November 30, 2011

Tendonitis, Blog Slacking, and Messy Hair

Posted in Uncategorized at 1:09 pm by stephwjane

I haven’t posted on my blog in over a month, and it has been weighing the back of my mind. I hate having things hanging over me. I get reminded when I talk to my former column readers, and I think: “I should tell them about my blog!” but then I realize that it hasn’t been updated in so long that it’s embarrassing to recommend they coma and have a read. When it’s been awhile since I blogged, I erase my blog address from my email signature, and don’t fill in the “web address” part when I’m commenting on other blogs, because I don’t want others to link back and read my dated post.

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These past few months, though, I have had a valid excuse for not adding to my blog. Back in September, I saw my Doctor for a follow-up to a Neurologist visit in August. The Neurologist ruled out Carpal Tunnel Syndrome for the issues I had been having with my wrists, and suggested that I may have a form of tendonitis instead. The month of September went by after my doctor confirmed tendonitis, and referred me to a physiotherapist. My parents were away in September, so I had to wait until they got back to start seeing the physiotherapist to treat my wrists. By then, I was wearing braces on my wrists for most of the day, at least, while my youngest was awake or when I was on the computer. So pretty much all day, and then taking them off in the evening.

With braces on my wrists and recommendations to “rest them,” some things had to fall by the wayside. My blog was one of those things. Another was hair brushing.

I have a pet peeve about kids with messy hair, which may be ironic some days when my own hair is not-so elegantly styled. (This is of course, worsened by the fact that blow-drying my hair with tendonitis was way too painful so mostly avoided). I can’t stand to see my oldest daughter with her chin-length bob hanging into her face (and food!), or my middle daughter with her shoulder-length locks all matted and tangled in the back where she can’t see to brush. But there are times when, as a mother, you are handed a life lesson in prioritization. these past few months, the hair brushing has not been happening as frequently or as thoroughly as I would like because I have been encouraging the six and four year old to do it themselves.

There have been days recently that one or both of them has gone to school with hair like poor orphan children. For some reason, I associate messy-haired children with the neglected, unwanted and unloved. I don’t want anyone to think that I feel that way about my children, so I am usually vigilant about hairbrushing. But here’s the lesson I learned this past two months: my kids went out in public with their hair unbrushed, and as far as I know, nobody judged me for it. Child Protective Services did not come and take my neglected, unwanted and unloved children away because the lack of hairbrushing did not, in fact mean that they were neglected, unwanted or unloved. They were always fed, put to bed, kissed, hugged, and most of all loved. They only looked unpresentable at times.

So this experience has taught me that in the greater scheme of things, I can let a bit of hairbrushing go sometimes and the world will not come to an end. If anything, it might be a better place, with less judgement on my own part when I see another child whose mother didn’t brush their hair for whatever reason and I think, “Yup, been there.”

October 7, 2011

Tempted to Take the Easy Way Out

Posted in parenting at 12:50 pm by stephwjane

Sometimes I wish I weren’t such an overachiever as a mom.

My daughter told me the other day that when she grows up she was going to be a “good mom” – apparently the six-year-old definition of this is: “I will let my kids do whatever they want, and have candy all the time whenever they want, and get all the toys they want.”

I laughed because it was cute. But part of me was thinking “If only it were that easy.” If only I could just let it go and let loose, let me kids eat candy whenever they wanted and give in to their whining at Wal-Mart. Maybe then they would leave me alone and I could have a bit of a life. Sure, my kids would be running through said Wal-Mart screaming and hitting each other, but I wouldn’t have to worry about it. Because the easy way out means not worrying about what your kids will grow into, later and just focusing on the now; as in “Right now my kid is whining for that toy. If I buy the toy it will stop the whining. So I will buy the toy.”

If only it were so easy. If only I could leave the TV on Treehouse in a continuous loop and not worry about the brain cells that were being sucked out of their brains by too many episodes of Toopy and Binou.

 

If only I could give in to the candy blitz and let them scarf down sugary snacks whenever they wanted them, even at 5 PM (the highest-level whining time of the day). Then they could eat all the candy they wanted until they puked and then I wouldn’t even worry about that, just mop it up and move on, because we were living in the NOW. If only I could let them pack their own lunches with whatever food they wanted (Twizzlers, Skittles, Gummy Bears and Chocolate pudding – the new four food groups).

 

If only I could ignore the piles of dishes, the Cheerios crumbs all over the hardwood floor, the piles of unfolded laundry, the legos on the floor, the sand in the entranceway, the craft supplies in the cupboard, the drive to teach them their alphabet before kindergarten.

