Archive for February, 2007

Just doodling along

Please consider the following to be an advertisement for Golden Doodles:

Jasper is the calmest, friendliest, most well-behaved, loving puppy I’ve ever met. He doesn’t bark, jump up on people or shed. He sleeps all night in his crate without a peep of protest. He smushes his head against people’s legs for love. The biggest complaint I have right now is that he’s become obsessed with me and and must follow me around the house almost to the exclusion of everyone else. I want him to love the children this way. Fortunately, they don’t care. (yet?) They take him for walks, feed him treats and feed him his food, and yet he still thinks I am the cat’s meow, so to speak. Not that he doesn’t accept love from them, too, he’ll just abandon them to follow me.

He’s still puppish. He’s got the hang of stairs, which he didn’t have when we first got him, but he’s still working on walking properly and doesn’t much like the cold. He likes the childrens’ stuffed animals, but appears to only cuddle it once he’s gotten his paws on one, rather than any chewing. He hates riding in the car, although even that appears to be improving in leaps and bounds – he drooled excessively and puked on the way to the cottage but didn’t do either on the way home – so he is reluctant to pass our parked car when going for walks. Other cars are okay.

In honour of his arrival, I am going to post my very first personal essay for the newspaper, written about 5 years ago on the event my parents’ getting their first puppy.

I am 34 years old. Yesterday, I welcomed a new sibling into the family, and I have to confess, I am just a little bit jealous.

It isn’t as weird as it sounds. My father hasn’t found himself someone else and decided to start a whole new family. My parents have been happily married for more than 35 years.

Instead, they have gotten themselves a puppy. His name is Winston.

My parents have had dogs before. I grew up with a boxer named, of all things, Rover. They inherited him from my grandmother when my grandfather died.

He lay around the house, an untrained lump who allowed the children to jump on him and pull hi ears. He was walked whenever someone mustered up the energy to be dragged down the street with him wheezing and frothing at the mouth as he strained at his collar. That wasn’t often.

After Rover when to doggy heaven, my parents waited a few years before the answered a “free to a good home” ad in the paper and brought home Toby, a mad little Cairn terrier who barked at everything that moved and tore the newspaper to shreds if he was lucky enough to get to it first. Toby was walked more often because he was small enough to control on a leash.

As he grew older, he would become abruptly exhausted half way through his walks and simply lie down on the road, requiring whoever was walking him to carry him back home.

A few years ago, Toby also died, leaving my parents dog-free once again. This time, worn out from having to get up at 4:30 am to deal with the urgent needs of an aging dog’s bladder and frustrated with having to find someone to look after him while they went on vacation, my parents declared themselves animal-free. No kids, no dogs: the good life.

Still, I was not enormously surprised when, this past spring, my mother announced that they were once again getting a dog. But this time things were different.

My parents, while they have always been ‘dog people,’ have up until now treated their dogs like dogs. However, Winston is clearly, in their eyes, no mere dog. Winston is a Cavalier King Charles spaniel. Cavalier King Charles spaniels, I have been informed, are small, quiet, polite dogs. This is a dog they can take camping with them. He won’t back at the mail carrier or knock their grandchildren off their feet in his exuberance. He will be smart and calm. My parents have found the perfect dog.

I am almost inclined to accuse my parents of using Winston to deal with empty-nest syndrome now that all their children are happily married off, but trust me, my parents do not have empty-nest syndrome. They could hardly shove us out the door fast enough. I can come up with no better answer than: my parents have gone crazy.

They found a breeder and met the puppy’s mommy while she was still pregnant. They learned his entire lineage and brought home pictures of his parents, pointing out their remarkable beauty. They then went back and visited the newborn puppies, picking Winston out from his siblings when he was barely big enough to open his eyes.

They came up with the name Winston long before they had the puppy – sort of like people do with their unborn children after discovering the sex on the ultrasound. They carried around photos of him the same way people carry around ultrasound photos, to present to anyone who showed the slightest interest.

