Category Archives: Relationships

Actions that improve communication or improve the quality of my relationships with friends, family, community.

Me time, We time, No time

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Let me start from right now (10:46 p.m. on Friday night) and move backwards.

I just heard a whistle outside. I hope it’s not the paper lady, returning to remind us that we left another light on. About 10 minutes ago I was seriously freaked out when I heard a strange voice yelling outside the window, “Hello! You left your lights on! Hello! You left your lights on!”

“What the hell?!” I thought. “Run and hide!” When I saw the paper trolley, then I figured out it’s the kind-hearted, knows-no-boundaries, crazy chatty paper lady who lives down the street from us. Knowing that another shout was inevitable, I stuck my head out the door (still a bit freaked out) and said, “Thank you, we’ll get it.” And she left.

Husband was in bed with baby. It was his van, naturally (I never even considered that it might be my car). So I got to drag myself out to the street and figure out why on earth the dashboard light was left on. Good grief. And I’ll leave it there.

Prior to that I had just enjoyed a complete shower. By complete, I mean I washed my hair. Yes, at the age of nearly 40, I still clearly distinguish between showers where I wash my hair and those where I don’t. I have never liked washing my hair. Never. My hair is really quite great hair. Thick, healthy, wavy/curly, grows quickly. But also: thick, wavy/curly, grows quickly. Washing my hair has always meant

1) Taking a long time to do the washing, bored before I’m half-way through.

2) Taking a long time to dry it. Not that I usually use a blow dryer. But it WILL take a long time to dry, no matter what I do.

3) Trying in vain to style my crazy hair that soon outgrows any shape the hairdresser has cut into it. If I don’t wash it, I don’t have to style it, therefore not washing it has a definite appeal.

4) Add baby. When I take evening showers, it requires husband to watch the baby and she wants to nurse as soon as I’m done. In the mornings, forget it. Busy baby, crazy rush. Rare washing, rarer styling. My body’s clean enough but the hair is doing its own thing.

So earlier today, I had a brief moment of what could have been despair but was more an intense wondering combined with yearning: I wonder when I’ll be back to a time when I can take a shower when I want one without having to plan days in advance or get “help” with childminding. Any ideas when that will be? Because it sounds dreamy.

I’d love to shower as soon as I come home from work. Wash off the grime of the day, warm up my body, step into cozy sweats. Then prepare dinner, drinking a tea, and enjoy at leisure.

OH the crazy dreams I have!!!

On the other hand: today was mainly super great. I had wanted to rush out early with baby and tackle some chores, but she didn’t want to leave the house. I asked her. She said no. After 4 days of dashing off in the morning, she wanted to relax at home, play with her toys, play with her mom. I had another moment, this one closer to despair, where I thought I was a complete failure as a mom. I can’t even get my child out the door to buy groceries. Good grief!

Then I reframed. My child loves being at home. I’m communicating with her and respecting her wishes. Though I might want to be in “go” mode, I don’t have to be – none of the chores are urgent, and in fact, I want to get out of an obsession with getting things done and focus more on enjoying where we are. So we relaxed and ate and played until around 10:30 when, while nursing, she started whining and pointing at something. I asked her to show me what it was and she went over and hit the stroller. Yes, it was time for a walk.

And it was great. We walked, talked, did errands, played. She’s so fun and cute and smart and funny and chatty! She wanted to read the magazines in the accountant’s office, so we flipped through some old Reader’s Digests. We went up and down stairs, then the elevator. Picked up shoes in the shoe store (a question about stretching straps). Just fun fun fun. Then she fell asleep on the way home. I tackled some urgently-needed cleaning, talked with my sister, and she was awake. So, more playing, including playing outside.

And then I got the chance to do my chores! We went together and again had super fun. She loved riding the cart in the grocery store. We walked across the driving lane in the parking lot a few times. We played a game where she’d tell me when to stop and go. The dollar store was full of fun things but she was okay with leaving them there – we said good-bye to them and walked out.

Finally, evening and bedtime. I knew she was really tired. But we seemed to have missed the bedtime window as we were super-busy and had a late dinner. As a result, she nursed, bottled, then popped up, wide awake. Once again (see a theme?) I felt ready to give up. I’d messed up bedtime again. I was a failure.

So I gave up completely on bedtime and started doing some cleaning (the place is a STY, people. Smaller, yes; neater, no). And she started playing. She let me dress her, though she had refused the sleeper earlier. She relocated all her small animals to a stool and chair in the kitchen, talking with me about the process. She then raised her hands in triumph at the new set-up! She was having so much fun. So was I. So I relaxed and let it be. And she’s sleeping now; all, so far as I know, is well. And tomorrow, thankfully, is another day.

Proof that I’m an extrovert

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On my way out from work today I passed a woman in the foyer who turned around and said, “Kamilla?”

I turned around, said hello, recognized her but couldn’t place her right away.

