Wednesday, November 30, 2011

serendipity is santa's friend

For my birthday in 2007, Jon gave me a camera. Until then I'd just been using my cellphone (which, for 2006/2007 wasn't too bad, but now would be pretty horrible) and I had an upcoming dancing trip to Russia. It was a good little point-and-shoot, served me well in Russia*, took pictures of Wembley, took pictures of my knitting, pictures of the bump that would turn out to be Peanut, pictures of Peanut, pictures of bump 2.0 which turned out to be Bubby, pictures of Bubby...

The little door that holds the batteries in broke. It wouldn't latch shut. I taped it together with electrical tape. After a while that didn't work well enough, so I had to hold it oddly in order to press the heal of my hand against the door to keep the camera from losing power. The end was near.

Ten days ago I realized I hadn't taken pictures of the girls in a few days and my immediate reaction was: ugh. "That's not right," I thought: "I should want to take pictures of my kids. Maybe I should check Kijiji, just in case there's an affordable camera body listed..."

And there was.


With Christmas nearly here, I was also lucky enough that my father wanted to get me a lens to go with the body. Monday the lens was in my hands.

I'm still figuring it out, since graduating from a point-and-shoot to a DSLR is pretty significant, but it's getting lots of love. You've already seen two shots taken with it on Monday and Tuesday's Advent posts.

almost 7mo
almost 7mo
flying away

Peanut's decided that she doesn't want her picture taken. Ever. I'll have to get some on the sly...

So now everyone is very happy: I'm happy to have such a fabulous new toy, Jon and my father are happy because I took the guesswork out of gift-buying this year, and we're all happy that pictures of the girls, or at least one of them, are being taken again.

advent 2011: Wednesday of Hope

Today we’re reading from the prophet Isaiah, continuing the look back at why the people were waiting and who they were hoping would come. Having read about Zechariah and Elizabeth and the foretelling of the birth of John the Baptist, we’ll look at the role he would play. From Isaiah 40:

 3 A voice cries out,

         Prepare in the wilderness a road for the Lord!
      Clear the way in the desert for our God!
4 Fill every valley;
      level every mountain.
   The hills will become a plain,
      and the rough country will be made smooth.
5 Then the glory of the Lord will be revealed,
      and all people will see it.
   The Lord himself has promised this.

paper tree

Waiting in hope...for a Path Maker.

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Tuesday, November 29, 2011

rainy errands

I had a strange evening.

We were out of toilet paper, of all things, so a walk to the drug store to restock was in order. Weather in Ottawa in November is often one of extremes: either beautiful and picturesque with fluffy, crystalline snow in mounds, or dismal, grey and perpetually rainy. The past week it's been the latter and today was the worst yet. It has been pouring rain all day today, cold and wet and leaving enormous puddles all over the city. A good day to be inside with friends as we were midday. A good evening to stay inside, warm and safe, not ideal for blocks of walking.

I don't mind the rain. I quite like it, provided I'm prepared for and expecting it and I don't have to sit in wet clothes for too long afterward. I can't imagine, however, sitting outside on the sidewalk in this weather. Dreadful and utterly depressing seems an apt description. So I felt a great deal of sympathy for the man sitting at a corner, hat on the ground in front of him, asking for change.

"I'm sorry," I answered.

I rarely have change. I rarely have cash. I am entirely too reliant on debit, a trait which Jon finds particularly bothersome. So I apologized to the man in the wet, in the cold, in the dark, in the street, in the night, while everyone was rushing around, running errands, running to a bus, running home to a hot meal.

"Fuck off," he responded.

And I walked on, waiting for the light to change as the man on the sidewalk behind me muttered curses at the people passing him by, continuing down the street in the wet, in the cold, in the dark, just as before. But it seemed wetter, colder, darker. Angrier.

My encounter has been weighing on me since then. I couldn't stop thinking about it as I walked to the store, bought my few items (with debit, of course) and then started home again. I was thinking about it right until I was crossing a street and one of the on-coming cars suddenly turned and accelerated directly toward me. The woman driving the car had a cell phone pressed against her ear and she seemed distracted by the rain, by the dense traffic, by the darkness of the evening. I yelled to get her attention, to get her to stop. She narrowly avoided me as I ran across the street. I turned and waved my arms at her, hollering, "Get off your phone!" Other pedestrians turned and looked at me, curious. Now I can't stop thinking about that encounter, either.

