Sunday, August 30, 2009


The following article was published in the Nanaimo Daily News a few weeks ago and concerns a family I met first at Healthy Beginnings, then at Starfish swimming lessons.

Family fights to save their baby from cancer

Mary Iatrides is in a fight for her life and she's only 14 months old.

Two months after her first birthday, parents Pete and Tanya took their little girl to the doctor because she hadn't recovered from a two-week cold the whole family had been fighting. That same day, Mary was flown to B.C. Children's Hospital in Vancouver and was diagnosed with acute myeloblastic leukemia.

Close friend Lia Holland has yet to come to terms with her friend's devastating news, but she knows support is the key right now and that is why she's turning to the community for financial help for the Iatrides.

Funds raised from a beer and burger night at the Old City Station Pub on
Aug. 20 and a huge garage sale, auction, hot dog sale and raffle slated for Country Club Centre's parking lot on Aug. 29 will be set up in a trust fund for the family to help cushion the financial stress. Pete and Tanya immediately moved to Vancouver and have been living in the Ronald McDonald House to be by their daughter's side since July 10. It will be their home for at least six months, while Mary fights for her life. Pete and Tanya stood strong beside Holland two years ago when she lost her mother to cancer.

"I knew right away I had to do something for them. I'm not ready to go to the hospital yet so I'm going to do as much as I can from here," said Holland. For information on the fundraising events or to make a donation, contact Holland at 250-741-4466.

© The Daily News (Nanaimo) 2009

It all began on Facebook - but what doesn't, these days? A mutual friend sent several moms the news about Mary, and told us there was a Facebook group set up to keep friends updated on her progress, share ideas about how to help, and most importantly organize some fundraising for the family. Within days, the membership of the group swelled into the hundreds (there are now over 400 members). The ideas came from all corners, and the leader of the group - Lia Holland, quoted in the article above - started working on putting together a gigantic fundraiser for Mary and her family.

Yesterday, I got to go help out at this fundraiser. I say “got to” because it was such an incredible experience that I really feel blessed to have been able to take part in it. I arrived at 8am to help set up, and there were about 25 people already there, unloading vehicles and getting things organized. It was already overwhelming. For the past few weeks, people had been donating hundreds (thousands?) of items to be sold at the garage sale, dropping them off at Lia's house. Lia and her team of organizers had originally thought that there would be time that morning to price everything, but it quickly became apparent that due to the sheer volume of goods, it would be impossible to do so. Instead, we moved as quickly as we could to organize items by category: baby clothes, toys, household goods, books, and so on. Though the sale was posted to start at 10am, before 9 we had people wanting to buy.

The next few hours were a flurry of activity. Lia and her team were On The Ball: everyone "working" the event had black t-shirts with a big picture of Mary and the slogan "It's All About Mary", which made it easy for customers to spot us and ask their questions or pay for goods. The picture of Mary was a huge bonus, as it gave the volunteers the ability to remind customers that they were giving to a good cause. Given that most items were not priced, this helped cut down on the haggling somewhat - though some people still snorted and walked away when I asked for a fair donation. (Oh well, karma will get them.) And for every stingy bargain-hunter, I encountered at least two people who completely understood that this sale was for a cause, and were willing to pay more than a fair price for the goods they took home.

On top of the garage sale, there was a Chinese auction with many generous prizes donated by local businesses. Again, I was impressed with Lia's marketing skills, as she put different photos of Mary on every gift bag for the auction. Most of the pictures were from the last six weeks, Mary's hospital stay, which really drove home the truth of what she and her parents are dealing with right now. There was also a hot dog sale (all food donated by, I believe, Save on Foods) and a Return-it truck where people could come and donate their bottles with proceeds going to the trust fund.

I was blown away by all of this. First, the people who knew Mary (and many who didn't) donating their goods to the garage sale and their time to hitting up businesses for prizes. The generosity of these businesses who gave so much to help this event succeed. The hundreds of customers who came and gave to our cause. One woman said to me, "God bless you for the help you're giving." I absolutely did feel blessed to be a part of this.

The final total for how much this event raised has not yet been made public, but I would estimate $15,000 - $20,000. **edit**: Lia emailed with the final total this morning: Just over $10,000. This will all go to the trust fund set up for Mary's family, to defray the costs of staying in Vancouver while Mary undergoes treatment.

