Monday, April 30, 2012


Anyone lose a rainbow? Because Shira found one.

Hope you're having a good Monday.


Sunday, April 29, 2012


1. When I eat breakfast and lunch I read cookbooks. I make myself a meal, sit down at the table, and promptly begin planning my next one. Fortunately at dinner time I have enough restraint to sit and give direct focus to the meal at hand. Except for last night, that is, when I read another cookbook. The cookbooks on my table right now are La Tartine Gourmande (a new favourite) and the Rebar cookbook (an old reliable that I like to revist every now and again).

2. I love boxed macaroni and cheese. I wouldn't choose it over my homemade mac and cheese, or your homemade mac and cheese, but I am a sucker for that box. It might just be the muscle memory that makes me reach for the box (my dad made it at least once a week when I was a very impressionable child), but whatever the cause, the force is powerful. I make bread from scratch, weekly batches of muffins, pots of soup, but boxed mac and cheese calls for me. That's cool, I'm complicated.

3. My husband gives me foot rubs almost every single night. He's giving me one right now.  No, you cannot have him. Yes, I know how lucky I am.  It started during my first pregnancy five years ago and just never stopped. Same goes for the cats' litter boxes. I just never got around to sharing that task after pregnancy. But according to my calculations I did give him two beautiful children, so we're even.

4. Here are the things that I daydream about: running for five consecutive minutes, sleeping for nine consecutive hours, having long hair, singing on Broadway, sheep, moving to France, having another baby, and my next coffee.

5. Almost every day I write a to do list for the next day and then I wake up the next morning and immediately forget that I wrote one. It's not that I don't accomplish anything that day, but it often looks nothing like my list. Why would a rational person do this? Why would I write a list only to completely disregard it? I imagine this is a case of big ideas versus follow through. I wonder how I can continue to make the most of my big ideas while implementing a plan to actually see one of these ideas through. Here is my list for tomorrow: walk Alyce to school, tidy the basement, thin out some toys, write-up a menu plan for the week,  and go for a long walk with Shira. Any chance I'll actually do any of these? I'll report back tomorrow.

What are your confessions? I won't tell.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Someone please create a helpful tutorial on raising siblings

I have no idea what I'm doing.

In Delaware I taught a prenatal class on how to best prepare children for the birth of a new sibling. It was delightful. I know babies. Sure, I've only had two of them, but I feel confident that I know what to do with them, for the most part. I know how to love them, smell their heads, swaddle their bodies, rub their baby skin, and breastfeed them, and I loved sharing all the wonders of new babies with excited older children. We made crafts, played with dollies, and whispered to each other about how much we loved babies. 

It turns out that I only really know a thing or two about siblings when one of those siblings is a new baby. I need some help, and I need it now. Can someone please tell me what I'm supposed to do with grown-up baby siblings, because I truly have no idea. I was an only child growing up and so I can't even rely on a distant muscle memory of living with brothers or sisters. I have memories of my friends arguing a lot with their siblings, so I've filed that under "normal" in the daily sibling behaviour category, but I need more data.

Here's what I know so far: Alyce and Shira love each other a ton. It's not even unidirectional. I expect that Shira adores her big, bright, and bouncing older sister, but the feeling, it seems, is mutual. Take our evening Snack and Show. Every night after dinner Alyce has Snack and Show, wherein she snuggles into my mum's bed with, you got it, a snack and a show. Until last week this has always been a solo event for Alyce, a great way to keep her busy while I nurse Shira before bed. But since Shira insists on growing up, it has become obvious that she's ready to join Alyce. The two of them enjoy their snacks side by side, and only sometimes argue over Toopy and Binou (Shira) and The Backyardigans (Alyce).

Snack and Show I can handle. Even my mum and stepfather put up with crumbs in their bed every night. I have this sibling event down.

But taunting each other throughout every meal, I'm not sure what to do with that. Don't get me wrong, it makes me giggle sometimes. But parents of siblings: does this ever stop? Of course it won't. I don't even know why I'm asking. They've discovered a new hobby, these two, and it's called "how much of my food can I shove back out of my mouth to gross out my sister." Other recent mealtime hobbies include, but are not limited to, sneaking food off the other sister's plate, throwing the watermelon at the dog, and, my personal favourite, the "who can yell the loudest?" game. Yes, I'll keep working on manners, but let's face it. It's going to be a losing battle.

