In the weeks leading up to the end of 2016, I found myself reflecting on the year and feeling quite hopeless and sad about several global situations. I am not naive. I realize that war, global warming, poverty, sexism, racism, inequality…you know where I’m going…are not new concepts. I also know individuals can make a difference. However, I work Mon-Fri and my one year old and three year old deserve my engagement and care when I’m not at work. So how do I, and others in similar situations, make a difference?
Navigating the holiday season
I think we have to start with family and community. If we can be conscious about the decisions we make for ourselves and our families, it can go a long way. Instead of putting time into making holiday cards this year, we donated to charity what we would have spent on buying and mailing the cards. Our focus during the holidays was to give gifts of service to those that provided us with services that year (ie: our postie, Claire’s preschool teachers, our incredible Airbnb cleaner). We also spent time each day on a “kindness advent calendar” with Claire. I didn’t underestimate Claire’s ability to understand what was going on around her and I wanted to model appreciation and kindness during the holiday season. She was very excited when a “Santa” came up to her and gave her a colouring book and crayons. Even though this gift only adds to our consumerist culture, I didn’t take away that excitement by asking her to reject the gift. However, we tried to avoid most circumstances that would result in her receiving gifts of the season “just because”.
2016 in review
When I think about our year, I’m perfectly happy to remember that our focus was about being parents. Connecting with our girls and supporting their growth was what I wanted to do more than anything else. Even on the longest days, and there were many very, very long days, I knew it was where I wanted to be. I also found it progressively more fun. Especially as I realized how little I actually need to teach the girls. If I want Claire to say thank you, she needs to see me saying thank you. If I want Claire to do nice things for people, she needs to see me doing nice things for people. The reality is that our kids will most likely end up being people like we are. If we want change to happen, we need to be that change. With all that said, what are my New Year’s resolutions?
Two New Year’s resolutions
1) Do the right thing. If there’s a protest I believe in, a fundraiser worth attending, or a cause worth supporting, I will do what I can to make that the event of the day. There will never be a shortage of opportunities to go to the play gym or the pool, but to be a part of the change you want to see is the most rewarding experience.
I will always remember how I was raised. I remember the benefit concerts and the peace marches; I remember my Mom standing up to the questions about why she had a different last name than her husband; I remember being one of the first families to bring our own cloth bags to the grocery store; I remember having a Mom who advocated to get veggie hot dogs into our elementary school; I remember getting made fun of because we had brown “recycled” toilet paper (it was not bleached in the ’80s); I remember trips downtown to take items to get recycled before curbside recycling began. More than twenty years later, there are still an equally large number of causes worth standing up for. You don’t need to limit yourself to only participate in big events like the Women’s March on Washington, which we will be attending in Vancouver, but also how we live our lives day to day.
A missed opportunity
We were recently in a restaurant. Claire ordered water and milk. When her beverages came, they arrived in two separate colourful plastic cups with straws and big cone-shaped lids. I hoped they were reusable but when I asked, the server happily shared “no, we don’t reuse them, you can take them home”. Just what we, and everyone else, needs, more disposable plastic garbage. I felt deflated that I had inadvertently participated in bringing more garbage in the world. If that kind of thing happens again, I have thought of two things to do:
- Ask to speak to the manager and, kindly, let him know I was unhappy to be surprised by the plastic cups. Share with him/her that we don’t want to support a restaurant that includes disposable practices like that. Let him/her know that if the restaurant changes their practices, we would be happy to eat there again, but otherwise that we would not be returning.
- Submit our concerns with a brief note on the restaurant’s website.
I know these are tiny steps. But if we all do these small things, big changes can happen. As parents of very young children, we’re really busy. But so are all the other parents of young children. That’s why there is so much marketing for baby “stuff”. The industry makes us think we need so much more than we do. In our sleep-deprived and anxious states, we are easy targets.
2) Lighten up. I believe young children do well with routine. But within that, my goal is to take more opportunities to dance and laugh with them. After all, this is life, let’s make the most of it.
What are we really up to right now?