I felt justified in yelling at the driver of that car. Driving with a cell phone in rush hour traffic, in the core of the city, in the dark, in the pouring rain is a recipe for disaster, a disaster she and I narrowly avoided together. Next time she might not be so lucky. Some other pedestrian might not be so lucky. Put the phone down, I thought: drive safely. I felt justified. I don't want anyone to be hurt.

I can count on one hand the number of times someone has told me, sincerely, to 'fuck off'. Even fewer are the times that I have said it to someone. Those incredibly rare times that I did, though? I meant it. I felt justified. The man on the street corner felt justified. Justified by poverty, by discomfort, by rain, by cold, by anger, by sadness. Perhaps by loneliness. By desperation. And I find myself hurting, knowing that there is a man out there who feels that much anger, that much sadness or desperation or loneliness or coldness, a coldness that goes deeper than flesh, a coldness that aches into his spirit so that he mutters curses at strangers - at me - while huddled on the sidewalk.

In the rain. In the dark.

advent 2011: Tuesday of Hope

Today we went back, back to the prophet Micah, to read about why the people of Israel had been waiting for Jesus. Who were they expecting? What were they hoping for? A peacemaker. From Micah 4: 3-4:
 He will settle disputes among the nations,       among the great powers near and far.    They will hammer their swords into plows       and their spears into pruning knives.    Nations will never again go to war,       never prepare for battle again.  Everyone will live in peace       among their own vineyards and fig trees,       and no one will make them afraid.    The Lord Almighty has promised this. 

paper heart

We wait in hope.

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Monday, November 28, 2011

Advent 2011: Monday of Hope

This evening we'll be talking about when waiting can be difficult, when waiting is even unpleasant for us and how, by holding on to HOPE the waiting is easier. We'll be reading from Luke 1:

Zechariah said to the angel,  "How can this be so? I am an old man and my wife is old also." I am Gabriel," the angel answered. :I stand in the presence of God who sent me to speak to you and tell you this good news. But you have not believed my message which will come true at the right time. Because you have not believed, you will be unable to speak; you will remain silent until the day my promise to you comes true." Zechariah went home. Some time later his wife Elizabeth became pregnant.

paper angel

Have a blessed evening! 

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Sunday, November 27, 2011

Advent 2011: Sunday of Hope

Today was the first day of Advent. After dinner, we began our Advent family activity. We read verses from Luke 1:
There was a priest named Zechariah. His wife's name was Elizabeth. They both lived good lives in God's sight and obeyed fully all the Lord's laws and commands. They had no children because Elizabeth could not have any, and she and Zechariah were both very old. One day Zechariah was doing his work as a priest in the Temple. An angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing at the right side of the altar where the incense was burned. When Zechariah saw him, he was alarmed and felt afraid. But the angel said to him, "Don't be afraid, Zechariah! God has heard your prayer, and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son. You are to name him John. How glad and happy you will be, and how happy many others will be when he is born!"
We talked about waiting, about how challenging it can be to wait for something we really want, like a baby, but that the good things that come after waiting are worth it. Peanut said it was just like having to wait for a chocolate cookie.

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Friday, November 25, 2011

advent 2011

Last year I planned to do a daily Advent reading with Peanut. But then our apartment filled with mold, we temporarily evicted ourselves to a hotel and then my mother's house, and I had some pretty horrendous nausea and fatigue on top off all that stress. We tried to stay focused on joy, but..well, it was hard. This year, though, I'm feeling extremely determined.

It took me a while to figure out precisely what I wanted to do to mark the progress of the Advent season every day, but after reading this and having a conversation over Facebook with Katie Munnik, I found my direction.

We start with the theme of Waiting. Advent is a season of waiting, of expectation and anticipation as well as preparation. We prepare ourselves for The Gift but we also acknowledge The Wait. The long wait for the sun. The long wait for a son. The long wait for a Saviour. Reading through Luke, there are scores of players in the story who are waiting. Zechariah and Elizabeth wait for a child. Zechariah waits to speak. Mary and Joseph wait to be married. Mary waits for her child to be born. Israel waits for the Messiah. The shepherds wait for the nightwatch to end. The Magi wait for the star to show them where to find Him. And of course there's Herod, futilely, malevolently waiting for the Magi to return.

