Tuesday, May 28, 2013

A Few Updates

I have a lot on my mind today, which is ironic, because I also feel somewhat brain-dead. Last night was not a great sleep night. We got a phone call just before midnight, which disrupted our sleep. Then, Lauren was up, and very, very upset. I fed her, but she was clearly in some kind of pain, so it took her a while to settle again. By the time all the interruptions were done and sleep came again, our chances at a proper sleep were destroyed. So today, I am taking it easy a little. I shouldn't be, because my house has reached disaster status again. (How does that happen so quickly??) Even though I have something quite significant on my brain, I am going to leave it for today and instead, just give you a quick update.

First, I ended my last post with plans to make a fabulous, pizza-sized cookie, to impress my kids and maybe even Mike. I did make the cookie. In fact, the recipe actually made two giant cookies. I thought these would be the best cookies ever, because the recipe included a secret ingredient that I had never seen in cookie dough before. And...(shhh...) the batter was delicious. But delicious batter does not equal a delicious final product, just as some batter is not very tasty at all but renders a wonderful treat once it is baked. (Like fresh buns, or even banana bread.) My giant cookies were okay. The boys liked them, and Mike did too. But I was disappointed, so I didn't feel like SuperMom after all.

My other update is about my horse show this past weekend. I know I mentioned it, but we entered Maybelline in a show just for experience, as she is still finishing up her training. My sister, Andrea, was riding her, as well as three other horses in the show. She warned us not to expect much from Maybelline, and that the main goal would be for her to not get eliminated from her classes. She was going to be in a couple of jumping classes, and then a couple of flat classes. (Flat classes are where more than one horse at a time is in the ring and the judges tell them when to walk, trot, canter...etc., and judge the rider and the horse.)

Anyway, one of my favorite things about owning a horse has always been the grooming. I know that sounds funny, but I always loved bathing my childhood horse, Sunny, and combing out her mane and tail, and getting her as shiny and pretty as I could. Then we would take pictures. So on Friday evening, I joined my sister in the city at the show and got Maybelline all cleaned up. I was nervous, because I have not really spent a ton of time with her due to being pregnant last year, and the year before was the flood so we didn't do much horse stuff. Sometimes young, or freshly trained horses do stupid things. If you aren't familiar with horses, you may not know that they are in fact, giant chickens. They are afraid of plastic bags, and countless other items and noises. They don't like hoses, or being sprayed with water. At least, not when they are not used to it. Maybelline has been hosed off many times, but not inside a building in a horse-washing station with other horses that she doesn't know. There was also a long grate on the floor for drainage, which she was not fond of at all. I thought she might do something dumb and hurt someone or herself, but she didn't. She was nervous, but she let me bath her and for the most part, stood fairly still. She was, however, afraid of the sponge. Unlike me, she did not find anything endearing about it at all. Then, I got to spend roughly an hour and a half to two hours braiding her mane. She was extremely patient and stood like a champ while all her friends ate around her. (I wouldn't let her put her head down to eat until I was done braiding.) Here she is before her bath:

And here she is after her bath, and after I braided her mane. She is wearing a tail bag in this picture to keep the straw out of her tail for the next day. Her legs were being wrapped here too.

After her bath, she was so soft and shiny.
She got to wear a slinky to keep her braids in, and a blanket too. Very attractive, right?

Here she is, in the show, on her way in to the ring!

And waiting for her turn again. (Andrea had to switch the saddle around between three horses, so it was quite a whirlwind.)

Here is a shot of Maybelline's most spastic jump. It was more like a cheerleader move, with all four limbs thrown out wildly, but she made it. It was rainy and dark so it's not the best picture. 

It was fun to see her head sticking out of the stall door. She is a very social horse, so she was always either like this:

Or like this:
(Whinnying to every horse there. Loudly.)

And here are a few more pictures of her at her show. 

And my favourite: 

Our hope for her at the show was that she would not get eliminated from any of her classes, and that she wouldn't do anything stupid or dump Andrea off her. Instead, she won seven ribbons (Two firsts, three seconds, a third and a fifth), and was nearly perfectly behaved. This was my break from full-time motherhood this weekend. I loved the show, and completely fell in love with my horse. I already really liked her, but it was so wonderful to spend such concentrated time with her, and to see her in a stressful situation and witness how wonderfully she handled it. And on top of all that, she is really sweet and cute too. Next, to start riding her! That is in the near future. 

