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Friday, April 30, 2010

Alfalfa

A tiny little ponytail sprouts from the top of his head. The hair, wrapped in a orange elastic, points straight up towards the ceiling. In the mornings when I brush his sister's hair, dividing it and then making two pigtails, he comes to me, tapping the top of his head. He waits while I finish and then stands patiently while he gets his own. Throughout the day he checks to make sure it is still there. He loves his ponytail, my little blond Alfalfa.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Big sister

My phone rang. I jumped and quickly reached into the pocket of my hoddie. Snapping the phone open I breathed a cautious hello?

Hi said the babysitter.

How's it going? I asked, holding my breath.

He's asleep she said.

Oh good! I said and exhaled deeply for the first time since I left the house an hour before.

We ate some pizza and played. We went upstairs around one and started getting him ready for his nap.

And it all went okay? I asked. This was the first time in a long time that someone other than the husband or I had put him to sleep at naptime or bedtime. The last few times my sister had tried he resisted her quiet firmly. And it had been a long time since Grandma used to tuck him into the crook of her arm and sit in the rocking chair rocking him to sleep.

He cried a bit. She helped to get him ready but then she wanted to down back downstairs. As soon as she left he got upset and started crying. So I called her back upstairs. She lay down beside him in his bed and he calmed down. She lay there until he fell asleep. Then we snuck out.

My heart swelled.

She is an amazing big sister. He is very lucky.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Practice

She watches them. As soon as they have made their way to the top, she scampers up onto the slide and tries to do it to.

We are all good at something. We just have to figure out what that is.

She braces her feet against the slide and reaches her arms up the sides as high as she can. She pulls and pulls herself up.

I am good at baking cupcakes. I'm not good at knitting.

She loses her footing and she falls. She slips down to the bottom of the slide. She yells for me and cries tears of frustration .

He is good at telling long, complicated stories that keep the kids amused. He isn't good at fixing things around the house.

She wants to be able to do it on her own. She wants me to help her climb to the top. You can do it, I say, you just have to practice. The other kids can do it because they practiced, I tell her.

He is good at dancing. He isn't good at jumping with both feet.

She starts up the slide as I stand talking to another mom. I watch as she climbs and climbs. At the three-quarter mark, the place where it gets too hard and her hands lose their grasp, she keeps going. She has reached the top.

She is good at getting her snowsuit on. She isn't good at climbing up the slide at the park.

She yells for me, her voice full of excitement and pride. I yell too and rush over to congratulate her. You did it! I said. Because I practiced and practiced! she said.

If there is something you want to be good at, practice. Practice and then practice more.

She climbs the slide three times. Each time she is just as excited as the first. You will have to show dad when he gets here I say. I look away, to check on the boy and talk to another mom, and when I look back she is gone. I don't see her anywhere. Then I wonder. I take three steps to the left and catch a glimpse of her blue hat.

Sometimes even with practice, there are things we aren't good at. Always, always you are good at being you.

She is climbing the red spiral slide attached to the big play structure. I start walking towards her and before I make it there she is already calling me. I did it! she yells. You did it! I yell back.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Coming home

I had a day to myself. A whole day. I left the house at 8:30am and came back home at 5:30pm. In that time I went shopping for the kids at a consignment sale, met some friends for coffee and then lunch, bought myself two pairs of desperately needed shoes, ran into some more friends for tea and then then headed back to the consignment sale to help pack up and pick up my clothes that hadn't sold.

It was a lovely day. A wonderful day.

Then I came home. I walked through the door with two crying kids I had had to pick up and carry out of the park. One was crying because she wanted to pee by a tree and I wouldn't let her and the other was crying because he wanted to keep playing on the slide and I wouldn't let him.

I walked into the house and felt defeated. Beyond the tear-streaked faces of my children a mess of epic proportions confronted me. The floors were strewn with toys and clothes and little particles of food. No surface was left uncluttered. (To be fair, it didn't look that different from how it was when I left this morning.)