And we: we wait to celebrate again. We wait for the days to lengthen once again, for our Northern world to begin its turn back toward the sun. We wait to sing out joy to the world, the LORD is come! I can understand waiting. Moreover, a 3 year old can understand waiting. She can understand anticipation: she is, in fact, a master.

Here's what we'll be doing: we start with a branch and some yarn. I happened to have a branch painted gold from a long-ago dance recital, so I used that. I have suspended the branch over our dining table from a shelf on the wall using  some twill tape. Onto the branch I've draped several random loops of yarn to create a sort of web hanging over the table. Before dinner tomorrow I'll clip 29 very small clothespins or paper clips onto the yarn. I'll also have 29 squares of coloured paper, as well as a few slips of plain white paper, sitting on the shelf above the table. On the table we'll have a candle.

So that's the display we'll have set up for the season. Every evening we'll light the candle and we'll read a short passage, talk about what it means, what part of the story it represents, and about the waiting within that passage. Then we'll take a square of paper, decide as a family what shape might represent that passage (or just what we feel like seeing that day) and we'll cut it out. Stars, hearts, people, doves, snowflakes...We'll cut out the shape and then clip it to the yarn. Every day more and more of the clothespins will be filled up. Some days we'll add some written words as well. By the end we should have a colourful, joyful little array above our table.

I'll be posting the reading for that evening here every day, so feel free to follow along with your family.  And I'd love to hear how you are marking this season of anticipation.

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Friday Follow

I was planning to do a different theme this time around, but I'll save it. This week we're looking at some of my favourite feminist blogs.
In days gone by, I followed blogs like Feministing religiously. But then I married and had children and, frankly, my tastes changed. Feminist mothers who blog aren't few and far between (there are LOTS of us, in point of fact) but finding them can be somewhat challenging. So here are some that I follow:

1. Bluemilk - I love this woman. I mean, I absolutely adore every post she writes. She is made of awesome. Her post, Don't Get Raped is the sort of anger-driven brilliance to which I aspire. Check out her extensive list of feminist blogs in the right sidebar if you are looking for even more to read.

2. The Mamafesto - Another golden one. Her series This Is What a Feminist Looks Like is a study in the breadth of identity and definition of feminism. Check out her post But What About the Rest of Us? to see a short round-up of some notable feminist parenting blogs, as well as the comments.

3. PhD in Parenting - Annie Urban is local and prolific. Her blog is primarily focussed on parenting, but within a feminist frame. So much to read here: go check it out.

4. Raising My Boychick - Gender norms, parenting,'s all in here and it's brilliant. Check out this post on facilitating the co-existence of work and parenting, particularly in light of my post from yesterday.

5. The Unnecesarean - The intersection of informed consent, with regard to pregnancy and birth, and feminism is about a mile wide. Jill Arnold does a fan-freaking-tastic job of illuminating both, all while maintaining her sense of humour.

6. Hugo Shwyzer - He's a guy. He's a dad. He's a professor. He's an author. He's a youth minister. He's a feminist. Who's a big fan? This woman!

So there you have it: six feminist blogs that are full of awesome, heavy on the meditation, free of man-hating, and food for much thought. Did I miss anyone? Did I miss you?? Leave a comment if you have a blog - or know of a blog - I should be reading.

Happy Friday, lovelies!

Thursday, November 24, 2011

early years at home with mommy

Canadian news media have been picking up on a recently published paper which, ostensibly, addresses changing and ever-pressing childcare needs. The Early Years Study 3 of 2011 promises to address "the social, economic and scientific rationale for increased investments in early childhood education." 

But make no mistake: this paper is not entirely focussed on early childhood development. This paper has an agenda, one cleverly couched in language of parental and feminist guilt.

The gist of the proposal found here is this: formalized education can and should start as early as age two. Toddlers should be in a classroom setting. One of the co-authors of the paper, Dr. Fraser Mustard told the Toronto Star, ""I would come down to three-year-olds, then two-year-olds and one-year-olds."

Yes. 12 month old babies in a classroom.

