Friday, July 24, 2009

The NEW and IMPROVED Grateful Mama Site!!!

"It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change."
Charles Darwin

I'm SO excited to announce my new website @ !!! (You can just click on the link at the top right of the green sidebar.) I was going to wait until I had all of the kinks worked out before launching the site, but I might be waiting a long time for that day to come! (A technological whiz I am NOT.) And most importantly, I'm eager for you to see it.

Over the next few weeks you'll probably notice little changes to the site every day, (it might be kind of fun,) and I hope to have all of the old posts archived as soon as possible.

I know that change is sometimes tough, so give it a few days before you tell me that you miss the old site. (Besides, it'll always be just won't be current!)

So please check out the new site: there's a new post for you today, I've written new content on all of the pages you'll find in the top menu bar and you'll also find a few photos! I HOPE YOU LIKE IT!!!

Thursday, July 23, 2009


Change your language and you change your thoughts.
The other day I was reading a board book with Crazybaby, and on one page there were about ten different items illustrated. Just for fun, I started questioning her about the items, "Can you point to the Tiger? Can you point to the shovel? Where is the bucket?" And she got every single one! I was shocked. I hadn't talked to her about tigers, had I? When had I shown her a tractor? And these were kind of artsy illustrations; not very realistic renderings at all. I asked my husband if he'd read the book with Crazy before and he had, but not many times. Impressive.

At sixteen months of age, Crazybaby is really excited about language. She's been blathering on in her own little language for months, but now some of her words are clearly recognizable to us, and I'd say that over a dozen of her words could be understood by anyone.

Maybe you're at this stage with your toddler, or perhaps you're going to go through it soon, but I find it fascinating. The rate at which children acquire language is astonishing, and the amount they actually understand is even more impressive.

I remember my sister saying that when my niece started talking, she often spoke about experiences she had before she was able to talk. (Did I explain that well?) What a concept! I imagine Crazybaby's tales:
"I remember cutting that first tooth; man, my gums were on fire!"
"Being burped was humiliating."
"I used to get so frustrated when your breasts were engorged and I couldn't latch on properly."
or my favourite, "I liked living inside your belly."

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

My New Book!!!

Okay, I'm going to indulge in a bit of shameless self-promotion here...I've written a book called, (you guessed it,) The Grateful Mama, and, if you're a fan of this blog then I think you might like it. I held the published copy in my hands today for the first time and I was really pleased.

It's a great little book for mamas; I edited some of my favourite blogs, along with inspiring quotations and put them together with photos I've taken of my girls. (If you've been wondering what my little family looks like...the wait is over!)

Anyway, I wanted to invite you to check it out and let me know what you think. There is quite a good preview option that allows you to see about fifteen pages or so. You can also order it directly if you feel so inclined.

Just click on the badge in the right sidebar.

I hope you like it!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009


It's happening. Pip and Crazybaby are starting to play their own little games together and it's an astonishingly exciting development.

Before we had Crazybaby, I sort of took for granted the fact that my daughters would be playmates, but there have been times during the past year when I had my doubts. Pip's feelings toward Crazybaby have ranged from mild interest, to tolerance, to blatant resentment. She has uttered the words, "I don't love her," and more recently, "We should sold that Crazybaby."

Today, however, genuine enjoyment shone on the face of our eldest daughter as she played some form of chasing game with her toddling sister. When Pip yelled, "WE'RE JUST PLAYING A GAME, MAMA!!!" from the living room when I called the family to dinner, I nearly jumped for joy. I'm not sure excactly what the game entailed, but it was all their own. Crazybaby would walk Frankenstyle past the kitchen, then I'd hear two voices scream excitedly before erupting in fits of giggles.

My husband was the 'parent-in-charge' of the girls while I was making dinner, and at one point I heard him try to discipline them with a firm, "There'll be no screaming in the house young ladies," but we were both so thrilled at our daughters' mutual delight, that there was no rule enforcement whatsoever.

