Thursday, December 20, 2012

The scarlet M

So I'm a Mom, I get it.  The capital M has been affixed with a makeshift paste of oatmeal, mashed banana, and squished-to-death frenchfries.  I should go cut my hair into a shoulder-length bob (Just long enough to pull into a ponytail!  All one length so you can cut it yourself!) and start drinking peppermint lattes and do whatever it is that today's mommy-cliche does.  Part of me is tempted to do just that - to really dive in and embrace the costume and habits of the subculture.  My Inner Nerd sometimes tells me that being a Mom can be like being a Goth or a Ham-radio operator: I can make it into a whole *thing* and be the Mommiest Mom I can be.  It can be fun!  Baby fandom!

But my Inner Nerd and my ovaries don't really speak the same language.  There's an integral disconnect between pretty much everything involved with the existence of my two children and....well, the whole rest of me.  My Inner Nerd is part of the unchanged core elements of my personality that I consider my Self.  My Inner Mom, so far, hasn't been granted that honour.  I've been a Mom for only 2 years or so, after all.  My nerd cred goes back to elementary school.  The Nerd part of me and the Mom part of me are trying to understand each other, and they get along, but....there's an element of distrust and an inability to really get what the other is trying to do.  They're like neighbours who have nothing in common but want to be friendly but don't want to be *too* friendly and get stuck with a 24/7 BFF.

So much of my personality is not Family-friendly.  So many of the things I think, say, and am interested in are inappropriate for children, and so inappropriate for Moms.  So much of my Self doesn't jibe with my hatchling MomSelf.  It messes with my head sometimes.  Casts me into existential crises weekly.  It's like the person that I am, that I still feel myself to be, is but a fuzzy shadow-image to strangers.  Once they see the toddler and the baby I cease to have, in their imaginations, the potential for being anything else - not an intellectual, or a weirdo, or a hipster or a neo-pagan or whatnot - I am a Mom and should be conversed with accordingly.  ("Wow, you must be pretty busy, huh?  They're so cute.")

But....I still think I'm cool!  I'm right here, under the snugli.  I'm fun and smart, but they can't see.  It's just weird.  Mommy Dysmorphic Disorder?

Monday, December 17, 2012

Bad Things Chicks Do No. 1

So I have been fighting the urge to take and post a photo of the tag of my pants.  Because I can't remember when I was last this size.  Because somehow this unintentional decrease in mass has made me inexplicably...proud.  At first I thought it was just a reasonably-healthy expression of pride in my post-babies-body-accomplishments.  Then I thought it was some semi-harmless narcissism.  Then I thought I could convince myself that it's somehow fitting, in a proto-feminist body-image post, and pretend that I wasn't really hoping to get virtual pats on the back.

If these were the real reasons, even the embarassing last one, I would take that pic and it would be all jpg-y in seconds.  That shit would be ON the internetz, cluttering it up with more me me me.
But I'm not going to take a photo - hell, I'm not even going to reveal the size.  Because what drives the whole concept is the beginning of a Bad Thing Chicks Do.

BTCDs happen.  We, as a gender, can often actually fulfill some of the stereotypes applied to us, and we, as a gender, do a lot of the same things.  Some of these things are self-sabotaging and stupid, and I blame the media for tricking us into them, but I'm not going to pretend we're not the ones actually perpetrating this behaviour, keeping it alive.  BTCDs seem to involve our body image or sense of beauty too often.  I like to think I resisted engaging in a lot of common BTCDs throughout my life....until After The Baby (tm)

I've never had a perfect body.  I've had dozens and dozens of stretch marks since I was twelve - they were angry purple stripes until almost 16.  I have a big moon face with freckles and three moles and a small jackknife scar on it.  I have winged shoulder blades and a sticky-outty rib and a farm-tan on my arms that never fades to match the fishbelly whiteness of the rest of my body.  My teeth are kind of crooked and my hair looks a lot like a drunk lion's mane.

But until I got pregnant for the first time, I never once thought of myself as ugly.

It was the water-retention that really did it to me.  The weight gain was only a little beyond the 'suggested weight gain' and I was ok with that.  But when the bloating started?  I kept no photos from my baby shower because my hideous doughy balloon-face made me cry.  And after the baby, when I had that floppy extra-belly worth of fatty skin to gaze down at every time I breastfed, I started, for the first time in my longish, nihilistic and fucked up life, to hate my body - really despise it, like it was something outside my Self.  Something I could battle, or at least resent.

Hating your body for no good reason is a classic BTCD.  As an umpteenth-wave proto-feminist I fought against it from my early puberty until somewhere in my late teens when I finally came to real acceptance of my own physical form.  Then I existed in a wonderful world of 'reasonably attractive and ok with that' until the aforementioned procreation.  Something about the whole process of pregnancy just left me open for all the newly-arrived Body Image harpies in my head, the constant hormonal fluctuations made me succumb to the resultant angst over and over, until it became a habit to allow those negative thoughts through.  I don't know when exactly it was that I crossed the line between self-effacing humour comments and bitter self-hating comments, but somewhere, there, me cracking wise about my imperfections became a string of small self-destroying words.  It became ok for me to make these harsh judgments about a body that was recovering from childbirth, to feel ashamed and not good enough.  To feel that my body had been broken, scarred, ruined.

Well, it hasn't been.  I know now that I was so very skewed, so very wrong.  In fact, I went back and had *another* baby.  I gained more weight this time, even.  I had another unscheduled c-section and another long slog through post-baby-belly why-me.  I still have a flabby stomach that will not win me any prizes, that I sometimes squeeze through my fingers like bread dough as if it's a costume I might be able to take off.

But I don't hate my doughy flesh.  And I don't hate *me* for wearing it.  Because I refuse to fall prey to the BTCD, not when I've already got so much on my plate, not when I have a chance to be a good example for my daughter, not when engaging in the behaviours will actually *make* me hate myself.

I am not perfect.  I am not beautiful.  I do not look the way I do in my head.  But that really doesn't matter.  Looks are, ultimately, such a small part of what makes a person loveable, no matter what the god damned media keeps trying to tell us.  I think my looks are 10% of what makes me myself, and I've decided my looks are 20% less appealing than I want them to be.  Not a huge defecit there, my 20% chunk of my 10% section.  See?  Doesn't matter.  Follow the math.  The math won't lie.

And I'm not going to tell you what size my pants are.  but here's a picture of my smile.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Attack of the Mombies

I was talking to my husband this morning - well, whining at him, really - about how erratic the childrens' sleep schedules are, how much energy they require, how tired I always am.  We've been watching The Walking Dead at night when we manage to get both kids to sleep in their own room, so I've got zombies on the brain too, as well as starting to resemble them more and more.

We've decided I have become one of the ambulatory undead.  That's right, somehow in the last 2.5 years I turned into a Mombie.  Part dedicated and loving mom, part falling-apart grotesquerie with dead soulless eyes.  Instead of hungering for brains, though, all I really want is sleep.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Some of you have little people, and  you are parenting them in a way that makes me glad I can't remember 1997-2000 clearly.  You're doing such an awesome job, and I tip my hat to you.

But most of you don't have teenagers yet. While you all know my biological son just turned 15, my "other son", the young man who is always here,  is 17.  These boys have been, as a duo, a constant in my life for five years now, and as always I've learned things the hard way.

If I could go back, and I mean that as a thought experiment because dear God don't make me parent little people ever again,  I would do some things differently:

