Thursday, May 31, 2012

Things I've learned from thirtysomething

1. No matter what shizz has gone down during the day that may or may not necessitate immediate discussion, try to offer a smile and a kiss to your husband - coupled, if possible, with a sense of calm (sincere or manufactured) - when he walks in the door. Now I know on the surface that it smacks of something out of a 1950's Good Housekeeping guide for beginner wives, but I think it can make a huge difference. Think for a second of the last time you met up with your girlfriend. Did you walk into her house and follow the chaotic sounds of armageddon until you found her, crouched frantically over one mess or another, barely acknowledging your presence except to huffily ask you why you didn't bring the empty recycling bin in when you must have walked right by it in the driveway? I thought not. Let's all try to treat our husbands more like our girlfriends. At least in the general sense of not treating them like crap, m'kay?

2. Get some more friends. While we have lots of distant friends - a product of our nomadic lifestyle of the last several years - we haven't yet formed many close relationships in Ottawa. We have some great neighbours, who also happen to have young children, and who might very well become the kind of folks we want to wrestle with on the couch at midnight and relive our majorette days while our kids sleep upstairs. (Somehow it didn't seem as sordid as it sounds when it played out on the show.) But more effort will definitely have to be made if we want to cultivate that kind of bonding, and relationship cultivation is generally not high on the list at the end of a long day of arguing with a preschooler, performing healing miracles at work and feigning calm serenity for my husband. Making friends is tiring. But frankly, sometimes I wouldn't mind another wrestling partner. Plus, you know the great thing about friends with kids? Babysitting trade-offs!

3. One day my kids will treat me the way I treat my parents. There is one episode early on in the series in which Hope's parents come to stay with them, and Hope is continually aggravated by her mother's every move, acting rather bitchily throughout and eventually losing her schmidt completely. I kept trying to figure out who we're supposed to sympathize with, because I definitely sympathized with Hope's mother even though Hope is usually the one we feel sympathetic to. Parents, both the biological and the "out-law" variety - for the most part...after all, nutjobs come in every denomination - are lovely people to have around when kids are small, and their intentions can almost always be described as honourable, geared toward - at best - making your wee ones happy, and - at worst - getting your wee ones to love them the best. They're really not trying to exact revenge or send some thinly veiled message about your failure as a parent. So lighten up.

4. Focus on life two minutes at a time. Michael goes off the deep end in one episode while under a tremendous amount of pressure to come up with a great advertising idea, finding inspiration in the Home Shopping Channel. Each product featured was only available for two minutes, and if you didn't act on it, it was gone. And if you spent the next two minutes worrying about what you missed, you would miss the next thing too. So he figured that the important thing to do was to focus on the present, and not spend time thinking about the past or worrying about the future. As long as we have the present, we will be okay. Of course, he goes on to crack up further, produce a lousy idea and get fired, but I think the message is still sound.

5. Shoulder pads were truly ridiculous. As were high-waisted pleated pants and/or men with big hair. Slouch socks? Okay, I still love the slouch socks. Particularly when they match my sweater.

I haven't even finished the first season, and look at all of this wisdom. thirtysomething is genius.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

We are a very immature lot.

It all started with J and I sitting on the couch, enjoying a quiet morning. J was, as usual, doing a little online research in his ongoing quest to make our aquarium the coolest aquarium in the history of ever. I bore quickly of such pursuits, and decided to get creative:

J: Maybe we should get a Six Line Wrasse. Oooh, and look at this one, a Leopard Wrasse.
M: If I discover a new species of fish, do you know what I'm going to call it?
J: What?
M: The Crackamai Wrasse.
J: Oh yeah?
M: Hey, do you think you can find the Crackamai Wrasse on Kijiji?
J: Nice.

It probably should have ended there. But instead, after J and I had gone off to our respective grown-up jobs, it devolved into one of the more immature text exchanges in the history of iPhone, and it just wouldn't be fair not to share it with the world. Health care professionals at their best, ladies and gentlemen:

In my next post I promise to try to start earning back your respect. But first I have to respond to a text...

