November 27, 2007

Day 601: Lessons from the trenches

I was writing about Keri Russell’s insights into motherhood this morning and it got me to thinking. You know Keri Russell – Felicity, remember? That girl could shave her head and go on to win an Oscar but she will somehow always be Felicity to me. She had a son a few months back and has been waxing poetic about motherhood and babies ever since. Not that I blame her - I appreciate it, in fact. I felt the same compulsion after having Maddie. Everyone had to hear about the pregnancy, the labour, the crying (hers and mine!), the never-ending quest for a schedule. Thus this blog! Anyways, I digress.

Felicity’s lessons learned got me to thinking about my own. So here they are, in no particular order:

  1. It turns out not all babies are alike after all. It turns out they can be quite different, and so many of the pre-conceived notions of what life with baby is going to be like end up being tossed aside after a lengthy and losing battle to get your particular baby to conform to the standard. And then you start to accept the baby that you have, rather than the one you may have thought you were going to have. And then things start to get easier.

  2. You’re stronger and more capable than you think you are. You can survive on less sleep, with less time, with more responsibility, with more questions, with only one free hand. You may end up exhausted and a little bit crazy, but you can do it.

  3. A lot of things that I thought might matter – it turns out they don’t. Things like having the nicest house, or the fattest paycheque; having the smallest waistline or the most admirers or a wardrobe that isn’t coated in crusty banana pudding and slobber. Compared to time spent with your family, to watching your baby grow up happy and loved, those things don’t mean too much at all. Although I’d still take the small waistline.

  4. Babies are born with their own personalities and on their own timelines. They’re going to roll over when they want to, walk when they want to, and talk when they want to. They’ll master utensils on their own time and potty train when they’re ready. And if they feel like hating the carseat one day and loving it the next, well then that’s what they’re going to do. You can encourage them, but if you have hopes of dictating all of these things… good luck. And if you have any success, I want to know your secret!

  5. You can always love more. I love my family, my friends, my husband, my dog (most days). I love Johnny Depp movies and a glass of really cold wine and finding a good shoe sale. For a long time I didn’t know if I wanted to be a mother, in part because my life felt full already. And then I had Maddie and found that despite putting love into all of those things, I had tons left over in me for her. An endless supply for her.

My lessons learned aren’t the same as Felicity’s and probably won’t be the same as yours. And if you call me in 2 years (or 3 months) I'm sure I will have extensive revisions to the list!

ps - I just realized this is my 100th post! Wow, why does is feel like so many more than that? I'm sure it feels that way to you, too. :) Thanks for sticking around!


November 22, 2007

Day 596: Sick and tired

Here is something I will freely admit about myself: I don't do sick well. I am not one of those people who soldiers through, who suffers in silence. No, if I am suffering you're going to hear about it. Along with the moaning and groaning, my already sparse reserve of patience reaches near undetectable levels. Things that I normally might not even notice suddenly have me pulling my hair out in irritation.

Take yesterday, for instance. On my way home from work I stopped off at the mall to pick up my daily supply of OJ and cold medicine. The girl at the cashier walked me step-by-step through the process of using the Interac machine like she personally had just invented the technology and was unveiling it for the first time ("Okay, and now choose your account... uh huh, right... and now it'll ask for your personal id number... good..."). It nearly drove me insane.

And then the other day I almost got into a fight with a four-year-old at the bookstore. In terms of size, I could've taken her. But I'm pretty sure she would've fought dirty. I don't like to interfere with other people's parenting styles. Unless they result in my kid being on the receiving end of an ass whooping. Then I have to step in, right? This girl was a pint-sized bully in a really cute dress. She was stealing Maddie's toys, throwing things at her head, pulling her chair out from under her, pushing her onto piles of books. It was outrageous. And for all of her spunk, Mads just is not the confrontational type. So I started out gently doling out wisdom on the principles of sharing to the two of them, but that soon turned into me taking the toy she was poised to launch out of her hand and flat out telling this girl to sit down and stop it already. Enough is enough. Then her mom, who's been wandering about somewhere, pops back just long enough to say, "Oh, are you sharing? Good girl!" to her little terror. Um, I guess it depends on your definition of sharing. If it involves reigning tiny fists of fury on unsuspecting toddlers, then yup, she's got it covered.