I wish I could have turned around and walked back out of the house. Back to a world of lounging in the sun while sipping a latte and strolling through quiet streets alone.

I didn't. Instead I muddled through the best I could. And wondered if this is how the husband feels when he comes home every evening.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Exponential

Bye he says to his friends, waving his little hand back and forth in the air.

Down he says when I pick him up out of his bed after his nap. Walking to the the staircase he rests his head on my shoulder, his body wrapped around mine.

Purple he says pointing to any colour on the quilt covering our laps. When I shake my head no he looks at me and says green? blue?

Please he says when I ask him too, making the sign at the same time as I hand over the pretzels shaped like letters of the alphabet.

Swings he says as he runs across the sand, chasing after his faster sister who will likely pick the exact swing he had wanted.

Eeee he says for cheese and eggs and pee and anything else with a strong e sound.

The words are coming. They are coming quickly and exponentially.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Earth

Once upon a time there was young girl who loved the earth. She liked to hug the trees and smell the flowers. She wore Birkenstocks and her fiends called her granola. She cared about the world she was inheriting. She even lay awake at night worrying about that hole growing in the ozone. She knew that she needed to help to save the planet. She would do what she could.

This girl turned off the lights when she left the room. She turned off the taps when she brushed her teeth. She didn't eat meat so the rainforest's deforestation could not be blamed on her. She told other people what they should do to help too.

Then life happened to the girl. She saw that sometimes things happened whether she wanted them to or not. She learnt that lots of times she couldn't control the outcome of a situation. She became disillusioned. She stopped trying. And maybe even caring about the earth except for what it could give her.

That girl grew up and stopped thinking about the earth very much. She recycled. She composted. She bought organic food when possible. That was about it.

This girl eventually had a girl of her own. And a boy too. She had two beautiful kids and when she looked at them one day she realized that she wanted them to love the earth like she used to. She wanted them to think that they could help save the planet. She wanted them to know that how they treated the earth was important. She wanted them to believe in the power of their actions.

So she had to start believing again too.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Mom.Me.

I'm going out tonight she said to me as we walked the kids home from school. I just need to go out and not feel like a mom for a bit! I nodded my head like I understood, but I didn't. Not then anyway.

Days later as I walked hand in hand with the husband, the kids at home with a babysitter, it hit me. This was something we used to do all the time before kids. Walk hand in hand, him and I. To get groceries, to go to the movies, on the way to work. We would talk as we walked. We would just be.

And for the first time in what seems like forever I felt like me. Not like a mom, but that me I used to be.

I try to take time to myself when I can. I grab snatches of it during the day if both kids nap or if I let her watch some tv. At night I sit quietly by myself, reading, watching tv or playing on the Internet, trying to recharge myself for the next day.

I am so used to being a mom, spending my days doing mom things like wiping noses and breaking up fights, that I stopped seeing myself as anything else. It became who I am. Mom equaled me.

I am starting to remember that other me. It's been a long time, though, since I have last seen her. I hope we can get reacquainted. The two parts of me.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Daffodils and dandelions

We walk past everyday. Two small fields of flowers growing on the hills on either side of the highway that cuts through the city. On the north side the flowers are usually closed, seemingly resting in the shadow of the highway. On the south side the daffodil blooms are open and reaching toward the morning sun.

We stopped at the south side one morning after dropping the girl at school. Would you like to see the flowers? I asked the boy. Ye-ah he said.

I pushed the stroller off the sidewalk and onto the grass. I unclipped him from the stroller and we started walking towards the flowers. The boy got to the first cluster of green, flowers that were too new to have opened yet, and stopped. Excited, he sat down and pointed to a small yellow flower right in front of him, hiding almost, in the grass. A dandelion.

Do you want to see the daffodils? I asked, sweeping my arm toward the dozens of flowers stretching up the hill. Ye-ah he said. He stood up and walked along the edge of the field of daffodils until he came to another dandelion. Da! he exclaimed, happy to have found it.

