Wednesday, December 29, 2010
Friday, December 24, 2010
Today you are thirty-two months old. But more to the point, you are very, very, VERY two. I don't think it is possible for a child to be MORE two than you are right now. I certainly hope I never live to see such a thing, because wow, I can't even imagine it.
I love you a million billion fajillion, and always will, but the truth is ... well, the truth is it's a whole lot easier to reflect on the profound lengths of my love for you when you are out of the room. Or asleep. When we're actually together? I am less likely to be revelling in your adorableness or intelligence and more likely to be gritting my teeth in frustration, wondering what the HELL I was thinking with this procreation business.
One of your most irritating habits is your inability or unwillingness to control your volume. You are a child who likes things how she likes them, and I get that - BELIEVE ME, I get that. But when you want to give me and/or your dad a vitally important instruction about precisely how we ought to proceed with life, is it too much to ask that you do so at a volume actually audible to humans, and with words that actually exist within our mother tongue? I would hazard a guess that you know and use regularly somewhere in the neighbourhood of 400 words, and you have no problem stringing together a sentence, so can you meet me halfway here? You either mumble in an inaudible (albeit charming) sing-song tone, or shriek wordlessly in what may as well be Klingon, for all I can understand of it. Can there be no middle ground? I have to tell you, if you insist on issuing commands in this way, they are not likely to be obeyed.
You are also getting VERY lippy. This morning, as I prompted you (for the BAZILLIONTH time) to use your manners, you responded, "Don't start, Mama. Don't start." SERIOUSLY? Are you entering teenhood already? I am SO not okay with this. There's nothing like hearing my own words come out of your "innocent" mouth - for example, yesterday I repeated my request for you to get your shoes and you responded, "I said NO, Mama," - but I can't even think of when I have used the phrase "Don't start." Although, contrary to your advice, I think I may start using it now.
Most of the time I am able to embrace your two-ness and feel strong in my faith that you won't be this way forever. But sometimes I start to wonder, with a small but uncomfortable niggling feeling, if maybe I'm Doing It Wrong. Are you actually turning into a genuine brat, a spoiled child? There are only two ways to know: time travel, and trusted friends. Since I have no access to the former, I rely on the latter to tell me if you are just a normal, manageable two-year-old or an entitled rotten in the making. So far, most people tell me you're a delight, so I carry on, for better or for worse.
Okay, but there are good times too. I love the way you construct sentences, which is not entirely correct but is completely endearing. "What that kid's name is?" is your way of asking someone's name (everyone is a kid or a baby), and "Which one I was using?" is your response when we turn off your show, meaning that you want us to put the same one on again later. You have no distinction, yet, between "he" and "she", and use them interchangeably - though you can tell me that you are a girl, while Dada is a boy. You love to have pretend conversations with a toy, or better yet, between two toys with you doing both the voices. "Hello duck, how are you?" "I'm just fine cow. How are you?" "I'm fine too." "Bye-bye, have a good day!" "You too, love you!" (I guess it's not always terrible to hear my own words coming out of a toddler's mouth.)
You are undoubtedly a bright little girl and we are routinely astounded by what comes out of your mouth. A couple of weeks ago, I asked you what you were going to dream about that night and you responded, "Constellations. A puppy constellation, a kitty constellation, and a bear constellation!" How does a two-year-old know what a constellation is? My only guess is that it must have been covered on Blue's Clues, because any topic that is covered on (the first three seasons of) Blue's Clues is a topic you are highly knowledgeable about. That is how you already know most of the planets, too.
I am absolutely certain that once you grasp the independence represented by potty training, you will be ON THAT. You have already seen the big-girl underwear in your drawer and asked to wear it, so I've started telling you that you can wear it after Christmas. "After Christmas, no more diapers!" I tell you, and you say, "No more diapers?! WOW!" Wow indeed. I'm sure you will be dressing yourself (and undressing yourself) in no time, and there are sure to be some hilarious and creative outfits in your future.
You love to sing, and have started making up your own words to songs, which is pretty hilarious. Moreover, you KNOW you are being hilarious, and you will pause right after saying a silly word, waiting for someone to respond. "Row, row, row your sock..." "Your sock?" "NO!" you say in a giggly, "I tricked you," voice. "NOT YOUR SOCK! Row, row, row your nose ..."
Your most overused phrase these days is "Can I help?", which has caused me to reflect on our vastly differing definitions of that word. See, I would define help as "to give or provide what is necessary to accomplish a task or satisfy a need; cooperate effectively with," whereas your definition seems to involve fetching and climbing up on a stool, demanding to touch whatever it is I am doing, and ignoring most of my instructions. Or even having a fit. For example:
Mama: (is making breakfast)
Gwen: Mama, can I help?
Mama: Sure! Why don't you bring your milk to the table, and then go get your bib.
Gwen: I DON'T WANT TO GET MY BIB! (Falls to the ground in paroxysms of grief.)
Mama: O.... kay, you don't have to get your bib. Never mind, I'll get it for you.
Gwen: (5 minutes of anguish)
Mama: Your breakfast is ready, Gwen! Yum, oatmeal with fruit. Here's your milk and your spoon. What do you say?
Gwen (mumbling, shooting me a dirty look): I don't want to get my bib.
I am thankful every day for times when I can laugh and play,
Delicious food I love to eat, my warm bed where I fall asleep,
Tall trees and blue skies above, and all the people that I love.
I love you, my Gwen, and I'm sorry I sometimes lose patience with you. I really do think you are an astounding person and I'm working hard to be the mama you deserve. Merry Christmas, my big girl.
Thursday, December 23, 2010
I've been super good because I'm Super Gwen. I like to play dress-up, I want to go upstairs and colour. I want to colour. I'm making a picture of a jump-a-rope. I want to show Santa my jump-a-rope. I want to eat a snack because I like snacks. Please. For Christmas I want a rocket ship and a space suit. And a jack in the box, I love that too. Outer space! I'm going to go get my toy, Buzz. I'll be right back. Drawing is fun.
