28.6.06

We went to hang out at the mall on a friday night.

Friday afternoon the Genius Husband calls me from work and says, “Ask my mother if she will watch the kids tonight so that we can go out for dinner.”

I’m a little bit shocked at this unexpected gesture and stutter something like, “UH….Okay, why?”

Brace yourself ladies, here is his not so romantic answer. “Because I want to like you right now, so I figured we could go out and talk for a while.”

The background to this conversation involved an earlier one we had been having about what happens to our relationship when I get pregnant. I get a little bit, some would say a lot, hormone crazy, and he starts to pack up and leave inside his head until the baby comes. We were debating whether I go crazy first, prompting him to want to leave, or if he gets emotionally distant first, prompting me to go crazy. It’s an unsettled argument, but I know that he likes me the least during my pregnancies. So he wants to like me, um, woohoo?

The Boy asked where we were going so I told him we were going on a date.

“What’s that?”

“A date is when mommy and daddy go out and do something together.”

“But why do you want to go on a date mom?”

“Because it’s fun.”

“I want to come.”

“Then it wouldn’t be a date boy.”

So we go out in search of a pleasant dining experience after leaving our kids with Beema.
Enter the strange southern California cultural observation. We end up at the mall. When I was a kid growing up in a hick oil/farm town in the Canadian Midwest the mall was where 13 year olds went to hang out on Friday for a date; not here. This mall had a giant stadium 12 movie theatre, outdoor restaurants and coffee shops surrounding the manicured courtyard with the little train you could pay for your kids to ride and pretty white lights on palm trees and people wearing dinner gowns and jackets and upscale restaurants and it almost makes you forget that you’re at a friggin mall. Sorry, promenade, because also unlike my experience as a prairie child, half of this mall is outdoors thanks to the climate and it therefore deserves a more fancy name.

Anyway, we found a Brazilian BBQ place. It was nice, with real fake stone interiors and waterfalls, and granite tile in the ladies room, and basically several steps up from the tin on the wall tacky décor of the pub style restaurant. There was a very funny and dark Brazilian guy entertaining us with Portuguese songs on his guitar, and occasionally, before the place filled up he would attempt an American song. I actually enjoyed his half assed rendition of California Dreamin’ in a very low key with a latin jazz style guitar accompaniment, but now I’m regressing to my music geek roots and I’ll return to the rest of the restaurant. The best part of this place, and heaven to my little pregnant belly, was the men in white shirts and bow ties bringing giant spits of slow cooked meat to our table every 10 minutes or so, and cutting off pieces for us to eat. They came for 2 hours until we said we were done. The happy little baby got so much protein, and I was stuffed, well, until we got home, then I needed a snack. And they had these little tiny cheese buns, that were more like dough wrapped around cheese, and man it would be easy to eat too many of those and hate yourself later.

We talked and enjoyed being together, and I even ate a little bit of tiramisu for dessert, I figured sugar would be safe after all of that protein.

And so, I have been on a date recently, one without even one squabble, or crying outburst, ot my husband rubbing his head head in total annoyance at my being so, um, female, or me feeling disappointed for having built it up too much, not one dark moment in the evening. How cool is that? And the kids were asleep by the time we got home.

26.6.06

poetry of the soul

The boy had a difficult morning yesterday. He wasn't consulted about whether or not he wanted berries in his porridge before his aunt put them in. This was a very sore point in his morning even though he loves berries. Then he took it into his head that he didn't want to go to church today, as everyone was getting into the car and rushing to leave. No one stayed home with him as he wanted, so he had to come.

I could tell he was about to have a melt down, because he doesn't react very well to not being in control of his little life, so I opted to sit with him outside for a while once we arrived instead of make him go to class, and help him cope with all of life's injustices, which are many when you are 4.

After talking for a while about the fact that he couldn't change that we were there but he could decide whether or not to have a good day and enjoy the things that he likes about being there, even if it wasn't his choice to come. (Sometimes having a recovering control freak for a mother can be irritating.)

His uncle came walking by, whom he normally loves to see, and gave him a big hello and went for a hug. The boy ran away behind me. His uncle stopped and asked, "Hey, what's the matter, you know me?"

The Boy turned to me and said with a sniff, "I don't know him any more."[insert quaver in voice here]

Then he turned and started to run away. I stopped him and asked what was going on, and he looked up at me with a very sorrowful, solemn expression, and summed up all that was going on in his soul thus. "I don't know anyone any more."

18.6.06

Father's Day

My husband is one of those guys who makes rejecting all sympathy into an art form. While he lies on the couch today after dinner, looking exhausted, I sympathetically ask, “Tired?”

“No, I’m just lying here because I’m full of energy and can’t wait to get up and do something else.”

