Friday, December 29, 2006

Hard: Variations on a Theme

Just when I thought I had nothing to say, I came across a post that made me think. Bub and Pie wrote recently about Irreducible Complexity. Now, B&P's posts always tend to open my eyes and mind, which is one of the reasons that her blog is one of the first ones that I check each day. As I was about to post a comment, I read Beck's and saw that I wasn't the only one who was inspired. I followed to her blog, where she continued the theme, writing about when things are hard. And then I realized that I, too, had something to say.

I've done many things in my life simply because there were hard. In Grade 13 (yes, I'm so old that they still had a Grade 13), I took Calculus as one of my six OAC's. I've always been good at school, but I've never been especially good at math, and this has always burned my bum. When I was picking my classes, I automatically ruled out Calculus, because I knew I would do badly. When I realized this, I added it to my course load, because I was damned if I wouldn't take a class simply because I thought I wouldn't do well. Guess what? I didn't. I went into the final exam with a just barely there D, and only through the help of a week-long crash course from my tutor/angel, did I finally bring that up to a respectable C. It pulled my average down, but I don't regret it, no siree. I passed!

When it came time to pick what I wanted to do for the rest of my life, I chose Acting. Because I loved it? Yes, of course. But also because I knew that if I went to university majoring in English (my other choice), I would do well. No question. I had no idea what would happen if I chose Acting. I didn't even know if I would graduate. I did graduate, but I wasn't successful at it out in the real world. Part of me thinks that it's because I never truly believed I could make it as an actor. The truth is, I'm probably just not all that good. Do I regret it? I regret the time that I lost and the fact that I have to play catch-up now, but otherwise, no. It was hard, but it was a path I had to take. It brought me to where I am today.

Motherhood. Quite possibly the hardest thing I've ever done, and it's not getting any easier. I could spend the better part of week, perhaps a month, describing all the things that are hard about motherhood: sleep deprivation; breastfeeding a child who doesn't ever seem hungry; hours and days of non-stop screaming for no reason; surgery at two months; tantrums; I-wants; Don't-want-tos; I-want-outs...the list goes on and on. Do I regret it? At some 4am feedings I came close, but otherwise - not on your life. The hardest thing of all has been the most rewarding. For every hard moment, the has been an equivalent moment of pure joy. The purest joy. Joy that I didn't think I was allowed to feel. Joy that most days I don't even feel I deserve.

I repeated to Beck one of my favourite quotes from a movie that, however average, is still one of my favourite ones to watch when I'm feeling low, "A League of Their Own": "It's supposed to be hard. If it wasn't hard, everyone would do it. The hard... is what makes it great."

Sunday, December 24, 2006

O Holy Night

I don't know what it is about the holidays, but I always get nostalgic for the way that things were when I was growing up. Traditions, moments, I want to feel them all over again as if they were happening for the first time. This feeling has only multiplied since having The Boy. I find myself going out of my way to get things "perfect", so that he doesn't miss out on one iota of the magic that I remember. Funny thing is, nothing was "perfect" when I was growing up either, it just was what it was. Some things just got in my head, and stuck.

One of those things was the Nativity scene. Growing up with a minister for a father, this was not an unfamiliar image. In fact, one of my fondest memories was sitting in Sunday school with my brother, creating a nativity out of felt, styrofoam and glue. Since we were little, we only got as far as Mary and Joseph, but oh how I loved them. I kept them for years, and my mom dutifully trucked them out each Christmas, even though they were pretty hideous. Finally, after much use, they fell to pieces.

I've wanted a Nativity set of my own for awhile. I've had my eye on this one for a long time, but it's pretty expensive. So this year, having finished my wrapping early (I know!), I got it into my head that I wanted to make a Mary and Joseph in the old school tradition. The Boy is too young to help me just yet, but I'm hoping he will be able to help me make the wise men next year. Strangely enough, they do look like a child made them. A child at heart, I suppose:

Peace on earth. Goodwill to all.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Open House

As Beck is my inspiration for all things Christmas-y, I thought it would be nice to share a little bit of Christmas at Casa Earth. Please remember that, as I "ain't no mother earth", I also "ain't no photographer". So, if these pictures seem blurry and out of focus, don't reach for the specs. It's not you, it's me. (Ahh, if I only had a dollar for every time I heard that one...)

Ye old Christmas tree. This photo does not do it justice. It looks very purty all lit up. Sadly, the lights are on in this picture, you just can't see them because I suck.

Again with the photo suckage. I decided that I wanted to make The Boy's stocking, but as I decided this just a couple of days ago, I could pretty much guarantee that I wouldn't get it done on time, even if I could get the pattern. So, we're stuck with the Shopper's Drug Mart special until I can get my act together. You can see the pattern of the "stocking that will be" here. The Snowman (or "po-man", as the Boy says) stocking hanger was the result of a two year search for a hanger that wasn't a ginormous Christmas scene. I just want to hang a stocking, not create an interactive Christmas display. Yeesh!

Ahh, the infamous Christmas balls. Again, a Shoppers special that I bought to use on our Christmas card shoot. The Boy loved them so much that I hung them up in the window. Every day, he makes some sort of reference to "my balls". Good times.

So wrong, but sooo right. I love my Buddha, and I didn't want him to feel left out. (DISCLAIMER: I mean no offence to any Buddhists that may be reading my blog. I have every respect for your faith, as I do for all religions.)

**And, in answer to Beck's request that I post the five Christmas songs that I hate the most, I am coming up blank. I can only think of one song that should be obliterated from this planet. I hate, loathe, despise and abominate it. The Christmas Shoes. This. Must. Go.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Stolen by MeMe!

This blog is in serious need of some Christmas spirit! Me too, for that matter. As excited as I am each year, I forget how much WORK is involved. I'm so exhausted that I don't even have enough brain power to come up with my own meme, so I stole Kittenpie's:

1. Egg Nog or Hot Chocolate?

If it were any other year, I would say that Hot Chocolate would win, hands down. With the requisite cup of Egg Nog on Christmas day, of course. Drink too much of that and you get Nog Belly. Bad times. However, this year, I've been quaffing Steamed Cider like it's going out of style. I'm sure the folks down at Starbucks appreciate the business.

2. Does Santa wrap presents or just sit them under the tree?
Typically, there is one major gift from Santa sitting unwrapped under the tree when the kid(s) wake up in the morning. The other gifts are wrapped and under the tree for the season.

3. Colored lights on tree/house or white?
Red lights only on the tree. I put my foot down on this one, and it actually took! No outside lights at all. We're too cheap.

4. Do you hang mistletoe?
Yuck! NO.

5. When do you put your decorations up?
No decorations are allowed until at least December 1st, although they don't usually go up until the 15th or later. Whenever my mom can find some time to come and help me. I seriously don't know what I'd do without her. Moms rock!

6. What is your favorite holiday dish (excluding dessert)?
Is there anything else to eat at Christmas besides dessert?? Hmm. I guess I'd have to say Pillsbury crescent rolls, in that case.

7. Favorite Holiday memory as a child:
It would have to be the Open House parties that my parents threw every year. It was a lot of work, and my mom was grouchy for days, but it was all worth it in the end. I got to see my parents as adults instead of 'mom and dad', and in turn, I got to feel a little adult myself. It was magical.

8. When and how did you learn the truth about Santa?
I don't recall, so it can't be all that traumatic. A non-event, for me.

9. Do you open a gift on Christmas Eve?
We used to. We were allowed to open one present, and my mom chose it. It was always new pyjamas to wear that night, so that when she took pictures in the morning, we wouldn't look scruffy.

10. How do you decorate your Christmas Tree?
As quickly as possible, yet with great care. It's not something that I really enjoy doing, but I love how it looks when it's done, and done well. So I make the effort.

11. Snow! Love it or Dread it? I
I love it! As long as it doesn't get in my way. If I can't run, or can't use the stroller, or (ye gods!) can't drive somewhere, then I hate it.