Next up for fundraising is the raffle. First prize is a Gold and Pearl necklace and matching earrings from Parksville Jewelers, valued at over $499. Second prize is two nights' accomodation at the Parkside Victoria Resort, valued at over $499. Third prize is a Royal Princess Gala Birthday Party from Beaners Fun Cuts, valued at $196. Fourth prize is a portrait sitting by Heydemann Art of Photography, valued at $196. I think there are several other prizes as well that are not listed on the tickets.

I'm telling you all this because I want you to buy tickets from me. I have 60 tickets I'm hoping to sell ($2 each or $10 for 6). The draw date is September 20th and we are hoping to sell every single ticket by that time, which would raise another $5000 for this family. Most of you who read this blog know me in real life, but even if you don't, if you'd like to help this family, this is a great way to do so. I'm happy to send any of you my mailing address so you can send me a cheque, or if need be you can donate through Paypal (though Paypal takes 3% of the proceeds, so if we can avoid that I would like to).

I can't imagine how I would cope if something like this were to happen to Gwen. I'm so amazed to see the way people have come together to help Mary and her family, because the last thing a parent wants to think about in this situation is how they are going to pay the bills. If you feel moved to help this cause, drop me a line. Nothing would please me more than knowing that this little blog of mine was helpful in such a meaningful way.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Do looks matter?

Not as much as what’s inside, as I’ve been taught ever since I can remember. And of course I fully intend to teach my daughter this as well. But a few things have happened lately to make me realize that despite my non-makeup-wearing, non-fashion-following ways, in my heart of hearts appearance does still matter. That is to say, I am vain.

When we were on holiday at the cabin, the first night we were there, I broke my dental veneer by biting into a chicken bone. I first had cheap ceramic dental veneers, six of them on my top front teeth, installed in 1999. In 2006, I got those removed and had expensive porcelain veneers put in. (How expensive? Well, my dentist persuaded my insurance to cover part of it. My portion was only $1800.) What I didn’t realize until the procedure was underway was that my real teeth would be significantly ground down and then the veneers fitted over top of them. My actual teeth are now crooked, filed down to a point, and nearly black, having not seen a toothbrush in ten years. Underneath my brilliantly white veneers, I have the teeth of a pirate.

So, to review, one of my veneers broke off on a Saturday night, miles from civilization and surrounded by family and friends.

What would you do?

Here’s what I did: I summoned my husband, and with a hand covering my mouth, explained the situation. When he asked me to show him, I teared up and was actually unable to move my hand away. He fashioned a bandanna for me to wear over my mouth, causing great hilarity amongst my family, who compared me to a stagecoach robber. As soon as it was decent to do so, I retired with Gwen to the tent, hiding away from all curious (and mocking) eyes.

First thing the next morning, bandanna-clad, I asked my dad to drive me out into the bay (there’s no cell reception at the cabin) to call the emergency room. They put me in touch with a dentist and we made arrangements to meet at her office. She urged me to wait until Monday, since I wasn’t in pain, stating that there would be an additional “emergency” fee payable for doing the work on a weekend. I insisted that I would pay it.

The dentist wasn’t even sure she could be of any help, but I pleaded with her to meet with me and do what she could. My dad drove me down the lake and we agreed to meet at the marina two hours later. Off I went to the dentist, who was fairly grouchy at having her weekend interrupted, but was able to glue on the front part of the veneer, once again camouflaging my pirate tooth. She gave no guarantees how long it would stay on, and advised me to see my own dentist as soon as I got back to Nanaimo. The fee was $160. I paid it happily.

Before I left, feeling much more like myself, I made one more request. Somewhat sheepishly, I asked if the dentist could give me one of her facemasks to wear, in case the veneer came off again. She looked at me like I was crazy. “Aren’t you up the lake? Just with family and friends? Who’s going to see you?”

“My family and friends,” I answered. “I’ve been walking around with this on.” I showed her the bandanna. She obviously thought I was being ridiculous, but she gave me a mask anyway. I was surprised by this reaction, as I would have expected anyone in a situation similar to mine would have done whatever he or she could to hide the tooth in question. It got me thinking. What would you do?

