Sunday, October 31, 2010

She refused to actually touch the seeds.

Matt was out of town yesterday, so it was just me and the girls. Helping Alyce carve/paint her first pumpkin was certainly the highlight of my day (closely followed by the kettle corn I made after the two finally fell asleep. Sweet Amandine, I'm looking at you).

We're going to roast those suckers later today, and I'll share more about our day tomorrow. Have fun tonight, everyone!

Friday, October 29, 2010

Do They Make Cards for This?

At Target yesterday I was searching for some birthday cards, and I actually found myself wondering if Papyrus makes a card to tell your mother that you're not finishing your PhD. I actually went there. Can you imagine that I am such a scaredy-cat about telling my mum that my brain would even go to such lengths? I need to grow some courage.

But wouldn't it be wonderful if they did make cards for moments like this? Why only celebrate what The Man tells us is a holiday or a joyous occasion? Let's make our own! "I'm leaving graduate school and starting an exciting new path. Surprise!" I think these would sell. I know that I'd buy about thirty and mail them out to my entire family. Maybe I have a new project. Or maybe I should just pick up the phone and get this over with already.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

I'm not the only one obsessed with princesses

So it seems there are other little girls smitten with princesses out there. I'm actually surprised there isn't a community support group available to help parents come to terms with the princess invasion, where we could lean on each others' shoulders and work through the pain. You know, just to know we're not alone.

This week Lynn Harris wrote a great essay about her own daughter's obsession. Maybe she's right, and our young daughters don't overthink princesses in quite the same way we do:
As Bess gets older, I may worry that the messages some of the princesses espouse, in some cases, are even more deleterious than the baseline “be decorative” — I’m looking at you Little, "I'll give up my voice for a man" Mermaid. But right now, I’m not sure Bess is getting any message from princesses other than “sparkly!" with which I cannot argue. Bess doesn’t even know what princesses do — I’ve asked — but she doesn’t know what the Secretary of State does either.
I can't let princesses off the the hook quite yet, sparkles or no. But princesses are indeed sparkly, and I can't blame a girl for loving sparkles.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

A Sunday Well Spent.

So it isn't technically the day after my last post, but why worry about technicalities. Who has the time to worry about such things when there are Halloween parades to talk about? I've mentioned before that Halloween is high on the list of the year's greatest days, and I'm hoping that my girls will come to enjoy it too. The smallish college town we live in has a decent Halloween parade every year and somehow I've lived here long enough to have attended three of them. We enjoyed the parade this year with some friends and one of my favourite small people, Finley the punk rocker.

This year, for the third year in a row, Alyce was dressed as a spider. The fact that Alyce still fits in her spider costume brings me great joy. I spent twenty dollars on this costume three years ago and I'm delighted that she can wear it again. And again. I've already signed Shira up as a spider next year and even imagined some future spider babies. This kind of delight is matched only by those moments I find a gas station selling gas five cents cheaper than the one down the street. Of course I'll spend a great fortune on a purse or good cheese, but saving 37 cents on gas is so very satisfying.

Alyce enjoyed herself, though she does not enjoy the loud noises that come with parades. We asked her a few times if she wanted to go home but she wanted to stay in spite of it all. This year, as an almost three year old, Alyce understood that the longer she stuck it out, the more candy she'd pack into her bag. I can respect that.

For the record, we sort of dressed up Shira as a blueberry, but she was too hot in her hat and ended up bundled in her carrier anyway. At five months I'll give her a free pass this year, but she'd better bring it next year in her spider costume.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

So I've been avoiding you

Dear blog:

I've become very fond of you in this short time we've been together. You know how much I like to write, and as a trained academic I can enjoy (or, loathe) some good critical self-reflection as much as the next girl. I started this blog for many reasons. Some days this is about joining a conversation that, until now, I've only eagerly watched from the sidelines. Sure I've commented now and then and reached out to a few people, but for the most part I've been silent, and as hard as it is to admit sometimes, lonely. It's been two years since I arrived in the U.S. and it has taken me as long to begin meeting some new friends. I love my husband. A lot. But Matt has had to serve as husband, co-parent, best friend, casual acquaintance, walking buddy, food-tester, masseuse, and co-conspirator. He needs a break, don't you think? But no pressure.

