A mom, a dad, and two nutty kids.

To My Favourite Ben-Magoo on Your 6th Birthday

Oh, my Ben-Magoo…what can I say? You have been full of surprises literally* since the day you were born! I can’t post a pregnant belly picture of you because I don’t have any. I was so busy with school and daddy with his new job that we hadn’t gotten around to taking an artsy belly picture when you decided to make your surprise appearance at only 33 1/2 weeks.

Tiny Ben

Tiny baby Ben in his isolette. His chest is smaller than my hand.
©PicklesINK 2013

You got it in your teeny head that you were ready to be born and there was no stopping you! I was scared at the time but I should have known you had it all under control. They told us that preemies usually have breathing problems – not you! They told us that preemies usually stay in the hospital until their due date – but you made sure you were home in time for my first Mothers’ Day!


We could have fit 5 baby Bens in this Moses basket!
©PicklesINK 2013

Have I told you before how smart you are? I know all moms think “My kid is so smart!” but my Magoo, your intellect continues to astound me. I haven’t been able to win an argument with you since…well, since you learned to talk…and ever since you started moving around you’ve been building and creating amazing structures – first “simple” towers and now extensive multi-level train tracks like Brio Peak.


Ben, around 18 months, creating a stack of jars taller than him.
©PicklesINK 2013

You have what your Uncle Chris calls “the knack,” and not only that, you have the single-minded drive, when you come up with an idea, to keep working at it until you see it through. You can get frustrated when things don’t go the way you envisioned though, so don’t be afraid to ask for help. Sometimes all it takes is a different perspective or a second pair of hands to finish the job, and asking for help is just a way of effectively problem-solving.

You are so kind and loving, my Magoo. We had a bit of a rough patch there for a while after Molly was born. There were times when I got really frustrated yelled too much, and I know that I hurt your feelings and made you sad sometimes, and you still loved me more than anything. But just like I said, asking for help is a way of problem-solving, and knowing how much you loved me gave me the strength to do that. Do you know what else? Me being able to talk about that hard time has given lots of other people the courage to do the same thing, and that’s all thanks to you!

Mommy and Ben

Mommy and Ben snuggles
©PicklesINK 2013

I bet you didn’t know this, Magoo, but there are some kids who are unhappy or mad when a new baby comes home because they have to share their mommies or daddies. I don’t think that ever even crossed your mind, though, because you have loved Molly more than anything since the moment you first saw her.

Grinning big brother Ben holding his brand-new sister Molly.
©PicklesINK 2013

I don’t know if I’ve seen you so sad as the day I told you you couldn’t marry her because she’s your sister! And boy, does she ever look up to you. She thinks that you are just the coolest person ever, and I think she believes you could do absolutely anything.


Ben plays a private guitar concert for Molly in her jumperoo.
©PicklesINK 2013

I know that now that’s she’s getting older there are times when she gets on your nerves, but even when you two fight you work it out together and go right back to being best friends. I hope you two keep on appreciating and loving each other as much as you do now, even when you grow up.


Ben and Molly hugs
©PicklesINK 2013

Ben-Magoo, one of the most wonderful things about you is your integrity. I will never, ever forget when you knocked over a pile of socks that Molly had folded, and I said, “Don’t tell Molly you knocked those over because she’ll be sad.” She overheard me and said, “Did Ben knock over my socks?” and I said, “No, monkey, I put them in the laundry basket.” You leaped up and said, “Oh Molly, I did knock them over! I’m so sorry! It was an accident. I’m really, really sorry,” and Molly said, “That’s okay, Ben.”

Then you looked me in the eye and said, “Mommy, you shouldn’t have told that lie.” You know what, Bud? You were absolutely right. It it always better to take responsibility for your actions and face the consequences then to tell a lie to get out of trouble, and you were right to remind me of that.


Stern Ben dressed as Santa
©PicklesINK 2013

We had something sad happen in our family this year, didn’t we, Bud? Our Papa, your great-grandfather, died. You were so very special to Papa because you were his very first great-grandchild. The first time he held you in the hospital, he looked at me, his face aglow, and said, “Can you believe that I actually have a great-grandson?

Papa and Ben

Papa holding Ben – can you ever see the resemblance!
©PicklesINK 2013

Papa was very special to you, too. It must have been hard wrapping your head around the fact that you were never going to see him again, but you thought about it asked the questions that you needed to to understand, and sometimes I think that you understand better than us grown-ups – Like when you said, “Chris and Caitie are sad because Papa isn’t going to be at their wedding. But really he is going to be there with us, isn’t he?” and when at Christmas you said, “This Christmas our family just isn’t the same, is it, because Papa died.”

