Sunday, June 28, 2009

Gwen and the slide

video

My parents bought Gwen this slide for her first birthday, and I put together a goofy little video of her playing on it for them to enjoy.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Big Night Out - The Recap

Chris and I dropped Gwen off at the grandparents' at 4pm. I had a brief moment of worry because I thought it might be weird for her to be dropped off by both of us: in general, Chris drops her off at daycare or Gramma's, and we take turns picking her up. On the other hand, I couldn't very well just sit on the couch watching downloaded episodes of Chuck while Chris drove out to Nanoose and back, so we went together. My worry may have been justified: Gwen was very happy to see Gramma and Grandpa, and set about exploring immediately, but when Chris and I said "Bye-bye" and walked out the door, she gave us very confused and annoyed looks through the window.

An actual conversation that took place last night, which may only be funny if you know Keith and Karen:
Chris: I gave them my cell phone number "just in case".
Laura: They won't call, you know. Gwen would have to be missing a limb for them to call.
Chris: Even then, they probably wouldn't call.
Laura: No, they'd call the next day. "Hi guys, it's just me, I don't want you to worry or anything, but when you come get Gwen, she's missing a limb."
Chris: "We found it though, so we just packed it in with her pajamas and stuff."
Laura: "And then we gave her some ice cream, so she feels much better now."

We came home to an empty house, which was super weird, and decided to head out for an early dinner since the play was general seating. We got all fancied up in swanky clothes and then realized there was no one to take a picture of us in all our hotness. We did our best though.

For our dinner we chose The Keg, for the simple and beautiful reason that we had gift cards for it. Chris ordered a whole lobster and I ordered the Bleu Cheese Filet. We did not discuss Gwen, her diaper rash, or my job, but instead spent the lengthy dinner talking mostly about church politics (as I am on Church Council). My husband is the most patient and understanding man in the entire world, because that is the most boring subject ON EARTH.

I, however, learned that it takes a goodly long time to eat a lobster. When he finally finished, the play was due to start in only 25 minutes. There was then this kerfuffle about how only one person in the restaurant knew how to process gift cards and that person was perpetually elsewhere. We were getting slightly panicked because whenever we go out to any kind of theatre production (which used to be far more often than now) we always make sure to get there in plenty of time, and inevitably after the lights go down and the show begins a group of Those People shuffle in, Those People who don't bother to show up on time and have to be seated in the dark while some poor soul with a flashlight bravely attempts to find them seats, and whomever is trying to start the show is feeling all awkward, and all the people who got there on time are all annoyed and maybe even have to get up to let These People through, and then Those People settle into their seats and take off their coats and hats and chitter-chat amongst themselves and try to find their programs in the dark and just generally do all the things that they should have done 30 minutes earlier, and Chris and I always exchange looks and snotty comments about how rude and ignorant Those People are. So now it's 15 minutes until the play begins and we are still standing in the restaurant waiting to pay and we look at each other with this sad, desperate look, and I say, "We're going to be Those People." And Chris nods in resignation.

But miracles do happen, and the one knowledgeable waitstaff did arrive, and we were able to pay and depart and we made it to the theatre (which was only about half full) in good time, so crisis was averted.

And the play was absolutely mind-blowingly terrific, and we both had a really great time. And then we came home again to an empty house and stood right outside Gwen's room talking loudly, because that's the kind of giddy crazy that we are.

This morning, the giddy crazy metamorphosed into stone cold practicality, and I insisted that Chris vacuum before we go pick up Gwen, which he happily did. Gwen, it turns out, had just as marvellous a night as we did, and went to sleep somewhere around 9:30. Judging by our tepid welcome, she didn't miss us one bit, and the grandparents graciously declared the evening a success and would be happy to do it again. Hooray!

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Big Night Out

Tomorrow is a big milestone for our family. For the first time in her fourteen months of life, Gwen will be spending the night without either of her parents, sleeping over at Gramma and Grandpa’s house. This was actually my mom’s idea, as I was mentioning to her that the few times Chris and I have gone out at night and left Gwen with Keith and Karen, the desire to Play with the Grandchild has easily won out over the obligation to Obey the Parents’ Instructions and PUT THE CHILD TO BED. In fact, last time they babysat in the evening, Gwen was not only awake, but downstairs! With Gramma and Grandpa! When we arrived home at 10:30pm! THREE AND A HALF HOURS AFTER BEDTIME!

