Mister

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There have been many bewildering moments in my marriage.

The first was when we were told we couldn’t be awarded a marriage certificate until we signed a legally binding document stating that we understand marrying a person does not mean having ownership of said person conferred upon you (Adam: What?! I’m not signing this! What’s the point then?)

Or moments when we are discussing whether or not to continue riding a roller coaster of offers and rejections on a particular house, trying to determine just how high we can let the thing climb before puking, and my husband sits there across from me saying tit-useless things like, “Do whatever you want.” And “I’ll support whatever decision you make.”

(Whatever decision *I* make? In regards to the biggest financial journey we will ever embark upon? Oh ho ho, NICE TRY deceivingly supportive Adam. I see exactly what you’re doing.

This is the type of shit I pull when suddenly our mutually-owned beast becomes “your” dog when he befouls the backyard in a particularly devastating way, or reduces a grown man to tears with one of his trademark malodorous – but silent, which somehow makes it worse – emissions.

This will not be MY decision, because then it becomes MY house every time something breaks or explodes or catches fire [I’m cooking a lot these days.])

The most bewildering moments in my marriage however, are those that occur over a twelve hour time period when I careen wildly from thinking my husband is a fairly normal human being, to being wholeheartedly enraged by what is clearly an irrefutably demented and antagonistic nature, to seeing him arrive on the front doorstep of my work, coffee in hand, and feeling such a rush of affection at seeing his face that it feels like the first day I met him all over again.

I swear to you this man is the most wholly, intricately infuriating person I’ve ever met. I’ve lost count of the times in the twelve years we’ve owned each other that I’ve raised my fists to the sky and bellowed, “Adaaaammmmm!”

Yet this morning he shows up, smiling, with a steaming hot cup of salvation made just the way I like it, and I am reminded how purely transparent he is.

He really does want what I want.

He wants to make me happy.

His words don’t always say much, but his actions speak volumes. My task is to remind myself to watch, rather than listen.

Not an easy feat for someone whose whole life revolves around words.

So here’s a late-night toast to the husbands, these bewildering manbeasts we share our lives with.

Here’s to these lovely men who sometimes seem like they are speaking a completely foreign language- but know just what to say (and do) when it really counts.

And Mister- thank you for the coffee.

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970 words about a haircut. Yes, seriously.

I went to go get my haircut this morning.

I am a delinquent haircut customer, I think you are supposed to go in every six weeks but I stretch it to six months because, I don’t know why, really. Why do I do anything?

So I arrive for my twice-yearly haircut, and since we’ve just moved it’s with a new stylist and a new salon – which of course looks like the old salon and every other salon before it. Sleek white furniture, artsy chandeliers, racks full of expensive product I get suckered into buying and never use.

I meet my stylist and change into the black cape-y thing and we arrange ourselves in front of the hair cutting station. She releases my hair from its sad ponytail and frames the whole bedraggled mess around my face, like she’s laying crime-scene evidence onto a table. My hair is now Exhibit A.

“So what are we doing today?” she asks, kindly, and this is when I decide I like her. She hasn’t mentioned a thing about the mountainous ponytail kink, or what must be a glaringly obvious botched home trim job. She just meets my eyes in the mirror and asks, in hairdresser code, “What would you like me to do to fix this, and render you human again?”

“Whatever you want.” I reply, “Seriously, as long as I can still pull it into a ponytail I’m happy.”

She talks to me about light layers and fine hair, and mimes a length just above my shoulders. I nod and she smiles, and off we trot to the row of sinks running along the side wall.

When she asks me what shampoo I use, I sort of freeze, because I don’t always tell my hairdressers that I make my own. I don’t know why. Some of it is small-talk exhaustion and I just don’t have the energy to get into The Whole Thing, so I just say “Aveda” or “Pureology”, which is what I used to use, and then they tell me that my hair is super-healthy, and I smile secretly like some weird lady in a commercial successfully hiding her adult diaper beneath a pair of sensible slacks.

But this time instead, emboldened by her understanding demeanor, I tell her that I have made my own for the past few years with great success, but I just moved from BC and Edmonton water is messing with my whole life. She takes it all in stride, just nods and smiles and listens, making sympathetic noises about hard water and dry air.

Now I really, really like her.

After the haircut I watch her dry my hair, and I decide to do it.

I nervously clear my throat.

“So, erm, when I am doing this – blowdrying my hair, I mean – and you’re not around to help because, well obviously, ha ha! I mean..what do I do, exactly?”

And she looks at me and I see her brow furrow but I just keep plowing ahead.

