Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Sing it, Effie

As one of my stocking stuffers, I received both volumes of the Glee soundtrack. My husband received (from me) a pair of long-coveted speakers for the computer. So we have been listening to a lot of power ballads over the past few days, many of which continue to be sung or hummed long after the computer is silent. (Curses to you, Paul Anka and "You're Havin' My Baby!")

Earlier today, Will was putting together some puzzles at the living room table. She was singing to herself, one of her newest activities (and one that has led me to purchase the entire "Bread and Jam for Francis" series of picture books). I listened carefully, and realized she was singing "No way. I'm not living without you."

My husband and I listened, amused, for a few minutes before she got distracted and moved on to something else.

Then later tonight, she started shouting, in her loudest voice, right to me: "No! No! No! No! I'm not living without YOU! No! No! No! No! I'm not living without you!"

"Okay," I said. "I'm not living without you, either."

Good to know we feel the same way.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Christmas Meme

In the spirit of posting more regularly again, here's a Christmas meme I'm borrowing from Swistle.

Eggnog or hot chocolate? Definitely hot chocolate. Egg nog = blech!

Does Santa wrap the presents or leave them open under the tree? When I was a kid, our Santa presents were never wrapped. Now I'm doing a bit of a hybrid: stocking stuffers and big things (like last year's doll-in-stroller) unwrapped. Other smaller gifts wrapped in Santa-only-uses-it paper.

Colored lights on a tree or white? White only, please!

Do you hang mistletoe? No.

When do you put your decorations up? I put up the wreath and the stars in the windows mid-November. All the other more festive decor sometime after December 1st.

What is your favourite holiday dish? Savoury: Hot hors d'oeuvres. Sweet: shortbread and magic cookie bars.

Do you open a gift on Christmas Eve? Usually my husband and I open something from our stocking exchange.

How do you decorate your Christmas tree? Ornaments from all over. When I go on a trip or somewhere interesting, I try to pick up an ornament to commemorate the occasion (which is surprisingly difficult sometimes). This year was the first time Will was interested in hearing some of the stories about the ornaments. The one we got our first year with Pasha. Her first Christmas ornament with the picture. The one we picked out together this year in NYC. I look forward to telling these stories every year.

Snow: love it or hate it? Hate the cold and the hassle, but am missing a real white Christmas this year. (I know. But in my part of Canada, we've got nothing.)

Can you ice skate? Does clutching the boards count?

What is your favourite holiday tradition? Probably telling the stories while trimming the tree. But I really like the freedom of making new traditions. This year we decided to go out for Christmas dinner. It seemed so wrong at first, and then so right. I love that.

Candy canes: yum or yuck? Take them or leave them.

Favourite Christmas show? Do movies count? Love, Actually and Meet Me in St. Louis (but I'm a sucker for the original Grinch).

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

The nightmare before Christmas

Will has taken to drawing faces recently. She started with eyes (well, eye sockets) and would ask me to fill in the rest. Then she added noses and mouths, asking me to do the hair and the body. Now she handles all of that, with the addition of teeth, eyebrows and sometimes ears and earrings.
Although I am impressed - very impressed, actually - I also feel like I may have given birth to the next Tim Burton:

Will calls these her "scarecrows" and names them after herself and the other people she knows. Then she asks if she can "shave it off" (I can hardly bring myself to correct her on that one) and draw another one.

It did freak me out a little when I left her alone for a few minutes after her nap, and the map puzzle in her room became the background for ten (!) new scarecrows (in marker):

Highlights of the exhibition included two boys (notable by their short hair).

The snowman, with buttons and a hat.

Happy girl, with long hair.

Finally, freaky girl with a baby.

Clearly, our house is decorated for the holidays!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

New York City

We survived our road trip to NYC with the two-and-a-half year old. In addition to our regular luggage, I had a duffle bag full of packaged snacks and a second bag just for activities. A new purse with chapstick and a hand mirror! Dollar store binoculars! Etch-a-sketch thingie!

I also painstakingly chose and mapped out activities at locations along the way, almost none of which we did. (Will got to run around a J.Crew outlet more than once instead of stopping at a jumping playland in Rochester or getting to the hotel in time to swim. Dancing in front of mirrors while Mama gets new jeans is still fun, right?)

It will be a surprise to no one that the best pre-trip purchase we made was a portable DVD player. The sun sets early these days, and there is nothing you can do with a toddler in the car in the dark except watch a show. I bought a bunch of cheap movies and brought our Dora/Elmo collection, but do you know what she wanted to watch, over and over again? The two-episode Madeline video I bought for $2.99, reduced at the cash register to $1.50. Worth every penny.

Our time in the city itself was amazing. We stayed with a friend with whom I used to teach. (I spent too long changing that sentence around - the judgement of a fellow English teacher. Shudder!) Her husband's job has relocated them to New York for the next two years, so she's taking the time to be with their daughter, who just happens to be about 2 weeks older than Will.

The two girls are exactly the same height. Their voices sound freakishly similar. They have boundless energy and the same determination to get. what. they. want. Luckily, they tended to have their meltdowns at different moments. Other than the occasional power struggle over a stroller or a doll, they really became good friends.

I had only every visited New York for the day, driving in from Albany in the morning and leaving ridiculously late at night. It was different waking up in the city, being able to plan more than one day. And even though we had to view it from the perspective of two little girls, we did everything I wanted.

With the girls, we went to Peanut Butter and Co. (no allergies for these kids) and walked around the Village. We took them to the Museum of Natural History for the dinosaurs and Central Park for the playgrounds and the zoo. We even went to a Gymboree class and to Alice's Tea Cup, where they got to wear fairy wings and eat a cupcake as big as their heads.

