Monday, August 31, 2009
I decided at about 2am to take him downstairs and see if he was hungry. Turns out he was! He ate and ate. While this was happening the girl woke up again. The husband took over the food duties and I tried to settle the girl back to sleep after a successful trip to the potty. Once the boy was finally asleep, happy now that he had a full belly, the husband took over getting the girl to sleep.
Such is life with two kids. One sleeps, one wakes, they both wake, they both sleep. It is quite a dance we do some nights.
This morning we were all tired. After months of little sleep I am now exhausted whenever I don't a full five hours. My head is all full of cotton. I need a large coffee to render myself remotely comprehensible.
Plans for this morning were cancelled since none of us were moving very fast. We did have a lovely time at the park though. The boy went down the slide on his own. The girl ran around and enjoyed the swings.
Days and nights. Nights and days. Some are good, some are great and some we just muddle through.
Sunday, August 30, 2009
Today they stopped by with their moving van to load up a bunch of things we had been storing for them in our basement. The girl sat on a chair I placed in the dining room doorway so that she could watch as they carried boxes out of the basement. She held her stuffed cat Princie (named after my dad's real cat) and chatted to my sister as she passed by.
The girl has always called my sister by a nickname that she gave her. From the beginning the girl had trouble pronouncing my sister's actual name so instead she called her Daka. Daka, Daka, Daka. Today she sometimes called her Daka, sometimes by her real name. I wondered if this would be the end of the special nickname. Will the girl grow out of it? Will she forget about it as she uses it less, as she sees my sister less often? Hearing the girl struggling but persisting to enunciate my sister's name today I was a bit saddened. I want that special bond between them to stay.
The girl was not quite one when they moved to Ottawa. Right away she took to my sister. At the girl's first birthday party she spent most of the time on my sister's lap in the sunroom. They and my brother-in-law hid away from the party and were happy.
After the boy was born my sister came over two mornings a week to spend time with the girl. She had some free time among her University class schedule and I so appreciated the help, especially in those early months. More than the benefit to me, though, was what the girl got out of it. She so loved to see her aunt. The girl would get excited, ecstatic as soon as my sister would walk into the house. If she had been sitting quietly before her aunt's arrival, she would suddenly be running around and jumping on the couch she was so happy. All those hours they spent together over the fall and winter have created a deep bond between them. I can see it. I can feel it when they are together.
The girl has always gone happily to my sister. They would cuddle and wrestle and read books together. On the couch, on the floor, in the girl's bed. The hugs and kisses have lessened a bit now that the girl hates to say goodbye or goodnight. Instead the girl will frown and refuse to dispense a hug or kiss when asked. She will run away or stomp up to bed.
Maybe the girl knew something was changing today. We have talked about my sister and brother-in-law moving away and what that means, but I didn't really think she grasped the consequences of it all. Before they drove away from our house we all stood on the front sidewalk and said our goodbyes. It didn't seem real to me and it still doesn't. I am sure it will hit me in a few weeks and then I will be calling my sister asking her if she can come for a visit.
We asked the girl if she wanted to give my sister a hug. She said no. Then she ran to my sister and was swept up into her arms.
Friday, August 28, 2009
Yesterday we had a great visit at the museum. I thought I would share with you some of our tips in order to maximize your fun. And fun you will have.
- Visit the museum in the following order: dinosaurs, mammals, birds. (Skip the 3rd floor unless they have an an interactive temporary exhibit there or your kid likes photography.) The girl holds firm in her belief that this is the only proper order. It is probably best to listen to her.
- Make sure you stop by and say hi to "Boogie". He's the first dinosaur you see when you step through the doors on the first floor. He is the girl's favorite. You should also visit the large dinosaur replicas at the very back of the exhibit. There you will have a chance to meet the boy (the baby dino), the girl (the first one on your right) and the husband and I (the two T-Rexs).
- Take the time to make some duck-billed dinosaur sounds. The girl quite enjoys that. I prefer the video of the Ankylosaurus death blow. It gets me every time. I would say do both.
- Be sure to peak your head through the ice flow hole in the polar bear exhibit and pretend you are a seal. Don't be afraid, the polar bear is a vegetarian. At least according to my brother-in-law who has convinced the girl the seal in the exhibit is actually a tofu seal. We like to call him TofuSeal.
- Stop by and play with the puppets and the dress up clothes in the play room on the mammal floor. We had a lot of fun making up stories with all the puppets. Did you know that beavers like to eat moose? Who knew. The boy loved all the puppets. In fact he had to hug every single one I handed him.
- Yell loudly in the entry to each floor. There is a lovely echo there, as the boy discovered yesterday, and sounds reverberate quite nicely.
- See if you can identify the bird on the card that gets handed out to all members at reception. I was so amazed when the girl walked straight over to the correct bird as soon as we arrived at the exhibit. I would tell you what it was but I can't even remember it's name. It was a bird I had never heard before. Some kind of seagull. All I know is that I am now wondering if she is a bird protege. Or if she has had that card before.
- You can not miss the bird care station. It is one of the best parts of the museum. Kids can ride in a rescue truck, attend to sick birds or just pretend to fill water bowls like the boy did. I think the birds was the best exhibit for the boy because it was easy for him to wander around and look at all the birds at his level behind glass.
- Stand on the bird scale to see how many blue jays you weight. Turns out the girl weights one wild turkey. I would have guessed two. Sometimes she sure acts like two wild turkeys.
See, you can learn a lot at the museum.
