Archive for January 2010

January cabin fever

January 27, 2010

My five-year-old daughter greets me with a cheery, “Good morning!” at 6:50 a.m. I groan. Last night I had stressed to my children the fact that today is a PD day – no school, and daddy is not here (away on a business trip), so none of us have to get up early. Please, just let me sleep until 7 a.m., just once in a blue moon! It’s extra painful, because she woke me out of a very deep sleep (as she did yesterday, at 6:40 a.m.). I convince her to get in with me and get warm. She does so, about as gracefully as a very large animal trying to devour the home of its prey, and proceeds to call out the numbers on the digital clock each time they change…6:51…6:52…6:53.

“Please,” I plead for the second time in three minutes, “just keep quiet, say nothing, until…7:00.”

Whispered: “6:54…”

Seven o’clock rolls around in the blink of a puffy, blood-shot eye, and my two-year-old son shuffles down the hall, calling out, “I need to go pooh!” So up I get, to proceed with our regular routine of unzipping his pj’s and lifting him onto the toilet. Then, I convince him to come back to bed.

I keep the kids in bed with me until 8 a.m. It isn’t relaxing – there’s a lot of arguing over what the numbers on the clock say (my daughter continues reading them, while my son pulls his thumb out of his mouth long enough to announce: “Seven dot-dot free!” which he says with more and more umph each time, and soon it’s a game for him to say his own line after she says hers). And there’s a lot of grumbling over the rumbling in their bellies, which I ignore, because at least in bed I can keep my eyes closed just a little longer, even if I am, reluctantly, awake.

Downstairs there’s the next part of our routine to engage in: peanut butter on bananna for the boy, while the girl attempts to pour her own cereal. Which ends up all over the counter and floor. And I still have to empty some back into the bag in the box, because her eyes, in the morning at least, are bigger than her belly.

The kids play for a while, then ask for a movie. My wave of guilt is washed away with the relief of having them occupied for long enough for me to attack the pigsty that my house has turned into seemingly overnight. I vacuum the entrance, which looks like a gravel pit, and then suck up the spilled dry cereal. Then I go outside to shovel a large enough path in the snow to get the garbage out. I’ve already missed the recycling pick-up.

We had made plans to go swimming with friends, but the heater at the pool, it turns out, is broken. At least we found out before we got there (a process that almost discouraged me from committing to the activity in the first place, as gathering bathing suits, snacks, towels, extra clothes, etc. takes a good hour to accomplish). So, with said friends, we get into our snowsuits instead, and head to a nearby hill to toboggan. The wind turns us back. Five of six kids are crying after only 10 minutes. My friend and I look at each other, decided that, as our husbands are both out of town, we’ll get together later for pizza (and alcohol, I think, knowing she’s thinking the same thing).

It’s afternoon, and my son is down for a nap. My daughter is alternating between being my best friend and my worst enemy every five minutes. The cabin fever is getting to us all. I come upstairs to gather the laundry, and hear a bang, and then tears.

My daughter has spilled her milk.

The doorbell rings at 2 p.m., waking my son.

Now we’re all crying over spilled milk.


Ups and downs of being a tag-along

January 19, 2010

The worst part about last year, for me, was the loneliness. I don’t like being faced with a problem that I can’t discuss with others. Our relocation was a very long, drawn-out process, which offered plenty of time to think, with only small bursts of time for action. And during most of that time, there were few people I could talk to about what was going on. And so, while my husband was busy preparing himself for his next career move, I yearned for someone to talk to, and poured my heart out into my journal.

At one point last summer my children and I were visiting my parents, and we attended an event in the quaint township where they live. By this point in the year – nearly six months after it was first presented to us – I believe the wheels of our relocation were finally in motion. My mom introduced me to some people she knew, and I remember feeling dazed, especially being introduced as the daughter who was moving away.