What do you do in these situations? I feel like I may have crossed the invisible line, committed the ultimate sin of trespassing on another mother's ground. But I thought I should at least try to teach Maddie to stick around and work it out, even though the attempt was unsuccessful. What are the alternatives? To stay and take a pounding? Or to up and run? Oh, who knows? Chalk it up to another parenting lesson (not quite) learned.

Happy Thanksgiving to all of you who are South of the border, I hope it's a wonderful one!


November 19, 2007

Day 593: She's saying Mom! (Now how do I get her to stop?)

Sorry for the stretch between posts, I've been sick, sick, sick. Nothing serious, don't worry (and I know you were about to), just one of those things that drags on endlessly and makes you wish that you could stay in bed all week. Which of course you can't, because there is a toddler jumping in her crib down the hall, pounding on the walls and more than ready to start the day.

Ah, the pre-baby sick day. How I miss it. Lying on the couch under sea of blankets with a 2 litre bottle of Ginger Ale and a bucket of ice cream; letting out the occasional sickly moan just in case anybody in the house has forgotten just how ill and deserving of sympathy you are. Good times.

Maddie is of course not at all sympathetic. Yesterday I was dragging my sorry self along with a ton of groceries from the car - something that she never offers to help with, might I add - while she stood banging on the gate to the house and yelling "MOM! MOM! MOM!" at the top of her lungs. Geez, give me a break, kid!

Oh yes, and she has just recently started saying "mom" and a select few other words. I have been wary of sharing that news because I haven't wanted to jinx it. But it seems that we may be on the road to talking after all - I guess she's just taking the slow route.

Of course, like everything else it is a bit of a mixed blessing. While I am thrilled to hear her say "mom" she seems to only use it when she's mad at me - which, as it turns out, is pretty often! "MOM!" (You left the cupboard door open again!), "MOM!" (you know I don't like carrots this week!), "MOM!" (how dare you step out of my direct line of vision!) She's always after me about something.

Well, the Advil/Sudafed combination is kicking in, so that's my cue to sign off!


November 13, 2007

Day 587: Fall days

I love the Fall. Spring is too wet and dull, Summer is too sweaty, and Winter is too cold to get out of bed. Plus I have an irrational and near-debilitating fear of slippery surfaces, so December through February poses a problem for me. That’s why I could never live in Antarctica.

Yes, Fall is definitely my season. I love watching the leaves turn and then hearing them crunch under your feet after they’ve fallen. I love that you can see the cloudy puffs of your breath but it’s not yet too cold to go for a walk at the beach. I love pulling out the cozy sweaters and vests that you forgot you even owned. I love that you feel slightly less pretentious drinking a double tall non-fat latte on a cool Fall morning than you do in the midst of the Summer heat. Most of all I love those perfect Fall days – bright red leaves against a bright blue sky, when everything seems to come into sharper focus and everything somehow feels a bit more alive.

And now that Maddie is here I find I have a hundred more reasons to love the season: Watching her crouch to inspect a soggy leaf that’s plastered to the driveway, seeing her splash her way through an endless string of grey puddles, her wet little face peeking out from beneath the hood of her yellow raincoat, her studious efforts to help her Daddy gather up the leaves with her dollar store plastic rake.

I swear, sometimes – when she’s not standing screaming bloody murder in the bath or tossing her entire dinner overboard to the dog – that kid is so cute I can barely stand it.

Hope you’re all enjoying some happy Fall days of your own!

(ps – and thanks to those who’ve left comments lately, I love getting them! I wish there was some way to reply, but I guess this will have to do.)


November 07, 2007

Day 581: Time marches on...

Fernando and I were chatting in the car yesterday morning on our way to work. Two guesses as to what the conversation was about. You got it – Maddie. Specifically, we were talking about his habit of replying to the question, “How old is she?” with the impressively vague answer, “One-and-something.” I tend to be much more specific – “She turned 19 months last week.” He doesn’t like dealing in months. One-and-something is clearly so much better. Anyways, at one point he sighed and said, “She’s almost two, soon she’ll be five, then she’ll be twelve, and then we’re out of the picture.” I was half-expecting to hear a violin in the background.

