Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Random musings after two and a half weeks

It's been two and a half weeks since the The Hubby left. Some random thoughts buzzing in my head, in no particular order:

  • I never truly realized before now how much children crave and demand order and routine. The more our days are predictable and patterned, the happier my kids are. If I get the kids washed and dressed and breakfasted right away, rather than lounging in our pjs in front of the TV, the day goes smoothly. Wait even a half an hour to start the routine, and I can expect tantrums and bickering the rest of the day. Weird.
  • My boys never liked being up late, as I used to think. They went to bed late because Hubby procrastinated getting them to bed. He's a great dad, but bedtime is his weak point.
  • My default tired, hungry and overwhelmed setting is Screechy, with Guilt. If I don't watch myself, I sound like a fishwife.
  • Modern women are spoiled rotten. Now that I don't have time for the little luxuries in life, such as lunch with a friend, professional facial waxing or even a supper where I eat a hot meal rather than a lukewarm one, I realize they are just luxuries.
  • I don't know how women survived before the invention of washers, dryers and dishwashers. I haven't cleaned my bathroom in two weeks because I don't have time. My house would be condemned by a health inspector if it wasn't for all the time-saving devices in it. When the dishwasher does my dishes, I have time to sweep and mop.
  • Anyone who wants to help me this week is more than welcome to come clean my bathroom or my fridge. :-)
  • I think I'm going to have to start actively looking for a new owner for our tropical fish. Two fish tanks are too much. I can keep up with the goldfish, I think.
  • I miss my husband terribly, but I am remembering what it was like before we were married, when I was at university alone, in a city and province of my own, no family and no boyfriend. It was okay and I was happy despite missing them. I am the same now. I suppose I am just a happy person.
  • I took Baby N. to the doctor today for her six-month check-up. The oinker weighs 16 pounds, 15 ounces. It's time to look into getting her a bigger car seat.
  • I found out today that Dr. Phil is planning a show on HG, that pregnancy condition I suffered! I was so excited I called Mom. Finally, some attention and press to a frightening and under-treated condition.

And I'm spent. Time for bed.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Week three, day three: Recovery mode

Baby N. is well on the mend now, although still not completely back to normal. What started as a tummy bug has turned into a cold. Her nose is running like a sieve, and she still has the occasional case of diarrhea. But she is smiling and laughing again, and her fever is gone. Thank God.

I have to be thankful she got sick over a weekend. We had lots of help from people who work during the week. My friend C. came over with fresh supplies of diapers and diet Coke (life-preserving products!) She watched the boys while I showered, too.

Grandma G. took the boys to her house twice that weekend, allowing me to get a bit of sleep.

Thank you so much, and bless you both!

The Hubby called Saturday night. He sounded really down, but said he was NOT going to quit. He got two warnings in two days, and the head games were getting to him. He knows they're supposed to get to him, but knowing and feeling are two different things.

I told him I love him very much, but I didn't want to see him home until the end of April.

I need to vacuum and keep a look-out for the snowplow. My next-door neighbour has a guy coming to plow out both our driveways and take the snowbank away. We're going to split the cost.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Day 14 & 15: Sick baby

Posting will be sporadic for awhile: Baby N. is sick with a vomiting/diarrhea/fever bug. Poor baby!

Thanks to Gail and Carey for your help so far.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Day 13: Secret snow-shoveller

It's been snowing off and on for over 24 hours.

This afternoon, an hour before I took the children to an activity, we shovelled out the driveway and the steps.

By the time I put the boys in the bath tonight, we were snowed in again.

When the children fell asleep -- at 8:45! -- I prepared to go back outside and shovel us out again.

However, when I looked out the window, someone had already done it. The driveway, step and path had all been cleanly shovelled.

Thanks, Secret Shoveller, whoever you are! I've been smiling ever since.

Addendum: Gail and Gilles were my secret shovellers. Thanks!