Later, while eating dinner outside, out of the blue Pip announced, "I'm going to tickle some toes." She got up, walked over to Crazybaby's high-chair, and tickled the naked little piggies that wiggled before her. Crazybaby was over the moon. (And so was her Mama.)

Monday, July 20, 2009

The Chair

It feels good to sit right down in the middle of Gratitude once in awhile. I was upstairs nursing Crazybaby the other evening when my mind flashed back to a time before babies; just before Pip was born.

I remembered sitting in the same old, comfy, kiwi-green armchair with my hands spread wide upon my pregnant belly. I just sat and rocked and took it all in. I was in love with the nursery: all of the baby-paraphernalia, the crib, the change table with wicker baskets full of all things infant, the precious little clothes, the bookshelf filled with stuffed animals and baby books, the gorgeous knitted sweaters and bonnets and booties that lived in the chest that my dad had made, the cheerful sunflower painting on the wall...I loved it all.

I loved just sitting and imagining the little person who would soon be around to use all of these things; to sleep in the crib and have her diaper changed on the change-table and inhabit the wee clothes. I couldn't wait to meet her. I wondered what she would be like and what I would be like with her. I usually wondered aloud, talking to Pip as she was rolling around in my belly. It was a tender, thrilling time.

Much has happened since that time; I've welcomed two babies into this room; this world. When I first met this old chair, I had no idea that we would become so intimately acquainted. I know where every spit-up stain has altered the texture of the velour-ish upholstery, and I know exactly how to sit to avoid creating rude-sounding squeaks. I can't think of another chair I've spent more time with. We've held precious passengers in our arms, this chair and I. I feel as though we're old friends, but I wish it could talk. I'd like to hear a few tales of the bums who have gone before mine.

Friday, July 17, 2009


Crazybaby says, "Ya," to every question she is asked. We've been having a lot of fun with it. "Crazybaby, are you hungry?"
"Do you have an appetite for camembert and a nice Pinot Gris?"
"Would you prefer to dine outdoors?"

Yesterday we invited a sweet little girlfriend of Pip's over to play, and I noticed quickly that she used the word, 'Yes,' instead of 'Ya.' It sounded lovely, and a little foreign. With some degree of disappointment I realized that Pip used 'Ya,' instead of 'Yes,' except when she said, "Yes please." In fact, when I listened to myself and my husband throughout the afternoon, I found we rarely used the word 'Yes.' Bummer.

We sometimes forget the power of modeling. Our kids pick up on everything we say, and copy it. Crazybaby and Pip are little mimics at the moment, so we should be more conscious of the language we're using.

When our little guest's mother came to pick her up I complimented her daughter's lovely manners and also the way she uses the word, "Yes," so nicely. The mother laughed and shook her head, "I know...we don't use it! I'm not sure where she gets it."

That made me feel a bit better, but I'm still inspired to use 'Yes' more often. As of today, I'm on a YES-MISSION. Watch out family.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Wild Animals

"Logic is the beginning of wisdom, not the end."
Leonard Nimoy as 'Spock'

Pip and Crazybaby have a small collection of plastic animals that they play with, and the other day a few creatures made it into the tub for bath time. Pip was playing with a seal. "Dad," Pip asked, "is a seal a wild animal?"
"Well, we've seen seals swimming in the ocean haven't we?" Daddy-O asked.
"Yes," said Pip.
"And animals that live in the ocean are wild animals."
Pip looked down at the seal in her hand. "But what if they live in the tub?"

Wednesday, July 15, 2009


Murphy Brown, attempting to nurse her son for the first time:
"I have breasts for the first time and the only man in my life doesn't know what to do with them."

I have to wean Crazybaby. I know that the official recommendation for breast-feeding is now two years, but if I have to work part-time in September, I'd like to end my career as a milk-machine before then. Fifteen months is pretty good, isn't it?

