Friday, 29 March 2013

Painfully Resourceful

Last week I went for a pleasant bike ride with my husband. We rode down by the river. A lazy, no-where-to-be tour, enjoying the sunshine. It was a beautiful afternoon together. I am glad that we did go. I was close to botching the plan before we left.

I had a bit of a stress-out as we prepared. Why? Simply because we were on bikes that were someone else's discards. The bike trailer we pulled my daughter in had worn out Velcro and so my husband had bungee straps and zap straps holding it shut. One tire was a little wobbly. My bike was a touch rusty.

I would like to travel by bike with my daughter this spring. But in order for me to do that, I need a bike. And we don't have the money right now to invest in a bike and trailer. Thankfully my husband is downright resourceful.

Thankful in theory. I need to work on genuinely feeling, and showing, the gratitude. I know that if he wasn't so proficient at fixing such a myriad of things we wouldn't have what we have. We wouldn't have a camper trailer that he spent hours and hours fixing so we could go on a trip without stuffing a Jeep to overfull and spending forever setting up. We wouldn't have had some of our vehicles. We wouldn't have his newest toy-- a John Deere tractor with ATV tires in which he added an ahooga horn and took our wide-eyed toddler for a ride. We wouldn't have a snowmobile.

A snowmobile that he could fix over and over again. One time a neighbor got the throttle stuck and my husband didn't know and so when he turned it on he drove it into another neighbor's house, dragging him along the way. Good thing he could fix the house too. He had steered it away from a new car as he couldn't fix that (to new car standards).

It took me a while to be okay with his second hand, MacgGyver-like, bartering way of acquiring things. We have different views of what is good condition. I am apposed to rips, rust, missing pieces, and stains. I know. Very hollow of me. Growing up we we had no money and I was teased for wearing items from the thrift store window (this was before second hand was trendy). I grew to hate anything that gave the impression of not being able to afford something. Likewise, to my husband, zap straps and duct tape repairs are just cosmetic things that don't affect the function. Once he was told by a police man to remove the coins he had ingeniously (or not) drilled and used as washers to hold the visor on his van.

He fixes things instead of just tossing them.

Oh, the juvenile stress this has caused me! Especially when he would tackle a problem not knowing what was wrong. A few attempts to fix the furnace. Is that safe? Some trial and error to repair the dryer. Imagine the money he has saved doing the repairs himself on the car, the pellet stove, the boat. He even took apart a play station that wasn't working. While I nagged him for being stupid for cutting it open because it required some factory tool. Oh be quiet Lindy, he fixed it. I am good at nagging. Like when he broke into the car out of town after his older daughter had locked the keys in it. "You better not wreck the door. If I have to crawl across the seat every time I am not going to be very happy."

Now that I am not working full time and don't have my expendable income, I am more aware of what really needs to be new and what is just fine left old. Like dishes. I hate mine but don't think I'll just spend $80 on a whim to replace the 8 settings. I'll keep an eye open but know it may take longer to find what I want for much less. I love the hand-me-down clothes for my daughter because she barely uses them before growing again. I love garage sales and online deals. I am typing on a used phone from Craigslist.

I look back at our marriage pre-baby and I am a little ashamed. I had just finally got a career when we first married. And for the first time ever in my life, if I wanted something I could get it. And it was a liberating feeling. A release from no money growing up. A nice shelf? Check. A gift for someone? Check. An ornament I like? Check. I handled the change in finances with a severe lack of proper stewardship.

I spent way too much money on the wedding. I invested too much on new books. Electronic gadgets. Kitchen appliances. When I was pregnant I bought way too many clothes that I knew I could only use for such a small period of time. And jewelry. Oh, I love jewelry. Looking back I could have used that money more wisely. *Blush*

But I can't change the past. The only thing I can change is my attitude and my choices now. Would I rather go on a nice bike ride with my daughter and enjoy the time together, or skip the whole idea because I can't splurge on a new bike of my choice? Of course I choose second hand! Sure, someone may judge. But most wont notice. Like the large packs we own that we used to camp on a mountain top. Or the sandbox my daughter enjoyed last summer with her niece. Or the motor boat with the bent window frame that we took to the lake.

Go, honey, go! Keep finding those great deals! Life is about experience and togetherness. Worrying about appearances is just going to prevent those moments from happening.

And now I have it in writing so you can hold me accountable when I unnecessarily stress about whether an earthly treasure is good enough. Stop being a party pooper! I want my relationships and experiences to be good enough.

“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." Matthew 6:19-21.

Thursday, 28 March 2013

I Need It.

If you know me you know that I have been battling an addiction. I try to have a healthy lifestyle and to placate my cravings with smart choices that I won't regret later. Distractions. A walk. A salubrious glass of water. But then the peer pressure comes in to play. I am surrounded by offerings in media every day. I can't be without when the person next to me is indulging. If I try, it will continue to call me until I concede.

I just need my chocolate fix. Sometimes I don't even know if it is to simply savor the delight or if I give in just to release the craving. Until the next one comes along. Pulling at me and incessantly reminding me. There's a chocolate bar in the fridge. You should have a hot cocoa before bed. Easter is coming... Oh, special occasions. Christmas then Valentines then Easter then Mother's Day. Then I have a reprieve of half a year where I can attempt to undo the damage done mentally and physically.

I am so grateful that my problem has actually lessened. When I was in my early twenties I couldn't say no. Even if someone offered me cheap, sugary chocolate. I had more helpings in the day than anyone should. Consistently. I think it even controlled me. Now, though, my preference has become more particular. I love dark chocolate, organic chocolate, "healthy" chocolate. Like raw cocoa nibs on yogurt.

I will now sample some cheap items like a easter bunny and think, "Is this even chocolate?" My husband knows that he isn't allowed to buy any treat for me that he could get at a dollar store. Even my old favorite, the m&m, falls a little too high on the sweetness scale. Though it's amazing on fresh, hot popcorn! I do notice that at times when I load up a little more on the sugary stuff my cravings intensify. Then it's like I go back to the end of the 20th century when I would go crazy.

Back then I had gained fifty pounds from my gluttonous pampering. It had been extra satisfying because previously I had been unable to eat chocolate. I spent the first twenty years of my life suffering from diet and exercise induced migraines, as well as digestion problems. Chocolate would bring on nausea and pain. If I gave in and ate some I would often end up in the hospital.

In my early adulthood my life changed drastically when I started going to church. The lowering of stress in my life really helped my health. My digestion improved. And I was able to sample some foods I couldn't before, and thankfully come out unscathed. Spices, pork, corn, peanuts... And then it happened. I don't know if I grew out of it or if I was healed but suddenly I could have chocolate. Alleluia. I remembering telling my doctor that it wasn't making me vomit or in pain anymore and she advised me not to have it. Yah right. Bring it on.

So I pushed it. Do you know how many candy bars I had not tried? Hmm, how about a Snickers this morning and a Bounty this afternoon. Oops, I think people will start to snicker as I pack on the pounds. But I can't help it. How about tomorrow I will try Oh Henry! and Twix and Rolo...

I can't imagine if I went through this new found addiction now, in the 21st century. Not only are there different kinds of chocolate bars but there are different flavors. Dark, orange, mint, coconut almond... My hips and belly had a hard enough time dealing with my selection at the time. Try this. Try that. I got pretty bad. Like really, who partakes in double chocolate cookies with chocolate sauce? More than once? Just the thought makes me gag. Sometimes I wonder if this period of treating myself substantially irresponsibly upped my chances of getting the Chronic Myelogenous Leukemia diagnoses at such an early age of 26. But this is a question for which I will never know the answer, and so I have to let it go.

Sometimes tremendous improvement isn't enough. I have some self control when it comes to selection. But I still need chocolate. Frequently. I have tried different tactics. Educating myself thoroughly on the dangers of sugar consumption. Telling myself I'll feel better. Calculating how much of my wage supports my habit. I have even gone cold turkey, which was surprisingly much easier than limiting myself.

From this point on, I have a little mimicking sponge watching my every move. She already has a propensity to stir because mom stirs a hot cocoa every day. She has only sampled chocolate a few times but it is inevitable that she will soon learn how high a standing the cocoa bean products have in Mommy's life. I'd like to show her self control. But, I have to find it first.

Right now, she's fast asleep. So I'll go eat that chocolate moose cake my husband brought home for me.

Tuesday, 26 March 2013

Run Through The Blessings

This morning I had a great run in the crisp, cool air. As I was running and enjoying the mountainous view, I was thinking about some pressing issues for which I have been pondering different solutions. Despite the freezing temperatures at that early hour there were other energetic joggers and dedicated dog owners. As someone passed me they said hello and commented that my daughter (who was not with me) was beautiful. I said thank you and smiled as I thought of my amazing little girl.

That turned my concentration from the stress of money and trying to co-parent with someone who is (thankfully) not like myself, to reflecting on my many blessings. More blessings than just the miracle of my sturdy, secure, sweet baby girl.

