Tuesday, 30 July 2013

The Amazing Things (According to a 20-Month-Old)

Toddlers can get quite enchanted and thrilled about anything. Everything is new to them and their understanding of their surroundings is limited. Something insignificant to us can be the highlight of their day. Today is was crows, bridges, firetrucks, and green peppers.

I love the uniqueness of growing little minds. Each child will focus on different wonders. My daughter has a few items she will always point out.

Sun. She sees the sun in many things. The spokes on a large tire. The tags cut out for a sale at the store (where she will point and repeat with joy for each new one she notices). One time we were traveling and there was a large water turbine on display as an art piece. The real sun reflected on the bewitching surface and illuminated the metal. My daughter was in awe. She couldn't take her eyes off of this alluring sun. She knows how glorious the sun is and I am grateful how much it shines in her fascinating life.

Stars. Which she always calls twinkle stars. She gets me to draw them daily, She sees them on the clothing of others. She catches the smallest star in an ad or on a sign. And when she glimpses the twinkling in the night sky she is captivated. We've watched a few movies outside at night and she is always distracted by the twinkling arrangement way over her head. Her amazement will most likely grow as she gets older and discovers how vast the heavens really are. We love to lay under the night display and stare at them and watch the occasional shooting star. I look forward to her first meteor shower experience.

Ball. She is so enchanted with this item that she already attempts to distinguish its use. She used to call them all B-ball but now she likes the addition of the type. Baseball, soccer ball, beach ball, tennis ball, bocce ball... The list goes on. If she doesn't know, it is a basket ball. She still often doesn't remember the difference, which is quite understandable. I love her desire for classification when she has no idea what is actually done with any of them. But we will have plenty of opportunity to help her grouping and understanding develop. We'll take a soccer ball to the field. We'll go bowling. We'll try the tennis court. The options are limitless. Just like her future.

Train. When a train comes rumbling along we have to stop what we are doing and acknowledge its passing. As it comes she declares, "Here comes train!" When it slowly chugs by she will wave and call out, "Hi, train!" When it is done and is no longer in her view she will ask, "Where'd train go? Where'd train go?" This large, long, noisy structure passes by every day. Who knows where it came from and who knows where it is going. How can something so immense and clamorous suddenly be gone? It is still so unfathomable!

Apple. This was one if her first frequently used words. It isn't just a fruit. This little, familiar shape can be seen everywhere. She sees it on the backs of lap tops and phones and declares its presence. She loves when she encounters it is random places. Of course, she also adores the crunch of the fruit. She has overdone it a bit and seems to be taking a little break at the moment. Now, in the edible sense, we have moved on to the raspberries that grow behind the house.

Dog. She is a dog lover. She has two great companions to bond with. They are her best friends. She calls out to them constantly. She makes up little games that they tolerate. They don't like the "Close The Gate On The Dogs" game, where she swings her baby gate shut so they can't push through and they are stuck waiting her release. The one dog she likes to tease extensively, to the point where at times I have to confiscate weapons (er, toys). Today she discovered tug-of-war as her and her buddy tore apart one of her play skirts.

Book. Her favorite pastime. Her most prized possession. She flips through the pages and tells a story. She points at everything and names the items. She travels long distance quite well as long as she has a pile of treasured books. I've already decided her second birthday will be a Book Party. She loves Dr Suess, Dora the Explorer, I Spy, Baby Einstein, Winnie the Pooh, Franklin, and anything with animals.

Barn. Bike. Plane. Door. Seriously, she likes to point out doors on houses. As she grows she'll keep some favorites and gain some new infatuations. Maybe she'll get into the typical ponies and princesses. Or maybe it will be bugs and trucks. I love seeing things catch her interest. My wish is that she will be confident to choose what she enjoys. I pray she will know what she likes and why and she won't be afraid of what people think.

I hope that she keeps a toddler-like love for life all of her days. The world is waiting for her to discover its numerous-as-the-stars treasures.

Friday, 26 July 2013


I have dinner half prepared, with a pile of items scattered on the counter ready to chop. But my darling girl is struggling with sleeping in the heat and so work waits. My princess is currently fast asleep In my arms. The most gorgeous teddy bear I've ever seen. Clutching her prized dalmatian. She did sleep about 50 minutes in her bed and I considered leaving it at that. But daddy wants to do something this evening (maybe) and so I'd like her to be rested. She obviously was not finished her beauty sleep. She is fairly adaptable but her fuse is shorter on lack of shut-eye. She must get that from me.

With a toddler at 20 months old I probably shouldn't be having the matter of her needing me to go to sleep anymore. She should be independent. But because she is my one and only miracle baby she has enjoyed an abundance of cuddles. Her resulting default on a down day--one with heat or a cold or teething--is to want to be close. She even asks me, "Mommy, snuggle!"

I used to feel guilty lazing around with her when there were things to do. But I really struggled with productivity. I would have intentions but succumb to distraction after distraction. I would be overwhelmed by my to-do list but then do something else instead (hmmm, just what infuriates me about my husband). Sometimes I wish I could get into the heads of others and see their average day. Am I normal? Or do others fight this toss between one thing and the next, and another thing. Boredom? What's that? Then I will see the first task is still there, partially done, waiting. Cleaning up for me is actually making a mess.

It's way less stress to just cuddle.

