Living with Leftovers

I’ve been in a bit of a mood lately. After skipping my morning run last week to drop off an emergency cheque at the accountant’s because somebody at the CRA noticed a missed tax instalment, I came to a startling realization – I’m living in my family’s leftovers.

Looking at our family’s time as a (delicious chicken pot) pie, I noticed that my husband get first dibs on time – he has to go to work in the morning and he comes home around 6 for dinner. He has to go on business trips, networking functions and conferences. He goes to the gym in the evening and sometimes he works late. The kids get second dibs, they have to be at school by 9 and then picked up at 3 and chauffeured to various lessons, birthday parties, swim meets and playdates. And then there’s me – a stay-at home mom who gets just 5.5 hours each day to clean, cook, shop for groceries, do laundry, pay the bills, volunteer, organize, shower and write. I do have my book club and dinners out with girlfriends, but these too have to fit among the leftovers or its up to me to find a babysitter. This realization even makes me wonder if my new career – writing – has been chosen because it fits so well among the leftovers. Except when it doesn’t. Like when I’m working on a particularly moving scene in my novel in between life’s interruptions and I end up with a sentiment that could only dream of gracing a Hallmark greeting card.

So it’s time to step up and take the first piece of the (mmm, apple) pie for me. Not all the time, mind you but definitely some of the time. As a good friend reminded me, I am not the glue holding my family together. They would survive without me. I am not irreplaceable. And as brutally honest a statement that may be, it’s incredibly freeing to give myself permission to choose my own adventure. I encourage my kids to live up to their potential, why shouldn’t I?

Love Lucie

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New Year, Same Old Me

I love January. I love the pristine newness of a brand new year as it lays before me, even if the only evidence of it is just a new wall calendar. I love that symbolic blank slate and it’s unlimited potential for the amazing and the wonderful.

Being raised a good Catholic girl, to me the morning of January 1st feels a lot like coming out of the confessional freshly purged of my sins. I’m 3 Hail Marys and an Our Father away from heaven – hooray! That is, until I sin again. But until then, I feel…perfect.

Outside the catholic church (where I now reside) it’s not often we get the chance to start over, but on a wall calendar, you get to do it every 12 months. As we say goodbye to the previous year’s missteps and mistakes, we pledge, perhaps high on champagne and the promise of a new year, that we’re going to get it right this time. That this year, we’re going to be thinner, prettier, nicer, funnier, happier, or most simply put, better.

The only problem with this clean slate approach is that I’m the same old me – the same soft, dimpled (not in a remotely cute way), perpetually sleep deprived, grumpy that I’m a taken for granted wife/mother/friend/ sister/daughter/chauffeur/volunteer that I always was. I still waste too much time on social media and reading People.com, I still obsess about getting rid of my stretch marks, I take on too much, I fall short, I’m vain, I envy, I begrudge, I yell, and I’m slow to forgive. And I realize this is true shortly after the champagne wears off and I have another 353 days before I can wipe the slate clean again.

So this year, on January 17th, I resolve to be good enough. That’s it. To be me and (this is the tough part) to be happy with it. No 30 day challenges for me – fitness, dieting or otherwise. No more saying no to shortbread. These are things I know I can accomplish. I have, in fact said yes to shortbread 3 times today. The trick is, and will continue to be, to not beat myself up about said shortbread. And to continue to do the things I love with abandon – run, write, hang with my family and friends.

Perfection is a lonely place, frequented by skinny, hungry and therefore, grumpy people. I think I’m finally realizing I’d rather be fat and happy.

Love Lucie

Shopping & Me…on Urbandig!

It’s no secret that I love to shop – the hunt and its tangential discoveries, the rush of finding it (on sale!), the promise of transformation, I love it all. And from J Brand skinny jeans to Rocky Mountain Foot Butter to a Goorin fedora, I’ve bought it all. I’ve been teased that Confessions of a Shopaholic’s Rebecca Bloomwood is loosely based on my life – except perhaps for the bits about the enabling roommate and that glossy pink (iLove!) Macbook. I do, however, own more stilettos than you can shake a stick at and have had my credit cards declined at Henri Bendel. Tres embarrassing!!

So enter Urbandig. Urbandig is a cool new app that delivers “off the beaten path” city experiences right to your smart phone and these experiences have been “curated” by hipsters in the know. I knew I had to get on board.

