Browsing Posts published in May, 2011

Different. Challenging. Mind-Boggling. Busy. Frustrating. Bed Wetting. Thankless. High Chairs. Driving.

Here’s what’s different. The millionaire’s family earned the title for good reason. All amusement park rides, airplane row seating, restaurant tables are set up for families of four but there’s more than that, things I had never considered.

When we had Hanna, we feared adding a second child would disrupt the great relationship we were in the process of developing with her. Enter Ellie and we wondered why we ever waited.

Older sister Hanna loved her pet project and laughed along with us at all of the firsts she was experiencing vicariously through a younger version of herself.

When Chloe came into the picture, those firsts were old news, Hanna was 6 ½ and I am realizing, there will NEVER be a time (until they are in the red hat club as retired Vets, dolphin water-skiers and crayon eaters) that they will be doing the same thing at the same time.

Hanna and Ellie play well together. They constantly ask when it’s Chloe’s naptime to get her out of their hair and their sticker books. So the butcher and the baker carry on as fast friends while the candlestick maker tags behind eating a lot of wax. I worry there will never be a time they will run in the same circles or have the same interests. When Hanna is 12 and the baby is 6 they’ll be hard pressed to find an eye brow threading appointment side by side.

Three’s a crowd in the back seat, on the couch, in the tub and is becoming complicated and cramped.

What about me? I’m older, less attractive, ageing exponentially every year and finding less time for general grooming and/or hygiene. Contrary to what you might think, I’m less patient. You might assume having been through two children in diapers you would sit back and relax with the third. Instead you look at the third child with bewilderment wondering why they haven’t been paying attention to all of the hard work you did with the older siblings? Why haven’t they caught on?

They don’t like the same music, t.v. shows, movies and I find myself dumbing it down sometimes for balance, encouraging the older siblings to go back to a time where Dora was queen of the universe so the baby feels more like a family member and less like a clingy pet.

Ellie will never play the role of big sister to Chloe the way Hanna did for her because she has options. She can choose to play with her older sibling, marvelling at the schoolyard tales of how she and her friends out-played the boys in a game of freeze-tag, big-kid antics, technology and dialog or, she can sit on the floor with an 18 month old and teach her how to make the sound a duck makes a little more like “quack” and a little less like “cock.” The choice is simple. Older sibling wins out every time.

What I’m learning is they will all have a different experience. They will live in the same house with the same parents with the same number of siblings yet their life challenges and victories will be unique to each of them.

Hanna was the first and only child with all of our love attention for two and a half years.

Along came Ellie who robbed Hanna of some of the attention but none of the love and in return she gave Hanna some of her own.

Chloe might be the tag along for now but someday when her sister is competing in that dolphin pulling water-skiing tournament (ski for the cure) she’ll be driving the boat…..with all of our love and attention.

After spending six days at home with the kids, enduring rain storm after wind storm after rain storm, Greg being away in Vegas for roulette, late night parties and cigars work, I was anxious to sneak away with my two best girlfriends for an overnight shopping trip.

I knew I couldn’t leave the house until the kids were set up with; a birthday party gift for Hanna’s friend, a list of things to buy from Costco, micro-managing every aspect of their lives. I realized I had to step back and give my family some much deserved credit but not before organizing the fridge so the foods they would most like access to were front and centre and therefore would have a better chance at being spotted and therefore eaten. I wouldn’t be there to answer when one of them shouted, “Do we have any yogurt?” Yes, there are thirty-six, bottom shelf, back right.

We headed across the border, passports at the ready, each of us with an empty suitcase and the clothes on our backs. We play a dangerous game forcing ourselves to buy a new outfit to wear out for dinner the night of our trip and if we don’t find anything, we’re stuck in our moms-in-desperate-need-of- girlfriend-time shopping uniforms; elbow pads, running shoes with lifts, coupon booklets, sweat bands…

First stop, the shoe store, second stop Starbucks to recharge after the first store.

