Sunday, September 14, 2008

It's been a while ....

I'm getting back in the (blogging) saddle. How pathetic that my last post was in JULY! Four kids and a busy summer, blah blah blah, excuses, excuses, etc., etc., etc.

I thought I'd start with a cute and funny story. Who doesn't like cute and funny?????

Last week we were in the car and littlest boy was not happy to be in his carseat. Our two oldest took up the challenge of comforting him and broke into song. Here, I am happy to present to you the lyrics of this delightful ditty.

Hush little baby
don't you cry
Daddy's gonna buy you a pumpkin pie
and if that pumpkin pie gets eaten
Daddy's gonna buy you a dog named Bif

I don't know how they came up with it, it seemed to be completely spontaneous. Much laughter ensued. It has now entered the family lexicon.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Echinacea is good for you

Our living situation is very good. We are blessed with a huge house in a wonderful location. There are big windows that catch delightful sea breezes on warm summer days, and the floors are original tongue-and-groove hardwoods, circa 1830. So the kitchen (added on mid-century last) isn't very efficient, and the bathrooms (all 5 of them!) wouldn't be featured on HGTV, but everything works, so it's a small price to pay.

One of my favourite things about where we live is the courtyard. It's off the kitchen, paved with brick and on the small side. But slowly, in the last few months, we've worked to make it a place we like to just "be". There's a small garden (which my wonderful next-door neighbour helped clear out; she's a horticulturalist and architect, which I find very impressive), and right now, mid-summer, it's filled with lavender, black-eyed susans, bee bombs, and echinacea. And bees, so many bees.

We have tubs of tomatoes and cucumbers and capsicums in various stages of development. I also have a pot of strawberries I'm watching closely for signs of fruit. 

I go out there every day just to drink it in, and sometimes, in the midst of clean-up duty, I'll raise the screen on the kitchen window and stick my head out just to look at my little patch of nature. I don't know about it's supposed immune boosting properties, but echinacea certainly is a mood booster for me.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Remembering ....

There was a thread on one of my online haunts today (the mysteriously named "Bargain Board") with posters sharing photographs of their newborns in the first moments of life. So I went through my digital photo library and took a little trip down memory lane.

Those moments were amazing, breathtaking, exhilarating and terrifying. There were particular romantic details attached to each of their births. 

With our firstborn there were minor complications at the end of my pregnancy and the doctor predicted the baby would be born within 48 hours. My husband was at sea and I called to let him know, he caught the next helo in and the following morning we were admitted to the hospital in early labour. It was an unusual situation; it's very rare in the Navy to be able to come home from sea for any reason, even the birth of your child.

The next one came along after almost four years of struggle with infertility and loss. She was born three weeks shy of a year after I delivered her stillborn baby brother. It was exactly two hours before the New Year and snowflakes were falling softly outside. When her father announced "it's a girl!", he tells me I sat bolt upright and exclaimed "What????!!!!" I was almost sure the baby would be a boy. I lay awake all that first night, watching her, hardly believing she was real.

Number 3 was stressful. My birth partner (read: husband) was back on a ship and their underway schedule was not predictable. My mother-in-law came out to stay to help me and watch the older kids while I was in labour. Nothing was happening and we were down to three days before I'd be totally on my own, so the doctor agreed to induce. 17 and a half hours of hard, unmedicated labour, with my birth partner rubbing the small of my back for at least half that time (at one point he even put on an elbow brace!), culminated in the entrance of our younger daughter. I don't know how happy she was being induced. This is her the next day:

And our youngest. I was determined to have a natural birth experience. I wanted to go into labour on my own, to experience the natural progression of things. And I did that. It was fast and furious and I was totally "in the moment" the whole time. It hurt intensely and was absolutely empowering.

So now we are finished with that part of our lives. I remind myself that eventually, and with luck, I'll be able to experience the joy of childbirth again when my children have babies. And then I'll be able to go home and sleep all night.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Everyone loves a parade

Right? I don't usually. Parades are not my favourite thing. But this one was okay. It helped that we only had to walk 5 minutes to get to the very start of the route, crowds were pretty thin at our vantage point, and only one woman stood right next to my children's stroller smoking a cigarette. I think she got a flyer from the "Jesus saves" guy, so it's all good. 

