Wednesday, August 31, 2011

When not looking for a job

The past few days have felt all-consuming, but really, they wasn't that much going on. Sometimes it feels as though not having a job is a lot of work. I feel as though I ought to be looking for work every second of the day, and since of course I'm not looking for work every second, I am very busy feeling very guilty that I'm not. You following me? Me neither, so yesterday afternoon I went to see a movie. By myself. To cope. Anyway, besides looking for work, my days are filled with the usual things. Like bathing Pomegranate because there was poop stuck to his tail. 

It is indeed a glamorous life.  Pomegranate really needs some professional grooming (Pomegranate, besides sometimes being a bit of a jerk, is also a lazy groomer. A sweet, lazy groomer), but cat grooming is not currently in our budget. He was a good sport about it, and had the full moral support of Hille, who is in love with him. Hille does indeed have a head, but he's too busy trying to lick Pomegranate to worry about camera time.

There was of course more dress-up. This Cinderella costume is her favourite, but it's a bit scratchy and not made of niece material. I'm planning on asking a friend's mother to make a new one for Halloween. Halloween is still a couple of months away, but we're already planning. Alyce will be a princess, I will be a princess, Matt will be a King, and last I heard Shira will be a bee. At least this is what Alyce declared this week. (Liz, if you're reading this, I think that toy in Alyce's mouth is something she swiped from camp this weekend. Sorry about that).

And there was colouring. A lot of colouring. I love watching Shira try so hard to be like her sister. I think she enjoys colouring in her own right, but there is nothing she loves more than to park herself near Alyce in a full-on colouring session. Shira spends a lot of time drawing on herself with markers, and often loses the caps, but most of the time Alyce is happy to have a craft partner, and I foresee years of Alyce passing down her crafty secrets to an eager Shira. Sometimes it will seem more like she's just being bossy, but I like to consider it more in the line of transmitting secret knowledge. Alyce just transmits loudly and firmly.

Wouldn't you like to join with some colouring? We have lots of projects to do this week. Tomorrow is my grandmother's birthday and we'll spend some time making her a card. I also came across these tiny hearts and I'm hoping to make a few over the weekend. There is something so lovely about sending Alyce to school with a little heart in her pocket. Did I mention she starts school next Tuesday? Oh, I'll be mentioning that a lot in the coming week. Because she's GOING TO SCHOOL. What?

Does anyone have a suggestion about things I should do while I'm still unemployed? The only requirement is that it can't cost a lot of money. You know, so we can save for the cat grooming.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Three year olds make excellent fashion choices

Given the choice, Alyce will always choose a dress. Some days, though, it's not just a dress. It's a ball gown. And now that Shira eagerly plays the role of adoring little sister, faithfully trailing behind the tall one, Alyce is happy to make suggestions for Shira, too. I'm happy to pass along any feedback that you might have, though we only accept the good kind. To all those older women at the grocery store with your unkind stares, I'll kindly ask you to take your miserable and utterly joyless outlook somewhere else. If she wants to wear a gown to the grocery store, so be it. 

I took these photos late last week in a last ditch effort to exhaust Alyce before bedtime. Bedtime has spiraled into new territory at our house. She has taken not wanting to go to/stay in/return to bed to heroic levels, and Matt and I are seeking shelter. I am hereby asking anyone to come to our house between the hours of 6:30 pm and and 6:30 am and deal with it. Please, just for one night. We need a fresh pair of eyes and hands. We also would love a break. And so you'll now find us trying to run or cycle the crazy out of her with hopes that a very tired kid might stay in her bed for the night. This week we might try running laps, roller-skating, rock-climbing, and maybe a triathlon. All will be done, of course, in a ball gown.

I hope this Monday finds everyone safe and sound. I am so grateful for all the kind words you have sent my way regarding my job search. It really makes such a difference. Thank you.

P.S. We went (sort-of) camping this weekend and I have not one photo to show for it! I'm waiting for our friend Chris to pass along some photos before I share the details. One hint: it was so much fun.

P.P.S. I sense a guest post coming later this week. You might recognize him as the father of The Children.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Less adventure, more sulking

I'd like to interrupt all this talk of adventures with a little sulking. I know, fun for everyone! Gather around and prepare yourselves for some complaining, and maybe even a teeny-tiny pity party. Still here? Good.

