Wednesday, 27 February 2013

I love a good story

Today on the way home, the DJ played Bruce Springsteen’s Glory Days. He might as well have dedicated it to me. It’s just what I needed after the day I’d had. That song is the right amount of rock and vocals if you ask me. If I was a different kind of person, I might have slapped the steering wheel to the rhythm of the drums, nodded my head to the beat as I sang along.  I didn’t do that. I’m just saying.

Excellent. Song.

My high school boyfriend John flashed through my mind. He introduced me to Springsteen when I was 15, a love he’d inherited from his Dad I think. He took me to the Tunnel of Love concert at the Joe Louis Arena in Detroit, where I got to witness firsthand the Boss’s stamina and amazing stage presence.

I thought back, too, on earlier times with Shaune before we had the kids. Times when after getting home from the bars we’d play our favourite music and take turns singing along, loudly  and as close to the original as possible– a sort of karaoke off.

Glory Days was often in the queue on those nights. Of course so was plenty of red wine.

I listen to CBC Radio 2 on my drive home. You never know what Rich Terfry will play. He always has interesting little tidbits about some of the songs, which for me is just as good as the music. Like the other day before he played this Mowglis song he told us that when Lindsay Lohan tweeted that people should listen to it, the Mowglis’ album sales went  through the roof and their website practically exploded  from the sheer number of people trying to access it. Lindsay Lohan.

I love a good story.

My favourite thing recently is to eavesdrop on the boys. I can’t get enough of their little conversations especially when they like each other. I feel well within my rights in doing this. I guess I look at it as auditing for supervision purposes. And if I'm going to be perfectly honest with myself. I’m also mining for blogging gold.

I know there will be a day when this will be considered high crimes. A time when they won’t speak so freely in my presence.

I have to tell you. I dread that day.  

A few mornings ago before work, while I was ironing my clothes, I heard Deaglan tell Naveen that Mommy was sick. (I pulled my groin muscle and had been laid up on the couch over the weekend.) I can’t remember Naveen’s response but Deaglan continued saying,

“I hope Mommy gets better soon so she can go to her job and raise enough money to keep our house for a little longer.”

A) I hadn’t missed a single day of work for this injury I swear! And B) How devastating that my five year old thinks we’re barely hanging on by a financial thread, one step away from living on the streets!

Friday, 22 February 2013

An Ode to Robert Redford

One evening, in early April, when Deaglan was just four months old, Shaune and I grabbed the baby monitor, two ice cold Coronas corked with fresh lime and headed to the front porch. It was the first patio night of the year. The first swallow of alcohol I’d had since before I got pregnant.

We sipped our beers in silence. There was plenty to see on that warm spring night, the soft tinkling of lullabies from the monitor our background music.

Cars drove slowly past, their windows rolled down, and the people within smiling and friendly. Bikers and hikers moved along the sidewalks, in no hurry to reach their destinations. Even the red maple out front swayed gently in the temperate breeze, its luscious green shoots seeming to inhale the air all around; giddy with the exuberance that spring could be here to stay.

I always think of that night when I’m up to my elbows in February’s shenanigans.

It’s doing me in I’m afraid, and yesterday might have been the last straw.

In the morning a hard rain fell. It began after I’d already left the house which was nothing short of spectacular considering I needed to make multiple stops on the way. I arrived at work and caught sight of my reflection in a window: Alice Cooper with slightly better fashion sense. 

By late afternoon the rain had turned to icy slanting snow rendering my hoodless coat ornamental and my umbrella near useless. And at the car I could have wept when I realized I’d left the snow brush and scraper back home on the ledge of the porch.

I wasn’t cut out for this kind of ambivalence.

If April is the Robert Redford of weather, golden, handsome and weak-in-the-knees  dreamy like in The Way We Were, then February is Jason Alexander in Pretty Woman. Short, yes, but full of unnecessary drama and kind of mean. Definitely no George Costanza.

Which is all to say, February you suck.

I’ve raised my white flag, searched out solace.  I've taken extreme therapeutic measures: curative chocolate, remedial movie style popcorn and necessary but moderate doses of Argentinean Cabernet.  

I’ve also made regular commune with the great shamans of my mind – Fashion blogs, Netflix, and of course Anne Lamott who says in Help, Thanks, Wow, The three essential prayers  on page 27 “If I were going to begin practicing the presence of God for the first time today, it would help to begin by admitting the three most terrible truths of our existence: that we are so ruined, and so loved, and in charge of so little.”

Let me boldly add this fourth terrible truth - I really thought global warming was going to kick February in the teeth for good.

How's February treating you where you live?

