Wednesday, April 29, 2009

snapshots of early spring

I was reminded the other day that it's been awhile since I've taken any album-worthy snapshots of the boys. The camera on my blackberry is convenient. I've been using it a lot lately since starting this blog. But, it often doesn't capture the emotions of two little brothers at play.

So on this sunny but chilly morning, I bundled up the boys, released them into the backyard, pulled out my D70 and clicked away. This is for you, grandma and grandpa.

A kitchen with a view
A true sign of a family-friendly house is being able to send your 3 and 1 1/2-year-old boys outside and finding comfort in the fact that you have a clear view of their activities while preparing lunch or sitting at the breakfast table enjoying your tea.

It's a jungle out there
A true sign of a perfect garden for a non-gardener is discovering signs of life in early spring even after 1 1/2 years of neglect.


Bliss is ...
hearing the sounds of laughter from two young brothers,
chasing each other or their own shadows.
The older sometimes teaching the younger
on the finer points of hockey.
The younger often studying the older,
following his every move.
And then, in a sudden burst of energy,
the younger leads the older into another game of chase,
until he is distracted by his own shadow.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

about an eyeball

If you're a parent, you can relate to how it pleases me to the Nth degree to get to the stage where my boys are able to express their wants and needs, as well as their aches and pains. When LittleR Dude points to his finger and says "hurt" and it isn't bleeding, I know without a doubt that all he needs is a little kiss to make it all better. When I'm awakened by a cry that could wake the dead (never mind the sleeping) at 3 in the morning, I no longer have to play a guessing game with Little Dude whose language skills are way more sophisticated than his younger brother's. He's able to tell me that it's the outside part of his ear that hurts (from bumping it on the bookshelf) and not the inside (i.e., he has an earache). Hearing "it hurts only a little" is very reassuring to me and keeps my worry-wart tendencies at bay.

Life is ... no ... was good.

Maybe I'm still sulking from being woken up at 5:49 am by Little Dude today. Or, perhaps, I'm just in a funk because LittleR Dude thought that it was "funny, mommy" ... yes, he actually said that ... to dump his milk all over his poopy self while we were at the mall on the day that I didn't pack a change of clothes.

Maybe I'm just in a really bad mood today ... because I really don't find it funny to hear Little Dude complain and screech out, "I've got an eyeball, mommy! Mommy, I've got an eyeball in my eye!"

It seems that his father ... yes, today, he is not the Good Man but the father ... his father has responded to Little Dude's complaints of having something in his eye with "Yeah, you've got an eyeball" one too many times. So now Little Dude is going around screaming bloody murder about having an eyeball in his eye.

This morning, Little Dude's nursery school called to say that he threw up after eating a cheerio. After determining that (1) he didn't have a fever, (2) he didn't throw up his entire breakfast along with the cheerio and (3) he is now fine and participating in the activities, I hung up the phone relieved. Then I wondered, OMG. Has Little Dude ever screamed out "There's an eyeball in my eye" at nursery school?

We've been trying for some time now to correct Little Dude and failing miserably. Today, he took it another step further and actually rubbed sleep from his eye, held a crusty bit up to me and said, "Look at the yellow eyeball on my finger, mommy."

His father could be heard snickering quietly in the background.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

a small window

In an effort to channel Little Dude's boundless energy, we signed him up for a multi-sports class. Parents were not allowed in the gym but could watch their kids through a window ... a window that was no more than a couple of feet wide. Naturally, I hogged a prime spot near this window on his first day of class.

Little Dude looked smaller than the rest of the kids. This was not surprising since the class was offered to kids aged 3-5 and he just turned 3 this past March. It was interesting to see him interact with the 4 and 4 1/2-year-olds. He looked and acted so much younger ... slightly impish even. We missed the first session because he was sick, but he was holding his own. He giggled and talked through most of the activities. He followed one of the girls around for a bit. He has a thing for older girls already.

Half way through, the kids began to gather around a table full of drink bottles. Little Dude was looking for his. It was still in his backpack. By the time I reached the table, one of the instructors was giving Little Dude another child's bottle. My heart skipped a beat.