The first was obvious. Here I was thoroughly enjoying a run and it felt great. I was at almost 20 minutes and only half done. As a run-down teenager I'd suffered with fibromyalgia, exercise induced asthma and migraines, irritable bowel syndrome, back aches, other stresses, and the resulting un-fit body that came from all these bricks I could no longer carry. Add in Leukemia later on and I had more to push through in my rugged venture to an active lifestyle. This glorious morning my muscles felt strong and my breathing healthy. My only issue a small tightness in my calf that I knew was from landing wrong during a workout move the day before. I was blessed in overcoming poor health and getting to levels that greatly surpassed my goals.

Blessing number two was where I got to customarily do all of this. My invigorating workout trail is just outside my door. I gazed at the snow covered mountains that harbored hiking, skiing, snowshoeing, and snowmobiling trails. The fresh flowing water swirling against the banks. The snow melting on mazes of trails waiting to be rediscovered. The trees taking in the sun in preparation for blooming. The path lazily meandered along the river next to marshy plants beginning their spring growth and returning geese contently bathing (or whatever they were doing). Even as I left the path and turned up the road, I ran down peaceful streets with old, even vintage, homes in cute little yards. Well, mostly peaceful. I passed a group preparing to go snowmobiling and firing up the sled to load it onto the truck.

I love where I live. The outdoor playground with beautiful scenery as a backdrop. The friendly locals and the abundance of fun loving tourists. I feel this is a good, safe place for my daughter to grow up. Where she will enjoy many seasons and the best natural paradise her feet could ever trod. Riding bikes to school. Playing in the snow. Camping and hiking. Sitting in charming little coffee shops savoring a treat.

I have been blessed to spend time with wonderful people in my life here as well. Great friends who enjoy different aspects of life with me. My snowshoers and choir singers and church goers and board gamers. I have been blessed with a welcoming church that has lovingly helped me, patiently stood by me, faithfully pushed me, and consistently had grace with me as I learned, healed, and grew over the last 16 years. I am very grateful for those who have (repeatedly) forgiven me and walked with me anyway when I had struggles. Dependable, sustained relationships, with their faults and grievances, provide a back bone for strengthening character and walking into the destinies that God has for us.

If I look I can see many blessings. Blessings that are bigger than my faults as a mother and wife. Bigger than the mistakes I have made. Bigger than the unknowns that I head into. Life isn't perfect. It is far from it. But the abundance of miracles and favor outweigh the things that can darkly occupy my thoughts as I run and contemplate.

I am thankful for the path I now tread, even with its share of slippery slopes and cantankerous bumps. And I am excited for the new, even more challenging paths it will lead me down in the future.

Monday, 25 March 2013

ABCs of You and Me

My daughter loves Dr Suess's ABC book, though she can't understand why the camel on the ceiling is upside down and so she has to turn the book over.

I would like to share with you the ABCs of our life at the moment.

A- Apple. I should count how many times in a day I hear this word. Not only does she love them but with the possession of Apple phones she sees the logo and it lights up her face as she exclaims, "Apple!"
B- Banana. Yes, fruit is a big theme around here.
C- Cheddar Bunnies. Cute little crackers that bring a smile. I try to have some in my purse but she is starting to expect that and seeking them out. People don't appreciate a bag of cheesy crackers dumped on their carpet.
D- Dogs. She adores ours. Anyone have one that they'd like to introduce to my daughter? She can't get enough of them.
E- Eye. Please, little miss. Stop poking us in the eye. Yes, we are proud of you for knowing what it is called, too. But blunt contact is not necessary.
F- Finances. My toddler is oblivious to this part of our life. Thankfully. Nevertheless, it encompasses too much of my thoughts and needs to take more of my actions.
G- Grandparents. Kisses and hugs. Snacks and laughter. Love, love, love.
H- Hooray. Hooray. Hooray. Oh, I love how she says that.
I- Integrity. I have lowered a lot of standards like housework and healthy eating. But integrity is something important we have to demonstrate for our daughter and her future.
J- Jump. "Ready?" she says as she climbs up. Then, "Two, two, two". We count for her, "One, two, three, GO!" as she thinks about jumping and wants to jump, but then carefully steps down.
K- Keepsake. Her cute little shoes. Monkey themed toys and clothes. Meaningful gifts. Cards. Drawings. I think I will have to downsize later. But that's okay. You can throw out what you kept but you can't get back what is thrown out.
L- Laundry. I think with a child this is a given. Food all over herself. Falling in the mud. Baths every day. It gets washed but often sits in the clean basket for a long time. That reminds me. She emptied my bottom drawer into my dirty laundry basket yesterday. I better put it back before dad washes it unnecessarily.
M- Mum. I just melt when I hear this word. She likes to say it in a "Are you there? Okay, great" kind of tone that is sooo sweet.
N- Nursery rhymes. My munchkin loves Mother Goose play group. She tries to sing along. Well, not at play group. There, she is too busy socializing. "Tick-tock, tick-tock, I'm a little cuckoo clock."
O- Oooh! The moon! Oooh! A train! Oooh! A truck! Oooh! There's my dog! Oooh! My girl is so full of expression bursting from her seams.
P- Pear. Another favorite. She'll eat the whole fruit right through the core.
Q- Quiet. No, parenting isn't a quiet venture but this mom does keep forgetting to put on music (and doesn't watch tv) so sometimes it is probably quieter than it should be. See the letter X, though. The quiet is being fought.
R- Reading. Something she wants to do anytime of day. And I don't mind complying.
S- Splash. Puddles. Bath water. The pool. It is a very exciting activity. When is the last time you tried it??
T- Two/Ten. My 16 month old can't count past two but if you count 123456789 she will always say TEN.
U- Up. You're trying to chop veggies? Well, I need up. Wash dishes? I need up. You have to pee? Up, now. You're on the phone? Up, up, up!
V- Vacuum. Toddler+Dog+Husband= Messy. I have to vacuum every other day just so I feel like I have a clean enough floor to work out on. Oh, and clean enough for her to play. That is important too.
W- Walk. Walk the dog. Walk outside. Walk from room to room. Walk. Walk. Walk. Such sturdy little legs.
X- Xylophone. She has a little one from my cousin. She likes anything that makes a noise when hit. Pots and pans, especially.
Y- Yogurt. I like the Greek unsweetened stuff. It is so versatile. With fruit or oatmeal. With tuna or salmon. In a banana peanut butter smoothie. As my daughter would say, "Mmmmmm!"
Z- Zippers. Intriguing little things that show the amazing fine motor skills of my darling Curious Georgette.

Our ABCs will most likely change from week to week as she explores new foods and makes novel discoveries in her environment. Today, I think we'll take a walk by the river and see what she will "Oooh" at with her wide eyes and contagious smile.

Sunday, 24 March 2013

Toddlerhood Ahead

Toddlerhood. I didn't expect it to be a walk in the park. I knew that if millions of parents said it was arduous, then it must be a bit of a struggle. If most children become a little obstinate then, no matter how good I am as a parent, my child will be headstrong at times as well. I was hoping for the best but preparing for the worst. I have seen my share of painful pounding-the-floor fits, heart-wrenching I-hate-you screams, and embarrassing football-hold evacuations. I am ready.

I used to gloat in how well behaved my sweetie could be. She would follow me when I asked, leave things alone when I said don't touch, and eat her meals cooperatively (albeit with quite a large mess). I basked in the obedience being bestowed on me because I knew very well that it was temporary.

And now it has begun. She wants to walk. But not in the right direction. I give her a moment then redirect her only to have her make a scene like I am torturing her out in the public streets. I usually have to distract her by turning carrying her into a fun ride. Then she laughs and forgets we aren't going in the direction she was determined to explore. Whew.

She doesn't want to leave what she is looking at yet. She doesn't want to stop to have her diaper changed. She doesn't want mom to use anything that she can't touch, like a phone or a pen or a dirty dustpan. She doesn't want to eat that. The whole world revolves around her and she can't understand why we, who love her so, aren't doing as she wishes!

I am quite thankful that so far crying is her only arsenal. No punching or kicking or hitting. I try to keep my reactions level headed and set the example of patience and gentleness. In all reality sometimes I feel like letting out a pressure releasing scream. Like when she forgets why she is upset and isn't quite sure what is required to make her feel better. She cries to be put down and then is upset that I would have the audacity to do so and wants right back up.

I think her current unhinged persona may be a little exemplified this week because she has had her sleep thrown off by a church conference that necessitated both later nights and earlier mornings. Mom and dad are left spiritually awakened and encouraged while she, though she emphatically loved all the music services, is left feeling utterly drained.

Then, in the on-top-of-everything-else fashion that it always seems to take, she is currently getting her second molar. Red cheeks. Drooling. Inconsistent naps that are short one day, double length the next. Come on, little tooth! Stop thinking about it and make your debut so that my sweetheart is released from the resulting pain! Then, hopefully, my daughter will be a little less emotional.

But if not, we'll just have to roll with the punches. Keep calm, mommy, keep calm. As her communication improves she will be a little less frustrated. And you'll be able to be more precise in your comforting instead of general "it will be okay" reassuring when you actually have no idea what "it" is.

Hmmm. Sounds like a woman.

