Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Tea for two

"And we should consider every day lost on which we have not danced at least once.
And we should call every truth false
which was not accompanied by at least one laugh."

Pip requests tea-parties on a daily basis. It has become a lovely ritual. Crazybaby goes down for her nap after lunch, and Pip and I prepare tea together as Mrs. Teafinger and Mrs. Hefflefinger. Pip was quite tired the other day when we sat down to tea. She poured the milk in our tea-cups but her elbow knocked her cup over as she reached for the sugar. Milk spilled all over the table and instantly, Pip's head fell into my lap and she began to whimper.

"Mrs. Teafinger," I heard myself say, "we don't cry over spilt milk." I started to laugh. I realized that I'd never before had an occasion to use the idiom so literally. Before I had recovered from my own private joke, I said to Pip, "Let me go get a TEA-towel to wipe the milk." How perfect is that??? A tea-towel!!!

Monday, June 29, 2009


"If there is a measure of good parenthood, it could be when your children exceed your own achievements."
Tom Haggai

While I was out of the house for a brief two hours yesterday, my daughter walked for the very first time. Where is the justice in that? I'm with Crazybaby 24/7, but it was Big Daddy-O she rewarded with her first steps.

It was kind of fitting that I was out watching my girlfriend's daughter perform at a local club called 'Joe's Garage.' Fifteen-year-old Kate, (who looks like a nineteen-year old fashion model,) was singing and strumming for a packed crowd of family, friends and industry people, while fifteen-month-old Crazybaby was at home performing for an audience of two: her dad and her sister. Tears flowed in both settings; Kate's family had a lot to be proud of, and I admit that I got a bit misty-eyed when I saw her embrace her Grandpa after her set. She's so young and talented, fearless and ambitious. It was inspiring to see her do her thing.

As I drove home I thought about my girls and wondered what surprises they had in store for us. Would one of them become a musician? What will they do that fills my husband and I with pride?

I arrived at home and witnessed Crazybaby's newest feat. Her face was one huge grin as she wobbled unsteadily toward me. I was bursting with pride just as my girlfriend had been with her daughter an hour earlier. This is how it all starts. Small. There will be so many of these moments between now and fifteen, and we'll be proud of every one of our daughters' achievements. And from what people tell me, it'll be over in the blink of an eye.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Grateful Women

"Separateness is sweet but connection with someone outside yourself is surely sweeter."
Judith Viorst

I had a conversation the other day with a lovely young mother who's struggling with the idea of going back to work in the fall after having been at home with her daughter for two years. I can relate. I'll be working part-time in the fall as well, but it's not my preference. If we could manage it financially, I'd continue to be with Pip and Crazybaby full-time.

The transition from being full-time caregiver to part or full-time career woman can't be easy; no matter when it happens. We're all different. We're all ready to go back to work at different times, and there is no 'right' time to return to the workplace, but I'm sure that we all agree that it's unfortunate when it happens before you're emotionally ready.

I didn't have a lot of advice for this woman. I have many of the same fears myself, so I just listened. I was honored that she felt comfortable enough to share with me, to express her emotions and be vulnerable. I'm not very close to this woman, but in that moment we were close. We work so hard to keep everything together all the time, and once in awhile we need a release. Sometimes it's safer to let go with someone who isn't a main character in your story.

In retrospect, it was a lovely moment. Not the pain, nor the fears, but that 'sisterhood' feeling that exists among women. Not only am I a grateful mama, but a grateful woman as well.

Thursday, June 25, 2009


"Smooth seas do not make skillful sailors."
African Proverb

Crazybaby had her 12 month immunizations yesterday. (She's actually 15 months old, but we're a bit behind schedule.) Her appointment was at 3:00 p.m., which should have worked perfectly with her nap schedule. Typically, she naps from lunchtime to 2:30. A solid two hours in the middle of the day. You can bet on Crazybaby's naps. You can set your watch to them. She's incredibly consistent. An excellent napper; Queen of the Kip. Until yesterday. Yesterday she fell asleep at 2:00 p.m. and had to be awoken at 2:35 p.m.. She was not a happy camper.

Crazybaby was crying before we even left the house. And she can cry. My baby definitely has some lung power. She calmed down a bit for the ten minute drive to our local Rec. Centre where the nurses were holding the immunization clinic. Usually we got to the Rec. Centre for 'Teeter-Tots,' or to play on the playground equipment, so Crazybaby's eyes sparkled when we initially got out of the car. She was anticipating some fun on the trampoline, crawling on the mats, perhaps a slide or two; definitely not four needles being jabbed into her arms.

When we entered the waiting room, Crazybaby took one look at the volunteer and launched into an impressive wail. (The 'wail' I'm referring to is more impressive than a cry, but less than a scream in its intensity.) I immediately dove into the diaper bag for her favourite books, her pacifier, her water-bottle, and finally her little 'Bob-the-Builder' toy, but she would have nothing to do with any of my sure-fire soothers. She continued to wail. And arch. And kick. The serious-looking volunteer pushed a box of tissues and a clipboard in my direction. There was a checklist of 12 month old descriptors that I was supposed to check before we could proceed with the shots. Not helpful. With my raging, squirming baby in my left arm & a pencil and clipboard in the right, I hastily checked all the boxes.

At this point I was almost ready to throw in the towel. I mean, how many babies are red-faced and tear-stained before they're even in the same room as the needles? I wondered if I should postpone the shots and wait for a day when Crazybaby was well-rested. As I was pondering this, the nurse arrived and ushered us into another office where the four needles were awaiting Crazybaby's pudgy little arms.