You also have  real gift for creativity, Magoo. You and daddy share a special bond with your love of photography. (I know, I know, you don’t have that camera any more. You figured out pretty quickly that kid cameras just couldn’t capture the shots that you wanted and you took over mommy’s!)


2 year-old Ben with his obsolete kiddy camera
©PicklesINK 2013

You and daddy definitely share that photographer’s eye. I don’t think there are many people who could guess which of you took which of these pictures!

Ben's sunset pic

Sunset on the St. Lawrence
©PicklesINK 2013

(Your artistic shots are great, of course, but my favourites are your self-portraits!)


Self-portrait by Ben
©PicklesINK 2013

And your creativity and ambition don’t stop with just photography. How many other just-turned-6-year-olds can say that they are published authors?


Ben opening up his debut book,
Your Favourite Brio Peak Collection
©PicklesINK 2013

 So, my favourite Ben-Magoo, keep on being your super-cool self, just like you have been from the day you were born, even if people tell you it’s wrong. (Except mommy. If mommy tells you you’re doing something wrong, you’d better listen. Because I’m mommy, that’s why.)


Ben and Molly at Day Out With Thomas
©PicklesINK 2013

Happy 6th Birthday, our favourite guy!

~ Love, Mommy, Daddy, and Molly


Team Pickles self-portrait. Can someone explain why 3 of us look goofy while Molly photo-bombs the shot with utter adorableness?
©PicklesINK 2013

*and y’all know I don’t use that word lightly.


Giving myself a pat on the back

This morning was rough. Ben and Molly clearly woke up on the wrong side of their beds and everything I asked of them was met with flailing, screaming hysterics resistance. Now a year ago, thanks to a mild but chronic chemical imbalance in my brain commonly known as “dysthemia” or chronic depression, I would have been all:

Baby Ben in full tantrum mode
©PicklesINK 2013

But this morning, with the aforementioned chemical imbalance under control, a good night’s sleep under my belt, and my Supernanny and 1-2-3 Magic inspired parenting toolkit in hand, I was all:

Grinning baby Ben
©PicklesINK 2013

So when I told Ben that he couldn’t have his usual morning cereal bar because I was ready to give him his actual breakfast and he screamed, yelled, and hit the table with his hand, I led him to the time-out step and calmly explained that he was sitting out because he had yelled and hit and needed to calm down.

And when I told Molly to go to the bathroom before she finished getting dressed and she refused and collapsed to the floor crying, I told her that if she didn’t go pee before I counted to 3, I would NOT take her underpants off Ben’s head and give them back to her.

Thinking back over the morning routine, of the about 40 minutes of actual routine parts — feeding breakfast, doing bathroom stuff, getting kids dressed and out the door — probably 3/4 of it was spent with one or both of Ben and Molly yelling or crying (NB – I think an early night is in order tonight). But amazingly, in that time I didn’t cry or raise my voice, and what’s even more amazing is I didn’t FEEL LIKE crying or raising my voice.

And the end result was that by the time we were ready to go, Ben and Molly were all:

This is actually Ben and Molly last week when they decided to play a funny joke on me and switch outfits!
©PicklesINK 2013

And I call that a WIN for everyone!

~ karyn

How do you handle it when your kids are melting down? How do you keep your cool?



Today Sucks – So Let’s Be Thankful!!

This morning was a little crappy. Yesterday my Mazda5 started making a really loud rattling noise, so I got off the highway and to the closest gas station, where I waited for Ian to come and pick us up. This morning I brought it to my mechanic, who had a look and a listen and informed me that I was now in the market for either a new engine or a new car – my call. Le Sigh.

Anyway, I’ve been sitting here moping about 1. How can I possibly afford a new engine (or a new car)? 2. How on earth am I going to get the kids to and from school tomorrow?  3. Why didn’t I notice sooner that there was something wrong? 6. Etc. Etc. Etc.

And then suddenly I thought to myself, I’m pretty goddamn lucky! I’m sitting here in my heated house when some people who have houses can’t afford to heat them and others don’t have homes at all. I’m worrying about the fact that I can’t drive to the grocery store when a) I’m fit and healthy and could walk there; and b) I have enough food in the house that I don’t actually have to go anyway. I’m worrying about a car that I don’t owe anything on when just being able to drive a car, let alone owning one outright, is a bloody luxury. I had to cancel Ben’s violin lesson tonight because I can’t drive him there. Violin lesson? How many kids get violin lessons??

So I’ve decided to set a timer for 1 minute and in that time write down everything that I can think of that I am thankful for. As they say on Top Chef, “Time starts…now!”

