Wednesday, December 07, 2005

I read an e-mail today about a daughter who was giving her mother the news that she and her husband were expecting a baby. The e-mail was about how the mother wanted to express to her daughter the complicated emotions and changes that would happen to her once that child was born, but had trouble doing so. I found myself knowing exactly what she felt. I have often tried to express my own feelings surrounding my life as a mother.

The changes in my life after becoming a mother involve more than just me trying to hide the disgusting truth that is my new body, the inability to sleep in on weekends, or take spontaneous vacations. It's something that no childbirth class will ever be able to teach you (not like they taught me much to start with). The physical wounds of child bearing eventually heal, but becoming a mother has left an emotional wound inside me that is so raw, I fear I will be forever vulnerable, because I know that I will never again read a newspaper without asking, "What if that had been MY child?" News of every plane crash, and every house fire haunts me. When I see pictures of starving children, I now always wonder if anything could be worse than watching a child die. No matter how sophisticated I was (yeah right), becoming a mother has reduced me to the primitive level of a bear protecting it's cub. An urgent call of "Mom!" is enough to cause me to drop the good crystal without a moment's hesitation to rush over and make sure that no bones have been broken.

I remember thinking, while I was pregnant, that motherhood wouldn't affect my career. I would simply get a really good babysitter, and everything at work would carry on as it had before. But no matter how much time I invest in my career, I have been professionally derailed by motherhood. There are days when I have to use every ounce of my non-existent discipline to keep from running home, just to make sure my baby is safe with the strangers I have entrusted him to, no matter how much I have investigated their qualifications. However decisive I may be at the office, I second-guess myself constantly as a mother.

Eventually I did shed the pounds of pregnancy, but I have never felt the same about my body. I have slowly learned to recognize that my life, once so important, is of less value to me now that I have a child. I know that I would give myself up in a moment to save my offspring, but also hope to live longer, not to accomplish my own dreams, but to watch my child accomplish his.

I know that my husband understands how much more I love him now, as a father. He was always careful to powder the baby's bottom, and never hesitates to play endless games of hockey or watch countless episodes of-god forbid-Barney, with him. I have since fallen in love with him all over again, for reasons that others would find very unromantic. Just the fact that he holds my hand as we lie in bed, when I'm exhausted after a full day running around after our son, that he will hold out his arms for Derek who is running hell-bent-for-leather to jump on him when he walks in the door at the end of the day, or when my husband has taken the job of bathing him and putting him to bed all on his own, so that I may have a moment's rest before storytime, has now endeared my husband to me forever, with those new bonds being stronger than any vow of marriage, or declaration of love.

I offer a silent prayer for my husband and me, and for all those mere mortals called parents, who stumble their way into this most wonderful of callings. May you always have in your arms the one who is in your heart.

Friday, December 02, 2005

All women are aware of the notion that, once you've given birth to a child, the joy and beauty of that little baby just makes the pain and agony of delivery sort of float away, and you won't really remember it afterward.

I'm here to tell you that's crap.

I remember every detail about my son's birth, from the tense, crampy pain of the beginning labour, to the full blown cut-this-thing-out-of-me-then-kill-me-promptly pain that comes later. I remember recovery, breastfeeding, sleepless nights, and the whole shebang.

My son is now 3, and we've been steadily potty training for about 3 months. Like I've said, while I will never forget the agony of childbirth, I think potty training will surpass it in the memory banks.

Potty training is one of those uncontrollable things, like getting your husband to put down the remote while you're watching "Lost" and he's trying to get updates on the hockey game during every commercial. You ask him to do it, you plead with him to do it, but ultimately, you have little control over whether or not he will do it. It's the same with potty training. No matter how much I cajole, plead, and bribe Derek to please, please, please go on the potty, it's not really up to me, as to whether he will, or invariably, won't.

I hate that.

I've spent evening after evening these last months, sitting on the bathroom floor getting hemmorhoids, while I read Derek book after book and waited for those precious drops to fall into the toilet. Finally now, we are at a point where Derek understands the concept, and can consistently hold his bladder long enough to get to the potty.

I have to admit though, that I've been playing it safe a little bit, by keeping his training pants on overnight, so that he (and I) can sleep well (I know that he isn't quite ready to go a whole night without an accident yet). Except that, whether psychologically, or purposefully, he refuses to go number 2 on the potty, so every morning his training pants are dirty.

