This is not a fluffy collection of happy go lucky recommendations. I would not suggest some of these to those who are prone to the sads. These are things I enjoy, you may not.
Marriage is the hardest damn thing I’ve ever done.
My parents made it look easy. They always seemed to be in love when I was growing up. As an adult, I see they fight and struggle – constantly. My mom has high expectations. Dad is stubborn. I’m a perfectly lovely mix of both.
My dad definitely embraces a happy wife, happy life philosophy. He’s an extraordinarily hard worker and seems to find satisfaction in the compromise (you know, until he doesn’t). Both my parents maintain extensive to-do lists with entirely different plans and wildly differing priorities.
When I was preparing to marry my husband, my dad’s advice was:
“You can never stop working on a marriage. There be times where you don’t like your spouse. People change. People grow. Your job is to always remember why you love your partner, and rediscover new reasons for liking them.”
Apparently the advice he gave to my soon to be husband was: “Don’t poke the bear.”
I recall sitting with an older neighbour years ago, as she shared where she thought kids these days were getting it wrong. Her thoughts were: “50/50 is a myth. There will never be an equal division of labour and responsibility. People have strengths and weaknesses.” Her recommendation, instead was “to en-devour to do 100% of the work, and then each and every time your spouse completes a task, you’ll feel gratitude.”
Yuck. I like the idea of a partner that’s in it to win it with me. Who can bend when I stand tall, or lift when I’ve fallen. That can be the yin to the yang and the hilarious to my way too serious.
Lately I’ve taken to asking my son what is a mommy job and what is a daddy job. Pink jobs versus blue jobs do not exist in our household, or do they?
Whose job is it to make a grocery list? – Mommy’s
Whose job is it to grocery shop? Mommy’s if it is more than bread, milk and bananas.
Whose job is it to clean the house? Mommy’s
Whose job is it to fix the car? Mommy’s and Daddy’s.
Whose job is it to fix the house? Mommy’s
Whose job is it to take care of babies? Mommy’s and Daddy’s
Who can have a career? Mommy and Daddy
Who can paint a house? Mommy
Whose job is it to do laundry? Mommy’s but Daddy can help
Whose job is it to wash kids? Mommy’s for baths and Daddy’s for showers.
Whose job is it to take care of a yard? Mommy’s
Whose job is it to pay bills? Mommy’s and Daddy’s
Whose job is it to buy us new clothes? Mommy’s
I always end these chats with a reminder that gender doesn’t determine responsibility. So, it’s fascinating to me that we (he) still re-calibrates and find a response that once again assigns a task based on gender.
As I continue to establish routine with the kids, I’ve been pushing to add responsibility in their world. Some days it works well and others its a disaster.
Each morning we make our beds. We’ve only been doing it for a week, but boy does it feel good to tuck them into a nicely made bed each night.
We collect all of the clothes that didn’t make it into a hamper at the end of the night.
We put everything in the playroom into a drawer or a bin before heading upstairs for bed.
We clear the table after each meal, including breakfast.
We put our shoes in the bins at the front of the door.
We all search for Mommy’s keys (of course she’s lost them AGAIN) and return them to the key box before bed.
We’ve started sweeping, mopping or vacuuming once each day. Sometimes the kids do it, sometimes I do it, but we’re all part of the process. We’re not striving for perfectly clean, we’re searching for better than we started.
It’s only been a week, but I can already tell these daily responsibility routines are building their confidence and their respect.
I still dream of being extraordinarily wealthy and having a live-in maid and chef though. I’m sure I could still teach confidence and respect while be waited on – truly.
I’ve been trying to find a new way to say “have a good day” as I leave my son at day camp each day. I don’t want to nag. I don’t want my words to get lost in the routine hustle of day-to-day.
So far I’ve used:
“Be the kid I know you are.”
“Be the love you want.”
“Be the kid you’d like your sister to be.”
“Be the kindness we all need”
“Be the friend someone’s waiting for.”
“Find the smile in everyone.”