I'm not going to break down the next ten minutes for you. If you have kids and you believe in immunizing them, you know what it's like. Of note is the fact that Crazybaby screamed so loud, one Rec. Centre employee had to leave her office. She couldn't stand to hear her scream.

Fifteen minutes after the injections, we were on our way home and Crazybaby was still breathing in the way that kids breathe after they've had a monumental cry. It's actually kind of a tender little sound because you know that the worst is over. When we got home all I wanted to do was snuggle with her and soothe her and kiss her puffy little eyelids. Crazybaby babbled to her sister and Grandma about the experience she'd had, and she broke into a pitiful little sob when my mom gave her an empathetic look. She was exhausted.

I should have guessed that on the one day it was important for Crazybaby to have a solid nap, she wouldn't. It's Murphy's Law. Or is it? Does it instead have something to do with the energy I put out when I have an agenda? Did I have some anxiety about the afternoon appointment? It's entirely possible. Whatever the case, I'm going to try to be more aware of my 'state' next time. I'm already not looking forward to next time.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009


"Desire nothing for yourself, which you do not desire for others."

When I traveled to India to volunteer in a little village school, I took as many school supplies as my back-pack could hold, and I made sure that I could carry seventeen packages of felt pens; one package for each student. When I first got to the home of my host Patrick, I met his two children, Sonny and Baby. Sonny was an eight-year-old boy and Baby, a three-year-old girl. I pulled out a package of felt pens for Sonny. He smiled, thanked me, and set them aside.
"Sonny," his father said, "don't you want to try out your new pens?" Sonny shook his head.
"Why not?" Patrick asked.
Sonny was silent. He seemed reluctant to say anything in front of me, so I turned my attention to Baby for a moment. He whispered something in his father's ear.

Patrick then told me that Sonny wanted to wait and share the pens with the rest of his classmates.

"Oh, Sonny, I brought a package for every student. Every one of your classmates will get their own package, so you can open yours now and use them!" I said.

Sonny shyly shook his head again and whispered something else in his father's ear. Apparently, Sonny wasn't convinced. He wouldn't open his felt pens until he had seen the alleged packages for his classmates.

I led Sonny over to my purple backpack and counted out sixteen packages of felt pens, all as colourful and new as the gift I had given him. His eyes lit up, he ran over to where he had placed his felt pens, and he proceeded to spend the next three hours playing with them. He drew with them, used them to make a magic 'trail' for me to follow, he made patterns with them on the floor, he used them as cars to drive around the house; I can't even remember all of the ways he used those precious pens, but it was obvious that he enjoyed them.

I had never encountered such a boy as Sonny. In all my years of teaching, I had never witnessed someone of his age care enough about his friends to delay the gratification of playing with a new gift. Even when we prompted him to dive in, he wanted proof that his classmates would be taken care of.

I would love to be able to instill that quality of selflessness in my girls. I wonder if it only exists in the hearts of those children who have very little. Perhaps my girls already have too much. Pip is quite happy to rip open birthday presents and Christmas presents, and she seems oblivious to every other child in the room at those times. She thanks people without prompting now, but it took a lot of, "What do you say to Grandma?"'s for that to happen, whereas it seemed like such an innate quality of Sonny's.

Thinking about Sonny, (who must be about twenty-two years old now,) has inspired me; perhaps we should adopt a household mantra, 'think of others before ourselves.' I like it. I like the idea of family-mantras too. Thanks, Sonny, wherever you are. I wish I could meet you as a young man and tell you what an impact you had on me. I wish my girls could meet you too. Who knows...maybe they will someday.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009


"Possessions are usually diminished by possession."

The weather has been beautiful lately and the girls have been spending a lot of time outdoors. We've visited the homes of friends and relatives who have a host of exciting outdoor playthings: tunnels and slides and rocking horses and a even a full-blown playground.

I was sitting in our back yard the other day with Pip and Crazybaby and I caught myself thinking, "We should have more 'stuff' for the kids to play with." I couldn't believe the thought actually crossed my mind! I'm not a materialistic person and I certainly don't want my daughters thinking that they need the latest, greatest toys in order to have fun. I want them to be able to use their imaginations to enjoy themselves regardless of where they are or what they have. My fondest memories playing as a kid were on the beach, building forts out of driftwood and shells and moss! More stuff? What was I thinking?

I was thinking what a lot of parents think; we want to give our kids everything. Forgive me for stating the obvious, but the best things we can give our kids are not made in China, they're absolutely free. Time, attention, love, respect; we can all afford to give these gifts to our kids.

I watched Pip take her little watering can over to our rain-barrel and fill it up. She walked around the yard and watered some dandelions, roses and buttercups. Who needs stuff, when you've got dandelions?

Monday, June 22, 2009


"Misery loves company."
John Ray

When Pip was a newborn she consistently had an incredibly fussy period at around 5:00 pm. All I had to compare our daughter with was my niece, who was an angel-baby, and friends of ours who also had an angel-baby a few months older than Pip. They all looked on in horror whenever Pip started wailing for no apparent reason. Their babies didn't wail. They squeaked when hungry. My sister actually used to clap with excitement when she heard her daughter wake-up from a nap! (Like I told you, angel-baby.) You can imagine my delight when I read in one of my books that it was quite common for babies to fuss in the early evening and that parents all over the world went through the same exasperating nightly routine. My husband and I felt so comforted!!!

