Sunday, December 30, 2007

Happy New Year! (Warning - unbridled introspection ahead)

Almost every year I make a list of New Year's Resolutions/Revolutions. Some years the list is long enough to include headings and subheadings (the subheadings consisting of practical suggestions on how to achieve the headings). I love lists. I'm a compulsive list maker. I make 'em all the time. Do I follow them? It varies.

A list designed to last a whole year is a hard one to follow. I'm pretty good with lists for the day, for a couple of days and even maybe a week - but beyond that it eventually becomes clutter and heads to the blue box.

Every year I vow in my head or on paper to do things to take better care of myself, such as more exercise and eating better. If I do that then I am healthier and happier and, as a result, so is my family. Unfortunately my strategies for weight loss and exercise usually dwindle and I have to resort to my fat pants and maternity underwear at some point in the year.

Over the last few years I have cut the list dramatically. Last year it consisted of three items: Live in the present moment; take care of myself so I can take care of others; and know my limits.

I've covered the second one as best I can; I usually start off well and end the year ready to resolve to try again. The last one is improving - I'm getting better at knowing how much work I can handle before wanting to run screaming from a room.

Living in the present moment - that one needs work. In fact, I totally suck at this.

I can't remember where I read it, but another blogger described a wonderful bedtime experience with her kids. Rather than rushing through the routine, they took their time and everything ended happily.

I get so stuck on routine that I can't stop and smell the flowers - quite literally. I sometimes get agitated if things don't happen on schedule or the way they were planned. As well, there is always something to be done, like laundry or dishes, that "prevents" me from sitting down and really playing with my kids. The whole point of me working from home was to be there for my kids, but sometimes I wonder if they'd get more one-on-one attention from an outside caregiver. (There. I said that out loud.) To meet all my obligations I work a lot of nights, which sometimes makes for Tired Zombie Mommy who goes through the motions but who isn't really "there."

It's a hard thing to do, this living in the moment, but when it happens it is such a beautiful thing. I remember when Girlchild was born and, for the first time in my whole life, I felt complete, utter, indescribable bliss. It was amazing. I would get up in the middle of the night to feed my second child and I would sit there and rock and stroke her fine, golden hair and be so completely there with her - nourishing her, loving her. I was in the moment and I wouldn't have traded it for anything - even sleep.

Eventually, though, life has a way of pulling you in different directions. I like to try to make everyone happy, and you can't always do that and be in the moment, too. Sometimes I'm physically present, but mentally miles ahead, planning the next meal, preparing for the next task, thinking about the next deadline. And then a child interrupts my thoughts or my task and I get snappish, which I always regret.

I've reeeaaalllly got to work on the in-the-moment thing. It will be my one resolution. My babies won't be little forever and I can't waste a single moment regretting this time. I don't want to look back 20, 10, 5 or even 1 year from now and think, "Man, did I ever screw that up." I want to feel that bliss more often. Actually, I want to feel that bliss again. I think, maybe, that by following this one resolution, many other good things will fall into place. Is that nuts? Do you think it can be done? Do you have any ideas on how to make it happen?

Happy New Year to you all! (And for those of you who make resolutions, good luck!)

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Oh, She's Two....

No doubt about it, Girlchild is two.

She's more of a traditional terrible two than her brother ever was. There's nothing like a cold and a couple of new molars to bring out the two-ness in a girl.

Everything - absolutely everything - is becoming a battle. Things that used to be favourites are now, well, not. Things that used to be easy and taken for granted are now officially fronts requiring heavy artillery.

I'm not really surprised by this. Girlchild has always been a bit of a spitfire. I wouldn't call her a spirited child, but she has never been quite as compliant as her textbook/easy brother. (Of course now he is known as the worrier. Vern the Worrier, we call him, even though his name is not Vern.)

I can't say I have rolled with this new two-ness that has emerged, though. I blame the fact I'm Type A and things have to be just so and on time. Oh, and I blame my elbow, of course. My elbow is giving me serious, serious grief at the moment. I'm guessing it's Tennis Elbow, because I'm such a freakin' athlete [cue uproarious laughter here]. Whatever it is, it hurts all the time and especially when lifting, pouring, carrying, grasping, writing - you know, doing pretty much anything I normally do. You should see me trying to pull up a pair of pantyhose. Good thing I don't wear pantyhose very often. Good times.

So you can imagine how exasperating it is when Girlchild decides, for the eleventy-thousandth time in a day, to turn into Wet Bag of Sand because she does not want to put on her snowpants. It has always amazed me how a small child's weight can increase exponentially when said child decides to rebel.

Maybe maybe maybe things will improve marginally when the teeth come in and the cold goes away. And maybe maybe maybe pigs might fly up my butt. I'll let you know how things turn out.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

The Verns

Something weird is happening at our house. As usual.

I don't remember who started it and why, but it is a growing phenomenon.

Somebody started calling Boychild "Vern." It might have been me in an effort to hurry him along one day. I can hear myself saying, "C'mon, Vern. We're going to be late." I don't know why "Vern" instead of "Ambrose" or "Todd" or "Jimmy," but it has stuck.

