Saturday, September 30, 2006

Polkaroo Parents

I must confess, I spend a lot of my time convinced that everyone out there is a far better parent than I am.

Everywhere I go, I am assailed by images of family bliss. The young man walking with his newly pregnant wife, who is serenely working away at an ice cream cone. The new parents cautiously pushing their (of course) sleeping baby in the Bugaboo. The seasoned parents working the local park -- throwing a frisbee to the older child while simultaneously wearing the newborn in a sling and hanging on to the dog's leash, talking on the cell phone and drinking a grande Starbucks something-or-other. It's a thing of beauty. It's inspiring, really. It's a large part of why we moved to this neck of the woods. So why is the reality so far from the image?

The Husband and I are no slouches when it comes to parenting. We work hard at it and we are sincerely trying to do our best by The Boy. But it has recently been brought to my attention that there is a potentially serious flaw in our approach. We are rarely both with The Boy at the same time. We are Polkaroo Parents.

Yes, that Polkaroo. The large, vaguely kangaroo-like thing wearing a polka-dot muumuu, and appearing weekly on Polka Dot Door. Now, there was nothing much to Polkaroo other than the surprising fact that at no time did the two hosts of the show ever see him at the same time.

Every couple has to work out a way to deal with the addition of their new little bundle of joy to their lives. Some parents "cut bait" and set adrift their old lives and become completely focused on the baby. Some parents try to recapture their former lives as if nothing has changed. We have tried, I think, to do a bit of both. When we're home with The Boy, we're 100% present -- playing, singing, laughing. Obedient to every command of "Mummy...sit!" or "Daddy...(your) turn!". But when we are gone, we're gone. The Husband is starring in a musical, and I am going to school part-time.

The end result, as mentioned, is that we're rarely both spending time with The Boy simultaneously. There's a lot of "Okay, I can pick The Boy up, take him home, give him dinner, if you can make sure that you're home by 7pm pm at the latest so that I can get to such-and-such a place on time".

I don't know if this how families usually work, but so far, it's what works for us. It allows to thoroughly enjoy our time with The Boy, without feeling like we're giving up our selves. But I do worry that we're not often a full family unit. I don't want The Boy to grow up thinking that if he is with one parent, it necessarily means that the other parent isn't going to be there. I don't want his first sentence to be the classic Polka Dot Door line: "Aw, I missed him again."

To assuage my guilt and soothe my nerves, I try to remember that it's all a part of my Theory that Everything I Needed to Know I Learnt from Family Ties: if the parents are loving, happy and fulfilled then everything else will just fall into place. And, heck... if it worked for the Keatons, it can't be all bad....Right?

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Water, Water Every Hare

The other day, The Boy pointed to his Velveteen Rabbit and said the word "bunny" for the first time. It's funny how a seemingly innocent word, said in an even more innocent situation, can be the catalyst for so much. A virtual can opener for a very large can of worms. Follow me on my ruminative journey if you dare...

The word "bunny" naturally led to Bugs Bunny (where else?). I remember waking up early every Saturday morning, grabbing breakfast in my pyjamas and hunkering down for several hours worth of cartoon watching. Most days, I would be still be in my pyjamas at noon, at which time, my mother would threaten me to get outdoors and stop watching so much tv. My all-time favourite cartoon was the episode called "
Water, Water, Every Hare". In it, a mad scientist, à la Boris Karloff, is after Bugs Bunny's brain. Bugs falls asleep and is carried out of his rabbit hole by a rain storm and is deposited at the nightmare castle of the Evil Scientist. Bugs wakes up from his trance, finds out that his brain is going to be removed and used to give life to large robot, and naturally opposes the plan. He escapes the clutches of the Evil Scientist who, in turn, sends this big, hairy orange monster (wearing sneakers) to catch Bugs. During his escape, a bottle of ether gets broken and the whole chase goes into slow motion. I was glued to the tv every time this episode was aired, and I know that if it was on tv now, I would run (not walk) to the nearest set to watch it. I can still hear the Evil Scientist:

Evil Scientist: [running in slo-mo] "Come... back... here... you... rab... bit."