We've hit a wall. He's training himself not to go number 2 during the day, which means he's always going at night, which means that I can't take the training pants off (I'm not so cruel a mother that I would purposely instigate nightly rituals that begin with his crying at 3:00 a.m. because he's dirty, then necessitate my having to put him into a bath, change the sheets, and get him dressed in new pajamas, all while I'm swearing and cursing under my breath because neither of us wants to be up for another 3 or 4 hours yet).

So what does a mother do? And when will the agonies end?

Monday, November 21, 2005

What did I ever do before my son was born? I've never had so much joy, laughter, fun, pain, fear, anxiety, as I have since he came along.

Some would ask whether I count the good as outweighing the bad, and after some thought, I would have to reply by saying that the bad is actually part of the good. It may sound weird, but this fear and anxiety that I feel daily as it applies to child rearing, is a good thing (although it may not seem like it at the time). When I worry about Derek and about how I'm doing in my job as a mother to him, I think that this process in itself is making me a better mother. For me to be aware of the mistakes I am making, or wondering and dreaming about his future, means that I am constantly challenging myself to "step up to the plate", and do the very best I can for him.

We had Derek's 3rd birthday party this weekend. Before I go into detail about this completely chaotic experience, let me give some background about past birthday celebrations. When Derek turned 1 year old, and again for his second birthday, we had everyone, friends and family alike, at our home in the basement (it's November, not a sunny warm June, remember). There was no room to breathe, and don't get me wrong, I actually think our basement is pretty large, and accomodating for such events, but even so...Oh my God. I chopped, minced, cooked, baked, and otherwise wore myself out in the kitchen for two weeks before said events, to make sure that I could sufficiently stuff my family full of yummy goodies.

The parties themselves were successful, as everyone expressed their satisfaction with food and entertainment (the kids got glitter glue all over my carpet, that still hasn't come out), and afterwards, I felt like a spent party balloon, my energy simply deflating with a long hiss.

This year was different. I told myself months ago that I wasn't going to wear myself out like that again. I have too many other things to do during November and December, right up until my husband's birthday arrives in early January, to get worn out so early in the game.

We booked a party room at the local indoor jungle gym. For those who will understand, it's like an enormous McDonald's Playland, with the added bonus of extremely expensive and violent arcade games (for our 3rd birthday party, we pretty much skipped the arcade portion of the event).

I was given the option by the convenors, to either have lunch served first, or after the kids have had a chance to run wild within the playground...uh, can you say "stupid question". I of course chose to let the kids eat first. That way I could avoid the obvious problems associated with trying to get ten children back into the lunch room, when they all want to keep playing (hopefully, until either the world ends, or they fall to the ground, from complete exhaustion). It was a good choice. Even before the cardboardy-tasting pizza arrived, the kids were itching to jump into the ball pit, swing from the hanging nets, and slide vicariously down the closed tube slide.

The best thing was, as I watched my son and his little friends enjoying themselves more than any little kid on Christmas morning, I felt no anxiety, and no pressure, but instead a great and vast relief that I did not have to stress over the planning for weeks ahead of time, nor clean up afterward. I wasn't even tired, beyond the minor aches associated with a grown adult crawling through three levels of kid-climbers, to rescue the odd child that can't seem to find his way back down.

It was a blast, but I'll not be doing it again soon. The amount of money spent on this one party was more than enough to last for another three or four years. Derek will just have to live with his memories next year, and the next year, and...

Thursday, November 10, 2005

November is a crazy month for me. It is the precursor to an endless Christmas season. November brings three family birthdays to buy for and celebrate...those of my father, my brother and my son...all before I even start to think about buying gifts for Christmas. Most years this has brought a lot of pressure upon me, as I am terribly aware of the bubbling volcano that will finally run over and explode on Christmas day.

However, this year, I'm on top of things. Derek's birthday party has been scheduled and I look forward to watching 10 three year olds run around the play area at my local indoor jungle gym next week (especially because it won't be at MY house), I bought birthday presents for everyone very early, and I'm caught up and sailing smoothly along at work (finally), which means that I have even started to get a handle on the Christmas shopping early this year.

