Hannah + 12

My husband Jon and I are both oldest children. All of our parents are oldest children, as well. This means that when our daughter Hannah was born she was not only our first child, she was also the first grandchild and the first great-grandchild on all sides.

She was, in short, The Baby. She immediately became the first direct descendent in a decade or two, and the first niece and nephew for our siblings. Her baby pictures tell the story.

The past 12 years have flown by. The Baby has been joined by one younger brother, five first cousins, and a whole bunch of second cousins (there are at least eight, but I may be forgetting someone). She is not so little anymore. The tiny 5lb 4oz bundle who arrived six weeks ahead of schedule is now a middle schooler with dreams and ambitions and friends and opinions that she can – and does – articulate. She is a tween who has her own Instagram account and communicates with me via text messages. She has grown from The Baby to The Babysitter and she has the Red Cross certificate to prove it.

This feels like a big deal to me. I remember being 12 years old. And not in the way I remember being six years old – with a sort of fuzzy around the edges nostalgia. I remember the angst of being 12, the social drama, the projects I worked on in school, the boys I had crushes on, the sleepovers at my friends’ houses, the bad poetry I wrote, getting my first job as a babysitter, and on and on and on. I was younger and more earnest, but I was me. I really came into myself that year in so many ways, and I see that happening for Hannah right now. And even as I’m tickled pink I’m overcome by the bitter sweetness of parenting.

I’m working myself out of a job. It’s both fantastic and heartbreaking. But it was always meant to be this way, and I knew that, and I can only embrace it. I actually do embrace it. Because this person that my daughter has become is pretty freaking amazing.

Happy birthday to my girl.

Happy birthday Hannah

I Will not Take Your Trash

If you are a parent you have probably experienced this scenario.

You are out somewhere in public. A grocery store. A park. Church. A festival of some sort. Your kid puts something in their mouth and then promptly decides that they do not like it. They hate it so much, in fact, that they indicate they simply must spit it out. Right! Now!

So what do you do? Without thinking, you hold out your hand for that child to spit into. Sexy? No. But at least it keeps the partially chewed food off the ground where other people will be grossed out by it and/or slip on it.

trashThis happens less and less as kids get older, thank heavens. But the habit, once established, asserts itself in new ways. Kids give you their trash. Their apple cores. Their friend’s trash. They have learned that if they have something that they want to get rid of, you will take it from them. And without thinking you usually do.

What happens once you have this half-chewed food / gross apple core / used tissue in your hand? Inevitably you look around and realize that there are no signs of a garbage can in the vicinity. As in, you could walk for three fricking days and not find a garbage can. Or a compost bin. Or any sort of likely place to leave the crud you’re holding.

Unless you’re at Disneyland. There are trash cans everywhere at Disneyland. But really, how likely is it that you’re at Disneyland?

This is why my purse contains old cheese string wrappers and wadded-up napkins and popsicle sticks that have been licked clean and sometimes even chewed on. I usually persist long enough to find an appropriate receptacle for things that will rot or very sticky things, but the rest has a way of ending up stashed somewhere for the moment and then of course I immediately forget about it because I’m in public with kids and my mind is sort of occupied.

This summer while visiting the PNE, which is the annual summer fair in Vancouver, I experienced this scenario when my daughter attempted to hand me her empty snow cone cup. Without thinking I started to reach my hand towards her to collect her trash. And then mid-stride I had a moment of clarity.

Amber! the voice in my head spoke, you do not have to carry your children’s trash around. You can just say no.

And so I did. My daughter looked puzzled. She asked where to put it. I told her that, in fact, I didn’t know. I do not have magical garbage disposal abilities. But she could look for a trash can. And she did. And then we continued our day.

It’s funny how you get into these parenting habits when you have two-year-olds and then just carry on for years without a second thought. Of course you’re going to deal with gross stuff when you have a two-year-old. Toddlers are gross. And loud. You’ll go a long way to avoid exposing others to their grossness and loudness. If they’re melting down because their tongue touched cheddar when they were expecting mozza you’ll hold out your hand just to avoid the stares of passing strangers.