 

If only I could ignore the whining, the tantrums, the screaming, hitting, pushing and biting each other. Just let them fight until they end up in the Hospital or otherwise work it out for themselves. If only I could overlook the open mouths full of half-chewed food, the goldfish crackers “swimming” in the glasses of milk, the bright pink toothpaste smeared all over the bathroom counters, the dirty fingernails, the long fingernails, the milk mustaches, the rat’s nest hairdos, the unbrushed teeth, the snot crusted on upper lips, the eye crud in the corner of sleepy eyes the drooping-to-the knees diaper.

 

Maybe if I could do all these things, I could relax and actually enjoy my kids more than just every once in a while. But if I could, what kind of mom would I be?

September 4, 2011

The “Perfect Storm”

Posted in parenting tagged , , at 9:28 am by stephwjane

My oldest daughter just started grade one, and her school is really into “community involvement” and having lots of events for families. In JUNE, before kindergarten ended, they sent out order forms for the Corn Roast the second day of school. I looked at the invitations, the time for the even was 5:30 to 7:30, so I thought, “Why not?” For once, the even didn’t start at 6:30 or 7, cutting into bedtime. I figured we would be home and in bed by pretty much the regular time. In my mind, it would be a “fun family event” we could all enjoy.

Mistake number one was not remembering how exhausting the first week of school can be, for DD#1 who is starting full days for the first time, and for myself Master Organizer of the family, who was also planning a birthday party for this weekend. Pretty much as soon as she got off the bus that day, the whining started. She had two time-outs for fighting with her 3-year old sister before it was even time to get ready to go. I was pretty much ready to call a loss for the tickets we had already bought, but there was no other supper planned (mistake number two – no plan B) and DH was completely against wasting the money by not going.

Mistake number three was maybe not throwing in the towel while we could — leave the money and run! Eat PB&J for supper, and let everyone be calm and happy. But likely with the vibe in the air it would NOT have been calm, anyway.

Mistake number four happened before the day even started, when I couldn’t sleep the night before, and lay awake thinking of all the things I had to do, and wondering how I could get out of doing all of them, causing myself to be overtired.

Mistake number five was scheduling a doctor’s appointment AND a playdate on the same days as said Corn Roast for DDs#2 and 3 while #1 was at school. Also causing us to skip #3′s nap (luckily for us, no serious repercussions for that were felt).

So off we went to the Corn Roast, “happy family” with whiny#1, overscheduled #2 and overtired #3. When we got there, there was, as usual, no parking so we had to park completely on the other side of the school and walk over (well, in DD#1′s case it was actually RUN over, she couldn’t wait to see her friends). Happy families sat all over the playground area at the back of the school on picnic blankets ( I had forgotten ours), and the lineup for food was about one hundred people long. DD#1 was itching to go find her friends and play in the playground, so off she went without (mistake number six) a warning about staying close to her sister. DD#2 has been afraid of losing us in big crowds since last summer when she was 2 and we lost her in a playground during our visit to Vancouver. Two minutes later, DD#2 reappears, a bit upset because her older sister “won’t play with her.” I track down DD#1, and tell her to stay with her sister. Off they go to play again, back I go to the lineup to help DH carry all the hamburgers, hot dogs, corn on the cob, and juice boxes.

As we are making our way to the picnic table we have spotted, we scan the crowd in the playground for the two older girls. Nowhere in sight. Once we put down our stuff, I look again for the two of them, and then I hear the wail. I recognize it instantly as DD#2, who has found the Principal of the school and is freaking out because she thinks she is lost. I bring her over to the picnic table, and show her the food, food usually perks her up, but only if she calms down enough to get it into her mouth. She doesn’t. DD#1 is tracked down by her Dad, and explains herself by saying that she thought that her sister had made a new friend and was having fun with her new friend. That would be how she would feel in that situation, but the explanation only cause the wailing to get louder from DD#2 who is misunderstood, and felt left out, left behind, and lost. We eat. Well, all but DD#2 who continues to wail on my lap while snot streams down her face.

“This is so much fun!” I say to my DH, sarcastically. “Aren’t you glad we came!”

The wailing worsens when she realizes that we didn’t get her an apple juice, and DH has already opened his. By the time we get back to the juice boxes, wailing like a fire engine the whole way, all there is left is grape juice. On my way there I pass an acquaintance, whose smile of recognition freezes on her face as the sound and sight of my screaming child hits her.

Finally, we manage to cajole her into eating. Meanwhile, DD#3 who is sitting in her stroller, has consumed two half-ears of corn, and is covered in corn niblets. The picnic table has the remains of a Dilly Bar crushed underneath it, and I have stepped in it and have ice cream all over the bottom of my shoe and my pants. The wailing finally stops as DD #2′s food is half-consumed, in the hopes of getting a Dilly Bar.

