Wednesday, October 31, 2007
And Sugar D's jack'o'lantern, which sadly started aging prematurely.
I think his crowning moment was when a kid walked up on the porch and said, "Wow, what a great pumpkin! That's a black widow spider!" Which was absolutely accurate.
Tuesday, October 30, 2007
We'd been down to just a bedtime feed since about June, when Swee'pea dropped the morning feed. Before that, we'd been at just a morning and bedtime feed since I nightweaned him in April. I have been toying with the idea of weaning him for months, but could never really come up with a solid argument for or against. For most of the summer, I have been the one initiating the bedtime feed, asking him if he'd like to nurse and taking him to our rocking chair. Then for a few weeks, he got very keen on nursing, specifically requesting a nurse after we'd put his pajamas on. Then he got sick. And our routines went out the window and I just decided not to remind him of the nursing option. And he hasn't nursed since.
I'm surprised that I feel just a little bit sad about it, because I thought I'd nursed him for long enough, and our weaning had been gradual enough that I would just be ready. I certainly felt ready. This kind of change is good, even if it comes with a touch of regret, with a small wish to go back and re-do the last time, with the foreknowledge that this is the final time. But there were at least TWO times in the summer that I remember nursing him while thinking that would be the last time. So I've really made my peace.
I suppose it is just that this change is irrevocable, and marks a milestone in Swee'pea's inexorable and growing independence, a good thing really but still undeniably bittersweet, that whole process of growing up. Two weeks ago we were still a nursing pair, and now we are simply, separately, a mother and child. I could be melodramatic and say something about Swee'pea no longer taking comfort in my body, but that's not true at all. He's still a cuddle-monkey, and he often engages in a little belly kneading and prodding for a bit of comfort here and there through the day. I have no doubt we have lots of cuddles ahead of us.
I wanted to honour the experience of breastfeeding Swee'pea with a montage of scenes and sensory details from the past 20 months. But already I can't really remember much. Isn't that terrible?
I do remember the warm feeling of wee baby Swee'pea in my arms, his tiny feet with the long skinny toes of an old man wedged against one elbow, his soft round newborn head against the other. Lately, nursing him has sometimes felt like trying to keep hold of an eel as he twists and writhes around, his feet now dangling below my knees and his head heavy against my elbow.
Monday, October 29, 2007
Wright Hassal Law Offices
509 Main Street
To: Swee’pea, (hereinafter, “The Lessee”)
On Behalf of: Cinnamon Gurl and Sugar D (hereinafter, “The Lessors”)
On this date of October 29, 2007, in G-Town, Ontario, The Lessors recognize that you have the benefit of squatters’ rights, since the gap at the centre of the queen-sized bed at 153 Cardamom Lane, Lot 30, Concession 42, in G-Town, Ontario, (hereinafter, "the Premises" was vacant when you began habitation there, and they have made no effort to remove you from the Premises.
Please find attached a lease agreement, subject to the Landlord Tenant Act, to govern your occupation of said habitation, with the following conditions. The Lessors are very generously not requesting rent money from you. Rather, they require you to cease and desist with your violent behaviour while you are on the Premises. They have grown fond of you and wish to pursue a peaceful settlement to the recent disappointing turn of events.
Lease Commencement Date: November 1, 2007
Full Service Rent: $0
Terms of the Agreement:
- Between the hours of 10 p.m. and 6 a.m., The Lessee will not partake in any violent behaviour, intentional or otherwise, in the common area of the Premises, including but not limited to: kicking, thrashing, flailing, flinging, poking, pinching, grasping, pushing, smacking, hair-pulling, or other actions that cause bodily harm or loss of sleep to The Lessors. Such actions outside of the specified hours will be governed by the Parental Agreement already in force.
- The Lessee will not lie horizontally across the Premises while both Lessors are present.
- The Lessee bears sole responsibility for the safety and whereabouts of the oral pacifier (hereinafter the “dudu”). The Lessee may wish to consider allowing the clip-on strap thingie to be attached to his person such that the “dudu” will not fall off the bed in the middle of the night.
- The Lessee may cuddle or gently touch The Lessors for comfort at any time, so long as the Lessee causes no pain, bodily harm, or sleeplessness.
If you do not agree to and abide by said terms, The Lessors are not afraid to pursue an Action in Ejectment under the Land Registration Act, 1992 to remove you forcibly from the Premises.
Friday, October 26, 2007
“Generally speaking, people who have children have them for the wrong reasons,” she says. “They have them because they’re afraid of being alone, and they want to grasp a tiny bit of immortality. And anyway, we never get that immortality. You are doing something that is very foolish for society just because you have believed something that is not true.”
Danigirl asked her readers, why did you have children? And now I want to answer.
Whereas Danigirl always knew that above all else she wanted to be a mother, that it was her calling, I knew no such thing. When I was in high school, I thought children were parasites that sucked the life out of their parents and I couldn't understand why anyone would want to bring about their own demise. It seemed like something only really stupid people would do. In my daydreams of the future, I usually inhabited one of two fantasies: 1) I was an underpaid groom who lived in the loft above a barn with a big dog and a couple of horses (who stayed at the high-end barn for free) and worked long, solitary hours exercising horses and shoveling shit and doing all the work their owners were too lazy to do; or 2) I was a reclusive alcoholic in a decrepit shack with a typewriter far away from anyone and who only made weekly trips to the small nearby town for supplies, mostly booze.
After I fell in love, at the old age of 17, long after my friends all had, my fantasies were no longer so solitary; they involved a male life-partner and I came to own the horse stable or make enough money with few enough ties to travel the world, with my life-partner as a sidekick. I remember once telling my mom (who has three kids) about my view of children as parasites and my intention never to fall prey to that trap. She responded that she had never seen her children that way, that yes she'd made sacrafices, but they'd never felt like sacrifices and her children (me included) had actually enriched her life considerably. Right off the top of her head, she pointed out that she would never have known anything about horses without me, or travelled to so many countries without my sister to visit in them, or have learned about art without my brother's talent. This conversation was a revelation to me. It had never occurred to me that children might give something back to their parents.