Nothing kills sympathy like sarcasm, unfortunately he is very sarcastic, in a dry sort of ironic way that I like, except when he turns it on me in a cranky moment.

I think a mother may have thought of Father’s Day. It’s a day that you can with cultural justification tell your workaholic husband that he needs to take at least one day off, he hasn’t in the past three months, and hang out with his kids. It’s also a day that you can tell him to stay at the pool and play with them for crying out loud and go back to the house and make dinner in peace and quiet. In other words, while mother’s day ought to be known as mom’s day off, Father’s Day ought to be known as dad’s day on, with presents and amateur homemade cards as well. It’s not like he’s not a great dad, and he works his tail off to take care of us, and his parent’s home reno, they just have started to miss him.

One day last week after he left at 5:45am the Boy, who had awakened to see him off stood at the gate saying, “BYE DAD, Bye, Bye dad.” Long after he was gone. This woke up the Girl, sleeping peacefully near me. She runs out of the bedroom panicked yelling, “I want a hug from daddy.”

When she got to the gate and realized he was already gone she screamed in a piercing, desperate, angry little voice, “I WANT A HUG FROM DADDY, I WANT TO SAY GOODBYE TO DADDY” over and over again until I dragged her inside imagining all of the neighbors cursing us as the 6:30 quiet is shattered by her hysterics.

The Boy wanted to go shopping with daddy today instead of swimming at the pool, that is a daddy hungry boy.

So I’m thankful for Father’s Day because for whatever reason, my kids got to spend a day with their dad and they needed it.

16.6.06

I can’t decide what to write about.

Foremost in my brain is my pregnant body and it’s unceasing demands, and the book I am reading right now, Birthing from Within, by Pam England. I wish I had read this book when I was pregnant with my first child as it talks all about how what a mother really needs to know in order to give birth and become a mother isn’t something we can learn in our heads, it’s a transformation our hearts and spirits and bodies must undergo. Learning everything about the way birth is perceived medically isn’t actually that much help when you are labouring because a woman experiences birth much differently than in the stages we learn about in childbirth classes. Anyway, I’m fascinated, and from experience know how true this is, so I’m enjoying the book, and I’m excited to do the birth art projects in it. MY doula for the last birth did some of the projects from this book with me and they were very helpful. But I don’t want this to turn into a pregnancy only blog, so here are some of my other thoughts for the day.

Americans really are different than Canadians. I know this is not that shocking to some of you, but I always thought living in Canada that we were much the same. My first inkling that this may not be the case came was when my future husband met my grandparents for the first time. He said yes the first time when they offered him something, and my grandmother visibly flinched. Since most of you don’t get this being American I’ll explain. There is a little ritual that we go through in Canada, at least where I grew up, later I lived in Vancouver with Asian neighbors and they are worse at this, but we in the Midwest do it too. When someone offers you something, you politely decline. This could be anything from tea or something to eat, to a ride somewhere, any kind of favor volunteered. You say no. This gives the person the chance to back out if they were only offering to be polite, or the chance to offer again. The number of times this happens until you finally accept or conclusively deny what is offered depends on who it is and your type of relationship, it includes a lot of, “well only if you’re getting some for yourself,” and “if you’re sure it’s not too much trouble,” and “no trouble at all,” and well if you insist”. A good guest must be coaxed into dessert, tea, a second helping, etc. My dear fiancé smiled and said yes please that sounds wonderful, and turned my grandparents little universe on it’s side for a second. It was while attempting to understand how there could be so much tension in a room over such innocuous conversation that I finally realized the existence of these rules, and was able to explain how they are broken. Until that moment I had taken them for granted.

Now that I’m a mother, making friends with other mothers here in southern California, I am discovering so many other things that are different, I feel kind of displaced and a little bit homesick. The international community accuses the US of being puritanical, you know, they may be right. I have never seen so many women afraid to nurse in public. If they do stay where they are to nurse it’s under a gigantic blanket with a spouse holding it up for them as they get it all sorted out. This is in the summer time heat. But that woman was quite bold. I have not seen one woman in church aside from myself actually nurse her child in the building. They go running to their sweltering hot cars at the far end of the parking lot where their husbands park on purpose so that they can remain as invisible as possible. But you can buy porn in every corner store it seems, why would something so innocent and beautiful be such a big deal.
I understand that lots of women are really shy and modest and maybe this is what they want, but it seems more to me like it’s to accommodate the men around them that are made uncomfortable by the idea that an invisible breast may at this moment, in their immediate proximity, have a baby's mouth on it. So you see why the word puritanical comes to mind. This is weird for me, because in Vancouver women nursed everywhere, buses, parks, coffee shops, restaurants, churches, public pools; I was definitely in the majority there. I’ve even nursed at the table in my grandparent’s house who have their aforementioned own brand of weird cultural ideas, but no one blinks twice at a nursing mother.

