Guest Post – Stay-at-home moms, I salute you!

Because she loves us SO much, Julia’s mother-in-law and the Sisterhood’s second mother, Dianne, joins us AGAIN as a guest blogger. WE LOVE YOU TOO! 

As you may know, I am Nana to 7 amazing grandchildren. They range in age from 6 to 2, or almost 2. I gave birth to and raised 4 wonderful children. During that time, I was a working woman.

This kind of working woman…

African American Woman

…not this kind…

Grandma hooker

I recently had the privilege of spending a day in the life of Julia. With Julia comes her accessories, Sophie, Lillian and Isaac. These are numbers 1, 2 and 6 in the line-up of grandbabies, and they are aged 6, 4 and 2 (okay, almost 2).

Unlike Julia, my day started at a leisurely 6:45. We had planned to spend the day together, but hadn’t worked out the finer details. A text from Julia and I was on my way to their house to bring Nana-Jam, have breakfast and coffee, and swap vehicles with Ben. I arrived at 7:30. By this time things are hopping at the Mills’ household. Everyone but Lillian is up having breakfast, Ben is dressed and ready for work while getting toast for Isaac; Julia is trying to manage 13 things at once, including launching that day’s blog post; and Sophie is being the sauciest six-year-old granddaughter anyone could have –  I wouldn’t have her any other way. Lillian emerges from deep sleep before Ben sprints out the house.

I tell Julia “Sit still, have a coffee and just relax.” HA! DOUBLE HA!

We chat about the things we want to accomplish that day: go to St. Jacobs Farmers’ Market to get fresh strawberries to make more Nana-Jam, a visit to the dollar store, make Nana-Jam, a drop-in kindergarten boot camp for Lillian at the library, a quick run to Costco, lunch at some time, nap for Isaac and down-time for both Sophie and Lillian, supper together and bed time before Ben arrives home after footie practice. That is a fully-packed day for adults, never mind dragging along 3 children.

I am so naïve; I think I can handle this day. I forget what it’s like to be kept in line by the terrorists. They have needs and demands. Lunch is not something that can happen whenever, snacking is a necessity and a nap for Isaac is a must. There are the required bathroom breaks; no, Lillian cannot hold it any longer – either stop and pee in the bushes behind the van at market, or you risk having an accident. And that accident, that one is your fault for not recognizing that children have a bladder the size of a walnut.

Undaunted, we start our day. Because not everyone moves at the same pace, we don’t get onto the road until almost 10.  It’s a Thursday – going to market at 10 am should not pose a problem. But, it’s the Thursday after Canada Day, which means it’s a virtual long weekend. Every man and his dog is at market. We had to park in an area I didn’t even know existed!

FlagThere are so many good things about market. Does it get any better than shopping in the sunshine, smelling the produce, sampling local food? Fortunately, the snacks are plentiful. Bananas and mangoes are the snack of choice. Disaster averted.

It was busier when we were there!

It was busier when we were there!

After the market, we should be thinking about the drop-in kindergarten boot camp. Nope, it was off the list before we got to market.

Okay, let’s visit Aunt Toni. Her office is 2 minutes away from the market. Easy. We don’t get lost, we find Aunt Toni. I am grateful that our visit is in the parking lot; my feet are sore, my knees ache and I really need Tylenol. We get to help make Aunt Toni’s day. The visit has elevated everyone’s spirits.

Next stop, let’s visit Grammie at her work and go for lunch!  Before we arrive to pick up Grammie, Isaac has succumbed to sleep.  No worries – some fuel and he will be good to go until we reach my house for a proper nap.

While Isaac is napping, Julia curls up on the couch. The cool of the rec room, the lull of the TV playing in the background, the calm of the afternoon and she is out too! It’s at this point that I realize she has worked for this nap, and she really deserves it. Me, my feet are sore, my ankle hurts and I’m tired, but I can do this! Besides, it’s hard to nap when grandbabies are talking to you and expect an intelligent response.

