Another way in which I am an awesome mother

7 Jan

Before Christmas (and yes, we will return to Christmas blogging shortly) Walmart had a clear-out sale on school bags.  A whole bin of them for $2.

Josselyn does not tolerate random meandering down unnecessary aisles (for which our bank account thanks you) so I only had a glimpse, and couldn’t immediately bring to mind a use for more school bags, no matter how ridiculously priced, so we left without even looking at them.  However, I couldn’t get them out of my mind, and as I began to pack for our Christmas roadtrip (I can’t bring myself to call it a vacation as it has none of the required 4 S’s of Vacation: sun, sand, surf and/or skiing) I finally thought of the perfect use of a secondary packsack- overnight bags!

It was a “snow” day (with not a flake in sight) so I packed up all 3 kids to head to Walmart in search of awesome prices, mediocre selection, and horrific craftsmanship.  When we arrived I was dismayed (but not surprised) to find the $2 bin depleted.  Luckily there was also a $5 bin, and the girls and I spent the better part of half an hour digging through a hundred backpacks to find 3 different ones.

Josselyn’s was easy: Disney Princess in pink with sequins?  Deal.  Holly was quick: Disney Princess in blue and pink with sequins and sparkles?  Deal.  Bronwyn?  Not so much.

The girl is just not into girly stuff.  She rejected out of hand anything Princess.  She thought about the Fairies for about 10 seconds before deciding she could never own anything that purple.  And yet, she wanted something that wasn’t plain… but not too sparkly.  She almost settled on a boy’s, blue Zhu Zhu pets one when I pulled out… THE WINNER!  It was a tote style, over-the-shoulder, over-sized bag with matching binder and pencil case.  It was black with funky neon hearts and peace signs all over it.  I fell in love instantly.

Here’s where my good mothering comes in.

I let her get it.  AND, I let Holly get hers.

I did suggest that perhaps Holly would prefer a similar colour and matching style to the bag that Bronwyn was now joyously clutching to her chest.  And I may have unearthed an equally cute white one with orange and pink hearts all over it that I thought would be perfect for her.  And I definitely wondered if Holly would regret not going with MY choice when we got home and she realized that Bronwyn’s came with a matching binder and pencil case.  BUT, I didn’t force the issue.  Even though I would have loved Holly to have chosen the better bag.  The one not emblazoned with Princesses that screams FRANCHISE MERCHANDISE.  And I love the girls to be all matchy-matchy.  It makes my heart happy to see them coordinated.  But I let it be.

I think the bigger lesson of individuality could be learned from this.  As much as it would be easier to be raising cookie cutter children, that just isn’t the case.  They are each unique and special, and trying to mold them into clones of each other will come at a terrible price if I am not careful.  Although it would be great to try to instil into each of them the traits that I most respect and admire:  Bronwyn with her strong sense of self, and child-like (and yet so mature) faith; Holly with her sweet nature, daredevil, try-anything attitude, and cleverness; Josselyn with her determination, passion, and empathy.  Each of these things I wish they could all possess in spades, and it is precisely these qualities that make each of them special and unique.

I know I made the right choice when we got home and Holly decided that her new bag would now be her school bag and her old bag could be her overnight bag.  She was smitten with it.

And me?  Well, I think I’d still rather the girls match, but if it were up to them, 2 against 1 would have meant Bronwyn would now be sporting a grimacing Fairy or something equally garish!  Good choice, Julie.  Good choice.

Which one would YOU rather have?!?

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New Year, but not much new…

2 Jan

It seems to me that whenever I physically cannot blog, I have inspiration coming out my ears.  However, on days like today, when I am home and alone and my house is tidy and no tv is worth watching and my husband is off cutting a cow into teeny tiny 1 lb pieces, I find myself bereft of creative thought.  Go figure.

I could regale you with tales of my holidays and new years resolutions and how great our new Zipfys are, but to paraphrase my friend Joan, “I just want to move on”.

But!  A slight recap:  we had a few friends over on Christmas Eve and spent the evening eating, drinking “Moose milk” and laughing hysterically over small children trying to play Pictionary.

Holly's wreath- pretty good eh?

That’s my king behind it which Bruce later used to draw “Good King Wenceslas”.  True story.

