Tuesday, May 29, 2007


Sugar D just found out he's been laid off, effective immediately, along with about 100 other employees. The package isn't bad, 8 weeks' pay, but still... my mind is racing and stuck at the same time. Change is scary. Getting similar work in this town will not be easy.

too bad I can't think of a title

A couple of weeks ago, I took Swee'pea to the mall to buy him his first hard-soled shoes. I wanted to get him a pair of runners and a pair of sandals.

When we got to the children's shoe store, a tiny brown bird was fluttering under some stools. Somehow it had gotten into the mall, and couldn't find its way out again, couldn't make sense of all the bright, treacherous windows of sky that were inexplicably, relentlessly hard.

Some men tried to capture it under the stools, to bring it safely past the sheet glass walls and doors to outside, but the bird suddenly flew up and just over my head. We watched it nearly bang into several windows before it flew deeper into the mall. Eventually, we saw the three men had caught it in a hat, and were taking it outside.

The store clerk measured Swee'pea's feet and pointed out the boys' shoes, immediately writing off the girls' shoes. There was one red pair of girls' sandals that I was really tempted by, but I decided to toe the gender performance line. The day before, I had just read this post about the blogger's 4-year-old son wanting pink sandals and how she didn't get them for him and how she felt bad about that.

My first gut feeling was that I would just buy Swee'pea pink sandals if we were in the same position. But kids' shoes are A LOT more expensive than I expected... almost as expensive as adult shoes. And now that I've been at this mothering gig for more than a year, I know better than to develop a firm opinion about how I would handle a situation down the road. Nevertheless, the question of kids getting teased by other kids, and whether and how and if parents can protect them continues to circle my mind.

When I was 8, my family moved from the suburbs of a small to medium city to a farm outside a tiny village. When I lived in the suburbs, I was a pretty precocious I think. I had a lot of friends, both in my own neighbourhood and at school. I was pretty extroverted and confident. There were people who teased me about my red hair, and I think I accepted that I wasn't pretty, but I was still an interesting person and felt worthy of friendship. I remember being surprised that Jack Tripper on Three's Company had such a thing for redheads, because in my world red hair was ugly. That teasing didn't bother me too much.

When I went to the new school, I got teased and totally ostracized. For months I went home crying every single day. My mom thinks it was because I had been labelled as gifted at my old school that had a program for streaming gifted kids. This new school had no similar program and no real idea what to do with me; but they thought they had to do something with me so they singled me out, took me out of classes and told the kids it was because I was so smart. I suspect my mom is probably right. But maybe my initial confidence in my ability to make friends was also to blame, maybe I came off like some city kid ready to conquer the world. Whatever, the ostracism made me miserable and took me nearly a decade to recover from, nearly a decade before I returned to self-confidence and happiness.

I watched kids get teased for many reasons (and, I am ashamed to say, I teased other kids myself in the hopes that I would be more accepted). One girl was teased for being fat, given a nickname with the word hippo in it, even though she wasn't actually that big, and when she came to high school all skin and bones, she still got teased and ostracized. And I knew other fat kids who were cool, utterly respected.

I am beginning to suspect that some kids are targets no matter what, and the things that get picked on are arbitrary. Kids will find anything to pick on: hair colour, freckles, glasses, braces, weight, nose-picking, whatever.

Every parent wants to protect their kids from harm, psychological or physical. Some months ago, I was at a playgroup and asked how old one boy was. He seemed quite a bit bigger than the others so I figured he must be near three. I think he was just over two though (I can't remember the specific numbers) and the father started telling me about how big his son is, how he's worried that he'll still be big when he starts school and how he'll have to put his son on a diet beforehand if it comes to that. He said, "I don't want my son to be the big kid at school. Kids are cruel and I don't want that for him."

I can't fault his intentions, his desire to protect his son from potential misery. But I'm suspicious that making sure they don't do anything or become anything that might elicit other kids' cruelty may not be the best way to ensure our children's mental health. I'm starting to wonder if maybe it would be better to accept our children as they are: freckled, fat, funny haired, bespectacled, wearing pink sandals or bending other gender rules, passionate about uncool pursuits like stamp-collecting or chess, whatever. If maybe we should give our kids a place where they feel 100 percent safe and accepted and loved, a shelter from the storm of the schoolyard, where they know that who they are is ok, and they just need to survive this time to discover a more accepting world in the future.

I don't know. I don't pretend to have all the answers and I'm sure my ideas will change as soon as Swee'pea approaches school age, but this is what I'm thinking about right now. And it's what I was thinking when I watched Little Miss Sunshine.

(Warning: spoiler ahead... if you have any thoughts about watching this movie, and don't want to know the ending even though it would still be a great movie to watch even knowing the ending, you might want to stop reading now.)

When the Hoover family finally arrives at the Little Miss Sunshine pageant, the dad and the older brother want to remove Olive from the pageant. They watch the shiny baby barbie dolls performing their polished numbers on the stage and recognize that Olive isn't one of them. They're afraid that she'll be ridiculed and cheapened by performing at this pageant. The men try to persuade her mother that they shouldn't let her onstage. But Olive's been working on her dance performance for months with her Grandpa, and she's passionate to participate. "Olive is who Olive is," her mom says, and they need to let her perform.

Olive goes on stage, and dedicates her performance to her late Grandpa, who showed her all these moves. And then she embarks on a stripper routine. It's a routine that stands in stark contrast to the other girls' performances, and yet it makes explicit the sexualizing of these young girls by and for the audience.

Olive is who Olive is but this routine was created by her drug-snorting, horndog Grandpa. Was she just a pawn in his ironic statement on children's beauty pageants? Olive is who she is and part of she is who she looks up to.

There are things that children might be teased for that we can control or modify, like what colour shoes they wear. And there are things that we can't change, like weight, ethnicity, disabilities, or crazy grandparents, things that even if we could change, I don't think we'd want to.

If we want our children to believe that beauty is in the difference (which I do, very much), then don't we have to walk the walk somehow? I'm not sure exactly how we do this... I guess I have to choose what parts of our culture I would prefer to change and what parts I would like to propagate. I'm ok with nose-picking and masturbation being something we do privately, away from public eyes. But I think I'd prefer to engender an appreciation for the beauty in all the different shapes and sizes and colours of human beings. And I'd like to keep working towards more flexibility in gender roles, perhaps even do away with roles being tied to gender eventually.

The reality is that the adults in a child's life carry significant influence over them and we must treat that responsiblity with care. Somewhere, there is a blurry fine line between raising healthy people and making them a pawn in our own agendas.

I keep thinking about that bird in the mall, trying to make it a metaphor for this post, these musings. Something about a creature being out of its natural environment and is it the creature that needs to change or the hazardous environment? Then I think about how those men had to capture the bird, subdue it, before they could release it back into its own familiar sky-world where it belongs, and I get confused.

first hard-soled shoes
Swee'pea's first hard-soled shoes, pictured with goutweed (ugh!), dandelions, forget-me-nots and Sugar D's new birthday shoes.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

cashing in the v-card

On Friday night I lost my vomit virginity. Or rather, my getting-vomited-on virginity.

I remember when my anxiety was at its peak, when my life was most hopeless and restricted, crying on the phone to my mom. I was crying that I couldn't possibly have children with this kind of anxiety, that I would be a horrible, cold and distant mother too afraid of throwing up, especially away from home, to engage with her children, and to properly care for them when they're sick. Everyone knows that kids throw up at the drop of a hat.

My mom told me that if I had kids I would be a fine mother, and that chances are my anxieties about myself throwing up would be replaced by the bigger and more important anxiety of keeping my kid(s) safe.

In the early days of Swee'pea's life outside the womb, the midwives showed us how to take his temperature every day, or maybe even every few hours, I can't remember now. A fever could alert us to a life-threatening infection, which would require immediate treatment, and the midwives went over what to do if Swee'pea developed even a slightly high temperature (the first step being to take off a layer of clothing).

I think that was the beginning of my hyper vigilance. Swee'pea was one of those babies who spit up a lot. That didn't bother me so much because I knew it was normal, except I was terrified that with all the usual spitting up I might miss an actual vomit, which could cause dehydration. My mom, a nurse, kept telling me that vomiting is obvious and I couldn't possibly miss it, but I was unconvinced.

Well, after Friday night, I am convinced. Vomiting is unmistakable and totally different from those gentle little gurgles and occasional spurts of spit up. I'm guessing you guys already know that, so I won't go into details, except to say that Swee'pea threw up all over me and the floor and himself and it wasn't as bad as I would have thought back in the days when vomit was one of the scariest things in my world.

But I did feel very awkward. My first concern was to make Swee'pea feel comfortable and safe and to clean him up but I found that was easier said than done. So I'm turning to the Internet for suggestions of how to improve my technique. What do you do and in what order? Do you whip your kid to the nearest toilet, risking spreading the vomit throughout the house, or just let him (or her) vomit on one section of floor (what I did)? What position do you hold your kid in while his (or her) stomach forcibly empties itself, kneeling? standing? sitting on you? over your shoulder? I'm looking for specifics here people... sequences and methods of disrobing to minimize vomit spread and maximize child comfort? Sequences and methods of cleaning your child, yourself and the floor? Luckily Sugar D was here so we could divy up the jobs, but it was still a very awkward and inefficient affair.

