Sunday, October 29, 2006
Friday, October 27, 2006
A call to action
Oh, wait, I just happen to have an example here for you:
You have your assignment. Now get cracking!
(They have pumpkin patches in Canada, right?)
Wednesday, October 25, 2006
Honey, I shrunk the baby
SCENE FROM SLATE.COM'S EDITORIAL OFFICE:
Editor: Come on, people. We need story ideas! Stories directed at anxious parents! Those are so hot right now!
Writer #1: What about a series of pieces from middle-class moms where they complain about their nanny problems? Those always get readers up in arms.
Editor: Nah, Salon's cornered the market on those. And besides, they're so 2004.
Writer #2: How about an alarmist piece that tenuously connects an ailment or disorder that parents worry about with a common household object?
Writer #3: Yeah! Like, um, ADD and antibacterial soap!
Writer #2: Or influenza and, uh, cats!
Writer #1: What about autism and TV?
Editor: Brilliant! Run with it! But we need another story. These alarmist pieces tend to be seven-day wonders. We want to pack a one-two punch with a follow-up story that makes the autism/TV story look like actual science.
Writer #2: How about a story about kids who see shrinks?
Writer #3: How about a story about BABIES who see shrinks?
Editor: Genius! Magnificent! Raises all around! Except for you, #2. You're fired.
Thursday, October 19, 2006
The Old and the Restless?
Both Dan and I are September-born and were always the youngest in our classes. To be honest, I never minded. I kind of liked it. Mind you, I mostly grew up in smaller towns, where months or years didn't necessarily determine friendship.
Since Jonah is a December-baby, the issue is bound to come up. In fact, given that I suffer from Type A-aholism, it already has, as Jonah is registered in a preschool for next September that normally only takes children who have turned three. But is this a good idea? Should I give him an extra year to learn numbers and tie his shoes? Or does it just depend on what his abilities are at that time?
All thoughts are welcomed!
Wednesday, October 18, 2006
Children's television troubles me
For one thing, Sam insists on having the TV on at all times (I think this may be genetic, and I'm not talking about the genes on his maternal side), even when he's playing in the other room, so it's easier just to humour him. And for another thing, man oh man, it sure is easier to make a coffee/go to the bathroom/prepare dinner ever since Sam discovered the boob tube.
In total, though, he really doesn't watch that much actual programming. He's generally too busy trying to ride his Thomas train through the wall to pay attention. No, I'm the one who ends up helplessly absorbing all this kiddie TV. And it troubles me. It's insipid, of course, but I'm not staking new territory in pointing that out. I'm just wondering about the weird messages that some of Sam's favourite programs might be sending him, creating questions I'm not in a position to answer, such as:
- What kind of turtle IS Franklin that his legs are so freaking long?
- Why do all the bears in Little Bear's family talk as if they've just been dosed with ether?
- How come the dumber machines on Mighty Machines speak with southern accents?
- Do the makers of Rolie Polie Olie know that Olie's mother sounds just like Cartman's mom on South Park? I keep expecting her to start explaining what a rim job is.
- What's the deal with Miss Spider and Mr. Spider? Are they co-habitating out of wedlock while they raise their insect foster children? Are they fattening the kids up for future consumption? What about when the embarrassing questions start to emerge, such as what happened to the kids' parents? Will they be shown a secret web of horror full of parental exoskeletal husks? I'm not saying this isn't a darkly compelling story that needs to be told, but are children really the right audience for it?
Am I the only one having this problem? I might be overthinking this a bit, but it never hurts to check.
Sunday, October 15, 2006
For years, I've been volunteering in various capacities at a Vancouver children's hospice that's well known in North America for the kind of work it does. I started out as a Kitchen volunteer, cooking and cleaning, then was accepted to train as a Family Volunteer - where I helped children with life-limiting illnesses and their families enjoy whatever amount of time they had left together. And through it all, I was so strong - I thrived on helping them, on being there and part of a wonderful community of caring and strong people.
And then, I had Sam. I tried going back for a few shifts but just couldn't get past the fact that these were someone's kids. Someone's Sam. And so, I've given it up. I'm still a part of the community, but in a different role; assisting at large fundraisers for the hospice. Last Friday, I had the pleasure of volunteering at a black tie event where Jann Arden sang an absolute beautiful set for the 400 special guests. She was hilarious and charming and that voice was crystal clear and in typical Jann fashion, oh so sad.
In the middle of the evening, they showed a video shot at the hospice where families and siblings and staff explained what it was all about and what it meant to them. I lost it - I stood in the back, tears flowing down my face just so fucking thankful that my Sam was happy and healthy.