Thursday, August 27, 2009
I have been walking around with my mean face on. I don't smile at people. I don't stop and chat with people I run into on the street. I may even scowl at you if you stop me to tell me how cute my kids are. Basically I will want to bite your head if you look at me the wrong way. In other words if you look at me at all.
Of course I am feeling guilty about feeling bad. Like I should just suck it up and get over it already. I should step it up and be a better mom to those cute kids that are getting snapped at when they don't put their shoes on fast enough or only sleep for fifteen minutes in the stroller. I should be happy with what I have and be thankful that it isn't worse. Blah, blah, blah.
I was firmly ensconced in my foul mood until I ran into a friend at the park. She was having a bad day too. She is struggling with her toddler who doesn't listen and her baby who doesn't sleep. She is feeling overwhelmed and lost. She knew what I was feeling.
All of a sudden I felt better. My bad mood is not totally gone, but it has improved. Not because I knew she felt bad, but because I knew I wasn't alone. Because I had someone to talk to who understood. Someone who not just sympathised but was there with me.
His sister is in her bed, cuddling with her dad.
He is in my arms nursing. He unlatches, looks at me and says "da". He rolls away from me and in frustration I put him on the floor. He stands instead of sitting on the ground. His favorite thing in the world now is to walk and he isn't going to pass up any opportunity. He looks at me and then toddles off towards his bedroom door. He happily bangs on it and reaches on tiptoes for the doorknob. He plays until he is bored and then toddles back to me.
We repeat and repeat. I have decided not to fight him. I let him walk to the door, look out the window, play with the curtain. Eventually he tires.
He returns to me and I a nurse him to sleep. I lay him gently in his crib and leave.
Wednesday, August 26, 2009
In fact, I was interested in most isms. Feminism, pacifism, socialism. All except racism. (In that case I was an anti-ism supported). I was drawn to the idea that we as people are all equal. We all have value and rights as humans and not because of our gender, race, sexual orientation, religion or physical abilities. To me these beliefs seemed so logical, so just. As a kid I couldn't understand how anyone could think I was less of anything because I was a girl and not a boy.
So I was a proud feminist and not afraid to say it. Not surprisingly this lead to much mockery and baiting as a pre-teen and teenager. Boys would try to egg me on with sexist comments. Girls would sometimes support me, but often tried to hide behind semantics. Most girls seemed to be reluctant to admit to being a feminist in case they were labeled as man-hating, hairy-legged, bra burners. Instead my friends would say I'm not saying women and men aren't equal but I'm not a feminist. Or they would profess to be post-feminist and argue that equality had been achieved and feminism was no longer needed.
I never understood that. Why would you hide your belief in equality? To me feminism is all about equality; the equal rights and legal protection for women and men. How could anyone not support that?
I am still a feminist. I am grateful that women in Canada can now vote, own property, hold public office, serve in the military and work in a wide variety of professions but that doesn't mean I will stop being a feminist. Like any belief it helps shape how I view the world and my interactions with others. And despite how far we have come there is always further to go, both here and around the world.
One of my goals as a parent is to raise feminists. Two of them. I hope that the girl and the boy will believe in equality for women and men. I hope that they will go out and treat women and men with the respect and dignity that should be afforded to all. I hope that they will be proud to call themselves feminists.
Today is Women's Equality Day in the United States. This day commemorates the passage of the 19th amendment to the U.S. Constitution granting women the right to vote.
Tuesday, August 25, 2009
1. Pack the diaper bag
2. Prepare snacks
3. Clean out all the Cheerios, crackers and banana bits from the stroller
4. Pick the toys off the living room floor and put them away
5. Tidy the kitchen
6. Figure out what we are going to eat for lunch tomorrow
7. Lay out the kids' clothes for the nest day
Nope, I do none of that. Instead I sit on my butt reading blogs, reading books, sometimes talking to the husband and on a lucky night watching a True Blood download.
One day I will become more organized. Just not tonight.
Monday, August 24, 2009
Before we entered the Gallery I considered my options. I decided the best course of action, and the one that might see us lasting the longest, was to visit the contemporary art exhibits and then the cafe. See some art and then have a snack. The best of both worlds. I have to say that by the time we were done eating the boy's shirt did very much look like some of the abstract paintings we had seen. More Jackson Pollock than Andy Warhol though.
The kids seemed to enjoy the art. The girl lead the way as we whizzed through room after room. The secret to a successful gallery visit seems to be to walk at warp speed and glance quickly at whatever you can as you pass by it. As I walked I thought to myself here a Thomas Nozkowski, there a Picasso, everywhere an impressionist painting I would like to stop and look at but can't.
Each time we walked into a new room I said "Look with your eyes but don't touch because this is art". I said that about the phallic statue covered in dice, about the simulated bricks crossing the floor, the faux gas station scene arranged against the far wall. I even said it about the shovel hanging from the ceiling and urinal sitting on a stand.
"That's a potty" said the girl.
"It's a potty" I said, "but it is also art."
"But it's a real potty, so it's a potty. It's not art" she explained to me.
"Yes, it's a real potty but it is also art".
Shortly before we adjourned to the cafe the girl did manage to touch one of the contemporary art installations. I was following closely behind her as she wandered past it because I had caught a little glimpse of mischief in her eye and was determined to prevent whatever attempts she might make. Sadly she was too quick for me. As she turned towards me her hand brushed the art. I heard it give a groan as her fingers gently pushed at it. My heart stopped. Once it started again I ushered us all out of the room as quickly as possible, ever so thankful that the gallery attendant had been speaking to a colleague in the hallway. Being escorted from the Gallery would not have been an ideal way to end the visit.