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

The Long Weekend

Parents who get to spend a reasonable amount of grown-up time together know the rules. J and I do not. Which is why we found ourselves ending Date Night with a screening of The Descendents. You know, the movie about a family with a mom in a coma and a dad who doesn't "get it" trying to re-establish his relationships with his daughters in the face of all kinds of dysfunction. We have already been chastised by seasoned date-night afficionados - NO DEPRESSING MOVIES!!! I know, it should have been obvious. I was wooed by George Clooney. And Hawaii. Talk about misdirection.

In any case, I'll be honest. There was a brief moment when I thought I would get in the car at midnight and drive the hour to retrieve my little one, or at least hunker down in the tent with her. There was a slightly less brief moment the next morning when I reconsidered the notion. But, fortunately J was there to talk me down. And I learned three very valuable lessons this May long weekend:

1. Having your parents take your kid camping is THE BEST. She gets to sleep in a tent for the first time, and I don't wake up a sweaty mess. She gets to go fishing for the first time and I don't have to handle any worms. She gets to roast marshmallows and pee outside and eat crap all weekend, and I'm not covered in mosquito bites. Oh, and three people who think the world of each other get to say to heck with the rules and just chill out for two days. WIN WIN WIN.

2. Jewish weddings are THE BEST. The next time I get married I'm definitely having a Jewish wedding. Hooray for Horas! Also, if you can find a band that can rock Hava Nagila, Rock around the Clock, Livin' on a Prayer and Bad Romance in the same set - hire them. Hire them yesterday. I'm hiring them to sit in my car while I drive to work next week.

3. Sleeping in past 7am two days in a row is THE BEST.

We didn't go to the beach or have a bbq, like everyone on Facebook seems to have done. But there's plenty of time for that. Bring on Summer!

Happy grown-ups on a boat. L'chaim!

Monday, May 14, 2012

Family Love is all this girl needs. And caffeine.

Today was a beautiful little post-Mother's Day gift, all wrapped up in a shiny bow, catching me off guard and leaving me smiling and grateful.

When I got to school to pick E up she was waiting for me, smiling through the gate. With a flourish, I produced a homemade smoothie housed in a special insulated cup with a pink lid and straw, which was a big hit. Things were starting off well.

As we walked home we chatted about rattles and movies and random silliness, and I felt compelled to tell E how very much I love her and how very happy I was to get to spend the rest of the day with her. She then told me that she loved me...TOO MUCH...and proceeded to hug and "snuggle" my hand as she held it before stopping to suplex my leg with affection.

Then she explained what I think was a differentiation between loving your family and loving your friends, but I couldn't help feel that we had also somehow stumbled in to birds and bees territory, which was surprisingly only slightly awkward, mostly because she was the only one doing the talking:

"See - I'm hugging you with my body and I'm spreading my love from my body to your body. So, sometimes there's love in your family and that stays in your house and you share it with your family. But then sometimes it leaves your house and goes between houses and then that's when you love your friends too. But right now this love is our family love and it's just for us."

Woah, lady. That hamster wheel is just always spinning, isn't it?

And it didn't end there. When we got home she reminded me that it was movie day, so rather than the al fresco painting session I was hoping for, we watched Toy Story 2. I really hope she's game for the painting any case, she requested the following of me:

"Will you please join me to enjoy the whole movie together with me?"

Well, I dare you to say no to that.

So we cuddled and snuggled on the couch, and when Jessie starts reminiscing about Emily and Sarah McLachlan starts crooning and I start turning into a puddle, I snuggled in extra close and stole a few kisses and whispered sweet nothings in her ear. And she said...I swear, and I recorded it for legal purposes...

"I love you and I never ever want to make you angry. I promise I'll never make you angry or sad or unhappy."


And as if that wasn't enough to keep me going until Mother's Day 2025, she offered me this:

We were playing a game where I was the baby and she was the mama, and she said that if I get really scared, that I should look at it and it would calm me down. Does my kid know me or what?

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

A Happy Mother's Day is as easy as...

I have come up with what I think is the perfect recipe for Mother's Day. Are you a mom? Are you wondering just what will make you happy on Mother's Day? Here's what I did, and now I'm content in the knowledge that on Sunday I can reflect on the love I've spread and simply be thankful for the gift of being a mom. 

1. Buy yourself something nice. It doesn't have to be big, just a little token from yourself to yourself, to acknowledge another year of mommyhood. Besides, you're the only one who really knows what you've been through. I bought these:

2. Do something nice for another mom you know. Maybe yours, maybe a friend, maybe a sister or your mother-in-law. Send a card or a small gift that shows her that someone out there notices, and appreciates. Ralph accompanied me to the post office today and we took care of that one.

