Sunday, September 28

my crazy-person vacation

It isn't the first time, nor will it be the last that I have reminded myself that this parenting thing is hard. Really hard. It also isn't the first time, and I hope it isn't the last, that I remind myself that this parenting thing is wonderful.

I spent the last week in Whistler, BC, with my mum, step-dad, husband and children. Our accommodations were ample and comfortable. We were close enough to spit on the village and had the joy of leaving our car to collect dust for a full six days. Many good times were had, drinks were drank, laughs were shared, many interesting topics were covered and my children were showered with love.

It was a break I needed. It gave me a chance to gain some much-needed perspective.

It also broke me of the habit of sitting around feeling sorry for myself, though that one took some time. The close quarters encouraged us to take advantage of the free childcare, we walked, we swam in the hotel pool (late-night marco polo was especially fun), we played cribbage in the hotel lobby and we laughed.

Life with my parents was really neat. I think the neutrality of the space allowed me to shed my old habit of reverting to the age of fifteen. I held intelligent and informative conversations with my politically passionate step-father, we listened to one another. My mum and I built puzzles while sharing ideas and stories. My husband was a picture-perfect son-in-law, shining in his role of go-to parent. One morning I awoke as Andrew, Sebastian and my mum were leaving on an adventure. I puttered for a while before walking into the village with Rigby for a coffee and secret cigarette. When I met up with the explorers, they shared tales of giant creatures* and feats of daring**. Sebastian was beaming with pride and brimming with excitement.

I was sad to leave yesterday. I didn't feel ready to slip back into my regular life, but I knew that if we stayed one more day we would have stayed one day too long. We put off leaving for as long as we reasonably could, but after lunch we said our goodbyes and hit the open road. The kids howled in harmony for a few kilometres, but both fell asleep before the half-way point. Once we got home we had to deal with the chaos we'd left in our haste. We'd prepared ourselves for the worst, so were content that we could breathe the air and nothing had been stolen. But it didn't take long for my irritation at having to get so much done before we could even cook dinner to boil over. My husband, to his credit, kicked me out of the house until I cooled off.

We put the kids to bed and Andrew went out to run some errands - Sebastian stayed up for two hours playing in his room. He seemed so happy to be back in his own bed after sharing a room with his entire family. I shared his joy, snacking in my underwear while watching internet TV.

Today was more re-entry. Andrew and Sebastian spent the day hanging out - they went to Andrew's office, they cleaned his room, they built train tracks on the old bed/new train table/birthday project, that Andrew set up during quiet-time. I spent much of the day comforting poor Rigby who is cutting many teeth and going about the business of catching up on things like e-mail and I didn't even touch my phone. Neither saw much use last week, which was strange and a little wonderful. Though I feel bad that I didn't really tell anyone where we were going.

I still feel like I'm not really ready for tomorrow, my first day alone with the kids in ten days - but I miss my life, and it isn't really like I have a choice. I have things I've been putting off for too long and I can't afford to keep doing it. Tomorrow will be fine. I have a second errand to run before going to my support group, so I can take the car in clear conscience.

Speaking of tomorrow, if I don't get myself to bed I'll be setting myself up to have a short fuse. And I need my wits about me as I get the kids (and myself) off vacation time.

*slugs and a dog large enough to be initially confused with a bear.
**according to witness accounts, Sebastian scaled many rocks.

Thursday, September 18

okay, i think i am starting to get it

The news is depressing. Television, in general, is depressing. That's just how it is - life isn't all baskets of puppies.

I've taken a lot of alone time, recently. I've been pretty focused on the going's on in the world and it has just occurred to me that I am missing the good stuff. I've been dismissing the puppies and wringing my hands over events that are worlds away. Sure, this shit effects me - it effects* all of us. But worrying about it is taking up valuable head-space. It is crowding out the sections of my brain responsible for things like planning meals, nurturing a teething baby, and keeping up with a million-km/h curious and brilliant small boy.