I wondered how a mere cartoon could leave such an indelible mark on my brain. And what made me think of it now, when all The Boy said, really, was "bunny"? Could the obvious be true? Do I identify with a bunny?? The answer is yes. My life in the past few years could be said to parallel this dastardly cartoon. I'm not a rabbit. I've never been captured by an Evil Scientist. And, I don't really remember being chased by a large orange monster. Ok, so my life has been nothing at all like this cartoon, in the literal sense.

I went to school to be an Actor. After graduation, I took an office job to make money while I trying to catch my break in my real career. Well, here I am, years later and I haven't made it big. I went into acting because it was my dream, my passion. I don't know if I ever believed that the dream would actually come true, but I had to try. I didn't want to come to the end of my life knowing that I didn't even give it a shot. And I've been hanging on to this dream like an albatross about my neck because I didn't want to be considered a quitter. Funny thing is, I don't even know if it's my dream anymore.

Bugs Bunny: [discovers the monster] Uh-oh. Think fast, rabbit.

Now don't get me wrong, if Baz Luhrmann showed up at my door and and said "Nomo - I want you to star in my next film", I would not say no. I would call the office and say, "Umm, yeahhhh, I don't think I'll be coming in today - or ever!" But my dream now is The Husband and The Boy (aka The Family), and everything else must take these factors into consideration first.

But now I still have this office job...!

Bugs Bunny: What a shame. Such an interesting monster, too.

For some time now, I've known that I can't stay in this present "career" path - that if I wasn't going to be an actor (at least not professionally), that I would have find something better. Something meaningful. But I was lulled into acceptance by the nice people, and the nice money, and the nice hours. I succumbed to the Ether of Easy Living.

And then we had The Boy, and nothing else mattered. Everything was meaningful, and interesting,and I was present. And I thought that when I went back to work, everything would be different. And everything was. Everything was different outside of work, but work was still the same. It took me six months to realize that a change was needed, and that I had to wake up be the catalyst for change if it was indeed going to happen.

Evil Scientist: Now, be a cooperative little bunny, and let me have your brain.
Bugs Bunny: Sorry, Doc, but I need what little I've got

One thing I know, and I knew it before I had The Boy - I want to work. I want to have that space in my life that is just for me. And "mommy wars" be damned -- I don't think that is such a terrible thing. So now I'm back in school part-time working towards a brighter future. Ever since I decided this, I feel like I've woken up from a bad dream. I feel like I've finally started to move towards the future that I always dreamed of: one of Husband, Children, and Fulfilling Career. Baby steps, yes. But I know firsthand how important those baby steps are.

I was worried that I would be teaching The Boy a terrible lesson, one that entails giving up your dream when it gets too hard. I was worried that I was going to set a bad example. To be honest, I still am. But I think the lesson to be learnt here is that that dreams can change. And if they do, acknowledge it . Own it. And pursue the new dream with the same determination as before.

Bugs Bunny: Mmm, not bad.

And this all started with the word "bunny"? I should not be left alone with my thoughts for long periods of time.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Popular?'s the million dollar question Question of the Day: Are you "popular"? And, if you are not, is it something to which you aspire?

I, for one, know that I am not popular (see sidebar description: About Me). I've never been popular. The Husband and I were discussing this earlier today, and I've come to the conclusion that the problem lies not in the fact that I am not popular, but rather in the fact that I am "Almost-Popular". In high school and university, I had friends who were popular and I often hung out with them. More often than not, that was a result of me saying something along the lines of "Ooo, that sounds like fun, can I come too?" or "Hey, wait for me!"

Don't get me wrong, I'm not totally uncool (I say, casually hiding Season 2 of Battlestar Galactica), it's just that I've never been truly a part of the In crowd . Never an "A-list" celebrity, always capping out at B-level fame. And therein lies the heart of the trouble. I think it would have been easier if I was on the other end of the spectrum - a Napoleon Dynamite goddess of the Uncool. That would be fun. That would have driven me to untold heights of infamy. It's being stuck in Popular Purgatory that makes my social position so tenous.

