Tuesday, October 21, 2014

How do you decide when you're done having children?

I've written about this topic before, but our family has recently taken, uh, measures to ensure that we are not having more children.

It was an easy decision in many ways, but I still had a moment or two of panic where I second-guessed myself. Each and every time, I thought about it and said, "Oh. Right. No. No, we're definitely done."

... I also don’t feel like we could emotionally handle more than two kids. Having children and juggling multiple jobs is hard on a marriage — and on a person’s sanity — and I want to be in a position to guard mine a little more cautiously.

I'm writing more about this today in my weekly parenting column, The Mom Scene. I'd love to have you pop over and check it out, if this is a question you find yourself asking ... 

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Saying yes to new traditions

In keeping with our new tradition of not getting each other giftcards -- or any physical gifts at all -- for our birthdays, Best Friend and I met today for one of our new and totally awesome birthday lunches.

It was wonderful.

I think you (at least I) honestly forget how nice it is to catch up with friends (A) IN PERSON and (B) WITHOUT YOUR CHILDREN and (C) in a more upscale environment than McDonalds.

We talked about everything (kids, work, family, etc.) and I left feeling rejuvenated! Why, oh why, in this age of All Things Internet, does it have to be so hard to get together in person?

I mean, who else can reminisce about that one Halloween when we were 11 and dressed up as Elvis and Priscilla?!

(Spoiler alert; I think I just looked like a hooker)

Let's do it again soon.


Friday, October 10, 2014

When moms become hoarders

I have hoarder tendencies, especially when it comes to our children. The sentimental side of me wants to preserve every piece of artwork, treasured board book, and precious teeny tiny shoe.

These stripey sort-of-matching jammies! How can I part with youuuuuuuu?

But I also get antsy about clutter, so the organization-hungry side of me says “We don’t have the space! We can’t keep everything!”

Here’s the process I follow for keeping the “memories” under control ...

Keep one memory box for each child. I have two medium-sized plastic totes in our master bedroom closet — one for our son, one for our daughter — for keeping the really special items. By keeping the box somewhere central, it’s easy to add items along the way and ensure nothing gets lost. I have saved their tiny soothers, the bibs from their first taste of solid food, certificates from their toddler “classes,” birth announcements, and first locks of hair — although we have yet to cut our daughter’s hair yet, so she will probably be 10 before that gets added.

Make space-saving decisions: When our youngest potty-trained, I found myself getting sentimental about parting with the kids’ shared stash of cloth diapers. Yes, I actually felt sappy about pieces of cloth that had been peed and pooed on, repeatedly, for years. But I knew it was silly to keep all of them, so I only kept three “favourites” — a blue one for our son’s memory box, a pink-and-purple design one for our daughter’s, and a black-and-white one for my own memory box — you know, so I can look back one day and remember changing those tiny (stylish) bums.

Continue reading over in my weekly parenting column, The Mom Scene ... 

Monday, October 6, 2014

When introverts have children ...

I think the biggest challenge for me, as a parent, is the fact that I spent so much of my pre-kid life ... all alone.

As a kid, I spent most afternoons alone in my bedroom, playing Barbies and listening to Salt-N-Pepa (coolest kid ever). I was very into computers and became obsessed with teaching myself HTML and building silly little websites (lucky for you guys, riiiiiiiight?).

Even as a teenager, I still spent plenty of time alone. Mom travelled a lot for work, so it was often just me and my sister. We both learned to embrace our aloneness, and today we agree that it's something we NEED the way most people need oxygen.

For as long as I've lived with Darling Husband (11 years now), he has done shift-work -- and often worked two jobs, although not anymore, luckily. I would go days without seeing him during waking hours, and kept myself busy with crafts, sewing, painting, writing, and lots of crap TV. I had a tiny dog who I carried around under my arm, and we were perfectly content in our peaceful little life -- although, yeah, lonely sometimes.

For an introvert, having children is a huge shock to the system.

If I were to really analyze all of my Cranky Mom Moments, most of them would stem from the fact that I was overwhelmed by the noise, work, and frustration that can come from spending so much time -- in close quarters -- with other people. Mainly the noise?