I've also been introduced to the horror endured by the older sibling over the younger one tagging along at every turn. Alyce had settled in for some floor baking with her Nana the other day, and it took all of five minutes before Shira insisted on joining in. I have to say, Alyce took it well. But it doesn't always go down like that. Yesterday Alyce had approximately 4,864 meltdowns because Shira wanted all of her favourites. I was endlessly annoyed that Alyce wouldn't just share, but when I thought about it for a minute I realized that it must be a hard lesson for older siblings, and often a losing battle. The baby always gets the sympathy of the parent. Older siblings out there? Please send help.

I think I'm also just not used to the LOUD. That's not going to go away either, is it? I'm coming to terms with it all because, well, I like my family. But I think I just need a little encouragement, a nudge here and there to remind me how to be a parent of siblings. I don't need help loving them both, but I do need some assistance in the "is this normal" category of parenting. Is it normal that Alyce shoved Shira out of her way this morning leading to a cut lip on Shira's face? Probably, it was pretty minor and Alyce felt terrible for doing it. She sang Shira endless songs while Shira nursed the pain away. Is it normal that Shira tried to smother Alyce with a place mat during lunch today? I expect it is. Either way, I'll be waiting for your help.

One last thing: I have come to appreciate the ingenuity of an older sister trying to defend against the destruction of a younger one. Alyce spent an hour building a castle on the kitchen floor the other night, a glorious structure of which she was very proud. After suffering a few destructive blows from Shira, Alyce solved the problem by surrounding her palace with barricades (kitchen chairs). I really respect that girl.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Red is my favourite colour

She woke up this morning and dressed herself all in red.

It's your favourite colour, Mama! Do you like it?

Of course I like it. I adore it. I adore her.

Can you put a bun in my hair? Please? Way up high? Because I have long hair now?

Of course I can. She couldn't have been any more proud. Feeling good about yourself matters, and sometimes that means feeling good about how you look. It means dressing in a red shirt, a red skirt, and red stripy pants. It means wearing a bun because your little hair is now (almost) long enough.

Where is Papa? He'll want to see.

Papa is already at work. Should we take a picture and send it to him?

Oh, yes. He'll like that.

And so we did. And he did. 

Monday, April 23, 2012

An interview with Nicola

Do you have any good friends that had the nerve to pick up and move across the ocean? Me, too. My friend Nicola helped get me through high school, not only with dignity, but with an impressive number of concerts under my belt, including Sonic Youth on my birthday. In school I always admired her independence, kindness, and her ability to drop class at a moment's notice so that we could wait in line for concert tickets. She was also my prom date.

Nicola moved back to England while I was away at university. Sad? Terribly. But with the help of excellent long distance plans and the glorious internet, we've stayed close. Which was lucky for me because Nicola was my first friend to start a family. She has experience, this one, and she agreed to answer some of my questions. Listen closely because you might be able to capture a bit of her magic: she can find the humour in absolutely everything, a quality I absolutely adore. Being a parent is hard work, yes, but the ability to roll your eyes and go with it some days is a gift.

You can find Nicola at Canuck aboot Toon and on Twitter @Mammy_P

 1. Tell us a little about yourself and introduce those glorious little boys of yours.

I’m Nicola, I’m 36.  I’m a British/Canadian ex-pat-re-pat.  That is to say: I was born in England, grew up in Canada, and now I live back in England again.  I’m married to Jason who is 42, and my kids are Benjamin Jonathan who is 7, and Jude Alan who is 2.  If you’re clever at math (I just had to double check the number on my fingers) you’ll notice that Ben was an only child until he was nearly 6 – I always knew I wanted more than one kid, but the time never seemed quite right... until it did, of course.  Ben is like a sponge; when he decides he likes something, he soaks up facts and figures about whatever it is with a drive and determination that amazes me; I hope he carries this trait with him through his whole life.  When he was a toddler, he liked fans.  Y’know – ceiling fans.  Desk fans.  Windmills.  Anything that spun round.  He’d walk into your house and immediately do a recce of every room to check out your fan-to-no-fans ratio.  Then he moved onto gardening equipment.  Lawn mowers, strimmers, leaf blowers.  Now he’s moved onto tanks, and World War II.  Phone our house right now and ask him how many millimetres thick the armour on so-and-so American tank is and he’ll tell you and then TRAP YOU ON THE PHONE FOR AN HOUR WHILE HE TEACHES YOU SOME OTHER STUFF.  It’s fascinating to watch, he is a little walking history book.  He is analytical by nature, and wants to understand how things work.  He also has a softer side, and can be very thoughtful and loving.  He is working very hard right now to remember to use his knife and fork in the right hands, and to remember his pleases and may-I’s, and if he puts his mind to it, he will argue with you that day is night AND HE WILL WIN. 

