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Syrian Families: Sometimes, It’s The Little Things . . .

As a mom, I never want my children to feel they cannot be part of something. I want them to belong and not experience any kind of rejection, especially in the school environment. My kids know this too well and have learnt how to use and abuse my weakness. If they want something, all they have to say is, “But Mom, everybody’s got it” and I just melt. Sure I’ll argue a bit, and pretend I don’t care what other parents do. But the truth is, no kid of mine is going to sit something out if I can help it.

I know you feel the same. No mother wants their kids to be left out. Our Syrian moms don’t want that either. Yet, whenever a school activity is organized, it’s nearly impossible for their children to participate, because nobody can explain to the parents how to be a part of it.

But all that was before. Before Wafa made sure this wouldn’t happen again. The thing I love most about Wafa is that she gets sh*t done! If you tell her you need something, then consider it sorted. Nothing stops Wafa until she gets results. And that is that!

When she heard that kids were being excluded from certain aspects of school life because they and their parents didn’t understand what was expected of them, she set off on a mission. She established communications with the teachers, and the parents. If one needed to tell something to the other, they would text Wafa with their questions,  documents, or requests. Wafa would translate, and help both parents and kids complete whatever would need completing.

Next week, some schools are going to make gingerbread houses. A fun, creative and social activity that nobody should miss. Our Syrian little friends now have all the equipments they need: candy canes, gum drops and other yummy treats. They will fully participate, like all the other children, and will have a blast decorating their own little house. Thanks to Mrs G, the teacher, who sent her instructions so that Wafa could translate them. Thanks to the Syrian moms, who got in touch with one another to see who had received the same document and explained what they needed to do. Thanks to Wafa who went above and beyond and bought all the supplies.

It might not sound much. But sometimes, it’s the little things that make you feel  you belong.

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Plan vs Reality

This morning, I had a plan. A well, laid-out, proactive, no-nonsense plan that would fit all my tasks for the day. I normally don’t bother with organizing anything, but on occasions I have to. Like today. So here was my plan:

6.30: Wake up. See, realistic plan! No stupid impossible get-up-early-and-exercise ridiculous commitment that never happens. I am long done with that!

6.31: Wake up kid 1. Explain to him that yes, he has to go to school again, even though he already went yesterday.

6.50: Argue with kid 1 about putting clothes, shoes and jacket on.  As incredibly as it sounds, my child still doesn’t get why he needs to get dressed in the morning. . .

7.05: Put kid 1 in bus.

7.06: Shower and wash hair.

7.30: Wake up kid 2 and kid 3. Get them dressed.

7.45: Make lunch box while kid 2 and kid 3 have breakfast

8.00: Argue with kid 2 about going to school. It’s okay, it wouldn’t be a normal day if we didn’t . . .

8.05: Drop kid 2 at school

8.10: Finish homework with kid 3.  I admit, we do that in the morning. . .

8.30: Drop kid 3 at school

8.35: Be at my desk and finish my news article, prepare my speech for tomorrow, write a blog, post on social media, photocopy worksheets for French class, call lawyer in France. Estimated time for all this: six hours.

Now, here is what really happened:

6.27: Get up. Yay! A full three minutes earlier than plan. It’s gonna be a good day. . .

6.50: argue wit kid 1. Still good, all going according to plan.

7.05: Drop kid 1 to bus.

7.25: Still waiting for bus. Where’s the bus? Now I have to forego the shower and hair washing.

7.35: Bus has a flat tire. Bummer! Get kid 2 and kid 3 in the car, with no breakfast, some clothes on. Maybe shoes, if they are lucky…

7.40: Shlep all the way to kid 1 school, trying to make it for the 8.00 am bell. Can’t estimate what speed I would need to drive to achieve that, due to caffeine deprivation, but it’s a lot of miles and not enough minutes.

8.10: Spit out kid 1 from car, ten minutes late. Not too bad, considering I was driving without any coffee.

8.45: drop kid 2 fifteen minutes late. Oh, wait. Kid 2 has an urgent question to ask: why is there a pie sale? What is it for? When? And how?

