September 2007

September 05

Thanks Bruce

I have been feeling very run-down lately.  I know why too.  I am 7 months pregnant and the baby has discovered how to kick, punch and head-butt his way around his universe (and my mid-section) as practice for when I now know comes around the 14th month point.  My previously adorable toddler has turned into a raving lunatic overnight.  She doesn’t know what she wants but expects me to, and when I don’t offer precisely her heart’s desire, she flops onto the ground and wails.  She went through a period of a few weeks of absolute heart-melting cuteness where when you put her to bed, she would hug her “Bear” and then you and rest her head on your shoulder and make this monotonous humming sound in your ear while she cuddled into you for a few minutes.  The she would lift her head, point to her bed and wave “bye-bye” as you blew kisses to each other and tip-toed out of the room.  Sigh.  Now she clings to your neck like an albatross and you practically have to run for the door so you don’t get hit with a flying toy thrown from her furious hand. 
 
She has perfected the writhing flop with alligator tears and all it needs now is some fist pounding and body throwing to make it a full-blown temper tantrum.  She refuses to eat anything that even faintly resembles a vegetable, and fruit must be of the berry variety only.  And, she has discovered shocking new abilities, like how to climb onto the plant shelf by using the lamp base as a push off point, and that magnets do indeed fit through the floor vents. 
 
Enter my husband.  Bruce has many good qualities, but out of all of them, the one that serves him the best is his ability to know just how far he can ignore my raging moods before I actually kill him (and not just plan out his murder step by step in my head).  This last weekend he realized only moments too soon that I was angry with him and he listened attentively while I ranted and raved and berated him to my heart’s content.  “Don’t you have anything to say for yourself” I demand?  He just looks at me with what I can only assume is humour in his eyes.  He wisely does not utter a word.  The next day he tip-toes out of our bedroom and plays with Bronwyn for an hour before I get up.  Good start.  He looks after her all day in fact.  “What to do, what to do” I think to myself.  I spend the day lounging at the neighbours’ house in her new pool and winning at poker.  A nice day.  I still have a demanding fetus to contend with, but except for a few extra trips to the bathroom, he can be ignored pretty easily.  It doesn’t stop there though.  Every night this week, Bruce has taken it upon himself to take Bronwyn for a few hours so I can get stuff done.  When I complained about making dinner, he said let’s get a pizza then.  The upside?  I am happier and my kitchen is cleaner.  Win-win I say. 
September 08

A Tale of Two Tales

Gross
When I was not a mother, I judged very harshly.  It has now come to my attention that you can’t judge your own.  It wouldn’t be fair and it wouldn’t be right.  You certainly cannot judge those who have children older than your own.  This has held me in good stead (I think) and I am learning to modify my thinking to a “as long as they are not in actual immediate danger, who am I to say anything” mentality.  The one thing that I have yet to store away as an archaic notion though has been that phenomenon where parents are allowed (and even encouraged) to place gross things in their own mouths for the benefit (or sheer amusument) of their offspring.  Bruce embraced this concept from the moment Bronwyn arrived home from the hospital.  He would place her dirty, disgusting soother in his mouth and let her take it from him and pop it in her own mouth and on and on the game goes.  I have no qualms about cleaning her soother off in my mouth, but only after I have at least cleaned it on my shirt first (I know I know- what kind of logic is that?).  But, there you have it.  I think it is disgusting.  I have a very specific memory of when I was a young teenager.  We are in the church basement and I glance over and see a mother take her child’s lollipop out of his mouth, take a few licks and then give it back.  It is a good thing I am past the vomiting stage of pregnancy because even the memory makes me gag.  All that saliva and spit-up…
But, all that made an about-face today at breakfast.  Today at breakfast was the first time that I became one of those parents.  And I didn’t even notice until the dirty deed was done.  Brownyn was attempting (rather sucessfully actually) to dip her spoon into her applesauce and then proceed to bring the entire mass to her mouth for consumption.  I wasn’t paying attention, as my mind was mostly on my french toast, and a little on what Bruce was saying; so, when a large dribble of applesauce fell out of Bronwyn’s mouth and down her chin, I was not thinking about how it had just come from her mouth, but rather how difficult that would be to scrape off the floor later.  So I did what any lazy mother would do, I snaked my finger out and wiped the sauce from her chin.  And then I ate it.  It tasted like applesauce.  I didn’t die either.  What have I turned into?
 
