Archive for July, 2007

Chicago, day 1

Friday, July 27th, 2007

Reid was bright-eyed from the moment I tried to ease her out of bed at 4:10. We got to the airport and through the check-in, security and customs process with no trouble other than I had to give up my coffee before I was ready. I’d hoped to keep it until we were x-rayed but that was a no-go. I burned my tongue gulping some and then turned it over to Ken. He wouldn’t have even drank it, let alone appreciated it. Our flight went well and we were able to check in as soon as we arrived (about 8:30). Reid and I unpacked, watched some cartoons, ate brunch and had a nap. Aunt Karin and Shea arrived about an hour into the nap and so we all headed for the Lincoln Park Zoo. It’s a free zoo and so we were guilt free when we paid to go on the swan paddle boats and the endangered animal carousel and even when we bought Dippin Dots (yum!) since we were helping support the zoo.

In the children’s zoo section, Reid went in the treetop climbing structure – a lot like the climbers at McDonalds – which was built of bent wood covered with carpet suspended at different levels and the structure was covered in a  wire mesh. It was marked as suitable for 3-8 year olds. Reid had a bit of trouble when she first started and so I changed her from her dress into shorts and a t-shirt. With a boost from Shea, though, she began her journey. Shea beside Reid, but on the ground, as she worked her way along the course. She made it to the highest part and through a silo before balking. At a slope where she needed to scoot down on her bum, she decided she needed someone to come and get her. Of course, that couldn’t happen. At 13 Shea is taller than me and Aunt Karin, even if he is less round. A few bigger and more aggressive/confident kids pushed past and then there was a little girl who went by gently. We told Reid to follow the girl. The little girl must have noticed Reid’s dilemna because the patted the path Reid needed to take and went slowly, watching to be sure Reid followed her. Reid followed her through the second half of the climber. Me, with my heart in my throat unable to come to Reid’s rescue. At some point the girl’s father noticed and was calling up to his daughter to be sure she helped Reid – in Spanish. I wouldn’t have guessed that she and Reid weren’t speaking to each other in English, the girl was so competently encouraging and directing Reid along. Maybe they weren’t speaking at all. When the girls got out, I had Reid go over and say, “gracias” and I thanked the girl and her dad, too. Reid was so proud for having got all of the way through the climber. I was so grateful for some random 3 or 4 year old girl who helped. What wonderful creatures children are! And I owe a thank you to Dora the Explorer for teaching Reid to say gracias. Who knew we’d ever need it? I have tears in my eyes as I write this. It’s hard to watch your child struggle. I think Reid only knows that I think she is fabulous for having met the challenge. I hope so anyway.

We saw the usual zebras, giraffes, turtles and so on but no elephants. The lack of elephants caused a bit of incredulity and disappointment on Reid’s part but overall, a good time was had by all and when Shea’s legs were like jelly (and the zoo was closed), we went back to the car. Reid ran about like the silly girl she is in the parkland next to the parking lot. She rolled around in the grass as though she were rolling downhill, walked in mud puddles from the mornings rain, got all dirty and had a blast.

We went for supper at the Rainforest Cafe. I’ve heard about them in Toronto and Vancouver but had never been. Reid loved the decor, especially the animals (of course) and I was impressed, too. You wouldn’t mistake the animals for live ones but they were still cool. I was pleasantly surprised that the food wasn’t outrageously priced. Reid got three mini hotdogs, apple sauce and milk in a souvenir cup for about $5. My supper was a bit more but since it was the first real meal of my day, I splurged. By the time our safari guide brought our bill, Reid was declaring herself tired. She was asleep minutes into our trip back to the hotel.

Festival of Reid, part 2

Thursday, July 26th, 2007

I woke Reid on her birthday by singing “Happy Birthday to You.” Some of you have heard me sing and will think that it was a cruel thing to do to a sleeping child but Reid still likes to hear me sing.

At daycare, Reid’s friends and teachers sang to her and gave her a sticker, a card and a pencil. She also had a cupcake with a candle at afternoon snack. I suspect that she also got to go first all day because at supper she insisted that I pour her milk first “betause I’m the birfday durl.” Ken *always* gets milk first if Reid is in charge of the order.

