Tuesday, December 29, 2009

making myself into a mother

To say that there is nothing than can prepare you for the shock of becoming a parent is putting it mildly.  What a shock it is.  You can read all of the books you want, make charts and diagrams for this, that and the other thing, you can research everything from birth to potty training until the cows come home.   But I've discovered that, for me at least, parenting is not so much in these details, in the preparedness or in the doing, but rather it is a crash-course in the feeling.   You can know that skydiving is a scary endeavour, but you can't know what that scary feels like until your ass is plummeting through the sky. 

Becoming a parent is like cutting off your limbs and trying to grow them again, in a weird way that makes them only half yours.  Or razing a house to the ground and rebuilding with new materials, like Extreme Makeover Home Edition, only the end result is much less grandiose.  It is simultaneously elating and depressing; joy and wonder at the new beings we've had a hand in creating, and sadness, even resentment at the seepage of our own selves, the hazing and blurring of our identity as individuals. 

As a bit of an aside, I think it's crazy that we treat post-partum depression like it's an anomaly, something purely hormonal, something that people can/should just "get over".  I think that in the face of the magnitude of changes to our physical and emotional selves and the incredible disruption to our lives,  experiencing various forms and severities of depression and/or anxieties post partum, though undoubtably unpleasant, makes a whole world of sense.   But I digress.       

My life, previously attuned to my own well-being and best interests, is no longer my own.   My time, previously devoted to my own projects and needs, has become someone elses.  I struggle to scrape together moments of solitude, write snippets and thoughts and memories of self on scraps of construction paper and kitchen chalkboards, beside grocery and to-do lists.  The mundane necessity of keeping chaos at bay, dishes clean, babies fed, toddlers and pre-schoolers amused, soothed and loved is an endless, and often unforgiving, pursuit- one that more often than not, I seem to fail at. 

I teeter between anxiety and pride about my small charges, who are at once so fragile and so unflinchingly fearless.  There are so many things to protect my children from in any given day, not the least of which is myself -- my own baggage, childhood and knee jerk emotional reflexes.  These reflexes too, have to be swallowed, thought about, revisited, smoothed over.

I have had my absolute best, and proudest moments as a mama.  I have also been taken to my rock bottom lowest as a mama.  The pendulum seems to swing back and forth between these highs and lows so often.  Motherhood has made me turn myself inside out and pull out my stuffing.  I'm restuffing bit by bit, and learning so much about myself in the process.  What a crazy, amazing, horrible, dark, scary, wonderful, exciting ride.  I have never felt so responsible, so fierce, so protective, so loving, so angry, so helpless, so grateful, so raw.  And we musn't forget so tired.

I've just started reading this really lovely anthology on mothering, edited by Eden Steinberg.  In her introduction, Steinberg writes:

"I realized that if I was going to survive this thing, I was going to have to grow and change. . . I also saw that I was ultimately going to have to let go of my very self-concept, my idea of motherhood, and my expectations of my child.  All of it had to go. . . . I thought that as a mother I would carefully mold and shape my children.  If I did my job right, my children would turn out to be well-adjusted, loving, thoughtful and interesting people.  As it turns out, motherhood is molding and shaping me.  At the end of all this, I am the one who could end up well-adjusted, loving, thoughtful and interesting."  (xv, 2007).

I couldn't have said it better if I tried.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

knowing one's audience

I don't know why I did it.  It must have been an unusual moment of sunny optimism.  It really seemed like a good idea at the time. 

It wasn't my idea to start with.  My friend Linds did it first, and my friend Heidi followed suit.  It seemed so creative, so free-to-be-you-and-me, so innocent. The sort of activity that results in delightful and splendidly messy kiddie pics to post on facebook. 

So, this morning, I set out the gigantic paper on the floor and taped it down.  I stripped my giggling fool of a child bare naked.  And then I did it.  I got out the fingerpaints.  Oh yes I did. 

Well, who's the fool now?!

In my defense, I think it bears repeating that my friends and their children successfully undertook and completed this activity.  What I seemed to have forgotten in this moment of optimism, is that their children are largely civilized, and mine, though 9/10's perfectly charming, is also 1/10 barbarian.

First the paper was painted.  This lasted about 10 seconds.  I got some cute pictures.  Then his body got painted.  Whoohoo.  More cute pictures. 

Then my floors were painted.   Not so much with the cute pictures.  My walls have hand marks streaked from the crime scene (living room) clear through to the bathroom.  It looks like somebody green died a horrible, unspeakable death in my house.  Or like L. and I have entered a phase of very, erm, "contemporary" taste in artwork.  (We have not). 

There was a rotten yelling bit, followed by more defiant wall "art,"  followed by more yelling, some crying and a longgggg bath.

I'm not sure whether to curse my friends for having civilized children and cute facebook pictures, or myself for completely forgetting my audience. 

I'll have to think about it while I'm cleaning up the crime scene.

Monday, December 21, 2009

my life of leisure....

I get a little testy when, after hearing that I am a stay-at-homer, people ask me "what do you do all day?"  And/or "Don't you get bored?"  Or, "Jeez, I sure wish I could stay home all day."   Or  "What do you do with all that down time?" 

Recently, I also encountered, after describing the birthday cake I made for my son (a rocking cool hot air balloon cake if I do say so myself), "hey that must be nice..." (in a voice dripping with insinuation that "it must be nice to have so much extra time on your hands"

Seriously?  Seriously?  No... seriously???  I'm not gonna list what I do all day because quite frankly, I don't have the time.  I do get bored, but it sure isn't because I have nothing to do.  And I made the damn cake after my 'dayjobs' were sleeping, while your ass was chillin' for the night, watching CSI Miami, or some other crappy show (I spent my 'down time' making the cake because it was important to me, just like you make time outta your busy day for things that are important to you).

Now if you'll excuse me, I hear some bon-bons calling my name.  I have to get back to my life of leisure.

Friday, December 18, 2009

mothering and identity

I think I may be losing my identity, or at the very least having some identity confusion.  I seem to have ventured, albeit not all at once, from being this person, Natasha, to being this entity called Mama.  Mama and Natasha aren't always separate (as in, I'm not developing some kind of split personality here people), but they seem to be getting further and further apart. Lately, it seems that I haven't seen traces of that Natasha girl for awhile.  As I struggle with the beauty and frequently (let's not sugarcoat things, shall we?) awfulness of being a full-time stay-at-home mama, I'm really starting to miss her. 

The Natasha I used to be was hella smart.  She got a Master's degree, and worked as a research coordinator in a country wide, big budget research project.  She read books about things that mattered outside the walls of her home.  She was approached by people to do book reviews for academic journals.  People actually sought out her opinion on things other than the grocery list.  She went out for coffee and had conversations with people, that were, like, uninterrupted and often intellectually and/or emotionally stimulating.   She went for pee breaks by herself.  People expected her to know things, to learn things, to do exciting things.  She was a lover and a friend and someone who worked toward the betterment of her community. 

Now I morphed into that person called Mama.  While I know that I am still Natasha, I am finding more difficult to locate any vestiges of the things that I thought made up my identity as a person.  My children, while hugely important pieces of my world, my work and my heart, are neither extensions of me, nor are they reflections of who I am as a person.   

I miss having external obligations.  A paycheque.  Being valued by people who aren't my wife and children.  I miss peeing by myself, and being by myself long enough to feel lonely.   I miss having better things to worry about than the state of my kitchen floors or whether my tykes are feeling emotionally and intellectually stimulated.  These are all important and worthy tasks, of course.  But I am starting to feel like
I'm drowning in my little pond, even though it is a pond that I love and call home. 

I think I need to make it my task and challenge for the New Year  to reintroduce Natasha to this person called Mama.... and see what new adventures they can come up with together.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

my boy

turned 3 yesterday.  It is almost inconceivable to me that this much time has elapsed since his birth, which rocked me to the core and changed my world irrevocably, wonderfully, totally.   Because of him, I became a different person entirely.  My life trajectory changed.  He made me a mama.

He is growing, physically and emotionally, in leaps and bounds.  His body, once baby-ish and perfectly fat, is getting so tall and lanky.  Any traces of baby have been erased from his once pudgy face, and replaced with little boy.  His expressions are as varied as his mood - bored, sullen, stubborn, joyous, contemplative, angry, thrilled, scared, loving, gentle, wound up.  What a little person he has become, with boundless energy and excitement about the world around him.