That was five months ago, and like I said it was my mom who came up with the brilliant solution that if Chris and I wanted to go out on a date, we could leave Gwen at Keith and Karen’s overnight, and then if they decided to keep her up until midnight they would have to deal with the consequences. I LOVE THIS PLAN.

So tomorrow afternoon, I am dropping Gwen off at Gramma and Grandpa’s, where they will no doubt feed her copious amounts of dinner and spoil her absolutely silly and play with her for hours and hours. I will then go out to dinner with my husband, and then go see a play at the new downtown theatre (how civilized!). And I will not, WILL NOT call K&K’s house to see how Gwen is doing. Nope! I won’t. I will even try, really really hard, to come up with dinner conversations that do not include:
- Gwen
- Gwen’s diaper rash (now heading into month three!)
- My job

Hmm, guess I’ll be talking about schoolwork all night. Whee!

After the play, we get to go home TO AN EMPTY HOUSE and then we get to SLEEP IN. Although, as my mom points out, we probably won’t, because we’ll be wondering how Gwen is doing. I don’t know. Chris has a truly astounding ability to sleep in, and I … well, I’m not as good at it as he is, but I don’t feel too worried or stressed about how Gwen will fare with this new adventure. She has spent a lot of time with Gramma and Grandpa, and is really comfortable and happy at their place. She has slept over there a couple of times with us, so that won’t be new. She loves them (and their little dog, too) a whole lot and I think she is going to have a great time. So maybe I will get to sleep in after all.

Changes

I know I spend a lot of time focused on the past, especially as it concerns my daughter. For some reason it just struck me suddenly a few days ago that in the first few weeks of her life, not only did all her clothing fit in this puny little chest of drawers ...

... but when the midwife came over to weigh her, this chest served as a level surface on which to put the scale. Think about it: The baby scale was small enough to fit on the top, and the baby was small enough to fit in that scale. With, actually, a lot of room to spare, because she was a skinny little thing once the Norovirus got through with us. (I should have taken some pictures of those weekly (sometimes daily) weigh-ins – they were such a huge and stressful part of our lives, back then.)

And now my child is HUGE. Sometimes I think she eats so enthusiastically because she spent the first six months of her life starving, and is trying to make up for lost time.

Anyway, that line of thought somehow led me into thinking about the future. It dawned on me that someday – not any time soon, I know I have a couple of years to go before this happens – she won’t be in diapers anymore. WHOA. Do you know how much space in her room is devoted to diapers, diapering accessories, and diaper-changing space? A LOT. Two full drawers are full of diapers (she has nine drawers in total) and the entire top of the beautiful dresser below is devoted to changing her bum. We already have a potty for her – not that she shows any interest in using it, but I’d read that it’s a good idea to have one around in advance, so she gets used to seeing it – and do you know how much space it takes up? NOT VERY MUCH.

Just the thought of freeing up that much space has me kind of giddy with goofy joy. That, combined with the idea of Gwen spending the night with her grandparents every once in a while, may just make me delirious.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Dear Gwen: Month Fourteen

Dear Gwen,

Look at you. You’re fourteen months old! You’re so big, and competent, and adorable, and friendly, and clever, and funny, and just pretty much wonderful. Except, of course, when you’re not. Then you’re whiny and demanding and clingy and angry and fussy and weepy and loud, loud, LOUD. But let’s not talk about that, shall we?

Since starting daycare two months ago, your language skills have exploded. You are communicating nearly constantly, either with real words or your own interesting babble. The point is that you obviously know the sounds you make are important and powerful – you know you are communicating. Your favourite these days is “up”, not because you want to cuddle but because you want to see whatever it is the grownups are doing from a better vantage point.

Thanks to your language skills and your interest in mimicking, your dad and I are trying to stop swearing. It’s a challenge. Last week I was at the hairdresser, describing something delicious I had eaten by saying “My word, it was tasty!” She looked at me like I was some kind of barely-functioning moron. Who talks like that? In contrast, she had already used the words “shit” and “damn” during our appointment (fortunately, neither of these were used in reference to my hair).

