The WINNER!

“You said I’d do WHAT?”

Oh my gosh, you guys. Seriously. I was all “Hey! Facebook wants me to get 600 likes!” and you were all, “Eff you, Facebook! We’ll show you 600 likes!” and now there are 731 likes and what does it all mean?!

Before we get to the winner of the finest custom portrait to ever be custom portraited – one that I sincerely hope gets a place of honour in the winners home, preferably above the fireplace or the bed, or at least somewhere highly visible so you have to explain to everyone who walks through your door what the monstrosity is and who drew it (“Um…it’s the husband of this…lady? No, no. We’ve never met. She’s, um, she’s on the Internets? You know…one of those bloggers? Yeah, it was a contest and I, uh, I won, so… You know, let’s just put it under the couch OK?”) before all that, I have some learning to lay down on you.

Did you know that you shouldn’t be saying “All of _____”, you should be saying “All_____”? The “of” is totally unnecessary! Likewise, “towards” is not a thing. It’s TOWARD. These two lessons brought to you by Kitty, the woman I have never met in real life, but who was tasked with reading through my entire book and correcting my numerous writer’s tics, two of which I have just mentioned and the others shall go with me to the grave (and no, unnecessarily long sentences with too many commas wasn’t one of the other ones, why do you ask?)

I really wish Kitty would edit my entire life, blog posts, emails, love letters, the whole shebang, because I am the best for thinking everything is locked down with spelling and grammar, and then noticing eleven mistakes after I press send/publish. But she doesn’t, so instead you get me, unedited and unfiltered. Writer’s tics and all.

ANYWAY. To get the winner of this majestic piece of art I first had to figure out how to export my list of Facebook likes, which was a delightful chore I decided to tackle at 11:20 pm on a night that I had to be up at 7 the next morning, because planning (and for those of you wondering why 7.5 hours is not enough sleep, I say to you molars! Molars is why!)

When I had compiled the list I did some very high-tech copying and pasting into a word document, and then I took a trip over to Random.org and generated a random number.

Screen shot of this intricate business below, for proof.

Screenshot 2014-01-31 23.29.32 (1)

So number 36! How YOU doin’? I headed back to my word document and counted down to the thirty-sixth fan, and FEE WRIGHT! You are it! come on down! So Fee, here’s what you need to do. Choose your finest photo, preferably one featuring you in the grip of a beefy Neanderthal man, waist-deep in water under a shooting star, and email it to me at info (at) sweetmadeleine (dot) ca.

Then I will print this photo, put on my white gloves and take it to the artist himself, who will probably be in the midst of something terribly artist-like, such as watching bro movies wrist-deep in a bag of Doritos (don’t worry, he uses the orange chip dust for shading) and he will get to work on your custom magnificence.

And, not that any of you will be doubting the quality of Adam’s work or anything, but I feel the need to specify that this is not going to be some haphazard two-minute sketch on the back of an old phone bill. This is going to be legit. Thick paper, a signed and numbered copy, perhaps a certificate of authenticity and maybe even a frame if I get really organized – although I see that Fee lives in Australia, so this may be dependant on how ridiculous the shipping is going to be. I mean, money is no object!

Also, because you guys just went so above and beyond I will try to match your enthusiasm levels by wrangling my husband into doing a series of in-progress shoots, or perhaps a video explaining the inspiration behind his work. It will be exciting, don’t worry. If he starts rambling I will secretly cut to Olive.

Anyway, Fee! Congratulations! You have a delightful name, and soon you will have a delightful portrait to grace the walls of your home. And the internet. I will post it on the internet, so don’t be sending me any nudie pics. (Adam: “Nudie pics are not only acceptable, but encouraged. It’s art, Madeleine“)

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Adam just loves it when I do shit like this

A few weeks ago I created a Facebook page for Sweet Madeleine after getting over my initial bewilderment about why exactly I needed one, and lo and behold it is all kinds of exciting! People are liking things and sharing things and commenting on things – plus it’s a great way to post little tidbits here and there when I don’t have time to put together a whole post.

