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Archive for January, 2007

Comfort food

When I was a kid, I loved Pablum (I was a good Canadian girl). My mother intended the pablum for my baby brother, who was just getting the hang of solid food at this point, and annoyed her to have the7-year-old sucking it all back for breakfast, and she eventually cut me off. So it isn’t too surprising that my current comfort food (beside, of course, chocolate) is oatmeal.

What I really like is the slow-cook stuff, but I’ll settle for plain instant if I must (don’t like the one-minute stuff for some reason). In the summer, I add blueberries or strawberries. (Boo likes it with blueberries all the time.) In the winter, I add a generous sprinkle of cinnamon and brown sugar (which is how Asher likes it, with less cinnamon) . I always toss in ground flaxseed to really scrub those arteries out.

I believe most people who know me, would never imagine I’m an oatmeal sort of woman. Always keep ’em guessing.

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The new sweater is trucking right along, as I’m knitting when I’m lying down. Asher, who knows I am knitting one for him, spotted it tonight at bedtime and asked if I’d finished his. I told him no, that this one was just a bit of a break from that one.

He wanted to know who it was for. I told him for the baby our friends will be bringing home from China. I said, “Hopefully, they will bring her home in spring,” and he said, “Her? How do they know it is a ‘her? Do they know who she is already?” So I explained China’s one-child policy to him, and their tradition of women going to the husband’s family, leaving son-less parents with no one to care for them in their old age. And the resulting girl babies in orphanages, as parents try for a boy as the child they can keep.

“Are there any boys in orphanages?” he asked. I told him a few, and as far as I understood, they tended to be babies with special needs, like cleft lips or hearing problems. Why, he asked, are boys like that unable to support their parents? I told him maybe not, but maybe it was just that the parents didn’t have enough money to get their babies the help they needed, and that they hoped that by giving them up to an orphanage, they would get their clefts fixed, for example (we have close friends whose son was born with a cleft lip and palate, so Asher gets that one).

I had a hard time getting through this. It isn’t just the ‘weepiness’ I’ve been dealing with lately. It’s parenthood. Since I became a mother, my emotions are raw when it comes to anything to do with children and pain. I used to be tough as nails, but no more. Asher said, in his old-man way, “That’s heartbreaking. But it is amazing that you are knitting a sweater for a little girl whose sitting in an orphanage in China right now, and she has no idea. I can’t wait to meet her.” Then he flopped over, and went to sleep.

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Maya hates studying. She has a big French test today, so she’s been studying a lot. It hasn’t been pretty. She settles into studying by attacking which ever parent is trying to help her, and last night that was me. When I said, “It’s good you can say the answer, but we need to check your spelling, so I’d really like you to write it down, ” she said, with all the teenage nastiness she should not yet possess, “I’m sure you would like me to, but I’m not.”

It always amazes me that such nastiness can come from such a mature and sweet child (which, I suppose, is better than being amazed that such sweetness can come from a nasty child). Because once she’d gotten the studying over with, she kicked into her helpful mode. She got Boo into her PJs, as she had the night before, by promising all new, never before read stories!

When she made this promise last night, and I looked at her with bafflement, she disappeared and then reappeared in my room holding her French/English dictionary. Fearful of a tantrum from Boo, once Maya started reading definitions, I gave her a cautious glare. She said, “You will be amazed at the stories in here!” She then brought Boo to her bed and ‘read’ her 3 stories. One was about a girl who shrunk in the bathtub, slid donw the drain and discovered an entire undersea world down there. Boo loved them, of course.

Last night, she told Boo the story of two girls who had birthday parties planned for the same day. By coincidence, the girls in the story had the same names as two of Boo’s best friends. Then they realized they could have a joint party. I heard this from Maya’s room:

Maya: So they had to decide where to have their party. Can you guess where they decided to go?
Boo: Gymnastics? (her current plan for birthday, distant as it is)
Maya: The girls got together and discussed it, and finally decided that they would have their party at … gymnastics!
Boo: (leaping around the bed in excitement) I guessed right! I guessed right!

When I came to bring Boo to her own bed after her stories, she ran up to me with the French/English dictionary and said, “This is my new favourite book!”

Maya is very frequently a smarter parent than I am.

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I’ve crashed again, back to the puking. I’m only up because the oven guy is here to check out the broken oven, then it is back to bed. Asher is also sick (although no actual throwing up so far, thankfully) and is blobbed out in front of the TV.