Merry Christmas, Santa!
"It's a jump-a-rope
Wednesday, December 22, 2010
Tuesday, December 21, 2010
Let's see. Friday night, Gwen went to get a hair cut and then visited Santa. She was still shy, as we expected, but she was willing to interact with the guy. The first several minutes of the visit involved me kneeling near her, as she stood just out of arm's reach of the most patient Santa in the UNIVERSE, and he gently coaxed her to step close enough so that he could touch her nose and make it glow red like Rudolph's (which would, through Santa Magic, prove that she had been a good girl). She kept holding up MY hand for Santa to take instead of her own ("Do it to Julia!") but Santa continued to insist that the trick only worked on small people. Finally, FINALLY, he managed to touch her and she noticed that the world didn't end, and then she was entirely happy to climb up onto the arm of the chair and "pose" for a picture. She didn't really talk to him or say what she wanted for Christmas, but I was proud of her anyway. I think the picture is both adorable, and a perfect representation of her personality.
Incidentally, for reference, here are the Santa photos for the past two years, which evidently I never blogged before (?). As you can see, Santa is hiding behind the chair so Gwen is utterly unaware of his presence.
We then rushed home, where I fed Gwen and put her to bed and Chris drove to pick up the babysitter so we could go out to a Christmas party. We had a great time at the party, relaxing and chatting with good friends. Wonderful way to spend the evening!
Friday, December 17, 2010
1. It is a gorgeous sunny day today. I haven't seen sunny skies like this in quite a while, and it's a nice treat. Still wicked cold, but who cares! It looks pretty from my nice warm office.
2. We're taking Gwen to see Santa this afternoon. It will be her third annual visit to the Big Guy in Red, but this is the first year that she knows we're going to see him today, she can anticipate what that will be like and plan what she wants to say to him. I'm still pretty sure she's going to be too shy to sit on his lap, but MAYBE we can move past the stage of Santa hiding behind the chair. We'll see! In the meantime, she is excited and that is so fun.
3. It's payday today. And since we're talking about money stuff, let's also celebrate the fact that I was finally, FINALLY given enough information to be able to reasonably predict how much EI Chris will be eligible for, and come up with a livable (though not entirely delightful) budget. There are still too many unknowns, but there are a few less than yesterday and that feels good.
4. Christmas party tonight! So excited to go hang out with my peeps, a group of friends I somehow fell into magically and have not been kicked out yet despite my
5. I know it sounds cliché, but I am surrounded by the best group of people in the entire world. I have received so many acts of kindness over the past few weeks that I can't help but feel blessed. My friends and family are always, unequivocally, there for me, but I've been given incredible gestures of generosity from my hairdresser (who gave me free highlights for Christmas as she knew I couldn't afford the extra costs just now), my cleaning lady (who knows I can't employ her any more come January, and why, and knitted lovely bracelets for the three of us that are supposed to bring peace and contentment) and some anonymous person who sent us a $100 gift card to the nearest grocery store. Even those who send an encouraging message via email or Facebook are contributing to my well-being, and I feel SO LOVED. Thanks, all of you. I love you too! (For yet more proof that the world (and in particular, the Internet) can still be awesome, please see here.)
Have a great weekend, everyone!
Tuesday, December 14, 2010
I find I am looking to my innocent daughter for guidance and inspiration these days. Of course we are devastated and scrambling to make sense of our lives since Chris's job loss, and naturally one of our big concerns is how to provide for Gwen. Since it's December, a big part of that concern is making sure Gwen has a great Christmas - we're living every stupid TV movie where A Big Crisis happens right before the holidays but somehow the Family Bands Together and learns a Valuable Lesson about the True Meaning of Christmas.
Her parents are a mess and life is in great upheaval, but Gwen knows nothing about it. Last weekend we travelled to the memorial and all she understood was that it was a great opportunity to visit with family and play with her cousins. She doesn’t know or understand all the difficulties we are facing right now, and that’s as it should be. She isn’t devastated that her dad is unemployed, nor does she expect hundreds of presents under the tree – she’d be happy with a handful. To be honest, we should all be more like Gwen!
For my part, and Chris's too, it's hard not to keep looking for catastrophes. We all "know" that these things come in threes, so we're eager to name something as the third bad thing and perhaps gain a bit of peace that there aren't any more shoes to drop - as if life worked that way! Fate or chance has been generous in this regard, and there are several possibilities for "third bad thing". For example, my sister's husband totalled his car, with his younger son inside it. (No one was hurt, thank God.) Chris's credit card number was somehow stolen and $600 worth of charges put on it. (The card has been cancelled and after a 6-8 week investigation, hopefully the charges will be reversed.) Chris and I both had to spend hundreds of dollars on car repairs for our respective vehicles last week, which we could probably not afford to do (and yet, not afford not to do).
Mostly, I'm just sort of stunned. I can't believe Christmas is next weekend. I've barely been keeping up with the Advent calendar, and I can't really get motivated to change that. I am not on top of things as much as I usually am, and even as I reflect on that I am so immensely grateful for the random situations that allow me to be on top of it as I actually am. For example, I got the bulk of my Christmas shopping done on my trip to Vegas in October - that would not normally be the case, and I'm so glad it's done already because I sure wouldn't feel good about going out and spending money now. I'm so glad that I am not hosting anything this year, and am not required to cook a giant meal or even bake a batch of cookies if I don't feel like it. I'm astounded that I haven't gotten Gwen in for Santa photos yet, or gotten the Christmas tree up. I can't believe that I haven't put on any Christmas music. But honestly, we lost a week. It feels like we were in a time warp - I think all we did for that week was whatever related to dealing with these two crises, interspersed with long bouts of staring at the wall wondering what the hell to do next. I'm pretty sure I spent a lot of time watching House, M.D. and eating ice cream, as those were the only activities that made me feel even halfway normal.
