Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Cheer up Thomas, you miserable git.

My kids love Thomas the Tank Engine. Especially my younger son.

"ToTo!" He cries, whenever he sees the blue train, which is often, because Thomas-branded merchandise is everywhere. We can't go out, it seems, without passing a Thomas book, some toxic bubble bath, a pair of pajamas or a toy.

So when I offered the boys the chance to rent one movie each from the library last week, Oliver naturally went for Thomas.

I put the DVD on so that I could get dinner ready. Not paying attention, I caught the odd line from the show here and there. After a while, all I could hear was a bunch of whining, self-pitying trains, constantly complaining about something or other.

"Toby wasn't very happy because he didn't feel like an important train!"

"Gordon was grumpy because he wanted to go a different way but the other trains didn't want to go with him!"

"Percy was angry because no one was listening to him!"

And so on. It was like this, all the way through the show. Bloody hell. It was like watching a conversation between Simon Cowell, Grumpy the dwarf and Scrooge.

I don't remember Thomas and his pals being such a bunch of bad-tempered grouches, having watched the show as a kid.

But maybe it's because now I'm used to modern kids' shows like Dora the Explorer and Max and Ruby (shudder) where everything is super-positive and super-fun and super-awesome all the time and the messages are all positive and nothing is negative. Or maybe it's because North American kids' shows are more bright and cheery than English kids' shows?

Some kids' shows are so happy-clappy it's practically unbearable. If you've ever watched an episode of Ni Hao Kai-Lan, you'll know what I'm talking about. She is ALL ABOUT the positive messages, forever turning a negative situation into a positive one.

Which is equally irritating. I'm not sure what's worse: pouty, gloomy trains or hyper cheerful, slightly preachy Japanese cartoon girls.

Maybe Ni Hao Kai-Lan should get together with Thomas and scatter some of her euphoria on him. 

What do you think? Have kids' shows have changed much since you were a child?

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Sunday, November 28, 2010

Where I'm from, people don't stand on the escalator, they run down it.

I'm officially sick of Christmas shopping. And it's not even December. How is this possible?

I remember when speed-walking through stores on December 24th in a sweaty panic was practically a tradition for me. It wasn't truly Christmas unless I was sprinting from John Lewis to Selfridges on Christmas Eve, grabbing last-minute gifts and wedging myself onto a packed train with ten shopping bags beside other equally loaded-down shoppers.

It must be to do with being a parent. Being organized isn't a fantasy any more - it's a necessity. So I prepare. I make lists in advance and I start early. And in October and the first part of November I genuinely enjoy Christmas shopping. I feel ahead of the game as I wander around smugly ticking things off my list all the while thinking about how organized I am and how I'm going to cleverly avoid the last-minute crowds.

Only, I'm not going to avoid the last minute crowds at all, because despite being organized since October, the list of Christmas things to do and buy never ends. Ever.  

And now, holiday shopping madness is in full swing in the shops, the malls and even the grocery stores. The hottest kids' toys, the best Christmas decorations and the coolest outfits are flying, FLYING I tell you, off the shelves. People are getting that twitchy-holiday-chaos-irritation look about them - the one it would serve you well to stay away from. Especially in parking lots.

And all this holiday madness is bringing out the Londoner in me. I cannot wait for a second. I cannot stand still. I cannot walk at a normal pace - I have to half-walk, half-run everywhere. I've rediscovered my spidey senses - scoping out space in a crowd, a gap to fit through, the nearest exit, the fastest route.

Last week at the mall (for the second time that week) (and LAST time for real) (okay maybe not really the last time but it's a nice idea) I squeezed past a man standing on the escalator and rushed down the steps, accidentally brushing my bags against his. I distinctly sensed him look at me, as if walking down the escalator was weird or something.

I almost thought I heard him mutter "slow down!". Or maybe it was my imagination. And in my imagination I responded "Where I'm from it's okay to be in a hurry.". Because in London it's okay - more than okay, to brush past people on an escalator, to scurry down the steps as though your urgency was justified. Everyone was in a rush, and it was okay.

Shopping for the holidays has turned me back into an impatient Londoner. And maybe, once the shopping season is done with, I'll slow down. Maybe I'll stop running down escalators past unwitting patrons and charging around as though I was training for speed-walking championships.

Or maybe the Londoner in me will always be in a rush.