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Day 12: Maple syrup massacre

No, it wasn't the kids who got massacred. It was the maple syrup bottle.

I dropped the plastic syrup bottle this morning during breakfast and the entire bottom broke off. There was syrup everywhere, including under the fridge. It took over an hour to clean. Yes, I cried.

Surprisingly, the rest of the day went very well. I dropped the boys off at the MFRC for child care for a few hours, then it was lunch and play school drop-off. Little I. slept for two hours this afternoon, yet was sound asleep by 9 pm tonight. I have a book that claims children who go to bed early sleep longer at night and nap better during the day, and that a nap leads to early and good nighttime sleep. I never believed it until this week (but watch, he'll be up at 5 am just to prove me wrong.)

In fact, bedtime wasn't stressful at all and the kids were all asleep by nine.

Sorry if you're looking for a thrilling plot here. After all, I spend my day with small children, who thrive on routine and predictability.

I think I will stop posting every day when I hit two weeks. I'll just hit the highlights after that.

PS. Today is the feast of St. Francis de Sales, patron saint of journalists. St. Francis, pray for all journalists that we may know the truth and be brave enough to tell it.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Day 11: Bedtime triumph

I should be folding a mountain of laundry in my living room right now, but I had to blog this right away before I forgot.

We had a good day!!!!!

No tantrums, no meltdowns, no angry defiance, no major lollygagging. (I only yelled once,and that was before 9 am, so I've decided it doesn't count.)

Alex got his flu shot, we went to a play group and we had a play date in the afternoon. After supper, we played Hungry Hippos and Chutes and Ladders (Little I. won.) Then we cleaned up and had a snack and got ready for bed. We read books, prayed, turned out the light.

Little I. and Baby N. are snoozing. They've been asleep for 20 minutes. A. is gently gliding into dreamland after a second snack and a pee; that boy is always hungry. It is 8:53 pm. This from three children who would stay up past 11 some nights when Daddy was home.

I didn't have to yell or time out once after lights out. Didn't have to tell anyone to get back in bed. Didn't have to swallow my rage as I frog marched a small boy back into his room.

I feel like a new woman, and all because I moved bedtime back an hour. We used to aim to have them in bed by nine, asleep by who knows when. Now I aim for bedtime by eight and sleep by nine. They actually fall asleep quicker at an earlier time. Amazing.

Thanks, St. Monica for favours received!

Okay, I have laundry to fold and adult TV to watch. Hoo-ya!

Monday, January 22, 2007

Day 10: Construction Zone

Yesterday totally sucked rocks, so I'm not going there. Let's just say that A. is testing me.

Today, for the first time since university, I assembled a piece of furniture by myself -- and for the first time ever, did not swear or break anything. Woo-hoo!

I ordered a toy sorter before The Hubby left -- y'know, one of those things with nine or ten plastic bins so the kids can sort their toys into different categories when they clean up (dinkies in the dinky bin, animals in the animal bin, etc.) It arrived today, and the boys love it. It has characters from their (current) favourite movie, Cars.

After putting it together, we went through all their toys. I took out a whole garbage bag of broken toys and half-there puzzles. The boys' room is so neat and tidy, and you can actually find specific toys now.

Hubby called tonight. Still doing well, still has his eyes on the prize. We got the baby to laugh into the phone for him. Sounded as if he might cry, but he kept a straight voice and face. He can't cry, he's in the Navy now!

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Day Eight: Ladies' night out

I hired a teenage babysitter tonight (a hot commodity in Yellowknife, let me tell you), packed up Baby N. and went to supper with a bunch of ladies from the MFRC.

The MFRC organizes this once a month, always at a different restaurant. It was a blast. Someone else eagerly held my baby as I cut my meat and ate my dinner!

The women I met were all so friendly and welcoming. And they blew apart the old army wife stereotype. These were ladies with interests and careers of their own. I met a teacher, an office professional, an at-home mom expecting her second child, a military member and the woman who runs the MFRC.