Jude will be 3 in July this year, so it is really only in the last month or so that we’ve started to notice the true shape of his character emerging – he and Ben are like chalk and cheese.  Jude is affectionate and gentle and declares ten times a day that “Mammy is my berry best friend.”  He loves kisses, loves being read stories, and will act out imaginative scenarios with his toys in a quiet corner.  He loves singing, and will sit in his carseat squeaking out renditions of all his favourite nursery rhymes – sometimes making hybrid tunes and joined-together verses; don’t be surprised if you learn from Jude “how he wondered what Old MacDonald are”, and that “four and twenty Mary’s little lamb was in the parlour eating bread and honey.”  With his continuing journey through the Terrible Two’s, he is keenly developing his selective hearing skills – as I type this he has taken all the cushions off the sofa for the 32983423239th time today, but I am utterly defenceless against those blonde curls and blue eyes as big as saucers, especially this close to bedtime.  One of the best things about Jude is that he will eat just about anything you put in front of him.  And then some.  Whenever anyone is eating anything in this house, his little baby sonar will detect, say, the opening of a bag of chips, and he comes zooming into the room just as Jason and I say, “Oh, here comes ‘Want-A-Bite Proctor’...” 

Separately, my children are wonderful.  At the moment, when they are together, they are like rabid escaped mental patients from a Victorian insane asylum.  I can say that, because I’m their mother, see.  Their father and I are hoping that is a phase and that the wrestling matches, sitting on each other’s heads, blowing fart noises in each other’s faces and destroying each other’s LEGO creations will be over before the year is out.  

2. What is your super power? (You know you have one.) For example, I can solve most of Alyce and Shira's problems by dancing.

Oh, that’s easy:  baking.  Shouting up the stairs, “WHO WANTS TO MAKE CAKES?” will bring down those two little dudes at the speed of light.  They each have their own aprons, and they will stand at the island in our kitchen and want to weigh and measure and mix and roll and sneak tastes and crack eggs and sneak more tastes.  I let them do it all themselves; it fills a rainy afternoon (and trust me, where I live we have more than our fair share of those) and has the most magical, calming effect on them both.  When we are in the kitchen baking, all is sweetness and light, all is chocolate sprinkles and harmony.

3. What's the hardest part of your parenting day, and do what do you do to work around it, or help make it hurt your head less?

 Getting ready for school is traditionally the time where, if someone’s head is going to explode, that’s the time it’s gonna pop.  Trying to organise Jason into his work clothes, Ben into his uniform, me into my pantyhose and heels, changing nappies and wrestling while cleaning teeth all in a 60-minute window before we leave the house is forehead-vein-pop-inducing, to say the least.  If you were a fly on the wall in my house between 7am and 8am, this is what you would hear:

40 x: “JUDE, I’m not going to ask you again:  come here so I can clean your teeth, please.”
21 x: “Mammy, can you tuck in my shirt?”
11 x: “Yes, you DO need a clean nappy on, that one has wee-wees in it!”
12 x: “Where are your shoes?  Time to go.”
32 x: “No, I don’t want to hear about which Howitzer has a 35 millimetre armour-piercing shell.”

4. Who do you look to for support as a parent?

My husband, Jason.  We’ve got the Good Cop/Bad Cop routine down to a T.  Mostly I’m the latter because Jason, as they say here in England, is as “soft as pudding.”  Would you like some chocolate before breakfast?  Jason’s your man.  Had your friends over and your bedroom looks like it’s been tipped upside down?  Jason will tidy it up.  When we first started going out together, I knew he’d be a good Dad when I saw what he was like with his dogs.  And for all the fussing and organising and meal-balancing chaos that I’m all about, Jason adds just the right dose of devil-may-care-spontaneity and fun that kids need.  I think we’re a pretty good tag team.  I am also not too proud to tap into the font-of-all-parenting knowledge that is my mother.  She has decades of experience under her belt of raising a spirited child (um – that’s me) so when I call her tearing my hair out in moments of frustration, after she’s done laughing and telling me “payback’s a bitch, Nick”, she usually has some great practical suggestions.  She’s a smart lady.  