12. Can you ice skate?
Only forwards. If I had to skate backwards, god help us.

13. Do you remember your favorite gift?
I remember getting a dollhouse one year, and it was, to my young heart, the best gift ever! I felt like I was living in a picture book. You know the ones? Where everyone has the most beautiful gifts under the tree.

14. What's the most important thing about the Holidays for you?
I would have to say, spending time with family. It sounds cheesy, but it's true. I love travelling around and spending time with people that I don't get to see often. I always take the week off work between Christmas and New Year's for that reason.

15. What is your favorite Holiday Dessert?
My mom makes these "strawberries" out of red jellow power and coconut (etc), with green icing for leaves. It sounds disgusting, but once you start, you can't stop.

16. What is your favorite holiday tradition?
Christmas stockings. I think that these are way more fun than actual presents. Also, you don't have the pressure about getting the "perfect" thing or spending whackloads of cash.

17. What tops your tree?
A star. I'm very particular about this. I have issues about sticking a tree branch up an angel's butt. Does that sound comfortable to you?

18. Which do you prefer giving or receiving?
If I can find the perfect gift for someone, then giving is the best. I get so excited to give it to them that I can barely breathe.

19. What is your favorite Christmas Song?
Save the hardest for last, huh? It depends on my mood. If I'm feeling traditional, then it's The Christmas Song, Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas or White Christmas. Although, I can't go a year without gettin' down to Boney M's Mary's Boy Child and Feliz Navidad. This year, I'm getting the "alternative winter" vibe, and am loving River (Joni Mitchell), Song for a Winter's Night and In the Bleak Midwinter. Awfully depressing, and I'm loving every minute of it!

Friday, December 15, 2006

Late to the Party

In amidst all the excesses of the holiday season, the frenzy of trying to get everything done on time, I think it's important to stop and take some time out for what this season is truly all about: LOVE. Showing love for your family. That's what the presents are supposed to be all about - not who has the most or the coolest stuff. Showing love for the tiny little baby born in a manger. You don't have to believe in Him, but you should believe in what he represents - hope and new life. And last, but certainly not least, showing love for your community.

I hope that I'm not the only one who feels a little lost at this time of year. There are so many worthy causes out there, that I am terrified that I can never do enough, never have enough to give. I want to give, but I don't want to give so much that I end up in poverty myself. After all, the coffers at Casa Earth are not bottomless. So what's a girl to do? I've never been good with grand gestures, like sending money to a village in Africa, or something. It's too abstract for me. On the other hand, I'm not always comfortable giving money to the people I see on the street. I don't have enough money to give something to everyone I see. So, how do you decide who gets money and who doesn't?

So this year, I've decided that the best way to solve this dilemma is to do something that is halfway between the grand and the small gestures. A couple of my work friends and I got together and sponsored a family from Children's Aid for Christmas. We got a list of who was in the family and what they wanted for Christmas. We bought toys, and clothes and Christmas decorations, as well as a gift certificate for groceries. It felt good. In fact, I think I had more fun buying for them, than I did my own family.

My second gesture is to get in on the action at Her Bad Auction. Have you heard of this? If you haven't already, you should check it out. A bunch of fabulous blogger ladies put this raffle together to raise money for Muscular Dystrophy and show support for a wonderful kid, Tanner. So please visit, shop, and spend, spend, spend for a good cause. Just click on the button below:

Her Bad Auction

And while I have your attention, I'm gonna mark my territory. Back away from the Fadiddle stocking. I know who you are and I know where you blog...

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Snowman Art

Hello! And welcome to my new blog - Beta style! Frankly, I don't notice a difference, so I hope I didn't mess things up. I'm such a luddite...

I was getting ready for work this morning, and having the most uncharitable thoughts. Honestly, sometimes I think that if there were people who could read my thoughts like on Heroes, I wouldn't have very many friends. Anyways, I digress... I was musing about all the Christmas specials on TV, and how they have always been a part of my Christmas "traditions". Personally, I don't know anyone who doesn't like the classic 1966 cartoon How the Grinch Stole Christmas, and the claymation Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. I was also thinking that I would have to seriously re-consider a friendship with someone who hates these shows. It's alright if they're not your FAVOURITE SHOWS EVER, but can you really hate the Grinch and Rudolph ("I'm cude! I'm CUDE!")?? Ok, maybe I'm the only shallow person out there who puts that much value on a silly TV show.
Then it occurred to me - I don't like Frosty the Snowman! What if people judge me the same way I'm judging them?? Yikes. So, in the interest of bygones and to celebrate the festive season with joy instead of judgement, I would like to share with you some snowman humour that is right up my alley...Enjoy!

Sunday, December 10, 2006

A Sunday in the Puke

The day started innocuously enough, with one of our newfound loves -- going for breakfast at a local diner. We've found it difficult, of late, to do things as a complete family. Someone is always busy or sick. The Boy ate marvelously well: eggs, toast, ham, potatoes, strawberries, yoghurt. It isn't often that he partakes of all four food groups in one sitting.

Later on, we had plans to meet Granny at the Eaton's Centre for some Christmas shopping. "Subbie!" the Boy exclaimed. The Boy loves the subway and it generally ends up being the highlight of any excursion. To our delight, Sistah Inlaw and her daughter, Golden Girl came along for the trip. The Boy and Golden Girl love each other tremendously, and can be counted on to entertain themselves.

We immediately sat down to lunch at the Baton Rouge before the kids' hunger peaked. The Boy had chicken tenders and fries. He ate nothing and asked for milk. "The Boy is refusing fries?" I puzzled. He half-heartedly asked for ketchup. He dipped the fries and ate the ketchup off without consuming any potato. My radar flashed. "Do you want to sit with mummy?" He did, of course.

Two seconds after landing on my lap, out came the puke. Not just a little vomit. This was puke of Exorcist proportions, with multiple expulsions. Puke with a consistency and colour that will ensure that I won't eat ham for a very, very long time. If ever. It was all down his shirt, all down his pants, all over my pants, on the table and on the floor. It even managed to hit my suede coat.

We took him to the bathroom and managed to clean him off. We asked if he felt better, and he said yes. But he was wet through and through, and of course, this was the one day that I decided not to bring a change of clothes. Off to Baby Gap. Not cheap, but it was close and sometimes they have fantastic sales. The only thing on the sale rack that fit, and that we didn't already have at home, was a turtleneck and white sweatpants. (White! I know. Who makes white sweatpants for toddlers? Dumb. But desperate times call for desperate measures.) I wasn't so lucky though. I got to walk around in the mall in smelly, itchy pants all day. YUM! Don't deny that you're turned on right now...

It has occurred to me that any one who is a "good mother" would have probably taken their kid home at this point. I didn't, so I guess we all know where I fall on the good-bad mother spectrum. Truth is, he didn't seem remotely sick. UM, other than the puke, that is. He was having a fabulous time laughing with Golden Girl. They ran hand in hand around the Disney store, leaping on stuffed animals. They played a rather rambunctious version of peek-a-boo in H&M. And, they saw Santa! It was a delight to behold. Who am I to let a little puke stand in the way of that? Ok, a LOT of puke.

They were having so much fun, in fact, that neither of them slept at any point. Which, would explain the meltdown that happened when I wouldn't let him smear DQ soft-serve all over his new shirt. But Granny let him hold her ice cream cone, and all was well again. He ate quite a bit.

On the way home, The PUKE made it's second visit of the day. All over his scarf and jacket, in the crevasses of his stroller, inside his jacket and all down his new shirt, and of course, all over the white pants. Sistah Inlaw and I had joked that the pants wouldn't make it through the day, and it comforting to know that I can be right about something. Hope that comfort is enough to last me through the extra load of laundry that I'm doing tonight for the pukey clothes. A whole, entire, load.

The Boy is now fast asleep after a very long day. Seeing the Boy have so much fun with Golden Girl must have turned my head, I think. I feel all gooey. Although it may sound odd, it was an extraordinarly good day. If only I could forget about the puke...