My friend occupied the girls so my husband and I could visit MoMA (the Jackson Pollocks are a favourite) and then she and I hit the town to see Superior Donuts on Broadway. I'm still not sure what was better, this very satisfying play or Hugh Jackman looking directly at us from across the street as he left his own production. Seriously, I screamed like a fourteen year old girl.

It was awesome.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

A logical connection

Aunt Pisho: Do you think that one day you'd like to go to music class by yourself? Without Mama?

She thinks for a minute.

Will: I need Mama to drive me!

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Hallowe'en Recap

Sensing it would be my last chance to influence Will's costume, and after finally watching the first season of "True Blood," I decided to send my daughter out into the night as a vampire.

Purple is her favourite colour, so the outfit was a big hit, right down to the spider pendant and vampire shoes. The one casualty of the night was the "bones" bracelet of skulls, which somehow got lost on the final stretch of trick-or-treeating. Will was devastated-- until we showed her the stash of smarties in her bag.

Aunt Pisho handled Will's makeup, while my husband gored up my bite.
The wind let up and the temperature stayed fairly mild, so it was a good night for gathering treats.
She was actually most excited about a box of raisins, but when that was gone she happily turned to the smarties. It was a good night.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

A different perspective

As art class was winding down today, it was clear that Will had developed a bad case of ants in her pants. We decided to go to the closest mall to run off some energy before lunch.

She ran. She jumped. She played with some cats at the satellite animal shelter. We tried a misguided trip into the dollar store and she climbed on a bench to touch some fake pumpkins in a mall flower bed.

At some point, Will decided to crawl. I'm not sure whether she was pretending to be a baby (which she loves) or a cat (meow!) or if she was just reacting against my attempts to navigate us towards the exit.

It was gross and unsanitary, but I had a bag full of wipes and hand sanitizer, and since we weren't in a rush I decided to not to make a big deal out of the situation.

I told her she needed to walk, and I would wait for her at the next bench (a few feet away).

She crawled a little more, making doe-eyes at me. She put her head down on her hands and then peeked out at me. Finally she got up and sauntered over, saying she was ready for a smoothie.

An older lady pushing a cart circled us and then stopped in front of me. "Do you need some wet wipes? I have some in my purse."

"No thanks! I have some in my bag too." I thought it was cute, amid all the flu panic, that she was concerned about the state of my daughter's hands.

But the woman kept looking at us, before finally asking "Is she okay?"

I glanced over at Will, now bouncing beside me. "Um, yeah. She's fine."

"Really though. Is she all right? Just energetic? But she's okay?"

I was suddenly very uncomfortable, and took Will's hand. "She's fine."

As we walked away, she continued. "Well, she's just an adorable child!"

I have no idea what the woman was implying. Some sort of delay that would make a toddler act like a baby (or a cat)? Some sort of attention deficit or hyperactivity? Some sort of bad mothering that would allow such terrible behaviour?

When I get compliments on my daughter from perfect strangers, I have to admit that I don't think too much about it. It doesn't seem particularly strange or invasive (except when they ask for her name). Yet I cannot get over the audacity of this woman, that she would feel entitled to ask whether my child was "all right." What if she wasn't, at least according to this person's understanding of "okay"? What must it be like to have a child who is different in a visible way, and have people feel like it's all right to comment on something that is just a part of that child?

Monday, October 26, 2009

How I thrilled the world (or at least Ontario wine country)

I decided to learn and perform the "Thriller" dance based on several premises:
  • I have a long history as a Michael Jackson fan, including attendance at the Victory tour in Toronto (with my dad, as a gift for my tenth birthday)
  • I was once responsible for choreographing the first few bars of "Thriller" (for my elementary school folk dance team in 1984, but still)
  • I used to be a dancer (it may have been years - even decades ago - but dance is like riding a bicycle, right?)
Perhaps most important, my husband volunteered to learn and perform the dance with me. So I set out to learn the dance from the youtube instructional videos, and by the night before the performance I had all the sections down. I wouldn't say I could perform them with more than minimal grace or skill, but really? I'm supposed to be newly undead so I was quite sure it wouldn't matter.

By Saturday morning, my husband announced that he couldn't possibly learn the dance in time. Reluctant to drop out of the performance, I instead recruited my sister (Will calls her "Aunt Pisho") to join me. She began learning the dance 90 minutes before we were due to check in at the park.
Clearly, we are both quite concerned.

But we work on the choreography.

The wind-tunnel sequence. Notice I am working so hard that I have had to remove my sweater. That's dedication.

Will knows the moves better than we do.

Zombies for the win!

Rehearsing with the other participants. I will spare you the video of the actual song. We look much more composed in the pictures.
Even without a costume, Will performed along with the rest of us, only getting nearly trampled twice (and more accurate than we were in much of the choreography). ROAR!

Sunday, October 25, 2009

CSI: Dead Turkey Edition

Date: 25 October 2009

Time: 12:35 am

Location: Ceramic tile floor between the kitchen and the family room.

Report: My sister and I were sitting on the couch in the family room when we heard a loud crash. Looking up, we were surprised to see both cats lounging nearby. We got up to see what had happened, and we saw this:

Our beautiful Thanksgiving centrepiece had imploded, its rotten core no longer able to hold itself up on the little iron legs.

The smell was just . . . oh my god, it was awful.

Look at the fluids pooling underneath him, spreading towards the stairs.

When I tried to transfer the pumpkin to a garbage bag, it started to disintegrate in my hands. The insides were almost completely black. And did I mention the horrendous smell?

The Lesson: Once you pierce a pumpkin with decorative iron stakes, it will rot. Now you know.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Miss Leslie and the film projector

I've been taking Will to our main library's free kids' programs since she was 8 months old. I cannot say enough good things about "Books and Babies" and then, "Toddler Time." The pace of the programs, the age-appropriate activities, the mix of songs and stories and now, a craft. I have always been impressed with the quality of these free opportunities for early literacy in the community.

