Friday, December 17, 2010

Battle of the moms

In the left corner, wearing a tailored skirt suit, Manolo Blahniks, and jewellery is Career Mom. In the right corner, in yoga pants, a T-shirt with a conspicuous stain, flip flops, and not a stitch of makeup is At-home Mom. Both of whom weighing in at… Well, they’d rather not say. And the oven mitts are off…

Click here to read the full article, as featured in the current issue of Oh Baby! Magazine.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Putting the mass back in Christmas

‘It’s snowing outside!’ my two-year-old son announces as we trudge through the white stuff. ‘It’s snowing outside!’ he says again, a few feet later, and once again a few feet after that. Normally the repetition would grate on my nerves. But not today. The innocent marvel in his little voice is catching, and I’m grinning ear to ear as the snowflakes continue to fall, each one flawless and unique. It’s hard to imagine a time when snow and colored lights and Santa Claus were novelties. But to my son they are.

Click here to read the full article, as featured on Real Zest.

Friday, December 3, 2010

The skinny on pregnancy weight gain -- redux

As soon as you fall pregnant, suddenly everyone is an expert extolling advice, whether you want it or not. Whole bookstore shelves are jam packed with “manuals” telling you what to do and what not to do when you’re expecting. One such “commandment” recommends a 25-35lbs weight gain during pregnancy, regardless of your starting weight and general body shape. Unfortunately, like most one-size-fits-all guides, this approach fails to consider the individual woman. And even more unfortunately, it encourages pregnant women to obsess about the numbers on the scale at a time when they should be focusing on being healthy and happy.

Click here to read the full article, as featured on Adios Barbie.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

The brown diaries -- volume 2

Oh, how I wish there wasn't a volume two...  But there it is. Here's where I confess that we abandoned Project Poo a while back, mainly because there was too much going on in the lead up to Project 2nd Birthday.  Now I'm here to report and mull over the fact that there is never a 'good' time for potty training.  Maybe a 'quasi ready' time but never a right time.  Our lives, let's face it, are always busy.  Especially when they orbit a pint-sized dictator.

And my, how the pint-sized dictate! 
Mine is so clever, so astute in so many respects. He can recite books I haven't read in months, songs I sang maybe once -- unlike his pre-senile ma, he actually remembers the lyrics...  Yet ask him if he needs to poop and he fixes you with a look like you've asked him to recite Pi in its entirety.  (As a matter of fact, he probably could recite Pi, but I'm so not going there.)  Nope, when it comes to the brown stuff, it's a mutiny.  Does he sense my desperation?  Does he deliberately play dumb?  Or does he genuinely not mind the squidgy pasty feeling of shit stuck to his rear end?  Beats me.  Is there method to this madness?  You tell me. 

So far our 'training' methodology is largely hit and miss: 
The large being miss with the occasional hit.  When I remember, I sit him on the potty. He obliges, reads a few books.  If the urge takes him, he'll piss and poo there, too, but mostly he's content enough to do so whenever, wherever.  Does this mean he's not ready?  Is he ready when he's able to signal me?  The little grunting face he pulls is fine and dandy, except that it only lasts for a split second and by then, the damage -- in a manner of speaking -- is done. 

I know he won't be 24 and still crapping his pants
(Ok, so maybe after a big night out he will probably, on occasion, still wet himself -- I'm a realist, after all).  But I feel I'm missing some crucial something here...  I'd rather wait it out and put him through the rigors of 'poop camp' for, say, one (intense) week than drag out the process for months.  Call me crazy.

To those who made it through the trenches
Just how did you do it?  Was it as gory as all that?  Are pull-ups really worth the money?  And, finally, how did you keep your precious sanity in one tidy piece?  Loonie for your thoughts...

Thursday, November 18, 2010

How to keep the in-laws from becoming outlaws

Blood is thicker than water. Trust me, it is. Even if you've sworn allegiance to your partner 'til death do part you, make no mistake — family will ALWAYS trump your romantic relationship, no matter how sound. Even when said family is estranged or annoying or downright abusive, the ties that bind weigh heavier than the old ball and chain.

Click here to read the full article, as featured at Parenting Squad.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

I am mommy, and I own the universe

Once upon a time I had trouble bonding with my son, and he with me.  Other than meeting his basic needs, I felt -- at my lowest low -- that just about anyone could look after him and he wouldn't know the difference (it's funny how depression warps your perception).  After all, not even my breasts were sustaining him. He would have done better with a wet nurse!  It's a shame when we are in the abyss that we don't have rose-coloured, fast-forward lenses we can slip on to see the future. Even the near future.  Lots of half-empty people could benefit from that kind of optimism.  Myself included.

These days LGO and I couldn't be closer.  In fact, the mother-and-son bond is verging on problematic.  In the immortal words of Ms Morissette:  Isn't it ironic, don'tcha think?  But how close is too close? Lately my son has taken to bestowing me ownership of everything in the universe.  All things, in his autocratic perspective, are 'Mommy's'.  The stars?  Mommy's.  The cars parked up and down our street?  Mommy's.  Every piece of food or clothing or footwear?  Mommy's.  Even when my neighbour came toting her own bottle of San Pellegrino?  You guessed it.  I'm no child psychologist. But there must be a simple explanation.  Personally, I don't give a hoot what the rationale is.  In an ideal world, anything I wanted on whim would be mine all mine.  But that wouldn't be a very nice world, now would it?  No sense telling my son that.  Better his world view than him declaring 'mine mine mine' to everything in his sight.  I guess he's generous that way.  Or maybe he assumes that what's mine must by extension also be his.

What is possibly even more grating to others (Mr Green included), though, is the advent of the dreaded separation anxiety.  It does make me wonder when exactly does intimacy cross into anxiety territory.  A few cuddles: healthy.  Following you from room to room, and crying as soon as you're out of eye shot: not so healthy.  (Then again, Mr Green also does this sometimes.  I guess I have that effect on men!)  Take today.  While a friend was here, I nipped upstairs for a piddle.  Ten seconds later, LGO ran to the bottom of the stairs, frantically calling out, 'Mommy, Mommy, love you'. My heart melted, of course.  But it is a little testing, considering it happens even when Daddy's also present in the room. I am told by Those Who Know to enjoy this phase while it lasts.  Because it is just that -- a phase.  And soon enough he'll be scrambling off to preschool and then high school where he'll cross the street, pretending not to know that freaky lady blowing him kisses.  But for now that freaky lady is happy to claim those snuggles whenever she pleases.  After all, she's Mommy and she owns each and everything under the sun.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Ode to a single parent

It takes a village to raise a child. Or at the very least: one superhuman parent. Every now and then I don my cape and play that wonder woman. Like many moms out there, when my husband goes away on business, I unofficially become a ‘single parent’. And, also like most moms out there, it’s not an experience I relish.  Yet I do recognize that every now and then it’s healthy and necessary to be ousted from your bubble-wrapped existence. And walking in another mom’s footsteps, even if it’s only for a few short days or weeks a year, helps me to see beyond the periphery of my smug little life.

Click here to read the full article, as featured in Real Zest.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Circumcision: arguments for(e) and against

As far as parenting debates go, circumcision is as delicate as they come and as emotionally charged as breast versus bottle.

The first rule about parenthood is that there is no rule

Nothing is strictly black and white, right or wrong, when it comes to being a parent. Every day it seems there is some new, monumental decision you must make about your child's future; knowing what to do is rarely straightforward. Though it provides a wealth of information, the internet is a minefield of (often conflicting) advice...

Click here to read the full article, as featured on Parenting Squad.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Careful what you wish for...

I am blessed/cursed with a very articulate two-year-old.  Linguistically, he was a late bloomer. And I remember not that many moons ago worrying over his lack of vernacular.  My visiting mother-in-law just smirked knowingly.  Mother-in-laws tend to do that a lot, I've noticed.  They have this inner wisdom akin to an impish grin. 'You wait,' she said.  That was it. Now, of course, I know exactly what she meant. 

Silence that once was golden is no more
My little motormouth revs all day long, spluttering and repeating virtually everything that comes out of my mouth, leading me to believe there's an echo in our home.  He'll say things like 'cacophony', and 'omigod'. Just the other day, I was having a pop at Mr Green for getting yet another tattoo.  'How'd it go, masochist?' I asked when he came back.  Incredibly, my LGO said, 'masochist'.  So much for name calling.  Having this little recorder in my vicinity just might make an angel of me yet.  I really must train myself to keep the expletives and gossip where it belongs: in my head, lest I get myself into hot water. 

Two is also the dawning, not of 'why' but of 'want'
'I want ______ [insert any random food you can think up and my toddler has uttered it.  His favourites being 'mango' and 'avocado' -- foods, I hasten to add, which he has seldom even tasted but which he nonetheless remembers enough to 'want' them.]  Now it's 'I want music' or 'I want TV' or 'I want puzzle' or 'I want trucks'.  While it helpful and miraculous after 24 months of total guesswork to finally know what my child wants (and to be able to give him what he's after), it's also a bit of a pill.  Not a minute goes by before he's had the TV/puzzle/trucks and he's onto the next 'I want'.  Really, it's taxing.  It's like a never ending game of musical chairs in my brain.  My boy has the attention span of a bluebottle fly at the town dump. 

