Tuesday, August 31, 2010

A gift,,,

It only took 14.5 months....

but Girlio actually, like, slept last night.  Really slept.  Slept slept.  Like, woke up, stirred, and managed to put herself back to sleep, slept.  She woke up once, at 4 a.m., breastfed, and crashed for another two and a half hours.   This is, in case you didn't already know from all of my bleary whining, a night-time anomoly round these parts.   Consequently, I slept too.  Okay - I slept most of the night, excepting the part where I laid awake wondering if she was dead in her crib due to a fall down the stairs yesterday.  That was the only plausible explanation I could think of for her not waking up (again and again and again and again).  But still, it was the most sleep I've had since that little munchkin was born last June.  That is a lot of time to go, waking 3+ (and usually to the + side of that range) times a night, believe you-me.  

I could go for YEARS waking up with Girlio once a night.  If she wanted to continue this trend until college, I'd be fine with that.  Well, okay, I hope she's weaned by then, but you know what I mean.  (As a bit of an aside, I am always amazed when people try to commiserate with my sleep woes by confiding that their kid has a sleep "problem" and is always up once in the night.  Once in the night is NOT a problem.  Once in a night is a gift from the heavens.   Three?  Four?  Five times in the night?  That's a problem.  Your kid wanting to get up and have a midnight poker tourney or spend an hour picking your nose at 3 a.m.?  That's a problem.  But once a night?  Seriously people!  You're going to have to trust me when I say that I am not the person you want to confide this particular 'trouble' to).

It's amazing - really amazing - how different your outlook on life can shift when you have the basic need of sleep fulfilled.  I woke feeling refreshed.  Rested.  Kinda even, you know, happy.  Weird, I know. 

And the kids and I had a fun filled morning in which I was able to really focus on them and enjoy our time together.   I was able to match their energy level, or at least a reasonable facsimile, instead of lagging behind wondering where the hell their boundless enthusiasm comes from (certainly not me).

A little bit of sleep also helps us to put Girlio's sleep habits (or lack therof) into a bit more perspective.  She's pretty much perfect in every way - except for sleep.  And this is apparently, her 'thing'.  She'll work it out when she works it out.  Don't get me wrong - we're going to keep trying to help the process along - but a full night of sleep does help to take the edge of the parental desperation.  (And will hopefully help to end the late night promises to buy her a pony if she just goes back to sleep - sucks how bribery resistant babies are...)

Now - I'm not dumb (or optimistic) enough to believe this is a behavioural trend in her sleep.  We're not going to knock off seeking out that miraculous sleep-aid book anytime soon.   Instead, I'm going to think of it as a gift to us when L. and I most needed it, as we've been the walking dead for the last little while.  

So thanks Girlio, for letting us fill our really, really, really empty sleep tanks.   I hope you'll see fit to stop and fill 'er up sometime real soon.  Trust me when I say, your parents will be better people for it. 

Friday, August 27, 2010


We got a call from our doctor's office a few days ago.  They were wondering about the bloodwork I was supposed to have done so they could refer me to the fertility clinic here.  I haven't done it.  I've had the requisition in my hot little hands for about 3 months now.   

We've never put a definitive number on how many kidlets we wanted to have.  After Boy-o, we knew we wanted to try for a sibling for him.  And after Girlio, I was immediately overtaken by the feeling that we weren't meant to be done having kids yet. 

But flash forward a year, and I still hadn't jumped through the hoops I needed to jump through in order to get into that clinic.  Knowing full well that if we want to get things started, we need to get things started asap.  The clinic wait once we are referred is over a year long.  And I'm not getting any younger.

 Why haven't I done the bloodwork?  I've asked myself that question many times over the last three months.  And L. and I have grappled over and over with what it will mean to try and add a third child to our mix.  A bigger car, a bigger house, a bigger grocery bill.  A longer wait for me to be back in the paid workforce or school.  The worry about the dynamic of three children, three being a seemingly tricky number for siblings to negotiate.  More years of no sleep.  More years of no sleep.  Did I mention more years of no sleep? 

It would seem, after listing all of these reasons that an immediate NO is required.  But I wish it were nearly that simple.  Those sensible, intellectual reasons for why we already have our hands full have to be stacked up against the emotional reasons for which having another child make perfect sense.  Glowy pregnancy.  The amazing, un-recreatable feeling of giving birth.  Warm, squishy baby.  Sweet gurgles.  Making baby mohawks in the bathtub (man, there is nothing cuter in this world!).  Tiny fingers clasping bigger fingers.  Walks with baby in the sling, Boy-o and Girlio off in the lead.  Smooshy kisses.  First words.  First steps.  First day of school.  And so on and so forth. 

We have see-sawed back and forth - oogling minivans one day, reviling them the next.  Being laissez-faire about money one day and feeling the pit in our stomachs when we think about college funds the next.  Searching MLS for bigger house listings (we refer to this as house porn) and realizing the absolute ridiculousness of this the next.  It has not been an easy, or immediate, decision.

It wasn't until that phone call that I truly knew in my heart that we were done having kids.  I paused for a second, and said to the nurse who called: "Actually, I think we've decided we're done with two."  And as I said it, I knew it was true.  L., sitting beside me, looked both relieved and a little wistful.  I felt relieved and a little wistful. 

This time, intellect trumps emotion.  It has to.  We have our hands full.  We aren't broke, but we're just making ends meet (and sometimes a little bit of not making ends meet).  And with a wage-freeze and no income for me on the immediate horizon, coupled with school fees for Boy-o, the need to travel to see family, etc. etc. etc., we simply don't have the money to have another baby.  Never mind the money to MAKE another baby.  We also don't have the energy.  We haven't slept for over a year.  Our attentions are spread thinly enough as it is, and Boy-o and Girlio deserve to have the very best, and the very most, that we can offer them.  And I need to spend some time thinking about the direction MY life will take when Girlio gets a bit older.  I'm not sure my identity crisis will last another three or four years. 

Maybe later on down the road, when both kids are at school, when I've had a chance too think about what I need to do with my grown-up life - maybe then we'll consider fostering, or adoption, or both.  Though I have moments of being absolutely sad about this decision - I know it's the right one, for all of us.