I followed him as he continued to walk just beyond the field of flowers until we came to the sidewalk. There, nestled against the cement wall of the highway, we found a cluster of dandelions. The boy stopped and marveled at them all. I picked one for him and he clutched it in his hand as we walked away.

Monday, April 19, 2010

One room, two beds

Her bed is in the far corner. His is tucked under the window. Close to each other but still separated by a small bookcase overflowing with books.

I moved his bed into her room last Tuesday afternoon. She hadn't been sleeping. I was desperate. After waking for the third night in a row, and when she wakes she is up for hours at a time, I was ready to put a lock on her door and just deal with the screaming that would result. I had no patience left. Neither did the husband.

I didn't see another option. I needed to sleep. The husband needed to sleep. Apparently the only one that didn't did sleep was the girl. A lock it was, even though I knew that this would mean long nights of listening to her yell and soothing the boy back to sleep after her yelling would wake him. And feelings of guilt. I knew they would be coming too.

Then I stopped. Something I read made me consider the viability of doing the exact opposite of what we were about to do. Instead of leaving her alone in her room, we would give her company. Her brother.

If she was waking up because she was lonely or didn't want to be by herself, two things that she would often say to us at 2am, then we would give her someone to sleep with. Someone other then us!

So when the boy woke up from his nap on Tuesday, I stripped his bead of the mattress and slats and carefully maneuvered it out the door, down the short hallway and into the girl's room. The excitement of this lasted all afternoon. The kids played on their beds, on each other's bed and in their new room for an hour. We are having a sleepover! said the girl.

I am cautiously calling this move a success. The first night it was hard to get them to sleep given their excitement. The boy rolled around on his bed and played with the curtain. She had to sit up and check on him every time he made a noise. Since then bedtime has been fairly easy. The husband lies with the girl and tells her a story while I nurse the boy. Then we stay with them while they fall asleep. (I would love to transition out of that but let's just deal with one thing at a time, shall we).

The girl has been sleeping through the night most nights. One night she was up for three hours and that made be doubt our decision to put them in the same room. The husband ended up taking her to the boy's old room and lying with her on a mattress on the floor.

The next morning we had a talk with her and told her that if she wanted the boy to sleep in her room (which she does) then she can't wake up at night because it will wake him up too. We also introduced "sleep stars" to encourage her to sleep at night. If she sleeps through the night she gets a coloured star cut out of construction paper. For the first two night a star equalled a treat, like a new book or a paint set, but since then she has forgotten to ask for anything. And we haven't reminded her.

I want this to work. I think it will. It is. I just have to realize that there is not magic solution to her sleep. She will probably still wake up sometimes. If this makes it better though, maybe that is enough.

Plus they love it. They love sharing a room. They seem to love knowing that the other one is there, just across the room. Two beds in one room.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Words

Sometimes I pluck them from thin air. Sometimes I weight them carefully. Sometimes they roll around in my head for days, weeks even, just waiting for the right time to spill out through my fingers onto the screen of my computer.

Some words never leave my head. They stay there, forgotten, because I have moved on from whatever moment they were chosen for. Sometimes I think I have already written them down, recorded them here, when in fact I haven't.

Sometimes no words come. I try to pull them from me but I pull out nothing instead.

Sometimes I wonder if it matters. These words in my head or on the screen in front of me. These black lines against a white background.

What do they mean to me? What do they mean to you?

Sometimes I wish I could read my words outloud to you instead of having them echo only in your head. Do you pause where I would pause? Do you hear my sarcasm or my smiles?

These words help me to tell my stories. Sometimes I feel like choosing them, writing them, changing them, loving them, hating them, is also my story.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Perfect day

Nova tagged me awhile ago for a meme about my perfect day. I have spent all this time thinking about it and came up with the following. Can you tell that I am both a hair-splitter and a list maker?