Tomorrow, I will make a conscious effort to concern myself primarily with the things in my own life that I have influence on. I have the weekend ahead to finally sit down with the family and talk about how we'll share space before we run off to Whistler to spend then week with my mom and step-dad. I am hoping to use some of the free time I assume I will have to do a bit of goal-setting and planning. The number one thing I can control is how I use my life. I want to do great things, but have thus far been unwilling to do the leg-work. I keep laying blame for everything on those around me. But while living with other people is guaranteed to produce obstacles and conflicts, I am the one who writes them off as insurmountable. It is an easy way to avoid failing.

The dichotomies of my life are so stark to me. I feel like I'm always trying to reconcile opposing ideas and ideals. The funny part is that I know I do it, I know it is generally thought to be unhealthy, but I find it invigorating. Trying to figure some of this stuff out is pretty fascinating. Like - I am frugal and stylish, but also a mother of young children who has little time, do I spend a day at the thrift store, corralling kids and exposing myself to a case-lot of allergens, or do I spend the money I do have on clothes I hope will last and that I hope will stay reasonably un-stained and fashionable until the next wardrobe re-vamp. This time around I bought new, I got some quality** pieces that are classic and un-trendy. I am going to go to the mall and get a few casual tops from that store that rhymes with mold gravy. I am also finally going to replace my swobe, it no longer stays buttoned and smells like the back of my car (because that's where it lives "for emergencies").

Wow - did you see that paragraph take off? From deep philosophizing to swobes.

Life hasn't stopped, as much as I have been wishing it would (just for a few days while I catch up). But tonight instead of pretending to do work, I went over to a friend's where we drank cheap wine and ate cheap Chinese food. We watched Stop-Loss - an alright movie with some pretty wonderful bits and some pretty asinine bits. We talked and laughed, it was fun. I want a life that is more fun than anxiety - and I think that accepting that the anxiety will always be there, as it should be, and then setting the anxiety aside,when appropriate... well, I do believe that that is how to shift things.

*trying to remember high school English class... effect vs. affect, I think I got it right
**I hope

Monday, September 15

survival of the fattest

My doomsday worries have lifted only slightly - so far the LHC at CERN has not created the end of the universe, but I think most of us are reeling after today's financial crisis. On top of that I have friends displaced by Hurricane Ike, as well as folks who have lost power, and are facing home and garden damage.

I don't want to alarm anyone, but I'm pretty certain that there is an economic collapse coming. I am now wondering how we'll survive if costs keep rising and jobs become more uncertain. It isn't even about the "what ifs" - the chance that Andrew may lose his job because of corporate failure isn't something I am willing to entertain right now (we can always find work in the service industry - and until 2010, the construction industry here will keep going). My worry is how we'll make do on what we have.

And it pisses me off to no end that even the heads of failed institutions are getting bigger severance packages than what my family will likely make WORKING for the rest of our lives. It is such bullshit for CEOs to be making obscene wages while losing other people's money.

Friday, September 12


"You're a great cook when you're crazy."
In response to a meal I threw together between bouts of languishing on the couch and trying to follow my erratic trains of thought. It consisted of pasta, veggies, two types of cheese and an egg. I think I put salad dressing in there too. I'll never re-create it, but boy was it delicious!

"Surrender to the goat."
Read yesterday in Mommy Mantras - it means surrendering yourself to the banal things that excite and engage your kids.

"Mom, this chair is warm. You warmed it up for me with your bum."
Sebastian and I share a love for the ratty green chair that resides in our living room. Mainly because it is soft and comfortable, but also because it is the one thing in our shared space that he is encouraged to jump and climb on. We found it in an alley back in Calgary, it has an assortment of stains and rips and is the colour of baby poop - at this point it has become a kind of experiment in longevity, if it makes it to Rigby's fifth birthday, we'll celebrate by either getting it re-upholstered or putting it out of its misery.

Wednesday, September 10

meet the newest forsyth

Meet Chet - he's a little bit country, a little bit rock and roll, and was finished this evening just in time for books and bed.
During the last bedroom re-org, I stumbled upon a bag containing the Secret Government Sock Monkey Project (SGSM-P). Abandoned in 2006, SGSM-P remained classified and mere lore until late 2008. Speculation of a secret project of this type bounced about the internet, but sketchy accounts paled in comparison to the true size and scope of SGSM-P.