But the central library is not the same as a nearby branch of the same system, it seems.

Half the fun of the program has been hanging out with my mom friend and her daughter after each class. We bring the girls a snack and they have a chance to run around while we chat. So when her teaching schedule interfered with the fall toddler class, we decided to sign up for the session at a different library branch.

Well. Apparently, my friend was the thirteenth person to sign up for a twelve child class. She was put on a waiting list and asked to wait upstairs until they saw if there were any openings. She and her child were ushered in when a couple of kids didn't show up, but as they settled in beside me and Will, we heard an unearthly shrieking sound.

"You hoo! Excuse me? Hello! You there!"

Suddenly we realized a woman was directing her bird-calls in our direction.

"Move into the middle! I need to be able to get down the sides of the room in the dark!"

We herded the girls and ourselves away from the edges of the group as she strided towards the front.

"I have been running these programs for over thirty years," she announced proudly. "Somewhere along the road the children started calling me Miss Leslie, and it has been Miss Leslie ever since."

Gazing around, I saw that the room was set up as a kind of shrine, covered in bulletin boards with "Thank you, Miss Leslie!" and "We love you, Miss Leslie" cards and posters.

Miss Leslie - who was at least 60 years old - continued. "I have set out a pile of red paper apples at the back of the room. Take one every week and write down the titles of the three books you read to your child. Then bring them back, and at the end of the session this tree--" she pointed to one of the bulletin boards,"--will be literally overflowing with apples. The children love it."

My friend leaned towards me: "Three books? We read seven just waiting to be called in."

Miss Leslie then proceeded to have one of the children - "oh, angel!" - help her match two of the same cut out leaves on the floor in front of her. Then each child was given a leaf and had to go up to the front of the room in a mad rush to try to match her leaf. Will, who can match 36 different paintings in a game at home, would only put her leaf next to the nearest one, while her friend refused to go up to the front alone.

"This is very challenging for the children." Miss Leslie tried to soothe us in case we were panicking because our children couldn't complete the task. "Very challenging for the little ones!"

After that chaos, Miss Leslie pulled out a felt board and told a story completely unrelated to leaves or fall; instead, it was about a little duck trying to make the sounds of the other animals in the barnyard. Then she picked up the picture book from beside her chair - covered in pictures of autumn leaves - looked at her watch and tucked the book under her arm.

I knew that the craft, at least, was about leaves, as I could see the photocopies of trees and the cups full of crayons set out on the side table. But instead of directing the children to the table, Miss Leslie shushed them and announced it was time for the movie.

"Movie?" I raised my eyebrows at my friend and listened to Miss Leslie gush about their collection of old Disney films - the only library to have them - and how the children loved the films, just loved them. Then she walked to the back of the room, turned out the lights and turned on - wait for it - the film projector.

And the room full of 2 and 3 year olds watched this for seven minutes:

Nothing to do with fall or leaves or early literary or even 2 year-olds. But Miss Leslie has been doing this for years, and boy, was Miss Leslie proud.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

September: a photo essay

There hasn't been a lot in the way of blog posts this month, but that does not mean we haven't been doing things. My hopes for a summer-hot September fell short pretty quickly, and now this last day feels like November (and we discovered this morning we don't seem to have any fall shoes). However, these are the kinds of things that kept us busy this month.

The beach: Labour Day weekend

Our local, historic carousel: still only five cents (!) a ride

Hanging out with her cousin at the Lion Safari

Olympic gold medalist at the downtown kids' parade

First time at the movies as a "big girl." Watched the entire show!

Watching for the next float in the grand parade

Celebrating Eid with a new shalwar kameez

Sunday, September 27, 2009

I knew I looked good in a shalwar kameez, but really

Last night we went to my inlaws' house to celebrate Eid. Whenever we get together with my husband's family, there are a few things we can be sure of:
  1. Nothing will start on time. (At least) one person will be late; therefore whatever we are supposed to be doing will be delayed. At Will's welcoming ceremony, my husband's brother actually left the house to pick up the food at the time the event was supposed to begin.
  2. We will eat, but it will not be until really late. Much later than 2-year-olds should be eating. (Read: bed time.)
  3. We will not leave until late. Very late. Much later than our predetermined "ideal time of departure" and even later than our "absolute latest depature time."
Despite these constants, there are also things we never know until we get there:
  1. What the women will be wearing. This one is stressful for me since I never know whether I should bring Indian clothes.
  2. What we will be eating. My father-in-law's delicious biryani? My sister-in-law's salmon? Take-out from the Chinese restaurant up the street?
  3. Who is actually coming to the event. Often there are cross-border relatives who are held up at customs. Someone who has married into the family may have invited her entire immediate family who live in the same city. At the big events, there is almost always a surprise guest: a cousin who's flown in (or driven all day) with a new baby; a patriarch visiting from India; a new convert who just happens to be marrying someone's daughter.
At dinner last night, my brother-in-law and his family were late, we didn't eat until just before eight, and we couldn't get away until ten.

I brought one of only two Indian suits that I really like, but then received another from my mother-in-law as an Eid gift, so ended up wearing that one. My father-in-law did make an amazing, albeit spicy beef dish that I have no idea how to spell (it sounds like "pa-sun-day"). There were no surprise guests, but we knew ahead of time that my husband's aunt and uncle from India would be there.

The uncle (let's call him "A") is actually my father-in-law's great uncle. My FIL's great-grandfather had a lot of children over a period of at least 50 years. His third wife gave birth to A just a couple of years before my FIL was born - to his granddaughter. Got it? To make things even more confusing, A's wife is my mother-in-law's younger sister. Family relationships in my husband's family are very confusing, to say the least.

So yesterday, we are sitting around the dinner table and uncle/great-uncle A, who is known as both a philosopher and a big talker, announces, "I want to speak to the daughters-in-law."

