Friday, July 31, 2009

There Goes My Baby

At some point in the last few weeks, when I wasn't looking, someone took away my baby and left this kid here instead.
This kid who carries around a cellphone pouch as if it were a purse.

This kid who prefers to put her sunglasses on by herself.

This kid who sat still so Gramma Karen could paint her toenails.

This kid who is big enough to play with her cousin Scotty, who is almost two years older than she is.

This kid who walks around looking so grown-up in a pretty dress.

This kid who can get on and off her own riding toy, with just the tiniest bit of assistance ("hup").

This kid who likes to put her birthday crown on by herself, too.

(You want a closer look at those curls, don't you? Yes, I thought so. Here you go.)

This kid who will, upon occasion, simply sit in her own big-kid chair and look at a book.

This kid who also likes to sit in Grannie's rocking chair all by herself and rock back and forth.

Yes, it must have been some kind of strange child-swapping scheme. That's the only possible explanation. Right?

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Fehhhh .... the Blogging Lethargy has got me

Last June, I was at home with a newborn. She was six weeks old and spent all her time (ALL her time) either sleeping, nursing, or crying. Last June, I made 25 entries in this blog.

This June, I was a working mom with a toddler. I don't know how my daughter spends all her time, because I'm not there for most of it. Sometimes, I see her for five or ten minutes in the morning. I almost always get to see her for a couple of hours between work and bedtime. And on the weekends, of course, sometimes slotted in between Social Obligations and Travel and Chores and Grocery Shopping and Yoga Class and all the other things one has to get done on weekends. This June, I made 11 entries in this blog.

Even typing out the above two paragraphs has given me a bit of perspective as to what's happening life-wise. June 2008 was all about how Gwen spent her time, because I had *nothing* going on that wasn't centred on her. June 2009 was all about how I spent my time, because the majority of that time is spent on non-Gwen-related pursuits. Is it any wonder the blogging has ground to a halt?

I started this blog as my inner voice, when I first found out I was pregnant. I didn't tell anyone about it, not even my best friend or my husband, for a couple of months. I wanted to chronicle the pregnancy in a semi-anonymous way; I wanted those who read it to do so because they found the writings interesting or relevant to themselves (i.e., they were also pregnant or hoping to be), not because they were my friends and felt obligated to read. Eventually I spilled the secret and invited my friends to read if they wished. Shortly after Gwen was born, my parents found the blog. They showed it to other family members. Now I even export my posts to Facebook.

It's a weird paradox, this bloggy thing. I don't consciously write posts with my family and friends in mind, thinking "I'd better make a post so Grannie can see these adorable pictures!", but at the same time the fact that they do read is always in the back of my mind. Knowing that the majority of my readers are people I know, I take shortcuts. I don't work as hard as I could on my posts; don't explain background information to ensure that each story stands on its own. At its worst, this blog is little more than a substitute for a mass email. At its best ... well, I don't know. I think that's what I need to figure out. What do I want from this little space on the web I have claimed as mine, and my daughter's?

1. A chronicle of Gwen's life and times - that was always the goal, and I think I am accomplishing that fairly well.
2. A place to reach out to other parents - I think that if ever people stumbled across this blog, it would do adequately at this task. I probably need to work harder at getting people to stumble over here, though.
3. A place where I can improve my writing skills - this doesn't work if I don't write.

I tend to get kind of lethargic and unmotivated whenever I see other blogs that are highly entertaining and/or moving. I think, "I can't write like that (because of this flimsy excuse here), so I just shouldn't bother." Sometimes I feel like I've painted myself into a corner by making this so definitively a mommy blog. Many of the bloggers I most admire - Emily, Linda, Heather, Amy - were bloggers before they became mommies, and continue to write about subjects as rich and varied as life is: work, relationships, home renovation, fitness goals, personal ambitions, experiences with the medical profession, ridiculously funny critiques of what's on television these days, and, you know, the hidden life of deodorant, to name a few. I write about Gwen, and as great as that is, it's only a piece of my life - for better or worse, not even the biggest piece, these days - so when there's no Gwen-blogging, there's no blogging at all. And while I don't know exactly what I do want, I know I don't want that.

