Thursday, July 29, 2010
A future conversation I hope to have, circa 2014...
Wednesday, July 28, 2010
This is the stuff they *should* make you do at baby showers...
Tuesday, July 27, 2010
A few nights ago, Chris and I sat down to watch Chris Rock's "Bigger and Blacker" ...
Monday, July 26, 2010
Sunday, July 25, 2010
Saturday, July 24, 2010
Today you are twenty-seven months old, or two-and-a-quarter. It seems that now you have reached the milestone of being “two”, as far as friendly strangers are concerned we don’t break your age down in months anymore – we say you’ve “just turned two”. I guess sometime this fall we’ll say, “She’s about two-and-a-half,” and then come January we’ll change to, “She’ll be three this spring.” But for the moment? You’re two. And this is exciting, as you can actually hold up two fingers to indicate your age, AND YOU LOVE THAT. You seem to be better at doing it with your left hand than your right, which has caused your dad to wonder if you might be a lefty. Time will tell: according to the Internets, there’s no reason to declare a particular preference until you enter kindergarten and start to learn to write.
You are a crazy, hilarious, and maddening child. Your curiosity is all-encompassing and although you haven’t reached the “why?” stage yet, you still pelt us with questions CONSTANTLY. For example, the pre-bedtime reading usually involves a running commentary (questiontary?) of, "What's that, Mama? What's he doing? What is that? What's that, Mama? What's he doing, Mama?" (etc.) This constant banter leaves very little opportunity for me to read the actual story, which is ironic because if I could get a word in? WE MIGHT FIND OUT WHO THAT IS AND WHAT HE'S DOING. As a result, the second character in the classic “Green Eggs and Ham” now has a name: Bob. It was easier to name him than to explain anew, with every single page turn, that this character did not have a name.
I often have the opportunity to reflect on the fears I had when you were a little younger that you would never be an affectionate child. You are now VERY affectionate and love to give (or demand) hugs and kisses. Most amusing is when you get an owie, because a generic kiss and hug of your whole person is not adequate; you insist that the victim appendage (foot, hand, elbow, head, etc.) receive both a kiss and a hug. It’s pretty funny to hug a foot.
You love to sing these days, and are very good at requesting songs by name. Of course, sometimes you are NOT good at requesting songs by name. When I tuck you into bed at night, you often request "One more song, Mama." I am happy to comply, but there's a problem. Whatever song I start to sing, you say, "No, don't want that song!" Then when I ask you to tell me what song you want, suddenly the beautifully quiet Inside Voice that we try desperately to encourage during such things as church services and library visits comes into play, and you whisper in the tiniest voice possible something that probably doesn't even make sense anyway, such as "rainbow bucket song" or “baba cherries”. Or you just stay quiet, waiting until I guess some other song so you can cruelly reject that one too. Nearly every night, I am bent over your bed in the dark, urging you to JUST TELL ME what damn song you want me to sing, so I can sing it and then kiss you goodnight. It took me an embarrassingly long time to realize this was a stalling tactic. Well played, Miss Gwen. Well played.
Speaking of singing, we recently started saying grace before dinner time, and it took you only a few days to start chanting the words along with me. Here is the grace we say:
You earnestly close your eyes and waggle your head around while saying (most of) the words in your charming voice. It’s pretty much adorable. Then when we finish, you tell us in a very serious voice that we are “good gracers” and “good holders” (I think that means we are good at holding hands).
We are taking the first tentative steps toward potty-training, although no one seems to be entirely gung-ho about it at the moment. (My excuse is that you spend the majority of your time away from me, so it’s really not up to me to initiate the process.) You are definitely aware of what’s going on in your diaper area, and I will often ask you, “Gwen, do we need to change your bum?” Although you used to answer this with pretty good honesty/accuracy, these days I think you are too involved in your play and don’t want to be interrupted, so you reply, “No, Mama. I’m just right.”
Thursday, July 22, 2010
2. Due to impending vacation, I’ve been working my tail off on writing my first essay for the Popular Culture & Media course I’m taking. That combined with packing has left this blog pretty quiet this past week, and for that I apologize. And now that I’m going off on holidays, well, get ready for another week of quiet! I’m planning a little surprise for you guys, but I have no idea if you’ll enjoy it or not. There is no web access whatsoever at our cabin, so no new posts all next week. And then all I’ll do for the next several posts is post pictures of our holiday with accompanying wistful sighs. Because I care.
