Sunday, July 31, 2011

Beach Bodies

Spent a bit of time at the beach today. Did you know that there are 4 beaches within a 10-15 minute drive of our place? Not bad at all, I say. It makes it delightfully possible to steal away for an hour or so and not worry about getting on the road by a quarter past dawn to make the most of your one "beach day" of the month.

Walking on the beach today, painfully aware of myself in a bikini for the first time this summer, I couldn't help but appreciate the unabashed lack of self-awareness in the under-5 set. Being at the beach these days is an exercise in self-flagellation for most of us, but not for our kids...yet. My daughter doesn't care about sitting up straight to avoid unsightly belly creases and rolls. She doesn't try to dash from the security of her towel to the security of the water out of anything more than being really excited to get in the water. She isn't concerned about sitting in the right position so as to minimize her thighs...and I love that about her. Of course, this carefree sense of confidence won't last forever. And as much as I try to shield her from my own insecurities and the insensitive remarks of people around her, there will come a day when she wants to go on a diet, when she thinks she's fat, when she doesn't like something about herself for no reason other than because someone or something told her to. And do you know what I'm going to tell her? I'm going to tell her that one of the great lessons that she has taught me, is that beauty is confidence and confidence is beauty. And the next time we hit the beach I'm going to lead by example.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Eljitos for everyone!

Our little girl likes to be involved. So when mama and dada kept mixing up these exciting cocktails every friday (last night counted as friday...but don't worry, tonight does too) it was only a matter of time before she wanted one. Of course, she's a smart cookie and knows that she hasn't quite reached the height requirement for alcohol either, so she asked for one "without booze". The result: an Eljito! She likes hers in the bath.

Doctor? Easy Peasy. Dentist? Hellooo? Anyone out there???

This morning I set about my mission to find the Cowfam a doctor and a dentist in our new town. Dentists...they're easy to find, right? Always taking new patients? Not at the end of July they're not. 8 phone calls. 8. And I managed to get one appointment. Every other office I called, including offices with multiple dentists, was closed until anywhere from the August 2nd to the 18th. I was dumbfounded. I actually took a break from looking for a dentist and switched gears to doctors. Because I like a challenge.

2 phone calls. 2 measly little phone calls and my entire family has a family physician. Is she any good? Who cares? I have my very own second opinion at the other end of my king size bed.

Be careful on the roads this long weekend, because the Emergency Rooms are open, but if you chip a tooth you're up the creek. Of course, you'll probably find a bunch of dentists up there fishing.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Dr. Seuss on the brain

In a very perfect world
You wouldn't like juice
And I wouldn't need coffee
But it's really no use

For you see it's unwise
To wish for odd things
Like superpowers
And magic rings

What matters most, if you really must know
Is that you have a big heart that continues to grow
You have a smart brain that will help you out too
When you're stuck in a rut wondering what you should do
And just when you think you may be all alone
You have parents who love you and a pretty nice home

Your home you can come to from near or from far
You can come by foot, plane, ship or railway car
It will always be here, and your parents will too
When you need us to help or to cook up some stew

Sure, I may be getting ahead of myself
Right now you just want my help reaching the shelf
The second one up though, you've mastered the first
So it's really not long before worse comes to worst
And you leave us here wondering, when did she grow up?
Remember when she couldn't drink from a cup?
Or figure out how to tie those shoes up?

The point, my dear toddler, of all of this talk
Is to tell you I LOVE YOU, now that can't be a shock
And tho sometimes we won't get along all that well
And there may be some secrets you don't want to tell
Please remember this poem - this is where you belong
If I had a good voice I would make it a song
Every bone, hair and cell that my body contains
Is devoted to you and is taking great pains
To make sure that you know that my love never wanes

Sometimes I'm grumpy, impatient and mad
Sometimes I'm not always nice when you're sad
I'm sorry for that, for I'm imperfect, see
But I'll never stop trying and trying to be
Worthy of you, for you came here to me
As perfect as any perfection could be

You will make mistakes too, it's what we all do
But like dogs will bark and cows will moo
And donkeys will bray and flies will shoo
You, my darling, will do what you do
And we will be there, so proud of you.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

By Popular Demand

It has come to my attention that I have been shirking my duties of providing ample pictures of my astonishingly cute little one for your viewing pleasure.

And so...

IKEA: Swedish for Devastation

I really screwed up this time.

In my quest to make this the most exciting 49 days my daughter will ever experience, I included the famed Ballroom at IKEA on the list. You see, a couple of months ago we were shopping at IKEA, and on our way out E got a glimpse of a room full of coloured balls. She wanted it bad. Unfortunately, she was already on full meltdown mode and besides, a sign clearly stated that kids must be toilet trained. It was a no-go. Needless to say the meltdown continued well into the car ride home.

