Monday, December 30, 2013

Alarm Clocks - Old and New

I don't remember how old I was when my mom and dad first put an alarm clock in my room. I do remember it was not your run of the mill alarm clock. It was not digital, for starters. It was on my dresser, which was across the room from me, and when it went off in the morning, it buzzed similar to the buzzer at school. Loud. Long. Obnoxious. There was no pulsing like today's digital alarm clocks. Worse, there was no snooze button. So I had to get out of my bed to shut it off, and I couldn't go back to bed. When you think about it, it was quite genius, I suppose. But I had no appreciation for genius back then. 

Some time after that, I graduated to a digital clock, complete with snooze button. I guess you could say the snooze button was my favourite feature. (Isn't it everybody's?) I hated the sound of that clock beeping in the morning so badly. It made me angry. I hated my alarm. Granted, that may have had something to do with me staying up all hours writing stories, until I was completely exhausted. Either way, I wanted to punch it every morning. I think sometimes I did.

Once, I heard about an alarm clock that was shaped like a football. Supposedly, when it went off in the morning, you could spike it on the floor to silence it. That sounded very satisfying to me. On the other hand, I don't know how the snooze would work if the ball was halfway across the room. Or out the window. I don't even know whether there was such a clock, but I liked the idea.

One Christmas or birthday, (I can't remember which), I got a new alarm clock from my mom. I guess my old one was broken. I think I cried. The idea of getting something as a present that I hated so much was nearly unbearable, though it was a nice looking little clock. It was white. 

One time, I remember hearing my alarm in my sleep, only I was dreaming it was a dog that wouldn't stop barking. Bark! Bark! Bark! Bark! Bark! Over and over again. Until I finally understood that it was my alarm clock. 

TV commercials or movies that showed an alarm going, grated on me so badly. They still do. Doesn't everybody hate that sound? It represents being ripped out of sleep before you are ready. Why else would you need an alarm? If you were ready to wake up, your body would just do it. 

I have since found something even more grating than that sound, though it has the same function as an alarm clock. The main difference is that you can't choose what time it goes in the morning, and you can't shut it off. Ever. Kids. Screaming, fighting, playing hockey, laughing loudly, banging doors, letting the dog out at 6 a.m. so he can bark incessantly outside, and let's not forget barging into our room every three minutes to ask for food, tattle on each other, or ask for something they know they are not allowed to have. These are the sounds we wake up to every morning now. I use my alarm clock more as a just-in-case-hell-freezes-over-and-my-kids-don't-wake-me-up-first kind of a deal. The only thing close to a snooze button consists of getting out of bed, leaving the bedroom, storming down the hall and yelling at them to be quiet, before storming back to bed in the vain hopes that sleep will come again. It doesn't. It's all a form of parental denial. I think it's a survival instinct. 

"Just get up before your kids do in the morning." I've heard that one before. People who suggest that don't know just how early my kids are willing to get up in the morning. Once, not that long ago, I actually caught one of them up at 3:30 a.m., playing video games in the basement. Once, one of them was taking slap shots with a hockey stick in the kitchen at 1 a.m. 

Nope. There is no solution but to wait. Until they are all teenagers and none of them want to get up in the morning. Then the tables will be turned. I hope it will be as fun as I imagine it will be. 

Thursday, December 26, 2013

It Has Happened Again.

Have I mentioned before how I feel about Christmas? Don't worry, that was a rhetorical question. I know I have expressed multiple times how little joy there is left in this season for me. I was naive enough this year to believe it might be different. Of course, I was wrong. Two days ago was our Christmas with Mike's family. Yesterday, we had a nice quiet day here at home with our own family. I was even thinking it was one of the nicest ones we have had. My whole family was set to come here this morning for our Christmas celebration. Only at 1 a.m., Cody started throwing up. Sadly, I had not even been able to fall asleep yet at that point. Cody had me up anywhere from every half hour to every fifteen minutes, sometimes more frequently, all night. At one point, I may have gotten 45 minutes of sleep. Then, some time just before 7 a.m., Micah threw up in his bed. I cancelled Christmas. No, not true. I cancelled Christmas for us. Just for this family, who miss Christmas with my family every single year. Jamie has tummy pain, and Lauren's crib had barf in it this morning. And now Mike has it. So in a sense, I'm the last woman standing. If I get it, who will take care of everyone? Who will take care of me? I am running on almost zero sleep. My hands look like elephant skin from all the washing with super hot water and slathering on the hand sanitizer. I still have another mound of laundry to do. Meanwhile, we were supposed to be hosting Christmas for the first time in about six or seven years, and I was in charge of the main course. I have not had a crumb of food today. I'm too scared to eat. I was already emotionally and physically spent from this month of playing nurse after Mike's surgery, as well as trying to run this household singlehandedly. Now, I am simply done. Whether I get it or not, stomach illness has once again destroyed my Christmas, and has been timed perfectly to prevent us from ever celebrating with my family. I truly hate this time of year. I would much rather celebrate the birth of Jesus without all the parties, concerts, buffets, gatherings, presents, trees, financial drain, and complete burnout. I had hoped perhaps my reign as a modern day Scrooge was coming to an end this year, but now it's back in force. If I were single, I would simply boycott Christmas every year from now on. (On the other hand, if I were single, this likely wouldn't happen to me every year.) When will my family ever be able to enjoy Christmas? I want to run away. I want to get the heck out of here. But obviously, I can't. I have to sit here and wait to see whether this "bug", or food poisoning, or whatever it is, will hit me too, and how long it will last in all of us. Sorry for the depressing post, but this is my sad reality right now. I suspect there are other parents who can relate to this saga. However, I wonder how many of them time it exactly right so that the barfing always starts in the wee hours of the morning that we are to see my family. Lauren is coughing in the monitor. I guess I better go see whether I have more laundry to do.

Signing out,
Involuntary Scrooge

Friday, December 20, 2013

Getting Multiple Kids Ready For School in the Morning

If any of you homeschool, or don't have kids, or don't have kids in school yet, you may not know what it looks like in a house with young school-age children on a school morning. I can't tell you how it is for everyone, but I can certainly give you a glimpse into our home. This morning was a particularly perfect example of why it is stressful every single day. Every day is different, because Cody goes to school every day but Jamie only goes every second day. Micah also goes on the days Jamie goes, but he goes at lunch time, so that's another complication.

Today they all have school, for the last time this year, thank goodness. Here's how it went, and how it goes most of the time. First of all, let me say that we put our kids to bed between 7:30-8:00 p.m. Cody is 7 1/2, so we sometimes let him stay up until 8 p.m. or just after. Cody has always been an excellent sleeper, but lately things have been less than ideal. There is a distinct possibility that his bedtime needs to be later, but bear with me and I will tell you my dilemma about going that route. In recent weeks, Cody is awake past 9 p.m. almost every night. Perhaps some parents would take that as a sign that we are putting him to bed too early, but he is still getting up way before 7 p.m. every morning, and sometimes before 6 a.m. If we put him to bed at 9 p.m., he will stay awake even later, and I am 99% certain he would still be up with the birds. (Before the birds?)

Last night was no exception. Cody stayed up late, though he was very sweet so it wasn't too upsetting. But in the morning, they were up early as usual. Today it was Cody and Micah who were up. I don't know when they got out of bed, but it was 6:40 when they woke me up with a fight. Cody was taunting Micah and calling him a baby, which elicited screams and cries of protest, and of course, loud tattling. Jamie was still sleeping, and the poor boy never gets enough sleep because he shares a room with both of his brothers. Lauren was also sleeping, and I was up twice with her between 3-4 a.m. (I look a little like Beetlejuice this morning. Very pretty.)

(This is Beetlejuice, for any of you who don't know who I'm talking about. See? Pretty.)

