Independent Women (Throw your hands up at me)

I am half a year shy of turning 40 years old. I’ve lived in 2 provinces, owned 2 homes, had 2 kids, been married, separated and am currently single parenting 24/7. And yet nothing has made me feel more like an adult than the day I got my own Costco membership. It’s been a year now, and I’ve never felt more mature. It was the adult equivalent of getting my driver’s license.


In all seriousness, in these last 2.5 years I’ve become much more independent. Living on my own with the kids, I am forced to run a household on my own. Aside from the Costco card in my wallet, this also involves doing things I generally hate. Things I never had to worry about before. Like shoveling. Or mowing the lawn. Changing the batteries in the smoke detector. Now, now, before you call me a princess, you have to understand that it’s simply because I never had to do these things before. Because I was, well, spoiled. Lol. I lived with my parents until I was 27 years old, so household maintenance was their territory. While I did have to lift a shovel, and hated every second of it (Dad can attest to this), my Dad had a snowblower. Then when I moved out, I had a husband who did all the ‘outside’ work. He’d clear the driveway. He’d mow the lawn. He’d even do the gardening. I stuck to inside stuff. Give me a pile of clothes to fold over a driveway to shovel ANY DAY.

Now it’s just me running the house so if I don’t shovel, the driveway won’t get cleared. If I don’t mow, the grass (aka weeds) just keeps growing. Although, that’s not really true as one day this past summer, I came home and the man across the street had mowed my lawn for me. I barely know him, but I almost hugged him. I am not sure if he did it to help me out, or if my mass of weeds was such an eye sore that he was sick of looking at it. Either way, I was thankful because the one time I tried to mow, it was a disaster.


Picture this. A grown woman using a lawn mower for the first time- and obviously not having a CLUE. It was one of those electric ones that had to be plugged in. It took me a good 5 minutes to figure out how to turn it on. Another 5 to figure out how to keep it on. Once I had that down pat, I just started walking aimlessly, this way and that. I was so proud of myself……for 2 minutes, until I got the cord wrapped around a tree. I could just picture my neighbors looking out their window and laughing. I know they were. When I looked behind me to see how the lawn looked, there was nothing but patches of grass that I had missed. It was like a man who tried to shave his beard with a blindfold on. I had to back track over the many sections I had missed. Some I couldn’t get at, so I just left them. What should have taken 20 mins, took an hour. When I finally got to the front, I had a bit of a system figured out. I was rocking this!! I started smiling. Look at me! Just as I started singing Destiny’s Child’s song ‘Independent Women’ (out loud at that), I was interrupted by a zap sound. The mower stopped. I looked down……. I had mowed over the cord. Sliced it. A $40 extension cord gone, leaving me with nothing but a half butchered lawn and battered pride. I literally walked inside the house, closed the door behind me and sold the damn mower the next day.

After the mowing incident, I started to feel bad for my neighbors. As if me running out to the curb 7am every garbage day in pajamas and no shoes wasn’t enough, today they had to see me shovel. My hair was matted to my head under my hat. My face was beat red, okay purple, and I was sweating profusely. I was muttering curse words under my breath (or maybe out loud, I am not sure), and flinging snow. Okay, that’s also a lie, there was no flinging as it was so heavy I could barely move it. I smiled to my neighbors (the same man who mowed my lawn) and said ‘good morning! Isn’t this gross?’. He smiled and agreed, most likely talking about my appearance, not the snow. I bet he thought “I am NOT shoveling for this crazy lady too!”. What felt like 22 hours later, the snow was cleared and I was, once again, singing Destiny’s Child.


With this new found independence has come a sense of pride. A pride I didn’t have when we were first starting over, on our own, in a basement apartment. I didn’t think I could do this. Run the house, raise the kids, work full time. Stay sane. But yet, here I am. Some days, I feel like I am failing. When I burn supper (or cookies or waffles) or set off the smoke alarm or cry while shoveling. Or when I lose my patience with my kids and beg for a break that doesn’t come near as often as I need. But I’m not failing. Even when I’m drained and overwhelmed, or dealing with my kid’s big emotions, anxiety, sadness or their need to fight the other for simply breathing the same air and I have no one to tag me out. And on my low days, when there is no fuel left in the tank, I have no choice but to keep going. And while they don’t always get the best of me on those days, they get me. I’m here. And while I may be tempted, I’m not going anywhere.


I’m not saying any of this for praise. Parenting is hard for all of us, even on a good day. We are all simply doing the best we can. I’m simply reminding anyone that needs to hear it that if I can do it, so can you. It also helps to have a village behind you, which I do. I have a close circle of family and friends who I can call on when I need to. I’d be lost without each and every one of you. I also have a new special someone in my life to help me, when I need it. He happily changes my winter tires and smoke detector batteries, answers my ‘what do I do?’ calls at all hours of the day and simply laughs when I set his home alarm off while he’s working. Funny though, he won’t let me mow his lawn 😉 I guess because he saw mine. He has also seen me cook. He’s watched me trip over my own feet and has seen me cry over my kids. And yet, he’s still here, part of my village 😉

Anyone need to go to Costco?

Pandemic

I don’t know about you, but on March 11, 2020, I feel like my life was turned upside down over night. A pandemic? This can’t be real. I saw the movie back in 2008 but I can’t remember how it ended and I refuse to watch it now. Should I be waiting for a shirtless Mark Wahlberg or Will Smith to show up at my door and save the day, rescuing me and my kids from this nightmare? If that’s the case, I should really start wearing real clothes and a bra during the day. Maybe a hint of blush. But because that will never happen (the shirtless actors or the real clothes), we are all forced to deal with this pandemic and try to carry on and adjust to all the changes associated with our new normal. For example:

Grocery shopping:

I took for granted walking into Sobeys and filling a cart. Now I’m waiting in line to even get in the store and once I’m in I am terrified to touch anything. Wondering if I should be washing bags and packages when I get home. Wondering if I brought home a virus to my kids all because I needed milk. I miss walking aimlessly around the store. I miss not seeing arrows on the ground directing me where to go. And to be honest if one more person yells at me for walking the wrong way down a grocery aisle, I’m going to cry. Or yell. Or just leave my cart and walk out of the store. It was an honest mistake (that I made more than once, in the same store. Lol) but I wasn’t trying to purposely put your family at risk by walking the wrong way down the aisle. I simply forgot I needed pop tarts and went back for them, forgetting that walking the aisles of the store has turned into a game of Pac man. But, people need to remember to BE KIND. I know we are all stressed. I get it. I know many people are anxious and struggling, but that’s no excuse for simply not being kind. Tell me I’m going the wrong way, but be nice about it! I’ll make a stupid joke and apologize and try to do better. Don’t announce to passersby, loud enough for me to hear, that some people think they are above rules and don’t have to follow the arrows -because that’s not the case. I don’t think that. I made an honest mistake. I miss being able to get my groceries in peace.