We go over to meet DD#1′s teachers, which reminds me that she forgot her lunch box and agenda book, so we have to go through the school to pick them up. We go to turn down the hallway to the classroom, but the doors are closed because the caretakers are cleaning the floors in that hallway. DD#1 drops to the ground in disappointment, and starts to wail. DH drags her out of the school crying, and as we are crossing the parking lot to get to our car parked way on the other side, her head hits a truck’s side mirror, causing a renewed wailing and crying. DD#2 is now completely calm, but it is DD#1 who has lost the plot. We make it back to the van, and manage somehow to calm DD#1 who is sniffling in the back seat. As the car starts, DD#3 starts to cry from exhaustion, her missed afternoon nap having just hit her.

As we drive home with three sniffling girls in the back of the van, I remark to my DH that we will be skipping the Corn Roast next year, maybe we’ll try again when DD#1 is in grade six. It was truly the “Perfect Storm,” and I never want to experience that again!

August 28, 2011

When is your family “big enough”?

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , at 3:03 pm by stephwjane

It’s coming up on a year now since our third girl came into our family. The decision to have a third child was the most difficult, mostly because I am usually a very quick decision-maker, and I hate being indecisive about anything. I knew for a long time that I wanted to be a mother, and once I had one child I wanted to give her a sibling. But when it came to having a third, I was torn. I went back and forth from right after number two was born, when I strongly asserted that I was done having babies, to a year later when my hormones were surging as I was preparing to wean her from breastfeeding and I would still assert that I didn’t want any more but secretly dream about baby names.

I never wanted to have a large family. I come from a family with two kids, and so does my husband. So two kids is “normal” to us, because that is our reference point. But I remembered as a child wishing I could have another sibling to play with, other than my sister. I’m not sure if my husband felt the same way, growing up. When first got married, I planned to have three kids and work at home with them as a writer. I didn’t really picture what that would look like, and if I did, I probably thought that I would write while they were in school, and didn’t really picture myself as the mother of toddlers or preschoolers. I had more experience with school-aged kids, and little to none with preschoolers and toddlers (and the little I had were not the most positive experiences).

Even having had two kids, I still couldn’t picture what my life would be like with three. It has changed how people look at me, I think. Not that they judge me, but I think that often they make assumptions. For example, they might assume that we were “trying for a boy” (not true). Or that I am “just” a Stay-at-Home mom because I have three kids (I made the decision to work at home independent of my decision to have a third child). Or that I loved being pregnant (not) or having babies (not really, though I love MY babies it is by far my least favourite stage). Or that it is because we are Catholic (not relevant, other than seeing our kids as a gift from God  those times when we don’t want to strangle them, like when they are asleep and look like little angels).

Recently, we have done some traveling with our three girls and have realized that the logistics of traveling is more difficult than we had anticipated because so many places have a  maximum of four people in a room, and they count the baby as a person! Obviously I realize that she is a person, but to count her the same as a twenty-year-old man, for example, is ridiculous to me because she takes us far less space in a bed or room. When we made the decision, we had taken that into account because we do love to travel, and it was pretty much our only  “con” for not having another child. But it makes me realize that somehow, by having three kids, which doesn’t seem that “outside the norm,” we have become “outside the norm.”

We have an above-average number of children, but ironically that happened before we had our third child because the average number of children per family has dropped. The average has now gone down to 1.1 kids per family in Canada (according to Statistics from 2006, and interestingly at that time, we had only one child). The perception is that two children is “average” but in reality that isn’t even true. And that doesn’t take into account how “averages” work — averages take into account all family sizes from 1 child to 10. Obviously a family with 1.1 children couldn’t exist, because you can’t have 0.1 of a child.

Before I got pregnant, other moms told me that “most” families in the mainly upper-middle class town where I live had three kids. I wasn’t able to find statistics on that, but I don’t believe it’s really true, probably more of a perception. Interestingly, the woman making that proclamation did have three kids, as did most of the women in the room with me at the time (about 12) other than myself who had 2, one other mother of 2 and one mother of 1. So there were about eight women there who had three kids, making it seem like the majority. But if we had had a different random sample, we might have found more mothers of one, or two, or three.

