29 December 2010

Things That Are True - Technological Marvels

A couple of days ago, I tweeted:

And it's true. Witness the technological marvel that adorns my kitchen counter:

All this is my way of saying, "Hello, I'm still alive. I'll write more soon. Maybe."

Also, a sneaky way of figuring out how to set up a youtube account, upload a video, and embed it on the blog. If this all works properly, expect more oeuvres of this masterful quality soon.

10 December 2010

Things That Are True - Friday Confession

The Imp has been sick since Monday. Sleepless nights with a croupy toddler make me so very cranky. Last night, The Imp was awake, coughing, at 1:48 am. He stayed awake, clinging to me, needing a drink of water, his favourite stuffed toy, to sleep in Mommy and Daddy's bed, to sleep in his own bed with Mommy, to sleep anywhere as long as it was on Mommy. I held him, and I rocked him, and I stroked his hair, his back, his tired, coughing, wheezing little body. Because as parents, that's what we do, right?

It's 8:30 pm, and I just put him to bed for the night. Except for the brief times he was strapped into his car seat today, he has been in my arms, on my lap, or clinging to one leg or the other, for eighteen solid hours. Even when HWSNBN came home just before bedtime, The Imp still clung to me, crying, "Mommy, Mommy!" when Daddy tried to read him a bedtime story.

The last time The Imp was feeling clingy, in a hotel room in Victoria

Don't get me wrong. I love The Imp more than anything. I want to be there for him when he's feeling sick, especially when he's feeling sick. I want him to feel safe, and loved, and to know that I'll do anything in my power to help him feel all better.

But a full day of the constant contact, after a full week of the clinging, sleepless nights, and I'm just done. It's too much of a muchness. I've experienced as much touching as I can handle; I've reached sensory overload. My flesh actually crawled when he wanted to cuddle with me at bedtime. I just needed to have my body belong to me for a little while. But I sucked it up, and held his hand, and sang him to sleep.

Because as parents, that's what we do, right?

Cue the Mommy guilt.

Have you ever just had enough with the touching, or am I the only person who's actually that awful?

14 November 2010

Things That Are True - The Sunday Morning Shower

It's possible that no 15 minute increment of time all week is as jealously protected and keenly anticipated as the Sunday morning shower.

Our morning rituals are pretty much the same every week. Monday to Friday is a free for all, just trying to get everyone ready and out the door is some sort of cohesive fashion. Saturday morning, HWSNBN gets to relax while I'm on point. But Sundays, ah Sundays. Sundays are mine.

Shower, Oswego Hotel, Victoria, a few minutes ago

It's the one morning a week that I get time to myself, time to be something other than a producer of food, perpetrator of discipline, seeker of teachable moments, reader of stories, and personal jungle gym to The Imp. The one morning that HWSNBN is around, awake, and on Imp Patrol so I can have as long a shower as I want, uninterrupted.

Of such small gifts to each other are great marriages made.

11 November 2010

Things That Matter - Lest We Forget

Cenotaph, Victory Square, Vancouver

This is where I'll be this morning, to watch Vancouver's Remembrance Day ceremony. I go every year. I'm descended, on my father's side, from a long line of pacifists. Some of them, while objecting to the motivations and machinations of war, still served as stretcher bearers, contributing what they felt, morally, that they could. Men on my mother's side of the family served their country in World War II. One of my cousins served as a peacekeeper in some really hellish places. HWSNBN's father and grandfather both answered the call.

Victory Square, Vancouver

I go to honour them. To honour their commitment to duty, to what they thought was right. I go to remember those who didn't come back. I go to honour those who serve in war-torn places all over the world today.

Statue honouring the war dead of Canadian Pacific Railways, Waterfront Station, Vancouver

And I go in gratitude that because of them, my son is growing up in a peaceful nation, with the freedom to be who he is. May he never need to know anything different.

But I'll teach him to honour, and to be grateful.

08 November 2010

Things That Are Almost True - Girls Have...

LEGO Minifig Anatomy
LEGO Minifig Anatomy, from the flickr stream of Tim Norris, who credits Jason Freeny

There has been much discussion of body parts lately in the SNBN household.

Specifically, penises. There has been little else that has captivated The Imp's imagination quite as much as the Ineffable Mystery of the Penis.

A frequent topic of conversation over our breakfast toast and smoothie, it goes something like this:

The Imp: Mommy, where's your penis?
Me: I don't have a penis. I'm a woman, and women and girls don't have penises. Girls have vaginas.

I believe in using real words for real things. There are no wee-wees or pee-pees in our house.

The Imp: Mommy don't have a penis?
Me: That's right. Mommies don't have penises. Boys have penises.
The Imp: I have a penis.
Me: Yes, you do.
The Imp: Daddy has a penis?
Me: Yes, Daddy has a penis.
The Imp: Uncle David has a penis?
Me: (cringing, a bit) Yes, Uncle David has a penis.
The Imp: Grandpa has a penis?
Me: (cringing, a lot) Yes honey, Grandpa has a penis.

As we nibble on our toast and peanut butter, The Imp lists every member of our circle of friends and extended family - basically everyone he's ever met - clarifying just who does, and who does not, in fact have a penis.

Once we've discussed the landlord, the letter carrier, the teachers at daycare, the man in the elevator yesterday, and the cashier at the grocery store, The Imp thinks about things. Ponders. Mulls.

And then says:

The Imp: But Mommy, where's your penis?

Second verse; same as the first! Everybody now!!


These conversations have been going on for some time, but have ramped up in frequency and intensity recently as we've introduced concepts of potty training and big boy underwear. Now, in addition to penises, we have to discuss who does and does not have underwear. This is a little easier, since everyone who's not in diapers wears underwear. (Or so I would have The Imp believe. There are things he can find out on his own, in the fullness of time, while I plug my ears and cover my eyes and sing la-la-la-la-la at the top of my lungs.)

Last Saturday after my morning shower, The Imp walked into the bathroom as I was toweling off.* The first question he asked, of course, was:

The Imp: Where's your penis, Mommy?
Me: (for the one millionth time) I don't have a penis, honey, I'm a girl.

The Imp: (thinking) Boys have penises.
Me: That's right, honey, boys have penises. And I'm not a boy.

The Imp: (beaming, because he's finally got it figured out) Boys have penises! (shouting) Boys have penises, and girls have... PYJAMAS!!

Me: (trying to keep a straight face and failing utterly) That's right, honey. Girls have pyjamas.

(Or so I would have The Imp believe. Again, there are things he can find out on his own, in the fullness of time, while I plug my ears and cover my eyes and sing la-la-la-la-la at the top of my lungs.)

*We have no locks on the bathroom doors; The Imp locked himself into, and us out of, the bathroom one too many times, so we had the landlord remove the locks. The Imp's not slowed down much by a closed door.

05 November 2010

Things That Are True - Fit by Forty: The Reckoning

I turned forty in August. I didn't write about it at the time, I was too busy doing it. It was a fabulous week, I received unexpected gifts from unexpected places, I got to connect with a bunch of friends I don't get to see often enough, and I reached my Fit by Forty goal.

Let me backtrack a bit. Back in March, I set myself a goal: it was time to stop procrastinating, to stop pretending (as we approached The Imp's 2nd birthday) that the expanding flab around my middle was just baby weight, to get it together to eat better and be more active. I set an arbitrary goal of losing a pound a week, which seemed rational. Realistic.

