last but not least, amy

Seems like a fine subject to talk about for my last NaBloPoMo post this year…my little girl.

I’m glad I’m the youngest of four, because if I wasn’t, I think I’d be a bit worried at the mental energy I expend on parenting Elliot compared to parenting Amy. I think it’s out of balance. But I never felt any less loved than the rest of my siblings, so hopefully Amy knows how much she is loved. My gut feeling is that it’s because of personality as opposed to birth order.

To put it bluntly, I have absolutely no concerns about how Amy will make her way in this world. From day one she has been crystal clear about what she wants, and she’s not afraid to ask for it. Many times. She also has an ability to take things in stride. This may not be obvious in our day-to-day household operations (there is lots of drama), but in general, she just rolls with things. And if she isn’t rolling with it, she’s letting you know what her problem is with it. Many times. To my untrained eye (see previous post about Greg and I not being psychologists), it seems like she was born with confidence. And I’m very thankful for that.

So the drama. There is lots of it. It can be very entertaining (especially when there’s a third party in the house who sees the humour in it) and it can be very exasperating. Greg and I are often telling each other to take a deep breath. I think we also need to be more aware of the fact that our kids (shockingly) are very different. And where Elliot is somewhat oblivious of the disengagement approach, Amy is totally affected by it. So just walking away can really have a positive effect on her behaviour. Along the same lines of recognizing our kids are different, we also need to remember that she’s still only four. Not that having high expectations for your kids is a bad thing, but we need to keep in mind that she’s not six. On the other hand, the drama also has a very positive side, and I am at a loss for words in how to explain some of her facial expressions and body language. Even the way she moves through the house (often at breakneck speed) is comical.

She loves music, and I’ve easily got her hooked on some of my favourite songs. Tonight we watched Rio and she was dancing her way through the closing credits, in her underwear. Some of my happiest parenting moments have been holding her hands and dancing with her.

I think she’s going to like school, but I think we will likely get a few comments on her inability to focus. We’ll see how the next year goes, but she can flit from one thing to the next very quickly. I worry with Elliot going through school before her that she will be compared to him, but this hopefully will be where her confidence kicks in. And there is no doubt that she will excel at lots of things.

Her play is very imaginative, and I’ve had some great fun listening to her monologues as she plays out different parts of her scenarios. She also likes to move things. She brings toys from her room to other parts of the house all the time, and finding things is sometimes a challenge.

I said earlier this month that she has a very unique style when it comes to how she dresses, and she can get quite attached to her clothing, even if she doesn’t wear an item very often (or ever). I no longer tell her when I am going to donate something because it’s too small. It just disappears in the laundry (and then appears on the two-year-old next door, which has created a couple of issues — oops).

I am so looking forward to watching her grow up and seeing how her confidence and sunshine affect how she lives her life. So far it’s been a great ride.

elliot

Elliot had a skating field trip at school today that I was able to go to. Today’s trip was his third school skating trip — he had two last year while in kindergarten. I’ve been able to go all three times.

The first time we went, he waited by my side until I had my skates on and was ready to go. We got on the ice and he promptly burst into tears. A few of his classmates asked him what was wrong, but he didn’t answer. I’ll never know exactly how Elliot feels in these situations, but I think the best description is overwhelmed. Lots of kids and an activity he was new at (he’d been taking lessons for a few weeks). He eventually stopped crying, but he didn’t let go of my hand.

The second trip, he waited for me again, but there were no tears, and he did some skating with his friends.

Today, as soon as I got his skates on, he was off. By the time I got to the ice he’d been skating for five minutes on his own, and he didn’t even notice I was on the ice at first. Then he proceeded to skate, skate and skate. He didn’t hold my hand once, and apart from one skate around the rink together, he was off with his friends.

I knew I was going to write about Elliot tonight, and as I watched him today, I realized that this progression from the first skating trip to the third mirrors Elliot’s life in general. He has always been uncomfortable in new situations, especially those with lots of his peers. But if you give him time, he eventually warms up and has a great time. Greg and I used to struggle with how much to push him and how much to give in to his fears, but I’ve noticed in the past couple of years that I don’t agonize over how much to push. I just trust my instincts. No, I will never know exactly he feels, but his reactions are so normal to me that I just take it in stride. We’ve also starting talking more about how he’s feeling, how it’s normal (for him, anyway) to feel nervous, and that the sick feeling in his stomach is related to his emotions. It helps that both Greg and I suffer from a bit of social anxiety in new situations, so we understand where he’s coming from.

