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.'