Thursday, 27 October 2011

Let's pretend

Last summer, a river ran through my living room. Its source was an oscillating fan. I suspect it had something to do with the furniture turning into submarines, but all I knew for sure was that if I wanted to sit in them, I had to be sure to tuck in my legs so that we could shut the door. This rule was null, of course, when said furnishings were acting as school buses, or sleeping cars attached to the dining car (i.e. the dining room), traveling through the woods of the kitchen.

Upstairs, across the hall from Rapunzel's tower (or is it Tinkerbell's room?), the master bedroom plays double duty as a ballroom and a church, and my walk-in-closet houses a dragon. Fairies live in the willow in our backyard, though they're thinking of moving to Pixie Hollow, which is conveniently located on the deck behind Grandma & Grandpa's house.

Everyday, there's a whirlwind of weddings, balls, and anniversary parties. Any container that can fit a baby doll is routinely transformed into a bathtub, a bed, or a baptismal font. A costume gown may have Disney's Cinderella displayed on its skirt, but that doesn't deter my preschool princess from using it for Sleeping Beauty, the fairest queen from the uncommercialized "Queen and the Frog" (it's kind of like the Frog Prince, only better), or whichever other character could be imagined in a lovely blue dress. Playdates consist of running back and forth from whichever rooms currently house a school, a park, or a castle. And I'm loving being along for the ride.

It's not as if it doesn't try my patience, especially when real life must intrude on play so that someone can get to bed on time. I've let out many an exasperated sigh when informed that the mermaid cannot leave the bathtub or Cinderella shouldn't be expected to exchange glass slippers for winter boots when leaving the house. There's been a time or two that she's refused to leave our bed because our burgundy duvet was her Blue Fairy dress. The colour disparity alone was enough to drive me up the wall. Nevermind the countless tasks that had come to a halt mid-way because Mommy forgot that she's no longer Snow White, she's the nameless girl from Puff the Magic Dragon. We're both still learning the balance between playing along and towing the line.

The constant pretend, however, can work in a parent's favour. I got her to open up for the dentist on the promise of sparkly princess teeth, and taught her to wash herself in the bath by creating her own soap-bubble outfit, from soapy pearl necklace to soapy glass slippers...and everything in between (including soapy unmentionables - she can be thorough when she wants to).  After being asked on a few occasions to let Mommy finish her chapter before attending to post naptime activities, she announced she really needed to work on her Tinkerbell chapter and pulled out a colouring book. I now have a child's desk set up in my office, and the end of naptime no longer signals the end of productive research work.

I try to remind myself that it's a privilege to be privy to her pretending. To see that big ole' brain she hides behind those big blue eyes weaving all her experiences into an elaborate tapestry of play. Everything she's seen, everything she's read, everything she's done is right there, often in amusing combinations. Someday all too soon, she'll save all this imaginative processing for her dreams. These filters are good, for they soon will be necessary. But Mommy will miss being allowed behind the curtain. Maybe I'll have to encourage her to start a blog. ;)

Saturday, 22 October 2011

This post was sponsored by the 24-hour 'flu

Last night on "Sibling Rivalry - Poop Edition":

Contestant #2 has claimed the coveted top spot in the Most Traumatic Excrement Clean-up event, ousting Contestant #1's longstanding Poo River of '07 with his stunning Diuretic Cascade. He beat his sister's top scores in the categories of quantity, consistency, and number of parents present for cleanup.

The judges were not overly impressed with the area his mess covered, given the little use he made of his mobility advantage over his sister, who had only been an infant at the time she set the bar. It appears the contestant had underestimated the trauma pulling this stunt would have on his post-pooping performance - he only took a few short steps once the trail began to leak from the bottom of his pants and proceeded to stand still while howling for assistance. This shortcoming,  however, showed little in the score. Given that the judge present was also the cleanup crew, her high scoring in this area may have been a bit biased.

The judges were also undecided when comparing difficulty of cleaning the soiled surfaces.  Seeing as they were comparing upholstery and carpet to laminate and lino, there should have been no contest, but the faux-grout in the kitchen linoleum tile proved surprisingly difficult to scour. Regardless, the clincher was the judges' inability to recall who had done clean-up on the '07 occasion, let-alone any details of how long the process took.

In the final moments of the show, once clean-up and baths had been completed, the judge present moved that this particular contest be closed. Tune in next time to see how our contestants compare in the judges' favourite event, Potty-training Milestones.

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

So THIS is what it's like to get up in the morning

In terms of typical mornings of motherhood, I have been very spoiled. My daughter inherited both my love of sleeping in and spending mornings in solitude; she'd wake up long past the crack of dawn, and then entertain herself for hours while Mommy kept snoozing away. Once the tumultuous newborn days had settled out, we were often just starting breakfast by the time many of my mom friends were putting their little ones down for mid-morning naps. Once breakfast cleanup was over, it was a scramble to get out the door before noon. Often my planned morning errands were pushed off until after lunch and nap, if they happened at all.

Having another baby certainly messed with my night schedule, but my newest munchkin was content to go back to sleep, feeding after feeding, as long as he was snuggled into bed with Mommy. The not-so-wee hours of the morning were a time for catching up on slumber while Big Siser enjoyed a quiet morning playing without interference.

With the advent of preschool this fall, I was finally forced to dig out my alarm clock and face the dreaded hour of 7 am, with no hope of rolling over again once the baby's been fed.  By 7:30, I'm downstairs putting breakfast together, and we're out the door by 8:45 - previously my pillow has only missed me that early on Sundays. It has been quite the adjustment - both in terms of getting  everyone to bed on time the night before, and planning ahead to stream-line the morning process. Some mornings there's breakfast for three, other days I sneak away from the toddler only to wake him in time to strap him on my back and go.

