I’m still here.

Blog-wise, December was not the greatest month. After the blogging extravaganza that was November and NaBloPoMo, I posted four times in December. Four. And I read very little as well. I could blame it on the holidays and all the go-there, do-that, make-this, visit-here, eat-that (and that, and that). I could blame it on a fit of last-minute crafting that had me knitting scarves and making Christmas cards instead of writing at night after the boys went to bed. But maybe I’ll just forget the blame and resolve to do better. It is the season for trying harder, right?

I don’t usually make New Year’s resolutions – every time I start to think of one, there are so many things I’d like to change that my list grows longer and longer, until I might as well cross everything off of it and just resolve to be perfect.

So this year, instead of making specific resolutions, I’m going to make a list of somewhat vague intentions to set the tone for 2015.

Presence. Kindness and forgiveness, to myself and others. Face time over screen time; outside over inside. Gratitude. Simplicity. Inspiration. Action.

Happy 2015, everyone. What are your intentions for this year?

Balancing act

Balance. Work-life balance. Leading a balanced life. A life is hanging in the balance. This cereal is part of a balanced breakfast. We hear advice about balance all the time, particularly in this balance-challenged holiday-crammed time of year. It’s everywhere. So why is achieving balance so hard?

December is affectionately known in my family as the Great Never-Ending Month of Birthdays and Also Christmas. Along with several aunts, uncles, and cousins, my parents’ birthdays are in December – the 21st and 30th, to be exact. (Fun fact – my mother and my husband’s mother share a birthday, which leads to a yearly awkward dance of who’s planned what first.)

This year my parents will turn 60 and 65. They also celebrated their 35th wedding anniversary, and my dad retired – all momentous occasions that deserve celebration. So, at the beginning of the year, I thought about planning a surprise party for them. Midway through the year, I thought about planning a surprise party for them. In October, with the prodding of some relatives, my procrastinating self was thrown into full party-planning mode. Being the dutiful daughter, I called together my siblings and an aunt and uncle and we got to work. Except that I assigned nearly all of the tasks to myself. Evite? I’ve got it. We’ll do potluck – I’ll coordinate it. Decorations? I’ve got the time. Dishes? My in-laws have a rental company. Cakes? I like to bake, so I’ve got it.

I sent the Evite. I managed the RSVPs. I fielded questions. I organized potluck menu and sign-up. I ordered the dishes, silverware, glasses, mugs, and chairs. I planned out a beautiful banner to make. I searched out the best cake recipes – cherry cake for dad, and gluten-and-dairy-free chocolate for mum, and cupcakes for extras. I thought up fun ideas for cake decorations. I planned the extra dishes that I would make in case it seemed like there wouldn’t be enough food. Then, the beginning of last week found me knocked out with a bad cold and a bad case of anxiety. I’d forgotten to get to my doctor to refill my prescription. My postpartum depression symptoms were dragging me down. I was low.

And I thought, where’s the balance in this?

So I asked for help. And, what do you know, people were there to help me. One of my younger brothers and his wife made an amazing banner and an extra appetizer. My aunt brought two kid-friendly main dishes. My two other brothers drove to the party location with me to unload all of the dishes, cakes, balloons, and chairs. My amazing husband, a true Renaissance Man, iced chocolate cupcakes on the morning of the party as I whipped up the vanilla icing. (And then, because he did such a good job, he did the vanilla ones too.)

cupcakes

So, what does it mean to have balance?

It means letting go of the responsibility for everything and sharing the load.

It means not having to be perfect.

It means whipping up cake toppers out of scrapbook paper and cardstock, because you forgot to get the numbered candles at the store.

It means enjoying the party so much that you don’t worry about getting the Pinterest-worthy shot of the two cakes and two batches of cupcakes that you worked so hard on.

It means being okay with the fact that your toddler ate exactly 1.5 white buns and the icing off of one cupcake, because you can get some better food into him tomorrow.

It means letting your kids stay up until 10:30 (when your in-laws take them home to bed) because it’s a party, and it doesn’t happen every day, and the experience of tonight is more important than the potential meltdown tomorrow.

It means having a drink and visiting with friends and family, because enjoying the party to honour your parents is way better than doing dishes. Dishes can wait.

It means enjoying the things that are going right, instead of worrying about the things that aren’t.

