Tuesday, November 28, 2006

A plague on our house!

Well, that may be overstating it a bit. Honestly, though, sometimes it feels like it! In the past three weeks, The Boy has had two ear infections, two eye infections, Fifth's Disease, and a near constant fever. We've seen three doctors at our family practice, and one very nice Emergency doctor at Sickkids Hospital. God Bless Sickkids! They should be on our Christmas card list. The Husband (or "Mr Earth" as he prefers to be called now, man, he's worse than P Diddy...or whatever his name is now) has had two nasty colds, and I myself have had one. And I'm not talking about a sniffly little cough-cough cold, either. I'm talking about a knock-down, drag-out, drug me up till I'm stupid kind of cold.

We're taking The Boy to the doctor tomorrow AGAIN. The antibiotics don't seem to be working, he hasn't eaten since Saturday, and today he slept for seven out of twelve hours. You'd think that it would be nice to have so much 'down time' but when a child sleeps that much, it's just plain worrisome. Also, I wasn't here today. (We'll save the guilt about that for another post...) My mom came in to watch him for the past couple of days, so I could actually attend work. What we would do without her, I'm not entirely sure.

Now, I think that I am getting sick again, and quite frankly, it simply cannot happen. Mr Earth has a show, The Boy is well and truly sick and I cannot get sick. So there you have it Ye Gods of the Sickies. I refuse to be sick, do you hear me? Nyah, nyah.

Is anyone else afflicted, or are we the lucky ones??

Friday, November 24, 2006

How Toys Become Real

I was never one to play with dolls, but there's always been a special place in my heart for stuffed animals. I remember distinctly sitting on the stairs of my parents house in Hamilton, begging and pleading with my dad. He was going 'Downtown' (ooh! ahh!), and I wanted desperately for him to buy me a stuffed version of Dino, from the Flintstones. My dad, being the softy that he is, of course complied. I loved that dinosaur and carried him around with me everywhere until his head flopped over permanently, never to be straightened again. Next came a monkey who I called Cocoa, whose arms were bent in a permahug so that you could walk around with him hanging on to your neck, just a like a real baby monkey. I did. One day he went missing, and was found months later frozen solid in the icy snow beneath my porch. I lovingly defrosted him, but he was never the same again. Next came Scroungy, a puppy who I "saved from the dog pound". He came with dog tags, and if he wasn't already scruffy to begin with, you would have been able to tell how much I loved him by the state of his bedraggled fur.

These were my friends, and in my childish imagination, they were no less real to me than the friends that I made in the Real World. I truly believed that they had thoughts and feelings, and that I should treat them with love and respect, because it was my job to take care of them. I also believed that when I went to sleep, they came alive and talked to each other. I grew up with stories like The Nutcracker and The Velveteen Rabbit, you see, and my young brain didn't know how to sort the 'Real' from the 'Fantastical'. There's always been the debate as to whether it's good for children to live their early lives in a make-believe world. Many people believe that children deserve the truth, and while I don't dispute that, I stand firm in the belief that some of the best lessons in life come from the magical world of children. The Velveteen Rabbit, for instance, my all time favourite children's book, about a stuffed bunny who desperately wants to become a real live rabbit, taught me how to love:

"What is REAL?" asked the Rabbit one day, when they were lying side by side near the nursery fender, before Nana came to tidy the room. "Does it mean having things that buzz inside you and a stick-out handle?"

"Real isn't how you are made," said the Skin Horse. "It's a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real."

"Does it hurt?" asked the Rabbit.

"Sometimes," said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. "When you are Real you don't mind being hurt."

" Does it happen all at once, like being wound up," he asked, "or bit by bit?"

"It doesn't happen all at once," said the Skin Horse. "You become. It takes a long time. That's why it doesn't happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don't matter at all, because once you are Real you can't be ugly, except to people who don't understand."

This book affected me so deeply that I never forgot it, even when I stopped playing with stuffed animals. In fact , that exact passage was read out loud at our wedding. It still brings tears to my eyes every time I read it.

Shoot, now I'm getting all sappy, and I can't remember what my original point was. Ah yes. I think that it's all too easy at this time of year to get caught up in buying the latest toy, the shiniest doodad, the thingie with all the lights and buttons that teaches your child gross motor skills along with a smattering of Spanish for good measure. But fancy toys come and go, and in all likelihood, the present that they are going to love the most is no doubt the simplest. A fuzzy little stuffed bunny that they will love till the fur falls off, and that doesn't need batteries. A book with a heartfelt story. A full imagination and an wide open playground, and friends to share it with. And time with family. These are the presents that are Real, that will make them Real.

