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Motherhood, Olive


Two, by

I suppose it’s time to talk about this thing that’s about to happen this weekend.

On Saturday night Olive will go to sleep, and come Sunday morning she will wake up and be two. Two full years old. On Sunday it will be two full years since we woke up and drove down to Vancouver for my c-section. We had to pull over halfway to release a dragonfly that suddenly appeared out of nowhere, beating its wings against the inside of our windshield.

It seemed, at the time, like an auspicious omen.

Two years ago I was cut in two and sewn back up into the shape of a mother. Last year the daughter that made me a mother turned one. And now I’m sitting here thinking about the past two years and how at each point, each marker along the way, I thought that was it, you know?

Lying with a newborn on my chest, I simply couldn’t imagine it getting any better. Better than actually seeing the little creature I’d been talking to for nine months? Better than holding her and giving her a name, having her dark eyes meet mine in the still of that hospital room? Impossible.

Last year too, I could not imagine anything more sublime than her little face bull-doggy with two lonely bottom teeth. Her lurching attempts at walking, her sign language, her personality – so full already.

And now? I suppose I must have a terrible imagination, or an incurable lack of foresight but seriously. Does it really get better than this tiny person who sits with me at breakfast, and tells me what she dreamt about the night before? Does it honestly get better than being able to have conversations, real conversations where she can answer me and ask me things and make little jokes with her mischief mouth twitching – ALL Adam, that expression –  waiting for me to laugh?

The other day she threw an apple at me in the grocery store in a fit of rage, and an elderly lady beside us audibly gasped. And as I picked it up off the floor, Olive let out one of her horrific screeches that she’d been doing every so often (a phase which seems to have thankfully passed – although anything I write on The Internets seems to immediately come back to bite me, – more on that later.)

So the apple was thrown, the lady gasped (“I mean really!” I imagined her saying later to her bridge friends, “She threw it! My Phillip never threw a single thing. Especially not an apple! Kids today!”) and Olive screeched – and the worst part of the screech is that it’s pretty emotionless. She just opens her mouth and this high pitched scream issues forth, seemingly without control. She doesn’t yell, or stamp her foot or emote, she just opens her mouth and there it is. She hosts the screech.

So we stood there, the screecher and I, and she was looking at me expectantly because we both knew that I would now have to do something about this. I mean you can’t just go around letting your toddler throw apples at you. Bad form.

But the way she was looking at me was funny. In that few moments of eye contact we shared, I came to understand that the whole point of this exercise was that she wanted to see what I would do. She knew what to expect, and was waiting for events to play out to see if her hypothesis was correct. It was a very calculated gaze – not in a cold psycho-killer way, but she was just very calmly… waiting.

She knew where the line was, she knew what the reaction would be. And it’s that I find fascinating. She is so hungry for knowledge about how her world works. She wants me to name things and explain them, answer questions and confirm thoughts. She acts things out and waits to see if I correct her. She throws apples and screeches, and then waits calmly for the boundaries of her world to assert themselves.

All of this, the independence and the talking, the way she seems so much like Adam in her mischief, and me in the thoughtful way she approaches life – it makes it so hard to look back to the newborn days.

I thought I loved the newborn days. I was over the moon for the newborn,and terrified of the toddler she would become. But now I look back and it seems like a shit ton of work for very little reward. You endure three months of sleepless nights and round the clock feedings and are rewarded with…a smile. Another four and they might crawl. Good lord.

Whereas yesterday Olive asked me to please turn on our bedroom light while I was getting dressed, and when I did she said ‘Oh! Thanks, Mummy! Oooh, nice hair!” (and it bears mentioning that it was not, in fact, nice hair. It was lame mom-bun hair, which made the compliment that much better.)

I mean come on. 

(Are you sick of hearing me over-think our second child yet? Maybe our second child will never materialize, it will just exist in existential form as the collected and contradictory bundle of thoughts I have about it. Fears and worries, excitement and anticipation. Easy to swaddle, I’ll name it something androgynous and trendy like Sage. River. Seneca. That’s normal, right?)