In the meantime, now that I have given up pestering L. for another baby... I guess now's the time to start lobbying for a puppy ;-)

Some recent Boy-o-isms

Boy-o: "Mama, are you afraid of heights?"
Me: "Yes, buddy I am."
Boy-o: "Well, I'm perfectly not afraid of heights!"
-long pause-
Boy-o: "Mama?"
Me: "Yes?"
Boy-o: "When we go skydiving, I'll hold your hand."


In case you thought your kiddos don't take in what's on the radio, it's become apparent that Boy-o has been listening to a few too many books on cd!  He was storytelling this afternoon, as he is apt to do lately, and he began by announcing in a very loud announcer-type voice: 

"This story presented to you by Audible.com.  Audible: Audio that speaks to you, wherever you are." 

And then he went on to tell a long and winding story about a small boy named Lady Gaga who lost his blue scarf in Australia, "which, if you didn't know, is an island." 


Talking about his Gramma and Papa going to Victoria:  "I'm happy about Gramma because she's going somewhere far and I'm happy about far places!"


I walk into Boy-o's room after putting Girlio down for her nap. He is sitting on his bed, under his open umbrella and wearing a plastic lei.

"Oh hi Mama," he says to me. "I was just hula dancing in the rain."


"Is Joan Jett going to come on the wadio? She's a weal wocker!"


"These are my bad business cards. For when I do bad business with people. Because I'm a rock star! And you can be my driver."


Bathtub conversation:
Boy-o : "What's this part called?" pointing at general groin area.
Me: "That's you're groin area buddy"
Boy-o: "Growing?  Growing?!"  BIG GIGGLES.
Me: "No, not growing kiddo, groin."
Boy-o: "I know Mama, but look! My penis is GROWING. I'm watering it."

Boy-o, while pretending to be at folk fest, singing and doing quite the jig in the livingroom: " I"m singing a song about purple and pink and magenta and violet and green, chartreuse and aquamarinnnnnnnnne. Yippee Kayaaai!"

Dropping Boy-o off at summer camp one morning, I mentioned that I was really proud of him for going to camp all by himself, and meeting new kids, and trying all kinds of new things. 

To which he replied: "Yes mama.  I'm really getting quite very grown up."  

Thursday, August 26, 2010

the anxiety lane

I have some anxiety, um, issues.  It's not a secret - mainly because I think when we keep stuff like that a secret, it just adds the pressure of keeping secrets to the pressure of living with anxiety (a whole new realm of life to be anxious about!).  But also because I refuse to buy into society's taboo and stigma around mental health issues.  And 'cause I've lived with it for so darn long that it seems pretty normal (not the things I'm anxious about, just having the anxiety).

Prior to having kids, my anxiety was generally of the social sort.  I worried about the things that came out of my mouth, agonized that it was the wrong thing to say, that it sounded stupid or weird or out of touch or uneducated.  I was pretty sure everyone actually hated me, or that they just tolerated me to spend time with L, or because they worked with me.  (And in case you're sitting there thinking, 'that's not anxiety, that's just poor self-esteem,' it isn't.  I can list off a number of very good reasons people might like me.  I just am often struck by feelings of panic and dread that they don't.  Not self-esteem.  Anxiety.) 

But after having kids, anxiety took on a whole new meaning.  (Don't get me wrong - I still think you all hate me, and that everything that comes out of my mouth is pretty dumb, but now there are all kinds of superfun new dimensions to anxiety).  With both of my kiddos, I experienced what is referred to as post-partum anxiety (which is like post-partum depression's ugly little sister - no one talks about it!), in which I would be literally overtaken by what I would describe as a non-stop movie reel of horrifying images, all revolving around people doing unspeakably horrible things to my babes.   And now, even though those hormonally-aided anxieties have, for the most part, largely faded, I still spend an inordinate amount of time being anxious.  Walking down the sidewalk with my kiddos I can be suddenly overtaken with the image of one of my kids being dragged behind a car, or hit by a car and flying through the air.  When we travel, I am terrified for weeks that our plane will crash and there will be nothing I can do to help my family.  I worry that something will happen to L. and I, and that our kids will be parent-less.

I also worry constantly about the world my children have been born into.  I worry about it ending in environmental disaster.  I worry about the ever-encroaching war, violence, hatred and intolerance in the world.  When I read an article or see a news item about the myriad of horrors taking place all across the globe, I can't shake it for days, sometimes weeks, sometimes even longer.   I read an article WEEKS ago in Chatelaine about the horrific violence befalling women and girls and babies of all ages in Uganda.  The situation was described as the literal unravelling of society -so astoundingly brutal was (and is) the violence occuring.  And that's just in one small corner of the world.  These things happen all of the time.  All over.  (Sometimes I don't understand why everyone isn't anxious and sad about this stuff, but that's a whole 'nother blog, isn't it?)

And I also worry about the legacy of sharing my anxiousness with my children.   I work hard.  And I do mean really, really hard, to keep this anxiety from my children, the hover on the tightrope between letting them know that it's okay to be afraid but that fear can't be a way of life.  So far I seem to have been successful in raising two fairly fearless and reasonably well-adjusted tots.  My son loves nothing more than to fly and wants to be a sky-diving pilot when he grows up, so clearly the flying anxiety hasn't been picked up on.  And my daugher, aside from her apparent disdain for all things involving sleep, seems to be following her big brother's love for adventure and  world exploration.  Neither shows signs of wanting to turtle away from the world around them.  Mission accomplished... so far. 

But the threat of putting my fears on them always looms, and I feel that I have to be constantly vigilant.  (Ha!  See, I even get anxiety about getting anxiety!)  I will not let my anxiety, no matter how crippling it can feel sometimes, keep us from living.  We will fly (though you'd be hard-pressed to get me to fly over an ocean).  We will walk and bike and race and skip down sidewalks next to zooming on-coming traffic and drive on freeways and hike on trails where we could meet a bear or two.  We will toboggan and ski and if my kiddos want to take up skateboarding or snowboarding or skydiving or join the circus in a death-defying high-wire act, as long as they're not stupid about it,  I will be the proudest (and probably anxiety-filled) mama in town.  I am trying very hard (and I think succeeding most days) to let them negotiate their world, take the risks (within reason) that they choose to take. 

