Friday, February 29, 2008

I'll give you something to fight for

Oh look, a kindergarten student has been suspended for showing up to school with a Mohawk.

Is it just me or is it pretty much a daily occurrence that some damn kid somewhere gets sent home from school for having hair or clothes that are deemed inappropriate?

And then the poor thing is paraded about in the media while the parents prattle on about human rights abuse and how they feel it is important to fight for their child’s freedom of self-expression.

Oh spare me.

These kinds of battles aren’t about human rights or freedom of expression. They’re about the parents’ desperate need for attention and their misguided hopes that their child will somehow make some kind of mark on the world, however frivolous.

Don’t get me wrong: I am not a curmudgeon. I am big fan of Mohawks. I also think crazy hair and clothes are actually good for kids. But if another adult, an adult charged with maintaining an environment conducive for learning for several hundred children, tells me my son’s appearance is disruptive, I’m going to respect that.

I’m going respect it even if I think it’s kind of foolish, even if I think the school is being overly cautious and conservative. Because I believe there is a value in respecting other people’s wishes and desires, even if you don’t completely agree with them: it’s called compromise and I believe it is an important value for my son to learn.

It’s not that I won’t encourage his passion, far from it. I think the passion of youth is a glorious thing. I will be sorely disappointed if Graham doesn’t go through a (hopefully brief) phase in which he proclaims himself a Marxist-Socialist-Anarchist and vows to dedicate his life to railing against the status quo and the bourgeois trappings of his middle-class existence.

But also I dearly hope that Graham never squanders his passion protecting the rights of kindergarten students to attend school looking like what their parents imagine to be counter-cultural revolutionaries.

If he does, it won’t be with my blessing because it smacks of self-indulgence. And I don’t think North America needs more self-indulgent children: I know it doesn’t need more self-indulgent adults.

It’s important for us to teach our kids to stand up for their principles, but it’s equally important for us to teach our kids which principles are worth standing up for.

Clothing and hair? Just not that important. Not in this country anyway.

If parents want to get their kids fired up over human rights, they should talk to them about Darfur. Afghanistan. Iraq. Tibet. Cuba. Introduce them to the folks at Amnesty International.

Get them fired up over creating a world without millions of children who would cut off their arm, never mind their hair, to go to a school where administrators enforce silly rules in an attempt to maintain order and a peaceable learning environment.

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Thursday, February 28, 2008

Pick the Diva dry

All the cool kids are doing it.

She did it and she's the coolest lady in the whole darn blogosphere. So here goes:

Ask me anything. Leave your question as a comment and I'll answer it in an upcoming post. Think of it as a way to get to know me better. Just what you always wanted right?

I'll try and be as honest as possible. Just don't ask me about the years I spent detailing Harley Davidsons in a tiny Midwestern town okay? What happens in the witness protection program stays in the witness protection program.


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Tuesday, February 26, 2008

The new king

Oh how the mighty have fallen.

By the mighty I mean me. And when I say I have fallen, I mean, has parenting ever kicked my ass!

I tasted humble pie on the day Graham was born and apparently I can’t get enough. Since then I’ve gone back for more. And still more.

And just the other day I had yet another revelation: I realized I have become the kind of mother I swore I never, ever would become.

I have become the mother who gives in.

You know the kind. The mother who knows she should be a stronger disciplinarian but is so enamored of her child she can’t help but giggle when they are saucy. The kind who knows she shouldn’t coddle so much but nonetheless turns into a soppy puddle of goo at the first whimper. The kind who knows that it’s natural for a child to scream and cry at times but starts to twitch as soon as it starts and cannot bear it for more than a moment.


I’m well known as a bit of a hard-ass in other areas of my life. I do not suffer fools gladly. I refuse to accept poor customer service. In the course of my job, I have to discipline and fire people: I have done both countless times with steely determination. I do not seek confrontation, but neither am I the least bit afraid of it.

Before Graham came along I just assumed that when Rob and I had children, I would be the bad cop. Rob is a little more easy-going than I am, less routine-oriented. I actually worried that I might end up resenting the disciplinarian role I would be forced to assume.

Yeah, not so much.

You know it is bad when even Grandma and Oma are stricter with Graham than his mother is. But God help me, I’m a big ole softie when it comes to my boy.

Graham is my heart and he knows it. Mommy, mommy is like a siren song for me: I am helpless to resist and so I must go and do his bidding.