“Did you go to any more of the writing group sessions?” she asked. Then I placed her: the interesting and funny woman I shared my first and only university-sponsored writing-group meeting with early last semester. The group I’d loved because were talking about WRITING and ideas about writing and publishing and research and I hadn’t had a space to talk about those issues for way, way too long. So I talked and talked and talked maybe a WEE BIT too much because it was so darn exciting. And though the group facilitator said she was going to get in touch about the next session, and though I checked with her a number of times, she never contacted me about a follow-up meeting. I assumed I’d been black-listed, denied access to a university service because maybe I was a bit too chatty and took over the group, or maybe she just didn’t like me.

“No! I thought I’d been kicked out because I talked too much!”

“Really! I didn’t go to any more either, and I thought I’d been kicked out too. I was telling my supervisor, I can’t take the rejection anymore …”

“I bought the book.”

“I did too!”

“Wow! High five!”

(small pause as she grapples with the fact that this supposed professional literally has her hand up in the air to do a “high five” and is waiting for her to reciprocate. Then she does.)

We talk more about our shared experience of feeling we were kicked out of the group, but still wanting something like it to move us forward in our writing. We agreed that she’ll get in touch with me in a few weeks when some of her work wraps up and that we can try and work through the book (12 weeks to writing your journal article) together. The writing group, all on our own. I’m psyched!

And earlier in the day, I had a lot more meetings than I usually do, and ran into a friend a couple of times, plus some chatty conversation with some faculty I know. Then on the way out, ran into a friend who’s studying/working on campus and got to talk more (hello there!). And headed to my car overflowing with energy and enthusiasm.

Being with people truly energizes me. Yes, I have my limits and do like alone time and sometimes don’t want to be social. But in general, interacting with people feels good to me. I love it. Good to realize about myself.

More Simple Solutions to Stressful Problems

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Cutting baby’s fingernails = I can’t do it.

For the first year-ish, instead of cutting, I ripped them (really, there’s science behind that. They’re soft and easy to rip. No damage, and a softer edge than if you use clippers). Now that she’s older, she is highly resistant when awake (to ripping OR clipping) so I try when she’s asleep. However, the lights have to be on, so it has to be during naptime. That means weekends only. And sometimes her nap is entirely on my chest, or she’s in the stroller, or I forget, or it wakes her up, and basically,

I can’t/don’t do it.

Today I tried one of my sister’s tricks: I played a video on the computer while clipping them. Worked like magic! The video also rocked: Feist on Sesame Street. It rocks! The only problem: She wanted to watch it again. And again. And again. And it’s so catchy, whenever we broke into the song later in the day, she started “Unh, UNH!”ing and pointing back to the computer. Not really a problem compared to hazardous fingernails!

Also: what to do if your house is a complete, absolute disaster?

Solution: Go on a walk with baby while your husband cleans! Then go on a purging frenzy, this time with even more zeal than ever before. Things are going OUT of here! Our desks are neat, tasks are getting done: it’s like a new regime is in power. I love it.

Finally: Quick tricks to get rid of stuff when you just can’t seem to let it go:

  • Break it (series of bowls and glasses)
  • Lose it (two toques, baby’s little bird in the grocery store)
  • Sell it (recouping $$ for it helps the pain of separation. Recently sold: old kitchen table)
  • Talk on the phone while purging – you won’t notice what you’ve given away until it’s gone!
  • Recycle it: baby’s drawings, cute glass jars, business cards you feel obligated to keep: our environment depends on your contributions, so let them fly
  • Chuck it: Revel in the clear, empty spaces where moments before grungy sponges and scrubbies stood. It feels good. It is good.

You’re welcome.

 

Getting a Grip on Life

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Also known as: something I think I need to do, but can’t seem to manage.

Life is good. It’s fine. We’re healthy, we eat, we sleep. Our house is not a complete disaster. I’m getting things done (some of them). But still: I just can’t seem to get on top of everything that needs doing, managing, attending to.

The house is one of these things. A mess, completely. My desk occasionally clears up, but is covered again within days. The kitchen – forget about it. Bathroom? Please! I change the sheets on the bed once a week, but that’s all the regular cleaning I can claim.

My work. Even if I have a slow meeting week, my to-do list does not seem to get shorter. I keep trying to wrap things up, but they unwrap themselves, scatter the pieces and demand attention.

Writing/teaching? Now we’re talking! Not at all ready to teach. Not at aaaaall. I’m reading a short how-to book for first-year college teachers, loving it, feeling inspired, and knowing it is so not happening for me because I do. not. have. the. time to do any of the essentials recommended in the book, much though I would sincerely love to. As for 15 minutes a day of writing: I bought the book. But haven’t found a minute in months to follow up. I will, I must, but when?

And parenting, aaah, my weak spot. So many musts that are undone. Embarrassing things, like struggling to comb baby’s hair or brush her teeth (honestly, have you met our baby? she is really remarkably resistant to teeth brushing). Feeding here: though she does eat, but still, I know there are a bazillion other dishes I could and should be making for her to max-out her nutrition. Strangely, in spite of my massive omissions as a parent, she seems to be doing well. She is happy. Healthy. Smart. Fun. Secure. How did we get so lucky?

