Tuesday, October 22, 2013

And the solution to our impossible situation...

It's been a long month. From my last post, you all know that Alex was having trouble at her Montessori school.  (Quick recap: Alex's new French Immersion school is only half-day Kindergarten, unlike the full-day Kindergarten she went to last year. So to fill the gap, we registered her at a nearby Montessori school for the second half of the day.) Here's what's happened since.

The mornings before school continued to get worse, not better. Most mornings, she'd start crying and whimpering when she work up around 6:30 and would continue to do so until it turned into all out wailing at 8:30 when we got to school. That's until it turned into me having to drag her, screaming, through the school yard into school. Yes, I was that mom with that kid.

And again, we knew the only reason all this was happening was because she had to go to Montessori school. Not because she had to go to the new French Immersion school -- she likes it there  Why do we know? Because she didn't cry on Fridays -- the one day of the week that she didn't go to Montessori.

During a particular bad morning just before Thanksgiving weekend, I lay all the cards on the table; if she went to both schools for the rest of the week, she could come home after school the next week.

So last week was project boredom. Every day, she came home on the lunch bus after half-day Kindergarten to sit around the house with me while I worked. The goal was to show her that being with mommy isn't that much fun because mommy is sitting in front of her laptop all day long.

Project boredom failed miserably. Despite interacting with her as little as possible, she was happy. Every morning she ate her breakfast (something she had stopped doing weeks ago) and went to school without a single tear. Some mornings she even forgot to hug and kiss me goodbye. And every day she came home, had lunch with me and then found something to do.

Flash forward to yesterday (Monday) morning when it was time to go back to Montessori. On the weekend she said she was going to go back and although Ryan thought that her decision to do so was a good sign, I was more skeptical. I had this feeling that she was telling us what we wanted to hear, not what she really wanted to do.

And so, Monday morning came around and the bawling started, along with the chant 'I never, ever want to go back.'

And so, she's not. What it came down to is that we realized that we had to stop deluding ourselves into thinking that she needed more time to adjust (it's been 2 months after all!) and accept the fact that she's actually trying to tell us something. She's trying to tell us that although there's absolutely nothing wrong with the school, it's just not the right fit for her.

So, what does this all mean? For me, it means that for the next 8 months I have to be selective with the work I take on. Unlike 2 years ago when the kids were both in half-day school, I now work basically full-time. I have several retainer clients with a fixed number of hours of work per month. They'll be my priority and I'll have to be choosy about any contracts I take on above and beyond that. (Although there's certain people I'll still take contracts from.)

It means that for 8 months, I'll have to go back to working many evenings. It means that for 8 months, arranging meetings with clients will require creativity. It means that for 8 months, we'll put together a hodge podge of care -- a sitter's going to come in one afternoon a week, etc. It means that for 8 months, my friends and family will be relied on from time to time and I'll be less available for a coffee break or a lunch date. It means that for 8 months I'm going to be juggling a lot of balls.

But, most importantly, it means that for 8 months, our child will be happy again.

It means that for 8 months, I get to spend a little extra time with my baby.

And isn't that why, 5 years ago, I decided to stay home with the kids and start my own business? So that I could be there for my kids as they grow up? I have 20 + years left to work -- and if I'm lucky those 20+ years will be in running my own business. So what's 8 months in the grand scheme of things?

Friday, September 27, 2013

Our impossible situation

My 5-year-old daughter is putting us in an impossible situation. It's the 5th week of school and we're still stuck in the same place we were on day 1 - the crying place.

Our problem is this: last year at age 4 she started JK. And when she did so, she was one of the lucky (unlucky?) ones to go to an all-day kindergarten school. It was the first year of the program there and that's just the way it was. She cried a lot for the first few weeks - going to all day school was a huge adjustment for her as a child who, with the exception of a couple of hours of preschool a day, had never really been away from mommy.

And even with preschool, she cried for weeks. She suffers from separation anxiety, social anxiety or whatever you want to call it - she doesn't deal with change. And so, last year, once she got over crying, she liked school. And although I was told by her teacher that she occasionally still had 'I miss mommy' moments, we never really had a problem again.