I handed Little Dude his bottle which was labelled with his first and last name and had a picture of a stroked out peanut. Then, in the calmest voice I could gather, I reminded the instructor to be mindful of my son's peanut allergy and to never give him any drink that isn't clearly labelled his .

I'm sure nothing would have happened if Little Dude had taken a sip from the other child's bottle. The chance of the spout coming in contact with someone who had just eaten a peanut butter sandwich before class is microscopic. But, that's not the point. These days, with the number of children with food allergies around, instructors, teachers and caregivers should never offer anything with suspect origins to a child.

I'm grateful that I have a year and a half before Little Dude starts J-K. I'm grateful I have time to seek out flashcards, early reader books and other learning aids to help me make him understand that he should NEVER accept a drink or food that is not his from anyone. The concept of having a life-threatening allergy is too abstract for my 3-year-old. He turns away when we have these discussions.

It's futile to wish for a little port-hole into my children's every move. The Good Man and I are in our 40s and have come to accept that the natural order of life will likely play out for us. We will not always be around for our boys. Our job is not to constantly keep tabs on them but to raise them to become independent, resourceful adults.

But, last week, I couldn't help but feel grateful for that little window.

Friday, April 24, 2009

shut up inner voice

Lately, I've been having little arguments in my head.

A very huge part of me loves what blogging represents ... an incredibly supportive social medium where I can share my opinions, observations and thoughts about my life as a mom to anyone willing to read my blurts and rants. The Good Man has his online game. Blogging is my way of decompressing at the end of the day. End of story. Right?

Not so. Because, besides doing crazy stuff like arguing with myself, I sometimes let the little cynical voice inside my head get to me. Yes, once in awhile, self-doubt creeps in and I wonder why I bother to blog at all. Why not just keep a personal journal? Wouldn't that serve the same purpose? Isn't blogging a bit self-indulgent and narcissistic? Like public displays of self-love.

Today, I feel an urge to quiet the inner voice that is questioning my motives for blogging.

The "social" in social medium
I didn't truly appreciate the social component of blogging until I received my first comment from a fellow blogger. It was a thoughtful and honest comment. It made me feel great to realize that I’m not typing in a vacuum. It stroked my ego. There, I said it.

Today, I find myself part of a couple of mom blog networks, a community rich in intelligent, funny mommies sharing (and, celebrating) their lives, as well as confessing their brain-farts and other mishaps. I think I spend more time reading and commenting on posts as I do writing my own. As one of my favourite parent bloggers (Momplex) put it so eloquently, "I feel like I have a free subscription to a great literary mag for creative moms with big funny bones and interesting brains." I feel privileged to engage in (internet) conversation with such women. Although I would never be presumptuous to think I come close to being in the same league as them, I feel a sense of belonging. And, isn't this part of what makes us tick?

To blog, perchance to be reminded I have a brain
I have mom friends that I have playdates or visit with but our conversations are interrupted, at best. And, who can really discuss anything profound when you've had less than 5 hours of interrupted sleep the night before, anyway? Not me. I can’t speak coherently to save my life on a regular day, but put me in front of a computer and thoughts spill out almost effortlessly.

When I worked at the Services for Students with Disabilities office in university, students were allowed to use a computer to formulate their answers for exams because it didn't require the same complex brain connections needed for hand-writing (and, I think, speech). This then begs the question: Is having mommy-brain a type of learning disability? But, I digress.

So there you have it, my skeptical, nagging inner voice. Yes, it is a little self-indulgent of me to blog. But why not allow me this one moment of ego-stroking to show myself (here and in my virtual interaction with other mommy bloggers) that not all my brain cells have died from 3 years of sleep-deprivation? Perhaps, one day they might even resurface in a face-to-face conversation with my adult friends.

So, shut up already!

For a truly intelligent discussion on the narcissistic tendencies (or not) of blogging, you should hear what Amy, from Milk Breath and Margaritas, has to say about it and read the comments that ensued.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

boobies and gorillas

Little Dude and I are sitting against propped up pillows and cuddling on the guest room bed. We're watching his favourite train video before naptime. I look down and see him poking at his stomach folds. He hasn't lost all his baby fat yet, I think to myself. His brows are slightly knotted. I wait for a question.