Some days we call Boychild "Vern" more than we call him by his real name. In fact, there are probably a bunch of people who have encountered us at stores and such who think we have a boy named "Vern." Not that there's anything wrong with that. At one point Boychild complained, but now he seems to find it funny and has joined in the fun. You see, the Vernification of our household has spread. Girlchild is occasionally called "Vernette." Daddy is "Daddy Vern." I am "Mama Vern." The cats - either one of them at any given time - are "Vern Cat."

This is not really a new thing, but it is the first time it has been applied to people in the house. Years ago, for a reason that escapes both of us, we started calling MacGregor, our enormous tabby cat, "Schooley." I can't tell you why "Schooley" - I haven't the foggiest idea. Sometimes we call him "Pilot," too, but only when we pick him up to carry him and his back legs stick straight out - kind of like an airplane's tail.

I see some identity issues in our future. Therapy, for sure.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

The Farmer in the Dell - As sung by Girlchild this evening

The foimer in a dell
The foimer in a dell
Hi ho derry oh
The foimer in a dell.

The foimer takes a wife
The foimer takes a wife
Hi ho derry oh
The foimer takes a wife.

A wife makes a tild
A wife makes a tild
Hi ho derry oh
A wife makes a tild.

A tild takes a moose
A tild takes a moose
Hi ho derry oh
A tild takes a moose.

A moose takes a dog
A moose takes a dog
Hi ho derry oh
A moose takes a dog.

A dog takes a cat
A dog takes a cat
Hi ho derry oh
A dog takes a cat.

A cat takes a rat
A cat takes a rat
Hi ho derry oh
[Big finish] A rat taaaakes aaaaaa cheeeeeeeeese!
[Insert wild clapping and praise here.]

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Thinking about [yawn] tomorrow

It's hard to be a good mom when I'm tired. Of course the term "good mom" depends on the definition du jour - be it the one who bakes cookies and takes the youngsters to the playground or even just the one who doesn't yell.

I'm tired a lot these days because the work-from-home-and-end-of-semester-crunch is upon me. I work too late at night. Plus I think I have something a student termed "The 100-Day Cough." I'm on about day 14 now. Coughing is tiring work, but finding time to get it checked is also challenging, and I don't want to go for unnecessary antibiotics if I can avoid it. So I'll give it another 70 days or so. Er whatever. We'll see.

Thing is, me as Tired Mom is also Uninspired Mom and Impatient Mom and Mom Who Let's the Kids Watch Too Much TV and Mom Who Grits Her Teeth and Mom Who Banishes People to Their Rooms. I'm adoring some other bloggers' great advice about not feeling guilty about these things, especially at Christmas when things are in hyper mode regardless of what else is going on in life, but I'm not good at not feeling guilty. Instead I find myself thinking, a lot, "Tomorrow will be better." And then I stay up working too late again and I'm tired again and the cycle repeats.

Tomorrow [yawn] will be better.

Live in the present, "they" say.

So, as I write this I'm making low-fat oatmeal raisin cookies that both kids like as snacks. That makes me feel happy because it's not bad for them. Baking relaxes me, which is handy. I wish I could do it more often. This is a rare, almost blissful, half hour.

Maybe today isn't too bad. Yawn.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Love a Parade - Except for the Noise

Tonight was the Santa Claus parade in our town. It was a nursery rhyme theme, which was great for pointing things out to Girlchild. Boychild and his buddies collected tonnes of frozen candy from dozens of frozen parade participants. Night parades are beautiful - but can leave you feeling quite raw (she said, still shivering and sipping tea).

Boychild has never been a big fan of loud noises, unless he's making them. Many a tear has been shed over such things as electric carving knives, drills and fireworks. He's much better than he used to be. Now instead of dissolving into tears, he's more likely to walk around with his hands over his ears.

The parade, of course, features fire trucks and large tractor trailers. The trucks, of course, sound their sirens and horns. The boy, of course, stands with his hands over his ears while his friends have their hands outstretched to collect candy. Not only that, but he has discovered that he gets better ear blockage by raising his arms straight up and pressing them against his ears. This makes him look, well, odd.

Kids are weird. Weird, weird, weird. It's at this point that groom-boy and I point to each other and say, simultaneously, "Your child."

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

The Acidic Tax Trip

I'm afraid the only person who may find this post funny is me, but I'm writing it because Heather commented on my previous post, which featured the Storm Cloud Girl graphic. She wondered whether I drew it myself and, alas, I cannot take credit. Say what you will about Microsoft, but it does have some pretty compelling clipart!

Storm Cloud Girl (my term, not Microsoft's) reminds me a little of some images I found for one of my various gigs. I was hired in the spring by a municipality to produce a brochure to be distributed to all ratepayers outlining their tax dollars at work. Let me tell you, doing a tax brochure is, well, um, let's just say it was daunting for me. In my communications career I have been asked to explain a lot of things. As a reporter I covered municipal councils and had to write about budgets and taxes routinely. Always, though, I approached this topic with a degree of trepidation. I don't find it easy.

