penelope and bumblebee

Good grammar costs nothing.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Road Trippin'

An interesting question was posed recently over at Bub and Pie’s place: What do you talk about with your husband?

It’s a great question, one that, with a kid, work, a household, a waning social life and fatigue to deal with, can become difficult to answer. Often, after dinner, after bumblebee is in bed, Chris and me go our separate ways. I like to blog and watch tv in the evenings; he likes to play videogames or work on projects in photoshop or aftereffects. We’re cool with this; we both need time to decompress and relax, and chris always comes upstairs at various intervals to ‘check on me.’ This isn’t all we do; we also watch movies together, work in the garden/backyard or just sit out on the back porch on warm nights. But sometimes we realize that we’ve gone 5 days with little conversation beyond the regular musings about our daily grind.

That’s where the road trip comes in.

Perhaps it’s because we are trapped together in a box hurtling down the road at 100-ish km/hour; perhaps it is because we are both trying to prevent Chris from falling asleep at the wheel as we travel the 350km to/from Chris’ parents on about the most boring stretch of road you’ll find in Ontario; perhaps it is because we leave the house at 6am and bumblebee quickly falls asleep again her car seat and we need only to pay her passive attention. Whatever it is, in the car, on these trips is where our best recent conversations have occurred.

Take this past weekend, travelling to/from my in-laws; in no particular order, the conversation, flowing freely and enthusiastically, included but was not limited to:

· The need for an emergency kit to be stored in the cold cellar, in case of, well, an emergency (the Star must have been reading Chris’ mind, because today they printed this)

· Our concerns for bumblebee in the changing world: How to prevent bumblebee from one day becoming prey to an internet predator (penelope); How to prevent bumblebee from dating – anyone, at any time, ever (chris)

· What it would be like to hypothetically live in the small town that chris grew up in (chris – calm, quaint, cheap; penelope – boring, isolated, torture)

· More of the should we/shouldn’t we, when should we/shouldn’t we have a #2

· How my ‘issues’ affect Chris, and why he loves me anyway (this conversation was like a hug, and I was buried in his chest and his arms were around me, and I felt more secure and loved than I have in a long time)

· The crisis in the middle east

· What we would be when we grew up if we could do it all over again (chris – architect or biologist; penelope – archaeologist or forensic anthropologist)

· If we still have time to do it all over again

· Names for our second kid if we have one (I love throwing out names; this regularly peppers our conversations)

· Why some of our friends are so funny/ridiculous/deadbeat/clueless/kind/kindred, etc.

· How some of the stupid comments we heard that weekend affected us (Chris’ bro on our new car: Is that your piece of shit out there?)
Oh, wait; we didn’t talk about that one – I was just thinking about all the answers I should have given and didn’t.

· How we should just get a new floor for our 60+ year old kitchen since we’ll never have the money to renovate

· When we are getting our next tattoos

· How no one wants to bowl with chris because he kicks serious ass, so we should just join a league of our own

We laughed, we talked, we laughed some more.

And then we got home, and the day passed quickly, and I was tired and wanted to watch the emmys and chris was tired and wanted to play videogames, and we went our separate ways.

But we had sex later. And agreed that next weekend we’ll go on a road trip somewhere.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Let's Lighten the Mood

Ok, a little levity now, because too many people/things/stupid ignorant articles are pissing me off.

The Wednesday Shuffle

this was a really good shuffle. i enjoyed it. Nothing like a little random playlist action to make me feel like a happy soul.

1. all night - damien marley
2. aeroplane - bjork
3. dona dona - joan baez
4. if you're feeling sinister - belle & sebastian
5. hits from the bong - cypress hill
6. breathe me - sia
7. bobcaygeon - the tragically hip
8. reuben & cherise - jerry garcia
9. feel good inc. - gorillaz a heartbeat – koop

I need your help, kids. Here’s my list. It’s been updated, but before I laminate it, I need your input.

The List:

1. Darcy Tucker
2. Alex on Grey’s Anatomy
3. Jude Law
4. got it
5. Jennifer Aniston

I have one spot left. Who do you think should be #4?


This is not a boring baby.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Disinterested Crybabies Are Boring

An article I read in Saturday's Globe and Mail provided the motivation I needed to sit and write a post I had been mulling over for a while.