It was so lovely to catch up with my friends over racks of discounted t-shirts, kid’s dresses and wedge shoes.

A great way to escape the everyday routine, there were however reminders of children everywhere. People pushing strollers and despite our efforts to focus only on ourselves and our dazzling new dinner ensemble, it was tough to pass a children’s clothing store with a 75% off sale in the window without wandering in.

At one store I was politely told I was not permitted to sit on the “furniture” (a giant white cube with six mannequins mounted on top with raised stairs holding piles of folded clothes). No problem, although it was comfortable laying quietly among the mannequins really getting into character. I walked three feet into the mall corridor and sat on a mechanical car, depriving a child of the warm, hard, plastic seat and I smiled knowing the kids begging their parents to feed the machine a quarter were someone else’s problem, not mine. Graphic tees with “Mommy’s Little Angel” made me second guess my choice to get away. I think I saw one that said, “Mommy, you’re free as a bird, fly,” but it was right beside, “My Mommy abandoned us.”

We headed to a Wine Cellar and bought the best bottle of champagne we could find and headed to the hotel room.

There were no diapers or butt cream in my suitcase although one of the girls did bring a package of wipes that were used often. That just makes good sense.

We talked about life, work, future plans, Phineas and Ferb Band-Aids and we did it all quietly without a running loop on YouTube playing videos of the girl’s favourite songs or Elmo’s World in the background.

We saw Aretha Franklin—yep. She walked into the restaurant where we were eating grown-up food with grown-up utensils, chopsticks without the plastic piece binding them together. Everyone cheered, she was short and surrounded by security guards.  We spent longer than necessary humming the words to R-E-S-P-E-C-T, but we did it without interruption.

We agreed to sleep in before hitting the shops again and for the three of us anything past 6am would feel like noon. At 5:18am I heard a baby screeching in the adjacent room. It was shrieking and inconsolable. That or, no one was trying to console it and it cried for several minutes before things got quiet again. While I was relieved it wasn’t my baby, it was still forty-two minutes earlier than I was used to waking up to a crying baby so for that, I give the hotel-one, Mommy-sleep-in, zero.

Until next year ladies.

I’ll be in the “Wishing we could do it more often” Mom-Jeans.

I gave our seven year old and 18 month old a bath together. Don’t think it’s overcrowded, there’s usually a third party but she was at piano lessons. I dried the baby off and she ran giggling out of the room while I helped Hanna dry her hair and choreograph her dance routine in front of the mirror like all seven year old, turban wearing rock stars. Chloe hid on us for a minute and then we heard her laughing while she squatted between her sister’s beds and chanted, “Poop, Poop, Poop!” while she did just that. 

Third child and yet, this is a first.

The girls have had three birthday parties in as many weekends and three more to come before the end of the school year.

While they excitedly wave those hand printed envelopes they can’t wait to retrieve from the secret pockets of their backpacks, I start to cringe about having to go shopping one more time for a two hour event that buggers up an entire weekend.

Let me be clear. The invites are far better than the alternative which is being excluded so for that reason I am happy to take the girls and hope just as many kids will be available when it’s their turn. It’s the shopping and guessing game that goes along with it I hate.

I find myself wandering up and down toy aisles thinking, “We like ‘Guess Who’ Samantha will love ‘Guess Who’…..won’t she?” I put Guess Who in the cart but only as long as it takes me to turn down the next aisle and add a Disney character in the same $20-$25 price range. I then dump Chris, Justin, Ashley, Sarah, Kyle, Brandon and their easy-to-detach disguise flaps and continue until I convince myself that people have enough dolls. What if Samantha has never been to Disney and/or seen this movie or read this book? Oh God, what if she can’t read at all and this is a terrible reminder in front of all of her friends. I move along with a baby in the front basket and an otherwise empty cart.

Do I go for a game or a doll? If the host child already owns the game, my kid comes off like an ass and is blown off, assigned the role of family dog on Monday on the school playground. If they don’t like Rapunzel, again, my kid is hanging their head in shame while playing pin-the-tail-on-will-i-am and wishing they lived with the host family and not the clueless mother about to pick her up.