But then, one day, you realize you’re taking your 11-year-old’s trash for no good reason. Or tying your eight-year-old’s shoes for him. And single-handedly doing all the cleaning and meal preparation and so on. Because you’re used to it. Your kids are used to it. And it’s just easier. With each realization, you have a decision to make. Are you ready to take a stand? Are you ready to go through the effort to change things?

On the trash collection front, I am ready. I am taking a stand. From here on in, my kids can throw out their own trash. And maybe the next time I rifle around in my purse for my keys, I won’t pull out a half eaten cereal bar and three empty food sample cups in the process.

A mom can dream, right?

Jacob + 8 years and 4 days

On Saturday my son Jacob turned eight years old.

Just like every year on one of my children’s birthdays, I once again became ridiculously sentimental. How did this happen? How did my chubby-legged little baby turn into this big kid who can ride a bike and read chapter books and calculate three times 24 in his head? It’s baffling, which is strange because I am the one who was there every step of the way.

But, you know, there’s something about birthdays that makes you stop and take stock and realize just how much growing your kid has done. When you slow down for a second you can really see just how much change has happened during the past year, and the past eight years.

So what is my eight year old son like? He’s very good-natured. As a testament he completely took it in stride when his birthday present was broken and had to be returned to the store. He loves to tell a joke – in fact, maybe a little bit too much. He’s friendly and outgoing. He’s still committed to his dream of one day being a YouTuber. He likes to play video games and he recently learned to ride a bike. When he grows up he wants to be a chemist so that he can do experiments and make things explode. He’s played baseball for the last three years and he is a good hitter. He’s finally tall enough to ride the big roller coaster at the amusement park and he’s almost as much of a daredevil as his big sister.

During the past year I was at school full-time earning my teaching degree. Now I am out the other side and looking forward to a great year spent with my eight-year-old. If things go to plan there will be family vacations and school breaks that we can enjoy together. We bought family ski passes for the winter, so we will all hit the slopes together. I want to take advantage of this time and make memories while I can. If the past eight years have taught me anything it’s that time flies, and this will all be over before I know it.

Happy birthday to my boy!

Happy birthday Jacob

Happy birthday Jacob

Happy birthday Jacob

Happy birthday Jacob

Happy birthday Jacob

Happy birthday Jacob

The Official Summer Slurpee

Traditions start in a lot of different ways. Some of them are passed down to us – like Christmas trees and birthday cakes and making jack o’lanterns on Halloween. Others are started on purpose, like a picture you take of your child every year on their birthday or an annual visit to a special place. And others start sort of by accident. In my family, the official summer Slurpee is sort of like that.

I was a raging hippie when my children were small. For two years we had no TV. My daughter’s first birthday cake was sweetened with apple sauce. I joined a CSA that supplied locally-grown flour and used it to bake my own bread. Which I kneaded by hand. I canned and I sewed and I knitted and all of that good stuff. My friends and I visited farmers’ markets and attended La Leche League meetings and bought wooden toys.

It should not surprise you, then, that my daughter managed to reach kindergarten without having tasted a slushie of any kind.

During the last week of school that year she came home with a coupon for a free Slurpee. Her class had received them from a visiting police officer. She didn’t really know what a Slurpee was, but she knew it was a treat and she wanted one. I told her we would go on the last day of school. And we did.

Flash forward a year to my daughter’s last day of grade one. “Mama! Remember, today I get a Slurpee!”

I hadn’t been bargaining on that but I thought, why not? One Slurpee a year is hardly going to hurt anyone.

That summer my daughter and I had a funny conversation about what grade she was in. Do you know that conversation? Someone asks about your grade over summer vacation and you don’t really know how to answer because you’re not really in grade one anymore, but you’re also not in grade two yet. You’re in this sort of educational limbo. On a whim I stated that the moment you finish that end-of-school Slurpee, you are officially in the next grade.