Entitled ‘Motherhood is Boring’, and written by a blogger some of you enjoy, the piece brought to light a dirty little secret that apparently many mothers share, and apparently, is cause for celebration.

Hailed as the new wave of feminists for their outspoken honesty, these mothers can’t stand doing the things that are associated with, well, mothering. Outings to the park? Tedious. Family movies? Not without her PDA, she doesn’t. Conversation with her child? Better prep her for a lobotomy first. A craft or creative activity with her little girl? Nuh-uh. She’d way rather be blotto with her single, ‘free’ friends.

I didn’t think I could be more impressed, until one woman clarified that it is not, in fact, the things that she must do with her kids that she finds boring; it is actually the kids themselves. She says that her children bore her to death.

On the flipside, many mothers, the article says, do not feel this way. In the article, these mothers are represented by a picture of June Cleaver with the Beav. I guess moms that find their kids interesting and the job not just so much brainless drivel are old-fashioned do-gooder automatons.
And the moms that out-and-out disagree with these ‘heroes?’ well, they are just martyrs, or (this is clever) ‘sanctimommies.’ And just to be super-clear, the impression is given that bored = intelligent. I suppose that’s true, given all the lobotomized mothers you see out there, interacting with their children.

So what conclusion does this bring me to about myself as a mother? I realize that I belong to the school of ‘What Did You Expect?’ parenting.

I got pregnant at age 29. I am middle-class, educated, well-traveled and, I dare say, intelligent – like all these bored, bored, bored mothers profess to being.

I had some idea, at least a little, of what I was in for.

Chris always remarked during my pregnancy that, despite some of the (common) aches, pains and discomforts, I was handling it like a trooper.

Well, I said, I’m growing a person. It’s a tough job. What did I expect?

I had my baby at home because I believe in, and wanted, a ‘natural’ birth. Yes, there was pain. Yes, it seemed like it went on forever. Yes, I needed stitches. Yes, recovery is tough. A melon-sized head just came out of a grape-sized hole – what else did I expect?

(Oh, and Ms Scheduled C-Section Author? Don’t be making ‘like the pain of natural childbirth’ similes ‘round me.)

My child needs me to do pretty much everything for her. Well, she started off as a ball of mush and 15 months later still has trouble remaining upright. What else could I have possibly expected?

I am pretty much always tired. I have gone for days without showering. I have been puked on, shit on, spit on, bitten, kicked, pinched, poked, I have read ‘Goodnight Moon’ 8000 times but can barely get through a magazine article in one sitting. I have not worn a decent bra in 15 months, and my childless friends don’t call as often as they used to. Sometimes motherhood is really, really hard. I feel like I am making a lot of sacrifices.

I am not managing an inconvenience. I am raising a child.

She is a child that brings me joy. I do my best to bring her joy. I want her to grow up feeling secure; feeling loved; feeling important. She is worth that. She deserves that. Every single child does, regardless of how under-stimulated his or her mother feels.

And I implore these mothers: if this truly is how you feel, please, please don’t have any more children.

And I ask these mothers – these intelligent, worldly, educated mothers: Just what, exactly, did you expect?

Lots of mamas are writing about this on their own posts, which I am enjoying reading. In the essence of not spamming everyone's comments when I have my own soundboard over here, I'll just add a point that I didn't originally make here:
Too bad that the moms in the article are more into bitching about boredom than enjoying the happiness that these often tedious activities bring to their children.

And no, I have never been bored being a mom. I do certain things because I am duty-bound, and not because they are riveting, but bored? Not so much.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Excuses, Excuses

Sorry I was late for work today. My baby wanted to cuddle, and I can't initiate the break in a baby cuddle. If you’ve ever cuddled a baby, you’ll know why.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Read it and Meme

Whoo hoo! Thanks to some less than subtle hints, metro mama just gave me my first tag! I’m it! Hazaa.
This was so much fun. Tag me whenever, peeps; I’ll do y’all proud.
And now, a meme from me.

