Flashback: Taking the mourning out of mornings

I just came across this post written by Carly a couple of  years ago. I need these reminders now that we’re back in school routines!

With the possible and occasional exception of my husband, we’re not morning people around here.  I think I’ve mentioned that a time or ten in the past.  And now that the Little Man is back to being on the school bus every morning at 7:40 am, not to mention being gone for a whole day and therefore needing more crap stuff, I knew I needed to get my bum in gear so that mornings wouldn’t be a nightmare.

I’ve got two and half months before my maternity leave ends and I’m back to work full time.  That means two and half months where my only task in the morning (is it terrible that I shudder a wee bit inside every time I type the word “morning”?) is to get just the Little Man out the door and on the bus, clothed, fed and watered.  Come mid-November I’ll have to add myself and the Baby Man into that mix.

Knowing this, I started planning ahead for that eventuality.  I may have a hate-hate relationship with mornings (shudder), but I love me some organizing.  Here’s what we’re doing . . .

1. Must-Do Posters
Inspired by a similar poster designed by Kids in the Capital mom, Kim-Anh, I made these:

They’re on the wall between the kitchen and the powder room and the Little Man loves checking them every morning and afternoon to ensure he’s crossed his “must-do’s” off his daily list.  My personal favourite on this list?  Choosing his clothes for the next day the night before!

2. “Make” Breakfast the Night Before
We’ve all heard of making lunches the night before, which we do around here too, but Mr. Tree was quick to point out how much easier it would be for the Little Man if we set out everything he needs for breakfast before going to bed every night.

Since the Baby Man wakes up at the same time as the Little Man, and still needs a grown-up to feed him, I put out what Jake will need for his breakfast the night before.  Thankfully Jake loves a good, big breakfast but dragging stools or chairs to the necessary cupboard to get everything he needs out in the morning is time consuming and leaves us tripping all over each other.  So his bowl, spoon, cereal and honey are put on the table for him, and the milk is left easily accessible in the fridge.  Whenever possible, I get his fruit and yogurt ready to go as well.

3. Making use of the Powder Room
Like most kids, Jake is an easily distracted dawdler.  Imaginary friends can suddenly and unexpectedly pop out of anywhere, urgently needing his attention.  Sending him upstairs to floss and brush his teeth every morning was taking anywhere from 3 to 30 minutes.  So we put a second toothbrush (for everyone in the family), toothpaste and flossers in the powder room on the main floor.  Amid the hustle and bustle of everyone in the family getting ready, Jake finds it easier to stay focused on the task at hand.

No running back upstairs (to get dressed or brush his teeth) also ensures he doesn’t get sidetracked by the ALL! THE! AWESOME! LEGO! in his room.

4. No TV in the Morning
This was a tough one for Jake, as there’s nothing he loves more than chilling on the couch first thing in the morning watching a fifteen minute episode of pretty much anything on Treehouse or Disney Junior.  Like a lot of children (and adults), the Little Man has a hard time focusing on more than one thing at a time.  Even having the news on while he eats is distracting so we’re working on limiting TV even for the grown-ups to the first 10-15 minutes after the hour or half hour . . . to catch the weather and traffic.

5. No Dishes in the Morning
If it doesn’t go in the dishwasher (we prefer to wash some of our kid-friendly dishes by hand), it gets left neatly in the sink to be washed later.  Right now I’m doing those dishes once Jake is on the bus, but I plan on teaching my recovering perfectionist self to just leave them there until I get home from work.  Sure it’s not always fun to walk in the door to a sink full of dirty dishes, but since mornings and I already struggle to get along, this works for me.

And one of the very important reasons I’m choosing not to do dishes is because I want us to have . . .

6. Ten Minutes to Hang as a Family
As I write this we’re only on the second day of school and so we’re still working on this one.  I’m trying to make sure we’re setting aside ten minutes in the morning to just touch base as a family.  Ten minutes for Jake to sit on the floor and be goofy with Noah.  Ten minutes to read a short story.  Ten minutes to express our hopes for the day ahead or just talk about a crazy dream we had last night.

I’m a night owl at heart so I’m always interested in what works for other families.  What do you do to make mornings less mournful?

Carly has red hair and occasionally the temper to match.  She loves potatoes, rainy nights, photography, her husband, and her sons Jacob and Noah.  Probably in reverse order.

Cat’s Fish and Chips: Restaurant Review

The other day one of my Facebook friends posted a lovely picture of her fish and chips dinner. The caption read “it’s hard to find good fish ‘n chips in Ottawa” – as a Brit, she should know. Britain is the land where fish and chips was born!

