Posted by: Hannah | 01/07/2016

in which George turns four

Dear George,

Yesterday was your birthday, and it was so odd – everyone in the house was sad and wistful at the notion. Even you; when Daddy said “good morning, four year old!” you blinked and said firmly “no, I’m THREE” as if everything would remain in stasis and you could always stay our baby.

I have never been the kind of parent who mourns the passage of time. Watching my babies grow up constantly knocks me sideways with just how bloody cool it all is, and you are no exception, my stubborn little guy. I’ll admit though that I felt a little wistful when I tucked you in last night, adjusting all of your stuffies and smoothing your fuzzy blankets just the way you like them. Four sounds very much older than three, and there is no denying that we are a family without babies now.

But then, I think about how suddenly, just this week, you stopped with the constant defying and pushback. You eat your breakfast, lunch, and dinner without much of a fuss. You get dressed in the morning and put on your layers of gear to stay warm at the bus stop with your brothers, always insisting on a toque pulled low and a scarf pulled high so you can be a ninja. You are unfailingly patient with our newest dayhome charge, an 18 month old who worships you and calls you by only the first syllable of your name because she can’t manage the rest. You feed the dog when asked and let the cat in or out as many times as he seems to want it. You try to help pack your lunch and you’ve never forgotten to return a preschool library book. You are learning responsibility, more each day, and after a year of despairing that I’d spoiled you – you have been a threenager with a vengeance, my dear – I suddenly see all of your potential coming to the surface.

This year you conquered many fears. You passed your first swimming lesson level, pushing through your panic at needing to go in the water without me to become a happy little guy in the water. You don’t scream when I wash your hair anymore. The transition to preschool was really rough – you needed to be pried screaming out of my arms at every drop off for three months – but now you walk into class with a smile, as long as you get your “twenty hugs” (a long hug with twenty back pats, carefully counted aloud). You’ve had a babysitter other than your favourite auntie and managed to go to bed. You rarely hide behind my legs when strange adults speak to you. Your confidence is developing, and it’s wonderful to watch you come out of your shell.

You’re learning to play video games, which is a rite of passage in this house. You’ve been watching your brothers play for most of your life, so understood the theory but not the practice. They are very patient with you as you learn, and in fact you’ve already made a date with Harry for after school, when you and he are going to open up the new Diego game you got for your birthday and learn it together.

Like your brothers, you’re into Lego too, and built the Batcave pretty much by yourself last night. On the weekend Michael sat with you all afternoon, letting you help build his new Star Wars kit, explaining carefully how to read the instructions and when taking it a step at a time is the only way to build kits. You also like to customize minifigs so you can be included in your brothers’ games.

Just now, I heard you telling Charlie “no, that’s not good manners. We need good manners at the table. I’m the KING of good manners,” which no, you’re not, but I’m glad you’re planning to take on that role. All of a sudden you are determined to be a big kid, and it’s hilarious & sort of shocking how rapidly the transition has happened.

I’ve been reading Laura Ingalls Wilder books to you, and you’ve got remarkable focus for such a little guy. We’re halfway through By The Shores of Silver Lake now, and woe betide if at day’s end we haven’t left enough time for “a chapter of Mary and Laura”. You’ve decided that when you grow up you will be a lumberjack, and you’ll bring the wood out of the forest in a wagon pulled by a horse that you will tame yourself.

Your favourite food is salmon casserole and for the fourth year in a row you requested a carrot cake for your birthday. You still refuse to go to sleep without your Polka-Dotty blanket, a sippy cup of water, and Lovey-Puppy. You love soft fuzzy bathrobes, oversized socks, and hooded sweatshirts. You loved The Force Awakens and Inside Out, you cried when we took down the Christmas tree and you asked for pumpkin pie with Christmas dinner because of the line “we’ll pass around the coffee and the pumpkin pie” from Sleigh Ride.

