Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Past Deadline: Things That Went Away

Sleep went away. Then it came back a little. Then it went away again.

What? Sorry...sleep-deprived columnist over here.

I thought I’d try to assemble a reasonably cohesive column based on a few “things that went away.” You can judge my success – hopefully “readers” won’t be added to the list.

Calls from a Utah fax machine rank first on the list of things I at least thought went away. Regular readers may remember we had trouble in September with an organization that insisted upon trying to send a fax to our home telephone in the middle of the night – usually twice a night.

This is as awesome as it sounds. You know that heart-pounding telephone ring in the night? The one you assume will probably come with bad news? That’s what we dealt with a few times (only with a fax squeal instead of the Voice of Doom) before we turned off the ringer.

The calls went on every night for many nights. We worked to block the numbers (it was an auto dialler, so many numbers) and we registered on the do-not-call list. It stopped.

Until this weekend.

On the same night my kids woke me up not once, not twice, but thrice, Utah decided to throw in a couple of fax attempts, too.

[Insert many many bad words here.]

Needless to say I did not attempt to perform surgery or operate heavy equipment on the weekend.

I’ll be busily following up on this little annoyance – again – because I have all the time in the world to be dealing with auto diallers in Utah.

This is just the sort of distraction that is, um, preventing me from running. Yes, that’s another thing that has gone away. Although running was darned good for clearing my head, certain parts of my body didn’t enjoy it as much. At first I felt guilty about this loss of momentum, but then something happened to change that.

See, we’re making do with one car in our family, which means I spend a lot of time commuting around town on foot while Groom-boy has the auto at work all day. Although the days when I have to plow through snowbanks and against nasty north winds are a bit, well, chilly, for the most part I am not minding the experience one bit. Fortunately I have excellent support systems for when wheels are unavoidable (parents and in-laws).

Anyway, with all this walking I managed to shed six pounds in the fall. I felt great! This was a good thing to have go away. Muscle tone going away? Not so good.

These days I rarely run (read: never), at least not in an organized, meaningful way that involves any sort of distance. Endurance? Something else that went away. In fact, if I want to keep any promises about “doing the Kilt Run next time,” then I’ll be starting pretty much from scratch. I’ll let you know how that all turns out.

Not surprisingly, something else that went away is that weight-loss achievement. At first I blamed Christmas, but I extend that to a broader culprit. Yes, I blame another thing that went away: my willpower to stop snacking at night.


In the summer I wrote about a remarkable discovery. I realized that if I ate less, I wouldn’t starve to death. In fact, I went so far as to substantially reduce snacking in the evening and – get this – I was okay! I felt good! Oh – and by not eating until I was stuffed, I actually felt pleasantly satiated after a meal.

Remarkable. Truly astonishing. (Duh.)

Anyway, let’s just say there has been a bit of a blip since Christmas. In fact, the new room I discovered in my waistband? Well, that’s another thing that went away. Something that hasn’t gone away is the munchies.

So. Yes. We have some work to do over here. We need to shut down Utah fax machines in order to get some sleep; we must either get back to running or leave town on the weekend of the Kilt Run; and we should rediscover comfortable waistbands by staying out of the kitchen cupboard.

And once all that is achieved, world peace can’t be far behind.
Published in The Perth Courier, Feb. 17/11

Past Deadline: Angry Bull Drivers

I wear a bright red winter coat and a black hat. I used to think it was a good thing – I show up in the snow if lost in the woods and my kids can spot me in a crowd. Up until recently I believed my coat was a bit of a safety feature – especially when crossing busy intersections. Now I’m wondering if it’s more like a red flag in a bull ring and the drivers are the angry bulls.

This is all loosely tied to a recent struggle I’ve been having with boundaries. As our kids get older they naturally want and need more freedoms and responsibilities. My generation is prone to that phenomenon known as “helicopter parenting,” which is when we tend to hover around our kids a little more than they need. I believe other generations would have called it “over protective” or maybe even “super crazy ridiculously over protective.”

Honestly, though, it seems that every time I decide to lighten up, something freaky happens.

I believe, for example, Boychild is old enough to walk home by himself, but I usually travel with him and his buddies because I still pick up his little sister. She’s in Kindergarten and gets out first, so we wait around for the boys. Lately I had been thinking Girlchild and I could probably start ahead home and let him walk on his own or with his friends.

There are some pretty busy streets to navigate on our route, which has always been a bit of a worry. Still, Boychild’s no dummy. He knows the rules and our trusty crossing guard Lloyd is there to get him across the first hurdle, Wilson Street, so I was seriously contemplating this freedom.

One day last week I was walking ahead with Girlchild and some other kids and Boychild was lagging behind with his buddies. As we approached the intersection of Isabella/Leslie and Wilson Street, I decided Girlchild and I would go ahead across and the guys could catch the next light.