When we got home, there was a message from Melissa and her kids singing “Happy Birthday to you” and wishing Reid a great day. Reid had the biggest smile on her face by the time the message was over – it spread over her face as she listened, just like they say in books. I have to confess that a message was probably better than live. Reid doesn’t always want to talk when people call and the excitement of her birthday might have made it impossible.

Reid had received a number of presents in the mail or through Uncle Roger’s courrier service, that we decided it would be less overwhelming if we let her open some before supper. On Saturday, she had dragged the stool to the bookshelf where the presents were. When asked what she was doing, Reid just said, “I need it.” We explained that she had to wait for her birthday and she reluctantly agreed.

What a girly girl, she is. She oohed and ahhed over the clothes, was delighted by the yellow rubber firefighter boots and stopped to play with the toys and books.  (Thanks to everone who sent a gift. The thank you cards will be coming soon.)

Aunty Amanda joined us for supper. Reid chose chicken curry and ate like a trooper, though it was a bit spicier than usual. She just needed to add more “cream” (plain yogurt) and even let me help her. We were both focused on getting to the cake, I think.

I’d purchased a cake from Loblaws that had characters from Madagascar on it. Reid had no idea what their names were but liked them for being zoo animals. I asked her to take them off of the cake so that I could cut it. Being a helpful sort of kid, she licked the icing off of the bottoms. When the icing was gone, Reid dipped the hippo back in his icing lake. She also swiped the icing letters that spelled her name off the top of the cake. Once I handed her a piece of cake, though, Reid took only one bite before declaring herself full. By this time she had enough icing on her hands that when she rubbed them together they made that wonderful sucking sound you get with fingerpaints. Two napkins and a wash cloth later, Reid was clean enough to carry to the bathroom to wash up.

Once the rest of us finished our cake and ice cream, Reid opened presents from Aunty Amanda and Aunty Jane (Amanda’s mom) and us. She wasn’t really interested in the cards – is any kid? – but again liked the presents. Fortunately for her, I misplaced the card I’d bought for her. If when I find it, I’ll have to give it to her. But if it doesn’t mention the number 3, maybe I will hold onto it. Yes, I am that cheap. Reid will look at her cards when we get home, I think, because she took down and looked at the cards that Ken got for his birthday.

Reid crashed pretty quickly that night. Being a birthday girl is tiring work, don’t you know.

Ken and I had each left work about half an hour early. I think that was key to us being able to enjoy Reid’s birthday. I’ll have to remember that for next year. Buying the cake was important, too. I would have been stressed trying to get the cake finished Tuesday after gymnastics. I had some many ideas of what to do but ultimately, I decided that I *had* to make the curry because that\’s what Reid definitely wanted. She\’d asked for a chocolate cake but I knew that she wouldn\’t eat much if any.

Okay, I’m done patting myself on the back now.

 Edited timestamp to place post closer to Reid”s birthday. I’m controlling like that.

Ken’s dadversary

Wednesday, July 25th, 2007

I read in a magazine a while ago that I should celebrate my friends on their momversaries because it is a big deal to become a mother. I’m pretty sure that I tool that to heart and called my niece, Melissa. At the very least, I meant to call her.

This year, though, I want to mark Ken’s dadversary. Maybe I wouldn’t need to do this if I’d written a worthy tribute to him on Father’s Day but instead, I took Reid to the Ontario Science Centre and the Toronto Zoo.

Ken is great dad. His style of interacting with Reid is very different from mine but we share most of the same key values. Ken is far more likely to be on the floor playing with or being climbed on by Reid. I’m sure Reid would say he is more fun. Ken isn’t all rough and tumble, though. He’ll read book after book, even the ones that he thinks are causing a sort of slow lobotomy.

