number twenty four: the mum update

I figured since I associate the number 24 with my mother (her birthday is September 24th) I’d dedicate post 24 to an update on how she’s doing.

[Side note: If anyone’s keeping track, I started this 52 posts in a year on July 1st. If you do the math, I have 28 posts left to do in 69 days. Pretty sure that’s not going to happen.]

My mum is doing remarkably well. She was told three months of recovery time for the pelvic break, which would take her to the beginning of June, but here we are nearing the end of April and she’s already walking on her own again. No walker, no cane. She moves a bit more slowly than usual, but you wouldn’t know she’d hurt herself, and she says she barely has any pain. The ability for the human body to heal itself is an amazing thing.

I have stopped worrying about her, and perhaps have fallen back into a state of blissful ignorance that our lives will continue along smoothly. There will be another incident of some kind, whether it be a fall or an illness. She is almost 80 after all. But I don’t think there’s anything wrong with me not thinking about what COULD happen (I worry about enough as it is!). I have no control over what she does, and I wouldn’t want her to stop living life the way she does simply to ease my worrying.

I am very thankful she has moved to Victoria, and it sounds as if she has no regrets either.

number twenty: was supposed to be a bit more about my mother…

Last Monday night my mother had a fall and ended up breaking her pelvis. She is doing okay and is home today after spending a week in the hospital, but I feel like it’s just the beginning of something new for me…taking care of my aging mother.

It’s stirring up all sorts of stuff for me…some selfish thoughts around how this will impact my already depleted supply of “me” time, some worrisome thoughts as I imagine her in her house alone, navigating with a walker (I’m with her now and Greg will be here tomorrow and we’ll take it one day at a time on that front, but I will have to leave her at some point!), morbid thoughts around how this is probably the beginning of a series of setbacks for her, and her death seems closer now…nothing really uplifting. However despite all this I am thankful she has moved to Victoria, because if all this was happening in Langley it would be much more complicated.

The other aspect is I’ve just spent a week dealing with the medical system, and while I feel we actually had a good experience overall, I am reminded of the fact that I feel inferior to those in the medical profession, especially doctors, and I have trouble advocating for myself, much less my mother. I am thankful I have my physician sister and brother-in-law to back me up if needed (it hasn’t been needed), but really I wish I could just get over it. It drives me nuts that I feel this way. I’ve been sitting here fuming all day because my mother’s doctor said no when I asked her for a copy of Mum’s various test results — hospital policy is to send them to the family doctor. What’s the point in fuming? I don’t actually need the records — my sister asked to see them if she could, and she can follow up if needed. They will be waiting at my mother’s family doctor’s office when Mum goes to see her next. The appropriate actions have been taken, and the results would be meaningless to me. I guess it’s just the principle of it. I asked for information that is rightfully my mother’s and was turned down.

Anyway, not sure what this post was supposed to be about, but I’ve gone off track…I think I’ll stop here and hope my little rant was therapeutic.

number one: busy

I don’t know what Greg and I did with our free time before we had children. I don’t even remember thinking we had much free time, but boy, did we ever. It feels like we are going non-stop, especially now that summer has arrived. And I know we are not alone.

Take this weekend for example. Friday I worked in the morning, spent about four hours getting ready for a camping trip, left at around 5:00 for said trip, and camped for two nights (and admittedly did spend some time sitting around, but not much!). We arrived home late last night, got the kids into bed, cleaned up a bit and went to bed completely exhausted. This morning I got up, went for a 50 km bike ride, got home, sent Greg out on his bike ride, went grocery shopping with the kids, baked a cake, cleaned up a bit more from camping, and prepped for a BBQ we were hosting with our neighbours. Thank goodness they were doing most of the work. Then we had the BBQ, cleaned up, hung three loads of laundry and watered the plants. Whew!