  1. Go for a long walk every Sunday afternoon, after or instead of religious services.  Right now your littles run everywhere, but unless you're raising an athlete, couch time for video games and TV time gets FAR more appealing.  Tiring them out will make bedtime before the school week starts much easier.
  2. Have a full sit down, hot-food, everybody there dinner at least once a week. I like Sunday, but any regular, un-rushed day works.   Have everyone help make dinner.  Decorate the table, even if only with simple arts and crafts and flowers from the garden or local field  Once sitting, turn off anything that plugs in. Light candles.  Life gets busy, having this as a solid ritual is good.
  3. Once your kids are able to wield a butter knife without inevitable self-injury, assign each kid a night to make dinner once a week. If for the first five years of this you have peanut butter and jam sandwiches and whole apples with frenzies for dessert every tuesday, it's a win. They get a sense of power and responsibility, you get a night off cooking. Use the 'MyFoodGuide' to learn about food groups. As they grow teach them cooking stuff to replace the simple food.
  4. Learn to play at least one video game they like.  I'm never going to play Black Ops or Modern Warfare, but having Minecraft in common is REALLY helpful  We're getting Myst for the PS3 and will solve it together.  I may not play war games but I know what a 360, no-scope-crossmap hitmarker is enough to understand why they just went (happily) berserk over it.
  5. Don't ask them how their day was, because the answer will be "Fine."  Ask them the most interesting/challenging/weird part of their day, and let them know they can think about the answer and tell you before bedtime.  They will talk to you, it's like magic.
  6. When the dishes overwhelm you, reduce the dishes in your house to one plate, one bowl, one cup, one fork, one knife, one spoon each for the number of humans normally home.  Put the rest in a box, very tall shelf or (ideally lockable) hutch.  When teenagers are helping themselves to snacks they will use a new plate or cup every single time, leading to a catastrophic level of dish-washing greeting you on coming home.  If there are limited available cups/plates/cutlery etc they will actually wash something to use it again for something different.  I swear.
  7. Sit with them for at least 5 minutes every night at bedtime.  Tell them a story about when they were young. Tell them one (of the many) reasons they are awesome.   Yes, even teenagers need to hear that stuff, even if they pretend to be the most nonchalant  cooler-than-anybody human on the planet.  Once you say goodnight to them, take away their phone and ignore them unless you smell fire.
  8. Have allowance be contingent on, if nothing else, successful completion of daily showers.  Teenage boy goat smell is. . . . undesirable, and it's like they get afraid of water at 13.  Conversely, once you get them into the shower, have cheap extra towels to mop up the swamp that they'll leave on the floor.
  9. Knock before you enter their room, and respect their privacy. If it needs to be cleaned, clean it with them. If you need to enter, ask them first. They will respect your privacy once they realize how much they like theirs.
  10. Have a board game you both like, play it together. Compete. With my son and I now it's Settlers of Cattan, but when he was little it was Rummoli and when he was really small it was Fruit Salad and Sneaky Snake and Memory.
  11. Ask for hugs in public.  9/10 they are going to say no, 'cause a hug from mom in public will end the world, but keep asking. Sometimes they will let you. There is little so awesome as the feel of your little boy resting his chin on the top of your head. (My 'little boy' is now 6'0") 
  12. When you most want to freak out, don't freak out.  I know, it's hard, but SO worth it. How I handled the 'caught shoplifting' thing  is something I credit with a lot of the very frank conversations we have about a lot of stuff here. I used a lot of 'I" statements, expressed disappointment, talked about the consequences of starting on that kind of path, and expressed a strong conviction that my boys would learn from their mistake and go on to make me very proud. (I then made the punishment fit the crime)
  13. Reward good grades with cash money.  My mom and I set the bar every year - This year it's a minimum of 70% in every class, and a dollar for every point above that, for each class. My mom is talking about doubling it for marks in the 80s and tripling it for marks in the 90s.  (Keep in mind that my son is in an appropriate stream for his abilities, goes to tutoring twice a week and has an IEP in place, and gets support at home with organization and homework)  If  one grade is temporarily low but the teacher gives a glowing account of effort, that counts for a special bonus of some kind. They way we explained it, the workforce rewards diligent work with better opportunities and higher pay.  If you don't work to excel to the best of your abilities they stop paying you.  I want that to sink in  before he gets there.  
That's about the sum total of my learned-the-hard-way advice. 

Well, other than "wear shoes 'cause lego, plastic army guys and marbles hurt like hell to step on" 


Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Mommy Wars: Swim Win

I owe you a couple of updates on the mommy wars, which are held up by a lack of pictures.  I decided to go ahead and trust that my audience doesn't need shiny stuff to keep reading.

I took the baby to his first swimming lesson recently.  This might not seem newsworthy, but I would like to point out two factors; first, that I am heavy (the BMI calculation labels me "obese"), and second, that I have a water phobia.  Being in a bathing suit in a public place, and being near (never mind in) more than a teapot full of water, are two things that I generally work pretty hard to avoid.

There were also minor annoyances; having missed the first class, feeling like we were already behind and wouldn't know the routine, and being ten minutes late for no good reason other than I was probably subconsciously trying to sabotage the whole thing.

The thing is, though, once we were finally there and suited up and in the pool and introduced... the baby LOVED it.  He didn't cry once.  He floated on his back and on his front, and splashed with his hands.  He loved the other baby who was his age, and the toddler who insisted in kissing him, and the "big" boy and girl who could kick and push off from the edge.  I didn't love it quite so much, but I managed to stay in the water the whole 20 minutes of the class.

The best part was in the last few minutes of class, when the ladies started arriving on deck for their shallow-water Aquafit class.  They were in their 70s and 80s, I would guess.  Some were in Speedos, some in sexy ruched glamour suits, and all unself-consciously chatting away to their friends.  The best was the little old lady who waited for someone to open the change-room door, so she could push her walker out onto the pool deck and right up to the edge of the water.  I watched these fabulous women and felt tears pricking my eyes.  I wanted to be them when I grow up.  Hell, I want to start being them now; comfortable in their skins and their swimsuits, at the pool just because they love it.  And since all of this is happening in my head, I can control (or at least affect) it, and I'm going to try to do it.

This isn't really a "Mommy Wars" win, since I didn't take him to one of the low-chlorine, special baby-friendly swimming pools.  But it's a perfect example of how doing something that's good for him is good for me too.  Now I'm off to research Adult Learn-To-Swim classes and buy one of those Speedos...

Sunday, November 4, 2012

A Little Time-Change Miracle

Everyone seems to love to talk about the extra hour of sleep you get when the clock goes back in the fall.  I don't know why, because there are plenty of people with little kids in the world, and those people all know that you are not getting an extra hour of sleep.

What you are really getting is Junior waking up at 5:30am instead of 6:30am, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, and ready to start his day.  My oldest, who is almost 15, has an incredible circadian clock.  He has woken up at 6:30am pretty much every morning of his life; time changes and jet lag throw him off for a few days, but he adjusts quickly.  I'm not proud of this, but I taught him how to go on the computer in my bedroom and play his games (back in the "Pajama Sam" days) when he was about three, just so I could stay in bed a little longer.

I've been dreading this time change.  Our little foster baby is nine months old, and he has just learned to pull himself up to standing.  The crib is a perfect place to practice that.  As a result, the past week has been a no-nap nightmare.  Yesterday, for instance, he woke up at 7:30am.  At about 9am I spent an hour and a half putting him down for his morning nap.  He slept for an hour.  At about 2:30pm I spent two and a half hours putting him down for an afternoon nap.  At that point he was so exhausted that he slept for three hours, waking up at the time he would usually be going to bed.  We didn't mind too much because we were going to a 50th birthday party next door, so we took him along for a couple of hours until he was sleepy, then my husband brought him home and put him to bed.

Did I mention he's still up twice a night as well?

By 10:30 this morning it was time to try for a nap.  I offered to start the process if my husband would go to McDonalds to pick up a hangover cure, which he obligingly did.  I fed the baby, and realized his eyes were fluttering closed.  I put him in the crib; he rolled over and grabbed his blanket.  I thought... could this be it?  No, he dragged himself up to standing and gave me a big wrinkled-nose grin.  I laid him back down, on the verge of tears, thinking that like yesterday, I'd be repeating the process for the next hour and a half.  And, much to my surprise... he went to sleep.  I thought my breakfast would be stone cold before I got to eat it, and instead it was still on its way.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Why I eat @ trashy fastfood joints

If you're a parent, and you go out to eat with your younglings, you probably understand me a little already.  If you have a baby or toddler and you're still going to the nice sit-down thai restaurant or that sweet downtown pub, and everyone is well-behaved and quiet and no one is infringing upon the grown-up Peace and Quiet (capitals are well-deserved!) and all of your friends etc. think it's totally cool and appropriate for you to have brought said younglings, well, you're as imaginary as my justification for this run-on sentence.

The term 'Family Friendly' exists for a reason.  It's not just another case of a buzzword being created by an industry that wants to keep us fat and complacent.  It is a secret code-word, a word of Power.
Family Friendly tells us we're allowed to bring small humans who occasionally yell or throw tiny packets of jam or demand to SEE DEM FISHES AGAIN, MUMMA!  This lovely double-F lets us know that there will be a child's menu for you to optimistically order from (while your child eats half of your grilled cheese, instead) and boosterseats and possibly those placemats with mazes that come with crayons to colour with. Weapons to keep the child-boredom-rage at bay.

But of course the most important thing is that you won't be the only one with a child there.  You will be quietly assigned to the Child-Heavy Quarter of the restaurant, and your child will stare/yell at/dance for/gape quietly at all the other children.  And your hackles and sense of parents-in-public guilt won't immediately jump up every time your youngling shouts "Bear!" or starts kicking the table leg or starts singing Doddlebops tunes in an off-key fake mexican accent. 

Family Friendly means just that, but more: it really means Wee-Child and Overtaxed Parents Friendly.  It means you can let your child be him or herself for half an hour while you consume four thousand calories one-handed, wthout spending the whole time trying to monitor and correct behaviours that really aren't bad - not expressions of aggression or petulance or spite, just little sparks of boredom and adventurousness.  You're allowed to have a new baby that sometimes cries, a toddler that demands everyone SEE and WORSHIP her, and you're allowed to eat something resembling food, something that doesn't come in powerbar or instant-packet form.
To me, that's worth the cultural embarrassment I feel for this horrible downgrade in my Fine Dining.  It makes up for the facts that these burgers are only 35% as tasty as the ones I could get at a pub, that we don't get the option of wine with dinner ever again, that napkins shall evermore be paper, amen.