Winston came home yesterday. He arrived with his blanket to a house equipped with his own bed, a cage, baby gates to stop him from falling down the stairs (or peeing on the carpet) and his own toys. The floor used to be good enough for Rover and Toby to sleep on. They never even knew what a dog toy looked like. Not little Winston. He already has two balls, a stuffed animal and a rope to chew.

My father is building a fence across the open part of the backyard to keep Winston in. the other dogs were just tied to a chain. My own children – my parents’ precious grandchildren – regularly make mad dashes for the road through that open area of the backyard when they visit, but I just have to watch them like a hawk. No fence for them.

I have to take their word on this. I have not seen Winston yet. My grubby children and I are not allowed to visit until my parents declare him to be totally settled in and ready to receive visitors. Hence, you see, the little bit of sibling jealousy. I’ve been banned from my childhood home by the new baby. Do you think if I started peeing in my underwear and throwing temper tantrums, I could get their attention back?


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New Baby

Introducing Jasper, who is 31 lbs and 4.5 months old. He is a golden retriever/poodle cross, commonly known as a doodle. He arrived yesterday and has been a complete angel, except for the car sickness that almost got him named Ralph.


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I realize I never followed up on my weaning post with my breastfeeding post. Given the response to my list of places I’ve nursed babies, and the weaning post, clearly I should have started blogging when I was still nursing a baby. Truth is, I nursed for so long, I can’t quite believe my breasts wouldn’t still work that way. I weaned Maya when I was 3 months pregnant with Asher, and Asher when I was 3 months pregnant with Boo. I was in a constant state of maternal functions controlling my body for a decade. It is still a bit hard to believe that is all over with. I feel like a breastfeeder, even though there is no one left to breastfeed.

Boo was also the easiest infant to teach to nurse. The midwife laid her on my belly and she literally crawled up my stomach and latched on, just like in a famous sociology video I’ve seen. And nursed for an hour. It was a good thing she was such an instant pro, because I developed a wicked uterine infection that spread to my blood and was hospitalized at 2 days after her birth for a week, and only released with a PICC line and serious antibiotics being delivered from a fanny pack I wore everywhere. She was the baby J held to my breast to nurse when I was semi-conscious. I can’t imagine breastfeeding surviving such an experience if I’d been a first-time mom, but we were both pros and, despite the deep, deep scepticism of the doctors and nurses, my extremely ill body kept producing the milk and Boo kept efficiently taking it.

Upon realizing how hideously ill I was (strep A and B, and then a suspected blood clot in my lungs), somebody decided that Boo wasn’t growing fast enough and that even though I thought my milk had come in, it hadn’t. They ordered the dreaded top-up – I could nurse, but every 3 hours, they wanted her to have a couple ounces from the bottle.

Of course, when they ordered that, they assumed the top up would come from formula, because I wasn’t producing enough milk. J, who trusted that I knew how much milk I had, pointed out that they hadn’t actually ordered formula, merely a bottle. He brought in my little electric breastpump from home. When Boo nursed, I put the pump on the other breast and expressed (plenty). He then poured it into a bottle and delivered the ordered top up. Trooper that she was, Boo drank that down too, then promptly spit it all up, every time. After a day of watching that, the nurses revoked the order.

The copious milk production with Boo also lead to my first and only visit to a lactation consultant (although, if I hadn’t been so stubborn and naive, I should have gone in the first painful weeks with Maya too). At a few months old, she kept pulling back and clicking her tongue, which hurt. Despite my own training (I’m a doula) and experience, I couldn’t figure it out and finally realized: this is what lactation consultants are for! One visit fixed us right up.

With Maya, I just kept determinedly hacking away at it and finally got it right. I never considered quiting and since the pain wasn’t completely unbearable, I figured the problem wasn’t bad enough to see someone. I was always in denial with Maya. I also refused to admit she had colic until she was older and past it.

I was convinced, during the colic phase, that there was something wrong with my milk – it must be something I was eating. I had myself down to only rice cakes at one point, such was my desperation to figure it out. I even went down to the basement to get that container of formula we had stashed away – just in case – but when I read the ingredients, I couldn’t do it. No matter what I was eating, my milk had to be better than that. I stopped all that nonsense when I stumbled across William Sears’ The Fussy Baby. It is unclear whether we would have survived her infancy without it.