I adore my kids -- and my husband -- but I'm also at home basically 24 hours a day. I need (NEED) to find tiny pockets of time in every day when I can be alone. And, if I can't be alone alone, then it's time that I can at least go off into my own little world.

  • I always set my alarm 10-15 minutes earlier than I really need to get up, so I can lie in bed and check email, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. I have tried doing the whole "get up early and go downstairs for a cup of tea alone" thing, but my child have sonar-like hearing. If my feet hit the floor, they immediately rush it. So as long as I'm lying in bed, I have a few minutes to wake up slowly.
  • We eat breakfast and lunch separately. I'm strict about us eating dinner together as a family, because it's the only meal when Darling Husband is home, these days. But breakfast? Lunch? No, I must admit. The kids sit at their little table and I put on a show, and I sit at the big table and eat quietly while reading (sometimes a book, usually the internet). In the morning, it's my little "break" before we begin our activities. At lunch, it's a "break" before I launch into my afternoon of work.
  • Doing the dishes has become a spa-like experience. I turn on Songza, crank it up, and look out the window at the view. If I'm home alone with the kids, they play around the corner in the living room. If Darling Husband is home, I shoo them all outside. He offers to do the dishes and I usually hiss at him that I "get" to do them. I, uh, even did this in a friend's trailer while camping!
  • I relish the post-bedtime hours. When the kids go to bed, Darling Husband often has already been in bed for an hour (thanks to his latest schedule). On nights that I don't have to work, I savour a few hours of complete "me time." I work on sewing projects, watch my own TV shows, read fun stuff on the internet (blogs, GOMI), read books, and ENJOY. THE. PEACE. AND. QUIET.

I know as the kids get older, I will start feeling lonely again and miss the days when they were constantly bleeting for my attention, so I try to embrace it as much as I can.

But I also really, really need these little bits of alone time. And I'm not going to feel badly about that.

Any other introvert mamas out there? 


Tuesday, September 30, 2014

The trouble with "Boys will be boys"

I know a mother who laughs when she tells stories about taking her three sons to Target — watching them get into wrestling matches, hurl items through the store, and scream as they chase each other around the aisles.

 She has literally taken photos of this mayhem, posted them on Instagram, and hashtagged them with #boyswillbeboys.

Sure, she finds it embarrassing sometimes — when they get really over the top. But mostly, she accepts it as commonplace. They’re just being boys, you know?

 No. No. No. I have seen boys like this, at indoor playplaces, playdates, and playgrounds. I have seen the way their parents chuckle at their behaviour, or call out a lighthearted “Careful!” and then turn away again. I have had to intervene with a firm “No hitting, guys!” when my own kids are walloped — and I’ve seen the dirty looks from those parents.

 When friends of mine — who only have daughters — exclaim that my son is so gentle and polite, I’m proud of him. They go on to tell me horror stories about rough little boys terrorizing their daughters on playdates, knocking them down on purpose and grabbing toys from their hands — while their mothers shrug, laugh, and offer up a “Boys will be boys,” or “He’s such a boy.” This happens so often that girl-moms sometimes expect this kind of behaviour during a playdate with a little boy — and that’s not right.

Continue reading in my weekly parenting column, "The Mom Scene" ... 

Thursday, September 25, 2014

I love my daughter ... but man, I wish she'd stop this!

It started out innocently enough, with two mismatched socks.

Our two-year-old daughter decided she wanted to wear socks during her nap, so she pawed through her drawers until she could locate two (very different) socks. In the process, of course, she had thrown dozens of shirts, pairs of leggings, and underwear around her room.

I bent down, grumbled, and picked up all of the tiny articles of clothing. I made her help, of course, but that probably make the ordeal take even longer. I spoke to her firmly about not destroying her room by emptying her (two!) dressers.

“O-tay, Mama,” she answered sweetly, nodding her curly head and heading for the stairs.

The next morning, we woke up to see that she’d done it again. She’d wanted to wear a sweatshirt over her pyjamas, and naturally that meant creating a mountain of jeans and shorts.

