Baby-proofing consultant for hire

Expert baby-proofing consultant for hire. Will work for bananas and yams. There is a slight catch: he’s 11 months old. Unconventional? Maybe so. But hear me out, because he’s brilliant.

Monkey is guaranteed to expose all the potential hazards in even the safest home. Unprotected electrical sockets? He’ll find them. Cords and wires accessible? He’ll go for them. Tippy lamp that you thought was tucked away safely in the corner? Watch out, because it’s coming down. Did you open the dishwasher door for just a second? He’s gonna try to climb in it. Ditto for the fridge. And he can detect an open oven door from the next room – he’s that good.

Did you happen to leave your coffee cup unattended for a split second? Is there any chance that the baby gate at the top of the stairs isn’t latched properly? Are you wondering how long it takes an average-speed crawler to climb up the stairs when your back is turned? Set Monkey loose, and you’ll learn all this, plus more.

If there are breakables in a lower cupboard, he’ll find them. If there are drawers that can be pulled and tiny fingers squished, he’ll do it. If you’re wondering whether the piano bench is low enough to cause baby head injuries, you’ll soon find out. (It is.)

I’ll bet you thought you cleaned up all remnants of the spill from last night’s dinner, right? Wrong. There’s a suspect-looking crumb in the corner, and Monkey has eaten it. I’ll bet you thought the pens were all safely out of reach, right? Wrong. Monkey’s found a Sharpie; thankfully he doesn’t have the dexterity to open the cap. Yet. Hey, is that the cheese grater? Monkey got it out of the cupboard while your back was turned.

Don’t wait – hire Monkey as your baby-proofing consultant today. You won’t regret it.

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What-my-kid-said Wednesday: marriage, according to Bean

After helping me make cookies, Bean sat at the dining room table, enjoying the fruits of his labours* with a glass of milk. He looked over at my rings, which sat on the table where I’d put them down before shaping the cookie dough.

“Mama, you should put your earrings on!”

“You’re right, I should put my rings back on.”

As I put each one on, I told him what it was. “This is the ring your Daddy gave me when he asked me to marry him. This is the ring your Daddy gave me on the day we were married, when we became husband and wife. And he gave me this ring when we had been married for five years.”

“I wish I was married.”

“Maybe you will be married one day. Would you like to be married one day, and maybe have kids of your own?”

“I think I will be married when Alex gets married.”

“Who do you think you’d like to marry?”

“Alex is gonna be a fireman marry, and Cooper’s gonna be a ‘struction** marry, and I’m gonna be… a ammamance*** marry! And Cooper’s gonna be a police marry.”

“Okay then, sounds good.”

“Cock-a-doodle-doo! Flying chicken spaceman!!”

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* labours = switching the mixer onandoffandonandoffandonandoff, not-so-sneakily sneaking chocolate chips from the bag, and asking to smell the vanilla extract.

** ‘struction = construction (of course)

*** ammamance = ambulance

Happiness

What does it mean to be happy? Are you happy now? How do you know?

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Happiness is what we all want. A happy family, a happy home, happy children. A happy life.

I’ve struggled with happiness this year. I’ve searched for it. I’ve found it where I least expected it, and lost it where I was sure it would be safe. I’ve misunderstood it. And I’ve learned about what happiness means, at least for me.

Right now, in my life, I am happy. And here is what I know: happiness isn’t a permanent state of being. It’s not an overall glow that brings smiles to my lips and infuses my life with light, just because. Happiness doesn’t just happen. It’s a choice. It’s waiting in the everyday moments for me to grasp it and hold on. And so I’m doing that, or trying to. I’m choosing to notice and celebrate the good and beautiful that occurs in the midst of the ordinary, and I am happy.

Here is where I’ve found happiness today:

The way Bean wrapped his lanky arms and legs so tightly around me this morning, so that as I carried him downstairs for breakfast he seemed weightless in my arms.

Listening to D and Monkey in a dad-baby conversation, imitating each other’s sounds and laughing.

Pushing my body through a hard workout and feeling sweaty, drained, and satisfied at the end.

Finally booking a long-overdue date with D.

Wearing my favourite scarf, for the gazillionth day in a row, because who cares if I wear the same thing every day? It’s my favourite.