I am improving though. I have substantially progressed in my productivity. I cook and clean more than I ever have. Which, like I said, still may be nothing compared to the average. I don't know. And after all my work is done I wonder how much time I would have to invest in cleaning for this place to actually look clean. I'll wash the floors a few times, or more, in a week and then my daughter will run around for an hour and her feet will be black. Good thing she loves baths.

I so enjoy the closeness that she gives me now. It isn't a waste of time. She's my world. One day I will miss it.

So you can come over but be aware that even though the floor looks dirty, it has been washed. In between our crawling under bridges and tents. Watch your step. It has been tidied, but my home is overrun with toys. The dust may accumulate, but my daughter won't remember. The laundry may pile up... She will remember that. It's obvious. But after we snuggle in for a bit and ignore the pile one last time she loves to help put it away. She'll add some clean items to the dirty basket to keep me on my toes.

Since she is asleep on me while I type instead of making my salad, she is going to have to help me prep veggies after nap. With her assisting I've discovered that even though vegetables are not her favourite she really likes green onions. I have to chop extra. Today she will get to try purple cabbage. And she will munch on celery and hopefully swallow some instead of chewing it and spitting it all out on the floor like she is staring in a western movie.

And when the salad is done we will eat it with our crock pot meat loaf. Before we go off on whatever evening adventure we decide to have. And once we have burned all of our energy it will be time to bathe and cuddle up with a book. Snuggles.

Oh, the life of a toddler.

Thursday, 25 July 2013


This world is a crazy place. Flooded with un-parented, broken human beings. Sometimes I wonder of it is getting worse or I am just old and slowly getting crotchety. Yesterday I thought, do I have to hear another song about one night stands, drinking binges, and the dance floor? I don't understand why this is the popular music. Is this the nation's dream? Is this the lifestyle of the majority? I'm not against it. It just makes no sense in the corner store or the local radio. Neither does lack of manners and disrespect.

I appreciate uniqueness and diversity and that I am surrounded by people of all different ages and backgrounds. I am certain that my questioning of the music would even be taken as small minded by some. But sometimes I just can't see how something is acceptable.

The other day I played a children's video on a children's channel on You Tube and went into the next room. My daughter, 20 months, watched the song and it went to the next children's song. An ad preceded the following video. Next thing I know, I hear very negative swearing. I ran in and hit skip ad, wondering how she navigated away from the page without a keyboard, only to find the offensive ad was in front of the intended children's video. I was not happy. I wasn't being a stick in the mud or a prude. That's just not right.

Sure, the answer would be to not let my daughter watch a You Tube video. Easy solution. That is what I declared at first. As it's the easiest, cheapest way to play a children's song by request, though, I returned with supervision. As she tried to push the buttons herself.

What will I have to keep her from? I don't want to shelter her but I want her to enjoy being a child for as long as possible. Life is stressful enough with all the comparing and bullying and peer-pressure that she will have to witness. Why add more issues? Sometimes I think about homeschooling to keep her from all the disquiet but I know there is good out there as well and many benefits to experiencing society. Though some days it is harder to see the light in the sludge.

A few years ago I used to pass an elementary school on my way to work every day. I was absolutely astounded at the language and the topics that would emanate from the playground. An elementary school. Where do they get this? Do their parents just speak to them like they are part of the gang? Are they trying to buy their love with cool friendship? Are they allowed to watch whatever they want on television? Is there any censorship? Can't people make a decision to be responsible for the benefit of another? I personally had to work on my, "Oh shit!" habit when it became one of my daughter's first words.

Growing up I think my mom tried to make up for faults by being a friend. We watched things we shouldn't. We drank at home. We grew up too fast. When we should have been learning more about ourselves and our strengths we were focusing on things we shouldn't have to worry about yet. Kids should be kids.

I know it's not all parenting. But the more moms and dads on board the more children who will stand up for what's right. A few months ago I went to a parenting talk and there was a mother who asked what was wrong with swearing. She said that they were just words that weren't as harsh as they used to be and it wouldn't bother her if her children spoke them. I tried to be open minded. I tried to consider the times. I imagined my neighbor's foul language being spoken everywhere and I just couldn't agree. Where is politeness? Where is respect?

I will continue to try to set an example for my growing daughter and try to teach her that there are attitudes that are important. And there are attitudes to be avoided. First Corinthians 6:12 says, "All things are lawful for me, but not all things are profitable. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be mastered by anything." Just because I can do something, just because I can get away with something, doesn't mean that it is the beneficial thing to do.

This gives me a choice to ponder. As my daughter's advocate, how far do I go to protect her? My choices shouldn't take away someone else's freedom. My decision shouldn't prevent someone else from living their life. But for each "issue" I will have, when does their right to choose interfere with my right to protect my child?

I am certain this will continuously be a fine line that at times I will leave alone and at other times I will cross. I am completely aware that swearing is not seen as an issue by some and I know quite well there are other, more pressing matters for me to be concerned about. Likewise, I know I may struggle with others trying to hinder my daughter's freedom as they feel I let her do something with which they don't agree.

I must choose to pick my battles on what I know I believe and not what someone else thinks. I must make my choices based on the future of my daughter's generation. I must not base my decisions on convenience or trying to fit in. I must choose to pick my battles based on the things that are important for us to be able to do.

At this point it is not at all important for my daughter to be online. It's an occasional distraction. But one day, in this world of technology, she will have to be comfortable with navigating the cyber world. The large, open, scary cyber world full of narcissistic, opinionated, ignorant people. I will be by her side helping her learn to be safe and responsible.