How about you? How does Christmas shopping affect you?
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Wednesday, November 24, 2010

They'll never find their Christmas gifts!

When I was about five, I discovered that by poking a tiny little hole in the corner of a wrapped gift under the tree, I could figure out that the odd shaped package was, in fact, the True Heart Care Bear I'd been wanting. All without making it obvious I'd found out.

And because I was a nosy little bugger, it became a kind of tradition for me to hunt down my presents each year, and try to figure out what they were, either by poking a hole in the wrapping, or by inspecting the outside of the package.

One year, I actually unwrapped each one of my gifts, one by one, carefully peeling the tape off the wrapping paper to see exactly what was underneath. I know, it's awful and terrible. I am a terrible person.

You'd think all that sneaky present peaking would have ruined the fun of opening the presents. Bizarrely, it didn't.

My parents (here's where I try to redeem myself) had a knack for always getting me the perfect gifts, and so I was never disappointed. If anything, the sneaky peaking seemed to heighten the thrill of the forthcoming day. 

Anyway, remembering this leads me to think that, since my kids are - you know - my kids, and since they may have inherited some of my personalities traits, I suspect that they too, when they're older, might try to hunt down their presents before the big day.

Which? No WAY dudes. Your mother will outdo you every time, mark my words.

So adamant am I, that my kids will not find their presents in the manner I did as a child, that I even considered building a secret compartment into our basement when we were renovating a few years ago, specifically for this reason. Unfortunately, due to time and budget constraints, the secret compartment never materialized (at least I don't think it did!).

And so, in lieu of a secret compartment, we've unearthed the next best thing. In the last unrenovated room in the house, in the corner of the utility room, with a pile of tools and miscellaneous objects in it, as inconspicuous as a candy cane on a Christmas tree: the old, non-working refrigerator.

And now I think I deserve the evil laugh. Yes?


That's better.

Where do you hide your kids presents?

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Monday, November 22, 2010

The photographs tell a different story.

"We should take the kids and Bongo out for a walk." Said J.

I tried to do my best I'm invisible impression by sinking as far into the back of the sofa as possible and pulling a blanket over me.

"Really? Is that a good idea?"

I looked out and saw roads, roofs and trees covered in what looked like thirty inches of snow and more falling from the sky.

"If we don't go out when it's -14, we'll never go out when it's -25."

He made a good point, but still, not going out was tempting. I thought about whether staying inside for the next four months - just riding it out in our pajamas with mugs of hot chocolate and movies - would really be such a bad thing.

Nevertheless, we got ready to go out, bundling the kids up in so many layers it was difficult to tell whether there were still people under there. Oliver, who could hardly move, lay on the kitchen floor as though making a snow angel, arms and legs flapping helplessly.

About twenty five minutes after we left the house, we returned, unable to venture any further into the deep snow with the kids, who were constantly falling over, face-forward in the snow, begging to be carried, and losing gloves every second. Bongo was happy - he merrily rolled in the snow, covering his fur and whiskers in white sprinkles. 

Back inside, sweating and a little screwy from the whole kerfuffle, there's a slight chance I might have muttered something along the lines of "I'm NEVER bloody going out for a walk AGAIN!".

Me = Grinch.

But, later, when we were settled down for the evening, I was looking back through the pictures I'd taken of our walk. And there it was, the miracle of photographs. Instead of all the turmoil - all the getting clothes on and off, wiping runny noses, slips and falls, sweating, etc., I saw a different story: two happy little boys, exploring in the snow, making snowballs, giggling, playing, enjoying it. And I'll bet in a year's time, or ten year's time, that's all I'll remember.

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Thursday, November 18, 2010

To Blog is to Err.

Originally this post was going to be about the mistakes I made as a new blogger and how I'd advise others to avoid making those same mistakes. For instance, I once asked a blogger I barely knew to add me to her blogroll. (In my defense, it did say "If I've left you off this list please let me know." and I wasn't on there! Duh.)

But as I was writing out my list of mistakes I realized they weren't really mistakes - rather, things that happen as a natural course of beginner blogging. Then I began looking around to see what other people had to say on the matter, and, of course, came across approximately thirty million articles titled things like "common blogging mistakes".

The more I read about these so-called blogging mistakes, the more I didn't agree with (all of) them. And maybe they're aimed more at business blogs than parenting blogs, but for me, anyway, they don't all add up.