I've made a few half-hearted attempts to cut out the mid-day feeding, with no success. Thus far, Crazybaby has been very reluctant to take a bottle; translation: she screams and knocks it out of my hand. On the other hand, she likes her water bottle and sippy cups, so I'm thinking that we'll skip the bottle altogether and transition straight from the breast to the sippy cup. Any advice? I need a plan.

It's new territory for me to wean a baby who has no interest in giving up nursing, because Pip was just so darn cooperative. I cut out one feeding a week, and after a month we were done! No problemo. Aside from requiring a few cabbages to soothe my engorged breasts, it was a piece of cake. Crazybaby is a different story. She has a mind of her own and her mind really likes nursing.

To be honest, I like it too. I usually nurse Crazybaby upstairs in her cosy, golden bedroom. I have a comfy old green rocking chair up there and the two of us snuggle into it beautifully. She usually gives a little giggle of anticipation as I lift up my shirt, then she dives onto my breast. Her hand usually reaches up to touch me on the face or play with my necklace. Sometimes she brings my hand up to her chin to give her a little tickle and her eyes smile up at me. When my milk comes in her eyelids grow heavy, and by the time I put her on the second breast she is nearly asleep.

There is nothing like looking down into the face of your child as you are nursing. It is one of the most intimate, tender experiences I have ever had. I had my share of soreness at the beginning; clogged ducts and mastitis a few times, but that is all forgotten now that I'm nearing the end of my breast-feeding days.

Enough sentimentality. I've got to look on the bright side, right? No more breast pads, no more nursing bras, no more boobs.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Pip, Fairy of the Ferry

I just have to say, it was pretty darn cute to see Pip all dressed up in her Fairy outfit, walking around the deck of the ferry to Saltspring Island. A B.C. Ferries employee stopped to meet Pip as soon as she got out of the car.
"What a lovely princess," he said.
"I'm a fairy," responded Pip, waving her wand as if to remind the gentleman that only fairies possess magic wands.

Just then, the vessel pulled out of the dock. Pip looked at her wand incredulously. "Hey Mama!!! She yelled, "I waved my magic wand and THE FERRY STARTED MOVING!!!"

Ah, the newfound power of the Ferry-Fairy.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Travel bugs

"The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only one page."
St. Augustine

My husband and I both love traveling. We have high hopes of seeing the world with our daughters one day. But at the moment, our kids aren't necessarily the greatest travelers, so does that mean that we should travel more or less? Our week-long holiday to Saltspring Island was glorious, but exhausting.

Our days were spent swimming in lakes, beachcombing, playing bocci on the lawn, wandering around the fabulous Saturday market in Ganges; wonderful activities all. The weather cooperated and our beach-front accommodation was second to none. The problems arose at bedtime. We decided not to put the two girls in a room together so that they wouldn't wake each other up, so Pip was in one bedroom room with Big Daddy-O and I was in the other bedroom with Crazybaby. This arrangement turned out to be WAY too exciting for our daughters, and not very exciting for my husband and I.

Pip napped during the drive down Island, so she was still bright-eyed at 9pm on the evening of our arrival. Perhaps it was our beautiful surroundings that clouded our judgement, but we made a critical decision that night that impacted the rest of our holiday: Big Daddy-O took Pip out for a sunset paddle in the kayak. It was beautiful to witness: Pip's eager little grin as her dad got her geared up for the voyage, my husband looking equally thrilled at the prospect of introducing his firstborn to one of his favourite past-times, the two of them on the water, silhouetted against the raspberry sunset; unforgettable! And of course Pip wanted to replicate the experience every evening. Who could blame her? What normal three-year old would choose bed over ocean-kayak-adventure? Certainly not Pip.

There was one night, however, that Pip was so exhausted from the day of swimming that she fell asleep by 8pm. That was the evening, as luck would have it, that Crazybaby wasn't the least bit interested in sleeping. At 10pm I finally ended up nursing her to sleep in my bed. HUGE MISTAKE. Crazybaby found it incredibly tempting to have her milk machine lying right next to her, so she latched on to me four times that night!!! Ouch. Every time I tried to put her back into her cot, she screamed so loud that I feared she'd wake up the neighbours.

