The Future of Family Time

The future of family time according to a recent advertisement by Rogers Media.

Family time according to a recent advertisement by Rogers Media.

Last May I set a challenge for myself. I was participating in a 31 days of yoga challenge and, I won’t lie, not many people thought I could do it. But I did. I did 28 out of those 31 days. I had to hire a babysitter and beg, borrow and steal time away from my children to do it but I did it.

I felt great.

During the same month I set a couple other challenges: I gave up sugar, ate minimal bread products, greatly reduced my caffeine intake. I even weaned the baby that month.

All of that was easy-peasy compared to the one challenge I failed at miserably: giving up my phone.

Epic fail.

That advertisement above? The one with the family each staring at their own devices? That’s kind of my biggest fear. Except, I’m the one staring at my device.

I’m the one who is modelling that for my children.

I will admit to having a love/hate relationship with my phone. I love to take photos and the camera on it is both more convenient and better than my non-phone camera. I enjoy posting those photos and reading the comments. I like to check in with friends and text the Mister to make sure he gets a couple good LOLs throughout his day. I know it makes him feel connected to his family while he is at work. I enjoy the freedom of being able to read on my phone.

But it’s too much. My face is attached to it all the time. I go to check the time and end up checking my email at the same time. Maybe I will send off a quick text to a friend that turns into a discuss about (essentially) nothing. One thing turns into a dozen – none of which were necessary or important.

I’m not even sure how to break the cycle but I know I need to – I know I owe it to my girls to be more present in their lives.

I won’t lie, last year was a long hard year. Having three children ages 5 and under was probably the biggest challenge I have had to face in life thus-far. Especially when one of those was a non-stop nursing baby and another one was an miserable tantrumy 3-year old.

Plus the winter was seemingly never-ending and I had to walk the kids to school every day up hill in a snowstorm both ways in bare feet whine whine whine. I know, we all have hard lives sometimes. However, my coping mechanism was to escape and read stories on my phone. Once the noise and the whining pick up I would reach for my phone so my brain could go to it’s happy place – which is far far away.

Life is so much better these days. That baby is now a hilarious toddler (who is now entering her tantrum phase – why do I get such tantrumy girls?) The 3-year old is now a 4-year who happily goes to preschool and is almost a different person than this time last year. The 5-year old is now a 6-year old in grade one and is out of the house all day long, I actually miss her these days. It’s great!

My coping mechanisms need to change. Even if this winter turns out to be another hard one (we’ve already had our first snow storm) I don’t need to let it beat me. Life is too precious and I have too many more interesting and important things to do than have my face glued to my phone all the time.

So I’m turning it off again. I will have to dig out my watch and get a clock in the bedroom so I’m not reaching for it in the middle of the night as both clock and flashlight when I have to go hunt for someone’s soothie under her crib. I’ll have to pull out the regular camera and re-learn how to use it.

I’m thinking of locking the phone in the car and not having it in the house at all.

It’s going to be really hard.

My kids are going to love it.


Question: How much time do you spend on your phone? Have you had to break this habit and do you have any advice for the withdrawal symptoms I’m inevitably going to face?

 

Sometimes life and technical difficulties get in the way

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A week ago, singing and dancing on the way to Sparks.

My blog has been broken for months (and months). I missed it, I really did. Of course now that I am finally sitting down to write something it is far too late in the evening and I have the start-of-the-school-year cold that is going around. My list of “things I want to blog about” has gone missing but that’s okay. I’m here. We all are. Life is good.

Yesterday, dancing on the way to Sparks.

Yesterday, singing and dancing on the way to Sparks.

I’ll be back soon.

So, come here often?

One of my favourite bloggers recently decided to start writing again after a long absence. Her explanation about why she stayed away so long was because she felt she had to write a big welcome back post explaining why she stayed away so long. Doesn’t everyone feel pressure like that? Every time I write a post it ends up being way too long and, frankly, rather boring and then I don’t bother finishing it and the moment passes, nothing gets posted and months go by.

I think the solution when it comes to writing more frequently – for me – would be shorter posts. (And fewer children?)

So what have we been up to?