With all that accomplished, I was looking forward to just enjoying the month, as it were, lazily wiling away my remaining free weekend this month, and enjoying a nice home-cooked (because I won't be cooking it) meal to celebrate my family's birthdays. It isn't going to happen that way, scheduling difficulties in trying to get my brother to come and visit (he currently lives about 5 hours from the rest of the family), and the fact that my parents have booked themselves a Mexican vacation this month, mean that even though this is the first year that I have juggled all my little balls very smoothly in the air, and have everything under control, there are still things that are uncontrollable.

I hate that. If ever there was a control freak, it's me. I'm the type of person who cringes inwardly, and has fingernail marks imprinted on my palms as I try to let my 3-year old pick out his own clothes in the morning. It invariably means that he looks like a cross between a cartoon character, and a whino, because he always wants to wear the t-shirt that no longer fits, but he still insists he "needs it" because it has Nemo on it. Then he insists on wearing his favourite jogging pants to school, but doesn't understand why the fact that he wore them yesterday playing in the mud, means that they aren't going to be just as great today.

Such is life I guess, but it's disappointing because I know I'll never be so organized again.


Monday, November 07, 2005

It's that time of year...the shopping malls have started to smell of spicy egg nog lattes from Starbucks, and echo the sweet croon of Bing Crosby, and the less interesting sounds of N'Sync and Britney Spears do Christmas. It gets darker a little bit earlier, and the festive lights have started to shine on a few homes as I'm driving home from work at night. Pretty soon, everyone's lights will be up, and I love driving through our neighbourhood at night to see them. I can smell in the air that the snow is on its way, and can envision many an afternoon spent shoveling the driveway and making snowmen with my son.

This is the best time of year (despite the frantic shoppers), because everyone always seems to glow a little bit brighter, their thoughts revolving around family and friends, and with the anticipation of cozy warm nights spent cuddled on the couch in front of a fireplace (or in my case,in front of the t.v. watching "Bob the Builder" with my son...but you get the picture).

I love shopping for my family at Christmas. I try not to buy much, and I like to make crafty little things mostly, but either way, it makes me happy to see how glad they are that I remembered that my mother wanted to read that particular book, or that my sister needed some new clothes for work, and my husband was eyeing a particular woodworking tool at the hardware store.

However, it seems to me that this year especially is a time when we need to remember more than just our families and friends at Christmas. So much has happened this year to others around the world, and you wouldn't be human if you could look the other way and not feel a pang in your heart at the tragedy caused by hurricanes Katrina, and Wilma, the devasation of last year's Tsunami in the Pacific, where people still have no homes, and orphans still cry in the streets, and the conflict still occuring in Iraq and elswhere in the world today, where many Canadian and American soldiers are stationed and won't be home for Christmas with their families.

So this blog is dedicated to those who need help from me-and all of us-this year. It doesn't have to be much, but if we can all remember to send a little something, by way of the many forums available (ie. Canadian Red Cross ; American Red Cross ; Disaster Relief ), then our own Christmas will be that much warmer, brighter, and happier for it.


Wednesday, November 02, 2005

It's funny how, with the onset of October, all of us seem to want to be scared out of our pants (or in the case of my potty training son-pee in them) all of a sudden. October brings happily creepy images of pint-sized ghouls and goblins. It turns out though, that my dreams for a sincerely frightening Halloween get dashed on the rocks of reality.

As I discussed my Halloween plans with friends, family, neighbours, and heck-even strangers I met in the bank and the grocery store, I realized that every kid under the age of 12 was dressing up as either a princess, with some variations into the realm of fairies, or Walt Disney characters-for girls, and cartoon heroes like spiderman, batman and some sponge bobs-for boys...thereby taking all of the fun out of Halloween.

What happened to all my little ghouls? Even my own son deserted me. He wanted to be either a cowboy (at least it's traditional), or a monkey (which at least would have still been original).