1. One book that changed your life:
As a young person: Forever – Judy Blume (you can DO that?! Well, um yeah, but not for like, another 8 or 10 years)
As an adult: Life of Pi - Yan Martel

2. One book that you've read more than once:
Besides ‘Open the Barn Door, ‘Goodnight Moon’, Touch and Feel Pets (we like to touch with our toes) and Go, Dog, Go? Why, Fall On Your Knees of course. Best. Book. Ever.

3. One book you would want on a desert island:
The New Olympia Reader – any edition.
Whatev – we’re talking lots of alone time, people. This way you get two desert island pasttimes for the price of one…

4. One book that made you laugh:
Eats, Shoots & Leaves – Lynne Truss. Out loud, over ‘n over, with a ‘hell ya!’ thrown in every now and then for good measure. But I’m a bit of a loser.

5. One book that made you cry:
Cry? How about sob, shoulders hitching, 10 minutes after I had put the book away, as I sat on an airplane and tried to regain my composure?
That would be Mercy Among the Children, David Adams Richards.

6. One book that you wish had been written:
A seriously juicy, mysterious, creepy, absolutely perfect blend of Margaret Atwood short-story intrigue, lizzie borden bio macabre and ann-marie macdonald character-intricacy. People should die or disappear, hearts should be broken and there should be at least one ‘oooh, I didn’t see that coming!’ moment.

7. One book that you wish had never been written:
When the Wind Blows – Raymond Briggs
My whole class had to read this graphic novel in grade 5. My teacher was a right bastard, because it was written FOR ADULTS as a black comedy about the after-effects of nuclear war, but to my 10-year old mind, it simply mocked the fear and confusion of what, to me, in 1985, was a real, viable, unimaginably terrifying possibility. The main characters melt in the end, described and sketched in horrifying detail.
A few months later, this same class, waiting for iminent nuclear war, watched as the space shuttle challenger blew up in front of our eyes. I (and quite a few other kids in the class) began suffering from panic attacks and separation anxiety as we literally waited for our world to end.

8. The book that you are currently reading:
The Devil Wears Prada – Laura Weisberger.
I’m on page 36; I’ll let you know.

9. One book that you have been meaning to read:
Before I Wake – Robert J. Wiersema, thanks to the heads up from Scarbie

umm, i'm supposed to tag 2 people now, right? i don't have that many friends in the blogsphere, but i know lisalou at Here's Hoping and Mother Bumper will have lots of good things to say.