Saturday, 23 March 2013

Unsolicited Advice

Unsolicited advice. It isn't hard to find. Especially with the use of social media. Comments bringing up safety on a photo. Warnings sent as a result of a Facebook status. Everyone has an opinion. And though not all people express their concern, many people will.

Having a child seems to open the door for exhortations. It is like your life cannot be private anymore. You have a little representative bringing to light your lifestyle choices. I can't imagine how much this intensifies when this mini family spokesperson gains a voice and is free to share what happens behind closed doors.

Some people find this new position under the magnifying glass very intimidating. They can feel the eyes watching their every move and don't like the feeling of a judging paparazzi. I can empathize. My first few months as a mother I questioned what route I would take in so many areas and I really second guessed myself. There were so many options and each option had research proving it was "right". Add in the sentiments of this person and that person and the awareness that you can't please them all (on top of all the changes and lack of sleep) and the stress increases.

As I got more comfortable with myself and my family I wasn't bothered by the two-bits of others anymore. And now I have a hypotheses. Life would actually suck if it all stopped.

I think we often don't think of the consequences of our wishes. And unsolicited advice falls in this category. Imagine if everyone kept their thoughts to themselves? Sure, you may not feel as judged. Or not as inconvenienced. But what would you be missing?

If I'd had no uncalled-for counsel I wouldn't have discovered the joy of wearing my daughter, which came in handy trying to get things done. If it wasn't for other people pushing their ideas I would have refused to try a pacifier which I now find is such a natural comfort for my baby that I don't regret. Without family pushing me in the area of diet I probably would have been way too strict and ended up with a child that would have rebelled from healthy eating when she got older. (Disclaimer: The previous sentence does not nullify my request that my little one be given healthy choices, as I believe healthy eating is very important.)

I can think of many times my very tired brain had trouble thinking and something someone said opened my eyes to what was obvious. If they didn't care enough to try to help I would have missed out on some important little things.

That's right. If they didn't care. Usually, when someone shares a piece of knowledge it is because they care. If you meant nothing to them why would it matter to them what you did, unless it directly affected them? When my grandmother adamantly tried to stop me from sleeping with my baby it was the safety of her great grandchild that mattered. The safety of someone she loved. When the little old lady at the store thought that I was going to go out into the cold without putting a hat on my baby she wasn't going to have her life changed whether I did or not. She was simply concerned for the health of my baby.

Sure, there are exceptions. Maybe that lady just thinks all mothers nowadays are irresponsible, and her pointing out that I needed to put a hat on my baby just fueled her "I told you so" attitude. Maybe, maybe not. What I figure is that people like that may annoy you for a second but they live with their own critical attitude all day every day. Poor, poor souls.

Suggestions and predictions given may without a doubt fall into the crazy column. But we live in a fast paced world where science and medicine are always learning and expanding. I can guarantee that something you are certain of now will be debunked down the road. And there you'll be, looking at the younger generation wondering how they could be going against what you know is fact. We live in a world of trends and suppositions. Today will not equal tomorrow. But every day will have its assertive opinion givers and its counteracting offensive players.

I cannot choose the attitude or theories of another. I am unable to select what thoughts they will express. The only thing I have direct control over is my own reaction. I can control how I react and what I do with the advice. Do I shrug it off? Do I acknowledge it and file it away in case I need it later? Do I open discussion or look into it further? Or do I take offense and stress over it, and over the fact that I have to make a choice with the world as my witness, and ruminate on what right they had to contribute in the first place and what they really thought...? Now that is stress!

I am grateful for advice. It's like spam. Most of it is useless. But sometimes I get a golden nugget. Sometimes I get revelations. Well, okay, probably more often than spam would be accepted. What I am given will be appreciated because life is so full of possibilities and so much that could be missed. There was a time when extended family would teach the children how to be mothers. Time constraints and western lifestyles don't make that the norm any more.

Go ahead grandma, ask me what I am feeding my daughter. Thanks for caring. Go ahead old friend, point out an available option. Thanks for caring enough to let me know something I may have known nothing about. Go ahead stranger in the store, remark on a safety issue. Thanks for seeing I might have had no sleep last night and I may be clueless.

And if I don't think your motivation is caring, oh well. You have to be accountable for your motives, not me. And if I do know the options, oh well. You don't know my thoughts. Only I do. And if I am not clueless, oh well. Your opinion of me is really none of my business.

Educating myself and trying my best is my business. And I'd rather focus my time and energy in that than worrying about the thoughts if others.

Friday, 22 March 2013

Imagination Formation

I can remember being little and imagining crazy scenarios and exciting people and risky adventures. I can recall my brother and I making a mess by make-believing the bath tub as a water slide. I can call to mind, as I was a very shy girl, numerous occasions where I got caught talking to myself and was quite embarrassed.

Now I am watching my daughter's daydreams awaken. For some time already, she has been analytically imitating. She enjoys playing with objects mommy and daddy use more than she does her own toys. Pots and pans, cutlery, boxes, remotes, keys. Moving bottles from the shower or the spice cupboard and carefully arranging them elsewhere. Thoroughly washing everything with a cloth or sweeping any surface with a little broom that my mom gave her. Animatedly talking on the phone while pacing. And stirring, stirring, stirring. I think she will be quite the little helper.

She is just now starting to expand her imagining. She will give her stuffed animals her sucky or a drink of water. She will eat pretend food and exclaim, "Mmmmm!" She will sing to and rock her baby. She just started saying good night to each individual bath toy at bedtime-- a lengthly process of "nigh nigh duckie, nigh nigh truck, nigh nigh bubbles, nigh nigh water..." Then we are off to read more books and further build her vocabulary and imagination. When she sleeps she obviously dreams as she wakes up saying, "uh oh" or "beep beep".

Growing up I had a brother who was only 13 months younger. (Oh my, momma! Pregnant with a four month old!) I usually had someone to join me in my make believe world. Though my sweet daughter will have oodles of young relatives and friends to visit, church mates to run around with, and play groups to attend (mom will definitely have her socializing), she won't have the sibling right there at home to cause trouble with like I did. She'll have her devoted dog. But her canine is getting older. Though she dutifully lets our curious monkey pile stuff on top of her and she playfully fights over the ball (to the child's eventual selfish frustration), I don't imagine she will always be too eager of a play mate.

Unfortunately, I won't be able to offer my daughter a brother or sister like what I grew up with. Two children close in age had been my hope all along, simply because it is what was familiar to me. But sometimes you have to let dreams go and settle for the amazing blessings that you have. I never knew if post cancer I would be able to have a child but I now have my health and I have a beautiful, smart, well behaved little princess.

She will have her silly mommy and daddy to play with. Daddy already plays Lego or climbs into her little tent or explores the outdoors with her. Soon I am sure she will ask him for tea parties and camp outs in the living room. I love how she brings the kids out in us. Not only is her imagination developing, but so is ours. The things she gets us to wear as "hats" (the other day she wanted me to wear a step stool on my head). The sound effects we end up exploring. (What is the difference between a fire truck and police car siren?) The voices we assign to characters in her numerous books.

I will try to feed her brain positive images. My imagination had been clouded with so many visuals I didn't understand. Violence on television. Scary characters and villains. Movies I shouldn't have watched. For 20 years I had to wrap my feet in a blanket in order to sleep because of fear that something would stab my foot. I want my precious tot to enjoy her childhood for as long as possible. I will not be able to shelter her from everything, but I will choose to instill positive, encouraging, loving images in her mind (though I do need to work on the mom is patient with dad image),

As her comprehension grows and her fabrication develops I look forward to enjoying her stories. I have my note book ready to record the cute things she says. Right now it is a melodious babble with the random word. As her communication expands I will embrace her creativity. We are going to go bear hunting and play with pretty fairies. We are going to make enchanting castles and explore magical kingdoms. Who knows what else we will do? Her personality will soon tell.

Thursday, 21 March 2013

Out Of My Mind

I had one of those defeating days today. Feeling unappreciated and misunderstood. Questioning myself. One of those days when socializing is difficult and curling up in something cozy with hot chocolate and an interesting book would be absolutely ideal.

These types of days are, thankfully, few and far between, instead of regular like they once were. But even short lived, they have the potential to affect many areas. They deposit land mines that inflict damage when they go off. If I treat someone like crap because I feel horrible, they aren't going to think, "Oh, that's okay. She is struggling." Because the truth is, words and actions get down deep into the soul of another, even if they know you have a list of problems to justify your snarly attitude or emotional demeanor. You can't change what happens to you but you can change the reaction you choose. Sometimes, the only reaction someone prefers is one that greatly expresses the problem.

"How are you feeling?" has become such an empty, often rhetorical question. In reality, that question needs to be honestly answered only for a reason. To get something off your chest and move on. To seek counsel. To know someone understands. To help you or the other person grow. To realize it isn't that bad. But, like I said, misery isn't a place to sit and have a pity party. You can't keep sharing it over and over and expect positive results. It's like the boy who cried wolf. When is a complainer's issue really a predicament that requires support? And if help were to actually bring a resolution, would it be welcomed?