For all that, I am more excited about Christmas this year than I have been in recent memory. Maybe it's something to do with not taking things for granted, or being grateful for everything (and more to the point, everyone) you've got. Maybe it's because Christmas is usually such a huge glittering mass of positive emotion, and I desperately need it to balance out the stress and worry and what-now? that permeates every aspect of life right now. Maybe it's because Gwen is just completely at the right age: old enough to ask for specific presents, young enough that the list is short and completely reasonable. Either way, I'm completely convinced that next weekend (yes, it's that close!) is going to be a wonderful and memorable time. We sure as heck deserve it.
Thursday, December 9, 2010
My grandma has been lost in a fog of dementia for several years now. Just over a year ago, she moved to an extended care facility. Since then, a part of me has been waiting for this call. Yet despite how prepared I thought I was, I wasn't prepared at all. I don't know how to process the grief at losing something I haven't really had for some time. It turns out that despite the fact I 'lost' my grandma a long time ago, I'm still not ready to let her go.
My husband never saw my grandma as she used to be, and my daughter won't even remember her. My grandma hasn't been able to remember who I am for quite some time. But I remember. Oh yes, I remember.
I remember her kitchen. She welcomed us there as often as she could and taught us with infinite patience and laughter how to make delicious wonders out of the most mundane ingredients. She hosted these gigantic dinner parties at the drop of a hat, and never seemed to break a sweat as she somehow produced enough food to fill a full-sized billiards table, which was always covered with matching tablecloths for the event. I remember her pride and excitement as she would annouce, "Tonight, we have THREE desserts .... 'rayyyy!" She was a fun and gracious hostess and did it all with a smile on her face.
I remember her piano. It was she who inspired my dad to become a musician, and nothing made her happier than having him play piano at her parties. Everyone would gather around the piano and sing with gusto, with heart, with joy. She loved music and she loved the spontaneous participation that came from an impromptu song. She sang and danced and smiled, and her joy was infectious.
I remember her cabin. My grandfather bought her a float cabin on Powell Lake as a Mother's Day present about thirty years ago. She'd been raised on the prairies and didn't swim, but she loved to stand on the shore, wading into the cool water up to her waist, cherishing the natural beauty all around her. Before long the cabin was just another venue for her to host amazing parties and produce delicious feasts, despite its tiny and ill-equipped kitchen. It brought her so much joy to be surrounded by friends and family at this somehow luxurious and yet primitive vacation spot.
I remember what we had in common. We were both September babies, we both adored sweets and despised spiders. We both enjoyed crafts. I was always pretty sure I was her favourite - she was always so happy to see me.
I remember her love for my grandfather. The obituary tells the truth: there is no other way to describe their love than as a storybook romance. They were married for sixty-one years, and their love and devotion was evident in their every word and action towards each other. I remember my grandfather showing me the park bench on Lost Lagoon where they'd sat and "made cow eyes at each other". Naturally, to a 10-year-old this was disgusting, and I'm sure I made the obligatory grunts of "GroooooOOOOOOoooosss!", but even then - I knew there was something magical about that love, about finding the one person who made your soul rejoice.
I remember that she was important. She was a bank manager, and though I didn't know it at the time, it was probably a pretty big deal to be a bank manager and a woman back in the 1970s. I remember that she knew lots of things about money and that people could rely on her for good advice and a friendly smile.
I remember her loss. I was barely six years old when my uncle - my grandma's youngest son, still a teenager - died in a bizarre accident. I remember the policeman coming to her door. I remember, to my shame, that I had no grasp of what was happening, and that I continued to nag her to find me the SCISSORS, Gramma, so I can cut out my paper doll. I remember that she found me the scissors. This was the only time I remember seeing her without her smile.
I remember her generosity. I remember her patience. I remember her kindness. I remember her inspiration. I remember her faith. I remember her strength. I remember her wisdom. I remember her laugh. I remember her hugs. I remember her smile.
Tomorrow, I'm travelling with my family to Powell River for my grandmother's memorial service, and on Saturday I will summon every ounce of strength and stamina to sing "Smile" for the people who have been touched by her life. I've never wanted so badly to do well at something, and yet been so sure that I will not be able to manage it. It's likely that I shouldn't worry - as my sister points out, Grandma will be too busy catching up with her son, her mom, and her best friend Barb, not to mention watching a full-colour slideshow of everything she's missed in the past several years; she'll never notice my warbly voice.
And I am quite certain she'll be smiling.
Rena Marguery Campbell “Princess”
September 3, 1929 – December 3, 2010
Rena went to her heavenly home just after midnight on December 3rd 2010. She is survived by her husband and best friend of 61 years, George. Rena also leaves to mourn, her two sons Ron (Maureen), and Doug (Evelyn); grandchildren Laura (Chris), Sara (Dave), Duncan (Theresa), Amanda (Joe), and Kaleigh, as well as great-grandchildren Andrew, Scott, Gwen and Abby. Rena is also survived by her two younger sisters, Donna, and Greta (Dave) and their respective families. She was predeceased by her youngest son Gordon in 1981.
Rena was born in Cabri Saskatchewan, and lived on the family farm in Shackleton, before moving to Vancouver with her parents and siblings in 1946. It was in Vancouver that she met, and fell in love with her husband George, and in 1962 they moved to Powell River, where she resided happily until her passing. Rena was the first female bank manager of the Bank of Montreal, Townsite branch, Powell River, and was well loved and respected by her staff and her customers. Rena had a smile for everyone, and always sought the good in people. She and George shared what can only be described as a storybook romance, their entire married life, and spent countless happy hours together traveling, entertaining, or relaxing at their cabin on the lake. She loved all her family unconditionally, and was a fabulous mother and grandma. The world will be a little lonelier without her smile.
