Saturday, August 27, 2011

Too Busy To Write

Yep. You heard me. It's my birthday and I'm too busy being spoiled rotten to write anything big.  I'm telling you, birthdays don't get much better than this one though.

1) Fresh coffee served to me in bed.

2) The Trucker took all the kids out for the morning. I had absolutely nothing to do!  I had my coffee while it was hot. No one calling me, walking in on me or fighting outside the door while I had a long hot shower.

3) Great gifts! Thoughtful ones, things I actually would have bought myself (if I ever spent money on me.)

4) An afternoon trip out of the house BY MYSELF.

5) Barbeque dinner (Mmmm...T-Bones) with friends and family.

Most importantly, I've done nothing today. No cleaning, no cooking, no dishes, no work, no ANYTHING.

I could not have asked for a better day!

Be back soon, when I come back (if I ever do) from this euphoria I'm living in.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

How Do You Say I Love You?

In case you haven't noticed (hehe) I'm often inspired by The Hands Free Mama. Her writing is almost always a message I need to hear, just at the right time. Well, she's done it again. But what I didn't expect was the response that this little thing would bring.

She wrote about A Sign Of Love, how to share your feelings with your family when you are not there and how this should not be just when you are going away. It is important to tell your loved ones that they are loved.

My boys have a Super Mario fascination. Well, it's pretty darn close to obsession. They have been building a large collection of plush figures with their own money. It's pretty impressive.

A few days ago, Art asked me to repair Luigi's overalls. The strap came unstitched. A few swipes with a needle would have him back to normal.  I was exhausted, I asked him to bring it to me in the morning. Just before bed, Macboy came with the same request.  I asked him to remind me in the morning, as I already knew but just couldn't do it right now.

Macboy, who knows I'm forgetful, wrote it on the fridge. We have a magnetic dry erase board for grocery lists and important messages. He wrote "Fix Luigi" at the bottom of the board.  The next morning, I came upstairs and saw the note. I got the coffee pot running and called Macboy to bring me Luigi, I would fix it first thing so it wouldn't get missed.

He says "Thanks mom, I did it already."  I was so proud I was bursting! I taught him basic sewing quite awhile ago. I believe that is a skill everyone should have. Being able to replace a button or fix a seam is important. More so for short people like me, pants just do not come this short!  A little later he was at his friends house and it struck me how he took the initiative and tried. He may not have been able to get it and could have had help, but he tried anyway. And he did it.

So I changed the note on the fridge to read:

I am very proud of you for fixing Luigi by yourself. I think it's great that you can sew like that. Good Job!
Love Mom

He got home just before dinner and I could see in his face that he'd read the note. No one said anything, it didn't need any further words. We all felt good.

While I was cooking, knowing that he'd seen his note and not wanting leave anyone out, I wrote to Art.

I'm really proud of you for going out of your way to play with your sister today. It was a big help for me. Thanks! Love you!

It didn't take long for him to be walking around all puffed up. He was pleased with himself as he should be. I even got extra hugs that night at bedtime. It's always nice to be thanked for doing the things we do everyday.

After we had dinner, which turned out great, I headed into the kitchen to start the dishes.  I looked at the note on the fridge, feeling good because I had made my kids feel good.  I never expected to find this:

This may very well be the closest thing to a love letter I've gotten in years. But it was powerful. The Trucker wrote to me. For everyone to see.  I was touched so deeply, especially at a time when I am battling my way out of depression and negativity.

This wasn't the end either.  I took a picture of it, not to share here originally, but to have it close to me when I need to hear those words that aren't said often. Then I washed the board down and wrote "I have the best family EVER!"

I headed to bed that night knowing that there was a lot of love flowing through the house.  I told the Trucker how proud I am of him. He went from having no license when I met him to being a class 1 driver for a living. He's proof that people can change their life path. He never stops amazing me.

When I woke up, there was yet another note. This time from my mom. She passed on the good feeling that she got just from seeing these things. "I'm so lucky to live with my big family. We are all here for each other even when we're not getting along. I love you all"

It all started with one little gesture. A short note, long overdue for all of us.