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Joyful We Adore Thee

After days of lethargy, abnormal amounts of sleep and the saddest, most painful face in history, The Boy is slowly making his way back to health. For now, at least. (Knock on wood.) It goes without saying that we love The Boy no matter what mood he is in, but for the past week, when I looked at him, it was like looking at a stranger. Unresponsive, unwell and downright miserable. It hurt my heart to see him that way. And, it was such a relief when we finally began to see his "joie de vivre" return.

It's funny, isn't it, how someone can be right there in front of you, sitting on your lap, laying his head on your shoulder, and you can still miss him terribly? Now, instead of the horrible, disquieting silence, interrupted only by wheezing, coughing and the music from his favourite video, we hear the joyous sounds of an almost-two-year-old:

  • Running after a ball and squealing like a stuck pig when he catches it.
  • Hiding behind the curtains and popping out to say "Peekyboo".
  • Hiding in various rooms and coming out with his favourite new catch-phrase "Shut de door!"
  • Yelling "Hi Charley" at his new book, Clifford's Christmas Presents.
  • Responding to our question "Do you want dinner?" with a most enthusiastic "YEAH!"

Wherein The Boy attempts to make up for lost time by doing some chin-ups.

And as for me? Well, Ye Gods of the Sickies have a rotten sense of humour. I have spent the last few days battling an unbearable headache, coughing up phlegm and blowing my nose every few minutes. Who knew that my head could have so much snot? Seriously, though, where is it kept?? Because if I knew that I had so much space in my head, I would use it to store much more important stuff. Like memorizing Pi to a thousand decimal places. Or learning Mandarin. Now that would be useful.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

A plague on our house!

Well, that may be overstating it a bit. Honestly, though, sometimes it feels like it! In the past three weeks, The Boy has had two ear infections, two eye infections, Fifth's Disease, and a near constant fever. We've seen three doctors at our family practice, and one very nice Emergency doctor at Sickkids Hospital. God Bless Sickkids! They should be on our Christmas card list. The Husband (or "Mr Earth" as he prefers to be called now, man, he's worse than P Diddy...or whatever his name is now) has had two nasty colds, and I myself have had one. And I'm not talking about a sniffly little cough-cough cold, either. I'm talking about a knock-down, drag-out, drug me up till I'm stupid kind of cold.

We're taking The Boy to the doctor tomorrow AGAIN. The antibiotics don't seem to be working, he hasn't eaten since Saturday, and today he slept for seven out of twelve hours. You'd think that it would be nice to have so much 'down time' but when a child sleeps that much, it's just plain worrisome. Also, I wasn't here today. (We'll save the guilt about that for another post...) My mom came in to watch him for the past couple of days, so I could actually attend work. What we would do without her, I'm not entirely sure.

Now, I think that I am getting sick again, and quite frankly, it simply cannot happen. Mr Earth has a show, The Boy is well and truly sick and I cannot get sick. So there you have it Ye Gods of the Sickies. I refuse to be sick, do you hear me? Nyah, nyah.

Is anyone else afflicted, or are we the lucky ones??

Friday, November 24, 2006

How Toys Become Real

I was never one to play with dolls, but there's always been a special place in my heart for stuffed animals. I remember distinctly sitting on the stairs of my parents house in Hamilton, begging and pleading with my dad. He was going 'Downtown' (ooh! ahh!), and I wanted desperately for him to buy me a stuffed version of Dino, from the Flintstones. My dad, being the softy that he is, of course complied. I loved that dinosaur and carried him around with me everywhere until his head flopped over permanently, never to be straightened again. Next came a monkey who I called Cocoa, whose arms were bent in a permahug so that you could walk around with him hanging on to your neck, just a like a real baby monkey. I did. One day he went missing, and was found months later frozen solid in the icy snow beneath my porch. I lovingly defrosted him, but he was never the same again. Next came Scroungy, a puppy who I "saved from the dog pound". He came with dog tags, and if he wasn't already scruffy to begin with, you would have been able to tell how much I loved him by the state of his bedraggled fur.

These were my friends, and in my childish imagination, they were no less real to me than the friends that I made in the Real World. I truly believed that they had thoughts and feelings, and that I should treat them with love and respect, because it was my job to take care of them. I also believed that when I went to sleep, they came alive and talked to each other. I grew up with stories like The Nutcracker and The Velveteen Rabbit, you see, and my young brain didn't know how to sort the 'Real' from the 'Fantastical'. There's always been the debate as to whether it's good for children to live their early lives in a make-believe world. Many people believe that children deserve the truth, and while I don't dispute that, I stand firm in the belief that some of the best lessons in life come from the magical world of children. The Velveteen Rabbit, for instance, my all time favourite children's book, about a stuffed bunny who desperately wants to become a real live rabbit, taught me how to love:

"What is REAL?" asked the Rabbit one day, when they were lying side by side near the nursery fender, before Nana came to tidy the room. "Does it mean having things that buzz inside you and a stick-out handle?"

"Real isn't how you are made," said the Skin Horse. "It's a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real."

"Does it hurt?" asked the Rabbit.

"Sometimes," said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. "When you are Real you don't mind being hurt."

" Does it happen all at once, like being wound up," he asked, "or bit by bit?"

"It doesn't happen all at once," said the Skin Horse. "You become. It takes a long time. That's why it doesn't happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don't matter at all, because once you are Real you can't be ugly, except to people who don't understand."

This book affected me so deeply that I never forgot it, even when I stopped playing with stuffed animals. In fact , that exact passage was read out loud at our wedding. It still brings tears to my eyes every time I read it.

Shoot, now I'm getting all sappy, and I can't remember what my original point was. Ah yes. I think that it's all too easy at this time of year to get caught up in buying the latest toy, the shiniest doodad, the thingie with all the lights and buttons that teaches your child gross motor skills along with a smattering of Spanish for good measure. But fancy toys come and go, and in all likelihood, the present that they are going to love the most is no doubt the simplest. A fuzzy little stuffed bunny that they will love till the fur falls off, and that doesn't need batteries. A book with a heartfelt story. A full imagination and an wide open playground, and friends to share it with. And time with family. These are the presents that are Real, that will make them Real.

"...once you are Real you can't become unreal again. It lasts for always."

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Little Toy Trains

Christmas. Christmas! Christmas!! I LOVE CHRISTMAS!!! Do I sound like and 8-yr old? Hmm. You're probably right. There's something about this time of year that reduces me to a (much) younger version of myself, eyes all aglow with the twinkle of lights and visions of sugarplums. Strangely enough, it's not the presents that I get excited about (although who doesn't like a few nice gifties...?) but it's that feeling you get. You know the one. The buzz of something exciting just around the corner. The hum of people being just a little bit kinder. The echo of carols floating through your head.

It's a heightened sense of awareness, and I can't help noticing that it's changed since having The Boy. Last year, there was the whole hullabaloo surrounding "The First Christmas". It was exciting, but it's got nothing on this year. Now, The Boy is starting to realize that something big is happening. When we ask him what Santa says, he turns away shyly and says, "Ho. Ho!". When we ask him what Santa is going to bring him for Christmas, he says, "Watch". Why a watch? Who knows? But he's very fixated for someone to whom time is not even a vague concept.

This weekend, I start Christmas shopping. And just recently, I finally realized what it means to have a boy. When we were pregnant, I was 99% sure that we were having a boy. We didn't find out the sex, in part, due to the fact that I didn't want showers full of blue clothes and sports paraphernalia. We decorated the nursery in pale green with an animal theme - suitably gender neutral. Clothes that I bought were red, orange, green and yellow. My reasoning was that no child of mine was going to be told what they liked and what they should play with solely based on their sex.

And what does The Boy show interest in? Trains. Trucks. Cars. Buses. Airplanes. Hockey. Football. Basketball. Give him a stuffed animal or a doll, and he'll look at it and casually toss it aside. Ask him to try on clothes and he'll pitch a fit. Do boys have this stuff hard-wired into their brains? Because he certainly didn't learn this from me. I am learning from him, though. Let me tell that after saying the words "car", "truck", "tractor" and "train" for the umpteenth time, this Boy's mamma has done her homework. So if you see me in the aisles of Toys 'R Us, please don't ask me if I'm buying that car (ahem, that's a Rally Car), or that truck (actually, that's a Curtain-Sided Delivery Truck) or that tractor (pardon me, but that's a Skid-Steer Loader). I know all the names of the trains in the Thomas the Tank Engine set, and I know how to use 'em.

