Saturday, February 27, 2010

Eliciting a Reaction, or, You can't always get what you want the nice way.

So I woke up this morning, as usual, and went through my routine. Changed Ender's diaper, fed the fish, started up a pot of coffee. Played with him, set him down for a nap and watched some indie cartoons, he woke up and I climbed the stairs to wake up Mike.

As Mike watched the boy and I made breakfast, Mike rubbed his face.

"I'm so tired." This of course, as the person who had been up three more hours than he, evoked my ire. "I wonder why I'm so tired?"

"Well you slept plenty."

"Maybe I'll take a nap."

"Maybe you're tired of being a dad." I snapped.

Oh my.

Why would I say such a thing?

I think we all have had experiences of saying nasty things we don't mean. This particular thing flew out of my mouth so quickly that I had no chance to backpedal. I continued to make my pumpernickel eggs with a hat on them in silence. And then we ate. Silently.

While we silently ate, cleared our dishes, and took showers, I had time to think about why I would say such a thing. A lot of the time, I am tired of being a mom. It's one of those things that because mommyhood is a constant flow, you repeatedly feel as though you need a break throughout the day and it makes you think, 'wow, if I wasn't a mom, I would just be sitting on my butt reading that book that is collecting dust on the dining room table.' This is a lie, of course. If I wasn't a mom, I'd be at work. Or school. Either way, that book would be collecting dust. As the verbose, emotionally attuned female I am, I feel the absence of Mike's rhetoric on the subject. Is he tired of being a dad? I believe so. If not, then he is a superhuman of emotional resilience.

I think I said something so nasty because I wanted him to say, 'yes, yes I am tired of being a dad. I'm not actually tired. I just need a break once in a while.' and then I would say, 'I'm tired too. This is hard, isn't it?' And then we would bask in the glow of mutual understanding. We would feel connected, based on the fact that this thing we're doing is really, really hard.

Admittedly, I approached it all wrong. I'm not sure why on earth I feel the need to say things to elicit reactions from otherwise placid, and well-adjusted people. Is it that I like to push their emotional buttons? Press them to their boundaries? Maybe it's that the world can seem so incredibly passion-less, my mind tumultous in comparison, and this is my levelling mechanism to pull them into my misery, my joys, my disappointments.

I can wax philosophical all I want, either way I feel guilty. After I apologized, and apologized again, and we discussed our boundaries and our exhaustion, and Ender grabbed at our faces as we hugged (my nose in his left hand, Mike's lip in his right) I knew that I couldn't promise it wouldn't happen again.

After all, I got what I wanted, didn't I? It's hard to avoid doing something negative when it achieves the hoped for results. Until I find a more constructive way to elicit emotion from the male gender (or hell, anyone for that matter) I will continue to fall back on old habits.

But I'm sorry. Being a tired mom is no excuse for being a bitch.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Polenta and mohawks, oh my!

You know when you make something and it's just so delicious that you have to share it with everyone you see? Well, I see you, dear reader, and you need this recipe:

Polenta Vegetarian Lasagne
1 package ready-made polenta
1 can spaghetti sauce with two cloves garlic crushed and mixed in (because spaghetti sauce is boring otherwise)
1 cup mozzerella cheese
1 cup parmesean cheese

Cut polenta into long strips, and layer with spaghetti sauce, mozzerella and parmesean. Repeat until casserole is filled. Bake, covered with tinfoil for 30 minutes at 400. Remove tinfoil, and broil until cheese begins to bubble and brown.

Yum! Vegetarian and soooo delicious. I dislike corn as well as lasagne, so that's saying something.

Today I got myself into some retail therapy and feel ten million times better. I bought some cute dual colour stockings, which I saw on Andrea's blog and just had to have. Also, a pencil skirt, batwing sweater (all in black of course, because I am so exciting) and two tank tops. I went to American Apparel with the hopes of injecting some colour in my wardrobe. Alas, no such luck. I guess I just have to rely on my hair.

This also makes me happy, because my mohawk wasn't exactly turning out the way I wanted it to. Now, I've figured it out, so I can have super awesome hair every day. I just need the weather to cooperate.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

A million little hands, and no naps.

How is it that Ender always seems to have one million little hands, ready to grab, twist and rip, but I only ever seem to have one? While he is not crawling or walking, he definitely has learned how to scooch his little butt around the couch and across (and off) my lap. This makes any time on the couch a constant wrestling session. Except, of course, when he is asleep. Then my precious little angel can be surrounded by a number of things that usually cause a hazard and a nuisance. Nail clippers, bank cards, cell phones. These are all things that you probably keep near on hand without thinking. Now I keep filing these things away, and then promptly losing them.

