Travelling with a Two Year Old Can Sometimes Suck

Heyyyyyy there.  So great to connect again.  For my out of country readers, I want to share a typical Canadian winter story…I was on this amazing family vacation down in Mexico and within two days of coming home, we got slammed with a massive snowstorm.  I’ve been outside twice today shovelling the walkway, only to come back inside to find another dumping of snow within a couple of hours of the last clean up. I actually don’t mind winter but it definitely came in blustery today!  But let’s focus on the positive. Mexico.  Mex…i….co.  Beautiful.  Warm  Hot.  Sunny.  Beautiful beaches.  And an all-inclusive bar.  It doesn’t get much better than that for a week.  A week of relaxation that was long overdue and very much deserved.  Down time. It was supposed to be complete relaxation with some family fun thrown in.  We had chosen this resort based on the kids club that it boasted thinking, that as in the past, all three kids would love this kids club and want to take part in its activities.  And yes, it was a tremendous kids club.  Except for one glitch.

Maggie wanted no part of it.

I couldn’t get within 20 metres of the door without her clawing at my shoulder and begging me to let her stay with me.  So, by “relaxing vacation” I mean, hanging out 24/7 with my husband and our two-year old, while the older two kids enjoyed the club.  The quality time we had intended to take together was interrupted by a two foot tall blond in a striped swimsuit and baby blue sun hat.

But hanging out with my husband and two-year old on a beautiful beach, taking turns floating with her or building a sandcastle was still magical.  And in reality, even though it didn’t end up the way we intended (there were times that it was a downright gong show), it was still a vacation and it was still amazing.

Here are a few things I learned about travelling with a two-year old.

1)  It doesn’t matter how many distractions I pack to keep her – well – distracted on the plane, she will ignore all of them and insist on climbing over and under her seat.  Multiple times.

2)  With only a one hour time difference, I had hoped for a relatively easy transition into a new bedtime.  I was wrong.

3)  I thought that keeping my two-year old busy all day, in the sun, by making sand castles, swimming, floating, walking, running, climbing, jumping, and swinging would wear her out by bedtime.  I was wrong again.  Instead, she was wired and ready for anything.  Except sitting still at dinner.

4)  Speaking of mealtimes, they’re awful.  Buffets that give a thousand breakfast, lunch, and dinner choices ranging from different proteins to a variety of fruits and vegetables all resulted in a desire for pancakes, french fries, and avocado.  I was all over the avocado…and eventually I caved on the pancakes and french fries.  Because a thrice daily emotional break down in the middle of a busy restaurant didn’t interest me.

5)  The a la carte restaurants were even worse.  At least in the buffets, we could get up easily and walk around.   We tried one a la carte dinner and vowed to not bring her back to a sit down restaurant until she was old enough to drive.

6)  Two year olds are smart.  And when they see other children walking around with popsicles, they realize that there must be – and in fact there is – an “any time you want” popsicle bar.  We visited there a few times.  And admittedly, I was binged on these too.  One can only have so many pina coladas before it grows old.  A fresh orange popsicle tasted mighty fine at 3 in the afternoon.  So do chocolate creamsicles.  Mmmmmmmm.

7)  The all you can eat ice cream bar she found on day 2 was another reason for a meltdown.  Over and over again. We rarely even eat ice cream at home, and certainly not soft serve (gross!).  When I cut her off, she worked her magic on her older sister who was tall enough to work the machine on her own.  An older sister who can easily be swayed by the idea of getting some ice cream herself.  Remember point #6…two year olds are smart.

8)  At night, when she would finally crash, I would look at her and think of how peaceful she was when she slept.  Thumb tucked neatly into her mouth, curled up in a ball.  So sweet.  I’d settle in next to her (because apparently the hotel’s crib wasn’t up to her standards) and we would snuggle and fall restfully to sleep. Then 5AM would hit.  And the peaceful being I slept next to would wake up as the Energizer Bunny.  It didn’t matter what time she went to bed…the wake up call was always 5AM.  Always.

9)  Recounting how the distractions on the way down to Mexico were pointless, I didn’t waste my time gathering books, stuffies, crayons and the like for the plane ride home.  They were there on the rare chance that she did choose to partake but I didn’t hold my breath.  Instead, I just braced myself for a very busy 3.5 hour plane ride home which put us into Toronto at 9PM…two hours past her bedtime.  Surely, she would fall asleep along the way.  And she did!  With twenty minutes to go before landing.  Awesome.

I will likely remember none of these points and insist that next year we try again.  Because she’s cute and sweet and I get sucked into believing that the next time could be – just may be – different.  If at any point I announce plans for a future vacation with the kids, someone please remind me of this post.  Although with another year under her belt, maybe it would be different?  Older, better understanding of good versus not so good behaviour, and better communication skills….so different, right?

I won’t hold my breath.