Fortunately, the mayor and some of his staff had a vision for what they wanted to see in the brochure, and so it was relatively easy for me to follow through. They wanted simple graphics included that would help to explain this vision.

So I found a bunch of clip art with a theme. Stuff like this

and this

and this.

When I met with the mayor, who I have worked with before, to review my first draft, he slowly circled a couple of my funky arrow guys, honing in on the bulging eyeball, and said, "Um, were you on acid when you did this?"

Of course you had to be there, and you have to know that I am unlikely to ever do acid, but the context of that question in relation to a tax brochure AND that clip art had me snorting with laughter. Even today, when I'm perusing clip art and encounter this one-bulging-eyeball theme Microsoft has going on, I can't help but giggle.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

The Creeping Uglies

If someone were to take a picture of me today (heaven forbid), I think there would be a little cloud over my head and my own personal storm. I have no idea why.

The day has gone reasonably well. I've had no less sleep than usual (which isn't to say I got a lot of sleep, of course). Maybe it's because I'm slowly cutting back on coffee - eliminating that silly afternoon cup that had snuck back into my routine after a 10-year absence.

For whatever reason, late this afternoon the Creeping Uglies(TM) came over to hang out. All this means is that I am not as well equipped to handle the Suppertime Nasties(TM) - you know, when everyone is crabby and hungry - with my usual grace, charm and wit. HA! I use the word "handle" loosely, of course.

Things that usually don't bother me much are suddenly quite annoying, such as:

* Boychild's 20 questions about something inane

* Boychild's habit of not actually looking for something before assuming I, through some sort of telepathy, know where he dropped it ("It's at your feet, Boy!")

* Girlchild squirming all over me while I try to help Boychild with his homework

* Girlchild shouting "Mine!" in that special two-year-old way

It's all the usual stuff and it comes with a routine set of responses (some good, some not so good), but without that usual stock of patience I am just at a loss. Sigh. I betcha it has to do with the coffee.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Oh, the Screaming!

Over the last few days, Girlchild has started another new thing. Think "banshee," "screaming demon," "blood-curdling shriek" and "tortuous screams" and you'll get the idea.

For whatever reason a two-year-old might have, she has decided it is just fine to wait a short time after going down for a nap or off to bed, lulling her parents into a false sense of security, and then she starts to scream as if someone is poking her with hot irons or shoving bamboo under her fingernails.

Naturally, the first few times this happened, Daddy or I made the grave error of "rushing in" to see what was wrong. As soon as I entered her room, she stopped shrieking and said, very happily, "Hello, Mommy! Want juice!" Yes, these dramatic episodes generally end with some sort of simple request, like a drink, a snuggle or more music.


It didn't take us overly long to realize she had a New Great Game and that this horrible, horrible sound brought Mommy and/or Daddy in on the run. So we stopped running and started setting the timer for five-minutes-that-seemed-liked-45-minutes before going into her room, patting her on the head and saying, "There there. You go to sleep now, dear. Nighty night." This is sooooo hard to do at 3 in the morning when you just KNOW it is going to wake up Boychild, too. It makes for a long day.

Ever looking for the silver lining in things, I'll say this: 1. At least at this time of year the windows are closed, otherwise the neighbours would be calling the police to investigate whatever it is that is causing someone to scream like she's being sawed in half. I tell you, it would wake the neighbourhood in the summer. 2. This whole horrible, horrible phase may be short lived. The frequency was down today. We can always hope it will be over soon because anything that involves demon-like shrieking is just not good.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

The Octopus

Girlchild has reached a new milestone.

I'm not sure when it happened, but she seems to have grown an inch or so taller almost overnight, which means she can now access a number of areas that were previously unreachable. Hurray.

She likes this new-found height so much that she is constantly seeking ways to enhance it. She will stand on almost anything - toys, cushions, packages of toilet paper, piles of junk - to get those extra inches and to be able to see a whole new world that was previously not there for her.

Not only that, her Octopus gene seems to have kicked in. So she's naturally taller, she's artificially taller and she has suddenly grown what seems to be six new arms that are constantly unfurling and creeping and reaching around to explore.

This means it is time to retrain the grown-ups. No longer can we get away with hiding the chocolate at the back of the counter because, darn it, she either sees it or she feels around for it. She's onto us! This also raises innumerable safety issues. Knives can no longer be left simply back from the edge of the counter when taking a break from chopping things - they actually have to be removed. We're into that whole new stage of childproofing - it's time for our feeble brains to kick into the mode.

This milestone came into play this morning in an unexpected (although I should have known) way. I was helping Boychild with something in another room. I could hear Girlchild - I knew she was taking things out of her toy box. What I didn't realize until I walked back into the other room about five minutes later was that she was taking these toys - be they soft plush puppets or Made-in-China battery-operated plastic doodads - and reaching a way up high so she could drop them over the lip of the aquarium that houses our red-eared slider - Myrtle the Turtle. By the time I got there, about two dozen toys had been dropped into Myrtle's somewhat-less-than-pristine water. In fact, it took me a moment before I could actually SEE Myrtle amid Dora the Explorer doll, a pink key chain, a few Mega Blocks, a toy van, some Mr. Potato Head pieces, two electronic shape and number games, a toy cell phone, etc.