School:

I never imagined I’d walk by a playground and see a closed sign. I certainly never imagined in a million years that school would be closed in March for the remainder of the school year. I feel bad for my kids for having been robbed half a school year. For not learning the things they would have, should have, learned in their respective grades. But a teacher I am not. A teacher I was not pretending to be. Or being pressured to be. I refused to compare myself to others who were homeschooling. I refused to believe that for every parent that posted the smiling pics of their kids doing math and science at their kitchen table that there wasn’t a parent just like me who was purely in survival mode, trying to get through each day. And this didn’t involve fractions. At the end of the work day, I didn’t have it in me to ‘teach’. So, we colored, drew, read books, talked about feelings, went for walks, baked cookies, had too much screen time, yelled and fought, laughed and danced, watched movies and participated in google classroom and that was enough for me. It had to be. I’ll save the curriculum for the teachers in September, when they hopefully return to the classroom.

Work:

I work with the Regional Health Authority, so we don’t close. The show must go on. People need care during a pandemic or not so I couldn’t see how it was possible for my job to offer a work from home option. But low and behold, here I am, working from home for the past 9 weeks. Trying to navigate my way through our NEW, albeit temporary, normal. While I love it, it’s not without its challenges seeing as the kids are out of school. Let’s just say my kids are like ‘Bob from Accounting’  (come on, all offices have one). Loud, annoying, needy and make weird sounds and smell funny. Let’s put it this way, some days I wish I could fire Bob from Accounting, and his brother, as they are bringing down office morale and are emotionally draining. Imagine trying to work, attend conference meetings online and make phone calls from your new ‘desk’ (aka your kitchen table) with your kids 10 feet away. Every time I get off my chair, it takes me 30 seconds to unfold my body (ergonomically friendly my new work station is not). I work full time and I parent full time. So I’m ON 24/7. I  can’t take one hat off and put the other on. As a result, I lose my cool several times a day at the ‘office’. I threaten to sell my kids on kijiji all the time, or to send them to daycare or take away their ipads for a month (which, come on, would just be punishment for ME). I warn them to be quiet as I call clients (Thank GOD for the mute button). Sometimes they listen. Other times, I save my calls for their allotted screen time so there’s a better chance it won’t sound like World War III has broken out in my living room. While I am manage to be productive and efficient, it’s hard with the kids home. And not just for me. Aiden recently accused me of loving my job more than I love them (which they know isn’t true) but they see me home all day with them yet they don’t fully understand that I’m not always available. That I’m ‘working’.

Bubbles:

I used to think bubbles were a toy my kids played with. Now, it’s brought on much more meaning. It’s my comfort zone. My lifeline. The friends and family that I can see. And you know what? I’ll admit something. Some family members were in my bubble right from the start. Because as a single mom working full time, I needed help. I needed childcare. I needed a break so I could go to Sobeys and be yelled at by someone other than my kids. So I broke the rules. Judge away. I needed to. I struggle with anxiety and I was worried about my mental health so I welcomed family into my bubble with open bubbly arms. Since then, it’s expanded. The double bubble. The 6 additional people. I don’t know how I would have survived this pandemic truly isolated, me and the kids, without our bubble. I look forward to the day when we can burst our bubble so I can socialize with ALL of the people important to me and my kids.

Kids:

My kids miss school. They admitted they never thought they’d say that, but they do. They miss their teachers, friends, gym class and learning new things. They miss trips to the park, movies, restaurants, indoor playgrounds on rainy days.  Aside from that, they miss family and friends they haven’t seen in a while. They want to hug the people they can only see from 6 feet away. And they miss Walmart (haha. True story). They are confused and scared and asking when life will go back to ‘normal’. A question I don’t have the answer to. They are tired of being in the house. They are tired of one another and to be honest, they need a break from me. And I can’t blame them for that! While they are handling it well and I am so proud of them, they are stressed. Emotions are high. Some days, I feel, are good days. The sun shines, we keep busy and do fun things! Other days, I feel like I’m failing. The kids are frustrated and acting out and I feel like I can’t do this. My anxiety is through the roof and it feels like there is a heavy, most likely sweaty, man sitting on my chest and he won’t move. Some days he seems to be gaining weight. Other days he gives me a break and bothers someone else. But no matter where I hide, like my kids, he always finds me. And I can’t help but think he finds my kids too. I long for this all to be over, so they can be kids again. Live carefree and only worry about the bubbles they can blow.

Shopping:

I’m now addicted to online shopping. There, I’ve said it. I am currently waiting on 4 deliveries. And the UPS man may as well be Mark Wahlberg because I get so excited when I see him.

 

If there’s one thing this pandemic has taught me, it’s that I took life for granted. Everyday life. Freedom. The simple joys. All of it. So, my promise, when this is all over, is to never do that again. To appreciate everything from holding the door for a stranger, to seeing people’s mask free faces and giving firm handshakes. And hugs. Be warned, if I know you, if I like you, I will hug you. Brace yourself.

Until then…..please

BE SAFE

STAY WELL

BE KIND

Xo

 

 

Cool Mom

I’ve recently found myself wondering at what age you stop being ‘cool’ in your kids eyes? Camryn is 6 so he still thinks I’m silly and funny and shows me off to his friends as if I’m some prize he won at the fair.

Aiden is 8.5 so it’s a bit trickier with him. He tells me all the time that I’m young. But young doesn’t necessarily mean cool. It’s a start, but I want to be young AND cool.