Make sure you embrace the good moments, no matter how big or small. It will do wonders for everyone. No one should ever have to guess how we feel.

Go. Show someone close to you that you are thinking of them.
I dare you.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

It's All Just A Balancing Act

I read an article recently that stated that women who believe that it is possible to maintain a proper work/life balance with families are MORE likely to suffer from depression than those who don't think it is possible.  I found this pretty interesting and started looking through my history to see how this applied.

A few years ago, I was working full time outside of my home. I didn't strive for perfect balance, I barely managed sometimes. I lived on an "as-needed" basis most days. I wasn't stressed about what was or wasn't getting done because I simply knew that it was a crap-shoot. Can't win them all, so just do what you can.

Then I had a great maternity leave after my last baby. I was afforded the luxury of being at home for a year. I learned all kinds of neat things about managing my home and life as well as raising my kids. I was also home at a time that became difficult with my oldest meeting with several doctors and psychiatrists where we finally reached a diagnosis. I was not a crazy mom, something about that boy WAS special.

I had a spotless, organized home. My days just flowed. I had a few hours every afternoon where I could sew or read or relax. Every day.  Then finances got tight. The trucker was laid off just before Christmas and I had just barely begun working again. I was struggling to manage the home, family, special needs and schools, support the trucker until he got working again, and work from home.

Working from home is an illusion. It doesn't make anything in life easier, it makes it more complicated. It is easy to get sidetracked from work to laundry and the other way, from relaxing family time to checking emails and such.  I couldn't figure out why it was all so hard to do.
I fell into a depression that just seemed never-ending.

Why?  Because I still believed I could do it all. I still believed as I had before when working away from home that I could get everything looked after. I failed to remember that I didn't do it all before. I let it all slide. Life was simple and that worked.  When I started working at home, I had the mindset that I could balance perfectly. I had a few hours every day that were free before, so I could fill them with work and nothing had to change.

I certainly agree with that article. (You can read it here) When I believed I could balance, I suffered. When I didn't think it was possible and didn't try so desperately, I survived. Interesting perspective.

When I had my most recent meltdown, I revealed that I've spent much of my summer trying to please everyone else first. Because I filled my free time with work, I forgot to replace the free time for myself somewhere else.

So, I'm readjusting my schedule. I'm changing my priorities and because I have blasted all of the truth out of my head, my family (mother and trucker) is on my side. There will be less pressure. I am signing on at a gym for some ME time.  I will not compromise my breaks for others needs. Work is important and will be a priority, but not at the expense of my family. Others in the house need to pick up some responsibility too. And those things that just can't get done, will simply wait.

No one died from having dishes sit overnight. No one ended up in the hospital because there were toys on the floor. Well, wait. Maybe, if they like tripped on Lego or slipped down the stairs on a hot wheels car (can you tell I've got boys?)...  My pain in the a** portable dishwasher is going to get some exercise. I don't use it often because it is just annoying to move around. But I will.

I was definitely happier when I didn't think it was possible to do it all.  So I'm going to stop trying and just do what feels right.  Starting now, I have to listen to all my own advice! I need to really pay attention to the positive messages I am sending. And I need to share more of the positives with the people here, in my house, not just for readers online. I appreciate the small moments. Those are the moments that pull me through.

The balance will shift back and forth from time to time. That's okay too. It doesn't have to be perfect, it just has to be done. Right?

Wish me luck!  And kick me every now and then when I sound like I'm forgetting this!

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Mom-Somnia Strikes Again

I've got two weeks exactly until the boys are back to school. I'm kind of looking forward to it. I'm not saying my kids drive me nuts (though they do sometimes...) but I have absolutely no sense of rhythm left in me right now. We don't wake up at the same times everyday, our bedtimes are out the window. I've had more sleepless nights this summer than I had in the last year.

