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C is in the kitchen getting plates out for dinner.

C: Oh my god, you…do you actually have the kids dishes stacked in rainbow colour order?

Me: Yes. Yes, I do.

C: And you have the same colour is on top for the cups, bowls and plates.

Me: Um, yeah. AND when I put the clean ones away, I put them at the bottom of the stack so they rotate evenly. I’ve been doing that since we got them, like two years ago and you’re only just noticing it NOW?

C: Wait, so that means that every time I empty the dishwasher and put them away in any old order, I make you crazy and then you re-organise them?

Me: Yep.

C: ….

Me: You love me, you know you do.

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Monkey Boy went to a birthday party the other day. It was at a gymnastics centre, he had a ball, and now he wants to know when he gets to have a party.

He turns four at the beginning of June, so it seems reasonable to me to at least start thinking about what we want to do for his first party. It will just be a simple backyard party, maybe with a theme. I’m trying to steer him towards pirates, mainly because I can think of a lot of things to do that involve pirates. But I figured I should maybe get an idea of what he might like.

“When we have your birthday party,” I said to Monkey Boy, “we could make a theme for it. We could do pirates, or maybe clowns…”

“Or knights!” he said excitedly.

“Oh yeah, knights might be fun,” I said.

“Or maybe fairies!”

Silence.

Now, I consider myself a very open-minded person, and I make a real effort to raise my children without gender bias. I smile when Monkey Boy parades around in my high-heeled shoes, read him princess stories, and silently cheer when he breastfeeds his teddy bear. I also encourage his love of cars, trains, and superheroes. These are not ‘boy’ interests or ‘girl’ interests, but simply my son’s interests.

So I knew what I had to do here. I had to say, “sure, maybe fairies!” And I had to smile, and if he really wanted fairies, plan a fairy party for him. I also know, though, that not every parent thinks the same way I do. And if they do and have tried to raise their kids without gender bias, friends, relatives and society often defeat their efforts.

“Sure, maybe fairies!” I said. But oh please please don’t really want fairies because then I will have to either say yes and set you up for possible ridicule from the kids who will be coming and who maybe will think fairies are for girls and won’t understand why a boy would want them, or I will have to say no and then hate myself for going against my principles.

“Or even wizards!” he said, enthusiastically.

“YES! Wizards! Wizards would be fantastic! Wow, wizards, what a great idea!”

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It’s lunch time and I’m eating a sandwich with Monkey Boy.

He is telling me all about an animal called an I-bird. I-birds don’t fly, they live in caves and i-runs, and they eat salami and cheese and treats. Some of his story is borrowed from an episode of Backyardigans, but most of it is straight out of his own head.

Meals alone with my children are hard for me. Like most three-year-olds, Monkey Boy speaks in monologues, something I have an awful time remaining focused on. Sometimes I let my mind completely wander off, slipping in the occasional ‘yes,’ or ‘wow!’ Other times I read a book, hoping he will finish quickly and go back to his toys.

Both of these things are rude and unfair to my son. They are also not behaviours I want him to model.

I’m making a concerted effort to be present for my child. He chatters on, and I try hard to pay attention. To ask him questions. To make responses that are more than just ‘uh-huh’.

It’s hard. Today is harder than usual, too. We got home late from a playdate, so lunch is later than usual. Pixie is already napping, and I just want lunch to end so we can start quiet time and I can maybe have a few minutes to myself before she wakes up. But I am going to give him the attention he deserves.

The story keeps going. I finish my sandwich, and my eyes drift over to a book left on the table. I force them back to my son. My brain starts going over the groceries I need. I stop it and bring my focus back.

As I listen I am amazed at the depth of Monkey Boy’s imagination. Even the bits he’s borrowed from TV have been changed and re-imagined. Every question I ask reveals more and more of the world he’s created for his I-bird.

The thought flits through my mind, ‘look at what you’ve been missing by not engaging,’ but I push it out of my mind. I refuse to dwell on the past this time. I am paying attention right now, and that is what matters.

It’s still hard. I am fidgety and longing for it to be over, despite my interest. But I keep trying. I can’t sit any longer, so I get up and start emptying and loading the dishwasher, while letting him know I am still paying attention. Being able to move about makes it easier. When he finally finishes his lunch and I take him up for quiet time, I am almost sorry.

I feel good. I feel satisfied with myself for once. Of course Dismal Doris, the little voice in my head, tries once again to get me down.

