Friday, December 30, 2011

Breathing in, Breathing out

It's been a whirlwind of a holiday, like it always is. I finished work, and thought that I'd have a small space of time, carved out, for me. An hour of one's own, so to speak, and there just wasn't enough there. We're a family of four, there's just always so much to do. I shopped, I planned, I baked, I cleaned, I wrapped and then I packed at at 9am on Boxing Day we were all loaded in the car, on our way to the grandparents. (By the skin of our teeth, given we'd found the car with a dead battery at 8:45am. But that's a whole 'nother story.)

Christmas was nice. It was very nice. Despite the first wake up call at 5:40, we did stay in bed until 7am. Stockings were unpacked, breakfast was eaten, and presents were unwrapped to the delight of the five year old, and the delight (and confusion) of the 20 month old. It's getting harder to buy The Boy things -- the brain of a nine year old and the body / maturity of a five year old makes it tough. Books are pretty easy, and we got a few of those. But the electronics set from his grandparents is fantastic for his brain, but not so much for his sense of being careful and his dexterity; the game his dad bought is great for the two of them but not one The Boy can play with his friends when they come by.

(Embarrassing moment for me: we had a friend of The Boy's around on Christmas Eve, and he came into the living room to admire the hanging stockings, and then asked which one was The Boy's .. and I said, with some surprise in my voice, "Well, the one with his NAME on it ... " without remembering that not all five year olds can read, you idiot and I felt like a nasty nasty woman.)

The Girl received a new baby! And a baby bed! and a baby stroller! But while those were all very favourably received (the stroller especially), the biggest hit of the season was the tiny stuffed Elmo that I found as a last minute stocking stuffer, thinking, Oh, How cute this will look at the top of the stocking, it's like $5 and it'll be about $5 worth of fun (i.e. an hour or two). But oh NO! The red muppet now goes everywhere, and we have to refer to him as such when he's not in the room so she doesn't go completely nuts wanting him.

We spent four days with my parents in Hometown. Hometown is a place where I lived for 24 years, and the last six I spent fervently wishing I wasn't. As soon as I was able, I left, and I didn't look back. Over the past five years, I've grown to appreciate Hometown a fair amount, but this trip I realized I really, really MISS it. And I wish I could move back. I've thought over the past five years that it would be a great place to live, but not for me; now I just look at the houses and wish I could move right in, and drive to this place and that place with more regularity. Mostly I just wish I could see my parents more often, for less time. A dinner here and there, an afternoon at the pool. You know. It would make parenting just a whole lot less burdensome and much more fun. And I miss them, too.

I came home with the kids last night, alone -- The Man having gone to visit a friend -- in the pelting rain and fog, driving along highways with large semis that doused the windshield with rain each time they passed. I drove fervently wishing The Girl would stay awake for the 45 minutes past her bedtime we drove in the dark. We got home to a cold house, anxious cats, and I put the children to bed and tried to breathe, to sit and be still for once, after the chaos of Christmas prep and travel and relations and presents and children who have eaten too many cookies and not much else.

This morning dawned far too early, and I took the kids to care, came home. The house was messy. But quiet. I cleaned. I tidied. And I'm sitting.


With time to think.

2011 was an interesting year. I started it on maternity leave. My son turned five. I went back to work, my daughter turned one. My son went to kindergarten. It's been a year of big changes and messing up of old routines and attemptings to settle into new ones. Upheaval. Some of it good, in the end. Some of it not so much.

I don't put much stock in New Year's resolutions. But I'd like to think that 2012 will be the year that things get smoother. That we finally find a way to move forward -- personally. Professionally. Financially. The kids are settled into their places, one in school and one in care, and now I want to take a breath, a moment, and look at where I want to be in five years, and figure out how to get there. To remember that I can take it slowly, but that planning and thinking, wishing, and making big dreams is all worthwhile.

Will we get there? Maybe not. But I want 2012 to be the year that I think Yeah. Maybe that. The year that I take a moment to breathe, to think, to reflect, and to march onwards to better things.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

It's true. You can make a gun our of anything.

One of the things I wanted to do on all this time off was to spend time with my children. Alone, preferably, especially with The Boy, with whom I never get to spend time alone. So we did that today. Got up, got The Girl ready, dropped her off, and came home.