This morning I had what is called 'civil war breakfast'. It's really great. You take some stale cornbread (which I made yesterday with cornmeal and whole wheat flour, makes it more filling) heat it up in the microwave (not period, ha) and butter it, then you put some honey on it. Pour milk over the whole thing, so it's nice and mushy. You end up with this delicious sweet cornmeal type porridge stuff. It was great because I kind of overbaked the cornbread so it was very dry and not so great for eating. There are still leftovers though, after my civil war breakfast (which my husband refused to try, despite my prodding) so I suspect it will be served with the brown sugar and mustard glazed ham that just came out of the oven.

I've also been writing a screenplay. As of...yesterday. I don't really want to give away the premise, in case it actually gets made into some crappy university movie that I can show people some day. Either way, writing it has been interesting. It's actually a rewrite of a screenplay that I wrote while in university. It seems in the computer switches over past years, it didn't survive. It wasn't heartbreaking though. I remember it being strong in concept and weak in execution, so I was happy to have a chance to rewrite it and pep it up with my older, wiser, writer's voice. Writing a screenplay is very different than writing a short story. You can't use overly flowery language, or it sounds trite and horribly contrived. The key (for me) is to dumb down the language of the characters to an almost foolish degree. Then it sounds realistic and not like ten different Nicoles in different outfits acting out a drama.

I am extremely exhuasted, both in mind and body. The winter seems to just be dragging on. My baby carrier has not arrived, Friday being the last day before, according to Babyhawk, it is officially 'late'. Last night Ender woke at midnight and didn't go back to sleep until four, and then woke again at seven for good. Mike is napping before work. I wish I could nap. But I can't. I'm not sure why, maybe it's the coffee I desperately guzzled upon waking. Sometimes I just wish someone was around to take care of me, while Mike takes care of the baby. Someone to brush my hair and rub my back and tell me everything is going to be just fine, as long as I make it through this one day. One day at a time.

In response to my last (rather pathetic) post, my grandmother suggested I attend service at a Unitarian Universalist church. For those of you who don't know abotu Unitarians, I'll send you to this site, where people can explain what Unitarians believe much more succinctly than I ever would be able to. My grandfather was a Unitarian minister and I always enjoyed attending service there. I like how God is taken in the abstract, and its emphasis on social justice and community. I think that's what I need right now.

That, and a nap.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Wanted: Close Friend

I am a crappy friend. I always have been. I suspect this is a genetic trait because my mom is a pretty crappy friend, and my dad is a loyal friend, but one prone to frequent disappearances. We are all excellent friends to eachother, though.

I'm not really sure what makes a good friend. Were I to strive to become a better friend, I wouldn't know where to start. Frequent phone calls? Too annoying. E-mails? Too impersonal. I like to settle on text messages as a comfortable in-between space, but unsurprisingly, this means I don't see a lot of people. Sometimes I wonder what it would be like to have someone I could call to come over no matter what, to curl up with a cup of tea and have a good cry, or something.

Frankly, I'm not sure I even believe people really have friends like that at all.

There was a time in my life I went out of my way to be friendly. Still, it usually resulted in me having too much to drink and making self-aggrandizing comments to complete strangers and just generally making an ass of myself. The friends I have made are usually like me, and really too lazy to organize much mutual companionship. At one point I had a 'hub-friend' who I could count on to link me up with other friends and do most of the work, but he has grown up, gotten a girlfriend and now has better things to do.

I say all of this because I am attempting to become a better friend. Though I can't heal my born and bred crappy friend nature, I have my moments. I'm organizing a trip to Ottawa to see my best, most precious friend who has recently had a baby with his fiancee, whom I have not yet met. He has had a rough past couple of years, but seems to be in a good place and have his life on track. I can't wait to be there to celebrate with him. But he still lives four hours away, and no matter how much I try and reconnect with him, I am in essence very friendless.

At times I attempt a sprint of calls to people I know. It's practically painful to lift the phone, to make plans. My social anxiety natters away in the back of my head. Wouldn't you rather just watch tv? It says. They probably have something better to do. It only takes being turned down once for me to give up. I don't have the heart for rejection, and it is easier to stay at home with my son and do nothing at all.  My husband tries to soothe me with the information that it's not my fault, that society just isn't built for friendships like the one I'm looking for.

All this said, I am confident that one day I will put forth the effort to make friends with someone, and it will be fully reciprocated. She or he will live within ten minutes of me, and find me interesting, and will have just the right level of self-absorption so as to make me feel comfortable with my own. They will pop by my house unexpectedly, like in a sitcom. They will give me sage advice on fashion, matrimony and motherhood. They won't find me shocking, or distasteful when I swear like a sailor. Is that really asking so much? A kindred spirit in an age of individualism?

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Filament, Protein, Glory

Today, Mike and I spent our day going to the Pacific Mall in Markham. For those of you who don't know of it, it's an enormous mall with teeny-tiny stores and is entirely dominated by the Chinese and Japanese culture. This is no Chinatown, it's a bona fide megamall, with every electronic device, herbal supplement and super kawaii hairbow you could ever ask for and want. Personally, I wanted a purse. Recently, my hair has gone through many changes, and changed hair means changed clothes, changed purse, changed outlook.