I had to drag my body out of bed before I was ready and whisper yell at the kids to stop fighting and be quiet. It was completely ineffective, as usual. I went back to bed for a grand total of ten minutes before my alarm went off. I shut it off with a finality that was quite satisfying. I won't have to turn it back on for over two weeks, and even though it's ridiculous, because you know they will still wake me up at the same time every day, I still feel tremendous relief knowing I will have at least a tiny bit of freedom to ignore them in the morning. Until they wake Lauren up. Then I will have to get out of bed. Sigh.

At 7 a.m. I got Jamie and Cody to the table and got them their breakfast. It is the same every day. Jamie has oatmeal, the "juicier" the better. (He likes it really runny. He calls it "doocie", but don't worry, he doesn't need speech therapy. It's a term of endearment.) Cody has mini-wheats. We used to call those "beetle-wheats", because that's how Micah pronounced it, but sadly that term has died out. I am thinking of resurrecting it. Every day, Jamie cleans his bowl right out and clears his dishes. Every day, Cody pours way too much cereal and way too much milk in his bowl and wastes a ton of it. And doesn't clear his dishes. Usually that tells me he stole a bowl of ice cream or some other forbidden treat before I got up in the morning. Today he insisted, loudly, that he didn't steal anything. Whatever. He ate almost nothing and insisted he was full. I got him some clothes and told him to get dressed. Jamie was also getting dressed. Before he had a stitch of clothing on, Cody suddenly got violently hungry and made us all aware of it. He threw a fit about how hungry he was and how he wanted a granola bar. I told him no, he could eat his mini-wheats if he was hungry. A small battle ensued. I just love battles in the morning when Lauren is sleeping. Mike was also sleeping, so the noise was doubly effective. 

To get kids dressed on time for school, it is essential that you act like a complete crazy person. (See photo above.) You have to say, "Hurry! You're going to miss the bus! I'm not driving you! You will miss your Christmas party!" (or whatever is happening that day), at least eight thousand times. You have to do this in the tone of a yell, but at the decibel level of a whisper, if you're lucky enough to have another child or family member who is sleeping...particularly if their waking up will make more work for you. 

Once the boys were finally in their clothes, I had to intensify my prodding to get them in their winter clothes. We are in Manitoba, for those who don't know, and we are also in the middle of a deep freeze. Going to the bus is a complicated affair. Ski pants, parkas, toques (winter hats), scarves, mitts, and winter boots must be worn. It takes a while for a 5 year old and a 7 year old to put all that on. So I wave my arms a lot and issue a lot of threats. Once they are dressed, I get my stuff on and we fly out the door. 

Maybe I should mention that at some point during this process, our dog Radar starts to act like he is having a complete mental breakdown. When we are at the door, he knows we are going outside, so he begins whining loudly and spinning in circles. Radar probably weighs close to 90 pounds, so this is not a graceful process. It is loud and ridiculous, and it infuriates me every day. The worst part is, I can't put him outside or he immediately begins barking as loudly as he can. He pretends there is a whole herd of deer on the lawn, or perhaps a coyote right on the deck, but in truth it's just a ploy to get us to let him back into the house because he hates the cold too. Wimp. Radar also hate his leash, but I hate going to the bus with him loose because he just runs away from me and leaves me in the dark to fend for myself. So I put the leash on before we go outside. That triggers a complete psychotic break, sometimes for both of us. Today I said no to the dog. I left him in the house.

If we don't leave the house at exactly 7:25 a.m., we will not make it to the bus on time. (It arrives at 7:30.) If you follow this blog or know me, you know we live in the country, and we have a long driveway. Not a mile long or anything, just long. We can't just step out the door and walk right onto the bus. As I mentioned yesterday, it's a good five minute walk, especially in the snow, and it is also done in the dark at this time of year. Today, when we were all ready to leave the house, it was already 7:27 a.m. Or was it 7:28? I can't remember now. All I know is that I knew we would never make it to the bus on time if we walked. So I decided we'd drive. I hate doing it, but today it was necessary. I got the boys in the van and started it. Painfully. We started to back up, which was really fun because the windows were frosty and it was pitch black outside. I couldn't see a thing. Then I looked in front of me instead to make sure I was going in a straight line. That was when I saw that I was still plugged in. I put it in park and ran out to unplug it. 

Then things got really fun. The plug was frozen, so I had to really fight with it. At that point, Cody started to panic and was screaming "We're not going to make it! It's 7:30!" ...etc. Seriously, he was having a complete meltdown, like we were all about to die. I had to yell at him to stop it, which likely scared away all the wildlife that had until then been secretly stalking me from the bush. I got the van unplugged and ran back to my door and got in. Then I tried to put it in reverse again and nothing happened. What the heck?? I tried with all my might and could not jam it out of park. I was seriously stressed by that point, and it was especially fun to have Cody almost in tears, still panicking in a very verbal way. I had to turn the van off and start it again, which is really great for it in these ridiculous temperatures. (Right now it is -31 C with the windchill, which is -23.8 F, for those of you in the States. I'm sure it was colder then.) Restarting my van didn't work. Maybe I have been spending too much time on my laptop. In the end, I forced it into gear somewhat violently, praying I was not about to break the van beyond repair. Then I did the blind back up, including a turn so I could face forwards. Of course the bus was there by then, waiting. I could see the lights flashing through the trees. Fortunately, she could also see our van lights, so she waited. 

We made it, albeit a couple of minutes late. Then I drove back and parked by the house again, and got out to plug the van back in so it would be ready to go out at lunch time when I will drop Micah off at school for the afternoon. Only I was parked on top of the cord. These are the kinds of days I really want to go back to bed. I had to start the van a third time and move it forward so I would get off the cord and plug it back in. 

This is a typical morning in this house, except normally I would have been making two lunches (or one, depending on the day) at the same time. Sometimes things are more complicated, like when Lauren does get woken up before I leave for the bus. Then I have to decide whether to ignore her so I can deal with the boys, or whether to be nice to her and completely blow everything else. 

I guess you could say we ended the 2013 school year with a bang, at least as far as the morning went. It could have been worse. We could have missed the bus. I could have broken the van. Somebody could have barfed. Yes, today was a success. So far, anyway. And now Lauren is up, and somewhat ready to face her day. Today will be our last afternoon with just a sleeping baby at home. Then, bring on the chaos! And hopefully the fun. I will try to be more consistent with my posts. Happy Friday, everyone.


Thursday, December 19, 2013

The End of School For 2013

This morning, I made my last school lunch for 2013. Tomorrow, all three of my boys have school, but they get a free hot dog lunch, which means all I have to do is throw a granola bar in Jamie's bag for his morning snack. Well, that and make sure Jamie and Cody are both eating breakfast by 7 a.m. and dressed by 7:15, and putting on their winter clothing by 7:20, and out the door by 7:25 so they can get on the bus at 7:30. Once they are on that bus, I breathe a sigh of relief and then trek back down our long driveway in the dark, and the freezing cold. In truth, the walk kind of refreshes me, though at times I do let my mind imagine what kinds of creatures are watching me from the surrounding trees. Radar is a bit of a freak and getting a leash on him is a battle I don't always want to fight. This morning I didn't bother. Even though he was terribly excited about the walk, all he did was run way ahead of us to the bus, and as soon as the boys were on the bus, he ran all the way home without me. I saw his shadow disappear into the darkness beyond me and I couldn't help but be aware of my complete lack of protection against predators. Not that our bush is crawling with scary beasts, but we do have an awful lot of coyotes, and occasionally a bear. And as lame as this may sound, we did have a bull elk this year. I know they are just herbivores, but apparently they are quite vicious and dangerous at this time of year. Or maybe that's just in the fall. Either way, he is likely long gone by now, but I still don't want to run into him in the dark with no dog to protect me. I would also prefer not to run into a skunk.