I am coming to a point here. And the point is that, for some reason, I desperately want The Boy to be popular. So that he could have everything that I couldn't? Maybe. But I don't really think that's it. I just really want him to have lots of friends and fun in life. I want everyone to see the wonderful little light that I see, and I want them to find the joy that I do in just being around him. And I go totally off the deep-end, overprotective Mother Bear when they don't:

"What do you mean The Boy can't take all the crayons at the colouring station? He needs a creative outlet!"

"What do you mean The Boy can't crush the (as yet unpaid for) raspberries and throw them on the store floor? He's expressing his rejection of the stifling rules society places on us!"

"What do you mean The Boy isn't the cutest baby in the whole world? Have you seen every baby??

Okay, so I don't really talk to people like I'm the Tender Sweet Young Thing from Free to be You and Me. But you can bet I'm thinking it. Crazy. Yep. That's me. A while ago, a friend of mine and I were lunching with babies at a local joint, and the waiter spent the whole time gushing over my friend's baby, and said nothing at all about The Boy other than a vague comment that he must be a "handful", or something similar. I was livid. Not that my friend's baby isn't cute - he's adorable - but to go gaga over one baby and not the other? Do you want a tip, my friend?? Needless to say, I was not my usually generous self.

So back to my point. Why, exactly, am I fighting so hard for The Boy's popularity, and is it even worth fighting for? It's one of my plethora of Theories that often people who are part of the popular crowd in high school don't reach astronomical heights in later life - most likely precisely because they had such a good time in high school. Nothing is motivating them to move beyond that fame. Just look at Bill Gates. The brains, the loners, the "freaks" - they've all got something to prove. Instant motivation. Like all Theories, there are many exceptions to the rule, but the exceptions merely provide proof the rule. And adversity builds character. To me, it's people like Charlie, who won the Golden Ticket fair and square that are infinitely more interesting than the people who bought it.

So why do I fight? Well, it's a lonely road when you're not popular, and I guess I want to spare The Boy some of what I've experienced in the world of "Almost-Popular". I want him to revel in the easy acceptance of his peers. I want to protect him from any hurt, no matter how small. I know that I can't . I know it's unreasonable. And, in the case of popularity, even unecessary. But I have to try, right?

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

The Sun Always Shines on TV

I can't deny it any longer. I've been hiding in the shadows for so long hoping that nobody would find out. Shame overwhelms me when I least expect it and cripples me under its weight. I feel like I simply can't function normally anymore unless I let it out. I. LOVE. AMERICA'S. NEXT. TOP. MODEL.

Yes, I do. Me. An educated, sensible (mostly), 33+year old mother and wife. I wait for it. I plan around it. The Husband and I order pizza, crack open a bottle of vino and sit back to judge.

I feel better now, thank you.

How can you not love a show where under-educated, over-confident young ladies (and I use the term loosely), fight with feline ferocity (read: cattily) to win a completely empty title? Because really, the show is all about Tyra. In fact, this year, they have given up even trying to pretend that the show is about anything else. They've gone so far as to decorate the house that the participants are staying in exclusively with pictures of Tyra.

Fortunately for her, she's amusing. For every sob story that the prospectives models have, Tyra has a story of equal or greater pathos. It's fascinating. It's reality TV at it's best. For those who watch this show, you know whereof I speak. For those who don't -- what are you waiting for? Sit back, grab some junk food, and garner the pearls of wisdom that ANTM has to offer -- with a little adjustment , you'll find that they apply to everyday life:

  • All good models should be able to walk.
  • It's not alright to be anorexic, but it's not alright to be fat either
  • If you aren't willing to cut your hair, you're a suck.
  • If you aren't willing to pose naked, you should throw in the towel.
  • Real competition is about winning, not making friends.
  • If you disagree with Tyra, you won't make it as a model.
  • If you can copy Tyra's moves, you will make as a model.

