"The Tightrope Walker"

"The Tightrope Walker" by Jean-Louis Forain

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Living Legacy.

It occurred to me this evening as Sophie and I made chocolate chip cookies for Santa Claus that baking with my own mother is one of my favourite memories.  Being the oldest, just like Sophie, meant that I was often the chosen assistant and my Mom and I had lots of opportunities to do something just the two of us.  I hope that Sophie feels the same way I do about these small windows of time spent together.

I guess I've always known, but just recently I am truly realizing the importance of childhood memories.  As parents we build, in essence, a living legacy for our children to take forth into their adult lives.  All of these little memories of growing up form our perspective as adults of some of the most important relationships we will ever have - including being parents ourselves.  I am reminded of how essential it is to be a well-rounded person not only for myself, but as a role model for Sophie and Molly.

So I am setting out to answer this:  What do I what my children's childhood memories to be?  What do I want my living legacy for my children to be?

Now you try:  Do you know how you want your children to perceive and remember growing  up?

Monday, December 20, 2010

Careful What You Wish For!

We have had mild, but on-going concerns regarding Molly's bowel movements.  For quite a while now she has been going less and less frequently, and finally within the last month reached a maximum of two bm's a week.  Maybe not a big deal, but having watched the amount of food she consumes we couldn't figure out where the heck it was all going if it wasn't coming out the other end.  So, as any caring and attentive mother would do I made note of all my questions and saved them up for Molly's 18-month well baby check last Thursday.

All went well at the check-up and when I described Molly's bm dilemma to the doctor he suggested that she was probably filling up on milk and then not actually eating enough "bulk".   Of course!  Time to stop offering her an 8oz sippy cup of milk before breakfast, after all her bottle and boob days are long gone.  In other words it was time for me to stop lolly-gagging, realize my baby is a toddler and feed her appropriately.  (Okay, so I felt a tiny pang of guilt with a side of "shit-now-the-doctor-thinks-I'm-overacting" about too little poop! Who does that?  Too little poop means less diaper changes!)  With advice in hand we set out Friday morning with our revised diet plan.  Molly ate breakfast, then I offered her milk and wouldn't you know it she only drank about 4oz instead of guzzling back an entire tall-boy of 3%.

Molly's revised diet worked so well that on Friday she had a bm at the babysitter's - her third for the week.  Then on Saturday when we were out visiting she had an unexpected bm.  So unexpected in fact that we didn't even have a diaper!  We have become so use to her infrequent diapering needs that we only had one diaper in the diaper bag and we had used it for a wet one earlier in the afternoon.  Oops!  Right then and there we should have know that we had wised for too much!  (Again, who does that?  Who wishes for a more regular pooper?)  Thankfully we found an old, smaller sized diaper in Grandma's cupboard and squeezed Molly's thick thighs and big-girl tummy into it.

Sunday was a lovely poop free day, but looking back this was perhaps the calm before the storm.  Today Molly's revised diet not only brought us two bm's, but the ever special tub-poop.  And I'm not talking your regular run of the mill tub-poop, but the full-out hiding-under-the-thick-and-luxurious-bubbles-tub-poop.  Disgusting and irritating on so many levels.  Thank goodness J.D. was home sleeping for the night shift and able to do the "dirty work", but I don't think he was very happy that I woke him two hours earlier than usual to scoop.  But what can I say a tub-poop is way beyond my mothering abilities!  (Kudos to Moms out there who can handle this one!)  While Daddy scooped, Molly screamed for her beautiful draining-away bubbles,  and I tried my best not to gag I realized what more regular bm's really means.  More diapers.  More wiping.  More tub-poops!  Ughhh!

Long story short I am of course happy that Molly seems to be more regular and that her little tummy is looking less distended, but at the same time the lesson is learned!  Be careful what you wish for - especially the week before Christmas when your kids are home from the babysitter's!  ;-)  Tomorrow's wish?  For potty training to begin!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Kids Say and Do the Darnedest Things.

Tonight at dinner we listened to a CD of classic Disney movie songs.  As it turned out some of the songs were so "classic" that they inspired the following conversation:

Sophie:  Do you know this song Mom?

Me:  Nope.

Sophie:  Do you know what movie it is from?

Me:  Nope.

Sophie:  It sounds old so it must be from an old movie.

Me:  You are right it does sound old.  We should look it up after dinner.

Sophie:  Mom, if it is old you should know it then!

The song is called "The Age of Not Believing" and it is from "Bedknobs and Broomsticks" with Angela Lansbury.  I will gladly be explaining that this movie is older than me, made before I was born!  Do you ever wonder how old your kids REALLY think you are?

Monday, December 13, 2010

To My Grandmother.

I am lucky enough at the age of thirty to still have four living grandparents.  I know very few people my age that still have all their grandparents in their lives and even fewer who have children with four great-grandparents.  It makes me so happy to know that my own children may have memories of their great-grandparents and even happier still that I have so many wonderful memories of spending time with them as a child and an adult.

My paternal and maternal grandparents are very different from each other.  As a child I would have described my paternal grandparents as fun-loving, energetic, playful, and kind.  I remember watching movies with them, playing hours of cards, making puzzles, Christmas and birthdays, road trips and so much more.  As an adult I would admit that although they are both slowing down they still are full of life and fun.  They love to have a good time and love being around family even more.

My maternal grandparents are a whole other kettle of fish.  As a child I would have described them as boring, quiet, strict and maybe even mean.  I do have good memories of holidays and vacations, shopping trips and sleepovers, but my memories of spending time with them aren't as vivid or lively when compared to those of my other grandparents.  Now, as an adult I have come to the realization that perhaps I misunderstood mt maternal grandparents to an extent.  Yes, they are rather reserved and proper, they tend to be traditionalists and put manners and demeanor above all else.  They also have a high regard for structure, rules and order.  The "meanness" that I perceived as a child is really quick, sarcastic humour (that most children don't understand anyway).  In the end they are equally wonderful grandparents - just in a different way.

This evaluation of my childhood versus adult perception has been brought on by some changes in my maternal grandmother's health.  She suffered a stroke in the late spring and a second major stroke at the end of the summer.  The first was the typical blood cot that we all think of as being a stroke, but the second was actually the result of bleeding in her brain that caused pressure to build.  The affects of this second stroke have been life altering for both of my grandparents.  My grandmother's mobility has decreased, she has also lost some fine and gross motor skills and in general requires more care.  As a result she and my grandfather have sold their home to move into a facility that offers some assisted living services and allows them to continue to live together.  All of this has been a difficult transition for them and for our family as a whole.

The most significant change in my grandmother, and the most difficult to deal with, is the loss of her short-term memory and the "disorganization" of her long-term memory.  I know it seems odd to say someone's memory is disorganized, but that is the only way I can think to explain it.  For example, she clearly has vivid memories of all of her children growing-up and many memories of her adult life.  At the same time her memories between then and now seem out of order and disconnected.  She remembers me and my siblings, but asked my single sister about her daughters - really meaning my girls.  She knows that I have two daughters, but can only remember Sophie.  She can't quite place how Molly is related to her, how old she is or remember her name.   But, she knows she is my daughter and that makes her important to her.  Her short-term memory is so poor that she can't knit, read a book or really partake in any in-depth conversation.  Everything is in her head, but it is disjointed and reconnected in ways that just don't quite make sense. 

Sitting with her is a strange experience.   She looks like herself - perhaps a little older and a little less polished than usual, but still her.  She sounds like herself - perhaps a little less confident and slightly more childlike, but still her.  There are moments when she tells a story with such clarity, livelihood and humour that you think she still is exactly the woman she always was, but then the story ends and she returns to observing the action around her with a quiet confusion that verges on being pure disinterest.  It is in these moments that we all realize she isn't herself anymore.  I imagine what it would be like to be in her place and all I can think is that she must feel like she is in a constant state of deja vu.  Recognizing a familiarity in everything, but not quite knowing why.

Even though these visits with her feel uncomfortable, awkward and sad I know that each one is very worthwhile.  Engaging her in conversation and treasuring each story she is able to share is worth each moment of loss I feel for the sarcastic, witty, and quick-tongued grandmother that I remember.  A tribute to all Grandmothers, all Grandparents, who with strict words or playful hands show their grandchildren love:  You are appreciated!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Missing Moments and Appreciation

....having a moment to write.  Life has ramped up about 20 notches (or least it feels like it) and I haven't had a chance to write in ages.  Like so many other things I have started to take for granted how important blogging has become to me.  With any luck I'll have a chance to write a nice long post before the week is out, but in case I don't I want to record the small things that made me pause this week.

Coming home to lite Christmas lights.

Molly ONLY wanting to cuddle me today and yesterday too!

A true and genuine smile from a third grader.

Hearing all about Hanukkah from a young boy - lovely.

JD cuddling up even though I'm coughing and my nose is a faucet.

Black bean soup, yummy!

Being able to do 30 stationary lunges and having lost 2 whole entire inches off my hips.

Sophie enjoying her first birthday party - without a parent.  What a big kid?!?!

Making a spelling error that 20 kids point out!

Thinking about wrapping gifts, can't wait!

Light snow in the crisp air.

The thick and cozy comforter on my bed, especially when I know it is below zero degrees Celsius outside.

Grateful for being reminded (inadvertently) by a dear friend to appreciate the small things!  So much to show appreciation for!  We should all do it a little more often.

Friday, November 19, 2010

What's in the Bag?

(Warning:  This is 100% a complaining post.  Not in the mood for whining?  Then look away now.)