3. My new workplace sponsored me to take Microsoft Access training over the past several weeks. I just finished writing the exam and got 93%. This is a victory for many reasons, one of which is that at my previous job, I was expected to build and maintain databases despite my total lack of training, and when I begged and pleaded to take some kind of course they refused to entertain the idea. Now I have been with the new department for less than 6 months and they have already invested money in my training and knowledge, ensuring that I feel like a full-fledged member of the team and will accordingly work with great dedication for them. I should mention that both my new job and my old job are with the same government agency, so really, it’s hard to believe that one department has so much more funding than another. Do you think it would be too cheeky to send a copy of my certification to my old boss?
4. Despite my vitriol of last week, I do often watch movies that I really like and that do not offend me at all. One of these is Babel, which Chris and I watched on the one night this week that was not taken up by essay-writing, packing, or other commitments. It was a great film with fascinating and thought-provoking themes. Go watch it – you know, if you didn’t already do so, given that it came out four years ago. Yeah, I’m a bit behind the curve. (Also good: The Soloist.)
5. Something so unbelievable has happened in my house. For the first time four or five years, I have a spot all my own. Those of you who know me have doubtless heard me complain that “Gwen has a room; Chris has a room (his office); but I don’t have a room.” I still don’t have a room all to myself, but I have a TABLE all to myself, and there is a door that closes so that the toddler can’t come mess up my stuff. This is a marvellous place for me to work on cards and other craft projects and also to write essays. I am eternally grateful to Chris who was able to make this work after we had a good conversation about what it meant that he “supports my decision to go back to school”. Now if I could just get him to stop leaving random stuff on here, I’d be completely tickled.
Wednesday, July 21, 2010
Friday, July 16, 2010
This irritation is made exponentially worse by the fact that earlier this week, due to the aligning of the planets, I had the opportunity to go see a movie with my husband. This is an event that happens extremely rarely and is one of the things I most intensely miss from our former life as non-parents. As the date drew nearer and the movie listings failed to improve, I told Chris that hell, I'd already sat through Sex and the City 2, obviously I could sit through anything - so whatever movie he wanted to see was fine by me. He chose Predators.
The premise is that a disparate group of people find themselves parachuted into an unknown jungle and soon discover that they are being hunted by the Predators - it's a game reserve on an alien planet, and the humans are the game. It's also revealed that all the humans are killers themselves: there's a couple of black ops military people, a yakuza, a death row inmate, etc.
The movie was pretty dumb, as I expected. (This is a great review, if you want more details.) But even worse than the dumbness was a horrible moment about halfway through the film when the humans have a moment to rest and regroup now that they know what they're up against.
The death row inmate says, "Man, if we ever get home .... I am gonna do SO MUCH cocaine." There's a beat, during which the audience laughs a little. Then he continues, "And I'm gonna rape SO MANY BITCHES." And then? The audience laughed even more. They laughed, you guys. I was suddenly jarred out the movie and into my surroundings: a theatre predominantly full of 20-something males, and yes, the theatre *was* pretty full because this movie just opened, and they were laughing because they thought that speculation about raping bitches was pretty funny!
I don't think that's okay. And I don't know where to channel my sadness about this. This line was clearly played for laughs, and it succeeded. How do I continue to be in a world where a lot of people - the people who made the film, the people who watch the film, the people who LAUGHED, dammit - think that's okay? What do I do with this useless mournfulness and stomach-dropping feeling, to make it useful? What do I do next?
Thursday, July 15, 2010
Gwen: Want a taste.
Mama: What's the magic word?
Mama: Put it all together, please.
Gwen: Want a taste, please.
We are pretty used to her advanced verbal skills, but when we are around other people and especially other parents they often express surprise and amazement at the length of her sentences and the extent of her vocabulary. A lot of kids, it seems, are just at the two- or three-word combination stage at this age.
