Monday, August 31, 2009

Why comparing yourself to other mums is a pointless waste of time and prevents you from experiencing better things like sex and chocolate.

Comparing yourself to others is only human. Right?

Back me up here people.

It's instinctive. Natural. Normal.

I'll admit: I compare myself to other people - especially other mums. People fascinate me. I like seeing how they handle situations I've been in. I like observing their different techniques. And I like seeing how they manage to stay on top of things.

The problem is, this little observation inevitably turns into an internal slanging match with myself over whether I'm as good as them.

Me: Your diaper bag isn't as organized as hers, is it?
Me: No. Why does it matter?

Me: Because because! You must keep up appearances.
Me: Yes you're right. Must. Do. Better.

Me: And look how patient and calm she is with her kids. Take note.
Me: Taking note...

It happens when I'm in Starbucks people watching working on my laptop, when I'm reading someone's blog, when I'm looking at people's photos on Facebook.

The possibilities are EVERYWHERE.

This is how I see the evolution of the nasty habit of comparing:

It starts at school when you look up at your classmate with the cool outfit and the top test results and wonder if your outfit and test results are as good; then you land your first job out of college and you ask yourself whether your boss likes you as much as your smart arse colleague - the one who sends 11 p.m. emails around the entire office to prove they did indeed work late; then you become a homeowner and your neighbour's lawn is just that little bit greener than yours; and then you're a mother and... holy shit. Where do I even start?

There are many many many opportunities to compare yourself to other parents when you become one yourself.

It's SO MUCH FUN! (That was sarcastic. In case it didn't come across.)

In prenatal class, I sat with J and ten other expectant couples, comparing my bump to theirs: was my bump too big, too small, or just right? Did they know more than me about this baby thing? Was I as calm and composed as they were? (It was only later I realized everyone in the class was just pretending to be calm and really were silently crapping themselves with fear and panic.)

And then, when I had my baby, the comparing went full speed ahead, and perhaps a little out of control.

Other women took to breastfeeding naturally. I didn't.

Other women seemed to always be doing interesting activities with their kids. Often I stayed home and played the piano to Matthew or read him books.

Other people's houses were FAR cleaner than mine.

Other mums lost their baby weight fast while I struggled to get the pounds off.

And there were baby books, magazines, online mum forums, TV shows, friends and relatives. All enablers of the comparison habit in one way or other. And social media. Yes, I'm sorry. I do love social media. It's great for making connections, meeting fabulous people, etc. But it does give you that sneak peek at other people's lives that again, inevitably leads to the ol' comparison making.

An example? I'll be perusing status updates on Facebook, and I'll see that So-And-So Supermum with not two but THREE kids has already been to Gymboree, written a report for work and worked out at the gym. All before 10 a.m. And I'm still in my pyjamas, with the bedraggled bedhead thing going on, looking mournfully at the dishes in the sink.

Yes. It's safe to say I was a little preoccupied with comparing myself to other mums. Partly because I was baby clueless. Partly because I craved reassurance, acceptance, approval. Partly because I'm a nosey hag. I watched other women for clues.

Thankfully, when I had my second son, I let go of the comparisons. Not completely, but enough to feel in control.

And so? What did I learn from all the comparisons? What is the point of this rambling, unscientific post?

To tell you something important.


I learned nothing from comparing myself to other mums. The only feelings that resulted were ones of self doubt and pointless thoughts at 2 a.m. like
oh no what if Jane comes over tomorrow and sees the spot under the fridge that I haven't cleaned in three years - she'll know I'm a terrible person!

More importantly these thoughts detract from more important things like ENJOYING LIFE. Things like chocolate, laughing, sex, drinking wine, spending time with your kids, taking photographs, going to dinner with friends, relaxing, going for a walk. You get the idea.

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Saturday, August 29, 2009

Daddy go wine?

As we pulled into the mini mall this afternoon, there came a little voice from the back of the car.


We've made a few extra trips to the wine store this week, hence the assumption.

The reason for the extra wine trips?

1. The toddler screeching: Imagine, if you will, a scene from a horror movie. I'm thinking Scream or something with equal amounts of annoying screaming people.

The main character is about to be murdered in the most horrific way imaginable. She lets rip a gut-wrenching, blood-curdling scream. The type of scream you have to turn away from because it's that gruesome.

Hearing it?

This is the sound my toddler has recently adopted to let me know when he is NOT HAPPY.

Like, for instance:
He's not happy I won't let him bash the wall with his dump truck a hundred times.
He's not happy his diaper needs to be changed.
He's not happy it's time to get out of the car and not spend the next thirty minutes sitting in the driver's seat pressing all the buttons on the dashboard.
He's not happy his Dad has to leave for work in the morning.
He's not happy I want to use my own fork instead of letting him use it, even though he already has one.
He's not happy his brother is holding one of his (four thousand) trucks/cars.
He's not happy people are visiting our house.
He's not happy we're visiting someone else's house.
He's not happy the world is not spinning in the direction he wants it to.

2. The baby is teething: Enough said?

"Yes sweetie, Mummy and Daddy need wine."
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Thursday, August 27, 2009

A Londoner at heart

I moved to Calgary four years ago from London (England) after purchasing a house on a whim on holiday the year before. That's right, we bought a house on a whim. Who does that? Um, me? Us? Impulsive - yes. But right, as it turns out. Calgary was J's city - he was born and raised here. Now it's my city too. And despite it being a city of long, cold winters, Stampede madness and oil and gas infatuation, I've come to like it. I'll tell you why another time.