Two nights ago, at the wee hour of one...
We had a novelty: 'I want mommy's bed'.  Oh dear.  Oh, oh, oh dear.  Touched as I was, and bleary to the point of confusion, I heeded against all better judgement and humoured him.  Into the middle my little monkey landed, kicking and prodding and pinching Mr Green and I to such an extent that the former finally trundled off to the guest room.  'Where daddy gone?' asked monkey, feigning all innocence.  Even at 2 or 3 of whatever ungodly hour it was, I had to laugh.  'I want sleep' sadly isn't yet in his repertoire, at least it wasn't that night.

He's not a pervert, but...
At least he is over his summertime penchant for grabbing the crotches of random passersby.  But when adult genitals are the only thing at eye level, it's not surprising perhaps that a little guy occasionally reaches out for a handle.  The other day was only marginally better: there was a hunched man in the park, and my son ran over and tried to snatch the old codger's walking stick. Imagine my horror!  Thinking on my toes, as any clinging-to-the-last-shreds-of-her-sanity-mom must, I quickly told LGO to shake the man's hand instead.  Fortunately LGO complied and it was a cute, inter-generational moment that amply made up for my son's first attempt at petty theft.   All in a day's work.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Little green one isn't so little anymore...

So here I am, doing what I said I wouldn't, for a while at least.  The truth is, I've missed this blog just as much as some of you have.  I forgot how freeing it was to have this space in which to openly express my current thoughts and experiences on motherhood.  What a loopy ride it all is!  But I've been charged with writing so much these days, in various formats, that frankly I get a little sick of feeling 'obligated' to do it.  Unfortunately the first thing to get axed is the blog...

But LGO's second anniversary is a week from today. (As I type this, I'm breaking out into a pre-birthday bash sweat -- just as well there is no webcam!)   To mark the major milestone, we are throwing not one but TWO parties in the little prince's favour.  One here at home, the other at my parents' house.  Imagine, this wee guy's only been around for 24 months and already has so many friends in so many places.  We couldn't rightly snub one group in favour of another.  So yes, I'm dumbing down the festivities as much as possible. But no matter how you dice it: a party with the under-two set is bound to be stressful by virtue of its guest list.

So it was fitting that in the wake of his anniversary LGO thew me a bone.  The other night as he was climbing the stairs to bed, he blew me a kiss goodnight.  It didn't matter that he was copying me; it melted my heart all the same.  (And must be something to do with age, but my heart is more margarine than butter these days.) And tonight as we're walking around the block as part of our evening family ritual, as he tries to grasp my leg like a tree hugger, he says: 'I want mommy!'  It didn't matter that what he wanted was for mommy to carry him the rest of the way.  It was the fact that he said the words aloud.  My heart promptly turned into a puddle at his size-7 feet. 

The more vocal and articulate he becomes --and we witness his evolution with each and every passing day-- the more our connection grows stronger.  He doesn't understand everything I tell him, but at least I make a point to try to explain. And most of the time he staggers me by sitting on the step to put his shoes on, or walking back and putting the crayon back into the container.  Even when he clearly disobeys, the fact that he understands enough to rebel kind of thrills me.   It took two years, yet I've finally come to the conclusion that babies aren't my forte.  They may be helpless and tiny and vulnerable, but in their charge I wind up feeling just as helpless and vulnerable. 

Of course there are always issues, and I'm fairly sure the terrible twos aren't called terrible for nothing.  The main issue I have right now is this resolution not to 'give him' a brother or a sister.  Even the phraseology suggests that I am cruelly withholding something that is rightly his to have.  I don't consider that I'm doing him a hardship by making him an only child; quite the opposite in fact.  I consider it a favour, a service to LGO and to all of humankind, for that matter.  Having said that, I want to do my best to socialize him so that he isn't painfully shy or selfish like I was for many years (and still have a tendency to be.  As the saying goes, it takes one to know one!) 

Having my son has brought me to the highest --and lowest-- points in my life.  One child almost broke me.  I don't want to see what two can do to my psyche, not to mention my happy-enough family.  Call me crazy (ok, so maybe not to my face) but I don't like to tempt fate that way.  I've learned hard lessons so far.  The main one being Buddhist in nature:  change, especially where children are concerned, is the only constant.  Just when you figure out one stage, they've moved on to something else.  You can never clap your hands and think, Yes, by jove I've got it! because some new challenge is bound to crop up, regardless of your child and your particular circumstance in life.  And this will go on for as long as I (and my son) are still on this earth breathing.  Another forty or even sixty years if we are that lucky... 

One thing is for sure, there truly is nothing comparable to being a parent. Like time, the relationship is never static, but keeps on growing and evolving.  My son surprises and challenges me every day.  And just when I think I can't love him any more than I do right now, somehow I manage to.

Friday, October 1, 2010

5 reasons why your teen should read Twilight

If you haven't heard of the vampire saga, Twilight, then you must have been living on another planet for the last few years. The supernatural equivalent of Romeo and Juliet by Stephenie Meyer may not be the most obvious choice when considering reading material for your teenager, but here are five good reasons why you should go out and treat your tween/teen to the full set today...

Click here to read the full article as featured at Parenting Squad.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

What is YA and why should you read it?

Young Adult fiction is on fire right now. Not only are novels like Harry Potter responsible for a surge in children's reading habits in recent years, they've forced adults — many of whom haven't picked up a book since their school days — to crack open a fresh spine and take the plunge. Kudos to J.K. and to Potter himself. The boost he gave to literacy worldwide was nothing short of magical.

Click here to read the full article as featured on Parenting Squad.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Father from the truth

Twenty years ago, a U.F.O. sighting would have been more likely.  Today, due to shifting cultural mores and a turbulent economy, the stay-at-home dad (SAHD) is an ever increasing reality. Clearly ‘Mr Mom’ is here to stay, so we’d better get used to the idea – fast. 

Women may have fought long and hard for equal footing in the boardroom, yet when it comes to doling out cuddles and packing lunches many are reluctant to admit that men make equally competent, equally caring caregivers...

Click here to read the full article which is currently featured on Real Zest.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Have toddler, will travel (so help me God)

Traveling with a toddler is like Russian roulette: You never know when you pull out of the driveway if you're going to get the euphoric empty revolver click or an all out blood-and-guts explosion. It can go either way, and sometimes it does, all in the same trip...

Click here to read the full article, now featured on Parenting Squad.

Monday, September 6, 2010

The Booby Trap

Breast is best. It’s a fact of nature endorsed by governments and parenting experts the world over. No one disputes the benefits of breastfeeding. What is objectionable, though, is the assumption that all mothers can and should do it. That moms who choose formula over breast milk are lazy and irresponsible, and clearly don’t have their baby’s best interests at heart.

Please click here to read the full article as featured on Real Zest.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

The good news and the not-so-good news

Which do you want first?  The good, of course.  Little Green One will be sharing its wit and wonderment in pastures abroad.  Down south, to be precise: 

Real Zest -- Written by "some of the smartest, funniest, most thoughtful, strongest, incredibly vivacious and delightfully beautiful women on the planet!"  No, really, I didn't write that myself, but I must admit, it does have a ring. 

Parenting Squad -- Tips, hacks, and news for parents and their families.  You guessed it, I'm one of the hacks.

The not-so-good news is that, for the time being at least, LGO the blog will cease to exist in its current state. Instead, I will update this site regularly, letting you know when my articles appear elsewhere, in the sincerest hope that you will follow my trail, of drool and Crayolas as it were.

Putting LGO on hiatus was a tough decision.  But, contrary to popular belief, I can't be in more than one place at once AND plan a two year old's birthday party, AND write another novel, AND change stinky diapers, AND cook fabulous meals, AND feed those hungry dust bunnies...  So much for Superwoman!

Please keep in touch, won't you?

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

The brown diaries -- volume 1

I'm probably tempting fate here.  Calling this post 'volume one' assumes there will be subsequent volumes.  That this post is the first in a series.  I so hope there won't be siblings, but I'm clued up enough to know that toilet training isn't done in a day. 

Why I can't keep my (potty) mouth shut
Yes, friends, this is another story about the brown stuff.  If you're a mom, no doubt you have your own stories from the training days which you gleefully regale at dinner parties, your own battle scars which you wear with pride.  Still, you love nothing more than reminiscing, sharing secrets and triumphs, and you never tire of a good brown tale.  I'm not sure why that is the case.  But it is.  Perhaps, after surviving your child's first year of life and all its wild range of movements -- from the tarry early days, to the tawny, to the just plain alien, conquering your child's many blowouts is a rite of passage.  (I don't want to scare you with numbers, but let's say around 730, give or take, in that first year.) 

Hall of horrors
Mr Green and I have an all time Top Ten which we are continually updating and revising.  So it's telling that in the past 22 months, two of my Top Tens happened almost back to back as I embarked on training LGO recently.  Let me backtrack just a little here before I get to the goods.  After all, every writer worth their mustard (sorry, not the picture you need right now) knows how to build in a measure of suspense.  The whole potty thing might as well be SWAT training as far as I'm concerned.  Just considering it fills me with the same ball bearing-in-the-pit-of-your-stomach sensation.  Just considering it was enough to put me off considering it for weeks.  I mean, once you start there's no turning back, is there?  Kind of like when I tear open a bag of Cadbury's mini eggs...  I know you know what I mean.

