Archive for December, 2008

Monday Miscellany: When Will The Holidays End Edition

December 29, 2008

I’m spent. Exhausted. Completely drained of anything bearing even the slightest resemblance to energy. The holidays, they can kill you if you aren’t careful.

It was a few days of highs (the girl doing her Christmas Evening Music Show clad only in a bumblebee hat and bandit-style eye mask, clutching a ride-along stick-pony and singing Jingle Bells at the top of her lungs) and lows (my mother calling Christmas Eve to discuss with me how very few Christmases my nephew has left and isn’t it heartbreaking that we can’t spend these remaining holidays together?) and very little sleep. So all that I am able to muster today – by way of a feeble, oh hai, am still here, somewhere, hello! – is this random list of observations and proclamations:

1) In the frenzy of Christmas Eve and Christmas morning, when the world is filled with brightly wrapped packages filled with gifts, be careful where you leave your Tampax box. Because when a small child discovers, in a washroom adjacent to that environment – a pretty, brightly-colored cardboard box filled with what look to be individually-wrapped treasures that may or may not be candy, she’s going to be curious, and you’re going to have some questions to answer.

2) Best to answer, in those circumstances, that it’s a gift for Mommy. Santa moves in mysterious ways.

3) Depressing phone conversations with your mother on Christmas Eve can cause drinking.

4) When drinking, it’s best to remember that rum is still rum even when it’s drowned in a quarter-litre of eggnog, and it can, accordingly, still cause a hangover.

5) Hangovers are infinitely worse when you spend the previous night awake with a newly-betoothed baby hanging off your boob.

6) Teeth and nipples don’t mix.

7) Teeth and nipples and too much rum and lack of sleep don’t mix, but naked three-year old bumblebees in flight and bright yellow Tampax packages tied up with string under the Christmas tree are kind of cheery, so maybe it all balances out.

Because the New Year is pending, and I need all the good karma that I can get, I’m giving away more donations to charity – this time through CanadaHelps.org, which will provide $25 charity donation gift cards to two readers (they provide the gift card, and you can make the donation to any Canadian charity) (you don’t have to be Canadian, it just needs to be a Canadian charity – so if you support breast cancer research, for example, just donate the funds to a Canadian research organization) – leave a comment with the cause – specific organization, generic cause, ‘save the world’, whatever – you’d like to support, and I’ll randomly draw names and post winners on New Year’s Eve.

(CanadaHelps is a charity that helps charities. Their website promotes giving by making it easy for donors to find Canadian charities and make a donation online to one of the 83,000 listed – and searchable – Canadian charities. Canadians – make your donations before Dec 31st to get a tax receipt for the 2008 tax year.)

Oh, and just because – there’s also a $25 iTunes card for the first name drawn. (You might also consider picking up your own iTunes card and passing it along to someone who could use a little happy music, or perhaps a little Dr. Horrible. If you’re in Canada, you can get them at any Sobeys, Mac’s or A&P (Toronto) and Safeway, Save-on Foods and Coop (Vancouver) and, obviously, at the iTunes store online. Remember: KARMA.)

WINNERS – Christina and Stacie; Christina’s was first name drawn so she gets the iTunes card as well!

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Have Yourself A Merry Little Whatever

December 25, 2008


However, whatever, with whomever you celebrate – do it well.

Peace and love.

Rebel Angel

December 23, 2008

We have a discipline problem in our house, by which I mean to say: discipline, we have none.

We try, we really do. We bargain, we barter, we cajole, we threaten. We will bake cookies, Emilia, if you will just please listen to Mommy! We will bake cookies and have hot chocolate with marshmallows if you will please, please listen to Mommy! Mommy will take cookies away if you do not listen to Mommy! There will be no more cookies, ever, in this house, if you do not this instant start listening to Mommy! Mommy will destroy all the cookies in the world and angels will cry if you DO. NOT. LISTEN. TO. MOMMY. NOW!

