The Better to Eat You With, My Dear

Happy Halloween! We just got back from Trick or Treating and I am all full of giddy, wholesome fun (and candy. Many, many candy.)

If I know you guys and I think I do, you have been on tenterhooks waiting to see what our family costume was.

I KNOW. I can’t believe I made you wait so long either! It’s just that my nephew wasn’t going to just swindle himself out of that tiny bag of Cheetos, so, I mean, priorities.

(Cheetos always get #1 priority in this house.)

Alright, without any further ado, our only-slightly-embarrassing family costume, beginning with the best part:

Oh hi, Little Red Riding Won’t Keep Her Hood On! Aren’t you just adorable!

Say, do you have ridiculous parents kicking around here in cringeworthy costumes that will come back to haunt them in years to come? Oh you DO?

Helloooo!

Guys, those glasses were $3, and I powdered my hair with cornstarch.

Now I’m not saying that the Grandma look is my best look, but what I am saying is that when I go grey (and I may or may not be already waging a war against 3-4 pesky strands every few weeks over here, so at this point it’s not if, it’s when) I don’t think I’ll look half bad.

I might even be so bold as to call myself…a silver fox?

JUST SAYING.

One more?

And here’s a funny story that gives a little peep into the dynamics of my marriage. I like to plan things, especially festivites. So I planned Olive’s birthday forever, I spent a few weeks thinking of this costume and gathering bits and pieces for it, and throughout all the stages of the planning Adam’s attitude can be summed up as nonchalant. He’s not disinterested per se, but he definitely isn’t in there tossing ideas around or anything.

Then, EVERY TIME. Every single time, at the last second he gets SUPER into it. Like a little too into it for my liking. And then all of a sudden he is all up in my business trying to help me make this cake I have been thinking about for three months and he is just measuring almond flour and stirring chocolate and sifting things and he doesn’t even know the plan! Or he decides that if he is going to be a wolf, there’s no way he’s just going to let his wife draw a nose on him with an old eyeliner pencil goddammit. 

No, if Adam’s going to dress up as a wolf he’s going to do it RIGHT.

So he gets onto the good old Internets and finds a pattern and prints it and goes to town with scissors and a mandarin orange box and he crafts himself that gorgeous snout you see above. He covered it with the same fabric I used to make the ears, coloured the nose on with a sharpie and used hockey tape to cover the teeth.

And despite my bossy bossing, he was right and damn does it look cute! Way better than if we just had some wild-eyed kitten looking thing following us around with a smudged nose.

Olive loved trick or treating. I felt slightly ashamed because every so often the person putting the candy into Olive’s little basket would stand up and I would look at them and our eyes would meet and it was silently understood that this child, this adorable Little Red Riding Hood would never be actually eating any of that candy. It was slightly awkward so that’s when you brightly shout “Thank you! Happy Halloween!” and rush to the next house, letting your shame be tamped down by the ever-growing mound of too-small chocolate bars nestled in the basket amongst the red checkered fabric.

By the fifth or sixth house she started yelling as soon as we started up the walkway, trying to imitate her cousins as they called trick or treat! And by the tenth house I swear she actually said “Tiikoooteeet” and I have my five-year old nephew as a witness and thank god because no one else heard it.  We couldn’t get her to replicate it after that, but it was pretty cool.

(Not cool enough to let her have any of her candy, but I did let her chew on the wrappers and that’s sort of the same?)

Finally, we carved pumpkins last night and in an ode to her first real Halloween, the first one where she isn’t a three-week old lump in my arms, we carved her a very classic sort of pumpkin, and decked it out with teeth just like hers. Two bottom teeth, two front teeth, and one and a half side teeth (seriously what are those called? The ones beside the front ones?)

pumpkin

Happy Halloween!

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Doubts for Days

This video made me cry within the first thirty-four seconds. And no I don’t typically hide
emotions well – every single thing I am feeling at a given moment is usually written into my face – but still,  thirty-four seconds? That’s a record I think.

