In the wee hours of the night

I would just like to kick this one off by noting that I started writing this post at 4:31 on Thursday morning.

Oddly enough, being up at 4:30 in the morning is not as big of a deal as it used to be.  I think that after three kids you just get used to the fact that you will be woken up at least one night out of every week.  Sometimes you will go for weeks without having to deal with nightmares, bathroom breaks, or fevers, while at other times you get woken up four nights in a row.  (Incidentally, it is now 11:30 on Thursday night and I can hear John cooing to himself when he should be asleep.)

I am much more accustomed to these nighttime interruptions than I used to be.  Ben was a pretty good sleeper from the time he was three months old and didn’t give us a lot of grief.  When Cate was first born and we went from full night sleeps to multiple feedings every night my body cried “Noooooooo!!!  I remember this and nooooo!!!!!”

By the time John showed up being up in the middle of the night was old hat, especially as Cate went through a phase when she was around 6-9 months old where she woke up for 2-3 hours in the middle of the night.  I couldn’t just let her cry because she shared a room with us and, besides, she barfed if she cried for too long.  Sorry, I should rephrase that.  She vomited massively all over the place.  Repeatedly. The clean up was just not worth the moral victory of letting her cry it out.

There is one very big change in midnight feedings with John that really made all the difference in the world: my iPhone. Smartphones light up and you can read them in the dark.  They are small and fit into the palm of your hand so it is more difficult for the baby to swat it out of your grasp.  You can download the Kindle App and read in the middle of the night to your heart’s content!  Heck, when I heard John stirring I thought, “WooHoo!  Now I get to finish that chapter of the Scarlett Pimpernel without interruption!”  Legitimate alone time.  Not too shabby.  You do, however, need to be careful not to wake yourself up too much otherwise you won’t get back to sleep.

I think the thing about being a stay-at-home Mom that I struggle with the most is the general lack of sick days.  You know when you get a cold and you really aren’t that sick yet, but if you just lie low for a day or two and watch TV and drink tea you should be okay?  Well, you can’t do that with three kids.  You can’t just take a day off and lie low because there is always someone to take care of or feed or pick up from school and all these little rugrats rightfully depend on you to meet their basic needs.  You generally have to save the “big guns” (aka. asking your husband to take off sick days to take care of you or asking your parents to make the hour long commute to come out and watch the kids) for when you have things like appendicitis or a bad sinus infection that refuses to go away.  And I know that I am one of the lucky ones who has a husband that actually gets paid sick days and has parents who are willing to come out and help out when I am totally thwacked.

Speaking of sleeping and struggling and being sick, thank you to Darren for taking care of the dishes so I could go to sleep early on Wednesday night.  And thank you to my parents who came out this week thus allowing me to actually rest and relax during the day.  And boo to my sinuses, which are veeerrrrryyyyy sloooooooowwwwwly getting better.  And goodnight to you all, because now it is time for bed.


The Queen of Crime

Agatha Christie

I have been doing a fair amount of tidying around the house lately (not that you can necessarily tell because I do live with three kids and I’m not always the neatest napkin in the drawer), so I have been “listening” to YouTube while performing the mundane tasks of life. “Listening” to YouTube consists of finding a program longer than half an hour, inserting one earbud into my right ear, placing the iPhone in my pocket, pressing “play”, and getting to down to the task at hand. This usually works best if I am listening to familiar material. That way I don’t have to keep sneaking glances at the phone to see what I am missing.

I always love series because they eliminate the need to search for something new. That sounds like laziness, doesn’t it? It also has to do with the comfort of knowing what I am getting. And who better to start with than the great Agatha Christie?

I began reading Agatha Christie as a teenager, and it probably wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that I devoured her novels. Every time we went to the library I would scour the mystery section for novels I hadn’t read. For those uninitiated, Christie created two major characters, the Belgian detective Hercule Poirot and Miss Jane Marple, an elderly crime specialist. She wrote scores of short stories and novels, as well as novels under the name of Mary Westmacott. One of my favourite non-fiction books is Come Tell Me How You Live, in which she writes about her journeys with her archaeologist-husband, Max Mallowan.

One of my favourite Poirot novels is Death on the Nile. I know that there are a couple of good movie versions, but there is just something about reading that story that puts me completely into that world. I am wholly transported to Egypt in the 1930s, traveling down the Nile by steamer, visiting the monuments, and trying to discover just who could have shot the lovely Linnet.

Also worth while are the two movie versions of Murder on the Orient Express. Can there be anything more chilling than the opening sequence of the 1974 version starring Albert Finney as Hercule Poirot? I remember watching it when I was babysitting as a teenager and I was so creeped out I had to turn it off even though I had seen the movie before. It’s even worse when you have kids.

But I think I’m even more impressed with David Suchet’s 2010 rendition. Suchet (and the writers) does such a wonderful job of portraying the great moral struggle that Poirot goes through as he discovers the identity of the killer, you see that his love for justice is coupled with his knowledge of the frailty and fallibility of human beings. (For an extra treat you can take a peek at David Suchet’s trip on the real Orient Express where he learns about the history of the railway, rides in the same coaches that Christie would have travelled in, and even gets to drive the engine!)