Art is a fighter. Not an aggressive kid, not that way.  He's always questioning things and sadly, it is hard to battle your 7 year old when he makes so much damn sense. He's a negotiator and more. I like to allow chances for him to state his opinions and I do give them opportunities to practice negotiating. But I also impose limits and there are things that are just not going to change no matter what argument he has or how good it sounds.

He fights and delays everything he can. He was the biggest baby of my three. He left my ribs bruised from the last month of pregnancy. He was my longest labor.  He will take an hour to eat dinner. He will spend 30 minutes getting ready for the bath before the water even gets turned on. And bedtime... Oh Em Gee.  Bedtimes suck.  He was the only one of my kids to climb out of the crib. I had to move him into a big bed early.  I had a baby gate in the door. He figured out how to get over it. When I raised it, he got good at squeezing under it. When I moved it to the stairs instead, he figured out how to go through his closet and climb through the space in the stairs on the other side of the gate. Ugh...

I resigned myself quickly to just sitting in his room. Every night. I tried all those tricks that say move a bit closer to the door every day, and then eventually stay outside the room.  Yeah. Not this kid. If I was too far away, he just would not stop talking. And it doesn't matter if I talk back or not. Even on the nights he was in there completely alone, he was still talking.  It is hard to tell when he has gone to sleep too, he talks in his sleep. A Lot.  (I have family who thought I exaggerated this, but having had him overnight since they KNOW this is the truth.)

Macboy lost the mommy snuggles at bedtime very suddenly. I used to go and lie down with him for 5 minutes every night just before bed. We'd chat about the day, I'd tell him I love him and he'd just stay there for the rest of the night. Never a fight.  With Art out of the crib, I'd try to get my time with Macboy, but I could NOT leave him alone.  I couldn't put Macboy to bed first, it just didn't work.  And Art fought so long every night that Macboy would be sleeping by time I could finally go see him.

I spent about 6 months talking to Art about how I would not stay in his room anymore. Once Angel Baby was out of her crib, things would be different.  He needed to go to sleep by himself.  I tried everything. Soothing music. Quiet reading time. Floppy Sleep Game. Visualization tips. Relaxation tips. I even tried letting natural consequence take over. I let him stay up as late as he wanted and woke him up early for a few days. I'm not doing that again, he just wakes up and keeps moving, but he is extremely miserable and whiny. (Then still fights bedtime!!)
It does not matter. When he's finally gotten everything out of his system, it takes less than five minutes for sleep to take over. But getting him to stop talking or moving?  Well that's why I started going grey early!! 

Angel Baby broke her crib. Literally. It is garbage now.  The decision to make the switch to the big bed was immediate. No time for considering options, just "Crack!" and that was that.  She moved in to her bed.  I have the baby gate in the door way. She just stays in her bed. She might look at a book for a few minutes or play with a dolly. But 99% of the time, she's asleep within minutes of bedtime. She doesn't try to break out. She doesn't even try in the morning. She just wakes up and sits on her bed until I go get her. Macboy, 11 now, just goes to sleep. He has some nights that are hard, but he just stays in bed and rests until the sleep arrives.

I have taken a stand. Instead of losing an hour every night in Art's room just sitting there getting madder and madder, I informed him that I won't do it anymore. That was about a year ago, I think. Ever since, I have had a two to three hour fight at night instead. When I was hoping he'd get better at staying there and going to sleep, he ended up getting better at sneaking around the house without getting caught. It's starting to seem like it is just better to go back to sitting in his room.  

He doesn't need toys or books or TV to stay awake. He pushes bedtime back by talking to himself. Making up stories, pretending his pillow is a person. Once, he put on just about every single pair of underwear he owns. All at once. Looked like a sumo wrestlers butt on a bean pole. Funny, yes, but timing was terrible.  My point is, I don't think it's possible to just take everything entertaining away so that his room will just be for sleep.

