Do you have the moments when all the stresses of life melt away and you are consumed by a wave of happiness? They can be simple moments. Times when the universe aligns for a moment and everything seems right. A random heartfelt hug from your child; a perfect date with someone you love; a trip that gives you peace. These moments are often fleeting unfortunately but when they happen you MUST stop and savour them!
I had one of these moments today. We went to a new beach on a bay and like much of Newfoundland, it was beautiful. Now the whole trip wasn't perfect because taking children somewhere means listening to, "I'm hungry", " How long are we going to be here?", "He/she's bugging me", "I'm thirsty". Coupled with repeating yourself a hundred times everything you say something to your kids. But there were moments where it was just perfect. Where I felt happy. One of those moments didn't even involve people. I was looking out over the bay and all the sudden I saw a dark figure moving in the water and then a fin breached the surface. Seeing whales so close is an awe inspiring experience! I love water and just standing there in the cold water watching the whale made me feel content. Another moment happened with my daughter. The boys had finished lunch and were wandering back towards the water while my daughter and I sat for a moment longer. She laid her hard in my shoulder and said "I love you mom!" It just doesn't get any better!
So I guess my point is that life is busy, but sometimes you just have to stop and let yourself enjoy it!
I have some OCD tendencies. I’ll admit it. I like things a certain way and it drives me mad when they aren’t that way. In fact I tend to hit a bit of a depression when I am overwhelmed by a messy and disorganized house, which was often the case when I would come home from work. My husband is the complete opposite of me. He’s not a slob but he definitely can sit on the couch without issue while the house is in disarray. Two of my children are like him in this way, the girl and the older twin (who is pretty much a clone of his father anyways), but my other twin is like me and likes to keep things organized. Maybe a little too much like me actually. When I had kids I had to work hard mentally to put aside my hang up because, well kids are messy and organization in chaos is hard to accomplish. Now that my kids are older and more capable I find my anxieties over messiness creeping back in. So instead of being the martyr I decided that I would try again to implement some responsibility among the kids.
Chore charts are no stranger to me and the kids but have had little success in the past. We get off course easily, much like my exercise regime. One trip away from home and the schedule goes out the window. And the checking off tasks thing hasn’t always worked either. But I am determine! So this time I sat down and divided the chores amongst the kids based on what they could realistically do. Some tasks, like making their beds and tidying their rooms, were universal, while others, like helping to cook a meal, are more age based. Then I divided tasks into daily and weekly chores. Lastly I designated chores that could earn them extra money if they performed them. I set a weekly rate for each based on chores and every day on our wipe board I give a check mark for those that complete their tasks, then a running total of the allowance on the side. At $20 I pay them out with cash. If they ask for something to be bought for them it comes out of their allowance. With some exceptions of course. It’s been two weeks now and I have to say that even with a camping trip thrown into the mix, the kids have done a good job of sticking with it. I still have to remind them of course but at least I have compliance. Once a week I do a thorough cleaning and give each kid one of the weekly tasks to complete during this process as well as dusting and sweeping their rooms. It really does go faster this way.
It really is my hope that I am teaching my kids about a few things by doing this. Firstly that it is their home too and they need to take responsibility and pride for it. Second that you have to earn things in life, not always have them handed to you and that labour equals pay. And lastly I hope I am giving them the skills they will someday need when they are off on their own. Now if I can just keep this ball rolling at times when I’m not around to push it!
In some ways I think my boys are more demanding of my attention than my daughter. My boys are very sweet little guys. At nine years old they are far more kind and caring than I could have hoped for. They don’t wrestle with each other or hit. They adore their sister and idolize their father. And everyday they show me a touching kindness. But there is this constant need they seem to have where I need to see everything they are doing, reading, or watching at ALL times. It’s “Mommy” that has to come see the minecraft world or archer kill. It’s “Mommy” that has to see the newest Captain Sauce video.
It’s not that I mind per say. I adore my boys and love spending time with them. It’s just a tall order to be on constant demand, especially when the two of them are speaking at the same time. For whatever reason they don’t seem to notice this either and just go on speaking over each other. Because they are twins and we have three kids I try very hard to make each of them feel loved, heard and important. This is not easy. Often I feel that I fall short. A good example of this was their birthday this past week. I tried hard to ensure that both boys felt that the celebration reflected them in some way. I tried to pick an event that was mutually enjoyable, and I think I accomplished that for the most part. They both seemed happy in the end.