It was definitely a unique experience for Myrtle. At most she has been joined by a single toy before some alarmed adult has swooped down to prevent further drama. She seemed, in her turtley way, to be somewhat bemused by the whole thing. Mommy, however, was not so thrilled. It meant unscheduled laundry and toy washing for me, not to mention reconfiguring the opening of Myrtle's tank to prevent further toy-dropping exercises. Seems to me I remember doing this with Boychild, too. I wish I had remembered earlier....

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Red or Pink?

I lost the snowsuit battle.

We have what I think is a perfectly good snowsuit for the little princess on the block. It's a boy's snowsuit, a hand-me-down from a friend, but it has a snazzy red coat with navy blue pants. Girlchild, in all her blondness and blue-eyedness, looks quite lovely in red. She is quite compelling in navy blue, for that matter. Her pink hat clashes a bit with the red, but oh well.

Daddy, however, is a big goof for his daughter. I can see the princess being handed the keys to the shiny new convertible at 16 while the rest of us loll about eating scraps of stale bread and wearing burlap sacks. He, I'm sure, would slay dragons and cross bridges of broken glass and rusty nails over a river of fire for her. Daddy is ga ga for his girl.

As you can well imagine, a boy's snowsuit simply would not do. No sir.

I am heartless, so I resisted. All that meant was that Daddy went on his own little shopping trip, traipsing all over town, all over a nearby town, all over another nearby town and then to the city to find a snowsuit. (I'm exaggerating a little, but just a little.)

First he came back with a coral-coloured one-piece jobby. It was nice enough, but he had already rejected it on the way home because he thought a two-piece would be better. I agreed and used the opportunity to, for the eleventy-thousandths time, promote the fact we should save our hard-earned cash for the convertible - or college - rather than spending it on a snowsuit when we already have a perfectly good one.

"She's two," I said. "She's not even in school. There is no fashion show." I'm sure she'd love a fashion show if one came along.

I thought maybe I had won. He returned to the city, allegedly to get a refund, but returned with two more snowsuits.


One was a fairly hideous gaudy pink. It was ruled out almost immediately for being obnoxious and shouty. The second one was calmer. It has a white coat covered with pink flowers and is paired with gleaming white snowpants.

White. On a two-year-old who hangs out with boys who like to play in dirt. And it now lives here.

Man, do I ever hope it snows a lot this winter or I'm going to be doing a LOT of laundry. Of course navy blue snowpants would like fine with white and pink, right?

I guess I better decide which I prefer - laundry or shovelling? Or perhaps Daddy will be doing the laundry more often. Hm....

Saturday, November 10, 2007

The Costume Chronicles

A few entries ago I mentioned how I wasn't sure whether Girlchild would be amenable to wearing her fairy princess costume for Halloween.

As it turned out, she very nearly went trick or treating as "typical two-year-old girl."

After school that day, Boychild and his two buddies were at our house. They had worn their costumes at school, so their Mom and I had them dress up for a photo when she came to collect them at suppertime and begin The Great Halloween Evening Rush that takes place every year. For the photo, we wanted to include Girlchild. Would she even look at her fairy princess costume? Absolutely not. She did, however, agree to wear the Dalmatian puppy costume that has been kicking around the house since Boychild wore it a few years ago. So we have a grand photo of Black Spider-Man, Red Power Ranger, a Transformer and a Dalmatian Puppy.

After supper, when the time came to don costumes for trick or treating, we once again faced battle. I had already decided to promote the puppy costume over the fairy princess based on the earlier events:
1. She wore it fairly willingly.
2. I would not have to worry about adding layers under the dress to keep her warm.
3. I would not have to force her into tights, which she doesn't like on the best of days. (Smart girl. I loathe pantyhose.)
4. I could throw the puppy on over whatever she was already wearing and she would be warm enough.

It was looking for a while as if no costume would be worn, although she was eager to go outside with Black Spider-Man and start trick or treating. Ultimately I did what any good mother would do: I put my own selfish desires above hers and stuffed her, kicking and screaming (for her own good, by gum) into the puppy costume. As I had suspected, once we got going outside, she was absolutely fine. As soon as she saw all the other costumes, including a large number of princesses, she was very into Halloween. She and her brother had a fabulous time.

We now have enough get-ups lying around here to open a small children's costume store. When the buddies come over, it is not uncommon to see the place crawling with superheroes because they bring their costumes, too. Since Halloween, Girlchild has discovered Boychild's old Spider-Man costume (the non-evil one). It's too small for him and miles big for her, but she gamely puts it on and runs around with the other superheroes, wearing the mask like a hat with the eyes facing the wrong way. That Spidey has eyes in the back of her head. We've been calling her Spider-Girl.

She still won't wear the fairy princess dress, but she has worn the wings a couple of times. She's practical, you know. Flying is the important part - who needs to look like a princess when you have big blue eyes, lots of blond curls and pink wings?