But we never prevail. She is stronger than are we, and she knows it. She is patient: she knows that even if she does not get cookies today, there is always tomorrow. And she knows that if she does not get cookies tomorrow, there will be cookies some other day. And she knows that even if Mommy did try to destroy all the cookies and candy and treats in the world – which Mommy would not, because Mommy loves these things too, and she knows it – she would still have a stash, somewhere, to tide her over until the next solicitous neighbor or little old lady or shopping mall Santa slips her a gingerbread man or a candy cane or some other non-holiday-specific confection. Or she will just get the cookies herself, when we’re not looking. She knows how the world works. And she knows that it works in her favor.

She is only just – just – three years old.

She is three years old, and a near-perfect angel when in the care of other authority figures (with the notable exception of my mother, whom she identified early on as possessing a spirit akin to her own and therefore as a potentially dangerous antagonist. Their relationship is loving, but fiery) and, for the most part, when in public. We spent three days at Disney World and Sea World and I – alone in charge of the girl and the infant boy – had very little trouble keeping care: he remained strapped to my chest, and she dutifully (if boisterously) remained within a shout’s reach. But at home, when the only authority is my own and that of her father, and no witnesses are present, all hell regularly breaks loose, and we are helpless to stop it.

Every evening is the same: a battle over the when, where, how and why of dinner, and over the why, how, where and when of bedtime. I won’t bore you with details; suffice to say that she uses her wits, her charm, sheer force of will and, sometimes, fists, to forestall sitting still, consuming food, bathing, changing for bed, and getting into and staying in bed. The morning is a variation of this struggle (reverse the order of obstacles), and afternoons, after preschool, are another. The weekends sometime erupt into epic battles, wherein she charges, naked, from room to room, cackling madly, slamming doors and diving under tables, evading our reach and our calls and our pleas for compliance. Please, sweetie, we must get dressed! We must eat lunch! We cannot see Santa/build a snowman/bake cookies unless we are dressed/have had lunch/have stopped pummeling our mother. Sometimes, it is not her physical will that she imposes upon us, it is her will-to-independence, her psychic will-to-power – her willingness to simply ignore whatever it is that we’re saying and go, find a piece of furniture, push it into the kitchen and up next to the cupboards and go in search of cookies on her own, ignoring us as we stand, hands on hips, voices straining, hissing no, Emilia, we said NO. NO. Did you hear me? NO! Emilia, if you DO NOT CLIMB DOWN from that stool THIS INSTANT you are going into your buckle chair (the Stokke knock-off that functions as a naughty seat – which, yes, we strap her into because not even a team of SuperNannies could keep her in there with just a glare) and you will not have ANY cookies today, none at all, and WHERE ON EARTH ARE YOU GOING YOUNG LADY? and in the time that it takes to ask her to get down she’s snatched her contraband and has done a base-slide under the dining room table to make fast work of it.

And we are left, scrambling, pursuing her into corners, sweating and shouting and stumbling gracelessly, two Yosemite Sams to her Bugs Bunny, helpless and ridiculous.

Children, Jean-Jacques Rousseau argued, are tyrants from the first. Struggling against their natural helplessness, their natural, almost slavish, dependence upon us, they strain to exert their will. Thrust into our world, entirely dependent upon us, they must either dominate us or serve us; according to Rousseau, they invariably – they naturally – choose to dominate. Their every impulse, from their very first wail, is to dominate, and by dominating, compel us to become their servants in turn. Which in so many respects we do. This is why, for Rousseau, mothers are always and necessarily imperfect authoritarians – that is, at least, if they are what he understood to be good mothers, which is to say, unconditionally loving mothers – because they are always, in some important way, subservient to their love for their children, and so less capable of imposing the harshest boundaries and teaching the most difficult lessons.