Oh, and this woman. So she can simultaneously ride a unicycle (very smoothly) and play Yankee Doodle Dandy on the flute. I'm all for multitasking, but what I want to know is, can she talk on the phone, referee a dispute between siblings, feed the baby, get out the crayons, mop up a spill, cook a meal and write a blog post all at the same time? Now if I could just learn to ride a unicycle .... 

Monday, June 2, 2008

I'm not a doctor ....

But I do watch House. I've been feeling unwell for a little while and today all my seemingly unrelated symptoms have conveniently converged. I figured out what's wrong with me. I used the differential diagnosis method. Oh, and Google. 

I was able to ransack my house looking for drugs, mold and/or other environmental pollutants. I questioned my family members. I ruled out Lupus and Sarcoidosis, also bacterial infection (no fever), and Munchausen's by Proxy. I briefly considered Hypochondria, but thought I'd be much sicker if that were the case. 

Here's the white board.

I have diagnosed myself with Fifth Disease. There's not much that can be done; it's a generally mild viral illness that just needs to run its course. Fluids and rest are recommended, and for adults suffering the arthritis symptoms, ibuprofen. "Have adults with joint pain and swelling rest and limit their activities".

Rest. LOL! I would rest, but my husband has gallivanted off to a fancy pants black tie affair tonight, while I was at the elementary school spelling bee. It was very relaxing. Oh wait, I meant not at all relaxing.

Oh well. That'll teach me to not get the antibodies of common childhood diseases.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

The Rookie

It's his first year of Little League. He ended up on a team with several kids who have played together since they were old enough to play and they are really good. It's not easy being the new kid. Especially when your skills could use some polishing. But he's out there facing the pitches, swinging the bat, chasing the outfield hits.

His mother sits in the bleachers and has been known to glare at teammates who disparage him within her earshot. She buys him a 1lb bag of "Double Bubble" to share with the other boys, hoping to buy him some goodwill with the official gum of the Major League.

It's almost the end of the regular season and he's only had one hit, an RBI single. He's drawn a few walks, been hit several times by pitches, and struck out too many times to count. He usually only plays half the innings, sharing a spot with another of the team's non-star players. But every game day he dons the uniform with such excitement, buzzing with the anticipation of potential base hits, home runs, diving catches.

He's one of the Boys of Summer, in his rookie season.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Here we go again

So it seems like my identity crisis is on a slow simmer just beneath the surface of my everyday life. 

There are days when I feel so happy to just be the me I am right now; the mother and wife, chief cook and bottle washer. This is the me who looks with satisfaction at the gleam of freshly steam-cleaned floors, smells the turkey lasagna baking, and smiles at the laughter of her raucous children. This is the me who wakes to the whimpering of a hungry baby at 3am and happily, if groggily, nurses him in the quiet of deep night; the me whose heart still skips a beat when that chubby little hand reaches up and touches my face.

Sounds like I'm little Suzy Homemaker, right? I am pretty good at it, most of the time. There's another me, though, lurking where the dust bunnies hide behind the furniture. She comes out and makes me question what I do. Words pop up, words like accomplishment, career, intellect, ambition, contribution

And worse .... 


Recently I made contact with several friends from my old life, the life I had before I met and married and moved halfway across the world. They are women I went to university with, who now have careers like the one I might have had myself. It's sort of tough to hear about. It makes me wonder if I missed my opportunity. I always thought I would be successful, professionally speaking. 

I'm not a good "professional mom". I don't go to all the PTA meetings, or get on committees. I'm not able to volunteer in the classroom or chaperone field trips (babies and toddlers tend to disrupt the class), although I do my best to provide the supplies the teacher needs. Maybe I'll get better at it as my younger children reach school age. 

But I like to think I'm good at the more important stuff. In my eight and a half years of parenting, my "am-I-doing-this-right" barometer has always been bedtime. If the kids go to bed happy I know I've been successful that day.

And when I'm deep in my identity angst, I think about my grandmother. My Nana was a woman who was married for 51 years, raised three children and worked at a department store. She was a storybook grandmother: one who cooked amazing meals; picked perfect gifts; wrote letters and cards in her beautiful handwriting; and loved wholeheartedly her 18 grandchildren. She was always, always there for me. She didn't have a high-powered career, she wasn't rich or famous,  but when she died her family was around her. There were scores of people at her memorial service, friends and family whose lives she made better. And we still use her recipes and tell the stories that keep her alive in our hearts. 

