This One’s for the Dads

My husband, Mark, and I have worked out a pretty good system. We both work and alternate picking up the kids from their day home. If one of us picks up the kids, the other will head home and start dinner so that the little monsters don’t starve (believe me, by 5:45 pm when we get home from picking up the kids, they can’t make it much longer without food).

Each morning, my husband wakes up at 5:15 am so that he can get to work for 6 am, which leaves me to get myself and the kids ready for the day and out the door. When his job demands more time of him, I pick up the kids, get dinner on the table and hopefully Mark makes it home before bedtime so that he can say goodnight to the littles. It is the nature of his work, the changing shifts, and we accept that. It’s harder on the kids.

“I don’t like daddy,” our three year old, Connor, said last night after Mark came in from a long day and asked for a hug (our 21 month old exuberantly hugged his father, thankfully). This wasn’t the first time that Connor has expressed his displeasure with his dad. He always wants me to read him the bedtime story and outright refuses Mark’s offerings to read, or he prefers when I brush his teeth or pour a glass of water for him. It gets worse when Mark is away for work or working long shifts. The disheartening fact is I see the kids more therefore I am the one that they favor for bruised knees and cuddles.

What Connor doesn’t understand, and what I try to explain in the simplest way, is that daddy works hard so that we can have our wonderful life.

What I don’t tell Connor is that the job market is soft and that we are lucky that Mark is employed right now, let alone busy. That in the trades, you take the work when you can get it, even when it means long stretches away from your family, or 24 hour shifts to get the job done. It means physically demanding work lifting, fitting, climbing, kneeling for long stretches. It means reading blueprints, organizing your materials and making sure that you can do the job in the most efficient way for the least amount of money. It means doing this work in the stripping wind or drizzling rain or frigid thirty below temperatures that make up our Canadian winters. It means injuries like burns on arms and fingers smashed and metal on toes or worse. It means the men (and women) who work these kinds of jobs are tough and strong willed and they love their families. Because it takes a certain kind of strength to work away from the ones you love to give them the best that you can.

So this one is for the dads. Often underappreciated, too often over simplified.Thank you for all that you do.

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Be Like Vinny Chase

Vinny Chase3Entourage used to be one of my favorite television shows. In it the lead character, Vincent Chase, is an actor trying to make it in Hollywood with the help of his rag-tag crew of friends, each of which have their own talents and story lines. An episode would start with an issue in Vince’s career and, with the help of his friends and overbearing and hilarious agent, Ari Gold, he would overcome the obstacle presented. Women, money, drugs, cars and celebrity cameos were the “flash” in each episode. The constant theme throughout the show was Vince’s unrelenting attitude that everything was going to work out. He’d have a smile on his face throughout the episode, regardless of the challenges presented, because he thought ‘it’ll all be okay’. And it was.

Granted, it was a television show. The characters were rich and famous. And they weren’t dealing with real world problems. It stands to reason, however, that a positive outlook will serve you well.

At the end of my maternity leave, I wasn’t sure where I stood with my job. I wanted something more. I loved reading and writing and I was good at customer service. It clicked that I wanted to work in a library. In order to make that happen, I had to go back to university and get my Masters of Library and Information Studies degree.

Problem #1: my GPA wasn’t high enough. Okay, I could handle that; I spoke to an adviser and learned that I could take a couple of correspondence courses through Athabasca University to bring up my marks.

Problem #2: I wanted Fall 2016 admittance and the deadline for admittance was Feb 1, 2016. At the time I decided to do this, it was October. Usually the Athabasca courses ran for 6 months. I had to condense 2 courses into 2.5 months in order to complete my final exams in December so that I could work on and submit my application in January for the University’s February deadline. I did this while parenting 2 small children and going back to full time work in November.

I worked probably the hardest I’ve ever worked – any time the kids were asleep or occupied I read course material or hammered out essays. My husband and I went to Mexico and there I was in our hotel room, submitting assignments and doing required reading. I’d come home from work, make dinner, play with the kids, put them to bed, then work on school until midnight. I received the marks from my courses and got the A’s that I needed to advance my GPA.

