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Monthly Archives: October 2012

What a Girl Really Needs

Things have been a little stressful – hectic, even – around here for a couple of weeks.  I am feeling the pressure in my business, baby E has been fighting some mysterious virus and just this morning woke up with her first-ever cold.  Connor is forgetting to do his homework, Sam is still trying to find his footing as the middle child.  MOMD has several projects that are all peaking at the same time and his days fly by in a haze of meetings and revisions. So you know, life hasn’t been the idyllic picnic I prefer.

And as you may have guessed when I wrote this whiny complain-y post earlier in the week, I hit the end of my rope.

And I know: my life is pretty amazing.  I want you to know upfront that I know that.  I am grateful for my partner and helpmeet in MOMD, for my hysterically funny children, for my patient and loving family… all of it.

What I am most grateful for though are good great friends.

For as long as I can remember I have been surrounded by peers who I love and adore.  When I was just a little kid, my best friends were my cousins.  And of course my sister.  We were together all the time, getting into all kinds of mischief.  And then in school I made some awesome friends some of whom I continue to share amazing relationships with.

Have you ever come to the point though where you stop making friends?  I don’t mean casual acquaintances like people you work with but never see outside of work, or parents you see at the school but never go for coffee with.  I mean friendships.  Just you and another person or two talking about your day/ife/kids and being together in the spirit of friendship.  I hit that point in my 20’s I think.

I am a mover and a shaker, I am always chatting with people.  In grocery stores, in lineups, on the street, at the park.  If you’re in the same space as I am you can pretty much bet I’m going to say something to you.  I stopped adding people to my life though; I didn’t take it beyond the acquaintance level after like 1998.  I never thought twice about it.  My life was full, there was always someone to hang with in a bar on a Friday night, I was happy.

Once Connor was born in 2004, I wasn’t really looking for people to hang in bars with anymore.  Lucky for me though, my dear friend Jill had her baby 6 weeks before I had Connor, and my sister was pregnant with my niece too.  We were all on maternity leave together, and Jill had a mini-van, and the 3 of us and our babies spent the year together, going where ever our hearts desired.  It was awesome.

Then when Sam came along in 2008, no one else was having a baby.  I was alone.  MOMD was working a 45km commute from home (which is a fair distance when you live in the economic heart of your country) with a 4 year old and a new born.  I was going stir crazy.  MOMD would get home from work and he would want to take the baby and have bonding time with him, thinking that this was also giving me a break.  Which it was – what I really wanted though was someone to talk to who would talk back to me.  I was starting to become depressed…

Enter the greatest thing to ever happen to me that year (aside from Sam’s birth, of course): MumNet.

I started joining things.  Groups for Moms.  Specifically Mumnet and “Songs by Sally“.  And I mean it: this was the best thing that I ever did.  I established some deep bonds with several women who I would have otherwise never met.  And these women are so important to me now.  Some of them have had other children since 2004, some of them are pregnant now.  Some have returned to work, and some others are staying home.  We really don’t have a connection to each other aside from our kids, but man…  in 2004 these women were literal lifelines for me.  And today, they are just as important.

So like I started to say, it’s not been a great couple of weeks.  MOMD is truly a darling; on Tuesday he called from work to say he wanted to take some vacation time so that I could get the hell outta doge and just rest and recupperate, “Whatever you need to do,” he said.  I had spent time with a couple of these friends I made when Sam was born on Monday and I tell you what: it was a godsend.  They reminded me that it gets better and I don’t have to be the only one to provide comfort; Miss E had a lovely nap on Suzy’s chest.  Tuesday night I met up with another group of women who I collected when Sam was born and man…  I haven’t seen most of those women in a year – one of them more than 2 years – and we picked up like no time had passed at all.  My soul was restored.  I was built up.  I built up others.  We connected, we shared, we drank wine and ate wonderful food and it was…  good.

MOMD can use his vacation days for something else.  It turns out, all this girl really needs is her Girls.

 
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Posted by on October 25, 2012 in Gratitude, Opinion

 

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Oh, Happiest of Days!

On this day, 35 years ago today, something really special happened.  The act itself happens every day, and yet each time it’s different because a new life enters world.  What makes this particular event so special is that this is the day my sister was born.

She has been my partner-in-crime for many years.  I was 3 and a half when she was born and so in fact, I cannot remember life without her.  I don’t remember meeting her – I simply know that she’s always been with me.

Sitting on a chaise lounge, sharing a drink in Nana & Grampa’s backyard.