Picture this:  Friday afternoon after work, and I'm rushing to the drug store in an attempt to pick-up a few things before I need to get the girls from the babysitters.  My mission is to be in and out as quick as possible.  My shopping list includes:  tampons, maxi pads, zit cream, frozen pizza because we have NOTHING in the house for dinner, toilet paper and a treat to kill the sweets-craving that comes with my monthly visitor.  I achieved my goal of being quick, and with overflowing arms (because I opted for no basket or buggy in my haste) I dropped my items onto the checkout counter.  I paid for everything and then realized I'd made the dreaded bag mistake.  That's right, I forgot to ask for a plastic bag.  Since we pay for our plastic shopping bags in my community I was out of luck having already paid for my order.

I fully support the use of re-usable shopping bags and I think that paying for plastic shopping bags is a great idea.  However, from time to time I don't have a bag with me and I would like a plastic one.  Of course it is always on these occasions that I forget to ask for one, I've paid and now I'm hauling things to the car in my arms.  No big deal really, but today I really wish the cashier had been thoughtful enough to ask if I wanted a bag before she checked me out.  After all, as another woman I would hope that my purchase of feminine hygiene products, acne medicine and sweet treats might make her realize that I'm probably feeling a little on the grouchy side and that in moment of empathy she might offer me a bag not just for the convenience, but for the sake of privacy.  But no such offer or reminder to purchase was made (and I wasn't about to try and figure which card to use to pay for a 5 cent bag since I had no cash), so I carefully balance my "girl-purchases" on the frozen pizza and made my way to car being even more cautious not to drop anything or make eye contact with passersby.  No wondering what was in my shopping bag because it was all out in its full glory for everyone to see.  Yes - I'm grumpy, PMSing, craving crappy food and not in the mood to talk.  So, watch out because here I come!

By the way, did I mention that after all that I forget to buy the toilet paper!!!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Kids Say and Do the Darnedest Things.

The girls were in the bathtub together tonight, and Sophie asked if they could splash each other.  When I agreed she said, "Splash fight!  Bring it on Molly!!!"

Bring it on?  Where does a five-year-old learn that???

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

What's The Matter with Education?

I really enjoy listening to Sir Ken Robinson and this new video might be my favourite.

Sir Ken Robinson - Changing Education Paradigms.

Check out his site too!


As a parent and educator I don't know what the answer is, but I wish more of us were engaging in conversation with people like Sir Ken Robinson.  Inspiring!

Kids Say and Do the Darnedest Things.

Tonight at bedtime, I gave Sophie a kiss and said, "Goodnight!"

She said, "Can I look at a book?"

I said, "No, we already had story time."

"Then what can I do?"

"You can go to sleep because it is bedtime."

She said, "Boring!"

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Getting in Gear.

What gets you going?  What fires you up?  What motivates you to reach for your goals?  Have you ever really thought about it?  Can you actually identify what drives you?  Until recently I hadn't really spent much time considering what factors motivate me to act, to push through and strive to reach my goals.  Why?  Probably because I'm not really a goal-setter.  I see the value in having goals and I have buckets of dreams (as you've read), but I'm not so great at setting actual goals and I'm really bad when it comes to following through.  When I first set out this spring to find and create some balance in my life I briefly reflected on motivation.  I wrote about self-sabotage, lack of self-motivation and my own need to talk less and act more.  Since then I think my motivation to become the person I want to be and that I know I can be has increased, but at the same time my talkative nature and self-sabotaging ways have remained obstacles.  So, why?  Why is it that I know intellectually what I need to do to move forward and to progress towards my goals, but I still don't just do it?

The answer - fear.  I have realized (and probably have always known) that my motivation doesn't come from what I know, or from passion or even from desire, but from a place of fear.  My motivation for being a healthier and fitter me:  fear of being deserted and alone, fear of my own children being unhealthy or overweight, fear of being really sick,  fear of being unable to participate in my children's lives, fear of always being an observer, fear of being unattractive or maybe even unlovable, fear of being a poor role model for the girls, and fear of never feeling like I'm in control.  So if fear is what motivates me, what holds me back?  Fear of course.  My deterrents for being a healthier and fitter me: fear of failure, fear of pain, fear of my efforts going unrecognized, fear of appearing selfish, fear of taking time from my family, fear of the girls feeling neglected, fear of what my body might actually look like if I lost 40lbs, fear of always being the person who has to record everything they eat, fear of being question or criticised, fear of changing and still not being 100% happy, fear of shopping for new clothes, and fear of discovering I can't actually do it.  (Phew, how's that for a load of negativity!)

I don't mean to sound so miserable, that really isn't my point.  My point is that I've realized being both motivated and discouraged by fear doesn't work.  Two negatives just don't make a positive!  I realize that many of the fears that hold me back are 'just in my head', but they feel real and likely only success will help to ease them.  However, being motivated by fear is not going to work.  The fears that get me going mostly relate to other people and external forces, but I think that internal-motivation is far more powerful.  Feeling that being healthier and fitter is worthwhile just for me, just for how I will feel, should be my true motivation.  So, time for a re-write.

My motivation for being a healthier and fitter me:  fear of being deserted and alone truly enjoying being with JD and trusting in our relationship, fear of teaching my own children how to being unhealthy or overweight, fear of being feeling really sick healthy and energized,  fear of being unable to actively participating in my children's lives, fear of always being an observer having the guts and energy to try new things, feeling fear of being unattractive, or maybe even unlovable, comfortable in my own skin, and (gasp!) maybe even sexy, fear of being a poor strong female role model for the girls, and fear of never feeling like I'm being in control of how I live, taking the bull by the horns.  Time to get in gear! (How's that for cheesy pep-talk?  You should try it because it actually feels pretty good!)

"Studies Find Reward Often No Motivator"

Thursday, November 4, 2010

K as in Kindergarten.

I obviously believe in the public education system otherwise I never would have become a teacher.  That said I of course recognize that the system isn't perfect and that there is always room for improvement.  JD on the other hand doesn't have as much confidence in the system because he had some negative experiences and was exposed to a very flawed special education program.  From my limited experience and knowledge as a supply teacher I totally understand why he has the perspective he does.  I do believe that special education has taken great strides towards improvement from the 1980s, but I also believe that it is still one area of education that has not met its true potential.  So, it is with these perspectives that we follow Sophie into and through her first year and bit of schooling.

We have always viewed Sophie as a very articulate and bright girl.  She has a tremendous vocabulary, speaks clearly, loves to be creative and has a real passion for nature.  Despite her curiosity and conversation skills we started to feel a little worried last spring when it seemed like she wasn't really showing any progress in terms of literacy and numeracy skills.  From the beginning to end of her year in JK we couldn't see a lot of change.  Yes, she had a better pencil grip, could copy almost any letter or number with ease, and was able to count higher, but still we had this nagging feeling that not enough progress had been made.  Then Sophie brought home her report card in June and everything read as if she was at level, meeting expectations, and essentially developing "normally".  We breathed a tiny sigh of relief, and happily enjoyed the summer.

Through the summer and into the early part of this fall that same nagging feeling returned, and then began to grow.  We worried because Sophie couldn't recognize any letters past 'F', and although she could count to 30 she couldn't identify any numbers above five.  Adding to our concern was her increasing lack of interest, anxiety and unwillingness to take risks when we tried to practice these skills at home.  We made a decision not to push and not to force her because neither JD or I want her to see learning as negative or stressful venture.  So, we've been waiting and watching for that elusive light bulb moment when everything comes together and her little brain absorbs all the information being shoveled into it.

Then last week things changed.  Sophie came home from school so excited because she was able to work with Mr. Teacher on her letters and letter sounds.  In my most positive voice and with my most enthusiastic smile I said, "That is great!  Was it lots of fun?  What did you do?"  A steady flow of questions fell from my mouth as my stomach knotted and my mind raced because Mr. Teacher is the school's Special Education Resource Teacher.  You know, the teacher who is so overloaded with children who need individual attention that they don't generally have time to spare for kids who just need a "little extra help".  What was going on?  Why wasn't anyone telling us that they were worried about Sophie too?  And, how worried are they?  Should we be more worried?

I did get in touch with the teacher and she reassured us that at this point we shouldn't be too worried.  First of all, easier said then done.  Second, why does this feel like this is a great representation of what isn't working in the education system?  Here we are at home worried about Sophie, but thinking everything is okay because to-date we've been told she is right on track.  Meanwhile she is being given extra support by the classroom teacher and a resource teacher.  Just think, if we had been informed and told what kind of extra things they were working on we could have been complimenting their efforts by working with Sophie at home.  And, to not worry too much is impossible. 

JD had such a frustrating school experience and we want to avoid that for our kids at all cost.  Our goal is for our children to always put their best effort forward and to enjoy themselves while doing it.  I don't care if all they ever get is C's as long as they gave it their all and had fun!  That said, I think sometimes kids can't give it their all because their learning abilities don't match how we teach.  It is those children who need to be taught new strategies and offered alternate learning formats to succeed.  If Sophie is one of those kids whose path through learning is more curvy than others I want to recognize that early and give her the best vehicle to travel in as soon as possible.  This experience has made me feel like the education system doesn't have the sense of urgency that I do, and that perhaps we are embarking on a experience that will require us to be advocates for our daughter like never before.  Maybe all of this is nothing but Sophie not being quite ready, and maybe it is more.....only time will tell.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010


A while ago I wrote about waiting with excitement for Molly to start talking.  Although she really isn't talking yet she is starting to say a few words very clearly and every day she seems to have a new sound or gesture to indicate what she wants.  The list of words she is saying clearly is rather ironic:  Mama, Dada, up, bye-bye, eyes, baby, ball, bum (which usually includes a bum tap), and the ever important woof-woof.  She also has her own words/sounds for shoes, bottle, cup, more, zoo, book and so on.  Accompanying these new found words are two interesting phenomenons, temper tantrums and repetitive Mama calling.