So that’s one aspect of my almost seven-year-old son. Another one that stands out, partly because it kind of contradicts what I’ve written above, is how engaging he is with adults. He’s always been physically attractive to people (who can resist those beautiful blue eyes??), but coupled with that, he feels quite comfortable around adults and happily talks to them. Today when I met him at the school for the field trip, I had a chance to watch him in the playground for a few minutes before the lunch bell rang. He was having a great time running around (or at least he looked like he was). And then one of the other mothers from the class walked up to him and he immediately gave her a big hug. He knows her, but not really well.

Over the last year he’s turned into a boy. Not a young boy. A boy. He has voiced his opinion about his hair and has asked me to stop shaving it, and I think the length of it makes him look older. But it’s his mannerisms and the way he speaks as well. We were at a birthday party last weekend, and in his goody bag were some little containers of play doh. I commented to both kids that they’d received a fair bit of new play doh recently, and Elliot replied, “Yes, play doh has become quite popular lately, hasn’t it?” Stuff like that comes out of his mouth all the time.

He is loving school, which is no surprise. I find it hard when the other school parents tell me how smart he is, especially when he’s standing right there. Mostly because I don’t know how to respond, as it feels like they are comparing him to their children. It was nothing Greg or I did, it’s just him. And yes, I’m thankful. I’m also thankful that there are a bunch of really bright kids in his class, and he’s not “the smartest”.

Socially, he gravitates to girls more than boys. He’s been the only boy at several birthday parties, which doesn’t phase him at all. I sometimes joke that my kids are have stereotypically reversed genders. Elliot’s the one who can sit still, who can focus on a single activity for a long time, even from a young age. It’s funny watching the two of them watch TV, because Elliot almost looks comatose, and Amy doesn’t stop moving.

And he has a temper. I’ve written about it plenty of times on this blog. When he is mad, he makes it abundantly obvious, and he uses his voice and body to make his point. I don’t struggle with how to react to his anxiety, but I sure struggle with how to react to his anger. I am fairly sure that if Greg and I were to parent him a bit differently, we could avoid some of the outbursts, or at least diffuse them more easily. But we don’t know the perfect formula, and being parents, not psychologists, we probably never will. Although there have been a couple of books recommended to me recently that I will try to find the time to read. Things are better than they were three years ago, the year of hell, but there’s room for improvement, if only in how Greg and I react.

I think the thing that I’m enjoying most right now is related to his becoming “a boy”. I get little glimpses into what the next few years will be like as he gets older and we’re able to communicate at a more even level. I feel a different connection with him than I did when he was a pre-schooler. Which I guess is obvious, but it feels pretty cool to experience it happening. And he makes me laugh, which I absolutely love.

she’s no slouch

Greg is currently teaching my 78-year-old mother how to use Twitter. We often have to show her how to do things several times when it comes to technology, but I have to give her credit. She has a desktop computer, an iPad and a Samsung smart phone (some bad advice there, should have got an iPhone so there’d be one less user interface to worry about), and she uses them all. Her iPad is her favourite. She uses it for email, games, news and now Twitter (if she can figure it out).

At her age, she could have easily shunned technology, especially the tablet and phone mediums, and that would have been perfectly acceptable. But she believes in challenging her brain. I sometimes get frustrated with her when I’m trying to explain something over the phone, but I really do admire her. I think she’s brave to take these things on, and she’s always trying to pick up something new.

And with her 78-year-old bones, it’s hard for her to get down on the floor and play with the kids, but she’s spent many a happy hour cuddled with them on the couch, iPad in hand, while they play Scrabble, watch National Film Board films, and learn from each other. A side effect of the iPad that I never anticipated.

it’s going to be a hard one to finish

A couple of weeks ago, Greg, the kids and I were all in Kaboodles looking for a birthday present for my nephew. (Well, I was looking for the present and the other three were drooling over all the toys.) Greg brought over a 1000 piece Christmas puzzle I’d seen earlier, to see if I was okay with getting it. We had already talking about possibly getting one that we would do each year, and he’d picked one that I liked, so I gave him the thumbs up.

We weren’t going to start it until December 1, but tonight we had an early dinner, my Mum is here (she won’t be here on December 1), and it just seemed like a good night to start it. So we did. Amy spent about 15 minutes helping sort pieces, and then lost interest. Elliot, Gran and I worked on the edges and Greg eventually joined us.