I complain about the pace sometimes, but I don’t think I actually mind it that much, because most of the time we are doing things we have explicitly chosen to do, and we are having fun. Especially around this time of year. I don’t do well (neither do my kids) if I don’t have a plan, and it needs to be a plan of action. It doesn’t have to be high-energy action, we just need to do something.

I think my poor husband suffers a bit, but he keeps his mouth shut most of the time. And he does benefit from the fun stuff we do, so it’s not all suffering!

And now we are at the end of our first (busy) summer weekend, and I’m feeling like I’ve had a real holiday, even if it’s just been three days.

what to say?

Usually when I sit down to write a blog post I have a pretty solid idea of what I’m going to say. I’ve usually crafted parts of the post in my head (this is one of the things I do when I run, write blog posts in my head), and I sometimes have a catchy title as well. And I certainly know what I’m going to write about…

I have not done that tonight. And no, this is NOT going to be a post about how little I’ve been posting, since that would be one of my blogging pet peeves. But I am going to break my mould and write about more than one topic. Because tonight I actually have time and energy to post something, but I don’t know what exactly I want to write. So I’m just going to spew.

First, the training is going well. I ran for an hour and 45 minutes on Saturday morning (we won’t talk about how far that actually was because I am still way short of 21.1 km) and rode for just under two hours on Sunday afternoon (after much procrastination, and I *will* talk about how far the ride was because it was almost 40 km, I did some hills, and I averaged 20 km/h…not bad for riding alone late on a Sunday afternoon, tired from a busy weekend). I’m so far injury free, which isn’t all that surprising because I haven’t been injury prone, but I am a good seven years older than I was the last time I ran a half marathon, so you never know what might happen.

On the not-so-bright side, there is a good chance that I will be out of the continent for the half marathon, as my next Saudi trip is planned for May 15 – May 31st. Plans change weekly on this front, so I’m still holding out some hope, however they have started my visa application process again, and this usually means things are a bit more concrete. I’ve had a lot of time to get used to this idea so I’m not as bummed as you might think. Actually, that’s not true. I’m very bummed about missing a weekend away with my hubby, no children and six good friends. But run-wise I think I will try to find another run to do. Either that or totally bail on it. Interestingly enough, that second option is not very appealing. I am quite excited about this challenge of training for a half AND the Tour de Victoria, so I think another run is what’s in store for me.

Second up. Amy. She’s turning four in nine days. FOUR. Four was a big one for me with Elliot. It seems so much older than three. I feel the same way with Amy. She’s turned into a big girl. Yesterday she started a set of swim lessons at the rec centre. She’s done lessons recently through daycare, but it’s the first time I’ve been at her lessons when I’m not going in the pool with her. She got right into it and was glowing through the whole lesson. She looked like she was having a ball…with a teacher she’d never met and four other kids she’d never met. Whose kid is this? Has she always been so brave?

She continues to have her own sense of style and it’s one of the many things I love about her. I still remember the one day, long ago when she was two, when she had just mastered dressing herself, and I cringed at what she’d chosen to wear, but decidedly kept my mouth shut. That day, I remember making it clear to her care providers that she’d dressed herself. I remember talking to friends at work about how hard it was for me to keep my mouth shut. But I did, and I’m so happy I did, because we are constantly entertained by her choice of outfits, and now it doesn’t ever cross my mind that I should explain her outfit to anyone else. This is Amy, pure and simple. Layers, stripes-with-flowers, socks-on-the-outside-of-her-pants, skirts-with-dresses, sun-hat-with-a-winter-coat, five-outfits-a-day Amy.

Third. Elliot. I said on his birthday that I would write more about Elliot at six. Since I talked about clothing and Amy, and since clothing has been an issue with Elliot, I’ll talk about Elliot’s current relationship with clothing. In short, it’s much better than it was. He now has about five pairs of pants that he’ll happily wear, and not all of them are blue. They are all still sweatpants, but he’s broadened his horizons a little bit colour-wise. As for t-shirts, he’ll pretty much wear anything now. We had a bunch of hand-me-down t-shirts that he wouldn’t touch last year, and about four months ago both Greg and I subtly tried getting him to wear them by putting them at the top of his shirt drawer. Without a word, he started wearing them. All of them. We haven’t had a clothing battle in months and it’s awesome. That said, he’d still rather live in his pj’s, but I’ll take what I can get.

