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So here we are, day two of our 12 days away from home and I’m not even dreaming about packing my bags just yet.

Of course, if you had asked me yesterday, my answer may have been a bit different. From the moment we woke up, the day was a steady stream of crying kids, stressed parents, a trip to Superstore that was far less enjoyable than I had anticipated it to be and overtired, snotty babies by the day’s end.

Let me elaborate on the Superstore fiasco.

I had this grand idea of strolling in relaxed wonderment through the vast aisle of the store I haven’t been to in a couple years. I forgot two major inhibiting factors though: babies and No. 3 Rd.

If you grew up in Richmond or have ever been there, you know what I am talking about. It’s the road where you get honked out into an intersection precisely .5 seconds after the light turns green. It’s the place where you get caught in between intersections because your lane stopped moving and the light has since turned red. The dreaded stop and go infuriates your baby who wails as soon as the car is motionless. You think, “If we can just make it two more blocks we’ll be home free.” Except that is only the beginning of new trials because suddenly, you remember one of the big reasons you avoid this Superstore – the parkade.

Pulling in, I zeroed in on an available Expectant Moms parking stall which we victoriously claimed. Not a bad start but we must have got ahead of ourselves and we were quickly reminded of where we had come as we went to grab a buggy. First, we had a toonie, not a loonie as required. Then, an old man came up and was struggling to get his loonie out of his cart because he had already pushed his little ejector thingy into his own cart. As we helped him, we realized the cart he would have plugged into had the same problem and so we troubleshooted while a line of people formed behind us waiting to claim their buggies.

We finally got our buggy and went on our merry way until I misjudged the width of the buggy going in the doorway and drove it right in, giving Shae a jarring lurch which he vocalized loudly. Maybe we should have taken this as a sign to just turn back but we continued on.

At last we were inside and I began taking in the wealth of capitalism in all its consumer glory. Unsurprisingly, it served to remind Shae that he wanted a snack. And downhill our shopping trip went ending with both babies expressing their displeasure in their surroundings and the toddler flip flopping between wanting his boots off and on. There was no pleasing him at this point. It was either laugh or cry. I laughed, Jesse cried (well actually he just drove the cart as fast as he could out of the store).

Again we faced No. 3 road and general city traffic which we have become most wonderfully unaccustomed to. We ended our evening on a brighter note with having friends over for dinner and finally tucking our weary children into bed.

The photo for this post is brought to you by a typical park job in Richmond.

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Brain chatter

If it could be summed up in a phrase, mothers’ thinking is borderline ADD. As if a woman didn’t already have a flurry of brain activity going on with just looking after herself, throw in a couple kids (three if you won’t to count hubby). The result: a wired individual whose thoughts do not stop darting in an unpredictable but nonetheless, methodical manner.

It’s freaking amazing. I read a Facebook status this morning that went something like: shaved legs while holding soother in crying baby’s mouth, dressed a crying toddler while rocking baby in rocker with foot and continued to console children simultaneously throughout the day.

What that status didn’t include was the hundreds of thoughts racing through that mom’s mind. Having two under two myself, I can use my imagination…

Brain chatter while mothering babies and toddlers

“I got to call Nana and Evie after this, can’t forget.” Toddler is hollering for mom’s attention. “I haven’t eaten anything, better grab a muffin before we head out. What errands must get done today? Oh I still haven’t called the dealership about that part for the car, better write it down on my to do list before I forget again. What’s that vitamin that’s supposed to help with memory? B something? Oh I have to leave in the next half hour or else I’m going to miss that window for Shae’s nap.”

This train of thought interrupted by angry wail from baby who is getting sat on by his older brother. Mom runs to save her offspring.

“Okay, now that they are happy for right now, maybe I should make those calls. Oh there’s my coffee, I better drink it before, oh too late, it’s cold. And mommy needs a time out, escape to the outside world inside the cyber world – Facebook. Oh wait, no time for Facebook, have to leave in 20 minutes and both of my kids are still in their sleepers and need their diaper’s changed! Oh look at that, Mommy is still in her sleeping attire and has major bedhead.”

While she wrestles clothes onto her babies, her mind drifts back to her to do list. “Running out of pants for the little one, better throw in a load of laundry before we leave. Detergent, that’s what I need on my grocery list. Gotta go! Gotta go! Still haven’t eaten, muffin for breakfast it is. Oh, do not leave the house without a snack for the toddler, will regret. Hat, need a hat for the bedhead. Keys, where are the keys??? Oh in my pocket where I put them while looking for a hat. Oh rats, I’ll have to make two trips today because I haven’t planned what I need for Shae’s birthday party yet. Oh well, driving is kind of a break…never did make those phone calls, definitely this afternoon. Wonder how hubby is doing, should give him a call too. Oh what was I supposed to ask him for Evie’s kid? ..