I have had some incredible days with my family lately, and we're planning on having a few more of those this weekend (camping!). There have been many days where you'd have found me wishing that I could maybe just stay home with The Children, and maybe even homeschool them. Yes, I actually consider that some days. I even snoop around a few homeschooling blogs every week, just in case. Sometimes I imagine us taking walks in the woods or playing in the snow, learning about all kinds of everything. (Like just this morning Alyce and I tried to feed some sour crab apples to a spider and an earwig. We learned that they do not enjoy crab apples, and I accidentally squished the spider in the process. But, still.) But when I think about it a little longer I realize two things: first, Alyce loves going to preschool more than just about anything. She loves her friends, her teachers, the toys, the slide, the toys, and her crafts, and when she has been enrolled in a school she always comes home telling us all about her exciting days. (Me: "Alyce, what did you do today?" Alyce: "I played". But she says it with great conviction and depth.) She's very excited about Junior Kindergarten, which begins in two weeks. She's the kind of excited where she's sleeping with her new lunch box in bed at night.

Second, I both want and need to work. I want to develop new skills and discover new interests (and old passions), though for the moment my need to work is outweighing everything else. I am excited to sponsor dear Matty for permanent residency, but the reality of his Canadian move is that he can't work in this beautiful country until all his immigration is done (which could be as early as December or as far as next May). So while I'm hoping to find a job that I enjoy, that keeps me away from the house all day doing things I'm good at and things that challenge me, we also just need a pay check. And it needs to be big enough to cover the expenses of a family of four.

So I find myself in a position I've never really experienced, and while I knew coming in that finding a job isn't easy, it never occurred to me that September would come and find me still unemployed. I've had some very wise friends remind me that summer is a terrible time to find a job--especially August, with all those employed people taking vacations, the nerve--and I'm so very grateful for the help I've been offered by those friends who themselves had trouble finding a job back in the day. I have not given up all hope and I remind myself to be patient. But lately I'm frustrated, impatient, scared, and a little sad. Especially when that recruiter told me last week that I should just go home because she had nothing. She actually told me to go home. In case that hasn't happened to you, believe me when I tell you that it sucks.

So I find myself, as one does, questioning a lot of things. What is it that potential employers aren't seeing in my resume? Why am I not standing out? Dear god, did I include the wrong phone number (oh yes, I've checked just to be sure)? I might not have any direct business or management experience, but it never occurred to me that my two degrees (and half of a third), five years of teaching experience, and a whole bunch of time spent volunteering my time with social services groups, faculty committees and boards, wouldn't help me stand out to an organization or business. Three months have gone by and I'm left in virtual silence. Maybe I should check my phone, just to make sure it's working. Or maybe I'm just naive and you'd like me to stop complaining.

I also find myself wishing that I could go back and time and have a little talk with my eighteen year old self. I would tell her to stop worrying about her weight already, and also not to major in the Humanities. This might not be a popular opinion among the Humanities-loving people I know, and of course I agree that learning for the sake of learning, learning how to think critically, and learning how communicate are vital to a healthy society. I have spent years developing these skills and I don't want to give them back. But it wouldn't kill my degrees to do a little bit more for me. Seriously, Master of Arts? You've got nothing for me? I gave you a THESIS. And of course if I hadn't wound up in a graduate program in the Humanities I probably wouldn't have met Matt from Alabama, and then where would I have found Alyce and Shira? So yes, yes, it's good and all that I chose the Humanities, but that doesn't change my frustration today. I feel extremely qualified to apply for another graduate degree, and that's about it. And another graduate degree won't pay the bills right now. And plus, didn't I just leave one of those? I know that I have a lot to offer an employer, but it seems that first I need an employer to trust my education. I need an employer who can see the potential in my skills as a researcher and writer (and, evidently, as a complainer).

And now we come to the end of my pity party. I will put on my big-girl panties and get back to it.

There was a rainbow

It's after nine and there is quite a storm raging outside. There has been a tornado watch all day, and while I do not want one of those, I am grateful for a good storm. When the storm first hit about thirty minutes ago I was looking into our backyard, leaning against the sliding glass door, and our kiddie pool and diaper-drying rack came flying against the house. I quickly realized I was being an idiot and moved away from the windows.* Alyce got out of bed when the storm began, and we quickly realized that she was not going to bed any time soon. We invited her downstairs with us and she parked herself down on the couch, watching baseball and drinking warm milk with her Papa. It was up there with the sweetest thing of all time.