I wrote about it, both here and on twitter. I had some success, and learned a whole lot about what it takes to make me feel healthy.

I said I reached my Fit By Forty goal. That's not, strictly speaking, true. I lost 19 pounds, not 24. I started out at 149 pounds, and when I weighed myself the morning of my fortieth birthday, I was 130. So I didn't quite reach my goal.

Except I did.

The goal was Fit by Forty, not One Hundred and Twenty-Four Pounds by Forty. And I woke up on my fortieth birthday feeling healthier than I had in years. I was fitting into old clothing I hadn't been able to wear even before I got pregnant. I fit back into these jeans. And hills where I used to have to walk my bike were no longer even enough of a challenge for me to change gears. I could run across the playground with The Imp without hacking up half a lung or falling on my face. My fitness had improved by every measurable standard. And dammit, I lost 19 pounds. That's not nothing.

I don't have a before picture, but here's an after.

The last little while has involved a lot of emotional upheaval and weeks of physical illness and bad sleep. There's been a whole lot of comfort food eating going on. And as the weather has turned colder and rainier, I haven't been out on my bicycle at all. (Not so much the weather as the hacking cough that prevented exercise.) So I've gained 4 pounds in the last six weeks. I need to get back to the discipline and healthy eating I did all summer so that I can be not just Fit by Forty, but Fit at Forty. And beyond.

What do you do to keep fit when the weather makes you want to curl up with a good book and drink hot cocoa?

04 November 2010

Things I'm Learning - Living Fearlessly

I have always hugely admired and deeply envied those who live fearlessly. Or appear to live fearlessly - perception, after all, is everything. I've often looked at friends who just jump in to new experiences as if they were exhibits in a science museum; an interesting diorama on the life cycle and thought processes of a new species, a rare specimen to be dissected and understood. (Metaphorically speaking, of course. I've never actually cut any of my friends open to check out their spleens or anything. Hey, where are you going? It's just a little scalpel, it won't hurt a bit!)

Without realizing it, I have sought these people out, The Fearless Ones who take chances, strivers who reach higher, and artists who aren't stifled by the opinions of others. I've surrounded myself with them as if their courage might rub off on me, as if I might be accepted as an apprentice, as a member of the tribe. And I've always felt like a bit of an imposter.

A few years ago, I was telling HWSNBN about a friend of mine, who after working in her chosen field for years, chucked it all and started over again, doing something completely different. She threw herself into her new pursuit with abandon, and was quickly quite successful. I mentioned how envious I was of that kind of daring, how I yearned for that, how I wished I possessed it myself.

At the exact same time, I was going through a career change myself. I was leaving the film industry after 12 years, after working really hard to be one of the best Second Assistant Directors in the city. I was going to work for a property development and management company - a field I had precisely zero experience in and knew next to nothing about.

HWSNBN looked at me like I was really not-clever. "Um. Why do you think she's brave and you're not?" he asked. "You're doing the exact same thing."


The courage to be myself. Skagit Valley Tulip Festival, 2000

Perception really is everything. If I look at my life objectively, I've taken lots of chances. I've leapt in, figured things out on the fly, and gotten things done. My high school English teacher, who I adored then and still adore now, (and hi, just figured out is on twitter) told me she used to read my letters to her students, to prove that you could aim higher, that you could dream big, no matter if you're from a small town in the remote north. I, me, I was held up as an example of fearlessness to others.

In the last three years, I've run a tech startup (another industry I knew nothing about until I jumped in to the job), become a parent (and anyone who is a parent will attest that you know nothing about that job until you're thrust into it) and started my own business (again in an industry I love but in which I have no educational background or practical experience.)

So there's some fearlessness there. Right? Why do I need other people to point it out to me? Why can't I see it in myself, and celebrate it? Why do I discount my own accomplishments while envying those of others?

Here's what I've learned so far: everyone deals with fear at least some of the time. Those who appear fearless are usually struggling with the same obstacles as everyone else. They just have more practice, or a better game face, or have somehow managed to shut the voice in their head up long enough to actually get things done.

I don't have all the answers yet. I probably never will, and that's okay. But I'm determined to keep working on it.

And more importantly, I'm determined to pass on whatever I learn to The Imp.

03 November 2010

Things That Are True - Lost Children

People who know me know I'm an alcoholic. It's not something I've ever tried to hide; it's not something I'm ashamed of. I had a problem, I took action: no shame. Last August, I celebrated seventeen years of sobriety.

Seventeen years. I need to think about that for a second.

In my entire life, there is nothing else I have done (except breathe) for seventeen straight years.

I was 22, and I could drink anyone I met under the table. I started most days with a glass of scotch. Good scotch - let it not be said that I was a cheap drunk. I thought I was all that and a bag of chips.

A Good Glass of Scotch
A Good Glass of Scotch by Ray Toth - from flickr

One day I took a good look around. I saw that the crowd I was hanging around with were all considerably older than me. I saw that while I was having a good time - a great time, to be honest - I wasn't really moving forward with my life, wasn't really accomplishing anything I could be proud of long-term. And I knew that alcohol was a factor - the factor - that was holding me back.

And I knew, without thinking about it too much, that I would not be able to simply cut down on the amount I was drinking. In love, in friendships, in life, I have always been all or nothing. Why would drinking be any different? I looked around, and I saw the future, and it was Not Good.

So one fine August day in 1992, I didn't have a glass of scotch for breakfast. After ten months of not drinking, I went to my first AA meeting, between sets at a Grateful Dead show in Seattle. (True story.) About a year after that, I went to my last AA meeting, unless you count the time a couple of years later that I talked an addict/alcoholic on the street in the downtown eastside out of attacking me by commiserating with him about how hard it is to stay sober. (Another true story. I was scared shitless but made a snap decision to treat him with dignity instead of fear, and the story had a happy ending.) (For me, anyway.)

I don't know what makes me a person who can't have just one drink and makes you a person who can. I've been sober much, much longer than I was ever drunk; so long that I don't even think about it anymore, it's just my life. And now I have a lot more money for shoes.

Ah, bonjour Monsieur Louboutin! Comment allez-vous?

So why am I thinking about it now?

I work from home, and the factory here in Vancouver that makes Chill Monkeys clothing is on the other side of the most tragic neighbourhood in the country. I've had to drive through it a few times this week. Not the first time, far from it, but it really affects me differently now that I'm a parent.

I see The Imp, and all his energy, and his optimism, his excitement about learning and trying new things, and all the electricity of potential that his little body is almost bursting with every minute.

And I know that all children start out with that kind of potential.

And somehow, some of them get lost along the way. It breaks my heart, shatters it into more pieces than I can count. I can't not see these broken people wandering through their tombstone-eyed existence on the streets of my city. I can't not see that they were once somebody's child full of potential. I can't forget that I was heading down a similar path at one time in my life, that I could have been one of them.

And I don't know why I can't drink, or why they can't stop harming themselves, and why you can.

And I live in mind-numbing terror that The Imp, my Imp, my beautiful joyous boy, will inherit something from me and become one of the Lost Children I see gathered along East Hastings Street.

And I don't know how to make sure that doesn't happen.

