Monday, June 29, 2009

Two's Company

Big C spent the weekend at his Nana and Papa's house, so Little G had us all to himself. Sometime in the middle of Saturday, Mr Earth turned to me and said, "Why did we ever think that having one baby is so hard? This is so easy! It's like a vacation!!" I just laughed, because it's true.

But here's the thing -- it's not nearly as fun.

It's kind of like having a dinner party... (Now c'mon, you know I can't write a post without a bad analogy right? Do they have rehabs for analogy over-users? Hm.) ...Anyways, it's like having a dinner party. If you like intimate dinners for two people, and that's all you want, that's fine. You have civilized conversations, you give that person your undivided attention, you buy the more expensive cut of meat perhaps. It's all good. But if you like hosting a raucous dinner party for your ten closest friends, having one guest can seem intimate (and is a lovely break now and then), but it's more likely to just seem a little bit lonely. And yes, you can't spend as much time with each guest. Yes, you have to plan the meal based on what you can afford, and what stretches well to feed everyone. Yes, it's more work. But still. The possibilities for fun are multiplied as well.

(Don't ask me how two kids equals ten dinner guests in this analogy. I'm artsy. I don't do math.)

I guess I kind of fall somewhere in between: I like the intimacy of a small party, but it's a lot of pressure. It's all me, all the time. I like to be able to take a back seat now and then, and just listen. To watch the powerful play unfold. And having a second child forced me to relax a bit, to not micro-manage every moment. To realize that as perfect as I may want things to be, sometimes I just have to let it go. And I'm a better parent for it. It's easier, because I'm not unknowingly making things harder.

The best thing of all is that they have a friend who will always be there, who will always be connected to them no matter where they end up in this life. Big C taught Little G how to use a spoon, not me. He's the person that made Little G smile, laugh, crawl and walk sooner than he probably would have. He just wanted to keep up with his big brother. And Little G is teaching Big C more about sharing and being kind to people who need help and patience better than I ever could alone.

It's heart-breakingly lovely to watch. And so very, very worth it.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Bugaboos Aren't Always the Best

(Epic) Stroller Buying Advice from a Parent in the Trenches

I love talking to people who are about to have their first baby. They know their lives are going to be changed forever, but they don't KNOW. You know? It's like watching videos of people who are about to bungee jump, or rappel down a mountain - you want to warn them to take all the precautions, but in the end all you can do is stand back and watch them go.

I have a morbid curiosity, though, in what people buy to prepare for their first child. I want to know what they've stocked up on, what they still need to get and where they are planning to shop. Part of me wants to know what's considered (baby on the)hip or (old s)cool these days, but more specifically, I want to know if they are unprepared as I was. And I want to help. I want to guide. I really do! But I have to bite my tongue, because, as I've found, people don't really want advice. They may think they do, but they most often don't.

The thing I'm most curious about, though, is what stroller people are planning to get. So far, I've found that people either have no idea what to get (to which I think you really should do some reasearch. Really.). Or, they invariable say "Oh, I'm getting a Bugaboo. Everyone says that they are the best." (to which I think Hmm, yes and no.) If they ask my advice, they regret it, because I have a lot to say about strollers. A LOT. I have to watch them and make sure I stop talking when their eyes start to glaze over and they look like they're going to go out and buy a stroller right that minute just so I will SHUT UP.

So, if you are a parent and are actually looking for advice on buying a stroller, if you feel as lost as I did when trying to choose the right stroller, and if you want to avoid having Stroller Graveyard in your back shed like I do, you may wish to read this. And please, if you are a parent who has bought and loved (or hated) a particular stroller, please add your two cents to the comment section. I'd love to hear any advice you have. Cause I feel the need to purge the information from my brain so that I can stop putting people to sleep at baby showers. And perhaps move on with my life.

Really think about how you are going to use your stroller. This is the hardest part, in my opinion, especially if you are going to buy the stroller before the baby arrives (as most do). I bought my first stroller - a Peg Perego Atlantico - because my sister-in-law had that stroller and loved it, and I didn't know any better. My SIL and I do not have the same life and we are not the same person. She liked walking around in malls with the baby. I liked walking in High Park on the trails. While that stroller was fine on flat surfaces, it did not like any kind of rough terrain, or snow deeper than a few centimetres. I trashed that stroller with my extreme strolling, and even lost a wheel at one point. Still don't know where it is.