Moira and I have been reading Laura Ingalls Wilder’s The Long Winter (again) which serves to illustrate just how cushy ourĀ  modern lives are but realistically only minimally makes our winter seem not as long. We certainly didn’t starve and we didn’t worry that Pa wouldn’t make it home in the latest blizzard. Nobody froze either but I’m still ridiculously happy that Spring is starting to make a big, dirty, slushy appearance.

Fionnuala is having a rough year and that in itself is a long and involved story that may or may not get told. I’m hoping this recent round of illness she is suffering through is the beginning of the end of her – and our – misery.

Oonagh is hilarious and wants to climb everything and is really rather sneaky about it – at least as sneaky as someone who is only 13 months old can be.

That in no way sums up my life recently but how can one really sum up a life? I don’t want to say “busy” because people who complain about being busy are annoying. How are you?Oh, you know, busy.” That isn’t a real answer. When I am out and about with the girls strangers often comment “You must be busy.” And I usually just smile because at the moment the answer is probably yes if busy = frazzled.

How am I really? Entrenched in the world of little children which brings me to great heights and depths on an hourly basis. It’s exhausting and exhilarating and mind numbing and some days I’m an emotional wreck and some days I’m just fine. But am I busy? Not really. I just am.

I’m on Instagram almost daily posting snapshots of our lives and that seems to be the most I can handle these days.

How are you doing?

Winter Sun

Winter Sun: January 1st

The weather was beautiful today so we went for a walk in the deep snow and enjoyed the winter sun. Most days it’s too cold for me to feel comfortable venturing out with three little ones but it’s a holiday and the Mister was home to help. I remembered that I have my Dad’s Arctic parka in the basement and it is (almost) the perfect size to wrap around Oonagh and I.

I think going for a walk is the perfect way to celebrate the first day of the year and something we often do – although I know we didn’t go last year since I was too sick and pregnant to do much of anything. It is has been a while since I have felt strong enough to be able to wear Oonagh around so I was feeling particularly grateful for that. I’m definitely not strong enough to push a stroller (either single or double) through the snow yet but I haven’t lost my voice in a couple of weeks and I’m pretty sure I’m over everything (although I have thought that before and I still have to be careful to not overdo things).

We met an older couple from the neighbourhood while we were on our walk. The man asked our girls, “Do you know whose birthday it is today?” To which they answered: “Mummy!” of course. However, it wasn’t me he was referring to but his own wife. It was nice to run into someone else who is also a first-of-the-yearer but I didn’t ask her if she feels as much pressure to make resolutions and changes on this day as I do. Maybe someday I will.

However, since today is my birthday I don’t have to start any resolutions until tomorrow. Which is why I had a lot of sourdough french toast for breakfast, six veggie tacos for lunch and two pieces of chocolate banana birthday pie. It’s been a good day for eating.

Oonagh and Mum: January 1st

 

 

 

 

Voiceless

It’s been a rough autumn for us over here at the Mello household. Things have been, well, not so mellow.

This weekend I am banished to the bedroom to rest my voice and body since I am on my second round of laryngitis and the coughing has been doing something really painful to my insides. Even the simple act of breathing is a chore (lungs are fine though). My last round of sickness lasted for almost six weeks and so we are being extra careful this time that I don’t over-do things so I can get better faster. (I’m not going to lie though – this staying in bed all day has been the best vacation I have had in years.) I’m so lucky that the Mister has a good job and can take time off work to help me get better, especially since we don’t really have anyone else to help us out. Having three children aged 5 and under is crazy. Having three children aged 5 and under when you have no voice and are sick for weeks on end is enough to almost break a person.

So, what can I say? Fionnuala is 3 and driving us nuts. We pulled her out of preschool and out of dance because she is going through a phase where she can not stand being away from Mummy for five minutes and really, why would I want to stress her out? Just because Mummy needs to be away from her does not mean that she is ready which is a hard lesson to learn and accept. She just turned 3 when school started and is still so young and having a Mummy who has been so sick must put an unknown fear into the hearts of children that they can’t fully understand. I think my illness has been hardest on her and so she lashes out at me.

Every day I learn so much by being a parent. I just wish many of these lessons didn’t come with daily tantrums.