So the phrase, 'Misery loves company,' holds some truth. When you've hit a rough patch, it does feel good to know that you're not alone, but you don't want to marinate in commiseration. Why dwell on the negative? I remember my cousin telling me that it only takes 17 seconds to change your frequency, and I for one would rather be sending out positive energy than negative.

My blog posts reflect this philosophy, and I hope I don't alienate readers by focusing on the positive aspects of motherhood. A friend of mine recently said that when she's having a bad day, it makes her feel even worse to read about someone who is loving motherhood. It certainly isn't my intent to make women feel crummy. My intent is to make you smile, to make you think, and to remind you that there are other mothers out here experiencing the same mothering moments that you are. Some moments are blissful and some are challenging. We can't change the moment, but we can change how we perceive the moment, and perception is everything.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Changing numbers

"Wrinkles should merely indicate where smiles have been."
 Mark Twain

Instead of asking me how old I was on my birthday, Pip asked,"What's your number, Mama?"
"I'm a 4 and another 4, Pip, I'm fourty-four."  As I held up my hands to show Pip four fingers on each hand I took note of the wrinkly, crepe-like skin around my knuckles.
"We're all changing numbers, Mama."
"Yes we are, Sweetie."

It's interesting being an older mother.  Most of the women I see regularly, who have children the same age as mine, are at least five years my junior.  My niece is just a teenager and she recently gave birth to a beautiful baby boy.  I've always viewed my 'advanced-maternal-age,' (yes-those words were actually written on the top of one of my medical files,)  very positively.  I lived such a full life before having children; I traveled extensively, enjoyed a successful career, pursued many interests, and got to know myself pretty well.  I feel much better equipped to be a mother now than I did when I was nineteen. 

This birthday, however, there was a moment when I found myself envying my youthful niece.  Not because she will have more energy as a young mom, nor because she might weather the sleepless nights better than I did.  It's the simple fact that, if we're all fortunate enough to expire due to old age,  my niece stands to witness twenty more years of her son's life than I can hope to see of my daughters' lives.  Twenty years!  Imagine all the living that Pip and Crazybaby will do in twenty years!

 I didn't allow my mind to linger upon that thought, and neither did my dear friend Valda.  She is in her eighties and she calls me every year on my birthday.  It's the same date as her wedding anniversary.  "How old are you now, Karen?" Valda asked.
"I'm fourty-four."  I didn't hold my fingers up this time.
"Oh my goodness!"
"I know, Valda," I sighed, "I'm starting to get up there."
"Oh no Karen, not at all!  You're so young!  Gosh, at fourty-four, I was just getting my second wind!"
Bless you, Valda.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

My Birthday Morning

"Let us celebrate the occasion with wine and sweet words." 
- Plautus

It was my birthday on Tuesday, and Pip was the first person to wish me a 'Happy Birthday.'  She climbed into bed with me and said, "Mama, you're a very big girl now and I'm going to give you a special book for your birthday."  She then handed me the library book that was on my bedside table.  "Here you go, Big Girl," she said. 

Pip is very gentle.  Ever since she learned the word, "caress," she's been giving us lovely little face caresses; I melt every time she takes my face in her wee little hands and gently runs her fingers from my temples to my chin.  It's so terribly tender.  She gave me one of her signature caresses before we got out of bed, and she once again whispered, "Happy Birthday, Mama," with an old-soul smile.

I remember much about birthdays past; fun parties, great friends, family gatherings, intimate dinners...but I don't recall a finer birthday-morning-greeting.  Thank you, Pip.  


Wednesday, June 17, 2009


If there is one place on the face of earth where all the dreams of living men have found a home from the very earliest days when man began the dream of existence, it is India.

Romain Rolland 

In 1994 I met a man whose brother, Patrick, lived in India and ran a small English school.  I started corresponding with Patrick with the hope that I could volunteer in his little school.  His first letter was discouraging; he said that Westerners found his way of life very challenging, particularly the lack of privacy.  I wasn't sure exactly what he meant, but it didn't sound too bad!  Teaching in a small village in India was the opportunity of a lifetime, so I kept writing to Patrick until he finally invited me to stay with him and his family in Jejuri.

I remember waking up my first morning in Patrick's home in India.  Eight of us had slept in one room and I had been given the only bed.  I woke up in the centre of the room, with the family bustling around me, involved in their morning routines.  The doorway to the street was on my left and as I rolled over I saw the faces of eight or nine village kids staring at me.  They had been waiting anxiously to see their first Caucasian woman.  I rolled out of bed and began to unzip my backpack, which prompted Patrick's two kids, Sonny and Baby, to come and see what mysteries the great purple bag held.  The little entourage of street kids grew brave, and as I searched around for my toiletry kit, I had an audience of a dozen children.

This is what Patrick had meant by lack of privacy.  I was never alone.  My every move was of such interest to people, that I was always being studied very closely.  Even when I used the bathroom, Patrick's 'maid' Anundi would often be washing the laundry in the same room.  Once, as I was squatting, Anundi started saying something in Mahrati, then she came over to me and lifted up the back of my skirt so that it wouldn't get soiled!!!   I couldn't even go for a walk by myself, so I escaped by plugging into my Walkman for a few songs a day, just to preserve my sanity.  