For those who are interested and want to know what’s really going on in our lives, here you go:
When my maternity leave ended mid October and I went back to my Mon-Fri nutrition education job (here’s a glimpse of a recent article I wrote for work), James quit his job and opened a daycare in our home. He quite literally has his hands full caring for two one-year-olds along with Claire.
VIDEO: First solid food
VIDEO: “Big sisters are very funny”
VIDEO: A serious kitchen helper
VIDEO: “Big sisters are funny”
VIDEO: “Helping” in the kitchen
VIDEO: Peaceful times on the beach
VIDEO: “This pillow is fascinating”
VIDEO: Mom facing her fears
VIDEO: “Beds are a lot of fun”
VIDEO: Bathtime playtime
VIDEO: Shucking sisters
VIDEO: “Peekaboo is the best”
VIDEO: Just started walking
VIDEO: Our little musician
VIDEO: “My favourite sound”
VIDEO: The kale dance
VIDEO: On the move
VIDEO: Song time
This past month, I started noticing less of Mom and more of Dad around the house. I wouldn’t pay attention when Mom left in the morning, but I would always give her a piece of my mind when she came home every night. Compared to Mom, Dad’s methods are a little different. Lucky for Dad, I can find fun things to do anywhere I go, even in an office boardroom.
Recently, I lost interest in jolly jumpers or baby “exercise centers.” This does not mean that I’m lazy; I prefer to use my energy to explore my surroundings. I could spend hours crawling around the play gym, or climbing up staircases at home and on the ferry to Nanaimo. And sometimes, I modify the standard crawl to make it more challenging: I stick one leg out to the side while crawling on my other leg.
I have added a few words to my repertoire. My Mom’s favourite is when something is dropped and I say “uh-oh”. I can also say Mama, Dada, and ball.
You know what else is fun? Putting small things inside bigger things. I’ve been quietly dropping stuff in the watering can, but recently, the water inside seems to have disappeared. I can’t imagine why.
There is also a very interesting brush in a bucket beside the toilet, but I’ve only examined it once. I remember it was a bit wet and smelly. That room always has the door closed now. Things are always changing.
At the end of March, Mom and Dad started dropping me off at a new house they called “garderie” or daycare. They started with a few hours, but I’m now there most of the day. Despite the fact that I’m starting to enjoy the place, I have been throwing tantrums at home. I want Mom and Dad to think twice before introducing any other big transitions my way. Their other punishment has been hearing my beautiful singing voice at 5:30AM. They might not come and get me until after 6:00 o’clock, but I know they can hear me. I won’t keep it up forever, but sometimes they need to remember who’s really in charge.
It’s been a big year, but I’m enjoying life quite a bit. Thanks for riding along this journey with me. Things have gotten a lot busier this month, so I’m not sure I’ll be writing much more. Hopefully that means you will all come by and visit soon!
February was definitely the month of mobility. I began by perfecting my “wounded soldier” crawl. Then, at play gym one day, I bowed to the peer pressure from the pip-squeaks around me, and started to crawl. It’s not too bad, and I can move across the living room pretty quickly now. Mom and Dad don’t like that my travels have enabled me to try eating computer cords, dirty wet wipes, a large chunk of clay, old food, and a dime. Oh, and I can now pull myself up to stand and lean on things. The view is much better standing up. The problem is I’m not sure how to get back down, so it’s a good thing I know how to whine.
In entertainment news, I am getting much better at dis-organizing. Every single toy must be taken off the shelf and spread out on the floor, otherwise it’s no fun. I have noticed that Mom and Dad don’t have as many toys out for me now. Ironic. That’s OK, luckily there are also clothes in drawers and paper in recycling bins that can be emptied. Speaking of drawers, I only just figured out that they open. It’s a whole new world in there! You have to be careful not to close them on your hand though; that really hurts. A good cry will get me a snuggle, but Mom and Dad need to learn that I am not the cuddly type. I just need to know you’re there, and that’s it. I’ll listen to your songs and I might play a little peek-a-boo, but all this “hugging” is cramping my style. There’s too much else to explore in the world to make time for cuddles.