Friday, August 11, 2006

100 things I know for sure

100 things to know (and love) about ME

1. I used to be a deadhead
2. a deadhead that actually went to shows
3. we went to the shows in my b-friend’s stickered-up honda civic
4. I did inhale
5. I love little house on the prarie
6. and friends
7. I like to think that I am most like Rachel
8. But really I am most like Monica
9. except I hate cleaning
10. tho I like ironing and vacuuming
11. I consider myself an environmentalist but I am addicted to my stupid mr. clean magic eraser
12. I don’t use it on anything that might go in bumblebee’s mouth
13. I have two sisters and a brother
14. our initials are J, K, J, K
15. we were born in ’73, ’75, ’83, ‘85
16. I am K ‘75
17. J ’73 and J ’83 have both been arrested and spent time in jail…
18. …for civil disobedience and prom-night drunkeness, respectively
19. I have never even gotten a parking ticket
20. I’m not that good, I’ve just never been caught
21. I was labled ‘gifted’ in grade 2
22. I always did very well in school
23. and thought that I was smarter than the teachers
24. I think I was smarter than a few
25. I never actually finished high school
26. But somehow the university never noticed, so who cared?
27. I never actually finished university
28. went to live in the middle east instead for the better part of a year
29. I have watched katyusha rockets flying overhead
30. I have learned that people who live in a war zone do not live like they are in a war zone
31. romance is very sweet in a war zone
32. I came home because I ran out of money, defaulted on my student loan, maxed out my visa and was afraid that if I did not come home then, I never would
33. besides motherhood, I consider that period the most important of my life
34. met the man I would marry 4 months after my return
35. we were both working at a bookstore
36. I thought he looked like a beautiful alien and that I should stay away from him
37. we started dating soon after
38. our first date was on the black bull patio and we got hammered
39. the first time we said ‘I love you’ was on national tv
40. sex tv
41. I’m not joking
42. it was on a segment about the chemistry of love
43. people stopped us on the street for weeks afterwards
44. yes, I have it on tape
45. no, you can’t see it
46. we got married 3 years later
47. we went to malta and sicily on our honeymoon
48. if bee ever wants to get married, we will encourage her to get ‘er done on a beach in a tropical place with 10 friends and a bottle of rum (each)
49. I think I am a great mother
50. This list is too short to start talking about my daughter
51. Because she is the most incredible creature on the face of this planet
52. Don’t know what I did without her
53. oh yeah, sleep
54. I used to watch fishing shows for relaxation
55. I still like reality tv
56. I often have to stop myself from telling people that they suck
57. I don’t think it is polite to ‘eeeww’ other people’s food
58. I was held up at knife-point while I worked at a toy store on september 18, 1994
59. I peed my pants when I saw the knife
60. And asked him if he wanted the change out of the register too
61. He said no
62. I guess there is no hard and fast stick-up etiquette
63. I have some pretty good personal safety issues as a result
64. I will try not to pass them on to bumblebee
65. Chris is very patient about these things and goes downstairs to check every little creak and squeak that freaks me out at night
66. He also kills my bugs
67. I have to deal with any birds or mice
68. I think it’s a fair trade
69. Mighty Mouse was my first crush
70. I fell off a chair declaring my love for him
71. Next was Randolph Mantooth
72. If you know who that is, you are tops in my books
73. I had pictures of River Phoenix on the walls of my side of the room
74. My sister had pictures of Jim Morrison
75. I shared a room for 10 years
76. I loved it
77. I have dual citizenship
78. My dad is from Brooklyn, yo
79. He is a Vietnam vet and a pacifist
80. I think my dad is really cool
81. when I was little we played boxes together and he would sing ‘kisses sweeter than wine’ to us
82. In one summer: both my remaining grandparents died
83. My dad had a near-fatal heart attack at my grandmother’s (his MIL’s) funeral
84. We bought our first house
85. My parents separated
86. And I got pregnant
87. We named our baby after my grandparents
88. She was due on my grandmother’s birthday
89. I believe in karma
90. My MIL sends me email forwards with religious Christian content and sentiments
91. I am Jewish
92. I do not believe in war
93. Or george w. bush
94. I am pro-choice, for every woman, everywhere
95. I support a person’s right to love whomever they choose
96. I have never read a self-help book
97. If I wrote one it might be called ‘Why are you so annoying?’ or ‘Just listen to me, ‘cause I’m right’
98. I am a misplacer of sunglasses and travel mugs
99. I am slightly concerned that I have inherited the insanity gene that seems to hit the women in my family around middle age
100.I guess we’ll see.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

The Wednesday Shuffle

Well, we've just come back from a very enjoyable few days in the near north, where bumblebee visited her great-greatgrandparents, spent a lot of time feeding ducks on their beach, hung out with her great aunt and great uncle in one of the most beautiful places in north america, and ate - nay, devoured - spare ribs.
If you know me, than you'll know why that last bit is a shocker.

so, in hounour of our mini-break, i give you The Wednesday Shuffle, North Bay/Temagami Road Trip Edition*.

1. Bridge to Nowhere – Sam Roberts
2. The Reflex – Duran Duran
3. Head Over Feet – Alannis Morrisette
4. Rebellion (Lies) – Arcade Fire
5. Some Hoochie Song About Booty – Some Hoochie
6. Running Back to Saskatoon – The Guess Who
7. Breakfast In Bed – Dusty Springfield
8. D’Yer Maker – Led Zeppelin
9. What Is and What Should Never Be – Led Zeppelin (double shot)
10. One of Us – Joan Osborne

*aaaarrrgghhh! The brand new stereo on our BRAND NEW car is not working! What? Who’s fekking idea of a joke is this?! We finally have a CD player in our car and it’s not working!? ARE YOU SHITTIN ME?!
Well, let’s see what’s on the radio then. Flip. No. flip. No. flip. No. flip. No. ooh. Dusty. Gotta love ‘the moose’.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

There’s Something I Want to Get Off My Chest

A Perfect Post

But not really. More accurately, There’s Something That Wants to Get Off My Chest.