Another thing I can’t get over is how many grown-ups drink soda. Teenagers drink it, kids want it, but I don’t remember a lot of adults drinking soda when I was growing up like I see here. Maybe it’s just too hot to drink coffee, but you know, there’s iced tea and water. Oh yeah, and wonder bread, seriously, people still eat that stuff?

Oh and there are the number of women who don’t even try to breast feed but go straight to formula and don’t even appear to feel a touch regretful about the decision. That’s strange to me.

Or there’s the fact that half of the streets here have no sidewalks, so there are some places I can’t walk with my kids.

Or the total lack of anything that isn’t a gigantic chain store to shop at, not that I don’t love Target.

There’s the now famous poo vs. poop.

People are generally more optimistic here though, and more friendly.

Maybe this has more to do with moving from urban to suburban than Canada to the US, I don’t know. Maybe it’s just this particular piece of Southern CA that is like this. I find myself just sitting and listening and feeling very out of place these days, and I don’t say much because people are usually defensive at first if you comment on something they do that’s strange to you. What’s it like where you live, are there other differences that I haven’t noticed yet?

13.6.06

It was bound to happen someday

I cried this evening, it started out as quiet tears and turned into deep sobbing for a couple of minutes after that. Now what, you ask, could possibly cause an extremely emotional pregnant woman to cry, besides a slight change in the weather, a puddle of mysterious liquid on the floor, the unexpected, read nauseating, smell of garlic when I open my fridge, any kind of disappointment, or thinking about what to cook for dinner? Since we all know I don’t cry without a VERY GOOD REASON these days, and the suspense is now killing you, here it is.

While I was on the phone happily accepting an invitation to a 1 year-olds birthday party, happily because I like his mom a lot, my children were being mysteriously quiet in the bathroom with the door closed. (I don’t know how my mommy instincts have become so deadened, but there were no flashing lights going off when they should have been.) When I was finished on the phone I called the Girl so I could brush her very snarled hair.

It was as I was brushing that I noticed the unusually short layer at the back of her head, where most of her hair now reaches to her shoulder blades, these strands were at above her neck. On the next brush through handfuls of hair came out in the comb. As I worked my way around to the front of her head I noticed the Boy watching us. Some how I managed to calmly ask him if he had used the scissors to cut her hair. He nodded and confessed, ”I did.” Continuing to comb I told him that it was now a no-no to use the scissors to cut his, or any other person’s hair without permission from now on. I surprised myself by how calm I was and how I realized he was just imitating what I do to his head all of the time and he didn’t know better.

Then I saw the extremely short, close-cropped little pieces of hair sticking up in a little even row right along her part line on the very top of her head, and I started to cry as more of her silky beautiful blond hair came away in my hand.

The boy, ever the little man, said, “Don’t cry mommy, it will grow back.”

To which I responded with tears rolling down my face, “But it took two years for it to get as long as it is, and now it’s all uneven and will take another two years just to look the way it looked before you cut it again.” And then I went into the bedroom and sobbed. And I feel silly now, but that it was perfectly normal for me to be sad though I don’t quite understand why.

So the girl will look a little bit goofy for a while, though I discovered that if I part the top different it’s not immediately visible, she just looks like she’s thinning prematurely. And part of me is impressed at the way my aspiring stylist son was able to cut such a straight line of hair at almost even lengths, like he’s learned something watching me. If we wanted to give her the shortest pixie cut ever I could have probably let him finish. She of course was a willing participant and feels no angst whatsoever over the loss of her “Petty hair”, I wonder how this will all play out in ten years or so. Will he be giving her regular short hair cuts as I inwardly sob, or will she be a girly girl after all and keep her lovely tresses long? It’s the end of an era for yet another child. I cried when the Boy first got his hair cut too though I planned on that happening.

9.6.06

Beyond Exercise

Once upon a time, before this new child took my body hostage and threatened unpleasant and painful results if I did not satisfy its demands for food every single hour of the day, I used to exercise.

I had almost forgotten all about it, it’s been two months and my butt is huge and my belly is too, but it’s not really because of my uterus yet, just the extra 3000 calories a day that I need to keep things semi-comfortable, and the total lack of aerobic activity that I have sunk into.

Yesterday, as testament to the fact that I used to set a healthy example for my children and take care of my body and brain, the Girl tottered over to me with a workout video in hand and told me she wants to exercise. She had gone and put on “exercise clothes” and was demanding something that used to be part of our daily routine. So we cleaned all of the toys off of the living room floor and I put in the show for her, and watched. I watched her still baby soft little body try to go through the Pilates for buns and thighs workout. Mainly she rolled on the floor a little bit and awkwardly flailed her leg around looking edible and adorable while she did it.

