Friday, December 31, 2010

Promises to Keep

I tend not to make resolutions for the new year. I'm crap at keeping them and I know it, so I save myself the guilt and agony and just don't make any.

Having said that, I tend to keep promises, so here are the ones I'd like to keep in 2011 and beyond:

1. Yell less, giggle more.
2. Facebook less, read more.
3. Run a half marathon in November
4. Make exercise and proper eating a priority. (See: 3)
5. Dream less, write more.
6. Learn to knit.
7. Come Spring, plant a garden.
8. Take my Mum for an overnight "Mother-Daughter" getaway.
9. Put laundry away, which is another way to tell my husband that I love him.
10. Attend Mass at least once a month.

I am not overly sentimental as each year becomes another. Not usually, anyway. But this year, I appreciate the "new beginning" for many reasons - some of which surprise me. I'm excited to see what 2011 will bring.

Praying for peace, love and magic for everyone.

Blessed be, all.


Monday, December 20, 2010

Letters to God...

Matthew: Mummy, after we die, do we get to be someone else?
Me: I don't know, Matthew. What do you think?
Matthew: I think I'll come back as someone else after I die. Just once more, though. Will you be my Mummy?
Me: I would LOVE to be your Mummy again. Do you think we get to choose?
Matthew: I don't know. Let's ask God. If we ask nicely, I bet He'll say yes.

Dear God,
Please let me be Matthew's Mummy next time, too. I promise that there will be less yelling. I have so much to learn and he has so much to teach me - I think we're gonna need another lifetime together.

Every day, this  incredible little boy forgives me for all the things that I am not. And every day - every, single day - he shows me who I want to be.

Thank you, Matthew, for choosing me.


Saturday, December 11, 2010

Letters to Santa 2010

From Matthew:

Dear Santa,

Okay. I want a bowling set...hmm...let me think what else...two walkie-talkies for me and Luke when we play Batman and Robin. And a new toy sword and a toy cell-phone. I already got a toy phone, but I don't have a toy CELL-phone. A Batman costume, please.

I would like a new Christmas decoration for me. One to hang on the tree. Let me see here...a ladder to climb, to go with my fixing stuff. And I don't know what else. Mummy might know.

Okay. Where do you put your sleigh? Be safe on Christmas Eve on your sleigh.


When Luke was asked if he'd like to write a letter to Santa, this was his reply:

Noooooooooooooo!! I want Daddy! I want to sit with Daddy and eat pizza.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Moments of Grace

Watched "Evan Almighty" last night - by accident. Both Mark and I got sucked in, the way it often happens when we're already tucked into the couch and it's so warm and cozy there...

In any case, it was a good movie and a timely one. Especially this one quote from God (Morgan Freeman. Whoever cast him as God is a genius - I absolutely believed.)

God: "Let me ask you something. If someone prays for patience, you think God gives them patience? Or does he give them the opportunity to be patient? If he prays for courage, does God give him courage, or does he give him opportunities to be courageous? If someone prays for the family to be closer, do you think God zaps them with warm fuzzy feelings, or does he give them opportunities to love each other?"

So, three weeks before Christmas, lost in the hustle and bustle and the giant commercialization of a Blessed Event, we stumbled across a timeless truth and wonderful wisdom.

A moment of hope.

God's grace.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Operation No-Yell: "And on the seventh day, Mummy...."


You were expecting something different, perhaps?


In my defense, Mr. Super-Sassy-Pants and Mr. I'm-Not-Listening-Nah-Nah-Boo-Boo had it coming.

It's 6:30 pm, a full half hour before their bedtime and they are in bed, lights off. Matthew didn't get a story and even though neither boy has brushed his teeth, I am not going back up there.

Weirdly, I don't feel TOO badly about the yelling. What a change from the beginning of this week!

During the past seven days, I have reached a number of interesting conclusions about parenting,  the nature of discipline and myself:

 MOST of time, if I'm yelling, it has nothing to do with the children and everything to do with me. I am learning to recognize that and correct it before the vocal fireworks begin and all around, things are much better.

My children respond much better to praise and quiet voices than to hollering and anger. Huh. Go figure, eh?

Everyone has a opinion about Operation No-Yell. Some roll their eyes, some nod sagely, others want to know every detail of the past week, eager to either learn from my experience or to tear it all to bits. I am both thin AND thick-skinned about this: I know that I am good mother - my changing how I parent (or attempting to) is not an admission of defeat - it is an effort to be better. To be MORE.

To be better more often.

Not surprisingly then, I bristled at the assumption that I am trying to Super Mom, or that I am most concerned with being friends with my children instead of their guardian and protector and teacher. After chewing, bristling and spluttering indignantly, I realized an important truth:

I am not attempting to be anything more than the kind of mother  that I am absolutely meant to be and more importantly, the kind of mother that my children deserve.

I feel empowered and invigorated by this realization. I don't think that there is any shame in admitting that I need help or guidance. A friend of mine is horrified that I blog about my failings (perceived or otherwise) and can't understand why I feel compelled to reach out to the world at large - leaving myself open to criticism and judgement.

What I know for sure is this:
I reach out because that is who I am. I overshare, too. I feel too deeply, talk too much and seldom stop to think before I speak, emote or act. I reach out because I trust that those who know me best will understand and support me. I trust that those who don't know me will be drawn to my honesty and imperfections. I hope that they will recognize something of themselves in me and feel comfort. Kinship.

I write about who I am - as a wife and as a mother I am a work in progress.

I write about who I want to be: more often than not, a better wife and mother.

These parenting waters are tricky to navigate and as the boys grow into themselves, they take me into uncharted territory. Seems to me that by reaching out and admitting that I am lost, I stand a better chance of being found. Or of someone handing me a map.

Thanks to all of you for being part of the journey!

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Tools of the Trade

I need new tools for parenting the Reds. My arsenal is empty and obviously, hollering at the Reds all the time is not doing them - or the world - any favours.

Time-outs work most of the time, but today I forgot to call Matthew out of one until his pitiful request floated down the stairwell: "Mummy? Can I be done in Time-Out now? I have to poo!"

I need coping strategies for the Witching Hour, the first hour of every day when I'm trying to herd sleepy leprechauns into frozen boots and a cold car. I need patience tips for potty-training and fussy eating, too.

I need help reigning in my own ferocious temper and my need to control everyone, all the time.

I need advice about how to entertain them without wanting to stab out my own eyes and please, PLEASE can someone help me with the tattle-taling? I am going to hurl myself out the stinkin' window if ONE MORE little boy begins a sentence this way:

"Mummmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmyyy....he hit/stepped on/took my/ate the/looked at me/called me/said/swore at me/broke my/breathed...."

Bring your best stuff, people.


And thank you.

Operation No-Yell: DAY FOUR

I may have used my very stern voice LOUDLY today.

But only once and was brought up sharply by Matthew:

"Mummy! You promised not to yell. That sounds a LOT like a yell!"

There may have a wagging five-year-old finger to go along with that reprimand.


Thank you, son. For every minute - every moment - that you help me be a better Mummy.

But it's HARD. And it shouldn't be this hard.

Should it?

Operation No-Yell: DAY THREE

I yelled.


Morning: Getting two dawdlers dressed and out the door before 7 am is no easy feat. Better planning on my part would help alleviate stress in this regard. So would simply shooting them out of a canon and hoping they land near their respective destinations...

Evening: You know when your kids get spazzy and hyper out of nowhere? The jump-on-furniture-slide-down-banister kind of spazzy?

Yeah. Those were my kids last night. Admittedly, they were tired and keyed up with having friends over after dinner, but AGGGGHHHHHHHH....


Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Operation No-Yell: DAY TWO

The day has been surprisingly calm. I was worried, frankly, that today would be my undoing.

I am amazed to discover that by remaining calm, I feel more energized. And my children, bless them, are LESS likely to swing from the furniture or attempt to slide down the banister. Not to say that they DIDN'T attempt these things, because they most certainly did. But they did so only once and after being reprimanded quietly by their mother and then gently redirected, they forgot to misbehave.

I am flabbergasted.

I did not yell when Luke emptied the entire contents of the bubble bath bottle into his solo bath.

I did not yell when he then emptied half the contents of his VERY bubbly bath onto the bathroom floor.

I did not yell when my squeaky-clean, pj-clad Luke then turned the ENTIRE package of spaghetti onto the - naturally, freshly-swept and mopped - kitchen floor.

Instead, I got on with the cleaning up (and did not yell at Luke's efforts to "help" me) and he got on with being cute and my home is - for the second day in a row - a messy but peaceful place to be.


Monday, November 22, 2010

Operation No-Yell: Day ONE


Have just tucked two tired boys into bed and not a moment too soon. I could feel my patience - such as it is - slipping away during supper, when Luke had to be put into Time-Out FOUR times for calling his brother "Stupid!" and hitting.

The tired is etched on his face, though, so I did manage to cut him some slack and not yell once.

That is, I didn't yell once ALL DAY LONG!