With confidence, I submitted my masters application. I waited. Aaaaaaand I didn’t get in. I met all program requirements but didn’t make the cut for the competitive GPA.

I was disappointed, yet not as much as I thought I would be. I was happy that I had worked so hard towards a goal and tried my best. I was glad that in the two years to come I wouldn’t be overburdened with school, homework, a part time job and parenting my boys. And returning to my job hadn’t been as painful as I’d initially thought. For all these reasons I was okay with not being accepted. Most of all though, I figured “everything will work out.”

When dealing with day to day stress or big, life changing events, I have to believe that everything will work out. My life is better for it.

Disappointment is inevitable, however one of life’s constants is how inconsistent it is. A positive outlook is difficult to maintain at all times but if you look at the world through rose colored glasses life is a blessing. If you expect the best out of life, the best will be rewarded to you.

So be like Vinny Chase. Take care of those around you. Be loyal. Be humble. Work hard. It’ll work out.

Legit Ways to Save $

One of the very un-fun things about being an adult is money management. For many, the amount of money in is overcome by the amount that spills out. Add the expense of a mortgage or children and the results aren’t all that fun (Yay Adulting!). So here are some actual ways to cut down on those pesky expenditures:

  1. Do a household budget. You don’t have to be an expert. Budget-of-punjab-2013-2014Simply download a template from the internet, print out the previous month’s bank account statement, and add the information in the required fields. It can be encouraging and sobering to view where you are spending money. The great thing is, a budget gives you a concrete starting point on where you can and cannot cut costs.
  2. Review your bills. This one is monotonous and boring and necessary. Make sure you are getting the best deal. Rework your cell phone, cable (or cut it all together for Netflix or Crave TV), power, electric and hydro. And while you’re at it, make sure you are getting excellent customer service. For example, our house has a cistern instead of a city water connection. We have water delivered to our house once per month. The delivery guy we used before was okay but I would leave him a voicemail when we needed water, then never really knew when he was coming. I didn’t love what I was paying for. We moved our business to a wonderful water company called Fill ‘er Up Potable Water. I can text when I need a load of water and I’ll receive an answering message within minutes whereby the operator gives me a date when he will fill up our tank. I can also pay via e-transfer. So convenient. If you have a cistern or need bulk water, more info about this wonderful company can be found at http://www.filleruppotablewater.ca/
  3. Talk to your investment specialist – this one is also a no brainer. If you don’t have investments, that’s ok but as soon as you think you have a spare dime to put away, put it into some type of account for your retirement. Even a small contribution each month will help offset future living costs.
  4. Second hand stores. A co-worker took me to this wonderful shop called Plato’s Closet just down from Whyte Ave. They have in-season clothing items for men and women. The savings amazed me. Turns out, the sister store to Plato’s is Once Upon a Child. I had never really thought to go there for my kids. Then Connor’s feet grew 3 sizes in 6 months. I went to Once Upon a Child the next time Connor needed indoor shoes. For $8.00 I found him some really cool looking little high tops, which is half the price of the already cheap Wal-Mart or Joe Fresh.
  5. Hand me downs! With 2 kids, that are 2 years apart but nearly the same size, hand me downs come in super handy (get it? I crack myself up). I have a group of gracious friends who have boys that have out grown all kinds of clothes and I straight up ask for clothes when they are done with them.
  6. Use Upcycling Sites! I am a part of the Upcycling Facebook group in my community. This site is for household items that have value, but you’d like to get rid of, so you ‘upcycle’ to someone who could use them. I’ve given away variety of items like kids clothes, kitchen ware, small appliances, etc. on my local Upcycling page. You can also ask for anything you think you might need – remember it’s free – and if someone has it, great, if not, you would have likely bought it anyway. I recently ran out of perfume, which costs around $50-$100 a bottle. I put up a post requesting anyone with extra perfume to pass it on to me. I had 3 women give me bags of perfume that they weren’t using. I sorted through the scents I wanted, kept some and tossed the rest. I scored about $300 in free perfume!
  7. Meal plan! IMG_8292 Not only does it help with the budget, it helps my sanity.  There is no stress coming home from work and wondering what I’m going to make for dinner with two hungry kids clawing at my legs. Each month I print out a calendar and write down what I will make for dinner each night for that month. The plan helps me organize what groceries I will need to buy each week and also what I need to take out of the freezer the night before.
  8. Buy your meat in bulk and freeze! We learned this long ago. We eat a lot of chicken and it can vary between $8.00/kg to $14.00/kg. When we see that it’s around that $8-$10/kg mark we buy lots then freeze it. If you’re going to do this, invest in a vacuum sealer.
  9. Buy your K-Cups at Winners. For real. They usually have a great selection of coffees. Better yet? Ditch the Keurig or Tassimo and opt for a pot. I know it’s not as convenient but hose little cups are costly in comparison to loose grind coffee. I will admit, I haven’t fully gotten there yet – I have a Keurig in my ensuite bathroom so that I can have coffee immediately after waking up.
  10. Stop going to the places you spend money! I love books. Like, I love books so much I want to work in a library so that I can be amongst the stacks and breathe in the smell of musty paper all day long. I (used to) spend a lot on books. I have a Kobo which I load up to read on vacation. I buy iBooks for my phone. I listen to audiobooks when I’m cooking or driving. And one of my favorite things in the world, abet one of the hardest to find time for, is sitting down and enjoying a book, uninterrupted. So, at this time when I am trying to save, I’ve stopped going into Chapters because I know I won’t leave without spending. So whether it’s Starbucks, magazines, house gadgets, etc.- just DON’T GO THERE.