I love Emilia’s domineering spirit; I truly do. But it frightens and intimidates me and – in some strange, confusing respect – shames me. She is powerful. She is fearless. She looks at the world around her and, for the most part, sees a world that can and should and will be conquered. That is a wonderful and terrible thing. It is wonderful (and this is the part that shames me) because it it is a remarkable, empowering thing, to regard the world as conquerable. It is something that I struggle to recognize for myself – that most of the obstacles that I see, or imagine I see, before me are conquerable. How extraordinary, to view the world through a lens that remains very nearly entirely unfogged by fear! But it is terrible, because – as Rousseau well knew, as we all well know – our children cannot advance into the world in that way, convinced of their utter entitlement to whatever it is that they desire, convinced of their ability to obtain it for themselves, convinced of their invincibility. They need to understand limits, boundaries. They need to understand that they must bend, give way, let go, listen, obey.

Emilia knows these things, at least as they pertain to the public spaces of her world – the spaces of school and neighborhood and friends and family. She is a remarkably polite and courteous and considerate little girl in spaces where authority emanates from some broader sphere or principle or institution, where everybody is expected to bend and give way equally, where everybody gets cookies if they say please (such are the cafes in our town, full of cookies for small children) and where everybody must wait their turn and where everybody must obey the traffic lights regardless of whether they are three feet tall or six. But in the private space of her home, where her parents loom over her like dictators – loving dictators, but still – where rules are issued that it seems only she must follow (no candy before bedtime no cookies before bedtime no playing after bedtime bedtime bedtime bedtime turn out the light put down your toys time for bed time for school time for dinner are you listening?) (she does not see that we deny ourselves – usually – cookies at bedtime. She sees only that we stay up later, and can and do reach the forbidden cupboards whenever we please) she resists. She resists, like (sometimes literally) a tiny little sans-culottes, or a tiny little Robespierre, or some explosive revolutionary hybrid of the two. She resists, and we cave to her resistance, and like France of the late 18C, we go down in flames.

It is, I don’t have to tell you, exhausting. I have, in recent weeks, invoked the coal-delivering incarnation of Santa too many times (a topic for another post, another time: Santa here replaces God, watching us all to see if we are bad or good so be good for goodness sakes) and in so doing broke one of my writ-pre-parenthood Rules Of Parenting (thou shalt not threaten thy children with retribution from Higher Powers, seasonal or otherwise); I also, just yesterday evening – OH THE SHAME – slapped her tiny hand – I did, I did – not at all hard, but still – after taking one too many punches from her wee flying fists (thereby breaking my hardest and fastest rules: thou shalt always endeavor to not react in anger, and thou shalt not ever, EVER hit thine children.)

I feel like the worst shit. But I also feel like a helpless shit, one who is fighting a losing battle.

What do I do? What do you do?

For what it’s worth, and because some of you have asked – we do enforce our threats. Time-out in her buckle chair is time-out in her buckle-chair – no negotiations. But she almost invariably, after time-out is over, bounds out of the chair and back into whatever she was doing that warranted the buckle-chair in the first place. We do physically stop her when, for example, she is stealing cookies (after giving her the opportunity to cease theft on her own), and our bargaining efforts escalate because she always raises the stakes – no cookies? She doesn’t care. No cookies tomorrow? Doesn’t care. NO COOKIES EVER? Whatever. She knows that there’s no such thing as a world devoid of cookies.

Help.

Sunday Morning Music Show*: Clothing Optional Christmas Edition

December 21, 2008
Because Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer is best sung loud, and without underpants.

*Filmed Saturday night, but still. It was Sunday morning somewhere.

How To Feed A Baby And Not Lose Consciousness Trying

December 18, 2008

My baby? Is a big baby. At 7 months old, he’s a husky, roly-poly, chubby-cheeked, fat-thighed chunk of Gerber baby who looks nearly a half year older than his age. He is, as his doctor said at his last post-natal visit, robust. Which is not surprising, because he nurses more or less around the clock. I mean, he was big to begin with, but a steady diet of booby has kept him on an upward curve on the growth charts. Which is great and all, but I’m getting a little tired of being the sole source of nutrition for a ravenous jumbo-tot. The problem is, he won’t take solid food or a bottle or indeed any source of nutrition that does not come wrapped in a nursing bra.