I am very aware of my bad mood and its effects on others around me. I look at the way-back-when me and I see someone I wouldn't want to be around. When I have a momentary relapse I again believe I am not someone anyone would desire to fellowship with. Of course, a spiral begins because feeling unwanted doesn't get me out of the slump.

What gets me out of the slump is looking outside of myself. Contacting a friend and asking how they are doing and truly listening to them and their feelings. Doing something nice for someone. Being happy for the accomplishments or blessings of another. Giving. Loving. Blessing. Interceding for someone. Outside of me.

Tell that to someone in the middle of the doldrums and they will usually disagree. Or, like I used to think, they will worry that their issue will be minimized and mean nothing if they turn from it for a moment. When I was very depressed I wanted help and thought if I turned from that and expressed any joy, then my need wouldn't be taken seriously and I would have less of a chance of resolution. So I felt guilty if anything attempted to lift me out of my melancholy. Through living, growing, and spirituality, I finally learned that the constant focus on my issue only amplified it. Staying in the misery increased its size. Mole hills became mountains. I was feeding sadness and what I needed to do was feed joy.

So tonight I still went out as planned, in spite of my cloud of frustration. At first it was quite difficult to be around people. But I let go and payed attention to them. And what do you know? In the long run, if it wasn't for a very tired toddler in my arms, I would have even stayed out and socialized pretty late.

I am glad I ventured out. Out of my house but also out of my own mind. Yes, I am out of my mind. But the splendid thing is I am getting into the minds of others, and discovering it is a joyful place to be.

Wednesday, 20 March 2013

I Am Still Writing

The revelation that a weakness has improved is always welcoming. Keeping your cool in a situation that used to infuriate you. Choosing a healthier snack option. Finally remembering to take out the trash on time. Or, maybe you remarkably stopped burning the grilled cheese. I am used to a little charcoal on my sandwich, but still I'd love it if I ever made that basic kitchen-skills landmark.

Last night I discovered an area I have grown that I finally let myself invest time. I am not best with time management and often kick myself for how I spend my days. I can spend time cleaning the house, patiently being a mom, faithfully exercising, committing to making a homemade meal. But I have always struggled with putting aside time for one of my staple needs--creativity.

I am naturally artistic like my father. I will use it sometimes for an event or a gift for someone. But I have never been able to say, "Okay, this afternoon I am drawing. Or painting, or crafting, or writing". It's like my mind gets frantically erased by little micro dusters that waltz in and whisk my ideas away while declaring, "Make room for something more productive!" Why does doing something artistic feel like a bad thing?

I think it is mainly a case of requiring instant gratification. If I make you a homemade birthday card, you will tell me you appreciate it. If I plan a new bulletin board for the church, someone will tell me they like it. Hmmm, am I really that shallow? If I spend ours trying to improve my fine brush skills or my steady hand or my blending of color, I may end up with nothing presentable to show for it. And in the end, the only person judging my work is me. Unfortunately, I don't bolster myself up very well (or others for that matter, but that is a concomitant wall to scale).

When I started writing I knew I would enjoy delving into my conglomeration of brain waves, but I thought it would be difficult to keep up. I expected my inner critique to get in the way and fill me with all kinds of excuses (oh it tries!). But, what the little light bulb suddenly lit up last night is that here I am, taking another nap time to type away while dishes are piled up and numerous other things could be tackled. (I think it might be bad that I do enjoy sitting on my bottom staring at this screen.)

I am taking what could end up being an hour out of my day to produce something that may be exhibited, and may or may not have an acclaimed, or even accepted, result. I am putting myself out there. I start many topics only to decide they are inadequate. I worry about what people will think. Am I crazy? Or daft? I attempt a paragraph only to get distracted by another task, usually forgetting to save and losing the work I did accomplish.(There I go again. Answered the phone and ended up washing dishes before coming back!) But, in spite of self criticism and the whirling of life around me, I plod on. I never used to like pushing against maybes and what-ifs and I-shoulds.

Possibly my growth of late is the fact that having a child has slowed me down and also made me more aware of my time. I have to let go of things that need to be done to give my time to her. And, like I said in my blog Embrace Creativity, I have to be in touch with the gifts I was given to help my daughter be able to follow her own talents. For sanity sake, I also have to keep my own identity outside of being someone's mom. I am not just a cooking, cleaning, diaper changing, book reading momma. I am still me. Imaginative, artistic, analytical me. And it feels good to take the time to do something about that.

When my daughter gets older I will have more opportunity to use my strengths by arranging crafts, planning parties, helping her with school. But I know that for me I also need to keep up with creativity that isn't related to her. To do something on my own.

As you may have already surmised, though, it will often have her as a topic!

Tuesday, 19 March 2013

Stretch Your Mind Like A Toddler

Obviously, adults don't learn at as high a rate as children. Is it because we get lazy? Insecure? Preoccupied with other have-to-dos? Is our learning capacity based on use it or lose it? Because it is quite shocking how much a toddler learns. So many new concepts and words continuously developing.

My daughter is not a year and a half and has new cognition every day. For the first time yesterday she asked for my hand walking down the street. Though she cannot yet count she has shown numerous times, to a few different relatives, that she knows that 10 follows 9. She blurts out new words every day, with complete comprehension. Like her bowl, tent, back-pack, orange. Her ability to follow directions astounds me (which I enjoy wholeheartedly as I know that will weaken when free will expression begins). I asked her to get a mat and sit on her bum so she could have some smoothie, which I do so that she can drink it herself and be free to make a mess. She complied, while exclaiming "bum" and sitting so cutely. Then later she grabbed the same mat and sat on it charmingly and said "bum", obviously waiting for a treat.

I am not bragging on her. I know children in general are perceptive and inquisitive, even if they are emotional and easily distracted. Whether or not a toddler expresses their discoveries through words or actions, they are constantly learning copious new things. They watch and listen and experiment, even if they are just playing. And their open mind is just a sponge.

I'd like to "open" my mind to learning more. I know it is possible. And I have good intentions. Books about memory improvement. Nintendo DS "Brain Age" games. But they are useless if not used. What matters most, though, is stretching the mind. Learning something original, like a language or an instrument. Taking advantage of curiosity and looking into an uncertainty or clarifying a conjecture instead of just letting a question go that isn't understood. Pushing out of limits by talking to new people and trying diverse activities. Like a training athlete shouldn't stick to one form of exercise if they want to prevent future strain, we need to exercise our brain in more ways than one to keep it fit. My daughter is currently learning letters, numbers, colors, animals, foods, manners, sounds, rules... The list is endless. No wonder her brain is at its peak fitness level.

She pushes me to learn myself. Of course, I have to learn about the new frontier I enter every day with a toddler. "Is she supposed to do that?" "How do I deal with this?" As well, wanting to help her learn I must be open to learning myself. She will soon ask me so many questions. I don't want to answer "I don't know" to too many of them. She will ask about nature, family, work, any oddity, and why things aren't the same everywhere. I will need to solidify my faith and know why I do or do not believe what I believe so that I can be comfortable with her questions. I need to up my attention span for life. Be aware of my surroundings. Pay mind to current events.

Learning takes time and energy. It is so easy to find something mindless to do instead. I need to commit time to keeping my brain alert and keeping the synapses flowing. Sure, it'll probably just be little spurts of learning when I find time. Not like when I was about 20 years old and took 3 hours straight to memorize the order of a shuffled deck of cards. I saw the feat accomplished on television and was determined to replicate it myself. Ah, to have all the time in the world to waste.

But I figure the investment is worth it. If I am open to learning, my life will be so much more richer. For substantially longer, I hope. I want to mentally be there for my girl right into her adulthood and share as much as I can with her. I am not looking forward to algebra and history homework, but I will sure give it a try. As I stand in awe of my daughter and her brain, I hope she'll be proud of me and my thinker, too.

Sunday, 17 March 2013

Half An Hour

Becoming a mother sure has changed my concept of time! I will attempt things I never would have before. I take any spare moment as an opportunity to be productive (well, often I actually choose to relax or waste time, but that's not the point). Half an hour would have been nothing in the past but now it is enough to gratefully accomplish almost anything.

Half an hour. Enough time for a solid workout. A quick household tidy or a comprehensive vacuum of the living room (I love having a dog, but really hate the hair!). A thorough dog brushing. A nice walk. A relaxing chapter of a book. A good prayer or devotional. A healthy snack. A swim?

Tonight my daughter and I finished our delicious dinner just as my husband walked in. I mentioned she'd had quite a late nap and so it would be the perfect evening to do something. I suggested we try a quick swim. What time was it? I looked at the clock. It was 7:20. There may be time. But we would have to leave NOW as the pool closed at 8pm. That gave us only 40 minutes.

I popped my girl out of the high hair and brushed the lasagna particles off her pants. Come to think of it, I don't even recall wiping her tomatoey hands. I placed her on the floor and daddy and I rushed down the hall to get ready. We changed as I frantically tried to untwist my bikini straps. Dad grabbed a back pack and while I somewhat shaved (really!) he threw in three towels. I grabbed shampoo and a diaper and as we rushed through the kitchen we scooped up our toddler and put on her boots. I impatiently stood at the truck door as daddy ruffled through coat pockets looking for his keys. I finally strapped in my damsel as she wondered with wide eyes what the rush was all about. Off we went!