This article came my way today (yes, on Facebook. And I’m swearing off it again) and spoke to what I was feeling. I’m not doing everything I think I could and should do as a parent, but I”m trying. And my daughter doesn’t seem to notice. She really does love and need me. I was running a few errands after work and husband called to check in. I heard a tiny, sweet voice in the background say “Mama?” and that was it. I wrapped things up and rushed home to be with the sweetest person I know. I want to remember that we make magic together, and to relax and enjoy it even if life is messier and less finished than I like.

On that note: two scenes from bedtime.

It’s getting near sleepy-time and she’s wriggling and cuddling and being silly. I ask if I can kiss her. She says “nyew” but smiles her little mischief-smile and leans close. I kiss her and she giggles. Repeat, repeat. Then she kisses the air repeatedly. I ask , “Who are you kissing?” Another mischief smile: “Nana.” (It’s true. Hope you enjoyed your bedtime kiss, mom!)

A bit later, more wiggling and wriggling. Bedtime is closing in. She’s been down and wiggled under the sheets, sat up, rolled, twisted. Finally, she tosses her body over me, snuggles her head into my chest, heaves a deep sigh, and settles in. She drifts off to sleep holding me close.

Baby Yogini

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Today baby lead us in a yoga practice. She likes to initiate them whenever the spirit moves her. She lies down on the floor and calls us to practice: “Mama!” (pats the floor on one side of her). “Dada!” (pats the floor on the other side). We follow our inspired leader, dropping whatever mundane task we’re doing to enter into practice.

The session today was more thorough than usual. We started with cobra, and flowed through a series of cobra, cat and dog, downward-facing dog and mountain pose. Baby jumps or throws herself with abandon into each new pose, inspiring us to embrace our bodies and life itself.

We finished up with some butterfly, working our hips and stretching out our backs. And of course, ended with the traditional clapping.

Spontaneous midday baby-lead yoga: yet another thing to love about parenthood

One more reason why I co-sleep

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Last night baby woke up at 1-something to nurse. She wiggled and stretched, then latched on and stayed close. And then, rolled back over, wiggled her arms down by her sides, snuggled up under the covers and went back to sleep.

Her next wake-up was at 4-something. She nursed again, on one side, then lay back and relaxed. She patted the front of her diaper. I asked her, “Do you want to go potty?” “Unh!” she said (her word for yes). I asked again, she confirmed again, and then, magically, without ANY fussing, we took off her pants and diaper and sat her on the little potty.

A minute later she was “done” (no pee in the potty – the diaper pat currently signals that she’s just finished peeing) and reached up for me. I held her and she wrapped her arms around me and snuggled in close. I laid her down for another diaper – again, no fussing – and we nursed more. I reached down to touch her foot, and she giggled. She rolled into me and around and wriggled, then was trying to roll over. I helped and she rolled right on top of me. She snuggled in again – head on my chest, arms and legs around me – and I revelled in 30 seconds of being at complete peace with my baby.

She rolled back off, wiggled and wriggled some more, wanted a bottle, and eventually settled for another sleep stretch.

Those magical middle-of-the-night connections: just one of the many reason I’m so glad we sleep with our baby.

Independence Comes to Town

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Lord, give me strength: my baby is becoming a toddler.

Homing in on a year and a half, baby is fully into the transition into being a person with her own, fully-expressed, needs and preferences. It’s wonderful. I want to nurture it. I love to discover how she sees the world and what she wants. It’s exhausting. I have no idea how to get done what I need to do while respecting her autonomy.

Her voice is louder now than before. When she’s tired, the melt-downs are a lot more obvious. When she cries, you definitely can’t miss it. When she’s happy, it’s a joy (that hasn’t changed!).

She’s learning and expressing so much. She knows lots of colours, a wonderful variety of other words, all said in her own inimitable style, and a wonderful assortment of other words that we don’t know.

She frequently doesn’t want to put on clothes. Not a problem: unless her extremities feel cold (frequently), or we need to leave the house and it’s not warm enough to go shirtless and pantsless (always). Please tell me pantsless is a word. How are we supposed to manage that? If going cloatheless is an option (I think I just lost my ability to spell) I take it. No problem! I respect her right to choose. If we can delay departure, no problem! I encourage her to keep playing or do what she needs to do until she’s ready to dress and leave.

But, as is often the case, I usually need to get her dressed and out the door far before she wants to go. I can give her minutes, but not hours. Rolling into work at 10 isn’t a great option; and getting home by 7 p.m. is a lot too late to be manageable. So, we give notice (leaving soon, leaving very soon), we model (dress ourselves), we encourage, we distract, we make it a game, we give choices (this jacket, or that?), we inspire (or bribe, or whatever you want to call it: “when you get home, who’s going to be there? Dada!” or “Come play with owl in the car!” or “We’ll walk around outside for a while before we get in the car seat”). For the record, I’m fundamentally opposed to bribing and I don’t think that’s really what we do, but maybe it is.

Husband thinks we need to be firm but loving. I have no idea. I do know that figuring out how to respect her choices and preferences while doing what needs doing is wearing me out a bit. I hope to come up with something principled and useful, but it’s not in sight at the moment.

For now: baby’s asleep, and I’m resting. Aaah.