Tuesday, April 29, 2008
Monday, April 28, 2008
I woke up yesterday morning with an aching butt.
And a thrilling sense of accomplishment.
It's not like that never happens anymore, but once you become a parent it just doesn't happen enough, you know?
Except for this week: this week I was on fire.
What's this all about? You're gonna have to skedaddle on over to my Shooting For Hip Column at Better Than a Playdate to find out. Or you could just click here. You know, if you don't feel like skedaddling.
Sunday, April 27, 2008
He was one of those big, boisterous, charming kids that you just know is going to be the big man on campus one day.
And he spotted Graham right away yesterday morning as we grabbed the necessities at the grocery store.
"Hello there!" he shouted with a beaming smile as he bounded over. "Hi, my name's Michael. What's your name?"
And Graham kind of half smiled and murmured before burying his face in my leg.
And I almost said, He's a little shy, but I bit my tongue, remembering all the wonderful advice about NOT LABELING that I received in response to this post.
So I just smiled and said, "His name is Graham. Nice to meet you Michael," as we turned into the next aisle.
"You know Graham," I said casually, a few moments later. "If you do want to talk to that boy, you can just say, "Hello there, my name is Graham.'"
He look at me gravely. I pulled a silly face. "Hello there, my name is Graham."
He shrugged. "No mama."
A few minutes later we met at the checkout, Graham and I and Micheal and his mother and a sister who appeared to be just a few years older.
"Hello there Graham," Michael bellowed. "Hi Graham, hi Graham!"
His sister chimed in. "Hi Graham, hi Graham!"
Graham smiled widely, but ducked to hide behind me as the children continued their greetings in sing-song unison.
"Hi Graham, hi Graham!"
"Keep it down guys," their mother finally chided. "The little boy is shy."
"Ya, Graham's shy. Leave the shy boy alone Michael," said the little girl.
And I smiled weakly but inside my heart sank because, as pleased as I might be with my resolution not to label Graham as shy, I hadn't really thought about how he might be affected by others who did.
Whatever. I shrugged it off and away we went.
But as we pulled out of the parking lot I heard something: something that brought tears to my eyes because it made me realize that this battle, if you can even call it a battle, wasn't and never will be, mine to win or lose.
I heard a soft voice in the back seat, earnest and steady, repeating a phrase over and over again with practiced determination.
"Hello there, my name is Graham. Hello there, my name is Graham."
Friday, April 25, 2008
Then get it back to its wrangler, dismantle the tripod and lights and get the kid in hair and makeup. Quick, big daddy, pack his tambourine and cap and throw him in the car: the Shiners are booked at the hotel down the street and he's not gonna stay this cute forever. Mama's got some s'ploiting to do!
Thursday, April 24, 2008
I’ve always been ahead of my time when it comes to writing.
And it has always made people mad.
Or maybe jealous, I’m not sure.
To wit, I was a 13-year-old eighth grader when I became the youngest-ever columnist at the Haliburton County Echo. I earned 25 cents per column inch writing the Norland Natter and covering the events, news and gossip in the small village where I lived.
And kids used to tease me.
“Nooorlaand Naaatter” I remember one boy in particular chanting. “You think you’re sooo special writing the Nooorland Naaatter!”
I didn’t care.
He didn’t get it. I knew that writing in a real newspaper was an accomplishment, something of which to be proud. Something that one day I was going to be glad I got in on early.
And besides, he was just a big bully.
These days I write a blog that I like to think of as a lifestyle column. I call it Don Mills Diva and I write it on the internet.
And the big bullies are still there, tearing me down for having the audacity to think of myself or my writing as sooo special.
Many of you know that I was one of the bloggers interviewed for Tuesday’s Globe and Mail article on the ethics of mommy blogging. Many of you have already contacted me to express your shock and outrage over the multitude of nasty comments posted to the on-line version of the article.
It’s okay: it really is.
It doesn’t bother me because I know I’m ahead of my time.
I do wonder if Erma Bombeck or Dave Barry have ever been accused of being cretins or zombified pimps. I doubt it. But I imagine that maybe when they first started writing about their family life in the public sphere people were scandalized that they dared to – as a brilliant, fellow, zombified pimp put it – lift the veil on the intricacies and intimacies of family life.