He just won’t do it. I’ve tried. I try every day: rice cereal, oatmeal, mashed fruits, mashed veggies, mashed fruits and cereal, mashed veggies and cereal, cereal with formula, formula with cereal, cereal with expressed milk, everything. But if it comes on a spoon or in a bottle, he just won’t take it. He’ll actually grab the spoon from me, shake the food off, and then gnaw cheerfully on it until I wrestle it away from him again and try to slip a little cereal into its bowl, at which point he hoots angrily, grabs the spoon, shakes off the cereal, and we start all over again. If I manage to get any into his mouth without him grabbing the utensil away – it just seems wrong, a little too close to waterboarding or some other Guantanamo-like exercise, to hold his arms down for the purposes of getting the spoon in – he makes a sour face and tries to push it out of his mouth. It’s a little frustrating.

It’s a little frustrating because I suspect that a rapidly-emptying belly is what keeps waking him up at night. I just don’t think my humble boobies are up to the task of keeping him filled for hours at a stretch. He’s a big guy, and I imagine that he’s got a big tummy tucked away in that pudgy belly of his. A big tummy that I can’t fill.

I’ve read that some babies just aren’t ready for food until closer to eight, nine, or even ten months. I’ve read that breastmilk is sufficient for most babies in their first year. I’ve read that some babies bypass soft foods altogether, and refuse to eat anything until they’re ready for more solid varieties of solid food (Jasper does, I should note, like organic teething biscuits. He holds them in his hand and gums happily away until they’ve turned to mush.) I don’t think that there’s anything wrong him – at least, I hope that there isn’t – but I am at the very end of my coping-rope and will soon reach the point of utter collapse if I don’t get a full night’s sleep soon. And because it has become clear to me that he is waking from hunger, I need to deal with his hunger before I can get some rest. I need that rest.

I need that rest BAD.

So what do I do?

********

UPDATE (Sunday): HE TOOK A SIPPY CUP. REJOICE.

********

Miscellany…

Congratulations to the winner of last week’s What Would Linus Do? Good Karma GiveawayMaria! Maria asked for a donation to a pediatric ward, so I’ll make the donation to Toronto’s Sick Kid’s Hospital. And because Maria asked to pass on the iPod shuffle, I did a second random draw and the winner is ZombieDaddy. (ZombieDaddy, could you get in touch with me with your address?)

Also… I need ideas on how I might pay forward the wonderful experience that Emilia and Jasper I had last week. Money’s tight, so it needs to be something that draws more upon spirit than cash. Thoughts? Leave your ideas here. Whoever leaves the idea that I choose gets a Scrabble Diamond Anniversary Edition game…

The Happiest Place On Earth

December 17, 2008

When I was seven years old, my family went to Disneyland. My father took a few weeks’ holiday from work, and we set off in a camper van down the Pacific coast from Vancouver, stopping to see attractions like the Grand Coulee Dam (‘the Eighth Wonder of the World!’ exclaimed my mother, reading from a promotional pamphlet. ‘Bigger than the pyramids!’) and making detours into Nevada and Arizona to visit Death Valley and the Petrified Forest. We stayed at state parks and KOA Kampgrounds. It was awesome, at least until I got mumps on the way back and had to sit, fat-faced and forlorn and bundled in a blanket at the side of the campground pool while my sister and parents splashed and enjoyed the last days of our holiday.

Disneyland was the highlight of the trip, but in truth I remember very little of it. I remember the most notable attractions – Pirates of the Caribbean and the Haunted Mansion and the Peter Pan ride and the Country Bears Jamboree – and I remember making a wish in Snow White’s wishing well, although for the life of me I can’t remember what I wished for. I also remember some ride that made you think that you had been shrunk to smaller than a snowflake, and remember that my sister, then four, emerged from the ride in tears, devastated because, she imagined, her lollipop had shrunk along with the rest of us. Mostly, though, I remember my mother’s childlike delight as we explored the park.