Though you have been saying buh-buh for many months, you can now pronounce it correctly as bye-bye, and your wave has matured also. Last night you watched me while I was on the phone, and when I finished the conversation and hung up, you walked over to where I’d placed the phone, waved at it, and said “bye-bye”. It was ridiculously adorable.

Speaking of your incredible genius, your dad recently bought me a really cool book about the making of my favourite movie. As I was looking through it, you of course wanted to see what all the excitement was about. “Look, Gwen, it’s a picture of a shark! Bah-bah,” I said, humming the JAWS theme. A moment later, you had fetched your shark finger puppet out from your toy box and were joyfully chanting “bah-bah.” Your dad and I looked at each other with a mixture of fear and astonishment. Had you really gone looking for your shark puppet? Was it just coincidence? I don’t know. Either way, I’m impressed.

You continue to be a pretty great eater. We’ve yet to find the food you don’t like: usually our challenge is in providing enough food for your voracious appetite (and accounting for the fact that a certain percentage of whatever we offer will, despite your efforts, not end up in your mouth). You are pretty much entirely self-feeding now, which can be frustrating on those days when we’re in a rush and kind of don’t want to deal with you getting yogurt in your hair. But you generally insist on doing it yourself, and are so darn proud of yourself when you get this opportunity, so most of the time we let you do it.

I did a bit of reading recently about toddlers and food, and I really realize how lucky we are with your non-picky ways. Thanks to that, I am so ready to say goodbye to the mushy icky infant cereal. When your current stash is gone, you’re not getting anymore, and I will be thrilled to see the last of it.

You are starting to show some signs of imagination or pretend play. You love to hold out a bit of whatever you’re eating and have me or Dad pretend to eat it. You have also learned the game of “Cheers” and often insist on clunking our water bottles together several times during any given meal.

Last month I wrote that you were not keen on walking outside on our lawn, but you have learned the knack now. You love being outside and will often find your sunhat and stand by the door, banging on it, waiting to be let out. In contrast to your usual insistence, you are pretty patient with all the things that have to happen first: socks and shoes, sunscreen, maybe a jacket – and you actually keep your sunhat on while we’re outdoors, which is great too. In general, your walking is getting better all the time – you don’t often wave your arms around for balance anymore, but just walk very confidently and steadily to whatever destination you've chosen.

Something I noticed just this week is that you are learning to anticipate patterns. For example I recited the rhyme, “Round and Round the Garden” which begins with my fingers mimicking “footsteps” on the palm of your hand and ends with me tickling you under the chin. You “ask” me to do the rhyme again by stroking the palm of your hand with your own fingers, and as the rhyme progresses you start curling your chin into your chest in anticipation of the tickling. I would happily spend as much time as you might like playing this game over and over and over.

So, this is who you are right now. You love books and tickles and being swung around upside down. You love animals and words and being with people and doing new things. You love food and your family and the outside world and you especially love whatever it is we’re not letting you have (currently, the measuring spoons in a particularly un-childproof-able cupboard). You are totally into exploring your world, preferably in as noisy and as messy a way as possible.

We love you so much, Gwen, and absolutely adore the opportunity to see that fascinating world through your eyes.

Love,
Mama



Monday, June 22, 2009

Her Gwen, My Gwen, and Their Books

Kim, the only other woman I know with a daughter named Gwen, recently posted a video of Her Gwen doing some very clever tricks with books. I was entirely impressed, and also (of course) compelled to try the same trick with My Gwen. After all, Her Gwen is a good two months younger than My Gwen, My Gwen must be at least that clever, right?

The thing is, though, that while My Gwen may possess abundant amounts of cleverness, and matching amounts of enthusiasm for books, she is at this stage lacking in the area of desire to co-operate. So I have no corresponding story of My Gwen fetching books at my request.

However, I DO have a story of My Gwen and Books.

Last Wednesday night, I watched Gwen over the video monitor as she pulled at least a half a dozen books off the nearby shelf into her crib. She spent at least ten minutes doing so. She then spent a good twenty minutes "reading" the books she had found: sitting up in her crib, turning the pages, perusing the pictures. She seemed to be entirely content. After a while, she decided (quite abruptly) to go to sleep. She flopped down on her side, but ... "What's this? There's a BOOK under me! That's not very comfortable. Hmm, what if I shuffle over here ... nope, there's a book here too. And - oh! I LOVE this one!" She sat up and "read" through it for a few minutes, then decided once again to lie down.

