This is where I am now.

It’s been a year since I posted that last entry.  If you came here wanting an update on all things personal, here goes:

Alice is almost seven, Henry is almost two, Matt has been married to me for almost ten years, and I am almost entirely sick of writing blog posts.  Almost.  My household is a mad rush of diapers, snowpants, toy trains, puppets, laundry, dishes, and bad reality tv.  Lather, rinse, repeat.  But things are good.  I grew tired of this blog, and decided a few months ago that I wanted to do a book-only blog.

So I did so – 8 months ago.  I wrote my first post and then apparently decided “oh well, that’s enough for now.”

I’ve returned to it recently though, and plan on trying to stick with it.  The book thing really enriched my life a few years ago with a 50 book challenge.

From now on you can find me over there at: http://thebooktable.wordpress.com/

I hope you come visit!

K

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why I need friends to survive the winter

The space between my blog posts is getting larger and larger.  Oh blawgh, you are kind of boring me.

So the post-holiday suckage has set in, and I have been trapped in the house with a teething baby.   The frigid temperatures have meant I have spent many a day alternating Henry between his different “stations” around the house to pass the time as quickly as possible.  There is the “feeding station” (in the feeding chair), the “exersaucer station”, the “jumpy thing” station”, and I think you get the picture.  Of course, all Henry wants to do is move move move around the room.  He has mastered the butt-scoot and is now wrecking havoc on my life with all of this mobility.  Crap child, why learn to move?  Why not be thankful for a half hour in the exersaucer and leave it at that?  Meh.

Despite my moping around, however, I have managed to get some cherished time in with some of my most cherished friends.  Including this one and that one.  A lot of the time, these dates include beer, pizza, and much venting and eye rolling.  And sometimes, these dates are also caught on film.  Like below.

There are things about this video that I just love – like Nadine’s voice when she says “oh sure!” when Alice asks her to make up a contest, my daughter’s crossing of her arms over her chest when she is listening to Nadine’s plan, Nate’s obvious interest in something else entirely, and my ridiculously witchy giggle when Nadine tells them to lie down.  But mostly I love it because it will always remind me of a snowy day in January when two friends ordered beer and pizza to make it through another dinner hour together.

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She did not go gently into that good night

As it is with any pregnancy, things get forgotten and put off for later. Taxes to be filed, letters to be sent, emails to be returned, blog posts to be written.  I am guilty of much of this – I am only now finding post it notes stuck to the top of the fridge reminding me to schedule Alice’s eye appointment.  Six months ago. 

Last Christmas season, when I was big and uncomfortable with a giant baby Henry inside me, my maternal grandmother died.  It was not unexpected, as she was well into her 90s and had been ill for some weeks preceding her death.  But still, a loss felt deeply across a large extended family on my mother`s side.   And now, a year later, I am reminded that I never wrote a blog post about her death.   I definitely meant to, and even had a draft going.  But, as it goes in a house preparing for a new baby, that post went the way of appointment reminders and thank you cards.  So it is now, a year later, that she is in my thoughts as we prepare for a holiday season without her.

She was known as “Doll” to her grandchildren (and even most of her children).  And she was all kinds of outrageous at times. She was not the typical grandmother who scooped you up and cuddled you for hours.  She didn’t knit you a sweater and make you a hot cup of cocoa and whisper wisdoms in your ear.  She could even sometimes be too abrupt and a little (dare I say it) mean.  She had opinions about the world and she wanted you to know that.

But she did teach you how to play piano, as well as a good game of cards. She laughed loudly at your stories and encouraged you to dance at family parties (of which there were many). She was a woman who loved a good, old fashioned, family sing-a-long.

It’s true, she could be fierce.  But it was a fierceness blanketed with love and strength.   If anything, Doll taught me to be open with my opinions, and to not shut my mouth when someone else said something I didn’t like.   I come from a long line of opinionated women, and I am proud of that lineage.  We are women who have many neuroses and anxieties and even depressions, but try to keep us quiet and submissive? We will come at you with both fists fighting.

It was in my later years, after I was an adult, that I came to know Doll better.  During the summer after Alice was born, I spent a month up north at my parents’ place.  Trying to get some sleep, and trying to come to terms with the fact that this tiny little person now depended on me. Doll was also spending a few weeks there, and so 4 generations of women in my family (Doll, my mother, my daughter, and I) had the opportunity to spend hours of uninterrupted time together.  I was touched and amazed by the way Doll was with my new daughter.  Every morning she ask how my night went with the baby, and told me stories of her own babies and their sleeplessness. Alice adored her, and would reach for her all the time.  Doll would bounce her on her knee and coo and make her laugh.  And in those moments, I saw the woman who mothered five children, survived the Depression, lost her husband 20 years earlier, and always always did not go “gently” into any night.

