Thursday, March 28, 2013

Round 2: Cat-ana!

Because I hate the idea of being viewed as artistically challenged by my 4-year-old (insofar as fruit sculpture is concerned), and also because we are running low on fruit, tonight we reprised everyone's favourite after-dinner game show - Make Me an Animal (out of a banana)!

This evening, E wanted a cat.

E: Can I watch or will it be a surprise?

M: (realizing that being heavily scrutinized could only hinder my creative pursuits) Surprise!

E: Awww, but I want to watch! I want to make sure you do it better this time.

M: Alright, fine. Here we go!

E: Remember, it's a cat. Or a dog. Whatever is easier for you.

M: We'll do a cat. And just to clarify, you want it all in one piece, right?

E: Yep. Not like last night, with the body in once piece, and the legs in one piece, and the tail in one piece…that just wasn't right. And it should be small. Cats are small.

M: wielding sharp knife…making the first cut - 

E: NO! No No No, mom - what is that?

M: These are the legs.

E: Oh, okay, ya. Go ahead.

M: …wielding and slicing…

E: No WAIT!!! Oh, ya. Good job. You're doing it! What's THAT??!

M: The tail.

E: Oh. Ya…ya. Go ahead.

M: Are you sure you want it to be this small?

E: Yep. It has to be reeeeeally small. But…that doesn't look like a cat.

M: Are you kidding? It's totally a cat.

E: It doesn't have eyes or a mouth.

M: Easy, tiger. I haven't even finished the head.


M: Okay, how does it look?

E: Whiskers!

M: Oh, okay…starts to slice whisk-

E: MOM! STOP!!! (bats knife-wielding hand away) The whiskers are already there!!!

M: Sure. Of course they are. Ta-da!

E: You did it mom! Good job.

You be the judge.
I think Ban-ebra kicks Cat-ana's butt.
But what do I know? I'm clearly no expert.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Ban-ebra? Ze-nana?

E: Mom, can you please make my banana into a zebra?

M: Ummmm…I can try.

E: Okay. Make sure that it has a long body. Because zebras have loooooong bodies.

M: Are zebras about the same size as horses?

E: No. Smaller. And don't forget the stripes.

…mom toils away in the kitchen for several minutes and returns, proudly unveiling her work of art -

M: Look! It's a Ban-ebra!

E: That does not look like a zebra.

M: Sure it does! A Ze-nana, as a matter of fact.

E: No. It doesn't. The stripes should be thicker. The legs aren't even attached.

M: Do you know how hard that would be?!

E: Did you even try?

M: …yes?

E: You did?

M: I did the best that I could.

E: Oh. Then that's okay.

M: Oh, good. Can you please smile now?

Baby don't go.

Yesterday at work I heard a woman - a mom of three grown boys - say the same thing I've heard many parents say many times before:

"You know, when the kids are young you would sell your soul for 15 minutes to yourself, but when they're gone, you miss it."

I know. I've been told a million times, I think about it every single night after E goes to bed. I see it in my future. And still, it's so easy to get caught up in the daily squabbles and frustrations and to lose perspective. But looking at that woman yesterday, seeing the lines and wrinkles camouflaged with brightly coloured accessories that she has nothing but time to shop for, listening to her chat with her son, trying to stretch the conversation out just a little bit longer, I found myself wondering where she was going when she left, without him. I'm sure she has a life that she's leading, probably one that she enjoys. I'm sure that she doesn't spend her days sitting in a rocking chair, remembering all the good times when her kids were young. But I'm also sure she's sad sometimes. And lonely. And wishes the house wasn't so quiet, or that someone needed a permission slip signed, or a ride to hockey practice, or a hug from mom. And I found myself hoping that she doesn't have too many regrets.

I listened to another mom today, because I'm a sucker for punishment, describe the magic of the ordinary day. The part that jumped out at me was when she talked about "saying goodnight…in person." I won't be able to do that one day with E, and that blows my mind.

I know one thing. I don't want it to end. I want E to be small and with me forever. I'm one of those moms. Sure it will be great to see what kind of a woman she becomes and to share all of the milestones with her, but I don't think there's anything that can beat the unwavering adoration between a parent and a young child. I'm a very sensitive person, and having a child has often left me feeling like I've shed my skin and am walking around completely unprotected from the tragedies of life, large and small. I have a good friend whose mom cries every time they talk on the phone. Every. Time. We used to giggle good-naturedly when we could hear her tearing up at the end of a conversation. I get it now. It must be so hard to let a whole big chunk of your heart just get up and walk out the door. I never want to know what that feels like.