The temper tantrums very closely resemble those that I associate with the terrible-twos/threes.  They usually occur after she has done her best to communicate her wants and JD or I have told her 'no'.  Molly has a stubborn streak and although she aggressively head-shakes 'no' when we do something she doesn't like she also refuses to hear 'no' from us.  The result of each 'no' fiasco is usually screaming, grunting and sometimes a full-out, throw-my-body-on-the-ground-and-cry-until-I-get-what-I-want session.  When Sophie was this age we also went through the pre-terrible-twos phase, but it was nothing like this.  I think Sophie was communicating verbally a little more, whereas Molly thinks she is speaking clearly to us when really all we hear is babble accompanied by lots of pointing.  So, we have tantrums and still hope for Molly to wake up one morning speaking in fully coherent English.  (A mother can dream can't she?)

The second phenomenon that Molly's new found voice has created is what I call the "repetitive-Mama".  It sounds something like this, "Ma, Mama, Maammaa, Ma, Mammmaaa, Mum, Mummm, Ma, Ma, Maammmaa..."  Followed by, "What Molly?"  And then, "Mama, Mama, Mama, Mama, Ma, Mum, Mum, Mama, Maaaammmmaaa!"  Me again, "Yes, Molly.  What can Mommy get for you?"  Then Molly laughs and giggles as if she has just told the funniest joke.  This dialogue can go on and on and on.  Just the other day it lasted easily for 5 minutes in the car.  Some mornings she is so engrossed in YELLING my name that she doesn't even notice I've come into her bedroom and am standing beside the crib.  I actually startled her one morning this week because she didn't realize I was there.  It happens during dinner, play time, bath time, anywhere and everywhere.  She will even walk right up to me and YELL "Mama" to get my attention...did I mention she YELLS it!  Although it is very cute and sweet at first to hear your baby trying "Mama" out it so many different ways the novelty quickly wears off.  We have now reached a point where Molly thinks it is a bit of game.  She yells "Ma", I respond and repeat.  Even at the tender age of 17 months the power of speech is addictive!  Now that she realizes how powerful her voice and words can be it is time to teach her to YELL "Dada".

Here is a sample of what my house sounds like:

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Small Successes

I've been at the gym now two to three times every week for the last 6 weeks.  My trainer is really great!  She has a great sense of humor and wants me to succeed - even if it hurts!  Finally, I have started to see some results.  I've only lost about 5 lbs, but I've lost 3% body fat which is a big deal because it means I'm building muscle and strength.  The most interesting changes are the ones that can't be measured.  For example, I have had to tilt my rearview mirror higher in the car.  I couldn't figure out why until I realized I was sitting straighter and taller.  A few people have also commented on my height.  I obviously haven't grown, but my posture is much improved.  I can carry Molly higher on hip and for longer distances before needing to switch sides or carry her with two arms.  I'm sleeping longer and better at night.  Although I still have a LOT of work to do I'm even noticing small changes in the shape of my body.  All very motivating and exciting!

The amazing part is that being physically active and going to the gym has never really been a part of my life, but suddenly it is just the norm.  Even Sophie asks me now if today is a gym day or if we are going for a walk.  Things are changing and to my surprise I like it.  I like being at the gym, working with the trainer and the sense of pride I feel as the weights get heavier and my strength improves.  I really was worried when I made this commitment that disaster was afoot, but these baby steps to success mean so much to me that by extension the process has become an enjoyable life line!  Who knew?  Me at the gym and enjoying it.  Maybe pigs can fly!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Kids Say and Do the Darnedest Things.

Discussing a fire drill at school that saw the kids standing outside for 25 minutes on the coldest day so far this fall.

Me:  Were you allowed to take your coats?

Sophie:  No, and it was cold.

Me:  How did you keep warm?

Sophie:  We tucked our hands in somewhere cozy and then jumped up and down.

Me:  Thinking:  Really? For 25 minutes.  The image of a school yard of 450+ kids with their hands tucked in their armpits while jumping up and down is priceless, even though I know she didn't mean everyone.  Saying:  Did you still have two recesses after that?

Sophie:  Yep, and you know what?  The best part was it was snack time as soon as we went in.

Kindergarten and already our priorities are straight - snack and recess a MUST.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Back to the Beginning.

I've just spent some time reading my very first posts from March 2010.  Reading about how I was feeling, what I was expecting and how I perceived my life about 8 months ago is very interesting.  It has highlighted for me how much changes and how much stays the same in short period of time.  For example, Molly is still big trouble and more bold than Sophie ever was as a toddler.  I'm still struggling to figure out how to include ME in MY life, and time is still speeding quickly by.  However, things are changing.  I've spent more time in the last few months doing little things for myself than I have in a long time, and although I haven't lost the "10 lbs" yet there is progress to report.

At the beginning of the September with the routines of school coming back into our life I decided it was a great time to add something new to the routine.  I have had a gym membership for about four years and used in periodically at best.  So, with membership in hand I marched my sorry-self into the gym had a fitness assessment.  Talk about an eye-opening experience!

The only thing I can compare the fitness assessment to is a professional bra fitting.  (For any woman who has ever had this experience you will understand the shock and awe I am about to describe, and for any woman who hasn't had a professional bra fitting - DO IT!  You will be shocked and awed.)  Everyone I know,  including myself, who has had a bra fitting has been utterly surprised by the outcome.  It is my understanding that most of us oversize our band and undersize our cup.  And if you are anything like me you were shocked by the actual cup size you needed, but awed by your new and improved smaller band size.  I remember leaving the lingerie store feeling empowered by my new found size, excited to wear my properly fitting and comfortable bra; but hesitant if not slightly disturbed by the actual size.  I actually remember thinking, "Really, they make cup sizes that big!"  Followed by, "I realize I've got big boobs, but this is verging on embarrassing."

Leaving my fitness assessment left me with similar feelings.  I was shocked by how poor my actual state of health was, yet awed by some of my own abilities.  For example, I discovered that my percent of body fat was quite high meaning that the strength I perceived myself to have was exactly that - perception.  However I also learned that I am quite flexible, perhaps more so than the average person.  I felt crummy afterwards, but empowered to take action.  I was excited to perhaps take real action and at the same time scared of the choice I was about to make.  So, with trepidation, anticipation and muscles that ached at the thought I committed to a large number of personal training sessions.  Yikes, what the heck was I thinking!  ME?  Non-athletic, happy to sit and read book or cuddle through multiple movies, lazy, un-motivated Me, was going to see a trainer?  Yep!  And, with about 12 sessions down progress is slow, but I'm doing it and that is the most rewarding part.

So, in about an eight month period I've come back to where I started.  Trying to include something in our weekly schedule that is for me and about me while trying to lose weight.  The interesting thing is that in the end my whole family is likely going to benefit from me taking a few hours every week to be without them.  Seems that walking the tightrope is all about ironies!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

The Baby Bully.

Molly is a bully.  Yep, I said it.  She really and truly is a bully.  Yesterday for example, we had only been up for a half hour and she had already made her big sister cry three times.  First, she deliberately picked up a baby doll, walked over to her sister and then slammed it across her face.  I know you think I'm crazy, but her actions were very intentional and clearly she was hoping for a reaction.  Sophie cried and Molly satisfied by the reaction walked away.  Of course I jumped in, made everyone kiss and moved Molly to the other side of the room.  I thought I had distracted Molly so I went on getting things ready to leave for the day, but Molly saw her opening.  For the second time in less than ten minutes Molly whacked Sophie over the face with the doll.  So doll went up high, Molly again was diverted to another activity and Sophie was kissed better.  Again attempting to get bags packed and everyone out the door I dropped everything I was doing at the sound of Sophie's screams for the third time.  Molly had twisted her fat little fingers into Sophie's crazy curls and was yanking and pulling with all her might.  Every time Sophie yelped Molly tugged again.  All of this in the first half hour of my day! 

Thankfully the babysitter reported a quiet and uneventful day with no more battles, but back at home all hell broke loose again at dinner time.  The short version - Sophie ended up with lovely baby teeth marks in her back.  Ouch!  Poor kid gets attacked when she least expects it!

JD and I are bewildered.  We never experienced this type of behaviour with Sophie; I suppose because she had no one to pick on.  Even stranger though is that Molly has the guts to be so aggressive towards someone bigger and stronger than her.  Thankfully, Sophie screams and cries which brings us running rather than taking matters into her own hands and fighting back.  I find myself wondering how much more Sophie can take and if she will reach a breaking point that causes her to hit, bite or pull back.  I obviously want to put an end to this behaviour so we don't reach that point, but I just don't know what to do. 

Clearly the old-fashioned divert and distract isn't working, time-out isn't an option at this age and Molly is too little to understand the concept of hurting someone.  We've told Sophie that she needs to do her best to move away from Molly as soon as she starts being mean, to keep her hair out of Molly's reach and to always tell us when Molly hurts her.  But, at the same time it is clear that Sophie expects some sort of justice.  She doesn't understand why Molly isn't punished in the same way as her. After all if she hurt Molly she would sit in time out and likely face other consequences, but here is Molly pulling her hair and then being offered a toy to distract her.  So, Molly the Baby Bully needs to be reigned in.  How?  I'm not sure, but the sooner the better!  Ideas???

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Turkey Tales.

It has been a while since I have had a chance to post; mostly because I was busy prepping, agonizing over and hosting my first family Thanksgiving.  I know you are likely wondering two things: first how it is that after being married for six years I have never hosted a large family function and second how it is that after being married for six years I was suckered into hosting a large family function.  Well, where do I begin?