She must have felt she was onto something, because soon she was emptying her drawers every day to build a huge nest of clothes — and then she would sleep on it!

Continue reading over at The Mom Scene, my weekly parenting column in The Chronicle Herald 

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Three weeks in | Weight Loss Challenge

Today marks the end of the third week in the fitness/weight loss challenge I'm participating in with my Zumba class.

Here's a quick rundown of how I'm doing:

  • First week (September 10): I was down 2 lbs! (-2 lbs. total)
  • Second week (September 17): I was back up one of those pounds (boo) which was kind of devastating because I'd worked really hard and tracked everything I ate (-1 lb. total)
  • Third week (September 24): As of yesterday, I was back down 2 lbs (-3 lbs. total) and today I was down another pound (-4.6 total). 
I'm psyched to be down nearly five pounds, BUT I suspect it's because I've had a brutal cold since Sunday morning, so I haven't had the desire to eat All The Bad Things that I would normally eat.

I really, really, really hope I don't zoom back up a few lbs. at next week's weigh-in. It's very disheartening when you're exercising (something you, uh, never do) and you're being careful about what you're eating, and you STILL SOMEHOW GO BACK UP A POUND. I'm looking at you, Week 2!

I've been going to two or three Zumba classes each week, and I'm still loving it. I tried Aqua Zumba tonight for the first time, because they were offering a free class. I enjoyed that I didn't get sweaty, and it was fun to splash around in the water (although I got my hair wet and it's not hair-washing day, so ... !!!) but I still prefer the original classes. I just didn't feel like I'd gotten the same kind of workout, but maybe I'll be exhausted and sore tomorrow. Who knows?

No non-scale victories to report yet, in terms of how my clothes fit. Nothing is looking particularly "better" than usual, and I'm still wearing jeans that are a size bigger than my smallest-size-ever a.k.a. That Time I Took A Photo of My Ass in a Fitting Room.

(Full disclosure: I did wear my small-size jeans last week for a few hours, but only when I knew I'd be standing up pretty much the whole time. I think I'd probably bust an internal organ if I sat down in them for too long at this point.)

In related news, I am eating farrrrrrrrr less potato chips than I was before the challenge, and even far less than I was eating in the first week of the challenge.

How have I magically cut back on my No. 1 weakness? I think it's five-fold ...

  1. The app slaps my hand away. By the time the late evening rolls around, I sometimes have no calories left to work with because I ate them all during the day. *sadface* Especially on days when I didn't exercise and earn more calories. (I'm using MyFitnessPal, BTW, and really liking it)
  2. I distract myself with work. I've been working a lot of nights lately, which I dislike because of these five reasons. The only real benefit (other than the employment) is that I refuse to let myself eat chips while I'm working. I'm literally working myself thin, I guess?
  3. I have been sick. There's nothing like a cold putting you to bed at 8 p.m. (hopped up on a hearty dose of NyQuil) to prevent you from shoving your hand in a bag of Doritos. You're sleeping! Blissful, calorie-free sleeping!
  4. I'm breaking the habit. It's true that the less you do something, the less you expect it. I used to eat potato chips of some sort every single night (no lie), so the fact that I'm going multiple nights in a row without them is starting to work. Some nights, I work straight through until 11 p.m., and stuff a handful of Wheat Thins in my mouth on the way to bed because I'm starving. Other nights, I eat plain air-popped popcorn as a TV-watching snack, or cheddar-flavoured Crispy Mini rice cakes. Some nights I eat absolutely nothing after dinner, which WOULD HAVE BEEN UNHEARD OF a month ago -- and the crazy part is, I don't really care! I go to bed with this lovely, thin, empty feeling!
  5. Darling Husband has been working/sleeping during Prime Snacking Hours. Poor Darling Husband. He kinda brings me down, in a weight-loss sense, and he knows it. On the evenings when he's home (a.k.a. not sleeping at 7 p.m. because he has to get up at 2 a.m.) he is turning on the TV and luring me with a bag of sour cream and onion, like a Potato Chip Pied Piper. It's very hard to stay strong when allllll I want to do is relax on the couch with him and eat all the chips in the world. He is off tomorrow night and Friday night, so I'm hoping I don't throw all of my progress in a nacho cheese frenzy.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

That elusive balance

This has been kind of a rough week. 