I change my hair a lot.

When I was younger, I wanted to dye my beautiful pristine blonde locks a shade of moody black. Naturally, my parents would hear none of this. Then, in highschool, due to an interest in modelling, all I had were some bland highlights and that was all. By the time I graduated, my hair was long, half way down my back practically, and incredibly healthy. Oh, to have the patience of those days return...

Since then I have been platinum blonde, midnight blue-black, purple, red, black, platinum blonde again, and now, red once more. The style has ranged from a marilyn-esque bob, replete with nights of bumpy curlers (ouch), to dreadlocks, and my current mohawk. Sometimes I cut it myself, sometimes I have it professionally done, and I have not made any connection with better results for either one.

So why do I change my hair so much? It's a good question. I'd like to say boredom, because that's the easiest answer, but that's not it at all. When I start to imagine changing my hair, it sets in motion my imagination. I think about the places I would feel comfortable with a new hairstyle, the places where I would get stares. I think about the clothes that I could wear with it, the way it would feel when I washed it. New hair changes everything.

I feel about hair the way I feel about makeup. If we were to take makeup out of its cultural context, strip it of all meaning, what is left? A bunch of women painting their faces. How cool is that? Like every day is a carnival. It's completely culturally acceptable to paint your face, and go about your daily life. Some days your face (granted, your eyelids) can be green, other days blue, or smokey black. Likewise with hair. It becomes a changeable aspect of your outward appearance. If you want to, it can become not a marker of your personality, but a marker of your mood.

Admittedly, this hairstyle is a bit of trainwreck. I didn't really know what I wanted to begin with, so it has involved a lot of haphazard hacking of hair in front of the bathroom mirror. I don't really have the time to spend in front of the mirror perfecting things anymore. There is a tiny man who sits on the carpet and looks at me like I'm nuts. There's nothing like the honest humility of a child to make you feel vain.

But you have to take the good with the bad, and in many ways, my neon-red mohawk represents where I am in life. A little shaggy, rough around the edges, loud, and not sure if it's up or down, curly or straight. If only everything could be so transparent.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Alleluja, spread the cheer

Two days preceding the New Year of 2007, I had returned from winter vacation to my university town, Montreal. The entire city was coated in a thick layer of ice, as Montreal is wont to do, and I sat in my apartment trying to decide what to do while I waited for everyone I knew (including my boyfriend at the time) to return from their respective vacations. So I decided what any sensible twenty-something would do in my situation, that I would get a tattoo.

With ninety dollars in christmas gift money clenched in my apprehensive fist, and a crumpled printed off image in my pocket, I entered Tattoatouage, an ink parlour on St. Denis not far from where I was living. My experience of my first tattoo was very much like the experience of my first cigarette. I did it alone, with only my overactive thoughts as company. Surprisingly, they were able to take me immediately. I motioned to a girl in broken French that I wanted my image on my wrist in the same size. She obliged.

As she buzzed away at my wrist, she asked me the meaning of the tattoo.

"My belief in the apocalypse." I said staunchly.

"L'apocalypse?" She arched an eyebrow, and returned to her work with the same self-righteousness of most non-practicing French Catholics. It was weird, but obviously not weird enough to warrant further discussion.

Half an hour later, I had the omega on my wrist that will be on me until the day I die. Like most things, its meaning has shifted and changed over time. Now, its significance is more that things end. It's an important thing to remember, especially when it seems like you'll be sick forever or that you always fight with your partner. All things have an end, and with that comes a new beginning.

After getting my tattoo and sitting at home alone with it, chanting to myself how awesome it was, I decided to take a bus to Toronto so that I could spend New Years with friends. I packed a bag and headed out. I stayed at my friend Jimmy's place. We went to a very disappointing new years party, and then headed back to Jimmy's apartment to hang out for the rest of the night. Then a certain boy, whom I had met before, came over. We argued about philosophy, anarchy and post-apocalypticism. I proudly showed him my new tattoo, and he reciprocated, showing his tattooed knuckles from when he was a teenager.

Little did I know, that boy would be my future husband and father of my child. So I guess I can thank my tattoo, in a way.

I still believe in the end. I believe that the way things are as we know them are a very temporary state and that we should always be prepared. At the moment I'm putting together an emergency kit for my family. Before you say I'm crazy, you should note that Ontario recommends this. There's even 'emergency preparedness month', though I'm not sure which month that is. I'm sure when we see things like Hurricane Katrina, we think that it couldn't happen to us, but I'm sure they didn't think it would be them either. So here are some tips:
-have at least a three day supply of water on hand for your family. This means one litre of water for each person, each day. Look into proper storage techniques, and remember that water, like food, can go bad.

-a good thing to own is a crank radio, for when the power goes out. Some of these have reading lights too, but keep candles on hand for this purpose also.

-a book, or print-offs, on emergency preparedness. There is often no internet in an emergency!