As for my curator credentials, I’m a born and bred Vancouverite and as mentioned, I love to shop. In fact, I believe I am a pioneer in the shop-tourism sector – having travelled to London, Paris, Milan, Tokyo, Marrakech, Toronto, NYC, Chicago, and San Francisco to name a few – like a UN Goodwill ambassador, only I’m spurring local economies. Secondly, I have four sisters and our favorite holiday of the year is Boxing Day. After the tree is trimmed, the turkey gobbled, doodads purchased, wrapped and then unwrapped for every member of our extended family, we wake up at 6AM, zip to Caffé Artigiano for a latte to go and then shop till we drop (dollar bills obviously!) And finally, living as I do, with 4 boys under my roof, there is not much I won’t do for a day out with my girlfriends. And so, as often as we can, my girlfriends and I come together to brunch, shop, spa, shop some more, drink & dance – and as such, planning Girls Days Out are somewhat of a specialty of mine.

With the malls of North America so cookie-cutter boring, there are really just two shopping destinations in Vancouver that I love to waste a day away at – Main Street and South Granville Street. For my Girls Day Out tour, I chose Granville Street as it caters to foodies, shoe lovers, and all shoppers who love good style as much as they love good labels, plus it ends at a world-class spa. Everyone’s a winner on Granville Street!!

So grab a girlfriend (or eight) and follow my Girls on Granville Tour on Urbandig. Meet over brunch at Café Barney or Luke’s Corner Bar (but don’t eat too many breakfast potatoes or you won’t fit into those skinny jeans you covet!) and take a wander down beautiful, historic South Granville Street, I’ll bet you’ll find just what you’re looking for!

Love Lucie

To Do or Not To Do – that is the question

So I’m 6 weeks into my Princess year and I’ve gone to the gym 22 times, cleaned out 7 junk drawers and written exactly 1 blog post.

Obvious priority adjusting jokes aside, it makes me wonder why everyday for the past 6 weeks, I choose to tackle the minutiae that comes along with being a stay-at-home mom instead of focusing on what’s really important to me as my own person. While the low hanging fruit (do laundry, tidy house) offer easy (and gratifying) check-marks on my bulging to-do list, it leaves the tougher and so much more rewarding projects to go unpicked day after day.

To illustrate my point, this was my to-do list on Monday, which I keep track of my Things app for iPhone:
– Run
– Coffee w/ Grade 3 moms
– Buy Groceries
– Shower
– Talk to Lawyer
– Book haircut for eldest son
– Book doctor appointment for eldest son
– Book babysitter for Thursday night
– Write in middle son’s birthday book
– Buy birthday gifts for nanny, niece & nephew
– Send baby gift to friend in London
– Make lasagne for dinner
– Pick up kids
– Meet with youngest’s son’s teacher
– Take middle son out for birthday treat after school
– Write blog post

And despite my detailed organization, I somehow forgot that I had double booked my eldest son on an after school playdate. One at my house and one at another boy’s house. Plus I got so involved chatting with the other moms after school, I forgot all about my meeting with my son’s teacher. At the end of a long and stressful day where I was short with the kids and quick with my friends, I got it all done…aside from the blog post. And that has been the daily pattern for the past 6 weeks and perhaps even longer. This post I wrote in May 2009 suggests that some habits die hard, or at least, very, very slowly.

My to-do list for October 19, 2011
This is my Things to-do-list today:

With less minutiae and my most important task already behind me, I can look forward to the rest of my day. What are you going to do today?

Love Lucie

Love, Sweat & Tears – Kindergarten at last

As anyone who lives in the Pacific Northwest knows, we got royally jipped in terms of heat and sunlight hours this summer. The only thing that got me through this bipolar summer of 2011 was the fact that my youngest son was starting school full-time in September. In short, this is my princess year. This is to say that for the first time since Dec 2000, I have 6 hours a day to myself. Just me, my thoughts and I (plus a few breakfast dishes). Every weekday. For 37 weeks a year. Delicious.

There was just one thing standing in my way. Rookie moms.

Many of the sweet children in my son’s kindergarten class are first borns, or as I prefer to call them, guinea pigs. Being a veteran mom, I know from experience that saying that first goodbye cuts like a knife. Many a rookie stay-at-home mom’s secret fear is that our kids don’t actually need us and will head into the classroom with nary a backwards glance. And these kids, those sneaky devils, smell that fear in our hearts and use it to masterfully manipulate us. They wail, as if cued in a chorus, the moment the kindergarten teacher presents herself to steal our children. Veteran moms know that those first goodbyes need to be ripped off a band-aid, a quick kiss & a hug and they’re off to the land of learning. Some first-time moms however, do a Sally Fields, basking in the glory of “my kid really, really needs me” and joins the class for a kindergarten refresher.

After my first princess year drop off, I went running. As I ran, I vacillated between being joyous that I finally had “me” time and miserable that my baby was a fully competent and capable kindergarten kid. When I shared this with my husband later that evening, he thought it was time to see my therapist again.