And on and on it goes…

I suppose you could say a mother could save herself a lot of stress and just been zen, calm all the thoughts in her head and just be in the moment. It sounds so ideal. But let’s stop and think for a moment about the whole flurry of brain chatter. While it may seem a disorganized mess, every mother has a “method to her madness” so to speak. They are the ultimate multi-taskers!

Armed with that, I’m going to say I think I can do just about anything I set my mind to and so can you!

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Changing seasons

Back in the summer of 2012, I remember feeling that the winds of change were moving swiftly in our direction. My feelings were not mistaken and the swiftness of the change occurred as quickly as it came. I became pregnant with Oliver almost simultaneously with closing down our plumbing business and leaving our Pender Island life for a fresh start on the coast.

We’ve been here just over a year. It has been a whirlwind of adjusting, making new friends, undergoing strenuous times with landlords and renovations, having a new baby, Jesse being laid off for two months just in time for our new arrival, getting his job back only to be laid off and rehired again and finally now with only another six months left until he is once again unemployed.

Yes…change is inevitable. Where will it take us? What does it look like?

These boys of ours keep us on our toes in the mean time.

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We took Shae out for his first time trick-or-treating. Mama put together the costume that day so what else could he be but the cutest little hobo in the neighbourhood!Image

And because I think my boys are just so cute, here are a couple bonus shots.😛

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Autumn leaves mark the change in seasons. Perhaps they also mark the beginning of the change in our season of life…

Fight or flight

I’ll give you one guess for the time lapse since my last post…

I am praying that I am coming out on the other side of what has been a terribly challenging, exhausting and at times excruciating frustrating rough patch with parenting.

It’s discouraging enough to make a woman wonder if she’s really cut out for this whole motherhood thing. When the crazy starts stirring up notions of how maybe you aren’t the best person to be raising two little boys, it’s all you can do to not scream.

But by then, you’re already expired most of your ability to hold yourself together so what does a mom do? In the better case scenario, she might make sure her kiddies are safe and then flee out the door to the sanctity of her car and have a couple minutes to expel her discouragement in a puddle of blubbering madness. Then, hopefully, she can practice those deep breaths she is reminded of by friends and family and collect of remaining fragments and particles of patience left within her and brave through the front door.

Or…

In a not so good case scenario…

She can yell at the cupboard as she slams it amidst the spirit crushing whining and crying from her two little ones. The words that snap from her mouth do not show her toddler how to deal with his own frustration in a healthy, effective manner, nor do they display the love the mother so deeply feels for her child. This scenario immediately instills the dreaded feeling that is nearly impossible to shake – failure.

God, how am I going to get through the next 18 years??? I’m only two flipping years in right now and I’m already losing my mind.

Something that occurred to me as I experienced these feelings is that I spent 24 years learning how to make myself happy, how to deal with letting myself down. Uh yes, now just to shake things up a little, figure that out whilst being responsible for two little people. In other words, find new ways to make yourself happy because you just don’t have the time to make yourself happy the way you used to and get used to falling short of that amazing parent you vowed to be. Others might tell you that you are but you are the one who has to let go of the times when you were anything but amazing, unless it was amazingly frustrated and tired.

Yes, I am giving myself a pep talk.

It is incredible to me how I can go from being engulfed in a sea of love for my boys one day or even one hour to wanting to jump ship the next.

It’s not rational, it’s just what happens when the brain is starved of the necessities that encourage calm, logical behaviour.

So, take some B12 (thanks Lilli;), sing not shout and do not shut yourself in.

 

A true genius admits that he/she knows nothing. ~ Albert Einstein

I’m told as parent to trust my instincts, listen to my gut…but for some reason my parental intuition is irrelevant if I happen to question the safety and efficacy of vaccines. Then I’m supposed to turn off my brain and believe the popular belief of today despite my mind telling me there’s more than meets the eye.

This post is not an attempt to convince anyone that they are wrong and I am right, far from it. I do not judge you if you believe that vaccinating your child is the best route to go in combating disease. We are fortunate enough to live in a country where we have the freedom to choose whether to vaccinate or not. Unfortunately, that doesn’t mean that you won’t be guilt-tripped, bullied and shamed for not vaccinating your child.