Friday, 15 February 2013

A deposit

My parents gave the kids gift cards this past Christmas.

Their decision was based solely on the fact that every gift they bought for the boys last year was a duplicate of something they’d already received from one of our other relatives at earlier gift-opening ceremonies. When I noticed the recurring pattern, (and the disappointment on my parents’ faces each time)  I cringed with every subsequent unwrapping, silently praying it wasn’t something else they’d already received, knowing full well that Deaglan would exclaim loud and clear to the affirmative if it was.

So this year when they opened their Christmas mail from Mimi and Papa  (my parents winter in Mexico and had sent the cards ahead of time should we want to choose the gifts for the kids ourselves to eliminate last year's dilemma), I quickly explained what gift cards were. I had them (mostly Deaglan) imagine a time, much, much farther into the future, after Christmas was well behind us, when they might finally feel bored with their Christmas (and for Deaglan, birthday) toys, a point when they might be thinking how nice it would be to have a new toy or book. I explained that this was precisely when they would be delighted to realize they could walk into the toy and book store (for they’d received a gift card for each) and choose something of their wanting.

I’ll tell you, the prospect of this sounded very good to Deaglan, very, very good indeed. So good in fact, that after I’d explained it to him, he could not tuck the idea away for that future day I spoke of. Instead he wondered out loud every single day for the next few weeks if it might be the right day, that very day, to spend those gift cards, so that each time, increasingly wearily, I pointed out what I felt was the obvious, that there was an enormous pile of new toys, some still in its packaging, fresh, yet unplayed-with at his disposal.

This did nothing to discourage him.

It’s difficult for me to reconcile this kind of excess. On the one hand I’m exceedingly grateful to our very generous families for using their hard earned money to create wonderful Christmas experiences for our boys. I’m very, very grateful for it; I can’t stress this enough.

But I wonder too, each year, whether there is a way to stop the insanity of it; to bring the season back to its essence, you know, family time, helping people who need it, celebrating without all the commercialism and consumerism.

Every time I consider that the right thing might very well be to take a stand, stop celebrating Christmas in this way altogether, I am forced to play the scenario out. And this is exactly when I recognize that although I could really get behind a more wholesome, natural way of doing things, due to the fact that I’m easily distracted, in order to really pull it off, we'd likely have to cut all ties with everyone we know in the free world, move out to the deep, deep woods somewhere in the northern part of the province perhaps; an isolated foresty locale where we would be required to live out a rustic, pastoral existence, without TV or internet influencing our desires for little more than twigs and rocks for amusement. A lifestyle  I fear I am in no way equipped to handle either emotionally or by way of skillset.

I’ve rambled. 

And I’m sorry.

Because this is not at all what I wanted to regale you with today. What I really wanted to tell you, mostly because you’ve received this kind of thing so well over the years and also a teensy bit because when you’re the mother of small kids who consistently do things that astound and amuse you (and so we're clear – also irritate the crap out of you), there is an itching desire to tell someone or many someones about it.  

You realize, however, not everyone thinks your kids are as charming as you do, and you can only deposit so many stories of their adorable antics into the Bank of Good, Kind, Listening Friend (GKLF if you will), so that you find yourself taking the leftovers to your blog to fully document the depth and breadth of how scrumptiously delectable your naughty two year old is.  

Sheesh, I’ve sort of built that up in a way I may not be able to deliver.

Here’s the thing: Every time Naveen sees me squeezing my Shea butter lotion into the palm of my hands, he asks if he can have some too. And every time I give him a dab, he rubs his pudgy little hands together, takes a whiff and says, “Mmm, Mommy your lotion smells like soup!” Only he has an S impediment (Love!) so he says thoup.

Also when we went to Toys R Us last weekend to spend the gift cards from Mimi and Papa, while Deaglan took close to eight hours to deliberate on just the right thing (an Iron Man star tek armour set) Naveen walked straight to the bright pink aisles, found a sparkling fuchsia Minnie Mouse tea cart on wheels, fully equipped with three different cupcakes, a lazy Susan, and purple serving tray and declared without hesitation that this is what he'd be taking home.


Thanks for letting me get that off my chest.

Saturday, 9 February 2013

Not a public service announcement

I used to smoke.

In fact I smoked for over ten years. And it’s not popular to say but I loved it and if it wasn’t such a health hazard I would easily take smoking up again. It helped relieve my anxiety. That’s not a medical conclusion, simply my own very unprofessional experience of it. Deep down I am very, very shy and socially awkward. This showed itself flagrantly up until the end of my teen years, but once I was away, in a different city, alone at university, and finally able to dabble in a bit of rebellion without the stresses of home, I began to find ways to hide it.