Mythical Mommy Me-Time

Hi Moms. Lets talk about you. As a mom, the focus is no longer on you. It used to be but as soon as you got pregnant the questions became about your skills as a human incubator and the being that you would soon expel. Once said being is out in the world, life is no longer about YOU. Life as you previously knew it is over.

Now, if you want to have a baby, are pregnant, or have a new baby and you think that after getting into the swing of things you will get back to the ‘you’ you were, I am sorry to break the bad news. ‘You’ will never be the same. And that is okay. Your heart has grown. You’ve gained more perspective. You are less selfish. You are likely more organized, can multi-task and do more with your time than before you had kids. But it was all your time. And that is really hard to give up.

You don’t get breaks from motherhood and the chores that go with being an adult. At least, you won’t if you don’t take them for yourself. It was a hard transition for me to realize that my wants no longer mattered. You’re tired? Oh well, you have to feed the baby at all hours of the night. You’re hungry? Your little one has an ear infection but you haven’t figured that out yet and it’ll take you another 10 hours to clue in and take her to the doctor, so stuff a granola bar in your mouth and rock that baby. You haven’t showered in 4 days? Don’t worry, your kid will wipe their nose on you the minute you are freshly showered and dressed so it won’t matter all that much anyway. You know who doesn’t care? Your kids. Sometimes your hubby because he truly doesn’t know how spent you are. The rest of the world because it keeps turning without thinking of you.

This was difficult for me to reconcile. Most of the time I was over the moon with my little ones from the moment they were born. But sometimes it was really hard to realize that no one cared that I wanted to sit uninterrupted with no children crawling on me for 5 minutes. I wanted to go to the bathroom in peace. Fat chance.

But. There is more. You will grow. Out of the ashes, a Phoenix will rise and all that. You will get a handle on a semblance of a routine (don’t trust those who tell you that a baby doesn’t need a routine – they do, you do). And out of that routine, you can carve some time for yourself.

Now, new moms often resist this. They think that no one can care for their children like them. This is false. It is really, really hard to accept, but it’s false. If you have a mom or mother-in-law or well meaning aunt or neighbor, take them up on their offer to watch your precious bundle. Do it early. When babies are young, they sleep, poop and eat. Do it then. Even for an hour. You will go crazy for that hour but the next time you drop the kid off or have your sitter come over, it will be easier. Each time is easier.

Now, this next part is difficult:

Step 1: Pick up a pen

Step 2: Go to a calendar (or hey, if you have a phone, open the calendar)

Step 3: Pick an evening that you will take for yourself. You can have your spouse or partner or your babysitter watch the kid.

