Wednesday, December 29, 2010
Friday, December 24, 2010
Today you are thirty-two months old. But more to the point, you are very, very, VERY two. I don't think it is possible for a child to be MORE two than you are right now. I certainly hope I never live to see such a thing, because wow, I can't even imagine it.
I love you a million billion fajillion, and always will, but the truth is ... well, the truth is it's a whole lot easier to reflect on the profound lengths of my love for you when you are out of the room. Or asleep. When we're actually together? I am less likely to be revelling in your adorableness or intelligence and more likely to be gritting my teeth in frustration, wondering what the HELL I was thinking with this procreation business.
One of your most irritating habits is your inability or unwillingness to control your volume. You are a child who likes things how she likes them, and I get that - BELIEVE ME, I get that. But when you want to give me and/or your dad a vitally important instruction about precisely how we ought to proceed with life, is it too much to ask that you do so at a volume actually audible to humans, and with words that actually exist within our mother tongue? I would hazard a guess that you know and use regularly somewhere in the neighbourhood of 400 words, and you have no problem stringing together a sentence, so can you meet me halfway here? You either mumble in an inaudible (albeit charming) sing-song tone, or shriek wordlessly in what may as well be Klingon, for all I can understand of it. Can there be no middle ground? I have to tell you, if you insist on issuing commands in this way, they are not likely to be obeyed.
You are also getting VERY lippy. This morning, as I prompted you (for the BAZILLIONTH time) to use your manners, you responded, "Don't start, Mama. Don't start." SERIOUSLY? Are you entering teenhood already? I am SO not okay with this. There's nothing like hearing my own words come out of your "innocent" mouth - for example, yesterday I repeated my request for you to get your shoes and you responded, "I said NO, Mama," - but I can't even think of when I have used the phrase "Don't start." Although, contrary to your advice, I think I may start using it now.
Most of the time I am able to embrace your two-ness and feel strong in my faith that you won't be this way forever. But sometimes I start to wonder, with a small but uncomfortable niggling feeling, if maybe I'm Doing It Wrong. Are you actually turning into a genuine brat, a spoiled child? There are only two ways to know: time travel, and trusted friends. Since I have no access to the former, I rely on the latter to tell me if you are just a normal, manageable two-year-old or an entitled rotten in the making. So far, most people tell me you're a delight, so I carry on, for better or for worse.
Okay, but there are good times too. I love the way you construct sentences, which is not entirely correct but is completely endearing. "What that kid's name is?" is your way of asking someone's name (everyone is a kid or a baby), and "Which one I was using?" is your response when we turn off your show, meaning that you want us to put the same one on again later. You have no distinction, yet, between "he" and "she", and use them interchangeably - though you can tell me that you are a girl, while Dada is a boy. You love to have pretend conversations with a toy, or better yet, between two toys with you doing both the voices. "Hello duck, how are you?" "I'm just fine cow. How are you?" "I'm fine too." "Bye-bye, have a good day!" "You too, love you!" (I guess it's not always terrible to hear my own words coming out of a toddler's mouth.)
You are undoubtedly a bright little girl and we are routinely astounded by what comes out of your mouth. A couple of weeks ago, I asked you what you were going to dream about that night and you responded, "Constellations. A puppy constellation, a kitty constellation, and a bear constellation!" How does a two-year-old know what a constellation is? My only guess is that it must have been covered on Blue's Clues, because any topic that is covered on (the first three seasons of) Blue's Clues is a topic you are highly knowledgeable about. That is how you already know most of the planets, too.
I am absolutely certain that once you grasp the independence represented by potty training, you will be ON THAT. You have already seen the big-girl underwear in your drawer and asked to wear it, so I've started telling you that you can wear it after Christmas. "After Christmas, no more diapers!" I tell you, and you say, "No more diapers?! WOW!" Wow indeed. I'm sure you will be dressing yourself (and undressing yourself) in no time, and there are sure to be some hilarious and creative outfits in your future.
You love to sing, and have started making up your own words to songs, which is pretty hilarious. Moreover, you KNOW you are being hilarious, and you will pause right after saying a silly word, waiting for someone to respond. "Row, row, row your sock..." "Your sock?" "NO!" you say in a giggly, "I tricked you," voice. "NOT YOUR SOCK! Row, row, row your nose ..."
Your most overused phrase these days is "Can I help?", which has caused me to reflect on our vastly differing definitions of that word. See, I would define help as "to give or provide what is necessary to accomplish a task or satisfy a need; cooperate effectively with," whereas your definition seems to involve fetching and climbing up on a stool, demanding to touch whatever it is I am doing, and ignoring most of my instructions. Or even having a fit. For example:
Mama: (is making breakfast)
Gwen: Mama, can I help?
