeping your household healthy.  Also, let me know your grossest kid stories.  Thanks for sharing!