The worst part of this whole deal comes when the insomnia starts creeping up on me. The worst was years ago, before I had kids. I had about six weeks where the longest stretch of sleep I got was three hours. I would maybe doze off for 15 minutes here or there, but it was awful. The last week, before medication brought me back to the real world where sleep is necessary, I had less than three hours of sleep for the whole week. Since kids, I go through phases. I just can not lie down and fall asleep. I have mom-paranoia. I hear every noise. I have a boy with growing pains (yes, doctors, if you can't name it and it's pain only in his legs only at night time... I'm going to call it growing pains.) He's got me up at least twice a week. Angel Baby wakes up about twice a week, sometimes playing sometimes crying. (Sometimes screaming like a horror movie!)  The trucker goes to work anywhere between 2 a.m. and 6:30 a.m. It changes every day. A year ago, I never heard him leave. This summer I've heard him every single day. I don't hear his alarm, I hear him moving.

Monday night, I was wide awake until almost 5. I had to drive hubs to his truck at 6:30. I rested from 5 til 6. Drove him and came home. At 7 am, I was still awake. I stayed in bed until about 10 but it wasn't much sleep. More staring at the walls than anything. I have a prescription in the cupboard for times like this, but it has to be taken at the same time every day. And since I don't have any way of knowing when Art will go to sleep, I can't do it.  I can't go to bed if he's awake, when I have tried, he has stayed up as late as 3 am.

I have a small window around 11 pm that I can fall asleep easily in. With Art keeping me up until nearly midnight, I pass the window almost every day.  With a babysitter or a sleep over, I can crawl in bed when I am tired and get to sleep quickly. Without?  Lets say he falls asleep at 11:45, I can crawl in bed and toss and turn like clockwork until 2. Part of the reason I just started doing more work during the night, part of the reason I blog most around midnight.  I figure if I have to be up, I'm gonna make use of the time.  I am not supposed to stay in bed when I can't sleep. If it takes more than 20 minutes, I'm supposed to get up and do something. I can't keep jumping up and bugging the trucker, either.

I'm hopeful that school will put us back in order. I know he's not going to magically start falling asleep earlier, but I will be forced to get him up earlier in the morning.  He will be forced to go to bed at bedtime and maybe if I send him at 8, he'll be asleep by 10. Still an improvement.  If I can be in bed by 11, I can get up well rested.

Who am I kidding?  I won't. I've always functioned best at night.  But at least I won't have anyone to blame but me. I won't be furious about someone else making me stay up. I won't be fighting for those hours. If I want to go to sleep at 11, I'll be able to. That's all. I'm tired of this battle of wills, I'm just tired.

Friday, August 12, 2011

What Lies Beneath.... Art's Bed

Sometimes late at night, when the house is deathly silent, I can hear it calling. It starts out slow and soft, then grows steadily into a pain-filled howl.  The sound echoes through the house and chills me to the bone.

I can't count how many times I've tried to find it. Just as the stories say, light can't touch it. Perhaps, it is only children that can see it at all.

After years of trying and failing miserably, I was lucky enough to find the location of the sound once.  The creak in the stairs is usually quick to give me away and the thing goes quiet. Having years of practice creeping around my home in the wee hours has allowed me to perfect the pattern finally.  Though I still got hung up by the squeaky floor board in the hall. I lost the element of surprise, but I definitely traced the source to Art's room. It echoed slowly out from under his bed.
Art must know about it.  I think he just might like it there, hidden away. It seems sometimes that he doesn't want me to find it.  Maybe that painful moan translates itself into a lullaby of sorts while he's dreaming. Like a soft love song whispered in his ear that soothes away the daily woes.

Or maybe it's completely opposite. Not soothing at all, but disturbing his rest. Perhaps it is not pain in his legs that sends him racing to my bedside at three a.m.  
I can't be sure exactly... 
He swears he's never seen it.

It's been a full week of this. The sound used to come and go, but this week is different. Seven nights it has woken me in sweats with that instant mom panic that grips you when you hear your child cry at night.  

Today, I declared war.