He points at me and, presumably, my sister-in-law who is sitting nearby.

"Daughter-in-law. How do you spell? D. I. L. You would say that 'dil', daughter-in-law, 'dil'."

Remember that A still lives in India, and speaks with an accent.

"Now in Irdu, what is 'dil'? 'Dil' is 'hot.' Daughter-in-law is hot."

He points at me again.

"To husband. To family. Daughter-in-law is hot. Dil."

I wasn't sure what to say, except "Thank you." I had been worried that my new Indian suit was a bit see-through, but I thought the scarf covered everything. Oh, right. I had taken off the dupatta to eat dinner.

On the car ride home that night, I asked my husband what he thought about the whole exchange.

"Heart." he said. "Dil means 'heart.'"

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Sayings that don't make the lack of napping any better

"That looks like a pretty good book."

"Nacho. Pickles Jones. Tinkerbell. Wishbone . . . (22 more names, in order, from her favourite cat book) . . . Tommy. Midnight. Charlotte. Smokey."

"Is it time to get up yet?"

Spelling her name over and over.

"Scratch my back?"

"Mama! Mama! Mama! Mama!"

"Can I flush it down it goes?"

"I go to sleep already!"

"Mama! What are you doin' down there?"

"You're missing the fun!"

"I'm stinky! Mama change me, please."

(Although that last one might explain everything.)

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

In summary

-As of two o'clock this afternoon, the house is sealed against mice. It will take 10 weeks for the little beasts to make their way out through the one-way exits (or into the live trap that I have not yet placed down in the basement). It cost an exorbitant amount of money, but the house is now also sealed against bats (the little detail that sold me on the service) and from the looks of the rather unattractive gook that now fills all of the house's exterior crevices, I'm hopeful that it might impede bugs and spiders as well. The workers were very courteous, but did destroy several of my husband's prized perennials, so he wasn't too impressed with that.

-After our one brief victory, potty training (learning?) has completely stopped. Will was so proud of herself, I thought the process would really pick up, but when I read her signals the other night and started leading her towards the bathroom, she FUH-REAKED out. So. Not quite ready, I guess.

-Fall activities are starting this week. So far, Kindermusik with the new instructor seems like it will be good. Will is now the oldest in the class, so has morphed from being the shy quiet child to the star. It would be nice if the class was a bit bigger (there are only five) with a couple more kids her age, but it is good that she has the chance to shine in this new role.

-I'm back on the WW points, hard core. The first few days last week were a lot harder than I remembered, but now I'm back into the counting. I'm remembering some of the tricks, as well as the 10 point dinners that actually fill you up (thank you, president's choice burgers). And I lost 2 pounds last week, so that gives me the push I need to keep going.

-I'm finally watching True Blood, the first season. It is just as good as everyone says it is, and I'm particularly pleased with the way they are using the vampire mythology. A good vampire story has to remain true to the basic tenants of the genre, while making interesting and believable adapations. (Why yes, I am referring to you, Edward, glittering in the sunlight. Just no.)

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Nothing says "mommy blog" like potty training and naptime

On Monday, Will and I had a blast painting outside. We also made a huge mess, so I stripped off her clothes and hosed her off before heading inside. While playing in the nude, Will announced, "I have to poo, Mama. The poo is coming!"

I took her over to the potty and asked her if she wanted some privacy (she has always demanded that we not look at her when she's having doing her business) and she shut the bathroom door.

I waiting, a little nervously, wondering what would be waiting for me when the door reopened.

Suddenly, Will called out, "Mama! I see the poo!"

And there it was. We "flushed it down it goes" and celebrated with three (maybe four) smarties. We limited our calls to Daddy and a message for my parents: Hi Manno! Hi Papa! Poo. In the potty. Owls. Bye!"

Of course, lunch in underwear ended in a high chair full of pee. And in the days that followed, the only receptacle for toddler poop has been the trusty diaper.

But . . . I ordered some fancy training pants that arrived today. Will put them on immediately, and was crushed that she had to take them off for her nap so I could wash them. She was so excited that they be wash that she demanded I do so right away - no snuggles as she fell asleep, just wash those underwear so she could wear them when she got up!

For a child who does not go to sleep alone, this is a big deal, even though I can hear her singing at the top of her lungs.

Who knows? Maybe she will actually fall asleep.

* * * * * * * * * * *

Um, no. But at least she's asleep. And maybe she'll still like the training pants . . .

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Mouse 2.0

It's been more than two months since I found the empty mixing bowl on the back deck. In that time and longer, we have had a few problems with flickering lights and electrical outlets (unlike Dooce, my brand-new washing machine stopped working because of the wires in a nearby socket). So when my sister swore she could hear mice scampering up the wall behind one of the vents in the living room, I started to have visions of the little rodents eating through the wires and causing unseen damage inside the bowels of the house.

Literally days later, as we are hanging out in the living room during nap time, there is a huge crash. Then Oliver - the more skittish of the cats - steps gingerly into our line of sight, a mouse dangling from his mouth. His eyes are a bit frantic and you can almost hear his voice: Look what I've got for you, Mama! But what should I do with it? Where should I put it? Halp!

My sister and I jump onto the coffee table, alternately hissing at each other and praising Oliver: "Oh my god, it's a mouse! Good job, Oliver! A real mouse? Well, it's dead! Good work Oliver, catching that mouse. Is it? It could just be pretending. DON'T put it down, Oliver. Good kitty! How are we going to get rid of it?" My husband starts looking for some kind of container. Oliver turns around in a circle and then darts downstairs.

In the basement, the mouse gets dropped and stays "dead" for a moment before running for its life. It's caught and cornered by both cats, then dropped again before disappearing.

Meanwhile, Will has gotten up from her nap and is recruited into carrying a flashlight into the basement to help my sister look for the mouse. Although we see lots of places for mice to congregate (ewwww!) we think we've lost it, until we notice Pasha staring into my rolled-up yoga mat.

