Sunday, December 30, 2007

Awards, memes and spanking oh my!

Okay, there's no question that my new Christmas shoes are great.

But look what else I got last week!


It's The Royal Banana, awarded for general blog yumminess and bestowed by Rachel over at one of the yummiest blogs I know - A Southern Fairytale. If you are familiar with her site you know that this girl knows good blog. This is the second year she has scoured the internets for her favorites and I am beyond honoured that Don Mills Diva is one of two Canadians that made her short list. Thanks Rachel - you rock!

And in one of those coincidences that proves the internets is really just a happy little coffee clatch, another one of Rachel's favorites (and mine too) is the witty and raw Lotus over at Sarcastic Mom and last week she tagged me for this Questions About Your Week meme.

Here goes:

What did you accomplish?
I actually made it onto my stairmaster for 30 minutes the last three days in a row!

Did anything not go as expected?
Actually no - things went pretty much as I anticipated. Christmas week was really busy - a little stressful - but as always a time to really enjoy my family and reflect on how lucky I am that they are all remarkably loving and sane.

What was the highlight?
I wish I could say that it was Graham opening his presents, but at barely two he just wasn't all that excited about the whole concept. Am I allowed to say it was when I left Graham with Grandma for a few hours and daddy and I snuck off and hit the ski slopes on Boxing Day and the sun was out and we drank wine on the patio between runs? Am I a bad mom if I say that?

Did anything exciting happen you did not expect?
Uh - did you not see my Royal Banana Award?

I'm hereby tagging:

Metromama
Random Acts of Momness
Mighty Morphin' Mama

So anyway, on a more serious note I was also tagged by Buttermom - she of the Classy Chaos to reveal my approach to discipline when it comes to my child. Her own post on her brief flirtation with spanking is so touching and thought-provoking I'm sure it got a lot of people thinking. Here's what I think:

When it comes to spanking I think people think about it too much. I think if you take the time to consider whether spanking is a good or bad method of punishment for a child you're probably a good parent. Most parents I know debate spanking endlessly and the fact we are engaging in debate means we are striving to do best by our children. That striving, that care and consideration, is generally proof of loving and thoughtful parenting, whether or not spanking is used as a method of discipline.

I hit Graham a few months ago and the feelings I struggled with afterwards produced a post that some people described as my most poignant ever. I felt guilty. I felt angry. I turned myself inside and out in the aftermath before finally reaching the following conclusions:

1. I am a loving and conscientious mother
2. I don't think spanking is a good way to discipline children and it should be avoided
3. Being human, I will probably lose my temper periodically throughout Graham's childhood
4. That may sometimes result in a swat/ smack/ spanking
5. If it does I will try and use it as a teaching moment and move on

So there you have it - I'm sure this will not be the last time I revisit my feelings about spanking and discipline because, like you, I'm constantly striving to be the best parent I can be.

I would love to hear thoughts on spanking and discipline from:

Heidi at Viking Conquest / Family Adventure
Laura over at Walking Lunatic Fringe
My expectant mother friend over at A New Duck (I'm wondering if she's already articulated a philosophy before baby has even arrived)

Cheers!

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Friday, December 28, 2007

Slutty shoes and the spirit of Christmas

Every family has its unique holiday traditions; time-honored customs and rituals which mark the season and each year symbolize for its members the very spirit of whatever holiday they celebrate.

In some homes mothers and daughters trade Christmas recipes or craft ornaments. In my family, mom and I bond over the sacred, annual gifting of the slutty shoes.

If you want to check out the rest, click here and go to my column at Mommyblogstoronto - I got some good pictures over there!

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Thursday, December 27, 2007

Wonder who the car is for?

Everyone was pretty excited...

..but cousin Jordan couldn't even fit in it...



...and Cailey bulged out of it in a most unseemly manner...



...so no one was really surprised...

...that Graham was a perfect fit!

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Monday, December 24, 2007

From my house to yours...


Have a beautiful Christmas full of love and happiness.

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Saturday, December 22, 2007

Beauty secrets

It's great fun to go and travel and ski and eat and drink and enjoy the nightlife.

But it's even more fun when your heart, not just your belly, is full.

And that, I think, is what made my mini-vacation so wonderful. I have never before sat dressed to the nines, in an elegant bar in a faraway resort town, and smiled and tossed my hair and drank in the ambiance all the while thinking, I've got a secret.

You can't tell by looking at me, but it isn't the wine or the lights or the day on the slopes or even the admiring glance of my husband that is making me glow.

It's the love of my faraway little boy that flushes my cheeks and sparkles my eyes. And no matter how wonderful this all is (and it really, really is) I am smiling because I am thinking of how it will be when I open the door to my home and he rushes into my arms.

And you know what? Coming home was just as wonderful as I imagined going away would be.

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Thursday, December 20, 2007

I am so freaking relaxed

I have a glass of wine in my hand.

My legs are aching after a hard but wonderful day of skiing. I just returned from a stint in the hot tub and am heading out for dinner soon.

Just wanted to share:

The view from our front window.


A shot taken on the chair lift


DMD in action on the slopes.


I've called home three times so far, though I'm going to call again in about five minutes. Graham? Apparently he's a perfect angel when I'm not around, except for one small incident in the mall yesterday involving a bunch of balloons and a high speed chase.

Yes, that's right. I go away for four days and my two-year-old is the subject of a security take-down in Sears.

Oh well, they can't say I didn't warn them.

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Monday, December 17, 2007

Freedom 2007

I might already be out of the province by the time you read this.

I might already be drunk.

That’s because early Tuesday morning Rob and I are sneaking away to our rarely-used condo in Mont Tremblant, Quebec for fours days and three nights.

There will be skiing. There will be relaxing. There will be mangling of the French language. There will be eating (oh so much eating). There will be (we both dearly hope) reconnecting. There will be drinking (did I mention the drinking?) There will be sneaking into the fancy hotel next door and making use of its dreamy, heated outdoor pool.

There will not be Graham.

Graham is staying safely at home where Grandma and Oma will switch off on the cleaning, feeding and all-around doting duties.

I have left Graham overnight before a few times. I believe there is even photographic evidence involving me and a happy dance on my last Graham-free night at the end of the summer.

But this will be different. Four days. Three nights. It’s a short trip but a relatively long time without my boy. Small wonder that I have cooked up a storm in order to stock the kitchen with all his favorite foods and typed out two pages (single-spaced) of instructions regarding his routine, likes and dislikes.

Perhaps a more conscientious mother would feel anxious or guilty. But I don’t. Not a bit actually. I know he’s in wonderful hands and, truth be told, I’m more worried about neglecting this space and all my wonderful bloggy friends than I am about him.

So while I am taking my computer and will post a few photos during the week, I doubt I will be visiting any blogs in my feeder, as I think internet access comes with a long-distance bill on the mountain.

So check back for photos and I will catch up with all of you on the weekend. And wish me a happy, relaxing, stress-free mini-vacation.

Because I so need this.

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Sunday, December 16, 2007

Friday, December 14, 2007

Tears, fears and gratitude

I read something this week that made me cry.

Something that brought back the fear – the cold, cold fear – that Rob and I faced the first few months of Graham’s life.

It was this exquisitely written post over at Blithely Babbling and it made me cry because I have been there. I have clutched my sweet baby to my chest, blinked back hot tears and thought, Let us alone, he is perfect just the way he is, even as insidious tentacles of doubt slid over the edges of my heart and squeezed.