"...once you are Real you can't become unreal again. It lasts for always."

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Little Toy Trains

Christmas. Christmas! Christmas!! I LOVE CHRISTMAS!!! Do I sound like and 8-yr old? Hmm. You're probably right. There's something about this time of year that reduces me to a (much) younger version of myself, eyes all aglow with the twinkle of lights and visions of sugarplums. Strangely enough, it's not the presents that I get excited about (although who doesn't like a few nice gifties...?) but it's that feeling you get. You know the one. The buzz of something exciting just around the corner. The hum of people being just a little bit kinder. The echo of carols floating through your head.

It's a heightened sense of awareness, and I can't help noticing that it's changed since having The Boy. Last year, there was the whole hullabaloo surrounding "The First Christmas". It was exciting, but it's got nothing on this year. Now, The Boy is starting to realize that something big is happening. When we ask him what Santa says, he turns away shyly and says, "Ho. Ho!". When we ask him what Santa is going to bring him for Christmas, he says, "Watch". Why a watch? Who knows? But he's very fixated for someone to whom time is not even a vague concept.

This weekend, I start Christmas shopping. And just recently, I finally realized what it means to have a boy. When we were pregnant, I was 99% sure that we were having a boy. We didn't find out the sex, in part, due to the fact that I didn't want showers full of blue clothes and sports paraphernalia. We decorated the nursery in pale green with an animal theme - suitably gender neutral. Clothes that I bought were red, orange, green and yellow. My reasoning was that no child of mine was going to be told what they liked and what they should play with solely based on their sex.

And what does The Boy show interest in? Trains. Trucks. Cars. Buses. Airplanes. Hockey. Football. Basketball. Give him a stuffed animal or a doll, and he'll look at it and casually toss it aside. Ask him to try on clothes and he'll pitch a fit. Do boys have this stuff hard-wired into their brains? Because he certainly didn't learn this from me. I am learning from him, though. Let me tell that after saying the words "car", "truck", "tractor" and "train" for the umpteenth time, this Boy's mamma has done her homework. So if you see me in the aisles of Toys 'R Us, please don't ask me if I'm buying that car (ahem, that's a Rally Car), or that truck (actually, that's a Curtain-Sided Delivery Truck) or that tractor (pardon me, but that's a Skid-Steer Loader). I know all the names of the trains in the Thomas the Tank Engine set, and I know how to use 'em.

Close your eyes
Listen to the skies
All is calm, all is well
Soon you'll hear Kris Kringle and the jingle bells
Bringin' old toy trains, little toy tracks
Little toy drums coming from a sack
Carried by a man dressed in white and red
Little boy, don't you think it's time you were in bed?

Friday, November 17, 2006

Will the real NoMo please stand up?

This whole blogging thing is still new to me. I'm not a technologically-inclined person, nor do I claim to be extraordinarily knowledgeable about the internet. I have been reticent to share current pictures of myself or The Boy due to some vague fear that they could be used for nefarious purposes. (You'll notice that all the pictures of the Boy that I do post never feature him looking directly at the camera -- sort of an homage to the next door neighbour on Home Improvement). As a result, I don't feel as if I've properly introduced myself or fully met all my blogging neighbours that I visit so frequently. So you can imagine how delighted I was to read Her Bad Mother's recent post where she created South Park likenesses of herself and WonderBaby. Here's my chance, I thought! So let me introduce myself and The Boy:

Age: 33
Occupation: TBA. I currently work in the sales department of a news agency, but I am working towards becoming a primary teacher.
Loves: The Husband, The Boy, theatre, reading, movies, good red wine, chocolate, coffee, and, yes, TV (gasp!)
Dislikes: Math, rainy days, rude people on the subway, cilantro, watching sports on TV, bad acting
Freakishly good at: Spelling, remembering children's names
Freakishly bad at: Cooking, remembering the parents' names
Last book I read: Northanger Abbey
Best Feature: My nails (they grow abnormally fast and strong)
Worst Feature: Thighs or Post-Baby Muffin Top - your choice
Current Fave Phrase/Word: Ridiculous

Age: 22mths
Occupation: Entertaining the masses. Serious contender for the position of butterfly goalie with the Maple Leafs.
Loves: Trucks, trains, cars, books, Elmo, Grover, Pasta, Goldfish crackers, Hockey
Dislikes: Vegetables, wearing jackets, having diaper changed, needing help to do anything

Freakishly good at: Learning people's names
Freakishly bad at: Eating soup
Last book I read: Firebears
Best Feature: My laugh. Free and strong and delightfully infectious.