Now, with content like that, how could you possibly argue that this isn't Great TV? It's the one show that actually makes me feel glad that I'm not incredibly beautiful or super skinny. I revel in it. I wallow in it. I'm happier than a pig in -- well, you know. Let's face it, I have enough reality in, well, real life, that I don't need to see it on my TV. Throw in a truly original snarky comment by some 18 year old bubblehead, and you've made my week.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Words He Doesn't Say

At 20mths and change, The Boy has finally reached what I think is the most exciting time in Babyland so far -- Speech. His comprehension has always been excellent. I had no doubt that he understood everything we were saying, and he followed simple directions perfectly. He was 'jargoning' like crazy, but with no intelligible words.

The Boy has always had what I once read described as a "Watcher" temperament (no reference to Buffy here), in that you get the feeling that he is perfectly capable of doing something, but that he chooses not to do it until he is able to do it perfectly. Case in point: he would walk for blocks while holding your hand, not even using you for balance, but was unwilling to walk on his own. Then one day we leave him with Nana for two hours, and he's walking like he's done it for months.

He's technically been speaking for some time now, if you count the basics: Mama, Dada, Nana, hi, bye, yes, no. Around about a month ago, though, his vocabulary exploded. It was like someone flipped a switch and decided "Thou shalt speak". Everyday, new words come out, ones that I had no idea he even knew. Some days, we'll get as many as five new words, and I gotta say, I think that's pretty impressive. I mean, it's not like I'm sitting there with flash cards or something (see post below). So what I've been thinking about a lot lately is, is the order of the words important? Do the words used in the early days of speech reflect the type of parenting you bring to the table? And if so, what do The Boy's words say about us? Let's review:

  1. Mama, Dada, Nana, Hi, Bye-Bye, Yup. ...Okay, so we pretty much rammed the first two down The Boy's throat because we were having a contest to see who was the Beloved Parent (Technically, I think "Dada" won out as literal first word. Damn). Nana, my mother, was bandied about a great deal in our house because we were just so stinking glad when she came over because she gave us a baby break. The rest were reinforced ad nauseum because we thought they were cute. I started saying "yes" instead of "yup" shortly thereafter to try to set a good example.
  2. No. Technically, the word was "Noooooooooo". (Hear the lowing of cattle? So do I.) Startling, but inevitable, as The Boy learned the power of refusal. This word was/is used chiefly in answer to the question "Do you want Mummy to sing you a song?"
  3. Choo-Choo, Car, Bus, Truck. I would like to go on record with these being The Boy's actual first words. Clearly, he loves them dearly. And since I didn't write down his first word in the Baby Book (where did I put that again..?), that's my story and I'm sticking to it.
  4. Ham. What can I say? The Boy likes his food. Why ham made so much of an impression remains a mystery.
  5. Nose, Eye, Toe, Shoe, Hat. Useful in any situation, and completely understandable.
  6. Water, Milk, More, Mine. Brought to us by "Big Boy Daycare". The first three are very helpful at dinner time, where we've been stalling in a sort of Brechtian failure to communicate. The last one, is a bit more problematic.
  7. Pee-pee. Mummy, apparently, drinks far too much water and can't keep it in.
  8. Cat, Doggie, Fishie, Monkey, Neigh, Baa, Hoot, Moo, Aminal (note spelling), Daddy, Ba-Ba. After 20 mths of struggling to introduce the animal world, this is as far as we've gotten. Why a Dog is a "Doggie", and a Cat isn't a "Cattie", I'll never know. And nothing we do will convince him that a "Neigh" is actually called a "Horse", or that a rooster, is not normally called a "Daddy" (I was trying to explain that a rooster is a "daddy chicken". Too much information, I guess).
  9. Park. No explanation necessary if you've been anywhere near a toddler in the summer.
  10. Apple, Banana, Cheese, Cracker, Cookie, Hamburger. See food above.
  11. Up, Down. Finally! After months of "Use your words, Mummy doesn't like screeching."
  12. Daddy, Mummy. Rather amazing that he has made the leap from Dada to Daddy, until you realize that ALL women are "mummy", and ALL men are "daddy". This one almost broke my heart.
  13. Money, Sun, Star, House, Elmo, Elbow, Shovel, Boat, Digging, Raining, Dirt, Running, Outside. A seemingly random array of words that gives you a fairly picturesque view of life at Casa Nomotherearth.
  14. "Hi Daddy", "Hi Ma-ma-mummy", "Hi Cat", "All done". And... we're back to pressuring the poor kid to learn in order to see who wins the popularity contest. (And it's Daddy again! Rats. Foiled again.)