Chet here took me more than two years to complete. In fact, I still have a bag full of socks in various stages of transition to primates and had long been contemplating one for Rigby. Because she's wee, I embroidered all of his features. My favourite are the eyes, which I dove into without a plan. The tattoo on his back (not pictured) took me for-f*cking-ever and is still not to my liking. I'll go back in and touch it up, but for all intents and purposes, Chet is ready to play.



When Sebastian was small I was a toy-snob. Even before I was aware of how harmful plastics are I was wary of it. Not just because of all the chemicals, but because so much of it was terribly tacky. Most of the things we got then and continue to get now, are better products than much of what is out there. We're lucky in that we have friends who naturally gravitate to the cooler stuff that's out there (likely because so few of us are willing to leave behind our youth and style), but I would donate/exchange the occasional gift because it wasn't something I could imagine seeing, cleaning up, or listening to it for any length of time.

Over the years, my standards have softened. For example, we used to have a *no licenced apparel/toys* - well, now that Sebastian knows this stuff exists, it is harder. He sees kids in Spiderman/Dora/Cars merchandise and he's made comments, but generally he's content to wear underoos with Spidey or Mater on them. He has a Thomas back-pack and a Nemo fanny pack, and I'm okay with it.

My feelings about plastics hasn't softened, however. I am more concerned about the chemical composition of the products around me than I was in 12th-grade Chemistry. We have reduced our intake of petrochemicals, but recently we'd also reduced our turnover, so plastic is piling up a bit.

This week Andrew and the kids sorted the outside toys and filled a large bin with toys to give away. Today, I extended the cull to Rigby's toys, keeping only what we use/think is cute/was given by someone very special/does not require batteries. One day soon we will do Sebastian's toys, but there are so many to go through. For now I am simply happy to put unused/irritating toys in the closet to keep his room manageable.



The kids are both tucked in with bellies full of our current favourite dinner - brinner. We tried bacon-flavoured turkey slices and thanks to the high levels of sodium they were delicious (though not nearly as heart-cloggingly delicious as the thick-sliced back-bacon I'd been eyeing). I almost successfully made an omelet - a little melted cheese hid most traces of my ineptitude.

Andrew will return from a post-dinner walk shortly, at which point we're going to watch Infest Wisely, a lo-fi sci-fi film that Suzanne at juiceboxdotcom reviewed earlier today. Not only does it sound really interesting, it is free - which fits our budget perfectly.

It's been another beautiful week out here on the west coast, it is really nice to see all the Vancoucerites outside enjoying it. We all know, but won't say out loud, that this is the end of summer and that we'd better use it before we lose it. Think I'll make cinnamon loaf and rice crispy treats on the weekend. Hit a farmer's market for the ambiance and some pie fruit.

wednesdays with nie nie

I was reading about Stephanie Nielson, writer of the nienie dialogues and recent victim of a private airplane crash. Her story brought me to her very lovely blog and introduced me to a woman in love with motherhood. It got me thinking about my own calling to motherhood.

Getting pregnant was one of the most incredible and magical things that has ever happened to me. And now, here I am with a brilliant, charismatic boy sitting on the cusp of school and all that comes with that transition. The second time I got pregnant happened without the intent of my first insemination, but it was just as magical. Now I have a beautiful daughter with a blossoming personality. My children are fun and loving - laughs and cuddles are a regular part of any given day. They are beginning to enjoy one another's company - freeing me for brief moments to be alone... and in that solitude I resent them. I resent my loss of freedom, my necessary dedication to things like housework, I resent them for their constant needs and demands and I resent the world for not being a safe and happy place.