I go to these places now because I want tasty food that I didn't cook, no mater how classless that food is, and I want to be forgiven, for the duration of that meal, for bringing a source of random and ceaseless Noise (or in my case, two) into the world.
Also, I go there for the fries.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Food Waste

For the first month or so on solid food, Luna couldn't get enough of it.  She ate the food we gave her messily but with gusto, and often bugged us for more.  The first couple of months on finger-foods was the same.  She'd eat as much of the food given as she could before it was crushed into inedible chunks by her little fist.

Now, as a two year old, I swear she eats 25% of the food I give her on any given day.  A portion of the rest will make it into the fridge, another portion will be scattered all over the house when she's bored enough to start getting creative, and, often, a portion of her rejected (and sometimes already a bit chewed on, I'm not going to lie) food will constitute my "lunch" or "dinner."
Some foods don't work well as leftovers, and/or aren't tasty enough for me to eat.  So I've started coming up with (and testing) alternate uses for baby/toddler leftovers.
  1. Baby cereal makes a great face mask.  I use the remaining apple/cinnamon/oats nestle cereal as a skin-smoothing mask.  It dries quickly, washes off easily, and makes you smell a little bit like pie.  And it means you don't have to soak and wash a bunch of crusty oatmeal out of a tiny plastic bowl.  What's not to love?
  2. Pureed fruit can also be a great way to get some of that lovely AHA onto your skin (though I'm suggesting you avoid too much blueberry or strawberry, who knows if this stuff stains skin?)  I've used apples, pears, and strawberry/banana as a let-dry-and-wash-off face mask.  Bonus: you end up smelling kinda like a scratch 'n sniff sticker!  (Note: Google suggests that tropical fruits and apples have the most AHA, and that adding lactic acid (yep, milk!) to the mix can be good for dry skin.)
  3. Cold frenchfries dipped in ketchup make great paintbrushes, if you like the whole Arte de Cuisine thing.  If you find yourself with too many, you can also build tiny log cabins out of them, that you can then paint with the ketchup.  Or drown it in a gravy-based landslide.  Whatever..
  4. Broken arrowroot cookies + milk = tasty baby mash.  Broken arrowroot cookies crumbled into icecream, which is then drizzled with Bailey's, can make a tasty mommy mash.
  5. Crushed up goldfish crackers can find new purpose as hidden crunchy bits in a toddler omelette, or as a thickener for soup, or (let's face it) just as powdered dayglo orange decoration for any and all surfaces.  My apartment is like a cheesy snowglobe. 
That's all I've got for now, but this adventure in learning will continue.

Monday, September 17, 2012

The Cake Is A Lie

I spent the last two weeks of the summer waiting not-so-patiently for school to start again and for things to get back to normal.  I concocted elaborate daydreams about family dinners where my family sits around a table bathed in warm golden light.  The table is laid with healthy, delicious food and everyone (even the 3-year-old) laughingly recounts amusing anecdotes from their day.  The house is clean (because I have time to do that now) and I have magically lost 25 lbs and found an entirely new and glamorous wardrobe (hey - it's my daydream!).

The reality is a little more grim.  I failed to take several big transitions into account.  Andrew is six weeks into a new job that has effectively tripled his commute.  At the same time (because he has better access to reasonably priced grocery stores) he has taken over doing all of the groceries, necessitating a weekly menu plan.  While this works in theory, it has yet to succeed in practice, so I typically have produce OR meat OR canned goods in the house, but have yet to achieve all three in the house at the same time.   This leads to some ... interesting ... meals.

Mischief has just started SK, and was really really excited to go back.  Her best friend is in her class along with several of her classmates from last year, and she has the same teacher.  The problem seems to be that her school has adopted full-day kindergarten this year, so she's having to transition from being at school for 2 hours and 45 minutes per day to being there for 6.5 hours.  She has spent the last two weeks crying at the drop of a hat, and being SO clingy that I'm thinking about changing her nickname from Mischief to Limpet.  I've talked to her teacher about it, and she seems happy enough at school, but at home she's just misery personified, and earlier bedtime doesn't seem to be helping.

Then there's Trouble.  Never has a child been so aptly nicknamed.  I had another beautiful daydream about the two of us spending quality time together once Mischief was back in school and figuring out potty training and doing classes and running through fields of flowers holding hands and laughing.  Of those things, the potty training is the only one that seems to be working out, and that's ALL Trouble and very little me.  His behaviour lately just makes me want to cry.  When he's happy, he's the sweetest little kid you've ever seen, but when he's angry...  well, let's just say that although Captain America is his favourite Avenger, in real life he does a better job emulating The Hulk.  There's screaming - endless screaming - and hitting and kicking and throwing things.  And screaming.  He screams that he wants you over and over and over.  When you give in and go to him, he screams at you to go away.  If you go away, he screams for you to come back.  If you go to him despite his demands for you to leave, he throws things at you and hits.  When he gets really mad, he bites.  I've tried ignoring the behaviour.  I've tried punishing it, I've tried appeasing it, I've even tried bribery.  Nothing works, and I'm really at my wits' end.

This whole "bad mommy" thing was pretty tongue-in-cheek, because I really feel that we're all doing our absolute best as parents and I was irritated at the whole "better-mom-than-thou" vibe I was getting, but my inability to work through this behaviour thing with Trouble really DOES leave me feeling like a bad parent.  I feel so helpless and ANGRY and embarrassed when he acts out and I can't immediately put an end to it, and then I feel guilty for being angry with a three year old.  Then he throws a car at me and I'm angry again.  I recognize that it's probably a phase, and that he's going through a big transition too - getting used to the absence of his sister all day is a big change.  But I've been around a large number of women with small boys, and not one of them has ever said to me, "you know, my son has turned into a raging little violent monster and since they don't make straightjackets small enough for toddlers (*), I just don't know what to do with him."  I wish just one of them had said something like that - I wouldn't feel so alone in this.

Anyway.  School has been back for two weeks, and my beautiful daydream of a perfect home-life has yet to manifest.  I think I'll give it another two weeks, and then I'll have to revise.

* I don't know if they DO make toddler-sized straightjackets.  Although I've lovingly caressed the idea when Trouble was mid-tantrum, I've never ACTUALLY looked into it.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

The first skirmish

After writing my brave manifesto last Sunday, I lay awake that night trying to figure out what my first move should be.  The next day bright and early, I stood at the foot of Mr. Baby's crib, saying "good morning!".  I took a close look at him.  Why not start with the child himself, I thought, and work out from there?  He's clean, and as well-groomed as one can be who only has about a hundredth of a gram of hair... but the clothes, ah, the clothes.  There's a challenge!

He looked pretty cute in his penguin sleeper, although I giggled nervously to myself as I considered the background they're on... kind of a bright, light red, could I say?  Or, well, to be honest, those penguins are cavorting on a shocking pink background, the kind that screams THIS IS A GIRL BABY! to casual passersby.

We're big fans of hand-me-downs in this house... witness the fact that I'm wearing a pair of my mother's cast-off pyjamas as I type this, and even my fourteen-year-old didn't turn up his nose at a bag of shirts from the neighbour's 20-something son last week.  The baby's current crop of sleepers are from a dear friend who, when hearing that Baby had outgrown all the ones that fit when the weather got warm in the spring, turned out her daughter's dresser drawer on the spot and promptly sorted out the too-small ones for me to take home.  So, lately his nightwear has consisted of a lot of flowers, frogs with pink ribbons, sea creatures in pink and purple, and other adorableness that I wouldn't have had an excuse to buy.

This is the hand-knit sweater Pinterest says he should be wearing.
Vintage is all very well, but I've never really developed the knack of taking "used" and putting it together in a snazzy way.  I figured I had better fall back on my mad knitting skillz, but babies are not exactly famous for giving you time to knit.  I rifled through a memory box and found a striped navy sweater I'd knitted the first time around, and put it on baby with a plain t-shirt and a pair of jeans (coincidentally hand-me-downs from another blogger on the site).  He looked pretty cute, and I tentatively chalked one up for my side of the battle.

The cat-hair covered, misshapen, and apparently hole-y sweater he actually wore.
Later that day we were out on the subway, making our twice-weekly pilgrimage to the office where I drop off and pick up the work for my main paid gig.  Baby sat eagerly upright in his stroller, smiling and laughing at any person he could make eye contact with.  I was able to relax and enjoy, until I suddenly noticed something on the sweater - I leaned in closer and found - a hole!  Right on the arm, big enough to show clearly the white of the t-shirt underneath.  Obviously it wasn't bad enough for me to notice in the hours before that, but boy, did it stick out once I'd noticed it.