Close your eyes
Listen to the skies
All is calm, all is well
Soon you'll hear Kris Kringle and the jingle bells
Bringin' old toy trains, little toy tracks
Little toy drums coming from a sack
Carried by a man dressed in white and red
Little boy, don't you think it's time you were in bed?

Friday, November 17, 2006

Will the real NoMo please stand up?

This whole blogging thing is still new to me. I'm not a technologically-inclined person, nor do I claim to be extraordinarily knowledgeable about the internet. I have been reticent to share current pictures of myself or The Boy due to some vague fear that they could be used for nefarious purposes. (You'll notice that all the pictures of the Boy that I do post never feature him looking directly at the camera -- sort of an homage to the next door neighbour on Home Improvement). As a result, I don't feel as if I've properly introduced myself or fully met all my blogging neighbours that I visit so frequently. So you can imagine how delighted I was to read Her Bad Mother's recent post where she created South Park likenesses of herself and WonderBaby. Here's my chance, I thought! So let me introduce myself and The Boy:

Age: 33
Occupation: TBA. I currently work in the sales department of a news agency, but I am working towards becoming a primary teacher.
Loves: The Husband, The Boy, theatre, reading, movies, good red wine, chocolate, coffee, and, yes, TV (gasp!)
Dislikes: Math, rainy days, rude people on the subway, cilantro, watching sports on TV, bad acting
Freakishly good at: Spelling, remembering children's names
Freakishly bad at: Cooking, remembering the parents' names
Last book I read: Northanger Abbey
Best Feature: My nails (they grow abnormally fast and strong)
Worst Feature: Thighs or Post-Baby Muffin Top - your choice
Current Fave Phrase/Word: Ridiculous

Age: 22mths
Occupation: Entertaining the masses. Serious contender for the position of butterfly goalie with the Maple Leafs.
Loves: Trucks, trains, cars, books, Elmo, Grover, Pasta, Goldfish crackers, Hockey
Dislikes: Vegetables, wearing jackets, having diaper changed, needing help to do anything

Freakishly good at: Learning people's names
Freakishly bad at: Eating soup
Last book I read: Firebears
Best Feature: My laugh. Free and strong and delightfully infectious.

Worst Feature: Nothing
Current Fave Phrase/Word: Don't want to! (but when I say it, it's cute!)

So there's a just little bit about me and The Boy. Anymore, and you'd probably get bored (if you're not already). I'd post a pic of the hubbie too, but I wouldn't do so without his participation and he's asleep right now. Please feel free to stop by and introduce yourselves, and if you really want to go crazy, create your own South Park characters and send me the link. I'd really like to meet you!

Monday, November 13, 2006

Brave Little Soldier

Today, I took The Boy to the doctor for what we thought was a mild eye infection. One of the downsides to daycare, of course, is that the little ones are susceptible to every circulating bug. The office was jam-packed, and the wait was long. Forty-five minutes after we arrived, we finally saw a doctor. During that time, The Boy went from lazily playing with a truck, to sitting on my lap, to laying his head on my chest and sucking his thumb. He was burning up and one cheek was bright red, as if someone had slapped him. After a thorough examination, not only did he have an eye infection in both eyes, an ear infection in both ears, but a fever of 104! The Boy and I waited another half hour in the examination room while the doctor tried to find an antibiotic that wouldn't give The Boy hives. During that time, The Boy lounged dispiritedly in my lap, eyes half-closed, breath rattling, like a sleepy, wheezy furnace. My stomach clenched and I clung to him, desperately hoping that my heart would catch up to my head, and believe what I knew to be true. All babies get sick. It's perfectly normal. It sucks, but it's perfectly normal. When the doctor handed me the prescription, the words stuck in my throat. In the silence, there came a squeaky little voice that said:

"Tank ewe. Buh-bye!"

Ahh, my love, you are braver than I am.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Round and Round She Goes

Out of the maelstrom of my befuddled, bewildered and bespectacled (no wait, that can't be right...) mind comes a subject that I don't want to think about, much less write about. But it's there in the back of my head, in the front of my head, in the great swirling emptiness where my rational brain should be. I've tried to brush it aside, push it away, dodge it, run from it, run to it, embrace it, love it and no matter what I do it's always there, like the audible hum of a fluorescent light. Day by day, hour by hour, minute by minute, it creeps ever closer. The Boy is rapidly approaching the two year mark, the semi-arbitrary date that we chose to make the decision: Do we want another child? Although you make this decision as a couple, as a family, I think that, in some respects, you also make this decision alone. And hope to hell that your partner made the same decision you did.

I've always imagined that if I had kids, I would have kidS - plural. (And, by plural, I mean two kids, not three or four...) It was sort of a given in my head that children should have siblings. It's a testament to how much your childhood experience really does affect the rest of your life, I guess. Almost every one of my friends had a sibling, came from a two child family. And, as I believe that motherhood is an important experience, one that expands your horizons and makes you a better person, so too is brotherhood or sisterhood. It's a gift that only we can give The Boy, and lasts longer than any toy. But is that enough of a reason to have another?

And then there's the fear, my all-consuming fear of: CHANGE. Change is bad, very very bad, and we are in such a good place right now. We have a lovely Boy who is a joy to be around (most of the time), and why, why, why, why, why, why, why, why would we want to change that? I'm back at work and The Boy talking, running, jumping (well, trying very hard to jump) and, to my surprise, is loving daycare. I'm doing some university courses enroute to a career change, which would give me the extra time with The Boy that I crave. I'm volunteering and The Husband is doing a show and life is good. I'm selfish, I know. I want to have kids, love kids, be with kids, without being consumed by them. I don't want to lose my sense of self. I don't want to lose my relationship with The Husband. I need to know that I can have kidS (plural), and still have something left for myself, and for us. Selfish, selfish selfish. Most of all, though, I don't want to wake up one morning many distant years from now and find out that I made the wrong choice. That I do, in fact, want another child, and it's too late.

Too late. Silly, this conception of time, isn't it? I know that women have children rather late in life now. I know it's possible. I know it's not for me. For me, it's a now or never thing. I may be the one imposing this time crunch, but it doesn't make it any less real. And the truth is, I'm not getting any younger.

Honestly, I don't know why I'm so conflicted. Re-reading this, it sounds very much like I don't want another child. But the truth is, I do. Maybe I just want this baby to spring, Athena-like, fully formed out of the top of my head at the age of 12 months. I want to skip the round the clock feedings and non-stop crying jags and get straight to the good stuff. Selfishally, selfishaliscious, selfishiveness.

Many of my friends have made the leap or are actively TTC, and I am so envious of their certainty. Did they wake up one morning and just "know" that this was right thing to do? If I can't come to a decision, does that mean that it's not the right thing for me, for us? Actually, I wasn't one hundred percent sure when The Boy was conceived, and look how wonderful he turned out to be.

When I was doing some research on the internet, a site asked the question: "If you found out that couldn't have another child, would you be sad or relieved? Trust your gut instinct." Ironically, I had both reactions. I was sad that such a personal decision was taken out of my hands, but relieved that I didn't have to decide. And all the while, in the playroom, in the nursery, in the kitchen, there is this little person who flickers in and out of view like Princess Leia in her message to Obi-Wan Kenobi: "Help me, NoMo, you're my only hope." How can I say no?

Monday, November 06, 2006

The Original Undomestic Goddess

To the makers of Ziploc "Double Zipper" Bags: Why do you persist on perpetuating the myth that these bag are easy to close? Using children in your advertising doesn't change anything. I am university-educated, and I have a garnered a certain manual dexterity in my three decades of life, and I still can't close them without a great deal of effort. And don't get me started on the "Easy Zipper" option. They may be easy to open and close, but they rip if you use this feature more than once. Save the easy zipper for toddler jackets. Now there's a place it would be useful. Or, Brad Pitt's pants. I'm flexible.

