Wednesday, September 13, 2017

First week of school

Today the girls ‘only’ have school till noon - Friday will be their very first day of full-day Kindergarten.  So far I’ve had something on the go every single day.  Last week I was busy getting ready for my mom’s birthday party that we were having at my brothers’ on the weekend.  Plus, they were only going to school for an hour to an hour and 15 minutes last week, which didn’t give me much time to do anything.  Yesterday was my mom’s actual birthday (turning 65) and we were hosting a smaller party at our place in the evening, so I was busy preparing for that for the entire 3 hours that I had ‘free.’  I was so busy that there wasn’t time to stop and realize how quiet it is here without my babies home with me.

(As an aside, something funny - at my mom’s party as we were singing Happy Birthday and I was holding the cake toward her, the fan blew all her candles out before we finished the song and I had to go back and re-light the candles!  You had to be there, but it was a pretty hilarious moment!)

Today, after the 15 minute family reading time in the girls’ class, I came home and as soon as I walked in the door I found my eyes welling up with tears.  The sadness hit me that the girls are in school now, and it felt way too quiet.  It’s tough because in some ways I’ve been looking forward to this ‘peacefulness’ and being able to just ‘be’ without having a million demands laid on me.  I’m enjoying the quiet already in some ways.  But right now there’s a really big part of me that wishes I could go over to the school and pick them up and have them home with me.  It doesn’t feel right here without them!  I’m feeling sad right now.

Margaret and Emily, however, are already really enjoying school, and have been asking every day when they’ll be able to finally stay for the whole day.  Tomorrow I have to pick them up at noon for a dentist appointment, but we’ll see how they enjoy a full day on Friday!

Andrew is happy in his class (he just found out who his teacher is on Monday), and I’m excited that it’s not a split class this year.  He really likes the teacher he got, and whenever we’ve made Xmas cards and end-of-school-year cards for the teachers since he was in Kindergarten, he’s always included this teacher on his list of people we wanted to give one to.  So I know he likes her, and I like that she already knew him at least a little bit previous to this.  I’m hopeful it’s going to be a good year, and so far Andrew has had a really great attitude about school.  Last year wasn’t the best year ever, but I’m hopeful that this year is going to be far better.

Wednesday, September 06, 2017

A New Chapter (unwritten)

Well, that happened.  

Summer came and went just like that.

I always feel a bit emotionally on edge at this time of year, because my favourite seasons (Spring and Summer) are so far off that it’s hard to spend time looking forward to them.  (As a side note, I realize it's still summer technically for a few weeks, but once summer break is over, fall things inevitably creep in, and it's not the same anymore). I loathe Fall and Winter.  Sure, I’ll embrace them eventually because what other choice do I have.  But if it could be a cross between Spring and Summer year round, I’d be a much happier camper.  (Although I don’t really feel the need for camping necessarily, either!  But that’s a whole other topic!)

We had a great summer, in all honesty one of our - if not THE - best since having kids.  All 3 kids were old enough this year for us to get out there and experience so much more with a lot less overwhelmedness, and I love that we created so many memories as a family this year.  We accomplished a LOT and I’ll write more in-depth about our Summer Bucket List and what we did/what we didn’t do in a future post.

It’s just that what’s at the forefront of my brain (and the top of my heart) right now is the fact that MY BABIES STARTED KINDERGARTEN and all 3 of my kids are growing up SO FAST.  

I feel like this summer went by way too fast, and I was thrown into the sudden realization that THIS IS HAPPENING, the ‘babies’ are starting school, and life as we knew it will never be the same.

Sure, that might sound a little over dramatic, but it’s true.  Life is changing, and in a big and fairly significant way.  Life changes once kids start school, it’s just the truth of the matter.  They change, and in different ways than one is used to.  They have outside influences that they didn’t have before, and they’re learning a lot from people other than their parents.  It’s all (or at least, mostly) good stuff, but it’s new and different and it changes them.  

I’ve had my little sidekicks with me ALL THE TIME for pretty much their entire lives.  A day or two here or there without them for hours at a time, but never have I spent the amount of time without them as what I will now that they’re starting school.  I felt sad when Andrew started Kindergarten, and had to adjust to him not being with us all the time, but I still had Margaret and Emily at home keeping me busy - and boy, did they ever!  It’s been a crazy whirlwind 3 years since he started Kindergarten, and now he’s in Grade 3, and off his sisters go to follow in Big Brother’s footsteps.

I haven’t had much time to myself in literally YEARS.  In almost 9 years, in fact, because since Andrew was born I have been in the throws of being a full-time stay at home mom, and it’s a miracle if I can drink a hot coffee without being interrupted enough times that the coffee is left forgotten until I give up trying to reheat it and just consider it an iced cap.  I went from having one child, which I thought back then was a handful - little did I know then what I know now, although of course it’s all relative - to having THREE overnight, and the reality of my world became total chaos.  Good chaos, I mean I’m not saying I didn’t welcome it because I love my 3 kids more than anything.  But I hadn’t signed up for twins, so even though I’m completely grateful for the surprise of twins (and I am more and more all the time, as they grow together and individually), the infancy and toddler stages in particular were kind of insane, I’m not going to lie.  Good insane, but insane!  

I barely have a free moment to think, let alone do anything much for myself or to explore my own interests, and it’s been that way for such a long time that I’m in a rut of not doing anything for me.  Of not getting the projects I’d love to see completed even STARTED at times because I know the process of accomplishing it would be too overwhelming due to my lack of TIME.  By the time I have time, I just want to fritter it and I know I should give myself SOME credit because it’s not like I’ve sat around and accomplished a big pile of nothing these past 8.5 years!  I HAVE done things and I HAVE managed to complete projects, but in reality it’s always so complicated because things always involve at least 2 and sometimes 3 kids, and it makes everything take that much longer to complete.