Studies of this sort make my brain hurt. They make my very heart and soul hurt. Because while some have responded to this, saying, "Good: something for those of us unfortunate enough not to be able to stay home with our kids," that is not what this paper is about. To those who say, "This will support a woman's choice to return to the workforce after maternity leave!" I say, "Bullshit." This paper is not about supporting choice: this paper is about making choices for parents. This paper doesn't have a feminist objective: this paper is the very antithesis of feminism.

This paper is anti-family.

The authors go so far as to say that families with only one working parent are bad for the economy. This is hard enough to hear at the best of times but in the midst of a global recession it is positively dripping with guilt. The authors even condescend, stating, "Most women want to work." They repeatedly talk about growing children to be "contributing members of society" while positing that opposite the elderly (who are a terrible financial drain, they note) and at-home parents, particularly mothers, who do not earn, therefore do not work, therefore do not contribute.

The authors of this paper note the prevalence of maternal depression but then argue that a key to reducing the rate of maternal depression is social time with others and a comfy chair. Seriously. So thank you, dear researchers, thank you. The cure to my PPD is not vitamins and minerals or prescription medication: the cure is a comfy chair a good chat with some 'gals' at my local school. And I should get right on that since, as they make a point of noting several times, stress "drips down" onto my children, and a stressed or depressed mother isn't good for her children. If my PPD hadn't already made me worry about the quality of my parenting this paper certainly cleared things up for me: now I feel like a downright failure.

But what about the children, you ask? Yes: what about the children. The authors use anecdotes to describe two year old children who haven't yet learned to regulate their emotional responses to stimuli as an example of...well,they never come right and state the purpose of that particular little story, exactly, but when viewed within the context of the paper as a whole the implication is clear: our children might just grow up 'wrong' if a trained professional isn't there to manage their development.

The phrase "levelling the playing field" has been tossed about in describing the objective of this paper, but such a claim holds no water. The authors make it very clear in the first chapter of the paper that the children about whom they are most concerned are not the very poor or otherwise typically disadvantaged: the children families they are primarily targeting are middle and upper-class households. 

So what is the purpose, then, if it isn't to assist already-struggling families? It's to get parents - fathers, but if we face facts, mostly mothers - like myself out of the home and into the workforce. The only reason I'm home with them is because I don't have access to a viable and reliable option for childcare, yes? The only reason I'm not contributing is because I'm stuck at home with the kids.


My children are home with me because they belong here. I am home with them because I choose to be, because my partner and I know that it is the right choice for our family. It may not be the right choice for every family, but it is for ours. I do not begrudge the women who dedicate years of their life and enormous effort to achieving the career for which they feel destined who then feel compelled to return to work after a few months or at the end of their year of paid maternity leave (as we have federally legislated in Canada). Not at all. Had I had a career to which I was dedicated, to which I felt drawn, which was vocational, my choice may have been an entirely different one. 

This is what so thoroughly enrages me about this paper. Though they couch it in feminist language ("if [women] did not work, the economy wouldn't function'), the assertions are most definitely anti-feminist. My feminist foresisters worked long and hard to have the value of women recognized. Before women were routinely employed outside the home, that was the goal: for women to be valued as contributing members of society, not because they generated income but because we are people and people are always valuable.

While it may seem commendable that the authors of this study show such concern about the development and care of the children in this nation, they do so at the expense of mothers, of women, and indeed of the children themselves. In discouraging at-home full-time parenting they are demonstrating the lack of value they place on such a role. And who typically fills that role? Women. There are lots of stay-at-home-dads out there (I know a few myself) and I applaud them uproariously for turning those hetero-normative gender roles on their ear and caring for their children. But the fact is that there are more SAHMoms than SAHDads. As far as we have come in attempting to equalize the genders, the fact is that biology has a leg up in this situation. I lactate: my husband does not. While that doesn't entirely preclude him from being the full-time parent, it certainly simplifies the question for our family. In their dismissal of the importance and value of at-home parenting, in their argument children as young as two years old should be in school lest they be "disadvantaged" for life, in their implication that children who are at home with a parent before attending kindergarten are less likely to graduate high school, they are demonstrating the sheer lack of regard they have for a role typically filled by women.