So, in summary... week 1, sartorial challenged, battle lost.

On the upside, though, notice what I did for you there?  I joined Pinterest just so I could steal a picture to show you. 

Monday, September 10, 2012

Winning the Mommy Wars

I often have a secret 'theme' for my life.  It's a little catchphrase that really only means something to me; it helps to keep me focused on what's important to me at the time.  It will stick with me for a few months or maybe as long as half a year, then gets replaced.

It's time for a new one, and I'm going to share it because it fits the theme of this blog so nicely.  It doesn't take a psychologist to guess that fostering a baby is bringing out a thread of perfectionism in me, with the desire to "get it right" this time.  Almost 15 years ago now I had my first baby, and the first six months were miserable.  He didn't sleep well, it took forever to get breastfeeding working properly, it was the dead of winter, I had no friends with babies, and no family in town.  I probably had post-partum depression, but who was there around to notice?  On the one hand I hated going back to work and leaving my son with a babysitter at six months, but I was also partly relieved, having felt like an abject failure as a stay-at-home Mom.

So!  Here I am doing it again.  The first bewildering few months are over, when lack of sleep impairs any brain activity whatsoever.  The following honeymoon period (which seemed to last about five minutes) is also over, and our cute little cuddly baby has turned into an opinionated, screaming (not to mention teething) little so-and-so that pushes me away and eagerly awaits the day when he can crawl away from me, which is coming soon.

It's time to get re-focused (at least that's what today's beautiful September weather tells me) and step up my game.  So, the theme for the next four or five months, until the baby moves on, is.... "Winning the Mommy Wars".  Aim high!, they say, right?  Although do motivational experts generally advocate a combative approach?  Probably not.  Oh well.

I promise to share with you how this all works out for me, which is, after all, why I'm telling you this.  First I'll have to do some research, to nail down in a bit more detail all the areas I need to work on.  That's probably going to entail reading some mommy blogs, which I'm already apprehensive about.  That's not something I had to worry about the first time around.  Which reminds me, I should ask, what do I realistically expect to be different about my role this time?  To be honest, not much.  I expect I will abjectly fail again, but this time... I hope to keep my sense of humour about it all.  And of course, share it all with you.

Friday, September 7, 2012

I'm home all day, every day. I have a teenager.  I currently do not work. I am able bodied and my mental health is at about a solid functional 70%.  

And here's a quick glimpse into my apartment, as of right this minute. 

So,. please, cut yourself some slack?  

I see you ladies, with babies and toddlers, pre-schoolers and busy school age kids.  I see the activities and outings and  the fun. I see the baking and the  playing. You do it tired and sick. You do it when your child is ill, and  the clingiest human ever.  You do it when your husbands and partners are away. 

I won't judge you, ever. If I'm concerned and you look like you're sinking, I'll offer to help. If I don't offer the right thing, tell me what the right thing is. Feel free to tell me that you're find. Feel free to change your mind on that.  

Recently my son and I played boardgames, and debated over the dimenions of a Man-of-War (which I was building in mine craft) and laughed ourself into tears watching babies laugh and cats drink from taps.

We could have been cleaning, but prioritized lounging, hence the mess.

I've told my son that now that school is back, and I can make a concentrated effort to job search from 8:15 till 3:30, that I'm NOT doing housework during that time. I just won't.  We both wear clothes, eat food and make mess, dammit we can both clean it up, weekends and evenings.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

who is this guy Ty Malone? he sounds fun.

So I find the creation of spreadsheets soothing.  There's something about the neat columns and the formulae that helps me believe, briefly, that anything exists but chaos.  It's been a rough few days, so I intentionally opened open office for some therapy.  Even though there was a baby in my lap, for those few mins. I felt like I was on vacation.

you may notice this graph isn't quite funny.  that's because it's real.
but....ooooh!  pretty colours!  amiright?

Monday, July 30, 2012

Can I Fit in a Bouncy Castle?

My daughter, Luna, is turning 2 in 1 month.  I decided that we should have a birthday party - with other kids and their parents - in the park, and started planning a couple of weeks ago.
Now I know a 2 year old doesn't really *need* a party, that she probably wouldn't even know it was her birthday if we didn't mention it.  And I know there's a cliche of already-tired parents wearing themselves out planning giant fetes that cost more than a small island country.  I know all the things you're thinking, right now.

But the party isn't really *for* her, exactly, is it?  It's for her dad and I, we can, just this once, be surrounded by friends who know what it's about.  People who will also have to chase their toddler around and pick up dropped food and wipe snotty noses and never ever have a complete conversation ever again.  I feel that in this sort of modified party setting I can really shine.  Ok, sort of shimmer, at best.  But the point is, I expect I'll be comfortable and feel less lame if everyone else @ the party has a tiny master or two that they obey, like I do.
I like parties.  I like fun.  Shocking, I know.  And I like the idea of feeling, just this once, that I'm part of the majority in my friend-group, one of *many* parents, not the one parent among all the cool people.  I love hanging out with my non-childed friends, but when I'm with them, after a while, I feel nostalgic for the freedom and simplicity of pre-baby life.  Too many lunches cut short by tantrums or no-naps and I start to feel like an alien among my peers.  It's good to be around other parents sometimes, to escape that feeling of Utter Uncoolness.

Playdates are the same, now that I'm finally coming to understand what they're really for.  Within the context of the playdate itself, I don't feel like I miss being the fun pre-parent Holly.  I don't compare the 'fun' I'm having with past Times of Awesome (tm) - because (and this tenuous messed-up pseudo-logic really does help me) Pre-parent Holly never WENT on playdates.  So she doesn't exist in this playdate dimension.  So I can't compare myself to her.  So I don't.

So I will collect my friends-in-the-same-boat and we will chase our children around and frolic in their cuteness and panic about their safety and (if we're lucky) manage to eat a tiny burger or two, ourselves.  It's gonna be great.  I'm just going to admit this, shall I?  I'm throwing *myself* a kiddy art & pirates party for Luna's 2 yr birthday.  ;)

Friday, July 6, 2012

Nap planning

A friend of mine (who happens to have four children) commented lately that she wished kids would tell you how long they were going to nap, when they went down.  Thirty minutes?  Good, put up your feet and read a book.  Three hours?  Start a major project.

To that I would add, that I wish when the baby went down at 4pm today, he'd told me whether he was going down for the night or not.  He has a pretty reliable 7pm bedtime, but it's 7:30pm now and he's still asleep.  Is this it, or do I have an hour and a half of misery before me this evening?  He normally wakes up at 5am; so if he sleeps through the evening, is he going to think it's morning at 2am?  The possibilities are mind boggling.

Perhaps he heard the rumour that a new baby toothbrush arrived in the house today, to brush the two tiny pearly whites that popped out of his gums last week.  I would believe that kids would go to these lengths to avoid getting their teeth brushed.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Morality for Toddlers

Yesterday I found myself trying to explain Spiderman's Law to my nearly-2 year old daughter Luna.  It's harder than you think, breaking down the concept for a toddler....I couldn't manage it.  I couldn't explain it in a way that she seems to understand, but I'll keep trying.

This is a lesson I fear Luna may need to learn and re-learn a few times, as she's....a bit.... tempestuous.  She is a very assertive little girl with an invincibility complex and a sense of entitlement, and my goal is to encourage her to rise above her immediate Hulk Smash! rage responses.  The worst thing I could ever imagine one of my children growing up to be is a bully, and I won't have it.  Strong is good.  Over-emotional is acceptable.  Wanting to oppress others is not. 

Anyway, I'm rambling.  This was meant to be a short post.  I was just observing her in her natural environs and thinking about it.  So far, there is a bare-bones "morality" that I see manifesting in my toddler - I think there is a special very basic pattern of moral learning that is forming in her little brain.  I suspect there may be similarities in other toddlers, but frankly I hardly leave the house so my view of the world @ large is limited.  :)

Luna's Code of Honour:
  1. Don't make people cry - by hitting, usually.  (it's mean.)
  2. Don't take toys from other people who are playing with them.  (it's selfish and may result in breaking rule #1)
  3. Don't spit chewed up food on the floor.  (it's rude and gross.)
It turns out that I can't really think of any other "moral" rules that she's starting to follow.  And I often think that these few moral codes she follows aren't followed because she understands and *wants* to be nice, but just because she knows I'm serious about them. 

I've tried to teach her the golden rule, and about karma, but her brain doesn't seem to grasp these complex ideas yet, and that's fine, I guess.  I don't mind keeping her in check until she's able to act kindly on her own.  For now I'll take what I can get, and just keep her from biting other kids.  :)

What moral rules do you see @ work in your kids?

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

The world is a dirty, dirty place...