Recently, I was at a gathering where a mother of four grown children asked (as is often the case even from people who don’t know me) if we were “done.” I replied that yes, we were happy with three. “Oh, you’ll change your mind,” she assured me. I was a bit shaken by the comment. Obviously she had decided that four children was the right amount for her family, but I still have times when I question whether I am cut out for being a mother of three. For someone who doesn’t even know me to assume that I would make the same decision as her seemed presumptuous at the very least. Or maybe she thought that since I seemed to be a “good mother” that I should have more children (whatever your definition of “good mother” is, I’m sure there are days when I would not qualify). Seen in that way, I guess it was a compliment to my perceived abilities.

In my opinion, what is “big enough” is different for every family. Some families have only one child, and that works well for them, they have no need for more.  Some families have ten children, but are run efficiently and everyone is happy. All I know is, a family of five is “big enough” for us, regardless of what anybody else says or feels.

August 10, 2011

We are the grown-ups?! When did that happen?

Posted in parenting tagged , at 9:27 am by stephwjane

I recently had an epiphany, when I was visiting my cousin whose oldest kids are teenagers. I experienced a paradigm shift that is still affecting my life months later. In my mind, as I talked to and visited with my cousin’s teen girls, I felt like it hadn’t been that long since I was a teen myself. Wake-up call – it was twenty years ago since I was their age! Not only that, but with the passing of my grandparents, I realized that my parents were the elders now, and that made me and my cousins – GASP! – the grown-ups.

This changed my attitude to many aspects of my life. I decided that I had to take more responsibility to keep my home cleaner, since that is what grown-ups do (as opposed to teenagers).  So I started putting more effort into that, and trying to get to the point so that every night when I was done putting the girls to bed, I could come downstairs, and look around my living room and see what it was meant to look like, not cringe because it looked like a bomb had gone off somewhere and there may be landmines lurking underfoot anywhere you step (or legos, which are almost as dangerous).

I also realized that I had to stop complaining about my lack of sleep and accept that it was a temporary situation my six-month-old would eventually grow out of, and that my negative attitude towards my lack of sleep was actually making me feel WORSE. In other words, I decided to be mature about it. Like a grown-up.

Recently, I have expanded this to include my manner of interacting with my other two girls. I am not their older sister or babysitter, I am their mother. They look to me for guidance not just in what I say, but they look to me as an example of how to ACT.  Mostly due to my lack of sleep, I was finding myself losing patience more than I would have liked to do, especially with my oldest who has a tendency to test boundaries that seems to be written in her DNA code. My second daughter has developed a bad habit of screaming in frustration, right in her sister’s face, when they are arguing over something. I realized that I often do the same thing, she has learned that behaviour from me. Maybe screaming is better than hitting your kids when you are upset, but it’s still not the best reaction to the situation, and doesn’t set the best example for them to follow. So instead of literally yelling at them to “STOP SCREAMING!!” (the irony of that does not escape me) I try to calmly talk to her about what is upsetting her. If I keep calm, I find that she calms down easier, too. Same thing with my eldest, although it is easier said than done — she knows my buttons and likes to push them, especially by using her favourite word – “Why?” when I ask her to do something. I find that the calmer that I am, the calmer they are, just as it worked the other way. It’s not easy, and it’s still a work-in-progress, but I am trying. As a grown-up, I have to step up and be the mature one, even if I feel like tearing out my hair and screaming sometimes.

Before I know it, my girls will be teenagers like my cousin’s kids, and then it will really hit home. I will know when I hate their music choices, hairstyles, or boyfriends, but at least by then I will have accepted that I am a grown-up, and maybe I can stay calm about the whole thing. Imagine how much that will drive them crazy! BWUHAHAHA…

July 22, 2011

Life without deadlines

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , at 2:45 pm by stephwjane

When I first got the news that my column was being cancelled because the newspaper was folding, it was kind of a relief. A few months before, I had been feeling burnt out with the column and having to come up with something to write about every second week. With the sleep deprivation I was still suffering from, it burnt out the last of my functioning brain cells to spend a half hour working on a column. Besides that, my family was about to leave for a month on our family vacation, a last hurrah before my husband’s parental leave ends next week. It was a sudden jolt of freedom from the obligation to write something, anything, and I thought that it would free me to have more time and/or energy to write about what I really want to write about. To write for myself.

I brought my laptop and my journal with me on the trip, but in between caring for three kids and being in “vacation mode” I barely wrote anything other than a Facebook status update every few days to let my friends know what city I was in.

I had a few ideas while I was on my trip of subjects I could write about, but none of them somehow made it onto paper or my laptop. It was like the freedom not to write paralyzed me, and made me unable to write.

So now I’m back at home, the bags are unpacked, the laundry is done and some of it put away. It’s nice to be home, but being home just reminds me how I so easily get trapped in the routine of the Stay-at-Home mom of young kids. Wake up, feed kids, do dishes, clean up, etc. etc. Sleep, and repeat. The routine sweeps you along like the tide and suddenly it’s nine o’clock and the kids are all in bed and I’m too tired to think, let alone write anything.