The thing is that you have to have the newborn to get the one year old, the two year old. And they were worth so much, those days. All of them. I would give anything for that smile, that first real gummy smile.

On days when I am having apples thrown at me or floors peed upon, or battles waged about matters as colossal as which way the seam on her sock is lying (THE WRONG WAY, IDIOT!) or whether or not I am allowed to drink my own tea, they all lie behind me, these collected moments. They have now added up to two full years, and I hope I am a good enough mother to have earned them.

Two, by

On Sunday we will have a party for this little person. I will make cupcakes, and serve finger foods and  we will hang the birthday banner. She has been practicing blowing out candles, making sure she knows how to do it right. She’ll be surrounded by the people who love her, just like she was two years ago.

And just like two years ago, I will look at her and know, implicitly and deep in my bones, that she is the very best thing that has ever happened to us.

Motherhood, Musings, Olive

June 2, 2014

From Under A Tree

I have spent many of my days as a mother trying – mostly unsuccessfully- to imprint moments on my memory forever.

Holding Olive that first night in the hospital, she lay tiny and snuggled up in the crook of my arm. Every time a nurse came in I was afraid they would take her away from me and make her sleep in the bassinet so I’d pretend to be sleeping. Every time they left I would open my eyes again and stare at her. That dark hair, those plooshy lips. I was trying to memorize everything from that moment, clawing it tight to my chest so I could keep it forever.

It was everything.

How many times have I done that in the days, weeks, and months since? How many times have I looked at a balled fist or gurgling laugh or specific expression and vowed fiercely to never forget it?

How many times have I forgotten?

Today was different. Today I looked at her, head bobbing as she fell asleep in her high chair and I shook so hard with laughter that I could barely steady the video I was taking for Adam, and I wanted her to remember.

I want Olive to remember June 2, 2014. The day that she helped me hang laundry outside. The day that we wandered around the block while she picked “flowers” (dandelions) from people’s lawns and ran to hand them to me over and over until my pockets were full and her chubby palms were stained yellow.

This was the day that we walked to the grocery store, where she careened around with a tiny shopping cart filled to the brim with avocados and tomatoes, spinach and black beans. I want her to remember how the old couple pronounced her Just darling!, the teen girls adored her, and how she waved an exaggerated “Hiyyyyy” to every single person she saw.

I want her to remember how many times I hugged her close to me, how I looked dancing like a fool in the kitchen just to see her laugh. I want her to remember napping in the sun-dappled shade of the tree in the backyard, as Gus lay snoring a few feet away.

There was so much to this perfect, perfectly ordinary day that kept sitting with me for a few moments after the moment had passed.

I want her to remember everything, but I know that she won’t. I mean, she can’t.

My first memories don’t date back to much earlier than 6 I don’t think. The early years are just a haze. So all of today – the shopping and the strangers; when she made Adam’s day by pointing to a picture of a bearded underwear model and saying “Papa!”, and the way she fell asleep with shorts on over her pajamas –  all of it just…washes away.

Her screwing up her nose and yelling “No meem!” as I tried to apply sunscreen.

Her giant grin when I gave her one of the coconut milk popsicles I made.

The look, the look she gave me when I told her she was going to have to get down from dinner if she kept putting her feet on the kitchen table. She didn’t break eye contact for even a second as she raised her foot and touched it ever so daintily to the table’s edge. (Sometimes she is all Adam, this one.)

What do I do with all of this, all of these things that when put together make up the thing that was today?

What do I do with the fragments of this ordinary day that leave me sitting here with no evidence that any of it even happened, except for a few loads of clean folded laundry and fresh groceries?

I know she won’t remember so I’m doing it for her. I’ll witness this day.

I’m writing down the way she looked after she woke up from her nap, how she flung her arms around my neck. How she kept repeating our Realtor’s name after hearing me talking to him on the phone “Hiyyy Durtis. Hiyyy Durtis, hiyy”

I will remember all of this for her –  how she skipped her nap and then fell asleep in her supper, how she thought the leaves of the tree were butterflies, how she has all of a sudden stopped calling my brother Liam, Um, and started calling him Miam. Just like I did when I was her age.