He also snuggles with Reid to watch Toopy and Binoo, Roly Poly Olie or whatever is the current fascination – and what’s more, he remembers to record new episodes just at the point that I think I’ll go nutty if I have to hear a particular episode one more time. And “hear” is the right verb, I usually succumb to the tempatation to read or tidy up or something while Reid is watching a program. Ken simply sits with her. He knows what is happening in the program and is prepared to discuss it. Reid has many questions and comments when she watches a show, whether it;s the first or 31st time.  Sometimes he can only say, “I don’t know, Reid, I haven’t seen it before either,” but he is in the room and in the moment. That’s a lesson that I’m trying to learn from him.

Ken and Reid go to play at the park and leave me behind to be alone (a true blessing when you’re a mama and work full-time) or to make supper or clean (still good, since I can put on my iPod and focus on what needs to be done). They also have museums that the go to without me most of the time. Remember when I was in Toronto and confessed that I didn’t like science museums, well, Reid and Ken do. The Nature Museum, Canada Aviation Museum and the Museum of Science and Technology are mainly their domain. Reid would tell you that the Nature Museum is the dinosaur museum and “hers” while the latter two are daddy’s museums.  Ken’s patience is demonstrated in these museums as well. I coach myself to be patient and let Reid explore at her own pace but I think that he actually does it.

Lately, Ken has been getting up early so that he can have breakfast with Reid before they leave in the morning. Often I come downstairs to hear them chatting or laughing. I see Reid mooching Ken’s oatmeal. She likes the taste of the cinnamon and raisin packaged oatmeal but not the raisins themselves. He doesn’t complain when he is left with a pile of raisins and some chilly oatmeal, though he has been known to remark on the situation.

Ken is always with us at bedtime even though I nurse Reid to sleep. He. waits (more or less) patiently as she winds down and then reads her a story or two.  After a kiss and a hug, he shuts out the light and leaves us but not before telling Reid he loves her and good night. Reid says, “I love you. Dood night, Bye-bye” and a wave. On the good nights, she allows breaks between the words. Often she whispers, “I love you, Daddy.” if he has said “I love you.” just as he shuts the door. And you may remember that Reid cries when Ken isn’t there at bedtime.

Ken’s life has changed a lot since Reid came but he remains my best friend. We don’t have as much time to talk about anything and everything as we once did but we still have lots to talk about. He is a deep thinker and that European history that he learned has given him quite a perspective on things. (So says the one who focused on Canadian history and has only an M.A., not that the topic ever comes up ;+) Ken is compassionate and irreverant, quiet and loving. Reid is lucky to have such a man for her father and I’m grateful to have him beside me in the trenches of parenthood.

Field trip to Daddy’s museum

Wednesday, July 25th, 2007

I think I’ve written a couple of times about Reid crying for Ken at night when he’s at the museum at bedtime. Melissa and her kids were eager to finish a book and so we left a bit early last Thursday night. I decided to check with Ken to see if we could stop by. He said that it would be okay. Reid was excited at the prospect and asked quite a few times where we were headed – to hear me say that we were doing to Daddy’s museum, I think.

At the drill hall, there were soldiers pulling on a rope – a tug of war, I thought, and Reid and I hurried to get out of the car to see them. By the time we got there, they’d dropped the rope. Their rope was tied to a truck and so we got to talk about that even though we missed the spectacle. There was a circle of drummers drumming at the front of the building. Reid had me hold her hand and run with her to hear them. We listened a while and then went into the drill hall. Reid made a bee line to Ken’s museum and I opened the door for her and she headed for Ken with confidence. The men that are usually there greeted her warmly. I like to think of a couple of them as sort of honourary uncles.

Reid tried on a soldier’s coat – “I’m a soldier!” she declared proudly – and also a helmet. She looked around a bit, talked about some of the things she always comments on and talked with Ken about a soldier that was dressed in a kilt with spats and a red wool tunic. Ken told her about each piece of the uniform and she nodded as he spoke. When it was time to leave, Reid strutted proudly through the drill hall – this was her daddy’s museum building and she got to come for a visit.

On the way home, Ken asked Reid if she had liked visiting his museum. She squealed in the highest pitched voice that humans can hear, “Yesss!”