Of course, I'm hoping I won't have a lot of opportunity to refine my technique because although getting puked on wasn't as bad as I would have thought, it's not in top 10 fun things to do on a Friday night.

p.s. Thanks once again for the supportive comments. I do need to hear it over and over again that it will pass and other parents have also been at their wits' end and now their kids sleep. I promise not to whine again... at least for a long time. I've been able to watch lots of Lost because Swee'pea has been sleeping quite a bit since he threw up. Poor kid.

Oh yeah - on Friday my friend asked me who my favourite Lost character was, and I had to think really hard. What I love about the show is how complex the characters are. I like them all, but there is at least one major thing about each of them I don't like. I said that Locke was my favourite but now that I've gotten several more episodes in, I have to change my mind. Said also came to mind, and that's who my friend said was her favourite. I just want to make it clear that he was in my mind before she said it. I like that he can be so kind and sympathetic and yet really hard and clear-headed too. Who's your favourite Lost characters?

Friday, May 25, 2007

Why am I writing so much about tv?

Because I am in a fog, and I'm only just hanging onto my sanity. I keep reaching the end of my rope, but the thing about motherhood is that you just have to keep going. The only alternative is to run away and start a new life somewhere else far far away and I'm not about to abandon my loved ones (although I gave the idea a bit of consideration last night).

Watching tv lets me escape this very difficult reality. Plus I can do it while Swee'pea toddles around suddenly playful and happy after two hours of screaming through dinner and the bedtime routine, who we think must be really tired but who in fact sleeps for about five minutes after I get him in the crib, then refuses to go back to sleep until about 10. Watching tv is my little rebellion, my way of flipping the bird at Swee'pea Authority, my way of maintaining a teensy bit of control over my out of control child life. I know how parents become compltely overrun by their children, because apparently I am one of them. I can either spend two hours walking back and forth with 30 pounds of toddler in my arms, let him scream in the crib for two hours (we did it once this week and we lasted 20 minutes before he threw up so I'm pretty sure it would be two hours of screaming) or I can let him play till 10 at night while I watch tv and pretend no one else is in the room with me. I am not a good mother right now.

It amazes me how quickly I can go from being really happy and feeling really good about myself to near total despair and feeling trapped in misery. I suspect that an hour or two in the evenings really makes all the difference, that my entire huge and messy life is balanced on that tiny precious hour. It's like that hour is the unicycle wheel under the stuntman's ass that is me, with all my life piled on his head, and either end of his balancing bar, crazy impossible piles that can't possibly stay aloft, but somehow they mostly do. And as long as everything's rolling along tickety-boo, I'm on top of the world, I'm high. Then one small misstep and it all comes tumbling down. And I'm reminded that I am an ass.

I saw on the news the other day that Brad Pitt says that more kids are on the way for him and Angelina, that having kids is the hardest thing they've ever done and the most fun they've ever had. At which I turned to Sugar D and suggested that I would revise that statement to read not fun but joy. But this bad patch right now has very little, almost no, joy to offset the hard.

I keep trying to tell myself Bubandpie's idea that now is when I'm being a really good mother, but I'm not buying it. I'm freaking out. I am not being the mother I want to be. Something really has to change. I need more space, both physical and emotional.

It's more of the same as we went through a week or two ago, I can't remember exactly how long. Screaming child who must be in contact with me constantly, who screams and instead of sleeping thrashes around and clunks his heavy head onto my chest over and over again. Oh -- and with a feverish sick and grumpy husband added in. But I am trying to hold myself back from writing yet another whiney angsty post.

Here is my attempt at injecting humour into the whine: last night after Swee'pea woke up after 10 minutes (I am not exaggerating, I looked at the clock), he went to the bookshelf and started pulling off books and looking through them. The book that absorbed his first? The No Cry Sleep Solution. I would have taken a picture but I couldn't be arsed.

And more irony this morning: me reading it with Swee'pea sleeping in my arms, too exhausted to actually take anything in. Besides, I tried it last summer with no success.

I am having a hard time believing that this hard stuff will actually pass. So I'm putting myself on notice and preaching stillness to myself. I will wait for a week to pass before we make big decisions to try any more sleep training. Things were really good just a month or three weeks ago, without any drastic action on our part. Please please please let us have our evening hours back. Please please please let me be able to sleep without perching on the edge of the bed with constant scrabbling hands at my belly and chest all night long. In the meantime, I will just keep holding on, finding (with some dismay) that my rope actually has another inch.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

it's that time again

I can't believe it's already time for So You Think You Can Dance. Apparently it starts tonight at 8 with a 90-minute show, then there's a two-hour show next Wednesday. Luckily next week's show will not conflict with the new show Traveler, that I have also become hooked on.

Any other SYTYCD fans out there? I really want to see a belly dancer on there. Or maybe I would be happy if I could get my hands on the Turkish version of the show...

I'm swamped at work, and we're still sick at home, so no time for a longer post right now.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

somebody stop me!

I seem to have developed an annual tradition. Every summer,when crap tv gives way to crappier tv, I start to watch crap tv on rented dvds. Last year it was Grey's Anatomy, the year before that House and the year before THAT it was Sex and the City (yes I didn't start watching Sex and the City until the series was over and then I devoured it like chocolate. I'm always last to jump on a bandwagon).

This summer, it looks like it's Lost. I caught something about it the other night after the Grey's Anatomy season finale and thought it looked interesting so I picked up the first dvd of season one on Saturday night. I'm hooked, well and truly. As of this afternoon (Tuesday) I have watched eight episodes since Saturday evening. And this afternoon I told myself I would go without since Swee'pea hasn't gone to bed for the last two nights and I've just gotten grumpy that my Lost time was messed with AND since Design Inc. and House are on tonight, I don't need it. But as this afternoon got hairier and Swee'pea got grumpier, what did I do? I put him in the stroller and got a new Lost dvd... ahhhhhhh... sweet relief. It feels better just knowing there are fresh episodes that I can watch when Swee'pea sleeps (since he's no longer sleeping in his crib - again - he is a bit of a ennabler in my burgeoning addiction: I don't mind holding him as long as I can watch Lost).

This new addiction means I am getting to know the clerks at my local video store. Last summer it was mostly manned by a young guy with a trenchcoat and a body odour problem. This year my visits have been split equally between a good-looking guy with an eyebrow ring who's so happy and friendly I thought he must have gotten laid - no, fallen in LOVE - the night before I first got served by him. He erased a large late fine from November just because it looked wrong and he was in a good mood; he even went to the trouble of giving me a lie just in case his boss questioned me about the fine getting erased. The second time I got served by him, I decided I just wanted whatever he's been smoking.

The other clerk is a young girl, can't be more than 19, who ends every sentence with either Sweetie or Hon. As in, Did you find everything you were looking for, Sweetie? What's your phone number, Hon? That'll be $2.55, Sweetie. Have a great day, Hon! (She seems to alternate each one.) Given that I have at least a decade, a foot, AND 70 pounds on her, these diminutives rather put me off. (Such words would be perfectly acceptable, desirable even, coming from a 70-year-old Brit but from this wee girl it just rings false and annoying.)

Anyways, the point is I'm hooked on Lost. I'm fascinated with the characters and love learning about them via flashbacks. The eye candy is great, way better than Survivor. And I loved Lord of the Flies, even if it did disturb me. My one misgiving is that the main men maintain the exact same amount of sexy stubble from day to day. If they're going to shave, like Locke does with his creepy straight razor, shouldn't they be clean shaven one day and stubbly for the next few? How DO they do it?

Monday, May 21, 2007

a new kind of horror movie

Welcome to the House of Ooze. Swee'pea and I are sick with a MISERABLE cold, and Sugar D announced this morning that it's coming his way too. Poor little Swee'pea has been oozing for five days now, and yesterday he woke up with puffy purple half-moons under his eyes that don't look like they're going anywhere soon. Each night seems to involve less sleep and more crying. Last night, I think, was the worst night EVER in the history of Swee'pea (and I'm including all the newborn nights there too). I think he cried for hours, off and on, in half-hour bouts. Then he'd quiet for a bit and we'd think we were in the clear, and he'd be off again, screaming and weeping about something that we had no knowledge of and no ability to soothe. He just sobbed and rolled around between us and thrashed and kicked, all the while his nasty slime spreading across his face and transferring to everything his face came into contact with, mostly my shirt and the sheets (I am doing a lot of laundry).

All night, I kept thinking this is the WORST NIGHT EVER. Sometimes I wondered if I was going to lose my mind, not being able to do anything for Swee'pea and just having to listen to him scream and sob. Has anyone gone crazy being forced to listen to a baby cry without any power to stop it? It could be a psychology experiment. I think I've reached a position of learned helplessness where I just freeze uselessly at the first sound of Swee'pea's screams. This morning when we got up, Sugar D's first sentence was, "I think that was the WORST NIGHT EVER." So it's unanimous.