Anyway, tomorrow is the last day of school and then we are on Christmas break. I don't know whether to be relieved or more stressed out. Funny, when they are in school I have a break from them at times, but on those days, I also have to set my alarm, sign all kinds of papers, make lunches, put money in their bags to pay for various hot lunches, make sure they have their show and tell items, get them dressed in clean clothes without any holes in them, and of course, rush them to the bus on time. When they are home, I have to deal with fighting, and way more chaos, which stresses me out in the afternoons when Lauren is sleeping. Normally, I'd be thrilled at this time because it would be Mike's last day before holidays too. But this year, he has already been home for almost two weeks, so it's a little different. We are surviving, by the way. We even fixed the toilet together, so now it flushes again.

My next big project is to clean this house from top to bottom so we are ready to host my side of the family for Christmas this year. Cleaning is not my forte, (Pretend there's an accent on that "e"), so it will be quite interesting. Normally, I would enlist Mike's help in a big way, but this year it's all on me. It has been difficult. We had a large dump of snow yesterday, and I had to shovel our whole deck. No biggie, right? Well...our deck is more than half the square footage of our house, so it is in fact quite a biggie. On top of that, I had only shovelled a path previously to each door and each set of stairs. Yesterday, Mike informed me that it would not be good to leave all that heavy snow on the deck all winter, so I had to do the whole thing. I am very sore today. (We're talking over 1000 square feet, which I suppose is not that much bigger than a driveway, but somehow it was worse because when I got to the edges, I had to lift the snow over our railing, which has to be about four feet high. It was not a fun job, and it looks like it's mine for the rest of the winter. Maybe I will get some muscles. I'll let you know.

Anyway, I'm currently having some time to myself, and pretending that Cody is not still awake and popping out here every five minutes with various excuses. Time to work on my book for a while. Goodnight everyone.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Day four post-surgery

It's Friday morning and I'm sitting alone in my living room with my Christmas tree, in the semi-dark, watching the snow come down outside. Cody and Jamie made it (barely) to the school bus this morning, so I won't see them until much later. Down the hall, Lauren is sleeping in her crib, and Mike is sleeping in his bed. He had is surgery on Monday, and will be home until the new year. His presence here is similar to that of a ghost I can see. He is here, but he is not here. I am doing a variation on single motherhood, and I'm not sure whether I can say it's going well. Within 24 hours of Mike's surgery, I had an epic battle with one of my kids. In his anger, he punched the toilet flusher very hard, and hurt himself pretty good. I didn't feel sorry for him, because, well...duh. Obviously if you punch something inanimate that is rock hard, you are going to feel some pain. Secretly, I was kind of glad it hurt because I was hoping it would teach him a lesson. What I did not anticipate was that he broke the toilet. Yep. Mike was home one day and already things were a disaster.

I used to fancy myself as somewhat mechanical. I liked taking things apart to fix them. You know, things like vacuums. Well, that has ended ever since my vacuum incident last November, but even after four kids, I do still have a brain in my head and I don't mind trying to figure things out. But this was a toilet. Can I just say, this is not a traditional toilet with a traditional flusher. This is one of those duo-flush ones that save water, or the environment, or whatever. I took the lid off the toilet tank and messed with it a bit, but seriously, I had no clue where to start. And it's a little difficult to take something apart when it's sitting in a tank full of water. Black water, incidentally. Not completely black, but it looks like it's full of coffee grounds. Mike assures me that is normal for our water, but I'm not convinced. Either way, I actually did put my hands in that water and mess around with the hardware in there, but in the end I was afraid I might make things even worse. In a normal toilet, I know how to stop it from overflowing if the situation requires, but in this one I had no idea, so I didn't want to risk doing something that might make that happen. So I got an ice cream pail and it now sits in the bathtub. No, no, no! We are not going to use that as a toilet. It's for flushing. You know, you fill it with water and dump it down the toilet. Lots of fun. It takes about three pail-dumpings to properly flush this environmentally friendly toilet, and every time I do it I feel angry. But last night I got the brilliant idea that the offending child should be the one doing the flushing. I was afraid to do that at first, in case the pail dumping got out of hand and I had a worse mess to deal with. But last night I taught him how to do it and now he is the resident toilet-flusher. Except when he is at school. Which brings me to today. 

Micah is here, in the basement watching TV, actually, and he is sick. Stomach sick. Seriously, could the timing be worse? He has not thrown up yet, but there is plenty of other action, if you know what I mean. And now I'm the resident flusher. I also have a migraine and can hardly see the computer screen as I type this. Good times. How am I going to make it through a round of stomach sickness with no flushing toilet in the boys' bathroom? I would like very much to crawl into bed and sleep through all this. But Lauren is now awake, so I'm back on duty. Bye for now.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

School Christmas Concerts and other Christmas events...

I have made no secret in here of my dislike of the Christmas season over the past several years. I have even referred to myself as a Scrooge, of sorts. Sure, I used to love Christmas, and I still believe with all my heart in the one we celebrate on December 25th...and that is Jesus, not Santa Claus, for anyone who was wondering.

However, my recent years have consistently brought with them a new kind of Christmas tradition, and that is sickness. I have learned to dread any kind of Christmas event that involves being around other people. We have had one such event this year, and that was an extended family Christmas celebration, which took place on Sunday. I tried, as usual, not to think about the buffet-style meal, and all the kids who would likely have their hands on everything. I tried to have a good attitude about it, even as all four of our kids cried on the way home from sheer exhaustion. (The event was three hours from home.) But wouldn't you know it, the sickness has already erupted, even though we missed the event the following evening. This time, the victim (so far) is Lauren, my smallest and most vulnerable child. I knew something was wrong on Tuesday when she slept in until almost 10 a.m., and then some rather unseemly diaper events confirmed my suspicion that something was wrong. This morning she slept until 10:40 a.m. and woke up in a crib full of barf. My poor little one year old.

As a result of her sickness, I missed the boys' school Christmas concert this afternoon. Yes, this is a big week for us, with two nights of hockey and a Christmas concert, and Mike's surgery coming up on Monday morning, and now I am very worried about how we are going to get through it all. My poor little sweetie is sleeping peacefully in her crib right now, and I feel horrible for her. She can't really talk that much, so she can't tell me how she is feeling. I have no idea whether she feels better or not, and technically I can't say for sure whether she has a bug or whether she ingested some kind of bacteria, as babies her age easily can. But my boys are all overtired, and I don't want them vulnerable to sickness. Tonight they have their second round of the concert (Mike will be going, so I will be here with Lauren), and tomorrow night they have hockey. I am praying that Mike and I will not get sick, because if he does, he will likely miss his surgery and have to postpone until who knows when, and if I get sick, who will take care of him and the kids after his surgery?

These are the things I hate about December. No more warm fuzzies for me when I see twinkling Christmas lights. No more excitement to put up the tree. Not even any romantic dreamy feeling when Christmas carols play. Maybe some day when my kids are older, I will enjoy this season once again. For now, dread has settled over me. I hope things won't get too bad this year, but we are not off to a very good start. And my three boys just got home, so I'm off for now.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Death To Appliances

This morning I killed the vacuum. I like to kill appliances. I'm good at it. (My iPhone also died this morning. Isn't that wonderful?) You know I burned the dishwasher last week. Well, today I burned the vacuum. I'm not sure what happened, exactly. In a fit of inspiration, I cleaned the living room this morning. That involved a lot of garbage collecting, and dispersing a wide variety of toys to their various homes. When I was done, I connected the vacuum. (We have central vac.) It occurred to me that I couldn't remember the last time I had used it. Hm. Anyway, I vacuumed the whole living room floor, and even pulled out the couch and vacuumed under and behind it. Oh what treasures I found there. And then the vacuum made a strange sound. It kept running, but something sounded wrong. So I did what anyone would do: I shrugged and continued vacuuming. It soon became apparent that it was not functioning properly, so I figured I would quit while I was ahead. I took it apart and hung it back in our broom closet.

