Saturday, April 26, 2008

Out after dark

Tonight I took Nicki out on what she deemed to be "an adventure". My parents were out of town and they asked me to check in on their house periodically while they were away. Rather than wait until Nicki was in bed, I decided to take her with me. I helped her shower, got her into her jammies and then we hopped into the car just as the sun was going down.

She was ecstatic to be out of the house in her jammies for starters, but to be out after dark seemed to be the real thrill for her. We drove to the house, checked everything out, watered the plants together and then headed back home. On the ride home she kept noticing little things with awe in her voice, like how the street lights had started to turn on one by one and how she could see inside people's houses as we drove by them.

As we sat idling at a red light, I turned to look at her in silence. Her face was lit by the neon lights of the gas station we were next to. She had a look of pure delight on her face as she stared out her window, clearly amazed at how the same sights we see day after day during daylight hours could look so different after the sun goes down. I couldn't help but notice the contrast between how young she looked sitting there in her jammies with her face awash in wonder, and how big she truly is now with her long gangly legs hanging far over the edge of her car seat. I can still remember when her feet didn't even come to the edge of that seat. It almost felt like if I blinked again she would somehow be a teenager, like time was truly slipping by that fast. So I forced my eyes to stay open and sear that image of my sweet little girl into my brain. Please don't grow up too fast Nicki... and never lose that sense of wonder ok? Mommy loves you. Goodnight.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Fresh air = tired kids!

Ever since the nicer weather has begun, we have been spending hours outside each day, enjoying every possible second we can outdoors. The kids are thrilled to pieces to be able to run around the backyard and make daily trips to the park. Nicki has been having a blast practicing on her tricycle and scooter and from the time Gabe wakes up in the morning he is asking to go outside, running to get his shoes and bring them to the back door.

The best part about all of this fresh air and exercise is that both kids have been sleeping like logs. They both pass out at nap time without so much as a peep and most days I have to wake them to get up and go outside again. At bed time they are asleep within minutes of their heads hitting the pillow and are waking up later and later in the mornings. For the first time in his life Gabe slept over 12 hours last night, waking up at a lovely 8:15 am.

I know I have been writing a lot about the weather, so I promise this will be my last post about it. It just plays such a huge role in our day to day lives up here, and after such a long and hard winter it feels like we are finally free!

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

And baby makes 5

Ever since we announced 5 weeks ago that we are expecting our 3rd child in September, we have been getting mixed reactions from our family members and friends. Well let me rephrase that... We have been getting congratulations left, right and center, but most of them seem to be laced with an afterthought ranging from "You guys are nuts!" to "You guys rock!" The most prolific reaction so far has definitely been one of shock and surprise. Apparently a lot of people thought that we were all done having kids, although I have no idea why. Eddie has always said he wanted to have 3 and I even envisioned 4 at one point, so why anyone would think we would stop at 2 baffles me.

Maybe it has something to do with the fact that we have both a girl and a boy. After Gabe was born we got many comments that alluded to the fact that our family was now "perfect" since we have "one of each" and that we must be so happy about that fact because now we didn't "have" to have any more. This train of thought really irritates me. It seems so odd to me to base the completeness of one's family on the number of children of each gender. Would we have had another child if Gabe had been a girl instead of a boy? I can't say for sure that we would have, despite the fact that many people seem to assume that we would obviously "try for a boy" had that been the case. And what if we had yet another girl after that? When would it end? How would the final girl feel knowing that we had supposedly been hoping for a boy all along? The whole thing just seems so ridiculous to me.

What sealed the deal for us in the end was after sitting down and talking about it one day, Eddie and I both admitted that our family just didn't feel complete as it stands now. Don't get me wrong, we are more than happy with the 2 incredible children we have been blessed with, but it just felt like there was a piece missing. We easily envisioned another little one as a part of our family and we knew that we had more than enough love to give a 3rd child. I knew that I wasn't ready to never hold a newborn in my arms again, to never rock another baby to sleep, to never nourish and love another tiny human being. I also felt in my heart that Nicki and Gabe would be excellent older siblings and would have so much to offer a little brother or sister.

I know that being a stay at home mom to 3 young children will be difficult and exhausting. I am not disillusioned about how tough and stressful the ins and outs of everyday life will be. But nothing makes me happier than the thought of having 3 little babies to love. Motherhood is a wonderful thing. :)

Saturday, April 19, 2008

The great meltdown of 2008

No, I'm not talking about one of the kids throwing a tantrum here, I'm actually talking about the snow! I am utterly amazed by how quickly the mountains of snow have melted in the past week. To say that they were melting before our very eyes would not be an exaggeration - we actually paused on the street one day to stare in amazement at a snowbank as it slowly drip drip dripped and melted away one tiny drop at a time.