Here are a few "common blogging mistakes" that I've noticed seem to pop up repeatedly in different places.

Don't post too little or too often.
My view is, as long as you're posting once or twice a week, and not just randomly once every few months (a guaranteed way to lose readers), there's no need to post every single day. Of course, if you want to post every day then by all means, do it. I blog two to three times a week, and that, in itself, is quite a time commitment.

You must go forth and spend wads of cash making your blog pretty or be doomed.
I like a nice looking blog, of course, and I definitely think good design and typography enhances the overall experience, but beauty isn't the principal thing for me - content is. One of my favourite bloggers is Mom 101, and though hers isn't the flashiest, prettiest blog on the block (sorry Liz), it's her thought-provoking content and writing that keeps me coming back for more.

If you're serious about blogging you should ditch Blogger and move to WordPress.

I've been back and forth about this and I'm still undecided. I research things a lot before I make these kinds of decisions, and honestly? I've yet to see the true benefit of moving my blog to WordPress. Yes, I understand WordPress provides more flexibility in terms of design, format, typography, etc. And yes, I get that WordPress is superior when it comes to SEO. But is it really better for me? For my little parenting blog? Not convinced.

What do you mean you're not self-hosted?
I do plan on buying my domain name in the near future, but, I don't think it's essential. Sure, if the purpose of your blog is to generate an income, then, yes, a self-hosted domain is probably the way to go. For a parenting blog like mine? While it does look more professional, I'm not sure that having the .blogspot extension is really harming my blog at the moment.

You're not commenting on enough other blogs.
The first year I started blogging, I was determined to get around to every single blog in my reader, whether or not I really enjoyed reading it. It was a tiresome waste of energy. Now? I read the blogs I like, end of story. And oh, it's nice to have finally realized that it's okay to do so.

You need to be more useful to your audience.
Useful schmuseful. There are tons of articles out there on how it's essential bloggers make themselves useful to their audience. I suppose, in a way, it's true. (Another of my favourite bloggers is Design Mom - she finds the most beautifully designed things and writes about them on her blog.) But most of the blogs I read - you know what they offer me? Sweet Fanny Adams. (What? You've never heard that expression?) Nilly noo. (Sorry, I just made that one up). Nothing. I read their amusing, touching, sometimes sad, sometimes hilarious stories about their lives. And that is all.

Don't jump on the bandwagon.
Why not? I like jumping on the bandwagon, and I like reading what other bloggers have to say when they jump on the bandwagon too. Opinion posts are often the most interesting and draw passionate discussions. Jump, I say, jump.

You're not selling yourself hard enough.
If I want to sell myself I'll strap a sandwich board to myself and go down to the local market, thank you. I write my blog because I enjoy writing and I like the blogging community I've found myself a part of. Should there be an opportunity to earn money down the line or sample a product I love? I'm not going to say no, (I got bills to pay too y'know) but it's not why I started this thing.

One of the biggest mistakes a blogger can make, in my humble opinion, is spending too much time worrying about all these "mistakes" and trying to figure out the right thing to do rather than just being who they are and doing what feels right to them. Hey, if you want to fill your blog with widgets and ads, I'm not going to desert you. If you want to talk about something that's already been hashed to death? Okay. Fine. If the only thing you offer me is a giggle with my morning coffee? I'm more than good with that.

What about you? What are your thoughts on these blogging"mistakes"?
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Tuesday, November 16, 2010

S'now Joke

Before I moved to Calgary I received a number of stern warnings (mostly from friends and family who were trying, not very subtly, to dissuade me from moving here) about the harsh weather conditions of Alberta. Comments like "Do you know how cold it gets there?" and "How are you going to survive?" were bandied about only part-jokingly.

And I was all "Oh hahaha don't be ridiculous! How bad can it be? People live there and they're perfectly fine.".

I pictured cozy nights in front of a roaring fireplace, gazing out at the snowstorm from inside, hot chocolate in hand, cashmere throw over my legs. I pictured wool scarves and mittens and fur trimmed vests on a ski hill and dog-sled rides in the moonlight.

So maybe the dog-sled rides were a bit too far, but whatever. It was going to be fine, just fine.

The first winter here, I was in for a shock. One morning in October I stepped outside and straight into a foot of snow (more than England typically sees in a whole year). It was like someone had gone overboard with the white foam spray on the entire world.