I left my life in London - a life I remember as being full and involved, one that took me to all corners of the City and more windy streets than a Dickens novel. A life that, within the space of one day, was completely erased. Sometimes I think of life still going on there as usual, and it's odd.

London doesn't care. London is the grand city, the magnificent, intimidating city. Its history is richly embedded in every brick and every paving stone in its majestic streets. Its architecture - an eclectic side-by-side amalgamation of old and modern. Its buildings cast imposing shadows over its workers, residents, tourists. Life moves fast there, unforgiving.

I loved London. And I detested it.

I worked for a top PR firm in the West End; I was in a choir and sang in the City's concert halls; I lived in a loft apartment in a 16th Century school house conversion in a nice part of town; I lived in a flat barely large enough to swing a cat in a ropey part of town; I swam in the Waldorf's swimming pool four times a week; I commuted on dirty, overcrowded, overheated underground trains every day; I brushed shoulders with celebrities so often it wasn't remotely interesting any more.

In the hopes of illustrating the London I remember, I rummaged through old digital files. But I didn't find a shot of the Soho street where my favourite Thai restaurant lived, or the road my office was on, or the road between my office and Covent Garden where I walked most days for a coffee, or the pub where I first shared a beer with J, or the stretch along the South Bank where we used to walk.

I found these random shots instead.

The "Gherkin" - Richard Rogers design, post modern.

Fitzrovia, the BT tower in the background.

Greenwich Museum

Houses of Parliament (Iraq war protest march)

Canterbury Cathedral - okay not in London, but one of my all time favourite English Cathedrals.

This is the car we owned before moving to Calgary.

A little Ford "Ka". They're not even sold in Calgary - the City where the SIZE OF YOUR VEHICLE MATTERS. Where Hummers and giant trucks would laugh at my little "Ka" and squish it with one wheel.

This is J in the publishing house he worked for. Looking very swanky and professional (and hot, if I might add).

I couldn't find a picture of me in my old job, so you'll just have to imagine me sitting at a desk, talking on the phone and looking very industrious and important. Yeah.

Or, here's a picture of me dressed as a nun. Will that do?

Thirty minutes before this shot was taken, late for the fancy dress party because of some stupid client deadline, I (far left) jumped in a black taxi with another faux nun and proceeded to get changed out of my work outfit and into my nun outfit in the taxi, much to the horror of the cab driver.

In true cabbie style, the driver peered over his shoulder and said to me, "'Ere, love, you're not gonna keep doin' that are ya? I've got people lookin' in 'ere wondrin' what the 'ell's goin' on!".

Fun times in London town.
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Wednesday, August 26, 2009

What if mum threw a tantrum?

I was thinking. What if, for just one day, I could swap places with my toddler and I could be the one to throw a tantrum?

I'd throw myself on the floor, wailing I'm done changing diapers! I'm done holding people down to prevent poo from being smeared all over the floor while they wriggle and whine and act as though I'm torturing them!

I'd stand outside the laundry room slapping the door and wailing no no no I won't do the laundry! I won't do it! You'll all have to wear smelly clothes for eternity! Waaah!

I'd stop in the middle of the road, with cars piling up around me, sobbing uncontrollably but I don't wanna go home yet! You can't make me! I wanna go to out to dinner and the movies and come back at 1 a.m. slightly drunk!

I'd stand in the middle of the store stomping my feet and bellowing this store blows! There's something wrong with their clothes - they used to fit me! They did they did! Someone make them fit me again! And I'm not leaving until someone gives me a pair of Pradas and a Chanel 2.55 bag!

I'd throw the remote control at the telly and yell dammit if I ever hear that frigging song "backpack, backpack", again, I will grab Dora by the scruff of her neck and strangle her and her backpack.

I'd refuse to eat my food and with a scowly face inform everyone at the table I want pizza and salad, cooked by someone else and delivered to me. And with no calories. Now!

I'd pull the covers over my head and refuse to get out of bed in the morning, droning from beneath the sheets there's no way in hell I'm going through another day like yesterday! I wanna sleep til noon dammit. Get someone else stand in for me.

What would your tantrum be over?
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Monday, August 24, 2009

Splash Park Mums

The splash park became one of our favourite weekend hangouts this summer. It's a short drive from home, it's free, and Matthew basks in the glory of dashing through water streams and up and down play structures. And while he's doing his thing I can lie on the grass with Oliver beside me sipping a latte. That's me sipping the latte by the way - not Oliver. Because he's a baby and that would be weird.

It's ideal people-watching territory too, and as everyone knows, watching strangers is therapeutic, not to mention intriguing. Perhaps it's the stories I invent about them. Or observing other people go through the parenting routines I'm so familiar with: the glimmer of panic as their child goes too high on the climbing frame, the chasing to smear sun screen on bits of exposed flesh, the gentle but firm reminders to not push another child out the way to get onto the slide.

And while in attendance at the splash park (and more because I'm nosey), I've come to notice a pattern of splash park mum types.

There's supermodel mum. Her tall, leaner than lean body is so rare and so out of place at the splash park that you can't help but notice her. Often she can be seen strutting and prancing around in a bikini that's a little too risqué for a kids' splash park.

There's stylish mum: Stylish mum has the perfect outfits, always. Her strappy sundress flatters her curves impeccably, and is accessorized with Pelle Moda sandals and Tom Ford sunglasses. Her hair is glossy and fashionably tied back in a loose not. Her toe and fingernails are manicured.