That's when I noticed the smell. I am very familiar with the smell of burning rubber. No, I am not a wild driver, nor am I in the habit of lighting tires on fire. But burning rubber with a vacuum? That I am very experienced in. Back in the day, I would have gotten out the tools and taken the beater bar apart and fixed the issue, no doubt with the belt. But today I decided to just close the closet door and ignore the problem. The next person who needs the vacuum will be stuck dealing with my disaster. (Oh wait, nobody vacuums except for me. Dang.) Besides that, the last time I did that, I ended up hurting myself and passing out on top of the vacuum, right in front of my terrified three year old. Nope. Not gonna do that again. 

So now I have a clean living room but a very messy kitchen. Seeing our house is very open concept, I like to alternate between having a clean kitchen and a clean living room. It adds a nice contrast with the rooms so visible to each other. 

Anyway, I guess it's time to go continue with my laundry. At least I can pretend to be keeping up there. Bye for now.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Things I Do When My Kids Are Not Home

My boys are all at school this afternoon, and Lauren is sleeping. On days like this, I am faced with deciding between about a million options for how to spend my time. 1 - There's the obvious: clean the house. Yes, that would be a good one, but it's so quiet in here, I just don't want to run the vacuum! 2 - I could do some writing. Sometimes I do, and especially lately. I have written about three chapters in my book this month, and that is pretty impressive for me. (Or is that two? I can't even remember.) 3 - I could work out. Ah, yes. The ever elusive workout. For a while, I was doing that every afternoon while Lauren napped. Then I hurt my back and got out of the habit for a week, and since then I have not gotten it together again. 4 - I could nap. Napping is good. Napping is very good, but then when the boys get home I have not accomplished anything, and it's so hard to wake up.

Today, I did something I never do during the day. I made my lunch after I put Lauren down, and I watched Netflix. (GASP!!!) Just one show, but still. Not a proud house-mom moment for me. That was my 45 minute break today. Then I did a second thing I have never done before. I decided to try this solution that is circulating on Facebook and various other places online, for melting the ice off your sidewalk. The recipe is 1/2 teaspoon of Dawn dish detergent (sick, now that I think of it, I'm pretty sure I used 1 teaspoon. Wait, maybe the recipe called for one teaspoon...), 1 tablespoon of rubbing alcohol, and 8 cups of hot water. I decided to go the extra mile and boil the water. I read many reviews online that said this would not work, because it WOULD refreeze, despite the claims that it doesn't. Well, I tried it, and here are my conclusions so far:

1 - The ice on our deck is way too thick for this method to be effective. I poured the pot out over one bad corner of ice, and the top portion did get slushy enough for me to scrape it off with a giant shovel, but there is still at least an inch of ice under it, and I just don't know how many pots of boiling water/detergent/alcohol it would take to melt it down to the wood.

2 - Our deck is way too big for this method. Seriously, our deck is over 1000 square feet, which is crazy, but anyway I do not have time to get to that much ice. Of course, the ice is only really bad in certain parts, but those are the spots we need to walk on.

I guess it's safe to say, that project was a bust. If anyone else has tried it, let me know what your success/failure level was.

After that, my exciting afternoon consisted of doing dishes, (and I'm happy to say the stench in our dishwasher, though not completely gone, is improving daily), sweeping the disastrous kitchen floor, and trying to scrape the glued-on rice krispie mess from the top of the table. Yesterday the boys dumped mass amounts of Rice Krispies on the table and poured water over them. It took several hours before I was able to force them to clean up the mess, but even still they couldn't get all of it off, hence the job was deferred to me. Now, I have soaking wet paper towels plastered all over the table in hopes the cereal will get soggy enough to wipe off. Good times.

And now, I have approximately between two and twelve minutes before my three boys walk in the door and the quiet turns back to chaos, so I am going to try to accomplish a couple more chores first. Happy Tuesday, everyone.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

The Gong Show

Some days are just ridiculous. Today is one of them. I mean, I have had worse days by far, but this one classifies as a bit of a gong show. (On a brief aside, I once played a gong solo in an orchestra. Nope, that's wrong. It was just a band, not an orchestra, but still, it was spectacular. Remind me to describe it to you some time. Perhaps tomorrow.) No, today is the kind of day when odd things assemble to complicate life in weird ways.

When you have four children, life is always complicated, so extra complications are not welcome. This morning I was getting Cody and Jamie ready for school and Jamie complained of a tummy ache. You know how I get about any stomach-related illness, so you will not be surprised to hear that I was a little stressed out about this. Jamie has not really been his best self lately, and every day I am waiting for the sickness to manifest itself, but so far he is still okay. Ish. Either way, this morning I was concerned about him because he is so overtired and I had to wake him up to get him his breakfast, so when he told me he wasn't feeling well, I decided to keep him home.

Wouldn't you know it, within about half an hour of the bus taking Cody away, Jamie felt just fine, though he was afraid to admit it lest I haul him off to school. He kept saying his stomach didn't hurt anymore, but it did hurt still. (Basically, he wanted to play with Micah, and he felt fine to do so, but didn't want me thinking he felt too fine, so he pretended his stomach still hurt. Trust me, I know when he is pretending.)

And seeing this is a long story, let me try to sum it up here. I was supposed to pick up these bags of vegetables at the school today (part of a fundraiser) to deliver to the people who bought them from our boys, but I was told they would not be ready until after 1 p.m. That's fine, except that I drop off Micah at 12:20, (and today, Jamie too), and I didn't want to make two trips. So I had to decide whether to get the vegetables at 1 and drop them off late for school, or to come back at 3 p.m. and get the kids and the produce at the same time, and tell the bus driver they would come home with me today. It turned out I was allowed to pick up the veggies at lunch time when I dropped off the boys, so away we went.

Oh, and I forgot to mention that as we were getting ready to leave, I noticed a smell in the kitchen. When I say "a smell", I mean I began checking diaper situations, cat litter situations, garbage situations...you get the idea. My nose is not functioning properly lately, due to sinus problems, so I could not figure out where it was coming from, but I knew it was bad when the boys started to comment on it too. (Smells don't bother them.) I didn't have time to properly investigate, so we left.

In my brilliance, I left early and went the opposite direction to the town where we pick up our mail. I knew it was closed over lunch, but that's only important if you are getting a package, which we were not. Only there was a package card in my box. That meant I would have to return to the post office later. Fun.

Next dilemma, how do I carry six 9 pound bags of veggies out to the van and carry Lauren at the same time? I hauled all three kids into the school, to the kindergarten room. Dropped off the two boys, then took Lauren back outside to the van. (Did I mention you have to take your outdoor shoes off every time you go in the school?) I strapped Lauren in and left her there alone, which I hate doing, but the door was right there, and the veggies were very close to it. I ran back in, cheated and didn't take my boots off, and grabbed all six bags of vegetables. Thankfully, a teacher saw me and helped me carry them out, though I could have done it. (It wasn't that bad, really. Mainly very awkward.)

I had to go to the passenger door and unlock the van with my key, because as you know, my boys buried our old set in the sand somewhere two years ago, so I now have no keyless remote entry system. Thanks, boys. Then we went around to the hatch, which was thoroughly frozen shut. Fabulous. I ended up having to stack them on the front passenger seat. The sliding door on the passenger side is also frozen shut, and also has no door handle, so that is also fun.

Then, I went back past our road and delivered five bags of vegetables to some family members who ordered them. I was not thrilled, because our frozen van doors had opened just enough to set the alarm off and it beeped like the alarm clock from you-know-where for the whole ten or fifteen minutes we drove. Lauren was not happy, as I left her in the van at both stops. (Don't worry, it was running, and it is in the country so nobody was there to steal my van and my baby with it.) Then, I went back to the mail and picked up my mystery package.

We headed home at that point, and the alarm stopped because I did a quick run around the van and "bummed" each door. I must have closed whichever one was the problem. When we arrived home, the smell in the house assaulted me like an invisible tsunami. I wondered whether we were going to need a CSI unit in here. It was now impossible to determine where the smell was coming from, because it was permeating the entire upstairs. Permeating sounds too pleasant. Honestly, I am at a loss for words. I put Lauren to bed, and returned to the kitchen. I figured out that the smell is coming from the dishwasher. Well, that does explain why it came on so suddenly. Aside from the rotting carcass scent, it also has a distinct burning smell. So much for my clean dishes. Did I mention this is a brand new dishwasher? I can't see anything burnt or melted inside of it, but it reeks. Oh how it reeks.

