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?

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.

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.

Poem of the Month: Penguin Costume

Recently I re-embraced my adolescent love of writing poetry. Many of them are written just for me, but I have written enough that are not as personal and I’d like to share some of them. And so, a blog series is born. These aren’t necessarily my deepest poems, but I do enjoy each of them.

And now, here is this month’s poem, which I wrote after a trip to the aquarium with my children. I was playing with rhythm and rhyme on this one, and I had a good time writing it.

poetry vancouver aquarium

Penguin Costume

Leave me alone with my lapsang souchong
I departed from home six very long
Hours ago, wee chestnuts shouting their glee
Contagious excitement – what could go wrong?

Minivans aren’t glamourous, but we three
Each have our own row and I am gutsy
Hands clasped tight on the wheel, all lesser cars
Are forced to yield, compacts make way for me.

The day – a blur of otters and sea stars
And entrenched, never-ending sibling wars
Over whether we get ice cream later
Or get it right away and I feel far

From zen. “We’re NOT going to the theatre!”
I am not playing conciliator
Nearly half so well as a mother should,
I’ve become impatient, turned dictator.

Back to the car! But Mom, please please please would
You buy me this snow globe it looks so good
Or a penguin? I can’t stand to prolong
The whining which of course they understood.

Holidays and Sick Days

I had grand plans this holiday season. Grand plans. With my daughter now almost 11 years old, we were going to bake together. Oh yes, we were! Or perhaps I was going to get her to bake for me, which sounded even better. And then we would enjoy holiday movies together and it would be very warm and fuzzy and all that stuff.

As I wrote recently, though, those holiday lists often go sideways. And that happened for me when my kids took turns being sick over the holidays. For Hannah it was December 17 to December 20 or so. For Jacob it was December 21 to December 24 or so. And hence, there wasn’t any baking. There weren’t any holiday movie marathons. There was just a lot of sick kids on the couch while I hovered nearby and worried.

When my daughter Hannah had to stay home from school on December 17, which was gingerbread house day, a decision had to be made. That decision ended up being that I would pick up her gingerbread house supplies from her teacher and bring them home. Because I couldn’t send her to school, and she was super, duper, extremely sad at the thought of not getting to make the house.

sick day gingerbread houseIn the end, it all worked out. She built the house. And then while she recovered she watched almost the entire first season of Once Upon a Time on Netflix. She’s been asking to watch the show with me for ages (I am an avid viewer), but since I am well into Season 5 now and since I don’t want to have to wait for a time that’s convenient for my daughter to catch new episodes that hasn’t happened. Luckily, thanks to the wonder of technology she can watch it all on her own.

When my seven year olds Jacob got sick he also turned to Netflix. We got Apple TV not that long ago and he loves that he can talk to the remote (or, as he says, marote). He is his father’s son, and is therefore naturally much better at technology than me, my engineering degree notwithstanding. For a couple of days he binge-watched Batman: The Brave and the Bold. And once again, I hovered nearby.

It is Murphy’s Law that both of my children were sick over the holidays, but I am sure I am not the only one. And I am happy to report that they are both all better now. The fevers are gone, the lethargy is gone and the tissue station on the couch in front of the TV is gone. For the time that they were sick, though, I was really thanking my lucky stars that we have things like PVRs and Netflix and DVDs and 24 hour children’s channels. Because while family togetherness as we all watch movies together is fun, being able to keep a sick kid more or less happy is worth its weight in gold.

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 promotional swag from Netflix as you will.

The Bedtime Blues

This is one of those posts that I start with a disclaimer. This means that I was offered something cool and I took it, because life is short and cool things are not as plentiful as I would like. This time the cool thing I was offered was membership in the Netflix Stream Team. In exchange for writing about Netflix I received a free subscription for a year and an iPad Mini. The opinions in the post are my own, but take the free gift part of it as you will.

My children’s bedtime is both the best and worst part of my day. I think many parents can probably relate.

On the upside, kids are at their cutest when they’re sleeping. This is indisputable. No matter what happened all day, no matter how annoyed you were with your child just 10 minutes ago, no matter how frazzled your nerves, it’s all forgotten when you see your sleeping baby. And it doesn’t even matter how old that baby is. My daughter is almost 11, and her sleeping face is still one of the sweetest sights in the world for me.

bedtime sleeping

Bedtime is also a time to slow down and re-connect with your children. There are stories and snuggles, footie pyjamas and clean, soft skin fresh out of the bath. (Maybe not so much with the footie PJs anymore in my world, but you get the drift, right?) I have some of my best conversations with my kids when I’m tucking them in, as we contemplate the meaning of life and compete over who loves the other one the most. My kids always one-up me. I may love them to the moon and back, but they love me to the moon and back times infinity. Eventually I let them win, but I know the truth: they can’t even begin to understand how I feel about them.

Of course, bedtime can also be incredibly aggravating. There are the kids who won’t put on pyjamas, who won’t brush their teeth, who won’t sit still for a story, who won’t get into bed, who won’t stay in bed, who just can’t fall asleep, who need another snack, another drink of water, another hug. Some of my hardest parenting moments have happened at bedtime, after spending 90 minutes with a two-year-old who still isn’t asleep while I think about the sink full of dirty dishes I still have to wash and the article I still have to write.

To top it all off, my kids have different sleeping styles. My daughter is a night owl and my son is an early bird. I am a math whiz, so trust me on this: 1 kid struggling to sleep at night + 1 kid who wakes up before the sun = 2 cranky parents.

bedtime

No one ever said parenting was easy, and that’s never more true than at 9:30pm when your child is still awake and everyone is beyond exhausted. Or at 6:00am when you’re just not ready to be awake yet and your toddler won’t sleep anymore. Luckily, my kids are old enough now that they can wake up and entertain themselves for the most part. I don’t like them to have too much screen time, but the day when they learned how to wake up and turn on their favourite TV show themselves was a pretty sweet one for me, I confess.

As a member of the Stream Team I get news updates from Netflix. They recently conducted a global survey around bedtime and found out how Canadian bedtime stacks up against bedtime around the world. Here are a few of the highlights:

  • 79% of parents worldwide are willing to make compromises with their kids at bedtime, spending an average of 20 minutes per night negotiating with them to go to bed.
  • 85% of Canadian parents agree that the last snuggle is the best (vs. 87% globally).
  • 40% of Canadian parents have faced the “just 5 more minutes” negotiator (thankfully I am in the 60% here!).
  • The stall tactics of Canadian kids results in 13.2 additional minutes added to their bedtime routine (vs. 15.7 minutes globally).

Apparently Canadians are also less likely to give in to stalling tactics. I can’t say I’m that good at resisting. One of the things that I run into with my own kids is the dreaded, “But my TV show is almost finished!” For me the extra 7 minutes spent watching a show is usually outweighed by the fact that my kid will be more cooperative. One option if you have a similar kid on your hands is Dinotrux 5 Minute ‘Favorites’ from Netflix and DreamWorks. Shorter shows = less stalling = happier parents. At least in theory. It’s worth a try, right?

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