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Sunday, May 30, 2010

Whroo

He shakes his head at me. Whroo he says. Then he says it again to make sure I've understood. As if that is necessary. He may not be pronouncing the n sound yet, but his meaning is always clear.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Fingernails

The polish dripped off of the brush onto my fingernails and the surronding skin. It felt thick and wet. The girl swirled the brush until all the nail was covered. Pink on my right hand and sparkly purple on my left.

I look like a harlot I exclaimed to the husband as he sat next to me on the deck having his toe nails painted. The girl painted one foot, the boy the other.

The husband laughed. I held my hand up to the sun and watched them glisten.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Shoe

It was hot. The boy and I had been out all morning, running errands, at the park. He started to fall asleep on the way to pick the girl up from school so I made him get out of the stroller and walk.


The air was heavy and humid. We had just said goodbye to our friends and were blocks from our house when I noticed the girl didn’t have her shoes on. Where are your shoes? I asked sharply. Here she said. There was only one purple Croc sitting beside her in the stroller.

Where is your other shoe? I asked. I don’t know she said, unconcerned. I took a deep breath. I am very frustrated I said. You have to keep your shoes on in the stroller. My voice was rising. My anger was building.

I walked a few steps away from the kids to think about my options. I could go back and try to find the shoe. I didn’t know where it had been lost but I could look. I had already lost one of the boy’s shoes that morning on the way to the grocery store when he had pulled it off. I hadn’t found it.

I could abandon the shoe to its fate. But that was her only pair of sandals and it was too hot to wear her other shoes. Plus, I didn’t want to have to buy another pair.

I turned the stroller around and went back.

I met another mom on the way home from prechool with her two kids. Did you see a kids’ shoe? I asked her as I passed beside her. Yes, she said, it’s back by the high school. I swore and kept walking. I would have to walk almost all the way back to the girl’s school to find that stupid shoe.

The girl kept trying to talk to me. I can’t talk to you right now I said to her. I am very angry and I can’t talk. Please be quiet until we get home.

Down the block from the high school I spotted the shoe. Furious, I parked the stroller. Stay there I said to the kids. I walked towards the shoe. I watched a teenager pass in front of it, pointing and laughing. Then I watched a truck drive over it as it lay in the middle of the road.

Did you do this? I yell at a group of high school kids sitting nearby on the curb. Do you think this is funny? One of them shrugged as if to say, it wasn’t me. Well tell your friends then that it isn’t funny! I yelled at them as I walked away.

I wanted them to yell back. I wanted to unleash the rage that was building about the shoe and the extra walk and the fact that we had been so close to home on someone. None of them responded, so I had to walk away.

I started the walk home again. As I knew he would the boy fell asleep on this second walk home. I tried to keep him awake. Facing me in the back seat of the stroller, he hung onto the sides while he dozed off.

I locked the stroller brake in front of the house. Please go into the house and upstairs while I bring everything in I said. I want to water my sunflower said the girl about the little Styrofoam cup I had been handed by one of the teachers that morning. Where is it? she demanded. Please go upstairs I said through my clenched jaw. No! I want to water my flower she said picking it up from the side of the steps where I had left it in a rush this morning. She started walking towards the water tap at the front of the house.

I snapped.

Get in the house! I screamed. If you don’t get in the house I am going to throw away the flower! I grabbed her arm and dragged her up the steps. I imagined that all the parents in the park across the street heard me scream. I had never screamed like that before. She started to cry. She kept talking about the flower but she went into the house.

I lifted the sleeping boy out of the stroller and carried him over my shoulder while dragging the stroller up the steps behind me. I made it into the house and started taking his shoes off as I headed up to the second floor. The girl was standing at the top, still crying. I went pee she said. Good, now please go read some books in my room while I get the boy in bed.

I lay him down in his bed. I debated changing his diaper but couldn’t face the possibility that it might wake him up. She followed me into the room, crying and yelling about her flower. I turned to her and screamed again. Get out! You are not listening to me! Get out!

I could hear her crying as she walked down the hallway to my room. I settled the boy. I took a moment to calm down. I went to her and told her I was sorry I screamed. That I was frustrated about having to go back and get her shoe. That I was angry that she wasn’t listening to me. I gave her a hug. I said she had to stay there until I came back to get her.