We were progressing quite well when I started getting annoyed at the licking Sheba, my Mum’s dog, was doing right near me. I told her to stop, but she continued. A few minutes later Greg figured out she was chewing on something, and made her drop it. It looked like a blue piece of paper. Greg walked over to the garbage holding it, and just as he was about to throw it away, he exclaimed, “Oh NO!”

The paper was actually a puzzle piece, soaking wet and mangled beyond repair. My Mum felt horrible, but we figured it will be a good story. We’ll do the puzzle each year, minus one piece, and remember the time that Sheba had an extra snack.

i think she’s pissed!

On Sunday night, Greg and I headed to bed, later than we wanted, as usual. It was a busy weekend and I was looking forward to climbing into my nice flannel sheets. As we were closing up shop and heading upstairs, we heard the telltale noises of Heart about to toss her cookies. Greg ran downstairs to try to let her out before she puked. You have to give her credit, she got as close to the front door as she could, and then let go.

One puke is almost always followed by another with her, but she’d deposited her dinner so close to the front door that Greg couldn’t open the door to get her out. He frantically tried to get her to the kitchen door, but she only managed to get to the other end of the hallway before the second wave hit.

Ok, two piles of puke to clean up. Greg did the worst part of the deed while I offered moral support and gave the floor a spritz and a wipe.

Off we go up to bed, delayed by ten minutes or so. We brushed our teeth, etc, then headed into the bedroom to change. I picked up my pajamas off the bed and noticed a wet spot underneath them. Aphro had peed on my pj’s and it had gone through them and onto the duvet. This was the second time she’d peed in our bedroom that day — in the morning I went to put on a top that had been lying on the floor overnight and it was sopping wet and stinky.

So we had to change the duvet (thankfully we have more than one)…more delays and no more flannel.

We are pretty sure the reason she’s peeing in the bedroom as opposed to her litter box is because we have two extra dogs in the house. But she’s being pretty immature about it, because there is a big gate up that prevents the dogs from getting anywhere near her as she makes her way from our bedroom to the basement. Not to mention that the two extra dogs sleep in a bedroom behind a closed door all night. AND, she seems to be able to eat her food, which is less than a foot away from her litter box.

But it didn’t end there. Last night I had finished getting ready for bed (again it was later than I wanted it to be) and I pulled back the duvet to climb in. And there, on my side of the bed was a wet spot the size of a large platter. This was on the sheet, and the duvet had been covering the sheet. I checked the duvet, and sure enough it was soaked through. So we changed the whole fucking bed (going back to the duvet that had been peed on the night before), cursing the cat the whole time.

The litter box is now in the bedroom — temporarily until the extra dogs vacate the premises. If this doesn’t work we are locking her up somewhere. (Although last night I have to admit to having thoughts of changing her from an inside cat to an outside cat and just letting fate take over…)

she’s not known for her subtlety

Amy seems a bit preoccupied with death these days. Not sure where it’s coming from, but she’s mentioned a few times that she doesn’t want to die. She isn’t very upset when she talks about it, she says it rather matter-of-factly. My response has been that she’s not going to die for a very long time, and she’s got a lot to look forward to. That seems to satisfy her.

Then this morning when Amy was eating breakfast, both my mum (who is 78) and I were in the kitchen. Amy asked how old Mum was, and Mum told her. Amy’s response was: Wow, you’re old. You’re going to die soon aren’t you? Mum and I burst out laughing. As I write this down I’m thinking that perhaps you had to be there…

Thankfully my Mum was not offended in the least, and Amy, in her typical fashion, quickly moved on to something else.

But it’s an interesting feeling, as a person who is quite terrified of dying (and would rather just forget about it), to be talking with my four-year-old daughter about death. I mostly think about it at night, and my fear comes from the sheer inability to imagine myself not being here.

I’ve talked to my Mum about it over the years, and learned that she felt the same way as me (I’m sure we are not alone). But she says as she grows older and more tired, she is less afraid. Not sure I’ll ever get there, but I hope to.

Nice subject matter to send myself off to bed with.

sunday night blahs

A sure sign that things are not going well at work is my abrupt change of mood at about 9 pm on Sunday nights. I had a fantastic weekend that included visits from both my mother and Greg’s mother, a fun night out with Elliot, some really enjoyable time on Saturday with the kids, first at a birthday party and then at Tall Tales Books, an amazing concert with Greg and some friends on Saturday evening, followed by yummy Bin 4 burgers, and a sunny Sunday that included a nap.