From the moment my water broke the circumstances of Graham’s birth proved that fate laughs at probabilities. When he finally arrived it was with an irregularly-shaped head which protruded markedly out the back – like a football. We were told it would probably resolve itself in a few days and that the anomaly was commonly referred to as a prominent occiput.

Except a prominent occiput isn’t that common, not really. Not even for babies who spend the whole time in utero in the frank breech position like he did. Or babies who lose more than a pound in the days after their birth and fail to regain their birth weight for almost a month like he did.

At Graham’s three-week check-up the midwife weighed him and then examined his skull with a grim expression. He was probably fine, she said, except…

Except that his prominent occiput was unresolved. Except that Graham wasn’t gaining weight like he should be. Except these things could be symptomatic of something bad. Something very bad.

He could be fine, she said. But if not - if not - I would need to learn to manage it as soon as possible.

I left in a cloudy haze of tears, clutching a referral for a pediatrician specializing in neurology and leaning on my mother who could only hiss indignantly: There is nothing wrong with this baby!

Oh how I wanted to believe her. We went home and I remember crawling into bed with Graham and sleeping for hours, waking only occasionally to nurse and weep, my tears falling one after another onto that dear, misshapen head.

The next few weeks were among the most difficult of my life. After swearing mom to secrecy, Rob and I decided not to tell anyone else in our family. It seemed selfish to burden others with our worry and we couldn’t imagine fielding questions when we could barely function under the weight of our own fear.

Graham thrived over the next few weeks. He smiled. He started to gain weight. I actually looked forward to our appointment with the specialist, sure that it would be our last.

But it wasn’t. Graham could be fine, the specialist said. Was probably fine even, except…

Except his prominent occiput was still very, very prominent. Except he was still very small. Except these things were sometimes, rarely but sometimes, symptomatic of a severe disability.

We were given an appointment for an exam at Toronto Sick Kid’s Hospital – one of the best in the world. I was sent home again to wait and worry and keep the blackness at bay the only way I knew how: by loving my baby ferociously and praying to every God in existence.

The next few weeks were spent in constant negotiations with fate: my heart and mind hourly brokering deals, making promises, swearing vows. I experimented with ways to cope. I remember wondering if I could distance myself, try not to love him so much in order to lessen my own anxiety. I remember being flooded with guilt just a moment later that I even considered trying to withhold my love when he so obviously needed it.

When Graham was two and a half months he was examined by a pediatric neurosurgeon at Sick Kids Hospital. In less than 10 minutes the doctor delivered his verdict: Graham had a funny-shaped head.

It’ll probably get better, he added casually, but if not he’s got great hair.

And just like that someone confirmed what my heart had been telling me all along – that my son was perfect.

I do not pretend to begin to know what it is like for other mothers who are denied the good news that their very soul longs to hear. I have only dipped a tiny toe in the swirling waters where daily, parents of special needs children must battle upstream.

But I like to think my experience has left me just a little bit more empathetic. And I like to believe it has left me just a little bit more grateful.

If that’s possible.

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Thursday, December 13, 2007

Wordless Wednesday

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas!


Yes, I know it's Thursday. It's the Christmas season: I'm behind on everything.

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Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Fighting my inner wimp

Motherhood is not for wimps.

And aging is not for sissies. Or something like that. You know what I mean. We’ve all heard variations of this sentiment many times and I admire the message: defiant, strong, and powerful.

I’m just not sure that I agree.

In fact, I think in my case aging, and maybe even motherhood, has made me more reticent, more cautious, more worried.

Wimpier.

And I don’t like it. Not one little bit. But I’m not exactly sure how to combat this steady loss of nerve, this diminishing of fire that I feel just as keenly as the aches and pains that now accompany the everyday exertions that once invigorated, rather than exhausted me.

I’m been thinking about this since last night when, at a pub night for this terrific group of writers, I struck up a conversation with this woman, a blogger I have long admired as funny, edgy and fearless.

She said that she had always been a huge horror movie fan, but right after her daughter was born she sat down to watch one and found it no longer appealing.

“I don’t know if it was because all of a sudden I had this little person that I was supposed to protect,” she said. “But it just didn’t seem as entertaining.”

I hear that. Horror movies lost their appeal for me even before I had Graham. Once I emerged from my teen-aged years and realized that there was enough real-life horror in the world, I no longer sought it out as entertainment.

And it’s not just horror movies that aren’t appealing anymore.

I used to think it would be thrilling to skydive one day. Now? I just don’t want to. Ever. I used to boldly traipse across the city from late night party to late night party. Last night I felt a little (just a tiny bit) nervous coming home on the subway by myself at midnight.

Maybe I worry about nothing. I fly small planes after all, something most people consider a rather gutsy endeavor. But I do worry. Because I know I have changed. I have softened. I have shrunk. I have retreated from that edge where I was once convinced the very best parts of me could be found.

What happened to that bold, confident young woman who itched to kick the world’s ass? Would she still exist if I hadn’t moved out of downtown? Hadn’t stayed for 11 years in the same job. Hadn’t gotten married? Hadn’t had a child?

I guess I’ll never know. Ultimately I do not regret my choices, even if each one has brought me closer to the very model of conformity I once disdained and further from the risk and excitement of my younger days.

I love my house and its large ravine lot. I love my job and the people I work with. I adore my husband and the freedom that his love has given me. My son is my heart.

But every once in a while I mourn the pure power, the fearlessness, that age and time seem to have stolen from me.

And on days like that – days like today - I know that I must, absolutely must, force myself outside my comfort zone more often.

Because life is not for wimps.

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Monday, December 10, 2007

The post where I eat humble pie

Dear everyone in the world who became a parent before me,

I just want to say that I’m sorry.

I’m sorry that I thought you were all hypochondriacs.

I’m sorry that I secretly suspected you were getting sick all the time largely because you let yourself get run down and out of shape when you had kids. I’m sorry that I smugly assumed that good eating habits and regular exercise would somehow grant me immunity from my child/ walking germ factory, who I now know is but a foot soldier in an international army bent on biological warfare.

I'm an idiot.

And if it makes you feel any better, I’m an idiot who has been sharing the same cold with my husband for nearly two weeks now.

Consider my ass well and truly kicked.

Sincerely,

Don Mills Diva

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Sunday, December 9, 2007

Learning to face the music

A few weeks ago I did something that would have mortified my teen-aged self.

I listed as one of my favorites, a song performed by a *gasp* country music group.

It was in this post in which I responded to a Crazy Eights meme by revealing eight songs I could listen to over and over. One of them: Landslide by the Dixie Chicks.

Now that might not seem like a shocking or mortifying admission to you, but for me it was a big deal indeed. It meant I was finally free of the notion that my social status and my very worth as a human being was inextricably linked to the genre of music to which I listened: yes, aging does have its advantages.

I grew up in a tiny village north of Toronto where many teenagers, including me, spent their formative years dreaming of bright lights and the big city. In our eyes, the more you disdained small town life, the more likely you were destined for something better. And in our small town country music ruled, therefore hatred of it was automatic and unwavering.

No matter where you grew up you'll probably agree that the genre of music you listened to during high school and the years following was a powerful way to establish your identity. Professing a love of a certain type of music and becoming knowledgable about it was like slipping on a pre-fabricated identity that clearly said to others: this is what I value, this is whom I am.

