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Archive for the ‘mothering’ Category

I confess that for years, I’ve been dreading Maya’s bat mitzvah. They are such huge deals and it all seems so overwhelming to handle. Maybe it is because I converted and therefore never went through one of my own (or, more likely for my generation, watched my brothers go through bar mitzvahs), but I’m not sure that is all, because J is pretty much terrified too.

Her bat mitzvah date is April of 2009 – a year and a half away. I thought that was enough time to keep my fingers in my ears and loudly and tunelessly sing, “Lalalala, I can’t hear you” for a while longer, but apparently not. A few days ago, a friend whose kid is having her bat mitzvah about the same time asked me if I’d signed Maya up for her class at shul yet, and was I going to the meeting? Huh? I knew nothing. J knew nothing.

So I called the synagogue, where the nice secretary peppered me with questions – how much is she going to read? Are we having our evening even at the synagogue? Are we having the lunch kiddish there? Will we be doing a Friday night thing, or Saturday morning thing? I dunno I dunno I dunno.

So I went to the meeting, where I was happy to see I wasn’t the only perplexed parent there. I realized that it was in fact high time Maya start the classes, as apparently they are supposed to take them for 1.5 to 2 years. I can’t figure out what it is going to take so long to learn, since she can already read Hebrew fluently and knows many of the prayers. As far as I can tell (but as I said, I’ve never done this before), she needs to learn the cantillation.

The Torah is a complicated thing to read. Hebrew for grown-ups doesn’t have vowels. You can put the vowels in, as they are marks that go under and over certain letters to let you know, for example, that the ‘t’ sound will be ‘ta’ or ‘to’ or ‘ti’ but after you learn how to read fluently, you drop the vowels. So no vowels in the Torah. There are lots of other little marks on the words, though. They tell the reader how that word is to be chanted. All the different marks, called trope, have their own specific tune and the kids need to learn them so they can properly chant their Torah portion.

This does strike me as nightmarishly difficult and so I do see requiring a far amount of prep time, but now I’m not so sure, since Maya came home from her first class at ‘shul school’ last week with a page of the names of all the different markings, and began singing them to me. Next!

Okay, it isn’t that simple, but she certainly is sucking up the information. At least one of us has a brain. I panicked at the meeting when I discovered that classes are on Tuesdays and Thursdays only. I asked the Rabbi about tutoring as, I explained, Maya has piano on Tuesday and delivers her papers on Thursday. I know one has to make priorities, but piano is unmovable and I think having a job is very good for her. To bad. The tutors are booked solid.

Thursday seemed more flexible, but then I saw that the class was currently populated with 4 boys from her grade at school. Nuh-uh. One boy’s mom came over and told me if I put her in that class, they’d carpool her there and back. That’s very sweet, I told her, but Maya will freak if I put her in that class. But, said the mom, they are very nice boys. Nice? Nice has nothing to do with it. They have penises and nothing else matters.

I then realized that piano is only half an hour and I could race from it to the synagogue, and at least she’d be in a class full of girls, with her best friend. I signed her up. Leaving the meeting, I phoned Maya to tell her the news, as I knew she was keen on being with her friend. After I told her, she said, “Mom, my piano lesson is on Wednesdays.”

So, so not ready.

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I’ve always been quite pleased with my kids’ Halloween choices, with the exception of my fairy princess. This year, Asher is going to be a knight and Maya decided to be a clown. I found a cool knight costume at the Children’s Place. All we needed was a sword, which the Children’s Place politically correctly did not include. How long is a knight going to last without a sword, I ask you?

Maya went with something new this year, deciding to be a clown. I was delighted. That’s an easy one. Wig, make-up, goofy clown costume. Since my kids are past the days of being impressed with my no-sew homemade halloween costumes, off we went to find a clown costume at the store.

The first one we went to had no clown costumes at all. How odd that they would have run out. They had good face paint, though. The second one had a clown wig and clown nose. It also had ailses of costumes, but nary a clown in sight.