3. Do something nice for a mom you don't know. Find a charity that helps moms in some way and give a little. A woman's shelter, MADD, or moms in third world countries who have much, much more to worry about in the weeks leading up to childbirth than what colour to paint the nursery. I think this woman is doing a wonderful thing, and I made a small donation to her cause.

Easy as 1. 2. 3. I feel great, and now I can tell my husband that the pressure's off. Until my birthday.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Sick Day Swaddling

E contracted the dreaded pink eye last Thursday. Somehow she went to school looking healthy and came home looking like something out of The Journal of Swelling and Pus. I'm sure that exists somewhere. So of course that meant a long weekend for E and mama. A long, warm, sunny weekend that could not involve any activities in which E would potentially come into contact with any member of the human population. So instead of a **LONG WEEKEND!!!**, it was really more of a l.o.o.o.o.o.n.g. weekend. But there were some sweet moments. Like this one:

Which reminded me of this one, about three years ago:


I guess the dinosaurs just couldn't resist.

Another gem of a conversation:

E: My lunch was cheesy delicious! That's what I called it. I sat with Olivia and Kaia at lunch today and I didn't do anything silly!

M: The big Kaya or the little Kaia? (Two Kai/ya's, two Maya's, two Ava's...and not a Jennifer in sight.)

E: The little one. The big one isn't resisting anymore.

M: Isn't resisting what?

E: Real life.

M: What do you mean?

E: She's not in real life anymore. She doesn't resist.

M: I have no idea what you're talking about.

E: Like dinosaurs don't resist anymore.

M: Do you mean ex-ist?

E: Yeah. Ex-ist.

M: What happened to her?

E: Oh, she died*.

*She didn't. At least I don't think she did. Maybe I'll run this one by the teacher after school today.

Friday, May 4, 2012

3 holes

E's recent intestinal blowout reminded me of a funny story from my teaching days, and reinforced my belief that kids need to learn early on what they're made of. In general, when referring to the business under the underpants, I call the whole thing "bits". Sometimes I refer to "front bits" and "back bits". But that's not to say that E doesn't know the proper names, it's just that I think that  "bits" sounds better than vagina. I mean, doesn't anything sound better than vagina? In any case, while she is familiar with the ins and outs of penises, vaginas and anuses, I realized that the issue of the "urethra" has never come up. So I laid it out for her:

Urethra (aka Front Bit) - where the pee comes out
Vagina (aka Middle Bit) - where the baby comes out **NOTHING ELSE HAPPENS THERE**
Anus (aka Back Bit) - where the poop comes out

Pretty simple, right? Not for Spencer*. Spencer was a student in the Physiology class I used to teach. He happens to be a young man who is gay and, by all accounts, has always known it. Which is to say that he had never had occasion to discover first hand (sorry) the intimate details of the female anatomy.

One day we were going over the male and female reproductive systems. There were some fairly...specific...diagrams involved. All of a sudden from the back row I hear:

"3 holes??!"

That's right. Spencer looked as though someone had just told him that Jello is made from the crushed bones of farm animals. (Oh, you didn't know that either? Sorry.) After quite a bit of howling, we managed to convince him that there were, in fact, 3 holes, and that it was probably a good idea to separate the baby delivery route from the pee delivery route. In the process I was reminded that kids should learn about this stuff as soon as they can wrap their heads around it. Much less of a shock later on.

*Not his real name. I mean, come on. This stuff is embarrassing.


Like most of our silly games and obsessions, I'm not sure how it started. I'm pretty sure it was during one of our walks to or from school, when all kinds of topics come up that one can never predict.

However it began, E's current favourite game is called the "Cat and Cow" game. It involves me taking on the role of "Baby Calf" while E plays my "Mama Cow". Now I know what you're thinking. Why is it called "Cat and Cow", and not "Calf and Cow"? Well, simply because E preferred the sound of Cat and Cow. Creative license and all that.

It started off fairly harmlessly. The jist is that I say "Moo! Moo!" in a little baby voice and she says "What baby, what?" Then I tell her something like "I love you!" or "Look at that flower!", and she responds by saying "Moooooo!" in a deep, mama voice.