It seems clear to me that in order to improve this blog, I need to write more. And in order to write more, I need to expand my horizons and flesh this blog out a little more. How to do that, I'm not entirely sure. Hopefully it will be at least somewhat amusing for all of us as I work on figuring it out.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Dear Gwen: Month Fifteen

Dear Gwen,

Today, you are fifteen months old. A year and a quarter. You are mostly wearing eighteen-month clothing now, and some of it, I’m sad to say, is too small. At this stage, clothing serves as an apt metaphor for the parenting experience. We’re given an item for a two-year-old while we snuggle a tiny newborn, and ogle the garment with disbelief, not entirely sure that the babe in our arms will ever be as gigantic as THAT. We blink our eyes once or twice and then find ourselves struggling to fit a writhing toddler into this same garment, which now only fits if the child has no need to straighten his or her legs. Or, you know, breathe. I think I now understand why every parent I’ve ever met whose child is at all older than mine urges me to “enjoy it, because it goes so fast”. It’s not because they think this sentiment unique – it’s because they’re still reeling from the shock.
It goes even faster now that I’m working, and there are entire weeks that go by without me taking a single picture of you. This is UNBELIEVABLE. Back when you were three-ish months old, I spent hours poring (yes, poring, not pouring; illiterates, take note) over the hundreds of pictures we’d taken so far, and choosing only the best to print and place into a photo album. I even went so far as to imagine that I’d fill similarly-sized albums with the 3-6 month pictures, the 6-9 month pictures, and so on. (HA! Oh, my sides.) The album that captures the first three months of your life also captures my fascination with you, as five or six pictures will show basically the same pose and circumstance. Those were the days, my child. In contrast, I think I have about 40 pictures to show for this entire last month – and most of them were taken on the same day.

This month, you have started to become interested in your body. This sounds vaguely dirty, but in fact it’s entirely innocent and largely motivated by the song “Head and Shoulders,” which is one of your big favourites. If we sing this song and do the actions, you watch our hand movements with utter fascination. Even better, if we skip the actions, providing you with no distraction, you will do your own enthusiastic (and of course, wildly creative) version of them. When we finish the song, you usually declare “EYEZHHH!” and thrust a finger up your nose, at which point we congratulate ourselves on producing such an inarguably brilliant child.

Yes, you are starting to make the “s” sound (more like “shh” or “zh” the way you do it). It clearly takes great concentration. Most of your words are only, in fact, the beginnings of words: ball, bug, and book are really only a B followed by a slightly differing intonation of vowel sound, with no attempt whatsoever at the closing consonants. The fact that you are making the effort to add the “s” to both “eyes” and “nose” is a testimony to your enjoyment of the Head and Shoulders song, as well as your appreciation of being able to participate so meaningfully in the words and actions.
Another addition to your repertoire is the game of Patty-Cake. You are into this game in a BIG way, and it only took a couple of repetitions for me to be able to tempt you, from across the room, with “do you want to play Patty Cake?” Yes you DO. Unfortunately, you’re not quite ready for the Patty Cake Little League or anything. Though you learned to give high fives back at eleven months or so, you are of late completely disinterested in them, preferring instead the Fist Bump. So the concept of you and I clapping our hands together is completely alien to you. You also don’t like to clap your own hands during the game, though you hold your hands with palms facing as if at any moment you ARE going to clap. This makes my job, that of clapping your hands with mine, a little tricky. Still, despite the unorthodox methodology of our Patty Cake game, the delight you take in it is unmarred.