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Motherhood Aptitude Test

Is there a Motherhood Aptitude Test? I don't think there is. Certainly, we are not required to pass anything before becoming mothers, except a pregnancy test. (Or in the case of adoption, many more difficult tests, I imagine.) The great thing is, once you are a mother, your kids will test you daily, and sometimes hourly, so you can assess your skills, your sanity level, and so you can see who is winning. These tests are graded by only two people. Well, actually, they are assessed by everyone you know and  sometimes by strangers too. But the only grades that count are the ones assigned by the mother herself, and by her child, or children, whomever is doing the testing.

Apparently, this week is exam week for me. I have appointments or necessary outings every single day, which already makes things busier for me. Yesterday, I had the joy of taking three of my four children to Walmart. First, we went to Dollarama, an experience I normally avoid at all costs. (No offense, Dollarama. But your aisles are extremely narrow, and your employees leave stacks of giant boxes in them, making them more narrow, plus they are not labeled, so it is impossible to find anything. And don't get me started on your ridiculous prices. Seriously, are you a dollar store, or not??)

Anyway, I know despite my extreme aversion to the dollar store and nearly all its merchandise, my boys would be thrilled with all the bright, cheap toys bursting off the shelves. So I did a mommy-style preemptive strike. As I strapped Lauren into her Trekker (baby-carrier, for those unfamiliar) because the Dollarama carts are too tiny for a baby car seat, in order to make up for their ridiculously tiny aisles, I gave the boys a pep talk. More of a warning, really. It went something like this: "Okay, guys, we are going into this store, and I have to buy some stuff, but we are NOT here to buy toys, so I need you NOT to beg me for stuff. Okay?" They both agreed. Lauren grunted very loudly, already thrilled to be strapped to me. We went in the store.

As soon as we were in the doors, the begging began. In addition to that, the boys both insisted on walking beside me, on either side of the cart. Did I mention how tiny the aisles are in that store?? Passing was not an option, but even after jamming Micah between the cart and a stack of giant boxes (thank you once again, Dollarama), he still insisted on walking there, and when I say "insisted", I mean in a very loud, very whiny voice. At the end of the first aisle, there were water guns. I then found out that their very lives were contingent upon acquiring water guns. Everyone in the store also found that out. Our journey through the store was one long dialog that went something like this:

Micah: Can I have a water gun?
Me: No.
Jamie: Please? We really want guns! Can we please get guns?
Me: No.
Micah: WAAAHHH!!!! But I REALLY want a gun!
Jamie: Can we have these? (chocolates)
Micah: Yeah! Can we have those for our treats? And those? And THOSE?
Me: What treat?? No. You can't have guns, and you are not getting candy in here. I told you not to beg!

I could go on here, but you get the picture. Imagine that conversation, but repeat it one thousand times over a period of ten minutes, and you have an idea how things went. By the time I left the store, I was muttering to myself about how much I hate Dollarama (no offense, Dollarama, really) and I didn't even find the most basic stuff I wanted from there. So I strapped everybody in the van and we drove across the parking lot to Walmart. During the drive, I took the opportunity to lecture them on the terrible behaviour in Dollarama, and to encourage something much better for our Walmart visit. I assured them if there was begging like that in Walmart, they would get nothing from this trip. Nothing! Jamie agreed, and Micah, well, he said he agreed. So we went in.

Things were going okay at first. Well, except for the shopping part. You see, I am not fond of Walmart either. Ours just got converted into one of those "super centres" and there is nothing super about it. Not really. Sure, now they have a grocery store as well as a department store. But guess what? Their selection is now terrible. Okay, I won't say any more about Walmart. The boys were pretty good, and so when I saw some Crayola products on sale, I decided their "treat" would be a new box of markers, seeing they have destroyed or lost almost all of theirs. I made them a deal. It went like this:

Me: If I buy you guys some new markers, do you promise to only use them on paper?
Dynamic Duo: Yes.
Me: That means not on furniture, floors, walls, ceilings, clothing, human bodies, or anything else that is not paper. Got it?
Dynamic Duo: Yes.