I was feeling better. Everything was going to be fine. Then I walked into the bathroom and saw a wet cloth diaper lying on the bathroom floor. I had left it soaking in the toilet because it had been particularly foul. Now there was water and poo and a diaper on the floor.

I marched back to my room where she was reading books in bed. I yelled some more and carried her to the bathroom to show her the diaper. I made her wash her hands. I cleaned the floor. I said all the things I had already said that morning. That I was angry. That I was frustrated.

I left her sitting in my bed surrounded by books. I left her upset and walked away.

*

I wish I could say the rest of the day was better. There were moments. Eventually she and I sat together on the couch, watching TV. We talked about what happened. We cuddled. But there were still more standoffs. Moments where I was overcome because she wouldn’t do what I asked. Moments where I longed for nothing more than to be somewhere else.

When the husband came home I went to bed. I lay there trying to make sense of the day and figure out how it had all gone so wrong. Sometime before I fell asleep I decided that my reactions and responses were a sure sign that my period was coming. Not that it is a good excuse. But it is an explanation I recognized as the truth as soon as I thought it.

*

The girl is asleep now. I can’t sleep. My heart is too heavy, my mind too full. We all have days of failure. I can accept that. What is hard for me is the fear that this will be a sign of things to come.

I don’t want to be her friend. I know that she won’t always like me. I know that we will fight. But I want so badly, so desperately to be the mother she deserves. The mother I want.

And that is why I am crying right now. The fear that I am not that mother.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Ladybugs

The scooter is fire engine red. She loved it immediately. So did her brother. They bicker over it often, but while she proclaims her ownership she still lets him ride it.

The day after she opened this beloved gift from Grandma we headed to the local bike store. Before she was allowed to ride it outside of the house she needed a helmet. So did he.

Bundled into the stroller we walked to the store. Once inside the girl clamored to get out and was eager to find her new helmet. The boy stayed in the stroller, awestruck by all the new things around him.

The clerk fitted him for a helmet first. Bright yellow. Once it was picked he kept it on.

It took longer to find her a helmet. I told the lady that her head was large for her age, that she wore hats I had bought for myself. I don't think the clerk believed me. So we had to try lots and lots of helmet before finally moving up to a size large enough to fit.

The clerk placed a pink and purple helmet that screamed I am a girl on top of her head. You'll like this one she said, it's pink. I grimaced. The clerk must have seen me because she added Or you could have a helmet with ladybug. I want ladybugs said the girl. So she got ladybugs.

She loves her helmet almost as much as she loves her scooter. She wears it around the house. She wears it the entire time she is at the park, whether or not she is actually on her scooter.

She loves the ladybugs.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

The line

It starts a bit off centre, right at the top of my nose. It curves up between my eyebrows, skirting the small scar from when I picked at my chicken pox as a kid. It creeps into my forehead before suddenly stopping.

An inch. Maybe an inch and a half. I have a feeling it will keep growing.

I looked at myself in the mirror one morning and it was all I saw. I wondered when I had gotten so old. When I had gotten so stressed to warrant such a line. Where had it come from?

*

I stepped outside into the morning sun carrying a diaper bag and snacks and a stroller. Herding the kids down the stairs in front of me, I squinted at the brightness. Then I knew. The line wasn't just from the stress of being a mom, it was an occupational hazard of improper equipment.

I went back into the house for my black hat. I pulled it low onto my head, shading the line on my face. Then I started my day.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Little

His hands are so little. When I look at him across the room all I see is how big he has gotten. How tall he is. The things he can do.

When he puts his hand in mine as we walk down the street it feels so small. All I think about when I lie next to him at nap time, one of his hands clutching a toy car and the other clutching one of mine, is how little his hands are.

Her voice is so little. When I am with her all I hear is how old she is. How complex her sentences are. How loud her demands for snacks and her cries of excitement are.

On the rare occasion when I talk to her over the phone her voice sounds so young. All I can think about as I listen on my cell phone to the rise and fall of her words is how little her voice is.

They are still so little. Sometimes I forget that.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Elements

They are born under two different astrological signs, but I ignore all of that. Instead I just have to look around my house to know the elemental power they have.

Fire

She is a Leo. A fire sign. This I believe.