  A few years before kids came along, my roommate happened to be one of my good friends.  This particular friend lived with "CDO"--which as the joke she told goes, is OCD, only in alphabetical order like it should be.  She kept everything quite nearly sterile in the apartment (not gonna lie--I loved it).  She jumped into the parenting world about two years before Abriella entered the world, and good naturedly took the teasing that her son would be the cleanest little boy in the world, with the weakest immune system due to lack of exposure to dirt.  Her sister, also one of my close friends, told me one afternoon that every time she saw her nephew she was going to make it a point that the kid got to play in a bit of dirt.

  I have slight CDO tendencies myself.  I know that, and as a result...I've become more than a little obsessive about NOT being obsessive about things when I'm aware of them.  Did you catch all that?  Okay. good.

  Abriella is 13 months old.  She walks, she talks, and lately...she picks stuff up.  This is fine at home.

"Yes, Abby, that is your teddy bear.  Can Mama give him a hug?"

"Yes, you found the microscopic piece of paper that was under the table.  Good job!"

"Thank you, sweetie, for bringing Mommy every single item from your toy box.  I always wanted to be buried alive!"

...Today, at the park, not so much.  It's hot here in the south, a wet, sticky kind of hot.  So we were out for our walk rather early...the grass still felt squishy and damp, and just a bit cool.  Abby loves to play in the grass, and especially...loves to pick up things she finds in it.  Or, perhaps, the stuff in the wood chip filled playground.  Like chewed gum.

 "Yes, Abby, that is chewed up gum.  It's trash.  Let's go put it in the trash can..."

  I lifted her up, she dropped the wad of discolored pink-ish gum stuck to a large piece of wood into the trash can, I set her down and was thinking about getting a Wet One out.  But it's just a little dirt, right?  It's good for her immune system.  Besides, she's teething and not letting that pacifier out of her sight (despite me thinking I really had found all of them and got rid of them) it'll be fine.

  And she's walking off towards a lovely old oak tree anyway.

  And she's bending over.

 "Mama? MAMA!"

  She turns, holding out what obviously must be one finger of a rubber glove.  I snatch it from her hand and in .000001 second, it's in the trash.

  Another .000001 second passes and that individually packaged Wet One is open and her hands are clean.

  And I know what you're thinking.  And you aren't allowed to say it.  Don't even continue thinking it.  Because it was one finger off of a large rubber glove.  It was very, very clearly a glove in the moment I had it in my hand.  It couldn't have been anything else because...there is not enough hand sanitizer in the world.

Monday, June 25, 2012


The baby at our house is almost five months old now.  He's sleeping better, so I can put him down for a nap and wander away to work on the computer for an hour or two until I hear him fussing.

There's apparently another new baby in the neighbourhood too, and now that the weather is nice and the windows are open, we hear that baby.  And whatever they might say about a mother knowing the sound of her baby's cry, that baby sounds a LOT like ours, at least when I've got an ear cocked towards the upstairs waiting for the faintest noise.

Somehow we have started referring to the other baby as "Outside Baby".  Perhaps we're both sitting in the kitchen, and we hear a cry... my husband will say "Is that Outside Baby or our baby?".  

I hope we won't be overheard one day and have someone think, in horror, that we have a baby we keep outside.  Even if the weather is nice...

Sunday, June 24, 2012

The Circle of Cute

I spent most of my 20s responding, when asked about babies, that I would have kids *just* after I lost my figure, so I could blame it on them. And that's pretty much the plan we followed - my daughter was born a month or so shy of my 33rd birthday. I wasn't unattractive or even fat, exactly, but I was pretty sure that I'd crested the Pretty Hill and was on the downslope.

And then I had a baby. Then I had another! Mission: DestroyAbs was completed. But I got to blame it on the babies. What freedom! If someone says I'm fat - even if that someone is me - I can respond "I sacrificed my Hotness on the Altar of Having Babies" and they would be baby-hating jerks to even think that something as paltry as hotness measures up against the continuation of the species. It's like a Get-Out-Of-Being-Fit card.

This has actually taken a lot of the pressure off, and allowed me to be less critical of my own flabdomen - it's like I'm fooling even myself. Except I'm not. I'm *convincing* myself. I actually think it's worth any downgrade in my appearance (lack of time/energy/etc) to have participated in the creation of the two perfect-in-their-own-way beings that have earned the names Luna and Sol - my crazy beautiful tidal girl and my sunshine and warm-fuzzies boy. I look @ these tiny humans, and back at myself. And sometimes I may really feel that they've somehow leeched my own youth and beauty. But they wear it so much better. They should keep it.

I appreciate the thought, but your shirt is lying.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

That wrinkle will kill your baby.

I was recently at a work function (I am currently on maternity leave) sitting around a table with a few co-workers, most of whom have babies or kids under two. A friend and other co-worker is expecting twins in a couple months. The conversation turned to things we never thought we would need but have come to love. For me, this is the ikea plastic-backed mattress cover. I use them everywhere. When I am feeding her on the rocking chair in case of vomit? Yes. On the couch, in case of vomit? Check! In her crib in case of vomit? Definitely.  On saying this, one co-worker who has 2 year old twins (the oldest kids of any of us, and this entitles her to feel as though we should defer to her wisdom) looks at me in shock and says 'surely you don't put it in the crib?! NOTHING goes in the crib'. I am slightly confused by this and say that why yes I do, and it goes under the sheet. She then looks at the pregnant co-worker and says 'Don't listen to her, that can KILL the baby'.
I am pretty sure I laughed out loud.
As it turns out, on further conversation, evidently these plastic-backed sheets of death can create a wrinkle in the baby's sheet, which the baby can then get her face on, and she will then subsequently smother and die.

I thought of this last week when baby H (who is increasingly breaking out of her swaddle at night) was minging away in her crib. So I went in to re-swaddle her (she is never awake, breaks free, gets mad that she is free, and minges) and low and behold, she has no covering from the chest down, and a butt-load of linen swaddle blanket on her face.

My co-worker would have called CAS right there.

Baby H was flailing around and when I tool the swaddle off her face she gave be the biggest of grins, clearly pleased with her accomplishment.

**This isn't to say that I didn't feel like a terrible mother that she had cloth on her face, because I did, but the kid is a three month old houdini who can go from a tight swaddle, to killing herself in a matter of minutes.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Father's Day

I wish I could write some kind of grateful, witty, touching entry about my parenting partner, what with it being Father's Day and all.  I'm not sure I have anything like that in me, though, so I hope you will put up with awkward rambling.

Last year at this time my husband was a stay-at-home dad, while I finished up my last year of teaching before becoming the stay-at-home parent.  When we got to Father's Day I realized that it's quite something for a man to stay home with kids who aren't even his.  In our case, he was caring for my son from my previous marriage, who was 13 at the time, and our first foster child, an 11-year-old boy who had been living with us for a couple of months by then.

He dealt with teachers and administrators at two different schools.  He made breakfasts, packed lunches, bought and doled out after-school snacks, and usually made supper too.  He dealt with all the various appointments that come with fostering - as many as three a week at the busiest times, usually involving pulling the child out of school for a pickup.  When there wasn't a volunteer driver available he became the volunteer.  He played soccer, basketball, chess, and tennis.  I ran 'Homework Half-Hour' after dinner every night, but he was the one who made sure the homework actually made it into the backpacks the next day.  It was really pretty amazing to watch the almost-instant transition from "Ask your mother" to me saying "uh... I don't know... did you ask...?"

Now we both work part-time from home, so the parenting duties kind of slosh around.  Depending on who is stressed about work at any given minute, the other will pick up the slack. The baby is nominally 'my' responsibility, but if he wakes up at 6am I'm not the one who gets up with him.  Even this morning, Father's Day, I entirely slept through the baby waking up, having breakfast, being up for an hour or two, and going back down for a nap.  I had coffee brought to my bedside and had to ask "What time is it?  Is the baby asleep?". 

So, the day got off to a slow start, but I think it has worked out okay.  Even though no-one here actually calls him "Dad", he spent the afternoon watching Arrested Development.  At dinnertime we stuffed him with steak (okay, he cooked that), Caesar salad, french fries, and homemade from-scratch chocolate cake.  There was a funny card signed from all the kids and cats, and a new pair of slippers.  He'll stay up until 5am watching movies and drag himself to bed after sleeping a bit on his black-leather bachelor's couch, for old time's sake.  I'll get up with the baby in the morning and Father's Day won't end until noon tomorrow, after he has slept through the morning.

It might not be the perfect Father's Day, but in our clumsy way, I think we've made the point that he's loved and appreciated.

Friday, June 15, 2012

One Bad Day

Today was not a good day.  It actually started out good.  The first hour I was awake was great.  Then I had to get out of bed.  It all went downhill from there. 

