16 months old

My boy is 16 months old today.

It's a funny thing, the way that parents describe their kids' ages. Every month is so different, it seems false to round down to a year or round up to a year and a half. When babies are born, we describe their ages in days, then in weeks. Sometime around the 3 month mark, we switch to months. It seems that turning two is the magic age when we stop referring to months.

My boy is amazing. Yesterday, he added two new words to his repetoire, ("roar" in response to the question - "what does a lion say?" and "Zaidy". A couple of days ago, he started signing "hat" and last week, he started saying "tractor" while I was off at a job interview.

He has the most incredible infectious laugh and a smile that should be on the cover of magazines. He has a particular glink in his eye when he is doing something that he knows he should not be doing.

And lately, he is getting into everything. Some days, I get exhausted chasing after him and I struggle not to be the kind of mom who is always saying "no". I try hard to limit myself to things that are dangerous for him, or that I cannot afford to replace if he breaks. As a result, I have a lot of tidying up to do every evening after he goes to sleep. I sometimes wonder why I bother, but a sense of calm comes over me when I see his books neatly lined up by height and organized by author in his bookshelf, and his toys are deposited in their appropriate boxes. And I also believe that it is good for him to have order instead of chaos as he starts his day.

He is cruising a lot and standing up easily. I believe he will be walking soon. He is doing things on his own timetable and I'm completely fine with that. However, I'm annoyed that I have become the parent that everyone feels the need to reassure with tales of other kids they knew that walked late. He will walk when he is ready to walk.

My baby is now a little boy.

An ordinary Monday

My day started this morning at about 9:15am. My boy began rolling around in bed restlessly as he tried to cling to the last few minutes of his sleep. Each roll brought him closer and closer to me, such that I was nearly falling off the bed, by the time, he crawled on top of me, smiled and said, "Mommy!". Such a glorious way of greeting the world, as opposed to the cruel harshness of an alarm clock.

We did our usual morning stuff. Pottying, milk, breakfast. Today, as I sometimes do, I put him in his playpen to drink his milk so that I could shower. He relaxed against his Mickey Mouse pillow amongst his stuffed friends. This is the only way that he will happily go into the playpen and the only time that I will put him in.

Today, when I got out of the shower, I didn't hear his usual complaints of discontent. When I went to check on him, I saw that he was standing in the playpen. This certainly isn't the first time that he has pulled himself to standing, but it is the first time that he stood up in his playpen. He looked pretty damn pleased with himself, and I'm still not sure how he did it.

At 10:30am, we ate breakfast together. My boy had oatmeal with apples, apricots and bananas. I ate rice krispies and hard boiled eggs. I finished reading Maya Angelou's Letter to My Daughter. My boy flipped through his ABC book and a few others.

By 11:30am, we arrived at the drop-in centre. Somehow we have only made it there a couple of times before. When we arrived at the front door, my boy frantically signed "Hooray". I asked him if he was saying "Hooray" because his way of signing it looks a lot like his sign for "all done". He confirmed that he was by clapping his hands. I was amazed and proud.

At 12:30pm, I gave my boy lunch at the drop-in. I overheard another mother complaining that her son wouldn't eat vegetables. I smiled to myself as my boy polished off his homemade chick pea stew with brown rice, and even fed himself pieces of brocolli for the first time. My boy has only been feeding himself finger foods for a few days, and it still amazes me. He has never been a hand-to-mouth kid, and only very recently has started putting toys in his mouth.

After lunch, I saw him quickly pull himself to standing on the bottom of the slide. I turned around to wash his lunch dishes, and when I turned back to check on him, I uttered "Oh my God!" and saw that he climbed onto the bottom of the slide.

We left the drop-in at 1:30pm, and my boy finally fell asleep at 2:00pm in his stroller as I walked. Much like me, my boy fights sleep and he fights it hard. But once he succumbs to the sweetness of sleep, he sleeps deeply and wakes slowly, also much like me.

I was so hungry as we walked. It occurred to me as it does most days, that it would be a good thing if I planned out my meals like I do for my boy. I cook his food in batches, and keep a stash in the freezer. Every night, I choose what he will eat the following day. My boy eats very healthy food, and I always take pains to ensure that he has protein and carbs at every meal, and complete proteins where possible by combining brown rice with legumes. I am determined to have my boy grow up healthy and strong as a vegetarian.