The rides amazed and thrilled her; she insisted that we visit the Pirates of the Caribbean again and again, exclaiming every time our little boat navigated its way between the battling pirate ships – cannons! exploding! – that it was so exciting! So real! The Mad Hatter’s Tea Party with its spinning teacups made her dizzy, but the Haunted Mansion delighted her (ghosts! right there in the car with us!) and she clapped and cheered her heart out at the Country Bears Jamboree. I was, at seven years old, convinced that my thirty-something mother was having a much better time than I was, and I was almost certainly correct.

My mother insisted for years that the wonders of Disneyland were as potent for adults as they were for children, but I always doubted her. One of my mother’s signature personality traits has always been her childlike enthusiasm for anything fantastical, and it seemed to me that Disneyland was very probably as close to a spiritual homeland for her as any other place in the world. So I was always doubtful when she insisted that Disneyland was as magical a place for grown-ups – even sensible, non-silly grown-ups, like the kind that I knew I would grow up to become – as it was for kids.

I was right to be doubtful. But, also, I was wrong.

My children and I spent this past weekend at Disney World. We could have gone anywhere in the US (thanks, Motorola), but I chose Disney World. I chose Disney World – against all of my pre-parenthood commitments to myself to do parenthood differently, to make unconventional choices in parenting, to not fall back on the convenience of sparkle and glitz and licensed characters – because it was just going to be me and the girl and the baby and that – combined with the fact that I don’t drive – was just too much parenting to be managed anywhere where there weren’t ample distractions ready-at-hand. Disney World, it seemed to me, was one big handy distraction. And if what my mother had said was true, then I would enjoy it too. It would be a vacation for my children, and for me. Win-win.

It wasn’t, as it turned out, so much of a vacation for me. It was hard, hard work. Herding a jacked-up three-year old in a Buzz Lightyear costume with a baby strapped to one’s chest from dawn ’til dusk at the Happiest Place On Earth is less conducive to happy-making than one might think. I didn’t get enough sleep, I didn’t eat enough food, and I spent at least one thirty-minute period locked, with the children sleeping in the double stroller, in a wheelchair-accessible restroom in Fantasyland fighting off an anxiety attack. The rides were, for the most part, exactly how I remembered them from Disneyland, but without the unfailing suspension of disbelief possessed by small children and my mother, and, also, with the strain of carrying a 22 lb baby on my chest, they were a touch less magical than memory served. (There were exceptions, of course: I found the Winnie-the-Pooh ride with its trippy voyage through Pooh’s honey-soaked dreams completely fascinating. Also, the Escher stairs in the Haunted Mansion.) (Yes, I took the three-year old and the baby into the Haunted Mansion. She insisted. What of it?)

And yet, and yet… there was still magic to be found, and I found much of it. Emilia was delighted beyond measure. Not amazed, not dazzled – it seemed to her that of course there would be places like Disney World, where all the characters from her favorite movies live and where small children are given stickers and sparkles and smiles at every corner and allowed to race around without restriction, and so, really, what’s the big deal? – just delighted. And I, of course, was delighted at her delight. Her delight filled my heart and made it swell to bursting and because it was just so full, so bouyant, it was impossible for me to not have a spring in my step, even with the jumbo baby strapped to my chest and the bag-laden stroller in front of me. I was uplifted.

(Don’t even get me started on Sea World. DON’T. I will cry. I was completely and totally seduced by the heart-tuggy schmaltz that is the Shamu spectacle and I cried like a baby through the whole thing. Emilia now thinks that all swimming pools should have giant whales, and that we should all be allowed to play with them. We’ll discuss Free Willy when she’s a little older.)