How dare they? How dare they shame women and families? How dare they fear-monger, all while backhandedly saying that at-home parents "perform quiet acts of heroism, day in and day out"?

A woman's place is wherever she damn-well feels like being, including in the home caring for her children if that's her choice.

And it sure as hell is mine.

“The homemaker has the ultimate career. All other careers exist for one purpose only - and that is to support the ultimate career. ” 

Tuesday, November 22, 2011


It's a bright and cold Tuesday. Let's take another look at that list, shall we?

1. Plan a daily advent activity for our family. Something nifty but reflective to help us focus on the season.
I've got ideas percolating. My wonderful and dear friend Katie Munnik shared with me her plan for her family's advent activity (which involves craft foam and fishing line! How awesome is that!!) and I've been thinking about what we'll be doing. We're going to focus on expectancy, the wait. Once it's all figured out I'll be sure to share.2. Get out of the apartment. We've been cooped up in here for days and, to be quite honest, Peanut is starting to get a little wrangy (this is a word I use. I think it's a real word. Just go with me on this one) as a result. Kid needs some air!
We picked up Jon at work last night. We have a scheduled errand this afternoon so we might head to the park then, too.3. Build a fort. We've never built a fort in the living room and I think this might be the week for it.
We're expecting snow tomorrow. I think that fort building is on tap for the snowy day.4. Decorate. Ooh, baby, I love Christmas festoonation (again with the non-real words. Consider it a theme).
5. Dig out the sewing room. Remember how it looked back at Easter? Well, I bought some shelves, put all sorts of stuff on them...and the room still looks no better. Where does all the stuff come from?! Maybe I should also...

Oh who knows. :) Maybe tonight?
6. Get rid of some stuff. Or not. Whatever.

7. Christmas sewing! I'm very excited about this. I have fabric for a new dress for Peanut and fabric for a Christmas stocking for Bubby.

If this happens this week I'll be extremely surprised.
8. Find the final piece to my new toy (I'm saving this for a whole separate post: it's also very exciting). Then commence playing with new toy (you'll actually benefit from this one: just wait for it).

This! This I've halfway done. This afternoon's errand will finish this. And then I'll share an elated post about my new toy. 

cup game

So, what are you up to today?

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Looking ahead

Now that Peanut and I are solidly mended I am able to look ahead at the coming week. Things to do in this next week (in no particular order, and with no room for self-shaming if I don't accomplish everything):

1. Plan a daily advent activity for our family. Something nifty but reflective to help us focus on the season.
2. Get out of the apartment. We've been cooped up in here for days and, to be quite honest, Peanut is starting to get a little wrangy (this is a word I use. I think it's a real word. Just go with me on this one) as a result. Kid needs some air!
3. Build a fort. We've never built a fort in the living room and I think this might be the week for it.
4. Decorate. Ooh, baby, I love Christmas festoonation (again with the non-real words. Consider it a theme).
5. Dig out the sewing room. Remember how it looked back at Easter? Well, I bought some shelves, put all sorts of stuff on them...and the room still looks no better. Where does all the stuff come from?! Maybe I should also...
6. Get rid of some stuff. Or not. Whatever.
7. Christmas sewing! I'm very excited about this. I have fabric for a new dress for Peanut and fabric for a Christmas stocking for Bubby.
8. Find the final piece to my new toy (I'm saving this for a whole separate post: it's also very exciting). Then commence playing with new toy (you'll actually benefit from this one: just wait for it).

Hrm. My list is looking kind of big. Well, maybe the sewing room stuff won't happen this week. That's fine, there's plenty of time. But getting outside and building a fort will have to happen. Priorities, you know.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Baby, in lieu of thinking

We're currently enjoying the company of a cold. Common it may be but it still sucks the life right out of a person. So far only Peanut and I have it and I'm crossing my fingers that neither Jon nor Bubby come down with it (I'm also engaging in a lot of handwashing and calling out "Don't touch your sister's hands! Keep your hands off her face!" in an effort to keep our germs to ourselves). In lieu of a proper post with, you know, coherent words and thoughts and reflections and stuff, I'll ply you with pictures.