By the fifth night, my husband and I grew to expect that we'd have at least one child stay up with us in the evenings. In fact, we would have been shocked to have any time alone together whatsoever. Is this our new reality when we travel? I think back to a trip to Victoria & spending hours upstairs in a dark room trying to get Pip to sleep while listening to our friends party downstairs. Then there was an abysmal holiday in a Vancouver B&B when Pip got the flu and vomited on every bed in the place.

Yesterday my husband suggested that we add a trip to Whistler to our summer plans. (I can feel the dark circles forming under my eyes just thinking about it.) Part of me supports the idea because I'm hopeful that our girls will become more adaptable the more they travel, but there's another part of me that wants to lower our travel-expectations at this stage of the game. To be honest, quadruple-latch nights don't really spell 'holiday' to me.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Run, baby, run

My feeling is that any day I am too busy to run is a day that I am too busy.
John Bryant

I had left my water-bottle in the stroller and we were almost inside the house. "Pip, I'm just going to go back and get my water bottle. I'll be right back." I started walking back toward the stroller and Pip yelled,
"Run, Mama, run!"

That's when it occurred to me that Pip runs everywhere. Most three-year-olds do. Why on earth would you want to walk, when you could experience the sheer joy of running? Wouldn't it be fun if adults ran everywhere too? I mean literally. The clothes dryer announces that your laundry is finished so you run into the laundry-room. You don't walk to the car, you sprint. You jog from aisle to aisle in the grocery store. You have to use the bathroom, you dash to the toilet. (Frankly, I've dashed on occasion.) Your husband arrives home, you run into his arms. (I'll have to try that last one.)

Thursday, July 9, 2009


The only reason for time is so that everything doesn't happen at once.
Albert Einstein

When two people decide to have children, time becomes an issue. Time together as a couple, time with the kids, and individual time. It seems an even bigger struggle for couples who are older and have had many years of time on their own.

I'm not sure if other couples find it difficult to manage their 'free time,' but my husband and I came up with a system that really works for us. We were finding that we'd get into the cliche, "Whose needs are more important?" conversations that are extremely unproductive. My husband would want to spend Saturday morning getting the boat-trailer road-worthy, and I would want to work on my new website. Which was more important? It's an impossible question; the point is, we both deserve individual time.

We came up with a schedule. We divide 'free days' into family time, Daddy-O time, and Mama time. (Time together as a couple usually comes when the girls are in bed!) We don't schedule all of our free time in this way, but if we both have things that we want to do, then we divide the day as follows:
From 9am to noon is the first shift.
We all eat lunch together, and the "Primary Caregiver" torch is passed on at 1:00.
From 1:00 to 4:00 pm is the second shift. After 4 is family time once again, and we make it a priority to eat together.

The ground rules are simple: what you do on your free-time is completely up to you! If my husband is busy mowing the lawn during his shift, and I decide to have lunch with a girlfriend when my free-time arrives, THERE IS NO JUDGEMENT!

Initially, I thought my husband would hate the schedule because it would mean that he would have less time to himself. It turns out that he loves it!!! Why? Because it's completely guilt-free time! He doesn't feel as though he should rush around so that he can get back home to help out. He knows exactly how much time he has and can plan projects accordingly.

It makes the less-desirable shifts with the kids much more tolerable as well. You don't resent the fact that your husband is out on a three-hour bike ride while you're trapped in the house because your baby is napping; you know that your turn will come.

We all love our kids. We love spending time with them, but it is an undeniable fact that we also need adult-time, and for my husband and I, we need solo-time as well.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Thank you for the comments!

I just returned from a week-long computer-less holiday on Saltspring Island & found a few comments left in response to 'Miss Manners' and 'Spaceship Landing' ...I enjoyed responding to them so please feel free to check them out!