You may have noticed the words that are missing from this list. Everyday words that we take for granted like: please, thank you, love, kiss, hug. I'm hoping that this doesn't mean that we're Bad Parents who never exemplify love or good manners in front of our child. I'm hoping that things like "monkey" and "money" don't end up being as important in later life as they are at the moment. Right now, I'm just so happy that we've moved away from grunting and pointing that I'll take what I can get.

All done.

Friday, September 15, 2006

The Play's the Thing

I've been thinking a lot about Her Bad Mother's call to action, and I've decided to jump on the bandwagon. Hope it doesn't tip over. I've spent the last few days reading about other blogger's causes, and I hesitated to put my two cents in because I was humbled by what I read. I'm not very "cause-y" really, and I often find myself avoiding people with megaphones and pamphlets. I'd like to get more involved in things, but I don't think it makes me a bad person if I don't. A cause doesn't always have to help the world, though. Sometimes it can just help you to think about things differently. If it's important to you and is something that you're passionate about, it's enough.

Early on in my maternity leave, I came across an interesting book in my local Book City: "Einstein Never Used Flash Cards". The title caught my attention, and although I walked away without buying it, I couldn't stop thinking about it. So the next week I went back and bought. And it changed my life. At least, it changed my way of thinking about life and raising children.

For those who don't know about it, the book challenges the idea that you need to use flash cards, buy fancy Leapfrog-ish toys, or sign your kids up for millions of classes in order to create the world's next genius. They acknowledge the immense pressure on parents these days to make sure that their kids aren't "missing out" or being "left behind", if they aren't enrolled in every class that their youthful peers are taking. They proffer that memorizing, while useful, doesn't mean that the child has actually learnt something or is smarter. For instance, being able to recite the alphabet is impressive and entertaining, but if the child doesn't know what letters are or what they are used for, they haven't really learnt anything other than how to memorize something by rote.

The focus of the book is that children need to play more and memorize less. It is in playing that children truly learn. Through play, children develop a love of learning and become happy, successful adults. This idea has become my passion, not because I can change the world, but because I can change the life of one person - my son . And maybe if I can get the word out to enough people, I can help enrich other lives as well. What you can do is simple and laid out in the book:

**Join in the play - be a part of their world. They think it's more fun when a parent joins in and it gives them validation of their ideas.

**Don't buy expensive toys - invest in "toys" that foster creativity. An empty box can be a castle. And some of the best toys that you can buy for your child are things that people overlook as being too old fashioned: stacking blocks, playdough, crayons and paper, old clothes for costumes.

**Let the child lead the play, don't try to direct how you think the game should go.

**Encourage imagination by letting boredom happen. Some of the best creativity comes from a child who was bored, and didn't have a parent or an overloaded "play schedule" to save them from it. Some structure is good for kids, but control is not.

So that's my little cause. It's not Aids, or World Hunger, but it means a lot to me. And it may just mean the world to one little Boy I know...

Let the games begin!

Monday, September 11, 2006

On a Clear Day you can see Forever

The Husband got back today from his Boy's (uhh...Men's) Football weekend in St Louis. I'm ashamed to admit that for months, I've been sort of dreading this weekend because I knew that for four days, I would be solely responsible for The Boy. All me, all the time. No breaks. No rests. I love The Boy madly, but I felt like a teenaged girl going on a first date. What would we do? What if we ran out of things to talk about? Would we get to the end of the weekend and discover that we don't like each other as much as we thought we did?? I seriously lost sleep over this...