So then I try the “think outside the box” approach. Except that usually lands me in hot water when I return home and announce to the girls that I bought their friend a kite or a science experiment or a learn-to-knit kit and they sob, pounding the floor screaming they’re embarrassed to make a card with their name attached to something so utterly stinky.

Make-up? My kids LOVE getting make-up but as a parent, I detest receiving it. It’s messy, it’s inappropriate for this age group and it’s filled with twenty random kid’s germs before the end of the party. Not to mention, there’s something creepy about hosting a group of wholesome, five or seven year old kids and sending them home looking like Jon Benet Ramsey.

Why can’t we just go back to 1982 when a mixed tape had you pinky swearing on your friendship for life?

Can’t I adopt a goat in my child’s name? Kids like farm animals for a good cause don’t they?

I recently went shopping for two parties and picked up two gifts. One was a Littlest Pet Shop box set, the other was a Zoobles toy. The Zoobles rang in at $24.99 and until that day, I had never seen or heard of this toy but apparently they are taking over the schoolyards. A Zooble is a small plastic ball (think quarter sized bouncy ball) when pressed against something metal, a small piece pops out and magnetizes itself to it and for $25, it can be all yours.

I set the Zoobles aside for the child I know well and the Pet Shop for the child I don’t.

I wrapped both gifts, wrote two cards and was quickly told the child I didn’t know LOVED Zoobles and because her party is first, the Pet Shops will have to be held for party number two.

Three down, three to go.

I’m thinking Cuddles is a nice dog’s name for the schoolyard.

It seems with each week that passes, my kids get a little more daring, a little more adventurous and a little more independent.

My seven year old wants permission to ride her bike three houses away un-chaperoned. My five year old wants to run to retrieve the mail from the community mailbox down the street. They both want to choose their own clothes (usually looking like they are candidates for first year clown college), comb their own hair (fine by me, they cover their heads with both hands and scream as if I’m tying knots with my teeth and yanking them out for sport when I do it), they open the fridge, select a flavour of yogurt, grab a spoon from the cutlery drawer and peel back the lid (which they proceed to lick clean) and are showing a number of signs that full on independence from Mommy and Daddy is somewhere on the horizon.

Except, that is, when it comes to going downstairs to the basement.

They can play in the backyard in a fort filled with bugs, that is nothing more than mangled branches that have created a gnarled cave as if once inside you are looking at the world from the inside of a whale’s mouth and think nothing of it but the basement? Forget it.

They will pick up a slimy snail or frog from the garden but at no time will they descend twelve stairs without an entourage, a flashlight and a noise making machine to ward off evil villains, wild animals or whatever uninvited house guest might be squatting down there.

The kids have a playroom, a guest bedroom, Daddy’s office, rec room and it’s completely finished with a bright and cheery atmosphere but try telling them that. Even when they play the Barbie tossing game where she goes flying down the railing and lands at the bottom of the stairs (which makes me very happy when she dislocates something) they fight over who will have the terrifying task of racing down the stairs and back up with a now one legged doll, unassisted.

I have explained to the girls that this is their home and there is nothing to be afraid of but flashback thirty years and I was that same scared little girl asked to bring up a loaf of bread from the deep freeze and my heart would stop for the few seconds it would take me to leap to find the string that would trigger a dangling light bulb with no shade or casing of any kind in the pitch black, dive into the bottom of the deep freeze that was big enough to house several frozen bodies that sat next to a larger than life furnace whose erratic buzzing noises were enough to get my heart jump started to a full on pound, popping buttons off my shirt until I ran so fast back up the stairs (sometimes four at a time) I would fall, injuring myself and often smushing the frozen loaf of bread right out of the bag.

I would fling the bread, huffing and puffing, barely breathing, tears of joy I had made it out of there alive, sweating profusely, so I understand why the girls have this fear of the unknown that lurks beneath, I just wish I knew how to make it more welcoming.