8.50: Promise to buy all the pies in the bloody sale if only she could go to her classroom.

8.55: Try to ignore whaling cries from kid 3 who wants breakfast before he goes to school. Launch into a speech about how unreasonable his last minute demands are, but get an evil look from a mom eavesdropping. Tempted to be rude, but decide to cave in and drive kid 3 home for a speedy breakfast.

9.00: Shovel cereals in kid 3’s bowl while calling the school to advise of our impending arrival.

9.01: Try to think of a clever line to answer school lady question, “Why are you wasting five minutes calling me to say you will be here in two?” Nothing comes to mind. Decide that “clever” and “sensible” are off the agenda today. Yet again . . .

9.15: drive kid 3 to school, who’s supposed to start at 8.15 but guess what? Ain’t gonna happen.

9.20: Prepare a cup of coffee in order to start the day. NO MILK! What the . . . !!!!

9.30: Dash to supermarket, after crying uncontrollably about lack of milk

10.00: No more petrol so stop to refill tank.

10.15: Computer has rebooted automatically so lost newspaper article, photos I prepared for social media and blog outline.

10.16: Go back to bed, cursing that this day is sh..t.

1.15: Get a shower, wash my hair.

Some plans just need a little tweaking . . .

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My September Resolutions

I make New Year’s resolutions that I don’t keep, summer ones that don’t do any better. But I’m feeling good about September resolutions. It’s that time of the year where things get organized, routines come alive, so surely, it is the perfect season to make resolutions that will last!

This time, the difference is that I am not just making resolutions, I have also done a serious amount of research about why I need to make them, and how to stick with them? Kinda like a business case to convince myself that I’m not just wasting my time with my ridiculous ideas.

So what am I gonna do in September that’s gonna change my life? Well, first of all, I’m gonna get up early every morning. I know what you’re thinking, and you are not wrong, given that this has been on my New Year’s resolution list since 1984. But this time I’ve worked on a plan:

– Instead of depriving myself of 2 hours of sleep, I am going to go to bed 2 hours before my regular time. Which might be an issue because that would mean that my kids go to bed later than me. Obviously, I haven’t got all the final details sorted out yet . . .

– In case of extreme tiredness during the day, nap is always an option. An hour here, an hour there. This could affect my efficiency but thankfully, I am not making any resolutions about that, so now I am set for success.

I am also going to exercise four times a week. Are you done laughing? Things are very different now: we have a full length mirror in the house. I have become painfully aware of certain things that I don’t care to list here because this could take a while. So no more dragging my feet, using excuses and not finding the time.

OR, I could just get rid of the mirror, which means I won’t need to exercise, which means I can probably stay an extra hour in bed.

Yes, I like that better, so let me summarize my fall resolutions: I will go to bed two hours earlier, let the kids fend for themselves while I snore my head off, do zero work during the day and nap once or twice. It won’t be easy, but I think I can make that work . . .

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Not That Kind Of Mother

Tomorrow will be my eighth back to school mom-day. Eight! Wow, not getting any younger, are we? But unlike the last seven years, tomorrow is gonna be new, exciting and full of promises. Why? Because this year, I made a list of no-nos. With all my experience, tomorrow I will not let the following happen:

– Let my child be overwhelmed and disoriented, resulting in a screaming tantrum, hanging on to my pants, and accidentally pulling them down.

– Be embarrassed by my child’s behavior. There will be no such thing, because I am a no-nonsense-mother, totally, totally in control, with no room for misbehaving kids. I got this, I got it all, and shame is NOT the game.

– Take any disrespect from my off-spring. Nonononono! Gone are the days where you corner me outside of school, demanding a playdate, or an hour on the playground and ignoring my protest. None of that shenanigan!

This year, I’m gonna make all these issues disappear with one simple trick: I’m gonna go to school the day before, show my child her new environment, and establish very clearly, in front of the teacher, that mom’s in charge.

