Thursday, December 14, 2017

40 and 1 day

I turned 40 yesterday.

And you know what? I love being 40. And not just because the alternative to turning 40 (=becoming dead) kind of sucks. No, I truly absolutely feel exhilarated that I am 40 years old. I feel young! I have so much to look forward to! Heck, my boss took up triathlons in his mid-40's. I don't think I'm going to start any intense sports hobbies, but hey, I could definitely start doing pick up a new hobby (or revisit an old one) if I find I feel passionate about something.

My birthday was pleasantly low-key. My husband made a delicious breakfast of eggs and vegetables and fruit. The girls whined about the eggs (they have been on some sort of egg-strike for the last few months) - but, I figured, it's MY birthday, and they'll just have to deal with it. Number 3 and #1 ate most of their eggs, #2 made herself a peanut butter sandwich. At least everyone loves fruit (subject to change at any time). Best part of the morning was that my older daughter, who has rather long hair that gets horribly tangled, did not make a sound while I was brushing her! Made me so happy!

Our group had lunch with one of our clients in Philly, at what was supposed to be a fancy steak house. Eh. I didn't have steak, though - perhaps it was amazing. I had soup and salad - both were decent, but nothing out of this world. Don't know why the hype and the excitement. The lunch itself was fun - I like my colleagues and I like our client. We had some interesting conversations. I learned that 2 people were knitters, 1 person plays and records music (and is a drummer), 1 person plays the piano, and our client was into exercise, travel, and skiing.

My parents dropped by first thing in the morning and brought a home-made Napoleon cake that they know I love. They refused to stay for breakfast and didn't join us for dinner or desserts, but that's OK. My husband got some delicious Israeli food for dinner, we lit the Hanukkah candles, the kids sang "Happy Birthday", and then we all had a relatively drama-free relaxing evening, where kids played card games, danced to Hanukkah music, we read a few kid books, and I got some pleasant reading done by the fire (Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy).

Speaking of spies...  My husband and I watched "A most wanted man" a couple of days ago. Loved it! Excellent acting, good story, minimum of violence - and a painfully satisfying ending. The movie (it's based on a novel by Le Carre) made me look up other spy movies and novels.

Do you have a favourite spy novel?

I remember liking "The Day of the Jackal" years ago...

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

A 40-year Old Fool

I am turning 40 tomorrow.

At the moment, I feel furious with myself. I forgot to enroll in FSA for next year - now the opportunity is missed and I can't change the selection until next year. I mean, really - how can I be so freaking irresponsible? I'm turning 40 tomorrow and still... and still... I am disorganized, irresponsible, I forget to do things that are financially important and have implications on our earnings and savings. I feel incapable, idiotic, and so, so angry with myself. And jus tthis morning, I had the auddacity gto get mad at one of my kids for forgetting to study for a test and not knowing where his study guide was (in my purse, because I put it there to give to him later and then forgot about). What the hell is wrong with me? Will I ever grow up or am I going to die an idiot? I find myself unable to stay on top of things.

That said - I am generally happy to be turning 40. I am glad to be alive. There are so many things I am grateful for - and I know all that can disappear in a blink of an eye. Family, job, health. House, car, piano.

I love this time of year - the early darkness, the snow (we had a first mini-snow storm this weekend) on the trees and grass, the fireplace, Chanukah, my birthday!!!

Not sure what we'll be doing tomorrow - our team has a fancy lunch meeting with a client. Our elementary school has their band/orchestra concert tomorrow evening - my kids aren't participating, but it may be fun to go watch. I am not baking anything - but if someone else gets (or bakes) me cake - there will be cake. I also want to have a super-special morning that involves a back-rub, some time to relax and daydream, no feelings of anger or frustration (that's seems to be today's theme...), and a breakfast of eggs and potatoes ... and maybe some other vegetables, too. And fruit - including pomegranate. And presents - I don't care what they are, I just want them.

I am super excited about the Chanukah presents I got for the kids this year, including tickets to the Arden Theater to see Peter Pan. I am also going to include a special "pass" this year - travelling to a nearby city with each of the big kids and taking Claire out to the zoo for some mommy-and-Claire time.

Alrighty, I feel somewhat better and less angry at myself.

Happy First Night of Chanukah tonight to all!

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Exhausted

September and October kicked my butt. Lame, but true.

This whole back-to-school business has been extremely stressful. Homework, forms to sign, supplies to organize - it has been very difficult this year to get used to the fall routine again. 

Parenting has been extra-difficult lately. Kids do not want  to go to bed at night and do not want to get out of bed in the mornings...  Kids talk back, whine, complain, fight with each other...  They lost all screen time for the foreseeable future. Because they were not responsible, did not listen, were rude, etc, etc, etc. Now they have to earn it back.

