Wednesday 30 December 2015

AJ at 14 months, Christmas, and all the good stuff

Here is an AJ update encompassing roughly what is new between 12 and 14 months. I have put away the "first year" and breastfeeding books. I haven't yet gotten around to buying any toddler books, though picking up "What to Expect: The Second Year" (or whatever it's called) is on the list of things to do eventually, presumably before AJ is two years old. But for the most part I stick to my basic parenting philosophy which is: The best way to learn about AJ and what works for her is to spend time with AJ. Also, the best way to keep blogging is to not worry too much about paragraph structure.

Mommy and baby selfie

AJ continues to expand her vocabulary. The words we hear lately: Mama, Dada (it can mean daddy but also seems to mean other things she likes), ba (usually means lights or pictures, which she's kind of obsessed with), ba-ga-ba (banana), cookie, cracker, book, kittee cat, good girl, bye bye, car (which she pronounces as "cah," like she's from Boston), bwah (bread, a current favourite), orange, hi, book, and dirt. The last is AJ's new favourite. She likes to crawl about on the floor and pick up gunk and try to eat it (yeah, I should probably vacuum more often. I'm trying, OK.). I chase after her and take the dirt out of her hand or sometimes mouth, if she's been really fast. AJ thinks this is hilarious and will do it on purpose for laughs. I will usually say "No eating dirt!" A couple of weeks ago AJ make the connection between the word and item and proceeded to crawl about saying, "Dirt, dirt!" This was the most fun ever until she sort of fell off the step (more on that below). Lately, AJ seems to have decided that it's almost as fun to give the dirt to mommy or daddy instead of eating it, which we appreciate a lot.

In addition to the words with recognizable meaning, AJ is saying a whole lot of other baby words and syllables. A favourite is bukka-bukka-bukka. She knows the letter "S" and the sound it makes. I guess reading all those alphabet books over and over again (at her insistence, not mine!) caused something to stick. She also makes what are obviously requests or questions, although they are not exactly in English. But there are right and wrong answers because if she doesn't get the response she wants she lets us know.

AJ continues to form and express her preferences, which increasing conviction and sometimes drama. She will now choose between two foods (e.g. orange and banana). If she puts something in her mouth she doesn't like, she'll spit it out. If it passes the first test, she'll make what we call her "food critic face." This is a small frown combined with a slow chew. If she approves, the frown goes away and she chews and swallows with a smile while muttering "nom nom nom".

When AJ sees something she wants, she will wave, clap her hands, squeal and giggle with excitement. This is insanely cute, and means she mostly gets what she wants when she wants it. She continues to eat pretty well, although is more choosy now and will go through phases of liking something for several days, and then not caring about it anymore. AJ is more aware of what foods we have in the house: if she spots bread or a muffin in the fridge or on the table, then forget about offering anything else until she has some of that. At least we can bribe her to sit in the highchair with a bit of bread, and then she might consent to eat something else as well.

We have finally mastered the art of banana pancakes: one egg, one banana, mush together and fry. Doesn't sound complicated, but I made all kinds of messes until discovering the secret: not too much banana, vegetable oil not olive oil (less smoke in the kitchen), and low-ish heat. Because the pancakes are sweet and have the bready texture which is what AJ prefers, she just gobbles them up, getting protein along with the carbs she adores. I make them baby-sized so she can eat them like a cookie.

I am still breastfeeding, but only before bedtime now. Over the last two weeks AJ started losing interest in her morning breastfeeds. I already knew we could cut them out and she'd be fine, but it's only for the past week or two that we've left them out. She's perfectly happy now with regular food for breakfast. One less thing to worry about for our morning routine.

AJ is also more physical in expressing her likes and dislikes. She's started arching her back and howling if she doesn't want to sit in highchair or car seat and you know.....there's really no way to get her into either if she's doing that. The other day she arched her back in the car seat and we kinda sat there, staring while she made like a bridge.


Luckily for our plans, she did eventually consent to sit in the car seat, and then was perfectly happy. But, well, we are at the end of the easy just-pick-up-baby-and-go phase. Can't really complain; I'm sure it's lasted longer for us than many families as AJ is not in a rush to walk.

AJ is starting to understand "Yes" and "No," though it's still mostly a game to her. We nod and shake our heads at each other, saying "Yes yes yes yes yes?" and "No no no no no!" (playful, not in a disciplinary context). If AJ is doing something that is not safe or desired (e.g. playing with an electrical cord, banging on glass) I try "No no no no no" with her and head shaking. She actually will often stop doing the thing to play the "no no no no no" game, and if she doesn't crawl away herself and start doing something else, will usually allow herself to be redirected. Or she will look to a parent to play the "no no no" game. So it's not something she takes really seriously, but she is getting the concept. Of course, there are times when she is thwarted and she knows it, and then she howls in protest, but not usually for more than half a minute.

AJ hands toys and food items food back and forth. She will play alone but is also increasingly interactive in her play. She likes to choose a book and hold it out to us to read to her. She got a ton of new books for Christmas which is a secret relief for her parents. I tucked some of her old favourites that we are thoroughly sick of reading away in a drawer and stocked her boxes with new books. AJ's favourite toys are little ones she can hold in her hands, and she likes to crawl while holding items in her hands. The Kittees are still favourites, but she also likes the dolls from her Little People dollhouse and the animals from her new Little People Noah's Ark (thanks grandparents!) She also likes her Mega Bloks and is able to stick them together and pull them apart. She even made a two colour pattern the other day.

AJ crawls with speed and energy. Until Christmastime she didn't show much interest in walking or even pulling up to her feet, though she "walks" short distances on her knees. She had even started refusing to walk while being held under the armpits, which she used to love. However, AJ has developed an interest in climbing on things. Our basement stairs have two steps up to a landing, and she started by climbing these two steps onto the landing, and quickly learning to climb back down.  AJ would climb up the stairs and down the stairs over and over for fifteen or twenty minutes at a time, looking for dirt on the floor in between (see above). Of course we are always there to catch her if she takes a tumble, which happens surprisingly rarely. She had to extend her legs fully to climb a step, and in doing started to realize that she can stand.

Hmmm, let's stretch these legs
AJ spent Christmas with my in-laws in the USA, which was a great experience for her and for us too. It has been a sad and conflicted Christmas for us because my dad continues to struggle with complications related to his cancer and it's often hard for him, and us as well, to hope for better in the future. However, it was still very pleasant to spend a few days with Mr. Turtle's mom, step-dad and brothers and see them have a chance to bond with AJ.  I have learned to never take these times for granted and strive to absorb each moment with open-hearted gratitude. (It certainly helps that my in-laws are a joy to be around.)

Playing under the Christmas tree

AJ thrived on the new environment and all the attention. Her accomplishments included adding more words to her vocabulary, increasing her social interaction, and getting better at stair climbing and standing. She actually pull/pushed up to standing at furniture at few times which is something she has not been interested in previously. Of course it didn't take her long to discover the stairs, and after a lot of up and down the first three steps, she got confident enough to go almost to the top (always with a spotter, of course). She also pulled herself to standing several times on the steps; of course she had to choose the most dangerous place possible to practice that skill.

Baby gym!
Considering how much AJ loves "Kittees," we were all excited for her to meet my brother-in-law's cat, who is the closest thing AJ has to a cousin. "Toola" came over on Christmas day. AJ immediately recognized that she was a "kittee," and gave her a big smile and wave. Unfortunately Toola was not so sure that she liked babies and promptly made for the basement where she remained mostly out of sight for the rest of the visit. AJ knew she was down there and kept pointing to the door and asking for "kittee," but nobody's efforts to entice Toola out had any effect. At one point my MIL took AJ to the basement and allowed her to stand where she could see Toola hiding under the table. AJ smiled and cooed; Toola stared at her impassively and didn't budge an inch. And that was that. Cats will be cats. Toola still made an impression though, because AJ will still look down stairs and at doors and ask for "Kittee." Perhaps in a couple of years we will realize my dearest childhood wish, shelved in adulthood, to have a cat.

Brief though memorable meeting

AJ also met "Santa" this Christmas. Since I am ambivalent about Santa Claus and adverse to crowds and chaos, taking AJ to "meet Santa" has not been at the top of our priority list. "Santa" came to her daycare party but AJ was having none of him. She refused to leave my arms, screaming even when Mr. Turtle tried to hold her (very unusual). None of the other babies or toddlers wanted to sit with Santa either; every single one screamed or cried, which I think is proof that babies have good survival instincts. The city in Michigan where we visited has a "Santa House" that is a huge attraction (it's where Santa Clauses in training go, and it's fully of sparkly things from what I could see through the windows). However, there was a line around the block to get in. Not. Happening. I had given up on the idea of having a picture with Santa, without much regret.

However, on Christmas Eve my MIL made a point of setting out "milk and cookies for Santa". I thought they'd be stale by midnight, and what a waste of good cookies. But lo and behold, a few minutes later the doorbell rings and it is.....Santa and Mrs. Claus! Ho ho ho, in they come. Mr. Turtle and I grabbed cameras and stood around awkwardly, almost as nonplussed as AJ. Santa and Mrs. Claus made small talk about reindeer and his sled, which was having some difficulty due to the complete lack of snow. AJ was very quiet and cautious, but she consented to sit on Santa's knee, and stared at the present he brought her like it might blow up at any second.