So I did exactly that today. And let me tell you, it kinda works. Not exactly how I planned it though, but does it matter? I met with the teacher and showed my daughter her new classroom so she won’t feel overwhelmed tomorrow. I can tick that box. In fact, I can even say that this went better than expected. Dare I say, almost too well? My daughter was so much at ease by the end of the meeting that she decided to share some personal information with her new teacher. So she piped,

“When I get up in the morning, my mom stays in bed because she is lazy” Okay, so I probably won’t be embarrassed this year because my daughter took care of that before school even started.

I was mortified so I looked straight at my darling angel, with eyes screaming, “Would you shut up already?”. Obviously, she didn’t sense the tone I was trying to convey and went on,

“Whatteeeuuu? Argh, mom, you are so boring. . . ” And that takes care of the disrespect point. So there you go, twelve hours before school starts and I’ve already hit rock bottom. Surely, from now on, the only way possible is up?

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Back To School: Time To Get Organized

In a week, it is back to school. YAY!!! I don’t mean to sound too happy, I love having the kids around and all that, but seriously, I need time to do stuff. Important things like blogging and. . . yeah, other. . . stuff.

So in seven days, the world belongs to me!! With all this free time in my hands, I should be able to come up with an awesome invention by the end of the week, realign the continents on Earth come October, and conquer a few planets before Thanksgiving. I am getting dizzy thinking about all the possibilities…

I’ll have a full six hours, all to myself. Six hours. That’s 360 minutes.  I don’t mean to brag, but with all the multi-tasking I do, 6 hours probably equates  to 30 hours of freedom IN ONE day. At least!

Like the good mom that I am, the first day of school, I intend to drop my kids at school a little early so that the trip back home doesn’t eat any of my 360 minutes – Parent of the year crown, here I come!!! But I don’t care, it’s MY TIME! All 360 minutes of it, and I will do WHATEVER I PLEASE!!!

I’m just hoping that I’m off to a better start this year than  last year. Because last “Back to school” did not live up to its promise. Not one bit…

Firstly, everybody started and ended their schedule at very different times. That day should not have been called “Back to school”, but “Kinda Back to some little tiny bits of school”. By the time I had finished dropping off the third kid, it was almost time to pick up the first one! These few round trips cost me 120 minutes of my precious, precious time.

Then, I don’t know what happened, but time got sucked into another dimension and pouf!! The remaining 240 minutes disappeared. Just like that! No time for anything! Not even the essentials, like filling the fridge, getting dressed. Nothing! So another name for “kinda back to school” day should be, “PJ” day as far as I am concerned…

When my husband came home, he found our kitchen table like this…

breakfast

YES! These are breakfast bowls, honey!!!!

He knew better than to say anything to me, especially when I looked like I did not inject, swallow or breathe any caffeine (I did not have time for coffee…) but he did not need to. His eyes said it for him. Something along the lines of, “Really? You did not even pick up the breakfast bowls?”

Pfff…. Men are unbelievable! I mean, what did he think I did while he was sitting comfortably at his desk, chatting on the phone! I had been running around, ALL DAY, doing… you know… Stuff! A lot of them.  It’s not like I was wasting my energy, or being inefficient and disorganized. No, that was the OLD me! The new me is on top of things! If only I just had two more hours in the day…

To get ideas on what to do on “Back To School” day, check out this hilarious video from WhatsUpMoms.

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The Things You wish You remembered…

When going through the motion of a day, a lot of your actions are on auto-pilot. That’s what you call routines, and there are many of them: The getting up routine, the driving to work / school routine, the cooking dinner routine, the bed-time routine. In these moments, you can give your brain a rest, you don’t need to over think anything. It’s cool, you know what to do. But still, don’t you sometimes wish you would take your brain with you, just to remember a few things, like:

– Yesterday morning, when you took the kids to school, you were in full routine mode: screaming at them for not having their shoes and coats on, threatening to punish them if they did not jump in the car right now, panicking over how late you all were. You looked from the corner of your eye to make sure the number of heads at the back equals the number of kids you have in your house, all the while opening the garage door. You reversed and . . . that’s when you wished your routine included a question along the lines of, “All doors closed?” Because how are you going to explain to your insurance that you got out of the garage and somehow, the back door of your car got “trapped again”. That’s gonna be a hard one . . .