Their personality difference makes equality difficult and the cracks in the family social structure are starting to show through. My one son’s lack of social relationships outside of family seemed only apparent when it came time for playdates and birthday parties where we lived before. Now things have changed. Now we have a next door neighbor with a daughter, whose age is in between my children. She blends well into the kids lives having the same interests as them. Well two of them. Two of my children love FNAF and cosplay (words I didn’t even know existed until a month ago) while my little genius is far more interested in Minecraft and science, biology and geography. He often feels left out of the playing and as the other three kids are running between houses dressed in costumes I barely understand, he is left to hang out alone or with his parents; how uncool! For him anyways. It has always concerned me that he is less social, but now it is apparent and in some ways has torn our family dynamic a bit. Especially when the bond between the other children grows stronger daily (literally, they play everyday!) and he is left behind. I feel bad for him. My little love. But as a mother I know I can only do so much to steer the social life of my children and he must find his own voice and way. I hope that with the start of school in a month, he will find people with his interests to make friends with!
The act of finding a suitable place to live is another one of those crazy unpredictable things in life. You may have one idea of how it should go, but chances are it won’t end up that way.
We had a set idea in our head that we would live in the downtown core and have the luxury of walking everywhere. People warned us when we were looking that the downtown wasn’t necessarily the best place to raise a family, and once we got there, we realized why. Back in our “before kids” years the downtown core would have been an awesome place to live. Great architecture, neat ambiance and full of life. Kids and a dog however make it the complete wrong choice. So we looked elsewhere. Suburbia. I grew up in suburbia, in a different province of course but very similar to how it is here. Truly the definition of kid friendly living. Parks, quieter streets and schools close by. Doesn’t hurt that where our house is there are many stores close by. What a novelty after all these years!!
So now we have house, next comes furniture. Now I don’t know how it is for all of you, but in my world we don’t buy expensive things because, well we have three kids and a dog. They tend to wreck things, fast. So we have been looking online for used furniture. Our beds though, we bought new. Well the mattresses anyways, the bed frames my husband got his inner carpenter on and is making. Two done today in fact. I’m super proud of him for doing it. It’s definitely out of his comfort zone but he has a lot more practical knowledge than he gives himself credit for. It’s got to be a sign of a good father if he is willing to put some sweat into making furniture for his kids!
I’m really hoping that besides some “homey” touches, that we are done with major purchases for a while. Geeze it’s pricey to furnish a house, even second hand! Money seems to have a way of leaking out of our hands! But it does make a difference to sit in a house with things than empty. Feels a little more like home!
I’m going to empathize long here! Driving over 3000 kms in a truck with your spouse, three kids, dog and let’s not forget the hamster is the definition of insanity! At least I’m pretty sure it comes close to it. I’m lucky really. No one got hurt or hurt each other and we are all still taking to one another. But there were times it got a little hairy!
Adventures always sound good when you’re planning them. In practice it’s a different matter. Not saying I regret our journey at all, just that it was not as easy a feat as it sounds in the planning stages. Canada is a beautiful country and seeing it while on the road is awesome. Who knew we have so many trees?! But there are only so many rounds of “eye spy” and times you can listen to the four songs your kids actually like before everyone starts to go a little stir crazy in confined quarters. I have no idea how sailors on ships or in submarines do it. I’d lose it, FAST. And settling down in a hotel room at the end of a 10 hour day is not nearly as relaxing as it sounds. “Let’s get a place that has a pool” we said. Thinking that would occupy the kids and give us some relaxation. NOT with a dog it doesn’t. Nothing like parental shift work to ensure four legged baby number four doesn’t get us kicked out with her whining and barking while the three other children have a safe play time in the hotel pool. Bonus of this was a little alone time while the one who stayed in the room gets their turn at the pool solo. You just don’t think of these things when you are playing a road trip.