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Two years ago

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Two years ago this sweet being came into our lives.  She came in quietly and has left an impressionable mark on my heart ever since.

Tom and I debated on having a third baby.  At the time, with a five year old and a three year old, it seemed like we had the perfect family.  It didn’t feel as though there was a piece missing.  Since before we were married, we had thought that three kids would be what we wanted.  But two difficult pregnancies later, my enthusiasm and desire for a third had waned.  But as I watched Blake grow from a toddler into a little boy, something pulled at my heart.  A feeling that I simply chalked up to the sadness that comes when I realized my “babies” were no longer babies.  But as that feeling grew stronger, we revisited the topic of a third little one.  We decided to give it six months and it if was meant to be, it was meant to be.  Apparently, it was.

It was the best decision of our lives.

Within moments of her birth, when I had my first opportunity to hold her and look into her eyes, I knew that Maggie completed our family.  I hadn’t realized that our puzzle was missing a piece.

Dearest Maggie, you are a spitfire.  I have no doubt you will contribute to more grey hairs on my head than your older brother and sister combined.  You are adventurous and brave.  I love how you leap into the arms of people you trust and love – how you come hurtling down the hallway when I arrive home, yelling “mama” and jump into my arms.  I love how you already count to twenty, kind of, because you get to nineteen and then go back to sixteen or fourteen or whatever number is on the tip of your tongue.  I love how you will argue with whoever tries to convince you that something is any colour other than green.  I love how you follow your big sister around like a shadow.  I love how you snuggle with your big brother on the couch.  I love that when you hug your daddy, you snuggle into his neck and announce “MY dada”.  I love to watch as you learn to express yourself both verbally and through emotions, as hard as that can be sometimes.  I love that for the last two weeks, you’ve sung the words to “happy birthday” to yourself as you are falling asleep.

I know you want to be a big girl – to play with the your brother and sister and the big girls outside but I beg of you, don’t grow up too quickly.  Be my baby girl just a little while longer.  There will be plenty of time to be a big girl and there is only so much time to be a little one.  As I type this, I realize that by me asking this of you, it’s really a reminder to me to enjoy these years too.  The days may be long but yes, the years are too short.

Happy birthday sweet Maggie.

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A Lesson for Blake or a Lesson for Me?

So today was one of the hard Mama moments in life.  Blake, who is now 5 years old, had made a decision that he did not want to go to school this morning.  It may have had something to do with the fact that we had to take down his blanket fort in order to have his room cleaned.  It may have had something to do with a long weekend full of fun and family and food.  Or it may just have been that he didn’t want to go to school.

I literally (LITERALLY) had to drag him out from under his bed (damn you, MALM bed from IKEA for having such a perfect hiding spot for children built right into you!).  He whined.  Kicked.  Whimpered.  He didn’t want any part of going to school.  He wouldn’t put on his shoes.  He wouldn’t put on his jacket.  We were late so my patience was growing thin.  I tried reasoning.  I explained that part of being a kid is to go to school.  Mommy and Daddy go to work, you go to school.  This is where you learn new things, play with your friends, and have fun experiences.

There was nothing I could say or do that was going to make school look any better to him today.

When we arrived at school, he dragged his feet to the kindergarten spot.  He put up every resistance.  Gave me every reason why he shouldn’t have to go to school, namely being that he just didn’t want to.  And that is when it started.  The tears.  The large, pleading tears and a quivering lip with the words “Mama, I just don’t want to go.  I don’t like it.  I don’t want to go to school.”

My heart broke.  He brought me to my knees just like that.

I looked up to see one of his kindergarten teachers at the gate.  I smiled, despite the feeling of my stomach hitting the ground, and quietly explained that Blake was having a rough start to his day and didn’t want to be at school.  At this point, the tears were streaming down his cheeks.  She smiled back, with an understanding nod, and got down to his level.

“Blake, tell me about Thanksgiving.  Tell me how your weekend was!”

Nothing.  He didn’t look at her.  He just kept quietly crying.  I could tell he was trying to hide it.  Trying not to show his friends that he didn’t want to be here.  Trying not to show how vulnerable he was at that moment.  So hard for a little guy who is quiet to begin with.

“Blake, why don’t you come with me.  We’ll walk together to our room.”  She gently took his arm, trying to reach for his hand.  But he just kept looking at me with wide eyes that were welling over.  He reached out for me and grasped my legs, almost pinching them in desperation to not go to his classroom.

And at this point, I became a Mom puddle.  I got down at his level, gave him a big hug.  Partly to comfort him and partly so that he wouldn’t see how upset I was.  He wouldn’t let go.  He pleaded with me to not make him go.  Asked me to let him stay with me for the day.  The tears kept flowing, and he choked them back.  I swallowed hard.

said “Blake, it’s going to be okay.  You need to go to school today and I’ll see you at dinnertime.  Daddy will pick you up at the end of the day.  You’re going to be okay.  I love you but I have to go.”  