Meeting Santa. He's not a kittee, so I'm really not sure how I feel about this.

Anyway, there you go, we have the customary photos after all, and taken in the most relaxed and accommodating manner possible. And the story behind Santa and Mrs. Claus is very sweet. They are an older couple who are patients at my MIL's acupuncture clinic. They have no children, but were always very involved with their nieces and nephews, and started playing Santa and Mrs. Claus some years back at a local shopping centre. The nieces and nephews are now starting to have kids, so they get to be the Clauses for them. After hearing that AJ was coming to visit, Santa offered to make a house call. This is just one example of the great relationship my MIL has with her patients: among the presents for AJ that filled an entire suitcase, many were made or bought by patients for their acupuncturist's granddaughter.

In summary, it has been a Christmas of mixed emotions, and a bitterly painful one for my mom and dad, in particular. As for me, I feel the sorrow and fear, but it also opens my heart to the joy and blessings that animate our lives. I try to live in a state of radical acceptance, being open to everything and every feeling, trying not to filter or judge or rationalize. I won't say I succeed all the time, and sometimes everything just seems....hard. But I don't think I would have been capable of such acceptance before becoming a mom to AJ. If there is one question that echoes in my thoughts each and every day, it's the one posed by Mary Oliver:

“Tell me, 
what is it you plan to do 
with your one wild and precious life?” 

Sunday 20 December 2015

Christmas card from the Turtles

The title is kind of sarcastic because I don't have any greeting card sentiments to share. But for all the challenges, highs and lows of the year I am grateful for the living we did and the rest we will hopefully get in the next couple of weeks. Here's how Christmas looks and feels this year:
  • The outside trees have lights, hung by Mr Turtle (who got the timer to work, too!)
  • Some modest presents for our close family bought and mostly wrapped, just missing one for AJ. We don't buy her a lot of special occasion presents because 1) our parents and siblings always do and 2) we buy her stuff as she needs it / is age appropriate. But I do want to buy her a book about cats, because she loves books and cats (the toy kind, anyway).
  • Cards and small gifts were distributed to people at work. I received more than I gave out though. I dunno if I should experience this as a social faux pas or just be grateful. It is my first year so I had no idea what people would do. It kind of makes me resent being a woman though because seriously: do men ever give a s**t if they didn't reciprocate a card or a chocolate? Ok hold on, let's try the grateful route instead.
  • Cards also distributed to daycare staff and cook. No need to remind myself to be grateful in that case; AJ is doing so well there and I have no anxiety about dropping her off mornings (some existential sadness, of course, but mostly gratitude that she is thriving and well cared for)
  • I cleaned the house yesterday. Yeah! Except the bathroom; that's Mr Turtle's job and has been ever since I cleaned the bathroom the night before our wedding day and then spent the morning throwing up / getting intravenous medication and fluids (luckily we had planned an evening wedding, lol)
  • Speaking of sick, I seem to have a mild GI something right now. Please let it not get really bad! Also on a 46 day cycle and counting. All tests negative. Ugh. 
  • My mom and dad are are hanging on. My dad is at home and has completed radiation treatment. No word yet on whether it was effective. He eats through a tube but has also been swallowing a little broth lately. My mom handles his care 24/7.  They say they are doing OK. I'm not sure I believe them, but then what does OK actually look like in this situation? Alive, in control of your decisions and mind if not much else? 
  • We fly out for a week on Monday to visit my MIL. I am looking forward to getting away for a little while (however the trip goes, at least I have the anticipation). I am kind of guilty about feeling this way, considering my dad's condition. But something I've really missed the past year is travelling, or even just going on a day trip. It's my fantasy of choice. And it is important for AJ to see all her relatives and grandparents, to whom she is so important.
  • I still have to do the gifts to charity that I do every year. I wish I had the time / organizational skills / energy to do something personalized but I dont, so it will be giving money over the Internet. Oh well. When AJ is older we will do something together, because I don't want Christmas to only be about getting stuff.
  • I had highlights put in my hair for first time in months.
  • We're mostly ready to fly tomorrow I think. I did some research on flying with a toddler and made some preparations. But I'm not going to worry too much about it. Guess what? Since I've been a mom for a bit over a year, I've learned to let (some) things go and not get in a dither. Or maybe it's that AJ is a bringer of joy and she doesn't trigger my crazy.
  • Speaking of AJ, well overdue for a random cuteness upate. Maybe over the holidays.
  • 36th birthday later this week (I am not coy about my age. No "29 again!" crap for me!) I think I'll ask for a date night with Mr Turtle. We haven't had in a long time.
That's how December 2015 looks for us. I truly hope everyone finds peace and happiness somewhere in the next few weeks, but always remember there is room for all feelings at the table. A hopeful, loving, inclusive Merry Christmas to all.

Monday 7 December 2015

#Microblog Mondays: Achievable Goals

Lately I've been (mostly) getting through my days by setting no more than 4 (usually) acheivable goals. I feel pretty good when I get to them, but the real point is when I'm overwhelmed during the day, or distracted by some drama or setback, I say to myself "achievable goals" to refocus. I'm the person walking about muttering to themselves.

It seems to be working ok....

microblog mondays

Thursday 19 November 2015

Friday the 13th / Eye of the storm

Going to make a generalization and say that Friday November the 13th was not a good day for a lot of people. For some, the worst day possible.

It wasn't great for me either.

I found out about the terrorist attacks on Paris at about dinner time. People react to news like this in different ways, for all sorts of reasons: personal connection to the people/place, beliefs, knowledge and interpretation of current events, culture, values, religion, etc. etc.

My reaction was a blast of anger.

Anger because why this? why this again? how much worse will it get? what now? who's next? who's fault?

My social media community, who apparently are a lot more optimistic about humanity than I am, posted how sad they were, how they wished for peace. Prayers were fashionable, including a great many atheist/agnostic ones. Candles and French flags multiplied.

Anybody who talked about peace, hope or reconciliation with me on Friday the 13th would have gotten a reaction something like this. (starting at about 0:40. No musical introduction necessary!).

Just as well that nobody tried.

About half an hour after I started following the news, I got a call from my mom that my dad had been admitted to the hospital. He was no longer able to swallow food. (In September my dad was diagnosed with cancer of the esophagus.) Up until this week he was strong, although eating was getting progressively harder. This sudden apparent turn for the worse was very scary, especially since the hospital staff tried to insert a feeding tube when my dad was admitted and weren't able to get it by the tumour. Fortunately, my middle brother was visiting and was there with my parents through all of it.

I booked this week mostly off work, not knowing what would happen next. However, things seem to be going well, for now. The cancer specialists were able to get the feeding tube through on Monday, although even they had some difficulty. My dad has regained a lot of strength and is continuing to run his consulting company from his bedside. All our family has been able to get together on a few occasions and talk about the situation.

My dad has also made his wishes known to us and his medical team. It appears the cancer has spread to one sentinal lymph node, which is in a very difficult location to operate. There is no evidence that it has spread to other organs however. At least one doctor was suggesting palliative care, concerned that aggressive chemo/radiation and surgery could kill faster than the cancer. My dad does not want that. He wants the chance for a cure or a death that comes quickly. His mind is strong and clear. We are glad that he knows what he wants, but deeply sad that all of the options are painful, both physically and emotionally.

I spent Monday and Tuesday with my mom, offering company and ways to help. It's hard in some ways to offer help to my parents because they are so independent, and so insistent that we focus on our needs, not theirs. I pretty much had to show up and be like "I'm here and there's nothing you can do about it." I guess I also want to be there to share the burden, to not be an outsider. After a couple of days, however, my mom seemed to be worrying more about me than herself, so I gave her some space. I understand that it's hard for her to know what she wants.

We respond to stress in similar ways, so it is sort of comical when we are together, as we both try to make up for the gaps in awareness we both have. I put my phone down and can't find it five seconds later. My mom looks furiously for her scarf, and when she gives up and starts to put on another one, realizes she already has the one she wanted around her neck. Reading and processing information is a struggle: we both stare at the same document without being able to find the word we are looking for. I finally find it and we breathe a sigh of relief. I scrape the car on the side of the garage I've backed out of dozens of times. My mom back seat drives constantly when I take her places. I tell her I do better when I use my own brain. Then I leave the window open when I park (luckily nothing was stolen). We laugh hysterically as we try to set the voice mail on her new cell phone and our snickering and bickering gets recorded on the message.

Oh well. From what I've read, sometimes the most important thing in a crisis is just to have a few hours here and there that feel normal. Being able to work has much improved my dad's spirits. And the rest of us have been able to share and enjoy a few moments of the mundane, even of the humourous. I try to make a plan for the day and follow it. It's weird because I feel tired but can't relax and rest, and feel like I should be doing a lot but struggle to get motivation/energy.

I finally sent an email out to my friends because I was worried they would think I didn't care about them anymore. As an introvert socializing takes effort so during hard times I usually don't bother. But I know it's not good to be isolated either. Luckily the people I am close to are much the same in temperament and they understand, and it has felt good to reach out.

