April 24, 2007

Shameless Promotion: Vote for Heather!

I've probably mentioned many times over the past year that I am a regular visitor to an online baby board that has (almost) literally saved my life at times. Well, if any of you were watching Good Morning America this morning you would have seen another member of that board shaking her booty with her daughter in their Dancing with the Moms contest! So I am just putting out a shameless call for votes for Heather. She has FOUR kids and a husband in the military - the woman deserves a national holiday in her honour, for the love of god. But that's unlikely to happen, so a vote will do, I'm sure.

Here it is: Vote for Heather!

April 21, 2007

Day 385: Love, love, love

I read another blog post earlier today that has inspired this one. I started this little project of mine because I wanted to show the truth of motherhood - or at least the truth of my experience with it. The good, the bad AND the ugly. But it occurs to me that in my quest to show the hidden underbelly of motherhood I may not have given due credit to the good stuff. So consider this an ode that, and an ode to my daughter Mads. Because I'm sure through these posts you've gotten to know me, but I'd really like it if you knew her, too. She is worth knowing.

Maddie loves to sneeze. If she had to make a list of her favourite things in life, I'm pretty sure sneezing would make the top five. She gets such a kick out of it. So she'll sneeze, break into a huge smile, then usually sneeze again. But because she thinks it's so fun, she wants to keep sneezing. So she'll open her mouth wide, tilt her head back, and just wait for the next one to come.

She's a nature girl. She loved being outside even when she was a newborn, and she still does. Whenever something happens that upsets her - if she bumps her head or takes a little tumble - we quickly whisk her out to the front porch and it's like hitting a reset button. She immediately calms and is happy as can be. When we go for walks now she's always looking around, pointing at flowers and trees as we pass. Last night we went down to the park and on the way she started waving at something. I thought it was just random waving, but then saw she was actually just saying hi to a crow sitting on the wire above us.

Mads is a troublemaker. This, I admit, makes me crazy sometimes. But she is just her father's daughter. He still gets a kick out of pulling pranks and stirring up trouble. She knows what she's not supposed to do, but she does it anyways. And she makes sure she does it while in our direct line of vision, so that we can tell her "no" and she can look over at us, smile, and go ahead and do it anyways. It's infuriating sometimes, but in a strange way it's also sort of endearing.

The kid loves to eat. She would eat all day long if we let her. She drinks juice from her sippy like she's downing whiskey shots at a biker bar - throws her head back, slurps it down, slams the cup on the table. I worry that she may have gotten that from me. Oh, and she thinks everything - from eggs to chocolate cake - tastes better with cheese; which, of course, it does.

She is really smart. I know all parents say that about their kids, but in this case it's true. (And yes, I know that all parents say that, too.) When you ask her, "Where's Emma?", she crawls over to the dog, plops herself down, and points to her. When you ask her, "Where are the birds?", she'll crawl to the window to see if she can find you one. When you ask her, "Where are the flowers?", she goes into the kitchen and points to the vase on the table. And when you say, "Where's Daddy?", she opens up her Baby Einstein book, flips through the pages and points at the monkey. See what I mean? Smart! (Okay, she only did the last one once, but it made my week. One year old and already mocking Daddy - a girl after my own heart!)

She is this little person, full of personality and promise, full of love and trust. And I am lucky to know her.

April 18, 2007

Day 382: Me and my shadow

Well, things around here are busy as usual, with milestones dropping left and right. Once again, Maddie has chosen to forgo the whole walking and talking bit in favour of something a bit more challenging... drumroll please... separation anxiety! Fun, fun stuff. Peeing on my own is a luxury of the past, apparently. I feel bad for her though, actually. Fernando and I have no problem letting her cry. She has had ample opportunity to exercise her little lungs over the past year - when she doesn't want to go to sleep, when she's mad because we don't let her chew on the telephone cable. But this is different - it's like she's panicked and afraid. It's irritating, sure, but it just about breaks your heart too. I'm hoping it is a phase that will pass quickly.