It's been a whirlwind of a week. We are occupying this strange space lately, where we are unemployed, school hasn't started yet for Alyce, and we find ourselves with very little to do (not including the hours I spend looking for work). We can only spend so much time playing in the backyard, so between needing a change of scenery and wanting to make the most of this (we hope) last couple of weeks of pure freedom, we have found ourselves a few adventures. In the last ten days alone I have been to the Toronto Zoo, Toronto Centre Island, the Canadian National Exhibition, and yesterday, Niagra Falls. Talk about seizing the day.

I hadn't intended a trip to Niagra yesterday, but some friends from Delaware were going to be there (the same friends who looked after Alyce while Shira was born, if you've read Shira's birth story on Kveller), and I figured it was a good excuse to show Alyce the Falls. The day didn't work out quite as planned, and we never ended up finding our friends, but we had fun nonetheless. It was just me and Alyce and we've really found our groove together lately. There are always some unfortunate moments in the car with far too much whining and crying for my taste, but she's three. Comes with the package. For the most part we had the greatest day together, and I'm loving all this extra Alyce and Shira time before I head back to work. (Did you hear that universe? I am going back to work.)

Our day consisted of Falls-watching, ice cream-eating, and not much else. Oh, there were rainbows, too. Not bad for a Tuesday.

*This reminds me of a similar poor choice I made in the past, while driving in Jasper National Park in Alberta. My friend Cathy and I were on our first road trip in the mountains, and upon entering the park received a guide warning visitors not to jump out of their car if they saw a bear on the side of the road. What moron jumps out of their car to check out a bear, we wondered. Not ten minutes later there was an enormous elk on the side of the road. Cathy stopped the car, and I jumped out, camera in hand, and ran up to the elk. Yes, I am that moron.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Maybe it's the storm

I've been trying to publish a post tonight but I'm having no luck uploading my photos. There is one hell of a storm raging outside, so I'll blame the thunder and lightning for my Blogger problems. In the meantime, I hope everyone in Eastern Canada/U.S. is holding on tight and safe from the storm.

P.S. Who else is with me: are storms not the greatest?

Monday, August 22, 2011

Just wait until you see her face when she tries cotton candy

So we made good on our plans and braved the Canadian National Exhibition on opening weekend. Crazy? Yes. Ridiculous amounts of fun? Absolutely. But let me clarify that by *we* I refer only to myself, The Children, and my mum. Matt stayed home because 1) He has a chest cold, and 2) I am an excellent wife who encourages him to stay home and enjoy an empty house. Sometimes I am just that good.

While I value alone time as much as the next parent of young children, I think Matt actually missed out on a great day. He missed Alyce's repeated exclamations of "I won! I won! I love what I won!" Let's be clear that she didn't win a car or a trip to Europe. She won an enormous plastic fish. And then a whale. And then another whale (sometimes-and by sometimes I mean very rarely- getting spoiled by Nana is worth every tacky plastic toy). Alyce? A big fan of the midway.

Being the gracious three year old that she is, Alyce even shared her winnings when she had better things to do, like take Nana on the rides. Sweaty me (it was a billion degrees) and Shira watched from the sidelines as my sometimes timid Alyce launched herself toward the loud and sparkling rides. The child has no fear.

Here is a terrible photo of Alyce's favourite ride, the Ferris Wheel. I bring you this low quality photo to share with you something that I've learned: I no longer enjoy rides. You can see from this photo (with mum and Alyce ready to be the day's first customers) that this particular Ferris Wheel is tiny by carnival standards. You only need to be 36 inches to join the ride, but I was terrified. I must confront the reality that the roller coasters of my youth are no more. I am content to now sit on the benches and wait while Alyce the Adventurer tackles the rides. I gave birth to two children. I have nothing else to prove. 

Shira continued to keep watch of Alyce's treasures throughout the day. I felt a little bad for Shira, stuck in the stroller for most of the day when she just wanted to march around and chase seagulls. But she managed, as she always does, with sophistication and class. And a nap.