Five minutes later, with the help of a pasta pot, we are out on the deck staring down at this:

A little closer:

We get the mat off and the top on:

Doesn't that seem like a fat mouse? As in, clearly not starving in my apparently hospitable house? Here's a closer look:

Also, I had no idea mice had such beady eyes. Ugh!

After convincing my husband that we could not in good conscience free the mouse in our annoying neighbour's flower bed, Will helps him carry the pot to the far corner of the back yard.


You can just make him (her?) out to the left in the top part of the picture.

Although I'm still not too freaked out by the idea that there are other overfed rodents living in my admittedly old house, I am not excited about the damage they could be causing inside the walls. I have already contacted the wildlife removal people, who don't kill the animals (I would never consider using poisons, especially with Will and the cats in the house) but apparently install "one-way exits" and block all the other entry points.

I will let you know how it goes.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Another morning

This morning it was pouring rain. I watched my husband leave, knowing he wouldn't be back until after eight tonight. I looked over at my daughter eating her cereal, my heart filled with apprehension.

But. But . . .

We have yet to turn on the TV.

Instead, we built a long, snaking train track. We coloured a picture, glued together some toilet paper-roll binoculars, and made a butterfly covered in pom-poms.

We threw a wet cloth up at the ceiling in my bedroom to remove some of the high cobwebs, the room filling with laughter.

We jumped in front of the mirror - faster and faster - until we just had to collapse on the floor.

We took turns giving each other haircuts with imaginary clips and orange spray. Then she asked for four ponytails, and let me put them in her hair.

Then we went out for lunch for at the Pizza Hut buffet and had a delightful time.

Some mornings are hard. But then there are the ones like today.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

And that was just the morning

First, the cleaning service - whose office can never tell me what time they will arrive, although it tends to be mid to late morning - actually woke us up this morning.

Will and I jumped out of bed, passed my husband a robe so he could move modestly from the shower to the bedroom, and holed ourselves up in the basement to watch Shrek. All we had to eat was one nutrigrain jam bar between us.

As much as I detest cleaning the house, and as terrible as I am at it, I am considering breaking up with "the mawlies" as Will calls them. They were in and out in just over an hour, and although the house is passably clean, I don't think it's clean enough for what they charge. Really, I just need a regular cleaning lady, but I'm too paranoid to bring someone into my house from a kijiji ad, and I'm having a hell of a time trying to find a referral.

Next was the battle over going upstairs so Mama could take a much-needed shower. In the midst of the cajoling (mine) and refusing (hers), she hit me. We had a very serious talk about hitting, and Will was informed that if she hit Mama again she was going into time-out.

There was more cajoling and threatening (both mine). It has recently dawned on me that my now standard "If you do not come here by the time I count to three I will bring you here myself" probably won't work when she's 9, but I'm not sure how to adapt my arsenal of consequences, especially when we are trying to just. get. moving. But that was cut short when halfway up the stairs she hit me again, so into time-out we went.

After that detour, I actually got a shower (with Will in tow), and all was well until we got dressed and were both suddenly ravenous and miserable. Will couldn't fathom that this horrible feeling was hunger and refused all offers of food. My fuse was even shorter than usual until I realized that something in our stomachs would make us both calm down.

A little apple juice gave Will enough sugar for her to articulate a desire for "peanut butter jam, please." That gave me enough time to reheat some spinach lasagna for myself.

A walk around the block led to nap time and finally - finally - a cup of coffee.

The end.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

So. The cottage.

My father-in-law is not a talkative man. He is content to sit quietly at his computer or on the couch, or make his way alone as the rest of the group walks ahead. But every time we get together there is a moment when he clears his throat, takes a sip of his coffee or tea and announces, "So."

We have determined that one of several things may follow. A story about his childhood in India (So. We forgot to tie up the ox in front of the school, and he just found his own way home.) A discussion about politics or religion. Comments on the current state of the extended family. Some information about a new scientific or technological discovery (So. What is so special about this i-phone?)

Now it's my turn.

So. The cottage.

Looking at these pictures a few days after being home - our wonderful home with its hot shower, comfortable beds, fresh smelling furniture and bug-free ceilings and walls - I can almost remember the whole experience washed in the idyllic light of the sunset.

But dear god, it had its moments.

Forget about the mosquitoes and the spiders (which had mostly been killed by the time we arrived, or I wouldn't have slept even the little I managed) or the smell of the couch, which literally made me gag when I moved to be closer to the light. Forget the tension between my sisters-in-law, one of whom loves to cottage and cannot under any circumstances stop talking, and the other who arranged for a return to civilization a day early but could not go out for ice cream without scrutinizing the nutrition chart with her oldest daughter. (Newsflash: there is nothing low in calories or fat at the DQ. If you are looking for the item with the lowest caloric content, however, my mother-in-law found - and ate it: a pineapple sundae.)

The lowest point was when I had to carry a literally kicking and screaming Will from the beach to the car and then in to the house. That was made a thousand times worse by the sister-in-law who stared into the car at the screaming child and then refused to just go when I gestured to her, and the grandmother who kept asking Will if it was she who was crying, as I carried the snuffling child up the stairs, or the children who kept coming into the room to ask why she was crying, why?

That happened on the second day, and we learned. It's good to prepare a 2-year-old for your departure from the scene before you even get out of the car, in case you were wondering. And things got better.

Will had an amazing time "with all the cousins!" They ran and played, and I was comfortable - sometimes - with her even out of my sight. She loved being surrounded by her grandparents and aunts and uncles. She adored going to the beach. She was generally pleasant and friendly even with delayed naps and bedtimes, and it was so much fun hearing her talk to other people.

So. It turns out I'm not much of a cottage person. I'd like to come back from the beach to a room with a freshly made bed and clean towels.