So yeah. I worry. My facebook bio says that I worry so much it's like a part-time job. That's about right.  I didn't write about the anxiety as a way to winge (unusual for me, I know!), but rather as a way to share one of my particular parenting challenges.  Everybody has abilities and disabilities.  Fear in abundance happens to be my disability.  That's just life in the anxiety lane.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Getting all growed up

Boy-o is going to be starting school, pre-kindergarten, this September. 

And tomorrow, his teacher is coming to our home to do a home visit, meet Boy-o and let him get to know her a bit before the beginning of school.  I think this is the most amazing and wonderful idea - not only because it will allow Boy-o to feel more secure about his new beginning, but especially because it will make ME feel better about Boy-o's new beginning. 

Although I have approached the idea of him starting school with some trepidation, his two weeks at summer camp have convinced me that he really is ready for this big leap.  When I left him this morning, he didn't even look up from where he was building a log house with one of the counsellors-in-training.  And when I picked him up thre hours later, he was so excited that he was practically vibrating, rushing to show me the art he had made, and chattering on for a good 10 minutes about all of the activities he'd done and people he'd met. 

Gosh.  My Boy-o is getting all growed up.   


Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Afternoon library trip from HELL

4:40 p.m.

I know as I am losing it, that I am that crazy mother everyone stares at and either judges or pities (or both). I am carrying a ridiculously loaded-down backpack, pulling a ginormous wagon, filled with over 60 lbs of screaming, wailing, snot-rolling-down-their-faces children, and dodging traffic while attempting to find a sidewalk to drag my disgruntled progeny home. While pulling and schlepping and dodging traffic, in what has got to be the least pedestrian friendly city I've ever lived in, (WHERE ARE THE GODDAMN SIDEWALKS, CITY PLANNERS?!), I am also, having lost my wits completely, yelling at the top of my lungs: "I hate this f*cking city!!!" with tears welling up in my eyes.  To which the drivers in the cars with whom I seem to be locked into a not-funny game of dodge-ball with begin to eye me warily (though I suppose should take solace in the fact that their wary eyeing at least means they probably wouldn't be running me and my kids down).   And to which my son, momentarily surprised out of his wailing says : "Mama! Mama - you said "Fack!"

3:15 p.m.
I forgot the backpack. He asked me to bring his backpack. And I forgot it. Oh yes I did.  Both kiddos are stuffed into the wagon (Boy-o chose this over the stroller, which will later chose to be a fatal mistake on my part, but anyhoo...), I am loaded down with my own backpack full of overdue library books and kid snacks and it is hot out and we have made it half-way through our 30 minute walk to the library. I stop and apologize. "I'm sorry buddy, I forgot you wanted to bring your own backpack."  Eyes well. Lip quavers and quivers.  I'm not getting away with this one, I can tell already. Then it hits full force.  "I want it. I want it!  I WANT MY BACKPACK!" I apologize again and explain that we can't go back and get it, but I will do my very best to remember it next time. Nothing doing. I try pulling on and ignoring it, but that doesn't work. Boy-o hurls himself out of the wagon and holds onto the back in an attempt to stop us. I try reasoning. Wheedling. Pulling out the "firm" voice.  Nope. Nada. I am mama slime.  Finally, after some time of this drama, I give him the choice. We can go home, where the backpack is, but then we won't have time to go to the library. Or we can go on without the backpack.  He chooses the library, so on we trundle.

3:30 p.m.
Five minutes into our renewed walk, the backpack devastation returns anew. More whining, then louder, then wailing. By now we are 5 minutes away from the library. I have books I want to take out. Girlio could use some fresh books to read. So I tell him we made the choice to go to the library and WE ARE GOING! "I will not never EVER go inside," he yells. What little is left of my nerves are, well, frayed. "I hate books!" he shouts. I engage in a lot of singing and self-talk at this moment. The self-talk is an important part of making it through behavioural moments such as these. It consists of: "You love your children. You think violence is wrong. You can move past this urge to breathe fire, " and so on and so forth.   (Repeat as necessary). 

3:40 p.m.
We've made it to the library. Boy-o still a little teary, but mostly stubbornly refusing to have any sort of fun at the library. Girlio, a little teary from all the kerfuffle.  Me, a little teary from nerves which are now completely worn thin (in my defense, this is also a product of the aftermath of two really, really especially rotten nights up with child #2).  Like a complete and utter fool, I press on with the smalls.  Upon entering the library, Girlio acts like I've injected her with speed. She is zigging and zagging as fast as her unsteady legs will carry her. And Boy-o decides that he is still really very mad at me, and commences shouting "I HATE BOOKS!" some more. Grand ole time. The stares from librarians and other patrons begin.

4:00 p.m.
I've managed to find some books for Boy-o, despite his constant and loud assurances that he hates them, because I know there will be large amounts of dissapointment when his current mood shifts and there are no new books to read. While I've been doing this, Girlio has emptied the contents of several shelves of cds, emptied each one, and managed broke a set of library headphones. How the frig did she get so fast?? And why, why, why oh why did I let Boy-o convince me that we should bring the wagon? Aside from being a lot heavier in the stroller, it also has no means of strapping the baby in!  More glares and stares and meaningful glances in my direction.  I clean up as best I can while holding onto Houdini-child and keeping a close eye on Sir-Grumpy-Pants, who is, thankfully getting less grumpy by the minute. The down-side of the dissappearing grump, however, is the swiftly appearing burst of energy (which is a bit akin to that old Duracell bunny, except quicker).

4:15 p.m.
Boy-o is running laps around the stacks as I struggle to contain Girlio and find my books (which are, incidentally, all baby-sleep books, because we've hit that desparate place again).  Everytime I try to look at a book, Girlio frees herself and runs off and grabs random books off the shelves, laughing her small arse off. Boy-o's laps continue. I content myself with finding two of the six books I wanted and start to head to the check-out when I realize Girlio has a seriously poopy bum. Flag down the running menace and drag everyone to the bathroom, both of them protesting all the way. Only to discover that the library's bathrooms are out of order. SAY WHAT?! They are apparently being reno'd, get this, to serve you better.  Um, okay.  That's kinda funny.  Cause it seems to me that what would serve me better, in this government building, frequented by oodles of small children, is to have a working bathroom! So, faced with the prospect of carting my poor kid home atop a poopy bum or changing her right there on the library floor, I choose the latter. More glares. Many more.