As you would expect, Alyce wore herself out with all that fun. Here she is in the middle of an exhibition hall, napping with her dolly. It was after lunch and we were all worn a bit thin. I needed to nurse Shira but I couldn't find anywhere to sit. I didn't want to sit outside in the sun to breastfeed, but all the benches inside the hall were taken. I stood there, Shira in arms, just staring at all the people. I said, loudly, I wish I could find somewhere to nurse my BABY. Still no one budged. I certainly wasn't going to head to the washroom to breastfeed her on a toilet, so I just sat down on the floor, next to a resting Alyce, and started to nurse Shira. She didn't care when I sat. She was far too delighted by my boob to care. After about five minutes someone got my point and offered me a seat. 


Finally, the face that I promised you. I took this photo after Alyce's first ever bite of cotton candy. It was everything she had dreamed. Maybe even more. She's thinking of becoming the spokesperson for the cotton candy industry. Maybe even a lobbyist. If you are even having a bad day, I suggest you come back to this photo. 

Overall, a great day. I'm carrying around so much stress about looking for work, and I was grateful to my mum for helping me to get my mind away from grown-up stresses for a day. We were tired, happy, full of sugar and all the better for it. I took this blurry photo last night, the day after our adventure, of Shira still clutching Alyce's winnings.  The cows, for the time being, have been replaced. Somehow she managed to breastfeed through this blanket of whales. She's nothing if not committed.

So what are my tips for taking young children to an enormous carnival?

1. Lots of healthy snacks to balance out the sugar.
2. Water. Water. Water.
3. Bring a stroller just to carry all your stuff.
4. Bring an extra sucker to get dragged on all the rides while you watch from below. Grandparents work well.
5. Enjoy watching your little ones' eyes open wide as they take everything in.

The rest of my weekend was spent at home. The night of the CNE I was in bed by 7:30. Sunday was spent cleaning and painting and (still) unpacking, followed by dinner at mum's. Now it's back to the reality of job searching. Wish me luck. And for you, I wish the most wonderful week!

Friday, August 19, 2011

Two cows named Ruby

I bring you this photo of my youngest for three four reasons:

  • She insists on sleeping with two cows, both named Ruby. 
  • Sleeping babies are delicious.
  • Baby arm rolls are especially delicious.
  • I needed a pick-me-up after a long week of not being employed.
All good reasons, I think. If you can think of any others, I'd love to hear them. I could probably come up with another hundred, but you probably want to stop going on about it already.

I hope all your Fridays are treating you well. Much love for the weekend!

P.S. We're braving the CNE this weekend. What are you up to?

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Head in the sand

I'm having a tough few weeks on the job hunt. It's been three months of searching and so far nothing. I'll be complaining more about that later, but for now I wanted to show off how I distracted myself yesterday. Alyce and I escaped to Centre Island in Toronto with our friend Heather and baby P, and it was glorious. Heather and I were both very happy to spend a day walking, swimming, and eating ice cream (ahem, husbands). Originally I had planned to bring Shira, too, but in the end it seemed like a great opportunity to have an Alyce date. We need those a lot more than we get them. Plus, it was Alyce's first time 1) on a ferry, 2) swimming in a lake, and 3) having an enormous brownie and an chocolate ice cream cone in the same afternoon, and I wanted to enjoy that all to myself (except for maybe that last one).

Do you know what's magical? Watching a little one discover waves for the first time, standing next to her as her feet disappear in the wet sand, and giggling alongside her as she stands astounded by her own bravery in standing armpit-deep in the lake. Do you know what else is magical? Her falling asleep on the ferry back to the city, stealing one of her first naps in OVER A YEAR.

It was strangely quiet.

P.S. I had to sneak in one photo of Heather and baby P, mostly just to offer evidence of the world's squishiest baby legs.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Date Night

Just had a date with my husband (can I get an "Amen" for moving closer to babysitters family?), and in an attempt to come up with something very last minute to do, we ended up seeing Crazy, Stupid, Love. We both expected an decent movie, something that wouldn't annoy us too much, and ultimately just allow us to sit for two hours away from our house and The Children. But instead it was just perfect. I love movies that remind me how much I love being married to Matt. It was funny and familiar and complicated and sweet. I think you should see it. 
Yes, this post will fall under the category of "Bossy," but I'll make no apologies. I'm really right about this. Go see it.