I’m used to that being my reality, and I’m finding it challenging letting it sink in that I’m about to have 5-5.5 hours per day to do ‘what I want.’  I say that in quotes because obviously I’m still taking care of tasks that are mundane and it’s not like I’m just going to be constantly living it up like I’m footloose and fancy free!  But the freedoms I will get from having all 3 kids in school is going to be something that seemed like a dream that would never come true when I was in the throws of all the dirty diapers, tandem feeds, and complete inability to even leave the house for a few minutes of fresh air at times in the beginning.  Not saying I was wishing my kids away because as much as they have and still do - and always will, I’m sure! - make me want to scream and rip my hair out at times, I DID and DO enjoy being their #1 and making them mine.  I wouldn’t want it any other way, and whatever I do moving forward, they will always be my priority above all else, and I count myself very, very lucky to have this opportunity to be their stay at home mom, to have been with them all their years leading up to school on a daily basis, and being there to take them to and pick them up from school.  I know not everyone is given the choice to do that, and I’m grateful that I’ve had this experience with my kids.

It’s just going to be a major transition now, and I honestly think more so for myself than for the girls.  They’re used to the school having spent so much time there already between dropping off and picking Andrew up with me, spending a LOT of time in the very Kindergarten classroom they call their own now because I volunteered a lot when Andrew was in that grade and the girls were always with me.  They even have the same teacher Andrew had. I’ve also been a part of the parent group at the school every year so they’ve tagged along to all sorts of meetings and events.  They’re excited about school, not nervous.  They’ve been waiting years for this to happen!

Me, on the other hand.  What am I supposed to do with myself now?  I’ve put so much into being 'Mom,' and obviously I’ll still be that but what am I to do when the kids are in school?  I’d love to earn some money for family trips and savings, but it has to be something I can do that still allows me to drop the kids off and pick them up, be there for sick days, pro-d days, holidays, early dismissals.  There are a lot of those things throughout the school year, and I don’t know how many jobs in reality allow for that much leeway.  I need to do something that can be done from home, but what?

I have this opportunity that so many people wish they could have, suddenly at my fingertips, where I can work on finding myself and hopefully hone a craft and do something that makes me feel successful for me and not just as ‘Mom.’  And that’s AWESOME, I’m not saying it’s not.  I already have a few short-term goals, including performing a clean sweep on our entire house and overhauling the entire thing till everything truly is in it’s right place and I can finally stop obsessing over how disorganized many areas of the house have become because I’ve only ever had time to do what HAS to be done, not what I’d really like to get done.  On the surface the house looks pretty good, but I want the whole thing in order, and I will be able to do that.  I also want to work on organizing our digital pictures and do something with all the videos of the kids from over the years, maybe learn how to use some editing software to get some creative projects done with those.  (We have literally tens of thousands of photos and hundreds of videos to sift through, this could literally be a full-time job for a while!) I want to learn how to better sew and complete some crafty projects.  I want to write more and be more well-read.  I want to learn some new recipes and get out of the rut of the meals I make, and do more baking for the kids to enjoy.  The list goes on and it’s only limited to what I choose the limit to be.  This is perhaps a bit of an exaggeration, I’m not going to have ALL THE TIME IN THE FREAKING WORLD - I have friends who are stay at home moms with their kids in school and they still seem to be pretty busy with all the things their families need from them.  But it’s going to seem like all the time in the world at least at first, given I’ve had no time at all for such a long time.

It’s overwhelming, though, is the thing.  Where do I start?  And how do I make it so I’m not feeling total pressure every single day to make every minute, every hour COUNT?  Will I feel like I have to prove myself every day as to what I was doing all day?  Will I feel like at the end of the day I’m still allowed to be tired, because of what I accomplished, or will that be disregarded because how dare I say such a thing when I had all day ‘to myself’?!  Not saying anyone in particular would be that way toward me, but at the same time I’ve had people already scoff at me when I’ve said I’m going to take a bit of time to figure things out, and take it easy.  There are those who say I deserve it after all I’ve done for everyone else, but also those who treat me with some sarcasm, like, oh must be nice to be you!  Or the questions constantly of, WELL, what are you going to DO now???  It makes me uncomfortable if I’m being honest. It's a lot of pressure, and I feel like I already put so much pressure on myself. I don't need other people's judgments thrown in my face.

I haven’t actually experienced the freedom yet as the girls only go to Kindergarten for one hour tomorrow and only work their way to a full school day on September 15th.  And I feel a good cry coming on - I’ve been stifling it for days because I’m afraid of not being able to stop once I get started.  I really am sad that my ‘babies’ are grown up enough to be in school, and I would keep them home with me longer if I didn’t think I’d be holding them back if I did.  

It’s just hard when you’re used to your role and it’s your whole life and then suddenly it’s changing and you have to basically redefine yourself.  It’s amazing and wonderful and exciting, but it’s also scary, sad, and completely overwhelming.  I know there are going to be things I’ll love about being able to do things in peace, without being constantly interrupted and without listening to kids bickering and complaining in the background.  I think it will be good for me psychologically that way.  But for some reason I still have reservations about it.  It always felt so far off, there was always more time to think about it before the time came, and now suddenly here we are, and I don’t feel quite ready but I don’t have a choice.

I know we’ll get into a new routine, and I know it will be healthy for us, probably especially me, at least in the long run.  It’s just that it feels like suddenly my whole world is changing, and I don’t know what to do with that.  It’s this huge life change and transition for me, and makes me think about how that whole period of my life is over and done with, but for everyone around me it’s not that big of a change (for them), or for the kids themselves despite being a big change, since they’re kids they don’t really think about it in the same ways, they just go with it.  I’m in this huge transitional phase in my life and have to go about it as though I’ve totally got this and know what I’m doing, and I’m scared because what if I don’t?!

Tuesday, August 01, 2017

10 years of wedded bliss

July 27th was James and my 10 year wedding anniversary.  It’s hard to believe we’ve been married for a decade already!  The time really has flown by.  

