Sunday, July 31, 2011

She thinks of everything

Some days are tough with Alyce. Those days, like today, she whines, complains, selectively listens, and schemes. Those days are challenging.

But then I open her bedroom closet and I find Piglet. He has a comfy pillow, a few good books, and a watermelon snack. Most of all, he has been given a quiet place to rest. On days like today, Alyce is lots of things, and I don't always know how to be the best parent for her. But when I see how kind and thoughtful she is to her Piglet, I relax a bit and realize that she's doing just fine.

Because a good book and watermelon is all you really need.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Take that, list

So I did it. I finally got that root canal. Most importantly, I can now finally cross another thing off of my list. Doesn't it feel so good to cross something off a list? Say it with me now. So good.

As I mentioned earlier this week, root canals are life list material for me. I've spent so much of my life feeling terrible about how bad my teeth are, as though I'd done something wrong to have such horrible teeth. I didn't like how they looked (I have small teeth), and most importantly, I didn't like how my dentist looked at me when he told me that I had another cavity. It didn't matter how much I brushed my teeth, or how often I visited the dentist, I always had cavities. When I sit down for a minute and put my reality hat on, I realize that having cavities doesn't make me a bad person. But I haven't always felt that way. As a child I used to cry after visiting the dentist, filled with shame that I had to get more fillings.

Very little has changed as I've grown-up, except that my mum isn't the one scheduling my appointments anymore, which means I can put them off as long as possible. Why would I willingly go sit in the torture Chair of Shame? You say my teeth will only get worse and that it will cause me more pain and cost me more money? Speaking of money, growing into adulthood with very irregular dental insurance added a whole new dimension of shame I felt at the dentist. No longer was it enough to embarrass myself with bad teeth, but now I needed to go two thousand dollars into debt to do it! Nonsense, I say. I will respectfully decline the opportunity to feel shamed in a dentist chair yet again. And that nagging pain? It will be fine. Pass the Tylenol.

But eventually I realize that I'm being ridiculous, I scrape up my courage, and I get the work done. I am always glad when I do, and I always wonder why it took me so long. I have been warned about this root canal for about four years. Four years of dread, four years of intermittent pain, one week of excruciating pain, and I finally did it. I feel a tiny bit more grown-up now, in the good way.

By the way, it didn't hurt too much at all.

Friday, July 29, 2011

How we roll

We colour.

We hang on the couch. A Papa, his girl, and her best Piglet.

We watch (a lot) of baseball.

We get naked and swim in the backyard. Well, some of us do.

It finally rained, and seemed to have brought out the creatures. So we watched this toad for awhile.

Snails, too.

We go out for pancakes. A lot.

And make lots of silly faces.

I like how we roll.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Ten things about me as a parent

1. While I love my children very much, I have less love for them when they stand in the way of me and breakfast. I love breakfast so much that I am sometimes excited to go to bed at night because it means breakfast is near. Don't judge me.  It's better now that Matt's home from Poland. He, very wisely, makes it his job to facilitate a smooth morning, where smooth means that he hands me coffee and toast as soon as my feet hit the kitchen floor, while he sits on the girls long enough for me to inhale my breakfast. Do I feel any guilt about my breakfast selfishness? No way. I have spent a total of twenty months growing those children, oh, and I nourished them with my breast milk for months and months and months (and I'm still going). They can let me have my fifteen minutes of breakfast bliss.

2. Much to my husband's discomfort, I love teaching Alyce about all the parts of her body. I mean, all of them. I think bodies are up there with the coolest things on earth and we should know how they work, even when we're three. So I applaud Alyce for declaring to her Papa last week that she has uterus, and that it's bigger than Shira's, but not as big as Mama's. Because Alyce, you are absolutely correct.

3. Some nights, after both girls are in bed, I think about all the mistakes that I've made that day as a parent. I think about how I should have had more patience for Alyce when she wanted to spend twenty-five minutes on the toilet and not pressured her to get on with it already. Or how maybe it was cruel to take away her precious library books when she hit me in anger before bath (it wasn't cruel, it was necessary, but that doesn't make me feel any better because either way, her little heart was broken). Or how I could have spent more time reading with Shira who, as Second Child, gets a lot less attention. But then I take a deep breath and tell myself to get over it. And I usually do.