After picking up a sandwich and smoothie for lunch at 2:30pm, I shopped for as many organic groceries as I could fit under my stroller.

At 3:30pm, I was heading home. The sun and blue skies made a surprise appearance when rain and grey skies were predicted. It occurred to me that a day spent walking in our urban metropolis was quite a treat in my old life BC (before child) and I still really enjoy it, even when the nagging voice at the back of my head tells me that I should rush home once the boy is asleep and get some things done. As I walked, I felt joy and gratitude.

I felt grateful that I had two working legs to walk and enjoy beautiful days such as this.
I felt grateful that I lived in the city with so many nice places to walk to.
I felt grateful for the cool breeze of spring interspersed with the warmth of the sun.
I felt grateful that I have a nice stroller that is so comfortable for me to push, and obviously comfortable for my boy to sleep in. And one that allows him to face me, so that I can watch his beautiful face as he sleeps.
I felt grateful that I lived in a country that actually paid me to be home with my son for 48 weeks.
And above all, I felt intense gratitude for my little boy. Now, I am not someone who has ever been religious, or even particularly spiritual, but in that moment, it occurred to me that a higher power brought my boy into my life. My little guy is the most incredible, vivacious, inquisitive, happy child that brings a smile to the face of almost every one he meets.

We arrived home at 4:30pm. My boy woke up just as we arrived at our house. He ate a snack of blueberries, pieces of plum and cucumber and yoghurt. Yesterday, he signed for berries just a day or two after being shown it.

At 5:00pm, we headed down to the basement so my boy could have some room to roam and play. I started writing this post, and he crawled over and began playing with the VCR/DVD machine. A couple of days ago, he figured out how to turn it on and off, and how to open and close the DVD. There is a reasonable possibility that he will break the machine, and I really don't care. It is just a thing, an object that can be replaced.

At 6:30pm, we sat down for his supper. On the menu for tonight was sunchoke soup with brown rice and cottage cheese with pieces of cucumber and plum (leftover from snack). I called my mom while he ate and turned on the speaker phone. For the first time, my boy said "Hi" over and over and "Bye" when he didn't want to talk anymore. He also repeatedly said "Bubby", though this is something he has been saying for awhile. He was good enough to perform again when we called my mother-in-law a couple of hours later.

In the middle of his meal, he began waving his hand back and forth, which seems to be his version of the sign for potty. I asked him if he had to go to the potty, and he frantically waved his hand some more. Indeed he did have to go.

We resumed supper. He finished his soup and most of the cottage cheese. With a few bits remaining of the cottage cheese, he opened his mouth, said "Blah" (just like a character in one of his favourite books), stuck out his tongue and spit out the contents of his mouth. That was certainly a clear way of letting me know that he was done.

After supper, we prepared for his bedtime. At about 8:30pm, we read a story, and he drank some milk. I then lay down with him in bed, and he drank some more milk. Halfway through the bottle, he got restless. My experience has shown that he gets restless when he needs to poo because he doesn't like doing it in his diaper (and rarely does). So I asked him if he had to go potty. He did the sign again and I took him. After 12 ounces of milk, his diaper was still dry and he peed and pooed almost immediately when I put him on the potty. My husband then arrived home and he lay down with him until he fell asleep.

At 10:00pm, I reshelved all the books in the boy's room and cleaned up the kitchen. I then started making my dinner. I sat down to eat in front of the TV at 11:00pm.

Just another Monday.

my rant on the search for work (re-posted from Koala Mamas)

I am currently in the process of looking for work. My son is now 15 months old, and I was on contract when I got pregnant, so I have no job to return to. I love being a full-time mom and have waited my whole life to become a mother. But we cannot afford to continue without even the meagre income that EI provided me with for 50 weeks.

I am a lawyer, called to the bar in 2002 with six solid years of litigation experience. I have had little trouble finding employers who are interested in me, notwithstanding my absence from the profession for the past 15 months. However, I am having great trouble finding employment that will not require me to forfeit spending any time with my son during the week, and one day on the weekend. I was never someone interested in spending 10-12 hours a day at work, and I certainly am not now.

On Tuesday, I interviewed for a position that would require two hours of commuting each day. I would not even consider it but for the fact that it is exactly the type of work that I want to do, and there are no openings at the local agencies. I stand a decent shot of being offered the position, and I think that I may have to accept because it is a permanent position.