The king assumes his throne
So, anyway, I dusted off the potty I bought weeks before and had hidden behind the couch so I wouldn't have to consider considering training.  Well, my mom suspected LGO might be Ready, and so I stared my fear square in the face.  Needless to say, it wasn't pretty.  My son was happy enough to sit his cheeks down and read some stories.  He is a male, after all.  At first nothing much happened.  Then he stood up to fetch a different book, and as he squatted, you guessed it:  on the hardwood floor.  I quickly returned him to the pot, and he promptly finished his business there.  Mr Green and I chanted and cheered and created a great big hullabaloo about the accomplishment.  LGO didn't look overly bothered either way.  And in that not overly bothered expression I glimpsed his teenage self. 

In the next 24 hours...
I saw his expression darken again in the telltale way.  Again, I reacted like Jack Bauer.  Another success story!  Maybe, just maybe, my son really is ready, I thought.  Practically delirious at the prospect of No More Dirty Diapers, I called him over to witness his triumph for himself.  (I've read that for some kids it helps to see the No. Two in order to understand what it is and where it goes.)  Anyway, my LGO, a little too enthused at this point, plunged his hand in the potty and gave his Mr Hanky a big affectionate squeeze.  Gasping.  Frantically reaching for the wipes.  It was all I could do to keep his clean hand from touching the Hanky hand, and the Hanky hand from touching, well, anything else -- including my hair, his hair, my mouth, his mouth...  I just managed to avoid cussing, but only because I was too busy hyperventilating.

A messy lesson, indeed
But then, aren't most of life's lessons messy?  I long for the days when I can safely regain a measure of propriety and privacy in my own home.  In the meantime I hope you've enjoyed the first instalment.  Myself, I sincerely pray there won't be a sequel.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Plump Fiction

If I had a buck for every time total strangers waxed lyrical about how fat my baby is, I’d have enough dinero to open up my own fast food franchise. I know the war on childhood obesity (or ‘globesity’ as it’s now known) is a worthy one, especially in this country. It is a bittersweet irony that in a world where kids are starving to death, ours are literally eating their way to an early grave. I’ve read time and again that obese children grow into obese adults with all kinds of health red alerts, from heart disease to diabetes and cancer...

Click here to read the full article.  Big fat thanks to Seth at Real Zest for featuring this piece.  Be sure to visit this great new site for some zesty writing by zesty women!

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

From flab to fab

Let's face it: baby fat is not cute. And by that, I don't mean your wee one's Dizzy Gillespie cheeks; I mean the stubborn cellulite-speckled deposits that cling to your thighs and add another cheek width to your already backhoe-wide butt. That's without even mentioning the never-setting ‘belly jelly' that makes you want to lock yourself in a darkened closet...

Click here to read the full article, which is featured in this month's issue of Oh Baby! Magazine (available in Sears, Once upon a Child, and various other locations in Canada). 

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

I may be small, but you should see the size of my ego

For someone pint-sized, LGO sure is a diva.  The sole purpose of my existence as his mother is to meet his every need and, more aptly, demand. And if I fail to miss his not-so-subtle cues -- a grine or a pointed finger -- the boy throws his toys (often literally) and a hissy fit that would make Naomi Campbell blush.  The trigger could be anything, or nothing at all.  If he's standing, he wants to sit; if he's sitting, he wants to stand. You get the idea...   Even when he doesn't know what the hell he wants, he expects me to.

I don't know about you, but my crystal ball reading skills are a little rusty
Recently, after various meltdowns in various settings, I came up with a theory: that my son wasn't just a diva or a dictator of the grandest order (i.e. a toddler); perhaps, just perhaps, he has genuine proximity issues.  I came to this conclusion after noticing that most melting incidents occurred when other adults or kids invaded LGO's personal space.  I'm not claustrophobic, but I have never liked crowded spaces, either.  And London just about killed me.  Imagine half the population of Canada squeezed onto one teeny little section of one teeny little island, and such an aversion is not surprising, really. 

Could this latest quirk of LGO's be yet another derivative of mommy's personality? 
Lucky kid.  Here's how it goes down.  My son could be at the slide, happily going up and down, up and down, until some other kid decides he too wants to slide. How dare he?  Even if the kid isn't in my son's face and keeps a respectful distance, all hell breaks loose.  Or: some kid will accidentally 'brush' against mine (as in, colliding with a feather) and LGO will absolutely lose it, making out like the kid's given him a lip fatter than Angelina Jolie's. 

And the Oscar goes to...
Needless to say, life with a drama queen can be embarrassing, especially when he's not yet two years old.  When this happens, and the kid's guardian (and sometime the kid, too) fixes us with the most puzzled look, all I want to do is bury my head in the sandbox.  The kid's like: What did I do to upset your brat, lady?  And the guardian's like: Did I miss something here?  No lady/kid, nothing broken; nothing missed. Nothing. Actually. Happened. It's just my kid auditioning for the next reality train wreck. Where did this hypersensitivity come from?  Oh, yeah... 

As for the slide...
When he's on it, as far as LGO's concerned, it's HIS slide.  He may have just about got used to the idea of possessions. Mommy's cereal.  Mommy's cup.  Mommy's coffee, even.  Yet in all other respects, public ownership is all but lost on him as a concept.  If he wants it, then it's HIS.  There's no such thing as ours in his brain.  A toddler's world reveals capitalism at its ugliest. (You didn't, by any chance, have a toddler when you wrote the commie manifesto, Karl? Just curious.)  And yet there is no shortage of play dates here. No shortage of exposure to other children to teach him the fine art of taking turns. 

Share is a four-letter word
And for now, for my little one at least, it's a word that isn't gaining favour in this household. For all of you vets out there, how do I socialize LGO before there's no stadium on either coast big enough to contain his ego?  Is the selfish gene something he'll naturally outgrow?  Or are we doomed to raise an only child ogre to old age?

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Top Ten Tips for Tightwad Mamas

Let’s face it, kids are expensive accessories – even more expensive than the 52-inch LCD TV and the Jimmy Choos you and hubs have respectively been lusting after. It’s estimated that within the first year of life alone your darling progeny will cost in the region of $10,000. If you’re anything like me, you’re all for a penny saved and a loonie stretched. After all, every bit adds up, right? And over time that ‘bit’ might just bank roll into a requisite Disney trip or college fund.

Click here to read the top ten penny-pinching tips.  Thanks again to Maria at A Mother World for featuring this article celebrating my chronic stinginess!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

An oldie but goodie

Three cheers to Laffy Lady at LOL for featuring a little ditty from the Little Green archive.  If you haven't already done so, check it out here and be sure to check out LOL for your daily giggling needs.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

To thrill a mockingbird

OUT! one step. two steps. FEET! go. car. red. colour. wheel. three steps. four. grass. green. LEAF! zoom. sky. plane. cloud. rock. hard. woof. DOG! five steps. six. go. go. go. legs. flower. yelloooo. neeenaaahhh. truck. fire. FENCE! tall. seven steps. eight. squirrel. run. TREE! park. nine steps. ten. go. go. feet. again. AGAIN!

It may not be the age of enlightenment
But it's the age of the exclamation mark, that's for sure.  If we discount for a moment the teething and tantruming and sheer bloody-mindedness, the months before a child's second birthday may just be a golden era. It's hard to remember a time when the world was quite so brand spanking new and wondrous. Yet that is exactly what we see if we care to look through a toddler's eyes.  Explosive colours, magical movement, glorious sound... 

Nothing is dull when you're three feet tall
Every day objects set off fireworks in the littlest pea brains. The world truly is an awesome place. (Take it from me, since the age of 16 or so I use of the term 'awesome' very judiciously.)  Every now and then, though, it's good for us jaded adults to be reminded of this golden fact. To be forced to s-l-o-w down and smell the falling jasmine blossom or the passing garbage truck, even.  No doubt we could all do with reserving the 3-D glasses -- not for Die Hard 14: Sequels Never Die, but for a walk around our own block every now and then.

LGO's enthusiasm for the world is as contagious as cooties
I love strolling alongside him and trying to see what he sees, watching his world grow with each new step, with each new word and concept he adds to his lexicon daily.  There are so many now, I've lost track.  Each word is a eureka moment, nothing short of a Nobel triumph for him.  He's like a miniature Wordsworth or Thoreau, madly in love with the natural world and all its minutiae.  Hearing him copycat the most random expressions -- like capisce, great job, comfy cosy, paddywack, and my new personal favourite: back off, bitches (Gee, I wonder who we have to thank for that one?) -- is as thrilling as it is hilarious. Hearing him connect the dots verbally, mentally -- pointing to cup and rug and fan, and beaming as if he himself patented the stuff -- is one of the great rewards of being a parent.  Rue the day when his lexicon plateaus and his eyes cease to really look, to really see what's out there. 

The day that happens is the day his world starts to shrink
And this shrinkage, to me at least, is one of the greatest tragedies of adulthood. For now, though, Little Green One is my guide and my braille, shining a torch on what's been dim for so long. And for that I'm grateful. His unblinkered 'sight' is one of the greatest gifts of childhood, and a great gift to me, his adoring fan and ever loving mama.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Revenge of the lima bean

There was a time not so long ago when my darling son ate what was put in front of him. With his pincers grip he would pinch whole chunks of spinach and gobble them up like Pop-Eye (minus the squint eye and sailor tattoo). But something changed. I swear there is a conspiracy at work among the under two set. Like little Harry surreptitiously nudged my son in the sandpit one day and whispered, 'Hey, don't you know you're not supposed to eat the green stuff, man?'

Feel free to read the full article and share your own tips for getting fussy eaters to tuck in. Big green thanks to Carrie Anne for featuring this piece in Everything Mom...