LD: Are these boobies, mommy?

Me: No, they're not boobies. That's your tummy. You don't have boobies.

LD: Do you have boobies?

Me: Yes, I do.

LD: Does daddy have boobies?

Me: No, he doesn't. Only girls have boobies.

LD: Only gorillas have boobies?

Me: Only girls have boobies. Mommy has boobies. Nina has boobies. And, grandma has boobies.

LD: Does grandpa have boobies?

Me: No, he's not a girl.

LD: Are you a gorilla, mommy?

Me: Yes, I'm a GIRL.

LD: And, only gorillas have boobies.

Friday, April 17, 2009

lost in bagland

I've been inspired by the handbag chronicles of Momplex who was inspired by Bad Mommy Moments who begged the question "What’s in your purse?" . Go find yourself.

Meet my companion. This chocolate brown 11" x 12" beauty wraps around me when I'm graced with 'alone time'. It is my bag.

It's small. It's light. It doesn't remind me of walking around with a baby strapped to my chest. It's soft. It smells like coffee because I often find myself at Starbucks/Chapters during my 'alone time'. Did I say it was light? I think it's gorgeous though not as nice as the other two mommies' purses. It costs more than my microwave. It's my bag. I'm confident that I'll have no problem finding me in here.

Whaaaat?! It looks like I just opened an emergency kit ... and a very useless one at that. I have nothing resembling me in it!

Two bandaids. Just in case I cut myself accidentally twice while I'm out for an hour or two.

A toothbrush. Still in its package. A freebie from the dental office. Who knows? I might just meet Brad Pitt in the Age 0-3 readers section of Chapters and... Oh, wait. Angie would kick my ass. Gotta find a fantasy guy who isn't married to a Lara Kroft type ... Who knows? I might just meet Sean Connery ... Shut up. It's my fantasy.

A quarter. My mom used to keep at least one coin in her empty purses to fend off those evil purse-fiends. Okay, I'm making this up ... but not about my mom keeping a coin in all her purses. I don't know why she does it. I keep a quarter in case I need to make a phone call ... and, someone happens to pinch my blackberry ... and Starbucks/Chapters won't let me use their phone.

A maxipad. Not a little tampon or a discreet pantyliner. But a f**cking maxipad ... otherwise known as "mommy's diaper" to my 3-year-old. A maxipad because even though it's been 1 1/2 years since my last baby who is now a walking, talking toddler was born, I still don't have any issues with wearing the same baggy trackpants I wore throughout my pregnancy. My 'mommy diaper' couldn't possibly make me any less alluring. This can't be me.

Two pens. But nothing to write on except on the back of ...

A receipt. Oh, yeah. I forgot. I also use the bag to go grocery shopping solo.

Sigh. Perhaps, I too am in the diaper bag. Will have to check it some other time.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

thoughts from the sofa

The boys and I have logged a lot of hours huddled together on the family room sofa, recently. As I sit sandwiched between two sick toddlers watching a Little Bear episode for the 100th time, I suddenly feel a twinge of guilt that I've left chores half done or not started. I resist the urge to get up knowing that it would initiate an outcry from the little bodies quietly resting on my shoulders. My mind wanders off to the to-do list that I started in January. The uncrossed items are ingrained in my head.

- Put away xmas decorations

Most of the decorations are piled up either on top of the dining room table or near or on top of the treadmill. We now fondly refer to treadmill as the 'christmas tree stand'. Previously, it was known as the 'dust collector'.

- Assemble storage units

I bought two storage units last summer in an attempt to organize our cluttered garage and to keep hazardous items locked up from Little Dude's inquisitive little fingers. Summer turned to fall, fall to winter and now it is spring and the boxes remain unopened, probably sitting under a pile of things that need to be put away in the storage units.