I understand that my dad will start chemo/radiation next week. The next few weeks will be hard. We don't know how he will respond to the treatment or even if he will survive it. It feels like I am in the eye of the storm right now.

As for the situation in the rest of the world, my anger has cooled to a slow burn and I no longer want to blast anyone in particular to the bottom of the Marianas Trench. I know it isn't anywhere near that simple. I have a renewed resolve to be the best and most informed citizen I can be.

Meanwhile, I'm enjoying all the AJ hugs and Mr. Turtle hugs I can. A couple of shots from our professional photo shoot at the beginning of October:

Wednesday 11 November 2015

Monday in November: Working parents

I've been trying to think how I can keep the blog updated, keep it as my outlet....without being repetitive. Because honestly, I'm preoccupied by the same stuff every day. I could write the same entry over and over again. But that gets boring and I don't think it will be very helpful to me either.

So, I thought I'd try a new "day in the life." After all, I've been a working mom for two and a half months now, and Mr. Turtle has been back at work for about a month. Sometimes focusing on what we do in a day makes more sense than focusing on what's on my mind every day.

But first of all, I hope everyone has a fulfilling and contemplative Remembrance Day (aka Veteran's Day / Armistice Day). I used to always try to go to a public ceremony, but since marriage/home ownership/baby we haven't gone. And we probably won't until AJ is old enough to understand a little, and then we will introduce her to the idea of Remembrance Day. But I do feel obliged to acknowledge that it is an important day and not only for sleeping in and catching up on chores, although that is what we are doing in our household.

I did attend a very well done Remembrance Day ceremony at my school yesterday. One of the speakers, a veteran, talked about a trip he took around Europe some years ago, including a visit to the Canadian National Vimy Memorial in France.

One of the photos he shared was of "Mother Canada" on the Vimy memorial.
"Mother Canada” or “Canada Bereft”: A female figure draped in a cloak stands alone on the wall at the north-eastern side of the memorial. She bows her head and is looking down at a stone sarcophogus, representing Canada's war dead, at the base of the 24 foot (7.3 metres) wall below her. The magnificent view across the Douai plain and the location of the old enemy of the time spreads out before her. This figure is called Mother Canada or Canada Bereft, representing the nation of Canada mourning for her dead. [source]
I am grateful for all the sacrifices that veterans and their families have made, and are still making today so that I can live my ordinary life, in a free and just society (one we are always trying to improve).  My father and aunt lived  through war when they were tiny children like AJ. (World War II/Nazi occupation of Greece/Greek civil war. My great-grandfather also fought in World War I.).  In their 70s and 80s now, my dad and aunt are still haunted by what they saw and experienced. I on the other hand did not experience a World War, or the Cold War, or any war first hand. I hope AJ never has to either, although we will not see world peace in her lifetime. Her generation may or may not experience the same privilege that we have. If she is so lucky, I hope she doesn't ever take it for granted.

With this added appreciation of the mundane, back to my day in the life. It was a Monday in November. Two working parents and a baby. Note I put the emphasis on "parents" not just "mother." Because we are both parents to AJ and we both made the decision to work.

5:45: Alarm goes. I get up, brush teeth. See that it has snowed outside overnight. Then go to AJ's room and wake her with lots of silly talk and cuddles. Boob feed. Mr Turtle gets up and showers.

~6:15: Take AJ to kitchen. Lots of cuddles along the way. Sit her in highchair and cut up an orange for her, which she gobbles up.

Around 6:25, Mr. Turtle is out of the shower. Hand AJ over to Mr. Turtle to wash and dress. I have shower. I take rather too long. Mmmm, hot shower.

6:50, I'm dressed and sort of ready for the day. Goodbyes: Mr. Turtle goes outside to shovel snow and make his way to work.

AJ plays on the floor while I sort out breakfast and my lunch. I can't see her but she is playing with this musical turtle toy my parents gave her for her birthday. You push a button on top and it plays a tune. As long as I can hear the tunes playing, I'm reasonably sure she's in one place and not into too many things. I boil an egg. Spread hummous and lettuce on two pieces of bread (which will become my sandwich.) I wash raspberries and strawberries.

At some point AJ is bored/fussy so I bring her back into kitchen, put her in the highchair. I mix up some plain yoghurt with honey and raspberries for her. I do much the same for myself.

I feel like I'm multitasking quite efficiently, then realize it's 7:30 and really we should have been done breakfast by now. I decide I don't care. With the snow, what are the chances that anyone or anything will be on time?

I make a cup of chai tea. I no longer drink coffee in the mornings; I find it too strong. Early mornings are stressful for me and my stomach is always a little bit upset. No, I'm not pregnant, but I get morning sickness anyway. At least on work days; weekends I'm fine. I feed AJ her yoghurt and manage to also eat mine. I notice the place mats and tablecloth are really dirty. Ugh. I feel like this shouldn't bother me but it does.

AJ is done eating so I give her her Kitteeees. I move her chair to the kitchen to tidy up a bit. The kitties get hugs and kisses and then get thrown on the floor. There are only a few dirty dishes in the sink. Decide I don't care about that either. I don't drink most of the tea.

I then proceed to put together my bags, put AJ into her car seat, finish making my sandwich, and get outside clothes on, including putting the keys in my pocket where they are easy to grab (otherwise I have to put down all the bags to find them. This is an important detail). All of this happens by about 7:50am. Which is fine, although later than I usually aim for. But I know what I'm doing at work (isn't that a good feeling!) so there's no particular need to be there very early.

Outside I go with AJ in carseat, a bag full of boots and shoes that one of the other special ed classes is polishing for work experience, AJ's diaper bag, and my day bag. It all ends up in the car somehow.

8:10: Daycare drop off. AJ is happy; they are getting ready to have a snack. I am surprised by guerrilla tears in the car afterwards. It doesn't happen too often. I talk to AJ the rest of the drive to work even though she isn't in the car anymore.

8:25-ish: Arrive at work. Drop off the boots and shoes. Fill up tea and water cups (if I don't do this first thing, I won't get to it and may have a day where I don't drink and don't pee all day. Not good.). Tomorrow my students have buddies from another class working with them and I haven't decided what they are going to do. I go online and look for ideas. I discover toilet roll people. Love it. I make list of things I need to buy at the dollar store for toilet roll people. This means I have a good excuse to leave early-ish to go shopping.

9:00ish, students arrive, we do our usual routines. The morning goes smoothly. I've had a new student start last week, and although we are still getting to know him, he seems to be adjusting well and the others are getting used to him and that's a huge relief.

12:00ish: Lunch. I go to staffroom, eat rather quickly, and return to classroom to write emails, especially one to a parent who is annoyed about something. Long story, can't go into, but the situation is not my fault. I feel bothered by it anyway, because I am the kind of person that likes everybody to be happy and getting along, and if they are not I feel like I have to fix it. In this case however other people need to take action themselves to fix the situation, including the parent, and that is just the way it has to be. So I write an email response that is polite but very much to the point.

12:40ish: Students are back, but off to phys. ed. I have some prep time. I prepare a Remembrance Day craft for last class.

2:00ish: Last class with students. Goes OK, although they are tired. We decorate our door with poppies.

3:15, goodbye students. Today is flu shot day so I go to get mine. The teacher before me is scared of needles and comments that I am "much braver than her." I reply that I've gotten so many needles in my life I don't care anymore. This is true but they have never bothered me much at any time. I add that I did IVF so I had to give myself needles, and that was hard. Mentally, anyway. Sympathy cringe. The other teacher tells me she doesn't want her kids to go to the doctor with her and see her reaction to needles and think it's normal. I tell her that her feelings are normal for her. Isn't it funny how harshly we judge ourselves for our feelings?

I have no reaction so far to the flu shot unless I lean my right shoulder up against something, then it feels sore.

4:00, out the door. This is very early for me to be leaving school but I'm making a dollar store run as planned. I buy felt, glue, googly eyes, plastic containers. What can't you do with felt and glue and googly eyes! (and lots of plastic containers).

4:40 (approximately) Next stop: Grocery store. As I walk through the parking lot, I notice that there is a beautiful sunset. High windblown clouds glowing red. The air is cool but not cold. I feel a sudden rush of optimism: The world is beautiful, and good angels walk with me. I ride this wave of hope and peace into the store.

I want to make a pot of slow cooker soup and take it over to my parents' tomorrow so I need ingredients. While I'm at the store it occurs to me I should pick stuff up for our dinner tonight. I call Mr. Turtle and ask what he wants because this suddenly feels like too many decisions for me to handle alone. Mr. Turtle says something quick because he needs to meet his online study group tonight. Sigh. I find tortellini and cheese sauce, and then walk around the grocery store far too many times because I can't remember what I need when I'm near the right aisle.

Back to car with groceries: appreciate the sunset and the fresh air again and the good feelings I'm getting.

5:00ish: driving to daycare. Talking to an imaginary AJ again, telling her I'm coming.

5:10: Pickup! AJ gives me a big smile and starts crawling towards me when she sees me. I'm not in a hurry for her to walk because she is so cute when she crawls, like some small adorable animal who is also human.