Another outlet for my vanity is Gwen. Lately, it’s her hair. I love putting her hair in pigtails, and I’ve recently learned that the best place to do this is in her booster seat while she is eating. She is usually pretty tolerant of it, and sometimes I will hold up a mirror afterwards and show her how pretty she is. She likes to take her turn and brush her own hair, as well.

Gwen really has a lot of hair, and it’s thick and longer than it looks, because it’s quite curly at the back. During the heat of the summer, I really felt that putting her hair in pigtails would keep her a little cooler and more comfortable. But the problem is that Gwen usually doesn’t wake up in the morning until after I have left for work, and I don’t get a chance to do her hair. I have offered to teach Chris how to do it, but he isn’t interested. The fact that this bothers me is another wake-up call that apparently, looks matter to me more than I thought. (It also bothers me when she is dressed in mismatched clothes, but that doesn’t happen very often.)

I can rationalize both of these vanities, by the way. Dressing one’s child in the most adorable clothes possible is practically a rite of parenthood. I never quite understood the attraction before becoming a parent myself, but now I can see how dressing a tiny, immobile infant in attractive clothes is a visible way to show others that you care about this child, that you are taking pride in him or her, and enjoy showing your love by doing the things that your baby cannot do for him or herself. A baby dressed in a colourful, matching outfit appears to be better-cared-for than one who is dressed in a faded, burp-stained onesie. And those appearances become important for the same reason that poop does: we have so very few indicators of how a child is doing that those we do have, though circumstantial and tangential, become magnified in importance.

Therefore, a good and caring mother makes sure her daughter’s hair is shown off to its best advantage.

This post is getting long, so I’ll save the rationalizing about my teeth for another day. But I’d love to know your thoughts on vanity (for yourself or others) and whether you think appearances matter.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Dear Gwen: Month Sixteen

Dear Gwen,

Today you are sixteen months old.

If I had to sum up the past month in one word, that word would be: TEETH. Let me remind you of your teething history so far:

November 2008 (7 months old): cut two teeth
March 2009 (11 months old): cut two more teeth
July 2009 (15 months old): cut one tooth
August 2009 (16 months old): cut two teeth. No, three teeth. No – wait, OMG, is that a MOLAR? Cut four teeth. Four? I think so. Ummmm …. No. Actually, five.

Yes, in the last five weeks you have more than doubled the number of teeth in your mouth. To tell the truth, your teeth had been “almost there” for so damn long that we kind of … stopped checking. And then your Gramma Maureen pointed out that one of them had actually broken the surface. And then all of a sudden along came four more, including a surprise molar. And really, you haven’t been that much more crazy than your usual crazy self, so all I can say is, bring on the teeth! The more teeth you have, the more I can feed you, and heaven knows YOU LIKE TO EAT.

In other mouth-related news, your vocabulary is exploding. I try to keep a list of your words, and it’s up around 40, including various animal noises (our latest: oo-oo-ee-ee for monkey, hoo-hoo for owl, and loodle-loo for rooster). We are still working to teach you “thank you,” but it seems to be a challenging concept: while we can withhold whatever you’re asking for until we successfully coax you into saying (or signing) “please,” we aren’t mean enough to take it away again and force you to say “thank you”. All our coaxing – and praising on the random occasions when you do produce some version of “thank you”- has led to an amusing side effect, as the following dialogue illustrates:

You (are indicating that you want something)
Me: Can you say please?
You: Peez!
Me: Here you go! (Gives you whatever it is) Can you say thank you?
You: Guh-grr!

I guess you’ve decided that after someone says “thank you”, the response is “good girl”. And who am I to argue with that?

It’s been an incredibly busy month for our family, Gwen: we’ve taken two trips to Powell River and to our cabin up on Powell Lake, gone to the Vancouver Island Exhibition, and had a visit from our friend Sally. Through it all, you have been incredibly adaptable and happy. Even on the days when travel arrangements caused you to miss naps, you rolled with it: perhaps not as joyful as you would normally be, but still very manageable and very enjoyable to be with. It was such a treat to be up the lake with you on our first real family holiday: just you, me, and Dad. We put the tent on the front deck and treated it like a gigantic playpen for you, giving you a place to run around and goof off, lifejacket-free. And of course, swimming with you in the lake where I’ve been swimming since I was only a few years older than you is a joy I can’t describe.

