Tuesday, 30 December 2014

The Theory of Relativity

(Alternate title:  Pride and Guilt, all rolled into one.  As usual.)             

The kidlets have had some good adventures over the holidays.  Possibly most exciting, they’ve been going on individual sleepovers at Grandma and Grandpa’s house – meaning one child gets prime one-on-one time with my parents, and our house gets 33% more sanity for one night and one day!

Ailsa was the first to be invited.  Being a stereotypical Middle Child,* Mom and Dad thought that she would appreciate the individual attention and the prestige of being First.  Surprising everyone, she declined.  She thought it would be more fun to go there with Vaughn and Tamsin.  Even when Grandma called her and invited her especially, she simply said, “No,” then handed the phone to Vaughn, so he could go instead.  He packed his backpack, and, with his beloved, bedraggled blankie in tow, we drove three kids out to the country for the annual tree-decorating… then left with just two little girls.  Snif.  Who knows what Vaughn got up to (video games and a movie, apparently), but I was able to sleep in till 8:12 (I knew he was the early bird!!!) the next morning, and take the girls swimming (“kimming,” as Tamsin calls it).  It was almost relaxing.**  Vaughn returned just before bedtime, full of smiles and stories, and Ailsa was suddenly eager to go.

But!  Because she had declined, she was bumped to the end of the line.  Actually, she was bumped for more practical reasons – with just two …um….functional kids, and me at work, Chris could have a relatively easier day.  So little Tamsin Toonamint the Two-Year-Old was invited.  She helped me pack her bag, and to the sound of sobs from her brother and sister (who suddenly decided that they love her, and wailing, thrust stuffed kitties into her arms), she marched out the door with my parents, proud and not even caring that we were all sad to see her go, the wretched little ingrate.  I called just after her bedtime to see if my poor little girl had cried too much for me.  “Not at all,” Mom reported.  Humph.  The next morning, at work, she had the nerve to call me and coach Tamsin to happily say, “Good morning Mommy!”, and then Mom told me that she had slept in till 8:30.  Hubba-whaaa?  She also sent some photos of Tamsin not crying for her mommy:  Tamsin smiling in front of the tree, Tamsin helping with the dishes, Tamsin sweeping the floor, Tamsin helping Grandpa light the woodstove… waitaminute… she’s never that helpful at home…

But the whole point of this story is the relatively easy part.  I worked (a nice, quiet day at the office, where I was appallingly productive, could actually think things through, and even cleaned off my desk a little), then was picked up by Chris and the kids to go look at the Christmas lights downtown and eat some delicious Indian food.  It was still light out at 4:15, so we decided to have an early dinner at the East India Company.  The decor is stunning, the buffet plentiful, the food spicy-yet-delicious…and it’s in the Entertainment book, too.  Vaughn and Ailsa were perfect little dinner companions – they got to drink ice water out of actual wine glasses! – and not only did they love to explore the carved walls, sculptures, and wall hangings, but they also couldn’t stop unconsciously shimmying to the traditional music, which was awesome.  Right before we left, a big group came in, and one of the kids, who was about 10, with almost black hair, and the same long eyelashes and dark eyes that Vaughn has, looked around and said something quietly about the decorations.  His uncle said, loud enough for us to hear, “It’s not weird.  It’s your culture.”  Hilarious.

We then ran down Elgin street, all the way to Confederation Park, to play tag among the brightly-lit trees.  We then crossed the street to City Hall, to watch the lights around the Rink of Dreams change colour and the skaters skate, then walked behind the Courthouse, climbed on the monuments, and had a boys-against-girls race back to the car.  It was SO cold.  And also, the girls won.

It was such a fun, active, pleasant night…well, relatively, anyway.  I couldn’t quash the feeling that we were somehow betraying Tamsin by having such a nice time together, that we almost certainly wouldn’t have had without a considerable amount of hassle:  a snowsuit, a stroller, a high chair…  We drove home, hoping to get there before her triumphant return; when she arrived five minutes later, Miss Tamsin strolled in all cool as a cucumber, and not nearly as excited to see us as we were to see her.  Turns out that when they got close to the city, she started asking in panicked tones, “Ganma house?  Ganpa house?” – I guess she had more fun there than she does at home.  Humph again.

Ailsa’s turn is next, in a week or two.  Whatever will can we do without her?



*  I don’t believe in birth order theory, but if I did, Ailsa fits the description exactly.

**  My own theory of relativity involves activities that used to be impossible to manage with one or two children that are now laughingly easy because we have the perspective of life with three kids.***  Note that Einstein, who also (probably) had three kids, never had to take them all swimming at the same time, because one was put up for adoption he was smart.   