In the weeks since creating the page we have received 577 “Likes”, which is quite flabbergasting, really. But Facebook is not satistifed with a mere 577 likes. Every time I log in Facebook encourages me to “Reach my next milestone!” of 600 likes.

Guys, if I have learned anything in my thirty years on this planet, it is to never disobey Facebook. SO! Here I am, doing the bidding of a multi-billion dollar social media overlord like some sort of mindless automaton trying to reach my next milestone!

Nonetheless, if you  “Like” the Sweet Madeleine facebook page and we reach that MILESTONE 600 number, I will do a draw with the winner receiving a custom portrait by none other than this guy:

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Oh, you didn’t know Adam was an artist, you say? Did you forget THIS masterpiece, circa the late nineties?

Draw me like one of your French girls.

 

Haven’t you always wanted to be depicted in a finely wrought pencil drawing with square boobs that go right up to your neck? And I mean the masterpiece above is from when Adam was seventeen years old – he’s thirty-three now and his skills have improved considerably! (probably!)

Anyway, clearly you don’t need convincing. Let your fingers do the walking liking, and we’ll see where we’re at on Friday.

Sweet Madeleine facebook page 

P.S. Adam is not yet aware that  he is providing a custom portrait service, so don’t say anything. The element of SURPRISE is crucial in the fine art of marital coercion.

Things I Don’t Do Anymore

A sampling of things I don’t do nearly as much as I should (or at all, in some cases), and that I sometimes feel vaguely guilty about/aware of/motivated to change, with varying degrees of success:

  • Read. as much as I’d like to, anyway. I used to read at least a book a week. Now? Maybe one a month if I’m lucky. The issue isn’t even time, it’s attention span. I can’t seem to get my mind to focus in diving into, and fully committing to the kind of books I like to read best, the books where it takes fifteen minutes to settle into the author’s writing style, cadence of speech and narrative. Shifting and arranging yourself until it becomes familiar and engrossing. These days I barely make it ten minutes before jumping up to make tea, switch laundry over, check some entirely useless and unremarkable thing on my phone, etc. UGH.
  • Do yoga. In the year before Olive was born I really got into yoga, I found an amazing studio and was going 2-3 times a week. My body felt loose and capable, strong and flexed. I continued practicing in a mom and baby class after she was born, but since moving I have been to only one or two classes and neither style resonated with me and so I am here, crunched and hunched and feeling as brittle as an eighty year old woman. I have promised to get back into it a million times, but funds are few and yoga studios are tough because you really have to mesh with the teacher – or I do anyway – otherwise I am just spending $15 a class to internally berate someone for repeating “breathe innnnn, breathe outtttt” in an incredibly obnoxious way.
  • Deal with my hair. Oh my god seriously. I did not notice that I had amazing hair when I was pregnant, but in retrospect I suspect that  my hair did get a little bit amazing, comparatively speaking.Take a look at this grainy photograph from when I was about eight or nine months pregnant.

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  • I mean, the hair isn’t anything incredible, but compared to the straw heap I am now dealing with this demure little side-parted ponytail looks absolutely breathtaking.The thing is, after you have a baby all of your delightful pregnancy hormones go away. And this means that you suddenly lose all of the hair that you weren’t losing for the past nine months, and what this means is that when your baby is fifteen months old you will be looking in the mirror trying to understand why every strand of your hair – not hyperbole here, literally  every strand- is a different length ranging from 1″ onwards. Hair sticks out of my head in all directions making me look like an angry hedgehog and no matter how much I brush or condition or otherwise attempt to manage it, I look disheveled. So, I mean, what’s the point right? Any other angry hedgehogs out there who have stumbled upon a solution to this issue, please feel free to rescue whats left of my dignity and share it with me in the comments.
  • Connecting with friends. I am the worst at calling people, returning calls, answering calls, and not ignoring calls and/or sending them straight to voicemail. If you have ever tried to call me on the phone I would like to take this opportunity to say two things: 1) I am so, so sorry, and 2) I am probably never phoning you back.It’s not because I don’t love you, or miss you, or wonder what is going on with your life and your house and your husband and your job, it’s just because I feel completely ill-equipped to carry on my end of a conversation and give your words the attention they deserve while simultaneously trying to prevent Olive from eating kibble again. She loves kibble. She is sneaky about getting to the kibble. She becomes enraged when you forcibly extract kibble from her mouth and she tries to bite you and then Gus lurks nearby because he keeps hearing me say “Kibble” and I usually slip in one of his drool puddles and concuss myself.