5:20: Home! I sit in the car for a few minutes, procrastinating going in, because I have so much stuff to carry and I want Mr. Turtle to come home and help. AJ gets bored with sitting in the car seat and starts to fuss so I have to go in. Luckily, as soon as we are in the door Mr. Turtle arrives too. Yay! He takes AJ downstairs to play while I unload the car: newly polished shoes and boots, 4 bags of groceries, daycare bag, dollar store purchases.

I unpack groceries (throwing out a few yuckies in the refrigerator at the same time). Mr. Turtle puts AJ in high chair, puts tortellini to boil, then goes to computer for meeting. Sigh.

Things don't go too great after this point. I make a salad, avoid the totellini boiling over, and feed AJ finger foods. She eats a few grapes but then she starts throwing everything I give her on the floor and crying. We've noticed she's been a somewhat fussier eater the past few weeks (but just as hungry as ever.) Grapes, floor. Strawberries, floor. Tortellini, floor! Water and milk: get it away from me! Splash, splatter! Then she starts to cry loudly and angrily. I finally open a package of baby food, sit her in my lap, and feed her with a spoon. She doesn't seem to like this much either and still fusses but she eats it, and that calms her down at least. Mr. Turtle has heard her racket and pops upstairs to check, but then he has to get back to his meeting. I peel an orange and AJ eats most of that too (I help with a few pieces.)

I change the dirty tablecloth and place mats because after all this, a dirty table is just unacceptable.

Dishes washed (mostly). Still no Mr. Turtle. I wander down a couple of times and ask him if he's done yet. I know this is not really fair; he has to finish meeting with his group. I bug him anyway.

AJ is getting cranky again, but happily eats one of the home made cookies my mom made her.

7:00ish, Mr. Turtle is done, comes upstairs, apologizing for being absent. He knows all the right things to say, and I appreciate that. AJ wants her glass of water. I give it to her, and she pours the whole thing down her lap. We have to give her a bath now, or she'll get cold being so wet. Mr. Turtle fills the bath, I peel off the wet clothes. AJ likes her bath and splashes gleefully. Also likes the parental attention, I'm sure.

7:20ish, Mr. Turtle finally gets to sit down to eat. He assures me everything is delicious. Yes, he is wonderful. I play with AJ, cleaned up and in her PJ's, on the floor.

8:00ish: Bedtime for AJ. Boob feed. She falls asleep quite easily.

I grab my dollar store stuff and head downstairs to organize it and make a couple of examples of toilet roll people. Mr. Turtle gets pie and tea for us. I whip together two dolls and they are actually pretty cute. A little bit minion-like. I hope the students and their buddies like making them tomorrow.

Between 8 and 10:00: AJ wakes up a few times crying. Mr. Turtle rocks her back to sleep each time.

I start writing this entry, and actually get most of it done. I feel accomplished.

11:30ish: We go to bed. A bit later than usual.

It's been a good day, altogether. What more can we ask for?

Hey, who am I kidding? Of course there's always more we can ask for. But when I can say "That was a good day, and I'm warm and fed and with the people I love the most" I am very thankful for that.

Thursday 29 October 2015

A trip around the sun

I already wrote about AJ's official birthday celebration, but I can't let today go without an acknowledgement. I had notions of setting an alarm at 4:32am to be awake for the anniversary of her big entrance, but sleep is too sweet to interrupt on ceremony. (AJ has been a good sleeper the past couple of months, but one can't take things for granted, and sometimes I'm a worse sleeper: if I wake up I'm not going back down.)

So many things I could say, so many things I feel, so many media and art projects I could do/finish to keep as a souvenir: but then there's reality.

What I did do:

  • Typical early morning routine with AJ, but a little more lighthearted than usual. (Early mornings are the hardest part of my day, emotionally: it's when I feel most conflicted and anxious.) AJ wore her dress up dress for the day.
  • Had the best morning at school that I could: did crafts with the students, participated in Halloween events.
  • I took the afternoon off. The reason was that AJ had eye and doctor appointments, but that didn't mean I wasn't going to also enjoy the afternoon. Before picking up AJ from daycare I went to the grocery store deli and bought myself a yummy lunch: butter chicken, salad, naan bread, orange pop. Then I went home and ate it while reading a magazine.
  • Picked AJ up from daycare and headed off to appointments, squeezing in a little bit of shopping for myself. Appointments were a little frustrating since everyone was running late. But it all worked out and you'd think the doctor was the most exciting thing ever, because AJ was so happy.
  • Then off to my parent's place. Mr Turtle and my brother met us there. We had dinner and did FaceTime with my other brother out of town, so he and my dad could share some birthday fun with AJ.
  • Everyone was being brave- or faking it - but we were all sad and uneasy, because my dad's most recent news was not too good. We still don't know the whole picture or treatment plan, but at least a couple of doctors have said that cure may be not possible, which means discussion of controlling vs removing, and a lifespan with a limit.

...of course we all have a limit on our lives, but nobody really wants to hear what it is. Everybody knows we have to say goodbye to our loved ones one day, but we don't want it to be now, or next week, or in six months, or even next year, to be honest.

I remember particularly the first time my parents met AJ. It was our second day in the hospital. They were over the moon with excitement, of course. But I particularly remember my dad talking to AJ about all the things he was going to do with her in the future: cycling, sailing, going to the opera. I remember finding this touching and funny and awkward and a little bit frightening: because who knows how much time we really have? I wanted us to all live in the present. (Of course as the mom of a newborn the present was about all I could handle.) But still I hate being right. My parents have never wasted their time or opportunities, never given anything but their whole hearts to each other and their family. It makes the thought of their time being cut short that much more sad.

And my mom almost went to pieces when we were about to leave and she remembered we hadn't taken photos. (We took them.)

AJ fell asleep in the car and after an short interlude of inevitable irritation at being woken up for bedtime routine (done as quickly as possible) went peacefully back to sleep. I'll try to follow her example.

Sunday 25 October 2015


Today we celebrated AJ's first birthday with a small group of family and friends.

Fancy cheese, veggies, hummous, cupcakes, birthday cake, peas, juice and pop. Yum!

We had talked briefly about a themed party with costumes, decorations, invitations, etc. Yeah, that was never going to happen. We opted to go for adults only, mainly because we are lazy parents, and most of our family and friends don't have kids. Also, I didn't grow up with birthday parties and to be honest they scare me more than a little. We plan to raise AJ with North American traditions and celebrations, so we will throw birthday and holiday parties. However, I don't mind putting it off as long as we can get away with it.

We went to the party store the day before for supplies and decorations. It was full of Halloween shoppers, mainly families with kids who all seemed to be having meltdowns. Mr. Turtle and I both dislike stressful shopping experiences: we tend to freeze and be unable to make any decisions, and end up walking out with nothing. But we had no time to anywhere else so we hunkered down, focused and bought banners, paper pom-poms and colourful plates. Instant theme: polka dots and bright colours!

We collaborated on the cake. I found a peas and carrots smash cake recipe. I bought the groceries; Mr. Turtle baked it and made the icing. Then I put the pea decorations on and my friend C. finished it off when she got to the party.

You know how people ask "Can I help with anything?" when they arrive someone's house, and usually the hosts say "Nope, all under control!" Well, when you come to our house you hear "Sure: here's your job and be smart about it, because we've got another one when you're done." That's how slick and organized we are.

The cake turned out really well. In addition to the smash cake, the recipe provided for a dozen cupcakes. We had guests fighting for the last one, including my stepmother in law who never takes seconds of anything! I might be making this recipe again. Also it is really easy.

AJ enjoyed her cake. She started by picking peas off one by one and eating them, then slowly but efficiently made an excavation. She probably ate about a third of it. We had her stripped down in

just a tutu, but she barely made a mess: that cake was going into her mouth! She ate about a third of it and the rest we were able to save for later.

It was an awesome party. AJ was blessed with many good wishes, and enough new toys and clothes and books to keep her stylish and playing and learning for months to come. Most of our family in town was able to come, minus my dad who had had a PET scan recently and didn't want to be near AJ. (His initial tests showed no spread of the cancer, which is encouraging, but we don't know the results of the most recent tests.) Several out of town family members were present via Skype. The focus was on being together, on living and laughing and loving with AJ.

I can feel the passage of time this weekend. I have mixed emotions about it, or rather I have emotions that are like different sides of the same coin. We went to Bab.ies R Us this weekend, and it was kind of a weird experience. We first went to this store when I was late in my 3rd trimester, and we felt a little like impostors.  Were we really going to have a baby? We've been back many times since AJ's birth for clothes, toys, furniture, and it didn't take long for the place to become familiar and even routine. But when we went again yesterday, I found myself looking around and again feeling like we didn't belong there. Breast pumps, bassinets, infant swings, teeny tiny clothes...AJ is too big for 90% of the stuff in that store. She's outgrown it!

On one hand I feel good about this: proud, even relieved. We have a strong, happy, healthy child, and I think she's pretty darned smart and good looking too. She completes and defines our lives. If our world is a puzzle, we know exactly where her piece fits. Of course she has and always will have the ability to surprise us, but we are not bashful, nervous new parents with a squalling bundle of mystery. She's our daughter, we have a relationship.