I know the answer is not to make sure I absolutely cherish and enjoy every single little second between now and when she finally pries herself loose from the apron strings I've triple knotted and dipped in crazy glue. There are going to be hard times, and scary times and angry times. But in good times and in bad, I think the best thing that I can do is to be the most open, accepting and loving person I can be for her. If I can just manage to love the heck out of her while she lets me, then maybe she'll remember that and come back for more when she needs it.

Restraint is important too. Not everything that runs through my head needs to come out of my mouth. I have a big mouth, and things fall out of it sometimes that shouldn't. I'm working on it.

So...heart open, mouth closed. That's my plan. A suit of armor would also be nice...waterproof mascara…a killer long distance plan…and a good therapist might not be the worst idea I've ever had.

Best feeling ever in the whole wide world.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Sunday evenings are for walks. And now that we're past the awkward too-big-for-a-stroller-too-small-to-go-fast-enough-so-that-Ralph-doesn't-go-crazy stage, I'm hoping to make it a weekly tradition.

He really is a good sport. 

Thursday, March 21, 2013

A hug is worth a thousand pictures

In a world where it is becoming increasingly difficult to bend that little girl of mine to my will, these tiny moments of unadulterated beauty are like sparkling drops of sunshine bursting through clouds.

E and I butt heads a lot. At first I exhausted much of my energy by digging in my heels, only to realize that she who speaks loudest does not, in fact, win anything other than a raging headache. Rational discussion is much more effective, but it only works in certain situations, like when she feels like listening. But there are times, and I know this because I used to be the daughter in this very situation, when it's not so much about right and wrong, or logic and reason, but about exerting some control in a world that has a lot of power of you. Sometimes E is going to do the exact opposite thing that I ask her to do, simply because she needs to know that she can.

I get it. And I even support it. To a point. It's the balance, as always, that I'm having trouble with. She needs to be able to make some of her own decisions, but she needs to understand that sometimes she doesn't have all of the resources to make them. She needs to be able to do her own thing, even if it's not what mom and dad would like, but she also needs to understand that, for the next decade or so anyway, our authority trumps her plans to take over the world.

One arena that is a frequent source of conflict is the "greeting". J and I have explained the importance of being polite and friendly when someone greets us. If someone says "Hello", we say "Hello" back. If someone asks us a question, we answer them. We don't need to (and shouldn't) run into a stranger's arms for a bear hug or engage in a twenty-minute conversation, but there are ways of behaving in polite society that simply make the world a nicer place to inhabit, and we encourage those behaviours. E is about 50/50 in this regard. Sometimes super friendly, waving and interacting with enthusiasm, sometimes sullen and distant, and occasionally a generally disobedient mess. Either way, she's looking for a response. I try not to give one, and instead discuss the situation after the fact, reinforcing what we consider to be appropriate behaviour. I don't know how it's going, but it's one of the little things in the grand scheme and I try not to make it more than that.

On the other hand, it's important that we take every opportunity to let loved ones know how happy we are to see them. It's not enough to talk about how excited we are to see Gramma and Papa for days, right up until the moment before we knock on the door, only to hide behind mama's legs and pretend they don't exist when they welcome us inside. It's just not cool. Loved ones get warm greetings, hugs, and answers to their questions. This is a bigger deal to me. I want my daughter to have an open and loving relationship with her family and close friends, not to be hampered by attention-seeking behaviour that can lead to emotional distance and resentment if left to fester.

Am I making too much of all of this? Probably. But it's just the way that I am. I overthink things, and make bigger deals than need to be made.

And what was the point in all of this? Oh, yes. Well, do you see those pictures up there? Those were the goodbye hugs for Gramma and Papa a few days ago. Totally unforced, totally voluntary, totally sincere. And while we all know how she feels about Gramma and Papa, it sure is beautiful when she forgets for just a minute about the need to control her world and just lets her emotions be her guide.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Shameless Truth Telling - Happy Birthday Glennon!

Today it is Glennon Melton's birthday. You may or may not have heard of her, but she is one of my favourite mom bloggers. This is her blog. This is her upcoming book. Shameless truth telling is her thing. It has gotten her into and out of hot water, and I admire the heck out of her for it.

So, as my gift to Glennon, I present to you my shameless truth telling for the day:

This is my vegetable drawer. 
After the vegetables have been taken out, of course. 
(Is it better or worse if there were none in there to begin with??)

Please know that every cell in my body is urging my fingers to type up a list of excuses as to why and how I allowed the area of my fridge that can provide the most benefit to my family to fall into such a state of disrepute. But I won't. It is what it is. 