It reminded me though of why I am conscious of taking care of myself in the midst of this mommy gig. I am giving my children a gift that will serve them for years to come. I am teaching them to eat properly and exercise regularly something that I hope will keep them from the many problems that most adults experience with their bodies, but that’s not the main gift. I am teaching my son to expect that the woman in his life will not bend over backwards to serve him; that they deserve to be taken care of. I am teaching my daughter that it is important for a woman, especially a woman caring for others, to care for herself as well, that she has value, that she does not have to be martyr for the sake of her family. This has not been easy for me to learn, as it was not something my mother was able to model. For years my struggle with the idea that somehow maintaining a healthy weight, giving myself those same healthful though more expensive treats I get for my children, taking the time to exercise, making sure that I have eaten properly before doing all of those little tasks that my children demand each day was somehow selfish and vain, and this kept me from taking care of myself properly.
I now realize that this is one of the least selfish things I can do, because when I am healthy and my brain chemistry is okay I am a much better mother, and I can bring to them the gift of my full presence, without the burden of sadness, crankiness, or physical weakness. I am giving my children the gift of my health for years to come, hopefully. They will not, as I have, wonder if their 40 year old mother is going to be able to keep going on her own now that they have left home, because she is so unhealthy and has spent so many years doing nothing but sacrifice and fix everything for everyone else and she now resembles an empty shell. I have been afraid for her, and afraid to get to close to the deep sadness and frustration in her life for fear of being sucked in. Fortunately things have changed for her, many for the better including a really great husband, but there was a time when I worried everyday about what would become of her. Though I honor my mother for what she did for me, I do not want my children to carry this burden.

So I take the time for myself, to stay strong, healthy, and happy. And I do it without guilt, even if they clamour and cry for 30 minutes or so because I am not stopping in the middle of my workout to get them a banana. And they have learned that this is the way things are, they often ask me to exercise with them, at the playground, at home, and I feel as though I’m doing something right making it a part of our everyday routine.

So, since I have not the energy or strength of stomach in the morning for a full workout these days, but would much rather sip a cup of tea and hope for my breakfast to stay down, I have decided that I get a half hour walk in the evening while the GH handles bath time and jammies. As yesterday reminded me, it is my responsibility to myself, and to my family, and to this child inside of me to stay active and take deep breaths.

6.6.06

I learned Links!!!!!

Captain Mom has been graciously walking me through all of my HTML questions even though she's in the middle of a house renovation, a move, and several children that she homeschools. So go check her out.

Also in celebration of my newfound ability I will let you know what an avid fan of homebirth I am by sending you over to look at this sweet family birth slide show of an at home birth. I got a touch teary. But I'm pregnant and hormonal, so it's okay if you don't.

And since my husband gives me these dark brooding looks when I spend ALL of my evening on the computer instead of spending some time with him, I will write no longer and instead direct you to my very first blog post because you probably haven't read it yet, and you will laugh when you see the subject that first inspired me to start blogging.

4.6.06

Catching Up

We spent an almost idyllic weekend at the inlaws. It was actually a welcome relief from our place which is strange because when I am pregnant I usually want to stay in a hole and go nowhere. But I'm out of groceries and my fridge has this weird smell that I haven't been able to get rid of even though I've cleaned it twice. And the European style butter on the counter that my husband bought I can actually smell and it makes me sick every time. Oh yeah, and that summer garbage smell when the wind stops blowing that hangs over everything and reminds me of why we WON'T be buying a house in this otherwise okay neighborhood. Let's just say I was glad to leave. I spent way more time just hanging out with and talking to my little brothers and sisters in-law than I have in a long time and remembered why I like them so much. We were also on hand to say goodbye to the oldest sister in law, she's 17, before she went to the airport for a month and a half in Thailand, staying with a brother and helping out at an orphanage, and helping him get ready for his wedding.

I have such longing in me when I look at this girl for a chance to redo my life a little bit. I tell myself that I was never raised by people who knew how to empower me and help me to do the things I dreamed, or maybe my pessimism kept me from believing them. But who did I learn the pessimism from? I tell myself that I should be thankful that I finally learned how to choose my life instead of let it happen to me before I turned 30, but this girl is 17 and she knows it already. She's beautiful, talented, confident, smart, and she's not afraid to make choices and live her life. I'm not a bit jealous. But I find myself a little bit sad for what could have been, however silly that is to indulge in.

I need to learn how to give that kind of gift to my kids. It's not natural for me, so I hope I can learn how to do whatever it is that my inlaws have done before it's too late. I don't want to pass on scaredness, smallness, or pessimism to my children.

No I have not yet figured out HTML, but I may find time tomorrow. Thanks to everyone that has helped.

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