Come on people...this is the only time of the year when we as a society can completely embrace our pagan roots, without fear of eternal damnation, or some kind of latent guilt complex remaining from our inhibited Quaker antecedents. Why do you think Hollywood cranks out a hundred new horror movies every September/October? It isn't for the Academy Awards, but because we want to be scared at this time of year. It shakes us out of our complacent, safe little lives just that little bit to get us through the endless throngs of people in the malls throughout the Christmas season. let up just a little bit, my little Cowboy (that's eventually what he decided, although after I bought the hat and made the vest, he wanted to switch back to a monkey, which was met with a hysterical episode by me) was the cutest non-ghoul on two (2) feet. Too bad there really aren't any pictures to post in this venue.


Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Have you ever heard of the expression "time management"? In a busy law practice, time management is essential, and without it I would be out of a job, and needing to rely on the pathetic skills developed in university while working as a retail sales clerk.

Deadlines grab you by the throat, even before you've had a chance to breathe, and without my trusty daytimer, I'd be lost. Ahhh, my daytimer...truly a thing of beauty. There are many ways to keep track of appointments and deadlines in any office. Many people these days use a computer scheduler, and I've tried it, but I prefer my daytimer. It's situated on my desk in such a spot as to be constantly accessible and visual, and I found that the computer program couldn't be visual when I was on the computer in other programs, working diligently.

However, it isn't enough to simply input your deadlines into a daytimer, you've got to have a system, so that at a quick glance, you can immediately tell the types of things you're looking at for your day. For example, my personal reminders are entered in red ink (that way I am daily reminded about my pathetic social life), while work-related reminders are in blue, and deadlines are entered in green. Additonally, when something gets marked off as being completed, it is highlighted in yellow, while deadlines that get adjourned, postponed, or cancelled, are highlighted in orange. By the end of the year, you can leaf through my book and it looks a little bit like a colouring book, but it's very effective.

It's too bad that type of thing doesn't work at home also. But you just can't put your home life into a daytimer, especially with a 3 year old. Schedules too often get changed. Plans are made, unmade, and then made again, and your list of deadlines (or in this case-shopping, chores, and soccer practices, etc.) would be 50 pages long just for one day. Not to mention that while my daytimer has a place of importance on my desk which makes it easy to reach any time of the day, at home it'd be lost in ten minutes (I'd find it 3 days later in a laundry basket, underneath a pile of clothes that had been washed 5 days before that).

Normally, my paranoid, neurotic nature would scream at this disorganization, but it's amazing how much I really don't care as much about the "schedule" at home, as long as we are all having fun together...and isn't that what home is all about.


Wednesday, October 19, 2005

"Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life's longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you, yet they belong not to you.
You may give them your love but not your thoughts.
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow, which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them, but seek not to make them like you." (Kahlil Gibran)

Oh yeah? Well Kahlil Gibran can kiss my…Wait…I mean: How inspirational!

The funny thing is, at one time, that poem would have really spoken to me. I can just imagine myself handing out flyers with that poem on it to my parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, parents of my friends, and so on, to try to make them recognize my distinct teenage individuality.

Now I read it, and I feel guilty, the way you do when you know there's a sink full of dishes and a thousand loads of laundry to do, but you’ve turned on the TV and crashed on the couch anyway.

I known, though, that Derek is his own person, it's in every mispronounced word out of his cute little mouth, and in every fairy tale about dinosaurs and monsters that he makes up in his head. But still..he's mine, right? I catch myself feeling so possessive. Like just before bed, when he's all cleaned up, and smelling of bath soap and feels cozier than hot chocolate on a rainy night, I tuck him in and read his story, and we spend ten minutes talking about his day. He gives me a great big bear hug and says "see you later" as I turn out the light and close the door.

It makes me sad sometimes, because I know that there will come a time (not too distant) when those affectionate interludes will not be welcome by him, when he'll be "too old" for the cuddling of his mama.

Even now, Derek is his own person whose social interactions aren't really mine to dictate as they were before. He talks to people, and I try to stop myself from whispering "Don't forget to say "Please" and "thank you!" because even as I'm saying it to myself under my breath, he's saying it out loud already. So I try to hang back more (which comes about as naturally to me as rocket science) and let his own character shine through.

Like when we were at his cousin's birthday party, and everyone was painting their flower pots and making crafts, but Derek was off in the play room putting the spiderman doll to bed in the toy crib, and reading him a story about a dinosaur named Eddy. Part of me wanted to tell him to come back and colour like the rest of the kids, but another part of me (and thankfully, the stronger part), found no reason to force activities onto him when he was obviously having fun doing other things (and not bothering anyone else).