And the not knowing is killing me.

02 November 2010

Things I'm Learning - In My Wake

I've had a pretty intense month or so (see yesterday's October Tried To Kill Me post). Had the Cold Virus of Doom That Would No Go Away Ever continued to affect me so strongly, I might've had to arrange to have this entry posthumously titled At My Wake, rather than In My Wake. But when you're feeling a little bruised and battered by the vagaries of life, a long-overdue conversation with a great friend can be such a tonic. I've been lucky enough to have two such conversations this morning, and am feeling refreshed and reinvigorated, and ready to tackle my endless list of things to do and knock a few items off it, as a result.

This morning's experience ties in to a post that's been nibbling at the edge of my writing brain for the last week or so, about what we as parents, as citizens, as humans do while we're here, and what we leave behind. And not the big question what-will-I-leave-behind-when-I-die (although certainly that too) but a more quotidian concern: what do we leave in our wake as we go about our daily lives? This busy-ness that fills our work, and our getting from here to there, and our parenting, and our innumerable chores, and trials, and joys. What impact do we have in our daily interactions with our surroundings and the people who populate our environments as we go about the business of living?

A shot of the wake of a BC Ferry that I took in September.

I've had reason to give it a lot of thought in the last month or so. The Imp's almost two and a half now, and very verbal, and incredibly social. He's reached the stage in his development where he interacts with other people on his own terms - he can make himself understood when he speaks, and he knows his own mind. He doesn't need me to guide or interpret anymore in his conversations with other people. I am mostly delighted by this - it's fascinating to watch him work out his own relationships with our family and friends, but like every parenting milestone, it's bittersweet. Letting him find his own way also makes it harder for me to protect him from people who, consciously or otherwise, may be teaching him things I don't agree with, or doing him harm, even if only slightly.

Parenting is one long process of letting go; I know this. But watching him interact with his grandparents, with long-standing friends of the family, with new arrivals in our social circle, I've been struck by what is left in the wake of these interactions. How even a short time with a negative person can have such a strong impact on The Imp's belief in his own abilities, and how happy and how much more extroverted, curious, and affectionate he is after just an evening with someone who approaches life in a generally positive way. I've seen it in my own communication with him - since I had that blinding insight about the anger I was experiencing and changed my parenting approach, we've had a much more peaceful and gentle relationship with each other; a lot more fun than Shouty Mommy and Naughty Corner Imp.

The Imp is a pretty happy, easygoing little dude most of the time. He's got a low threshold for joy, and a ready smile. As we go about our day, walking hand in hand along the sidewalk, popping into shops to pick up groceries, stopping in at the library, The Imp leaves a smattering of smiles in his wake. Even in a busy urban neighbourhood, people notice his grin and grin back. At the beach, total strangers join us as we kick the soccer ball around: the sixty year old Italian man, the eighteen year old Brazilian guy, me, and The Imp running around in the sand, putting on our own little neighbourhood version of the World Cup. It gives me great happiness to watch The Imp, just by being himself, adding a little joy to someone's busy day.

The Imp spreading smiles around the neighbourhood

Which makes me wonder: what do I leave behind me when I walk out of a room - any room? I've seen the impact a small change in my behaviour has had on The Imp. What ripples exist after my passing through the greater "out there"? Are people relieved to see me go? Do they feel invigorated? Called to action? Do they dread having to see me again? Do they wish they could see me more often?

I can't control what people think when I walk in or out of a room. And to think that they think anything at all is a special kind of arrogance, I suppose. Nor am I fishing for compliments, or looking for reassurance that I'm! awesome! I lead a pretty self-examined life - just look at how many of my posts are tagged with "navel gazing" - so I'm pretty confident I'm not a horrible person to be around. I wouldn't have such great luck in friends if I was. But we all have bad days, we all sometimes snap at people for no real reason; we're all guilty of being less-than-awesome-all-the-time.

I do know what I would like people to feel after spending time with me - I'd like them to feel good. I'd like shopkeepers to greet me with pleasure when I return to their store. I'd like friends to feel like we talked about things that mattered, we discovered new things about ourselves and each other, and we had a few laughs. Or tears, if that's what's appropriate. And I'd like them to look forward to doing it again.

In other words, I'd like them to feel the way I do right now.

Thank you Richard. Thank you Heather. Let's do it again soon.

01 November 2010

Things I've Learned - October Review

So October kicked my ass. It knocked me down emotionally and physically. It was a hell of a thirty-one day stretch.

I spent more time than I would've liked doing the angry cry. I wrote and I wrote and I wrote. And I crossed things out and scribbled out entire lines in my notebook. And I hit the delete button on this blog a lot. But what survived the edits is, while respectful of people who might not appreciate our interactions splashed all over my little corner of the internet here, a pretty good distillation of my insights and struggles this month.

So, October then:

I learned about the power of muscle memory. Sadly not in the service of improving my tennis backhand, but in finally recognizing the backhanded way the past can mess with the present. And I learned how the power of that insight has improved my parenting, my patience, and The Imp's reactions to my reactions immeasurably.

I had the plague aka The Cold Virus of Doom That Would Not Die Or Go Away Ever. Or maybe it was just my body's physical interpretation of what was happening emotionally. The fact that neither HWSNBN nor The Imp have gotten sick despite how ridiculously ill I've been for almost three weeks makes me lean toward the latter, frankly. But what I lost in productivity this month, I've gained in quiet introspection and a silent sense of reclaiming my confidence in my decisions.

Photo by Gwendolyn Floyd taken at this year's Northern Voice conference back in May. You know you're at the start of a great friendship when you can ask someone you've met like twice to take a picture of your breasts and it's not weird at all.

I took my forty year old boobs in for a screening mammogram. They may be saggy, shrinking, and occasionally leaky, but they are not harbouring anything that will try and kill me. So that's good.

I missed Blissdom Canada, but I got to host the cookie-bearing Karen Humphrey on her way through Vancouver as she headed to what, by all accounts, was seventeen kinds of awesome. So I ate cookies and watched the Blissdom stream on twitter and tried not to die of envy.

I'm marginally more aware of what to do with pumpkins. We carved jack-o'-lanterns. We roasted pumpkin seeds. We trick-or-treated in our neighbourhood's shops, and The Imp made me proud by saying thank you every time someone dropped something in his bucket. He didn't really get the whole "trick or treat" thing, but he knew all about "thank you." Heart: swell.

I was bowled over by the generosity of my peers. I put out the call for donation items for a BC Cancer Inspiration Gala silent auction, and the call was answered and then some. The Gala was very successful, raising a record $2.69 million for lymphoma research at the BC Cancer Agency. And I'm told by someone who was there that the basket we contributed to the silent auction was a hot item and went for well over its value. I am prouder than I can express to be a part of this amazing community.

And I learned that maybe, just maybe, it would be okay if every now and then I gave myself a little bit more credit. It wasn't until I saw the comments on my blog post about the silent auction basket that it even occurred to me that I had made a valuable contribution too, by pulling it all together. Which correlates with a tendency I have in general to discount my own abilities and achievements. While I don't want to get carried away with how awesome I am, it's probably okay if I stop and recognize my own efforts once in a while.

This post is part of Amber Strocel's monthly review linkup.

