Saturday, June 29, 2013

Holidays

Ah, the joys of staying in a hotel room with four children. It is nearly 10 p.m. and nobody in this room is sleeping. As a matter of fact, the boys are all spitting and being generally obnoxious, and Lauren is having a meltdown in her playpen. Meltdowns are almost unheard of for Lauren, so she is most definitely at the end of her rope.

When you have kids, staying at a hotel invariably means you don't sleep. Not well, anyway, and sometimes not at all. But when you have four kids, you are blacklisted by the reservations people. You tell them you would like to book a room. They are friendly and courteous. They are excited to have you stay with them. Then they ask the dreaded question: "How many adults and how many children in the room?" If you don't mind lying, this is the time. But we don't believe in lying. So we say, rather sheepishly, "Uh...two adults, and, uh...ahem...four kids." You can almost feel the cold front coming on. You have HOW MANY kids?? You can't have a normal room. Nope. Normal rooms are for normal people. People with two children, or even less. Four kids? You must be freaks! Here, we might have a suite that you could use. We will charge you double the price, but there is no way you will ever fit six people in a normal room.

Fine. We will pay through the teeth for a suite, knowing it will comfortably sleep all six of us. Only it doesn't. We walked in the room, and I was rather shocked to see that the room contained a separate area with a king bed for us (Hooray! Our own little room with a king bed.) But the other area, for the ridiculous amount of kids that we have, contains...no bed. WHAT??? There is a desk with a fabulous leather chair, a TV, a tiny fridge and a sink, and a couch. Now hold on just a minute here. I can see that the couch, which is about as comfortable as a square straw bale, is actually a hide-a-bed, so I guess you can count that as a queen or double size. But we told them we had four kids. Correct me if I'm wrong, but in a normal room, wouldn't there be two queen beds? So how does one king bed and one hide-a-bed come out so expensive? This is a different hotel than the one that was going to double the cost, but still. Admittedly, our little "bedroom", which is separated from the kids by a set of sliding doors, is quite spacious. There is a separate TV in here, which we cannot use. That's right, we can't because Lauren is in here in a play pen. She is crying, by the way. And she is not the only one. So all the lights are out, in order to allow the kids to sleep, but nobody is sleeping. Mike and I can't do anything at all but sit here, as our anger increases, and I can't help but think about how much this is costing us. In fact, I am more than a little tempted to check out tomorrow. That's right, I'm done already, and we just got here.

I used to love hotels. They were a huge novelty for me. Now, I think I hate them. It would be different if Mike and I were here by ourselves. Or if I was here completely by myself. It is 10:21 p.m., and none of my kids are asleep. That means tomorrow will be horrific. Moods as volatile as a rabid dog, and attitudes more rotten than a three day old carcass on the side of the highway. My mood won't be any better. I already feel like the evening has been ruined. No. Destroyed? Massacred. Why on earth do we do this? For our kids? I am sorry to say, I regret it. I knew I would, and I dreaded it from the start, but I do regret it.

However, this trip was not about the kids, or ourselves. It was about seeing my Grandma, who turns 99 next week. She is amazing, and the best grandma ever. We are here for her, and also to see my Aunt, who lives two provinces away and is out visiting my grandma, her mother. Today, we saw them, and I don't regret that. Not for a minute. We also saw another dear friend of mine whom I haven't seen in 10 months, and that was also nice. So I guess the hotel fiasco is worth it. But I wish there was another way. And we are supposed to be staying another night. I will be very surprised if we decide to do that. But I guess we will see. Time to sign off for now. Two of the kids are sleeping. The oldest and the youngest are not. I would like very much to go home! Did I mention that Lauren freaks out every time one of us leaves this little room? And I need to pee. This is going to be a long night.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Am I the only one?