Maya was also obsessed with nursing, but at least she responded to some sort of structure. I weaned her the earliest, at just past two,-years-old, because Asher was coming along and I’d had concerns about pre-term contractions with my first pregnancy. Breastfeeding (which can product contractions) while pregnant seemed a bad idea.

When Maya was just over a 18-months old, we went to a resort in the Dominican Republic for a little winter vacation. Before babies, J and I had been to Mexico and Jamaica, but we just showed up with backpacks and wandered around. The inclusive resort was our nod to responsible parenting, but was also so lame we never did something similar again – well, that and the fact that we could never again afford it.

While there, Maya came down with a hideous intestinal virus. She had a raging fever, was semi-comatose, had the runs and refused to eat or drink anything. She would only nurse. After a day of this (and one very traumatic night that I will never forget, because I was actually afraid the fever was so high it would cause permanent damage), we took her to the resort’s doctor. He gave her an antibiotic, starting her off with an injection – more trauma, since they wanted to take her away to give it and I refused to let her go because she was screaming. When we asked about dehydration, he indicated to her as she nursed and said, “Is she nursing frequently?” When we said yes, he said, “Then you don’t need to worry.”

When we returned home, we discovered that good friends who had a sons 3 months’ younger than Maya had also been struck with the evil virus. Because of a cleft palete, he was a formula baby, but he also refused to eat or drink and ended up hospitalized for dehydration, where he contracted RSV (a respiratory virus) and ended up using a puffer for years whenever he got a cold. That experience gave both of us a deep appreciation for the wonders of breastfeeding.

Asher was the dream nurser. He learned easily and wasn’t obsessive. He also weaned easily. I could never come up with some cute nickname for it, so I always just said to my babies, “Nurse? Do you want to nurse?” But it was nice when Asher’s bad pronunciation came up with a convenient code word which sounded like “Ursh.” (Maya spoke early and clearly, and I remember having her picture done at Sears when she was about 15 months old. She got tired of the process and starting saying, “Nurse, mama. Nurse.” I responded, “In a minute,” or “As soon as we are done here,” until finally the photographer said, “I swear she’s saying ‘nurse.’ Are you a nurse?” I explained and she actually turned bright red, poor young thing.)

As I think the list demonstrates, I was willing and able to nurse anywhere. Small breasts certainly helped with discretion. I wasn’t ashamed or embarrassed – after that many years of having your boobs yanked, poked, bitten, and adored by babies as the best food source ever, you tend to lose any feeling of privacy. Or most of it. I remember sitting with Boo when she was small, watching Asher at gymnastics, when another watching mom started nursing her toddler. She undid her buttons, freed her very large breast from her bra and then just hauled the entire thing out and sat, calm as anything, as the kid did the toddler nursing dance, which involves jumping around in mom’s lap while popping on and off the boob. She clearly was way more comfortable with public nursing than I’d ever been.

Boo asked (loudly, of course), “Why did that lady take her breast out?” I responded, “She’s nursing her baby.” “Yeah, but why did she have to take her whole big breast out? Doesn’t he just need to nurse from the little brown circle in the centre?” I just said, “I guess that’s the way she likes to nurse.” I was torn between being impressed at her refusal to be ashamed of her nursing breasts, and the concern that she was just giving those who thought extended nursing is gross more fodder for their beliefs.

Thanks to three young kids and a busy husband with wild work hours, I haven’t been able to practice as a doula the way I would like to (I’ve attended about 10 births, mostly of friends). But I’ve realized recently that perhaps an easier way to be involved would be as a lactation consultant. I have helped a number of women get their breastfeeding going properly and felt enormous satisfaction.

I may not be nursing any more babies myself, but I don’t think my relationship with breastfeeding is over yet.

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One more thing

I just realized that I forgot to mention the most important thing that happened yesterday. As I was lying on my bed in the sun yesterday morning, trying to soak up enough energy to tackle the afternoon, I was contemplating dinner. Leaving at 12 and coming home at 5:30 makes dinner tough.