Now here's the magic of the truth telling. Where do I go from here? First of all, I'm pretty embarrassed by that photo. So naturally, now that you all know about it, I'm going to have to do something about it. 

…drum roll...

Witness the contents of my vegetable drawer 14 minutes after their lifesaving evacuation and subsequent HAZMAT clean-up operation:

Which made it much easier to do this:

And in turn, a mere 16 minutes later, look what was happening:

Which totally justified this:

Thank you Glennon, for an endless supply of perspective and inspiration. And for helping me to finally figure out where that smell was coming from. 

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Playing like a 4-year-old

As parents, we are often left wondering if the idiosyncracies exhibited by our children are common among their peers, or whether it's "just them". At least I am. So it's always terribly refreshing to see other kids displaying the same behaviours. It comforts me to know that my child isn't the only crazy one. 

Take pretend play, for example. E loves to pretend. It's her favourite thing to do. The only problem is that I feel that, considering she loves it so much and does it so often, she should probably be better at it. Because, in my opinion, stating who you are pretending to be over and over again isn't really pretending…I mean, it's barely even playing. But she gets a big kick out of "Let's pretend that I'm Tiger Lily." … "I'm Tiger Lily."…"Remember, I'm Tiger Lily."…"Mom, do you remember that I'm Tiger Lily?"… Oh, I remember. It's just that I'm so bored that my brain has shut down so please forgive me if I don't address you as Tiger Lily every fifteen seconds so that you know that I know that you're TIGER LILY.

I feel that it's my job to try to progress things somewhat, that perhaps I can help her expand her imaginative abilities by conjuring up scenarios in which Tiger Lily might find herself. Now, to be clear, I'm not incredibly imaginative, but I'd like to be and so I try to be. But for the most part, any effort on my part to advance the plot in any way is instantly struck down in favour of simply running around shouting "I'm Tiger Lily! Loodoloodoloodoloodolooooo!" (Please note: Terribly racist "redskin singing" was learned from a live production of Peter Pan and not from terribly racist parents.)

Which leaves me to wonder, why does her imagination suck so badly?  

Enter our trip to Brooklyn and ten days spent with other 4-year-old extraordinaire, Zoey. E and Zoey pretended to be fairies for approximately 8.5 days out of 10. Sometimes one was Tinkerbell and the other was Periwinkle. Sometimes they were both Tinkerbell or both Periwinkle. Sometimes one was Silvermist and one was Fawn. Sometimes one was Rosetta and one was Silvermist. You get the idea. But I'll be damned if a plotline ever surfaced out of the hours of negotiation over character selection. I heard the phrase "But there has to be a Tinkerbell!" or "We can't both be Periwinkle!" about a gazillion times, and all I could think was "WHY ON GOD'S GREEN EARTH DOES IT MATTER WHEN NO ONE EVER ACTUALLY DOES ANYTHING??!!!" But, aside from the bickering over what to call each other, they never seemed to feel the need for anything as complex as a storyline. 

Huh. I guess that's the beauty of being a kid. Being entertained by really, really boring stuff.

Fairies at Barclay's Center 

Bedroom Fairies 

Fairies drinking hot chocolate

Monday, March 18, 2013

Lessons learned on a March Break Adventure

1. 10 days is too long for E and I to be away from J. I found myself at times restless, at times worried, at times remorseful, and at times just plain bummed to be apart for so long. Especially in a place I know he loves as much as we do, having experiences he would love to be having, eating food he would much prefer over frozen pizza…and then leftover pizza. Having said that, the utter euphoria of the reunion of daddy and daughter was pretty awesome to watch.

2. Cramming three adults and three children into a minivan for a 7 hour drive is not nearly the gong show I had imagined. Yes, there was vomit. Yes, there was poop. A little crying, an extra bathroom break or two and the odd butt cramp and back spasm, but I imagined worse. Much worse. Special mention go to J.M. Barrie and Jim Dale for their ability to enrapture my daughter, as well as June "Superwoman" DeWagner for her awe inspiring display of multi-tasking and supreme patience.

3. I prefer to be in a position of having tag-alongs, rather than being a tag-along. I am simply unable to shake the persistent inner dialogue of "Am I doing enough?"…"I should be doing more"…"Am I irritating these people?"…"Do they wish I had backed out at the last minute so that they wouldn't have to contend with my daughter's short legs and propensity for whining or my unending reminiscence and rather demanding appetite?"

4. I love Brooklyn. Yes, I already knew that, as did you. But once again, upon setting foot on Court Street I was whalloped with the sense of homecoming and belonging that tugs mercilessly at me each time I return. I want to go to there. Forever.