4:20 p.m.
We bee-line as quickly as I can manage (cause I want outta there!) to the self-check out stand, which is the only check out our library now seems to have. And realize that this may in fact be the most challenging element in this library trip, as I have nothing with which to keep Girlio occupied while Boy-o (with my help) laboriously checks out the books. So we check out a few books, and I run after the baby. We check out a few books, and I run after the baby. And so on and so forth. There is also a small bit of quiet-ish hollering on my part. And this time, the dissaproving glance is coming from one of the two librarians at their desks. M-kay. Does this picture not scream WOMAN*WHO*NEEDS*SOME*HELP to you?! Do I really need to send a more formal SOS?? Like, in writing or something? I can assure you, in the event that you still need assuring) that by this portion of this afternoon's fun activity, I both looked and sounded like a woman on the verge of a nervous breakdown.  Because I was.   Regardless, we finally manage it, but not before Girlio has actually managed to press the wheelchair access button and mosey out towards the parking lot! Where the hell did she learn to do that?!

4:35 p.m.
On our way home. Just as loaded down as on the way there. Boy-o now crying because I would not stop at MacDonalds. (Damn you Golden Arches!) Girlio now crying because she's tired. And a doggy barked and scared her.

Flash forward to 4:40. And a beleagered, wagon-pulling pedestrian mama losing her shit. Yes, a fine mama moment, if ever there was one.   I can't even count all the mama-mistakes up to list them.  Suffice it to say, I know they are there.

8:32 p.m.
The kids are asleep. I don't seem to yet have scarred them for life. Boy-o read a few zillion of those books he hates before bed.

My wife went out and bought me some chocolate. And a nice bottle of Masi.

I love wock and woll...

Just when you think you cannot possibly love your child more, they pull out something like:

"Is Joan Jett going to come on the wadio? She's a weal wocker!"  (and then commence singing "I Love Rock 'n Roll").

And the heart grows bigger still!

Monday, August 23, 2010

A remembering - August 23, 2010

Seven years ago today, (long before our silly country got it together to give us 'permission'); I stood across from L. (in my hussy-red dress), and we said our marriage vows to each other, had an amazing party, surrounded by swaying trees, a lake, and all of our closest friends and family. We danced and ate loads of dessert and got fantastically drunk and watched the sun go down... and then watched it come up again. It was easily one of the best nights of my life.  But even though I treasure our wedding, for me, the wedding wasn't our beginning, but rather a natural continuation of our lives together, five years into our relationship.

Our beginning, real beginning was probably around thirteen-ish years ago.  We'd been work friends for a month or two when we made that first coffee date.  And when coffee became lunch, which became after-lunch-coffee, and then that coffee became dinner, and dinner became dessert until finally (and very reluctantly) we headed home, wondering where the day had gone.  I remember walking home that day, so dissapointed that the time together had to come to an end.  So intense was our connection that we would later both speak about our realization that we wouldn't, that we couldn't, ever go out alone together again.  And we didn't. For almost a year. Until, of course, we did.

It seemed safe enough at the time - a group trip to the local skidgy pub with coworkers one night after the evening shift.  But one by one the coworkers dropped off (literally and figuratively).  And we collided, inevitably.  There was no alternate route.  There was no path to take except straight to each other.  Just me and L., filled with an honesty borne out of too many pitchers of cheap Biltmore draft and the night's wildly weird events - being kicked out of a cab at the top of a busy Vancouver bridge at 2 a.m., and that long stumble, back to a friend's apartment.  

I walked home the next morning, knowing that something in my world had shifted irrevocably.  Even though nothing of our future together was yet spoken out loud, even though I knew L. was headed home to her girlfriend and I to my boyfriend (yes, yes, I am aware that we are bad, bad people), even though the path we had veered off on was new and terrifying, on that long walk home, I had this moment that was filled with a remarkable calm and certainty that things would work out for us (in amongst the many moments of panic at the new, though not entirely unwelcome,  upsidedownness taking over my life).  Neither calm nor certain are my usual modus operandi, as L. would surely corroborate.

And it turns out that that small moment of calm and certainty, in amongst those many moments of panic, was actually a spot of clarity.   How 'bout that?!   Here we are, just shy of twelve years later, celebrating our seventh (seventh!) wedding anniversary.  We aren't getting kicked out of cabs anymore, or silly drunk in pubs.  And I'm more likely to fall asleep on L.'s lap by 9:30 p.m. than I am to stay out drinking 'til 2 a.m.  But there's no one else's lap I'd rather crash on before the evening news than hers.  We made these two astoundingly beautiful kids together.  We made this beautiful life together.  And we're still here to quibble about who exactly got who drunk that fateful night, 12 years ago.  As if it really mattered.  (Though clearly, L., it was you who got me drunk.  Anyhoo...).   

Though I'm still not known for my calm and certainty - about us, I am.

Happy anniversary, love. 

A piece of our wedding ceremony...

(read to perfection, seven years ago, by our lovely friend Darcy!)

Resignation - Nikki Giovanni

I love you
because the Earth turns round the sun
the North wind blows north
because the Pope is Catholic
and most Rabbis Jewish
because winters flow into spring
and the air clears after a storm
because only my love for you despite the charms of gravity
keeps me from falling off the Earth
into another dimension
I love you because it is the natural order of things
I love you like the habit I picked up in college
of sleeping through lectures
or saying I'm sorry
when I get stopped for speeding
because I drink a glass of water
in the morning
and chain-smoke cigarettes
all through the day
because I take my coffee Black
and my milk with chocolate
because you keep my feet warm
though my life a mess
I love you because I don't want it any other way
I am helpless
in my love for you
It makes me so happy
to hear you call my name
I am amazed you can resist
locking me in an echo chamber
where your voice reverberates
through the four walls sending me into spasmatic ecstasy I love you
because it's been so good
for so long
that if I didn't love you
I'd have to be born again
and that is not a theological statement
The Dells tell me Love
is so simple
the thought though of you
sends indescribably delicious multitudinous thrills throughout and through-in my body
I love you
because no two snowflakes are alike
and it is possible if you stand tippy-toe
to walk between the raindrops
I love you
because I am afraid of the dark
and can't sleep in the light
because I rub my eyes
when I wake up in the morning
and find you there
because you with all your magic powers were
determined that I should love you
because there was nothing for you but that
I would love you
I love you because you made me
want to love you
more than I love my privacy
my freedom my commitments
and responsibilities
I love you `cause I changed my life to love you
because you saw me one friday
afternoon and decided that I would love you
I love you I love you I love you

Sunday, August 22, 2010

the great (and imagined) "divide"

In this corner, schlepping a briefcase, breastpump and sporting the newest in business attire, we have "the working mom!"  And in this corner, schlepping a baby and a toddler, several snacks and sporting dirty jeans and the newest in baby-wearing technology, is "the stay-at-home mom"!  