A celebration of Rena’s life will be held Saturday, December 11, 2010 at 2:00 pm at Faith Lutheran Church, corner of Ontario and Alberni. Memorial donations to Powell River General Hospital, 5000 Joyce Ave, Powell River, B.C. V8A 5R3.
Monday, December 6, 2010
An acquaintance met us in one of the aisles. "Hey, how are you guys? What's new?"
And it was like the world shut down. Only, it hadn't. Our world had shut down, and the rest of the world had kept going, and now not only did we need to put the pieces back together but we had to deal with getting questions like this from random people, every day. Even a waitress, a cashier, a taxi driver will ask you how you're doing, and we all know the answer they expect. But that simple question can slam into you with such force that you're actually physically winded as you are forced to face the profound misalignment between Where You Are and Where You're Supposed To Be.
So here's the thing. It's not that Friday's post wasn't honest - it was absolutely true. And yet, there was something incredibly incongruous about posting this excited, silly, potty-related entry on that particular day. Because it was certainly not the most important thing going on in our lives just then. Two days before that post appeared, we learned that Chris had lost his job. And our world spun off its axis.
I've tried writing this post a few times now, and it's not easy. There's so much to say, and it's all so painful. There are good moments and bad moments, but the feeling of profound disorientation never goes away. Yesterday, Chris and I were in a courtesy car heading to pick up my vehicle at the dealership after servicing. "So, how's business?" the driver asked Chris. "Are you working in town these days, or out of town?" You know, how are you guys? What's new?
The truth is, Chris has never much liked this job, and I have always despised it. The way this company does business is completely ridiculous. In an age of climate change and peak oil, they send their salesmen up and down the Island every day to call on clients in person rather than by phone - and pay for all that fuel. Not only is that an irresponsible way to do business, it's also expensive. So no surprise they are feeling the pinch. There is a lot more I could say about how they treat their employees, but really, wasting my energy on that kind of vitriol just doesn't appeal to me right now. The important thing, which we remind ourselves about constantly, is that we will not miss this company. We both feel very strongly that this will prove to be a positive step, and one that Chris - who describes himself as "a wheel looking for a rut" - would never take unless forced.
In a good moment, I can look at this as an adventure. I can get excited about Chris finally putting some effort into figuring out what kind of job he'd like to do, and support him in his efforts to get such a job. I can look forward to a time when he'll come home from work and tell me about his day. I can even feel productive and gratified in approaching the next stage of our lives as a project, a problem to be solved with low-cost cookbooks and co-operation. I truly am grateful for so many things right now, and so few of them have anything to do with money. Our daughter is amazing, and at a perfect age to remember none of this upheaval. My job is awesome and my colleagues are incredibly supportive. We live in a beautiful place and are close, both geographically and personally, to supportive family and friends. I can peacefully reflect that at this time last year, I was in a very unsupportive work environment, working at a job that was worse than unstable: it was going to end, guaranteed, at some short-term but yet unknown date. Had Chris lost his job at that time, we'd be far worse off - both financially and emotionally - than we are now.
Those are the good moments. I don't have the words yet to talk about the bad ones.
The metaphor of our life right now is this: "God never shuts a door without opening a window. However, there's usually a period of time where you're stumbling around in the dark, bumping into things and breaking your toe and cursing a blue streak and it really frigging sucks." We're in the dark right now, and it's scary and painful and unknown. That's how we are, and I needed to tell you.
Friday, December 3, 2010
Oh, at everyone else's house, I mean. At our house, something so big is going on that it has actually eclipsed The Most Wonderful Time of the Year (tm).
Want a hint? Okay, here it is. On November 25th, Chris and Gwen were stuck at home due to the snow. Chris went upstairs to make a work call and a few minutes later, he saw Gwen walking out of the upstairs bathroom with her pants around her ankles. Turns out our girl walked upstairs, pulled down her pants, sat on the potty and did her business, then walked into her room looking for a wipe to clean herself up. All with no help from Dada. This is a huge leap, and naturally, he praised her to the skies.
So the official announcement at last: we are going to potty-train Gwen. The planets are aligning and Signs of Readiness (tm) are cropping up everywhere. She has started asking about wearing her underwear instead of Pull-ups: she gets upset when she is wet. She stays dry longer and longer (though still not flawlessly) and is happy to use public toilets when we are out. A gracious friend gave me The Three Day Potty Training book, which she used with her son to great success - and I trust her and her mothering methods, so I know she would not use an approach that wasn't gentle, child-oriented, and loving.
Over the next couple of weeks, we will be following the instructions in the book under the section "before you train", as well as gathering the supplies we will need for the three-day training blitz. ("Dear Santa: Gwen has been a very good girl this year, and would like 20-30 pairs of big-girl underwear.") Between Christmas and New Year's, I have 11 days off, and somewhere in there we are going to hole up in the house for three straight days, no outings, no phone calls, nothing that can distract us from Getting It Done (tm). (I am really hoping that the three days fall earlier in my vacation, rather than later, because something tells me I am going to need a break after that solid 72 hours of doing nothing but attend to my child's toileting needs.) I am excited about this method and about the independence that Gwen will gain from this. I'm also looking forward to how proud we will be of her through this process, and helping her to be proud of herself, too.
Oh. And Christmas. Yes, I'm looking forward to that, too. Fa-la-la, etc.
Tuesday, November 30, 2010
Let's just say the experience was disappointing.
Part of it was my fault: I needed to leave work 20 minutes early in order to pick up Gwen and get to the class on time, and that didn't quite happen as I ended up getting a request for some printing at the eleventh hour. Because of that, we arrived to the class late. In addition to my own hatred of arriving late, Gwen is a girl who needs transition time. Had we arrived with enough time for her to run around and explore the room and somewhat settle in, she may have been ready to actually participate in the class. As it was, she was a shrieking, running, climbing goofball, and she did not one single yoga pose. I had the choice of either participating in the class to show her via peer pressure that "Hey, THIS is what's happening," or running around after her, trying to control her behaviour via urgent whispers and physical restraint. Neither of these options were very attractive to me, and I also felt bad for the other participants in the class. So after about ten minutes, I grabbed my wayward kid and we made an exit.