I don’t like being away from my son even a few hours a day. I miss him terribly when I go for interviews. So, the thought of not seeing him all day truly fills me with sadness. I have given up hope of being able to find a position that would fulfill me professionally but allow me to be home for supper with my boy.

A person should wear what he wants to, and not just what other folks say...

That was from Free to Be You and Me, an album recorded in 1972 (a year before I was born) by Marlo Thomas (the inspiration for my name). Free to Be You and Me embodied the values that I was raised with in terms of gender roles. The songs speak of women being truck drivers and doctors, and boys being free to play with dolls and cry.

My mother taught me from a very early age that it was not my lot as a girl to be a secretary, but that I could be CEO of a company. I was never encouraged to wear dresses and play with dolls, unless I wanted to and it was perfectly acceptable for me to play hockey in a boy's league. I was not raised with Disney princess imagery and fantasies of being rescued by Mr. Right. My desire for children was inate as opposed to fostered.

One would think that our society would have evolved somewhat in 36 years.

Instead, folks regularly and repeatedly assume that my boy is a girl when he wears even a little bit of pink. The young girls in my family keep asking me why he wears a purple jacket. Apparantly, my response (because I like purple) does not suffice.

I feel sad that little girls are already so locked into gendered definitions of appropriate clothing. And I feel angry when I have to continuously cross into the "girls" section of the clothing stores to get some things that are colourful and vibrant for my boy. Even progressive friends of mine won't dress their boys in pink.

Who made up these magic rules about who can wear what? And why do people continue to blindly follow?

I want my boy to grow up knowing that he can be whoever he wants to be.

In the words of my favourite singer-songwriter, Harry Chapin, "There are so many colours in a flower, so let's use every one."

Eight is Enough

I've been thinking about the woman who recently gave birth to octupulets and all the media attention surrounding her.

I'm not getting into the ethical issues about implanting how ever many eggs were implanted because I'm not particularly interested in that. I am interested in all the hubbub that our society has around folks who choose to have really big families.

I don't watch the news so I'm not going to pretend that I know the facts (of course, even if I did watch the news, I would not accept that as truth, but I'll save my discussion of historic relativism for another day).

Here's what I know. I know that a young woman who already had a bunch of kids, and no partner, chose to have IVF with 6 fertilized eggs, and got pregnant with 8 babies. I've heard speculation around coffeeshops that at least couple of her older kids have special needs and that she relies on donations from the community to take care of her kids. I've also heard talk that she has been offered a reality show.

You know, I would watch that show. As the mother of one child, with a partner and a fabulous family and friend support system, I would love to know how a woman can care for all of those kids on her own. Will it be a freak show? Possibly. And isn't much of what is on TV these days?

I readily admit that I watch Jon and Kate Plus 8, because I am fascinated by how that family makes it work. Are those children being paraded in front of the media in order to generate an income for their family? Most likely. And as a result, they have moved into two sucessively larger homes, travelled all over, and likely have money set aside for their future. It is a far cry from the Dionne Quintuplets who were kept behind glass and treated like zoo animals.

I also watch a show called 18 Kids and Counting. It follows the Duggars who have 18 kids. Thanks to reality television, they now live in an enormous custom built home that comfortably accomodates their ever-growing brood. The mom home-schools all the kids, as well as growing a baby a year. I find them completely fascinating. Apart from the clear and obvious gender roles that their religious beliefs and values slot them into, I am amazed by how all the kids take responsibility for one another and for various household chores. And when their oldest got married, I took a peek at his registry linked to the family's web site. It was surprisingly normal. Though, I do try to ignore the creepiness inherent in having every child's name start with a J, just like their father, Jim Bob.

I often wonder what it would be like to have or be a part of a large family. I find it interesting that a cultural phenomena that was once commonplace, is now perceived as freakish.

My grandmother was the youngest of 9 children. I wonder what she would think about all of this if she were still around today.

Yoga Babies

On February 21, 2008, I rushed into our first yoga babies class. My boy was exactly 2 months old. I knew no one except the friendly face of my doula and chiropractor who teaches the class.

It wasn't my first yoga class with my boy. When he was 3 weeks old, I started participating in a post-natal yoga class on the other side of town at the suggestion of my cousin who has a little girl just 6 weeks older than my boy. And while I loved spending time with our cousins and enjoyed the low key nature of the class, I wanted something local that was easier to get to.