Worst Feature: Nothing
Current Fave Phrase/Word: Don't want to! (but when I say it, it's cute!)

So there's a just little bit about me and The Boy. Anymore, and you'd probably get bored (if you're not already). I'd post a pic of the hubbie too, but I wouldn't do so without his participation and he's asleep right now. Please feel free to stop by and introduce yourselves, and if you really want to go crazy, create your own South Park characters and send me the link. I'd really like to meet you!

Monday, November 13, 2006

Brave Little Soldier

Today, I took The Boy to the doctor for what we thought was a mild eye infection. One of the downsides to daycare, of course, is that the little ones are susceptible to every circulating bug. The office was jam-packed, and the wait was long. Forty-five minutes after we arrived, we finally saw a doctor. During that time, The Boy went from lazily playing with a truck, to sitting on my lap, to laying his head on my chest and sucking his thumb. He was burning up and one cheek was bright red, as if someone had slapped him. After a thorough examination, not only did he have an eye infection in both eyes, an ear infection in both ears, but a fever of 104! The Boy and I waited another half hour in the examination room while the doctor tried to find an antibiotic that wouldn't give The Boy hives. During that time, The Boy lounged dispiritedly in my lap, eyes half-closed, breath rattling, like a sleepy, wheezy furnace. My stomach clenched and I clung to him, desperately hoping that my heart would catch up to my head, and believe what I knew to be true. All babies get sick. It's perfectly normal. It sucks, but it's perfectly normal. When the doctor handed me the prescription, the words stuck in my throat. In the silence, there came a squeaky little voice that said:

"Tank ewe. Buh-bye!"

Ahh, my love, you are braver than I am.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Round and Round She Goes

Out of the maelstrom of my befuddled, bewildered and bespectacled (no wait, that can't be right...) mind comes a subject that I don't want to think about, much less write about. But it's there in the back of my head, in the front of my head, in the great swirling emptiness where my rational brain should be. I've tried to brush it aside, push it away, dodge it, run from it, run to it, embrace it, love it and no matter what I do it's always there, like the audible hum of a fluorescent light. Day by day, hour by hour, minute by minute, it creeps ever closer. The Boy is rapidly approaching the two year mark, the semi-arbitrary date that we chose to make the decision: Do we want another child? Although you make this decision as a couple, as a family, I think that, in some respects, you also make this decision alone. And hope to hell that your partner made the same decision you did.

I've always imagined that if I had kids, I would have kidS - plural. (And, by plural, I mean two kids, not three or four...) It was sort of a given in my head that children should have siblings. It's a testament to how much your childhood experience really does affect the rest of your life, I guess. Almost every one of my friends had a sibling, came from a two child family. And, as I believe that motherhood is an important experience, one that expands your horizons and makes you a better person, so too is brotherhood or sisterhood. It's a gift that only we can give The Boy, and lasts longer than any toy. But is that enough of a reason to have another?

And then there's the fear, my all-consuming fear of: CHANGE. Change is bad, very very bad, and we are in such a good place right now. We have a lovely Boy who is a joy to be around (most of the time), and why, why, why, why, why, why, why, why would we want to change that? I'm back at work and The Boy talking, running, jumping (well, trying very hard to jump) and, to my surprise, is loving daycare. I'm doing some university courses enroute to a career change, which would give me the extra time with The Boy that I crave. I'm volunteering and The Husband is doing a show and life is good. I'm selfish, I know. I want to have kids, love kids, be with kids, without being consumed by them. I don't want to lose my sense of self. I don't want to lose my relationship with The Husband. I need to know that I can have kidS (plural), and still have something left for myself, and for us. Selfish, selfish selfish. Most of all, though, I don't want to wake up one morning many distant years from now and find out that I made the wrong choice. That I do, in fact, want another child, and it's too late.

Too late. Silly, this conception of time, isn't it? I know that women have children rather late in life now. I know it's possible. I know it's not for me. For me, it's a now or never thing. I may be the one imposing this time crunch, but it doesn't make it any less real. And the truth is, I'm not getting any younger.