Just when I was getting the hang of being a stay-at-home-mom, Cody started going to school. I then entered the realm of school moms. These are in the ranks of soccer moms...etc. School moms have a whole new set of duties. No longer is it an option for the kids to wear pyjamas all day, or to wake up when they are ready. Now we have to get them up, sometimes too early, (though rarely, because let's face it, we're talking about young kids here, not teenagers, so they are usually awake well before us), and get them dressed in daytime clothes. Not just any clothes either. You can't just send them to school in stained t-shirts and ripped jeans. You have to find the nice clothes and use those on the school days. That brings a new level of urgency to the laundry department. Now that it's June, I have eased off on my wardrobe rules. Okay, ever since April. All of Cody's jeans have holes in them. Every. Single. Pair. And I don't mean small holes. I'm talking about giant rips in both knees. But I just can't buy any more jeans. I have bought upwards of eight pairs of really nice jeans for him this school year, and this is waht happens. So I am on strike. I will not buy any more jeans this school year. I can't afford to. So he has a lot of options each morning on what to wear. His drawer is overflowing with really nice jeans. With giant holes in them. And he can wear whichever pair he wants! Even some of his t-shirts are getting holes, and don't get me started on the food stains. Maybe if he would use a paper towel instead of his shirt to wipe his hands and face every time he eats. Oh well.  

While they are dressing, you have to make lunches. What's that? You say I should make them the night before? That would be great, except my kids want peanut butter sandwiches, and to make those too early results in something disgusting and inedible. I am not good at making lunches either, but I get the job done. Not once have I sent my kids to school without their lunches. Not yet. And though it's a panic almost every single day, we almost always get them on the bus on time. 

When they get home, you have to make sure you have something yummy and substantial to put in their mouths the instant they get in the door, or they will have giant meltdowns and beat on each other. I am not good at this. I'd say about ten per cent of the time, I have a great snack awaiting them. The other 90% of the time, I just hope they don't say they are hungry. This backfires 100% of the time. And once the snacking tapers off, there is homework. 

Here is my confession. Since Cody started Jr Kindergarten, (yes, that's the year before Kindergarten, similar to preschool but far better), I have seen the other moms and as is typical of me, I perceived them all as superior to me. I put them in that "mom box" that I had in my mind and figured they were all doing it right and I was not sure whether I could. They volunteered to help in all kinds of situations, and I felt overwhelmed. I wondered what was wrong with me. Then I decided it was because I had two younger kids. Cody was only four and a half when he started in Jr. Kindergarten, and I also had a three year old and a one and a half year old to chase. As it turns out, there were other moms with younger kids too and they seemed to hold it together just fine. And so I have been left asking myself the question, "Is it just me? Am I the only one who finds this hard? Are my kids the only ones who do..." fill in the blanks. 

Recently, Jamie has had homework. Jamie is now in Jr. Kindergarten, and they get these cute little packages called Alpha Bags sent home every Kinder day. (At least, I think that's what they are called. See what a slacker I am?) The bags each have a theme of one letter of the alphabet. They contain a little poster of that letter, plus a foamy letter, and a book about that letter. The student's job is to read the book, and add an item to the bag beginning with that letter, and then return it to the teacher in exchange for another bag. In a normal family, here's an example of how that might go down: 

An alpha bag comes home with the letter D. The child and his mom (or dad, whatever), read the book, examine the items in the bag and hunt through the house for another item. Oh, look! A toy dinosaur. Let's put it in the bag and return it to the teacher! 

In my house: The first Alpha Bag comes home. It's the letter N. We skim the book. Okay, everybody skims the book. It is only about eight pages long with only one word and one picture on each page. Then we talk about what we can add to the bag. Nachos? No. We don't have any nachos, and it's probably a bad idea anyway. Nest? I don't have any nests handy. At this point, I kind of fizzle out because it's bedtime. We put the kids to bed and I forget about the bag. The next day that Jamie has school, I open his backpack to get it ready and see the Alpha Bag. Oh no! Now I am panicking. What starts with N? (By the way, part of the challenge of this activity is that you do not get the items back, so you can't just throw in their favourite toy that starts with the appropriate letter. You have to find something you don't mind parting with.) At the last second, I find an item. It's a nail. Yes! Wait, that might be kind of sharp for a bunch of four and five year olds...oh well. It starts with N, and that's what the assignment said. So I tossed the nail into the bag and happily sent it along to school. I wondered whether the other parents would notice, or find it disturbing. I also wondered whether the teacher was monitoring these bags to figure out who sent what. I sincerely hoped not. 