This is a familiar refrain. Poor Fernando, he can see Maddie’s entire life stretched out like a path in front of her, with each step ahead taking her that much further away from us. Her first day of school, her first sleepover, her first slammed door, date, job, car, apartment. The first time she screams “I hate you, Dad!” or worse yet, “But Daddy, I looove him!” – in his mind, it’s all hurtling towards us at warp speed. And while I know he’s right – while I know everybody is right when they tell me it all passes way too quickly – I somehow can’t see it the way he can. I literally cannot picture her beyond the age of about two-and-a-half (sorry, “two-and-something"). I cannot picture her talking, or with hair that’s grown past her ears. I can’t picture her getting herself dressed or making herself a bowl of cereal or walking herself to school in the morning.

And yet I know, of course, that it’s coming. I think back to all of the things that she’s already left behind her – falling asleep on her Daddy’s chest at night, her gummy smiles, her habit of spitting up all over strangers. Now she’s running around and making silly faces and playing games – things I couldn’t imagine her doing when she was a newborn, things that have somehow crept up on me. I guess it makes me wonder which is better (or which is worse): having these moments pass by without you realizing it or seeing them come from miles – and years – away. I have a feeling that is one of those irritating questions that has no right answer. One thing is for certain, there’s no stopping the clock now. So I guess we’ll both try to just enjoy each moment as it passes.

(A photographer friend took this picture of Maddie and it’s my new favourite – if you live in the area, check out her Web site, she takes great family photos:


November 04, 2007

Day 579: A very scary Halloween

I know that it’s a little late for a Halloween update. In truth I’ve been trying to come up with a decent excuse for why I don’t have a single picture of my daughter in her Halloween costume. But my friend saved me yesterday by sending this one that she took.

Let me tell you a scary Halloween story. It starts about a week before the big day. We got a fuzzy little lion costume for Maddie. She loved it – on the hanger. On her body – not so much. As soon as I got her into it she freaked right out. So we ditched the lion. Thankfully we had a cheerleader outfit that we got as a gift. Cute, low maintenance; it seemed perfect. Until Fernando decided that maybe she shouldn’t be a cheerleader. He insists it’s because he wanted her to be something she would recognize, but I know it’s really because he didn’t want her in a short skirt. So the cheerleader was out. And I was out of ideas. And then I was at Toys R Us and it was like a light shone down through the heavens and pointed me in the right direction. Okay, really they were giving out free fairy wings at the cashier – but if that’s not a sign, I don’t know what is! So a fairy princess it was! I made the costume. You heard right, I made it. And then two days before Halloween Mads and Fernando decided to double team me: She let it be known that she hated the new costume (surprise, surprise) and he said that maybe a cheerleader would be cute after all. Sigh.

So as you can see she was a cheerleader. Cute, no? What you don’t see is the evening up until the time this picture was taken. I got stuck in traffic for ages and was right pissed off and not at all in the holiday spirit by the time I got home. Then we discovered that all renovation hell had broken loose at the house. Fernando spent an hour on hold with the phone company trying to sort things out – an hour that involved a lot of slamming of doors and swearing and general unpleasantness. So we finally leave, to go to a friend’s house. On the way there we get into a bit of trouble with the in-laws. Oh well. But at least Maddie is in great spirits. Until we get there and suddenly she’s not in a party mood after all. Screams. Slobbers. Panics. We spend an hour with her seconded in the back of the house, the mere sight of anybody sending her into great, heaving sobs. She finally calms down enough to eat a piece of candy. Which she proceeds to choke on. Really choke, complete with wheezing, gasping, a bright red little face. Thank god Fernando was there to flip her over and pound on her back till the candy flew across the room. Mildly terrifying, to say the least. And then, for the kicker, she vomits all over everything, including her costume.

Anyways, it seems a good barf is all she needed, cause she was good as gold after that – the life of the party.

So that was our Halloween. How was yours?