And I am really hoping there are going to be enough other parents taking the time to do the same so that we can help create a nourishing, encouraging atmosphere in which our children can grow. For the sake of our children's own generation and for the next that will follow and the next to follow after that as well.

Wednesday, 24 July 2013

I Love My Dad

Last night we took our daughter to her first in-theatre movie (she's seen two out in the park and one at the drive-in). She did so well. A natural movie go-er. Passed down from her grandfather. It brought back memories of going to the movies with my dad. That was our limited bonding activity throughout the years. Peter Pan, E.T., Star Wars, Terminator... As I got older we would discuss the making of the movie. I loved how he would explain things.

I am so grateful that I have a relationship with my dad. I didn't grow up with him and at 11 years old I moved to a different province. Then my life became the stress ridden whirlwind of a teen and I didn't give my connection to him much time or thought. I regret my lack of endeavouring to have a bond but I think it may be normal for troubled youth.

It wasn't until my (late) graduation that I really made an effort, albeit a brief one. I invited him to come attend and I was so pleased that he accepted. I could tell that he was proud of my accomplishments even though I could have been doing much better and it made me glad he was mine.

That's one thing I loved about going to the movies with my dad. He was the only person in the world I felt was proud of me. Especially when we would go with my little sister. He would beam as he showed off his girls. It didn't bother him that I made stupid mistakes. He didn't judge me for graduating late or not knowing what to do with myself. I was his daughter and that was what mattered.

We visited occasionally over the next few years. Of course, not enough. When I got married I again invited him to come be a part of the event. He hung out and helped set up a little. And he walked me down the isle. I still remember feeling in awe that it was really happening. That I was really in love with a man enough to marry. I again was so grateful to have someone next to me to share this event. I loved seeing the three generations of men together, my brother and my dad and my grandfather, at my reception. Something I pray will happen again some day.

His next big visit was when I was the lead in a musical. I was excited he was coming and hired a housekeeper for the first time as I was busy with rehearsals. She moved the coffee table and I ended up having to do the show with a broken toe. But the show went on. I truly felt my dad was my biggest fan. I know he thoroughly enjoyed the musical and he said I did well (um, okay, he actually said I played a good skank, but that is what he meant).

Unfortunately, in all these times I don't know if he discerned how much I appreciated his presence. Moments like this I long to be able to truly show my heart. To get beyond past hurts, questioned motives, poor communication skills, and foggy assumptions. Maybe I didn't quite get it myself. Not until he fell ill when I was pregnant. I came to see him and tried to show him I was really there for him.

He is part of who I am. His analytical way of looking at things. His ability to express creatively. His artistic talent. His appreciation of music. His love for eating popcorn with a spoon.

I wish my daughter could get to know her papa better. I hope one day she will go to the movies with him. I am so grateful for the family she does have living in the same town. I love that we can pop in and see her paternal grandfather. Or meet my mom for lunch. I wish she could have that relationship with everyone.

But with technology today, I really should take advantage of what is available and aspire more to blossom the relationships. It has never before been this easy. She could talk to her sister or her great grandparents or her cousins on the computer.

I think it is more difficult with my dad because he's like me. Not much of a phone or message guy. More of a face-to-face guy. We'll have great conversations. We just are both poor at initiating them. So, this is a reiterated reminder to myself to initiate more. I have the tools. I need to make the time.

Facebook, email, text message, FaceTime, Skype...

It's time to get my family in my daughter's face. Because I love them.

I love my dad.

Sunday, 21 July 2013

Hammer That Wall

Confidence. Obviously some people have it and some don't. Some appear to have it while they sincerely tremble inside. Some are fortuitously born with a very solid backbone. (Though less than you think because the actions of many are to prove they don't really suffer the contrary.) Others have it pounded into them through necessity. Then there are those, like myself, who reach a limit on their own anxiety and its whole-life effects and in a desire to change have to chip away at the towering wall solidly cemented with fear, rejection, skepticism, doubt, shame, confusion...

You'd think that change would be simple. Someone who could not empathise may just believe you need to simply do it. But boy, is it a process! A long, extensive process of forgiving and letting go and replacing thoughts and changing habits and believing.

When I was young I was very full of fear. Public washrooms. Driving. Raw meat. Meeting new people. Authority. Accidents. Failure. Being misunderstood. Men. Most definitely men. The constant bombardment of what if and what are they thinking made the idea of living in the moment unfathomable. I don't even think it was something I was capable of achieving. I recall being afraid of teachers or fellow students. The thought of passing older children in the hallway filled me with terror.

But what did they see? Probably a snob. An overachiever who had high standards but poor performance. Unreliable. Unenjoyable. Probably someone that they assumed didn't want to be part of their lives. Probably not the feelings I really felt. And, oh, I feel for those who truly tried to get past my foggy bulwark.

And so rejection continued and so did my anguish. When I moved from one town to another at 11 years old I was taunted about my clothing, my family, my belly. I wasn't fat, but I wasn't active. My life went downhill that year and I actually became suicidal. I really felt that no one would miss me. I truly believed I served no purpose at all.

And this was before the tumultuous teen years even started. Oh, the emotions! I made stupid mistakes. Cried out in my actions. Tried to comfort myself by poor means. I attempted suicide at 17 and had brief counselling. At 20 I started going to church and when I was 22 I went for intensive counselling. I found it extremely difficult to talk about myself. Every emotion I'd felt in my life I had categorised under anger and loneliness. I didn't even know what I thought. It was a slow process of opening all the doors that I had closed.