Blog, you know as well as I do that I'm here because I wanted some space with room enough to say out loud I'm making some big changes. That's it, you've heard it here first (all three of you): I have decided to stop working on my PhD after six years (finally, sighs Matt, who has been listening to me go back and forth on this one for a very long time). I will not continue writing my dissertation or pursue academic jobs. I will try something else. And blog, this is where you come in. I have ruminated quietly about this for so long and gotten no where, so it's time to try something different.

So naturally I've been avoiding you. Coming to terms with this decision has been a challenge (that might be an understatement) and what has surprised me so much in the short time since I've started this blog is just how important honesty is. Is it strange that it feels impossible to lie to you? Shouldn't the relative anonymity of a blog give me some freedom to stretch the truth a bit? Couldn't I make myself more courageous than I feel? Nope.

But I've started this and you can't be rid of me that easily. So expect me back here tomorrow, and maybe even the day after that.


Sunday, October 17, 2010

Three Minutes

For 3 minutes today I lost Alyce.

We were at Longwood Gardens in Pennsylvania having some lunch with friends before taking a walk. We had enjoyed our lunch outside and had spent some time letting the girls play in the garden next to the patio. Our friends went inside the restaurant to use the washroom before packing up and Matt was changing Shira on the grass, with Alyce weaving her way through the benches and trees right next to Matt. I was watching all of this from the table, enjoying the view from no more than ten feet away. I heard Matt ask Alyce to come closer and I looked up to see her loitering around a tree just a little too far away. I started to pack up our lunch for just a second and then looked up to make sure Alyce had listened to Matt. She was gone.

It was an impeccable fall day and the gardens were busy. But instantly it felt like there were thousands of people all around me and I couldn't see past them to find my daughter. I got up and started to look around for Alyce, expecting to see her each time I turned my head. Nothing. I walked a little faster and checked the two paths that led out of the garden patio. Nothing, just so many people everywhere. I looked behind and saw Matt getting up with Shira, realizing that I hadn't found her yet. He started looking.

The panic that started to settle in my belly was startling, but still felt far away enough that I didn't think something was really wrong. I would pass the next patio table or tree and find her. I would find her standing right there. But then I didn't, and the panic felt a lot closer. I just wanted Alyce so terribly at that moment. That's when I began calling out her name and that's when other people started to pay some attention. Where the hell was she?

Of course I found her. I ran inside the restaurant for lack of another place to search and there she was just standing there, just as I'd hoped before. A woman had spotted her outside and was looking inside for a manager or someone who could help Alyce, who was at that moment only known as that lost girl with the head of messy blond hair and blue eyes overtaking her little face. She didn't even know she was lost. I scooped her up and said all the things that go through your head in that moment. I love you. Don't ever leave mama like that. I love you.

To that sweet older woman who looked after Alyce for that blink of a few moments: thank you.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

I love Sunday mornings. So does Alyce, up at six a few weeks ago, enjoying some Dr. Seuss with her Papa. Today has been a long day parenting-wise and I'm hoping that we can wake up tomorrow morning, Sunday, and start over again with some more Dr. Seuss. Even better, maybe we could start over at eight instead.

I wish everyone a wonderful Sunday morning. I've promised Alyce french toast, but I'm hoping she'll accept oatmeal pancakes instead because we are out of bread. I imagine that it's the maple syrup she's really after so I expect her not to care. But then again, she is two, so all bets are off.

Thursday, October 14, 2010


Can you first indulge me with a brief description of my morning? I'd appreciate it.

9:00 am: The plumber I forgot was coming arrived and I answered the door in my most unflattering postpartum pajamas, no bra, and hair that added about four inches to my height. Then the problem I had called him in for mysteriously disappeared. Why does that always happen?