-And in between them, the great ideological DIVIDE!-

Certainly much has been made of this 'divide' business in the media, dubbed (ridiculously, I think) as the "mommy wars".  (Seriously - are you also picturing women with babes in one arm and AK47s in the other?  Give me a farking break).  Maybe it's just my own personal vantage point - that of a stay-at-home mama who is married to a work-outside-the-home mommy - but I think this divide business is a bit of bunk. 

Now, I know a lot of moms, mamas and mommies.  I even know some mothers.  Some of us work outside of the home.  All of us work inside of the home.  All of us work really really really damn hard.  And I don't actually know a single mom who thinks they are superior to another mom because they work outside, or do not work outside, of the esteemed home.  I don't.  Not a single one.  (And if I do, I hope they never see fit to tell me so). 

Most of the work-outside-the-home moms that I know (that work outside of the home because they chose to) look at my daily life and say " Um yeah - that's not for me. That's too hard.  I don't wanna do that."  And most of the work-inside-the-home mamas I know look at their working outside the home pals and think that same exact thing.  (This is not to say that both groups of people don't have days when they thought that ole grass might be greener on the other side, but that friends, is life).

BUT - I do think that all moms, regardless of the choices they make around paid and unpaid employment, experience a great deal of external pressure.  And the problem is, the pressure is on regardless of the choices we make.  Working moms (yes, all moms are working moms but I get tired of writing "outside the home" all the time, so just read it in, okay?) get bullshit-ty reactive crap flung at them like "I wouldn't want someone else to raise my kids", "You can't get this time back," and other Betty Crocker-circa-1950s-kinda-guilt-inducing-shite.   I'm gonna hazard a guess that it makes them want to reach out and strangle someone, well, because it makes me want to reach out and strangle someone.  

And as a stay-at-homer, I've gotten things like: "Well don't you want your kids to have a strong female role model?" or "I can't turn off my ambition just because I had children/I want my kids to see my strong work ethic" (Which of course makes me want to alternatively shrivel up and die/reach out and pop someone in the kisser).

I think this knee-jerkiness (emphasis on the latter part), even (and perhaps especially) when it does indeed come from other moms, stems from the tremendous cultural pressure on mothers (and NOT on fathers, by-the-by) to be everything.  All of the time.   I think these sentiments are so entrenched, and so common, that they get bandied about to in an attempt to make us feel better about our choices (which someone else ALWAYS thinks are wrong, because as I have already mentioned, perhaps ad nauseum, is that it is not possible for a female parent to make the "right" choice).   And they sometimes get bandied about without really thinking about the messages behind the sentiments. 

Mother-blaming. Mother-guilt. Mother-load.  These terms are not accidental.  This stuff didn't get made up by mothers.  And maybe the "mommy wars" aren't really about actual mommies, either.
Cause when we're busy feeling guilty, feeling blamed and feeling over-loaded than additionally and feeling like we have to expend precious energy constantly defending our parenting choices, we have far, far less energy taking those in control of our world to task for things that will make all of our lives better, like equal wages for equal pay, valuing women's unpaid domestic labour, safe, effective and affordable birth control, eroding reproductive rights, the ever-rising tide of violence against women, better paid parental leaves (hear that, Government of Alberta?!), universal daycare, improvements to public education, etc. etc. etc. and etc.)

So - let's start a new mama-movement.  Let's all agree to wave the white flag and end the silly 'motherwars' hype and hoopla, once and for all.  The next time someone leans in and either attacks your mothering choices, or conspiritorially attacks someone else's mothering choices - call it like you see it. 

Tell 'em it's a load of crappity-crap-crap. 

Tell 'em we have bigger (and far better) fish to fry than other mamas.

And then let's get to actually frying those damn fish.     

Monday, August 16, 2010

Roadtripping with the smalls

A three hour road trip to a city with some dear friends, a heck of a zoo, and a great amusement park . 

With the kiddies, the drive and ensuing Calgary adventure has gone like this: 
1.  A gazillion snacks. 
2.  Taking off seat-belt a gazillion times to retrieve: a. spilled snack, b. dropped toys, and to interercept flaily-armed combantants.  And yes - these things DO constitute an emergency.  
3. Listen to children's stories on cd.  Over and over.  Ones that make your children happy and make you want to stab yourself in the eye.  Like Thomas the Train.  Fork. In. Eye.
4.  Find park.  Play.  Play.  Run the children to the brink of complete and total exhaustion.
5.  Find restaurant.  Fast food only, as this stop must be pulled off in just the right timing for car naps to succeed.  Stop too long and kiddies will be beyond tired, which, illogically makes for NO nap whatsoever. 
6.  Ahhhhhh.  Car nap success.  Change kids' stories to IPOD tunes.  Commence adult conversing and, as L. puts it, drive like hell.    
7.  Kiddies sleep all the way to outskirts of destination city.  L. and I feel very self-congratulatory.   Too soon!  Too soon!
8.  Get stuck in major traffic jam which causes children to literally vibrate with excitement "at being here" and nearly levitate out of their carseats child-in-car-fatigue-syndrome (oh it's real - ask any parent!).
9.  Finally make it to hotel and hit the pool in the 45 free minutes before we have to leave again to meet a friend downtown for dinner.
10.  Attempt to stick children back in car to head downtown.  They are, understandably, belligerent about this.
11.  Make several wrong turns due to wonky GPS instructions and unfamiliarity of city.
12.  Make it to restaurant destination, which has been dubbed "child friendly" only to discover they have neither highchairs, nor booster seats.  THEN MAKE YOUR RESTAURANT A BAR, WANKERS!
13.  Settle for The Old Spaghetti Factory, despite the utter crap-tasticness of their food, sevice and ambience, because we know they have both highchairs and booster seats. 
14.  Attempt to have conversation and a catch-up with wonderful friend whom you have missed, whilst kiddies act, erm, like kiddies who've been cooped up too long.  There may have been some whooping, screaming and running around like headless chickens.  But I'm no tattler. 
15.  Head back to the hotel, and attempt to put children to sleep in the same room at the same time. 
16.  Wonder what exactly made us believe this, in particular, was a grand idea.
17.  Get 50% of children to sleep, then blog on the "comfy chair" (aka hotel room toilet seat) while drinking screwcap wine from a plastic cup (because I'm classy like that), waiting for L. to convince other 50% that sleep might be a good idea, and if she's lucky, help me finish the bottle.