Anyhoo, now that I am quite sure that I can leave her unattended for an hour without her turning the ball pit into the ball pool, I figured we'd give it a shot. I had a couple of things to buy anyway and we had the car at our disposal. I geared her up for this. I told her about it last night over dinner, reminded her before bed, and when she woke up this morning the first thing she said when I walked into the room (nope, still hasn't bothered to try getting out of bed herself yet) was "Can we go to the baaaaall piiiit???" Sure! I replied. For a girl who usually likes to putter for the first hour of her day, we got out the door with military precision this morning.

We arrive at 9:40am. The store opens at 10. No matter, we were planning on splurging for a $1 breakfast with free coffee anyhow, and the restaurant opens at 9:30. At the restaurant, she frolicked happily in the play area with the little toy kitchen and a pair of abacuses...abaci? We should have let that good time roll, because in five short minutes the world was going to end, and there we were smiling dumbly.

4 minutes later...
I carry a positively bursting toddler toward the ballroom. We're whipping each other into a frenzy, skipping along the arrows to the promised land. Then we're standing in line, waiting relatively patiently, and I notice absently that that ball pit looks much deeper than the one at Cosmic Adventures. No matter, I tell myself, there's someone there to supervise. Of course, I note, she seems a little busy and does have her back turned to the...rather calamitous, if I'm being honest...activity behind the other room. And then I see it.

The height chart.

There was a moment, a brief flash not unlike the stories you hear about tiny mothers lifting transport trucks to save their babies...humour me...when I considered launching my daughter into the ball pit and running like hell to housewares. But it passed, and I'm sure that the panic in my spasming chest was reflected in my widening eyes.

"How old is she?" asked the surprised employee, pointing to E.
"2 and a half," I reply confidently.
"Is she toilet trained?" (thinly veiled suspicion here)
"She sure is!" (more beaming bravado)
"Well, put her against the wall."

Now, the minimum height on the wall is 37 inches, and I know for a fact that two weeks ago my daughter was 34 inches tall. But I prayed for a miracle. Because this, ladies and gentlemen, was the absolute, without-a-doubt, worst mother moment I have ever experienced. Worst. The combination of being the one to plant this seed of anticipation in her brain, to being the one to have to physically extricate her from the vicinity after being so close she could smell the fun she almost had, to the knowledge that if only I had shot up a couple more inches after high school she might just have made it, to the look on that beautiful little face, followed by the absolute saddest display of utter disbelief and disappointment I have ever witnessed. Now, I'm not one of those evil parents who take pictures of their children in extreme emotional distress, but apparently there are plenty of them out there, so I can tell you that it was eerily similar to this. I know. I still can't believe I held it together without sobbing along with her. I REALLY wanted to.

She did end up getting a free toy as a result of her passionate display, and we did salvage the day by buying her a smock and painting some popsicle sticks pink, and there's a good chance that E is well over it now. It's just her mother who will have nightmares of that moment for years to come.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Something to cling to

Three days ago my parents-in-law lost their house to a fire. They had lived in this house for over 30 years, since their twin boys were toddlers. They had long since paid it off, and have spent three decades filling it with everything that means something to them. They have done endless renovations themselves, they have shared it with their children and with tenants who became like family, with their children's children, with friends and family and pets. I can't think of another couple who has been so firmly planted and has grown so beautifully in one spot for so many years as these two. I have been heartbroken for them these last few days, and I cannot even begin to imagine the depth of their devastation. They may be able to rebuild, and if not they will no doubt find a new place to call home, but so much of what they held dear is gone. Irreplaceable.
Except each other.

J and I like to remind each other in difficult times that at least we still have each other. We have never been through something that would force us to cling so desperately to that sentiment. These two have. And as much as I have been repeating over and over for the past few days what a complete injustice this is - and it is that - there is one piece of this story that always floats to the surface of my mind. I cannot imagine a relationship that is better equipped to deal with this kind of tragedy.

When J spoke to them just an hour or so after the fire started, as they were standing outside watching their house burn, he asked if they were able to get anything out. His father said - "Just your mom." These two still have each other, and that, truly, is all each of them really needs.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Check your smoke detectors today

This is how quickly your life can go from a lovely Saturday morning to holding tight to your loved ones and leaving everything else behind.

I'm glad you guys are alright.

Friday, July 22, 2011

49 Days

That's how long my daughter has before her very first day of school. That's also how long her mama has her all to herself. After September 9th, E will spend the majority of her waking hours being influenced by people other than her parents. They will teach her new things, they will be authority figures and disciplinarians, they will be new friends, and there will no doubt be a bad influence here and there. But let's be honest, mama and dada aren't always the best influences either.