You can grade me yourself on that one. I said yes to the markers. I know. Dumb, right? I didn't even realize they were scented. All I cared about was one word: Washable. So at least when our walls get coloured in the future, they will smell fruity. I can actually hear Micah using them in the background.

So I grabbed the pack of markers. Micah wanted to carry them. I said okay, but he was not to open them. He agreed. I'm an idiot. About five minutes later, the markers dumped on the floor. I did a mini-mommy-rant. "I told you not to open those! What are you doing? Why did you do that?! Pick them up!" Then I tipped the scales of justice. I told Micah he could no longer carry the markers and I handed the box to Jamie, who also promised not to open them. (Yes, yes, I know.) That did it for Micah. He began throwing a tantrum. In Walmart. Which made me "one of those moms". Yes. I'm pretty sure I have been there before, though I don't have specific memories of it. But Micah was so upset to have "his" markers taken from him that he bawled and yelled "I WANT MY MARKERS!" and other unintelligible phrases, loudly enough for everybody to hear. Those are the moments every mom with young kids dreads when they take them out in public. (Except for those of you with perfect kids. Your turn will come. Or not. But don't judge us normal moms. Actually, you can go ahead and judge. That's how it works, which is why I mentioned that even perfect strangers will grade us on our performance as parents. Dads too.)

Amid Micah's loud wailing and yelling and begging, a strange thing happened. I didn't care. I have never felt so calm out in public with my kids. Here I was, in one of the dreaded scenarios, and I didn't even care at all. Sure, I was annoyed, and I was finding it really difficult to look for a cute pair of pyjamas for Lauren, but I was not embarrassed, and believe me, there were other people in the store. When Micah begged loudly, I simply said "no", and when he ran off to take things he wanted off the shelves, I walked away without looking back, calmly telling him I would not be buying that. And when his tantrum got really ugly and extra loud, I continued browsing without looking at him and calmly stated that if he didn't stop it, I would be putting the markers back and we would not be buying them at all, and that it was up to him. Guess what? He stopped. It was miraculous. And I wasn't even stressed. Don't get me wrong, I had no desire to loiter in Walmart, but I felt no need to collapse in a heap of tears in my van afterwards, or to go to therapy.

And so today, I went again to town, this time with only Micah and Lauren. We went to the ophthalmologist, another dreaded place for me. It was quick and painless, and then we went to Walmart again, and also a horsey store, for some supplies for the show this weekend. I told Micah he was not to beg like he did the day before. I told him I was not buying toys or water guns, and that if he saw something he liked, he was welcome to say, "Look, Mom! Isn't that cool?" But he was not to ask me for it. And today, he did great. The most embarrassing thing he did was to insist on wearing one of those little mini-gloves that look like they are made for three year olds, but are actually for people of all ages. He wore a blue one, and referred unabashedly to it as his "glove of power". But today, he was cute, and not at all unpleasant to be with.

So I don't know whether I'm passing or not, or even who's winning. And I kind of suspect if there was an aptitude test as a prerequisite to becoming a mother, most, if not all, of us would fail. But here I am, thrust upon this journey, and hoping as they grow and as I grow it will become easier and easier to keep my head above water. And now, though I may fail the wife test for today, being that I have absolutely no supper plan, I hope to pass the mom test by baking a giant, pizza-sized cookie with peanut-butter M&Ms on it.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Single Motherhood Nearing an End.

It is Thursday night, just after 10:30 p.m. I just settled my last kid about half an hour ago. That was Lauren, thankfully, and it is not unusual for her to be up this late. I have not established a very consistent routine for her, for some reason. Maybe because she is my fourth. Either way, I'm glad that so far, none of the boys have been up. I'm tired, and still have another full day on my own tomorrow, even including bedtime. Bedtime really is my worst, but I got through it tonight by being a bear and not tolerating even the slightest fooling around in their room. I worked very hard today, but my house is still very messy. I was so hoping to surprise Mike with a clean house when he got home, but it's looking less and less likely. I guess I will just tackle whatever I can tomorrow and hope for the best. I have most of the morning to do so. Then we are heading to town to watch Cody swim at his lesson, and to pick up a vaccination for our horse. Because I will be flying all day, I will not be posting in here, I don't think. But hopefully I will get a chance soon because I have something on my mind that I need to say.