But. I'm still very happy that we had this chance to be together.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Splish Splash

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Clearly, Will and I got a little wet today.

After running errands in zillion degree humidity (the first real humid days of this cold and wet summer), lunch and a nice nap, we decided to hit the splash pad. For the first 20 minutes it was great fun. Will even got doused with water from one of those swinging buckets and she loved it.

There was a dark cloud that started creeping closer, but it didn't seem like it would actually do anything. I even called my husband so he could stop by on his way to his evening clinic.

Well. Just as the first raindrops fell, Will decided she wanted to play on the equipment nearby. After climbing into (thankfully) the smaller kids' apparatus, it started to pour. Since she was already wet, I didn't really think much of it. Just a passing summer shower, so we played on.

Suddenly I saw Will's feet fly up in front of her and she was almost flying towards me down the slide. Luckily I caught her at the bottom of her slippery fall, and she was more frightened than injured. By the time she got calmed down, the rain had almost stopped and she wanted a swing.

Well. A few minutes into that swing and the skies just opened. The rain was pouring down in sheets, and there was thunder and lightening. We ran to the car and climbed into the front seat, watching the flood in front of us and laughing. We decided we get ourselves home - soaked though we were - and get ourselves warm and dry once we were there.

If the goal was to cool off with a little water fun, we definitely succeeded.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Phone message, painstakingly transcribed

Hi guys. This is just your neighbour next door. I just wanted to tell you I had hosed down your car yesterday. I didn't ask because you weren't there and I probably shouldn't have done it but I wanted to see if my tree or your tree and how much came on by the next morning. It was just a slight experiment. So I do apologize for not asking permission to hose off your car. But I wanted to see what the difference was between what went on my car and what went on your car. And which tree was doing the worst drop. Because it's real sticky stuff and it's never lasted this long before. It usually lasts a couple of days and it's gone, but it's been going on for about three weeks now. Anyway I hope I didn't offend you, I just wanted to make sure that, um, you know I did that little experiment so I could see which tree was the worst, and they are both the same. But I wanted to-- Anyway-- Thanks! Sorry to bother you. All right. Bye!

I'm not sure if this is better or worse than the time she let herself into our backyard to pick up our branches. Either way, I think it's spelled c.r.a.z.y.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Still my baby

Out for a walk after lunch, she tripped on a crack and skidded into the sidewalk. Wailing, she demanded that "Mama hold the me" so I scooped her up and she wrapped her arms and legs around me like a monkey.

At home, she cried over the antiseptic spray - "No poly! No poly!" - and kept crying even while declaring that "bandaid make boo-boo much better."

I sat on the edge of my bed and held her, and suddenly she found that spot on my shoulder that she loved as an infant. She curled up tight as a bug, still able to snuggle against me, despite her dangling limbs.

Her cries turned to gulps, then shudders as she drifted into sleep. I pushed myself back into a pile of pillows, and she burrowed even deeper into my chest. Slept.

The same weight of my baby, bigger now. My body still able to offer her comfort, help her drift into sleep.

I couldn't move. I didn't want to.

I wished someone was there to capture this moment in a photograph.

Squinting at our reflections in the closet mirrors, it looked almost the way I remembered.

Saturday, July 18, 2009


I just got back from an evening with my sisters. We went to see My Sister's Keeper and then to the Lone Star for the best fajitas in the world. I'm completely serious. There are not close to enough Lone Star restaurants in Ontario, and I had to drive an hour to get to this one. But always well worth it.

The movie itself was okay. That's not to say we didn't shed quite a few tears. The story itself is very sad, and raises a lot of interesting emotional and ethical issues. But the film was disjointed, and I didn't feel like we really got to see much character development or real interaction between the characters.

In fact, one of the most real scenes was a throw-away one in which aunts and uncles visit the very sick girl. She rarely sees these relatives, and yet they gather around her deathbed eating pizza and making ridiculous statements like (paraphrased): "Here is a book of healing meditations that I am sure will help you." "I saw a woman on a talk show who just told her cancer to get out! Go away! And strangely enough, it worked." "Promise me you won't give up."

It was easy for us to picture some of our family members in this role, showing up for an obligatory visit with an awkward hug and cliched words of encouragement.

Apart from the movie, and even the delicious fajitas, it was just good to spend time with my sisters. And it made me realize (even more) that this is something I want for my daughter.

When I think about having another child, I often think about it in terms of myself. Anxiety about how pregnancy and breastfeeding will take over my body, worry about how I will ever learn to manage two small people, abject fear over making it through the long sleepless night known as the first three months of infancy.

But it is different when I consider the issue from Will's perspective. I think about how valuable it would be for her to have someone to share this particular experience of growing up, this family. Someone who can be her ally against me (sniff) and her father. Someone who understands where she came from because he or she came from the same place.

Give her the chance to be someone's sister.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

This way and that way

We have been back from our trip for exactly a week today, but I'm still feeling pulled in a dozen different directions. Since I can't pull my thoughts together on one subject, here are a few of the things that have been bumping around in my head.

- My husband's cousin and his partner visited for a few days, and while they are fascinating to hang out with, they were continually getting so caught up in something that they lost complete track of time. Which fine, no problem, but we are hanging out with a 2-year-old here. I do not at all expect the world to revolve around my parenting schedule, but I do expect some awareness (especially from family guests) that spending the day with a child in tow requires some structure.

(And to be honest here, I ended up being the rude one, when my frustration over everyone taking so. bloody. long. got the best of me. Maybe I expect too much?)

- This 2-year-old thing? I'm starting to get why it has such a bad reputation. Will can go from chirpy and affectionate to raging hell-beast in 2.5 seconds. Seriously. And even more strange, she can go back the other way. One minute she is screaming over the wrong band-aid or replacing all of her language with a keening wail and then suddenly she is dancing "round and round" or asking me to watch her draw a picture on her easel.