10:40 am: I had an appointment at eleven, and a few minutes before I needed to leave the house with Shira I went to the place I always keep my keys (and by always I really do mean always), except that they weren't there. My brain was then flooded with a memory of my leaving them in the stroller the day before, and then another memory came--that of my lovely husband putting the stroller away in the car for me. The locked car. With my keys and stroller in it. And my ergo. And my sling. But no matter, I had an umbrella (yes, it was pouring)! And a baby wrap intended for tiny babies! I squeezed Shira in and was out the door.

12:00 pm (20 minute walk away from home): Then my umbrella broke.

So we got very wet, me and Shira. She was a good sport about the whole thing, even falling asleep on the wet walk home. The best part about this story is that none of this can even come close to stepping on my mood. My appointment was a chance for me to discuss a possible new career possibility, one that doesn't involve me staying in my graduate program and finishing my dissertation. And it was fabulous! (I'm being a bit secretive about the details here because I haven't actually said out loud that I'm leaving my PhD*. Did I just say that? Anyway, these details will come soon).

After my meeting, I stole Matt away from the office for a quick pizza lunch on campus (I had a Mediterranean salad pizza and it was delicious). It was a lovely twenty minute lunch where I was able to tell Matt absolutely everything I learned about my potential new career path. So there I was, all excited and making plans for the future that didn't make me shake with dread (does dread cause shaking? For me it does), and Matt said: "It's too bad you didn't have the confidence two years ago to make this change."

That's what this has all been about, I'm beginning to realize. I didn't have the confidence to admit that I had made a mistake in continuing with a graduate program I wasn't happy with, and now here I am two, three (or four) years later and I've wasted all this precious time! Enough of that, I'm moving on. Maybe I've lost some years to that particular path (though certainly not all that time was wasted, since I met Matt on the first day of graduate school and then we made these two kids--you may have heard of them?), but no more. Maybe my little revelation falls into the category of the obvious, but for me, this is big. Enough already.

*Translation: I haven't yet told my mother.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

I am a King and I want to get married

I am having a problem with princesses. You know the ones I’m talking about--those pastel pink and purple creatures that seem to have sprouted everywhere I look.

I never imagined that I would raise Alyce in a world void of princesses, princes, fairies and other such magical creatures. As a little girl I was convinced that a kingdom of fairies lived just below my bedroom window, in the ivy that crawled around the base of tree next to the house. Certainly there was a princess or two in the bunch--it was a kingdom after all. So yes to princesses!

Not quite. While I managed to avoid the pastel princesses that the mall threw up for the first two years of Alyce’s life, I fear I am now losing the battle. They. Are. Everywhere. On the t-shirts of her friends at preschool. On the baseball we picked up at Target. On training pants. In the movies she so desperately wants to watch. No wait, I should say in the movie she watches. I don’t want to name any names, but someone in our house turned on one of those princess movies last week. All I’ll say is that it rhymes with my shmusband. Since that day Alyce has taken to marching around the house declaring: I am a King and I want to get married!

And then this:

We went to the bookstore this weekend to look through some books and this is what Alyce brought to me. Usually she brings me a variety of books ranging from monsters to Max and Ruby to Dr. Seuss. But this weekend I found myself sitting at one of those tiny tables at the bookstore reading a sequel to Cinderella where she plans her wedding to the prince, with all the trials and tribulations that go along with wedding invitations and choosing a dress. Make it stop.

And why do I care? So what if Alyce surrounds herself with these princesses? Because there is no subtlety in a pastel princess. She is beautiful, she can sing, she wants to marry a prince, and then she marries a prince. I should be honest here and tell you that mostly my problem is with the beautiful part. These princesses enter our daughter’s lives at just the time they start to have some awareness of themselves as people. Of course Alyce is the most beautiful almost-three-year-old in the entire world (obviously) but I have tried so hard to let Alyce know that she is wonderful for so many different reasons. Lately, though, she’s been telling me that I am pretty and asking me if I think she is pretty. She often asks her preschool teachers if they like her pretty clothes. When she comes home and asks to watch the princess movie, I worry. I want her to hear many voices, not just the beautiful ones.