To the makers of Clover Leaf tuna: Why is it that you are incapable of coming up with a container that is easy to open? Or am I simply incapable of opening said can without squirting tuna juice on my clothes? No self-respecting girl wants her pants to smell like fish. Period. Starkist at least gave it a shot with that crazy pouch thingie. Although carrying a bag of fish around with me "for convenience" ranks right up there with fishy pants.

To innovators everywhere: Why is there no Easy Bake Oven for adults? Not everyone is Martha Stewart, and my pill bottle clearly states that I should not be operating heavy machinery. Have some decency and throw a girl a bone! I'd post a picture of the carrot loaf that I baked this evening, but this is a family-friendly blog, and I'm simply not up to fielding the phone calls of angry adults.

And lastly, to the makers of PVR: A big thank you for allowing me the time to discover that I should just stick to cutting vegetables. Keep to your strengths, I always say. Now, I can finally enjoy Heroes with some raw, but expertly sliced, veggies... Mmm, raw veggies!...Dieting sucks. I wonder, would it be wrong to take Hallowe'en candy out of the garbage, as long as it was still in it's wrapper? Not that I would consider actually doing such a thing...! Just a moral quandry I'm working on. Sigh.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Primary Caregiver

Awhile back, I had to fill out this form for Harper's new idea of a monthly child care allowance. It's not an idea which I wholly support, but who turns down free money? Not I. On this form, I had to write down who was the "primary caregiver" of The Boy. I instantly wrote down myself, of course. But that got me thinking, and the more I thought, the more I got confused. What does this mean?

The Husband and I decided to have a baby together. When 'creating' The Boy, well, we obviously did that together. We painted his room, and bought the furniture and prepared for his entrance into the world together. So when did I become the primary caregiver?? When, I carried him inside me for nine months, I was The Boy's source of nourishment and transportation for that time, and although The Husband was a great help, I was essentially on my own. That's nature, and that's unavoidable. But surely, upon The Boy's first breath outside the womb, I stopped being the primary caregiver, and reverted to one half of a team, right? Well, yes...and no.

The Husband was the perfect support partner - always there to lend a hand. I simply could not have done it on my own. Frankly, I don't know how single parents do it, and I have no interest in finding out. But the reality is, that while you are breastfeeding, you are the primary caregiver. The Boy could survive without seeing The Husband, but could not go one single day without seeing me. What about breast milk in a bottle, you ask? Of course, yes. But I do think that some of the major benefits of breast milk do not come simply from consumption, but from the bonding that ensues, the close body contact. The repercussions of missing feedings are no fun either. And, for us at least, The Boy simply would not take a bottle for about nine months. So it was me and him against the world.

The Husband and I had a sort of unspoken agreement that, while I was on maternity leave, should The Boy wake up in the middle of the night, I was the one that had to get up with him. After all, The Husband had to work the next day. But then, so did I right? Granted I didn't have to look presentable, and I didn't have to speak in coherent sentences. But I did have to care for The Boy. I did have to feed him and change him and entertain him. I did have to get behind the wheel and take him to doctor's appointments and whatnot on days that I was literally blacking out due to lack of sleep. That is work, and possibly the most important work out there - raising a human being. But, as it was work, it was understood that everything concerning The Boy was my primary responsibility.

The question that remains is, once you're past the initial hurdles of gestation and breastfeeding, how, in a two parent household, there can even be the ranking of primary vs. secondary caregiver?

I don't know how it works with stay-at-home moms, and I don't pretend to. I did have have taste of it while I was on maternity leave, though, and what I do know is that when you decide to be a stay-at-home mom, while you may be accepting the position of primary caregiver, it shouldn't mean that you're signing up for a job that is twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. If I was at home now, you can bet that I would be lobbying for a SAHM Union in which we set out laws that determined the number of hours worked each day, and anything over and above those hours would be compensated, with official recognition being the minimum and expensive presents being the maximum.

But, why do so many women who go back to work end up doing two jobs: the one that pays them money, and the other of Primary Caregiver to their child(ren)? Is it unavoidable due to the gender requirements of the role? Are we such control freaks that we refuse to let our partners have more autonomy? Or are we so entrenched in the stereotypes of the male being the Primary Breadwinner and the female being the Primary Caregiver that there is no escape?

I don't think that our partners should be reduced to glorified babysitters who have no real authority. Unfortunately, I don't think that we, alone, have the ability to solve this problem. I think that many men enjoy handing over the reigns of power and simply going along for the ride. I have heard of men that boast of never having changed a poopy diaper. Ever. Is this something to brag about? That they enjoy all the benefits of having children without having to deal with any of the crap? I thank my lucky stars that The Husband was not one of these men.

On the flip side, though, the women put up with it for a variety of reasons: maybe they don't know how to ask for what they want; maybe they feel their "money jobs" don't compete with their partners'; or maybe they feel that this is what they signed up for when they decided to have children. But it begs the question: if a husband and wife were both professionals, making the same money and working the same hours, who would be the primary caregiver in this situation?

I don't know the answer to this. What I do know, however, is that the term "primary caregiver" should be considered outdated. Or, at the very least, should be considered outdated where both parents are working (as this is the only situation where I can speak with any authority whatsoever). I believe that for true equality, we need to think more in terms of "Co-Caregiver". What say you?

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Post Mortem

COSTUME: Had high hopes of making it from scratch in a sort of Martha Stewart homage, but ended up buying it online instead. Had to explain what he was more times than I would like, but always got a laugh when I did. (In case you're wondering, he's "L'il Sprout", the Green Giant's son). The Boy was not so enthused. He kept saying "Jackey - off!" and "Nooo hat!". Oh well, got a lot of compliments on the hat. When he wore it, that is.

DECORATIONS: Wasn't going to decorate the porch at all, but have learnt my lesson from past years. Kids won't come to your house if you don't decorate. Not even if you stand on the porch and say "Come here, kid, I have some candy for you...!" (Why do the kids run away? Hmm). We kept the porch PG, because The Boy seemed put off by the scary stuff at "It's My Party". The pumpkin was my first attempt at designing a carving (it's Count von Count, if you can't tell). And thanks to Hallowe'en, The Boy learnt two new important and useful words: spider and eyeballs. Or rather, "'Pider!" and "Ahh-balls". Sometimes it was just "Balls!" though, which caused some uncomfortable moments.

PHOTOGRAPHS: Lousy. Took 30 shots, and could barely find any that weren't out of focus, or where The Boy didn't turn away at the last minute, or where he wasn't trying to remove some part of the costume. No smiles. And why do my eyes always look bloodshot? (I'm not a drunk! At least, I hadn't drunk anything last night...)

MANNERS: We tried to teach The Boy to say "Trick or Treat", but to no avail. We did manage to convince him to say "Candy please" but that only worked for about two houses. After that, it was just "MORE CANDY!". Over and over again. Then he started taking the candy from our bowl and putting it in his bag.

CANDY: Lots, given that he is still under two. Is it wrong that The Boy hasn't actually had any of 'his' candy? Is it wrong that we are the ones who are eating the candy? I think we are walking an ethical tightrope here, but, ohhhhhh, the candy!

CONCLUSION: Not bad for Hallowe'en #2. The Boy was a bit overwhelmed by the all the fuss, but got into it by the end. The candy part won him over. (I knew he was my son!) Good times.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Corner of the Sky

I've always wanted my life to be extraordinary. I think that everyone dreams that when they grow up, they will lead an interesting life full of romance and excitement. The real life equivalent of a roller coaster. It's quite possible that those who experience a mid-life crisis are those people who have clung to this dream for so long that they believe it is essential to their happiness, and have recently come to the conclusion that it is not going to happen. It is too late.

