Monday, January 25, 2010

I have to record this, even if it is just one night

Something happened last night, something that hasn't happened since September 2007.

Will slept through the night. In her own bed. By herself.

She was about six months old when she stopped sleeping through the night, something she'd done since she was a couple of months old. We assumed it was a sleep regression, of course. And it was around that time that I (finally!) learned to breastfeed lying down, so Will would start out in her crib and invariably end up in our bed at some point in the night.

There was a brief period where we tried co-sleeping all night, but that didn't work for any of us. The middle of the night transition from crib to bed worked best. Then she got bigger, and started waking herself up in her crib, then kicking us all night in the bed. When she woke up in the night I tried to keep putting her back in the crib, but she took so long to fall asleep and I was too tired to do it over and over again.

I thought the move to a big (double) big-girl bed would give her the room she needed to get comfortable, but she continued to wake in the night. So around this time last year, the middle of the night transition became mine, as I stumbled into her room to comfort her, and always fell asleep. At least my back was no longer aching, bent over the crib (though it sometimes ached from clinging all night to tiny corner of her mattress). At least my husband could get the sleep he needed so he could work during the day (even if I could barely keep my eyes open).

Many nights, I didn't mind it. That is, if she didn't kick me all night or toss and turn. With my little girl snuggled up next to me, I often loved it.

Of course, it wasn't without a toll on me. In these two-plus years I have lost the ability to fall asleep effectively on my own. Nights that Will didn't wake until later in the night just left me half-awake and waiting, then groggy and grumpy the next morning. Last night I even opened her door at 3:30 am, confused and concerned, waking her up with the sound. In a whisper, I asked her if she wanted her door open or closed, and she told me to leave it open and then went back to sleep.

At just after eight I heard a familiar voice, not next to my ear, but coming from another room. "It's not dark out! The sun is out! Is it time to get up?"

It was nice to have a moment to myself, before walking down the hall to her room singing a song I haven't sung in almost two-and-a-half years.

"Good morning! Good morning! You slept the whole night through. Good morning! Good morning to you!"

Tuesday, January 19, 2010


In a strange turn of events, I am downstairs in the quiet of my house, freshly showered, enjoying a glass of wine.

Last night the child refused to go to bed. She did not accept her new (sweet) deal of reading or whatever quietly in her room, with the light on, until she is ready to fall asleep. Oh no. After bath and stories she decided to hit me, continuously, to see what I would do. What I did was put the gate up at the top of the stairs and ignore her. She waited it out, occasionally calling down: "Where are you guys?" or "Can I come downstairs now?" It was after 10:30 when my husband finally went up and directed her still half-awake body into her bed.

The news that my husband would be out tonight (and Thursday. and half of the evenings next week) was not welcome.

But after dinner she drew and played while I showered. Then we danced to the Glee soundtrack ("The loud ones, Mommy!") and I fed her some yogurt and raisin bread in an effort to stop her "I'm hungry" stalling technique. After bath and stories she hit me, again, and this time I shut her door. The door that she can easily open.

Instead she called for her Charlie and Sun (milk and water, named after favourite Hi-5 characters) and when I brought them in she was in her bed. She said goodnight, and has only called down once hoping for a second vitamin.

Kids are weird, but tonight I'm not complaining.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

How I am being defeated by the potty

When Will, at 18 months exactly, started pointing to the toilet and asking to sit on it, I went out and immediately bought a potty that was more her size. I figured that it would all just sort of happen. She was a little bit interested, the potty was there and offered, and eventually she would just decide it was time.

She's almost 3 now. And while I know this isn't even slightly out of the range of normal for potty learning, 3 has always been my "scary age" (like Carrie and Miranda in Sex and the City). As in, surely she cannot be more than 3 years old and still in diapers. Or pull ups. No way.

What is most frustrating is that all the pieces are there.

She wants to wear underwear. She wears underwear whenever she can.

Whenever we put the underwear on, she talks through the process that goes along with it: "When I have to pee or poo I will say, 'Mommy! Daddy! Take me to the potty!' And then I will pee or poo on the potty."

When I notice she has to go, I announce that it's time to try to use the potty. (I learned not to ask if she wants or needs to go. Ha.) She invariably either gets upset or angry or just insists she does. not. need. to. use. the. potty. Period.