You are incredibly stubborn, you can be difficult, you tested me as a parent in this past year in ways I’ve never been tested. You are also sweet, cuddly, fiercely loyal, devoted to your brothers and constant in your friendships. You think farts are high comedy but you always say “excuse me” without prompting. Every night when I tuck you in you run through “the usual thing” – you carefully rub my earlobes, pat my cheeks, neck, and forehead, and then say goodnight.

We love you very much and can’t wait to see what this year will bring.




Posted by: Hannah | 12/09/2015

elfing ain’t easy

When November ends I’m always so determined to keep up a more regular blogging schedule. Maybe not every day, I’ll think, but definitely three times a week. Lots of bloggers update at least that often. Surely I can do it, too!

It never sticks. December is always busy, and before you know it I’m sitting under the tree drinking Bailey’s and suddenly realizing it’s been over a week since I posted.

We’ve had two Christmas holiday Hanukkah random mentions of Diwali / Kwanzaa / Ramadan winter concerts, trimmed the tree, baked some cookies, decorated the house, shopped with and without the children, and visited Santa at the mall.


An hour until quitting time and Santa looks like he’s had a hard day.

Christmas is such an odd season for me. I always say I don’t go overboard, and I don’t think I do. We don’t have an elf on the shelf. We don’t host a big dinner. We only do a little family visiting because we just don’t have much family in the vicinity. We don’t fly or drive long distances. We say no a lot, I don’t wrap the presents that go in the stockings, and Saint Nicolas doesn’t put anything into shoes.

And yet it still seems to take a lot of time to accomplish everything.

Case in point: Christmas cards. Every year we get a friend to take some nice pictures, and I use whichever online site makes me happiest to design cards. I handwrite the addresses because that seems nice, and I generally have them in the mail by December 10th. This year, though, the wheels came off.

First, I left it a little too late to book my friend, because she’s become a pretty popular photographer and I should have booked her back in August. Then it rained on the first weekend she could squeeze us in so we had to wait an extra week. George was an utter pill on picture day and decided that the camera was going to steal his soul, which meant a lot of cajoling and going “oh well, this will be funny someday”.

spot the twerp

spot the twerp

Then when the prints were ordered, Costco colour-corrected them, undoing all my friend’s careful editing work and making us all look like the undead. They had to be ordered a second time. We couldn’t coordinate our schedules for delivery until yesterday, when we quite literally met up in a parking lot and I swapped a handful of cash for a plain brown envelope.

Got home, made a cup of tea, settled in during naptime to design a card. Wal-Mart! They are fast. And cheap.

Wal-Mart’s online photo centre no longer exists???? WHAAAAA????

Staples – too expensive.

All the US sites I’ve used in the past – nope, not with a 72-cent dollar.

Vistaprint! I even have an account with them! OKAY! Designed a lovely card. Will have to pay premium shipping to get it here on time but whatever, it’s within Canada, this will be fine! Now, how many do I order? I’ll just check my address list. I can’t find it. Why can’t I find it? I comb through every folder and file on my computer before I remember something.



No, I didn’t have it backed up anywhere, why would you ask that?

Anyway, eventually I realized that I saved last year’s cards – I cut them up and recycle them as gift tags – so if nothing else I’ll at least be able to send one to everyone who sent one to me last year. I’m still annoyed, though.


Today I only have one extra kid – Daisy – so I figured it would be a good opportunity to Get Elf Shit Done. I did up the one parcel I have to mail every year, to my sister’s kids. This took longer than it needed to because of all the help I had (thanks, kids) but it finally was ready to go. There was no line at the post office (whee! bonus!) and so when I got home I decided to make the sugar cookie dough, because it needs to chill at least overnight anyway.

Daisy sneezed in the dough. Refrigeration kills germs, right?

I was all set to make the gingerbread cookie dough, too, but of course I forgot to put enough butter out to soften, so that won’t happen. Maybe tonight? Oh no, not tonight, I agreed to help bake for the school breakfast program tonight because I never learn, ever.