And I stood up.  It took every ounce of strength to take a step back from him.  He looked up at me, defeated.  He knew he was going to school.  He slowly turned, still crying, and walked with his teacher, who knew that this was just as painful for me as it was for him.  But Blake didn’t know that.  I’m sure he just thought I didn’t care enough to bring him home.  But what he doesn’t yet realize is that I care too much to bring him home.  It’s such a fine line that I walk sometimes.  That line drawn between wanting to embrace them through every hard lesson and stepping back, allowing them to learn the lesson on their own.

I watched as he walked to the class.  His shoulders were forward, his head down.  The conversation in my head was just as difficult as watching him walk away.

“Would he be okay?  Will they call if he’s still upset?  Will anyone make fun of him for crying?  Does he know I love him?  Is he mad at me right now?”

I made my way back to my car and texted my girlfriend, a mom of two boys.  She put me at ease, kind of.  We all have those moments, she assured me.  It feels really, really awful.  Like shitty awful.  Feeling like a bad mom.  Feeling like I’m not able to be there for my son.  Feeling like I’ve let him down.

I kind of got over it.  I went to the gym.  I got my grocery shopping done.  Tom got home and over lunch I told him what had happened.  It was still gnawing at me.  I hadn’t heard from the school so I’m sure he was fine but that uneasy feeling of now knowing how he was wouldn’t go away.  And then my phone rang and the name of the school was on the caller ID.  It was his teacher, calling to reassure me that while he was incredibly quiet, waiting for the bell to ring, once inside he was himself.  He was talking with his buddies.  He answered questions about his weekend.  He was back to being Blake.

I know these lessons in life are as important for me as they are for my kids.  I just disliked going through this one as much as Blake did.  I can’t wait to get home tonight, give him a big hug, and rebuild his fort.  I want to build the warmest, coziest, pillow and blanket fort we can. Because there’s a part of me that knows it will make both of us feel better.

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gratitude

Short but sweet, on this beautiful Thanksgiving Sunday.

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“I am thankful for a lovely house.  I am thankful for a nice healthy meal.  I am thankful for a warm bed to sleep in at night.  I am thankful for a bit and healthy life.  I am thankful for a safe trip to school.  I am thankful for my big caring family.”

I, Caleigh, am thankful that you are such a thoughtful, sweet, caring daughter.

Pretty big heart for an almost eight year old.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Excited and Anxious

Have you ever been faced with a situation that makes you feel one way but also feel something completely different…both at the same time?

Starting today at noon, I am heading away for three days.  I am over the moon excited for this weekend.  It is a three day retreat focusing on personal growth.  I have no idea what will happen there.  I have no idea who I am staying with.  I’m not really sure exactly where I am going.  I have no idea what to expect.  Yet, I am ready and willing to play full on and be completely open to whatever is planned.  I am beyond excited.

I am also freaking out just a bit.  This is the first time I will be away from Maggie overnight.  Yes, in over 21 months I have not slept away from my daughter. This retreat is three nights away so it’s like jumping in with both feet and treading water when it comes to how I feel about the separation.  Maggie still breastfeeds (last night, in fact, she decided that she wanted to feed three times between the hours of 11:30PM and 5:00AM) and thus I feel like I am taking something away from her that not only nourishes her but also comforts her.  It’s our time together.  It’s quiet.  It’s peaceful.  It’s connecting.  With my other two children, I welcomed child-led weaning so I feel as though I’m pushing my agenda on her readiness.

But I also really need this weekend away.

It’s interesting (read: heart-breaking) to listen to the running dialogue in my head.  I’m being a bad mom.  I’m being selfish.  She’s not ready…or is it just that I’m not ready?  Will it change things completely?  Will she be upset?  Will she keep Tom up all night?  Will she feel abandoned?  Will she still want to nurse when I get home?

Wow, I can really pile the mama guilt on.  I know this weekend will be ground breaking for me.  I expect to get so much out of it.  I will come home with new insights and likely ready to push boundaries like I’ve never pushed before.  And for that reason alone, I’m putting more emphasis on the excitement for going away than I am for the guilt of leaving Maggie.

She WILL be fine.  I know that in my heart.  I know that even if Tom is up for hours each night, she will be loved, protected, and cared for by her amazing dad.  It’s even possible that I’ll come back and she’ll be better off than I ever expected and that she’s sleeping through the night (hey…one can only hope…).

In three hours, I’m off.  I said goodbye to all of my kids at daycare this morning.  I think the older two are just happy that their Daddy is cooking and so there is more leniency with the number of vegetables on their plate at meal time.  I walked away.  I didn’t cry (yea, me!).  The thought came to me that maybe this was just ME not being ready, and not her.  At any rate, I’ll know when I get home on Sunday night.  Until then, I will continue to repeat the following over and over.