1. My totally unrealistic perfect day

The husband and I wake up in a hotel in London. We have breakfast in bed before heading out into a beautiful spring day. We spend the morning wandering Notting Hill Market, and walking by my old flat, before grabbing lunch and heading to the British Museum to spend the afternoon. We have dinner somewhere lovely and romantic.

2. A maybe attainable perfect day

I wake up to a quiet house. Friends pick me up and we head to Le Nordik spa for a morning spent alternating between the sauna and the pools. We stop for lunch nearby at a great little vegetarian restaurant. The afternoon is spent getting pedicures at my favorite spa. Dinner is ready when I get home. The kids shower me with affection and then go to bed easily. I watch a video with the husband as we snuggle on the couch.

3. A totally within my reach perfect day

I wake up at 6:30 am. The kids wake up at 6:30 am. It is a beautiful day and the kids and I spend the morning at the park. There is no whining or crying or yelling. We have a healthy lunch at home that the kids eat all of. The boy has a long nap. The girl reads books. We have a play date with friends. There is no hitting or pushing or fighting. We have a healthy dinner at home that the kids eat all of. The kids are asleep by 7 pm. And sleep all night.


My perfect day is really so easy to pick. Number three hands down. But I think that I need to rename it. Sometimes it feels more like a totally unrealistic perfect day!

How about you? What would be your perfect way to spend the day?

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Cars!

Do you see any cars? I ask him as I push his stroller.

Ye-ah he says pointing to a red car we are walking past. Mine!

Is that your car? I ask.

Ye-ah he replies. All cars are his cars.

Do you see any more cars? I ask.

Ye-ah! He points to each car on the street as we walk past. 

This is a game we play often. It keeps him awake in the stroller as we walk to pick up the girl from preschool and then make our way home. Sometimes we play cats! or dogs!, but I think he likes cars! the best.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Feeling sorry

I was feeling sorry for myself this morning.

Sorry for myself that I have a child that likes to wake up for hours almost every night. Sorry for myself that we feel lost about how to get her to sleep. Sorry for myself for being exhausted all the time. Sorry for myself about not having lost the weight from my last pregnancy. Sorry for myself for not having the energy or will to exercise more. Sorry for myself that we don't have family in town.

Then I got a phone call. A friend was sick and home alone with her two kids. Could I help?

A switch was flicked. No more feeling sorry for myself.

The problems are still there. The exhaustion is still there. The weight is still squatting around my waist.

All the reasons to feel sorry for myself are still there. I will probably revisit them later. But not right now. Right now I am too busy.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Birthday party

It was her friend's, her best friend's, birthday party. She was nervous with anticipation about doing something new, but excited to be with him. Every time they had to stand in line she stood right behind him. His other friends stood behind her.

All over the gym floor they went. To the beam, to the vault, to the rings. He wanted to do everything, but not her. Some of it she would do. Crawling through tunnels, walking on a balance beam and jumping high into the air. Other things made her scared. I don't want to do that she said in a quivering voice to the instructor when asked to somersault or swing from the rope. That's okay sweetheart said the instructor.

I watched her having fun and trying hard to have fun even when she was scared. By the end it was all a bit much for her and she cried over the thought of getting on the trampoline. But then it was over and she was happy to have been there.

She sat beside her friend while she quietly ate her cheese pizza. She dragged the bag her present to him was hidden inside off of the party table and across the room so that she could watch him open it. It's a pizza cake she told him of the wooden toy.

Goodie bag in hand we headed home. Home to blow bubbles and watch her brother say ba-oon for the very first time as he pointed at the blue one in her hand.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Visitors

We have visitors.

They swooped in with books and stuffed friends for the kids. They took us out for dinner. They cleaned up the messes we make. They played ball with the kids and hid in the closet with them. They distracted the kids so I could sneak out. They held down the fort so we could both sneak out, together. They marveled at the children. They said we are doing a great job, that we are great parents and that the kids are great.

We have visitors and it is wonderful.