Mama: Sure! Why don't you bring your milk to the table, and then go get your bib.
Gwen: I DON'T WANT TO GET MY BIB! (Falls to the ground in paroxysms of grief.)
Mama: O.... kay, you don't have to get your bib. Never mind, I'll get it for you.
Gwen: (5 minutes of anguish)
Mama: Your breakfast is ready, Gwen! Yum, oatmeal with fruit. Here's your milk and your spoon. What do you say?
Gwen (mumbling, shooting me a dirty look): I don't want to get my bib.
I am thankful every day for times when I can laugh and play,
Delicious food I love to eat, my warm bed where I fall asleep,
Tall trees and blue skies above, and all the people that I love.
I love you, my Gwen, and I'm sorry I sometimes lose patience with you. I really do think you are an astounding person and I'm working hard to be the mama you deserve. Merry Christmas, my big girl.
Thursday, December 23, 2010
I've been super good because I'm Super Gwen. I like to play dress-up, I want to go upstairs and colour. I want to colour. I'm making a picture of a jump-a-rope. I want to show Santa my jump-a-rope. I want to eat a snack because I like snacks. Please. For Christmas I want a rocket ship and a space suit. And a jack in the box, I love that too. Outer space! I'm going to go get my toy, Buzz. I'll be right back. Drawing is fun.
Merry Christmas, Santa!
"It's a jump-a-rope
Wednesday, December 22, 2010
Tuesday, December 21, 2010
Let's see. Friday night, Gwen went to get a hair cut and then visited Santa. She was still shy, as we expected, but she was willing to interact with the guy. The first several minutes of the visit involved me kneeling near her, as she stood just out of arm's reach of the most patient Santa in the UNIVERSE, and he gently coaxed her to step close enough so that he could touch her nose and make it glow red like Rudolph's (which would, through Santa Magic, prove that she had been a good girl). She kept holding up MY hand for Santa to take instead of her own ("Do it to Julia!") but Santa continued to insist that the trick only worked on small people. Finally, FINALLY, he managed to touch her and she noticed that the world didn't end, and then she was entirely happy to climb up onto the arm of the chair and "pose" for a picture. She didn't really talk to him or say what she wanted for Christmas, but I was proud of her anyway. I think the picture is both adorable, and a perfect representation of her personality.
Incidentally, for reference, here are the Santa photos for the past two years, which evidently I never blogged before (?). As you can see, Santa is hiding behind the chair so Gwen is utterly unaware of his presence.
We then rushed home, where I fed Gwen and put her to bed and Chris drove to pick up the babysitter so we could go out to a Christmas party. We had a great time at the party, relaxing and chatting with good friends. Wonderful way to spend the evening!
Friday, December 17, 2010
1. It is a gorgeous sunny day today. I haven't seen sunny skies like this in quite a while, and it's a nice treat. Still wicked cold, but who cares! It looks pretty from my nice warm office.
2. We're taking Gwen to see Santa this afternoon. It will be her third annual visit to the Big Guy in Red, but this is the first year that she knows we're going to see him today, she can anticipate what that will be like and plan what she wants to say to him. I'm still pretty sure she's going to be too shy to sit on his lap, but MAYBE we can move past the stage of Santa hiding behind the chair. We'll see! In the meantime, she is excited and that is so fun.
3. It's payday today. And since we're talking about money stuff, let's also celebrate the fact that I was finally, FINALLY given enough information to be able to reasonably predict how much EI Chris will be eligible for, and come up with a livable (though not entirely delightful) budget. There are still too many unknowns, but there are a few less than yesterday and that feels good.
4. Christmas party tonight! So excited to go hang out with my peeps, a group of friends I somehow fell into magically and have not been kicked out yet despite my
5. I know it sounds cliché, but I am surrounded by the best group of people in the entire world. I have received so many acts of kindness over the past few weeks that I can't help but feel blessed. My friends and family are always, unequivocally, there for me, but I've been given incredible gestures of generosity from my hairdresser (who gave me free highlights for Christmas as she knew I couldn't afford the extra costs just now), my cleaning lady (who knows I can't employ her any more come January, and why, and knitted lovely bracelets for the three of us that are supposed to bring peace and contentment) and some anonymous person who sent us a $100 gift card to the nearest grocery store. Even those who send an encouraging message via email or Facebook are contributing to my well-being, and I feel SO LOVED. Thanks, all of you. I love you too! (For yet more proof that the world (and in particular, the Internet) can still be awesome, please see here.)