4. I tell my children that fairies are real. Because they are.

5. I am absolutely in love with those moments when, out of nowhere, I am a smothered by the kisses of my two daughters. Nothing erases an irritating day like an slobbery open-mouth kiss from dear Shira, or the way Alyce tucks her legs into herself and sneaks her face under my chin when she gives me a full body hug, or, more accurately, as she tries to crawl back in my womb, which is bigger than her womb (see #2).

6. I have learned that all parents have those things that drive them to madness, things that push them to the edge. No matter how patient I am, or no matter how much I love my children, there are certain things that will forever send me to the dark side: smeared peanut butter on furniture, The Wiggles, whining, and when they chew on the ears of a stuffed animal (I'm gagging just thinking about all of those things).

7. I love making crafts with Alyce, but I'm sometimes not very good at letting her learn at her own pace, alongside her own mistakes. I don't care what she paints or glues or colours, but I'm not very good at holding myself back when I see her holding the scissors the wrong way, or smashing the paint brush on the page. As soon as I say something to her I feel like a jackass, especially when I can see that my words have discouraged her.

8. Almost every day I think back, usually just for a moment, to the day I gave birth to them. (Also: It's not completely true that you forget how much it hurts. It's mostly true, but there is still some muscle memory, if you know what I mean.) Sometimes I just close my eyes and find myself feeling sweet over how nice it was to meet them, one on a very cold day in December in Toronto, and the other on a perfect May morning. Looking at them now, and remembering their bright eyes on the days we first met, never gets old.

9. My parenting secret, that thing I always keep in my back pocket for support, is a ridiculous, wise-cracking, and handsome Matt, who is able to remind me when I'm being ridiculous (it happens). Mostly it's just fun to have someone else to laugh with when Alyce making up an elaborate song about princesses, or when Shira tries to give Hille on of those slobbery open-mouth kisses.

10. Nothing I've come up with so far seems to stop them from growing older. I find that irritating.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Stretching out summer

Thanks, everyone, for your best root canal thoughts. It really does help me to manage my horrornervousness over my impending dental work this week. I'm scheduled to have the work done on Friday morning, though the pain of my infected tooth is getting worse and I actually found myself trying to beg the (not very friendly) receptionist to squeeze me in earlier. Fingers crossed. So this morning I found myself a little obsessed with all things teeth, and I followed Alyce around while she brushed those gorgeous teeth she inherited from her father. Shira also followed Alyce around, her new favourite pass time.

In the middle of this root canal chaos, I'm trying to make the most of what will likely be one of the last weeks of just hanging around the house with my favourite people. I am working hard on the job search and I really hope to start a job before the end of the summer. Of course I'm feeling conflicted about leaving my current position as charming stay-at-home-mama, but when it comes down to it, I need to start this new stage because I am really excited to try something new (and support my permanent residency-applying American husband who is unable to work here yet). But for now, in between applying for work and nursing my sore tooth, I am loving that I can lounge around in our new backyard. Shira, too, enjoys this time spent lazily around the house (she has a lot of walking to practice).

This time sort of reminds of those weeks before having a baby. You know the time is precious and will be a rarity in the not-so-distant future, and you want to make the most of it. Just like getting used to a new wee one in your life, and the craziness that comes with that new person, I know that transitioning to full-time work after all this time spent at home will be a bit overwhelming. And by overwhelming I mean you might find me sobbing again in some corner, as you have found many times before. So for now, I'll enjoy the rest of this summer and all that it can throw at me. Like peaches, which will be in season here any minute now. I am already dreaming of the pie I will make.

What are you looking forward to as this summer keeps moving along? Any suggestions?

Monday, July 25, 2011

Teething, for grown-ups

I mentioned a few months ago that, as part of my life list, I needed to get around to that root canal I've been avoiding. For me, a root canal is life list material because, a) I have the world's most terrible teeth no matter how hard I try and, b) I have been petrified of root canals since the seventh grade, when a friend of mine compared a root canal to the worst pain she's ever felt in her entire life. It was a powerful statement made by a twelve year old and I've let it follow me around for years. I've avoided necessary dental work for a long time now, mostly on account of the words of a child. Sure, I'll get my fillings done, and last year I even braved having a tooth pulled, but root canal? Just kill me now.