The my SIL phoned. My brothers both had the good taste to marry people I like very much, so she is not only my SIL, but my friend. She proved once again what a good friend she is by announcing that she had just made a pot of spaghetti sauce and was going to drop it off, along with pasta (even gluten-free pasta for J) and homemade chocolate chip cookies. Voila! Dinner. It could not have come at a better moment.

The spaghetti was great. The kids even ate it for breakfast (we are a little unconventional about breakfast) and I’m having it now for lunch. It is the first time in about 2 weeks that I feel up to eating anything more than soup, and it is delicious.

Family good. Friends good. Spaghetti good.  Thank you, G.

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It is one zillion degrees below freezing here. Okay, that is with the wind chill. Without the wind chill, it is only three-quarters of a zillion degrees below zero here. Okay, the truth is it was -37 degrees Celsius, which really is impossible to distinguish from one zillion anyway.

But I’m not complaining! I was prepared! For the past several years, I have used long johns and a rain shell for sledding wear, but this year, I decided I deserved full-on snow pants. I found them on sale at MEC after New Years. They are a nice, understated black. That, plus this being January in Canada, means I get no looks (not that I’d care, but is a nice bonus). The are so very warm and another nice bonus is that they are easy to get into. No hopping about like in my childhood.

So I launched myself into my day with the snow pants, the parka (with hood), scarf, boots up to my thigh and sheepskin mitts. My cheeks got a wee bit cold. And this was not to take some virtuous 5-mile walk to work. This was mere to drive to the kids’ school and on to further chauffeuring jobs.

This is my Monday afternoon: pick up Boo at her school. Struggle mightily to squash her over-dressed self into her car seat. Drive to her former daycare 5 minutes away, unload her. Go in and pick up her friend Zed to bring them both to gymnastics. Deal with serious flashback to Asher’s 4-year-old self I try to keep Zed on track and dressed. Succeed, herd them out, serenaded by poo jokes, which require that they keep checking with me to see I heard because of the absence of uproarious laughter on my part.

More painful cramming into carseat. Drive another five minutes to gymnastics. This is most fun part. I have to get them into the shorts and t-shirts. Boo tears through it and then starts egging Zed on to go play. He, course, has a boot off, on a good day. So I have to hold him down and change him while she bobs around. They I make them pee, which really is quite entertaining as they discus various bathroom-related conundrums.

I then make some attempt to prevent them from careening around the waiting room barely missing knocking over many small children, most of who are doing the same.

The class starts. I like to sit and watch, and sometimes I get to a bit, but today I had to go get food, as we hadn’t a fresh thing in the house. So I got food and dropped off a bag of summer consignment store clothes on the way back.

I got back in time to see trampoline leaping part, which is everyone’s favourite. They looked so gloriously happy there, bouncing around.

Okay, choral and dress and stuff back in the car. I try to make a conscious effort to enjoy my children where they are right now, not mentally move them on the next stage instead of appreciating the current one, but the car seat makes this a big challenge. The girl is a tiny 33 lbs. At least her siblings were freakishly tall to go along with skinny, so the end was in sight soon, but not with little Boo. So, more car loading to pop over to Zed’s house. More poop jokes.

I crashed for a hour with Zed’s mom and got a couple cuddles from her adorable 18-month-old, which made this all easier for a bit.

But all too soon, it was back to grind. Off to Get Asher and Maya. Drop Asher off at the tutor. Pick up Boo from Zed’s, go to a toy store in the area to buy more damn Webk%$&#. (I can’t say the word again, or they’ll be on me, the hordes of desperate, pathetic people who have this insane notion that childen’s online game, which allows you many, many ways to easily make ‘money’ and buy virtual stuff for your virtual stuffed animal must have cheats that would allowed them to be rich in Webk$%^’s land). Anyway, it ends with a Z and it is a stuffed animal, and I hope you can all figure it out for yourself. They picked one each and then we drove back to get Asher, then home.

That’s why I was all bundled up.

So, Asher got another Webk$*% for his birthday. He was most delighted and loves his little puppy. Of course, as birthday things go, his sisters were envious. Maya took envy to a whole new level and professed great distress. She longed for one, but she is saving her money for an American Girl doll. Asher was deeply bothered by how upset she was an insisted that he wanted to buy her one. After all, he has money just sitting around because he isn’t saving up for anything specific, and she’s so sad. While he was at it, he figured he should buy one for Boo too.