Bumblebee is almost 15 months old now, and she is starting to give me signs that a very special, very beautiful, very emotional part of our relationship may be soon to end. And, as with so many other symbols of growth, in ourselves and in our babies, with it will come a certain amount of both mourning and celebration.

I always knew that I would breastfeed; I was adamant about it during my pregnancy, and as my breasts grew to prepare for the bounty they would soon bestow upon my baby, the thought filled me with confidence and empowerment. To be sure, less than an hour after her birth, my sweet girl was latched on, suckling away peacefully as I sleepily marveled at her amazing instinct and ability to accomplish such a feat. Mine too.

In the days and weeks following bumblebee’s birth, I was surrounded by a remarkable network of women that helped ensure our breastfeeding success: my wonderful midwives saw me almost every day for the first two weeks of my post-partum life; my sister, who had breastfed her own daughter for almost two years, took care of both my new little family and new milk supply, whether I needed hot compresses to ease engourgement, cold packs to ease sore nipples, healthy meals and delicious smoothies, or calling upon her midwife friends for a consultation when, on day 5, my nipples were sore, bleeding, cracked and had I not the support system I did, might have thrown in the towel (diagnosis? Bad positioning. I lifted bumblebee slightly higher and the discomfort eased.); and my wonderful husband, who was perhaps as awestruck at my ability to nourish our child (not to mention at the size of my boobs), as he was our child herself. For many months he dutifully fulfilled his part of the ‘penelope takes care of bumblebee, I take care of penelope’ plan.

I have always loved nursing bumblebee. I’ve never had any other problems besides the one that we solved on day 5, and certainly have never minded that, for the first 6 months of her life, the responsibility of her sustanance fell solely on me. That I had something no other person in this world, including her loving father, could provide for her was something that I cherished.

Bumblebee’s birth coincided with that of the warm summer weather, so we got to know each other skin to skin; unshrouded tummy to unshrouded tummy, warm cheek to bare arm. Almost from the very beginning bumblebee would tickle my side while nursing; tiny hand unfurling against my body, set in rhythm with her pursing lips.

The first 6 months of bumblebee’s life were, to me, the easiest; my baby and her food supply always together; the ultimate in portability. We went somewhere everyday, and many of my favourite experiences as a new mother were being out with my child and usually another mother or two, spending hours in our neighbourhood coffee shop or luxuriating in the shade of a tree, laughing, surviving, talking about all the things that so astonish new moms, with our new babes asleep in our arms or at the breast. It always came out in public. Anywhere, anytime. There is nothing offensive, sexual or secret about feeding a baby, and I have never treated it as such. I have never, to this day, experienced a negative reaction from anyone while nursing in public.

When she demanded milk every two hours, round the clock, never going longer than three, I would happily acquiesce. My baby has never once slept through the night, but ‘waking’, for us, means bumblebee squirms even closer, and I turn towards her. Tummy full, she would wrap her arms around the one I’ve tucked under my head (later, around my neck), and we would sleep.

I was bumblebee’s 24-hour buffet. There were times when bumblebee did not even care if I woke up to nurse. She would simply sit up and careen herself forward onto my boob. A surprising way to be waked, but great joke fodder for chris.

The introduction of solids left me feeling a little bit lost. Though the frequency of breastfeedings was reduced only slightly at first, I was acutely aware of the fact that I was no longer indespensible. My baby’s survival was no longer dependent on my presence. I found myself putting away the spoon at the first sign of bumblebee’s diminishing interest in her meal, to place her at my breast. I was as lax with meals as I was with a sleep schedule, knowing that bumblebee would not be without nutrition as long as me and my boobs were around. But bumblebee loved food. She loved her rice cereal and homemade purees. With every bite that filled her tummy, my daughter’s first act of emancipation left me feeling a little bit empty.

Our family dynamic changed at this time too, for the better. With chris able to partner on another aspect of caring for bumblebee, I was able to gain a little bit more time. I also felt more comfortable leaving them for longer stretches of time, knowing that if bumblebee refused the milk I had pumped into a bottle, there were other options for sustenance. This freedom helped to encourage my reticent acceptance of bumblebee’s maturation.