Cold-Blooded Killer
Our street, like most streets I imagine, is having a house-fly problem.  I have to admit that our house has been luckier (or better insulated) than most, and our infestation is minimal.  But some of those pesky, noisy insects make it into our home and with no dogs to dispose of them, they are living the good life.  They like to congregate in Bronwyn’s room (for food and fellowship I like to imagine) and she spends a good portion of her day watching them buzz around.  All of this studying of their habits must have paid off though because the girl can kill a fly!  I first noticed this the other day when we were playing on her floor.  One came within reach of her tiny pincer grasp, and that must have been the last thing it remembered.  Bronwyn deftly scooped it up and crushed it between thumb and forefinger.  I was shocked.  Who taught this baby how to kill things?  If anyone did not believe in inherent sin before, they have to now.  Since that time she has been making it her mission to capture and kill as many of them as she can. 
Now, before you judge and call me a bad, unsanitary mother, please remember that for the first few times I was simply in too much shock to stop her, and now…well…someone’s got to get rid of them, right?
September 11

Not that you asked…

 First off, I want to warn you that this blog will be neither stimulating nor creative.  But I had a better than mundane day today and I thought I’d share.  It started with me waking up bright and early to find out that the drain in our kitchen sink is still clogged.  Go figure, so I packed up Bronwyn early and headed to WalMart for some more Draino.  As I was waiting in the never-ending line, Bronwyn was being her usually energetic self (I honestly don’t notice anymore) and I was doing my best to keep her corralled into at least our aisle.  She was receiving admiring stares from the other shoppers and after another feeble attempt to wrangle her into the cart I just let her out and watched as she tried (unsuccessfully because I was holding the handle) to push the cart into the backs of the legs of the lady in front of us.  This being given up as a fruitless cause, she turned her attention to pulling all the toothbrushes off the stand beside us (she does love oral hygiene), and failing that, attempting to just make a mad escape between the legs of a fellow shopper.  This is when said shopper looked over at me, smiled and said “you’re going to have your hands full with this one, aren’t you?”.  Am I?  Compared to some people’s kids (Lauren I am talking about you here), she is the model of self-control and lady-like tendencies.  Am I blind or just used to it I wonder?
 
After (finally) escaping from WalMart, we headed (belatedly) to the church for Bible Study.  This was the first week and we were invited specifically so I thought I would give it a try.  Bronwyn has been doing well with only one nap lately and they promised a nursery worker, so I figured we could see what it was like the first week and make a judgement based on that. 
 
My judgement: FANTASTIC!
 
Not only did they have a nursery, but the woman in charge was going to be there every week.  Which means no one has to miss every 6th tuesday morning to help out.  Which is helpful in an ongoing study where missing a week can really set you back.  I bought the book on the spot.  I was definitely coming back.  This all before I had even started the study or seen how Bronwyn behaved, so enamoured was I with the organization of the whole thing.  At the end of the first session, when I went to retrieve my offspring, she didn’t even notice I had returned.  They were doing crafts, and had story-time, and centres to play at!!  Can I take this woman home with me?  We are asked to donate a few bucks a week to pay for her helper and supplies, but other than that, it is an hour and half of fellowship with other women while my child is being stimulated in a nurturing, caring, Christian environment.  Can life get any better? 
 
Apparently it can.  The study is Beth Moore’s Daniel and is much less “girly” than her others.  Very historical and full of parallels to today’s society.  Not just another how to be a better woman series.  The leader appears competent and in control of the group.  And the coffee was tasty.  I am content.
 