He has a great sense of humour, and he’s able to use his body and facial expressions as part of his humour. He’s reading more and more every day, and he’s loving the French. He’s also an anxious kid and he complains of stomach aches at school. That’s a whole other post that might not get written. For now we are supporting him as much as we can, and if it becomes something we can’t handle, we’ll get help. I’m not nearly as at peace with it as that statement sounds, but I’m trying not to project into the future regarding what this means for him as he navigates through life. I also need to remember that I was an anxious child, am still an anxious adult, and one of the most important things to teach Elliot is coping mechanisms.

He still rages, however not as often as he used to, and he recovers more quickly. It still worries me, especially when we’re in the middle of it. He has such a tumultuous personality and he’s not always the easiest person to live with. I’ve learned that walking away is not helpful at all, although I still do it at times if his behaviour is making me angry. Because yelling at him when he’s in the middle of it is useless. I can also talk to him more about it afterwards, and he seems to listen to what I say, and often can explain how he was feeling, once he’s calmed down.

Finally, me. I have been thinking a lot lately about parenting, more than I have since Elliot was three and on a hitting rampage. As siblings the two of them often have extremely endearing moments together (like tonight when Elliot was the mum, Amy was the baby and Elliot was reading — really reading — to her). They also often have moments where they are hitting, kicking and sitting on each other. I say Elliot has a tumultuous personality, but Amy does too, she just recovers much more quickly. So together they ride a roller coaster. I have lost my patience with them too many times to count, and every time I yell at them I feel terrible afterwards. I am trying not to yell as much. I’m trying to remember the mantra I thought up a few months ago, “parent like somebody’s watching”. But I question my methods, I question whether what I say to them is getting through to them, I question whether I’m royally screwing them up (although as my good friend Hillary pointed out to me this past weekend, what kid doesn’t get screwed up by their parents…good advice, and I should lower my expectations).

I have moments where I feel I’m the queen of all mothers, and other moments where I feel like a truly suck. It’s a bit unsettling.

But all that said, I had the best day I’ve had with them for a long time this past Wednesday, and I think it renewed my faith in myself a bit, and faith in the fact that they truly are great kids, fighting, bickering and meltdowns aside. I will endeavour to not lose sight of that.

some spontaneity would be nice

I haven’t lived in the same city as any of my family members since I was 17 years old. Part of that is my own doing — I left my “hometown” to go to university and I never went back. But even if I’d stayed, it’d just be my mum there. My three siblings all live elsewhere now, and so does my dad. I love living in Victoria and it definitely feels like home to me, but there are times when I envy my friends who have weekly dinners with their parents, or who can just drop by and visit a sibling on a whim. To visit any of my siblings requires a lot of planning, a lot of money, and usually some vacation time from work.

Tonight as I was making dinner I realized there was going to be a lot extra, and thought how nice it would be if I could just call up my sister and have her, her husband and my nephew come over and join us for dinner. I actually did call her to tell her that, and her response was that they definitely would have come, as they had had frozen calamari and raw veggies for dinner. I can tell you with certainty that my dinner was far superior. We proceeded to have a very pleasant 30 minute conversation, which was great, but it obviously wasn’t the same as seeing her.

My mum is planning on moving over here at some point, so some of my need will be fulfilled, but I doubt any of my siblings will ever live here, and I don’t plan on living anywhere else any time soon. So this is something that I’m just going to have to live with. And the up side of it is when I do visit my siblings, my sister especially, it’s for an extended period of time, in a city that is nice to visit, and we really get a chance to reconnect. But it would be nice to not have to plan everything in advance.

depressing topic

A friend of mine lost a friend of hers a couple of weeks ago. He was married with two kids aged five and seven, and he died of a sudden, massive heart attack. He was 44 years old.