By January, temperatures had dipped to horrific proportions of somewhere in the minus twenty- to thirty-degree range. We'd recently adopted our dog, Bongo, and I was determined to continue with our daily dog walks, so I traipsed out into the dog park, naively wearing my jeans and trainers and semi-winter coat. And almost died of frost bite and hypothermia and other cold diseases.

Finally someone showed me the ways of the arctic people: I was introduced to Sorrel snow shoes and goose down coats and, to my horror, long johns. Yes, long johns, under everything. Sexy, slinky long johns that cling so tight they make your legs itch like a bastard.

I quickly discovered that small things like nose hairs freezing within seconds of being outside and fingers turning blue from cold were just, you know, normal every day occurrences. Not things to worry, complain, or throw tantrums about, according to Calgary folk. Around this neck of the woods, you get on with it. Never mind the cold, the snow, the frozen nose hairs and the fingers almost gangrenous from frost bite.

My parents came out to Calgary to visit, the year after I moved here, during the coldest of the winter months. And basically, they were horrified. I tried to put on a brave face and show them "Ha, see, I can do this! This? Snow? This is nothing. I will even wear my flip flops because I am a tough Canadian now!" And then I quietly locked myself in the bathroom and wept, remembering how manageable the English winters really were.

Me with my husband and father, seven months after moving to Calgary, 
showing how magnificent! the snow really was (Lake Louise).

For me, one of the worst things about the snow was the driving. Even with winter tires, I was sliding around like a deer on ice, terrified of crashing into other motorists or veering into bus shelters. But, not to be put off, I enrolled myself on a winter driving course and learned the proper way to handle winter driving conditions. And things really started to look up when they let me drive out on an ice field and do a handbreak turn. Awesomeness.

After a few years I got used to the snow, kind of, and things were relatively normal again.

Until I had kids.

And then it wasn't the driving that I dreaded, nor was it the fear of freezing my face off, but the fear of going out with the kids, in the minus-ridiculousness temperatures.

Because, as anyone with young kids will attest, preparing for an outing with little ones during winter is about as simple as strapping a zebra and four goats to an elephant.

First there are the snow pants, which go over the regular pants, then the coats, then the hats, the mittens, the boots. Did I leave anything out? And after all the dressing is done, there's hardly a child left to be seen under all the layers. 

 But, like I said, I'm tough to this now. Right? And I shall not be deterred by a little snow. I shall go forth and brave the cold, carry on with my life as normal, I shall not transfer my hatred of winter to my sons. I shall find the bright side to this cold, slushy nightmare.

Insert smiley face here.

How about you? How do you cope with bitterly cold temperatures?

People from places like Florida need not reply. Seriously, if you still want to be friends.
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Monday, November 15, 2010

There's No Place Like Home.

Dorothy was definitely onto something when she clicked her heels together and uttered those words.

I've never really considered myself a homebody. Even the few years I was at home with the kids all the time, even then. Instead of enjoying it, I was always preoccupied with all the things the house demanded of me. I couldn't sit still for a minute without eyeing a ball of dust in the corner or a pile of things needing to be put away. Damn housework. 

Sidenote: If I had a pair of those sparkly red shoes that granted wishes? I'd wish for a team of cleaners to come to my house every day for an hour. 

Working away from the house a few times a week has given me a bit of perspective.

On Friday I left the house for work at two in the afternoon and returned, somewhat worn and depleted, at nine in the evening. The moment I stepped through the door, I felt enormous relief to be back in my own house. I suddenly appreciated it like never before. Without even taking off my coat, I went to the sofa and curled up there. I was simply happy to be home. 

I was like Dorothy, only with scrubs and sneakers instead of a blue gingham dress and ruby slippers.

Looking at my house when I come home from work is like looking at someone else's house. I'm not scrutinizing the crayon marks on the wall or the scratches on the floor. Instead I'm looking at the house as a whole, seeing the colours we picked out together five years ago, the things we collected over the years, the way we've made our house a home.

Of course, that lasts about two minutes, and then I start with my finicky ways again. Still, it's good to see things from a different angle for a change. 

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Thursday, November 11, 2010

My Top Ten Christmas Books for Kids 2010.