We live in a relatively small townhouse and so for a long time now that has been my excuse for many things.  Christmas? We couldn't possibly.  Thanksgiving? Oh no, not enough room here?  Birthdays?  I guess, but only if we have just dessert.  And so I managed to wiggle my way out of hosting anything larger than a small family birthday party or a casual "lap" meal.  That is until now.

This year happened to be my in-laws 40th wedding anniversary, and so there seemed to be a need to celebrate the occasion.  As the scheming began a bit of a family brouhaha ensued, and I somehow found myself trapped in a family emailing drama that seemed to have no pleasant end in sight.  Finally (after six years of marriage), JD stepped up and took control of the party planning.  I think I mentioned in a previous post that usually I am the one responsible for all the planning and scheduling, but having had enough of his family's crazy antics JD put his best effort forward and planned what was to be a lovely evening out.  Despite his efforts and through not fault of his, JD's plans fell apart.  Before I knew it he was talking about hosting the Thanksgiving-Anniversary party at our house.  What?  Our house?  Yes, at our house.  Really?  Yes, really.

And, ta-da! Everyone was invited, food was purchased and plans fell in to place before I even had time to say, "No, no way, are you crazy, forget it, I'm not cooking for 10, STOP NOW!"  So, I quickly got on board with the plan and of course found myself in the "Party-Planning Drivers Sit".  In my crazy, type A, uptight, worry-wart way I schedule a cleaning or prep event for every day of the week leading into the party.  (By the way, sticky notes are truly the most addictive drug of choice to an over anxious, type A personality.  Buyer beware.)  I made coleslaw, cranberry relish, mashed potatoes, and more; while JD scrubbed toilets, moved furniture, washed floors and vacuumed.  I kept wondering if we were really doing this and how many members of JD's family would call Sunday to share their tales of post-dinner illness.

To my great relief Saturday went off without a hitch.  No one was made ill, there were no arguments, no one was inappropriately intoxicated, there was lots of conversation and very little leftovers!  The turkey was delicious, if I do say so myself!  I even received a lovely thank you note from a family member.  Score one for me!  Or at least until I thought about it for a minute.  Wait, does this mean my excuse is now invalid?  Am I going to have to do this again?  Oh, crap!  In hindsight I should have burnt at least one dish, cursed a little more in the kitchen and broken a serving dish as aggressively as possible without looking deliberate.  But with the party come and gone there is nothing I can do to correct my errors; and so with reserved pleasure I'm enjoying the aftermath of success.  All I can do now is hope that come Christmas I'm not hosting a party of 10 again, and if I am I will be sure to make many overt references to my sister-in-law's lovely hostessing abilities.

Okay, so I'm kidding.  It was a great day.  I enjoyed hosting my in-laws and even though my house is very small I would do it again any time.  Just don't tell them because I need at least a few months to rest up before doing it all again, and Christmas is only about 10 weeks away.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Kids Say and Do the Darnedest Things.

JD was encouraging Sophie to practice her new sight words that the teacher sent home.  She was getting frustrated and quickly forget that she was practicing words, and not letters.

JD held up a card, "What does this one say?"

Sophie guessed in whiny voice, "F........U.......Dad!"

And, we laughed while Sophie looked at us with an expression of both wondering and frustration.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Now entering the Twilight Zone...

...otherwise known as Parent School Council.  Sophie started at a brand-spanking new school this year which has many pros and cons.  One of the most obvious cons is the big empty school yard screaming for a playground, or even the large, barely stocked library desperate for more books to fill its shelves.  In an attempt to be a committed and dutiful parent I started thinking about joining Parent School Council over the summer months, and as the school year approached it occurred to me that joining council could serve me well as a supply teacher.  Since I am hoping to one day be lucky enough to be hired as a permanent, full-time teacher council seemed like a great way to build contacts with the principal, vice-principal and other teachers.  One month in and a few meetings down I've not only become a general member, but I belong to the fundraising committee and I'm making excellent parent and professional contacts.  Success!  Or is it?

I've always known that Parent School Councils are an interesting social phenomenon in and of themselves, but I completely underestimated the social dynamics of adults "doing what is best for their children".  Council is sort of like kids in the school yard being limited to a small 10 by 10 fenced area, required to pick teams for dodge ball, and all the while eating cotton candy and drinking litres of soda.  Everyone comes to the table with an idea of "what is best for their kid", but many people forget that the goal is "what is best for most kids".  As a result, their is agenda pushing, side choosing, and even a little bit of bullying.  I'm not saying that the adults on School Council actually argue or call each other names, but there definitely are "cool kids" who steer council in the direction that all the "cool kids" agree on.  I've yet to determine if and, or how I fit in with the "cool kids".  I'm not even sure if I want to fit in!  However, I'm committed now so with eyes squeezed shut and my blinders on I'm joining the game.  I've never been very good at dodge ball, but I love cotton candy so maybe the other kids will like me!

All that aside, I am adding one more challenge to our already busy family schedule but I'm very hopefully that joining council will allow me to help make Sophie's school experience the best it can be; while giving my professional life a little boost.  Be a joiner, go to Parent School Council!  ;-)

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Kids Say and Do the Darnedest Things.

JD:  What letter is this?  (Holding up a flashcard.)

Sophie:  Hmm....

JD:  Look at the picture.

Sophie:  An upper case fox.

JD:  I've never heard of an upper case fox before.

Me:  What do you mean Dad?  Aren't you an Upper Case Fox.

Sophie:  And, this is a lower case fox.

JD:  This is an upper case F and a lower case f.

Sophie:  That's what I said, f for fox.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Sticks and Stones

Poor Sophie came home from school on Tuesday, threw herself on the couch and sobbed because a little boy at school said something that hurt her feelings.  As much as Sophie is a happy-go-lucky kind of kid she also is very sensitive.  She hates it if we laugh at her when she unintentionally does something funny, she covers her ears when we tell stories about her or talk about her with another adult, and gets angry if we call her silly, endearing names.  She also is quick to express her feelings with us, but will keep silent around others when they upset her.  So on Tuesday when the little boy hurt her feelings she didn't tell him she didn't like it, she didn't tell the teacher, or even the sitter after school.  Instead, she kept it all in until she got home and then exploded from sadness and hurt.

We had lot of hugs and a talk about what to do if this happens again.  I tried to explain that sometimes people are just mean for no reason, and now that she knows how much it hurts she should always try to be kind.  The entire time we talked I felt like nothing was getting through and maybe even like she wasn't really understanding.  Then I told her that when her daddy and I were her age kids said mean things to us too, and that got her attention.  She was surprised and had lots of questions; the most important one being, "Did we cry?"  I thought this was a strange question until it occurred to me that she wanted to be told that it was okay to be sad, angry, hurt and cry a little bit.  She wanted her feelings to be validated; not a long list of what to do next time.  Feelings validated, more hugs and everything was right with the world again.

That is until this morning.  For the first time ever she was actually anxious, nervous and very unhappy to be going to school.  She didn't want to see the little boy again and didn't want the other kids to say mean things.  I managed to convince her that everything would be okay and that her teacher would help her if anyone hurt her feelings, but the whole time my heart was breaking.  Why is it, that even in kindergarten, we find ways to hurt each other?  Is it power?  Is it testing our ability to impact others?  What?  This little boy had no reason to target Sophie.  When I spoke to her teacher she told me that it didn't sound like the little boy at all, and yet her targeted my daughter.  This is when Mama Bear comes out and wants to stomp over to the school yard to give this kid a piece of my mind!  Not productive, I know, but there is just no way to protect Sophie from the hurt of mean words and I desperately wish there were. 

This is one part of parenting that hurts me as much as it hurts Sophie.  I only hope that she is brave enough and self-assured enough to know that mean words are only words, and that being loved by us and her friends is far more important.  And there it is, sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me....

Friday, September 24, 2010

Does your husband speak your native language?

After my husband and I were married he explained to me that he is actually bilingual.  I, of course, was impressed and eager to hear him speak french, Spanish or some other wonderful language.  As it turns out my excitement turned to confusion when he told me he was fluent in both English and Womanese.  Womanese?  What is that, you are asking?  Guess what, you already speak it?

Womanese is the language of those of us who care two X's instead of an X and a Y.  My husband loves to remind me that he speaks it fluently and clearly understands me every time I use Womanese.  Some of his favourite Womanese translations include: 

"It sure is cold in here, isn't it?"  Translation to English, "I'm cold.  Would you please pass me that blanket?"

"Are you thirsty, because I'm thirsty."  Translation to English, "Could you please get me a drink?"

"Wouldn't a cup of tea be nice right now?"  Translation to English, "Would you please make me a cup of tea?"

"Oh man, I'm tired tonight." Translation to English, "You sure as hell aren't gettin' any, so you better not even try!"

What my husband doesn't realize is that I'm just as fluent in Man-grunt as he is in Womanese.  For example, when he says, "Yep, uh-huh, yep, okay."  I know what he really means is, "I'm making these sounds because I want you to think I'm listening, but really I tuned you out a long time ago."  Another classic Man-grunt, "Sorry, I forgot."  Meanwhile he really means, "I wasn't totally listening to you when you told me that, and now I'm sorry that I wasn't listening because I don't want to listen to you now." 

The lesson is that for every classic Womanese request there is an equally passive Man-grunt response.  The problem is when an entire conversation takes place with me speaking Womanese and him replying in Man-grunt.  Again an example, including translation:

"Honey, does this outfit make me look fat?"
"Honey, I'm feeling crappy and grumpy."

"Do you want the truth?"
"Oh god, are you about to bite my head off no matter what I say?  Are you grumpy or looking for a compliment?"