Only weeks after she was born our fridge died. The electrical components simply failed and it stopped working. The power was gone.

We bought a new fridge and grumbled about the age of the appliances in the house. A few short weeks later our stove slowly fell apart. First an element would no longer turn on. Then the oven.

We bought a new stove. I joked that she had the power to control electricity and that she decided that she would only bestow it upon new appliances. Her will was done.

Water

He is a Virgo. An earth sign. But to me, despite his dislike of swimming, he is water.

Months after he was born our dishwasher died. It would no longer turn on. Water wouldn't run in or out of it.

We had it fixed and grumbled about everything in the house needing to be replaced. A few months later the washing machine stopped working. The machine wouldn't spin. It wouldn't rinse. It died with a load of half-washed dirty diapers. We tried replacing one part, then another part, and finally both parts.

We spent a lot of money fixing it. I became friendly with the repair man who kept having to stop by. I joked that the boy didn't want to be left out. He wanted to exert his power too. To stake his claim on our lives.

In our small kitchen we have five appliances. Two use water to help us clean. Two use electricity to help us eat. All of those have died within the first six months of the birth of one of our kids. Only the dryer stands unaffected. Who knows how long that will last.

I do know the power of my kids. Maybe they don't really have power over the elements. But they do have raging, blazing, consuming, engulfing, enveloping power over me.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Resistance

I resist the gender stereotypes as much as I can. Yes, she has dresses but she often wears pants. Yes, he likes balls but he also plays with dolls. She plays with boys. He plays with girls.

I can feel things changing though. It makes me worried.

I am suddenly seeing a difference in how the kids interact with each other. The other girls at school come dressed in princess costumes. The boys at the park play with water guns. The play is slowly diverging as I watch the boys get more physical and the girls get more intricate in their storytelling. The boys are bad robbers chasing each other and the girl play school.

I try to resist encouraging the stereotypes. But sometimes I fail. I give him a bag of cars I bought second hand and he loves them. I give her frilly dress up costumes and she loves them.

I shouldn't even have them in the house. A Disney princess costume handed down from my cousins. She wore it yesterday and announced that she was a princess. How about you are a Queen I tell her. I can stomach her playing Queen. Queens are rulers and aren't just sitting around waiting for a man to come and save / marry them. No she said I am a princess. Okay, I said, then what is your superpower? Convinced now that princesses have superpowers she jumped very high and ran very fast.

That may not work again. But I will keep trying.

This morning I watched the girl at the birthday party of a dear friend of hers. The kids were babies when I met my friend and the two kids have spent many hours together over the years. Today she was the only girl at the party. Shy by nature when she finds herself in a new situation, she kept her distance from the pack of boys. While they ran around the garden she sat with me and the other adults at the table on the deck reading a book.

When the boys sat together around a small table eating their hot dogs and pointing at each other yelling You're a girl! No, I'm a boy! You're a girl I felt sad. Sad for her and what this might mean for the friendships she has with boys as they get older. Sad that there will come a time where she will feel left out because of her gender. Sad that calling other boys a girl is somehow funny. Sad that I know the funniness of it can morph into an insult.

I tell her she can do anything. I will tell him the same thing. But is saying that enough? What is the weight of my words compared to her peers and what she sees around her.

So. There are still dresses in our house. There are still cars. But there is also me. Trying to walk the line between resisting the stereotypes and resisting what they love.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Weaned

The boy has been weaned.

It happened through a combination of seizing the opportunities presented and being ready to wean. Me being ready.

After having the boy throw up on my chest three times while in the middle of nursing I decided to stop until the he was no longer horribly sick. This was a purely selfish decision. I didn't want to keep washing throw up off my bra. But saying no to him during this time made me think that it would be nice to say no period. The idea of actually weaning him, not just talking about it, was planted in my head.

Once he was better I said yes to most of his requests to nurse. But I also occasionally said no and offered him the option of a bottle of milk instead. He was uninterested in the bottle at first. I mean, why have cow milk when you can have breastmilk for free. But offering it to him got him used to holding it and playing with it and slowly he started to accepted it.

While we were in Montreal I only nursed him one night. He was overtired and wasn't happy to just lie down next to his dad and fall asleep. We hadn't brought a bottle with us or maybe I would have tried that. I nursed him again Monday night after we were back. And that was that. We were done.