We got to the pool quite quickly and enjoyed half an hour of splashing and kicking, playing with floating fish, and pouring water from a watering can down our faces. We tossed a ball (and bounced it off daddy's little girl's head) and played on the stairs. We cruised the lazy river and relaxed in the jacuzzi. We took photos of her smiley face as she treasured this moment with mom and dad. It was perfect. Just enough time to have a lovely before-bed swim. We followed with a cleansing shower and came home for a snack while daddy finally ate dinner.

Half an hour. Full. Fun. Family. Laughter. Pictures. Memories. Just half an hour. Imagine what adventure and fellowship the rest of our lives could hold?

Saturday, 16 March 2013

I Will Show You

I will love the days that sprinkle down with rain.
Are powerfully blustery.
Blare with warm sunlight.
Chill right down to the bone.
Present new growth.
Become laden with thick fog.
I will love the days as they are presented to me because I cannot change them.
I will show you I love living so you can learn to love life.

I will love my family when they bring me laughter.
Frustrate me with broken promises.
Fill me with glowing pride.
Anger me with annoying habits.
Create cherished memories.
Confuse with their deep insecurities.
I will love my family because they will always be connected to me.
I will show you I love family so you can learn to love family.

I will love myself when I feel confident.
Become slightly overwhelmed.
Appreciate my strengths.
Know I need to step up.
Am aware I have adequate support.
Hate how I look.
I will love myself because I will always have to deal with myself.
I will show you I love myself so you can learn to love yourself.

I will work hard when I enjoy what I am doing.
Feel too tired to press on.
Receive instant gratification.
Long for appreciation.
Know I am doing well.
Remain underpaid.
I will work hard because I am working for God and not man.
I will show you how to work hard so that you can learn to work hard.

I will eat well when I keep very busy.
Fell too lazy.
Require replenishing nourishment.
Have overpowering cravings.
Hang with friends.
Need to soothe myself.
I will eat well because what I consume nourishes my body.
I will show you how to eat well so that you can learn to eat well.

I will be patient when everything falls into place.
I am going to be late.
Things unexpectedly happen.
I feel exhausted.
Distractions are overwhelming.
Misunderstandings occur.
I will be patient because my impatience will only hinder relationships and productivity.
I will show you how to be patient so that you can learn to be patient.

I will listen to my body when it appreciates my activities.
Warns me it needs to be strengthened.
Enjoys an undertaking.
Requires extra attention.
Hints to me something isn't right.
I will listen to my body because it is the only one I have.
I will show you how I listen to my body so you can learn to listen to your body.

I will spend my money wisely when I come up with a little extra.
Have a pressing need.
Want to carelessly splurge.
Don't desire to care.
Have the opportunity to be generous.
Must pay for repairs.
I will spend my money wisely because I want to plant seeds that will grow and prosper.
I will show you how to spend wisely so you can learn to spend wisely.

I will pray when I appreciate my countless blessings.
Feel defeated.
Think of others around me.
Need a fresh breakthrough.
Admire creation with awestruck wonder.
Run short on direction.
I will pray because I need to be in touch with the spirit.
I will show you how I pray so that you can learn to pray.

I will forgive myself when I don't appreciate my day.
Fail to show love to my family.
Choose not to love myself.
Decide not to work hard.
Regret not eating well.
Lack patience.
Don't listen to my body.
Flounder at spending wisely.
Forget to pray.
I will forgive myself because I am human.
I will show you how I can forgive so that you will know the freedom of forgiveness.

Friday, 15 March 2013

Organization Muscle

I long to be so much more organized. But it is such a tedious, never ending, difficult to follow through task. Where does all this stuff come from? I try different straightening-up strategies. Sometimes an idea seems wonderful, but when attempted it just does not work. I can't seem to figure out a way to put unopened mail somewhere it will be seen but kept from adding to the clutter or getting mixed with piles of random papers. And the biggest task in organizing the home is deciding when to throw something out (and whether to bring it home in the first place).

I used to lean toward throwing everything out if it wasn't being used. Well, kind of. I am not a minimalist at all and I need to take the time to thin out many areas. My closet is packed with clothes I may fit into one day. But now, having less finances has given me a desire to file away more stuff properly for later just in case (though I'll never be an extreme couponer. I don't need a large storeroom of perishable goods). There is nothing worse than investing in something to discover that the item was already on-hand somewhere in the house or garage. Objects kept but forgotten about.

Today I went through my filing. It contained many forgotten items. Cards I'd bought specifically but never gave out. Photos I'd stuffed into an album until I had time to insert them. And piles of to-be-filed-but-where? that I'd put aside over and over again. Maybe it's motherhood and its need for change and growth. Maybe it's Pinterest and blogs and the contemplating my brain does through writing again. But in that 1.5 hour nap time I achieved a record amount of organizing the files, thinning them out, and arranging items more efficiently. I grouped things so that they were easier to find than so many random papers. Instead of invitations spread throughout under last names, I made a "Wedding Invite" envelope. Now I'll be more likely to put them away, and keep them. What a cute momento to look back on. And with changing technology I am sure invites will differ in style and composition down the road, making looking back even more intriguing (oh, and look at those color choices, and how they were dressed!).

Going through the filing I found so many memories. Concerts, musicals, and plays watched. Courses taken. Inspirational notes received. Vacations enjoyed. Unique tours encountered (walking the ocean floor in a heavy helmet, ATVing in the desert in the rain, dogsledding across borders through sparkly snow, climbing pyramids in the heat). Church conferences experienced. Large items purchased.

Where do the years go? I have already been married for 6 exciting, tumultuous, enchanting years, Numerous trips taken to see family, to revel in the outdoors, to enjoy the warmth of Mexico, to explore the casinos of Vegas. Butterfly worlds, history museums, gift shops, and restaurants of all kinds. Blessings I didn't deserve. Memories of lives progressively changing in a two-steps-forward and one-step-back growth (really, as 2 Corinthians 4:16 says, though outwardly we are wasting away, inwardly we are being renewed day by day).

In my files I found notes from counselling when I was about 23. If you would have told me then what I would be doing now I would be in disbelief. Not that anything about me is any good, but I am married with a drivers licence, a career, a marriage, a baby, an exercise routine, goals, hobbies, friends. All impossible concepts at one point. I was a different person then. So scared, hurt, shy, and confused. It took a long time to organize my scattered feelings, my capacious dreams, my undiscovered strengths and weaknesses. To forgive, knowing that holding on hurts oneself more than anyone else. Life has remained a process of choosing what to keep and what to let go. Remembering that it gets progressively easier. Filing hurts and opinions gradually get faster. Throwing unnecessary and harmful waste in the trash becomes more natural. Concentrating on what truly matters becomes more second nature the more it is practiced.

So, I can believe organizing my home will get easier too, right? I am on my way, right? I guess I have to exercise the correct muscle. Step by step.

Now, if only I could get my daughter to stop throwing random objects in the hamper, spreading shoes throughout the house, throwing toys down the stairs, and emptying cupboards. Or, maybe she is the trainer stretching my organizing muscle.

Thursday, 14 March 2013

A Dog's Best Friend

My "baby" for 7 years was my beloved mutt. She was my hiking and jogging companion. My motivation to get outside. We would take her camping, swimming, hiking, canoeing, boating, biking. We drove over 20 hours with her, camping and site seeing along the way, and she was a wonderful companion. She has attended a few weddings and many get togethers. She has always been a fairly smart and obedient dog. I had some concerns, though, when I was preparing to have a baby.

My dog is my little body guard. And this was exemplified when I became pregnant. She went from protectively barking at large trucks and animals when we were in the car to barking at everything. Cute children, harmless little ladies, friendly bike riders. She also had a bit of a problem with some men. She had attended many all day events with us, but after snapping at three men that I was talking to at a cancer fundraiser, I reluctantly had to take her home. I was a little apprehensive. I wanted my beloved buddy to continue being part of the family. Not left neglected because she was getting grumpy and old. She was certainly healthy and playful, and surprisingly still is at 9 years old.

She also wasn't that interested in rambunctious children any more. She had gone from being completely tolerant to avoiding them when one had hurt her a few years ago. I really hoped her sentiment would change when she realised this one would be here to keep.

When I had my precious munchkin it didn't seem to bother the hound, other than confusion when I would use my "little" voice. So many times she thought I was talking to her when I wasn't, so eventually she started ignoring me altogether. I would have to call her name a few times for her to believe my affection was for her.

Thankfully, the crying baby never bothered the mongrel. I babysat a dog once who howled when I sang and I was hoping that my infant's cries would not get a stressful reaction from my four legged friend. (Take note that my own dog quite likes my singing. I think.) My dog was just content that I was home so much, instead of leaving her for 9 boring hours.