Our wedding day was so perfect and I love thinking back on that day and remembering how special it was.  We also picked the best time of year (for us) to get married, because I don’t think we’ve ever had an anniversary with rain.  Statistically it’s always a hot, sunny time, which was one of the reasons we chose the date that we did.

This year our anniversary fell on a Thursday, and logistically it wasn’t going to be easy for us to have help with the kids that day.  Luckily we were able to secure help for the weekend, and well in advance of the date we had plans set that Andrew would have a sleepover at my parents’ house, and the girls would sleep over at my aunt and uncle’s.

On our anniversary day we sipped mimosas in the morning, which is pretty much my ideal way of starting a day (not something I do often, but on special occasions, what could be better?!) and then in the afternoon we took the kids for our annual trip to Playland.

When we took the kids before, we would take Andrew on a separate day from the girls because there was so little they could do compared to him.  But this year we decided to go once as a family, and in terms of the crazy high cost (in my opinion) to get in (it came to $168 for the 5 of us) I think we made the right decision.  It was sometimes complicated in terms of going on rides because Andrew would have to ride alone for some of them since the girls still needed an adult to be with them, but for the most part it worked out great, and Andrew was a good sport about riding alone when it was necessary.

It was a hot day, but not unbearable.  I actually like going to Playland on a hot day, I guess because it’s generally what we’ve done, and it’s part of the experience when I think about spending the day there.  We went on lots of rides, and particularly enjoyed their new ladybug rollercoaster.  I liked the mini version of Hellavator, which I had to go on by myself but it was quite thrilling!  The one that spins really fast in a wave while listening to really loud music is fun, too, and Andrew went on that one probably 4 times!  We brought some lunch, and James finally got a grilled cheese sandwich there (the stand that sells them has always been closed when we’ve gone before so he had to try it!)  We also, of course, couldn’t leave without getting some cotton candy.

The kids were all really well behaved while we were there, and just had a blast going on all the rides.  Sometimes we went on rides all together - the ones that we could - and other times James or I would take Andrew and the other would go with the girls so they could do separate/age appropriate stuff.  It worked out well, and eventually we’d all had enough so we went on the kettle creek rollercoaster one more time and headed out.  I was feeling pretty nauseous by then, after going on way too many of the super fast, twisty rides with Andrew.  We walked up the street to McDonald’s for fries, smoothies, and mcflurries before heading home, which the kids were pretty ecstatic about since it’s something we rarely do.

All in all it was a great day, despite how nauseous I felt by the end of the afternoon!!

On Friday we took the kids to Lion’s Park in PoCo, which was fun.  We didn’t spend as long there as I’d anticipated but it was so hot, and the splash pad was kind of sad there so we were all feeling the heat and preferred to go home and just relax in the backyard, which was cooling off with shade by the time we got back.  It was still a nice outing though.  I’d had bigger plans for us since James had taken those days as vacation days, but the reality was that I was hit by the curse on our anniversary and really didn’t feel up to doing as much as I’d hoped to do those days.  It worked out though, and everyone was happy with what we accomplished.

On Friday night I went over to a friends’ house for our monthly ‘Ladies Night Out’ and had planned on not staying out too late, but didn’t get home till almost 1:30 in the morning!  I only had a few drinks, though, as I wanted to be good for the next night since I knew I’d be out late on the Saturday.  I had hoped to be well rested but between having a difficult time falling asleep just naturally, and then Margaret waking me up as soon as I did, I ended up getting a pretty terrible sleep that night.  I actually have had crummy sleep for a while, even more than usual, but I’m surviving!!

On Saturday I dropped Andrew off at my parents’ place around noon, and my aunt and uncle picked the girls up from our house at 1.  Then James and I were free as birds for 24 hours!  Our first night without kids in over a year, and I can count on one hand and have fingers left over for how many nights we’ve had on our own in nearly a decade.  Which is hard to think about.  We did miss the kids and of course love being with them, but it’s important for us to have that time just the two of us, and I wish we were able to have a bit of a longer time of it.  I feel like we’d be hard-pressed to be able to get 2 nights away, I honestly don’t know when that will ever happen, and if I think about it too much it makes me feel sad.  So I’ll try not to think about it!  It’s just hard with only one night, because we basically just start to relax and then our time is up.

At any rate, we had planned on going downtown to have dinner and then meet up with my bro and sil to bar hop a bit with them and just hang out in the city.  We’d made these plans before I realized it was the first fireworks night of the Celebration of Light.  Which I would prefer to avoid like the plague, to be honest.  I went to every single celebration of light when we lived 2 blocks up from English Bay several years back, so I got my fill of it then and have never felt inclined to go back.  In all honesty, I can’t deal with the crowds, and the fireworks themselves aren’t enough of a draw for me to put up with that!  

I was tempted to cancel our plans and do something else, but I really couldn’t think of a good alternative.  We decided to just go ahead with our plans, but chose a different restaurant than the one we’d originally planned on, because that would have put us right at Davie and Denman which would have been crazy busy.  Instead we went to our old haunt, Sala Thai, which is where James proposed to me, so it felt fitting to go along with our anniversary plans!  

We headed downtown for a little after 3, wandered and checked out a few shops, and had a little bite to eat at Chipotle, which I’ve heard of but didn’t even realize we had in Canada (that’s how often I get out!)  Then I went to have my undercut re-done with my hairdresser since I wanted it touched up before our trip this month.  James went and got a coffee while he waited for me, and then we slowly made our way to our dinner reservation.  Of course it was delish as always, although we didn’t order as much as we normally would because we were still kind of full from Chipotle.  We did have several tasty drinks, however!

After that we took the skytrain to Main and met up with my bro and sil, and they introduced us to some hole in the wall bar that you wouldn’t even know existed if you were just walking down the street.  It seemed pretty sketchy the way you go in, but it all worked out and I had a really yummy Lavender Gin Fizz.