He hasn't asked nurse since Tuesday. No more head tilts.

Now he climbs into bed with his bottle of milk and drinks it happily. Sometimes he passes it to me as I lie next to him at nap time, and then he snatches it back. Thursday night when the husband and I were out the babysitter watched as the girl lay next to her brother in bed holding his bottle for him while he drank it. Then she cuddled him while he fell asleep.

I don't feel sad. I feel a bit guilty that I don't feel sad but I was done. The boy is twenty months old now and I had breastfeed longer than I did with the girl. Even though this is it, no more babies and more more breastfeeding, I don't feel sad.

I'm ready for whatever comes next.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

The boys

I hear them as we start our walk across the bridge. Still pushing the stroller I see them across the street calling to us. Calling to the girl. They yell her name as loud as they can and wave to get her attention. I stop and point them out to her. She excitedly calls out their names and waves back to her two three year old friends. Two blond twin boys who love to tell her they love her. One likes to give her kisses and hugs and she gives him hugs and kisses back.

I start to push the stroller again. She finishes eating her bagel and cream cheese.

They keep yelling her name. All the way across the bridge they call to her. They keep their eyes on her. One knells in his stroller to get a better look at her. Even as we turn off to a side street they call her name.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Smiles

They smile at me as we walk by. Women swinging their lunch bags on their way to work. Men drinking coffee. Runners headed for the canal. Couples that peak into the stroller to look at my children and then share a look with each other.

Some days I want to stop them before they smile. Explain to them that yes, my children are adorable but wait, there is more. That one says no to everything I ask her. He refuses to put on his coat. I just spent twenty minutes trying to get them out the door. And this is a good day.

I want to tell those people that smile at my children that they sometimes drive me crazy! I want to explain that beyond their angelic looks are two strong willed little people with thought, wants and needs that often don't correspond with my own.

But then I think they probably already know that. If they don't they will soon learn.

So I let them smile at us. I smile back.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Montreal

Two train rides. There and back. A bag full of cars for him and a pile of books for her. And many, many snacks.

Walking down Sherbrook, the husband calling across the street to my sister. The boy calling too. Hugs and kisses and no shyness at all.

Standing on the street corner drinking a latte and eating natas from the bakery box. Playing in the neighbourhood park and eating too much take-out for dinner.

Kids sleeping in the stroller on the walk back to the hotel after a long day, despite my power walking and attempts to keep them awake.

A ride underground on the metro. Fast, fast through the dark tunnels. Watching the other passengers and swaying with the train.

Walking through the rain with my sister. Stopping for lunch and popping in and out of stores.

A few hours to ourselves. Not worrying about the kids. Relishing the time together.

Kids not sleeping in the hotel beds even though it is past their bedtimes. Lying under the covers snuggling while watching Alvin and the Chipmunks and eating popcorn.

Lots of coffee. Not a lot of sleep.

A hotel room that we trashed as if we were rock stars. Crayons on the sheets, goldfish ground into the carpet, dirty diapers in the garbage cans. Five dollars on the counter with a note of apology to the cleaner.

Returning home.

And over at Kids in the Capital ...

Besides this space, I have been enjoying my other blogging home over at Kids in the Capital. Some wonderful Ottawa bloggers have been writing some amazing posts about things they like to do with their kids in Ottawa. I have been doing some writing there too (and actually posting a few pictures of the kids every once in awhile).

If you live in Ottawa and aren't already reading it you should. You should also go and enter our first giveaway to win a family photo session next Saturday. Anna is a very talented local photographer. I know she will take some wonderful photos of the winner and family. I can't wait to see them.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Mother's day

This day is like any other. I mother them just the same. They may give me extra hugs and presents and hand print flowers that she made at school, but there isn't any difference.

Every day I am a mother. Every day I do this job. I do it willingly. I do lovingly. I do it consciously.

I mother them like I would want to be mothered. Sometimes my voice is raised, sometimes my patience leaves me. Always I am trying, just like they are trying.

We are partners, them and I. We work together every day to enjoy each other, learn from each other, be kind to each other.

Every day I am their mother and they are my family.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Desktop

I know it is there but it always catches me by surprise.