“Only for a few years,” my mom would say. “And then they’ll be back!” At the time, and even now, those comments make me weak in the knees, because if I’ve learned anything after two company relocations, it’s that you never really know what’s going to happen next. You have a certain amount of control – but even that is  very limited. I think that for my husband and I, we have exactly this much control over our relocations: that we open ourselves up to the possibility of moving [on], and that makes it possible. Where and when always seem to be the mystery to us. And so, to say we will be somewhere for any specific length of time, and returning… I just don’t know if that’s true, or just wishful thinking on the parts of our families (any maybe even for us sometimes).

So I was at this event, only half listening to people talking to me, when something said to me caught my attention. It was being said by a woman who was looking at me with the most understanding I had glimpsed since my husband had first mentioned the possibility of the relocation to me.

It turned out that this woman, whose children are now grown, had moved many times with her husband. She had followed him across the country many times – even internationally, I believe – and had finally come back “home” to settle.

What caught my attention wasn’t only that someone was finally speaking to me in a language I could understand – that is to say, in earnest understanding – but also that she was offering me practical advice.

“Are you going to work?” she asked, as many others had asked me over the last several months.

“I’m not sure,” I replied, keeping my answer short in anticipation of what she was about to say.

“I always gave each move six months – to get my family settled – before I started working,” she said.

This statement made a lot of sense to me at the time, and relieved some of the pressure I’d been feeling about the move. I had heard that in the place where we were moving to, that jobs were easy to come by, but childcare was not. I kept changing my mind about what I wanted, and whether I would need to work outside the home or not. In the end, I knew I’d have to wait and see, before making a final decision on looking for work for myself.

The down side to being the tag-along – that is, the spouse who follows the one with the flourishing career – is always having to go through a new job search. I find it’s the biggest challenge for the ego; that is, to remain confident while looking for work. Again. And again. And again. I know I should be proud of my resume, but I always dread opening it up to update it. It’s the chore that always takes five times as long as I think it should to complete.

So now, I find I’m at this next crossroads of my move, and I want to work. It’s funny how certain things stick in your mind, and thankfully, the words of experience that came from a woman that day last summer are coming into focus for me again right now, nearly six months after our move.

Of course, the up side of being the tag-along, is that I can take my time with the decision. The danger is that I’ll get too busy with my kids’ schedules to make my next move, or that I’ll take the easy road, and say that it’s not worth it, I can’t find childcare, it would cost me money to work anyways… But it’s a new year, they days – finally! – are starting to get longer, and so it’s the best time to be optimistic about finding work, and helping to support my family. Because I don’t want to be just a tag-along.

“Artsy” – what’s your definition?

January 12, 2010

The other day, I told my husband I need a new calendar. Preferably a 2010 calendar, as the 2009 one still hanging on a nail in the kitchen is no longer useful (except for the pretty garden pictures that I don’t think I’ll be able to toss in the recycle box, because those pictures warm me on mornings when the temperature outside is minus thirty degrees celcius).

My dear husband, who works in what I consider to be one of the most testosterone-dominated industries in the world, repairing “big machines” as my son calls them, said, “I have so many calendars at work. I’ll bring them home for you.”

I gave him a blank stare, then glanced at my beautiful garden calendar from last year.

“They’re artsy,” he assured me. I raised my eyebrows, about to ask where he would have come across “artsy” calendars at his office (surely, none of his burly, greasy, foul-mouthed customers would have brought him a pretty calendar, now, would they?). He answered me before I had a chance to ask my question, with this response:

“Well, artsy, as in, not with pictures of machines.”

I picked up my jaw from the ground and laughed. Then dropped my jaw again and he laughed. We both laughed. I shrugged.

The next day, I asked him about the calendars, anxious to catch myself up to the current year, get our activities up-to-date and look at new “artsy” pictures (or at least, pretty pictures). That’s when he told me that the calendars he could bring home for me weren’t exactly artsy… they depicted photos of wildlife. Okay, I said, bring them home.

“Well,” he began, and I braced myself for his “artsy” answer which turned out to be this:

“They’re hunting calendars.”

Oh. Now THAT makes more sense I thought, and headed out to the mall to find my own version of an artsy calendar.