A few years later, either just before or just after my first year of university, I visited my brother in Victoria. He's eight years older than me, and at that time had been with his partner for five years, and he told me about how much he'd like to have children. I thought he was becoming staid but his enthusiasm was intriguing. He was enthralled with how a child is literally created by love and fascinated by the separateness and yet connectedness of a child from and to the source of that love.
I was 22 when my brother had his first child, and she was four months old when I met her. I was totally swept away by the way she seemed to smile so much more brightly at me than anybody else, by her eyes following my big mop of red hair around the room, likely bigger and redder than anything else she'd seen in her short life on top of someone's head. After that, I knew I wanted kids.
The first time Sugar D and I, er, consummated our affection for one another, I told him that if anything unexpected resulted, I would not have an abortion. I've always been pro-choice, but at that stage of my life, it would no longer have been the right choice for me. Luckily, I never had to make that decision anyways. After we'd been together for a few years, I started to make it clear to Sugar D that I wanted children, and that at some point, his not knowing whether he wanted his kids would no longer be acceptable to me.
I remember trying to persuade him with all the good reasons for bringing children into our lives, but now, on the other side of all that, I cannot for the life of me remember what they were. The reality of parenthood has eclipsed all my earlier, mistaken ideas I guess. I do remember saying that we were already so boring that a kid would fit right in with our family-friendly Saturday morning market trips and not going out on Friday nights life. I was certainly not trying to capture some bit of immortality, because the one expectation I have of my child(ren) is that he is his own person, not some little version of me running around. I was also most definitely not afraid of being alone because I had lots of people in my life and a pretty supportive partner (except for the marriage-kids disagreement, which ended up being very nicely resolved).
I think what it came down to is that I felt I had a lot of love to offer, which is more than some poor children have. More selfishly, I thought that caring for a child and watching him or her experience so many firsts might renew my own wonder in the world, might make me see the world with fresh eyes. And it has. That said, the reality of becoming a mother has enriched my life than I could have ever dreamed possible.
Most surprising of all the changes motherhood has wrought in me is how much I have learned about myself. Who would have thought that being wholly responsible for the survival of another being, so precious they trump everything, would be a means to self-awareness? But it has been for me.
First up, parenthood has taught me about my relationship with Sugar D. Before Swee'pea was born, I thought I was the more emotionally resilient partner; not to say that Sugar D was not emotionally resilient, just that I was more so (anxiety notwithstanding). Becoming a mother has revealed my vulnerability in surprising ways. When I was going crazy with middle of the night growth spurts and a baby who wouldn't stop nursing or sleep, it was Sugar D whose company kept me from totally losing it. And even now, after those crazy, hormonal and awkward early weeks, I lose it far more than Sugar D does, and he always comes to my rescue.
Before I had Swee'pea, I was pretty prone to anxiety. I'd learned how to cope and was doing a lot better, but I would never have considered moving to Toronto, the way I have over the last few months, where people have to ride the subway (horrors!), and elevators up VERY tall buildings, where the streets are dangerous and busy, and people are scary. I know those are silly notions but I have always felt tremendously intimidated by the Big City; I mostly enjoyed visiting as long as I could avoid subways and elevators but it was always a relief to get home. I also didn't really care for the discomfort of long trips and preferred to stay close to home, although my world was beginning to broaden again, with considerable effort.
Now, Swee'pea provides a focus for my anxiety, a number onI have no anxiety. Nothing else really matters that much. And given that he's pretty portable and can be made happy and comfortable just about anywhere, I'm a lot more comfortable travelling away from home than I used to be. I suspect this came in large part from my role as a "travelling feeding bottle."
I have also learned about my ambition. I used to see myself as a coaster, someone who did the bare minimum to get by at work, someone who would choose not to have a paid job if some other financial means came about, who would be a stay-at-home mom in a heartbeat if we could swing it financially. But now that I am a mom, I have learned that I actually do like my job, and I love having a foot in both worlds by working only three days a week. Not only that, but I have discovered a new ambition in my working self. I've started to get frustrated with only being there three days a week, because it means that two days out of three I have to hand off some portion of my work. If I can hand it off to someone whose skills are similar to mine (i.e., another word-nerd), then it's fine. But if the only person I can hand off to has a different set of strengths and weaknesses, I can't trust that things will get done to my standard. And I don't like that.
I mentioned briefly a while back that a promotion has come available at my work. I'm excited at the prospect, enough that it being a full-time job is not a huge detriment. An opportunity like this likely won't come up again for years more. And working full-time might be nice, because it would take off some of the pressure off at my workplace to always be setting up back-ups and handing off work.
Before I became a mother, I may have been just as ambitious. But I also felt like more of a drone, even though I have never been a workaholic or anything like it. I'd lost my passion. Somehow, motherhood has rekindled my passion for photography and personal writing, for really seeing and smelling and hearing the world, for truly inhabiting the moment.
Yet even as I write this, I wonder if writing about these discoveries is somehow heretical to the cult of motherhood, or worse, if making these self-discoveries means I am a bad, selfish mother. That I should focus on the wondrousness of my child and his development, and not on mine. What do you think? How has motherhood surprised you?
Thursday, October 25, 2007
On top of this, I am having to manage the suspense of waiting to find out if Sugar D got the job nearby. They won't be deciding till next week, and patience is not a virtue of mine. I keep oscillating between fantasizing about sweet it would be if Sugar D got the job and trying to rein in the fantasies so that we're not totally devastated if he doesn't get it.