Our printer is downstairs so when our five year old wants to print some hidden pictures to take on a car ride, she won’t go down alone.

I’ll ask the girls to go jump on the mini-trampoline which they do happily when together but try asking just one of them and they look as though I’ve asked them to jump on a trampoline in a haunted house, surrounded by rabid dogs and not just any rabid dogs, rabid basement dogs, the worst kind.

I bet if I laid their Hallowe’en candy out along the stairs they’d follow the trail….Hmmmmm–parents-keep-child-s-gender-secret

I wanted to include the article I read about this couple’s decision to keep the gender of their third child a secret for those of you who haven’t heard or read about this strange story.

Like everyone, I have an opinion and the more I read, the more I can confirm these people are certifiably insane. The story becomes more ridiculous as it goes on and is difficult for many of us, especially parents to understand.

1)    “Witterick practices unschooling, an offshoot of home-schooling centred on the belief that learning should be driven by a child’s curiosity. There are no report cards, no textbooks and no tests. For unschoolers, learning is about exploring and asking questions, “not something that happens by rote from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. weekdays in a building with a group of same-age people, planned, implemented and assessed by someone else,” says Witterick.”

When I read the father was a school teacher I was thoroughly shocked for a number of reasons. The first was that they were teachers and not professional grow-op scouts and the second was that school teachers would opt for “unschooling” with regards to educating their own kids. Can anyone spell c-r-a-z-y? My kids can, because they go to school.

2)    Why not teach kids to be proud of who they are? Right out of that underwater home birth gate? Being proud of who you are includes ALL of you, including genetalia.

3)    If you take issue with people saying, “What a big, strong boy” you should know, that’s not an insult to you or your child. Be thankful they didn’t say, “Wow, your rather androgynous looking child seems awfully angry and confused about the world.”

4)    Storm is a boy’s name.

5)    The older siblings will blab and quickly cough up Storm’s identity. My kids would give up our house alarm code for an already chewed piece of gum. Maybe that’s a girl thing.

6)    Is it because this is your third child you felt entitled to mess with him? Two in the bag so let’s have a little fun?

7)    The very thing you wanted to keep quiet has consumed the internet. You have certainly come out in a very public way with this very private issue and now more than ever, people want to know the gender of your child more than any other child within 1000 kms.

8)    The parents grew up listening to Free To Be You and Me. So did I but I can’t blame Marlo Thomas and friends for every bad parenting decision I make.

9)    Has anyone other than the “ungraduating” class of 2011 come out in support of this irresponsible parenting decision?

“The boys are encouraged to challenge how they’re expected to look and act based on their sex.” By wearing pink dresses and wearing their long hair in braids? This isn’t necessarily challenging so much as it is cross dressing.

We’ve been hearing a lot lately about two parenting styles; helicopter parenting and tiger parenting.

Helicopter parents hover just above the action, following closely behind their children, paying attention to each and every detail, never giving themselves any time to relax and enjoy a ruby red with tonic and freshly squeezed lime juice.

Tiger parenting, a term I heard only recently, describes a parenting style in which Mom or Dad (or both) push their children beyond what some might view as reasonable limits, in areas like academia, music, sports. I almost see this as a tough love approach, there are no cuddly moments or time for creative play, more a regimented routine driven by extreme focus with high expectations for success, not unlike my first soccer coach who wanted those daisies picked and as many cartwheels as I could windmill my way through a game. There is time for ruby red but the child/server has an advanced degree in mixology and grew the limes in a home grown hydroponics experiment.

There’s another type of parent we’ve all encountered who until now has remained nameless. Let me be the first to introduce the Snapping Turtle Parent.

Snapping Turtle parents move slowly because they’ve been beaten down by screaming children, dragging them from one activity to another, none of which seem to bring the slightest bit of happiness to any of them. When pressed, they stick their necks out well beyond the realm of what would be perceived as possible and snap their jaws at their kids, almost always in public and in a way that borders excessive violence causing onlookers to stare at their shoes or give their own kids an extra, adoring squeeze.