Later that afternoon we sat recounting our day to my dad. While we talked the girl traced outlines of her hands. Somehow my dad began to explain to her the nature of art. How what she had drawn is art. I wish I could remember exactly what he said, and I am sure he will correct me if I have it wrong, but this is what I remember.
Art is anything that you have created and infused with emotion or meaning. He pointed to the picture of the outline of her hands. See how they are overlapping and the thumbs have created a heart. That is art.
Sunday, August 23, 2009
With the kids born only a few weeks apart we decided to hold a joint birthday party for them in the park yesterday. I know, I just said I am trying to think outside the park but it really is the perfect place for a party. There is lots of room for the kids to run around and play, it doesn't matter if cake or juice gets spilled and most importantly it means we don't have to clean the house before or after the party.
There was a great mix of people at the party. We invited some old friends we haven't seen in a long time and some of our new park friends. I only wish I could have spent more time with everyone. I managed to say hello and goodbye and would you like some cake to everyone but not much more. In fact, what with running around making sure that someone was looking after my kids and everyone had food and drink I don't remember much about the party.
There is one moment that stays me with. I was standing at one end of the picnic table, the husband across from me at the other end. Two cakes are on the table and he and I are cutting and plating them as fast as we can. Kids are crammed onto both of the benches asking for cake and eating cake. "I want that piece right there" a girl says to me, pointing to the middle of the cake. "I want that one" says another girl pointing to a cluster of sprinkles. "I'm not sure if we will get that far" I say as I cut and dish and cut and dish.
The girl had a great time at the party. She never stopped running around and chasing after her friends. Oh wait, she did stop. Twice. For two pieces of cake. The first she ate with all her friends after she had pretended to blow out the candles (it was too windy to get them lit). The second cake she ate later on when she came upon me cleaning up and asked for another piece. I thought about it for a moment and then figured why not. It's her birthday party after all. "You can have one more piece" I said, "but you have to eat it out of the way so we can tidy up". The girl took her cake and carried it across the grass to a bench. She sat there by herself slowly eating her cake, looking off into the distance.
The boy also had a bit of cake. Holding him in front of me while he sat at the picnic table I saw him reach out for the cake closest to him. He managed to push his fingers into the cake and pull out a small piece covered in icing. Before I could wipe it away the cake was already in his mouth and his hand was going back again. There on the cake were three little finger imprints. Like his sister he wasn't satisfied with only one bite of cake. Later he happily sat on my sister's lap eating some of hers.
The one downside to having the party in the park was the insane number of wasps that descended on us. They loved the juice, the fruit kabobs and me. While lifting up my hand I managed to sting myself on a wasp as it flew by. I screamed. Loudly. I did not, however, swear. I am very, very proud of that. My mother-in-law said that I mouthed a certain profane word but I have no memory of that. And if anyone had to be stung, better that it was me than one of the kids. Yes, I am a martyr like that.
What with the party prep (which we could not have managed without the help of my mother-in-law, dad and step-mom), the party and two children that were excited for the rest of the day the husband and I were exhausted last night. I found myself asking "was it worth it?". Was it worth the work, the energy, the planning? Do the kids even care?
Maybe they wouldn't have cared if there had been no party. Maybe, probably they won't even remember the party. But I do think they enjoyed themselves for those few hours. The girl was thrilled to see her friends and for it to be her birthday. The boy enjoyed the attention from the adults and playing with the kids.
That makes it worthwhile enough.
I will keep writing in my head. Hoping that soon I will have the time to find you. I miss you.
Thursday, August 20, 2009
For that reason we do pretty much the same things everyday. We get up, eat breakfast, the boy has a nap, we go to the park, come home for lunch, the boy has a nap, we go to the park, come home for dinner and then go to bed. Whew! It sounds like a lot but since I have been doing it everyday for months now it has become second nature. I know what to pack to take to the park. I know who will be there at what time for the girl to play with and me to talk to. I know that I can always walk back across the street if I need to.
Since Monday the routine has changed. I don't like change. However, I have decided not to fight it because that will only make me miserable. Instead I have accepted that the boy is transitioning to only one nap. While there are a lot of positives to only one nap, like the option of getting out and doing things for an entire morning, it is a little hard to give up the little bit of me time I could sneak in the mornings by letting the girl watch a little video. But give it up I have.
My strategy to get me through this transition is to get out of the house as early as possible in the morning and to stay out until lunchtime. If I hang around at home I will start to obsess over whether or not the boy may or may not be tired and if I should or should not try to get him down for a nap. I will drive myself totally crazy and I don't need to be any crazier than I already am.
My strategy also involves going somewhere other than the park. Our park. Don't get me wrong, I love the park with a passion that may seem disproportionate to those who don't live at a park the way we do. But I have a hope that if we go somewhere different the boy will have a small, maybe even minute, nap in the stroller and that will make it easier for him to sustain his happy mood until his afternoon nap.
I am now on a quest to find fun things to do with the kids within a thirty minute walk of our house. (We have to be able to walk because we don't have a car.) Not just any fun things though. New fun things. Things the kids haven't done before. Things that will keep the boy awake and the girl engaged.
I think I am on a roll.
Tuesday we visited the husband's office. We did end up at the park afterwards, but it was to eat a picnic lunch which is infinitely more exciting than just playing in the park.