I have experienced the judgement and heard story after story from friends and acquaintances. It typically sounds like this: your child is a health risk; I won’t let my kids play with your kids; you are ignorant; you’re paranoid; you’re doing your child a disservice; you’re being selfish by relying on everyone else to get vaccinated so that you don’t have to, and on and on it goes. I’ve even had a comment directed my way that included the words “daft-fucking pseudo-witch doctors” are pulling the wool over my eyes. And that’s just the straight up in your face stuff. Then there’s the more subtle, manipulative and self-righteous comments that are said with all the diplomacy in the world and saturated with condemnation, i.e. “…it really worries me when people choose their own fears over the community’s health.”

Speaking of fear, how about the fear tactics used to scare people into vaccinating such as a YouTube link that appeared one day on my Facebook feed showing a couple of well-known entertainers scolding those who don’t vaccinate. Don’t you know, it only takes 31 seconds to prove that vaccines are both safe and effective.

Why is it that almost every other health measure we encourage each other to question and even try available alternatives (i.e. natural-pathetic vs. antibiotics) but vaccination is infallible and indisputable? Clearly, it is disputable since there are medical professionals who advise that vaccines are not proven to be as safe and effective as claimed to be. Why aren’t these doctors acknowledged by the health authorities? Why don’t you hear more from them? Why do we not know more about what they have to say about vaccines?

You say you trust your family doctor. So do I and so did our parents and grandparents back in the forties when doctors told them x brand of cigarettes would ease throat irritation. They felt the same way you do today about  modern advances and having a better understanding of health and medicine but obviously there was still much that they were wrong about. Jennifer Doudna, a professor of Biochemistry, Biophysic and Structural Biology of U C Berkley wrote “The more we know, the more we realize there is to know.”

Advertisement: “A report on the findings of a group of doctors.*”

Advertisement: “A report on the findings of a group of doctors.*”

I take all this personally because one, it is dished out quite personally and two, I am assumed to have hopped on a fear-fueled band wagon rather than having based my decision from hours, weeks, months and now going on years of research. This assumption blows my mind, especially when it comes from people who know me, even friends. The very people who praise me for what a good mother I am and how I take such good care of my boys are some of the same ones who are quick to assume that I read one article that stated vaccines are linked to autism and am now basing my decision not to vaccinate on that.

It’s getting to me, people. I am tired of my decision being discredited, mocked, shamed. I am frustrated from being put in the ring again and again as people try to riddle me with guilt and insinuate that I am being a negligent member of society not to mention parent to my child.  I am exasperated that I have to defend my choices or else be seen as some crunchy mama who has her head in the clouds while she eagerly laps up any and all non-conformist viewpoints. I’m blown away by the double standards this nation imposes: tolerance and acceptance are crushed under the weight of mass media influence if interests aren’t aligned. Feel free to disrespect your neighbour in the name of what is accepted as the greatest achievement in modern medicine. That there, friends, is one dangerous attitude and if you don’t think it is, you might want to talk your doctor about how the track to nutrition got derailed and the health authorities accepted toxic ingredients such as Aspartame, Bisphenol A (BPA), Monosodium Glutamate (MSG), High Fructose Corn Syrup and Sodium Nitrates that are still found in our food and packaging.

As for me, I continue to strive for open-mindedness regarding vaccination and respect everyone’s decisions and all the more so if they are doing even a bit of research rather than vaccinating because “everyone else is doing it.” Just maybe it is possible to encourage respectful discussion amidst opposing view points if we’re brave.

* Journal of the American Medical Association 271 (1994): 1273–1275. [PubMed]

 Just because you’re grown up and then some doesn’t mean settling into the doldrums of predictability. Surprise people. Surprise yourself. ~ Victoria Moran

I am a creature of habit and I enjoy structure and routine – predictability and me are friends. But like most good friends, there is a moment of unreliability which results in chaos. Example: wifey goes to bed leaving hubby to prep his lunch for following day. Wifey wakes 20 or so minutes later to fire alarm going off and smoke filling the house as hubby snoozes on the couch. Chaos.

Predictability is the difference between knowing my kid will nap and sleep well because we got home at the right time and enjoying an evening out with friends. Both are tremendously appreciated but rarely work together for the good of all in my household.

So what does a mama do? She brings out her juggling act which includes: fearlessness (cough cough), stamina and her plan for how to get her kid back on track after chocolate cake and adult conversation is enjoyed during dinner away from home.

Predictability is survival, people, at least it is for me. It supplies most of my fundamental needs: sleep, food and activities with friends. That’s what it boils down to. Sound sad? Here’s the thing, I love it!

My days of globe trotting, sneaking around Van Dusen Gardens after gates closed with my boyfriend (now husband), singing the the porcelain god (because them were the days) and dancing til three in the morning are memories for the sharing now.

My days now, they look a lot like this….