S T’s live in warm conditions like overheated waiting areas and can almost always be found in swimming lesson change rooms where the humidity exceeds oxygen and wet children, (their fiercest enemy) are no match for the parent who is carrying the weight of the world on their backs.

Other parents feel better about their own approach to raising children when in the presence of Snapping Turtle parents whether they are helicopter parents, tigers or jet-setting-safari-humpback parents.

Snapping Turtle parents take the time to drink ruby reds, often with a flask in their bags, shells and in extreme cases, glove compartments, but not for enjoyment, it’s simply meant to keep them awake and to fuel their rage.

The invention of Bucket Ball could not have come at a better time.

It was the end of a long weekend. The weather was bizarre at best with moments of scorching sun followed, without warning, by treacherous downpours and winds that swept the baby off her scooter from her small mud puddle into a much deeper, muddier one.

We had visited parks and people, attended birthday parties, hosted play dates, bribed the kids with treats (saving the good ones for myself when they were in bed) and shouted obscenities at whoever dared put on a fireworks show with previews sputtering and shaking the house at 10pm.

I was the chauffeur, the snack seeker and the rope turner. I learned a couple of new skipping songs to be chanted to the tune of “are we really teaching our seven year olds this?” The first went something like; “Mexico Texico, something something, how does it go…” I do remember the part about, “leaving town, jump back in, sit on a pin, how many inches does it go in? One, two” etc. But each time I heard them sing about a pin going in, my knees began to buckle and I could feel the colour washing out of my face gearing up for a face plant on the pavement.

The girls came to me while hosting a friend and said, “Mommy, do you want to hear something funny?” Well of course I do. Until now, I’ve been the embarrassing presence covering her face with a scarf to serve bowls of mango and then reverse out of the room bowing, hoping not to make any unrecognizable grunts during my exit.

“Boobies, boobies, she’s got boobies, how many boobies does she have? One, two, three, four, five, six, seven….”

I didn’t want to be the uncool parent who furled my brow at the ridiculous skipping song but I felt the need to point out the obvious. Anyone with more than say five boobies well, that’s simply absurd.

It also seemed odd that the kids thought nothing of shouting for all the passersby to hear, “What song do you want to skip to, Mexico or Boobies?”

I was often told to “Focus!” when one of the kids would trip over the rope. Yes I guess my consistent pendulum like arm turning with precision and dare I say flawless accuracy for four straight hours is the reason the Boobies rope is currently firmly pressed under both of your feet but if you need someone to blame.

Bucket Ball was born out of boredom and it might go down as the greatest end to a long weekend even Victoria (may she rest in peace) would be proud of.

The rules are simple. You need a sandbox pail and a tennis ball. We used our cement front porch steps to roll the ball up and over and if you are one of a lucky few, right into the bucket. If you hit the stairs and it bounces back, you get a stair-doggy.

Patent pending.

We received a call from friends who are having their first baby, a girl and they wanted to be sure we still have all of our “stuff.”

Funny, the minute Chloe stops using something and/or grows out of a baby-related item, I donate it, give it away or burn it in my no-more-baby-stuff/come-on-mommy’s-private-sanctuary-bonfire.

It did however get me thinking about what you really need when expecting your first baby and how many lists you will reference to prepare for the exciting arrival.

Starting with the crib, change table and dresser trifecta. We found a set of three that suited our needs, a place to sleep a place to change diapers and a place to store clothing, sold. We never considered the fact that this furniture is pretty cheaply made and we never had any intention of keeping it long term, knowing we would one day replace the dwarf wood with something that was better built and less babyish. We also never considered just buying the crib and change table and as it turned out, the dresser sat empty for seven years, finishing nails shaking nervously every time we walked past as it could barely stand upright. We didn’t think to buy just two pieces because who were we to break up a set?