I was torn. I mean, Maya has the money, she’s just choosing not to spend it. On the other hand, who am I to squash such a generous impulse? Just because I have trouble personally imagining being that nice to someone who often torments you, does that mean I should stop Asher from doing what he wants to do?

In the end, a compromise. Asher paid for half and the girls paid for half of theirs. (Boo had Hanukkah money.) Thanks goodness, because more stuffed animals is exactly what this house needs. I don’t know how we managed previously.

Okay, I’m slipping back into the great expanse of words on this blog, so here’s a picture of the boy cuddling one of the kittens we raised last autumn.


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Boo got her glasses. At first, she slid them down her nose and kept looking through, then over them and saying, “They make everything look so close up!”

I looked through them and it looked to me as though someone had painted a watercolour painting and then poured a glass of water over it. That’s strong prescription.

We had no problem keeping them on her face. She’s adjusted instantly. After one day, she pulled them down at one point and said, “How come I can’t see? Everything is fuzzy.”

I think it is probably taking me longer to get used to them, looking at my daughter’s magnified eyes on her little face.

I tried to get a decent picture of her, but she wasn’t in the mood to cooperate, so this is the best I got:


Her teacher, who is justifiably delighted to have made such a difference in our lives, says that now that Boo has glasses, she’ll be reading in no time. I found this not quite logical. She already has been seeing the letters, having taught herself how to sight read some names and most of the letters of the alphabet. If she was going to up and read, she’d do that either way, right? Then yesterday, I was waiting to pay for something and she was sitting on the counter. She looked at the sign that said, “VISA” and asked, “What sound does the first letter make?” I said, “Vuh. That is a V.” She said, “Vuh, vuh-i-ess-ah.” Then she tried to run it together, coming up with something like “Vuessa.”

So mabye it is a coincidence, but maybe those glasses really do help somehow, because she really is trying to read.


What I was paying for was Asher’s birthday party, where a whole gaggle of boys and two girls (cousin and sister) played laser tag. The kids had fun, the adults survived. I had promised to make him a homemade cake, but got sicker on Friday night, so I sent them off to buy one before the part. I promised I’ll make him one for his actual birthday now, on the 14th.

It was too late to special order one, so he had to chose from what was there. He chose a football cake. Thanks to the Superbowl, there were lots of those. He has no interest in football whatsoever at all. But the cake was made up of a lot of cupcakes smushed together, which was cool, and he knows his friends like sports, so he was good with it. The cupcake idea is brilliant – no cutting.

For the loot bags, I took Asher with me to the dollar store. Normally I go alone, but I always have trouble guessing what will be a hit, so I figured he could help me. He was indecisive. He’s say, “Well, I like this, but I don’t know if everyone else will.” Finally he said, “See, the problem is that I’m not like the other boys, so it is sometimes hard for me to figure out how they think.” He said this very matter-of-factly, as just the way it is.

But in the end, we managed to find stuff he was sure everyone would like, like invisible writing pens, squishy balls, little connect-4 games and, of course, candy. And from all appearances, the loot bags were a huge hit.

Alright, one down, two to go. For 6 months of the year, I am birthday-free, but starting with Asher, the next six months are birthday-filled.

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Asher at 8

The boy’s birthday is coming up soon. We are having a party at a laser tag place, which some people apparently find appalling – people shooting at other people with guns. My FIL pointed this out to me and my only defense is: but it’s fun. Really fun. I let the kids have water guns too. There, I’m out of the closet as a horrible mother.

He wants a homemade cake. I can’t figure that kid out. Instead of a impressively-decorated cake from the store, which his sisters have demanded for a couple years now, he wants a home-made one. Don’t get me wrong, I’m happy to do it, just confused.

Asher was my Valentine’s Day present eight years ago. Good thing too – he’s the only gift I ever get, but how could anyone top that anyway?


