Saturday, November 26, 2016

Minding our Manners

Trick or treating this year with Quinn, I felt like I was constantly reminding him to say "Thank you" after the brightly wrapped candy bar was dropped into his loot bag. I get it - it's exciting, and he's more interested in the treats than being polite.
It's always shocking to me and Daddy when the teachers are describing our progeny as polite, well behaved, cooperative and helpful in the classroom. I often wonder if they've mixed up our kids with someone else's. Their aunt and uncle who regularly host them for sleep overs also report nothing but the best behaviours from them. Which again, I find shocking because there isn't a single night without an issue at bedtime.
One afternoon, I dropped off Aisling for her first sleep-over party. As she was taking her jacket off, I issued a litany of reminders and ended with "Mind your manners! Please and thank yous!"
She  responded with, "We're always polite at other people's homes. It's just at home, we're not."
All the parenting books I've read suggest that we must be doing an okay job in raising our kids if they are well behaved in public and for others. The children know what is expected of them, but at home, they feel comfortable in the unconditional love of their parents, so they feel "safe" in acting out, and testing the limits of bad behaviour. Or testing the limits of their parents' patience with their shenanigans.
And yet, sometimes they do remember to use their manners.
The other night, Daddy went to give Quinn his usual good night kiss - a slobbery "doggie" kiss.
Quinn buried his head under the pillows and said "No thank you Daddy. I don't want a kiss!"

Young Love - So Short Lived...

It snowed for the first time a few nights ago. The snow didn't last for more than a few hours, but it was enough to get all the kids excited about the upcoming winter season. Plans for skiing and sledding flew around, and there was a panicked search for matching mitts and hats.
Quinn, seeing the falling flakes was full of instructions for me.
"Mommy, look! Snow! It's time to get ready for Christmas!" he announced, though it sounded like "Kissmuss twee" coming from him.
"Yes, it's snowing...what do we need to do?" I asked.
"You have to put up the Christmas tree, and put on ornaments, and lights, and go shopping, and make cookies," he directed.
"And after Christmas, do you know what comes next?" I asked in a whisper.
"What???"
"It's Quinn's birthday!" I announced to my New Year's Eve baby.
"Yay! I'm going to have a party! I'm going to invite all my friends - Tristan, Max, Tristan's brother, Dylan, Lia, and my girlfriend," he said excitedly.
I did a double take.
"Um, pardon me? Your girlfriend?"
Very matter of factly, he stated, "Yeah, my girlfriend, Elissa."

The next day, wanting to know if there was a difference between his friendship with Lia and his relationship with Elissa, I asked him about his "girlfriend".
"Quinn, how come Lia is just a friend and Elissa is a girlfriend?"
"She's not my girlfriend!" he said forcefully.
"But yesterday, you said Elissa was your girlfriend," I reminded.
"She told me to shut up today. So she's not my girlfriend anymore."