My mention of the friends expecting the baby reminded me of a column I wrote. It was accepted for publication by the newspaper that printed all my pieces, but before it was printed, the nice editor was promoted and replaced by the evil one, who never bothered to return my phone calls or emails inquiring if she would like to keep the pieces her predecessor had already accepted. (This is the height of editor lack of etiquette, by the way.)

The sad thing about this piece is that it is about 2 years old. My friend have been expecting for a distressingly long time, although it looks like this spring will really be it. I should also point out for the benefit of the non-Canadian readers that in Canada, paid parental leave is normally a year.

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Good friends of mine are having a baby. I am delighted. Now that I have finished reproducing, I love any excuse to knit little sweaters and remember what it was like before mine learned to speak and tell me what a mean mommy I am.

My friends are adopting. They need the stamp of approval from the Ontario government, and then they will chose domestic or international adoption. If they decide on international, they must apply to that country and, of course, actually go get the baby.None of that sunk in with me at first. I reacted in exactly the same manner I have reacted to any other of my friend’s announcements of an impending child: “Yay! A baby!”

It’s the same to me – waiting out a friend’s pregnancy or waiting out the adoption process. Of course, it is not the same to them. They get the same excruciating waiting and wondering. But other than that, the journey is completely different.

Of course, there is the expense. With a biological child, the expense kind of sneaks up on you, until one day you find yourself buying a minivan. Adoptive parents pay between $20,000 to $40,000 in various governmental fees for an overseas adoption before they meet their child.And they also have to ask themselves the tough questions before they have the baby, unlike those of us who have biological children. That just starts with one person saying to another, “Hey! We should have a baby.” Or even more likely, “Oops. The ‘yes’ line turned blue. Now what?” Only then, when it is pretty much too late, does one of us say to the other, “Do you believe in spanking?” or “I think cribs are cruel, don’t you?” or “We are going to raise the child in my religion, right?”

Adoptive parents ask these questions before the baby is placed in their arms. Directly or indirectly, they are forced to as they go through the adoption process. While I know it is not feasible to demand the same of biological parents, it is too bad we are not all forced to face those same issues before we take the plunge into parenthood. We would be better parents for it.

When my friends made their announcement, I asked, “Who’s taking the year off?” Which is when they told me that they do not get a year of leave with their baby. They get about eight months. Employment Insurance benefits allow eight months for parental leave. The other four are maternity leave. Because my friends are not giving birth to their baby, because they are filling out form after form, signing cheques left and right, and flying half way across the world instead, they lose out on four months.

Maternity leave, the explanation goes, is meant for the mother to recover from the birth. I had difficult pregnancies and even I did not need four months to recover, but that is beside the point. I am not arguing that birth mothers need less time. I am just horrified that adoptive parents supposedly do.

Cathy Murphy is the Director of Adoption Services at Children’s Bridge, a non-profit organization dedicated to helping parents adopting overseas. A mom of two adopted children herself, Ms. Murphy says, “Adoptive parents need at least as much time to adjust to parenthood as biological parents, if not more. Many children come to us with significant problems, and they are also grieving the loss of their caregiver. Often, parents end up taking unpaid leave to give their children the time they need.”

Several adoptive parents took the government to court in the late 1990s over this issue, when biological parents received six months paid leave and adoptive parents were allowed only four. They lost, and when the new legislation came into effect at the end of 2001, it continued the old discrimination.

Ms. Murphy points out that the government is becoming more sensitive to the needs of adoptive parents. In its last budget, the federal government announced a tax break to compensate for some of the costs of adoption. “It doesn’t end up being much,” says Ms. Murphy, “but it’s a start.” As well, the provincial government has announced the removal of the $925 ‘processing fee’ charged for overseas adoptions.

But none of that gives the adoptive parents more of what they really need: time with their new child.

My friends are having a baby. The process they are going through to become a family is different than the one I went through, but the result is the same. The politicians who came up with this law should be ashamed of themselves for treating that child as though her family is less important, less deserving of the time to become a family.

I’m breaking out my knitting needles and preparing to welcome that child wholeheartedly into my community. I would like the federal government break out its amendments and do the same. Then, when a new child arrives, no matter what her journey, we’ll say together: “Yay! A baby!” Because that is all that matters.