As we were crossing, though, I turned to see Boychild and his friends running at top speed to join us. “Lloyd,” I said, beckoning back, “there are four more coming.”

So there’s Lloyd, standing in the middle of the road with his bright orange safety vest and stop sign. We still had the walk signal, although it started to flash as the boys hit the street. I, wearing my bright red coat, was not quite to the other side.

That’s when some moron in a dark-coloured car apparently decided he’d had enough with the waiting and with obeying these silly laws and proceeded to turn left from Leslie and head north onto Wilson, driving between Lloyd and me just as the boys got to the middle of the street. If I had not turned and yelled “Whoa!” they just might have connected.

Lloyd leapt towards the car and tried to stop him, but the driver kept going. At least one person in the line-up of vehicles waiting for the green light in order to continue south on Wilson hollered a few choice words at the driver.

My crew and I got to the other side of the street and stood for a moment. “Well, gang,” I said, as my heart knocked around in my chest like a trapped bird, “I guess from now on we cross as a group.” I didn’t add: “ then the idiot drivers can just kill all of us at once and get it over with.”

We were all a little shaken up, including Lloyd. You have to be a special kind of person to do the job he does. I bet there are times when he’d like to jump through car windows and grab some drivers by the neck. The fact that he doesn’t is admirable – although I worry about his blood pressure.

Sadly, this isn’t the first time something like this has happened. I can’t decide whether I should change the colour of my coat or simply be a helicopter parent forever.

I know one thing for sure: it does no good for my pedestrian kid to know the rules of the road if someone in a car is going to come along and break them.
Published in The Perth Courier, Feb. 10/11

Past Deadline: Sleep When the Baby Sleeps

Guess what? I’m an auntie!

My “little” brother and sister-in-law had a baby girl last week, so I am officially an aunt for the first time. He’s my only sibling, and there are none on Groom-boy’s side, so this is exciting stuff – a first niece for Groom-boy and a first cousin for Boychild and Girlchild, too!

Being an aunt is going to be pretty cool. I suspect it’s a little like training for grandmotherhood – you get to play with the baby for periods of time and can hand her back at the end.

Being in the midst of a brand-new baby has conjured up a lot of memories and I have been finding it tricky to keep my volumes of information in check. If there’s one thing a new baby is guaranteed to produce (aside from full diapers, spit-up and sleep deprivation), it’s baby stories.

In my own little world, I figure carrying a child for nine months (twice) and then helping it into the world (twice) still rank as the most important things I have ever done. Nothing has ever come close to that overwhelming feeling of seeing my baby for the first time after a heck of a lot of hard work.

Naturally, since this is such a big job it stands to reason mamas are going to retain all sorts of memories about the occasion and about child rearing in general. I should note that an equal amount of information gets sucked away thanks to things like sleep deprivation and rampant hormones. To this day I believe my brain is too full of odds and ends and that a piece of old information has to fall out of one ear to make room for details coming in the other.

Anyway, it seems everyone has an opinion about how to raise children, whether they have children or not. There’s nothing wrong with that, except that actually having a newborn is a bit of a shock to the system the first time and it’s really easy for new moms and dads to be overwhelmed by information.

I hear myself doing it to my brother and sister-in-law. I throw random tidbits of information at them about ways to help a fussy baby (even though theirs isn’t fussy) or products I used and liked or foods I found disagreed with my kids or how to put such-and-such together and on and on. And yet if I thought about it for a moment, I’d realize two things: 1. In all likelihood my brother and sister-in-law are too tired to remember what day it is let alone the intricacies of assembling a bouncy seat; 2. Usually it’s better to be asked for advice than to offer it every time one opens one’s mouth.

It took me a while to realize it when Boychild was a baby, but one of the most important parts about raising a kid is following your instincts. Many times I wandered down a path that didn’t feel quite right because an experienced mama told me it was a good idea. We’re all born with instincts, but sometimes we forget to use them.

Besides, sometimes we just have to figure things out by trial and error. We tend to know our own children best, and since every kid is different what worked for one might not work for another. That said it sure is nice to have experienced moms and dads to ask. Sharing information is a huge part of parenting – it’s the whole “it takes a village to raise a child” thing. And I’m fairly certain any mom or dad would be delighted to share tips if asked. (I’m ready!)

After all this preaching, though, I can’t resist offering one more piece of advice, especially since nine years after my first child was born I am STILL griping about sleep deprivation. So here it is – the oft-repeated but seldom-followed mantra: Sleep when the baby sleeps. Seriously. Do it. Your house might be dirty, your dishes won’t get done and your laundry will be wrinkled, but life looks so much better if you can get some rest. Do it now – newborns are the perfect excuse for napping!

Congrats, Doug and Krista, and welcome to beautiful little Ainsley!
Published in The Perth Courier, Feb. 3/11