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.