Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Scenes from a life

Before I became a parent, back when I wanted desperately to be a parent, I would play movies in my head. I would run scenes of how it would be, of the things I would do with my child, of the joy we would share.

One of the most enduring scenes in my head involved raking leaves. It would be a brilliant, fall day, warm and sunny. I would be happily raking and indulgently chiding my mischievous ragamuffin as he frolicked alongside me.

When today dawned bright and sunny I started to think I just might find myself reliving that fantasy I had long held dear.

But it was not to be.

Yes, it was sunny and warm and thousands of leaves had fallen in our large, ravine yard.

But Graham was having none of it.

He didn't want to frolic. He wanted Mommy to carry him around and around the yard while he pointed at trees. When I finally tired of that and encouraged him to play the part I had envisioned for him, the tantrum began.

He cried. I raked and sang a little song.
He flailed. I playfully tossed a few leaves his way.
He screamed at my audacity. NO MAMA!

I tried to introduce him to his own rake so we could work together.

He was clearly insulted.

And so I gave up. I gave up on raking and I gave up on my fantasy of how it would be.

Because if there is one thing I have learned since having Graham, it's that parenting is never quite the way you imagine it will be.

There are wonderful moments. Many wonderful moments.

And there are tough moments. Moments that are tougher than anything you imagine.

All these moments, good and bad, present themselves when you least expect them. The joy sneaks up on you and floods your heart like a tidal wave from the clear blue sea. And the frustration steals the show when you feel sure the scene is set for a happy ending.

And in the end, you learn that ultimately you are destined to play only a supporting role in your child's life. You learn that not matter how the movie in your head plays out, you can never be the director of someone else's show.

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Monday, October 29, 2007

Love and delusion; keeping them alive

My husband, bless his dear wee soul, is convinced that his beloved wife is a dear, wee soul.

Emphasis on the wee.

Let me explain by saying that my husband often buys clothes for me. He has great taste and has picked out some really cool clothes. Clothes that I love. Stylish clothes.

Small clothes.

One of the reasons I love my husband is that he can walk into a clothing store, see a cutting-edge outfit designed for an emaciated Eastern European model and displayed on a size zero mannequin and think, without a sober second thought, My wife would really rock that outfit.


Check out the rest at Mommyblogstoronto...

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Friday, October 26, 2007

Seven random facts about me

They like me. They really like me.

Don Mills Diva was just last week initiated into a game of blogosphere tag when Laura over at Walking Lunatic Fringe said “You’re it” and challenged me to participate in my first meme by revealing seven random facts about myself.

Here goes:

1. I am essentially blind in my left eye. With my right eye closed I can see colours and vague shapes but that’s about it. When my right eye is open my brain disregards anything my left eye sees, because it is so weak. I have to be tested regularly by an ophthalmologist to maintain my pilot’s license but apparently my vision is actually very good because my right eye has compensated all my life and developed extraordinary super-powers.

2. I was proposed to while watching the sun rise over Machu Picchu in Peru. Rob and I camped and hiked the Inca Trail for four days through the Andes Mountains to reach the ancient city and shortly after arrival he sprung the ring he had been carrying in a secret compartment in his underwear (for real!)

3. I became the youngest-ever weekly columnist for the Haliburton County Echo about a week before my 13th birthday. They were advertising for someone to cover the community of Norland where I lived and I sent in some sample columns without telling them my age. I was hired and continued to write The Norland Natter until I left my hometown for university when I was 18.

4. I am a creature of routine. Big time. Every day must start with tea with milk and sugar. An hour later I have one coffee with four pieces of whole wheat melba toast with cream cheese. One hour and a half later I have one piece of fruit. And so it goes throughout the day. Do not, I repeat, do not mess with my routine.

5. I fully expect to live to at least 100 and that I will travel the world in my 80s and 90s. It is inconceivable to me that I won’t actually. My great-grandmother lived to 98. My grandma died at 93. She toured Europe, Asia, Australia and northern Africa in her 80s. I took her to Las Vegas for her 90th birthday where she stayed up 23 hours straight gambling. She rocked and I’m gonna too.