Wednesday we took in the sights of Parliament Hill. We managed to catch the end of the changing of the guard procession as they marched down Elgin Street. I found it exciting and thought the kids would like the marching band. The girl, however, was unimpressed. When I asked if she liked the parade she quickly replied "no".
She did seem to like walking around Parliament Hill, but was disappointed not to see my sister there. The girl apparently misheard me and thought we were going to Karlament Hill, a hill that sounds an awful lot like my sister's name. Thus it was my sister's hill. The girl informed me there was also a baby hill, a hippo hill and a mommy hill to make a total of four hills.
We walked all the way around the outside of the Parliament buildings. The girl was less impressed with the majestic architecture than she was enamoured by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police horses and the seven large raccoons eating all the cat food at the cat sanctuary. I like to think that only in Canada would you have a "cat hill" located behind the national seat of government.
The real reason we went to Parliament Hill that day was to participate in Yoga on the Hill. The girl has a deep interest in practicing yoga that I attribute to my sister and the desire to replicate the poses my sister shows her. The girl always has a lot of fun trying to do downward dog or child's pose. Even better is when she makes up her own poses. The husband, the girl and I have passed many enjoyable moments calling out random animals or people and watching the girl demonstrate the related pose. Really, you should see her dinosaur pose. I am sure that it will catch on soon. Forget hot yoga, dino yoga will be the new cool thing,
It was a great turnout that day with over five hundred people practicing yoga on the front lawn of Parliament Hill. The girl participated a bit and I even managed to sneak in a few poses while also trying to prevent the boy from knocking the woman next to me over. I think the girl might have been a bit happier had she been leading the class instead of participating. A couple of times her voice rose loudly over the crowd "I want them to do cobra, mommy" and "Tell them all to dance. Dance!". We left after about fifteen minutes.
Thursday (today) we finally visited the Legget Park Children's Garden on Main Street in Old Ottawa East. Every Thursday morning over the summer (and into September) parents gather at the garden for an informal playgroup. I have been meaning to go every week but have always found some excuse not to go and go across the street to our park instead. Today we went with some friends and it was wonderful. The garden was in full bloom and the children were able to wander through it picking whatever vegetables were ripe. The girl ate two small tomatoes right off the vine. The boy, meanwhile, chose to clutch his tomato in his hand for the entire visit instead of eating it. The girl and her friend walked around with gardening gloves on but never actually picked up the pails and rakes I had set out for them. We all sat in the stone circle at the end of the playgroup and sung songs loudly while it lightly rained. It was lovely. A garden oasis. We will go back next week.
Here's to thinking outside the park. May it go as well next week. Please.
Wednesday, August 19, 2009
I am longing for a break. A few, five, seven hours to myself where I could do whatever I want. Even though I don't know what exactly that would be. Unfortunately that is not to be this weekend. My dad, step-mom and mother-in-law are all coming to town for a visit and to celebrate both birthdays this weekend. So it will be busy and fun and I may find a few moments to myself in all the party planning.
The sleep disruption and my resulting mood has made me wonder how I functioned for so long getting up two or three times a night with the boy. Really, I am pretty amazed and impressed with myself for being as nice as I was to people. Everyone should consider themselves lucky.
Tuesday, August 18, 2009
I managed to get us all out of the house in one piece before I had a complete meltdown, but I was determined not to suffer through a repeat performance today. Instead we left the house with the husband and walked him to work. It is a lovely walk through downtown Ottawa and we have done it a number of times now. The kids are happy to watch the world pass by them from inside the comfort of the stroller. At least on the way there. On the way home the girl likes to walk. This doubles the duration of the usually twenty minute walk but she enjoys wandering along slowly, checking out anything of interest that catches her eye. The boy usually falls asleep on the way home, just like he did today.
Instead of dropping the husband off at the door to his building and turning around like usual, today I needed to head inside the office tower to find a bathroom. I took the girl with me hoping she took would "make use of the facilities", but the public bathroom was closed for cleaning. "Why don't you come upstairs with me", suggested the husband. "I can show you stinky old work" he said to the girl.
Stinky old work. That is what he has called it ever since he returned in October after a year of leave at home with the girl. He went back to a new job in a new section with new colleagues. But to him it still stinky old work because it was what took him away from us.
I had a moment of hesitation at his suggestion, but I could see how excited he was at the idea of showing off the kids so in we went. The hesitation was solely due to the fact that I wasn't dressed for meeting new people, never mind his work colleagues. I was wearing my jogging shorts and an old t-shirt. My washed, but not brushed, hair was pulled into a ponytail under my black cap. I would have liked to make a better impression but I was dressed for the park in my grubby park clothes and not for a social occasion. Thankfully the kids were well-dressed and everyone was more interested in them anyway.
It was strange to walk into an office space after a year at home with the kids. While I am familiar with the set up, rows upon rows of cubicles and offices, I was struck by the absence of two things now so present in my life: colour and noise.
The floor we were on was so quiet. I could hear some people talking but it was a dim hum. There was no yelling or screaming or screeching. No running feet. No sounds of fighting. No laughing or giggling. I was overwhelmed by the silence.
I was also shocked by the dullness of the room. The walls were beige, the carpet was beige, even the cubicle partitions were a green beige. It was kind of depressing. It made me sad to think of having to work every day in a place without colour.
I had never thought about it before but my life now is so full of colour. The walls of our house are all brightly painted. The kids are outfitted in colourful clothes. The park is a blur of blue water, green grass and primary coloured play structures. I am out everyday in a world full of colour and noise and life. Sometimes it seems like too much colour and noise but maybe it is better to have too much then none.