Now, Lauren is sleeping cozily in her room, but I am freezing my hands, feet, nose and everything in between, because I have all the windows open to get rid of the smell. It is -11 C here. That's not as bad as it could be. At least it's not -45, and January. But it is unpleasant all the same. And I don't know what to do about the dishwasher. Wow, it's cold in here. I don't know how long I will last like this. The heat is on, but it's not enough. The temperature is now at 66 F in here, and dropping steadily.  I guess I just have to decide what's worse: my house smelling like a coroner's workspace? Or my house feeling like a glorified igloo? Right now, I get both! GONG!


Thursday, November 14, 2013

Gloomy weather, grouchy kids.

Today is the kind of mommy day I wouldn't mind skipping. This has been a week of very poor sleeps, for a variety of reasons, and last night was no exception. It was 11:45 p.m. and I had been sleeping for maybe half an hour when the sleep interruption hit. It was one of those change-the-bedding-in-the-middle-of-the-night situations. (Rare around here, thankfully.) It woke Lauren up, and then for reasons beyond my comprehension, I could not fall asleep again.

The details of my sleep are unimportant, but I can tell you today I am not at my most tolerant, nor at my cheeriest. I thought I could cover that up without too much difficulty, but then when Jamie and Micah got up and began their day with extreme whining and crying over absolutely everything, I knew there was going to be trouble. Lauren is a bag today, and that is extremely unusual for her. She always wakes up happy and she is sweet all day. Today, she is crying every few minutes, over every little thing. She wants to be held. She wants to be put down. She wants to be held. She wants to be put down. Earlier, I was sitting on the floor with her, and she was hugging me, when I noticed streaks of blood all around my arm. It was shortly after she hit me in the face, also unusual, and I wondered for a moment whether I was bleeding. But no, it was her. Her hand was bleeding and her outfit, which I had just put on her, had blood all over the shirt and pants, and even a little on her socks. Even her adorable stuffed puppy had blood on it. I don't know what happened to her. I washed her hand and there was a very small cut, which appears fine now. Then I had to wash the blood off of my arm and hand.

Even the dog was a jerk this morning, and he's the best dog ever. Mike was going to drive Cody to the bus this morning on his way to work, but I decided I wanted to walk him because I wanted the fresh air and it was +1 C, not that common in November in Manitoba. So I grabbed the leash. I have mentioned it before, but our driveway is somewhat long, and surrounded by forest, and full of creatures, so when walking down it in the dark, or near dark, I like to have Radar on a leash. That way, if something comes after me, he can't be a chicken and run away. Well, Radar doesn't like his leash. In fact, it used to be a fight every time I tried to put his collar on, so about a month ago I decided he could just keep his collar on all the time and I would just snap the leash on and off. Once the leash is on, he is fine. He just has psychological issues about putting it on. I think he needs doggy therapy. So this morning Cody and I went outside and I called Radar, who saw the leash and was already acting like a psycho, and I began the process of snapping the leash to the collar. Seriously, it probably took two solid minutes of fighting with him, which doesn't sound like much, but it should have taken literally ONE SECOND. Yes. Today, Radar was particularly rude about it, and he actually lashed out and scratched me in the face with one of his paws. He has never done that before. Radar is a big dog, a German Shepherd (mostly), and he hit me really hard. It hurt, and to add insult to injury, he covered my face in sand, which got in my eye.

So it's intermittently raining and snowing, I am washing bedding full of pee, and the bedding was put inside the CLEAN laundry basket last night, so now all the clean clothes that I folded yesterday (and obviously, forgot to put away) have to be rewashed. My house is supremely disastrous, and it's the kind of day I wish I could just crawl back into bed and go to sleep. But I have three kids here, which means that even when Lauren naps this afternoon, I will have to be on high alert.

And now, it is time for us to brave the elements and drive to the post office to pick up the mail. My Mary Kay order is supposed to be in, and it better be. Lately, the mail has been slow, and it's frustrating. Radar will likely beg to come along for the drive, but my answer will be a resounding NO. Ha! In your face, Radar. That'll teach you to be so dumb about your leash.

Except it won't teach him anything. He will just look sad as I drive away. And I will have a brief moment of satisfaction, followed by pity. Poor doggy. He's so cute.

I better go face the rest of my day. On a brighter note, I get to say hello to my horse tonight, as I am going to my sister's place later. I miss Maybelline. I will take her a carrot and rub her furry face, and tomorrow will be a better day. My boys are ready and I'm not, so time to sign off.

Friday, October 18, 2013

What does it take to be a good housewife? I'm not necessarily talking about the role of a wife. I'm talking about the job of a housewife. As a job, it entails certain duties, which vary from person to person. For example, some housewives have kids, some do not. A "house mom" has a whole new set of duties to perform, so in essence, she is working two jobs at once. Aside from taking care of the kids, the housewife's most important function is to keep the house clean, isn't it? That is my perception, anyway.

That being said, if I were being paid to do this job, I would be fired. Don't get me wrong, I absolutely rock the rest of my housewife duties, but the cleaning...well, I just don't seem to be any good at it. Come to think of it, the cooking is also a serious lack in my housewife resume. That leaves...well...I'm especially good at laundry. Really, I am. In the last 48 hours, I have done seven loads of laundry. Maybe more, but I can only remember seven for sure. And I made supper last night. Yay me.

Here's where I have a big problem. My dishwasher died. As of yesterday morning, my dishwasher became useless, other than to pose as a very spacious and convenient dish rack. That means every dish that we use will have to be washed by hand. This is a problem for me. I don't really hand wash dishes...ever. Okay, that's not true. I do, but only the ones that absolutely are not dishwasher safe. Now, I have to hand wash everything. That means I will be spending way more time doing dishes than I normally do, and normally I have a hard time keeping up with the dishes. It also means my hands are going to crack and bleed. No, I don't have any rubber gloves in the house, believe it or not.

Maybe I never mentioned it in here, but I spent six weeks in a laundry slump because our washing machine was broken. That was finally fixed about a week ago and now my dishwasher is gone. This is a housewife disaster. What if the dishes stack up in the kitchen until we have nothing left to eat off of? What if I get fired? Too dramatic? Maybe. I probably won't get fired, and I won't let the dishes stack up that high, but I am not looking forward to facing this particular challenge. Yesterday I kept up, until supper time, but Lauren spent much of my dishwashing time crying by my legs. And she is now crying again. She just woke up. Guess it's time to get things started. I would say thank goodness it's Friday, but Fridays are the same as any other day around here. The weekend will not magically produce a functioning dishwasher in my kitchen. In fact, it will produce more dishes, because all six of us will be here all day. I think they should invent a new reality TV show. I can be called Housewife Survivor.  I would be the first to be voted off the island. Or the island counter. Happy Friday, everyone.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Adventures on Horseback

My dreaded day last Friday was not as bad as I had anticipated. Jamie was only sick for a few hours in the morning, and had only the one incident, so there was no cleanup involved at all, and nobody else caught it. I consider all of those things miracles, and I am extremely grateful. We were able to go to my family's Thanksgiving celebration after all, and we even hit Mike's family's Thanksgiving on our way home that same day. All in all, it was a good long weekend, and ended with another trail ride on Maybelline on Monday.