That's a legacy I think I could live with.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Two Amazing Women

It occurred to me this morning that I complain a lot. Okay, this morning isn't the first time it's occurred to me, but lately I've been thinking that perhaps I should complain less and be more thankful for what I have. Which is a lot. 

We've had some discussions at home about the state of the economy, macro and micro, and how fortunate we are to be relatively insulated from the worst of the downturn. And, at night when I do my late rounds -- listening to breathing and kissing little foreheads -- before turning off the light and sleeping next to a man who would do anything for me, I know few have it as good as I do.

I have two friends in particular who remind me of this. They are both in the trenches, so to speak. One is a newly single mother of 2 small children: a bright, beautiful, educated, professional woman, starting her life over on her own. 
The other is currently deployed on the ground in Iraq: a smart, funny, tough (yet girly in the right ways) Naval Officer, who left behind a husband and young daughter in the service of her country. 

If you ask me, these women are heroes. They are the ones who show the rest of us how to face adversity and kick its ass. They are strength and grace personified, and I am glad, and humbled, to know them. 

Thursday, May 15, 2008

I come from a land Dow Nunda

My identity crisis continues. This afternoon, as a small scale social experiment, I decided to speak in my native dialect. I wanted to see how the kids would react and it didn't go all that well. The girls got pretty upset actually (although admittedly Little Miss the Younger had been nigh inconsolable since being prematurely roused from her nap).

They kept saying stop it, mama, stop it, don't talk like that. I told them that was how I used to talk all the time, that's how people sound where I come from. Like The Wiggles. I mean, seriously, they don't have a problem with the way Greg, Murray, Anthony and Jeff talk!

Their distress at me messing what's familiar to them was totally understandable but what made me wistful was that I had to really concentrate on the accent. I had to "put it on"; it didn't come naturally to me at all. I honestly don't know what I sound like any more. I know I'm not the only one who scoffs at Madonna's British accent but maybe she's like me and doesn't really hear it.

My slippery slope started after I changed my name. My married name has an "R" in it, and every time I would spell it out, the spellee would hear and write it as an "I".  To avoid confusion I started heavily emphasizing and Americanizing the R. Now I do it without thinking, probably in most words. When our oldest was little I taught him the alphabet song with the ending "X, Y, Zed". Now all of them say "Zee", myself included (you have no idea how hard that is for me to admit). 

The one thing I hold onto, the one place I put my foot down, is the way my kids address me. I refuse to be "Mommy". I will not be "Mom". This I have drilled into them and I won't answer if one of them slips up, which, happily, rarely happens. In fact, they frequently correct their grandmother, my mother-in-law, on my behalf, which I love. I had a tender, bittersweet Mothers Day moment with my son several years ago when he was in Kindergarten. Before he gave me the "mommy" inscribed treasures he had made in class, he pulled me aside and apologised in advance that they didn't say "Mumma", that he had been too embarrassed to do something different to all the other kids. It was a like a gentle slap in the face, reminding me there were forces greater than my influence that would be exerted on my children as they grew.

Not many people pick up on my foreignness any more. I no longer speak the dialect* of my native country. When I first moved to the US I planned to celebrate the days of national importance of my native land. Eleven years later that doesn't happen so much. I've been eligible for naturalisation here for a couple of years but the paperwork sits on my desk, filled out, yet unsent. I belong more here than there now; I am unfamiliar with life "back home", I have no current cultural references. Our last visit was almost six years ago and given the size of our family, and and rising fuel and fare costs, it's unlikely we'll get back any time soon.

So I drift along, rootless. I do, however, say tom-AH-to. Some things will never change.

*Dialect and accent are frequently confused. defines dialect as "a variety of a language that is distinguished from other varieties of the same language by features of phonology, grammar, and vocabulary, and by its use by a group of speakers who are set off from others geographically or socially". Accent usually describes the way people pronounce words of a language that is different from their mother tongue.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Out of the mouths...

 It's quiet time at our house and the little ones are napping in advance of this evenings adventure in Little League. I'm sitting here next to my elder daughter who is working on a Winnie the Pooh puzzle. She's being very, very quiet, which doesn't happen often, and then out of nowhere she asks me, is Piglet a pig? I tell her yes. Then she says, why doesn't he make a honking sound? why does he talk? I explain something about the nature of cartoon characters vs. real farm animals. She giggles, her tone is "ah, of course" and continues her puzzle in silence.