Emilia would, of course, have been delighted with any number of holiday experiences. She would have been delighted if we had rented a camper van and parked ourselves by a beach and set her loose with a bucket. And we’ll totally do that. But it was fun, this time, to indulge in a cheesy commercial fantasy, to let her romp in a world constructed entirely for children, one that makes no apologies for childishness and cheesiness and glitz, one that is specially designed to provoke giggles and squeals of delight.

So what if I could see the wires behind the animatronic Captain Hook, or see the creases in Cinderella’s make-up? This vacation wasn’t for me. It was for her.

And I loved every minute of it.

(Many, many thanks to Fidget, for coming to visit us at our hotel – which lacked a restaurant, and therefore room service, which meant that I might have starved Thursday night had she not brought hummus and crackers and – mercy, mercy – wine, and to Miss Britt and her delightful, delightful family, who spent the afternoon and evening with us at the park on Saturday.) (You can see Emilia and her daughter Emma driving a race car in the video that she put together of the weekend – her son’s birthday weekend – here. Really, they were so awesome.)

Quick – what’s your happiest family-vacation place on earth? I’m already plotting and lobbying the husband for a family vacation for the four of us next year. I’m thinking road trip. Should we retrace the path of my family’s Disneyland trek? Or what? Where are some good places on the continent to go? Where would you go?

I have not yet figured out how I am going to pay this trip forward, but I’m going to try. Ideas are welcome, but they need to be richer in spirit than in dollars, because, you know: recession. Leave your thoughts below; whoever leaves the idea that I choose gets a Scrabble Diamond Anniversary Edition game…

UPDATE: Loonstruck came up with the pay-it-forward idea that I’m going to run with – offer my home to another blogger who wants to see this part of Canada. There are going to be some cool bloggy events here this year, and I will happily play host to someone who wants to attend. Stay tuned. (And as requested, the Scrabble game went to the library – youth section – where it was much appreciated!)

Goodnight, It’s Time To Go

December 14, 2008


It was fun. It was loads of fun. It was also back-breakingly, mind-crushingly exhausting, but you don’t take your children to Disney World if you’re hoping for any relaxation for yourself. You don’t do it for yourself at all.

But you sure as hell take a little vacation in your bed when you get home. I’m going to sleep hard.

To Infinity. And Beyond.

December 14, 2008


What can I say? She prefers Space Rangers to Princesses. Can’t say I blame her.

(I’m ready to leave Disney now. She’s all jacked up on Disney and candy and castles and Buzz Lightyear, and that’s great and all, but really? I am exhausted, and need to leave this place so that I can have some quiet time. Also, I need to pass the baby and the girl in the Lightyeartard over to the husband – or anyone, really – so that I can sleep for about a week. Or more. Please.)

Wordless Disney World

December 12, 2008

I sobbed my heart out at Sea World (Shamu, my god. It’s like live-action Free Willy but without the irritating kid. Or, for that matter, the freedom), had an anxiety attack at the Magic Kingdom, and got peed in the face (more or less) by a wee spray-hose of a baby penis, but still: she was delighted, and that’s all that matters.

(More pictures here.)

(Anyone got any Xanax? Or muscle relaxants? Because, seriously. I have a very sore back – the boy weighs, like, 22 lbs, which doubles when he bounces, which he does every time he sees a giant duck or mouse or killer whale, which is far more often than you would think – and, also, am likely to run away screaming the next time a licensed character approaches me. Which will probably be tomorrow, so it’s already too late, but still. I just kinda needed to say it out loud.)

(Wordless: I’m doing it wrong.)

And Then, There Was Fun

December 12, 2008
I know exactly how she feels.

We’re at Disney World, where, you know, if you don’t bounce around in paroxysms of joy they send the dogs after you. It’s a long story. I’ll catch you up when there’s a break in the mayhem, or when I collapse from wish-upon-a-star fatigue. Whichever comes first.

In the meantime, my current reflections on matters Disney can be found here. And the reason that picture rocks, here.

And you can still rock the holidays, Linus-style, and win an IPod shuffle, here.

Send me all your best hopes for survival. I think that I might need them.