I realize now that my India experience foreshadowed my life as a mother.  My daughters are always intensely interested in what I'm doing, and their favourite place is to be right by my side.  They're not yet content to just 'play' on their own.  I try to sneak away to the bathroom for a little privacy, but Pip or Crazybaby always find me and "keep me company."  Because Pip likes companionship when she uses the bathroom, she thinks everyone must feel the same way.  Once, when Crazybaby was napping, I said to Pip, "Mama needs a little privacy, honey, could you please close the bathroom door?"  
"Sure, Mama," Pip said.  She stood just outside the door and proceeded to open it every thirty seconds to ask, "Are you done yet, Mama?"

It's fortunate that this lack-of-privacy phenomenon has happened gradually.  It seems like a normal part of my life now.  Surprisingly enough, I don't seem to mind it at all. 

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

When I Have Fears

"You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face."
Eleanor Roosevelt.

I underestimated the power of a single bee-sting.  Pip will never be the same.  Once upon a time she scampered happily along forest trails, ran barefoot on the grass, calmly observed busy bees collecting nectar, and she slept without a night-light.   Now she screams when she even hears a bee, she finds forest walks terrifying, and she want the door to her bedroom left wide open at night to let in as much light as possible.  That one little bee has changed her life.

I understand why her world has been turned upside-down.  Up until the bee-sting, pretty much everything in her world was well-ordered.  She had experienced physical pain before, but it was always logical, and often predictable: she tripped and fell on the cement, so her knee got scraped.  It was time for her vaccination, and her arm stung from the needle.  She had a bad cold, and her throat was sore.  Pip could make sense of her pain.  

The bee-sting, however, made no sense whatsoever.  There she was, merrily frolicking on a lovely forest trail, completely minding her own business when a strange insect injected himself into her forehead to produce the most intense sting of Pip's young life!  It was a completely unanticipated, random event.  So now, Pip doesn't know what to expect next!  She's a nervous wreck!

Well, maybe I'm exaggerating a little.  She's still enjoying life, but now she has moments of extreme anxiety, whereas her 'pre-sting'  world was a much safer place.  Last night she woke up saying that beetles were crawling on her arms.  We had to change her bed-sheet because it was patterned with leaves and vines and she thought there were bugs crawling on them.   When we go for walks now, I have to make a public announcement to all of the bees: "Attention all Bees, please leave Pip alone today.  If you're in the mood for stinging, please come and sting me, I can take it.  And while you're listening, please leave Crazybaby alone too.  Thank you, Bees and have a nice day," and Pip repeats,
"Thank you Bees."   

If I'm tempted to trivialize this experience of Pip's, this shift in the way her world works, I need only look at my own life.  When have I questioned the way the Universe was unfolding?  When have I felt that life wasn't fair?   I have no shortage of examples.  I suspect none of us do.

So I'll treat Pip's fears with the respect they deserve, and I'll do whatever I can to help her face them.   I have to admit, though, that when we head out for our walk and I find myself saying, 'Thank you, Bees,' what I'm really thinking is, 'Damn you Bees!' 

Monday, June 15, 2009

The Family Bed

"Oh sleep! it is a gentle thing,
Beloved from pole to pole,"
Samuel Taylor Colerige

Pip had her first nightmare last night.  It was shocking.  I had no idea she could scream that loud.  My husband reached her first and she was looking, in horror, at the decorative butterflies on her wall.  He picked her up and tried to comfort her, "They're not real honey, they won't hurt you.  You've just had a bad dream.  Mama and I are right here."   

Pip eventually calmed down and my husband passed her over to me.  After a cuddle, I tried to put her down on her bed and she started to panic: crying, legs kicking, arms locked around my neck, that sort of thing.  I climbed into her bed, with her lying on top of me, and tried to convince her that there was nothing to be afraid of.  She was holding on to me for dear life, and I could feel her heart pounding against my chest.

After a few minutes I tried to shift my body out from under her in an attempt to leave her bed, but she wouldn't let me go.  "Mama, I don't want to stay in this bed."  Pip's eyes were wide open and she was absolutely terrified.  I had never seen her in this state, and I couldn't leave her side.  I snuggled in for the long haul.
"I won't leave you, Pip."

As soon as she realized that I wasn't going anywhere she relaxed.  Within minutes her eyes were closed and her breathing grew heavy.  It was quite lovely.  Pip slept with my right arm around her and my left arm clasped between her two hands. 

I have strong opinions about kids and sleep.  I don't believe in 'the family bed.'  I think that we do kids a disservice if we don't encourage them to fall asleep on their own, in their own beds (or cribs.)  It's an incredibly important skill to learn, and if they don't learn it as babies, when are they going to start sleeping independently?  The Baby Whisperer wisely says, "Start as you mean to go on," and for the most part, that's what we've tried to do.  

I'm the first to admit that there is nothing as precious as feeling your baby asleep on your chest.  It's absolutely divine!  I slept with my babies in the hospital, I napped with Pip for many months, and I do love sleeping with my girls, I  just don't think it's the healthiest choice for children in the long-run.

Still, I cherished last night.  My philosophy hasn't changed; I will continue to encourage Pip to sleep on her own, but sleeping in each other's arms last night was a little piece of heaven.

Friday, June 12, 2009

The most important relationship

"The most important thing a father can do for his children 
is to love their mother."  
Rev. Theodore Hesburgh.

In one of the books I read when I was pregnant with Pip, there was an entire chapter about the most important relationship in the family being the relationship between husband and wife.  It's vital for children to see their parents being affectionate toward each other because it creates stability.  It makes children feel safe to know that their parents have a strong, loving bond.  The book suggested that parents should not wait for kids to be in bed to spend 'adult time' together, because kids need to witness the importance parents place on their partnership.  The relationship you have with your spouse provides a model for all future relationships your children will form; romantic and otherwise.  (No pressure there.)