I've been back at work for a while now, and I have to say that it's a whole different experience than staying at home. (Duhhh, really?). When you're at home, you sort of get into a rhythm. For us, there may not have been a lot of spontaneity in our days, but we knew what to expect of each other, and we were cool with it. Most of the time. Now that The Boy is in daycare, he has an even more solid routine, and although I miss him like crazy during the day, I also appreciate the "break". And I think that The Boy is really happy to have a whole bunch of new friends that he sees on a regular basis. In fact, when The Husband and I took a couple of vacation days the other week, The Boy seemed rather perturbed that he was not going to "Big Boy Daycare".

As it turns out, I worried for nothing. We eased into rhythm that, although different from our Maternity Leave vibe, was nonetheless comfortable and, shockingly, almost effortless. It helped that The Boy was a textbook "Angel Baby" for the whole weekend.

The give and take between us was remarkable, really -- I tried to plan things that would interest him (usually involving a truck or a sandbox), and he agreeably acquiesced to my interests (a run with the Jogging Stroller, and a coffee at Starbucks).

The conversation flowed easily, although was limited in topics: "Ohhhhhh, dat!" (Translation: That looks interesting, please tell me what that is, Mummy); "E-i-yo!" (Translation: Please sing me a song involving farm animals, right now); and "Goggie!........Hiya!" (Translation: Look, there's a dog. Why won't he talk to me and why is he running away?).

And do we still like each other after spending every waking moment in each other's presence. Well, I can't speak for The Boy, but I can speak for myself, and the answer is Yes! Yes! A thousand times, Yes! I'm blessed with a son who is a far better person at 20 months than I will ever be. I only hope that by hanging out with him, I'll become a better version of myself.

Isn't that why we have kids in the first place?

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Highway to Hell

The other day, I had a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad dream.

I was walking with another Mum friend of mine on the sidewalk of a city street. The street that we were walking on was very steep. For some reason, I was was pushing two strollers -- mine, with The Boy in it, and hers with her baby in it. My Mum friend was walking about a half block ahead of us, talking on the phone.

Suddenly, the hand that was pushing her stroller slipped. The stroller, and baby, went racing down the hill and out into traffic. My friend looked up from her phone call, but was too late. At that very moment, a car came racing up the street and hit the stroller. The baby flew out of the stroller with the impact and hit the pavement. She was still alive, but a third of her head, including her eye, became one big purple goose egg. She seemed fine but we were worried about permanent damage, so she was rushed to the hospital. I woke up with a start

Of course, I felt terrible. Horrible. No good. Very bad. (I still do, in fact.) I know that it wasn't real, but it seemed very real at the time. I also know that it was an accident, and not caused by neglect on my part. But the worst part of it was, that in the dream, there was a moment when I had a choice. I could have saved her baby, and I didn't. The choice was, I could let go of my stroller, and run after hers. But then my stroller, and The Boy would go careening down the hill into traffic. I chose to hang on tight to my stroller, to save The Boy.

It's natural, of course, to want to protect your child above all others. I shouldn't feel bad for saving him. I don't see what other choice I could have made, but I keep racking my brain for options. I'd like to think that I'm a reliable, trustworthy friend. Someone with whom you wouldn't think twice about leaving your child. I am a very sensible person, and rather good under pressure, but I guess I'm lousy in an emergency.

Since the dream, I've been seeing accidents everywhere, kind of like I have post-traumatic stress disorder or something. I was afraid to take the stroller down an escalator, in case we tumbled head first. I was afraid to take to the 401 to see my in-laws this weekend, in case I crashed the car while The Boy was in it. Do you see where this is heading?

I guess I need to learn to trust myself, before I can ask others to trust me. Any suggestions as to how?

Thursday, September 07, 2006

There's no business like Shoe business

Today, Stride Rite announced that it had acquired the rights to Robeez for a purchase price of CDN$30.5 million dollars. Not one to follow the news much (other than celebrity baby gossip, that is), I was amazed at how much I was affected by this news.

You won't find many people anymore who don't know that this fabulous product was dreamed up by a Canadian mom-preneur, Sandra Wilson, when she was laid off from her airline job. Her story is inspirational to anyone who dreams of making it big, and especially hits home with mothers out there who dream of finding the perfect way of achieving the elusive work-life balance. When I read about her selling it to Stride Rite, I was almost in tears. (What the--??? This wasn't a re-run of Party of Five, after all). Crazy Mums are supposed to get emotional over long-distance telephone commercials, not mergers and acquisitions. Who am I, anyways??