On the first day of grade 3, Aiden hugged me before he got on the bus. By day 3, he never. He was playing basketball with his friends and when the bus arrived, he grabbed his book bag, yelled BYE MOM and ran off. I will admit, I was caught off guard. It was the first time he never hugged me. I told myself it was a one-time thing but it kept happening. A wave replaced a hug. I wanted to cry. I stood by the bus waving, giving myself a pep talk. Suck it up and move on, Mommy, you knew this day was coming. Plus, silver lining, I still had Camryn, who needs to give me 18 kisses and a dozen hugs before he even considers stepping foot on that bus. So it’s all good. A wave didn’t mean I was any less loved or any less cool. It meant, maybe, he was the cool one now.

In an attempt to be cool, I often play with my kids at the park. Once, they were running up and down the skateboard ramp when Aiden said “Mommy, I bet you can’t do this!” HA! Challenge accepted! On the first attempt, I ran up and sat down next to him. He said the words “I can’t believe you did that! You are so cool!” I should have stopped then and there. I got my cool status. I should have pat myself on the back and left it at that. Oh no, I had to keep showing off. By the 4th time, I lost my grip on the ramp and Aiden had to pull me up. That wasn’t at all embarrassing. I’ve never felt less cool in my life. He didn’t care, he laughed so hard. I just wish there wasn’t video footage.

Another time at the playground, they were running up the stairs and back down the fireman pole. There were no friends around so it was the perfect opportunity for me to impress them. Easy peasy I thought as I yelled, “Guys! Watch me!’ I proceeded to run up the stairs as fast as I could, but when I stepped off the edge and wrapped my legs around the pole my skin stuck and I barely moved an inch. I was stuck. On a pole. I started laughing and yelling ‘Aiden! HELP!’ He helped alright, by grabbing my phone and taking a picture. Once I shimmied my way down, I walked away with two instant bruises- one on my leg and one on my ego. I blamed the shorts I was wearing. Next time I wear pants.

I can race to the top of the rope pyramid structure at any playground but then I usually stumble on the way down. Lose my footing and face plant on the pavement below. One more notch off the cool meter. I can get on the swings and see who can go higher, but then I feel motion sick and have to stop. I can see my cool mom badge disappearing in thin air almost every time we step foot at a playground. I needed to try something else!

Dance! One thing I don’t have is two left feet so I attempted to win them over with my dancing skills. They’ve been seeing me dance since they were in diapers but now that they are starting to dance, that changes the game.  Aiden shows me his Fortnite dances and I try my best to imitate. He can’t believe I know and can do ‘Fresh’. Haha, I didn’t tell him that I call it ‘the Carlton’ from Fresh Prince of the Bel Air. Instead,  I just roll with it. I’ve also mastered the Floss. Aiden is super impressed, so much so that we make a video of us doing a floss competition. He realizes that maybe he didn’t win and gets pissed off, never asking me to do it again.

The other day he was singing a song that has been around since I was in high school. He thinks it’s new and was shocked that I knew all the words. I keep it a secret that it’s an old song from the 90’s because for 10 seconds I AM HIP.

Last week I even attempted to beat box and apparently he thinks I can. I was just repeatedly saying the words ‘beats and cats’ over and over but to him, I was beat boxing. I hear him tell his friends “you should hear my mom beat box”. I stifle a smile and find myself practicing my beat boxing whenever I’m alone so he doesn’t figure out that I actually have no sweet clue what I’m doing but what I do know is that I am most definitely NOT beat boxing.

Somewhere around Christmas time, Aiden changed his mind and decided that all his hugs weren’t reserved for home. I’ll never forget the cold, snowy day. He was standing with his friends and when the bus arrived  I started waving, used to our new habit. I was busy trying to detach Camryn from my body when I saw two legs in front of me. He had walked back off the bus and over to me to give me a hug. I opened my arms and he nuzzled into me. “I love you, Mom. Have a good day”, he said. One kiss and he smiled and ran off.

Okay, Sonya, act cool. Now is the time to prove just how cool you are. Keep your composure and for heaven’s sake do not cry. Do you hear me?? Do NOT cry. It’s a hug. Don’t make a big deal. So I smiled and bit the inside of my lip until it bled and said ‘thanks bud, I love you too’. I waved as he got back on the bus. After the bus doors closed, tears streamed down my face, and blood down my lip. Maybe it was for him, or maybe it was for me, but that was the day the hugs started again. He hasn’t stopped since. I don’t think he was ready for them to end. I wasn’t either. But either way, I realized that day that those hugs have nothing to do with how cool he thinks I am.

Things are changing. My kids are growing up. The things that impressed them before are no longer working. Come on kids, give me a break! Don’t you see me here wearing my skinny jeans? Carrying around my (knock off) Kate Spade clutch? Throwing around words like ‘legit’, ‘epic’ and ‘dude’ on a regular basis, cut me some slack here. I’m a cool mom. Aren’t I? Hell yes, I am. I am a COOL mom.

Except, I’m not. Cool. Not really.

I’m mom.

And I’m slowly coming to terms with that. I’ve realized that they don’t need me to be cool. They just need ME. To play with them, sing with them, dance with them, be with them and hug them. They don’t both try to squeeze onto my lap when we watch a movie because of my level of coolness, they do that because they love me. And that’s more important to me than being ‘cool’.

I may never be cool. But I will always be their mom. And let’s be honest here …..everyone knows that being cool is highly overrated.

I’d much rather be myself.

 

Maybe she’s born with it

Aiden asks a lot of questions. For example, how he came out of my body (see previous blog for my answer), will life continue forever, what homeless people do when it rains….. I could go on. The other day he asked a question that stumped me. It was a seemingly simple question yet I struggled with an answer.

I was applying makeup to my face and had just finished foundation and moved on to my eyes as Aiden watched carefully, almost mesmerized as I applied undereye concealer, eye shadow and eyeliner. I was JUST about to apply mascara when he said, “Mommy, why do you put that stuff on your face?”

I honestly didn’t know what to say.  Why do I? I couldn’t tell him that this ‘mask’ makes me feel better about myself. That it helps hide my insecurities. That I have wrinkles that I need to cover. That I’m trying to conceal the stress of my life with a shade of beige. I couldn’t tell him any of that. I didn’t want him to know that wearing makeup makes me feel more confident. That it takes finishing powder and blush to feel at my best.

I kept my answer short and sweet, yet still honest. I told him that I like to wear it because it looks nice. He wasn’t convinced and was even more confused.  “But you don’t need it.  You look prettier without it”. Ahhhhhhh  <ugly cry here>. Right then and there, I tossed all my expensive Mac makeup in the garbage and washed my face and haven’t worn a stitch of makeup since. There is no blush brightening these cheeks. HA! No. While I wish I could tell you that that was the case, it wasn’t. I hugged and thanked him ……and I continued applying my mask.