For five days, Swee'pea has been doing a fair impression of some kind of slimy monster just emerged from the swamp. We try to wipe the twin slime trails that ooze from his nose, but it makes him scream and fight and weep, and I know his poor nose must be raw and irritated. Sometimes it crusts into dark green boulders that block his nostrils, and then Sugar D goes all Hemingway with varying degrees of success. Sometimes we try to soak them out in the tub, but even that isn't 100 percent reliable. Yesterday, after finally snagging a dangly, taunting critter after an hours-long standoff, Sugar D declared victory, "I AM the Booger Hunter!"

All this has made me look forward to Swee'pea discovering that he can pick his own nose. Who knew that it is, in fact, an important life skill? Since I succumbed to the ooze, I have been trying to show Swee'pea that I have to wipe my own nose, that trumpeting like an elephant sometimes helps too, but he's not getting it.

It's really quite revolting the amount of green slime that's coming out of him. This morning, while he nibbled at breakfast, Sugar D was making all kinds of disgusted noises, "He's oozing!" But when I looked, there was just a light crust from all the overnight tears under his nose. Then suddenly the twin heads of some nasty sea creature slime checked out the situation outside, then promptly withdrew back into their homes. Shy, I guess.

I once had a pet clam when I was a kid, and I kept it in an orange tupperware container. Sometimes it would stick out its white slimy foot, and I would feel good, that I was giving it a good home, that it was comfortable putting its neck out like that. If I touched it, it would suck itself back inside the shell in a second. The appearance of Swee'pea's sea creature does not arouse quite the same feelings; in fact, I think it's the opposite.

Also in the last two nights, the slime has apparently begun sliding down poor Swee'pea's throat resulting in disgusting liquidy coughs and gags. It's so gross to hear it must be really bad to experience it. Poor kid. Poor parents.

Can we get an Invasion of the Boogie Snatches please?

Sunday, May 20, 2007


In honour of our national beer-drinking and/or gardening weekend, I have a new post up at mommyblogs toronto. With photos of sunshine and flowers, AND a cool place to check out if you'll be finding yourself in the vicinity of Toronto... check it out if you please...

Friday, May 18, 2007


Don't you love taking a morning walk pushing your precious wee child in the stroller, only to come upon a standoff with three cops surrounding two angry-looking young guys? Angry-looking young guys who are speaking angrily to the cops as they start moving away from them, towards me. Do I have some kind of sixth sense for putting my child in the midst of potential gunfire? Or is it just my overactive imagination?


A woman's sudden serrated voice chops my typical walking downtown reverie. I start. Are you sleeping?!? she nearly yells into a cell phone. Well, go back to sleep! I'll call back later.

She is walking fast and gets too far ahead of me for to hear any more, but I see the phone still up to her ear for quite a distance, so I'm guessing the person on the other end is still not sleeping.


At the wee downtown supermarket a little girl laughs at the roasting chickens circling on their spits. Froggie bum bums! Hahahahahha...

Those are chickens her mom says. The girl looks more closely at gently rotating creatures in the oven, incredulous. Chickens?


Outside again, on the edge of my consciousness I see somebody gesturing out of a car and someone walking towards me gesturing back to the person in the car. Just as I realize the person coming towards me is flipping off the driver in a good-natured way, I realize it is someone I know. The young plumber. He twinkles at me, "Hey!" I make nice back and keep walking and he keeps up the interchange with the driver, a friend I guess.

I feel a bit of a thrill, pleased that he has seen me in my hoodie and Vans, with my transition lenses darkened to cool shades, walking downtown, instead of rushing home from my middle-aged job with my ugly ID badge (which he inspected when he first came). I feel more comfortable passing him on the street than I do flirting while he plumbs the depths and contents of my hundred-year-old pipes, commenting on the amount of rice he discovered. "You guys really like rice, eh?" I said yes, thinking he must have noticed a bunch of burlap bags hanging around but no. Our pipes were full of rice apparently.

overheard conversation

Two men, maybe in their thirties, drift towards me as I stir sugar into my tea and their voices eventually reach my consciousness.

First Man: ... she told me she really misses being pregnant...

Second [with an air of shock]: Really?

First: Yeah... I mean, she didn't like the beginning because she felt sick, and she didn't like the last month, because she was really sore, but she loved the middle...

Second: Oh yeah?

First [like he's impressed by this woman]: She loved how she felt. She LOVED the way she looked....

They drift away.

I was both fascinated and repelled by these two men talking about an absent woman's experience of pregnancy. I fought the urge to burst into their conversation since I identified with this woman and felt maybe I could represent her somehow. I felt I understood her.

In those weeks right after Swee'pea's birth, I looked back on my pregnancy as the easiest part of motherhood. All the feeding, cleaning and keeping warm was done automatically without any conscious effort on my part. Sure, I didn't know the magical unique things about Swee'pea or about the joy of holding him, of basking in his love smiles, or any other aspects of our physical postpartum relationship. But I also didn't have the sleep deprivation, the pain of recovering from major surgery, the panic induced by his cries, the sore nipples, growth spurts of near-constant demands to literally suck me dry or any other of those wet milky scary heady sleepless early postpartum emotions.

Thursday, May 17, 2007


This morning I parked in the paid lot for the first time since I returned to work. The entrance has one of those arms that forces you to swipe your security badge before it lifts to allow you in. This morning, the arm was permanently up. So all this time there was another avenue to avoid the reams of parking tickets sitting on our passenger seat...

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

definition of an idiot

  1. excitedly ripping open my Notice of Assessment, expecting a $1500 refund.
  2. discovering a balance owing of $2200
  3. reviewing tax files to see what I submitted
  4. discovering that I can't tell the difference between refund and balance owing
  5. going to work for an impromptu one-hour meeting
  6. taking time to finally sort out my parking situation at work
  7. finding a parking ticket flapping on the windshield for the fourth work day in a row
(Of course, all this is of a purely theoretical nature... absolutely no practical experience of such idiocy here. Nope. No sirree.)

Monday, May 14, 2007

passing by


I have seen this man around town for years, asking for spare change in a gruff, slightly intimidating voice. Sometimes he seems a bit drunk, other times not, but usually sitting on the pavement or a concrete planter.

For years I have avoided eye contact as I pass him, just gently shaking my head no and trying to make less jarring footfalls in the hopes that my loose change doesn't jingle and give me away. I have never given him any change. Partly it's because I carry my change in a change purse, so I don't want to stand next to him while I awkwardly unzip the cranky zipper and finger through the loonies and toonies to fish out what I feel may be an appropriate coin; I didn't want him to watch my selection.

Mostly it was for reasons that Jen mentioned in her post way long ago, a post that still rolls around my mind, altering the edges it comes into contact with. In short, a post that changed my mind in a big way.

I saw him sitting on this corner last week, the blue anwnings and red railings echoing outwards from him like a wave, and I wanted to make a picture. But I was too afraid, so I just kept walking.

When I saw him there again the other dya, this time on the other side of the building's corner, I couldn't resist. I shot from across the street, and I think I saw him looking at me through the lens but figured I was just shooting the building or something.

As I went from shop to shop, shooting here

violin player

and there,


he stuck in my mind. I wanted more photos. I decided that I would ask for a picture if he was still there on my way home. Sometimes I get fatalistic in my photography, working my courage up to match the shot in my mind's eye. I give myself time and figure if they're still there, it was meant to be.

As I got a loonie out for the violinist, I also got a loonie out for the bearded man. I'm not proud that I had ulterior (photographic) motives for giving him change, but if he'd said no to a photo, I wouldn't regret giving him the loonie.


As I approached him, I couldn't resist shooting a bit more, just in case he said no (ethics anyone?). As I shot, two pedestrians passed him by with barely a glance, one just outside the frame but indicated by his gesture of the hand that holds his smoke. The passing bus changed the composition in a way I like.

Finally, I got up the courage to approach, loonie in my outstretched hand. He took it and said thanks. Then he immediately struck up a friendly conversation with Swee'pea, noting how healthy he looked, and I mentioned Swee'pea's recent illness, and we talked for a bit. We had as nice a conversation as I've ever had with a random stranger, perhaps nicer because there was no unsolicited advice.

I asked for his photo and he obliged happily. (It surprises me that almost no one asks why I want their photo... I wonder what they think of me and my camera?)


He said, "I'll even given you a smile," and he seemed downright joyful to me. Maybe it was just the effect of the contrast between my initial impression of him that's been cemented for years in me, but he seemed awfully pleased. (I have to say, though, that the shot above, the slightly grumpy looking one, is by far my favourite of the series.)


I left feeling like I had made a friend. The next day, on our way to the farmer's market, we passed him, sitting a ways down the street from where he was before, but still directly on the concrete and with his crutches beside him. I made to smile at him, but he didn't look at me; guess I was just another invisible passerby.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

mother's day

**Now with more spice! Edited below to add a little bow chicka bow bow...

Swee'pea is napping. Sugar Daddy just came downstairs, and, when I asked whether he was going to nap as planned, struck a Superman pose, and said, "I don't feel like a nap; I thought I would go into the backyard and, I don't know, garden." And away his cape took him to the back of the house.