I’ve never met this man, but as I spoke to my friend about his death I broke out in tears. There are so many people affected by this. His wife, his relatives, who live out of the country and haven’t seen him in years, and his co-workers and friends who greatly respected him. But what I can’t stop thinking about is his children. His children will likely not remember him. Not as a person. Not as a father. Only as a picture and a handful of vague memories. And that breaks my heart. When I go to that dark place and imagine myself dying young, that is what I panic about. That my kids will not know me. That they wouldn’t know what I liked, what I disliked, what made me smile, how much I loved them.

It is one of the reasons I am glad I blog. It’s not much, but regardless of when I leave this world, my children will always have at least a small, personal part of me to keep.

movie night

We’re trying to start a movie night in the Fox household, once every two weeks or so, but we’ve had a few barriers.

First, Elliot is VERY sensitive about what movies he watches. (Frank the Combine in Cars freaked him out the first few times he watched it.) The only movies he’s successfully sat through are Cars (about 100 times) and Bob the Builder’s A Christmas To Remember. And I refuse to watch Dora movies.

Second, we never seem to be organized for our movie nights. The whole point is to spend some family time together, but we’re always rushing around trying to figure out what to watch, where to get it from, get dinner ready early enough, get the dishes cleaned up, get the kids in their pj’s…so the kids often sit with just one of us (or neither of us). There’s also the issue of the couch. It only fits three people.

So we end up where we are tonight…the kids are eating popcorn, watching a new Bob the Builder DVD (not a movie), and Greg and I are sitting at the dining room table. Blogging. At least we’re all withing ten feet of each other.

Next time I think we’ll get pizza, and I’m going to do a bit of research to see if I can find some movies that all of us will enjoy. If that doesn’t work, we’ll just have to wait a few years.

two helping hands

Both kids have been really into helping with household tasks lately. Amy’s been doing the dishes (and quite well I might add) and Elliot’s been helping me with laundry and sweeping.

Amy just thinks it’s something fun to do, but Elliot really wants to help. He specifically asks: is there anything I can help you with, Mum? There are definitely jobs he likes better than others…if I mention anything about cleaning up his room he doesn’t want to do it, but if I ask him to go get the laundry from the dryer, he’s all over it. He carries the laundry basket downstairs, opens the dryer and takes out all the clothes, and then carries the basket back up, full. I’m pretty impressed with his strength.

Both kids are quite good about clearing their plates away after dinner. Elliot almost always does it without being asked, and Amy now (after a few months of sticking to our guns) does it without a tantrum. And sometimes without being asked. 🙂

I know it’ll change at some point and these things really will become chores for them, but I’ll enjoy it while it lasts.

how things change

As I navigated to my blog for tonight’s post, no concrete post ideas in my mind, I clicked one of my “This Day In” links, and found this post.

Everyone says things get easier as your kids get older. Or at least a lot of things get easier. And yes, it’s easier to have a “Mummy Day” with a four-and-a-half-year-old and a two-and-a-half-year-old than with a two-and-a-half-year-old and six-month-old. Two years ago I was dreading my Mummy Day. Yesterday was my Mummy Day and we had a great day. The kids are more portable, I don’t have to lug around a crap load of stuff, they can provide input on what we do for the day, they provide more feedback on things they enjoy (and things they don’t enjoy) and they both make me laugh.

We spent the first part of the morning making a birthday card for my sister. Elliot drew an amazing cat on her card, and wrote “Happy Birthday Auntie Jan” (copying from me) and his name. He also did a card for his cousin, with a cat eating an apple. Amy did some scribbles. It was fun to just sit and do a craft, and have them both enjoy it for such a long period of time.