On the other hand, it is unnerving to see the early months of her life fade into the past, into a nostalgic, beautiful irrelevance. I don't think I so much miss AJ as an infant, as I (sometimes) miss being the mom to an infant. I prepared for that role, I (at times) struggled with it, I learned how to be good at it. And now it's over. So quickly.

But with more of AJ to fill my arms and heart every day, there's no way to not love the present.

My brother wrote a sonnet for AJ, which I think is the best birthday greeting I have ever read. It speaks to my heart.

"Oh, have a Happy Birthday, AJ, dear,
This is your day to smile and not to cry,
To celebrate your life of just one year,
A year, your first, of joy and fun gone by.
Not every day was full of fun and games,
Nor will all the days to come be all like this,
Not every day will live up to what it claims,
A day to celebrate and reminisce.
But every happy life must have its first, 
There can't be two or three without a one,
Year four needs three and two and one rehearsed,
That's why we celebrate your life begun.
So clap your hands and smile, you're made it here,
Now and again, until this time next year."

Monday 12 October 2015

A Tale of Two Octobers

I am pretty proud of myself today.

I finally have my photos up to date and organized! I use Go.ogle Pic.asa, which I know some people dislike because it's a bit like the Borg and it takes over your whole computer, but my photo situation is so chaotic I need the Borg. Up until July, I was creating a monthly album for AJ and emailing it out to family. After July I kind of lost it, and I didn't get the albums up to date until today. I also sent 511 photos to print, which means that in theory AJ may have a baby book by her first birthday (for now I've decided to go the scrapbook route rather than the photo book route) and our house will have updated photos on the walls. Maybe even in time for (Canadian) Thanksgiving dinner.

Speaking of which, going through the photos from the past year was a good excuse to dwell on gratitude, and let go of some anxiety and worry. Resolution and completion have not been the themes of my life lately, and it leaves me feeling scattered. Whether I'm at work or at home or somewhere else, it is really hard to finish projects and have the sense of accomplishment. I know in my head what to do, but the time runs away, the tasks multiply, technology breaks down, the baby crawls, someone behaves badly, the principal calls an 8am meeting, a kid hits my car...And I just want to go home/hug AJ/watch TV/eat cheese/read a book/go for a walk/hug Mr. Turtle. Since I'm not very good at being a martyr that's usually exactly what I do. But I still have this supposedly ideal life in my head. And it can make me anxious.

But the past year has been a year of consciousness-exploding change and growth and miracles. This time last year we were still waiting for "Ember" to make her appearance. Nobody knew for sure when or how! Pregnancy was an amazing trans-formative experience. As time goes by and my body returns to its ornery ways it's hard to believe that I was capable of such a thing. Thank goodness it's all documented in such detail.  On the other hand I do like to feel slender and have boobs that don't draw small objects into orbit with their gravitational force.  Even more amazing though is how AJ has transformed from a tiny newborn into this.....person.

This picture collage tells the tale of two Octobers:

In the right photo AJ looks like she's assessing a real estate deal, makes me giggle every time.

I also have a resolution. I'm not going to apologize for things, not unless I've done something really rude or harmful, which I don't think happens much. But I'm not going to apologize for not having everything up to the ideal in my mind (or the ideal in someone else's mind, for that matter). I'm going to try to respect the energy I have and the difference it makes in the world.

Sunday 4 October 2015

Eleventh Month

Our little baby is more and more a little human. Sometimes she seems huge, sometimes very tiny. No mathematician could possibly explain how she gets exponentially cuter every week.

Here come the bullets.

  • AJ is eating 3 solid meals a day plus snacks, all food groups represented. She eats what we eat for the most part, but we will sometimes make her some "moosh" if we need to balance her diet or she might not like what we are eating. She also has breast milk about 3 times a day: 6am when she gets up (usually a little later on weekends), about 5:00pm when I get home (occasionally this feed is skipped) and before bed. I still enjoy breastfeeding, and so does AJ, and I feel guilty if something happens that prevents me from breastfeeding (e.g. one of my disgusting illnesses the past month). But I'm also slowly realizing that AJ survives just fine without the breast, and this ritual of infancy is in its last weeks. It was hard, almost impossible to imagine her going without when she fed from the breast every two or three hours, and even when we had reduced to five times a day. And yet, here we are. As long as we are both happy with the current arrangement though, it will continue.
  • Given a choice of finger foods: AJ sorts them by preference. For example one day I gave her mixed vegetables and chicken. She put the corn and chicken off to one side of her tray table and then methodically ate all the peas. I offered her some green beans and she ate those. When all the green food was gone she ate some corn and chicken. Mr. Turtle is a sorter too and says she learned it from him.
  • Most recent favourite foods: Grapes and oranges. Still likes the "classics": lentils, sweet potato, prunes, peas. Watermelon is out of season now.

Verbal and social behaviour:
  • We hear words every now and then that seem to refer to specific things: e.g. "Apple" when she sees an apple. "Orange" when she sees the colour orange in one of her books. In those cases I heard the words repeated many times in the same context so I felt she was trying to say the word. But she hasn't said those words on other occasions. "Kitty Cat" is still the word we hear most consistently applied.
  • At times AJ says things that sound disturbingly like sentences. One morning we were offering her scrambled eggs when she wanted muffin. Both of use heard her clearly say "I don't want those" -- with vocal fry. Our instantaneous, affronted, and probably incorrect response was "YES you DO want that!" (In the end she got the muffin - of course she did.)
  • AJ is very interested in people and what they are doing, and especially in other children. Any time she hears another baby or child she immediately looks for them. Maybe because of this, she had a very smooth transition to full time daycare. She also enjoys being in restaurants and we can have a rather hard time getting her to focus on her food because she is busy looking at all the people.
  • Laughing a lot more. She used to only laugh at home, but now she laughs in other places too, around other people such as her grandparents.
  • Waving to more people, not just Dad and her reflection
Gross motor:
  • For the first part of the month, AJ would crawl backwards and hate it, because she wanted to go forward and couldn't figure it out.
  • By her 11 month birthday: Finally crawling forwards! Not very quickly or efficiently, but definitely crawling. She started off with one knee tucked under her, in pigeon pose, and dragged herself forward. She is quickly learning how to get two knees under her though. Parenthood just go that much less lazy.
  • AJ still needs a good motivation to crawl. She doesn't expend energy just to expend energy (so we can still be a little bit lazy). At the moment, books seem to have the biggest appeal. I have three wicker baskets of different sizes with lids. I put her books in them sorted from biggest to smallest. She loves to crawl over to the boxes, take the lid off and pull out the books.
  • A couple of times AJ was able to get up to a sitting position from being on her belly, but I don't think she knows how she did it.
  • Pulling up to her knees (again with one foot tucked into the other knee)
  • Loves to walk with support: her favourite is to walk to one parent while the other holds her.
This crawling photo is just impossibly cute to me.

Fine motor:
  • AJ is very delicate with her fingers. She manipulates objects carefully and thoughtfully. She certainly does bang things too, but when she has something new or interesting in her hands she is extremely gentle and thoughtful. When she is in this analytical mood she doesn't look like a baby somehow. She looks like a scientist or an engineer analyzing a problem, or an artist doing especially delicate work on a painting. If we interrupt her she will give us a dirty look like we are foolish oafs wasting her time.
  • If I give her food slices, she pokes holes in them and wears them like a ring (assuming she's not overly hungry). She also likes to put food in her hair and all over her face so maybe she is practicing self-ornamentation.
  • AJ has started putting toys back. Most recently she was able to return one animal piece to its correct place on the puzzle board. 
Personality/Social life/Play:
  •  AJ has intense focus. For example, we took her to the play area of the mall once.  There were a variety of play stations around and kids tearing about, including some babies. I stood AJ by a small table that had a bead play set on it: the kind where you slide the beads along a wire. She was engrossed by this. Most of the other kids would head to one play centre, stay about 30 seconds, and move on to another one. AJ on the other hand stood and played with the beads for about twenty minutes, perfectly happy. However, this does not mean she wasn't interested in what else was going on: she also liked being able to see all the room and the other people. At one point I took her to a play station that was up against the wall. AJ did not like that at all, and kept looking over her shoulder and fussing.
  • Loves toys that make noises. One off her Grandmas gave her wooden toy rattles and that was all she wanted for a few days (unfortunately one of them broke).
  • Loves books. I'm slightly embarrassed to admit that it is probably the daycare staff more than myself that encouraged this. I hardly ever read to AJ when she was at home, maybe because it seemed kind of boring compared to all the other fun and cute things she could be doing. But AJ does enjoy having a book in her hands, although the appeal is probably more in the physical manipulation of it rather than the "story" (most of her books aren't really stories, anyway). She especially likes the books that have different textures to touch and the Sophie the Giraffe books with "peekaboo" windows.
  • AJ can play for long periods of time by herself, although she likes attention. She talks to her stuffed animals, gives them kisses, bangs her rattles, and looks inside her nesting blocks and her toy bags (and of course boxes of books). Lately she likes to try to get into our stuff, especially the stuff we tried to hide from her. She is happiest when we are all hanging out together, relaxed.
The S-Word (sleep)
  • Since the middle of the month AJ has most often been sleeping through the night (fingers crossed). She had some disrupted nights when she was sick and/or I was sick, but most of the time she goes to bed between eight and nine and sleeps until 6am or slightly later if we don't wake her. Sometimes she wakes up and cries a bit but she usually falls back asleep. We did nothing in particular to achieve this other than be patient. Daycare might have helped because she didn't have mom or dad feeding/rocking her to sleep for naps. So, if you don't want to sleep train or it doesn't work for you, it is possible for baby to learn to sleep through the night without it. But don't expect it to happen at 3 months or six months or whatever deadline.
Me, 11 months post-partum

It sounds a bit weird to say "11 months post-partum" but I don't know how else to say it. Mainly I feel like myself. Unfortunately that means some of the negative sides of my personality are coming back, too. Like my anxiety and moodiness. Maybe it's hormonal and maybe it's just an inevitable part of life getting more complicated.