In my admittedly small way, I’m trying to do what those writers do. I have talked before about emulating their style, about using my daily experiences only as a jumping off point for essays and musings.
We've all had moments when we look at our children or our parents or our aging face in the mirror and feel inexplicably moved by the passage of time and the richness of our individual experience. This site is about giving a voice to those moments, about finding beauty and poignancy in the mundane.
I’m just doing it on the internet instead of in traditional media because it seems to me that all the most compelling writers these days are fleeing traditional media for the internet.
And I’ve done the newspaper thing – I’ve done it on and off for 25 years.
I wrote the Norland Natter until the week I left for university and, incidentally, or perhaps not so incidentally, my mother kept every one of my columns, carefully clipped and labeled, in a scrapbook she whipped out at the slightest provocation, to my great embarrassment and secret delight.
Yup, my mother did what every damn, wonderful mother since the beginning of time has done: she made me blush with the unabashed pride she took in my accomplishments and in me.
And that, too, is what I’m doing here for my son. Here, on the internet.
And to those who taunted that my son will need therapy to overcome his shame over my exploitation here, I say this:
Mental illness drives kids to therapy. Drug and alcohol abuse – their own or that of their parents – drives kids to therapy. Childhood rape, incest, abuse, neglect, instability and pain drives kids to therapy.
Exploitation? I don’t have the stomach to discuss the ways that children suffer exploitation on the internet. It sure as hell ain’t on this site.
Proud, loving and enthusiastic mothers, even ones who “over share” are not exploitive and they are not the reason why kids end up in therapy.
I am a proud, loving and enthusiastic mother. I am, and always will be Graham’s biggest, and most embarrassing, booster.
What is Don Mills Diva, what are any mommy or daddy blogs, if not love letters to our children? (Thank you k-girl for the term)
This site is my love letter to Graham, my gift to him.
And I imagine one day when he is a strapping young man or even an old and grey one, he will delight in opening this gift, reading through these archives and seeing his family history unfold before him.
He will read the letter I wrote to him the week before he was born. He will read of his parents’ great abiding love for each other and his mother’s affection for his grandmother. He will read of his Oma’s survival under the Nazis and his grandfather’s love of bush planes. He will read of the tears, the awe, the struggles, the wonder, the pain, the beauty and the joy that, daily, his presence brought to my life.
And the love. Oh my yes, the love.
And secure in that love, I believe that one day Graham will be damn proud that his mother was ahead of her time.
Tuesday, April 22, 2008
What do you do to try and motivate him? Graham’s babysitter asked me a few weeks back.
“The children were outside playing all afternoon and he just stood on the sidelines for two hours watching them.”
“Graham was too afraid to join in. He’s so shy.”
I am not afraid and I am not shy.
But for perhaps the first time, the image of my Graham, stuck on the sidelines as a result of insecurity and fear rendered me both speechless and scared.
Graham is not shy at home. Graham is a pistol at home. Our house is filled with his happy chatter, his shrieking laughter, his boundless energy.
But outside the confines of our home Graham is different. He clings to me. He buries his face in my leg when people first speak to him. He watches others intently, but seems disconcerted by groups of children that are large or loud or rowdy. He warms up to people slowly and on an individual level.
This is strange for me, being as I am, a bit of a loudmouth. As a child, shockingly enough, I had a tendency to be just a teensy bit bossy. As an adult, I am a big believer in the “fake it ‘til you make it” school of thought.
Not sure you can pull off that bikini? Stand up straight, suck in your stomach and act like you were made to wear it. Worried that everyone at the party is way cooler than you? Crack lots of one-liners and if anyone rolls their eyes, tell yourself it’s because they’re jealous of your quick wit.
It’s called confidence and long before Graham was born I figured out it is probably the single most important attribute a person can possess.
If you have confidence, the world is your oyster. If you believe that you can do something, you can. If you believe you have something to offer people, they will believe that too.
"Graham was too afraid to join in."
But Rob is not a shy adult. He’s never been the guy at the bar cracking wise and leading sing-a-longs, but he has strong opinions and he’s not afraid to speak his mind. He used to say to me “I don’t know how you ended up with me – girls like you usually get scooped up by the loud, flashy guys.”
I know what he means. It was several years before I looked past the loud, flashy guys and recognized the charms of the quieter, more thoughtful ones.