5. What's been the toughest adjustment since becoming a parent?

Probably the complete surrender of every moment that used to be for me, that now belongs to someone else.  I think fondly back to those halcyon days when I could pick up a novel after breakfast and blast through it over the day without giving it a second thought, still in my pyjamas from the night before when bedtime rolled around again.  But having said that of course, back in those days I did more than my fair share of complaining that I never had a boyfriend and was bored all the time.  I have a happy medium now:  while it’s true that those “me” times are fewer and further between these days, Jason makes sure that he drags the kids down to the beach or over to his mother’s every once in a while to let me have some quiet time.  He leaves me a frazzled screeching harpy, and comes back to a balanced, recharged, serene and accommodating loving spouse.  And all it usually takes is a good book and some chocolate.

6. If you could only teach Ben and Jude one thing about the world, what would it be?

That while it is important to be proud of where you come from, it is only a tiny, tiny, tiny part of the planet, and that the world is filled with all different kinds of people, all shapes and sizes, who believe different things and feel different things and even though you might recognise those differences, you should also honour and celebrate them with kindness, understanding, tolerance and a friendly hand.  Get out and meet those people, explore where they live, feel the cultures and never stop learning from it. 

7. What ridiculously overpriced splurge do you wish you could spend on your kids? (For me, I would love to get one of those massive wooden doll houses.)

Oooh... it’d be a lifetime supply of airline tickets.  I want my kids to be able to identify with their Canadian-ness, and regrettably we can’t visit Canada nearly as often as I’d like at the moment for them to be able to find it.  So in a perfect world, I’d splurge on packing us all up every summer and Christmas to spend it on the other side of The Pond.  Wouldn’t that just be delicious?  Now I’m daydreaming!

Thanks, dear Nicola!

Saturday, April 21, 2012

She rides

How is your weekend treating you so far? In our house it's been a hit. We hosted some friends today for an all afternoon visit, ending with dinner and some fabulous cookies. It does my heart so good to spend time with friends, especially the kind that show up at our door with cheese and fresh coffee beans. There were kids everywhere and only one minor injury. I call that a success.

I feel like our weekend officially started on late Friday afternoon, when Alyce, Shira and I took Alyce's brand new, purple and green, covered in Tinkerbell, first-ever bike around the block. My mum gave both girls the gift of new bikes recently, and they are now prized possessions. Alyce is so proud of herself and I've loved watching her navigate all these new skills she's developing. Friday marked the first time she's taken to the sidewalks and she never looked back. Shira and I simply tagged along for moral support. And to help with the flower picking.

Do you spend days riding your bike when you were a kid? I had the ugliest, most wonderful banana seat bike that I would ride all day long, usually playing cops and robbers with my best friend. Or I would ride to the store to waste my money on candy.

Happy weekend!

Friday, April 20, 2012

More thoughts on breastfeeding a toddler

The perk of nursing with your iPhone handy? Capturing grins like this one.

Shira is turning two in a few weeks and I'm starting to get a lot of questions about breastfeeding. How long will you continue to breastfeed? Don't I want to stop? Is she going to permanently fuse to your breast? Fair enough. I don't think these questions are unusual by any means. Women just don't breastfeed toddlers very much in our culture, though that is starting to change. My friends and family have always been very supportive about my breastfeeding Alyce and Shira, but since for most of them it isn't the norm, I naturally receive a lot of questions.

A lot of people expect that I will stop nursing Shira once she turns two. Again, I understand why they expect it will come to an end. She's growing up and standing so much on her own in the world. It makes sense that she will no longer want to breastfeed one day, busy as she is. But right now she isn't ready and I have no need to enforce an arbitrary deadline on her. There are many reasons women need or choose to wean, but I don't have any of these reasons at the moment. I'm home with them full-time, so I'm always available. With the exception of that crazy week in Vancouver, it doesn't cause me any pain. She clearly still wants to breastfeed because she asks for it throughout the day and enjoys it when I am able to. (Also, in case you were wondering, you can't make a baby breastfeed unless they want it. They will absolutely not latch on if they don't want to.) There is no question in my mind that she still needs to nurse. This doesn't mean that I think harm would come to her if I decided to wean today. She would adjust and adapt just fine. But with no reason to stop, we'll continue on, my little nursling and me.