Surprisingly enough, this early morning stuff is not half-bad once you get over the shock. I see sunrises as well as sunsets. My day begins with a short, slow-paced walk and a breath of fresh air. With only a two-hour window before preschool ends, there's little rushing about I can manage, so babe and I just meander on home for coffee and second breakfast. Even if nothing happens beyond breakfast clean-up before we head back out to pick up my preschooler at 11, I'm still no worse off, chore-wise, than if I'd stayed in bed all morning. Granted, I've had less sleep, but, oddly enough, my longer, yet slower, morning routine leaves me feeling more rested. The rush has diminished. The guilt of creating a panic through my own laziness is abated. And I can justify drinking more coffee.

Sunday, 16 October 2011

"Conjured up by wind and sunlight..."

It happened again yesterday. During a drive through the city, the mundane task of getting from point A to point B was transformed - I followed a curve and found myself with my back to the sun and my face to the most glorious skyscape. Edmonton's distracted driving laws forgotten, I basked in the view, admiring the sculpted clouds, their crevices a myriad of subtle hues, regretting, once again, that I am in no way a photographer.  But the impossibility of capturing the moment didn't darken it; if anything, it made the fleeting beauty all the more precious.

Methinks my fascination with skyscapes is a culmination of having grown up in the prairies. While I do have a deep appreciation for the topographical subtleties of rollings fields broken only by copses of birch and windbreak rows of aspen ('flat' is an adjective reserved for parking lots - and only before their first round of frost heaves), I only ever focus on the landscape on days of empty sky. When it's perfectly clear or totally overcast, I treasure the hues and dips and divots as we drive by. Otherwise, I see them only as foils for the main attraction - a lovely footer for the ever changing canvas of sun, wind, and sky.

Saturday, 8 October 2011

Look, Teddy, a social life!

Don't get me wrong, being in a dual-introvert marriage is a wonderful thing. There are as many quiet evenings and sleepy Sunday afternoons as our children will allow. Neither of us is overly perturbed if the other picks up a book or a magazine (or even a laptop), and no one feels like a party pooper for using a Friday night to work late, catch up on laundry in front of the TV, or take a bath with a novel. On the other hand, we often have to count the months since our last date and catch ourselves saying, "Remember those friends of ours? We should, like, see them or something." So, a couple weeks ago, as Murphy would have it, we did it all: about a month's worth of an average couple's social life crammed into a mere seven days, with a long-term commitment to follow.

It started out innocently enough; we'd gone to a children's birthday party a few weeks back, one of those lovely ones where the birthday child is still young enough that their parents can get away with inviting their own friends and serving beer along with the hotdogs. We have a neat little community of friends our own age with kids around our kids' ages, and it had been too long since we'd last gotten together. The afternoon had ran into the evening as we snacked and chatted while the kids ran around outside. It was such a good time that my melancholic husband was inspired to suggest having such a gathering ourselves in honour of his own birthday - not because it was a milestone occasion, but just the nearest excuse to visit with some of those friends we so enjoy. After a bit of thought, we settled on a Sunday afternoon the weekend following his birthday, along with a midweek dinner date to celebrate closer to the day, and looked forward to the break from our pedantic routine.

Enter Rachel's impulsive billeting: we are blessed with a couple of extra bedrooms and beds, and, no, we do not plan to fill them all with children. I have, however, been itching to fill them with company.
Back when I was young and collecting a student debt, I had the pleasure of billeting my way through northern BC, from Edmonton up to Prince Rupert as part of a university choir tour. Despite the early mornings our grueling ten-day schedule required, my billet partner and I found ourselves talking late into the night with those who'd opened their homes to us each evening, just for the sheer pleasure of meeting so many interesting people. The stories that came out of these one-night encounters displayed an amazing variety of life experience from town to town, mountain to valley, household to household. No two lives are alike, and we all have stories worth hearing. I have such fond memories of that trip that I wanted to be on the other end: offering a meal and a bed to other travelers in exchange for scintillating conversation. No plans of opening a bed and breakfast (see first paragraph), but I did acquire an aspiration for a the type of Old World hospitality where a friend of friend's distant relative can be a back-packer's next stop. So when I heard of a couple of people that needed a place to crash, we offered...and then it happened again.

Long story short, I'm temporarily living in a two-family household: two stay-at-home moms, to working dads, two preschool girls, and two toddler boys. Twice the fun, twice the help, twice the noise,  and twice the mess. And the arrangement began, naturally, the day after our last set of house guest left, which was the same day we had planned for Micah's birthday date, and the same week as the party. Oh, and James Ehnes came to town that Saturday so we decided to squeeze in a concert as well.

Definitely all worth it, but by the time Monday came around, I was holed up in my office, hiding from my longer-term company, writing about how nice it is to have company. Oh, the irony. And then, naturally, life intervened again and my half-finished blog post was set aside for the rest of the week. Now that my family and I are settled at my parents' for the weekend (for more socializing), I have a moment to write - and a stolen one at that (technically, my daughter's naps are set aside for research work, but there's only so much Schopenhauer this mommy's brain can take in one sitting). And here I was worried that my blog might take over my life. Clearly, my life has taken over my blog.

But it's all good. The sun has returned, the leaves are ablaze, and a certain timer has just signaled the end of the "nap". Which means it's time to make pumpkin pie. :)

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.