And it has to be a Slurpee from 7-11. I don’t know why. It just does. I can’t even say that Slurpees are my favourite slushies but that’s not the point. Rules are rules.

On the last day of grade two of course we went for Slurpees, and my daughter coined the phrase “The Slurpee Test”. When she sees kids leaving the 7-11 with Slurpees in hand she declares that they are taking The Slurpee Test so that they can be in the next grade.

I have exactly one Slurpee a year with my children on the last day of school. I am happy to say that following this year’s Slurpee my kids are officially in grades six and three. They passed The Slurpee Test with flying colours.

Actually, that statement is both figuratively and literally true, as they both love to mix all the flavours together in this colourful monstrosity that looks cool but tastes terrible. Whatever. It’s not my end of year treat. I just smile and drink my pink cream soda Slurpee because I have taste buds.

Some traditions have been passed on for centuries. Some traditions are started on purpose. And some traditions evolve because your kid gets a coupon and you decide that even hippie children deserve a treat sometimes. I kind of think those are the best kind of traditions. They’re the little family jokes that remind everyone that you’re in this together, and you’re making memories that will last long after the annual Slurpee is finished.

To summer!

slurpee summer traditions

This post is not sponsored in any way, and I am not endorsing either 7-11 or Slurpees. It’s just one of those things that honestly happens in our family.

The Best Laid Summer Plans

My kids’ last day of school was yesterday, which makes today the first official day of summer vacation. We have nothing to look forward to but two months of fun in the sun. Or, at least, we did. But then my seven-year-old son Jacob fell off our bannister and broke his arm and all those plans to visit the waterslides and visit the lake were suddenly thrown into question.

summer vacationThe good news first: Jacob is fine and his arm is healing very well. The doctors and nurses in the ER were fabulous, and his follow-up visit to a specialist was promising. He’s a kid, he’s resilient, and he’ll be back to his old self in no time at all. In fact, his parents were far more traumatized by this experience than he was. Even his big sister was more traumatized than he was. At the moment he’s enjoying all the extra attention.

The bad news, though, is that a cast does throw a bit of a damper on any fun in the water. His cast needs to stay in place for the foreseeable future so that his arm can heal. He recently had a layer of fibreglass added on top of the original plaster cast, but the plaster is still there underneath, and plaster can’t get wet. We bought a special waterproof cover for the cast, and it works, but it has its limits. And swimming in a full-arm cast, even if you can immerse your arm in the water, isn’t exactly easy or graceful.

And there are other issues, too. Do you see the snow boots in that photo? He’s wearing them because they were the only shoes he could put on by himself before we got our hands on different running shoes. Tying shoelaces isn’t really something Jacob can manage at the moment. Neither is climbing, or sliding down fire poles at the playground, or doing pretty much anything that requires two hands.

So, where does this leave us? It leaves us here: there will still be summer fun, but less of it will happen outside or in the water. And more of it will happen at home. Which is why I am thanking my lucky stars for Netflix. Here is Jacob sharing the story of his broken arm and telling me what he’s looking forward to watching this summer.

I was inspired to write this post because I am a member of the Netflix Stream Team. The opinions in the post are my own, but take the fact that I receive cool promotional swag from Netflix as you will.

Feeling all the Feels

My daughter Hannah is 11 years old now. She is increasingly responsible, increasingly independent, increasingly smart and increasingly tall. (Seriously! The kid grew a quarter inch in a week.) She is not a little girl anymore.

Hannah cooks now, and frequently makes Kraft Dinner for herself and her dad. Her dad feels like he’s got it made.

Hannah bakes now, and makes cookies for everyone. I feel like I’ve got it made.

feelings tweens growing up

Hannah and me

But growing up is hard. So hard. Anyone over the age of six can tell you so. Oh, how well I remember feeling conflicted and scared and just plain overwhelmed. 11 year old girls feel all the feels. My daughter is no different.

