June 29, 2007

Day 459: Hittin' the road

The home renovation project is moving into phase 348 and so I am packing up Maddie and getting the hell out of Dodge, as they say. Who says that, anyways? Does anybody, really? In any case, just the thought of the little she-monster knee deep in paint and plaster is enough to give me a migraine. She, on the other hand, would love it I am sure. So I took a couple weeks' holidays and am abandoning poor Fernando to do the hard labour while Maddie and I lounge in our bathing suits on the beach. I'm a kind and loving wife, what can I say?

We are going to take the time to bond, to play, to mess about in the dirt and sand, and hopefully to learn a damn word or two! Because that's right, Mads has yet to say a single word. No, not mama, not dada. Not bye or ball or up or book or any of the other one-syllable charmers many toddlers are throwing about by now. There was a day, about a month ago, when we thought she was saying duck. It was more like "duh" but it was in the general direction of a group of ducks at the park, so we were fairly certain that this was the first of what was sure to be an onslaught of communication. Until we got home and suddenly the dog, the flowers, the barbecue and the chesterfield were all "duh."

Our days are filled with one utterance, repeated over and over again. "Dat!" Which, sure, I suppose you could say means "that." From the time she wakes up to the time she hits the sack at night, every minute it seems is filled with the sound of "dat!" She points at me: "Dat!" She points at her milk: "Dat!" She points at the tv: "Dat!" The mailbox: "Dat!" The stove: "Dat!" The box of wine in the fridge: "Dat!" You get the picture. It is endless. And each time we tell her what it is, and she nods her little head as if to say, "That's right, mom, that's a tv." And then she moves onto the next item, apparently bizarrely devoted to testing our knowledge of basic household vocabulary.

So while we are immersing ourself in nature and, hopefully, language, we will be awol from the blog. Happy & hot summer days to everyone till our return!

June 25, 2007

Day 455: Misery loves company?

So we are in the midst of a little baby boom here! No, not me. But so many of my friends are either having babies, about to have babies, or trying to have babies. It's wonderful, because when it comes to this club I say the more the merrier.

The thing is, all these babies seem so darn happy. They're adorable and loveable and sweet. They seem to be the babies you imagine when you dream about having a baby. I'm happy for my friends, cause they're wonderful girls and it's really fun and lovely seeing them become mothers. And even I cannot resist a giggly, gurgly, chubby little face. And yet...

I admit I cannot stop myself making the inevitable comparisons, asking the inevitable questions. I spent a lot of time wondering why poor Mads was so miserable, and now it feels like I am realizing just how miserable she was! And even though I know it's irrational, there is that little part of me that wonders if maybe I didn't just do something wrong. Or maybe I just failed to do something right. Truth be told, she wailed from the get go, so I can take solace in knowing that it couldn't have been me. But that voice is there nevertheless. The most shocking thing about babies to me is that they truly do arrive with their little minds already made up!

I wish I could say that the whole experience made me more patient or understanding, but I'm sorry to say I haven't noticed that change. Nor has my husband noticed it in me, I'm sure he'll be happy to tell you. Looking back, the biggest benefit to having a "high maintenance" baby is that I made a great friend who I never would have met were it not for the fact that our children were similarly "spirited." I love my Mads from her wonky hair down to her tickly toes, but the misery I definitely could've done without.

The thing is, now Maddie is actually really happy. She is usually in a great mood. I like to think that the constant attention and incredible effort throughout her first year contributed to making her the self-assured little girl she is becoming. She fancies herself a comedian and is always doing silly little things to keep us in hysterics. She often just laughs out loud, out of the blue, this really odd laugh. "A HA HA!" It's the abrasive guffaw of a 50-year old man erupting from a 15-month old baby girl. I suppose that I equate life with Maddie with life on the Gulf of Mexico. The water is crystal blue, the weather is warm, things are great. But you're always waiting for that next storm, and you never know when it might hit. I wonder if a lot of this is just me, remnants of days gone by. I guess my challenge, as always, is to live in the moment.