That seemed like the better response than this: “That’s sweet, Aiden, but I don’t agree. You see, I don’t like my skin enough to let anyone see me like this. I was blessed with acne as a teenager and am now left with scars. In fact, I’m 38 years old and still get blemishes (and pick them). Also, my undereyes are purple so I need to cover that shit up!”. That’s what I wanted to say. But I never because 1)  I didn’t want him to think that I loved myself any less when I wasn’t wearing makeup and 2) HE DOESN’T SEE ANY OF THAT.

There are only a select few people who have ever seen me without my makeup on. I won’t go to the mailbox without undereye concealer. I’d go to Walmart in pajama pants over a naked face. Not happening.  I don’t always have a full face of makeup on, but you can bet your ass I have undereye concealer and eye shadow on at almost any point throughout the day. If you come knocking at my door at 8pm, there’s a good chance I have no bra or socks on, but I have my eyes concealed. Heck, when I was in labor I was reapplying eye shadow in the luxury suite of my hospital room. True story. It should have been the farthest thing from my mind (and trust me, a few hours later it WAS), but in that moment I was scared and wanted to feel like me. So, I made sure I had nice eyelids because I knew things were going to get ugly. Lol

This has nothing to do with me being vain (I’m the farthest thing from it, trust me). It has to do with self confidence. I wear natural looking makeup so I probably don’t look much different when I’m not wearing it, but it makes me feel more confident. And I don’t think that’s a bad thing, it’s just a hard thing to explain to an 8 year old child.

I love that Aiden loves me for the skin I’m in. That he sees me as beautiful when I roll out of bed, all puffy eyed with bed head.  I wish I could see myself through his eyes. He doesn’t look at me and see imperfections that need to be smoothed with real life filters. He’s not spending his tooth fairy money on creams promising to reduce my fine lines and wrinkles in one week. He doesn’t care that I found my first grey hair. He thinks I’m beautiful JUST THE WAY I AM.

He may think I need a haircut (he’s told me so), but when it comes to my skin he now knows that I wasn’t born with it. It’s Mac (not Maybelline). He just thinks I should break up with Mac and embrace what I WAS in fact born with.

Maybe he’s onto something.

 

 

PUSH

I have this rule when it comes to my kids- If I don’t listen to the small stuff, they won’t tell me the big stuff. And I always tell them they can tell me anything. Good or bad, TELL ME. So I need to listen to everything. For example, I need to know how much damage each Pokemon card does apparently. It’s not important to me but it is to them, so I have to listen. Even when, sometimes, it feels like my ears are bleeding.

Apparently, tell me anything goes hand in hand with ask me anything. Last year, Aiden asked how exactly he got out of my belly. I was totally caught off guard and felt ill prepared to answer this question, but I ran with it. I told him that the doctor didn’t actually take him out of my belly like he thought. Instead, I pushed him out of my body.

“What do you mean? Pushed me? Pushed me out of where?”

How do you explain to a 7 year old, without going into too much detail or causing 20 years of nightmares, how they came out of your body? I told him that I pushed him out…… from the same place I pee.  This is not anatomically correct, I know, but he was7 and it gave him a general idea of how he came to be in this world. I’ll never forget the look on his face. It took about 3.8 seconds for his face to transform. Distorted by the mental image of him as a newborn baby, being forced out of my body through such a tiny opening.

“YOU PUSHED ME OUT OF YOUR PENIS?????’” He looked like he might vomit.  Then he remembered from our earlier conversations that, as a girl, I did not have a penis. “What do you have, again? A hole, right?”

Dear earth, open up and swallow me whole. Please.

You see, I’m a relatively private person. It was the way I was raised. We didn’t really talk about sex or anatomy in my family. At 38 years of age, all I have to do to end a conversation with my father is to say I got my period or have to go bra shopping. And my kids know I’m private too.  They don’t see me without so much as my shirt off. Or even in a towel. If they happen to walk in and catch a back or side view of me in my ‘booby bra’, it’s like they hit the jackpot. Their mouth drops and they run out screaming to the other of what they saw 😉 But as private as I am, I want my kids to be comfortable with talking to me about everything. And I mean EVERYTHING. Even things that make me squirm. And obviously they feel that level of comfort, based on the questions they ask.

So back to the question at hand….. What did I have again? I had to be quick. I couldn’t use the word hoo-haw or muff or cookie. No. He deserved the truth.  Deep breath, Mommy, you GOT THIS. So I told my 7 year old child that I have a vagina. Moving on, who wants ice cream?!?!!

By this point he was so intrigued. I could see it on his face but he didn’t make a big deal of it, instead he apologized for the pain he must have caused me and asked if it hurt. “YES. Yes it hurt.  A lot, buddy. I felt like my body was being ripped in half and set on fire. I screamed and cursed so much I had to write an apology letter to the nurses.”   SHIT.  That was too much. I could tell by his face. He sat in silence for a long time. Poor thing started apologizing profusely for the pain and suffering he caused me. Said he’d spend the rest of his life making it up to me. I laughed and told him he was worth it and tried to change the subject to prevent the nightmare that ensued.  Oops.

Since then, Aiden will often bring up his knowledge of where he came from. One day I told him that because I carried him in my belly and felt him kick and heard his heartbeat, it meant I knew him the best. “Welllll, mommy, I didn’t actually come out of your belly. I came out of your crotch’. I laughed til I peed (thanks for that too, Aiden). He wasn’t wrong, I couldn’t argue that. Then today, out of the blue, he was trying to one up his brother and felt the fact that I pushed him out of my ‘pee hole’ instead of him coming out of my belly gave him the upper hand. Camryn was NOT impressed (mostly with me). The same look of terror spread across his face that I had seen on his brother a year earlier. “Mommy! How big is your hole?’ I laughed so hard I nearly drove the car off the road. How, how, how do we always end up back here? It’s bad enough I’m reminding them daily to stop saying all words relating to butt and poop but now pee hole and birth canal? Seriously. It’s too much. Ice cream, anyone?! Dear lord. Pikachu, Charizard…..all things Pokemon, please, let’s talk about that. I’ll never complain again. LOL

As if that wasn’t enough, I had to explain breastfeeding to my boys. It doesn’t seem like a natural thing to my kids as I never breastfed, so the whole concept is foreign to them. There was no medical reason why I couldn’t breastfeed, other than that it wasn’t good for my mental health, so I didn’t. Case closed (#fedisbest).  I did what was best for me, and that involved a bottle. It was probably last year when Aiden, now old enough and curious enough, saw someone breastfeeding and asked what in the world was happening. I told him that mommies produce milk when they have a baby and can feed their babies from their ‘boobies’. Well, that was it. He was beside himself. Didn’t know WHAT to think. He stared at me, or maybe my chest, like I was either a cow or an alien. He was in shock. Mind. BLOWN. Naturally, he wanted to know if I could still do it. Was I still a milk making machine. HA! That’s a hard no, kid.