And of course, she's not the only who gets something out of breastfeeding. I love nursing her. It's my time with just Shira and no matter how much she will always love me, she will never snuggle with me again like this on a regular basis. I came to terms with that when I weaned Alyce at twenty-two months, but that doesn't mean I have to like it. In fact, it makes me quite sad to think about ending our breastfeeding relationship. It would mark an end to so many things and I would grieve this transition. (Many women suffer depression when they wean. You can find one women's story here). In a month from now I might feel very ready to stop, and I'm happy that I have the freedom to wait for that time to come. Who knows, I could feel that way tomorrow. Or, Shira could decide for the both of us. Either way, as sad as I will be when this is over, it will be ok. I find transitions of this sort so difficult, but I always get through them.

If you've read any of my blog before you're probably wondering if I will ever stop talking about breastfeeding. It's not looking good for you, I'm afraid. Breastfeeding your baby, or any kind of close relationship you share with your child, is transformative. It's going to change you, and if you're like me, you want to share that with the entire internet. You're welcome.

What about parenting has transformed you?

P.S. Here is an article by Dr. Jack Newman, a breastfeeding expert with some wonderful advice on nursing a toddler.

P.P.S. Another post on breastfeeding a toddler. And another one.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

And we named her Alyce

I've been thinking lately about how Alyce became Alyce. The process of naming a child is different for so many people, but for us it was easy, already written, so to speak. She was named before she was even conceived, that's how certain I felt that I was going to be gifted with a daughter. Truthfully, the name we gave her before conception wasn't Alyce, it was Mary Alyce. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

Mary Alyce is my maternal grandmother. It is pronounced "Mary Alice," though with a French father it was probably intended to sound like "Mary Aleece." Mary Alyce was born in 1936 and still lives with my grandfather down the street from my mum. She's an intensely private person, so I won't share too much about her life here. (If she knew half of what I posted on this she would surely give me a talking to. Thank goodness for her distrust of the internet.) But I do want to tell the story of why our first daughter is named after this incredible woman of mine.

Mary Alyce loves hard. Like many of her generation she lived hard, too. There was little money, little food, and a lot of family to feed. She married my grandfather, William, when she was just shy of her sixteenth birthday and had given birth to six children by twenty-four. Her and my grandfather worked harder than I'll ever know to support their young family, but it wasn't those years of struggling that left a mark on my grandmother. From the very beginning of her life, even before her own children were born, she looked out for people, looks after them. She protects. She marvels in those she loves. She sees goodness in people that the world overlooks, whether in her own children or in those whose stories she hears.

I remember watching my grandmother reading the paper one day, hanging her head low over a story about a man who had committed an unspeakable crime. While her sons at the table were talking about crimes and punishments, she thought of that man, the child of a mother who loves him, and reached out to him with her heart. I realized that day that Mary Alyce's love wasn't limited to the good things people do. She passed that along to my mum, her only daughter, who, I hope, has passed that along to me.

Mary Alyce loves her family fiercely, so fiercely in fact, that I've struggled with the implications of this loyalty. How do you live in a bigger world when your love is so focused on your own family? There have been consequences for her, too, from loving so hard. Her family of eight is now only a family of six. She lost her first baby before his second birthday, and another before his forty-first. Of course I didn't know my grandmother as a woman losing her young baby, but I can imagine what it was like, though I'd rather not. If I allow myself, even for just a minute, to think about losing one of my young children, my perspective on the world changes immediately, going from light to dark. I did know my grandmother when another of her sons died, and I watched her heart break in pieces. My grandmother loves so ferociously because she understands what a gift it is. To love.

I have been magnetically attached to my grandmother my entire life, almost as much as I have orbited my own mum. I didn't know it then, though I am starting to learn now, that the women in my life are extraordinary. I took for granted that these women gave me such a gift, because the ability to love opened my life. When I had my own daughter (as I knew I would) I wanted to mark her life with the gifts of these women.


Around the fifth month of my pregnancy, Matt and I were just about to fall asleep in bed one night, when I rolled over and whispered in his ear, I think I was wrong. Her name is Alyce Mary. And of course it was. I wanted my daughter to share in the qualities of her great-grandmother, and there are many to pass down. As private as she is, I don't think she'd mind me telling you that she loves to sing, devours syrup on buttered toast, and, in her day, enjoyed a good party. And more than anything I want for my daughter to live a life filled with the Mary Alyce's love. But I also want for her to shape her own qualities, her own life. She'll take her own turn with this gift and so she needed her own turn with her name. Alyce Mary it was, then.