And I really dislike pastels. Bo-ring.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Food and kids, though not necessarily in that order

It is the end of a full weekend for us. On Friday night things didn't look promising--Alyce was just miserable and the whining was, dare I say, going to drive us all to the madhouse. Then it occurred to us: maybe this kid has an ear infection. Since cold and flu season entered our home a few weeks ago this was a distinct possibility. But since Alyce hasn't really had an ear infection before we didn't see it coming. But then we saw it, loud and clear. I'm happy to report that one day into her antibiotics she has already returned to the Alyce we all know and love.

To make the weekend even more intense, we decided to give Shira her first non-breastfeeding meal! My little baby is now a grown-up who eats food. I've been moping around the house lately longing for my littlest one to stay little just a bit longer, but it was time. She's been giving me the stink-eye at mealtimes for two weeks and I finally admitted that it was time. Today we started with some boring old brown rice cereal, but we have bigger plans for later in the week.

I had intended just to show up here tonight and share some of my favourite discoveries of the week and here I've gone on talking about my children. Imagine that!

Back to the plan. I've been obsessed with some wonderful food blogs lately and so allow me to share:

From one of my favourite blogs, Sweet Amandine: I want to make this kettle corn every single day.

I haven't tried making bread this way, but I would like to host a dinner party just to try it out.

I think I may have found my soul mate. I didn't know that someone else liked breakfast as much as I do.

Night night.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Free cats to any home.

Just kidding. It would have to be a really good home.

Sometimes I have the best intentions of writing, with great ideas just on tip of my brain, and in a blink of an eye I am taken over by cats on the hunt for stink bug. I have nothing to report of their success.

Friday, October 8, 2010

I should be in Canada this weekend

It's Thanksgiving this weekend. Or at least it is if you live in Canada, where I should be this weekend. Thanksgiving weekend can't quite compare to the national frenzy that happens here in the U.S. for American Thanksgiving in November (notice how there is 'Thanksgiving' and 'American Thanksgiving.' Some things will never change for me, even as I spend more time here, and one of those things is the knowledge that Thanksgiving takes place in October). It is a much more subdued holiday, when most people will join family and friends for a meal, but they don't travel the country on six different flights to do it. It is, however, filled with many of the same indulgences. It seems that Canadians and Americans speak the same language when it comes to pumpkin pie.

In the hierarchy of holidays (and shouldn't we all have a hierarchy of holidays?) Thanksgiving falls just after my birthday (yes, a holiday) and is tied for second place with Halloween. What do these things all have in common? October. What else? The fall. Glorious, colourful, rainy, pumpkin-y, chill-in-the-air fall. And so in October you'll find me celebrating all of these wonderful days with a big old smile on my face. And I'm not the only happy one--come October you'll find my family and friends celebrating the end of my relentless complaining about the heat of summer.

I hope the fall brings you the same glow it does me and that you enjoy a magnificent weekend in honour of Thanksgiving (Canadian or not). While I'm not able to spend my weekend in Canada, I am going to enjoy a Saturday afternoon with a good friend and a Sunday afternoon baking.

I'll leave you with one of my favourite, newly acquired, fall pleasures: watching Alyce in the rain.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

And this is where I begin with the self-doubt

What would the world look like if I didn’t finish my PhD? My initial reaction, once I’ve actually allowed myself to even ask the question, is PURE TERROR. Certainly the world would end. But assuming it doesn’t go up in smoke I imagine being severely and endlessly scolded by my parents, friends, and other random people who somehow know I’ve been in graduate school since 2001.

I picture myself cowardly huddled in the corner of a room being interrogated. What are you thinking? they would ask. Are you actually stupid? Who comes so close to having a PhD and doesn’t finish it? What about all that wasted money? Are you just lazy? And so on. Actually, I can really go on with this one, but I’ll hold myself back for your sake. See, I’ve been wanting to quit PhD for going on four years, and that gives a person a lot of time to imagine the worst things people might say.

I’m already shaky and exhausted just thinking about it.

Hille feels the same way.

I wouldn’t begrudge my friends and family asking me these questions. It seems a reasonable reaction to such a tremendous change. The way I see it, I have relied on the support of some of these very people to get through the different stages of my academic life, and in return I feel the tremendous weight of their expectations. My mum helped me financially many times when my student loans couldn’t cover my expenses, my friends got me through the procrastination and the self-doubt, and my husband has had to live with me through it all. These people have also celebrated my successes along the way. How many different ways can I spell guilt, I wonder?