“Like, when I am blow drying my hair at home. Do I put my head upside down and just, do things with my hands? Or…”

Here I trail off as I see that she finally realizes – as if the lank ponytail wasn’t clue enough – that I am indeed a thirty-year old woman who has no idea how to do her own hair. At all.

I have blow dried my own hair, good lord of course! Many times. I just never have any idea what the hell I’m doing beyond actually getting it dry. I have no concept of the mechanics behind styling to achieve volume or soft waves or anything beyond “not wet”, really.

Every time I get my hair cut I try to watch what they are doing, these stylists who seem to have eight arms like Ganesh ,and eighteen specialized tools. Then I go home and attempt to recreate the effects in front of my own mirror, with nothing more than my own two clumsy hands and a gap-toothed comb.

After she understands what I am asking, my lovely stylist starts giving me a little lesson on blow drying, and I am so glad I finally got the balls to ask. She talks about where to section and where to aim the dryer and how to create volume without looking like you have a beehive. We discuss my crazy post-pregnancy fly-aways and my cowlick, and things finally start making sense. I can see the light!

At one point she asks, “Do you own a round brush?”

“Of course!” I reply immediately, as though the idea of my not owning a round brush was preposterous, more preposterous than a thirty year old needing a lesson in blow drying her own hair.

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Here is my hair! It’s terribly exciting, as evidenced by the exclamation point. Groundbreaking, even.

Anyway, if you’re waiting for this post to have a point, there isn’t one, I feel it’s only fair to inform you.

Or if there is, it’s that this lesson was far, far overdue and if you are a grown ass woman who approaches her hair with the same befuddled detachment as I approach mine, maybe you should ask for a mini blow drying lesson, too. I kept thinking how it should have been given to me when I turned thirteen, especially because I never had an older sister to pass on this important knowledge (although I AM an older sister and I certainly never contributed anything this useful to my four younger sisters.)

Or maybe the point is that I can’t wait for Olive’s next bath so I can blow dry the heck out of her hair and show her how to get some wicked volume with this here round brush.

Never forget: I taught that kid everything she knows.

Nineteen Months

Nineteen Months, by SweetMadeleine.ca

I used to write monthly updates about Olive and I stopped after a year, I think because I wasn’t doing the monthly photos anymore so I lost that prompt. But in the last few weeks I’ve just been thinking how much I thoroughly enjoy this age, and I wanted to immortalize it forever on The Internets. BEHOLD! A nineteen-month update!

Olive’s age right now is truly one of my favourites, ever.

She is nineteen months old (which in the immensely more straightforward language of normal people translates to a year and a half) and an absolute delight to be around.

[Tangent: I know! I’m sorry! One of my favorite bloggers recently posted a comment about parents continuing to state their child’s age in months after a year, and I totally get it. BUT! There is a reason. And that reason is that there is a HUGE difference between “one-and-a-half” meaning fourteen months, and “one-and-a-half” meaning nineteen months but they both round to a year and a half old. How are you supposed to figure out whether your child is extremely gifted, or start nervously googling things at 3AM if you don’t know who on the playground to compare her to? Exactly. These inane “seventy-three month” delineations serve a purpose. For neurotic parents everywhere. Let us have it. (I’ll stop at 24 months old) (I mean two. Dammit.) END TANGENT]

The tantrums have subsided (barring the typical hungry/tired/teething/possessed-by-demon scenarios), and she is talking up a storm and even putting two and three words together to make magnificent sentences to the caliber of “‘Banana mummy, please” (which of course actually sounds like ” ‘nana ….mummy…..pease” but I will spare you the phonetic representations of her speech, for which you can thank me with large quantities of chocolate and maybe the perfect pair of ankle boots, too.)

Adam and I think she is the smartest kid ever. We discuss it often in a completely obnoxious way and I would rather someone read my google search history to a room full of stranger than eavesdrop on one of these “She’s so smart…[insert banal anecdote here]”

Okay okay I’ll share one! If you insist.

Every Sunday I go to hot yoga, because contorting myself into pretzels with sixty other people in a room so hot that my shins sweat is my idea of a good evening. I don’t recall ever specifically explaining the concept of hot yoga to her, but last week she was looking for me and Adam told her I went to yoga. THEN, this genius child of mine, who is basically Einstein in a toddler-skin suit signed, and said, “Hot”.

HOT! Genius, right?

I digress.

She is doing all of these incredible toddler things that make toddlers not only bearable but infinitely adorable. She has developed clear ideas about what she does and does not like to wear and she enjoys creating her own outfits which often feature Adam’s shoes and hats.