When it comes to solid food, I’m getting pickier. Sometimes I prefer to grind my teeth than put food in there. Plain lentils used to be a favourite, but now that I have tasted cumin and coriander, I need those spices. That said, I’ll still eat plain tofu. I don’t know why, but that flavourless block is delicious! You know what’s even more fun than eating? Throwing food. It used to end up on the floor but that’s not as exciting as flinging it onto the wine rack or the wall on the other side of the dinner table.
Things are feeling a little different in the house these last few days. I see Mom getting out what she calls her “work clothes” and Dad seems to be bringing a lot of stuff back from his office. Something’s up but I guess I’ll have to wait until next month to see what changes they’ll throw at me. I can guarantee that whatever they’re up to, I’ll have a lot more to throw back at them!
This month started off with a bang. Over the span of two weeks, my two top teeth appeared, and I got very cranky. When incisors start poking through my gums, I need Mom close by, and that’s the way it’s going to be.
In mobility-related news, attempting to crawl seems like a of work with minimal pay-off. I may give up on trying altogether. Plus, I’ve figured out how to move myself forward without using my knees: when I’m on my stomach, I pull myself with my arms. Some call it the “wounded soldier”, but to me it’s the best way to get what I want across the room.
In the food department, it’s always been a bit messy. Compared with my friends though, I think I’m tidy. I’ve realized it’s a lot of fun to rub my hands through my hair when eat. It doesn’t matter what I’ve had; fish, pasta and tomato sauce, I need to wipe it around. In other news, Mom and Dad have started bathing me more often. Go figure. I do my part to clean up by washing my hands in my drinking cup before I drink out of it now. It adds a certain je-ne-sais-quoi to the water. When it comes to what I eat, almost anything goes (even pine needles or the fluff from my booties). Mom and Dad seemed surprised when I took a liking to kimchi, curry, and pieces of lemon, but come on, who doesn’t love a little flavour?!
When it comes to play time, I’ve become much more observant. I didn’t use to play favourites. Give me a rattle, a block, a bottle of pills, a spoon, a toilet paper roll, a tiny shampoo bottle, or a stuffed teddy. They were all super fun. Nowadays, when Mom, Dad, or a playmate, decide they want what I have, I need to put up a fight. And I’m strong. I’ll give it to you when I’m finished playing with it. It’s only fair.
P.S. I’ve started waving goodbye, and people think I can say “mama.” No one but me knows for sure.
In honour of starting month 8, I continued my trend of finding a new way to challenge Mom and Dad. I have decided to hate diaper changes, especially on the change table. My parents try to distract me with a toy or by singing. Despite their tone deafness, I find a little “Itsy Bitsy Spider” can distract me from the diaper change better than the toy alone.
Mom and Dad have also been doing this “diaper free baby” thing with me for the last 6 months. That means I’m supposed to do most of my “business” on the toilet. I also get a toy that assists me in negotiating the business deal, but it often ends up in the toilet, and the deal falls through. Mom’s learned to give me plastic toys, to be on the safe side. Then for a few weeks, I went on strike. The toilet was not working – I could only do business with the diaper. After a few days, I started getting a bit of diaper rash, and decided it was time to end the strike. I chose my timing well, and started using the toilet again right around the time of my Oma’s 100th birthday. Pretty good present for her I thought, since we were staying at her house 🙂
I’ve also started to think finger foods are quite tasty and should be offered at every meal. But, let’s be honest, being spoon fed is much easier. So, I often help put the spoon in my mouth now, and I prefer most of my food that way. As long as there’s something for me to eat with my fingers, I’ll slowly munch away, taking about 10 minutes to eat one quarter of a piece of something.
I decided this crawling idea is also pretty cool, but I’m a slow learner and still haven’t mastered it. Rocking back and forth, especially in the crib when I think no one is watching, is really the best. During playtime, I often get frustrated. My legs and arms just don’t cooperate. I blame my pants. I’ve seen Mom and Dad try to dance in jeans, and it’s embarrassing.
At the end of last month, Mom and Dad brought me to Ontario and Quebec. I tell you, these places are terribly cold. Nothing like my last visit in September. We took a few walks but I decided to moan and whine pretty much the whole way. Who wants to have a red nose if you don’t have to?