And I’m so glad that I did.
But I’m still scared.
I’m scared that the flashy guys, the loud guys will scoop away important prospects from my shy, precious boy.
I’m scared that wonderful women, potential lifelong friends and valuable business opportunities will pass him by because a lot of people these days don’t take the time to slow down and appreciate the strength and charm of a quieter, more introspective soul.
I can’t help but be scared that Graham may not fully experience all the awesome opportunities life has to offer because he may be too shy to seize them for himself
Monday, April 21, 2008
I'm not going to lie and try to convince you that I stuck to my Healthy Eating Challenge all last week.
You may call me a glutton, and indeed there is a photo of me cosying up to a block of cheese larger than my head which would certainly indicate that I am. But I am not a liar.
The week wasn't a total write off - Get the skinny in my latest column over at Better Than A Playdate!
Sunday, April 20, 2008
So we goofed around in the village Friday night...
And I skied in a t-shirt (in temps about 24 C, 75 F!) for the first time ever Saturday which was amazing, 'cept I forgot to apply sunscreen on my arms and spent last night sleepless and in agony with the Worst. Sunburn. Ever.
And we took this photo at dinner last night and I am aware that my dress is gaping and my overfed stomach is attempting a breakout. Can you blame it? We ate at a raclette restaurant which means they just bring you everything they find in the kitchen and you let the cheese melt on it and it's the Greatest. Thing. Ever.
And I think it was probably the very best time I have ever had at Mont Tremblant which is, literally, our second home (so I've been here a lot!)
BUT - the very best part of my weekend was opening the newspaper yesterday and reading this.
The story announces that the Canadian government is set to become the first in the world to ban the chemical Bisphenol-A, a proven hormone disruptor which is found in plastic baby bottles and the resin that lines the tin cans used to hold our food.
And the story says major retailers in Canada have already pulled products with Bisphenol-A off the shelves due to public demand.
Way back in October when I had been blogging for only a matter of weeks I wrote a rather impassioned piece on Bisphenol-A as part of Blog Action Day - a political movement which saw 15,000 bloggers reaching more than 12 million readers with their environmental concerns. In my neck of the woods BlogHers Act Canada concentrated its efforts on - you guessed it - banning Bisphenol-A!
Well we did it ladies and gentlemen - I believe Blog Action Day and BlogHers Act Canada put this issue on the front burner and directly influenced corporate and government policy with regards to a potentially hazardous chemical.
If you are reading this in the United States or the United Kingdom or Australia or anywhere else in the world, please follow my links, educate yourself about Bisphenol-A and find out where your government stands.
Because if we Canucks can do it, so can you: there is no force in the world greater than a mommy (or a daddy) blogger with a mission to keep their precious children safe.
We rock hard folks. We all do. Each and every one of us!
Friday, April 18, 2008
Thursday, April 17, 2008
If you could see where I am right now you'd think I'm crazy.
Because I've made no secret of how bitter this winter has been. I have cheered spring on its way like never before.
And also, Rob has that thing with his elbow...
So maybe I am crazy sitting here in our ski condo in Mont Tremblant, Quebec hoping that it cools down enough tonight to keep the snow hard packed for at least the first few hours tomorrow when Rob and I take to the slopes to try and squeeze in a bit of spring skiing.
We snuck off here before Christmas and we're here again - two getaways to book-end a season that ranks as one of the most difficult I have ever known.
Graham is at home being doted upon by Grandma and Oma and Mommy and Daddy are here doting on each other.
Oh, and Rob's physiotherapist has given her blessing for him to take a few runs as long as he is very cautious and DOES NOT FALL.
Wish him luck.
Wish us both luck as we search for the spring together.
Tuesday, April 15, 2008
I am a bit addicted to blogging.
Like most writers, I constantly mine my own life for writing material. I admit I am flirting with addiction because sometimes, in the midst of an everyday crisis or a funny moment or even a poignant one, I think, This is going to make a really good blog post.
But I don’t think I really have a problem.
I think Lenore Skenazy has a problem.
Lenore Skenazy is the writer for the New York Sun who was all over the media last week after she wrote this piece about her decision to let her nine-year-old son navigate his way home on the New York City subway by himself.