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Leap of Faith

Thanks to the ever lovely Mama Ash at Everything Mom and Baby for letting me rant and rave about my love of LeapFrog on her fabulous blog. Keep up the good work, Mama A!

Friday, July 2, 2010

Mommy brain down the drain

I have this theory about the phenomenon known as mommy brain.  It goes something like this. When my son was conceived, not only did he get half my genetic makeup (lucky, lucky boy), he also stole quite a few of my precious brain cells, too.  Just as Miss Mary Jane does when you spend too much time in the good lady's company.  Little did I know these cells would never replenish themselves. Ever. Again. 

Click here to read the full article, as featured at Oh Baby! Magazine.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Why a spoonful of sugar won't make the truth about nannying go down any easier

Once upon a time having a nanny was considered a glamorous thing, much like having Jeeves the Butler or Rex the Gardener. Only the exceedingly, ludicrously wealthy were known to have hired help. These days having a nanny is virtually the norm for DIKs (dual income with kids). The influx of nannies has meant the middle class mama can have her cake and eat it without the calorific guilt. Seen as a less shabby alternative to day care, the nanny often subs as butler, cook, and gardener. (Case in point: I once saw a nanny weeding and raking up fall leaves while the kids played in the front yard.) In some households she is little more than a paid slave, her job spec as long and loosely defined as suits her bosses.

Before I overstep the mark, and piss off all and sunder -- let me clarify:
There's nothing expressly wrong with having a nanny. On the face of it the nanny-parent relationship is a beautiful thing, a symbiotic godsend which provides the (oftentimes) landed immigrant with paid labour and decent accommodation while allowing working parents to do just that, since few families today can survive on a single income even if they wanted to. At the risk of sounding like a smug mama, I am (for the time being at least) able to stay at home with my son. I know I'm in a privileged, minority position -- one which I make the damnedest conscious effort not to take for granted. That said, I also see a lot of nannies on the job, and am concerned enough at my findings to rant about it...

While some nannies are undeniably 3-carat diamonds
Many more are lacklustre and downright rough. At play dates such nannies can be seen clustered, texting or conversing together in a far-off corner, utterly oblivious as little Marcus thumps another child on the head, or as little Megan nibbles on a pastel chalk stick. Half the time in such clusters there is no telling who is the guardian of whom. Half the time there is no one looking out for little Megan and no one reprimanding little Marcus. While children should have opportunities to engage in 'free play', this doesn't mean they are ignored and unsupervised. Regardless of whether they are behaving or misbehaving, all children need interaction and guidance. And this, above all, troubles me. I shouldn't have to parent other people's children. But often I find myself stepping in because no one else does, or will.

You don't have to tell me
Caring for a child is a demanding, exhausting, tedious, and sometimes mind numbingly boring job. I'm there. I so get it. And I can only imagine that when said child belongs to someone else, that job is exponentially more demanding/exhausting/tedious/boring. But all the more reason to care. After all, nannies, and anyone else who chooses childcare as a profession, has a duty to the kids they are looking after. Like it or not, it is not enough to feed little Megan and cart little Marcus to the park. You are their moral compass, their educator, their friend, and trusted guardian. You are the beacon in their puny universe when their parents can't be there. I worry that some nannies care too little. Nannying has to be more than just a job. At the risk of sounding trite and all Jacko on you:  kids are everyone's business because they are our future. We all have a charge in whether they turn out to be 'good' kids or the kind who knife other kids at parties. I know it may seem like a stretch, but today's neglected and isolated children risk becoming tomorrow's Columbines.

If you have a nanny or are in the process of finding one
Don't beat yourself up about it. But pay attention. How does your kid react in her presence? Does he freely go to her or show her affection? Kids are terrible liars. Their actions are infinitely more telling than words. And certainly more telling than any words your prospective nanny will come up with in order to sell herself. Unless your kids convince you that she's worthy, don't be sold.

You tell me
Is childcare a job anyone can do? Or is it a vocation for the select few? And how can you tell if a nanny is supercalifragilisticexpialidocious?

Friday, June 18, 2010

What makes a dad delicious?

Is it aviator sunglasses, à la David Beckham? Foppish hair à la Rob Pattinson? How about George Clooney's wit? Or Salman Rushdie's mind? A six-pack -- and I'm not talking Molson -- or how nicely he fills his Calvins? 

Read more here
Thanks to the yummies at YMC for featuring my two cents on what makes a dad delicious.  Please feel free to add your own two cents in the comments section. 

Last but in no way least...
Happy D-Day, fathers everywhere. Carry on being your delicious selves.  And may the Oreo cookie be with you!

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Dr Jackal and Mr Pain in my Hyde

LGO has a split personality.  The schism is getting more and more pronounced by the day, I swear.  And he can switch at the drop of a hat, in the blink of an eye, and at just about any other cliche you can muster. If I wasn't so close to the fire, I'd find his behaviour fascinating.  Really, the toddler mind is fascinating.  Problem is, no one can stand to be around him for long enough to study it. 

When he's good, he's good. When he's bad, he's unbearable
Think that sounds harsh?  You obviously don't have a toddler, or the memory of having a toddler is now distant and hazy. Lucky you. The triggers that generally bring out the Hyde in LGO are other kids.  Not just the prospect of sharing toys but sharing attention.  While it's perfectly normal (mis)behaviour at his age, I wish I knew a better way to handle the situation without wanting to reach for the aspirin or, depending on the day, the vodka.  I feel like he's too young to grasp a timeout.  I've tried taking him into another room to defuse the bomb.  But the only time he really tends to calm down is after the offending party has left.  Then he's triumphant, of course, and I'm despairing. And contemplating what Supernanny would do in my shoes.  Who bloody knows. One thing's for sure, though: she wouldn't reach for the vodka...

I'm not a raging alcoholic, but
I feel on the brink of some kind of hair-tearing madness when Hyde makes his appearance.  One minute LGO will be hurling toys, or food, or kicking and writhing on the floor.  In the next breath he's belly laughing, exposing those irresistible Chicklet teeth, or nuzzling into my lap for an impromptu cuddle.  My incurable cuddle bug, he knows what squidgy buttons to press, let me tell you.

I never thought I'd cheat on my husband, but
Here I am, in love with another man.  He may be just three feet tall, and yet my heart swells whenever I lay eyes on him.  I'm punch drunk on the smell of his skin, especially when I burrow in the crook of his neck.  I seize every opportunity to hold him close.  No matter how many times I do it, it never feels like nearly enough. Yes, I've got it bad and it feels so good.  I've said it before, but man oh man that Mother Nature is a sly fox.  With all the love hormones pumping around my system, it's the only way I can tolerate that bastard Hyde's cameos.  It's like U.S. of Tara without the punchlines.

I don't even have to beg, borrow, or steal his affection, either
For now at least he comes to me, and I'm lapping it up. Hearing his little squeak of a voice pronouncing -- and mispronouncing -- his latest words is too cute for words. I now know why people keep on procreating far beyond sense and dollars. Never mind cloning sheep (as if the world needed more dumb sheep -- there are, like, omigod, already so many), if scientists could find a way to bottle up and encapsulate both the squeak and the cuddles to see us through the meltdowns and the teenage years, they'd get my vote for the Nobel...

And you? How do you go about civilizing your little savage?

Sunday, June 6, 2010

For better or whatever

With D(ad)'s day fast approaching, I thought it only fair to devote some blog space to the other man in my life, Big Green One.  Those of you who know us personally know that we hemmed and hawed over the kid question for an inordinate amount of time.  For nine years to be precise.  Aside from one pregnancy 'scare' early on in our relationship, we were perpetual fence-sitters when it came to starting a family.  I'm not sure why that is, exactly. 

Two's a couple...
And three is certainly a threesome.  We are/were deeply in love and committed, so the Green expansion should have been a most natural progression.  But there was the Fear of the Unknown, since neither one of us had had any prior exposure to babies, and even children were extraterrestrials we rarely encountered in our day to day.  But on the flip side, for me at least, the Fear of Regret was all the more palpable and ultimately swayed my decision to procreate.  To put it plainly (because when do I not?), I didn't want to be that woman -- you know, the one who gets on the wrong side of fifty and suddenly feels bowled over by an emptiness that is more than just the product of a lapsed biological clock. 

We're not in Kansas any more, honey
I sometimes take risks, consequences be damned.  Anyone who has kids, no matter when they have them, knows that rugrats have a habit of throwing your so-called life into a tailspin.  The image of Dorothy's whirligigging, tornado-stricken house springs to mind.  Of course now that I am one, I can't imagine myself not being a mother any more than I can imagine myself without a nose.  Now, there's a picture...  And yet my marriage has weathered the storm of parenthood these past two years in a way it never did in the first eight.  Everyone says that marriage is the big life changer, but I disagree -- parenthood is the maker or breaker, hands down.

The best of times... or not
Even at the best of times, if you're not scrupulously careful, your child can dominate your focus until you and your partner lose sight of each other.  Even when you aren't both frazzled and short tempered (which in my case is 99.9999 per cent the case), finding the Da Holy Grail seems like a walk in the park compared to finding time to connect and reconnect with your partner.  But it's imperative to the happiness of the entire family for the couple to put in the hours, or even the minutes.  Many couples are reluctant to take vacations sans enfant and are slack about organizing child care for 'date nights'.  Even it it's just a walk or drink together, I know it's hard but try to seize any opportunity to talk about something other than the breadth and texture of your child's latest b.m.  Rediscover what made you like this person once upon a time.  And I don't just mean how he looks in his Levis.... although it goes without saying there is that, too.