29 October 2010

Things I'm Learning - Hallowe'en Edition

I grew up in a family that didn't celebrate Hallowe'en. As kids we dressed in costume for school events, but we never went trick or treating or were given pillow cases full of candy. So like most of the other beloved traditions of mainstream childhood (we also didn't sit on Santa's lap or have Easter egg hunts) I edge up to these events in Margaret Meade mode: observe the actions of the tribe and try not to be too obtrusive or obviously out of place. HWSNBN has a very standard background, so there are expectations about holidays. Which is fine, it's just that every time is kind of the first time for me; I'm learning as I go. Add in all the first-time stuff you get up to as a parent, and well... I'm often a little bit at sea.

I was lucky enough to be invited, along with The Imp and his Grandpa, on a trip to the pumpkin patch in Richmond last weekend. I'd never been before and had no idea what to expect, but given that The Imp has talked about it non-stop since, am guessing that it will have to be an annual event from here on out.

Things I didn't know:

1) It's a big deal. Not just a stroll out into a muddy field full of pumpkins. No. Parking lot directions of military precision, farm animals on display, duck ponds and bridges, musicians, dancing pumpkins, hay rides complete with fiddles and banjos. All week The Imp's been excitedly telling me several times a day, "We say 'yeehaw!'" I think having experienced it once, he would very much like a hay ride from his bedroom to the breakfast table every morning, shouting "Yeehaw!" the whole way.

2) The price of admission includes a pumpkin to take home. Why I didn't know this, I don't know, maybe because I've never been a big celebrant of Hallowe'en. Or it could be that I'm just not very clever.

3) There's a corn maze. I've never been in a corn maze before. I knew I was capable of getting lost - as soon as I'm inside a shopping mall I get totally turned around in about 17 seconds. A corn maze is a lot like that, but with more mud. And decidedly less perfume-sample smell.

Child of the Corn

4) I don't actually know what to do with a pumpkin. And now I have an ample supply of them sitting on my kitchen counter, because there were three of us. Three pumpkins. Sitting on my counter. And I really, really don't like pumpkin pie. It would be no exaggeration to say that I despise pumpkin pie and everything about it. The texture, the flavour: bleck.

So on Monday when I went to get the Imp from daycare I took one of the pumpkins with the intention of leaving it there.

Much consternation on the part of The Imp. "MY pumpkin!" He shouted, and stomped his feet, and would not be consoled or convinced that leaving it at daycare to play with the next day was a good idea. He did not care that we still had two more at home. He was especially adamant that he WOULD NOT SHARE it with his friends. "MY pumpkin. It's MINES!" (Yes, he says "mines" instead of "mine". It's logical, if you think about it. Your becomes yours. Her becomes hers. Even his ends in an "s". Why shouldn't "my" become "mines"?)

I really hadn't anticipated this strong a reaction. The Imp's usually the first kid to share his toys, he readily gives up a spot on the playground swings if there's another kid waiting, and he's generally a pretty laid-back little dude. (Since we discovered his dairy allergy, anyway.) No amount of cajoling was effective. Back home and onto the kitchen counter went the pumpkin.

My pumpkin! MINES!

Now, understand, The Imp has no context for pumpkins. He doesn't know they're food, he's never seen a jack-o'-lantern. We've never had one in the house before. We've never really celebrated Hallowe'en with him, because for the first one he was only a few months old, and last year he was not even 18 months. And we live in a high rise apartment building, so we don't even get trick or treaters at the door. There didn't seem to be a lot of point.

So I asked him, as we were cleaning up after dinner that evening.

Me: What do you think pumpkins are for? What do you want to do with your pumpkins?
The Imp: Fling them around.

I was not expecting that.

Me: You want to fling them around?
The Imp: Yeah.


Me: Honey, we don't fling pumpkins around. (Fumbling) We... we carve them into jack-o'-lanterns. Yeah, jack-o'-lanterns! We make faces on the pumpkins. And we can make soup. Pumpkin soup. And seeds, we can do something with the seeds! We eat pumpkins. We do not fling them around.
The Imp: Soup! We eat soup! We eat soup now!

Me: Um, no. We have to make the soup first.
The Imp: Okay. (Pause, thinking.) We say "yeehaw?"

Me: Yeehaw!*

By Tuesday morning, HWSNBN and I had managed to talk enough about how good it feels to get presents and how nice it would be to make his friends feel that way by giving the pumpkin to the daycare, that he consented to the transportation of his! pumpkin! to school with him. And he allowed that his friends could look at it, but they could not touch it. We placed it in plain view on a high counter so everyone could see it. He was skeptical, but let it sit there all day.

Wednesday, he allowed the teachers to touch it, but not all the teachers. There was a substitute, and she was not! allowed! Only the every day teachers could touch it. But he did relent enough to allow them to take if off the counter to show it to the kids at circle time. But he insisted that "friends not touch it!"

Thursday when I went to pick him up, he came running to me shouting "Jack-o'-lantern! Jack-o'-lantern!" at the top of his lungs, and grabbed my hand to drag me to his pumpkin, now sitting on a low table, and yes, carved into a jack-o'-lantern. The teacher told me that while he was still proprietary about it, he was happy to let other kids touch it, and help scoop out seeds and whatnot. Yay, progress! Clearly this was a big deal to him, as he woke me up at four this morning, by shouting "Jack-o'-lantern! My jack-o'-lantern!" at the top of his lungs in his sleep.

Hallowe'en's this weekend. And I have two not-small pumpkins on my kitchen counter. I'm sure I can manage to carve some triangular orifices and a gap-toothed grin into them with The Imp's help - after all he's more experienced at it than I am, having already done it once. But then what do I do with them?

For all my blustery bravado in front of The Imp, I really don't know what to do with a pumpkin. Anyone have a soup recipe they can recommend? How do I make the seeds edible?

I am wide open to suggestions, people. I'll make anything but pie.

Or I suppose I could just fling them around.

*This is the actual conversation we had. Verbatim, no embellishments. In a thousand years, even with a thousand monkeys pecking randomly at a thousand keyboards, I could never come up with "fling them around" as an answer to that question. 

Also: when did we stop spelling Hallowe'en with an apostrophe? I must have missed that memo.

28 October 2010

Things That Are True - Shout Outs Must Be Made

In the early days of my relationship with HWSNBN, we were sitting around my apartment one evening, and I was playing music for him, some on the stereo, some on my guitar. Songs I loved, lyrics that said something I believed in, music that was important to me. After half an hour or so of this, he looked at me and said, "Your music is really earnest."

Me, being earnest with my guitar this summer

I bristled a little. I suppose I'd never analyzed the music I loved, just well, loved it. To have him put a label on it made me a little cross, offended even.

That was almost ten years ago. In the time since, I have come to accept that my music is, in fact, earnest. That I am, in fact, earnest. And that I'm okay with all this earnestness. More than okay with it, I seek it out. It drives my relationships, my parenting, and the way I run my business*.

And it is because of this superfluity of earnestness in my life that I was close to tears numerous times today.

A few weeks ago, I was approached about making a donation for a silent auction from my company, Chill Monkeys, to the BC Cancer Foundation's Inspiration Gala. I immediately said yes, and then because I don't do anything halfway, suggested that I could not just donate one of my hats to their silent auction, but that I would put together a package of mom and child focused items from local mom-entrepreneurs for them. I made a couple of phone calls, had a few conversations; things were well on their way.