As soon as I started watching I immediately recognized that look, that tone, that hesitant shade of self-doubt that creeps into these women’s voices as they were asked to describe themselves as mothers.

I wish I could…

I should…

I’d love to be more…

I need to…

I struggle…

Oh god, did this hit home.

It’s the same look I see when I meet my eyes in the mirror some nights when I haven’t done as much as I would like to. When I question myself and my abilities and my strengths and whether they are enough. Whether they are good enough, not only for me but for Olive.

If we’ve had a rough day where she’s been fussy, or clingy, or she’s snuck in a rogue nap at 7:30 so she’s still rolling around wide awake at 10:30pm, I think to myself,

Someone else would be doing this better. Someone else would have woken up at 7am like a normal person, they wouldn’t have forgotten the laundry in the washer for the whole day, they would have gone outside for more than a quick half-hour dog walk. Someone else would have made sure they had a plan before moving here, so that they weren’t still scrambling six months later. Someone else would be able to stick to a schedule and remember to go to the library and they’d have clean socks and be able to figure out why her diapers are so stinky all of a sudden. Someone else would have their shit together and not be here at almost eleven o’clock p.m. hissing at a one-year-old “Go night-night! It’s time to go night-night!”

It’s not about being a good mother. I am an intelligent, self-aware almost-thirty year old and I have enough experience with the world to know that I am a good mother. That’s fine. I’m not writing this for accolades or testimonials to that effect. I just, I don’t think I ever knew how tough it would be to hold myself to an ever-higher standard of achievement.

I am not what you would call ambitious in the conventional sense of the word. Actually that’s couching it, I am not ambitious, period. I want a small life. I want to have children, and a clean house and a strong marriage, and I want to be happy. That’s about it. It’s embarrassing, really.

I have never been the type to push myself. My teachers were always driving themselves nuts over “potential”, whereas I saw no reason to go to great lengths to get marks in the nineties when marks in the eighties were easy to get, and good enough.

But in this, in being a mother, that distinction doesn’t exist. I don’t have a level in my head that is “good enough”. I always seem to be coming up short in some way or another and it’s ridiculous, I know it’s ridiculous, this feeling flies in the face of all logic or rationale – if there’s never “good enough”, if the bar keeps getting higher, where does it end? Where does the crazy end?!

Still. It’s an odd feeling, devoting so much time and energy – what sometimes feels like all of my time and energy –  to a tiny person who can’t tell me when I’m doing a good job, and doesn’t yet have the language skills or awareness to tell me what effect my efforts are having on her life. If other mothers are anything like me, they tend to brush off the more obvious signs in their harsher moments of self-critique. I mean, all kids hug their moms, don’t they? And constantly clinging to my side is a developmental stage, and she smiles just as big when she sees a puppy as when she sees me.

This is why moms save those shitty valentines you make them, where all you did was haphazardly glue together pre-cut hearts and doilies and trace a teacher-written sentiment. This is why moms make such a big deal about Mother’s Day and why every single husband and father and partner should, too. Because these cliché, prompted, scripted displays of affection or appreciation are sometimes all that stand in the face of the quavering admissions of self-doubt that these women shared in the first few moments of the video. We’re here by ourselves, doing this on our own. These things are all that we have to counter the times we regret words as soon as they leave our mouths, or wish in vain to be more and better, stronger and more patient, with unflagging enthusiasm for repetitive games, and boundless reserves of energy.

*****

Olive is babbling. She repeats sounds and intonations but doesn’t yet speak any clear words.

Today we are walking with Gus, and it is a training walk because he’s being kind of dick lately and so there is lots of correcting and heeling and making him sit at odd moments and with lots of distraction.

“Sit!” I tell Gus, as three yappy dogs straining at their dental floss leashes pass us by. His ears prick and he watches them but he sits, at a glacial pace but eventually he sits, and then I hear a small voice from the Ergo on my back say “Ish!” and I laugh. “Yes, sit!” I repeat. And then I hear her say excitedly, “Oof, oof” as she sees the dogs pass, still barking their tiny heads off.