Step 4 – and this is the hardest part: Follow through. Put on some pants that are not of the yoga or sweat-pant variety. Don a t-shirt or even something cuter. Throw on some make-up if you have some. Grab that purse and simply leave the house. It does’t matter what you do but get out of the house and treat yourself to some uninterrupted alone time.

You could go for a coffee, go to a movie, go to the gym, go see your friends, go get a pedicure. Even just go for a walk. Take deep breaths and be thankful you don’t have a stroller with you. For example, I have a standing “Dinner Group” date once a month with about 10 friends where we get together and try new restaurants. It is a standing event, usually booked 2 weeks ahead of time, when I can see my friends that I don’t see very often any more.

Most importantly, if you are not one for going out because you are so exhausted, arrange for a time where you can enjoy a long bath or shower, catch up on Netflix or a book and relax. 

Of course, this is easier said than done. If it was so easy, I’d be out at least once a week. But life gets busy and I’m lucky if I get 2-3 nights/afternoons/mornings per month to myself. And that is okay. But when I tell my hubby that I need time to myself to hit recharge he respects that. If he didn’t I’d be sure to call up my lovely mother/sister/friend. Life is as easy as you make it.

And you’d better believe husbands should grab some me-time as well. Ladies, I know that you want your partner to take the squalling child as soon as they walk through the door after work. However, his life has changed in a major way too. If he is home all the time, push him to go out with his buddies or hit up the gym. He’ll be better for it. You’ll have something to talk about on the all-important ‘date night’ which is great if you can snag a couple of times per month.

You are still important. You cannot run solely on sleep deprivation, coffee and a dash of insanity. It just takes a little more work to get time to yourself. Pencil in your me-time. For the love of yourself, pencil it in.

Cayley1

Maniacal  happiness paired with hilarious glasses and wine? Sometimes that’s how I do my me time…

 

January is the Monday of the Year

I’m not sure if I am pleased January is done or if I feel jipped and want a do-over. After the whirlwind of Christmas, I expect a bit of a reprieve in the New Year and that didn’t exactly happen for 2016.

In December I had returned to work from my second maternity leave. My two boys and I still hadn’t gotten into an evening routine. My one year old, Nickson (aka Bubba), would cry belligerently at me from the moment we arrived home until supper was on the table. My husband had started a new job as foreman at a welding shop. This was great considering the many trades people that were out of work in the province, however this also meant longer days so I had to pick up the slack with the kids. My job was stressful at the time. I applied to university. And I turned the big 3-0 on the 21st, which is unceremoniously dumped 3 days after Blue Monday (statistically the most depressing date of the year).

I was rushed, annoyed and generally felt hard done by. After waking at least twice a night (Bubba, who had slept through the night since he was two months old, no longer did), my day began at 5:30 a.m. so that I could get myself ready before the kids woke up. I then got the kids breakfast, ready for daycare and out the door, which some days is a feat in itself. Off we raced to day care, followed by my 30 minute commute and a so-so work day, from which I rushed to pick up the kids. Upon arrival home, I would make supper with Bubba clawing at my legs for food (he will not snack – I have tried – he wants a full meal as soon as we enter the house), dinner, dishes, and the bedtime routine. Hubby would get home anywhere between dinner and bed time. FINALLY! Cue the chorus of angels: time to myself – oh wait, no Cayley! I was ambitious and applying to the U of A for my Masters so I went to work on my application until 11 p.m. or so. Afterward, I would be lucky if I remembered to shower then collapse into bed. I felt stuck in a vortex where I had absolutely no time for myself.

Exhibit A – text messages to friends:

Text (1)  Text (2)

Don’t worry, I am aware that I should be thankful for all that I have. I am part of the stressed out first world with problems that include clean drinking water, shelter, food, dual incomes, democracy, iPhones, The Bachelor, etc. There are so many more people with larger, more difficult problems than I. My life and the decisions I have made are mine – but at the time, I didn’t care. I was overwhelmed. I was frustrated.