Not this morning whilst hustling their dawdling bodies out the door. Not even when Matthew forgot his lunch bag and I had to come home again.

I kept my cool and WOW, what a better, easier, so-much-nicer way to begin the day!

I wanted to holler at them and clobber their heads together at the grocery store tonight, but instead I hissed at them as loudly as I could without yell-hissing and handed them crackers to shove into their mouths. It worked.

But now? Now I am exhausted. As much from the Monday Blahs as from the effort it took to keep calm.

Night 'all...sweet dreams and wish me luck for tomorrow!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Parenting Challenge # 1

I yell.

I yell when I'm happy, I yell when I'm not. Mostly, I yell when I'm tired or frustrated or angry. I really let loose during the Witching Hour before dinner when the Reds are often also tired and frustrated or hungry.

Having started a part-time job recently, my stress level has increased. Naturally - sadly - the decibel level here at House of Bellymonster has reached epic proportions.

I yell so often and so loudly that I fear I might be permanently damaging the Reds' hearing as well as their self-esteem.

And that completely sucks.


I have challenged myself to go one week without yelling. No raising my voice. No nasty, sing-song mimicking. No hollering when things aren't done the moment I asked (ok, demanded).

Nope. I will use my inside voice. My quiet voice (I know that some of you are snickering that Belly doesn't HAVE a quiet voice but this week, I will prove that I do.)

I have spoken (in soft, gentle tones) to the Reds about this plan and while their freckled little faces showed deep skepticism, I felt like they were a bit hopeful.

I'll update here every day for the next seven days.

Wish me well.


Saturday, November 13, 2010

Fall-out and failings....

Last month, I lost Matthew at the mall.

This month, I am dealing with the fall-out of losing Matthew at the mall and it's not pretty.

My bright, observant, eager-to-please and sensitive Firstborn has developed a real and HIGHLY unnerving habit of "protecting" his younger brother.

Sweet, right?

Not so much.

Matthew is so concerned that Luke will get lost, run away or otherwise disappear, that he now runs after Luke, hollering and crying. As soon as he reaches Luke, he either yanks him backward by the hood or blocks him from all movement by a) wrapping his arms around him and/or b) tackling him and wrestling him to the ground.

Luke, to his credit, tolerated this new behaviour rather well.

At first.

But now, Matthew's overwrought hysteria only spurs Luke on and he too, will start screeching and either a) running faster and/or b) lashing out at Matthew as soon as he gets close. This week, he's been biting his brother as they sail to the ground in a mess of limbs and tears. Last week, it was kicking. Today, he raked his nails down Matthew's face all while screeching, "Don't STOP me!" at the top of his lungs, drowned out only by Matthew screeching that he was "too far from Mummy! STOP RUNNING AWAY!"

It's no longer sweet or cute or even remotely funny. Mostly, it's disturbing and sad and  I worry about both boys: Matthew because he is clearly traumatized and Luke because his freedom is being curtailed by his idol and their frustration levels (and mine) are rising rapidly.

I have tried reasoning with Matthew, assuring him that nothing bad will happen. I have been stern, reminding him that I am the parent, not him and protecting his brother is NOT his job, it's mine. I think that Matthew simply doesn't TRUST me to protect his brother - after all, I lost him, didn't I? -  and so therefore has taken on this task himself.

A teacher at the school who witnessed a Matthew-in-Protector mode take down yesterday, suggested that I find him a therapist. I nodded in miserable agreement because really, was else is there to do?

 I know that it could have happened to anyone and that it was NOT my fault, that he was lost. I know that shit happens.

But I feel like an absolute failure that I have been unable to appease him since - that my reassurances are not enough to pull him from this trauma and let his brother go.

And it's an awful, awful feeling.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

A, B, C...

I did not read Matthew a story before bed. Tonight, he read to me.

All by himself!

I am one proud and happy Mama!

That is all!

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Parenting Milestones via Facebook...

My good friend, A has a teenage daughter. J is lovely - sweet, pretty, smart, sassy...everything I wanted to be but wasn't and everything I'd want in a daughter. In fact, I'd scoop up all of  A's teenaged daughters (two and an almost-teen) because I think they're that awesome.

That said, J. has just announced via Facebook, that she has a boyfriend. (Like her sister, who is also newly-arrived at this milestone)

This is what her wall looked like this morning, after her father, Rob stumbled across this new development:

Relationship status: Juliana is in a relationship with Hayden.

17 people like this.

Rob: umm what???
Juliana  what what???
Rob: u 2 ???
Juliana: yeeeeeees
Rob: uggh

Made my whole day!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Lost and Found

I lost my son today.

For five whole, AGONIZING minutes, at the mall.

At first confused, then annoyed and then alarmed, I began dragging a strangely compliant Luke around and around the staircase where Matthew had just been.

Several people glanced up, no doubt sensing my blooming panic. No one said anything though, and I fought the urge to scream Matthew's name.

And then, from a bench a woman called out, "Are you looking for a red head?"

I whirled, "Yes!"

"I saw him. He was walking with a man."


He was walking with a man.

He. was. walking. with. a. man.

I now know the truly awful feeling of having one's heart drop to the floor and feeling icy dread crawl up one's spine. I felt gut-punching, staggering, heart-stopping fear.

Momentarily frozen, I clung to Luke's hand, trying to stem the flow of  mental images from the past few days here in Belleville: stolen children, stolen innocence, stolen lives.

And then, a muffled announcement over the PA system, asking me to please come to Information Services.

Choking back tears of relief, I practically flew to the desk where I caught sight of Matthew, looking pale and dazed, holding hands with a security guard. When he spied me, he ran and in that long moment before my arms wrapped around him, I felt, inexplicably, as though I'd been granted a second chance. A gift.

My tearful son explained: shortly after he lost sight of Luke and I (because he'd run ahead, being silly) a kindly stranger spotted Matthew's stricken face and kneeled down to ask if he was lost.

At Matthew's nod the stranger stood up and - careful not to touch him - guided my lost boy to the security guard at the Information Desk, where Matthew promptly offered his whole name and mine, as he'd been taught.

Now, both the security guard and the Kindly Stranger were at my side, offering praise for Matthew's bravery and for knowing what to do. The guard patted Matthew's head and reminded him to seek out a uniformed person should he ever get lost again.

Kindly Stranger stood quietly for a minute before asking Matthew if he was ok. Matthew nodded gravely and then Kindly Stranger turned to me:

"He looked so scared. I have two of my own....I hope you're ok with what I did."

I reached out and squeezed his arm, whispered only two words:

"Thank you."

Thank you, Kindly Stranger for recognizing my son's innocence and fear and for guiding him to safety. For doing the right thing, even if it made you uncomfortable, even if others might warn you to mind your own business, for your own good.

For being a decent, trustworthy man and not the monster who's been visiting my dreams - all of our dreams - this week, here in the Friendly City.

Thank you, Kindly Stranger for letting me see your face and for assuring me that all losses are not forever, there is more good than bad in the world and that this city is indeed a good place.

Today especially, I thank you.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

A Monster in Our Midst

The Reds and I have just returned from dropping cookies and a "Welcome Home" note to our newest neighbours. They moved in last week and while I'm ashamed that it's taken me this long to get over, I hope that they'll appreciate the gesture and the friendly overture, nonetheless.

Because this city needs friendly gestures more than any place in the country right now, frozen as we are at the horror unfolding in our courthouse, a monster in our midst.

I live in Belleville, Ontario.

A few blocks from my home, Col. Russell Williams sits - slumps actually, according to a real-time local news feed - as the details of his appalling reign of terror are laid out for all to know. Deflated and silent, the monster behind the military mask awaits his fate while spectators cringe and gasp, repulsed.

As I type this, frantically trying to keep my agonized imaginings in check, reporters and journalists from across the country have gathered here in "The Friendly City" and are rapidly "tweeting" and updating a rapt but shaken public - we are seeing, almost alongside the family and friends of Belleville's lost daughters, the work of a psychopath in all his glory.

Never did I imagine that the monster was this depraved, this appalling, this...evil.

 Living here, on the beautiful Bay of Quinte, it seems that I've allowed myself to forget the unease and uncertainty that plagued this city following Jessica Lloyd's disappearance. I've played down the shock of Williams' capture and let slip from memory my sense of shattered peace that the Soldier had made my city his hunting ground.

But today, like yesterday, I feel compelled to read everything I can about the court proceedings following his "Guilty" pleas. (Close to 100 separate charges. Holy hell, the Devil was a busy boy, indeed.)

I am drawn to the angst and the surreal-ness of this reality while at the same time, I want to turn away and "unknow" everything I never imagined possible. I am left reeling and sickened by a photographic collection of stolen panties - his modelling of them - and can't imagine that I'll sleep well tonight.

Then again, I can't conceive that Jessica's Lloyd's mother will ever sleep again, period. Not without envisioning her daughter's last hours, in the hands of a madman.