In the end, the complete shock on my parents’ faces as they walked in the door, the delight when they realized all these people were there for them, the huge smiles as they recognized guests who had travelled, and the tears in my mum’s eyes as she spotted her dearest friends – these things were more than enough to balance out any of the hard stuff.

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What does balance mean to you?

It begins

The kick-off to the Christmas season began tonight with our city’s Santa Claus parade.

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It was a somewhat odd collection including community groups, decorated vehicles advertising local businesses, the occasional protester, old-timey fire trucks, one sad junior high marching band, some clowns, and about a dozen sketchy-looking guys selling $10 glow sticks to the desperate parents of impatient kids. Santa himself came at the very end of the parade, after everyone was freezing. It was pretty magical for Bean, who is newly obsessed with Christmas lights and Santa and all things merry and bright.

Highlights for me:

  • A tiny, frozen gymnast unable to get out of her splits.
  • Bean narrating the entire parade with dubious accuracy from his perch on D’s shoulders. My favourite: “Look! A bear in an ambulance!” It was a dog in a police boat.
  • A fire in (or maybe beside) the bakery on the corner. Clouds of smoke started billowing towards where we were standing, and a woman walking past told us the place was on fire. We had just started to pack up when the smoke stopped, so I guess someone put it out. Excitement.
  • A mouse in pajamas. Called Pajama Mouse.

Highlights for Bean:

  • Dogs on a truck!
  • A snowman on a truck!
  • Another snowman on another truck!
  • A green Santa guy!
  • A dog with lights on him!
  • A delivery truck with a picture of strawberries and apples! (It was raspberries and peaches.)

Highlights for Monkey:

  • When I breathed on his face to warm up his little nose. He’s not much into the parades yet.

Highlights for D:

  • The end of the parade, when he got to lift Bean down from his shoulders.

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To the pumpkin patch we go! Or not.

It’s fall. The scents of fallen leaves and pumpkin spice lattes are in the air, the nights are growing longer, and my Facebook feed is full of photos of tots at the pumpkin patch.

Last year, we took Bean to a popular pumpkin-picking destination for what seems to have become an Annual Toddler Rite of Passage: picking and posing for pictures with pumpkins (whoa, alliteration!). But it wasn’t just the pumpkin patch. The farm we went to was a seasonal extravaganza of toddler meltdowns waiting to happen. Petting zoo! Bouncy castle! Train ride! Playground! Corn maze! Mini donuts! Hayride to the pumpkin patch! And then… the pumpkin patch. A picked-through field of misshapen pumpkins, the most attractive of which were piled in big cardboard boxes at the edge of the field, ours to take home for $5 apiece.

After the fun of everything that had come before, the actual pumpkin patch was decidedly underwhelming to Bean. We eagerly followed him with the camera, snapping shot after shot as he picked his way through the muddy field over and around pumpkins of all shapes and sizes, not quite sure what he was doing there.

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So… this is a pumpkin?

Yes, we did get the obligatory photos of him surrounded by all of the non-rotten pumpkins we could find (we went kind of late in the season, as I recall). But afterwards, the two things that Bean remembered and cared about were: 1) that the hayride involved a REAL TRACTOR!!! and 2) mini donuts. Nothing about the pumpkins.

When did the pumpkin patch become a thing? I know it’s not new, but when did the pumpkin patch become a must-do pre-Halloween family activity? Is it because we have the ability to share photos of our darling offspring with everyone we know through social media, and so we must find new and adorable situations for those photos to occur? Is it because, again through social media, we can see that all the other parents we know have taken their tots to the pumpkin patch and so we must do it too, because if we don’t our children will be deprived of some incredible experience? Are we just keeping up with the Joneses?

I think things were simpler when I was a kid. There were no big outings to the pumpkin patch – just a grocery store pumpkin inexpertly carved by Dad and the kids at the kitchen table, probably while my Mum frantically put the finishing touches on our homemade Halloween costumes. (Not Pinterest/Martha Stewart-homemade; four-kids-no-money-do-I-have-to-wear-that-again homemade.) And the only way we knew what the Joneses were up to was if we saw them in person on our trick-or-treating adventure – there was no Facebook feed to let us know what kind of fancy costume the Joneses’ kids were in, or how much fun they’d had at the pumpkin patch.