I spent most of the day thinking that I was much, much busier than last week, but a quick check of my calendar shows that, no, I was this busy last week. And the week before. And also the week before that.

Busy is good. It's excellent, actually, when you're self-employed, because it means you are keeping clients happy and bringing in income. I love what I do, and I believe I do it well. But I think I'm taking on too much, at the moment.

"This week is a blip!" I tell Darling Husband, when I'm stressed out about deadlines and complaining about interviews not calling me back. "It's one of those busy weeks where I get all crazy, and then the work gets done, and then I'm fine again."

But these busy weeks are happening all of the time. 

The tightness in my throat is there a lot. The worry about disappointing a client if I say no. The overscheduling myself because I'm sure I can write X number of articles or assignments in a single three-hour period, and then I can't ... so I have to work late into the night. The anxiety about trying to make an impossible deadline, when none of my interviews will call me back. CALL ME BACK, GUYS! FOR REAL?!

People talk about how self-employment is great, because you're your own boss (yup) and you get to set your hours (sort of). What they don't talk about NEARLY OFTEN ENOUGH is what it does to your sanity, because ... the buck? Yeah, it stops with you.

I used to just work during naptime/quiet time. But with Darling Husband's current rotation, I spend the mornings with the kids -- preschool drop-offs, pick-ups, gymnastics with C, errands, etc. -- and then I'm racing down to my office at 12:31 (he gets home at 12:30) and I'm staying there until 4:30 or 5 p.m. 

Two or three nights a week, I fly out the door to Zumba class. By the time I get home (6:30), I have about 20 minutes to catch up with Darling Husband before he goes to bed (2 a.m. worky wake-ups are a bitch). 

He's in bed by 7 p.m., and I spend an hour or an hour and a half with the kids -- including shower/bathtime, books, prayers, etc. They're in bed by 8:30 at the latest, and then I'm trucking back downstairs to my office to work until 10:30 or 11 p.m.

This? This is my life lately. It's exhausting.

I love my family, I love my work, and I love that I'm finally making exercise a priority. It's just been ... very tiring, you know?

Here's what I'm going to do to try to make it better:
  • Make more time for D. I'm going to block off a few hours a week (a good chunk of a weekday afternoon) to spend time exclusively with four-year-old D. I feel like I never get one-on-one time with him anymore, now that he's in preschool three full mornings a week (and we're hanging with his sis on the other mornings). He loves to make crafts and sew projects, so we'll do that. Maybe even sneak off to a movie one afternoon, while Darling Husband stays here with a napping C.
  • Be more intentional about my time with C. My girl and I spend three mornings alone together each week, while big bro is in preschool. We do a parent/tot gymnastics class on Monday mornings, and we're going to be attending a Friday playgroup starting this week. Wednesdays, I'm keeping as our "free" day for errands and whatnot. But I've been guilty of letting her play on the iPad while I clean the house, check emails, etc. I want to plan more fun Mommy/Daughter activities for us.
  • Find more alone time with Darling Husband. His work schedule and my work schedule are complete and utter opposites at the moment, which is really hard. We see each other for about 20 minutes, total, on too many days. Yes, this means we don't pay for childcare, but it's also rough on a marriage. I'm going to start blocking off the evenings when he's off, so I can see them in the calendar and look forward to them. I also want to plan a lighter workload one day, in the middle of his rotation, so we actually have an hour to sit and hang out while the kids are down for quiet time. Talking to my husband for more than 20 minutes! Imagine that!
  • Be more careful about scheduling my work. Yes, I'm insanely organized. My series of colour-coded Google calendars is legendary. BUT! I often think I can fit in more than I really can. I need to be MUCH. MORE. CAREFUL. about only taking on what I can handle. I HATE working after the kids are in bed, because (A) I work much more slowly, because I'm zonked, and (B) I need time to myself! (Or time to spend with Darling Husband, if he's off that night).
Lofty goals, right? Let's see how I do. Wish me luck!