Work has been very, very busy.

Sleep has been...  well, I haven't been to successful at getting myself to bed at 10 pm. Sometimes, because of work. Most of the time, because evening is my time to read, watch shows, and just do mindless stuff (ie, youtube). If kids don't get to bed until 9:30, that means I don't get to do fun stuff until 10... and don't go to bed until midnight. Not good.

My husband is going out of town second time this month. It's only for a few days, but still - I need to have my stuff organized or there will be trouble. Because during that time, if I feel overwhelmed, oh tough luck... no husband to fall back on. So I really need to be (relatively) well-rested, have at least some food available to throw at kids, and plan something we can all look forward to at the end of the day.

I also need to go shopping to blasted Kohl's. Not that I particularly  like it there, but I have a 20% off coupon that expires this weekend, and kids need things to wear. Hate shopping.

Oh, and tomorrow I need to remember to take the big kids to see a doctor for the regular checkup.

Can you tell I am feeling grumpy?

Friday, September 22, 2017

Trip to Maine: Reality

To summarize: we drove 12 hours to Maine, stayed in a cute house for a week, went on bike rides, hikes and boat rides to explore the area, and then 12 hours back home.

The drive was hell. Maybe not quite - but if you are picturing happy singing kids passing snacks to each other and quietly playing "I spy", you are wrong. Kids hitting each other, whining, complaining, and screaming. Whatever games I had in mind, whatever little activities and books I brought - on the way to Maine, they worked for all of 30 minutes. Total. What saved everyone sanity were, in that order (1) Snacks, (2) Occasional stops to stretch our legs and have snacks, and (3) Audio books. On the way to Maine, we listened to "Pippi Longstocking". On the way back, we listened to "Matilda". To be fair, there was maybe a combined of 30 minutes of actual fighting and screaming, off and on, each way - but it was more than I thought. Also, the age gap... oh the age gap. While the older two were thrilled to listen to those audio books, the 3 year old was ... not quite so enthusiastic. Whenever she would get bored, she would start singing. Loudly. Which pretty much made it impossible for the other two to hear anything else. So I had to entertain her with snacks, stickers, and take frequent breaks from the stories.

My husband did all the driving. I was the entertainer, snack provider, and conflict resolver. I offered to drive (even demanded!) but he refused. I suspect he was much happier driving than dealing with the kids.

I'll have to write more about our adventures in Maine later - and these were very much full blown adventures! We had fun! Every day was something new and we managed to hit that balance where we did a lot but not too much. I also discovered that my older daughter was quite capable of enjoying hiking - as long as it involved some rock climbing, berry picking, and tide pool hunting.

I am very curious to hear how other families manage car trips...

Friday, August 25, 2017

Road Trip to Maine

Tomorrow morning we will be driving more than 10 hours to Bar Harbor, Maine. I am thrilled. I've never been to Maine before. I've heard the area is beautiful.

I am looking forward to

  •  Hiking
  • Whale-watching
  • Going to see lighthouses
  • Going on some tours
  • Wondering around the town
  • Exploring Acadia
  • Biking

I am not looking forward to...

  • Being stuck in the car for more than 10 hours
  • Kids whining
  • Kids fighting
  • Kids not listening
  • One of the children refusing to hike (bike, walk, etc)
  • Being stressed out

We hope to leave tomorrow by 7 am...
Are we packed? No.
Do we have snacks ready? No.
Have we planned any activities in Maine? No.
Can this turn into a disaster of a trip? Yes.
Will we still have fun? YES

Will we ever learn to get ready and prepare in advance? 
We have learned that poor planning leads to disaster (like our camping trip, when we forgot 1) the tarp and 2) bag with all the clothing....). But life always gets in the way - our last 2 weeks have been packed with guests, activities, back-to-school shopping, new shed, grandparents buying a house.


Thursday, August 24, 2017

Midnight Thoughts on Having 3 Kids

Our kids are, as of now, 8 (almost 9), 7, and 3.5. We've had the time to adjust to being a family of 5. Well, sort of. It is hard to adjust to anything when the kids are concerned - they change, their habits change, their likes and dislikes change. As soon as we adjust to one thing, it is time for a change.

I think I wrote this already - I am glad I was completely oblivious to how hard parenting can be and how much work is involved. Oh, I definitely feel that my life is very rich and full of joy - but also, you know, exhausting.

It is amazing how much quieter an individual child is, compared when all 3 of them are together. I love having breakfast with our 3-year old - we chat, we discuss things - and I never have to ask her to keep her voice down. Not surprising really - she doesn't have to compete with the 2 older siblings. When I take my son for a "date" - he talks non-stop, but he doesn't whine. He just has so much information to share! My older daughter - we like going to a cafe to a bakery together, to have treats and bring more treats for everyone at home. She is the one who really keeps her thoughts to herself. I never really know what's going on in her head - but when she does talk, she is incredibly thoughtful and is really analyses the world around her.

