I’m still here.

Blog-wise, December was not the greatest month. After the blogging extravaganza that was November and NaBloPoMo, I posted four times in December. Four. And I read very little as well. I could blame it on the holidays and all the go-there, do-that, make-this, visit-here, eat-that (and that, and that). I could blame it on a fit of last-minute crafting that had me knitting scarves and making Christmas cards instead of writing at night after the boys went to bed. But maybe I’ll just forget the blame and resolve to do better. It is the season for trying harder, right?

I don’t usually make New Year’s resolutions – every time I start to think of one, there are so many things I’d like to change that my list grows longer and longer, until I might as well cross everything off of it and just resolve to be perfect.

So this year, instead of making specific resolutions, I’m going to make a list of somewhat vague intentions to set the tone for 2015.

Presence. Kindness and forgiveness, to myself and others. Face time over screen time; outside over inside. Gratitude. Simplicity. Inspiration. Action.

Happy 2015, everyone. What are your intentions for this year?

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The end

It’s finally here – November 30, the end of NaBloPoMo.

NaBloPoMo November 2014

Did I learn anything from blogging every day this month? Have I gained any insight? Any wisdom?

Maybe. But I’m just so tired of writing (for now). So, here’s the Coles Notes version of my NaBloPoMo epiphany: contrary to my fears at the beginning of the month, I do have ideas. I do have things to write about. But posting every single day is a bit much. I want to think about the things I write, not just spew them out night after night. I found a lot of blogs I love through NaBloPoMo, but what with all the writing, there wasn’t enough time to read and comment on them the way I’d like to. Overall, this month has been a both challenge and a confidence booster, and I’m proud of myself for sticking with it. But I am so ready to take a break.

There we have it. Done. See you next year, NaBloPoMo… maybe.

It begins

The kick-off to the Christmas season began tonight with our city’s Santa Claus parade.

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It was a somewhat odd collection including community groups, decorated vehicles advertising local businesses, the occasional protester, old-timey fire trucks, one sad junior high marching band, some clowns, and about a dozen sketchy-looking guys selling $10 glow sticks to the desperate parents of impatient kids. Santa himself came at the very end of the parade, after everyone was freezing. It was pretty magical for Bean, who is newly obsessed with Christmas lights and Santa and all things merry and bright.

Highlights for me:

  • A tiny, frozen gymnast unable to get out of her splits.
  • Bean narrating the entire parade with dubious accuracy from his perch on D’s shoulders. My favourite: “Look! A bear in an ambulance!” It was a dog in a police boat.
  • A fire in (or maybe beside) the bakery on the corner. Clouds of smoke started billowing towards where we were standing, and a woman walking past told us the place was on fire. We had just started to pack up when the smoke stopped, so I guess someone put it out. Excitement.
  • A mouse in pajamas. Called Pajama Mouse.

Highlights for Bean:

  • Dogs on a truck!
  • A snowman on a truck!
  • Another snowman on another truck!
  • A green Santa guy!
  • A dog with lights on him!
  • A delivery truck with a picture of strawberries and apples! (It was raspberries and peaches.)

Highlights for Monkey:

  • When I breathed on his face to warm up his little nose. He’s not much into the parades yet.

Highlights for D:

  • The end of the parade, when he got to lift Bean down from his shoulders.

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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.

Unexpected kindness

Today’s daily prompt:

Is there a person you should’ve thanked, but never had the chance? Is there someone who helped you along the way without even realizing it? Here’s your chance to express your belated gratitude.


We’ve been waiting 45 minutes. The air in the clinic waiting room is stuffy and stale, and one of the harsh fluorescent lights is flickering. Three month-old Monkey is asleep in my arms. Two year-old Bean is sitting on the chair beside me. I am regretting the decision to bring the kids to the clinic, but Bean’s cough sounded so painful this morning. It must be our turn soon.

Bean has been so good. He’s been bringing me book after book from the basket under the clinic’s magazine rack, but now we’ve read them all. He starts to kick the chair. He asks to go home. I tell him we just have a little longer to wait, and he needs to be patient. He kicks the chair harder and asks to go home louder. In the packed waiting room, a couple of heads turn our way. After 45 minutes of sitting still, I know Bean has reached his limit and we’re headed for trouble. And I know I don’t have it in me today to deal with it.

I haven’t slept. I haven’t eaten. Though I don’t know it now, I am at the lowest point in my struggle with postpartum depression. I’m fragile and thin-skinned, imagining judgement and accusation in the eyes of everyone in the room. In my lap, Monkey starts to stir. Within the next two minutes I know that I’ll have a crying, hungry baby and a clinging, misbehaving toddler. I can’t do this.

With one more look up at the clock I tell Bean that we’re going to go home and try another day. Though it’s what he asked for, in typical toddler fashion he is upset at this change in plans. His eyes start to fill with tears, and so do mine.