Nineteen months, by SweetMadeleine.ca

(Not Adam’s hat)

She feeds herself and is utterly besotted with food. This surprises me a little, because I am somewhat of a picky eater (Although I confess that I really detest that label. Isn’t a lady allowed to have many very specific likes and dislikes – most of which happen to relate food’s texture and/or origin?I have a discerning palate, so shoot me. Truthfully, I suspect I am a supertaster. Go ahead and tell me beets don’t taste like dirt, TELL ME TO MY FACE.)

Anyway, because I don’t often find myself eagerly digging into bowls of Brussels sprouts or eating whole bananas I sort of imagined Olive doing much the same. Developing likes and dislikes, you know, like a normal person.

No. She eats anything, anytime, anywhere.

She literally would not go to sleep last night because she wanted to keep eating. The way that I knew this is that she was standing bolt upright in her crib bellowing “EAT! EAT! EEEAAAATTT!” at the top of her lungs and enunciating each syllable as though the only conceivable reason why I wasn’t bringing her food was that I didn’t understand what she was asking for.

So. 9PM found her sitting beside me in bed, eating half a chicken breast and scrambled eggs leftover from breakfast. Adam walked in on this strange scene and was all “Wtf?” and I was all “Don’t disturb her or make eye contact- she’s eating!”

Then he asked, “So, is this how it’s going to be, Olive? You’re going to eat a second dinner every night before bed?” and she, my genius nineteen-and-a-half-month old daughter looked at him from her position reclined on one elbow and, in between bites of chicken, said clear as a bell: “Yup.”

Like I said, fabulous.

The nitty-gritty for the interested parents out there who want to get a head start on either anxious googling or feeling smug in comparison : Bedtimes have become sort of hit and miss since we stopped nursing to sleep. Sometimes she goes down with a few books and a snuggle, sometimes it gets drawn out longer (with the chicken, and such.) She naps for an hour a day and usually sleeps 11-12 hours a night depending on if I have to get her up in the morning or not.

She’s very much a mama’s girl these days, although it’s way better than when we first moved. Today she fell while running on the sidewalk and came away with a skinned knee and a bloody lip – which made her already plooshy lips swell to Angelina-esque proportions.

I don’t want to raise her to be afraid (something I’ve written about before here) so I am trying really hard to stop myself from shouting “Careful! Careful” when she runs now. She was up and running again ten minutes after falling, while I replayed it over and over wishing I’d been able to prevent it, with blood and tears still staining my shoulder.

It’s really hard to step back.

I believe in skinned knees, I believe in busted lips. I believe in bare feet and kids running so fast that sometimes their legs can’t keep up. They need that. I believe in all of that but when you see your girl with a lip swollen like Texas with tears in her eyes and a bloody mouth (real blood! Blood that I made!) it’s challenging to not insist that she always hold my hand. It’s tough to resist letting her run only on grass. It’s near-impossible to stop pointing out the dangers all around her, “Watch out for the curb! Look out for the rock! Slow down! Olive, slow down!” 

I am trying. I’m trying to not worry for her, so she learns to worry for herself.

So, so easier said than done.

*****

At nineteen months Olive fell asleep on my chest as I read “The Crown On Your Head”, which I now have memorized. Before I transferred her to her crib I just lay there feeling the weight of her. My daughter.

She is just so solidly there.

She used to be a theoretical, a someday. Then she was a decision made, then a line on a stick, then – incredibly-a black and white blur on a screen.

Nineteen months and eleven days ago she became a real live citizen of this world and I laid there tonight thinking how utterly strange it all is. All of that progress in all of those months.

She is there and I am here, and every day she pulls apart a little further even as she clings closer. She won’t hold my hand but can’t go to sleep without me. She runs away from me so fast that she falls, but still cries if I leave without remembering to say goodbye.

I know how it must feel to crave the closeness and the independence, too. I find myself playing this strange game of push and pull but from the other side. I want her to stay like this forever, and I want to watch her grow up. I want desperately to keep her from injuries big and small, hurts to the head and the heart, just as much as I want her to feel pain and learn from it, heal and grow through it.

I want her to become the fully developed person I have already begun to see glimpses of, but oh my god when did she get so big? When did she stop being a baby? When did she start running and having conversations and inching closer and closer to 2?

I know posts from parents often take this tone – I’ve never felt so high but also so low! I’m so exhausted but so happy! My life is mind-numbingly boring but it’s the best and I wouldn’t trade it for anything! – and although it feels cliché and I recognize it as such, to be honest, it’s really hard to avoid.