I love Robeez. I had already purchased several pair when The Boy was still a pea in the pod. Let's face it, they're cute! But beyond that, I wanted to support the brand because:

  1. They were invented by a Mom.
  2. They are Canadian.
  3. They are recommended by pediatricians.
  4. Their company is family-friendly.
  5. They are wicked cute!

I know that Sandra Wilson must have had her reasons for selling the company, and that the good must have outweighed the bad, or she wouldn't have made the move. But all I can think if is the 400 employees will now be left in limbo for the next six months while the parent company "reviews its operations". I've worked at a company that was acquired by the a US corporation, and usually what happens is that the Canadian employees get systematically laid off. Asta la vista, baby! Thanks for nothing. And I'm annoyed that everytime Canada comes up with a good idea, the US finds a way to "acquire it". It's gotten to such a point that Canadians seem to think it's necessary to go to the States to become legitimate. I'm used to this happening in the acting world, and was truly saddened to see it happening to the business world as well. (I know that this is nothing new, but like I said, I don't really follow business all that much).

I suppose I should be happy for Sandra Wilson. After all, she just made a whackload of cash. But all I feel right now is disappointed and disillusioned. I hope it all works out in the end.

Well, that's about as political and rant-y as I get. I guess I will never become the Prime Minister, huh? Sigh. I could always go to the States and become President...

Monday, September 04, 2006

Hey You

For most people, the year begins in January. They make their resolutions on New Year's Eve. They vow to be a better worker, better wife, better person. Not me. For me, the year begins the first week of September. There's something about the coolness in the air, the new shoes and the kids going back to school that makes me...jealous almost. Yes, there it is. Out in the open. I'm a nerd. Every year in September, I want to go back to school. Desperately. My heart races. My legs twitch. And I feel the intense need to do...something. Anything.

In July and August, I am content to laze away the days without doing anything truly constructive. I read trashy fantasy novels. I think up far too many reasons to cut my runs short or avoid them altogether. I avoid movies with "meaning" like the plague, and don't even suggest one with sub-titles. It's too hot. I'm too tired. It hurts to think. But come September, I want to conquer the world. September is my wake-up call. I watch the kids going to school and wonder what interesting thing they are going to learn today. How are they going to see the world differently? I sigh longingly, then continue on to my job where I do the pretty much the same thing every day.

This year, I have decided that I am going to take matters into my own hands and do something constructive rather than simply accept. My Dad is a minister and I grew up with a copy of the Serenity Prayer sitting in the window of my parents' guest bathroom for as long as I can remember. I think the words transcend religion and therefore have stuck with me all my life -- "grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change. Courage to change the things I can. And the wisdom to know the difference." I am hoping that if it write these "resolutions" down for all to see, I will be less likely to try to back out at a later date. Less likely to give up when things get hard. These are the things I think that I can change (not in any particular order):

  1. I will go back to school and complete the courses necessary to convert my diploma into a full degree.
  2. I will volunteer with a recognized organization, and gain experience working with children in a teaching capacity (one of my passions and a possible future career)
  3. I will continue to look for a career that marries my need for (emotional, artistic, positive) fulfillment with my family's need for financial support.
  4. I will be nicer to The Husband. (Love, if you're reading this - yes, I really am going to work at this!)
  5. I will appreciate every moment with The Boy for what it is - the opportunity to share in and affect the beginning of a beautiful shining life.

So now there's nothing left but to get on with it. If you want to help, then keep reminding me of my goals. Together we stand, Divided we fall.

Happy New Year!

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Bite the Hand

I am always humbled, and a little bit jealous, when I read a post like Penelope and Bumblebee's about breastfeeding. The way that she talks about that "very beautiful, very emotional" part of her relationship with her baby almost makes me wish that I was still breastfeeding. Almost.