I tip-toed into Art's room, in the full light of day, hoping the beast would be sleeping since it's awake through every night. One by one, I slipped the toys out. Cars and trucks moved. Army men returned to their troops in the toy box. A few stray socks and a lost t-shirts given renewed life in the hamper.  

And there it was! I could see the face of this sleeping monster. I sped up my work. Quickly and carefully I uncovered the beast.  Stunned and silent, I fell backwards. I couldn't tear myself away. This thing, it wasn't horrendous, it was marvelous!  A true beauty of nature, right there under Art's bed.

It was light brown and fuzzy, incredibly soft. I stayed there a few minutes more taking in the moment, running my fingers through it's soft shag.  I closed my eyes, thankful for this glorious gift I had been given and I think I heard that beautiful creature say

"Thank you.  I've waited so long to be free!"

I've always believed it was just a myth, something that people just made up to scare their kids. But I'm telling you, I know the truth. It is real. It does exist. I've seen it with my own eyes.

I bet, if you are willing to try hard enough, you can find it in your kids room too. Start slow, just move one thing at a time. 

Be patient, 
And you too
can find

The Floor.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Kitchen Helpers - I May Regret This Later

On the weekend, we had some guests over for a backyard wiener roast. The weather was cooperative for the most part, the clouds started moving in just as we were ready to cook, so we were indoors before the rain fell.  It was a busy day, but a relaxing day. I tackled laundry and made my potato salad to go with dinner. 

I didn't overcook my potatoes this time.  I had plenty of time and this salad turned out quite well. Through the preparation process, Angel Baby was very curious. She has the uncanny ability to find and grab just about anything that I don't want her to have, when my hands are the most full and I can't get it away from her. It's like the same magnetism that draws the truck to the Tim Hortons Drive Thru.  She can sniff out an untended knife, or cup of coffee, or a market left low... from the opposite end of the house. 

She stole the lid for the pickle jar. While I was finding that, she put the Mayo in the livingroom. When I was getting that back, she was using a butter knife to eat pieces of the potato out of the bowl. Just one thing after another. 

Then she went for the eggs. 

I finally decided that this was the activity least likely to destroy my kitchen or hurt my baby, as these were hard boiled already, so I showed her how to crack them and peel them. 

She was so happy to help! She cracked the eggs and tried to peel the shell away. It was working well until the first bits of shell started sticking to her fingers. She chose not to peel any more but was happy to keep cracking them for me to peel. She enjoyed squishing the yolks up and dumping them in the bowl. 

After the eggs were done, she helped scooping all my other ingredients into the bowl after they were cut up. She had a great time, I had fun too, and the salad was great. It took probably twice as long as normal, because she was getting close to my knife while I was chopping so I had to slow down and watch closely, then let her clear the cutting board before continuing.
Later in the evening I had the sudden realization that this may have been a bad idea.  It's great to let her help, but my little monkey likes to HELP. Often without me knowing. (Like soaking the couch with windex because she didn't understand that I use that on the coffee table, or washing the floor with her juice and a sock).

I have now officially warned everyone in the house who cooks with eggs that she may want to help. She may not understand that the eggs are not cooked.  She just might try to help crack them.  I am just waiting for the first smashed egg on the counter.... I know it's coming!
If I'm lucky, it won't be me trying to cook eggs and I will get to just sit back and laugh.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Insert Vegetables Here

I need a sign, point it at my mouth. And the kids too.  I don't eat enough of those greens and I know it.  I'm trying to be more commited to my food choices and perhaps - No... definitely - exercise more. I've had it with this extra weight.  I found a like minded community of mommies and friends who all have the same goals in mind. I am hopeful that this extra support will help me stay accountable and get back into the nice clothes I own!

I've been pretty much lost all summer. I dread school days and structure just as much as my kids do. It's partly a control issue as the school days and hours are beyond my control. But it's largely a lack of will power to stick to any real routines during the summer. I'm up til three am one day, then in bed at 9 the next. I have been working on shifting the kids bedtimes back to normal so the first days of school won't be so hard. But man, it's summer. And where I live, Summer doesn't last very long at all.  