Wonder what adventures tomorrow will bring with the still awake two hours past his bedtime Boy-o?  How many times will Girlio wake Boy-o in the night?  Will the intrepid travellings moms be able to roll with the punches? 

Aaaaaahhhhh - the adventure and romance of life on the open road... 

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Thursday, August 12, 2010

My kid takes his fashion quite seriously...

Okay- so it's bedtime.  L. and I are chilling with Boy-o in his bed post stories, and I am absent-mindedly rubbing Boy-o's head in an effort to jump-start the winding down process.  "No Mama - no rubbing please!" he tells me (and I know very well it is in an effort to keep the winding down process from being jump-started, smart little bugger that he is!).  So I tell him, "Oh, okay, but I always find that a headrub helps me fall asleep." And then bless his beautiful little child's heart, doesn't he start giving me a gentle headrub? 

It's such a sweet, caring gesture, and I'm overtaken by that mama-gushy feeling, so I look at him and say "You are so lovely!" 

To which he replies very seriously: "No, not in these pajamas...". 

Me: "Oh, you don't like your pajamas?" 

Boy-o (a wee bit wistful):  "No.  Green's not really my colour." 

To which I proceed to laugh so hard that I snort and nearly fall right out of the bed. 

Wind-up process, jump-started.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

she cried. we cried.

We all cried last night. 

It was beginning to start out like every other night for the past, oh I dunno, year or so.  Another wake-up only a few hours after being put down for the night.  And then another an hour later.   And I cracked.  I stuck the little wriggler in her crib, crying and commenced hanging out with her in her room.  Absolutely determined was I that she would go to sleep without being picked up and rocked or nursed to sleep.  I hung in for about 40 minutes.  It was awful.  I patted.  I shushed.  I laid on her floor.  Rinse, lather, repeat.  Rinse, lather, repeat.  I cried.  I sighed.  I felt awful, awful, awful.  Rinse, lather, repeat.  Rinse, lather, repeat.  Then L. came in to spell me off.   "Don't take her out of the crib," I begged as we traded.  I headed to bed, but did not of course sleep a wink, what with my heart being ripped out in the next room.  Sobbing, heaving, choking, yelling "mama!  mama!".  Yep - easy to sleep through that loveliness.  

It took just over an hour and a half.   We all cried.  We all felt shitty.  She slept from about 1 a.m. til 5 a.m.  A record, to be sure.  But I'm guessing it's due to the hour and a half of gut-wrenching sobbing, which, if memory serves, can make a girl kinda tuckered out. 

As far as experiments go - I'm pretty sure this one failed.  Because even if it did eventually work - I'm more than certain Girlio's mama and mommy can handle the sleeplessness far easier than that kind of gut-wrench. 

So - on to the next experiment.  Night weaning.  It's sure to be unfun.  But it doesn't involve a revoking of nighttime cuddles.  So here's to hoping it's a little gentler on all of our wee hearts.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

gender based violence and our culture

I have just read and posted the link to a horrifying news story about a baby boy who was beaten to death for "acting like a girl".  This is the extreme end of our culture's fucked-up-ness about gender, and what it means to be a boy or a girl in our world.  It's why I rail against gender and gendered expectations of children, and of adults.  It's so so senseless... and yet it is the exteme end result of a world that tells boys they can't cry or be sensitive and girls they can't take up space or be outspoken.

If you read it (and we probably should all read it) prepare to be sad.  Really, very, extra, super sad.    And angry.  Really fucking angry.


Monday, August 9, 2010

I'll give you two good reasons to cry at Folk Fest. . .

We went to Folk Fest yesterday.  We towed around a kid with a fever, and another who hadn't slept much then night before.  And against all odds - the fever mostly stayed away and they were amazing and patient and loved the atmosphere and the music.  We stayed for ten hours and Boy-o still wasn't ready to leave. 

And while sitting at our first music session, featuring one of my very favourite singers, Colin Hay - we had the most perfect few minutes.  I mean - just silly, stupid, ridiculous beautiful. The sun was streaming down.  Girlio had just fallen asleep in my arms.  Boy-o sat in L's lap, chillin' and spontaneously moving his arms in the air to the sounds of gorgeous music.  And then Colin played "I just don't think I'll ever get over you", which is one of my favourite songs, ever.  And it was perfection.  The kind of moment that only comes along every so often.  The kind that makes you realize you really, really love your life.  Teariness abounded.