How sad is that? Last night, as I lay awake wondering if the LHC would bring the apocalypse, it hit me... it doesn't matter. I read this quote from Tuesdays with Morrie on a poster last week:

"'Everybody knows they're going to die, but nobody believes it. If we did, we would do things differently,' Morrie said. 'So we kid ourselves about death,' I (Mitch) said. 'Yes, but there's a better approach. To know you're going to die and be prepared for it at any time. That's better. That way you can be actually be more involved in your life while you're living. . . Every day, have a little bird on your shoulder that asks, 'Is today the day? Am I ready? Am I doing all I need to do? Am I being the person I want to be?... The truth is, Mitch, once you learn how to die, you learn how to live... Most of us walk around as if we're sleepwalking. We really don't experience the world fully because we're half asleep, doing things we automatically think we have to do... Learn how to die, and you learn how to live.'" -- Tuesdays with Morrie

I hadn't given death much thought until recently. I had given it the cursory concern - diligently checking sleeping children for patterns of breath, but beyond that? I have been content to roll about in my bubble of denial, resentment and misery. Being depressed gives us an extra level of fear about death and thinking about death. Being depressed brings the spectre of suicide, that decidedly backwards human condition that nullifies our instinct to survive. So the bubble became not just accepted, but encouraged, with thoughts of death willed to the back of my mind for fear of where that path may take me.

But suicide's not for me. Never has been, seems like a big, fat, selfish waste. What if we die and there's nothing? That's like buying a $40 cheesecake and throwing it out after a few bites. To keep on the cheesecake metaphor, what most of us are doing with our lives amounts to letting that delicious dessert rot in the fridge, or get burned in the freezer - waiting for the day we'll take it out and enjoy it.

The end could be nigh, chances are you and I won't know until it's too late. I don't live everyday like it could be my last, but I would like to start. Which brings me back to my calling to motherhood. I chose to stay at home because I didn't want to miss anything. I felt like my parents got a raw deal, both working and leaving my primary care in the hands of others. I also stayed home because I carry resentment for growing up in what is now a typical family, but was still unusual in the 80's.

But is having a mother who grudgingly attends to their basic needs really any better? What happened to my promise to them? My promise to take care of their budding minds?

Besides, I like my kids, they're cool and fun. I like being a mother. I just happen to have had a rough year - thankfully, kids are resilient and they will be just fine. I have been terribly hard on myself this year, I'm done. Things may not be perfect and that's okay.

Saturday, September 6

drowning, not waving/waving, not drowning

I was going to write about a really cool music video we watched last night, but Andrew has left to do laundry and I haven't got a clue where to find it to show you. So, for now enjoy this:

Music video made of paper. Svelte: 'Grind Your Bones' from Svelte on Vimeo.

I feel dull, but I am starting to realise that it isn't true dullness. It is rather the dullness brought by the shock of overwhelm. As though my brain is trying to protect itself by slowing down, as a body submerged in frigid water might. Rather than fight for shore and tire half-way, my best chance is to kick determinedly, but gently, towards dry land, using the current to advantage as best I can.

It isn't something I would need to think about at length, as my limbs became heavy and numb, it would become natural to think in terms of "breathe, kick, stay alert, breathe, kick, stay alert" - just as it has become natural to me now to eat, sleep and breathe. A way to pass through a time of fear and despair, a way to make it back to shore, where the cold currents will quickly blur in memory.

The shock of landing, the comfort of knowing that regardless of what just happened you made it. A time after which life is irrevocably changed, yet strangely just the same. A period of adjustment, fingers stretched out, grasping the familiar, exploring the new.

My period of adjustment is frustratingly ongoing. Lately is has really felt like fate has been mocking my desire for normality. All this anxiety is both invigorating and exhausting. It reminds me that I am alive, that life is amazing and still so unknown, it illuminates my creativity in such a powerful way. It is exhausting for the same reasons - life is amazing and there is so much life on the planet, each of us has so little control over our collective fate, each of us has a unique mind and that is both brilliant and frightening... any number of things could bring about the end of civilization, of life, of the planet, of the universe. Any number of things could happen at any time.

