Proud mama

As my kids get older, I’m realizing that there’s a lot more to this whole parenting thing than meets the eye. Sure, parenting babies is tough. Sleepless nights, feeding issues, gross diapers, teething misery…all legitimate challenges. But making sure my children turn into good people with the kind of qualities I like to see in a human being? Man, that’s tough.

My husband and I do our best to instill in our children good manners and the importance of being well-behaved. We (attempt to!) discipline when appropriate without constantly nagging. It’s a fine balance.  Sometimes I feel like I’m always saying “no” or “don’t” so I’ve started trying harder to think about whether or not it’s really necessary before I tell my kids to stop doing something.

All that being said, we got a really nice compliment from one of Littleman’s daycare teachers the other day. Littleman is currently one of the oldest kids at the daycare and will be leaving to start kindergarten in September. At the beginning of the month, several new children joined his class. Apparently, he took one of the new kids, “Jack”, under his wing and has been helping him get adjusted to his new classroom. He’s been showing Jack where things are and sitting with him during activities. He even helped Jack cut his food at lunch when he was struggling one day.

The teacher was very complimentary about how kind and helpful Littleman has been. I’m not gonna lie, I was very proud. As parents, it often feels like our kids don’t listen to anything we say and we rarely get a chance to witness how they act when we aren’t there with them. It was so nice to hear that our child took it upon himself to help another person.

I hope as he grows, he continues to be the kind and loving person that he is today. Because, so far, I’m one proud mama! 

   

Daycare drama

Figuring out who would take care of our children while we worked was one of the toughest parenting choices we’ve had to make. Having me be a stay at home mom was never a viable option for us financially, so as soon as I got pregnant with our first child, we started looking into childcare options.

We live in a city where finding daycare spaces can be very, very tough. Not only is daycare ridiculously expensive, there are also long waiting lists for many daycare centres, starting from before the babies are even born. We did some research and found a daycare centre that would meet our needs: good reputation, good facilities and convenient location. We got ourselves on the waiting list when I was three months pregnant, knowing that we would require care for our child starting at age one.

Fast forward to summer 2011. Our son, Littleman, was about six months old and we decided to ask to for another tour of the daycare we had chosen. Now that we were parents, we had a better sense of what we wanted to know/ask about so we set up a time to visit. As we took the tour, we spoke to the supervisor about the chances of space being available when we needed it in January 2012. This is when we learned that Littleman was unlikely to get a spot.

Right away, we started looking around for other options. While we preferred the idea of a daycare centre rather than a home daycare, options were limited because we needed something in walking distance from our home and there weren’t many places that accepted babies under 18 months. We ended up choosing a home daycare where Littleman would be one of five children. We had to start paying for the spot two months before we needed it because someone else would have snatched it up if we didn’t.

We expected the transition from being at home with me to being in daycare all day to be tough for Littleman. We had heard that it often takes a couple of weeks for kids to settle into the new routine. What we didn’t expect is that he would NEVER settle in.

After two and a half months of constant crying, emails and phone calls to pick him up early, we finally had to admit defeat and accept that this daycare just wasn’t right for us. We made the decision to pull him out. I checked in with our first choice – the daycare centre – to see if there was a chance he could get a spot there. At the same time, I arranged to see a few other home daycares in the neighbourhood.

In the end, we chose to keep him at home for a couple of months until a space opened up at the daycare centre in the summer. We were lucky enough to find a nanny who was available part time to cover the days that D had to work. When she wasn’t available, I would take some time off of work or my mom would help out. When Littleman finally started at the daycare in July, he was 17 months old and the transition went extremely well. He was very happy there and remains happy there now. His little brother, Bo, joined him at the same daycare in February of this year.

Now that Littleman is four and will be starting Junior Kindergarten in September, we had to start over with the whole child care application process. Where we live, Kindergarten is now full day. Our public school offers a before and after school child care program. As it turns out, getting a spot in that program is just as cutthroat as regular daycare and we (almost) waited too long to get ourselves on the waiting list. After a couple of stressful weeks, we found out that Littleman got the last spot in the child care program.

We were super-relieved when we found out. But, seriously, what are people supposed to do if they don’t get a space for their child?   After the bad experience we had when Littleman was a baby, I hate the idea of having to settle for childcare that isn’t my first (or even second or third!) choice. Ugh

Learning from past mistakes, we have already put Bo on the waiting list for a before and after school child care space for when he starts Kindergarten (in 2018!). I know I will always worry a little bit about my kids when they are in the care of someone else, but hopefully I no longer have to worry about whether they have a daycare space at all.

Oh, the injustice!

This morning, for the first time in a long time, Littleman had meltdown on the way to daycare.  I asked him to stay inside the front door with his brother (who has a tendency to try to crawl up the stairs as soon as I turn my back) while I set up the stroller out front.  When I went back inside to get the kids, Littleman started crying because he had wanted to help set up the stroller.  I reminded him that he had helped me by watching his brother and I asked that he help me clip the baby into the stroller.  But, alas, it was too late.  He was wound up and wasn’t going to be distracted from his anger.