"Of course I want the truth because I want to know whether or not I should change." 
"What is that suppose to mean, the truth? Does that mean you would lie and tell me that I look great when I don't?  Does that mean I do look fat and you don't want to get in trouble?" 
This is where things get dicey for my husband.  If he answers yes he knows he is going to hear about it and I'll spend another half hour attempting new outfit combinations, but if he answers no he is going to be forced to listen to "Are you sure?  Are you telling the truth?" and I'm probably still going to spend another half hour trying on new outfit combinations.  Which is all really womanese for, "How can I believe you know?  Why would you ask me if I want to know the truth if you were just going to say I looked fine anyway?  That's it, I just want to stay home in my sweatpants!"

The solution to this problem would be to just speak plain old English.  But, since English isn't either of our first language what are the chances of that?  I don't think I should be forced to speak anything but my mother-tongue while in the comforts of my own home, so I guess my husband will just have to continue translating.  I figure with two daughters it is probably good for him to maintain his Womanese language skills; otherwise the teenage years are going to be a very bumpy ride.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

My Househusband.

Since I left my job about four years ago I've described myself as a student, a mom and so much more, but never have I used the term "housewife" to describe myself.  So yesterday when someone else grouped me with what she called "desperate housewives" I was a little taken aback.  Not offended really, just surprised.  To me the term "housewife" has always seemed a little antiquated.  I feel like it undermines and minimizes all the things that woman do in (and outside of) the home.  Being a "housewife" to me somehow implies that there was no conscious decision made to work in the home versus outside the home.  And, I think we all know that most women who choose not to work outside of the home likely did not come to the decision lightly or without doing some serious soul searching. 

This got me to thinking about the roles that my husband and I have in our home.  Yes, I'm the primary caregiver for our children, I make most of the meals, do all of the grocery shopping, pay all of the bills, do all the laundry and so on, but my husband does his fair share too!  He works full-time, is the primary child "entertainer", does most of the floor mopping and vacuuming, is usually the toilet cleaner and garbage taker-outer.   One of his many nicknames is "Poo-Daddy" because his main responsibility when home is diaper changing, especially the #2 kind.   He is mister fix-it, the house painter and dry-waller, the garage cleaner and....I could keep going but I won't.  My point is that if a housewife is someone who cares for most of the family's needs and tends house too, then I think I've found myself a "househusband" who also happens to work full-time.

I bet most couples are just like us; and as often as we (women) shake our heads in astonishment and annoyance at the mystery that is our husband we probably should be saying, "Thanks!"  Thanks for working full-time, engaging with our children, and helping with chores!  Thanks for evolving from the man of the 1950's to the one who changes a poopy diaper, washes dishes, reads bedtime stories and maybe even buys tampons.  So JD and other hardworking husbands/wives, thanks for everything you do! 

(And honey, you might want to print this, read it carefully and highlight all the tasks you need to add to your honey-do-list because yes I have been speaking womanese.)  ;-)

Monday, September 20, 2010

He and I.

Warning to the reader:  I'm going to try and dedicate my next few posts to my marriage and being a wife.  So if your stomach gets queasy when you watch a sickly sweet romantic movie with lots of extra cheesiness you may want to stop reading now.  You've been fairly warned!

My husband and I are about three weeks from our sixth wedding anniversary, and have been together for almost 13 years.  After what already seems like a lifetime I find myself taking stock of our life and marriage.  For example, I've reached the "old-age" of 30, Sophie is almost FIVE (what? already?), Molly is creeping into toddlerhood, we have a home, two cars, jobs, debt, bills, schedules, and all the other married adult stuff too.  All that stuff is just the window dressing though, so what do we really have?

We love each other, and I would say we like each other most of the time.  ;-)  We argue, but have learned to navigate our way through even the most heated "discussions".  We don't have much in common when it comes to hobbies (and never have), but we support each other and enjoy talking about each others interests.  We both love our children and love being with them.  Family time is a must for both of us!  We give advice to each other and do our best to help each other navigate work, parenting and family life.  We have date nights and love them.  We still cuddle, hold-hands, say goodnight with a kiss and "I love you" is part of our daily dialogue.  We have dreams, goals and memories.  We laugh together, cry, smile and tease.  We miss each other when we don't see each for a few days, and get sick of each other when we don't spend a minute apart.  We often hold hands when we fall asleep and enjoy being together (wink, wink) more than ever before.  I still think my husband is sweet, sexy and kind; while, he still pays me compliments and tells me he is proud of all that I do.  We can finish each other sentences, laugh at our ability to "read" each others' minds, and have our own married couple's language that includes "You know, the thing at the the place".  We are tired together and energized by each other.  We love quiet Sunday nights and sneaky PDAs.  We love lots of things and share even more.  Notice I say "we".

Our identities have become so entangled that sometimes it is hard to tell where he starts and I begin. That's the great thing about us though.  We are sort of like two different vines that grew up different sides of a wall, met at the top and continued to grow but in a big tangled mess.  We have different roots and little side shoots that go their own way, but one vine supports the other.  The higher the tangled mess grows the harder it is to imagine pulling apart, and so we stay comfortable, in love and forge our own way.  Good or bad?  I'm not sure, but we work hard each day to be who we are and to be together the way we are.  That's how I know all we have is worth it - because we are both willing to put effort into our marriage.  We work for it with energy and pride.  I couldn't ask for any thing more.  (Well, maybe a tropical, kid-free holiday but that too shall come! Right, honey???)

Sunday, September 19, 2010

What Mommies Say.

In making my way deeper into the blog-o-sphere I have come across some really terrific mommy blogs.  Stay-at-home moms, working moms, traveling moms, first-time moms, moms of many, homeschooling moms, and so many more all seem to be out there in the world of blogging.  I have found true pleasure in stumbling across a mommy blog written by someone completely different than me yet having similar experiences parenting their children.  It is grounding and reassuring to know that most of us face the same joys and challenges while navigating the world of kids.  I tip my hat to all those moms out there who are working hard every day to "get it right" in their own way!

Every time I come across a new blog about parenting I am not only struck by the common themes of happiness, joy, frustration, puzzlement and wonder, but by the amount of "mommy talk".  Although, I am happy to find these little gems and feel connected to others, I am also reminded that sometimes we Mommies do ourselves a real disservice by leaving the other parts of ourselves behind.  So many times moms complain that people only seem willing or able to ask them about their children.  I myself have made this very complaint; after all I'm still an intellectual person who tries to be knowledgeable about world events and the community around me.  And yet, many times I find myself only discussing my children or topics somehow related to them.

Here in lies the problem, as much as we want to be recognized as a whole person, an adult, and not just a parent we do ourselves a disservice by bringing most topics back to our children and how the world at large relates to our lives as moms.  I know that I will never stop sharing my children and mommy-life with others because for me it is my MOST important role.  However, I am going to try harder to engage the people around me in conversation that reflects the other parts of me.  After all, if all I put out there for others to see is my mommy-side how will they know that I am more than that?  How will they know that my life is a balancing act of wife, mother, daughter, sister, teacher, student, community member and of course just being me?  Its my job to show them by sharing all of me!

I look forward to continuing to read great mommy-blogs and can't wait to learn all about the whole person that each mommy is!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Kids Say and Do the Darnedest Things.

Me:  Ugh, why do you guys always make a mess faster than I can clean up?!?!

Sophie:  Oh Mom, kids eh?

Me:  Yep, kids!

Sophie:  Well Mom, maybe you should just pack-up and get your own house and then you can keep it just how you like it!

Side story - the day before I had reminded Sophie that the couch cushions weren't for fort building, and we had a chat about when you have your own home you make your own rules, etc.  Guess this one came back to bite me in the butt.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Anonymity and a Little More About Us.

As most of you know or have realized I am trying my best to keep some anonymity while keeping this blog. I've been doing this for a variety of personal reasons and also to increase my own comfort level with writing on a range of topics. It is important to me to be able to be open and transparent, and having a bit of a disguise helps me do this. All that said, I'm finding blogging to be getting a little complicated because I haven't shared the names of my family members. I have decided that the easiest way to solve this problem is to use pseudonyms for my family, as I did for myself. For those of you who know me I hope it isn't too odd reading about my kids and husband with different names. For me it is very strange to be re-naming my kids and (especially) my husband, but I'm looking forward to using names instead of "my oldest", "my baby", "my five-year-old daughter" or some other descriptive for my family members.

So here it goes! The big reveal: Sophie is my oldest daughter, and almost five years old. She is in Senior Kindergarten this year, enjoys putting on dance shows and concerts, loves animals and is going trough a questioning phase right now. Sophie likes to be a big helper, is a bit of a drama queen and almost always asks permission before doing something naughty.

Molly is my "baby" and well on her way to being a year and a half old. She is learning how to run and will likely be talking before too much longer. She loves her big sister, cuddles and puppy dogs. Molly is an adventurer and known to make trouble.

JD is my terrific husband. As you've already read he works shift work and long hours which means he isn't at home as much as we would like, but when he is here he is a great dad and husband. He is always up for an adventure, loves to be physically active and hates to read. Pretty much we are polar opposites, but somehow we work anyways. We've been together since we were teenagers, married for six years and make it through most days by talking about EVERYTHING. Literally there is nothing we won't say to each other. Mean, kind, loving, brutally honest, disgusting and romantic we've said it all and we think that's the key to our success. No topic is off limits and honesty is the name of the game, add a date or two to the mix and you've got us as couple!

So there you have it. My blog-o-sphere family: Sophie, Molly, JD and Sadie. Weird, but wonderfully mine!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

The Encyclopedia of Sleep Positions.

At our house we often discuss the unusual, funny and sometimes uncomfortable sleep positions we find our children in. Over time I've started to wonder if each position is our child's attempt to send us a message. For example:

Curled up tight at the top of the bed right next to the pillows = Hey, I'm freezing! Warmer jammies tomorrow please.