– Still on the morning routine, on the days that your car gets out of the garage with all doors intact, you drive off, clicking the remote of the garage door to close it. It’s a total reflex, you don’t even think about it. Well, did you? Did you close it? You can’t remember doing it now. Argh… Let’s drive around the block and check that the door is closed.

– Okay so now you are up your street, and you can relax! All kids are in the car, garage door is closed, let’s put some music on. Argh!!!!! You forgot that last time you were driving, the “ABC” song came on and you were not quick enough to switch it off so your little one made you play it in the loop, full volume, for the whole ride. You swore that once your child gets out of the car, you will delete the whole kid nursery rhyme CD because the songs are driving you insane when you have to listen to them twenty times in a row. But, yet again, you forgot. So guess what you’ll be listening to this morning, when you go to school. Yeap, some guys going to cut their lawn, with their dogs . . .

– You come home after a long day of . . . whatever it is you are doing with your day, pick up the kids, settle them for homework and after-school activities. Before you know it, it’s dinner time and you are late. So you start on the food and decide to reheat some leftovers in the microwave. If only you had remembered that last time you used it, the food exploded in it and made a horrible mess. Except you were too much in a hurry to clean it. And then you forgot. And now you remember! But you don’t have time. So you reheat your food in the despicable, sorry excuse for a microwave, swearing that you will remember to clean it right after dinner. Which you won’t.

– Before you go to bed, you realize that the kids don’t have any more clean socks so you decide to do a load of washing, before settling in front of the TV for a little bit. You will remember to get the clean clothes out of the washing and place them in the dryer before going to bed. Of course you will . . . not. The next morning, when your little girl comes downstairs with no clean socks, your choices are limited: grab one of her brothers’ pair, wear wet-but-clean ones, or retrieve one from the laundry (i.e. dirty) basket.

After so much drama before coffee, you totally forget about the load of damp clothes in the dryer and go about your day, or three. Until you open your dryer again, and have to rewash everything in it, because by now, it stinks. This time, you will not forget to put it in the dryer before going to bed. Will you?

Yes. You will . . .

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New school year, new mom!

This post was originally published on World Moms Blog on Sep 5th 2014.

checkBack to school is not just about kids getting a new backpack, and a clean set of clothes. On back to school day, everybody in the family is going “back” to something. A norm, a rhythm, a routine.

This year, for me, a big page is turning. My little girl is starting school. For the first time in over ten years, I won’t have a child with me for a full six hour stretch.  That’s it! No more babies to attend to!

I can FINALLY step in the shower without needing to purchase my half empty bottle of shampoo for one hundred and six twenty twelve dollars from a little troll. I can decide to go to the supermarket without buying fifty dollars’ worth of candies of doubtful colors just so I can come out of the shop before sundown. For once, the words, “I’ll jump in my car and be here in a minute” will actually mean just that, not, “Give me an hour and I might make it to yours, with vomit on my shirt and somebody crying, or in need of a diaper change. If I ever make it, that is…”

I don’t need to explain why I want to drink coffee, why I am choosing these clothes, why my phone is ringing, why my hair is blond… Nope. Now I can just be, for a full six hours. And I am dreading it!

Because for one, this is a sharp reminder that I am growing old(er). Say what you want, kids might be demanding, and at time really consuming all your energy. But they keep you young!

Plus, now I am bathing in guilt, wondering why I have been craving some level of freedom all these years. What was I chasing? Why did I feel the need to achieve things above and beyond being with my kids? I knew today was coming, so why didn’t I put everything on hold and spend every waking minute – and there were a lot of them on a sometimes twenty hour a day schedule! – enjoying my children, instead of hoping for five seconds of peace here and there?

Thankfully, my normally pessimistic self has found a silver lining in my little back to school motherhood crisis: my kids need me now more than ever. In the years ahead, where they are growing into tweens, and teens, they need sound advice, love, guidance and parents who  will listen to them. I might not be caring for babies anymore, but my job is far from done. I just need to tune my mom’s ears a little to adapt to being a big(ger) kids mom. And it’s gonna go something like this:

Pre big kids, I used to enjoy winding my boys up, asking them about girlfriends and watch them go green with disgust at the thought of catching girl cooties. Now I will be the one who won’t want to hear about girlfriends. No, nononono, let’s not joke about such serious matters, you guys are wayyyy too young!