Did I mention I have been riding Maybelline on the trail these last several weeks? Honestly, I have become addicted to riding her, and I often even dream about her because I am enjoying it so much. Our last ride, however, was a little more eventful than I like. We came across some water on the trail. One of us, whose name shall remain anonymous, decided we should go through the water. No big deal, and it would be good for the horses. For those of you who don't ride, or have very little horse experience, a lot of horses object to going through water on the trail, particularly when they are not used to doing so. Me being a chicken, I had no desire to push Maybelline through a potentially scary situation, though I have been getting braver in that respect. Pushing a horse into something that scares them can cause them to react, and a reaction was what I hoped to avoid. I didn't know what Maybelline would do, though I suspected she might put on the brakes, or go backwards, or even buck if I tried to force her in. But I confess, I also had my own personal reservations about entering the water. The black lab that was with us was up to his belly in the water, and I secretly suspected it was far deeper than we realized. However, I was not in the lead.

Our fearless leader forged ahead, and I followed closely behind. Maybelline was tentative, but willing, and she began stepping through the water at the edge of what I now call "the swamp". There was much splashing, and a terrible sucking sound as she pulled each hoof out of the deep mud under the water with each step we took. Within seconds, we were in well over her knees and I was getting scared. Every step was a huge effort, and her body was struggling quite violently to progress. By now, we all knew we were in trouble, but it was too late to turn back. Maybelline was in past her belly, and I had abandoned all hope of steering her, or directing her in any way. I gripped the saddle horn with both hands and hoped she wouldn't dump me in the swamp as she tried to thrust her body forward to get unstuck. After a while, I couldn't get her to move at all. My feet were in the water, and I was terrified we were going to sink in there, never to be seen again.

I was very close to the edge when my other sister (okay, I was with my two sisters, but I still won't name names!) called out that her horse was stuck. I turned around, and then I was really scared. She was riding the biggest of the three horses, and her horse was stuck indeed. She was up to her chest in the water and it was apparent by the angle of her body that at least one of her legs had buckled underneath her and she was partly laying down. My poor sister had to dismount in the water. Did I mention it was quite cold that day? I was wearing a winter jacket, and the sun stubbornly refused to shine.

After Maybelline had caught her breath and rested for a while, still stuck, I urged her on and was able to steer her out of the bog to safety on the other side. I was the only one out at that point. I was nearly in tears, thinking poor Phoenix was going to die in the muck. Has anyone seen the movie "The Neverending Story"? Well, if you haven't, there is a scene where a horse dies in a horrible swamp, and sinks right down into the water. That was all I could think about when I saw Phoenix, unmoving in the deep water.


Of course, Phoenix was not in this deep. More than half of her torso was out of the water, I think, but it was scary nonetheless. Maybelline was shaking, on the other side, and wanted to start walking away from that place. I let her a little, but didn't go too far. Before long, both of my sisters and their horses were safe on solid ground again. Phew! It was very dramatic and scary, though we did laugh about it quite a bit afterward. None of us were in mortal danger, but we felt bad for the poor horses. They all did very well though, and none of them panicked, even when they were badly stuck. 

It is looking like that was probably my last ride of the season, as the weather is turning, and my sister is too pregnant to realistically continue much longer anyway. It has been a great summer and fall for riding and horsing around, and I am kind of dreading the next several months of not riding at all. Next year, I will start much earlier, and hopefully will get in more time on the trails. We only did six trail rides this year, but we did a ton of ring work and ground work, and Maybelline and I have developed the beginning of a real partnership. I couldn't be happier about it! 

And now, I am going to try to enjoy a quiet evening by myself. Mike is out tonight. I am far from alone, with all four kids "sleeping" in their rooms (I really hope they are all sleeping by now) and even one cat and one dog in the house. I hope the evening and the night will be quiet ones, as there has been a lot of unrest lately. Lauren has a bad cold and got two molars last week, and the boys have all had nightmares, for some reason, so my sleeps have been pretty pathetic and I am feeling it very strongly. So I'm off to relax, hopefully. Bye for now.

Friday, October 11, 2013

The Dreaded Day

This is the kind of day I dread. In fact, I have been dreading this day for longer than I can calculate, though I suspect it has been well over a year. This morning, Jamie threw up. Anyone who knows me, knows that I have an extreme (and irrational) fear of throwing up, and of my kids getting stomach bugs.   When I was pregnant with Lauren, my fear was especially big, because I was so afraid of losing her. We were exposed to many stomach bugs, and one in particular was extremely bad. But by some miracle, I didn't get sick. In fact, none of us did. And now, it has finally caught up to us. Oddly, I am not in a state of panic, like I normally would be under these circumstances. I truly hope and pray that this will not spread to the rest of the family. I am particularly worried about Lauren, being so small still, and about myself, because if I get sick I can't take care of Lauren. (The boys would survive a day with me in bed, though they would likely wreck the house.)

To add to the mood, it is storming outside. Lightning, loud thunder, and torrential downpours. It is dark outside, and I have all the lights on in here. Still, my mood is surprisingly upbeat. This makes me very thankful. It does look like we will be missing our family Thanksgiving, though, which is disappointing. At least it is Friday, so Mike will be home later and I don't have to face a week of this by myself. Micah is insisting on playing with Jamie in their room, so he is somewhat doomed. Jamie is obviously not feeling too terrible. Another plus.

If not for the sickness, I would actually be enjoying this gloomy weather quite thoroughly. I am loving the thunder. And it feels nice and cozy in the house. Hopefully we will not lose power today. I don't have much else to update in here. Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

To the Brink...and Beyond!!!

When long periods of time pass without a post in this blog, you can count on one of two things. Either I  am very busy, or my boys are very busy. Everybody is busy in this corner of the world. That is a known fact. Yes, I have even been spending a great deal of time riding Maybelline, which has been amazing. For three months now I have been out there on average twice a week, which may not sound like much. But with a 40 minute drive each way, and four kids to leave behind every time, it is amazing that I have been able to do that. I have now ridden Maybelline out on the trail five times, and it has been wonderful. There is nothing in the world like riding your horse through the fields and the golden forests in the fall. Nothing. So I am incredibly grateful for that blessing in my life. I could write a ton just about that, but I have only a short time left before all three boys spill off the school bus and explode into this quiet house.

Busyness, at times, does keep me from this blog. But the second reason is more often the culprit. When I mentioned my boys being busy, I didn't mean with activities or school. I was talking about their specialty, which is mischief. That word just doesn't pack enough of a punch to really describe what I am talking about, but if you have followed my blog for long enough, you know my boys go beyond ordinary trouble. I am at a complete loss for words to describe the level of...well...you see? There isn't even a word for it. Let's just say that I often really feel like I am losing my mind. When the boys get into extra deep trouble, sometimes I can't bring myself to blog about it because I am too genuinely upset. I don't deny that they provide many amusing and shocking stories for me to share, but despite the element of humour in the stories, in the moment it can be horrible. There have been a lot of those moments in the last several weeks. Perhaps that is why I have opted not to share in here.

Last night, for example, I was sweeping the brand new flooring at the entrance downstairs. If you would like to see a picture of it, check out the post called "The summer in review". As I swept, I noticed something on the floor that the broom was not catching. I examined it more closely and I could not get it unstuck from the floor. It looked metallic. Like a staple. I called Mike over and we examined it together. It WAS a staple. From a staple gun. Realization set in, and we searched the rest of the floor. More staples had been shot in and were protruding from the floor. Mike had to remove them with pliers, but each one left a sharp flaw in the floor. It's not real wood, you know. It's not laminate either. I can't remember what it's called. Vinyl plank, I think. Either way, it's ridiculously expensive, and now, in my estimation, it is ruined, a mere eight weeks or so into its existence. I confess, I have not searched that entire section of floor for more staples yet, as Mike has some stuff sitting there that I can't use.