So this week, as my face throbs from my infected tooth, and as I panic about the root canal I have scheduled on Friday, I am reminded of some other powerful words I heard more recently. This morning, as I was complaining loudly on Facebook, my cousin Lisa reminded me to get over myself. After all, she said gently, you've given birth twice. Without drugs, I might add. And now I feel better, because seriously, that was hard. A root canal with freezing? I can handle that.

Thanks, Lisa.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Sobbing again. Anxious, too.

I haven't found a job yet, but I'm way ahead of the game when it comes to worrying about leaving The Children each morning. Way ahead. I'm trying to find work close to home so that I don't lose hours each week to commuting, but I'm not having much luck with that. So I'm trying to prepare myself for the very likely possibility that I won't see Alyce and Shira very much during the week days.

Can you hear me sobbing? I'm doing those loud, ugly cries, so it should be easy to hear me. Sobbing.

Alyce and Shira go to bed earlier than most kids we know (on the advice of our very favourite sleep doctor), and by early I mean between six and seven (and usually closer to six). They both wake up early in the morning no matter when they fall asleep the night before, so the only way for them to get enough rest is if they get to bed in the six o'clock hour. If we keep our current bedtime routine, I'll only be able to see the girls for about forty seconds at the end of the day. This doesn't feel good, because I like at least a solid two minutes with each one.

I've been so spoiled until now. Yes, some days it's hard, and every day is exhausting, but I love spending my days with them. Now I'll be running out the door while Matt stays home. I already feel left out of the club, like I'll come home from a long day at work and I won't understand any of their jokes. Sorry, Mama, but only Papa knows what I like for dinner. Or, Mama, please stop trying to laugh at our jokes. You have no idea what we're laughing at. You look ridiculous. Can you even begin to imagine my horror?

Then there's milk. Shira asks for very little from me, but what she loves more than anything is a good solid thirty to forty minutes of nursing before each nap. She has come to expect this kind of pre-nap milk, and I don't want to say no to her. I know she's fourteen months old and doesn't need to nurse all the time of the sake of a meal, but she adores nursing because it is so much more than food to her. She gets me all to herself, a few moments away from Bossy McSister, and snuggles in for rest. Doesn't that sound delightful? Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to go and shatter her perfect world. Now there are two of us sobbing.

I know she'll adjust. She'll have some regular milk and fall asleep and the world won't end. She'll learn to wait for breast milk until the end of the day, just like Alyce did around this age. But no matter how she'll adjust, all of these changes are pointing in the direction of weaning, which itself points in the direction of her growing up.

I'm not very good at growth.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

A morning bed

There is something so delicious about having your little ones crawl into bed with you. Between five-thirty and six in the morning, Alyce will whisper (sometimes very loudly), "is it morning time yet?" For most other people? Decidedly not. For us? It sure is.

I adore having our privacy back now that we have a third bedroom: Shira is sleeping through the night in her own room and I'm able to return to some of my favourite habits, like falling asleep, book in hand, lamps shining bright. There is something so wonderfully lazy about falling asleep with a lamp on, especially when you know that a lovely someone* will be coming to bed soon and do all that work of turning off your light for you. But one of the best things about having our own bed is being able to invite those two little girls under the covers with us in the morning. Recently we've started reading a book together first thing in the morning, and sometimes Shira tries to nurse and turn around to see the pages at the same time. She's a multitasker, that one.

*Now that lovely someone is Matt, though in university those lovely someones were my roommates, Barbara and Kaylie. One time Kaylie came in my room, having noticed that my light was still on, and as she turned off my lamp I woke up from the dream I was having. In this wonderful dream I was about to get personal with Michael Hutchence from INXS (as he looked when Kick was released in 1987), and as I woke up and saw Kaylie in my room I was more than annoyed that she was interrupting an obvious match made in heaven. For a few minutes I really did think that me, Kaylie, and Michael Hutchence were in my tiny bedroom.  I can only imagine her confusion.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Sometimes I hoard the internet

I spend, ahem, a lot of time online. I steal little moments from my day when I can find them: nursing, waiting in long lines, standing in the kitchen waiting for water to boil. Maybe this sounds familiar? I know it does to my husband, who I will almost always find standing in the middle of a room, iphone in hand, scanning Twitter or Google Reader for some monumental breakthrough in sports analysis.