Today at 3, he is determined that he will grow up to be a pilot - all games and imaginative play revolves around planes and airports.  I wonder how this will change by the time he is 4, or if it will.

Though many days coming through the "terrible twos" have been challenging, today I am determined to take the time to marvel at the love, compassion and endless energy Oliver has, as we welcome in whatever the "threes" will bring.

As Oliver got ready for his birthday celebration on Sunday, he got dressed in his "big skater boy clothes," an outfit sent by my brother and sister-in-law.  He took my breathe away, and my eyes welled up.  All of the sudden, my little dude seemed so so tall.  So so grown up.  He noticed my eyes welling up and looked over at his mommy with concern.  L. said "it's okay buddy, Mama's just happy.  Those are happy tears."  "Oh yes Mama," he said to me knowingly, "because I'm all grown up."  What a kid.

Happy birthday sweet boy. 

 

   

Thursday, November 19, 2009

(h)ec(k)onomics...

For those of us mom folks who feel a little down on their worth from time to time.

taken from Today's Parent Canada - May 2009

Average time per week employed moms and at-home moms with two tots spend on unpaid work, along with estimated fair market value if this work were to be contracted out to the kind of folks who get paid:

                      employed moms/at home moms/fair hourly wage

housekeeping        7.8                          17.2                         $10.38

daycare teacher      6.3                         16.4                         $14.19

cook                    6.4                          11.5                          $14.40

launderer             5.1                          8.0                             $10.65
(*clothes, not money cause wouldn't that solve all of our problems)

janitor                 3.7                           6.4                             $10.92
(*interesting to note the pay differential between janitors and housekeepers, no?)

facilities manager 4.4                           6.8                             $37.23
(*I don't know what this job is, but apparently I have experience and should try to get a paid job doing this!)

CEO                   5.9                         6.4                               $73.06

van driver           4.6                          6.6                               $17.12

psychologist      4.9                          6.9                                $39.24
(*I would like to note that MY psychologist makes a fuck of a lot more per hour than that!)

The article notes that the estimated annual market worth of mom's unpaid labour is:

employed moms - $68 405
at-home moms - $116 805

(note here that all of these figures are U.S.)

I guess it's heartening to know that I make a pretty damn good imaginary salary. 

But it would feel so so so so much better if women's unpaid labour was actually valued

          

Thursday, October 29, 2009

teevee

Okay boys and girls.  Please prepare yourselves for some mighty shocking news.  Disney, the makers of Baby Einstein, would now like us all to know that their videos won't actually make our kids smarter.  I know right.  You're thinking what I'm thinking.  Shiiiiittttttttt.  And here we were, diligently sitting our beloved progeny in front of Baby Einstein day after day, expecting them to get an invitation for early membership to MENSA.

As if this blow wasn't enough, there is more to this shocking turn of events.  Not only will watching television NOT make your pre-two year old tots smarter, it will actually turn them into stupid, fat, violent offenders in later life.  I know.  It's a lot to take in.  But even as I type, the pediatricians of Canada are preparing to roll out a new policy cautioning against any television viewing for children under the age of two, claiming that it stunts brain development, causes language delays, promotes childhood obesity and, among other things, desensitization to violence in later life.  "A screen should not be a babysitter; it's as simple as that" says one of the pediatric experts.

Huh.  Why didn't I think of that?

Well I have my own newsflash.

Disney - I never thought watching your product placement videos was going to make my kid smart.  I did however plunk his squirmy little butt down in front of one from time to time because I, like many other stay-at-homers, needed a fucking break for 25 minutes.

And to the pediatricians of Canada.  Fuck you.  Don't insult my intelligence.  I don't actually need you to tell me that the television set should not be babysitting my child.   (I know that some people may need you to tell them this information, but I'm also willing to wager that they might have bigger problems than their child's television habits to worry about).

I don't also don't need you to tell me that it's healthier for "a live person smiling at the child and interacting with the child."  Why?  Because I'm not a total moron.  My 2.5 year old has been watching a bit of tv here and there (yes, sometimes too much, and I'm painfully aware of that fact without your learned ass judging me for it).  But he's pretty freaking clever.  And very physically fit, what with the fact that his sojourns in front of the television are pretty much the only times he (and consequently I) stop during the day.  He does throw the occasional tantrum (or shoe) on me from time to time, but I'm pretty sure he didn't learn that from the Backyardigans or Zoobamafoo. 

I will, however, after your learned recommendation, cut out his CSI Miami time.  It's gonna be hard, given his deep and abiding love for the acting skills of David Caruso.  (Who taught Oliver to say everything twice, for added dramatic tension).

Seriously.  I would like to "respectfully" submit that anyone who spends the day doing nothing but educationally engaging with their children is probably somebody headed for a nervous breakdown. 

And I would also like to suggest that perhaps the pediatricians of Canada could stick to making medical recommendations, and leave the moral judgements for those who are better qualified.  (Other parents, naturally).

Everything in moderation people.  Especially moderation.

Monday, October 26, 2009

kidlit

Kids books.  Love 'em.  We can't ever have too many!  But not all kids books are created equal.  There's some really really really crappy ones out there.  For starters - as a queer household, we avoid so so so many books because of the default "traditional" family model.  Seriously - in a world that has so so many different kinds of families (single parented, grandparented, queer parented, whathaveyou) you'd think there would be some more variety out there in books!   And secondly, lots of kids books are just badly written.   Kids aren't stupid - they're just, well, young.  They need good literature too!

So here's a list of (a few of) our current bookshelf faves...

1.  Where the Wild Things Are, by Maurice Sendak.  A classic, clearly.

2.  The Family Book, by Todd Parr  (Also, The Feelings Book, The Okay Book, The Peace Book etc. Todd Parr is prolific).  Todd Parr does an amazing job of introducing all different kinds of families (feelings, experiences, etc.).  Includes single parents, two mom/dad households, families whose members are different colours, live in different places, etc.  Great, great book with fun illustrations.

3.  No Matter What, by Debi Gliori.  A sweet read about the enduring love between parents and kids, and easing the anxieties that kids can sometimes have (particularly separation anxiety).  I love that the kid character is called Small and the adult is called Large, so that kids can fill in the blanks with their own experiences. 

4.  Baby Haiku, by Betsy Snyder.  The most beautiful baby book I've ever seen.  Hands down.

5.  Stella Star of the Sea (Also: Stella Queen of the Snow, Stella Fairy of the Forest, When Stella was very Little, Good Morning Sam, Goodnight Sam, What are you Doing Sam? -  Or pretty much any Stella or Sam book by Marie-Louise Gay).  Stella is a spectacular, spunky and bossy heroine, and Sam (the little brother) is a sweet timid counterpart.  Together, they are ridiculously loveable.

6.  When Wishes Come True, by Per Henrick G├╝rth.   Really quite beautiful illustrations with a baby polar bear, his mama and lots of stars and northern lights.  I tear up at the end.  It's true.  I do.

7.  I Love You Forever, by Robert Munsch.  Do I really need to say anything here? 

8.  Hilda Must be Dancing, by Karma Wilson.  A cute and funny read about a hippo (with a lotta junk in her trunk) who loves to get her groove on. 

9. Lost and Found, by Oliver Jeffers.  A sweet but spare look at friendship between a boy and his penguin.

10.  My Granny Went to Market, by Stella Blackstone.  A gorgeous counting book and round the world adventure.

11.  Llama, Llama Red Pajama, by Anna Dewdney.   This is a wonderful and cute book for dealing with bedtime/nighttime anxieties.  How can you not love the phrase..."Lets stop all this Llama drama!"  (We also have her follow-up Llama Llama Mad at Mama, which chronicles the difficulties of grocery shopping with a toddler... very beneficial to Oliver's store time behaviour!)

12.  Mabel Murple, by Sheree Fitch.  This book is fantastic!  By a Nova Scotia author, it chronicles the mis/adventures of a wild -and purple- little girl.

13.  The Whole Human Race by Jamie Lee Curtis.  Actually all of her books are good - check 'em out!.  They are all definitely the traditional family model, BUT - they do an awesome job of educating kids about all kinds of wonderful values, making positive change in the world around us, appreciating diversity, being okay with all of our feelings, self-esteem, etc.  And the illustrations by Laura Cornell are gorgeous. (Oliver loves them and we just edit out the dad bits most of the time).

14.  On Top of the Potty and other Get up and Go Songs, By Alan Katz.  Super fun potty songs for singing while potty training.  Our whole family pretty much has them memorized.  They'll get stuck in your head for days, but you probably won't mind too much, and your little potty fan won't either!