I stayed out till 9:30 (pure bliss) and came home to a sleeping I. and a very tired A., who was eating a second bedtime snack. He said he couldn't sleep because he was worried about me -- guess that would happen if your Dad was gone and your mom headed out for a few hours. He fell asleep ten minutes after the sitter left.

G. was a fabulous sitter, even though she is just 12. I will definitely have her back if she is willing. The boys had a great time, and she got them to bed on time. I'm impressed.

Week One: A list

So, we survived week one. A few random statistics:

  • Trips to McDonald's: 2 (shame, shame)
  • Home-cooked from scratch suppers: 5
  • Mommy meltdowns: 1
  • Baths for all three children: 3
  • Loads of laundry: 15
  • Full nights of sleep: 0
  • Mass with myself and the children: 1
  • Hours someone else watched both boys: 3
  • Hours spent completely by myself: 0
  • Calls from The Hubby: 4

Not bad at all.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Day seven: Exhausted

So today sucked, but I made it through without a breakdown. I'm so tired I'm just gonna write a list.
  • A. woke up at 5 am and could not get back to sleep. We tried a snack, music, snuggles, but sleep eluded him. So I finally gave up around 6:30 am and got up.
  • Went to D.'s house and had a good time! She let me go run errands for an hour while she watched the boys.
  • Too exhausted to make lunch. Went through drive-through. Boys fell asleep in front of DVD.
  • Made omelets for supper.
  • M. and her son M. came over this evening so I could have some time with a grown-up. She listened to me whine for 2 hours (thanks!)
  • Just chucked exhausted boys in bed while Baby N. screamed blue murder due to teething. She just passed out in my arms and is propped against me as I write this.

In other more interesting news, the Hubby called tonight -- first call since Tuesday. He says things are heavy-duty now, and four people have dropped out of his platoon. He did well on his first 5 km run. Stopped for breath just 30 seconds before master corporal called for rest break. Lots of other guys stopped earlier in the run, winded, and they had to do push-ups.

Hubby says he is in the groove -- being pushed hard and manhandled and enduring groups punishment and the like -- but he says he just feels like it's right for him. He has no thoughts of quitting and no doubts.

I'm incredibly proud of him.

K, Princess is waking up. Got to go deal with Her Screaminess.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Day Six: Mommy meltdown

I finally lost it and threw a great big Mommy tantrum today.

It started out innocently enough. We all got up, had breakfast and got ready with little trouble. Little I. seemed a bit sleepy, but no biggie.

The minute we got to my friend D.'s place, I knew things weren't going to go well. I. was in one heck of a mood. Whining, tattling and getting into toy squabbles. This isn't Mr. Happy's usual behaviours.

Finally, after lunch, he threw a full out tantrum.

I have a rule about tantrums: throwing one is a one-way ticket home, departing NOW. I calmly yet firmly packed up the kids and headed home. He tantrumed all the way home and for 20 minutes once we got in. We managed to patch things up, and he settled down to a video with his big brother.

It was around 2 o'clock that I realized I was completely exhausted by that and the restless night Baby N. had yesterday.

I managed to get supper on the table on time (bless the CrockPot), but the evening was a wreck. There was just so much to do, and I had no energy or patience. Added to that, Baby N. is teething and the boys were taking advantage of my exhaustion and acting up. I was at the end of my rope.

Finally, when they were trying to get out of cleaning up their toys, I lost it and screamed at them. I even threw a book across the room in frustration (the book was NOT aimed at them. No calls to child protection, please.) Then I locked myself in the bathroom and had a good cry for a few minutes.

There was a knock at the door. "Mommy, why are you crying?" It was A.

"Because I yelled and screamed at you instead of being calm. I'm sorry."

"We forgive you Mommy. We're sorry we didn't listen."

Little I. pipes up: "I'm sowwy I wan away and wouldn't cwean, Mommy."