Slipping back into reality, post-holidays

January 5, 2010

As this title implies, the routine of my daily life in what I still consider to be my “new home” (since I haven’t even lived here for six months yet) has found me. My son and I walked my daughter to kindergarten this morning, visited with friends, picked up my daughter, came home for lunch, then took the daughter to afternoon school, now my son is napping, and I have time to…. do whatever  I like.

Yesterday, the “whatever I like” involved sulking. After my husband left for work, and I took the kids to school, I was lonely. I went shopping at Giant Tiger, and felt envious of the employees there, with their regular jobs, and easy companionship. I had an overwhelming urge to bring in my resume. But then I remembered it would cost me money – with two kids in daycare, paying full-time even if only part-time was needed – to work, and I pushed that urge aside. So then I came home and started in on the depressingly-always-there housework. Today, I’ve turned my back on the housework (it’s not going anywhere, after all!) and have turned back to my writing.

By the way, I DID reach the 50,000-word goal in November! I mentioned, way back in what was I think my first blog post, that I was participating in NaNoWriMo (I should make that a link, shouldn’t I? Note to self: figure out how to do that… also, add more pics… makes the reading a lot easier), and I completed my word count goal before the end of that month! I’m thrilled. But, as many NaNo participants begin their revisions, I’m still sitting on my mess of a manuscript and thinking it could and maybe should be two separate stories – one, plus a sequel. What a notion! And then there’s the research I intend to do for the story. Intend. That’s the key, now, isn’t it?

Which brings me to another topic (gee, this blogging thing is great, and scary….a wandering thought process spilling onto the screen… Next note to self: FOCUS on one topic at a time! Next time.)…. New Year’s Resolutions. ‘Tis the time of year, after all. And with this topic in mind, I’ll reveal something about myself I’m quite proud of: that is, I am great with resolutions!

The key is, as has been said and written over and over again in magazines and articles and, probably, blogs, is to keep resolutions within a reasonable scope of reality. No vowing to get to the moon this coming year, or to become a millionaire (not that we shouldn’t dream, but hey, who needs major disappointment?).

I don’t break my promises to myself. Here’s some examples:

My first big one was to get out of a relationship that had been dragging on. Immature as it may have been, I finally had to tell my ex that I wanted no more contact between us (I remember we had been muddling through that part of a dying relationship when all our discussions and meetings ended in arguments). I stuck with that one, and moved on to, if not better men to date (he wasn’t a bad person, just not the right one for me), better, happier situations for me.

My second was the best to date. For the millennium, I vowed to quit smoking – for good. And I did. Cross that off the list.

This year, my resolutions are more vague, but still important. One, is to turn the television OFF more often. I’m not the biggest tv junkie – I’ve never had talk shows on during the day when home with my kids, but I’ve had many whole evenings sitting numb in front of the tube. “Making me stupider” as my husband says. So this year, I want to turn to my long list of Books To Read (not to mention, Things To Write) and attack it with gusto. Get more of my life and brain back, under my own control.

Oh, and in the back of my mind (not the front, I’m a bit ashamed to admit), I also vow to have my kids watch less T.V. One should, after all, go hand-in-hand with the other. I might have to move the darned thing to the basement to make that happen. And, it’ll be hard through the long dark hours of winter I have left here in Northern Manitoba (too many hours to count… I try not to think about it). But we have SO many books, SO many crafts, SO many games to play together… I’m sure I can do my part to feed their brains with activities, rather than television shows! Some of which are not bad. And are a great tool to use while I want my offspring off my back to get things done around the house. But no, I WILL spend more quality time with my kids!

Sling-shot travels

January 4, 2010

Leaving Thompson to go “back home” for the holidays was busy, but not hard. I worried that the slingshot ride from here back to there, would be difficult. Emotionally. And I sensed it happening before the journey even began.

It’s all so overwhelming. The visits, the partying, the travelling to get “back” to see friends and family. And the only worse part about all the commotion – which I really don’t mind, and even my kids are pretty laid back about being taken here there and everywhere – is saying goodbye.