6. I have a mad crush on Jack White of the White Stripes. Don’t get me wrong, I adore my husband but if Jack were to come for me I’d have some very hard decisions to make. He’s massively talented, sexy and just really, really cool. I actually got a cup of beer thrown at me when I tried to sneak closer to the stage at one of his concerts a few years ago. I was seven and a half months pregnant. Boy did that guy feel like an ass when I turned around.

7. I was the organizer of the first-ever Terry Fox run in the State of Arizona. It was 1995 and I was living in Phoenix with an ex-boyfriend who was playing trumpet in a ska band. I was working as a nanny and freelancing for the Arizona Republic interviewing visiting Canadian bands and covering the snow bird beat. I advertised for volunteers to help and a lovely woman named Wanda showed up. Turns out she was married to Todd MacFarlane who’s massively famous for this. He came to the run and caused a sensation. Anyway, we ended up raising several hundred dollars for the Arizona Cancer Centre in Tucson.

So there you have it – seven random facts about me.

Hey Erica over at Ericacake – you’re it!

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Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Sadness, part two

I did something last night and I can’t stop thinking about it.

I hit Graham.

Slapped actually. I would like to say swatted, but in my heart of hearts I know it was more than a swat. It was a slap. A firm one.

Let me set the stage.

Graham napped little yesterday. He had his first meltdown in the car on the way home from his babysitter’s. He was still raging nearly an hour later. I offered him a drink. Some bread and peanut butter. I got his blanket. Put on his favorite music. Attempted to cuddle him and play blocks with him.

He screamed in my ear. Flailed. Threw his toys at me. Slapped me.

I spoke to him in soothing tones. I put him on the naughty step for a time out. Twice.

Eventually the whining became at least intermittent. He started to play. I sat on the floor and arranged my legs as a tunnel (his favorite) and he crawled under them. I felt a shooting pain in my thigh. He bit me. Hard.

Harder than he had ever bitten me before.

I was, I think, remarkably calm. I swiftly got down to his level, held his chin and looked directly into his eyes. “NO BITING.” I carried him firmly, but not roughly, and placed him on the step in the other room.

I walked away and zipped off my corduroy jeans. A throbbing inch-long welt was already turning nasty shades of black and purple. I wiped away a single drop of blood and applied some polysporin.

I took a few minutes. I needed them.

I collected him. He was apprehensive, but otherwise nonplussed. I showed him the welt. “You hurt mommy. No biting. Biting hurts people.”

He smiled angelically at me, unsure. Regretful? Yes, I told myself. Regretful.

I picked him up. Kissed him. Hugged him. “No biting, Graham. No more biting. It hurts mommy.”

I picked up a book and settled with him on my lap. He started to whine. “Come on, Graham. Look, it’s Elmo.”


I felt his nail rip through the skin on my cheek. I felt a dark, hot flash of anger.

And I slapped him.

I slapped him pretty hard. On his leg. He was wearing track pants, but there was no doubt he felt a sting. He blinked in surprise. Burst into tears.

I gathered him in my arms, heart racing. I rubbed his back. “No hitting. You can’t hit.” I blinked back tears. What a hypocritical thing to say. “That’s hitting Graham. Hitting hurts. You see, it hurts. That’s why we don’t do it.” Stupid, stupid rationalization.

I have always thought that parents, loving parents who are thoughtful enough to ponder these things in the first place, worry too much about defining their position with regards to spanking. I have always felt entirely comfortable with my own philosophy.

I don’t believe striking children is an acceptable way to discipline them. I don’t think it’s very effective or creative and I absolutely believe parents should avoid it. But I also always figured that Graham would likely receive a few swats throughout his childhood, due to frustration and/ or anger. I was human. He would likely push my buttons. I would likely lose my temper. And I felt okay with that.

I have heard people say that if one is going to spank a child, it should never, ever be in anger and that seems absurd to me. A calm and calculated administration of physical punishment strikes me as far more disturbing than a quick, thoughtless smack delivered out of exasperation and frustration.

I think it can be good for a child to see a normally calm and collected parent lose their temper. Not to freak out and melt down, mind you, but to throw aside their practical, parental reserve and expose some raw emotion.

