Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Alone time in Starbucks busted

Why do strangers think it's okay to come up to me and have mindless conversations about crap? Can they not hear me silently screaming for a few minutes of PEACE AND QUIET?

I'm sitting in Starbucks in a perfect state of tranquility, a steaming latte in one hand and a book in the other. Oliver is sleeping next to me in the stroller. It's what I choose to do on my mornings off when the sitter is watching Matthew, when I'm not running errands or keeping appointments. Because really how often can you sit with a coffee and a book for a whole, blissful hour, at home? Yes, never.

An elderly lady approaches and asks if she can take the seat opposite.

"Of course." I say politely. I'm at ease with the world.

After a few minutes I feel her stare penetrating my skin. I glance up with a half-friendly smile.

"How old is your baby?" She asks. Dammit. Here we go, I think. Please, old lady, leave me alone. I have a couple of hours a week to relax, and I don't want to spend it talking to you - fascinating as I'm sure this conversation will be.

"3 months." I say, as shortly as possible without being rude, and quickly return to my book.

"Is he your first?"

"No, my second."

"Oh. Where is your first?"

"At home with my sitter. This is my morning off - where I come for a coffee and some alone time." I say smiling through gritted teeth.

"Where abouts in England are you from."

For the love of God...

"London." Again I squeeze out a forced semi-smile and then I'm right back down to my book. Surely now I've made it clear I want to be left alone.

"Oh, London..."

This time I'm not looking up. When I don't reply the silence goes on for a few hopeful minutes.

"Is that one of those books about computers?"

I grip the book a little tighter, trying to control the irritation rising in my stomach. Why do you want to know lady? What do you want from me?

"Mm-hmm." I manage this sound without actually looking up from the book.

"I don't understand computers, me...blah blah blah blah blah blah blah" .

So I've concocted an evil little plan that involves taking a face mask with me next time. If anyone approaches I'll tell them I think I may have the swine flu.
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Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Prepping for summer

Ready for summer? I'm not. And here, in Calgary, it sneaks up on you without warning. You've barely retired your snow shovel and suddenly you're scrambling to find the sunscreen. Almost every year I find myself caught off guard by it. Summer dresses and sandals are stuffed away in boxes on a high shelf somewhere in my bedroom. I'm going right now as soon as I've written this post to get them down and hang them so that the creases fall out by next month.

The garden needs some serious tlc. For the last 6 months it's been coated in a foot of snow and littered with debris from the basement renovations - a bathtub, drywall, bits of cement. We're so trailer trash right now. And there's a colourful spray of plastic toys that have gradually been demolished by the weather (and the dog). It all needs to be cleared, cleaned and prepped to make way for children running barefoot on a neatly-mowed lawn and me sitting on a sun lounger with a martini in hand. The thought of being able to walk barefoot on grass makes me a little shivery with pleasure. And to have sun on my face. SUN!

Then there's summer cooking. I always forget to adjust my recipes - I need some great salad recipes (let me know if you have any). I'm lousy at salads. I know they exist - good ones, because other people have made then for me and I've eaten them.

Then there's me. Getting me ready for summer. I'm thinking along the lines of: body toned up - unlikely toned enough for a bikini, but enough for a pair of nice capris and a tank (hence the running - today was day 3 - can't believe I like running now); a few strappy summer dresses - maybe I'll go long this year; a fresh pedi (orange or fuschia?); a hint of tan - just enough to look a bit healthy and alive.

Winter is so forgiving. Winter wants you to be all wrapped up like a Christmas present - everything hidden and mysterious under long trousers and woolly sweaters. So what if you haven't shaved your legs for like 2 months and all the cookies from the cookie exchange ended up on your tummy, thighs and legs? No one will see it. Winter keeps all your flabby secrets. Goodbye winter my friend, I enjoyed the cozy days curled up in front of a movie with my children pulled up close under a blanket and the snow carrying on outside without me. See you in a few months.
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Monday, April 27, 2009

Guilty McSchmilty

I'm taking a break from parent guilt. Want to join me?

This morning, suffering from a cold and a sleepless night, I let my toddler spend a little longer in front of the TV than usual. I caught myself as the guilt began rearing its head. I told myself: No! No damn guilt today. I'm sick, tired and I have two kids. And if TV is going to get me through it, then so be it.

There's an absurd number of things to feel guilty about as a parent. Some big, some small. All of them filled with the fear that the flawless parent-image you once had of yourself might not be true. Someone should really issue prospective parents a warning - maybe during sex education classes or something. WARNING: BEING A PARENT MAY CAUSE YOU TO EXPERIENCE FEELINGS OF GUILT FOR THE REST OF YOUR LIFE. DISCRETION IS ADVISED.

The guilt inducers spring up from everywhere, the minute you arrive home from the hospital with your precious bundle. And if, like me, you're a chronic worrier, you can't turn an inch without being confronted by the fact that every decision has the potential to leave you guilt-ridden. Breastfeeding, attachment parenting, sleep positions, sleep training, feeding choices, potty training, activity partaking, education, telly-watching, disciplining, child care... etc., etc.