The exception to the absence of colour was the husband's cubicle. As soon as I stepped into his space I could see rows of the girl's art work tacked to the walls. The cupcakes I had cut out of an old calendar and she had glued onto coloured construction paper. Blue and red paintings she had made at pre-school. Many, many pages of all kinds of stickers.
I was happy to see that even at stinky old work he is surrounded by colour. By her.
Sunday, August 16, 2009
The girl really is a great kid. She is thoughtful, polite and very loving. Most of the time. It is just those times where she is hyper, doesn't listen and tries to talk her way into getting what she wants that drive me crazy. I know that she is just being three. She is just learning to be independent and figure out her own way. Sometimes I just don't have the patience for it. It makes me nervous for the teenage years. I mean, what kind of conversations will we be having at thirteen if this is what we talk about at three:
Me: Please get down. There is no standing on the back of the couch.
Girl: I'm not! (She gets down) I know. How about this, how about I stand on the couch, you give me a time out and I say no.
Seriously? Are we having this conversation?
So sometimes I forget. I forget how well behaved she really is. You know, for a three year old. Then I see her playing at the park with another kid her age. They seem to be playing well together, until the other kid starts yelling "Go away, go away" to another little girl who has wandered over. My girl starts in too. "Go away", she yells, "Go away". I wonder if she really knows what she is saying or if she is just having so much fun yelling.
I grab the boy and head over to intercede. The other mom stays where she is. "Please don't yell at M", I say. "That isn't something we say to our friends and she just came over to see what you were doing". I ask my girl to apologize. The other kid she was playing with starts to wander away and my girl wants to go too. Finally the other mom comes over and makes her kid apologize. The girl still doesn't want to say sorry. I think she doesn't really understand why she needs to apologize, just like she doesn't understand why yelling "go away" is mean. (As an aside, how lucky is she to be three and have not met real meanness yet) She does apologize finally.
As I watch the two kids run off to the play structure I say to the other mom "I'm not okay with her yelling at other kids like that. I don't want her to think that behaviour is okay." The other mom turns to me and says "That's not really that bad. He says much other worst things, like f***ing b***h and a**hole. And the kids will figure these things out on their own".
Did I mention these kids are three or almost three?
Yes, it is all relative. Other people may think I overreact and am over involved. I think I am helping the girl to learn to treat others like she would like to be treated. And I am pretty happy with the results.
Saturday, August 15, 2009
Tell me how to follow you.
Me? I am @capitalmom.
Tweet you soon.
Friday, August 14, 2009
"Hey, birthday girl. Can you stop smashing those sandcastles for a moment to listen to me. We need to talk."
"Sure, what's up?"
"Well, I know it is your birthday and I am trying to be considerate and all but I am feeling a little neglected. All this attention for you and none for me."
"Didn't mom just spend the last half hour wandering around the park with you while you walked and she held your hand."
"Technically yes, but still. I was thinking that maybe I would develop a smallish malady. You know, a slight fever, maybe some lethargy. I am really just feeling the need to be held and cuddled."
"Hmm, yes, I can understand that. Now that I think about it I'm not really getting the degree of love and attention I should be getting considering it is my birthday. I may jump on this bandwagon of yours."
"How about we take it in shifts tonight. I will take 8pm until 2am. If I fuss enough and have trouble settling mom will eventually take me to bed with her. That will give me enough time to blow raspberries on her arm, chat a bit and practice my walking in the bed. I may even doze, but only if I am tucked into the crook of her arm. Yes, that should do nicely."
"I'll take 4:30 am until 7:30 am. I find that dad is always extra attentive if I pee the bed so I may start with that. I'll add in a slight fever and some tossing and turning too."
"Excellent. I think I feel a bit weak already. Why don't they have a fainting couch at the park? I guess mom's arms will have to do. Oh, and happy birthday."
"Yes, happy birthday to me."
The boy was lethargic and feverish on the girl's birthday. He lay on my chest, head resting on my shoulder, for close to an hour at the park. Dinner plans were cancelled. There was very little sleep that night.
Can this be considered sibling rivalry?
Thursday, August 13, 2009
Wednesday, August 12, 2009
How did you get so tall?
How did you learn the words you
know to say the things you do?
How will I manage, my girl,
as you grow into a woman?
How will I cope if a day passes
without your arms around me?
However you change,
whoever you become,
I will always be here.
Tuesday, August 11, 2009
The girl seemed to be feeling rough right from the start. At one point I looked up from playing with the boy to see her running towards me with tears running down her face. I asked her what was wrong but she was crying so much she couldn't speak. Finally an older girl came over and told me that when my girl had been playing inside the house the older girl decided to peek in an say "boo". The older girl obviously felt really bad to have caused such hysterical crying. She apologized twice.
The girl recovered eventually. In fact she was playing happily with her little friend W soon enough. W's mom and I sat on blankets with the babies and chatted. This mom is really lovely and I think we are on the way to being friends. I sure hope so. Our kids get along great. Maybe even too great. While we sat there talking I noticed that the two of them had managed to open the door to the field house and had run inside. One of the few park rules I have is that the girl can't go in the field house without a parent. So I told W's mom that I would go get them and ran towards the field house.
As I ran I thought to myself, "this really isn't a good bra to run in". Then I fell. I fell flat on my face over the two cement stairs. I scrapped both my knees and split open the big toe on my left foot. For a moment I just lay there. I thought about lying there longer. But I got up. I looked around to see if anyone had noticed me fall. Then I got the kids out of the field house.