For the next 49 days, I'm going to give my daughter my best stuff. We're going to do fun things, and we're going to learn a few things too. I'm going to try to send her off to school with as many tools as I can think of, from successfully putting her own underwear back on to learning how to get the teacher's attention politely, and that sharing food will always score points.

I'm going to take her to lots of cool places, like the cat sanctuary at Parliament Hill and High Tea at Chateau Laurier.

I'm going to be resolutely patient, endlessly cheerful and downright enthusiastic about anything she might want me to be a part of, including my all-time nemesis: Moon Dough. I hate that stuff.

I think she understands what is going to happen. She continually reminds me that she's starting school in September. In fact, she has started making up names of new schools she would like to start in July and June, including the prestigious-sounding Mozzarella School. I hope we don't have to pay International Student fees for that one. She says things like "When I go to school, the teachers will teach me how to do things", and "If I need help getting on the toilet I can ask a teacher and she will help me" that boost my confidence that she knows that I won't be around. I think she'll be just fine, and I even think she'll love the crap out of school. What I'm most apprehensive about is how I'll manage to let her walk into that classroom without me, and how I'll ever feel like the time I spend with her is enough after these 49 days are over.

I'm almost hoping she gets rid of her naps this summer so I can squeeze in a little more time. I said almost. Great, now I jinxed it.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

My Best Stuff

"This blog is the place where I record my best stuff"

~Molly Wizenberg, author of Orangette

This line popped out at me from a tantalizing post about strawberry shortcake. Food blogs are often my happy place, and this is one of my favourites. Molly, of course, was referring to her recipes, but that simple statement reached out from the screen, grabbed me by the shoulders and gave me a firm yet gentle shake.


I'm just going to process that for a while.

Changes might be a'comin'.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Toddler Bed!

Yesterday morning, in an effort to be productive, no sooner had my little monkey emerged from her crib than we set to work dismantling it. Yessir, it's time for the Cowfam to experience the wonder of a Toddler Bed. Really it's just a crib with one side removed, but the significance of this moment represents a much more profound transformation. 

We no longer have a helpless little infant who needs to be safely ensconced within four walls whenever we're not present. 

We must now fall asleep each night, trusting that the little person that is most precious to us will stay in her bed, without falling onto the floor in her sleep or, I shudder at the thought, find her way to the stairs in the middle of the night. 

We have a little girl who is starting to outgrow things faster than we can keep track. Toys, diapers, is only a matter of time before she outgrows mom and dad, and I'm weepy at the thought.

We hung onto the crib for much longer than some, and as many of our friends made the switch we thought about when we would follow suit. We've been lucky. E is not much of a climber, and not much of a rebel. She's been happy in her crib. She'll often want to stay in her crib and play when she first wakes up, where most toddlers would be tearing around the house before breakfast. So we weren't in any hurry to move her from a place of safety and peace of mind to being one step closer to the great unknown. But this is just one in a long line of lessons in letting go. As parents, we will be doing this time and again for a lifetime, and as baby steps go, this one was bearable. It helped that E was over-the-moon excited about the whole thing. 

This morning, I expected to be woken up by a tug at my arm and a voice in my ear urging me out of bed. Instead, it was the same as every other morning, with a little voice down the hall announcing "My clock is yellow!" I'm sure it won't be long before she fully grasps the scope of her newfound freedom.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Life is a Bowl of Cherries...and some of them have pits

This post started out in my head much differently. In my head it involved gushing giddily over my new cherry pitter and raving about my delightfully decadent foray into the world of baking with fresh cherries and brown butter. That was before this ordeal really got going. And, while all's well that ends well, and it wasn't a complete disaster, now it's just a funnier story than it started out. So you're welcome. My failure is your laugh for the day.
It all started when I forgot the stinking milk. As we were driving away from the grocery store I remembered the most important item on the list. DANGIT! Fortunately for us, there is another grocery store on the way home, which is inferior in almost every way, except that it had fresh cherries on sale for $2.77/lb! 2 pounds please! And some milk. Once home with my ludicrous bag of cherries, it occurred to me that eating that many raw cherries would surely lead to digestive discomfort ranging on the scale from mild to explosive, so perhaps I should transform them into some kind of delectable dessert offering. And, as luck would have it, I was due to attend a potluck pool party in just a few days. Time to hit the world wide web and find the very best cherry-related recipe. And who did I find? One of my very favourite food bloggers, Deb at Smitten Kitchen, came through with several cheerful cherry choices. (I can't help myself.) And I went with Cherry Brown Butter Bars. Cherries + Butter = Yes.