Sex is not the be all, end all
Did I really say that?  That may be so, but it's still a hugely important aspect of staying connected.  And nothing makes your physical relationship take a nosedive more than parenthood.  If you're not careful sex, and all the aggregate intimacy that leads to it, can easily fall by the wayside, especially for moms who are often preoccupied with the business of keeping the house afloat.  As with parenting, coupledom is all about quality, not quantity.  Make the iota of time you have together really count.  Rather than plonk yourselves in front of Gray's or Lost, share a bubble bath or sit outside together once your little jelly bean goes down for the night.  Computers and televisions are the enemies of romance and, ironically, of communication.  You know this; I know this.  So limit the time you spend in the artificial glow.  This is a sore point for me, I admit it.  But as the computer is a necessary evil for a blogger and a freelancer and a wannabe novelist, I'm working on making better use of my time on the www.

Say it again, Sammy
Parenting is bloody hard work.  Bloody, bloody bloody hard work (yes, you needed to hear it four times!).  For the record, I'm glad Mr Green is my co-director, my partner in crime in the gory business that is parenting.  I still feel blessed to have his arms to fall into at the end of every long day, be it glorious or gruelling.  If I must grow old and grey -- as we all must, eventually -- then there's no one else I'd rather do it with. 

Quid pro quo
In what ways has parenthood changed your relationship?  What steps have you taken to stay connected to your partner?

Monday, May 31, 2010

Play date pandemonium

Picture it:  a sweltering, mid-30s kind of day.  You decide to wipe down the plastic pool that's been gathering cob webs and grime through the long Canadian winter.  You pick up a few groceries in the morning (because a mom's gotta do what a mom's gotta do), and you just so happen to notice that Clamato juice is on sale. 

Clearly the urban gods have decided to smile upon you 

So, you go out on a limb; you decide to host a play date. Nothing fancy or foolhardy, just a friend and her son who just so happens to be the same age as your son.  Giddy, you install the pool on the deck and get the hose.  While the water is rising, you entertain pink-tinged visions of two toddlers splashing in the pool, laughing and playing with toy walruses and dolphins made in Chinese sweatshops.  But by now you are feeling so good, not even the Chinese sweatshops can get to you.  Then you turn your head incrementally and see the pair of recently, lovingly built Muskoka chairs occupied by you and your mama friend.  Each mama fans herself and smiles beatifically at the sight of the splashing boys.  Meanwhile the condensation on the tall glass of your Caesar (aka Bloody Mary) wets your presently idle fingers...  By the time the pool is filled, you too are brimming with optimism for the afternoon ahead. 

After the nap, your friend arrives

She has waited an inordinately long time for the bus.  She looks slightly wilted, and her poor chap is a fast-melting ice cream.  The water is so fine, though, and you and mama friend are sorely tempted to dip your butts in it.  (Instead, you end up lamenting the fact that the pool is in no way big enough to accommodate said butts.)  And your friend -- the angel -- has brought a bouquet of beautifully fresh tulips.  You hurry inside to make the drinks.  Getting the boys lathered in sun cream and stripped to swimsuits makes you feel somewhat harried.  WHERE IS THAT COCKTAIL ALREADY?  Ah, the drinks are poured.  The boys are stripped.  Hers doesn't want to go near the water; he is more than happy to play with the outdoor toys.  Yours, on the flip side, is content to dip his hand in but only his hand.  Suddenly hers changes his mind and bounds over, splashing enthusiastically.  Yours, having taken great offence to the enthusiasm of the splashing, wails. 

Both boys blatantly refuse to enter the pool 

Caesars are gulped here and there, amongst the ensuing chaos.  You and mama end up in the dim indoors.  More pandemonium as swimsuits are removed, baby powder-white skin is towelled.  Fresh diapers are applied.  Contented now, the boys play, oblivious to each other's presence until they covet the same toy.  Then try to forcibly take it from the other.  Mama friend's son takes your son's train from him.  This, clearly, is the last straw.  Your son howls and thrashes epileptically.  Not elliptically. 

Mr Green arrives home from work.  Mama friend packs up and makes haste while your son has to be calmed in another room.  The play date is officially over.  You need another Caesar.  But when you open the cupboard, you see that there is no more vodka.  Not a dewdrop.  You want to cry.  So much for urban gods.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

My Co-ed Bed

Before I became a parent I had very fixed ideas about how parenting should and should not be done.  As soon as the reality hit, however, and an 8lbs screaming banshee landed in my living room, all those fixed ideas flew the coop one by one... 

Birth by numbers

While my birth plan played out like a fantasy (natural water birth = 6 hours from contraction to delivery), I know that labour is often the time when most women realize they can't, as much as they might like, engineer how everything goes down in mamahood.  Many women whose birth experience ends up in an epi or emergency Caesar experience frustration and upset that they weren't able to control the events of their delivery.  But it's probably wise to adopt a roll-with-the-punches approach early on.  After all, no parent can totally control their kid's universe, right?  All any of us can do is give it everything we've got, cross our fingers, and hope for the best.

How my proverbial bubble was burst

A few days after my idyllic labour, despite countless reassurances that LGO was nursing just fine, he became seriously dehydrated.  Overnight, I had to relent and give him formula.  Overnight, I had to adapt to the idea that I couldn't feed my baby the way I had planned, the way nature had intended, and the way every Tom, Dick, and Harry insisted I should.  Even though my son thrived on the bottle, I took the end of the breastfeeding era hard, and fell into a deep depression.  What was wrong with me?  Why couldn't my body nourish the baby it had created?

Tit for tat

As with boobfeeding, I had firm ideas about co-sleeping.  Right from the get-go, we'd be warned off the practice of sharing the marital bed with our progeny. Well meaning friends and experts said it was habit-forming and would only lead to a long battle we would regret.  Visions of our nine-year-old future son crawling in between us in bed was a scary enough prospect for Mr Green and I to heed the advice.  Besides, there was the very real threat of SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome) to consider.  And back then LGO was, hard as it is to believe, oh so teeny tiny.  Mr Green and I installed the Moses basket next to our bed and again, heeding some other Dick's advice, we moved LGO into his own room and crib as the earliest opportunity.

Hind sight being what it is

I wish we'd read fewer books and listened more to our hearts.  Dangers aside, instinct and common sense make co-sleeping not only a practical but precious bonding experience -- one I feel my whole family missed out on during those early months.  If I had been breastfeeding, maybe LGO would have remained in our room, if not in our bed, a lot longer.  I still remember the beautiful cuddles we shared while I nursed him those first few days.  Losing this closeness to the distance of the bottle (though it needn't necessarily have been that way), at a time when mother and son both desperately craved it, played a definite part in my ensuing depression. 

I'll never get back those days

Now, at 19 months, I'm making up for lost time.  When LGO is poorly or wakes in early bird mode, he gets to crawl into the Big Bed with mommy.  He rarely falls back to sleep.  But it doesn't really matter.  Often we lay there just the two of us, stroking each other's hair (in his case, fuzz), staring into each other's eyes, sharing a pin-drop quiet kind of intimacy.  I wouldn't trade those moments for all the golddust in the world.  I know they have a shelf life.  I also know that regret is a futile emotion.  Still, a niggling part of me will always wish for what never was. 

What would you -- or did you -- do differently, given a second chance?

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Why I'd sell my soul for LeapFrog

A strange thing happened in the Green household recently.  As you will know from previous posts, our LGO is quite the avid reader.  He has loved books from the tenderest of tender ages, and spends a good portion of his day voluntarily flicking through the stack we routinely get from the library.  And even though The Belly Book was much more amusing the first 20 times we read it, I'm not complaining.  Heck, I'm even toying with the idea of penning a kiddie book myself (a lot harder than it looks, incidentally).

Mama's Squidgy Spot

Confession time:  I have a particularly squidgy spot for toys that are educational and durable since my boy is, well, a stereotypical boy.  LeapFrog is a firm favourite in this house.  So I'm always on the lookout for cheap LF.  The other day when I stumbled upon their phonics board for a measly $10, even though I knew it was much too early for that sort of thing, I couldn't resist.  The toy teaches the A-B-Cs but also the sounds individual letters make and introduces basic spelling concepts.  It also plays music, which was the key selling point at the time.  I figured LGO could progress on to the letters at a later stage.  Or so I thought.

A History of Ink Blots

He seemed to enjoy punching random letters because of the quirky sounds they made.  And all the while, unbeknown to us, he was secretly absorbing and processing data.  Mr Green and I were staggered.  Now when the toy prompts him to press a certain letter, LGO usually recognizes and hits the corresponding letter.  He can do this about 5-6 consecutive times.  I'd say he's probably got about half of the alphabet down pat.  It is rote memory, and I'm not dumb or proud enough to think this skill makes him a Little Einstein.  So rest assured, I'm not about to spring the ink blots on him just yet.  (Being something of a late bloomer myself, I was subjected to them in a high school enrichment programme.  And look where they got me -- yowsa!  Still, I'm not above ribbing Mr Green that DS has clearly inherited his mother's brains and his father's brawn...)