I remember talking to a friend a while back about how hard I've found Sugar D's commute -- esentially it makes me a single mother for twelve hours a day, although having a partner overnight makes life so much easier that I feel bad making the comparison. This friend has had periods of being a real single mom when her partner has been overseas, and she said something that has stuck in my head: "It's good to learn that you can do it."
I hope soon we can chalk up the changes of the last five months to a learning experience.
Tuesday, October 23, 2007
There is something luxurious about walking alone on a warm summer night. But it's just sleezy at the end of October in Ontario.
Monday, October 22, 2007
It is a shockingly mild October day, a day when the colours seem to leap onto my retinas and the low sun gilds the blowing leaves like it's raining gold foil.
I see him again as we near the park. He has turned around and passes us in the opposite direction. Close up, he looks remarkably like that man, the panhandler with the crutches, who I haven't seen downtown all summer, not since I took this picture:
A few days later or maybe the next day, I discovered blood on the wall he is facing in the picture. I've been wondering, kind of worriedly, where he's gone, hoping that he had just found a place to escape the summer.
After checking on Swee'pea and seeing his puffy red eyes running down his face, I decide to turn around. Walking towards home, I see a man jogging towards us. He's wearing a pink t-shirt and baseball cap too, also with a beard. As he approaches, I see it's the same man and he stops jogging to walk. He doesn't look at me as he passes this time, and I can hear he's out of breath.
After three passes, I still think he looks like that man. But it couldn't be. Could it?
Sunday, October 21, 2007
In addition to the drooping and drippiness, it seems that his sleeping habits have regressed to his habits of infancy... he refuses to be put down, not even on the couch, for almost all of his sleep time. I must say I'm handling it much better than I did when he was four months old, knowing that we've survived it before, and it will surely improve once the poor kid feels better. In the meantime, we read and watch tv while a considerably heavier and more mobile baby sleeps and kicks and coughs and grunts on top of us. I like to think he gains some comfort from the thunderous sound of our hearbeats right against his ear, remembering the bliss of those timeless, floating days before the knowledge of bodily concerns like hunger, or cold, or streaming sinuses.
Thursday, October 18, 2007
Tuesday, October 16, 2007
Of course, none of it mattered. I noticed that neither of the two women interviewing me were wearing makeup, and their hair didn't look perfect either. All that angst for nothing. I looked fine. I did fine. I would be a very good fit for the job.
And while I felt a little thrill at my first glimpse of the skyline and the CN Tower truncated by heavy, low clouds and hearing the clang of a streetcar and then a subway scraping by, I just don't think we belong in the Big Smoke. While I enjoyed being dwarfed by the enormous glass walls lining the downtown streets, I don't think I want to spend forty hours a week high up inside one of them. While it was exciting to watch all the people in smart suits and ties and shiny shoes rushing past a cafe window, I don't want to become one of them feeling tugged by my little one somewhere more than five minutes away from me.
Don't get me wrong. It's a vibrant and exciting city and I felt myself lifted by that excitement. I'm sure we could be happy there, especially with so many kickass bloggers there. But I think I'd prefer a slower life on a smaller scale. Sorry, I know I've said all this before but I continue to waffle so I need to reconsider the options over and over again.
So more finger-crossing for this nearby job for Sugar D. He had one interview last week and may hear the end of this week whether he gets a second.
Monday, October 15, 2007
Yesterday, he discovered a new exclamation to make us giggle. He had two mountainous boogies that had been taunting us ALL weekend from behind the protection of Swee'pea's swiping fists. Finally, while he was eating, one emerged and I quickly wiped it off his cheek. I decided to try again on the other nostril and sure enough, that little booger stuck to the damp washcloth and allowed itself to be drawn out. And drawn out. And drawn out. It just kept coming like one of those trick handkerchiefs magicians use on unsuspecting volunteers from the audience. It was so gross Sugar D and I couldn't help but comment, "Ewwwwww!" as it emerged and then afterwards during horrified involuntary flashbacks.
Later, Swee'pea grabbed a clean washcloth from the shelf and began inspecting it closely. "Ewwwwww!" It's his new favourite word, and he has a special knack for uttering it at particularly apt moments. He sounds like a flippin' teenager sometimes.
Also yesterday, Swee'pea was in his high chair eating when our cat started freaking out. She's neurotic, and especially neurotic about crapping. I suspect she has some digestive difficulties but it's still pretty annoying that she will only crap in a pristine box. I figured she was gearing up for a number two so I cleaned out the little clump of pee that was preventing her from doing her business and she quickly jumped in. I must have said something to Sugar D about the cat's plans because Swee'pea immediately started mocking the cat: "Stinky! Stinky!"
I guess the cat didn't much for his mockery because she leapt out of the litterbox and ran upstairs, her claws scraping on the floor while she did a cartoon-style running-in-place move before finally getting into gear and actually going upstairs. She's carried on like this before in pre-BM moments so I figured she'd come back down to her litterbox and make her deposit. But she didn't. Oh well, I guessed it was a false alarm. Until it actually did get stinky and I went upstairs to investigate. She'd crapped in the guest room.
Saturday, October 13, 2007
I have worn my winter coat for more than nine winters, including the winter I was pregnant and gave birth. It used to be my dad's ski jacket, until he got sick of it nine years ago. I don't think I need to say any more.
I think I'd like to be slightly less of a slob. I know I'll never be one of those women who is ALWAYS well put-together, the ones who have perfectly coiffed hair all the time and wear high heals and nice blouses every day, and NEVER get a run in their stockings. But I think I should make an attempt to at least get some clothes that fit properly and look reasonably well. I realized the other day, with a bit of a start, that I weigh about what I weighed when I was six or seven months pregnant (hey, almost exactly two years ago). I think it could be a while before I'm back to my pre-pregnant size, if ever, so I decided to find some clothes that make me feel good.