An elderly man is sitting next to us. Until this moment he has been immersed in his book, showing no signs of noticing us at all. He gently puts his book down and deliberately drops the plastic tab with his waiting-room number onto the floor.

“Oh dear. I seem to have dropped my number. Young man, do you think you can pick it up for me?”

Bean picks it up and hands it back to the man shyly, never meeting his eyes.

“Thank you! What a kind boy you are.”

Bean straightens, puffed up with pride.

“Would you like to see my cane? My son carved the handle.”

My curious boy reaches out a hand to touch the wooden handle of the man’s cane. The tears that flow so often spill out of my eyes and down my cheeks. I look down, hoping no one can see. Just then, our number is called. I take Bean’s hand and whisper to him to say thank you to the man. But as we make our way through the clinic door, I don’t trust myself to look him in the eye, to thank him myself. By the time we are finished he is no longer in the waiting room.

Life with small kids is measured in moments. On some days, each moment has us teetering on the edge, and these small, everyday kindnesses are the difference between isolation and community, between okay and not okay.

So, to that elderly man in the clinic waiting room, thank you. Thank you for your kindness to my son which was compassion for me. Thank you for showing me, in that moment during the dark days, that I was not alone.

23 steps to potty train your toddler in one short year

Are you trying to potty train a stubborn toddler? Have you tried every method out there with little success? Throw the research out the door, stop clinging to those last remaining shreds of dignity, and come on over to the dark side. Crafted especially for the indecisive and weak-willed, my 23-step method is sure to drag out the process for as long as possible. See below for detailed instructions:

1. Read the potty training articles. Talk to other parents. Weigh your options carefully and choose your method: when your toddler shows signs of readiness, you will try the three-day no-pants method. No pull-ups, just straight to underwear. Sticker rewards are a possibility, but you will never, ever use treats or other food items as a reward.

2. Your 18 month-old begins to poop at the same time each day. Decide that this qualifies as a sign of readiness. Try putting the child on the potty. He does not protest – yes, definitely readiness. Motivate him with stickers. Avoid changing a poopy diaper for one week. Pat self on back. You are almost there!

3. 18 month old refuses to ever sit on the toilet again. Choke back tears. Rescind back pat.

4. For the next year, every time your obviously pooping toddler heads to the corner of the living room for some “lone time,” offer stickers and other non-food rewards if he will just stop and come to the bathroom. Occasionally, beg. When he refuses, tell yourself he’ll be ready on his own time.

5. Spend time thinking about how infant poop is just so different from toddler poop. Toddler poop is like real people poop. You are very tired of getting up close and personal with real people poop. Wonder if there is a way to transfer your motivation to your toddler.

6. Tell your obviously pooping toddler that diapers are for babies. He must be a baby, not a big boy. Wish desperately for the power to turn back time when he agrees, putting on a screechy, whining “baby” voice and demanding to be carried like a baby.

7. Certain that it will not work, in a moment of frustration, offer a chocolate chip in return for a poop on the toilet. It works. Toddler happily runs to the toilet and does his thing.

8. You are now committed to chocolate chips as rewards. Stickers have lost their motivational power. Feel ashamed for a minute, then embrace the chocolate chip. Use chocolate chips for everything.

9. Recognize that the chocolate chip reward train has officially left the station when you observe your husband offering 5 chocolate chips in return for the toddler’s consumption of 5 black beans. This is not sustainable.

10. Curse your weak will when you cannot give up the chocolate chip bribery.

11. Curse your toddler’s strong will when he decides he is over chocolate chips, and resumes pooping in his diaper.

12. Remember your original plan to cut out diapers altogether with the 3-day no-pants method. Take heart – you just need to stick to the original plan and everything will be fine! Plan to spend a week at home doing the no-pants method. Pat self on back for this excellent decision.

13. Realize that you have a lot planned this week; maybe you should postpone until next week.

14. Realize that next week is Halloween; you should definitely postpone until after Halloween. Rescind back pat.

15. Buy cool underwear to motivate your toddler.

16. On the first day of no-pants potty training, remember that it’s the day after the fall time change. Oh well, that doesn’t really affect toddlers much, right?

17. Google the best method for cleaning pee off of your couch.

18. Rush to the store to buy more cool underwear, because all the cool underwear you bought last time is already in the washing machine. It is still day one.

19. Your toddler is a wreck. Wish again for the ability to turn back time – actual time, not just the clocks – so that you can tell yourself to postpone potty training until after your toddler has adjusted to the time change.

20. This whole debacle happens. Quit potty training for now and decide to resume maybe next week.

21. Try not to act surprised when after the spectacular failure described in #20, your toddler decides he wants to try again.

22. Your toddler refuses to wear pants inside. Resign yourself to the fact that your home is now pants-optional.

23. Have your first accident-free day. Pat self on back. Job well done.