Saturday, 29 August 2015

Motherhood (a.k.a. highlights and realities from the last two weeks)


Motherhood is allowing your son to put on his life jacket to swim in a three foot deep pool, even though you know he doesn't need it.
Motherhood is keeping a straight face after your daughter hands you a small stringy gob of clay in a puddle of spit and in response to you saying "what is that?"she responds "its the the stuff that looks like gum but doesn't taste like it."
Motherhood is dance parties in your rearview mirror.
Motherhood is losing your patience, sentencing your children to the couch, and then after a couple of minutes of silence, being asked "are you starting to find your patience again?"
Motherhood is crying with your daughter during the sad parts at the drive-in theatre.
Motherhood is swelling with pride over weird little things like finding your little monkey halfway up the door jam for the first time.
It's being the baby's favourite.
It's talking your kids through sharing, and being proud when they actually do it.
Motherhood is wondering why they don't all get up to pee at the same time in the night and thinking maybe they have conspired and calculated a mathematical equation to minimize your sleep.
Motherhood is five loads of laundry, fresh dinner and lots of dishes.
It's changing sheets after an accident on sleepover night.  And feeling a trickle on your knee, as you realize -- too late -- that there was a puddle on that sleeping bag and, oh yes, you are covered in someone else's child's pee.
It's dreaming of date nights with Daddy.

Thursday, 27 August 2015

Mothering: the first versus the third


When I had Nevin, they said "you're a first time Mom, things will change" and I didn't believe them.  Of course, I was totally wrong.

There are some things that are consistent and that I have not changed at all.  For example, I have always picked up my crying infants.  Hearing a little tiny Warner cry is like shoving cotton balls down my throat, while putting my head in a vice grip and dancing on hot coals.  Another example is that I have waited until 6 months to feed solid food all of them.  Although, with the first child my motivation was "because the dietitian said so", and with the last it was mostly because breastfeeding is just so much cleaner and I have gotten lazy (or if I'm being positive about it, I'm more aware of my limited energy stores).

BUT, almost everything else has changed.

When I had my first born, I put him in little man clothes everyday.  When we left the house, we were put together.  We looked good and it highlighted what a terrific mother I was.  After our second child was born, I thought I figured out the whole mothering thing when I realized that experienced moms don't care if their infant is dressed up every day.  Besides, sleepers are so much more comfy than miniaturized adult clothes.  Surely, this meant I was a good mother.  By the third child, I realized that the difference between the first and third child was whether I made it out of my pyjamas.  Sure I'd wear the same thing for three days straight, but man oh man, let's celebrate the fact I made it to the grocery store and no one developed rickets.  I was survivor mom, and I was good at it.

The other day, Malcolm had ice cream.  Nevin, the first, didn't have desserts until he was probably around two.  He didn't know about them, and we didn't tell him.  He didn't learn about maple syrup until he was almost 4 years old.  Yet, at 7 months Malcolm has already had ice cream.  We were sitting at an ice cream parlour, it was 35 degrees celsius outside, and on a whim I stuck my whittled cone in front of him.  His reaction was hilarious - it was cold but it was sweet and creamy, and his face morphed between confusion, indignation, and joy as he tried to process what was going on in his mouth.  Maybe I've set him up for a lifetime of sugar addiction, but I'm pretty sure I watched his neural connections explode.  If he is the smartest child, I think I've got that ice cream cone to thank.

And of course, there is the Truth of the Gloified Purse: early on, as I ran around with the others, I gave Malcolm about as much attention as one might give a large tote.  With my first, my life changed so much that I couldn't help but be constantly aware of his needs.  By the time baby three arrived, the children's needs had melted into our everyday lives and Malcolm just fit into the routines that had already long been established.  If he wasn't eating, i.e. attached directly to me, I would forget that I even had a third child.

So, I'm a different mother, but humour me while a use an analogy to explain how I feel about this.  Some people describe parenthood as a marathon, because it is so long and how good you feel changes with the shifts in terrain on the course.  I think of it as more of a decathlon.  Each age and stage is so different, that you have to use totally different skill sets to be successful.  Decathletes all train a little bit differently -- which is a function of their natural strengths and weaknesses -- but in the end it is the sum of their events that determines their success, and two entirely different athletes can be equally successful provided they put the effort into their different training regiments.  Isn't parenting the same?  As long as I put the effort in and hold true to the basic underpinnings of successful parenting, the variation in their upbringing doesn't matter.  They will be different, but the sum of their qualities will result in equally remarkable people.