-non-perishable food stuffs. Mayday makes rations that are good for quite a while, and meet your nutritional requirements. Also Mountain House has canned food that is good for thirty years plus, so you won't have to keep restocking.

-keep small versions of these objects in your car, and make sure your emergency kit in your house can be moved easily in case of evacuation.
I think in Ontario we really assume that nothing will go wrong. Tornados are rare, hurricanes nonexistant, and we aren't over any major fault lines for earthquakes. However, anything can happen, and with a family to protect, I believe it's better to be safe rather than sorry.

So on that note, I'll leave you with my favourite song by Band of Horses, which you can hear here:
The end's not near

It's here
Spread the cheer
And watch the millenarians
Throw a party for a thousand years

You won't see the pious praying
They'll be too busy flaying
All the martyrs with better ways
To stop the world decaying
If you call me I won't be home
I'm hiding from the kingdom come
They can't see everything on earth
With the satellites and the roving drones

This is why hell is underground
Like a reclaimed bad part of town
We don't want to lose our souls
We're the saints who don't want to be found

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Teen Moms

For the last three (five? I've lost count) days in a row, I've been woken up at five o'clock in the morning by a steady stream of baby babble. I sleepily attempt to reposition him on the breast, to which he reacts with a barrage of tiny fists and kicks in the bladder. Then I need to pee. So I get up, groggy eyed, changing diapers with half closed eyes, cooing back at a grinning, hyperactive, increasingly mobile baby. I plop him down on the floor and stare at him play with a giant stuffed rhino. An hour later, he starts to whine and is asleep. On my lap.


So I get stuck here, dear reader. I get stuck on the couch and while I could put the baby down, I don't feel comfortable leaving him downstairs to sleep upstairs. I've never been woken by the baby monitor, and I am afraid the empty, fleshless sound of it wouldn't be effective in waking me. Because I'd just be blogging anyway, I'd rather do it with the heavy warmth of a baby in my lap. This does not erase the exhaustion though. It's picking away at me, this lack of sleep. By fifteen minute increments, I am becoming more of a zombie, who can't remember her phone number or postal code, who keeps hanging up her phone accidentally when people call.

Would you believe that this is the result of getting only eight hours of sleep every night? Yep. By all accounts I am getting more sleep than most of the population. I am a rare breed of person though, one that needs at least ten hours of sleep to function properly. It's not that I'm lazy. I've always been this way, and while I thought that being a mom would break me of my dependence on a good night's rest, I was sadly mistaken. Naps don't help, though I usually indulge in them every two days or so. I wake up with a dry mouth and a bad attitude that can only be fixed with sugary beverages and Mike allowing me to make some mean, consequence-free comments about his housekeeping. Most of the time, even to my sleep-deprived brain, that doesn't seem worth it.

So while the baby sleeps on me, I blog, I facebook, I do a number of things that only recently became verbs. I watch bootlegged television online that I wouldn't be caught dead watching if anyone were around.

Mostly, I watch old episodes of 16 and Pregnant, and Teen Mom on MTV.

For those of you who have never watched the show before, it follows pregnant teens in a docu-style around their daily lives while pregnant, and then as moms. It's astounding the way their families treat them, telling them how hard it is to be a mom and then just taking the baby for them so that they can go out and party all night long. Sometimes the revelations that these girls have are heartwarming. Most of the time it's just damn depressing.

So then why do I identify with teen moms so strongly?

I am by all accounts, a responsible mother. I go out to the bar probably once every two months, and even then my enjoyment is fairly muted. I am on the younger scale of moms, but still acceptably old. I have a partner who is emotionally and physically available for fatherhood. But there is something that makes me feel like I am a teen mom. Maybe it's the uncomfortable enthusiasm with which my friends approach my motherhood. Maybe it's the fact that I am the only one in my social circle that is married and a mom. Maybe it's the fact that I never really thought I would have a kid, and the culture of motherhood was so new to me. Or maybe, just maybe, all moms feel as lost and unprepared as teen moms do. Teen moms just get more shit for it.

I ask myself if I was a teenager doing this, how it would be different. I'm not sure that it would be, not from the inside out anyway. Mothering is, in many ways, an emotive process. One could argue that they are emotions that need to be developed, that adolescents are not prepared to provide. Certainly, Teen Mom portrays several moms not stepping up and remaining the vision of self-absorbed-teenagedom. Still, I see the emotions that were elicited by my having a child as ones that stand alone. I was not developing them until I became pregnant and I think this is something I would have felt regardless of my age. What would have been different would be the support that I would have available to me. Doubtless me and my mother would have argued about it, my boyfriend would have taken off, and it would probably be me and my dad (who I lived with as a teen) raising the baby. That would be damn hard to take, even now, with my hard won knowledge about phone bills, and a bachelor of arts.