June 2, June 2. My favourite ordinary day.

I’m clutching the last five minutes of it close to my chest and vowing  – fiercely – to remember.

Motherhood, Olive

Nineteen Months

Nineteen Months, by

I used to write monthly updates about Olive and I stopped after a year, I think because I wasn’t doing the monthly photos anymore so I lost that prompt. But in the last few weeks I’ve just been thinking how much I thoroughly enjoy this age, and I wanted to immortalize it forever on The Internets. BEHOLD! A nineteen-month update!

Olive’s age right now is truly one of my favourites, ever.

She is nineteen months old (which in the immensely more straightforward language of normal people translates to a year and a half) and an absolute delight to be around.

[Tangent: I know! I’m sorry! One of my favorite bloggers recently posted a comment about parents continuing to state their child’s age in months after a year, and I totally get it. BUT! There is a reason. And that reason is that there is a HUGE difference between “one-and-a-half” meaning fourteen months, and “one-and-a-half” meaning nineteen months but they both round to a year and a half old. How are you supposed to figure out whether your child is extremely gifted, or start nervously googling things at 3AM if you don’t know who on the playground to compare her to? Exactly. These inane “seventy-three month” delineations serve a purpose. For neurotic parents everywhere. Let us have it. (I’ll stop at 24 months old) (I mean two. Dammit.) END TANGENT]

The tantrums have subsided (barring the typical hungry/tired/teething/possessed-by-demon scenarios), and she is talking up a storm and even putting two and three words together to make magnificent sentences to the caliber of “‘Banana mummy, please” (which of course actually sounds like ” ‘nana ….mummy…..pease” but I will spare you the phonetic representations of her speech, for which you can thank me with large quantities of chocolate and maybe the perfect pair of ankle boots, too.)

Adam and I think she is the smartest kid ever. We discuss it often in a completely obnoxious way and I would rather someone read my google search history to a room full of stranger than eavesdrop on one of these “She’s so smart…[insert banal anecdote here]”

Okay okay I’ll share one! If you insist.

Every Sunday I go to hot yoga, because contorting myself into pretzels with sixty other people in a room so hot that my shins sweat is my idea of a good evening. I don’t recall ever specifically explaining the concept of hot yoga to her, but last week she was looking for me and Adam told her I went to yoga. THEN, this genius child of mine, who is basically Einstein in a toddler-skin suit signed, and said, “Hot”.

HOT! Genius, right?

I digress.

She is doing all of these incredible toddler things that make toddlers not only bearable but infinitely adorable. She has developed clear ideas about what she does and does not like to wear and she enjoys creating her own outfits which often feature Adam’s shoes and hats.

Nineteen months, by

(Not Adam’s hat)

She feeds herself and is utterly besotted with food. This surprises me a little, because I am somewhat of a picky eater (Although I confess that I really detest that label. Isn’t a lady allowed to have many very specific likes and dislikes – most of which happen to relate food’s texture and/or origin?I have a discerning palate, so shoot me. Truthfully, I suspect I am a supertaster. Go ahead and tell me beets don’t taste like dirt, TELL ME TO MY FACE.)

Anyway, because I don’t often find myself eagerly digging into bowls of Brussels sprouts or eating whole bananas I sort of imagined Olive doing much the same. Developing likes and dislikes, you know, like a normal person.

No. She eats anything, anytime, anywhere.

She literally would not go to sleep last night because she wanted to keep eating. The way that I knew this is that she was standing bolt upright in her crib bellowing “EAT! EAT! EEEAAAATTT!” at the top of her lungs and enunciating each syllable as though the only conceivable reason why I wasn’t bringing her food was that I didn’t understand what she was asking for.

So. 9PM found her sitting beside me in bed, eating half a chicken breast and scrambled eggs leftover from breakfast. Adam walked in on this strange scene and was all “Wtf?” and I was all “Don’t disturb her or make eye contact- she’s eating!”

Then he asked, “So, is this how it’s going to be, Olive? You’re going to eat a second dinner every night before bed?” and she, my genius nineteen-and-a-half-month old daughter looked at him from her position reclined on one elbow and, in between bites of chicken, said clear as a bell: “Yup.”