Bit by bit the bricks fell. Sometimes one step forward and two steps back. Sometimes the brick needed a crow bar. Yet, thankfully there was were times I encountered a leap forward in faith. The path was difficult. Very bumpy. Intermittently, I truly felt I was going crazy. For so very long I wished I could see into the future and determine if all the work was worth it. Was there hope? But if I just paid attention I would see the light slowly increasing.

I started to be more involved in relationships. (Wow, I even committed to a partner in marriage. God bless his patient soul.) I found some great women to challenge me who would look past my tears and my capacious selfishness. I started to take more control of my future. No more complaining I can't if I am not going to make an effort to figure out how I can. This is probably the factor that continues on the most. Every day. Don't wallow in it. Give it to God and figure out the next step.

A great step in progress was being able to enjoy the lives of others when it did not benefit me. To have joy for another's new child, new job, new marriage. I found my career at 28, married late, longed for children for a lengthly time. As others received I needed to have the confidence to know that it does not mean less for me. My God has a river of blessings and not just a pie to portion. I have a future.

Each position I've had in my life has pushed me forward in my itinerant growth. Working with the public. Working with great bosses that believed in me (or just needed me to step up) and pushed me toward my ability. Answering the phone. Canvassing for volunteer. Helping someone else achieve their goals. Trying something new. Serving in church. Becoming a step mom and a step grandma. Being there for a friend. Communicating. And most importantly, honesty with my faults.

I can barely remember the deep feelings I had when someone used to ask me a question. I know that by exigency my answers used to be very short. I hated any eye contact. I could barely think my heart would pound so hard. My mind would go blank.

Now I have moments where I am in a crowded room and feel like an outcast. But I look back and think, I am here. I am not scared or anxious. I can breathe. I am able to look someone in the eye. I can genuinely smile. I can really hear what someone is saying about themselves. I am able to answer a question. I have come a long way.

I hope to improve enough to be comfortable with conversation and to have a better memory. I hope to improve enough to really forget about myself and what I look like and whether I have made a mistake. Life is way too short.

Parenthood seems to be my last step in my growth. It isn't about me. I have to let go of apprehension to focus on her growth. I don't have the option of time to try on a hundred different outfits anymore. I realise that I don't look as good as someone else but I am not a fashion icon. I want to feel comfortable and look good but if someone is going to judge me because I can't afford good shoes then I need not care. If someone is going to toss me aside because I didn't spend an hour on hair and make up then I don't want them.

Each day is an opportunity to grow. And I want to continue because I physically have experienced the disparity between living in hell and living in peace. I have truly felt the pain of wanting life to end and in contrast the comfort of true love and appreciation. I now see the amazing creation I once failed to experience. I now love the uniqueness of everyone I meet because I can see their lives replete with individuality.

I honestly believe each person can have more. More joy, more peace, more hope, more love, more adventure, more life. It's waiting. Take a hammer to that wall. With tenacity, not just a little tap or push here and there. Roaaaar. (Or Hi-YAH! Whatever your preference.) Because it's worth the effort.

Summer Exercise

It was so sweltering out today. Going to the market this morning I was already overtaken by the temperature. My daughter was drenched in sweat when she woke from her nap. Considering the temperature, I decided that instead of doing my regular work out routine I would just do my upper body. I didn't want to get all sweaty. My idea was great. I made it through the day without overheating. (I could overheat on a run at only 5 degrees Celsius.)

But now it's 11:30 at night and I can't sleep. It appears my focused exercises worked out my upper limbs particularly well. And now they ache from the back of my shoulder blades down every muscle in my arms to the tip of my fingers. So here I sit, stretching and massaging and hoping soon I will relax enough to sleep.

On a quintessential, nothing extra pressing day it can be difficult to put keeping fit on the top of the list. Or even anywhere on the list. Done are the days of baby contently sleeping, or at least just relaxing, while I run, lulled by the continuous rocking. My inquisitive daughter wants out of the running stroller to explore. I have to appease her with treasures like flowers and pine cones. Done are the days of setting the yoga mat next to her as she plays. Now she wants me to only do moves that provide her with a bridge to go under. "Under the bridge! Under the bridge!" (Today we went over a bridge in the car and she repeated over and over that she loved the bridge.)

Add in hot weather and it makes running less appealing and my usual work out area, my living room, quite unbearable. Hot yoga, anyone? The heat makes it harder to push through the other excuses not to just do it. The housework, the need for sleep, the possibility of adventures, the longing for relaxing me time like taking a bath or reading a book.

And to think, I had never made this much time for taking care of myself before having a busy baby. Sure, I ran. But I was a 20 minute, three or four times a week kind of girl. And inconsistently at that. I'd done bouts of routines here and there. Before a trip to Mexico or before a stage appearance. But now I am devoted. Hopefully.

I want to be able to keep up with my girl so I will stick to it. I want to be able to keep picking her up. She's getting pretty heavy to carry around at 25 pounds. And her intense curiosity and love of being a part of doing what I am doing makes me want to continue. I want to enjoy a long, healthy life. I want to show her how to lead a healthy life.