The third one had ailses and ailses of costumes. The had an entire wall of swords, so now Asher is the most dangerous knight around (when we got home, I allowed him to attack and kill all the dead plants I had yet to clear from the garden – boy heaven). They had Bratz, pumpkins, regular vampires, slut vampires, angels, bunnies, slut bunnies, knights, ninjas, Spiderman, Superman, Batman, Spongebob, an entire ailse of princess dresses of all sorts, cowboys, dogs, kittens, slut kittens, turtles, Ninja turtles …

Not one damn clown.

It seems to me that a clown costume would be very easy for them to make – two pieces of cheap colourful polyester sewn together with pompoms down the front. Maybe a ruffle. Certainly, that is easier than the slut bunny costume I saw. Why no clowns?

We did find a pair of stretchy polyester pants that I strongly suspect came from another constume, but it was alone when we found it, and they sold it to us for $3. And a hat with a flower on it. Clearly, clowns are not off the radar, what with the hat, clown nose and wig. but since when do marketers then assume people will just make the actual costume themselves, providing us with only the accessories? They make ghosts, for god’s sake, and even I can hand-make that costume.

Fortunately, with help from some internet back-up (“See, these people made it themselves and it looks cool. These people too.”), I have convinced Maya that a colourful over-sized shirt with big patches and pompoms or buttons sewn on by us will make a perfectly good clown top. But still, it means I have to go buy some cheap colourful shirt at Walmart, find or make pompoms and sew on the colourful patches. I am so past personal effort for Halloween costumes.

But, even though she’s 11.5 years old, Maya is still my baby and she doesn’t have too many Halloweens left. And she does have the good sense not to want to be a fairy princess, so I’ll do it.

I want all her Reese’s Peanut Butter cups, though.

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When Maya was born, J’s entire extended family showered us with gifts, which was very nice of them. Several people gave us ruffly pink dresses and those pink headbands you put on naked baby heads so everyone knows you have a girl. We got pink sleepers, t-shirts, jumpers saying, “Little princess.”

I wrote out thank you notes and then took everything but the sleepers to a consignment store. I could not bear to put them on my baby, especially the dresses, which J and I called baby armpit warmers.

As she aged, I put her in dresses and girly things – black dresses, blue dresses, green dresses. No pink. Most of the non-dress stuff I got was gender neutral in case I had a boy next time. That was my excuse, anyway.

We have no Disney movies, so Maya had limited ‘princess’ exposure and it never caught on with her, to my great relief. When someone gave her a viciously pink book of Disney princess stories for her birthday, I nudged it under the couch the moment she was distracted by the next toy and she never saw it again.

She soon asserted her independence, of course, demanding only shirts that demonstrated some sign of femininity, like flowers or hearts. She feel madly in love with Barbie and much as I hated them, I figured making them forbidden fruit was worse.

So she got girly. But at least she wasn’t princessy. For her 3rd Halloween, she went as a biker chick, with a faux leather jacket from her aunt and wee cowboy boots from a friend.

Asher came along and loved pink more than Maya. Perversely, I was happy to dress him in the pink sleeper. Then I steered him towards gender neutral stuff too, not wanted him to be abused by his peers. He had his own dolls (named Sam and Sleeping Baby) and wore nail polish, but I managed to distract him from the bright pink raincoat he was set on with a colourful but less pink umbrella.

I don’t just hate pink because people have irrationally assigned it to only one gender (oddly, in the 1800s, the colour was considered to be too strong for girls and was almost exclusively for boys). I just don’t like it.

I weakened a bit when Boo was born, because she had dark hair and looked pretty nice in pink. Limited, non-ruffly pink.

Despite the fact that we still don’t have any Disney movies, she found out about the princesses. I have no idea how. That’s the problem with the third kid – you have no idea what’s going on with them, even when they are little.