For a lot of high school I adopted a hyper-preppy persona in honour of a girl a few years older than me who I thought was the coolest thing to walk the planet. ( Echo and the Bunnymen or Orchestral Maneuvers in the Dark, anyone?). In my senior years, I became more comfortable in my own skin, settling into an image of myself as a rebel, rocker chick who naturally favored Led Zeppelin and Ozzy Osbourne.

When I set off for university I hit the road for a city five hours distant with a massive beat-up pickup truck and a finely-honed rocker babe persona. I blasted Guns and Roses and Metallica all the way there and my arrival caused a minor sensation among the girls I was rooming with.

Even into my 20s music continued to define me and the people I surrounded myself with. The coolest of the cool guys were always up on the hottest indie bands and their preferred mode of seduction was an invitation back to their place to hear the obscure Icelandic export they had excavated from some dingy, alternative record shop off Yonge Street.

I'm not exactly sure when the music itself started to become more important than what the music represented. I remember having a revelation about seven years ago when Rob and I crowded into a small downtown club during the North by North East music festival. It had been a while since we'd made an effort to check out the latest thing and I had it on good authority that the band playing that night had the hipster stamp of approval.

We had a few years on most of the brooding, street-wise crowd in the dark, smoke-filled room (yes, you could still smoke in bars back then) but I was flush with excitement and convinced we fit in just fine.

Until the music started.

A few minutes passed before we realized it wasn't a sound check we were hearing. When the singer started shrieking the third song in atonal Japanese we exchanged a long glance.

"Let's get the hell outta here," Rob said. "This is crap."

Ten-dollar cover charge be damned, we headed for the door where the oh-so-young and stylin' guy at the door smirked dismissively. Rob looked him right in the eye.

"Buddy," he said. "I know music. This is just crap."

As good as it felt to walk out that door, I felt a little sad later. I felt sad because I knew I was walking away from a crutch that I had relied on almost all my life. In saying that I was mature enough to discern whether I actually enjoyed the music the cool kids were listening to, I was walking away from that gloriously, youthful part of myself that would happily be swept up in the excitement of the next big thing.

I am now officially too old to be swept unthinkingly away by music or anything else just because I aspire to be the type of person associated with it.

In fact, very little can sweep me away these days - I'm too strong. I have roots and a foundation. Perspective. A unapologetic sense of what I like and what I don't.

I like the Dixie Chicks. I love the White Stripes. I also like Jamiriqui, Jimmy Buffet, Eminem, Stevie Wonder, Blink 182, Green Day, the Dance Hall Crashers and a hundred other great musicians and bands from every genre.

But I do not like atonal Japanese poseurs. That's just crap.

*Cross-posted in Shooting for Hip at Mommyblogstoronto. Have you checked out that site yet? It's got tons of great stuff. Go look. Go on - Git!*

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Thursday, December 6, 2007

Is doctor-kicking an Olympic sport yet?

You know the movie currently in theatres – Awake – about a man who is conscious during his surgery and hears that his doctors have a diabolical plot to murder him?

I’m thinking Graham snuck out to see that movie when I wasn’t paying attention.

How else to explain a doctor’s visit today that made this one seem like a veritable love-in? The boy obviously has a deep-seated mistrust (okay hatred) of doctors and I am starting to worry it may affect him being awarded that full scholarship to Harvard Medical School on which I’m counting.

But I digress.

Today was the day Graham saw an orthopedic specialist on account of his tendency to turn his toes inwards when he walks. Pigeon-toed he is and not just a little bit – a fact that endears him to me all the more (if that’s possible) but also makes me fret about his future as a potential target of playground bullies.

Well, after much (so, so much) screaming and crying and kicking the doctor in the head I was advised that his hips have a tendency to turn inwards (and therefore his legs and toes) and there is nothing we can do about it.

Nothing. Nada. Zip.

Okay, well, we can try and get him out of the habit of resting on his knees with his legs splayed out behind him (which I’m sad about because that pose is so very, very cute). And we can get him into skating and/ or skiing at an early age to help train him to keep his legs straight.

Also we can nag him about keeping his legs straight when he gets old enough for that kind of thing to be effective (exactly how old is that again?).

But there are no special shoes or exercises that will make a bit of difference apparently, so we are stuck hoping he’ll grow out of it and nagging him if he doesn’t.

And putting him in ski school. This, at least, is good news. Rob and I are avid skiers and we were wondering if this winter was too early to put Graham on skis.

Guess not.

Looks like Graham is going to get an early start on the slopes. And that’s a good thing – maybe an Olympic gold medal in skiing will cancel out a history of doctor-bashing on his Harvard med school application.

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Wednesday, December 5, 2007

The Face

This is the face of a boy coughing. With a cold.
A boy who has woken screaming throughout the night.
For the last three nights.

The face of a boy who feels sick. Angry and frustrated.



This is the face of a boy who today threw a temper tantrum to rival this one.
A boy who bit mommy. Hard. Again.
A boy who threw up on mommy. Twice.

And yet.

This is the face of a boy who makes my breath catch in my throat.
And reminds me of how fortunate I am to have had such a terrible day.



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Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Make mommy love, not war

Yes I am a mommy.

But I am not now, nor have I ever been, at war.

In fact, I’m not convinced that the much-ballyhooed Mommy Wars – which pit working moms against those who stay at home - even exist outside the pages of books, media and the minds of people I fear are secretly thrilled, titillated even, at the notion of women at each other’s throats.

So it was with great sadness that I read this post over at Girl’s Gone Child in which Rebecca Woolf - a writer I adore - says that becoming a mother has magnified her distrust of women ten-fold. The post doesn’t talk directly about the so-called Mommy Wars, but rather about their root cause; what she perceives to be the viscious tendency of women – particularly women in groups – to turn on and tear down other women.

Again, I am not now, nor have I ever been, at war with other women.

And even though I do not for one second doubt Rebecca’s sincerity, it just makes me sad and weary to hear perpetuated the stereotype that women are, at their core, jealous, manipulative, catty creatures who are all too eager to judge and betray each other.

That simply has not been my experience, especially not since I have become a mother.

Have I encountered bitchy women? Of course I have. Sometimes in the mirror. I have also encountered men who are sexist jerks, children who are precocious brats and old people who are cantankerous curmudgeons.

We have all at one time or another encountered every stereotype in existence, but does it not behoove us to resist the urge to let age-old stereotypes shape our views of specific groups of people?

I belong to a mom’s group that pretty much saved my sanity in the early days after Graham’s birth. And I am ashamed to say that I nearly blew off these women, these incredible women, because I was afraid of a stereotype that, quite frankly, has never even been personally demonstrated to me outside the halls of high school.

The women in this group include working, stay-at-home and work-from-home mothers and there has never been a hint of dissension among us based on our personal choices.

And it’s not just within my mom’s group that I have encountered strong, supportive and remarkable women.

I work in an overwhelmingly male-dominated field for a female boss who is whip-smart and widely respected. She has been a friend and a mentor and she has never failed to credit me for my small role in her success.

I have a mother-in-law who survived Nazi occupation, a mother who worked full-time and still went to the ends of the earth for her children and a dynamic, diverse gaggle of female cousins.

I have a large group of funny, brilliant, quirky female friends, some working, some not, some mothers, some not, who have always been there for me in good and bad times.

Every day on this blog and dozens of others I read positive, supportive comments from women who trip over themselves to relate similar experiences or at least politely empathize when they don’t agree with what has been written.