I have decided that there are two categories of parents. The first, often called the "good" ones, are able to keep a clear perspective on everything. They are empathetic and level-headed and confident and downright joyous. They would never, for instance, ask their 1 year old what the hell is wrong with them. They look at night wakings as an extra chance to bond with their baby. They recognize that every hurdle in their baby's development is all part of this crazy thing called life and thus embrace it.

The second camp is made up of the rest of us. We bounce around between teething and ear infections and temper tantrums looking almost as harried as we feel. We plead with our babies to please, for the love of god, give us one moment of silence. We administer baby Tylenol in healthy doses. We wonder what we're doing wrong. I know, you are probably shocked to hear that I fall into this second group. I do try to keep an eye on the big picture - I don't get mad at Mads for driving me crazy. Do I get frustrated? Oh hell yes. But I don't blame her, because I know she's just doing what she needs to do. And on a really good day, I am able to see her stubborn streak as independence, her temper as a strong will. But there are times when all I want is for her to be docile and easy - I want her to chill out in her carseat and smile at strangers who talk to her and not completely lose her mind when the dog eats the apple she dropped on the kitchen floor. Sometimes I just want her to give me a break!

But I love her, of course. So much I'm almost surprised she hasn't exploded from the force of it. I guess I just think it's possible - and okay - to love her without necessarily loving every second I spend with her. I think most of us in that second category would agree with that.


April 09, 2007

Day 375: My life in print

During our usual pit stop at the bookstore yesterday I had an epiphany. Mads and I spend a lot of time at the bookstore, actually. It is one of the few places where I can unload her from the much-loathed stroller and let her crawl around without getting too many sideways glances that seem to say "A department store is not a playroom, take your child elsewhere." But back to the epiphany; come to think of it, that may be too strong a word, I don't want anyone getting their hopes up. So maybe it was more of an insight. And here it is: you can tell where someone is in their life by the aisle they head to in the bookstore.

This occured to me as we passed the travel section. I saw the stack of Let's Go Europe on the shelf, which was surely the bible back when I made the requisite sojourn abroad in my early 20s. I suddenly pictured my own worn, dog-eared copy that I left in a hostel in Italy all those years ago. And then we wandered past the weddings section, where I spent endless hours camped out trying to school myself in limited wedding etiquette. The home and renovation section, which I visited when searching for a way to incorporate Fernando's giant German beer stein (from his requisite European adventure) into the decor of our first home. Which led me to, of course, the pregnancy & baby aisle, and all those books by all those "experts" who, as it turns out, do not know my baby better than I do after all. After Maddie was born I made a visit or two to the shelf dedicated to depression, where I was disappointed to find a shocking lack of titles on the topic of post-partum depression. I love her to bits, but Brooke Shields does not a library make, you know? And of course now I head straight to the kids section of the store, stroller and sippy cup and baby in tow. Along the way there have been forays into religion and spirituality when I was trying to "find" myself, philosophy when I was trying to better myself, self-help when I was trying to understand myself, and of course fiction whenever I want to just forget about myself.

I look forward to a future spent in the aisles of potty training, crafts, adolescence, cooking, health.... And who knows, if all goes well, maybe many years from now I will find myself back where I started: standing in the travel aisle with the whole world laid out before me, but this time with life's biggest accomplishments and responsibilities tucked safely behind.

April 08, 2007

Day 374: Why I work

Ah, I had forgotten the small joys of working life during my one year hiatus; case in point, the eagerly awaited long weekends. Love them. As a SAHM weekends were good because it meant Fernando was home. But this is an entirely different thing. Now they feel like a guilty pleasure. Especially when you drop the kid off with the grandparents and sleep in till 8:30! Oh, how sad that anything past 8am is now considered "sleeping in."

I have actually been thinking about the whole stay-at-home vs. working mom debate lately. I confess that I love being back at work. I didn't think I would, and I still feel like I shouldn't, but I have to say that life as a working mom is going very well indeed. So why the guilt? Why the need to chase the statement "I work full time" with "...because we need the money"? In all honestly we probably don't need the money. If our priority was to have me stay at home with Maddie, I think we could have make that work. We could live in a cheaper city, for starters. We could buy no-name ketchup instead of Heinz, Fernando could actually - gasp! - use our coffee maker rather than get his daily fix at Starbucks, and I suppose I could even skip my weekly US magazine obsession. We could do that thing I keep hearing about - budget, I think it's called. Money would certainly be very tight, but we'd be no worse off than other families getting by on one income. We just don't want to. As my return to work was approaching I was completely dreading it. So much so that I convinced myself it would be temporary, that by the end of the year I would be living the dream as a SAHM. Somewhere along the way I guess I forgot that it wasn't my dream.