I may not let them leave.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Fine

I hate that word.

Fine.

It is the word I feel like I should say when people ask me how are you? The word that I think people want to hear from me instead of the truth. A pretending word.

Fine.

It implies that everything is alright. Everything is going along as expected, as hoped, according to some plan.

Fine

I hate it, but I say it. I say it when good is too much of a lie, but I don't want to share my reality with the person asking. I don't want to tell them that I'm tired and impatient and frustrated and worn out.

Fine

Maybe I already told them all of that yesterday and I don't want to have to say it all again. Maybe I don't want the judgments that will come with my truth, even if it is only a flicker I imagine in their eyes.

Fine

I am not depressed. I am not unhappy with my life. I do see the beauty and joy in the everyday.
I love my family.

But I am not always fine.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

The time before sleep

He rolls out of my arms where he had been nursing and onto the mattress beside me. I pull the blanket over him as he turns onto his tummy. I rub his back. I listen and wait foer his breathing to deepen.

Maaamaaa he says. Mama. Mmma-mma. Ma-ma. Ma-ma. Ma-ma. Mama!

Chanting the words as if the lyrics to a song he works his way through his ever expanding vocabulary of words.

Da-ie! Da-ie Da-die! Da, da, da, da! Da-ie!

Mai. Mai. Me. Me. Mai me.

Ma-ie. Ma, ma, ma. ma-ie. Ma-ieeeeee!

Over and over and over. Sometimes the words are punctuated with improvised yoga poses. Downward dog. Warrior. Sometimes he stands up and tries to climb the headboard of his bed or walk the length of his mattress.

When I get frustrated I leave the room and then his words turn into cries for me to come back. I do. Or the husband goes and lies beside him. Over and over we repeat that it is time for him to sleep.

But his brain is too busy. He has to make sense of all the things he learnt that day. The new things he saw. The new things he can do. The new things he can say. So he talk and talks and talks. Just like his sister used to do.

Then it stops. All of a sudden the words come to an end. He lays his head down. He sleeps.   

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Workout

I grab the suspended weight with both hands. With a firm grip I brace my legs and then push push push until the weight is up over my head. I pause for a moment, then let it go and step to the right to avoid its trajectory as it falls behind me.

Quickly, I jog back into position. I grab the second suspended weight and repeat the same motions. Gripping the weight. Pushing it over my head. Holding it suspended in the air. Letting it fall behind me.

I repeat and repeat and repeat until I collapse on the ground in exhaustion. Or I convince them to get out of the swings.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Easter candy

The husband opened the brown paper package. He had to use his Swiss army knife to cut through all the tape. Inside was candy. Lots of Easter candy. There were little chocolates wrapped in paper to look like ladybugs and butterflies and there mini Laura Secord chocolate eggs.

The girl ate half of a ladybug. The boy held up one of the yellow packages with the cream filled eggs inside. He wanted that.

The husband opened the package and handed the chocolate to the boy. He took a bite, splitting the candy in two. The cream filling spilled out. The piece in his mouth was spit out into my hand.

What's that the girl asked after her brother had wandered away.

It's chocolate I said.

Can I have it? she asked.

Sure I said.

She looked at the piece in my hand. She picked it up and licked it.

What's this? Is this cheese? she asked, puzzled.

No I laughed. It's candy I said as I reached out my hand and she dropped it into my open palm.

*

On Sunday morning they each received an Easter basket that had been brought up by grandma the last time she visited. One for him and one for her. The basket was packed with crayons and band aids and hair elastics (for the girl). And little chocolate eggs.

The eggs are being handed out a couple at a time. This afternoon the girl asked for some. I heard the negotiation from the other room. Finally both she and her brother arrived in front of me where I sat on the couch with a bowl of three chocolate eggs each. It appeared that the discussion ended in her favour.

As the boy passed in front of me I asked him if I could have one of his eggs. Would he share with me? Ye-ah he said and picked one from his bowl. Holding it between a finger and his thumb he brought it towards my mouth. Almost there, he snatched it back and laughed. Mine! he said.