Bubby's been lunging at food and staring - particularly at Peanut - while we eat while making chewing motions. Oo-kay, time to give baby some food! Roasted sweet potato wedges it was, since the samosa of Peanut's she was attempting to snag seemed sort of unwise, especially since it's covered in nice, gluten-y dough.


I think she enjoyed it. She seemed perplexed, but not unhappy. But hey! I'm just happy she's willing to taste stuff before her second birthday, unlike some older sisters of hers who we won't name (*cough*Peanut*cough*).

And I made Bubby a hat. I think it may have been a mistake. I may have inadvertently made our baby too cute. Whatever will we do?


Friday, November 11, 2011

Friday Night Follow

I was recently asked by a family friend for a list of a few blogs that might appeal to a fellow stay-at-home-mum. As I was compiling the list, I realized just how many of the blogs I follow are maintained by fellow dreadie moms. I thought a little Friday Night Follow post was in order and that it might be fun to profile the sites of dreadheaded women.

1. *e* - This transplanted Australian dreadie-momma is earthy and fun. She has three gorgeous kids, a jubilant spirit and a kicking Etsy shop full of upcycled goodies.

2. Bohogirl - I really adore this woman's words and images. Lots of beauty. Their adoption story will absolutely warm your heart. And she lives in a home where deer wander up to the front door. Magical.

3.::life inspired:: - I had the good fortune to "meet" this momma on some years ago when Peanut was just a wee peanut. In fact, I knew her on TBW long before she and I had dreads! She and her husband live with their four beautiful children in Utah and her photos make me want to move there. Seriously. To Utah.

4. MilagroGirl - This lovely woman may not currently have dreads, but up until very recently she did, so I'm counting her. Her blog is a great, great read. Reflecting on the beauty and truth in every woman, her posts are really worth reading and carrying around in your heart and your head through the day. Lots of food for very good, deep, life-giving thought here.

5. Walk Slowly, Live Wildly - Ah, Sara Janssen. I first encountered her through my birth junkie friends on Facebook when the photo montage of her second child's birth went around and I've been following her blog ever since. A person of great faith, conviction and exuberance, her enthusiasm for living outside the box - even literally: they're nomadic! - is deeply inspiring to me. Currently situated on a Colorado mountainside while expecting their third baby, her blog makes me want to sell everything and live in an RV. And then drive to Colorado to play in the mountains.

6. The Organic Sister - Tara Wagner's blog is about as close to self-help as I get. A life coach, Tara writes about connecting with ourselves, our partners and our children in a truthful, authentic, whole-hearted way. Affirming, reflective and spirited, her words almost never fail to get me really, really introspective. Lots of soul-searching with this one. Plus, another nomad! She, her husband and their son have been travelling for over a year.

So those are six of the blogs I follow, all written by dreadheaded mommas. Why do I seem to gravitate to other dreadies? It's an interesting question, one I've asked of myself a number of times. I'm not quite sure I have the answer, but I have some ideas. I'll save them for an upcoming post. Happy blog-hopping!

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Coming up for air

I've second-guessed writing and posting this countless times. But I erred on the side of writing it: it feels like the thing to do.

I have a very good life. We have a very good life. A loving husband; two beautiful, clever, amazing children; a warm, safe home; close, supportive, nearby family; a strong church community; and dreams and the vision to achieve them. I am very happy.

Except that, lately, I am not.

Despite my best efforts, despite a surprisingly positive birth experience, despite breastfeeding, despite bed-sharing, despite babywearing, despite placenta encapsulation, despite all the positive things in my life and despite my concerted efforts to denydenydeny the fact that things are how they depression is very much our reality.

parliament hill

I've dealt with depression before. When I was 19 I struggled long and hard with this black monster seeking to pull me under. For a time, it did and I only surfaced for brief, sustaining gasps of air before continuing to flounder. It was months of struggle.

But at least then I could explain it.

High school had, secretly, been very rough for me; university, while glorious and exciting, was stressful with friends scattered across the province and beyond; and then my family effectively fell to pieces, and those pieces scattered very far, indeed. I could explain it then: "I am sad because...". But this? This seems entirely without reason. We have a great life. I have a great life.

There is so much for which to be thankful, and more importantly, I am thankful.

I know how blessed we are. I look at our children and am absolutely floored by how unbelievable it is that I get to be with them and watch them grow and learn. They are wonderful. So why am I not rejoicing in that 24 hours a day? Why am I short-tempered and impatient and exhausted and just...sad?