I'm totally up for suggestions on other great kids lit... if anyone feels so inclined! 

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

the motherload

I know I've been a delinquent blogger.  I'm in a bit of a parenting slump these days.  With possibly some PPD thrown in just for fun.  The days are seeming mighty long.  Lucy still won't take a bottle, and I can't remember the last time I got to be by myself for any length of time.  (I had to take her on my mom's night out.   Thus defeating the purpose of, well, the out part).  I'm way tired.  I'm a little bored.  A little sad.  And fresh out of exciting and innovative parenting ideas.     

I feel guilty about it.  I'll just say that right up front.   And then I'll keep saying it.

I let my kid watch wayyyy too much tv today because I just don't have any creativity and energy left.  Guilty.  (And yes, he's watching tv as I'm typing this.  More guilt).

Even when I am able to make more of a go of it, I feel distracted and restless.  Guilty-guilty-guilty.

I let my kid drink juice and eat sugar because I'm too tired to argue and it makes him happy.  Guilty as charged.

The other day, while running on the treadmill, I fantasized about running away... and it was the only bright spot in my day.  More guilt.

I'm having a hard time enjoying my amazing and wonderful kids.  I am acutely aware that this is not something mothers are supposed to say out loud.  MAJOR guilt.

I feel a bit like I'm stuck in parent prison and there's no possibility of parole for the next twenty years.  I know I signed up for this.  And I love my tots.  I love being a mom.   I'm glad I signed up for this.  Really.

But the work of mothering, the work of loving, the work of nurturing, the work of taking care, feels exhausting right now.  I'm burnt out and in my job, there's no stress leave.  Hell, there isn't even bathroom breaks.  (If this an actual "workplace," I'm pretty sure employment standards would shut this place down for worker exploitation - what with the lack of time off, sick days, pay, benefits and the oodles of forced overtime).

Sigh. 

I'm not feeling so great at my job these days.

Guilt. The motherload.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

heterosexualizing kids...

L. and I are really trying to raise our kids not to make assumptions around gender and sexual orientation.   Whoever they choose to love in their lives is fine by us, as long as they are true to themselves, and happy in their choices.   But the rest of the world is really intent on trying to make our kids (and everyone else's) believe that straight is the only way to be.  And it really, really pisses me off.

Statistically speaking, 1 in 10 people (and I think this stat is a bit low) is queer.   Just think for a second, how much less terrifying, painful and isolating it would be for those 1 in 10 to come out and to be at home in their own skin, if we just stopped indoctrinating everyone that straight is the only choice out there?


"Ooooooooh look at those eyes.... he's going to break all the girl's hearts"

"Fathers, lock up your daughters!"

"All the girls must be after you little man!"

"Want to be my daughter's boyfriend?"

If I had a dollar for everytime someone said this to or about my son, I would be a rich, rich woman.  

First of all.  My son is two.  He's not allowed to date yet, okay?  (and besides which, it's just plain weird that we talk about two year olds in such a sexualized manner).

Secondly, he hasn't decided if he's straight yet.  When he lets us know, I'll let you know. 

Thirdly, whether he's gay or straight or somewhere in between, he's likely going to be breaking everyone's hearts, cause he's so freaking cute.  

Alright?

Sunday, October 11, 2009

the bright side

I think it's fairly safe to say that I'm a glass half empty kind of girl.   Not saying it's one of my finer qualities - just the way I seem to be programmed.   I get lost in pictures of humanity's worst, the bad news, the fact that there is so much work still to do to make our lives and communities, better, safer, and more just.  It is one of my great challenges in life to see the bright side of things, and it is a challenge I fail at more often than not.

So, in an effort to get down with my bright side, here's a few things for which I am eternally grateful:

1.  My children are fucking amazing.  Don't get me wrong.  They drive me absolutely nuts every day.  They are challenging and hard work to raise.  But I have this son, this little dude, who is all at once inquisitive, bright, impetuous, precocious, gentle, empathetic, adventurous and every bit as stubborn as his mama.  Watching the world through his eyes has been and always will be a gift.  And our wee daughter, our second miracle, is a delight.  Witnessing the emergence of her personality is so much fun.  She is already showing signs of being a delightful combination of watchfulfulness and goofiness.  And the way she chats, smiles and giggles just she drifts off to sleep... it gets me everytime.  I know the world is going to be a better place for having them in it, and I can say with certainty that they have made me a better, stronger, more loving person.

2.  My wife - she's beautiful inside and out, brilliant, and full of passion for life.  Somehow, she's managed to put up with me for 11 years.  She knows me better than anyone, and she's still here.  That's no small thing.  She loves me, half-empty glass and all.      

3.  The unconditional love of my three (sometimes messy, annoying, and overly needy)furbabies.

4.  My family.   We love each other and we drive each other nuts and we love each other still, through dark times and happier times. Because that's what families do.

5.  In my adventures across this country, I've met so many wonderful and amazing people who I am lucky enough to call my friends, and who forgive me for being absolutely crap at keeping in touch.

6.  Brisk fall air, fall clothes, fall colours, falling leaves. 

7.  Edmonton, I know, has gotten a bad rap from me.   It's true that I call it Dreadmonton.  It's definitely not my favourite place we've lived.  It sure ain't the prettiest place in the world.  It is not, nor will it ever be, a queer mecca.  But in amongst the rednecks, this place has grown some lovely people.  The river valley is quite lovely.  My wife loves her job here.  I get to live near my in-laws, who are pretty cool folks.  And I'm much closer to my family in Winnipeg, too.   Not all bad, in my estimation.

8.  There is still so much more work to be done in this country we live in.  But -  that I am living in a place where all people can vote without getting our hands cut off, where we aren't jailed for political beliefs that oppose our government, where queers can get married, where we have medicare, where we can fall asleep without hearing guns going off and bombers whizzing by... these are all things to be thankful for.  

9.  I love, love, love music.  It helps get me through the day.  Right now, I am particularly thankful for having found the music of Ingrid Michaelson, Allie Moss, Regina Spektor, and The Weepies.

10.  My blog.  I love my blog.  I love being able to blog.  Even if no one else were to ever read it, feeling like I have something to say again has been a bit of a salvation.

My cup (or in my case, glass,) runneth over, as they say.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone.

Friday, October 9, 2009

some random questions

Questions that occurred to me today:

1.  Why would anyone order a pumpkin pie blizzard?  (Seems wrong when you could order a chocolate brownie blizzard, in my humble opinion.)

2.  Why do my children refuse to nap at the same time?

3.  When did I get to the age where all the wrinkle ads were directed at ME?

4.  Why do all wrinkle creams recommend avoiding the eye area?

5.  Where exactly do the wrinkle lotion people think wrinkles start?

6.  Why did that woman over there think it was okay to wear a faux leather Oilers baseball hat?   Outside the house.  (Or in, for that matter.)

7.  Why did the Oilers franchise approve the making faux leather baseball hats?

8.  Though he knows the name of every vehicle known to humanity, why does Oliver insist on asking "What's that mama?  What's that?" every second vehicle we pass while driving?  Is it his version of a parent pop-quiz or is he just trying to piss me off?

9.  Is there such a thing as Carpel "mom" syndrome?  (I have no feeling left in my right arm and suspect this is a momming injury.  Either that or my body is having backwards heart attack symptoms).

10.  Why don't more important questions occur to me anymore?

That is all.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Babies of the furry variety

We got our cat Kali nearly 10 years ago from the Winnipeg Humane Society.  We agreed to take her, sight unseen, after hearing the story of her rough beginning in life.  She was born in a particularly brutal Winnipeg winter, and found, partially frozen and starving under the hood of someone's car.   She was in such rough shape that the staff at the Humane Society whisked her away before the vet got a chance to look at her, so she wouldn't immediately be put down.  She went straight into foster care, and her foster mom spent the better part of 3 months nursing her back to a modicum of healthiness.

When we went to pick her up at the Humane Society, we took her out of her cage, and looking back at us was this tiny, one-eared (the other was lost to frost-bite), blinky-eyed, "grinchy" (she had chronic eye infections, causing her to look like The Grinch), squawky (her voice-box was damaged due to starvation) kitten, who was so scared her long hair was falling out all over the place.  I'd be lying if I didn't say that L. and I looked at each other a few times, wondering what we'd gotten ourselves into.  On the way home we decided on a name.  Kali, after the warrior goddess.  It was, we figured, a fitting name for such a scrappy little survivor.

