Spring Break Survivors

The constant family togetherness of spring break is finally behind us (at least until Friday, when the kids begin a four-day Easter weekend…sigh). It wasn’t all bad: we visited with friends, hiked through the park, went to the library, saw a movie, etc. I even told my mother how impressed I was that the kids could do their own thing for long periods or play some grown-up board games with me. I didn’t have to pack lunches, check homework or drag anyone out of bed. Ahh.

Things got ugly by the middle of the second week, though. It rained for a few days, Justin was getting up at unholy hours and Brayden seemed to be on a mission to annoy his brother as much as possible. They bugged me when they fought (they were loud) and they bugged me when they were happy (they were still loud). Nerves were frayed. Nasty things were said.

But we survived. And in the ultimate irony, I almost had to wake Justin up for tutoring this morning. Yes. The kid who happily got up at 3:30 am during spring break slept until almost 6:30 the day he needed to be somewhere at 7:15.

Back to routine…

Expect Less, Be Happier

I saw this inspirational quote in a CBC story related to Valentine’s Day:

“When it comes to concrete, specific things that your partner does for you, the fewer things you expect on a day-to-day basis, the happier you are,” says Samantha Joel. She’s a PhD candidate at the University of Toronto whose psychology research delves deeply into romantic relationships.

In other words: set the bar low.

I get it. Expectations can be tricky.

For our first Christmas, by which point we’d been living together for three months, my husband bought me a beautiful hand-crafted jewellery box with my name engraved on a gold plate on top. He followed it up the next year with a gorgeous set of diamond earrings. These are traditional, expensive gifts. Exactly what the media says all women want.

Except I don’t wear jewellery. Ever. I used to force myself to wear earrings for formal occasions, but eventually I stopped that too. I wear my wedding ring and my MedicAlert bracelet, and that’s about it. You’d think he might have noticed.

Sadly, he’s not the only one to get suckered into media-induced stereotypes. One year I bought him a snazzy pull cart for his golf clubs. It was lightweight and compact and could easily fold into the trunk of his car. Perfect.

Except he never goes golfing. He took lessons with me shortly after we were married, and he played a few rounds, but then he just stopped. Somehow I never noticed. After all, I like to golf.

So we’ve given up on grand gestures. Especially when it comes to Valentine’s Day. In that sense, I think Samantha Joel is right. If you’re expecting to be wowed, you’re just going to be disappointed.

This year, I hid a Hershey’s kiss in his car with a note wishing him a happy Valentine’s Day. He loves chocolate and I never let him have any. He loved it.

It really is the little things that count.

Formula for a Perfect Christmas

Two weeks of holidays + three different gift openings + a ton of family fun…yup, it was a good one.

The Never-Ending Summer

This will go down in history as the longest summer EVER. The kids haven’t had school since June 13, the teachers strike is now threatening to delay the start of the new school year, and my contract at work ended August 1, so I’m home with my little darlings 24-7. On our latest trip to the library I found a book called “You Can’t Drink All Day if You Don’t Start in the Morning” — am I the only mom who finds that inspirational?

Actually, the kids haven’t been that bad. I’m just having trouble adjusting to life without either educational courses or paid employment. I don’t know what to do when I don’t have deadlines. We’ve been to the beach, and the waterslides, and the mini golf course; we’ve had BBQs and play dates; I’ve even gotten out golfing a few times. But none of that stretches me intellectually. I need to work on developing some new skills…which I plan to do if the kids ever go back to school. Sigh.

Speaking of new skills…Brayden’s printing is finally improving, and he’s getting better at tying his shoes. He went to overnight camp for the first time this week and seemed to love it, although he was so filthy when I picked him up that at first Justin thought he’d had his face painted (eww). He lost a tooth a couple nights ago and was super excited that it bled enough for him to gross out his brother. That one is all boy.

Justin hasn’t had any therapy all summer but seems to be doing great, which makes me wonder (not for the first time) if he really needs the extra help. He didn’t seem bothered when he lost a couple games of Battleship the other day, and he was genuinely excited for me when I got a hole in one in mini golf even though he didn’t. Handling defeat has never been his forte, so this was a big deal. Very cool.

The Labour of Love

I was having a drink with one of my single friends the other day, listening to her complain about the trials and tribulations of online dating: sorting through the lies in the profiles, sending messages to prospective dates, wondering what it means when no one responds. “It’s just so much work,” she sighed.

I have long been the only still-married-never-divorced one in my social circle, and I’ve heard all the horror stories about the online dating experience. But this one made me pause. Dating is so much work?

You know what else is lots of work? Marriage. Marriage is a ton of work. Endless, difficult, unpaid work. It’s an ongoing series of compromises and accommodations that frequently has one or both of us thinking evil thoughts about the other.

But it’s not all bad. He might leave toothpaste in the sink and socks on the floor…but he also leaves me the last piece of bread because he knows I like toast for breakfast. He might keep me awake with his snoring…but he’s the first one up if one of the kids has a problem. He might do a half-assed job of wiping the kitchen table…but he does the dishes every night.

And it works both ways. Who else would put up with my leaving the bedside light on to read into the wee hours? How many other people would tolerate my planning every vacation to focus on the stuff I want to do? Who else would accept my anal-retentive need to control everything?

So this Valentine’s Day, I raise my glass to the love of my life, who makes me madder than anyone, and who is with me for the long haul.

And then we’ll get back to work.

A Plague-Free Christmas

I can’t remember the last time we had a major family gathering that didn’t involve at least one person coming down with a communicable disease, but this year we managed to make it through the holidays relatively healthy. When you have 11 people tripping over each other for days at a time, it’s nothing short of a miracle when no one gets sick. (I had a cold for a few days, but that’s nothing compared to the ear infections/bronchitis/pink eye fun that swept through the group last year.)

I’m fairly sure everyone enjoyed themselves. I KNOW everyone ate too much. And I for one am happy to get back to the ol’ routine.

Bring on 2014!

My (Two-Week) Resolutions

Everybody makes (and breaks) New Year’s resolutions, right? Who can keep them up for that long? So this year, to maximize my chances for success, I’m making Christmas holiday resolutions.

For the next two weeks, I will:

1. Interact more with my husband and less with my iPad. It’s easy to get so wrapped up in our own personal devices that we barely even speak to each other. We need to play some games, have some laughs, and leave the electronics alone.

2. Play with my kids on their terms. That might mean having snowball fights, doing Pokemon battles, building Lego creations, or playing indoor football. I will not be so busy that I can’t find time to play.

3. Clean my house less often. This should help with #2, though this will probably be the first resolution I break.

4. Take lots and lots of pictures. I’ve taken maybe four photos in the last three months. I wish I could say it’s because we were too busy having great experiences, but really, we were just too busy.

5. Not criticize my family’s fashion choices. None of the males in my house have any sense of what goes with what, but I will not intervene, other than to point out when their clothes are on backwards. Which happens more than you’d think.

6. Not worry about the nutritional content of every meal. I won’t even comment when Chris goes for a third bowl of chips. We’ll see how long that lasts.

7. Not be in a rush all the time. It’s not easy for us Type A personalities to go with the flow, but I’ll do my best.

Most of all, I will cherish this time with family and friends, and not take all this love for granted.

Merry Christmas everybody!