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And looking down at this sweet faceImage

And capturing moments such as this

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And somehow, in the middle of such predictability as weekly playgroups, nap time, meal time, and “Daddy’s home” time, there is an ever growing and changing dynamic. This is my life right here and now and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

I consider social skills a bit like learning a language. I’ve been practising it for so long over so many years I’ve almost lost my accent. ~ Daniel Tammet

You’ve heard it, I’ve heard it – “be yourself.”

I don’t know about you but I often take my cues from those around me. When I was a kid, I learned to act like I knew what everyone else was talking about by cleverly chuckling and nodding “yeah,” even though I did not get the joke. To be naive and admit ignorance was setting oneself up for teasing. As a young adult, I learned to empathize in my neighbour’s plight with a mixture of murmurs and facial expressions that promised returned favour.

Some would call these kinds of behaviours social skills. But recently, I’m finding that a lot of these so called social skills generate some self-depreciation.

Here’s an example. I’m a mother. I want to be a good mother. I want others to think I’m a good mother. So I say things a “good mother” says.

“Yes, I’m loving the newborn stage.” Actually, I’d really like to jump ship at the moment but I’m not sure if you would empathize with or judge me. Wondering is answered when fellow mother gushes about how she loves the newborn stage – they’re so dependent on you for such a short time.

Thank God for that.

Don’t get me wrong, there are beautiful moments I experience each day (some days more than others) with my newborn. He smiles at me, startles himself when he burps, snuggles into my shoulder… And then there are the hours of crying, fussing, not sleeping when I desperately need him to…

But it’s for such a short time…can I not put aside my own dissatisfaction with the current state of affairs? I shouldn’t be too eager for this time to be in the past. I’m not cherishing my baby enough. I’m selfish, I’m missing out…I’m just glad that babies keep growing. I enjoy my little Oliver more and more with each passing week. Is that not something to be celebrated and anticipated? Should I feel guilty for anticipating him becoming more interesting, better at sleeping, more cute?

I do cherish the magical times when it’s just me and my baby, connected in nature’s perfect design of a mother caring for her offspring. A new life becoming aware of the world outside the womb is breathtaking and wondrous. But here’s the thing – you as a mother don’t cease to have your needs met. I’d be lying if I said I’m already missing those first few weeks of Oliver’s life. I hold that time close to my heart but I embrace each day that holds more joys for both me and my little man to experience.

That’s the sugar coated version, folks. Now here’s the raw guts underneath the silky smooth mother-ese.

This is not my favourite stage – the newborn stage that is. I feel like it should be sometimes when other mothers lament over how much they miss their newborns. They were so small, so cuddly, so flipping hungry! A small measure of my life force is literally being sucked from me! My new little man is determined to get big (as he should) and is not content for more than five minutes if he’s not on the boob or sleeping. I might add his favourite place to fall asleep is the boob, double wham! Don’t get me wrong, I am a strong supporter of breastfeeding but that’s another post for another time.

Yes I know, this time goes by so fast, trust me, I know. It also goes by in a blurred concoction of sleep deprivation, non-stop attention to the toddler and infant’s needs to the point of neglecting your own and drinking coffee that has been reheated at least five times.

It’s not that I dislike the infant stage. I’m sure in years to come, I will look back, as many before me, on a few fond memories of my children as infants. There is something so beautifully magical about holding a baby close while he snuggles into your breast. The connection between you and your infant is unbreakable. And whether you remember it or not, it is/was freaking exhausting! Maybe you had the baby that slept through the night by the end of its first month (I didn’t and still don’t) but you were still at that baby’s beck and call 24 hours a day, seven days a week until you decided that baby was old enough to be sleep trained.

I do cherish these days when my little Oliver is oh so little. But God am I ever thankful that he won’t always be so little! I am excited for his whole life. I am excited to see him raise his belly off the ground and rock forward in his first crawl. I’m excited, yes, for walking! How much happier will he be when he doesn’t have to express his displeasure to his mom that he can’t move himself? And how about watching that pooping, feeding, burping, throwing-up machine develop his personality? Can you remember how boring that cycle got (especially at 3 a.m.)?

I’ve tried to agree with other moms that this is such a special stage and I’m really enjoying it. The truth is, I enjoy moments of it. But so much of the time, I find myself feeling burnt out from exhausting all possible options for making my crying baby happy only to still have a crying baby. But it’s only for a short time right? Right, but that doesn’t zap the fatigue, the discouragement and the short breaks that only allow for you to fix yourself a cup of tea before a wail summons you.

Final thoughts on newborns….Thank-you Lord for their smiles, snuggles and coffee to smile back.