There’s never a dull moment with my kids. I’m not quite sure what else they will ask. Or when. Aiden will probably have his hand up the entire time during 5th grade health class. Or he’ll try to teach the class himself based on all the wisdom his mother has bestowed upon him. I can’t wait for the birds and bees talk. I need to be prepared for that one. I might as well get started now. I know there was a ‘What to expect when you’re expecting’ book, but can someone tell me if there’s a book simply titled ‘HELP!?’ Or maybe Parenting for dummies? I bet that exists. I’ll start there.

Until then, ice cream anyone?!

Self Care 101

Self-care.

My doctor once told me I needed to ‘Get my shit together’ if I wanted to stop feeling like a hot mess.  True story. She prescribed self-care. She said ‘If you don’t take care of yourself, you can’t take care of anyone else’.

It reminded me of Aiden’s Kindergarten teacher telling him that you should love yourself more than you love anyone else. I admitted to Aiden that like most moms, I love him and his brother more than I love myself. It’s the way I’m wired. I’m used to putting others ahead of myself.  I worry about others over myself (when I really shouldn’t) and I put other people’s needs ahead of my own. It’s the reason I know I’d struggle on an airplane in an emergency because I wouldn’t want to put my own safety mask on first. It would seem selfish of me to do that, but it’s not. It’s self-care. I need to learn to better take care of ME.

So that’s my mission. Self-care. Now, how does one do this? I did what most would do and I turned to google for some ideas. Which was terrifying as it turns out what some consider self-care, I would consider torture. I had to come up with some ideas on my own:

Dance. I love to dance. I dance while I straighten my hair, while I cook supper, while I clean my floors. Even when I’m driving, I don’t stop moving. My living room floor becomes my makeshift dance floor daily as me and Camryn shake what our momma’s gave us from one corner to the other. I miss Zumba. For 3.5 years it was a huge stress reliever for me. I could shake my hips in a gym full of strangers like I was drunk on a dance floor on George Street and I didn’t care. I need to go back. No excuses. Find a sitter- go to Zumba once a week and release my inner JLO.

Walk.  It’s honestly free therapy for me. I try to get out for a walk every day but it’s not possible where I always have the kids (and let’s be honest, walking with them is far from therapeutic). So my new goal is to walk alone 4 times a week. Even with my broken toe. I’m not gonna let displaced bones stop me from self-care, now am I?

Exercise. I am one of those weird crazies who loves to exercise. I don’t do it because I have to, I do it because I want to. I enjoy it. Sadly, the last few months kinda messed with my routine but I need to get back at it as I miss it and I actually feel different when I’m not doing it. The one thing I’ve remained committed to are my evening leg lifts (my god, it’s no wonder I have no life). I do 150-200 leg lifts every night before bed (ask my sisters, they can attest to this fact. I really AM the life of the party, bitches). I don’t see any abs but I swear to god I feel something. Maybe it’s my hip bone, I’m not sure. But either way, it’s like me and JLO are the same person.

TV: I realized that for me, other simpler ways to self-care include reading (which I don’t do enough of because apparently I’ve become too lazy) and even though I hate to admit this, watching TV. Judge away, Mama loves her screen time. There’s nothing better than being in my lounge clothes (and no socks, I HATE socks), curling up on the couch with my blanket, remote in one hand and large ass spoon full of peanut butter in the other. My guilty pleasures are dramas that make me cry so hard I want to vomit (sounds like a blast, doesn’t it?), or comedies that make me laugh so hard I snort (better than peeing?!). Nothing beats a good belly laugh.

Writing: I love to write. Writing this blog helps me take care of me. It’s like a journal, only I post it publicly for the world (okay fine, for my 13 followers and my close friends on FB) to read. I wish I did more of it. Scrap that, I WILL do more of it. I used to have a goal to write a book. Maybe I’ll get started on that…….

Friends. Anything that makes me feel like Sonya and not Mommy is a form of self-care. Like hanging with or sometimes just chatting with friends. A movie, supper, a drink, a walk, or even just texting with a friend can build my spirits.  It almost always leads to laughing, which I am all for. I crack myself up too, which helps. That makes me less like JLo and more like Amy Schumer (minus the crude profanity of course).

Bath: I never understood why people would sit in water, just sit, and find it relaxing. What do you do? Where do you put your hands? What do you look at? I hate when my skin starts to shrivel up like prunes. It doesn’t seem enjoyable BUT I thought I’d give it a shot. I either read a book (which always ends up in the water) or listen to music to just drown out the noise (literally, so I can’t hear the kids) and wind up being afraid my phone or headphones will also fall in the water and I’ll get electrocuted. This isn’t self-care. Scrap bath, it’s being removed from my list. LOL

Spa days:  Massages, manicures, pedicures…..I LOVE going to the Spa! I just don’t have the money for it on a regular basis. But its okay, what I do is put on a robe and have my kids brush my hair for 3 minutes, or I pretend I have a scratch on my back and they have to find it and it’s almost the same as being at the Spa. It’s all about improvising peeps, all about improvising.