Do Marie-France Comeau's parents feel a swelling pride that their beautiful daughter fought so hard and so well for her life? I felt an urge to pump my fist in the air when I read of her attempts to outwit and and outmaneuver the Colonel - her Colonel. Felt doubly saddened when I "remembered" that in the end, she too died at his hand.

*A memory of that same sensation whispers through my mind. I felt the same way almost twenty years ago when the world learned about Paul Bernardo and the terrible things he did to Kristen French and Leslie Mahaffey. A few years later, I read a book about the infamous case: for several chapters, it seemed as though Kristen French stood a chance of release, of freedom, of life - until I abruptly remembered that she too, died at the hands of a madman. *

Today, I am back to feeling unsettled and uneasy. Sickened and heartsick at all that I've read and heard. Horrified that this is real and that this monster walked among us and that there are still more heinous truths to be told.

Terrified that there are more just like him, watching, waiting, learning...hunting.

On the other hand, despite these grim thoughts, I long to appease those who might pull their shades tighter still and double-lock their doors in the wake of these dark days. I remind those around me that while evil - clearly - exists, the world is not full of demons and the Russell Williams' of the world are few and far between.

I suppose that dropping a plate of cookies off on a stranger's doorstep may seem foolish and unwelcome in this day and age. Odd and some might say, a bit inappropriate, given the raw feelings that one man has inspired in this city, in particular.

But - especially today - I hope that my new neighbours are touched and delighted with the gesture and that my children absorb the lesson I want them to learn: Strangers are simply friends we haven't met, yet.

I hope.

"Fairy tales do not tell children the dragons exist. Children already know that dragons exist. Fairy tales tell children the dragons can be killed.
G.K. Chesterton."

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Because It's Tuesday...

Today, we are being lazy. By "we" I mean, me. The Reds will simply play until I tell them it's time to get dressed or put away their toys or find their outdoor shoes or get in the car.

Today, I haven't told them to do anything except sit down for morning snack - popcorn - and to please stop driving their cars down the staircase as the "plonk!" of them landing was getting on my nerves.

We are still in our pyjamas and housecoats. No one has brushed their teeth and I don't remember changing Luke's diaper. The breakfast dishes are still on the counter, unwashed, not stacked. The dishwasher needs to be unloaded and I really should get to organzing the desk drawers.

If I were to wander upstairs, I would likely stumble over laundry baskets filled with clean and folded clothing. I might find that the toilet paper roll needs replacing and that there are globs of toothpaste on the mirror, courtesy of last night's "Toothpaste Spitting War."

I have managed to pay the phone bill, but only because I could do so online. Ditto correspondence to long-losts and my cousins in Holland.

The toys that the boys received for their birthdays are presently scattered from the back kitchen door all the way to the front stairs and I don't care. Not. One. Bit.

Because today? Today is perfect, just as it is. Later, I will tidy and clean and nag the Reds to get dressed and cleaned up. Maybe I'll take a bath with a good book.

But for now, I will wallow in this idleness and love every. single. minute.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Luke is THREE!

Three. Lukey-Pookers, aka The Interloper, aka Menace aka three. How'd that happen?

Not so-little boy, I love you so much. In fact, every day it seems, I love you more. Your cheeky grin, your morning cuddles, your daily search for Matthew...all of this and so much more endear me to you.

I love that you are entirely your own person and that frankly, you don't give two HOOTS what anybody else thinks about ANYthing. You are Luke and you will stand your stubborn, determined, pigheaded ground.

Dang it!

You crack me up, Luke. I love that you use words as though you were born talking and that some of our most intense conversations take place while I'm changing your diaper. I love that you want to hold my hand while we're walking and that you can balance along pretty much anything along the way.

I love how giddy you get when I say that it's time to get Matthew and how you have to match your socks to your shirt and how your baseball cap is more necessary than pants, in your world.

I love your fire, your fierce temper and your need to put shoes in the shoe box and hats on the hook.

I love how you run for Nanny and Papa and have no fear of animals, insects or crickets. I love you in footy-pyjamas and clothes you've picked out yourself. I love that you sing along to every song but seem to like the softer ones best. I love that, intentionally or not, you and Matthew often sing in harmony.

 It makes me laugh that after a rainstorm, your most fervent wish is to drink from the mud puddles at the bottom of the driveway and yet you cannot stand it if your hands are dirty.

Sometimes you are grouchy. A right curmudgeon in a toddler's body. Given to foul moods and abject rudeness. But then suddenly, you smile and it's like the sun coming out on a bleak winter's day and all is forgiven. Forgotten. Someday you will rule the world with that cheeky grin, my boy. Likely, someday soon.

Thank you for asking me to dance for no reason, for eating practically everything I cook and for wiping away MY tears when I cried over Uncle Andrew. Thank you for playing close by so that you "can touch you sometimes, Mummy," and for faithfully wishing me sweet dreams.  Thank you for sleeping through the night and knowing EXACTLY where I put my keys.

Thank you, my prince of Edward County, for being so many things I long to be - fiercely independent and completely unmoved by sarcasm, guilt or cajoling. I LOVE that you stand your ground so calmly and without questioning yourself. I wish I could be more like you, son.

I love your inquisitiveness, your surefooted-ness, your expansive hugs and exuberant kisses. I love that while it may take you awhile to warm up to people or a situation, once you do, you're in with you whole gorgeous self.

For all of this, for every part of you, I am grateful. Thank you for choosing me to be your Mummy, Luke. I am blessed, so blessed because of you:

Your brother may have made me a Mummy, but you, my very soul, have made me complete.

Happy Birthday, Luke.

I love you.


Thursday, September 30, 2010

A Lesson in Goodness

I rarely post links to other blogs, but read a blog post this morning that absolutely blew my mind with truth and honesty and absolute goodness.

This Daddy blogger, Dan,  wrote from his heart, imploring other fathers to step up and be a hero to their child(ren). But really? He spoke to every parent in the world, including me, urging us all to do better.

Begging us to BE better.

Our children deserve our best, gifts that they are.

Here is Dan being wise: You Just Broke Your Child

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Matthew is FIVE!

Darling Matthew,

Daddy and sat together after you and Luke had fallen asleep. I turned to Daddy and said, "We have a five-year-old son."
"How'd that happen?"
"You blinked."

It's true. I blinked and suddenly, instead of a tiny fire-haired baby, I have a swift and fleet-footed little boy, aching to be set free. A son who can cross the road all by himself and who now wants privacy in the bathroom. A not-so-little boy who more often, it seems, seeks a quiet space in which to dream big dreams.

Where once sat a chortling toddler, eagerly awaiting the next spoonful of food, now sits a well-mannered boy of five who uses a fork and knife with ease and can clear his own plate and cup without having to be reminded. The same boy who once struggled to zip up his own coat now happily gets himself and his brother dressed most mornings and straps them both safely into car seats.

You amaze me, son. Every day, you show me who I want to be.

I want to be like you - the child who runs ahead to make sure that the younger kids wait safely at the corner before crossing. The one who utters, "I'm so proud of you, Lukey! Well done!" easily, and often. The silly, chattering, fort-making maniac who spends ages patiently stacking pillows only to have to start all over again, because a lcertain ittle brother knocked it all down.

I love your drawings that paper the fridge and most available wall space - how they've morphed from scratches on a page to real, true and wonderfully recognizable portraits of our lives together. You. Luke. Me. Daddy. With balloons and crazy hair, always on a sunny day, always smiling.

I love how you greet each day as if it's the best day of your life. How every morning we still snuggle, even it's only for a minute because these days there are cars to be played with and imaginary villians to be fought before breakfast. I even secretly love how, like Daddy, you cannot pass any reflective surface without gazing at your self and pulling a funny face.

I love how well you've taken to swimming lessons, when it doesn't seem so long ago that bath time filled you with terror - you used to believe that you'd be sucked down the drain with the bathwater. Nowadays, only you can assure your little brother that he won't fit down there, either. There is a gentleness to you that I do not possess, though I wish I did. Thank you for showing me every day that there is another way and that sometimes, your way is best.

Thank you for loving the yellow house by the river as much as I do and for generously offering to let me live there with you when you are a grown up. Thank you for saving your pocket money so that you can one day buy a truck and take your grandparents for a ride. Yours is a kind and generous heart, Matthew and the world is lucky, SO lucky to have you in it.

I am luckier still, because five years ago, you chose me to be your Mummy. I look forward to the next five, striving to be just. like. you. My very heart.

Happy Birthday, Matthew.

I love you.


Monday, September 13, 2010

Five Things...

Matthew will turn 5 at the end of this month. To avoid thinking about how swiftly these years have whooshed by, I will share five recent conversational tidbits with my fiery firstborn:

1.  On Being Cool

Matthew: "Mummy, can I have a mohawk?"
Me: "No."
Matthew: "Mummy, there's this kid in my school with a mohawk and he's so cool. I want a mohawk, too. Can I?"
Me: "No."
Matthew: "You never let me do anything cool."
Me: "I know. I'm just cool like that."