Festival of Reid, part 1

Tuesday, July 24th, 2007

Melissa and Peter and the kids came for supper on Saturday night to celebrate Reid’s birthday. We ate tacos – a favourite of the kids and they’re not *too* messy. Well, not much messier than they’d be with any food. As always, the kids sat at the little table and chairs that Uncle Chris made for Reid. They are so much better behaved when they sit at their own table. They bicker a bit, as kids do, but without the attentive audience of adults it seems less intense. I don’t think it’s entirely the halo effect of me not having to see every transgression but that may help. 

I’m turning into a real advocate of a separate kids’ table like we had for big meals at Grandma Joyces. The problem start when the oldest kid gets tired of seeing the little ones open their mouths to reveal their supper. My favourite kids’ table memory is of my niece Melissa (maybe 18 or so) asking when she got to sit at the adults’ table and someone telling her that someone would have to die. In the family I grew up in, that’s funny. 

I baked an angel food cake (from a mix – only Melissa would make it from scratch). With a little creative relocation of part of the top, it looked pretty good. It was certainly up to the task of holding three candles and withstood Reid’s blowing. We had to enlist Ben’s help to get the candles out. For her real birthday, I’ll have to cluster the candles closer together.

Melissa and Peter were making movements to leave when I delicately asked if they thought that the kids would like to see Reid open her present. After a bit of discussion, we decided that Reid would like to focus on one present for a couple days before opening others. If it were me, I would space out my presents so that I opened one a day – or maybe one in the morning and another at night. Ken is more of a “the birthday is the big day” kind of guy and so we’re holding onto the presents and cards that she’s received so far for Reid to open on Wednesday.

Reid got some Colour Explosion paper, with markers that write only on the paper, and a craft book of hand trace/ hand print ideas. Reid is all about tracing and painting or colouring her hands.

Stephen was slow to get his shoes on and Melissa said “good bye” and walked out. This troubled Reid greatly. She had tears in her eyes and she asked how Stephen would get home. I’m not sure if she was empathizing about being left behind or worried that her only child status was threatened. Stephen finally hustled into his shoes and left. He didn’t come back and so we went to bed.

As we climbed the stairs, Reid said, “I want Uncle Roger and Auntie M.” Poor kid, she misses her extended family.

More people in the basement

Tuesday, July 24th, 2007

Saturday was another people-in-the-basement day. At bedtime on Friday, I told Reid that Uncle Roger, Auntie M, Danielle and Isabelle would be in the basement when she woke up and she nodded happily and then asked about Lee-Lee (Kailee). I said that Lee-Lee wouldn’t be there and Reid was sad for a bit. I’m not sure I’d have gone on family vacations as a university student either (probably I would have since I’ve long enjoyed freeloading) but I’d been hoping that she would come. Reid, obviously, hadn’t been listening when I told her that Lee-Lee was taking a pass. Or maybe Reid didn’t want to it to be so and so she decided it *couldn’t* be so.

Reid was happy to see Uncle Roge sleeping on the couch when we got downstairs. He took one for the team by sleeping upstairs, getting the first kisses, and delaying Reid’s trip to the basement. When we did get downstairs, we found Auntie M waiting eagerly for the kiss and snuggle that Reid was there to deliver. Isabelle, Danielle’s friend who is practically a cousin in Reid’s mind, had quick smiles for Reid but Danielle tried to sleep through. Like she is a teenager or something! Oh wait, she *is* a teenager and it *was* 6:30 am.

Always a good hostess, I had less than half a cup of milk and so Roger and I were at the grocery store when it opened at 7:00. As we walked to the checkout, I noticed a woman with a copy of the newest Harry Potter book. It turned out that she didn’t need it afterall and so by 7:15 I had a copy in my hands for almost half-price. Now I need to organize myself to re-read the other books first.