Bathroom banter

"A child can go only so far in life without potty training. It is not mere coincidence that six of the last seven presidents were potty trained, not to mention nearly half of the nation's state legislators.
Dave Barry

Pip has done relatively well with toilet-training, but she often waits until the last possible moment before she acknowledges that she has to use the washroom. She's usually so involved in her activities that she doesn't want to waste the time on eliminating waste! We've tried to make the whole experience more fun for her, but she sometimes leaves it until it's too late.

Yesterday I heard a cry from Pip's bedroom, "Maaaammmmmaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa!!!" I could tell it was the pee-cry. I ran into her bedroom to find her doubled over with her legs twisted tightly together and her hands at her crotch. "I can't walk Maaammmmmaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa!!!" Oh, so dramatic.

I picked Pip up, took her into the bathroom and sat her on the toilet. There was a spot of urine the size of a tooney on her underpants, so it wasn't a complete catastrophe.

"Pip, when you have to go to the bathroom, you don't just sit in your bedroom and cry..."
"But I wasn't sitting in my bedroom and crying."
"What were you doing?"
"I was standing."
"Oh. Well honey, you're just leaving it too late. You've got to listen to your body."
"Mama, I was listening to my body."
"Sweetie, if you were listening to your body, you would have come to the toilet earlier."
"But Mama I was listening to my body."
"And what was your body saying?"
"My body was saying it wanted to pee in my underpants."

Hard to argue with that.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Fairy dust

Magic is believing in yourself, if you can do that, you can make anything happen.

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Pip has been enjoying her fairy costume lately, and so have we. She puts on the fairy tiara, the white mesh fairy skirt, and of course the magic fairy wand. A look comes over her face when she initially dons this magical costume; it's as though she can't really believe how wonderful she feels.

"What's your name today fairy?"
"I'm Fairygold!" Pip says with a twirl.
"And what is this little fairy's name?" I ask her, gesturing to Crazybaby.
Pip glances at her water-bottle sitting on her bed-side table.
"That's Princess Klean-Kanteen."
Aha. Lucky little sister.

Pip prances into the kitchen where Big Daddy-O is cleaning up after breakfast. "Daddy, I'm going to wave my magic wand and turn you into a Wedding Dancer!!!"

(F.Y.I.: It's a running joke that during our wedding night, I had only one dance with my husband before he disappeared. I danced under the stars with friends and family late into the night, and Big Daddy-O was in his comfort zone, chatting with the guests who weren't dancing!)

"Where were you on our wedding night Fairygold??? I really could have used your magic then!!!" I hollered from the bedroom. My husband laughed.

Pip fairy-danced her way back into the bedroom to announce excitedly,
"Mama, I'm going to wear my fairy costume when we go to Saltspring Island!"
"Oh, what a good idea."
"Then I'll be the only FAIRY on the FERRY!!!" Pip exclaimed delightedly.
"We can't guarantee that!" I said, and heard more laughter from the kitchen.

As I said, we're all enjoying the fairy costume. Even Princess Klean-Kanteen.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Beautiful rain

I'm singing in the rain, just singing in the rain;
What a wonderful feeling, I'm happy again.

Arthur Freed

I've never been a big fan of the rain. When I was in kindergarten my mom would have to keep the blinds down if it was a rainy day; otherwise I wouldn't get out of bed. And I loved school.

Pip, on the other hand, sees every day as a beautiful day, regardless of the weather. A couple of weeks ago, in the midst of a glorious spell of hot summer days, we had a couple of earth-drenching downpours. I was happy for the earth, happy for the plants, but my thoughts were more along the lines of, "Ugh. An indoor day."

That's when Pip stood on the couch, looked out the window and said, "Mama, what a lovely day for a walk to the park!"

She's so good for me. We geared up and were out of the house, listening to the rain droplets on our hats in about twenty minutes flat. It was a lovely day indeed.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Spaceship Landing

"Feel the dignity of a child. Do not feel superior to him, for you are not."
Robert Henri

We have a 'time-out' mat that we keep in the broom closet. We also call it the 'uncooperative mat,' and, thankfully, it rarely sees the light of day. We consistently give Pip one warning before the mat comes out, and she always decides to cooperate in order to avoid sitting on the mat for a minute.