2. On Being (Almost) Five

Matthew: I'm really gonna miss my guckies when I'm five, Mummy.
Me: Well, yes, you probably will. But you'll get used to it.
Matthew: Are you sure?
Me: I'm sure. Mummy sucked her thumb when she was a little girl and I was sad for a bit when I stopped*, but I got used to it.
Matthew: Guckies aren't the same as thumbs, Mummy.
Me: True, but the feeling you get from sucking on them is.
Matthew: Did your thumb taste like spray, Mummy?
Me: Huh?
Matthew: Did your thumb taste like cleaning spray?
Me: Why would it taste like cleaning spray?
Matthew: Because you clean so much.

* I was 11. There. I admit it. And it was HARD, damn it. *

3. On Being

Matthew: Mummy, why is the sky in space so black?
Me: Uh...well, it's because the black bits have no light.
Matthew: What about the stars?
Me: Well, the stars are SUPER bright because the black bit is so black. So they sort of...well, they help each other be better - the black gets blacker because of the white stars and the stars shine brighter because of the black.
Matthew: when I help Luke brush his teeth and he helps me find my shoes?
Me: Exactly.

4. On Life and Death

Matthew: Mummy, will Granny and Haha and Nanny and Papa still be alive when Luke and I are teenagers?
Me: Well, I sure hope so, Matthew. I know they'd love it, too.
Matthew: It's not far away, right Mummy?
Me: Nope. Not far away now. What makes you ask?
Matthew: You said that Luke and I could buy a  truck when we're teenagers and I wanted to take Granny and Haha and Nanny and Papa for a ride in it.
Me: That's lovely Matthew, to be thinking of them so kindly.
Matthew: Yeah. I'm gonna get a Honda Truck. Or maybe a Dodge Ram, like Papa. I like the smell of it when it's going.

5. On Doing the Right Thing

Matthew: Mummy! That car just parked in the wrong spot!
Me: What do you mean, the wrong spot?
Matthew: He parked in the handercapp-ed spot, Mummy but he doesn't have a special sign in his window like you said he should. That's why we can't park there, you said. You said it's for people who have trouble walking from far away.
Me: I did and you're right, Matthew. That man doesn't have a handicapped sticker on his car. Let's wait and see if maybe his hip or leg are hurting him though. Maybe that's why he parked there, even though he doesn't usually have trouble walking from far away. Let's wait here and see, ok?
Matthew: Mummy! That man can walk. He's NAUGHTY, Mummy! Go tell him!
Me: You want me to tell him that he's naughty for parking there?
Matthew: YES!
Me: You wanna come with me?
Matthew: I'll come with you, Mummy.

Me to Man: Sir? Just having a little lesson in ethics here. My son has been taught that only people who have a special sign in their window can park in the handicapped spot and he noticed that you don't have one. We thought that maybe you'd parked here because your leg is hurting you? (This last in pleading tone, as in, "Please, plllleasssee say your back hurts or something. Anything!")
Man: My leg is fine. I'm in a hurry, that's all. Is that ok with you, little man?
Matthew: Shakes head, shifting behind my right leg. No.
Man: Oh, well, eh? (Hops in truck, drives away)
Matthew: He's a naughty man, right Mummy?
Me: Well, it was naughty of him to have parked here when he didn't really need it, that's for sure.
Matthew: Will God give him a time-out, Mummy?
Me: I don't know, Matthew. But I have a feeling that he won't be parking in a handicapped spot again without thinking of you.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Solving the World's Ills,( Or Not) One Facebook Wall at a Time:

My FB status: I'm thankful that I'm not the one making the final decision about the fate of Sri Lankan refugees in Vancouver. While I understand the hue and cry about how they ended up on Canadian soil, I'd be hard-pressed to turn them away. For me, compassion will always overshadow cynicism and I am keen to see how this story unfolds...

Jamie: I am keen as well Liz but I am afraid I would disagree. In my opinion our country does not need 400 some odd more people to clog up the social system. There is a process to come here and smuggling is not one. I have always been of the belief that we need people to come here that will better our country. Not to sound stereotypical or racist but we need doctors and such not more convenience store owners and low level labour. I understand that these people the Tamils have been through horrendous trauma, but the fact is this. Some or maybe a large part of these people may be Tamil Tigers fleeing Sri Lanka to avoid being captured and tried. I am sorry if there are innocent people in the mix but I do not believe that Canada should be a dumping ground for the worlds problems.

Diana: Unfortunately when trained people come here, we don't let them do their jobs. :( They end up janitors, etc.

 Jamie: True enough Di. But the majority of the people that are allowed to enter this country possess no skills and are allowed in on compassionate grounds. I am all for being compassionate but not at the expense of adding more people to a country that is straining to find work for people that are born and raised here. Crappy perspective but it is a reality!

Elizabeth: I know. Sigh. And I completely understand a nation's frustration when our debt is already high, jobs are scarce and resources seem to be drying up overnight.
It doesn't seem fair that the system, already overburdened, will be required to enfold 400 more - especially when two other countries have steadfastly refused them entry.
Indeed, there is a process that ought to be followed. (It's the same one my parents navigated in 1965 and I'm so thankful that they were embraced by their country of choice.)
It's the "but" that tugs at me. But...our country protects those who land upon our soil, and it's a law that we, as Canadians, put in place. Who are we then, to disobey ourSELVES?
But...we know not the horrors they faced in Sri Lanka, growing up as we have in the best country in the world. Seems to me that if you're willing to spend 4 long months at sea, packed in with hundreds of others, not knowing what the future holds - if anything - then asylum should be yours.
Back and forth, back and forth I go - this is such a potentially explosive situation, with long-reaching and absolute ramifications, that frankly, it makes my head hurt.

Jamie:  Again I totally understand Liz where you are coming from and to a point I agree. If it was me I would do everything to get away. But like I said. Some of these people are believed to be Tamil Tigers. So do we turn away 400 peoplel and not allow potential terrorists in? Or do we allow international criminals to reap the fruits of the Canadian system? I would rather err on the side of caution and say " Sorry not here".

Rob: Let's send all those Irish boat people back instead!!... oh wait, that would be me...

 Jamie: Jesus Rob! Who would farm the potatoes!

 Elizabeth: I get it, Jamie. I do. I worked with dozens of Sri Lankans in Toronto and they were terrified of the local Tamil Tigers (yes, they're here already, in VAST numbers), something I'd never had to contemplate.

And I believe that the world is watching - some for nefarious reasons - to see what happens on the West Coast. I'd hate to become a nation of terrorist-harbourers, but on the other hand...I think I'd hate more to turn away hundreds of vulnerable human beings.
Damned if we don't, damned if we do, it seems.

Carrie:  I too struggle with this- i volunteered at the refugee shelter in montreal and saw some of the issues that would come out- issues that these people brought and issues that they had upon arrival.

Erin: I need to comment...I cannot keep my mouth shut on this topic! Not only are these people criminal and uneducated but they are SICK. They are bringing disease and sickness that Canada and its occupants are happy to not have to deal with. Canada has set up a healthcare system that WE pay for to ensure vaccinations and disease are managed. Why on earth would you want to not only flood every other system we have with these people but why would you want to flood our already fragile healthcare system??? I say GO AWAY!!

 Rob: For the record, the only Tamil I know has four doctorates (two of them PhDs from Europe) and speaks German, English, and Tamil fluently. He grew up in a church-run orphanage, and when he was old enough he went to say thank you to the German woman who sponsored him as a child. She invited him to stay there and continue his education. He went on to teach at Princeton and now teaches at Liverpool Hope University. He is one of the kindest, gentlest people I've ever met.

 Erin: ok did he come to Canada on a boat like the one that just arrived on our door step?

Erin: You cannot stereotype all people but the conditions of this specific group being referred to is s little different would you not say Rob?

Jamie: Good point Rob. And I never paint a people as a whole with the same brush. But as the soldiers in Afghanistan have found out, you never know who the terrorist is. Is it the young man of 20? The young kid of 12? Or the old grandmother that looks like she would never hurt a fly.

It is cold to say but the fact of the matter is this. We as Canadians have enough problems without adding to the load. We have unemployment, homelessness, an inept government that seems content to fiddle while we burn. I am sure that some of these people are good people. But at some point we have to say "No".

 Rebecca: Woo. And I thought only the U.S. had strong feelings about "foreigners" trying to buck the system to get away from poverty and oppression....

 Jamie: This is not an Arizona thing from my end Rebecca. This is just the reality that we cannot and should not have to help everyone.

Smitha: I think there is something to that particular batch of people. Australia has welcomed tons of Sri Lankan refugees, and there must be steadfast reason as to why they refused these people.

That said - I've seen the plight of the SriLankan tamils first hand, and its not pretty. Neither is the fate of the Simhalese in the war area.

If a country's refusal is based on the fact that refugees eat up resources, that is cold hearted. If the refusal is based on the LTTE suspects, then I'm just sorry for those who are normal people.

Smitha: btw - WHY should we not help everyone? If we were one of them, in a war torn country, escaping to the hope of just walking/sitting without a bomb exploding, would we want someone to turn us away? Because we are unskilled? and sick? Isn't that more grounds of compassion?