From the minute we adopted her, Kali really made us work hard for her love.   And work we did!   She went into hiding for days, coming out only at night and the retreating back into hiding upon hearing our morning footsteps.   When she finally did come out, thanks to the patient wooing of L. (who is infinitely more patient than I!) and curiosity about our other kitten Jezebel, she would still slink around low to the ground, and any sort of movement would send her running off to hide again.  It was clear that amoung her other early traumas, Kali had also suffered some abuse.  Gradually, she became more trusting of L. and I, but she was still so elusive to other people (for years) that many of our friends jokingly referred to her as "Snuffalopogous." 

Eventually, Kali became our cat.   Eventually, we became Kali's humans.  And as she grew more and more comfortable, her feline personality began to flourish.  And what a personality it was!  She loved L. most, and could frequently be found trying to hold L. down with her paws in order to groom her.  She also saw me as competition for L.'s love and would glare at me while sitting on L.'s lap, or if I was sitting with my head resting on L.'s lap, she would walk right on over top of me and sit directly on my head!  (But If L. wasn't around, my attention would suffice, of course!)  She wasn't shy about asking for attention, and was known to sit on our homework and squawk in our faces, demanding the love she so clearly deserved.  She was, in a word, very feline.  (The best cats are.) 

The years have slid by, and somewhere along the line, we all became permanent fixtures in each other's lives.  We've nursed Kali through some rough spots and she's nursed us, with her bossy squawkiness and forced cuddles, through rough spots of a different variety.  She's lived with us through countless moves across three different provinces,  still more life changes, getting a third kitten, and the births of our two human babies. 

And now she's sick.  Sick sick.  She can't breathe properly, won't eat or drink, is listless and hiding once again.   We've been through blood and urine tests, vet visits for rehydration and the possibility of more of the same and a second opinion from a different vet who suggested force feeding, and if that doesn't work, putting a feeding tube directly into her esophogus. 

But each vet trip seems to traumatize her more, and leaves us wondering, when does it become too much, too invasive, too traumatic to make this struggle worth it?  

I sure wish our little scrappy little Snuffalopogous could boss us around on this one...

Monday, October 5, 2009

bare bones

I'm sorry to say that I have no funny left in me today.  I'm definitely all out of funny.  If you are reading this for a well-needed laugh... stop here.

I was up last night from 4-6 a.m., which is a marked improvement from the night before that, when I was up for a much longer chunk of time.  You're probably thinking "well that's par for the course with a 3 month old baby," right?  The problem being - baby slept fine.  I was up all by my little self.

It's starting again.  I've been feeling it creep up for weeks now, but have tried hard to ignore it/will it away/deny it.  I had the same experience when Oliver was born, but with him it happened a lot earlier.  I really thought I was in the clear this time.  Turns out, not so much.  I call it post partum anxiety (PPA), but I don't think there's really a term for it at all (or if there is, I've never heard of it).   It's like waking up in a cold sweat with your own personal horror film playing, reeling over and over in your mind.  But it's not a bad dream, because you're already awake; hating yourself for having such horrible thoughts and yet unable to stop them.

People have started, more and more, to talk about post partum depression.  Public health nurses and midwives and docs screen for it regularly.  But I'm not depressed.  (You'll have to trust me when I say that I'm well aware of what depression looks and feels like).   I'm not sad.  I don't want to hurt myself.  I don't want to hurt my kids.  I am, at times, totally immobolized by the fear that someone else is going to hurt my kids. This does not come up on the screening questionnaires for PPD.  And although the nurses always ask "how are you?"  I can't imagine answering that question by saying, "well actually, I can't sleep because I keep imagining that someone is going to break into my house and jump on my baby's head, or make me watch as they drag my toddler behind their car, or pour gasoline around my house and burn us all alive."  (And these are only the ones that I can actually bring myself to say out loud).   I would sound insane.  I do sound insane.  Which, I can't help pointing out here, I am not.

I'm totally fine, though exhausted, during the day.  I'm not even a particularly anxious parent.  But when night falls, the reel starts up again and takes on a life of its own.  It is, in a word, torture.   The worst part it, are the moments when I wonder if it's my fault.  I mean, what kind of sick brain could even think of things so awful?  Do I subconsciously resent my kids?   Do I hate being a parent?   Am I a crappy parent?  In my more forgiving moments, I know these things aren't true.

Some really smart person once told me that becoming a parent is like wearing your heart on the outside.  I think this analogy is spot-on, as they say.  And I think that this (along with the help of some pretty strong hormone action) is where my cold-sweat-awake-night-terrors stems from.  Becoming a parent has made me acutely aware that I love these two little creatures more fully and fiercely than I thought myself capable of loving anyone or anything.  So the idea of anything bad happening to them is pretty much equal to my own emotional annihilation.  And since wearing your heart on the outside makes it awfully difficult to protect, maybe the horror reel, though really ugly and awful, kind of makes sense.  Maybe being a parent, on some level, means accepting our powerlessness to protect our children from the bad stuff.   

With Oliver the PPA passed pretty quickly, maybe a month or two.   Until then, I eagerly await the arrival of my new treadmill tomorrow, so I can run myself into total exhaustion before bed, and hopefully go back to getting some sleep.   Because right now, my kids are just getting the bare bones of me.  And that's not fair to any of us.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

on 3168

is a sperm donor that has made us two stupidly good looking kids. (Funnily enough, he was our third choice.  Thank the universe they were fresh outta picks #1 and 2!)   I should be really content with that.  And mostly I am.  I always thought that two would be the *magic* number.  But after having Lucy, I didn't get that "I'm done now" feeling everyone else talks about getting.  I didn't have that "I'm never going through another birth" feeling, either.  Both of their births were amazing, wonderful experiences that left me flying high, though exhausted, I felt peaceful and strong.  Lucy and Oliver challenge me, teach me about the world and fill me with love every day.  Amd I think I'm halfway decent at this childraising business.   So maybe more babies should come for L.and me.   

On the flip side, I'm no spring chicken. The thought of being referred to as "advanced maternal age" for the better part of nine months is enough to make anyone pretty freaking cranky.  And then there's the post-partum anxiety bit.  It was worse with Oliver than it has been with Lucy, but it's still hard to deal with some days (perhaps another day's worth of blogging in there).  And what about those dark days where I want to shoot myself just so I can go the hospital and talk to another adult??   Or the really dark days where I feel like a shitty mom,  or am riddled with the anxiety that I will never again be valued in the way that paid employment affords you.   That I am wasting my education and eroding away at my smarts.  That me staying home for so long will lead to our financial ruin.  Etc. etc. etc.  So maybe more babies shouldn't come for L. and I. 

Though I've been thinking about it here and there, I haven't been too fussed about it.  Lucy is only 3 months old, after all.  We have two vials left of 3168 in storage, and we can always order more, right?!  Turns out, not so much.  I called the sperm bank yesterday to let them know about Lucy's birth (they like to keep track of these things).   And just out of curiousity, I asked how many vials they have left of good old 3168.   One.  One vial.  He has left the province and is no longer donating.  Shiiiiittttttttttt. 

It took us/me a very long time to get pregnant with Oliver.  We're talking countless vials here.  With Lucy, it was a little easier, somewhere in the four/five try vicinity.  But we only have two vials left.  Even if we shell out and order up that last vial, anticipating that we might want to try again, that still only leaves us a three try window.  Not impossible, but also not exactly probable either.  

All this pondering; all this hemming and hawing about whether or not to have another child, and I, we, may not even have a choice in the matter at all. This is far, far, far more of a pisser than the notion of being called 'advanced maternal age.' 

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

warning: if bad things stay in your head for weeks on end (like me) do not read this.

L. made the mistake the other day of sharing with me a particularly awful story (these stories are an occupational hazard for her).  About a woman being charged with making child pornography of her daughter, from the ages of 3 months to four years old. 

When she told me, I was standing in the kitchen holding Lucy.  I felt as if I'd been punched in the stomach.  Literally.  It was all I could do to keep standing up.  As L. and Oliver went outside to play, I somehow moved around the kitchen making dinner, with sluggish legs and heavy heart.  But I couldn't put Lucy down.   I  couldn't stop staring down at her perfect three month old body.  At the way her eyes crinkle when she catches my eye and grins her toothless baby grin.  At her big blue saucer eyes full of love and trust.  And just then, the immensity of the depth of her complete and total faith in me, her mama, her source of safety and food and comfort, made me sick to my stomach. 