I am usually the only person in the house who does any yardwork, and I'm not very good at it and generally do the bare minimum (who am I kidding? That's my approach to every facet of my life...).

But yesterday, Sugar Daddy let the cat out of the bag about his plans for my mother's day gift. Which was fine, because I loved it so much, it totally made my day.

He's giving me 40 hours of his time to work in the garden over the summer. A few things have since come out since he first made his announcement.

1) He's been planning this for a while. He did mention a while back that he'd like to help out in the yard more, but then he went mum, apparently figuring that if he was going to do it anyway, he'd better stay quiet to get the double usage as a gift. (He also said that he thought making it a gift would make it more likely that he would actually follow through.)

2) He thought he would have a say in exactly what work he engaged in. (Ha!) And he thought that mowing the lawn would be one task that could be included. (WRONG.) I plan to use his muscles strategically, for heavy lifting like moving our ugly shed and perhaps even laying some new patio stones where the ugly ones were laid on uneven ground with nothing to prevent the weeds from coming up between the stones.

3) He's not sure he can fulfill the additional clause I insisted on putting in the Mother's Day Contract that he do this work on his own initiative without any reminders or nagging from me. Oh well. You win some you lose some.

4) He was worried that it was a lame gift, but in fact I LOVED it. I couldn't have thought of it myself and it's perfect. Yesterday we agreed on the jobs that would be good for him to do, and now we're both excited that perhaps by the end of the summer we will have a backyard that we can enjoy as a family.

To infinity. And BEYOND...


(We also had a bit of a date last night and watched Little Miss Sunshine and drank wine and ate Rolos ice cream while Swee'pea slept, then I got to sleep in this morning before we went to our local greasy spoon for breakfast. And now he's out there in the garden delivering on our contract. Life is good.)

New Addition:

Note: Henceforward, Sugar Daddy wishes to be known simply as Sugar D. “The Daddy was just gettin' between me and my fans,” he explained.

Earlier in Swee'pea's nap.

Scene: Cinnamon gurl is blogging, and Swee'pea has just been put down, asleep, in his crib. She feels hands on her shoulders, and they begin to work rhythmically at the tight knots and tense muscles. She leans her head back and meets Sugar D's eyes.

Sin: To what do I owe this pleasure?

Sugar D [coyly]: Oh, I don't know...

Sin: Are you trying to tell me nicely that you want the computer?

Sugar D: No. I want YOU.

Sin: Oh. Ok!

Cinnamon gurl immediately abandons blogging, nearly pulling a muscle so eagerly does she jump away from the computer. The blinds go down, curtains are drawn together, music is cued.

Passionate embrace follows. The two break apart, slightly breathless, and gaze into one another's eyes.

Sugar D: Um, you just have something between your teeth; it's just... it's a little distracting. [flustered] Er... Sorry... It's not that big a deal... just...

Awkward scene unfolds. Finally, Cinnamon gurl overcomes her mortification.

Sugar D [trying to look all sexy]: Now where were we?

Sin: Oh, I think you have some ground to make up.

[Fade to black.] Some time later, Cinnamon gurl resumes blogging.

Friday, May 11, 2007

the road less taken

Is it me or has the outside world suddenly erupted into green, yellow and blue abundance?

Every single day I look at my shade to part-shade front garden and it doesn't take much examination to note the changes every single day. This morning there are buds on my wild phlox and I suddenly remember how much I LOVE that plant. For a few beautiful weeks each spring, it gets covered in a profusion of surprising light purply blue flowers, and judging from its buds this morning, it's about to burst forth in blue.

[To continue down the native plant garden path, check out my latest post at mommy blogs toronto. But come back! Or stay here and click there when you're finished here... whatever.]

* * *

Inside, the shift to summer is more gradual. I get occasional shocks of recognition as the scents and sounds of summers past become present.

The clinks of another family's cutlery on plates marking the end of a distant meal float through our open windows. A neighbour's barking dog threatens Swee'pea's precarious sleep.

Heavy rain slaps the pavement after spilling out of the neighbour's broken old eavestroughs that have lost their downspouts.

I open the bathroom window and am nearly bowled over as the familiar scent of warm roof shingles meets fresh bathroom soapiness, and together they blow over the stairs.

Our minds begin to turn to old summer menus during the daily ritual of deciding what to have for dinner. Last night, potato salad with green beans and red peppers in a wasabi balsamic vinaigrette with veggie burgers. Tomorrow night salmon fillets with asparagus and fresh tomatoes.

Of course my freshest summer memories are from the other side of the earth just a few short months ago, and I find my mind tugged again and again back to the tip of Africa, where mountains butt into the split of two oceans. I pull out Swee'pea's summer clothes that he last wore in South Africa, and some of them even still fit.

The last time we were there, I remember we were both less enamoured of the place than we had been two years before, more aware of the inconveniences and discomforts of away. We said we would wait longer than we initially planned for our next trip. But that place pulls on me nevertheless, and I can't remember the rational discussions and reasons for waiting to return, only the joy of exploring the difference, of warm evenings and sharp brown mountains against pink skies. I thought I'd gotten the place out of my system with this last visit, but I am once again hungering to live there, to immerse myself in it and learn how we would adapt our lives and selves if we tried to live there for a while. So I guess we'll have to see what the future holds...


Last night I taped the advance preview of Traveler, and today I watched it. It's got everything: handsome young men as protagonists (just call me grandma), intrigue, suspense and conspiracy. I'm hooked. I keep thinking about it, like it's a really good book that I can't wait to dive back into and find out what's going to happen next, the kind of book that I slow down reading right before the end and then get all sad when the inevitable comes and I finish reading it. I think I've found my summer tv show.

procrastination station

Here's what a lazy ass I am.

Some people argue about whether toilet paper rolls should roll over or under. I am too lazy to even put the roll on the holder. (My long-time readers already know this, but I thought I'd repeat myself to save linking to that other post.)

But I AM a detail person, so I have noticed that our cleaning woman (who in fact owns the business so it's not always the same person each time) always puts the roll on the holder, always rolling over (I think), and even folds a nice little point into the tip of the paper. I have discovered that I kind of like having the roll on the holder. But not enough to actually do it myself. (Do I even need to say that Sugar Daddy has never put the roll on the holder? He doesn't even notice where the roll is.)

Last week just before the cleaning woman arrived, I noticed that the roll was getting pretty slim, so I switched it out (prematurely) for a fat new roll, just to get the most bang from our cleaning woman buck. I like to call it strategic thinking.


At my work, we have to pay for a monthly parking pass, something like $20 a month I think. When I went on mat leave, I gave up the monthly pass, and since I've been back (more than two months now), I still haven't quite gotten around to setting up my new parking situation. It's some kind of block. I never seem to remember except outside the office's hours when I'm actually parking or pulling a parking ticket off the windshield.

If you don't pay for the monthly pass, you have to park in the pay and display visitors' lot. However, I also don't pay and display. That costs $12 a day, and a parking ticket, if they give you one, is only $15. I choose to gamble. Mostly, I get about a ticket a week, which is obviously better than paying the astronomical $12 a day.

That said, I have been trying various strategies to avoid parking tickets. First I paid and displayed one day and then continued to display in the hopes that the meter maid wouldn't notice that the date was wrong. That worked for a while, maybe even a week. (And yeah, that now sun-faded ticket is still sitting on my dusty dashboard.)

Then I decided to try displaying the parking tickets I've already gotten on the dashboard to go for the sympathy vote. That worked for a day (or so I thought), but now I've gotten two tickets in a row. I guess that really just shows me for the repeat offender I am.

Sometimes my stupid-ass logic and the effort I put into avoiding a task make me laugh.

What's YOUR procrastination/lazy ass/dysfunctional citzen/lateral thinking/strategic story?

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

mama bear

I’m pissed. Partly at myself, and partly at the fucking doctor at the walk-in clinic we brought Swee’pea to on Friday night. I alluded to this stuff in my earlier post where I focused on whining about how I was going crazy, and now I will treat you to a far fuller discussion of it than you could possibly want.

But first, some long and involved preamble.

I have long considered myself a pretty educated, critical consumer of health care. It helps that I have found myself suffering ill health and the medical profession could offer me no help and no answers. It does a lot to shake your faith in god-like medicine to discover that it is neither omniscient nor omnipotent. It helps that I was forced to take responsibility for my own health and do my own research, and that I found wellness in a more naturopathic, holistic approach.

Navigating the sea of conflicting health research and propaganda we all swim in (not to mention overburdened doctors, and a failing health care system) I have come to trust my instincts. I make my decisions based on what makes sense to me, what seems logical, and what seems to carry the least risk. I read the latest sensationalized medical studies with a critical eye and question their correlations and conclusions (if I get around to reading them, that is).