***  Which is impossible, even if you're a genius.

Monday, 27 October 2014

Autumn Awesome

There is apparently something extremely interesting happening over there.
There has been so much to share, but so little time at the end of each day to share it.  After a fun summer, the kids are in full autumn rhythm, including back to school and back to daycare, and after a year (and more), it's back to work for both Chris and I... at cool new jobs, and in the same city, of all places!

Waiting for the schoolbus, in First Day of School finery.
Early September, the Big Kids went to school!  Vaughn is now in Senior Kindergarten, a seasoned pro who can tell us all everything we need to know about school, buses, routines, and rules.  Ailsa, new to Junior Kindergarten, didn't even spare me a backwards glance on her way into the school.  Ok, maybe one, but that's only because I followed the bus to school, crying really loudly.

Tamsin was only slightly less upset than I, because she didn't get to go on the schoolbus.  Now that she has a fun place to go (daycare) with "Dabby", Rosie (the kitty), and two little friends, she doesn't mind at all.

At the end of the day, Vaughn and Ailsa got off the bus with great big smiles on their faces, ready to jumpstart new careers as Sears catalogue models.
Instead of doing the whole "Gatineau Hills" experience (we didn't want to fight the crowds), we instead took advantage of the most perfect Sunday ever to drive down the street to the Rockliffe Parkway.  Although we didn't end up where I was picturing, we still had a great hike and explored some random old architecture left over from the Public Library.
Ailsa the Adventurous was the first up on the pillar.

Tamsin's a big girl too!  She insisted on "up".

No Great Canadian fall day would be complete without Timmy's.  (Elizabeth agrees)

Now, how do I get down?

These moments are so rare - it's not every day that everyone smiles at the same time, or even that we have time to go someplace together instead of running errands or cleaning the house.  When I'm being pulled in three different directions at the same time, or on the lucky occasions that I get one-on-one time, I try to take photos and videos so that one day, when I have time, I can actually enjoy these too-fleeting memories of the kids' childhood.

Tuesday, 30 September 2014

Fun with People

I have a friend, oh, who we'll call Sean, who’s a brilliant patent agent/intellectual property guy.*

We’re getting T-shirts made for our ball hockey team (the Retired Superheroes), and I designed the logo with the Superman S on it. "Sean" told me that he couldn’t order it or ship it because it was a copyrighted image, and his IP business just couldn’t do it in good faith, as his company's name was on it as our sponsor. So I put stars around it. Then I sent it to him again with a balloon covering one of the edges. Then I put it on a pink background. For someone that’s known me, literally, my entire life, he was surprisingly frustrated in his explanations of why it still was copyrighted. So I added glitter.

People are fun.

* despite being a total idiot. My favourite idiot, but still.

Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Making mountains out of anthills

We have an ant problem.

 I had a bad day when I was weeding the garden before I planted in June.* I dug up approximately six gazillion ant eggs and baby ants, which creeped me right out. Luckily, I was wearing gloves. And I had a shovel, a bucket, and a burning hot driveway. A small bit of me felt bad, but the rest just felt twitchy, itchy, and ready to stop weeding for at least the rest of the day.

Our clothesline, which I love, goes from our deck to a post in the back corner of our yard, just in front of our big boulder, which I call Pride Rock. There's a gorgeous lilac tree that's grown up around the post, and it is home to -- and I'm just estimating, here -- another four gazillion ants. They are super lucky to have our clothesline, which doubles as an Ant Highway between the tree and our deck. It's great, because not only can they have fun while I'm hanging/taking down the laundry (if you pluck the line at just the right time, the ants go ptoink, off into the air somewhere) (it's super fun!) (I should find a hobby), but also, at least 5 of the little buggers smuggle themselves into the house in the laundry basket, little stowaways inside wee little sockies and cute little shirts.

 Somehow, the bathroom has become the place to be, for ants. Five or six, everytime you go in. Oddly, five or six DIE everytime we go in. But there are always five or six more.

Imagine my .... there are no words for this one, actually ... when the kids hopped into the tub last night with their awesome new bath toys (coconut shells), and Vaughn saved a bathtub ant from drowning, and decided that he would play with him for the entire bath. Ant-thony** even had a little coconut boat! Vaughn was so gentle, letting him swim for a bit, letting him rest for a bit.

After everyone was clean and fresh, Vaughn gently placed his coconut shell on the edge of the tub. "Anty needs a rest." Naturally, I thought it was a euphemism for "I played with my ant to death". But nope, Anty was just ... resting... I could almost see him panting, in fact. 

"Mommy, can you sew Anty a blanket?" Um....no.