He cried the whole way to the daycare.  Then, through his tears, he said, “I’m crying because I wanted to help you with the stroller!” I couldn’t help but smile.  A year ago, when he was an angst-filled three-nager, his meltdowns were intense.  He’d get super mad and cry really hard and, in the end, I sometimes wondered if he even remembered what the whole fuss was about.  Now (at the ripe old age of four) he knows exactly why he is upset and articulates it very clearly.

He calmed himself down by the time we reached the daycare. He helped me collapse and store the stroller, which somewhat made up for the earlier injustice of not being allowed to help set it up in the first place.

Watching all this go down made me realize how much easier parenting Littleman is now that he’s four.  He’s always been a pretty well-behaved kid who is a good listener and likes to help.  But, he is still a kid and we’ve certainly had our ups and down.  Age three was probably the hardest so far – I wrote about it here and here – but we seem to have turned a corner.  Sure, there are still moments like this morning where he gets upset when he doesn’t get what he wants.  But, like today, he gets over it pretty quickly now and he seems to be starting to understand that he can’t always get what he wants (his dad and I have amused ourselves by singing that to him which could have pissed him off but seems to have entertained him instead).

It will be interesting to see what Bo is like as he gets older and starts to show his frustration more.  Will he continue to be an easy-going kid, like he’s been an easy-going baby?  Or will he be stubborn and get easily worked up when he doesn’t get his way?  I guess we’ll have to wait and see.

The flock is heading south

When I was a kid, I always pestered my parents to take us to Florida.  Growing up in Canada, vacations in the south were a treat.  My family was a skiing family, though, so our holidays were always spent in cold climates.  I would see my classmates return from Florida with golden tans and stories about Disney, and I’d be so jealous.

As an adult, I’ve taken many amazing tropical vacations.  I’ve been to Australia, the Cook Islands, Tahiti, Dominican Republic, Cuba, Mexico and Jamaica.  But one place I’ve still never been is Florida. And it turns out my husband is the only other Canadian who hasn’t been there.

So, when we were offered the opportunity to use our friends’ Florida condo for free, we jumped at the chance. What better way to end my maternity leave than escaping winter for a week of fun with my boys?

We’ve (sadly) decided to forego Disney this time around. The cost is something that we just couldn’t stomach after me not working for so long. Plus, Bo still needs his naps so we didn’t think we’d really get our money’s worth. It’s still something I really want to do in the future.

Instead, we’ll spend time on the beach and in the pool, or do some day trips. Of course, I will hit up the outlet mall, although I probably won’t be buying much given the value of the Canadian dollar these days. I will definitely visit Target, though, since we won’t be able to do that here anymore!

Mainly, I’m just excited for some time together as a family. Life has been so busy and I know it’s going to get even worse in the coming weeks. Oh, and I’m excited to get away from all this snow!

Party time

After years of small family gatherings, we finally took the plunge and threw an actual birthday party for Littleman.  And you know what?  My four-year-old’s first birthday party was a major success!

The day started out well with Bo giving me his own little gift…sleeping through the night!  And not the six-hours-is-considered-through-the-night bullshit, but 11 whole hours!  Straight!  (Don’t get me wrong.  Most nights I’d give my left arm for even six hours of straight sleep!)

Anyway, back to the party…

My sister and I are both coming to the end of maternity leave, so she decided to come visit with her daughter for the week.  It was good timing because she was able to help me with some of the party prep in advance of the big day.  She’s super crafty and even took an amateur cake decorating course in the past, so I’m always happy to have her help with these sorts of things.

I decided to go with a construction theme for the party because Littleman and his buddies are pretty into anything construction-related (also firetrucks and super heroes, obviously, but we had to narrow it down!)  I’m really happy with how everything turned out, considering my main goal was to keep it all VERY simple and inexpensive.

The venue was great.  We rented a play gym not far from our home.  It had a large playroom that was filled with padded things for the kids to climb and jump on, plus a second room with a kid-sized table and chairs for the meal.  The staff organized a few activities for the kids and then let them run around like maniacs for a while.  Then we moved to the second room where the kids sat down for pizza and cake.  We had pizza for the parents too.

I kept the decor low-key, with yellow plates, napkins and table cloth to match our construction vehicles.  The morning of his party, Littleman and I were talking about what would be there and after I mentioned cake and pizza, he said, “and I think there will be party hats.”  Shit.  I said, “no, I don’t think so.”  And he said, “yes, I think there will.”  Thank god for mothers.  My  mom ran out and found yellow ones to save the day.

The cake was an idea I found on Pinterest and it turned out great.  I made two 9×13 cakes and put them together.  We iced them with chocolate icing (a super easy and yummy recipe) and then decorated it with mini construction vehicles, chocolate covered raisins and Oreo cookie crumbs.

The party favours were rice krispie squares wrapped up with a little construction vehicle for each kid.  Not too expensive and the kids loved them.