Then she pees in her underwear. Or demands a diaper. Or puts on her own pull-up and then goes.

Case in point: As I was typing this post, Will called me upstairs because she was done her poop. She had a dry pull-up all morning, and when I insisted that we "try" to use the potty before nap, she very matter-of-factly told me that she would tell me when she needed to pee or poo on the potty. Self-directed. Perfect. So I left her to sleep and she crouched in the corner and then called me upstairs.

We have the cutest potty books available. She even changes the name of the girl in "The Princess in the Potty" to her own when we read it.

She knows and is excited about all the things she will be able to do when she uses the potty: Preschool! Regular school! Gymnastics by myself! Ballet!

I also know this is probably going to work out the same way her language development has. At this time last year, she was still barely speaking, and never on demand. She rarely made animal sounds. Some of her friends were referring to themselves by name and speaking in full sentences. But although I was anxious, I wasn't worried. Does that make sense? I could see her observing, constantly, and I knew she had a clear understanding of her world. She was just waiting until she was confident that she could speak the way she wanted.

Of course, when she did start speaking for real it was in complete and compound sentences, and now she never stops talking. (Unless she's singing. Or sleeping.)

I feel like this potty thing will be exactly the same. Will is waiting until she knows she has it right. And when she finally believes in herself enough to act, there will be no turning back.

But believing that doesn't seem to make me any less likely to rage, you know when you have to go and yet you won't do it why? why? why? At least in my head.

Then I say out loud, as if it doesn't matter to me either way, "Just let me know when you have to use the potty, okay?"

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

How's your day going?

Nap time today has been thwarted by the late-arriving and extended visit of our cleaning service. Yes, I know I keep saying that this is the last month I will pay them to do a mediocre job basically wiping everything down for a ridiculous amount of money. But I abhor cleaning and am afraid that letting them go will mean the house will never approach real cleanliness ever again. And I have no idea how to go about getting a good cleaning person, as no one my husband or I know in this city is willing to share any contacts with us. So. There's that.

At the moment Will is lounging on the futon I pulled out in the basement watching the end of Annie. When it's over I think we will gather ourselves and take a trip to the grocery store. Who knows when this sweet child will hit the wall, and my reinforcement is not arriving until sometime after dinner. We had better get out of the house for a bit in between, is all I'm saying.

If you hear the sound of an almost 3-year-old singing "Tomorrow" or "It's a Hard Knock Life" you can look our way. If she happens to sing, "I don't need anything but you, Mama-Jo" than the loss of a nap may be all but forgotten.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

I like cats

What can I say? I'm so happy that my daughter is developing a love of books so much like my own. But her ability to recite this entire story, especially the twenty-something cats by name and in order does freak me out a little bit.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Ten years have come and gone so fast, I might as well be dreaming

I'm not sure if those are the right words from that Oprah theme (how many years ago now?), but when I saw this idea over at Jayesel I thought it would be interesting to look back on the past ten years for myself.

2000: I finish teacher's college with a month-long internship I set up in Kingston, mainly so I can move in with my then-boyfriend (now husband) for the summer. I teach Writer's Craft for the month (using some of my creative writing training), then work as a tour guide for the Haunted Walk and as a coordinator for the Labour Day picnic. In September, I start my first teaching job in the infamous Jane-Finch corridor of Toronto. I work with an incredible department head who believes in my teaching ability even before I prove it to myself, and I discover that I really enjoy being an English teacher. Who knew?

2001: I continue teaching high school, and add a night course in composition at a local community college. The subject matter is boring (although it solidifies my own understanding of grammar and rhetoric) but I love working with older students who are responsible for their own learning (or not). My boyfriend is accepted into medical school-- in Albany, New York. We take a road trip out to Eastern Canada, which includes one full day of Anne of Green Gables craziness in PEI and several camp-outs, the last of which ends with me in tears and a quick retreat to a nearby motel. Yeah. I'm not much of a camper. My boyfriend moves to Albany a few days before the 9/11 attacks, and over the next few months is centred out for "random" car searches at the border and strangers calling him a terrorist. It makes for some interesting trips into the U.S. Around Christmas that year my boyfriend finally tells his mother that we are dating and serious. Our cultural/religious differences have kept us a secret from his family for years. Nothing comes of this revelation.