Which brings us to this September. Alex changed schools this September to go to the French immersion school with her brother. You have to start in SKor you can't go through the system at all. We expected tears at the start - tears for the separation, tears for having to make all new friends.

The problem was that the SK school is only half-day kindergarten. So after being used to being in school all day, she suddenly had to go backwards. And me, who after spending a year building my workload up to full time, would have to scale it back to part time.

And so, Ryan and I decided to register her in a Montessori school for the other half day. It seemed like a perfect fit - I could work, she would still be around other kids and because it wasn't daycare, she'd still be learning and stimulated. And the woman who runs the school would pick her up at her French immersion school every day. How much easier could it get? And as a treat to Alex and me, Fridays would mean no Montessori school but instead come home to be with mommy.

It was a great plan on paper. But here's how, 4 weeks into school, it has worked out: Alex cries every morning. And I don't just mean as we get to school - most mornings it's from the moment she wakes up (which is anywhere from 1 to 1.5 hours earlier than usual lately) at first the crying was about school in general but now it's more focused. Now it's about Montessori school only. She doesn't want to have to go there. Here's the catch, she seems to like it when she's there, and her teacher there says she's doing fine and seems fine. But she doesn't want to go. She says her days are too long when she goes (they're the same length as her all-day kindergarten days give or take 15 minutes). She says it's too much work (which it's not).

What it comes down to is the transition of having 2 starts and 2 ends to every day is too much for her to handle. It's stressing her out, it's causing her anxiety, it's wearing her down. How do I know this? Because she doesn't cry before school on Fridays.

This is where the impossible situation comes in. I'm feeling incredibly guilty for sending her there. Someone (a social worker) suggested to me that she may be feeling feelings of abandonment. A sort of 'why doesn't mommy want me, why do I have to go here?' Yeah, that made me feel so much better.

So now I'm seriously wondering if I should pull her out of Montessori and just have her come home everyday. She's such a happy, easy going kid and she looses all of that when she even thinks about having to go there.

So I'm thinking of pulling her out. It's only one year, I can manage one kid in the afternoons while I also have a workload for one year, can't I? Will I regret it if I have her home every day and start losing my mind when works gets busy? Will we be teaching her that you can just give up when you have to do something you don't want to? Or will we be causing her long-term emotional harm my forcing her at 5 years old to basically 'suck it up buttercup'?

Isn't this one of the reasons I like what I do, so I can be flexible and be there for my kids? Do I really want to scale back my work after working so hard to build a successful business? And whats wrong with it if I did? Well I'd have to start saying no to some clients if the workload gets to difficult to handle.

It's a impossible situation without a good answer.

*Since I wrote this, Ryan and I had a long talk. We're going to stick it out until Thanksgiving and really talk to her and try to work her through this every day. We're wondering if it's not only the transition that's difficult for her but if it's actually the school work. Half-day kindergarten is definitely more of a sprint to get through the curriculum than full-day kindergarten is. And she's used to the more leisurely pace of learning. So now she's got the sprint learning in the morning, followed by more learning in the afternoon -- maybe sending her to montessori school wasn't the right idea after all.
I'll keep you posted.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Holy crap, I haven't posted in 3 months!

Um...I think I forgot about this blog. More to come

Friday, June 14, 2013

Memories captured: Our very first 5K

My kids have watched every race I've ever done. My first one was in October 2009 -- a 10K -- and at the time, Austin was 31/2 and Alexandra was 18 months.

My cheering squad with me after my very first race
Every time I decide to run a race, the kids make signs, stand on the sidelines and yell 'Go Mommy Go'.

At the starting line
Last year, as I was training for the half marathon, Austin decided that he wanted to try running with me. Shortly after that race was done, I figured 'what the heck' and took him out for a Sunday afternoon run. The kid ran 2 and a half kilometres!

And he was pumped about it. And so, we decided to run a 5K together. We trained together throughout the spring, although to be honest, we didn't train a whole lot. Once he got up to being able to do 5K, he figured all was well. And so, on Sunday June 9, we ran our very first 5K together.