Plus I take the “Mom” part of my job a bit too seriously sometimes. I feel that I need to get the kids outside as much as possible, and go to the park with them every day that weather permits. I have lists of things I want to do with them this summer: we have Summer Reading program to go to at the library, berries to pick, corn mazes to explore, museums to visit, splash parks to frequent, picnics to take, I want to teach my oldest daughter to ride a two-wheeler…

Life interferes with my dreams, sometimes. I get caught up in the needs and wants of my offspring, and forget about the burning passion that was all fired up last month by my experience at the Women’s Words writing week. I need to get that back, but as soon as I sit down to the computer I hear screams coming from the playroom, followed by cries from the baby’s room…and here comes the tide again to sweep me away.

June 21, 2011

The difference between travelling with a well-rested 3-year-old and not is… night and day

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , at 7:28 pm by stephwjane

Last month my family and I traveled to Texas to visit my Sister-in-law, her husband, and her new baby. The flight left at 6:30 AM, which meant that we had to be at the airport by 4:30 AM, which meant that we needed to be out our door by about 3:30 AM. We didn’t even get our kids dressed, just took them straight from their beds into the car, but still they awoke, and stayed awake,despite our best efforts to get them to nap on the way to the airport (other than the baby, who was konked out the whole way).

The situation wasn’t so bad until my 3YO hit a wall, somewhere over Colorado, or about a half-hour before our first flight landed in Houston. Suddenly, she was so tired that she transformed, morphed somehow into a screaming banshee, and then after screaming for about ten minutes or so, passed out in exhaustion for the last twenty minutes of the flight. Scared to move her, we let her sleep until every other person had exited the plane, until we had packed up all of our bags and the baby was safety swaddled up in the Moby wrap, and we were ready to go. As soon as my husband tried to pick her up, she woke right up again. At this point, it was 10 AM our time, and she had not been to the bathroom the entire time since we left our house at 3 in the morning. I brought her sleepily shuffling to the bathroom to try to go potty, taking her change of clothes since she was still in her pyjamas. She refused to use the airport’s automatic flushing toilets, arching her back to prevent herself from sitting on them, then had ANOTHER fit because I had brought her shorts and not a dress to change into.

After dressing the screaming preschooler in the clothes I had chosen, she proceeded to scream inconsolably all the way through the airport. she did not stop screaming until one more potty try (about fifteen minutes long), and then somehow (I’m not sure what I promised her, I would have done almost anything to stop her from screaming at that point) she calmed down enough to have lunch, and return to her normal human self.

Last week we took another flight. Before booking, I impressed upon my husband the importance of having a good departure time. This time, the flight left at 11:30 AM. We woke up like any other normal day, had breakfast, and had time to tidy up the kitchen and take out the garbage, get dressed and pack up the car before my dad arrived to drive us to the airport for 9:00 AM. After a relaxed drive to the airport, we checked our bags and made our way through the short line to security. We boarded our plane, and had a relaxing flight while my 3YO watched “Backyardigans” and other kids’ shows, or coloured quietly, occasionally bugging me for snacks. Even with the baby in my arms the whole flight, she was no trouble at all. there were no tears, there was no screaming. I am convinced that it is because the departure time was more reasonable.

I am constantly surprised at the age of children I see playing at the park near my house after 8 PM. My kids are in bed by 8 PM, especially my 3YO. I don’t have the energy to deal with tantrums and fussing needlessly, when I know that it can be prevented by a good night’s sleep. Now, I am on vacation, and there have been a few nights I have let her stay up late, but often she ends up napping in the car (at home she doesn’t usually nap anymore) and/or sleeping in. And if the fussiness threatens to start up again, I try to make sure that I get her to sleep at a more reasonable hour the next night. A well-rested 3YO makes for a happier and more relaxed family altogether. And don’t get me started on my 5YO. That’s a whole other post…

June 14, 2011

Goodbye to my column, hello to my blog!

Posted in Uncategorized at 7:23 pm by stephwjane

Hello, dear readers. Welcome to the new home of “Because I Said So.” The column I used to write for the Saint City News has now been transformed into a blog of my thoughts about parenting and my life in general.

I hope that the readers who have enjoyed my column in the Saint City News enjoy this new format, and I hope to attract new readers as well. The best thing about this format is my ability to now link to some of my favourite blogs on motherhood and parenting.  And I can write as much or as little as I want — I don’t have to stop at 500 to 600 words!

So check out some of my links, you might find some blogs you will also enjoy.

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