“Treat the day like there’s a cookie behind every corner.”
We’ve got 7 days of camp left, wish me luck.
Today I had reason to check out Lisa Wheeler’s People Don’t Bite People.
Of course I did, that’s the exciting part of climbing a parenting hurdle. Just when you think you’ve secured the guide wires, everything shifts.
Every night this week I have arrived just as the daycamp counselors are preparing Bean to wait in an administrator’s office. I have arrived, out of breath, with an exhausted, and dirty, toddler in one arm, and my identification clutched tightly in my opposite hand.
On day one I broke Bean’s heart because they had prepared him for the toys he would play with while he waited to be picked up, and my showing up just in time threw a totally not fun wrench into the mix.
On day two Bean queried why he is always the first to be dropped off and the last to be picked up.
On day three, as I raced to the sign out table an incident report sat waiting for me.
My first thought was that I had been written up for always arriving just as after care is ending.
Unfortunately, there had been an incident in the swimming pool. The Bean had coveted a plastic frog already claimed by another camp participant and/or previously stolen from bean. A battle over ownership ensued and Bean staked his claim whilst biting another kid’s face.
Multiple witnesses and the injured party all identified Bean as the face biting culprit.
Bean was beside himself.
He wanted to talk about everything but the face biting.
We had a snack before leaving the YMCA.
We chatted about how we treat others. We discussed he we have to actively ensure we treat others with kindness, compassion and patience. We discussed how physically hurting someone is not an option. We discussed how we can also hurt someone with our words.
What are three things you could have done instead of hurting someone?
- Told a counselor that he wasn’t sharing.
- Found a different toy to play with.
- Not bite-ed his face.
What do you have to do tomorrow?
- Be kind
- Not bite anyone’s face
We headed out to the car. Bean held back.
I strapped his sister into his car seat. He continued to keep his distance. I got down on my knees and held my arms wide “hey, little dude you look like you need a hug.” He came running.
I wrapped him in my arms, tightly. “You know, I love you. Making mistakes happens.”
He leaned in. I carried him to the car and strapped him into his seat. I had him phone his dad. We ran home for a few minutes. Moments later he was out. Tired kids are crazy kids. As his head dropped down I understood so much more about this day.
We headed to the public health clinic for immunizations and then dropped by the library. I stumbled upon Lisa Wheeler’s book. I signed it out.
It is funny, to the point, and does a pretty fab job of reminding little ones that “People don’t bite people. No matter what their mood.”
We read the book twice. By the end of the second reading both kids were totally on top of “Biting is for food.”
So, here we are. Two steps forward. One step back.
Tomorrow is day 4.
We have a pretty detailed plan for tomorrow developed. We are committed to:
- Not biting anyone
- Not hitting anyone
- Not punching anyone
- And using words to love by.
Bean didn’t think he should have to take a practice run with his sister this evening, but he did.
Thank goodness for hugs, libraries, boundless love and second (hundredth) chances.
Last year The Undad and I were invited to a Facebook group that has changed how we parent and spend money.
A private group with slightly less than 300 members entirely set up to give unwanted items away
I rarely buy anything new now. Clutter is increasingly limited in our house. Santa brought Kijiji finds last year.
Outgrowing shoes is no longer a nightmare.
We love it.
I also search Facebook marketplace religiously for things I know we will need in the very near future like snowsuits, bikes, skates, and boots.
Today we bought an excellent pair of winter boots for the littlest, because this morning as I lay freezing in my bed I noticed all of the leaves I could see were already turning yellow. I think we may skip fall. I am embracing the possibility.
Yesterday I stopped by St. Albert’s LoSeCa’s $1 sale and bought a raincoat for ages 3 to 6. Both kids love it.
So, basically what I am saying is we pinch our pennies, but then feel ok grabbing an hour for a mommy date complete with a kid’s hot chocolate and a giant chocolate chunk cookie.
We sat. We chatted. We counted the lights. We talked about coffee beans. We giggled at silly winky faces. We held hands. We discussed heading over to the drugstore for new toothbrushes.