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I supposed to some Americans, whining about 8 months instead of a year seems a bit, well, childish, given the criminally-short paid parental leave they get. But it is the unfairness of it that pisses me off so much, the treatment of adoption as somehow a lesser route to parenthood. Even if biological parents got 4 years and adoptive only 3, it’d still be wrong and unfair, even though, compared to so many other places, it would be great.

I also have to credit (or blame, depending on your outlook) this piece for my discovery of the blogging world. In researching it, I stumbled across a huge world of adoption blogs, a couple of which are in my blog roll, and from there other parenting blogs, etc.

Okay, the oven guy says he has to order a part, so the damn stove is out of commission until Friday morning. But it is a cheap part, so I won’t complain. I’ll just go back to bed.

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Kidding – I never thought it was a brain tumor.

Recipe for disaster:

Take one new anti-depressant that your doctor thought might help the FM (that category of meds often is what is effective for FM), find out it doesn’t help and go off it, triggering withdrawal effects you didn’t even know existed (what they politely call ‘weepiness’ – doesn’t that sound romantic? Weepiness). Add PMS, a couple of viruses and the resulting exhaustion, a husband who has to work a lot of nights this week and crabby children, and voila! You feel like shit, inside and out. At least, that is what the doctor says. This too shall pass. And if it doesn’t, well, there are always more pills to try.

Better than any pill, of course, is yarn, as my mother taught me. (When I called her in tears from university many years ago, having been dumped and had my heart broken, she said, “I know you can’t afford it, but go buy some wool for a sweater. I’ll send you a cheque.” Now, there’s a mother who understands. I wore that ‘break-up sweater’ for years.) After the doctor, I popped over to the knitting store, finally, to replace the cable needle I lost a couple of weeks ago. And they had some lovely yarn and a pattern for the cutest little sweater just sitting there. (Funny, a knitting store having patterns and yarn just sitting around like that.) Since friends of ours are expecting a baby and therefore I have every excuse to buy yarn, I did.

I’ve officially done work, lining up guests for my TV show next week so I am not just staring awkwardly at the camera for half an hour, so now I am going to sit in the sun and start a new sweater, even though I haven’t finished the last one. So there.

In honour of our newly-arrived snow –

Two weeks ago (that’d be the first week of January, JANUARY):

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Yesterday:

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where I now reside. I’ve been sick since last week, starting with a big return of the vertigo that has been annoying me on and off for a couple of months. Then random cold sweats, which is so not charming. I soldiered on, overwhelmed. By Friday, the puking had started, but it stopped Saturday. The vertigo and sweats have stayed. I have a doctor’s appointment tomorrow, but have little hope that she’ll have any insight into the puzzle that is my body. She’ll probably schedule some test that has a nine-month waiting list.

In the meantime, the oven is broken too, making dinner now impossible for me to even contemplate, the children refuse to practice their instruments and ‘forget’ homework and take frustration out on me. I forget to call teachers. When I picked Asher up from his tutor, I sent him on to the car and stayed for about 4 minutes to get an update from her, and arrived to the car to interrupt he and Maya in a pitched battle. That is how long it took them to cause injuries. Boo kept us up half the night with a sore ear, so we kept her home this morning and she was perky as all hell, allowing no opportunity for further sleep of my own or work. Work! Ha! After I swore to myself that I was really going to kick things into gear, I find my days frustrating filled with appointments, children and exhaustion. Yes, I write here, because that is easy and only takes a few moments unlike, say, writing a book.

If I don’t call anyone back, that is why.

I’m talking to the doctor about that, too.

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I have carried a Palm Pilot for years. My latest one just died, causing me considerable stress when I discovered that they are passe and in order to get something similar, I’d have to either go very cheap and crappy, or get one with a phone, email and resulting expense. I’d love the email (I have a cell phone), but can’t afford that. Fortunately, J managed to find me an unused second-hand one. In setting it up and making sure all my information transfered, I came across this list, which I kept during my breastfeeding years (which numbered 7.5 in total).