It was so great – even better than expected – to see everyone we were fortunate enough to visit with during this trip “back home.” You see, my expectation was that this was more of a duty than anything else, something we were doing for our families in particular. But I now realize that the journey “back” was for all of us, and I can’t be stoic or brave about the resulting separation that began as we boarded the plane January 2. It hurts like hell to leave again, and it breaks my heart.

It was especially amazing to see the difference in the kids this year compared with last year. My kids, and the cousins on both sides of our family, are all pretty much the same age – my daughter is five, and the eldest boy cousins on my husband’s side and my own are both four-and-a-half. My son will be three in March, and the boy cousin on my side of the family is turning three also, as is the girl cousin on my husband’s side of the family. So, for my kids, whether they are visiting with my parents or my in-laws, they have cousins their own age to play with.

Last year, there was still no taking our eyes off of them, but now, they can be downstairs or in a different room or even outside (for short periods) playing together, while the adults have our visiting or meal preparation time. It’s truly a delight, especially when we catch them in certain acts of play. For example, my son and my brother’s youngest boy were taking turns pushing each other in the baby stroller – a girl’s toy, meant for a doll, but sturdy enough for the almost-three-year-olds to use. They emerged from a hallway doing this, and I was trying to imagine how they decided to do that in the first place, and how it wasn’t a fight over who would push and who would ride first (and I heard in my head their munchkin voices discussing it, not as adults, but with more actions and gestures accompanied by a few words).

At my in-law’s house, the four cousins bounced and giggled like fools on the two beds in a basement room (one twin on a frame, the other on the floor). I walked away, hesitant at first, but then willingly, knowing full well that for me, the worst accidents happen when I’m standing right there (like the two goose-eggs my son gave himself in the course of one month last year – in the same spot on his bruised forehead! Ouch!). Besides, the benefit of having the cousins play happily together is truly awesome (and beneficial when parents have drinks and appies waiting upstairs!).

One day, my daughter, who had previously never paid much attention to her only girl cousin, was leading her around my in-law’s house on all fours playing “kitty” and later, the two of them were sitting side-by-side at the easel, each painting their own picture.

These things may seem small to people who don’t have kids, but to me, they’re huge landmarks in the evolution of the relationships between cousins. I have many cousins, only one with whom I’m very close, and most of them lived several provinces away from me when I was growing up. I always dreamed of having huge family Christmases, and cousins I could be best friends with (because we so often want what we don’t have, now, don’t we!?!). And so, to see that my kids will have this, is incredible.

Of course, while we are living far away, it puts a lot of pressure on my husband and I to “get the cousins together” as the grandparents say. The desire is certainly there, but the holiday time is limited. One reason we do enjoy being far away from family, is that we get to exercise our own independence, our own family values and activities. But we want this closeness for our children and it’s a tough void to cross. The good thing, is that when we do all get together, it’s for sleep-overs, not just the odd meal or afternoon here and there. So, even if it is only once or twice each year, the time together is intense and valuable.

I imagine that all of this is leading up to something like a few years crammed with several weddings, another few years ahead jammed with babies… But I mustn’t get ahead of myself. My own are still babies in the grand scheme of Time, and so much can happen between now, and when they all grow up! Thinking about it (without expectations, of course… Um, no, I have my own wishes for the next generation, despite myself!) is dizzying… I not only get to look forward to seeing what my own children will do in the future, but what their cousins will do and be, as well (as with children of friends, and even friends of friends). The world is a complicated web of lives and interconnections, and its impossible to determine where any one of us will end up!


So for now, I really, truly must relish the time we all had together, and even look forward to my life continuing back in this little town we moved to earlier this year. To get through the long dark winter, and live on the sweet dreams of this Christmas, already past. To make resolutions and work towards goals, or perish. And there’s many small eyes on me, too, to help motivate me to be the best I always can, and be the mom and auntie they all think of with fondness.

Sunrise to close a decade

January 4, 2010

Winter Sunrise on Georgian Bay