We played games -- Uno, Clue, Chutes and Ladders. We wrestled. We went out to lunch. We played at lunchtime with the crayons provided. (He's five. We go to restaurants that provide crayons.) We came home, we made paper snowflakes and then watched a Christmas show together. During the day I also cleaned the kitchen and made dinner, did a load of laundry and registered both kids for gymnastics in January.

I felt like super mom.

We came home later in the afternoon, with The Girl, and I sat on the floor with her and played with her shape sorter (something that has justclicked for her, like that, and she is now all over it.) And The Boy came by making flying / shooting sounds. With the snowflake. Folded.

"It's a MONSTER, mom!" he enthused. "And when you damage it, it goes like THIS." He unfolds it to its biggest, making accompanying ferocious noises.

I read the apocryphal tale about the parents who wouldn't let their little boy have gun toys, and he bit his toast into a gun and pretended to shoot them. And now, you know, I figure that kid's a rank amateur. Toast is toast. It's a blank slate. My kid took a snowflake, a symbol of peaceful winter tranquility, and made it into war. That takes talent.

Or so I will keep telling myself, so as not to think too hard about this.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Ho Ho Holidays

I reserved the last two weeks of my vacation for Christmas time, and so Friday was my last day of work until JANUARY 5th, people. Ask me how excited I am. Go on, ask me. YES. VERY.

I'd like to say that I have weeks of family merriment planned, or at least a whole lot of spa time for me, but the fact is, as I said to a colleague yesterday, that I AM CHRISTMAS. As in, I think The Man is buying me a gift, but the rest -- the kids, the extended family, The Man, me, the groceries, the baking -- well, it's all up to me. So the next week at least will be shopping, cleaning, wrapping, baking, meal planning and grocery purchasing. But a change is as good as a rest, right?

I read the other day another mother blogger complaining about how December makes her feel blue, because it's all up to her, to make this Christmas magic happen. I was surprised. Maybe I'm weird, but I'm actually kind of excited about making my family happy on Christmas morning. (At least, I hope they will be.) But I admit: ask me again next year, when for whatever reason I don't have the time to plan and execute Christmas. Maybe then I'll be unhappy and resentful that I have to do it. But in the meantime, I walk around with a little smile on my face, thinking of next week's few days when I get to shop, and wrap, and prepare, so that on Christmas morning, their faces light up.

* * * *

So much is new that it's hard to know where to start with writing. My son is flourishing in kindergarten. He had his first report card and we had our first parent teacher interviews, and we were beaming with pride through the whole thing, newbies that we are. He is excelling in academia, which is no surprise, but was also commended on his maturity, his problem solving, his winning ways with friends, which was nice to hear. Not terribly surprising, I do watch him after all. But still.

We spent the parent teacher interview, though, not discussing kindergarten -- he loves it, he's doing great, no one has any concerns, moving on! -- but about next year. About What To Do. I mean, he's kind of covered math, science, and reading for probably grade two or so (he's started learning division. In his head.) We've all noticed that the one thing he dislikes in school is the repetition; he doesn't want to learn fundamentals of addition when he can multiply in his head. He's still young enough that when I ask about it, he just rolls his eyes good-naturedly and says "easy peasy lemon SQUEEZY, mom." But what about next year, when it's the same stuff all over again? And then the next?

One of the questions I asked was if they thought he was mature enough to handle acceleration, and they allowed as how that yes, they thought he could handle it. So now I'm wondering if, when he has to change schools next year, if right then he should just head straight into grade two. I mean, skipping is hard when you have a peer group; without one, maybe easier. Recently in conversation with a friend, I found out she has connections with one of the consultants for the gifted program in our local school district, so she's going to put us in touch in the new year. To discuss, to think about options. To plan.

But who knows. He's happy now, and matter how you slice it, his being happy has been all we've ever sought, all we continue to seek. The acceleration, special programs, alternative schools -- all just so he doesn't dread going to school each morning. And if he doesn't, well ... then we don't really need to worry. I guess we'll just play out the year, and see where next year takes us.

* * * *

The Girl is now 19 months, and talking and ... well, being a toddler. She walks, runs, climbs, likes to try to jump, squeals with laughter and frustration, talks in two word sentences and is working on more, loves her mama and her daddy and her Naynee -- she nicknamed her brother, but no one else -- and has made friends with two or three of the kids in her daycare, and calls them by name. She flourishes, bringing emotional wreckage wherever she goes, as is appropriate for the age.