- Call Ane

Ane and I knew each other from when life was simple and our biggest dilemma was which club to hit next. We've kept in touch over the years. Today, we each have 2 toddlers and live in the burbs about 1 1/2 hours' drive away from each other. We don't talk on the phone much and see each other even less. When we do talk on the phone, our conversations are never laboured or weird. We laugh and catch-up. It's as if very little time has elapsed in between phone calls. I love Ane and always vow to call her more often after hanging up.

It's a bit like sex with the Good Man. Don't groan. You know what I'm talking about if you have a child who doesn't sleep at night. Sex is the last thing you want to think about knowing that you only have a few hours before your kid cries for you again. But when 'it' finally happens, it feels awesome and you wonder why you don't make a point of doing it more often.

I feel slightly awkward thinking about sex while Little Dude and Littler Dude are snuggled up beside me. I tune back in to our 100th viewing of the Little Bear episode and consider adding one more item on my list of to-do's:

- Sex with GM

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

a lesson in perserverance

After dinner, Little Dude suggests "Let's go downstairs."

Littler Dude brightens for a moment, loosens his grip around my neck slightly and chimes, "Downstairs. Downstairs."

I take this as a sign that the boys may be finally getting their groove back. I head downstairs with Littler Dude still securely fastened to my torso and wait for his older bro at the bottom. Little Dude looks a little groggy ... almost drunk as he maneuvers down the stairs. I remind him to be careful. I think to myself, What could I do if he did fall? Drop Littler Dude and ...

His last 'big fall' scared the crap out of me. I take a deep breath and don't let my paranoia overcome me but I ready myself just the same.

Little Dude is talking as he nears the bottom. His nose is running. He asks for a tissue. He's on the 3rd last step and I wipe his nose with my free hand. I turn to go down the hall. He misjudges the next step and falters a little, sliding down in slow motion.

He's fine. His bum is on the 2nd last step but one hand is outstretched, still firmly gripping the banister railing. He's whimpering. He doesn't know what to do next. I drop the tissue and offer my hand to his outstretched one. He trusts me. He let's go of the railing. Then, he gets up, climbs a couple of steps to the point where he slid, turns and goes back down. Success!

We've seen this 'get back on that horse' gesture before. It's wonderful but where did he learn it?

As I'm sitting watching Little Dude play, it finally hits me.

After Littler Dude was born, we taught Little Dude how to navigate the 3 steps leading down to the garage. It didn't have a railing and had only one wall for Little Dude to use for balance. A few weeks after the first lesson, he was expertly climbing down these steps on his own. But one day, he slid down. The Good Man and I didn't swoon. We made light of his fall, brushed him off and reminded him how important it was to have one hand on the wall. The Good Man put him back at the top of the steps and Little Dude made his way down without incident. High-fives were given and off we went.

It amazes me that I had forgotten about this day. It amazes me even more that Little Dude didn't forget but, in fact, had soaked up this little lesson on perseverance. I just hope that it seeps into other aspects of his life ... beyond stairways.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

in praise of parents raising kids solo

The boys have been so unbelievably needy the last few days. If this keeps up I'm going to have to grow a kangaroo pouch just to get stuff done.

I don't blame the boys. They've been as so horribly sick. Little noses have been running. Ear drums oozing. Tummies aching. Vomit flying. Poop exploding. Fever lingering. It's been truly awful for them. They wrap their little bodies around me tightly as if doing this will release magical powers that will make their aches and pains go away. I suppose it's comforting for them to have mommy so close. It's comforting for me, too.

It's times like these that I'm reminded how lucky I am to have the Good Man, who does more than his fair share of raising and caring for the boys and deals with a tired, cranky wife so beautifully. I really don't know how single parents do it alone or people like Maternal Tales whose husband went out of town for 53 days straight.

How do you take two clingy toddlers to the doctor's office? I'm certain it's been done before but I can't imagine how these single parents manage it without going crazy. Life is frantic enough with toddlers on a good day.

I'm told by one Facebook friend, a mom of 2 teenagers, that parents' lives are never NOT busy. It just becomes a different kind of busy when kids get older. Oh, my dear Hope has just been slayed.