You may be horrified, as I am, and you may wonder how this happened. How did they get a hold of a staple gun?? Yes, it is awful. Yes, we are bad parents. What I found out later that night, was that Mike had indeed left the staple gun out. However, please hear me when I say that normally, all tools are locked inside our storage room. We keep it locked. Now here's the best part. The boys pick the locks. I am not kidding you. It's some kind of a game to them, or a joke, or a delightful challenge, I don't know. But there is no lock that can hold them out. So far, anyway. We have two storage sheds outside. One is made of wood, and now has a combination lock keeping it secure. So far, they have not been able to breach it, but one of them in particular is determined to try. The other storage "shed" is actually one of those tent things, so there is no keeping them out of it. They have ripped open every bin inside there, and have even spread documents over the old driveway, which we discovered the other night when we went for a walk out there. It is enough to drive a person to the very brink, or maybe even over. I have asked Mike to please put up an electric fence around that tent shed. I was NOT kidding. Apparently, the shock would hurt them, but not do any damage, so I'm all in. When I told the kids about it, one of them just grinned and said he would just go over the fence. (I won't say which one, but there is one who is the catalyst here.)

Bad parents. Yes. You may wonder, "How can you let them get away with that?" I wonder the same thing. But they get consequences every single time. We have tried just about every consequence we can imagine, and nothing seems to work. I am more than seriously tempted to call off Christmas this year. (I was already tempted, but the flooring incident really snapped something inside me.) I have often thought of the Super Nanny, and wondered what she would do with my boys. The truth is, I have already mastered the "naughty chair", or the time out chair, as we call it. But it's simply not harsh enough to motivate them not to violate the rules anymore.

Anyway, Lauren is now wailing hysterically from her crib, so I guess this post is over. I guess lack of time on my part does play a role in my very infrequent posting. If anyone has any magical parenting formula that will solve all of my problems, please let me know as soon as possible.

Monday, September 23, 2013

A Salamander Day

Today is a salamander day. It's overcast, and rainy, and not really outdoor weather. This morning, I took Jamie and Micah and Lauren with me to get the mail from our post office. When we got there, I nearly ran over a salamander crossing the road. So I did what any mother of boys would do. I pulled over to catch it. I didn't want to touch it, because I have heard they carry salmonella. Listen here, that's just a rumour. I actually have no idea whether that is true or not. If you want to know, you will have to look it up for yourself. Either way, though, they are slimy, and I had no desire to have it wriggling around in my hand. So I grabbed an empty fast food bag from the van. (What? Don't pretend you don't have empty fast food bags in your van. They make excellent garbage bags. And animal traps.)

I went to the center of the road and stepped in front of the salamander. It charged me. Have you ever seen a lizard run? I know salamanders are not technically lizards, but that's not the point. If you've seen the movie The Freshman, please refer to the scene where the Komodo Dragon gets loose and runs through a shopping mall. It's a funny sight, but it elicits screaming, which the salamander also accomplished. I put the bag down in front of it, and thankfully, it ran right in. I closed the top of the bag and ran back to the van. (Good thing we get our mail in a ghost town, or somebody may have actually witnessed this scene.)

The boys were thrilled. What could be better than getting a salamander in a Wendy's bag? Nothing comes to mind. All the way home, they took turns holding the bag and laughing like crazy when the poor thing tried to climb out. They named it Climby Salamander.

Despite the drizzle, they spent the remainder of the morning outside with Climby, who made a valiant effort to escape with an impressive lizard run. But he failed. I got him on video, but I don't know how to post it on here. Climby had a good morning with the boys, but an even better lunch hour, when Micah finally made the mistake of putting him down near a wood pile. They will never find him now. I'm sad for them, but glad for Climby, whose name changed at some point to Sally. I had hoped he would live to see another day, and it seems he will.

When I started this post, about fifteen minutes ago, it was pouring outside, and my Dynamic Duo were still out there, no jackets, no rubber boots. I could hear them laughing. They are in now, drying off and changing their clothes for the second time today. I am told that Climby/Sally never reappeared, but they did find a snake in the round pen. Sadly, they couldn't catch the snake. (Phew!) And now, Lauren is sleeping and the boys are done with their outdoor play, so I get to spend the next two hours shushing them and trying desperately to keep her asleep.

I love salamander days. I only wish this one had been a full salamander day instead of just a salamander morning.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

A Parental Rant

We have been back to school now for just under one full week. I thought things would be better, and as dumb as this is, I thought I would have things running like a well-oiled machine here at home. I don't know what in the world I was thinking. For some reason, my Dynamic Duo have stepped things up a bit, and they are into so much trouble that I literally don't even have time to blog. At the end of every day, I am so exhausted, and often in tears, that I just can't post in here, for fear I will say something terrible.

Right now, I have one hour left until Cody returns home to join his brothers. That is the time of day I dread most. It isn't that I dread seeing Cody, but he is a catalyst for fighting. As soon as he gets here, all you-know-what breaks loose and things get louder and people get hurt. Then they wake up Lauren, which turns me into a fire-breathing dragon. Right now, there is smoke coming out of my nostrils, but I am not blowing flames just yet.

Having a child young enough to nap is both wonderful and horrible. When she naps, I have freedom to do things I simply cannot do when she is up and about. Those things include certain cleaning and productive activities, and they also include quiet time for myself. (With two other boys here? Yes, that is indeed a joke.) Yes, nap time is a wonderful thing, and as such, it is dangerous. You see, if you want something, anything, that badly, you are in trouble. Kids can smell that kind of desperation, and it is their duty to thwart you in every way possible. The more badly you want that baby to sleep, the louder they will be, even to the point of pounding on her walls, or in extreme cases, going into her room and waking her up.

Yes, a great deal of my stress with the boys is their complete unwillingness and/or inability to just stay quiet near Lauren's room while she is napping. As a result, my afternoons, which are supposed to be peaceful and somewhat quiet, are spent in a state of maximum tension, and when she is woken up, which she inevitably is, a deep and dark fury is unleashed.

This parenting thing is all a mental game. Somehow, you have to not care whether they make noise or not. You have to not care whether you ever get to shower or not. Ever. You can't let it bother you that even the bathroom is not sacred anymore. Kids will either bang on the door and scream to come in, or they will run off and do something terrible in the 72 seconds that it takes you to be in and out of there. I seem to be losing the mental battle. I DO care if Lauren is woken up. I WOULD like to shower more than every four days. I HATE being yelled at while I'm in the bathroom, and having kids kick and punch the doors (and each other) and raising the decibels in here to inhuman levels...especially while Lauren is napping. And I DON'T like it that if I spend even five minutes doing a household chore, like unloading the dishwasher, or folding some towels, the boys ALWAYS get into some kind of trouble during that time. Seriously. How do they even come up with new ideas every day? Today I caught them outside with my good silverware in the sand. I didn't even know where my silverware was stored, but they found it and took it and put it in the sand! Instantly, I had visions of them burying it under the sand, like hidden treasure, as a sort of tribute to my van keys. (That fiasco was covered in some posts beginning back on August 20, 2012.)

As far as I know, I recovered all of the silverware, but I did acquire a headache and the intense desire to rest this afternoon. That desire then increased my need for Lauren to nap well, which increased my anxiety over the boys' noise level and their bad behaviour. And now, here I am with only half an hour left before Cody gets home. Lauren is now officially awake, which means even though the boys are quiet, my rest time is officially an impossibility.

Incidentally, the boys are quiet. Hm. Quiet, and not in the house. I wonder what they are burying in the sand now? I wish I could dial down my desperation, but my boys have a sense about it and they seem to know exactly what to do day by day, hour by hour and minute by minute to crank it up instead. I guess it's more fun to watch a mother completely lose her mind than it is to have a boring mom, who can keep it together. And so, I aspire to be boring. I will let you know how that's going.

Monday, August 26, 2013

The Summer in Review

It would seem I took the summer off from my blog. Now, I am mentally gearing up for the widely anticipated, and equally dreaded return to school. Which camp am I in? Both. Some stay-at-home moms go crazy all summer because their kids are all home and often bored. Siblings fight, and kids get overtired from staying up past regular bedtimes. Moms of school-age kids are more exhausted than normal because they are suddenly back to having all their kids with them all the time, for two solid months.