It is now just after 4 pm. Isaac is scheduled to wake up. We haven’t started supper yet, there has been no afternoon snack, strawberries are not cleaned let alone made into Nana-Jam. There are so many casualties to the list we so industriously made this morning. I suggest to Julia that we get some grapes for snack while I make supper. Nope, there is that Costco run yet. So, snack then Costco. Easy! HA! TRIPLE HA! I AM SO NAÏVE!

Costco without children is a challenge; Costco with 3 children is insane. But, I can do this. In case you missed it, I didn’t mention that we haven’t unloaded any of Julia’s purchases from market yet. We have only been to my house to unload my purchases.  But, let’s go to Costco to buy more! More necessities, more toilet paper in giant packages, more family-sized boxes of cereal, more over-sized bags of chips, more gallons of yogurt, more cases of diapers and all things family-sized.  And, just to add to the mayhem, let’s pick up these things for other members of the family too!

The hunger is starting to overtake the children. Sophie sees sample tables and begs for a taste, Lillian and Isaac are not far behind. By the time we are done at Costco it is close to 6 pm. We have managed to stuff the van with everyone’s purchases in such a manner that we can actually distinguish my groceries. This will be handy since we are off to my place for dinner. I like this idea as I won’t have to unload groceries by myself later that night.

Julia, an expert at squeezing everything she can into a day suggests that we venture to the dollar store. I implore her, we can’t fit another thing into the van. Off to Nana’s house for a quick supper, thank goodness.

If you refuel children, they get their second wind. Dinner is over at 7:15, Sophie and Lillian are looking to sneak downstairs where all the “good” toys are. No can do, bed time is in 15 minutes and we won’t make it home before then. Did I mention that my feet are killing me, my ankle has started to balloon, my knee aches like a son-of-a-gun and there isn’t enough Tylenol to satisfy me? But, I can do this! I have to do this, Ben still has my car.

After dinner is cleared, it’s time to pack up and head for Ben and Julia’s. Julia drives and I am so grateful. I am yawning like crazy. We make it all the way to bed time for the children. I love them so much and I love them even more when they are tucked in.

We unload the van of the day’s purchases. By ‘we’ I mean Julia unloads the van and walks everything to the door of the house, I just need to place things in the kitchen or in an area for pick up by others. I am so tired.

Oh, did I mention that Julia was going to do some freelance writing that evening, after our monotonous day? Just sneak in an hour or two, that’s all. Nothing to it if you haven’t spent every ounce of your energy running after children. I get set up to watch some TV while waiting for Ben, Julia is busy writing. Mercifully, Ben is not late – he arrives shortly before 9 pm.

I’m exhausted. Julia looks relaxed as she easily jokes with Ben. He has a small gift for her. A while ago, Julia ran a half-marathon with three of her best buds. Ben presents her with a commemorative mug – it has a picture of the victorious ladies. Just another day in the life of.

This day has been long and it has shown me that being a stay-at-home mom is not a life filled with bon-bon eating and watching TV. My ordinary day consists of sitting behind a desk to crunch numbers; I’m a whiz with a calculator and a computer. Saturday and Sunday I’m a regular weekend warrior – I cut the grass, clean the floors and do laundry. I don’t try to manage a plethora of duties including child care, household management, first aid, sanitation for the nation, logistics and supplies procurement. I take my hat off to all the stay-at-home-moms. Their job is the hardest anyone will ever do, but it is the most rewarding. It is the job that will determine the direction our nation will take. These domestic engineers mold our future doctors, teachers, politicians, ditch-diggers, farmers and car mechanics. We should never take them for granted.

~ Dianne (a.k.a. Nana)

If you’d like to write a guest post and join in the Weather Vane Sisterhood fun, email us at weathervanesisterhood at gmail dot com. We’d love to have you!

What I learned on my summer vacation (from HELL)

My little family and I haven’t been on a vacation in YEARS. This is because of a variety of factors, mostly saving vacations to have babies and not having any vacation to speak of because of job changes. So, when the opportunity came up to go away for NINE days, I was MORE than excited (I even asked Mom, Did you hear that we’re going away? And she responded, Yes. Every time we’ve had a conversation.).