Because I know that woman's daughter looked at her the same way.   I know that by some accident of birth, my daughter will be kept safe and warm and cherished; and by the same accident, that woman's daughter will never know a childhood with that safety, that warmth, that feeling of being truly cherished.

My head knows that something too terrible for words must have happened to this woman to make her do such a thing to a baby, her child, the flesh of her flesh.  My head knows that I should acknowledge that she, too, must be so, so broken. 

But my heart, it is kicking the shit out of that woman in an alley somewhere, remorseless.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Chewing the fat: aka Project October

We girls talk about fat a lot.  A lot a lot.  Like, a ridiculous amount of the time.  We obsess about body parts every time we dress or undress.  We say mean things as we grab our bellies (or butts or whatever).  We (bizarrely) use our body hatred to bond with other women.  (This bit is especially fucked up.)   We spend a whole lot of internal and external energy trying to take up less space in the world.  (Again, a pretty sad thing, when you stop to think about it.)   In fact, if women spent 1/10 of the energy we spent criticizing and hating our bodies into changing the world into something better, I'd be willing to bet the world would be changing a hell of a lot faster than it is.

Even those of us who like to think we are immune to fat phobia (that is, a fear and hatred of fat and fat people), myself included here; whjo are fairly media-savvy, politically aware, cultural discourse busting, kick-ass-take-no-prisoners-hello-world-here-I-am feministy kinda girls get angsty over this body business.    Take me for example.  I wrote a rather lengthy (and clever, if I do say so myself) master's thesis deconstructing the body hating and fat phobic culture that we live in.  (In fact, it was so clever that I myself no longer understand many of the theories I was working with, because motherhood has apparently rendered me brain-dead.  Sigh.  I digress).   My point being - I really do understand all of the external cultural forces and all of the money that go into making women hate themselves.  I wrote 256 pages of snappy postmodern theory about it.  Yet I still feel crappy about my body.   I know that I am totally losing my feminist street cred here.  (Insert self-scolding, hand slapping "I am a bad, bad feminist" here).

Funnily (or not so funnily, as it were) enough, in the past few years I've been thinner than I've been for most of my life, and the thinner I am, the WORSE I feel about myself.  How fucked up is that?  Even more fucked up?  I've caught myself talking negatively about my body in front of my kids.  (And I know I'm not the only one here.)  YOWZA.  This is a serious no-no.   The no-no of all no-nos.   I really don't want my daughter learning that it's normal to hate her body.  I don't want my son growing up thinking that either, or thinking that it's okay to judge people by the size or shape of their body.  I really, really don't want your kids teaching mine how to hate themselves, go on a diet, or purge up their wheeties, either.  Just putting that out there.  (You don't even want to get me started on the people who put their own kids on diets.  Them, me and a back alley, baby.)

Now you may be reading this thinking, "ooohhh - but fat is so unhealthy!"  And to this I shout a resounding "HORSESHIT!"  The "unhealthy" is the trump card that gets used to justify hating and ridiculing ourselves, and worse still, hating and ridiculing others.  Fat or thin is not what makes a person healthy.  Health is about treating our bodies well.  Exercising.  Eating some greens every once in awhile.  Being kind to ourselves.  Laughing a little.  Or better yet a lot.  These are things we can do at ALL sizes, and without talking/thinking shit about ourselves (and each other).

Which brings me to my project.  I've got this glass jar, ready and sitting on my kitchen counter.  And for the whole month of October, every time I say, or even think something fat-phobic and negative about my body, I'm going to throw in a loonie of my wife's hard earned money (and yes I mean that sarcastically people.  My feminist cred isn't THAT bad).  And if I catch myself saying anything even remotely body conscious in front of my kids, I'm dropping in a toonie (because did I mention that's seriously wrong?!).  And at the end of October, I'm going to count up that money and write a cheque in said amount to the Edmonton Food Bank (I think there's a certain symmetry there, no?).  I'll report back in November and let anyone who cares to know how I did.,

So let's put our money where our mouths are, so to speak.  If you feel so inclined, join me.  Grab an old jam jar, pick a "pet" social service (in our current economy, which gives our conservative governments lovely excuses to cut funding to all kinds of vital social services, there are a plethora of areas in dire need of our "mouth-money"), and we can be project October buddies.   At the end of the month, hopefully, we'll have a reality check about how often we talk shit about ourselves.  We'll have a greater awareness about what we say in front of our tots and what impact that might have in the long run.  And we'll do a little good in our community at the same time.

And who knows, maybe in the end, we'll all feel a bit lighter.             

Saturday, September 26, 2009

note to conservative SAHMs...

I really wish you would stop assuming that I have the same values as you, just because we have the same job.  I wish you would stop sidleing up to me in the park, waxing and waning about how stay-at-home moms somehow have superior (smarter/more well adjusted/whatever) kids to working moms (as your kid bops mine in the head).  I wish you would stop sounding off to me about the evils of daycare.  I really, really wish you would stop intimating that women who make the choice to work outside the home are selfish.  (And don't even get me started on how annoyed I am that no one ever says this about fathers that work outside of the home).  It all kinda makes me want to kick you in the knee.  Hard.  Really. 

For starters, my choice to stay home is just that.  A choice.  What is best for me, my partner and my children.  Not all women.  All partners.  All children.  Though we are making a considerable financial sacrifice by having one stay at home parent, I recognize (and I wish you would too) that even having the ability to make this choice is a luxury many, many parents simply cannot afford.  

Daycare is not evil.  It's a great way for kids to socialize and to learn.  Of course not all daycares are created equal.  But the good ones rock!   (Maybe if our backwards conservative government would make children more of a priority, there would be even more good ones available.) And for the record - I often worry that my kids are missing out by NOT going to daycare.

And though working parents don't have as much one on one time with their kids as us stay-at-homers during the week, I often wonder whether the time they do have is better quality time than I have with my tots, because although they may be tired from work; they might be less annoyed, frustrated and frazzled at their kids at the end of the work day than I am.  (Ie. They spend less time in the day yelling at their kids than I do and probably feel excited to see them at the end of the day, whereas I generally want to stuff mine in the closet by 5 p.m.).

Every choice is a trade-off, with positives and negatives.  In the end, the thing that matters is this.  Happy parents = happy children.   Unhappy parents = unhappy children.   Though I am frequently jealous that my partner gets to leave the house every day and talk to adults, I feel content, fulfilled and rewarded (more days than not) to be at home with my kids.   But not all people feel this way.  Some people feel caged, held back and frustrated (more days than not) working in the home.  This doesn't make them bad parents.  It means they have different needs, aspirations, desires than you might.   Period.

Taking for granted that all moms should want to stay home with their kids is like saying everyone with money should want to be an accountant. (All accountant jokes aside).  Do we judge people for not deciding to be an accountant?   No.  Do we assume that all non-accountants make bad financial decisions?  Nope.  Well okay then.

There's been this itsy bitsy little movement known as feminism...

Friday, September 25, 2009

religion on the brain

So Oliver and I (and Lucy in the sling, of course) were swinging in the backyard.  We do this quite often - my kid can swing for hours.  And we were watching the planes coming to the land at the City Centre Airport.  We do this a lot, too.  (Oliver is obsessed with planes.)   There was a helicopter flying pretty low overhead, and I told him that the helicopter had the word Canada written on the side.  Oliver was sure that I was in fact wrong.  "NO mama. That helicopter says Ramadan!"  Ramadan has just recently entered Oliver's vernacular because we live in "Little Lebanon," and there are lots of streamers up at the local market for Ramadan.

So I, yet again, explain to Ollie that Ramadan is a special celebration that people who are Islamic celebrate.  "Can we celebwate too?"  he wanted to know.  "No buddy..." ... "Only people who belong to the faith of Islam celebrate Ramadan."  He looks confused, so I try to clarify.  I am grasping here.   "It's just like people who are Christian celebrate Christmas or Easter."    And just as soon as it slips out of my mouth, I think "Oh crap - now I've stepped in it!"  I hold my breathe waiting to hear the inevitable question to follow.  It doesn't come.  Instead he stares blankly at me for a second, then smiles and says "I like Christmas!"  Phew.  Exhale.  He's not ready for this conversation.  Clearly, neither am I.

