You can now find Capital Mom at www.capitalmom.ca

Thursday, December 31, 2009

2009

This has been an amazingly wonderful year. I was able to stay at home with the kids and watch them change and grow and blossom. The boy crawled and walked and started talking. The girl drew people and went to preschool and started negotiating every little request I make of her. These are moments that I will not forget.

It has also been a very challenging year. Did I mention that I stayed at home with two kids? My patience was tested, my sense of self was tested and sometimes even my decision to stay at home was tested. I had my moments. Just like they both had theirs'.

Together we made it through. All four of us. Through the ups and downs we were all there for each other. That was the best part of 2009. Working together as a family, as a team. We say that to the girl sometimes, in moments of frustration, when something needs to get done but she prefers not to listen, we have to work together on this.

That is what I want for 2010. More togetherness. More team work. More of them.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Two trees

One we made ourselves. Two sheets of paper taped together. Decorated with stickers, construction paper and anything else that will adhere to the tree.



One we bought. Alive, green and titling slightly to the right. Decorated with soft, child-proof ornaments. The kind that the kids can remove and hang as they please.


Christmas is over. Until next year.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Sickness

Why is it that once the kids
are better I fall apart?
No more coughing,
no more vomiting,
still some runny noses but
no energy for me.
I want to lie in bed all day
under the covers with a
book and a cup of tea.
Hide away from their
sudden energy.

They are better,
restored to their
loud
demanding
playful
whining
chatty
loving selves
and I find myself
missing the sickness already.

Monday, December 28, 2009

The other side

The sickness appears to finally be gone. It was not a fun one, that thing. We kept thinking the kids were better only to find that the fever was back after half a day. On Boxing day the boy was sick in the morning and fine in the afternoon. The girl was fine in the morning and sick in the afternoon.

We have made good use of the DVD player this past week. I feel a bit guilty about that but neither the girl or her parents was up for much more.

The husband is off work this week for which I am immensely grateful. I feel like I can slack off when he is around. There is nothing I like better. Well, except for cupcakes.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Christmas Day

Midnight found me sitting on the couch in the living room with the girl. The laptop was placed on the kids table in front of us playing The Aristocats. We sat together under a blanket.

The rest of the house was asleep. I had woken Grandma when we had come downstairs but she had gone back to sleep on the sofa bed in the sun room. The husband had woken at ten with the girl and helped me to clean up her throw up. He went back to bed in order to be rested and functioning in case the boy woke later. Which he didn't. This was the one night in weeks that the boy slept a solid eleven hours. The irony was not lost on me.

The girl's sickness had exhausted her yesterday. By 4:30 pm she was begging to go to bed. The repeated vomiting had left her tired and weary. While I was hopefully that she would sleep through the night, I knew that such an early bedtime could result in a nighttime waking. I braced myself for this as we tucked her into bed.

Sitting the couch, I let the girl drink some water and eat some bread even as I worried that she would turn around and throw it all up again. But she was hungry. And I was tired.

I read The New Yorker while the cats sang and danced on the screen.

*

What day is it? the girl asked.

Um, I paused not sure what she meant. Did she mean was today Christmas? Or was she asking what day of the week it was? Today is Friday, I said.

Oh, okay. The girl made some scribbles in the Dora notebook in her lap with the thick Dora crayon in her hand. Friday. And what was the day before?

Yesterday was Thursday I said.

Okay, Thursday. She made some forceful marks on the page. And after today what will it be?

Tomorrow will be Saturday. Saturday starts with an S.

Saturday she wrote.

She wasn't tired but I was starting to flag. I had dipped into her Christmas stocking in order to create some diversions for me and her. I knew that if she wasn't occupied I would want to try getting her to sleep and she just wasn't ready yet. Even if I was.

It must have been close to two in the morning. I lay beside her in her bed. Around us were figurines of Dora, Boots and Swiper. Each covered in multiple Diego band aids she had found in her stocking. The girl concentrated on writing in each page of her notebook and then ripping it out and adding it to the pile on her bed.

I closed my eyes.

*

Surrounded by opened and unopened presents the boy sat on my lap. He rubbed his eyes and tugged at my shirt. As he nursed he closed his eyes.

He's tired I said.

He slept well said the husband.