I remember being about 10 years old and being in a pissy mood with my mom, who is as quiet and non-confrontational as they come. She asked me (probably for the umpteenth time) to put away some books I left around and I responded in typical fashion; bitchy, insolent, thankless. I remember her hurling those books against the wall and shrieking at me in manner I didn’t know she was capable of.

I was struck dumb. The force of her anger punctured my thick, bubble of preteen self-absorption. For the first time ever I saw, really saw, the exhaustion and frustration in her eyes. It moved me and I have never forgotten it.

But then Graham is too young for my temper to provide any kind of a teaching moment, isn’t he? He is too young to be struck by the revelation of his mother as a human being.

He is too young to be struck.

And that’s why I can’t stop thinking about what I did last night.

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Monday, October 22, 2007

Regularly scheduled maintenance

It's so great to drive a brand-new car isn't it?

It roars to life at just the gentlest touch. It hums like a bird at any speed. You can be rough with it, neglectful even, and yet it drives with confidence.

Eventually the car will start to show its age a little. The engine gets louder, less graceful. It starts to lurch around, rather than hug, the corners. You start to notice bumps and thumps, tiny dents and scratches, that were never there before. You worry that things are starting to really break down.

One day you wake up and you realize your car is on its way to beater-hood. You can't afford a new one, so you vow to do all you can to stave off the inevitable. You slow down. You start changing the oil on a regular basis. You start taking those bumps and thumps seriously. It gets increasingly time-consuming and increasingly expensive.

And the most frustrating thing? Despite all your efforts, that car just doesn't feel like the sleek, little beauty you drove off the lot all those years ago.

Yup, I'm sure you figured it out less than halfway through that belaboured metaphor; I am that car.

Check out the rest over at Mommyblogstoronto

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Friday, October 19, 2007

Staking his territory

Last Christmas I bought a really cheap present for Graham.

It’s something he has never seen and never played with. It’s something he may never see or ever play with.

It will cost me about $10 a year for, well, pretty much ever, but I still consider it one of the best investments I’ve ever made.

Last Christmas I bought Graham his domain name. Most of you probably know what that means. For those who don’t, let me explain by saying that I now own the rights to www.grahamlastname.com . (I am avoiding spelling out his actual last name for privacy reasons).

I didn’t buy it because I wanted to be cutting edge or to give my son a leg up in the rat race circa 2030. (Though if the purchase does make me cooler and Graham more employable, then bring it on!)

I bought it because for all I know, there is a budding porn star out there who happens to have the very same name as my son.

Everyone knows that along with all the wonderful stuff on the internet (like this site for example) there is a whole boatload of crazy shit out there. Who among us hasn’t inadvertently done a Google search for some innocuous item/ person/ business only to fall down the rabbit hole into some bizarre world we didn’t even know existed?

I once stumbled across a whole community of people who swore by the health benefits of drinking their own urine. I surfed for an hour, slack-jawed at photos of normal-looking people smiling and hoisting their glasses. As repulsed as I was, I just could not seem to look away.

But I digress.

The world is changing so much. My parents bought me a top-of-the-line typewriter as a going away gift when I left for journalism school; I was handing assignments in on disc by my second semester. Little more than a decade ago e-mail was virtually unheard of and internet use largely the purview of people working in the computer field; now even little, old me has three e-mail addresses and a web site.

It seems quite possible that personal web sites (for social or business-related purposes) may well be the norm by the time Graham is old enough to care about that sort of thing. It just seemed like a good idea to reserve his spot in the brave, new world before some urine-drinking, porn star beats him to it.

And for Christmas this year? I’m toying with the idea of www.Dr.Grahamlastname.com.

What about you?

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Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Joining the ranks of motherhood

I have never been a joiner.

I skipped prenatal classes because I just knew I would end up being the snarky one in the back rolling my eyes instead of practicing my breathing and making wisecracks no one else found funny.

I can’t help it. I get really irritable when confronted by group mentality. Then I get sarcastic. Then people start to think I’m an asshole. And they’re usually right.

So even though everyone told me I should join a mom’s group after Graham was born, I was really reluctant. It just seemed cliché and kinda lame.

But I did feel a little lonely in those early days. Rob was working a lot. Graham was slow to gain weight the first few months of his life and there was some question of whether he had neurological problems. I was reading baby books and parenting web sites obsessively, praying his development was on target.