Next up, I plan on doing a 10k in September. I am tempted to try a 21k. But I don't think I can get myself to train for that in the heat. I find that having an event to look forward to helps me push through and get the work out done when I don't really feel motivated. Maybe if I just sign up for the longer run I will have to do the runs. It might be a good idea as well because I want to still be fit by October as I am having surgery and want to improve my healing time.

It's going to be a hot week. I think I need to get myself to sleep earlier so that I can get out there bright and early when it is cooler in the morning.

Now it's after midnight. I intend to get up for a run before church. I should really go to sleep.

Wednesday, 17 July 2013

There Is Nothing Like...

There is nothing like...

My daughter's beautiful blue eyes intently looking at me. I am so over-taken in love.

Dark chocolate. Don't ever ask me to relinquish this habit.

A starlit sky. I could gaze at what I don't know forever. Maybe I should learn more about constellations.

Family time. Getting to know the people that, in spite of our differences, will always be connected to me.

The sound of the dishwasher late at night, when all else is quiet. I don't know why. It represents accomplishing necessary tasks before a good night's sleep.

A strong massage. The release of knots and tension in a way that brings on heavy eyelids and heavier limbs.

Clean sheets. Coooozy!

Obedient dogs. When they come the first time. When they stay when they're told. When they stop barking as soon as instructed.

A good book. The kind that keeps me up too late, before I even notice. The kind laced with history and emotion.

Sitting by a lake. Enjoying the images of mountains or trees, or both, swaying in broken dances on the reflective surface.

Road trips. Release from the day-to-day. Lost in the rambling thoughts or in the music while heading toward experiences and memories.

Answered prayer. An unmistakable turn around or much needed answer. A step forward in faith increasing the vision for the future.

Singing with my daughter. Listening to her interpretation of my words in a melodious accompaniment that thoroughly enjoys its release.

A genuine, know-what-they're-doing, home cooked meal. Everything fresh and full of flavour that compliment each other. And not under or over cooked.

A good run on a cool morning. Feeling the accumulated stress of life succumb to the exertion and be replaced by unfettered warmth and and vitality.

Conquering a fear. Stepping forth into new territory that was previously deemed unreachable.

A beautiful painting. An interpretation someone makes of their surroundings and allows to be freed from inside their spirit to be presented for others to understand or question.

Knowing someone cares. A genuine inquiry based on an honest desire to be part of something in an insignificant life.

A good night's sleep. Where the dreams don't reflect the stresses of the day but instead anticipate the joys to come... Good night.

Tuesday, 16 July 2013

Let Her Be

Last night, bath time was over and I pulled the plug. But my daughter was not quite ready to get out. She was industriously playing with the cloth. Rolling it into a ball and then concentrating on fingering the corners and opening it up and hanging it on the tap in a way it would not slide off. She was working intently and having fun while improving her hand and eye coordination and her fine motor skills. So I let her be.

While she entertained herself in the empty tub I brushed and flossed my teeth and then sat next to the tub with a book. She briefly glanced at my book, curious what I had, but promptly went back to her project. Her face had the adorable look she gets when she focuses, with her top lip pushed out. She put the wet cloth on her belly. On her head. On her ducky's head. Finally when her task was done and she started pulling out all her rubber duckies I ask if she'd like to go to sleep. We bid her toys night-night and took her to bed.

Toddlers have a much bigger attention span than we give them credit. Frequently, we necessarily have to halt their inspecting and experimenting. "Let me put your shoes on because we have to be somewhere... Don't play with that because you'll get an owie... Let's clean up because it's time for bed..."

So I try to have a reason when I have to kibosh her train of thought. The fact that something else would be a little more exciting for me is not a reason. The fact that I am somewhat inconvenienced is not a reason. Yesterday she helped me peel eggs even though I had just washed the floor and most of her peels were not making it into the assigned garbage pile. Last night the tub was filled slowly because she wanted to use the low pressure hose instead of the full pressure tap.

I am hoping that my daughter will be sufficient in problem solving. That she will be capable of entertaining herself. That she will develop patience and perseverance. Partly because I give her the time.

And hopefully she will be more agreeable in her toddler years when I can't give her the time.

Come on, sweetheart. You are doing a great job washing the floor but we must get dressed and go.

Sunday, 14 July 2013

Mini-Me's Vocab

The reiterating vocabulary of my enthralling toddler is growing in leaps and bounds. This morning she was accurately comparing puddles. "There's a big one... There's a small one." She always declares on the road, "Watch for cars." (When running on a path we answered with the reply that there was no cars and so she exhorted us to watch for trees.) As I sat her at the table she unanticipatedly prayed, "Thank you for this food." She'll bless you when you sneeze and say excuse me when she burps. Such a sweetie.

She is starting to make believe and to tell rambling stories. She has discovered the joy of performing for a delighted audience. Her favourite presentation is Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star. She is also demanding that others perform it for her. Whenever my mom phones the request is given. Daddy will be watching TV and she'll tell him to sing. Last night she beseeched her dad's friend, "Darcy, Twinkle Stars! Darcy, Twinkle Stars!"

I know over the next few years I will be revelling in the insight she comes up with. The mind of an observing child is so innocent and honest. At lunch yesterday we were in the patio of a restaurant with some family. My daughter was exploring and stood on a chair and I was asking her to tell me what sounds different animals make.

What does a dog say?
What does a cat say?
Meow. (Her rendition is more like eeeeaaah!)
What does a sheep say?
What does a rooster say?

