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.