Pressed against the crib rails with legs and arms tangled in them = I tried hard to escape this cage tonight, but I just didn't make it!

Sideways in the crib with head pressed tight against one side and leg sticking out between the rails = I NEED a bigger bed already! Come on guys!

Spread eagle with arms and legs stretched right out = Thanks for the busy day today, guys. I'm extra tired tonight!

And my personal favourite, fetal position with bum right up in the air = Humph, see if I'm going to be nice to you tomorrow! This position also takes on a somewhat cheekier meaning when you have a daughter that likes to wear nightgowns. :-)

How do you perceive your kid's sleep positions? Have any to add or modify? Love to hear them!

Back to School.

Yesterday was my daughter's first day of Senior Kindergarten. She seemed happy to be going and only expressed the smallest amount of anxiety. Me on the the other hand? I easily went pee five times before we left for school yesterdat, didn't want to leave the school yard until I knew she was safely settled inside and literally counted down the hours until I could pick her up.

I spent the day wondering if she was making friends, did she eat all her lunch, was her teacher kind, did she remember to go to the bathroom, did she get lost, did she have playmates at recess, was she polite and were her classmates kind to her too? Of course everything was fine and she came home happy, tired and ready to go back. Phew!

Ironic how my own child's return to school brings up many of the worries I had as as kid going to school. Some things just don't change!

Monday, September 6, 2010

All Part of a Balanced Weekend.

This afternoon my husband and I had a quiet moment by ourselves to reflect on our busy weekend. Saturday we spent a rainy, dreary day at home with our girls. Napped, read, TV watched, bike rides, library visits and general relaxation were all on the schedule. We literally had a day with a little bit of everyone's favourite activity. Sunday my husband left early for the beach to go surfing. When the girls and I woke up a few hours later we made the sponatneous decision to head to the beach too. It was windy and too cold for swimming, but we spent most of the day just hanging out and having fun while Daddy spent time doing something he loves. Monday the girls went to my Mom's house and we managed to sneak in a date at the movies. It was lovely to be away and have some time together. Movie dates are one of my favourite activities. We capped the weekend off with a great dinner with my parents and everyone went to bed tonight tired, but happy.

While reflecting on our busy, fun-filled weekend my husband and I came to the conclusion that we had finally managed to create a balanced weekend. A balance of fun activity and peaceful quiet. We included a little bit of something for everyone and not one of us could say that we didn't do something just for them. I started wondering why we don't have more of these weekends. Why don't we all feel this sort of satisfication every Sunday (holiday Monday) night? The most obvious reason is that a holiday Monday offers a whole extra day, but still there must be a way to create the same balance on a regular weekend. So what's holding us back?

The answer: expectations. My husband and I have this sense that other people have expectations of us and our time. When it comes to the weekend we feel a strong pull to spend time with our parents, to clean our home and to do a million fun things with our girls. This weekend we spent a limited amount of time visiting, we didn't clean a single thing and although we didn't focus 100% of our time and energy on our daughters they still had a blast. I think this is what people call a light bulb moment, actually a few light bulbs. First light bulb, our kids can and do enjoy the things we like to do. Second light bulb, yes we need to visit family but not every weekend because we have our OWN family. (This is more of a reminder than a light bulb.) Third, our home did not crumble and no one cares that we didn't clean the bathrooms or mop the floors. Priorities shift, and a lovely, enjoyable weekend becomes possible. As it turns out those so-called expectations are likely slightly self-imposed. I am not surprised, but certainly intrigued to have discovered yet another self-inflicted phenomenon that causes imbalance in our lives.

I'm not so deluded as to believe every weekend can be this way, but I certainly am comitted enough to my family to see the importance and value in creating well-rounded family time. I'm looking forward to including our daughters more in our hobbies, to incorporating more do nothing days into our weekends and feeling a sense of satisfication on Sunday night as I fall asleep. Cheers to a great weekend and many more!

Friday, September 3, 2010

To the Person Who...

Sometimes when I'm out and about I play this little game with myself. This game has become my tool for self-editing because anyone who knows me well is likely to tell you that I'm typically blunt and honest to a fault. Most people might even describe my bluntness as "witchy". I have to say it isn't my intent to be mean, but for heavens sakes some people are just plain crazy!

The game usually starts when something grabs my attention that is just a little off or sometimes outright annoying. I don't specifically look for things out of the ordinary, but every once and a while you just see or hear something that makes you look twice or listen harder. Once the item has caught my attention I write a note in my head to the person involved. Here are some samples:

"To the man in the grocery store: I realize that you are impressed by your bird tweeting talent and that you are expressing yourself in a way that you find pleasurable. However, for the 5 minutes it took you to pack your groceries the rest of us were trying to figure out if there was a bird trapped in the store. Once we realized it was you we were all just irritated. Next time, please pack faster or save the tweeting for the car and/or shower. Thanks!"

"To the woman out shopping today: I hope you realize that you are an attractive woman with great legs, but white shorts with large elasticized leg holes is not a good look. In fact, from the back they sort of resembled an adult diaper. It is called the "Junior Department" for a reason. Time to move on and find some shorts that will flatter your great legs!"

"To the woman walking UP and DOWN the big hill: I assume the barrel strapped to your back is an attempt at an environmentally friendly backpack. I'm just wondering though, what do you do when your keys fall to the bottom? I know my arms would be too short to reach right to the bottom and get them out. By the way, I drove past you twice today and the second time I was wondering why you didn't take your barrel off, put the desk on top and roll it down the hill rather than carry that big desk all the way to the bottom. And by yourself too! Yep, rolling it on the barrel-backpack would have been far more practical."

"To the couple stopped beside me at the traffic light: I know as parents we are always rushing around, but for your safety and that of your children please buckle them in. Just because they are big enough to ride in a booster seat doesn't mean they are mature enough to understand the importance of buckling. Please buckle them!"

So, you get the idea right. I vent my frustration, puzzlement and wonder using my "internal voice". I suspect that my notes likely sound judgemental, but I would argue that I am expressing confusion, distress and annoyance in a socially acceptable manner. (In other words, keeping it to myself rather than running around yelling out at people.)

I know that so many of us, including myself, strive to be fashionable, environmentally aware, prompt, sensitive to the less fortunate, musically talented, athletic, passionate or whatever it is that we value as important. BUT, do these things have to come at the expense of practicality or common sense. I mean common on...a barrel as a backpack...let's get real, there must be a bag made from hemp fabric or bamboo fabric that would serve the same purpose. If any of you who know me well EVER catch me doing, saying, or wearing something that lacks common sense and practicality, or is just down right obnoxious I invite you to call me out. Do it, please!!!

Oh yes, and one more note I've stored in my brain for many months now: "To the man who parked beside me at the mall: I am sorry that you found the sight of me nursing my 12 week-old baby in the relative privacy of my own car offensive. However, I found your staring and snide comment to your friend offensive. Let me point out that you did not see my nipple, any breast you did see looked no different than my arm, and that's what breasts are for. Grow the f*$& up, and look away if you don't like it!"

Common sense and practicality, come on now!

Monday, August 30, 2010

"I have a really good question!"

As I mentioned in the post before this one my oldest daughter has become a bit of a handful. She has turned into a super inquisitive kid in the last few weeks and is asking all kinds of questions that very often I'm not prepared for. The biggest of these questions was, "Where did the very first person come from after the dinosaurs died?"

She asked me this about three weeks ago and I didn't answer her right away. I honestly didn't know what to tell her. I couldn't figure out how I was going to explain evolution in a 5 year-old friendly way that wouldn't make her think the monkeys in the zoo were going to lose their hair, start wearing clothes and become her new classmates. Kids her age really don't understand the passage of time and I just didn't know how I was going to explain to her a concept that takes millions and millions of years to occur.

While pondering my dilemma and side stepping her question a bunch of times it occurred to me that if my husband and I were religious questions like this would be easier. Now, I hope no one takes offence to what I'm going to say because it is not my intention to belittle religion or make light of its importance, but I have been wondering in what ways religion might make parenting easier. For example, in this case I could have explained to her that God created Adam, Eve and the Garden of Eden. Since most 5 year-olds are still magical thinkers, can imagine wonderous things, and really do have the ability to be true believers this bible story would answer her question. I know that my daughter would love the story of Eden. She would listen intently and likely the discussion would end as quickly as the question appeared.

While pondering the ways that religion might make parenting easier it also occurred to me that it might make parenting harder. For example, what if my beliefs conflicted with things my children were taught in school? I suppose it would then be my responsibility to carefully explain why I believed something different. I can't even begin to imagine some of the other challenges that might be presented, especially in these times when religion is linked to so much world conflict. With this, I come full circle to where I started. Parenting is hard. Answering our kids questions can be hard too. Doesn't matter the question or our beliefs, giving a satisfying answer can be a challenge in the best situation.

In the end all my worrying and side-stepping was irrelevant. I finally just laid it out there and told her that sometimes with lots of time going by animals slowly changed to become other animals. Then we talked about how monkeys did some things like us and how maybe they changed, and changed until there was the first person. She seemed satisfied and had a few more questions, but all went well. Until I took the fateful step. I said, "But not all people believe the same thing. Some people believe that God made people and everything else on Earth." Oh no! I could see it in her eyes, the wheels in her brain building momentum and...phew. The next question I anticipated didn't come, but I'm still waiting to be asked, "Who is God?" And, I have absolutely no idea how to answer that one! Maybe she will surprise me and ask me another tough one like, "What is a rainbow?", "How does the fridge work?" or "How are babies made?" (Funny thing is I wouldn't put it past her to ask exactly those questions and in exactly that order.)

Going to get out the dictionary and encylopedia now. I'll let you know how it goes...

Words, Words, Everywhere.