I unlocked the door. Two brush-cut blonds in Superman pjs wrapped their little arms around me.

The rest of the night went fairly well. All the children were asleep by nine!

I wish I was asleep right now, but after they went to bed there were dishes to do, a dishwasher to start, clothes to put in the washer and the dryer, and laundry to be folded and sorted. I just finished all that, so now I'm off to bed too.

"Tomorrow is another day, Miss Scarlet."

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Day five: I love good friends, my CrockPot and the MFRC

I took the boys to the casual child care at the MFRC this morning. I dropped them off to a playroom full of wonderful toys and a smiling, trained professional child care worker. I couldn't get out the door fast enough.

Baby N. and I hit my favourite coffee shop, then ran some errands. I bought a CrockPot, with which I cooked this evening's dinner (delicious!). I bought flashlights (see post below) and a crank-charge lantern that has a port for plugging in my cell phone in case of a long power outage.

In the afternoon, my friend A.L. dropped by to help with chores, just as she said she would (see Day Two). We folded laundry together and sorted them into each family member's laundry basket. A.L. is an engineer with three kids of her own -- she folded my socks in between office work and visiting a construction site!

As I was driving the Bratmobile over to playschool to pick up my son A., I was thinking about why A.L. did this for me. First off, because she is a kind and generous person. But second, because she is a Catholic Christian who lives her faith. Jesus teaches us that "whatever you do for the least of these, you do for Me." The Church also teaches that we are Christ for others when we help them. I believe these things to be true; I'm flattered anyone would help me to help Christ, and I can easily see the hands of Christ in the hands of the woman who folded my clothes today. Seeing His hands in my life gave me some extra strength today.

"I can do anything in Christ who strengthens me, Christ who delivers me. And in my hour of need, it's Christ who strengthens me, Christ who delivers me, Christ who heals me." -- "Gethsemane," by the band Communion (but first a paraphrase of the words of St. Paul)

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Day four: Truly on my own

Today was the day when I well and truly realized I am now on my own.

When I woke up this morning, our front door was snowed in, and our driveway was covered. I didn't think much about it. Instead, I fed, washed and dressed three kids, got myself presentable, made some phone calls, paid some bills online, etc.

It wasn't until 11 that I realized three things: 1) Baby N. had a doctor's appointment at 1:45; 2) I needed to get out my front door; and 3) the snow wasn't going to magically shovel itself.

So I dressed all three kids in snowsuits and went outside with them to shovel. Huh.

I put Baby N. in the giant, 2-seater enclosed Chariot stroller in a snowsuit and a giant duffel bunting bag, warm and snug. She proceeded to scream her head off unless the stroller was moving. I spent more time rolling the stroller back and forth than I did shovelling.

After 15 minutes, the boys started complaining of the cold and demanding to go inside. Baby was screaming louder than ever because Isaac had crawled into the Chariot with her. I started begging her to be quiet.

Then it dawned on me: if I take a short walk, she might fall asleep.

We walked to the mailbox. By the time we returned, baby was snoring peacefully, and the boys were ready to go in.

The driveway and step were still covered in snow. I took a big breath and sent them inside with instructions to help each other out of their boots and to raid the melba toast in the cupboard.

Half an hour later, I had shovelled us out and carried a still-sleeping baby into the house. The boys had hung their coats and put away their things. They were happily playing in their room, melba crumbs everywhere.

I have never been so proud of my little men.

Then, at bedtime, the power went out. It was that moment I realized the Hubby had "put away" (read "hidden") his Maglight, the BBQ lighter, and all the matches in the house. I couldn't find any of them.

A. led us around the house with the Indiglo face of his watch until I finally found the flashlights my mother had sent the boys for Hallowe'en. There's still no sign of the emergency equipment; I've been searching for hours. There isn't even a flashlight in the minivan.

I was seriously ticked at Hubby, let me tell you. What, did he think I wouldn't need a flashlight while he was gone?

