Last month we began house-hunting with our two young children. Our first look around the homes available in our neighbourhood was with a 60 year-old, quite serious, very important realtor. Upon meeting him, I sensed we could be in some trouble.
We arrived at the first house a few minutes early (which in itself, was quite impressive). The kiddies were full of energy so immediately sprinted to the soccer park across the street while we waited for the realtor. Rather than taking the sidewalk they ran down and up a grass drainage ditch to get to the park. Of course, the ditch had half a foot of water hiding under the grass. Of course, both kids got soaking wet socks and shoes, just in time to enter the house. By the time the realtor arrived (approximately three minutes later) my son had grass stains on both knees and my daughter had fallen into the ditch. Surprise, surprise!
Our realtor arrived and eyed our wet (but joyful) children warily. He shook our hands and halfheartedly said hello to the kids and led us into the house. I immediately discounted the place because it had no entryway. When my son violently kicked off his black rubber boots they flew straight into the realtor’s stylish dress pants. Oops. Not a way to start things off on the right foot.
All morning my husband and I made a valiant effort to look at shag carpets, harvest gold appliances, sea green kitchen tiling and classic 70’s wood panelling. A snapshot of a few minutes of our morning sounded like this:
Me: “I like this kitchen. It has a…”
My son: “MOM! Come and find the toys! Where are the toys?”
My husband: “Check out this family room! We could put the projector on this…”
My daughter: “Wahhhhh! Find soovie! Where’s dolly? Want a drink! Wanna go home!”
You get the drift.
Our children had one mission: FIND TOYS. It was quite amazing actually. In one house owned by a very elderly man, my son managed to rummage around and find the one toy in 2000 square feet: a cardboard, turquoise model of a Cadillac car.
In another house, my almost-two-year-old daughter found a teddy bear on a bed and picked it up. The realtor immediately panicked and snapped, “Quick! Put that back where you found it!” My daughter was pretty surprised. I was ticked off. * My daughter started screaming and the realtor was visibly upset.
Our story has a happy ending. We found two kind and easygoing realtors to show us around the next time. We found a lovely house for our family right where we wanted to be for less than we thought we’d have to spend.
A word of advice: When you look at houses, leave the kids with grandma. 🙂
*Whenever we’ve sold a house, I think it’s cute when visiting children play with whatever toys are lying around. If the kids are happy (and occupied!) the parents are calmer and more likely to take a closer look at a home.
We just arrived home from a week of “vacation.”* We took an airplane to get where we were going. Luckily, it was only an hour-long flight.
I’m in awe of parents who take babies and very young children on cross-Atlantic flights. Those moms and dads must know some secret I was never told. Or maybe the whole family drugs up on Gravol.
This trip was a huge treat because my husband came with us. I had back-up for a full seven days. I wasn’t outnumbered for a whole week!
Murphy’s Law seems to kick in whenever I take my children anywhere. Apparently going on an airplane is no exception. Here are some of the highlights:
- I purposely booked our Westjet flight for midday so we wouldn’t need to rush to get to the airport on time. My five-year-old son was up at 4:30 a.m. anyways, ready to leave. We ended up rushing around at the last-minute too.
- I gave the kiddies a treat in the airport (popcorn from Starbucks) to keep them from begging for the (super cool, very exciting!) airplane snack the minute we boarded the plane. My 23-month-old daughter spilled the bag of popcorn all over the airport floor and then started eating it. My son asked for the airplane snack the minute his seatbelt was buckled up.
- In a lovely moment of sibling harmony, my son grasped his sister’s hand as we boarded the plane. Unfortunately, she tripped and nose-dived through the door. We entered the plane with a howling toddler, making every other passenger so very excited to welcome us on board.
- I set my son up with headphones and the in-flight TV as soon as possible. The minute he put the headphones on he started yelling at me (without realizing it) because the previous passenger had turned the volume up to max.
- My daughter travelled on my lap. She flies free until she turns two. She is very tall for her age. As soon as we sat down the guy in front of us reclined his seat as far back as humanly possible. We got the last laugh when my daughter started kicking and pushing on his seat later in the flight.