When I was pregnant, I continued to take responsibility for my own health decisions (which of course contained the health of my anonymous bump), with the help of midwives. I tried a prenatal vitamin but it gave me such gut-rot all I wanted to eat was buttered toast, which I didn’t think was conducive to meeting a pregnant body’s increased nutritional needs. I kept up my B-50 complex (which includes folic acid), because I saw on the prenatal vitamin that it was mostly B-vitamins and iron. I didn’t take additional iron supplements but tried to eat iron-rich foods like dried apricots and spinach, both raw and cooked, and others. In my reading, I discovered that the absorption rate of supplemental iron is questionable. I also read somewhere that your body can also adjust how much iron it absorbs from food and when it is exposed to a diet high in iron it actually absorbs a smaller percentage of iron than it does with a diet low in iron; during pregnancy, your absorption of iron also increases. So I trusted my cravings and my belief that in general a varied and healthful diet should be able to meet a person’s nutritional needs.

Around week 32, the midwives tested my blood and discovered that my iron level was borderline. I decided to take an iron supplement that was reportedly gentler on my stomach (I think it was called Palaver or something, and it didn't cause me any distress) and continue eating iron rich foods. What interested me was that they drew the blood before Christmas, but I didn’t get the results until we were into January. While I was visiting my parents over Christmas, I suddenly really wanted some of the sausage my dad was barbecuing, the first time I’d ever wanted red meat in years. So I went with the craving and ate half a sausage, slightly afraid that any more than that would make me feel sick. I was quite pleased to discover after the fact that my haemoglobin had been low when I experienced that craving. Anyways, by the time they took my blood for the c-section, my haemoglobin was back up to a healthy level.

I’m getting all tangential though when the point I really want to make is that I have a pretty high level of confidence in my ability to take responsibility for my own health, and that this confidence continued in large part while I was pregnant.

But that all changed when Swee’pea was born. Maybe it started with the medicalized labour and necessarily surgical birth, or maybe with our positive hospital experience, much to my surprise. Or maybe it started before that when I chose to get the rhogam shot around 28 weeks, even though it creeped me out to get someone else’s blood bits put inside me, for the sake of not even the baby I was carrying then but for some maybe baby out there in the future.

But really, I think it started when I finally got to hold my pink little baby and inspect him from his old soul eyes to his long skinny toes and contemplate his perfection. Or, not so much his perfection, as his rightness. I know we all say it so much that it’s become a cliché but even now, 15 months on, I still occasionally marvel at his magic. At the risk of being vomitously cheesy, I am still in awe that we have been graced with his miraculous presence, not miraculous because of odds that were overcome or because he survived a distressing labour but out of a new understanding of the miracle of life. Oh yeah, and how ill-equipped I felt for caring for him. I remember the nurse bringing him in after he’d been in the nursery for five hours and she said, “He’s hungry and he’s all yours.” I remember thinking that there was something really wrong in that, handing off a hungry baby to a total greenhorn and just leaving us. Alone with him. I mean, exactly what were we supposed to do with him?

Anyways… faced with the enormous task of keeping alive this most precious being ever to come upon this earth was, and sometimes still is, a little overwhelming. I felt completely unprepared.

Take the question of vaccination. I started to do research on the subject when I was pregnant, which was even then a nightmare. The governments say that reports of autism associated with the MMR vaccine are a myth and have been disproven. They say that vaccines are safe and have very few serious complications, that the few complications that may arise vastly outweigh the consequences of the disease. But I could never find actual numbers to back that up. I couldn’t anywhere see risks of the vaccine put next to risks of the disease.

On the flip side, the anti-vaccination faction seems to use a lot of emotional language that minimizes the risks of the diseases themselves and first-hand reports from parents whose children were affected or killed by very serious complications of vaccines. I still couldn’t find any numbers, which I think may have made me feel more comfortable. How many kids die or have brain damage from vaccines vs. those catastrophic effects from the disease?

And besides, it’s all fine and dandy to crunch numbers (or try to) and weigh risks and benefits when you’re dealing with a creature you’ve only seen in black and white outlines; it’s quite another to try to take that approach when you are talking about the most amazing, most precious, most beautiful thing you have ever laid eyes on. Even if the risks are 1 in 100 billion, the possibility that YOUR precious could be The One is impossible to contemplate.

In the end, we just decided that we had to put our trust in our paediatrician, and hope for the best. She is very much in favour of vaccines. At times, her arguments feel like they veer towards fear mongering, but since I can’t find the information I would need to make a truly informed decision, we go with her risk assessment.

I have found myself taking Swee’pea to the doctor at the drop of a hat, seeking reassurance that he isn’t dying, that I’m not going to miss an important clue that he needs immediate care, that he is ok. This craving for a doctor’s reassurance has lessened somewhat since he’s gotten bigger and better able to communicate. But I still find myself trusting doctors in a way I don’t think I would for myself. Of course, I can feel my own symptoms and judge their severity. With Swee’pea, he’s not an effective enough communicator to describe the intricacies of his symptoms and severity, so I have to guess from his behaviour and whatever information I can gather in the form of temperatures, wet diapers, and the like. I suspect that awareness that I can never really know for sure what Swee’pea is going through is where I trip up.

So… Friday night Swee’pea’s fever rose higher than he’s ever had (he hasn’t had many fevers, never for more than a few hours and never very high so it’s not really saying that much), so we took him to the walk-in clinic. I’d thought about taking him to our normal doctor’s but he’d seemed fine in the morning, and she takes Friday afternoons off, so I figured we’d just wait and see. By 8, I didn’t want to wait anymore and risk a trip to the ER at 2 am.

The clinic doctor checked out his ears and said his left ear was infected. I asked how he could tell so quickly and he said he saw red and that’s why they pay him the big bucks. He prescribed us an antibiotic, looked up the dosage in a big fat drug compendium and we duly filled it at the late night pharmacy.

Alarm bells did ring when the doctor said, as he ran his finger over the small print of the compendium, “I THINK [your pediatrician] is ok with me prescribing this drug.”

With hindsight, I should have asked why. I should have advocated that if there is something contentious about this drug, perhaps we should play it safe and choose a different one. I almost did, but then I chickened out, figuring he knew best.

By Sunday night, Swee’pea’s fever had broken, which led me to believe that the antibiotics were working, but he’d also developed a blotchy face and pinkening spots along his back, so I suspected perhaps a reaction to the antibiotics. On the advice of the pharmacist, we didn’t give Swee’pea any medicine that night and the next morning I took him to his doctor.

She shook her head as soon as I mentioned that the other doctor had prescribed azithromycin. She checked his ears and pronounced them perfect, and that if he had had an ear infection, they couldn’t look this good; it was way too soon. Apparently, children’s ears go red when they have a fever.

Not only was Swee’pea misdiagnosed, but the antibiotic he prescribed was like using a bulldozer to pick up a few grains of sand. Our paediatrician says it's the worst culprit for antibiotic resistance.

Why would a doctor prescribe an antibiotic that is known to be such a contributor to resistance? That doesn’t seem like prudent use at all. Our doctor didn’t know but she hypothesized that perhaps it was because it only takes a 3-day dose and hangs around in the system for a long time afterwards, so there’s more likelihood of completing the course.

So now instead of just being pissed off about Swee’pea getting misdiagnosed and unnecessary antibiotics, I am indignant too.

I’m educated. I know the risk of antibiotic resistance and would always finish a course of antibiotics. I never use antibiotic soaps because they contribute to antibiotic resistance and aren’t any more effective than proper use of regular old soaps anyways. After the SARS outbreak, the property manager at my workplace switched all the bathrooms’ dispensers to antibacterial soaps. I lobbied, unsuccessfully, to just stick to regular soap, especially since SARS was caused by a VIRUS -- not BACTERIA -- and therefore could not be killed by antibacterial soap. It still bothers me that I couldn’t make the slightest dent in that cause.


I have learned from this experience. Doctors are not gods. I cannot put all my trust in them for the survival of Swee’pea. I must trust those little alarm bells. There’s nothing wrong with questioning.

Ok, that's all... anyone still here?

thank you

Just a quick note to say thank you for all your supportive comments on my last post, and to let you know that Swee'pea slept last night. He slept in his crib for the first few hours so we had some much needed time to ourselves, and then he only woke twice in the night. And no screaming. Yay!

(Of course, I'm a bit embarrassed at how quickly and easily the change came after my panic, but what can you do?)

Thanks again. Oh, and just in case you missed it, I LOVED B&P's comment and MUST share it here (hopefully it's ok with B&P):
I was thinking yesterday, we feel like good mothers when in fact we're just having a pleasant, easy time. We look at our happy, well-behaved children and tell ourselves look! I can do this. It's when we're feeling like bad mothers - angry, overwhelmed, exhausted - that we're actually being good mothers, doing the hard work, dealing with all the crap.
I think that's just about the most world-rocking insight I've seen in a while.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007


I feel really bad writing this; I mean, the poor kid is still suffering the effects of his illness (apparently NOT an ear infection but something viral that is now causing a rash all over his body, which I THOUGHT was a reaction to the antiobiotic -- not only unnecessary but way stronger than would have been necessary if he HAD had an ear infection and the worst one for antiobiotic resistance -- but that's a whole other post) or at the very least the effects of really bad sleep for several days and nights caused by the illness (bad sleep, which, it needs to be said, I am also suffering from), BUT.