The next bag that came home was the F bag. It contained two things that concerned me. One, a ziplock bag of Frosted Flakes. And two, a ziplock bag of Fruit Loops. Oh great. After the first Alpha Bag, every time one came home, it disappeared. Into thin air. Pieces of it would be found, but never the whole thing intact. And I did try keeping them aside so I would not encounter this problem, but my Dynamic Duo are unstoppable. Have I mentioned that before? What started to happen was that my Alpha Bags were not getting returned on time, so then Jamie would bring another one home and I'd have two to keep track of. On the worst day, he had three. Wow. I had to wonder, was he the only kid in his class whose mother could not handle the Alpha Bags? Worse yet, was he the only kid in his class who returned them with missing items? The Fruit Loops disappeared and were never seen again. The Frosted Flakes were significantly fewer in numbers than when he received the bag. And one day, I found a drawing of a little girl's family, also part of the F bag. Oops. I had to return it on its own with a note attached. I guess we did get the hang of the bag. It's just that for us, F stood for Fail. 

Sometimes I just wonder whether we are the only ones. Are other mothers failing with the Alpha Bags? Do their children eat the items from the bags? Do they also hurriedly print a picture of clip art to shove into the bag five minutes before the bus arrives on school mornings? Or am I the only mother who can't seem to pull it together? And this is only Junior Kindergarten, a program that doesn't even exist in most places. Next year, Jamie will be in Senior Kindergarten and Micah will be in Junior. That means they will each be bringing home Alpha Bags. We could end up with as many as six at a time. We could monopolize a quarter of the entire alphabet. I have noticed that Jamie has not brought home any new Alpha Bags lately. Maybe they have noticed how he hoards them. I returned two this morning. Q and H. What kind of items start with Q that you can put in a ziplock bag? I printed a picture of a porcupine and wrote QUILLS on it. I did notice that the book in the H bag was missing a page. I rejoiced in this, because the page was already missing when we got it. That means at least one other mom out there takes away from the bag instead of adding to it. Cheers to you, whoever you are. Let us rejoice in the nearness of the end of the school year.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Temporary Insanity?

I am having a moment right now that can only be described as temporary insanity. At least, I hope it's temporary. Cody and Jamie are at school, and Lauren is down for a nap. Normally, that would mean only Micah is around to entertain and keep out of trouble. But guess what? Micah is sleeping. Yay for me! Right? That's where the insanity comes in. I am on the verge of waking him up. Micah never naps, so the fact that he put himself down for a nap about half an hour ago has me worried. Is he sick? It's lunch time. Now I feel guilty too. Shouldn't I make lunch for him and wake him up? How dare I have complete silence in this house...right? Now I have to agonize over whether to wake him up or not.

And that is the absolute irony of motherhood. Here I am, day after day, desperate for a little quiet time, a little solitude, and when I finally get it, I feel tense and guilty and I am completely unable to enjoy it. Sigh. I'm off to do some dishes before Micah wakes up, or before I break down and wake him up myself.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

The Dynamic Duo strikes again.

Parenting has it's ups and downs. Sometimes, the downs last for days, or even weeks before the sun peeks through the clouds again. And sometimes, the good lasts a long time too, and you wonder why you ever thought this job was so hard. Today has been a hard day for me. My charming and loveable Dynamic Duo have been hard at work, driving their mother crazy. I make light of it, but in truth, some days are hard to bear. Today feels like one of them. I almost feel nauseated, but don't worry, there is no underlying cause for that symptom. It's just exhaustion.

I had to make an important work-related phone call this morning. I will not be getting into the details in here, but it has to do with my "old job", which I am still tied to, even though I am on a leave of absence. Well, the phone call lasted longer than I expected. First, I was on hold for a long time before I got to talk to anyone. During that time, I had to repeatedly remind my boys to be quiet. Fortunately, I eventually got them kicked outside. But the call, as I said, was a long one, so before it was up they were back in the house again. They went to their room and shut the door, which is always a bad sign. But I had to talk with my employer, so I was thankful for the silence, no matter what kind of consequences it would bring.