There's helicopter mum: Scary Mommy introduced me to this term in a recent post. Helicopter Mum is the one who's always hovering over her kids - slightly afraid of what might happen left to their own devices. (Erm, wait, that might be me a little bit...)

There's coffee mum: aka me, hiding behind large sunglasses and a venti latte, taking the opportunity to relax while her husband takes over chasing and guarding duties for a few hours.

There's run ragged mum: she's the one with the rosy glow who never, ever stops. She darts from one child to another, putting out fires and tempering tantrums, producing bandaids and emergency snacks at a moment's notice, and has that weary parent look about her. (Yeah okay, that's me a bit too...)

There's mum I'm jealous of: this mother has slightly older kids. Old enough that she can reduce their whines in seconds with a raised eyebrow and a barely-audible warning. Old enough that she can enjoy the atmosphere uninterrupted with a book for at least thirty minutes. Can't wait to be there.

There's expert tanner mum: Expert tanner mum comes to the park prepared for some hardcore tanning. She's equipped with folding chairs, enough snacks and drinks to last half the day, magazines, Blackberry, bikini, sarong and towels. And factor 8. Because anything higher than 8 will hinder her tan.
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Sunday, August 23, 2009

Day Trip Tricks (try saying that 3 times)

I'm not a meticulous mum. I'm not brilliantly organized and I don't always have an immaculate house, car or diaper bag. I wish I was, but I'm not. So when it comes to vacations or day trips, I'm the one bolting around the house at the last minute, grabbing things that look vaguely useful and lobbing them into my over sized diaper bag.

But, this week on our Staycation, I was forced to revise my habits and become an organized mother. Not easy for me. But for the sake of retaining some sense of composure on our daily outings, some organizing was necessary.

I learned a few good tricks this week:

Separating my stuff saved me from near hysteria: At the start of the week I was cramming everything into one bag: toys, diapers, crackers - you name it, it was all in there mingling together. When one child or other was on the verge and in dire need of a bottle or a snack, all I could find was a jumbled mess. I might have uttered the words "I can't find a thing in this bloody bag" about, oh, a thousand times. Then I had a wonderful idea: separate my stuff into different bags - one for spare clothes, shoes and diapers, one for food and drink, one for everything else. Hey presto, flapping and fussing in the middle of the street averted.

I started a nightly cleansing ritual: Really, who wants to clean anything at the end of a ridiculously long day with overtired, cranky kids? Me! Me! Not really me, but because we planned to head out early every morning, we had to prepare things the night before. That meant cleaning out the diaper bag and repacking it. It saved me a headache the next morning as I was trying to get people fed, clothed and ready to go.

Don't forget the car: I'd like to tell you I straightened out my car after each trip this week and that the next morning we returned to a fresh, clean interior that didn't smell like stale apples. But alas, instead of cleaning out the car, I was passed out on the sofa with a bottle of wine in one hand and a box of chocolates in the other attempting recovery. And because no one cleaned out the car after each excursion, what resulted was possibly the largest amount of crap in a car you've ever set eyes on. No exaggeration. After a week of outings, I spent almost a whole hour yesterday, stooped awkwardly over every crevice of our car's interior, pulling out random objects and organizing them into sacks: one for garbage, one for keepers. I thought about photographing the mayhem for your amusement but the humiliation might have killed me.

I went armed with games: Every time I heard the start of a small whine or groan from the back of the car, I was fast as a fox with an "I know! Let's see how many cows we can see at the side of the road!" or an "I spy with my little eye...". The key is the enthusiasm. There must be enthusiasm. Of course this strategy only really works for the first hour, after that no one in their right mind has the energy to keep up these charades. So after my energy was depleted, there were sticker book, toys and lots of food.

I opened my arms to sugar and fat, large amounts of: One thing I discovered about myself this week is that I'm prepared to do practically anything to make life easy on a day trip. On our way out to the beach on Friday I stopped off at the store and picked up croissants, cookies, chips, juice, pop, muffins and other sugary / fatty morsels of goodness. These foods were used intermittently throughout the day as bribes and distractions. Genius. Apart from the extra calories I ended up consuming. Bugger.

Lastly and importantly, get the booze ready: When we arrived home each night, after dinner, bath and bedtime were done, there was nothing more healing than a glass of wine. I vowed, after this week, to always stock up for such moments.
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Friday, August 21, 2009

Flawless Moment

At the side of the lake we sat, digging our fingers and toes into the sand, still as a leaf and for a while, the spectators not the protagonists of the fast moving world. We waded into the clear water up to our knees, absorbing the sounds of merriment and the warm glow from above.

Up and down the shoreline you explored like a hunter seeking his prey for the first time, exquisitely focused on the job at hand. You dug eagerly into the damp, chunky sand, building castles and moats in which you would later drive your cars.

Your brother sat a few feet away in the little sand seat we carved for him, sweet, happy, gurgling and beaming at you like always. His eyes twinkle, perhaps with the notion that soon he'll join you in these big adventures.

This flawless moment I'll remember.

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Thursday, August 20, 2009

City girl goes to the mountains

I'm a city girl at heart. If I'm not within five minutes of wireless access, espresso, crowds of multi-cultural people and retail, I become jittery. I moved from a city of 8 million (London) to a city of 1 (Calgary). It still feels relatively small to me. To not have to bend and twist to make my way through lots of people on the high street. To have people I've never met say hello. To get on a bus and not be forced to stand way too close to a total stranger.