What I'm just now remembering is that even before I had Maddie, I always wanted to be a working mom. There is definitely a selfish component to this desire: getting out of the house and indulging in adult conversation is a treat, and I do worry about staying at home now and 10 years down the road deciding I'm ready for a return to the workforce only to learn that the workforce is no longer ready for me. But a lot of it has to do with what I want for my daughter. I want her to see that it's okay for a woman - for a mother - to get worth and reward outside of her family. I want her to always feel a connection to the world beyond these four walls we live in. And I want her to know that the time I spend with her at the end of the day is the very best part of my day. There are other ways to instill this knowledge in her, of course; but for us, having me back at work just seems to... well, work! My year off definitely made me realize how hard it is to be a SAHM, and I am in awe and admiration of those who do it day in and day out. Being back at work has shown me the difficulties of fitting it all in. I guess both choices come complete with their own set of challenges and rewards. Whoever said that being a mom is the hardest job in the world had it right, it seems. But of course it's the best one, too.

In another short and totally unrelated topic, I think I need to make a declaration. I am officially a MySpace addict. I don't know how it happened, and to be honest I don't even know why. I mean, really - why would I possibly need a blog and a MySpace page? The whole venture seems pretty pointless to me, one giant waste of time. And yet, I have been completely sucked in. Do you ever wonder - what did I used to do with myself before the Internet? Oh right... have real social interaction. Sigh. So overrated, no?

As always, leave me a comment or drop me an email... I love hearing from you!


April 04, 2007

Day 370: Happy Birthday Mads!

For the first 11.5 months of her life Maddie never got sick. Not so much as a runny nose. As a formula feeding mom, that did wonders to soothe my traces of remaining guilt. But of course, illness chose to strike just in time for her 1st birthday and the poor girl has been a wet and snotty mess for the past three weeks. And now she's passed it on to me. I don't know how many times I've told her to use a Kleenex and cover her mouth when she coughs - I swear sometimes it's like she doesn't have a clue what I'm talking about! And of course while I am busy feeling sorry for myself and demanding constant coddling from Fernando, my one year old daughter has been generally stoic about the whole thing, pausing only briefly from her toys to rub snot into her eyes and through her hair (hey, at least I don't do that). I actually had to take a couple of days off work to recuperate, but I can tell you that a sick day is just not the same when you have a baby to care for. I admit to longing for the days when I would camp out on the couch with nothing to do but catch up on the soaps and eat frozen yogurt.

I suppose I should have started with this next bit, actually, as it is definitely the most important - Madeline is 1! We had a big party to celebrate over the weekend. To be honest I don't really understand the point of these crazy, chaotic 1st birthday parties. Obviously the kid couldn't care less. Or in Maddie's case, the kid would clearly prefer not to have her house full of people who keep wanting to cuddle with her, thus sending her into panicked shrieks that take 10 minutes to recover from. She would also probably prefer not to be the victim of a celebratory chokehold by her one little friend which has the same effect as the cuddles. Of course these parties are for us parents - which would explain the abundance of booze, too. But I suppose it has to be done, and it was fun - at least for us, if not for the birthday girl. And really, isn't that what matters?

I thought I would feel a twinge of sadness at the passing of her first year. But I didn't! I am nothing but happy and excited for her - and all of us - to be officially done with that newborn part. Because now we're getting to the fun part. She is becoming such a funny, interesting, smart, sweet little girl. I actually like hanging out with her. I like watching her learn new things, and seeing how proud she is of herself when she does. I like her goofy faces and belly laughs. I like her, period.... Now talk to me in 14 years when she's slamming doors and getting random things pierced and telling me that I just don't understand the "true love" she shares with the 20-year old that works at the gas station down the street.

As always, leave a comment or send me an email. I love hearing from you!