I spent a day or so vaguely wondering how I would relieve 2 pounds worth of cherries of their pits without a) pulverizing them, b) turning our kitchen into a CSI crime scene and c) still having edible cherry bits left over. Then I discovered the cherry pitter. A device that actually removes pits from cherries, leaving the cherry otherwise intact. Why, in my lifelong devotion to the preparation and consumption of all things edible, had I never come across such a thing? I sped immediately to my nearest hardware store (because I didn't have a car and it was the only place within walking distance where I thought I might have a shot), and found one! For $3.29! SOLD! I skipped home, bursting at the seams with anticipation to give this whole cherry pitting thing a try.

But first it was naptime. I tell you that kid can sleep when she knows mama is waiting on pins and needles for her to wake up....


She's awake! We donned our aprons and got to work. Elle in charge of stemming, and mama (well, the cherry pitter, really) in charge of pitting. What a well oiled machine we were! Stem, pit, plop, stem, pit, plop, stem, pit - CRACK!...aww, dangit! One of the cherry pitting handles snapped off! Stupid plastic junk. Oh well, still half the cherries to go. I can work with one handle. Let's soldier on! Stem, pit, plop, stem, pit - CRACK!...what the? AAAARRRRGHHHHHHH! Okay, handles are for wimps anyway. One more pound to go, no problem. Wait a tic, the stemmer is going faster than the pitter, and all the cherries are plopping into the same that one pitted yet? Oh no! Never mind, it'll be fine. Let's just get this thing done....

So here's what they looked like:

Pretty delicious right? Yeah. They were pretty good. And as long as you were warned about the pits, you could probably escape serious dental injury. Or choking. Did I mention that there were about a dozen kids at this party?

The verdict:

No one died.
The bars without pits were decidedly better than the ones with pits.

I have renamed the Cherry Brown Butter Bars to the You Get What You Pay For Bars. And I'm on the lookout for a new cherry pitter.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Party Time

As the days went by and I was no longer changing wet underwear or wiping up puddles on the floor, I began to realize that our daughter is getting the hang of this potty thing. Overnight it seems I went from having to put her on the potty a million times a day because she would never tell us in time, to her deciding exactly when and where she would go on her own and not spilling a drop in between. I guess something clicked. That's worth a party, right?

Around day 10 or so I told her that if she got to 14 days or two whole weeks without having an accident then we would have a party. This was a big hit. I told her that she could even decide what we would do at the party. Even bigger hit. Her requests? Eat ice cream in the park and fly a kite. Pretty awesome party, if you ask me. So that's what we did. Day 14 came and went with another pair of dry underpants, and so we threw a tutu over them (guess who got to pick her own outfit?), grabbed Dada (who was surprisingly off for the afternoon), a cooler bag full of ice cream and a horsey kite from Gramma Leslie, and away we went. Turns out that Elle's a natural with the kite. Also with ice cream, but that's no surprise, considering whose kid she is.

First things first. Fueling up for the serious business of kite flying.

Calmly surveying the wind conditions...Okay! It's time! Come on! COME ON!!!

First, there's lots of running...don't worry, Mama and Dada will help you.

 Thanks guys, but I got this. 

Nuthin' to it

There was a time when I could not drive, and if I think back far enough, when it did not occur to me to be afraid of driving. Who hasn't hopped into their dad's lap, grabbed the wheel and squealed with delight at the prospect of having a giant heap of metal obeying their every command?

Eventually, I came to find the prospect of such an endeavour to be daunting, although the thrill still won out. (Thanks dad, for tempering that thrill with patient instruction, and for getting me out of that snowbank...and that pesky 4-way stop...and thanks to both mom and dad for not completely freaking out about that little mix-up in the mall parking guys are great.) Once the whole issue of learning to drive was out of the way I, like most teenagers, became a big fan of my newfound mobility. Driving was pretty fun, and no longer very scary. Until Toronto.

Driving around Kingston in my youth, and even popping on the highway for short bits or slightly longer bits when University came, was great fun. But I always thought of Toronto as that big scary place where small town drivers go to die. Literally. Big city, lots of cars, one-way streets, aggressive drivers. I always swore I'd never drive in Toronto. And if only I hadn't fallen in love with a die-hard "Downtown Toronto" native, I may have escaped initiation. And what a shame that would have been.