Good friends of ours converted a dresser into a dresser/change-table and had a crib in the room. Though they missed that amazing feng shui triangle baby nursery smell, they saved space and money by just using just the two pieces. Why didn’t we think of that?

Swing. I couldn’t find one baby list, friend, store clerk, gypsy or Wiccan who didn’t recommend buying a swing for our first born. “Your baby will LIVE in the swing,” they all claimed, followed by testimonials of how their children are smarter, calmer, cuter, better behaved, not obese with charismatic personalities and smooth, shiny coats all because of their time spent in swings as babies.

Our baby hated the swing. We set her in it and she screamed louder than I thought a human could scream. She would have called Children’s Aid to pick her up and remove her from our care if we tried one more time to set her in the twinkle, twinkle little star swinging torture chamber. I can remember thinking, maybe the music should be louder or I’ll kick it lightly from the underside to give it that extra bit of bounce. It recently sold for $0 on Kijiji and was placed on our front porch, free to an undeserving child and a couple of clueless, over-researched parents.

Baby Einstein videos—crack. There was a report a couple of years ago claiming the company would refund anyone who felt their child wasn’t a genius after watching those videos. Hmmmm. I wonder how many genius parents came forward with a receipt, a library of DVD’s and a bug-eyed, confused, deflated, t.v. addicted child, admitting that not only is their child not a genius but they were dumb enough to believe by plunking them in front of the set for hours on end they would actually unmask the secret to the Caramilk bar.

Bouncy Chair—We received a bouncy chair as a shower gift when Hanna was born. She enjoyed sitting in that chair, watching the arch with dangling toys and loved the bonding time she had with our feet as we rocked it back and forth until the cramps made us so weak we were nearly hospitalized. Greg once suggested, “You know what someone should invent? A battery operated bouncy chair that rocked itself so parents didn’t have to.” Apparently they had, found in every children’s store on the planet. We just happened to have a cheap friend who gave us a shell of the actual bouncy chair, I suspect to laugh at us behind our backs. It’s worth splurging on the battery operated version but test it on your baby first, lest it suffer the same fate as Kijiji swing.

Breast Pump—My best advice with a breast pump is save your pennies and your nipples and rent the “good” one from the hospital. I didn’t know this was an option and I forked out a couple hundred bucks for a unit that squeezed me dry (or so I thought), I handed over the very first pumped bottle to my Mother who was assigned babysitting duty while Greg and I winced then gingerly tucked a nursing pad into my bra to attend a wedding. She looked at the bottle wondering if it was just the lighting or angle she was holding it because aside from two drops that barely covered the bottom of the bottle, there wasn’t any milk to be seen. I argued that maybe that’s how much the baby gets when nursing? How would I know how much milk was actually consumed, it wasn’t a transparent process? In speaking with other moms, the hospital, double pump is quick, easy and it actually works.

Baby bjorn, splurge on the extra long straps so Dad can’t say it isn’t long enough to participate in snuggle time with the baby while he vacuums, cooks and folds the laundry.

Stroller—easy to collapse with a drink holder. These are really the only features that were important to me. I am not a marathon runner and therefore didn’t require a lot of extras and snow tires bigger than those on my minivan. Do I wish I had spent a little more on something higher end? Perhaps, had I known I was going to have three kids I might have invested a little more but it’s still a chair on wheels and has gotten all three kids around without incident. I can think of better ways than spending thousands of dollars on a stroller, tensor bandages for bouncy castle shins for example.

Here’s what you do need–A sense of humour. If you can laugh at the bags under your eyes, your hairy legs, your hairy eyes, your shirts with shoulders failing any random sniff test, your clothes that don’t fit, your pony-tail with an elastic hidden somewhere under a nest of hair then you’ll be a great parent. The rest will come in time and will be dictated by the needs and wants of the child.

Yes, we’ll save our stuff. I think we have a breast pump that maxes out at two drops and a “gently used” stroller.

I can’t be sure but sometimes when my husband replies, “You betcha!” I wonder if he’s actually saying, “You Bitcha!”

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