But, I do love to escape the city momentarily. I like passing through small towns and neighbourhoods. I like the openness of the countryside and the quiet of the mountains. And part of the reason we came to Calgary was the mountains, or Banff to be more precise - an hour by car from our house.

The drive to Banff is like leaving all of one's chaos behind. As the mountains draw near, I begin to breathe the air and feel the tranquility. Everything about it feels like vacation to me. So even if it's only for a weekend or a day, it's still a holiday.

But like I say, I'm a city girl. And after a day or two of being in the mountains, I'm itchy to get back.

This morning was day 4 of the Staycation, and we drove out to Canmore - a delightful little mountain town on the way to Banff. Canmore is one of those picture perfect places you visit for a day and which appear so idyllic you can hardly believe people really live there.

After yesterday's tantrum episodes, followed by an evening of whining on Facebook and commiserating with friends on the phone, we felt better and more optimistic about coping with public outings, tantrums or no. Plus, last night I read a useful article in Parents magazine, which as if by fate had been delivered to the house earlier that day.

The first thing we did in Canmore was head to the tourist information place to ask for help. The woman in the office gave me a map and described in great detail how to get to a picnic spot only five minutes away. The picnic site led to a 30-minute walk along the river, perfect for kids, she noted. Hurray!

Five minutes later we were heading for the river when J asked me "So where did she say to go next?"

I pulled out the map and studied it.


Here's the thing: I am bad at understanding directions. Not bad, in fact - horrific. Like, there's a possibility I could get lost coming home from the grocery store. That horrific.

"I think she said to go left here." I said, trying to sound confident and convincing.

"Err, no I think we carry on straight up this road here." J assured me, pointing to a road on the map headed in an entirely different direction to the one I had suggested.

I decided to go with his suggestion, though not admitting he might be correct.

We walked along a cul-de-sac with lovely houses. I protested that this was definitely not the right way because clearly there was no path, and no signs ANYWHERE!

And then we come to a small clearing and a path. Weird.

At the end of the path was a gravel trail, running alongside the river. J started along it but I stood dead thrusting my finger at the map indignantly.

"Hold on! This isn't right!" I squawked. "We've come the wrong way! Look! It says right here on the map that there's a picnic bench and people fishing! Right here! A PICTURE OF A BENCH AND A FISH. But they're not here!"

"We probably just need to walk a little further." Was J's calm response. "Just because there's a picture of a bench and a fish doesn't mean they're right on THIS spot."

"No, no! It should be RIGHT HERE!" I insisted nearly making a hole in the map with my finger.

J turned and continued with the double stroller. I trailed after him, muttering loudly about things not being where they should be.

"You don't know where you're going!" I blurted, suddenly afraid that we were headed out into the remote woods, further and further away from civilization and Starbucks, where a deranged farmer would be waiting for us with his axe.

J kept walking. I kept following, still ranting a high-pitched grumble.

About a minute later we found the picnic benches. J said nothing, because he has developed a certain patience when it comes to my lack of navigational ability and my tendency to become hysterical when lost.

And then we sat and ate lunch enjoyed the beauty of the surroundings.

I never did see that giant fish flying through the air either... weird.
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Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Staycation Turmoil

How can I describe today?

30 minutes frolicking in a river; 54 times wanting to rip my eyeballs from my head; 3 times sternly confirming there will not be a third child; 20 times loving being a mum; 20 times wanting to run away to France and change my identity; 38 times swearing under my breath; 5 times swearing out loud. 1 time persuading my toddler I'd actually said a different word.

I'm on vacation, you see. Yes that's right, vacation.

No wait... I'm really on Staycation.

Seriously, who the hell invented the Staycation?

When you have two young kids, planning a vacation is not about deciding which glorious location you'll be visiting, or picturing the blissful days you'll be spending on the beach, or buying an entire new wardrobe of sexy summer clothes and bikinis.

It's about figuring out how you'll get your kids to sit still on a plane or in a car for a period of hours without wanting to strangle everyone with your bare hands or being strangled by your fellow passengers.

It's about working out the logistics of transporting enormous quantities of stuff: fifty thousand diapers and wipes, snacks, clothes x 5 in case they each need to be changed multiple times, a double stroller that weighs as much as an elephant carrying a rhinoceros, the play pen, the toys, the etc., etc., etc.

Therefore, in light of the nightmare disguised as a vacation away from home with two kids aged two and under, we decided to stay home.

What a marvelous idea!

The week started off well enough. We've so far enjoyed a pleasant combination of outings to the park, the splash park, the zoo and other touristy things around the city that we wouldn't otherwise do.

Sounds nice, yes?

Yes. Good. Lovely.

Just one small problem. Matthew has chosen THIS week to induct us, his parents, into a new phase of toddler insanity. I'm talking hell-on-wheels, head spinning, frothing at the mouth, fits of rage. Yes. Tantrums.

But we're not scared.

Undeterred, we packed up early this morning and ventured out to Sandy Beach - a beautiful park, and probably the closest thing Calgary has to a beach.

And as you can see from these pictures, all was grand for a while.

Matthew reveled in lobbing stones into the river.

I basked in the sun with Oliver gurgling happily in my arms.

Matthew found a little friend to play with along the pebbly bank. They shared a dump truck and a shovel, digging for stones and driving the truck up and down the bank.

And then, almighty horror of horrors, it was time to leave the scene and continue on with our walk through the park.