I must pull him from his bed for more one cuddle. I must hold him close and bury my face in his hair. I must press him to my heart and breathe in his sweetness, even as my rational mind tells me I should be stronger.

Oh yes, the mighty have fallen.

All hail the new king.

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Monday, February 25, 2008

History comes alive: sort of

Oh, I know what you're thinking.

You think my two-year-old is just lazing around in his toy car, eating junk food and watching television.

You're even a little disappointed in me because you've seen this type of thing before.

But thing is, you're missing what's actually going on here. What this picture actually captures is my painstaking attempt to make history come alive by teaching Graham about that rich, historical tradition, that great North-American post war cultural phenomenon: the drive-in theatre.

Yup, between my history lessons and my field trips, I'm thinking I could really rock home-schooling.

Or not.

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Saturday, February 23, 2008

The revolution will be slow

The older I get, the more responsibilities I have.

The more responsibilities I have, the more pressed for time I become.

And so it logically follows that because I’m in such a hurry, I am slower and more meticulous than I’ve ever been before.

It’s not that advanced aged has slowed me down, it’s just that if there’s one thing I don’t have time for as an adult, it’s an avoidable hassle.

Avoidable hassles include things like inconsequential fender benders that eat up precious hours, banking mistakes and unpaid parking tickets that must be amended in person, hastily purchased items that must be returned and even keys that take ages to find after they are casually tossed aside.

When I was young there was something almost romantic about lurching from one glorious hassle to the next. Stumbling blindly through life and dealing with whatever consequences I couldn’t avoid at the last possible moment made me feel like a free spirit, operating above the silly conventions that bound all the pitiable grown-up wage slaves out there.

Parking tickets were tossed out with a flourish and disappeared into the ether and bills were paid in my own good time. Regular automobile maintenance struck me as bourgeois and filing my taxes on time? Wasn’t that just admitting that I was working for The Man?

Unfortunately it took many years before I realized that being a Bohemian in the moment means sacrificing huge amounts of time, energy and money in the future. With the onset of maturity came the sobering revelation that each and every one of us has to deal with The Man. Unless you plan to live in a hut somewhere and forage nuts and berries, you will be forced to play along with most of society’s rules and ignoring them does not make them go away.

I have learned, in fact, that quite the opposite is true. You have to learn the rules before you can break or bend them and that’s why each passing day I find myself becoming more careful and more meticulous. I’m not acquiescing to the The Man, I’m figuring him out: he’s a necessary evil and dealing with him in the proper fashion the first time will limit future exposure.

My own small rebellions these days look very different from those I staged in the past. I used to throw away parking tickets: today I avoid them by not only paying for parking, but using my credit card to do so, even if it’s only $1. Why should I scramble for change when I could be earning points?

I used to drive like a maniac and never worry about whether my car would break down until it inevitably did at the worst possible time: now I creep serenely past cars that have ended up in the ditch during snow storms, secure in my reliable and well-maintained vehicle.

I used to wait ages to file my taxes and not have a clue what I was doing. Now I make sure they are filed promptly and in a manner that ensures no government bureaucracy will ever benefit from my procrastination or ignorance.

In the past I waited way too long to pay my bills and ignored the resulting calls I got from financial institutions. Now I pay promptly and accept the bank’s ridiculously low introductory interest rate offer. What can I say? I get an illicit thrill from enjoying their money at 1%, reading all the fine print and then paying it back at the last possible second to avoid fees: it’s called beating The Man at his own game.

I have learned that The Man gets ever-more rich and powerful on the backs of silly young Bohemians who think they’re being rebellious by rushing through life and racking up charges on unpaid bills and parking tickets they’ve ignored.

I have learned that bureaucratic insurance companies prosper thanks to fast and careless drivers and fat-cat retailers will continue to flourish until we all slow down and think about which products really provide value for our money.

So those young Turks out there charging about can roll their eyes all they want as they race by me on the freeway of life.

Because my time is way too precious for me to be in a hurry.

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Friday, February 22, 2008

How does he see me?

Facing a mirror you see merely your own countenance: facing
your child you finally understand how everyone else has seen you.
How does he see me?

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Thursday, February 21, 2008


I dreamt last night that I was dating a much younger man.

A boy, really.

But there was nothing the least bit salacious about it, though the boy in my dream was only about 18 years old.

I was the same age in my dream. I was tall and lean and beautiful and infused with a feeling of strength and power so vivid that even now it hovers tantalizingly close, just outside daylight’s grasp.

