Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Sleeping like a baby

I am truly amazed. Last night our burglar alarm when off in the wee hours. Eddie and I both jolted out of sleep, jumping about 10 feet in the air. Thankfully it was just a false alarm, but I was astounded by the fact that neither of the kids woke up to the incessant blaring which went on for over 2 minutes. I watched a report a while back where they tested kids to see how quickly they would wake up and leave their rooms if the smoke alarm went off. It took many of the kids as much as 15 minutes to finally rouse from sleep with some of them never waking up at all. I didn't believe it then, but now I certainly do. Makes me wonder why I tiptoe around the house when the kids are napping. Sheesh!!

Monday, March 24, 2008

"Snow, snow, go away..."

This has been an incredibly long winter and I am itching for some nicer weather. I just looked at video taken a year ago today and we were at the park playing on the swings and slides, with only patches of snow here and there on the ground. We were wearing light jackets and no mittens! The thought of that is so far off at this point with the snow banks on each side of our driveway being over 7 feet tall. And it is still below zero every day. We're freezing and it's the end of March!

Last winter we were blessed with a very late first snowfall, somewhere around the last part of December and like I said, by late March only patches of snow were left. That means only 3 months of snow!! This year our first snowfall was in early November and it feels like it has never stopped. We are going on 5 months of snow right now with no end in sight. The 7 day weather forecast predicts 4 days of snow. We are going stir crazy despite our daily walks. There's no way to go out and play in the snow because it is just too deep and the kids just sink down and can't move. And besides that, it's just so cold that keeping them out any longer than 20 minutes or so leads to frozen fingers and toes, cheeks and noses, even if we are all bundled up. Blah.

I'm not the only one feeling this way either. Nicki has been asking me for the past 2 months when spring is going to start. When the first day of spring came last week, I think she thought I was joking. "It can't be spring Mommy, look at all the snow!" She even made up her own twist on an old favourite, changing the words to "Snow, snow, go away. DON'T come again another day!" She keeps asking about going to the park, making chalk drawings on the driveway, taking out the kiddie pool, and going to the lake. At this point I don't even know when to tell her we'll be doing any of those things. At the rate things are going, it almost seems reasonable to think that the last of the snow won't have melted until mid-June. Good thing I bought both kids new rain boots last week. With all the snow that there is to left to melt, I think there will be a lot of puddle stomping in our future!

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Daddy's little girl

My dad and I have had an interesting relationship over the years. I wasn't necessarily what you would call Daddy's little girl, but I do have a lot of good memories about my dad from my childhood. I can remember him reading children's books to me, like our favourites Cinderella and The Penguin That Hated the Cold. In elementary school, I can remember him walking me to school on the mornings that he had his "9 days off" (he worked 9 days, followed by 9 nights, followed by 9 days off back then). I can remember us painting the fence together one year. I can remember lounging by the pool with him. I can remember him helping me put together my dinosaur project in high school. I can remember him preparing early suppers for me on evenings when I had a 5 o'clock shift at my part-time job. I can remember how he would drive out to pick me up, no matter where, no matter what time of night, whenever I needed him to.

I also know that he disagreed with many of the decisions that I made as I got older. I remember how he was vehemently opposed to my having a long distance relationship with my boyfriend (now husband!) for over 2 and a half years, insisting that I had no idea what he was doing behind my back when he was away at school. I remember how much he hated the idea of me moving out of the house at the age of 19 to live in an apartment downtown with one of my girlfriends, preaching how dangerous it was for 2 young women to be living alone. I remember how upset he was when I didn't finish my post graduate CA program and instead chose to move away to California. And most of all I remember how disappointed he was when I chose to leave my job and become a stay-at-home mom, saying that I was wasting all of the education that I had worked so hard for.

Which is why the compliment that he gave me a week ago was one of the most touching I have ever received. While we were out to lunch last Sunday, out of the blue he said to me: "I have to say that you and Eddie and doing an amazing job raising those kids." I was completely speechless. I lowered my head and said thank you, fighting back tears of joy. Because compliments don't flow easily from my father's lips, it meant the world to me to hear such high praise. Knowing that he didn't support my decision to stay home with my babies made what he said that much more poignant.