Because I'm often accessing these gems of the internet here, there and everywhere, I usually want to keep something for later, when I will have more time to think about a recipe or if I just want to let someone's idea simmer around in my brain for a little while before I read their post again. These are the reasons I'm offering for the fact that all my phone is constantly filled with open tabs and bookmarks, threatening to drown all other data from my phone (I don't actually know if this might happen, but I'm a worrier).

So in an extraordinary act of cleaning house, here are the interesting things that have caught my attention in the last couple of weeks:

A knitting tutorial on how to weave in your ends. As a novice knitter, this is perfect!

This raspberry scone recipe had me at hello.

Kale and honeydew? Yes, please.

A post about restarting your engine when things feel heavy.

It's also good to remind yourself (for the first or tenth time) about some very important lessons.

Sometimes I start nagging myself about my lack of Phd-completing. Then I read this.

Good. I feel a bit lighter now.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Happiest kid ever

Matt and I took Alyce to her first ever movie theatre movie today. I love going the movies (I know, I know, it's so expensive, but I adore it) and I've been waiting about three and a half years to take Alyce to her first movie. When I saw the preview for the new Winnie-the-Pooh, I knew it was time. We told her last night about our date, hoping to give her enough warning so that watching an enormous screen in a darkened room wouldn't leave her shaking in a corner somewhere, and she woke up this morning, put on her second-best party dress (her best dress was reserved for Declan, who is now four), and was ready to go. She only had to wait seven more hours until showtime!

We had the greatest time. Alyce wanted to know why the chairs were bendy (a fair question), but otherwise parked herself down, no (more) questions asked. She enjoyed popcorn, a few peanut m&ms, and a wonderful movie. Matt and I also enjoyed ourselves so much, laughing more than we imagined we would, both at the movie and at the three year old sitting between us, crunching her popcorn like a big kid. On the drive home, seeming less like a big kid, Alyce cried because she wants to go the movies every day. You and me both.

Watching Winnie-the-Pooh on the big screen today made me feel that good kind of lazy. It was such a treat.

 I broke about sixteen movie theatre laws taking this photo, but it was worth it.

An afternoon party

Alyce settled right into the party. At this exact moment she is telling Declan that he is her best friend. 

Then he just needs a moment to take it all in. Evidently, me and Alyce are just all friends, all the time.

She ate about 156 boxes of popcorn.

 And was decorated in rainbows.

What a party. Nice wok, Angie.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Is it me?

Alyce and I were fortunate enough to attend the birthday party of our friend Declan, who is now four.  I love celebrating the birthdays of my friends' kids (and birthdays in general), and there is something so lovely about helping your friends mark another year for their children. Somewhere between the shock that we actually had these children in the first place and the excitement of watching these wee people grow up before our eyes, you'll find me, both beaming and sobbing, at the centre of the party. Declan was an excellent host and didn't even flinch when all the other kids tried to open his presents. Alyce and I hope he enjoys his new books (especially this one, because it cracks me up). I would like to post some photos, of course, but I am experiencing some technical difficulty. Later, then.

(Update: photos here)

Besides sharing the details of how much I adored watching Alyce have rainbows painted on her cheeks, I haven't been able to stop thinking about something since I left the party. Declan's mama is a very good friend of mine, someone I was lucky enough to meet in high school, someone I'm so proud to have on my side. We used to spend all of our money following Sloan, and now we spend all of our money on food and beds for our growing families. It's been years (and I mean years, like fifteen of them), since we lived in the same city, but that hasn't mattered. But when you and your friends no longer occupy the same space, you both make new friends in the new places you find yourself in, and maybe you see where I'm actually going with this: you have this great friend who now has other great friends, and sometimes old friends meeting new friends can be awkward. And by awkward I mean that I found myself trying to break into this new world of hers, but her new world didn't want to let me in.