Alyce Mary, without a doubt, is already experienced in love. Her heart is bigger than I ever imagined could be contained in that tiny four year old body of hers. We chose well.

Thank you, Mary Alyce.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Oh, Weekend

Is it a good Monday so far? I was able to sneak out of the house early this morning to get some work done, so it's a Monday winner in my books. I think I will also declare that my weekend was a great one. Friday night I made dinner for everyone in our house, and we all relaxed with some wine and a terrible movie. (Sorry, Drive, but I just didn't enjoy the hours-long pauses and the nightmare-inducing violence. I wanted to like you, I really did.) It was such a nice night with my family, I didn't even mind.

Saturday we went to our old synagogue, one filled with many wonderful memories. It where I began my conversion five years ago and the community into which we welcomed and named Alyce. I have missed this place for years, and I'm very excited that we will be returning there once we move back to Toronto this summer. We were warmly welcomed back this weekend by a few familiar faces and I am grateful for their kindnesses. (When I attended my first Shabbat service there I was dating my new Jewish boyfriend and now I'm the mother of two Jewish children. Life, holy cow.) Alyce, shy at first, played with some new friends, and Shira thoroughly scared all the other children away. She was, ahem, not into sharing. 

Shira needs some friends who aren't her sister. Let's just leave it at that.  And don't worry: she managed to nurse at least three times while we were there.

The rest of our weekend was filled with little things that brought a smile to my face: colouring, a birthday party, cleaning out the closets (I love closet cleaning), devouring my mum's pasta sauce, which I just ate again for lunch. Just sauce. No pasta. Do you know what else I did? I read an entire book. Cover to cover. It was light, hilarious, and I think you might like it, too. Around our house things are feeling lighter for the first time in months. Matt is excited to begin his new position at U of T later this summer and is starting another temp job this week (five weeks this time). I am making some new plans and getting just a little bit excited about them (more to come on those plans a little later).

And did I mention it's spring? Rebirth is in the air, don't you think? Have an amazing week. Maybe you can let me know what you're up to. I a bit of a nosy parker that way.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

How to cut your child's bangs

Actually, I have no idea how to cut bangs. Sorry if I misled you. I almost always take Alyce to the hair dresser for her haircuts, but now that she's growing her hair out so that she can, ahem, look more like a princess, I might as well do it myself. The before shots, above, gives you an idea of the bangs-related nightmare she's been complaining about all week:

And below, you'll see that Alyce takes this almost as seriously as I do. Here are the after shots:

We wish you the best of luck. If you know of an actual tutorial on how to cut bangs, please send them my way!

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

One month left

In one month today my teeny tiny Shira will turn two. I'm going to just take a moment to let that settle in. Two years with my little nursling. Alyce and I have just one month to plan a wee party for Shira. We've been discussing it for weeks and we've decided (finally) on a strawberry picnic in the backyard. Alyce is excited for a strawberry party because she expects there will be lots of pink, but I'm looking forward to it for other reasons. I ate fresh strawberries by the pound in those first weeks after her birth. May birthdays are lovely for so many reasons, and warm strawberries in the sunshine are just one of them.

I have one month left to enjoy my one-year old. One month to smother every inch of her with kisses before she's two and I, well, smother her with more kisses.

Some thoughts on flying with young children

Sometimes I'm shocked at how much my life has changed since having children. I used to fly to British Columbia and Alberta all the time and I loved the traveling. I loved reading magazines and new books, wrapping myself in a big scarf and watching a movie. The thing that puzzles me about these memories is that I used to treasure these four or five hours by myself because...why? I wasn't married, I didn't have children. As a student I was I by myself all day long. Of course many people without children have busy lives and stressful demands on their time, but me? I just had papers to write, and the occasional class to teach. I had plenty of alone time.  Now? If I get a chance to pee by myself I'm having a good day.

Now I have two sidekicks. They are by my side from the moment we wake up until, well, just sort of all the time. I'm still a parent at night, like when Alyce calls for me multiple times a night when she just can't settle into a restful sleep, as she's done the past couple of nights. Shira would prefer to just crawl inside my clothes, but she'll accept me carrying her on the outside most of the time. If I'm eating they want to share, if I'm talking to Matt they want to know what and how and why I'm saying the things I do.