Speaking of tempting you from across the room, I have recently discovered your utter powerlessness in the face of music, and have used this shamelessly to my advantage. In our kitchen is a cupboard, highly difficult to child-proof, which is full of baking supplies including a few sets of measuring cups and spoons. You, of course, like nothing better than to open it up, throw all the measuring spoons on the floor, and then put them all in your mouth, so I have to wash the whole collection. The other day I saw you beelining for that cupboard, and naturally my calls of “Gwen. Hey, Gwen. Gwen! Hey, stop. Come here! Look at this toy I have! Whee! I love this toy!” were completely ineffectual, so I tried another tactic and began to sing “Skin-a-marinki-dinki-dink, skin-a-marinki-doo…” you stopped dead in your tracks. “I … love … you …” you turned to face me. “Skin-a-marinki-dinki-dink, skin-a-marinki-doo…” you started toddling towards me with due speed. “I … love … you.” Now you’re a few inches away, staring intently at my face as you try to figure out how I’m producing these fascinating noises. I finished the song and then offered you a game of Patty Cake. Crisis averted! Mom for the WIN.

Your love of music even allows us to take care of the tasks you usually hate with a passion, such as tooth-brushing, face-washing, sunscreen-applying, and so on. All we have to do is sing a ridiculous and insipid song (“This is the way we wash our face, wash our face, wash our face…”) and you will sit still and even quietly while we groom you. I don’t know how I can possibly explain to you what a huge development this is: it might even be on par with that time we took you to the chiropractor and resolved that whole chronic pain issue, transforming you from this perpetually miserable ball of tears into a smiling, engaged, active little charmer.
(Someday - I don’t know when, but someday - I hope to stop feeling guilty over the four months you spent in constant pain. My only comfort is in knowing that even though everyone else thought I was nuts for hiring a professional lactation consultant – and even though that did nothing whatsoever to solve our breastfeeding problems – that very clever woman did suggest a visit to the chiropractor, which turns out to have solved a parallel and drastically important problem. So, I did the right thing, even if it was for misguided reasons.)

It’s been a great month, Gwen. You are becoming even more awesome and amusing, which we didn’t really think was possible. You are able to play on your own for quite a while now, but also able to interact with us in new and interesting ways, such as Patty Cake, playing ball, and even – occasionally – participating in the game of “what’s this?” when we point to an object or picture whose name you know. Life with you is highly entertaining and we can’t wait to see what’s next.


Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Jodi Picoult on Motherhood

A couple of weeks ago, as you know, I went to the library and grabbed a bunch of books for myself and a bunch for Gwen. I love judging books by their covers, and am generally pretty good at picking out the type of fiction I like, even if I've never heard of the author. I chose a book called Keeping Faith by Jodi Picoult to read first.

On page 17, I came across this passage:

"I figured that motherhood would be something that descended naturally, the same way my milk came in - a little painful, a little awe-inspiring, but part of me now for better or for worse. I waited patiently. So what if I didn't know how to use a rectal thermometer on my child? So what if I tried to swaddle her and the blanket never tucked tight? Any day now, I told myself, I am going to wake up and know what I'm doing.

"It was sometime after Faith's third birthday that I stopped hoping."

That was it - I was hooked. That is *precisely* how I feel about motherhood, right down to the patiently waiting.

I am terrible at writing book reviews, so I won't even attempt to. I'll just say that I really enjoyed this book and link to the Amazon site so you can read other reviews. I also really enjoyed the coincidence that it turns out Jodi Picoult, far from being an obscure author, is "the bestselling author of thirteen books," several of which have been or are currently being turned into movies. The movie "My Sister's Keeper" is based on one of her books, too.

I'm tickled that I found a new favourite and am now determined to read all her novels.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009


Sally is an amazing woman that I know in a few different capacities. She attended Gwen's birth as a friend and as a birth doula. She knitted Gwen's first article of clothing, the "Sally hat," as I always called it. She stayed here for a week after Gwen's birth to help me figure out how to care for this tiny person, and support me through all the ups and downs of post-partum. She was there when the Norovirus plague hit the house, and it hit her too.

During the week that she stayed here, dividing her time between working on schoolwork and cuddling a newborn, she talked a lot about getting a puppy. She even went so far as to start surfing Craigslist and other online classifieds looking for a furry companion for herself and her partner, Dean.