And so, even as Derek is learning, growing, and developing, so do I, as I learn the best ways to deal with him and encourage his growth. Let's just hope I'm not screwing it up so badly that his therapist is going to take out a warrant for my arrest when he's 30.


Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Blessed me

I am truly blessed, and will be the first to admit it. I have a very beautiful, intelligent, happy and healthy boy.

I don't remember thinking about my "adult" life when I was a little girl, not like some others who had their wedding planned out before they were five years old, the husband shining brightly in their starry eyes by the time they were twelve, and a giggling little baby swimming in the ether of their fantasies while they were babsitting other people's kids.

Instead, I remember thinking of my high-powered, fast-paced life as a lawyer (god forbid), probably living in some other exotic country (where you ask? let's say Tibet, do they need lawyers in Tibet?). There were probably men in these fantasies too, especially as I entered that sexually-frustrated phase of my late-teen years, but no specifics ever really crystallized.

And as for babies, I can honestly say the thought never entered my head. I just wasn't the type to be awed by the googly-faced, drooly little monsters.

However, I guess a time comes for most people...after you've found that special partner...when you begin to think that you might have matured enough to handle parenthood (whenever think you've come to this point, please give yourself at least another two years...because trust me-you're not ready).

I have recently had the opportunity to visit my dear friend in the hospital, after she gave birth to her own second child...a beautiful baby boy. Since she gladly entered her second pregnancy, the questions began..."when will you have another child?"..."are you sure you're not ready for another one?".

Granted, some of the foregoing may have you believing that my convictions on the issue of children are somewhat wishy-washy, given that I didn't initially seem to want any. However, let's get something straight here...THERE'S NO WAY I'M HAVING ANOTHER BABY.

Don't get me wrong, I love Derek, and I wouldn't change a thing about him, and even if part of me thought sometimes in a small corner of my mind that it would be nice to round things off with a little girl, none of these feelings are strong enough to motivate me to actually go through another pregnancy, birth and the sleeplessness of early-babyhood.

I guess part of it is also due to the fact that Derek is now entering that amazing age of discovery, learning and progression that means we (my husband and I) have some more freedom again ourselves. For example, just recently Derek decided that he didn't need any help to maneuver down the stairs to the basement and turn the tv on so as to watch cartoons. Do you have any idea what this means to me? It means that if he doesn't want to spend time in the kitchen with us while we're getting dinner ready in the evening, he can do things by himself now, and I don't have to put up with whiny, cranky Derek (although this rarely happens, because he loves to "help" in the kitchen, which naturally means that crockery gets broken almost every time).

At first, it's kind of a letdown, let me tell you, to know that as each day passes, your child "needs" you less and less for those mundane things, and that soon he'll be moving out with his tongue-pierced, pink-haired girlfriend, and skipping his classes to get drunk in the afternoon. But then it really penetrates, and you realize that you can have a life again, and that even planning things to do with your child gets easier, because he can be involved in so many more activities.

Some may call me selfish, but I'm good with life the way it is now. I was never big on change anyway.


Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Our Family Thanksgiving Trip to Algonquin Park

You would think that Thanksgiving anywhere in the world would be filled with lots of extended family, warm homes with Turkeys in the oven, potatoes, and zippers being opened over full bellies...and that's true for me as well, to an extent.

Every family holiday that I've ever had has been spent this way. Whether it be Thanksgiving, Easter, Christmas, or whatever "special" occasion my mother can cook up as an excuse to have everyone over for dinner.

Usually, this is a good thing (as Martha would put it). Who could complain? Well this has been a long year...starting with a tough Spring. My husband and I have attended two family funerals this year, which took a lot out of us. Then came the long, hot summer, with no relief for the wicked. Instead of running out of town to enjoy the summer traffic jams heading up to cottage country, we decided to renovate our bathroom, which took a lot more out of us.

So now, with Thanksgiving looming on the horizon, hope had sprung in my tired old heart. Should we resign ourselves to another busy weekend, travelling back and forth between the in-laws for an endless round of visiting, as has always been done? (Not to mention that I could just see my sister picking up the phone to ask us to help her move into her new house, because she's "smartly" chosen the long weekend to do this, so as to have an extra day to unpack.)