I only wish she had lived long enough to meet Henry.  He is just the sort of mushy gooey giggly baby boy that she would have loved, or so I like to think.  I like to also think somewhere in her passing from this world that she passed Henry on the way in.  And, after telling him he “had a good shaped head” (inside family joke here), she wrapped him in her memories and love, and passed him onto me. 

I will end this with a song, as she would.  This was one of her favourites, and has special meaning in my family. Click on the video below – it really is a present to my mom and her siblings on this first Christmas season without their mom.  Because everybody needs a little bit of their mom on Christmas.  Even those who are grown and have grandchildren of their own.

Merry Christmas Doll.

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I’m a sucker for your lucky pretty eyes

 

So yes.  Have not posted.  Three months now. 

Things are fine.  We didn’t die a slow and painful death due to the basement from hell this summer.  Nor did we end up moving up north.  We did, however, endure a very fussy and non-sleeping baby.  In fact, there have been so many many times I almost started posts with titles like “Henry, WTF?” and “SOS SOS SOS” as I think I went to crazy and back there a few times.  But I got so sick of hearing myself say the same thing over and over:  “He isn’t sleeping!  I don’t know why!”  And trying to figure out the reason why he wasn’t sleeping, and when he would possibly sleep again.  Because, in the words of my sage friend Nadine – he’s a baby.  He cries.  He doesn’t sleep sometimes.  That’s it. Some days are bad and some days are good.  I need to remind myself of that mantra at 3AM when the screaming hits the fan and I’m swearing at the baby.   Easier said than done, I know.  But somehow I must try to let it go.

And so, in the interest of calming down, I have also been taking some time to get out of the blogging mix.  Mostly it’s because I am lazy, but there is also a small part of me that has almost been physically unable to type out my complaints.  Somehow, I want to try to savour the goodness in this year.  This second maternity leave that is really a working leave.  This second baby who has to be content with spinning around in his saucer while mommy takes a conference call.  And to also remember my first baby.  The tall, gangly, chatty, energetic, smarty-pants 5-and-a-half-and-don’t-you-forget-it girl.  These children, they take up so much space in my life now.   Sometimes I get so overwhelmed by the constant busy-ness of it all, I just want to crawl inside a deep deep bag and sleep the days away.  But then I see my two kids making each other giggle and I breathe again.

We’ve been trying to teach Alice about gratitude these days, and it’s not an easy lesson to impart.  It’s difficult to even describe how to “feel thankful” in some ways.  But it’s important.  And so I need to remind myself of the same.

OK, new posts to come soon.  Without all the preachy bullshit, I swear.  It’s time to get happy up in here!

PS:  A prize awaits the person who knows the song that the title of this post comes from, with extra points if you can guess why it’s become an anthem around these parts.  A PRIZE!

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reprieve from the (shit) storm

Years ago, I owned these shoes that were so beyond repair that Matt used to call them my “broke down palace” shoes.  “Oh no,” he’d moan, when he saw me putting them on, “please not the broke down palace again.”  He was sick of hearing me whine about the pain the broken shoes caused me, and I was so reluctant to let them go.  “but I LOVE them” I’d say.  “But they’re BROKEN” he’d retort. 

Since then, anything broken, defective,  malfunctioning or damaged in our lives is referred to as “broke down palace.”  Like the toe I busted a few weeks ago, smashing it on the side of our banister, causing me to show my little baby what mama means when she yells MOTHERFUCKER really loud.  Also, like our  car that chose to die its final death in the Loblaws parking lot recently – in the middle of a heat wave, with 2 screaming kids, bags of groceries, and one pissy husband, I might add.  And finally, like my basement, which became the ultimate broke down palace a few weeks ago when a giant rain storm ripped through Toronto.  The already crappy drains were pushed to their limit and let in a river of backed up sewage under the sub floor of our basement.  (You see? I’m not joking about the shit storm).   Once the plumber got in and took a look at what was going on down there, he very forcefully encouraged us to vacate the house immediately because of the risk of inhaling methane gas.  (note: these kinds of warnings do wonders to a panic-prone mother who immediately upon hearing said warning by the plumber will burst into tears because she is sure her new baby has now been damaged somehow by the days he spent breathing in methane gas.  She will proceed to pack up all of their belongings in 15 minutes and lay them all over the front lawn, giving the neighbours a good show in the meantime). 