“Just think,” she whispers, “he starts school in September. You only get him to yourself for a few more months, and look at how much you’ve wasted already.”

If I only get this kind of time for a few more months, I tell Doris, then it’s a good thing I’m intending to make the most of them.

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One of the reasons I have a hell of a time keeping this thing updated (besides kids, cats, and a husband who want my attention, plus a general lack of focus), is figuring out what to write about. It’s not that I have nothing to write about, it’s that I have too much! My brain occasionally feels like there’s a wall in it with all my ideas stuck on the other side, and no matter what I do I can’t break through it. Other times though, I’m able to make a teeny-tiny hole in the wall. But instead of being able to reach through and find an idea, or have one slip through, they all try to come through at once and they get stuck.

(Aside: Notice up above where I commented about people wanting my attention? Immediately after I wrote the last word my husband asked me to delete something from my calendar, which I did but it broke my focus. Then the cat came over and started whining and rubbing against me for food, even though it’s not dinner time. Then I had to get up and move my bowl into the kitchen because I already couldn’t focus and I kept seeing it out of the corner of my eye and it was driving me nuts. And then I started writing about what had just happened because the ideas were crowding up against the hole again and I couldn’t find the one I’d had before. Is it any wonder I can’t write? I need to go to a coffee shop or something.)

We now return you to your regularly scheduled post.

Even though I mean the preceding paragraph to be funny, it really is a good illustration of how things go sometimes (and it really did happen). But it also shows some progress. For the first time in my life I’m actually aware of what’s stopping me from doing things. And awareness means I can start doing something about it.

I have a lot of ideas crowding at the hole right now. I want to write about the new things I’ve discovered about myself and the changes I’m trying to make, and I want to get back to writing about local eating, a subject dear to my heart, as well as my new life as a mother of two (wow, I can’t believe it’s been almost six months!)

With all those ideas it’s really hard to pick just one to write about. But I’m trying.

And now, considering what I’ve been writing about, it’s kind of fitting that I have to stop now because Monkey Boy just got up from his quiet time and promptly woke his sister (who I’m going to call Pixie here) and now C is reminding me I have to put away the leftovers from lunch and sometimes I wonder why I even bother??

Oh yeah; because when it all clicks, I really love writing. And sometimes it clicks.

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The last few months have been hard. Having two kids is a lot more challenging than I ever expected it to be – particularly when the older one is going through a rather defiant stage, and the younger one doesn’t nap well. Add in the fact that we are still working on the basement, which means C is still working in the dining room, which means we are around each other almost 24/7 (I love my husband but there is such a thing as too much togetherness), and there’s some serious stress here.

And then we get to the ADHD.

When I got this diagnosis I was relieved to FINALLY know what was wrong, and excited that I could now start getting my life on track. Well, here I am almost eleven months later, and I’m…not really any further along than I was then. It’s incredibly frustrating. I want so badly to straighten my life out and live it the way I want to, and I don’t feel I’m getting anywhere. It’s as if I’m trying to climb a sand hill, and the sand is continually shifting under my feet so I never make any progress.

As I read more though, I’m coming to understand that most people go through this when first diagnosed. There’s an incredible burst of energy because NOW we know what’s wrong and can change, and then a massive letdown when we discover it’s not quite that easy.

One of the hardest things with ADHD is acceptance. Not of the ADHD itself, but of the changes it requires in our methods of doing things. This is something I’ve been struggling with without really knowing it, and that I’m finally start to realise.

The reason I’m having no success is because I’m still trying to do things the same way I’ve always tried to do them.

Even with medication, ADHD requires a new approach. I have to learn to work with it, not against it. And that is incredibly hard.

It doesn’t help that most people don’t understand my limitations. I told my mother about being diagnosed, and have talked to her a lot about what I’ve been learning. And she still said to me, after I moaned about how hard it is for me to keep my house clean, “I think what you really need to do is just put things away when you’re done with them.”

Sound advice for most people. But it doesn’t work for ADHDers. I don’t know why, but it doesn’t. And hearing that kind of advice just reinforces our low self-esteem: everyone else can do this, why can’t we??

And then we become depressed again, because dammit, things were supposed to be different now, and is this really the right diagnosis? Maybe we really are just lazy, because we could do it if we really wanted to. If we really tried.