 Jamie: Why should I pay ? Compassion is great! But I lost my job and now make half of what I did. And I am supposed to pay more taxes because we should look like the good guy and take every other nations people in. I think not. We have enough home grown problems without this.

 Elizabeth: I guess I feel that with the privilege of living in a country such as ours, where, fragile or not, a relatively accessible healthcare system IS in place, comes the need to extend ourselves to those who have not.

Disease and sickness exist in every country and with global travel and virtually no part of the Earth untouched, we are going out into the world and exposing ourselves to all sorts of things, period. If these particular people are sick, it's likely from being cooped up on a boat together for months on end. Malnutrition. Mostly treatable.

As for lack of education, I'm not sure that people fleeing fortheir lives are concerned with getting a university degree, but ideally, will be able to achieve whatever goals they set once safely settled.
Criminals? Maybe some. Likely some. But not ALL and there's the rub. There's the rub.
I could never properly answer those ethical questions posed at 2 a.m. after too many bottles of red. Specifically, the ones like this: If you could guarantee world peace by killing an innocent person, would you do it?

Always, still, my answer is...I don't know. Thank GOD I don't have to decide.

But while *I* don't have to, WE do.

Jamie: Liz if you ran for office I would vote for you in an instant. Too bad you have so much common sense ;)

 Elizabeth: What is common sense to one is merely a bleeding heart to another. Mark and I have had a few discussions about this, and while we'd normally raise the roof in doing so, we've managed - by some miracle - to keep it to a dull roar.

Thanks for the vote of confidence, my friend. Sadly, I don't have the cojones to run for anything - I'm far too concerned about pleasing the masses. Except, perhaps, in this instance.

Huh. Go figure...

Carrie: ‎"While police were tight-lipped on the conditions of the migrants, Saravanamuttu said that ...that many of the boat people were less than 13 years old."

"When asked if any children were onboard unaccompanied, Johnston of the border agency said only that social workers had been called in."

Which for me - changes everything!

Lawrence: I think we have an obligation to provide help to the underprivileged in our OWN country before we reach out to those from OTHER countries.

Jamie: ‎*clap* *clap* Well said Lawrence!

Lauren:  At the end of the day, a human being is still a human being.

Erin: So we enjoy welcoming into our country H1N1 and Sars and Bird Flu and GOD knows what else because we have no control?? So no control then hey why not be compassionate and generous and help one and all!! Sorry don't buy it!! And by saying "uneducated" I was not referring to these people wanting university degrees I am asking what are they supposed to do now that they are here??? Instead of asking what our country is able to offer and give them, what are they able to offer and give our country???

Elizabeth: I think we have an obligation to BOTH. The fact that *our* underprivileged may have more than *them* does not negate THEIR need, either.

Lawrence: But why do we have an obligation to "them"? With all the money our government has spent on assistance to third world nations and the people therein or recently departed, we could have instituted a program that would provide government-funded post-secondary education for Canadians. That's just one idea.

Elizabeth: As far as my understanding of SARS and H1N1 go, they could have been - and likely were - brought to our fine nation via a commerical air flight, not a shabby ship packed full of refugees.

What are they supposed to do here? What many refugees do: the dirty shit/menial tasks/long shift/crap pay/unprotected by a union/mind-numbing/ego-destroying jobs that many, many, MANY Canadians will not.
Clearly, like our neighbours to the South, we have become a country dependent on all-night convenience stores and a cab when we whistle. We expect our fine city hotels to employ bellhops and car jockeys and concierges and lackeys for little to no pay. Somebody needs to clean to washrooms in our public and private spaces. Somebody needs to toil in our furnace-like factories for 12 hours a day, for minimum wage.

Yes, citizens born here shoulder these and much worse responsibilities, but for the most part? The ones who dreamed of a better life by coming here - they are the ones who suffer through, diligent. Accepting. GRATEFUL.

Elizabeth: Lawrence, I won't argue that post-secondary education should be paid for by our government, because I think it should be so, as well. But nor am I saying that we have wasted money in third world countries, or in helping those who've fled an...d found their way here.

Why does it need to be one OR the other? Can we not reap the benefit of living in this awesome country AND help those people - prisoners of birth, as it were - NOT lucky enough to be born here?

Why should we do this? Well, in my humble opinion, I think we should simply because we can.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Growing Your Family: Part II - Mama Guilt (The Early Days)

See Part I here: Growing Your Family: Part 1

Shakespeare's take on female fury: Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned.

To that I say, "Phfffffftttt! Whatevah, Willie."

To hell with fury - there ain't nothing in the world quite like Mama Guilt. It's an overwhelming, clawing heartache like no other and frankly, I'll take a good ol' scorning over a minute's lie-in-bed-thinking-about-the-ways-I-damaged-my-child-today session. In fact, I'll see your scorning and raise you a public humiliation AND a Facebook de-friending, if only you could take this guilt, just for five minutes.


No? You've got too much of your own, thank you very much? In fact, as the Interloper snuggles in for yet another nursing session and your Firstborn has stomped off to locate the gardening shears, your guilt is washing over you in waves? You feel torn asunder? You cannot breathe for the weight of it?

Ah, yes. Welcome to the REAL guilt. All that stuff you suffered whilst mothering one child was just practice for this:

1. I Don't Think I Can DO This:

I can admit this now and laugh about it, but while I was pregnant with the Interloper I felt consumed by the guilt of knowing that I wouldn't love him as much as I loved his brother. Oh sure, everyone told me that I'd be fine and of course I'd love another baby, but in my deepest heart, I was adamantly unconvinced and it was awful. How could I possibly love another human being the way I did my only child?

In the end, I made a silent, fervent promise to myself: I would go ahead and love my Firstborn more but I would never, EVER tell another living soul and would carry my terrible, horrendously shameful secret to my grave.

Days after this terrible promise, the Interloper was born and as the nurse placed him in my arms, I realized that I'd been terribly, wonderfully wrong. I loved him instantly, wholly, without reserve. "Hello, sweet angel. I've been waiting to love you for my whole life."

Sadly, my elation at losing the guilt of not loving him enough was swiftly replaced by the equally heart aching shame of even thinking that I wouldn't....sigh....minutes old and he'd already broken my heart.

This, I have come to realize, will continue until I draw my last breath of this life: In loving these little people, we are vulnerable in ways we'd never imagined. And if we're not, they'll find a way to make it so.

 2. Your Darling Firstborn Has Been Possessed by the Devil.

Looking back, I now see where my Firstborn began his slide toward Satan.

When he and Daddy arrived at the hospital to meet his new baby brother and to take us home, he wouldn't even hug me, barely spared me a glance. All he wanted to do was hold Daddy's hand and cover Daddy's neck with kisses. It was almost like he'd thought to himself, "Hmm...what's the quickest way to punish Mummy for growing me a brother? Oh, yes: Love. Daddy. Best."

The days that followed were tiring and weirdly calm as we began to adjust to a new family member, but I knew. Knew that my Firstborn was feeling pushed aside and pushed out. I knew by the way he leaned over the nursing Interloper and instead of laying a gentle kiss upon his brow like I'd been hoping, he head butted him RIGHT ON THE SOFT SPOT so hard, the Interloper popped off my breast and wailed without sound. Yeah. That cry.

I could tell that his frustration was rising when he began throwing temper tantrums over wearing socks with his shoes and wailing like a banshee at 3 a.m. for no good reason at all. (Naturally, this was his way of getting my clear and furiously undivided attention, and I ought to have ignored him but the guilt and the hormones got the better of me and I ended up sitting upright all night long with a boy at one breast and a boy curled next to the other, weeping. But I digress...)

I knew by the way he dropped his little chin to his chest when I gently explained that I couldn't take him to the park right now, Sunshine, Mummy's nursing the baby.

Sorry, Sweetheart, Mummy can't play soccer with you right now, I'm nursing the baby.

Oh, Magoo, I-Love-You, I WANT to bake our special "Mummy & Matthew" cake like we did last week, but right now, I'm nursing the baby...

In just a minute Matthew...
In a little while Matthew,
When I'm done nursing the baby, Matthew,
When I'm done changing the baby, Matthew,
Not right now Matthew,
Don't wake the baby, Matthew,
There, you've gone and woke the baby, Matthew!!

I literally ached watching my own father step in and perform every, single one of my duties: he dressed, fed, changed, played with, bathed, scolded, cuddled, read to, chided, and tucked my beloved firstborn child in every night for a week straight.

You know what I did for a week straight? Nursed the Interloper and let the guilt - now doubled because I was feeling guilty for dumping all of my responsibilities on my father, whom I'm pretty sure just really wanted to mow the lawn and drink beer - completely and totally overwhelm me. Three years later, the looking back is easy. Hopefully, these tips will help you in these early days.

To survive:

1. Try to be there when your Firstborn wakes up in the morning, arms empty of the Interloper and waiting just for her/him. Let your smile be the first thing he sees and greet the day as you did before the Interloper came along - just you and him, together.

