Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Missing the winter wonderland

It's been one of those winters here in Toronto. What I don't miss is the so-cold-my-car-won't-start cold, trudging through the snow every day to walk Austin to school, driving in not-so-ideal conditions and taking 15 minutes every morning to outfit the kids in snowsuits etc., before walking out the door.

Instead it's been a winter of mostly dry roads, winter coats and hats but very little need for snowpants, and temperatures above or at 0C most days.

Since winter is my least favourite season -- it sounds perfect. Yet, as a stay-at-home mom, I can tell you it sucks.

Because there is very little for the kids to do. When it's not raining or the tiny little bit of snow that fell within the last day of two is melting and turning the grass to slush and mud, it's too cold to play outside. It might be a warm winter, but it's not exactly bike riding and park playing weather. And so it's too cold to play, but too warm for snow (which would at least give the kids something to play in). The ground has been alternating between green and frozen or extremely muddy. Either way it means there's nothing for the kids to do outside.

And so they're getting bored and they're getting stir crazy as I try to fill afternoon after afternoon with things to do that don't involve killing each other.

And Austin, who loves winter, has even declared that this sucks. He wants to go skating (which we have on occasion, but even some days it's been too warm and the rinks are closed), and tobagganing (which we've done twice but both times there was more grass than snow) but more than anything, he just wants to play in the snow.

And for most of January I kept telling him wait, it'll come. He was so excited for last week's expected snowstorm -- and all we ended up getting was more rain mixed with a tiny bit of wet, slushy snow. And within two days, whatever dusting of snow we had was gone. And now, he just looks at me sadly and asks "how many more weeks of winter do we have left?". We've all resigned ourselves to the fact that this is it.

I know, us Canadians can never stop complaining about the weather. Last winter I cursed the fact that winter went on forever -- that walking to school was challenging by mid-February because the field I had to cross was buried in snow. This winter I'm complaining because it's not.

Friday, February 24, 2012

How to screw up a cake

So it's Austin's birthday today (6 years old!) and last night I was baking cakes. He needs a cake for his party on Saturday and cake for this evening as well. Because you can't have a birthday without cake!

So, first I made a simple 9x13 chocolate cake from a cake mix. This is the cake that I'm going to decorate tonight for his party.

Then, rather than making another cake mix for just the four of us tonight, I figured I'd make cupcakes. And, rather than using a cake mix, which makes 24 cupcakes when I only needed 4 or so -- I decided to make cupcakes from scratch. I had this really easy recipe that I made last month and they were delicious. And, the bonus is it only makes 12 cupcakes.

So here's what happened:

Step 1: Start making cupcakes from scratch at 9 p.m. after first making the sheet cake for Saturday's party.
Step 2: Make cupcakes and put them in the oven.
Step 3: Run to grocery store while cupcakes are still in oven to get more ingredients for icing (good thing the grocery store is practically across the street.)
Step 4: Remove cupcakes from oven and discover that they don't look right. (They appear to not have risen.)
Step 5: Get all defensive when Ryan says I forgot the baking powder. (I didn't.)
Step 6: Stand by while Ryan taste's one -- hey they may look bad but we thought maybe they could still be salvaged with a lot of icing.
Step 7: Realize they taste like crap.
Step 8: Throw cupcakes across room the room when (now at 9:45 p.m.) I realize the reason they taste like crap is that I forgot to add the sugar.

Yup, sugar.

I managed to make sugar-free cupcakes. Don't try it. They taste awful.

Oh yeah, so step 9 was 'be thankful there was an extra cake mix box in the cupboard and start making yet another batch at 10 p.m. all the while wondering why I just didn't do that in the first place.'

Monday, February 13, 2012

My Funny Valentine

Ryan and I have never really 'done' Valentine's Day. I'm one of those women who doesn't really believe in it -- doesn't really feel the need to have someone else buy me something just because Hallmark says so. Call me cynical, but to me, Valentine's Day has always been just another day.

And of course, Ryan's on board with this because it means he doesn't have to do anything special.

Some years I've remembered to do special crafts with the kids or bake heart-shaped cookies, and other years, like this year, I just forgot. I remembered to do their Valentines for the kids in their class -- that's got to count for something, right?

But today at dinner, as Austin was telling us about the Valentine surprises he's making for us at school, Ryan made a joke about tomorrow being Valentine's Day and the kids were appalled. The conversation went like this:

Ryan (to me, teasingly): Tomorrow's Valentine's Day and you're not getting a card.

(Cue me giving the fake shock look)

Ryan (still to me): And I'm not buying you flowers.

