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! 


Life lessons: sun protection

As I slathered on my SPF 60 yesterday before heading outside for some time at the pool, I realized that I’ve finally accepted that my skin is pale.  

Growing up, sun care was not the same as it is today. My sister and I are pretty fair-skinned (thanks to our Irish-Canadian mother who’s genes managed to dominate over those of our Italian dad). I remember my mom cracking out the SPF 8 “sun tan lotion” and sometimes, if we were getting really red, we’d have to use 15. Can you even buy 8 anymore?  Does it actually help?

Anyway, as I got older, I knew I needed to take better care of my skin – and I new how painful sunburns could be. But I still loved the feeling of being in the sun and felt so much better about myself when I had a great tan. 

Now that I’m a mom, I’ve finally accepted that it just isn’t worth it. Already, I can see the damage that’s been done to my skin – the fine lines and freckles. I hope that my kids will grow up knowing that their skin is beautiful just the way it is. I hope that they understand how important it is that they protect themselves from the harmful effects of the sun. 

 Just yesterday, Littleman looked outside and spotted my dad on the tractor, cutting the lawn with no shirt on. He announced to my mom, “Nana! Nonno is outside with none shirt and none sunscreen!”

I think he’s getting the message. 

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.

TGIF (AKA buh-bye crappy week)

Somehow I haven’t managed to finish a post in the past couple of weeks.  In fact, I can barely finish a thought these days.  The transition from maternity leave to a working mom has been pretty challenging this time around.

And this week has been particularly challenging.  We kicked off the weekend with Bo barfing a few times on Saturday morning. The nasty stomach bug hit Littleman and I next.  We were finally all back to normal and then I threw my back out.  All of this went on while D was working, so I had to juggle illnesses/pain while taking care of the kids on my own (and with the help of my mom, thank goodness!)

Tonight, t-ball started.  I’m wondering how people manage to work all day, feed their kids and get to evening activities.  It’s like total chaos.

On top of it all we’ve been dealing with the stress of waiting to hear if Littleman got into the before/after school child care program at the school he’ll be attending this fall.  He starts kindergarten in September so he’ll no longer be at our current daycare.  Some of our friends and neighbours heard that their kids got in last week and we still didn’t have a spot this week.  I have more to say about the craziness of daycare waiting lists but we finally got the good news yesterday: we’re in!

I keep reminding myself that things will settle down eventually.  That we will get into a groove and figure this out.  I know that this week was not a normal one.  But, seriously, never has TGIF felt so true to me!

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!






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.






The things they know

When we spend weekends at the farm with my parents, often they’ll take Littleman to church with them on Sunday mornings.  I grew up in a Catholic household, attending Catholic school and going to church every Sunday with my parents.  As an adult, I no longer practice any religion, however we did have our children baptised and Littleman enjoys going to mass with his grandparents.

On this particular Sunday, my mom and Littleman attended the children’s portion of the service, which includes a story and short lesson.  The teacher was asking the children what they could do to be more like Jesus (or something along those lines).  Apparently kids were giving ideas like praying or being nice to their siblings.  The teacher talked about how important it is to be kind to your brothers and sisters.  Makes sense, right?

This, though, is when my mom got confused.  Littleman turned to her and said, “I had a sister, but she died.”  What?  My mom was genuinely confused.  She told him, no he didn’t.  So he clarifies.  “Yes, she was in mommy’s tummy before Bo, but she died.”

Understandably, my mom doesn’t spend a lot of time thinking about my miscarriage that happened almost two years ago so it wouldn’t have been the first thing she thought of.  She came home from mass and told me about the conversation.  It blew my mind.  First of all, Littleman was only two years old when I had the miscarriage.  He knew about the pregnancy, but since I was only 14 weeks along, we didn’t know whether it was a boy or a girl.  He always called it his sister, but we certainly hadn’t told him that.  Also, we definitely never told him that he had a sister who died.  Yes, he knew that the baby was gone, but he was very young and we didn’t think he understood very much about what was happening.  Only a few months later, I was pregnant with Bo and, now, he’s had a brother for almost a full year.  What would make him remember that?

I remember now the strange moment a few days before I learned of the miscarriage.  I was putting Littleman to bed when he looked up towards the ceiling and muttered some gibberish.  Then he said “Puppet gone.” (Puppet was our nickname for the baby we lost).  At the time, I assumed this was just toddler nonsense, but later would learn that he was absolutely right.

All this has made me realize that there is a whole lot that goes on in his little mind.  It also made me realize that things that happen when our kids are very young can still have quite an impact on them – much more than we would expect.  Yes, that time in our lives was very hard and I was struggling a lot, but I had no idea that Littleman was aware of what was going on to this extent.

I wonder what sparked him to remember that loss and whether it’s something he’ll forget about with time.  I, of course, still think about it a lot and talk about it with those who I know care to hear it.  But it isn’t something we talk about with our young kids right now.  He didn’t mention it again after they got home from church and I never brought it up with him.  I guess I should think about how to explain it to him if he brings it up again.  Any suggestions for talking about miscarriage with a preschooler?

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!

The joys of living with boys

Sometimes I still can’t believe that I live in a house of all boys.  Growing up with a sister, a stay-at-home-mom and a dad who worked long hours, I wasn’t really prepared for living amongst all this maleness.

First, there’s the potty talk.  Why is it that boys find anything that has to do with bodily functions totally hilarious?  Sometimes, my older son will have a whole conversation using only bathroom-related words.  If he is in a bad mood, all I have to say is “toot” and he’s howling.  If we want him to smile for a photo, we just need to say “poop” or make a fart sound and he’s good go… a totally natural smile.  It all starts so young, too.  The baby let out a giant belch the other day.  Then, he looked up at me and burst out laughing, like it was the funniest sound he’d ever heard.

Then, there’s their junk.  Boys appear to born knowing where their man parts are and they take any and every opportunity to touch them.  The moment the diaper comes off, my ten-month-old reaches down for a quick grab.  In the bath, my older son is fascinated by his package.  I try not to say anything and let them explore without making it a thing, but why?  Why the fascination?  Why?

Of course, we can’t forget the stink.  I can only imagine (with terror) what my house will smell like in a few more years.  Right now, I’m only dealing with one man, one kid and a baby, but already, they’re stinking me out!  Smelly little bums.  Foul smelling bathrooms.  And how, just how, does my sweet little baby manage to have man farts?

The girly girl in me is slowly disappearing as I learn to navigate toilet seats that have been left up and pee that’s just missed its mark.  My tolerance for odour is getting much higher (there’s nothing like wiping someone’s butt while pregnant to test your ability to keep down your lunch!)

Despite the grossness that lives in my house, I wouldn’t trade away my boys.  At the end of day, there is nothing better than burying my face into my sweet baby’s neck or having my older son climb into my lap for a bedtime story or collapsing on the couch with my husband to watch some tv.  I may be the lone lady in this house of hooligans, but I love them.  If anyone wants to lend me their daughter, though, I’d be cool with that.  Seriously.