After starting work, my weight has returned to pre-pregnancy levels, albeit at the upper end. This was a combination of being on my feet a lot, higher anxiety and therefore eating less, and getting sick. I don't at all recommend anxiety fasting or getting sick as a weight loss method, but it is certainly efficient, at least in my case. Most of my trousers still don't fit comfortably, but a few pairs do. My boobs have also shrunk. I still wear my G-cup nursing bras, but they are looser.

My menstrual cycles have almost all been short since my period returned: around 21-24 days. This sucks but I hold out hope that I can still have a normal cycle occasionally.

I have frequent episodes of "who am I and what have I become." I don't think about it in any kind of logical fashion (which might be a problem). I have many demands on my time and energy and usually I'm preoccupied with just getting things done. But odd things bring home the changes in my life. Most lately, I was out at a debate club event with students from our school and other teachers. For whatever reason most of the other teachers there were young and in their early years of teaching. I've known for a while I'm not a young teacher anymore, but I've never thought too much about it either. I don't want to hand in my "beginner pass" because I still feel like I have a lot to learn. But watching and listening to twenty-five year old, (probably) single, and definitely childless people talk about their lives, priorities and plans made me realize how different my life and feelings and thoughts are now. I had to clasp my hands tightly together so I didn't pat them on the head and say "You are so, so cute." At the same time I feel insecure because have I really done and learned anything important in all these years? I know I have, but I question it. Could I be a useful mentor to younger people or are they all wishing I was just out of the way?  I think this is called getting old(er). It's probably good in the big picture of things that I'm at a new school, because I think it's good for me to be challenged in this way instead of staying in my comfort zone. But I don't necessarily enjoy it.

The big picture of things? Life is interesting, life is fun. Even if it can be terrifying, unpredictable, confusing, unfair and (sometimes) too short. Among a million other things. I never forget how extraordinarily lucky I am to be where I am. I don't mean just the event of AJ's birth, but all the things that got me here. I just hope I can make the most of it all.

Wednesday 30 September 2015

We don't know the future (reminder number ten thousand and one)

September has been the kind of month that reminds me of our mortal, flawed, limited nature.

I've had a few minor health issues. Your average colds and flus, except last weekend I had a slightly more exotic affliction in the form of a clitoral abscess. Ahem, yes, do take a minute and picture that.  It wasn't serious, but very very painful and required surgery. I had my first experience of general anesthetic. (Not as scary as I thought it would be. I thought it would feel like fainting/losing consciousness, a sensation that terrifies me, but it was more like waking up from a deep sleep.)

I was going to write about that experience, but then we got the news about my dad and it seemed trivial by comparison. My dad was just diagnosed with cancer of the esophagus. We don't know what stage it is yet; those tests are still taking place. As you might remember my mom was diagnosed with breast cancer earlier this year. Hers was very small and asymptomatic, however, and after treatment there is no evidence of the cancer. My dad's already feels more ominous because he does have symptoms, although not severe ones.

The past week we have been slowly mentally/emotionally adjusting our lives to accept these new realities and unknowns.

And there are my menstrual cycles / our efforts to conceive / body image / sexuality .... it's all sort of mixed up in my mind. The flashbacks to AJ's birth: those constantly go through my mind. I suppose it is inevitable as it is now the season of her birth.  The reminders are everywhere. The hospital brought back a lot of those memories. Not so much the memories that form a narrative, but the kind that lend texture to the narrative.  The sight of a bed, a hallway, an operating room, all that equipment and ritual. The strange sensation of other people sharing the responsibility for my body. My mind on drugs and the resulting peculiar judgments.

All of it has made fertility and the potential for pregnancy even more urgent. I'm not so much pondering whether or not it can happen, but feeling like I have to seize hold of the possibility. With all my body and mind. I guess it's the thoughts of mortality and feeling like I need to do something to strike back against it.

AJ is doing great; it is already time for her 11 month update. I will try to write that soon!

Tuesday 15 September 2015

Intersecting Roads

A couple of minutes from our home there's a major intersection. We drive one way or another through this intersection most times that we leave the house. Lately I've started to think of this intersection as a metaphor for my mind.
  • The south road goes to AJ's daycare. Across the street from the daycare is my old school.
  • The west road goes to my new school. 
  • The east road is the one we take the least often. There are some big box stores in that direction where we occasionally shop. But it also leads to the maternity clinic where I went for about six months while I was pregnant, and that is what I usually think of when I look in that direction.
  • The north road, of course, leads home.
So, let's go down each of these roads.

Of course we are very preoccupied with AJ's transition to daycare. We are lucky in that it seems to be going smoothly. She is happy to go; she eats, sleeps, poops and plays there like the happiest baby in the neighbourhood. The first time she went, Mr. Turtle stayed with her 15 minutes then picked her up at 2:30. Since then she has gone almost every day for a full day from 9:00ish to about 4:30.  I was very worried about how she would adapt to not having the breast during the day, but it doesn't seem to matter to her. We get reports emailed to us and sent to our phones, and it's reassuring (if a little discombobulating) to see her carrying on her baby life without either of us. Of course, next month it will become my job to drop her off and pick her up. I hope that doesn't change things too much.

I found myself missing my old school a lot during my first week back at work, and I was a bit surprised by that. I expected to miss AJ, but I didn't think I would miss my former workplace. The people at my new school have been welcoming and helpful, but I still wanted the familiar environment. I missed my teaching colleague who has become a trusted friend; my other colleagues; the students I had worked with. I even missed the things that I disliked, the issues I fought over with people for years, because that was part of my role: it was part of what made me belong. I haven't figured out yet how I belong at my new school, and even though I know intellectually what my role is, I feel un-moored emotionally. I'm hypersensitive about how people are relating to me and fret over proving myself to people (I'm like this anyway; it's accentuated now.)

 I also miss the feeling that people know me and my history.  My last half year at my old school I was pregnant with AJ. My close colleagues knew about the fertility issues and what I was going through during the pregnancy. They were genuinely sad and happy with me through the various bumps on the road, and as parents themselves their support of me as a becoming/new parent meant a lot. I wish they were still there to "welcome" me back and share this part of the journey, too. Of course I need to make connections at my new workplace, and I will: I just miss that feeling of walking into a room and seeing someone I don't have to explain everything to.

Things have been going fine at the new school. I don't have anything to complain about, really: it's the emotional part of making the transition, as well as all the busyness of year start up and getting used to a new workplace that is tiring. I am exhausted at the end of the day but the list of things to do/not done is still there, still growing. I have to do some deep breathing and remember that it always feels this way at the beginning of the year, and that I have attended to everything that is really important (at least at last count). The other challenge is keeping up my physical strength. This has always challenged me as someone with a demanding/stressful job. Eating enough (and nourishing food) in the morning and during the day. Drinking water. Getting enough sleep. Handling anxiety. Relaxing and getting enough sleep. In the past two years I had gotten as good at self-care as I have ever been. I feel like I've backslid a bit though in this new situation. I have to make an effort to stay on top of it.

Then there is the adjustment to life as a working parent, which is completely new to me. I feel like I haven't fully grasped the significance of this change. Mr. Turtle and I are still experimenting, adjusting. Some changes I can't help but notice. At my previous school, my colleague had a school-aged daughter. I remember her almost always leaving an hour after classes ended  to go home to her child, whereas I would often stay two or more hours after school, doing tasks. I felt not inferior to her, nor superior, but a curious combination of the two. Rather as if I had a privilege that I didn't want. Now, in my new school, I am the one who is usually leaving after an hour, while my new colleague is still in her classroom. I don't know how I feel about that. How big a part of my professional identity and confidence comes from spending hours at my job, putting in that extra effort and time? How much do people actually expect that of me? How do I negotiate these boundaries?


We are starting to try rather more earnestly to get pregnant again. My feelings about this have mostly settled into resolve, although there will always be a current of uneasiness. There is no talk of plans, or expectations, only of intentions. Mr. Turtle has said that he does not want to go to the "extremes" that we went previously. Well, it is all relative what is extreme and what is not. Certainly others have gone to greater "extremes" compared to us. Still, taken all together: the monitoring and timed intercourse, naturopathic treatments, endless tests, IVF - it was all quite time and energy consuming. Neither of us feels up to that now, or possibly ever. I can't imagine trying to squeeze acupuncture for fertility into my timetable, for example, especially since I have no proof it made any difference. I am monitoring my cycle intermittently with the Ova.cue, but no charting, no BBT.