I guess my point is, teen moms are probably as good as their surroundings. I think I relate to them because they're the few who aren't posturing about how their baby is 'so well-behaved' and 'sleeps through the night'. They are clear about their limitations, surprises and exhaustion. Like all of us, they need strong people to hold them up as they go through the most vulnerable experience in a woman's lifetime. Let's face it, without support, all of us are teen moms.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Baby Steps

While holding onto a finger in each hand, Ender can now steadily walk across a room. And around, and around, grinning and dragging his feet like a little rehab patient. He truly looks like he's re-learning to walk, except it's the first time. Yeah. Time is moving way too fast.

It's as though he is becoming more beautiful by the day. And his smell! The only thing I was not prepared for was the delicious salty-sweet smell of your own baby. People rant and rave about how great babies smell in general, but I've smelled them and they're not that great. The smell of my own kid, however, is enough to make me swoon. I want to wrap him up in bunting and rock him to sleep with my cheek against his downy soft hair. The only problem is that he now hates to be wrapped up, and finds being rocked to sleep insulting. Ah, the halcyon days of babyhood are over. Welcome to toddlerhood.

The weekend was quite nice. I can't remember much that happened, except that it was a relaxing long weekend and I took a million baths. My mother took Ender out of the house for a few hours, and Mike and I had some quality me/him time and remembered why we like eachother. We made homemade pasta together and drank a bottle of champagne and snuggled. Hard to believe that pre-baby, that was pretty much all we did together.

Today I have a dentist appointment to finish my crown. About three years ago I had a root canal that I was told HAD to be crowned, otherwise it would break apart. It didn't break apart, despite my sloth, and now I'm finally getting it done in a bout of adult-type responsibility. It will be a gold tooth. I had the option of porcelain, but I think the idea of having an entire gold tooth is way too cool to pass up. Plus it's cheaper. Double bonus. I actually prefer metal fillings. Everyone is all about porcelain fillings now, and it's actually hard to get silver ones nowadays. All I know is, my parents both have mouths full of metal fillings that they got when they were teens, and I keep having to return to get these damn porcelains redone. They chip and crack, and cost way too much. It still baffles me that we live in a country that will pay for sweat-gland botox, but it won't pay for dental upkeep. Especially since links have been made between heart disease and gingivitis. It's a whole body, people. You can't just seperate out the expensive parts.

My dad returns from his almost month-long trip to Nova Scotia tomorrow. I've missed him terribly. He was my only guaranteed visitor from the outside world. There's something so reassuring about having a person in your life who you have no doubts about the fact that they genuinely enjoy your company. No matter what, I know my dad likes me. It's more than I can say about most people. Not that most people dislike me, but that I assume they don't, thereby sabotaging any chance of a closer relationship. Anyway, the point is that my dad visits me when no one else does and I feel like I'm going insane. God bless his heart. I can't wait to see him.

To conclude the slap-a-dash nature of this entry: I've been having lots of very weird dreams lately. I think I've got too much on my mind and I'm not leaving the house enough.

But my Babyhawk *still* has not arrived. Sigh.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

The Things I Was Supposed to Be

Writing this letter of intent (seemingly endlessly) has set me on the track of thought of all the things I've wanted to be over the years. When I was younger I had such tunnel vision about my future. There was only one possible version, and I thought if I clung to it as hard as I could then it would become a reality. While this is probably true, I overestimated my own tenacity. I think this is a generational issue, though. Most people I know are just now becoming what they think they should be, after a myriad of majors and minors, jobs and volunteer positions. So, here is a list of the things I was supposed to be. Consider it to be a sort of non-traditional resume.

Orthopedic Surgeon
Why: My dad was in a motorcycle accident before I was born, and as a result suffered permanent disability. Simply put, I wanted to fix him.
What: I read Grey's Anatomy when I was in grade three, and announced proudly to everyone who would listen that I was going to be a doctor
Why not: I took a week of grade 13 level calculus and then dropped it. Calculus was a prerequisite for the science program, and I decided if calculus was needed to become a doctor, I probably shouldn't be one. Calculus makes no sense to me.

Why: I was six feet and a hundred and fifty pounds in grade nine. You do the math.
What: I did some photoshoots, learned the runway, trucking myself from my country home to Toronto most weekends.
Why not: In the end, I didn't really care about it as voraciously as was needed. Some of those girls lived and breathed fashion, whereas I did not. Upon quitting the job, I had my lip pierced.

Why: I was picked out by one of my professors as being 'special' and more apt than some at sociological dissemination.
What: I worked way too hard as a research assistant, burned myself out, and then dropped out of a master's degree six months from completion.
Why not: Became disenchanted with ivory-tower intellectualism, as well as the poverty of academia. Being too poor to buy groceries just so you can argue about Foucault's version of the panopticon is SO not worth it.