Is it too early to talk about Christmas? Well if it is, I apologize. I'm already well into the spirit of things this year, with half my shopping done, lists made, food ideas swimming around my head, etc.

As usual, books are prominent on my Christmas shopping list - books for everyone. Here are a few of my favourite books about Christmas. I'll be doing another post on the kids' books I'll be giving as gifts for Christmas soon too.

Olive The Other Reindeer by J.otto Seibold and Vivian Walsh.
I bought this special edition of the 1997 classic a few years ago for my kids, and it's become a clear favourite at our house. It's a charming little story about a dog who thinks he's a reindeer. This edition is pop-up, and inside, the book is very pretty.

That's not my Santa... by Fiona Watt. 
I just bought this one for my kids, not because I love it, but because they do. We've read it over and over and over already... I think it's something about the touchy-feely fabrics inside.

How the Grinch Stole Christmas! By Dr. Seuss.
A classic tale of grinch hates Christmas, grinch tries to destroy Christmas, grinch discovers Christmas is not so bad after all. And the hard cover book has this amazing shiny red cover, and that's enough for me.

The Nightmare Before Christmas by Tim Burton.
A creepy tale of Christmas that's not even remotely suitable for my kids yet. Brilliant. 

The Twelve Dogs of Christmas by Emma Kragen.
Don't judge me, but I like this. It's like the twelve days of Christmas! But with dogs! Get it?!?!

The Snowman by Raymond Briggs.
Probably one of the only books with no words that I enjoy. A sweet tale about a boy who builds a snowman, sees it come to life and goes off with the him on a magical adventure.

A Charlie Brown Christmas by Charles M. Schultz.
This clothbound edition of the classic Charlie Brown story brings back memories. And it's just a really nice book.

Christmas Cookies by Amy Krouse Rosenthal.
Asweet (pun intended) book with pretty water colour illustrations, that uses the concept of baking cookies to teach kids the meaning of vocabulary such as "tradition" and "hope". 

It's Christmas, David by David Shannon.
This is new this year, about a naughty little boy who can't wait for Christmas and tries to sneak a peak at his presents and gets into all kinds of mischief.

The Night Before Christmas by Clement C. Moore.
This book - this exact copy, is, to me, pure magic. I've been reading this (or having it read to me) for as long as I can remember on Christmas Eve. Now I'm making it a tradition for my kids. Christmas wouldn't be Christmas without it.

What about you? What are your favourite Christmas books?

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Tuesday, November 9, 2010

My dog has learned how to slam his dog door.

This is Bongo. Part Australian Shepherd, part Border Collie, part something else, we're not sure.

He is, in no uncertain terms, pissed off.

He's taking a sabbatical.

To reflect upon the fact that his once-perfect life has been replaced by a place of sticky-fingered torment, flying missiles, and cacophonous yelling and screaming.

It's not always easy, being him.

See this? This is Bongo's water bowl.

It's suspiciously orange. I think someone might have dropped a popsicle in there.

It's all a bit much to take.

And then last night, I heard it. As my toddler woke up crying for the second time, Bongo took off out the dog door, slamming it on the way.

Don't ask me how he managed it, but he did.

"Did you hear that?" I asked J who was previously asleep. "Bongo just slammed the dog door. He SLAMMED it. He's definitely pissed off."

And so it is.

It's his birthday soon. Maybe I should do something nice for him...
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Monday, November 8, 2010

Teenage Skin at Thirty One.

Of all the things I thought I'd have to deal with in my thirties, I never imagined bad skin would be one of them. I blame not sleeping through the night for several years. Because, well, I like to blame that for most things. It seems like a likely culprit.

As a result of these break-outs, I've developed a habit of slathering on make-up to hide it. It's become a daily ritual - a part of my morning routine. Whether I'm going to a playdate, to drop my son at school, or go to work, I won't leave the house without it.

It was around the same time I first laid eyes on boys that my skin started to misbehave. It was as though the universe was sending me a warning sign. And of course I ignored the universe. Because... BOYS! And the universe in return punished me for not listening by awarding me with bad skin as punishment.

By the time I was nineteen it was official, I had acne. Which, when you're nineteen, you want about as much as you want a chaperone on a date. Eager to do away with it, I applied the medicated skin creams my doctor prescribed, which smelled kind of like paint stripper and truthfully did nothing for me.