And it was summertime and we were at the lake and we were surrounded by sun-kissed friends and the August air was thick with possibility and yearning. And if I close my eyes and take a deep breath, I can smell the air still and it moves me to tears because it smells so impossibly sweet.

I have stress in my life right now. I have adult problems, heavy and complicated: problems that will be resolved, but only by putting my 38-year-old head down and slogging grimly through them.

And so it was with a heavy heart that I awoke from my summer dream this cold, dark February morning. It was with an exquisite ache that I felt summertime slip from my memory and disappear into the gloom.

But summer will be back, of this I am certain.

Because even as I shivered and my bones protested the early hour, a tiny ray of sunshine beckoned me forward.

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Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Kicking Freud out of the tub

We were playing in the bath, Graham and I, when he very deliberately pointed at my breast.


I hesitated for only a second. That’s mommy’s nipple, I said. I pointed to his chest. And look, there’s Graham’s nipple.

He nodded, satisfied.

A few minutes later he lay on his stomach and pushed himself through the water towards me as is his habit when we bathe in our large, overfilled tub. His mouth was open.

He has a funny look on his face, I thought idly, just as he chomped firmly onto his intended target.

Oh dear God.

No Graham. I gently pushed him away. You drank milk from mommy when you were a baby. You’re a big boy now. You drink your milk from a cup.

I have not nursed Graham since he was seven months old: apparently he has a hell of a memory.

He glided up to me again, mouth agape.

I gently redirected.

Baby milk mama, he implored.

No sweetie. You drink big boy milk now. From a cup.

He sighed. Okay Mama.

I had no idea it would start this early. And by it, I mean my own questions about how and when to start establishing limits and boundaries when it comes to nakedness and privacy between Graham and me.

He’s 27 months old. My gut feeling is that we North Americans worry entirely too much about this type of thing, that we project our own fears and insecurities about sexuality and the human body onto our children at far too young an age.

I have a baby book at home which recommends that parents curb nakedness around their children by the age of three at the oldest. The reason? Because some experts now believe that children may subconsciously become sexually aroused by their parents’ nakedness and as a result suffer confusion and embarrassment over those feelings.

I not only disagree with that assessment, I am angered by it. I also find it sad, because it seems to me a theory that is so obviously a reaction to the times we live in and our own worst fears as opposed to the reality of our children's mindset and what is best for them.

We spend so much time bemoaning how society sexualizes our children at far too young an age, but are we not doing it ourselves if we are covering up, keeping our bodies private and advising them to do the same at an age when they are still years and years away from the onset of puberty and sexual maturation?

Because isn’t fear and paranoia about sexuality – ours and theirs – really the only reason to suddenly start denying them the casual intimacy that they have taken for granted the whole span of their short and tender lives? Think about it. It’s not for hygienic or health reasons that we start to turn away when we slip off our clothes or shake our heads no when they try and pull us into the bath.

I say that it is fear and paranoia about sexuality that causes us to put up walls between us and our children, but that’s harsh, of course. I should say that it is concern and I should clarify that I have concerns too. We all do – it’s impossible not to.

It’s impossible not to hear stories about child predators and then look at your child and think, How? and Why? and That’s the sickest thing ever! and finally, perhaps subconsciously, I need to protect them. I need to cover them up. I should cover us both up. Now.

But I won’t do that, not yet. Because I enjoy our baths together and Graham enjoys our baths together. And Graham obviously remembers nursing and remembers it fondly. And that’s all there is to it. At this stage I firmly believe that any discomfort I feel is my problem: I refuse to make it his.

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Monday, February 18, 2008

Making the most of Family Day

It's Family Day today in Ontario and we decided to ignore the cold rain, make an effort to broaden our son's horizons and indulge him in the kind of rich educational and cultural activities that our government surely had in mind when it dreamt up Ontario's newest public holiday.

We first treated him to some fine food.

Then we allowed him the opportunity to observe the awesome power of Mother Nature close up.

And finally we made sure he had a chance to reconnect with the people and things in his life that matter most.

Okay, okay.

So we took the little stinker to the mall and let him walk around for a bit.

But you know what? He had a blast.

Happy Family Day!

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Saturday, February 16, 2008

Bloggy Bling

Where would a diva be without her peeps?
I love each and every one of you.
Mwah, mwah, mwah!

From MommyK at Great Walls of Baltimore.