Wal-Mart: You read that right. Walmart. Sometimes just a trip to Walmart (or Sobeys, or Shoppers Drug Mart) ALONE is self-care. I’m dead serious, if you ever see me standing in Aisle 7 just smiling, please don’t interrupt my moment. I’m soaking it all in because guess what? I don’t get to do that often enough. I’m rarely alone. Sometimes when I’m in line at Walmart I let everyone go ahead of me just to prolong the experience. People think I’m just nice but the truth is I’m not ready to go home 😉

Back in October I did one thing for myself that was very much self-care. I did something that I always wanted to do. I got my nose pierced. It was very empowering. My sister held my hand, looking as proud of me as I think she would have been had I been delivering a baby. I came to find out that I was actually holding her up as she was weak and nauseated at the sight of the needle that was going to be stuck through my nose.  The ring lasted 6 weeks. Turns out I’m also lazy at cleaning it (who has time to soak your nose for 5 mins, twice a day, I mean COME ON!?) so it didn’t heal properly and started looking more like a cold sore on my face than a nose stud so I took it out. I will be honest, I almost cried when it was removed as I felt like the independence I was showing off to the world was stripped away. But that was just in my head. It was just a nose ring. I’m still empowered. I have the scar to prove it.

So, I do know how to self-care, I just have to DO IT. I have to make more of an effort. I have to ask for help or hire a babysitter to make sure I do it. Because Doc was right, if I don’t take of ME, I’m no good to anyone else.

And if I don’t take care of me, then who will?

Sure as hell won’t be JLO.

 

Trailer

Do you ever go to a movie and it winds up being nothing like you thought it’d be? The trailer led you to believe that the story was a comedy but there was nothing funny about it? The characters weren’t relatable and overall it just wasn’t what you expected? In some ways, that’s how I find parenting. I’m the lead actress and, unfortunately, in addition to not looking like Julia Roberts, it feels like the chances of a Golden Globe nomination are slim to none.

I had my parenting style figured out long before I had kids. That’s how naïve I was. For example, I would see a kid in the doctor’s office watching an ipad while waiting to be called in and I’d think ‘not a chance’ will that be my child. In my head, my child would sit patiently waiting, practicing his alphabet. He also wouldn’t consider picking the healthy snack I brought for him off the dirty floor and putting it in his mouth. I’d be well rested (because my kid would sleep through the night, he had no choice), wearing clothes that didn’t have any stains or boogers on it, and I would smile at my child with nothing but admiration and pride. It was the best trailer I’d ever seen.

What I didn’t see in that waiting room was the mother. The woman sitting there trying her best not to either lose patience or cry, all the while hoping the ipad had enough battery to keep her child distracted to get her through a wait time that seemed endless when it was really only 7 minutes. She was wondering if anyone noticed how tired she looked. How she hadn’t been sleeping and was stressed to the max. Her lunch today had been a half-eaten piece of toast so she found herself eyeing a cheesie on the floor, wondering if the 5 second rule really was a thing. More than anything, she was wondering if she was doing a good enough job. Because most days she felt like she was failing. Was she the only mother who felt that way? This was the real movie, and it was nothing like the preview.

I’ll be the first to admit that I’m hard on myself. I don’t give myself enough credit in many aspects of my life. When it comes to parenting, I feel like I could be doing better. Or that others do it better than me or would handle the situations I’m dealing with with my kids better than I do. There are some days, the hard days, when I wonder if I was really cut out for this.

Sadly, I’ve said this out loud in front of my kids, “I’m not cut out for this”. When I get overwhelmed and my small home feels like 4 walls of anger, tears and attitude I feel a loss of control. This isn’t how things were supposed to be, I tell myself. When things aren’t going as planned, when one kid is lashing out in anger and the other kid is smacking too hard or saying bad words or not listening, I blame myself. I’m not doing this right. This is my fault. If I was better, they’d be better. I’m not cut out for this.

Deep down, I feel that in many ways I’m not the mom I thought I’d be. Not all the time anyways. I thought it’d be easier, or different. Parenting. My kids. My life. What I hadn’t anticipated was suffering from post-partem depression, which in many ways changed me. What I also hadn’t anticipated was having my life turned upside down. Or suffering from anxiety. Anxiety that presents itself as rage (that sadly only my children get to witness). So when my child is lashing out and hurling insults at me or his brother, it takes everything in me not to do the very thing I’m telling him not to do- lash out and say things he can’t take back. After all, I want to lead by example. Sometimes I win and sometimes I lose. And it’s when I lose, the guilt sets in.

Then there are times when the guilt is replaced by pride. I am reminded that I’m doing a damn good job. For example, when my kids say something I know they learned from me. Aiden told his brother the other day to stop touching him. Camryn wouldn’t, of course, as it’s much more fun to pester than it is to listen. Aiden said ‘When someone asks you to stop, you stop. Learn that early”. It was me, word for word from his mouth. Or when he lost his cool over something ridiculous and finally calmed down and said “I’m not perfect, but I promise you I’m doing the best I can’. Also my words, now his. Or when they see me cry and they stop what they are doing, one strokes my back and the other curls in a ball in my lap, and they tell me they love me.

Or how about at parent teacher interview when I was looking through Camryn’s Kindergarten workbook and there was one page that literally made me drop the book like it was on fire and start crying. It simply said, ‘Peace is My mom’. He had drawn a picture of me (or maybe it was Julia Roberts, I’m not really sure) but I cried so hard because I didn’t see myself as peace. I didn’t feel peace because I was too busy judging myself too harshly for being human.

It was then I realized that maybe I’m not failing. That maybe I should try seeing in myself what other people see.

Because maybe, just maybe, I was cut out for this after all.

peace

Glue

Sometimes I wish my kids would be, for me at home, the kids they are at school. No attitude. Listen well. Play well with others.  At home my two boys can challenge any 16 year old for attitude. They listen so well that I near break a blood vessel in my neck every time I try to get them to brush their teeth. And play well together? Sure, if playing together involves throwing punches and insults. I guess at school they are on their best behavior and once they are at home they unleash the lions. But the truth is, I would rather it that way (than the opposite).

I recently read an article on Facebook about how children are the most misbehaved around their Mother. Because I read it on Facebook, it MUST be true 😉  I do believe it though.  How many times does Nanny say ‘they were excellent, didn’t make a sound!’ Even the lady at the after-school program told me they play so well together. One day she said they cuddled and read a book. I cracked up laughing until I realized she wasn’t joking. She said they are a solid 10/10. 10 out of 10. By 8:34am Saturday morning they are a mere 5/10 for me. So why do I get the shitty end of the stick? Not all the time of course, but some of the time. It simply doesn’t seem fair that other people consistently get my children at their best.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t have bad kids. They are good kids, kind, funny and thoughtful. It’s just that they are, well, kids and they are loud and they are temperamental and full of emotion they aren’t sure how to handle. At times, they are so sweet it melts my heart. To me and to others. Aiden told a stranger the other day at a gas station that he really liked what she had done to her hair. She smiled from ear to ear and told him that she made his day (and told me to look out because he’s going to be quite the charmer with the ladies).  He was beaming for making her so happy.  He then proceeded to tell me that I should really try to do my hair like hers. Sorry love, I’ll never be a blonde.