I put you in the sling for our trip to the Vancouver Island Exhibition and I thought you were going to get whiplash, so quickly and so often did you snap your head from side to side, trying to take in every single sight. There was a LOT to see! Animals, people, clowns, buildings, horseback riders, Ferris wheels and other midway rides … the list goes on. As always, your dad and I got a kick out of seeing the event through your eyes, and we are already looking forward to next year, when you can participate a little more. (On the other hand, we are not looking forward to the fair costing three times as much when we escort someone who can point and say “want that!” to everything she sees.)

We had some friends over for a barbecue last night and one of them commented on what a great kid you were, so easygoing and low-maintenance. I nearly tripped over my tongue trying to explain to him that no, you are NOT low-maintenance; that you are never still, but are always busy trying to find the most dangerous and/or breakable and/or valuable item in your environment. Looking back at the comment, though, I can see why he said that; and in a way, it means that your dad and I are doing a good job, making it look easy. Our yard is fenced; our first storey is childproofed; we know you well, and we know how to create an environment that allows you to be low-maintenance. When we travel outside of that environment, it’s a challenge (though a worthwhile one). You’re busy, but you’re fairly predictable, and your dad and I have learned a lot about you in the past sixteen months and put that knowledge to work every day. Though your abilities are always changing, your personality stays constant: as an example, we recently learned that you’d figured out how to open the dishwasher, even when it was locked. The change in your abilities surprised us (though not much), but the fact that you desire to open the dishwasher (constantly) doesn’t surprise us one whit.

You love to "help" me make dinner, do the dishes, deal with laundry, etc. I am taking advantage of this helpfulness as much as I can, asking you to help put your toys away and so on. You are usually quite co-operative, as you are at the stage when you really enjoy putting things in other things. You are also starting to be a bit more obedient when I ask you to do things (or not to do things). You need a lot of reminding, as you enjoy the praise I give for closing the cupboard but then can't quite understand why I don't want you to open it again, but the desire to co-operate is there, and that gives us a lot of hope!

You are also very interested in imaginative play. You like to brush your hair (or mine), pretend to cook, eat, or drink, and mimick others' actions. You are very clearly just soaking up everything around you, taking it all in. Your dad and I are trying very hard to provide good examples for you, though I'm sure we do not always succeed!

I know this gets repetitive since I say it in every newsletter, but Gwen, you are just an AWESOME kid. Spending time with you is pretty much our favourite thing, followed closely by showing you off to others and sharing your brilliance with them. We are so lucky and we love you so much.

Thursday, August 13, 2009


I posted this video to Facebook a week or so ago, with the comment that "I don't think she's old enough to actually pretend or imagine that there is food in the bowl." I was pretty sure that Gwen's cognitive development had a ways to go before imaginary play, which is really based on abstract thinking, could begin. Apparently, though, I wasn't giving her enough credit. According to this article, "as soon as children begin to use language — that is, they both understand words and start to use them — they also have the ability to pretend."

The article recommends encouraging Gwen's imagination by letting her play along with grown-up tasks. We've tried this a couple of times lately with hugely positive response. For example, one of the times Gwen is practically guaranteed to get fussy and demanding is when one of us is preparing dinner. It doesn't matter how much she's had to eat; it doesn't matter if there's someone else in the room with her, utterly devoted to her entertainment. If you're in the kitchen preparing food, she is up your butt.
So after reading this article, the next time I was cooking and Gwen was whining, I grabbed another wooden spoon and knelt down beside her with the bowl of dinner-to-be I was stirring. She helped me stir it and was THRILLED.

We tried to pull a chair up to the counter so she could stand and "work" alongside me, but we're not totally convinced that she won't just walk off the chair and smack her head on the floor, so that's not a perfect solution. We'll have to keep working on it. I've always looked forward to the joys of cooking and baking with my kid - I didn't think they'd come so soon.

PS: Gwen's sixth tooth popped on Tuesday!