Was it a good weekend? Did you relax? Did you eat some delicious food? Do tell.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

A little heat, a lot of snacks

It's been a strange couple of days around here. I think the summer's heat has sparked Alyce's crazies, as I witnessed this afternoon while she cried, screamed, and whined for forty-five minutes. I think the meltdown was technically sparked by me not having arms long enough to reach into the backseat (while driving) and remove the clothes from her bear, but I suspect that it had more to do with just having spent a few hours in the sun at the zoo. Whatever the cause, I could go my entire life without listening to that again. But our time at the zoo was delightful, heat and all.

I should mention, though, that the two three-year-olds among us spent more time asking for lunch and snacks than they did communing with the animals. At one point Alyce just sat down in the middle of a very busy trail of people and declared it the perfect spot to have a picnic. I think the two hundred other people trying walk around us felt differently. In the end, we found some shade and some grass and had ourselves some lunch.

Speaking of food, Matt and I have reached the point where if Alyce asks us for another snack, we might just have a meltdown of our own (we're none of us perfect). Lately I've felt compelled to sit down with new parents, or even with people just thinking about having children in the future, and let them know that their life will soon be defined by the fixing of snacks. It's not that I want to warn them against becoming parents--no, no, having kids is my favourite thing to do--but I do want to offer some insight into the world feeding young kids. Here's just a glimpse, if you will:

6:00 am: For Alyce, offer breakfast of cheerios and milk, and peanut butter toast, not toasted. Throw in some berries. Give Shira her own bowl of cheerios and berries. Prepare mentally for the all the cheerios you will soon be cleaning up from the floor. Get some towels ready, too.

6:05 am: Spread more peanut butter on the non-toasted toast, since the Alyce has not eaten the non-toast but has instead licked off the peanut butter. (Repeat at 6:10 and 6:14). Replace bowl of cheerios and milk for Shira, because you know the first bowl is already on the floor.

7:00 am: Alyce asks for a snack. You tell her that snacks will come after she's dressed and brushed her teeth, and remind her that she finished eating breakfast 46 seconds ago.

7: 05 am: Alyce asks for a snack, again. Remind her again.

7:07 am: No, Alyce, not yet.

7:09 am: Seriously, Alyce, you will get a snack in a few minutes. Now please get dressed.

7:11 am: Offer (finally) Alyce a snack of fruit. She asks for mac and cheese instead. Remind her that it's not yet lunch time and that fruit is all I have. Watch her calculate the odds of actually getting mac and cheese before eleven. She accepts the fruit.

7:23 am: I am not kidding, she asks for another snack.

You get the idea. This goes on all day if we're not careful. This week we've been brainstorming some ideas to handle the constant snacking, and we've had some success with leaving a snack tray on the table that she can have access to all day. She's slightly annoyed by our insistence that the tray stay on the table instead of following her around from room to room, couch to couch, or in the bathroom, but she's managing. Somehow. She's also finding ways to cope with having to wait for me to bring the dinner from the kitchen to the table, a wait that she often finds unbearable (see top photo for evidence of her very difficult life).

If anyone has any suggestions about snacking and limits, please do let me know. I like to encourage a healthy approach to eating and I don't want to spend too much time trying to control food and meal times, but it can get a little annoying. How do you handle the land of snacks?

P.S. We came to the bed last night and found that doll tucked in our beds. We were both thoroughly creeped out. Thanks, Alyce.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Fifteen months

Hello, Shira. Yes. I know you're very big now.

But thankfully you are not yet as big as your sister, who seems to have grown a hundred inches overnight, when we weren't looking. You'll never be that big, right?

I'm know you want to be big one day. I see how you watch your older sister. You let her drag you around by the arm (gentle, Alyce, please,) bossing you around from place to place. You get irritated when she doesn't share the good toys, but mostly it's just a show. You'd give anything to play with her, even if that means you play with her reject. That's what having a big sister is all about.

Did I mention that once you were small, and that you fit in my insides? What's this business about you growing and walking and learning to talk? Thankfully you still look like this every night, and it makes your Mama very happy.

Happy fifteen months, my wee one.