When Crazybaby catches Pip off-guard and grabs a toy that she's holding, Pip's instinct is to swat her. To be honest, she usually doesn't even make contact with Crazybaby, but my husband and I decided that we would not tolerate hitting. We caught Pip 'air-swatting' a couple of times so we told her that if she ever actually hit Crazybaby, there would be no warning and she'd go straight to the time-out mat.

Several uneventful days went by after the no-tolerance rule was established, until one night when we were all in the kitchen. Pip was pretending that my metal steamer was a spaceship and, out of the corner of my eye, I saw Pip bring the steamer down on Crazybaby's head! Crazybaby didn't even cry, but my 'Mama Bear' switch went on and I grabbed Pip by the arm and led her over to the broom closet.

"Pip, you do NOT hit Crazybaby on the head," I was saying in my quiet, but very stern voice. Pip was already crying, and she really turned it up when she saw the mat emerge from the closet.

"No Mama, nooooooo!!!" she started screaming. (You would've thought she was being taken to the gallows.) What followed was a comedy of sorts. Pip worked herself into hysterics and wouldn't stay on the mat, so I kept picking her up and putting her back. As I looked into my daughter's beet-red, tear-stained face, I doubted myself. Had she intended to hit her sister or was the spaceship just landing? Should I have given her a warning? Was our rule too harsh? Pip seemed so humiliated by the whole mat routine, it didn't seem like she was learning a thing about not hitting her sister.

I knew that once I had committed to the consequence, I had to follow through. I persisted, looking for the first opportunity to call an end to the time-out. Once Pip had successfully stayed on the mat by herself, and I had pretended to count down a minute on my watch, (it was more like ten seconds,) I told her the time-out was over and she flew into my arms. She stopped crying immediately and clung to me like a limpet. We went through the whole, "Do you know why you got a time-out?" routine, and she apologized to Crazybaby for hitting her.

When I was a teacher, my colleagues and I would de-brief about students all the time. We'd come up with behavioural strategies as a team and often meet to share ideas about the progress of specific students. As a parent, you're flying solo the majority of the time, and it's hard to make the time to reflect. That's one of the reasons I find blogging so rewarding, because I'm forced to review the moments of my days and learn something from them. So what did I learn about the spaceship landing?

Well, I still think the 'no tolerance' rule is a good one and the consequence is necessary, but I need to take a deep breath when the Mama Bear switch goes on, and calmly talk to Pip before dragging her off to the broom closet. She deserved an opportunity to explain herself before being disciplined. I want to be respectful of my kids at all times; especially when they misbehave.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Miss Manners

Manners are a sensitive awareness of the feelings of others. If you have that awareness, you have good manners, no matter what fork you use.
Emily Post

Does anyone else find that teaching your children about manners is actually a great way to gently remind your spouse as well? (Sorry Big-Daddy-O.)

We were all sitting down to dinner and Pip was really enjoying the breaded-sole I had prepared.
"Mama, you sure are good at making fish."
"Thank you Sweetie."
"Thank-you, Mama, for making this really good fish-fry."
"You're very welcome Pip, it makes me really happy to know that you're enjoying it." (Sure, I went a bit over-the-top, but I wanted to reinforce how much I appreciated her lovely manners.)

"Daddy," began Pip, "when someone makes you a really good fish-fry, it's a good idea to thank them." (Yes, this is my three-year-old daughter talking. Verbatim.)

"You're right, Pip, that was really nice of you to thank Mama," said Big Daddy-O.

Silence. Obviously Big-Daddy-O was going to need some prompting.

"Daddy," Pip didn't seem to know how to proceed, so I interjected,
"Honey, I think your daughter was suggesting that you thank me for dinner."
"Oh, right, right...thanks for dinner Mama, this fish-fry is really, really good."

Bingo. You're brilliant Pip!