Why: It was always a backup plan of mine, even back in the 'I'm gonna be a doctor' days. Whilst not as reputable as being a doctor, it was a profession and therefore good enough.
What: Took courses and interest in constitutional freedoms. Made loud noises in bars about rights and original intent. Worked in a law firm as a lawyer's underling.
Why not: Crappy LSAT scores, which may or may not be a result of complete disinterest in law school on my part.

When I was a kid, I went to a summer camp where we would stay on one of those recreation pioneer villages and 'work' as the children actors. This was legal because it was technically camp, and we were paying to be there. Anyway, for one of the activities, they had us sit down and talk about time and how time changes things. Deep stuff for camp, really. No wonder it was my favourite summercamp experience. They asked us what we pictured ourselves doing in fifteen years, and then we would make a presentation on it. I must have been nine or ten at the time. I gave my presentation about starting med school and living on my own. This is my most certain memory of my picture of my future. Needless to say, my future turned out much differently than that childish perception of what adulthood would be like. Still, I hope she (I) would be proud of me. I've realised since then that it's so much more important to be happy with yourself and what you're doing than to have a job that other people think is important.  That's all you're supposed to be. Content.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

On Kindness

I was supposed to go to the symphony tonight. I say 'supposed to' because I am no longer going. I mean, I'd like to go, but with a clogged duct and a baby with a clogged nose, I've decided not to. It was a plan I'd made with my mother-in-law to go to this wednesday series, which I did once and have now cancelled twice. I am a bad symphony partner. I believe it will probably be many years before I can hold tickets in my hand and say with certainty that I will be attending. There are too many variables. And unlike the usual variables, these variables trump everything else. Baby trumps everything. Husband who I only get to see a few hours a day trumps everything except baby.

That said, I probably should have gone. I am spending so much time alone with the baby that I am practically surprised when people talk to me in plain english.

"Are we going to the store today Ender?"


"We don't have time to go to the library"


While this is representative of a conversation, it's not representative of our activities. Mostly we sit around on the carpet and play with blocks. I've called Babyhawk about my carrier, which still has not arrived after 11 business days of waiting. When speaking to their customer service representative, I recieved the same crappy customer service I've come to expect from most American companies. Bored, unfriendly and unhelpful. I'd like to give her the benefit of the doubt and say that she probably worked in some horrible office building, wearing sensible shoes and a modest-lengthed skirt, staring at the clock, counting the minutes 'till she could get home to her babies, but I can't. Her kid was in the background. She was working at home, and still couldn't even muster up any form of friendliness.

I'm not quite sure why friendliness is cultural. It makes people happy to be smiled at, to be talked to positively. And yet there are countries that are well-known for their friendliness, or lack thereof. Friendliness is even interpreted differently, it would seem, as I find Montreal to be one of the more friendly cities, and my mother feels constantly the butt of some kind of joke she didn't hear when she visits.

It still begs the question though, which ancestor was it that decided that friendliness was something that was important to instill in his children? And who was it that decided that his common man required no courtesy?

We're very close to finishing our school applications, and then I'll have a weight lifted off my mind. My mom is coming to watch the baby for Mike and I on Valentines Day. She's taking him out of the house, which means we will be alone together in our home for the first time in 9 months. I need this so badly. There's something about parenting that just makes your relationship so public. Privacy is highly underrated, and a lack of it makes us snap at eachother and not appreciate one another as we should.

Anywho...I'm now going to drink two very measured glasses of the fancy organic wine we bought the would-be babysitter, and encourage Ender to crawl. A night to remember indeed!

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Letters of intent

Well there's been a bit of a lag in my posts over the weekend, but I think that's probably characteristic. Somehow having my husband around to help out around the house makes my days busier, not calmer. I've also been dealing with Ender's cold, my cold, and a bout of mastitis. For all of you who don't know what mastitis is, I'll spare you the gory details. I treated it with hot rosemary poultices and an overdose of echinacea, and I'm on the mend. From what I understand, it's normal for mastitis to strike when you're doing too much, and that probably is the case. As my son becomes more independent and able to play on his own for minutes at a time (oh the sweet luxury) I am spending less and less time on my butt and most time on my feet. Today I'm trying my damndest to relax, but both Mike and I are trying to get our transcripts in order for school applications, and because we do not have a printer nor fax machine, it's proving difficult. We briefly had a printer, gifted to us from my in-laws electronic graveyard, but after battling with it for several days, we decided it was definitely broken.

On the menu today: Sole Chowder and homemade bread. I've never made chowder before, so this will be an interesting experiment. The bread is made with leftover fat from a pork roast I made last week. Very depression-era style baking. I can only imagine animal fat would make bread even better.

I'm also kind of creatively tapped out. I'm trying to write my letter of intent for a costume studies program (so many letters of intent this year!) and I'm coming up completely empty. I guess it's hardest to write about the things you're passionate about. That is, without sounding creepy. The letter in my mind is playing out like this:

Hello, there. I think everything you guys do is awesome. I used to work across from your classrooms and stare forlorn through the window. Even if you don't let me in, I'd like to just stand around for a little while and touch things. Is that ok?