So I went to the mall. Where I discovered that I am officially old. How do I know? Because while I did set foot in some of the stores aimed at the younger set, the stores I used to shop in, I didn't find a single thing that either fit or was remotely to my taste. Today I shopped almost exclusively at the old-lady stores, the ones I've never really stepped into before, but out of desperation I did today and discovered, to my pleased surprised, that their clothes actually look nice AND they're good quality AND they carry sizes larger than my thinnest size ever. AND I got really good service from women who don't make me feel like I'm a) a total geezer, b) pathetically out to lunch or c) way too fat to shop there. They don't look at my ass like it's a hopeless cause that no clothing will flatter but give me an honest opinion and find me clothing that fits AND flatters my body. Heck, unlike those waif-like teenagers in the other stores, these ladies sometimes even have an ass. Score!
For those of you who like to shop and would like a little vicarious thrill, here's what I bought:
1) A heavy wool, brown winter coat with a belt. Not terribly exciting but considerably more tasteful than my big ole (and I mean really old and really big) ski jacket. On sale for $70 off.
2) A brown wool blend suit for interviews with a shortish blazer and a longish, fairly straight skirt, almost identical to my other interview suit except that this one fits. It's comfortable (especially important during job interviews -- one of which I have next week for a job in Toronto), and makes me look good, and like I know what I'm doing (also especially important for job interviews). On sale for the price of the blazer alone.
3) A black pair of stretch cords with a camel pinstripe that actuallly fit. More impressive than it sounds.
4) A fairly long brown sweater with a cute almost-belt that keeps it from becoming a tent. (If you had told me two years ago that I would buy an almost-belted sweater, I would have laughed in your face. But it's nice.)
5) Two faux-two-piece-layered shirts -- one brown with a stripey collar and cuffs, the other red with a white collar and cuffs.
Since it's suddenly SO cold, I also got Swee'pea some good mittens. It was horrible this morning walking to the market and watching his little hands go red, but he refused to have a blanket on them. We discovered when I got home from shopping though, that Swee'pea has apparently developed a phobia of mittens. Seriously. When I took them out of the bag and approached him, he kept backing away and shaking his head, a panicked look in his eye. When he'd backed into a corner and I was still approaching, he cried and I stopped. I did the classical phobia thing, where you just try to get the scary scary item as close as the phobic person can stand it, and then bring it a little closer, until he even allowed them on his hands for a second. But he will not let us put them on him for outside. What are we going to do? How do we prevent his hands from getting frostbit this summer? Anyone ever had a mitten-phobic kid in a northern clime before?
Friday, October 12, 2007
Thursday, October 11, 2007
2. How long have you been together?
3. How long did you date?
4. How old is your man?
5. Who eats more?
6. Who said "I love you" first?
7. Who is taller?
He is -- by 1 inch
8. Who sings better?
We both sing horribly, but I’d have to say that I sing better. Or at least I sing more and he asks me to stop.
9. Who is smarter?
This is a tough one. He's probably smarter in a purely intellectual way but I may be smarter in a more pragmatic way. He remembers dates and names from books, whereas I remember street names and when to pay bills in real life.
10. Whose temper is worse?
Mine. It fires faster and more often, though his slow burn can be impressive -- about once a year.
11. Who does the laundry?
12. Who takes out the garbage?
13. Who sleeps on the right side of the bed?
14. Who pays the bills?
15. Who is better with the computer?
16. Who mows the lawn?
17. Who cooks dinner?
Right now, with him gone for 12 hours a day, I do. Years ago, he did ALL the cooking (he makes delicious curries). But over the years I have slowly learned to cook and now my repertoire is big enough to carry us (mostly) through the week. When he worked in the same town, it was probably a 50-50 split.
18. Who drives when you are together?
We usually split it for longer drives. I drive there and he drives back. But I probably drive a bit more than he does when we're driving around town.
19. Who pays when you go out?
He does. Not that it matters because we pool all our money.
20. Who is most stubborn?
I am. Though he gives me a frustratingly good run for my money.
21. Who is the first to admit when they are wrong?
Well, I'm the first to admit when HE'S wrong. I'm probably also the first to admit when I'm wrong, but it happens so rarely it's hard to remember.
22. Whose parents do you see the most?
We see his mom most frequently but for shorter visits. We probably see more of my parents when all the hours are totaled.
23. Who kissed who first?
Oh crap. I seriously can't remember. I could probably reconstruct a version of it but what would be the point. It was probably mutual.
24. Who asked who out?
I asked him out, but he'd already given me his phone number and blushed and stammered.
25. Who proposed?
He did. Unless you count all the times I told him I wanted him to propose.
26. Who is more sensitive?
27. Who has more friends?
28. Who has more siblings?
I do. He's an only child.
29. Who wears the pants in the family?
I do. He knows it and I know it.
PS Sugar D would like it known that he also does the dishes, feeds the cat, cleans the litterbox, and finds it unfair that those questions weren't on the exam.
Wednesday, October 10, 2007
I know I'm not the first to write about leaf blowers and how offensive they are with their gasoline-consuming, greenhouse gas-emitting, and VERY LOUD motors. (I once read that running a gas lawnmower on an average sized yard emits about the same greenhouse gases as driving a car for 500 km -- how horrifying is that?) But somehow leaf blowers seem like the biggest practical joke on their users.
I know the type. I once had an old landlord with an anger management problem who used his pellet gun for stress relief. He also used his leaf blower. This is a man who barged into our apartment at 7 in the morning in a rage, swearing at me with bulging eyes and calling me the c-word. Not nice. But very concerned about the state of his property. And so he blew leaves around with a very loud machine.