- Another irritating toddler trait? Suddenly everything takes forever. Getting ready. Walking somewhere. Climbing into the car. Part of it is the obsessive need to follow every routine exactly. Then there's the distractibility factor. Will is a little like Dug in that movie Up: Here I am on my way from the bed to the dresser to get a diaper - SQUIRREL! Not to mention the fact that Will is now developing selective hearing, an exasperating experience all on its own.

So. I'm learning to make my way through this new terrain without losing my cool. But oh my god, it is difficult to ignore my own emotions and deal with Will calmly when itistimetogo-wearealreadylate-ohmygod-justletmebrushyourhairalready!

- I have a love/hate relationship Canadian reality TV. I am appalled at "Pressure Cooker," which was hyped as some sort of Top Chef Canada but is so terrible I can't even describe it. What type of cooking competition tells the audience the ingredients the chefs will use, but does not bother to tell us what they made with said ingredients? Maybe we would like to know what the judges are sampling? Not to mention the fact that the teams all used the same ingredients in different ways. Ridiculous.

As a former Broadway-wannabe, I love love love "Triple Sensation." The first episode I watched had the competitors participating in theatre master classes. Their classes with a beautiful 82-year-old dancer/choreographer (I cannot find her name anywhere!) were unbelievable. She was so limber and animated that it wasn't even disconcerting when she discussed feeling the song in one's "crotch and nipples."

- It was while watching "Triple Sensation" that I fell in love with the song "I Won't Mind." Based on the few lyrics in the episode, I thought it was about a young mother giving up her baby. With a little digging, I discovered that the character singing - Auntie Lizzie - is actually Ben Franklin's daughter-in-law, who has suffered a miscarriage and discovered she can never have children of her own.

Every time I listen to this song, I pretend I haven't teared up and I determine to be more patient with my own little girl. Because I really am so very lucky to have her in my life.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

In West Philadelphia, born and raised (okay, visited)

We are back from our trip, during which I drove everyone crazy by softly humming the theme from Rocky every time I thought of it, and my husband sang the intro to Fresh Prince every time we made it back to our friends' place in - you guessed it - West Philadelphia.

We also took a total of maybe eight pictures.

Based on my touristy pose in front of the Liberty Bell, that's probably a good thing.

As someone who needs her personal space, I was anxious about actually staying with our friends for three days. I have never liked staying overnight with other people. I hate the feeling that I have to be "on" all the time (even if it's not true) and I would much rather spend a wonderful day and evening with you and then retreat to a hotel, to meet you again in the morning, of course.

With the exception of the actual sleeping experience (I curse you, air mattress!) staying with our friends turned out to be just fine. I had forgotten that they are very much like me: no pressure to start sightseeing at the crack of dawn, lots of stops along the way for coffee and bathroom breaks, hours lingering over wine and good food. Good times.

It also helps that Will loves spending her own vacation with "Grammo and Papa." Every time I phoned - and I only forgot one night as we were rushing out to see a play - she would excitedly sum up her day in about three words and a vigourous goodbye. "Water! Aunt May-na! Purple! BYE!" "Pizza! Pony! Bouncy-thingie! BYE!"

She also learned how to jump, sing the entire alphabet song, and steadfastly refuse to do anything she doesn't want to do, although I'm hoping that last one is just a side effect of the transition back to normal life.

For the most part, though, it just feels right to be together and home. And if the testing is heightened, so is the cuteness. When her dad gave her a flower last night, I asked Will what she should say. Her answer? "Thank you. I love it."

It's good to be home.

Friday, July 3, 2009

To Grandmother's house we go

Today I'm taking Will to her grandparents' house for her annual vacation. We've been practicing the way I will call her every night on the phone.

Me: Hello? Who's there?

Will: Me!

Me: Hi Sweet-pea. Are you having fun at Gramma and Poppa's?

Will: Yeah.

Me: What have you been doing?

Will: Play in sandbox!

Me: And where do you sleep at night?

Will: In BIG Dora-ji bed!

(She always adds what sounds like the Indian endearment "ji" to Dora's name. Don't ask me.)

Me: In the big Dora bed?

Will: With Grammo!

Me: That sounds like fun! What are you eating?

Will: 'Moothies!

Me: That sounds delicious. Daddy and I are going to see you in a few days. Have fun with Gramma and Poppa. We love you!

Will: Bye!

While Will and the cats are visiting my parents, we are off on a road trip to Philadelphia. See you when we get back!

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Things I learned this weekend

1. Being stuck in a traffic jam that isn't moving at all makes me claustrophobic. As my sister put it, it makes you want to abandon the car and just start running up the highway to escape.

2. People who drive on the shoulder during a traffic jam, thereby impeding access for emergency vehicles, are fucking ridiculous. What if someone had a heart attack in your car, and the ambulance couldn't get to you because you were blocking the road with your sense of entitlement and deep held belief that you deserve to get in front of all of these other cars?

3. Blending up fresh herbs with some garlic, lemon juice and olive oil makes an amazing condiment. (Thanks to my BIL for that one.)

4. Even if one's toddler falls asleep late every. freaking. night. this does not mean you can delay her bedtime. Just no.

5. If you have insomnia, a little strip of melatonin is a wonderful thing. Unless you are going to be jarred awake every hour by a disoriented toddler. Just a warning.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Losing my "time out" virginity

I am a little giddy.

I put my child in time out for the first time ever tonight, and it actually worked.

She decided to yank my hair - which hurt - and I told her to stop. Then she yanked it again, and I started to yell (trying to restrain that impulse). Then she did it again. I looked her in the eye and threw down the gauntlet.

"If you pull my hair again you are going into time out."

Her eyes grew wide and she immediately said, "No." I'm not sure how she even knew about time out. We definitely haven't talked about it.