I loved running beside him, encouraging him along and enjoying his awe at running along the streets in the downtown core ('Mommy, look up at the streetcar wires!')

And my amazing 7-year-old finished the race in 45:01. I'm so very proud of him for such an extraordinary accomplishment. Goodness knows when I was 7 years old, I couldn't run that far.
5KM completed!

Monday, May 27, 2013

Mother's Day 10K

It's been over two weeks since my last race and I still haven't written a race report. To be fair, things have been a little hectic around here.

On Sunday, May 12 -- Mother's Day -- I ran in the Sporting Life 10K down Yonge Street for Camp Ooch. This was my third time doing this race, and it's definitely my favourite course. It's just so much fun to run straight down Yonge Street.

This year, I set a goal of running a 10K faster than than last year -- actually I wanted to run a sub-65 minute race. But as the winter dragged on and on, and I felt extremely unmotivated to train, I believed that such a finish time just wasn't possible. I just didn't train enough to feel I could achieve that goal and as race day approached, I figured I'd be lucky if I could shave a minute off my best time (which was 1:09:37 by the way).

But on the morning of the race, I made a pact with myself. I decided that if I wasn't completely exhausted when I got to the end -- then I hadn't tried hard enough to go faster. I mean, what's the point of having energy in reserve at the finish line?

And so, at 8:30 a.m. on a rather chilly morning, I started out down Yonge Street with 27,000 of my closest friends. Apparently it was the largest charity race in Canada -- or something like that.Whatever it was, it's the first time I've participated in a race where it actually feels crowded. After the first kilometre or so, it spread out, but even then, you still had to be careful as you weaved around people and passing definitely involved an extra burst of speed.

I decided not to use my running app -- figuring the voice in my ear would just frustrate me if I wasn't at a pace I thought was acceptable -- and just decided to run and enjoy myself.

And I did. At the 1K mark I gave high-fives to my cheering squad. At the 5K mark I took a short walking break to have a drink. But I felt good and felt the need to keep moving on rather than resting. And so I did.

By 7K, my legs wanted to quit but I told myself to keep pushing on. By 8K my brain wanted to quit but I told myself to keep pushing on. I barely remember 9K -- I was too busy telling myself to keep pushing on.

About 500 metres to go
When I crossed the finish line, I was exhausted but didn't know my exact time. The clock at the finish line said 1:37 and change -- so since my corral started 30 minutes after gun time, I easily subtracted 30 minutes from that time and figured I finished around an hour and seven minutes.

I was pretty damn happy with that.

And then...about an hour later, I was finally able to log in and see my actual time -- 1:03:37!

I had shaved off exactly 6 minutes from my previous personal best time! I don't know how I pulled that off -- but the sore legs the next day proved to me that I did.

I was ecstatic and still am. That's probably the last time I'll run that specific 10K race (27,000 people was just too crowded for me) but there'll be other 10K races in my future. That personal best time motivated me to run again.

Now it's time to look forward to my 5K with Austin and to decide if I'm crazy enough to run the half marathon again this fall.

My cheering squad

Friday, May 17, 2013

10 years ago, I married my best friend

Ten years ago today I married my best friend.

When we got married, we had already been dating for almost six years – living together for almost three. So I think that many people figured it was about time we got around to getting married. Which is a far cry from the people who thought we wouldn't last six months when we first got together!

I still don’t entirely know why some of our friends thought we wouldn't last when we first got together. (We’re still good friends with many of these people, so there’s no hard feelings or anything.) I guess they thought we were too different. But I didn't think so. And Ryan certainly didn't think so – he after all had had his eye on me for close to a year before I finally realized it.