These are conversations I’ve been having on the inside for years now. With the exception of Matt (who has already won most supportive husband of the year award a few years running and his chances are looking good for another title), I have rarely gathered up the courage to actually ask the question out loud. Of course, now I’m blogging about it--when I do get around to speaking, I’m really loud.

The reality is that if I decide to leave my graduate program without my degree I’ll be asked some heavy duty questions by the people closest to me. At the end of the day I really just need to get over that. But lately, when I think about what the world would look like if I didn’t finish my PhD, I try to reframe the question: what would the world look like if I became a . . . ? I think I like this question better.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Hello, Monday

I love Mondays. They are filled with so much potential I can hardly contain myself each week. If I struggled with something the week before then on a Monday I am presented with a clean slate. And lately I’ve really been craving a clean slate. Needing a new start is one of the reasons that finally brought me to this blog--so let’s imagine this blog is a giant Monday, shall we?

Have I scared you yet? Be brave. Mondays can work their magic if you just give them a chance. It isn’t that I want or need to forget what happened last week or last year, but I need to see more clearly the possibility of this week and next. I mentioned in my first post that most days I am a graduate student, but lately more days I haven’t been. I am finally giving myself permission to consider a different future, so I need my Mondays right now.

But just as much as I love a good Monday, I also adore the weekend! Here's what we did, what about you?

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Thinking about Tyler Clementi

I realized very quickly after Alyce was born that the world would never be the same again. Of course I was a new parent in love with my little one. I slowly began to identify myself as her mama and figure out all the things I needed to do in my job as “the parent” (I realize that last statement makes it sound as though I figured it all out in those early days. Scratch that: I began the very long and often labyrinthine journey of becoming a parent).

But what made me catch my breath one day when Alyce was only a month old was the way I reacted to the news of a child’s death. At that moment it seemed every news story involved the abuse or death of a child. And the TV was filled--just FILLED--with shows that must have been under contract (or law, perhaps) to focus each episode on a) the abduction of a child, b) the death of a child, c) crazy and dangerous childbirth that leads to the death of a baby or mother, or d) some mixture of the three. I remember opening a forwarded email sent by a friend’s mother and being face to face with the utterly horrific details of a child’s murder. I was so furious with her for sending it to me and I felt assaulted by these details.

Of course I’d always been saddened by the death of child, but something about having my own changed everything. It really changed the whole world. I found myself physically and emotionally reacting in a way I hadn’t experienced before. Those children could be my children and I couldn’t imagine a world where children suffered this way. I would cry reading the paper while thinking about the parents who made that child, chased after her, and watched her grow, just as I did Alyce. I would feel sick when I considered the new reality those parents faced. Needless to say, Matt begged me to stop reading the paper and prescribed a TV diet of 30 Rock.

I have spent the last couple of days thinking about Tyler Clementi, the Rutgers freshman who committed suicide last week. From what I’ve gathered in the news, two dorm mates secretly filmed him being intimate with another man and posted it on facebook. Tyler then jumped off a bridge. I imagined myself as a freshman in university and immediately remembered the excitement I felt in beginning my life, all those possibilities. I imagine that Tyler felt the same way. But instead of exploring those possibilities, Tyler was humiliated and ended his life. And so now I think of Alyce and Shira and I want to do everything I can to protect them from this kind of humiliation.

But I also feel something a bit different this time--a sense of responsibility to ensure that my daughters learn to live and act in the world with an empathy that might prevent these things from happening. My daughters are too young to talk to them about Tyler, but at two and a half, Alyce is old enough for me to start talking with her about how people feel and how we can affect each other with our words.

I’ve read that Tyler’s parents have spoken out with hopes that what happened to Tyler will remind us to stand up against the hate and humiliation many LGBT teens face everyday. I’m sure very little can bring solace to them right now, but I want them to know, I got the message. Loud and clear.

I needed to talk about this tonight. Thanks for reading.