I had to laugh too. He had finally learnt to say mine.

I laughed even more when he said he would share with this dad. That chocolate egg made it all the way onto the husband's tongue before being quickly pulled back.

Mine said the boy. Just in case we weren't clear.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Anticipation

Part of what I find hard when one of the kids is sick is the anticipation. The anticipation of the other one getting sick. I know it's coming. But then as the days pass my spirits lift and I begin to think that maybe, just maybe, it won't happen this time. Until it does.

The girl was sick last weekend. The boy was sick this weekend. Not as bad, but he still had a fever for three days and threw up one morning. We were just starting to recover from the week before, the house was getting cleaner and we were getting more sleep, and then then we went into a tailspin.

Now we wait again. Anticipating who will get in next. Hoping that it passes the two of us by.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

The cookie

The line at the cash was long. I shepherded the kids to the end, but the girl quickly peeled away to press her face against the display case. There, on the bottom shelf and right at her eye level, sat an assortment of animal cookies. Large sugar cookies iced as monkeys, frogs and bears.

I want a cookie she said.

I looked at the slow moving line in front of us. I considered my options. I thought about my energy level and the low blood sugar that had brought us here from the park in the first place.

Okay I said. We can get a cookie. But you have to share it with your brother.

That one she said, pointing to a monkey.

Seated in the corner, I started to peel off the sticker keeping the cookie closed within the plastic bag.

I'll do it she said grabbing at the bag. I'll break it in half.

Okay I said. But just wait. I need to open it!

No! No, I want to do it.

I know, I said, you can break the cookie but I am going to open the wrapper.

My fingers flew as fast as they could, but they were still to slow for her liking. When I finally handed her the opened package, she pulled the cookie out. Grasping each side, she quickly snapped the cookie in two. With one piece in each hand, she paused and examined the cookies. Almost similar in size, one was slightly larger than the other. I watched her face as she started at the cookies. Recognition flickered in her eyes. Decision made.

She passed the smaller cookie piece to her brother. He grabbed it happily. She was happy too.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

A boy and his stroller

Can you talk to him a minute, I say passing the phone over to the boy, I have to run upstairs.

Sure says the husband.

From all the way up the stairs I can hear his voice over the speaker phone mingling with his son's.

Are you having a good day?

Ya!

Are you reading a book?

Ya!

Did you drop the phone?

Ya!

What are you doing now? Are you sitting on the couch?

Ya!

Are you looking out the window?

Meow.

Do you see the cat?

Ya!

Be careful of the cat! Are you petting the cat?

Ya!

Are you being careful of the cat?

Ya!

I run down the stairs.

Don't worry I say. He is sitting strapped into his stroller in the middle of the living room. The phone is where he dropped it on the floor. The cat isn't even in the room.

Oh says the husband.

Thanks for occupying him I say.

No problem he says.

Then we say goodbye.

Kids in the Capital

We are live!

Today we are launching a new blog about parenting in Ottawa. Please welcome Kids in the Capital! We will be posting there everyday about activities we like to do with our kids around the city, as well as fun things to do at home. Some great local bloggers have agreed to blog for Kids in the Capital. If you want to join them just email us at kidsinthecapital@gmail.com and let us know. You can also email us with ideas or suggestions about topics you think we should blog about.

We had a hard time settling on a name for the blog. Thanks for all your suggestions. We loved Capital Kids, but ultimately felt it was just a little too close to Capital Mom. After much, much discussion we decided to choose Kids in the Capital and we are loving it!

I did promise cupcakes to the person whose name suggestion we picked. Funnily enough, we came up with Kids in the Capital on our own. Since zoom's Capital Kids suggestion was the second choice I am choosing to bestow my dozen cupcakes on her. zoom, let me know if you would like vanilla, chocolate or lemon cupcakes.

Now, everyone, please go and visit Kids in the Capital.