Swee'pea is really getting on my tits, literally and figuratively.

Since he's been sick, he's started putting his hands down my shirt and just holding onto my boob. Or lifting up my shirt and rubbing. It started with my belly before he got sick, which I thought was kinda cute, except that he started scratching me and poking me quite hard. But I guess with the closure of the all-night breastaurant, now he figures he'll just hold onto them instead of nursing, whether during the day or night. It feels like he's of the mind that he is just making use of what is rightfully his.

And I don't particularly like that attitude. On the one hand, I know he needs more comfort than usual since he's feeling so rotten, but on the other, I AM GOING CRAZY.

It appears that the doughy contours of my upper body are his blankie... and he can't get enough right now. He screams bloody murder if I go to the bathroom. He screams if his daddy tries to get him to sleep. If he's having a cuddle with me (and when has he not in the last several days?) and Sugar Daddy approaches, he shrinks away as if about to be struck. He screams if, having gotten him to sleep, I try to put him in his crib, then it takes another hour or two to realize that he will not fall asleep anywhere but in our bed. The other night when we finally exhausted ourselves and retired to bed at 9:30, Swee'pea's smile illuminated the space above the stairs and into the upstairs hallway, and we couldn't help but concede victory to his greater stamina. It does not feel good to be so defeated by one who has been on this earth for such a relatively short time.

Once we go to bed, the nights are hell. It's actually gotten worse since Swee'pea's fever broke early Sunday morning. Before he writhed and grunted and woke up a lot, always having to have his head on my chest or my shoulder. Now he just screams continuously for several minutes (like 10 at least) every time he wakes up. Last night was a slight improvement: he only woke up twice, although he screamed and screamed and screamed, and I just laid there with him on top of me, trying not to scream myself or thrust him harshly away from me onto the mattress. Nothing we could do would comfort him.

But the night before was way way worse. He screamed like that just about every hour or two all night long. He's been screaming inconsolably so much that I'm starting to become immune. I can't do anything to fix it, so I've stopped trying.

We adults are not doing well with this arrangement. Not only have we lost that precious evening time that replenished our resources so successfully every day, but Sugar Daddy is dealing with almost constant and loud rejection, being treated like some kind of abuser, and I am dealing with having to do absolutely everything with a 30-pound toddler in my arms who may or may not be screaming in my ear. Right now he is sleeping on my lap while I type this... it's the closest I'll get to a break, so I'm making full use of it.

Well, ok, I got a bit of a break yesterday when I went to work and put him in daycare. I felt badly, because I knew even though he was over the worst of it, he was still really tired and probably a little under the weather. But here's what I felt the worst about: the main reason I did it was because I didn't want to be with him by myself. Yes, I don't really have any sick days left to take and yes I had meetings in the afternoon to attend, but mostly, I didn't want to be with my son.

Friday, one of my normal days off, was awful. The morning was fine, we went downtown and got some stuff for Sugar Daddy's birthday. But when we got home, I expected him to go down for a nap like always and then I would eat my lunch. He wouldn't go down in the crib. It's really bad if that happens when I'm hungry. And I was hungry. We got through it and he woke up and I ate and he melted down while I ate but I finished my lunch and then he slept, although not as much as he needed. And it was because of that awful moment of feeling trapped, having to choose between his needs and mine, that I really didn't want to be with him yesterday.

Oh God. I just know I'm gonna get my first troll for this. Just when I really couldn't handle it. (To the trolls: he was fine at daycare, not himself but still lovely as usual as his daycare provider said. Of course, as soon as we got home, he had the biggest meltdown ever, screaming and screaming and screaming, until finally he settled down and we ate some cheese.)

I really feel like a bad mother. When I feel good, I don't need any reassurance... I don't really need the community of the blogosphere, so I don't bother blogging about those times... but at times like these, when I feel like it would be cruel to bring another child into this family where the mother cannot cope with all the demands, where the mother regularly wants and needs her own space and goes crazy if she doesn't get even a little bit... this is when I need some support, some reassurance that I'm not THAT bad. Am I?

It's not just that I have no personal or mental space; I'm also convinced that he will never sleep in his crib again, that we will never again enjoy two hours in the evening to recharge, that we are right back where we were a couple of months ago, only now we know exactly what sweetness we're missing. Sugar Daddy tries to tell me that it'll probably improve when he's feeling better, but I'm not buying it. I find myself crying in self-pity, wondering, "Why me? Why don't we get to enjoy the rest that parents of independent-sleeping babies have?"

I know rationally, this self-pity is absurd. This is no tragedy. Our child is experiencing a normal, relatively mild illness; he is generally well. We are all well. We are lucky. We have enough to eat and a roof over our heads and lots of good things in our lives. Things could be so much worse.

But I am not capable of much rational thought. And last night I remembered that people die without enough sleep.

I try to regain some perspective and count my blessings. And that's when I really start to worry about my ability as a mother. If I can't ride out this small storm, how will I manage the really big stuff? I've always figured myself a coper, generally resilient with a positive outlook on life and how I can handle its bumps and falls. But this motherhood gig has really shaken that perception.

I still love Swee'pea dearly, I still have moments when I stroke his hair, or his neck or cheek and feel overwhelmed with love. I still feel a thrill when he wraps his hand around my finger, once in a while. But if I try to extricate myself, he starts to feel like an octopus, always more tentacles than I have ways of removing them, and I feel claustrophobic and intensely hopeless. I am so not coping.

Saturday, May 05, 2007

Letter to Swee'pea: 15 months old

Dear Swee'pea:

Today you are 15 months old. This month has seen a number of firsts for you: first bruise on your face, first (and hopefully last) ear infection, first steps on grass, first whoosh down a slide, and first ice cream cone all to yourself (although it was mini-sized), not in that order. And those are just the firsts I can remember...

Your first bruise on your face... I wasn't even sure you made contact with the edge of the bookshelf but I hugged you until your tears receded... it wasn't until I put you down that I noticed your cheek had gone all red with a white line across the swollen circle, and it later turned blue...


Well, that was how this letter was supposed to start. But in fact it is Sunday, the day before you are officially 15 months old. You are sleeping on your daddy right now, after taking a restless hour or more to fall asleep, then staunchly resisting being placed in your crib, then refusing to fall back to sleep until you couldn't stand it anymore and fell asleep crying in my arms. I had to hand you over to your daddy so I could eat.

You are sick.

See? Your eyes are dull and glassy...

You've had a fever for days and although you're cool at the moment every afternoon for the last few days you've gotten hotter and hotter through the afternoon, evening and night, until Friday night we took you to a doctor. You screamed and screamed when we laid you on your back for his examination, and struggled against the instrument in your ear. But the doctor says you have an ear infection, and we've had to give you liquid antibiotics, which you clearly believe is the most poisonous substance known to man, and it is horrible to force it down your gagging throat, to hold you down while you struggle and cry, clearly horrified and confused that we continue to force this nasty stuff down your throat even though you have indicated with absolutely no ambiguity that it is not to your taste. NOT TO YOUR TASTE, thank you very much. Luckily you only need one dose a day for three days, so only one more dose left for tonight. I surely couldn't force it down your throat for ten days straight.

We've also been dosing you liberally with tylenol, and you seem to think it's dessert: you suck at the syringe like it contains the nectar of the gods. At least we can make you a little comfortable. I'm worried that you were still hot in the middle of last night, and obviously uncomfortable, unable to get comfortable or fall into a decently deep sleep. Surely, the antibiotics should take effect by now (and they certainly seem to be affecting your poor tummy already). I am beginning to suspect that the antibiotics are making you feel worse than the ear infection alone. If the fever persists tonight, we'll have to take you in again, although what else could cause a fever and another else is beyond me.

I am starting to panic that you will never sleep in your crib again, that you will sleep only on my chest or shoulder forever and ever. I know this isn't rational, that you're sick and want the reassurance of your mum and dad, but still I panic, and I have to ask your daddy to tell me that things will be alright, that you will sleep without us again one day. It shames me that even when you are sick, when your normally bright blue eyes are dull and tired, glassy, I keep thinking of me, of my personal space that is no longer, of my sleep.

This weekend was your daddy's birthday, and Grandma and Grandpa came for a visit. They were supposed to babysit you while daddy and I painted the town red, but we didn't want to leave you when you're feeling so crappy, and they didn't want you to associate them with the nasty poisonous-tasting medicine. So instead the five of us went to the park, where we have recently started taking you to the playground, now that you are walking and all, and then we went out for dinner. The wind was strong and cool, but mostly it was quite pleasant to eat on the restaurant's patio with the golden evening sun lighting the burgeoning magnolia blooms spreading above us and the brilliant blue sky above them.

drinking sky
Grandpa drinking the sky last night... you are just outside the frame, happily in his lap.