We began the class as we always do, by going around the circle, introducing ourselves and our babies, and describing what is new with our baby that week. When it was my turn, I announced that my 2 month old boy had just slept 11 hours the previous night. The other moms looked at me in amazement and envy. One mom sneered, "I hate you." I don't think she was kidding.

The class itself was hard. My abdominal muscles have stilled not recovered from my section and I couldn't move as well as I once did.

At the end of the class, I was told that the class goes for coffee afterward. I was delighted but nervous about the prospect of meeting some local moms and babes. I've always been shy when meeting new people and it took me several months after my son was born to realize that the minutia of baby-dom is a universal conversation topic amongst new moms.

I don't remember if I talked to any one that day and when the crowd started to thin, I headed home.

As the weeks progressed, I began to talk to other moms and gradually became less intimdated. I felt sad when new folks joined the class and my boy was no longer the youngest. I felt anxious when a mom would announce that it was her last class because she was returning to work. I felt awe when I watched a babe begin to slither, or crawl, or walk, or talk.

As the weeks progressed, I felt great affection towards some of the kids that I had spent my thursday with since they were small. I felt like I was no longer an outcast as I was surrounded by moms who cloth diapered, co-slept, and wore their babies.

As the weeks progressed, I made some really good friends. We walked home together and shopped the local shops on our way. My days were passing so quickly back then and Thursdays were my marker of the passage of time. Every Thursday when I walked to yoga, it seemed like I just blinked and it was Thursday again. It was my favourite day of the week.

In the summer, I started taking my boy to the farmers market on Tuesday afternoons. Week after week, I ran into my yoga friends, so we decided to make it a regular playdate.

When the farmers market ended in the fall, we started having playdates in our homes. Our kids play fabulously with each other and enjoy each other's company. The playdates continue today.

As the weeks progressed, my friends stopped coming to yoga because the timing conflicted with naps or because their kids were too active. Most weeks, my boy was the oldest and I started feeling like we didn't really belong there anymore. The new crop of moms didn't stick around to go for coffee afterward, and interestingly, I didn't have much in common with any of them in terms of parenting practices.

Last week, I decided that it was to be our last class. I long envisioned a melodramatic farewell with tearful goodbyes. Instead, it was thoroughly anti-climatic. Only one other mom-babe pair attended and we don't know each other very well. The first half of the class was uncharacteristicly quiet, since both the babes were sleeping in their strollers. Much of the second half was spent with me pottying and feeding my boy.

At the end of the class, my boy snuggled with the teacher during final relaxation. I dressed him up in his winter outerwear and we walked home in the snow. I remembered our first class nearly a year prior. I knew that it was time.

February 9

February 9 was my Bubby's (grandmother's) 93rd birthday. She also shared her birthday with her late husband, my Zaida, who was 10 years older. In fact, as she tells the story, their shared birthdays brought them together when she was taken to his optical store to get glasses.

Zaida died on September 1, 1993, just one month in to my year abroad in Jerusalem. I didn't go home for the funeral because I was having trouble finding my footing and my mother feared that I wouldn't go back. She was right.

Instead of being surrounded by my family during my time of grief, I was on my own. Instead of sitting shiva, I went to the wailing wall at night when no one was around. I sat on the ground in the dark and relished the stillness and quiet as I stared at the wall. And in those moments, I knew that I was where I needed to be, and where my Zaida wanted me to be.

I am so grateful to have my Bubby in my life, and in my son's life. Even though my boy is her 10th great-grandchild, I know that she loves him and enjoys his company.

On February 9th, my boy and I had lunch with my Bubby, as well as my Mom and one of my cousins. Afterward, I went back down to my neighbourhood to pick up some groceries with my boy. My grandfather's optical store is still in the same location it was, and still bears his name. On the occasion of Zaida's birthday, I thought I should show my boy his store. Really, it was nothing special, just a small little store with glasses on the wall. Yet my heart swelled as I stood in that small space with my beautiful baby boy in my arms.

Runaway Bunny

I love reading books to my son and he loves to listen. He also loves to flip through books on his own, and he hands me the books or specific pages that he wants me to read.

The other day I read him Runaway Bunny written by the author of Goodnight Moon (I can't remember her name). I was surprised to realise that both books were originally copyrighted in the 1940s.