The plan was perfect (HA!) – Ben had the chance to play in a big game for his Ontario Australian Football League (crazy long story…essentially, Ben plays footie…which is like rugby, but not, and like football, but not) in Ottawa where Ben has family. We called up the relatives a month in advance, went over the plan, and voila! A vacation, six hours away (THREE WHOLE CAR MOVIES THERE AND BACK, as Sophie understood it), and relatively inexpensive, was planned. HOW AWESOME. And then, two days before we were supposed to leave, it all fell apart. The footie game was moved to Toronto (a boring ONE WHOLE CAR MOVIE away), and plans on the other end were cancelled due to unforeseen circumstances. Cue giant, adult, unattractive, PMS-fueled temper tantrum.

And thus began the vacation-turned-staycation from Hell. Here’s the list of things I learned from my summer vacation, which, ironically enough, only lasted the first full week of summer holidays.

Do be flexible. Once I stopped being grumpy about our cancelled vacation, I got excited about our staycation possibilities. We started researching local attractions and destinations. Museums, zoos, parks, movie theatres, pottery painting, the beach – so many options, once you take out the accommodation problem. As we planned our week, with an activity for every day, we actually got really excited! Staycations RULE!

Do include local fun. We live close to a fantastic park. It has a playground, it’s in a quiet neighbourhood, and it’s shaded by beautiful, tall, old trees. It was the kick-off to our staycation – wake up, get sunscreened and dressed, and walk to the park. Lovely. Perfect. The only day that went anywhere near according to plan.

Isaac's FIRST swing! Loved it. Nailed it.

Isaac’s FIRST swing! Loved it. Nailed it.

Do include favourites. We love going to the farmer’s market about 40 minutes away. So, given that Ben’s mom, Nana, was going to buy local Ontario strawberries for jam-making, we thought we’d jump on that train and join her. It was perfect! The market was thriving after a horrible fire destroyed it last year, the produce was bountiful, and Sophie loved running around telling us what to buy. Who can argue with the kid who’s demanding fruit! vegetables! all of it! now!? No one. Also, there are some adorable bunnies and ponies that the girls love to check out every time we’re there. All in all, good fun.

The girls hanging out at the pony pen.

The girls hanging out at the pony pen.

Do spend time with those you love. After the market, we headed back to Nana’s, which is as close to a second home as we can get. Yummy lunch, which included market goodies, followed by an afternoon hanging out by Nana’s (kiddie) pool was just the ticket. And it was all fun and games, until Sophie got sick.

Leaf spa treatment in Nana's backyard, courtesy of Mlle Sophie.

Leaf spa treatment in Nana’s backyard, courtesy of Mlle Sophie.

Do be flexible. Remember that first rule? All Sophie wanted to do was puke or lie down (we’re going with too much sun). So, we alternated between sleeping on Nana’s bathroom floor and sleeping in Nana’s spare room…until she finally settled into a deep sleep in Nana’s spare room. We talked about how we should proceed…leave just Ben there and I take the other two crazies home, or we all have a sleepover. Giant sleepover, it is. Sophie LOVED that she was the reason we all had to sleep over. And we got to have fresh market blueberry pancakes and bacon for breakfast. Win-win.

Do try something new. We have a great children’s museum in a neighbouring town that I’ve wanted to check out. What better time, than on your staycation?! We had a rough start in the morning, which resulted in Lillian having a wonder of a temper tantrum that led to her having trouble breathing. I thought she just had knocked the wind out of herself (she’s the queen of throwing herself around), and after some deep breaths all seemed okay. We got to the museum and discovered that it was incredible and perfect for kids (Yay! We have those!).

The girls and Daddy building with giant foam blocks.

The girls and Daddy building with giant foam blocks.

Isaac checking out the padded toddler area.

Isaac checking out the padded toddler area.