From Kat at My Two Cents.

From Dawn at Renaissance Mama.

From Amy at Memories and Musings.

From OHMommy at Classy Chaos.

From GoMommy at Randon Acts of Momness

From Corey at Living and Loving Every Minute of It.

From Manners and M oxie

From Rachel at From The Land of Monkeys and Princesses

From Kim over at Jogging in Circles.

From the lovely C over at Random Thoughts and Musings From the Island.

From Brittany over at Mommee and Her Boys and Amy over at Memories and Musings.

From Karen over at A Day in The Life

From Jennwa over at Ramblings of a Crazy Woman.


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Thursday, February 14, 2008

Ronald's redemption

Oh, I sent the letter alright.

You better believe I sent the letter.

After posting it here Monday night, I called the head office at McDonald’s Canada on Wednesday after trying unsuccessfully to get any kind of an e-mail address.

Turns out you can’t complain to McDonald’s via e-mail (at least in Canada) because only three people work in the customer service department and they would be overwhelmed if it were actually convenient for people to communicate with them.

Does that sound snippy? I meant it to. Also snippy? When I said I completely understood that a small business like McDonald’s couldn’t possibly afford to hire more than three customer service representatives.

Anyhoo…I did get a fax number and I faxed the letter out over on my lunch hour. I included the address for this site and explained that in the day and a half since it was posted it had received several hundred views and dozens of angry comments. I included my full name and address and advised them I expected an immediate response.

When I returned home about 5:30 p.m. there were two messages on my answering machine. One was from a woman at McDonald’s head office who apologized profusely and said she would be contacting the owner of that restaurant and advising her to contact me immediately. The second was from said owner who was also very apologetic and expressed a desire to speak with me directly. I figured I would call her today on my lunch.

My husband called me at work this morning. Call these McDonald’s people back, he said, They keep calling!

I called the owner, a woman named Lori, right away.

Lori said she was devastated by how we were treated. She said she’s worked in and around McDonald’s since she was a young girl and her father owned that restaurant before her. She said she has a five-year-old and hasn’t been able to sleep since she read my letter and watched the security tapes because she’s so upset and embarrassed.

Lori said she is dealing with a new management team and that she already had an emergency meeting with them to discuss the situation. She said the manger was woken from a sound sleep by the worker’s call and didn’t fully grasp the situation or the severity of the storm. She said the woman had offered up her job, so guilty did she feel about giving the worker such terrible instructions.

Lori said she had a long talk with her staff at that meeting about using common sense and trying to apply the values, of family and community, that McDonald’s espouses, in everyday situations.

Lori said she was very, very sorry.

And you what? I believe her.

Also, I forgive her and the manager and the silly girl who delivered the manager’s orders. I think they get it. I don’t think it will happen again and Graham and I are home and safe. All I really wanted was a sincere apology and I got it.

Lori also said she was sending something to me and Graham as a token of good will and that’s all very nice and I’ll be sure to let you know when it arrives, but that’s not why I feel so good today.

I feel good today because I feel I have proven, in some small way, that there is power in words: real power. I feel like maybe one day Graham will read this and feel reassured that when people speak up, they can and will be heard.

Thank you all, my friends, for adding your voices – if you are ever in Don Mills I’ll treat you to a Big Mac.

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Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Love story

You might think that on the eve of Valentine’s Day I would be dreamily waxing about love and romance and how I knew that my husband was my soul mate the moment I laid eyes on him.

But you’d be wrong.

The fact is, I gave careful consideration to whether I could and should love the man who would become my husband.

And I’m not even sure I believe there is such a thing as a soul mate.

Sure I’m a bit of a diva sometimes, but I’m not hard to get along with. I’m relatively easy on the eyes and I fly airplanes. (Guys love that). The thing is, if I hadn’t met Rob, I’m pretty sure I would have happily met someone else, married and had a child. (Not one half as cute as Graham, but still).

But of course I didn’t marry someone else, I married Rob and not a day goes by that I don’t congratulate myself on the wisdom of that decision.

Because it was a decision, not just to marry him, but to love him. Sure there was lust and there were sparks, but the love was a conscious decision on my part born of the realization that it was time to settle down and make a commitment to this smart and sweet man who is as handy with a power drill as he is with a spice rack.

On New Year’s Eve 1997, I made a resolution. I resolved that in 1998 I would meet my future husband. I started dating Rob in July of 1998 and we have together rung in every New Year since.