The next half an hour or so were spent repeating that pattern: lie down, discover a book underneath one's body, shuffle around trying to get comfortable, unearth another book, become distracted by one's interest in the book, sit up and read it for awhile. I was privy to all of this thanks to the video monitor, and I was quite amused. She did eventually find a book-free spot to curl up in and go to sleep.

The next night, I moved the bin of books to a lower shelf so she couldn't reach it from the crib.

She wouldn't go to sleep.

Twenty minutes after I put her down, her cries were pitiful enough that I went in to check on her, thinking she needed a diaper change. As soon as I picked her up, she reached for her shelf, saying "buh". I handed her a book and she calmed immediately. After a quick lullaby, I put her back into the crib, with the book, and crept out of the room.

The video monitor revealed a brief "reading" session, then she lay down and went to sleep.

Just one more way in which she is my daughter.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Apparently I'm not done talking about food

As promised, I took Gwen to the Farmer's Market yesterday after work. I was impressed! It was quite an event: there were tons of booths, loads of people, and even live entertainment. There were many dogs of all sizes for Gwen to pant and woof at, which she enjoyed. I kind of wish I'd brought my camera; next time I will, for sure. I *definitely* wish I'd brought the sling, because hauling around a 22-pound toddler while you peruse the farmers' wares is a helluva workout.

Anyway, I felt kind of ignorant, because it turns out that farm-fresh veggies look a little different from those you find at the supermarket. I *think* I saw celery, which was on my list, but I wasn't 100% sure it was actually celery and not some strange hippie vegetable I'd never heard of before, so I didn't buy it. (And no, I didn't ask, I was already feeling out-of-place enough with my office clothes among a swarm of flannel and hemp.) I did find a gigantic green onion that is probably the equivalent to an entire bunch at the store, and some eggs, and some peas. There was even a booth selling salad greens, which I'll have to purchase next time around.

Most astonishing of all, the good folks from Whippletree Junction were there selling fudge. When the friendly lady behind the counter asked if I'd like a free sample, well, I could hardly turn that down! I asked for something "peanut-buttery", and she gave me a lovely taste of Tiger Butter Fudge. It was completely scrumptious. There was one tiny, molecule-sized piece left on my thumb, which I offered to Gwen. I *really* wish I'd had the camera there for her reaction! She tentatively nibbled it, then wildly shook her head from side to side as if to say "What the HECK was that?!" It was hilarious.

It wasn't until about 10 minutes later that I realized "peanut-buttery" fudge has peanut butter in it, which is made from peanuts, and those are like a bigtime allergen and stuff, and while I have no particular reason to think Gwen would be allergic, it probably wasn't the best idea to try this little experiment at a public market without any kind of backup. Enh. She survived. It seems she is not allergic to peanuts. Hooray!

In case you are wondering (and I know you're not), this week's dinners have included 2 meals of Mr. Noodles, a can of chunky soup, and a box of Kraft Dinner. Wow, we are really doing a stellar job of exposing our kid to a wide variety of healthy and nutritious foods, aren't we? All I can say is, the days before my payday (which is tomorrow) are historically not the best eatin' days 'round these here parts. And it's been a very busy week. And other excuses as well.

To balance things out, here's a picture of Queen Gwen eating an apple.


Wednesday, June 17, 2009

It Turns Out This Post is Mostly About Food - Perhaps It's Lunchtime

I feel like I should start every post with a disclaimer about how hard it is to find blogging time when you work full-time. In actuality, it's also hard to find stuff to talk about, since I don't spend as much time with Gwen as I used to. I guess I have gotten my wish to have my life expand beyond motherhood, but given that this blog is dedicated to that topic, it's not surprising that it's a little neglected of late.

Anyway, here's what's new in Gwenworld.

Gwen now makes oinky pig noises. It's adorable. She also likes to 'sniff' the flowers: if they're in a book, she'll put her face right up to them, but with real flowers she won't get closer than a foot or so. Also, she has some new words: 'ut' for hot, and 'boo' for book.