When I returned home, I called up my dad who advised me on the problem of my blocked pipes, and although Bruce hasn’t fixed it yet, he’s at a night meeting, so I’ll let it slide.  For those of you who ask why I don’t just fix it myself, you may call me lazy, chauvanistic, or bossy (or worse) but there is a reason I got married, and it wasn’t to fix the house.  Or cut the grass or take out the garbage.  If you think I am standing in the way of progress with my archaic view of women’s and men’s roles, then just be happy you don’t live here and face being subjected to it daily.
 
The night was topped off by Bruce snagging some adorable video footage of Bronwyn’s progress in the walking department.  I will post it shortly.  Now it is barely 7pm and my child is fast asleep, blissfully unaware of the tiny razors poking through her tender gums, thanks to Tylenol, cherry flavour.  And with Bruce gone for the evening, I have the night to myself.  Which is why I have the freedom to even be on the computer at this hour.  What should I do with myself?  I could read a book, watch television that is not interspersed with sports highlights, or take a bath.  The list is endless and wonderful. 
September 15

Mind-reader

 I am not a mind-reader.  I don’t really believe in such things (although I am sure Bruce will contest that!).  But lately, I can read Bronwyn’s thoughts.  They are just splayed out there on her face for anyone with half of a brain to see.  So I don’t think this is any kind of mommy power that I have developed, just plain observation. 
 
She has started to recognize that things take steps.  And as you watch the wheels in her brain frantically churning and sputtering to make the connections necessary to allow her to place the steps in the correct order and then execute them properly, you wonder how she doesn’t keel over from exhaustion! 
 
Yesterday she noticed the bathroom closet door was closed.  Now there is nothing in there that she can’t play with (that stuff is placed so high even I can’t reach it!), and I don’t usually close the door, but it was closed and this represented an incongruity in Bronwyn’s world.  Therefore, it must be investigated.  You see where this is going? 
 
I watched her stare at the handle for a few minutes.  She didn’t even try to reach for it (countless attempts at the back door have taught her something at any rate).  Instead she pushed the step stool I keep there close up against the wall and proceeded to climb it.  It is one of those 2-step stools (made by my own Steffers of course!!) so the steps are fairly low, but it took Bronwyn several minutes of putting one knee up and then down again ad nauseum before she dedicated herself to a starting point.  She made it up the first step with ease.  After all she is a stair-climbing genius.  The second stair was harder.  She couldn’t simply crawl up like the previous one because she would run into the wall.  Which she did.  Countless times.  To summarize, it took her easily 15 minutes to determine that the only way to go up was to literally walk up the steps.  This from a child who is barely walking on level surfaces.  However she is nothing if not persisitent.  And I would also like to comment here on all those experts who say toddlers have no attention span.  I think 20 minutes at one activity (especially a frusterating one) can be classified as a “span”.  Eventually she succeeded in placing her one foot on the step and then balancing precariously on said foot while her tiny fingers found tiny groove holes in the trim; and, with her face smushed up against the wall like her cheek could somehow help her keep her balance, she successfully brought her other foot up to join the first. 
 
You may ask why I bothered to write all this down in painstaking detail, but I wanted you to fully experience (to the best of my ability) the sense of accomplishment she felt upon finally being able to reach the door handle.  I watched her face as she reached up slowly (whether to savour the moment or to maintain her balance I am not sure) to grasp the handle, anticipated knowledge etched on her face.  A glow of imminent success lighting her features as you could read as plain as a book that this was her goal all along.  That this was what she had worked so hard to achieve.  Imagine then, the utter disappointment.  The crash of hope and the sorrow that accompanies the sure knoweldge that the very thing you have strived for has eluded your grasp, and that you have failed.  Imagine this look on the face of your first-born on the eve of her maiden voyage into cognitive awareness and higher thinking.  The bewilderment that takes over her countenance as you literally watch her retrace the steps in her head. 
 
What could have gone wrong? 
 
Because the door isn’t opening as planned. 
 