Wondering if he was normal.

Wondering if I was.

Then I chatted with a girl on this web site forum who seemed pretty cool. She was in Toronto. She and a bunch of new moms got together for coffee on a weekly basis. Did I want to join them?

I said okay. I immediately regretted it. A few days later, on my way out the door Rob cast a mock-disapproving eye on my pink, stiletto ankle boots: “You better not wear those.”

He was kidding. I changed anyway.

I didn’t know what to expect that day more than 20 months ago when I walked into that Riverdale coffee shop and sat down with the already established Cool East End Mommies group. I didn’t dare hope I would find friends there.

But I did. And more than that I found reflections of myself; I found women who were mostly confident, but still unsure if they were doing everything right, women who were hip, but not exactly sure how to wear the mommy label. I found women who were fun, interesting and most importantly, accepting.

I started to go on a regular basis and every week the Cool East End Mommies, this group I was initially so loath to join, gave me what I sought and then some.

I found other moms who had the same concerns and fears that I did. I found the confidence to trust my instincts. I found the things I improvised with Graham, the tricks I had learned, had real value. I learned that my birth story was just as unique as the next woman’s. I found that my anger at how it played out was valid.

And I found that this new person who had been evolving since Graham’s birth, this clothes-crazy writer/ pilot /wisearse/ mom was doing just fine. She was okay.

She was okay.

Graham was okay too and together with the Cool East End Mommies we had one of the best years of my life.

We had picnics in the park.

We went to Toronto Island. To the splash park. To the local drop-in, To the zoo.

I hosted two mom and baby pool parties where we drank sangria, and complimented each other’s bathing suits. We had girls’ nights out where we sipped wine and gossiped. Some of the girls brought their husbands to our big house party last summer .

What I found that day when I walked into that Riverdale coffee shop was something I didn’t even know I was looking for. I found people who could bear witness to the new person I was becoming. People in the middle of their own evolutions who could say convincingly, I get it. I get the worry. I get the fatigue. I get the down days. I get the confusion.

I get the wonder. I get the joy.

What I found that day was friends who I believe will be with me for years and years to come.

The Cool East End Mommies don’t really meet on a regular basis anymore. A lot of us have gone back to work. A few have moved away. Some have already had a second child and are impossibly pressed for time.

This past Sunday past we attempted a bit of a mini-reunion at the park but only a handful of people made it. Graham saw a few of his old friends but quite frankly didn’t seem all that impressed.

But I was. I saw just a few of my old friends and it was enough to set me to remembering those days, frozen in time, when together we discovered what it meant to join the ranks of motherhood.

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Monday, October 15, 2007

Doing my best: Blog Action Day

I have tried so hard to do my best by Graham

It hasn’t always been easy. Especially when he was an infant, the realization that almost every aspect of his day-to-day health and well-being was under my control was overwhelming.

But with love in my heart and a terrifying sense of responsibility on my shoulders, I dug in and vowed to consistently do the right thing for him.

I cleared his crib of possible SIDS risks like pillows and stuffed toys. I put him on his back to sleep. I put him on his tummy to play (even though he hated it). As he grew, I sacrificed whatever aesthetic appeal my home may have possessed in favour of area rugs, baby gates and corner covers.

I breastfed. I pumped. I swallowed healthy horse pills and squirted liquid vitamins into Graham's food with a tiny dropper. I bought, cooked and pureed organic veggies.

Up until just a few months ago I heated his bedtime bottles to just the right temperature to lure him into contented sleep.

And for that last act of love and concern, I will always feel guilty.

I feel guilty because, as it turns out, those plastic bottles I was glibly putting in the microwave contained Bisphenol A, a synthetic chemical compound classed by the Government of Canada as a hormone disrupter.

Bisphenol A is used in plastic food and beverage containers, plastic wrap and the resins that line metal cans for food. Even in low doses, it has been linked to permanent changes to the genital tract, increased prostate weight, low testosterone and prostate cells more sensitive to hormones and cancer hyperactivity.

And the chemical is much more likely to leach into food when it is heated.

It breaks my heart that I inadvertently exposed Graham to a potentially harmful chemical and it infuriates me that no one warned me about it. It makes me determined to force the people using this chemical in products destined for our precious, precious children to own up to its risks and provide safer alternatives .