And the later on, I was reminded again of just how much I love my life.  And of how fragile that life really is.   After traipsing and listening and snacking and climbing up that infernal hill about a gazillion times (okay - whose idea was it to put a folk festival on a ski hill, anyways?!), we went to the kids' area for some playground fun.  Boy-o and L. were playing happily in the sand when I realized that Girlio had spiked a fever again, and called L. over to help me give find and administer some kiddie drugs.  And it happened.  In an instant.  Boy-o was gone.  L. and I searched the area growing increasingly freaked out by the second.  We found security.  They put the word out.  And we continued to stumble around, by this time frantic.  I walked the same perimeter of the play area over and over, Girlio was in my arms, but I didn't once feel the solid 20 lbs of her weight against me, so singular was my focus.  Every child looked like Boy-o but wasn't.  All of the sudden, everyone seemed to be wearing the same sunhat as he was.   More security kept coming over to check in and help.  One of them tries to reassure me by saying: "If your kids' gonna get lost, this is the place to do it!"   I smile and him and do not say anything that is on my mind.  I do not say that there is an exit right beside the playground area and scads of forest trails in the area.  I do not say there are so many places a child could be hidden and hurt at this festival.  I do not say how trusting my child is of adults.  I do not say that just because someone loves good music does not mean they aren't also a pedophile, a kidnapper, a child abuser, a murderer.  I do not say that I can't stop thinking about the fact that I could be leaving this festival without him.  That this is my worst fear.  (Every parent's worst fear).  I do not say any of these things.  But I am thinking them.  They are running through my brain at breakneck speed.  Over and over.  Until they find me and tell me that they have found my boy.  That he is busily entertaining the security folks over at Mainstage.  Making them laugh with his Boy-o antics.   The security person kindly helps me find my way there, my mind so cluttered with relief that I can barely see.  And sure enough - Boy-o is fine.  Perfectly, marvellously, miraculously, fine.  He is entertaining everyone.  He sees me and tells me that "You and mommy got lost and I couldn't find you," as I am falling to my knees and grabbing him tight to me, Girlio still slung over one hip.  And then we practically run together across the grounds to find L., who is still looking, still out of her mind with all of those unspoken and unspeakable fears. 
I do not cry until after.  When I have left my three peeps to go in search of sustenance to take as a picnic to the next stage.  And all of the sudden, my legs feel like lead, my head swims with dizziness and I feel the tears starting to stream down my face.  I know the people around me must think I am crazy.  But I don't care.  I am overthrown with relief and fear and grief and happiness.

And then, the reality of hungry babes sinks in, and I force myself to shake it off and forge on in my mission for food, and to enjoy more music, more time with my family, who I am insanely lucky to have.

Friday, August 6, 2010

oh those immoral, marriage-lovin' gays

I received a mass email today from the Courage Campaign, which is spearheading activism around the freedom to marry movement and against Prop 8 in the United States.  With yesterday's victory which saw Prop 8 struck down as unconstitutional by Judge Vaughn Walker barely hot off the presses, the religious right is up and raring to go.  The most salient aspects of the email follows:

"The American Family Association, part of the coalition of right-wing religious groups that spearheaded Proposition 8 in 2008, is asking its 2.3 million supporters to pressure Congress to impeach Judge Vaughn Walker. . . . AFA is using Judge Walker's sexual orientation to attack him as a "black-robed tyrant whose own lifestyle choices make it impossible to believe he could be impartial." Like the National Organization for Marriage, the AFA is rallying religious extremists to build a national backlash against Judge Walker's historic ruling striking down Prop 8. "   

The idea that loving gay people who want to commit their love to one another is more of a blight on marriage than say, God-lovin' bigamists in Utah and other states (many of whom could be members of the AFA), wife and child abusers (many of whom could be members of the AFA . . . uhhh - Mormon child brides anyone?), alcoholics (many of whom...), people who engage in dishonesty and infidelity (many of whom...), and so on and so forth.  How 'bout divorce?  Seems like maybe divorce might also be on the radar of the AFA.  Nope.  Not so much.  They don't really seem to care if ya cheat on your spouse, beat your wife, have ten wives to beat, or drink so much you couldn't possibly be an actual partner in a marriage.  They don't seem to care if your marriage is good or healthy or equal.  They don't seem to care if you're a dirty old man who wants to marry a few twelve year old girls.  They don't seem to care if ya get divorced, at least not enough to campaign against it.  What they really, really, really want to prevent, is the scourge of two men or two women lovingly commiting their lives to one another.   Yeah - cause that, it's just, you know, wrong.

So the AFA pisses me off.  (Okay, truth be told, they make me feel murderous).   But the thing that really makes me heartsick is regular America.  Not the far-right religious bigots.  They are who they are and they're not going to change any more than the Taliban is going to decide Muslim women should be free and equal participants in society.

But the regular, average, everyday Americans.  John and Jane Doe, with their kids Betty and Jimmy, who voted for Obama and deep in their heart of hearts, know that this entire debate, from its very foundations, is wrong.   Where is their voice?  Where is their outrage?  Why do they persist in letting people like the AFA speak for them?   It's this that makes me the saddest, and the least hopeful about the coming struggle for marriage rights (and human rights) for LGBT folks in the US, which is still busy dithering around on its ridiculous "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy. 

So I'm gonna end this by sending out big love and hugs and courage to my queer American pals, their families and their kids.  And to Judge Vaughn Walker, who does not deserve to bear the brunt of such hatefulness.  My heart and my anger and my voice is with you...

And for goodness sake, America - the straight but not narrow, wherever you are... Stand-up and say "Nope. Nuh-uh. No Way! Not in my name!"  Drown out that hateful, crazy, vocal minority.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

my favourite kids tv. yup tv. I'm a bad mama. Whatever.

People get their knickers all in a twist about kids watching television.  Television is bad for kids.  Television rots your brain, causes attention span problems, childhood obesity, blah, blah, blah, blah.  Bah Humbug.  I've got a kid who finds it almost impossible to wind down.  And the one thing that we've found that can help him unwind and calm down is watching a show.  Sometimes two.  And if I'm having a rough day, possibly three.  I spent considerable amounts of time feeling guilty about it, because, as you already know, television is bad for kids.  They say so.  You know, them.  But here's the thing.  There's some really cool kids television shows out there.  Fun, engaging, and dare I say - educational kids television.  (Yes - I'm aware that's there way more crap than non-crap.  But I'm all for censorship, so my kids don't get to watch the former).   Here's some of our current top-picks for idiot box fun.

Zoobamafoo - A show featuring two brothers and a lemur who take kids on all kinds of adventures to learn about animals and their habitats.  It's real animals, not animation. Pure, kid-ducational fun.  There's nothing not to like.

Toot and Puddle - This show is super cute.  About two little super cute  (and possibly gay) cartoon pigs who live together when not travelling the world, having adventures and teaching watching tots about geography and global village-y-ness.  There is also a  wee cute little niece pig named Opal who makes an appearance from time to time.  It's all very cute.  Unobjectionable.  And dare I say... educational. 