As our baby grew it was obvious that her canine knew they were sisters. The dog remained protective but quickly learned to be quiet while the baby napped (usually). Once the little noise maker progressed to eating solids, the babbler was admired even more because she dropped food on the floor. I quickly taught the dog not to go near the food until the baby left the room. They could sit side by side and not share food. The mutt knew not to take food from the baby or lick her.

I wish I had the same understanding with toys. The dog learned to leave the children's toys alone. Except for rubber duckies. They have such an appealing squeak. I had to encourage the rugrat to keep them with the tub toys or the dog would steal them. My tot would try to share other toys but quickly caught on that her canine couldn't have certain items. She would tease by throwing her own ball and shaking her head "no".

I was less successful the other way around. Tears are shed sometimes because my daughter wants a ball or stick that the dog has in her mouth. She is always collecting dog toys and playing with them. She'll throw the dogs ball and be confused the times that her furry friend isn't interested.

Her infatuation with the dog toys used to bother me. Just like her love for playing with shoes. Dirty. Yuck. But instead of creating a battle, I let it go. I vacuum the hairy dog bed every few days and throw the slobbery dog toys in the washing machine once in a while. Other than that, my youngster's little immune system is developing. I just try to remember to wash busy fingers before eating.

My girl loves her dog. And her dog is amazing with her. I'll watch as the four legged one sits there submissively and allows papers, blankets, or clothing to be piled on top of her. The tail-wagger will let her mini owner examine her collar or even poke her in the eye. One time I was cutting the dog's abundantly furry paw hair and she let the baby use her as a jungle gym. I think she has only growled a few times when she was startled by being stepped on. I am so very pleased that they get along well. Baby loves Dog. And dog loves baby. It doesn't matter if she is being bothered, the dog still follows her munchkin around.

As a result, my daughter loves all dogs. I think "woof" was one of her first words. It has gotten to the point that she can't sleep in the stroller by the river anymore because there are too many dogs to see and get ecstatic about. She relishes her walk with daddy in the morning. She won't let anyone forget that she has to walk her dog. Her best friend.

Tuesday, 12 March 2013

It's Not Spring

Spring doesn't officially start until March 20th. Still, we have all been relishing in the hypothesis that we were already living in it for some time now. The kiss of the warm sun. The drip and flow of melting snow. It all seemed more possible as our winter here had been mild with no severe cold stretches and not a tremendous amount of snowfall. I only recall having to figure out how to shovel my steps with a toddler once this year, and the rest could wait for my husband. This is unusual in these mountainous parts.

As the pussy-willows sprouted, out have come the bikes. The rollerblades. Even the boats. The avid gardeners and those longing for their meticulous lawns have begun rigorously chopping away at the packed snow that has accumulated, hoping to assist nature's transition.

But it happened. Today it snowed. The clouds hadn't completed their bestowing us with the frosty white stuff. It piled on the branches like an exquisite first-of-the-season snowfall. It covered the end-of-season spread of dirt that was used for traction. It was very beautiful.

Beautiful? I don't think that was the general consensus of the fellow inhabitants of our little snow-ville. Facebook was plastered with curses and poutings about how we had been fooled and this wasn't fair. Especially since yesterday had been so enjoyably spring-like! I decided to check the twitter account of "Mother Nature" to see how much flack she gets, but it turns out I have to be a "follower" to see her tweets, and I don't have a twitter account. Good thing. I don't need to look into it more. I know that the majority of my fellow citizens were not pleased.

Years ago I would not have been either. I suffered from Seasonal Affective Disorder. The winter blues. And it would bring me down and make me feel run-down mentally and physically. One year I felt it more than ever in my body and decided that I'd had enough. I was tenaciously going to figure out how to appreciate all seasons. I was going to get outside. So I tried downhill skiing. It turned out that my extra exhaustive condition was from Leukemia. Being outdoors helped me get through the battle. And in further seasons I developed an appreciation for what is given to me that I cannot change.

I am unable to pronounce that it rain or snow or that the sun shine brightly. I have to accept my plight. Begrudgingly, or with decision to take advantage of the opportunities given to me. Sure, if I have a specific event there is the possibility that Mother Nature can ruin my plans, but generally I can only face the day given and make the most of its attributes.

This attitude came in very handy when I had a baby. I struggled with many factors, like a history of the blues, the sudden myriad of changes, problems with childbirth and with breast feeding. As a result, I suffered from postpartum depression. In order to make it through I would bundle up my baby and take her out every day. We went for walks in the rain. The snow. The wind. The below freezing temperatures. We walked the dog. Walked to town. Went snowshoeing. While talking, singing, and praying, we thankfully took in the healing essence of fresh air. To this day, nothing deters my little nugget from wanting to go outside.

Today she discovered trudging through snow that almost chillingly spilled into her little boots. She plodded ahead slowly, and often surely. Occasionally she required a hand to hold when it became too much resistance for her dainty little legs. She stopped to stare at the intriguing tread inside footprints. And her coat became bedazzled with more and more sparkly fluff that melted and made her mother wonder how long she would remain dry. Her little hands began to get red. They refused to wear mitts because, as means of investigation, they needed the sense of touch. She wanted the full effect.

She didn't claim it a snow day. She revelled in being in the midst of it. And as my improperly adorned feet were saturated with icy dampness, I was glad to have the opportunity to expose her to this joy.

We live in an enchanting place. And spring doesn't begin for over a week.

Monday, 11 March 2013

Slow Down, Mommy.

I did some volunteer this morning with my investigative 16 month old in tow. What would have taken maybe a quick half an hour took 2 whole eventful hours. There are moments when I can't spare any minutes but usually I try to balance sweeping her from one thing to the next and taking it toddler-tortoise time. And she will take as much as she can get. "No, sweetheart, we are going this way!"

She cautiously stepped up and down any steps she passed. Splashed with delight in any puddle that she saw. Exuberantly pointed at items in the towering store windows. Longingly gazed at garbage that I wouldn't let her pick up. Curiously examined the cracks in the sidewalk. Paused to recite the ABCs (or should I say ABDBs) for any writing she saw. Said "Hello" to passersby, whether they were amiable, oblivious, or unfriendly. How could you be unfriendly to such an adorable face?

In her mind, there was no wasted time. She saw things. Touched things. Explored. We did just what she expected. She has no idea that my list was barely touched. That I had to do an extra load of laundry because of mud puddles. That I was late getting somewhere and it was closed for lunch, making a two block meander pointless. Her purpose is to be a little scientist discovering her world. Cover as much as she can and learn at an absolutely blow-your-mind astonishing rate.

And I am the devoted producer funding the venture. The reliable assistant giving a hand. The strong bodyguard keeping her safe. The friendly chauffeur driving her from event to event. The busy chef nourishing her for the journey. The loving spiritual guide helping her to know faith and peace. The attentive secretary documenting her milestones. The observant photographer capturing the memories. The, um... slacking housekeeper cleaning up her messes. And greatest of all, her dear best friend to experience the multitude of wonders alongside her.

Later in the day I waited, waited, waited to leave the house again after coming home for her nap. She was having a snack. I should say slowly savouring a snack, with many distractions. One was to come over and give me a kiss. How sweet.

Before having a child I thought that this slowing down would be a lot more inconvenient. I'll be honest. The first few months were quite a change and a shocker. Maybe newborns are so consuming so that we have to let go and become selfless. Then, as they age, we can treasure each stage with them because we let go of our own agenda.

I have a list of things I need to do. I know I'll have to allocate much more time for each, and be open to pauses when performing tasks. I am more aggravated with other time-suckers, like a slow Internet or a lost wallet. (Then there is the time lost to remake burnt food. I am horrible at remembering I am cooking.) Baby girl interruptions are quite alright with me. I enjoy slowing down and seeing the world for its physical beauty and diversity instead of my nagging worries and pressing agenda. My girl will only be this little for a short time. Right now, we pause to classify everything. Bear? Tiger? Giraffe? Soon we will stop to answer questions to further understanding. Then will come, "Why?" Learning will continue for a very long time. I, who am also her teacher, want to encourage rather than hinder that.

Right now, as I finish this, we have concluded a very long and sloppy dinner and she is wrestling with dad, who also has stuff to do but is enjoying a moment with her before bed. Then we are going to have a bath. A bath that will be longer than necessary but will be fun. Because it has bubbles and rubber duckies. She knows what matters.

Friday, 8 March 2013


Time to brag on the father of my child. My husband is naturally developing a secure, loving, smart little girl because of his doting attention and affection. From day one he has been an absolutely amazing dad.

When I gave birth I lost a large amount of blood. I was weak and could not stand up. Daddy did all the diaper changes. He paced the halls with her for her first two nights, introducing her to a plethora of items she would be experiencing in her new world. "This is a flower." "This is a phone". I was worried he would overstimulate her but I know he set in motion her observing and her imagination. He had no problem devoting all of his time to his precious baby.

So, at two days old, when I finally changed a diaper, he exclaimed, "This is Mommy's first time changing you! I have been changing your diaper your WHOLE LIFE!!" He will be building her tolerance for corny jokes as well.