Today was a special day at the library in a nearby town.  They had invited a juggler and yo-yo expert there to perform.  I was excited.  I thought the kids would love it too.  My 5-year-old disagreed.

Boy: "I am not going."

Me: "Um, yes you are."

Boy: "I'm staying home by myself."

Me:  "You're 5.  You aren't staying home alone.  Get dressed in 5 minutes or you're going in your pj's."

Boy:  "Nope, you can't make me."

Enter evil laughter from me.  Because we were going.  Pj's or not.

I started bring out the baby and my 2-year-old to buckle them in the car.  I hear him yelling in the house, "Fine!  I'll get dressed, but I'm not going to help you today!"

He finally got dressed and made it out to the car.  We were a few minutes late to the library for the start of the show.  We go inside and it is PACKED.  There are probably over 100 kids there, along with parents.  I find a place for the boys to sit and Nate refuses to sit.  People are giving me the evil eye because their kids are trying to see.  He eventually sits down and I find somewhere to sit next to some friends with Clara.  About 20 minutes into the show, the 5-year-old comes to find me.  "I want to go home." 

At this point, I just want to give up and go back home, but I am determined that he is not going to get his way.  I tell him to sit down and watch because we aren't leaving until it is over.  Ten minutes later, my 2-year-old comes and finds me.  He wants to sit on my lap.  Which makes the 5-year-old want to sit on my lap.  Which means I have all 3 kids sitting on my lap and the boys fighting with each other.  I'm surprised I made it out alive.  The show ends and I am ready to leave by that point.  But first, my friend brought some cloth diapers I was buying from her.  She hands me the box and I manage to wrangle everyone out the door, with a package under one arm, the baby on one hip, and holding on to both the boys' hands.

We get to the car and the 5-year-old climbs in the backseat.  He sits in the middle seat behind me and has to get in my car door to get to his car seat.  He refuses to get out.  I set the box on top of the car, pick him up and set him on the sidewalk.  All this time, he's saying, "I'm not going to help you today.  I don't like you anymore.  I don't want to wait for you.  I'm going to do it myself."  However, we were parked on a very busy street.  I am very exasperated at this point.  As I am buckling in my 2-year-old, he climbs under his sister's seat into his car seat.  Fine.  I get in the car and drive away.

We're driving to go get lunch and someone behind me is honking.  I don't know why they are honking.  I'm driving normal.  We go get McDonald's for lunch and head to daddy's work to eat.  When I get to his work, I let the 5-year-old out and bring the food to set on the table.  I go out to get the other kids and decide I am going to look through the box of diapers.  The box of diapers that isn't there.  Because it was on the roof of my car.  It must have flown off the roof at some point.

I buckle the 5-year-old back in the car and we drive back to retrace our steps.  There are no signs of that stinkin' box of diapers.  Hopefully, whoever finds them can put them to good use.  I need a whole box of cookies right now.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

The teenagers are listening

I've been trying to install a new printer.  For work at home? To print tax forms? To help my son study for exams as his high school year comes to a close?

Nope. I want to colour.

No, not 'art',  colouring. Call it 'Dramatic Therapy' if you like, but we're talking a pack of crayola markers from Zellars.   You see, Minecraft is "broken" in that. . .never mind, it just doesn't work right now.  

So I tried to set up a printer we've had for ages and never got around to using.

Five hours and three re-installations  of the software later, my son says to me rather calmly:

"Yanno mom,  it'll still be there in the morning You can fight with it then, when you're fresh." 

Stopped me dead in my tracks.  He was quoting me, back at me.  What?

But he was serious.

It's scary when you you get proof that the teenagers are listening.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Dubious Relief

One of the curious aspects of foster parenting is that the child has some appointments that the foster parents do not accompany them on.  The Children's Aid has a cadre of volunteer drivers that pick up children from wherever they are and deliver them where they need to be, and then bring them back again.  Today, for instance, Jason was picked up at 10:30am and will be delivered back to our door at 1:30pm.

Three hours of relief!  Awesome, right?

The reality is much more stressful, although I don't know how much of this I bring on myself.

Firstly, his napping schedule.  We're doing pretty well with sleep right now, considering he just hit four months.  He's generally not awake for more than 90 minutes during the day.  He'll get up at 6:30am, say, but then be back down for a nap at 8am.  The naps are totally unpredictable in length, ranging from 20 minutes to four hours.  His morning wakeup time is totally unpredictable as well, and could be anything from 5:30am to 9am.  Fortunately today he was awake when the driver was due to come, but usually I have to wake him up to get him ready.

Secondly, the prep.  I was doing laundry late last night to make sure he had an appropriate, cute outfit that matches and fits.  He has clothing that was a gift from the people he is seeing, so I wanted him to be wearing as much of that as possible.  I waited until five minutes before the driver was due because I have had him spit up on his clothes before leaving the house before.  He needs a diaper bag packed with everything you'd expect, but also a communication book that I fortunately remembered to bring up to date on the weekend.  (That's not a fun thing to be trying to do as you watch out the window for the car to arrive.)

Part of the prep involves cat hair.  I got the feedback once that it was "mentioned" that he had cat hair on his clothes, so of course now I'm militant about trying to eradicate it.  The clothes he wears come straight out of the dryer and on to him, and I brush off the bag.  The carseat is the hardest - it sits right inside the front door, usually, on the floor where the most hair accumulates.

The volunteer drivers are subject to human frailties such as being late and going to the wrong address, and civic problems such as traffic.  I've woken the baby up at 10:15am to get him ready, only to have the driver arrive at 10:58am, at which point I'm sending off a baby red-faced, blotchy, and inconsolable from a half-hour of screaming.  On the other hand, I've waited until I saw the car coming to wake the baby up, only to have the driver standing over me and waiting impatiently while I try to do the world's fastest diaper-and-clothing change.

Thirdly, the time he's gone.  I've got three hours to get done everything I need to get done (you know, 10 hours of work for the week, all the laundry and housecleaning, run errands), but instead I'm sitting here missing him, wondering if he's okay with the stranger who picked him up today, and worrying that I forgot to put the diaper rash cream in the bag.  I know from experience that I'm going to spend the time roaming around the house, unable to focus anything, and snapping at my husband.  It has also happened in the past that a visit is cancelled at the last minute, and the driver turns right back around and brings him home.  So I can't actually run errands - I need to be home.

Lastly, the fallout.  Last time the baby came home he was asleep in the driver's car, but of course bringing him in the house woke him up.  He was happy for a half-hour, then screamed for a solid two and a half hours until finally falling asleep at 4:30pm.  It's not like the baby never cries, but that was exceptional.  And who can blame him, when his schedule has been disrupted and he's been away from his primary caregiver for hours?  It leads to a weird mix of wanting to see him, but yet dreading it. It also probably means that I'm, sadly, too attached myself.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Mommyworld Problems 1.0

Every once in a while DM lets me use my tablet.  Sometimes I draw things on it.  This will be the start of a series of crappy free-app touchscreen drawings I call Mommyworld problems.  The art will NOT be good, because I'm never allowed to use the playbook for more than 2 mins, and as aforementioned only have the crappy free apps to draw with.  :)

I call this panel Noise Rays & Stinklines Version One.

One of those "duh" moments...

So, 'Nyx and I were sitting a the computer the other day merrily singing our way through a YouTube excursion and the wet diaper alarm went off (not an actual alarm, but just that certain beginning of crank that says "Hey! Need some assistance here!"). I was right on top of things so we went into the powder room and pulled a NASCAR quick change of the cloth and proceeded back to the YouTube merriment. About 20 or so minutes later, in the midst of some music induced knee bouncing, I thought..."Wow, my leg is getting really warm..."

Yeah, I had forgotten the diaper cover. Bad Mommy, No cookie.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Two under Two: Mommy Guilt

I am one of those people who always wanted my child to have a sibling, and for them to be close in age.  I've loved having three brothers - two years older, eleven months older, and three years younger than me.  Because of the age-closeness, my two older brothers and I were inseperable until the pretween gender divide happened, and I wanted my daughter to have a built-in playmate.

So, when DM was about six or seven months old, we started trying for a second, knowing that it would likely take months and we wanted them less than two years apart.  We hit the jackpot first time, instead, and so DM wasn't even 1.5 years old when her brother arrived.

Parenting two children is hard (duh!).  Not only is there the issue of carefully dividing/sharing your attention so no one feels left out, there's trying to co-ordinate -- please oh please coordinate JUST ONE -- naps, there's spending your entire day either breastfeeding one or spoonfeeding the other, the double-diapers, the she's-crying-because-he's-crying ...

There is also the Guilt.

I did not expect the Guilt.  The Guilt comes with The Professor, and it has many aspects.  But it really boils down to one question that hooks its claws in and perches on my shoulder: Is the Professor taking my time/attention/love away from DM?  And vice-versa?