Then I asked her, What does Daddy say?

She looked at me. She looked at Daddy. She looked at her audience. She looked at Daddy. Deep in thought. In hindsight this could have been a loaded question. She could have replied with anything and we would have had to explain. But her answer was innocent and oh so adorable.

I love you.

I don't know if she comprehends what those words mean. She earnestly tells us all the time. She tells her grandparents, her sister, her aunts and uncles. Sometimes she tells her stuffed animals. She tells the dogs. Especially Buddy. After she tells him, "Bad dog! Don't touch!"; because he sniffed her toy. Or, "Get out," like a little tattle tale when we are eating and he peeks around the corner.

Toddlers really make you aware of what comes out of your mouth. I see I am always bossing around the dogs. And I must frequently say okay. And don't touch. I say it. She says it. But it doesn't mean she won't touch. If I hear her call it out from another room I know it means that she is defiantly touching something. I went out to the camper and came back in and she guiltily ran at me, like she was trying to escape her folly, saying, "Don't touch! Don't touch!" I asked her what she was doing but then saw the drawer of the stove open. Just like she'll put her feet up and declare with a smile, "Feet off the table!"

Currently, after pushing her back so she will stop putting her feet on the table, she is eating watermelon while telling me extensively about something. I nod and smile. And thoroughly enjoy that she loves to communicate with me.

Next thing I know I'll have to be researching information because she will be initiating conversations about topics of which I am unfamiliar. She expands my world.

Friday, 12 July 2013

Just Like On Facebook

Facebook and other social media are great for rekindling old, prized friendships; deepening contact with near or far relatives; and planning activities to do with current buddies. It can be a positive player in staying social when life is busy. Keeping in touch in spite of differences. Ensuring friends are somehow part of the day to day tick-tock.

But it does create the potential for noticing something else in the comments, the replies, and the photos swirling about. That is, social media can point out people who are no longer your friends. Little memories that warm the heart. Smiles you miss. Unique discussions once enjoyed. Trouble you partnered with in the past. Something a person offered that you now lack.

What makes a friendship stick? Why do some people remain in contact day after day after day while others let go? Why are some relationships unbreakable over many years, trials, and life changes?

Living in a small town with many people that I went to school with, I frequently witness long term relationships. And I think it is wonderful. I love it when I see a wedding party photo with people who have hung out for more than a decade, or two. I find it touching to see couples who used to be high school sweet hearts and are still holding each other's hearts. I love seeing adults who ran around and made a mess together as children. (As a result I love to take a picture of my daughter with her playmates. Who knows which ones will be dear to her later. Look at this, sweetie! That friend you just brought home for lunch? I have a picture of you two eating dirt as toddlers!)

Looking at my school years, I only actively spend time with one high school friend (though she lives far away) and very lightly keep in touch with a few others. I have a spattering of friends I have kept from right after school until over 15 years later (I am getting old). But, for whatever reason, the majority of my childhood friendships have diffused. My life has changed. I never used to enjoy the outdoors. I didn't go to church growing up. I now have a child. I am certain the biggest factor was my self consciousness that made it difficult to connect. Why would anyone choose to stay my friend when my selfishness never gave them a desire to connect in the first place?

Sometimes when the people in my life are busy and I want to do something I wonder how many others are in the same boat. Is there someone wishing I would call them? Is there someone who enjoyed my company but never let me know? Does someone miss me? I sound like a school girl!

Maybe you can't relate. Maybe I'm the only one who makes plans to have a no show or who has something get in the way. Just today I wanted to go visit a friend I haven't seen for years while she camped here from another province. As I tried to get my daughter ready it took much longer than anticipated which was zapping my desire to go. I couldn't find her hat. I still didn't find my hat. As we finally left I was suddenly aware I was still in my jogging clothes with no make-up and my daughter was already tired. When we finally got there later than intended we had just missed them coming in for supplies.

I treasure unique people and want my daughter to see me push through relationships when I am tired or busy or feel the house is too messy. Or when I feel pushed aside or forgotten about. Friendships are very difficult, but very, very worthwhile. I am grateful for people to call up when I need help or someone to talk to. Face to face. Not Facebook. Not just online or through texting. Making the time to drop everything and get together. Real, move-past-the-difficulties-of-understanding-body-language connecting.

I love my daughter but need adult fellowship, too. I've never felt confident in the area of talking with others. Spending my day with a toddler seems to make that worse. I'll get an opportunity and feel like I am a burden or that I am turning to topics about her too much (my selfishness again?). Sometimes I feel out of practice in the area of mature conversation. The wheels on the bus go 'round and 'round.

Monday, 8 July 2013

I Try! I Try!

When I can, I strive to facilitate my daughter's independence in her tenacious hunger to do things herself when there is so much she can't do. "I try! I try!" This desire came on suddenly and vigorously. And has slowed productivity greatly. We fight over teeth and clothes. I wait as she attempts to do what she sees us do. It is wonderful to watch her momentous improvement. Today she amazed me with her climbing ability at the park (where I had to hold her back from following the big kids). She tries, tries, tries. She wants to open and close things and to put on her own clothes (for half an hour with intense concentration if I let her). I watch her and am quite aware of the constant frustration of the whirlwind world of a tender toddler who can't quite get it.