My toes was bleeding and throbbing. I limped over to the lifeguards and asked for some first aid. I think there is a rock or little piece of cement stuck in my foot I said. Can you take it out? Oh, no said the lifeguard, I can't do that. Can you clean it with any antiseptic? Oh, no we don't have any. Do you have a band aid, I finally asked in exasperation. Of course no! Instead the lifeguard wrapped my toe with gauze and masking tape.
I decided to call the husband and ask him to meet me at the walk-in clinic down the street so he could take the kids. I'll be there in twenty minutes he said. Great, now I just had to get us there. As I packed up the blanket, changed the girl out of her bathing suits, cleaned up the snacks and packed the bag the girl started to wail again. I don't want to go to the doctor she said. It's not for you, I said, it's for mommy's toe. I don't want to show him my knee, she said pointing where she had fallen and scrapped her knee running on the basketball court while I was getting my toe wrapped in gauze.
On and on we went the girl and I. I told her we had to go. Finally she agreed but she wanted to ride in the stroller. I told her she had to walk because I couldn't carry her brother right now. More tears. W's mom offered to lend us her double stroller so both kids could ride. No, the girl didn't want that. Tears some more. It wasn't until W's mom very kindly offered to take the girl back to her house for lunch and a video that the girl calmed down. Now she was positively excited. Popsicles were promised and the girl was ready to go.
In the midst of all this chaos, the strollers and the mess of bags being organized the boy stood up. He took three steps, turned towards me and took two more steps into my arms. His firsts steps on his own! I laughed. I laughed that this would be the moment he decides to walk. I feel like crying I said to this new friend of mine. Me too, she said picking up on all the emotions whirling around.
The girl safely seen to I was ready to go to the walk-in, only to realize I didn't have my wallet with me (I never bring it to the park) or my health card. At that moment a dad we often see with his daughter arrived and asked how things were going. Fine, I said. Wait a minute, I amended, what am I saying. Then I explained very, very briefly what was going on and asked him if he would mind watching the boy while I limped home for a minute to grab my wallet. He didn't mind and I was back as fast as my foot would carry me.
I was so thankful for these kind friends. So thankful that I force myself to talk to people at the park. I was especially thankful when I arrived at the walk-in and found it closed. Then I was extra thankful that I hadn't brought the girl with me and that the boy heading how with his dad.
The short version of the rest of the story is that I grabbed a sandwich for my lunch, money from the bank and took a cab to the only other walk-in I could think of. I waited for an hour and a half to be told that nothing was under the skin, I could have a stitch or just use gauze tape to keep the cut closed and that it should close up in about five days. I felt a little silly. Silly that very thing was fine. But I am a cautious one. Some might even say a paranoid one. I like to hear from an expert that everything really is okay.
I took another cab home. When I opened the door I heard the girl crying and saw her sitting on the floor in front of a cup. She was crying over her spilt milk. I went over and gave her a hug. The boy saw me from his highchair and started crying too.
It has also taken me this long to figure out that I should always bring the umbrella stroller with me even though we live across the street from the park. This way I can put the boy in the stroller when I take the girl to the bathroom in the field house and make her sit on the potty.
Hmm, I wonder if I can fit a potty in my park bag.
Monday, August 10, 2009
When I arrived at the park this morning with the two kids this woman was sitting on a bench chatting to a friend. They had been talking about me. When I looked towards them and smiled the woman said "I was just telling her you used to be fat but now you are getting skinnier". At first I wasn't sure if I understood what she had said. Did she really say "fat"? Maybe she said "firm". No, it was fat. The woman continued. "I used to think you were old because your face was so fat", she gestured to her face as if to add three chins, "but now I can see you are young".
I kept smiling through all of this. I even laughed. "Well," I said, "you know, it can be hard to find time to exercise with two kids. And I was really big when I was pregnant. It is hard to lose the weight". I smiled. I laughed some more.
As unintentional as it was, her words hurt me. I have been struggling with my weight. While it was nice to hear that I was skinnier it made me worry about what I looked like this past year. Have I been wandering around looking fat and old? Is that what people saw when they looked at me?
My mood of sadness and frustration about my weight actually started this weekend when we received the photos from our recent family photo shoot. The photos themselves are amazing. The girl looks beautiful. The boy looks like an Eastern European prince, at least according to my dad. The photographer did an excellent job. But when I looked at the pictures of myself I was startled. Is that what I look like? The me in the pictures and the me in my head are different. The me in my head isn't as heavy as the one I see in the photographs.
I know that I haven't lost all the baby weight. I can fit into some but not all of my pre-baby clothes. I am definitely not as skinny as I was after the girl was born. After her birth I lost all the pregnancy weight and then some. I had to buy new clothes because everything was too big. I was one of those annoying people that went around saying "it's the breastfeeding! The weight is just falling off!"
Not this time. This time the weight has been slow to come off. I try to eat well but sometimes I eat a cookie or a KitKat bar at the end of a long and trying day. I try to exercise but it rarely happens. There is always something else that needs to be done. Or I am too tired. Usually I am too tired. At the end of the day I don't have the energy for much except to sit quietly and, maybe, spend sometime with the husband. And I am not enough of a morning person to make it out of the house at 6am for a run.
I did take a few yoga classes over the winter and went to a mom and baby exercise class for a few months until the boy was started to crawl. That helped. I know I need to do more but I feel caught. Caught between the time and energy needed to exercise and the feeling like I should be exercising. Like the mom with a baby at the girl's preschool who goes to the gym three times a week. Or the mom with a baby from the park who goes to boot camp.