I think he needs a nap. I wondered if we should pause the present opening and resume it later after he woke up. I doubted how successful that strategy would be.

There isn't much left said my mother-in-law.

Do you want to open a present? I asked the boy. He nodded, his mouth still full. He finally unlatched and happily played with his new barn for a bit before coming back to me.

By nine o'clock he was tucked in his bed. The presents were all opened and piled around the living room. The girl was toes (and feet) in the sun room with a new bottle of nail polish.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Christmas Eve or the Five Days of Sickness

The boy. Finally better.
The girl. Sick.
Us. Tired.

He woke up fine today. Which I appreciated since he has been sick for the last five days.

She developed a fever yesterday afternoon. It came on all of a sudden. She spent forty minutes just lying against my chest. I couldn't even remember the last time that had happened. Years? She seemed better this morning, and since I was really ready to get out of the house, we went to the husband's work party. She was fine, if a bit whiny. She threw up on the way home. All over her snowsuit and the stroller. She managed not to throw up on her brother and he continued to sleep through the whole thing. She has thrown up twice more since then.

We are exhausted. Five days of sickness. Five days of him not sleeping through the night.

If I could find anything under the tree tomorrow I would ask for sleep. Lots and lots of sleep.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Moneys

This is a guest post by the husband. He can consider this my Christmas present to him. I am generous like that.

The girl likes money and I'm not sure where this is going.

My memory is that it started when she got a piggy bank a few months ago after Capital Mom won a giveaway. "Piggy bank" is a little misleading. It's three colourful metal tins, with plastic lids that have a slot. One for sharing, saving, and spending. We gave her some coins to put in them, and she quickly got the hang of it.

Over the next few weeks, from time to time she'd ask for "moneys". Me or Capitol Mom would dig into our pockets / wallets and give her pennies, nickels, dimes. She'd play with them, drop them, lose them, freak out about dropping or losing them, put them down the heating vents, and forget about them.

She was asking for moneys the other day when I felt a wave of low-level parental anxiety that, by just handing coins over whenever she asked, I was teaching her that money comes without effort, and thereby dooming her to a life of fiscal incompetence. "Hey, dad, I cashed in that stupid RESP and sent it to a Nigerian general who's sitting on a fortune! Can I have $30 to go see a movie?"

So, instead of just giving her the moneys, I introduced the concept of a "chore". I asked her to pick up the three or four stuffed animals on the floor and put them away, and then I gave her the coin.

Since then, she's pretty sharp about the chores. She'll ask for moneys, and I can ask, "what do we do when we want moneys?", and she'll say "chores!". Then, she's pretty happy to do a little tidying in return for a coin.

Moneys can also provide leverage. The other day, I had just given her two moneys for two chores, when she seemed to be about to drop a book down the stairwell. Frustrated, I asked her, "do you know what a fine is?". I explained a fine was when someone took your money away, and that I would fine her for dropping the book. She stopped pushing the book between the slats of the railing and showed me how she was just innocently leaning the book between two slats. Silly, suspicious daddy!

I say that I'm not sure about where this is going, and I mean that two ways. The first is a kind of silly way, where she'll figure out that chores equal moneys, and maybe she'll start refusing to do anything around the house unless she gets moneys, or she'll do unsolicited chores and demand moneys after, or something else we can't even begin to predict.

I think we can deal with that. What I'm really not looking forward to is when "moneys" becomes regular, everyday, money. Right now her moneys are a toy, vitally important one second, discarded or given away the next. But, one day, she'll worry about money, like we do from time to time. How much she has, how much she wants, how much she needs.

Part of growing up is learning how to handle money, and that's what I'm trying to encourage in a small way with the chores. But, in my heart, I'm so glad the coins are just moneys for now.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Special delivery

I wrote all the names on pieces of paper and placed them in a bowl. I swirled them around. I reached in and grabbed one from the bottom. Chantal.

Send me an email at capitalmom@gmail.com and we can figure out a time for me to drop off a knit cupcake for when no real ones are around, a serving of Starbucks instant coffee and a dozen cupcakes. Please specify if you would like chocolate cupcakes with vanilla icing or vanilla cupcakes with chocolate icing. If you want to wait a few weeks until after the baby comes and you really need those cupcakes that is okay too.

I managed to track down the crafter I bought the knit cupcake from and have ordered more. I think I will have to do this giveaway again. I have a feeling it might be a long winter.