Like Penelope, I too always knew that I would breastfeed. I had done a lot of reading and was thoroughly convinced that it was the best thing for The Boy. With my magical 20-20 hindsight, I think that I always knew there were going to be problems. Although my breasts did grow along with my belly, they never reached the epic growth that friends of mine experienced. I also knew that it was going to be no walk in the park. That's what every one said. Some babies latch on easily from the get-go, but I do believe that those babies are in the minority.

When the Boy came out and the nurse positioned him at my chest in the recovery room, he sucked eagerly and I felt a moment of pure, unadulterated joy. It felt so natural. And for a person who is not necessarily the most at ease in her body, that was a real achievement. After that, it all kind of went downhill.

The Boy would have slept through his whole first night, but I dutifully woke him every 3 hours and put him to the breast. He didn't seem all that eager to eat, but I figured he got enough because he went back to sleep. (I, on the other hand, didn't sleep at all that night, I just watched him.) I didn't feel that I had got the latch right so I asked for help from the nurses repeatedly and attended the free classes at the hospital. Sure enough, he wasn't gaining weight, and soon became jaundiced. Normal stuff, really, but we had to stay an extra day before we were realeased.

We spent the next month or so going back and forth to the lactation consultants at the hospital at least twice a week. Strangely enough, I started to look forward to those visits, because at least it meant that I got out of the house and talked to real people. They had us on a strict schedule of feeding every three hours whether The Boy wanted to or not, because he wasn't waking for his feedings. We also had to fill out a chart of each time we fed him, for how long and whether or not he filled his diapers. I was also pumping after each feed to stimulate milk production, and I was to record that as well. For a while there, we were even supplementing the breastfeeding with formula through a tube.

So every three hours, here's how the process would go:
Wake up. Get a glass of water and get everything organized. Wake the Boy up. Undress the boy to wake him up, and for skin-to-skin contact. Use cold washcloths to wake the Boy further if other methods didn't work. Breastfeed one side for 30 minutes. Change The Boy's diaper to wake him up again. Breastfeed the other side for 30 minutes. The Husband would bring the formula and the tube feeding apparatus and help me to position it (it took three hands to do it, and silly me, I only have two..). The Husband would take The Boy and put him to bed. I would pump for another twenty minutes. All told this process took an hour an a half. Then I would go to bed. It would take me a half hour to fall asleep, and the alarm would wake me up an hour later to do this all over again.

I breastfed through cracked and bleeding nipples, purple nipples from treatment for thrush, but luckily no mastitis. And eventually, things got easier. I pumped once a day instead of every time. I started taking Fenugreek, Blessed Thistle and Domperidone (30 pills a day, all told) to increase milk production. We stopped the tube feeding. We even visted Dr Jack Newman, who pointed out that The Boy had a slight "tongue-tie" problem that may have been interfering with his ability to suck (or latch - I was tired, and I honestly can't remember the whole conversation). He took care of it right there, and the breastfeeding did improve after that.

He still took about an hour to feed, and although he did get faster (more efficient?) as the months went by, our quickest feed was about a half hour. I did have to plan my day around the feedings, because I always had to make sure that if I was out and about, that I was somewhere where people didn't mind us hanging out for an hour (thank you, Starbucks!). On the plus side, I did get a lot of reading done when I was at home. The Boy was never one to look lovingly in my eyes while feeding, he just closed his eyes and quietly sucked away. So I read. For a while there I was reading about eight hours a day. It relaxed me, and made me more content to sit there while he took what he needed.

I do think that we bonded during these hours, just maybe in a different way than others experience it. I don't regret a minute of it, and would do it all over again if I had to (although, I would hope it would be easier the second time around). But more than that, The Boy taught me some pretty serious Life Lessons. As a thinking person, they were lessons that I intellectually already knew, but had never put to the test:

1. Although things may not turn out the way that you thought they would, it doesn't mean that they turned out badly.
2. The people that help you in your time of need are the people that mean the most to you.
3. If you want to do something badly enough, you will find a way to make it happen. Even if it seems impossible.

That was just something that I needed to get off my chest.