We started sharing a room just before our brother was born, which would have made me about 7 and her about 3 and a half.  And in fact, we shared a double bed as well, until we each got twin captain beds; I think I was 12 or so.  We shared our room until I was 20 or 21, and my parents had the basement renovated.  I got a bedroom – and a bathroom even – in that deal.  It was great to have our space for sure, and we each enjoyed decorating our new rooms to our tastes (no more armless teddybear wallpaper for either of us).  There were times though when our own space wasn’t good enough: in fact, we shared a bed every Christmas Eve until 1998 and MOMD came on the scene.  She and I would load our adult bodies into one of the twin captain beds, and Glenn would take the other bed.  And we would “sleep” (Amanda is a horrible bed hog) .  We loved to wake up together on Christmas morning.

Me and my sibs, taken in the fall of 1981 on my parents couch (hello 70’s – check out the fabric!!)

When I moved out, we would make dates to spend the day with each other.  We called these days “Sisters Day” and we even had a theme song.  Thy lyrics are “Sisters day is for spending money!”  You can probably guess what we did on Sister’s Day.

We lost our brother together, we had our first babies together (my niece is 10 weeks younger than my son; we called them the “maternal twins”), we each traveled to the UK with our Girl Guide troop, without our parents.  We each have curly hair (although hers far more curly than mine) and often times people ask us if we are twins.   For ourselves though, we can’t see any resemblance between us unless we’re hanging upside down.

We attended the same primary, middle and high schools, sometimes even together.  Of course, if Amanda had an endocrinologist appointment, she’d have to miss school.  Often she would have a teacher that I have had; it can’t have been easy to be in my shadow.  Some might say that I have a big personality and as such, I suppose I must cast a big shadow.  My sister did it though, without complaint, with style and grace and a personality all her own.

The good times, the bad times, the friend times and the fighting times (there were a LOT of those, right Mom?), my sister has been through it all with me.  She was my Maid of Honour at my wedding, she is my go-to confidant on many a sensitive topic.  I can count on her to be honest with me, even if what she has to say is going to hurt.  I trust that she has my best interests at heart, knowing who I am as really no one else on earth can.

She is a beautiful woman.
A bright light in the dark of night,
a loving heart and a courageous soul.

Happy birthday, Amanda.  I love you more that I can say.  I’m so glad you chose to share this life with me.

 
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Posted by on October 23, 2012 in Family

 

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Things No One Tells You

So breastfeeding…

It’s great.  It’s fem-affirming, it’s convenient and man-o-man is it ever cheap.

Here’s the thing that I notice most, now that we’re 4-months into this thing, having my 2 previous children on formula by this point: it’s exhausting being the sole source of sustenance for this little person.

And really?  Motherhood is exhausting enough.  Well, motherhood for an infant anyway.  Once the kids are sleeping soundly through the night (yeah, yeah, “6 hours is considered sleeping through the night,” you helpfully point out.  To that I say nuh-uh and you know it too) the exhaustion I experienced was primarily of my own making.

I’m not talking about just the getting-up-at-3/4AM-to-feed-her exhaustion, I’m talking about the feeding every 3 hours, the changing of diapers (some times clothes too), the reading, the singing, the floor time, the chair time, the do-whatever-she-needs time.  I’m talking too – especially today – about the crying times.

What, for the love of all that is good and holy, do you want, sweet child of mine?!?!?

I mean seriously: I hold you, you cry.  I rock you and sing to you, you cry.  I feed you.  You are quiet for a moment but pop off to remind me – through more crying – that this is not going to placate you for ever.  I put you on your floor mat, you cry.  I pick you up, you cry some more.  I put you in your swing: yet more tears.  Car seat, crib, bath, all of it: no dice.

~ahem.

But I digress.  You’ll forgive me, I know, because I am tired.  I am tired of being yelled at all day.  And I’m tired of being the only one who feeds her (yes, I have a pump.  Yes, I use said pump.  And there are 4 bottles in the freezer waiting to be consumed.  But it takes a while to get enough pumped to make a bottle, and MOMD & I are looking at taking some time away so those bottles are reserved gold right now).  I would love love love to take off.  To pick up MOMD from the train one evening and head somewhere… else.  A beloved friend has offered to care for our 3 kids, giving us some time away.  And I want to take her up on it, like…  right now.  Like every thing else though, it takes planning and preparing.

And so, I continue.