Ten years ago on a cloudy Saturday afternoon, we stood before a minister in a cute little chapel downtown and promised to love, honour and cherish each other. As part of the service, three people read poems. This is the one that still stays with me today:

Sometimes in life, you find a special friend.
Someone who changes your life just by being a part of it.
Someone who makes you laugh until you can't stop.
Someone who makes you believe that there really is good in the world.
Someone who convinces you that there really is an unlocked door just waiting for you to open it.
This is forever friendship.
When you're down and the world seems dark and empty, your forever friend lifts you up in spirit and makes that dark and empty world suddenly seem bright and full.
Your forever friend gets you through the hard times, the sad times and the confused times.
If you turn and walk away, your forever friend follows.
If you lose your way, your forever friend guides you and cheers you on.
Your forever friend holds your hand and tells you that everything is going to be okay.
And if you find such a friend, you feel happy and complete because you need not worry.
You have a forever friend, and forever has no end.

Ryan, I love you more than words can say. You lift me up when I am down. You support my ambitions and respect my decisions.  You make me laugh and you love me for all my flaws and imperfections. And you’re a wonderful father to our children.

Here’s to 10 amazing years – I can’t wait to see what the next 10, and more, bring us. 

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Goodbye to a very special lady

Me and my grandma

Last Friday afternoon, the world lost a very special person. My grandma died, peacefully at the age of 98. I know I am so very lucky to have had her in my life for so long, but I will miss her more than I can possibly say.

For 37 years, my grandma has been an inspiration in my life. And although the last few years have been challenging as she struggled with the effects of Alzheimer’s disease, she still showed me that life is a gift and that a smile and a kind word go a long way. She always had a smile on her face, always had compassion and understanding, and always lived life to the fullest.

There’s a story that’s been told so often in my family, that’s it’s almost legend. It’s the story of the night I was born.  I was born at 11:30 at night; and soon thereafter, my father called everyone he knew to announce the news – his brother, my mom’s parents, my mom’s brother, some friends and his mother. The only person  he couldn’t reach was his mother – my grandma. By the time he reached her to tell her of the birth of her first grandchild, it was after 1 a.m. She had been out dancing.

My grandma (with her sister) dancing at my wedding
Flash forward 27 years to my wedding day and there was my grandma at 1 a.m., and one of the last people on the dance floor. She was 88 years old and every time someone
asked her if she wanted to go up to bed, she’d always respond ‘oh no, I don’t want to miss this.’

She was so very proud of all of her grandchildren – always eager to know everything we were doing. One of her most cherished possessions were the photo albums she kept for each of us. We all had our own set of albums and, over the years, she must’ve spent hours upon hours putting our pictures in. There were pictures of us at Halloween, Christmas holidays, graduations, birthdays, summer vacations and of us, just being us. One of my most treasured memories as a child is going to grandma’s house, sitting on the floor in the tartan room and pouring over my photo albums. I wonder if part of my love of doing scrapbooks today is because of how much fun I had looking through those albums.

Another treasured memory  of mine is Christmas lunch. From the time I can remember until my late 20s, every Christmas morning was rushed through so that we could get to grandma’s house in time for (more presents and) lunch. And lunch was always the same every year – scrambled eggs, toast and cocktail wieners. And yes, my sisters, cousins and I used to compete to get the most mini hot dogs.

I’m so very lucky, because I’m one of the fortunate few who got to know my grandmother as I matured into an adult – and she got to know me as I grew from a child to an adult and into a mother of my own. In my 20s, I took several solo trips to Montreal to stay with her (and yes, I stayed in the tartan room, and yes, I spent time looking through my photo albums). We visited, we talked and we learned about each other.

Grandma holding Alexandra
It’s difficult to put into words what made my grandma so special to me – I could write thousands of words recounting memories and special moments and I still wouldn’t be able to get the right words out. Simply put, she was a very special and wonderful lady.

And so, when my daughter was born – her first great-granddaughter – we gave her the middle name Margaret in honour of my grandma. Now, at five years old, my little girl lives up to her namesake. She’s always smiling, she lives every day to the fullest and she loves to dance. Her great-grandmother would be very proud.

I’m so blessed that I got to spend 37 wonderful years with you grandma and that my children even got to know you, and you them. Goodbye Grandma. I’ll miss you more than I can possibly say.

Summer 2012

Grandma on her 90th birthday