Last year, she wanted to be a princess for Halloween. Maya has been a witch, a ghost, a unicorn, a cat and a biker chick. Asher has been a wizard, a witch, a magician and a vampire. I sighed and told myself that at least she didn’t want to be a specific princess, like Cinderella, and bought her a cheap blue costume dress.

This year, she has decided on being a fairy princess. She already has the pink wings, but the blue dress is too small.

The other day, I was in the Children’s Place and saw this:

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It has that gauzy stuff underneath to make the skirt stick out all the time, like they do with wedding dressed (and which I took off mine), and you can’t see it well enough, but the front is all this brocade-type patterning. It’s really quite well put together, and it was on sale for $15.

I ignored it and went around the store collecting $3 skirts and $7 pants, and brought the entire pile up to the cash, where I spotted a knight’s costume for the same price and decided to get it for Asher, who is sick of being a wizard.

Then I stood in line and stared at the princess dress. I hate pink and I hate princesses, but Boo loves pink and princesses and as far as pink princess dresses go, I recognized that this was a good one, and for a good price too. I knew I could find her something I hated less and that she would like, but I also knew that she would love this dress.

I sucked it up and bought the dress. It isn’t me dressing up for Halloween, it’s her. And she was just as happy as I imagined she’d be when I showed it to her. She put in on immediately and wanted to wear it everywhere.

So there you go. It took me 11 years to slide all the way down that slope from giving away all the pink gifts and forbidding my mother-in-law to buy anything that colour to voluntarily buying my kid a pink princess dress. Now she’ll never be Prime Minister.

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Okay, what’s with the obsession with luck lately? For the past couple of weeks, the post that is getting the most hits is an old one about four-leaf clovers. Lots of people are searching for luck on google, which I find just weird.

The other search string I get a lot is a variation on Dalton McGuinty’s hypocrisy. Seems there are a fair number of people out there who think he’s a hypocrite. And a fair number who just plain hate the guy. Also, a good number of people have popped on asking what school his kids go to. I like to think they aren’t stalking him, rather, they are just confirming that in fact his kids do go to Catholic school – the source of his hypocrisy.

But despite the people finding their way to me, polls show that the majority of Ontarians are still against funding other religious school. In the paper today, someone said right out in a letter that it will allow Muslims to more easily set up terrorist training camps. McGuinty must be delighted.

I’m doing my little TV show tomorrow on the topic, with a Jew, a Christian and a nice Muslim woman terrorist on to discuss it. God, people are stupid – not the nice Jew, Christian and Muslim I’ll be talking to, of course, but the idiots who think Muslims are all terrorists.

I’m in an extra bad mood because it is 1:40 am and I am conscious. I have insomnia.

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Today, Asher was in a bad mood after school, crying over not being able to find a snack he wanted. I asked him if anything bad happened in school today and he said, “Nothing unusual, just the same old shit. They make me work there and I don’t like work.” He said it so casually. At this point, I’ve pretty much given up on trying to stop the bad language completely and am just trying to compartmentalize it, I must confess. Just don’t swear around the grandparents and teachers, please.

I am an awful mother.

I don’t remember any kids his age swearing when I was young. None. According to him, all his friends swear this way. Not Maya’s though, and she’s older. I wonder if it is a boy thing.

Oh, this reminds me of a funny, though. In the summer, a good friend rented the cottage next to ours for a couple of weeks with a friend. We’d pop over regularly. Her friend really loves Jasper and once when Asher showed up there alone, my friend asked Asher, “Where’s your dad?” Asher answered, “With Jasper.” Her friend then asked, “Well, where’s Jasper?” Asher replied, “Taking a shit on your lawn.” They were appalled, but I thought it was hysterical when they told me. That’s the problem, of course. I am not appropriate shocked, and my kids see right through me when I try to be.

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Okay, one last thing. I promised to say why Jasper avoided a buzz cut. I’m sure no one really cares that I haven’t followed up on it, but it’ll eat away at my soul until I honour my promise.