On Monday of this week our neighbourhood park was still covered in snow, but it had gone down enough that we could trudge through it in our boots to make it to the swings and go for a quick ride. By Friday, only 5 days later, the snow had all melted and squealing and delighted kids (including my own!) ran around the in sand, built castles, climbed structures, slid down slides and took turns on the swings. And all of this in t-shirts and bare feet no less.

We have sort of been scratching our heads lately at the irony of the fact that we are dressed for summer as we walk by the piles of snow that are still scattered here and there. I took a funny picture of Gabe that really represented the incongruity of the remaining snow with the oh-so-high temperatures we have had over the past few days. It is a photo of him in the backyard with no shirt on, standing in front of what remained of the snow. (Note: his pants are all wet because he accidentally splashed in the melted snow that pooled in our empty sandbox - this also explains the lack of shirt!) It was a gorgeous 23 degrees Celsius that evening and the only thing that belied the fact that it wasn't actually June or July was that darn pile of snow...! Looks like spring is finally here. :)

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

The waiting game

I have taken Gabe to the grocery store with me pretty much every week since he's been born. The truth is that during the time span between 6 and 10 months he hated it. It was always a race to the finish, with me trying to throw as much from my list into the cart as I could before he completely melted down. It made me sad that he didn't enjoy the time out and about, despite the fact that I always tried to make sure the trip was made during a window of time when he was well fed and well rested. Nicki and I always enjoyed grocery shopping together and from the time she was a baby I would wheel her around the store teaching her all about the different foods we saw, letting her touch and hold various fruits and veggies, counting things out as I put them in the cart. We would take our time and were never in a rush. Many people would comment to me as we went along how nice it was to hear a mom talking to her child so much, making a tedious task enjoyable.

It was a fun bonding time for Nicki and I, so like I said, it made me sad that Gabe just wanted to get out of there as fast as he could. But eventually, he came around. And now we have a blast! He loves to zoom around the store and hold various boxes and cans as we go. He knows the order that I usually get items in, so as soon as we get the milk for example, he starts yelling out "Eggs!" because he knows that's what comes next. He enjoys helping me put all of our produce into little plastic bags, naming all the fruits and veggies he recognizes as we go.

After all of that fun you would think that waiting in line to pay would be a big let down, but in reality that's where we have the most fun of all. The lines are excruciatingly long at the grocery store I go to, and with no one to bag your order, it takes forever for the cashier to move on to the next customer. Today for example we got in line at 9:45 and didn't roll away with our groceries until 10:05! That's 20 minutes in line!

But Gabe and I had a fine time while we waited. As he munched on his apple, I showed him various magazine covers and asked him to name the letters from the titles. We looked at a cooking magazine and named all of the foods we recognized. We looked at the cover of Châtelaine and named all the parts of the woman's face. We checked out the clothes in Vanity Fair and all of the celebrities in US magazine. At one point I was talking to Gabe about the colors of the dresses that the women were wearing and then said "Oh no they are wearing the same dress, that's a no-no in Hollywood!" The woman behind us in line laughed and thanked me for entertaining her as well. :) She gave me a wonderful compliment, saying that it was refreshing to see a mother with so much patience. She then started to talk to Gabe and the women behind her chimed in as well, feeding him a grape and telling him what a good boy he is.

After we paid, he waved and said goodbye to both of them and I walked away feeling happy and proud that we had fun while we waited and helped a couple of other people smile too. If only I could always slow down to this speed, make waiting fun and realize that there's a learning opportunity hidden in every experience with my kids. Hopefully this will serve as a great reminder for me and maybe you too. Happy grocery shopping!

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

The differences between boys and girls

Nicki is slowly but surely starting to realize that there are differences between boys and girls. For the most part we have done our best not to let silly widespread stereotypes, like boys shouldn't wear pink or girls shouldn't play with trucks, become a part of her mindset. But there's just no arguing with the physical differences that she is now beginning to notice!

A week or two ago we were in the entry getting ready to go for a walk when she asked me "Why is Gabe a boy?" Dancing around the obvious answer, I replied "He was born that way, just like you and I were born girls." This was of course not good enough (hey I can dream can't I?) and so she repeated "Yeah, but why is he a boy?" I attempted to skirt the issue again saying "Everyone is different. Some people are girls and some people are boys and both are just as good." Getting frustrated now, almost as if she knew the answer she was waiting for, she once again asked "But WHY is he a boy?" Finally I could avoid it no longer and answered "Because he has a penis", bracing myself for the barrage of questions to follow. But none came. Nicki simply had a pensive look on her face, like she was evaluating the validity of my answer, and then just continued to put on her boots, dropping the subject completely.