Some of her best words include "yogik" for yogurt. She eats like a bird, but can eat her weight in mandarin oranges. She continues to love her Baybees, and has started liking to draw as well. Or rather, scribble on paper. She's finally discovered books, but doesn't have much patience with them. As in, she can sit through a few readings, but only a few. Which may well be normal, but her brother could sit through lengthy readings of picture books for hours (literally) at this age, so. But I'm not comparing. Really.

I recently went and got her hair cut, her little wisps tamed into a tiny toddler bob. She, like her brother, is not blessed follicularly (is that a word?) and continues to have very fine, thin hair that doesn't grow much in the front half of her head. I'm not terribly worried -- by the time he was two, The Boy had decent hair, and by three he had as much hair as any kid. Now at five he's got a whole lot of thick hair. So perhaps she will too. But all in all, hair or no hair, she's delightful and maddening and gorgeous and fun and I just can't wait to see what she does next.

* * * *

They are exhausting, they are busy, they demand a lot. I am tired, I am in need of some serious alone time. But I am so, so lucky.

My office has changed a lot since I started. It used to be filled with people my age, and we were all having children. Now, while there are still some people my age, and some older, more of them are younger. Two are getting married this summer, another two are almost affianced. All have admitted they are looking to have children. One of them I speak with more often spoke to me this week of another colleague across the organization, a man who has a severely autistic son. He and his wife aren't having any more; having this one has affected their lives so much, they can't handle another child. She admits to me that she's pretty scared of having kids, of having that happen. And I said yes, I was too. That being pregnant with the first was very scary, with the second no less so, from that point of view. To my credit, I didn't actually worry about it too much -- there's nothing you can do, after all -- but it's there. What if, what if, what if?

It's clear by now that my son is not autistic. Nor has other neurological issues, at least those as evidenced by five years old. My daughter similarly. We see so much bad news these days that it feels very much that I got a lucky roll of the dice, twice, and what a sigh of relief that brings. But the fact is that these things, albeit more common, are still pretty rare.

But that doesn't stop me from being grateful and counting my blessings, all the same.

* * * *

One of the recent changes at work has meant that the position above mine as just come open and available. I'm humming. And hawing. And thinking. The position itself isn't that interesting to me, but it's serious career advancement -- management experience, overseeing internal operations of a 12 person team. I'll still get to write. But not nearly as much. I won't be the writer any more, won't have that as my title.

But I'm still considering applying. It's good career experience, and now that the kids are here, I had planned on doing more with my own career. No matter where I go in future, good career experience will be helpful, as will a long record of promotions.

And the fact is that as much as my title says "Senior Writer", I do very very little writing any more. I'm more like "Senior Editor", which is fine, but it's not writing, nor is it -- importantly -- the kind of editing I'd like to do. I like editing. I am considering doing more editing in my future career. But this editing-under-the-guise-of-writing, no time for actual writing, no time for creativity, just churn out someone else's stuff (or my own, from years ago, recycled) and hope for the best ... well, it's mind-numbing.

There's a possibility that this new position will allow me to still continue to write -- and what's more, to write the stuff I *want* to write, and to delegate the rest. And so that, combined with the added responsibility and experience and stuff ... well. Maybe it will be worth it. Plus ... maybe if I'm not editing all day, I might have the mental energy to write more at home. Here, or privately, which is something I've wanted to do for such a long time.

I'll still miss having "Writer" as my title though. That was a cool eight years.

* * * *

Anyway. The kids are calling, the morning has begun, and I need to get going. There's coffee to be drunk here, people, and it's not going to drink itself.

If I don't get back here again, happy holidays.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Respite of clean

A brief respite of time, made possible by a playmate and an independent toddler, for all of five minutes. I had a week at the end of which I felt coated in emotional toxicity, and I don't think it's a coincidence that I have so far spent all weekend clearing things out of my house. I feel somehow cleansed, and it is a good physically exhausted feeling. I am almost, almost ready for Christmas, now that some of the old year's detritus has moved on. 2011 has brought some disastrous things for people around me, and hasn't entirely been smooth sailing here either, and it feels so much like a new start that I feel somehow certain that 2012 will be a good change.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Day to day

This morning I watched the sun rise. It's a nice day, clear skies, sunny, so the sunrise was pretty nice. And it wasn't exactly super early, either. Sunrise somewhere around 7 or 7:30. But I'd been up for an hour already, and awake since 6am, so it honestly felt like the sun was getting a good lie in.