And so, we hightailed it outta there, rented a car (remember, ours was broke down palace), and drove up north to my parents’ place.  It was decided that I would spend a week or so there with the kids while Matt returned to Toronto to “deal” with the basement (read: contact the proper people while also enjoying nights out with his friends).  Now, I’ll be the first to admit I am lucky:  my parents retired to a lovely little town called Southampton, just north west of Toronto.  It’s small and idyllic, and many many people cottage up there in the summer.   And while I tend to go a little crazy up there sometimes (the clean air, the niceness, the leisureliness of it all somehow can GET to someone after awhile), I was able to leave broke down palace life behind and see this every morning:

 

Nothing like a view of beauty to make you forget (for the time being) the river of poo at home. 

(full disclosure: this picture is not my own, but one taken from a public tourist site for Southampton.  I would have inserted my own picture, but alas the camera is also living the broke down palace life.  Of course).

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we interrupt this program…

…of dramatic sighs and shaking heads to bring you this cute baby:

Thanks for all of your comments on the below post.  I have much more to say about it (of course), but wanted to remember my joy in life today.  And he definitely is part of that.

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The nature of a unbalanced balance.

When I started this blog a few years ago, I had a hard time coming up with a title.   It was during the eye of my anxiety storm, a period in my life when I felt emotionally unbalanced and perhaps a little frail.  And so the idea of a playing on the word “unbalanced” life appealed to me.  Since then, my life has progressed a bit beyond the panic attacks (though I have accepted that anxiety will always be a part of my life) and into a new chapter of frantic parenting and general exhaustion.  The unbalanced nature of my life is now something entirely new.  That is to say: it’s not the anxiety that is kicking my ass anymore – it’s the constant struggle of my work/life/family balance.  It’s the elephant in the room each time Matt and I discuss who goes to work and who doesn’t.  It’s the age old, I-can’t-believe-we-are-still-discussing-this conversation of working moms everywhere: how come I work double duty?

When what has been dubbed “second wave” feminism found its wings in the 70s, the idea of “equal pay” and working moms was just being born.  The gains we have seen in the last 30 years surrounding the discourse of mothering and working have been substantial: it isn’t deemed taboo anymore to suggest a woman can have a career AND a family.  And that’s no small feat.  Changing the general attitudes about women who work outside the home was certainly a win for feminism

But what we all soon discovered was that while it’s fine for mama to work from 9-5, she continues to come home to her second job each night.  Her second job that requires thankless invisible hours of work.   And I’m not just talking basic chores here, like laundry and dishes and bedtime stories and baths.  It’s the un-categorized work of searches for childcare, planning family outings, figuring out who is staying home when the baby is sick, sorting through the mail, making sure my 5 year old has a lunch for camp the next day, budgeting the family finances, buying presents for birthday parties, organizing play dates, etc etc. 

And don’t even get me started on breastfeeding.  I’m a card carrying b-feeder, it’s true.  But sweet Jesus, do I get frustrated with the fact that it’s another one of my responsibilities.  It’s something else only I can do.   I get frustrated when certain people say “oh, I think he’s hungry!” in that sing-song voice that tells me it’s my time to take over again.  And all I can think sometimes is “gee, that’s convenient for you, isn’t it?”

I have a great partner in parenting.  Matt is hands down, a hands-on parent.  Who is involved in the management of our household in more ways than many fathers and husbands are.  But while I am thankful for my team member, I still l feel like I’m the last one running in the relay race. The one who has to bring it all home for the team, and make up for any lost time.   And it’s not even Matt’s fault, really.  It’s both of us.  When Alice is sick, we BOTH assume that I would be the one who stays home.  When birthday party invites are given to Alice, it’s me who physically takes the invite to file away in my brain.  It’s my hand that reaches out first.  I need to hold back more, to let him hold out his hand perhaps.

When Matt and I were first living together, I was a fast and furious feminist card-carrying member.  I was fresh out of Women’s Studies and tutorials about creating equal spaces for women.  And so, when the reality of our domestic life slapped me in the face, (he never cleaned up, nor did his laundry back then), I did what I assumed was the logical thing:  I handed him an invoice.  For domestic work hours rendered while co-habiting.  And my argument was that if we were going to start sharing our money (and that was just around the corner), then I should receive a larger portion of what we called “free” money each week.  I was obviously doing more work, and so if there was a profit coming home it should go to me.

Of course, this was before I learned the fragile nuances of being in a relationship, and how best to communicate with your partner.  We had some wicked fights back then about who did what, and why I was pissed off that the the kitchen was a holy mess.  Again. 

Fast forward to current days, and we are much more of a partnership.  We respect what each other brings to the team, and the obvious domestic duties are far more equitable.  But it’s those invisible tasks that I mentioned before that drive me round the bend.   Why have I backed myself into this corner?  How have I changed my own attitudes of what was expected over the years?  Why is it my job that comes second when time is an issue?

I love my family, but GOD I need a break.

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