I talked him down to a small piece of toilet paper, carefully draped over the poor thing. (Swimming is hard work.) "Mommy, can you take him downstairs with you and watch him till you go to bed? What time do ants get up? Maybe I'll get up early tomorrow when he gets up and we can have breakfast together."

I quickly assured him that I was not going to babysit the damn ant. But that he'd have a good night sleep, and that, if he wasn't there in the morning, he'd be off doing other ant-ctivities (see what I did there?).

It is to my credit that I didn't pith the damn ant. I did check on him before I went to bed, and he had already recovered from what was probably the most exciting bath of his life, and wandered off to god knows where (not the Ant Highway; catapulty clothesline rides don't start till 9 am. Everyone knows that). Vaughn was quite complacent this morning. "He's probably with his mom and dad."

 So, to sum up, the moral of the story is: the boy needs a dog. Stat.

 * I was a little late.
 ** I tried, but it didn't catch on. Neither did Ant Tracey or ... nope, that's all I had. It was Anty, of course.

Thursday, 31 July 2014

Regrets? I've had a few...

Alternate title: A Year in Review

Disclaimer: There is a seriously self-congratulatory tone to most of this one, but if you bear with me, there may be lessons learned and some self-recrimination too. See if you can hold on long enough to get to that part.

With Chris being home again, I suddenly realized that my year of hell freedom was over, and all the things that I could have or should have done, could now (probably) never happen.

Oddly enough, the ones that spring to mind are as follows:
Now I can't buy a box of Pot of Gold and eat the entire thing, while watching tv. ...actually, insert "tube of cookie dough" or "tub of Haagen Dazs" for "Pot of Gold", and I think that's about it.

Over the year* -- and here's where I pat my own back and toot my own horn -- I managed to keep all three kids alive, which, given their penchant for danger and adventure (and often, their screamy and disreputable behaviour), deserves, if not a trophy, then at least my own talk show and also an island, as a reward. I managed to get one kid off to school for the first time, and returned to work (part time). I developed and implemented a pretty fancy cleaning schedule that has kept my house cleaner than it has ever been before (not without thanks to our amazing nanny), and that I'm still loosely adhering to. The kids got attention (even bad attention is good attention, right?), outings, restaurant meals every second week, activities like gymnastics, soccer and dance, and no communicable diseases. The were clean, dressed, fed (very healthily!), and although are not yet the super-polite, incredibly respectful little beings that I'm trying to force them to be, at least haven't bitten anyone in public. Yet.

I have taught BodyAttack, faithfully, every Saturday morning, so I must have maintained some kind of fitness level, despite not being able to get to the gym more than one other time a week, ever. This can probably be explained by the 10,000 pushup/burpee/situp challenge, which NO, I still haven't finished, but I swear that I will. I also completed all levels of Dance Central 1 and 2 on our XBox, which kept me entertained for a few months, and I'm happy to say that my infatuation with Angel, my CGI Dance Central boyfriend**, has subsided since Chris' return. I also played ball hockey almost every Thursday night. The few times that no babysitters were available, well, I have to admit that the ensuing disappointment translated into wrath, landing squarely on the heads of three little hufflings. I mean, it's my One Night Out where I get to be a fun person again, not just a mom, not just a coworker, and if you take that away, I get cwanky.

The lawn has lots more weeds than usual (but still not a lot, unless you count the side yard, which I don't), and has only been fertilized once so far. The garden has two surviving bean plants (damn squirrels), several lush beet plants, lots of leafy spinach plants, and not one carrot. Not one! My tomato plant yielded one beautiful tomato, but was eaten by -- you guessed it -- the damn squirrels.

Around the house, the basement is 99.5% finished, with the last LAST last step being to finish painting/carpeting the basement stairs (they're (somewhat badly) primed, but look pretty good as is, considering that they're basement stairs). Over the year, I painted lots of trim and shelving. I had the main floor and stairways painted by professionals. I've reorganized the living room, and set up a lovely deck lounge. I even fashioned a very nice canopy out of fade-resistant material, to lessen the heat from the sun beating down on the deck, through the plexiglass roof on the pergola. I bought, built, and (mostly) installed an awesome new headboard that makes our bedroom almost look like grownups might sleep there.

I didn't drink very much (considering), because you can't probably shouldn't just drink a whole bottle of red wine by yourself while watching tv, folding laundry and doing burpees. I didn't often buy white wine, which can be put back in the fridge, so I'd save my red for when Chris was home, since it's never as good the next day. (Alone, doing burpees.) I had two perfect, beautiful, memorable meals: one was a lunch at Chez Lucien, the other was a four-course dinner at le Nordik. Both involved wine, and both were tables for one.