On the third day of school, my son decided that he wanted his mommy to stay at school like all the others. So, he cried, clinging to my body, rubbing his luscious tears and dripping nose juices all over my new Lululemon pants. And being a veteran mom with my personal trainer waiting for me at the gym, I dragged him to his teacher so she could pull his little body off of me while I ran out the door. I was tough on the outside but inside, I was crying too, yet narcissistically reassured that he did actually want me to stay.

After a weekend at home, things got worse on Monday, as the other kids caught onto the crying game and more parents were being sucked into this loud emotional vortex. At her wits end, the kindergarten teacher had a chat with her little charges and announced that “mommies and daddies are no longer allowed in our classroom.” And so every day after that, my obedient son would stoically wait for the morning bell, his lower lip protruding, while tears would start to pool in his eyes. Feeling as though he was being betrayed by his own body, he would then stick his two fingers into his tear ducts (Three Stooges style) in an attempt to stop the flow. Pained, I would tell him that I could walk him into the classroom, but he would just shake his head and whisper “You’re not allowed”, and march down the corridor with the enthusiasm of a death row inmate. He was that good.

This push/pull on my heartstrings was causing me serious heartache. How was I to enjoy my Princess year if my Princes were not happy to give it to me? My older boys in Grades 3 and 5 didn’t want to be associated with me on the playground, but this was my baby, my parenting Mona Lisa. I couldn’t just leave him there with his fingers embedded in his eyeballs. What was I to do?

A dear friend recommended that we read The Kissing Hand by Audrey Penn. This is a lovely story about Chester Raccoon who doesn’t want to go to school, so his Momma plants a kiss on his hand to take with him to school so that he can feel her love whenever he needs it. We read it that night and the tears stopped immediately. I think we both realized that I was going to be okay and that he didn’t need to make me feel loved by crying. And I have his kiss on my hand for whenever I need it.

I’m baaaack!!
Love Princess Lucie

Summer living is easy, working…not so much

Ahhhh, summer. Just when we’d given up and thought it would never come to Vancouver, it finally did. Waking up to warm, radiant sunshine reflecting off the glorious mountains and the endless sea, reminded every seasonally-affected one of us, why we choose to live in a rainforest the rest of the year.

So the kids are out of school and refuse to go to anything that smells like structure and/or has a teacher, ie. summer camp. And since we spending our first summer in Whistler, we are devoid of playdates and babysitters. So, in the meantime, I’ve become a Denny’s, open 24/7, peanut butter & jelly sandwiches at the ready, squeezing lemons upon lemons for their lemonade stand for which I’ve not yet seen a dime (I swear they are drinking their profits!), wiping counters and sweeping floors to keep the ants at bay. On a daily basis, I’m fending off the inevitable, “Mom, I’m bored,” or “MOM! He hit me!” or “MOOOOOMMMMMMM! He farted on my pillow and won’t say sorry!!!” with encouraging words to work it out for themselves and large glasses of pinot grigio.

There is no time to workout, no time to shop, no time for a much needed pedicure, no time to write, no time for me. As lovely as summer is, I’m counting the days till I get my beautiful life back.

Twenty-four.

See you in September!
Love Lucie

Camping is not for Princesses – Part 2

When I told my fellow princess pals that I was going camping many gasped in horror, clutched my arm and said, “you’re so brave!” I tried to be casual about it, but inside I agreed, I really was brave. But was I crazy? What had I gotten myself into? What if my 5 year old gets eaten by a bear? What if the boys need a doctor? Do they have antibiotics out there? But my husband assured me that boys needed this ultimate Canadian experience, and so on I went, bravely amassing the mountain of stuff people need to survive a few nights out of doors.

I cannot believe how much gear you need for to camp! I realize now that getting away from it all actually means taking it all with you. I’m talking sleeping bags (X5), tents, tarps, chairs(X5), bungee cords, propane stove, propane, matches, rope, flashlights(X5), an axe, stuff for s’mores and beer (X alot) – these are the necessities, without which, it’s not called camping. Add to that some stuff to make the experience actually bearable like pillows (X5), outfits made entirely of fleece, toothbrush & paste, blow-up mattresses, iPod & speakers, personal insulated Bodums, Baileys, box of pinot grigio, changes of underwear, a soccer ball and suddenly my SUV hatch won’t close and I need to pop the Thule box on top!

Over the three nights of rain, rain and more rain, I learned to make a good campfire and how to put it out without water. I learned to enjoy the freedom of not putting on makeup everyday – hell, I didn’t even wash my face some days. I learned that my boys are most cooperative with each other when they are building a sandcastle. And I learned that nooky in a tent is more than I can handle.

Maybe next time?

Love Lucie