    So. Email me, maybe?

 

  •  Sleep. I mean, obviously, right? There’s the baby, but it also bears mentioning that I am completely incapable of going to bed at a reasonable hour so really, I have no business blaming Olive for why every SINGLE morning I haul myself out of bed, stare my bedraggled hedgehog-self in the mirror and say, with utmost sincerity, “Okay I am going to go to bed early tonight. For REAL this time.”And guys, I mean it! I really mean it. Then I go to work and come home, eat dinner, give Olive her bath, read her a million books, put her to bed and then find reason after reason to put off bedtime for like eight more hours. Repeat.

So, is this list basically a summary of several things that I used to truly value and indeed, consider essential to my personhood, that have almost entirely disappeared from my life since having Olive?

Um. Yes. And it’s only going to get worse (or so they tell me!) Each successful child will find a few more things to wrench from my life,  like greedy little succubi (succubuses? I’ve never had the pleasure of using the plural before) until I am little more than a husk that they call Mama.

But in exchange I get this:

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So – even?

I hear that doing yoga and having good hair are overrated, anyway.

Fear

Be Brave, by KelliMurrayArt on Etsy

Sometimes I have thoughts rattling around my head half-formed. They are mostly wispy, inconsequential things but their hearts are strong and they contain things that need to be said, things I want to say, but can’t find the words for.

I keep bumping into them and thinking I need to explore them, flesh them out a little more. Then sometimes I stumble upon someone else’s words that say so perfectly what I have been struggling to and these thoughts solidify enough that I can release them onto you, lucky people reading my ramblings! Here they are!

1. Inspired by Rebecca Woolf on fear and “Stranger Danger 

I don’t want to raise Olive to be afraid.

I don’t want her to be afraid of public spaces, heights, men, adults, nature, water, or walking alone. I don’t believe that scaring her will make her more safe, I think scaring her will make her scared,  and it is fear and the vulnerability it breeds that is most dangerous.

I am not naive to the world or the dangers it contains, but to navigate this world – which, yes, unfortunately does contain broken arms and pedophiles and drownings and sharp knives – to navigate this world, she will need confidence, and I think the best way to give her the confidence she needs to walk boldly, to feel like she can handle herself in any situation, is by preparing her for life, not by protecting her from it.

She is going to fall. She will bruise and her skin will break, she will get skinned knees and cry. Obviously, as a mother, it is my greatest wish in this world to spare her pain of any kind, but that’s simply not possible so, barring that painless utopian future I would rather she fell from a height of six inches than six feet. She won’t learn to be careful if I am constantly hovering around her catching her every time she slips, she will learn to be careful by falling and realizing the terrible, inarguable reality of gravity. She will learn from her bruised knees and as I scoop her up and wipe her tears I will point at the jungle gym and say, “Sweetpea you have to go slowly when you’re up so high. Make sure you are strong enough to hold on, and take time to look where you’re going.”

Hopefully these small lessons and small scrapes will teach her well enough that they don’t become lessons too big, and broken arms instead. I want her to test the limits of her physical ability when the stakes are small, and learn to draw the line between risk and adventure on her own. I think if I worry too much for Olive she won’t learn to worry on her own, and then who will stop her when I’m not around and she’s  stark naked on the roof thinking she can fly because she hasn’t yet learned what it means to fall?