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Dancing, Crafting, Reading, and Babbling

Tonight I am going to do something CRAZY. I'm going to a dance fitness class at the Soul Sister Studio. (If you follow that link, please note that I am not going to any class where the word "pole" is involved. I'm crazy, but not THAT crazy.)

I have been feeling for a while like my fitness needs a kick in the pants. I think dancing would be fun; dancing is one of the very few things I miss about the SCA. Naturally, it being summer, there aren't a lot of options right now for dance classes - when the new Leisure Guide comes out in the fall, I might find something more suitable. But I'll try this for now. In the back of my head, I have this goal of auditioning for a musical in the fall, so having some dance/movement/co-ordination skills practice in the meantime may be helpful. One of the things I'm most looking forward to about the class I'm attending tonight is that it's a drop-in class, meaning the students won't be expected to get better as time goes on with an eventual goal of performance. I can just keep spazzing out, maybe learn something, have some fun, and hopefully lose a pound or two.


I spent over 90 minutes last night working on Chris's birthday card. That is definitely a record for me. I really enjoyed the project and can see how papercrafting would be very rewarding. I'm going to keep working on it. Thanks to last night's efforts I have a list of supplies/tools I'd like to obtain over the next several months. Speaking of crafting, I also need to turn the giant pile of felt I bought in January into an Advent calendar at some point. Will I do it this fall, meaning Gwen could potentially "use" it this Christmas? Or will I wait till next fall (or the one after), meaning Gwen could potentially aid in its creation? Hmmm.


I have an ad on Nanaimo Kijiji right now looking for casual babysitters for Gwen. So far we've had three respondents. And this Sunday at church I was introduced to a young woman I'd seen there a few times - it turns out she's a part-time nanny, and yes, she's interested in more work. I am pleased. It would be great to have a list of people to call on when I need to run toddler-free errands, or when we want an evening out. Especially since my in-laws are going to Europe in the fall and we are going to need some other options available!

Just knowing that I have care available, I have been able to schedule three appointments I'd been frustratingly forced to delay until now: my doctor, my financial planner, and my eye exam. My eyes are very, very tired from reading (whether page or screen) for 8-12 hours a day.


Chris and I have been working our butts off to get ready for our upcoming trip to the family cabin in Powell River. It has been a huge amount of planning and preparation. Hopefully things will all come together and things will go smoothly while we're away - it's supposed to be a vacation, after all.


I joined this incredible site called and you should all join it too, and then friend me so we can share book recommendations.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Things Gwen has learned in the last couple of weeks

How to go downstairs on her bum. Finally, she can go downstairs as well as up! Till now, I have carried her downstairs every. single. time. Have I ever mentioned that her changing table is upstairs? And all her toys are downstairs? Yeah. Anyway, I'm not yet confident enough to let her go down the stairs by herself: our method involves me saying "on your bum" (which she usually echoes enthusiastically, "BUM!") to remind her to sit down at the top of the stairs. I sit beside her, and we bump down together. She often chooses to hold my hand as we do so. She has already extrapolated from this lesson, going down steps at the playground in the same way, so I'm really hopeful that she will stop falling down the stairs at the homes of friends and family.

How to give kisses. She will usually give them when asked, though at other times she'll respond to "Got a kiss for Mom?" with "no." (Which is STILL pretty cute.) The sweetest kisses, though, are the ones she gives unbidden. It melts my heart every time. You know that old saw about how if men had boobs, the wheel never would have been invented and civilization as we know it would have never arisen, because they'd just be at home all day playing with their boobs? Well, if the creation of civilization was up to me, and I had the distraction of Gwen-kisses to contend with, we'd all still be struggling to create fire. Well, you all would be. I'd be revelling in smooches.

How to say "Mom". Finally. FINALLY. I exist!

How to co-operate. I'm not saying she's turned into a model of well-mannered teamwork, but she does seem, upon occasion, to play along with our requests. Yesterday, she had the Forbidden Cupboard open and I instructed her from across the room to close it. AND SHE DID. At which point, of course, we heaped praise upon her; when she listens and obeys, we act like she just invented calorie-free chocolate.