It reminded me of every grocery-store-meltdown or shopping-mall-tantrum I'd ever read about, heard about, or witnessed. IN A YOGA CLASS. Good times.
We had to wait for Chris to come pick us up, as the snow has made us a one-car family. Once Gwen realized we weren't going to return to the class, she got really upset. I think she made the connection that her behaviour was the reason for her missing out, and she really grieved that. I didn't say much about her behaviour, just told her I was disappointed. When Chris arrived, he asked what had happened. And she actually told him. "I climbed on the table. I wasn't listening to Mama and the teacher. I didn't stay on the pink mat. I had a time out." I was stunned to hear her describe the events in her own words, with no prompting. What an incredible window into her comprehension.
I also recognize that I didn't go over the rules beforehand. When I take Gwen to church (1-2 times a month) we talk beforehand about sitting still, using quiet voices, listening to the stories, etc. And even then, her behaviour is far from perfect; but she's definitely starting to understand what's expected, and she complies with it for as far as her high energy level and short attention span will allow. I didn't do this prior to yoga class, and that was foolish. How can she comply with my expectations if I don't clarify them?
The teacher was kind enough to return the free pass I'd used for the class, and even extend the expiry date so we have another chance to try it out. Yes, she encouraged us to come back, whereas she may have been justified in shudderingly asking us never to return. Brave woman! Just not sure if I'm so brave.
More important than my disappointment in Gwen's behaviour, I think, is my awe at her comprehension and articulation of the situation to her dad afterwards. She is so freaking smart. There is not a direct correlation between intelligence and good behaviour - in fact, it may actually be in reverse proportion - but I can at least be proud of her for something.
Friday, November 26, 2010
Maybe it's a church season that starts this Sunday. Maybe it's a chocolate-filled calendar that lasts from December 1st to 25th. Maybe it's candles and carols and cookies. Maybe it's family-centred activities. Maybe it's none of these things.
I hope that, whatever you believe, you will indulge me in acknowledging that the word "advent" actually means "a coming into place, view, or being; arrival" not "cheap chocolate". Can we just agree on that much? Okay, good.
Now, you all likely know I'm a Christian, but I'm not going to preach at you. What I believe first and foremost is that everyone has the right to believe what he or she wants without any interference from me (except when it comes to the correct meanings of English words). But I want to point your attention here and then remind you about a project I did last year that I really enjoyed, and intend to do again this year. The link is Christian-centred but the project is completely non-religious and inclusive, I promise!
The facts: worldwide, lack of clean water kills more people every day than anything else. In third world countries, it’s not unusual for children and infants to die from diseases caused by drinking unclean water. But here’s another fact: the estimated cost to make clean water available to everyone, forever, is $13 billion. That may seem like a lot, until you consider the most shocking fact of all: that Canadians spend over $35 billion every year on Christmas.
The idea: spend less money on Christmas presents that your first-world friends and family don't really need. Instead, give them something that really matters: your self, your time, your attention, your love. Give relationally: something that will contribute to or support your relationship with that person. Talk, eat, sled, bike, craft, cook, read, play, create, sing, dance, build, draw, laugh, hike, write, together. You might just start a whole new Christmas tradition!
The project: take that money you saved and give it to charity. I chose clean water, because of the facts above, but you've probably got a charity that's close to your heart. Give it to them.
But because just telling you to give some money to charity isn't much of a project, nor is it fun or interesting, here's the good part.
Print out the following, in whatever format works for you. (See here for what I did last year.)
Dec 1 - 10¢ for every hot water tap in your home
Dec 2 - 75¢ for every vehicle your family owns
Dec 3 - 5¢ for every pair of jeans you own
Dec 4 - 5¢ for every bed in your house
Dec 5 - 25¢ if you get a daily newspaper
Dec 6 - 3¢ for every cosmetic item you own
Dec 7 - 3¢ for every pair of footwear
Dec 8 - 5¢ for every meal with meat this week
Dec 9 - 15¢ if you have pots and pans
Dec 10 - 20¢ for every tv you own
Dec 11 - 10¢ for every flush toilet in your home
Dec 12 - 5¢ for every blanket you own
Dec 13 - 15¢ if you have dishes for food
Dec 14 - 3¢ for every light switch in your home
Dec 15 - 5¢ for every window in your home
Dec 16 - 5¢ for each magazine subscription
Dec 17 - 20¢ for every bathtub or shower
Dec 18 - 10¢ for every outside door you have
Dec 19 - 25¢ if you have more than 25 CDs/ DVDs
Dec 20 - 10¢ for every non-tap-water drink this week
Dec 21 - 25¢ if you have a snow blower or lawn mower
Dec 22 - 3¢ for every hair care product
Dec 23 - 15¢ for every bedroom in your house
Dec 24 - 2¢ for every soap bar or dispenser
Dec 25 - 15¢ for every present you received
Then collect that money every day and reflect on how blessed you are in comparison to the two-thirds of the world who dream of the luxuries we take for granted.
Whatever your beliefs, I'd be stunned if you didn't learn something interesting through this exercise. And if you do take part, I hope you'll share your experience with me. Happy Advent!
Wednesday, November 24, 2010
Today, you are thirty-one months old. You are officially on the downhill slope towards three years old. You have recently become very interested in school, and often ask me when you are going there. I've started telling you that in the spring, when the flowers come back and you turn three, you can go to school. This seems to satisfy you.