No wonder he was angry, really. Can you get any more Sisyphian than blowing leaves around? Given the great big leaf blower in the sky, more powerful AND quieter that those noisy little beasts, known as, you know, wind. I could see if you were going to be fastidious about leaves on your property, maybe using a leaf vacuum to get rid of them if you just couldn't bring yourself to use something so mundane and unmotorized as a rake. But a leaf blower? Don't these people realize that they're just blowing the leaves around?
Monday, October 08, 2007
And so I find myself enjoying a cold one on a warm, breezy patio all by myself. I feel a bit self-conscious being alone, especially after a man, also by himself except for the golden retriever lounging at his feet, smiles at me when I look around. He is wearing the same hopeful expression as his dog. I make sure my left hand is visible to him and rub my wedding ring for emphasis. I read the last few pages of Shutterbabe, which is truly a wonderful book. But I finish it too soon, and am left with three-quarters of a pint and not much to engage myself in.
I wonder if that man has brought his dog along as the next best chick-magnet to a baby, if he's looking for a kindred spirit. He looks nice enough, like someone I know except I've never met him before.
At another table, two men in direct sun frown over a chess game, their beer glasses nearly empty. In the corner, a young man and woman play scrabble next to tea and french fries. Another man, also youngish, reads his book, one hand fondling his temple. A pack of smokes is on the table in front of him, nearly empty, and flattened from his back pocket. I remember how my pack of smokes was almost always flattened like that after a night out, when I had only a few smokes left.
The man with the dog just smokes and surveys, like me, his loyal friend relaxed at his feet. He makes me nervous. He's watching me I think. Every time I look around, he's looking at me and darts his eyes away. I see he's sucking back half-pints like he should have just ordered a full one. He pays his bill before he's finished, telling the server that he's running it out of time. I see he's wearing crocs when he gets up to use the ashtray at another table. Somewhere, some version of family is expecting him, I guess. Did he say he was taking the dog for a walk as an excuse to escape? That he'd be back by dinner time?
My own version of a family is waiting for me too I guess. My MIL is coming for dinner tonight, nothing ambitious, just a visit. I procrastinate on finishing the last few sips, then finally relent.
When I return home, I discover Sugar D and Swee'pea have gone out, and there is spinach between my two front teeth.
Sunday, October 07, 2007
Today you are 20 months old, nearly two. This month you have begun to latch onto colours and counting. You have blue ("boo") down, and seem to also use it to indicate that you're thinking about or categorizing by colour. You have also said yellow (whoawhoa) and green (dee) when prompted, but the other day when we were walking to meet your dad after work, you looked up at the sky with its lovely sunset colours spread across it (frighteningly early I may add -- I'm totally in denial about the coming winter), pointed up and said, "buhbuh." I think you must have said purple. It was amazing. I think that evening you also looked at different part of the sky and pronounced, "Boo," also accurate. At the early years centre this week, I watched you first gather all the blue balls together, then the green ones, then the yellow and red striped ones, then the blue and white striped ones, and so on.
As for counting, two is your number. You're all over the number two. When you bring out your Counting 1-2-3 book, you point at all the numbers and sing, "two two two," "two two two." So you have a little ways to go in the counting department, but I am still supremely impressed. When you see two items, you yell out, "Two two!" I am thinking I should read Jacob Two Two and the Hooded Fang again. It was one of my favourites when I was about six or seven.
Hey look! You like the swings again.
We are in the throes of a tyrannical toddlerdom. You seem to be a bit of a bipolar ruler, one minute the benevolent dictator, the next an imperious monarch sitting high on your throne while your devoted and indulgent courtiers run around beneath you like headless chickens. One minute you are give hugs and cuddles and laughing and otherwise charming us utterly, the next screaming and throwing your food on the floor if it's not to your taste and otherwise wreaking havoc. There is no doubt, however, who rules the roost in our home.
I have to say, at the risk of treason, the food-throwing thing is really annoying. You throw your food on the floor when you're finished eating (along with your plastic plate, spoon and cup), often looking right at me with an expression that says, "Yeah, I'm throwing food on the floor. Whatcha gonna do about it?" If I offer you something that isn't exactly what you want, you often bat it away or immediately squish it and drop it on the floor in disdain, looking at me like, "How dare you bring me such substandard fare?!? Just who do you think you are? This'll teach you." This is especially irritating if you have been too busy focusing on something else to answer me on whether you want pear or banana, nodding abstractly at one or the other, so I get sick of trying to get your attention and just offer you something, which you reject immediately, looking just like the personally offended medieval monarch.
Off with his head!
I suppose it's redundant to say you have very strong opinions. Lately you have occasionally refused to get out of pajamas or a dirty shirt, weeping and plaintively requesting a "nana" (literally translated as another but really meaning THAT shirt, the one I so unjustly just removed from your back. The horror.)
You also have a strangely insistent sense of direction, sobbing if we leave the house with the stroller and we don't turn towards the park with the covered bridge, playground, and, not incidentally, the ice cream shop. I've noticed if I run some errands in a loop, leaving a store and going in a different direction than the one we arrived from, you also get very upset, crying, "Deedee" (that way) and pointing in the direction we should be going in. This has also happened quite frequently in the car, although I can't figure out where you want to go, exactly. You usually calm down once I've explained a few times that I know where I'm going, we're going to the store to get milk, or we're taking a different route home and it's ok, or whatever.
This month I heard you say your name. You may have been doing this for quite a while, or it may have been your first time, who knows. But I was cuddling you after work and daycare, looking at what someone had written on my facebook wall (I know! I'm a horrible mom.) and you saw my profile image, probably my favourite picture of all time, the one where you're sleeping in my arms wearing only a diaper, and I'm looking serious and contemplative resting my head on your head, at your grandpa's house in South Africa, you exclaimed, "Mama!" and "Bebe!" and I said, "That's right. Do you know who that baby is?" And you said, "Zsa Zsa!" a pretty decent approximation of your name given your challenges with enunciation and the difficulty of your name.