And then I got sick. Apocalyptic life-on-Earth-ending sick, with the nastiest, most persistent Virus of Doom I have ever had. I do not recall in my adult life ever feeling so sick and being so debilitated for so long. It's been two and a half weeks, and I'm not 100% yet. Gah.

In my fuzzy-head cold-meds just-get-through-the-day mindset, I thought that the big event was this weekend, giving me a couple more days to pull things together. For some reason I decided to check this morning what date the event was being held. Good thing I did. The gala is tonight.

Gulp. I had in my possession only three items for the basket. And no actual basket. Not good. Serious loss of face if I couldn't pull this off.

So I put out the call on twitter, and yea verily, twitter responded. I spent the day driving all over the place, picking up donations of really great stuff. Then I went and bought a basket and some tissue paper. I had hoped to collect items enough for a total package value of $100-$150.

I underestimated the generosity of my peers.

This is the part where shout outs (shouts out?) must be made. I am continuously humbled and inspired by the support of the Vancouver mom- and women-entrepreneur community, and the outstanding way that we are all able to connect on twitter.

Zoe, Anna, and Rachel from Playpants responded with a lovely package of three modern bloomers. So adorable I almost wish I had a girl. (In addition to The Imp, not instead of!)

Erica and Lorraine of The Survival Guide for Rookie Moms donated a copy of their great book.

Maria from Little Jots gave me one of her delightful books of notes for children.

Patty from Zoolu Organics sent me the softest, most covetable long sleeved lion graphic shirt. Had it not been sized 6-12 months, I might have been seriously tempted to keep it for The Imp.

Maureen from Emily Press labels didn't hesitate to give me a $25 gift certificate for use on her site.

And Sue from Raspberry Kids came through with Leah Douglas' Gourmet Pregnancy, (a fantastic cookbook that had me wanting to run home and cook directly from the Raspberry Kids warehouse), a Sprig Toys excavator, a Seedling kit (the Creature Creator Kit) and a sushi-themed bib from the awesome Mally Bibs.

And I, of course, added a Chill Monkeys cap to the mix.

I was fighting back tears with every item I picked up. Such response! And as I rushed home with all the goodies, and the basket I'd bought to put them in, I was very pleased at being able to promote these generous companies, and to contribute to fundraising for such a worthy cause.

But I was gobsmacked when I made the list of items for the event organizers and actually added it all up - doing math in my head has never been my strong point.

Total value: $265

Two hundred and sixty five dollars worth of local entrepreneur donations in a few short hours. Wow.

The photo above was hastily taken on my kitchen table as I prepared to zoom over to the event venue and drop it off. The basket will look even better in the elegant surroundings and soft lighting of the gala tonight.

Also: I should've bought a bigger basket. When I put everything together, there was not enough room for the toy excavator - so I placed it outside the basket as if it was digging through all the fantastic goodies inside!

I can not thank everyone enough. I am overwhelmed by your generosity, by your spirit of community, and by your instant response and support. Thank you, thank you, thank you. And when I dropped it off to the event organizers, they were very pleased. So they thank you too.

Earnest's not so bad.

Yay for people coming together, in earnestness, I say.

*I don't talk much about my business here. This is my personal blog, and I like to keep things separate. I don't hide the fact that I have a mom blog. I don't hide the fact that I have a business. But I don't link much from one to the other. For one thing, I've been known to swear in this space, which is maybe not the best thing coming from a designer and manufacturer of children's clothing.

27 October 2010

Wordless Wednesday - Across the Generations Edition

A busy restaurant, a Sunday brunch. A restless Imp makes his way around the table to sit on Grandpa's lap for a horsey ride.

My heart, it melts.

20 October 2010

Things I've Learned - Fail Better

This morning I managed to stand up in the shower for ten whole minutes without needing to sit down. I've been so sick the last few days that everything but breathing has fallen by the wayside. There are any number of reasons I've been ill: The Imp's in daycare, a seething petri dish vector of disease if ever there was one; I've been taking on too much, running around trying to be all things to all people; but mostly I think I just had a little almost-breakdown in the last two weeks.

I've been thinking a lot of my past work in project management - there comes a time, on a troublesome project, when you just look at the patchwork that's been done to fix problems as they come up, and stop everything. Look at things from a new perspective, assess as objectively as you can, and then decide to tear the whole thing down and start over fresh. That's what the last two weeks have been like for me on an emotional level. And suffering through The Cold Virus of Doom That Will Not Die has slowed me down enough to really deal with some things for the first time.

A couple of weeks ago I connected some dots and gained some insights into the roots of problems I've struggled with all my life. Issues of fear, of giving up before I even try, of reacting with towering anger to minor setbacks. To an outside observer, what I'm going through doesn't look like much, but internally it has shaken me, rocked me to my core. I've had to rethink my approach to everything: relationships, business, and especially to parenting. Looking at patterns from my childhood and sifting out that which is good to pass on to The Imp, and finding a way to acknowledge and discard that which is not.

I don't have any pictures of me sick. So here's one of The Imp.

I think turning 40 has been a catalyst for much of this introspection. Realizing I don't care what people think anymore has opened the door, but it's events of the last couple of weeks that have really knocked me down and made me figure out how to pick myself up again. The revelation of the the source of so much of my anger has given me the freedom to consciously change the way I react when The Imp is acting up. A couple of mornings ago as we were cuddling before breakfast, I said to him, "Let's have a good day today. No hitting, no kicking, no scratching, no pinching. And no shouting. What do you think? Wouldn't that be great?" He looked at me and very seriously said, "And no naughty corner."

My heart: breaking.

"That's right. No naughty corner. Let's be gentle with each other today."

"Okay, Mommy."

And not for nothing, the last two days he hasn't hit me once. We've had two whole days without a trip to the naughty corner.

Despite me being so physically ill I could barely manage to bundle The Imp off to daycare in the morning, things have been better than I have any right to expect.

I'm not saying everything's magically all better now. I will struggle, I will fall down, I will fail utterly. But right now I'm feeling like the falling down won't be the calamitous, paralyzing thing it's been in the past.

Sometimes you really do need to stop what you're doing and tear it down. Rebuild from a stronger foundation, fail better next time.

And be gentle with each other.

I just hope next time it won't take getting the plague to make me see that.

18 October 2010

Things That Are True: Do It For The Boobies

This has been on my mind, as of late:

So even though I am dealing with The Cold That Will Not Die, there was a bright spot in my overall health picture revealed when I received this letter in the mail today. The mammogram I had two weeks ago came back normal. A bright spot, indeed: when I was 26, my doctor found two lumps in my right breast. The weeks between finding the lumps and getting the ultrasound/mammogram appointment were terrifying. I could think of nothing else; my hand would stray, unbidden, to my breast to try and feel if the lumps had somehow grown in the five minutes since I'd last checked. Ultrasound determined that they were nothing to worry about, and consistent monitoring has reassured me on a regular basis since.

Two of my aunts, one on either side of my family, have survived breast cancer. My cousin was recently diagnosed, has just had surgery, and now begins an exhausting course of chemo and radiation.

In BC, once you turn 40, you don't need to be referred for a screening mammogram. You can just call them up and make your own appointment.