Thursday, November 8, 2007

What is the world coming to?

How can the "date-rape drug" be in toys for children? What are manufacturers doing - just throwing together any old toxic waste that sticks together and using it to make children's toys? The lead paint was one thing, but the date-rape drug? I really can't believe it. Honest to Pete!

Monday, November 5, 2007

Foreign Language

My daughter is bilingual. I'm not sure what her second language is, but it's quite lovely. She's two, so everything she has to say is imbued with great importance. Generally, she speaks quite well. There are times, however....

She's on an "Old McDonald" kick right now. Every book she has that contains pictures of animals is miraculously transformed into an "Old McDonald" tale. He is one busy and diversified farmer, let me tell you. He has the usual sheep, cows, pigs and horses on his farm, along with snakes, bees, hippos, rhinos, zebras, lions, tigers...and what the heck sound does a giraffe make, anyway? As far as I'm concerned, a lot of Old McDonald's menagerie grunt and snort. Works for me; works for her.

Tonight she wanted to read "
Time for Bed" by Mem Fox. I like that book. It's nice for bedtime. Alas, since she asked for "Old McDonald" when she picked it out, that's what I started to sing. We got hung up on the first page, though - the mouse part. Here's the conversation, more or less:

Me: "Old McDonald had a farm..."

Her: "Onna mousey!"
Me: "Eeyieeyi...."
Her: "Onna murble lagella buna gallalla mousey erbollum."
Me: Pause. "And on his farm...."
Her: "I wanna gerbon lallo murble mallow mousey."
Me: Longer pause. "Ooh! You want it this way? 'It's time to sleep, little mouse, little mouse. Darkness is falling all over the house.'"

She snuggles against me, milk in one hand, thumb in mouth, blankie over us. I'm not sure what exactly she was saying ("No, Mommy" probably would have been as effective), but eventually the message gets through my thick time-change fog. Have I mentioned how I loathe the time change?

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Rise and Shine

Oh, how I loathe the time change.

When most of the rest of the continent is prattling on about how lovely it is to gain an hour of sleep in the fall, I navigate the morning after in a coma. I imagine there are millions of other parents in the same boat, who have kids with an uncanny internal clock set to the same time every morning.

Boychild's is set for 7:02. No alarm is needed for him. It is a rare rare thing to ever have to wake him up to get somewhere. It usually doesn't matter how late he is up at night, either. The next day starts, almost without exception, at roughly 7:02.

So for those of us living with creatures who do not need an alarm clock in the morning, the day starts at the same time, no matter what the clock says. As a result, Boychild was looking to get up at 6:02 today. Yay. If only I were a morning person. This morning has felt like it has been going on for about 100 hours and it's not getting any better.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

The I Wants

As the day wears down so, too, do one's nerves. This is me having a turn at whining.

Today started out not bad considering Girlchild decided to wake up and sing "Old McDonald" for over an hour in the middle of the night. Nanny arrived and was here so Mommy could do some work, then Mommy took Girlchild for her checkup at the doctor's, where she was well behaved and giggly and all went well. In the afternoon she napped well and Boychild visited the other grandparents, which meant Mommy had some more time to work. I actually crossed some tasks off a list, which is always lovely lovely lovely. Suppertime was the usual hell, so there was nothing unexpected there, but for half an hour before that and for the rest of the evening it seemed everyone under four-feet tall felt compelled to be whiney.

When the children are whiney, my name gets overused. Every sentence begins with "Mom" and contains the words "I want." A request is usually made every 13.2 seconds.

"Mom! I want Goldfish."
"Mom! I want a banana."
"Mom! I want you to change the channel."

"Mom! I want toothbrush!"
"Mom! I want Old McDonald!"
"Mom! I no want dis."
"Mom! I want blankie!"
"Mom! I want walk."
"Mom! I want a shower."
"Mom! I want a bath instead."

It doesn't really matter what they are asking for, it's the repetition and the tone of voice and the general lack of "please" that I find so very grating. I hate ending the day feeling that way - glad they've gone to bed so I don't have to hear "Mom!" anymore. And yet, I bet there are a million women out there who would give anything to hear a child call their name - even a whiney one. I wish I could remember that every time I raise my voice or feel my last nerve fray or respond with a harsh "What!?" or stifle a bad word or two.

Sigh. Perhaps a bowl of chocolate would help.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

I Love Juncos

Downstairs my lovely daughter is with Daddy, recovering (loudly) from a fit regarding her Halloween costume, which offends her in some unknown way. Earlier today she utterly and completely rejected a new sippy cup I handed to her that Daddy had picked out. Later, though, when it was her idea, the cup was a fantastic new addition to our home. We're hoping that by leaving her fairy princess costume lying around that it will be ab-fab by tomorrow. Hehehe. Good times.

So what better time than now to get away from the noisy masses and write about a quiet little bird?

I like birds and we have a feeder in our backyard. I can identify several species and their calls, but I am not a birder, per se. In fact, I'm more of a swamp girl. I like frogs, toads, turtles, snakes, etc.