The truth is, I don't know what I'd have said if he'd asked if we were Christian.  We're not.   But it seems kinda wrong to say "No buddy, we just like the presents, chocolate and eggs hunts."  (And that isn't the whole truth anyways.)

This isn't the first time religion has come up, either.  Our neighbour, a sweet little old Italian lady, keeps asking "When she baptismed"? of Lucy.  I haven't had the heart to tell her we're not even remotely catholic (although you'd think the queer bit might have tipped her off).  Anyways - I've sort of  been waiting for him to ask about that one too.   (And again - what do I say about it?)

I have to admit that I have a knee-jerk response to organized religion.  People use the Bible (and various other religious texts) to excuse all kinds of hatred and exclusion, even persecution, especially when it comes to us 'Mos (that's shorthand for Homos, in case anyone isn't up on the lingo :-).  Although I have known and still know plently of sweet, wonderful, non-judgemental Christian folks, when I hear the word Christianity, I still immediately conjur up images of Reverand Larry Phelps picketing the funerals of gay men with signs saying "God hates fags."   I think of the selective use of bible passages like Leviticus to justify hatred of gays and lesbians, while they ignore other bible passages that say things like touching the skin of a pig on the Sabbath is a sin (think Sunday night football here people). I think of the "justifications" used to stalk and shoot doctors who perform abortions.  I think of the millions of women who are told that they can't control their fertility without seriously pissing God off.  I think of my grandmother being told by her priest to go back to the man that beat her,over and over, and all of the other women who have been told the same thing.  I think of people being told that exploring and enjoying their sexuality is sinful. 

So I guess I'm pretty clear on what I don't believe in.  

But what do I believe?  (And how do I impart it to my kids?!)

I'm not an atheist.  I consider myself to be a spiritual person.  But what the H does that mean?  Ummmm - I'd certainly like to believe in Karma.  I believe in people's capacity to do good in the world (even though too often of late, this capacity seems vastly underused).   I think I believe in some kind of otherworldliness, though not in a way I can easily articulate.  I believe that the divine, whatever that is, is inside of each person  (but I can't imagine telling my kid I think God is inside him.  I can just picture this poor kid being freaked out about some person called God is in his tummy :-) 

All this pondering makes me think about a quote from one of my all-time favourite shows . . . Roseanne. 

D.J.: I just had some questions about God and stuff.

Roseanne: Well why didn't you come to us if you had questions? There are no two better people to answer your questions than me and your dad.

D.J.: Okay... what religion are we?

Roseanne: I have no idea... Dan?

Dan: Well... my mom's mom was Pentacostal and Baptist on the side of my dad. Your mom's mom was Lutheran and her dad was Jewish.

D.J.: So what do we believe?

Roseanne: Well... we believe in... being good. So basically, we're good people.

Dan: Yeah, but we're not practicing.

;-)

Kids have this amazing way of challenging our taken-for-granted assumptions in life.  Clearly I'm going to have to do some more thinking about this (and a gazillion other things) before Oliver really does start asking the hard questions.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

music to my ears....

I think kid's music is a really important part of kid's development.  So we have lots of it.  Oliver loves it.  I hate it.  Anyone who has had "toot toot chugga chugga big red car" stuck in their head for days on end will support me when I say it makes me want to stab my eyeballs out.  I've been sucking it up and taking one for the team, so to speak, by putting Oliver's enjoyment of music before my love of my own eardrums (which consequently spend a lot of time screaming for mercy). 


Recently, some very lovely Haligonian friends of ours adopted a 15 month baby girl!  (Shout out to baby A!).  And one of Baby A's mommies did something brilliant.  It is so brilliant that I am rather vexed I didn't think of it myself, before I spent two years suffering through "toot toot chugga chugga big red car" (Do you hate me yet for putting this in your head?!).

What she did is this...

She googled:  "Kids music that is tolerable to adults."    So simple.  So brilliant.  So so brilliant.  

So fellow parents - let's share some music info!  If anyone has any other suggestions for kids music that doesn't make their parents want to crash into the car in front of them.... suggest away!


Here's a few tried and true gems I've found that don't make me want to slit my wrists:

Barenaked Ladies - SnackTime.
Okay. So I've never really love the BNL's. But this album is fun. Oliver gives it two thumbs up. And - as an added bonus - if you buy this one, you can brag that you bought the BNL's last album before they broke up because Steven Page got busted for cocaine.

Dogs on Fleas -
http://www.dogonfleas.com/about.htm
Just got their latest album "A Beautiful World" from the library. Hallelujah. It's fun. It's weird. It's funky. More than one kitchen dance party with Mama and Ollie shaking their groove thangs has occured since we brought it home two days ago.

If you like a bit of twang in your life - check out The Hollow Trees (Self-released). It's kids tunes a la bluegrass and Oliver LOVES the banjo bits.

Here's some by bands that I love that I didn't know had kids albums.  Think folk/funk/indie rock stuff.  I cannot wait to find them. 

The Nields' "All Together Singing in the Kitchen"

Veda Hille with Duplex - pegged as Indie Rock for smalls and their minders
ablum by duplex     http://vedahille.com/music/ablum-by-duplex/
duplex-worser       http://vedahille.com/music/duplex-worser/

Here's some others that sound pretty cool to check out (the descriptions aren't mine - they're taken from various reviewers on the web!)

Jam Toast, "Silly Grown-ups, Punk Is For Kids."

Juanita the Spanish Lobster. This is the third release from the Stories in Music series, featuring the London Philharmonic, and it's a great one to listen to in the car, especially if you'd trying to avoid the popular automobile DVD player. The story is pretty simple: Juanita's a crabby crustacean who pines to live on land, but it's the combination of the cute, interactive story and spunky flamenco music -- among other music genres -- that make this a natural gateway to the kingdom of audio books.

The Terrible Twos  - If You Ever See an Owl...
www.myspace.com/terribletwos
Matt Pryor has channeled his considerable talents into kids' music and the result is wonderful. The Terrible Twos are actually the New Amsterdams (Pryor's adult band), so expect a melodic, thoughtful brand of quiet pop.

The Quiet Two - Make Some Noise (Not Big)
http://www.thequiettwo.com/
This Brooklyn-based duo draws inspiration from psychedelic British pop and their own wildly imaginative brains. Think the Small Faces playing a free-form variety show for kids.

And here's a really cool blog I found about kids tunes....definitely worth a look!
http://www.kidsmusicthatrocks.blogspot.com/


So folks - here's to happier listening!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

playground politics

When at the playground with other children, and said children's parents and/or caregivers, there are certain rules that need to be followed. Make sure your kid plays nice and doesn't break their neck.  Everyone with me so far?   Yes?   It all seems pretty common-sensical to me.  But apparently not so.

Let's work with an example:

You notice that your child is being pushed around by some other kid at the playground.  Their parent/caregiver is oblivious, chatting with their mommy/daddy/nanny pals. 

There are generally 3 options here.  Do you A) talk to the caregiver and let them handle it (or not), B) intervene on your own (no way you want to be the one to tell them their kid is a bully), or C) let them figure it out themselves. Kids will be kids, as they say.   

If you answered A or B, we could be probably be playground buddies.  I generally work with some combination thereof.  If a parent's around and I know who they are, I'll wait a second for them to do something, and if not  - I'll make meaningful eye contact with them (I've worked on what I think is the perfect "what-the-F-is-wrong-with-you-your-child-is-being-a-big-stinky-bully-and-here-you-are-watching-like-it's-payperview" look.  It comes with an eyebrow raise, which as my wife can tell you, is kinda intimidating) and intervene myself.   If they aren't around, I try jump in and send the kids in opposite directions, so noone gets squashed or otherwise traumatized.   

If you answered C - chances are your child is a bully, or at least veering towards the bully end of the spectrum.  There.  I said it.  I'm calling you out.  That ain't right.  This isn't survival of the fittest.  It's not an episode of Survivor.  It's children on a playground.  They shouldn't have to be watching their backs.

Let me be clear about this.  I'm not saying we need to grow eyes in the back of our heads, or intervene for every little thing that happens in child world.  But there are certain things I consider to be PIO's, or playground-intervenable-offences, whether done by my kid or someone else's.  You know - pushing, shoving, hitting, biting, obvious verbal abuse and the like.   