In the early days, I held strong. I would drive from Kingston or London as far as Yonge Street. I would get off of the 401 and drive approximately 500 metres to a Swiss Chalet parking lot, where my all-kinds-of-wonderful boyfriend cum husband would meet me after a 45 minute journey involving the subway and a sexy pair of Roots boots. Remember those? Anyhoo, he did it willingly (as though he had a choice), and I let him for a few years at least. Then one day, and I can't remember why, I decided that I would do it. To be honest, it was most likely some kind of desperate situation where I had to leave Toronto and J couldn't drive me out and so I had no choice in the matter, but I like to think that it was a pivotal moment in my maturity when I grabbed the bull by the horns and really, who am I hurting if that's the way I want to remember it? Although there is a distant memory of my eventually-to-be father-in-law attempting to scout out the least painful route for me while doing an excellent job of masking his incredulity at what a wimp his son's girlfriend was...but I digress.

Where the heck am I going with this post?

Ah, to Montreal. But first, New York City.

Oh, back to Toronto for one second. So I did it. I drove from Toronto to somewhere else, I survived, I had a rush of adrenaline and a surge of self pride, and my husband has not since set foot in that Swiss Chalet parking lot. These days, it no longer occurs to me to feel nervous when I drive in Toronto, and that suits me just fine.

You might think I would have learned a valuable lesson from all of this. Something about fearing things for no good reason and making mountains out of molehills. Well, you would be wrong. It'll take a heck of a lot more than that to get through to this girl. Toronto became New York City. And it was always Montreal.

My husband and I have been driving to New York City since before we were married. And I swore I would never drive in that town. I would drive as far as New Jersey, perhaps close to the George Washington Bridge, but never over it. No sir. Those are some crazy drivers. Then we moved to Brooklyn. We didn't have a car, but we did have occasion to rent cars once in a while. So eventually I drove in Brooklyn, and it was fine. Just like driving in any other town, as it were. Same traffic rules, same helpful green and red lights, everybody doing basically what they're supposed to do. But I still refused to drive in Manhattan. As it happened, I escaped without having to. Whew. Still no lesson learned, apparently.

And then there was Montreal. I have been afraid to drive in Montreal since I first heard someone say they were afraid to drive in Montreal. But my fears don't come completely out of ignorance. You see, I have been riding in cars that have driven through Montreal since I was a toddler. I remember yelling, maps tearing, brakes slamming, and more than a few missed turns. I'm pretty sure I've blocked the rest of it out. It was never a peaceful experience. Especially that time I announced that I absolutely must use the bathroom right now. That went over well.  In any case, a history of harrowing experiences coupled with the quirky habits of the highways running through Montreal to have exits on both sides with little to no on-ramps, to be less than reliable with their signage, and to have lane changes and exits INSIDE TUNNELS...have made me quite comfortable with the decision that Montreal was the one city I would NEVER. DRIVE. IN.

Until today. Today I conquered Montreal. I drove right into the Old Port. Then I drove to the Biodome. Then I drove home to Ottawa. Just me, and my sidekick in the backseat. Sure, I was nervous. But not nearly as nervous as I should have been, considering the number of years that I've been dreading this moment.

And you know what? I have to say that I think that little loudmouth in the backseat makes all the difference. I'm much braver since becoming a mom. In fact, the first time I remember feeling my newfound courage was driving our giant Toyota 4-Runner through the narrow, windy streets of St. Georges in Grenada, dodging children in the street with 3 foot ditches on either side and parallel parking on a wicked-steep hill. What made me do such a thing? Mama needed an ultrasound, and I'd be damned if I was going to give up a chance to see my little baboushka kicking around in there because I couldn't get a ride into town.

Yes, I think I'll hang on to my sidekick, and make sure I bring her along the next time I'm in New York City. I'm going to need someone to flip the bird as I leave those yellow cabs in the dust.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Out of the Mouth of My Babe

E: Maybe you can buy me a water table?M: Yeah, I think that's a good idea.
E: Right now?
M: No, not right now. But you play with these buckets.
E: I will buy a water table. But my duckies can swim in these buckets in the meantime.

Meantime? Toddlers may not have much of a sense of time, but it appears that this one has a pretty solid understanding of meantime.

E: (in her trademark crank-whine) But I wanted to waaaaaalk! I didn't waaaaant you to carry me!
J: I'm sorry, I was just trying to help. I didn't know you wanted to walk. Do you think I can read your mind?
E: (eyes lighting up with this new epiphany) Yes! You can! Read it, dada! Read please!

Well, he can read books. Why not a mind or two?


E: Is this an ambulance, mama?
M: No, this is our car.
E: Can we pretend it's an ambulance though?
M: Sure.
E: This is a nice ambulance, mama.
M: Thanks. But where are the sick people?
E: Oh, they're right here. Beside me on the seat. Reese is sick, and Anabelle and Erin are sick too.
M: What's wrong with them?
E: They have a little bit of appendicitis. Actually, they have a LOT of appendicitis.
M: Oh, that doesn't sound good. Are you going to give them some medicine?
E: Not right now. When we stop I will. I can't right now because we're driving.