- Both our departing and return flights were in the middle of nap time. Naturally, my daughter waited to fall asleep until the plane landed, giving her a ten minute nap; thus insuring no real nap that day.
- After giving her plenty of run-around time at home and in the airport, my daughter had not had a dirty diaper all day. Of course the lovely incident happened after the plane had taken off and right when the flight attendants pushed the drink carts into the aisle. Any mother who has travelled knows that the “change table” in an airplane is the size of a cutting board and only works for babies who are a month or two old. My husband and I made the very poor decision to “just wait until we land” to change our daughter. Lucky for us, there was another baby across the aisle. The dirty looks we got about the nasty smell emanating from our row? We just shrugged our shoulders, glanced pointedly at the other baby and rolled our eyes. 😉
*Vacation is in quotation marks because anyone who has travelled with small children (and without grandparents) knows it is anything but.
A Facebook friend of mine just announced the joyous news of her first pregnancy. Soon afterwards she asked for advice on which prenatal class to sign up for. That got me thinking…about 95% of what I learned in prenatal class was useless. Motherhood has a wild initiation period and no class fully prepares you for the upheaval your first child brings.
Here is a list of what you really need to know before bringing home baby:
- How to change a diaper on a wiggling, squirmy puppy. If you can do this, you may be able to change a one-year old. Yes, the freaky-eyed, fake babies the nurses bring are good practice for changing a newborn. However, if your baby is like both of mine were, at around 9 months she will realize that it’s really not fun to have her legs in the air and someone swiping at her private parts.
- How to function on 3 hours of sleep per night. Prenatal classes should be held over a long weekend with no breaks for sleep. This might give new parents a tiny idea of how they will feel while caring for a new baby. Sleep deprivation is real and it sucks. Even if you get the very rare, almost-mythical “good-sleeper” off the bat, that is no guarantee that your baby will not turn into a non-sleeper at 3 months or 6 months.
- Never brag about your good sleeper on Facebook. That guarantees you a non-sleeper the next night.
- How to cope during the first few weeks with your baby. Our instructor could have covered the basics of pregnancy and labour in an hour and sent us home to watch What to Expect When You’re Expecting. Actual discussion of the huge psychological changes involved in becoming a parent would be far more helpful.
- Even if drugs are not in your plan, when the time comes, you will want them. Read up on them. The same goes for c-sections. Better to be prepared. My children are five and almost two. I had an epidural and morphine with one and practically no meds with the other. Now that the kids are older, no one asks me about it and nobody cares. You won’t get a badge of honour or special trophy for going drug-free or avoiding a c-section. Do what you need to do to remain somewhat calm and deliver a healthy baby.
- Breastfeeding is wonderful and natural and angels sing when some mothers do it. It also sucks sometimes, especially in the beginning. The nurse teaching our prenatal class actually said out loud to us “Don’t keep bottles or formula in your house. You may be tempted to use them.” We diligently followed her advice…until it was day 5 and my milk hadn’t come in and my son was screaming and starving. We ignored her advice and supplemented the poor child. He survived and he is perfect.
- If you want your baby to sleep in your room, put him there. If you can’t sleep with your baby in your room, put him in his own room if it’s nearby. It is your house, your baby and you need to do what helps everyone in the house get as much sleep as possible. I followed the “rules for creating an independent sleeper” with my son. He slept in his own room until his sister came along when he was three. Everything changed then and no book or sleep expert in the world could compete with a screaming newborn on the other side of the bedroom wall. Now my son is five and he crawls into the big bed every night.*
- Never talk about your maternity leave as your “year off.” It is your “year on.” You’ll see.
*I wouldn’t trade it for the world. 🙂
What do you wish someone would have told you before you had your first child?
My poor, poor daughter gets so many pitying looks from first-time mommas.
The way I parent her is a million times different from the way I parented my son when he was her age.
I haul her around in a hand-me-down, slightly stained blue umbrella stroller. Her brother glided around in a deluxe designer stroller. I, like many first-time moms, gave in and bought the fancy-schmancy ride for my son. Yes, it’s great, but nope, it’s not so great while also managing a preschooler who never stops moving. With two kids in the family, it is rare to have one free hand, let alone two. I need a stroller I can pick up with my pinkie and throw in the trunk, completely assembled.