Often she is unable to express what she wants so that I understand. She is repeatedly unsuccessful in manipulating the items around her in the way she intends. Her life is full of sites and sounds that are foreign to her. Her day is a constant bombardment of losing. Add in two big dogs who are always getting in the way. Boy, does she get angry with them! One will just brush her as he walks by and she'll exclaim that he pushed. Soon you will be the taller standing one, sweetheart.

Some days, even though I see her progressing and I am bursting with pride with her growth (you really should have seen her at the park), she gets so overwhelmed with her inability. She'll cry for something and then forget why she's crying. I'll attempt to help but if you ever have dealt with a toddler you know there is no reasoning when they are in the midst of frustration.

I love analogies. Logic helps abate much of my anguish. Putting myself in someone else's shoes. Trying to see the bigger picture. These things are not in her capacity. Nor will they be any time soon. I can tell her that remaining still will drastically cut the time it takes to change her diaper, but she will still twist to escape. I can tell her I am taking the sticker away because she's trying to eat it but all she'll see is that I took the sticker.

Right now it's all about distraction. It's about creating fun and excitement that will take away the anguish. It can be exhausting! Sometimes it's harder than others. And those times the screaming can go on for a while. I wonder if people question what's going on. The other night at a full campground she had a fit at 11 at night as she pushed me. "Go, go!" Good thing I eventually realized we forgot a night light and as soon as it was plugged in she relaxed to go to sleep.

Sleep. One thing that definitely lessons the breakdowns. Even though I know this, I too often push her sleep back to finish what we are doing or attend an evening get together. She has always been very adaptable, but now that she is a toddler sleep deprivation really shows. Her patience and perseverance diminish. When she attempts tasks like dressing or climbing she is apt to giving up and crying much, much quicker if she is short on the shut eye.

So when I put my wants in front of her sleep I'm ultimately lessening her ability to grow. This little learning sponge needs her zzzzzz. Yet sometimes she is so excited about her expanding atmosphere that the efforts are long winded. Today on the camp site we attempted nap at 1:30 only to venture out again an hour later to let off some steam and try nap again at 3. She wants to keep going.

Lately, though, she has been occasionally asking to go to bed. Sometimes she'll practically jump into the crib. She knows when she's tired. I like that she's adding that to her do-it-herself too. I have spoiled her in the area of sleep with my cuddles.

Soon she will be awake and we will be off to explore anew. Maybe back to the park or chasing squirrels again (which she calls me-mouses). Or we will try the canoe. Our last trip she was quite upset (loudly upset) that daddy wouldn't paddle with her on his lap. Maybe mommy will have to attempt doing the work for once. Or, maybe I could just get her to do it.

Sunday, 7 July 2013

Give a Little Grace

I used to think getting what you deserved would teach a required lesson. And that not having that lesson would mean missing that opportunity for growth. But I am getting the picture that we all need grace because we all mess up. If we always got what we deserved there would be times we would be in deep trouble. My life would be over!

There are two phrases that drive me crazy: "It will be fine" and "It will work out". I am set on more than fine. I want planned and organized. Always reliable. Never slipping through just in time (that experience gives me no high). Never having things fall together last minute. Never making do with what I've got. Because, ultimately, I really worry about it failing. The closer it is to not working, the higher the chance it will fail, right?

My outlook has gradually changed. But unfortunately my reaction patterns have not. Over and over I see someone making a choice that should lead to trouble and more often than not I initially feel frustration when I instead see a solution or a way out happen. I am slowly learning to love the contrast of mercy because of course I want things to work out. But it took me time to get there. How'd it change? People. Loving them and being in fellowship with them despite differences. Because boy, do we all have differences! I'd make a great hermit, hiding from all the clashes and misunderstandings. But I would make a very lonely, miserable hermit.

I think watching my husband interact with his older daughter, through the difficult teen years, was a big learning curve for me, who didn't get along with my parents as a teen and didn't feel close. I would get so angry when he wouldn't make her suffer consequences for her actions. Like paying her bill when we were on holidays and she accidentally used her calling card incorrectly and charged it to the room. Her relationship with him was never hindered. As a teen and as a young woman and as mother herself she always, always, always remained in communication with her father and told him she loved him. His unconditional love showed me the value of the person. And, seeing as he's the lucky fellow with whom I spend most of my time, he is always giving me opportunity to test my faith in others and the effect of their choices on my life.

Last weekend we took a wrong turn on the way to camping. I knew we took a wrong turn. But my husband was certain that we did not. We drove a while before it became an unavoidable fact that we were on the incorrect road. I called a friend for directions but by this time it was so late and we were all getting hungry. There was a beautiful clearing of flowers surrounded by trees with an exhilarating view of the mountains and the water way below. We pulled the camper in and set camp. Wow. Beautiful. The dogs ran free. No mosquitos. Not a sole in sight. There was only the sound of the birds. And later, the stars! With no lights anywhere near, the stars shone brighter and brighter as the evening progressed. After our bannock wrapped dinner and s'mores we snuggled in a hammock by the fire as my daughter fell asleep under the stars. Bliss. My husband talked to a friend who stopped by our intended site and he said it was jam packed. Good thing we ended up here.

There it is. Good thing.

Good thing he didn't listen to me worry and turn around. Good thing he wasn't overcome by my nagging, fretting, complaining. Though the poor guy still had to listen to me. Just like he has for the last seven years.