In less happy news, the bum rash she's had on and off for way too freakin' long wasn't resolved by the doctor's diagnosis and treatment for thrush, so Chris took her to the clinic again last week for a second opinion. This doctor diagnosed thrush with a secondary staph infection around an area that she had scratched so vigourously as to draw blood. We are now treating her very aggressively with anti-fungal cream and antibiotic cream, and then feeding her yogurt every day so she can grow her good bacteria back. This treatment seems to be working, thank goodness.

Also, one of the kids at her daycare might have pinkeye. Whee!

As for me I am working on finding some more local sources for our groceries. June is a pretty good time to do that. I found out that Pipers' Meats (who sell only local, organic meat) has comparable prices to Save on Foods, so it's just a matter of changing my mindset and stopping there for meat instead. I'm also checking out the Farmers' Markets around town. There's one tonight that I've heard good things about, so I'm planning to head there after work.

As I told Amber, who is a big inspiration to me in areas of eco-friendly family practices, it's really hard for me to embrace the 'baby steps' model of just making little changes one by one. Instead, I want to fix EVERYTHING, and if I can't, I just give up and fix NOTHING. I'm trying, though. Maybe posting it here will help keep me honest.

Speaking of food, last night Gwen ate the very last portion of pre-made toddler food I'd prepared from The Baby's Table. I'm sure I could (if I had the TIME) make up some more big-batch recipes of toddler-friendly stuff, but at this point I'm more interested in creating good meals for the whole family, and exposing her to a wider variety of foods. Making two separate meals every night is losing its appeal, frankly.

ALSO speaking of food, Gwen was over at her Gramma's yesterday and Gramma (and/or Grandpa) gave her "a sliver" of ice cream sandwich. I am really upset by this. Not because I'm adamant that she not get any sugar, but because as her MOTHER and a lifelong ice cream ENTHUSIAST, one might think it was my prerogative to share the First Time Ice Cream Experience with Gwen. I am not even going to rant any more about this because if you get it, you totally get it, and if you don't, there's no point in trying to explain.

And in my desperate struggle to end this post on a happy note, I will send you over to Dooce's site, because she! had! her! baby! and that's always exciting.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Unresolved

I have the opportunity to apply for a position that is a step or two up the pay grade from what I make currently. Chances are good that if I applied, I would get the job.

The catch is, I would lose my flex day – the arrangement where I get every second Friday off.

Taking into account the expense of extra childcare days, the net increase would be between $200 and $250 a month.

This is a tough choice. Time or money?

I always knew that should I ever want to be more than just a Data Entry clerk (and I’m pretty sure I do), I would have to bid the flex days farewell. I was one of the last people hired under the old contract that allowed them, and they are being eliminated slowly but surely as those people retire or move into other positions, since you cannot carry them from one position to another. But I thought when that day came I’d be stepping into a job that was more challenging, more rewarding, more in line with my skills and interests. This proposed change brings none of those things. Moreover, the timing sucks. I might be more open to losing that extra time if I wasn’t still reeling from the adjustment of being back to work at all (it’s only been six weeks). I still have not found my equilibrium; still don’t feel “on top of” all the things that need to fit in to every week. Adding another workday to my week doesn’t feel like a great idea.

This has brought up all kinds of other issues that I didn’t quite know were there, lurking under the surface. For example, I am really happy that Gwen spends two weekdays every week with family (Gramma takes her every Tuesday, and Chris and I alternate Fridays). When someone asks me how many days a week she is in daycare, I feel proud that I am able to answer “three”. During my workday, when I take a moment to reflect on where Gwen is and what she is likely doing, I am always a little bit more relaxed and content when I realize it’s “Gramma Day” rather than a daycare day. And it’s not that I don’t trust Denise, or don’t believe Gwen is happy and well cared-for when there. I guess it’s just that deep down, I believe that Gwen should be with her family.

That’s a surprising revelation, and one that I can’t do much about. Of course, the question of whether Gwen genuinely needs more family time, or whether she’d be perfectly happy to attend daycare for 40 hours a week, is anyone’s guess.