When I shut down the open windows on the laptop I see their faces staring back at me. The two of them sitting on the couch beside each other. The Christmas tree behind her right shoulder. One of her legs is drawn up and her smile is stretching across her face. A cautious smile after a laugh. She holds a box of Diego band aids in one hand and a yellow band aid in the other. His expression is one of muddled surprise. The index finger of his left hand plays with his left ear. His right hand rests on his head. He is about to speak. The both stare up beyond the photographer.

It is a funny picture. The expressions are slightly off kilter. And yet somehow this photo does more than just make me smile. It shows me their spirits.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Close your eyes

Close your eyes and you can smell him. His head is nestled under your chin. His hair tickles your nose.

You close your eyes to block out the sights and sounds of the park and the street beside you. You wrap one arm around him and grab hold of the swing with the other. He snuggles deeper into your lap. You push back with your feet and then sail forward. Back and forth you swing together.

Eyes closed so that you can smell the smell of him.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Learning life lessons

We headed to the local gelato parlour a few blocks from our house. The girl holding my hand, walking beside me and the husband pushing the boy in the stroller. We waited in line and I explained repeatedly to the girl why we had to wait at the end of the line instead of the front. We bought two kid cones. One vanilla and one strawberry.

By the time we reached the park the gelato had started to melt and drip onto the kids' fingers and hands and clothes. They didn't mind.

When the strawberry gelato melted below the top of the girl's waffle cone she handed it to me. Didn't she want to eat it, I thought to myself perplexed. I was happy to have it but couldn't believe that she was done. There I realized that she thought the gelato was done. Usually the ice cream treats she had were served up at home in a bowl. This was her first ice cream cone and she didn't know that she could eat it along with the sweet goodness inside. So I held the cone in front of her and showed her how she could bite into it. She did. Happily.

The boy ate some of his gelato, but left most of it for me. This was a good thing. Because while the girl was thrilled to consume her gelato and cone, I was less than thrilled to be wearing mine. Sick boys, even those that haven't thrown up in over six hours, should apparently not eat gelato.

Lessons learnt.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Amazing

Bodies are amazing things. The intricate workings of which I do not remotely understand, but still they amaze me. That I somehow conceived and bore these children amazes me. That one of said children can consume and then expel such a large volume of fluids amazes me most of all. Especially when he expels it all over me.

Thursday night I was sick. The husband was out and I was home alone putting both kids to bed. In retrospect the fact that the girl had a complete meltdown and cried through dinner should have been a sign that something was wrong. Missed that. Instead I made them sit through dinner before taking them up to bed. By the time pajamas were on she was exhausted. Still, she mustered enough energy to resist sleeping in her bed. Finally, finally she feel asleep in her brother's bed and slept through my moving her back to her own. The boy was harder to get to sleep. He was persistent in his resistance. I think it was some kind of test to my endurance because as soon as he was asleep I walked out of his room, down the stairs to the kitchen and grabbed a bowl. I threw up once, twice, three times.

Amazing. My body knew what it needed to do, but kindly waited until I was done doing what I needed to do. I guess I should be thankful for that. However, the husband is never allowed to go out at night ever again. The last time I had to put the boy to bed myself so he could go out I threw up then too. Twice may not make a pattern, but it is pattern enough for me.

Friday morning I stayed in bed. The husband went to work late, allowing me to recover from the violence of the illness. The rest of the day was fine. We all muddled through.

Friday night I sat on the boy's bed nursing him, looking forward to a few minutes to myself once he was asleep, when he unlatched and threw up all over my chest and arms. A lot. I managed to identify orange pieces.

I screamed. It seemed the only appropriate reaction. The girl, who wasn't asleep yet, sat up in bed and the husband came running up the stairs. There were outfit changes for both of us and a new set of sheets for the bed.

We settled back into the bedtime routine. The girl fell asleep. The boy asked to nurse, and well, you can imagine how that ended. This time he managed to turn his head enough so that he threw up on the bed and not on me. Still, two more outfit changes and a new set of sheets for the bed. This time the husband put him to sleep and I sat downstairs wondering how many more times he would throw up before he was better.

The answer so far is nine. Three more times in the night, five times during the day and then once when I nursed him tonight before bed. Because I don't seem to learn. But I am not going to take it personally. He may throw up on me, repeatedly, but he also loves me like crazy.

Amazing.