Anyway, a few years ago I noticed a pretty little bird frequenting our backyard in the spring and fall. My handy dandy Audubon book revealed it was a junco. It is sparrow-sized and appears to be wearing a black hooded cloak with only its white underbelly and ye
llow beak exposed.

I'm not sure why I find juncos so appealing. Perhaps it's because of their groovy cloak. Maybe it's because their arrival signifies a change in seasons - from the coldness of winter to warm spring and from frenetic summer to calmer fall. Maybe the fact that juncos only stop here when they are migrating in the spring and fall appeals to me because it reminds me that some creatures get to leave town. Maybe it's because they are a tidy bird, feeding on the mess of seeds that have dropped from the feeder. Who knows? Doesn't matter. If I can look out my kitchen window and see juncos and that makes me feel happy in a hectic moment, I'm gonna go with that. Yay juncos!

Monday, October 29, 2007

Notes to Self

Boychild is a sensitive little guy. Sometimes it's easy to forget this fact when you watch him racing around in the backyard with his buddies, fighting evil, cavorting on the swing set, pretending to be a meat-eating dinosaur, and so on.

The other day I was being a Perfect Parent (TM) as usual - you know, doing something Very Important on the computer while Girlchild napped and Boychild watched a TV show downstairs. Way to interact there, Mom. Anyway, Boychild has learned how to manipulate the remote and change the channels, and we have a number of appropriate kids' stations programmed in just for him, but he can't quite read yet so he doesn't always find something he likes without help.

I'm sitting in my [ahem] spacious office, when he creeps up the stairs, tears welling in those chocolate-brown eyes of his. "What is it, Boychild?" I ask, alarmed.

"I saw something scary on the TV," he said, starting to cry.

Near as I can figure, he landed on the show "Little Miracles," where they just happened to be doing open-heart surgery on a baby. Yeesh. I can't even watch that show because it makes me so thankful that I could cry all afternoon, and crying all afternoon can be somewhat unproductive.

So, we chatted about how surgery isn't always a "bad" thing, that doctors put you to sleep so it doesn't hurt and then they fix whatever is wrong. I even said that Grampy had a heart operation many years ago and he's all better and our friend Bella had a heart operation a few days after she was born and she is all better....

At this point, though, I'm talking to the hand. "Mom! I don't want to talk about this!" he said. Then, a few moments later, eyes filling up again, "When will I stop thinking about it?"

Okay. Note to self: avoid "Little Miracles." Listen for screaming in the night. Check.

Then, today. It's freezing in the morning - heavy frost covers the garden like lace. The spontaneous tomato plant that grew beside the sandbox thanks to some spilled compost in September is limp. There will be no tomatoes in October.

I forgot the cardinal rule of introducing change to toddlers: do so at your own risk. No, no - that's not it. Introduce in advance before actually implementing.

In this case, the change involved giving Girlchild a warmer coat to wear this morning. What a terrible, terrible thing to do! An unholy tantrum ensued after she had the jacket on for a whole 22 seconds. Despite all assurances that is was "lovely and warm and cosy," she did NOT appreciate it. You'd think I had dressed her in porcupine quills - barbs in, of course.

Fortunately for everyone in the west end of town, the tortuous screaming stopped as we started down the driveway to walk Boychild to school. Maybe it was the lacy frost that distracted her or the realization that the almost-biting cold was not eating through her red coat. Who knows what toddlers think about. Sigh. Kids are weird.

Note to self: promote the change WAY in advance to avoid early morning screaming. Hers and mine, that is.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Kissing Tag

Girlchild finally has a weapon.

For ever and ever, Girlchild has been the only girl amid the throng of boys we know. She has an older brother. The two kids next door are boys. The two kids down the block are boys. Our best friends' two kids are - you guessed it - boys. Sometimes, when everyone gets playing together and chasing each other with pointy toys while shrieking, I shudder a little and think of Lord of the Flies. I also think about how much I would like a long vacation on a tropical island by myself, but that's another story.

Girlchild copes well with this situation. She plays easily with the boys. She likes to run with them and she often will share the sandbox or join them when they play with cars. She's still at the stage where she "parallel plays," so a good portion of the time when the boys are circling around her with pretend swords and chanting strange words and calling her "the enemy," she doesn't really pay them much heed.

Most of the time the boys are good to her, but she is an easy target. She's little, she's eager to be near them and she's different, being the only girl and all. I'm pretty sure that when she gets bigger she's not going to put up with any guff from the boys - and I betcha they'll all be watching out for her, too. For now, though, when there's an odd one out, it tends to be Girlchild.

Until tonight.

We were at our friends' house and after supper the three boys were doing their usual thing: running around, wrestling, hiding, carrying "weapons," trying to "get" Girlchild. (It's not as violent as it sounds.) The adults and Girlchild were chatting nearby. At one point, I can't remember why, I suggested she give Cindy a kiss. Then she wanted to give Daddy a kiss. Then Mommy. I pointed to Boychild and the boys.