Pre big kids, I used to have to repeat everything five times and still, I am not sure all of them heard me. Now, oh well, no change there!

Pre big kids, I never managed to sleep past 6.45am. Not one single morning, unless I was so sick I could not get out of bed. But that barely qualifies as quality sleep. Now, I CANNOT wait to wake up the whole house playing the trumpet at 8am on the week end. And YES! I will learn to play the trumpet, just so I can do that.

Pre big kids, most of my blogs would be about liquid coming out of sick kids, the pain of stepping on a lego and the fear of finding little people climbing on a chair balanced on the countertop to reach my secret chocolate stash. Well, that might not change too much given that today, I overheard an interesting conversation about how if you throw a pizza slice at the TV, it sticks better if it’s pepperoni. So don’t worry, I am far from writing posts that make sense!

But the hardest change of all, is that I need to adjust to less and less hugs and kisses. I am not ready for that one yet. Thankfully, my little girl still wants to marry me so if I play my cards right, I shall manage to get a fair share this year.

Are you experiencing a big step up in your kids maturity? If yes, how are you adjusting to it?

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Back to the same

So it is back to school. YAY!!! This year, for the first time in over ten years, I don’t have any children at home with me. That’s it! No more little ones. Let the teachers provide the entertainment for six-ish hours a day!

As for me, the world belongs to me!! With all this free time in my hands, I should be able to redesign my entire house by the end of the week, realign the continents on Earth come October, and conquer a few planets before 2015. I am getting dizzy thinking about all the possibilities…

Six hours. That’s 360 minutes. I had about that much free time in the past ten years, so every day?! Yoohoo!!! Plus, I don’t mean to brag, but with all the multi-tasking I do, 6 hours probably equates  to 30 hours of freedom IN ONE day. At least!

Like the good mom that I am, I could not wait to drop my kids at school on their first day. I even got there earlier so that the trip back home would not eat any of my 360 minutes – Parent of the year crown, here I come!!! But I don’t care, it’s MY TIME! All 360 minutes of it, and I will do WHATEVER I PLEASE!!!

It’s not all honkey-dory though. I actually have to EARN my freedom by living an incredibly stressful 90 minutes before school starts. Between packing the lunch, doing breakfast at different times, getting three kids ready for three different starting times, transportations and schedules, 7am is no fun in my house. But it’s ok! I can cope! Because I have a full 360 minutes to recover, lounge on the sofa and read, play with my dog, and keep my house to a level of tidiness that should be acceptable now.

Or so I thought…

But let me tell you, “Back to school” did not live up to its promise. Not one bit…

Firstly, everybody started and ended their schedule at very different time. That day should not be called “Back to school”, but “Kinda Back to some little tiny bits of school”. By the time I had finished dropping off the third kid, it was almost time to pick up the first one! These few round trips cost me 120 minutes of my precious, precious time.

Then, I don’t know what happened, but time got sucked into another dimension and pouf!! The remaining 240 minutes disappeared. Just like that! No time for anything! Not even the essentials, like filling the fridge, getting dressed. Nothing! So another name for “kinda back to school” day should be, “PJ” day as far as I am concerned…

When my husband came home, he found our kitchen table like this…

breakfast

YES! These are breakfast bowls, honey!!!!

 

 

 

 

 

He knew better than to say anything to me, especially when I looked like I did not inject, swallow or breathe any caffeine (I did not have time for coffee…) but he did not need to. His eyes said it for him. Something along the lines of, “Really? You did not even pick up the breakfast bowls?”

Pfff…. Men are unbelievable! I mean, what did he think I did while he was sitting comfortably at his desk, chatting on the phone! I had been running around, ALL DAY, doing… you know… Stuff! A lot of them.  It’s not like I was wasting my energy, or being inefficient and disorganized. No, that was the OLD me! The new me is on top of things! If only I just had two more hours in the day…

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Blogcation four: where are you from again?