But if I am honest with myself, I know that flex days are not all about Gwen. Far from it. Flex days are also my day to “get things done”. It’s a catch-all day for any appointments – medical, dental, even haircuts and so on – because evening and weekend appointments are hard to come by. It’s extraordinarily convenient knowing I can schedule an appointment on Friday afternoon, and that Chris will likely be finished his own work in time to watch Gwen. Not to mention the infrequent but always urgent times when Gwen herself needs medical attention.

In addition to outside appointments, I usually wash Gwen’s diapers and hang them on the line to dry. I do the week’s grocery shopping, often with Gwen in tow. I tidy up the house, dealing with the detritus that accumulates throughout the week thanks to two full-time employees and a busy toddler. I clean the bathrooms. I load or unload the dishwasher, whichever is applicable. While Gwen is napping, I might get some schoolwork done, or just catch up on my photo uploads and my blogroll. Flex days are usually full of activity. How else could I fit all this stuff in?

Chris and I had already been discussing how busy our lives are, and how we seem to have no time for each other, especially now that I am back to school – taking another course towards my BA through distance education. On top of the never-ending cycle of chores around the house, we both have outside commitments as well: Chris goes out to his martial arts class once a week, and I go out to yoga, Weight Watchers, and various meetings for Church Council and Call Committee. Of course, there are also social commitments, invitations from local friends and family, planned travel to visit not-so-local friends and family. And somewhere in there, we have to fit in time to just relax and spend time together nurturing our marriage.

Is it hard? You bet your ass it is. Are we the only family who has to deal with it? No. But there’s still no guidebook on how the heck we’re supposed to succeed at it, so we’re stuck figuring out our own way.

So, time is in short supply in my life and is already causing consternation to both me and my marriage. How about the money piece?

Well, sure, an extra couple hundred dollars a month would be nice. Who wouldn’t want that? The thought that leapt immediately to my mind is that I could spend a portion of that extra money to hire a cleaning lady to come in every second week and take some of the more onerous chores off our hands. It would sure be nice to come home to a clean house for the weekend. Another use for that money would be to take my husband out for a date once in a while – right now we have no money whatsoever budgeted for entertainment or incidentals. We could set up a monthly contribution to Gwen’s RESP. We could even save a bit every month for the golden Mecca of an annual family vacation!

Money or time? It’s a tough choice. After extensive pondering of all this, I realized that money is largely mutable. How much you take in, how much you spend, it can (and does) vary widely based on your choices. However, there will always be only 24 hours in a day. There will always be only seven days in a week. Again, we make choices as to how to spend that time. With both money and time, there are some choices that don’t feel much like choices, items over which we have less control. But there are some we can control, and I think we have the responsibility to make those choices thoughtfully, and own the consequences.

You can use time to make money, but you can't use money to buy time. And isn't that unfair!

But what if I could have both?

After crunching the numbers, here’s what I learned:
Option One: I work full-time at the new position; Gwen goes to childcare every Friday. Net difference in my monthly take-home pay: $211.

Option Two: I work full-time at the new position, taking a day of vacation per month to give myself some flexibility, and Chris does the same. Gwen goes to childcare two Fridays a month. Net difference in my monthly take-home pay: $281.

Option Three: I work full-time at the new position, taking a day of vacation and a day of unpaid leave every month to give myself some flexibility. Chris takes one day of vacation a month. Gwen goes to childcare one Friday a month. Net difference in my monthly take-home pay: $206.

So the way I see this is that I could still have two Fridays off a month, and increase my wages. Naturally, I could stop taking those vacation days/unpaid leave days at any point and bring home even more money, once I feel ready to let go of that time with Gwen, and/or some of my other commitments finish up and I have more free time. (Ha! Does that ever really happen?) We are really lucky to have Denise, who is willing to be flexible with Gwen’s childcare: we can take an extra day here and there and only pay for what we book, rather than having to pay for 4 Fridays a month and only use two or three, and we can change our arrangements anytime. That will all change in a couple of years when Gwen starts preschool, and I think we will all be ready for that change when it comes. But I’m not ready yet.

I feel entirely comfortable making this decision myself, and have already told Chris that whatever money comes into our house as a result of this decision will be mine to allocate as I please. But at the same time, I'm very open to feedback if you think there's an aspect of this I haven't considered yet.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Trip to PR

Apparently, as far as my life is concerned, 5 is the new 13. As in, setting off on a trip on (insert ominous music) Friday, June 5th, was a colosally bad idea. Why didn't anyone tell me?