You have little to no sense of time, as evidenced by your response to the Christmas decorations at the grocery store during the first week of November. "Mama! We have to get a tree, a Santa tree! Santa is coming!" I assured you that we would, in fact, get a tree long before Santa's arrival a full SIX WEEKS later, but these words mean nothing to you. Every once in a while, especially when you notice other people's (or store's) decorations, you mention it again. In fact, last week when I asked you what you wanted for Christmas, you had only two requests: 1) a tree, and 2) a present. I am entirely sure that we can fulfil both of these requests, which makes this probably the only Christmas you'll ever have where you get every single thing that you want. Enjoy it while it lasts!
The night that I wrote of my cautious optimism that we had seen and survived the worst of your sleep problem was, of course, the very same night you decided to turn into a non-sleeping, bedtime-stalling, crazy-making monkey all over again. Your latest tactic is shrieking "WAIT! I have a question for you," just as I am about to leave your room at night. In typical Gwen fashion, this of course means that you want me to ask you a question. And I usually do. Through this I have learned that your favourite colour (this week) is green, that your favourite animal is Lamby, and that I am your best friend. Of course, I immediately asked, "If I'm your best friend, why won't you listen to me and go to sleep?!"
Despite the stall tactics, I am really pleased and proud (and I tell you so, often) that you are once again able to sleep all night in your own bed with the light off. We have replaced the normal-wattage bulbs in your room which means that I can actually see two inches in front of my face again, which is a pleasant change.
Monday, November 22, 2010
We quit the SCA in 2009, but we have had a very hard time quitting our habit of getting dressed up in bizarre costumes. In the past six months we have attended a pirate party, a 1940s-themed party, and a live performance of the Rocky Horror Picture Show, all in costume. In addition, I went to a Lady Gaga concert and Thrilled the World, both of which also required certain levels of costuming. In a few weeks, we're going to a Murder Mystery party, so it's off to Value Village we go again.
We just can't stop ourselves. I think next year we'll probably take up competitive ballroom dancing, just for the excuse to dress up in those incredible clothes. It's the next logical step, right?
Friday, November 19, 2010
Anyway. I have my amazing daughter, and to wish that I'd never miscarried would mean to wish that I didn't have Gwen. I can't possibly wish that. I wouldn't change any of what I've been through, with the exception of wishing to be more informed, before the fact, about what miscarriage could entail. And that's why I post this story; not out of a desire to be maudlin or overdramatic, but because miscarriage is far more common than we think, and we're subtly pressured not to talk about it for fear of scaring other would-be mothers. To me, what is more terrifying than the possibility of miscarriage is facing the reality of it and feeling alone, not knowing that what you're experiencing is normal, and that millions of women before you have gone through it too. I post this so that anyone out there who's going through the same thing, at any time, will know that she is not alone. (Warning: post linked is very graphic.)
I am at peace. I wish the same for all of you.
Monday, November 15, 2010
As if that weren't awesome enough, this past weekend we left Gwen with her grandparents all weekend as their anniversary present to us. Normally I would have insisted we go to a bed and breakfast (as we did last year and loved it) but this year Chris made a good case for staying home, puttering around in our jammies, and watching movies. After all, we have done a LOT of travelling this year, so a mellow weekend sounded just right. And it was. We slept in, we turned the TV as loud as we wanted, we swore out loud, we ate junk food at random times of day. We didn't change any dirty diapers or refill any sippy cups or listen to a single bit of whining. It. Was. Awesome.
On Friday night we went out the theatre to see RED, which I highly recommend as hilarious. Then over the weekend we watched Wanted, Nine, and The Good Shepherd. They were all .... okay. Nine (not to be confused with 9) was probably the best: I loved the music and really enjoyed the various performances. Wanted was the weakest, and when I say weak I mean REALLY FREAKING WEAK.
We went to pick up Gwen last night and she fell asleep on our long drive home from the grandparents' house. Then, of course, woke up as I tucked her into bed. She wanted a story and prayers and sleepy songs and the whole routine. I didn't want to turn on the light, so I made up a story instead. "Once upon a time there was a little girl named Gwen. She was very beautiful, and very smart, and very kind..." and Gwen piped up, "and very tired." I have never, ever known this child to admit that she was tired! I gave the story a quick ending ("So she said goodnight to her mama and dada and grandma and grandpa and went to sleep and had wonderful dreams of lions and monkeys, the end.") and kissed her goodnight, but no, she still wanted prayers. And sleepy songs. So I complied. And then she really did go to sleep, for a good 12 hours.
I am cautiously optimistic that whatever that horrible sleep problem was, we're through the worst of it (until next time). Every morning I tell her how proud I am of her for sleeping all night in her bed. Man ... that was really not a fun couple of months. But knock on wood, we're onto a new phase now.
Speaking of phases and changes and growing and awkward segues, guess who has grown an entire 10 cm in the past 10 months? Getting clothes to fit this child is a bit of a challenge. Most of her pants hit her mid-calf, but if you get a pair that actually goes to her ankles, it falls right off her non-existent butt. Shirts, the same. If you see a good two inches of arm sticking out of Gwen's sleeve, it's not because I'm too cheap or too negligent to buy her a new shirt. It's because SHE IS REALLY LONG AND SKINNY and manufacturers of toddler clothing do not know how to deal with it.
This post was meant to be a random "Hello, here are two paragraphs to prove I'm still alive," and now it's a rambling testament to my wandering attention span. Time to hit the Post Button! Whee!
Friday, November 12, 2010
Chris has always been less enthusiastic about the cleaning person. It seems to be a mix between "we could spend the money on better things," "it's weird to have someone in our house when we're not here," and "I'm so not ready to admit that we are never going to magically turn into the kind of people who clean our house every week." All valid. But in the meantime, the house got very very dirty, a phenomenon that only seems to bother me, and finally I put my foot down and said: "My car is paid off. My trip to Vegas is paid off. I am hiring a cleaning lady with my own money. The end."