Do be flexible. Until Lillian had trouble breathing again. Only this time, no amount of deep breathing was fixing it. After about five minutes of scary time in the bathroom with our whole family (spending time with the ones you love!), we decided we needed an ambulance. Ben went out to get the museum staff to call, thinking they would be helpful. They were not. Thinking the ambulance would be speedy. It was not (they were told there was a three-year old having a temper tantrum in the bathroom). Thinking the ambulance attendants would be helpful. They weren’t at first, until they realized it was a breathing problem. It didn’t help that Lillian had passed out from exhaustion by the time they showed up. Eventually, we convinced them it was an emergency and not a parenting crisis, and off to the hospital by ambulance we go. (Wee!)

Do make the best out of the worst situations. We got seen pretty quickly at the  hospital, but still had to overcome the temper tantrum on the intake form. The doctor was a bit of a jerk until he understood we’re not that brand of crazy. Just the kind that needs help in a strange place when your baby is having trouble breathing. Then he was cool and helpful. He took x-rays of Lillian’s chest to confirm no broken ribs (my thinking…assuming the breathing problem had come from the throwing of the body Olympics temper tantrum from earlier) and to make sure she hadn’t choked on anything (his thinking). We were both wrong, but there was some shading on her lungs, which could mean pneumonia. He didn’t feel it was conclusive enough to prescribe anything and she was doing okay at this point, so we left it and had a picnic lunch in the hospital’s Tim Hortons, followed by a trip to Chapters for some retail therapy.

All hanging out in the hospital post-crisis.

All hanging out in the hospital post-crisis.

Do something new. We’ve never taken the girls to see a movie in a theatre before. Couple of reasons. One: Sophie was never old enough. Two: When Sophie got old enough, Lillian showed up. Three: Lillian’s hearing – how will her hearing aid/cochlear implant deal with such a loud environment. But it’s our STAYCATION! And we want to have FUN! So, we decided to go see How to Train Your Dragon 2, since both girls LOVED the first one. We secured a sitter (my mom, Grammie) for Isaac and we got ready to have some fun watching a movie on a screen BIGGER THAN OUR HOUSE. Then, Sophie got sick. She complained of a headache, threw up, and generally was miserable. No movie for us.

Right before bedtime, she asks, Can we go to the movie now? Yeah, no.

Right before bedtime, she asks, Can we go to the movie now? Yeah, no.

Do get out of the house. I work at home. I’m a stay-at-home mom. My entire life is at home. I NEEDED to get out of the house, just for one night. Just for a day. Just for something. Just so that it was different. We tossed around the idea of going to a beach for a day, staying the night in a nearby hotel, then going back to the beach for a second day, but after watching both of our kids come down with heat stroke, we decided it just might kill us (especially with our luck so far on this vacation). We did some looking and decided on an indoor water park (Fallsview Indoor Water Park, to be exact) – all the fun of a beach without the annoying sand and the evil sun! And just for fun, it would be in Niagara Falls! We booked it. We packed. We were going.

Did I mention the Hershey store? The one FULL OF CHOCOLATE??

Did I mention the Hershey store? The one FULL OF CHOCOLATE??

Do enjoy the journey. While we were waiting for our check-in time, we explored Niagara a little bit, including finding a giant Hershey store full of chocolate. We had lunch at a cafe, and made it back to the hotel in time to drop off our chocolate so it wouldn’t melt, and get everything organized to go spend a couple of hours at the water park. We had no illusions about getting a full bang-for-our-buck experience with three young children, but we were out of the house, DAMMIT.

The giant bucket of water that scared the pants off of Sophie.

The giant bucket of water that scared the pants off of Sophie.

Do be flexible. Within five minutes of getting inside the ‘special beach’ as we were calling it, Sophie got freaked out by the giant bucket of water that kept dumping. And Lillian was too short to go on any of the water slides. And Isaac got something in his eye and spent the entire time sleeping or crying on our shoulders because he just couldn’t get it out. So, we spent a ton of money to play at the tiny, toddler splash pad indoors. Fantastic.