It’s not that I want to be careless with her, or that I want her to get hurt – I mean it’s tempting to wish for her to never fall or hurt or cry. But can you imagine the type of insufferable human being that child would grow up into, never having felt sorrow, frustration, anger or pain? These things are the shadow side of life and no one wants to experience them, but I believe that they are inevitable and probably necessary experiences in order to become smart and empathetic, confident and able to cope with whatever life throws at you.

Stranger danger, too. This is somewhat of a controversial (and depressing) topic, but the fact is that our children aren’t being harmed by strangers. It’s not strangers we have to fear. 90% of sexual abuse happens at the hands of a family member or friend. Similarly, in Canada out of 46, 718 children reported missing in 2011, the majority were runaways and only 25 of them were abducted by someone defined as a “stranger to the family” (a definition which, it bears noting, includes anyone who is not a parent, including family friends, teachers, counsellors etc.)

Teaching our children to be afraid of strangers is harmful and counterproductive. I want Olive to know that she needs to trust her gut, not whether or not she knows someone, to tell her if something bad is happening. And if, god forbid knock on wood please god never, if something bad does happen I want her to place more weight on her gut feeling than the fact that the person she is with is known by me, trusted by me. I want her to  listen to that feeling that is telling her to get out of there and run like hell regardless of who is making her feel that way, and I want her to know that she has to find an adult and ask them for help even if they are a stranger.

Now, there is still the small matter of the 10% and the 25 kids. And this is why I will still prepare her for the possibility of abductions, or men with nefarious intentions; she will know about drowning or getting lost. I will teach her to walk on sidewalks and cross with the light, she will know not to go anywhere with someone she doesn’t know, she will know how to swim and how to get home. It’s not that I’m naive about the world, but I want Olive to have the skills to live safely in it, even when I’m not around.

This is the plan. But Olive is not even two yet. While some of this is easy to practice now (the not hovering, the watching and waiting instead of rescuing) other ideas have yet to bear the test of time to see if I can really follow through. Would I really let her walk to school by herself? Could I stand to see her climbing a tree higher than she’d ever been, cringing as she boldly places her feet and sticks her head amongst the leaves, and not say anything? Could I really not call out, “Hold on! Get down! You’re going to break your neck!”.

I mean that’s my instinct. I am, by nature, a hoverer and what-if-er and worst-case-scenario-er. I am no stranger to anxiety and fear, it takes over my head more often that I’d like to admit and I don’t want that for her. I worry. Always. So this sort of backing off doesn’t come easily, but I somehow through that instinct, beneath that primal roar I know that Olive is smart. She is capable, determined, and I want her to stay that way. I want her to be curious about the world, and I want her to know that it is, mostly, benevolent.

*****

In my Introduction to Sociology class, the one that made me change my major, the professor discussed crime rates. He spoke about how crime rates are often bemoaned in the media, and worried over by the public. But, he explained, the interesting thing from a Sociological point of view isn’t why 10% of the population is stealing and murdering but why the other 90% isn’t. 

It’s because people – most of us- are good.  And when Olive was born, before she even had a name, I leaned in close to her ear and whispered “Welcome to the world, baby.” I brought her into the world and I welcomed her to it, and I want to keep doing that. I want her to know that the world is an incredible place and she is powerful, smart, and above all safe enough to live in it.

All of this preparing is of course leading up to the ultimate test, those times when I won’t be there. The times when she is walking home from school, or out with friends, or at camp. She’ll be ten or fourteen or twenty-one.  And when she finds herself in a situation that’s not safe (because we know that it’s not, not always) I hope she won’t need protecting. That ten-year old or twenty-one year old Olive will be able to listen to her own gut feelings, hold onto the railing a little tighter, know that flying is just make-believe, or listen to that churning sense of wrong when she is offered a drink by someone she doesn’t know.

I hope I can be brave enough to carry this through. I hope my fear won’t spill over onto her, and I hope that I can bite back enough of my worrying that she learns to do some of her own.

Be brave, sweetpea. Please don’t fall.