Have a great weekend, everyone!
Tuesday, December 14, 2010
I find I am looking to my innocent daughter for guidance and inspiration these days. Of course we are devastated and scrambling to make sense of our lives since Chris's job loss, and naturally one of our big concerns is how to provide for Gwen. Since it's December, a big part of that concern is making sure Gwen has a great Christmas - we're living every stupid TV movie where A Big Crisis happens right before the holidays but somehow the Family Bands Together and learns a Valuable Lesson about the True Meaning of Christmas.
Her parents are a mess and life is in great upheaval, but Gwen knows nothing about it. Last weekend we travelled to the memorial and all she understood was that it was a great opportunity to visit with family and play with her cousins. She doesn’t know or understand all the difficulties we are facing right now, and that’s as it should be. She isn’t devastated that her dad is unemployed, nor does she expect hundreds of presents under the tree – she’d be happy with a handful. To be honest, we should all be more like Gwen!
For my part, and Chris's too, it's hard not to keep looking for catastrophes. We all "know" that these things come in threes, so we're eager to name something as the third bad thing and perhaps gain a bit of peace that there aren't any more shoes to drop - as if life worked that way! Fate or chance has been generous in this regard, and there are several possibilities for "third bad thing". For example, my sister's husband totalled his car, with his younger son inside it. (No one was hurt, thank God.) Chris's credit card number was somehow stolen and $600 worth of charges put on it. (The card has been cancelled and after a 6-8 week investigation, hopefully the charges will be reversed.) Chris and I both had to spend hundreds of dollars on car repairs for our respective vehicles last week, which we could probably not afford to do (and yet, not afford not to do).
Mostly, I'm just sort of stunned. I can't believe Christmas is next weekend. I've barely been keeping up with the Advent calendar, and I can't really get motivated to change that. I am not on top of things as much as I usually am, and even as I reflect on that I am so immensely grateful for the random situations that allow me to be on top of it as I actually am. For example, I got the bulk of my Christmas shopping done on my trip to Vegas in October - that would not normally be the case, and I'm so glad it's done already because I sure wouldn't feel good about going out and spending money now. I'm so glad that I am not hosting anything this year, and am not required to cook a giant meal or even bake a batch of cookies if I don't feel like it. I'm astounded that I haven't gotten Gwen in for Santa photos yet, or gotten the Christmas tree up. I can't believe that I haven't put on any Christmas music. But honestly, we lost a week. It feels like we were in a time warp - I think all we did for that week was whatever related to dealing with these two crises, interspersed with long bouts of staring at the wall wondering what the hell to do next. I'm pretty sure I spent a lot of time watching House, M.D. and eating ice cream, as those were the only activities that made me feel even halfway normal.
For all that, I am more excited about Christmas this year than I have been in recent memory. Maybe it's something to do with not taking things for granted, or being grateful for everything (and more to the point, everyone) you've got. Maybe it's because Christmas is usually such a huge glittering mass of positive emotion, and I desperately need it to balance out the stress and worry and what-now? that permeates every aspect of life right now. Maybe it's because Gwen is just completely at the right age: old enough to ask for specific presents, young enough that the list is short and completely reasonable. Either way, I'm completely convinced that next weekend (yes, it's that close!) is going to be a wonderful and memorable time. We sure as heck deserve it.
Thursday, December 9, 2010
My grandma has been lost in a fog of dementia for several years now. Just over a year ago, she moved to an extended care facility. Since then, a part of me has been waiting for this call. Yet despite how prepared I thought I was, I wasn't prepared at all. I don't know how to process the grief at losing something I haven't really had for some time. It turns out that despite the fact I 'lost' my grandma a long time ago, I'm still not ready to let her go.
My husband never saw my grandma as she used to be, and my daughter won't even remember her. My grandma hasn't been able to remember who I am for quite some time. But I remember. Oh yes, I remember.
I remember her kitchen. She welcomed us there as often as she could and taught us with infinite patience and laughter how to make delicious wonders out of the most mundane ingredients. She hosted these gigantic dinner parties at the drop of a hat, and never seemed to break a sweat as she somehow produced enough food to fill a full-sized billiards table, which was always covered with matching tablecloths for the event. I remember her pride and excitement as she would annouce, "Tonight, we have THREE desserts .... 'rayyyy!" She was a fun and gracious hostess and did it all with a smile on her face.
I remember her piano. It was she who inspired my dad to become a musician, and nothing made her happier than having him play piano at her parties. Everyone would gather around the piano and sing with gusto, with heart, with joy. She loved music and she loved the spontaneous participation that came from an impromptu song. She sang and danced and smiled, and her joy was infectious.