Places I have nursed babies:
the rocking chair
during dinner, during breakfast, during lunch
making dinner, breakfast and lunch
in the bath
giving other children baths (including shampooing hair)
Parliament Hill on Canada Day
countless restaurants
public bathroom (once)
parked car
grocery store, while shopping
In the delivery room an hour after my niece was born (I doulaed), using 7-week-old Asher as a model to teach my SIL how to nurse
book store
mall
McDonalds and countless food courts
museums
airplanes
bottom of a ski hill
Rideau Canal during Winterlude
beach
standing on the road talking to neighbours
while holding someone else’s baby
playing board games
tour boat
in line at Costco (the guy behind me in line actually rubbed tiny Asher’s cheek while he was nursing, having no idea that he wasn’t just smushed up against my shirt)
Smithsonian
Capilano suspension bridge in Vancouver
Vancouver aquarium
in synagogue
in bed
at dinner parties
weddings and bar mitzvahs
Brises and baby namings
at a shiva
in the emergency room while hooked up to IVs and semi-conscious (J held the baby up to the boob)
In Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick, PEI and British Columbia
In Costa Rica, Washington D.C. and Ithaca N.Y.
middle of the frozen lake at the cottage in winter
at the playground
in a hammock
watching TV
on a train
On a tractor at a petting zoo
while apple-picking
while writing email
in the school yard, waiting for older kids to get out of school
While building a marble run
On a TV show while being interviewed (on extended breastfeeding, where I said “I don’t think I am practicing extended breastfeeding. I just think most people in the Western world quit early.”)

Nursing while building a marble run, 4 years ago:

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Me and baby Boo, snursing* on the beach, 3.5 years ago:
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*what J and I called that combination of snoze and nursing babies do, where they only stay asleep while on the boob.

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little rude funnies

The latest search string to bring someone here is “my four year old swears.” I don’t recall mentioning that my four year old swears, although of course she does. The other day, J and I were watching Curb Your Enthusiasm on tape and didn’t turn it off when she came into the room. As a result, she went around for the rest of the day saying, with great energy, “You piece of shit!”

We are lucky we don’t hear more of this, really, given that it has popped up in the past. Last spring, we went to Niagara Falls with the cousins and stayed in a hotel (which, for the kids, was probably more exciting than the actual falls themselves). About an hour into our drive home, Boo suddenly said out of nowhere, “Oh shit!” The other two burst out laughing (the adults tried to hide our laughter in our sleeves) and Maya said, “Boo, you don’t say that!” Misunderstanding her point, Boo said, “Maya, you don’t understand! I think I left my balloon animals in the hotel room!” Oh. Okay then.

Maya herself produced her first swear word at about 14 months, when she was just beginning to speak. She dropped a toy repeatedly and, becoming frustrated, very clearly said, “Oh fuck.” Come to think of it, that might have been her first two-word phrase.

She wins the prize for swearing awfulness for an incident at the age of three. I was talking on the phone to her future preschool teacher, asking questions about the program. Maya wanted something, and she wanted it now. She kept bugging me and I kept telling her she needed to wait until I was off the phone. Finally, her non-existent patience snapped completely and she bellowed, “Mommy, get off the fucking phone!” Fortunately, the teacher thought it was hysterically funny, so we didn’t have to move to a new city.

In an attempt to learn to control myself around the children, I told them they’d get a dime every time I said a bad word, and I’d charge them the same. I then almost immediately introduced exceptions for really bad things, like stepping in warm cat throw-up. Now whenever someone swears, we negotiate whether it is a reasonable exception or not. Which is probably why Boo thought her balloon animal explanation made sense. (We had remembered the balloons, by the way.)

I think this blog looks boring with just a great swath of words down the screen, so I need to add more pictures. Here is one of Boo at Niagara Falls, looking all angelic and non-sweary:

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Unusual potpourri

I discovered tonight that if you make gravy for dinner using just plain chicken stock, then leave the pot on ‘warm’ on the stove and completely forget about it while you put the children to bed, your house will be filled with the most wonderful and tantalizing smell of roasting chicken. The pot is hell to clean, though, once you figure out what you’ve done.

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I type very quickly, so quickly that sometimes entirely different words come out on the screen than I intended, and as I wrote the above, what first came out was ‘roasting children’. And they weren’t even that badly behaved tonight.

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As I mentioned previously, we moved rooms around recently. Maya and Boo switched rooms.  Maya lobbied for this, arguing that as the oldest child, she deserves the biggest room. It isn’t logical, but as an oldest child myself, I went for it.

So Boo has the middle-sized room and bunk beds, and Asher sleeps in there with her. We settled Maya into her nice, new big room several days ago and she was very happy until it came time to sleep. Then she announced that she couldn’t, because she had always slept in the other room and was used to it. Then, to the others’ delight, she dragged her mattress into Boo’s room. So here we are in our nice, big, 4-bedroom house, and all the kids have crammed themselves into one room.

It’d be nice if I could reclaim one room as my office again …

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