Do it.

15 October 2010

Things That Are True - And The Body Says No Thank You

I've been running on empty for a while. Not enough sleep, not enough time, not enough focus. Just not enough.

Well, today The Body has said, "Enough."

Went to bed feeling not-great, woke up feeling not-good-at-all. This used to happen when I worked in the film business. I, along with the rest of the crew, would push myself, working 16 hour (or more) days in nasty weather, starting work at 6am on a Monday and 5pm on a Friday, which meant driving home at 9 or 10 on Saturday morning, sleeping the day away, doing laundry on Sunday, and starting all over on Monday.

On set in 1999 - Aftershock, a mini-series about an earthquake in New York. Photo taken by John Mavrogeorge. I worked my longest day in film on that show: 28 hours straight. Madness.

But the thing about the film industry, as hard as we work when we're on a project, there's a hard out. A pre-defined end date. Sure, if things don't go well during the shoot the end date may be extended by a day or two, but it's freelance, project-based work. You know it will end, so you push and push yourself, looking forward to the time off between projects to rest, recuperate, learn the names of your friends' kids, and wear something other than gore-tex and comfortable shoes. I would always get really sick a day or two after the words "That's a show wrap" were uttered.

I worked in film for twelve years; that lifestyle is habit-forming. I don't know how to NOT do things at mach 3 with my hair on fire. And that's good, I think. That basic operating system has made me strive to achieve, to learn, to grow. With time to rest in between spurts of tremendous energy output.

But? Parenting and running your own business have no hard out. Well, they do; everybody dies some time.

And today The Body is telling me that if I don't stop for a minute, that some time will be sooner than later.

Okay, Body, I get it. I'm listening. I'll spend the day wrapped in blankets, eating chips and chocolate healthy food, and watching TV trying to sleep.

And just so you know, Body, you didn't have to get all huffy when I dropped off some stuff at the Post Office. It was on the way home from The Imp's daycare. It wasn't really necessary to throw menstrual cramps into the mix. That's just not playing nice.

14 October 2010

Things That Are True: The Body Knows

There seems to be a theme to my October so far - it's like the gods I don't believe in* summoned up all the flotsam and jetsam of my past, washed it up on the beach of my consciousness and said, "Listen, sister. Deal."

Beach flotsam I just happened to catch on camera last weekend, English Bay

Yesterday, after three days of agonizing writing, reviewing, rewriting, and crying, I sent an email that almost killed me to write. I don't know how it will be received. I don't know how or if it will change some pretty important relationships in my life. But I'm just so done with some of the stuff the email's about, I had to send it. I had to reclaim my belief in myself. So now I sit, angst-ridden, simultaneously stalking and avoiding my inbox, wondering what the fallout will be; what kind of nuclear winter we'll have to suffer through before we can move on.

So that's fun.

Also yesterday, while sitting enjoying a perfectly lovely hot chocolate in one of my favourite haunts, I saw him. He was just walking by, he didn't see me, there were a few metres and half an inch of glass in between us, but still, my stomach instantly tied in knots, and I immediately felt like throwing up. After fourteen years, just seeing him at a distance can still make me physically ill. It affected me so much I had to interrupt my conversation with my coffee pal just to process it.

He was my first serious relationship, the first person I lived with, and the first (and only, I might add) person to hit me in the name of love.

It was textbook: he dazzled me, he made me feel like the best thing ever, and then he gradually, so gradually I didn't notice it was happening, undermined my confidence, estranged my friends, controlled everything I did, and hit me, telling me it was my fault. I think about it now, and can't believe it. How did I, the me that I am today, allow that to happen? (That's probably an entire post or five all on its own.)

Anyway, that relationship ended 14 years ago. I've seen almost nothing of him since, just chance encounters. Our social circles don't really intersect, our professional lives don't inhabit the same space. In the years since that horrible relationship I have very purposefully revisited spots we used to go to together, and replaced the bad memories with good ones. And I have never allowed myself to sink so far into a relationship again that physical abuse was somehow okay.

But it's the week for insights, and things I can't unknow, it seems. After I got home yesterday, one hit me so hard I had to stop moving, stop even breathing for a second.

The Imp is at a stage where he hits when he's frustrated. Since he's two, and testing every boundary, pushing every button, and still learning to communicate, he gets frustrated a lot. So he hits a lot. More precisely, he hits me a lot. He doesn't hit at daycare, he doesn't hit HWSNBN. He hits me. A lot.

The physical pain from these little two-year-old attacks of fists and feet is minimal, and transitory. I'm the grown-up, and I act accordingly. The Imp spends some time in the naughty corner, as he and I both get control, and as I tell him "calm down our bodies". There are times when it is really difficult for me to reign in my anger at being hit. There are times when my anger is all out of proportion to the assault. I've never lost control, the intellect has always prevailed in these situations. A couple of quiet minutes, a calm discussion of why we don't hit, a warm and loving hug, and on with our day.

But I realized yesterday, all in a heartbeat, that it's not the two-year-old hits I'm reacting to. It's the fourteen-year-old attacks that send me into a towering rage, that make me struggle to keep my voice calm, to explain why We. Don't. Hit. That make me need to take a quiet moment behind a closed door before I can give The Imp a hug and go back to reading stories, and playing games, and enjoying all the mind-numbingly beautiful moments of parenting, that happen all the time, every day, mostly when we're not looking.

The anger towards The Imp is an involuntary physical reaction, just like the stomach tightening and nausea yesterday when I saw my old flame. The body still reacts, even when the mind knows better.

I'm hoping that knowing this, processing it, figuring it out, will help me be a better parent. Will allow me to let go of this anger I didn't even realize I've been carrying around all this time, after all these years.

This morning, The Imp, as if looking straight into my brain at breakfast, said, "Hitting makes people sad." Yes, honey, hitting makes people sad. And not just the people being hit.

Then he wrapped his arms around himself, beamed at me, and said, "Hugging makes people happy!"

I must be doing something right.

*I don't believe in God. But if I did, it would have to be Loki. Because, well - just look at the world out there. It's the only explanation that fits. (With a hat tip to my Uncle David, who first mentioned that to me years ago, and it's stuck.) Either Loki, or some well-meaning but harried old chap in the sky. When I worked in the film and television industry, we used to joke: Good, Fast, or Cheap - pick any two. The God I most often hear described, despite his reputed omniscience, seems to be a variation of that: All-Loving, All-Knowing, All-Powerful - pick any two. That's my personal opinion, and I stand by it, but it doesn't prevent me from having, and more importantly, hugely respecting my friends and family who are devout in their faith.

13 October 2010

Wordless Wednesday - Breakfast is Served Edition

On Sunday, as I was sitting at my desk sorting paperwork (my least favourite part of running my own business) The Imp brought me a lovely tray of some of my favourite foods. Before he handed it to me, he said "Be careful, Mommy, might be hot." Then he thoroughly blew on the food twice, smiled up at me and said, "It's all cool down now Mommy. You could eat it."

Funny when they start to echo back to you the exact words and behaviour you show them, isn't it?

I decided paperwork could wait, and had a delicious imaginary breakfast with my boy. Because that's what Sundays are for.