No that's not okay, Nicole, you weirdo. So the letter writing continues, fruitlessly.

I guess that's all for now. I'm not feeling well so forgive me if I'm not as loquacious as usual.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Raw Milk

Today Mike and Ender and I had a proper English tea, with homemade scones, double devon cream and jam. Devon cream is a pasteurized approximation of clotted cream, which I had in York when I went to England and is the greatest thing ever. I would describe it as one step down from butter (milkfat wise) and one step up from whipped cream. You spread it on the sweet, biscuity scone and top it with some rasberry jam and it has this creamy delightful flavour. The Devon cream, which I purchased from Global Cheese in Kensington market, was very good. Not quite as good as the stuff I had in Europe though. Which got me thinking. None of the dairy products that I've had in Canada have quite compared to those that I've had in Europe. From the butter on my toast to the cream in my coffee, European milk just tastes better. And that's because a lot of it isn't pasteurized. Not pasteurized? You say. Well then it must be unhealthy! Indeed, 'raw milk' as it's called, is not good for those with compromised immune systems, or children, but it would seem people have been happily consuming it in many parts of the world for hundreds of years. And the reason that it's not recommended is based on the possibility that the milk is bad, not a certainty. As some raw milk advocates say, it's more work to keep cows healthy enough for healthy unpasteurized milk.

I also had unpasteurized milk when I was staying with the Twelve Tribes (lovely people, and I'll say more about them in a later post) during my masters thesis research on new religious movements. They had bought a cow to provide milk to the whole community. They made their own yogurt out of it, as well as drank it with mate and it was wonderful. They weren't allowed to serve it in their shop, however, due to Canadian milk law.

For more information on the raw milk debacle of late here in Canada, click here.

So I would like to make my own, proper clotted cream with it's delicate palatability, and for that it would seem I need to buy a share in a cow. Let it be so. Updates on this quest to follow.

According to the babyhawk website, my baby carrier is about to ship! Soon I'll be trucking around the city again with my baby like a free woman. I'm starting to get really cabin feverish. While this has been the easiest winter in recent memory, I still am antsy for the warm weather to return. And me, without a full time job, it's just extra sweet. I've already promised my little man that we will spend most of our time in the park, sun on our faces, grass between our toes. He'll be walking then (!) and I'll probably get rid of this doughy winter flesh simply by running after him.

I've been implementing a few steps in improving Ender's sleep, or rather, his transition into sleep. After reading a few books on the subject, even cosleeping advocates seem to agree that a bedtime routine is reassuring and healthy for children. Sometimes their days can be so chaotic and different that a little bit of familiarty really helps them wind down. I still remember coming home from a birthday party when I was 8 and being jerked out of sleep every five minutes due to half sleep hallucinations that I was still involved in a water pistol fight. So now our routine involves sitting in some warm water in the sink for about five minutes, getting toweled off and put in pj's and a fresh diaper, reading a story, and then nursing to sleep. So far it has been working fabulously, and Ender seems to think it's peachy keen. He's teething at the moment, so anything that keeps him calm and confident that the world isn't ending is a good thing.

Well, I guess that's all my friends. Nicoliosis out.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

On Making Peace with Being a Homemaker in the 21st Century

When I pictured myself in a job in the future, after an array of less than glamorous professions, I said I wanted to work in an office. I've always liked the feel of offices, the scent of toner, the bland sounds of printers and phones buzzing in the distance. And after coming home every night smelling of a deep fryer, officey jobs became a shining post-graduation aspiration for me. What more could one ask for than a quiet, clean job?

I've now had three office jobs, and I now realise that the fantasy I had was not at all founded in reality. Office work is a net of bitchy power dynamics, a ruthless maintenance of the status quo. Not only did I not fit in, I was miserable. While before I had one boss, I now had five with different spheres of influence. And due to my lack of postgraduate education, and a certain part of male anatomy, I was perpetually The Secretary.

The Secretary is sometimes called an assistant, or an executive assistant, or an administrative assistant. This is to distract you from the fact that you are a secretary, just like the secretaries that went before you that got slapped on the ass as they wiggled out of the boardroom in pencil skirts. Except, instead of getting slapped on the ass, you are given performance evaluations which serve no other purpose than to remind you that you are low on the power scale, and very replaceable. The Secretary's job is to go down with the ship. If your boss makes a mistake, it was your fault that you didn't catch it. It is also The Secretary's job to have no opinion. Even if you side with your boss, you will be quickly reminded that you have no education or place to be making statements on such matters.

Finally, it is The Secretary's duty to always be in a good mood. You may weather your boss's bad mood, but never, ever may you portray that you have actual emotions. This, they tell you, should be kept at home. And as I perused the cubicles, with children's drawings posted next to every happy corporate drone's little nameplate, I felt as alien as could be. I also felt damn under appreciated, and had a serious superiority complex. And so, I am no longer The Secretary, and never again shall I be.