She stroked my hair and looked at me. I gave her a final warning. "Remember, if you pull my hair you are going into time out."

She waited, just a moment.


"Okay. You are going into time out."

This was a good one for me. I wasn't at all stressed or angry by the situation, and could handle Will crying and yelling "No! No time out!"

I pulled out a chair in the dining room and placed her on it. "You need to stay here for one minute." I walked away into the kitchen.

Of course she got off and ran to me.

I put her back on the chair. "You need to stay here. For one minute."

We did the back and forth dance a few more times. This was where I got a bit anxious. She was overtired and should have been in the tub. What if she never stayed on the chair?

Then on the sixth or seventh return, she stopped crying and sat.

I walked into the kitchen, turned away from her, and watched the clock. I could hear her mumbling "Mommy . . ." under her breath. After about a minute and a half, I went back to the chair and crouched in front of her. She gave me a big smile.

"Why did you have to sit in time out?"

"Pull Mama's hair."

"That's right. Are you going to pull anyone's hair again?"


"Good job."

She gave me a big hug.

I think I did a pretty good job myself.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

That's my girl

Sitting in the bathtub, she holds each of her three ducks under the water, letting them take a drink.

"Blue: Daddy duck. Yellow: Mama duck. Small: Baby duck."

The three crabs make up a similar family, but she inserts her name onto the baby crab.

Then she gets to the turtles.

"Daddy turtle. Daddy turtle. Baby turtle." She holds them up for me to see. "Two Daddy turtle."

Sounds right to me.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Still summer, despite the weather

So far, today has been the least summery day this week. But that didn't stop us from behaving as though the sun was shining and we were on our way to the beach (or at least a picnic).

I have come to the realization that a one-litre water bottle is too big for me. It makes me feel guilty when I don't finish it, and it is way too big to carry on our excursions, so I end up without water when I really need it. So after music class, we headed to the outdoor store to get me a new Laken. Will has been loving her "happy monsters" Laken a lot, so we picked up a new green one for her too, with frogs on it.

Summer also requires a good hat, and now that Will has four (hopefully preventing us from being anywhere without one) I realized that I need at least one that I'm not embarrassed to wear. Surprisingly, my choice is a baseball cap (so much for the hair) from Life is Good that says "Hello Sunshine." Loved it and bought it, but couldn't quite justify wearing it out in the rain.

Then we drove through the rain to our local strawberry farm for a quart. Strawberries are my absolute favourite. (I still can't get over the year I actually missed the whole harvest. Seeing the fruit at the market without a chance to stop, and going the next week to realize that had been the last of them. Awful.)

Apparently Will has quite a taste for them too, since we ate almost half the container on the ride home, sun nowhere to be found, singing along to a song about "sand in my sandals."

Being unable to resist eating fresh strawberries is one of the best things ever, and totally worth ruining a yellow t-shirt because you need "another one." Pleeeeeeze?

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

One, two, three . . . shake!

For a long time, Will would only count to "two."

Then she suddenly started counting to "five," then "six," and if you gave her "seven" she could get all the way to ten.

Now she's on some sort of a loop.

My favourite part is when she starts shaking her booty against the screen door. That's the way to count, baby.

Friday, June 12, 2009

And they weren't even ladybugs

After nap this afternoon, Will and I made a trip to the "pajama store," aka the new Carter's/Osh Kosh outlet on our side of the border.

The selection of PJs was a bit disappointing. I was hoping for more footless, one-piece jammies, but the summer stock for toddlers was purely tops and bottoms. The girls' pants also tended to be that slippery faux-satin material, so after choosing one pair with an apple motif we wandered over to the other side of the store.

An act which caused one of the sales associates to rush over in a panic.

My daughter had already spotted a pair covered in brightly coloured bugs (the shirt declared, "don't bug me!"), and we were trying to decide between a crocodile and a dinosaur when the clerk made it over.

"Um. Hi! Has she seen the ones . . . " She gestured to the girls' side of the store. "There are lots of pajamas over there. You know. Too."

"You mean on the girls' side?"

"Yes! The girls' side." She seemed relieved that I knew why she was upset. "She would probably like them. They are really cute."

Will, meanwhile, had chosen her favourite pair. "Crocodile! And bird! Yellow bird!"

"I think she likes these ones."

I almost bought a package of boys' briefs just to make her fear a little more for my child's gender identity, but thought it might be a bit much. Will liked the purple ones better, anyway.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

I wish I had a picture of this

Last night as I was puzzling over "The Real Housewives of New York," waiting to see how the women would respond to the presence of someone's husband at "girls' night," Will woke up. She has impeccable timing - waking up just as we are thinking about going to bed, but before we have managed to brush our teeth. Anyway.

My husband went up to try to comfort her as I tried to catch some of the dinner party drama. Will was having none of that. Her cries were pitiful, and when I went in to her room to help, she was pointing desperately at her eyes.

Usually, if her eyes are "itchy" I blow in them lightly and all is fine. But this time, she was pointing and crying for her "glassicals."

She loves her sunglasses, especially when it's "too bwight," but at this point it was midnight in a room lit only by a night light.

"Do you really want me to get your sunglasses?" I asked.

"Yes. Glassicals."

I found the sunglasses downstairs and brought them up to my snuffling daughter. She put them on and immediately calmed down. That's when I started laughing. The image of her sitting in her bed in pajamas and sunglasses was hilarious.

Kids are a real trip.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Will vs the Chicken

We visited Riverdale Farm this week and a good time was had by all. Will and her best friend were able to run free, while their moms got to catch up with our old friend and boss from our days working at the CNE (but that's another story).

Will also had her first close encounter with a free-range chicken.

Oh look! A chicken!

Do you see me? Beside this bird!?

Come back!

Where are you going?

I think the chicken is "all done."

Mom! I'm all done too.