I remember her cabin. My grandfather bought her a float cabin on Powell Lake as a Mother's Day present about thirty years ago. She'd been raised on the prairies and didn't swim, but she loved to stand on the shore, wading into the cool water up to her waist, cherishing the natural beauty all around her. Before long the cabin was just another venue for her to host amazing parties and produce delicious feasts, despite its tiny and ill-equipped kitchen. It brought her so much joy to be surrounded by friends and family at this somehow luxurious and yet primitive vacation spot.
I remember what we had in common. We were both September babies, we both adored sweets and despised spiders. We both enjoyed crafts. I was always pretty sure I was her favourite - she was always so happy to see me.
I remember her love for my grandfather. The obituary tells the truth: there is no other way to describe their love than as a storybook romance. They were married for sixty-one years, and their love and devotion was evident in their every word and action towards each other. I remember my grandfather showing me the park bench on Lost Lagoon where they'd sat and "made cow eyes at each other". Naturally, to a 10-year-old this was disgusting, and I'm sure I made the obligatory grunts of "GroooooOOOOOOoooosss!", but even then - I knew there was something magical about that love, about finding the one person who made your soul rejoice.
I remember that she was important. She was a bank manager, and though I didn't know it at the time, it was probably a pretty big deal to be a bank manager and a woman back in the 1970s. I remember that she knew lots of things about money and that people could rely on her for good advice and a friendly smile.
I remember her loss. I was barely six years old when my uncle - my grandma's youngest son, still a teenager - died in a bizarre accident. I remember the policeman coming to her door. I remember, to my shame, that I had no grasp of what was happening, and that I continued to nag her to find me the SCISSORS, Gramma, so I can cut out my paper doll. I remember that she found me the scissors. This was the only time I remember seeing her without her smile.
I remember her generosity. I remember her patience. I remember her kindness. I remember her inspiration. I remember her faith. I remember her strength. I remember her wisdom. I remember her laugh. I remember her hugs. I remember her smile.
Tomorrow, I'm travelling with my family to Powell River for my grandmother's memorial service, and on Saturday I will summon every ounce of strength and stamina to sing "Smile" for the people who have been touched by her life. I've never wanted so badly to do well at something, and yet been so sure that I will not be able to manage it. It's likely that I shouldn't worry - as my sister points out, Grandma will be too busy catching up with her son, her mom, and her best friend Barb, not to mention watching a full-colour slideshow of everything she's missed in the past several years; she'll never notice my warbly voice.
And I am quite certain she'll be smiling.
Rena Marguery Campbell “Princess”
September 3, 1929 – December 3, 2010
Rena went to her heavenly home just after midnight on December 3rd 2010. She is survived by her husband and best friend of 61 years, George. Rena also leaves to mourn, her two sons Ron (Maureen), and Doug (Evelyn); grandchildren Laura (Chris), Sara (Dave), Duncan (Theresa), Amanda (Joe), and Kaleigh, as well as great-grandchildren Andrew, Scott, Gwen and Abby. Rena is also survived by her two younger sisters, Donna, and Greta (Dave) and their respective families. She was predeceased by her youngest son Gordon in 1981.
Rena was born in Cabri Saskatchewan, and lived on the family farm in Shackleton, before moving to Vancouver with her parents and siblings in 1946. It was in Vancouver that she met, and fell in love with her husband George, and in 1962 they moved to Powell River, where she resided happily until her passing. Rena was the first female bank manager of the Bank of Montreal, Townsite branch, Powell River, and was well loved and respected by her staff and her customers. Rena had a smile for everyone, and always sought the good in people. She and George shared what can only be described as a storybook romance, their entire married life, and spent countless happy hours together traveling, entertaining, or relaxing at their cabin on the lake. She loved all her family unconditionally, and was a fabulous mother and grandma. The world will be a little lonelier without her smile.
A celebration of Rena’s life will be held Saturday, December 11, 2010 at 2:00 pm at Faith Lutheran Church, corner of Ontario and Alberni. Memorial donations to Powell River General Hospital, 5000 Joyce Ave, Powell River, B.C. V8A 5R3.
Monday, December 6, 2010
An acquaintance met us in one of the aisles. "Hey, how are you guys? What's new?"
And it was like the world shut down. Only, it hadn't. Our world had shut down, and the rest of the world had kept going, and now not only did we need to put the pieces back together but we had to deal with getting questions like this from random people, every day. Even a waitress, a cashier, a taxi driver will ask you how you're doing, and we all know the answer they expect. But that simple question can slam into you with such force that you're actually physically winded as you are forced to face the profound misalignment between Where You Are and Where You're Supposed To Be.