1. I have a working computer to write this on and a reliable internet connection.

2. I have beautiful, articulate, gifted children with no medical issues.

3. I have a loving, supportive husband, who comforted me on the phone this morning when I was blaming myself for the car.

4. I have people whom I can ask for help at a moment’s notice – like the woman whom we met when she used to work at our farmers’ market who is picking Ben up for me and the friend I called for advice about the car yesterday when I couldn’t reach Ian and who offered to lend me his car to finish my trip to Toronto.

…1 minute is up…

5. My fridge, freezer, and cupboard are full to overflowing, even though I haven’t been to the grocery store for a week.

6. I have credit and savings enough that though it will be an inconvenience, I can get through this.

…2 minutes is up…

7. I have a funny, active 3 year-old who is “bugging” me as I do this, giggling and pulling my hand away from the keyboard.

8. I have a skilled and sympathetic mechanic who looked at my car this morning even though he was swamped, had his son give me and Molly a ride home, and is going to find me the best deal on a used engine that he can.

9. I am healthy and happy – really happy – and since my depression is treated I actually can think about the positives in my life instead of being overwhelmed by the one negative!

10. I have to keep resetting my timer because it keeps running out before I finish thinking of blessings!

…3 minutes…

I mean, seriously – could anyone look at this kid and not grin back?

80s Molly

“Nobody puts Baby in a corner!” Molly channeling the 80’s in her dance outfit.
©PicklesINK 2013

As Bif Naked would Tweet: “Word of the day: Gratitude *beam*”

~ karyn

What are you grateful for today?


Confession cam time again – Momminus Horriblis rears her ugly head

Confession cam time again: This morning I feel like the crappiest mommy ever. You know the one – that mommy that all the other mommies stare at thinking, “Boy, at least I’m not that bad!” Worse than that, actually. I’m the mommy that the other mommies stare at thinking, “What a bitch. How can she be that mean to her kid?” Tantrumming kids, I can handle. Sad kids – no problem. Tantrumming kids who LOOK LIKE sad kids? That’s my Kryptonite.

Over the years, there have been a number of things that will lead to Ben throwing what Ian calls a wobbler. As he has matured, most of these things have dwindled off, leaving just one: Ben is very much a creature of habit. One of the most common objections he will make to things is, “But I wasn’t expecting that!” Example: “But Ben, you love peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.” *whined* “I know I do, but I wasn’t expecting it. Why did you give me it??” When it comes to school, we are in the habit of dropping Molly off at her class first, then Ben, and if I try to differ from that routine, he completely loses it.

Which brings us to this morning. At Ben and Molly’s school, in the month of February, they invite parents to observe their children in class. You sign up for a time slot, they set up a video camera in the class, and you watch on a TV in the hallway, then join the class for circle time, and the child being observed doesn’t know that his or her parents are there until then. Other parents are asked to make an effort to get their children to the classroom on time so that they don’t interrupt the observation or spoil the surprise.

Well, we are notoriously late, and this morning was no exception, so when I realized that there was a mommy sitting down to observe, I explained to Ben that today I needed to drop him off quickly and RIGHT NOW so we didn’t interrupt his friend’s mommy or spoil the surprise. And meltdown in 5…4…3…2…

The trouble with Ben’s meltdown in this particular situation is that it’s not a screaming, flailing temper tantrum. That would be way too easy. I could be authoritative, other parents would smile sympathetically, and a teacher would nod understandingly and take him into the classroom. No, the trouble with Ben’s “wobbler” is that his face crumbles, he bursts into heart-breaking tears, he begs, “But mommy…please…I just can’t go in while I’m upset…I just have to get not upset…I’m trying to take deep breaths”, and I hiss, “Ben, this is ridiculous. Just get into your classroom,” and try to grab him and drag him in while he dances away, keeping just out of reach. To the uninformed observer, he looks like a heart-broken little boy who is trying his best to pull himself together while I look like the angriest, most icy-hearted parent ever to walk the earth.

So now instead of quickly zipping him into the classroom so the other mom could continue her observation undisturbed, we have the spectacle of sobbing, begging, deep-breathing Ben, and hissing, muttering, grabbing me, and let me tell you, the TV screen is no longer what’s being observed…*Voiceover in Australian accent* “And if you look to your right, towards the edge of the savannah you will see a prime example of momminus horriblis with her young. Ain’t she terrifying?”