How could it?  The stool is in front of the door. 
September 16

Prouder than a group of lions

I will continue in our series of things that Bronwyn does that amaze me.  Today’s installment actually happened friday after Bruce got home from work.  Bronwyn had slept until the late hour of 5pm, and therefore, so did I.  We were both just waking up when Bruce came home and he grabbed Bronwyn and we all lay down on our bed together.   We rarely get to cuddle like this, not because we don’t have the opportunity, but because Bronwyn is simply not a cuddly child.  She never has been, and I doubt that that will change much.  It doesn’t bother me seeing as neither Bruce nor myself are particularly demonstrative by nature, but there is something so special about being hugged by your child that makes all the frusterations of the day go away. 
 
While we were laying in bed, trying desperately to keep Bronwyn sufficiently amused so that she wouldn’t try and get off the bed, thereby breaking up our leisure time and necessitating the beginning of our evening, Bruce thought up a fun game.  Hide and Seek!  I know I know he didn’t make up the game, but he thought of playing it with our resident wiggler, so he gets all the credit I had previously afforded the actual inventors of said game.  He grabbed a little flashlight we had been playing with up to this point and quite melodramatically hid it under the pillow.  Bronwyn quickly “found” the flashlight and brandished it over her head for us to praise her quick thinking and awesome memory.  No self-esteem issues for my children.  We came up with increasingly harder hiding spots like the cuff of her jeans, and inside Bruce’s shirt pocket.  She flawlessly discovered each hiding place and the look of triumph and pride on her face motivated us to keep playing long after the game became boring for the adults. 
 
I made an off-hand remark to Bruce that although she was a great seeker, the hiding part was lacking.  At the very moment that the words were out of my mouth, Bronwyn took the flashlight and “hid” it in her hoodie behind her head.  Bruce and I were stunned.  But it only took moments to interpret the expectant look on her face and I reached behind her head and pulled out the flashlight.  She giggled and grabbed for it, placing it in the same hiding spot. 
 
The pride that one can feel for the accomplishments of a child can only grow exponentially with the child’s abilities, I am sure.  When your child is born, you have no way of knowing how intelligent or clever or savvy he will be.  But I am being allowed glimpses of Bronwyn’s potential and it swells my heart with pride. 
September 26

I hope she doesn’t end up like SJP on Sex in the City

 Bronwyn really likes shoes.  And socks.  She likes things on her feet.  I don’t particularly.  Bruce hates socks and will shed them at the first convenient opportunity, until I have small packs of sock creatures living unnoticed and unexterminated in all the nooks and crannies of my house where socks are said to take up residence.  Bronwyn recently realized that she has some small control over the coverings on her feet.  Most children realize this and confound their parents’ every attempt to keep socks ON their feet.  There are whole lines of socks and shoes designed specifically for children so that they can’t pull them off the second it is inconvenient or embarassing for their parents to retrieve them.  Where are the sock and shoe manufacturers for kids who like to put things on their feet but are unable to because their little fingers are not coordinated enough for such complicated manouvering?  Luckily Bronwyn has a mother who has nothing better to do all day than to take on and off foot apparel.  She starts the day by rummaging around the clean laundry basket of neatly folded (but as of yet not put away) clothes and comes up with a shirt and socks usually.  Who needs pants?  She then sits on her bottom and holds each foot high up in the air for me to place the sock on.  Then she crawls around looking for a pair of shoes.  Usually the dressier the better.  Her cute pink sunday shoes from the Gap are good for this.  I put those on next.  Then she spends five or ten minutes trying to convince me that her black patent leather Mary Jane-style shoes would look great on top of those!  If she isn’t wearing them, she is carrying them around.  She pushes them in her little toddling hippo contraption because there is a convenient storage section under the seat for just such a purpose. 
 
