Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Sleepovers as Medicine

Do you remember the first time you invited your friend over to your house for the entire night, all the way until breakfast the next morning? I don't mean that time your cousin slept over when you were four, but later, when you could choose your person, your best friend for a sleepover. As a girl sleepovers sent me over the moon with excitement. My mum would always say yes to having a friend sleepover, probably because she kind and generous, but also to give herself and my father a break from entertaining me, their only and probably very demanding child.

I was never the popular girl, never a girl who thrived in big groups of friends. While I had many friends, the perk of attending a small school where we moved from year to year together as one class, whenever I was immersed in a big social group I always felt like my place was on the margins of the group, one foot in, one foot out. But I like to think I was really good at being someone's friend. Friendships, just the two of us, that I could do. I was loyal and patient and I cared deeply about the people I loved. I still am all of these things.

So a sleepover was a Big Deal. It was a chance for me to spend time with a good friend on the terms I could understand. It wasn't about fitting in. It wasn't about being pretty or good enough at sports. For me it was about spending time with friends who got me, or as Anne Shirley would say, with kindred spirits. In big groups I often felt judged by others and by myself, but one on one, that part of me slipped away enough for me to relax and just play. Even in grade two or three I felt this very powerfully. This seems to remain my experience even now, though I'm getting (sort of) better at quelling the self-judgement. But what hasn't changed is my love of spending time with my close friends. And I still look forward to sleepovers.

Alyce has had a rough year at school and it breaks my heart. I'm hesitant to say too much about her time at school this past year because she's getting old enough to tell her own stories, to share her own feelings, and I don't want to speak for her here. It's enough to say that she's struggled all year as a result of a bad fit with her teacher and the ups and downs of being a seven year old girl, with all the complicated social struggles that go along with it. She navigating the good and the bad of being a person out in the in the world and I'm learning alongside her how to help her the best that I can. It's so hard to watch her when I just want to fix everything, to declare who her friends and teachers ought to be. But I can't, I know that. Isn't it funny how parenting small children feels so difficult and then they start growing up and you begin to long for the days of toddler tantrums and hurt feelings that could be fixed with, let's be honest, boobs?

Alyce is also a good friend. She adores her friendships, holds on tightly to those around her who light up her world. And this weekend she reached the sleepover milestone. Her best little friend from school came to our house on Saturday for a night of fun. They were up past midnight and exhausted for two days after, but I'd wager it was worth every lost hour of sleep.

So I will leave you here with a list, written by Alyce in the painful hours waiting for her friend to arrive, of all the things she wanted her first sleepover to be. It's a long list, perhaps a little too eager, but they managed to pull much of it off.
  • do crafts*
  • watch a movie with candy and popcorn*
  • make bracelets
  • play board games
  • do Just Dance*
  • read books*
  • have dinner*
  • play some more*
  • paint*
  • listen to music*
  • build Lego*
  • build puzzles
  • watch T.V.
  • play with Shopkins*
  • play on the computer
  • draw*
  • dance party
  • pillow fight*
  • spooky stories*
  • read again
  • play  more*
  • look at my money
  • read more books
  • have gum*
  • go to sleep in the same bed*
*Indicates successful completion.

Be well!

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

To Matty, on your birthday

It's Matty's 39th birthday! On this special day, here are five things you might not know about him:

1. He's from Tuscaloosa, Alabama.
2. He once went ten years without eating a vegetable. (And then he met me.)
3. He proposed to me after dating for three weeks.
4. He once used his own sock as a napkin.
5. He often falls asleep at night tucked in with a good book on minor league baseball stats.

He's also funny, kind, big-hearted, and handsome. Happy Birthday, my love.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Days like these

I wonder what I used to do all day before I had children. I can't even remember, though I expect that I felt very busy. Now, with two young children, my days are so full with outings, adventures, and general chaos, that I sometimes find myself daydreaming about my life before. Did I go for brunch on a holiday Monday (like it is today), maybe after having slept in a few extra hours? Did I stroll places, in a leisurely fashion? Would I have cared that my neighbourhood was filled with ear-crackingly loud fireworks at the exact moment children are being tucked into bed? I'd wager I didn't give it much thought, unlike tonight when I'm writing this, where you will find me cursing the damn fireworks while requesting politely* that the girls kindly get back into bed and ignore all those pops and bangs outside their window.

We're winding down eleven days of girls-only time at home while their Papa has been away  in Greece. He will tell you he's working, supervising university students while they explore Athens and Crete. I will tell you that he's on vacation.

We had the entire day before us on this holiday Monday, with the girls home from school and me done with placement. After watching Mrs. Doubtfire together (after waking up at a very unholiday-like time of six in the morning), we decided to take a walk to the bagel store, both as something to pass the time and to solve my problem off not having much food in the house to pack school lunches this week (bagels and cream cheese it is!). It was a delightful walk, filled with excited declarations about snails and flowers. We even met a cat on our path who chaperoned us through at least whole three blocks. We named him Marshmallow and decided not to take him home with us. Four cats are enough. (Frankly two cats were enough, but we're slow learners.)

Next we met some good friends at one of Toronto's best parks, Dufferin Grove. Though we have named it the Mud Pit Park, because it offers the most enormous sand pit children could ever dream of, complete with water, shovels, and stacks of wood for building bridges and other necessary structures. My friend, the smart one of the two of us, packed a change of clothes and a towel for the necessary clean-up at the end of our three hour visit. I did not, which worked out less well when it was time to leave and Shira was covered it dirt from head to toe (she explained calmly that she needed to lay down in the mud, obviously). But I did remember snacks because I am not a complete novice.So after our fun we packed my dirty children and my friend's more presentable children and went, of course, for ice cream.