Like I said, fabulous.

The nitty-gritty for the interested parents out there who want to get a head start on either anxious googling or feeling smug in comparison : Bedtimes have become sort of hit and miss since we stopped nursing to sleep. Sometimes she goes down with a few books and a snuggle, sometimes it gets drawn out longer (with the chicken, and such.) She naps for an hour a day and usually sleeps 11-12 hours a night depending on if I have to get her up in the morning or not.

She’s very much a mama’s girl these days, although it’s way better than when we first moved. Today she fell while running on the sidewalk and came away with a skinned knee and a bloody lip – which made her already plooshy lips swell to Angelina-esque proportions.

I don’t want to raise her to be afraid (something I’ve written about before here) so I am trying really hard to stop myself from shouting “Careful! Careful” when she runs now. She was up and running again ten minutes after falling, while I replayed it over and over wishing I’d been able to prevent it, with blood and tears still staining my shoulder.

It’s really hard to step back.

I believe in skinned knees, I believe in busted lips. I believe in bare feet and kids running so fast that sometimes their legs can’t keep up. They need that. I believe in all of that but when you see your girl with a lip swollen like Texas with tears in her eyes and a bloody mouth (real blood! Blood that I made!) it’s challenging to not insist that she always hold my hand. It’s tough to resist letting her run only on grass. It’s near-impossible to stop pointing out the dangers all around her, “Watch out for the curb! Look out for the rock! Slow down! Olive, slow down!” 

I am trying. I’m trying to not worry for her, so she learns to worry for herself.

So, so easier said than done.


At nineteen months Olive fell asleep on my chest as I read “The Crown On Your Head”, which I now have memorized. Before I transferred her to her crib I just lay there feeling the weight of her. My daughter.

She is just so solidly there.

She used to be a theoretical, a someday. Then she was a decision made, then a line on a stick, then – incredibly-a black and white blur on a screen.

Nineteen months and eleven days ago she became a real live citizen of this world and I laid there tonight thinking how utterly strange it all is. All of that progress in all of those months.

She is there and I am here, and every day she pulls apart a little further even as she clings closer. She won’t hold my hand but can’t go to sleep without me. She runs away from me so fast that she falls, but still cries if I leave without remembering to say goodbye.

I know how it must feel to crave the closeness and the independence, too. I find myself playing this strange game of push and pull but from the other side. I want her to stay like this forever, and I want to watch her grow up. I want desperately to keep her from injuries big and small, hurts to the head and the heart, just as much as I want her to feel pain and learn from it, heal and grow through it.

I want her to become the fully developed person I have already begun to see glimpses of, but oh my god when did she get so big? When did she stop being a baby? When did she start running and having conversations and inching closer and closer to 2?

I know posts from parents often take this tone – I’ve never felt so high but also so low! I’m so exhausted but so happy! My life is mind-numbingly boring but it’s the best and I wouldn’t trade it for anything! – and although it feels cliché and I recognize it as such, to be honest, it’s really hard to avoid.

Parenthood is the most contradictory experience I have ever embarked upon. I have never felt such a broad spectrum of emotions in the span of a single day – or a single hour. Joy, boredom, envy, fascination, heartbreak, frustration, amazement, selfishness, selflessness.  I think that this as much as anything accounts for the fatigue you feel as a parent, as a mother. The simple act of bouncing around between emotional highs and lows is completely draining.

(But oh, I do I need to complete the sentence that is now a mandatory addendum to all complaining-mother sentences? Say it with me now: but it’s so worth it.)


In conclusion, nineteen months is my absolute favourite – even with eye teeth coming in, and weaning halfway, and nine PM chicken battles. This girl is just simply legit.

Happy year-and-a-half-and-a-month, Olive Grace. We are so proud of you, skinned knees and all.

Nineteen months, by


Motherhood, Travel


Freedom (4 birds) by EyeSense Photography on Etsy

There are a few things I am studiously in denial about right now.

1. The length and amount of leg hair I am currently sporting. (WHAT? It’s winter! Almost!)

2. The hints, subtle and otherwise, Adam has been dropping lately about an imminent MacBook Pro purchase, where I have not expressly authorized said purchase.