What ensued was a show of displeasure that included screaming, screeching, stomping, throwing, hitting, back-arching, jumping and general tantrum-throwing of proportions never before seen.

We left the park: two adults rushing away as onlookers stared, one toddler in a wagon screaming the kind of scream usually reserved for CSI Miami, one baby still happily gurgling, and one dog, completely bewildered as to why his walk had been abruptly cut short.

Back at home, when all the screaming and hissing had died down, me and J sat down and wondered - what now? What the hell do we do? Where's that damn instruction manual? Do we get strict? Do we use distractions? Do we never ever leave the house again?

HELP! I screamed. Okay I didn't scream but I was thinking about it. Unfortunately we live in the burbs and no one would have heard my screams.

So, we're learning. We're beginning the next phase of parenting: discipline. We're being tested in ways we never thought possible. Pulled and tugged in every way. Stretched and bruised.

And we're learning.

And like most parents, when we say goodnight to our little tantrum-throwers, we kiss them and remember all the wonderful things we love about them and the bad things magically disappear.

And because really how can you stay mad at a kid who's going to bed dressed as a pirate?

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Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Amethyst Earrings Giveaway

There's a shiny new giveaway over on my review blog. Go on and take a peek.
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Monday, August 17, 2009

Sylvia... Yes Mickey? How do you sing your baby to sleep?

The night we met I knew I needed you so
And if I had the chance I'd never let you go

(slap, slap, wallop, slap)

So won't you say you love me
I'll make you so proud of me

(slap, scratch, slap)

We'll make 'em turn their heads Every place we go

(snore, snore)

The current bedtime routine: I sing the songs, rocking back and forth; Oliver tries to stop me from singing the songs by walloping me with his sleepy, clumsy hand or grabbing my mouth and wrenching it away from my face; I persist with the lyrics; eventually he relents and falls asleep.

When I saw you walking down the street
I said that's the kind of baby I'd like to meet ...

I think the Dirty Dancing songs started when I was scrambling for something other than Hush Little Baby, or Twinkle Twinkle, which, after fifty times in one evening are, to say the least, monotonous. Like, please someone put me out of my misery now, monotonous. You've probably been there, done that, too.

With Matthew it was Edelweiss from The Sound of Music.

Edelweiss, Edelweiss
Every morning you greet me

Small and bright
Clean and white

You look happy to meet me

And a few nights ago, when he woke from his sleep crying, I attempted to reintroduce the song, but he was having none of it. He actually told me "no!" angrily. Okay then. No more Edelweiss.

Then, for some reason, when I had Oliver, I replaced regular lullabies with anything that came to mind.

In the still of the night I held you,
held you tight
'Cause I love, love you so
Promise I'll never let you go

It might have been because I was so weary from the all-too-recent nights of endless lullaby singing for Matthew. Or the second-time mum confidence that inspired me to throw out traditions and do things my way. Or maybe it's simply that the Dirty Dancing lyrics were inscribed on my school girl brain twenty years ago and never faded.

Baby, oh baby, my sweet baby, you're the one
Baby, oh baby, my sweet baby, you're the one

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Saturday, August 15, 2009

Sliding doors and slippery swear words

Now I know where toddlers pick up swear words. At the mall where frazzled consumers loose their rag after hours of pressing up against crowds of sweaty teenagers and screaming kids and getting viciously attacked by defective elevator doors.

I was optimistic when we arrived at the mall. I confidently pushed Matthew and Oliver through the doors thinking that where there was buying to be done, there was also satisfaction and fun to be had.

Everything was going nicely. We shared a plate of sushi - me and Matthew. And a hot dog. What? According to my two year-old sushi and hot dog go together just fine thank you.

We went into the Gap and I walked up and down the isles of knickers looking for something pretty and lacy to replace the big post-baby knickers-that-hide-all of late (because new, smaller sized knickers are now needed, whoo!).

Side note: Have you ever tried shopping for underwear with your kids? It's kind of farcical. There I was, holding up a fuschia thong wondering if I could get away with it while the boys lobbed random toys across the shop floor, grabbed at the surrounding lingerie and blurted incomprehensible things at the staff.

Anyway, I had intended for the knickers to be my only purchase but there was a sale in the kids' section and somehow an armful of onesies and sweaters ended up on the til along with the knickers.

A nice male employee entertained Matthew with free stickers and questions like, how is your day going buddy? And what are you shopping for today? Matthew gawked at him. People always think Matthew is older than he is because he's so big. He looks three. The guy serving me asked "How are your kids today?" "Ummm..!" I laughed awkwardly.

Then it was time to get out of the mall.

As we pushed through the crowds, it was clear that every living Calgarian from the SW quadrant of the city had decided to go to the mall this afternoon. There were slouchy teenagers in packs, elderly couples cooing at babies, and other moms, wild-haired and flustered, trying not to loose it.

At the elevator I waited behind two other moms with strollers and a guy in a wheelchair. We missed the first and waited for the second, less crowded one. As the doors opened, a herd of strollers came pouring out and as the last one left, the doors started to close. I made a pathetic squeaky sound because I was going to miss this one too. Frig it.

A girl came to my rescue and put her arm in the door to prop it open. But the elevator door continued to close on her. So the girl wedged her body between the sliding doors.

Still the stubborn doors continued to close. Obviously the doors were really evil demented aliens pretending to be elevator doors, bent on murdering us.

For a second both me and the girl wedged in the elevator door became acquainted a similar look of terror as the doors inched a bit further together.

"FUCK!" She yelled. "I'm getting fucking crushed in these doors! Help!"