These kind of days feel so familiar to me, though it has been a long time since I've had one. With the summer coming up, and my recent (temporary) break from midwifery school, I'm going to have a lot more of them. It feels good. Really good. In our house we don't do a lot of structured play time. Rarely do we sign the girls up for camps or activities, which makes us the black sheep family of the girls' school. There are days I wonder (loudly) why they are home so often, and then I remember that I want this for them. I want days filled with playing with friends, and of course, ice cream.

Let the break begin.

Be well.

*Mostly politely.

Thursday, May 14, 2015


Do you ever find yourself looking for a pause button? That things are getting a little out of control and you need to stop, drop, and take a moment to catch your breath? Not the stop button, that's not what you're searching for, but just a breath, a moment, a pause. 

I just finished my first clinical placement in the midwifery program. Four months of following midwives around and being thrown into as many learning opportunities as (superhumanly) possible. I took blood, started IVs, performed vaginal exams, read lab reports, palpated bellies, examined tiny, minutes-old newborns, listened to fetal heartbeats, and, oh right, I caught babies. With my own two hands. As in a woman pushed her baby into the world and I was there to catch its round, soft head in my hands, asking her to push just one more time so that I could reach the baby's shoulders, and then, after the baby swam the rest of the way out into the world, I did my most important job--I lifted to the baby to its mama. I'm going to tell you a secret: it doesn't get much better than that.

I'm two years into my midwifery education program now. It's hard to believe that I'm here at this point, the point at which I can stand in the middle of this enormous, life-changing program and look back to my eager, excited, and wide-eyed first year self. The thing is, I'm still eager, excited, and wide-eyed, these two years later, probably more so now that I've dipped my toes in clinical practice.

It's only been two weeks since my placement ended, and it's still a little too fresh in my mind for me to talk about all the feelings, feelings that are still swimming around in my head, deciding where to land. I'm trying to navigate around the ups and downs of learning how to be a midwife, from the highs of being a witness and a participant in the birth of a human being, to the lows of sleep deprivation, to the complicated middle place of being challenged/judged/evaluated/supported as I learn my way around caring from women and their babies.

It's intense and amazing. Let me leave it there for now.

Sometimes we pause. Or at least, sometimes I pause. I'm pressing the button, just for a short while. For the next year I am taking a medical leave from my program, because while I've been in school these past two years, I've also been figuring out how to cope with fibromyalgia. I was diagnosed a few months before I started midwifery school and frankly I didn't quite know what to do the diagnosis. It felt (and still feels) like this fuzzy, catchall for someone who is depressed, exhausted and in chronic pain. I was diagnosed, like most people, after no other disease or syndrome could be identified, a sort of last-minute declaration that since it isn't all these Other Things, it must be This Thing. Truthfully, I've never really done much with the diagnosis. I've made half-efforts at caring for myself with my diagnosis in mind, but it's always come second, third, tenth behind all of life's other responsibilities: parenting, working, and midwifery school.

I'm reaching for the pause button because I need to finally pay some attention to my own health. As first year midwifery school turned into second year and clinical placement, my health strategy of sticking my head in the sand declared itself to be a shitty plan. My exhaustion got worse (no big surprise), my body ached, I moved slower and slower, became more and more depressed, and I gained weight (because I needed another thing). Through all of this I was willing and able to do the hard work of clinical placement, motivated by the all those eager and excited feelings I mentioned above.

Now, I'm depleted. I need some time. I want to take a moment, sit awhile, and come to terms with the fact that my health sucks. Most days I feel like I'm one hundred years old (and not one of those spry and youthful hundred year olds we read about on facebook. I'm talking bent over, shuffling, declaring things like "Oh! My aching back!" kind of centenarian). Grumpy, too, just ask Matty. But the thing is, I'm not 100, I am 37, and I want to feel that way. I owe it to myself, to Matty, to my girls. And most importantly I think, with some hard work I can feel more like the healthy almost-40 year old I know is hiding behind all the fibro symptoms. But I can't do this without a break from midwifery school. I just can't.

And so I stop and take a breath. For the next year (the duration of my medical leave) I will make it my business to discover what I need to feel vibrant again (and my vibrant might look different from your vibrant, but the point is that I am desperately craving some lightness and sparkle). Here is to my year of health! And to me oversharing about it! Yes, I will be blogging about my adventures in learning how to leap and cartwheel through my days, rather than hobble my way through another unbelievably busy year. Knowing what I know about my (un)health habits, I truly believe that I can find a point at which my health doesn't stand in the way of my thriving as a student midwife.

I'll see you around then.

Ready, set, pause.

Be well!

P.S. I caught that baby.

(Photo used with permission.)

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Ten things my mother taught me

1. To peel off the stickers and price tags from everything, no matter how time intensive.

2. To always adequately salt the potatoes.

3. How to pour a glass of wine.

4. That it is okay to make mistakes. (I’m still not good at this one. I’m a slow learner.)

5.  How to apply mascara.

6. How to read.

7. That gold really never goes out of style.

8. Not to let them see you sweat.

9. How to make buttercream icing.

10. To love my children.

Happy Mother’s Day, you gorgeous woman.