My swan song this month, in exchange for being somewhat more cooperative in the diaper department, is that I only want to be with Mom. If she’s more than half a foot away or if someone else tries to hold me, I whine and start crying loudly. Mom finds it tougher to get things done around the house now but I think she just needs to get creative. I haven’t decided how long or whether I’ll continue with this. It’s fairly tiring on my end…we’ll see.
Another month, another 30 days of playing, eating, sleeping, and pooping. So, what’s new? Sitting up is still pretty cool. They say that some babies start crawling around now but I’m not ready. You can’t see the world very well down there so I figure what’s the point?
Despite my ever-improving dexterity (side note: I can now throw an iPhone), the odd toy still gets away from me, but there’s always something else to play with. Speaking of toys, most of them aren’t as interesting as water bottles, tupperware containers, phones, paper, and hoodie strings. These are a few of my favourite things.
I’ve also started standing. OK, not without the help of our trusty ottoman. I’m only 7 months old, let’s not get ahead of ourselves, right people? But standing is fabulous. I don’t know if or when I’ll get on this crawling thing but it ain’t gonna happen today.
On the sleep front, I feel fairly rested. I still enjoy making an occasional squawk between 4:00 and 530AM but I usually sleep from 7:30PM to 6:00AM. Sometimes even 6:30! The day is much more enjoyable this way.
Napping is a different story. As I’ve said before, the daytime world is just so cool. Mom decided to “sleep train” me for naps, so she stopped giving me the soother. She says it’s a “prop” but I say it’s awfully delicious and relaxing. They tell me I’m supposed to sleep for at least an hour at each nap. Sometimes I do, and sometimes I don’t. I have to keep Mom and Dad on their toes, right?
When it comes to food, I’ve tried a lot of new things. Before it was only protein, fruit, and vegetables, but I’ve recently decided that toast, pasta, quinoa, amaranth, and oatmeal are also really good. I used to hate restaurants but now, as long as I get to eat some food, it’s pretty fun. I still prefer it when they feed me with a spoon but the odd piece of toast, pasta, or swiss chard can be fun to eat on my own, even if it takes 10 minutes.
I’d say it’s been a good month. Mom and Dad brought me to New Orleans, but I think they cared more about the trip than me. Crawfish is pretty tasty, and so are the restaurant tables down there. Eating that table may have been my highlight. Tune in next month. I’ll be travelling to Ontario and Quebec so I’m sure I’ll have some great adventures.
At the beginning of this month, I started sitting up all by myself. By the second day I realized it is the best way to see the world so I decided to make it my new favourite thing to do. In fact, it’s even better than the “circle of neglect” (as Mom and Dad call it) so I usually get cranky when I’m put in there now. The other thing I love to do more than ever is hang out in the carrier facing forward. I can see so much and I can also swing my legs from side to side like I’m dancing. It’s even better than the trusty jolly jumper!
What else is new? I gave in to Mom and Dad, but not without a fight, to this “sleep training.” I gave it my best effort, sometimes exercising my lungs for two hours straight, but they wore me down. They only came in every 10-15 minutes and never stayed all that long. So, I gave up, and most nights I’ve decided I’m better off sleeping until 5 or 6am. Mom and Dad are a lot more fun now so I guess it was worth it.
I’m enjoying solid food even more now. I’ve tried eating a couple of things myself, but why bother if Mom and Dad will feed me with a spoon? It’s definitely the easier way to go! My favourite foods are meat, fish, tofu, blueberries, and apples. Sometimes I like lentils, but I’m not much of a beans girl, unless they’re mixed with blueberries. Actually, anything mixed with blueberries is pretty delicious.
I’m becoming more expressive and I’ve decided scrunching my nose is pretty cool. Oh, and so is sticking out my tongue. Sometimes I make circles all around my lips with it. So much fun!
Since the first few weeks of “sleep training”, Mom and Dad would probably say I’m pretty easy to manage now. It’s a tight schedule between naps, the breastaurant, and solids, but I’m quite entertaining, if I do say so myself. What’s in store for Mom and Dad next? Stay tuned until next month to find out 😉