She thinks parents are way too over protective and that they need to let their children be more independent and I don’t disagree, though I do think leaving a nine-year-old child alone to fend for himself anywhere is nuts.
But that’s not what really grabbed me about her story and the resultant controversy.
What bothered me all week is the worry that Ms Skenazy slid all the way to the bottom of a slippery slope that could one day trip me up as well.
I have never put Graham in an unsafe situation because I think it would make for interesting reading and I never will. But I think all writers who document their experiences for public consumption run the risk of falling prey to the desire to give people something truly gripping to read.
I think Ms Skenazy feels passionately that children today are over-parented and she knows that this is a hot-button issue for many people. I think she is a savvy journalist who carefully considered how she could make a compelling statement that would focus a lot of media attention on the subject, spark controversy and ensure that her views would reach a large audience.
I think she gambled with her son’s safety because she knew it would make a hell of a story.
Last weekend Rob and I talked about taking Graham to the zoo this summer. I’m looking forward to it and during the discussion I heard myself say, "It’ll be great. I’ll take so many pictures - it’ll make such a cute blog post."
Not until Rob gave me a look did I realize that without even thinking I had considered whether an activity we all enjoy would also translate into something my readers could consume. In just a split second, I considered whether a normal family activity was worthy of documentation and thought about how I would do it.
Many times, I admit, I have thought about how much great material is sure to be generated as Graham grows and struggles to grapple with the world around him. And then I feel just a little guilty that I so obviously mine his life for writing material just as I have always mined my own.
I will not be letting Graham ride the subway in New York City or anywhere else when he is nine years old, no matter how many people would show up to read about it.
But I have pulled out a camera to capture a temper tantrum rather than deal with it straight away. I did get in a few shots of his discomfort in some designer overalls that I loved but knew didn’t fit him. And I am the one who took pains to point out what may one day make him a target for bullies.
And these things I fear, my friends, may well put me on the edge of the slippery slope that Ms Skenazy slithered down earlier this month.
Monday, April 14, 2008
Hip people eat dinner really late.
I don't know exactly who proclaimed this an edict, but I do know that my stubborn attempt to abide by it, even since becoming a mom, is probably the biggest reason why my exercise routine has fallen by the wayside and my weight is starting to creep upwards.
And there's nothing the least bit hip about that.
Cooking and eating is just another style indulgence for a lot of young marrieds. There's something so sensuous and decadent about dallying in the kitchen, sipping wine, preparing gourmet food and then enjoying the fruits of your labour at some ungodly hour, secure in the knowledge that you'll still be awake hours later to...ahem..work it off.
But indulgent style ain't exactly kid-friendly.
Check out the rest of this Shooting For Hip column over at Better Than A Playdate. Oh yeah baby: it used to be Mommyblogstoronto but now it's new and it's all sexed up and it RAWKS!
I promise. Go see.
Friday, April 11, 2008
I remember prom being kinda a big thing in high school.
I remember feeling stressed because, although I went every year, I was always asked last minute.
I remember feeling just a bit sad that I never once went with a date I was particularly interested in romantically.
I remember that a guy I was interested in, from another school, showed up at my house to take me for a motorcycle ride an hour before my senior prom date was due to arrive.
I remember hastily french-braiding my wind-blown hair with one minute to spare and not caring how it looked.
I remember thinking I was a cool rocker chick when my senior prom date and I smoked cigarettes and drank beer on a roof top across from the school/ prom venue and talked smack about the people arriving.
I remember he wore a white tuxedo and shoes and that when he moved in for the kill, I shot him a whithering glace and said, "It's not gonna happen." (Apparently I was a bitch)
I don't ever remember thinking that white nylons look good with black pumps.
I must have blacked that part out.
That's me on the left.
I wrote this post as part of Flashback Fridays: Prom Memories.
Check out some more memories from these participants:
All are welcome to join in and publish a post on this theme. Just copy the list of participants and add it to the bottom of your post. Don’t forget to add yourself!
Thursday, April 10, 2008
I love my blog.
I love your blog.
But I also really love my family and my work and my friends and my home and well… something’s gotta give.
I started blogging because I have always felt compelled to write: I did not know about the incredible community I would find in the blogosphere and how truly happy and grateful I would feel upon finding acceptance there.
The problem is I have been running myself slightly ragged trying to reciprocate all the wonderful love and support you have shown me.