I remember reading the chapter aloud to my husband before Pip was born, and we talked about making time for each other.  Our goal was that, when he came home from work, we would spend the first half-hour just sitting on the couch talking to each other.  We imagined that our child (or children) would still be near us, but we'd sit side-by-side and make a conscious effort to really check-in with each other, perhaps even hold hands and have adult conversation.  

It was a lofty goal.  Actually, we were doing pretty well for the first three weeks of Pip's life when she did nothing but sleep, but since then our blissful 'together-time' has occurred mostly when the girls are in bed.

Recently Crazybaby has become extremely attached to her father.  When he walks in the door after work she cries, "Daaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa!" and the only thing on her mind is climbing into her father's arms.  He has a hard time even washing his hands before she starts crying because she can't bear to be apart from him for another minute.

Pip yells, "Daddy, Daddy" and runs over to Big Daddy-O as well, so my husband is bombarded with his little fan club the moment he walks in the door.  How can I possibly play first-fiddle in this scenario?  My husband and I religiously greet each other with a meaningful hug and a peck-of-a kiss, but we certainly don't enjoy thirty minutes of adult conversation while holding hands on the couch!  It's family time;  the couch is host to a wrestling match of sorts with Pip and Crazybaby crawling all over Big Daddy-O as we attempt to de-brief about our days.

It's a beautiful time.  I'm not going to try to change it.  As long as my husband and I are aware of the importance of our relationship, as long as we're generous with our love and affection toward each other, we'll all be just fine.  (Happy Birthday Big Daddy-O!)

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Hear this!

"Most of the successful people I've known 
are the ones who do more listening than talking."
Bernard M. Baruch

Pip has started saying, "Hear this," before she says something of import.  I love it.  It's a perfect companion phrase to, "Watch this," which is an extremely common request these days, and it's less cumbersome than, "Listen to this."  Whenever she says it, I picture some old English gentleman preparing to read a proclamation to the township.   It promises such importance.  I may start using it myself.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Name that Goose

"The purpose of learning is growth, and our minds, unlike our bodies, can continue growing as we continue to live."
Mortimer Adler

I'm amazed at Pip's mind.  Not just how quickly her vocabulary is expanding or how marvelously she picks up new concepts, but also her memory.  More specifically, her memory compared to my memory.

Case in point: Mother Goose songs.  Every week when we attend our Mother Goose session, we learn a few new songs.  The facilitators are very wise in their instruction because they break the song down line by line, then they repeat the whole song several times 'for the children.'  

Now, I consider myself to be quite musical.  I've taken oodles of formal music lessons, played instruments since I was ten, written my own songs, performed in loads of musicals, yet thirty minutes after learning the new Goose songs, they have vacated my brain.  Pip, on the other hand, remembers both the lyrics and melodies!  "What was the one about the mouse?" I'll ask, and Pip will launch into the song without hesitation, complete with hand gestures.

It's astonishing to me!  Was my mind ever that good?  Is my advanced-maternal-age to blame?  How many brain cells did I actually lose during my pregnancies?   Pip is a bit of a studier, and I have noticed that she'll often just watch and listen to the new songs being performed instead of actually joining in.  Perhaps I should try that next time.  All I know is that I am humbled by my three-year-old's brain, and I sincerely hope that her mind outperforms mine at every turn.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

It hurts

"Making the decision to have a child is momentous.  It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body."
Elizabeth Stone

Pip and I were walking together in the forest when I noticed that her hand was covering her forehead.  "Are you hot Sweetie?"
"No, Mama.  I'm okay."
"Why do you have your hand on your forehead?"
"It's so that I won't get another bee-sting."

We were walking in the same area Pip had been stung last week.  Apparently, she thought that her forehead was the only sting-worthy site on her body.  I didn't want to alarm her, but I also didn't want her to have to cover her forehead every time she walked outside.  "Sweetie, bees can actually sting any part of your body."  Pip was silent for a moment.  The hand remained on her forehead.

"Mama, if you hold my hand, you can protect me from the bees."

I took her hand in mine.  I didn't have the heart to tell her that I couldn't protect her from future bee-stings.  Perhaps it was because I just wanted her to enjoy the walk, or perhaps it was because I truly do want to protect her.  From everything.  I know it's irrational, but I don't want her to hurt.  I don't want her to worry.  I want her little world to be beautiful.  And it is.  

It's a strange new feeling though, this profound love mixed with helplessness.  I brought my babies into the world because I believe in it; I believe the world is a beautiful place and that the human experience is worth having.  At the same time, all of the evils of humankind seem to be highlighted to me now that I have children.  I imagine future talks about 'stranger-danger,' and 'appropriate and inappropriate touching.'  I imagine my girls learning of all of the inhumanity in the world  and it saddens me. 

So this is one of my many personal challenges:  to focus on the beauty, focus on the love, focus on the here and now.  All we have for sure is this moment, and right now, in this moment I'll gladly be the fearless bee-protector.  

Monday, June 8, 2009

I'll have what she's having

"Loving a sister is an unconditional narcissistic and complicated devotion
that approximates a Mother's love. Sisters are inescapably connected, shaped by the same two parents,
the same trove of memory and experience."
~Roxanne Brown~

For many months, Pip was only mildly interested in Crazybaby.  That has started to change and she is often entertained by her sister these days, but if there's someone else around to play with, Pip gravitates toward other kids; she doesn't pay much attention to Crazybaby.   