It's times like these that I realize what it's like, really really like, to be a mom.
the baby has left the building...
A few days ago, we got a flyer from Toys R Us in the mail, advertising a fantastic sale on all great things that kids want. I thought that Sam, being only 17 months, was still at that oblivious age of not knowing what was going on around him and still living in la-la babyland. Boy, was I wrong! Thinking I was just making conversation with myself, I pointed to the Thomas the Tank engine that was advertised as being on sale in the flyer and said "look Sam, it's Thomas like at Family Place'. His eyes lite up and he started blabbering on and on about what I can only assume is the very same train that's at Family Place! Really though, you have to see this - we go downstairs for breakfast, he find the flyer, brings it over, pointing only to the Thomas, yabbering on and on, as if to say "see mom, this is Thomas and I don't have one and I really really like it and so if you could buy it for me, I would be really really happy!.
It blows my mind that this little kid understands what we say - I was on the phone explaining to my mom what had happened, when Sam takes off and once again, brings me the flyer to make sure I haven't forgotten about Thomas!!!
Do they ever get any cuter than they are at 17 months?
Sunday Morning Cartoon (with some gabbery)
Last night, Dan and I went out. We jumped in the car without planning a thing and had no plans to join pals. We had dinner, chatted up a storm, took a drive through rainy Stanley Park, and saw a movie. We grabbed coffees. We held hands. It was wonderful.
We are not particularly new to booking a baby-sitter and going out. The first time we did so, Jonah was two months old. (It was kind of funny in retrospect, as I ended up booking a very experienced nanny to watch Jonah, insisting on seeing her resume and interviewing her. I mean, what did I know about kids at that point?!) Jonah ended up sleeping through the whole experience, a pattern that has generally repeated itself through the many, many times we have hired a babysitter. Erin, his sitter in SF, was a hit, as are Jody, Pam, Kerry, and the 3 or 4 random nannies we have hired for nights here and there.
Despite the oft-booked sitter thing, the one thing we haven't been fantastic at is going out just the two of us -- we usually use the nights out to connect with friends. As much as friend time is crucial, the one-on-one me-and-Dan time makes all the difference in the world. Because, you know, the thing I miss, as much as Jonah is an absolute joy and delight, is just hanging out with Dan. Not really doing anything, just relaxing and reading next to each other in bed and strolling around without worrying about nap times or next meals or diaper changes.
Last night felt like heaven.
And, notwithstanding the cartoon above, we've decided to keep Jonah. As much as chilling out without any worries sounds appealing, having him is really so much better.
Tuesday, October 10, 2006
But *that's* not what they told me in grade 4!
So you can imagine that I'd be deeply intrigued by the gazillion new findings that have called into question my reasonably concrete (primary school equivalent) understanding of the solar system.
Truth be told, I am fine with all of it. I never felt particularly attached to Pluto and, as a result, am not at all traumatized by its recent expungement from the Big Nine. Maybe it is because it was so far away, but also because I was always more attached to the planets with rings -- no doubt a precursor to my affection for jewelry. And although the news is three years old, I feel a little tingly at the thought of a Kuiper Belt lying beyond Neptune. I can actually close my eyes and imagine how cool the Belt would have looked on the planet mobile I made for show and tell in grade five.
But what blows me away is how our knowledge about the Solar System and beyond is changing so quickly. I mean, now it appears that planets can just go ahead and form themselves. Doesn't that seem a bit bold?
Part of me can't wait for Jonah to start telling me about how retro my knowledge is when it comes to this stuff.
And it also makes me happy to know that, no matter how much has changed, he won't be able to say "Uranus" without breaking into a smile.
Come on, you try it.
Sunday, October 08, 2006
Saturday, October 07, 2006
Of Mice and a Woman
A couple of months ago, our tenants kindly sat me down and told me the news: mice had been spotted in their bathroom. How they intuitively knew that I would be horrified is brilliance on their part (although they could have left out the part about the mouse touching the sides of their legs). An exterminator was called and I figured the whole situation would sort itself out without my ever having to look at a rodent.
I was mistaken.
A while later, my sister gently informed me that mouse droppings were on my attic stairs. After some initial panicking, I googled. I performed thorough cross-examinations of mouse elimination strategies of those living in single-family-homes-circa-1920. I searched for inventive solutions at Home Depot. The results seemed to work: the droppings ceased and the tenants hadn't spotted a mouse in ages. My ears stopped perking up whenever I heard a rustling sound.
