“This Too Shall Pass”

I’ve been hoarding memories lately. Any chance I get a quiet, one on one moment with one of my sons, I find myself reflecting on when they were babies. I try my best to draw forth the feel of their perfect skin or the scent of their soft blonde hair.

I say “try my best” because I can’t remember anything chronologically. Images come to me in waves: my first son, Connor, at seven months, splashing in the lime green pool on our deck with his blue eyes squinted against the sun, or sitting in his high chair and pushing his chubby fists together to sign  “more” to indicate more food. IMG_2724-2The new discoveries of self-propulsion across our carpet, first rolling to where he wanted to go, then crawling, walking, running, jumping. The bubble feeling of just he and I going for mommy son dates: to the library for sing-a-long, or the swimming pool, or the zoo. There is a magic with the first child, because everything is a first for the parent as well.

And more recent memories of my second son, Nickson; the naps we would take together in my bed when he was brand new, or the vigour with which he devoured new foods, or the quickness with which he would pick up a new skill. He did everything faster than his brother. He crawled at 5 months, walked by 10. My ability to keep up with two mobile little humans adjusted accordingly. By default of being the second and not really being a cuddler anyway, I can count on two hands the number of times that Nickson has fallen asleep in my arms in his 18 months, with each time feeling like a victory. IMG_3298If Nickson does happen to fall asleep on me I am hyper sensitive to the little breaths he takes, the feel of his round tummy as it rises and falls against my own, the texture of his fine sunshine hair as it sifts through my fingers, the baby soap and sweaty smell of little boy, and the assertion to myself that I will always, always remember that moment.

It’s a fib I tell myself. I can’t remember it all. Photos help and videos are even better. And I am thankful I live in a time where there are devices at the ready to record a moment, even though I have to be mindful of also living in the moment and putting said devices down. With a full time job, the logistics of picking up the kids and making meals, a bit of a side job, the demands of keeping up with laundry and cleaning the house on the regular, ensuring that I pay proper attention to my husband and myself, along with keeping the kids occupied and not fighting, life seems very very busy.

On particularly tough days when Connor is having a melt down about the shoes he wants to wear or Nickson is fighting having his diaper changed right as we need to leave the house, I repeat the mantra “This too shall pass.” And it does. Without me even noticing sometimes. But when I have quiet moments with the kids, I know with certainty that it goes by too fast. And all I can do for now is hold on and try my best to remember as much as possible.

The Trials of Travelling with Kids

 

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Our most recent trip to Panorama Village. I didn’t write a master list and forgot many things…remembered the snowboards though!

As my good friend says, when travelling with kids “it’s not a vacation, it’s an adventure.” That advice has carried me through a variety of holidays with my littles.

When travelling with kids, you have to take everything with you. And you have different sizes of clothes and diapers for each kid. And you pack every imaginable snack and toy that will keep the crib midgets occupied during a drive or flight or any period of waiting. This involves a lot of packing and a master list so as not to forget anything. (When I don’t do the list, I forget a ton of stuff at home). 

Next, you have to maneuver your day around a nap schedule. A feat in itself is if you can hit the sweet spot of driving away from your house right at the start of nap time. If that doesn’t work, my husband and I know that we can get 2-3 hours out of both kids before they need to stop for a break. Then we just keep on keepin’ on. We know we’ll get there eventually.

Upon arrival at the intended destination there are two major stages: getting the kids out of the car/somewhat settled and unpacking all of the stuff. At least, unpacking enough of the sleeping equipment in order to put the kids to bed. Then there is the elusive vacation sleep. When in a new environment, Bubba wakes up multiple times per night and Connor finds his way into my bed. Vacation sleep is never a restful sleep for us.

And I plan to take my kids camping this year! Tent camping no less, which means no proper beds or Netflix or toys all around. This means a lot of extra preparation for meals, sleeping arrangements, activities, not to mention teaching my older kid to tell us well in advance if he has to use the potty since it may be far away. We’ll have to educate the kids about the camp fire and possibly get through a night of bad weather. It seems like SO MUCH EXTRA WORK.

But – I know it will all be worth it. I know that it will also be a hassle. Some folks might not think it is worth the trouble, especially since the kids are so little that they won’t remember the experience anyway. However, I would argue that these experiences can start at the earliest age. You need to get your kids used to trying new things. So far most of my time raising kids has been trial and error. For example, after some terrible car rides to and from my in-law’s in Saskatchewan, my husband and I opt to travel after bed time. We arrive at 3 a.m. but the kids sleep the entire trip.

The years when the kids are young are formative for learning how to behave in a variety of situations. My littles can sit in a restaurant and wait for their food as a result of our efforts to eat dinner as a family, teach them table manners, and expose them to eating in public. On the flip side, no one wants to dine with a screaming kid next to them so I know when to pack up and leave. The same goes for the grocery store. Cart full of groceries and the kid that won’t stop crying because he wants a toy? No way. He gets one warning then we leave. No fuss or scolding on my part; I simply just take him out of the situation where he is worked up. The pool, hiking, snowboarding, boating, play-dates etc. I am prepared to bail if I have to because, honestly, if the kids aren’t having an okay time then no one is.

It will apply to camping as well. We will camp close to home the first few times, so that I can pack up and leave if everyone is having a terrible time. It certainly isn’t desirable or always feasible but it lessens the pressure on my husband and I if we know that we can cut our losses whenever we need to and try again another time. And that’s the trick: we keep trying. I’m not advocating for quitting; simply, knowing your limits and the limits of your kids. And new adventures expand those limits.

Long car rides and packing for trips and sleeping in strange places and playing outside in unknown lands are all the stuff memories are made of. So bring on the extra work of travelling with toddlers. The good and bad and funny memories are the ones my husband and I will talk about for years afterward. And bonus if the kids have fun too.

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.