I have always been determined that I won't be one of those people. That when I get the end of my journey, I won't say, "If only I had...". I had vague dreams of living the life a glamourous celebrity: travel, riches, trendsetting. Not surprisingly, my life is nothing like that. Travel is going to the in-laws for dinner. Riches is deciding to get an extra shot in my latte. Trendsetting is finding a cute winter hat for The Boy, and gloating whenever someone asks me where I found it (WalMart, $6.49). Ahh, the life of a glamourous mum!

I've often wondered - have a settled? Have I chosen to take the easy, comfortable route?? Is there some life out there that I should have, some road not taken??? And then I feel immediately guilty for thinking such insurgent thoughts. And then I curse myself for feeling guilty. After all, people are free to think what they want. Thinking is not reality. Thinking is not even wanting. Thinking is just that - thinking. Everybody imagines the "what if" scenario. It's these fantasy scenarios that allow us to muddle through the more mundane tasks of life.

Today, The Husband and I went to see the musical Pippin. For anyone who doesn't know the show, and mostly only diehard musical fans know of it at all, it is about a young man who believes he is extraordinary. He "wants (his) life to be something more than long". Accordingly, he spends a very long time trying out various roles (warrior, king, lover, "husband/father") only to quit them because they just don't fit. They're too ordinary. He believes there is something more out there for him. At the end of the show, the Lead Player suggests that the only proper finale for an extraordinary person is to, in one final moment of beauty and purity, light himself on fire. A grand exit for a great person! Pippin refuses, realizing that he doesn't really want the applause and the acclaim, but rather that he had found happiness when he found a widow and her son, and stayed with them for a year playing (unwillingly) the "mundane" role of husband/father:


In short, I guess, it is the idea that the extraordinary is found in the everyday. We are extraordinary every day that we wake up beside the person that we love. We are extraordinary every day that we pass that love on to our children. We are extraordinary in the mere creation of that most magical thing called: our family. What may seem "mundane" to an outsider is an integral thread in the fabric of existence. Money, power, celebrity are all wonderful things, I'm sure, but what are they worth if you have no one to share them with.

I have just started volunteering at the library, and the student that I was working with was asked to name his favourite things, and what did he write down? Not TV, or sports or candy. He wrote: "my family". Out of the mouths of babes...

I have found my corner of the sky. I'm mighty glad I did. Now I have the chance to be truly extraordinary.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Jackety Yak

I love so many things about the fall season. The changing foliage that makes a drive up the Don Valley actually pleasant. The festive pumpkins and chrysanthemums on everybody's porch that ease us into the holiday season, and whisper promises of better things to come. The crisp, clean air that envigorates the senses and makes me feel like I can take on the world, and change it for the better. What I don't love about the season is that it heralds the onset of what I lovingly refer to as: The Jacket Wars.

The Boy was born in the winter of 2005, an especially frosty January fit only for Mr Coldmeiser. Despite this, or perhaps, because of this, we still went outside each and every day, even if it was only for a walk down to Starbucks and back again. Each and every time we went outside, I steeled myself for the requisite twenty minutes of screaming while I inserted The Boy into his bunting bag (and, quite possibly, seventeen layers of blankets), simultaneously cursing my inability to leave the house without torturing the child. I was sure that next door neighbours were going to call the cops, who would burst in at any moment and crown me as Mrs Unfit Mother of the Year.

Winter of 2006 rolls around and The Boy is a year old, and much more mature. Now, instead of a bunting bag, we have a one-piece snowsuit with a jaunty looking Winnie and Tigger smiling and waving on the front. It should go a lot easier this year, right? Wrong. I underestimated The Boy's ability to roll over and crawl away. (I remember being so happy the day he learnt to roll over...what went wrong?) Now, I have to hold him down with one hand and endure a thirty minute temper tantrum, flailing legs and all. I was kicked in the face more times than I'd care to remember.

Ahhh, fall 2006. The Boy is approaching the two year mark, understands - and can follow - simple instructions, and is remarkably easy-going after all the earlier grief. He's mellowed. This should be a piece of cake, right? Wrong again. For The Boy, alas, has learnt the power of "No". Or rather "Noooooooooooooooooooooo!". Yes, that's more like it. On a very good day, The Boy will get his hat, scarf and mittens for me and dump them ceremoniously on the floor at my feet, before running away. On an okay day, The Boy will run away droning "Noooooooooo" before he hits a wall (not hard, but yes, hits a wall), turns around, shoves his thumb in his mouth and trudges grumpily back in my direction. Just when I think I can put the jacket, he runs away again, laughing like he's just tied someone to the proverbial train tracks. Most days, I have to hold him firmly while resolutely putting on his outdoor clothes and listening to outraged complaints, troubleshooting arms that get pulled out of the jacket two seconds after they've been inserted.

I've tried games, songs and the only thing that has made any difference is the fact that I've spent the last year saying that Lunar Jim wears a "hat" and "mittens" before going out into space. And, to be honest, the only reason I said that was that I couldn't think of the actual terms for an astronaut's garb at the time, and it just stuck. Sometimes, the Boy will tolerate mittens and a hat. The Jacket is still evil. It is the Enemy. Some days (okay, most days), I feel like I've put in a full days work before I even get to the office. Sigh. I still love the fall. I just never knew it would talk back, à la yakety-yak.

Saturday, October 21, 2006


Cool! I've been tagged by Bub and Pie to answer the following important questions. I love these things...!

1. You can flip a switch that will wipe any band or musical artist out of existence. Which one will it be?

Wow. The hardest question first, huh? I considered such "artists" as K-Fed, Megadeth and Hanson and finally settled on: Kenny G. (NOTE: For all you Kenny G lovers out there, please skip to question #2). He's not attractive, his music is not romantic, and he's everywhere. The fact that he worked with greats like Barry White and Aretha Franklin doesn't even endear him to me. I know that a lot of people love him, but I gotta say I just don't get it.

2. You have the opportunity to sleep with the movie celebrity of your choice. We are talking no-strings-attached sex and it can only happen once. Who is the lucky celebrity of your choice?

Since Bub and Pie already chose my default - the scrumptious Mr. Darcy - I feel compelled keep looking (I mean, how many one night stands can a guy have before you start to think that he'll sleep with anything that moves??). Matthew McConaughey, hands down. No intelligent conversation, but I'm guessing the raw, animal passion would compensate. And the yummy southern drawl don't hurt'am.

3. You have the opportunity to sleep with the music-celebrity of your choice. Who do you pick?

Umm, does Mark Wahlberg count? Cause if you've seen
his Calvin Klein ad, you'd understand. Marky Mark -- you had me at "Hello."

4. Now that you've slept with two different people in a row, you seem to be having an excellent day because you just came across a hundred-dollar bill on the sidewalk. Holy shit, a hundred bucks! How are you gonna spend it?

Ideally, I would spend it buying some new clothes (ones that actually fit my post-baby body, since my pre-baby clothes are too small and make me look like an awkward, walking sausage). In reality, though, I'd probably blow it all at Baby Gap.

5. You just got a free plane ticket to anywhere. You have to depart right now. Where are you gonna go?

Italy. Coffee, Art History and Red Wine. How can you go wrong? Oooh, and pizza! What about pizza?! All four food groups in a portable format. Good times.

6. Upon arrival to the aforementioned location, you get off the plane and discover another hundred-dollar bill. Shit! Now that you are in the new location, what are you gonna do?

Did you not read the answer to #5? Wine don't come cheap! (Nor do Italian, did I really type that?...what you must think of me...)

7. The Angel of Death has descended upon you. Fortunately, the Angel of Death is pretty cool and in a good mood, and it offers you a half-hour to do whatever you want before you bite it. Whatcha gonna do in that half-hour?

Run with scissors. Eat a turkey dinner and then go swimming right away. Take a bath and leave the towels on the floor. Any combination thereof. Now's the time. Carpe Diem. I'm such a rebel!

8. You accidentally eat some radioactive vegetables. They were good, and what's even cooler is that they endow you with the super-power of your choice! What's it gonna be?