Sage advice there. But let's hope that your average EMT plays a little more fast and loose with rules about medicating while driving.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Dear Universe in General,

I'd like to thank you. I'd like to thank those responsible for all of the elements affecting my life that are beyond my control. You play a part in the good days and the bad, and you are comforting to have around.

You see, I quite often disappoint myself for a variety of reasons. And if I had to carry the full burden of responsibility for those disappointments I would surely crumble. But the simple fact is that it gives me comfort to know that sometimes, no matter what, things just don't work out right. Of course, one must be careful to avoid using this fact as an excuse. That's a slippery slope, to be sure.

On the other hand, when I'm beaming with pride and accomplishment over the course of events I have taken, I would be wise to acknowledge the help I have received from you, random though it may seem. No man is an island, and no perfect day comes about by the actions of one person alone.

So thank you mysterious great unknown, including everyone and everything that plays a part in my day. For better or for worse, we are team.

As a token of this gratitude, I will make a concerted effort to consider my impact on the world as part of this "great unknown" for those around me. I will try to be a positive outlook, a smiling face, the neighbour who doesn't mind you blocking the driveway, the person in line behind you at the grocery store who encourages you to go back and get the milk you forgot, thus rescuing breakfast tomorrow morning, the one to be counted on for a kind word when it's needed, and even when it's not.

You're the best. (See? We're doing a great job already.)


Sunday, July 10, 2011

Dow's Lake Arboretum, aka Tree Farm

In the book Babar's Family Time, Babar and Celeste take their kids, and a mysteriously ever-present Cousin Arthur, on a family picnic. This is the book that E pulled off of her bookshelf this morning, the very same morning that we had decided to pack up the whole Cowfam (Ralph included) and head to the Dow's Lake Arboretum for some frolicking and picnicking of our own. How fitting.

The Arboretum is not far from our house, and it's not just a bunch of trees. There's a lake (as the name would imply), a pavilion with restaurants and boat rentals, a hosta garden, unlimited walking and biking trails, dozens of ducks, a dragonfly, lots of spiders and even a muskrat or two. Did I mention the dogs? Dogs everywhere. It's a good thing we decided to temporarily lift the ban on taking Ralph out in public for this one. He swam, he played fetch, he collapsed repeatedly in the grass. And he managed to be civil when one or two other four legged creatures crossed his path. Maybe there's hope yet.

As for our terrible two year old, she ran through the grass, she chased dogs and fed ducks, she giggled at the muskrat and even let a spider crawl on her face. And after eating a reasonably healthy lunch she sat down to enjoy her favourite bug of all...the chocolate variety hidden in bumblebee wrapping.

And when Ralph would no longer run and E would no longer chase, we decided to leave on a high note. Sunday mornings aren't always this perfect, but it sure is nice when they are.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Moments that become Memories

Sitting under a huge maple tree, shielded from a sudden summer shower, teaching my 2 year old how to play patty-cake.

Watching her chase puppies in the grass, erupting with giggles and glee as another dog, and another dog join the fun until she disappears in a sea of tails and tongues.

Tearing through the basement together, discovering all kinds of new and magical places in what was previously thought to be a wasteland of boxes and laundry.

Laying in the dark of her room, post-nap, listening to her voice become more and more animated as she describes her dreams in surprising and suspicious detail.

The trips to the splash pad and the ball pit, birthday parties and airplane rides to faraway places  - those are all great and fun, but the time in between is indescribably precious in other ways. These little moments are the ones when we really connect with each other. When I'm not so concerned about wow-ing her, or getting it all in, or waiting for the fun to start. These are the moments that I'll never be too tired or too busy to enjoy. And as accidental and fleeting as they are, these are the sweet moments that will be burned into my memory for a lifetime.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Self Help

I'm hoping that this blog will make me a better parent. Writing things down makes me think about how I've behaved in different situations, and how I would like to have behaved. It also gives me time to see things differently than how they looked at the time that they happened. Maybe after enough looking back I'll be able to put all this hindsight to a bit more productive use, like in the present. Things that frustrate the bejesus out of me in the moment are almost always funny later on.

Take the Why's. Man, oh man, the Why's.

I got an email today from a parents group about dealing with the rigidity often seen in kids in the 2-3 range. I once heard a friend refer to toddlers as fatalists, and I think of that every time I see the expression on E's face when a segment of her orange falls away from the rest of the orange before she had intended it to, or when she removes the entire peel from the banana when she only meant to pull it halfway down. These are pretty serious catastrophes for my little primadonna, and they are very difficult to avoid in a day that will be filled with things that are out of the realm of my control, let alone that of my clumsy toddler. And when she looks at me with tears in her eyes and asks "Why did it do that?! I didn't want it to do that!!!", what can I say? Some days I'm practically in tears myself, other days I am completely depleted of empathy and the best I can offer is the rather dismissive "Chill out sister. It's not a big deal" mantra. And mantra it is indeed, to the point that when I start to freak out I often hear "CHILL UP SISTA!" coming from that little person that used to just cry and poop.