I had my daughter in the fancy stroller the other day (while scrounging for cheap toys and funky sweaters at Value Village) and a young mom sidled up to me and asked casually, “So, how do you like the Peg?” It took me a few minutes to realize she was talking about the stroller. I guess my children are getting older because I no longer recognize new-mommy-stroller-lingo. 😉
My daughter is often completely neglected at the park. A few months ago I took the kiddies to the playground near our house. As we pulled up, I let them loose from the constraints of stroller (my daughter) and bike helmet (my son). I always feel like yelling, “Release the hounds!” as they run wildly to whatever catches their fancy at our new child-proof neighbourhood park.
Anyways, on this particular afternoon there was only one other child there, a little boy close in age to my daughter (about 18 months at the time). He was accompanied by both of his parents and was obviously their first and only child. The little guy couldn’t take a step without some sort of comment of encouragement from both parents. At every trip or stumble they both jumped to attention. It was sort of cute, for the first few minutes.*
I was busy helping my son strap into a safety swing for 5-10 year olds (?) way across the park and had half an eye on my daughter. I saw her move towards a ladder that led to a medium-sized slide. The look on the other parents’ faces as my daughter climbed up and went down that slide alone was total shock.** She survived. Now, a few months older, she proudly announces, “I did it!” when she lands at the bottom without falling.
My daughter is continually harassed by her five-year-old brother. The other day it was raining and he was bored. I gave him an old diaper box to do something with. He made a “toddler trap,” complete with bait (a soother and a cookie) and chased his poor sister around, trying to drop it on her head.
Interestingly enough, I’m noticing many, many benefits to her being (slightly) neglected. My daughter is fiercely independent. She can say “no!” in a loud, confident voice over and over; a trait that I hope will come in handy when she is a teenager.
She can entertain herself for ages “reading” stacks and stacks of books and magazines.
She finds and gets what she needs by hauling around a kitchen chair or old plastic stool.
But most important of all, she has a built-in hero, confidant and ally in her older brother. A bit of “neglect,” a lot of independence and a best buddy for life.
*I was totally this mom when I only had one child.
**Just so you know I’m not a total slacker…I was running at warp-speed-that-feels-like-slow-motion and got there just as she landed on the soft mulch on the ground. By the way, why on earth do they use mulch at children’s parks? It’s like inviting children to play in a lumberyard and then being surprised when they get slivers.
What is different about the way you parent your second (or third or fourth) child?
While I was sorting through pictures of my children for Funny Places Toddlers Put Stuff I realized I had a lot of other funny toddler pictures. Today’s version involves places my toddlers have put themselves. 🙂
On a ball
With a doll
In the sand
Coming in to land
Climbing up higher
Checking out a fire
Going down a slide
Playing in the tub
Looking for grub
Helping do a chore
Hiding in a store
Feeling all right
Cuddled up tight
*I’ve posted a few of these pictures on previous posts but couldn’t resist including them.
Where do your toddlers like to put themselves?
One of my toddler daughter’s favorite pastimes is moving things from one place to another. Take her to a library or bookstore and she meticulously transfers a pile of books to a shelf across the room. Take her to Starbucks and she stacks the yogurt neatly beside the juice boxes. Take her to a hardware store and she drops the screws and nails into new places. At a toy store, every stuffie moves from shelf A to shelf B. Around the house, I’m always laughing as I find interesting little surprises that my daughter has set up for me to discover.
She gives me very creative ideas for supper:
She gets my slippers ready for me when I’m in the shower:
She makes sure her brother can always find his underwear:
She ensures that my hairspray is warmed up in the morning:
She knows how to make me smile when I’m putting the dishes away at night:
If I need an orange bucket, she finds one for me:
And my favorite…even salad dressing needs a little love sometimes:
Have you found anything around your house that your toddler has re-arranged? 🙂
Then the get-her-to-go-back-to-sleep game begins. I turn on her lullaby CD, make sure she has her soother, two dolls and baby orca stuffie and change her diaper stealthily, all without making too much eye contact.
I know the jig is up if she starts yelling “milkel! milkel!” or “book! book!” If I hear either of those words I know it’s all over. She’s up. I’m up. I turn on the lights.