The love I have for my husband is not something that was predestined or sent from above. It is a state of mind. It is a vow that I renew to him, to myself and to our son every day - on good days and, even more importantly, on bad days.

It’s a love that will not fail because I won’t let it.

Sometimes I envy happily-married women who got an early start on marriage and children. I was almost 33 when I married and five years later I still don’t feel my family is complete so, God willing, I’ll be changing diapers into my forties.

But the thing is, I wasn’t ready to commit my life at 20 or 25 or even 30 and neither was Rob. I’m not one of those people who think maturity only arrives after one has attended the requisite number of wild parties but, believe you me, I attended my share just in case.

In fact, I attended enough parties that I was actually growing weary of them when, celebrating the wrap of this film, I struck a conversation with a man who struck me immediately as a gentleman.

I did not hear the angels sing. I did not feel struck by a bolt from above. I did think, almost immediately, I am ready for love and this might be a man I could grow to love.

And so I did.

I love the way he insisted on coming in and having a glass of wine with my father the first time he picked me up from my parent’s house. I love how attentive he was to my elderly grandmother who lived there.

I love that we can talk for hours about the ills of the world and that I never secretly think I’m smarter than him. I love the way he took my first effort at screenwriting and turned it into something of which we could be proud.

I love that he carried my engagement ring in his pocket for days as we hiked through the Andes and then pulled it out to propose as the sun hit Machu Picchu.

I love that he slams on the brakes to avoid hitting butterflies. I love that he insisted on rushing my first baby to the vet one day, thereby saving his life. I love that people think he’s passive and shy because he’s quiet, when in fact he’s the most strong-willed and stubborn person I know (after me).

I love that he doesn’t care what other people think of him.

And so, while I’m not even sure I believe there is such a thing as a soul mate, I definitely, definitely believe in love.

Happy Valentine’s Day Rob. I love you.

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Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Never fear Graham

Because Grandpa's other baby?
He's got your back.

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Monday, February 11, 2008

Somewhere, Ronald McDonald is weeping

McDonald’s Restaurant
Highway 12, Beaverton
ON, Canada

Dear Sir or Madam,

You don’t know me.

And judging by your treatment of me last night, you’re probably not interested in what I have to say.

But I’m going to tell my story anyway.

I was in your restaurant last night with a handful of other shell-shocked drivers, stranded by some of the most deadly road conditions imaginable.

Snow and blowing snow had reduced visibility to zero for miles in every direction. A local strike by municipal workers meant the relentless stretches of highway that we drove inch by painstaking inch to reach you had not been properly cleared in days. The ditches were littered with dozens of cars whose drivers faced waits of several hours for assistance in -30 C temperatures.

It was shortly after 11 p.m. when a fellow refuge opened a locked door and the bitter wind pushed me and my two-year-old son inside your restaurant. I’m not a nervous driver but I cannot remember being so close to a full-blown panic attack. Thank God for the people who helped to calm me and busied my son with stray french fries and smiles.

Too bad the warm and fuzzy feeling didn’t last.

The restaurant has been closed since 11 p.m., one of your minions announced. I need you all to vacate the premises immediately.

We all tittered nervously. She was kidding right?

My manger is on the phone, she continued. If you don’t leave I’ve been instructed that I have to follow policy and call the police.

We burst into laughter, of course: the kind of demented, uproarious laughter that only patent absurdity can generate.

But her proclamation wasn’t really funny at all.

It was, I think, disturbing.

It was disturbing because it illustrated the utter lack of judgment we have come to expect of low level managers working for big companies like McDonald’s.

It was disturbing because it threw into stark relief the difference between the image your company spends millions to promote and the asinine adherence to policy your company apparently insists its workers enforce.

It is disturbing because executive trainers somewhere continue to convince people that minimum wage is incentive enough to sacrifice compassion and common sense on the altar of rigid corporate dogma.

You might think I’m being melodramatic and maybe I am. But let me tell you what you should have instructed your minion to do.

You should have offered to pay her double time to stay an extra couple of hours. You should have told her to put a few pots of coffee on and offer them free of charge. You should have sucked up the $40 or $50 this would have cost and acted like it was your pleasure.

Because it should have been.

Even if you don’t know me.


Don Mills Diva

PS. I stayed put until I was damn good and ready to leave. And also, I let my two year old have a field day with all the napkins and condiments he could get his grubby, little hands on.