In the two years since Graham’s birth I have been the recipient of hundreds of shared smiles and knowing looks from women struggling with their own children. Discovering this sense of camaraderie has been a pleasant and unexpected side effect to motherhood.

I know I am fortunate to have so much female support in my life. Possibly I’ve been far more fortunate than most people. Perhaps your experiences have been different… darker.

But I will continue to feel that the best way to build a female support system is for women to take chances on each other and not let misogynistic stereotypes keep them apart.

Because becoming a mother has magnified my admiration of women ten-fold. It has demonstrated just how hard it is to be a woman: to balance work and family and self, all the while worrying that if you voice your needs or opinions too loudly, you’ll be labeled a bitch and become an unwitting conscript in the Mommy Wars.

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Sunday, December 2, 2007

Bringing the magic

You probably don’t give much thought to the people who work behind the scenes of your favorite films and television shows.

They are the men and women toiling in the shadows producing the magical sets, glorious costumes and brilliant special effects that light up the screen.

They style the hair and apply the dashing scars that make you swoon. They hang scaffolding and position lights to create the shadows that beguile you. They mic actors and record the dialogue that brings tears to your eyes. They drive trucks and hammer nails and paint flats and take care of a million small details that all come together for your pleasure and someone else’s glory.

This is the world in which my husband and I work. It is a freelance world often marked by back-breaking labour, impossible deadlines, uncertainty and frustration.

On Saturday these people; these drivers, carpenters, painters, labourers, electrics, grips, prop masters, set dressers, greens technicians, wardrobe stylists, hair dressers, makeup artists, special effects technicians, sound mixers, boom operators and script supervisors came together and produced a massive children’s Christmas party.

It was a luminous affair, this winter wonderland that rose out of a previously dark and barren studio. It was born of tireless work ethics, a strong sense of family and brilliant creative spirit.

And once again what these people created was magic. Only this time it was for the people who truly love and appreciate them the most.

Thanks guys.

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Friday, November 30, 2007

Bye bye NaBloPoMo (don't let the door hit your ass on the way out)

I am not going to pretend that it hasn't been hard.

It's been hard. It's been kind of a hard month in general.

There was the incident with the car. There was the incident with the other car. There was stress at work. A lot of stress at work

There was a birthday party that was perfectly lovely but an immense amount of work.

Did I mention that tomorrow is my work's annual children's Christmas Party? We're expecting about 400 people. We are taking 20,000 square feet of completely empty studio space and transforming it into a winter wonderland: lights, music, food, rides, decorations, arts and crafts, face painting, snow, gifts, a magician, elves, Santa. Did I mention I'm organizing that?

No - it has not been easy posting every single day during this National Blog Posting Month. But I did it. And I feel proud. I feel really proud of this. And this. And especially this.

And I feel excited about all the new readers I have gained, all the fantastic blogs I have discovered and all the cyber-friendships I have forged.

I will not be posting every single day from here on out, but I will be posting frequently - I am aiming for 5 days a week.

Thanks for reading. And thanks for pushing me to be a better writer.

NaBloPoMo 2008 here I come!

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Thursday, November 29, 2007

Pure cheese, with a side of love

It was baby shower time at work yesterday.

And it wasn’t just for the yummy Thai food that I enjoyed every minute of it.

The truth is I enjoy many of the corny rituals that some people disdain as hopelessly pass̩ or silly Рthe office birthday cakes, the wedding and baby showers replete with games and gag gifts and silly hats for the honoree.

And yes, I know these rituals can be awkward, sometimes downright cringe-worthy. More than once I have rolled my eyes and desperately tried to think cool thoughts as they unfolded. But regardless, I continue to believe that they are important, imperative even.

In a weird way I feel it is a testament to the human spirit that we force ourselves to push through the embarrassment and self-consciousness that accompanies these attempts, however lame, to acknowledge the milestones in the lives of our fellow human beings.

Because I think we need rituals. I know I need them and I would go as far as to say that the human race needs them and has needed them throughout the ages. Today more than ever, we need to celebrate together, even when we aren’t quite sure how and therefore fall back on traditions that seem old fashioned and anachronistic.

We need to even though it feels safer and easier to affect boredom and wrap ourselves in jaded hipster irony, which boiled down, is really just an excuse for distance.

I’ll deal with the cheese because it is inevitably served with care and concern. I will forever remember both my wedding preparations and my pregnancy as some of the best times of my life. I never got seriously irritated with people touching my belly or offering me advice or even asking questions that bordered on inappropriate. I felt connected to my fellow (wo)man like never before. I felt like people noticed me; that they cared about me. That they cared about my child.

One of my very favorite posts ever was about this co-worker’s pregnancy and how it has taken me back to my own journey two years ago. In the fall of 2005 I was blessed with three wonderful baby showers. There were cousins and doting aunts and childhood neighbors at one, co-workers with silly smiles hiding their packages from me at another and my best girlfriends at the third one where I was forced to wear a feather boa and a princess hat in a public restaurant.

And when I am old and grey, I will count those celebrations among my very fondest memories.

Even if a princess hat and a feather boa really isn’t my best look.


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Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Wordless Wednesday


What mommy resorts to when daddy vetoes a real faux-hawk.

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Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Even more celebrity madness

Just a few weeks back I wrote a piece about celebrities and addiction.

Today I am writing about my own addiction.

I have become addicted to a certain celebrity gossip site which shall not be named. You know the one. It’s run by that ubiquitous, pudgy blogger famed for photo-shopping nasty drawings and observations over photos and generally being the snarkiest snark that ever snarked.

At first his cheery pink site seemed like such fun. I like to think I got on the bandwagon earlier than most people and as such I felt a certain amount of pride in having discovered him.

And as someone who works in the industry he lampoons, I took no small delight in seeing him mercifully expose certain celebrities as the horrible human beings we all know they can be.

But somewhere along the line the worm turned.

I’m not sure if the content of his site has gotten nastier over the last few months or if the same old nastiness, piled upon itself day after day has culminated in something that suddenly seems inexplicably dark and sad.

Maybe it's his refusal to stop making fun of the children of his celebrity targets, given my recent and sincerely heartfelt musings on bullying.

Maybe it’s his continuing potshots at Brittany Spears who appeared to spiral into a full-blown mental-health collapse right on his gleeful cue.

Maybe it’s my own shame at hypocritically bemoaning our culture’s crass obsession with celebrities, while still making the crassest self-promoter of them all rich with my guilty, surreptitious clicking.

At any rate I think I’ve hit rock bottom.

I’m not having fun anymore. I don’t feel good about my participation anymore. A pastime that once seemed harmless, if edgy and entertaining, now just seems skanky.

And while I don’t delude myself that it’s going to be easy, I’m ready to kick the habit. I’ve even decided to redirect my clicking to my favorite blogs, when the urge to surf the dark side becomes overwhelming.

Who’s with me?

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Monday, November 26, 2007

Hot mama indeed

I think I'm a relatively hot mama.

Key word: relatively.

The older I get, the more I realize that attractiveness is all relative and that realization is what allows me to feel good about myself despite the fact that I will never, ever look as good in a bikini as I did 15 years ago.

There's lots of talk out there about how thin models are, how airbrushed they are...

They're young! They're so very young and I am not. And if you stick me with a group of 20-year-olds I'm gonna look like a hag and I know that and I'm okay with that.