Next morning we woke up, opened gifts…

Giggly over stockings

… and drove 5 hours to visit Bruce’s mom.  We then left early in the morning to have Christmas morning with the extended family (as per usual).  We entertained the girls in the car on the way there with a lengthy and informative dissertation on the differences between towns, counties, cities and metropolises.  I am married to a Planner.  We also learned interesting words like “arch”.  As in, that bridge has a beautiful arch.  And where the Raptors and Leafs “live”.  And any viewing of the CN Tower must ALWAYS be accompanied by trivia pertaining to how many stairs it has (1776) and why there are no buildings between the Rogers Center and the Lake.  Ah… good times.

Christmas was wonderful with delicious food, good company, and well-behaved children.  It was hard even noticing them, since they spent the better part of 4 hours playing quietly with their new Playmobil sets!

We asked Holly to take a picture of us... sorry Uncle John!

Bruce with his Uncle and Bronwyn. One of my favourite pics.

Grandpa with Josselyn- an unlikely pair... but inseparable nonetheless!

Joss chillaxing with Uncle Eric... or is that Clark Kent?

Joss' other newest best buddy, Penny

They were curious about what was going on in the basement, but not quite brave enough to go down and find out...

Joss and Penny wouldn’t venture downstairs.  But there were others who seemed brave enough… to handle THIS:

PIG CHAMPION

I know.  Scary.  But it is a tradition as carved in stone as Butternut Squash soup for supper.  Taken seriously by all those whose last name is Howarth, or was Howarth at any time…

For the record, this is the first year that I haven’t been allowed to play HIPPOPOTAMUS.  Last year they shortened it to HIPPO.  And now I am considered (if not quite good enough, at least not bad enough) adequate to play without handicap.  Although Bruce is still considerate enough to allow me to follow him so at least I get a good paddle drop KAROLYN!

There is always a lot of laughter:

And a lot of blame…

PIG is important to Witherses too

But only one winner:

Eric! Get out of the picture!

Winner Christmas 2011: Karolyn Howarth-Withers!

This “recap” took more time and space than I expected.  Christmas Part 2 to follow…

Gotta Keep ‘Em Separated

5 Dec

The Christmas Season is well upon us now.  And since we are officially past Holly’s birthday, with party and “day” under our belts, we can turn our attention to what’s really important: all the stuff we are going to receive in the next 4 weeks.

Now, please, don’t get me wrong.  We are very grateful and awed that so many people love our children enough to go to the effort of actually entering a store (going online), in the month of December (December 23rd) and handing over well earned cash (swiping their credit cards) to purchase an item they spent all year thinking about (called to ask what each girl wanted).

Sorry, I couldn’t resist.  No really.  We love it.  Don’t stop…

It isn’t the types of toys that make me fear Christmas.  In fact, this year, it sounds as if the girls are going to have their best Christmas EVER (gift-wise anyway- the lack of snow situation is seriously worrying Bronwyn).  It isn’t even the quantity.  It is the gnawing, mind-devouring agony of the post-Christmas week going something like this:

G1:  That’s MINE.  I got it for Christmas.

G2:  But I was playing with it.

G1:  Well you can’t, cuz it’s MINE!

Me:  Just let your sister have it, she was playing with it, and you didn’t even care until you noticed.

G3:  Hey!  She has MY *thing*.

G1:  But you said you didn’t want it.

G3:  I did not.  I said I didn’t want to play with it now.  But now I do, so give it back.

G2:  How can I play *X* when she has all the pieces?

G1:  Well, *so and so* didn’t give you all those things, she gave them to ME.  And I want to play with them.  ALL.  Right now.

Starts crying

G1:  She HIT me.

Me:  I’d hit my sister too if she were being so selfish (in my head of course, I’d never say that out loud for real… ever… or anything….)

Me:  Don’t hit your sister.

G1,2,3:  BUUUUUUUUUT SHEEEEEEEE TOOOOOOOK IIIIIIITTTTTTTT…….

Does this happen in anyone else’s house?  How do you deal with it?

Elaine and I can (now) fondly reminisce about our days sharing a room in the basement.  We actually (based on the Berenstein Bears’ book, I think) plastered masking tape down the middle of our bedroom floor.  My side had the door, so I made Elaine enter and exit our room through the backless closet door (which led into the laundry room).  We had to share a room, but that didn’t mean we had to share anything else.