We haven't talked seriously if we will seek another referral to The Fertility Clinic and on what timeline. It's not off the table, but I have very ambivalent feelings about going back to The Fertility Clinic. I'm sure nobody looks forward to assisted reproduction, but I imagine if it at least worked for a couple, they might anticipate the process with some optimism. In our case I just feel dread. Once I accepted that things were going OK, AJ's conception and birth felt like a "get out of jail free" card. Going back to The Fertility Clinic, on the other hand, feels like going back to jail. Jail with no guarantee of redemption or release. I dread being told to go for more tests, being told more bad news. Of course, this is all in my head. I don't know what would really happen.

Looking down that east road, I always flashback to prenatal appointments, the sense of wonder and expectation. I wonder if I will ever experience that again. I would like to think so. I know I haven't accepted that I won't, not even close. I think of all the doctors seeing all the pregnant people, day after day, always more, always the process of life continuing, and it feels strange that it's all going on without me. There is one thought I find comforting. In every examining room there are birth announcements posted from many years back. Last December I sent the maternity clinic AJ's birth announcement, as well as photos of her with the doctor who was at her delivery. I like to imagine AJ's announcement posted in one of the examination rooms. I like to think I'll go back one day and see it. But even if I don't, the thought that it is there gives me a good feeling.


Home is a good place. It's quite lovely having Mr. Turtle at home for a few weeks, and things will definitely get more intense after he has to go back to work. He's been a very good stay at home parent: shopping (I almost never did that), cooking, and caring for AJ (he does get a break when she is in daycare). AJ has adjusted to the change in her routine and caregivers with sunny acceptance. Gosh we are lucky for that.

We talk dreamily about finally getting to the house chores we've neglected: the overgrown backyard and patio, the disorganized shelves, IKEA furniture not built, the organization projects I started and stopped halfway. Hiring a landscaper to make our backyard more manageable. Cleaning the ducts for the first time in years (whoops). Finally babyproofing. AJ is taking her sweet time about crawling and her parents are taking their sweet time about getting ready for it. Mr. Turtle says he'll get to some of the chores before he goes back to work. In the big picture of things, if we feel mostly sane and happy,  and the house is not falling apart around us, I think we are still coming out ahead.

How do I feel about all of this? In my mind, I am standing at the intersection. Even though each of the roads is familiar, that familiarity feels like an illusion, as if I am in a dream-scape where things are not what they seem. I am going somewhere I have never gone before. And the truth is, often I feel very alone. I have to keep reaching out to remind myself that I'm not.

Wednesday 9 September 2015

The Tenth Month

My first weekend after starting work went from fantastic to super-fantastic (heavy sarcasm). After sitting around at home on Saturday, exhausted, I came down with a nasty GI bug on Sunday. Luckily my mom was around to help with AJ and Mr. Turtle was back by the evening. But I'm taking longer to bounce back than I thought I would and so I'm home from work for the second day. My goal is to do some normal things today so here goes, catching up on the blog. I have an undercurrent of emotional turbulence too, so it's good timing.

AJ was ten months old at the end of August. Here's whats new and developing:


  • Things she likes are "egg". (She also liked actual eggs until the past two days; they are boring now apparently).
  • She also says "Awgahtit" and "Ahlikeit" (sounds like "I got it" and "I like it") when she is doing something she likes.
  • AJ calls her toy cats gat,  gitt-ee, kitt-ee, kitty cat or gitty cat. They are her favourite toys. We have called "Kitty Cat" as her first word/words because she has learned how to ask for the kitty cats. She will say the word to us and then when we give them to her she laughs and claps. I think she's very excited that she has cracked this code. Since we are both cat people we are glad that we seem to be raising another cat person. She might get a cat at some point in her childhood: a puppy, never!
  • AJ continues to be a happy baby, at least during the day. She seems to really like daycare and we have had no issues with leaving her there (at least. she hasn't had issues). She enjoys all the toys, especially the toy xylophone and some interactions with the other babies.
  • AJ eats most foods now, including meat, in fact pretty much anything we are eating that she can chew. She still breastfeeds at 6am, 5pm, bedtime and once at night, but at daycare she eats all solid food. I convinced her to take homo milk or formula from a spoon at one point, but it's much too impractical and messy an operation to do regularly, and she won't take either from a cup or bottle with any consistency (she drinks water from a cup). 
  • AJ finds it hilarious to offer me food while we are eating but won't let me have it: she just waves it in front of my face and laughs. Perhaps this is payback for all the times we did that when she was little.
  • She did give dad food once and was annoyed when he actually ate it.
  • Her favourite foods are melon, other fresh fruits, muffins, scrambled egg until recently and she likes chicken too. But she will try pretty much anything.
  • AJ is dextrous enough to pick lint or other rubbish off the floor and put it in her mouth, so we need to vacuum often/supervise closely
  • AJ accepts a spoon but prefers to feed herself
Large Motor:
  • Getting closer to crawling but slowly, slowly. She can now go up on her hands and knees, but has not figured out the forward motion. She ends up pushing only with her arms and going backwards, away from her target, which she finds super frustrating. Or she does a belly flop.
  • Standing with more confidence, starting to reach and show interest in pulling up.
  • Finally mastered the belly to back roll, which means she does not hate being on her belly quite so much as she used to. At least I say that having observed her do it several times; she doesn't do it anymore than she has to, even now.
  • Usually (with luck) to bed between eight and nine, up between 2 and 4 hours later for one night feed, sleeps till 6am (with maybe one wake up where she needs to be soothed a little).
  • Occasionally she wakes up and refuses to settle for....anywhere from an hour to three hours. She will doze off in our arms, and then as soon as she is put down, scream. On these occasions we have to do sort of a version of cry it out, where we let her wail in her crib for a few minutes just to tired herself out.
  • Front incisors coming in. Teething doesn't seem to bother AJ too much, at least not constantly
  • Bigger, stronger, cuter.....Of course!
  • Grabbing parts of our face - noses, ears, eyes, cheeks. When she wants to look at my ear she will grab my chin in one hand and push my head to the side to get at it. She also likes to bite my chin which I have had to put a stop to because of all the teeth.
  • Sitting and playing with her toys
  • Smiling, talking and interacting with people
  • diaper change
  •  being in the car seat or stroller for too long
Important events in the tenth month:
  • In August we took a one hour plane ride to visit my parents at their summer place. AJ did very well on the flights. I had a bottle of milk pumped for her which we tried to offer her during takeoff and landing, but she wasn't interested. She only cried a little on the first flight, and not at all on the second.
  • At my parent's place she enjoyed daily walks in the woods, swinging on the swing they rigged up for her on the porch, and hanging out at the beach in a tent (she wasn't crazy about the lake.) And of course all the attention from grandparents. I must say I really love seeing my parents with AJ. She is their only grandchild, and probably will always be the only one unless we can have another child. Any time they see her they act like they just won the lottery.
I am way behind on photo organizing - maybe today I'll get caught up, maybe - but here is a favourite of AJ from our vacation.

We're so lucky to share our lives with her!

Saturday 5 September 2015

First weekend after returning to work

Mr. Turtle is away fishing.

It rained all day. I ate salmon out of a can, and whatever else was on hand around the house. (I have no intention of going out.) I am working my way through a bottle of wine, in very modest increments timed around AJ's breastfeeding schedule. I watched episodes of The Last Ship on Space channel. I haven't watched enough to fully understand what it is about, but basically a bunch of people sail around in a post-apocalyptic world where half the population has died from a virus. For some reason I found this compelling. My stepmother in law came to visit, which was nice, but I found it challenging to keep up a conversation with her.

My only goal is to sleep as much as possible in 24 hours, but AJ hasn't been particularly compliant. She has a mild cold, and had a fever yesterday which seems to have gone away. She was happy other than one screaming fit but didn't want to nap longer than half an hour at a time. Also she is cutting two  incisors and drooling enough to soak her clothes through. But she is also trying really hard to crawl and it is so adorable.

I think I'm doing OK, but the transition to working parent is exhausting.

Tuesday 1 September 2015

It's getting real

So, this whole working parent thing might be the nemesis of the blog, finally. I want to write (and read and comment) but suddenly there's less hours in the day. I'm doing a lot of "mental blogging": meaning I write it in my head but it doesn't get to the page. (Even as I write this mini-post I'm wondering if AJ is eating lint.) Mental blogging isn't nearly as satisfying however, since those unwritten posts don't offer any catharsis; they just hang around like a nagging headache.

So far so good though. I've been back at work  for four days, and today the real work started, with the students. Everybody went home happy, which is my measure of success for the first day. It will be a project to get to know this new group and figure out how to most benefit them, but at least so far I have a lot of help and support, so that's good. Mr. Turtle started six weeks of parental leave as soon as I went back to work.

Alice had her first day transitioning to daycare today. She stayed from 9:00 to 2:30. Mr. Turtle took her and stayed for about 15 minutes, after which he left because he felt like he wasn't needed. AJ seemed to enjoy herself a lot. She played, ate lentil soup, napped (!).  She only cried a bit before her nap (which she always does anyway). The staff said she could have easily stayed all day, but Mr. Turtle needed her back. The experience was much harder on him than her. He's promised to write a guest post about his time at home, so I'll let him tell his own story when he's ready. I think so far I've had the easier time because I have a lot of distractions at work, which is different than coming home to an empty house.