12 October 2010

Things That Are True - Pity Party Edition

It's been a rough week or two. Emotional fallout from events both recent and in the past have me bone tired. Although past blog posts have touched on some of it, if tangentially, I may talk about it in detail at some point, once I've had a chance to process it more. Or I may decide it's petty and unworthy of even this much attention. There's some turmoil here, and I need to sort it out for myself before I deconstruct it in public.

In the last week some dots have been connected for me, and I'm finding myself angry all the time. I'm not sleeping well. The Imp isn't sleeping well either. I'm not sure if it's The Imp waking repeatedly at night that's contributing to my tension and short fuse, or if it's the tension and short fuse that The Imp's picking up on that's making him wake repeatedly at night. It's a chicken/egg thing, and either way I'm feeling like my parenting is less than optimal.

I'm just so tired of being tired. Night after night I go to bed barely able to form a coherent sentence, morning after morning I wake exhausted. I'm trying to let go of some of this anger, but it's been kept down for a long time and it just keeps bubbling up out of me, like an internal hemorrhage.

I am weary in my soul.

I want to hide in my room, sleep for three days, forget these insights I can't unknow. But I'm working on getting on with it, standing strong, letting the fog bank move through and past me so I can stand blinking in the sunlight.

Because of this. Because everything, all the time, is about this:

There's no opting out of this. Which may be what saves me.

06 October 2010

Wordless Wednesday - Family Resemblance Edition

Me, age 2
The Imp, age 2
 When he was born, The Imp was all HWSNBN. Their newborn photos were interchangeable. I think maybe The Imp's starting to look a little more like me. What do you think? Do you see any resemblance?

27 September 2010

Things That Are Dairy-Free: Chocolate Cake

Over the last several months, since we discovered The Imp's allergy to all things milk, I've been looking for dairy-free substitutes for some of my old tried-and-true favourites. I refuse to accept that having an allergy means all the fun stuff is off-limits! For chocolate cake, fortunately, my old tried-and-true was already dairy-free, a fact I didn't even realize until I really started paying attention. The cake is actually vegan, although that's not its raison-d'ĂȘtre. It's not from a vegan or health-food cookbook, in fact it's adapted from the most basic of cookbooks: Betty Crocker's New Cookbook, which I've had forever. (I have the 8th edition.) It's deliciously moist and chocolatey, and dead simple to make. It's been my go-to cake recipe for years - long before The Imp's allergy made it a necessity.

Toddler approved! The Imp enjoys his 2nd birthday cake.

This post also features this cake (with photos), in our life pre-non-dairy. So easy a toddler can make it!

The recipe below makes one layer in a 8 inch square or round pan. For two layers, make the recipe twice. For three, make it three times, etc. For a larger cake like the one pictured in this post, double the recipe and bake each layer in a 13 x 9 inch pan.

I haven't tried it, but I'm sure you could make cupcakes with this recipe too - the cooking time would be much shorter.

Anyway, on to the ingredients:

1 2/3 cups flour
1 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup pure baking cocoa powder (I like
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup water
1/3 cup vegetable oil (I use canola)
1 teaspoon white vinegar
1 teaspoon vanilla

Heat oven to 350 degrees F.

And here's why it's so easy. Mix all the dry ingredients with a fork right in the cake pan - ungreased. Then stir in all the wet ingredients. When well mixed, stick it in the oven for about 30 - 40 minutes. VoilĂ .

That's the recipe more or less as it appears in the book. I often have a heavier hand with the cocoa powder, using 1/3 of a cup - how can cake be too chocolatey, I ask you? Also since I'm not a fan of super-sweet, I go a bit lighter on the sugar - a scant cup, unpacked.

My oven tends to run a bit hot, so I start checking it at the 25 minute mark. When a toothpick inserted in the centre comes out clean, it's done. Baking too long will result in a dry, crumbly cake. So don't do that!

I usually make 2 - 3 layers at once, then assemble them with jam and/or fresh fruit as a filling between the layers and pour melted chocolate chips (the Safeway Organic brand chocolate chips are a rare dairy-free option) thinned with soymilk over the top as a ganache-style frosting.

I am, however, looking for good dairy-free frosting recipes. Suggestions welcome!

24 September 2010

Things That Are True - Ruminations Upon Turning Forty

Warning: cringe-inducing earnestness ahead. If you're looking for cynicism, click away. You'll not find it here.

My 40th birthday party - photo by HWSNBN

A month ago today, I turned 40.

I had a half a dozen half-written posts in my head at the time, which have grown to a dozen since. Things I've wanted to say: an update on my Fit by Forty mission, discussions of celebrations, birthday cake for the non-dairy set, clever quips about passing life's milestones, and some Significant Ponderings Upon Reaching Adulthood. It's taken a month for all of that to simmer on the back burner of my mental landscape and bubble over into this:

I'm 40. And I don't care anymore.

Let me clarify: this is not "I don't care anymore, nothing matters and what if it did." I have not been tsunami'd by a rogue wave of apathy. The exact opposite, in fact. I am as passionate, as engaged, and possibly more driven than I've ever been. This is "I know what I know, I love what I love, and I no longer give a damn what other people think."

This, friends and relations, is what freedom feels like.

This is a huge deal for someone like me. I have expended a lot of energy - enough kW hours to make a serious dent in the global energy crisis - being consumed with anxiety about not fitting in, worrying about what to wear, what to say, how to act. I have, more than once, allowed my fear to sink me into utter paralysis. I've not done things I desperately, achingly wanted to do - talk to that guy, write that song, go to that event, try that new scary thing - because of my fear of Getting It Wrong. Sheer will pushed me forward on occasion, but more often than not, I feigned aloofness and pretended what I really wanted didn't matter. I opted out.

No more.

An actual photo I took today just before the scribbling began

As I write this, I'm sitting in a cafe that is much cooler than I am. I put my pen down periodically (yes, I still write with pen and paper occasionally - I like the tactile nature of it) and dip in and out of the stream of conversation around me, capturing vignettes of people's public and private lives. I'm surrounded by 20-something hipsters. I admire their easy confidence, their languid coolness, their uninhibited friendships. And I wonder what I looked like at their age to a 40 year old woman sitting scribbling in a notebook nearby. Did I seem so easy and comfortable in my own skin? Or could she tell I was afraid of looking foolish every waking moment of every day? And are these beautiful younger-than-me men and women plagued by the angst (existential and otherwise) that plagued me at their age?

It feels sudden, this I-don't-give-a-damn liberation, but I'm sure, like everything else, that it's not that simple, that it's been creeping up on me far longer than I've been aware. It's just the introspection of watching a major milestone approach and go past that's made it front-and-centre.

I spent my twenties figuring out who I was in the wake of a disastrous and abusive relationship. What other people thought of me was always top of mind. In my thirties, I had a better poker face, but I was still consumed with how I appeared to others. The things that made me happy - designer clothes, extravagant vacations, expensive restaurants - were still tied up in how other people saw me. If I deconstructed every choice I made in the ten years between 27 and 37, what other people thought was the single most important factor every time.

Motherhood - ah motherhood: paradoxically crisis-of-confidence inducing and magnificently empowering all at once. While the mere act of living my life, examining my mistakes, and choosing better the next time has contributed to this new, giddy sense of freedom, it's motherhood that has triggered a quiet revolution in the way I look at the world. I've always been someone who had to know how to do something perfectly before I would even try it - as a result I didn't try a lot of new things. But becoming a parent isn't something I could know how to do before I actually did it. No matter how many books I read or friends I talk to, every person's experience of parenthood is different, and I can't do anything but figure it out as I go.