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Friday, February 8, 2008

Save your sympathy sweetie

Our waitress couldn’t have been more than 19 years old.

Kim and I were at the least objectionable of the three licensed restaurants at a suburban mall, chosen because it had lots of parking and was equal driving distance for both of us.

The server’s hair was perfect, her thick makeup expertly applied. She was bubbly and enthusiastic – too bubbly and enthusiastic. Her forced cheer made it clear she had us pegged.

Oh God, a couple of moms on the town - poor things. This must be a big night out for them. Better not let them sense my pity or they’ll start acting bitchy.

And I looked across the table at Kim, who I first met almost a dozen years ago when she was a 21-year cocktail waitress and I was bartending at the infamous nightspot in our home town. And something unspoken passed between us.

Kim knew what I wanted to say.

I wanted to say that my best friend and I hadn’t always hemmed and hawed before deciding it would be okay to split a half litre of wine. That we hadn’t always stopped to consider whether a fried appetizer would wreak havoc on our stomachs.

I wanted to say that ten years ago we would have been cracking wise about music and clothes and flirting with the hotties at the bar, not hauling our kids’ pictures out of our wallets and telling story after story about the funny things they said.

I wanted to say that 10 years ago we wouldn’t have planned this night weeks in advance and we wouldn’t have been caught dead in this cheesy bar, in this cheesy mall, no matter how convenient and plentiful its parking.

I wanted to say that 10 years ago I would never have glanced at my watch and winced to see that it was already 9:45 p.m.

But I didn’t say anything. Neither did Kim.

We just smiled at each other. Happy, secure, amused.

Because our waitress couldn’t have been more than 19 years old.

And she couldn’t possibly know that the middle-aged moms splitting an appetizer and a half litre of wine would have given her pert, little ass a run for its money in their day.

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Thursday, February 7, 2008

Diva's guide to 2008 trends, part deux

We made it past Groundhog Day people!

In my neck of the woods the little critter popped up and declared I would grow ever more gorgeous and stylish in 2008. And while I wouldn't normally put much stock in a rodent's opinion, I think he might be right on the money this year.

The good news is you're all gonna grow more gorgeous and stylish along with me. To wit, I present my take on the last five of the Top 10 fashion-must-haves for 2008 according to Elle Canada magazine.

1. Deck shoes - This trend doesn't excite me only because I'm a heels girl and always have been, even though flats have been super trendy for a few years now. But I do know there are lots of women who will cheer the news that once again they can wear stylish shoes without sacrificing comfort. To you I say - ENJOY! There will probably be a lot of cute variations on the preppy, boat shoes we all remember from high school. And who knows? If this trend looks like it's here to stay, I might even cave, embrace it and relive my brief high school flirtation with preppy style. Minus the torrid love affair with Duckie though - it's taken me way too long to quit him.

Want to check out the rest? You're gonna have to skedaddle on overto my Shooting for Hip column at Mommyblogstoronto. I got some fun pictures over there...

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Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Knock on wood

Like most parents, I love it when someone compliments my son.

And I won’t lie: the very best kind of compliments are the kind that make reference to my parenting abilities, whether they’re merited or not.

Graham happily eats everything he’s ever been offered? That’s because you ate so well when you were pregnant. Graham slept through the night at six weeks? That’s because you’ve been so calm and consistent with him. Graham’s happy and good natured? That’s because you and Rob are so easy-going.

Ah, what could be more soothing than the warm balm of self-delusion?

Because the truth is, as much as I might luxuriate in remarks like those, I know it would be disingenuous to take even an ounce of credit for what amounts to just plain old good luck.

Human beings, blessed as they are with self-determination, don’t like to think that their fortunes, good or bad, are a result of something as capricious as luck. When things go wrong, we look for someone to blame. When things are good…well, we must be doing something right.

Especially when it comes to our children, the idea that luck is most often the determining factor in whether babies will be easy or difficult, or more importantly, sick or healthy, is not just anathema, it’s downright terrifying.

For the most part we expect things to go well for us here in the First World in the year 2008. We are armed with knowledge our ancestors never dreamed about and, rightfully so, we use it to try and mitigate the risks that other people in other countries and other times accepted as part and parcel of child-rearing and life in general.

We sterilize baby bottles and toys, we baby-proof our houses from top to bottom, we pay outrageous sums of money for high-tech protective devices like SIDS monitors and video cameras.