So here's the thing. It's not that Friday's post wasn't honest - it was absolutely true. And yet, there was something incredibly incongruous about posting this excited, silly, potty-related entry on that particular day. Because it was certainly not the most important thing going on in our lives just then. Two days before that post appeared, we learned that Chris had lost his job. And our world spun off its axis.
I've tried writing this post a few times now, and it's not easy. There's so much to say, and it's all so painful. There are good moments and bad moments, but the feeling of profound disorientation never goes away. Yesterday, Chris and I were in a courtesy car heading to pick up my vehicle at the dealership after servicing. "So, how's business?" the driver asked Chris. "Are you working in town these days, or out of town?" You know, how are you guys? What's new?
The truth is, Chris has never much liked this job, and I have always despised it. The way this company does business is completely ridiculous. In an age of climate change and peak oil, they send their salesmen up and down the Island every day to call on clients in person rather than by phone - and pay for all that fuel. Not only is that an irresponsible way to do business, it's also expensive. So no surprise they are feeling the pinch. There is a lot more I could say about how they treat their employees, but really, wasting my energy on that kind of vitriol just doesn't appeal to me right now. The important thing, which we remind ourselves about constantly, is that we will not miss this company. We both feel very strongly that this will prove to be a positive step, and one that Chris - who describes himself as "a wheel looking for a rut" - would never take unless forced.
In a good moment, I can look at this as an adventure. I can get excited about Chris finally putting some effort into figuring out what kind of job he'd like to do, and support him in his efforts to get such a job. I can look forward to a time when he'll come home from work and tell me about his day. I can even feel productive and gratified in approaching the next stage of our lives as a project, a problem to be solved with low-cost cookbooks and co-operation. I truly am grateful for so many things right now, and so few of them have anything to do with money. Our daughter is amazing, and at a perfect age to remember none of this upheaval. My job is awesome and my colleagues are incredibly supportive. We live in a beautiful place and are close, both geographically and personally, to supportive family and friends. I can peacefully reflect that at this time last year, I was in a very unsupportive work environment, working at a job that was worse than unstable: it was going to end, guaranteed, at some short-term but yet unknown date. Had Chris lost his job at that time, we'd be far worse off - both financially and emotionally - than we are now.
Those are the good moments. I don't have the words yet to talk about the bad ones.
The metaphor of our life right now is this: "God never shuts a door without opening a window. However, there's usually a period of time where you're stumbling around in the dark, bumping into things and breaking your toe and cursing a blue streak and it really frigging sucks." We're in the dark right now, and it's scary and painful and unknown. That's how we are, and I needed to tell you.
Friday, December 3, 2010
Oh, at everyone else's house, I mean. At our house, something so big is going on that it has actually eclipsed The Most Wonderful Time of the Year (tm).
Want a hint? Okay, here it is. On November 25th, Chris and Gwen were stuck at home due to the snow. Chris went upstairs to make a work call and a few minutes later, he saw Gwen walking out of the upstairs bathroom with her pants around her ankles. Turns out our girl walked upstairs, pulled down her pants, sat on the potty and did her business, then walked into her room looking for a wipe to clean herself up. All with no help from Dada. This is a huge leap, and naturally, he praised her to the skies.
So the official announcement at last: we are going to potty-train Gwen. The planets are aligning and Signs of Readiness (tm) are cropping up everywhere. She has started asking about wearing her underwear instead of Pull-ups: she gets upset when she is wet. She stays dry longer and longer (though still not flawlessly) and is happy to use public toilets when we are out. A gracious friend gave me The Three Day Potty Training book, which she used with her son to great success - and I trust her and her mothering methods, so I know she would not use an approach that wasn't gentle, child-oriented, and loving.
Over the next couple of weeks, we will be following the instructions in the book under the section "before you train", as well as gathering the supplies we will need for the three-day training blitz. ("Dear Santa: Gwen has been a very good girl this year, and would like 20-30 pairs of big-girl underwear.") Between Christmas and New Year's, I have 11 days off, and somewhere in there we are going to hole up in the house for three straight days, no outings, no phone calls, nothing that can distract us from Getting It Done (tm). (I am really hoping that the three days fall earlier in my vacation, rather than later, because something tells me I am going to need a break after that solid 72 hours of doing nothing but attend to my child's toileting needs.) I am excited about this method and about the independence that Gwen will gain from this. I'm also looking forward to how proud we will be of her through this process, and helping her to be proud of herself, too.
Oh. And Christmas. Yes, I'm looking forward to that, too. Fa-la-la, etc.