My favourite Miss Marple series is with Joan Hickson, who was actually tagged by Agatha Christie herself to play the character. She is so gentle, but so brutal and clear. Here she is in the first of the programs, Body in the Library. Do yourself a favour, check up the full program list on Wikipedia, and watch them all on YouTube.

In addition to watching her novels on screen, this last little stint of Christie-obsessiveness lead to a couple of interesting programs on the Queen of Crime herself. The first is Agatha Christie’s Garden which shows Greenway, her home in Devon which is in the process of being opened to the public. The second is a biopic called Agatha Christie: A Life in Pictures that explores her mysterious disappearance in 1926 as well as her husband’s infidelity. I recognize some of the monologues as taken directly from her autobiography, and the meat of the story is apparently taken from her interviews with a psychiatrist after her disappearance. I’ve read a couple of reviews from people who were disappointed with the docudrama, and it certainly isn’t a factual, linear representation of this time in her life. Christie never spoke of the incident in public. However, I really liked how the film shows her sifting through the fog of depression to confront the betrayal of her husband. It is very stark, making you feel her loss very deeply.

So there it is. A glimpse into my lifelong appreciation of the writing of Agatha Miller Christie Mallowan. Now go borrow one of her books from the library or I’ll slip you some cyanide.

Most beautiful thing: Time Alone

Vincent van Gogh's Bedroom in Arles.

Some days you just need time to be alone. Sunday was one of those days.

John woke up five times on Saturday night with discomfort from teething and a cold.  He used the opportunity to scream as loudly as he could and then thrash about as Darren and I tried to calm him down.  Thank goodness for distractions like water, telephones, and old medicine bottles.  I know that this is nothing new when it comes to kids being sick and grouch, but I was pretty tired when 8:37 rolled around.  I woke up to find Darren and the kids almost ready for mass.  So, off they went while John and I relaxed, are breakfast, and watched an episode of “Edwardian Farm

By the mid-afternoon it was pretty clear that I needed a bit of space from the rambunctiousness of everyday life.  So, off went Darren and the kids to Krause Farm to find blueberries and play in the sand pit. And I had the house all to myself.

Of course, I did what any good mother would do, I cleaned up!  But here’s the thing.  I cleaned up by myself, in peace and quiet, with no one asking questions.  I was able to focus on a single task for more than two minutes at a stretch.  I took care of things the I wanted to take care of, not tasks forced upon me by the tyranny of the immediate.  It was luxury.

By the time Darren and the kids came home, I was refreshed and satisfied that I had got something done. Such a treat. And because I had missed mass in the morning, I got to go all by myself before dinner!  I saw some old friends after mass and I was even able to have an adult conversation without interruption.  Top it off with hamburgers for dinner and strawberries and cream for dessert, and that’s a pretty good evening.

All of this is thanks to Darren, who made me stay at home alone.  And he is right, I need to ask for a break more often.  So I will.


So, the new school year is a week old and it already feels like we are in the thick of it!  Last year I blogged about taking the time to establish a new school routine, and then I promptly came down with appendicitis a few days later and any sense of order was completely out the door.  This year my sister Emily got married on Labour Day weekend (check out the sneek peek of her photos here and here!  And yes, that is Darren holding John upside down), so naturally there was nothing resembling routine until the Tuesday morning when everyone went back to work/school.

Much like my attempted summer routine of getting ready before the kids woke up (which was moderately successful, I might add), this year I am trying to wake up earlier so that any lateness can be legitimately blamed on my offspring rather than on me.  I am trying to move everything ahead about half an hour, which means I need to get up between 6:00 and 6:30, depending on the day and what time I got to bed.  I think I am averaging about 6 hours of sleep, which is not too bad for having 3 kids.  We are also trying to get the kids into bed earlier so that they are less grouchy.  This is particularly important for Cate, who grew a lot this summer and who subsequently could get impressively … petulant.

Added to the mix is the fact that this year I am taking care of my niece for 2-3 days a week.  She is 6 weeks older than John, so I am getting a taste of what life would be like with twins.  I have already taken them shopping a few times with Cate and I receive very nice sympathetic smiles.  So far I have managed to get her down for a nap every day (knock on wood), but some days it takes a little longer than others.  It is so interesting to see the difference between her and John.  She is WAY ahead of him in terms of verbal development, but he is much more “chatty/babbly.” It will be fun to watch them grow up together.

I’m hoping that the next few weeks will really solidify the kids’ routines.  But what I need to work on is figuring out how to integrate time for myself into family life.  It has come home to me over the last month or so (while I have not been posting regularly) that I enjoy writing and I need to do it regularly.  I also need to exercise regularly.  And I will be taking on some independent design work over the next few weeks, so I need to map out some time for that as well. And while we made great headway on re-organizing the garage, I still haven’t finished going through my papers.

So to sum up, there is still a heck of a lot to do, but at least the regular routines of everyday life are starting to emerge from the brushwood. But I do need to take care of myself, otherwise I will burn out like I did last year.  Did you know I got burned out last year?  I just discovered it myself this summer.  But that is a different tale for a different time…