(Again, cue the even more fake shocked look on my face)

Austin (looking completely appalled): Well if you're not giving mommy a valentine than I'm not giving you one!

So now Ryan's downstairs with the kids while they help him make a Valentine for me. Me thinks a 6-year-old just put him in his place!

Wednesday, February 08, 2012

Don't look back

I've been feeling nostalgic these last few days. Nostalgic and even a little bit down -- which in all, is making me feel completely unmotivated to do anything.

I couldn't really pinpoint what was bothering me and why I was feeling this way. Until this morning, when I friend posted this on her Facebook wall.

And suddenly, I realized 'that was it'. For some reason, I've been spending the last few days looking back. Looking back to a time when my kids were babies.When life was simpler yet way more hectic at the same time.

This morning (about half an hour before I saw this picture) I was waiting outside the preschool with Alex. And as she was playing with a friend in the hallway, I had a flashback of Austin doing the same two years earlier. And suddenly I missed that three-year-old boy.

Yesterday, as I drove by the library that we rarely go to anymore (the farther one, we tend to walk to the closer one now), Austin said to me, "mommy, why don't we go there anymore?". And I found myself thinking about how I used to go there because I would push the two of them in the double stroller and it was a good excuse for me to get some exercise and a good excuse to pass a few hours out of the house.

So I guess I've been looking back. And missing the past. And missing my babies.

And no, I'm not saying I'm missing my babies enough to have another one. I'm just saying when the hell did my babies become 6 and almost 4! And have I really been home full time for almost 4 years?!

But seeing that picture this morning reminded me to stop looking back, stop feeling down, stop missing the past and to keep looking forward. That's the only direction life is going -- and there's a hell of a lot to look forward to as my babies get older.

Wednesday, February 01, 2012

I get by with a little help from my friends

Everyone who has been reading my blog here knows that, for a few years now, I've been a stay-at-home mom and a work-from-home mom. All without daycare arrangements.

This isn't a woe-is-me-look-how-busy-my-life is kind of post. This is a thank you post. A thank you to all the people I don't say thank you enough to.

When I started this business almost three years ago, I had know idea how successful I'd be at. I had two thoughts at the time -- I want to stay home with my kids and, hey, I can write, maybe I'll freelance a bit.

And so I did. I stayed home with my kids. I played in the park, and taught them their ABCs and 123s. I sang songs and held dance parties and playdates. I watched them turn from toddlers to little people. I complained that some days I wanted to put them on the front porch with 'For Sale' signs hanging around their necks. And all the while, my business grew -- much to my amazement.

But with growth came a greater stretch on my time. Now, instead of just writing a few things for a total of a few thousand dollars as I did that first year, I was writing and editing a lot of things on a regular basis. And with a lot of work comes a lot of deadlines.

Deadlines, for the most part, I've managed to deal with for the most part on my own. That's what movie afternoons are for -- so that I can get a few hours of work in. And that's what school in the morning is for -- so I can get a few hours of work in. And that's what some late, late nights and weekends are for -- so I can get more than just a few hours of work in.

But more work also means more clients. And more clients means more meetings. And this is a lot trickier without any stable form of childcare available to you.

At first with my clients, I used to dance around the fact that I had kids at home with me. I tried to be all professional and being a stay-at-home mom wasn't all that professional. But eventually I loosened up and am honest with my clients -- existing and current -- I have kids and I have to work around that.

But, from time to time, I still have to meet with people.

And that's where this long, rambling post turns into a shout out of a thank you. Ryan works full-time and works long, long hours. He can't just stay home for me when I need to go out without the kids. At least not often. (He has, on occasion, stayed home for a few hours in the morning so that I could go to a breakfast meeting (and for that I am thankful) -- but I haven't done that in over a year.) But my friends have stepped up to the plate.

I've dropped my kids off with a friend on several different occasions so that my kids can play with her kids while I run off to a meeting. (Actually, two different friends have helped me out in this way.) Another friend has picked up my kids at school for me when I've scheduled meetings during school hours that mean cutting it close for driving back uptown. My sister, who has on-again, off-again been a freelancer over the years has taken the kids for me. And, when they can, my parents will drive down to play with their grandkids while I work. Heck, I've even paid a teenager down the street who didn't have a first period class to stay with the kids while I ran off to an early morning meeting once.

What I'm trying to say is thank you. Thank you to all of you who have helped me do what I do. Thank you for being so understanding; for adding a couple of kids to your crew for a few hours, buckling one of mine into a carseat in your car, or showing up at my house when I'm in need.

I wouldn't be able to do all of this if it weren't for all of you.