Then she says, what do bears do? I've moved on and am reading something, so it takes me a second or two to realise she's talking about Pooh. I say, you mean real bears? They do stuff in the woods, catch salmon to eat, that kind of thing. Yep, she says triumphantly, fish and honey, that's what they like. And red t-shirts with no pants.

Disney has a lot to answer for.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

A mocha flavoured slap in the face

Yesterday I was all ready to take Maggie's advice and focus on the enjoyment of motherhood rather than the unavoidable drudgery it sometimes entails. The baby had taken a good nap and the girls were chomping at the bit to get out into the first sunshine we had seen in four or five days. 

They love to eat their snack outside sitting on a picnic blanket, so I got some crackers and cheese for them and made myself a treat. Several times a week, in need of a mid-afternoon pick-me-up, I'll make a caffeinated beverage. Lately, with the weather warming up, my drink of choice has been iced mocha. A shot of espresso, a squirt of chocolate syrup, and a big slug of skim milk poured over ice. If I'm really indulging, as I was yesterday, I'll top it off with a crown of whipped cream.  

As I got organised to head out into the backyard (shoes, hoodies, hats, juiceboxes ... really it can never be easy), Little Miss #1 was jumping, or climbing, or some combination of four year old kinesthetics, and she knocked. over. my. mocha.
Nobody breathed for a second or two and then she wailed, I'm sorry, mama, I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm sorry. And then -- without waiting for me to reassure her that we don't cry over spilt milk, or mocha, or whatever, it was an accident honey, please don't be upset, I'm not mad at you -- I wanna go outside! 

And then I was mad. Oh, I was so angry I could barely see. I handed the girls their snacks and sent them, both wailing now, to eat in the dining room. The baby just sat in his highchair silently regarding my frustration. The pool, I mean ocean, of mocha dripped off the table, onto and off the chair, and into a large puddle on the tile, soaking into the rug. It had splashed onto the wall and the window sill and the baseboard heating vent. It took me 20 minutes to clean up. It would have taken 15 minutes but for the constant interruptions. Is it time to go outside yet? Are we going outside? Are you finished yet? Is it cleaned up? When are we going outside?

And then we went outside. And I focussed on enjoying motherhood, having paid the price of mocha flavoured drudgery.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

I have a friend

This morning I was having a bit of a pity party, complaining to the Captain about how I have no friends, blah blah I'm lonely blah blah blah. This afternoon, as the spring sun lit up the house and my spirits, I realised how wrong I was to say that. I have a friend, a very good friend.

This friend is reliable and is always there for me. Maybe a little bit loud at times, but not as noisy as some. This friend picks up for me, helping around the house, and that's something you can't say about many friends. No matter what's going on, or how long it's been since we were last together, I can turn to this friend for what I need.  

My friend's name is Dyson. I love my friend.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Enter the drudgery

Do people still have midlife crises? They were very popular back in the eighties, if I remember correctly. I'm in a troublesome, transitional phase of my life. Here's a rundown: I'm just shy of 35 and quite well educated, but woefully lacking in the career department. I am a married mother of four, ages 8, 4, 2, and 8 months. I am an expatriate (more on why that bears mentioning later). 

One day, several months ago, I emerged out of a post-partum fog, peered through a haze of sleeplessness and realised that I was finished having babies. For almost ten years I had been trying to get pregnant, wondering if I was pregnant, trying to stay pregnant, trying to recover from being pregnant, trying to recover from not being pregnant, celebrating babies, and mourning babies. It was all-consuming. It was my career.  And now we are done. We have four quite (even if I do say so myself) amazing kids and my job title has the words "stay at home" in it. 

I don't know why it makes a difference, but the drudgery of it all never really hit me until we decided not to have any more babies. There's something special and magical about being pregnant. It's not hard to figure out the psychology of it. First of all, you have a tiny human being growing inside you. You get a lot of extra attention, people are always asking how you feel and making sure you have a cool drink and somewhere comfortable to sit. You have a long-term excuse to get out of stuff, to eat and and nap at will, and there are gifts involved. What's not to love????

Now I have one kid in elementary school, one in preschool, and two littlies at home. I have a husband in a fairly high-profile job. And I have housework to do. Enter the drudgery.