Check out the rest at:

Mommyblogstoronto

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Sunday, November 25, 2007

Learning to fly

God, I love flying.

I love the freedom of soaring through the sky in a small plane: the power of the machine, vibrant and alive dancing on the wind.

I love that I am a pilot. A woman. And a pilot. A woman who can slap a float plane into submission, make it heel, even as the wind tugs and begs like a spoiled child.

It is in my blood this love of flying machines, passed from my father, but not from his – an Irish immigrant who thought planes the devil’s work.

I have already introduced my son to this love and it is my hope that he not take it for granted as I did in my youth

Flying was just something that my Dad did. As a teenager I flew with him only occasionally, indulging him, really. He would offer me the chance to try my hand at guiding the machine he revered, but I wasn’t interested. More interesting was the cache my Dad’s plane lent me with my friends and boyfriends. His lot was to show up at afternoon barbecues and take my friends flying. And afterwards I would kiss him brightly on the cheek and wave him off into the sunset.

My twenties were hard. I fell apart. I put myself back together. In the process I realized that learning to fly was inevitable


And, just like he had always been, Dad was there.

Few people without a pilot’s license truly appreciate how much work it takes to get your wings. Dad and I spent countless nights at the kitchen table studying air law, poring over maps, plotting practice journeys and calculating ground speed, weight and balance and fuel burn.

He was at the airport when I did my first solo flight. He praised my “decision-making” when I had to overshoot the runway on my first approach. He didn’t mention how the plane bounced three times when I finally landed it. A few months later when I failed to find the Burlington Airport during my first cross-country flight he confided he suspected the “bugger was hiding” on me.

After I became licensed on wheels I began my training on floats in earnest. Float flying was my Dad’s forte and it was a whole new, very difficult, ball game. Hour after hour, weekend after weekend, for months on end we did endless circuits.

At times the frustration was unbearable. I wanted to scream when once again upon landing Dad had to take the controls to prevent a stall 10 feet off the water.

And Dad did scream - more than once. “Power!” he would yell when I settled into a landing attitude too high above a glassy surface. “Rotate!” was the cry when I appeared to be heading into the water nose first.

He had to yell, I should explain. He always waited until the very last second to give me the opportunity to do everything myself, but any Dad who is willing to let his daughter get him get that close to a watery grave, needs to know that the necessary command to arrest the situation will be heard loud and clear.

Dad always felt bad about yelling anyway, especially after we were safely down and I assured him that I had been just about to add power or rotate, as the case may have been.

"I probably should have given you more time,” he would say. "I’m not a very good teacher."

But that’s where he was wrong. Dad taught me so much.

His unending confidence that the girl who nearly failed grade ten mathematics could master the physics of navigation taught me that nothing was out of my grasp.

His insistence on mastery through repetition taught me to slow down and discover patience that I never knew I had.

His ability to spot a moose at 500 feet taught me to never stop taking time to marvel at the world around me.

The older I get, the more I realize that some of the most poignant moments of my life have been spent crammed in the front seat of an airplane with my father. There are certain things that are easier to say while you’re navigating the winds, far above the minutiae of the world below. There are certain things that can be left unsaid, yet still somehow understood.

Flying, my Dad taught me, is like life.

It’s about striking a balance between freedom and caution. It’s about learning how to temper exhilaration with patience. It’s about hard work, discipline, thoughtfulness and respect. And it’s about those moments when you think your heart will burst from the sheer beauty and the wonder of what you see around you.

Thank you Dad, for teaching me how to fly.


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Saturday, November 24, 2007

Does this new blog design make me look fat?

Just kidding.

I'm pretty sure it makes me look fabulous. More fabulous than I deserve really. And it's all thanks to Sam at Temptation Designs (see button, bottom right sidebar).

Even though she's preggers and suffering severe morning sickness, she remained stalwart and gracious through a process that saw quite a bit of back and forth.

Ya, that diva moniker? It's funny 'cause it's true.

And now I have the site to match.

Thanks Sam.

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Friday, November 23, 2007

Fear and loathing

While I lamented the endless screaming that accompanied Graham’s trip to the doctor earlier this week, I neglected to mention one rather important outcome of the visit.

Graham has an appointment with a pediatric orthopedic specialist next month.

He has an appointment because he is pigeon-toed and by that I mean that his toes point in, causing his legs to flail out like little windmills when he walks and especially when he runs. And while that is a relatively common condition among two-year-olds, the doctor agreed that further scrutiny would be wise given that it is quite severe in his case.

He might grow out of it, but it’s best to get it looked at and see if it can be corrected before he gets older, she said. You don’t want other kids making fun of him.

Her words stopped me cold.

Making fun of him. Other kids. Making fun of my Graham.

It is terrifying, this thought that anyone could possibly reject the gifts my precious child offers. That anyone could diminish him just for being so wonderfully, uniquely himself.

Years ago a co-worker talked to me of his two teenage daughters. They are identical twins, but one was more outgoing and was thus considered prettier and more popular by their peers. They had come home from a dance in tears, he said, after the extroverted one informed her quieter sister that the young man she last danced with had made gagging faces behind her back to the amusement of the other kids.

I’d like to **@$#** kill that kid, he said. I’d like to rip his *%#@** face off.

I remember being surprised by his vehemence, by the rage in his face. But now that I’m a parent I understand it completely.

We will send our children out into the world and the world will sometimes be unkind – it is ever thus. But still, the idea that the apple of your eye, the heart of your heart, will be rejected or humiliated even, and that you are powerless to stop it, is sometimes too much to bear.

I imagine my Graham, running joyously out into the world with his dear, little legs flapping like windmills. I imagine his peers laughing and him stopping short, blinking in surprise to have been met with ridicule and derision.

And just the mere imagining of it produces a frustrated, impotent rage that gnaws at my chest like a demon possessed.

But in addition to my rage there is fear.

There is fear because despite having endured this and this, I’m afraid that the very hardest part of parenting still lies ahead.

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Thursday, November 22, 2007

Passages

No more Mama! he said.

And he grabbed the spoon.





And Mama clapped her hands in delight, but her heart swelled with bittersweet yearning for the little boy she fed dinner to yesterday.

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Wednesday, November 21, 2007

I don't know where he gets it

That screaming you heard this morning? Yeah, that was Graham at the doctor’s for his two-year-old check up.

Yup, it’s official. My boy’s got Daddy’s sleepy eyes and Oma’s adorable juggy ears.

And Mama’s Irish temper.

Obviously no child, or adult for that matter, really relishes a trip to the doctor. But few kids actually attempt a beat-down on the nurse while being weighed (fully clothed!).

I swear to God, I thought she was going to call security.

Things only got worse when the doctor actually got to examining him. I had to hold him down as he flailed wildly and screeched MAMA at the top of his lungs when she checked his heartbeat.

And when he actually had to get the needle for his Tuberculosis test?

Let’s just say there were a few people in the Ukraine who had to turn up their television sets.

I’ve already established this kid’s got a fire in his belly. I think I wrote quite eloquently (if naively) about purity of his emotion.

But whoa Nelly, I have caught a glimpse of the future and it looks like a big helping of work with a side of frustration.

Anyone else thinking military school?

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Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Hunting for meaning

Graham’s not the only one who got gifts on Saturday.

My dad showed up with the following goodies for my freezer: bass fillets, venison stewing meat, moose chops and wild boar steaks.

And I couldn’t be more thrilled or more proud.