And Get It Wrong. Boy, do I get it wrong. I angst. I worry. I fret. It's a struggle, and a challenge, and a different game every day - which would have stopped me in my tracks ten years ago. Even five years ago.

But I keep doing it anyway. Aloofness isn't possible. Opting out simply isn't an option.

The getting it wrong and doing it anyway is a monumental change for me. Learning to be a parent has given me the permission to fail, and the courage to try to fail better next time. To just get over myself, to challenge my own assumptions, to reach out, to share my hopes and dreams in this space, and most importantly to believe that my hopes and dreams do matter. Pretty heady stuff.

Web cam photo taken right this minute

Hi. I'm Alexis.

My hair gets frizzy. My teeth are crooked. I make mistakes. I know what I know, I love what I love, and I stand up for what I believe in. I'm 40. And I don't give a damn.

Can I get a booyah?

26 August 2010

Things That Are True - The Unexpected Breaking of My Heart

For every time The Imp makes me all look-up-at-the-sky-and-shake-my-fisty, there are several times he makes me all ok-now-you've-just-done/said-the-SWEETEST-thing.

This morning as we were driving to daycare, I reminded The Imp that we were going to give some of his baby stuff to friends who are expecting.

The Imp: [names redacted] having a baby?
Me: Yes, they're having a baby girl, and we're going to give the baby some of your old things you don't use anymore.
The Imp: Booster seat and stroller?
Me (pleased that he remembered, and that he doesn't seem to mind giving his things away): That's right! We're going to give the baby girl your old booster seat and stroller.
The Imp: Wanna see the baby girl.
Me: We can't see the baby girl yet, she's still growing inside her mommy's tummy. We'll be able to see her soon. You can be like her big brother!

The Imp, thinking....
The Imp: Wanna read books to the baby.

Pause, as I gulp back sudden sobs.

Me: I'm sure the baby girl would love to have you read her books.

And just like that, my heart breaks wide open. The plan was always that The Imp is 1 of 1. He'll never have a sibling, and suddenly that's killing me.

20 August 2010

Things That Are Surprising - Friday Confession: Dishes

A couple of days ago, The Imp was being most helpful in the kitchen when we got home, taking groceries one by one out of the bags and handing them to me to put away. When that was done, we moved on to other tasks. He was very excited to carefully take each dish out of the dishwasher and put it on the counter for Mommy to put away. I was in a blissful state, enjoying this quiet, cooperative time with my little boy, and feeling more than a little mama pride at how happy he was to be so helpful. It's possible I wasn't paying quite as much attention as I should have been to what was happening to each dish between dishwasher and countertop. With ninety percent of the dishes out of the dishwasher and the job almost complete, I noticed that The Imp was carefully, so carefully, licking each dish before he put it on the counter.


I put them away anyway. I just couldn't face the job of remembering which dishes would need rewashing. And then rewashing them. And then rewashing everything else too because I wouldn't want to miss one. So I just sang "Lalalalalalalalala" to myself and firmly closed the cupboard doors, and went and read stories to The Imp before dinner.

Don't tell HWSNBN.

Wanna come for dinner?

17 August 2010

Things That Are True - Why I Write Here

As I mentioned in my last post, I've been thinking a fair amount about why I blog. I've attended blogging events, learned a lot about what blogging means to other people, and wrestled with what blogging means to me. I've considered going the route of seeking PR pitches, doing giveaways and reviewing products in this space. Who doesn't want free goodies? I've read with some envy about blogger-freebie events that others have been invited to. Who doesn't want a free trip or spa day? I've thought about what it would take to really promote my blog as a brand, and I've struggled with posting regularly enough to build traffic and be considered for that kind of attention.

But here's the thing - it's just not me.

I write because I can't not write. I don't write often, and often I don't write well, but I can't not write.

For as long as I can remember, I've been a letter writer and a journal keeper, with the same sort of sporadic output as I've had here on my blog so far. I have boxes of old notebooks filled with no doubt mortifying-to-almost-40-year-old-me rants, raves, and anguish filled entries about boys (later men), school (later work), goals, to-do-lists, and passions, however transitory.

Me, Grade 8. Also transitory: fashion.

Those notebooks are the repository of my dreams, however ridiculous, unrealistic, or embarrassing they might be. In rereading some of them, I'm shocked at what 17 year old me had to say about homosexuality, amused by what 22 year old me thought was important in a guy, and embarrassed at the depths of wisdom I spouted about turning a whole quarter of a century old. (Depths so shallow you'd crack your skull open if you tried to dive in.)

But I meant those words at the time. Meant them fervently.

As fervently as I now wish I'd never owned that shirt. Me at 17.

As I get older I tend to forget that I haven't always looked at the world the way I do now. I forget how desperately in love I was with that guy in highschool, the one who didn't know I existed. (And who now, frankly, I'd be embarrassed to be seen with. Facebook can be very good for affirming your life's choices. Yikes.) And it's easy to forget how extraordinarily important little moments can be, both good and bad. Things I don't even remember now that rocked me to my knees as they were happening.

Me at 24. It seems I never did quite get the hang of a hairdo. Also: really? Tie-dye?

Now, as a parent, I'm glad I still have this written record of the passions, angst, and injustices of my childhood, teen, and early adult years. I hope it will remind me, as The Imp grows in and out of the various stages of life, that perception is fluid, that perspectives change, and that yes, he does truly, achingly feel like missing that party will literally end any chance at happiness for the rest of his life. I hope I can look at those snapshots of my younger-self feelings and, after chuckling to myself, still be respectful of his. He's a lot like me; I'm sure his passions will be just as fiery as mine were - and still are. No matter how embarrassing they might be.

But here's another thing: not all of them are embarrassing. I can remember writing several times from the age of about 15 until as recently as my early thirties about how I wanted to get a good camera and learn to take proper pictures instead of unsatisfactory snapshots. It's a recurring theme in my notes to myself. And while I certainly wouldn't call myself a photographer, this space, this very public yet somehow very intimate space, has allowed me to start another blog, filled with photographs I have taken myself.

I also wrote repeatedly and with great longing about wanting to sing, and to learn to play guitar, and to write songs. All of which I've done. Maybe not well, maybe not often, but I've done them. Every night at bedtime, The Imp and I sing our goodnight song, a little tune that came to me in the hazy hours of mid-night breastfeeding. I wrote that, and The Imp asks for it every night.

And the photography and the music, and the writing, oh the writing, have been my solace.

The sleepless night of a highschool broken heart has been replaced by the sleepless night of a feverish toddler. The teenage angst about a boy has been replaced by the complicated business of being married to a man. The goals (go to Paris, buy a guitar, get a job) have been replaced by different goals (go to Paris again, buy another guitar, start my own business). But the writing remains.

And when I can put aside the business of life to post here, I will. And I hope you'll come back to read once in a while.

The schedule: sporadic.
The posts: honest, as real as my limited skill can make them, and probably embarrassing to my 60-year-old self.
Also: there will be swearing.

And so be it.

Me at almost 40, and finally comfortable with who I am.