I posted on Facebook that I was looking for someone, and a vague acquaintance I've met only a couple of times piped up that actually, she cleans houses, and is looking for clients. I was happy to hire someone I sort of know as it easily skirted many of the problems stemming from the "it's weird to have someone in our house when we're not here" thing. Further, she's a mom, and I like that for two reasons. First, she gets that our priority is parenthood, not housework. Further, I'm happy to be financially contributing to her household in a time when options may be limited with young kids at home. We moms have to look out for each other, y'know?
But it got even better when she came to clean. Oh, you guys. I swear, our house breathed a giant sigh of relief, as if a nagging itch had finally been scratched. We weren't living in filth or anything, but ... well. It really, really needed to be cleaned. And our wonderful cleaning lady did an incredible job, not only with the cleaning but with the ... I don't even know what to call it. She just has this touch. She turned down the beds, she arranged the towels in the bathrooms as if we were in a hotel, she arranged Gwen's books by size on her shelf. Chris's review? "I think we could get used to this!" Hallelujah, the boy done been converted.
Walking into a magically cleaned house is pretty awesome. Hearing Chris say that he appreciates my wisdom in the matter was very gratifying. But the best moment, the absolute best part of all of this, was two days after The Big Clean, a Saturday morning after a completely ridiculous work week involving hundreds of kilometers of travel and one night in a hotel. It was the moment when Chris got off the couch, put his hands on his hips, and announced, "Well, I guess I'll do the laundry. It's only fair, since you are paying for the cleaning lady." There are no sweeter words, and he held true to them, doing three loads of laundry from start to finish. I didn't do one single chore all blessed weekend. CAN I GET AN AMEN.
It only occurred to me a few days later that I have successfully outsourced two of my Wifely Duties. I have someone looking after Gwen during the day while I work. Now I have someone else cleaning the house. I figure if I can just manage to hire a chef and a concubine, I will be living the dream.
Monday, November 8, 2010
Gwen has just finished her dinner. "Come to the sink and let's wash your hands," I say. "Please bring your plate." She picks up her plate and carries it towards the kitchen. A piece of food falls off and she starts to bend over to pick it up, threatening to tip the remainder of the food off her plate. I intervene and show her how to hold her plate flat while she retrieves the fallen food. She carries her plate through the kitchen to the laundry room and helps me scrape the food off the plate into the compost bin. Then we open the dishwasher and place her plate and fork inside. Then we wash her hands and face, and she takes off her bib and puts it away.
A Certain Other Day
Gwen has just finished her breakfast. I'm busy making my lunch, so Chris prompts her to come to the kitchen and wash her hands. Soon, they leave for daycare/work. A few minutes later, I find her plate - with food still on it - sitting in the sink, along with her cup and spoon.
I have achieved a good measure of success at teaching Gwen how to tidy up after meals. Perhaps someday she can teach her dad.
Sunday, October 31, 2010
Makeup and fake blood from Save on Foods: $5.00
Liquid Latex from Patty's Party Palace: $5.99
Talcum powder for that just-exited-the-grave look: free at your baby shower
Registration fee for charity: $25
Thrilling the World - completely freakin' priceless. Can't wait till next year!
Friday, October 29, 2010
I have no coherent reason for choosing the term cracklin'. It just feels right.
2. Last weekend, I bought a box of 94 snack-size chocolate bars for Halloween. Not for the trick-or-treaters, mind you, but for me and Chris to share while watching
3. Gwen visited our naturopath today for an in-depth allergy test. After two solid years of second-guessing, we now know she is NOT allergic (nor sensitive, nor intolerant) to dairy. Dr. Karen performed tests on many substances and Gwen had no reactions whatsoever - "not even borderline," was how Karen described it. That is not to say that allergies or sensitivities will not crop up later, but for now, she is free and clear. That is a relief for me. The main reason I wanted this test is that we are heading into cold and flu season. Gwen spent the October through March season last year with one infection after another, and I'd really like to avoid that this year: I'd been told there can be a link between lactose intolerance and a weakened immune system, so I thought I'd eliminate that possibility right off the bat. The absence of allergies is, of course, great news: however, we still need to figure out how to keep her well this winter.
4. Gwen's sleep is still sucking. We've put a 15watt bulb in her overhead light and allow her to leave this on all night for comfort. This is a perfect compromise as it ensures that the lighting in her room is never quite what it ought to be. It's never dark enough for her to get a good, deep sleep, so she wakes up hours earlier than she should. And it's never light enough for me to comfortably see to put away her laundry, change her diaper, or read her a story. I crave bright lights so I really find it dismal in there. We are also using aromatherapy (lavender pillow and spritz for her bed), glow sticks, and lying: "I have to go tuck Dada in now, but I'll be back to check on you soon." It's a rickety system and it's not long-term: I'm just not sure how to make any positive changes.
5. It's October 29th and I still have no idea what Gwen is going to be for Halloween. Here's why: every time I ask her, she has a different answer. These have included pirate, doctor, ballerina, pig, ghost, kitty-cat, and more. I finally gave up trying to get a straight answer and my plan is to lay out two or three of her costumes and ask her to choose. (We have a pretty decent dress-up box, so I can get away with this.) I'm secretly hoping she chooses the giraffe costume, because it would be ADORABLE and also? Her great-aunt started this scrapbook for her about things that begin with G, and now I have to finish the scrapbook* and a page about Gwen being dressed as a giraffe would be perfect. Ghost would also be good, but that costume I'm pretty sure will still fit next year.
*Seriously, what kind of gift is that? GAHHH THE PRESSURE.
Sunday, October 24, 2010
My, my, how time flies. You are officially thirty months old today - that's two and a half years. It's a big milestone, in toddler terms: thirty months is the age at which children "graduate" from one type of childcare to another. This means nothing to our arrangements right now, in practical terms, but it does remind us that you're now considered old enough to be doing many things by yourself.