This evening as we ate our dinner on the floor while hosting a teddy bear picnic for our stuffy friends, my littlest tipped her head towards mine. Her cheek touched my cheek. “Mom, you’re wonderful.”
I love these beautiful beans.
Last year, on three occasions, over two weeks my husband was engaged in conversations about our son’s disruptive behavior at day camp. Including one occasion where our son had bitten another boy’s face.
We had registered our son in a two week camp for 4 to 6 years olds the week of his fourth birthday on a whim. The two week camp started the next week.
He was little. His emotions were big. A group of boys teased him about his size, his speed and his age. He didn’t have anything in his toolbox reassembling resilience.
There were discussions and tears.
A young counselor in training made him an anger cushion to wear around his neck.
We spent the last year talking a lot about how we treat others and how we respond to stimuli from others that doesn’t align with our expectations.
Preschool was stressful. We know our son kept the teachers busy. Was kindergarten going to be a disaster?
We cautiously enrolled our Bean in three weeks of camps.
We talked a lot about managing expectations, emotions and our responses.
We talked about responding to bullying.
We talked about losing.
We talked about not biting other people’s faces.
The YMCA includes value beads as part of their day camp delivery. Each day a head ceremony is held and kids are awarded beads based on the values they exhibited that day.
In Edmonton Value Beads are
awarded to individuals for demonstrating
friendship, caring, honesty, diversity, social inclusion, responsibility, respect, leadership, and excellence.
On day 1, our kiddo was already glowing with pride. First of all, he hadn’t bitten anyone’s face and second instead of struggling to find a reason to give him a bead, he had already earned him self several beads.
On day 2, he decided he was going to actively try to earn beads. “Mom, I am going to be extra kind and listen and start cleaning up crafts before anyone asks me to.”
By day 4, he had received an excellence bead and had demonstrated every value.
He was abundantly filled with joy.
I told his counsellor of last year’s challenges. She shared what a delight he was. She let me know she never once needed to assert any kind of corrective discipline.
We phoned The Undad and shared the good news.
We phoned Grandma and Grandpa.
We discussed the hard work that went into earning each and every bead.
We high fived.
I exhaled air I have been holding since the day of the face biting incident.
He explained to his sister the types of things she will need to learn if she also wants to earn beads of every color, including an excellence bead.
Watching these little ones grow up, take shape, and take flight, is amazing.
I can’t wait for the wild ride ahead.I am not saying we are done with face biting. I am just saying we know we can get through a day without needing to, so kindergarten looks a whole lot rosier.
I hate disappointing my kids.
Truly. Although, is there anyone that is like, man, I love disappointing my kids. It’s glorious. Watching their little faces fill with sadness, I live for that!
So, I try to set reasonable expectations.
We are going to Heritage Days. We have bought tickets in advance. We have this much spending money.
I was extremely frustrated to blow the money I had identified for spending at the event, in one swift I feel swindled step.
I’ve always wanted a henna tattoo, but am, by nature, wary of any activity where pricing is not standardized or posted.
I do not barter. I’m terrible at it. Whether the vendors are beach side in Mexico or Cuba or lining Pike Place Market, there’s nothing about me that feels comfortable with offering you less than the price you carefully marked everything with.
Any way, back to Heritage Festival. A young lady approached the kids and I:
“Would you like to get tattoos for your kids?”
Bean is already jumping up and down excitedly.
“Um, maybe, how much would they cost?”
“We’re slow right now, so it would be $5 for both kids.”
“Ok, we can handle $5 for the two of them. Small and simple is good.”
Both kids got a small design in their hand.
“Would your mommy like a tattoo too?”
“No, that’s ok…” Again, Bean was super excited about this possibility.
“Well, ok, I guess, how much would it cost?”
“Is that for a particular design?”
“No, pick what ever you want.”
“Ok, Bean pick a tattoo for mommy.”
“THIS ONE. THIS ONE. THIS ONE!”
“Oh, that one is pretty complicated.”