I've noticed a strange phenomenon in myself, and it's that phenomenon, rather than Gwen's awesomeness, that is really at the heart of this post. See, whenever another parent comments on Gwen's verbosity, especially to draw a comparison between Gwen and his/her own child, I immediately feel quite awkward and even somewhat ashamed and guilty. My usual response is to downplay it and say something to the effect of, "Oh, sure she can talk, but there are LOTS of things she isn't very good at," followed by a list of skills Gwen has yet to master (topping this list is the ability to ingest any kind of food or drink without the surrounding area bearing far more evidence of said food product than has possibly entered the actual child). But why shouldn't I puff out my chest and be proud of my kid? She is certainly worthy of praise and pride. Why does it make me feel so uncomfortable when someone else draws attention to traits of which I am already well aware?
I think this dates back to the first year of her life, when all of us new parents were so anxious and stressed out about whether our kids were healthy and normal. Whenever I got together with my mommyfriends, the conversation was peppered with questions: is your child sleeping through the night? Does she roll over? Does he push up? How often does he eat? Is your child sitting up yet? On and on and on, we'd compare one child to another - not with the purpose of making anyone feel bad, but usually with the hope of reassuring one another. Max* doesn't sit up yet, so it's okay that Gwen doesn't either. Charlie* still nurses every hour, so it's alright that Emma* does too.
And where there were differences, we'd explain them away. Alright, so Brenna*'s really good at fine motor skills, but she shows no interest in talking. Gwen is a great crawler, but she can't sit. Reilley* can drink from an open cup all by himself, but refuses to hold a fork. If one mom was worried about her child not meeting a certain milestone, we other moms were always quick to point out the areas in which that child was ahead of the others. "They all learn different things at different times," we told each other (and ourselves).
*All these names belong to our actual baby friends, because I'm bad at making up names, but the statements about what they could or couldn't do are completely made up, because who can remember?
I guess those instincts are still at play, because if a mom comments on Gwen's verbal brilliance, I don't want her to look at her own child and find him or her lacking. I immediately step in to point out that there are probably lots of things her child does that Gwen can't do. I would never want my child to be the source of a parent's worry.
It also reminds me, though, of how I used to hide my own intelligence when I was younger - and if I am honest, I still do this as an adult. As an elementary school student, I quickly learned that being smart doesn't win you any popularity contests, and it definitely doesn't get you a boyfriend. In fact, even the teachers are liable to dislike you if you show yourself to have a brain in your head. So when I downplay my daughter's intelligence by brushing off compliments about her language skills, I wonder if I am setting her up to be ashamed of how smart she is.
After reflecting on all this, I experimented. The next time someone complimented Gwen's lengthy sentence structure, I responded, "Yes, she is really good at language. It's definitely her strong suit." And then I forced myself to stop there, and not temper this with any apologies for her brilliance.
It was difficult, but not as hard as I thought it would be. And I have a feeling the next time will be even easier. I think a lot of people (women, particularly) have difficulty accepting a compliment graciously - it's not that different to try and accept a compliment on your child's behalf.
Parents, how do you feel when someone compliments your child's skills? How do you respond?
Wednesday, July 14, 2010
1. I totally and completely love my new job. I have been here four months now and feel like I've found my feet. My colleagues appreciate me, the work is fascinating and worthwhile, there is a great deal of flexibility, and they've even paid for me to take training in Microsoft Access which I have been coveting for years.
2. I recently fought and won a battle with the Union and Human Resources to have the year I worked in a 'temporary' position recognized for wage increment purposes. Which means, I got a raise a year earlier than they wanted to give it to me, and I'll get raises for the next two years as well.
3. Gwen is thoroughly and completely entertaining. She has a great sense of humour and just brings us so much joy and laughter. Plus, she has finally started saying "I love you" without prompting. I love that she is at an age to entertain herself a great deal, and that her imagination is starting to take off. I can't believe some of the things she comes up with.
4. I love the way I am spending my evenings. Doing craft projects with friends, watching movies with Chris, working on schoolwork - it's so fantastic to feel like I am filling my time with activities that reward me and my family, rather than take away from us. Selfish, perhaps, but my soul was well overdue for a good feeding. I feel very free.
5. The deck and garden are looking fantastic. As a result of this and the hot weather, Gwen is having the sort of summer I've always wanted her to have: one spent outside, goofing around and having adventures. The fact that I get to sit in a deck chair and read doesn't hurt either.
Tuesday, July 13, 2010
If you've ever wondered what that convention would look like when aimed at women, watch Sex & The City 2.