Well! That sent the boys into orbit. The girl (aaaaaaaaaah!) was coming after them to kiss them! Yuck yuck and double yuck! This turned into a new great game, and Girlchild had the upper hand for a change. Whenever she came near them for a kiss, the boys would run screaming from the room as if someone were pinching them all over.

A few years from now let's see how much we're encouraging Girlchild to run after boys and kiss them.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007


I am stuck in that frustrating Neverneverland where I have so many balls in the air that I can't focus or prioritize and get everything/anything done. It's usually a short-term problem, but in the meantime stress thrums through my veins. I can feel it - a tightening all over and an unsettled, unpleasant heaviness in my stomach. Fun fun fun.

It's just when you need more sleep that you can't really afford it. I also dream of a long soak in the tub with a very good book (I have several lined up waiting for me) and I know that would do wonders for me, but I'd be so preoccupied about the time taken away from working the night shift (after the kids go to bed) that I wouldn't enjoy it.

Ideally I could use a clone. Or a winning lottery ticket. Or a long vacation. Sigh.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

It's Official

Yes, I really hate suppertime.

I write a column for a local paper and this week I described how I loathe and despise suppertime. By the time it rolls around everyone is tired and uncooperative and I'm on my last nerve.

Life imitates art imitates life...

Tonight the whole fam damily, including both sets of grandparents, brother and sister-in-law, sat down to a swell turkey supper at our house as part of our belated Thanksgiving/Girlchild's birthday dinner. I starved the kids all afternoon so they would be good and hungry when supper came. I served them first, and by the time I got to the table with my plate about three minutes later, they had already finished their usual 6.5 bites and were asking to leave. Boychild announced he "did not really feel like eating" (this from the boy who would graze all day if I let him) and Girlchild was pushing chairs around the dining room in an effort to do something she believed was Very Important. Naturally, since none of us mere plebians could grasp the huge vastness and significance of her plan, this led to an It's-My-Party-And-I'll-Cry-If-I-Want-To Tantrum. All this before I could even take one bite. Sigh.

Man, do I hate suppertime.

It all ended well, though. Good food, nice conversation, birthday cake (banana with chocolate icing) AND Krista's yummy pumpkin cheesecake, lots of smiles. I'm thankful for family, even when they cry.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Motherhood Guilt

Now here is something I could ramble on and on and on about. Man, is this a big deal for me.

I can beat myself up better than anyone I know. Okay, well, both kids have nailed me a few times in the face by unexpectedly flinging up their hard-as-anvil heads as I lean over them. The exersaucer did a pretty good job of punching me in the mouth one time, too - a toy barn flew off and whacked me right in the kisser, leaving me with a fat lip. I'm pretty sure it chipped my front tooth, too.

But that's nothing compared to the mental thrashing I can level on myself.

Many of us are prone to the "Whatifs." What if I had done that differently? What if I hadn't taken Job Y? gone to School C? moved to City R?...whatever.

A couple of Whatifs that battle for supremacy in my feeble mind from time to time are "What if I worked full time and sent the kids to daycare?" versus "What if I stayed at home with the kids and did no other work?"

See, I exist in what is commonly believed to be the "Best of Both Worlds." I work from home. I love that I have the skills that allow me to do this - I'm a writer and an editor - and I would probably be doing it whether I had kids or not. I am self-employed and work from a small space in my house. Trouble is, like everyone else, I have come face to face with another sordid truth of this life: it isn't always easy.

I think my problem is I am too hung up on labels. For a long time I called myself a "Mostly Stay-At-Home Mom" because I teach a couple of college courses and have to go to a few meetings with clients, which takes me away from the home for a few hours each week. Over time, though, I realized I was kidding myself.

I picture SAHMs as women who thrive in the job of motherhood. They bake nutritious snacks with the children, keep the house clean, complete all sorts of innovative crafts with them, have little use for the television, go on lots of outings, set up several play dates a week and arrange to have quality time with their own friends. I'm pretty sure those kind of moms exist, but I'm not one of them. Are you?

I'm a "Stay-At-Home-Something." I occupy space in the house with my children. When I have a lot of work, I am the woman who keeps the TV on so she can make business calls in relative peace, who tries but fails to keep the house clean and tidy and only attempts it when the kids are occupied with something rather than using that time for quality interaction with them, who works feverishly at the computer whenever the kids are sleeping instead of having down time, who foregoes outings because she is waiting for a phone call, and who is in a constant state of distraction.

If I were to sit down and add up the hours I actually work (for money) in a week, I betcha it would average out to just under 20. So what am I complaining about? "That's only part-time hours," my tired brain says. What's the problem?

The problem is I am not accounting for the Mom time - the very important FULL-time job that keeps getting the short shrift as I wander around the house distractedly making lists and feeling a million miles away from the present at any given moment. The problem is those other work hours have to be shoe-horned in amongst the Mommy hours and long into the night.

Who is this woman? She's not exactly a stay-at-home-mom, that's for sure.