Recently, our friend Ella, who is just five months older than Pip, and her baby brother came over for a visit.   I assumed that the two 'big girls' would play together and the babies would crawl around and babble at each other, but Ella wanted to play with Crazybaby!  She touched her hands, kissed her face, rubbed her fuzzy head and tried to make her laugh.  

Pip examined the situation with great interest.  She seemed astonished that Ella was finding Crazybaby so enjoyable.  What did Pip do?  She started to play with her little sister too!  With Ella on one side of her and Pip on the other, Crazybaby was elated!  She basked in the attention, and the three-year-olds had a lovely time as well.

I suppose it's human nature to want what others want, but isn't it intriguing when you want something that you didn't have the slightest bit of interest in initially,  but it becomes appealing just because someone else wants it?  It'll be interesting when the objects of Pip's desire become mobile phones and too-short skirts, but for now, I'll simply enjoy the fact that Pip witnessed a friend of hers take pleasure in being with Crazybaby.    

Friday, June 5, 2009

My sister did it

"Pretty much all the honest truthtelling in the world is done by children."
Oliver Wendell Holmes

I thought that Pip was incapable of lying until a few days ago.  First came the baby-gate incident.  We're using the gate as a barrier to the stairway here at the beach-house, but it isn't attached to the wall.  My husband saw Pip shake the gate when Crazybaby was holding on to it, which made Crazybaby fall backward and bump her head.  Crazybaby started screaming, (I think she was more surprised than hurt,) and while Big Daddy-O comforted her, I held Pip, who was quietly sobbing.  "I think she feels badly," said my husband.

"What happened, Pip?" I asked.
"The gate shook," she cried.
"Did you shake it to get Crazybaby off?"
"No, the gate shook by it's own self."
"Pip, you must always tell Mama and Daddy the truth, no matter what happens.  Did you push the gate?"
"No mama."

Hmmm. What was our policy about lying?  Did Pip even know what lying was?  Had we ever discussed the concept of truth?  Later that day we had a talk.  "Pip, do you know what it means to tell the truth?"
"What, Mama?"
"It means that you tell us exactly how something happens.  You don't make up a story about it, you tell us what really happened.  It's called the truth.  When you make up a story that didn't really happen, then it's not true.  You can always tell us the truth about anything."
"Mama, I don't want to have these words anymore," my husband feels the same way when I launch into one of my, 'serious talks.'

I wasn't sure if she understood the concept of honesty, but the next day she provided me with yet another example of lying.  "Pip, did you move my book onto the floor?"  I wasn't at all angry, so she completely surprised me when she said,
"Crazybaby did it."
Crazybaby could not have gotten upstairs on her own, nor could she have retrieved my book from the middle of the king-sized bed.  I knew that Pip had been playing with it.  (Which begs the question, why did I even ask if she had done it?  But that's another blog post.)
"Pip, I just wanted to tell you that I'm borrowing the book from a friend and I have to take very good care of it, so I don't want you to play with it.  Now, please tell me the true story, did you move the book?"
"Yes, Mama, it was me.  I'm sorry Mama."
"You don't have to be sorry, Pip.  You didn't know that you weren't supposed to touch the book.  Thank you for telling me the truth though, Pip.  You made a very good choice," we fell into an easy hug.

Okay.  It was a positive outcome, but why was she so quick to blame her sister for something she did?  What was she trying to avoid?  Was she fearful of my response?  I try to be fair, not frightening.   I know that some kids are just more honest than others from my teaching days, and I want to raise a couple of honest ones!!!  

We give Pip a message every time she has a time-out, but she hasn't needed one in a long time, so I thought this was a good opportunity reinforce the same message.  "Pip, you know that Mommy and Daddy will always love you.  No matter what you do we will always love you.  We may not like the choices you make sometimes, but we always love YOU."

"I love you too, Mama."  I think she heard me,  but I won't be surprised if she experiments with the lying thing again.  I suppose all we can do is give her over-the-top, positive reinforcement when she tells the truth about things.  With any luck, this'll just be an experimental phase instead of a character trait.   

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Wide arms

"A parent's love is whole no matter how many times divided."
Robert Brault

I'm getting better at remaining calm when both of my girls are crying at the same time, but it's still frustrating.  When I was pregnant with Crazybaby I wondered how I was going to split my attention between two children, and a wise woman said to me, "You'll just have to open your arms a little wider."  I remembered her words the first time both Pip and Crazybaby wanted to be comforted at the same time.  I just said to Pip,
"Isn't it lucky that Mama has two arms to hold my two girls."  It worked; that time.

Yesterday I needed four arms.  We were walking back through the woods to the beach house after having a lovely time playing in a waterfront meadow, when Pip screamed.  She was frantically clutching her forehead and I immediately understood that she'd been stung by a wasp.  My first thought was that I hoped that she wasn't allergic.  It was her first bee-sting so I asked her if her throat was feeling funny.  She just kept crying, "Mama," and buried her head in my neck.  She didn't seem to be puffing-up anywhere, so with Crazybaby still in the backpack, I lifted Pip in my arms and started walking.  I was still about a ten minute walk from the beach house.  I tried to soothe Pip by telling her stories on the journey home, but she was inconsolable.  Crazybaby was so frightened from Pip's outburst that she had started crying too.

We made it out of the woods and back onto the beach where I negotiated logs and rocks with my wailing, fifty-three pound cargo.  The beach house was in sight, but the fun had just begun.  Once on the front lawn, I twisted my ankle and fell down on one knee.  Both girls fell silent.  I said, "Pip, I twisted my ankle and I'm going to try to stand up now, but I need to put you down.  You're going to be a brave girl for me."  And she was.  Gingerly, I put weight on my right foot and was relieved to discover that I could walk. 