Immediately following our honeymoon there was a teen's conference we wanted to help chaperone. I wanted to fly from one city but return to another and then ride home with them in the bus. He got two-way tickets instead (now as a seasoned traveler I see why he would). I tried to change our tickets but they wouldn't let me. My husband wasn't worried. He wanted to just rent a car and drive for two and a half hours on an unfamiliar road across a border in the middle of the night. I was freaked out! oh, what a worrier! I tried not to think of it on our honeymoon. As we were leaving Mexico my husband asked if we could change our destination. He was told no. We continued on in the checking-in procedures and he asked someone else. They said yes and noted it on our tickets. The next person was very unhappy about this, but reprinted the tickets anyway. And we flew to the conference. I had fretted, fretted, fretted. My husband didn't worry one bit and got us there with a simple request that was denied by many before being accepted. It all worked out. And it would have worked out either way.

My last job I used to have a regular meeting with my boss to talk about things and release my aggravation. Otherwise I would lose my patience with coworkers and customers. I was always getting worked up about people not doing their part. Or people not following procedures. My biggest problem was a strong feeling that only if certain things changed then it would be so much better. But unfortunately my strong sense of caring about how things worked out didn't come across that way. It came across as not caring about people.

I know that if I was given the opportunity to avoid spontaneity and hiccups then my world would have shrunk. Sure I may have ended up living more organized and structured and planned and aiming big. But aiming is all I would have because my secure little box would have become too small. And so would my relationships.

Sometimes I have to go along with less than ideal plans (and better yet, accept that other plans are actually more beneficial). Sometimes I have to scramble to make things work. Sometimes I have to accept other people's choices. And more often that not it will feel like a lot more than sometimes. This recurring testing of my patience and acceptance of faults can be quite discouraging, but my world is expanding. I can experience things I would have stressed too much about before.

Usually. Yesterday I was a little grumpy. Our water in the camper was not working, amongst other things, and I was frustrated that it wasn't checked before we left. But what matters is I want it to work out. For it is never my place to say someone deserves a bad outcome. I want my faults to be forgiven so I must forgive the faults of others. And enjoy our time together.

And just maybe, when I learn to have more grace with others, I can become more forgiving of myself.

Saturday, 6 July 2013

The Adventure of Motherhood

I knew parenting would be an exhilarating adventure. I knew it would touch my heart. I knew it would, in so many ways, be the most demanding and rewarding position. But until I became a mother I never grasped the extent of outrageous possibilities, life changing lessons, and crazy experiences.

Though I was aware that privacy would definitely go to the wayside, I never knew I would go poo while a toddler piled toiletries on my lap. Or tried to force me aside to see. Or demanded to sit with me.

Though I was dreading the battle with food, I didn't comprehend the extent that one short little creature could make a widespread mess. I really could bathe her a few times a day and wash the floors every single day. But until becoming a mother I didn't fathom what I would be capable of letting slide. No one will notice the cottage cheese styling product. Wait, do you still have sauce in your eyebrows?

Though I have relatives who talk in their sleep, I never knew how entertaining it would be from my daughter. Frequent "Uh ohs" and animal sounds. The occasional "choo choo". Questions called out to the air and answers ignored if I decide to try to participate. Names proclaimed. Songs sung in part. Interesting combinations of all the above.

Though I knew toddlers get into everything, I never grasped the array of different items that would hold her inquisitive interest. Q-tips and oven mitts. The wipes dispenser and the Kleenex box. The broom and the vacuum. The shoe shelf and the dog dishes. The Tupperware and the cutlery. The tampons and the laundry basket. And all of these items are so treasured and important. Who needs to pay for toys? The difficult task is when we both need the same item.

Though I'd witnessed many times the gibberish of little aliens being understood completely by their loved ones, I never comprehended the development of this communication-bond that helps me hear her constant new words and phrases. The mystery is in the interpretation--trying to figure out why she is saying something. Like today she was repeating, "Uh oh, hat," and I finally noticed the girl on the next swing had dropped her hat.

Though I expected her to follow everything I did and want to emulate me, I didn't foresee how much she would hear and witness. She has stuffed Kleenex in her shirt because mommy did. She has already washed herself while eagerly commenting on each body part. She has copied snippets of conversations I didn't even know she overheard. She loves to stir with a spoon. She loves to boss around the dogs. She loves to crouch down with camera in hand to get a good angle and call out cheese to take a picture. She uses so many words appropriately when she obviously is just following our lead yet still lacks comprehension. Like today. As she walked on the cement barriers and said repeatedly, "Don't fall! Slippery!" did she actually comprehend the word slippery?

Though I longed to hear the title "mommy", I never anticipated all the different tones the word could encompass. The loving, sweet call just confirming my dependable presence. The summoning beckon as she awakes alone from nap. The nagging, and frequent, begging approach to calling my "name". The use of the word when she has a need and doesn't know how to express it, even if it is dad she wants-- "Mommy, Daddy, Mommy, Daddy". And best of all, the amorous caress of her voice as she calls to her dearest companion. Mommy.

Though I knew she would make me proud, I never foresaw the overwhelming elation I would feel for every little milestone and accomplishment. I want to gladly share it with everyone. Show videos and pictures. Talk about her every day. Laugh at her antics and boast of her growth.

She's my whole world. She has transformed my world. I never knew the extent she would bring out the best and worst of me. And I am unable to foretell of the interaction we will have in the future. The misunderstandings we will develop. The joy we will share. The mountains we will overcome.

What a satisfying adventure.