He continued to lavish her with attention, taking the first week of her life off of work.(He also took the week before her birth off as he couldn't concentrate. Good thing I wasn't way overdue.) He had no qualms about diaper changing, bathing, soothing her to sleep. His love for her glowed like a fairy tale story. He was always full of eye contact and had lively articulation in his voice and face. She followed suit by being very responsive and dramatic in her expression. She relishes each and every moment with her Daddy. Even if he simply carries her as he does errands or sits with her in front of the television.

They have their regular routine. They have cheerful wrestling and tickling matches in the evening, usually when she should be winding down for slumber. In the morning they walk the dog together before breakfast. They stroll with her in his strong arms while pointing out a medley of sights. Touching and sniffing nature. Listening to near and far sounds. She emphatically points at her surroundings, wonder upon wonder, and says, "Wow, wow, WOW!" to every new, and relived, discovery. When I watch in awe how quickly she notices a passing bird or a tiny butterfly, I give daddy credit. He perpetuated the blood flow to her brain and the messages flooding from her eyes, nose, hands, and toes into her constantly learning noggin.

Not only is she smart, but she is so affectionate as well. Pats on the back. Blowing kisses. Tight squeezes. Cuddles morning and night. Squinting with the eyes like a hug with her face. And her repetitive, "I YOU!" Throughout the day.

I look forward to their daddy-daughter dates. To him expanding his conversations with her as she learns to articulate. To watching them grow together and learn lessons from each other. To see them work out their misunderstandings and differences.

She'll easily understand her Daddy God in heaven loves her because she wont question the presence of paternal love in her attachment with her "DadEEE". Once again, he has taught me about the awesome power of love.

Who needs flash cards and educational shows when you've got a wonderful father to hold you tight and wholeheartedly share discoveries with?

Thursday, 7 March 2013

A Night Away

The other night my light-of-my-life 16 month old spent her first evening and bed time with someone other than mom or dad. Mom has her day or two a week and dad often works late but this was her first evening spent with someone else. I'd kept her up late the two nights prior in case she refused to go to sleep for a different person in a different home. We didn't expect to return until 10. Our first time out together at that hour without our darling little munchkin and her beautiful smile and infectious laugh.

Numerous times we have taken her to evening get togethers. She has attended meetings through to 9 or 9:30. She successfully rang in the New Year with us, initially by behaving herself during a lengthy five course meal in a fancy restaurant, ending after midnight with a small group of die hard friends. She was quite in awe at our loud antics when it hit midnight. Since her birth we have only had one quick lunch and one early dinner without her. But now it was time for mom and dad to have an amorous night out (it was more like a carefree, don't-have-to-think-much night out).

She handled her adventurous evening extraordinarily well. She didn't even look for us. She went to sleep with no complications, no protests, no tears. Once again, all my worry had been for nothing. When planning, we had even considered cancelling our "date" and turning the outing into a guys night. I had bought my husband two tickets for a show for his birthday. He was decidedly excited and wanted to share the experience with her but that wouldn't have been possible. I didn't know what I was going to do with her and I expected to send him with a friend while I stayed in with her instead.

I am sure all mothers are apprehensive about leaving their precious children. I find it extremely difficult. She is my beautiful little miracle. I waited so long for her and she is perfect. At this point I can't just leave her with anyone. Not that no one is capable. I am sure there are many safe options.

I can't recall many of my own babysitters. We probably stayed with loving aunts and uncles and grandparents. But I do recall one when we were a little older. He was quite a trouble maker. He was young. A friend of the family. One time we were walking by a convenience store and there was an unattended delivery truck out back. He had us climb along a fence and steal 2L bottles of pop. Another time, he had us steal something even worse. I don't know if if was premeditated or if he randomly climbed a ladder up to a residence and looked around. But he discovered marijuana plants and he had us help him take some by stuffing one in our shirts. Children make great accomplices because they don't grasp the ramifications. Prime child care, that was! I am sure quiet, shy little me didn't have anything to say. In a third incident he had us participate in some vandalism. I didn't think much of it at the time but in hindsight I saw how much trouble we could have been in and I was mortified.

I know that the chance a baby sitter is going to have my daughter steal items is very slim. It is the idea that you don't know what's really happening. What food is being served. If your requests are being honoured, or even blatantly disobeyed. How people are talking to your baby. How they react when she is doing something she shouldn't. So much could go wrong. So much trust is required!

I am so glad her first cousin, first removed, had a great evening with her. They fed crackers to the cats, had a nice bath, and read a collection of stories. My little social butterfly fell asleep in her cousin's lap. I love when my princess gets to bond with family.

And what better way to bond than while mom and dad are out. Duly noted, mom, duly noted.

Wednesday, 6 March 2013

Don't Mess With The Potty

I have let an abundance of messy overtake my habitat the last year. I gave it an inch and it took much more than a mile! I have seen my daughter share toys with the dog. I let her feed herself, which results in her testing each food as a possible hair product (cottage cheese has some nice hold). I have found myself joining her as she eats off the floor (did I seriously just do that?). Or as she paints the room with popsicle or yogurt. I have watched her play in the dirt. Handle her dad's dirty construction tools. Examine the sewer drains. I have even seen, to my horror, her pick up dog poop. Mess after mess after mess. I have laundered more clothing than I could ever thought possible.

Through all of this I have wiped, washed, scrubbed, bathed, and tucked the dirty away. Down the sink, in the garbage, out with the bath water, drained away in the spin cycle. Then I feel better and can face the next challenge in the battle between obsessive compulsiveness and spontaneity. (Ding-ding. One more victory for team party-pooper. Um... Sans poop.) I would be more than comfortable having everything precisely in its place (after disinfecting, polishing, and removing stains). Adversely, I long to cherish life and the people that I am blessed to experience it with. There have been too many unfortunate moments where I have let go of an opportunity for good company or bonding because I was selfishly concerned with my surroundings (I know I am not painting myself in a good light here. But I know I am not the only one). Half of me pulls one way and half the other. It is a struggle to let things go and focus on what really matters.

For those who can't get the presence of microorganisms out of their mind, this pathogen infested world continues to pose a challenge to be overcome. For me, there is one area I am afraid to navigate. An inevitable parenting task that I dread more than temper tantrums, feeding, sleep training, traveling, or anything that mothers have to competently face.

Potty training.

Can my daughter just stay in diapers? I like the convenience of taking one off, putting another on, and washing up and being done with it. Hmmm. The way she's starting to pull at her diaper tells me she is starting to become aware. And I guess there would come a point I wouldn't appreciate tending to the predicament when my little one becomes completely capable. So this morning I stood in the store staring at the shelves of potty training products. Do I want to find an additional place for her own little potty? Or do I want to put a little seat on the big toilet?

Frankly I don't even want her to enter a washroom. Loo. Lavatory. Ladies Room. Restroom. Anything containing a toilet. But that won't get us very far. For a while I have had to take a deep breath and compose myself as she enters the room and checks it out. Yesterday, mark it on the calendar, I even let her walk in the public restroom with me and stand there while I used the toilet (her obedience with "Don't touch!" really facilitated my venturing out). Have you ever peed with a child on your knee and then tried to do up your pants with one hand? Difficult. Knowing I need to let her learn, I have been telling myself not to react to my discomfort because I don't want her to have an issue. Because as a child, I did.

When I was in my first few years of school I couldn't use a public washroom alone. The teacher had to send someone with me. Apparently, I couldn't even close the stall door as the other person, facing the other way, had to stay completely visible. Just going tinkle was very stressful for me. I doubt it was all germs then. I was afraid for some reason. (I can't imagine what I would have done if there were automatic flush toilets back then! Swoooosh! BOO!) In my trepidation I had always wanted to avoid them. I am fear-free now, but still keep my visits there brief.

I keep my makeup in another area. I hang my bath towel in my bedroom. My toothbrush is not on the counter. I cringe when I see others treat it like any other social location. People who sit around on the toilet and the counter and visit. Hair items and toiletries spread all over the available space.

The lack of caution I witness is exemplified in children. They have better things to pay attention to than little invisible beings that may or may not be harmless. I recall spending time with young family members who end up touching everything. Who let their clothes rub the toilet or floor. Who splash and who miss a spot. Uh. I am mortified just writing about it. You, my reader, are either indifferent, or maybe you understand my sentiment wholeheartedly.

One thing I know, there are many people out there set on avoiding contact with anything in the washroom. The necessity of a garbage can by the door testifies of the popularity of eluding even a graze with any surface. Using paper towel to turn the taps and to open the door. As someone who doesn't stay at home all day, I will have to help my daughter feel comfortable, but be diligent in paying attention to her surroundings and to what she needs to do.

But first step, I have to get her to pee in a potty. I have a feeling it will be more menacing for me than it will be for her. I am praying I will be able to add it to the list of things that ended up easier than expected and I'll laugh looking back at my exhaustive anticipation.

Hmmm. Maybe I'll try next month.