We also went to a few of my bro and sil’s fave hangouts, that we’d also gone to the last time we hung out with them downtown.  It was a lot of fun.  We rarely ever get to hang out like that, and we have pretty different lifestyles given they don’t have kids and we have 3.  But despite our differences we really have a lot of fun hanging out together.  I wish we were able to do that more often.

We were having so much fun, in fact, that we were shocked when my sil looked at her watch and said it was 12:35am already!  We had a ways to get home, so we had to get going pretty quickly after that.

We went to catch a bus going up Hastings, but it ended up being full so we had to wait for the next one.  15 minutes later we were on it, only to have it stop a few stops later.  The bus driver came on a few minutes later to announce that he had to wait for a supervisor to come because ‘someone had decided to bleed all over his bus.’  We were far enough back on the bus that we didn’t see the blood, and had no idea what the details were.  We never did find out what happened, but luckily another bus came a few minutes later that we transferred to.  Once we got to our stop we still had a 20 minute walk home because the last bus going our way was done for the night.

We didn’t get home till about 2am, but it was totally worth it!  We had such a great time.  Unfortunately by about 3:30am I was throwing up, but by morning only felt groggy and out of it, slightly nauseous but not actually getting sick anymore.  That night definitely took its toll on me though!!

We went for breakfast at de Dutch, which was so nice since we never get to go for breakfast.  We waited for an outside seat so we enjoyed sitting out on the little patio.  When we got home we sat out in the lounge chairs in the backyard until the girls were dropped off at 2pm, and that concludes our ‘weekend-just-the-two-of-us’!  I picked Andrew up after we had a short visit with my aunt and uncle, and then we came home and just hung out for the rest of the day.

It was a great 4 days having James home, and us celebrating our anniversary!

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Not the happiest camper...

We’ve been slowly but surely gathering camping gear over the past several months in anticipation of planning a few trips this summer.  We’re going to a family reunion of sorts in August, so we knew we’d be camping for those two nights, but we also wanted to do a preliminary trip beforehand to feel confident that we have the right supplies and pack appropriately.  

This was my first camping trip since about 2001, when I went with James, his brother, dad, and dad’s significant other.  It feels like eons ago that we took that particular trip to Birkenhead Lake, and I am positive it was only for one night.  In fact, I have never camped for more than one night at a time and I’m pretty sure I have camped 4 times in my life.  The 4th time was this past week!  So I definitely DO NOT consider myself a camper.  

Andrew has already camped more times than me and he’s only 8.5(!), generally with the MIL and a few times with James going along also.  The girls had never camped before.  So when we took the plunge and actually booked a campsite at Cultus Lake for this past Monday, it felt like a pretty big deal.

Everything worked out in terms of the weather (Monday was a great temperature but cloudy for the first half of the day, so we weren’t too hot but weren’t cold either).  I also found that I had packed really efficiently and while there were a few things we didn’t end up needing, I really don’t feel I overpacked by any stretch - and I do tend to be an overpacker in general, so I was pretty impressed with myself.  

We set out around 10:30am and took the scenic route to our destination, in part in order to avoid a toll bridge, but also because we weren’t in any rush to get there since we couldn’t actually check into our campsite till at least 1pm.  We stopped for gas in Mission, where it was 20 cents cheaper per litre compared to at home, and got some chips at the gas station to munch on the rest of the way there.  We got to the lake at 20 to 1 and were told to wait to set up camp till 1 but we drove through just to see where our spot was and, seeing that it was already cleared out, we decided to get going on setting things up right away.

It actually didn’t take as long as I’d thought, and we worked well together.  Andrew helped James get the tent set up (and I did a bit, too), and I got our bathroom set up.  Yes, that’s right, we had our own bathroom for camping, and I swear it was a lifesaver and has already paid for itself!!  I got a pop up tent off Amazon and a ‘luggable loo’ so we’d basically have our own outhouse, and it made the experience so much easier on me (and everyone else, as it turned out!)  I honestly don’t think I’d have managed without it, not just because of my own frequent need to pee but because kids seem to have to pee every 5 minutes, and I didn’t like the idea of having to constantly be trekking off to the bathroom.  Honestly, I would recommend the luggable loo and a single-occupancy pop-up tent to any camper!  Don’t leave home without it!!

Our friends drove up to spend the day with us so they showed up just as we were finishing getting things sorted, and W helped James get the last part of the tent set up.  Our kids and their kids get along so well so everything went really smoothly for the whole visit.  We walked down to the lake and set up there for the better half of the afternoon.  The kids all get right into the lake, I waded in up to my knees.  W is essentially a lifeguard swimmer so we knew if need be he could help the kids, and their kids were in the water as well.  It was so nice and peaceful there.  The girls enjoyed building a moat and playing in the sand, and Andrew and I played some frisbee and it was just a fun, relatively relaxing experience.  We had some snacks and then headed back to the campsite to get started on dinner.

Our friends brought a big salad (and dessert) and I had pre-made a mixture for fajitas so we were able to get dinner made really fast and efficiently.  H insisted on washing the dishes for me, which she didn’t have to do, but it was a nice gesture!  I was pleasantly surprised that we didn’t see a single bee, no flies, in general there were no bugs to speak of.  I didn’t even see a single spider our entire trip!  It was amazing actually.  I guess there was enough of a breeze that they weren’t really able to hang around - at least in terms of the flying bugs and insects!  Although as the sun started to go down there were some mosquitos, and I think they would have eaten us alive if we’d stayed outside much longer than we did.  I’ve certainly experienced a higher volume of mosquitos even in our own backyard in years past, though, so I didn’t attribute that to camping at all.