I am thrilled because I love to cook and I especially love to cook with food I know is delicious, fresh and organic. I am proud because my father, an avid hunter and fisherman who has long preached the virtues of harvesting your own food, has finally found himself in vogue.

In 1991 I was working as a summer student at this newspaper when I wrote a scathing editorial lambasting meat-eaters who criticized hunters as hypocrites. It was cut out, laminated and hung for years at a store in my home town which sold ammunition, bait and tackle. I was 21 years old and full of self-righteous indignation at anyone who disparaged the rural cultures and traditions with which I was raised.

And while I am still quick to proclaim my love of small towns, these days people like my dad don’t need me or anyone else to defend them.

Today people are more concerned about the systemic cruelty in factory farming and its effect on the environment than they are about a person or group of people venturing into the woods to track and kill their dinner.

In fact, I think people like my father who have the skills, the stamina and, yes, the moral fortitude to hunt, kill and clean the food that lands on their kitchen table are more admired than reviled.

The environmental movement and the popularity of bombastic chefs like Mario Batali and Anthony Bourdain have forced people to start confronting the fact that eating animals is bloody business. Hunters have always known this, unlike some urbanites who only now seem to be waking up to the fact that their veal shanks were once baby cows.

My sister-in-law, the very portrait of an urban foodie, practically salivated when I shared some of the bounty with her. And when I told her that the deer providing the venison had been taken down with a bow and arrow, there was no mistaking the admiration in her eyes.

It felt good to see it. It felt good because I spent my teenage years with a bit of a chip on my shoulder. The community I grew up in was then, and is now, overrun with wealthy city folk on weekends and holidays and many times I chafed at their expectation of what kind of people lived there year round.

Even when I became an urbanite myself, I spent many a dinner party rallying against stereotypes of people who lived in rural areas and arguing that the perspective I gained growing up only enriched my understanding of society in general.

And so this weekend, when I savour my favorite venison stew, loving prepared from a recipe from the chi-chi Inn On The Twenty, I will reflect proudly on all of the gifts my rural upbringing has provided.

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Monday, November 19, 2007

NaBloPoMo - Day 19

Nineteen days in.

This National Blog Posting Month shiz is hard y'all.

It's been a real struggle to post something every day, but it has really forced me to push myself as a writer. I've come up with some stuff this month of which I'm proud. Really proud.

And...I've posted some stuff that isn't likely to get me on the short list for a Pulitzer anytime soon. (No need to link that!)

Give me some sugar readers, bloggers, fellow divas. Any ideas welcome. And, if you're on this crazy NaBloPoMo ride along with me, dish. How are things looking for you on this day 19?

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Sunday, November 18, 2007

I'm gonna make a memory

If you've been reading over the past few days you know that last week was an extremely trying one for me.

Though there were indeed moments when I felt my sanity was in doubt, I never considered not forging ahead with a 2nd birthday party for Graham yesterday.

When I was a kid my mom simply didn't believe in gifting me with a toy or an article of clothing for no reason. If I saw something I wanted, really wanted, it might possibly be bought and put away for one of the two most special occasions of the year; Christmas or my birthday.

Small wonder then that my birthday was so anticipated, so fraught with excitement. For me it was the culmination all of the year's longing and my parents always made sure it was special. I do not think I was a spoiled child by any means, especially by today's standards, but boy were my birthday parties something. I still remember them as the highlights of my childhood and I am committed to making those same memories for my Graham.

The party started late Saturday afternoon. Eighteen people gathered to celebrate, first in our pool which boasted water at 83 degrees just for the occasion.



A few hours later we moved upstairs to enjoy lasagna, curried lamb and salad before the birthday boy opened all his wonderful presents, only two of which (mega-blocks and twisty tunnels) were from mommy and daddy. I will happily spend my time and my labour to spoil Graham, but I'll save the debt for his Harvard tuition.

After the gifts came the cake, decorated with Graham's two favourite things: Elmo and a beach ball...

...both of which caused him to react just as I knew (hoped) he would.


Ya, it was a pretty good end to a pretty bad week. Look at that picture. Graham is covered in surgarey goo. There's a kid climbing over my head to get a better look at the cake. I've just been whacked with a noisemaker. And my face: oh yeah, I'm gonna make a memory, even if it kills me.

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Saturday, November 17, 2007

Birthday by numbers

83-degree-water in the pool.

18 people.

5,000 hours of preparation (maybe more)

4 pounds of curried lamb.

3 million presents (approximately)

2 lasagnas.

ONE heck of a second birthday party!

(pictures tomorrow - must SLEEP now!)

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Friday, November 16, 2007

Of celebrity moms and other madness

If you’re a gossip hound you probably heard this week that Marie Osmond’s 16-year-old son is currently in rehab for an undisclosed addiction.

Hell, you don’t even have to be a gossip hound to have heard this, so entrenched are the latest indiscretions of celebrities and their spawn in the so-called “mainstream media”.

But that’s a whole other post.

Anyhoo, this is what mommy dearest had to say about it: "My son, Michael, is an amazing young man, shown through his courage in facing his issues. As his mother, I couldn't be more proud of him."

To which I say: “Are you freaking kidding me?”

She couldn’t be more proud of him? Really?

See, if Graham goes to rehab at 16 and I feel compelled to release a statement to the international news media, I think it will go something like this: “My son, Graham, is a collossally screwed-up young man, shown through his inability to face his issues without abusing drugs and alcohol. As his mother, I couldn’t be more riddled with anger and guilt.”

But maybe that’s just me.

And maybe it’s just me, but I think that part of that young man’s problem is probably that he has been steeped in a culture that preaches it’s easier to say sorry later than it is to get permission in the first place.

I’m sick of seeing adulterers, criminals, abusers and drug addicts tearfully admitting their transgressions while Oprah and her ilk nod their heads sympathetically, strike up the applause and praise them for their courage in admitting their moral failings.

You know what takes real courage? Acting in a half-way moral fashion in the first place. Not cheating on your spouse when you need an ego boost. Not breaking the law when you think you can get away with it. Not succumbing to violent urges or drug and alcohol abuse when you crave a release or a quick emotional fix.

I have seen people struggle with addiction, real addiction, that for whatever reason seems to live like a parasite in the very core of their being. Few who seek recovery are inclined to do the press circuit. They are too busy putting their heads down and getting to the very difficult business of getting well.

Without the applause, without the compliments and without the praise which, incidentally, might be more effectively used to flatter people who have nothing they need to tearfully confess.


*********************************************************

Do I sound especially pissy today? I am. Remember this little $900 incident with my car? I had another bizarre and costly incident with the other car yesterday. Give. Me. Strength.

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Thursday, November 15, 2007

Crazy Eights!

It's getting downright bonkers around here, what with us bloggers scratching our heads and trying like mad to churn out daily posts during National Blog Posting Month.

That's why I'm happy as stink to have been handed a topic to write on by virtue of a tag from MommyK over at Great Walls of Baltimore.