“I don’t really care. Just something simple will be fine. ”
The henna artist went to work she started a mandala on my forearm.
“It probably won’t look finished without something extending to your wrist, may I add that?”
“Does it cost extra?”
“Just a few dollars.”
“Oh, ok, sure, if you think it would look better.”
She finished the design.
“That’ll be $30.”
My heart shattered. What!!! How did that happen. Even if I misunderstood the $5 for both kids and it was actually $5 each. How did we get to $30? Both kids were thrilled? Something wasn’t right.
I felt like arguing, sort of.
I didn’t feel like arguing, mostly.
I paid the $30.
I’ll have 3 weeks to reflect on that time I got a henna tattoo and thought I was spending at the most $18 and instead spent $30.
And then, that self doubt sets in: Should I have questioned the price? Should I have shown the kids what straight talk looks like rather than avoiding conflict?
And then, I wondered, how will Heritage Festival ever be anything other than that time I got hustled getting henna? Oh right, the letting go, that’s how. Let’s just think about all of the delectable sweet breads we devoured and how we attended with Grandma and Grandpa and how beautiful that was.
We get through the awkward stuff, by focusing on the good stuff. I remember now.
Ain’t life weird.
Several months ago a box of Baby Gourmet snacks showed up on our doorstep. YES!!
We’ve been dedicated Baby Gourmet users since our first Bean arrived in 2014.
I’d like to say we were first drawn to the non-GMO organic ingredients – no fillers, added sugar or salt, or artificial preservatives of any kind, product, but that would be a bold faced lie. Nope, we started buying Baby Gourmet because the food pouches always seemed to be on sale at Walmart. Another fun fact, it’s true, we’re gasp, Walmart shoppers.
In our home the food pouches are “Food Bags.” We don’t use their names, instead they are all lumped together by their cap colour. Most importantly my vegetable adverse 5 year old will still suck back a veggie filled food pouch with zero hesitation.
When the Beans were still itty bitty, I’d buy these by the cart full. Now, I keep a couple in my purse for OMG, I need to put food in them RIGHT now moments. I feel so much better quelling their hunger pangs with one of these bad boys versus some of the other readily available fast food choices at my immediate disposal.
When both Bean’s were first dipping their toe in the “solid” food waters, we introduced Baby Gourmet cereals. The ingredients lists made me feel like I was putting a little bit more into their growing bodies than empty calories. Both Beans at 6 months gave the cereal whole hearted gum filled smiles!
The box that showed up in our home was filled with snacks.
There were Puffies and Finger Foods. The littlest couldn’t get enough of the Lentil and Chick Pea Carrot Sticks. While little Mr enjoyed the Cheesy Broccoli Puffs. These snack bags weigh NOTHING they are feather light, so it’s pretty reasonable to stuff the diaper bag (yes, everyone is out of diapers in our household, but once you’ve had a bag that can carry EVERYTHING, it’s so hard to let go) with many many many bags of snacks.
Running late for work one day, I looked at the bag Tomato Basil Slices sitting on the counter and thought, why not. I am a cheezies junkie. I have trouble resisting the vending machine potato chips. I was totally satisfied with my Lentil and Chickpea Puffs, and guess what, no guilt, no bloat, no ick.
Perfectly transportable food made for your precious littles, decidedly perfect to stuff in your own belly.
You can find Baby Gourmet wherever you shop for infant products. Baby Gourmet’s a proudly Canadian company. The company started just over 10 years ago with one mom trying to figure out some healthy solutions for her little.
So, basically what I’m saying is, thanks for a box of treats Baby Gourmet, but you’ve already been a part of our family for several years. Thanks for the Tomato Basil Slices, they are super addictive, and I’m hooked.
So, the next time you and I are sitting in the corporate boardroom and I crack open a bag of Puffies, you get one chance to throw down a “self feeder” joke and then I’ll get you hooked too.
ps. I suspect it was pretty clear we received some free product in exchange for a post, but, everything above is decidedly our own opinions.