Our trip to Vancouver last month took flying out west to a whole new level. It was just the three of us and we took the plane by storm. I made a few advance preparations (like filling my bags with dollar store treats of new crayons, stickers, teeny tiny safari animals, and smarties) and then we were on our way. Alyce was big enough for her own seat, but in order for Shira to fly free she had to share my lap. Oh, we managed just fine (see above, re: always trying to climb inside my clothes). When we arrived on the plane we received both sighs and smiles. Before flying I had decided not to care about what other people thought of my traveling family, not wanting to spend my flight worrying about other people. We settled in and I quickly pulled out my secret weapon.

No matter what opinion people have of breastfeeding a toddler, no matter how uncomfortable the idea makes them, any airline passenger becomes an instant supporter of a breastfed baby. I could feel the plane give a collective sigh of relief when I unsnapped my nursing bra. Oh, how lovely. This little one won't be crying during take-off. Isn't breastfeeding lovely? I think they would have even supported me nursing Alyce, who hasn't nursed in two years. I think I could have passed around breastfeeding pins to every passenger on that plane.

We had a few moments of frustration on the plane, but mostly it was a great trip. Alyce and Shira coloured, snacked, and covered each other in stickers. I even read five pages of a book. I can't remember the last time I did that with children on my lap. If you have a trip planned in the your future and you'll be traveling with young kids, know this: some things might get in the way (like sickness or tantrums), but for the most part its not so bad. Take it for what it is (not the plane ride of your youth) and ask them to pass the smarties.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Some patience

Last night I collapsed on our bed after I tucked Shira into her crib around six-thirty. I'll just lay here for a little while, until Matt brings Alyce up for bed around seven or so. Then I'll get up and start my evening of work. Around one in the morning I peeled myself off the bed just long enough to remove my uncomfortable clothes and slip on pajamas. Then I returned to bed until just before six.

I guess I was tired.

I think more than anything my heart is a bit tired lately. I was going to say my head, but really it is my heart. Not getting into the midwifery program the first time around is not the end of the world, I know that. I will try again next year, and maybe by then I'll have a stronger application. That's all I can hope for. The problem isn't just the disappointment, but the momentum I lost when I received the news. I realize I sound a bit like a broken record, but this past year has been tough a one. For a good long while I was pushing through the tough most days because I was so excited about what would come next. I had a plan that included weathering some challenging moments so that I could get to something that I really wanted.

Now I need a new plan, and as I mentioned before, I threw a bit of an internal tantrum. I was hurt and disappointed that I didn't get an interview for school and angry that I had to start over. Again. The truth is, I still feel this way, the wounds taking some extra time to heal. When I'm in this position I spend a lot of time thinking things over in my head. I don't like to talk about it much (except when I do like to talk about it a lot, thanks Liz). For someone who likes to talk as much as I do this comes as a surprise. But it has everything to do with that part of me who wants to be perfect. If you ask me how I'm feeling about not getting into school I don't want to answer you until I have it all figured out. I want to have a good answer, or maybe even the right answer. That's a lot of pressure on myself, I know. I feel it, as much as I feel helpless against it.

Thankfully, I don't always have the freedom to spend too much time worrying about the What's Next. Because then I wouldn't have time to enjoy a moment like this one at the park over the weekend. See that expression on Shira's face? In the middle of all this mess, she reminds me to just give in to the good things. Like the new dolly she received from her Aunt Doris last week, or the swing, or the sunshine on her face. There are people in my life who keep reminding me to have some patience, that everything will work out. I know they are right. I'm just a slow learner.

When I have patience, even just a little, I can watch Alyce look out for Shira at the park, keeping close behind her as she climbs the stairs to slide for the first time. She's growing into her role of big sister beautifully, with all the intensity and passion being a sister demands. Patience also gives me the chance to enjoy my walk to school with Alyce (some of the best ten minutes of my day), or to appreciate my Passover parsley, the little parsley seeds that could. I was expecting a fuller pot after we planted the seeds back in February, but these beautiful green sprouts served our little Passover seder well. We had a quiet first seder at home and then visited friends for wonderful second night. Happy Passover to all of you celebrating this week!

Patience also leads to tangible rewards. Like the job Matt was offered last week. Just before Passover he was offered a position in academia for another year. Another year is a great place to start. He had given up any real expectation that he would ever be Professor again, and I'm grateful that he has this new opportunity. He's a passionate teacher and thoughtful researcher, and the university will be lucky to have him. He will take up his new position this summer and for the time being we will make some more of those new plans, like finding an apartment in Toronto. I'm not yet sure what this move will mean for me, but I know it will bring more good things for our family. And for my heart.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

A day

Today I'm all by myself. I'm just going to take a moment to enjoy that sentence.