It's called Crazy Eights my friends and it goes like this:

Eight Things I am Passionate About
1. My son
2. My marriage
3. Writing – it’s my gift and I ain’t too humble to say so
4. Flying
5. Red wine
6. Music
7. Travel – I have been saving to go back to Africa with Graham since I was 5 months pregnant
8. My extended family

Eight Things I Say Often
1. I don't give a care
2. Mommy loves you
3. It's no skin off my arse
4. Gentle with Horace (our cat)
5. I am so friggin' tired
6. For real!
7. Why is everyone such an idiot?
8. Is it too early to start drinking? (only half-jokingly)

Eight Books I've Read Recently
1. Infidel by Ayaan Hirsi Ali
2. The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini
3. Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts
4. Heat by Bill Buford
5. Frommers Travel Guide to Ireland
6. Why Mexicans Don't Drink Molsons by Andrea Mandel-Campbell (a great read written by one of my BFF!)
7. Lullabies for Little Criminals by Heather O'Neill
8. The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger (Hubby's currently working on the movie)

Eight Things I Want To Do Before I Die
1. Do non-profit work in the Third World
2. Help teach my son to fly an airplane
3. Design and build my own home
4. Spend the whole winter at our place in Mont Tremblant and ski every day
5. Learn to sew really well and make my own clothes
6. Hike the West Coast Trail on Vancouver Island
7. Perfect my French
8. Dance at my 50th wedding anniversary

Eight Songs I Can Listen To Over and Over
1. Better Together by Jack Johnson
2. Seven Nation Army by White Stripes
3. Landslide by Dixie Chicks
4. Miss You by Blink-182
5. Virtual Insanity by Jamiriqui
6. History Repeating Itself - Propellerheads
7. At Last - Etta James
8. In My Life - The Beatles

Eight Things That Attract Me To My Friends
1. Loyalty
2. Sense of humour
3. Sense of fun
4. Curiosity
5. Common sense (I don't deal well with flakes)
6. Smarts (or idiots)
7. Empathy
8. Tolerance (mostly for me)

Eight Things I Learned In The Past Year
1. Worry does not change outcomes (I'm working on it at least)
2. My son is a genius (for real!)
3. The Internet can bring people together
4. You get sick a lot more when you have a kid around
5. Cheese on rice crackers rocks when sprinkled with curry and microwaved for 20 seconds
6. Parenting is sometimes harder and sometimes easier than everyone says it is
7. My husband is still not ready to get a dog :(
8. The hand that rocks the cradle really does rule the world

You're next Laura, Karen, Mac and Cheese, Gabriella,and Kristen

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Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Falling for Joe

I have to confess: I have a new boyfriend and I'm crazy about him.

At first I wasn't so sure he was deserving of my passion. He's pretty cheap. Okay, really cheap. And he doesn't exactly hang with the cool crowd. Truthfully, I was a little embarrassed to be seen with him at first. I'm a diva - for gawd's sake!

But over the last few months I've really come to appreciate all of his wonderful qualities: he's stylish, accessible, unpretentious and, I must say, solidly built.

Check out the rest at:

Mommyblogstoronto

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Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Daddy's best boy

Daddy works long hours. Really long hours.

He wanted desperately to get home in time to kiss his boy goodnight on his birthday yesterday, but was stuck at work until after 10 p.m.

But being the wonderful daddy that he is and fully understanding his son's greatest obsession, he made sure there was a big surprise waiting for Graham when he woke up this morning.


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Monday, November 12, 2007

Two

Not an easy day today.

Marked by:

Work-related stress that I can't and won't get into here for these reasons AND a costly automobile repair that is an urgent priority seeing that my brakes completely and totally gave out when I attempted to stop at an intersection this afternoon.

Did I mention that today is Graham's second birthday?

This is what greeted me in the early morning gloom.


Perfection.

Wish I could have put it in my pocket and carried it around all day.

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Sunday, November 11, 2007

I remember

How do you remember something you have never experienced?

It’s a struggle isn’t it, to try and fully respect and appreciate the suffering inflicted by war? You hear stories and you try to imagine what it must have been like, but for the most part our lives are so comfortable, so bountiful, that the horrors of war seem like a distant passion play.

Like all of you, I have read about the impact of war in countless history books. I have proudly worn my red poppy every November. I have listened to pundits and veterans talk about their experiences.

But it was only in a Rome hotel room seven years ago that I truly heard, and began to understand, how war had shaped a person I love.

In the fall of 2000 a girlfriend and I visited Europe, along with my mother and the woman who would became my mother-in-law. Our destination was Prague by way of Vienna but we had a stop-over in Rome and spent a full day and night in the city.

After a red-eye flight and a day of exploration we found ourselves in a tiny hotel room with a view of St. Peter’s Basilica. Mom and I hunkered down in one room together, but we were jet-lagged and couldn’t sleep.

And so we talked for a while. About life, about family, about a million dreamy, inconsequential things. Then there was a knock at the door. It was my-mother-in-law. She couldn’t sleep either and had heard us talking. Could she join the conversation?

There is something about the darkness, I think, that frees people to speak of the things that are too raw, too fragile to withstand daylight’s glare. And so as the moonlight streamed across the ancient city’s rooftops and into our room, she talked.

It had been years since she had been in Rome, she said. Just being in Europe brought back memories.

My mother-in-law was five years old when German forces attacked the Netherlands. She lived in the capital De Hague throughout the Nazi occupation.

She remembered that they were always hungry. That they boiled and ate tulip bulbs to stave off starvation. There were no dogs and cats left in the city, but even as a little girl she knew better than to ask where they had gone.

They were always cold in the winter, she said. There was no heating fuel so they burned everything they could to stay warm. City residents would bicycle to the outskirts of the city to forage firewood but the Nazis would set up checkpoints and confiscate their findings when they returned to the city.

She chuckled remembering how she and her little friends would ride their bikes out beyond the checkpoints to warn people to take an alternate route. She remembers the Nazis discovering what they were doing and how she peddled furiously away on her little girl bike as gunshots rang out behind her.

It was probably four in the morning. We were mesmerized. Her voice was quiet, but strong with a lilting Dutch accent. I remember meeting my mother’s eyes across the room and seeing that she too, was crying. I remember bowing my head and not wanting to make a noise, lest it break the spell.

She told us about her brother Eugene who was in the resistance movement and how she felt so proud of him, but was riddled with anxiety for her mother, who could barely function, so terrified was she that Eugene would be caught. She remembered that he would return home occasionally with a precious block of cheese that all the neighbors would share.

She remembers the Nazi officers searching their home for her brother. They found him eventually, she said. He was sent to a concentration camp.

No one ever saw Eugene again but after the war one of his cellmates from the camp tracked down her family and knocked on their door. He presented her mother with a note Eugene wrote for her before he died.

Her mother died shortly afterwards, mostly of a broken heart.

My mother-in-law was ten.

Her father was never the same, she said. He remarried a woman who didn’t like her so she joined the air force as soon as she turned 18 and immigrated to Canada at the first possible opportunity a few years later.

Her remembrances, that surreal night in Rome, are something I will never forget. When I told Rob, he said I had learned more in that evening about his mother’s childhood than he had ever known. I am not surprised. Our parents are not like us. They do not value the constant self-analysis in which we indulge. Their hearts are strong because they protect them, they do not bear their souls for the quick fix of a sympathetic ear.

My mother-in-law today is a happy, vibrant woman. She plays competitive tennis at the provincial level. She is a superb gardener. She plays so energetically with Graham that the mere mention of her starts him shrieking and running about the room.

When they play and the rise and fall of their laughter echoes throughout our beautiful home, I wonder if she is struck by the incongruity between the childhood she had and the one Graham is experiencing.

Does she look into his eyes, so full of unbridled joy, and feel sorrow for the little girl whose childhood was marked by fear and hunger, loss and death? Or is Graham’s fearlessness, borne of absolute security, representative of the ultimate triumph of good over evil?