The power to make things, people or situations that you see on TV or in movies exist in the real world. That way, whenever someones says, "That only happens on TV...", I'd say "Oh yeah? That's what you think!" My name would be TV Girl or better yet, Movie Girl, just for a little irony. First thing I'd do is create a holodeck. Then...Indiana Jones. Oh yeah, baby.

9. You can re-live any point of time in your life. The time-span can only be a half-hour, though. What half-hour of your past would you like to experience again?

June 1st, 2001. Las Vegas. A room at Bellagio....(get your mind out of the gutter!) The Husband proposed. One of the "significant life events" that actually lived up to the hype. (I won't tell you what the others are, sicko!)

10. Rufus appears out of nowhere with a time-traveling phone booth. You can go anytime in the PAST. What time are you traveling to and what are you going to do when you get there?

England, 1595. I'd really like to find out, once and for all, whether or not Shakespeare wrote the plays attributed to him, and be done with it.

11. You can erase any horrible experience from your past. What will it be?

One regrettably alcohol-sodden New Year's Eve, when, depressed from a recent breakup, I hit on a guy from my art class. I don't remember a thing. Unfortunately, he did. Ouch! Talk about your awkward conversations...

12. You got kicked out of the country for being a time-traveling heathen who sleeps with celebrities and has super-powers. But check out this cool shit... you can move to anywhere else in the world! Bitchin'! What country are you going to live in now?

Hawaii. It's hard to believe that stress could possibly exist in a place as pretty as that.

13. The constant absorption of magical moonbeams mixed with the radioactive vegetables you consumed earlier has given you the ability to resurrect the dead famous-person of your choice. So which celebrity will you bring back to life?

Princess Diana. I think that she had a lot of good left to do in this world, and is therefore truly missed.

14. What's your theme song?

Walking on Sunshine by Katrina and the Waves. I have a soft spot for one hit wonders.

So, if you're still reading...well, if anyone is reading, actually...I tag Kittenpie and Penelopeto. You're it!

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Paved with Good Intentions


I consider myself a reasonably smart, fairly well-educated, sensible person. I have done a lot of reading and logged a lot of hours at the table. I sometimes even venture to offer advice to people (when they ask for it, of course) on tactics that have worked for me in the past. I thought I was working out an approach that worked for me and for The Boy. It's funny how you have every intention to do the best job mothering your child that you possibly can, and still fall very very short. Here's how last night's dinner played out (both actual conversation and inner dialogue):

NoMo: Are you ready for some yummy "broccoli pasta"? Oh, it's going to be so good I can hardly wait! (I can't believe that I'm already lying to The Boy and he's not even two...)
The Boy: (Where's the pasta?)
NoMo: Look, it's broccoli pasta! (I wonder if he's buying it?)
The Boy: Tasta! (I want pasta!)
NoMo: It is pasta, remember we cooked it together? It's pasta with a yummy cheesy sauce! (Lies, lies, lies...oh what a tangled web--)
The Boy: Cheess! (I want cheese!)
NoMo: There is cheese right there in your bowl.
The Boy: Cheess!! (Did she not hear me? I want cheese!)
NoMo: There is cheese there. Remember we made the cheesy sauce together? Mmmm it's so good. Look, Mummy's eating it! (Wow, this broccoli and cheese is actually really good. If he'd try it, he'd like it.)
The Boy: Soup. (Cheese soup, ok I'll eat some cheese soup, but none of that green stuff.)
NoMo: Don't you even want to try the broccoli pasta??
The Boy: No. Cheess! (No frackin' way am I eating that green stuff. Why won't this woman give me some cheese??)
NoMo: Fine. Here's some cheese. Mummy is taking away the yummy broccoli pasta. Mummy is very sad because the Boy won't even try the broccoli pasta when Mummy made it just for The Boy. You've hurt Mummy's feelings. (Mum is Sad. Very, Very Sad. She had a bad day. What a day Mum had. Wow, not only am I being emotionally manipulative, but I'm quoting Hop on Pop. This is bad. I need a timeout.)

So there you have it, folks. The Boy is not even two years old, and I've already resorted to guilt. And The Boy did not eat any vegetables, or really anything at all, other than cheese. The Boy: one. NoMo: nothing. How many strikes until I'm out, I wonder? They should really have a manual for this Mother-gig.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Turn, turn, turn

I just got back from a girls weekend away in Niagara on the Lake. Well, it was more like a night, really, as we left TO on Saturday morning and came back on Sunday morning. Seems like a bunch of mums just can't stand to be away from their babes for too long. I guess if you have to have an addiction, a cute baby is one of the good ones.

Some time back in August, the Mums group that I was a part of back when I was on maternity leave had one of our rare get-togethers - rare because we're all back at work. One of the mums suggested that we plan a weekend away, and of course, I said I was interested (who wouldn't like a weekend off?) mainly because I thought it would never actually come to pass. Wonder of wonders, it actually did.

Our mums group is rather large, and a splinter group of mums (9 in total) decided to take the plunge and leave the babies with the hubbies for the weekend. I debated going for a long time. It was a lot of money, for one. I didn't want to spend my precious weekend time away from The Boy or The Husband. But more importantly, would I even have a good time? I mean, I hung out with these women once a week for a couple hours, and we had several extra get-togethers, but could we actually spend a whole day and night together without getting tired of one another. Well, since this is my year for turning over a new leaf and doing things that I thought I would never do, I decided to go. I am glad I did.

Yes, we talked about our babies a lot. A whole lot. How could we not? Even if we didn't meet in a mums group, I don't know many women with children who could avoid talking about them for long. But we also talked about home renovations, wine, books, careers.....and, well, had adult conversation. It was so civilized. During the day we drove around NOTL and did some wine tastings, and at night we went to Peller Estates and had a private tour and a four hour dinner. Wow. Most of my dinners these days last ten minutes, if I stretch them out. No worrying about snacks. Now worrying about naps. No stressing because The Boy won't eat vegetables - again. We even decided to form a Book Club. It was Heaven.

The only sour note to the event (other than the fact that I still have this dastardly cold), was an innocent comment made by one of the mums. You see, I've always felt like a bit of an interloper in this group. They all met in a "Bringing Home Baby" class, and after the class was over, they decided to keep meeting. After five months of miserably walking the streets by myself pushing a carriage with only my thoughts to sustain me (not very nourishing those post-natal brainwaves), I met up with a friend of mine from FitMom who invited me to join the group. She said they wouldn't mind, and I was desperate for company. So I went week after week, and they didn't mind, although somehow I always felt that they did mind, just a bit. Eventhough I was there more regularly than the actual group, I wasn't part of the original group. Ironically, this was the class that I was supposed to attend, but was never able to because we were having so much trouble in the beginning with breastfeeding that we were in and out of the hospital non-stop for weeks. Anyways, I never felt totally accepted, but I assumed that it was just me being my usual paranoid self.

Last night, I don't even remember what we were talking about, but one of the mums said she always thought of me as "The Movie Girl". This is in reference to the fact that I was a regular at the local Mini Matinées. Every week I'd make the half hour walk to the movie theatre to see whatever show was playing (even if it was "Herbie Fully Loaded"...yes, I actually sat through that...). What can I say? I was my sanity. It was a little bit of normalcy in a world that had gone absolutely crazy. I felt that if I could get back that one little bit of my "old life" , I could deal with almost anything. And The Boy slept at 1pm like clockwork most days, so it all worked out. Most of the Mums Group were a bit horrified that I did that every week, and although they were never confrontational about it, I saw an edge of judgment in their eyes.

These mums are all educated, intelligent, career women whom I like and admire. I'll admit that I sometimes felt like the were "out of my league", so to speak. I think what I'm slowly learning, though, is that that kind of thinking is the real problem. It's my perception of myself that needs the altering, not how others see me. I've taken my first step this weekend. Normally, that "Movie Girl" comment would be soul-crushing to me. And it was for a moment. Now I know that I can see it for the random comment that it most likely was and just move on. Turn, turn, turn.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Boom Goes the Dynamite

OK, so I've been reading so many posts with lists in them that I, too, have the List Fever. Or maybe it's the fact that the buzz I'm getting off this Tylenol Cold has made me leery of my ability to form cohesive paragraphs...Or, maybe I just had to find some excuse to use the above title. (For all you YouTube lovers, you'll know what I mean.)