The following day after bath time, Nicki was sitting beside me wrapped up in her towel as I dried Gabe off. Whenever I wash them, I always name all of their body parts, so Nicki is familiar with both the terms penis and scrotum. As I was drying that area on Gabe, Nicki pointed in the general direction of his thigh and asked "Is that his scrotum?" So I matter of factly showed her exactly what was what, hoping that she wasn't too young to be told this kind of thing. Satisfied with my answer, the subject was once again dropped.

A few days later, we were once again in the entry getting our jackets on when Gabe wandered over. Nicki exclaimed in an enthusiastic voice "Hey Penis Guy!" I was so taken aback by it that I had to bite my tongue so as not to laugh out loud! Instead I said "Have you ever heard anyone say that before?" hoping that she hadn't picked it up at school. She said no. So I asked her "Why would you call him that then?" and she replied "Because he has one!" I couldn't exactly argue with that logic and was still so surprised that I couldn't get out more than an "Oh, ok." I didn't want to say anything that would make her think badly about our so-called private parts.

In retrospect I should have told her that it's impolite to call people by their body parts regardless of whether or not they have one, sort of like I don't go around calling her "Nose Girl" or Gabe "Elbow Boy". But that bit of sound parenting completely escaped me in the moment. I'll have to keep it in my back pocket for another day, as there surely will be a next time. In the meantime I guess I'll just have to cross my fingers and hope that she doesn't yell out "Hey Scrotum Boy!" to Gabe when we go pick her up at school one day. Oh the looks I would get for that one, I'm sure! :)

Friday, April 4, 2008

Matters of a sensitive nature

My daughter Nicki is an incredibly sensitive little girl. I only truly realized this when we started letting her watch TV not long after her second birthday. At first all we allowed her to watch was Sesame Street and then gradually introduced such things as Dora The Explorer and Curious George. She is limited to only 30 minutes a day which I think is more than enough for a kid her age. But some days I want to just cut out TV altogether because she has been frightened multiple times by things she has seen on the screen...

Who would have ever thought that something as wholesome as Sesame Street could cause a preschooler to burst into tears? Well it has quite a few times and even as recently as last week. The latest occurrence was during the opening segment when Oscar the Grouch was hosting a game show called "What happens next?" meant to teach kids about simple scientific concepts. It started off innocently enough with Slimy the Worm diving off a diving board into a pool of mud. Elmo needed to guess if he would make a big splash or a little splash and hypothesized that since Slimy is small he would surely make a small splash. He was of course right. Next Slimy climbed up a tall ladder and was to jump into the same pool of mud from much higher up. Alan explained to Elmo how because Slimy was higher up he would be going faster when he landed in the mud and would therefore make a big splash this time around. Slimy did indeed make a huge splash and got mud all over Alan in the process. This caused Alan to yell out "Oscar!" in an angry voice which made Nicki cry and hide her face in my arm. Oscar continued on with a few more "experiments" each one resulting in some sort of mess that made someone angry and in turn made Nicki cry.

There was another instance this past month when we took Nicki to the movies to see Horton Hears a Who. During one of the previews for Ice Age, a scary dinosaur appeared on screen roared loudly and showed his teeth. Nicki immediately started to cry and cling to me for dear life. I was amazed that in this theater filled with kids, some older, some younger, not one other child cried. Nicki was the only one who seemed to be affected by it at all.

Though most of her sensitivity has been evidenced by her reactions to things seen on screen, it has not only been limited to that. At her preschool earlier this year they sang a song called "There Was an Old Woman". The first verse of the song goes:

There was an old woman who swallowed a fly,
I don't know why she swallowed a fly,
Perhaps she'll die.

The song goes on to have the woman eat bigger and bigger creatures so that they will catch the smaller creatures, until at the end she finally eats a horse and they say "She's dead, of course!"

Now I won't even go into my personal opinion of how inappropriate this type of song is to sing to a class of 3 and 4 year olds, but the truth is that all the other kids in her class were laughing and thought the song was hilarious. Nicki burst into tears and had to be taken out of the room so that she could calm down. (Side note: I have been assured that the song will no longer be sung in class.) It's interesting to me how deeply affected she was by the lyrics while the other children seemed unfazed.

What is it that makes her so sensitive to things like this? Have I kept her too sheltered so far in her short life? Should she have already been exposed (and possibly desensitized?) to the harsher realities of life? To be honest, all her reactions make me want to do is keep her sheltered even more, keep her innocent as long as possible and let her live a worry free childhood. Or is it possible that she is more in tune than other kids to these types of sensitive matters, which makes topics like anger and death affect her more? Does that mean I actually need to be more careful with what she is exposed to and not less?

I feel like all I can do is be there to hold her and comfort her when she gets scared and try to explain to her in words she can understand what all of these frightening things mean. There are so many things in her life that she is going to need me to explain and walk her through as time goes on. I hope that I can somehow help her to learn what life is all about without putting negative thoughts in her head and yet also without giving her a false illusion and naiveté about it all...