What a bum change is all about. As mentioned, her change table is upstairs, whereas we spend most of our time downstairs. A week or so ago, Gwen walked to the gate at the bottom of the stairs and said "bum". Sure enough, her diaper was dirty and she needed a change. Impressive, no? Furthermore, if we tell her "let's go change your bum," she will walk to the bottom of the stairs and wait for us to unlock the gate. Once she gets to the top of the stairs, if we remind her "let's go change your bum," she will head into her room (rather than the several other, intricately tempting locations on the second storey: our room, the bathroom, and Chris's office).

How to impress her mother. Gwen has a little play table with a bowl on it. Occasionally, Chris will put some snacks into this bowl for her: being attached to the table, she can't do her usual trick of flinging the snacks all over the floor. A couple of days ago, I gave her a container with a few orange segments in it. I was cooking dinner at the time and not paying a lot of attention to her: I registered that she left the kitchen, then returned a few seconds later with the empty container, saying "all done". I was *certain* she hadn't eaten the entire orange in such a brief time, so I looked around for a pile of fruit. I found it in the play-table bowl. She'd walked to the living room, emptied the container into the bowl, and come back to return the empty container to me. My mind was officially blown.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Long Weekends Mean Long Posts

It's been a very full weekend, and the best part about it has been the realization - at about 11:30 this morning - that there's still A WHOLE DAY LEFT tomorrow! Yay, long weekends!

Because of my flex day, this weekend is actually four days long for me. I know, I am spoiled. On the other hand, this weekend was a first for Gwen and I: Chris has been away for the majority of it, and won't be home until circa dinnertime this evening. She and I haven't spent so much time on our own since the halcyon days of maternity leave. Although I am very much looking forward to Chris getting home, it's been fun to have this time with Gwen.

On Friday morning Gwen and I met our friends Tricia and Reilley at the water park in Departure Bay. We had a great time. None of us had ever been there before, so we didn't know what to expect. The park was great, with a terrific variety of fun water-spraying, -squirting, and -shooting toys. There was even a little waterslide. Reilley and Gwen loved it! I think we were there for nearly two hours.

We got home, had some lunch, and I put Gwen down for her nap. She goofed around in her crib for nearly an hour, and then slept for THREE AND A HALF HOURS. Dude. We will be re-visiting that waterpark. The fact that her nap started late and was so long meant that she woke up shortly before 6pm, when normally we would eat dinner and then start getting her ready for bed. That ... didn't seem like a good plan. So instead I gave her a snack and then we went out to the library and the grocery store.

(Aside: I highly recommend doing your grocery shopping at 7pm on a Friday. The store is completely empty.)

After a quick dinner and some playtime, Gwen went to bed.
Saturday morning was the part of the weekend I was not looking forward to. In fact, I was downright stressed about the logistical challenges of it. I had yoga class at 9am, and since Chris was out of town I needed to find someone to look after Gwen: Tricia had graciously agreed to help out. All I needed to do was get Gwen to Tricia's house, which wouldn't be a problem normally but I have a carpool buddy for yoga class who usually picks me up at my place. So instead of just driving to Tricia's and dropping off Gwen, I waited at my house for my carpool buddy, who parked her car at my place and got into mine, where Gwen was already installed in her carseat. Then we drove to Tricia's and dropped off Gwen and her stuff. I felt bad, too, because I have never been to Tricia's house before, and I would have loved to hang out and have a tour and a bit of a visit and hear about their renos and so on, but my carpool buddy was waiting in the car. We got to yoga in plenty of time despite my worries, and had a great class. After class, we drove back to Tricia's and picked up Gwen and an unexpected treat: not only did Tricia and her partner look after my child for an hour or so, but they sent us home with tasty baked goods. Yes, again, I am spoiled! I was glad to be able to give one of these treats to my very patient carpool buddy, who was waiting in the car as I packed up Gwen's stuff.

I dropped her off at my place, and then headed down to the ferry terminal to pick up Sally. I was a bit late, as I'd known I would be, but I'd warned Sally about the difficult logistics of the morning so I knew she wouldn't be panicking quite yet. Once Sally had joined us, the day got a lot less complicated. We three ladies headed home for a very relaxing day of admiring Gwen, lounging in the yard, eating quesadillas and chatting about all manner of things. I think this was the first time I've gotten to hang out with Sally one-on-one for any length of time, and it was a lot of fun. We can't wait to do it again.