Runaway Bunny tells the tale of a bunny who tells his mother that he wants to run away from home. The mother replies that she will follow him wherever he goes. The story continues with the little bunny concocting various scenarios where he will go so that his mother cannot locate him, and the mother always find a way of showing that she will always find him. At the end of the story, the little bunny concludes that it isn't worthwhile to go away after all since his mother will always be there.

The book cover describes the story as a tale of a mother's unconditional love and support. I see it quite differently. I see it as a tale of an overbearing mother who will not let her son go out into the world and become his own person.

The other day I was at a job interview. The interviewer asked me about my year at Hebrew University. She indicated that she would not let her son go for a whole year, but permitted him to do a summer programme instead. I had nothing to say that would have been socially appropriate. I would have liked to have told her that I would be a different person today if my parents had not let me go to Israel for a year; that my parents not only permitted me to go, but encouraged me, and financially supported me; that my year in Jerusalem was one of the best years of my life; that I met some of my closest friends; that I fulfilled some of my lifelong dreams including recording an album and backpacking around the country by myself; that the first couple of months were devastatingly hard and I needed the full year to catch my stride; and that I believe that every young adult should travel and/or study abroad if they have the means and opportunity.

I hope that as my son grows up, he knows that I will always be there to support him in whatever he chooses to do. But just as importantly, I want him to become his own person, make his own mistakes, and explore the world if he chooses to.

Of course, I may need to be reminded me of this in 18 years.

baby sign language

I started signing with my son many months ago. I used a few signs that I picked up from a poorly written book and a few web sites. In the fall, he and I took an 8 week course. Both of us enjoyed it. He loved the songs and the stories, and I enjoyed learning the signs and practising the songs during the week.

For months I was vigilant about signing as often as I could. After awhile, my enthusiasm dampened when my son turned a year old and still wasn't signing back to me. I continued to sign and sing the songs that we learned because he and I both enjoyed them, but I stopped doing the everyday signs as we went about our day.

At the beginning of January, as he was drinking a bottle of milk, he did the sign for "milk". I hadn't done the sign in ages. It was amazing for him and for us to be able to clearly understand what he wanted when he wanted it.

From that point on, his signing abilities have really blossomed. Two weeks ago, I realized that his clapping during enjoyable meals was actually him doing the sign for "more".

The next week, he signed "all done/all gone" and then "milk" when he finished a bottle of milk. Now he signs "all done/all gone" whenever his bowl of food is empty and sometimes when he is finished on the potty.

On Wednesday, he signed "eat/food" after he initially signed for milk and my mother asked him he wanted milk or wanted to eat. It was suppertime, and he signed that he wanted to eat. The same exchange has repeated itself several times since. Tonight he signed "eat/food" when he finished his supper and he wanted more to eat.

Today, my mother saw him slap his thigh twice after picking up his stuffed dog. As it happens, that is the sign for "dog".

To say that I am proud of him is the understatement of the year. And 2009 has just begun.

not yet walking

I feel like I've been getting a lot of flack lately that my almost 13 month old boy is not walking, and is unlikely to get up and walk any time soon. In fact, he barely cruises though he stands beautifully and he can pull himself to standing when he is sufficiently motivated.

I will admit that I do get a bit stressed when all the kids we hang out with around his age are walkers, but I try to remind myself that every kid is an individual and has different strengths. My boy was later than average at all the gross motor skills - holding up his head, sitting by himself, and crawling. In fact, he still doesn't crawl in the traditional sense, but can he cross a room in a hurry with his commando crawl.

Yet, he has been ahead of schedule with his verbal abilities. He was making babbling sounds very early on, and now says quite a few words, including "Daddy (as well as Dada), Mama, Bubba (a reference to my mother, his Bubby), all done, ducky, up, and probably a few more that I can't remember right now. He also clearly and consistently signs "milk", "more" and he waves hello and goodbye.

He also has stellar fine motor skills. He can pick up the tiniest bit of lint from our floor (and believe me, there are plenty for him to choose from), and he has been pulling open the velcro on his diaper since the summer. His latest favourite toy is my bottle of spray Rescue Remedy. He likes to pull the cap off and try to get it back on. Often he succeeds.

And he reliably and happily uses the potty, such that I am convinced we will have him out of diapers by the summer.

In spite of all the things he can do, all I hear about is "is he walking yet?"

I worry that my boy will grow up constantly being compared to his contemporaries and that his shortcomings will always overshadow his successes.