My son is not a performing seal

Suffice to say, the capacity for learning, even at 18 months of age, shouldn't be underestimated. Exposure to such valuable toys, while entertaining, can only make kids more literate and numerate over time.  And the truth is, LGO loves the board.  Unfortunately, being uncannily like his dear ole ma, he is also easily frustrated when at first he doesn't succeed.  So if and when he makes 'a mistake' and starts to lose it, I quickly switch on the music option or resort to another (more mindless) toy.  Sadly, there are plenty of those around, which pale in comparison to LF.  As a parent, I have to keep my excitement in check.  I figure there is no harm to this brand of early learning, provided there is no pressure to perform, and the game always remains just that -- a game.

Friday, May 7, 2010

International back patting day

There is a dangerous trend these days to highlight, even glamorize, all that we do wrong as mothers. As a society we are notoriously ‘glass empty’ people. You know what I’m talking about. You see a mom in the mall or the grocery store, and instantly dismiss her as being either smothering or neglectful. Or worse, you turn the knife in on yourself.

I was guilty of this cardinal sin myself. For the entire first year of my son’s life, all I saw were what I (mis)interpreted as glaring failures. How, despite the raw, bleeding nipples, I FAILED to breastfeed. How, despite the countless hours I held and rocked him, I FAILED to soothe the pain my son suffered at the hands of colic and later, teething. My list of perceived FAILS is longer than I care to admit. And I'm sure yours is, too.

With hindsight, I now know that the World’s Best Mother (were she not a creature as mythical as the Pegasus or the self-cleaning husband) would have done no better in my place. Yet the guilt I racked up during those early months of my son’s life led to a not-so-great depression post partum.

All the while I turned a blind eye to the incalculable time I spend reading and singing to LGO, chopping fresh fruit for his snacks, hauling myself out of a warm bed to feed or otherwise comfort him, escorting him to play dates and parks and activities, not to mention the billions of hugs, kisses, and tickles I subject him to on a regular basis.

Which begs the question: why are we moms so hard on ourselves and each other? Beats the heck out of me. But isn’t it time we stop the senseless beatings? This Mother’s Day I dare you to put the blinkers on your shortcomings as a parent. I challenge you, just this once, to open your eyes to the good you do for your kids, no matter how old they are, every single day. After all, if you can’t pat yourself on the back every now and then, how can you expect anyone else to?

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

In the rainforest with a little green monkey

In honour of my mom's visit (and because I'm obviously a sucker for punishment), we recently made a pilgrimage to the Rainforest Cafe.  If you've never heard of the RC, picture one of those tacky themed diners -- part Disney, part Celine Dion's Nickels circa '90s -- but set in a pseudo rainforest. There are a slew of 'rainforests' in the US of A, but to my knowledge, only two located in Canada. Must be a climate thing.

I know what you're thinking...

But no, it actually wasn't half as bad as it sounds. Reviews slate the Cafe for overpriced food and underwhelmed service. And I can confirm that it WAS on the expensive side, particularly the kids meal: $7.99 for a plate of frozen dinosaur-shaped chicken nuggets.  The staff were friendly and attentive enough, though it was far from crowded on a Tuesday lunchtime.  But then, you don't go to the Rainbow Cafe for cordon bleu cuisine. You go for spectacle. 

And what a spectacle it was

Every half hour the rainforest came alive. Thunder rumbled through the lush canopy. Lightning flickered, and the mechanical elephants and gorillas got a little rambunctious. All the while LGO munched his chicken nuggets, and happily beheld the many sights to behold. Incredibly, not once was he afraid (though I would imagine the decibel level might upset some tots). Not even by the lifelike clamping jaws of the life-sized crocodile at the entrance.

A must-have toddler experience

Watching his rapt expression as we wandered through the foliage, pausing to admire a zebra or tree frog or the (real) tropical fish, was more than worth the inflated prices on the menu.  So if you're looking for a memorable day out with your little monkey, you could do worse than the rainforest.  Not that this Little Green Mom feels the need to revisit it any time soon.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Meltdown at the (no, it's not) ok corral

The other night I narrowly escaped a meltdown myself. After Mr Green recovered from a ghastly gastric bug that forced us to cancel dinner plans with friends, we decided to reconvene. The last few times we took LGO out to restaurants, he played the golden boy, charming the staff, amusing himself in between courses, and gobbling up whatever we put in front of him.  We even managed to have coffees afterwards. Yes! we punched the air. At last we can go out and have Nice Meals as a Family. Needless to say, we jumped the gun.

Better luck next time?

The evening started off just fine. We were armed with toys and snacks.  We left home obscenely early, to avoid hunger pangs and overcrowding.  The waitress gushed about LGO's cuteness to the point that Mr G and I cynically began to suspect insincerity. (Believe it or not, there is such a thing as too much gushing.) Toward the end of the evening -- after he'd thrown the crayons, spat out every bite of $30 sirloin, and ran away from me toward the kitchen -- the gushing, funnily enough, fell away.

I propose a toast!

After what transpired the other night, the Next Time won't be until LGO turns 18, or whenever he announces that he's off to college -- whichever comes first.  Then we can all toast with gorgeous cocktails, and actually taste them, as a family. Now I'm going over the evening whine by whine, partly because I don't understand what went wrong.  I feel like we played all the right cards.  LGO had a decent nap, a decent snack, and a decent run around in the park beforehand. In this case, there was no forewarning of the meltdown to come. He wasn't a) tired, b) hungry, or c) overstimulated. 

What it boils down to:

HE JUST DIDN'T WANT TO BE THERE.  In his own little unfathomable toddler brain, LGO had decided he'd had enough. Tots in the 1-3-year range have no concept of delayed gratification but plenty of willfulness and intensity.  All things considered, it's not surprising things turned out the way they did. Of course the other diners were having civilized adult dinners, and I felt personally responsible for spoiling their ambiance. I remember all too well what that was like, pre-LGO, listening to some screaming holy terror that made Damian from The Omen look like a sweetie pie.  The only thing worse than the holy terror was the musak or wanky jazz playing in the background.  How had this happened? How had the cruel tables of fate turned on me? 

How had I become that parent? 

We tried to finish up and get out of the restau as quickly as possible, trying to save what little was left of our faces. True to form, once outside LGO was infuriatingly, instantly happy-go-lucky.  Now that the incident has been relegated to the memory banks (the key to which has been thrown away), I wonder whether I should have, or could have, handled it differently.  What tactics do you use to survive the public meltdown and live to tell the tale?

Thursday, April 22, 2010

It sure ain't easy being Green

I've never really thought of myself as green, per se.  In high school I belonged to a local group called the 'Green Team' but only because a couple of my friends were in it, and at the time REM was all the rage.  My parents aren't exactly eco warriors, although they 'composted' and 'blue boxed' long before either became a household term.  During the brief interlude that is the Canadian Summer, they keep a decent veg patch -- nothing posh, just some green and yellow beans, tomatoes, and cucumbers to rival any superstore produce both in terms of aesthetics and taste.  All of this is passé, of course. It was nothing they did consciously, or even conscientiously.  It was just the way they lived.  There was no sacrifice or smug labour involved.  But things on the green front have moved on considerably.  And I fear, for LGO's sake, that I am getting left behind.  Put simply: the Little Green Household is not doing enough.  It occurred to me the other day as my toddler was 'helping' recycle a fistful of flyers.  We -- and here I also mean the collective me-and-you we -- could really be doing more, couldn't we?  The question is, what?

Little Green One is excited to be featured at A Mother World.  Click here to read the full article.  Happy Earth Day!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

(Anti)social media

If you're a mommy blogger extraordinaire like yours truly, chances are you're way too busy to read this post. After all, you have lunches and snacks to prepare, and suppers to throw on the table. You have overflowing laundry baskets, never mind that obsolete appliance formerly known as 'iron'.  Sit-ups to do (ok, so I lied, but don't tell anyone!). You have cheque books to balance, credit cards to pay off.  Oh, and blogs to write.  After all, they don't write themselves.  Shame on you for sitting there on your bee-hind...

Happy accidents

Recently, the phenomenon of mom blogging has come under fire in the press on both sides of the Atlantic. And even though I'm guilty of blogginess myself, I can sort of see where the critics are coming from.  Now, before you go flexing your manicured nails at my eyes, hear me out. I came to blogging like most mothers do, by happy accident.  I found out I was pregnant, and wanted to shout it from the treetops. More than that, at the time I lived thousands of miles from my closest friends and family, and used the mom blog as a vehicle to keep my peeps 'abreast' of my progressing pregnancy. Then Mr Green happened to tell his female colleagues about my blog and suddenly these strange (and strangely childless) creatures, all of whom I'd never met in the flesh, were interested in what I had to say on the subject. Forewarned and 'four'armed as we mothers invariably are.

Little fish in a ginormous pond

I then felt an obligation to throw the net wider, and began actually thinking in terms of Audience. In some respects, it's still weird to me that y'all out there are reading little ol' moi.  But along the way I have discovered many kindreds also striving to find humour and sanity in the every day realms of motherhood.  The community of mom bloggers out there is startlingly supportive.  And yet it also draining and competitive. There, I said it.  Companies have got wind of marketing potential and -- boom! -- many mom bloggers became 'mompreneurs', intent on getting the freebies that come from hosting contests and giveaways. 
Somewhere along the way, mom blogging became a viable stay-at-home career, and though I mean no disrespect to those making a living from it, I feel something has been lost.  Marketing certainly has its place, but lately it seems to be dominating the entire mombloggersphere, leaving little actual content in its place.

Which leads me to ask...