We stir vitamins in oatmeal and obsess about every morsel of food that passes our children’s lips. We rush to the internet to research every rash, every bump, every upset stomach. We call the doctor when the cough lingers or the nose continues to run or they just don’t seem like themselves.

But beneath all this tending and protecting, aren’t we mostly just hoping and praying?

Hoping fervently that our kids won’t be the ones in the hospital ads that make us cry. Praying that our child will never be the subject of a eulogy written by their 30-something friend. Whispering "There but by the grace of god go I" every time we hear that life has dealt a losing hand to some other parent, some other child.

I have always said that having a child is not for people who like to play it safe. In giving birth, we give the universe the power to enrich our life immeasurably or shatter it irrevocably. No matter how great your effort, parenthood is a crap shoot and every one of us knows it.

Graham was an easy baby. Graham is healthy. Parenting Graham has been a relatively smooth ride.

And while I’m happy to gobble up all the compliments on parenting that come my way, deep down I know I’m just lucky, lucky, lucky.

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Monday, February 4, 2008

Art school in Paris? Mais oui!

I know there was that one post where I asserted my belief that Graham was destined for Harvard Medical School.

And then, a few weeks later, I presented clear evidence that a full scholarship to MIT engineering was pretty much a given.

But earlier tonight, I realized that perhaps the world shouldn't be deprived of his obvious gift for the arts.

Does anyone have any idea what tuition at the Sorbonne would run me?

I mean, just in case he only gets a partial scholarship...

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Sunday, February 3, 2008


It’s not as hard as everyone says it is.

People just try and scare you.

I was prepared for much, much worse.

Such was my take on being a mother for the first year or so of Graham’s life. And at the time I meant it, I really did.

I was ready to become a mother. I was way past ready. And I was prepared to give myself over to the demands of a child. I had absorbed countless horror stories about the all-encompassing, unrelenting demands of mothering and adjusted my expectations accordingly.

I fully expected that the first year or so was going to be a horror show of jumbled hormones and unimaginable fatigue. I fully expected to fall down the rabbit hole. I was prepared for the worst.

But the worst never really arrived. The early months weren’t exactly easy, what with worrying over the state of Graham’s health, but his day-to-day-care and feeding was surprisingly smooth.

He went from breast to bottle without blinking an eye. He was rarely inconsolable. And most significantly, he slept through the night at six weeks and was doing it regularly at two months of age.

Being a mother isn’t impossibly hard, I concluded with relief. It’s just hard.

But here’s the rub: it stays hard.

Two years on, it’s still hard.

I am impossibly spoiled: I know that. My child is healthy. I am healthy. Rob is an involved husband and father. I have a great job with an ideal childcare arrangement and Graham is close to four grandparents who dote on him.

But there are days (and nights too) when it is just plain wearying, this business of always putting another human being first. And there are times when someone you love is struggling (no, I can’t and won’t write about that here) and it is even more wearying because you can’t even put yourself second.

You know what I’m talking about, all you women out there.

Women gather up the frayed edges of their family’s life and sew them together every single day. Women ferociously love and mother and plan and nurture and organize and soothe and quiet and make things better.

That’s what women do.

That’s what we all do, no matter what our circumstances. Whether our children are sick or healthy, whether we have one or seven.

And I was right to think that it’s not as hard as everyone says it is.

It’s harder.

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Friday, February 1, 2008

What could be simpler?

The screams that are currently assaulting my ears make me yearn for simpler times.

Times before I had Graham when I was absolutely certain about the type of person I was, the type of household I would run and, most significantly, the type of mother I would be.

I had it all planned out. I would be patient. I would be unruffled. On nights like tonight, I would not waver in my conviction that my son’s tearful, unrelenting chanting – Mama! Mama! – was symptomatic of fatigue as opposed to distress.

I would be logical. I wouldn’t even consider lifting him out of his crib, bringing him into the living room and allowing him to snuggle with me for an additional half hour on the couch. I would know – obviously - such actions would make it all the harder for him to settle down later.

I would never be one of those parents who let their children run their lives. I would be loving – of course I would be loving – but I would be firm. I would not be ruffled by tantrums. I would not be manipulated by – of all things – a two-year-old.

I was educated. I read all the books. I was secure in my belief that what children need above all else is consistency.

What could be simpler?

But then, back then, I never could have imagined how very, very complex the mixture of love, fear, protection and pain that a little boy’s cries can elicit.

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