After breakfast, Danielle and Izzy put on a little performance through the window to the living room as we sat in the dining room, featuring two Dora the Exporers, a baby doll and a cat. Later, Auntie M and the girls headed to Old Navy for super summer deals – $2.47 for jeans, kind of deals – while Uncle Roge, Reid and I went shopping for batteries. Reid had eaten her breakfast while I was at the grocery store and so hadn’t had the chance to mooch from me. She was hungry by the time we were half way to mall. I got her a hamburger for the trip back and when we were almost home, we let Reid talk us into stopping at the park. I went the rest of the way to get Auntie M, Danielle and Isabelle. They all came and the big girls played on the water pad with Reid. Well, mostly the big girls played on the water pad and Reid played around it with the occasional foray into the water. It’s wonderful to see my “grown up” nieces and nephews playing as though they were kids (which, of course, they are). It happens when Danielle and Shea visit.

We ate lunch and then the girls and Auntie M helped us make birthday hats for when Melissa and her family came. Reid was delighted to have so many people drawing, colouring and gluing with her. Melissa’s family was impressed with the quality of the hats. Auntie M is particularly crafty, if you ever need help she is the one to call.

All too soon it was time for our guests to go where they were heading all along, we were just a stop on the way, and it was past time for Reid’s nap. She gave hugs and kisses and we all waved lots and then headed upstairs for a nap. Long visits are nice but we’ll take any visit that we can get.

Mamas don’t know anything about their kids’ social rules

Friday, July 20th, 2007

On the way to daycare yesterday, I asked Reid if she played with N, a little boy who recently joined the Junior class. Reid said, “No, G.” And I asked if she meant that she played with G. In a patient tone, she told me, “Durls play with durls. Boys play with boys.” She didn’t say, “D’uh!” but she might as well have.

When I got to daycare, I asked the teacher if Reid’s assessment of who played with whom was accurate. Sometimes Reid is a less-than-reliable witness to what goes on around her. The teacher was surprised at first and laughed but then thought a moment and agreed that during some parts of the day, Reid’s observations were correct. The teacher said that most kids wouldn’t notice that sort of thing. She added that she wasn’t surprised that Reid had noticed, though. Reid is definitely an observer of people, even if her recounting of what happened isn’t always to be believed. Grandma Joyce says that little pictures have big ears and that’s true enough. Mine has big eyes as well.

Wanna go for ice cream?

Thursday, July 19th, 2007

Last night at supper, Reid asked to go for ice cream. Poor Ken had had a rough day and so I thought getting him a banana split would be a nice thing. The only problem was that I was still wearing a white work shirt. Reid is pretty neat when eating ice cream and I try to be, too, but accidents happen. I went upstairs to change and she followed me. Big mistake! Once Reid saw her dollies in her room, she decided that playing with them would be better than going for ice cream. I had the awful responsibility of telling Ken the bad news. Nothing like taking the (potential of) ice cream from a man when he’s already down. Tonight Ken will go the his museum and we’ll go to Melissa’s but tomorrow night, I’ll go for the ice cream for sure.

2nd anniversary of being a “working” mother

Wednesday, July 18th, 2007

Warning: this post contains the word “breast” but only in conjunction with “milk” 

I know that all mothers are working mothers but the verbal gymnastics to rewrite the title are beyond me today. Have I mentioned that I have an almost 3 year old and I work full time? Sometimes my memory/creativity fails me. In any case, it’s been two years since my 51 weeks at home with Reid came to an end.

I’m so lucky that I live in Canada, where the combination of maternity and parental leave benefits allow for a parent to stay at home for a year. I’m especially grateful that my employer topped up my benefits so that our family didn’t suffer financially when I stayed home.

I wish that I could say that I’m also lucky that I live in a country with full and easy access to childcare. That would be a lie. I *am* lucky that we were able to find a good daycare spot for Reid but many others are not so fortunate. Dani over at Postcards from the Mothership is eloquent in her descriptions of the troubles that she has had finding good childcare. And she lives and works in the same city as me. Never mind what it’s like to be in a rural or remote area or in a small town.

The first months after I returned to work, I benefitted from a double-electric breast pump and a closed office and so was able to continue to provide Reid milk with “mama milk’ for daycare. I didn’t imagine when I went on mat leave that I would want to pump for a one year old. Shocking behaviour, that! But it did turn out to be important for our family and I’m glad I could do so. I can’t imagine having to return to work and leave a 6 week old. I’m not sure I’d really mastered nursing by then and that was okay. I’m positive that my hormones were still all over the place then. Even a year later, my heart was breaking to leave Reid.