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Wishing you all a great weekend.

Motherhood: My Strength and Weakness

As I tucked my kids in to bed this evening, Caleigh reached up to give me a big hug and whispered “Happy early Mother’s Day, mama”.  I had to take a moment.  Hearing her sweet voice say those words made my heart swell and brought tears to my eyes.  Just like that my seven year old found my weakness.

Being a mom.

It’s a weakness and a strength.  I remember reading an interview with Angelina Jolie who was asked to reveal her biggest weakness.  “My weaknesses are also my strengths. It’s my family – if anything ever happened to my family, it would break me.”

I could not agree more.  My family can be my greatest strength and my greatest weakness.  I have grown more as a human being as each of our three little beings came into our lives.  They have taught me more than I ever could have imagined.  They have forced me out of my comfort zone more times than I can count.  My husband first, and my three kids second, are the best things to have ever happened to me in my life.  I would literally move mountains to get to my family, help my family, and do whatever needed to be done for my family.  I am stronger because of them.

As strong as I can be, at the same time I can fall apart at the smallest of things.  Like when my daughter wraps her arms around my neck and whispers “Happy early Mother’s Day, mama”.  These beautiful moments come out of nowhere and take me by surprise.  I can be reduced to a puddle of pride as they score their first soccer goals.  My heart aches when they come off the school bus in tears because of something one of their school mates said.  I put on a brave face as I watch them take off around the corner on their bikes for their first time alone….and yet I know exactly how long it takes them to do our neighbourhood loop and if they are more than a minute late getting back, I’m ready to take off down the street to look for them.

All of these are life lessons for me, masquerading as lessons for my kids.  Or maybe it’s the other way around.  Being a Mom has given me more pride, joy, heartache, love, adventure, wonder, and zest for life.  I would not give it up for anything in the world.  I read once that children actually pick their parents before coming into the world.  How lucky am I to have had these three amazing kids pick me as their mom and Tom as their dad.

Happy Mother’s Day to all of the other moms out there who are enjoying their day.  Especially to my own mom, who has set such an incredible example as to how to be an awesome Mom.  I look back at the things she sacrificed, the lessons she taught me, and support she gave….all of which she continues to do.  I’m so grateful for her.  And just writing out this blog post reminds me that I don’t tell her that enough.  Thanks mom.

And thank you to Caleigh, Blake, and Maggie, who have given me the opportunity to be called a Mom.  I hope that you know how much I love you, how much I appreciate you, and how grateful I am to have you in my life.

My three little ones back when Maggie was first born.

My three little ones back when Maggie was first born.

Happy 5th Birthday, Blake

 

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So, today our Blake turns five.  Five years old.  I’m not really sure how this happened. I mean, logistically I understand it. Five years ago he was born.  And since then time has gone by, 1825 days to be exact.  But there are days I look at him and wonder just how five whole years have gone by.

There are mornings when he wakes up and I swear that he grew overnight.  His face is just different, he’s older.  I am convinced that if I had time lapse photography, I would have watched him literally grow through the nighttime hours.

Yesterday we celebrated those five years with nine of his school mates.  Blake is a quiet guy, he likes to keep to himself for the most part.  Up until about 2 1/2 weeks ago, he didn’t want a birthday with his friends, he wanted to celebrate with his family (be still, my heart).  Then one day on the way to school he announces that he does, in fact, want a birthday with his friends.  So quickly invitations go out and plans are made – an Olympics themed birthday party it will be.

It was a lot of fun to plan and a lot of fun to watch the kids enjoy.  There were four different events – a three legged race (epic fail, by the way.  The kids were frustrated long before the race even began), a bean bag toss, a egg & spoon race, and an obstacle course. The obstacle course was by far the winner – the kids went through it about eight times each.  And by the end of the party, they were still attacking it while the parents watched on.

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The balance beam.

 

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Crawling (or rolling) under the ropes.

 

Jumping through four tires.

Jumping through four tires.

Here’s hoping that each of these guys, despite the sugar in the cake, went home and slept really well for their parents.  I know I did.  I was exhausted and in a daze by the time it was done.  It was only two hours but yet it seemed to last a lot longer.  Ten little guys, hopped up on birthday excitement, bring a whole lot of energy to an afternoon.  They literally did not stop for two hours straight.  We went from game to game to game, then threw in the birthday cake and opening of the presents, and immediately back to games.

Regardless of how tired I was, how much icing we had to scrape off the floor, or how many balloons we had to deflate, at the end of the day, our Blake was one happy boy.  As he and I lay in his bed, reading his bedtime story, he looked at me and took my face in his hands and said: “Momma, thank you for my party, I had a really good time.”

And that, makes every chaotic moment worth it.

Happy birthday, Blake.