Honestly, I don't know why I'm so conflicted. Re-reading this, it sounds very much like I don't want another child. But the truth is, I do. Maybe I just want this baby to spring, Athena-like, fully formed out of the top of my head at the age of 12 months. I want to skip the round the clock feedings and non-stop crying jags and get straight to the good stuff. Selfishally, selfishaliscious, selfishiveness.

Many of my friends have made the leap or are actively TTC, and I am so envious of their certainty. Did they wake up one morning and just "know" that this was right thing to do? If I can't come to a decision, does that mean that it's not the right thing for me, for us? Actually, I wasn't one hundred percent sure when The Boy was conceived, and look how wonderful he turned out to be.

When I was doing some research on the internet, a site asked the question: "If you found out that couldn't have another child, would you be sad or relieved? Trust your gut instinct." Ironically, I had both reactions. I was sad that such a personal decision was taken out of my hands, but relieved that I didn't have to decide. And all the while, in the playroom, in the nursery, in the kitchen, there is this little person who flickers in and out of view like Princess Leia in her message to Obi-Wan Kenobi: "Help me, NoMo, you're my only hope." How can I say no?

Monday, November 06, 2006

The Original Undomestic Goddess

To the makers of Ziploc "Double Zipper" Bags: Why do you persist on perpetuating the myth that these bag are easy to close? Using children in your advertising doesn't change anything. I am university-educated, and I have a garnered a certain manual dexterity in my three decades of life, and I still can't close them without a great deal of effort. And don't get me started on the "Easy Zipper" option. They may be easy to open and close, but they rip if you use this feature more than once. Save the easy zipper for toddler jackets. Now there's a place it would be useful. Or, Brad Pitt's pants. I'm flexible.

To the makers of Clover Leaf tuna: Why is it that you are incapable of coming up with a container that is easy to open? Or am I simply incapable of opening said can without squirting tuna juice on my clothes? No self-respecting girl wants her pants to smell like fish. Period. Starkist at least gave it a shot with that crazy pouch thingie. Although carrying a bag of fish around with me "for convenience" ranks right up there with fishy pants.

To innovators everywhere: Why is there no Easy Bake Oven for adults? Not everyone is Martha Stewart, and my pill bottle clearly states that I should not be operating heavy machinery. Have some decency and throw a girl a bone! I'd post a picture of the carrot loaf that I baked this evening, but this is a family-friendly blog, and I'm simply not up to fielding the phone calls of angry adults.

And lastly, to the makers of PVR: A big thank you for allowing me the time to discover that I should just stick to cutting vegetables. Keep to your strengths, I always say. Now, I can finally enjoy Heroes with some raw, but expertly sliced, veggies... Mmm, raw veggies!...Dieting sucks. I wonder, would it be wrong to take Hallowe'en candy out of the garbage, as long as it was still in it's wrapper? Not that I would consider actually doing such a thing...! Just a moral quandry I'm working on. Sigh.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Primary Caregiver

Awhile back, I had to fill out this form for Harper's new idea of a monthly child care allowance. It's not an idea which I wholly support, but who turns down free money? Not I. On this form, I had to write down who was the "primary caregiver" of The Boy. I instantly wrote down myself, of course. But that got me thinking, and the more I thought, the more I got confused. What does this mean?

The Husband and I decided to have a baby together. When 'creating' The Boy, well, we obviously did that together. We painted his room, and bought the furniture and prepared for his entrance into the world together. So when did I become the primary caregiver?? When, I carried him inside me for nine months, I was The Boy's source of nourishment and transportation for that time, and although The Husband was a great help, I was essentially on my own. That's nature, and that's unavoidable. But surely, upon The Boy's first breath outside the womb, I stopped being the primary caregiver, and reverted to one half of a team, right? Well, yes...and no.

The Husband was the perfect support partner - always there to lend a hand. I simply could not have done it on my own. Frankly, I don't know how single parents do it, and I have no interest in finding out. But the reality is, that while you are breastfeeding, you are the primary caregiver. The Boy could survive without seeing The Husband, but could not go one single day without seeing me. What about breast milk in a bottle, you ask? Of course, yes. But I do think that some of the major benefits of breast milk do not come simply from consumption, but from the bonding that ensues, the close body contact. The repercussions of missing feedings are no fun either. And, for us at least, The Boy simply would not take a bottle for about nine months. So it was me and him against the world.