Posted by: Hannah | 12/02/2015

can surly Wednesday be a thing?

This morning it’s cool and rainy in Halifax, and both Charlie & Daisy arrived late; this never bodes well, as it usually means they were up late the night before. I decided we’d head to the library where they have an extensive children’s section with lots of toys appropriate for the preschool crowd.

I do this every couple of months or so, and honestly, I should have my head examined. It always puts me in a bad mood. Today I saw:

  • a mother chastising a child, not her own, who found a dinky car lying unattended and started to play with it. “That is MY SON’S very special toy! He doesn’t want anyone else playing with it, and you need to give it back. It belongs to HIM.” (for the record, the child who found the toy is 3.5, and the baby who is SO ATTACHED to this dinky car was nowhere to be seen);
  • another mother who held onto a toy school bus that her son wasn’t playing with; he didn’t want anyone else to play with it either, so she said “I’ll keep it safe until you want it again” and held it clutched in her lap for 45 minutes;
  • three different moms who approached other moms sitting alone to strike up conversation… in every case, they were Arbonne salespeople looking to add more people to their MLM scheme;
  • a young mom wearing a sweater that didn’t reach mid-thigh, matching knee-high rain boots, and no pants. Nor tights, nor leggings – nothing. And when she bent over, it quickly became clear that she spends a small fortune on waxing but very little on underwear. (Yes, I realize as a feminist I’m not supposed to ever judge what another woman wears, ever, but if you’re in a children’s playgroup and I can see your business every time you bend over YOU NEED TO PUT ON SOME PANTS.)
  • four of those amber teething necklaces, which have no scientifically-proven benefit and are actually dangerous;
  • three kids with facial rashes and two with green mucous actively streaming from their nostrils;
  • and a dad who missed two belt loops on his jeans and so was generously giving us all a clear view of the crack of dawn.

Really, it was too much nudity for a Wednesday morning preschool playgroup.

It also became evident almost immediately that Charlie was in no shape to be out in public. He kept going for toys that we have here at my house, and if another kid already had it, he’d stand in front of them, head bowed, lower lip protruding, the very picture of misery and woe. He toppled headfirst into a wooden toy bin (while my back was turned, naturally) and I got tut-tutted.

Then when I tried to check books out, I had $13 in overdue fines. Sigh. THEN when we got home and had lunch, Charlie did everything but eat. He also had a disco freak-out when we were washing our hands before and after lunch – guess why? Because he is wearing a short-sleeved shirt today so he couldn’t pull his sleeves down.

I think I’m once again hitting my “being around other people” limit. Used to be that when the older kids were at preschool Charlie would relish the opportunity to play by himself, not needing to share anything; not so much anymore. He now uses it as his chance to get a word in edgewise. He chatters non-stop about anything and everything, and when he runs out of things to say he takes a breath and starts over from the beginning. Then, at naptime, I used to get a solid 60 to 90 minutes to myself; George would play with Lego and I could have a cup of tea, start dinner, do laundry, tidy up.

The arrival of New Baby has thrown a monkey wrench in that schedule. She only comes in the afternoons, just as naptime is starting. At home she’s on a two-hour morning nap schedule, so she’s awake and looking for stimulation just when I used to have my needed quiet time. That’s fine, it’s OK, she’s pretty easy to amuse and a bright little thing, but it means that I am literally never alone. I wake just about every morning to George asking me if it’s morning yet, I spend the entire day with people, the last kid goes to bed at 8:30 and then I do my best to be a not-terrible wife for a couple hours before I go to bed.

Anyway, this is a lot of complaining and it’s really not as bad as this post makes it sound; generally speaking things are OK but I am actually thinking about setting my phone alarm to get me up at 5. When I was doing that over the weekend, I really enjoyed that hour or so of solitude. I won’t do it every morning, but I think tomorrow I will. Clearly, I need a little time to myself and around here, that is a rare commodity.

Serious question – how do you find time to yourself? How much do you need to stay happy?


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