She must know that this child, this flesh of her flesh, will never fully understand what her childhood was like. She must know that none of her children or grandchildren will. It is a testament to her grace that she reads my musings here and isn’t disgusted by the pure self-indulgence of them. Small wonder that she only smiled bemusedly at this recent post in which I worried that I had somehow scarred Graham by administering a smack in response to what was clearly unacceptable behavior.

How do you remember something you have never experienced?

It’s not easy to take a step back and realize that most of choices we agonize over are pure luxuries, most of our worries as inconsequential as dandruff.

But when I find myself worrying about time or money, or feeling hurt or slighted or frustrated or uncertain, I take a step back and remember the stories my mother-in-law told me that night in Rome.

I remember.

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Saturday, November 10, 2007

Friday, November 9, 2007

For the betterment of supermarkets/ retail establishments the world over

Dear every supermarket/retail manager in the greater Toronto area,

Hello from Don Mills!

I’m one of your customers, or potential customers anyway, and I want you to know that I think you’re doing a great job. It’s not easy working retail, I know. I used to be waitress, which kinda sucked too, but at least I got tips. And free food.

Anyhoo, I’m writing today with a simple, heartfelt request that, if granted, would really make a world a better place for me and, I wager, other moms too.

I’d like you to lose the balloons.

You heard me: the balloons.

I know you think they’re a nifty way spruce up your displays, add some colour to the store - maybe draw people’s eyes to the items you’re looking to move.

But balloons make my life a living hell.

I have a toddler, you see. And don’t get me wrong, he’s a super little guy – a real live wire as they say (ha, ha), but he’s got a bit of a fixation with balloons.

Okay he’s obsessed. So obsessed I’m not even sure it’s normal. When we go into your store and he sees a balloon he gets all crazy, see. He starts out chanting under his breath, Ba-oon, ba-oon, and craning his neck to get a better look at them.

Then the chanting gets louder and I start to get nervous and I try and just grab what I need and get the heck out, but before I know it, the chanting has become screaming. So I head to the checkout, but by the time I get there he’s freaking out and crying and throwing himself in the general direction of the balloons.

And I try to hold him back and calm him down, but the guy ahead of me is paying in pennies or doubloons or something and my son has determined that he will self-destruct if he does not get a balloon. I get really flustered ‘cause everyone’s giving me that I-can’t-believe-you-are letting-your-child-act-like-that!-look. (Except for that one lady who always says Are you okay? so nicely it almost makes me feel worse because it’s so obvious that I am LOSING IT!)

So you can see my dilemma.

Now, sometimes one of the people working in your store takes pity on me and cuts down a balloon and gives it to my son. And that’s great, don’t get me wrong, but I worry it might make him think that driving mommy BAT-SHIT-CRAZY is the best way to get what you want. (Even if it is).

So anyway, if you could just refrain from displaying balloons in any way, shape or form anywhere in the vicinity of your supermarket/ retail outlet that would be great.

Thanks a lot.

Oh, and if you could maybe move the bins of apples, oranges and other roundish-type fruits and things to somewhere in the very back of the store, that would be great too.

Sincerely,

Don Mills Diva

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Thursday, November 8, 2007

Waiting for Graham - 2 years on

* In four days Graham will be two years old. Last night I stumbled across this long-forgotten essay I wrote exactly two years ago today. I have never published or shared it. Save the links I have added, it is unedited. Reading it today I am struck by how much has changed and yet how little. It seems like yesterday: the breathless anticipation, the fear, the excitement. And the love. Even before I kissed his sweet face, the love.*

November 8, 2005: I can’t be sure when he will decide to show his face.

He might thwart a daily routine I have planned or even violently rouse me from a peaceful sleep. Before he settles in I expect to experience anxiety, fear and unimaginable pain.

And yet Graham’s arrival is the most happily anticipated event of my life thus far.

I am currently pregnant with my first child. My due date is the day after tomorrow.

My baby is a boy, of this I am sure. A product of my generation and perhaps too accustomed to instant gratification, the thought of letting the sex be a surprise seemed too impossibly self-disciplined to consider. My husband and I have snuck a peek at every opportunity, even forking out for a 4-D colour ultrasound during which we marveled over our son’s long, thin features so much like his father’s.

We have decided to call him Graham. It’s my family name and a nod to the large, sprawling Irish-Canadian clan which eagerly awaits his appearance. He will carry his father’s middle and last names.

But there are other things of which I am not so sure: so many things.

I am a mass of contradictory emotions and I never know which one will surface at any given moment. Tears rise unbidden. Yesterday while sipping my morning tea I wept with joy imagining my mother reading Graham a bedtime story. Just a few nights earlier I glanced at my husband and an overwhelming wave of sadness and fear washed over me. Our marriage is so happy, our lifestyle so carefree. What if things are never fun again? What if family life sucks the life out of us? What if I, dressed to the nines, never again enjoy his appreciative glance as we head out for a night on the town?

Every day I pray that Graham will be healthy. That he will arrive chubby and pink with a lusty cry. I cannot consider anything else. Sometimes I push myself to think about what could go wrong, as a kind of exercise in mental strength and preparedness, but the knot of fear in my chest stops me cold. One can never prepare to face their worst nightmare. It is fruitless to try.

I have been off work for only a week but already time has started to stretch out endlessly. I feel lazy and languid. I putter. I sleep. I daydream. I wait.

I wonder what kind of a child my son will be, what kind of a man will he become?

Will he be serious, introverted and scientific? Will he be outgoing and dramatic?

Will he inherit the same passion for music his father has?

I imagine my husband and me, 20 years on, occupying an out-of-the-way table in a dingy pub when Graham performs his first gig. I can already feel my face flush with pride and picture his good-natured acquiescence when we insist on discreetly picking up the tab for a round of drinks for his friends.

Will he be nutty for airplanes like his mother and so many members of my family?

I imagine his bush pilot grandfather standing to applause when Graham, piloting his first commercial airline flight, introduces him as an inspiration to the other passengers.

I feel a little foolish exposing such fantasies to the light of day. It seems I am already a walking cliché. Although I’m not even a mom yet, I am already filled with hopes and dreams for my son.

And for me, I guess.

Already I sense that this will be the hardest part of parenting – separating the hopes and dreams I have for him from the hopes and dreams he has for himself.

I’ve heard it said that deciding to have a child is agreeing to let your heart walk around outside your body for the rest of your life. That sounds about right to me. I already know that it involves ceding power over much of your happiness, much of your destiny.

I know there are ways Graham could hurt me that I can barely now imagine. He might be contemptuous of my interests and pursuits. He might reject the values his grandparents hold dear. He might spend a lifetime clashing with my stubborn husband, never once recognizing the extraordinary kindness and sensitivity his father also possesses.

My son may break my heart in many ways, but I’m grateful I can’t foresee exactly how. There are things no parent is able to control. Our children will be who they will be.

My only job is to try my best. To be steadfast and firm, but also loving and patient. I may indulge in hopes and dreams, but I must also remain confident that Graham will direct the course of his own life, just as he will decide the time and nature of his arrival.

And so I wait.

I wait for Graham to reveal his dreams to me. I wait for the secrets of humankind to unfold through the joy and pain of parenting. I wait to learn things I don’t even realize I don’t yet know.

I wait to meet my son.

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