Size matters. Wheels, storage, and overall size. In this one respect, you get what you pay for. Generally cheaper strollers are larger and bulkier. They also often have small, hard wheels. If you plan to only use your stroller in the mall or on large suburban streets, then it doesn't matter if you have a great big, stroller. If you are using it in the GTA, for example, you're screwed. There will be shops you can't go into (unless you offload the kid every single time), and you will even find it hard to navigate the city sidewalks with all the signs and flower pots. There are MANY people who don't want "SUV-type strollers" in their stores and go out of their way to make them inaccessible (Stupid, that, because who is spending the money during the weekday but parents at home with children? Others are probably working, not shopping.) Don't even get me started on taking a large stroller on the subway... Also, storage is essential - unless you like pushing a stroller while juggling groceries, diaper bags, jackets, snacks and sand toys. (Have fun with that.) And something I didn't know? The larger the wheel (the inflatable, bicycle-type wheel), the better it goes through the snow. VERY IMPORTANT in Canada.

Strollers to consider:

Bugaboo. Yes, I want one. Yes, I have stroller-envy. But yes, I realize now that this would never have been the best option for me. They are cute, light, easy to manoeuvre and totally what all the cool parents are buying. (Yup, still jealous. Just checking.) But they are not right for everyone. Plus they cost $1300! I consider them like Porsches. No one can deny that they are great (and expensive!) cars, but are they right for every lifestyle? No. Would you go off-roading in a Porsche? No. Would you go camping with a Porsche? No. A friend of mine has one, and she doesn't think that the tires don't go through snow very well at all. You can buy snow tires (at an additional cost, of course), but then the tires lock and the whole "easy to manoeuvre" aspect is gone. My main problem is the cost. Not only is it insanely expensive, but what happens if you have a second child? Yes, you can attach a "boogie board", but you better hope your kid is old enough and responsible enough to hang on. And, I doubt this feature is terribly useful in snow. (Note. Peg Perego's Skate is a cheap knock-off of this stroller, minus the storage. Who doesn't want storage?)

Phil and Ted's. I'm biased, because this is the stroller we bought with Little G on the way. In my opinion this is the best option currently available for families planning to have two children close in age. You buy it as a single, and then you can add the second seat later when you have another child. You can lie the baby flat when newborn and put the additional seat in front for the older child. You can buy a Coccoon which slides right into the stroller so you can take the baby out with waking. It's the smallest double option available, lightweight, and most importantly - when your older child is walking consistently, you're not left with a double stroller that you can't use. Oh! And it's great in the snow. BUT. Because I do have this stroller, I know it's not perfect. I've had tire issues. I'm sure it's just me because I haven't heard of anyone else with this problem, but I've had to replace the inner tubes far too often. When you do this, you have to go to a stroller repair shop (not just "any bicycle shop", as the salespeople assured me), because they are the only ones that carry inner tubes with angled valves. If you don't have an angled valve, you can't pump up the tires when they deflate. Also, your kids either have to be very close in age or very delicate. My boys are 38 and 28 pounds respectively. The max weight is 88 lbs total, which we haven't reached yet, but I assure you that you will not be able to push a 26 lb stroller with 88 lbs of kid inside it. The total weight with my kids and stroller is over 90 lbs and I have now officially refused to push both of them. I am a fairly fit mother of two who works out 4 times a week, and I think I might have a heart attack if I have to push them both one more time.

Maclaren Umbrella Stroller. I love this stroller. It's light, packs easily and can manoeuvre shops and coffee joints like a dream. It's expensive for an umbrella stroller (you can get a usable umbrella stroller at any Zeller's type store for $20 or less and this one costs over $100 dollars), but it's worth it for the extra: it reclines, it has a sun hood and a rain shield. Also, their doubles version is probably the only realistic side-by-side stroller option for city life. But, because their wheels are small and hard, it's a lost cause using this in the snow. We have one, and I call it my "summer stroller" because I wouldn't even consider trying to go through snow with it.

Running Strollers. I am a runner. A devoted, long-distance, not going to give it up anytime soon kinda runner. For that reason, I have always wanted a running stroller. The reality is, I don't actually like to run with the stroller all that much. I always preferred to use that time as a break from the kids. It's my form of meditation, and I don't like it being interrupted by demands for snacks and constant whining. And now, with two kids, I can't imagine trying to push both of them. (Wow, that would be some kinda workout.) I think that a lot of people feel the same way, because I always see ads on Craigslist for running strollers that have barely been used. Either that, or people find that it's hard to run with a stroller. However, if we had extra cash and storage, I would buy either a BOB Ironman stroller or a Chariot Cougar or CX. The BOB is lightweight and supposed to be the best for handling the wear and tear of true running (ie. you could do a marathon with it. Not that you would.) and I think it would be double well as a regular city stroller. The Chariot is way too big for regular use, but if you are a devoted exerciser, it's great, because the pod-like shape means you don't have to fuss with rain shields while you're running, and toys won't fall out. Also, there's a great storage feature for all your exercise needs.

If I was going to buy a stroller for my first baby all over again, I'd probably buy the Phil and Ted's because of it's versatility. But, if you're only going to have one child, then it probably woudn't be my first choice. If I wasn't worried about using the stroller for a second child (if we were only going to have one, or if I had the cash and the storage space to buy as many strollers as I wanted to) I'd probably buy the BOB Ironman, the Quinny Buzz. I've also seen some UppaBabys and Zooper Zydecos that I thought looked worth trying. I haven't used any of these strollers personally, but I've watched them go by many times and thought "Damn, I wish I had that stroller."