Bedtime tradition

The husband gives them their bath every night. Can I call you? the girl asks before she heads upstairs. Yes I say.

From the top of the stairs she calls out We're ready! They hang onto the gate and wait in anticipation for me to appear. Wet hair, wet bodies they squeal when they see me.

You are a tiger, mama she says. A silly tiger. Or a scary tiger. I walk up the stairs giggling or growling. They scream and run away down the hallway. I am expected to follow and chase them.

Sunday night they were both too sick to play our game. No blond heads met me at the top of the stairs.

Yesterday they were better. Ready to run and chase and squeal.

Monday, December 21, 2009

River

It's coming on Christmas

My sister was here for a pre-Christmas visit. She arrived on Saturday while the girl and I were having brunch at a diner down the street. Just the two of us. The girl had a great time with her favorite menu of eggs, grilled cheese sandwich and orange juice. We read books and watched the people.

On our way out we had to pass by the dessert case. I was asked to name all the different types of dessert. Then she instructed me to head towards the exit while she walked behind the display case. I tried to reason with her in an attempt to avoid a scene. When she managed to open the display case door one of the cooks came over and had words with her. She listened. We left.

They're cutting down trees

We bought the third to last tree for sale in the grocery store lot. It went straight into into the tree stand once we got home. I set aside all the non-breakable ornaments, ribbon and lights on the dining room table. The girl, helped by her brother, quickly placed the ornaments on the tree. She had been promised that she could open the presents her aunt had brought once the tree was decorated. She's not a big fan of waiting. Neither am I.

Once her two presents were open she went looking for more. It caused me to pause and reflect on the wisdom on Hanukkah. Spreading the presents out seems like a much better idea then the wild frenzy I am anticipating will take place here on Christmas morning.

They're putting up reindeer and singing songs of joy and peace

The girl didn't seem too impressed with the book and the sweatshirt her aunt gave her. She didn't want to read the book. She didn't want to wear the sweatshirt. Sunday morning the girl told the husband that "he could give them back to Daka and she can give them to another little girl".

She did eventually read the book. After twenty-four hours she tried on the sweatshirt. She wore it for most of Sunday afternoon and evening. While she watched a video with my sister, while making gingerbread houses/ cookies and while eating dinner. Before her bath she asked if her aunt was still going to be here the next day. "Yes" said my sister "but I have to go home tomorrow". "Then I don't want this anymore" said the girl as she ripped her sweatshirt off.

I wish I had a river

My sister left around noon. We had spent a quiet morning inside due to a feverish boy and a girl with a very runny nose. As soon she was out the door I frantically thought of crafts we could do. I settled on making Christmas tree ornaments out of the pictures from our Beatrix Potter calendar. The boy enjoyed hanging the ornaments on the tree. The girl enjoyed cutting up the ribbon.

At one point she was wondering around holding a pair of scissors over her head. "Be careful" I said "you don't want to cut your hair off". "I do!" she said. The girl raised her right hand,, which was holding the scissors and cut off a good chunk of her long blond hair. I caught the hair before it fell away. I took away the scissors. There were tears. There was a discussion about listening.

I could skate away on


As always, many thanks to Joni for her beautiful music. Especially River.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Elevator

I took off his mitts before we stepped into the elevator.

The building is old. A beautiful brick building about a hundred years old. The elevator is old too. It looks like it was installed in the 1950s. I have often wondered if a metal lift used to be there before.

At the first floor the doors slowly slid open. Intrigued, the boy placed his hand against the opening door. Before I could react, before I could grab his hand the door had opened all the way and his hand had been pulled between the wall and the open elevator door. For a moment there was silence. Then the boy started screaming. The husband and I started yelling.

I tried to pull his hand free but it was stuck. I tried to pull the heavy metal doors closed but they wouldn't move. Standing next to the elevator panel, the husband frantically pounded the ground floor button in the hopes that the door would close. It is an old elevator. There was an open door button but no close door button.

Finally the door closed. I grabbed the boy in my arms. Somehow we all got off the elevator. Our friend and her daughter were there in the hallway and ushered us back to her apartment. I held him against me as I checked his left hand.

The middle and index fingers were dented from being stuck. Parts of the fingers were purple from the bruises and red from the blood. The skin was torn up. The husband and I took turns holding him as he cried.