Sunday, 3 March 2013

Once Upon A Bookworm

My daughter was addicted to books before her first birthday. Her most treasured pursuit is flipping the pages of her board books. From the very moment she wakes. Before her eyes even open she beseeches for her Romeo. "Booook!" She returns to her admiration all day and in the end it is difficult to put her to sleep with her incessant mewling, "book, book, book", like it's a sweet tooth that can't be satiated. She has fallen asleep with a book in her arm just like a Teddy Bear. It reminds me of the time her dad fell asleep with his arms around a measuring tape. But I think that was totally an accident.

I figured that as she grew I would have to put down my phone and pick up a real book and set an example of this meaningful and beneficial hobby. I thought I'd have to nonchalantly plant seeds, without pushing the issue too forcibly, so she could slowly develop an interest. But it turns out the affinity comes natural. At 16 months she already has them amassed in her toy box, in the car, in the living room, in the kitchen, in the tub. (Don't worry, the bath contains water proof books.)

She has a bookshelf in her room that used to have a shoe shelf. I had to make her collection more accessible, and so the shoes were pushed over. She enjoys sitting in her rocking chair and flipping through her assortment of board books. Dora. Disney. Baby Einstein. Whinnie the Pooh. I love how her interest and attention has grown from the one word pages to the full stories. Books once set aside for later are added to the active array. Some she chooses occasionally and others she wants repeatedly until I know them off by heart and can recite them without effort. "Big A, little a, what begins with A? Aunt Annie's alligator. A-a-A." I bet I could tell you Dr Suess's whole Alphabet Book. I am so extremely relieved we have libraries so we can throw something new into the mix.

I look forward to one day sharing some favorite classics. The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis. Charlie and The Chocolate Factory. Alice's Adventure in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll. Charles Dickens. Mark Twain. J.R.R Tolkien. Oh, I'm so excited. I'll be reading with her until she kicks me out.

For her second birthday I have planned to celebrate her dear infatuation. I want to have a book party. I'd love to hear of others' favorites. Ones that I have never heard of before. Expand my daughter's compilation with more than just books for which I hold a fancy. Or that I find at garage sales. I am as grateful for them as I am libraries.

Her beloved pastime is quite convenient. She can contentedly look at books independently. Pointing and observing and repeating familiar words. Usually on the floor in a crazy squat that would kill my thighs. Or we can savor reading together. All snuggly close with her in my lap or in the crook of my arm. She can read books with Dad, as he adds creative twists and strange tangents that I am sure will thoroughly entertain her later.

The best part about having a toddler that loves books is watching her comprehension develop. The brain is an amazing sponge. It is capable of so much growth. At an astounding rate in children. Seeing this confirms that the human mind couldn't have developed by chance but instead is a miraculous creation. With encouragement and help it is capable of more than we could imagine.

Right now her brain is sorting and classifying for use the rest of her life. Seeing new things in the books each day. Items on the page she previously didn't recognize or couldn't catalogue. Sometimes she'll suddenly declare something new, like the tiny little bee next to a tree. She adores animals and anything that makes a sound, like the "beep, beep" of a truck. It is amazing watching her perceive something in books and then seeing it click when she happens upon it in real life. Then, when she goes back to that story it is even more fascinating.

And existence should be fascinating. Learning should be enjoyable. Reading should be a part of everyone's life. My daughter and I are going to read about the world with our mutual love for the page (how ever that will present itself in this digital era) and then get out and explore it! Our once upon a time fairy tale truly does exist.

Pinterest Is More Than Interesting

Pinterest. What a novel idea. It makes it so elementary to share what we admire or treasure or appreciate. The absolute epitome of the access to information in the 21st century. For those who haven't tried it, Pinterest is basically "pinning" things you are "interested" in online onto a board, like a recipe board or a birthday party planning board.

For many it is a way to dream. Their future wedding or perfect vacation or longed-for home. For some it is a way to procrastinate. To stay up late looking at charming things or prolong the "just a minute" into "oh, my, I really should be doing something else". For others it is a catalyst for getting new, expanded modes of doing things. Maybe because they long to be more of a creative person or more of a perfectionist. The model parent or best wife. Maybe they are looking for ingenious ways to save time or money. Perhaps both.

After seeing some resourceful ideas shared on Facebook, I decided to give it a boo. Here was an endless selection of user approved pages that were easy to navigate. It led to site after site of children's activities. Motivational quotes. Decorating hints. Healthy lifestyle suggestions. Holiday and party planning. And recipes, recipes, recipes.

I filed away so many new baking and dinner ideas. As well as other pins that gave suggestions on how to modify recipes so that I would appreciate them even more. I now frequently make Slow Cooker Salsa Chicken (modified from another Pinterest post to have nothing canned), Banana Pancakes that my toddler gobbles up, and Homemade Taco Seasoning without the chemicals and salt. I have successfully tried Quinoa Mac and Cheese (my husband didn't really agree with this one), Breakfast Ham Cups, Peanut Butter and Banana Bites, and Crockpot Beef Stroganoff. I have learned the best way to cut up a watermelon and how to cook an egg in a sliced pepper. The list goes on. In checking out my "Food" board I see so many more food blogs that I endeavour to test. Now I am hungry. But really, when am I not hungry?

Pinterest has been a hugely beneficial agglomeration for this girl who loves to eat healthy and cook a variety of tastes, but isn't the best at following recipes. I need to be able to easily go through many suggestions.

It has also made planning inspiring activities for my girl quite exciting. I have made a sticky spider web out of painter's tape. My husband had fun seeing how much he could hang in it without it pulling off the wall. My daughter and I experimented with goop made out of cornstarch, which was strange as it was neither solid nor liquid! We have explored sensory play of all kinds and made umpteen messes with many more to come. And I have enumerable other crafts and adventures to test with my little scientist. Soon her attention span will improve and I will be able to up the level of activities. So many possibilities for play with components we already have in the home.

I would say this sharing of information has made it a stimulating era to grow up in! And an ingenious time to be a mother. I am grateful for my ability to use a computer, as I know that not everyone has the convenience. What a big, fascinating world compared to what was available during my childhood!

Now, to get some sleep or I'll never have the endurance or patience to follow through with more Pinterest discoveries.

Friday, 1 March 2013

La Famiglia

I told myself to put more effort in recalling positive experiences from my childhood. What are my warmest moments? Fragments for which I am grateful? A short search and I realize an unmistakable answer. Time spent with extended family. (Before I morphed into a lonely teenager. Once a hormonal teen I became more self conscious and struggled with my emotions.) Even though I was shy, unlike I thought in my previous post about limited memories as she grows, I loved family time as a kid.

I cherished going camping with my mom's parents. Oma and Opa would drive us to the microscopic mountains way off in the distance until the sheets of rock towered over us like solid arms that would entrap us and hide us from the sun forever. Oma and Opa would take us to the lake where I would play for hours until I was burnt to a crisp. We would go to the scorching hot pools and relax. And in the evening we'd always have a fun game of Yatzee or cards or Tile Rummy. We listened to Dutch music and ate chocolate on toast. Many times these trips would include my brother and me playing with cousins in the sand and water.

At Oma's house we would slide down the lush carpeted stairs. Play with Tupperware dish sets. Make patterns in the soft fabric of the couch. Run around the humongous hill in front of her house.

I also went camping with my dad's parents. We would enjoy home made pop from their syrup mix and carbonating machine. We would go bike riding, go out in the boat, and I think we went 4X4ing. I remember watching the hummingbirds. Playing pool. Listening to songs on the electric keyboard. Cuddling with the dog.

I have distant memories of visiting my dad's sister. I remember macrame and horses. Laughing so hard with my cousin that we spat milk out our noses.

I recall our mom and us moving in with her brother. Sleeping in the basement and worrying about spiders. Having a kitten that would try to follow me to school.

I treasure the unique relationship with each family member. I cannot wait to watch my daughter get to know her large family. Trips downtown and lunches out with her Oma. TV-table barbecues in her grandparents' back yard. Traveling hours to spend time with people who love her and will miss her. Bonding with cousins at the pool or lake, or while feeding the ducks or running and dancing to a band in the plaza.

I know that so many of my own relationships were short lived or sporadic. Nowadays it is so much easier to keep in touch, even when far away. We don't just have phone, at better value than when I was young, but also easy video contact. We can keep everyone informed so that when reunions do happen we can easily fall into our comfortable play and chatter. I always show my daughter pictures and tell her names of the special people in her life.

Unfortunately, my step daughter and her children will be moving away. I love watching our children get all excited noisily playing with cardboard boxes, making helter-skelter obstacle courses, and running around with the dog. I love how my daughter inquisitively stares at her energetic niece who is five years her senior. How the older one is so concernedly protective and helpful.

It is time to load up on carefree trips to the park and swimming pool. Decorate the street with chalk. Accompany each other to church. Take millions of pictures of them hanging out in forts and having meals. We will have to make most of the time now to build momentous memories and help them anticipate being reunited.

Now that I look back at what I thought was a crappy childhood and see enjoyable family time, I am going to help my daughter prioritize family. Even if they have busy lives or have considerable differences. I will plant family seeds in her heart. Help her be thankful for these permanent ties. We will invest in family time and encourage our daughter to stay in touch.

Maybe I should start a family-trip-fund jar.