I ran into one of those "C" people at the park today with Oliver.  We were playing in the sandbox with toys that we brought from home.  I'm all about sharing toys, especially when you take them with you to the park.  But this little dude, at the park with his grampa, keeps running into the sandbox and grabbing the shovel right out of Oliver's hand.  I waited for grampa to do something, but he just laughs and says "he sure loves to shovel."  No shit.  So I give him "the look" and take charge.  I take the shovel gently from the toddler monster and hand it back to my kid, (who's just standing there looking really forlorn) saying "right now, it's Oliver's turn for the shovel, little dude."  But little monster dude does it again.  And again.  I try to distract little monster dude with trucks and cars that Ollie has brought.  Nothing doing.  So the next time little grabber gets all grabby, I encourage Oliver to let little monster dude play with the shovel, hoping this will appease the wee snot.  Oliver (rather graciously, I think) okays this and waits for his turn again.  But again, the little monster dude starts grabbing the shovel away from my kid.  Grampa laughs again and says "he sure is persistent."  No shit.  So I actually pick the little bugger up and move him, with some sand toys, to the other side of the sandbox.  Still, grampa does nothing, and just watches as little monster dude comes back and takes the shovel.  Oliver, at this point is starting to lose his cool.  I can't really say that I blame him.  (I'm about ready to pop gramps in the kisser, myself).  Finally I say, loudly, to the little dude, but loud enough so gramps can hear- "you know what little dude, grabbing someone's toy like that isn't very nice."  Gramps shoots me a dirty look, but takes his "sweet" little puddin' pop, kicking and screaming, to the other side of the playground and then, eventually, home.  

(As a bit of an aside, Gramps there is turning out to be my playground nemesis.  Last time we were at the park, he let little monster dude ride Oliver's tricycle around without so much as asking permission.  Twice. Without a helmet, to boot.  The apple clearly doesn't fall very far from that big rude old tree.  Just saying.)

But seriously - if you know that your kid, your little prince or princess, is a grabber or a hitter or a biter or what have you, ya'll need to spend less time chatting with your mommy/daddy/nanny friends and more time supervising your tot until they can behave like wee human beings around other kids. 

My kid is far from being a saint.  I am even farther away from sainthood.  I've been known to let my mom radar tune out from time to time.  So I sincerely hope that if I'm not paying enough attention catch see him terrorizing some other poor tot, the adult who does see will step in and say something, either to me or to him.   It takes a village, as they say.

Now you might be reading this and thinking something like - "that kid needs to toughen up and learn to deal with things for himself."   Or "When he gets out into the real world, he's going to need to know how to take care of himself."  Or something of the like.  But here's the thing.  All of us folks who now inhabit "the real world," where pushing and shoving and general rudeness abounds; we all started out in the playground. 

Monday, September 21, 2009

a repost from facebook.... mom day from hell

A small excerpt from a momming day from hell...

Wake-up. RAIN. Big rain. Lots of rain. What to do with the exuberant todder? Decide to try and go to indoor playground, though it is far away. Endure two giant toddler meltdowns while trying to pack up car snacks and supplies for baby. Try to get out the door, juggling umbrella, baby, diaper bag and Oliver's hand, so he does not go ripping out into the downpour. Pack up Oliver in car and hit my head on cupboard door in garage. Swear. Put Lucy in carseat - wailing commences. Crank up children's tunes and drive off. Wailing continues. Realize I forgot the sling at home. Turn around. Wailing continues. Leave kids in the car (bad, bad mama) and race across lawn to house. Lose one shoe halfway up the lawn. Turn back, pick up shoe, drop keys. Finally get sling, and return to children. Lucy - wailing. Oliver, impatient. "Did you forget the sling mama? Mama - did you forget the sling?" Bite tongue and drive off again. Soaked. Head onto highway. Try to sing Lucy lullabies to calm her. Nothing doing. Give up and return to insipid children's music in an attempt to drown out the wails. Nothing doing. Listen to Oliver's constant questions. "What's that mama? Mama, what's that? (and it gets louder the longer you don't answer) What's that?!" Internal voice says "that's a motherfucking truck, Oliver!" External voice says "What do you think it is Oliver?" Wailing continues. Get to the indoor playground, 15 minutes later, after narrowly avoiding several crappy truck-driving Edmontonians. Lucy stops crying as we park. Oliver says "Can we go home?" Mix up internal and external voices. Crap.

Friday, September 18, 2009

confessions

I got the look. You other parents will know what I mean. The bad parent look. The why-weren't-you-watching-your-child-more-closely-and-see-now-look-he-got-hurt-look.

That is indeed what happened. We were at the food court, stuffing ourselves with inappropriate-and-unhealthy-for-children-fast-food, when Oliver, who was, unbeknownst to us, dangling perilously on top of a food court table, took a header into the floor. And as L. ran to scoop him up and assess the damage, this woman with her own child at another table caught my eye and gave me the look. I felt suitably yucky and bad-parent-y. You know the feeling.

We parents are a judge-y bunch. Especially us moms. I've always liked to think that I'm not one of those moms who sniffs "I can't believe she.... (fill in appropriate blank)." But I totally am. There, I said it. I'm judge-y.

I caught myself doing it just last night. L. and I went to the Public Health Office after the food court incident, to get Oliver's immunizations (another dicey topic - one for yet another blog). And I felt myself tensing up watching this other mom let her wee one march all over the Public Health Clinic floor in bare feet. And then I heard myself turning to L. and hissing "I can't believe she's letting her kid walk all over this germy floor in his bare feet." Oye. L. (very gently) called me out for it and I felt appropriately guilty. I have not, as they say, walked a mile in her shoes (or lack thereof).

It seems that, given my earlier rant about the lack of respect afforded to parenting work, and mothering in particular, that the tendency of parents, and again mothers in particular, to beat up on the parenting choices of other mothers is, counter-productive. At best.

So - I've decided to let it all hang out. In the spirit of living and let live, I'm going to air my dirty laundry. I'm going to confess (some of) my imperfections as a parent, and then I'm going to toast them.

Deep breathe. Here goes:

1. Oliver uttered his first F-Bomb when he was 20 months old. He totally learned it from me.

2. My house usually looks like a bio-hazard site.

3. I let Oliver play and occasionally eat off of the dirty floors in said house.

4. My thirty second rule is more like a thirty minute rule.

5. I let Oliver (and now Lucy if she's awake) watch too much television in order to get a workout or quiet coffee time in.

6. Lucy is lying on the guestbed beside me right now, gurgling all cute-like, and all I want to do is have some me time with my blog.

7. I try to feed the family organic healthy food and usually just run out of time and energy.  PB &J rules this house (and it's the kind of peanut butter with saturated fats and sugar. Oh yes it is).

8. I wanted to be all cloth diaper-y and did for awhile but I've totally let it fall by the wayside.

9. I drink too much caffeine, even though I know it gives Lucy gas.

10. I yell too much at the end of the week (and sometimes at the beginning and middle too.)

11. I've let Oliver play for way too long in a dirty diaper just to avoid the diaper change tantrum. And then he got a really bad diaper rash.

12. It's within the realm of possibility that my son will be in kindergarten before he's potty trained.

13. I've been known to barter juiceboxes for good behaviour.

14. I totally tune Oliver out and pretend I'm listening sometimes. He talks a lot.

15. I am apparently oblivious to my son dangling perilously atop of food court tables.


This list, I think, could go on for pages, and I'd bet the farm that yours could too. We parents are an imperfect lot.

So if there's any other parents reading this today - I encourage you to find another parent or two and confess. Air your dirty parenting laundry (you know you have some) in the face of judgement. Maybe if we all did a little more looking at our own dirty little parenting secrets, we'd go a little easier on the parents we see around in the playground, at the food court or the Public Health Office.

Because they're slogging it out, 24/7, just like us.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Just a Housewife

I am a feminist. I believe firmly that a woman's "place" is wherever she wants and needs to be. (I wish very much that we lived in a world where that were possible for all women). I also believe that happy (reasonably) well-adjusted parents make happy, (reasonably) well adjusted children, regardless of whether those parents work outside or inside of the home. So why is it that I find it so difficult to answer the question: "What do you do for a living?" I find it equally distressing to respond to the ever present: "So, when are you going back to work?"

I hate the word housewife. I hate the word homemaker. These words are so loaded with patriarchal bullshit that I can barely utter them in any seriousness, much less use them to describe myself or what I do. Yet that's the check-box that applies to me. And because of it, I get dismissed by the folks at the bank, the car dealership, and occassionally, other parents. It feels like a pretty limiting check box. But what else do I call myself? How can I encapsulate what I do, day in and day out, without sounding either overly-simplistic or self-denigrating?