No...not this holiday. I begged and pleaded with my husband to "take back Thanksgiving". We ran to the computer to look up travel packages for beautiful, peaceful cottages in Algonquin Park.

Finally, the weekend arrived (here in Canada, Thanksgiving was October 9, 2005). We hit the car and defied speed limits to make our way north. It was the most beautiful weekend of my existence. We had amazing weather, my 3-year old son practically swooned with joy to go fishing with daddy, and we took long walks in the woods, surrounded by trees and lots and lots of coloured leaves.

The funniest part, of course, was when I decided to relax in the super-deep bathtub equipped with high-powered water jets. Leaning back in beautiful, scalding hot water, I turned on the jets, only to have the water spraying into my face, out of the tub, across the room and all over the floor. My husband rushes into the bathroom to see why I am screaming with laughter, only to be caught full in the face by flying water himself. You should have seen it.

All in all, it was completely worth leaving home and family for a weekend away. I wouldn't necessarily do it again very soon, we would never get away with ditching everyone again, but everyone should do it...take some time for yourselves, and don't worry about the family "obligations".


Friday, October 07, 2005

On the subject of my status as an un-cook, it comes to mind that I have been getting away with domestic murder, as it were.

For a married woman, with child, and a home to keep (let's not forget the 9-5 full time job in busy law firm...but still), I have been immensely lucky in that, I never have to cook (unless, like recently, I have chosen to do so...which doesn't happen often).

My husband, beautiful-strong-protective type that he is, loves to cook. He makes breakfast in the mornings, and on weekends that means amazing food like pancakes, bacon/eggs, etc. He also packs my lunch for work (although contrary to his usually excellent deduction skills, he hasn't yet seemed to realize that the apples, pears, plums and other "good for you" foods always seem to still be in my bag at the end of the day).

Dinner is another example of the heaven-sent man that he is. He teaches, which usually means that he gets home a lot earlier in the evening than I do, after work. This also means that I will often come home to amazing smells eminating from my kitchen. It's a wonderfully orgasmic feeling to come home and smell a good meal that you haven't had to cook yourself (another reason I bought a slow-cooker).

In return, I usually take care of most of the other household-ery chores, like the laundry, dishes, etc. I don't mind at all, especially considering that I tackle these tasks about twice a week, but he cooks for me three times a day.

Have I mentioned how great he is?

(Next week: How horrible my husband is)

So, Kristina of the doesn’t-do-dinner actually wanted to do something nice for her husband this weekend, so she…brace yourself…made dinner.

It was to be French Onion Soup and Roasted Chicken with wild rice and carrots. (sounds good, huh)

It started with the cutting of countless onions on Sunday morning for the French Onion Soup, which necessitated the need to remain indoors and cry endlessly (whether from the onions, or the loneliness, no one will ever know), and miss out on outside play time with Derek that beautiful morning. Then came the seasoning of the chicken, which was torture in itself, thanks to my absolutely reasonable aversion to touching dead meat.

Finally, as Derek was coming in for lunch, I actually made lunch as well (if you call Kraft dinner making lunch…let’s not go too far into domesticity here).

At about 2:30, the chicken went into the oven, and the soup was starting to bubble nicely.

Finally, after Derek and Carlo enjoyed a full day of fun in the uncharacteristically warm October sunshine, playing hockey in the driveway, kicking the ball in the yard, blowing bubbles into the clear blue sky, etc. etc. etc. I finished inside, slaving over the stove to make sure they enjoyed a wonderful Sunday evening dinner at home. I carefully laid the table with good dishes, opened a nice bottle of wine (coincidentally, a good homemade wine that I slaved over making with Dad…ha ha), and served up the best meal we’ve had at home in weeks (by best, I mean the most labour intensive, because even I will admit Carlo cooks up some mean pasta).

What does my thankful, appreciative family say to my exhaustive efforts? Derek: “where’s the ketchup?”

Carlo: “this chicken will be great for left over sandwiches this week.”

Thus, Kristina of the doesn’t-do-dinner is born again.

(DISCLAIMER: This message is being provided in the spirit of making fun of myself, and for no improper purpose, and most especially not to criticize my husband or son’s appreciation of my “skills”.)