I want my kids to grow up in a house where everything is communal property.  Not everything, of course.  They each have their “special” toys and keepsakes that they keep in their rooms, and have a 6th sense when someone else is even thinking about touching them.  But most things.  I want them to be able to open up the My Little Pony bin and play together without attaching ownership onto every comb and accessory.

I dream about a home where all the toys are there to share and be played with, instead of hoarded and purchased in 3-packs.

However, the more I poll my friends, and listen to their experiences, the more I fear this is a pipe dream.

Maybe kids are meant to covet ownership as a means to control their lives, and practice their negotiating skills.  Maybe this is a lost cause on my part: insisting on joint custody of every Barbie.

All I do know is that I can’t referee every fight and preside over every judicial hearing, or I will go crazy.

What do you think?

I want to see how many times I can fit “4” into this post!

3 Dec

It is 8:04pm.  Four years ago I got my first drop of Pitocin and the contractions started in heavy.  We were already 40 minutes into the Raptors game, and I had to convince the nurse that I really DID want to watch it, and no, my husband didn’t have to turn it off…

I couldn’t have known that less than 4 hours later (in Room 404), my sweet Princess would make her grand entrance at the stroke of Midnight.  Maybe we should have named her Cindy?

Our sweet, nameless girl looked nothing like what we expected.  She was born within minutes of 2 other babies, and kept the poor OB hopping!  She arrived in the middle of the worst snowstorm of the season.  In fact, we got stuck in a ditch on the way to the hospital (right outside our house) and the snowplow driver had to hoist us out!

Who is this strange person? And why does she have more hair than me?!

Since that first snowy night when she entered the world, Holly Grace has been spreading life and love in our lives every day:

Announcing her new status as "Big Sister" just days before her 1st Birthday!

Can't get her thumb out of her mouth long enough to blow out 1 candle!

Year 2 was just as great.  Holly continues to charm and surprise us!

Terrific Twos!

And last year… this cool cake was inspired by Holly’s favourite book that year: Curious George’s Hot Air Balloon Ride.

Showing off Auntie Jenn's awesome Hot Air Balloon cake

Which brings us to FOUR!!!!  How on earth my baby is 4 years old is a mystery to me.  But I love her more every day and will spend the rest of my life trying to show her how much she means to me:

Happy Birthday, Holly!

Holls and Lamby... Best Friends Forever!

Great Expectations

15 Nov

Alternatively titled:  Where have all the expectations gone?

Why don’t we expect anything from our kids?

No, really.

What are they expected to do?  Or not to do.  In my house, they are expected to not eat dirt from the plants, pee in appropriate receptacles, not run away…

Um… is that it?  We think that we are allowing our kids free expression.  We tidy up after them because it is easier.  We allow for mistakes, and praise things that, for previous generations,were simply expected.

Good grades?  New car.

Got yourself dressed?  Sticker for the chart.

Ate all your supper?  Or at least half?!  Dessert!

But it is worse than that.

“I could never take my kids shopping, they’d just run all over the store!”

“Oh, we don’t have any breakables- we have kids!!”

“She always screams like that when I say “no”.”

When did we get away from expecting that our kids should just behave?!  I am not a perfect parent, and several of these examples are straight from my house.  But I fear we are doing a disservice to our kids by never teaching them that there are some things that must be done for no other reason, than… it must be done.

If you expect your kids to be misbehaved at the store… guess what?  They will!

If you expect your kids to be afraid of the dentist… be prepared for years of struggles.

If you expect your kids to hang up their coats when they get home… you guessed it- your front hall will be cleaner!  Well, you’ll still have to hang up your husbands’ coat, but that is a different post…

My point is that our expectations for the next generation are WAY TOO LOW.  It seems we don’t expect anything that they can’t already do.  Or, we expect perfection the first time, and then are frustrated and give up teaching our kids to behave in socially conscious ways at all.

If you never allow your kids the opportunity to discover what is expected of him or her, then you are setting them up for failure.  Consider the kid who never stays in the service at church (or the one who never gets sent to the nursery).  When they reach the age where they must/cannot stay in the sanctuary, they will fight you!

What about the parents who won’t take their kids to restaurants.  They are afraid of bad behaviour so they always hire a babysitter.  Well, that’s great until their grandparents come to town and want to take the whole gang out to eat, and the kids are completely unprepared for how to act in a restaurant.