And, as with most games, it quickly becomes the thing she wants to do ALL THE TIME. It gets a bit overwhelming. This morning I listened to her recite Twinkle Twinkle Little Star in its entirety, while in the character of Mama Cow. "Moomoo Moomoo Moomoo MOO..." You get the idea. Which wasn't nearly as bad as the 20 page story she made me read yesterday as Baby Cow. 20. Pages. Of Moo. I found myself analyzing whether each word should be a moo, or each syllable. Whether by my inflections if she could actually figure out what was being said and who was doing the talking - ahem - mooing. And she was glued to it like it was the most fascinating story every told.

Kids are weird.

Don't get mad...get your hands on the comb.

Revenge is sweet. At least for the reveng-er, anyway.

Picture this. Braiding E's hair this morning. A beautiful french braid starting at her forehead and wrapping around her head in both directions so that her hair won't fall into her poor little pink eye. Quite lovely, I might add. During the process there were a few "owwwws" and "you're puuuuulllin's!", and so I explained that it might be a little "pully", but that's because I have to make sure to get it tight so it doesn't fall out and bother her eye. And I also mentioned that it's not necessary to provide a constant stream of complaint, it only makes the braider antsy and *might* result in longer braid time and/or more pulliness. She digressed. We got the braid in and it looks adorable.


Then mama went on to work on her own hair, and it wasn't long before E offered her assistance.

E: Can I put some clippies and elastics in your hair?

M: Sure!

E: Can I comb your hair?

M: Sure...although, why don't you use the brush? The brush feels really nice.

E: I'll use the comb. Now. It might be a bit pully. Ok, mama? It might hurt a bit. So. I warned you, right?

You know what they say. Karma's a 3-year-old, alright.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

I buy Kleenex at Costco

I'm pretty emotional lately. I keep finding myself getting all choked up, generally in public, with very little prompting. It's bordering on embarrassing.

In Brooklyn I almost burst into tears at least half a dozen times just because I was so happy to be there - on the sidewalk, in the park, on the subway. I was one of the subway crazies.

Today, while at work, my client was talking about when her kids were young and how we make mistakes but there's some bad and good in every life and all we can do is hope that our kids remember mostly good things. I'm glad she couldn't see me frantically blinking my eyes like a nutjob.

And forget about Facebook. Man, it's like people are constantly one-upping each other in an endless crusade to elicit maximum emotional response. Dogs greeting returning soldiers, airport flash mobs, and this -

Letter from a Mother to a Daughter: "My dear girl, the day you see I’m getting old, I ask you to please be patient, but most of all, try to understand what I’m going through. If when we talk, I repeat the same thing a thousand times, don’t interrupt to say: “You said the same thing a minute ago”... Just listen, please. Try to remember the times when you were little and I would read the same story night after night until you would fall asleep. When I don’t want to take a bath, don’t be mad and don’t embarrass me. Remember when I had to run after you making excuses and trying to get you to take a shower when you were just a girl? When you see how ignorant I am when it comes to new technology, give me the time to learn and don’t look at me that way... remember, honey, I patiently taught you how to do many things like eating appropriately, getting dressed, combing your hair and dealing with life’s issues every day... the day you see I’m getting old, I ask you to please be patient, but most of all, try to understand what I’m going through. If I occasionaly lose track of what we’re talking about, give me the time to remember, and if I can’t, don’t be nervous, impatient or arrogant. Just know in your heart that the most important thing for me is to be with you. And when my old, tired legs don’t let me move as quickly as before, give me your hand the same way that I offered mine to you when you first walked. When those days come, don’t feel sad... just be with me, and understand me while I get to the end of my life with love. I’ll cherish and thank you for the gift of time and joy we shared. With a big smile and the huge love I’ve always had for you, I just want to say, I love you... my darling daughter. "

I can't say it enough. You really can't truly appreciate your parents until you are one. This letter makes me feel an urgency that I can't quite describe to let my mom and my daughter know just how thankful I am for them, and just how much they are loved. I wanted to give it to my mom as a Mother's Day card, but I can't wait that long. I love you, Mom. I want to be all of this for you, because you deserve it, because you were all of it for me.