We then visited their old daycare, which was a bit odd. Elliot was pretty hesitant, as I knew he would be, but he actually was more outgoing than I thought he’d be. He gave one of his old teachers a big hug, and said hi to a couple of kids he knew. Amy was pretty shy with her old teachers, even though she said she had been missing them, but she had a few smiles. It was a quick visit, and I don’t think I’ll do it again unless the kids ask to go up. I think it’s a bit confusing, and I think Elliot may have some not-so-great memories of the place. As we were walking toward the big yard (where we often saw him looking quite forlorn) he was a bit upset that we weren’t just going inside to his classroom. Kind of gives me the willies, wondering what he was going through while he was there. But thankfully we’ve dealt with that one.

After the visit we headed down to the best children’s book store in Victoria for story time. It was a full house. Elliot spent most of his time looking at a book, which is a bit unusual for him (he’s usually listening to the stories and songs), and Amy must be getting used to the place because she was more into it than she has been in the past. Maybe because last time she was there she got a cookie from Kate. 🙂

Next up, we went home for lunch to meet up with JenV and Carys. The kids had fun playing outside, and in the afternoon I read and had a great nap on the couch while Elliot watched TV and Amy napped.

We still have bumps — probably every day — but in general I’m enjoying this time, and I’m thankful that I have the flexibility to take a day “off” with them.

halloween

As I said yesterday, Halloween was a pleasant surprise this year. And not just the evening — the whole day was wonderful.

My mum was visiting for the weekend, and we’ve been having some really nice visits lately. The kids seem to have really connected with her, and they both were happy to spend some time with “Gran”. We weren’t sure what we were going to do Sunday morning but we knew we wanted to do something outside, so when JenV called and suggested we go to Goldstream with her, we said yes.

The weather was gorgeous — sunny, crisp and cool with just enough of a breeze to send tons of golden leaves gently to the ground. A few times it looked like it was snowing leaves. The salmon were still running, and I’m embarrassed to admit that in my 20 years of living in Victoria, I’ve never been to Goldstream when the salmon were running. So that was a treat as well. The kids were able to see quite a few of them making their way upstream.

We had an impromptu lunch of hot dogs and hot chocolate, bought from some firefighters raising money for Muscular Dystrophy, and then headed home for some naps and quiet time (the girls all napped, the boys all had quiet time). When we got home our neighbour’s 12-year-old daughter, was having a Halloween party. And here’s where we get to the surprise part. Elliot has never been interested in trick-or-treating. I’m not exactly sure why, but my guess is that there’s too much attention placed on him. People will notice him more in a costume and he’ll have to actually talk to people he doesn’t know. But really, it could be something entirely different. Because I’ve never asked. If my child doesn’t want to get dressed up and go out and get a big bag of processed sugar, I’m not going to try to convince him.

So when we got home, Elliot went over to talk to the neighbours for a bit, and when Zoe asked him if he wanted to go out trick-or-treating with her, I was shocked to hear Elliot say yes with no hesitation. I thought he might back out, but he was gung ho, and even let me paint his face with a nose and whiskers to enhance his last minute lion costume. Amy wasn’t interested initially, but 30 minutes before they were due to go out, she changed her mind. So we threw some fairy wings on her and the whole Fox family went out with Zoe and her dad.

And it was so much FUN. The night was beautiful, the kids seemed to really enjoy it, lots of people were out, and our street has some great decorations. Plus it was a nice way to talk to some of our neighbours. And we conveniently had Mum at home to hand out our candy for us.

The kids went to about a dozen houses before they started to get tired…this was three times the amount Elliot said he would do (“I’m only going to four houses because I’m four”). The lure of candy was too much for him.

The only disappointing part of the day was the community bonfire. We went down after we got back from trick-or-treating and it didn’t feel very community-like. Lots of really scary costumes, too dark (that sounds odd, I know), and several very stern police officers patrolling around. We didn’t stay long.

But it didn’t really matter because we’d had such a great day.