For now, I just need to sleep. And write in my journal. I wish you all a good night. And, if I haven't said it enough already, hat's off to all you single parents out there. May God bless you and your children in an extra special way tonight.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Another Week of Single-Motherhood

I know I can't pretend to truly identify with the incredible burden of responsibility of single-parenthood, but this week I am mainly on my own, so this is as close as I get. And I'm thankful for that. Raising four kids is difficult. I love each of them tremendously, but they are a lot of work. Even though I'm a stay-at-home-mom, and I'm used to being on my own with them almost every day, it is different when I know Mike is not coming home at supper time, or even for the night.

Today is one of those days. Foolishly, I told myself I could do this, and that it wouldn't be that bad. After all, once they were in bed, I'd have a nice quiet evening (or at least an hour, depending on when Lauren settled) and then tomorrow, once Cody was on the bus, my day would pretty much look like it does every day. I made supper ahead of time so I could just throw it in the oven when it was time, and we all ate together. By that time, I was already struggling to keep from exploding because they were driving me so crazy. But I held it together, and when they were finished eating and requested to go play outside, I responded with an enthusiastic (and relieved) "Yes!". They went out and I did the dishes and cleaned up the kitchen, while taking care of Lauren. I bathed her while they were out, and then called them in for their baths. Bath time is not my favourite, but Cody went first (he can do it without any help) and then took care of Lauren for me while I helped the other two. So far, so good. Well, that is until Lauren barfed down my shirt. Technically, at her age it is still considered spit-up, but now that she is on solid foods, it smells like the real deal. And this one was substantial. I have to credit her. She totally filled my bra. I was so shocked and horrified that I didn't even move. I just stared at her, frozen in a sea of puke. Then I stuffed kleenexes down there to soak it up so I could run to my room and change. Good times.

By 7:30 p.m. I had Jamie and Micah tucked in to bed so I could read Cody's chapter book with him. We don't put them all to bed together very often anymore because when we do, they don't sleep. Here's where things got nasty. When I put Cody to bed, both the other boys were still awake. In fact, a while later, I was informed that Micah was playing with Lego in his bed. He denied it, but was caught with a whole tub of Lego. I was very angry. I told them in no uncertain terms that I better not hear another word from them. Not long after, things quieted down. In fact, even though I heard voices shortly after 9 p.m. (at which I issued another very angry admonishment to go to sleep), soon it was quiet. Then Lauren was in bed, and I sighed in relief. The house was...well, I'd love to say "clean", but let's not get carried away here. Decent. Semi-presentable. The living room was mostly chaos-free, and I was enjoying a fresh breeze from the open window. And then I found out Cody was still up. This bothered me. He has to get up by 7 a.m. to be on the bus by 7:35 a.m. Oh well. Sometimes he is up until 9 p.m. I figured he'd settle soon enough. He did not. In fact, at 10:20 p.m. he was not only awake, he was shouting for me and crying loudly that it was too dark in his room and wanted a night light. Yes, shouting in a room where two of my children were sleeping peacefully, and beside the room where my baby was also sleeping.

And so here I am, sitting in my bed after an evening of stress, knowing that my most volatile child is going to be woken up in the morning before his body is ready, triggering an intense mood issue that I have no energy to deal with. It is 10:40 p.m. now and for all I know, he is still awake in there. So now, instead of retiring to my room and having a peaceful time of writing in my journal, or working on my book, I am here venting in my blog. Instead of going to bed lonely, and slightly stressed out, I go to bed with an overwhelming sense of dread. Am I overreacting? Maybe. But guess what happens when kids don't get enough sleep? They get grouchy. And worse, they get sick.

Mike will be back tomorrow evening, but he will be gone again from Wednesday to Friday. I thought the first day would be the easiest. I hope I was right. I am easily the worst single mother in the world. I guess I rely very heavily on Mike's support, and even just his presence in this house. I am spent, and he has only been gone eight hours. I hope tomorrow will be a lot better than the scene I am currently envisioning. For now, I will go to bed, and pray that they at least sleep all night.