With bumblebee’s ever-expanding food repertoire came changes in her motivation to breastfeed. While she no longer solely had to depend on her mother’s milk for sustenance, she still hungered for the comfort and ritual it provided. I did too. Every bonk that my increasingly mobile monkey incurred; every tired, confused, clingy half-hour that preceeded sleep; every fright and every concluded separation between us was soothed at the breast.

When I went back to work, my breasts rebelled. Bumblebee was happy enough with her sippy cup of goat’s milk while I was away, but my boobs were not. For the first two weeks they would swell, leak, harden and threaten lactation mutiny. The right one, with which I exclusively fed bumblebee at night, was comically, ridiculously larger than the left. They were in shock. I hadn’t pumped, as bumblebee was old enough to have an alternative, and I had never been very good at it. I did not want to put pressure on myself to produce as much as bumblebee would need during the day, as I was still sorting out so many confusing and difficult emotions associated with my return to work.
My breasts yearned for my baby, and as soon as I walked into my house, they got what they wanted. Sweet was the relief that I was home, my baby was in my arms, the pressure in my chest was enjoying reprieve, and I was back in the role that I so honoured.

And now? Now, I have been back at work for a few months and a new rhythm gives pace to our lives. Bumblebee is thriving, and my desk at work is as messy as it ever was. My bumblebee is a toddling, curious, incredible creature of almost 15 months, and my breasts have adjusted. Now when I walk in the door bumblebee flaps her little arms and beckons me with mmmmm, mmmmm, getting very upset if I should have the nerve to put my bag away, or worse, go pee, before she gets booby. But it’s not quite the same anymore. Before she has barely begun she pulls herself off again, distracted by any number of things. She will still nurse before and during sleep, but my milk does not have the magical, sleep-inducing powers it once did. I fall asleep more often than bumblebee does. Comfort is given in many ways, by both her father and myself.

I get the feeling that she nurses now to simply assert her ownership of me; to let me know that she is still in charge.

I used to joke that I would stop nursing when bumblebee could undo my bra. I thought I would have to wean before she would. As my little pixie changes before my eyes, explores her burgeoning world and increasingly declares her 15-month old version of independence, I wonder how much longer this chapter will last. I do so look forward to getting a new bra, losing the last few baby pounds and all the other things a weaned mother enjoys. But that, I suppose, is part of the wonderful dichotomy of motherhood. With the lightening of my breasts, a heavying of my heart.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

New and Improved Wednesdays!

So, I’ve decided that my blog should have a regular feature. I enjoy them so much on other people’s blogs that I wanted to share the love. However, deciding on an original, engaging theme has been somewhat tricky – I mean, there are some pretty good regular features out there. The bar has been set pretty high, and I’m only 5-foot-1.

I toyed with a few ideas before I finally got to where I am, and thought I would share a few of the rejected topics:

The Tuesday Kvetch (like I need a special day for that)
Learn Yiddish with Penelope Fridays (let’s celebrate the sabbath together!)
Sensimilla Saturdays (stories about my youth)
If it’s Monday, This Must Be Poland (a triptych of places my people have been exiled from)
Thursday, I Don’t Care About You (why you suck)
Sleepover Sundays (how you suck)

People, feel free to bite any of those; they are up for grabs.

Without further ado, I give you the approved regular feature topic:

The Wednesday Shuffle!

What’s penelope listening to? I know you’re itching to find out. Well, the wait is over!

Here’s what I’m shuffling on my ipod right now (ok, the ipod is broken, but here’s what’s shuffling on itunes):

1. No Other Way – Jack Johnson
2. Steady as She Goes – The Raconteurs
3. It Could Have Been a Brilliant Career – Belle & Sebastian
4. Iron Lion Zion – Bob Marley
5. We Shall Overcome – Bruce Springsteen
6. Pon De Replay – Rhianna
7. Jenny Jenkins – Jerry Garcia & David Grisman
8. Lake Fever – The Tragically Hip
9. Raphael – Carla Bruni
10. S.O.S. – Abba

Good stuff, no? As soon as I learn how, I will add some hotlink action straight to the music sample. Until then, this is penelopeto, with your Wednesday shuffle, signing off.
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