While Sally and I were lounging in the yard, Gwen was napping ... and napping ... and napping. We looked at the clock and realized that (a) she'd been sleeping for about 3 hours, and (b) Sally would soon need to leave for the ferry. I went to wake Gwen up while Sally gathered her things, and after giving Gwen a snack we headed to the ferry terminal to say our goodbyes. As I pulled away from the terminal my cellphone rang, and I immediately thought it would be Sally calling to tell me she'd forgotten something, or that the ferry had exploded, or something. Instead, it was Chris, who was in Parksville at an Iaido retreat. The workshop was over for the day and the participants were all heading to the Sensei's house for a barbecue - did Gwen and I want to come and hang out? Since I know a few of the people involved and they are usually eager to see Gwen, and since she'd had a three-hour nap, I agreed. After a quick stop at the grocery store and then another quick stop at home to throw some things in a bag, we headed to Parksville.

We spent about an hour at Peter-Sensei's gorgeous home in Parksville. Gwen mostly played on the grass with a beach ball, which she found fascinating, and I found far less stressful than watching her shove entire grapes into her mouth. At 7pm - Gwen's usual bedtime - there was no movement whatsoever towards the "dinner" part of the evening, but fortunately I had brought along the leftover quesadillas for Gwen to eat, so she had already had her dinner. As she was showing signs of tiredness, she and I said our goodbyes and headed home (Chris was camping over with the rest of the workshop participants). I was a little irked when people acted surprised that we had to leave so soon after arriving; it always makes me defensive, like I'm being a party-pooper or something. But if someone shows up at your party with a toddler, you don't generally expect them to stay until all hours, do you?

Anyway, Gwen and I came home and Gwen went to bed. I puttered around the house for a while, tidying up and wondering what to do with my night off. I am still not sure why the fact that Chris wasn't home, and wouldn't be home all night, made it feel like I ought to do something fun and indulgent just for me. After all, I'm a grownup, and can generally do something fun and indulgent any night I want. In any case, I watched a movie I had borrowed from my parents (I am Sam; verdict: thumbs down) and went to bed.

Gwen slept in a bit this morning, which was lovely, and also made me think that perhaps we could go to church. I got her dressed and gave her breakfast, then got ready to go. In fact, I pondered, we even have enough time to walk to church if we want to: we live about a 15-minute walk away, and I love to walk if time allows. I put together a diaper bag, including a snack and a bottle, and got the sling (for the service) and the stroller (for the walk) all ready to go. That's when I realized I had left the sunscreen at the previous day's bbq. With only a few minutes till we needed to leave, I looked high and low for another bottle, but there was none. I'd sent one bottle to Gwen's daycare; I had another one in my office. But there were no more at home. Chris wouldn't be coming back from Parksville until that evening, and as I looked around at the gorgeous weather I knew it would be a shame to stay indoors all day. But as I wasn't willing to let Gwen be outside even for a few minutes without it, we needed to go buy some.

I packed her into the car and drove to the nearest drugstore. No good - it doesn't open for another half an hour (coincidentally, the same time church starts). Okay, the grocery store then. We raced down there, and I put Gwen in the sling and headed in for our one lone item. Of course, once I found the sunscreen (or, as it is called on the aisle sign overhead, "Suntan Lotion" - they REALLY need to update that) I was paralyzed by indecision. There are a LOT of different kinds of sunscreen, y'all. And they range in price from $3.49 to $13.49, for reasons I could not easily discern. I finally decided to just grab the $3.49 bottle, since after all Chris would be bringing home the preferred brand that evening.

Minutes from a clean getaway, I scanned my purchase at the self-serve checkout. Church was due to start in about 20 minutes, and if we wanted to walk we had only a few minutes to get home and get sunscreen'd up. Naturally, the sunscreen I'd chosen was not ringing in at the correct price, so I had to wait for someone to come and punch it in manually, which took two tries.

Raced home. Slathered on the sunscreen. Strapped Gwen into the stroller. Strode quickly towards the church. Enjoyed the sunshiney beautiful day along the way and felt proud that I'd managed to get some exercise in.