I begin many of my days waiting with bated breath. Just waiting. Waiting for the words to spill forward. Waiting with excitement for my baby to speak her first, true and clear word; and, waiting with anxiety for my older daughter's big question of the day.

My 15 month-old is making lots of sounds and "words" that we translate in to some sort of meaning. For example, she says bye-bye, book, bottle, baby, blanket, bottle... Are you noticing a pattern? Yes, she has mastered the 'b' sound and with a little finger pointing can clearly indicate to use which 'b' word item she wants. We manage to communicate quite well with her, especially since her understanding of what we say to her is growing in leaps and bounds. The only time we really have trouble is when she is after something that doesn't start with that beloved 'b' sound, and then it is a chaotic mess of pointing, grunting, leg hugging and guessing until we get it right. So it is with excitement and anticipation that we impatiently wait every day to hear her first word that doesn't require parental translation to adult english. (In other words, we are waiting for her to say something that any adult will clearly understand.)

On the other hand, my almost 5 year-old will speak incessantly, all day long, if allowed and not interrupted. We have advanced past the "Why?" phase and into a whole new level of conversation. Her latest conversation starter is, "I have a REALLLY good question...." The second I hear these words my heart skips a beat and my brain goes into overdrive attempting to guess what topic she is going to tackle next. In the last few weeks I have been asked: how fabric is made, how do clouds make shape art in the sky, why her Grandmother's cat doesn't wear a collar, how is glass made, why do people move, what was the very first animal, and (the grand-daddy of all questions) where did the very first person come from after the dinosaurs died?

Deep breath, what, ask me that again, uh, well-um, let me think for a minute...GULP. I'm glad she is inquisitive, loves to learn and is eager to hear all about the world around her. BUT when it is 5:30 and dinner is burning in the pot, the baby is screaming, TV is blaring and the phone starts ringing I can NOT for the life of me remember how glass is made, where fabric comes from and what the heck is a cloud that makes shape art!?!?!?

One of the many ironies of parenting - we can't wait for our babies to speak, to say Mama/Dada, to verbally show us they know about the world around them. Once they do talk we curse the back-talk, give responses like I don't know, because I said so and ask me again later, and to top it off we ask them to stop talking all of the time. Then when life slows down for a minute and we really take the time to listen to what they are saying we are amazed. Amazed by their magical thinking, by their curiosity and intuitiveness, their ability to see the world in a way we don't. Sure I've laid in the grass and named all the things I could see in the clouds, but never did I consider that my imagination had nothing to do with it and that the clouds were putting on a shape art show purely for my pleasure. Amazing!

Whether it be a first word or what feels like a million words in less than a minute they are all important, valuable and worth listening too. Even when they sneak out of bed at 9:30 to tell you one more "important" thing before they fall asleep. After all if it is important to our kids, isn't it important to us too?

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Busy being...

...miserable. Had a bit of a grumpy week and stayed away from here in order to save everyone from my down in the dumps attitude. Happy to report that I've made a big decision that hopefully will turn things around. I'm feeling committed to my goals and ready to turn the so-called page, and start working towards the life/lifestyle that I envision for myself. Stay tuned for more details!

Monday, August 23, 2010

The Beer Bubble Bath: A New Trend Among Mommies!

After a great, but tiring weekend away I was in desperate need of some quiet time last night. The girls were sound asleep and my husband wasn't home from his weekend adventure yet, so I began to ponder all the possibilities.

Not long after that I found myself soaking in a hot bubble bath with one of my husband's bottles of beer open in one hand and a bag of chips propped just right against the outside of the tub for my other hand to reach into. For one split second it crossed my mind that it was probably really weird to be drinking beer and eating chips in the bathtub, but somehow it seemed like pure luxury and total self-indulgence. My beer-bath was followed by a fresh set of jammies, cuddling up in bed, and reading in pure silence until I fell asleep. Perfect from beginning to start! (Well, wine and a back rub in the tub would have made it better but with no wine or husband in the house I had to improvise.)

So simple, yet so necessary. I woke this morning feeling energized and ready to go. The irony is that my girls are spending their first full day at the babysitter's house today so they won't benefit from my rejuvenation. But, my husband is home for most of the day before heading to work which means we might actually be able to have a lunch date where neither of us feels the need to head home early for a nap! I'm telling you every Mommy and Daddy should find a way to carve out one hour every day for pure self-indulgence. Totally worth it, mind you I might skip the beer and chips next time!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

The Babysitter.

It was with some trepidation and anxiety that I parted ways with our babysitter over a year ago. She had lovingly cared for my oldest daughter for two-years, had assisted in potty-training, witnessed milestones and from time to time offered parenting advice. But with the arrival of a new baby and some changes in logistics with my oldest starting school it just wasn't realistic or practical to continue care with her.

Since then, I've mostly been home with the girls, except for while my husband was laid-off earlier this year and some days that I supply taught after he went back to work. This spring when my husband and I decided it was time for me to stop playing at stay-at-home-mom and really get serious about re-joining the workforce it meant looking for new childcare. Of course it was with even greater trepidation and anxiety than before that I set out on the hunt. When I finally found someone earlier this summer I was pleased at how well our parenting philosophies and styles seemed to mesh. I was happy that my girls would again be in a home daycare setting, that there would be other children their ages, and most importantly that I had found someone willing to take both of them. Yeah! Right?

This week they started their transition into her care. All of those things that I was so happy about seemed to mean little to nothing as I prepared to take them there for an afternoon visit. I wasn't really worried about my oldest. She loves other kids and is always looking for a playmate. But, when we were eating lunch before leaving she got very anxious, teary-eyed, and told me that she didn't want to go. "Oh-oh" I was thinking as we chatted about how fun it would be and why I was going back to work. Concern for my oldest distracted me from thinking about the baby for a minute. At almost 15 months I had never left her with anyone other than family. I remembered leaving my oldest daughter when I went back to work and it was hard, and harder still after switching her care from a family member to our last babysitter. Of course everything worked out and we ended up adoring our babysitter, but this time seemed different. Two kids to worry about, a new school and a new schedule. Plus my youngest, though more sociable, is also more dependent and for whatever reason she and I have a closer bond. With heart aching and pounding at the same time, I loaded the girls in the car and off we went.

Drop-off was smooth and when I picked them up a few hours later they both were happily playing. Nothing to have worried about. Today being day number two I figured my youngest would lose it when we got there. I thought that after being there once she would know what was going on and not be happy. I was wrong! The sitter opened the door and in walked both the girls. My oldest stopped to say 'hello' and take her shoes off, but my youngest just kept walking. She toddled right into the living room and began scoping for toys. I waved good-bye and was out the door without even having closed it when I went it. Success! Right?

If I'm honest I'm happy that I've found what seems to be a safe, happy and loving place for them to be when we can't be with them. BUT, I'm feeling a little crushed, a little sad and a just a little heart-broken. It is so ironic that as parents we strive for our kids to be well-rounded, social and kind while trying to strike balance between our work, parent, and personal lives; and then, when we see the first signs of having achieved this goal we are a little hurt. Hurt that our kids don't cry for us the way we silently ache for them when they are away from us. Letting our babies grow-up is so very bittersweet. In a short while I will happily go pick my girls up, hopefully receive "happy-to-see-you-Mommy" hugs and kisses, and as we leave the sitters enjoy a moment of pride realizing that my girls have hearts big enough to love their parents and care for all the other people who help to raise them. For me that is an accomplishment! My husband and I are raising two, sweet little girls who know how to care for and enjoy the company of others. Bittersweet!

Shedding it all.

Its been a busy week of lightening loads. A little while ago an overwhelming need to purge my home of "stuff" came over me. When I told my husband what I wanted to do he said, "We don't have 'stuff'. We don't have big screen TVs and a thousand electronic gadgets to get rid of." This is true, but we do seem to have a collection of lots of little odd things and so off I went. I started in our bedroom and I managed to pack up 4 bags of old clothes for charity, another three of damaged clothes, old magazines, broken things never to be fixed and more. I packed up boxes of books too, which is accomplishment since I usually feel I must keep EVERY book I read. After all that I realized that was just ONE room! I'm now imagining how light I'm going to feel after doing the whole house, room by room.

Two interesting things have arisen during this process. First, I've realized that my husband is a far worse offender than I am when it comes to poor house keeping skills and being a pack-rat. I found receipts in his dresser from before we were married, boarding passes from our honeymoon, t-shirts that he owned when we first started dating in the late 1990's, old glasses, and on and on it went. I don't think the poor guy knew what hit him when he saw what I'd done, but out with the old and in with the fresh!

The second interesting event is that somehow this load lightening has re-motivated me to return to my original goals when I set out blogging. So, all excuses aside I dragged my tired, head-aching body to the gym last night and managed to find the energy to stay for an hour of cardio. I'm intrigued by this idea of the impact your physical environment has on your mental and physical state of being. Any time I've heard people talk about how de-cluttering or altering their home and surroundings changed their life entirely I secretly think to myself, "That's a load of crap!" while I politely grin and nod. But now I'm starting to wonder. I'm wondering if living in chaos has been so overwhelming for me that I've just let everything else get out of control too.

I know you are now thinking I'm some kind of hoarder or that I live in filth which is far from the truth, but I'm not great at putting things away and there are a thousand other things I'd rather do than organize toys, fold laundry or sort through old books and magazines; and as a result things get shoved in closets or put in Rubbermaid bins under beds. The trouble with this is all these things eventually become mountains of "stuff" that we don't need, don't use and eventually forget we have. So, I'm purging my house and in a surprising turn of events my life. I'm looking forward to seeing the final outcome...only trouble is it took 2 days to do the bedroom so by my calculations it might take 12 days to do the whole house and another 3 or 4 for the garage. Add to that my impending return to work and being a mommy, it might take a lifetime to get it all done!!! ;-)

But....it will be worth it!