Then BAM. I start prepping for Monday morning and my mood takes a big fat nose dive. It’s been a long time since I’ve felt this way…years I think. But the last few months have been really hard, and it’s starting to take its toll. I’m hoping that things will sort themselves out come January. It kind of puts a damper on the December cheer.

Maybe I just need a vacation. And not the Christmas break kind of vacation, but the kind where you go away and leave all the crap behind.

i deserved that drink

Tonight was “Parents Night Out” at Elliot’s school, which meant you could pay a small fee ($10), drop your child off at 5:00, pick him/her up 9:00 and do whatever you wanted in between. Me, being a glutton for punishment, decided to volunteer to be one of the chaperones. Partly because they were only taking school-aged children, so Greg and I would have had Amy anyway, and partly because Elliot didn’t want to go. This is typical for him. Something new, something with lots of kids, not his scene. But I was pretty sure he’d have fun if he did go, so we decided to go together.

We fed the kids dinner (pasta, sauce and meatballs), everyone decorated a cookie, did a craft and then the plan was to watch a movie. Everything was going along fairly well until about 30 minutes into the movie. It was “Elf”, perhaps not the best choice to keep kids’ attention, although no movie is guaranteed to keep 100 kids quiet.

Thirty minutes in kids started to get restless. Very restless. And it wasn’t just some kids, I’d say it was about two thirds of the kids. They were running around the back of the gym, having pillow fights and generally being loud. The vice principal was there (thankfully), and she managed to keep things under control for a while, but it became apparent that things were going south.

The VP stopped the movie and gave the kids the option of sitting quietly and watching the movie or going into one of the classrooms to colour. An alarming number decided to go to the classroom. I stupidly followed them, and once in, could not leave. I couldn’t leave the other parents knowing we were on the brink of chaos. One child in particularly was acting up a lot, and one of the parents told me she was not supposed to be talking to him. Not sure what that was all about, but I became responsible for him. He was a handful. After a few minutes of telling him to not do whatever he was doing, I asked him if he wanted to play hangman. That led to about 50 games of hangman and tic tac toe with him and four other kids of varying ages. We all survived.

At 8:40 the movie ended and all the kids piled back into the gym. The VP took over again and ran a game of British Bulldog as the parents slowly started to arrive. I breathed a sigh of relief.

In hindsight it all worked out, but there were about 45 minutes there when I was quite uncomfortable. I’m not sure how the other parents felt — those more used to a lot of kids in one place may have been more relaxed. Me, I got home and had a drink. But I didn’t break my November drinking rules – there were other “19 pluses” in the house.

And Elliot did have a good time, until the game of British Bulldog. I think he was done by then, and that many kids running around and shouting was too much. I am glad we went, despite the chaos, as I think it’s good for him to push his boundaries a bit.

And I know I missed yesterday. I’ll make up for it another day.

who really cares?

I just spent the last hour “cleaning up” our basement for my mum, who, as mentioned previously on this blog, will be staying with us for a few days. Our basement, as it stands now, will never be clean. We moved from a house with a garage to a house without a garage. A good portion of what was in our garage, including four bikes, now lives in our basement. We do have a crawl space, but it’s not very accessible and it floods periodically. We have stuff down there, but it’s all up on shelves and it’s stuff we don’t use very often. (Invariably, if I’m getting something out of the crawl space, I hurt myself getting out. The latest was getting the kids camping chairs out for the Santa Parade. I was backing out of the small opening and cracked my head on the overhang.)

I often get frustrated by the state of our house. And it’s not limited to the basement. Our bedroom always has stuff lying around in it that shouldn’t be there. Some of the stuff has a home and Greg and I are just too lazy to put it away, other stuff doesn’t have a home and ends up in our bedroom, for lack of a better place (usually because the basement’s too messy to fit anything else).

I wish it didn’t bug me. There are times when I’m fine with it…I can ignore the clutter and recognize that my priorities are elsewhere right now. Some day I’ll have the time to find a home for everything, and some day Greg and I will have the money to actually build a home for everything, but right now is not that time. I do know that when I’m 80, I’m not going to look back on my life and wish I had a tidier house. I just wish that at 41 I could let it go.