"OH MY GOD!!" I yelled back, trying to heave the doors apart.

We struggled with the doors for a few seconds and a few other people came to help and finally, the doors of doom moved apart.

I thanked the girl and apologized to her and got quickly into the stupid elevator, fuming at the bloody doors. I thought about going back into the mall to find the customer service booth, but I wanted to go home more.

Back at home I dialed customer service.

Dorothy: "Good afternoon, welcome to mall customer service, my name is Dorothy, I'm pleased to speak with you today, blah blah blah blah bloo bloo blah, how can I help you?"

Me: "Good afternoon. I'm calling to let you know there's a problem with one of your elevators. The one at the back near the parking lot?"

Dorothy: "Oh, okay..."

Me: "Yes, it nearly murdered someone this afternoon. I was just there with my kids. We were trying to get in the elevator. The doors were closing and a girl tried to hold them open for me. And instead of opening, it kept closing on her."

Dorothy: "Oh! Mmm-hmm?"

Me: "Yes. The doors kept closing on her. You know, like, she was nearly crushed to death? Because they're like, big steel doors?"

Dorothy: "Oh! Um...?"

Me: "I think it's missing some kind of sensor - you know, the one most NORMAL elevators have, that sense if a human person or some other object is wedged in there, and then it figures out that it should not then keep closing and squishing the life out of the person? You know?"

Dorothy: "Em? Mmm!"

Me: "Well, could you look into it? I mean, I like your mall but I don't really fancy having all the bones in my body smashed to smitherines by an elevator when all I really came in for was a pair of knickers and a teddy bear for my son."

Dorothy: "Oh. Yes. Absolutely. I will go and em... tell the em... tell them to look into it."

I wondered, as I hung up the phone, if I could ask Dorothy whether I could also be compensated for the fact that the F word was yelled in my two year-old's ear because of the faulty elevator doors causing someone to fear for their life and scream the F word at the top of their lungs.
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Wednesday, August 12, 2009

...and then I had kids

I used to think, how hard can having kids really be?
Then I had kids.
And the truth walloped me across the face: hard, incredibly hard, ceaselessly demanding, backbreaking, heart-achingly worrisome. Hard. But good.

I used to quite like coffee.
Then I had kids.
And suddenly coffee was no longer an occasional treat to be slowly sipped and savoured, but an all-out necessity, prepared in large quantities and gulped down in between preventing someone from tripping and banging their head and wiping up yet another spill.

I used to think I didn't identify with people with children.
Then I had kids.
And I found myself crying when someone else's child was seriously ill, and fervently standing up for the parenting choices of someone I'd never met in my life.

I used to think I had very little patience.
Then I had kids.
And I found I could be as patient as I needed to be. If it meant rocking my son to sleep at intervals through the night, I could. Or waiting fifty minutes for him to finish eating a meal that should have taken four, while discussing in toddler speak the particulars of Bob the Builder, I could.

I used to think I could learn anything from a book.
Then I had kids.
And I realized all the books I had read while pregnant meant nothing to me and my baby. For the first time in my life, the only way to learn was simply to do. And there was no trial run.

I used to wonder what it meant to find big happiness in small things.
Then I had kids.
And the mere sight of my son kissing his brother, or resting his head on my shoulder, or calling for me in the middle of the night, sent a bolt of happiness through me so sharp that I knew.

I used to define success by wealth, career and recognition.
Then I had kids.
Now success means raising a family of thoughtful, intelligent, happy, healthy people.

I used to loll around at the weekend.
Then I had kids.
Now I want to yell profanities at back-then-me for not traveling to fancy destinations every weekend, not eating out at more swanky restaurants, not catching an impromptu movie with friends more often, and generally not taking advantage of every inch of available freedom.

I used to think I would crack up at the prospect of having to deal with poo, puke, pee, or any other undesirable substance.
Then I had kids.
And one day I looked up and realized I didn't even notice, let alone care about dealing with those things any more.

I used to think people whose kids yelled at the grocery store were highly annoying.
Then I had kids.
Now, occasionally, I catch someone scowling at me impatiently from behind their cart when my kids are simultaneously melting down at the checkout.
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Tuesday, August 11, 2009

He's Just Not That Into You: the illustrated version

I decided it was time for another set of amazingly stupendous drawings. The inspiration this time? My recent post about Gigi from He's Just Not That Into You.


The Illustrated Guide to
Not Being A Psycho On Your First Date

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Monday, August 10, 2009

We Interrupt This Program To Bring You An Important Announcement

I have two questions for you: 1. Do you have kids? 2. Would you like to win something that will make your kids want to eat all their greens and go quietly to bed without a hint of trouble? Yes yes! Of course you do.

Get yourself over to Lady Mama Likes, where you will find a shiny new giveaway. You'll especially like it if your child is a picky eater who likes trucks and other construction-type vehicles. (Sorry US readers, this giveaway is only open to Canadians.)

Every week on Lady Mama Likes, I'll be giving away something good - something you will want (look into my eyes look into my eyes...swirly hypnotic swirls) - something for you, your kids, or your home. The giveaways will only be things I myself would want.

If I'm not green with envy, I won't give it away.

So, you won't find hemorrhoid creams, washing detergents or pills that make you loose fifty pounds in the time it takes to down a cream cake. Because those things are not cool. I'll even be seeking out companies I like, to see if they'll participate in the giveaways. Just cus. I kinda like you guys and want to give you stuff. I'm nice like that. ♥
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Sunday, August 9, 2009

No really, he's just not that into you.