Shortly after she went home, they adopted Finnegan, an adorable little fuzzface who, being part miniature pinscher, was never going to get very much bigger. He was just under four pounds when they brought him home.

When Sally and I had the opportunity to chat, in person or via email, we often compared notes on mothering a puppy and mothering a newborn. They are actually shockingly similar: both keep you up at night; both significantly alter your social lives; both are terribly dependent on you for their safety, shelter, and food; both prevent Quality Couple Time (if y'know what I mean, and I THINK YOU DO).

Last July, we got our our first opportunity to meet Finnegan when Sally came to visit. We really enjoyed it. Gwen was very interested in the fuzzy baby, though not entirely sure what to make of him. Finnegan didn't care too much about Gwen, either way (she hadn't started eating solid foods yet, so there was no benefit to sticking close by). This past May, though, Sally and Finnegan stopped by again for a brief visit, and this time the two kids - furry and non-furry - got along great. Gwen "barked" at Finnegan until he returned the favour with a shrill yip: Gwen jumped a little, then cocked her head to the side and started trying to imitate the sound. She shared her food, he shared her toys, and Sally and I continued our dialogue about the joys and difficulties of parenthood.

Last night, Finnegan passed away suddenly. Sally wrote, "He had a congenital diaphragmatic hernia, which we didn't know about until around midnight. He was meant to have surgery this morning to repair it, but didn't make it through the night as his intestines were pressing on his chest cavity causing trauma.

"He had been fine earlier in the day, frolicking and playing with our families ... He was only sick for a few hours."

I've never had a dog before, and have never really been in the position of grieving for a pet, but I'm a lot sadder than I would have expected about this. It seems especially unfair that it happened so quickly, and that Finnegan was so young. After some thought, I realized that because Sally adopted Finnegan so soon after Gwen's birth, I strongly associate those two events. In a way, Sally and I became mothers at the same time, and shared those experiences with each other. So today, I am grieving as one mother for another. I know how heartbroken she and Dean must feel, and I feel so sad for them both.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Random Blather

Dear Gwen's Next Tooth:



How is everyone out in internet land? Though I'm feeling a bit blue and more than a bit tired at the moment, on the whole things are going really, really well for us here. Feel like I really should be updating more, but at the same time I am trying not to let myself spend too much time on the computer while I'm at home. Let's see if I can hit the highlights ...

Gwen is starting to try to say her name. So far it's just "Ga" while she points to her own chest. It's pretty cute. And if you think about it, the cognitive processes indicated here are kind of mind-boggling.

Work is going really, really well for me at the moment. The Big Decision I have to make has been put off, as there is a hiring freeze on at the moment due to this Whole Economy Thing. So in the meantime I am filling the position temporarily, getting a feel for it, without losing my flex days. This is a very temporary grace period but in the meantime I am enjoying that, and actually appreciating the new and interesting challenges at work. No one is more surprised than me. For the first time in about five years, I am working at a job where my work is not finished at the end of the day when I go home. I gather this is how most of the world operates ALL THE TIME. At first it made me anxious, because I am so used to Finishing Everything Way Ahead of Schedule, but now I am actually appreciating how quickly the days go and how much variety there is in my job.

Last Monday when Chris dropped off Gwen and the daycare payment for July, Denise realized - by the amount on the cheque - that we had entirely forgotten about the fact that she was taking the first week of July off. It was completely our fault: she mentioned it when we interviewed her, but it was all so hypothetical that we didn't take too much notice, and then it completely slipped our minds. Fortunately, Chris's mom (O bless the wonders of local, retired grandparents!) was able to step in and take her for four days this past week instead of her usual one. Gwen had a terrific week with her Gramma, of course. We are incredibly grateful to her for saving our bacon: grateful enough that we took the money saved on daycare, converted it to Euro, and gave it to her for her Europe trip later this year.