Once we were all in the house I put Crazybaby down and her crying resumed.  It was past her nap time.  I had no baking soda in the house to try to relieve Pip's sting, so I got a cold cloth and put it on her forehead.  (Rule of thumb: when you have no idea what to do, apply a cold cloth.)  A new wave of tears poured out of Pip as I said that I was going to put Crazybaby down for her nap.  "No Mama!!!" she cried, clinging to my neck.  I glanced over at Crazybaby, sitting on the floor screaming.  What to do?  I turned on the television.  
"Pip, you'll just be on your own for a few minutes, and once Crazybaby is in her crib I will come down here to cuddle with you."
"Mama, don't go!!!"  Pip's face was beet red, except for the glowing white sting-site, tears were streaming down her face, her nose was running and her hands were clasped firmly around my neck.  I would have to forcefully pry her off of me if I was to go anywhere.  I couldn't do it.
I hauled Pip over to where Crazybaby baby was sitting, lifted her up with my other arm, and made it back to the couch with both girls crying full throttle.  

I have to say, this is the part of being a mother-of-two that I find agonizing!  Thank goodness it doesn't happen every day.  It's not just the stress of both girls being terrifically upset, it's the frustration of knowing exactly what each child needs but not being able to give it to them.

I tried once again to reason with Pip, "You have a choice, Honey: I have to go upstairs and put your sister down for her nap-"(keep in mind that Pip is repeatedly crying, 'Mama,' and Crazybaby is still sobbing with fatigue,) "you can either stay downstairs and watch a show for a few minutes, or you can come upstairs with us."  Tearfully, she chose to accompany us.  Once I had changed Crazybaby's diaper and started nursing her, Pip surprised me with, 
"Mama, I need a nap."  Here we go.  I walked, with Crazybaby still on my breast, down the hall to Pip's room, and squatted while I single-handedly helped her take off her clothes and put on a pull-up.  She snuggled into her bed.  Back in Crazybaby's room, (truthfully, it's a walk-in closet,) I finished nursing her and she quickly fell asleep.  

 It was suddenly very quiet in the house.  All I could hear was the sound of wavelets lapping against the shore.  What a difference ten minutes makes.    

I examined my throbbing ankle.  It didn't look swollen or bruised.  It was just sore.  I was exhausted.  The entire episode probably only lasted twenty minutes or so, but I felt soul-drained.  The tandem nap is a rarity these days, so I seized the opportunity, lay down on the king-sized bed and let the waves lull me into a soothing mid-day slumber.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009


"I get by with a little help from my friends."
John Lennon and Paul McCartney

I need your advice.  I'm entering my blog in a 'Parents Canada' magazine contest, and I can only submit one post.  Do you have a favourite 'Grateful Mama' post?  I feel too close to the content to choose objectively, so I'd really appreciate your feedback.  Don't put too much thought into it, just let me know if there's a post that stands out in your mind.  

If you haven't figured out how to leave a comment on my blog, (or you don't wish to share your thoughts with everyone,) feel free to email me at thegratefulmama@gmail.com.  

Now, I should apologize if you're disappointed with this post;  I realize that it's all business and no pleasure.  For your enjoyment, I'll leave you with a couple of  words that Pip has recently added to her vocabulary: 'nexterday'  and 'lasterday.'  Apparently 'yesterday' and 'tomorrow' weren't cutting it for her.  Makes sense to me.

Thank you for continuing to read my blog.  I'm soooooooooooo grateful that you're out there!

I hope you enjoy nexterday's post.  

Tuesday, June 2, 2009


"Comparisons are odious."
Robert Burton

One of Pip's girlfriends came over to visit last week and I was impressed with how independent this little girl was in the washroom.  Her mom had gone upstairs to change her baby sister when 2 1/2 year-old Mary said, "Karen, I have to pee."  I was expecting to have to help her get settled on the toilet, wipe her bottom, and help her to wash and dry her hands, but my services were not required!  I simply showed her to the bathroom and said,
"Mary, I'll give you some privacy and you call me when you're done."  The next thing I knew, she was back in the kitchen ready to resume eating her lunch!

I asked her mom about it when she came downstairs, "Oh yhea, she's been doing that forever."  Her daughter is a few months younger than Pip, who still likes company in the bathroom and needs help wiping her bottom and washing her hands.  I decided it was time for Pip to follow Mary's example.  We were going to begin Phase II of Pip's toilet training: Washroom Independence. 

Pip resisted.  She didn't want to wipe herself, so I did it.  What really got me is when she thanked me afterward.  "Mama, thank you for helping me."
"You're welcome, Sweetie."

Way back when we started toilet-training Pip, she seemed inspired when we'd mention that some of her friends weren't wearing diapers anymore.  "Really?" she'd say, "Bella doesn't wear diapers?  Well, I'm a big girl too."  

I'm not a fan of comparisons, I'm the girl who had the Desiderata poster on my dorm wall at University with Max Erhmann's wise words, 
"If you compare yourself with others, 
you may become vain or bitter, 
for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself."  