Just how much blogging is too much blogging?  How much time do you allot social media per week, and how do you regulate your schedule so that the Twitters, Facebooks, and Wordpresses of this world don't usurp time (better) spent with your tot or hubby?  At times I feel like I am drowning in the sociability of new media, and the demands it makes on my time seem endless.  I'm not proud to admit that Mr Green has had to boot me off the computer on more than one occasion! I know of couples who sit on either end of the sofa every evening, with their respective laptops propped open.  What a romantic glow -- not!  In a way, it does paint a funny picture.  But in an even bigger way, it's a sad commentary on the geeky and increasingly isolated age we live in.  And the irony of spending more time connecting with 'faceless' people online than with the actual faces IN MY HOME, is both cruel and sobering. 

Love squared

Don't get me wrong, I love blogging about motherhood, and I love you for digging what I type in this space. But sometimes I worry about where it's headed, and whether or not I'm losing something far more precious than that which I'm gaining.  And you?  What are your two cents?  After all, it wouldn't be a conversation without you...

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Portrait of Little Green One as an 18 month old

Happy year and a half, my little bean!  It's been an oh-so-crazy year but we couldn't love you more if we tried!  Though it may be dull to all and sunder, here is a list of your "achievements" to date, which may explain a lot when you read this twenty years from now...

  1. mom
  2. dad
  3. up
  4. head
  5. teeth
  6. cheese
  7. button
  8. hi
  9. ouch
  10. dog
  11. book
  12. knee
  13. eyes
  14. nan
  15. yes
  16. quack (as in 'duck', not 'doc')
  17. hat
  18. house
  • readily identifies body parts: eyes, nose, ears, tummy, mouth, feet, hands, knees, legs, arms
  • points out certain pictures of animals, foods, etc.
  • imitates gestures such as tickle, squeeze, pat
  • hugs and (fish) kisses on demand
  • claps hands
  • stomps feet
  • dances with bum sticking out
  • head bangs
  • gives 'high five'
  • playing with belts and pillar candles (though not simultaneously)
  • throwing animal fridge magnets and just about anything down stairs!
  • emptying clothes drawers
  • running on sidewalk but not on grass
  • throwing ball
  • listening and playing music (drums, tambourine)
  • 'reading' books, current favourite: Thomas the Tank Engine (a trainspotter like his father)
  • very intense and serious in new situations, likes to 'observe' before acting
  • cautious around playgrounds, not a natural climber
  • loves meeting strangers, but prefers adults to children
  • good sleeper (11 hours a night, plus 2-hour naps)
  • big eater but loathes vegetables; places rejects in a neat pile beside his plate
  • dislikes using spoons and crayons
  • independent for the most part but likes cuddling
  • when tired, will suck his thumb and place a hand on his head 

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Little white lies and a whole lotta chocolate

We all know that fuelling our kids' imaginations makes for more creative and resourceful adults, right? But is there such thing as too much imaginary play? And at what lengths are you prepared to go to keep your child believing the unbelievable?

The Fluffy Mutant Bunny

These days many parents stick their noses up at the bald commercialism of public holidays. You know, how long ago the X booted the Christ right out of Christmas. And how, for many (North) American kids at least, December 25th is less about that Guy Born in a Haystack than it is about some fat old bearded guy with a suspiciously rosy complexion and breath to match. (Yes, the same guy you grew up being taught at all costs to avoid. And then they wondered why you cried when they sat you on his sweaty lap...) Just as Easter is less about said Guy Dying on a Cross than it is about some fluffy mutant bunny planting chocolate eggs all over your house. (Quick, call 911).

Thus a new religion was born

When I was little, public holidays were always a big deal in my house, and I have nothing but fond memories of how my cousin and I marked each occasion with nothing short of religious fervour. For weeks if not months, we consulted and strategized. For our respective birthday parties -- March and November -- our mothers put in an inordinate amount of time and TLC that now strikes me as borderline insane considering they both worked outside of the home. Our Halloween costumes consisted of elaborate sewing projects, e.g. my Miss Piggy costume goes down in history; although I could only see out one snort hole, it was amazing! They made papier mache and hand-knitted dolls that were impressive despite being ugly as sin. All this creativity must have inspired my cousin and me to pour ourselves into crafts in anticipation of a half dozen or so magical dates. The milk and cookies for the bearded guy were a given. But we went over and beyond the snack. One Easter, in addition to painted eggs, we wrote and recorded an original song for the fluffy mutant. We were so thorough and painstaking in our preparations that we even set up the tape recorder to play and left written instructions. Such was our absolute devotion, our blind faith in the Bunny. It never occurred to me to question the logistics of why a giant bunny should be prancing around our house afterhours and hiding chocolate in the first place. Just as it never occurred to me to question the logistics when I accidentally discovered an Easter gift tucked away in my mother's dresser drawer just days before the main event.

The Easter bubble was burst

I forget just how or by whom my proverbial Easter bubble was burst. Suffice to say, it was DEVASTATING. The betrayal. The lies. It had all the makings of a Mike Leigh movie. The cold reality hurt like a tongue against a frozen flagpole. Jesus was much less real to me than that damn Bunny. I had more trouble 'humanizing' a bread wafer than a cute rabbit -- go figure. It was the childhood equivalent of a priest losing his faith. The very foundations of my belief system were shaken, shifted. SPOILER ALERT: Does that mean Santa isn't real, either? I asked my mother in between sobs. It was a dark, dark day on my street. Who was I supposed to trust now? Who was I supposed to believe, now that the people closest to me had lied? Not my godmother. Not my own mother. Not even the world at large? The conspiracy was bigger than JFK.

False hope is still hope

As a parent in my own right, I might question whether it is cruel to build up the blocks of your child's imagination only to knock them down in one swift blow. Is it better, I wonder, to instill in them a 'built-in bullshit detector' in order to protect them from eventual disappointment. Personally, as much as it hurt, I opt for the former. Even though the Guy Born in the Haystack feels like wishful thinking to me, like the grandest, more magical of fairy tales, part of me would still very much like to believe in it. Atheists always seem a little sad to me. They may be right, but you still end up feeling kinda feel sorry for them. Believing in something mythical and fluffy is, at the end of the day, what gives us hope. Why else would we sit through countless crap rom coms? And hope, even false hope, is still hope. The most precious component of any childhood. Rue the day when we must learn to "put away childish things" and accept that unicorns and fairies don't exist (well, except at the Gay Pride Parade). And they most certainly don't deposit Twoonies under your pillow in exchange for milk teeth.

The youngest old boy

When I met Mr Green all those moons ago, I couldn't fathom that the man had never undertaken an Easter egg hunt. To me, a childhood not marked and defined with such rituals seems not only spartan but tragic. I felt so sorry for him during our first year together that I organized a 'hunt' for him. I'll never forget the look of boyish wonder on his twentysomething face. Priceless. I can't wait to do it all over again for LGO in the coming years. I figure he'll forgive a little white lying for the joy -- not to mention all the chocolate -- it brings us both.

Oh, and while you're scoffing all that gorgeous brown stuff this coming weekend, spare a thought to the Guy Dying on a Cross, won't you?

Friday, March 26, 2010

My little green (black) book overfloweth

It's easy to meet people these days.  All you need is a stroller, preferably with a baby in it.  But in Toronto, that's an optional extra.  Here, pretty much anything goes, and no one bats an eyelid.  Ever since LGO came on to the scene and I moved back to (Canuckian) soil, my social life has picked up enormously.  That has to be a paradox, right?  Sure, the highlight of most evenings with the little one asleep upstairs, consists of a long bath and/or curling up on the sofa with Mr Green to watch Mad Men or -- if that isn't quite bleak enough for our tastes -- Durham County, which is about as bleak as it gets.  My daytimes, on the other hand, are booming with play dates and park meets, through which I've met some true kindreds I likely wouldn't have met otherwise.  On the flip side, I've also met countless other women, women with whom the only commonality is possession of a birth canal through which something so huge travelled, it defied the laws of gravity and sanity to do so. 

But I'm digressing...  Lately my black book is teeming with phone numbers and emails from such chance encounters.  It's like dating, except I was never the type to own a Rolodex.  It's like being a lesbian, without the lesbianism.  I'll come home and Mr G will say, just to make me feel cheap: 'So, who did you pick up in the park today?'  But I know deep down he's just jealous (and secretly hoping for said lesbianism).  Really, it's all too easy talking to strangers.  I'd even go so far as to say it's an occupational hazard of the stay-at-home mom.

Sometimes, though, the easy camaraderie can backfire.  As in back draft.  Usually it starts (and often, mercifully, ends) by the swings.  You and Stranger Mommy exchange dull factoids, such as your tots' respective names and ages.  Other times she'll avoid pleasantries altogether, and dive straight for the jugular, telling you in the blink of a weepy eye about her many miscarriages.  Or worse.  You'll get to talking about teething and what products you use to help little one cope.  Innocuous enough, you say.  Next thing you now Stranger Mommy starts telling you how her ex used to apply the tingly, mildly numbing stuff to his doo-dah "so he could last longer".  Oral Gel.  I'll never think of it the same way, and now you won't, either. So there.