Things can change, of course, but we are hopeful that it will be a smooth transition. Even though there's no way to not feel a little sad and dismayed that our baby is growing up so fast.

The daycare uses a cool app called HiMama which allows them to send updates and photographs to parents. How awesome is that? I think we found an excellent daycare.

I will go now - precious moments with AJ! Ten month update soon, I hope, and other thoughts.

Monday 24 August 2015

A Wednesday in Summer

I've wanted to write an updated Day in the Life post for a while. Finally, with the help of a new iPhone (yes, the dumbPhone has been retired) I have managed it without giving up in the middle. Since life is going to change again soon, I thought it would be nice to have a snapshot of a Summer Day when AJ was 9 months old. This entry feels like history already: as I edit it I'm seeing everything in sepia with nostalgic music playing in the background.

A Wednesday In Summer 

9:30: AJ and I wake up. I'm up first today. While she is still drowsy I make the bed, brush my teeth etc. When I go in to check on her she is smiling and excited to see me, which means she's well rested. We had a pretty good night. She didn't settle easily so wasn't asleep till 10pm. She woke up and wanted to feed at about 12:00am. Then woke up at around 2:00 and I figured she did not need to feed again. I put on the sleep sheep, picked her up, and paced up and down the room a couple of times - and she was asleep. OK then. Next woke up at around 5:20am, and I fed her. Mr. Turtle left at about 7.

We slept in a little late today, but I feel so much better rested than yesterday.

Change a diaper. Take AJ to the living room where she plays on the floor while I figure out what's for breakfast.  I chop up the last peach: it looks ripe and juicy so I put AJ in her high chair and give her a slice. She loves it! She picks it up with one hand and eats it, chewing the fruit off the peeling. I also give her a couple of blueberries and she eats one.

I decide I'll try banana and egg pancakes again. I do OK, but they still stick to my greased non-stick frying pan, so I end up with several pieces of pancake.  Maybe there's a trick to this I'm not getting.

After I get my breakfast together (cottage cheese with blueberries and raspberries, instant coffee, and the peach I'm sharing) I roll AJ over to the dining room table. (side note: I love having a high chair with wheels. Best thing ever!) I offer AJ a bit of pancake and she seems to like it, so I leave some on her table. She feeds herself several bites of pancakes and about 3 more slices of peach.

10:30, I change AJ out of her now very dirty PJs, wipe her down and dress her in the tie-dyed jumpsuit that always makes me wish I had one too. I sit her in the crib with some toys and throw in a load of laundry, and then have a shower.

At 11:30 I feel like right boob is a bit too full, and AJ is fussing a bit, so she has some boob milk.

For the next two hours we play, cuddle and putter around the house. I do more laundry, and pack for the trip we are taking on Friday to my parents' vacation home. I worry that I haven't heard back from the daycare for September and wonder if our child care plans are going to fall through.  (Update: AJ does have a daycare spot - I found out as our plane was getting ready to taxi hahaha.)

I remember that we need to buy a zip up diaper bag for the trip. I email Mr. Turtle suggesting we do that this evening, then decide that I should make sure that I have dinner ready early. It's also time for lunch so I tackle both at once.

AJ sits in her highchair and I give her some chunks of watermelon, which she happily shoves into her mouth. I decide to make a tuna casserole. After AJ finishes her watermelon I spoon feed her yoghurt and prune puree while making cheese sauce, boiling the macaroni, and making every dish in the house dirty, or so it feels. When the casserole is ready I set it aside (it will go in the oven later) and throw some frozen veg and leftover chicken into the microwave for myself.

Meanwhile I offer AJ sips of water and then let her pick up her glass. She doesn't manage to drink any water on her own today, but spills most of it on her table, down her lap, etc. She screeches and growls the whole time. The cup finally ends up on the floor, where I leave it. AJ proceeds to entertain herself by slapping her hands on her tray and splashing water all over the kitchen. My lunch is ready so I sashay over to the microwave, using one foot and a rag to wipe the water off the floor. I saved a couple tablespoons of cheese sauce, which I pour over the chicken and vegetables: good to go! I take one last glance around the kitchen: just an Average Mess, nothing to worry about.

AJ and I sit at the table. She is interested in my food (of course) so I feed her bits of corn and carrots with a spoon. When we are done, at about 3:00, I take her back to the nursery to investigate. She is not too dirty but very wet from pouring water on herself. I wipe her down and change her into a dry onesie (s'long cute outfit.) I put AJ in the crib, where she seems happy for the moment, so I go to see what I can do about the Average Mess. Barely have time to look at it when I hear urgent crying! Investigation reveals large poop, leading to another change. I hear thunder, and figure we've probably missed our chance to take a walk. Oh well. Seems like a good time for a nap, and AJ is fussing again, so she is probably tired.

3:10, breastfeed. Ten minutes later AJ is comfort sucking so I gently take her off the breast, place her in the crib. She rolls onto her side, as she always does, and falls asleep.

A downpour with thunder and lightning hits. I decide to ignore the Average Mess a bit longer and write this blog. I need validation that way I guess.

4:00, crying! Crying after waking up usually means AJ is still tired. I pick her up and bounce her gently on the ball chair for about 5 minutes. She blinks and yawns several times and then closes her eyes. Place her in crib, hover with hand on her while she opens and closes eyes, and finally dozes off. Back to blog.

4:25: all caught up with writing; guess I'll check out the Average Mess again.  But first I look up a couple of blogs on the Archipelago.  Oh look it's 4:40 now.  (This happens a lot.) I heat up the oven and put the casserole in, then start washing dishes.

4:55 I hear squeaks from the nursery. AJ is awake again, but not cranky this time. I put a blanket on the kitchen floor and sit her down with some Tupperware. She happily plays with this and the fringe on the blanket. (Fringe!)

More thunder and lightning, and a hailstorm hits. I quickly finish the dishes. Last year, Mr. Turtle was washing the dishes and lighting struck the house, or somewhere close. He saw an arc of lightning come out of the faucet. Luckily he wasn't touching it at the time. Lightning finds this family in more ways than one. Since then we avoid doing dishes during a thunderstorm.

AJ seems happy on the floor so instead of moving her I look for more things to do in the kitchen. I boil the bottles and breast pump parts. I need to produce a bottle of milk for AJ to drink on the plane on Friday, hopefully during take off. Pumping is a slow tedious business so I really should have started earlier in the week, but I didn't. I won't get to it today either. Thursday. I set the table and clean some more. Thanks to AJ even the floor got mopped.

5:30, Mr. Turtle is home. AJ peeks around the corner of the kitchen to see him with a big grin on her face. She plays peekabo while he takes off his shoes. We greet each other, give updates on our day, etc. A few minutes later we all sit down to dinner together.

Mr. Turtle and I have casserole and salad, and I give AJ some squished blueberries to start. Today she loves them and pops them into her mouth one after the other. She also eats about half of a lentil and vegetable puree serving which I pre-prepared and froze. (We haven't yet worked up the nerve to offer AJ fish. My brother has a severe fish allergy and every time we make a fish dish, we end up looking at each other and asking: "Do we feel like rushing to emergency today? Nooooo." ) Mr. Turtle always feeds her dinner when he is home.

Since we need to make it to the crunchy baby store before 8, we hustle a bit to get ready. Mr. Turtle wipes down AJ and does some clean up while I pack the diaper bag. It's rainy and chilly outside so we put socks on AJ, but they don't stay on longer than 2 seconds.

At 6:30 we all get in the car; Mr. Turtle driving.  It is raining when we get to the store. Mr. Turtle wears AJ in the mei tai. He has done this a few times and I find it so sweet. At the store we find everything we need, and happen to notice sock-ons, which claim to keep socks on baby's feet. I buy a pair. (Edit: the sock-ons do keep socks on AJ's feet longer, but she can still pull them off if she makes her mind to do so.) We leave leave the store by 7:20.

At about 7:50 Mr. Turtle offers AJ the rest of her dinner, while I do a few chores.  She gobbles it up.  I hear him laughing and cheering. AJ has grabbed her cup in both hands and is drinking out of it. This is the first time Mr. Turtle has seen her do this and he is delighted. The minute I walk over however she pours it down her front and claps her hands. Mr. Turtle comments that he is so in love with everything AJ does. Sweet family moments.

Mr. Turtle cleans AJ up again and changes her into pyjamas. They hang out in the basement while I finish tidying up.

8:40, AJ is in her sleep sack and Mr. Turtle tells her a bedtime story. He makes these up and the only thing they have in common is that they are all extremely silly.  Today's story is about lightning and thunder. At 8:45, I put on sleep sheep and breastfeed. AJ is asleep by 9:20. And awake by 9:45. I rock and cuddle her. I don't plan on feeding her more but she gets hiccups so I offer her the breast again to help stop them. She stays asleep this time.

I didn't take notes on the night, but I think it was pretty typical: One more night feeding, and then a couple of wake ups that I soothed her through.

Good times. I loved our first summer together as a family.