I can make some really awesome plans. I had great dreams of how my summer would go. The kids sleep late, so I could get myself up at the regular time and get most of my work done before they woke up.  But because I am constantly running behind, I stay up too late. Then when I do go to bed early it's because the kids have actually gone to sleep earlier. Which means they wake up earlier. UGH... Just can't win.

To be honest, I am not a morning person. There is just no way around it.  I can think about whatever I want before bed, but there is just nothing that will get me moving. My half brain in the morning convinces me quite well that I have just 5 more minutes.

On the bright side, I may be swimming in a sea of laundry, but I have kept the main floor of the house clean all week. I've had my dishes done every night. I've been cracking the kids up with my crazy "mom" dancing while I'm cleaning up. I need to get the extra exercise into my days somehow!  Angel Baby rocks out with me, but the boys think I've lost my marbles.

I've made some new connections with some other INFJ personalities lately. It's funny how we think the SAME things, the SAME ways. Almost creepy! Anything I've read that these people have written could have come from my own mouth.  I've always known I was kind of unique, I didn't know that I really was that different!  INFJ's are the most rare of all personality types. It's a blessing and a curse sometimes, so I can't say if I'm happy about this or not.  Reading a report from a personality quiz was one thing, starting to find like-minded individuals really drives it home. And the best part is that I wasn't looking for these people. I just had the opportunities open up, because I am opening up.  I love this, and I'm happy they found me!

Hmmm... guess there really wasn't much of a topic today. No one thing consuming my thoughts that I had to just spill. But that will come. Life will settle sooner or later.  Whoever convinced me to work on potty training, while working at home, with all kids out of school, and mom on a super clean house rampage... among many other things, needs a swift kick. NOW. Oh, wait, this was all my own doing wasn't it?

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Gotta Get Away

What a FABULOUS weekend!  It was relaxed and unplugged. I shut my cellphone off as soon as we hit our campsite and didn't turn it on again until we were heading home. 

We arrived early Friday afternoon and returned home Monday afternoon. We had everything we needed while we were away, so there were no necessary trips to town or anywhere else for that matter.  Everyone pitched in, there was no complaining about the boys helping with their sister, the only arguments about cleaning up dishes were from my sister saying "No, I can do that, you go sit!"  

There was no hum of a laptop fan. There were no extra voices streaming from a TV. There were no text messages, emails, video games.

We were a family. We were outdoors. We worked together and had a blast.  When the weather was a bit yucky, we did allow the kids to play on DSI's which we had brought for the truck ride out and back. For whatever foolish reason you can find, our board game collection was not in the trailer as usual.  We made small concessions, but still tried to limit the video game time as much as we could.

My kids, rode their bikes, played in the playground, got muddy.  They played outside in the rain, and in the sun. We took a short trip down to the lake and played in the water for a while. There were watergun fights. There were games of horse shoes.  Even bike races, with the adults on the kids bikes.

It was just all relaxed.  There was no schedule to follow, just do what we felt like when the mood struck.

I had brought my e-reader so I would have a selection of books, but when the opportunities to read presented itself I didn't want to. I sat and watched the fire, I looked up at stars, and mostly I watched my children play.  I was thoroughly selfish this weekend. I ate up every moment I could. 

I was not an active participant playing with my kids, leading my daughter through the park or showing my kids new tricks. I did somethings, but mostly I just watched. I let their imaginations run their days. I soaked up every second of it.

There was no "Mom, look at me! Mom, come see this! Mom, check this out!" because I was already watching. They felt my attention in ways that I normally can't give them.  By doing LESS, I showed them MORE.  By stepping back from teaching moments, I was able to learn from them.

We will be returning to our Wednesdays Without Electronics. We all clearly need the detox more often.  Not just the kids, but all of us. 

There were plenty of 'learning moments' for me on this trip, even if it was a short trip.  I need to keep my eyes OPEN. I have got to keep up my fight against distraction. No one can live my life for me. I don't want to miss anymore of it.