Our friends stayed till it was pretty much time for the kids to be heading to bed.  It was really nice that they came up to spend the day with us and finally have a visit, since we don’t get together as often as we’d like to.  We got the kids’ teeth brushed and into jammies and James tucked the girls in with a story while Andrew and I sat out in our chairs by the fire pit, despite that we weren’t actually able to enjoy a fire.  Unfortunately the fire ban came into effect just less than a week before we went on the trip, which kind of sucked in terms of no s’mores (though the kids did enjoy s’mores just without the roasting of the marshmallows!)  I think it would have been fun to have had a proper fire, but we opted not to buy a fire pit that is legal during a fire ban, one because it’s another expensive that once we also purchased a propane tank for would be upwards of $200, and two, we really don’t want more stuff to have to store if possible.  If we were going to be camping a lot and for longer periods, it might be worth it, but we didn’t think it made sense for our first one nighter.

Not long after the girls got into bed, Andrew said that as much as he wanted to stay up he really was tired, so off he went to bed, too.  James and I probably spent about 15 minutes sitting chatting outside before we decided to retire also, in part because the mosquitos were starting to bother us, but we were pretty tired, too.  I knew I wouldn’t be able to fall asleep right away because I don’t even know if it was quite 10pm yet at this point, but I also knew I didn’t want to sit outside in the dark by myself!

I would say Emily went to sleep the easiest, which is no surprise since she’s our best sleeper.   Andrew had a few restless moments through the night but did well also.  Margaret took the longest to fall asleep, which is no surprise at all since that’s generally the case at home, too!  

I don’t know exactly when it happened, but sometime probably around midnight, I could hear this odd sounding almost goose-like sound off in the distance.  It sounded fairly far away but I definitely woke up and noticed it.  I thought it odd that the geese would be in the forest at night, but then we’d seen a lot of them on the beach during the day so I shrugged it off, not really knowing what else it could be.  Not long after, in a campsite a ways away from us, I heard a little girl scream, ‘Noooo!’ and then something came bounding through the forest right past the back of our tent.  I’m wondering now if it could have been a cougar, as in the morning James noticed a paw print that looked like it belonged to a cougar over near the outhouse, which wasn’t all that far from our campsite.  The way the animal bounded through the bush just seemed more cougar like than raccoon, although I suppose it could have been a bear (but I feel like that would have been noisier at that speed).  Whatever it was freaked me out, and then I was even more shaky not long after when Margaret stirred and started sobbing.  James consoled her, which only seemed to make her cry louder, and I was so conscious of the amount of people she would be waking up and disturbing with all of that noise.

Finally she calmed down and went back to sleep, and James was able to get back to sleep, but I pretty much just laid there, hoping to drift off but never fully getting there.  A while later, the weird goose sound got louder and louder until it sounded like it was at the next campsite over from us.  It didn’t take long for me to think it wasn’t a goose, and when loud huffing sounds and choking and gruff coughing sounds, followed by growling, I had a very strong inkling it was a bear.  I nudged James, who of course by this time was awake, too, and he confirmed my suspicions.  He did some internet searching and it became pretty obvious it was a bear we were dealing with.  We couldn’t see it but I could see giant shadows moving back and forth past the trees as we had the tent ‘windows’ down, and the whole thing was so completely terrifying I.CAN’T.EVEN.

There was a lot of rustling of what sounded like chip bags and other food items, a lot of yacking on a bone type sounds coming from the bear, a ton of huffing and growling, and moving back and forth.  Banging on stuff and being generally noisy.  It was literally the most scared I’ve ever been, and between that and being freezing cold despite the plethora of blankets I was wrapped in, I was shaking severely.  I hated that the kids were all closer to the bear than I was, and a part of me wanted to corral them all closer and protect them, but I was too scared to do that because I thought if I woke them up and any of them made noise/Margaret cried, the bear might come to investigate.  We had a bear bell and James had his thumb resting on the panic button for the van, but we resisted drawing attention to ourselves as long as the bear was in the other campsite.  This went on literally FOR HOURS, until the sun started coming up and the ten million varieties of birds started chirping and I guess the bear knew it was time to move on before all the people started getting up.  So needless to say, I slept for less than an hour that night total.  Maybe 45 minutes…

At 6am the people across from us, who hadn’t even arrived till we were eating dinner, packed up their site and left.  I couldn’t blame them.  I honestly wanted to do the same.  

I’d had such high hopes, that we would get up early after at the very least an OK night’s sleep, wander and check out more of the campgrounds and go down to the beach for a peaceful early morning stroll.  (Oh, we did go back to the lake before the kids went to bed and they enjoyed skipping rocks and it was very serene and beautiful, so we at least we’d had that experience the night before).  Unfortunately by morning I felt like I was dying from exhaustion and my nerves were completely shot.  I was also very jumpy because I kept wondering where the bear might have gone and how close it could still potentially be.  (I didn’t love all the little critters that I hear skittering around the tent and right near my head throughout the night, either, since we all know how I feel about rodents, but that seemed like nothing in comparison to the bear!)

(I should also note that our campsite was way too close to what turned out to be a very busy road, even through the night, with semis flying by at all even without the bear situation I don’t think I’d have slept much).

James’ family tradition when camping as a kid was that his dad would make bannock for breakfast, so in sticking with tradition he made us some, and even flipped it like a professional on the first try!  The kids weren’t huge fans of it, despite that he added cinnamon and even some syrup.  I liked it, though.  It tasted like a healthier version of a donut!  I wish I could say I enjoyed using my coffee mug that I got specifically for camping, but the reality is that I just wasn’t feeling relaxed, and didn’t really feel all that well at all.  

James took the kids down to the lake for a bit to give me a bit of a breather, and then we packed everything up and headed out of there.  I’d bought a groupon for Dinotown so we headed there and spent several hours there before going home.  I had really wanted to enjoy the experience there with the kids because rumour has it it’s their last year, as well I don’t think it would hold the kids’ attention much longer, particularly Andrew’s.  We’ve gone for 3 years in a row now, so I’m pretty sure that would have been our last time going anyway.  Unfortunately I was so tired that I felt miserable and everything about Dinotown was making me angry!  That’s not entirely fair - I did enjoy seeing how much fun the kids were having, and I legitimately was happy to be there for their sake.  I was just getting more and more down in the dumps by the minute.  I was able to hide it completely from them, but the whole bear experience had rattled me so much.