The good news is, the guilt becomes monotonous at some point - at least it did for me. When I realized that every day there was a new reason. And then you begin to let it go. Because otherwise you could very well end up delirious with guilt. And, when the second child comes along, it decreases even more. You don't have the time to worry. You roll with it, whatever it is. Lying on the floor with the dog licking his face, okay. Sleeping on his tummy every now and then, sure.

Anyway, today, and maybe tomorrow, I'm taking a little vacation. Try it yourself if you like. My tropical island will not be letting guilt in. There will be no silly thoughts of whether I measure up. There will be no inward bashing myself over the head with a stick for forgetting to change a diaper, or that the carpet is littered with crumbs, toys and dog hair. No.

Maybe I'll buy a timeshare.
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Sunday, April 26, 2009

Day 2 Running

DISTANCE: to middle of the park (it's a big park I tell you!) and back
WEIGHT: a little bit more than my weight 3 years ago before babies were even hinted at
TIME: err.. about 30 minutes

Running. It's for a good cause: me. Today was the second attempt; the first was hideous. Or should I say I was hideous. I'm very out of shape. Well okay let's give me a break here, I haven't run for over a year, so what do I expect?

I like to be trim because I like nice clothes, but exercise has never been my thing. So, to get myself hyped about it, I embrace all the stuff. I bought myself a new LuluLemon running jacket, charged my i-pod, dusted off my New Balance running shoes. As I was running I was thinking about the other accessories I could get. A new cap, headband, clip to hold a water bottle, stainless steel water bottle. That's the real fun part.

The first run went like this:
run a minute, walk a minute;
run a minute, walk 2 minutes;
run 30 seconds, walk 5 minutes;
run 20 seconds, walk (okay stagger) home.

But today was much better. The air was cooler, crisper, better weather for running. I was able to run for 5 minutes, then walk for two, etc. It felt good. Plus I had Bongo with me for company. At one point we passed two girls with a ridiculously small dog and I told Bongo he had permission to eat the dog if he liked.

I'm not interesting in running marathons or anything. I just want to loose the rest of the baby weight and tone up. I want to be able to wear skimpy summer clothes and maybe even a bikini somewhere hot next year. I would, though, like to be able to run for one hour solidly without stopping. That would be just enough for me. About 10km in an hour would do nicely.
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Saturday, April 25, 2009

Simplify me

real simple magazine
Originally uploaded by SaraMcG

I love Real Simple. It's a magazine, for those that haven't heard of it. Their ideas for creating a simpler lifestyle are highly appealing. They fill me with a sense of calm and optimism - that maybe I can be a person that understands how to lead a simpler life.

Maybe it's the beauty and cohesiveness of the writing, design and photography. Whatever - this magazine does it for me. I'd go so far as to say I find it inspiring. I can read a few pages in the bath with a glass of wine and feel like my world is going to be better when I've implemented those quick skin care tips and prepared that beautiful 30-minute meal. My life will be simpler and better.

What is it about Simple that appeals so much? It feels so foreign. I like the rush and bustle of life. I like being busy - even maybe a little too busy. I'm a feverish busy-body. I leap out of bed in the morning, in a slight panic, and the scramble begins. There's always coffee - maybe a few cups, and rushing around. Lots of rushing around. All day.

The house is clean. The kids are clean, dressed and fed. There are activities, appointments, playdates. The meals are nutritious and tasty. The correspondence and paperwork is done. And the gentle, patient mother, wife, friend and daughter is there. Nearly always.*

It's bloody exhausting keeping up with life.

Sometimes I forget to appreciate the simple things. Sometimes I forget to just "be". How often do you do that - just be? I can go through the entire day without stopping for breath. Occasionally I catch myself - I'll be reading a book with my son and at the same time I'm thinking about what's for dinner and wondering whether the garbage has been taken out, instead of enjoying the moment - the closeness and marvelousness of the occasion. It's sad really, to always be pushing forward for the next thing, rather than appreciating the moment you're in.

Yoga. I need yoga.

*Except when I snap and bite off someone's head and then cry in the bathroom for a few minutes. Yeah. Sorry about that.
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Thursday, April 23, 2009

Baby inventions

As I was browsing the shelves of Bo Bebe today I noticed how many products there are, designed to make parents' lives easier: soother clips to hold pacifiers in place, funky diaper caddies to store diaper essentials, bath toy holders that suction to wall tiles, onesie extenders to prolong the life of outfits outgrown, stylish nursing covers, water spouts that deflect water from the bath tap for rinsing hair... it goes on and on and on.

I bet most of these products are designed by parents - ordinary people who at one time or another stumbled across a problem, designed a solution, and decided if they needed it, so did others.

On loan from my friend Amanda is this - the Tummy Tub. And it is a great product. Simple and effective. Oliver fits snugly inside the tub for his bedtime bath, sitting upright all the while. There's no faffing around trying to balance the baby with one hand whilst washing his body with the other.