I have a master's degree in Gender Studies. I'm a nerd and I love researching and writing. In fact, it's one of the only things I've ever been really good at. I always thought I'd be an academic, and was planning for a return to school for my PhD immediately following the birth of my son. But things didn't quite turn out that way.

Being at home with my son was a real learning experience! Some days were amazing and I felt thrilled and gratified at being able to witness and guide the growth of this little being. Some days were horrendously frustrating and tiring and what I couldn't wait to get "back out in the world." All of the days (and often nights) were long and challenging. But when that first birthday rolled around, and it came time to look at putting Boy-o in daycare, I simply couldn't do it. The very thought of it made me want to cry and throw up at the same time. I just wasn't ready to let go of my role as stay-at-home mama. When Boy-o was just shy of two, I started to feel a bit suffocated, and decided to look around for some part-time work outside of the home. And then, I got pregnant with Girlio. So - I've been out of the paid workforce for almost three years now. But not out of the workforce.

To say I keep my household running would be an understatement. I make it possible for my partner to focus on her paid work because of all of the behind the scenes work I do. Cooking, cleaning, child care and sock washing. (It is invisible and undervalued work, but work nonetheless).

I don't deal in the economies of paychecks (at least not mine) - I deal in the economies of scraped knees, band-aids, juice boxes and swing pushes. I struggle each day to instill creativity, love of life, respect for the earth and for humanity in my children. I am working my ass off to raise children who will not be sexist or racist or homophobic, who will value difference and do their part to make this world a better place. I do this while struggling not to let my identity become subsumed in the world of my home and children. Some days are better than others. There are many days when my cats rubbing against me for attention at the end of the day makes my skin crawl, because if one more thing "needs me", I will die/cry/spontaneously combust. And seldom a day goes by when I don't find myself wishing I had more contact with a world outside of child raising, more money, more time on my own, more positive feedback to nurture my sense of self and importance in the world.

But this I know for sure. Child raising is labour. A labour of love, most certainly, but labour nonetheless. Hard labour. The hours are crap, the pay is worse, and the acnowledgement from the world around us pretty non-existent.

What do I do for a living?

I'm a teacher and a doctor and a therapist and a laundrymat. I'm a playgroup leader and a chef and a nutritionist. I'm a personal shopper and a cleaning lady and a librarian. I'm a taxi driver and a soccer coach and the occasional jailer. I'm the CEO of this operation, and I'm pretty good at it. I'm up to my eyeballs in laughter and tears and dirty diapers and snotty kleenex. I'm on call 24/7. Fit that in a check-box.

When I am going back to work?

Fuck off.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

queer parent 101

Upon finding out that I am a queer mama, there are a number of common responses I encounter. As I don't have a sign advertising my "queerness" and veer towards the girly side of things (thus screwing up peole's weird ideas of what a queer girl should look like), I often come out after inquiries about my husband. (Because every woman with children clearly must have one of those, right?! That's a whole 'nother rant altogether.) This happens on a daily basis... from anyone to store clerks to other parents and caregivers at playgrounds. Having kids makes you come out A LOT! I cannot lie -I get sick of coming out all of the time. It's inconvenient and anxiety-producing and awkward and taps into my own internalized crap and having to be the "educator" all of the time gets old pretty damn quick. But I owe it to my kids to be out and unashamed, so I try my best. (Some days are better than others).

I've encountered a number of reactions to my coming out -

Of course, there have been positive responses, these are the folks I've snapped up as friends, because, for this and many other reasons, they are marvellous human beings. Once, someone (a stranger) apologized for assuming I was straight. Her, I wanted to hug (after almost keeling over from shock and surprise!)

But more often, I get the "embarassed silence then edge slowly away" response. Sometimes I get a dumb struck and/or confused look (um, but you have babies!) and sometimes they pretend I didn't say anything at all.

And then there are the doozies...

1. I hate, hate, hate it when people I've just met at the park or the supermarket or some playgroup pretend to be cool when taking in the news of my queerness, and then lean in conspiritorially (to further demonstrate their smooth and laid-back acceptance of my queerness, naturally,) and whisper "Do you mind if I ask, you know, how you did it?" This is really, really, really common. I always have to bite my tongue from saying "Yes, asshole, I mind. Do you mind telling me how you and your partner got knocked up?!"

The thing is, they always seem to be wanting something salacious - like hearing that I went out and found 10 sailors for a mad-wanton-porn-star-lesbot-babymaking session. Nope. No sailors. (Poor, poor, lonely, lesbian-less sailors). Just me, L., a nurse, a speculum, and a teeny weeny vial of 3168.

2. What do you know about the dad?/What about the dad?/Don't you think kids need a dad? or some variation of the above.

Yikes. First or all, my kids don't have a dad. My kids have a donor. Some anonymous guy who spoofed in a cup so people like me and people struggling with infertility could have babies. I love you 3168, wherever you are, for spoofing in a cup for us, whatever your reasons. But spoofing in a cup does not a dad make. Dads are people who are involved in their kids' lives - who read stories and play soccer and change diapers and get barfed on, and so on and so forth.

I think kids have really basic needs. They need love and encouragement and good role models. (I do sometimes worry about my kids' lack of male role models - but we're working on that, and that's an issue for another blog!). I think kids need folks who are engaged and involved in their lives. Peole who worry about them. This, my kids have in spades.

3. Do you think that's fair to your kids? I mean, kids are cruel. Aren't you worried about bullying/teasing/other forms of social trauma befalling your kids?

Yes, yup, uh-huh. You bet I'm worried about those things! All of the time. But do I think being born to two moms who love and nurture them is unfair to my kids? For real? I think what is really unfair to my children is that we live in a world where it's still okay to bandy about homophobic bullshit wihtout even having the grace to be a bit embarassed about it. Sheesh.

4. It must be hard not to be able to "make a kid out of your love" or something to this effect.

First of all, most kids aren't made out of love, they're made out of sex, cheeseballs. Whether or not that's an expression of their parent's love isn't up to me.

And second of all... my partner and I tried to get pregnant with our son for over two years. Two years of incredible highs of hope and devastating lows of dissapointment. We laughed together and cried together. My partner held my hand at every appointment and ran home from work on more than one occassion because I called her crying when I got my period. Again. When we finally got those two red lines on the pee stick, after two years of living on a roller coaster, we cried and laughed and danced and sat together in shock and disbelief and elation. My daughter was conceived at the same clinic, with my partner holding my hand and my 1 1/2 year old son sitting on my belly, squishing my face and sticking his fingers up my nose. And if that isn't being conceived as a part of our love, then I don't know what is. (Who's the cheeseball now?!)

5. The absolute worst, though, is when we are out as a family and get "Which one of you is the mom?" We inevitably explain that we are BOTH our children's moms. Then, almost without fail, we are asked, "yeah, but which one of you is their "real" mom?"

Okay people - this is assinine, and so hurtful to non-biological parents. Neither carrying a child to term, nor giving birth makes someone a mom, just like spoofing in a cup doesn't make someone a dad. Coming through, being there, taking those highs and lows, doing the hard work, holding that sick baby through the night, or comforting that kid whose body is wracked with sobs, being a disciplinarian, a teacher, a cook, a playmate ... that's what makes you a parent. My wife is the most amazing parent. She is patient and gentle and devoted to both of our children. I've worked in the social services long enough to know that biology is not what makes you a parent. Biology doesn't mean shit. Being a parent - that, you have to earn.


Whew. Feeling better already.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

introductions

So why start a blog??

A little over a year ago, my partner L, son Oliver and I moved across the country from Halifax to Edmonton for L's work. Shortly after arriving here, we became pregnant with our second child, Lucy, who is now three months old.

Being a stay-at homer, my work is pretty portable, but also pretty invisible. That's probably the most pressing reason behind creating this blog. Whether anyone reads it or not, creating my own record of my day to day existence as a stay at home parent is a way for me to feel less invisible.

I also wanted to create a space where I could record and share the joys and frustrations of parenting in general, and lefty, pinko, feminist, queer parenting in specific. Though we have met and know some lovely people here in Edmonton, the political state of this province, and the attitudes of many of the people we run across in our day to day lives can present real challenges and stresses for us that your average straight parents don't have to deal with. And having a place to blow off steam now and again is mighty inviting.

And also, my tendency toward sarcasm and pithiness is lost on my children - so to blogging I will go!