What could I do? I walked away to take Molly to her class. Ben followed and we continued the back-and-forth, “Just go to your class.” “I just need to get not upset.” “Go back downstairs.” “I’m trying to take my deep breaths.” (Again, you have to imagine this conversation with angry me and pitiful Ben. I really, really sound horrible.) And now here we are outside of Molly’s classroom, and guess what? Ben is hugging Molly, saying goodbye, dropping her off first, and suddenly he’s not upset any more. “It’s okay now, mommy, because we dropped Molly off first.” WELL IT’S NOT FRIGGING OKAY WITH ME.

So I took him aside and explained in very, very angry terms, that it was NOT okay. It is NOT okay that he is now fine because he got what he wanted. “But mommy, it is. I’m not upset now because we dropped Molly off first.” “But mommy, it IS okay. I’m happy now.” “I can’t always just give you what you want to make you happy.” “But mommy why not? I am happy now because I got what I wanted. So it’s okay!” “But Ben it’s NOT OKAY with me.” “But mommy, all we have to do is drop Molly off first and then I won’t be upset.” “But Ben *through clenched teeth* that is not how the world works.” And he Just. Doesn’t. Understand. Because. He’s. Five.

And I’m furious because he did get exactly what he wanted, with no consequences whatsoever, and all that he has taken out of this whole interaction is that as long as he stalls long enough, he will get his way. And I am embarrassed and frustrated because I know that to the outside observer, I look like a jerk, and deep down inside I feel like a jerk, because how can you not feel like a jerk when you’re are angry and yelling and lecturing with the actual purpose of MAKING your child upset because IT’S NOT OKAY that they are not upset.

So in my fury I told him that from now on we would drop him off first – “But MOMMY!! Then I would be upset! Why don’t we just always drop Molly off first and then I will be happy?” and he cried. And I was okay with that, because I damn well wanted him to cry, because then he didn’t walk away with knowledge that “Yay! Now that I made a big scene and held out for long enough I got my way and everything is fine!”, but I also feel horribly guilty that I deliberately made my child cry and felt good about it. (“Yes, momminus horriblis has been known on occasion to eat her young, but researcher say that she always feels really badly afterwards…”) And then I told him I loved him and sent him into his class and went out to the car and I cried.

Now I’m calmed down, and I’m typing this out, and I’ve moved into problem-solving mode, and I think that the first think I’m going to do is I am going to make good on my promise to drop him off first from now on. Not, as before, because I want to make him sad, but because I think the answer is breaking that habit. This will mean a) Explaining the situation to his teachers and asking them to help at the classroom door; and b) Actually getting to school on time so his teachers are available when we get there.

And if anyone has dealt with this type of tantrum before and has any ideas of what to do in the moment, please let me know!

~ karyn


Out of the mouths of babes

This morning I asked Ben the Today’s Parent kid question, “What’s the weirdest thing that your parents do?” He thought about it for a minute and and then answered, “Well, other kids’ parents play with them, but you don’t.” Talk about your kick in the gut…

A lot of other truly excellent and extraordinarily brave mommy bloggers have written lately about depression, like @JDhonestmom from Honest Mom in two particularly stand-out posts, one about how normal people have this and another about hitting a crisis point and then pushing back, and @jessicaesquire from Don’t Mind the Mess guest-blogging at Honest Mom about depression, pregnancy, and nursing.

Now I guess it’s my turn, although Honest Mom’s first post pretty much sums it up for me, so I can basically say “Ditto!” and then move onto the dry, impersonal statistics that I prefer to focus on in situations like this:

According to Statistics Canada, 13.4% or 1 in 7 adults experienced symptoms that met the criteria for a mood disorder at some point in their lifetime with 5:3% reporting those symptoms in the last year (Public Health Agency of Canada, 2006), and studies consistently document higher rates of depression among women than men at a ratio of about 2:1 (Canadian Psychiatric Association, 2001).

Postpartum depression is the most common side-effect of child-bearing and affects an average of 13% of women (O’Hara & Swain, 1996).

My main symptoms seem to be sleep disruptions (I guess it runs in the family!) and anhedonia, which is a fancy word meaning an inability to derive enjoyment from activities that one would normally find enjoyable, like (nail on the head, there, Ben), playing with your kids.

Being depressed sucks, for you and for the people around you (possibly probably definitely even more so), and there are a whole host of resources out there, so don’t hesitate to seek them out and use them. The system isn’t perfect, but the faster you go looking for them the sooner you can start feeling better.

Anyhoo, now that I’ve word-vomited that all out there for the whole internet to see, let’s get this sucker taken care of so Ben and Molly can come up with an answer I actually can send in to Today’s Parent. Just as soon as I bring myself to hit “Publish.”

~ karyn