The girls enjoyed watching the dinosaur shows, and Margaret in particular was OBSESSED with the dinosaurs and wanted to hug and kiss them every chance she got!  After the show she insisted we walk over to this little house behind the stage area where she knew the dinosaurs had gone.  It had a big Staff Only sign and I knew that’s where they went to take the costumes off.  I told her we weren’t allowed inside but she said we could wait outside because the dinosaurs would come out again after a little break.  Then a young woman came out of the house and walked off and I knew it was one of the dancers out of the dino costume, but Margaret just got this look on her face like, What was she doing in there?!  She didn’t clue in that it was one of the dinosaurs, she truly believes they’re real and not just dressed up characters!

Emily enjoyed the Dolly House again but more so the vet clinic play area this time around.  Andrew was into the bouncy castles and waterslide.  They all took turns on the little paddlewheelers, Emily going on twice.  We had lots of picnicy foods with us leftover from camping so we grazed on that while we were there and then stopped by Coneheads for ice cream cones before heading home.

I actually (silently) cried for about half the trip home.  I just couldn’t believe how the trip had taken such a turn for the worse.  I felt sad (and still do) about how poorly the night went, because it means I’m absolutely dreading our future camping trips.  There’s no way I will ever feel secure about sleeping in a tent at night, and just in general I don’t like anything about it.  I enjoy day trips to the great outdoors but the sleeping in a forest in a tent just makes no sense to me whatsoever, and after this experience I don’t know how it ever could.  Yet I know we have to do it again, so it’s just a hard pill to swallow knowing I have no choice but to do it anyway.  I really hope our August trip goes better in terms of getting some sleep, because I can’t imagine how I’ll cope at a family reunion if I feel the way I did the day after a night of no sleep camping!

It was also SO MUCH WORK to pack us and get us sorted to go camping, for a one night stay and then the amount of work to unpack it all and wash everything and find somewhere to put it’s pretty exhausting!  It’s not even a matter of getting faster at it over time, because the reality is we can’t store all our supplies together due to space issues.  

I don’t know...I want to say I enjoyed the experience.  I was actually very optimistic and enjoying it up until the going to bed part.  I even said to James before bed that we should have booked two nights because I was enjoying the experience so much.  However, based on how the night went even if we’d paid for another night I would have insisted on going home!

All in all, for the kids’ sake it was a great experience.  I’ll try to just focus on that...

Friday, July 14, 2017

So many rodents...

I have done some writing this summer but very little.  I have so much to catch up on and I hate that I’m working in reverse order writing about more recent events when there’s so much else I want to document, but I guess I have to start somewhere.

For the most part, since summer holidays started I feel like we’ve been getting out quite a bit and I started off really well with making sure we had little (and sometimes big!) adventures to parks together.  I know that if I wrote out everything we’ve done so far, I’d be impressed with how much we’ve been up to.

At the same time, the past few days I’ve been feeling pretty down in the dumps, and it all has to do with wildlife!  Yes, there was the bear encounter while we were camping at the beginning of the week, and that has definitely left me feeling disheartened about camping and wary of our next trip, since we’ll be camping for two nights next month and I swear I’d have been suicidal by night two if we’d had to camp a second night this last trip.  (I don’t even feel I’m exaggerating - the lack of sleep and amount of stress I was feeling after the night we endured camping left me feeling more down in the dumps than I’ve felt in an extremely long time).

But that issue aside, which despite the fact that we live near a mountain and I KNOW there are occasionally bears in the area, I do feel safe from bears for the most part, and know if I just stay out of the woods I should be fine.  (Never in all my 37 years have I encountered a bear until we camped this week!)  It’s the fact that we have a MAJOR rodent problem in our neighbourhood that is ruining things for me this summer.

Usually I look forward to the summer most of all because it gives our living room such a huge extension by way of the Back Yard.  I spend the fall and winter months longing to gain that space back, and feel the heaviness of winter leave my shoulders at the first signs of Spring, knowing we have the Summer months to look forward to.  I am admittedly a homebody, so as much as I do love getting out with the family to go on adventures, I love most of all setting up ‘camp’ in our own backyard - which usually involves filling up the kids’ little pool, planting and enjoying lots of summery flowers (which I’ve barely done this year compared to previous years because why bother - the rodents prevent me from being out there enjoying it), bringing out a tray of snacks, maybe putting some music on my iphone, and just lounging in the yard while the kids enjoy some play time.  The neighbours’ kids sometimes come over and the kids have fun together and I love having that time out in the yard but also being at home so I can to whatever I need done, and not make the day overly complicated.  I usually LOVE sitting outside with James after the kids have all been tucked into bed, and having that time to spend together quietly chatting, maybe sipping a beer or a glass of wine, kicking back in our comfy lounge chairs, enjoying the cool night breeze.  Or playing an impromptu game of badminton, which is always great fun.  Except, of course, when rodents get in the way of it.

The problem has gotten so severe that sitting outside for literally 5 minutes in the early evening, you’d be surprised NOT to see at least 3 rodents running through the yard.  Some just beyond our back fence, but not at all uncommonly right near our back door, and along both sides of the yard.  Given that I had a rat RUN RIGHT OVER MY FOOT in our front yard space at the end of last summer, I am not at all confident that these rodents won’t come anywhere near me, and I am basically a person who wishes to be as far away from rodents at all times as is humanly possible, so...This current scenario has not been working for me at all.