They say that Life is a learning experience, so here's the highlights of what I've learned so far:

*****WARNING: spoilers*****

Circa Grade School
!!! Monopoly is pronounced 'mah-Awe-pah-lee', not 'Mah-noh-Poe-lee' and is not a rare form of the "kissing disease".
!!! Marigold and Bear from the Polka Dot Door can't actually speak, and nor can any other stuffed animal.
!!! In clue, Miss Scarlett is almost always the killer.
!!! Wearing glasses and braces pretty much qualifies you as a nerd. Putting a sticker in the corner of your glasses, definitely does.
!!! Perms are not cool. Especially if you shave the back and perm the top

Circa High School
!!! Getting drunk in secret is cool. Hangovers - pretend you have the flu, or suck it up.
!!! Sex can lead to: Pregnancy! STDs!! AIDS!!! (Seriously, is there anyone who didn't know this? I learnt this on an Afterschool Special.)
!!! High school dances really are as lame as everyone says they are.
!!! "Pass the Dutchie" by Musical Youth is not talking about a shortage of doughnuts
!!! Perms still not cool. Even if it was someone else's idea.

Circa University
!!! Getting drunk is cool, and does make you more popular. Hangovers are the hallmark of Good Times.
!!! Classes are a lot easier to pass if you actually attend them.
!!! It's not who you are inside, it's how you look that counts.
!!! There are people who don't know awful how you looked in grade school or high school.
!!! Perms may give hair body, but looking back - still not cool. Why can't I learn from past mistakes?

Circa Après University (i.e. "Real Life")
!!! Getting drunk? Not cool. Hangover - even less cool.
!!! It's not how you look, it's who you are that counts.
!!! It's not actually as easy to get pregnant as they told us it was in high school.
!!! Breastfeeding may be "natural" but it is in no way "easy".
!!! My hair is awfully flat. Maybe I should get a perm? Hmmm...

I think I'm growing up. Maybe.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Read My Love

I remember the events of the day that I fell irretrieveably in love with books, even if I don't remember the exact date. I had gone to the Hamilton Public Library and borrowed The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe by CS Lewis. I took it home, and when I opened up the book, I opened up the world. Up until then, I had merely been dabbling in books, it was a hobby that passed the time. On that fateful day, I learnt that a book could not only tell an interesting story, but it could take you to a world you had never seen before, and never would see. Animals could talk. Magic was the norm, not the exception. I was enchanted. I read the book 10 times in a row before returning it reluctantly to the library.

Books have played many different roles in my life over the years, but the most significant of them has been that of friend. As a hyper-sensitive, introverted girl, I found myself more that once deeply hurt by people who I thought were friends. The disparity inevitably arose from lack of understanding. When I made friends, I thought they would be friends for life, without comprehending the fluid, transient nature of most childhood friendships. I turned to books for solace. In them, I found interesting people, exciting new places and shocking new ideas.

Now I don't advocate replacing human relationships with books, but it illustrates how intensely personal reading can be, if you choose to invest yourself in the activity. Many people eschew reading these days in favour of sexier new technologies: television, movies, i-pods, and so on. Most notable among these is the younger generation. I say it's time to put the "sexy" back into reading. It's time to show our children that reading is not only necessary, it's cool. And it doesn't hurt that, in my opinion, every time you read a book you get just a little bit smarter. And smart is sexy, period.

For my part, I am going to introduce The Boy to some of my old friends:

1. Harry Potter (series) by JK Rowling Ok, so I thought I'd get this out of the way first because, technically, I didn't read these books in my youth, but no list could be complete without them. Incorporating magic with the universal themes of friendship and overcoming adversity, these books empower children. And any book that sparks an international reading frenzy, convincing children who don't like to read that books are fun, is ok by me. And the people who think that these books are an evil attempt to promote witchcraft or indoctrinate children into the Wicca religion, should go find something more pressing to worry about. If anyone cares to debate me on this point, I say: Bring It On. (no reference to cheerleaders intended...)
2. The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe by CS Lewis Well, duh, already mentioned above. But, I'd like to add that although the entire series was great, it was this particular book that caught my fancy. Stepping into a wardrobe, and ending up in a world where it's "always winter and never Christmas" - how cool is that?
3. Blubber by Judy Blume Most people would argue that Are You There, God? It's Me, Margaret is the best Blume novel. Not me. Having struggled with my self-image my entire life, I empathized with Linda. I was also fascinated by the struggle of the main character, Jill. Who's side do you take? Should you make a stand, or keep quiet? How do we stop the bullying? In light of the increasing school shootings, many of which are a result of bullying in some form or other, this novel is timely and important still.
4. The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster Have you met Milo, the bored little boy who can't find anything "to do, nowhere (he)'d care to go, and hardly anything worth seeing"? This book, more than anything, taught me the find the exceptional in the everyday. It also introduced me to the wonderful world of Word Play. If The Boy ever says he's bored, I'm going to hand him this book to read.
5. The Mysterious Disappearance of Leon (I Mean Noel!) by Ellen Raskin One of my absolute favourites during my Mystery phase, this is an interactive whodunnit that reads almost like a word game. The author encourages readers to help solve the mystery in footnotes like "REMEMBER THIS PART. WRITE IT DOWN. OR PUT A BOOKMARK HERE. THIS IS A CLUE!"
6. From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs Basil E Frankweiler by EL Konisburg The perfect book for the Rebel Without a Cause. Claudia runs away to teach her parents a lesson: rebelling against the monotony of her life, unfair distribution of labor, limited television choices and low allowance. She sets up camp in the Metropolitan Museam of Art with her brother, solves a mystery and learns something about art. I loved every minute of it, and have yet to meet someone who didn't
7. Charlotte's Web by EB White A classic that needs no justification. It deals with some pretty heavy stuff in a way children can understand. I've never looked at animals in the same way since. SOME PIG!
8. Ramona the Pest by Beverly Cleary What can I say? I grew up with Ramona and her indomitable spirit and love for learning is with me still.
9. The Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson When I was growing up, there weren't many books that had a boy-girl friendship as the central relationship, but this book is so much more than that. It teaches the importance of true friendships, valuing the "now", and also deals sensitively with the tragedy of loss. If you don't cry, I'd be surprised.
10. The Tomorrow City by Monica Hughes Basically a young reader's prelude to sci-fi novels like 1984 and Brave New World, this book is about a city controlled by a super computer. The author's focus is the idea that technology is not a perfect solution to the many problems solved by man. This book fascinated me and was in the regular rotation - I'd re-read it any time that I didn't have a book lined up to read next.
11. The Prydain Chronicles (series) by Lloyd Alexander One day I came across The Book of Three in a bookstore and bought it because of the interesting cover. I was instantly hooked, and eagerly read all five books in the series. It's the classic coming-of-age story of a boy who journeys from assistant pig-keeper to courageous hero, from youth to adult. It typifies the fantasy novels that I read to this day, and this book was the start of it all.
12. The Secret Garden by Francis Hodgson Burnett A timeless classic that can be discussed on so many levels that I won't even try to start here. Suffice it to say that I fell in love with this book on the first page when I was introduced to Mary, the girl that nobody wanted because she wasn't pretty enough. Add to that a forgotten garden with no door, and I was lost forever to its charms.

Well, that my short list, anyways. A sort of "12 before the age of 12", in the vein of Kittenpie's recent post. If you have books to add, let me know.

I recently finished The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon. Near the end of the book, the author describes reading as an "an intimate ritual, that a book is a mirror that offers us only what we already carry inside us, that when we read, we do it with all our heart and mind, and great readers are becoming more scarce by the day." I think that if I can teach The Boy to become a Great Reader, I will have accomplished something very worthwhile.