Ever since you started at the new daycare centre, you have really bonded with your Sleeping Leopard, which your Auntie C got for you in Colombia.
On the charming front, sometimes we walk out to meet your daddy who walks home from the bus. We walk along and you stop to investigate just about every leaf and pebble and snail on the way. Your gait is adorable: self-confident and determined, you puff your chest out and make each footfall with authority. It is at once jaunty and officious, somehow. Anyways, as we walk, you periodically call out, "Dada!" until eventually he comes into sight, at which point you yell jubilantly, "Dada!!!" and run towards him, your little arms and legs like propellors, and the scene goes into slow motion in my mind, like a movie, complete with a dramatic and moving soundtrack (usually that song from the beach scene in Chariots of Fire), a scene where two people with a deep love are reunited after far too long. The quick and steady clipclop of your sneakers on the sidewalk is like a metronome for my heart. I can't even express how this reunion warms me. And saddens me too, that your daddy has to be away from us for so much of the weekday. You don't even get to see him in the mornings.
Yesterday we went to Grandma and Grandpa's and lazy thunder rumbled around us most of the day. Nearly every time, you'd exclaim, "Ninno," and we all tried to make sure that you weren't scared by it, that it was something fun and interesting. Last night, just before we went to bed, the storm that had been threatening all day let loose and the pitch black night sky was lit like day with lightning, and the thunder was very loud through the open windows. It was weird for me to hear it at a distance, the sound's passage to my ears uninterrupted by buildings or houses. Anyways, it was probably the strongest and longest storm we've had all summer, and you were beginning to look a little concerned. At one point, very bright lightning struck at nearly the same time as the thunder, and the power went off for a few seconds. You were sitting on a footstool between your dad's legs and it felt like we'd been struck by lightning ourselves, so strong was the adrenaline that jolted our hearts into overdrive and our arms reaching to keep you safe. The lights came back on momentarily, and you looked kind of scared, probably more by the speed of our arms than by the dark or the noise. Or maybe it was a bit of all three.
This morning we drove back home and you spent the first hour just quietly looking out the window, not saying anything and not looking like you were particularly ready for sleep. I watched you in the rearview mirror, the one on the passenger side of the car (the one that says, "Objects in mirror are closer than they appear"), and tried to figure out what you were looking at and thinking about. Were you admiring the autumn colours whizzing by in a blur? Were you observing the difference between these pastoral views and the more urban concrete views around our home? Were you watching the geese in formation, the horses frolicking and the cows chewing their cud and comparing them with the animals you see in your books? I'll never know. Eventually, your lids got heavy and I watched you settle into a peaceful sleep, finally. It is so delicious to watch you sleep, even better than the joy of watching you run or inspect a fallen leaf.
I do worry that you're becoming either a total despot or obsessive compulsive (closing doors I leave open, always on the watch to keep things in their proper place), that we're doing something wrong. But then you do something that makes it all feel right, that you are exactly who you are meant to be and we are supporting your development in the ways you require. I suspect that, as with most things, the reality is somewhere in between. Regardless, I still find myself giddy when I'm leaving work and going to pick you up at your daycare (the daycare at which you finally seem to feel comfortable after considerable heartache on both our parts). I can't get to you fast enough. And I love that I still have this excitement to see you and hug you and feel your soft little arms gaining comfort in mine.
Friday, October 05, 2007
When I was pregnant, I really wanted to breastfeed. Everyone knows breast is best, and I didn't want to let my baby down. Most of the mothers I knew had all breastfed for varying lengths of time, mostly about a year, one as long as five years. I heard stories of excruciating pain from engorgement and very sore nipples and how some babies don't sleep more than five hours in a row for months and months and months ("Whatever!" I thought at the time, "I'm sure my baby will sleep like normal babies..." -- HA!), of having to supplement with formula and the sky not falling in and being able to develop an exclusive breastfeeding relationship.
Nobody could really describe what it felt like though, and I wondered if it would be weird. I expected that it might feel a little bit sexual, because maybe it makes sense, biologically, for breastfeeding to feel good. I think I did get a few warnings that many, many people would handle my breasts in the early days but that after all the breached modesty of pregnancy and birth, it would be nothing. And it was.
I didn't get to hold Swee'pea for at least an hour and a half after his birth. When someone (Sugar D?) brought him in, the nurses said I should try to nurse him, but I hadn't the slightest clue what to do. He was so tiny and floppy I couldn't imagine how to manage the mechanics. So the nurse showed me how to hold him, just so, and she grabbed my boob and tickled his nose with my nipple and then he latched on. It was a bit weird, but I already felt such miraculous love for this little creature that I wanted to do everything right, and the most reliable way was to surrender my modesty to the wisdom of others.
After that first awkward nursing session, word came down from on high that he was not to nurse and he had to go back to the nursery for monitoring. The nurses didn't know why he would be prohibited from nursing and they just decided not to tell anyone, and I spent the next four hours without him, feeling guilty for putting him to my breast.
I was lucky in that everyone proclaimed from the very beginning that Swee'pea had a near-perfect latch, not that I had any clue. I remember the lactation consultant trying to show me when his latch was good and when it wasn't, when his nursing was actually nutritive and it was just for comfort, and I remember straining my eyes to decode these nuances, mostly unsuccessfully.
It took me a long time (at least it felt like a long time) to be able to identify when his latch was good and when it wasn't, but I was lucky in that my nipples were only sore for a few days to a week. Even when they were sore, the actual breastfeeding didn't hurt, just the transitions onto and off the breast. I remember the awkwardness of holding his head just so, and the pressure I felt in orchestrating a correct latch. When I was pregnant, I thought I'd be able to just figure it out once I had a real baby in my arms, but the reality was awkward, stressful and exhausting. I don't think I've ever before perservered at anything that didn't come naturally to me, but in this instance, the stakes were too high to give up. Plus, I knew I was having it easy, compared to some other mothers.