Whoosh. If you made it this far, you are either:

a) About to become a parent and are doing research. (Good for you.)
b) A stroller freak like me. (It's a problem, isn't it?)
c) A good bloggy friend who stuck it out to the end eventhough I bored you to tears. (Thank you! I love you!!)
d) My husband. (Although he probably stopped reading ages ago. He's heard this before.)

Please, if you have stroller suggestions or banishments, leave them in the comments. My obsession continues.

Thursday, June 04, 2009

The Accidental Gardener

No good can be found under a bush that hasn't been trimmed for seven years.

Heh, heh. Who knew gardening could be so dirty..?

I don't understand gardeners. On your knees, in the dirt, slaving under a hot sun. Digging and pruning and weeding. At the end, the reward is a nice-looking garden that eventually dies. (Well, at least it does at my house. Just call me The Black Thumb). This does not sound like fun to me. Know what it does sound like? Work. Hard work. No fun work. There's supposedly some sort of zen euphoria that comes from working in the garden. I could think think of many things that would create such a euphoria, and most of them don't even involve illegal substances.

Here's how I garden: someone comes over to my house unexpectedly and I see the backyard through their eyes. Flower beds that haven't been weeded since, oh, last year sometime. Bushes taking over the garden. Sticks all over the lawn. God knows where they come from. I am embarrassed beyond belief thinking that said person has gone home wondering "How can they live like that? How can they just not care??" And I become obsessed with fixing the problems.

So basically, I garden only when I think I am being judged. Or will be judged

By the way, if you come over to my house and I have gardened before your arrival, please don't be offended. I don't think that you, specifically, are a person who will judge me. It probably has nothing to do with you at all. More about my need for perfectionism, and my desire to have people think that I care about the upkeep of my house. I don't. Well, maybe I do, but not enough to actually do something about it.

I realized this as I was doing some work in the garden the other day. (Which, by the way, I decided to do because I had a dinner party on Saturday and was horrified by the encroaching weeds). And, by "work", I mean the bare minimum I need to do to get by.

Here are the rules every Accidental Gardener must follow:

  1. If it looks like a weed, rip it out.
  2. If it looks like a plant, but you didn't plant it, it's probably a weed. If you don't like it, rip it out.
  3. If it looks attractive, let it stay. Even if it's actually a weed.
  4. If it looks attractive, but threatens to take over lawn, rip it out. No mercy.
  5. If you get bored of weeding, use the rake. Pretend it's fancy mulch.
  6. If a bush is getting too big for it's britches, cut it back. No mercy. Even if your husband has a sentimental attachment to bush. (Did she just say that? Whut!?)
  7. Only buy plants that can't be killed.
  8. If you must buy plants that look fragile, ask them if they have a death wish.
  9. Once planted, everyone is on their own. Don't expect succor from Black Thumb.
  10. Whatever you do, don't water. That takes time and effort.
  11. Gloves are for sissies.
  12. If the weeds are bigger than you, run.
Join the Accidental Gardening movement! We are one, but we are proud.

Monday, June 01, 2009

Just another Manic Monday.

Wish it were Sunday.

Strike that.

Wish it were Saturday. Had impromptu dinner party. Parents came over to watch kids for afternoon and stayed for dinner. Cousin and new husband popped over and stayed for dinner. Made full use of fabulous new patio set from Canadian Tire. Much wine was drunk. Am probably still drunk. Felt like real family settling into house instead of wannabes.

Saw new Star Trek movie while parents watched napping kids. Finally understand why people attracted to Kirk thanks to Chris Pine. Yowza. Hiya Hotstuff! Other actors better, though. More on that later this week over at Playdate.

Embarrassed to admit was scared by first episode of Supernatural. Lame, much?

Am terribly nauseous. Barely keeping down food. Too much wine last night? Since when is half a bottle too much? (Am obviously heavyweight drinker but am no drunkard. Yet.) Maybe should drink more. Hair of the dog.

Perhaps nausea stems from Bill Saundercook's daycare freeze? Am considering writing strongly-worded letter but don't know where to start..

Big C being total asshat today. Can say this about own children? Perhaps unwise. But not untrue. Have been screamed at more times than care to count. Timeout count rising exponentially. Restraining urge to throw things.

Evil Cat Willow also being jerk. Should have adopted hamster. Chew jacket? Jump on table. No sir.

Little G font of snot and site of unpredictable tantrum storms. Still.

Am wondering if people can really have 900 Facebook friends. 900? Really?? Perhaps "friend" should be redefined.

Have given up on use of pronouns and other words deemed unnecessary. Too much energy.

Bedtime yet?