Eventually he was comforted. He was fine.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Because I am not the only one

Amber left a comment on my last post that cause me to pause and think. Maybe I need to start my coffee and cupcake business a little bit before schedule. Because I am not the only one that could use a little comfort some mornings/ afternoons/ evenings.

So tell me. Are you sleep deprived because your toddler wants to party all night? Does your three year old sometimes drive you crazy with her attempts to negotiate a cookie transaction like it is the Suez Crisis? Or is your teenagers dating someone you hate? Are you overwhelmed by the presents you still have to buy, the baking that still needs to get done and the gift that you are sure you hid somewhere in the house but can't find?

Leave me a comment letting me know what wall you are hitting right now or what situation is making you desperate for me to show up on your doorstep with a coffee and a cupcake. I can't promise that will happen, but I will randomly pick one comment left below on Tuesday night (say at 9pm before I go to bed) and will send that person a (knit*) cupcake and coffee for one. I will ship internationally, but if you live in Ottawa I will also show up on your doorstep with a dozen iced chocolate cupcakes.

Because coffee and a cupcake may not make everything all better but it sure will help.

* Just in case anyone thought I was at all crafty, I'm really not. The cupcake is knit but not by me. I bought it at a craft show and tucked it away. I must have known that mothers around the world were in desperate need of cupcakes.

Wall

Hi Wall. I think I am going to ram my head into you any minute now. Oh, yup. I just did.

In case you are under the impression that all our sleep issues have been resolved then you are wrong. The boy wakes after sleeping for four and five hours crying bloody murder. Teeth? Maybe. I have been taking him to bed with me while the husband sleeps on a mattress on the floor of the boy's room. Unfortunately, the boy is still up early. Four-thirty if we are lucky. Nothing nothing we do will get him to go back to sleep. He is also still napping twice a day. That is what happens when you rise before the sun.

This morning he woke at 3:45. Awake and ready to go. I almost had a nervous breakdown right there and then.

So, back to the drawing board. No more coming to bed with me. The husband is taking over the night duties. At least until he has a his nervous breakdown.

And in unrelated news, the boy got his fingers stuck in an elevator door yesterday. He is fine. More to come at a late time.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Treat

A box of Christmas cookies arrived in the mail today from Winnipeg. Wrapped in brown paper, I noticed the package sticking out of the mailbox as soon as we arrived home after our cold walk back from the girl's school. Once the many layers of clothing were removed we opened the box.

Shortbread with sprinkles stuck inside the compressions made by a fork. They made me think of my grandmother.

The girl ate one. The boy ate one. I ate one. The girl started arguing that she should be allowed to eat a second. I told her she could have another one after she ate her lunch. She agreed but still continued to try to open the zip lock bag. This is hard to open she said. That's the point I thought.

Half the cookies are already eaten and the husband isn't even home yet. I don't think they will last until tomorrow.

Thanks Lorena.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Green

Cookies she yelled as she ran down the school hallway to the office. She shook the three bags at her teacher before handing one of them over. The other two bags with red and green cookies she took inside her classroom and handed to her other teachers. Are those jalapeno cookies? one of her classmates asked.

*

The kids huddled around the teachers, waiting anxiously. Up near the front, she snagged one of the plastic water bottles filled with watered down paint. She squirted the green paint through a hole in the top of the bottle's cap. Around in circles and across the school yard she decorated the snow.

*

He's got it she yelled at me. Don't let him eat it! He's not going to eat it I replied. Don't eat yours either I said. You can look at it but don't eat it until later. I'm not!! she called back from her hiding place underneath the blanket. I could hear the rustling sounds as she tried to remove the plastic from her very first red and green candy cane. She had found it in the grocery bag before I had a chance to hide the box and now she was hoping that if she couldn't see me from her spot on the couch then I couldn't see her either. You can eat it later I told her. He's trying to eat it she yelled in an attempt to redirect my attention away from her. I'm not eating it! she maintained as the rustling continued from her cave under the blanket.

Broken

For a friend

We all break sometimes.
In half.
Into thousands of tiny little pieces.
If we are lucky the break is clean.
The pieces are in front of us and can be
welded, glued, taped or willed back together.