*Speaking of that hippo thing.  She loves it.  And her little car too.  She won’t walk on her own for more than a few steps without prompting, but she can walk backwards with these push toys, changing direction and allowing for much more advanced play opportunities.  She also enjoys climbing into the hippo one (where the toys go) and being pushed around the living room.  She climbs up anything she wants to.  Today she used her baby brother or sister as a stepping stool to scramble up onto the rocking chair.  Then she grabbed the back, stood up and started rocking it violently like she does with her rocking horse or motorcycle!  I am not too concerned because she is also a pro at getting down.  It was when she stood up in the centre and let go and tried to rock that I decided her brawn was bigger than her brain today. 
 
She climbs stairs up and down with ease, although sometimes she forgets which direction she is going in and starts up the other way!  Then she looks confused when she takes her bearings and realizes that she is not where she expected to be.  *The preceeding two paragraphs have been added for the benefit of the grandparents and aunties who don’t see her often and can’t get enough of the stories I can never remember to tell on the phone.
 
You can find countless articles on baby developmental milestones.  What your child should be doing at each month or stage is carefully spelled out.  You can go a little nuts trying to figure out if your child is “normal” by comparing her to every other child in the world, and yourself to every other mother.  But what I have found is that they don’t include all the things children do.  Like, for instance, I knew that Bronwyn perfected her pincer grasp early but crawled late.  She had extremely early head and trunk control but took forever to roll over.  But how do you categorize that she can distinguish her bears from her other stuffed animals, but still has trouble getting the right shape into the right hole in her shape sorter?  Or that she can walk backwards with assistance but eats an entire banana or box of raisins with no help whatsoever?  She is scared to crawl under things but thinks nothing of shoving her hand into the dogs’ mouths.  And she can point to all of her body parts on herself but is unable to find them in a picture. 
 
I am surprised daily by the things she can do, but it is often overshadowed by the knowledge that she isn’t really walking yet.  And she can still only say the same four words she could say two months ago.  And it doesn’t help when people in the street think she is a boy because she has short hair, and that she is younger than she is because she has no teeth and is small.  What is with all the comparing folks?!  I realized that I am a chronic comparer when I actually asked Bruce last night if he thought this other baby we know is prettier than Bronwyn.  Move over mom and Carolyn Zinn, I am in line for Worst Mother of the Year award. 
 
If I have another baby without first taking care of this obsession with perfection (or even just normalcy) that I seem to have acquired, I fear I will fall into the trap of treating my children the same just because they look alike or have the same parents.  It is the age-old nature vs nurture debate that appears to have no conclusion.  It is well documented, and I know from personal experience, that you cannot treat children equally or raise them in cookie-cutter fashion, employing the same techniques and tricks that worked with your first.  Or, even worse, that your mother used on you.  Besides, isn’t the fun in child-rearing discovering all the fluid ways that you can mold and shape each life and personality?  Our goal is not to have four clones of me.  Can you imagine?!  Phew.  I mean I like me, but we each deserve to be our own person, discovering an identity that makes us unique and fascinating to others. 
 
We are learning through the tuesday morning bible study that the City of Babylon and our culture today have too many similarities to ignore.  We both emphasize youth, beauty and intelligence as the most desirable traits (Daniel 1:3-4) with those that are opposite to that as something that should be avoided, altered, or shunned.  Am I, unknowingly and unwittingly, striving to instill in my children the same morals and beliefs the Babylonians worshipped?  On the face of it, I abhor “being the best”.  I desire to win, but not at the cost of the journey to get there.  But what if I don’t really believe that at all?  What if I just tell myself that youth, beauty and intelligence are not as important as moral fibre and integrity, but my actions are belying my words.  “As water reflects a face, so a man’s heart reflects the man” (Proverbs 27:19). 
 
I wasn’t intending for this to become a platform for my insecurities about motherhood.  But it is an interesting topic that lends itself well to discussion.  So, if anyone has any thoughts on our society as it relates to Babylon, or on the epidemic that is that culture.  Or even on the unfortunate need for us to lie to ourselves to preserve an integrity that might only be as thin as the web it was woven from, I would love to hear about it. 

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