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 and...it'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.