I had only three things to accomplish on Friday. First, at 9am, meet with a teacher at Enchanted Woodlands childcare centre to drop off an application for Gwen to attend preschool there. Second, catch the 3:15 ferry from Comox to Powell River. And third, make sure Gwen got some kind of decent nap in between these two appointments.I tried my damndest, but I failed at all three of these things. Or should I say, the WORLD FAILED ME.

9am, I show up at the preschool. Some background: I first called this centre last July, when Gwen was a tiny little ten-week-old, to put her on the daycare waitlist. At that time, the person answering the phones said "I only take names for the waitlist on the first of the month; I start answering the phones at 7:30; good luck." I was so overwhelmingly impressed with this attitude, which I like to call "Who died and made you God," that I never called back. Until The Great Daycare Debacle of 2009 convinced me that I needed to do whatever possible to make sure Gwen *never* got left in the lurch again. This meant calling every child care centre I could in good conscience send her to, and jump through whatever hoops they required in order to get her on their lists.

In order to get this appointment, I had called a woman named Ruth and left two voicemail messages for her. The third time I called - about a week after my first call - I managed to get through to her. The only reason I even *knew* that Ruth was the person I needed to speak to, was because someone I met at my church works at this centre, and when she heard I was looking for childcare she took pity on me and gave me Ruth's name. When I finally managed to reach Ruth, we had a nice chat and set up the appointment for me to drop off the applications that she forwarded to my email within 10 minutes.

Engage hoops!

So, cut back to Friday morning, when I arrive at the centre with toddler in sling and application in hand. It turns out Ruth isn't there. She's overbooked herself and won't be until that afternoon. I get a brief tour of the centre and hand in my application to someone else, who assures me Ruth will get it the moment she returns.

I fret and fume on the way home that this appointment was the only reason I didn't catch a morning ferry to PR. That Ruth had just cheated Gwen out of a few hours with her grandparents. I was pissed.

On the other hand, the schedule I'd figured out did allow for a good nap. Gwen has been eating lunch between 11 and 11:30, then going down for a nap immediately afterwards. Catching a 10am ferry would throw that right off, but I figured if we ate around 11:30 and left by noon, she'd fall asleep in the car. I even planned to drive around Courtenay for an extra half-hour or so to make sure she got enough sleep before going to the terminal, since once I stopped the car she would probably wake up.

All went according to plan. Lunch was eaten, Gwen fell asleep in the car, I drove up-Island at 20 km/hr under the speed limit since the goal was to encourage a long sleep, not to arrive at the terminal quickly. I took a scenic tour of the old Island Highway to extend the nap. About 15 minutes before arriving at the terminal, Gwen woke up, having slept just over an hour - not as long as I might have liked, but long enough that she wouldn't be unduly grouchy. We arrived at the terminal at 2:40 for a 3:15 sailing.

And that's when we found out our sailing was delayed until 4:20.

I don't know if people who have never lived on the coast can truly appreciate the challenge of keeping a toddler entertained at a ferry terminal. The Comox terminal is not like the bigger terminals with shopping, amenities, and so on. There is one waiting room, about the size of my living room, with a dozen chairs and no ventilation. There is an outdoor waiting area, about twice that size, with one picnic table and an umbrella that provides about six square feet of shade. It was the hottest part of the day and the sun was beating down on us. Worst of all, I knew that even after surviving the challenge of keeping her safe and entertained for an hour and a half at the terminal, I would then have to do the same thing for another hour and a half on the ferry.

Concerned about dehydration and sunstroke (I used to get it all the time as a kid), I started pushing her water on her. She was pretty disinterested and repeatedly pushed it away after only a little sip. However, she was quite keen on drinking from my bottle. Most of the time, I don't let her drink from mine, but in this case I was willing to do whatever it took to get the liquids in her, so I let her go for it. I made a half-hearted attempt to find the sunscreen in my suitcase - I'd lotioned her up earlier in the day, but that was a few hours ago, and I figured 90 minutes in direct sunlight might warrant a second application. I soon discovered I'd packed the sunscreen in a fairly inaccessible spot, but a fellow passenger came to my rescue and loaned me hers. Actually, the other passengers were very kind, moving over to make sure Gwen had a spot in the shade and so on. Not that she stayed still for long. Most of the 90 minutes were spent following her around as she examined every inch of her environment.