The Husband and I had a sort of unspoken agreement that, while I was on maternity leave, should The Boy wake up in the middle of the night, I was the one that had to get up with him. After all, The Husband had to work the next day. But then, so did I right? Granted I didn't have to look presentable, and I didn't have to speak in coherent sentences. But I did have to care for The Boy. I did have to feed him and change him and entertain him. I did have to get behind the wheel and take him to doctor's appointments and whatnot on days that I was literally blacking out due to lack of sleep. That is work, and possibly the most important work out there - raising a human being. But, as it was work, it was understood that everything concerning The Boy was my primary responsibility.

The question that remains is, once you're past the initial hurdles of gestation and breastfeeding, how, in a two parent household, there can even be the ranking of primary vs. secondary caregiver?

I don't know how it works with stay-at-home moms, and I don't pretend to. I did have have taste of it while I was on maternity leave, though, and what I do know is that when you decide to be a stay-at-home mom, while you may be accepting the position of primary caregiver, it shouldn't mean that you're signing up for a job that is twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. If I was at home now, you can bet that I would be lobbying for a SAHM Union in which we set out laws that determined the number of hours worked each day, and anything over and above those hours would be compensated, with official recognition being the minimum and expensive presents being the maximum.

But, why do so many women who go back to work end up doing two jobs: the one that pays them money, and the other of Primary Caregiver to their child(ren)? Is it unavoidable due to the gender requirements of the role? Are we such control freaks that we refuse to let our partners have more autonomy? Or are we so entrenched in the stereotypes of the male being the Primary Breadwinner and the female being the Primary Caregiver that there is no escape?

I don't think that our partners should be reduced to glorified babysitters who have no real authority. Unfortunately, I don't think that we, alone, have the ability to solve this problem. I think that many men enjoy handing over the reigns of power and simply going along for the ride. I have heard of men that boast of never having changed a poopy diaper. Ever. Is this something to brag about? That they enjoy all the benefits of having children without having to deal with any of the crap? I thank my lucky stars that The Husband was not one of these men.

On the flip side, though, the women put up with it for a variety of reasons: maybe they don't know how to ask for what they want; maybe they feel their "money jobs" don't compete with their partners'; or maybe they feel that this is what they signed up for when they decided to have children. But it begs the question: if a husband and wife were both professionals, making the same money and working the same hours, who would be the primary caregiver in this situation?

I don't know the answer to this. What I do know, however, is that the term "primary caregiver" should be considered outdated. Or, at the very least, should be considered outdated where both parents are working (as this is the only situation where I can speak with any authority whatsoever). I believe that for true equality, we need to think more in terms of "Co-Caregiver". What say you?

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Post Mortem

COSTUME: Had high hopes of making it from scratch in a sort of Martha Stewart homage, but ended up buying it online instead. Had to explain what he was more times than I would like, but always got a laugh when I did. (In case you're wondering, he's "L'il Sprout", the Green Giant's son). The Boy was not so enthused. He kept saying "Jackey - off!" and "Nooo hat!". Oh well, got a lot of compliments on the hat. When he wore it, that is.

DECORATIONS: Wasn't going to decorate the porch at all, but have learnt my lesson from past years. Kids won't come to your house if you don't decorate. Not even if you stand on the porch and say "Come here, kid, I have some candy for you...!" (Why do the kids run away? Hmm). We kept the porch PG, because The Boy seemed put off by the scary stuff at "It's My Party". The pumpkin was my first attempt at designing a carving (it's Count von Count, if you can't tell). And thanks to Hallowe'en, The Boy learnt two new important and useful words: spider and eyeballs. Or rather, "'Pider!" and "Ahh-balls". Sometimes it was just "Balls!" though, which caused some uncomfortable moments.

PHOTOGRAPHS: Lousy. Took 30 shots, and could barely find any that weren't out of focus, or where The Boy didn't turn away at the last minute, or where he wasn't trying to remove some part of the costume. No smiles. And why do my eyes always look bloodshot? (I'm not a drunk! At least, I hadn't drunk anything last night...)

MANNERS: We tried to teach The Boy to say "Trick or Treat", but to no avail. We did manage to convince him to say "Candy please" but that only worked for about two houses. After that, it was just "MORE CANDY!". Over and over again. Then he started taking the candy from our bowl and putting it in his bag.

CANDY: Lots, given that he is still under two. Is it wrong that The Boy hasn't actually had any of 'his' candy? Is it wrong that we are the ones who are eating the candy? I think we are walking an ethical tightrope here, but, ohhhhhh, the candy!

CONCLUSION: Not bad for Hallowe'en #2. The Boy was a bit overwhelmed by the all the fuss, but got into it by the end. The candy part won him over. (I knew he was my son!) Good times.