So that's what's going on right now. But I want to get to what you've been up to for the last month, because mostly it's been pretty fun. For one thing you're pretty much running, and if you're on your way to do something you know we don't like you to do (like putting the computer in standby mode -- although thankfully you've moved away from the power button -- or typing on the keyboard or playing with the mouse, with frightening expertise) you start to move faster when you see us closing in on you, usually with a mischievous smirk that says you know exactly what you're doing.

two "bowler" hats

Just in the last couple of days you have discovered, "Uh oh!" Only you take a breath between the two syllables and it sounds more like, "Oh! Oh!" You started employing "Oh! Oh!" like we do, when you dropped something. But now you say it after you throw things deliberately, or just before, when you're dangling your sippy cup of milk from one finger... "Oh! Oh!" You may or may not actually drop it. While we would prefer to discourage you from dropping and throwing things on purpose, your pursed lips and new words are irresistible and we laugh. Every time.

You love adult shoes. You try to put your feet in them, and take them out of the basket of shoes by the front door, and hide them around the house. Lately, your favourite place to put shoes is on chairs. If I can't find my shoes to go out, it's the first place I look.

You have discovered how to climb up on the couch all by yourself, and the other day I looked over from, er, the computer, and you were seated happily on the couch, with a booklet for a local artist's organization and my two shoes next to you. I laughed, and was happy that for once you weren't climbing up the back of the couch or standing precariously near the edge.

reading with shoes

Now that you are able to climb up on the couch, I have just discovered the pleasure of you bringing a book (your new favourite is Baby Beluga and it's adorable to watch you 'sing' "Baaa Booo Boooooooooo") to where I'm sitting on the couch, climbing up, and snuggling in either next to me or on my lap for a story. I think this is my favourite new development of the month, sitting next to you on the couch. Sometimes you've even looked at your book by yourself, turning the pages and singing, while I get a chance to read mine.

It seems that all of a sudden you are really tall. The other night, we noticed with a startle that you take up more than half the length of the tub when we lie you back, feet kicking gentle ripples and occasional splashes. You can reach more and more stuff on tables, and instead of actually finding places for this stuff, we just keep piling it up higher in the middle. Every once in a while, you get your little fingers on something at the bottom of the pile and books and papers crash down around you.

Apparently you aren't so keen on the swing: "Get me outta here!"

But where I notice your size most of all is when I nurse you at bedtime. With our newish bedtime routine, once you're bathed and in your pajamas, I nurse you in the rocking chair in your darkened bedroom. This is the chair, and the room, where I nursed you when we first brought you home from the hospital. Your grandparents put a tv in the room and made it comfortable for me to spend a lot of time there, since I couldn't manage the stairs well for a couple of weeks. I spent a lot of time nursing you in that room, back when I awkwardly put you to my breast and worried about your latch (which was always fine) and marvelled in awe at your sheer perfection and miraculousness. Once I could manage the stairs again, I stopped nurisng you up there, instead preferring to be downstairs on our couch.

These nights, I am reminded in bits and pieces of those early days, except that I can't really remember them. I remember that you used to press your feet against the inside of my elbow, which seems impossible, now that my elbow barely goes around your bottom, and your feet dangle down by my knee. Your head seems pretty much the length of my forearm now, where before your entire body wasn't much longer than it. I am having to mark new relationships between our bodies now. These days, your hands are busy when you nurse, rolling on my belly or tucking into the envelope of space between my arm and my side, or holding tightly onto one of my fingers, rolling it then moving onto another. Watching your hands constantly moving, I can't for the life of me remember what you used to do with your hands as a newborn. Maybe you've always held a finger, restlessly comforting, comforting. I know we have lots of pictures of you doing strange things with your hands and fingers while you slept. But somehow I don't think you were yet reaching out for me with anything but your mouth in those very early days.

I can't believe I've forgotten the details I pored over for hours just months ago. Yet it's hard to reconcile this current nursing pair, us, confident, strong and relaxed, with that early nervous, awkward and novice pair back then. Back then I used to worry, really fear in the deepest part of me, that each breath might be your last, the you might spike a fever and I wouldn't notice. Now, I know what a fever feels like and take your temperature just to validate what I already know. Not only have you grown into a sturdy little toddler, even when you're sick, but I've grown into a pretty sturdy mother, mostly confident that you can communicate your needs, and I can understand you and mostly meet them. (Which isn't to say I don't worry -- I do -- I'm just more strategic, saving it for when you have a fever, like now, or other indications of illness or injury.)

Some children know from a very young age that they want kids of their own one day. I wasn't one of them. It wasn't until I was in my early twenties that I started to think it might be kind of neat to have a child. What I was unprepared for was just how much joy and wonder you'd bring into my life, along with everything else. I'm hooked.

Love Mum

PS you seem to have discovered your tongue recently. If you're not grabbing it, you're sticking it out or making 'th' sounds with it. All the time.

Friday, May 04, 2007

Old Man

Today is Sugar Daddy's birthday, his 35th. Those multiples of five seem pretty important, for some reason, and I'm feeling some pressure to mark this occasion with something special. When I stop to think about it, though, I find prime numbers much more intriguing and significant than multiples of five. I mean, multiples of five are so predictable. Perhaps I am on my way to rationalizing myself right out of that self-imposed pressure to make this birthday special.

I forgot to wish him a happy birthday this morning. I remembered in bed when Swee'pea's no longer too-hot hands started lifting up my shirt for his morning nibbles, but Sugar Daddy got up at 5 this morning. And, after two nights of sleeping (of course there wasn't much actual sleeping going on but you get the idea) next to a feverish uncomfortable toddler whose busy tentacle-hands seemed intent on finding some point of entry back into my body, away from the discomfort of his own skin, when Swee'pea fell back to sleep this morning, so did I. When I woke up the second time, Sugar Daddy's birthday had flown completely from my mind.

(By the way, Swee'pea's had a fever that comes and goes for the last two days. He has no other symptoms, no cough, no vomiting, no diarrhea, no snotty nose, no rash. He has, however, been stuffing his hands into his mouth nearly constantly... I know the medical world says teething doesn't cause fevers, and so does most of the web, but has anyone had kids who developed fevers right around the time they were working on their first molars PLUS a few in front, I think?)

This morning Swee'pea and I went downtown in search of birthday-type supplies. I got stuff for a cake, and a card but apart from that, I mostly did selfish things... looking for books at the library (what do you do if you don't want to buy a book, but your local library doesn't have it?), where this sign made me sad;

sad sign at the library

stopping in at a massive moving sale at our local shoe boutique (sadly no dice there because of the phenomenon nomo observed recently) and snapping pics to remind Sugar Daddy to do something for me for Mother's Day.


(I also noticed an attempt at gentrification...


... a nice contrast to hearing a middle-age woman vomit just behind me and to the side during my second walk of the day when I couldn't get Swee'pea to sleep in the crib. [He also didn't sleep in the stroller... grrr] At least I think she vomited... there was a splash of a lot of liquid hitting the ground and spitting sounds and a woman's voice saying, "I TOLD you I wasn't... [didn't catch the rest but couldn't help thinking it was "feeling well," or "into drinking that"]...)

I also photographed an old man. I recognized him a week or so ago, recognized his icy blue eyes, a colour minty gum marketers would kill for. I remember him from some years back - I don't know whether it's 3 or 10 years ago. It was definitely before I got pregnant because I think I was drunk. It was around the same time of year, one of the first evenings when the sinking sun doesn't pull the temperature down with it, when we're still revelling in our liberation from the weight of winter clothes, an evening to enjoy a pint on a darkening patio and the novelty of mild night air on bare skin. Anyways, I think he was drunk too. I think he might have had a guitar and might have serenaded me or the woman I was with. Besides his eyes, more than anything I remember his whimsical suede turqoise cowboy hat complete with feather.

Today I saw him crossing the street down the way from me. I changed my direction and sped up with plans to somehow capture him with my camera. But I coulnd't make it work. I started to continue in a different direction, but the fat turqoise pinky ring and carved walking stick that he wasn't using to help him walk wiggled into my consciousness and I couldn't let him go. I followed him until I could overtake him, then stopped and asked for a picture. I mentioned I liked his ring, and he said, "Oh then you'd like a picture with it in it too," and posed appropriately. I think it's neat that he didn't want to look into the camera, but up and to the side, like he's contemplating something important.

I shot several shots, recomposing, reframing and refocusing. He asked, "How long do I have to hold this position?" I laughed... as long as you like, it doesn't matter.

I decided I'd better stop before he cramped.

He said his daughter has almost the same colour of hair as me. "She's fifty... where does the time go? Heck, I'm gonna be 80 in July. I don't feel it!" We parted, wondering where the time has gone.

Now that I'm working with the photo and have discovered his bright eyes lost in the deep shadow of his hat, I make a mental note to try a bit of fill flash next time I'm trying to make a portrait on a bright sunny day. Sadly, I don't think there's anything I can do to make this image work the way I wanted it to.