We are still mired deep in the unhappy land of sleep disturbances, unfortunately, so there is no forward progress being made in the areas of potty-training, dressing and undressing, and so on. I hate to let [lack of ] sleep be such an all-encompassing topic, but it's just completely impossible to ignore, so hopefully if I cover it straight off the bat I'll be able to discuss other topics throughout the rest of this letter. The past week or so has shown some improvement, mainly because your dad replaced the light bulb in your room with the lowest wattage bulb we could find, and we started letting you leave the light on all night. This means that you don't get as deep a sleep as you really need, and this is definitely affecting your mood and behaviour. On the other hand, insisting that you turn the light off means that you fight bedtime for a good three hours, and even if we do get you to sleep (through pure exhaustion on your part), you wake in the night screaming because you are terrified and disoriented. So, at the moment, a longer and less satisfying sleep is the solution. We're going to keep trying to improve everyone's sleep, but we're not yet sure which direction to take.
As I said, the sleep debt is affecting your mood and behaviour. You are simply not the cheerful girl I'm used to, these days. You are angry and demanding and volatile, with flailing tantrums on a hair-trigger. I love you anyway, dammit, and I work very hard to remain patient with you, but you are just kind of exhausting to be around at this stage. I very much recognize that it's not entirely your fault, that you are tired and out of sorts and don't even understand why. And I want to do whatever I can to resolve that for you, to change the circumstances before your behaviour becomes a habit. I promise you, I'm working on it. I really hope my cheerful girl will be back before long.
On to more positive things. This past month, we started your first formal music class, Music for Young Children. All three of us have been going to the Saturday morning classes together, which is a great activity to start our weekends. I really enjoy the classes, and I can tell that you do too. You are singing a lot these days, including songs that are not really in my repertoire (such as "Open Them, Shut Them"), which shows me that you are really interested in, and adept at, picking up songs and lyrics from a lot of different sources. Your favourite song is still "Twinkle, Twinkle" but you also like "Mary Had a Little Lamb" and "The Wheels on the Bus". Oh, and you really like what I call "The Opposite Song". One thing that's interesting about the music class is that parents are requested not to give directions to the students during class - that is the teacher's job. This is a good example of how the world will start to view you differently, now that you're a great big two-and-a-half-year-old. Up until now, if we took a class with you the teacher would instruct us and then we would filter those instructions down to you. Now, the teacher wants us to stay present to ensure you are safe and not wandering out of the classroom, but we are to stay quiet so you can get used to receiving instructions directly from her.
Your dad, incidentally, has a lot of difficulty with this rule. He and I have talked about this numerous times, because generally if I give you an instruction he will repeat it immediately after the words come out of my mouth. In my opinion, this is a really good way to teach you not to listen unless instructions are repeated. He's working really hard to quit this. We both laugh often when he catches himself doing it, and quote a movie that we'll probably make you watch someday: "I have one job on this lousy ship..."
You are becoming more creative and imaginative in your play, which is pretty fun to watch. You are quite enamoured with your costume collection and love to dress up and pretend. Your dad recently bought you a little doctor's kit, and you are quite happy to give check-ups to all your stuffed animals (and family members) several times a day. This purchase was prompted by you finding a pair of his headphones and trying to use them as a stethoscope, which I think shows remarkable resourcefulness. It's fascinating to get this glimpse into your psyche. I'm happy about the doctor's kit because we are getting into cold and flu season, so I'm sure there will be several trips to the doctor coming up in the next few months. Hopefully we can use your new gear to do some role-playing and help you feel more comfortable in the doctor's office, so we can avoid tearful scenarios.
We had a strange tearful scenario last weekend, in fact. I bought you this DVD while I was away in Las Vegas, thinking you would enjoy the music. When we put it on last weekend, you did seem to be enjoying it, until about five minutes in, when Snuffleupagus sings and acts out "On Top of Spaghetti". His giant, tasty-looking meatball did in fact roll away, get stuck under a bush, and turn into mush, at which point you burst into inconsolable tears of sympathy. You were so, so sad! I tried to comfort you, and fortunately the video soon moved on to more cheerful songs, but honestly I'd never seen a reaction like that from you. It was quite heartbreaking, but also just a teensy bit funny.
Though I was worried about being away from you for so long, the flip side of us being apart is that I can look at you with new eyes when I get back home. I swear, you got bigger and taller and stronger and of course smarter while I was gone. Your sentence structure is becoming more complex, and you are starting to express more abstract concepts. For example, adjectives are starting to become more and more common in your speech, especially opposite words: big, small, quiet, loud, bright, dark, hot, cold, and so on. You use them in your very own special way, though. If you say, "It's too bright," that means it's too dark. If you say "It's too hot," that means it's too cold. You have decided "fit" is an adjective too, as in "that shirt is too fit," which I guess means it fits just right. Sometimes you manage to put your words together perfectly. As we drove home from the ferry terminal where you and your dad met me after my trip, I asked if you were happy Mama was home. "Yes, Mama, because I love you very very much," you told me. I can't even express how my heart swelled to hear those words!
Another interesting milestone this month was your first shiner, visible in the picture below. You were running into the kitchen and were not paying attention to where you were going (which is common) and ran smack into the corner of our large hutch, which, by the way, has been in the exact same place for your entire life, so it's not like you didn't know where it was. I turned around just in time to see you bounce off the hutch and fly backwards onto the floor. There was an eternal pause while you sucked in a universe worth of oxygen in order to let out the loudest scream of pain and rage possible, and I quickly gathered you into my arms and tried to comfort you and assess the damage at the same time. Thank God you're as tall as you are, or that corner might have taken your eye out: as it was, you were miserably bruised for a couple of weeks, but you recovered pretty quickly. Well, that's your newsletter for this month, my girl. I'm so happy to be the Mama of the strongest, smartest, most amazing two-and-a-half-year-old in the world. I love you so much and can't wait to see what's next!