Camryn is full of character. The kid is full of spunk and has no problem twerking in the middle of Walmart. He could make any crotchety old man smile I’m sure. Just the other day when he thought I was asleep he leaned down to kiss my forehead and said “You’re so boo-tiful, mommy’ and walked away. ‘You are L-O-V-E, mommy’, he says 100 times a day.  Aiden told me he’d never be able to live in this world without me. He also told me I had the best singing voice he’s ever heard. And even though I know he must be partially deaf (I sound like a tortured cat), he said it because he wanted me to know that he loves the sound of my voice.

So that’s why it blows my mind how they can flip a switch and within a millisecond go from Jekyll to Hyde. How I love you turns to I hate you. How you’re the best mommy in the world becomes you’re the worst. It’s hard on the head and even worse on the heart when your kids say things they don’t really mean simply because they are so full of emotion they don’t know how to deal. Or they don’t get their own way. I’m trying to teach them early that words have power. That once you say something, you can never truly take it back, no matter how many times you apologize.

I’ve come to figure out……or at least this is what I’ve been told by a professional child counsellor- that my kids lash out at me because I am their safe place. They know that no matter what they do or say to me, I will love them. I won’t ever leave them. So I should be honored, what an accomplishment! Sounds so amazing and honestly brings a tear to my eye…… until one or both children are freaking out because I said no to the ipad, or causing me so much stress I check nightly for grey’s (that have yet to appear).  I’m the one who ends up in tears feeling utterly defeated. It doesn’t feel so warm and fuzzy then.

No matter how much of a safe place I am, I want my kids to respect me. I want them to be nice, kind people both at school AND at home, but if I let them act out and throw tantrums as a way of expressing their emotions and not say a word, I’m doing myself and them a disservice. It’s a fine line. A line that happens to be drawn in chaulk and peed on by the neighborhood dog. It’s hard. And I feel like I’m the only parent in the world struggling with this. Ding ding. Tag, I’m IT.

But I take the good with the bad and just hope that at the end of the day, I am not royally messing them up by yelling too much, or crying too much, or nagging too much or disciplining too much.  Or not enough. For every fight we have, there’s a tickle fight. For every tear, there’s a smile. There are dance competitions and games of charades, just like there are time outs. Because of this, I can’t help but think of something that was said recently on one of my favorite shows, This is Us:

“All you can do, as a parent, is try to pack the days with as much good stuff as possible and hope that it outweighs the bad. You hope that the good stuff sticks”.

I hope that the good stuff is glue.  I hope that I’m the glue.

 

Buzz kill

There are brief moments in time, usually when the kids are asleep, when I feel like I have this parenting thing figured out. It has happened about 4 times now in 7.5 years so I kind of feel like a pro.

If I’m being honest, most days I feel like I have no clue what I’m doing. I’m stuck in survival mode. They are fed, in one piece, happy and their basic needs are met, so I’m doing a dandy job if you ask me 😉  Of course to them, it’s not enough. They want chocolate at 7am, the ipad for 4 hours a day, and can’t seem to understand why it’s inappropriate to sit on the couch with no pants on and pretend their genitals are joysticks. I say no to these things, so to them, I’m no fun. To them, I am a total buzzkill.

When they are chasing one another around the house and I calmly ask them to stop 456 times, it’s when I finally lose my cool and yell that one of them runs head first into the wall. And of course, it’s my fault. Not only am I mean for yelling but I put the wall there just to make sure they couldn’t have fun. Buzz- Kill.

On school mornings, all they want to do is play. But I have to get them out the door for school so I can get to work on time, and they don’t understand why it’s not a good time to paint. Nor do they feel the need to help me out by doing anything I ask the first time. So toast gets cold, milk gets spilled, toothpaste dries up and half the time I forget to comb their hair because I feel like I’m constantly running around like a chicken with its head cut off.

“Aiden, eat your breakfast buddy, come on! Camryn, Camryn stop. Put that away. Don’t touch it. Because I said so. Where are your glasses! Now you have peanut butter all over your glasses….don’t touch your shirt! UGH! Go change!!! Grab your socks while you’re there. Aiden! Aiden put the ipad down. Fine, forget it, I’m leaving. Have fun home alone. Call the police, I don’t care! I’m gone………Camryn PUT ON YOUR SOCKS!!!!!!!!!!!!!”

This is me, every morning. EVERY morning. I give them the same lecture all the time on the ride to school about not wanting to fight to get out the door. They sit and listen (or ignore). Camryn dancing in his seat to the newest pop hit on the radio (he gets that from me) and Aiden promising that tomorrow morning will be better and he really believes it will be (he gets that from me). And I pull up in the kiss and drop lane and I let them out and I give them each a hug and kiss and send them on their way, forgetting that I feel like I just punched a full day before 8:07am. I fight tears every damn time as I watch them walk into the school, side by side with their little book bags on their backs. Just like that, I’m snapped back to reality as someone beeps the horn behind me, reminding me that after you kiss and drop, you keep going. Total buzz kill, Mr. Green Toyota.

It’s like a viscous cycle. One minute they are driving me insane, so much so that I threaten to sell them on Kijiji for 1 dollar each. I tell them that too!! But because they don’t know what Kijiji is I don’t feel I am scarring them too much. Yet. The next minute they do something so sweet or cute that I radiate with pride. One minute I tell them they don’t listen to a word I say, and the next I realize that they listen even when I think they are not.

For example, Aiden was coloring at the kitchen table and I could smell the permanent marker so, being the buzz killer that I am, I went over to remind him that he knows better than to color with permanent marker. When he showed me what he was doing, I shut my mouth. I was speechless. He had colored a rock for my sister, and on it he had written ‘You can do this’ because he knew that she needed the encouragement. He used permanent marker because he said he didn’t want it to fade.  That moment was one of those special moments where I realized that maybe I AM doing something right after all.