I have to admit that I was ready to go back to work, though. Reid is much more social than I am and needed to mix with other kids. I needed to get back to discussions with other adults that didn’t involve sleeping habits or diapers. (I could never figure out how women who had previously had careers could talk only about baby matters at play groups. Thank goodness for Melissa and my work friends.)

My dream was – and remains – a four day week but that hasn’t happened yet. Within two months of returning to work, I was acting for my boss and working long hours. Ken would bring Reid to the office so that I could nurse her and eat supper with her. What a good father and husband he is. It was a good learning experience. I got work experience that will serve me well if I seek a promotion. I learned about myself, too; I don’t want a promotion at the cost of being around for Reid. I think that when I returned to work I still thought I could have my cake and eat it, too. Those months as a director showed me that I can’t, or at least not in a communications group. It helped me to decide to take a new job writing policy that lets me have more of a life-work balance. When I look at others getting a promotion, I have to remember that stressful time when I barely saw my precious girl. So, I’m on the mommy track. It’s a good track, it’s working for me and my family and that’s what counts.

And you? Do you keep track of your return to work anniversary or celebrate your decision not to return to work each year?

Gymnastics again

Wednesday, July 18th, 2007

Reid had gymnastics again last night. It was as fun as the first class. Reid’s strength and balance were pretty impressive (said the proud mama who has poor balance herself). She was able to walk up the wall to do the handstand all by herself. I’m wondering if we’ll rue this ability but she hasn’t tried to do it at home. Yet.

On one mat, there were some hand marks and there were feet marks next to the mat; the kids were to use them as guides to hop onto the mat. The next mat had both hand and foot marks and the kids were to jump off the mat. Reid was able to do these relatively well, with her performance improving at first and then declining on the last couple. I’m not sure if she was getting over confident or tired but she did a pretty nasty-looking face plant near the end the resulted in a sad face but no tears and she tried again the next time we got there in the circuit.  There was a thick mat for rolling backwards onto, as well. Reid didn’t want to hug her knees. It’s funny. She refused to do it during warm up and then at the activity. She *did* like the wedge mat that helped her do some fabulous sommersaults. I think of these as building block activities that are leading to some greater skill.

In the next part of the class, we moved to the bars. The teacher said that the kids were to be monkeys and, boy, did they obey. Reid loves to hang from the bar at daycare – and from the towel racks at home! (We’re on the lookout for the latter.) The teacher had Reid try to lift and hold her legs in front of her at one and at another she hung and did the splits (I don’t remember the official term). She was able to let go and land from a few feet from the ground. Bravery and balance, Reid has both. They hung lengthwise from their hands and feet, in what we called a “ketchup bottle” pose when I was a kid. There were parallel bars that Reid climbed onto from a wedge mat and then made a tunnel on with one hand and foot on each bar. By the end, she was creeping forward a bit. The last piece of equipment was a large-weave net that was secured only at the top. Reid was not interested in it at all but it was facinating to others and so she got more turns on the hanging bars and that was okay for her.

We were on the trampolines for the last segment. There were 4 kids and 4 trampolines. Reid seemed disconcerted by the bouncing. Last week, she ran/hopped but this week she was to hop on the spot. She insisted I hold onto her hand while she jumped. Reid’s a bit of a control freak but she comes by it honestly. From her dad, of course.

At various points through the class, the teacher asked “who wants to …” and “who can …”. Each time Reid smiled and whispered to me, “I do” or “I can” and waited like a coiled spring to move to the activity.

Many times over Reid was told to “ride her motorcycle” in description of the stance they wanted her to adopt at the end of a movement. *I* understand that they want her to land with her feet together with her bum lowered and her hands extended. It’s a stable position and good for stopping motion. Reid though, thinks of revving the engine and making the vroom-vroom noise as she moves about rapidly. I’ll have to think of a different way to describe what is required. Suggestions are welcome.