Maybe I scared the poor, unsuspecting New Friend? Did I come on too strong? Was I creepy when I walked up and introduced myself to New Friend and told her that I felt like I knew her already? Was it shyness that kept her from answering my questions, or engaging me in conversation? All I wanted was to get to know this person a little better, with hopes that my friend and I could expand our shared world again. Maybe we could all get together sometimes, instead of the fragmented visits we have when we're trying to keep in touch with so many different people in our very busy lives.

New Friend didn't seem to like me. She seemed to retreat to that strange phenomenon of moms-in-the-park. Do you know about this? If you put ten different mothers in a park with their children, they will very often never say a word to each other. Instead they'll talk to their children, or maybe, just maybe, about their children, but only for the briefest moments. All of these perfectly fine mothers sitting around a playground, with all of this great conversation to be had, and instead we sit there in silence, as though taking our eyes of our children for one second in order to look a new person in the eye is just too much. Why don't we talk to each other? What is stopping us? Isn't there enough crap out there that new parents have to face? Seriously, I'm going to start singing soon, something about 'shouldn't we all just get along.' You don't want it to get to that.

Like I said, maybe she was just shy. But I'm not that scary. And I bake.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Fast friends

Following in the great tradition of pets and children, Lucy and Shira have become fast friends on account of their shared interests: laps, tiny toys, and cheese. Lucy will put up will all kinds of nonsense from Shira if it means some extra food at the end of the day.

P.S. Shira is happily showing off her new big kid table that she shares with her sister. I'm sure I don't need to tell you how cool this is. It's like she woke up from a nap this week having grown leaps and bounds. That her feet still don't quite reach the floor makes me melt all the more.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Don't tell Alyce

We've had a few adventures these last couple of days while Alyce has been at daycare. It feels a bit like a parent vacation when there is only one of them (and when that one tends to sit quietly eating in her high chair for hours). Matt is back from Poland (more that on that soon) and we are all delighted, elated, and generally goofy with relief. Alyce tells Matt regularly that he is not to go back to Poland (you and me both, sister) and Shira was so excited that she started walking (more on that later, too).

I escaped yesterday, just me and Shira, to spend the day with some amazing friends I only manage to see once or twice a year. The five of us worked together, wearing kilts and serving beer, at an Irish pub in Kingston. We were all attending (or had just finished) university and we worked our asses off. The pub was enormous, filled with students and tourists, and the five of us joined forces quickly. The year or two we worked together made up some of my most favourite memories. And the best part? They're still mine. We've grown up (mostly) and continue to join forces. You know those kinds of friends who've got your back, even when you haven't spoken in a year? They're that good. I don't have any photos to prove it, but I swear we enjoyed the day together with some good food and a wonderful pool.

Seriously, no one mention the pool to Alyce.

Today it was the three of us. Shira and I accompanied Matt to the library at the University of Toronto, had lunch with another good friend, and visited the site of our favourite challah, The Harbord Bakery. Their whole wheat challah is the perfect balance of whole wheat and white flour, and no mater how hard I try I can't seem to duplicate it. We picked up two loaves (and some cookies, you know, for Alyce) and I can't wait to devour them. I consider it research for my next batch of homemade challah.

Anyone have any suggestions about the perfect ratio of whole wheat flour?

P.S. Sorry for blog silence. But regular life has now returned!

Friday, July 8, 2011


He's finally home with his best girls. Alyce just took him on a tour of his new house and I am going to just lay down for a week. Maybe two.

May you all have the most wonderful of weekends.
Shabbat shalom!

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

I guess it was bound to happen

Yesterday, I think I broke Alyce's heart, just for a moment. And I died a little inside, just for a moment.

It would be the understatement of the century to say that these past five weeks on my own with the girls have been, at times, really difficult. There have been plenty of wonderful moments, just the three of us, but my lack of sleep and worn-thin patience sometimes make these occasions difficult to appreciate. Lots of things are harder without Matt: bedtimes, running errands, getting out of the house, answering all 120,345 questions, and let's be honest, foot rubs are just not the same when you do it yourself. Oh Matt, when will you return? (In three more sleeps!)