Sunday, 23 August 2015

Chocolate Protein Cookies (a.k.a. The Healthiest Cookies Anyone Has Ever Made)


So Shawn and I are trying to eat healthier.  It seems the whole world thinks we should cut back on sugar and wheat.  Shawn is doing quite well with this, but I am a miserable sugar addict.  I am working on it, and while I do these cookies are a huge help.  They are low on sugar, diary-free, gluten-free, and high in protein.  They are healthy enough that you could probably eat them for breakfast with little guilt.  Translated: I've eaten them for breakfast without too much guilt.

The Healthiest Cookies Anyone Has Ever Made 
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
1/2 cup peanut butter
2 Tbsp milk or water
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup cocoa powder
1 tsp baking powder
3/4 cup assorted nuts or seeds

1. In a food processor fitted with the S blade, combine the first three ingredients on high until smooth.  There may still be some small chunks of black bean skin and that is okay.
2. In a large bowl, mix the brown sugar, cocoa powder and baking powder.  Add the ingredients from the food processor into the bowl and stir to combine.  Add the nuts or seeds.
3. Bake at 350*F for about 20 minutes.

Tuesday, 18 August 2015

Malcolm at 8 months


The other night I swaddled Malcolm, cuddled him in my arms and nursed him to sleep.  Except he didn't fall asleep.  When he'd had his share, he laid in my arms and studied my face.  After a while he looked past my face and gazed out the window behind me.  He didn't wiggle or coo, he just quietly took it in.  We sat like that for twenty five minutes, him in nestled into the crook of my elbow, me breathing with him, feeling him, trying to stay in the moment, until eventually his eyes got heavy and he fell asleep.

Wednesday, 12 August 2015

A tour of Wolfe Island


When people have adversity, they bond over it.  In my own life, the only time I've really, really been close with a larger group of people is when we had to overcome longterm stress together.  Whether it be poverty, or farming, or some other communal challenge, I've noticed most close knit families  have a common history of adversity.  I admire those people.  My family doesn't have that: my kids have it easy and sometimes it worries me.  So we try to build in moments of struggle and opportunities to work things out as a family.  Its not the same as the longterm challenges that people face, but I hope it builds a family narrative that is strong enough that it creates solid bonds.

With that in mind, we went for a surprize road trip on Sunday afternoon.  We drove an hour to Kingston and caught the free 20 minute ferry across to Wolfe Island.  We'd never been there before, but as far as I can tell, the only attractions are a beach, a corn maze and the small island quaintness.  What better way to build a little family resilience than a midsummer jaunt through a corn maze?

We definitely got our $10 worth in that maze.  At first we used 6-year-old logic: always choose the path that is pointed in the direction of where you want to go.  That was a really bad idea.  Then we tried Mommy's hunches: never choose a path with a lot of weeds growing in it.  Also poor reasoning.  We tried Daddy's idea, building from past experiences: choose paths pointing away from where you want to go.  But by then, I think we were closer to the center, so it was hit or miss.  Finally, we tried the everyone-take-a-turn-choosing-which-way-to-go method.  Progress was tedious, but it was the most fun.  If there were three paths, we were sure to choose the right one last.  And if there were four paths, we were likely to choose the fifth option - as in, the direction we came from - before we chose the right one.  No hyperbole here; we actually did that.  I was hot, but we had water, a stroller and two very big parental mules at our disposal.  In the end, we took the emergency exit about two thirds of the way through, which is how far Shawn and I had hoped to make it.  There is a fine line between pushing the kids a little and cultivating a hatred of corn mazes.  When given the choice, we chose to err on the side of the former.

You would think that being lost in a maze in the midday heat, with forty pounds on your back would be the peak of team building epic journeys, but it was not.  The real journey -- the real test of patience that was of reality TV proportions -- was getting back to Kingston on the ferry.  We showed up at 4:18pm, knowing we wouldn't make the 4:30pm boat (there is one boat per hour on the 30).  We were about the 98th in line for a boat that carries about thirty cars per passage.  We knew this because the 12 year olds sword fighting with pool noodles a couple cars up told us so.  We were in for a long, hot wait with three tired, hot kids.  But, I can tell you (perhaps as a consequence of our newly acquired fantastic corn maze communication skills) that we took it like an adventure.  The ferry line up is on the side of a country road, surrounded by hay fields.  The only food was ice cream and lemonade from and entrepreneurial local who set up a little roadside stand.  So, we had ice cream for dinner.  We dipped our toes in Lake Ontario.  We watched the ferry come and go, scheming about how to get the best seats on upper deck.  Shawn tried to teach me how to throw rocks.  It was an adventure, and we sailed through it.  Pun intended. 

Near the end of our wait, we watched a cigarette boat blast by and Shawn commented "Wouldn't it be great if we could use one of those?  We'd get there really fast."  Nevin looked up at him and said, "But this boat is better because it is slow."  That is what the day was all about.
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