What makes you happy?

Sleep. Wonderful sleep. (And a Friday flashback to the sleepless nights.)

I’m saying it. Do I dare? I probably shouldn’t. But I will anyway:

Monkey’s sleeping through the night.

Aside from a few teething-related middle of the night wake-ups, he’s been sleeping through the night for a couple of weeks now. (Of course, now that I’ve proclaimed it here, it is probably jinxed and we will never sleep again, because that is the way the world and babies work.)

In honour of all the parents still in the trenches of the exhausted, delirious, stumbling crib-to-bed-and-back-again routine, here is a flashback to the days when sleep did not come so easily. Take heart, friends.

Monkey missed the memo (originally posted October 6, 2014)


MEMORANDUM

ATTN: Babies

RE: Sleep

It is come to our attention that some of you may be mistaken about sleep. Specifically, how much of it you are supposed to do, and when. Please be advised: babies are to sleep more as they get older, not less.

Thank you.


When Monkey was around three months old, he slept through the night for ten glorious nights in a row. I was refreshed. I was happy. I was that mum, the one who showers and blow-dries her hair and has endless patience and makes homemade salad dressing. “How’s Monkey sleeping?” other mums would ask, and I would say “Oh, actually pretty well now, thank you,” never daring to mention that “pretty well” was code for 8-10 hours straight(!!!) for fear that a) the other mums would hate me and b) the universe would punish me.

And then it ended.

Despite my efforts to appease the cruel universe and keep my good fortune under wraps, Monkey started waking up at night again. He has his ups and downs, usually waking to nurse twice per night. But recently it’s been out of control.

Last night, he woke up approximately 18 times. I say approximate, because by 4:00 a.m. I was delirious. He nursed, he cried, I rocked him, I cried, he nursed, he rolled in his crib like a fish out of water, bumping his head on the rails and crying even harder. Rinse and repeat. I think I fell out of the rocking chair.

So now what? One of the toughest things about motherhood, for me at least, is that I never really know why anything is happening. Babies are a multiple choice test with no answer key:

Why won’t Monkey sleep?
a) he’s teething
b) he’s caught his brother’s cold
c) the seam of his sleeper is making him itchy
d) his room is too cold
e) his blankets are too warm
f) he’s growing and he needs to eat
g) he’s become accustomed to nursing in the night and waking is a bad habit
h) his mother did something awful in a past life and is being punished
i) all of the above
j) some unknown combination of some of the above
k) because babies be babies

To comfort myself, I summon all of the truisms and age-old advice my sleep-deprived brain can remember: This too shall pass. Babyhood is such a short time in the grand scheme of things. I’ll miss the midnight cuddles when they’re gone. He won’t be waking up in the night when he’s 20 (though this won’t be my problem anyway).

And so continues my long-standing and deeply gratifying love affair with coffee.

The juice

As kids, my older brother and I had nothing in common. We were connected by a house, a set of parents, and a couple of little brothers – nothing more. But somehow as we’ve grown, we’ve aligned. Now we’re often on the same page, in the things we find funny, the memories that stand out, what we want for and expect from our kids.

Yesterday, my brother and his family came over for brunch at our place. The usual plan-confirming text conversation went something like this:

– The girls’ swimming lessons are over at 10, and we’ll come over right after that.

– Sounds good.

– What can we bring? Don’t say nothing.

– Maybe some juice?

– Like, oj?

– Sure, thanks.

And he brought o.j.

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My brother will go pretty far for a laugh. It’s a safe bet that if he thinks it’s funny, so will I. (O.J.-covered O.J. included.) So why is this? Has our shared childhood experience finally found us through the years of distance? Or is it in our genes? Maybe we’re genetically predisposed to think a poor-quality print of O.J. Simpson taped to an orange juice carton is funny. Whatever it is, I appreciate my family more now as an adult than I ever did when I was young.

Thanks for The Juice, big brother.

My Monkey

Monkey

There is something sweet and slightly painful about the babyhood of my second child. Maybe it’s that my memory of my first baby is slightly foggy and coloured by my knowledge of him as a toddler; maybe it’s that Monkey will likely be our last baby. I don’t remember the same sense of mine with Bean as I have with Monkey. Maybe it’s that I’ve learned to savour it, because as he grows he will not be just mine anymore. Maybe it’s that I’m beginning to know firsthand what all the elderly ladies who stop me in the grocery store say – it goes by so fast.