And as I release Gus from his sit and we continue along, I say to Olive in a sing-songy voice (that voice that came seemingly out of nowhere the moment I laid eyes on her) “I love you” and without any hesitation she repeats, “Eyyuooo!”

I pause, then say it again, louder and more deliberately

“I love you”

“Eyyyuuuyouuu”

And then it’s enough.

It will have to be enough until the teacher-assigned valentines, and the words that finally come tumbling out or her mouth and hitch themselves to meaning.

It is enough until I can sit there like these women and cry while I listen to Olive describe me as a mother, her joy and admiration cancelling out any doubt that still lingers.

Tomorrow we begin again.

Halloween

I have come up with a deeelightful family Halloween costume this year – oh yes, I am going to push the the family costumes until either Adam or Olive rebels. Who will crack first? How far can I push this? Stay tuned!

Anyway. I thought I’d compile some photos from our costumes in previous years, in no particular order.

As always, Gus wins.

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Gus circa 2011, as Alan from The Hangover

 

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2012, Olive as a bunny, me as a bleary-eyed new mom, proud that she showered today.

2012, Olive as a bunny, me as a bleary-eyed new mom, proud that she showered today.

 

 

2011. Adam as Alan from The Hangover (who wore it better?) and would you look at those pants?! Me as a witch.

2011. Adam as Alan from The Hangover (who wore it better?) and would you look at those pants?!
Me as a witch.

2010. You’re welcome for the modesty patch.

 

 

Umm.. the nineties sometime? Maybe 1990? Making me seven...ish? A SPIDER! Check our all of those homemade costumes. Nary a franchise or licensed character to be seen.

Umm.. the nineties sometime? Maybe 1990? Making me seven…ish? A SPIDER! Check our all of those homemade costumes. Nary a franchise or licensed character to be seen.

 

Three week old Olive. Oh my gahhhh so little look at those hands I need a moment.

Three week old Olive. Oh my gahhhh so little look at those hands I need a moment.

 

 

2005, me as a lion. Rawr. I kind of like the crimped hair look.

2005, me as a lion. Rawr. I kind of like the crimped hair look.

aaaand this:

Gus as Lady Gaga. Lady Da-Ga?

See? Gus always wins.

Olive and I are heading out today to gather a few extra bits and pieces for our costumes, the better to dress up with my dear!

 

 

 

Blurg

I have a Facebook page! I mean I, as in me as an individual person, have had one for a while. Because, obviously, right?

In fairness I was one of the last of my friends to submit to the lure of facebook, but I did eventually cave and we now have a love/hate relationship, the ‘book and I. Nonetheless, Beth made herself a page and I started to get blogger anxiety. Like, should I have a page? How come I don’t have a page? Is it weird that I don’t have a page?

So I made a page. And then I invited exactly zero people to like it.

I sat on it for a few days feeling dumb, like, why exactly am I creating a Sweet Madeleine facebook page? I didn’t know. I still don’t know. Except…social media? Web presence? Some other bewildering jargon?

Then I invited my mom and my sister Lizzie, and both of them “Liked” it, which was terribly encouraging and so here we are.

Anyhow, I gather that this is accepted practice and it’s not enough to have a blog where you overshare your life every day but you should also have a Facebook page so I have a Facebook page and you are supposed to go “Like” it – me? – now.

Like me. Please like me.

(That basically sums up the entirety of blogging right there.)

Soooo here it is.

Yay! (?)

Duckface 4 evah

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Decided the other day to chop a good 4 inches off my hair, thus completing my annual “I’m growing my hair. I’m growing my hair. I’m growing my-oh my god cut it off it’s driving me insane I look like an Afghan hound I’m making an appointment now I can’t deal with it for another day” cycle.

I haven’t even had the customary “It’s so short -what have I done?” moment (yet), so that’s a plus, right?