The Why's aren't so bad when they're born of a genuine thirst for knowledge. It's the Why's that proliferate out of an obsessive compulsion to keep hammering that dead horse that really wear a girl down. It's getting a bit outrageous in our house right now.

E: You want some of my food, mama?
M: No thanks. You eat it.
E: Why?
M: Because it's your food.
E: Why is it my food?
M: Because it's on your plate.
E: Why is it on my plate?
M: Because I put it there.
E: Why did you put it there?

At this point, I start looking for a way out. Generally, I have one of two strategies. There's the "I Love You" strategy and the "Circular Stand-Off" strategy.

A. I Love You

M: Because I love you.
E: Why do you love me?
M: Because you're my baby.
E: Why am I your baby?
M: Because I made you.
E: Why did you make me?
M: Because I wanted you.
E: Why did you want me?
M: Because you're so darn cute!
**tickling, kissing, or some other kind of overwhelming bodily torture that will eventually distract her from the line of questioning.**

This one is fairly effective, except that the string keeps getting longer. It used to be that "Because I love you" would suffice, but every couple of days she decides that she needs further elaboration. This strategy is beginning to need it's own strategy.

B. Circular Stand-Off

M: Because it's your food.
E: Why is it my food?
M: Because it's on your plate.
E: Why is it on my plate?
M: Because I put it there.
E: Why did you put it there?
M: Because it's your food.
E: Why is it my food?
**Are you picking up on the pattern here? Because if not, maybe you can come over and babysit for...a year or so.**

This one generally works, so long as I can hold out longer than she can. But she also kind of likes it because it's a game, so I'm not really curbing any future "excessive why-ing" with this one.

I need new material. Back to this parenting website, after perusing their tips on dealing with inflexible offspring, I did a little searching for how to deal with the Why? issue. It didn't start off well. So many comments from people about fostering inquisitiveness and embracing the opportunity to watch your child learn and teaching them that it's good to ask questions, being excited about imparting knowledge...Yes, yes. It's good. Answer those questions. Teach them all kinds of crap. Never a dumb question, yadda yadda. I was starting to feel a little violent.

What I'm talking about is the Why-ing for the sake of Why-ing. The Why-ing when she already knows the answer. The Why-ing when she doesn't actually care about the answer.  That's where I need the help.

The good news is that I picked up one helpful hint. It's a very simple one: Redirection. Several parents commented that when their child asks Why to a question they know the answer to or repeatedly even after the answer is given, they will often ask "Why do you think?" or just "Why?" And apparently it works. Kids feel proud about being able to give the answers themselves. Worth a shot, I say.

Well, just before nap time today the sea was rife with Why's. Why is that dog green? Why does that green dog not match the tree? Why can I only see the dog's tail? Why is that dog not sleeping? (Questions I would eagerly put to Dr. Seuss, if only he was available.) And you know, every time I asked her what she thought the answer was, she came up with one, and as a result forgot to continue asking Why. Genius.

Okay, sure, later this afternoon we got caught up a bit in the "You tell me." "No, you tell me!" switcheroo, but overall it was a winner. Try it yourself. I'm wondering if there's a way to make it work on my husband.

J: Honey, where's E's towel?
M: Where do you think it is???

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Date Night!

Coincidentally, a GrammaPapa visit also meant that Mama and Dada were able to experience the ever-elusive Date Night smack in the middle of J's first week of residency hell. We went to this fantastic foodie haven, and had an absolute devil of a time. If you can believe it, my husband made me leave before dessert, mumbling some nonsense about having to go home and "get some work done" before work tomorrow...I'm still confused...but I was nonetheless terribly impressed and cannot wait to go back to try that Lavender Creme Brulee I've heard so much about.

It was divine, and we returned to a bottle of champagne and a cheerful toddler who was happy to retire to her brand new sleeping bag for the evening while two generations her senior retired to their champagne glasses. I can't imagine a better scenario. Here I am with one sip of champagne left, and no need to tiptoe through the house as I get ready for bed as my daughter is safely ensconced in her new coccoon with an every watchful set of grandparents to cater to her every whim. In fact, what the heck am I still doing on the computer...

GrammaPapa come to visit

From her first time sleeping in a camper to WAY more sweets than any child should be allowed to have in one day, it's safe to say that Elle's visit with Gramma B and Papa G has been a success. Some memorable quotes include:

Hi Gramma! Hi Papa! Do you mind if I sleep in the camper?