That’s all bullshit, of course. I just want to share with the world, or at least the doodle owners who surf onto here, the amazing discovery I made. A couple of months ago, Jasper started to mat like crazy, which apparently doodles do when their adult coats come in. Everyone goes on about how great it is to have a non-shedding dog, but no one mentions that it means you get a clumpy mess if you don’t really take care of it. I don’t mind, though. I love to brush him and hack off the hair growing over his eyes and such.

But I brushed and brushed, and still he matted. I cut the mats out, but he finally reached the stage where his hair wasn’t successfully covering the bald spots and the only answer I could come up with was shaving him down. As he has white skin and red fur, this was not going to be pretty.

The problem was, what to do when his hair grew out? Would he just start to mat again? I put the question to an on-line doodle group and one guy pointed me to a line of brushes with the stupid name of Les Pooches. These things aren’t in regular stores, requiring one to order the $85 brush from New York and then pay shipping and duty, without even testing driving the thing. Ouch.

However, a little more poking around as I looked for reviews allowed me to make the discovery that there is one store in all of Canada that sells these brushes and it is, unbelievably, about 20 minutes drive from here. I drove straight over. The nice store lady demonstrated the brush, miraculously brushing out several mats right there. And, to top it off, she was charging $10 less. I never have luck like that.

I bought it (expensive, yes, but less than the price of a single grooming session) and chased poor Jasper around for days, brushing out all the mats. And now my boy has long, soft, tangle-free hair. He was lying in the school yard today with about 6 children surrounding him with their hands buried in his hair, saying, “He’s so soft.” He’s still my pretty boy.

Gratuitous cut kid shot. They all look so happy. They all were so happy:

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I’m really bloody tired.

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Man, summer went fast. When I was a kid, it went on for ever and ever. But I’m old now and zip – all gone. I know I’m supposed to love it when the kids go back, but I don’t so much. I like the freedom of late bedtimes and sleeping in and going off on day trips. I don’t feel like we did all we wanted to this summer.

And I hate hate hate the homework grind, and the driving back and forth, and figuring out when the spoiled rotters will eat for lunch (day one here and already Maya wouldn’t eat anything we had).

Boo doesn’t start for two more days, as they are having each kid meet the teacher individually first. This is a waste for us, as the teacher has know Boo since she was an infant (and Asher was in her class), and every time we saw her at school since then, she’d run over to Boo and say, “Are you going to be in my class next year yet?”

But at least we get two days of mommy/no-longer-a-baby bonding time. As we walked Jasper at the off-leash park, with Boo biking wildly ahead, I wished she weren’t going in two days and I’ll be back to reading my paper as I saunter after the dog. I like our discussions. I don’t think I’ll cry when she goes, as for us the break has been gradual rather than abrupt, but I’ll miss her being around.

That wasn’t what I planned to talk about, though. What I wanted to mention was school supplies. Dreaded school supplies. The weirdest thing happened to me this year. To start with, the school did not send insane lists. I’m used to lists requiring camera film, paper towels, boxes of kleenex, ziplock bags, rags, 80 sharpened pencils.

These ones didn’t. No paper towels or kleenex, only 20 pencils. I can’t figure it out. And every year they all ask for 4 tennis balls (to stick on chair legs to quiet them). I can never figure out what they did with last year’s tennis balls. But this year, only one kid’s list had that (I’ve never sent them in anyway).

The school supply gods continued to smile down upon is as we headed to the store at the end of last week to buy what we needed. I expected there to be a mob at the place, as I’ve always experienced in other years. But it was downright quiet. And pretty much everything was easy to find and – get this – we got everything we needed. Just like that, in one place and one visit. I walked out in shock.