When I was pregnant the first time, I desperately wanted a girl. I can’t even quite remember why it was so important, but it was. I am not a girly girl, so I didn’t want a daughter to dress up and go shopping with, but I still felt this need for the baby to be a girl. I was also completely convinced that I was carrying a girl. I couldn’t imagine anything else.

I knew I’d love a boy – I just really wanted any baby – but I also felt that having a girl first would take the pressure of any future children to turn up as the right sex. And Maya showed up, obliging female.

I liked having a girl. All our friends produced boys and they all seemed clumsy and irrational compared to Maya. So when I became pregnant again, I decided I wanted another girl. I saw no point in having a boy at all. At the same time, this pregnancy I was convinced I was going to have a boy. When I told people that I thought the baby was a boy, “They’d say, ‘Oh, that’s just wishful thinking,'” and I’d say, “No it isn’t. I want a girl.”

So I wasn’t surprised when the midwife placed this huge, purple baby on my chest and I took a look between its legs and saw boy bits. What I was surprised by was the depth of feeling I immediately had for him. I immediately adored Maya too, but with Asher, there was a feeling of protectiveness that I didn’t have the first time around. I wanted to shelter him from the world in a way I’d not experienced with her.

At his bris (Jewish circumcision) eight days later, the mohel (the guy who does the cutting) told me to keep him in a cradle hold rather than upright against my chest, in order not to squish his newly hacked penis. I was unhappy about the snipping in the first place – I’d jut spent a hard nine months growing this perfect child, and the first thing we did upon his arrival in the world was hack a bit off – and I was going to make sure it went as smoothly as possible. So I refused to let anyone else hold him the entire time after.

Literally dozens of people came up to me, exclaimed on his beauty (he was purple and lumpy and ugly, but he was an infant and therefore held an inherent level of cuteness) and offered to hold him while I had something to eat. I was starving. I refused all of them. They could admire from afar; they were not getting their hands on my boy. Sure, I could have told them how to hold him properly, but I was certain they’d mess it up. Best I just keep him myself.


On the whole, I haven’t been an overprotective mother. I practice benign neglect, let my kids play in dirt and climb high things. But I am extraordinarily protective of Asher’s emotional life, and always have been. He was a very happy baby, always smiling and charming – at least, that’s my memory of him. Others have a different one, because he was only that way when he was touching my body. As long as he was in mama’s lap, life was great. Take him away, and his world fell apart.

He had this cute habit, by the time he was about 9 months, of reaching a hand out to admirers (by then he was legitimately cute) as though he was the pope allowing them to kiss his ring. If they did the right thing and smiled, talked at him or obligingly kissed his hand, he remained happy. If they mistook the reach for a request to hold him and made a move to take him from my arms, he’d fling himself up against my chest, clinging with both arms, and start to cry.

Many people told me I was raising a mama’s boy, of course. I was coddling him, spoiling him, ruining him. All I knew was that he was easily upset, a sensitive little guy, and as long as he needed me for emotional reassurance, I would be there. (I have since read several articles citing studies that show that infant boys do tend to be more sensitive than infant girls, and need more emotional reassurance from their primary caregivers in order to tackle the world with confidence.) And sure enough, at about age two, Asher got off my lap and charged into the world with a great deal of confidence and assurance.


He’s still a very sweet and sensitive kid, though. He regularly needs cuddles to get over his hurts. And he’s sensitive to the hurts of others. His favourite teacher is coming back today from bereavement leave after the death of her mother. Despite his difficulties with writing, Asher announced that he was going to make her a card to say how sorry he was. “I just want to try to make her feel a little bit better, because it doesn’t matter if you are a grown-up, having your mom die is going to make you very, very sad.”

He also insisted on wearing the new camouflage pants I allowed him to get a couple of days ago. He wore them yesterday too and when I told him to go change, he said, “But I wore them because my teacher was supposed to be back yesterday and wasn’t, and now she’s coming back today. I need to wear them for her!” She was in the Israeli army in her youth, and this is his way of paying tribute to her on her return. How could I say no?

Have you ever received a gift you didn’t ask for? Something you had never thought of getting, but then once you had it, you realized that it was just what you needed? It was exactly what was missing?

Me too.


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