And by “lately” I mean “for the last six months”. But the frequency, and intensity of these hints has increased tenfold in the last week, and I am concerned that we are quickly reaching some sort of critical mass for hint-dropping, where the hints accumulate to the point of morphing into full-fledged actions, and then one day I will come home and there will be this gorgeous white machine sitting on my desk and I will have no other option but to pretend that I hate it and want it returned, when really all I want in the entire world is to caress its sweet keys and make beautiful words with it.

and 3. Tomorrow at 5:30 I board a plane and fly to Vancouver. For two nights. Without Olive.

Let’s just…I mean let’s agree to ignore the possible purchase of that beautiful machine and the leg hair (WHAT?! I live in Canada. I need the added warmth. And it’s a feminist thing. Solidarity…or something?) and let’s just focus on that last one for a moment. That pesky number three.

Because I am an intensely complex and long-winded individual, I would like to take the time to detail precisely why I am both excited and crestfallen at the prospect of this trip.

First, the obvious: I’ll miss Olive.

I feel like these words are just the most redundant words ever, because of course. But she started walking on the weekend in the most dramatic way possible- Adam’s dad set her down to walk to me and instead she just walked past me. Like, she just…kept going. Away from me. My baby!

And I keep forgetting that’s she walking. I’ll sit her on the floor and go into the kitchen to get something, only to turn around and see this chubby-legged kid zombie-toddling towards me with this wicked grin on her face. She is so proud of herself, and so am I, it’s as though she is becoming a real little person right before our eyes.

And it’s not that I had doubts about Adam’s parenting abilities before, but him being a stay-at-home dad lately has demonstrated beyond a shadow of a doubt that he has this parenting thing totally in the bag. When Olive is with him she gets fed nutritious food, goes down for her naps, and – judging by the videos he sends me while I’m at work – spends the entire day laughing like a crazy person.

Furthermore, I honestly sometimes think that Olive would be happy with anyone who agreed to keep a full plate of food in front of her of all times and give into whatever she demanded by pointing at it and repeating, “Dshhh! Dshh!” over and over.)

So the heartbreak isn’t for her – I have absolutely zero concerns about this child. Guys, I am worried for ME.


What am I going to do with myself for two and a half entire days, and two entire nights? It’s a work conference, so I imagine that this will be a fairly easy adjustment for the daylight hours. I will talk and network and attend professional development sessions. I will listen and respond and make connections. But at night. What do I do with myself at night?

There’s no one to dress, or undress. No meals to feed, diapers to change, or sticky hands to hold as we walk to the potty. No baths, no pajamas, no bedtime stories. No hysterical laughter as Adam pretends to fall down over and over.

The answer to that question, what will I do with myself? is also, incidentally, the second part of this post. The Good.

Guys, there is no one to dress, or undress. No meals to feed, diapers to change, or sticky hands to hold as we walk to the potty. No baths, no pajamas, no bedtime stories! It’s JUST ME! With an entire hotel room to myself! A bathtub waiting to be filled with scalding hot water and luxuriated in for, well for hours if I so choose! An entire bed- maybe even two beds! you know how sometimes hotel rooms have two?!- to myself. To sleep in. All night. For eight ten twelve hours straight!

I can eat breakfast with two hands and drink all of the coffee I want, in fact I plan to devote two hours a day to simply drinking coffee – whole mug-fulls, one after the other. Shamelessly caffeinated, without any repercussions whatsoever!

I can read books and finish entire paragraphs, I can leave the hotel room at the drop of a hat. I can watch trashy television shows without worrying about the ramifications of trashy television show exposure on one year olds. Guys, I can finally find out about these Kardashian people!

In conclusion it’s not that I am excited to leave, exactly. Leaving Olive tomorrow afternoon will honestly be one of the toughest things I’ve had to do as a mom. I am steadfastly refusing to think about saying goodbye to her, trying not to fully absorb just how much of me will be consumed with missing her and all that she is to me.

So no, not excited, exactly.

But still…freeeeeeeedom!