I'm sick this week with a cold. Not a bad one, yet, I guess -- I can still breathe and function, but I'm tired and my sinuses hurt and my throat feels awful first thing in the morning. I made a big pot of tea and intend to just keep filling it all day. You see, The Man is away on yet another business trip, so I'm solo parenting all day. Well no. He gets in at 4, I think. But between luggage and travel and possible delays, and bedtime at 7, let's face it: in terms of kids, I'm alone all day.

I'm getting used to the travel. I used to dread it. Bedtime alone! With two kids! And then forget sleeping well. Every single noise I'd wake up. Was one of the kids awake? What were the cats doing? WAS THAT SOMEONE IN MY YARD?! And now -- maybe it's the cold -- I'm all "screw this. SLEEEEEEEEEPPPPP" And the kids are better at bedtime. Or rather, The Boy is. Instead of yelling for me juuuussst as The Girl is dropping off and thus waking her and then having to start the whole process again, he can wait until she's sleeping just reading his books. It's fantastic. I love five.

This weekend I need to -- along with all sorts of other things -- do some volunteer work for the daycare, and I have a big week at work, and I really do need to be well rested for all of it, and that just doesn't seem likely.

But instead of concentrating on the negatives, I will try to keep in mind the positives: that my two kids are delightful. That they are healthy. That we have lots of yummy food to eat. And a warm house. With a fireplace. And that yesterday's snow has melted.

And you never know. By Monday, maybe I'll have had enough ruminating time that that proposal will just write itself.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

So here's the thing

I haven't written a decent email to anyone in months. Literally. Months. Any by "anyone" I mean in my personal life. I write decent emails at work, I suppose, but they are pretty uninteresting and kind of short, and let's face it, they don't count. But the fact is that I don't sit down and type anymore, probably because at the end of some days, that's just too much energy exertion. Yes, I know, that sounds unbelievably lame. But here's the thing: being a mother to two small kids is the most exhausting thing I've ever done. And some days, it's all I can do to just stay awake past 8pm. And many days? I don't even do that.

* * * *

It's interesting, actually. Being this exhausted actually made me realize how much better I feel than I used to. I've been eating gluten free for almost three years now. Six and a half years ago -- before children and pregnancy -- I used to come home at the end of the week and barely make it through a Friday night engagement. Now I'm still asleep mid-evening on Fridays, but I have two children. Clearly, somehow, I have a LOT more energy.

* * * *

Yesterday we took the kids to the pool. An hour later, I remembered why we only do it twice a year. Because it takes me that long to recover.

I kid, but I'm kind of serious. It took The Girl an hour to touch the water without screaming; within 10 minutes of her finally being ok with it, The Boy was whining and weeping with exhaustion and cold (he has no body fat. None. An hour in a pool takes a huge amount of energy to stay warm for him, and by lunchtime he's a weepy mess.)

We went out for pho afterwards, at a tiny hole in the wall cafe around the corner, the only white people in the place. It was pouring rain outside, the windows were steamy, the kids ate ravenously, and then we all went home and laid in bed.

Later that afternoon we lit a fire, and played in the living room. The Boy talked about how much fun the pool had been. The Girl nodded in agreement when we said we'd go back. I guess it's good that their childhood memories will be the fun in the river part of the pool, the hot soup, the fire place fire with the rain outside. Not the tears.

I'm sure I'll remember it that way too. And as much as I'm exhausted at the end of the day, one day I'll look back and wish they were tiny again.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving!

Why, yes, I am still alive, thank you for asking!

I haven't had a lot to say that's even remotely interesting -- I've written a few posts that I've immediately erased, to be honest, because reading over them bores even me. And it's my life for pete's sake.

So! Happy Thanksgiving to Canadians! I hope you had a nice one. We watched football and ate turkey, so I think we've pretty much covered the stereotypes.

The football isn't usual for us -- Friday morning at work The Man texted to say his company was given a mess of tickets to the BC Lions game on Saturday night, and should we go? And take The Boy? And we kinda hummed and hawed over it, because -- well, we're not big fans, AND it was after bedtime AND The Boy has never seen a game, but in the end were all hey, they are free tickets and we've never been and a live game is usually awesome fun even if you're not a fan. Which was true. The kid wasn't really able to sit still at all, and I had NO idea what was going on most of the time, but it was fun and I'm glad we went.