Yesterday was my husband’s 32nd birthday, and my friend’s photo gave me a great idea. I decided to take my hubby out to the best fish and chips place in Ottawa. My husband is the guy who must try fish and chips at every restaurant/pub we visit – a lot of these meals have been pretty gross. It’s easy to screw up fish and chips!

I did some googling, and found Cat’s Fish and Chips at Hemlock and St. Laurent. The ambiance takes me right back to Casey Key, Florida, where my family loves to vacation every winter. If I closed my eyes, I could almost hear the ocean waves.

Cats

We sat on the patio, and ordered a beer – Beau’s Festivale for my hubby (you get to take home the glass, but I believe this brew will be done soon!). The server was extremely welcoming and helpful, and the food arrived in record time. We tried the Crow’s Nest (seasoned and fried onions) with chipotle and dill dipping sauces, and then opted for the halibut. Portions are GIANT, so think about it before you consider ordering 2 pieces of fish :)

We were too full for desert, but I can’t wait to go back and try their homemade doughnut topped with a scoop of ice cream. There was a kids menu, which would offer smaller portions for the wee ones.

And speaking of kids, I was delighted to see that Cat’s was very kid-friendly. The bathroom even had a wooden change table and pad – much nicer than those plastic monstrosities. And any child would be delighted with the decor, which makes you feel as though you’re inside an old ship!

Price-wise, Cat’s is very reasonable. Our bill was on the higher end, given that we paid extra for the halibut and indulged in an appetizer and some drinks. Most meals are between $10 – $15 (I found the kids menu a bit pricey, but given that my girls don’t eat very much when we go out, I would probably have them share something)

And for those of you gluten free – Cat’s has a whole menu dedicated to gluten free fare!

It was a lovely meal, and we ended the evening by walking through the National Cemetery of Canada. We definitely needed that walk after a healthy dose of fried fats :) I think Cat’s may become one of our family’s favourite restaurants in Ottawa!

Home Daddy: One Man’s Choice To Be A Stay-At-Home Dad

With the “Mommy Wars” dominating news headlines, it’s easy to forget about the other half of the story – the male half, that is. In the endless debates between working moms and stay-at-home moms, the issue of men balancing family and career rarely comes under scrutiny.

According to a report released this summer, stay-at-home dads have doubled in numbers since 1989. And many of these men stay home by choice. The report is American, but the situation is similar here: “In Canada in 2011, 12 per cent of fathers stayed home with children while mothers earned money, up from just 1 per cent in 1976, according to Statistics Canada.” (Globe & Mail)

In our family, Daddy’s been at home with our two girls for almost a year. My husband made the choice to pursue a new career after losing his job. It wasn’t the plan that he become a stay-at-home dad forever, but we budgeted for at least 6-9 months. The fact that this may extend to 12 months and beyond doesn’t bother us (much).

In contrast to the overwhelming majority of women who stay home, men don’t normally choose to stay home and care for their children. Many of them are at home due to job loss or an injury or illness. The job loss my husband experienced was welcome – his work hours were grueling, and I often joked that from May to October I was a single parent. He worked early mornings, evenings and weekends. It wasn’t a family lifestyle we wanted to maintain.

There have been challenges to having my husband be the stay-at-home parent, and many of them are related to the stigma we face. Although no one would say it to our faces, we get the sense that “getting back to work” is what men must do. Most women sigh and say “oh, you’re so lucky,” when another mother is able to stay at home with the kids. But society generally expects that fathers will need to find work again. After all, what kind of man could be satisfied with the life of a stay-at-home dad? I know my husband has certainly had his doubts, and has worried about his future career and our financial situation (which is actually pretty good for a one-income family!)

There’s also my own internal struggle – trying to accept that it’s ok for me to be away from my kids. And not only that it’s OK, but that I actually prefer it this way. I’ve done it all in the past – stayed home full-time, worked part-time and worked full-time (even double full-time some months!). The happiest I’ve felt is working 2-3 days/week. I welcome that time away from my children to re-connect with my own goals and dreams, but it’s lovely to have the extra days at home to play, bake, cook and (yes, on some days) pull my hair out.

As some wise women have pointed out to me, we’re doing a wonderful thing for our girls. They’ve developed a strong bond with Daddy, and watch their Mommy go out to do the work that she loves. My oldest daughter gets to come straight home after school, and I know my youngest is learning so much with Daddy.

My husband chose to stay at home to make life better for our family, and I chose to go back to work to make life better for our family. Isn’t that all that really matters? The only things I want my girls to believe about all this work/family hullabaloo are:

1) Their Dad rocks
2) Their Mom rocks
3) Gender roles be damned!