I watched the first half of He's Just Not That Into You, undecided as to whether I wanted to throw my arms around Gigi, the main character, and tell her everything would be okay, or slap her in the face in the hopes she'd come to her senses. For those that haven't seen the movie, it's about men and women who misinterpret each other's intentions, and basically go around moaning and groaning that so and so doesn't want what I want and he/she doesn't understand me. Blah blah.

Gigi is a woman desperately seeking love. After each first date, she becomes obsessed with whether her date is, in fact, going to call her, and basically continues to make a complete prat of herself by harassing him until he figures out that she's a nutjob and cuts her off. All the while she fails to realize the simple rule if he likes you he will call. If he doesn't, he won't.

I remember first hearing the line maybe he's just not that into you on Sex In The City. The look on Miranda's face shifted from disbelief and then relief. It was as if a major revelation had been made.

But anyway, back to Gigi. She was really beginning to irritate me. I mean, it's one thing to wonder if your date will call you the next day. But conducting a stare-down with the phone for wasteful hours in the hope it'll ring? Obsessing over last words, in case they really meant I want to spend the rest of my life with you, rather than just it was nice to meet you?


I told J I was getting irritated with Gigi, but he was more concerned with the fact that Scarlett Johansson kept ripping off her clothes and leaping around in swimming pools and things. Off topic but, em, what gives with her figure? Who has that kind of skinniness with big boobs? It's not right. Bitch. (Sorry Scarlett I heart you really.)

Anyway, I kept thinking, no way does an attractive, intelligent woman like Gigi, with a career, an apartment, a life, act so bloody nuts over a man with whom she's been on one date, just because there's a slither of a chance he might be THE ONE.

Is it just me?

I mean, I admit, back when I was dating, ages ago, ten years ago, I observed the usual dating rituals: I shared juicy snippets from last night's date with a friend over coffee; I checked my phone and email frequently for messages; I wondered; I waited; I enjoyed the anticipation and the excitement. Etc. All that stuff. Sure.

But, I like to think that if a guy didn't call me, I'd have enough self respect to say, okay time to move on and not wallow in sadness over someone who doesn't want me.

So to sum up: A simple thing is a simple thing; Gigi needs a slap; Scarlett Johansson should stop prancing around in her underwear because she's making me look bad.
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Wednesday, August 5, 2009

The vegetarian's guide to meat

You wouldn't listen to a vegetarian telling you how to prepare a steak dinner would you?

Me either.

Bare with me here... there's a point to all this. I promise.

Last week, out with my 2 year-old and my 6 month-old, I decided to put Matthew (toddler) into his harness, so that he could walk beside me.

At any given opportunity, Matthew will take off, forcing us to race after him. So basically we have three options:

1. Strap him into a stroller and keep him there for the duration of the outing.
2. Let him run loose and chase after him like a lunatic, hoping people don't accidentally step on him, or that we don't loose him altogether.
3. Strap him into a toddler harness and let him walk safely by our side.

So for the first time last week, I chose the harness. It was a great experience. Matthew loved it. He actually squealed with delight as he part-walked, part-ran beside me, clearly enjoying the freedom, yet still within the limits of the reins and close to me.

Then, a few days ago, a woman was caught on tape dragging her child through a store in Alabama. She was later charged with child cruelty. Very, very stupid indeed, not to mention incredibly cruel to the child.

In light of this, a flurry of articles appeared, like this one, in which the writer has basically taken the situation and twisted it into an excuse to condemn any other parent that uses a harness. He compares using a toddler harness (which he calls "leash" repeatedly to be provocative, I assume) to handcuffing one's child to a shopping cart or chaining them to a post.

In the article he says "It's my feeling that effective discipline -- and by this I mean behavior management tools that are actionable, functional, and operative in the long term -- defines clear boundaries and repercussions in advance, and puts the onus on the kid to figure out how to comply and find their own center".

I have to say, reading this article has really pissed me off.

First, it's an ignorant perspective. And, quite simplistic I think, to take a stand-alone event and blow it up into such epic proportions so as to then use it to unjustly vilify other parents.

Second, his statement about creating "behavior management tools" - utter crap. The extent of our communication with our toddler does not stretch to achieve such things. I mean, of course, it would be great if I could reason with him, if I could take him to one side and calmly explain that instead of tearing around in every direction, he should consider his options and ultimately choose the wisest, safest bet.

But you see, the thing is, HE IS TWO.

The writer thinks I/you should "allow the child to rationally engage with your demands and figure things out, rather than just be told what to do."

If we're talking about teaching valuable lessons about independence and responsibility, then I can vouch from first-hand experience that the harness is absolutely the way to go. One of the main benefits, as I discovered last week, is that the harness has helped us teach Matthew the value of restraint and self-control when walking along a road, or among a crowd of people, or anywhere really. Without the harness, he could simply have run off and hurled himself into any number of dangerous situations.

And no, I don't use the harness because it's "adorable" or an "accessory" to match my son's outfit, as was suggested in the article. In fact, the harness I own is an ugly blue one given to me as a gift.

And then it occurred to me as I was reading the writer's superior theories on parenting best practices that he was probably not, in fact, a parent himself. A quick check on his web site confirmed this. At least there was no mention of him having children on there anyway.

Fancy that! A non-parent harshly judging actual parents for doing something they themself have no real experience with? Never!
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Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Lady Mama Likes...

Okay I'm going to do this quickly and quietly.