I have never in my life seen an episode of SATC, nor did I see the first movie. The only reason I went is because there is NOTHING GOOD PLAYING at the movie theatres this summer, and I wanted to get together with my friend Shellie and see a movie. As a side note, I would recommend that if any of you need to sit through a terrible movie for any reason, you should do so with Shellie. And yes! SATC2 is a terrible, terrible movie, but that wasn't really a surprise to me - even with no previous SATC experience, I was pretty sure I was in for two hours of shoe-centric superficiality, and I was not wrong. But what I did not expect was the profound offensiveness of this movie, relentlessly hammering at me from every side.
Let's start with the opening. We learn that "her best gay friend is marrying my best gay friend!" Oh, isn't that exciting? We soon find ourselves at the actual wedding: an all-male show choir dressed in white tuxes and top hats sings show tunes; swans swim placidly along a river that inexplicably runs through the indoor venue; the ceremony turns out to be presided over by none other than Liza Minelli. The main characters exchange witty quips and one-liners written for the sole purpose of making the audience understand that these people are hip and effortlessly hilarious. Unfortunately, the writing is so flat and the delivery so self-conscious that the effect is mostly to remind us that we are watching a movie, rather than allowing us to enter their world, as any opening scene should accomplish.
Moreover, the one-liners are rude and offensive. Nearly every line contains the word "gay" or some other reference to the grooms' homosexuality. I'm not even going to bring in my own personal politics here; instead, I will merely point out that if you actually value and care about any individual, you don't use qualifiers regarding sexual orientation, skin colour, religion, gender, dis/ability, or any other descriptor that has nothing to do with your friendship. Therefore, the only reason to keep going on about the gay best friend and the gay wedding and the gay dog and the gay swans and the gay show choir and the gay gayfull gayness of the gay-ity, is to make sure everyone around you understands what really matters here: you have a gay friend, and that makes you cool! Liking gay people because they're gay strikes me as being homophobic.
The next scene, I feel compelled to mention, features Liza Minelli (who is now 64 years old, and looks every bit of it) in a sequined outfit singing one of my favourite songs. Please take a moment to fully immerse yourself in the abhorrence of this scene, and then reflect that the movie actually manages to get worse from there. Friends, I wish I were kidding.
Half of this movie takes place in Abu Dhabi, an Islamic city in Arabia. There’s a reason given for this, but it makes no sense and even the scriptwriters abandoned that storyline with no explanation when they ran out of ideas. Putting the four most superficial women in America smack dab in the Middle East allows for many racist jokes and opportunities to point out how weird foreigners are. For example, shortly after arriving at their hotel, Charlotte expresses anxiety that she can’t reach her husband via cell phone to check on the kids. Her friends’ response is to chide her to stop obsessing and instead, join them in rubber-necking a woman in a hijaab eating French fries. Clearly, checking in with family is a distant second to staring in open-mouthed ignorance at someone else’s cultural traditions. PRIORITIES, Charlotte! Tsk tsk.
But don’t worry, the girls don’t have to go to the Middle East to be unrelatable and irritating. No, there are plenty of ridiculous moments in the usual backdrop of New York, as well – such as the moment when the main character, Carrie, gets mad at her husband for bringing home takeout. We all just HATE IT when our partners do that, don’t we ladies? THE VERY NERVE.
The pinnacle of jaw-dropping, head-shaking, seizure-inducing stupidity comes at the climax of the film. The women are rushing through the Abu Dhabi marketplace, being followed by a group of men who are angry about the women’s [lack of ] clothing. This is meant to be a tense moment, and it would be if you actually gave a crap about these characters: they are hurrying as fast as they can, because the stakes couldn’t possibly be higher. Are they worried about being stoned by the angry men? No, much worse! You see, if they don’t make their flight in time ... they’re going to have to fly home in coach.
But just as things couldn’t get worse, a hijaab-clad woman gives the girls the high sign to duck into a secret sanctuary. There, it is revealed that underneath their traditional clothing, the Arabian women are all wearing designer clothing, the same items our “heroines” wear. Fashions that cost thousands of dollars, being worn by women who are legally considered the property of their husbands and are not permitted to hold jobs or earn money of their own. Why, yes! That makes perfect sense. Thank you so much, Carrie Bradshaw, for explaining this to me!