It wasn’t all bad of course. There is a real element of togetherness that happens when you do something like this. This wasn’t the first time we had picked up, left everything behind a moved on, but this time it was planned. We most definitely pull together as a family when the cards are down and we have a lot laughs and hugs. My kids are champs at making their own fun and keeping each other happy (the odd fight set aside). I’m extremely proud of them for that! It was an amazing experience too to travel across country. The ferry ride being the most amazing part. I think we all thoroughly enjoyed that! We also enjoyed our Bobo the Bigfoot tag along! It gave us a fun way to record our adventures. Canada is beautiful!
I am such a baby when I’m sick! And it seems that it only getting worse as I get older. Or perhaps it’s as my kids get older. It’s almost like the instincts that give me “mommy mode” know that the kids are old enough to entertain themselves for long enough while I nap, or make themselves a snack or get a drink. This was defiantly not the case as little as a couple of years ago. So now that I can be a little less “on guard” I can have my turn at being the big baby because my throat hurts and I can’t swallow, and my nose it stuffed up and now I’m coughing. Oh yeah I forgot the part where everything, even my teeth hurts. Yeah that’s fun. I’m just glade that my hubby accepts my baby like complaining, although he does do his fair share when he is sick.
What I don’t get is WHY I’m sick. I take vitamins like they are going out of style and try to eat healthy, most of the time and I have been more active of late. So what’s with this attack on my immune system????? I sometimes wonder if when you are going along busy with life, something HAS to HAPPEN to throw you a curve ball. Yeah that sounds about right.
The question of what defines us as individuals has been asked by many professionals and individuals alike. For some of us it’s our careers, for others it’s our heritage and for some their baggage. I think for all of us though there is an element of our personalities that we each cling to and derive our self importance from. Something that we perhaps feel we would be remembered for or even revered for. For instance one thing I would personally love to have the privilege of defining myself as is a writer.
For as long as I can remember I have written. Poetry, short stories and blogs. I have this constant narrative of stories in my head but lack the discipline to put them down on paper in completion. Long have I wanted to write and publish a novel. Probably a dream of most writers. But it takes a great deal of discipline and dedication to see that kind of body of work through. Getting closer to 40 and working with people at the end of their time has given me a new sense of living life fully and have therefore made it my goal to change my procrastinating and undisciplined ways. So I began writing a novel.
For the past few months I have been working on one and have even taken the step of making a story board and timeline. I have 8 chapters written and although making the time to write is challenging, I feel better for it. It is as if the action of purging the stories helps make me more sane. Well at least slightly. So I hope to stay more true to my desire and ability to finish at least one novel in my life. Even if it never gets published. Although it would be really nice if it does!
I’m quite sure somewhere along the way someone has told you that being a parent isn’t easy, and well I’m here to confirm it. There is a lot of pressure to get it right. To not screw up your children. To make good people. There is this implication that this is a natural or even simple task, somehow innate to all people who have kids. All you have to do is look around you to know this is far from the case though. Not to be overly judgemental here, but I’d say there are many people out there failing their kids miserably. It’s easy to tell too, who these people are by the lack of boundaries and respect their kids show others. Now before you get on my case here, I know kids will be kids and some kids have self control issues linked more to their medical conditions than their parents’ track record. However, there are kids who just don’t care about being polite, caring or even compliant, because no has taught them that they need to be.
This all comes up for me because I had a sleepover party for my kids this weekend. We had six kids come to our house for about 20 hours. You can observe a lot in 20 hours! Having 9 kids running around the house did not make for a quiet or clean weekend, let me tell you, but it did make for some happy kids. Some not so much. The way people behave when they come to your home is dependent on a lot of things, for instance your relationship with them, their cultural customs, their upbringing and your house rules. I made sure to set out the rules for my kids before anyone came over. In fact I harped on them for several days before to ensure they were listening. Simple requests to keep everyone safe and all things intact. I told my kids that they needed to be the first line people to ensure that their friends followed the rules. I would be their backup, but that they needed to take responsibility for their guests as a good host should. It was also understood that they would be in charge of running the activities for their themed event, with me as a helper not the ring master. I have to say I am very proud of my kids for doing just that. They did everything they could to keep their guests in line. Did it work entirely – no, but the important thing was for them to learn how that kind of responsibility felt and give them the knowledge that they have power over their environment and situation. Now of course there was a personality that was not easily reigned in by rules and in the face of my tiny and endearingly kind daughter this was no fair match. This is where being a parent becomes difficult. There’s a fine line between going all “mamma bear” defending my lair and “sure you can walk all over us in this household” mentality. There is this middle ground of fair mom, but in control. I went for this one. Not easy! There were definitely a few “I need to take some deep breathes” moments, and some “gee I’d like to take this a step further by sending you home” moments, but I tried to remember my goal of cool, go to mom and backed down a notch. My greatest challenge though was not keeping control over the situation, but allowing my kids to take the lead in controlling it. To back off and allow them the freedom of expressing their own judgement and desires, was harder than I thought.