I was surprised that it didn't feel sexual AT ALL. It didn't feel bad, but it didn't feel particularly good either, it just was. The good feelings were all of the emotional variety, wondering at Swee'pea's beauty, at my ability to provide sustanence for him, at how well he was thriving after a scary delivery. The bad feelings were also emotional, mostly in the middle of the night and mostly during growth spurts, when Swee'pea couldn't get enough milk and it felt like he would never be satisfied, like he would never leave me or my boobs alone, ever again.
I think Swee'pea was around three weeks old when he started to have spinachy, green poos. The midwives didn't seem particularly concerned, but I was. Eventually, a public health nurse decided I had overactive letdown and an overabundance of foremilk, which is higher in sugar and lower in fat than the hindmilk and causes diarrhea. She could tell because Swee'pea often came on and off the breast during a feed, and often choked when my milk let down (which she taught me how to identify -- it's that tingly feeling that comes right at the moment that Swee'pea began gulping audibly). Eventually, we sorted out the imbalanced foremilk (by only nursing him on one boob per feed, starting with one boob for two feeds), but the overactive letdown was something that Swee'pea just had to adjust to. By about six weeks old, I think, or for sure by three months, his feeds only took five minutes.
I think it's amazing that everything went pretty well (because, really, who can complain about too much milk?) but was still SO hard. I can't imagine just how much harder it could be, how much a new mother could bear. (And I had no idea postpartum could be so wet!) It did get easier, and it was second nature by about four months I think, and then it got even easier when he started on solids. Now, we're down to just one bedtime feed, and I occasionally consider weaning. But, it's so easy that I can't come up with a compelling reason either to wean or not to wean. And so, we just keep going with our bedtime feed.
Last week at work, I came upon some of my coworkers, all women. And one said, "Hey Sin, we were just talking about women who breastfeed babies who have teeth." And I said, "Oh, like me?" And she said, "Well, more like older children, like three or four years old," and I said, "Oh, like my sister?" Just to be clear on where I stood on the subject before we went any further. They looked reasonably interested, so I dove in, as balanced and undefensively as possible.
It infuriates me when people pass judgment about women breastfeeding in public or beyond what is considered an acceptable age. But, I've already blogged about that. I say that if a mother and child are able to get through those early weeks still breastfeeding, they should feel comfortable doing it for as long as they like, wherever they like. I've always stood by the belief that if I'm uncomfortable with somebody breastfeeding, that's MY problem (and the problem of a culture that oversexualizes breasts), not the mother's and certainly not the child's.
I finally got around to watching the video of Bill Maher spouting off about breastfeeding in public, and I can't believe that someone can be such an asshole and not give a shit. Mind you, his speech really illustrates exactly what is wrong with our culture (e.g. his joke that the only acceptable combination of breasts and food is at Hooters), a culture that cannot abide breasts in any context other than a sexual one.
If you haven't already read them, I thoroughly enjoyed these posts on the subject.
Wednesday, October 03, 2007
I meant to post about this AGES ago, but for one reason and another, I haven't. Last month, the BlogHers Act Canada Eco-Challenge urged us to reduce the packaging we use.
Because I only drink tea and it's near impossible to get a decent cup of take-out tea, disposable cups are not such an issue for me. I already had one of my generously proportioned mugs from home at work (because in my world, if you're going to go to the trouble of making a cup of tea you may as well make it a BIG one), since about June. I do drink from plastic water bottles, but I re-use them or often use cups from the cafeteria. The cafeteria also provides plates and metal utensils, further reducing disposable containers.
But I really suck with plastic bags. I've been collecting canvas bags slowly, and I've been pretty good at using them when I'm out picking up a few items with the stroller. But I really sucked at remembering to bring them with me for the big weekly grocery shop in the car. Last month, inspired by a few bloggers, I decided that any shopping trip I forgot the bags I would buy another canvas bag as a sort of penance, which would at least reduce my plastic bag consumption by two or three bags. The result? I only forgot the bags once, and since then I have had two full shopping trips where I didn't need any additional plastic bags. I have also been using a reusable lunch container, because I used to use plastic bags, which often got gross and I'd throw them out after a single use. So far so good, except that my new lunch bag is something I got from Pizza Pizza as a promotion not long ago, and it says, "Hot and Fresh!"
Also, this past week we rented one of those big bins to throw garbage in as we decluttered. I was really conscious of the fact that all that stuff goes straight to landfill, so I made sure to only put stuff in it that couldn't be recycled or donated. It required a few extra bags of recycling and a cartrip to the local good will store with a full trunk, but it was worth it. I also made sure not to put anything toxic in the bin, like old batteries or paint cans. I may not have it down as well as Mad, but I'm working on it.
For October, the challenge is looking to reduce the toxic chemicals in our food and retail products. I find this a little more daunting.
However, after clicking over to the Environemental Defence's Toxic Nation, I realize that I am already doing some things that could help. For example, I don't use any anti-bacterial products, for four reasons: 1) they don't actually work, unless you leave them on for like 30 minutes 2) the active ingredients are often quite damaging to the environment, forming dioxin or other nasty compounds in the presence of sunlight 3) they contribute to antibiotic resistance even more than overprescribed antibiotics and 4) it's not actually desirable to kill all the bacteria on your skin or anywhere else on your body -- they help keep you well and if they get depleted, they leave room for the really nasty microbial critters. I tried, to no avail, to get my workplace to stop using antibacterial soap in the bathrooms, a vestige of the SARS scare (which is VIRAL, people, NOT bacterial). To my knowledge, it's still there, and it still pisses me off.