The boys have placed their flashlights next to their beds, just in case. I'm going to Canadian Tire tomorrow and using our CT money stash for flashlights, matches and an emergency kit. That CT money was supposed to buy Baby N. a new car seat next month.

Tomorrow the boys go to casual child care at the military family resource centre. It will be the first time I've been "alone" since Saturday. I'll still have the baby with me, but that's a cinch.

The Hubby called tonight before the lights-out fiasco. He passed the last fitness test and will receive his uniform tomorrow morning. Hoo-ya!

Day three: Mr. Bald and Little Miss Milestone

I don't have much time, and I'm NAK (nursing at keyboard), so this'll be short.

Hubby called to talk to the kids and tell me he is now balder than an eagle. And that he was awake at 4:30 am. Hehehe.That somewhat makes up for my lack of time alone and complete exhaustion.

And Baby N. decided it was the perfect day to learn to sit up unsupported, with her little hands plunked on the floor and a huge smile on her face.

Gotta run to the doctor (nothing serious). I'll tell you about my shoveling adventure tonight.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Day two: Helping hands

When our friends and acquaintances found out The Hubby was leaving for three and a half months, many of them offered their help. They volunteered to cook meals, help with chores, and watch my older boys.

I always thanked them profusely for the offer, but never believed they would actually do anything. It's not that they aren't kind and caring individuals; they certainly are. It's the whole once bitten, twice shy thing.

When I was pregnant with Baby N., I was very, very sick. I had a pregnancy disease called hyperemesis gravidarum, or HG. (For more info, visit HG is a debilitating form of nausea and vomiting in pregnancy. It is NOT morning sickness. The best way to describe it is this: imagine having bad food poisoning every day for three to nine months. Imagine throwing up water the instant it hit your stomach. Imagine being unable to eat or drink anything without the help of several medications. Now imagine this while trying to grow a baby and placenta and five extra pounds of blood. That's HG. Correction: that's a MILD case of HG.

When I was sick, very few of my friends helped me. There were two who really came through and helped me and my family consistently, and with great love and compassion. One of them baked my birthday cake and brought it to my home after I spent a day in the hospital receiving IV drugs and fluids. It was the first thing I'd eaten in over a week. I love this friend so much just because of that.

I'm working on letting go of my hurt feelings about all those people not helping me and Hubby when we desperately needed it. Maybe we didn't ask clearly; maybe, since I was so socially isolated, most people had no idea how sick I really was. (I think that's a big part of it.)

The point of this digression is this: I had no expectations about help during Hubby's time away. But I was going to clearly ask for it anyway.

I have never been so glad to be wrong.

I took the children to Mass this morning, and actually got there on time. At the end of the service, two friends of mine from Church came over and immediately began helping me dress the children. One of these ladies then invited us to her home for lunch.

We spent several hours at the L-ergs house, being fed and spoilt. A.L. told me she is going to stop by once a week and help me with chores (during time she would have been taking care of her own home and family). I was delighted, of course -- I am so utterly startled by this generosity. Then she hauled a large suitcase of baby clothes out of the basement and gave them to me. Her husband packed them in my van.

I needed groceries, but Little I. fell asleep in the minivan, so we went home. I put a roast in the oven. I was good for supper, but we needed milk and eggs and bread and cereal. I swallowed my pride and called my friend C., asking if she could watch the children for an hour. Even though she was packing her house for a move in a month, she came right over.

I shopped for groceries all by myself. It was almost as peaceful as a day at the spa.

And to add to all that wonderfulness, my friend D. (the one who baked that birthday cake) has offered to take my boys one morning a week so I can run errands with just the baby. This woman is at home with a toddler and a 3-month-old.

I am stunned, truly stunned. I prayed last week for help, and for the humility to accept it when offered. Thank you, Lord Jesus, for answering the prayer about help. As for humility, I know I'm a tough nut, Lord, but I promise to try to keep saying "please", "yes" and "thank you!"