A week ago things came to a head. We had what was, essentially, one of the worst days I've ever had. And I've had some doozies. The next day I came out, so to speak. No more pretending. No more putting on the cheery, blissful-mommy face:

things are not ok, I am not ok.

I need to acknowledge that and accept the support of my family and friends. It's helping. It helps to know that I'm thought of, that I'm cared for, that I'm not the only mother who feels or has felt like this. It helps to know that I'm loved.


But it's not enough.

I - or rather, we, because this is going to involve our whole little family - need to make a pretty dramatic shift. I need to start taking care of myself. It would be a total lie to say that I don't think about myself. I do think about myself.

I'm not taking care of myself.

I worry about growing our children. We worry about giving them opportunities to learn and experience and thrive and rejoice. And I? I...don't. I'm not learning. I'm definitely not thriving. And I'm not rejoicing with the sort of frequency I would like.

It isn't that I want my life to be better: it's that things are good and I want myself to be better in it.

Monday, November 07, 2011

a better goal

This morning I read this lovely post from Alicia on Milagro Girl. When I first read it I thought it was a valuable sentiment and gave myself a little mental pat on the back because, lately - finally! - I've been making a real effort to establish and voice my own boundaries. Later the girls and I went to the park and met up with friends of ours from church. The two big girls played, our two babies nursed and slept, and the mommies got a good long visit. It was grand.

I always feel like my parenting is really put to the test when other children are around. Sure, taking Peanut out on an errand to the store can be a challenge and certainly puts my parenting on display - particularly if it should happen that she should become a screeching, noodle-legged version of her normally-delightful self while we walk down Bank St. - but when other children are around, and when Peanut is playing with them, I really feel tested. It's a good kind of tested, though: I find myself thinking a little more 'big picture' in such a circumstance, considering not only what is happening in the moment but also about what lesson or example I'm setting for the other children around. 


I want to be Nice Mommy, not Mean Mommy and, some day, it wouldn't be so bad to be Cool Mommy (I've already got Hippie, Dreadlocked Mommy locked up*). But, that said, I don't want to accidentally turn into Doormat Mommy. So today, as Peanut was playing with and near other children, I was thinking about how I was interacting with her and what message it was sending the other children there. Was I showing my daughter respect and in turn demonstrating to those other children that children deserve respect? Was I showing my daughter kindness and consideration and in turn allowing the other children there that adults ought to be kind and considerate? 

Was I demonstrating healthy, respectful boundaries for my daughter and in turn demonstrating those boundaries for the other children there?


As I was watching her play, occasionally calling out to her when necessary to remind her of what the boundaries of kind, respectful and safe behaviour are, it struck me that Alicia's words relate to parenting:
And in it I learned what a boundary was. I’d always thought that it meant a rule, and in my mind rules are meant to be broken. But it’s not a rule, it’s a circle around yourself that brings peace to your heart and world. It’s the knowing what your spirit is capable of.
Traditionally, parenting has been presented as a series of rules. Lots of focus on what children can not do, what they must do. The goal, when it is rarely mentioned, is generally expressed as a desire for children to obey, to follow the rules. 


I think that's a lousy goal.

My goal isn't for my children to obey me, but to do what is right. My goal isn't to raise rule-followers, it is to raise kind and gracious souls. 

My goal isn't to teach them right and wrong but to teach them to discern that themselves.


So I help Peanut learn boundaries. Because it isn't that throwing sand is an inherently evil pastime, it's that the consequence - sand in an eye or mouth - is unkind and disrespectful to her playmate. And so: "Peanut, we don't throw sand...and here's why:..." 

And hopefully, as she learns how to respect her playmates, as she learns the intricacies of friendship, she will also grow to understand where her own boundaries are. Hopefully she will demand respect, now and when she is grown. Hopefully she will grow to understand and know with surety that being a grace-filled and forgiving person does not mean she must simply suffer at the hands of those are not, whether it's from nasty words on the playground when she's 10 years old or nasty words from a partner when she's 30. 


Hopefully she will learn to keep her heart and soul healthy at an earlier age than her mother, willing and able to say, "Here is the space that I need."