Speaking of Carrie, she’s got some ‘splainin to do when she gets home to her husband. See, she ran into an old boyfriend in Abu Dhabi, and one thing led to another, and they kissed. Carrie did the right thing in cutting things short, heading back to the hotel and calling her husband to grovel and whine, er I mean apologize, but it’s not clear yet how her husband will respond to this transgression. When she arrives home, tentative and anxious, he mentions his worry that she is “kind of a rookie at this marriage thing” and perhaps needs a constant reminder that she is, in fact, married. Then he produces a lovely black box and a stunning diamond ring. Another important life lesson: foreign country + ex-boyfriend + kiss + confession to husband = bling bling! It’s foolproof, right? (This is good news for me, as my passport just arrived the other day. I wonder how far I would have to go, both geographically and make-out-wise, to get a new watch?)
There are a lot of atrocities in this movie that I’m not even mentioning, and you should be grateful for that, because I’m pretty sure no amount of brain-scrubbing is going to erase my memory of Kim Cattrall gleefully sing-songing “Lawrence of my labia!” (Whoops. Sorry.)
I fail to understand the appeal of movies like this - they usually have me gritting my teeth to restrain myself from yelling, "THIS IS WHAT HOLLYWOOD THINKS OF WOMEN! IS THAT REALLY OKAY WITH YOU?" There are probably lots of women out there who are able to take this franchise (and that other one) as light, amusing escapism, without ever questioning the underlying messages. That's probably a happier way to look at life, but unfortunately it's not one I can manage to master. I haven’t seen a movie this bad in a long, long, LONG time, but on the whole my experience of seeing it was phenomenal, since I had the pleasure of sitting with a like-minded woman who happily and enthusiastically mocked along with me. Even happier is the news that although the mockers are likely in the minority, we're not completely alone. And for this, I am grateful.
Thursday, July 8, 2010
Lately, Gwen has pointed at illustrations in books and named them after her friends Ben and Isabelle.
Lately, summer has arrived, in a ridiculously rapid fashion. Three days ago, Gwen was wearing this fleecy jacket. Now it's hanging on the clothesline on a day where temperatures passed 20 degrees by 7am.
Lately, I've been feeling grateful for my healthy daughter as I learned that my cousin had to spend two nights in the hospital with a dangerously jaundiced newborn. (She's home now, but my heart still goes out to her - there's nothing like that new-mama fear and anxiety.)
Lately, Gwen has been showing some interesting tendencies that make me wonder if she has OCD - like insisting (in quite an emotional fashion) that people sit in the same places they sat last night, or that her books be put away in a certain order, or that her stuffed animals be right-side-up in the bed as she snuggles with them.
Lately, I've been wondering if Dora ever says anything about rainbows on her show, because Gwen has a persistent habit of flinging sand or dirt or pebbles in an arc through the air and saying "nanananana RAINBOW!" with the tonal consistency of mimicking *something*.
Lately, Gwen's been requesting "the muffin song" before she goes to sleep, and it took me several days to figure out that she was actually talking about these guys and not the baker who lives on Drury Lane.
Lately, Gwen has put together sentences I can't believe came out of a two-year-old's mouth, i.e.: "Hi, Mama, did you have a good day at work?"
Lately, I've had nothing but good days at work. I really love my job.
Lately, Chris and I have been planning a joint 35th birthday celebration with a Zombie/Survivors theme.
Lately, I am feeling full of joy and gratitude and calm content for everything I have and everything my life includes at the moment.
How've you been, lately?
Wednesday, July 7, 2010
Tuesday, July 6, 2010
Gwen: Hi, Dada! Dada! Dada! Hi! Hi, Dada! Hey, Dada? Hey, Dada? Dada? Dada? Hey, Dada! (repeat ad nauseam)
Chris: Yes - what is it, Gwen!?
Gwen (furrowed brow, looks at her plate): It's pizza, Dada.
Scene Two: the stairs.
Gwen (nearly knocks Mama over)
Mama: Gwen, do you want Mama to fall down the stairs?
Scene Three: the couch. Gwen and Mama are reading books.
Gwen: NO, Mama! You not sit there! You sit on THAT side! That GWEN'S side! Now how 'bout this book?
Chris: Gwen, can you say "please" once in a while?
Gwen (mumbling): Please once in a while.
Now I know where they get the saying, "Two going on twelve."