Actually, I exaggerate. We couldn’t find one thing – some particular notebook that could NOT have coils. No coils, got it? Everywhere we looked, there was the book we needed, but coiled. Maya said, “Why are they asking for something that doesn’t appear to exist?” I explained, “Because they want to drive us crazy, honey. They always have to put one impossible thing on the list each year, just to make us nuts.”

But I am a veteran school supply shopper now, and I don’t fall for it. I bought coiled anyway. Ha! I spit in the eye of the system!

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A new milestone

Boo is sick. She woke up repeatedly last night, but to really make her point, she woke me up this morning by screaming her way into my room and vomiting on me from the side of the bed. I was jolted into consciousness and immediately tried to catch the vomit. Yes, I am Mom.

I thought I’d already proved my Mom-ness when Asher was nine months old and really sick. After returning home from the doctor, I accidentally mixed up his instructions and gave him about three times the Dimetapp I was supposed to. I phoned the doctor, who assured me that he would be fine and probably just sleep a lot. Asher had other plans. As I hung up, I heard his stomach begin to gurgle ominously.

Realizing he was about to blow, I calmly removed my slippers and stepped from the difficult-to-clean carpet to the easy-to-clean kitchen floor. I let him puke all over me, then cleaned us both up.

But today, I’ve reached new heights. Boo was lying on the bed complaining of a sore tummy and drinking great amounts of water. As I leaned over to comfort her, she projectile vomited all over my face and hair. Thankfully, my mouth was closed.

I backed up, stripped off my shirt and used it to clean my face and hair, then turned my attentions to Boo, laughing at the awfulness of it all. That’s it, I just laughed. Now, let me point out that since all she had ingested was a lot of water, it was more like baby spit up than big kid puke, otherwise there may have been some sypathetic vomiting going on.

As I took us both into the shower to get cleaned, I told her she had totally won the puking price in this family. She said, “Great! I think when I feel better, my prize should be three lollipops.”

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Boo is turning five today. At this exact moment five years ago (3:07 pm on August 16th, since the time on these posts is always wrong (and it took me a couple days to write this)), I was swearing and yelling in a big bathtub at the hospital, moaning that I didn’t want to be 7 centimetres, as the midwife had just pronounced, I wanted to be 10! Right now, damnit! Meanwhile, I discovered afterwards that J., seeing a repeat of Asher’s birth, was muttering to the midwife, “Get her out of the tub now.”

He was right. The next contraction, Boo switched from sunnyside up to the right way in an instant and I was suddenly complete and ready to give birth in the tub. The midwives hate unplanned water births. This was exactly how Asher’s birth went too, unexpected speed and pushing in the tub. Thankfully this time, J. insisted the midwife set everything out for the delivery before I went in the bathtub – with Asher, the bed wasn’t ready, there were no instruments laid out, the backup midwife hadn’t shown up and no nurse responded to her calls for assistance. She got me to the bed and told me not to push. Ha! Asher was born mere moments later.

The only difference this time was that, since this midwife was ready, they got me on the bed and let me push. You know how they say you forget the pain? I remember it vividly. I can recall the feeling exactly and how I never thought I’d survive it. Thankfully, it only took two pushes and out she shot.

I knew she was a girl.  I had been lobbying for the name Sophie, but J liked Elizabeth better, so we compromised on our second favourite, which isn’t actually Boo, of course. Walking the hospital walls coping with huge contraction, I suddenly announced to him that if the baby was blonde, she had to be Sophie, that Boo was a dark-haired girl’s name. This threw a bit of a wrench in things, as we’d only produced blonds, but how could he argue at that point? So we were both relieved when she arrived with a head full of dark hair.

With midwives in Ontario, they can use the hospital, but you are never checked in, so after we were looked over and I had a shower, instead of heading to a hospital room, we headed home. Two and a half hours after Boo arrived, I came home to introduce her to her eager siblings. This is a picture from then. Even as a newborn, she was freakishly adorable.