Alyce has changed a lot in five weeks and I think Matt will really notice the differences. Her imagination is more vivid (or maybe she's just bossier in the expressions of said imagination--No, Mama, YOU'RE the big bad wolf coming to my castle and you MAY NOT huff and puff until the crown has been saved from the dragon fairy), she can completely dress herself (though she usually chooses not to), and if you look closely you'll notice the tiniest freckles sprouting on her cheeks, and some green showing up in her eyes. But you'll also notice that a new kind of tantrum erupts when you are unsuccessful in reading her mind (of course she wanted you to stand on her left and not her right), and that she's taken defiance to a whole new level.

Oh, defiance, why do you taunt me so? I don't even know where to begin. I know every how-to book will remind me that three is all about pushing limits and testing boundaries, but it doesn't matter how much I know that to be true. In the moment, in that simplest act of pure evildefiance, I lose my head. I am quite capable of understanding (see how I'm empathizing, parenting books?) how it's sometimes too much for a three year old not to grab that paintbrush and paint the white wall purple. All that drippy, gooey, bright purple paint is too much to resist. I get it, the first time. But when it has been explained to that particular three year old (I'll call her Schmalyce) that she may not use her Nana's paints to decorate all the rooms in the house, and then she goes and does it two more times before the end of the afternoon, I am incapable of understanding. What could possible provoke this kind and usually well-behaved child to such behaviour? And where does that look in her eye come from?* Seriously, can someone tell me? And can someone tell my mum, who is still trying to cover up the purple paint in my bedroom? Thanks.

So today, after so many trying weeks of this new kind of Super-Defiance, I wasn't very kind to Alyce. I should have been more sensitive to this little girl who was missing her Papa. I should not have said to her that Papa would be disappointed in her for continuing to purposefully crumple up her Papa's new print. She found it in a box, began squishing it up in her hands and just wouldn't stop, no matter how many times I told her to stop. She's old enough to understand now that Matt and I do not like certain behaviour, and to know that we expect certain things, but it's not what I told her that I regret, but that I chose to tell her this right when she's missing her Papa so fiercely. The knowledge that I've disappointed someone is one of the hardest things for me to face (like, ahem, when you quit your PhD), and I should have known better than to tell a three year old girl who desperately wants her Papa back home that he's now disappointed in her. And those tears that instantly poured down her little cheeks, and the sobs that came out, screeching Papa doesn't love me now, are totally and completely my fault. I'm such an ass.

I immediately explained that Papa would be disappointed by her behaviour but that he loved her very much, and that we always love her no matter what. I looked into her eyes and told her that she mattered to us more than anything.  I could tell that she believed me, and in five minutes we were smiling and chatting about dragons or magic wands or something equally important, but those few moments were hurtful. I wasn't intending to hurt her feelings, but I wasn't careful with them either. I'll forgive myself eventually because I know deep down that no parent is perfect, but I really wish it hadn't happened. I've been given this gift with Alyce, an opportunity to spend time with a truly magical girl (actually, I've been given two of these little creatures, but the other one, Shira I think her name is, often sits quietly on the sidelines while all of this is going on. But you'll see her in the photos I took today, so you know she's very much here), and I hate when my impatience makes me a jerk. Yup, it was a jerky thing to do.

We went on to have a lovely, regular run-of-the-mill three year old day, filled with more shrieks and tantrums than I'd like, but also filled with giant belly laughs over dinner and a late-afternoon dip in the pool, in spite of my jerkiness. But I think we're both going to bed tonight counting sleeps until Matt comes home.

P.S. Last week we moved into our new place and I've been without reliable internet since Thursday. I guess you can tell that I've been missing you, blog. Seriously, when will I stop typing? And thank you, cable guy, for making my life whole again.

* I know the look comes from her knowing how crazy this drives me--it's a mix of surprise (as in, I can't believe I actually pulled this off) and evil genius. And I also know that if I didn't react, she would no longer do these crazy things. But if you know how not to react, please do let me know.