Going forward you may notice that I am not commenting on your blogs as often as I have in the past. It doesn’t mean that I don’t appreciate you and that I am not reading - I will be reading - it just means that there are only enough hours in the day and I am finding it increasingly hard to carve out the time to actually write.
And I have to try and keep the writing as my priority.
Uh…I mean…after these guys.
I really hope you are not offended. When I do find myself with some spare hours I will be out there commenting my little heart out and trolling new blogs like a mad woman (oh how I love doing that!) and…uh…maybe actually picking up around the old homestead.
And speaking of housekeeping: it has been ages since I updated my blogroll down there in the left hand column. If you are not on it and you would like to be, please leave me a comment with your url and I’ll get things up to speed this weekend.
Thanks. Please keep reading and stay sexy.
Wednesday, April 9, 2008
Graham loves his babysitter.
She’s my mother-in-law’s best friend. She was at my wedding. She truly adores Graham and it’s obvious he feels the same way.
So it’s all the more frustrating and perplexing that getting him out the door in the mornings these days generally involves a full-blown temper tantrum.
They appear to have become a favorite sport for him. It starts with him turning away, laughing and making silly faces when I first approach with socks and shoes. But giggles and mock protests quickly escalate into full-blown power struggles involving crying, flailing, screaming, kicking and slapping. (On his part, of course, though I have to cop to some occasional screaming of my own).
When Graham is finally wrangled, red-faced and screeching, into his car seat, he’s usually barefoot and without a coat and I am usually close to tears.
Never mind that he generally starts cooing happily from the back seat within minutes, the tone for the day has been set.
And it’s a negative tone, an angry tone: a tone that makes me feel like a failure.
Anyone else feel like they’re losing the battle?
Monday, April 7, 2008
Rob and I dined with grace personified on Saturday.
We had dinner with Doreen and Keith, the parents of my late friend Julie. Since Julie’s death 13 years ago, we have made an annual tradition of dinner in her favorite restaurant on her birthday, though a monster snowstorm postponed our plans a few weeks this year.
Doreen and Keith represent everything I want to be, as well as everything I fear.
They have endured the death of their child and sometimes to be in their presence and to contemplate that is terrifying.
Because no one really talks about the fear that is born along with a baby. No one explains that once you have a child, you are condemned to live every single day with the cold, hard fear that you could one day lose that child. You push the fear away as best you can, of course, yet it is always there, lurking behind every happy moment, shading every hopeful thought.
Julie’s parents were forced to look that fear full in the face. They did not beat the odds, the odds beat them. I have written about the role I believe luck plays in the health and well-being of our children: I feel guilt-ridden sometimes celebrating my good luck knowing that theirs has been so unspeakably bad.
And yet Doreen and Keith have shown me that it is possible to endure the death of a child and to do so with grace, dignity and an appreciation for the beauty and pleasure that life can still offer.
They have traveled the world, separately and apart. Doreen has visited Nepal and listened to the Dali Lama speak in India. Keith has crazy stories about business dealings in China and the Middle East. They have white-water rafted down the Kannanaskis River in the Rockies and searched out the best crème brule in Paris.
They regularly entertain a wide circle of friends from all walks of life. They speak passionately of politics and social ills and human rights. They are compassionate and articulate and interesting and funny.
Doreen and Keith know more about pain and loss than most of us can imagine, but they have never once struck me as bitter. They seem to have taken their private anguish and used it as a means to strengthen their connection with, and empathy for, others.
The more time I spend with Doreen and Keith, the more I understand how it came to be that Julie was such a remarkable person. And as each year passes and my friendship with her parents grows deeper, I imagine that Julie has orchestrated our dependence on each other, watching and making sure that we each provide the other with what we all need most in her absence.
To Doreen and Keith, I imagine I provide a link to their daughter and a fresh perspective on her life.
To me, they provide proof positive that even the manifestation of someone’s worst fear is no match for the magnificence and the resilience of the human spirit.
Sunday, April 6, 2008
Friday, April 4, 2008
I miss my mom.
I apologize in advance to those of you whose mothers are not alive, because I can only imagine that the hole their absence leaves in your heart is considerably bigger than the one in mine.