For all the weirdness, I love these chance encounters with fellow moms.  I love the sisterly fraternizing that very occasionally develops into real friendships.  Lately, I have been urging Mr Green to take LGO out on a Saturday morning, to court some dads.  After all, if babies are proven chick magnets, no doubt they must also be d*ck magnets.  And in the bizarre and uncompromising land that is parenthood, one thing is for sure: you need all the friends you can get.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Money can't buy you love (but it can buy your tot some very expensive music lessons)

As we venture into April showers territory, I am ever searching for new and creative ways to entertain LGO. Recently, we have subtracted the morning nap from his daily equation. As a result he is currently in that limbo where one daytime sleep is not quite enough, but two is too many. So without the morning nap in situ the days feel longer for both of us. Don't get me wrong, I adore his company, and his antics provide endless amusement. (You should see him dance; I can't even blame Mr Green for that one!). BUT -- there it is, the three-letter deflator -- it's tiring watching him tear around the living room like a Tasmanian Devil. At the same time, his naps were my saving grace. Now I'm struggling with fewer hours to Get Everything Done. I'm sure others out there felt the sting of the two-to-one nap.  How did you make the transition? And do you have any timesaving tips for Little Green Mom? Inquiring minds want to know...

Of course there is no such thing as Motherhood: the Manual. Or Parenthood for Dummies for that matter. (Wait, on second thought, better check Amazon... If there is, I'm pre-ordering my copy.) But for a Type A like me it's been a long haul trying to play the part of a Beta. I'm getting better at dealing with life's constant greys. Sure, it's pitiful keeping him up all morning long when he rests his head on my shoulder and sticks his thumb in his mouth, i.e. LGO speak for, 'Listen up, woman. What does a toddler have to do to get a nap around here?' But at this point giving in to two naps, as tempting as it may be in the short term, means a middle of the night blitzkrieg in the crib. 

So, with the grey, wet days upon us, I have been on the prowl for affordable toddler activities.  There is always the library, and LGO's love of books hasn't diminished in the slightest since my last post.  We are spoiled by the sheer number of parks around here, and LGO is partial to a swing ride.  More good free, if not always clean, fun.  A shout out to the Early Learning Years and to my local community centre which runs a drop-in programme. For a measly $30 annual membership LGO can play in a nice, contained and carpeted space with an array of toys that are both clean and functional, which is more than I can say about other facilities. Not long ago I signed him up for a 10-week programme through Toronto's Parks and Rec, envisioning a similar setup to the community centre.  It was less expensive than some privately run programmes. Unfortunately, the programme was a total disappointment.  No fewer than 35 tots ranging from one to five years old were registered. I don't know if you've ever been in a space with 35 one to fives, but take it from me it's nothing short of Armageddon.  There is such disparity in the development and behaviour between the ages of 1-5 that if the council wasn't obviously just maxing out numbers for the sake of dollars, they would have had sense enough to split the sessions into two age groups: 1-2 and 3-5. But that is just my opinion, of course.  The programme consisted of 90% free play, 5% craft (utterly wasted on 1-2 year olds) and 5% circle songs.  The toys on offer were not only filthy, many were busted, and I never came across a single one that had batteries!  Needless to say, LGO won't be going back.  And as Mr Green is wont to say, You get what you pay for.  At least he's not wont to say, I told you so.

Now, LGO, like many of his kinder contemporaries, is a bit of a music nut.  Together, Mr Green and I own over 500 CDs, so there is always some kind of music playing in the Green home.  We have previously tried out Rainbow Songs, which offers music classes to the under-4 set.  Founder Mike Whitla's methodology "comes from the belief that there is interconnectedness between music, movement and language that support each other through the learning process".  The songs are taught with real guitars by real musicians with real credentials.  But best of all (because kids clearly don't care a jot about credentials) the classes are fun.  The songs are catchy, and when I sing them at home with LGO he starts to do the gestures. He dances.  It's a holistic way of learning and although such programmes tend to get all deep and cerebral about the benefits of musical training at a tender age, to me, as a parent, any learning is simply a bonus and a byproduct. I am far more interested in fostering in LGO a love of music that will feed his soul and last him a lifetime.  Only problem: the cost is prohibitive. Since we attended last summer, RS's popularity must have shot up in line with their prices.  And maybe I'm just being tight, but we personally can't justify spending that kind of money for a weekly 45-minute jam session when LGO and I can jam to the same songs -- on CD -- at home.  Moreover, RS has a concert coming up, and as much as I would love for LGO to go and get the 'live experience', I nearly choked at the $25 ticket price.  That's $75 for the three of us (see, I can add).  It is a charitable event.  But still.  No matter how much I love an artist, if I feel they are charging too much for a gig I simply don't go on principle.

To be clear, I'm not just picking on RS.  They are one of a myriad kinder music classes out there cashing in.  We used to attend Gymboree, too, another $80-something a month for a bit of singsong led by some keen minimum wage student.  Some bigwig piggy in a starched white shirt obviously spied a niche market among middle class mommies so desperate to get out the house, and equally desperate to make sure little Johnny keeps up with the other little Joneses, that they swallow the ludicrous fees. Let it be LGO's first lesson in capitalism.  Ca-ching!

It may have taken lots of sweaty research, but there are alternative ways to entertain babes and toddlers without breaking the piggy bank.  LGO is hardly lacking in stimulation or play dates. And we have met lots of nice people in the process.  When we just want to boogey down to music, there is always the Beatles. I'm getting the whole back catalogue from the library.  They might not be the obvious choice for kinder music. But John, Paul, Ringo and George are far less annoying and hyper than say, the Wiggles.  And LGO just loves the wacky lyrics and fun melodies.  Take Octopus' Garden and I Am the Walrus (for bathtime).  Take Drive My Car (for ride-ons) and Yellow Submarine (for colour identification).  Take Hello, Goodbye and Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da (for language play).  Now if the Fab Four were still around and touring the globe, then, Mr Green, well, then I just might have to reconsider smashing Mr Piggy...  At least there is no doubt in that instance I would get my money's worth.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

A is not only for Apple... (Warning: no mommy fluff here)

In a bid to reno this blog, I found myself googling baby pictures recently.  Not a good move. But then, savvies that you are, you probably already know this.  An exercise not for the faint hearted.  And that's without even mentioning: a) the obese baby that makes my own son look anorexic, b) the oodles of supermodel babies, and c) the babies that look like something off of an Eels album cover. But what topped them all was the picture of the Aborted Baby.  I won't even say fetus, though doing so would surely make us both feel better. I think 'it' was around the 16-week-old mark. Truthfully, I couldn't stand to look for more than a second without wanting to retch.  Now, before you say, I thought mommy blogs were supposed to be fluffy, and before your mouse makes a mad dash for the Back button, I promise this won't be some holy roller pro-lifer rant.  Yet the image shocked me to my core, and I'm pretty sure it would have done so even if I wasn't a parent.  Despite the fact that our eyes are bombarded with so many violent and sickening images on a daily basis, from CNN to CSI-wherever, few pictures still have the power to send a jolt of fear and revulsion from our brains to our stomachs.

But this picture did. And I feel pretty sure that no woman would be to sleep at night if she saw the aftermath of her 'termination'.  Amazing how semantics, mere phraseology, can empower and exonerate us. Mea culpa.  Whatever the predicament which led to her choice, such images speak for themselves.  They are incapable of embellishment.  You can use whatever words you want to describe an abortion, or a D&C, or whatchamacallit.  Just as an annulment is a fancy word for divorce, and a red rose by any other name is still a rose... The image I saw was bloody and real and indisputably human.  Honestly, I've never felt strongly about this issue. I've even gone so far, at times, as to consider myself having feminist leanings.  And it has been a luxury not to hold strong views on a matter so contentious that many have killed, and died, in its name.  I'm not here to judge. I know as I type these words, from the smug comfort of my kitchen counter -- as a woman whose pregnancy was both straightforward and planned -- that there are women out there, women caught in the flames of personal hells, feeling there is no other choice.  No other option available to them.  Women who have been raped.  Women whose lives would be irrevocably destroyed if they brought a child into it.  Women who would hate me just for having the audacity to talk about their lives in some stupid blog... 

Still, there is the picture.  And a whole host of 21st Century contraception.  Failing that, the morning-after pill.  And failing that, millions upon millions of other women who would give everything they have to bring a child -- even a stranger's child -- into this world, unjust and cruel and completely bonkers as it is.  I am thankful for your sake that you did not see this image.  That you won't go to bed tonight with it in your head, inspiring your nightmares.  But how much worse, to go to bed with this image written on your conscience when maybe it doesn't have to be that way. I remember clearly my first ultrasound.  I expected nothing but a bud, or a cluster of cells (patience, reader, I was no science major!) at the most.  But LGO was so formed already.  His heartbeat ox-strong, his spine, his head...  That came as a surprise.

Ok, so this post does smack of pro life.  How can it not, though, when my own mom found herself in the aforesaid hell?  It was circa the '70s and she was a very young, very unwed mother, eg. the scourge of society, then and -- to some extent -- now.  My bio father flew the coop when he found out.  She was scared shitless.  And she was deeply ashamed, it goes without saying.  How much easier would it have been for her to take the path of least resistance?  Get her life (and body) back intact, finish school, ease herself into adulthood. But no, she played the hand that was dealt her.  She graduated high school in her balloon-shape, went on to get a degree in night school, and a respectable career.  Years later, she met my stepdad, got married, and today looks every bit the pillar of her community if you didn't know her past. 

Metaphorically speaking, I know of no one with kahunas as big as my mother's.  And yet she plays it down.  She had a choice, and she made it. Sure, it's not for everyone. But looking back she says she wouldn't have it any other way, as hard as it must have been for her at the time.  And you know what, I'm kinda glad she did.