When all is said and done, I don't begrudge him for opposing many of the decisions I have made along the way. Being a parent myself now, I can finally understand that he was just doing what he thought was best to protect me. I hope that he can now realize that the choices I made were not made to spite him in any way and that I was doing what I truly believed was best for me at the time. And in reality I don't regret a single one of those decisions. Each one of them has brought me great joy and happiness. Each one of them has brought me to the place I am today and there is no place else I'd rather be. I hope that he can see that and be proud of who and what I have become. I love you Daddy.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Sibling relations

Every day when we get home from our afternoon walk, we head upstairs to do what I call "upstairs chores". This is basically a 15 minute chunk of time that I dedicate to preparing the bedrooms for bedtime and the bathroom for bath time. This is of course something I could do later in the evening when the kids are playing with their Daddy, but I've come to view this time as something of an experiment in sibling relations. I do the rest of my daily cleaning/tidying/washing/folding when the kids are asleep so that I can spend as much time as possible down on the floor playing with them. But that also means that they have very few opportunities to play alone together. So this "upstairs chores" time gives them the opportunity to play together if they want to and figure out the give and take of their unique relationship.

When I first started doing this, they didn't play together at all. Nicki would go to her room and look at books and Gabe would follow me around, bring me toys, or just stay in his own room and listen to the CD I had put on in there. But slowly they have come to enjoy each other's company, at least most of the time. Some days I will find them in the same room, each doing their own thing, some days they are actually interacting and getting along. But it changes from day to day and even minute to minute sometimes. One day last week, I was thrilled when they spent the entire time playing together. Gabe was sitting in the tent we put together in the guest room and Nicki was running back and forth between the bedrooms and the tent, filling it up with every toy imaginable. Every time she brought in a new toy, Gabe would squeal with delight. Not once was I called in to referee and in fact the only time either of them addressed me at all was when Nicki ran in to say "Mommy, we are having SO much fun!"

The next day however was a different story. Gabe was in a foul mood and Nicki's preschool was closed because of a snow storm. So we went to the bookstore and then to Toys R Us where I bought them a Little People garage set. They both love the Little People toys we already have, and at $15 off I just couldn't help it! So we brought it home and put it together. I thought it would be the perfect toy to share because it came with 2 people and 2 cars. But boy was I wrong! Gabe insisted on having one car in each hand at all times. I repeatedly asked him to give one car to Nicki, explaining that Nicki would have one car and Gabe would have one car. He would give up the car but then proceed to burst into tears and flail around on the floor like the world was ending. I can't even count the number of times this exact scenario was repeated:

1. They each have a car.
2. Nicki sends her car down the ramp.
3. Gabe snatches it as it gets to the bottom and runs away.
4. Nicki says "Mommy, Gabe has both cars!"
5. I insist that Gabe give one of the cars back to Nicki.
6. Gabe has a mega tantrum and loses his mind.
7. Return to step 1.

I honestly thought that eventually Gabe would get the idea, but he never did. Nicki was doing her best to be patient and even suggested swapping cars when he would try to take hers, but of course that wasn't what he wanted. Eventually Nicki gave up, in part because it was so frustrating for her and in part because she hates it when Gabe cries. She left the room to play by herself, but since I didn't want Gabe to think that his persistence had won the battle, I put the toy away instead. The whole scene had lasted only about a half hour, but it felt like an eternity!

I guess that 2 day snapshot is actually a pretty good portrait of what their relationship will be like over the years, one minute the best of friends, the next minute arch enemies. I don't have much first hand knowledge of sibling rivalry. My brother is 7 years older than me, and to be honest I don't really remember playing with him at all. I do remember him chasing me out of his room with a staple remover saying it was going to bite me. And him telling me that if I pressed the red button on the side of his watch the room would explode. And him tricking me into believing that my parents had moved away and left us one day when they were late coming home from work. But I also remember that as I got older our relationship got better. I remember him helping me learn French. I remember him taking me to see every Tom Cruise movie that came out because I liked him so much. And I remember going into his room after school just to chat and not being chased out.

So I have hope for my kids too. With less than 2 years separating them I know that there are many more disagreements, arguments and fights that I will be called in to referee. But I also hope that there will be a bond between them that deepens with time and that they will view the relationship that they have with their sibling as one of the most important in their lives. I hope that they will come to respect each other, rely on each other, and in essence know that the other will always be there for them no matter what. Isn't that what family is all about?