I don't use many cleaners in my home. Well, ok, that's mostly because I'm a slob, but it's also partly because of all the nasty shit they put in those things and don't tell us about on the labels. Wherever practical, I use simple, old-school cleaners like vinegar or baking soda or plain old soap. And the cleaning service who comes in once every two weeks to scrape the scum out of our kitchen and bathroom only uses environmentally and people-friendly products. There have been studies that show that children from very clean homes have more allergies than children from slightly dirtier homes with pets and dust. So I comfort myself that I am reducing Swee'pea's allergies by being a slob.
We don't use non-stick pots or pans, unless we're visiting Grandma and Grandpa. I always thought it was just Sugar D's paranoia, but Toxic Nation says those surfaces actually are toxic.
There's a lot more I can do, to increase my awareness and lobby for change. I've signed Toxic Nation's petition to urge the Canadian government to ban Bisphenol A, a hormone disrupter found in baby bottles and other hard plastic containers and food cans. I've subscribed to Toxic Nation's e-updates.
Two things I'm going to try to do this month: find a plastic bottle to drink from that doesn't contain Bisphenol A and using more dried beans and legumes instead of canned.
What are you doing?
Tuesday, October 02, 2007
(I didn't bother rescheduling... now I'm regretting the 150 bucks I paid to have the place totally cleaned from top to bottom yesterday. Oh well... guess we'll see what happens.)
Monday, October 01, 2007
It didn't take me long to realize that my roommate wasn't actually leaving her fate to the toss of a coin. She often overturned the result, using the coin toss as a decision-making tool. If she didn't like the way it landed, it helped her figure out which path she actually wanted.
Not long ago, an old high school friend was shocked to learn that I was not a T (in Myers-Briggs), a thinker like her, but an F, a feeler. She's always seen me as an intellectual, so I guess it follows that an intellectual would be a thinker. But no. I make every single decision based on feelings: either I imagine myself on the other side of the decision and imagine how I feel with different results, or I go with my gut, an intuition of rightness. The problem with this approach is that feelings are fickle. You can mourn the passing of an old way of life at the same time that you rejoice in the new. And fear can be tricky: is it the kind of fear that you should overcome, the kind that keeps us from growing or doing things that are good for us but scary; or the kind of fear that keeps us from doing dangerous things, the kind that is correct and should be heeded?
I haven't really blogged much about it (mostly because I haven't had the time), but I have really been struggling with the decision of whether to move to Toronto. I said we're going to do it, and we've been taking all the right steps in that direction. But I have this niggling feeling that we could get to Toronto, swept up in its excitement and busy-ness, and find ourselves longing for the quiet pace of G-town. I worry that we're being hasty, that moving to Toronto will in fact make for less family time than more, and perhaps we should take more time to consider the options and give the local job market more of a chance to hire Sugar D.
I keep searching for cues from the universe, trying to read the signs of where we should go, but it seems like the universe just keeps throwing us more options, more choices. There is a reason that I prefer to shop at our tiny little liquor store with only five choices of South African wine; the big box liquor store is dizzying, and no matter how long I spend trying to choose, I usually end up going with one of the five choices offered by the other little store. Clearly, I don't do well with a lot of choice. (But mmm, wine...)
I keep hoping that at some point with this move things will take on a life of their own and we will just have to go with the flow, to live with the decisions we've made. But it seems like just about every moment is a new decision point. Stop or go forward? Yay or nay? Today or tomorrow or next week?
Just over a week ago, we decided to throw ourselves into Toronto, that we could probably make ourselves happy in our either place, but we may as well go with Toronto, that the uncertainy and indesiveness is what's stressing us out. The very next business day, my manager announced that a new position had been created in my unit, a more senior position that I would love to apply for. Four days after that, Sugar D got an email about a job prospect not too far from here. Needless to say our earlier decision to focus on Toronto is null and void. We're back to oscillating.
However, these recent developments have shed some light for me. Imagining the possibility of staying in G-town with Sugar D only using an hour a day for travel to work instead of his current four feels like heaven. I feel almost euphoric thinking about staying in our home, proceeding with the rest of my ten-year plan for the gardens, proceeding with the bathroom and kitchen reno next summer, working for the current employer that I know and love, staying with the current daycare, to which Swee'pea has finally adapted enough that I'm not afraid to say it, and having enough time and energy to send good food with him, to stay with our current scattered and lovely family doctor, and the young and smart pediatrician, to have family mornings again and eat Sugar D's curries during the week... that's what I want.
This weekend we fixed and painted and purged and cleaned and hung pictures in preparation for the virtual tour filming tomorrow morning, which we're still going ahead with. Maybe all this is just the universe's way of getting us to declutter our house, to finally throw out the dead dryer in the basement and the picnic table impersonating the Leaning Tower of Pisa in our backyard, to put up a fresh new house number on our old bricks instead of the pathetic scrap of wood twist-tied to the wrought iron railing of our porch, to put out various belongings that we no longer use on our front yard and watch neighbours cart them away to new usefulness. (especially sweet was the young student who knocked on our door this morning and politely asked if he could rescue our tropical house plants, sitting out there nearly dead, and nurture them back to life -- yes please, we've been horribly negligent since Swee'pea was born! -- AND politely introduced himself and shook my hand before going on his way, and the other students who were laden down on their way home from the grocery store yesterday but still found the wherewithall to take away our four seventies chairs that I grew up sitting on every summer at the cottage... I can't tell you the pleasure I get from having neighbours choose to take on these things of mine.)
Which isn't to say that we're definitely not moving to Toronto. Only that we're putting our plans on hold, to explore the possibilities that may allow us to stay here.
Fingers crossed this local job comes through for Sugar D...