Do trust your gut. We wrapped up the ‘special beach’ experience and went off in search of dinner. We found a buffet that was crazy expensive, but with our deal that we got with the hotel and the fact we came during the kids-eat-free hour, it was actually reasonable. Except, none of our kids wanted to eat. Everyone was tired. And Lillian was shutting down again. So maybe this rule should be, Do get room service. We limped through dinner and made it back to the hotel where Lillian was having trouble breathing again. Or she was sleeping. We couldn’t put her down on the bed in the girls’ own room (which they LOVED…so maybe it should also be, Do just go to a hotel – it’s like giving a kid a present and they only want to play with the box. Sophie couldn’t get over the fact that we were sleeping in a building FULL of bedrooms. And Lillian LOVED the fact that she could reach the lamp switches. Seriously. We should have just got the room). Lillian slept on Ben, Isaac slept in a crib in the girls’ room, and Sophie, Ben and I played farmyard bingo until it was reasonable to put Sophie to bed. She’s a rock star sleeper, so it took nothing for her to be out. But Lillian was doing awful. Awful awful. So we had to make the decision – ambulance or drive to the hospital. We figured we could make it to the hospital, so at 10 p.m. Ben and Lillian left to go find the hospital in Niagara. And I got to wait in our hotel room and worry. Best time ever.

Do give in. Ben and Lillian returned at 1:30 a.m. Lillian’s breathing was still crap, but better. She was talking and alert, not passed out or in distress. This ER doctor took one look at her and took care of her. After oxygen and Ventolin and more x-rays, pneumonia was more than conclusively decided on. They gave her the first dose of antibiotics so we wouldn’t have to track down a pharmacy in a strange city, and they gave us our little girl back. Lillian promptly asked to go to bed. And she did. On her own. Ben and I also went to bed. Isaac partied for most of the night with me, so I got zero sleep, but we gave in. This part of the vacation was over. We just had to finish the night out, get the free breakfast, and go home. We made it.

Chilling Sophie

Chilling Sophie the day after we got home.

Chilling Lillian the day after we got home. (Isaac was napping upstairs in his own bed).

Chilling Lillian the day after we got home. (Isaac was napping upstairs in his own bed).

Do rest and recover. The day after we got home from the Niagara debacle, we took our sweet time doing nothing. We were all in pyjamas until lunchtime. Naps were had. Rest was gotten. Chilling out happened. We took the day. We needed the day.

Do have low-key fun. We weren’t cooking, because seriously no one had ANY energy. At. All. We decided we’d either have a picnic in our park, or go hang out with some grandmas. My mom was studying and Ben’s mom was game. We picked up some KFC and had a picnic at Nana’s house. It was restful. It was glorious. It was low-key. Until the babies got tired and cranky and nuts. Then it was crap and we went home.

The calm before the storm.

The calm before the storm.

Do explore your neighbourhood. We decided we’d walk down to the library on our final day of ‘vacation’. And then go for lunch in our little downtown. We never have the chance to do it, so it seemed like the perfect opportunity to really enjoy our neighbourhood and have some fun without anything too nutty. The library was a hit, as usual. The girls played on computers and Isaac ate blocks and bedtime books were selected and fun was had. Then we had to go find lunch. We settled on a small cafe with a big patio we could park our wagon and stroller.

Such a pretty little lunch space!

Such a pretty little lunch space!

Lillian settled on hitting her wall of ENOUGH. She was tired and cranky and unwell. The pneumonia is sneaky – sometimes she’s normal, and other times she’s a mess. This was the mess. She fell asleep on Ben’s shoulder and refused to eat anything more than a few French fries. The food was good, but the service was slow, and Lillian was worrisome. We finished fast and booted it up the hill back home, where we put people down for naps and called it. Our vacation, our crappy, horrible, awful, no-good vacation was OVER. We were all done trying. Because in the end, that was the biggest lesson:

Do know when to fold. 

~ Julia