The good news is that having a tween is just plain awesome. Watching someone turn from a kid into a grown-up is really freaking cool. Knowing that I have had a hand in the creation of this fabulous person? Even cooler. Of course, Hannah is her own person, and I am just her mom. But still, I am her mom, and she is great, and that is amazing.

The other good news is that I love this age. I taught grade 6/7 during my student teaching practicum, and volunteered in a grade 6/7 classroom all of last year, and I enjoyed my students so much. They are energetic and thoughtful and constantly learning. They are becoming their own people and experimenting and testing their limits. I had the best conversations with my students, and now I am having the best conversations with my daughter.

One of the catalysts for great conversations is the things Hannah watches on TV. Often, after sitting down and watching a movie or TV show, Hannah will talk to me about what she saw and what she thinks. It’s a way for us to share our thoughts and for me to follow my daughter’s conversational lead. From emotions, to relationships, to puberty, to getting enough sleep, we have had a lot of great talks thanks to Netflix.

The best conversations, I think, have been inspired by Inside Out, which is all about feelings. It’s the perfect tween viewing. Hannah has also been watching old episodes of Once Upon a Time, which has led to some good conversations about fairness and whether people really are good and evil. Both are available on Netflix in Canada.

In my community, middle school starts in grade 6. In September, Hannah will be heading to a new school, making new friends and testing her wings a little further. She is excited and scared. So am I. But I have faith that she can figure this out, because she’s a pretty amazing person. And I know that I will be here to talk through it all, whatever happens.

I was inspired to write this post because I am a member of the Netflix Stream Team. The opinions in the post are my own, but take the fact that I receive cool promotional swag from Netflix as you will.

Siblings: The Original Frenemies

The sibling relationship is something unique and special. I have a younger sister myself, so I understand the dynamic that can evolve, in which you both adore and are highly annoyed by your sibling. I also see it with my own two children. My daughter Hannah is 11 now and my son Jacob is seven and a half and they are simultaneously the best of friends and worst of enemies. The are each other’s biggest defenders and worst antagonists. Frenemies par excellence, as it were. I often say that the dynamic goes something like this:

“You’re not allowed to hit my sister/brother! Only I’m allowed to do that!”

I really do adore it. And I am so happy that my kids have each other.

siblings

All of this does present its challenges, however. Anytime that we’re deciding how to spend a Saturday afternoon, anytime we’re choosing what to have for lunch, and anytime that they’re trying to decide what to watch on TV there is a conflict. It’s inevitable. If you have more than one child, you are likely familiar with this.

I’ve actually written about my role as a peace negotiator before. Once again, if you have more than one child, you can probably relate. Of course I encourage my children to work together and solve their own problems, but this just doesn’t always happen. After all, children are just learning. They need support from adults when developing life skills, like choosing something to see on Netflix. My hope is that by learning how to manage these small (to me) conflicts now, they are developing skills that will serve them later in life when stuff gets real.

Fingers crossed.

siblings

I like to think that, beyond conflict negotiation, having a sibling who is different from you has a lot of benefits. With a daughter and a son we have a well-balanced variety of toys and dress-up clothes and so on. With three and a half years between my kids we also have an array of interests and activities happening in our lives. My children are exposed to things they otherwise might not be. My daughter and son have both enjoyed movies and TV shows and games and foods that they were initially forced to try to make the peace. It’s stressful in the moment, but in the long run everyone wins.

Again, fingers crossed.

This month Netflix is doing something to try to help parents out. They created Netflix Siblings Playlists that are meant to cater to a wide range of ages and interests. This is really helpful to me, because as I said my kids are two very different people. The Meet in the Middle playlist was most appealing to my kids. Of course, your mileage may vary, but any little thing you can do to keep the peace helps, right?

To siblings!

I was inspired to write this post because I am a member of the Netflix Stream Team. The opinions in the post are my own, but take the fact that I receive cool promotional swag from Netflix as you will.

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