But I'm not them and they aren't me. All the shoulds do is make me feel bad.
So this is me for now. Skinnier. I will try to stay positive and keep moving forward. Focusing on the ier.
Sunday, August 9, 2009
Instead I read chick lit, romance, anything that you can buy from a rack in a drug store. Books that are light and frothy. Books that I can pick up in a moment of calm and put down five minutes later when a kid wakes up, is tired of playing quietly or yells for something to eat. I read books that I don't care about or think about when I am away from them because I find I still need to read something. Anything.
Reading has always been my way of recharging. My quiet time. Just like how the girl likes to sit in her bed and read during the quiet time I force upon her in the afternoon so I can put the boy down for his nap. It lets me shut off my brain and run away into a different world in only for awhile.
Today I read a real book. No pink cover, no frothiness. I picked it up last night before bed and found myself reading it whenever I could today. I neglected the children and left them in the husband's care. I read and read and read. I thought about the book when I wasn't reading it. I cried when I finished it.
I am worn out. I don't have the stamina for books like that anymore. I am still tired and weary from months of sleepless nights and the energy it takes to care for these two kids of mine. So no more good books. Don't tell me about them, don't lend me a copy. But bring on the pink.
Friday, August 7, 2009
I like to keep her hair off her face with ponytails, pigtails or braids. This usually involves a lengthy discussion to convince her to sit quietly for me while I brush her hair and work the knots out. There are always lots of knots. I prefer to giver her braids because it ensures less food or other things get stuck in her hair. Ponytails and pigtails are great but the tips still get dirty. My goal has long been to give her a french braid and last night I accomplished that.
After her bath we sat together in her bed. She read through her compilation of Madeline stories while I took my time brushing her wet hair. Splitting her hair into two I started braiding the right side. It has been a long time since I have done a french braid. Maybe twenty years.
I started carefully, unsure how to pull the new pieces into the braid. At times it seemed like I didn't have enough fingers to hold all the pieces of hair. I finally found my rhythm and juggled the pieces of hair as I braided. Once both braids were done I took a moment to admire my work.
Thursday, August 6, 2009
I was afraid of the isolation that having a baby could bring. I was terrified of having postpartum depression. I have always had heavy and difficult periods accompanied by moodiness, crying and sadness and I thought that the hormonal changes after birth would be the same. My family was worried about that too. So I pushed myself and they pushed me to get out with the baby. Left on my own I may have procrastinated, waited until I was "ready" but since I knew they would be watching and waiting for a report I made myself go out.
My first outing on my own with the girl was to story time at the library when she was five weeks old. She was by far the youngest one there. I didn't care though. I was happy that I had made it to the library, happy that she breastfed in public with no problem and thrilled to be meeting other moms. Over that fall and winter I was at the library as many as three times a week for story time. I also went to playgroups, the baby wellness clinic and the park. I went for walks everyday and invited people over. I pushed myself out of my comfort zone in order to make friends for myself and for her.
I made some excellent friends. Getting out and talking to those other moms was so good for me. It helped to have people to discuss concerns with or to laugh with. What really got me through that maternity leave though was my friendship with M. I met her that first day at the library and then again later at a playgroup. She had a daughter ten months older than mine and lived only a few blocks away. Slowly we became so close that we saw each other or spoke on the phone every day. She joked that she hadn't had a friend she talked on the phone with everyday since high school.
M. really helped me to learn the kind of mother I wanted to be. We talked about our challenges with our kids and how we wanted to parent them. There was no judgements, only friendship. At the end of my yearlong maternity leave I went back to work and she moved back to Vancouver with her family. I was so sad to see her go but at the same so thankful for what she had given me. I know it would have been a lonelier year without her.
I haven't met as many new people during my second maternity leave. The moms I have met are those that I run into at the girl's school, our playgroup or at the park. We talk and are friendly but I have made few friends. Some play dates are arranged but not many. I think that there is an added challenge with two kids. My days are much more scheduled and focused on life with a two year old then life with a baby. Like me the moms I have been meeting usually have two or more kids and finding time that works for everyone is not easy.
I don't feel isolated though. How could I when I have the girl to talk to me, at me and with me. She keeps me moving through the day. I think there were some pieces missing though. I was missing some of that interaction with moms that I found the first time I was on maternity leave. I have been surprised to find myself filling those voids with my blog and the blogs of other moms I read. The Internet has made me feel less alone.
The one piece of unsolicited advice I would offer new moms on maternity leave is to talk to other people. Lots of people. Whether you want to or not. I think that in many ways friendship is a numbers game. Like buying a new dress you have to try on lots before you find one that fits.
After a frustrating morning with the kids a few weeks ago, I managed to get ourselves organized enough to make it to the park. There I started talking to a mom I had seen before but never met. When it was time to head home I thanked her for the conversation. I told her how great it was to talk to her and that it was just what I needed. She seemed surprised by that. She said "you seem to know everyone at the park and are always talking to someone". I laughed and said "I have to. Otherwise I would go crazy".
Wednesday, August 5, 2009
Yesterday at the park the boy saw me peeling a banana for his sister. He went crazy. While pointing frantically at the banana he started yelling "NANA NANA". With a tone of righteous indignation he added some grunts and arghs. If he had been a medieval warrior I think he would have shouted "give that to me your surly wench" or something as equally colourful.
Tuesday, August 4, 2009
My maternity leave is over. I was due back at work at the end of July but I am not going back. Not yet anyway.