About two minutes away from the church, I saw a couple walking the opposite way on the sidewalk. As they came closer, I recognized Helen, our former landlady: she owns two condos in a beautiful building in Departure Bay, and rents one of them out to supplement her disability income. She has a degenerative disease that is causing her to lose her sight. Chris and I had moved out of our apartment there when we became pregnant and bought our house.

I knew that I could easily walk by her without her seeing me, since she is nearly blind, but I chose not to. As she approached, I said, "Helen, is that you?" and introduced myself. She gave me a big hug and was very happy to see me. "Here is my daughter, too," I said, guiding her hand towards the stroller. "Oh, I'm so glad," she said. "I had wanted to call you and ask how things were going, but then I wasn't sure, you know ... you never know how things go." We talked for a few minutes and then she went on her way and I on mine. I was really glad I'd run into her, and knew that it had brightened her day as well.

We finally made it to church, and yes, we were a bit late. But the people at my church are very gracious and kind. One woman found an extra chair for me and put it at the back of the church, recognizing that I didn't really want to go sit in the front row with my squirmy, distracting toddler. Another handed me a hymnal already turned to the correct page, which was lovely since it is hard to balance a book and turn pages with a sling (especially if the book is one you don't want a toddler tearing to bits). We had been there less than ten minutes when I smelled An Odor.

Oh, no.

Usually, I would have put Gwen in a disposable before going out to church. But thanks to the 2009 Quest for Sunscreen, we hadn't had time for that extra diaper change. There was no ignoring this odor, so I had to do what had to be done. Gwen and I slipped out into the ladies' washroom, which blessedly *does* have a change table.

I am not much in the habit of changing Gwen in any other place but home. We are not usually out with her for very long, and unless An Odor appears we can let her go a couple hours without a change. This means I am not always prepared for these situations. In this case, I actually had everything I needed, but I was still not prepared. I guess I just haven't had much practice at this. The result was that the Substance of Odor ended up getting all over the fabric covering of the change table, and that I ended up rinsing out a cloth diaper in the church bathroom toilet.

It probably took me a good ten minutes to get everything cleanish, dryish, and packed back into the diaper bag. Fortunately, Gwen - bless her little heart and her randomly co-operative moods - did not roll off the change table during this time.

With Gwen newly diapered in a disposable and my diaper bag bursting with a cloth diaper and the change table cover, which I needed to take home and wash, we re-entered the sanctuary and enjoyed the rest of the church service without incident. (Unless you count that time the pastor asked a rhetorical question - one which probably should have been answered in the affirmative - and Gwen shouted, "NO!")

Gwen was actually pretty good at church, or so many of the other members told me. I always feel like she's being really loud and disruptive, but every time I take her I get at least two or three comments about how good she is. Maybe I need to be less paranoid.

We walked back home, I gave Gwen some lunch, and she is now sleeping blissfully in her crib. I had a shower and am now pondering what to do with the rest of the day. My only real goal is to find a way to cook the chicken that's been sitting in my fridge for most of the week - preferably without heating up the entire house. Sometime this evening Chris will return, and he has sworn up and down that tomorrow we will do something together as a family.

This is the part of the post where I feel like I should draw some conclusion or meaning from the thousands of words of blather that came before. I guess I could make an observation that the part of the weekend I was really stressed about (Saturday morning with the sitter-yoga-carpool-ferry-pickup challenge) ended up going absolutely fine, while the part of the weekend I felt very carefree and laidback about (taking my kid to church) kind of went haywire in several perplexing ways. I don't know if there's any kind of life lesson to be learned there, though. So instead I will leave you with a picture of Gwen and Reilley playing at the water park.

(photo courtesy of Tricia, who was organized enough to bring a camera.)

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Silly Gwen Tricks

Here's a video of some very typical playing and interacting. It starts out with me successfully using a song to distract Gwen from playing with one of only two things in the living room she is not allowed to touch. She enjoys the song so much she even does the actions! Later, I hum the JAWS theme in order to encourage her to find one of her shark puppets (and if your kid doesn't have AT LEAST one shark puppet, well, I think you might need to re-examine your priorities). Then she grabs her purse, waves bye-bye, and leaves.

It's good times.


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