Here's the thing. My boys really are adorable. All three of them. And I know their shenanigans are a source of entertainment for many people...namely, everybody but me. (And Mike, though he sometimes does laugh even in the moment when I want to cry.) But sometimes it is just plain exhausting trying to deal with the stunts they pull. Let me give you an example.

Remember a year ago when we redesigned their whole room and turned it into a fabulous Winnipeg Jets room? If you don't remember, let me show you. In fact, how about a series of before and after shots?

First, the bunk bed, handmade by Mike. Here it is before:
And now after:

(Notice the writing on the headboard above.)

(Even the ladder has writing, which is also engraved into the wood.)

And now another before shot, the room freshly finished, before the boys moved in:


And after:

(Take note of the changes. 1 - there are no curtains anymore. The boys destroyed the curtain rod, and ripped the little hooks out of the wall where the ties went to hold the curtains back. 2 - The bottom frame of the window is missing. And 3 - the obvious mess, something we have fought tooth and nail to prevent. FAIL.)

And another before shot:
And...after:
(Okay, it's mostly just mess here. But if you zoom in on this photo, you can see the pen marks on the wall just left of the ladder. You may also notice the sheets on the single bed. They are badly stained, mainly by chocolate. Did I mention there was a no food rule in this room? There was also a no toy rule.  See how that panned out? And we were strict too.)


Here's another before shot. This was before the dresser was built, but it does show one significant thing. The closet. Notice how it was framed. 

And now:

(Can you tell in this picture that the frame is missing on that right side of the closet door? And that's nothing. Not that long ago, the entire door had been ripped off. I am not exaggerating.)

One more before shot. This is the dresser Mike built to go with the bunk beds he made. I was very proud of him, and absolutely loved this dresser. I think he did a fantastic job. Here it is when he first built it, about one year ago:


And today:

Okay, so it's covered with stickers. No big deal. I personally find it quite ugly, but whatever. Stickers can be removed, even if they are sometimes difficult. But perhaps you can also see the pen marks all over the drawers. Those are deep marks, which means even if we could get the ink out of the wood, (which we can't), the grooves are permanent. But, that was not good enough for the Dynamic Duo. Here is what my five year old did today, while I was on the phone with my employer:

Yes, those deep grooves are actually saw marks. He - or they, stole Mike's multitool and used the saw blade to saw multiple cuts into the wood. The marks go all the way across the top of the dresser. Like this:


In addition to the dresser, they also stole a power tool today, after specifically promising not to touch Mike's tools ever again, and particularly today. They took a drill and drilled it into the sand outside. Last week they ruined a power tool the same way, and Mike's paintball gun. Full of sand. 

This is why I am exhausted. And why Mike is exhausted. And why sometimes I feel like a bit of a loser as a parent. I mean, seriously, how can this kind of thing happen? And tomorrow I have to call my employer again. Twice. The only thing that ever keeps my boys out of trouble is TV, and I am NOT okay with just letting them watch TV all the time. In fact, I'm not even okay with teaching them that the TV is Mommy's only way of having any kind of control over them. So what the heck is wrong with me? Why do my boys do this kind of crap? (Excuse my language, but really, I have had it.) I just truly do not understand. I used to think this was just a "boy thing", but my sister has three boys and they don't do this kind of stuff. Which makes me think it is somehow my fault. And at the very least, my fault that no matter the consequences, they just keep doing it over and over again. And that is why I am a bit discouraged lately. I hope it's okay to share that in here. I love sharing funny stories, but I also like to share the realities of motherhood/parenting, and the fact is, it is downright hard. Maybe as they get older, this kind of behaviour will diminish a little. I hope so. As funny and cute as they are, it sometimes feels like we are taking a huge wad of cold, hard cash, pouring gasoline over it, and lighting a match. I guess all I can do tonight is hope for a better day tomorrow. Goodnight, everyone.