So I discovered foundation and began to wear it all the time. My mother took me to Estee Lauder, where the lady at the counter took one mascara-laden look at me and smothered me in the heaviest foundation she could find. And then added about four layers of blusher and other colourful powders and I walked away looking not unlike Dolly Parton.

Nevertheless, I was in love with my new foundation.

And not just foundation, but I fell for make-up in sort of a big way. I loved the packaging. I loved the way I could smooth out the uneven patches and change the way my face looked with eye liner and shadow, and it was almost artistic, the act of applying it. I got a kick out of treating myself to a new Rubie and Millie lip gloss or a Mac eyeshadow, and that in turn became a rather expensive habit.

It was my way of covering over the pimples and the ugliness I felt. With make-up I was prettier and more confident.

After graduating and into the first few years of my career, my skin began to improve a little. I know this, because in my wedding pictures (in 2003) my skin looks decent. Then we moved to Canada. And then I was pregnant, twice, and the pregnancies seemed to agree with my skin (at least in the second and third trimesters). For a while things were looking up.

But having babies meant being up half the night. For several years. And several years of not sleeping through the night took a sledgehammer to my skin. And now? Back to square one.  

Go straight to skin prison, do not pass Go, do not collect $200 or good skin.

Yeah, thanks universe.

I never imagined that in my thirties, my skin would be as bad as when I was a teenager. I never thought I'd still be slapping on the greasepaint like my sanity depended on it. I never imagined I'd still be afraid to step out of the house bare-faced for fear of what people might think. Never thought my skin would still cause me to lack confidence in myself.

But it's okay. It won't last forever. I mean, there's NO WAY this will still be happening when I'm forty. Right? Someone?

Ever the optimist, I have faith that one day (please one day), sleep will return - good, consistent, healing sleep. And when it does, my skin will recover and be amazingly fabulous. Or something close to that.

Until then, there's make-up.

Has anyone else suffered with bad skin in their thirties? How did you deal with it?
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Saturday, November 6, 2010

You'll never accidentally let your kids watch Jaws again.

Ever since I accidentally let my kids watch the movie Chicken Little without first investigating whether it was really suitable for them - which led to my son then yelling out for me to turn it off and me dropping my laundry and frantically looking for the off button because apparently it was about to traumatise him for life and cause years of counseling - I've become a bit more cautious about the movies I let them watch.

A few days ago we rented Toy Story 3, and before the boys even caught sight of the DVD case, J and I sat down and watched it one evening while they were in bed. And, can I just say, though this post isn't about reviewing the movie - it was FANTASTIC. Actually? Probably in my top 5 movies this year.


There were a few sinister moments that led me to decide I definitely would not be letting the kids watch it this year. (The scene with the creepy doll (I'll have a side of nightmares please); and the scene at the end where all the toys are headed into the burning inferno).

Of course, I don't have time to vet every single movie my kids watch.

So, something I've been using lately is this web site Common Sense Media. They do reviews and make recommendations for age appropriate viewing. All you have to do is type in the name of the movie, and they give you all the info you need. Ain't the Interwebs a wonderful thing?

Just thought I'd share that with you.

 Have a nice weekend.

P.S. This post is not sponsored - just me sharing something with you that I found useful. I'm helpful like that.
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Thursday, November 4, 2010

I'd sell my left kidney for an extra thirty minutes of sleep.

I really love early mornings. Most days I wake up at 6:00 am, spring out of bed after a restful night and head straight down to the gym, where I work out for a solid hour. Then I take a yoga class and come home, all before my husband wakes up. By the time the kids are up, I've cleaned the house and baked a whole batch of delicious muffins for everyone.

La, la la, la la, la, la.

Mm hm, hm, hm. De da da da.


No, you're right, doesn't sound like me at all.

I am not a morning person. As far as I'm concerned, early mornings can take a running leap into a firey pit of snakes and cockroaches and never bother me again. 

When it comes to sleep, I'm greedy. It's like that with anything if you've been deprived of it for long enough. First thing in the morning? I don't want to be disturbed. I don't want to talk. I don't want to sing or dance or do anything requiring energy. If I never woke up before 8:00 am ever again, I'd be okay with that.

Which is why I'll do pretty much anything to get few extra minutes of sleep in the morning.