However… if I successfully change her with no shouts there is a tiny chance she will go back to sleep.
I bundle up an armful of toddler, dolls and “bankies” (blankets) and rock her in our rickety old chair. The chair is on its last legs but the reassuring creaks and cracks lull my little one back to calmness.
Her big blue eyes start to flutter a little and I gather her up, ease her into the crib and tiptoe out of the room. I close her door as quietly as possible then pause at my bedroom door and listen. Music to my ears is hearing my husband and five-year-old son breathing deeply in the big bed; still asleep. Most mornings I hear a chipper little boy voice asking, “Daddy? Is it time to wake up? Where’s Mommy? Can I go find Mommy?”
My favorite days are the days when all three are sleeping and there is a chance for a few minutes alone. I tiptoe down the stairs, quieter than Santa on Christmas Eve. The bottom step is the worst; no matter where I step, some days it creaks, other days it doesn’t. Once down, I sneak into the kitchen, careful not to turn on many lights.
I flick the switch on the coffee maker. Usually (because Murphy’s Law is always in effect around here) one of the children wakes up the minute the coffee begins to drip. Our coffee maker is so loud that it sounds exactly like the pot full of boiling eggs my grandma used to make when I slept over. If I’m lucky enough to pour some coffee, the three loud beeps signalling that the brewing is finished will most definitely wake someone up and the cry of “Momma! Momma!” begins.
If, by some miracle, no one wakes from the beeps I’ll either knock something over, step on a piece of Lego or crash into the table and break the silence.
The other day I was so eager for some alone time that I crammed my feet into my five-year-old son’s Incredible Hulk socks rather than go upstairs to find my slippers.
Chances are pretty low that the quiet will last longer than 10 or 15 minutes. I admit that I love it when one child wakes before the other. I pour them some milk and have some precious early morning cuddles with them before the sibling rivalry, hugs, yells and laughter begin for another day.
Do any of you get almost desperate for a few minutes of alone time? How do you find it?
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“Character house” is actually a pseudonym for tiny, old, full of mold & asbestos and very, very ugly spiders.
This was all a bit of a shock to us, having moved straight from a snowy boom-town on the prairies where a newish, 3000-square-foot house (including basement) was the norm.
The fact that our little white house was a 10 minute walk to a beautiful beach mostly made up for the bumping elbows, constant “excuse me’s” and continual stepping on playmobil knights & Lego. Nevermind the paper-thin walls, non-sleeping 3-year-old and non-sleeping newborn.
Speaking of a newborn…supplementing a 3-month-old with (gasp!) a bottle so an exhausted new momma could get a few hours of sleep meant that a dishwasher would have been really, really helpful. We gave in and bought a portable one from a kind retired guy who rebuilt it in his backyard. He and my dear husband lugged it up the steps and navigated it through the narrow 60-year-old doorways into our tiny kitchen.
Each night after both children were finally asleep (for a little while anyway) my husband or I would begin the nightly dishwasher routine:
- Get a good grip on the slippery metal sides and give a mighty pull to get it out from the wall.
- Back up to take a running start and push like crazy to get the flimsy wheels over the big hump between the hardwood and the lino.
- Retrieve any utensils, bottles or dishes we may need during the night. (Once the dishwasher was hooked up the rest of the kitchen was unusable.)
- Hook up the hose and plug in the plug.
- Unplug everything and move the dishwasher again to get the soap I forgot to take out from under the sink.
- Plug it all in again and start the damn thing.
Going through all of these steps meant that we tried to minimize the number of times we started the dishwasher. During our year in the little white house I started calling it Dishwasher Tetris: loading it to the absolute maximum by moving each plate, bowl and cup a millimetre to the left or right in order to squish something else in.
Now that our days in the little white house are behind us, we have the luxury of a built-in dishwasher again. I’m an expert at loading it to full capacity. The only glitch is my 1.5 year-old daughter who loves to “help” by hurling forks, spoons, cups and ceramic dishes in from a few feet away.
Being without something I’ve always taken for granted makes me very grateful for it when I get it back. Kind of like when I came home from tree planting in the bush and was most grateful for carpet and running water. But that’s another story. 🙂
My memories of this day are hazy. My daughter was a few months old, not sleeping very well at night and my son was three and a half and restless.