Bear with me.

Good, I've enjoyed that. Thank you.

Matt is home with The Children today while spend the day in Toronto. I have some legitimate errands to run here, and a meeting to attend, but mostly I'm just stealing away for a day of thinking. And planning. And thinking about planning. I'm not talking about everyday to-do list kind of planning, but more long-term. I'm thinking about steps, as in what my next one will be. There is so much simultaneous freedom and terror involved in taking new steps. I should probably sit for moment and enjoy some more tea first.

That's better.

Later today, after working and thinking, I will meet some friends for lunch and enjoy some more of this day. Today is a complete gift. I'll return later with tales of the goods I acquire today. Goods such as a new idea or perspective, or maybe some encouragement. These are the things I need today.

How are you spending your day today?

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Make this food: Breakfast

I have never met a grilled cheese sandwich that I didn't like, and the same goes for french toast. So I think odds are good that this grilled cheese sandwich, filled with mascarpone, stewed apricots, and chocolate, and supported with challah french toast, might be the greatest thing that has ever happened to my breakfast.

Passover begins this Friday night and with it comes eight days of not eating delicious sandwiches like this one. I've never made it more than a couple of days bread-free, but this year I am determined (more on that later). I will tuck this recipe away and in two weeks from now I will be eating it for breakfast. In the meantime, I think you ought to try this out and report back to me.

Where do you find your best breakfast recipes? You do eat breakfast, right? I'm a firm believer in first and second breakfast, so I'm always looking for ideas.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

It's not you, Barbie, it's your terrible movie

What if I told you a story about a beautiful young woman who was plucked out of her boring waitress job and thrown into the fast-paced and exciting world of charm school for princesses? Yes, a special school where young royals, and the occasional everyday, run-of-the-mill, long-legged blonde waitress who wins the Princess Lottery, go to master all the princess-related challenges they might one day face. And what if I also told you that the girls at this princess school like to sneak, cheat, and physically hurt their competition in order to get ahead?

Yes, everyone, this might be my daughter's favourite movie of all time. Barbie's Princess Charm School comes home from the library about once a month. I will never buy it for her, just like I won't buy her the accompanying books that she also checks out of the library. I won't even read the books to her. I've explained to her that I don't like how the Barbie books and movies tell stories about the world. She's listened patiently as I tell her that Barbie's friends treat each other in terrible ways that would never be acceptable in our family. I beg and plead with her (mostly in my head) to walk on past the Barbie movies and choose the more agreeable Backyardigans, or even Beauty and the Beast (sigh). I tell her that I like to play with Barbies (who doesn't) but that I don't want to read the books or watch the movies. We can all make choices, I tell her, and this is my choice.

What I don't tell her is that I want to save her from every terrible influence, bad idea, and potentially terrible tattoos she might face in her future. I want to surround her in loving, joyful, and life-affirming things. I want to stand in the way of mean girls and boys, or anyone that tries to darken her world. I only want the good for her, not the backstabbing, soul-crushing future princesses in her Barbie movie. I only want rainbows. And unicorns! And chocolate cake! I want to protect my little girl who loves everyone in the world so much that her it makes her heart hurt. She tells me that sometimes. In Barbie's world there isn't any love like that.

She looks back at me, pigtails bobbing, eyes enormous, entire body bouncing, and takes me hand. It's ok, Mama, you don't have to watch them with me. And I think at the beginning of the movie they act in nice ways. Isn't Barbie beautiful? I love Barbie. Barbie is my favourite. Do you like Barbie?

Send help.

Monday, April 2, 2012

My Monday tasks

My Monday plans:
  • Watch the final game of the NCAA "Will It Ever End?" March Madness game with my best guy. And by watch I mean sit next to him on the couch working on the computer, occasionally sitting through a replay every so often (because I just HAVE to see this), wondering why we are just watching Smash. (Update: Or, more to the point, wondering why we aren't just watching Smash).
  • Clean and vacuum our bedrooms.
  • Making plans to spend a day in Toronto later this week
  • *Smile at Shira as she plays kitchen for the first time.
  • Make minestrone and sharing it with Shira, who primarily just eats the white beans.
  • Work, work, work on my upcoming course (I start teaching in May)!
  • Begin planning our Passover meals (we're having a small seder at home the first night and then joining friends the second night).
*Ongoing task.

What are your plans? I hope you are having the best kind of Monday.