On the other hand, Fionnuala got over her fear of Santa:

SantaAttack

Be afraid Santa. Be very afraid.

Heh. I miss my happy, easy-going Fionnuala but I have to hope she is still in there somewhere.

So between my illness and Fionnuala’s crazy we have scaled back on a lot of things. My main responsibility this autumn has been to take Moira to school and back. That means I have to shuffle all three kids to school and back which is a lot of work in the winter (it’s -16oC right now). I fear this is going to be a long hard winter but at the end of it Fionnuala should be out of this stage, Oonagh will be weaned and walking and Moira will be just that much more mature. I try not to wish my days away but some days it is hard. (I realize it isn’t technically winter yet but I live in Alberta which means winter starts in October.)

The good news is that my goal of having all of my Christmas shopping done before the first of December was achieved and I’m really looking forward to Christmas. I will admit that I am a little nervous about Oonagh vs The Christmas Tree but it should make for some good photos if nothing else.

In an effort to make conversation tell me what you are most looking forward to about Christmas this year? I’ll tell you mine in my next post – which I promise won’t take me months to write.

First day, part 2

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Fionnuala had her first day of pre-school today. It was a short staggered entry day with only half the class including their parents. I guess it went as well as could be expected. I know Fionnuala is excited about school and about her teacher (Moira was in this class two years ago) but there is a lot going on with this kid right now and it’s hard to tell what is going through her head. She refused to smile or look at me when I took the above photo.

It was a hard day for Fionnuala over all. She was in a fighting mood this morning which resulted in her wanting to just sit in her room by herself both before and after school. She also had a tantrum after school because she forgot to say goodbye to her teacher and she was screaming at me to turn the car around so we could go back to school and then I almost had to carry her out of Moira’s school (kicking and screaming) because she was refusing to go home. So yeah, one of those days.

However, when she was talking to her daddy tonight about school she was a lot more positive and I’m hoping things will improve. Hopefully she won’t freak out next week when she has to stay at school with out me. That will really be the first day of school – today was just a little test.

Sep5_13_girls

She isn’t shy though. I’m pretty sure she talked more in the short class she had today than Moira did for her entire year in junior pre-school. The teacher agreed.

First day, part 1

FirstDayM

So unlike two years ago when I took Moira to her first day of pre-school and she cried and cried. And then cried the next time. And then there was the time with the bout of hysteria where the teacher suggested we try again the next week and it wasn’t until two months later that Moira was okay with me leaving her there. I think she barely said two words to her teacher the entire year.

Today was all smiles and excitement and outfit changes (because the first one got dirty – the problem with having to wait until the afternoon to go to school). Sure she gave me lots of hugs and kisses and hung on to me like a monkey a little bit – but she does that when I announce I’m going to the basement to do laundry so it isn’t anything unusual. I’m so excited for this adventure she is starting and it is a great feeling to know that she is too. She has already informed me that she talked to her teacher today. First day! She’s so grown up now.

In other news; guess who got Oonagh to herself for a while:

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September 2. T minus 2 days and counting.

Moira starts Kindergarten on Wednesday – or 40 hours and 16 minutes from now, depending on how you look at it. A good friend – and self-professed helicopter parent – asked me if I was nervous/worried/sad about Moira starting school this Fall. The answer is a big resounding no. In fact, the answer is really a F***k No! but that just sounds rude so I keep that to myself.

What I am looking forward to is getting into a new schedule. I’m looking forward to getting out and walking more (to and from schools) and being down to one child for 2 whole hours twice a week while Moira is in Kindergarten and Fionnuala is in Preschool. I’m looking forward to Fionnuala making friends of her own and hopefully getting over the hump of whatever developmental leap she is torturing us with right now. Mostly I’m excited to see what this new year will bring for all of us.

And yes, I know they are so young and I am supposed to enjoy Every Single Moment but how can I enjoy all these moments when they are around all the time? I need them to go away and stop distracting me from my enjoyment of them. I’m sure a least one of other mom is sitting there nodding her head.

EatTheBaby

Ask Oonagh if she is looking forward to school starting this Fall?