Then, just as things were turning around and we were getting into the swing of things with life: my kids and I came down with strep throat. Between both sick kids and myself, I missed nearly two weeks of work. Hubby tried to help as much as he could but he was working from 6 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. or even midnight. The only positive was that he didn’t catch what we had.

Bubba, who never likes to be held or cuddled, laid on me for two full days as his little body was wrought with fever. As much as I loved holding my baby, it unnerved me because I knew that meant he was really sick. Connor, my thoughtful little three year old, fared slightly better though he didn’t escape without a few days on the couch with a fever. We took various trips to the walk-in clinic and each of us received a round of antibiotics.



The result of my frustrated life coupled with family sickness? I had to slow down. My kids’ illnesses forced me to lay with them on the couch and let the dishes sit in the sink. I spent time taking temperatures and administering prescriptions. When they awoke in the night, I would feel their forehead with worry and hold them until they fell back asleep. Each day that they felt better, I felt better too. We took it one step at a time.

I had forgotten what was important. I had let the rush of life get to me. I had allowed time to slip by with no purpose.

As a result, I’ve slowed down. I try to plan ahead. I try to accomplish small things that will save me time the next day. I’ll prep dinner an evening in advance since I know my little guy will be demanding when we get home. I’ll fold my husband’s laundry or make his lunch as I know he is working hard to provide for our family. I’ll lay in bed with my three year old and tickle his back as he falls asleep. Dishes can wait. It’s a hard lesson to learn, and one that I am constantly re-learning, but the house can wait.

I’m happy that the armpit that was January is over. It is truly the Monday of the year and I am thankful to have a chance at Tuesday.

 

Is Everyone Blogging Without Me?

074A5839As I viciously keyed “natural cold remedies” into my computer’s search engine whilst awaiting the moment my one year old would cough so violently it would make him barf and wake him, I was assaulted by a wave of parenting blogs with solutions galore. Humidifiers, honey (but not if your child is under one year of age), cuddling, coddling, cod liver oil, nasal aspirators, steam showers, massage and more were the suggestions that jumped out upon first search. A few sites recounted the benefits of administering acetaminophen or ibuprofen in the recommended dosage, but then others admonished giving your precious little one any drugs (with a capital ‘D’). I was confused. And sleep deprived. It was 3:23 a.m and I had to be up for work in two hours. Finally, when my son coughed like he was hacking on a wishbone and awoke (thankfully with no puke), I shoved a dose of Tylenol in his mouth, rocked him and hoped for the best.

I got my two hours of sleep. And my coffee was bullet proof the next morning.

But something else occurred to me the following day as I wiped my babe’s bottom and prepped him for daycare: blogs. There were so many. Forget the amount of advice given on WebMD and BabyCenter. Blogs were it. At least, for mom’s looking for viable solutions and answers that have been tested by other moms.

There were blogs for hippie moms, stay at home moms, Christian moms, working moms, paleo moms, Alpha moms. And lets not forget the dads! Usually with a funny ‘I’m a dad and I don’t know what I’m doing’ sort of banter, the dad blogs were often my favourite.

The glaring fact was: there was a blog for everything and everyone from all walks of life. It was like each person thought “hey! I’ve popped out a kid or two, surely someone wants to hear about it.” And we do! I want to hear about others experiences because in this Internet infested world, I do want parenting advice from those who have been in the trenches. I want to know tips and tricks that will help my son sleep through the night. I want to know a fun way to make my kid eat spinach. I want to laugh at a humorous post about vacuuming the house with a glass of wine in hand! Above all, I want to glean some information from a community of other parents, since the village mentality is quite dead in this day and age.

So here I am, with the same thought. I have a couple of kids, a husband, a house, a job and an English degree not being put to use. Surely someone will want to hear my wealth of tried and true info I’ve stored in my stressed out mom memory banks. Right? Shouldn’t I contribute to the global village that is now a mass of Internet blogs?

So here’s what I know so far: Do what works for you. Do what lets you get some sleep. Do what will make your kids decent human beings. Do something that makes you happy.

Welcome, friends. Here are Your Little Years.