April '07 ROFL

I've never considered myself a funny person. I mean I love to laugh, but I've never really thought I was capable of making other people laugh. My brother is the funniest person I know. He does impersonations and 1001 totally accurate accents, all picked up by the same ear that can play a tune on an instrument he's never handled before (not that there are many instruments he's never picked up). My sides hurt after visiting him because I laugh so hard in his presence. When people meet him they almost always say something along the lines of, "You should/could be a standup comic." He usually responds with a humble, "Nah... I just like making the people I love laugh."

I suppose that's why I've never considered myself funny. That title's already taken, along with artist, in my family.

I have noticed that people have occasionally been known to laugh in my presence, usually at the same time as me. But I never consciously set out to be funny... far too much probability of failure for my tastes.

So imagine my surprise that Bubandpie has given me -- ME -- a ROFL award for this post. I'm really very shocked. And I'm not just saying that in a give-me-a-moment-while-I-pull-a-few-notes-out-of-my-pocket way either.

Check out Chicky Chicky Baby and Metro Mama for more ROFL winners...

Thursday, May 03, 2007


I won't tell you where the bathroom was that I saw this in, because I don't want to get dooced.

But, seriously?

1. From William Safire's Fumblerules: No sentence fragments. (Along with my fave, "I've told you once, I've told you a thousand times, avoid hyperbole.")

2. "Complaints relative to hygiene"? What's wrong with "about"? Has it gone out of fashion?

3. Are they monitoring cleanliness from closed circuit televisions?!? Why do they even need this sign in the first place?

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Round the Bend and Back: Part 6

Aliki2006 wrote an achingly beautiful piece about her son's anxiety a while back. Go read it and come back...

I've been balking a bit on writing this last post, partly because I'm trying do some reading on the subject of children and anxiety, and partly because I'm hesitant. I want to stay away from regurgitating what books say, and stick to what I know. Except that I don't really know about children and anxiety and how to help them cope, other than a few memories of my own childhood. It has been something I've been thinking a lot about over the last few weeks, as I've been remembering and writing about my own experiences with anxiety.

On Easter weekend, my niece, who has been having a lot of stomach aches, felt sick while she and her family were having a sleep over at Grandma and Grandpa's. Apparently she spent most of the night feeling like she was going to throw up and she kept asking her parents to take her home right away. Obviously, this struck a chord with me. Except that I didn't have that kind of fear until I was into my twenties. She's such a sweet 8-year-old girl, smart and thoughtful and kind, and I wonder what the best way to help her is? So, I'll take a stab at this post and go outside my comfort zone.

As I mentioned before, I was kind of an anxious child. I was good at worrying and planning, although I don't remember being fearful, particularly. (In fact, one of my sister's most vivid memories of me as a while was she was around 11, I think, and I was around 5, give or take a year. My dad was trying to teach her to dive into the pool but she was scared to jump in face first. As my dad tried to encourage her to take the plunge, I was at the shallow end of the pool, leaping fearlessly into the pool while shouting, "Super Meeeee!" I don't think I need to make explicit the ambivalence that my sister likely felt during this lesson. Although I can't remember it myself, I can imagine the sunny scene vividly, with a touch of pride in my own fearlessness that I believe stayed with me until we moved when I was 8 and I got ostracized completely at my new school, and a touch of guilt that I probably wasn't helping my sister.

But I remember some nights becoming convinced that if I fell asleep, the barn would burn down and the horses would die (Black Beauty had rather an impact on me I think); every time, I was convinced I was having a premonition. By the time I got into my early teens, I realized that these fears arose when I was overtired, and by then I'd experienced several very fearful moments that hadn't turned out to be premonitions. I think my parents probably helped to point out that I'd had those thoughts before and nothing had come of them, so perhaps I wasn't clairvoyant?

(Wait a minute. I do remember fears I had. Like when I first learned about glaciers in grade three, and the teacher said that another ice age would come upon the earth one day, I worried that we would all have to evacuate our homes and run for the equator, carrying whatever we could as a three-mile high wall of ice beared down on us. My only hope was that the glacier wouldn't be able to quite make it to the equator and we'd all be able to squish together around the waistband of the earth. AND I remember in grade nine learning about the geological clock, and how humans came into the earth's history at around five minutes to midnight. I got confused, and worried that midnight was when the earth would end, and it could happen at any second. So I guess maybe I was a fearful child.)

I think my parents did and said several things that helped me relax. My dad had suffered panic attacks in his twenties, so he knew the importance of relaxation techniques and how to conquer fears (his panic attacks were related to public speaking, which he'd had to do as part of his job). He always told me that if I was nervous the night before a horse show, that winning was not important. Winning depends on other people's performance; it's relative. And I don't have any control over what other people do. All I could focus on was doing my best. This is an attitude I have carried forward, and it always helps me to identify things that are within my control and without, and most of the time I can put aside my worries about things that are beyond my control. Because I can't control that stuff anyway so worrying serves no purpose. The thing that screwed me up in my twenties was that I couldn't control when or if I got sick, but I COULD control whether I left the house if I thought it was likely. I COULD control whether I ate certain foods. I sought more and more control over my potentially illness-inducing environment and behaviour.

Sometimes, too, when I was afraid, my parents would ask me what was the worst possible thing that could happen. What was I most afraid of? Many times, when I really explored the fear, immersed myself in it and articulated the details of it, I realized it wasn't so scary after all. I think this is something that could help my niece... asking her to imagine the worst case scenario, and hopefully she would realize that throwing up away from home, while not pleasant, is not really that horrible.

I suspect my niece is also suffering some panic, which I can say from personal experience won't really be helped by exploring her fear. Some of the techniques I used in the midst of a panic attack (which I described earlier in this series) might also help, going through them when she's calm in preparation, then helping her implement them when she's feeling panicked. The book I've been reading recently, The Worried Child by Paul Foxman, which is ok, reports that childhood anxiety is very similar to adult anxiety, and the treatments for both are pretty much the same. As an anxious parent, one of the best things we can do to help our children feel less anxiety and cope with it better is to overcome and treat our own anxiety. I know that having suffered and overcome crippling anxiety myself, I am quick to recognize it in others, and I hope I will be able to help Swee'pea if and when he shows evidence of panic or anxiety.

(Although I want to stay away from giving out advice, I think it is safe to advise adults not to ridicule or belittle the fears of children. One night at summer camp, a different summer camp, the year after the accident, a much smaller camp with a maximum of ten kids who stayed in the house with the camp owners... one night I couldn't sleep. I was terrified the barn was going to burn down and our horses would die a horrible, screaming death and I would never be able to rid my nose of what I'd read was a horrible awful stench of burning hair and flesh. The grandmother was still awake in the quiet house, sitting at the kitchen table. I told her about my fears, that I worried I was having a premonition. I think she said she would be up late watching the barn or something, so eventually I was able to sleep. But the next morning when I came to breakfast, everyone laughed at me and my midnight fears. She'd told everyone.)

Foxman's book also begins by reporting that certain fears are developmentally appropriate for children at certain ages. This information made me really sad. Somehow, I'd hoped that if I did everything right, I could make it so that Swee'pea would never feel afraid. But of course this is impossible. For one thing, fear and anxiety keep us safe; they are evolutionarily essential. For another, I cannot protect Swee'pea from the world. Bad things -- hopefully not VERY bad things -- can and probably will happen to him, and all I'll be able to do is (hopefully if I'm still around) help him cope with the fallout.

So this book I'm reading... except I've stopped reading it because I picked up A Mind Apart by Susanne Antonetta, which I've already raved about... if you have any interest in mental illness and neurological disorders, I highly recommend it. She describes her grandfather's anxiety, which basically made him housebound for her entire knowledge of him, thus: "He talked of muggers and burglars and diseases spread by cats, his world a bright festival of harm."

Anyways, this other book, The Worried Child, is quite clinical and makes lots of distinctions between different anxiety disorders and shares lots of specific ideas about how to help our kids. I just can't get past the feeling that the author is one of those doctors who proclaims and prescribes and diagnoses. Well, I guess all doctors are like that. Anyways, if you can get past that tone, I think it has some great ideas and the author suffered significant anxiety himself, so he has first-hand knowledge. He makes an interesting distinction between anxiety, fear, fright and stress, that is perhaps worth passing on.

Fear: an instinctive reaction to a clear and present danger or threat
anxiety: a state of apprehension or worry about a danger or threat that might occur
fright: a state of fear when danger or threat catches us by surprise
stress: any situation (positive or negative) that requires adjustment or change

So fear can be appropriate. But anxiety and avoidant behaviour not so much, especially if the likelihood of the danger is very low.

At the library I saw a lot of similar books about children and fear, so I'm sure there are a lot of valuable resources if you have an anxious child, and you haven't had the benefit (ha ha) of suffering anxiety yourself.

This past weekend Mad totally pegged my blogging method. I sit down, I start writing and then I stop writing. And I'm gonna stop now, even though we have a very rambly incoherent post that's not really going anywhere... but at least I'm finished this series.