2. Let him pick out his clothes for the day and which cereal to eat for breakfast. (Go ahead and buy a box of sugar-coated crap. Do NOT allow yourself to feel badly about this. Baby teeth fall out and it's not like you're feeding him crap all day long, right? Water down his juice if this makes you feel better.)

3. I made up a silly song for mornings and we still sing it. If anything, it puts ME in the right frame of mind and at the very least, lets me have 30 seconds of "Good Mummy" ness to recall later in the day when both children are in Time-Out and I'm about to hurl myself out the window. It goes like this:

"Good morning! Good morning!
 Happy day to you!
 Good morning! Good morning!
 I love you, Magoo!"

* This song can later be altered to end with, "I love you, and YOU!" to include the Interloper, thereby neatly circumventing any guilt you may have about not including both children. *

4. 20 Minutes, Twice a Day

Set aside 20 minutes in the morning, after you've fed the Interloper and he's (hopefully) sleeping in his bouncy chair, to play with your Firstborn. You can play trucks or tea party or dress-up or line-up-the-shoes - but let your Firstborn choose and stay focused. Do NOT allow your gaze to wander about the disaster that is your kitchen or to rest longingly on the couch that's calling your name. Do NOT idly flip through the nearest issue of "Today's Parent" magazine when it's not your turn. Play! Engage. Be.

In the afternoon, before the witching hour leading up to dinner and before the fresh new hell known as "bed time", do it all again. 20 minutes. If you can manage a walk to the park, do it.

 Let your Firstborn stop and inspect every blade of grass along the way. Let him balance on the cupholder of the stroller if he wants to and ignore the clucking/shaking heads from your neighbours as you trundle by. Push him on the swing for 10 more minutes after you've given the 5-minute warning. If you need to nurse the Interloper during this time, then do so, but if some other Mummy offers to burp or hold him afterward, let her. Bring snacks - the good ones. Let him drink from your bottle, shriek as loudly as he wants and climb the playground equipment without his shoes on.

All in, these 40 minutes will sustain you later as you mentally beat yourself up, so enjoy them!

Because Mama?

This too shall pass. This too, shall pass. All too soon, this too shall pass.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Growing Your Family: A Survival Guide

My dear friend and fellow blogger Heather, has just given birth to her second child - a gorgeous girl she has nicknamed Sweet Pea, little sister to darling Peach.

This cheeky guideline is my gift to her, and to every mother whose world has been turned upside down by the arrival of a second child.

Part One: SLEEP
 (or decided lack thereof)

Old Wisdom: "Sleep when the baby sleeps."

Belly Version: What? Are you effin' KIDDING me? And who, pray tell, will watch over my Firstborn, my Very Heart, who is presently shoving books into the dishwasher in a fit of rage because for the zillionth time this morning, instead of playing trucks, I have settled into the couch with the Interloper and cannot move for the next 45 minutes while he suckles at a boob that is bigger than his head?

To survive:

First of all, let go of all your pre-children notions about limiting TV and sepia-washed fantasies about playing age-appropriate games on a white, stain-free carpet, devoid of all but a small wicker basket filled with brightly-coloured books and finger puppets.

That's right...let it all go.

Release yourself from the desire to be perfect and remember that this is about survival and nothing else.

Make a comfy nest of pillows and blankets on the floor in front of the TV. Turn on Treehouse/cartoons/soap opera/Sex in the City. Whichever. Anything will do as long as it holds your Firstborn's attention for more than 10 minutes.

 If you have a golf umbrella, open it up and plonk it behind your nest, supersititon be damned. If your living room is big enough to house a tent, pitch it. Gather snacks. Put the potty next to the three baskets of laundry you've not yet managed to fold, let alone put away.

 Better yet, bring out your secret stash of Pull-Ups and ruin weeks of potty-training. Whatever. Firstborn won't go to university in diapers so cut yourself some slack and ignore the clucks of disapproval from neighbours, family members and strangers, all of whom had their children potty-trained and reading before they even walked. (Insert eye-roll here)

Plop irritable, formerly angelic-but-morphing-into-the-Devil-right-before-your-bleary-sleep-deprived-eyes Firstborn in front of TV. Watch his/her eyes widen, jaw fall open and body finally, finally still. The electronic babysitter is on the job.

Relax. Breathe.

 Balance the Interloper on a pillow next to your ginormous, swollen boob and let yourself drift off to the high-pitched urging of a swollen-headed Dora. Dream of Boots the Monkey. Be still. Ressssttttt....

Alternate ways to catch some ZZZ's:

Load both children into the car. Drive to the nearest coffee place and buy a large coffee. Do not worry about the caffeine intake, reasoning that it's better to have the contents of a Tim Horton's double-double buzzing through the Interloper's tiny body for the 10 minutes it's in there between a nursing session and a blowout diaper, than to fall asleep behind the wheel and kill everybody.

 It's all about perspective.

Drive aimlessly until the children fall asleep (which, blessedly, mine did within minutes of being strapped into their car seats) and then steer yourself home. Park. Turn off ignition, but leave the music playing, battery power be damned. Crack the windows, ease back in your seat and close your eyes.

(During winter, roll the windows all the way down - your little darlings are snug as bugs in their snugglie car covers/sleeping-bag-thingys/snowsuits. Bellymonster Family Motto:  Have toque? Will travel.)

Do NOT worry about drool. Do NOT entertain a sick and twisted daymare about a masked bandit stealing the children from behind you while you snooze. Stuff like that only happens on TV. Or to really rich people. Or at gas stations. Or all of the above, but it will NOT happen to you so rest easy and sweet dreams!

2. Seize the Moments:

Foist the manic, clingy, whiny child that is your Firstborn onto your partner's/father's/neighbour's/Jevhovah's Witness's lap.

Unlatch the Interloper from your breast while tugging on your stretched-out yoga pants and grimacing. Gag, for effect. Announce that you NEED a shower RIGHT NOW and quit the room.

 Lock the bathroom door, turn on the water and climb in. Curl up in the bottom of the tub. Never in your life will chilly enamel feel more like fluffy cloud than it does at this moment.  Enjoy the warmth and the steam and the feel of something other than baby-spit up, formula or breast milk coursing down your body. Revel in it, but be sure to turn your head away from the spray:

You want a nap, not to drown with your ass sticking up in the air.

3. Relinquish Control

This is harder than it seems. At first.

But after you've stopped expending precious energy on making it look like you've got it together, you'll feel tons better and the lack of sleep won't seem as bad. Don't get me wrong, you're still gonna feel like you did during the drop-into-a-coma-exhaustion-first trimester of your pregnancy only now your hair is falling out and your nether region is unrecognizable, but you won't MIND as much if you do the following:

a) Stop putting laundry away. Seriously.

Get four baskets, five if you've been ambitious and done the sheets and towels instead of hauling the holiday stuff out of the basement and spritzing your bed with Febreze. Put 'em in the living room, next to the umbrella and the potty. Don't fold it, just rummage as needed.

 (Incidentally, freshly-washed piles of teeny-tiny diaper t's make a pretty good pillow. Actually, smelly towels and soiled footy pj's work well too, in a pinch.)

b) Hubby needs things pressed? Give directions to the iron and ironing board. Heck, you can set the ironing board up next to the umbrella too, and he can starch his way through the hockey game. If you duct tape an old coffee tin to the metal rack where the iron sits, you've got a ready-made beer holder.

c) Two words: Kraft Dinner.

Toss in some cut up hot dogs, maybe some salsa for colour, some carrot sticks and a juice box and you're done. Two boxes of every child's comfort food and your Firstborn AND your husband can have leftovers for lunch the next day. Around here, we are big fans of  "Snacky Supper" which is essentially this: crackers, cheese, keilbasa, grapes and applesauce.

Naturally, this is eaten in front of the TV, under the umbrella. And if you use paper plates emblazoned with the Backyardigans? You are just about THE coolest Mummy ever.

d) Rethink your sleeping arrangements: Do you have a spare room? Couch? Beaten-up old armchair in the garage? Good. Move your husband there and bring the Interloper to bed with you. I realize that tongues are clucking even as I type this and yes, I am aware that both the American and Canadian Paediatric Societies frown upon co-sleeping, but this is my blog, so there. And for spluttering husbands/partners/disapproving mothers-in-law I must gently remind them that this is about Mama survival, NOT domestic bliss.

Shove a body pillow into the space where your husband used to be, but underneath the fitted sheet. Doing so will alleviate any concerns that the Interloper will roll off the bed or roll under a pillow and suffocate. Nursing whilst lying down takes some practice and you may find yourself contorted into all sorts of whacky positions but at least you'll be lying down in a dark room.

Ah, bliss.

I'm not sure that I ever really slept while nursing my Interloper 6,328 times a night, but at least I rested my eyes and my weary body. And while I wouldn't wish a 12-hour night shift on anyone, I definitely leaned toward inappropriate glee when my husband announced that I'd be bedding down without him.