The Canadian government has targeted Bisphenol A for further study, but there is already credible evidence of the impact of even low doses. That’s why I am posting about this today, as part of BlogHers Act Canada.

That’s why I implore you to never, ever heat food in contact with plastic.

And that’s why I am asking you to sign this petition to ban Bisphenol A and to visit this link for more information about it.

Because there are alternatives; we all know there are. Maybe those alternatives are more expensive. Probably those alternatives will throw a huge wrench into a profitable and well-established manufacturing protocol.

But I don’t care. My child is worth it. And so is yours.

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Thursday, October 11, 2007

What's in a name?

What's in a name? That which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet.

I’ve gotta say, I’m with Shakespeare on this one.

A Globe and Mail article earlier this week on the lengths parents will go to find the perfect name for their offspring leaves me bemused.

Bemused because I think parents who pay $99.95 for a 30-minute name consult (for real – you can’t make this stuff up!) are wasting their money on something that really doesn’t matter that much at all.

Now, I have to concede that there are a few names out there that you should definitely not bestow upon your bundle of joy, lest they cause lasting pain and irreparable harm. (paging Jason Lee, paging Jason Lee).

But for the most part, your child is going to grow into whatever name you give them and therefore define the name they are given, not the other way around.

Case in point: When I was about 16 years old, a girl my age who went to a neighboring school was the envy of me and most of my friends. With her black, cropped hair, sky-high cheekbones and huge, liquid-brown eyes, she was an exotic beauty the likes of which were not often seen in our neck of the woods.

Her name?


Now Helga may not be a name normally associated with stunning beauty, but for me that will always be its connotation.

Similarly, I have friends who have given their offspring monikers very different from ones I would ever consider. But as their children grow, it is impossible to imagine calling them by anything other than the name their parents chose. Just like the children, the names now seem impossibly lovely.

If I stop and think about it in a completely detached manner, I don’t actually like the names of most of the people I love the most.

And it just doesn’t matter, because I love them.

Choosing a name shouldn’t involve months of agonizing, meticulous research or a name consultant. If it does, parents may need to take a look at their expectations for the poor kid, as well as the level of control they expect to exert over him or her.

One of the baby name consultants actually told the Globe, "Some parents almost treat it like a brand decision. It's as if you're launching a little product out into the world."


I realize it’s easy for me to tell others not to give too much thought to their child’s name: it was pretty much a no-brainer for me. Graham is my maiden name and a fine name it is, so although I tossed out a few red herrings just for fun, I never really thought of naming him anything else.

I’m not sure which names I’ll consider if I have another child, but I’ll probably either name him or her after someone I love or someone who had a lasting, positive impact on me.

Or maybe I’ll just choose something that sounds nice.

What I won’t do is consciously choose a name designed to conjure up the qualities I hope the child will present to the world. That’s just asking for a karmic kick in the ass.

Nope. I am definitely not naming my baby girl Chastity.

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Wednesday, October 10, 2007

My Peeps

Yup, these are my peeps. My girls (and boys). The wind beneath my wings.

I love 'em all...

A Southern Fairytale
Adventures of the Reluctant Housewife
Around the Funny Farm
Badness Jones
Banada Blondie
Blithely Babbling
Blog This Mom
Cara Mama
Chasing Blue Sky
Chicken and Cheese
Classy Chaos
Enjoying Life One Juice Box at a Time
Every Day With The Kellys
Fertile Mertile
Frog and Toad Are Still Friends
From the Cheap Seats
Get In The Car
Girl's Gone Child
Great Walls of Baltimore
Growing A Life
Her Bad Mother
Hope for The Hopeless
I've Come Undone
Jobthingy's Jungle
Jogging In Cicrcles
Juggling Life
Just Another Mommy Blog
Just As I Am
Just Being John Michael
Kami's Khlopchyk
Keep Believing
Law School Sucks and So Do Lawyers
Life of Pie
Living and Loving Every Minute of It
Lords of The Manor
Magpie Musing
Mama Tulip
Memories and Musings
Metro Mama
Mighty Morphin' Mama
Mom Grind
Mommee and Her Boys
Mommy Wants Vodka
Mrs Paproth's Barn
One Strangely Lush Mother
Parent Club
Please Don't Put Those Beans Up Your Nose
Poetic Licence
Porters Ponderings
Ramblins of a Crazy Woman
Renaissance Mama
Rosebud and Papoosie Girl
Secret Agent Mama
Seeking Sanity
Seven Clown Circus
Someone Being Me
Something Baby Blue
Spinning Yellow
Suburban Sprawl
Taken With A Grain of Salt
Tales From the Dad Side
That's Life v 2.0
The Cheaty Monkey
The Daily Digress
The Gratton Grapevine
The Mental Pause Chronicles
This and That
Too Busy To Think
Tootise Farklepants
Transformed By Words
Tuesday Update
Two Hands Full
Walking Lunatic Fringe
Wherever Ewe Go, There Ewe Are
Writing The Waves of Motherhood