I've created a site called Lady Mama Likes - a review and giveaway blog where I will be featuring some cool stuff that you can get your hands on.

Because, you know, I like nice stuff. I just don't want to talk about it over here.

So, what are you waiting for? Go check it out. There's a sweet little baby blanket waiting to be won.
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Monday, August 3, 2009

Fun stuff: Blama Tara Meme

I've been tagged by That Girl, to play along with the Blame Tara Meme.

Who Is The Hottest Movie Star?

I'm particularly lame at remembering movies and movie stars. So lame, in fact, that I typed "hottest male movie star" into Google for inspiration. Yes, I googled! Okay, alright, so... hottest, hottest, hottest... Well, I have a "thing" for Christian Bale. Josh Holloway from Lost is hot. I like Johnny Depp. And as ladies go I think Scarlett Johansson is pretty hot (but don't tell my husband).

Apart From Your House And Your Car, What's The Most Expensive Item You've Ever Bought?

Just indulge me for a moment would you? My Manolo Blahniks collection! Okay I lie. Sadly there's not a Manolo in sight. I think the most expensive thing I've bought is, wait for it - a furnace. An ugly, high-efficiency furnace. Yup.

What's Your Most Treasured Memory?

There are many many happy childhood memories (I'd need a whole post for them), but as an adult one of my happiest times was the day J proposed to me. It was Christmas day 2002 and we were on holiday in Canada. I was presented with a stunning diamond ring in bed that morning, and later we went for a walk in a park with a frozen waterfall.

What Was The Best Gift You Ever Received As A Child?

A five-story Barbie house. Barbie particularly enjoyed riding the elevator all five stories with Ken (who, for some reason was often half-clothed!), and drinking cocktails up on the roof terrace with her Barbie pals.

What's The Biggest Mistake You've Made?

Ack. I don't believe in dwelling on mistakes too much - because really what's the point? But okay if you really want one, I dated a complete douche bag of a boy for three years. Three years of my life that I will never get back. Gawd.

Four Words To Describe Yourself

Passionate, energetic, generous, suspicious.

What Was Your Highlight Or Lowlight Of 2008?

The highlight was probably the day we bid farewell to Matthew's head-shaping helmet. He had to wear the "band" for 23 hours a day for three whole months. Even though he looked ultra cute in it, it's not an experience I'd want to repeat.

Favourite Film?

Amelie. And The Godfather. And about two hundred others. I mean who has just one favourite film?

Tell Me One Thing I Don't Know About You

I sang in the London Philharmonic Choir for five years and performed at some really wonderful venues including the Royal Albert Hall, the Royal Festival Hall, St Paul's Cathedral and a Basillica in Krakow.

If You Were A Comic Book/Strip Or Cartoon Character, Who Would You Be?

Definitely, without doubt, She-ra! Because, obviously I look like her, and I'm incredibly strong (I can hold a baby while opening a can of beans), and I totally make flames appear when I'm mad.

If you find yourself in the mood for a meme, feel free to play along too. And let me know so that I can come over and gawk at your answers.

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Sunday, August 2, 2009

Taste of a summer weekend

Things I learned this weekend:

1. Never go into Sephora with a double stroller and a baby covered in slimy Mum-Mum crumbs, whose intention is to smear the crumbs over you and everything within reaching distance in the shop.

2. A pair of pre-pregnancy jeans fit (just, if I don't breathe too much). Woohoo! (who needs to breathe anyway?) I knew there was a reason for all the running.

3. Oliver (6.5 months) is getting big: a 15-month old boy who toddled up to him at the park was almost the same size.

4. I need to make more grilled salads. And not just during summer months.

I love summer salads, especially the grilled variety. They're easy, tasty and good for you. When it comes to salads I'm not one for recipe following. I like to feel my way around the ingredients, guessing at quantities depending on my mood / how hungry I am / how long I can afford to take over the preparation. I like to throw things together with my hands, tasting and modifying along the way.

Here's one I made on Saturday. Try it - it's lovely.

Grilled Summer Salad
  • 3 chicken breasts
  • Big bunch of organic spinach leaves
  • One red pepper & one orange / yellow pepper
  • Slices of white or yellow onion
  • Handful of white mushrooms chopped
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • Lemon
  • Salt
1. Drizzle chicken breasts with extra virgin olive oil. Season (I used a Montreal steak seasoning - you can use whatever you have in your cupboard).

2. Grill chicken for about 30-40 minutes, turning once. When cooked through, slice the chicken and set aside.

3. Put peppers, sliced onion and mushrooms into a pan (I used one of those pans you use directly over a grill flame, but you could also fry them up for about five minutes in some olive oil in a frying pan)
. Toss the raw spinach leaves with the grilled veggies. The leaves will wilt a bit.

4. Pour a few
tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil over the salad, squeeze in half a lemon, and add a sprinkle of salt. Mix the salad together until the dressing touches everything. Arrange the salad in bowls with the sliced chicken on top.

Now, enjoy with a chilled glass of Sauvignon Blanc on the patio looking out over the lake, as the sun sets and the air quietly breezes around your shoulders. Or, do what we do and eat with your noisy kids in the dining room amid people protesting they "no like" it and the general clatter that makes you want to wolf down the salad as fast as possible in order to get everyone bathed and in bed.

And here are a few shots from the weekend.

Matthew adores the water park, dashing through spurts of water, laughing gleefully.

Oliver loves being on the ground, grabbing the grass with his fingers.

Me and Oliver.

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