Before I even started my second maternity leave I knew that I wanted to take more than a year off to be at home with the kids. I wanted to spend some of that fun time with the boy, time where he is walking and talking and learning like crazy. Time where I wasn't grumpy and exhausted from being up all night. That was time the husband got to spend with the girl while he was off for a year on unpaid leave with her between my two maternity leaves. Some mornings I was very jealous as I headed off to work and they hung out at home playing.
During my first maternity leave with the girl there was a part of me that was eager to return to work. At work there was an order to my life that I still hadn't found caring for the girl. The rules and demands were clear at work. I knew what was expected of me and how to perform the tasks associated with my job. By the time the girl turned one I still felt like I was new to this mommy thing. Every day I was learning new things and re-evaluating what I had learnt the day before. I felt insecure about my decisions and doubted myself often. At work there was none of that. At work I knew who I was.I was so glad to have that time at home with the girl but it was not as relaxing as this second maternity leave has been. This time I feel more confident about my decisions. I don't doubt my parenting choices (as much) as the first time around and so I am better able to enjoy myself. I still have stressful moments, stressful days but I know now that they are temporary. Whatever difficult stage we are in will end and we will move out of it into something new.
I am also more forgiving with myself this time. I had almost fifteen years to learn how to navigate the working world. No wonder I found work easier than being a mom! You can't expect to feel as comfortable after one year in a "job" as you did in the other job that you had been doing for much longer.
So I am going to be a stay-at-home mom. Until October 2010 anyway. I going to enjoy this time with the kids and the fact that it will be me and them for the next year. After that I will have to return to work so that the husband can have his turn as the primary caregiver. That is our deal. Some time for me to be home with the kids and some time for him. Until the boy turns four and enters kindergarten. Or we run out of money.
I know that if I had to go back to work right now I could. I wouldn't want to. I don't feel ready. I hope that when the time comes it feels right. That I don't leave these two with a heavy heart. But that time isn't now.
Monday, August 3, 2009
I had always wanted to work for the Government. To me there was something appealing about the idea of serving my country and delivering services to Canadians. (Whether or not it is everything I hoped it would be is best left for another post. Probably one I will never write.) What I didn't really think about when I joined the government was about the benefits that it would offer to me as my employer. It is pure luck on my part that I ended up with an employer that is trying to lead by example and show other organizations how to support employees financially during the first year of their child's life.
As a Canadian citizen I am entitled to receive 55% of my insurable earnings, up to maximum of $447 a week, for 50 weeks as part of maternity and parental (which can be taken my the mother or father) leave. As an employee of the Government of Canada I receive an additional weekly allowance to augment the $447 to 93% of my weekly income. What this means is that I am being paid close to my full salary for almost a year to stay at home and care for my baby.
In addition, the Government of Canada provides its employees with up to five years of unpaid leave for the care and nurturing of pre-school age children. This means that I could stay at home for up to five years with one child under five. This leave is one that the husband and I have and will take advantage of. (More on that in my next maternity leave post.)
While these leave provisions could be considered a means of rewarding employees for their past service, I also think they are excellent recruitment and retention strategies. With the exodus of baby boomers across all industries the public service is competing with the private sector to recruit from a small pool of talent. Maternity and parental leave benefits are one way of standing out among the competition. It is also a way of encouraging employees that do want to take some time off to spend with their young families to consider returning to their old jobs. This is an excellent way of holding onto corporate memory and investments that have been made in employees through training and work-experience. (Can you tell my other job is in Human Resources?)
I have had two year-long paid maternity leaves now and I count myself lucky. Very lucky.
Sunday, August 2, 2009
Yesterday we walked to the Main Farmer's Market in Ottawa East. Today we walked to the Landsdown Market in the Glebe. I like both markets even though they are quite different. I like that the Main Market is small because then I don't wander around trying to decide which stall is the best to buy from. We can quickly make our purchases and move onto the eating and people watching. I like the Landsdown Market because there is more choice in produce, baked goods and even crafts for sale. A new pair of soft soled shoes bought this morning will be part of the boy's birthday presents next month.
Today we were caught in a downpour while at the market. We knew it was coming so we were, mostly, prepared. Except for the boy's rain coat we had forgotten. When the rain started he was asleep in the stroller, nestled all warm and safe. Still, we moved under the white food tent to wait out the showers and have a snack. The girl sat mesmerized, too stunned to eat the raspberry she had put on her finger tip, when the one-man-band moved under the tent with us and began to play. He played nursery rhymes and other songs I didn't recognize. She didn't care what he played. She was enthralled.
I was worried the noise would wake up the boy. It did. He too was a little dazed as he sat in my arms, groggy in that way that someone is when they wake up from a nap. Then he decided that wherever he was was in fact pretty awesome and prowled around making friends and chatting to people while the husband followed holding onto his hands.
I will be posting about my maternity leave over the next week.
Saturday, August 1, 2009
People at the park stop me to tell me how beautiful you are. And you are. Your white blond hair sets off your blue eyes and fine, yet boyish, features. Your face is open and expressive. Your smile is warm.
You have decided that you now love the wading pool. I follow after you like some kind of serf attending to her lord and master. Wherever you go there I am holding onto your hands as we walk through the water. You like to stick to the edges of the pool where the water is shallow, unless you see a ball and then you walk briskly towards it.
You will be very excited to receive the soccer ball Grandma is getting you for your birthday. I will be happy too because I won't have to worry about you trying to steal the basketballs that are sometimes left at the edge of the court.