The first time I had to decide which baby was going to be left to cry while I tried to comfort the other one, my brain did the equivalent of a blue screen of death.  I stood there and started crying and that just made everything worse.  Trevor wasn't home to help me with one while I tended the other.  I had to do this on my own.  It really really sucked.

Thankfully the Prof is a pretty easy baby.  Not *the* Easy Baby - that unicorn of silent snuggly sleep-through-the-night grins and diaper-contained poops, but the cousin of that baby, perhaps.  He's like ... the Griffin of Babies.  Less OMG rare and sparkly and perfect, more ... eagle-headed and lion-bodied?  I'm not good with metaphors, OK?  He's happy by nature, resonably quiet unless he's overtired and/or being bugged by his sister, and he sleeps pretty soundly, most of it by night. 

Darth Molly, however, is aptly nom-de-plumed.  She is a tempest of wants that feel like needs and needs that feels like OMGNEEDITNOWs.  She needs to be handled like a celebutante or she explodes into toddling Rage.  So I've gotten used to walking on eggshells with her when she's upset, and she's grown used to it.  Spoiled, maybe.  Things have had to change.

Now I know that neither child is going to dissolve into an actual puddle of tears if I can't answer him or her within the first minute.  In fact, I've learned that a lot of DM's toddler-tears are alligator in nature, and quickly left off when they don't get the result she wants.  I'm reminding myself that it's OK that I have to share myself between the two of them.

I try to spend real time talking and singing and dancing and playing with both kids.  I try not to fawn over The Prof while DM is not entertained by something or someone else.  When The Prof falls asleep and DM is still awake I follow her around and basically obey her whims and act the dancing monkey for her amusement.  It's the two-under-two equivalent of being an every-second-weekend dad.  I try to compress a whole day's worth of fun into that one hour nap, even if I'm tired or would really like to shower instead.  On the rare occasions that The Prof is soundly asleep already, I try to put DM to bed.  I often feel like I'm still not doing enough.  I remind myself that I wasn't scarred by my parents having to tend four of us at once, so why should my kids be?

I can't help it.  It keeps coming back, no matter what I do.  The Guilt is a ninja that strikes when my guard is down, and I have to fend off the shurikens of doubt and just do my Mommy job.

I guess in a few months The Professor will be crawling, then walking, and the two kids will have each other as playmates, and no one will feel unattended to.  And then they'll have each other for life.  And that's gotta be worth a few months of agonizing mommy-guilt, right?

I hope they don't hate each other. 

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Graphakery: Irony

Another in an occasional series of fake graphs based on semi-real statistics.

The book, incidentally, was If I Have To Tell You One More Time … by Amy McCready.

So far I don't hate it, which is more than I can say for pretty much every other parenting book I've ever read (read more about my first reactions here).

Saturday, May 26, 2012

"That's Not Fair!"

You know the classic problem when you give each kid a piece of cake, or a cookie, or whatever, and they scrutinize to see who got the bigger piece?  My brother and I drove my mother crazy with that, to the point that I think I remember the wooden spoon being deployed.

Every now and again my husband will lean down to carefully pour our glasses of wine to make sure we get the same amount, and I will invariably remark "we're spouses, dear, not siblings."

You'd think I would have gotten out of that whole mess by having only one child, or at least, only one who eats solid food.  So what kind of Bad Mommy actually encourages it?  Friday night is family pizza and movie night, and we make our own pizza by using the breadmaker to make the dough, then patting it out on a cookie sheet.  Many Friday night dinner conversations revolve around how to cut a rectangular pizza into three equal pieces, where the amount of crust each person gets is also fair.

Normally we cut it into six squarish pieces, but that leaves four corners and two edges. That's clearly not fair, because someone gets two corners.  The previous solution of cutting the crusts off the short ends and making them into six breadsticks was rejected as lacking a certain elegance.  Today at lunch (which was relatively non-combative sandwiches), we finally hashed out a solution we were all happy with.  It turned out to require only a tape measure, grade eight math, and a large helping of pigheadedness.

From then until the end of the meal we got to debate how to mark the pizza for ease of cutting... my son favoured burning it right onto the cookie sheet, while I think my husband was leaning towards marking the pizza while raw with cilantro.  Sometimes making something fair can be deeply satisfying.

P.S.  If you really need to know the solution, for our 12" by 18" cookie sheet the solution is laid out in the picture.  All cuts originate from the centre of the pizza.  The cut represented by the pen ends 6" up from the nearest corner.  Rotate to the left and make the cut represented by the first pencil 8" along that side; then the final cut is just 2" short of its nearest corner.  Each person gets 72 sq. in. of pizza and 20 in. of crust.

Monday, May 21, 2012

My life is actually great, thanks

Negativity abounds these days. On the news, in the media, practically everywhere you go. It is so easy to let the negativity get to you, to make you feel like crap about yourself, about your parenting, about your kids.

Comparing ourselves to others is what we do. Try as you might, it is nearly impossible not to compare your experience in life to that of others. Take, for example, the recent trending topic of Mommy Wars. I'll give you my experience to consider.

My husband and I were blessed with a perfect little boy, our first born. He never lost weight, ate like a champ, hit all his milestones early. At 3.5years, he is often mistaken for a child a couple years older, both in looks and in his communication and motor skills. Brag, brag... I was new to the whole parenting scene with him. None of my IRL friends had kids, so I sought out a local parenting group. I wanted to know if we were normal, if I was doing a good job, if I was "succeeding".

I did not like the group, AT ALL. It was a constant brag fest, and I lost a few friendships over people lying through their teeth about how well their children were excelling. I didn't like how so many people thought they needed to augment the truth, to make their BABIES seem better. As babies, these children were already having to live up to unrealistic expectations. I stopped going to the meetups, and stuck to my online due date group, a group of women I bonded with over our pregnancies, deliveries, and following years. It was nice to have a group of women to go to, who could answer my questions on any issues, breastfeeding questions, baby poop, you name it. And, if I didn't want to participate in the race to meet milestones (milestones J was meeting anyway) I didn't have to.

We were blindsided when my pregnancy with our second child hit a rocky road. She was born 8 weeks early, presenting 4 weeks delayed on top of that. In the NICU, I started comparing her to other preemies, wondering why she wasn't orally feeding when they were, why she didn't cry, why she slept all.the.time.

We got an explanation, by way of her being diagnosed with a genetic disorder, when she was four months old.

Until then, I'd relied on my online mama group (a new one I'd joined when we first found out we were pregnant with E), but by the time we got her diagnosis, I didn't feel right bombarding them with my questions. Besides, I told myself, they couldn't possibly understand what we were going through.

I sought out a diagnosis-specific support group. It was easy to find, and populated by almost a thousand individuals. I thought I had found a haven, a group of supportive people who would hold my hand and tell me that everything was going to be alright. I expected that they were going to be as amazing as my two due date groups had been. Holy cow, was I ever wrong. My joining the group turned out to be a tremendous mistake.

School's Out for the Summer

Last Thursday, my oldest finished his last day of preschool. He will officially be a kindergartener next year. This is an exciting time in a boy’s life. He runs around telling me 2+3 is 5 and 6+6 is 12. He is READY. I am NOT ready however, especially for summer break.

You see, I have a summer full of activities to plan. Mostly with one purpose in mind. To keep my boys from fighting.

I am terrified at the prospect of the summer. Right now, my 2-year-old gets a half a day break from his brother while he is at school 4 days a week. No longer. Now, they can endlessly torture each other (and therefore, me) for hours and hours on end. Today, I sat down and wrote out a schedule for every day of the week. It includes lots of backyard play time. LOTS. And mandatory naps. Even for the 5-year-old. He says, “Five-year-olds don’t take naps.” To which I replied, “Well, in my house, 5-year-olds take naps!”

I love my kids dearly; I just can’t stand the fighting. I’m just hoping with lots of planning, this summer won’t turn out with me in a locked padded room.

Bathtime Confessions, Part Two

Last week I noticed a funky funk in the bathroom.  That is to say, noticed and dismissed it, until the smell got to the point of absolute unignorability, over the course of the day.

So it was that I ended up on my hands and knees, literally sniffing every bathroom surface I could reach. 

The bath and shower were okay, so it wasn't a drain thing.  I had half-assedly cleaned the toilet that morning, so that usual suspect was out.  I actually put my cheek on the cool tile floor and sniffed around the base of the toilet, just to be sure -- all clear.  The floor was fine and so were the vents.  The smell seemed isolated to the small pedestal sink, which was worrisome (see earlier drain comment).

And that's when I realized that the source of the smell was, in fact, a small baby washcloth wadded up in the sink, in a jolly rubber duckie print that belied the unholy stench emanating from its soggy self.

And THAT is when I realized that the reason this normally sweet-smelling scrap of fabric was jackfruiting up the whole room was because earlier that day I had used it to wash under my arms.  In lieu of a shower, which I hadn't had time for.