To feed (and not just the baby but the whole family), to soothe when possible, to entertain and be entertained.  All the while I must remember to cherish these moments, because as so many helpful people point out, “the moments are fleeting,” or “You’re going to miss this,” or “before you know it they’ll be grown up with children of their own.”  And while at the moment I do not at all appreciate these sentiments, I know they are true.

For she is my last baby.

 
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Posted by on October 23, 2012 in Family, Raising Kids

 

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Money, Money, Money, Mon-nay!

It was a big day in our household yesterday.  Connor our oldest child, began receiving an allowance.

It was a big day because it took me a long, long time to understand “allowance”.  I didn’t have any growing up, and neither did MOMD.  We have no frame of reference for what an allowance teaches, other than how to spend all of it in once place, at one time!  Because that’s what all the kids I knew who got allowances did.

So when Connor started talking about receiving an allowance (he was 5 or so) MOMD and I talked about it.  We didn’t have any strong feelings or opinions either way, other than “I never got one.”  I talked about it with my sister (who’s daughter was born 10 weeks after Connor) and my darling friend Ruby* (who has a daughter that is 15 months older than Connor, and a son who is 6 months younger than Connor).  I talked to these women not only because their children are close in age to Connor, but because we generally speaking have a similar parenting style.

Also: I talk to them a lot about all kinds of things ’cause I like them.

Anyway.  The main thrust of their positions on allowance was Yes, we should give Connor one and No, do not, under any circumstance, tie it to housework.

Then what the hell am I giving them money for???

But they were adamant: doing work around the house is part of your social contract.  You do it because you live here, because we’re a team, and because you contributed (if not outright caused) the mess to begin with.  I’ve all ready documented my support and expectation of the family social contract, so I certainly agreed with what they were saying.  And I certainly did not want to erode our social contract by giving him money because he kept him room tidy.

My sister & Ruby were never able to clearly articulate (so that someone as financially obtuse as I can be could understand) why you give an allowance and how/what it teaches the child.  Since MOMD & I did not feel strongly about giving him an allowance, we just let the topic die.

Every now and then in the intervening years, Connor has mentioned friends who have allowances.  He never outright asked if he could have one (although once he said, “When will I be old enough to have an allowance?”  MOMD & I side-stepped that question somehow) and we have never said one way or the other if he would ever have one.

A related side note: you know that adage about doing better for your children than your parents did for you?  Well, for MOMD & I to do that will take some feat.  Both sets of parents are still married, both sets of parents have kids who went on to get degrees and be productive members of society.  We had big homes, with loving families, pets, trips, clothes, excellent food… The list of everything we had is very long; maybe endless.  One thing that we both left home without though, was a solid financial foundation.  And let me tell you: when I was thrown into the fire by the credit card sales people at university  I had a hard and fast lesson in fiscal accountability.  But I digress.  My point is, this is one area where we thought we could do better than our parents did for us.

But how?  And when?  I mean, I don’t want to sit down with my young kids and show them how much income we have every month and what it costs to live each month.  That’s traumatic for me sometimes, nevermind an 8 year old!

And then about 6 months ago, my cousin sent me some articles.  Some articles on why parents should give an allowance, and what an allowance can teach your children.  The way these articles were written clearly and simply got me to my “ah-ha” moment.  I was waiting for this: that moment when your mind is not just opened, but the doors are blown off their hinges, never to be closed again!

The idea is simple: you segment.  Connor was given 4 plastic jars, with a label on each.  Spend, Save, Invest & Donate.  You know exactly what the “spend” category is for; short-term impulse purchases.  Things like pokemon cards and whatnot.  You use “save” for what my sister-in-law calls ‘planned spending’.  Basically, the kid picks something that they would like to have, that they have to save up to buy, and then once they save enough, they buy it.  My hope is that this category will instill in our kids the value of buying what you can afford.  The “invest” box is for long-term savings, with the child will not be able to spend until he’s at least 16.  This shows how over time, money adds up, visually teach compound savings and interest.  And finally, donate.  The author suggests that once a year MOMD & I choose 4 charities that work in our communities and where Connor can see his contribution at work, and present them to Connor for his donations.  He will have final say over who gets his money, and he may choose to share it around with a couple of charities.

MOMD & I decided that we would give 1 quarter for every year of Connor’s life.  That means 8 quarters or $2/week.  He has to put 1 quarter in each jar, every week and then he chooses where to put the other 4 quarters.