Toopy and Binoo - It's mostly weird.  And it's like crack for children.  This is a Quebec originated show about a rat (Toopy) who has a pet cat (Binoo).  They go on all sorts of little adventures that don't really make much sense to anyone except for kids.   But the wonderful thing about Toopy and Binoo is this - Toopy is totally gender nonspecific.  That weird (and ugly) little rat goes from being a lipstick wearing princess, to a knight with a cape and I am never able to read "boy" or "girl" from the character.   Moreover, the lack of gender specificity makes no difference to kids obvious enjoyment of the show. I have yet to meet a kid that doesn't love Toopy and  Binoo.  So - it's weird.  But it works!

The Backyardigans - Boy-o loves the Backyardigans.  They're an animated five-some who meet in their backyard (hence the title) for imaginary adventures.  And it's a musical.  And each episode has a different musical theme.  Bollywood, bluegrass, disco, whathaveyou.  Seriously - it's kind of almost fun for grown-ups to watch.  (Especially if the grown-up happens to be my wife, who likes the show because she believes it is a gateway to Boy-o's eventual appreciation for Glee.)  

Those are the shows Boy-o loves right now.  And I don't mind 'em either.  So when we're not busy running around, crafting, swinging from the rafters or otherwise making monkey-business, you might find us indoors - chilling with some TV time, happily unwinding and rotting our brains. 

What can't your kids live without in the land of the boob tube?

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

the professionalisation of parenting

Is it just me, or is parenting becoming more and more professionalized each day?  Parents are expected to have an incredible amount of knowledge and expertise in child-rearing, and the parental perfection we are supposed to be striving for seems harder and harder to achieve.   (In no small part, because the "experts" in the profession of parenting hardly agree on anything, making this profession a mightily confusing, in addition to it's other charms). 

*** Do you read to your kids?  How many books per day?  Do you do finger rhymes and sing songs together on a daily basis? Are you being sure to grab every available educational opportunity?  Turn off that TV and do some crafts.  Not colouring books, or other such creativity killing activities, mind you.  You don't want to stunt their creative engagement with the world around them.

Are you providing enough brain stimulating and engaging activities?  Not too many - kids need "free range" too!  Overscheduling is bad, bad, bad for kids.  So, apparently is underscheduling.  So make sure you schedule your kids just right

And how about their nutrition?  Are you consistently providing whole grain-organic-perfectly balanced-meals and snacks using all fo the colours of the rainbow, following Canada's Food Guide, and using every opportunity to  create teachable opportunities about health and food consumption?  What?  Kids won't eat that stuff?  No problem - just learn the art of fruit and vegetable and sandwich carving.  Make happy faces with tomatoes and olives and build architecturally sound buildings out of home-made bread, granola, and brussels sprouts.   And make sure to serve all this glorious food, nay, art on BPA free, re-useable, re-cycleable dinnerware.  And while we're on the topic of dessert - no sugar boys and girls.  Cavities!  Childhood obesity!    Hyper-activity disorders!  Sleep disruption!  Do you know nothing?  And you should also make sure to avoid salt, additives, anything fried, anything with unpronounceable words in the ingredients list and any sort of convenience food.

Make sure your children receive plenty of physical activity!  At least two hours per day.  Every day.  But while doing so, please be sure to remember the abovementioned instructions about scheduling and overscheduling.  Not too many activities outside the home.   (Perhaps Junior can march on the spot while you do dishes?)

Your children must receive adequate amounts of sleep!  Sleep deprivation in children can cause all kinds of horrible problems later in life.  What's that?  Your child doesn't sleep?  Tsk. That's probably your fault.  Remember - healthy sleep habits will serve them a lifetime! 

Emotional growth is so important. DO NOT under any circumstances - hurt your child's feelings. Try to minimize the use of the word "no" BUT make sure to set clear, healthy boundaries. Always follow through on appropriate consequences. Make sure your child always feels safe enough to express their feelings BUT don't let them run the show!  You're in charge!  But for God's sake, don't yell, scream or otherwise carry-on.  You could scar them for life.    Instill empathy without teaching your child to live for other people's feelings.  Be sure to instill plenty of self-esteem and pride, but be careful not to overpraise! 

Knowledge = the key the world.  If you want your kids to get ahead in life, make sure they know the alphabet and shapes, at least a few simple algebraic equations before entering kindergarten.  BUT make sure you don't put too much pressure on them.  Pressure can stunt their emotional growth, and besides, you wouldn't want them to be bored at school afterall, because boredom in school leads to gateway drugs, casual sex and all kinds of shenanigans that you, as a parent, will be responsible for.

Immunize!  Don't immunize!  Use flouride!  Don't use flouride!  Bug bites carry terrible diseases but Deet causes seizures!  Exposure to sun causes cancer, but wait - sunscreen causes cancer!  And for goodness sake, watch out for parabens, phthalates, scraps of teflon ready to jump out of your frying pan, and other dangerous lurking chemicals.  They're out there...you know, lurking.

Above all - make the dangers lurking around every corner cannot reach your children. BUT - don't be a helicopter parent. Everyone hates a hover-er. *** 

ACK!!!!  SPLUTTER!!!!  MWAHHHH!!!!!!

Now, I take my job as a parent pretty freaking seriously.  I'm into this whole thoughtful and reflective parenting business.  I work hard at it, and my kiddies (and their physical, emotional and social growth) are certainly the most important thing on my radar most days.  But the things is: I'm not actually a therapist, or a nutritionist or a pre-school or phys-ed teacher.  (Moreover, I have absolutely no desire whatsoever to be any of those things).  I'm a mama.  Just a mama.  Doing the best I can on any given day, with the resources I have at hand (which some days are better than others, let's be clear).  All the pressure to be the best parent, to raise the perfect kids is immense, all pervasive and pretty much freaking impossible.  I'm exhausted just writing about it!  It's enough to put a mama, this mama at least, in the mad-house.

Monday, August 2, 2010

shot through the heart...

I know.  I know.  I know.  Intellectually, I know it makes all kinds of sense for kids to go back and forth with parental preferences.  I know that it also makes sense for Boy-o to gravitate to Mommy, one because she is super-fly cool, and he's not stuck with her all day every day, but two when I have been so constantly attuned and attached to his bambina sister for the past year and a bit. 

But even with all that knowing, when your crying child shoves your attempts at comfort aside, yelling "No MAMA!  I NEED MOMMY!", the old heart, it breaks a wee little bit. 

How To Be Alone

Check out this amazing video/poem by Tanya Davis.  It's marvellous!