2002: More teaching. A lot of questions about the future of our relationship, now that it has been admitted to, but still not acknowledged. We officially get engaged in July, on a beach in eastern Ontario. I meet my future in-laws (who had wanted an arranged marriage for their son) for the first time as girlfriend/fiancee. While listening to my future father-in-law's concerns, focusing on how I'd fit in with the extended family, I may have agreed to sleep on the floor at big family gatherings, something I have not had to follow though on (thank god). We begin the process of planning a wedding that represents us: European and South Asian heritages, Muslim and Catholic religious backgrounds, food? service? clothes? how would we ever bring all of this together?

2003: So. The wedding. I will not convert, so agree to a "temporary" marriage available in Shia Islam (that's another post entirely) for 99 years. Our July wedding includes the signing of that contract, followed by a ceremony we have put together ourselves. Worried about the legality of the contract and the stress of bringing our families and friends together, we elope in May. We are legally married on the shore of Lake Ontario by a Unitarian minister, witnessed by my sister and my husband's best friend. We move to Albany in July and I am faced with some of the 9/11 fallout: I can get a NY state teaching certificate, but no visa to teach high school. Through a different visa, I am able to teach part-time at a community college in Schenectady. We adopt our first cat Pasha.

2004: Not a great year. I spend a lot of time alone, not working enough but not motivated to do anything else. I watch the entire Buffy the Vampire Slayer series. I become very attached to my cat and believe she prevented me from falling into a real depression.

2005: This is my husband's last year of medical school and we make the decision to move back to Canada for his residency. Our first choice is Toronto and he gets into the program at St. Joe's hospital. We rent the first floor of a beautiful old house in my favourite Toronto neighbourhood: Roncesvalles/High Park. I had (thankfully) only taken a leave-of-absence from my teaching job, so I go back to work at the same high school. I become the new head of the English department, but must also run the two-teacher Family Studies department. My first challenge involves one teacher's use of the department washing machine to do her own laundry. The drama here definitely merits a post of its own. We adopt our second cat, Oliver, who fits into the family easily as the pesky little brother.

2006: My husband decides to work for a month in Zimbabwe as an elective for his residency. As we finish booking the trip, I realize that this is my opportunity to do something I have always planned: travel to Europe. I spend weeks planning for the 5-week trip, researching and booking B&B rooms and activities I don't want to miss. Rick Steves is my constant companion. I fly into London in early July for my adventure: London, York, Stratford, Bath, Paris, Rome (via Nice), Florence, Venice, then a quick jaunt through Munich and Frankfurt to meet my Dad in Amsterdam and visit some relatives in the Dutch countryside. It is amazing. Oh, and I find out I'm pregnant while I'm in Paris. I don't tell my husband until I'm back in Canada, when he demands to know whether I got my period as we are turning into the parking lot at the Lone Star.

2007: My daughter is born on March 24 after a long labour and delivery. As we are adjusting to our new role as parents, my husband finishes his residency and we decide to move to a smaller community that is in real need of family doctors. In the fall, Will stops sleeping through the night (for what turns out to be forever) but we develop our own daytime routines: music class, mommy & me movies, swimming, library story time . . . I find myself enjoying this motherhood thing more than I had anticipated.

2008: We buy a beautiful old house in the neighbourhood I fell in love with when we first visited the city. I decide not to look for a new teaching job and stay home with Will for another year instead. As someone who had declared that I would be disappointed with myself if I didn't go back to work, this is a real change for me. We leave Will with my parents for a few days while we travel to Vancouver for a wedding. We all survive. I start this blog, and am happy to be doing some writing again.

2009: Will turns two (!) and goes from speaking occasional words and phrases to complete sentences, which has become non-stop talking and singing in the past couple of months. I embrace my role as her primary caregiver and constant companion (I am still a "half-way through the night" co-sleeper), but reject the notion that I'm any kind of a housekeeper, to my husband's chagrin. My husband and I travel twice without the child, taking a trip to Savannah and Charleston I have always imagined, and another to visit friends in Philadelphia. We also take a road trip with Will in tow, and she has not stopped asking when we are going back to visit her friend in New York City. We are learning that old houses need a lot of upgrades, and that just because a child is closing in on three does not mean she goes to sleep easily or sleeps through the night. But she will sleep better at some point in this next decade, right? Right?