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Monday, October 8, 2007

Spreading the love

It's not easy being childless, when you have a parent who really wants you to have a child.

It sucks actually, especially if you really wish that you did have a child.

It hurts to be reminded of what you don't have. It makes you feel inadequate. It makes you defensive. It's easy to get a little pissed off about the whole thing.

I know I did.

It's my life, I thought. It's none of your business. You had your children. How could you possibly care that much whether I have a child?

But just as I wasn't prepared for the intensity of the love I feel for my child, I wasn't prepared for the intensity of the love my mom would feel for my child.

I knew she would love any child I bore, but I imagined that my becoming a mother would be mostly a relief for her; an end to worrying about when I would settle down, find my focus in life, conform.

I never really thought about the relationship she would develop with my son.

I never knew how much they would love to sit and read together.

Or just sit together.

And talk about their day.

I never had this child to make my mother happy. And I know that no one should ever, ever have a child to make someone else happy.

But wow.
Graham and mom together.
A heck of a side effect.

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Thursday, October 4, 2007

Just for starters

It’s so cliché, isn’t it, to be writing about giving thanks on the eve of the weekend that is all about giving thanks?

So I’m not going to go on and on. I’m just going to say I’m thankful I made it through a family trip to Ireland this spring with my marriage and sanity (barely) intact.

I’m thankful we spent half the summer at Toronto harbourfront.

And the other half at the lake.

I’m thankful I have a dad who makes the banjo look cool.

And a teenage nephew who thinks toddlers are cool.

I’m thankful for Rob’s brother’s cottage.

And my cousin Laura’s home karaoke machine.

I’m thankful I get to fly this beautiful machine.

And parent this beautiful boy.

I’m thankful.



Happy Thanksgiving everyone.

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Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Graham: 1, Mommy: 0, Mommy's delusions: dead

So I know that the way Graham looks, or more specifically, the clothes Graham wears do not necessarily reflect on me.

But damnit if I didn’t feel just a little bit smugly-pleased-with-myself when I laid out the credit card a few weeks ago for a $50 pair of Tommy Hilfiger overalls, size 2T. Sure, I got them for half price at Winners, but that’s not the point – my kid was going to be strutting around in designer clothes!

I’ve spent the late few weeks waiting for the weather to cool so I could dress him up and bask in the glow his hip duds were sure to reflect.

A few days ago when the thermometer dropped ever so slightly I hauled them out and put them on.

It didn’t go so well.

Graham whimpered. He pulled at the overalls. The whimpering accelerated into a full blown whine. He collapsed on the floor and rolled around, clawing at them as if possessed.

I tried to calm him. Look at your nice new clothes, I told him. Don’t you look nice?

The tantrum became full blown. My voice became more firm. Suck it up kid. Those are cool overalls ok? Sometimes you have to suffer for beauty a little bit, bucko.

Then I noticed something. The overalls weren’t sitting right. The buttons in the crotch area had popped and they seemed to be riding up in a most unsightly manner.

It did not look comfortable. At all.


So after being worn only once for less than an hour, the fancy designer overalls of which I was so proud are packed away.

Hopefully Graham will one day have a sibling who won’t mind suffering a little discomfort if it means mommy can coo over their cuteness; a sibling with a more innate sense of style.

Or at the very least a shorter torso.

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