*totally unintentional pun, but once I realized what a pun it was I had to keep it. Parent humour, you know. 

Saturday, November 05, 2011

6 months old

Bubby is two days into the second half of her first year. She is such a blessing! She is an unbelievably happy and joyful soul. Most days she is simply awash in smiles.

6 months old

Look at those cheeks! At 17lb she's a strong and healthy little munchkin. And on nothing but Mommy's milk. We're so wonderfully made.

6 months old

She's definitely getting ready to crawl. She  s l o w l y and invisibly creeps around the floor. We're not sure how she does it, exactly (some heretofore undiscovered form of baby peristalsis?) but she's looking to move, that's certain. She pushes up into upward-facing dog with strong, sure arms. As soon as she gets her knees under here, she'll be off and away.

She is dearly loved. Everywhere we go, someone will comment on how happy she is and how social and interactive. I like to think that all the loving she receives throughout every day has played a role in that. She never goes long without kisses or hugs from someone. Who could resist that little dumpling? Most mornings I wake to Peanut leaning over me, gently stroking Bubby's hand as she sleeps and cooing, "My tister baby..."

6 months old

Friday, November 04, 2011

allergen-free soft drinks

There aren't any. Psych! But seriously: take a look at this list and then try to imagine eating, well, anything. Even produce can have corn-based waxes on them to preserve them and make them look nice. Unfortunately, they have the opposite effect on my baby.

But! I will not concede defeat that easily. No, sir! I will find something fun to drink other than water (obviously), tea and coffee. Enter the home-made soft drink.

Home-made corn-free soft drink recipe

1tbsp of cane sugar (I used a dark cane sugar) or more to taste.
2tbsp very hot/boiling water
1/2tsp lime juice
1/2tsp lemon juice
1/4tsp orange juice
soda water

Spoon sugar into bottom of a large, sturdy glass (a wide mouth mason jar works beautifully). Pour boiling water in and stir or slosh vigorously to dissolve sugar in the water, then add juices, adjusting to taste. Add soda water to fill glass.

It's not particularly sweet. In truth, it's pretty tart, so if you really want a sweet drink double the sugar, which may require a slight increase in the amount of water to dissolve the sugar. Also, it's not pretty: it looks like swamp water, which is why I opted not to include a picture (which is a lie: I drank it before I thought to snap a pic).

Happy corn-free soft drinking!

Thursday, November 03, 2011

turning violently inside my chest

Some time ago, I learned something terrible. A friend of mine, a dear woman who lives a quarter of a world away and who I have never met, lost her baby before he was born. Without explanation, he simply...stopped. I learned this terrible news on Saturday morning. There is nothing to do or say to relieve such pain. It's an unbearable weight, yet she and her family had no choice but to bear it.

Sunday morning I sat in church. Jon had taken Peanut down to her class and I sat holding Bubby in our pew. And I fell apart. I dissolved. Huge, racking sobs shook my body and simply clung to my sleeping baby, warm and vital and so very alive in my arms. I was heartbroken for my friend who would never hold her child this way, never know the swell of his chest against hers as he breathed, never hear him make a sound or see his eyes open.

But more than that, I was heartbreakingly thankful. God has been so gracious to us. We are so blessed. Time and again we have met enormous challenges, tragedies that could easily have utterly ruined us, fearfully bad situations that could easily have been catastrophic, and time and again God has been merciful and providential and protected us. And I don't know why.

I don't know why I get to watch my baby grow and laugh and blow raspberries at her sister and my friend does not. I don't know why not one possession of ours came out of that house with even a whiff of smoke, let alone burned while our neighbours lost absolutely everything. I don't know why, as sick as I was, Bubby and I were totally safe and we had an entirely normal, healthy birth. I don't know why this family doesn't wear the scars of the things we've faced. I don't know why we have persevered so entirely. I don't understand why God has preserved us.

He loves us. He loves all of us. And it makes me ache. I ache through to my very fingertips with the knowledge that I have only begun to comprehend the breadth and length and height and depth of the love of God. That Sunday morning my heart turned violently inside my chest, it was so swollen and overcome with love and the sheer impossibility of entirely grasping just what it means to be loved like this.

She has masses of love. Oceans of grace.


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