June 21, 2007

Day 451: Out of time

Babies tend to take over your whole life. Every thought, every action, every appointment, every errand – they all can somehow be traced back to the kid. I try to think back to my life before baby and the recollection is very vague. I wonder what I did with myself, with my time. I wonder what Fernando and I talked about. We try now, on those rare occasions when we are out without her, to keep our conversation away from Maddie, but of course one of us always manages to steer it back there and the other is only too happy to jump in. It’s sad, and we both know it: we have become those people. The ones who do mass emails of new photos every second day and blather on endlessly about their baby’s mastery of cutlery and spit bubble blowing.

The thing is, I am someone who likes her independence. No, that’s not putting it strongly enough. I treasure it. Before Maddie I would go to movies on my own, take myself out on lunch dates, spend a couple hours with no company other than a glass of wine and a good book. It's hard to do these things when you have a 30lb baby crawling over your back and banging you in the head with a plastic drumstick. I think that is in part why this transition into motherhood can be a rocky one for some. Suddenly there is this little person who is there all the time. And she’s demanding! And loud! And even when she’s not there she somehow still is.

The day you become a parent, time becomes a precious resource; and free time a very rare commodity. I spend most of my life in a frenzy. I am the mother who is paying the cashier with one hand, wiping her kid’s snotty nose with the other and opening a bag of crackers with her teeth. I am the one crashing the stroller into corners and slow-moving mall traffic. I am the one in a constant state of distraction, with her mind on 12 different things, her eyes never quite focusing on you. I am the one with a permanent ponytail and sheen of sweat on her forehead. That is me, I admit it. Hey, I took this gig on, but I never promised to do it gracefully.

June 14, 2007

Not always glamorous

I confess that I care a little bit too much about goings on in the celebrity world. There are days when I think that I should probably pay less attention to US Magazine and more to say, Parenting or Newsweek. But I work, I parent, I pay bills – sometimes I just need a break, a little bit of mindless entertainment.

It seems that there are two separate camps in Hollywood right now. The first is made up of Paris Hilton, Lindsay Lohan and the lot, young girls with too much money and too little restraint. They are on a sad, slow, and very public spiral out of control.

The second camp, though, are having babies! I love the second camp. I love that they have to get up in the middle of the night with their kids. I love that they have to deal with toddler meltdowns in the middle of Whole Foods. I love that the back seats of their BMWs are likely covered with spilled juice and ground-in animal crackers.

Maybe it’s pathetic. Or maybe it’s just that when I am knee-deep in dirty laundry, when my whole house has taken on the odour of a diaper pail, when I realize that even my "fat" jeans are now tight, it doesn't really help me to see Paris Hilton in a miniskirt and stilettos carting her miniature dog around in a $2,000 Coach purse. What is somehow comforting are pictures like this one of Jennifer Garner. Wet - or possibly dirty? - hair, no make-up, struggling with the impossible combination of two hands, one baby, a shopping cart and a cart cover. Now that I can relate to.

Ah, babies: the great equalizer.

June 11, 2007

Day 434: The thing about Maddie

Maddie is really coming into a fun age, because there are so many things she loves to do: splash in the tub, swing at the park, muck about in the sandbox, explore her toys. Of course, she loves these things so much that she never wants to stop doing them. Ever. And god help the person who tries to make her. The wonderful thing about Mads, and the challenging thing for the rest of us, is that she is so full of life and always has been. She is full of curiousity and activity and emotion and yes, even a bit of piss and vinegar, as they say.

Even as a tiny newborn, she filled every moment with emotion, with movement. She never lay still in our arms, constantly wanting to be bounced, jiggled, bumped about. Always hating and forcefully resisting the restraint of the bouncy chairs, swings, carseats and strollers that cluttered our house and sat unused.

When she is happy, it vibrates out of her. It escapes in glass-shattering shrieks of glee and fits of giggles. She is so full of joy and excitement that she often literally shakes from the strength of it. It’s as though her tiny body is too small to contain the emotion that erupts from it. When we're out and about I never have to worry about losing track of her because her squeals and exclamations echo constantly throughout the store. But of course the flip side is that when she is sad, she is very sad. Ditto angry and frustrated. She never does anything halfway.