I was really excited to share this with Connor.  And even better?  He was really excited too!  His jars are proudly positioned in his room, their first quarters divided among them.  And what is he saving for, you may wonder?  A video game, called “Pokepark 2” of course.

Here they are! And that sheet of paper behing the “spend” and “donate” jars explains what each one is for.

Here are the articles my cousin sent my way: article on segmenting: http://www.thesimpledollar.com/2012/03/20/segment-their-allowance-79365/ and  article on earning extra through chores: http://mrsnespysworld.blogspot.com/2011/11/our-chore-system.html

*Ruby is not her real name.  It’s been changed to protect the innocent.  If she can be called “innocent”.

 
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Posted by on October 11, 2012 in Money & Kids, Raising Kids

 

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What’s in a Name?

I am a very happily married woman.  I’ve been married for more than 12 years now, and I can say with certainty that hitching my wagon to MOMD’s star was the best decision I’ve ever made.  And our wedding?  It was awesome, if I do say so myself.  The ceremony took place in a lovely church which we had been attending regularly for more than a year, in the Beach of Toronto.  Our reception happened at the Westin Harbour Castle, in Toronto on the waterfront.  It was the best party I ever threw, which is exactly how you’re supposed to feel about your wedding.

When MOMD and I tied the knot, I did not take his name.  If you’ve been around this blog for a while, this will come as no surprise.  What we did do though, was each of us took each other’s name.  Yes, you read that right: MOMD took my last name and added it to his.  I took his last name and added it to mine.  On our driver’s licenses, passports, health cards, all official ID we are hyphenated.  The rationale I used when I pitched the idea to MOMD was that if a hockey player leaves one team to join another team, the player gets a new jersey with the new team’s name and logo on it.  You’ll never see a TML jersey on a player on the Senator’s team.  Despite not being a sports fan at all, this analogy made sense to him.  Thus the SB moniker was born.

This weekend just past –  Thanksgiving weekend – I attended the wedding of my longtime friend to the love of his life.  It was a wonderful ceremony, and their reception was the party of the decade.  The bride, I am sure is keeping her last name.  Also getting married this weekend was another woman with whom I am a business associate.  She has taken her husband’s last name.

Neither occurrence is uncommon: every day people get married, and every day people choose either to change their name or not.  I try not to have opinions on the subject; it has no affect on my life, and frankly is none of my business either way.  What did you choose to do when you got married?  Are you happy with your choice?  Because really: to me, that’s all that matters.

So like I was saying: some people I know got married this weekend.  One of them posted on on facebook a few days later something about how it’s weird to have a different name.  This status update garnered some attention, most of it saying, “Yeah, I remember that too!” and one comment saying basically, “I just couldn’t get used to it and so I kept my name.”  That one little comment caused someone to post a very opinionated, non-supportive, response.  And the response had nothing to do at all really with the original post.  The jist of the reply was to the effect: “Part of the deal when you get married is taking his name.  Why get married if you don’t do this?  No matter what, you are ‘Mrs’ now.”

MAN did that comment set me off!  Who was this woman?  Who died and made her the judge of facebook nation?  More to the point: what is her problem?!?!  That one comment sent me back 12 years to when we first got married, and one of MOMD’s aunts said of our name “What’s this? She’s a Brown now!”  She was very put out that 1) I would choose not to take her family name and 2) she could not find us in the phone book, since she never bothered to learn how to spell my last name.

That one comment, made by a virtual stranger to me, set me on edge for months.  Literally.  I could not think of this woman, could not hear her name mentioned, without reliving that comment.  Looking back on it now, through the wisdom (*snicker* *snicker*, she thinks she’s ‘wise’ now *snicker* *snicker*) of my years, what I felt at the time, though I could not express it, was betrayed.  I felt judged by someone who was older than I was, and betrayed by a fellow woman who was not supporting a woman’s right to choose.

I’m sure she didn’t mean it that way; I’m sure choice has nothing to do with it.  In her mind, I joined the greatest family God ever created, and why wouldn’t I want to proudly proclaim that?  She wasn’t thinking about how it had been my name for my whole life, my own attachment to my family, my own pride in our history, about me at all in fact.  She was speaking her knee-jerk reaction.  (Emphasis on jerk.)

My marriage is just as important as anyone else’s.  It’s just as real, just as committed, just as loving, just as everything as someone who chose to take their husband’s name.  Or not to change their name at all. And don’t you dare call me “Mrs”.

 
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Posted by on October 10, 2012 in Family, Opinion, Vexations

 

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