Monkey’s smiles are still mostly for me. He looks into my eyes and his face lights up. I imitate his sounds and he chuckles. I enter the room and he looks for me. I sit down on the floor and he crawls over to me. At 8 months old, he is still mine. And I am selfish. I don’t want to share him, yet.

His older brother is a part of the world. He has friends. He smiles and laughs and talks to other people. Bean is his own little person, and it is wonderful and beautiful to see him developing relationships and friendships and opinions and independence. But Monkey is still mine. I am his world. He is my baby. He fits on my hip; he belongs under my chin. His little body was so recently a part of mine, and our bond is still physical.

What is it that changes this bond? It loosens and stretches without us being conscious of it, exactly. As our babies grow up and grow in independence, they grow away from us, bit by bit. Bean still needs me, and will always need me in some way, I hope. We will always be bonded, but nothing is the same as the elemental, physical bond of a mother and baby.

As I gaze into my Monkey’s sweet, smiling face and open, trusting eyes, I am struck by the gift that babyhood is. I am privileged to hold and nurture and protect a life that is pure and innocent. There is nothing dishonest in a baby – his smiles mean happiness, and his cries mean sadness, discomfort, or need. There is no guile, only instinct. And this baby stage is so fleeting.

So I will hold onto my Monkey for as long as I can. One day I will have to share him, I know. As his small world expands day by day, I will explore it with him. Gradually my tight hold will loosen, and one day I will let him go. But not just yet. For now, he is still mine.

Letting it go, together

spoonMonkey enthusiastically bashes a plastic sippy cup against the high chair tray, again and again, until it slips out of his grip and flies through the air, narrowly missing the serving dish on the table. A toddler fork clatters onto the floor, collateral damage in Bean’s tirade against pasta that is the wrong shape.

As long as I continue to shovel food into his mouth, Monkey shouts with excitement. Once the bowl is empty, he shouts in frustration until I’ve mashed up some more of the food off of my own plate and can resume shoveling it into his mouth. Bean complains and refuses to eat. The pasta is the wrong shape. It is too hot, and then it is too cold. The peppers are orange, and he would prefer red. He isn’t hungry. He wants to play.

As the noise level escalates, so does my irritation. Both boys are shouting now. My shoulders tense and my breathing becomes shallow. I catch D’s eye across the dinner table and see my irritation mirrored there. At that moment, Monkey yanks his spoon out of my hand and it drops to the floor, splattering tomato sauce onto my feet. I look up at D again, our eyes meeting. And we laugh. We laugh until I am breathless and D is wiping a tear from his eyes, and Bean is demanding to know what’s funny and Monkey is bemused. And then we laugh some more.

Once upon a time, in our pre-kids life, dinner time was peaceful. It was a chance to unwind and reconnect after a busy day apart. We could talk, or we could be silent. We could enjoy a complicated meal or a simple sandwich. We could relax.

Now, dinner time is non-stop motion. One of us is always up. There are bowls to refill, spills to mop up, forks to retrieve. Something is always missing from the table. Bean wants the construction placemat, not the alphabet one. Monkey’s dropped his cup. Bean has to go to the potty. Monkey needs more food. We are telling stories, asking questions, reminding about manners, persuading a stubborn toddler to eat his food, convincing him to remain at the table just a little longer. By the time I take my first bite of food, it is often cold.

The connection that used to be part of the evening meal can be hard to find, night after night in the chaotic dinner time grind. But in these sudden moments of synchronicity, when we catch each other’s eye and surrender to the mayhem, I feel more connected to my husband than in any memory from our pre-kid, peaceful life. Because this is the life we’ve created, the family we’ve built, together. Yes, life with small ones can be maddening, and we don’t have to enjoy every moment. But we can make the choice to let go of our expectations, to give in and hang on for the ride together.

I’ve heard it said that the season of small kids is one of the toughest for a marriage. I believe it. I feel it. And I look across the dinner table at my husband, and I’m grateful to have him as my partner.