I don't really "believe" in God. That isn't to say there isn't a God, or a few - I just don't believe we can ever understand or speak for God. I certainly don't think there's a bearded guy in the sky passing down judgment and absolution. What I believe in is the first law of thermodynamics - I believe that in all things there is balance. So the end of civilization, of life, of the planet or of the universe would simply be the beginning of something else. Everything we do is a tiny step along some grand process of conversion and change. In depressed times I interpret that as saying that individual and even our collective lives have no meaning. But normally I take it to mean that this opportunity we have, to be alive, to create, to grow spiritually and intellectually, is something that shouldn't be squandered. We are one part of the culmination of a grand event. Our lives are unique in the vast universe. Hitler, Hiroshima, Egypt, Beck, plastic, fashion, Palin, CERN, children, poverty, air-conditioning, cheesecake... all unique, all amazing.

Not one will change the ultimate fate of the universe, just as my ultimate fate would not change if I were to die tomorrow or in 63 years. If I do die tomorrow, that's alright - not that I want to, but if it happened it would happen; if I die at 92, that's alright, too. Either way, it won't matter much that I was correct more times than I was incorrect.

Life is pretty sweet, especially when you have cheesecake. Since the universe might end in a few days, I think I am going to make sure we have some cheesecake for dessert this week.

Tuesday, September 2

if nothing else...

... the events of the past weeks, especially today, have served to show me that I need a life of my own.

I have a new etsy store (sans the baggage) - when it has something in it I will share the link.

I have sock monkeys to finish (all done but the stitching together and making faces), I have drawings aching to get out, scarves to sew, plus prints, cards and absolute miscellany that could go up. With luck I will make a little money to help the family and have a sense of accomplishing something.

With our lives in what feels like constant turmoil, I can't see leaving my SAHM gig... though days like today leave me wondering if I am equipped to handle the pressures of marriage and family. My gut chants a chorus of "cut and run!" With the backup singers quietly humming something that sounds like "you deserve better."

I am seething with anger and resentment towards my husband. I won't go into gory details, but we are having some issues around trust and what being honest really means... I do not believe he has been unfaithful, but he has made some errors in judgment recently and it seems like each time I think it is all over and we can work on getting better, something new pops up and dumps a pound of salt into my throbbing wounds.

And when all I feel like doing is curling up and crying, my children (who I love and cherish, etc...) are in my face with their needs.

to work or not to work - that's the question

Noodle at the Aquarium:

I interviewed for a job today, a *real* job in an office and everything... an office I love, with people I like (and a couple I love), doing a job that is almost tailor-made for me... but, it would mean leaving my children in someone else's care, losing most of my freedom, and possibly working myself to overwhelm and then resenting my job and/or my kids.

It also would mean a bit more money - but most of that would be needed to off-set childcare costs... but, the job would be cool and get me some experience outside of retail while I'm still relatively young (as in <35; not that I think 35 is old, but when all you have on your resume at 35 is a series of retail positions, I think it is much more difficult to break into something deeper). Plus, it is a temporary position (maternity leave), so at the end of it I will get laid off and will have worked the 600 hours necessary to claim EI, so I could get a little money when I go back to being an at-home mom.

But, I have this nagging feeling that it isn't the right move. I really want to get my store off the ground (which is starting to sound like "my band is about to make it big," and I really don't want to miss any of this time with my children. A woman on the bus was telling me stories today about when her adult children were wee, and she got all misty and sentimental. Her final words were "Cherish their youth, they grow up too fast." Which struck me as strange since I was on my way to a job interview. Yes, I am one of those people who sees signs everywhere, and while I have no logical reason to turn down the position, all the signs I see tell me to....

But then what? I'll be mighty miserable if I keep on like this - with all the frustration and resentment, caught in my inertia, feeling like a downtrodden housewife. And, if I have already decided I could work if I wanted to, does that mean I could work on what I wanted to? Maybe I don't have someone watch my kids every day, but instead trade sitting time, or beg my friends and family to watch the kids regularly, or barter some kind of deal with someone that takes into account that we really don't have any money to spare. Any ideas??

Sorry for the blather, folks, lots a-stewing up in the ol' noggin.