Nevertheless, I decided to use the comparison tactic at the sink: "But Mama, I like it when you wash my hands."
"I know Sweetie, but if you go to pre-school in September you'll have to be able to wash your hands by yourself like all of the other kids.  Mary washes her hands by herself."  I didn't even like the way it sounded once it was out of my mouth.  Still, I continued, "Try drying your hands by yourself, Pip."
"Mama, I can't."
"Please try."  She took the towel, wiggled her hands around a bit and dropped it on the floor.
"Mama, they're still wet."
"Well, they'll have to air-dry then."  Ouch.
"Mama!" she tearfully called.  I wasn't about to dry her hands now that she had started crying, so I walked away, but it wasn't easy.

I broached the subject later during the drive to our weekly Mother Goose session.  "Pip, you're going to have to start doing more jobs on your own like Mary does.  Do you think you'd like another chart with stickers?"
"No thanks Mama," she was not the least bit interested in Phase II.  Frankly, I was starting to question my motivation.  Was it really important for Pip to take on these responsibilities right now, or was I just reacting to Mary's progress?  

I stopped Goldie, (our car,) in front of the school where Mother Goose was held, and walked around to Pip's door, "I can get out myself, Mama," she said.
"Okay Sweetie."  I went around to the other door to get Crazybaby.  Pip proceeded to unbuckle herself, climb down from the car-seat, hop out of the car, close the door, and walk carefully over to where I was standing with Crazybaby.
"Wow!" I said, "Pip, did you just get out of your seat and close that big door all by yourself?"
"I sure did Mama."
"Good for you Pip!"
"You see Mama, there are some big girl things that Mary does by herself, and there are some big girl things that I can do by myself.  Mary dries her hands, but I can get down out of my car-seat and close the big door.  Just like that."
"You're absolutely right Pip."

It was yet another, 'Who's parenting whom?' moment.  Pip was right, kids develop at their own pace.  They each have different strengths and weaknesses.  I'm a teacher for goodness sakes!!!  I've told the very same thing to a hundred worried parents over the years!!!  

There's no mad rush for Pip to tackle Washroom Independence right now, so I'll re-visit Phase II at a later date and I'll change the language I use.  No more comparisons.  In the meantime, I'm quite happy to stand over my daughter at the bathroom-sink with her soapy little hands in mine.  

Monday, June 1, 2009

Little Star

“Neither a lofty degree of intelligence nor imagination nor both together go to the making of genius. Love, love, love, that is the soul of genius.”

 Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart 

Did you know that Mozart wrote the music to, 'Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star,' at the age of five?  Last night I witnessed the most beautiful rendition of 'Twinkle,' that I could've ever imagined.

We're back at the beach house.  I know, we were only away from it for a week, but it's not being rented at the moment and neither of my siblings could make use of it this weekend, so we've returned to this little piece of paradise.  

Last night, my husband and I had just put the girls to bed and we decided to take a glass of wine out to the deck.  It was an unusually balmy night, but the wind had really picked up so we took a blanket out to throw over our legs.  We'd been chatting for about ten minutes when I heard a faint noise.  I looked back at the house and saw Pip standing at the window, knocking.  (Unfortunately she'd had a little nap in the car during the afternoon drive to the beach house, and was once again having trouble getting to sleep.)

Big Daddy-O got up, went inside and put Pip back to bed.  Not three minutes had passed before we heard another rap at the window.  There was Pip, bright-eyed, wearing nothing but her pull-up.  (She's never been big on pajamas.)  It was obvious that she was nowhere near sleep, so I motioned for her to come outside and join us.  She happily scurried over to my chaise-lounge and jumped onto my lap.  I cuddled her up in the blanket and breathed her in; her hair smelled like baby-shampoo.  Pip was excited.  I'm sure she couldn't believe her good fortune.  I looked at my husband's face and he was grinning from ear to ear; one of those gorgeous, "Isn't our daughter lovely?" kind of smiles.

"Mama, when I saw you and Daddy out here, I just wanted to come be with you and see the wind,"  she said.  

"I understand Sweetie, and I think you're having trouble getting to sleep because you had a nap today, but this is a very special night.  This isn't going to happen every night.  This is usually the time when Daddy and I visit with each other."

"I know Mama, this isn't going to happen every night, look at that cute little branch, Mama!"  Pip felt heavenly.  She was so warm and snuggly under the blanket with me, with the wind passionately swirling around us.  My husband's chair was right beside us, but I felt sorry that he wasn't experiencing the closeness of Pip.  He wasn't feeling her heart beat under the blanket, or her little toes kissing my legs.  I felt sorry, but I wasn't willing to give her up!  

Big Daddy-O and I tried to resume our previous conversation, but Pip kept interjecting with, "Look at that sunset over there, let's go see it!" and, "Look at how bright the moon is!"  Watching day turn to night through our daughter's eyes was magical.  

We spoke of stars and clouds and sailing ships, "I'm going to get a sailing ship and go on lots of adventures at the beach house,"  Pip said.  We were having a grand time, but it was getting late, so I came up with a plan,

"Pip, when we see the first star appear, we'll all go inside and go to bed."  The three of us searched the sky for a twinkle.  "I see one!"  I said, but it was too faint for Pip to see.

"There it is," said my husband smoothly.  He directed our eyes to a the night sky behind us, where we saw a proudly shining star. 

"Let's sing to it, Mama,"   Pip suggested.  With her head against mine and the blanket forming a cocoon around us, Pip, Big Daddy-O and I sang 'Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star.'  It was one of those once-in-a-lifetime moments that you want to slow right down; the crashing waves, the ocean-air, the glorious little star, and my daughter's sweet voice joining my husband's and mine.

Thank you, little five-year-old Mozart for writing that lovely melody.  I wonder if you heard it last night.