 I enjoyed the special kind of freedom that comes with stretching out diagonally across the bed and not feeling my husband's feet with mine.

Alternately, you can haul the mattress from the guest room into your Firstborn's bedroom and have a cuddly camp out there, Interloper on one side of you, Firstborn on the other. In doing this you'll be resting your aching body AND alleviating a teensy portion of the guilt weighing down your soul re: the state of your Firstborn's sense of self/place/sanity/security.

You may be lucky enough to snatch five minutes of peaceful slumber in the Nursery during Sunday Mass. If you can manage to sneak away for a haircut and have an understanding and sympathetic stylist, you can don a pair of sunglasses and saw logs right there in the chair - the hairdryer should drown out the worst of your snoring.

Tip well.

In combination with all of the above, or as a stand-alone, make this your mantra, prayer and wish:

This too shall pass. This too shall pass. This too shall pass.

Because it will and it does and someday soon you will wonder how the heck you survived it, but you will.

You are.

Coming Soon:

Part II: Mama Guilt (aka: The Soundtrack of Motherhood)

Growing Your Family: Part II (Mama Guilt)

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Is THIS what little boys are made of?

A small recap and a disturbing add-on:

So, last week, we went to my friend J's house to play. While I was inside with J. the boys stayed outside with J's son L. who's 8 and his friend, "T", also 8.

After awhile, Matthew came in looking distressed and worried and wanting to whisper a secret in my ear. I bent down and heard this:

"L's friend just said to me, 'If you open your mouth and say another word, I'll shoot you down dead."

Apparently, "Tom" was pointing a toy gun at Matthew's head while uttering this threat.

I mumbled something about  Matthew playing on the swings for a bit, assuring him that "Tom" didn't really mean to scare him and reminded Matthew that hurting someone is never acceptable, either.

But in my head/heart? I wanted to kick that kid's ass to the moon whilst ripping his face off.

Tuesday, I had L and G (little sister) over to play while J ran errands. Yesterday, out of nowhere, Matthew goes all quiet and contemplative. Gets that worried, anxious look on his face and refuses to engage while clearly working through something in his mind.

Finally, with tears streaming down his dirt-covered, popsicle-smeared little face, he confessed what he'd been thinking about:

"Yesterday when L was here, he said that I'd better beware because he's the Joker in real life and he's gonna kill Daddy."

Seriously? SERIOUSLY? What the HELL am I supposed to do with this? I wrapped Matthew in a huge hug and told him that L was very naughty to say such an awful and scary thing and that it's a lie. L can't hurt Daddy, EVER and if L ever says ANYTHING like that again, that Matthew should come directly to me or Julie and let a grown up set L straight.

I'm at a loss, otherwise. I LIKE J and until now, I've really liked L, who's been good with the boys. But this is not acceptable to me and I'm not sure how to approach it with J.


Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Dear Neighbours,

Please don't call the Children's Aid or the police even though I know that it sounds as though I'm am torturing redheads over here. I promise that I am not.

Yes, I know you can hear the shrieking over your shower AND your daughter's hairdryer. May I suggest earplugs?

It's Luke, you see. He's grouchy and would like the entire world to know about it.

 What's he grouchy ABOUT? Well, he's awake.

It's the simple things that get to Luke...


Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Motherhood = The Kingdom of Lost Minds

So, I've just returned from dropping the Reds off at the (air-conditioned) trailer, where their doting Nanny will let them frolic in the lake long after bed time and eat too many sweets. Bliss.

All the way home (note to self: 28 through Bancroft and down is NOT just a bit longer than your normal route, you moron. Check the map BEFORE being spur-of-the-moment-y.) I worried.

Worried that Luke will fall in the lake and no one will get to him in time. Worried that Matthew will see Luke fall in and go after him...and that no one will see him in time, either. That the hypnotic lure of a campfire will be too much for both boys and that they'll be burned and traumatized for life.

Worried that my mum will fall ill, or fall period, and Matthew won't remember the "911" drills I've done with him.  Worried that a dog will bite Luke (Matthew's too cautious to get close) or that Matthew will fall down the trailer stairs, a misguided Superman. Worried that the car won't start, their carseats won't be fastened properly or that some drunken fool will run them over.

Yes, I recognize the sheer lunacy of these worries and yes, I sometimes worry about my sanity. Well, ok. I worry about my sanity more than sometimes, but that's not the point.

The point is - at WHICH point will these fearsome, ulcer-inducing "what-ifs" stop? As a mum, I mean. At which point will I actually sleep through the night, uninterrupted? Even though both boys are given to nocturnal wanderings, they DO sleep through until morning and do so quite often. Unfortunately, I can't remember that last time I did, because if they don't wake me, I wake up anyways, just to check on them.

When will I let go of the irrational idea that the boys are safest with me and that I can in any way control their destinies? (In and of itself, this idea is ludicrous. All things considered, the children are probably safer with their grandparents, really. I'm forever telling them to "Go outside and play!" while Nanny will actually play WITH them.)

Matthew believes that I have magical, all-seeing eyes in the back of my head. He also believes that I know the answer to everything, it's just that sometimes it takes me awhile to remember the answer. (Really, it just takes me awhile to sneak off to Google to find the answer, but I digress...)

The problem now is that I have begun to believe that I have magical, all-seeing eyes in the back of my head and that if I'm not there, something terrible's going to happen.

 Nope, no God complex here. Uh, uh.

Is it me? Am I the only mother on the planet who feels this way because if so, I'd better book a few more therapy sessions and quick. Deeeeeepppp breath, Bellymonster.

Now that I am home and there is no frantic message from my mum saying that someone has stolen the children (Yes, I checked the phone straight away. Yes, I am paranoid beyond all reason) I need to relax.

I need to go to the gym and work out withOUT wondering if the boys are fine in the daycare at the Y. I need to grab a book and go sit on my back porch withOUT reaching for the monitor so that I can hear the silence that is their empty room. I need to relinquish control and simply BE.

Must remember to enjoy these precious hours to accomplish all the stuff that usually gets left until they've gone to bed. Must remember that Nanny is also a mummy and she has magical, all-seeing eyes, too.

New mantra: Nanny has magical, all-seeing eyes. Nanny has magical, all-seeing eyes.

Must call Nanny's cell, just to remind her...

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Random Rambles..

1. It's hot. Holy hell, it's so hot! Spent last night on the Reds' floor, as theirs is the only room with air-conditioning in it. Oh how I envy people with central air!

2. Waybuloo. It's that children's TV show about floating, yoga-teaching creatures. You know what else it is? Early childhood mind control. You mark my words. This same generation of kids who've learned downward dog from Treehouse will one day rise up and salute the makers of Waybuloo, eager to do their bidding.

3. It's not even 9:00 a.m. and I've already swept the floor. Twice. What does this say about me?

4. The Reds love flip-flops. I can't stand the feeling of anything between my toes, but oh, how I love the "flipflipflipflop!" sound on the sidewalk. Luke wears his on the wrong feet so he sounds like this: "flopflopflip!"

5. I miss snow.

6. This morning, Grumpy McGrouchypants (Luke) tumbled out of his bed, delighted to find me curled up on the floor. He flung himself into my arms and said, "Mummy, I kiss you!" except that when I puckered my lips to receive his kiss, the little bugger licked my cheek and then bit it. And then he growled and crossed his arms all "Hmphy"-like.

7. I think Luke might benefit from therapy. And I'm thinking of changing his name to "Hmph!"

8. I let the Reds watch TV during breakfast. Every. single. morning. And I only feel a little, tiny bit ashamed of it.

9. Another boy to Matthew recently: "If you open your mouth and say another word, I'll shoot you down dead," while pointing a toy gun at my son's head.

Poor Matthew looked so bewildered and a little bit afraid when he passed this story onto me.

I imagine that my face held the same sentiment with a little bit of irrational Mama Bear rage tossed in. I explained that Bully-Boy was likely only playing a game (he wasn't) and that the boy surely didn't mean to harm Matthew (he's 8 and wanted Matthew to go away, apparently) and perhaps Matthew might like to play on the swings for a bit? I then gently reminded Matthew that gunplay is discouraged and that hurting someone else on purpose is never acceptable.

But honestly? I wanted to march outside and rip that kid's face off. Still do.

10. Me, just now, to the Reds: "Who's my best boy?" and they both raised their hands, waving madly.

11. I have the smartest boys in the whole, wide world.

12. Holy CRAP, it's hot.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Dear Teacher,

God understood our thirst for
knowledge, and our need to be led
by someone wiser;
He needed a heart of compassion,
of encouragement, and patience;
someone who would accept
the challenge regardless of the
someone who could see potential
and believe in the best in others . . .
so He made Teachers.

Dear Teacher,

In September of last year, I gave my Heart into your keeping. Nine months later, as I retrieve my excitable,  sensitive and Senior Kindergarten-bound little boy, I offer you a heartfelt thanks.