So my Good Man, go take your vitamins, take up running again, stop drinking galons of Coke, eat more healthily because ... I don't ever want to experience this or a different kind of busy without you by my side. I don't think I'm that strong.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

haiku horror

I wrote my first haiku since grade school today:

White vomit explodes
From little mouth & nostrils.
Squirm in your chair cheesy, yes. I'm trying to find humour in what has been a very long and exhausting day with my boys: Cling-on One and Cling-on Two. Both have some kind of weird stomach flu virus or food poisoning or strep throat or meningitis. Sigh. Dr Google wasn't much help.

All is quiet now. Get better soon my poor little lambs.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

warning sign

While backbacking through South East Asia in my early 20s, a road sign caught my eye on entering Malaysia from the Thai border. It was clearly meant for foreigners. I don't recall if there was something written on the sign but it wouldn't have mattered to me since I did not understand the language. But the 3 separate but connected images on this sign remain vivid in my mind.

At the top was an large outline of a marijuana leaf. Directly below it was a human figure falling backwards with arms flailing and legs in mid air as if suddenly struck hard in the chest and stomach. To the right was a machine gun with a flash of light at the tip of its barrel pointing at the falling figure. The message on this warning sign is unmistakable: Get caught with weed and you die.

I wish some of my children's toys came with a warning label like this one. Not as nightmare-inducing, perhaps, but I'd really love to see a warning label with a clear-cut cause and effect that my 3 and 1 1/2-year-old will understand because they just do NOT get that some toys are not meant to be played with a certain way.

Take Little Dude's giant construction truck and detachable trailer, for example. It's amazingly life-like, incredibly well built and a ton of fun to play with. I can see why both my boys love this gift from grandma and grandpa so much. But, aside from the usual "choking hazard: not recommended for children under 3" warning, the instructions also say it should never be ridden.

But, why not ride the truck? Because as beautifully-engineered this truck is, it will break under pressure from a little toddler riding it. I'm not concerned so much about the thing breaking. What worries me most is that it will break when I'm not looking and crack into shiv-like pieces that Littler Dude could then use to either impale himself or Little Dude ... not an unlikely scenario given that Littler Dude is going through an aggressive phase.

I need a graphic warning sign for my kids because no amount of gentle reminders, firm demands or angry threats from me will make them stop using this truck as a ride-on toy near the step leading into the familyroom ... a room cluttered with toys that could spear unsuspecting eyeballs and toy box corners that could damage falling heads.

Telling my kids not to use the truck and trailer as a ride-on toy is like telling them to stop eating things off the floor. See food. Must eat it. See big truck. Must ride it. That's how their minds work. An image, or even a video, sending a message that says, "ride this and bad things will happen" might be the break through I'm looking for.

My boys love riding this truck and trailer so much that they've even taken a break from their usual toy-squabbling and have teamed together to ride them in tandem.

So what is a poor hyper-paranoid mom to do but throw up her hands, surrender to the moment and snap a photograph ...

... or two ...
... and hope for the best.

Friday, April 3, 2009

all about money

Growing up as one of 6 children of an immigrant working class family, I had a keen awareness of money early on ... mainly that we didn't have much. I accepted it as a fact. In Grade 6, I remember dropping out of the broomball team when I learned that we had to supply our own broom. Later, I realized that a broom would have cost only a couple of dollars but, at the time, I felt I couldn't burden my parents with such frivolities. I didn't even ask them. My parents were not stingy people. They gave us what they could afford to give on our birthdays and at Christmas time. I had a happy childhood. And that was good enough for me.

By the time I reached Grade 11, we were living in a middle class neighbourhood enjoying middle class possessions. My parents had worked very hard. So when one of the more popular girls in school laughed at my shoes for being a knock-off of her swoosh brand runners, I didn't feel bad. I liked my shoes. My mom would have bought the swoosh brand but I preferred the knock-offs because I liked the colour and logo better. I labelled that girl as a brat and moved on.

Now many, many years later, I worry that my boys will miss out on valuable lessons I learned from being 'without'. The Good Man and I are not filthy rich but we are financially secure ... not unusual for two 40-somethings who have just recently started a family. Little Dude and Littler Dude have and will have so much more than I ever did. I know first hand that kids catch on early about their financial situation. How will my boys cope? Will they learn to value what they have and show respect for those who don't have much? How will they handle peer pressure? Will they be motivated to work hard knowing that they have a safety net?