Monday, July 5, 2010
In that moment, I didn’t even feel like an adequate mom. I felt like a FAILmom.
We returned home from our circle tour on May 31st, and I guess the days that followed were full of catching up on lots of different things, settling back into routine, dealing with the sleep disruptions caused by the trip, and also kicking into high gear on our summer projects: deck, garden, schoolwork. And the days turned into weeks and suddenly three weeks had passed and there wasn’t a single picture of Gwen during that period.
I consoled myself by contemplating that a picture of Gwen at 26 months is not all that different from a picture of Gwen at 25 months. We certainly don’t see the gigantic physical changes that we did in her first year to eighteen months, where a few weeks really did make an incredible difference. Hell, in the early weeks she seemed to morph into a new baby every few days. No, the changes now don’t show up in photographs. Her cognitive skills, her vocabulary, her behaviours and attitudes. These developments are fascinating, and they challenge my skills as a writer as I try to capture them all effectively and record them for posterity. Not to mention how they challenge my skills as a mother as I try to keep up!
I can’t ponder the art and science of photography without reflecting on the night Gwen was born. I very much wanted pictures of the event, and I got them and am thrilled with them. But without sharing any photographs, I want to take you back to that moment, right inside my body and mind to visit a memory I treasure. I was on all fours, pushing with all my might, and it felt like I had been doing so forever. I couldn’t remember what it was like not to be in pain. The only thought I could hang onto was that I was going to meet my daughter soon. Before the last contraction (and of course, you never know it’s going to be the last one), my midwife instructed me that once I’d delivered the baby, I could just sit back onto my heels, kneeling, and my baby would be resting on the bed in front of me. Then, at last, Gwen was born, and I sat up to see her for the first time.
I’d like to tell you that I will never forget that moment, that the image of her resting on the bed, covered in a fascinating array of substances, waving her little arms and squawking, will be with me forever. The moment I became a mother, the moment my daughter entered my life. The moment we became a family and laid eyes on each other for the first time. I do remember the moment – I remember everything about it. But I can’t remember that image from my own perspective. The memory of that image has been erased by the photograph of the moment, taken by one of my doulas standing nearby.
There have been times when I’ve lain awake berating myself for not getting the right pictures of an event, such as Gwen’s baptism. There have been times when I’ve deliberately chosen not to rush for the camera to record a special or funny moment, because I’d rather stay and be part of the moment myself. I guess it’s a balance that everyone has to find for themselves – sometimes I get it right, sometimes I regret my choices. Just like anything else in parenting – or in life – you have to just live and learn.
Friday, July 2, 2010
I, on the other hand - both as a child and as an adult - am more of the "wolf my food down so I can get on with my life," type of eater. So it is IMMENSELY annoying that my daughter seems to have inherited her Auntie Sara's attitude towards mealtime.
Gwen is not a picky eater and never has been, but despite this, mealtime is a chore and not usually a pleasant one. I've always taken the attitude that it is the parent's job to provide the child with a healthy variety of foods, and the child's job to determine what and how much to eat: I never want to battle with Gwen over eating "just one more bite", or bribe her with one food to finish eating another. What she eats is up to her, but OH MY LANDS could you PLEASE try doing it in less than forty minutes?
This is the conversation you will hear around our dinner table, approximately 243 times a night:
Gwen: (chattering endlessly, playing with her food, getting off her chair)
Mama: Gwen, are you all done your dinner?
Mama: Then sit down and keep eating, please.
Gwen: (continues to not eat)
I have actually started to pick up food from her plate and feed it to her as an effort to GET. ON. WITH. IT. Weirdly, she accepts this more readily now than she did a year ago, when it was all about eating independently. Now she *can* eat independently, but she prefers not to. Maybe she's just figured out that if Mama feeds her, she can eat twice as fast and still have lots of time to talk our ears off. Plus, her hands are still free for exploring the fascinating textures of rice and vegetables.
Anyone else have this problem? A few times, I have done the countdown: In three minutes, dinner will be over. In two minutes, dinner will be over. In one minute, dinner will be over. She has never melted down or otherwise indicated that she didn't get enough to eat. But she's still a skinny little thing and I hate to think of her going to bed hungry just because she's so unfocussed and I'm so impatient. Any other ideas how to deal with it?