Oh good, it's not just me. Must be a full moon or something.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

9 hours is a long time...especially when you're sitting in a pile of your own crap.

That's right.

It's a long drive to Brooklyn. 9 hours in fact. And somewhere along the road, E developed a raging case of diarrhea. Purrrrrrfect.

We were lucky enough to catch the first couple of epsiodes in time and careen off the road before all hell broke loose. But then all hell broke loose. About 45 minutes out of NYC, when there really is no place to pull over or exit that won't land you on a turnpike or some bridge/tunnel that you definitely don't want and that will only prolong the trip by hours or days, E dropped the bomb. The bomb to which all previous explosions were mere preludes. And given her propensity for narrating every waking moment of her life, we were given front row seats to one of the awesomest conversations ever...depending on your definition of "awesomest", of course. I transcribed her comments onto my iPhone as it was unfolding, naturally.

E: Poop comes out the front, right?

M: No, pee comes out the front. Poop comes out the back.

E: Well, my poop comes out the front.

M: Trust me babe, pee comes out of your urethra at the front, and poop comes out of your anus, at the back. (What? Your kid doesn't know the world urethra?) It works like that for everybody.

E: Come on, mom. This is not how it works. My poop and pee both come out the front.

M: Well that's a first.

E: Does poop have water in it?

M: A little. But most of the water comes out in your pee, and most of the solid stuff comes out in your poop.

E: I have a lot of water in my poop. It's like at the end of Finding Nemo. That much water.

M: That's a lot of water alright.

E: I don't like my diarrhea. Do you have diarreha?

M: Nope.

E: Well, I have diarrhea.


E: Are we close yet?

M: Yep, we're close.

E: Yay! We're close! That took a long time. I don't ever want to go that far again. I can go this far in a plane, but not in a car.

M: I've got bad news for you babe...

E: When we get to New York I'm going to tell everyone about my diarrhea.

Hello, Brooklyn.

This is how the Cowfam felt about being back in Brooklyn. You guys, I can't even find the words. But I'll ramble on about it and maybe you'll get some idea...

Walking along a sun-drenched, brownstone-lined sidewalk, listening to the birds and the rumble of the subway, strolling while people around us rushed, familiar sights, familiar people, familiar sounds, familiar life. It was a homecoming. It surprises me how much this town is home to me. I lived there for only two years...two measly years well into adulthood...but Brooklyn feels more like home to me than any other place I've lived. Crazy, I know. Love. I am in love.

I suppose in some ways those two years were formative years. I brought my teeny tiny three month old baby to Brooklyn, and left with a two year old toddler. I settled into mommyhood there. Every corner of Carroll Gardens holds a memory. Walks to the laundromat, to the grocery store, to the gym, to music class, to friend's houses. Ralph pooped on every block. We've scored free stuff on most of them. It feels like mine. My park. My subway stop. My bagel place. My neighbours.

We stopped by to see one of our neighbours. But not before we were stopped by the "laundry ladies" that spotted us out the window. Walking by, a year after we left, they ran out to greet us. Our 85 year old neighbour Anna called her friend after ushering us inside, gushing "You'll NEVER GUESS who's here!!!" She made her "real Italian coffee" for me, and pressed $5 into my hand to buy E an ice cream cone.

We went to see a concert given by E's old music teacher Karen. She ducked out of rehearsing to give us both a big squeeze. We bought more of her CDs to give to our new friends in Ottawa.

We were lucky enough to be back just in time to see E's best friend Anabelle and her parents before they move to Chicago next month. Together the girls that could be twins claimed Brooklyn as their own, as their moms watched in awe, laughing at how we still always manage to dress them the same.

Carroll Park 

Jitterbugs Jam! 

The "twins" reunite...and get manicures! 

I went on this trip worried that E, who has recently been expressing a fairly strong desire to move back to Brooklyn, would have a hard time when it came time to leave again. Instead, it's her mom who took it the hardest. Given the opportunity, and the finances to afford luxuries like en-suite laundry and a backyard, I have come to realize that I would move back in a heartbeat.

We have been in Ottawa a year and, while I really enjoy being here and feel that it has everything we need, it doesn't yet feel like home. We have another four years to go, and it's quite likely that at the end of it I will feel differently, but I find it hard to believe that I will ever feel about a place the way I felt last weekend.

Hello, Brooklyn.