My mom, along with my father and two of his siblings, headed out on a cross-Canada road trip last week that will last the better part of a month. They’re going to drive through the Rockies, visit another sibling in Meritt, British Columbia and soak up the relatively warm weather in Vancouver.
It’s not like I would be spending the better part of that month visiting her at my childhood home if she were there, it’s just I feel strangely disconcerted knowing that she isn’t.
She called a few days ago, her voice thin and crackling, on a cheap cell phone they are carrying but not leaving on. The call came at the end of a particularly stressful day for me and I longed to keep her on the line and throw all the crappy minute details of my day at her so she could catch them and make them melt away as she does with a sympathetic click of her tongue.
But I didn’t, of course, because she was only calling to say hi, to check in and to be reassured that all was right in my world before she went back to the vacation that she so deserves: I kept it brief.
Twice since then I have reached for the phone to call her and felt the realization that I couldn’t wash over me like a rebuke over a spoiled child.
All my life I have made an art form of fierce independence and so it’s strange that now, at 38 years of age, ensconced in my own home and responsible for my own family, I so crave the sound of her voice, the exchange of inanities and the ensuing calmness that her presence brings to my life.
I can’t help but wonder if one day when Graham is a grown man and beset with worries – (and he surely will be, because aren’t we all much of the time?) he will take the same comfort in my very presence. I wonder if the struggles that Rob and I now endure will bring a perverse kind of comfort to him one day, reduced, as they surely will be, to mere anecdotes about the inevitability of life’s struggles and the endurance of the human spirit.
It has been a bitter winter this year – more bitter than I’ve dared detail in this blog. It’s true that in the last few days both the literal and figurative arrival of spring has seemed imminent.
But I’m weary of the season.
And I miss my mom.
Thursday, April 3, 2008
Wednesday, April 2, 2008
I know I’m a pretty good writer.
Please forgive me if that seems like an insufferable thing to say, but modesty, especially false modesty, has never been my thing.
Writing, on the other hand, is my thing. Always has been. My style may not be the stuff of Nobel-prize-winning tomes but nevertheless, the compulsion to write has been a part of me for so long I can’t imagine what it’s like to live without it.
If I am not writing, it means I am not well. No matter how difficult and distracting my life becomes, my ability to write, and to write in what I consider my trademark style, is a testament to my mental and emotional health.
Strange then, that I would gladly hang up my keyboard if only I could sing.
Because I can’t sing.
There I said it. Despite an abundance of musical talent in my family, I am a terrible singer. No matter how many times I have fortified myself with red wine and sang around a campfire or harmonized at a party or even (just the one time, praise God) taken to a coffeehouse stage with my guitar, I remain a terrible singer.
My husband, on the other hand, is a great singer. His punk band had a modest local hit in its day and reunited to wow the crowd at our wedding. His version of Margaritaville brings the house down whenever we stumble upon a karaoke bar and I am able to harangue him into performing.
And I do have to harangue him because, unlike me, he is modest. I find his reluctance to sing inconceivable, because if my voice was one-tenth as sweet and strong as his you would have to turn the hose on me to get me offstage.
I have been watching American Idol this year for the first time ever and listening to the performers every week induces in me a yearning so sharp and pure that I feel a physical ache in my gut.
Oh sure, writing is all well and good. But what I wouldn’t give to be able to sing like that? To be able to stop people in their tracks with the sweet lilt of my voice? To open my mouth and cause throats to swell and eyes to well and tiny hairs to prickle? To carry with me always a means to transport people to another place, another time?
I may be a terrible singer, but I continue to sing around the house on an almost constant basis. Our radio is always on and Rob and I have the following conversation several times a day.
Me: “I love this song. Want me to sing it to you?”
Me: (turning down radio lest it obscure my voice): “Okay great!”
I have sung to Graham since the minute he was born. I sing songs about his hair, his nose, his poop, how much I love him, how silly he is, how pretty his mama is…(I told you modesty is not my thing).
And in the last few months my heart has swollen with pride as Graham has started to sing as well. He sings to the radio, he sings to the television, he begs me to play his favorite CDs and then sits and sways to the music, plaintively slurring over the words he doesn’t know and proudly shouting the ones he does.
My boy - the singer!
Maybe when he’s a rich and famous musician he’ll let his mama sing backup for him.
Or at least write the liner notes for his albums