Not that day, nor the day before.  Not, in fact, for the previous five days, and the only reason that one happened was as the happy ending to a rare visit to the gym.

The joys that motherhood brings are, truly, too numerous to mention.  But not having time for -- or, more accurately, running a quick mental cost-benefit analysis and willfully deprioritizing -- bathing?

That stinks.

(Note: Model in photo is not me, not by a long shot.  For starters, I have much fatter hips and much hairier pits.  And I always had butterflies and sparrows shoot of of there, back in the day, not lame-o flowers.)

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Where I really do feel like a bad mom

SK Open House was today at school, and JK parents were invited to attend.  I elected not to, and instead took a nap while Trouble napped.  In truth, I thought about it yesterday, and then it completely slipped my mind.  Mischief had a playdate this morning before school where the caregiver dropped her off and a playdate after school where the mom picked her up, so once I dropped her at her friend's house, I kind of stopped thinking about her beyond remembering that I need to pick her up at 5.

The mom who is probably on her way home with Mischief right now emailed me not that long ago to confirm pick-up time for this afternoon, and mentioned that she'd been to the Open House, and that Mischief was chosen as the Star of the Day today, and now I feel The Guilt.  How could I not go?  Was she disappointed?  Did she watch the door hopefully, wondering if I might show up to surprise her?  Was my nap worth her hurt feelings if she WAS waiting for me?  *sigh*

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Bath Time Confessions

I am far from the perfect parent. FAR from it. But what I’m about to admit falls into the bad mommy category.

My kids rarely get baths.

If they don’t look dirty or smell funky, then no baths for them. Part of this is because of convenience; the other part is because my boys HATE baths and getting their hair washed.

Two weeks after I had my sweet daughter, nearly 8 months ago, my husband decided to tear out the walls of our bathtub/shower. Promises were made to replace them quickly. But 7 ½ months later, I still have plastic sheeting on the walls surrounding the bathtub. My friend and I even threatened to tile the walls if he didn’t fix it, to no avail. Last week, the promise of a trip to Home Depot kept the hope alive. The trip never happened.

So, I am living in a house with one bathroom and a torn apart tub. The tub still works. I just have to remove the plastic off the walls every time I give the kids a bath. And I have to put it back up afterwards. Once my children’s feet can’t be distinguished from the dirt they are walking in, though, it is time. I pull off the plastic, drag my kicking and screaming boys into the bathtub and throw them in.

For all the fighting they do getting in, they never seem to want to get out either. Sometimes I have to bribe them with Skittles to get in. Other times, I throw in cheap glow sticks and turn off the lights. And yet other times, I turn the water colors with a little food dye.

 This week, Baby Girl got to be in the bath with the boys for the first time. She made sure they were thoroughly clean with all the splashing. And I wasn’t the bully making their hair wet.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Graphakery: Sunscreen

This will be the first in an occasional series of fake graphs based on semi-real statistics. 

In my cookie-eating defense, I always remember to put SPF eleventy-billion on the kids.

Cats and Babies

I'm afraid I may have inadvertently given the impression that I deserve a cookie, so it's time to come clean with a little more appropriate post for a "Bad Mommy" blog.

I love babies, but I've also loved cats from a very young age.  I remember my Mom having a coffee date, and me playing on the floor nearby, listening to her say "Kay knows every cat between school and home.".  That was my first inkling that everybody doesn't know all the cats on their walking route somewhere.

So where babies and cats co-exist, I tend to treat them as equals.  This probably horrifies people who like to keep their pets firmly in the non-human category.  I don't mean that I would have to stop and think about which of them to save in a fire, but in the day-to-day I talk to them, play with them, and enjoy them in fairly equal measure.

Now here's where the odd part of fostering comes in.  Our worker claims to like cats, but given the way she looks at ours, I think she just says that to be polite.  She says we need to keep the cats away from the baby at all times, but how do we separate out what is the Society's official stance, and what is her personal opinion?  Also, she's our worker, not the baby's, so should we ask the baby's worker as well?  We have a 4" binder that's our Foster Care Manual, but the only mention it makes of pets is the policy on banned breed dogs.

Realistically, of course, what they say goes in the big slushpile of what has been said, and we try to make sense of it all in a bigger framework.  As you can see from the picture, though, on at least one occasion I let the baby and our young cat nap together. 

I could fill up another two paragraphs with an apologia on why this was okay on this one occasion, and defending my breaking of the safe sleep guidelines with a comforter.  But I'm going to resist the temptation.  I trust that you all know that even though sometimes in the little things I'm a Bad Mommy, in the grand scheme of things we're all doing the best we can, and it's generally a pretty decent job.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

"Because I said so."

I'm going to steal from Jaimie's last post for a sec. She mentioned that she avoids using "Because I said so" as reasons for getting her kids to comply with her requests/demands/needs.

I remember those days. Once upon a time, I too had a 2- and 4-year-old. I had lofty non-coercive parenting goals that involved raising my children to feel like they were consulted and included in decision-making processes, and that our household decisions were reached more respectfully and collaboratively.

And then I realized something: I was giving my kids WAY too many choices. Even as I was asking them for their help with cleaning up after themselves, I was offering them the option to opt out of the process entirely. By allowing every situation to devolve into conversation, I was leaving myself too tired to assert that shit still needed doing, regardless of how they felt about it.

I was also encouraging them to question me every time I needed them to do something. Sometimes, there isn't a need to ask me why I need something done. Sometimes, you just have to do it because it needs to be done.

If I tell one of my kids I need them to strip the beds/rinse and stack the dishes/collect all the socks from the living room floor, "Why?" is not required, and if it's asked, "Because I said so" is entirely reasonable. To be fair, I generally prefer, "Because it needs to be done," but I'm still using a very closed-ended response that does not invite further debate.

We are one adult and two pre-teens. While I am far from a neatnik, you can well imagine that the bulk of the mess generated in my household does not originate with me.  As important as it is for me to have my children grow up to feel love and respected, it is equally important for them to develop a sense of responsibility regarding their own actions. I do not want my children to grow up with a sense of entitlement, that someone else will pick up after them/clean up their messes/make their lives easier. I think that does all of us a disservice. I also don't want that feeling of respect to be one-way. Yes, my language choices model to them what I hope to see them use with others. But my expectation of their respectful treatment of me is also modeling to them what they should be doing (and expecting from others) in the context of the bigger world.

Hold on for one more day

My children's sleep has been interrupted more than usual lately. Mischief, who was sleeping through the night, is awake once or twice each night and Trouble, normally up once or twice, stands at the baby gate at his bedroom door and calls out for me two, three, four times each night.

I know that climbing into Trouble's bed with him reinforces the problem, but frequently I am too tired to do anything but collapse gratefully onto his mattress and pull the duvet up under my chin. Lately, I am asleep before he's even settled himself against me.

My house, usually mostly tidy, has devolved into an unmitigated disaster, and rather than work on cleaning it up while Mischief is in school and Trouble sleeps, I catnap on the couch, trying to claw as much rest as I can from the too-bright, too-short afternoons.

If I am not careful - if I do not plan some self-care into my weeks and months - it begins to seem hopeless, and my temper becomes as brittle as my ability to keep my eyes from leaking against my will. My cardinal rules of parenting (never say "because I said so", remember their perspective, consider how my words affect them) slip sneakily out the window and I don't even realise that they're gone until Mischief says something incredibly hurtful to me. As my eyes well up, I recognise that she's just parroting something back that I've said in a moment of frustration, and my cheeks flush with shame as I apologise.

If I have something to hold on to, though, a plan or a dream or a hope, it's easier to smile gently instead of groaning with impatience. It's easier to take the time to let Trouble put on his own shoes, even though it will make us late, and to do it with encouragement and praise instead of chiding and harsh words.

Right now, I am clutching tightly at a plan for a weekend very soon that I will spend all by myself. I might watch tv. I will certainly read in utter silence. I will nap when the thought occurs to me, and will sleep the night through. I might knit or have a bath or take my time over a crossword puzzle at a coffee shop. When I wake, it will be to smile sleepily as I realise that I have nowhere to be and am responsible for no one, and I will gleefully pull the blankets back up to my nose and roll over for another hour.

This may seem a rather pedestrian dream for most of you, but at the moment it's my idea of heaven. It's the only thing making it okay that it's 1:17 am and I've spent the last 45 minutes trying to get my children back to sleep, painfully aware that morning for me will come in just over 4 hours. I will have no opportunity to nap tomorrow and it will be a very long day, but I'm borrowing comfort, calm and patience from my getaway weekend, so it will all be okay.

On this weekend when North America celebrates mothers, I hope you're taking the time to celebrate yourselves. I hope that you find something to hold on to, and that it's big enough for you to borrow all of the patience, calm and comfort you need so you can be the amazing moms that each of you are.

Good night!