Day one: Sleepy goodbyes and a birthday party

I woke up yesterday morning before 6 am to a firm shake: The Husband was waking me up to say goodbye. He looked shaved and combed and pressed beyond all recognition. The expression on his face was complex, a mixture of a kid on Christmas morning and a man about to leave his family for a long and difficult journey.

I helped him find some last minute things, touching him every chance I got.

We went into the boys' room so he could say goodbye. He woke them in turn, and they pressed their sleepy, pajama-clad little bodies to him. "Good-bye, Daddy. I love you, Daddy. Can I go back to sleep?" No tears, thank goodness, just tired little men who wanted to say good-bye, but also wanted to revisit Dreamland.

Hubby called the cab. Cab came. We hugged and kissed and all the usual stuff you do when trying not to say, "Please, please don't leave me." Then he was gone.

We had a lot to do yesterday, so that kept me busy and kept the tears away. The boys had a birthday party to attend. That took care of the afternoon. Afterwards, I. and Baby N. fell asleep in the minivan. A. and I went through the McD's drive-thru, came home, hauled the sleeping kiddos into the house and ate.

The kitchen needed cleaning, living room needed straightening up. Then it was bathtime (boys in tub, baby in sink), and pjs, snack and bed. The routine helped.

A. fell asleep last night clutching The Hubby's old watch. I. needed an extra snack and some cuddles. He didn't fall asleep until around 11, poor guffer.

The Hubby called before bedtime to check in: a rare luxury, because once training commences tonight he won't be able to call much at all. He spoke to both boys. He says the training facility is enormous and a little strange. He's already learning how to march and has been issued his gun clips.

So we've survived day one. Thanks to everyone who called to see how we're doing. Haven't cried yet, although that's only a matter of time.

Today is church and grocery shopping and vacuuming. What an exciting life I lead, I know. But small daily goals help keep me focussed.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Yesterday and tomorrow... so help us God

Yesterday, my husband stood in front of a roomful of family, friends and military members and swore his life to Queen and country.

The Husband is now Naval Cadet C. Husband.

He leaves tomorrow for basic training.

The swearing-in ceremony was simple, yet powerful. When C. said "so help me God" with his hand on the Bible, I could see in his eyes that he meant it to the bottom of his being. Only two utterances ever meant more: his wedding vows and the Nicene Creed.

Once I find a picture, I'll post it. I was too busy watching three children to take pics.

So tomorrow, we say goodbye. He goes onto his great adventure. He begins laying the foundation for our new life in Victoria. I'm happy and excited and frightened and nervous.

We haven't been apart longer than a month since we were married six years ago. The longest I've been alone with all three children is a week.

So help me God!

Sunday, January 07, 2007

T-minus 6 days

My husband is sitting in the living room reading the paper right now, waiting for his late-night turn on the computer. And I'm sitting here, trying to digest the fact that in 6 days, he will not be in the living room, or sitting here surfing You Tube, or playing with the boys or fawning over the girl.

He will be in Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Quebec.

And I will be alone with the kids.

Arrrrrggggghhhh! Starting to be a little freaked out.

We made a list tonight of odds and ends that need to be cleared up before he goes. There's only 4 or 5 things on that list. The Hubby has been packing, slowly checking things off his kit list.

I., my middle child, breaks into tears whenever anyone mentions Daddy leaving. We keep saying it in a positive voice, and repeating that Daddy will come back, but he's not buying it.

I was dealing well with all this before Christmas. I had a little mantra. "Christmas, anniversary, New Year's and A.'s birthday. Then C. leaves." Well, Christmas, our anniversary, New Year's and A.'s birthday are gone. And soon C. will be too.

Deep breath. Independent, self-reliant supermomma with helpful friends. Deep breath. Independent, self-reliant supermomma with helpful friends. Deep breath....

If you're the praying type, please ask St. Monica to pray for me. She's the patroness of impossible cases.