The equilibrium of his family and all that was normal to him was rocked by the arrival of his long-awaited baby sister. He thrived on any time spent alone with me, even though I was so sleep-deprived all I wanted to do was curl up and “sleep when the baby sleeps.” (Ha! What a joke that is when you have an older child who has outgrown his nap!)
It was a beautiful early fall day and our baby was finally sleeping. We cracked open the door to throw out the recycling and my boy spotted the empty diaper box; a box of great potential. We threw it on the grass, inspected it and headed in to get tape and scissors. An airplane was born.
One of the traits I appreciate so much in children is their creativity. All they need is a little time, some tape, scissors and (sometimes) a parent’s hand to bring their ideas to life. We are so busy scheduling playdates & lessons and making sure we choose the right schools, the right playgroups, the right friends. More important than all of those things is our time, even when we’d rather be curled up under warm blankets in blissful sleep.
I refuse to join Pinterest because I’m sure there are perfect airplanes on there that parents have designed for their children, not with them. I’d rather be my son’s hero-with-a-diaper-box than feel inferior because some supermom recreated the Wright brothers‘ plane and posted the pictures online. 🙂
You may be interested in: http://www.carlhonore.com/books/under-pressure/
If you like my posts and pics, check out this Top 25 list at Circle of Moms. Click the link above, scroll down to Murphy Must Have Had Kids and vote each day until February 13th. Thanks!
I had a birthday this month and suddenly realized I’m in my mid-thirties. I’m not sure why I just noticed.
Perhaps because I have two very, very busy children and I’ve slept through the night only a handful of times in five years.
Maybe because I was selling a house in one province and moving to another (during a blizzard) while six months pregnant, with no job lined up for my husband and no new place to live. Kind of busy.
It hit me when I was getting my hair cut and my hairdresser’s face was smack-dab above mine in the mirror, under the flourescent lights. I was fascinated by the smoothness of her skin. There were no dark circles under her eyes and no lines on her forehead. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t have issues with aging (I’m ONLY 36, after all) but I was taken aback when it dawned on me that we were different.
I’m not that girl in her twenties anymore. That’s fine by me. Not that young, but not very old; standing outside the gateway to the entryway to the hallway of middle age.
Because I’m into lists lately, here are a few reasons why I think being 36 is better than being 26:
- I go to bed without washing my face and don’t wake up with skin like a hormonal teenager.
- Two words: Granny panties. Just kidding. Maybe when I’m 46.
- If I’m too tired to smile the little lines around my eyes do it for me. I’m finally trying out all the sample tubes of eye cream and concealer that have been collecting under my bathroom sink for ten years.
- I don’t care that my fashion sense is pathetic. Why read Glamour magazine when I can sleep? If my daughter can wear pink and red together so can I.
- My hair is thicker and fuller than ever. Never mind that the fullness is due to handfuls of it falling out after my daughter was born; the regrowth is wiry and white (!), but there’s a heck of a lot of it.
- I listen to my younger friends’ tales of dating woe as I curl up in my moccasins with a good book, my children sleeping peacefully upstairs and husband tap-tapping on his computer in the family room.
- No excuses are needed to go to bed at 9:30 on a Friday night. Or 8:00 on a weeknight.
- I can act all mom-ish when I need to and
yell atadmonish the mean kid in the park but still be crazy and set up our camping tent in the playroom and roast marshmallows in the fireplace.
- That random chin hair that appeared when I was 26? Now it’s white and barely visible if I forget to tweeze it. 😉
What do you think? Do you like your thirties (or forties…or eighties) better than your twenties? Why?
NOTE: When asking my hilarious group of online, cross-Canada momma friends for input on this post, many of them cited bedroom activities as prime reasons of why 36 is better than 26. Since this blog is PG-rated (my 88 year-old grandma is a follower!) I will have to leave those suggestions up to your imagination. Thanks Jaclyn, Joanna, Erica, Marianne & Isabelle.
If you think I’m even a little bit funny, check out this Top 25 list at Circle of Moms. Click the link above, scroll down to Murphy Must Have Had Kids and vote each day until February 13th.