This morning, as usual, my younger son woke up around 6:30 and, as usual, I gave him his milk and crawled back into bed and fell into a heavenly slumber. Then, not as usual, my older son woke up. It was 6:45 and I could hear him calling for me.

Reluctantly but instinctively, I went to him to see what was up.

"Mummy! .... The digger! .... My face! .... It hurt!"

I finally figured out he'd been lying close to a couple of toy trucks and diggers, and one of them must have accidentally poked him in the face.

I soothed my son, then helped him back into bed. Like me, Matthew is not one for early mornings. Normally. Except for this morning. 

"I'm not tired Mummy. I want to get up now."

Realizing I was dangerously close to having to actually get up and open my eyes and be awake and do things, I tried my best to intercept the inevitable. "Shhhhh, shhhhh, it's still the middle of the night." I assured him and climbed into his bed. And fell promptly asleep.

Five minutes later. One inch from my face. "Mommy. Can we get up now?"

"Nooooo." I whispered. "S'too early. Go to sleep."

"No!" He said, jumping up.

"Arrrghflp. Okay."

And before I could stop myself, I went and did what we promised we'd never do.

"You can come into our bed."


And then we all slept blissfully forever after. Or, for another hour, anyway.

I just hope I haven't gone and started a new bad habit.

It was so worth it for the extra hour of sleep though.

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Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Why kids and pensioners and Lady Gaga have it all figured out.

Browsing through the clothes in H&M, I paused at a beautiful short green dress with a bronze diamond waist panel - it looked like the kind of thing Wonder Woman might wear if she were going to a special function, or, you know, maybe just the grocery store. Leaving the fantasy dress on the rack I moved onto a far more practical knee-length black wool dress, which would go nicely with black ballet flats.

As I paid for the dress I ran over the reasons in my head why I'd probably never buy the dress I really liked: it was too short; it was too young; it was too sparkly; I'd have no place to wear it; I wasn't Wonder Woman; it was too expensive. Etc.

But, if in some strange universe where I didn't have all those excuses and inhibitions, I'd buy that dress, and I'd wear it with gold pumps dammit. And red lipstick and red nail polish. And I'd dye my hair blond, just to see what it looked like. I've always wanted to know...

I wondered, as I walked away with my black wool dress what, exactly, I was afraid of, and why it was so difficult to admit to liking the things I really liked.

The next day, in a different store, my three-year old son unhesitatingly pointed to a pack of pink My Little Pony stickers, lined up next to Transformers, monster trucks and aliens. "I want this one Mummy." He said decisively.

Unlike me and my hang-ups, he went right in and picked out exactly what he wanted. Never mind social ideals and gender stereotypes and peer pressures. His decision-making process consisted of one thought: whether or not he liked it. Unbelievable. I want to bottle this ability to be unimpeded by external pressures and keep it forever. Because when else in your life are you this free?

If a boy wants to wear a pink feather boa and run up and down the street roaring like a lion, well okay. If a girl wants to put on a Darth Veda outfit with a pink tutu and wave a light saber, so what? Not an eyelid is bat.

And as you get older, quirky isn't always funny or cute any more. Unless, of course, you're Lady Gaga or it's Halloween.

I have this theory, that when it comes to being who you really want to be, life goes in three cycles:

1. You start out as a young child, so far untouched by peer pressure and self-consciousness, free to explore and be whoever you want.

2. A few years go by and suddenly you become self-aware. You discover that things like fitting in and making friends and being accepted are important. And those luminous polka dot pants you thought were cool because your parents said so? Not cool. You begin to withdraw the eccentricities. You learn how to dress and act the right way.

3. At some point as you get older, you stop trying to fit in and start finding confidence in the person you really are. You realize all those years you spent worrying about what was socially acceptable was totally overrated and that, in fact, you should totally have bought that leopard print leotard and dyed your hair lime green twenty years ago. Because really, the world won't crumble around you and your friends won't desert you. (Warning: Your friends may desert you and the world may crumble if you dye your hair lime green.) 

I think that's why some people become completely eccentric with old age and finally embrace the things they love, even if they are seemingly ridiculous and unsuitable. Because it's taken them a life time to figure it out. I, for one, totally plan on being an eccentric silver-haired pensioner with super fashionable clothes and shoes. And people will tell my grandkids how lucky they are to have such a cool grandma.

Photo from Advanced Style

I just hope it doesn't take me that long to figure it out...

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