Personally, I have a mix of school age and younger kids. This means I am already used to not having any space or time for myself, and used to not being able to keep my house clean because there are always small people around to mess it up. However, I also experience an increase in the number of kids at home for the summer, so I understand that it can be more difficult than the school year. However, I have a distinct advantage over many stay-at-home moms out there, and that is, my husband is a principal. (And was previously a teacher.) As such, my summers may mean having extra kids at home, but they also mean I have another parent with me for backup. I may have mentioned once or twice (or a few million times) how vital backup can be. My backup returned to work this morning. I am lamenting that fact.

The return to school brings with it a mix of challenges and emotions. When I was a kid, I liked getting new school supplies, even though I dreaded going back to school. I love school supplies still, and most of the summer I was excited to get my supply lists so I could shop with the boys. Last week I took all three of them to town at once, without backup. There I was, with three boys, and three different school supply lists. I guess I am naive, but I had no idea it was going to take that long to get all their stuff. But the worst part was, once we got (almost) everything on all the lists and came home, the real work was still waiting for me. As a mother, it is my solemn duty to label every school supply with my boys' names. Doesn't sound like a big deal, does it? Well it is. If you have three kids in high school, this is a non-issue. But if you have three in grade 2 and lower, huge deal. You see, my kids all have to have markers, crayons, pencils...etc., and apparently it is not enough to just put their name on the boxes. Nope. I have to label each individual crayon and marker. Do you know how many that is? Let me do a tiny bit of the math for you. All three of them need 24 wax crayons. Right there, 72 labels. Two of them have 16-packs of washable markers. That's another 32 labels. Two of them also have small washable markers, in 24 packs. That's another 48 labels. Cody needs 24 pencil crayons and 20 pencils. That's another 44 labels. Add to that 3 pairs of scissors, 3 glue sticks, 2 bottles of white glue, 4 erasers, 3 backpacks, 3 binders, 5 notebooks, 5 duotangs, 2 folders, a dry erase marker...I'm losing count here. Where is my total so far?? I'm at 226 so far. And that doesn't count their indoor shoes, and several other items on the list that I can't remember right now. Wowsers. That translates to hours and hours of work, people. I already did one stint, because I am NOT leaving it until the day before school starts. I should be doing more now, but I just don't want to face the giant pile in my room. Sigh.

Aside from getting school supplies purchased, labeled and packed, inventory must be taken of clothing, which generates more shopping. I did that online today, and I'm excited about my purchases, but my bank probably isn't. The return to school also means I have to get it together, personally. That's right, I have to get back into some kind of a routine. Inwardly, I am rebelling a little about that. No, wait, that's what's happening outwardly. I really do want to get back into a good routine, with housework, meal planning...etc, but that will take a bit of planning and effort. That's okay. Part of me is excited to get out of the slacker mode I have been in all summer. It's just a little overwhelming, that's all.

The hardest part about this year's return to school, is that Micah will be part of it. My little Micah. He turned four this summer, and is now going into Jr. Kindergarten. It's only every second afternoon, but it makes me feel like he is such a big boy, and I'm not ready to let him go yet.
Here he is on his fourth birthday. My sweet little Micah, who is still the most cuddly, loving boy. 



I will end this post with a series of pictures summarizing what has been going on around here this summer. 

Lauren's Birthday:

Yep. My baby turned one, a few days after Micah turned four. How time flies. Lauren is adorable and hilarious, and just so much fun. I love the stage she is at right now, though I am sad that she is already growing up so fast.

 She wore her one and only princess dress, the same one she wore at Christmas. It's a size 12 months, and it still has lots of room for growth. Maybe she can wear it again at Thanksgiving. Who knows?
She reached for that cake pretty quickly. We changed her into a different outfit so she wouldn't ruin the beautiful dress. 

Storms:

This one (above) produced a tornado to the north east of us a mere 20 minutes after this photo was taken. It doesn't look that bad in the picture, but in real life it was creepy. We could tell it was a dangerous one.
These two (above and below) show a system that already passed by us. I went outside to take these, and there was a continuous rumble coming from them, with no break. They rumbled on for a good five to ten minutes without a single pause in the thunder. 

 Above, another scary storm system.

This one (above) had just passed over. Wow. So scary.

Yep. For a couple of weeks there, hardly a day went by that we were not under a tornado watch, and several touched down in our area. Thankfully, we were not hit by anything, but we sure got some amazing clouds and a couple of scary, scary storms. It was a major blessing to not worry a single bit about flooding when there was an abundance of that happening in close proximity to us. This year, our sump pump didn't even have to run once. Which brings me to another part of the update. 

The House:

Mike spent nearly all of his days working on building our deck so we could use our upstairs doors to get in and out of the house, and not just the basement door. Here are a few pictures showing the progress that has been made. 
  
 Above, the first work bee we had. Or was it the only one? I don't remember. I think maybe it was. Anyway, the guys got the "foundation" in for the posts (I don't know whether that's the correct terminology in this case), and not much else got done, as far as I remember. It was a time consuming effort that had very little to show for it, visually. However, it enabled Mike to continue the building process on his own, which was what we needed. 


 Above: Jamie on the ladder with his dad, "helping".
Starting to take shape.
Tabu, perching on the edge of the deck. You can't tell in this photo, but where she is sitting is at least 10 feet off the ground. She didn't mind a bit, of course, and navigated the entire deck before any of the floor boards were down.

This gives an idea of how the boards will look when it's finished. The boards are all on now except for one or two, I think, and Mike is starting on the railing. Except now he's never here, so it's hard to say whether this deck will be done this year or not. Super frustrating, as we wanted it done mid-summer, but our engineer took six weeks to get our plans back to us and that was a giant delay. I don't have any more current pictures, but I will add some when we get the railing up.

Basement:

We finished the drywall and most of the painting in the basement this summer. 

The photo above shows our stairwell opening from upstairs. This area had extensive damage on the walls from our cats and our kids. It is now fixed and looks nice for the first time in many years. (The baseboards are still off in this picture.
Just another shot of the stairwell, also showing the landing that Mike built at the bottom. 

Here's the downstairs view of the landing. 

And you can see my future "bench seat" under the stairs. It is not finished yet.

Aside from drywall and paint, we also got our flooring installed last week. Our basement is now officially usable. 







And our holiday:

We didn't go on a vacation, exactly, but we spent three nights in the Duck Mountains with my family, in adjacent cabins on the lake shore. The mosquitoes were bad, but they didn't ruin it, which was my biggest fear. This was two weeks ago. It was our second year in a row of doing this trip. The boys had a blast with their cousins and we enjoyed the beautiful lake, which was calm and glassy nearly the whole time we were there. Because it is a very clear lake, with the water so calm, we could see right to the bottom from the boat, even deeper than nine feet. It was beautiful. We saw a lot of bald eagles, and a few of us even saw an otter from not too far off. All in all, we enjoyed our time there very much.

They all got nets from their grandparents, and they spent a lot of time at the little beach in front of the cabins catching minnows. Micah also got two leeches. And I don't mean he caught them. That was a little traumatizing for him, but he survived. Lauren also loved the water and ran right in. She was scary, in fact. She had no fear, so we had to watch her like a hawk. 

Mike with Lauren, sitting by our little beach.

Jamie fishing for minnows.

Cody driving his auntie's remote control boat.

Lauren walking over to the playground, looking all grown up.

Jamie on the boat, rocking the windblown look.

And all three of my boys in the dinghy, behind their older cousin. They did this for hours on the calm water, and we didn't have to worry about them drifting away. It was great!

The only other thing that has really occupied my summer has been Maybelline. I have been riding her and doing a lot of ground work with her. (Which is basically training from the ground instead of in the saddle.) It is going very well. I have no pictures of me with her, but here are a couple of Mike's first real ride on her, which happened a few weeks ago.



And that is my extremely long update. Sorry to cover the whole summer in only two posts. Yeesh. Now I will be getting back into the swing of things. I'm off for now, seeing this post has had me occupied for way too long today!