I am digressing from my original point though.  Children who don’t have expectations placed on them will never live up to our expectations!  So, how can we remedy this in our society?  I have no clue.  But, in my house, here are some things that my kids are expected to do, without receiving anything for it:

Get ready in the morning.  Eat their food.  Put away their things.  Not break anything.  Not colour anywhere that is not paper.  Not make messes.  Not run away in the store, park, parking lot.  Hold my hand when we cross the road.  Walk.  Wash their hands, teeth, faces, bums.  Not whine when I turn off the tv!  Not hit people, pets, things.  Not touch things that don’t belong to them.  Come when they are called.  Go to bed when they are told.

Alright alright, so that last one is a work in progress, but you get the point!  I want my kids to grow up to be beneficial members of society, and that means teaching them that I expect them to grow up to be beneficial members of society.

So… what do you expect from your kids?

Spa Season

7 Nov

Men… well, all the men that I know… consider the month of Fall to be “Hunting Season”.  This is a Truth that I grew up knowing.  I knew that my father would be absent in October to a place that I couldn’t picture, and wasn’t invited.  I knew that weddings planned, and babies born in October would not be looked upon as times of gladness and blessing, but of inconvenience, and resentment, and ultimately guilt at having to miss a daughter’s wedding…

I guess my question is, “when is Spa Week?”.  And if there were such a thing, is this how it would go?

“Got my plans all firmed up for Spa Week, honey.”

“You’re going spa-ing AGAIN”.

“You know I go every year.  And can you call your mother and make sure she got the dates right?  Luckily someone in our group got a package this year, so we won’t be exfoliating for nothing”.

“You mean you’re going spa-ing with my mother too?  I thought that you were going to the City with your girlfriend”.

“Oh, I’m doing that too.  This week is for manicures, but the City week is for pedicures.  And I’m going to need to more spa clothes.  Can you pick me up a reversible bathrobe?  I need it to be terrycloth on the one side, but silk on the other….”

“Why on earth do you need two different fabrics?!”

“Honey, obviously you can’t wear silk for the hot stone massage.  It would ruin it with all that water vapour.  But terrycloth is too heavy for mani-pedis.  Besides it’s the law.  I’m also going to need to go out to the spa and clear my area ahead of time.  I need to adjust my chair so it’s the right height, and put out my nail file and clippers.  Plus, I’ll need to pick up half a dozen polishes.  I just have no idea what I’m going to need once I get there.”

“Well, when will you be back?”

“I don’t know, depends if we get the seaweed wrap or not.  Could be Tuesday, could be Friday.  I’m going to need you to get some money for travel expenses and food.  $500 should about do it”.

“Didn’t you just GO spa-ing in the Spring?”

“Spring is facial season and my annual pre-wax, and I only went in the mornings before work, this is the big stuff- MASSAGE.  I just can’t wait to head out every week to a different Spa jurisdiction so I can catch all the legal spa times, and hang out with my friends, and drink fancy cocktails, watch chick flicks and get a few treatments in”.

“Well, why can’t I go?”

“Honey, you know it’s just for women, besides, who’s going to watch the kids?!”

When my life gets hard, these are things I never want to forget…

5 Oct

Bronwyn:

One morning last week, Bronwyn woke up early, and instructed me to stay in bed, while she fixed breakfast.  I came out to the kitchen and saw 4 bowls of cereal with milk, and a glass of water at each place.  She used everyone’s favourite colour dishes, and even remembered to use the almond milk for Joss.  And the best part?  Besides the fact that she didn’t spill a drop, and put everything back where it belonged?  My water was poured in a wine glass, because, according to Bronwyn, those cups are “fancier”.

Holly:

Last week I asked Holly what she wanted for lunch at school that day.  She replied with, “oh anything… except what you made me yesterday”.  After further prodding, she told me that the crackers had touched her ham in the container and made the ham all “spoofy” (definition: where ham has cracker crumbs all over it, and renders the ham “slobbery”).  “I was really disappointed”.

I looked over in surprise (that she knew the word “disappointed” and that she used it so correctly in a sentence).  Holly misunderstood my look though, and quickly jumped in:

“Not disappointed in you, Mom; just disappointed in my lunch”.

Josselyn:

Me:  How old are you Josselyn?

Joss:  Three!

Me:  No, you’re not three, you’re two!

Joss:  I DO three.  I DO!

Me:  Ok, ok… well, does that make you a big girl?  Or are you a baby?

Joss:  Me a Princess.