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Pre-tween Ceilidh

It seems like only yesterday that I had a little girl with unruly hair, chubby cheeks and twinkling eyes who would dance for a potato chip. Now, I've got a pre-tween daughter who is almost as tall as me, who is spending hours curling her hair and putting together outfits, and constantly on You Tube. Her friends are calling on the phone, and she's asking me to buy her shoes with heels! A cookie or juice from Starbucks is no good enough. Now, she's ordering a cotton candy frappuccino with whipped cream. It's not even on the menu board."It's on the secret menu, Mom. Everyone knows that!" she states while rolling her eyes. Clearly, I am not cool enough to know that.
I am not ready to be a mother to a teenager. My oldest child who is only a year from that has not given me any cause for concern, yet.
But all of a sudden, I find myself shopping for training bras, at the request of pre-tween, and I am in shock. What happened to my little girl who liked frilly dresses and Barbie dolls? Where is the toddler who would dance, in a diaper, to ACDC's You Shook Me All Night Long with the innocence that only a child can? Who took away the child whose eyes grew to the size of saucers when a tub of Cool Whip and a spoon were placed in front of her? (It was easier than constantly scooping a dollop, that kept disappearing, onto her tiny slice of pie.)
Ceilidh was my easy child. The one who actually slept 6 hours a night when she was 8 weeks old. She was difficult to potty train but night time training was not an issue. She did not want to poop in the toilet, and I remember watching her like a hawk all day. Of course, the minute my attention was diverted by a wailing infant or I had to answer the phone, she'd scurry to a corner and poop in her pull-up. When she was tired, she'd crawl up the stairs to bed or curl up on the couch and simply fall asleep. There were no big productions of fighting bed time.
Unlike Devlin, I rarely had to cajole her to practise the piano. She doesn't need much prompting to do her homework, and she devours books at such a rate that I am Amazon's most loyal customer. Where she gained the flair for creativity, I don't quite know. Ceilidh can spend hours patiently and meticulously creating a school project.
She's the more mature child, and generally speaking, the more responsible one. If I have to leave the house for short period of time, I ask her, not her older brother, to keep an eye on Quinn. She's still the tallest too.
She dislikes competitive sports and anything that seems to require physical exertion, other than dance. I guess I shouldn't be surprised. Ceilidh was the always the lazy one, who figured out a unqiue method of motoring about that was a semi crawl, semi scooch around on her bum. We called it the crab crawl. She disliked mini golf because it made her sweaty. Soccer games were about picking flowers and twirling around the goal post. There wasn't much interest in chasing after the ball, which frustrated her daddy to no end. Especially given her long legs and the ability to run fast, if she truly tried. While the other three play hockey, Ceilidh is not interested. It's boring. And cold. Her progress in Tae Kwon Do has come to a halt because she refuses to spar.
I've enrolled her in Korean language lessons as she's got an aptitude for learning. It's also part of her cultural heritage. I'm hoping her initial frustrations at not understanding the teacher will ease and she'll learn to ignore the annoying boys in her class.
Over the past year, we've noticed some changes in her attitude that we haven't liked. Sometimes we wonder if it's the influence of her friends. Her dismissive and impatient attitude with her younger sister irks me.  As an oldest sibling, I so understand that younger sisters can be annoying. But Aisling idolizes her older sister and brother. She wants to be a great skater like Devlin on the ice and she wants to dance like Ceilidh. Now she wants to take singing lessons too, just like her older sister.
Sometimes I wonder if because she was the easy child, and didn't need as much discipline, that Ceilidh thinks she can get away with pretty much anything. I can tell you that is certainly not the case.
A few weeks ago, Devlin was too ill for school. Ceilidh decided that she wasn't going to school either. Not because she had nothing to wear. Not because she was ill. Not because she wasn't getting along with her BFF. Ceilidh was refusing to get dressed for school because she didn't like the snack Daddy put in her lunch! To top it all off, Quinn decided he wasn't going to school either, if his big sister wasn't going. Of course, she went to school, but her stunt caused her to be late, and she lost her allowance.
If her silent glares, stomping feet and slumped shoulders are a sign of the times to come, then I've decided that I am moving out. She's only 10 now, but I've heard this is nothing compared to the true hormonal rages that are soon to occur.
I still see my little baby girl every once in a while. Ceilidh is the one child child who craves bear hugs and needs to be cuddled. Her eyes still light up when a bag of chips is opened. She still bites her nails. When she's feeling ill, she sobs. And when she's happy and excited, she still hops around while clapping her hands.
I'm not prepared for teenaged angst. But I suspect my little baby girl is more than ready to embrace it.

Friday, September 9, 2016

Middle school child

As I walked away from a crying Quinn this morning at school, I reflected on the quite opposite reaction I received from my first born an hour earlier. 
Devlin is now in middle school (when and how did that happen? Wasn't it just yesterday that he was learning to ride a bike and crying his heart out at the kindergarten gate??). Middle school which means new teachers, new classmates and a new school much further away. All week, he's woken up at 6:30 and hit the showers. He's left the house before 7:25am to walk to school. I've been impressed. Today, on my last day of vacation, I offered to walk with him halfway before finishing my morning jog. Even before we were halfway, my firstborn told me he was fine, and I could run home. I offered to walk a bit further. He declined. I insisted on going another block, only so that I could catch the trail home. He reluctantly agreed. I swear he slouched a bit more and pulled his hat down over his eyes.
The sidewalks were deserted.
"What's wrong? Are you ashamed of me? Do I embarrass you? Am I cramping your style? I mercilessly queried.
"Stop mom...it's just that, you're a small person, and it looks like I'm walking with a girl..." came the muttered reply.

This, from my first born who is still smaller in stature to his younger sister.

And no, there were no fond hugs and kisses for his mom when we finally parted ways. I think I laughed the entire way home.

At least my daughters are still happy to be seen with me in public.

Another school year begins...

Yesterday I felt a lump in my throat and tears gathering as I walked away from dropping off Quinn at the kindergarten gate. Was it only a year ago that I had to peel his arms off my legs and hand over the sobbing tot to the kindergarten teachers? Was it only a year ago that I had to walk away from his heart wrenching pleas to not leave him behind?
Now, he was walking confidently to his spot in line and waving me a cheery good bye.
Another milestone reached. Over the summer, he's learned to swim a little, managed to start wiping his own bum after being bribed with a new lego set, and no longer wets the bed at night.
He's been looking forward to hockey season all summer. Soccer, we learned from many tortourous sessions, is NOT his thing.
He carries around a notebook and laboriously prints his name whenever he can, and his drawings of his family are beginning to look more like people, and less like alien stick creatures.
And so, I felt a tad emotional realizing that my baby was growing up. I saw other families with new additions in strollers and felt the tiniest bit sad, knowing that part of my life has truly ended.