The worst is when we break from the inside.
When we fall apart like a rotted pumpkin.
When the weight of demands
placed on top, beside and underneath us
cause us to collapse.
When our spirit is broken.

We have all been there.
We have picked up our pieces and
tried to put them back together.
This is harder to do now. With kids.
There isn't the time. The energy.
But we try.
Most of the time we succeed.
I know she will.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Meme me

Erin tagged me for a past, present and future meme that I have been meaning to do for awhile now. So I am grabbing this moment while the girl is absorbed in the Backyardigans and the boy is dutifully sitting beside her.

Thanks Erin!

Past: Things I miss....
- sleep
- swearing out loud
- disposable income
- traveling
- spending an hour trying to decide where to go to dinner and then actually going and tasting my food
- being bored

Present: Things I love....
- the girl, the boy and the husband
- our house
- being at home with the kids (I know, I know but I still love it)

Future: I look forward to...
- sleep
- traveling with the kids and knowing that I/ they will still get sleep on the road
- having the energy to spend more time with friends
- spring and summer
- seeing who the kids become

What are you loving today?

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Intonations

The boy may have a smaller vocabulary than the girl did at this age but he is still quite capable of making himself heard.

He has his frequently used words like mama, dada, nana (for banana and any other food). He has some words that he likes to pull out occasionally like baby and papa. He seems to be trying to say the girls name. At least that is what we all think the cries of maaaa are. My favorite thing to hear is his newest word: yie-ah!

I say yeah a lot. Is it time for lunch? the girl will ask me. Yeah I'll say. Am I going to school today? she'll ask me. Yeah I'll reply. I guess it was only a matter of time before a little boy learnt to say that word too.

He manages to say it much cuter than I do. My yeah is flat and nasal. Slurred together. His is high pitched. Broken down into two distinct syllables. Like a cowboy might call out from the back of his trusty horse before he heads out to round up a heard of cattle for the night. Yie-ah!

Despite all these words at his disposal, the boy's greatest form of communication comes from different pronunciations of uh and ah. A short grunt of uh accompanied by a head nod means yes. A long drawn out uh, heavy on the u, means no. Rapid fire yells of ah, you can practically see the exclamation marks in the air, are his way of telling us he wants something. When he lingers over the word, making it sound as if it is sixteen letters long, he would like us to please hurry up and hand him that toy/ piece of apple/ sharp knife he shouldn't have.

I am excited to see what word he will learn next. Dreading and anticipating when he can say no to me. But I will miss these sounds he makes now. Simple sounds but each intonation is heavy with meaning.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Double

The walk to the girl's school takes about fifteen minutes. If I hustle I can make it in ten. When the city is under siege by a windy, howling snowstorm the time doubles and I begin to question my sanity.

Yesterday I set off not once, but twice to the girl's school. I walked down sidewalks that had yet to be plowed and pushed the stroller over foot high snowbanks. On the way home I contemplated abandoning the stroller by the side of the road. With the kids in it. Twice.

Last winter I found the walks to school tough. One of the kids was always crying by the time we got home. But then again, that happened almost anytime we went out last winter. I blame the mitts they have to wear in order not to freeze their fingers because they prevent them from eating snacks and thus making the time pass faster.

This year she is at school five days a week and the idea of making the school trip on cold, snowy days has given me pause to reflect on the wisdom of sending her to school. I thought about taking her back down to three days but then I had an epiphany. Snow days. When a blizzard is overtaking us I will just call a snow day. We will then make the short walk to the museum and hide out there for the morning. Because, even if there is a storm surrounding us, there is no way I am spending the whole day inside with the two of them. I will go crazy.

This means that cold, snowy school walks will be taking place most days. I anticipate that much profanity will be muttered under my breath. But it will be worth it. She loves school. He and I get to spend some time together just the two of us at playgroups or the museum. Plus I get an awesome workout pushing over 50 pounds in a stroller through mounds of snow.

Winter, I am giving you three months. After that I may not be so nice anymore.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Spot of joy

In the midst of yesterday's shoplifting accusations and my frustration with the boy's napping schedule (seriously, why is he incapable of being transferred from his stroller to his crib. These naps are going to be the end of me) there was a spot of joy.