Thank you for making sure, during the emotional upheaval of the first week of school, that Matthew always had a hand to hold. Thank you for taking the time to seek out my eyes amongst the many as if to say, "Go on, Mama. I'll take it from here."

Thank you for creating a wondrous space for the children - one filled with bright colours and things to touch and feel and discover. For a comfy mat for stories and sharing and for walls brimming with the children's efforts, displayed for all to see.

Thank you for letting Matthew nap some afternoons and for putting him in timeout, too. Thank you for your consistency and for letting him know what's expected in your classroom - it allowed him to grow and find himself within the safety of boundaries and he often repeats the rules of school to his brother. I have adapted a few of your rules in our home and for those alone, I am enormously grateful!

Thank your for your enthusiasm and your energy and for being the one to take Matthew on his first ever school bus ride. He talked about little else for several days afterward and it delighted me. Thank you for your patience and humour: there are days when I am beyond grateful that I get to hand the reins over to you and can barely wait until the bell rings, signalling the beginning of your shift and one less son to run herd on during mine. How I wish that I could handpick you for Luke, when his turn comes in another year.

Thank you for putting me at ease as I trooped into the school each afternoon, straining a bit to get to Matthew whilst attempting - rather poorly, I'll admit - to corral his younger brother. Thank you for  impromptu updates and your own pride in Matthew's burgeoning skills. For remembering to say, "Au revoir" and for the warmth in Matthew's voice when he responds, effortlessly,  in French.YOU taught him that and it's a wonder to see and hear.

Thank you for saving and treasuring all his worksheets and projects and for pointing out how well his printing is coming along. For encouraging both Matthew AND me to keep reading and to enjoy the moments, instead of worrying about the technicalities of learning to read. For opening his eyes to the worlds that await through language and books.

Thank you for all of this and so much more and for doing it all with a gentle smile. This is your calling, Teacher and I'm so glad that your life's journey included the cradling, nurturing and freeing of my Heart, Matthew.

You will be greatly missed.


Monday, June 21, 2010

Giddy Up!

I am not an "animal" person. Oh, I like animals well enough, just not enough to have any of my own. They're work and I am lazy. There it is.

But Luke. Luke loves animals. All kinds. He doesn't care one whit if a dog loping by is not known to us  - he wants to love the dog and will boldly march up to any owner and announce his wish: "I want to pet your dog, ok?" Big. Small. Mangy. Drooling. None of it matters to Luke, so long as he can hug the animal.

Ditto cats, including the feral one that appeared on our doorstep one morning last week. Luke was out the front door in a flash, toying with the cat's dirty, matted fur before I could even lunge across the room. And I'll be damned if that cat didn't roll over and purr.

Birds. Worms. Dragonflies. Ducks. Canadian Geese. So far, nothing is safe from Luke's special kind of loving embrace. Think, "I want to hug him and love him and call him George"...

And now? Horses. Lord help me, my beloved son, my very soul, is smitten with horses.

Smit. ten.

 It runs in the family you see, although I was not-so-secretly hoping that the "love horses" gene would pass the Reds by, given their mother's indifference. Alas. Couldn't be my niece and nephew - the ones who visit the horses daily with their mother. Oh, nooo. B. and K. have a healthy respect for the animals and are comfortable around them, but they are not, so far, drawn to them. Nope. LUKE is. Figures.

My mother-in-law, herself utterly animal-crazy,  is delighted at this newest development and has done very little to disguise her glee - and so I blame her, because really, this animal-obsession business is all her fault! SHE was the one visited a psychic years ago, who foresaw a curly-headed blond grandchild standing beneath a horse's belly, safe, comfortable and happy.

We assumed, naturally, that my sister-in-law would be parenting this not-yet-born little character, since she's the horse person. We assumed, quite understandably, that MY children would be content to read about horses instead. Much less mess that way.

But no. Luke, whose auburn locks have morphed to blond and curl gently at his ears, is happiest when getting dirty. In the barn or simply in the paddock he is fearless -  in his element and happier than I've ever seen him:

Sigh. I'd best be buying some boots. Mucking stalls is a particularly messy sort of joy...

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

The Learning of Lessons...

McDonald's, Saturday morning, around 10.

As promised, I took the Reds to PlayLand after gymnastics. They were looking forward to running off more energy and I was looking forward to them running off more energy and an extra large coffee, not necessarily in that order.

I loved it. Loved sitting in a warm patch of sunlight, leafing through the paper I'd already read online that morning, listening to the boys shrieking with laughter and calling to one another that they'd come to "save the day!" Loved that they were free to wander back to the table to gobble up another pancake and swill it down with orange juice before tearing up the indoor structure once again.

One of Matthew's schoolmates appeared, much to Matthew's surprise and delight. Peyton is a year older than Matthew, about a mile taller and had some very definite ideas about how the game of Chase was to be played. I sat quietly for a long time, waiting to see how Matthew would navigate around his friend's will, knowing that Luke would follow his lead and knowing too, that I would be watching.

I was proud to see that he was able to include his brother in their play, even if he did leave Luke to climb up the largest step unaided - one of only a handful of times that Matthew hasn't hovered close by, waiting to hoist Luke onto his belly and pat him on the back, saying, "Good job, Lukey!"

Soon, another boy entered the fray. New boy Malcom was the same height as Matthew, though a year younger and needed some help on the steepest climb. His Mum gamely climbed up, eager and encouraging. (I, meanwhile, offered up a silent prayer of thanks that Luke had Matthew to help him and that I could stay in my warm spot, sipping coffee and trying not to look smug about it.)

Malcom approached the boys, asking if he too, could play. Matthew froze mid-scurry and shifted his gaze to Peyton, seeking guidance. In a stunning, silent display of power, five-year-old Peyton inclined his head and offered only a slight frown.


That left Matthew to stutter through an apologetic explanation, "Not right now, ok? Peyton's in my class and we're playing a special game," while I blew out the breath I hadn't known I was holding and squared my shoulders. A "teachable moment" had arrived and for once, I'd recognized it straight away instead of hours later - too late - the way I normally do. Eager to pounce on said moment, I pushed back my chair and stood.

But before I could utter one word or beckon Matthew down, Malcom's Mum began to bellow, "Not right, now? Oh, well, that's fiiine. We'll play together, Malcom, since these boys don't want to play with you. That's fine. We'll have more fun anyways, you and me. We'll have lots and lots of fun together if those boys don't want to play..."

And on and on and on she went, sliding into a high and nasty sing-songy voice that made me want to cringe and punch her in the mouth at the same time. I gritted my teeth and called Matthew, sternly so he knew I meant business and so that Malcom's Mum would shut the hell up.

Down he tumbled, breathless and confused. One look at my face had him looking downcast, which pretty much broke my heart but I pushed on, determined to teach him the value of...I'd forgotten what exactly, but knew it had something to do with being kind and nice and playing with others.

So, I asked him how he'd feel if he'd approached some boys and they didn't want to play with him. He blinked at me before murmuring that he'd be sad. I asked him to imagine if that's how Malcom felt when he was told that Matthew and Peyton didn't want to play with him? Matthew countered with, "But his Mummy's playing with him, Mummy. He's not by himself."

That stopped me long enough for Peyton to chime in with this gem: "He doesn't have to play with that boy if he doesn't want to."

 I wheeled on an unsuspecting Peyton, speaking as icily as I could through the smoke that I'm SURE was steaming out of my ears, "Peyton, that may be the rule in your family, but in our family, we try to include everyone in our games, ok?"

With that, I wordlessly motioned Matthew back onto the playground and though he dutifully went, he looked decidedly unhappy about it. I heard him mumble to Malcom that he'd like to play, if Malcom still wanted to, which of course, Malcom did.

And so they did - all four of them, until Peyton wanted to play Spiderman with Matthew alone and voiced his preference out loud. Instantly, Malcom's mother started up again, "Oh, those boys are done playing with you, Malcom. That's fiiinnneee, if they don't want you anymoooorreee. I'll play with you, Malcom, we'll have so much fun, just you and me."

(Voice in my head: ShutupshutupshutupOhdearLordpleasejustshutthehellupalready!)

No longer relaxed or hearing happy shrieks of laughter from my children, I called the two-minute warning and began gathering our things, willing myself to unclench my jaw, painfully aware that the "teachable moment" had passed and that I'd bungled it completely.

All the way home, I went over and over the scene in my mind. For days, I've been worrying at it, like a dog with a bone. Have since realized, to my chagrin, that Saturday's "teachable moment" was not meant for Matthew.

Instead, the lesson was mine.

I must learn to separate my own need to please from Matthew's need to find his own way. If Matthew chooses not to play with another child, then so be it.  If that choice is a direct result of another child's influence, then so be it. This is Matthew's journey, not another chance for his Mama to get it right.

Thusly humbled, I remain a work in progress and as always, grateful to my son for teaching me. Again.

Though if I were to "accidentally" tread on Malcom's Mum's heel, should I see her again, in the places where children may not be a teachable sort of moment, but it would be an entirely satisfying one.

Just sayin'.