And then, this morning, I felt exasperated as I walked Quinn to school. He clung to my leg, crying about his legs being tired and begging to be carried. Then he switched to wanting to stay at home.
At the kindergarten gate, much to the amusement of the other parents, I dragged a sobbing tot to the line. And peeled his arms off of me, several times as he buried his face against my back. As he cried,  I handed him off unceremoniously to his teachers and walked away, my heartbreaking a little.

And so, it goes...

Monday, May 9, 2016

The Red Square

When Quinn started junior kindergarten this past September at the tender age of 3 and half years, I admit I was nervous. I was worried that the day would be too long, his classmates and teachers wouldn't understand (his missing front teeth and all), he wouldn't understand the concepts being taught, and out of frustration, he would act out, hit, scream and behave badly.
When the first week, and then the first month went by without a call from the teachers, we breathed a small sigh of relief. The teachers seemed to understand he was very very young, and whenever his kindergarten teacher saw me, she had nothing negative to report. Still, I wondered about his behaviour in the classroom, because, well, because I know my kid.
Academically, Quinn seems to be growing in leaps and bounds. He can write his own name, and is starting to figure out slowly which letters make what sound. He counts well, especially if he's expecting a certain number of treats. He knows his left and right much better than his older siblings. He's always excited to read books and will have memorized the story within a short period of time.
Still, we wondered about his behaviour because he can be an absolute brat at home, and will hit or kick or scream when he doesn't get his way.
But the report cards made no mention of any unacceptable behaviour in the classroom.
On the weekend, Quinn was acting out. He received a number of warnings, and was about to placed on the time out stool.
Daddy asked, "Do you do this at school? How many times do you get send to the time out corner?"
Quinn replied, "We don't have a time out. We have to sit on the red square!"
Daddy and I looked at each other. Red Square? This was the first time we had ever heard of this!
"Really? Red square? How many times do you have sit on that?" we asked.
"A lot!" he answered unabashedly.
"What?! Who else sits on the red square?"
He named off almost of his friends.
We were aghast! Here we were thinking our youngest was an angel in class! Well, no, not really. We had acknowledged to ourselves he was probably a sh-- in class, but the teachers were handling it and we hadn't received any calls at home, yet. Unlike Devlin, whom we received calls from the vice principal during his first week of junior kindergarten, and didn't find out until recently that he had thrown his shoe at the teacher! But, we hadn't asked Quinn's teachers, because, why rock the boat? No news is good news, right?
Daddy went to the school today and inquired about Quinn and the red square.Turns out, he hardly ever earns a turn on the red square. His cronies, however, are regulars.

Mother's Day 2016

A few weeks ago, we were having yet another dispute over homework and getting assignments completed in time. We as in daddy and I versus Devlin. We were getting fed up with his sloppy writing, and his last minute rush efforts to complete typing his projects. On night, Devlin asked me for a family recipe, out of the blue. I blew up at him. Here again, was another example of a last minute attempt to complete a homework assignment. As well, I was probably under pressure from the amount of work I had brought home from the office.
"What kind of recipe?" I snapped at my first born.
"I don't know...something that's about our family...something good," he mumbled.
I was exasperated. I had to review a trial file and prepare the next day's meal, while overseeing laundry or pulling Quinn off my leg.
"Well, we cook lots of foods, so give me a hint" I yelled. "Main course? Appetizer? Salad? Dessert?"
Devlin decided after much hemming and hawing that he wanted the recipe for the oreo brownies, aka better than heaven brownies, which is a lovely, chocolately combination of chocolate chip cookie, oreos and brownies.
I admit I was really pissed at my first born at this point. I gave him a very easy short cut recipe, and I probably was yelling out the instructions, while making observations about his lack of work ethic when it came to school.
Then I forgot about that incident. Because, in a family of four kids, there was another crisis to deal with, like holey socks, or the lack of apples for lunch.
It was Mother's day yesterday. I was awakened by a cuddly 4 year old who thought it was great fun to eat all the strawberries and whipped cream that was my "breakfast in bed". And command his sisters to bring more.
I also received several handmade crafts with messages proclaiming their love for me. Quinn had a planted flower, slightly crushed, and card stating his mother's vital stats. According to him, I am 5 years old, my favorite colour is blue, I love to play with toys and I do read him stories.
Devlin presented me with a cookbook. An international cookbook. It was a collection of recipes from all of the students in the class who contributed family favorite recipes, reflecting their cultural and ethnic backgrounds. There was a recipe for Jolloff rice from Ghana, Ackee and saltfish and fired plantains from Jamaica, chicken palao and butter chicken from India, stuffed peppers from Serbia, perogies from the Ukraine. There were lots of southeast Asian recipes. There were some unexpected recipes like moussaka from Serbia, chicken pot pie made with Stove top stuffing from Ireland, something called lamb on a stick from Ireland.
And the last page was my son's contribution. "Magic" Brownies. And, the only Canadian contribution.
There were pictures accompanying the recipes. Thank gawd there was only a photo a chocolate brownie, and not something leafy green!