I had ice cream AND cookies AND chocolate!

I made a man-sized poop!

Yep, that about sums it up. Good times had all around. Not to mention pretty productive, if you know what I mean.

Monday, July 4, 2011

First Day

My husband left the house early this morning for his first shift of what will undoubtedly be a brilliant career as a physician. I felt a bit like a mom watching her baby go off to her first day of school as I watched him walk away with lab coat and stethoscope in place, all too aware of the fact that come September I will be witnessing that milestone too. And although I've only been on hiatus, I will also be returning to work in September. It's a big year for our family. Babies become students, students become doctors, stay-at-home moms become working moms. And it feels like just yesterday I was sitting on a school bus, looking out the window and daydreaming about what life would be like when I grew up. I still don't have the answer to that question, but whatever this is right now feels pretty good.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

To Do: More of This

Splash Pad. 
Two words that our daughter loves immeasurably. From her first swimming experience at the tender age of 4 months...

...E has been an avid water baby. She even loves to wear swim hats. Who loves to wear swim hats? My daughter, that's who.

She has several bathing suits in all different hues, one pair of pink swim goggles, one pink swim hat and one large penchant for anything water-related. We've recently discovered that Ottawa has a veritable plethora of outdoor fun-in-the-sun-and-water activities. Here are a few shots of Water Baby enjoying Brewer Park a couple of weeks ago. 

 Ready guys!

 Narrow escape.

 Hey wait! I didn't give you my phone number!

I think tomorrow we'll go straight from pj's to swim gear and discover a new splashy spot to beat the heat, water baby style.

DIY: Canada Day Edition

If you're looking to get the jump on next year, here are some tips I've compiled on planning a successful Canada Day celebration.

1. Move to Ottawa, if at all possible.

2. Understand that, although Parliament Hill looked vast and peaceful when you drove past it last week, there is absolutely zero possibility of your packing a picnic lunch and lazing lackadaisically on the grass while various entertainers, of whom you have an unobstructed view, perform quietly in the background. 

3. Although you will likely have more fun if you bring a child, it will be in the "look how cute my kid is as she runs around pointing at all the flags and yelling Happy Birthday Canada!" sense, as opposed to the "Hey it's a holiday, let's get drunk and party with a bunch of strangers" sense. It's just a different kind of fun.

4. Wear red and white. Or don't. It really doesn't matter.

5. If at all possible, arrive at Parliament Hill early, before anything really starts to happen, then leave before the really exciting stuff happens (i.e. visiting Royals, Snowbirds air show, famous musicians, etc. etc.) It's actually more fun to muse about what's everyone is shouting about two blocks over while enjoying a coffee or some lunch on a quiet patio. Less chance of losing a child or an arm in the crush of rabid Will&Kate-o-philes that way. 

6. It's probably not the best idea to arrange to meet up with someone, particularly someone you haven't seen in 12 years, by hoping to just randomly run into them because you're going to roughly the same place at roughly the same time. Parliament Hill. Canada Day. As plans go, it just not very realistic.

7. Above all, remember the words of Don Cherry. No, not those. That's rude. I was thinking of "Keep your head up and your stick on the ice." It's Canada Day, after all, not Run-around-like-an-idiot-trying-to-prove-that-you're-Canadian-and-only-end-up-embarrassing-the-rest-of-us Day. It's a day to chill out and enjoy a little time with the people we love. And if you're doing that, you're doing Canada Day proud. Now take off the flag and put your pants back on.

I'm in front of Parliament Hill. Oh, you too? Hmm...I don't see you. 

 Look for someone wearing red and white.


Friday, July 1, 2011

Making friends!

We're almost a month in to our new city and it's probably time to start socializing a little. It seems like there's always something else to be done, another box to be unpacked, an address change to make, another trip to Wal-Mart, it never ends really. But fortunately for us our neighbours caught us on the way out to one of those neverending tasks a couple of weeks ago and introduced themselves.  We finally managed to make it over to their place for a drink the other night and had a great time. Their names, according to E, are Matt, Basil and 4 month old Husband. Close enough. We enjoyed some beer, some wine, and non-stop conversation for about four hours before we all realized that it was 1am and our children would expect to see us in the morning. E even went to sleep on their guest bed without a complaint until we were ready to go home. Well, no complaints exactly. I did have to go up to her once after hearing loud shushing noises coming from her room, followed by "Stop talking guys. Me and Husband are sleeping!"

For anyone keeping track, that's 2 younger men she now refers to as Husband. The apple doesn't fall far from the tree, I'm afraid.