Social drinking and smoking transformed my personality. I felt more confident with a cigarette in hand, a bit of a buzz in my head. Holding that cigarette gave me something to do, masked the feeling that I was completely vulnerable, allowed me to make small talk, and shut out the voices in my head that taunted me otherwise: You don’t know what you’re talking about. Nobody cares what you have to say. Shut up.

And besides, all my friends smoked.

But I knew I was not destined to be a long-time smoker. It’s not something I wanted to continue into my “responsible” adult years; because you see, it didn’t fit with the image of parenthood I’d been nursing. I’m sure had I felt the freedom to be more of a typical teenager back when I was the age to do so, when my friends were going to parties, experimenting with pot and alcohol, I might have gotten smoking out of my system in say, my mid twenties. But my teen years were taxing in ways that made me feel I had to stay in complete control, keep order, take on grown-up tendencies.

The spring of my 34th  year seemed like as good time as any to think about quitting. I used a nicotine patch for the first few weeks. But it was expensive and I felt persistently light headed from the almost constant release of nicotine into my system. By the time I’d decided to quit, I’d been only smoking after work and in the evenings. This steady flow of nicotine was too much.

I decided to go cold turkey after a while.

Because we lived together, Shaune and I knew we wouldn’t be successful unless we both quit. We forced ourselves to bow out of social events, stayed home for a few months, miserable and isolated in our withdrawal. But neither of us could imagine ordering a drink and not lighting up. It was a torturous, unnatural-seeming time those first few months. I remember feeling deeply resentful of my friends who were still smoking. I missed the smell when it suddenly snuck up on me in the street and having a glass of wine was no longer exciting and joyful as it once had been.

But I stuck it out.

Eventually I found comfort in knowing I had done something wonderful for my body. Food’s flavour blossomed. It felt good and right not to be spending ten bucks a day on something so insidious.  And I was very glad for the discounted rates on my life insurance policy once I officially qualified for non-smoker status. Most satisfying though, I’m growing into who I am, not fighting my natural shyness when it shows up.

I’ve been thinking a lot about how hard it is to quit something.

We’re trying to get Naveen to lose interest in his pacifier, his beloved choo-choo. When we fought this battle with Deaglan, and I’m not exaggerating when I say this; it was like negotiating with an unyielding heroine junkie. For a full week he slept in our bed, crying out every hour or so throughout the night, begging us for it. It was frightening for Shaune and me, to hear our three year old desperately beseeching us and having to deny him consistently for the greater good.

Only cold turkey worked.

I know this. And yet here I am again, fooling myself into thinking that I can take it away from Naveen in increments. Friends give me all sorts of great ideas – cut the tips off, plan to make a gift to a new baby, etc, etc. They also tell me that someday this will be a distant memory; I won’t even remember the agony of it. 

I know it’s true, I know it must be, but it’s very very real right now. And in my effort to be gentle, offer him the room he needs to perhaps give it up on his own, it feels ominous, even impossible. I'll keep at it and let you know how it goes.

This is Scrappy, our friends Jenn and Mario's dog. I was looking through our pictures and forgot about this one from last summer. Fitting I think.

Wednesday, 6 February 2013

Revelations two

During a recent business trip, I sat close to a woman who had a near perfect head of hair. I couldn’t stop staring at the glossy black curls, loose and beachy, sort of Jennifer Aniston on the rebound yet structured, well formed - , so that I puzzled for longer than I should be willing to admit to you, whether she’d employed a wide barreled curling iron, hot rollers or the newly revived sponge curlers everyone has been discussing.

And for God sakes, I wondered, what kind of miracle hair product had she used?

I watched with utter fascination (and unreserved envy) as the day passed; her flawlessly coiffed mane wore no signs of resignation. A few times I shushed Shaune out of my head. I could imagine what he might say about the length of her bangs; the hazards of knowing a person too well, I guess. He’d likely give me his very unfashion forward opinion that she was in desperate need of a trim; maybe make a clever joke about sheep dogs.

But at dinner, even after we’d walked several Toronto city blocks to the restaurant, a windy cold evening with which I took no chances, my hair pulled haphazardly into a ponytail, this woman’s hair rolled elegantly off of her shoulders, unchanged, smug, pristine.

I asked her, finally, what the secret was, admitting even to myself that my 10 hour preoccupation with this stranger’s hair might be a teensy bit excessive.

Friends, this is my very long and winded way of telling you that I have added a fifth style to my hair repertoire!

You see, up until now, I toggled fairly consistently between straight and curly (which is a very fancy way of saying left to air-dry with a touch of mousse) and also ponytail and messy bun (by which I mean: ponytail pulled halfway through). 