Amy from Muddy Boots tweeted about an amazing video a mom from New York posted on YouTube. My kids are now in love with it. We watched it, oh, twelve times yesterday. In the afternoon the girl was wandering around asking for the Baby Mamas. It took me awhile to realize that that was what she was asking for.

The boy is especially in love with it. I was sitting at the computer this morning when he climbed up into my lap and started pointing at the screen. Do you want to watch the video I asked. Ah! he said. Unfortunately the video needed time to load and since I didn't want to sit waiting the whole time I decided to vacuum. Which I only just managed to do with him screaming on my hip while gesturing to the kitchen where the computer was. His displeasure was extreme.

Today I have watched the video five times already with the kids. The last time I had one kid sitting on each knee. The boy likes to point at all the babies in the video. I asked him Whose my baby? He raised his arm, turned his hand towards himself and pointed at his chest.

My baby. Not for much longer.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Shoplifting

Nothing starts the day like a confrontation with a stranger.

Between dropping the girl at school and going to playgroup with the boy, I stopped at the local grocery store. I probably should have divined that the visit was going to be a strange one after the second person commented on how cute my daughter was. He really does look like a boy. Even when he isn't in his blue snowsuit.

Standing in the cracker aisle I opened up a box of Ritz crackers as part of my strategy to distract the boy and finish up my grocery shopping. An older man walked past me, stopped and turned back towards me.

You shouldn't be doing that, he said. It's illegal to open the food in the store.

What? I asked I always open a box of crackers when I shop. That's how I get my groceries done.

You're shoplifting.

I'm not shoplifting! I always pay for everything.

It's shoplifting if you open it in the store. You could get arrested for that.

I'm not going to get arrested.

The police could arrest you for that.

Are the cops going to come? Are you going to call them?

I could call them.

Bring it on! I said walking away from him. Bring it on!

I finished my shopping, still shocked and enraged about my encounter. When I saw that he was at one of the two open checkouts, the other being the one to eight item check out and not wanting to give the store any other reason to call of the cops on me, I skulked at the back of the store until he was done.

Shoplifting.

I don't shoplift. At least not until they invent a sleep store. Then I will be buying, or even stealing, sleep by the bucketful.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Santa Claus

It's not that I don't like him. I mean, what isn't there to like about a jolly senior citizen handing out presents. I was even a big believer back in the day. If you can look past the time that I told my sister he didn't exist in the bathroom of our house when she was seven or eight, I really have always been a fan.

And yet. I find myself unable to talk to the girl about him. To encourage her to believe in the mythology that is Santa Claus. Instead, I feel like I am standing on the precipice of a gigantic lie.

I try not to lie to her. Sure I tell the occasional white lie along the lines of all the cookies are gone when I have actually hidden them underneath the bread on the counter out of her line of site. I try not to lie though. I don't want untruths to be part of our relationship.

Santa Claus feels like an untruth. Something seems a bit wrong about embarking on a multi-year charade that involves me convincing her that he is real only to one day turn around and say ha ha we were just pretending. Next I will be telling her that the earth really is flat not round. All of these thoughts have prevented me thus far from excitedly talking up the man from the North Pole.

And yet. I find myself unable to tell her that he doesn't exist. To take away a ritual of childhood. A ritual that many of her friends and classmates will enjoy. A ritual that will make Christmas morning, a day that we celebrate as a secular celebration of family, less exciting.

Because Santa Clause, despite the fact that he is a figment of all of our imaginations, is fun. He brings surprises and anticipation. He brings presents that your parents would never get you. He brings presents under the tree that weren't there the night before.

And if I take away Santa, where does that leave the Tooth Fairy and the Easter Bunny?

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Anti-social

I am pretty sure she gets it from us.

This morning the husband took the girl to participate in a research study at a local University. The study involved observing the child play with a parent (in this case the father) and then observing the child play once the parent had left the room. They never got that far this morning. When the research assistant knelt down to talk to the girl about what would happen next she freaked out. It took fifteen minutes for the husband to calm her down. Fifteen minutes before she felt comfortable again. After that, he just kept playing with her. The research assistants never reminded him that he was supposed to leave the room so by the end of the time period he never had. It was either a case of incomplete research or highly insightful on how a child (my child) will react when faced with a parent leaving her alone in an unfamiliar place with two strangers.