The inital transition when he left was hard. The kids were sad, there were too many changes, and too many things that I was solely responsible for. But I feel pretty good about how I rallied. I'm pretty sure that, even though I didn't come out of it with a(nother) Masters Degree (kaff), I learned even more than Chris did. I learned that I can be happily alone without being lonely. That I can do the impossible, and sustain it for months. This new transition, of having Daddy around, underfoot, interfering in Mommy's Way, is, in a way, even harder.

Looking ahead, I almost feel that I have to convince myself that it is good to have him back. Because now I can slack off on the housework a bit (and only be fully responsible for laundering kids' clothes and diapers). I don't have to plan everything to the nth degree, because I have someone to help. I can actually leave the house in the evening to go for a run or to the gym***, or pick up an extra class here and there. I got a haircut for the first time in 17 months. I went to le Nordik for a day of reward. There's someone in my bed at night and when I wake up.

But now there's someone in my bed at night and when I wake up. This impacts important activities like tossing and turning, turning on lights in the morning, snacking while reading, and/or doing my nails in bed. There's someone underfoot, helping me to make breakfast, lunch, or dinner. There's someone helping with the housework, meaning that the onus isn't solely on me, meaning that maybe the cleaning schedule has sort of fallen by the wayside. There's someone who wants a say (!!!) in what we do, where we go, what we eat, what we watch. After a year of autonomy and complete control, I have to compromise.****

So, for the next little while, I'll continue to try to find balance (the balance that I haven't had in a year, aside from Thursday nights), try to appreciate the extra set of hands, the opportunity to actually play with the kids again, instead of always multi-tasking, and maybe even get to sleep in once in a while. And maybe I'll even go out and buy myself some good drugstore bonbons and eat them all in one sitting, hiding in the basement. But probably not.

* *It was actually 11 months, but I deserve credit for at least a year.
** Chris wants me to point out that Angel is not only CGI (and therefore not real), but also gay. No he isn't.
*** This may actually happen! It hasn't yet, but it totally could.
**** Sucks.

Wednesday, 18 June 2014

Behold! The beautiful Hufflings

Lettuce not speak of behaviour, of whininess, or of bad moods.  Lettuce just gaze upon x-treme cuteness.

Kitty nose and whiskers?  Check.  Tiara?  Check.  Freezie?  Tamsin's life is complete.

Also sporting nose-and-whiskers (different day) (it happens quite often), Ailsa creates a beaded necklace.

Vaughn's Handsome Shirt and his lego:  two reasons to smile!

Rarely seen in the wild, we were lucky to capture a hug of hufflings on film.

Best Bath Ever.  (note that a shower was required for actual "cleaning")

Monday, 16 June 2014

Time to rethink my life

I have decided that I need to seriously debate the wisdom of maintaining my current course in life versus becoming, oh, a crack addict.

The Things I Need To Focus On As a Working Mom
  1. Getting everyone up by 7.
  2. Putting a nice, healthy breakfast on the table.
  3. Hurrying everyone through breakfast.
  4. Making sure that two kids are dressed and beds are made; dressing the little one.
  5. Teeth brushing for four people.
  6. Getting out the door with two balanced lunches, rain gear, and a water bottle, to get to the school bus stop by 7:45.
  7. On the days that I'm at home, planning activities for the day, such as The Gym!  Costco!  The Pet Store!  Reading!  Hygiene! Math and Language Skills!  (this was all done today)
  8. On the days that I'm at work, being as productive as possible in 15 hours a week, to ensure that my boss doesn't pull the plug on my amazing flexible schedule.
  9. Keeping the yard neat, garden weeded, and plants (somewhat) alive.
  10. Coordinating babysitting and nannying.
  11. Staying calm, setting a good example, and teaching important lessons like, "Why whacking your sister(s) with a stick is not a good idea:  Three part series".
  12. Always remembering sunscreen and sunhats.  For everyone.
  13. Making dinner that is healthy and semi-edible while three maniacs scream around underfoot, to eat by 6 pm.
  14. Bathing (tonight with homemade bath paint!), readying for bed, and sedating (just kidding!  ha ha!) the kids by 7:30  (ha ha... ha...kaff).
  15. Cleaning the house from top to bottom, reshelving books, organizing toys, and getting meals prepared for the next day.
  16. Finding a nanny for the summer.  In the next two weeks.  After scrambling to fill in the time between now and the end of June for the next two weeks.
  17. Maybe showering and/or styling my hair for the next day.  Maybe.
  18. Getting to bed before 11 midnight 1 am.

The Things I Need To Focus On As A Crack Addict
  1. Getting more crack.