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As I’ve mentioned previously, we hit a bit of a snag when I developed a wicked infection that used to be called ‘Childbed (puerperal) fever.’ While OBs and midwives now commonly test full-term pregnant women for strep B, puerperal fever is caused by strep A. I was a strep A carrier, and when a teeny tiny piece of placenta stuck around, it attacked.

Oh, but I’m getting distracted here. Little Boo was a trooper, nursing like a pro with no help from her ill mother and sleeping the rest of the time. I was sprung from the hospital after a week, with a picc line (an intravenous line that is threaded into a vein in the arm and up into the chest cavity to deliver constant medication without redoing an IV) in place to keep me full of antibiotics for 10 days.

The picture below shows what it looked like, with the line going out of my arm and into a fanny pack I wore everywhere. People would see it and feel sorry for me, but as you can see, I was delighted. I was sprung from the hospital and had a healthy baby. It was heavenly.

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Boo was just over 8 lbs at birth – about half a pound heavier than her sister and half a pound lighter than her brother. Despite that fairly big start, she never grew at the speed her siblings did, and remains our petite one. She was also the cutest baby we had. Of course, when they were babies, I thought they were all outrageously adorable, but as time passed and I looked back at their photos, I see that they weren’t exactly the most adorably infants ever after all. Except Boo. She was.

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She was also the happiest.

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She was an incredible climber too. Once, I heard the piano keys being hit and assumed, as Boo was only 8 months old, that Asher was banging the keys. When I went to see what was up, it turned out Boo was – up on the very top of the piano, delightedly flinging the photos to the floor. I took her down, then ran and got the camera to catch the inevitable repeat attempt, but couldn’t bear to let her go further than this. Then I took the piano bench away.

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She was a late talker. Her siblings both spoke full sentences by the time they were 18 months. She had about 5 words at her 18th month check-up. As the doctor and I discussed her, Boo walked over to her, pointed at her box of animal cookie bribes and then held her hand out, opening and closing it in a clear ‘gimme’ sign (I didn’t teacher to to sign, she just made up what she needed). The doctor wrote on her chart, “language: not only understand commands, but gives them.”

Three months later, as I was wondering out loud where her hat was, she walked over to the couch and said, “Dere it is.” And she was off, although she was very stubborn about calling Asher “this” rather than his name for a long time.

We went camping with friends at around this time, and one of them, whose name is Gus, was desperate for her to play with him. J had taught her a game where he said, “Back off!” and poked her in the chest, and she’d yell it back and shove him (usually while held his arms) then laugh like a madwoman. Finally, after a week of sucking up to her, she made Gus’s day by shoving him hard in the chest and yelling, “Bat oss, Dus!” Her pronunciation was atrocious, but she got her point across. She still plays that game whenever she sees him.

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She also did this deeply weird thing where she would stop at every campsite and smush her face up to the sign indicating the number of the site. Never figured that out, but it was very funny to watch.

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She’s spoiled silly, this kid, because even when I try to discipline her, one of her siblings comes to her rescue, unable to stand to hear her cry. When I got angry with her, she used to run to Maya and wail, “Mommy’s being mean to me!” and Maya would pick her up and comfort her. To this day, if she throws a fit in the store because I’ve denied her whatever she’s asked for, one of them comes to her rescue with an offer to buy something. And yet, somehow she’s just turned into a confident child, secure that she is loved, rather than a whiny, demanding brat.

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Boo is the most physically brave of my kids, despite being the tiniest. She’s a better swimmer than they were at this age, and a better biker, and still scares me silly with her climbing (and injures herself regularly, but no stitches or broken bones yet). She throws herself at living, with great joy.

She’s starting full-day kindergarten in a few weeks, and although I know she is more than ready to go, chomping at the bit to be off to big-kid school with her brother and sister, I still can’t quite believe I have no more babies, no more toddlers. I’m thankful she’s so small, so I can still cuddle her as though she’s young. And, thankfully, she still allows me to, although I don’t know how long that will last.

Look out world, here she comes.

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