She is never still, very rarely calm or quiet. When in her stroller, she doesn’t sit back and watch the world pass her by. She is upright, grasping the edges, straining to see what is just beyond each corner, to grab what is just beyond her reach. Yelling, pointing, screeching, she is aware of every falling leaf, every bird, her face turned into every passing breeze. She never wants to go to sleep, I think because she is worried about what she might miss out on. She dropped down to one nap a day by 9.5 months, and is gleefully threatening to give up that one, too. I saw a baby t-shirt recently that read, "Sleep is for the weak." I didn't get it because I didn't want to encourage her.

So yes, she will be the 2-year old pitching a fit at the grocery store while I, ever the frantic mother, try hard to pretend that I know how to handle her. But I think she will also be the 4-year old who keeps her pre-school classmates in stitches with her antics, the 7-year old who stays up late with a flashlight under the covers to finish a book, the 12-year old who knows more about so many things than her parents ever did or ever will. She is a challenge sometimes, to be sure. But she is also joyous and strong-willed and captivating . I guess it's a pretty fair trade-off.

June 05, 2007

Day 428: Milestones 101

So, over the past year you've heard me drone on endlessly about this milestone business. Here, as I understand it, is how it all works:

It may seem that babies lie around doing little more than crying, pooping, eating, sleeping for months. But in fact they are secretly working on a huge to-do list of accomplishments - also known as milestones. (I'm sure some child psychologist first applied the term to babies a hundred years ago and had no idea the torture he was inflicting upon poor unsuspecting mothers for the rest of time.) It seems these little beings are supposed to be mastering new skills daily; really, under that kind of pressure, it's no wonder they seem so cranky and miserable sometimes. These milestones run the gamut. From batting at hanging toys to smiling to picking up Cheerios to climbing a flight of stairs, it seems that everything is a milestone of some sort.

Now here's where it starts to get tricky. Not only must they achieve these various goals, but they should really do it within a specific time frame. Drinking from a sippy cup is a bit more impressive at 6 months than it would be at, say, 6 years. Or 60 years. So let's say you open up your trusty (and loathed) baby milestones books and read, "Your 6-month old's stronger neck and arm muscles allow him to practice rolling over toward one side, a milestone that will probably awe and amuse you." You look over at little Timmy lying slobbering on the living room floor, looking as likely to roll over as he is to stand up and hail a cab. Let's just say you are neither awed nor amused. You start to worry that little Timmy is delayed. Babies who are behind in their milestones are delayed. Those who are ahead are advanced. Those who are right on time are, well, they're right on time. So you spend the next three weeks flat on your stomach coaxing Timmy to roll his chubby little self over with various incentives before finally admitting you are a big fat failure of a mother and accepting the fact that poor Timmy will be lying around on your living room floor for the rest of his life. Until one day he suddenly up and rolls over like he's been doing it all his life, and you forget that you just wasted all that time worrying about something that turns out to be absolutely nothing.

And that is how milestones work.

Now poor Maddie, she is advanced in the milestones that nobody seems to care much about. She can stack rings like nobody's business. Her pincer grasp is beyond compare. She flips through pages in a magazine like she was born doing it. In my opinion, of course, these are much more difficult tasks and require far greater intellectual prowess than the "big money" milestones of walking and talking. But still, they really aren't the kind of thing you write home about. And even though everybody says - and I know it's true - that it's not like she's going to crawl to highschool, there is that little part of me that wonders if maybe she actually will.

And so, after this very long introduction, it is with near uncontrollable excitement that I will finally tell you: Mads took her first steps this week!! In total over the past few days I would guess - okay, fine, I know with absolute certainty - that she's taken 10 steps. Not all at once, of course. It might be just the slightest exaggeration to say that she is "walking," but she is finally showing signs that she may one day walk, and for now that is definitely good enough for me.

It seems we are on our way to Toddlerhood; and I would say she's right on time.