Parenthood is the most contradictory experience I have ever embarked upon. I have never felt such a broad spectrum of emotions in the span of a single day – or a single hour. Joy, boredom, envy, fascination, heartbreak, frustration, amazement, selfishness, selflessness.  I think that this as much as anything accounts for the fatigue you feel as a parent, as a mother. The simple act of bouncing around between emotional highs and lows is completely draining.

(But oh, I do I need to complete the sentence that is now a mandatory addendum to all complaining-mother sentences? Say it with me now: but it’s so worth it.)

*****

In conclusion, nineteen months is my absolute favourite – even with eye teeth coming in, and weaning halfway, and nine PM chicken battles. This girl is just simply legit.

Happy year-and-a-half-and-a-month, Olive Grace. We are so proud of you, skinned knees and all.

Nineteen months, by SweetMadeleine.ca

 

Disposable diapers aren’t evil. Neither are you if you use them.

Disposable diapers aren't evil. Neither are you if you use them.What seems like eons ago, I wrote this adorable list of all of things we were always/never going to do as parents. And I promised I would come back and update it as all of these precious ideals got well and thoroughly trampled by this thing called real life, but I never did. Until my sister-in-law reminded me about it yesterday and I thought to myself, you know what? I have been feeling really great about my parenting abilities lately – let’s take a stick and beat that smug self-satisfaction right out!

So here is that list, copy and pasted from the original. Items which have been crossed off are lofty ideals that have now bitten the dust:

Things We Will Never/Always Do:
(With Additional Ridiculous Smug Justifications Provided Where Necessary)

  1. We will never give Olive a pacifier. Babies don’t need pieces of plastic shoved in their mouths! They need their mamas! 

  2. We will never put her in a swing. Why would I let a machine rock her, when she could be in our loving arms?

  3. We will never let her sleep in the bed with us. It’s unsafe- what if I smother her?! Plus I could never get a good night’s sleep with her beside me.

  4. We will always buy her clothing secondhand. There’s so much gently used children’s clothing to be had for 1/10th of the price, why would you ever buy new? (to be fair, probably 90% of her wardrobe is secondhand, but I have definitely succumbed to a few irresistible new items here and there.)
  5. We will always cloth diaper. Unless we are going to visit nana at her floating house where there’s no washer and dryer.And except for the week-long stint during a dark time for sleeping when I experimented to see if disposables at night would keep her sleeping longer (they did. And then they didn’t, so back to cloth.)And except for the 3 days before we moved because the diapers had to be packed and loaded into the moving van.Aaaand also except for when we resorted to using one what seemed like every other day for like a month after we moved because I all of a sudden couldn’t keep up with diaper laundry and couldn’t understand why and kept beating myself up over it (get it together, Madeleine!).

    Until, that is, I found three diapers forgotten at the bottom of our swimming bag and, yeah- oops!But before I found those three life-saving, routine-rescuing diapers however, disposables saved my (Olive’s) butt many a time. Even though we chose cloth because I thought it the more environmentally-friendly choice, I was very grateful for the existence of disposables because it meant I didn’t have to MacGyver one out of a tea towel and some hair elastics.

    Disposable diapers are not evil, and you (and I) are not evil if we use them every single day, every so often, or once in a blue moon when we’re desperate. They’re just diapers. The fact that they create more trash and pollution is simply that: a fact. But using them doesn’t mean you’re evil, or a bad mom, it probably just means you’re busy. Or don’t own a washer and dryer. Or don’t want to wash poop. You know, whichever.

    Judging people’s character based on what their baby poops into is the real evil here, folks.

  6. We will never let her cry herself to sleep. (We still haven’t done this one, Olive is tenacious, man. It would take HOURS. Ain’t nobody got time for that.) 
  7. We will always make our own baby food from scratch. We bought several of those little food pouches for plane rides, and even a few times grocery shopping when she was little and getting ragey from seeing all of the food she wasn’t allowed eating (now she gets an apple if we find ourselves in the same situation. Thanks, teeth!)
  8. We will always serve her free-range, organic meat. Adam has been feeding her bites of his turkey sticks, which are definitely not from “happy” animals, but other than that I think this one still stands
  9. We will never give her juice. Still standing. I think the fact that I don’t really drink it helps, because she doesn’t see it or ask for it.