And with all this talk of inventions, I thought this would be an opportune moment to mention my idea... A toddler's vacuum cleaner. Don't laugh, I'm completely serious! It's an awesome idea. Toddlers love pushing things around, especially when they're learning to walk - hence all the push toys on the market. Well, while they're pushing something around why not make it something that cleans up mess at the same time? If that's not helping parents out I don't know what is.
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Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Blue bin excitement

Calgary Recycles 2009
Originally uploaded by s.yume
Tomorrow is the first pickup day for Calgary's recycling program. Our blue bin is completely full. The contents: just two weeks worth of paper, plastic, milk cartons, tins and glass. Needless to say I won't miss the overflowing tubs of recycling that have existed in our house and garage for the last four years. Nor will I miss jaunts down to the local recycling centre in the middle of winter, stuffing milk jugs and tins into bin slots with freezing hands.

Seeing the contents of the blue bin made me think about our family's impact on the environment. Plus, it's Earth Day today... so if I do nothing else, I'll think (here) about what I currently do, and what I could do better.

Current attempts at being an exemplary greenie:

* New high efficiency furnace installed last year
* Attic insulation upgraded
* New efficient windows in basement
(these things add up to a more energy efficient home overall)
* Only running one car
* Turning off lights when not in a room
* Recycling everything possible
* Not running water when not needed
* Running the dishwasher on the "low energy" cycle

Future ambitions for greater greenie-ness:

* Walking more and taking the car less over summer
* Buying produce locally where possible
* Get a compost
* Get a water barrel
* Grow own veggies
* Line dry clothes over the summer months

Any other ideas welcome!
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Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Time for mama and stuff for them

After Oliver was born and after all the visitors and helpers had gone home, I realized - this is it: here I am on my own with a baby and a toddler 5 days a week. Here I am running - literally all day - from room to room, trying to keep up with the demands. And there are many. It's purely exhausting, as those of you with kids will know.

Some days were okay and some were so tough that I decided if I didn't get some help, I was heading for a near-death experience. Okay - wee bit of an exaggeration, but I knew I needed help.

I hired a wonderful young woman called Sasha who now comes twice a week to spend time with Matthew, so that I can get out of the house to run errands or simply escape for a chai latte (most of the time Oliver sleeps peacefully in his car seat so it's practically like I'm alone).

Ironically, on these mornings, what I usually end up doing is shopping for kid stuff. There's so much stuff to be purchased when you have kids, and the truth of it is, I love it. I love all the bright, multi-coloured products sprinkled around my home and garden. At what other time in your life is your house filled with so much colour? Our otherwise mature, sombre-coloured home is rather dull without it all.

Some of my favourite kid-related purchases of recent are:

Water sandals from The Children's Place: rubber-soled sandals with mesh top, designed for running in and out of water - will be perfect for water parks.

Summer shorts - a selection from The Gap and Old Navy.

And my favourite - the Baby Hawk baby carrier. I love this. It's beautifully designed, easy to get on and very comfortable. Most importantly, Oliver loves it and is usually asleep within about 5 minutes. Here's a shot of it.

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Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Time goes by

Some things aren't real until you hear yourself say them out loud.

"I have two kids."

What? When did it happen? Wasn't I - just yesterday - a single young lady living it up in the city with a career and a nice apartment and a social life?

"I have two kids. Two boys under the age of 2." I said to the girl at the computer store this morning as I waited for the hard drive to be removed from my Mac. She gasped, wide-eyed. "Really?" She said in faux-awe (or maybe it was real but I'm pretty cynical).

I felt kind of proud and smug.

Time has gone by in such a blur these last few months. But I've been poised with camera at the ready, all too aware that these small, magical moments - often just ordinary components of life - pass by so quickly.

Brothers: one day they'll be best friends.

Yes I know I'm his mother but seriously, look at him. He is remarkably cute.

A family walk in the park on a cool crisp Spring day.

Mum and Dad visiting from England.

Dad and Matthew have developed a special bond.

Matthew helping J dig into the last patch of ice in the back garden.

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Tuesday, April 14, 2009

The name's Mama, Lady Mama.

Actually, the name's Sarah. (Lady Mama is a name I picked at random out of a list of potential blog names and sadly has absolutely no significant meaning whatsoever. Sorry.)

Four years ago, I packed my London life up into boxes that were shipped five thousand miles West to Calgary, Canada. Here, me and my husband J began the journey of adulthood: home ownership, dog ownership, and baby rearing.

Fast forward to now: a thirty year old woman - a writer with no creative outlet and a truck load of blog-worthy material. There's some laughing and some crying, some bitching and moaning, and some mindless, random stuff resulting from many months of sleep deprivation. It's all for the sake of your amusement and my sanity.

I have a strange capacity for finding hilarity in the most obscure moments. And with two young sons - Matthew and Oliver, barely 19 months apart in age, there's no shortage of insanity hilarity.
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