True story: I must be Canadian because while I have no trouble following the tiny puck around the ice in televised or live hockey games, there were many many times the other night that I had NO FREAKING CLUE where the ball was. I mean, sure, just look at the largest group of guys, that's usually it, but ... yeah. I was amused by my obvious deficiency.

What else is new? not much. The kids have both had a couple colds -- god I just LOVE back to school!! -- and they both regularly flip back and forth between I LOVE DAYCARE / SCHOOL!! and I HATE DAYCARE / SCHOOL!!! NOOOOOOO!! DON'T MAKE ME GOOOOOOO!!! which is always fun. The Girl is still being as girly as possible -- she demands lotion for her little hands as often as she thinks of it (she is a very well moisturized child) and I'm sure that in my future there will be a horrifying discovery of lotion over every available surface in a given room, but as of yet all the dispensers are out of her reach, THANK GOD. Her face lights up every time I let her wear the shiny gold shoes someone gave her as a gift, and she happily click-clacks around the house in them for a good twenty minutes before she moves on to something else, and admires herself in the mirror. I've picked out a new baby doll for her for Christmas, one with diapers that can be changed and clothes that can be taken on and off, and various other accessories including a bed, because a few weeks ago at daycare I stayed with her and watched her take her own baby (with her always!) to the wee cradle, tuck her in beside the daycare babies, cover them with a blanket (and a pat!) and rock them to sleep, and then go clean the daycare play kitchen. I kid you not.

I mean, sure, soon thereafter she went back to the cradle and yanked the dollies out by the hair and threw them on the ground, which I assume is not going to be part of her future childcare routine, but watching that first part was truly surreal.

The Boy is a true kindergartener, and is getting along well. His teachers have told me they've noticed he's a bright one ("he corrects me when I read things wrong!" "He told me all about pollution and nitrogen in the air!") but also tell me he gets along well with his peers, which is good. He himself tells me that he loves kindergarten, except for the "paperwork" which is the only time they do stuff that is similar to the regular classroom work he'll be doing for the next 12 years. He hates that part. I think mostly because it doesn't come easy to him, he actually has to learn it, and practice it and a.) he's had a lot of other things come very easily to him and b.) he's a perfectionist, so this whole "I can't do it perfectly instantly" thing is really a big deal to him. I'm trying to be patient and encouraging, but holy hell it's hard not to be frustrated and kind of concerned about it. But ... you know, there's only so much I can do, right? Anyway, he is happy for the most part, so that's something. Something pretty important.

It's all the more wondrous to me that he can spend hours at a time on the iPad playing a game over and over and over again until he's actually quite good at it, but the idea of practicing letters until he's good at those is horrifying to him. But you know, nowadays people actually make a reasonable salary playing video games for money, so unlike those cautionary tales of old, encouraging him to be good at this is probably not a bad idea.

Oh! And I also realized while I was on the stereotype fling with my daughter that my son is pretty typecast as well -- a friend of mine's two boys have every appearance of being the solid jock set, but both have lovely quirky traits (one is REALLY into Disney princesses, for instance) that give them such lovely complexities. My son is somehow the superhero / comic / video game kid, and while this is not entirely surprising to me given his family (and of course not at all upsetting), I wonder how I managed to birth such very model children (model not as in perfect, but as in moulded / typecast.)

I then almost wrote that I sure hope my kids surprise me one day and thought ... yeah, no. I don't hope so, to be honest. I mean, becoming a Republican might be more than I can stand.

The Boy got his very first school photos the other day and I of course bought the entirety of the set. They have this very clever set up now, different from when I was a kid when you brought the order form home first and your parents were all "meh, we'll just get a couple 5x7's for the grandparents!"and paid just for those. NOW they take the photos and send home the whole package of your kid looking FREAKING ADORABLE and then tell you that the entirety is this One! Low! Price! And how can you send back the rest?! I mean, please, I am not made of stone here people. In any case, I was both enamoured of the photos and delighted that through no effort besides cheque writing on my part, I had Christmas gifts covered for grandparents and aunts / uncles / cousins alike, so woo-hoo!

THAT in turn led me to create a Christmas gift list on my iPhone and I now have plans in motion to order most of it online this month so that the two weeks holiday I have planned over the holidays actually IS holiday and not the usual mad crush of frantic activity trying to get things bought / wrapped / baked all the while visiting family in far flung locations. Wish me luck.

Annnnd that's pretty much the fall wrapped up for you, in a nice neat package with a bow. See you in January!