And then it happened. The thing I feared most. The experience I thought would lead me to jump on a chair and squeal: I saw one in my kitchen! The mouse and I both froze in place, staring at each other in horror. I don't think either of us could believe what was going on. I guess it was a blessing or whatever, as I ended up finding the place the darn things were coming in from.
But the weirdest thing was ... I found the mouse kind of cute. Seriously. The little ears and the nose and the soft white body. I mean, not cute enough to want the lot to stick around (ew), but not the worst thing ever. In terms of yuk, I would definitely put poorly drafted contracts ahead of mice.
I am not all zen about it, though. Since we are not out of the woods yet, I'd welcome ANY mouse eviction strategies you have. Like, now. Oh, and please.
Friday, October 06, 2006
Wheat from the Chaff
Dr. Spock's Baby and Child Care: It seemed a bit old school when I received it as a gift. It also seemed a bit small -- only 800 pages for pregnancy, labour, infant care, toddlers, preschoolers, children AND teenagers?? But, you know, the darn thing works! It is kind of like wikipedia for kids -- you have a concern, you turn to the appropriate page, look it up and, bang, there are a few paragraphs dealing with the issue. The advice is always no-nonsense, combined with a dash of "think of the kid's perspective" and a vigorous mixing of "trust your instincts".
Becoming the Parent You Want To Be: A Sourcebook of Strategies for the First Five Years: It's hippie, I admit it. It can also be a little scary: a pregnant pal of mine asked after reading the sections on discipline, "Do toddlers actually BITE other children?" But it provides a good overview of major things that come up in the first few years of parenting, stuff like sleep, your relationship with your partner, and discouraging children from engaging in certain behaviour. What I really liked was how it made you question where your parenting beliefs come from, and to look long-term as to the choices you make when kids are small.
The New Father: A Dad's Guide to the First Year: I have vivid memories of Dan and I reading this book to each other when we first got home from the hospital after having had Jonah. It was sort of a stunning period, really, with us trying to figure out what to do with the new 8 pound wee thing that had suddenly ended up in our home. This book was so straightforward and informative without being preachy. It also had lists and charts! And, best of all, it made Dan feel genuinely involved with the whole parenting thing, which is surprisingly uncommon in the baby world.
And, a runner-up:
Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child: Jonah was a pretty good sleeper from the beginning, but I really liked reading up on the science behind sleep. I always figured you put your head on the pillow, counted backwards from 100, and that was that. Turns out that sleep is more complicated, and is actually learned behaviour. The book's strategies didn't really work for Jonah after the first 18 months, but the book was so good at saving us from sleep deprivation until then that I really can't leave it off of my list.
How about you? Are there any that have really stood out?
Thursday, October 05, 2006
Current list of worries
I read a great article in the New York Times Magazine over the weekend called, "So the Torah Is a Parenting Guide?". Aside from useful advice on not putting too much pressure on children and teaching them basic manners, the proponent of Torah-style parenting advocated limiting worrying to 20 minutes per day.
For the last couple of days, I have actively tried to identify my Jonah-related worries. Here they are in no particular order:
1. Is he too friendly? He throws himself into the arms of most adults within a short period of knowing them (or, in the case of Asian women, without ever having met them).
2. Although he seems well adjusted at the moment, will he become a drug addict and/or a serial killer as a result of: (a) living on Commercial Drive; (b) Dan and I both working full-time; (c) having few if any tantrums as a toddler, thereby waiting until he is a teenager to assert his independence and drive us bananas; (d) his being a vegetarian; or (e) both Dan and I being Type-A? (Before you provide any words of wisdom, please keep in mind that he likes to put my (clean) underwear on his head.)
3. While I am pleased to have a progressive male child, is it a problem that a lot of people think he is a girl? His name ends with an "a" sound; he has long hair; he is very attached to his doll, Paul. Should I cut his hair?
3(b). Does my worry in 3 above indicate that I am actually not progressive at all, meaning that I will send mixed messages to Jonah about all sorts of values, meaning that he may become a drug addict and/or a serial killer?
4. He still has eczema behind his knees.
5. How can he possibly not like tomatoes??
6. He does know that we love him like crazy, right? But then, does he also know about his responsibilities to be a good citizen and contribute to society and, for pete's sake, to let me brush his hair?
7. My god, could he know that we are making up this parenting thing as we go along??!
Gak. If you could please provide YOUR worries, I'd feel a lot better!
(photo credit for the picture of Jonah, Sam and Rian goes to Kris)