The girl has never liked newness. She has always been slow to warm up to new routines and people. Like pre-school. It takes her a long time to feel comfortable with someone. Once she does though she will be talking your ear off and making demand left, right and centre.

Sometimes I wonder if this apprehension of new places and people is part of her personality or our parenting. One mother mentioned to me numerous times in the girl's first year that it is so important for kids to spend time with other adults away from their parents. To know that other adults can be responsible to care for them. I think she felt she was being kind by saying this. Maybe even trying to let me know that I could give myself permission to be away from my baby. But that really isn't our parenting style. I'm not comfortable leaving either of the kids with people I don't know and trust. My family, fine. Good friends, fine. Strangers, not so much.

The result is every so often, like today, I ask myself if the girl's reaction to unfamiliar situations is a result of the fact that she is almost always with us. She was with only us, family and occasionally good friends for the first two and a half years of her life. But I am comforted by the fact that she does eventually warm up to new situations. Her love of school is proof of that.

I joke that she is anti-social, but in someways the husband and I are. We received two invitations tonight, both of which we have declined. Some friends invited us to watch the Santa Claus parade with them tonight, and I did consider it seriously, but with two kids both up before 6 am who had no or only one nap the appeal of putting them to bed early overrode any parade. A holiday party invitation, which I had planned to attend, was also vetoed in order to put myself to bed early.

Are we really anti-social, the girl and I? Nah. Probably not. We just feel more comfortable in familiar situations. The husband, though, he's a whole other story. ;-)

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Teaching moments

I look at parenting as a journey. Sometimes it traveling the calm waters of the Danube in a staffed houseboat. Sometimes it is hiking in the rain across a bumpy trail in the mountains of Spain. Sometimes it is having your passport taken by security guards on a Greek ferry while in the open sea. (The last one did actually happen to me).

All of that is part of the journey. The easier times allow you to rest and recuperate for the challenges that may lie ahead. The hard times can push you to the edge, but hopefully, hopefully you will emerge from the other side wiser. Stronger. Better prepared for the next mountain or rain storm or large man walking away with your passport because your friends took all the tickets with them when they went two decks below.

My biggest challenge right now, beside the boy's sleep habits which is still testing my patience and ability to function after a night of interrupted sleep, is providing guidance to the girl on her behaviour. I feel like almost every moment right now is a teaching moment. When she acts in a way that I would prefer she didn't (hitting, pushing, yelling, not listening to my question for the fifth time, etc) I feel like that is a moment for me to step in and guide her to make a better choice in her words or actions.

How do we treat our friends? How do we talk to our brother? How do we take care of our toys?

I feel like this time right now is key. She is looking to me. Waiting to see what she can and can not do. Or get away with, depending how you look at it. She will ask me things over and over to see if the answer is the same as it was last time. To see if the line I drew in the sand is still there and how much she can nudge it.

This is tiring. I feel like I need to keep all my wits about me. It's like being at a meeting with a client who you know has a hidden agenda but you aren't sure what.

Every day we start again. More teaching moments. More chances for her to discover that the delicate balance between her desires and respecting others. More opportunities for me to be impressed with her readiness to learn and her maturity. More moments for me to be thankful that I get to be the one to guide her.

Even through the rainstorms.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Her kind of day

By the time I left the building she was already ensconced in the book corner. Through the window I could see her sitting next to her favorite teacher on the floor cushions beside the small bookcase. She really loves her books, the student teacher said to me the other day. It is so wonderful that she likes to sit and read, her favorite teacher told me. We always talk about whose turn it is to sit and read books with her.

*

She crouches down beside the vending machine to peak into the coin return. She sticks her fingers inside looking for any stray "monies" that she could use to purchase the bag of pretzels she has been craving. The one that mom doesn't have any change to buy. Unsuccessful, she stand up and tries her luck with the flap. She sticks her hand inside on the off chance that someone has forgotten their own purchase there. She finds nothing. She runs back towards me through the snack room crowded with kids enjoying their field trip to the Museum.

*

At the small picnic table in the park, she licks her yellow banana-flavoured Popsicle. Across the table from her the boy enjoys his own Popsicle, his first. They take turns passing the slowly shrinking Popsicles across the table. As one hand reaches out, the other hand gives over. Every so often they will turn to me and hold out their Popsicles for me to lick. The afternoon December sun is warm as it shines down on us.