Littleman had an absolute ball playing with his friends.  Bo was a bit overwhelmed by the whole event, however we did discover that he loves pizza (of course he does, who doesn’t??)

All in all, things went very well.  I’m so glad that we decided not to try hosting the party at our house.  There is nothing better than walking out at the end of the night and not having to clean up!

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Four

My first-born son, my baby-who-is-no-longer-a-baby, is four years old today!

Littleman has grown and matured so much this year.  He became a big brother and has rocked that role, right from the start.  His baby brother worships him and I love to see their relationship developing.

Everyday I am amazed at all the things Littleman can do on his own.  He is so independent these days.  He can reach the light switches, go to the bathroom on his own, wash his hands, get dressed.  He can talk on the phone to his grandparents, ask politely for what he wants, help set the table.  He’s learning to ski and skate and swim.  He’s no longer as shy as he used to be and it blows my mind when he goes off for his lessons with barely a wave in our direction.

Three was an interesting age. I found it harder to parent a three-year-old than a two-year-old. Littleman’s patience was in short supply and he struggled with listening. I would get frustrated with him, which never helped. Things seem to be getting better as he continues to mature. There are still some meltdowns and whiny moments at home, but my boy is very polite and well-behaved outside our home.  People often compliment us, which, I must admit, feels good.  I have to remind myself of those compliments when I’m in the middle of battle with him at home.

It’s hard to believe I’ve been a mom for four years.  In some ways it feels like he’s always been here, but sometimes I don’t know where this big kid came from!

I was looking back at what I wrote on his birthday last year.  At that time, I was dealing with a lot of guilt about being distracted by other things that were going on and not being fully focused on Littleman.  This year, it’s a different kind of guilt.  I’ve spent much of this year focusing on the baby, while Littleman has waited (usually very patiently) for his turn getting the attention.  I hope, in the coming year, I can find a way to split my time and attention more evenly so that Littleman and I can get some good mommy and son time together.

Happy Birthday, Littleman!  I am so proud of the incredible boy you are becoming.

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My son’s first birthday party

I’m in the midst of planning Littleman’s first birthday party.  No, you didn’t misread that.  I’m not talking about Baby Bo’s first birthday party (although he is the child who will be turning one soon!)  In two weeks, Littleman will turn four but we are throwing him an actual birthday party for the first time.

I know that sounds crazy in the age of Pinterest and play gyms.  But really, I just couldn’t wrap my head around spending hundreds of dollars on parties for a kid who was too young to know the difference.  Sure, we could have had parties at our house to save money, but our tiny little semi-detached house can’t hold many people and a backyard party in January is out of the question.

I’m not a total party pooper.  I just figured there were other ways to celebrate our kid’s birthday until he was old enough to actually enjoy having a party.

His first two birthdays were very low-key.  We had separate family gatherings with each side of the family, so he still got to have cake and open some gifts.  Last year, for his third birthday, we took the day off so the three of us could spend the day together (before Bo was born).  We rode the subway (woohoo!), went to the aquarium and went out for lunch.  We gave him a couple of presents.  It was special and fun.

During this past year, though, he finally started to really understand the concept of “the birthday party.”  We’ve always attended them, but more recently, he starting asking when his birthday was.  So I knew the time had come to party on.

So what are we planning?  Well, I found a relatively inexpensive indoor play gym to rent.  There’s a big playroom where the kids do some activities (and climb on stuff) while supervised by the staff.  Then, the kids sit down and eat dinner and cake (which I have to provide).  There’s plenty of room for all the parents and the younger siblings, which was important to me because almost all of Littleman’s buddies have baby brothers or sisters now.  And, of course, the kids are still too young to come to a party without their parents.

I am not totally immune to the draw of Pinterest and have found cute ideas for a construction-themed party.  I’m not going to focus on decorations because we don’t get access to the venue in advance of the party.  Instead, I’m focusing on the cake and party favours.  Keeping it simple is important to me because I hate when Littleman comes home from a party with a loot bag full of crap.  Dinner will be pizza (plain cheese for the kids and a couple other options for the parents).  I will make a big rectangle slab cake and decorate it to look like a construction site.  (Think dirt, piles of rocks, bulldozers, etc.)  I found some awesome little Caterpillar construction vehicles for a good price, so I bought a bunch.  I’ll use some to decorate the cake and rest will be wrapped up for party favours.

Beyond that, I need to bring drinks, cutlery, plates and napkins.  I hope I can keep it pretty simple because I know all Littleman cares about is having fun with his buddies (and eating cake.  The kid really, really likes cake!)   I don’t want to stress too much about having the most unique decorations or the fanciest cake or the snazziest venue (the last party place we went to actually had a zipline!) because, let’s face it, the kid is four.  We will have many more birthday parties to plan in the future and I don’t want to get caught feeling like each year needs to top the last.

So there we go.  That is how we’re planning to celebrate my four-year-old’s first birthday party!