Be Careful What You Wish For

I met the Mister in 1991. That was 22 years ago. He was 14 and I was 15.

Here we are in 1992 on a choir tour in Scotland (15/16):

1992.2

He likes to point out that I am standing as far away from him as is possible while remaining in arm space. I don’t think that’s true but we definitely weren’t dating at the time. I really love this photo since it just says so much about us. I’m wearing the choir-issued fanny pack that we were required to wear on the tour. I hated it but wore it anyway. The Mister hated it and refused to wear it. It never occurred to me not to wear it. He was just smart and defiant like that while I still followed the rules.

The Mister likes to tell people it took him 10 years to convince me to go out with him. When we were on that tour he tried to kiss me and I freaked out because I had a boyfriend and then I was torn because I didn’t want to lose my good friend either. It never occurred to me that he would still want to date me after all those years of being friends. It never occurred to me to actually date him.

Until the day it did.

PhotoboothUs

We started dating in 2002 and got married on this day in 2004. Nine years of marriage. The Mister says it is our perfect square year. I think it’s going to be a good year.

Here we are in 2012 at a children’s Christmas party. I was feeling hugely pregnant with Oonagh at the time and sick (as I was for the rest of the month).

2012.2

I’m pretty sure that in those 10 years the Mister spent wanting to date me he never envisioned the end result (thus far) would be a house full of little girls and a wife who might be certifiably crazy some days. This is what I mean when I say be careful what you wish for.

Of course, I never expected a house full of little girls either nor did I expect this cute & smart friend who had a little crush on me would become the love of my life and my very best friend. I find it physically painful to be apart from him for longer than two days and am so glad his wish came true because when his came true so did mine and the whole world changed for the better.

A letter to a friend during the recent floods

A good friend of our family who used to live in Calgary sent me an e-mail today asking how we are doing. This wasn’t the first e-mail I have received from concerned friends so I thought I would post my response here.

Dear friend(s),

Thank you so much for your concern. My little family is doing more than okay (and so is my brother and his wife). It is hard to believe that only 6 km away from us the city is under water and yet to look out my window you would never know that anything is going on. Our little 1955 bungalow sits on top of a hill and has never had any flood damage so we knew we would be safe. My day today was surprisingly normal: Moira and Fionnuala played with a friend while Oonagh lay in a puddle of drool and practiced her rolling over. I worked on making cashew smoked tofu burgers and raw brownies. (Ah, the life of a stay-at-home quasi-hippie mom.)

All of my interaction with the flood have either been online looking at photos or talking to friends on the phone to make sure that the ones who did need to evacuate had a safe place to stay. Not surprisingly none of them wanted to stay at a place with three children five-and-under and only a crappy futon to sleep on.

This isn’t to say that the flood hasn’t effected us. We were supposed to leave for Kelowna, B.C. yesterday for a family vacation but the highways are washed out in many places. The Mister has cancelled his vacation this week because the power to downtown is out and will be for a couple more days. That means the I.T. infrastructure is down for his company (and every other oil & gas company in the vicinity too I expect) and he will be needed to bring it back online safely. But these are all small beans compared to what other people in the city are going through and when we compare our flood to Katrina, well, there isn’t much of a comparison. We are a rich city full of resources. Calgary has a well established emergency response infrastructure in place – we need to with all the oil and gas wells in the area.

We also have a wonderful mayor in Naheed Nenshi. I’ve been getting a lot of my information off of his Twitter feed and at one point the citizens of our city were demanding he go home to have a nap.

It must be heartbreaking to have ones home wrecked but there is so much help out there and so many places for people to go if they need the help that hope has never been lost. I’ve been asking around about what I can do to help and so far the best answer is to stay home and out of the way so the first responders can do their jobs – so that is what we have been doing. I have seen photos of one of my old apartments buildings being well underwater on the first floor and I am having a hard time tearing myself away from Twitter and Facebook for constant updates.

At this point we just wait and see what happens and bask in the feeling of gratefulness that permeates our home. In a way I’m glad we hadn’t left earlier for our vacation. Even though there isn’t much I can do right now it still feels good to be here just in case my city needs me.

Love,

Melanie