And it’s never been documented anywhere that I know of, but I do believe sometime after Deaglan was born and just before I came back to work after Naveen joined us, I may have broken a regional record for most days donning a ponytail.

Braggy I know. But true.

Anyway, apparently like Dorothy, I had the power all along; because while for years now I’d been using my flat iron to straighten my hair, in one flashy blindsiding second this woman – Jillian – gave me the stunning news that it can also curl it.

I love epiphanies. If you ask me, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with an A-ha moment.

It was like that a few months ago when I took a long hard look at my cleaning routine. I’d been struggling as any full time working parent often does. Every week I crammed all my cleaning and laundry to-do’s into one Sunday afternoon. I vacuumed. And I scrubbed. I folded.  And I put away.

But by Tuesday morning the house always looked like we’d been raided by the feds searching for an illicit stash of heroine.

I remembered that a few months back, Shaune had subtly dropped into conversation that while growing up his house was always tidy. Naturally, I took this very, very personally and questioned the foundation of our marriage, considered whether this was the right time to get in touch with a Divorce Attorney. 

But then the next time I saw Fran, my mother-in-law, who I adore by the way, I asked her outright. “How did you work full time as a nurse and keep the house clean with four kids?”

“I got a lot of my cleaning done in the early mornings before everyone else was awake.”


So for two months now, I’ve been getting up 30 minutes earlier than usual and cleaning the main floor of the house. It’s changed my life. I can’t tell you how much happier we are. The messes still get made, in fact Naveen actually thinks we live in a landfill, evidenced by the way he eats toast and casually drops the crust on the floor without skipping a beat, and I still do laundry and a more thorough cleaning on Sundays. 

But I have to admit I no longer cringe at the thought of someone ransacking our house mid weekday. Sort of like that wearing clean underpants in case I die today rule.

The kids on Sunday evening after they'd been bathed and clothed by Shaune. You'll want to note their mismatched pyjamas, matching pieces for which were in the very same drawers he got these.

Saturday, 2 February 2013

Mostly because of Deaglan

When I was two, I remember a day when my mother was laying on her side on the floor of our mud hut, the neighbour ladies were helping her through labour, my sister Halima was about to be born. I was crying and kicking her in the back wanting her to turn around. To see me.

Almost forty years have passed and I still recall how it felt to not have her full attention that day. She was the only one back then who I wanted to be with, the only one who mattered and the only person who showed me true affection.

When I was adopted into my Canadian family, crowded with other kids, some of them still babies; I switched the need for my parents’ attention off, I was seven after all. But an existential loneliness followed me right into my thirties. Nothing ever replaced my mother’s love.

When Deaglan came along, I realized that I could give him what was no longer available to me after I left Bangladesh; find relief, finally, from that loneliness.

I reread Anne Lamott’s Operating Instructions recently where she wrote this:

"Before I got pregnant with Sam, I felt there wasn’t anything that could happen that would utterly destroy me. . . .  Now there is something that could happen that I could not survive: I could lose Sam. I look down into his staggeringly lovely little face, and I can hardly breathe sometimes. He is all I have ever wanted, and my heart is so huge with love that I feel like it is about to go off. At the same time, I feel that he has completely ruined my life, because I didn’t used to care all that much."

And like everything she writes, this filled me with recognition because of course it’s exactly how I have experienced motherhood.

A few nights ago it became clear to me that Deaglan does not understand why I tend to Naveen so often.  If we are sitting, Naveen is sqinched in beside me. If he isn’t sqinched to my side, he’s  melted into my lap. At restaurants, a flamboyant fit ensues if I even hint that he sit across the table. And while lying down, he’s almost always nestled into my armpit.

I’ve mentioned my boys’ competition for my affection before, but this is something else. I’d been taking for granted that my just-turned five year old understood that Mommies always have to take care of the babies first. It never occurred to me that Deaglan could see that Naveen is no longer a baby, he'll be three in the Spring.

I could kick myself for how wrong I've been in my assumptions. 

We were laying there, all three of us on the king sized bed one night, me sipping wine and reading, while the kids watched one last show before bed. Deaglan asked if he could have a turn to cuddle beside me. It caught me off guard because his request was not pouty or demanding. 

It was a brief quiet second, one which knocked sense into me.

I'd have be more clear with this five year old of mine, this boy I have loved so big that it's impossible to measure. I would have to start pulling him close on purpose more often, give him a turn in my arms especially when he didn't ask. I'd have to let him know that I needed him beside me just as much as I need his brother. That my love for him had only grown since that first minute we met.

This is an old picture of Deaglan and me.