The most difficult thing is the competition: "Mommy, listen to me!" "No, I was here first!" "Mommy, mommy, look here!" - all three of them all at once. This has been more of a challenge than bickering and fighting among the kids (that happens, too). I have not found a good solution, yet, so dinners with everyone sitting at the table tend to be loud (and stressful).

While I am on the subject of dinners - we are struggling to enforce the rule of "stay at the table until you've been excused." The whole "may I be excused, please?"  seemed ridiculous to me, until now.  Because now: kids are running off and coming back to the table, not finishing their food, then coming back to finish it an hour later. We definitely need to work on good manners...

Our life (talking about adults here) is incredibly stressful. We have demanding full-time jobs. And then, when we get home and are ready to collapse and just want to rest, we need to have the wisdom and patience (ahem, right...) to deal with sometimes whiny, often impatient, and always demanding three little people. And dinners, and baths, and bedtimes, and homework, and lunches, and innumerable other things. Did the addition of the 3rd child create more stress and more work? Absolutely. More driving, too (more childcare pickup, more dr appointments, more activities). And we haven't gotten to the point in our lives when kids have multiple sports/music/other hobbies (for now, the older two are doing a max of 2 activities a week, music and sport, and the younger one is just doing a weekly gymnastics class). We also haven't been scheduling any regular playdates for anyone (they happen, but rarely).

We try to have things as simple as possible... A simple life, a minimalist schedule, a minimum  of housework we can get away with. Clean laundry sits in the basket for days before we get around to folding and putting stuff away. We outsource house cleaning. We make simple food that can be stretched for more than one meal and rarely bake.

If we only had 1 child - would there be more travel? Maybe. Would there be more trips to museums, more activities, more weekend trips to cafe? Possibly. I feel like all that can be done with 3 kids, too, once the youngest just gets a tiny bit older. The older 2 are usually very good in public - they behave at restaurants, museums, concerts, etc. The youngest definitely throws a wrench in there - somehow, the balance shifts and everything gets more wild. I do hope that it's just a phase she is going to grow out of and not a permanent personality trait :)

Friday, August 18, 2017

Of Spiders and Sparrows and Tears

Last weekend, my older daughter and I were helping out at our synagogue, organizing and shelving books for the new kid-corner in their library. H. went full out helping - she was working so hard! And she was so happy to be helping along with all the grown-ups. And then, there was a spider incident: a big spider was hiding in a corner, behind an old bookshelf. There was a lot of shuffling about, and calls for a vacuum cleaner (get it quick!). In the midst of all the noise, H. very quietly knelt down by the spider, scooped it up (bare hands and all), and took the poor creature outside. There were lots of "oohs" and "aahs" and "I can't believe she it touching it". H was loving it :) She was the hero of the day.

For the second year in a row, a sparrow has made a nest inside one of our hanging plants on the front porch. Last year, we have discovered the nest with tiny chicks while watering the plants (my mother got a bit of a shock) - and then enjoyed watching them grow and, eventually, take wing. This year, we found the brand-new nest, then saw the 4 blueish eggs, and a couple of weeks later - 4 tiny, mostly naked chicks. Last week, there were only 3 chicks in the nest (not so tiny any more and mostly fluffy). A couple of days ago, we checked again - and one the chicks seemed to be not doing too well. Now I am afraid to look.... The kids want to see the nest first thing in the morning, before we leave for the day, and I have this feeling of dread that the remaining babies will be dead in their nest. I'll need to ask my husband to check in the evening, discreetly. I am afraid the mother abandoned them (haven't seen her recently) - maybe we've been making too much noise outside and checking on the birds too often...

Speaking of sad stuff... my son has really been struggling at summer camp this year. He is somewhat on the emotional/sensitive side to begin with, but usually he gets along with most kids and makes friends easily. This year - "everyone hates me, they don't want to be my friends, the kids are mean..." To be fair - he has made a few new friends, and he got to see a couple of his friends from last year, but none of them stick around for more than 2 weeks. We've had our kids in the same summer camp for the whole summer. It seemed like a logical choice - why move them around all the time, let them be at a place they know and feel comfortable, plus it is an easy drop-off/pick up for me. Now I am thinking - next summer, we'll try to do it differently. Brake it up a bit and let them try different things. The worst part is - he breaks down into tears... it really worries me that he'll be perceived as "easy target" by other kids, that the word of his crying fits will spread and will become his reputation ("here comes the crybaby..."), and that he'll be targeted by bullies. I am not helping by being annoyed with his weeping and whining (I have reasons to be annoyed that are perfectly human and understandable, but I need to figure out a more helpful attitude for both of us).