Gwen has a lot of words now, though she doesn't always use them consistently. It's like she makes up her mind, on a particular day, to mimic everything we say and thus learn, like, TEN new words. Then the next day, no matter what I do, she won't mimic me at all. Some new words are:
Animal (in response to a puppet I have that looks like this)
Duck (and Quack)
Bird (and Caw)

She is also getting to the stage where putting things away in boxes can be an entertaining pastime for her. Every night when I put her to bed we take these out of the box, read a few, and then put them all back away. She needs a lot of encouragement, but she does put them back in the box. So far, this aptitude does not extend to a desire to help put any of her other toys away. One thing at a time ...

Sunday, July 5, 2009

My Girl

Everywhere we go, they say she looks like Chris.

"Wow, Laura, she looks EXACTLY like ... (dramatic pause) ... your husband!"

My favourite is when a stranger comments on her beauty, and then follows it up with "I guess she looks like her daddy!" Um, wait, did you just call me ugly?

She has my blue eyes. That much is inarguable. But as for the rest of her, they all say she looks just like her dad.

But I see something more. If her eyes are blue like mine, maybe I can take credit for the mischievous twinkle in them as well. I see myself in her smile, her silliness, her familiar tendency to grab all the attention in the room and entertain everyone for as long as she can.

It could be wishful thinking, but I see it. Do you?

Friday, July 3, 2009

Gwen's first ice cream cone

Two hours' parking in the underground garage - $1.00

Trip to the playground - free

Playtime at the library - free

Two gigantic stacks of books, one for Gwen and one for Mom - free

"Baby"-sized ice cream cone (yeah right) - $2.00

My flex days - priceless.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Canada Day

Those who can do math will already know that today was not Gwen's first Canada Day. However, after spending most of the day endeavouring with maddening futility to remember what we did last Canada Day, I am declaring this the first Canada Day that Gwen actually celebrated/participated in/enjoyed. (My blog, although it usually serves as an external brain in these cases, was no help: all I posted last year was a diatribe about people who criticize other people's parenting. Even my Google Calendar let me down, with the only event noted there being "EI Payment". Hey, what can I say - non-working parents have differing priorities.)

Anyway, today was a terrific day. After Gwen's nap, we went outside and enjoyed the gorgeous sunshine. We had filled Gwen's inflatable pool and I guess it looked pretty inviting, because she walked right into it - fully clothed. Her pool has this attachment you can plug a hose into and then water will spray out into the pool: I turned that on, and she thought it was just the living end. She had a blast. She played in there for a good 20 minutes. For Gwen to stay in a 3-foot radius for 20 minutes is quite remarkable. She got out and got dried off, but a few minutes later she decided to take another dip.

At some point during the into-the-pool, out-of-the-pool game I decided to take her sandals off, and when she got back out of the pool she spent some time walking around our yard in bare feet. That's the first time she's done that: just one month ago, I wrote that she didn't like walking around our yard at all. It is sort of a big deal to me, too, since my memories of summer don't often include shoes. I think when I was in elementary school I probably didn't wear shoes at any time between June and September, and only grudgingly during the two months on either side of that. So it makes me happy to see my girl walking around barefoot too.

I noticed that Gwen's cherry tree - I call it "her tree" because it bloomed for the first time on the day she was born - had actually produced some cherries. This, too, is notable, because it's the first time that's happened as well! Chris picked a few for her, and I got the pits out and fed them to her. She was delighted, with juice running down her chin and hands gesturing for "more".

I also had the pleasure of giving Gwen home-baked bread today. Baking my own bread is just one of those things that makes me feel good, even if it is with the use of a breadmaker and not exactly the way the pioneers used to do it. I'm pretty sure this is the first time since Gwen was born that I've managed to make bread. As with all things food, she enjoyed it heartily.

It was a great, relaxing day with a lot of special little first moments. At some point during the pool frolicing I thought, "I should get the camera," but then I dismissed the thought, choosing instead to just hang out with my daughter and enjoy the moment, rather than attempt to record it. So instead of photos, you have a wordygirl's recollections of the day.

Here's hoping your Canada Day was just as enjoyable.


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