I am apprehensive to ever go into the yard, front or back at this point.  (Last Saturday I was planning to vacuum out the van, when Andrew headed out the front door first and quickly ran back in announcing that a huge black rat with the longest tail ever was hanging out in the neighbour’s carport (which is directly attached to ours).  And he wasn’t exaggerating in saying it was big - some of the rats I’ve been seeing are so big that I’ve mistaken them for cats until their disgusting pink, hairless tails appear behind them.  We have mice and rats of all colours and sizes and I don’t play favourites: I HATE THEM ALL!

I’ve been calling and emailing and printing off letters to management about this issue for some time, generally to no avail.  I finally got to my end point with it, and printed off a letter that I hand delivered and also emailed, stating what the issue was and what they are legally obligated to do about it, as well as what they legally have to do to work to prevent such things from even happening in the first place.  They let their garden maintenance person go months ago, and it’s no coincidence that the rodent population has more than quadrupled since then.  The grass area beyond our back fence hadn’t been mowed in months and was a perfect hiding place for rodents.  I said as much, and I don’t think it was a coincidence that the very next day someone was mowing that grass.  Not the greatest job ever, but better than nothing.  I was hoping it would at least help with the issue, but the reality is that the problem has been left to get so severe that they’re going to have to do a whole lot more to fix it.

When I started sitting outside and had more rodents running rampant around me than I’d care to even remember, I’d had enough.  I started sending management messages every day about the issue, and finally said that I was beginning to wonder if I should call a pest control company myself and send them the bill afterwards.  I know that I am well within my rights to do so, especially with so much documentation about the problem and proof of having brought it to their attention time and time again.  And in light of the mouse we had in our kitchen and the fact that I haven’t felt entirely safe from rodents even inside our home for a long time now, I’m quite confident I would win the case against them if it got taken to arbitration.

I found out the next day that other people in the complex have been complaining about the issue, too, but I don’t think it’s a coincidence that I sent that somewhat threatening (justifiably so!) letter and then the very next day pest control was in the complex setting out rat bait traps.  Of course, they only set out four in the entire complex, which barely scratches the surface of what needs to be done at this point to get the population in check, but I was at least relieved to know that one of the traps had been set just beyond our back fence.

I haven’t been spending a whole lot of time in our yard with all of this going on, though, and I’m feeling really sad that we’re losing so much of our outdoor time because at the time of day when it’s most pleasant to be out there, the mice and rats tend to be out in full force.  Sometimes I can even hear the same horrible chewing-through-the-wall sound the mouse was making that actually did make its way into our kitchen a few weeks ago, coming from what sounds like under the deck in our neighbours’ yard, and that can happen in the middle of the afternoon.  I’m not comfortable with it, and even when I’m in the yard I don’t feel I’m fully enjoying it because I’m tense from the toenails up, basically looking back and forth and perking my ears up in case I see or hear something that shouldn’t be there.  I hate living like this.  It’s not enjoyable.  

Considering all the flood and water leak issues we’ve had, as well as other issues with maintenance around here, and now a serious rodent issue, I would move in a heartbeat if that were feasible.  But given the rental market throughout the entire lower mainland, there’s literally nowhere else for us to go.  I just have to do whatever I can to force management to work on the issue and hope that in time it gets rectified so that by next summer we’ll be able to enjoy our yard without even having to think twice.  I just can’t seem to shake the sadness I feel about the time we’re losing right now.

Looking back on my blog just now I realized I never posted about the mouse in our kitchen...I do have it well documented in my planner, so I do have the exact date that it happened but it was a few weeks ago.  I stayed up till 1am folding a ton of laundry that particular night, and when I went into the kitchen with the teatowels and washcloths to put away, I could hear this awful scratching-in-the-wall sound behind the stove area.  I was pretty sure I knew what it was right away, but I’d never heard that sound ever in my life before, and it made me freeze in fear for a moment!  I just perked up my ears and listened and tried to figure out where it was coming from.  I ended up waking James up (much to his chagrin) to help me suss it out, and he ended up turning on the stove fan, which scared it away.  He went back to bed but of course I was way too wrought up and worried to go to sleep myself.  About half an hour or so later the sound started up again, so I put the fan back on and left it on.  It may have happened a third time but after that I let the fan run the whole rest of the night, and I also sprayed peppermint oil all over the entire house pretty much before I went to bed (which I know rodents don’t like).  As soon as the management office opened the next morning, I called to tell them what had happened and they sent someone at the end of the day to fill the holes about the light fixture area.

Especially after finding mouse droppings in the cupboard above the stove, I was totally freaked out because I knew a mouse had actually made it’s way in.  What if it was still in the house somewhere?!  I cleaned out every single cupboard in the kitchen looking for droppings, but ‘luckily’ it had only made it into that one cupboard before we scared it off.  There were mouse droppings above the light fixture area, too, but it was just a very good thing I had been up and heard it before it managed to make it’s way further into our house.  Another reason I stay up so late - I’m no longer just staying up as long as possible in hopes if there’s another pipe leak I’ll catch it, I’m now on high alert for rodents.  It’s really no fun at all.

I’m pretty good about making sure food is all well stored so I don’t think a mouse would have been entirely happy in our kitchen, anyway.  So thank goodness it was the best case of the worst case scenario in terms of the mouse actually getting into the house.  There haven’t been any signs of them in the house since, and my dad came over the next day and filled some holes outside that he thought could be a place for them to get in, and he better secured the little grate around our vent pipe for the stove fan.  There really isn’t anything else we can do except cross our fingers and hope the damn rodents don’t find a way back in, but the reality is that the damage is already done in terms of how it’s affecting me.  I am totally paranoid and the slightest sound now just makes me jump.  I haven’t felt comfortable since in all honesty, and I definitely know it has majorly affected my general wellbeing.

It’s not that I’m not enjoying the summer break with the kids so far, because I am, and there have been great moments and I expect there to be many more.  We have quite a few events planned for the rest of the summer and I’m looking forward to crossing everything off our bucket list.  I just wish I could relax more in (and just outside of) my own home, is that really so much to ask?!