This is all to preface the fact that I was not prepared to be a homemaker. I had a picture in my mind of what it would be. That I would take care of the house and the child, and Mike would go to work and do his thing, and then when he came home I'd have dinner ready and we'd all recant the details of my day.


First of all, I have no details to my day that I see as worth recanting. Secondly, I rarely have time to stop what I'm doing for dinner. Yes, I make dinner. But I usually spend dinner trying to feed spinach to a very reluctant baby boy, bitching about the dishes. It would seem that I am still human, you see. As much as I don't look like the homemakers that went before me, with my fire engine red hair and piercing scars, I also do not act like one. I can not cheerfully go about my housework, deal with a fussy baby, and watch my husband read the newspaper. No way, no how. I'm a homemaker, not a doormat.

There is also no way that I can get all of this housework done on my own. I am constantly reminded of this, and somehow it makes me feel severely inferior. For the first time I am my own boss, and I can't get it all done. I can't pass the buck and say it's due to the fact that I'm a woman, or that I'm overqualified. I'm just tired, overwhelmed, and I need help. I need an army of caregivers, for this to be as easy as I pictured it would be.

But unlike being The Secretary, being a homemaker is rewarding. I love being able to be at home with my baby boy, even if it means that there are no more nights out at the bar, or ordering takeout. There is no more shopping trips when I'm in a bad mood, only sticky kisses from my number one fan.

So while it's not what I expected it to be, it's a lot better than everything else.

An aside: My damn mother has been sending my blog address to parenting magazines, getting my hopes up that one day I could be published. After allowing myself a moment to blissfully fantasize about what that would entail (mostly fuzzy bunny slippers and martinis), I am reminded of why I never send my work anywhere: Disappointment. I am terrified of rejection. But still, she's got a point. This is the best portfolio of work that I've ever compiled. And I can certainly rant on (and on, and on) about being a mom. Maybe I should start sending off my blog address myself...


Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Tired of Breastfeeding

Don't get me wrong, I'm glad I did it. Glad enough that I think doctors should be more clear about its benefits, just for coping with a crying baby. You can't overfeed a breastfeeding baby, your breasts just make the right amount for your child. So, if he's fussing, pop him on the boob. If he just plopped himself on his face, pop him on the boob. Sure, I was chained to a nursing cushion these last nine months, but our house was as quiet as a church on a Tuesday. I also know that we've had no tummy upsets, only three colds, and one fat, happy baby. The results speak for themselves. Breastfeeding for at least the first two weeks should practically be mandatory.

However, I'm starting to get really sick of it. Google 'tired of breastfeeding' and you'll get:

A. a woman's diatribe about how she breastfed her children until they were 5(!) years old, and that women get sick of bfing around this point because we were told we needed to do it for a year. She also claims we would get sick of being pregnant for nine months if we were told we only needed to do it for six. Fair enough Debbi, but not very helpful for the nursing mom who would rather claw her breasts off than do it for another 4 years.

B. a bunch of medical info on how breastfeeding can make you tired, due to not only caloric expenditure but nutritional expenditure. I guess that's pretty obvious, but while I've been trying to make up for calories I wasn't really thinking about vitamins. I have been feeling crappy lately (aside from this current cold I have) and I wonder if that's why. Anyway, not really related, and not very helpful either.

And finally, C. Forum posts about similarly tired women, who are starting to lose the faith in the thing that they have loved for so long, but are starting to get damn sick of. Most of these women are then barraged with comments (a lot of them from lactation consultants) saying they should 'stay the course' and take it one week at a time. Basically being told that this is the only real option.


I know the health benefits.  I know the emotional benefits. I just want my body back.

I suppose it's superficial. I guess I'm supposed to martyr myself at this point. It's either breastmilk making up 75% of his diet or formula, and I just could NOT do that. Never. Ever. But I find myself daydreaming about weaning. Trying to get him to have just one more sip of juice, one more spoonful of food. I want to lose these breastfeeding pounds the way I know how. Caloric reduction. I want to go out for a day and not have to pump (I hate pumping with a passion) and worry whether he'll take the bottle. I want my boobs to go from DDs back to Bs.

I think the feeling may be mutual, too. I notice my little man (who sleeps in bed with me) hardly nurses at all at night now, preferring to be 'spooned' by me instead of being latched on all night long. He also has been wrestling through every feeding, which is likely the reason why I'm so tired of this whole thing.

In conclusion, my mantra shall now be: three more months, only three more months....

Monday, February 1, 2010

An Ode to my Stand Up Mixer


Avocado green,
and bought in '76
you improve my life
in ways promised
by Parade magazine.


I can't afford you,
10 speeds of mixing genius
from slow stir to rapid whisk
raising egg whites to cloud castles
a miracle of physics
force, equal and opposite reaction.


Hook, whisk, and paddle,
recieved in '99
when I, 17 and foolish
made pastries instead of homework.