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Kids Say and Do the Darnedest Things.

Yesterday after dressing herself in play jewels and necklaces I witnessed my daughter having the following conversation with herself in the mirror:

"Man, I likkke IT! I REALLLLY likkkke IT!"

Long pause while admiring herself.

"I look nice today!"

Can we say personality!

Friday, August 6, 2010

Acts of selfishness? (Watch out, opionated!)

Last summer I read an interesting article in Maclean's magazine entitled, "The case against having kids". The premise of the article is that increasingly individuals and couples are making the well thought-out and conscious decision not to have children. However, many people who make this choice are often criticized for going against the social norm and labeled as self-centered, not willing to give themselves to others. I tend to disagree with this view. I think that anyone who carefully assesses their life and comes to the conclusion that children are not in their future are actually making a rather thoughtful choice. After all, is it better to meet social expectations by having children you may not really want thereby increasing the chances of becoming a selfish, neglectful and resentful parent, or is it better to live your life happily while being true to yourself? The latter I think.

Since I read the article I have come across this debate a few times in the media, and each time I find myself intrigued by the whole discussion surrounding whether or not it is good or bad, selfless or selfish to have children. The point that bothers me the most is when individuals express the point of view that parents are actually selfish for deciding to have children. There is a train of thought that adding more kids to our population is bad for the environment, they are expensive, the only reason people have children is for a sense of self-gratification and that becoming a parent allows individuals to run away from life. As a parent my only reactions is....WHAT? I'm selfish for having children?

Who knows maybe by having children I am doing harm to society at large, but the same can be said for owning a car, buying non-environmentally friendly cleaning products and eating meat. So on those counts alone I'm already going to hell. As for the self-gratification and running away from life parts - I feel that the parents I know didn't have children for either of these reasons. And here's why:

As women wish and hope to get pregnant, but when we do are bodies morph, change and alter in ways that we never dreamed. Before too long we don't even recognize our bodies as our own, and some of those changes last a lifetime. Is this selfish?

When our babies are in womb we dream of seeing them and holding them, but when they arrive we are shocked into a state a sleep deprivation that drives us to be emotional, erratic and sometime outright crazy. Is this selfish?

We urge our children to hit the big milestones like crawling, walking and talking, but when they do our lives become even more turned upside down, and both physical and emotional exhaustion become the new normal. Is this selfish?

We love that our children need us. They need us to cuddle to care for them and to be with them always, but we do this at the cost of other adult relationships. Both marital relationships and friendships become more difficult as our time is stretched thinner. Is this selfish?

We wipe bums, we clean throw-up, we stay up countless nights rocking and cuddling our children, we give up all-inclusive holidays with tropical cocktails for Disney World and the beach, we wipe snotty noses and we spend 15 minutes dressing our kids in their winter wear just to spend another 30 minutes undressing and redressing them because they need to go pee. Is any of this selfish?

Parenting is hard-work. It doesn't end at 5 o'clock or even once your little ones are asleep. It can also be a lonely and patience-testing job, and for many of us it includes some sort of self-sacrifice. Far from selfish I think.

So never would I call another adult who carefully and consciously makes the choice not to have children selfish, but in turn don't call me selfish either. Yes, I'm rewarded with hugs, kisses, cuddles and a million other daily treats, but I'm also giving everything I've got everyday to two little people who depend on me, as are most other parents. Having or not having children? Good or bad? Selfish or selfless? How about none of those things? How about, having/not having children is a very personal decision that should reflect your own personal goals, values and dreams. You decide and then let's support each other in that choice!

Oh yeah, and to the people who say things like, "I chose not to have children so I shouldn't have to pay for other peoples kids, like paying taxes that go to the education system." Two questions for you: 1) Did you go through the education system? Yes, well now you are simply paying for that education. 2) One day when you are old and gray may you need a doctor, lawyer, plumber, electrician, bus driver, or other professional to help you? Well guess what? That professional might just be my kid. Do you want to help pay for their education now, because I'm think a doctor who can't read or write might be a scary thing! Now that I've got that off my chest I think its time for a mind-numbing movie...

P.S. Chat back. I promise no opinion will go unheard, unshared or un-posted!

Hope these links to the articles and book on this topic work!

"The case against having kids!"

"The 'No kids' debate continues."

"No Kids: 40 Good Reasons Not to Have Children."

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

"Have your people call my people."

Picture this: It is the 1940's and Hollywood's movie industry is just starting to shine. Glamour abounds and everyone wants to be a movie star. One of these young hopefuls is meeting with a big shot movie producer. As the meeting comes to an end the young man leans forward through the thick cigar smoke and says, "It was nice to meet you! Be sure to have your people call my people to set something up!" He scribbles a telephone number below the name Sue on a piece of paper and leaves it for the producer.

As the young man leaves the office he is excited and thrilled by the prospect of being in a movie, but why did he have to be so bold at the end. The whole way home all he can do is worry about how this is all going to play out. At his front door he takes a deep breath, walks in and calls out, "Hey Honey! I'm home." His wife comes from the kitchen and asks how the meeting went. "It was really great, but Sue you've got to do me a big favour!" he says.

Fast forward almost 70 years to today: My husband and his best friend stand chatting about what's new, holidays and any remaining summer plans. Then my husband says, "What are you up to next week? If you guys are going to be around we should try to do dinner one night." His friend agrees and then they both look to me. "Honey, wouldn't it be great to do dinner next week? We don't have any plans, right?" says my husband. Followed by his friend, "Yeah, I'm sure we can work something out. Can't we, Sadie?" Both now look at me expectantly.

Translation: My husband is essentially saying, "I'll have my 'people' call your 'people'!" And, in this instance 'people' usually refers to wife. Some things never change. With each decade since the 1950s it is very true that men have had an increasing roll in family life, but for some reason women are still the organizers, ultimate secretaries, and full-on life assistants. Not that I'm complaining because I have a funny feeling that if my husband were to plan a dinner date with friends the plans would somehow be very muddled. But why the veiled conversation? Come on guys just come out with it and say, "I'll have my lovely wife call your lovely wife to organize something because I have NO clue what our schedule is or if we already have plans."

Its funny how a man can be a great husband and wonderful father, but is seemingly incapable of keeping dentist appointments, calling the doctor, arranging plans with friends (unless it involves a sport of some kind) and remembering their children's various activities. Well, guess what Sweetheart? We have a colour coded calendar for a reason! I'm looking forward to hearing all about the dinner plans. It should be a fun evening!

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Kids Say and Do the Darnedest Things.

This is an oldy, but someone reminded me of it lately and I thought I'd share.

Last summer my oldest daughter attended summer day camp for the first time. One day while driving home after camp we had a very disturbing conversation:

Me: What did you do at camp today?

Her: I got see a really big cock!

Me: Pardon?

Her: There was a man with a big cock.

Me: What do you mean?

Her: You know, Mom! A big cock. It was really cool.

At this point I was so confused that I decided to leave the topic and ask again later. Once we were at home and I could sit talking to her I asked a few more questions.

Me: So, there was a special guest at camp today?

Her: Yeah, I already told you that he had a cock.

Me: What did it look like?

Her: It was big and brown.

Me: Did he have anything else?

Her: He had an owl too. He told us that he got them because they hurt their wings in the wild and now he takes care of them.

Me: So he had an owl and hawk? (Hoping I was right!)

Her: (With a frustrated look and voice.) Mom, that's what I said. He brought an owl and a cock!

Thank goodness she can know say hawk! Now if I can only make her realize that the hill isn't STEVE, it is STEEP.

The Out-laws.

Over time I've come to learn that being married requires that I not only be a wife, friend and lover, but a diplomat. I frequently engage in what I consider to be acts of diplomacy in order to keep peace, harmony and open lines of communication between all the "family nations". Of course because I am comfortable with my own immediate family I don't usually have to be a diplomat. I can just be myself, tell it like it is, and say "F@*% off!" when I feel the need. However, with my in-laws (as I suspect is the case for most woman and maybe men too) I often feel like I am lost in a foreign land, fallen through the rabbit hole and into Wonderland.

I know you all know what I'm talking about. That funny feeling like as much as you love your in-laws and they love you, the fit is always just a little off. Kind of like wearing someone else's shoes - even though they are the right size they still feel a little funny. They do holidays differently, spend time together differently, have different family traditions or communication styles that you just never quite adapt to 100%.

I care for my in-laws deeply. They both clearly love my girls, they are helpful and kind, they are willing to do almost anything for us, and I know they appreciate us. But, and there is always a but, they are different from my parents. Sometimes they do or say things that my parents would never do and that to me seem so strange I can't even imagine what they are thinking. They are by no means bad people, but from time to time I do feel annoyed, irritated or even hurt by them. This is when I put on my diplomat's hat, grin, nod and go along for the ride.

Many people who know me well would likely describe me as blunt, maybe even to the point of being witchy, but when my mother-in-law proceeds to give my children one more treat or gift after my husband has asked her not to I bite my tongue. And, when my father-in-law complains that we never visit, but after 5 minutes of catching up gets comfortable on the couch to read his book I turn my head. I do these small things because they are my husband's family. They are the people who one way or another helped to make him who he is. I know for him all these little things don't seem that strange, annoying or even hurtful, and that is because they are what he knows...what he is used to.

So, here I am a few days after a relatively uneventful dinner with my in-laws thinking about the little things they did or said without really thinking first and reminding myself that if nothing else they do love their grandchildren. That alone is worth a million little acts of diplomacy. Now...time to start thinking off a surprise for their 40th wedding anniversary...after all my husband isn't likely to organize anything! ;-)