But I’m getting off that merry-go-round now. I’m learning the techniques that WILL work for me. And if people think I’m less of a person because I have Post-It notes stuck all over my house, or waste baskets in every room, or a big whiteboard in the kitchen that says, “Mom’s Board – If You Haven’t Written It Down, You Haven’t Told Me” (a great idea I stole from one of the books), well then they’re not people I need in my life.

I’d love to say that this time I’ll succeed. But I don’t know if I will. What I do know though, is that if I don’t, I’m coming right back here and starting again. And again. And again. As many times as I need to until I get where I’m going.

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I have much, much to write about. The last few months have been a roller coaster, but I finally feel like I’m coming to the end of it. I’m hoping to write down some of my thoughts and feelings about the last little while when I manage to get a minute, but in the meantime, why my son is awesome.

Some people will get this, some people will not.

Monkey Boy’s been interested in how to spell words lately. This morning he asked me how to spell ‘money’. Then ‘hand’.

Then ’shrimp’.

Get it yet?

Here’s a hint…we’ve been reading ‘Where’s My Cow?’

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You know nothing good is occurring when your husband asks your three-year-old what he’s doing upstairs, and his answer is:

“I don’t want to answer that right now.”

I think I set a land-speed record up the stairs.

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Yesterday was a holiday Monday here in Canada, so the whole family headed off to a local Pirate Festival. It was a nice time, and Monkey Boy had a blast. However, we’ve obviously waited too long to introduce him to live theatre (a cardinal sin, considering C and I met while acting at a Renaissance Festival together).

The evidence of this? When we were looking through the schedule to find kid-friendly shows, Monkey Boy told a friend standing nearby that we were looking for “videos for me to watch”. And when we sat down at a stage to wait for a show to start, he asked me if they were going to put a TV on stage.

I need to find some kid-friendly theatre productions and quick!

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In the days leading up to Monkey Boy’s birthday, he started talking about the cake he wanted to have. He didn’t have any real preference on the type of cake, but he was very certain on the candles. He wanted pink candles on his cake. C and I thought this was great. Proof that we’d managed to avoid putting ideas of gender stereotyping in his head! He had no idea that pink was “supposed” to be a “girl’s colour”. He just liked it and wanted it on his cake.

Then he spoke to my mother-in-law on the phone.

I heard him telling his grammy about the cake he wanted to have, including the candles. And the next thing I hear coming out of his mouth is “pink is for girls, blue is for boys.”

Thanks, Grammy.

Nothing I could do or say would shake this idea from his mind, and he wanted blue candles on his cake.

(We actually ended up using blue, green and yellow, plus a fourth, pink one that he asked to have on there for his new baby sister, since her birthday was the day before his. He’s the sweetest kid ever!)

So his birthday came and went, Princess Pout was born, and a couple of weeks later my mother came for a visit. She was helping me fold clothes. Specifically the new baby clothes, many of which, admittedly, are pink. Monkey Boy was watching her and asked why the clothes were pink. And what did my mother say?

“Pink is for girls, blue is for boys.”

Thanks, Mom.

So now the idea is fully fixed in Monkey Boy’s head and he spouts it at random times, despite my best efforts.

ARGH!

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I’m still finishing Princess Pout’s birth story, in between answering “why?”, marathon nursing sessions, and just generally remembering what having a newborn is like. In the meantime, here are a couple of Monkey Boy stories to entertain you.

Scene: The four(!) of us are in the car coming home from a Father’s Day BBQ.

SemiCrunchyMom: Did you have a nice Father’s Day, hon?

C: Oh, I did. It was a great day (C went target shooting for the afternoon while I parked myself in a backyard with a pool…that I couldn’t swim in.)

Monkey Boy: I had fun too. And next is Big Brother’s Day!

C and SCM: Big Brother’s Day?

Monkey Boy: Yes. And you will give me a card and a present because it’s Big Brother’s Day!

*********

When Princess Pout was born, we wanted to give Monkey Boy a special “big brother gift”. He loves playing with an old film camera that I tossed into his toybox and he loves looking at the pictures on C’s camera, so we decided to get him a Fisher-Price digital camera. We lucked out because a friend had a brand-new, never-been-used one that she sold us for a bargain.

Monkey Boy loved it, and has been taking all kinds of pictures with it. Mostly of his feet, because he always tilts the camera down before he pushes the button.

This morning, he finally managed to keep the camera straight, and he got a perfect picture.

Of me.

On the toilet.

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