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  10. We will never let her watch TV. Olive used to watch cartoons with Grampa while I was at work, my mom has watched The Little Mermaid with her, and I think she has snuggled up to Adam several times while he was watching on of his (probably immensely violent) shows.She uh…also may have developed a bit of a narcissistic streak and asks to watch videos of “Ow-iff” on my phone. A lot. And sometimes I let her. So the “never” has definitely been slowly worn down into an “Okay fiiiiine fine whatever.”And she’s alive! Imagine that!
  11. She will never own or wear branded stuff. My mom found her some adorable secondhand Hunter wellies and she quickly became so obsessed with them that tantrums because I wouldn’t let her wear them inside/in the bath/to bed were almost a daily occurrence for a while there. I think that may be it, though.Brand integrity, intact! (Mostly!)
  12. We will always encourage kids to do age-appropriate chores. This one was an interesting one to catch myself failing at, and it was a perfect example of ideal life vs. real life. I have long said that you should get kids involved in chores during the toddler years when they actually want to help (are desperate to help!) and then it won’t be such a struggle when you want them to help a few years later.I feel like typically we don’t let them help with things because seriously have you ever seen a toddler? They are horrible little creatures! Poor hand eye coordination, unpredictable fits of rage and/or hysteria, plus truly zero understanding of concepts like “dirt” and “spilling” and “sharp knives”.Having a toddler help you basically ensures that you will get a task done four times more slowly, and 80% worse than if you simply did it yourself.

    So for the last month or so, I’ve been doing it myself. My mom always used to do dishes with Olive standing on a chair next to her “helping” (read: flooding the place and breaking shit.) Thus, every time Olive saw me filling up the sink she’d cry “Bubbles! Bubbles!” and I would distract her or put her off, I’d ask Adam to go give her a bath.

    Then I realized that I am a horrible person, and just the type of horrible person I used to have ideas about. So she helps me with the dishes now. And it does indeed take four times as long and gets done 80% worse and the floor gets a good mopping every night.But she’s helping. It makes her so happy to help, and fostering that spirit- being truly happy to help someone, and offering help without being asked – is far more important than orderly dish-doing or not having to swab the decks after the post-dinner bubble flood. And hopefully by including her now, she will be just as eager to help when she’s five, ten, and fifteen (ha!)

 

So. There’s only two ideals still standing! Ohhhh how far we fall.

The point of this post, is I’m not perfect. I’m an 80% kind of person. If I can do anything 80% of the time, I’m happy, and I try not to be too hard on myself for the rest.

80% of the time I try to eat well, be patient, live an eco-friendly life, and generally get as close as I can to this arbitrary ideal that I’ve sketched out for myself.

The other 20%? Well that’s made up of the occasional disposable diaper, overdoses of caffeine and licorice allsorts, days where I spend way too much time on my phone trying to escape my child, and just generally doing everything that I stand against, really.

Yin and yang, y’all. Yin and yang.

I think we need to do this more. I think it’s really good for the soul to admit that our always and nevers are really more like usuallys and sometimes. No one is perfect, but especially in this era of Instagram and Facebook, where you can choose one perfect millisecond of your day to filter and present to the world as always, it’s even more important to admit it.

I showed you mine. Care to share yours? What did you always think you would never do, pre-kids? I know there are some doozies out there!

Sweet surrender

Large Wings Rorschach Poster by Knena Nicole

What do you do during naptime?

I feel like this is the Rorschach test for mothers. This, more that any other question will out every personality secret you thought you had on lockdown.

I used to hate naps, but now they are one of the best times of the day. The quiet, the pause. The deep breathe before it all begins again.

So, what do you do during nap-time?

Me? One of two things, depending on how the day is going. If the day is going well, I straighten up. If the day is a complete shit-show, I lay prone on the couch, staring at either the ceiling or my iPhone with a glazed look in my eye. I stay that way until I hear the telltale cry indicating that one or both babies are awake and then I drag my slug-body into an upright position and resume my duties.

When you look at that scenario, logically it should be the other way around. If I’m having a shitty day it’s because things aren’t getting done, tantrums are getting in the way of outings and cleaning up, and on these days nap-time really could function as a welcome respite from the little people so I could catch up and prepare for smooth sailing in the afternoon.

Likewise, a morning where the day is chugging along smoothly means I was probably able to do the meal clean up while the kids were eating, the toy cleanup was completed with no fuss by the children themselves, and thus I should feel entitled to a break.

The two are switched though, and I try to strive against it but it is what it is and I think this speaks to a deeper side of myself, that I am controlled by fatigue and my emotions rule the roost. Good begets good, and bad derails me.

I like making things beautiful. I love order; neatly folded things stacked in piles. Conducting chaos into clean floors and open windows. It feels like a reward rather than a chore if I’m in the right mindset.

That’s my Rorschach test. What’s yours?

What do you do during nap-time?