This is where the guilt comes in and it's a war waged on numerous fronts. When I am actually doing something fun with the kids I feel guilty if my mind wanders and I am distracted about work. Sometimes I have to physically pull my brain into the moment instead of thinking of the phone call that needs to be made or the document that needs to be read or the e-mail to check. When the kids are in bed and I have time to work, I feel guilty for being glad they are "out of the way." I feel guilty that sometimes I can't give my work the care and attention I should in order to keep clients delighted. Then I feel guilty again about the kids because if I screw up THAT job it is a Really Big Deal. Nevertheless, I have to work to pay some bills and also to keep the non-mommy portion of my brain from atrophying.
I even feel guilty for feeling guilty because I know I am not alone in this and I'm doing the best I can (the kids seem happy and healthy and my clients seem to be returning). I feel guilty for being hard on myself and not looking after myself. Worst of all, I feel guilty for even worrying about this stuff when I am so lucky. I have two beautiful children, a caring husband, a nice home, great extended family - all sorts of wonderful blessings that I should be thankful for every day, hour and minute.

Is this insane?

It's not always bad. When a lot of work is coming in, it's really really hard to find the kind of balance that let's me be Happy Mommy Who Loves Being with Her Children as well as Happy Woman Who Has a Fulfilling Career - at least part time. When things are paced better it's a lot easier to live in the moment, which I have come to realize is so very important if you want to be happy - or at least content.

There will be more on this topic - oh yes indeed.

Sound of Music

The house is weirdly quiet.

Dad and Boychild haven't come home yet from a trip to the city. I just finished putting a cake in the oven in preparation for "Girlchild's Birthday: Version 2.0 - the Family Dinner," to be held tomorrow (also a belated Thanksgiving). I have classical music playing and the only other sounds are:

1. A "chirp!" from the smoke detector every 30 seconds because I have to push the "hush" button on it or it will go off when I open the oven door (that's what happens when someone places the smoke detector too close to the kitchen) and

2. Girlchild on the baby monitor singing, over and over, "Ol Madonal hadda farm, ee yi ee yi oooh. Onafarm ee hadda sheep, ee yi ee yi oooh. Baba here an baba dare, here ba dare ba every baba. Ol Madonal hadda farm [winding up for the big finish now] eeeee yiiiii eeeeeee yiiiiii oooooooooh!"


Friday, October 19, 2007


Two years ago today I was snorting gas, panting, moaning and writhing in bed. It was quite a party - the birth of my second child.

Yep, wee Girlchild is two years old today! It's truly hard to believe that on this night in 2005 I was enveloped in the most wonderful feeling of bliss and happiness I could ever imagine. I was totally in love with my golden-haired girl - a lucky mom after trying for a long time for a second baby.

I had read about this bliss in many baby books and didn't really believe it could be true. Although I had a wonderful childbirth experience with Boychild, too, the days and weeks that followed were anxious ones filled with tears (mostly mine) and a constant, gnawing, aching feeling of dread and fear that I was going to do something wrong and break the baby. (The dread passed and so far he seems to be turning out okay!)

Perhaps it was because I was a more experienced mom or maybe it was just the right combination of hormones and moon cycles, but when Girlchild was born I felt that rapturous bliss they talk about in the books - that feeling of absolute joy and warm love and happiness and thankfulness and contentment and and's just so hard to put into words.

Today she's two. And she's a princess - the island girl in a sea of boys (we have no close friends nearby with girls, but Girlchild holds her own amid a throng of busy young lads). In those moments when I want to run screaming from the house - and they do happen - I should remember to think back to that first night: Girlchild and I nestled in our hospital room, staring deep into each others' eyes, cosy, safe and totally in love. I hope we'll feel that way forever.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

A blog?

So. A blog. Yep. Excellent idea. This from the girl who constantly wrings her hands and moans incessently about having "no time" for anything - like getting work done or cleaning the house or doing clever things with the children. Not necessarily in that order.

Why have I decided to set up a blog? I think, in part, it is because of some secret, er, not-so-secret compulsion I used to have about reading my own diary entries in public.

I don't ever remember a time when I wasn't writing something. Short stories, long stories and now, of course, a whole range of exciting and not-exciting things for which I get paid. Yay! One constant, at least until a few years ago, was a journal. I was always writing in a diary or journal, especially through high school and university. I sometimes felt compelled to share a journal entry with a friend, and every time I would think to myself, "Why did I do that? Those were my private thoughts" and I would feel some weird sense of self-betrayal.

Well, those days are over, largely because there is no time to write in a journal. I have two young children, a flock of pets and a groom-boy (that's the hubbie), so I don't actually have private thoughts anymore because I can't hear myself think. So why not do a blog, then? Of course! It's the only thing that makes sense.

For anyone who follows along, it'll be a meandering journey through daily life - footnotes on the actual events that shape my day or my week or however often I do this. I'm looking forward to writing these footnotes for another reason - I've been wanting an outlet for some pent-up creativity, and since I can't quite shoehorn the writing of the Great Canadian Novel (TM) into my daily routine just yet, at least I might be able to commit to a few sentences every other day or so.

Let's just see how it works out. If this goes well, maybe a diet and some exercise will be my next major project.