Finally the ferry came and we boarded. With visions of the air-conditioned kids' area dancing in my head, I hauled all our stuff onto the boat and walked upstairs. But what's this? There's no kids' area on this boat!


And it isn't air-conditioned, either!


In fact, this is an old, broken-down boat that is going to take about half an hour longer to make the trip than the usual boat. By this time I have stopped being angry and am just trying to take solace in the fact that at least I'm going to get blog fodder out of this.


For those of you who have never taken a toddler onto a ferry without a kids' area, let me give you the highlights of what your child will find on this trip. I call this the "Oh, That's Why Toddler Leashes Were Invented!" Tour:
- the designated smoking area
- the washroom that is the opposite gender's to the parent with whom the child is travelling
- the crew-only area
- every single hazardous staircase on the vessel

Attempts to remove your child from any of these truly fascinating destinations will result in the deployment of Full Tantrum Mode.

By 6:30pm, we had landed in Powell River and were in my mom's car headed for the family home. It was half an hour past Gwen's usual dinner time, and she was pretty fractious. We got home at 7 and didn't eat until 7:30, by which point Gwen was so out of it she didn't know whether to eat or fall asleep in her high chair. Dinner was less a social event and more a showcase of all her worst behaviours, which I'm sure made my parents *really* glad they'd invited us over. Also during dinner, we discovered that the straw for her sippy-bottle was missing, making it impossible to use. Guess that's why she kept rejecting it earlier. Honestly, it felt like we had spent the entire day getting to PR, and got to have absolutely no visiting time that evening because I needed to get Gwen fed and into bed immediately.

The next day was better.





I can't tell you how cool it was to watch Gwen toddle around exploring the exact same yard I used to play in as a kid. Not to mention how fun it was watching her get to know my parents a bit. She said the word "bumpa" (Grandpa) this weekend, which I think is her first non-repetitive two-syllable word. At one point, I swear I heard her say "Hi, Granny" though it sounded more like "hi, eh-ny."

Gwen was definitely not herself: our latest check shows that she may be getting three or even FOUR teeth at once right now, so she's pretty screamy at times. She also, throughout the entire weekend, refused to fall asleep on any location other than my chest. On Sunday afternoon, I just rolled with it: set myself up in a rocking chair with a good book, and spent over an hour underneath a sleeping toddler. Whatever it took. (Wow, is this getting to be a theme?)

On Sunday, we were thrilled to note that the usual boat and the usual schedule were back in place, and the trip back home was far less eventful. Gwen and I ate dinner in the ferry cafeteria, then hung out in the kids' area for the remaining 40 minutes of the trip, where I even ran into some old friends. Our ferry landed (ON! TIME!) at about 6:45, and once buckled back into her carseat, Gwen promptly fell asleep and snoozed all the way home. The two mornings since then, she has slept in until nearly 9am.

For the most part, I love living on the coast. I can't imagine not being near the ocean. But every once in a while I bump up against the cold hard fact that unless I get rich enough to fly my own plane home, I have to deal with BC Ferries' complete indifference to customer service whenever I want to see my family. I guess I should be grateful that we all live close enough to make seeing each other more than once a year an option at all - but sometimes it's hard to find that gratitude.

On the other hand, sometimes it isn't hard at all.



Wednesday, June 3, 2009

My Little Rockstar

The Intarnets Police contacted me and told me that if I went one more day without posting, I would have to change my online name from wordygirl to "Quiet McNeverPosts". So here I am.

Here is a video of Gwen playing with the "Li'l Rockstar Stacker" that her Gramma Karen and Grandpa Keith bought her for Christmas. This is the toy I mentioned in her last newsletter as being something that scared her for a long, long time but she is now just enjoying it.
video

The video is long, but I didn't want to cut it because I think it shows a lot of brilliant little behaviours on Gwen's part. I don't know if the brilliance is visible to a neutral third party, but anyway, here it is - you be the judge. (Only, you know, not too judgy.)

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