Being a person is hard. You have to manage your health, your emotions, your place in society (whether that’s employment or status), and your relationships. It’s a full time job to be a person! Being a parent means that you have to do all this AND teach another human being how to do all this AND manage letting them try out and discover doing all this. It’s a wonder any of us succeed! Finding that balance where you give your kids the freedom to make their own friends and decisions feels like your walking on the rim of a volcano that might explode at any time. You just don’t ever know for sure how it will work out. So I guess I learned as much as my kids did this weekend about how important it is to keep working on social boundaries and personalities. And I am proud of my kids! They never cease to show me how absolutely wonderful they are!!
Oh and I also learned that from now on, we have one or two people over at a time. Way quieter that way!!
When you’ve decided that change is what you need, figuring out what that looks like is a huge challenge. There are so many things to consider, especially when you have three little kids. We looked at so many things like cost of living, opportunity and what would make us all happiest. The decision was one of the hardest we’ve ever had to make because it meant a complete change. A change of direction in career choice, a change in lifestyle and most importantly of all, a change in province, which ultimately means leaving behind our extended family.
When I was about to turn 5 my parents packed up their lives and moved us across the country to Ontario. It couldn’t have been an easy choice. They left behind all of their families too. In fact as it stands the only family I have in Ontario are my parents, everyone else is still out west. So now I plan to do the same, moving even further east. This isn’t an easy choice. I am after all an only child, so leaving behind my parents is not something I take lightly. But it is also a happy decision for me as I have long wanted to live by the water and after having been to the east coast 12 years ago for our honeymoon we have long wanted to return. It is beautiful and full of opportunity there, so we brave the harsh weather and long distance to make a new and exciting life for ourselves.
This is only half the story though. We are also changing our lifestyle in that both my husband and I are returning to university to complete graduate school. This will be no easy task we know, both of us being in school and working and taking care of kids. Sometimes though you have to take the tough route to get where you need to be, and that’s what we intend on doing. So off to school and off to Newfoundland!
Video games are more popular than even and you’d be hard pressed to find a kid out there who hasn’t played one. There’s a lot of controversy and debate over the worth and problems that arise from our children being raised in a technical world, but honestly I believe it’s like anything else, moderation is key.
In our household we play video games as a family. We take turns with the games we play and in the games themselves. We play against each other and in team work scenarios. I believe that there are worthy lessons to be learned from video games. Here are some of them:
Many games encourage kids to make things or entire worlds, like Minecraft. Sometimes there are boundaries or limits to what they make, but often it is a completely open platform. Some games even allow for kids to make their own games with the system, like Roblox.
Many games involve working with other players either in the same room or over the Internet. It seems noteworthy to point out that learning to work with people you don’t know and are elsewhere is bound to come in handy in our ever evolving world. And yes sports also promote teamwork, but not all kids are good at sports.
3. Reality Check
This one requires a little help from the parents. Giving young people the insight to recognize what is real and what isn’t is a very important lesson. Video games give us this opportunity. To teach our children that these platforms are based in fantasy is a golden opportunity for parents. Just like movies and tv we suspend our beliefs and buy into the fantasy for a short time. Video games allow us a brief moment to dabble in fantasy and knowing this gives kids the power to dechipher their world and the fantasy world.
There are of course downfalls to video games and over exposure is ultimately a bad thing for anyone. The onus is on parents to ensure their children are not over exposed and that the games they play are age appropriate.
As I said before in our house we play as a family. And I have to admit some of these games are ridiculously hard. They take coordination and quick thinking, not really my strong points. I do love the time spent with the kids, no matter how hard the game. And I also love that my kids are always willing to teach mom how to play. Or at least try.