Carroll Park

5. I still possess the ability to sleep anywhere. Even on an undulating pull-out mattress that rains crumbs and dust when being unfolded. Even on a subway while holding a 40lb child, a backpack and a bag of groceries. It turns out that what I lack, most times, is simply the opportunity. E, on the other hand, will always find an opportunity.

Central Park 

FAO Schwarz 

Prospect Park

6. E can walk much farther than I thought she could. As long as she gets her "naps" in.

7. You have to let people do what they want and need to do, regardless of how that jives with your wants and needs. The key to doing that successfully is communication.

Needy? Who, me?!

8. Being the wife and mom I want to be lies not so much in a complete overhaul of my personality, but in perfecting the art of self-restraint.

9. When E was a very small, I would sometimes start out the day saying something like "Are we going to have a TERRIFIC day today?", which would invariably result in a spectacularly terrible day. I stopped saying it out of superstition. While on vacation I tried it out again for the first time in years. The superstition holds true.

10. No one is perfect, and that's a good thing.

11. We worked on our math skills quite a bit on this trip. And sometimes, 1 well behaved child + 1 well behaved child = 2 crappily behaved kids. Logical it may not be, but that's some truth right there.

Sometimes we need to pinky swear to 
abide by our Friendship Contract. 

And sometimes, 
straight up candy bribery is required.

12. It's possible that we  eat too much.

Pete Zaaz 


Sweet Melissa 

Frozen Peaks

13. E really likes to accessorize.

Elle-ton John

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Mid-morning pause

E and Z are playing fairies.
B and M are whispering sweet nothing's to each other.
J is taking a rare free moment to get ready for the day.
I am amazed at how an apartment so full of people can be so peaceful.
Maybe it's Brooklyn Magic. Maybe it's the De Wagner Effect. Either way, it sure is lovely.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

9 weeks in.

The whole family made some resolutions this year. They looked a little like this:

M: Try to keep my mouth shut.
J: Change everything.
E: Eat more sugary things. Watch more TV. Wear more dresses. Play more.

Go ahead and let you guess who's winning.

Wrinkles and dentures and canes, oh my!

I've been feeling old lately. Sometimes I don't mind this getting older business too much…like when I hear this:

"Yah, he told me that he slept with one of my friends. So obviously I deleted her from Facebook right away."

Obviously. Can I tell you how pleased I am not to have the phrase "drunk f@$k" in my vernacular?

But most of the time, it's not a good feeling. It certainly takes me down a notch to hear this kind of thing:

"Have you seen David Beckham's new H&M ad? God, I hope his son does one."

Wait. What?!

Then there's the moment while scanning a client's file when I realize that the babies who were born the year that I was heading off to university are heading off to university this year.

Or that, technically speaking, I could be a grandmother.

Growing old isn't for wimps. I get it now. It's not about battling arthritis and bad hips. It's the psychological warfare that takes place as your brain refuses to loosen its grip on the idea of being young, of being at its prime, of having an infinite array of possibilities and an infinite amount of time to explore them, while the world around you breezes past, barely registering your presence.

I know someone who hates every second of the aging process and is kicking and screaming and fighting her way through her golden years, viewing each ache and each wrinkle as a personal affront. I want to do it gracefully, with peace and joy and as much dignity as I can manage. But it's terrifying. 

So, instead of dwelling, I think I'll choose to focus on the one thing I always think about when things get scary. The one thing that reminds me why growing old is totally worth it:

Monday, March 4, 2013

Storytime just got way cooler.

E is reading. Reading. This is a big deal.

Somehow it came out of nowhere. She's known her alphabet for a while. Mostly. She's been able to spell her name for ages. It helps that there are only two letters. We introduced the first set of Bob books a couple of months ago to see if she could work her way through them, but she didn't show a whole lot of interest. She's always been a kid who would much prefer to have things done for her, rather than doing them herself. Genetics is a powerful thing. 

Over the past few weeks, her teacher has been telling us about all of the words she's been "spelling" at school with their moveable alphabet. At home she sounds out words at the dinner table. So a few nights ago we asked her if she would like to read the bedtime stories. She read three books, one after the other, like a rock star. First she puts her finger under each letter and makes each sound. Then she reads the word. Then she reads the sentence. Sure, she makes mistakes. She's a little too quick to get impatient sometimes. She takes breaks to declare that she's "tooooo tiiiiiiired" before insisting on continuing. But she gets through them. And she's getting better every time. 

The first night "g" was tripping her up. The second night she had that down, but "d" vs. "p" was a little confusing. By the third night she knew the sound that "th" makes and could recognize the word "the" without having to sound it out. 

Please excuse the gushing. We are all pants-splittingly proud over here.