For the record, we’re undecided on the pumpkin patch this year, but leaning towards not going.

What-my-kid-said Wednesday: on cookies

My sister-in-law and two nieces came over today to decorate Halloween cookies with us. Icing + sprinkles + excited 2, 3 and 4 year-old + a yelling baby = chaos. But also fun.

20141022_110308  cookies

After the cookie party was finished and Bean was waiting for the icing to dry so he could try one, we had this conversation:

“Mummy, you know dragons and monsters love to eat cookies that have no cweets on them?”

“Cweets?”

“No, cweets.”

“Treats?”

“No, cweets.”

“Creets?”

“Yeah and little boys love to eat cookies with sprinkles.”

“I’m confused about creet.”

“Mummy, you tell me about that?”

“About what?”

“Cweet. You tell me about that stuff. What it does?”

Anybody out there know what a creet is?

waiting

Give thanks

Happy thanksgiving to all my Canadian friends! In honour of this holiday, here’s a list of ten things I’m thankful for today:

  1. My husband. The past few months have not been easy on us, and he continually picks up my slack. He is a great guy, an amazing dad, and I am so incredibly lucky to love him.
  2. My boys. My sweet, funny, clever, loving boys.
  3. My family, who brought pretty much all of Thanksgiving dinner to our house and still thanked hubby and me for hosting. All we had to cook was the turkey, gravy and some broccoli (because that’s all my weird kid eats).
  4. Coffee. Coffee. Coffee.
  5. Fleecy footed pajamas (for the boys, not for me). There’s nothing like my sleepy Monkey all clean from the bath and cozy in warm fleece jammies. And even though Bean is turning more into a big kid every day, all it takes is to see him snuggled up in bed in his fleecy sleepers to remember that he’s still my baby.
  6. Clear, crisp fall days. We’ve had an extended summer here and although that’s been nice, fall is my favourite and I’m more than ready for sweater weather.
  7. Gumboots and Muddy Buddies. Even though clear, crisp fall days are the best, I live on the west (wet) coast which means lots of rain. It’s currently pouring buckets and without gumboots and Muddy Buddies, tomorrow’s inevitable puddle jumping would be a lot messier.
  8. Did I mention coffee?
  9. My mum. She loves my boys like her own and has helped me through some tough stuff this year. I love how our relationship has grown as I’ve become an adult and a parent.
  10. This blog. I haven’t written anything in a long time, and even though this blog is primarily about my kids and being a mum, somehow the act of writing it helps me to feel like more than just a mum.

This list is nowhere near exhaustive, but it’s what’s on my mind now. What are you thankful for?

Growing up

My husband and I used to joke that there were three possessions that proved a person was a real grown-up: a roasting pan, a turkey baster and a headboard. We got the headboard a couple of years ago, but now we can finally call ourselves adults because tomorrow we’re hosting Thanksgiving dinner for 16 and roasting our very first turkey (in our brand-new roasting pan, with the help of our brand-new turkey baster).

As I sit here writing this post, my husband is on the couch watching turkey-carving videos on YouTube. Our day has been spent cleaning the house and relocating toys from the main floor of our 1970s split-level home, to give the illusion that we don’t live in 24/7 squalor. We’ve borrowed an extra table, chairs and linens. I made table centrepieces using glass bottles filled with acorns and twigs from our yard. I even bought decorative gourds. Decorative gourds!

And yet… am I really a grown-up? I’m a wife, a mother and a professional. I have degrees. I can cook. I pay bills. I own a house (well, the bank owns the house), a car (ditto) and a set of decorative gourds (all mine!). But what does this all add up to if I don’t really feel like an adult? If I still have questions about virtually everything in my life? If I still need my own mother?

Since I’ve become a mother I’ve come to think of my own Mum in a different light. There’s no question that as children we think of our parents as grown-ups. Of course Mum knows how to roast the turkey. But now, as I’ve struggled through the sleepless nights and tough decisions of parenthood, I understand more about what it must have been like for her. When she was my age, she had four young kids. And she was growing up too.

Our insecurities and the things we don’t know are invisible to our young children. And this gives me heart – in the eyes of my children, I do have my s*&t together. Of course I can roast the turkey.

Happy Thanksgiving! Wish me luck and a salmonella-free holiday!