Argh, this still hurts my pride when I read it…

 

Kids are unbelievable! Did I say that already!!! Truly, truly unbelievable.  And my ten year old is definitely going for first prize in the “out of this world” mommy wind up category!

As you might, or might not know, I am French.  Which means that my children are French as well – whether they like it or not! So I would say they are exposed to a fair amount of “Frenchness” in their life: DVDs and CDs from grandparents are in French, we spend a good few weeks in France every summer, very few people in my family speak English. And regularly at home, I get patriotic and nostalgic and go all French on everybody. So it’s fair to say that even though my kids have not learnt my language in a very formal setting, they understand it, they know a fair deal of it, and they can for sure recognize it.

So then this is what happened yesterday. my son came back home with his spelling test results. He had a gazillion words he needed to learn, all pretty complicated ones. And he got them all right. All, except two: chandelier and chauffeur. Both these words are straight from the French dictionary and he managed to get them wrong! Of all the kids, he should have been the one who had the most chances to get them right. But nope.  Not only did he get them wrong, but he also proved that his creativity knows no boundary. Because this is how he spelled chauffeur: show fur.  I am not kidding you. My French child thinks that the guy who drives a taxi is a show fur.

I did not know whether to call in an army of French tutors, laugh or cry about it. Instead, I chose the best therapy to cope with kids’ mumbo jumbo:  blog about it!

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Can there be too many snow days?

The answer is YES!!! Even for kids, although they will never admit to it…

Of course, my kids have not said that. When we got the phone call from the principal yesterday, announcing that school was closed today, the boys were falling on top of each other, screaming (with happiness a the beginning, then it turned into a full blown fight…) But there are some obvious signs that it’s getting too much. Even for them.

Take shoveling, for example.

1st snow day: kids could not wait to go outside and shovel. They were up and ready by 7am, had already agreed on shoveling rates and how to split the money. As soon as they heard our neighbor getting his snow blower out, they ran to scream at him that he was taking business away from them. They did my drive, and then proceeded on racketing the entire neighborhood. They joined forces with their friends so they would be efficient and have fun along the way. I had to get them after three hours because their nose was turning blue, although they did not even care. The whole time they were gone, I had to answer the door to a good dozen of shoveling teams who wanted to clear my already shoveled drive. Competition was fierce that day…

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2nd snow day: yeay!! More opportunity to make money. A little less enthusiasm, a little less friends joining in. But as soon as I flashed a few twenty dollar bills, my boys were game! There were a little less shoveling gangs out there, and the kids came back in after finishing our drive – they did not even bite the neighbor’s head off when he came to help them with his snow blower.

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3rd snow day: y…eah. So the price for shoveling has gone up since last storm – which was only a week ago. And a steep 100% increase with that! But it was either them or me working that drive, so I guess throwing money at the problem was my only option. Their shoveling team was down to two by then. No one rang the bell that day…

4rth snow day: … Whatever… Nobody knew or cared where the shovels were. I had to beg my kids to do the drive. After a lot of negotiation, they agreed. Within ten minutes, they came back in, “It’s too hard. We are not doing it.” And that was that.

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5th snow day: Argh, man, are you serious? There was no way they were going to shovel the drive. “It is child slavery!”, “We don’t want to do it anymore!” I convinced them to do it WITH me, as a family fun thing to do. That did not work so I resorted to threats of losing all video games. They did a lousy job and took breaks every thirty seconds. Then they complained about frost bites, frozen nose, wet clothes … anything that would allow them to skive off…

6th snow day – which is today: There is no shoveling team out there. I think everybody has gone to a sunny place. Looks like I am on my own on this one. The kids still come out to watch me suffer, but they don’t lift a finger. They don’t even do the two steps at the front. Nothing. The message is pretty clear: this time, it’s all on me. And by “me”, I mean my husband. Because I can’t spread butter on my toast at the moment. So shoveling the drive?

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I should not be doing any of it anyway, I wanted to live in LA so I take no responsibility for any winter related crisis.

7th snow day planned in two days: Where are the kids?