Thursday, June 08, 2017

We bought a new van!

On Tuesday we traded in our trusty 2002 blue Dodge Caravan, Ramona, for a just-about-brand-spankin-new 2016 black Grand Caravan, yet to be named.

We hadn’t planned on buying a brand new vehicle when we started our search.  We just knew it was time to trade in the old for something newer because Ramona needed at least $2000 worth of work done, and given we were at almost 185,000km it was only a matter of time before even more issues would crop up.  

It ended up making the most sense to get something new, because then we have more security that we won’t have problems, and we’ll be able to keep this van a lot longer hopefully.  We had Ramona for 5 years, but I’m hoping this one could last us for 10!  We’ll see, but I can say for sure I do NOT enjoy the process of buying a new car!

Ramona served us well, and I found myself emotional about giving her up.  I had a brand new vehicle to drive away in, complete with ‘new-car-smell’ but I felt so sad leaving our old van behind.  It was the first vehicle we owned as a family, it was the van I was driven in while in labour with the girls and the vehicle we brought them home from the hospital in.  It was the vehicle that got me driving on the mainland, which I never thought I would do given I’d only ever driven on the island before that.  Andrew had his seat at the back with all his stickers on the window that he collected from pre-school and wherever else.  It was hard to let go of that van, because it felt like we were letting go of a part of our family.  I know that probably sounds totally ridiculous, but that’s how I felt.  And the kids were feeling sentimental about it, too!

Once we got into the new van and drove home, and I’ve started driving it and getting used to it, I have to say I’m definitely glad we’ve upgraded.  I feel safer because there aren’t so many weird sounds coming from the front end anymore, I love that the turn signal works on its own (since the day after we got Ramona the turn signal was broken and had to be manually shut off after every use...which we got used to and it just became second nature, to the point we found ourselves still doing that with the new van at first, but I’m getting used to not doing it now!)  It's also amazing that all the windows actually go down - in Ramona, the passenger side window didn't even work. And if it was a hot day, the passenger sliding door would only unlock manually. There were a lot of little idiosyncrasies to Ramona!  

Both the brakes and the gas pedal on the new van are way more sensitive than Ramona’s, which is still taking a bit of getting used to, but it just shows how much we were compensating for what wasn’t quite functioning up to par in the old van.  I still have to get used to the way this one drives, but I’m already feeling more comfortable after a day of a few practice runs.  And I am completely in love with the stow and go seats!

One of the main reasons we wanted to upgrade to a grand caravan was for the stow and go seats.  With 3 kids, we can’t get away with having just one bench in the van for all 3 to fit in, but we don’t generally need to have the full 7 seats, either.  This way, two seats can fold right down (and super easily, might I add!) in the back so we’ll have the space we need to fit all our camping gear, or even just to make it a whole lot easier to do a big grocery shop.  I love it.  

I still feel a little sad for Ramona, not really knowing where she’ll end up and not wanting to think she might just be used for parts but not really driven again.  She was great while she lasted, and I’ll always remember our first family van - with our awesome zombie family decal that said 'We Ate Your Stick Family'.  But I’m sure our new one - that we’ll have to come up with a good name for - will help us create many more family memories in the years to come!

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Not as overwhelmed these days

Lately I’ve been finding the kids so much easier.  Not saying I feel like I’m breezing through the days, I still have my bouts of total exhaustion and my moments where I’m ripping my hair out/counting down the minutes till James gets home to help me.  Andrew has also in particular been having some issue with anger and not really getting along with everyone lately, which sometimes makes things tough (although as of this past week I think we’re getting a handle on that, and this week has been pretty amazing with him, I must say. He also has a 'new best friend' which I think has been really good for him, and she lives right down the street which is nice).  

I think it’s just that now with Andrew being 8.5, and the girls being 4.5, they’re all getting to better ages for activities seeming less overwhelming.  Especially with having multiples, it was so challenging for such a long time because the girls would be here there and everywhere and when there’s only one of me and 3 kids, two the exact same’s tough.  I feel like so often I just didn’t leave the house because it wasn’t worth how stressful it would be to take them out.  Now it feels like the little errands that used to seem impossible are feasible.  I can pop into a store for something and not feel overwhelmed, and the kids are usually very well behaved and good about whatever needs to be done.  Not that they weren't when they were younger, it's just that it always felt way too complicated.

I think every stage naturally comes with its own set of challenges, and maybe that’s a good thing because it forces us as parents to stay on our toes.  But I admit that as much as there are times where I really CAN’T BELIEVE how BIG and grown my kids are getting, I also feel relieved that the baby stages are over and we can reason with them, they know about safety and being careful, and I don’t have to do absolutely every single little thing for them at all times.  (And as much as twins can be challenging in their own right, it's true that the fact that they always have someone to play with and have each other is super helpful, because everything doesn't always fall on me when it comes to entertainment!)

I may be speaking too soon, because let’s face it, kids have a way of KNOWING when their parents start to relax and think things are easier and they do everything in their power to kick it up a notch and make things complicated!  But I’m hoping there will be more time to relax this summer because the kids are at an ‘easier’ stage than what we’ve been accustomed to.  Not ‘easy’ by any stretch of the word,  but ‘easier’.  

I sort of feel like it’s a stage to really make sure I enjoy as much as possible, because all 3 kids are still young enough to be innocent and just children and still like cuddles and spending lots of time with me.  They’re old enough to not be causing me the insane sleep deprivation of being babies or toddlers, but young enough to still feel like babies at times because they’re still little (especially the girls, of course, but Andrew is still somewhat cuddly, too!)  It’s sort of the best of both worlds.  Soon enough they’ll all be way more grown up and won’t need me as much as I might realize I want to be needed, so I know this stage is one to hold onto for as long as I can.

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