The Good Man and I don't have it completely figured out but we both agree that we need to start influencing our boys early. They already know what money is. They ask for it every time we're at the mall and walk past the water fountain or the strategically-placed, coin-operated kiddy vehicles. The water fountain is a no-brainer. The money goes to charity so we don't mind giving the boys a few coins to throw in. And, sometimes (maybe 3/4 of the time) the boys will get one ride on the vehicle of their choice. They complain when they don't get a ride and may fuss a little when they don't get a 2nd ride, but never to a tantrum-like level. This is normal, I think.

Last week, I found a book from The Cat and the Hat's Learning Library series. When I read the first page, I knew I wanted my boys to read it ...

I'm the Cat in the Hat
and you know something funny?
We're about to have fun
learning all about money!

Where does it come from?
Can you answer that, please?
I will give you a hint:
It does not grow on trees!

(from 'One Cent, Two Cents, Old Cent, New Cent' by Bonnie Worth)

The book is designed for early readers and looks at the history of money, how it is minted and stored in banks. My boys are too young to read but not too young to learn about where money comes from.

The Good Man read the book to the boys one afternoon. Little Dude seemed absorbed by it and even asked questions during the reading. Afterwards, The Good Man asked, "So what's the book all about?" And, Little Dude replied, "Uhmm. All about money!" The Good Man and I looked at each other and gave the knowing 'wow' look. This was Little Dude's first oral book report and he passed with flying colours. [Groan] Yes, I know. All parents think their kids are brilliant.

The next morning at breakfast, we ran out of Little Dude's favourite waffles. The Good Man took this as an opportunity to review the book again. "We need go to the store to buy more waffles, Little Dude. What do we need to have to buy waffles?"

"Money," was the emphatic answer.

"And, where does money come from?" the Good Man quized further.

"From a treasure chest," harped Little Dude.

The Good Man and I couldn't help but laugh. This wasn't the answer we were expecting. We're not even sure where 'treasure chest' came from. But it was good enough for now. After all, stealth tactics aside, one must work hard and be persistent in finding that elusive treasure chest.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

drum roll, please ...

I've finally found pseudonyms after much experimenting and stressing! Earlier posts have been updated. Still happy with my choices. Meet my boys ...

Little Dude
Just turned 3. Funny guy. You have caused much graying of hair but, boy, do you make me howl with laughter.

Littler Dude
Only 1 1/2 but is no push over. Already speaking. Dimples. You'll be the topic of many more blogs soon.

The Good Man
Bringer of bacon. Maker of great waffles. My (silent) partner in crime. You love it when I blog because it means you get to play your online game without guilt.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

free the ants

Spring is here! We know this because a colony of ants has made its way into the kitchen. I grab the little broom and dust pan and the Good Man unlocks the sliding doors. We know the drill.

"Nooooo! Don't kill the ants. Don't take them outside. You'll scare them," insists Little Dude. I whisk all but one of the ants onto the dust pan. Distracted by the lone ant, I'm able to hand the dust pan to the Good Man who dumps its contents (gently) on the patio, without further protests from our ant advocate.

Little Dude is on his knees with his nose to the floor examining the ant. The ant begins to move. As most toddlers his age do, he gets over-excited and begins to do a happy dance. You've seen it before. Arms flap. Feet stomp. Head bobs from side to side.

"Uh, oh. Where'd it go?" Little Dude loses sight of the ant. He gets back on his knees to look for it.

I hesitate but tell him, "It's on your sock, sweetie."

"Oh, no. I killed the ant. I broked it," he cries mournfully as he looks at the black speck on the bottom of his sock.

I begin searching my sleep-deprived brain for comforting words to say and clench my jaws tight to hold back the laughter that's about to escape. Multi-tasking isn't always easy for me.

I see eyes brighten suddenly and he says, "We better go buy a new one!"

The Good Man and I giggle with relief. Little Dude and Littler Dude laugh along with us. Whew ... another disaster averted.