Fast forward 5 mins and Camryn is throwing the word butthole around like it’s going out of style. Two minutes after that he’s telling me that I am L-O-V-E.  His bath time always starts off fun and ends when buzz kill Mommy shows rears her ugly head, yelling about water belonging IN THE TUB and not as a puddle on ceramic tile. By bedtime I’m threatening that I’ll be cancelling his birthday party if he doesn’t listen and 5 mins later he is calling me in for one last bedtime hug because he just wants to feel my arms around his neck. The cycle continues.

At the end of the day, as we cuddle on the couch and I feel like maybe the day wasn’t so bad after all, Aiden reminds me that we didn’t do his homework and Camryn says I sent him to school with the wrong lunch. *sigh*

While I may not have this figured out (and if you’ve ever read any of my blog posts you’ll know I’m the first to admit that),  I have to believe that within this cycle there are just as many things that I am doing right as I am wrong. They may not always listen. They may be so loud that you need to carry Advil in your back pocket when they are around, and they may have more attitude than a group of 15 year old teenagers (and the eye roll to boot) but they are good kids. They are kind (not always to one another, or me! Lol) but they have good hearts, fully bellies (except for Camryn, the kid eats nothing) and big smiles.

What more could you ask for as a parent?

Except chocolate at 7am.

Fine lines and Selfies

I’ve never been much into selfies. Since having my kids I find I take more, not of myself but of me and the kids. My sister and I actually invented the selfie years ago, we just didn’t know the name. haha. But on my phone there aren’t many pics of just me. And of those that exist none were taken in a bathroom and I guarantee there are no ‘duck lips’.

Kudos to anyone who loves taking selfies. I wish I had that confidence! But I generally don’t need to see myself that close up. Any time I do take a pic of myself, if I’m having a good hair day or like my new eye makeup, I tend to not like the pic, blame the lighting and delete. Snap. Delete. Snap. Delete. Snap *gasp* DELETE!!!! I recently wanted to update my facebook profile pic and considered a selfie. I took 24 I’d say. 3 were maybe’s. I was so unsure, I sent the one I hated least to a friend to ask her if I looked weird. Then I sent the same pic to my husband and also asked my kids for their honest opinions. Despite getting approval from all of the above, I still haven’t posted it.

What I did post recently on Facebook was a trip down memory lane. I put up 30+ pictures from the last 20 years. I generally don’t like myself in pics so of course I chose the ones that I didn’t hate. In fact, some of them I actually liked and I couldn’t help but wonder if at the time the pic was taken did I like what I saw or did I pick myself apart (like I do now). We are all our own worst critics after all.

There were two things I noticed about these pics. 1) My hair hasn’t changed in two decades (give or take an inch or side bang versus full) and 2) I looked younger. Keep in mind these pics spanned 20 years so in some of them I was in my teens. But even the ones from 10 years ago, I looked like a baby. I was completely carefree, had no real responsibilities, lived at home with my parents, worked full time, had someone cook all my meals (thanks mom!), do my laundry (thanks mom!), and I slept well. Frig, I used to come home from university (okay and work) and take a nap for an hour before supper. So no wonder I looked younger. I also looked relaxed and rested.  Because I was. Why the hell didn’t I take more selfies back then??? Lol

Recently (even months before I had this trip down memory lane) I have become obsessed with something about myself that seems to have changed over the last few years. It was something I noticed in pics. I looked different somehow. My eyes, they looked tired (and not just during the 2 year zombie stage when Camryn refused to sleep at night). From what I could tell, my dark circles were more prominent and I had these little lines that weren’t there before. Hmmm……how did that happen? When did that happen??

In reality, of course I don’t look the same as I did 20 years ago! I’m not the same person. How could I be? I’ve had so much more life experience. From graduating university and getting my first car and job to moving away and starting over, getting married, buying a house, pregnancies, kids, miscarriage, and struggling with post-partem and anxiety. It turns out the everyday stress of life, love and motherhood has a funny way of wearing on your face. I guess in my mind, it was that somehow my eyes were revealing my truths.

And the biggest truth of all was that I’m getting older. It was like I was suddenly announcing to the world that I was not 20 , or even 30 years old anymore. So I started spending way too much money on creams and serums designed to eliminate fine lines and wrinkles. When I bought an Oil of Olay anti-aging cream at the drugstore last summer I was hoping the young perky 20 year old serving me would ask me if I was buying this cream for someone else because SURELY it wasn’t for me! Of course she never, but I was just glad she didn’t ask me if I needed a pack of Depends to go with my eye cream. What I did need was 8 new under-eye concealers. Yes, 8! I bought any concealer (any price) that promised to brighten my eyes and conceal dark circles. You know the ones that give you the instant ‘awake ‘look!  Well, I call bullshit. It turns out if you don’t sleep well and you’re not in your 20’s, no cream or concealer can make you look rested (or younger). It’s a fact of life.  Suck it up and deal with it.

I’ve decided to do just that – to stop worrying about stupid shit like my under eyes (which, when compared to friends my age are no worse than anyone else’s. Sorry ladies, I’ve been Zooming!!) Why? Because the reality is, in this day and age, I’m lucky that I don’t have more serious issues to deal with. There are women my age with breast cancer and other diseases who have to worry about such things as how their kids will manage if something happens to them. This realization makes me feels so foolish and yet so lucky. I work in a job where I’m reminded daily how blessed I am to have the life I do. I have the luxury of getting wrinkles and I hope and pray I get the opportunity to have a face full of them. I want to earn each and every one.

I also have a husband who loves me, and has since I was 17 years old. While he may have contributed to some of my wrinkles (from both laughter and tears), he doesn’t look at pictures of me and suggest we try from another angle because my face looks fat (he’d get a punch if he did!! Lol). My kids don’t look at pictures of me and say ‘wow mom, your dark circles are really noticeable in that shot, can we re-take it?’. They don’t notice if my hair desperately needs to be cut (or washed, depending on the day). They see me as I am and they love what they see. They see ME. And I want to see myself the way they see me.

So from today on I vow to criticize myself less. I plan to take more pics, maybe even selfies, and to be less concerned with my new found ‘fine lines and wrinkles’. I will take more and delete less. While I still find it weird to think that I am closer to 40 than I am 30, I plan to take care of myself (and not in the form of expensive eye creams) so that in 20 years time when I look back at pics the only thing I will think to say is, ‘my goodness, look how happy I look”.

Take care of yourself. From the inside, out.