Thursday, March 29, 2012

My Wonderful One Year Old

This past December was such a whirlwind: Christmas, travel and.....a first birthday! I was so proud and sad all at once that my baby was one. All those little stages he went through: rolling, crawling, cruising, are all things of the past. Essentially, the things he is able to do now -walking, talking, feeding himself- are skills he will have from now on, but the baby ones are gone. I am proud that William is so active, so sturdy, so big; but I miss my wee baby, never to be seen again. And even more sadly, I can't really remember him as a really little baby. I have flashes of memory, but trying to recall the feel and look of him when really small....gone in the mists of time, like my baby is.
(OK I am crying a little writing this)
I put effort into planning William's first birthday, but there were sweet gifts from Grace as well. The day began with us all snuggled up in the big bed together, William and I nursing, and Greg dozing. It rained that morning, and as we lay like bears in our den we listened to the rain pitter pattering, and felt sweet content. We then helped William open his gift that we had bought him months ago in Prague, and he loved it: a little monkey (just like our monkey) wooden toy that plays a zylophone when you pull him along. He has gotten hours of entertainment out of it.
I spent that whole morning with William, just doing all the things he loves best: yoga, dancing, reading books and playing with my blowdryer (the BEST toy!!). He then napped while I got ready for the party. And napped. And napped and napped! Everyone had already arrived and the guest of honor had to be woken up, much to his displeasure. He remained sleepy and weepy for the first hour of the party, not letting me put him down for even a second. It was his party, and he could cry if he wanted to! (Interestingly enough, my Mom says that I slept through most of my first birthday party too....I guess we are easily overwhelmed, William and I). Little did I know that the classic separation anxiety of this stage had begun. However, he loved his banana birthday muffin, and later, his chocolate cupcake that he had so Dad could see him with icing all over his face!
Developmentally, my big baby just gets better and better at walking. He now roams all over the apartment. His balance is still precarious, and so he walks with elbows akimbo and his knees lifting sargeant major style. He looks more like he is riding a unicycle than walking! He prefers to hold a grown up finger, and I have precious pictures of us walking along together. Soon, I know, he won't want to be held back by any finger holding. William uses his new found locomation to run away from Daddy after his bath, running nakedy snakedy all over the apartment. He is also into so much more now. He broke a favorite lamp of mine, and managed to lock the washing machine with a wet load in it. And the guide book is in french, so it took me all day to get around to getting out the dictionary and figuring out how to unlock. So this is life with a toddler!
But William is so cute I can't stay mad for long. He now has two front teeth with an adorable gap in them which really changes his smile. He is discovering all the things these new teeth can do: clicking together, grinding and biting Mommy's nipple, yikes! His favorite word is 'didah' which can be said loudly, caressingly, seems to be a catch all. After nursing in bed in the morning, William wakes Daddy up by poking him and saying Didah! But other words are more recognizable: he told me "all done" looking at a book, and "no thanks" when I offered some apple.
On a less happy note, William was quite sick this month with an ear infection. All medication for French babies are designed to go in bottles, which William will not take....all he wants to do is nurse when he is sick. So Mummy got creative and mixed his medication up in a wineglass, then we had 'wine' during supper. He thought that was great fun, and was pretty adept with a wineglass...that's my boy!

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Body Image

I have always thought I was fat. This is partly because I took ballet (a sylph I was not) and partly because I was a girl (dieting is a topic of interest from about age 4) and partly because I actually was kinda fat.....okay, not really fat just.....plump. I look back at pictures from childhood, and there it is, my nemesis: the belly. Thankfully I have a mother who was devoted to good nutrition (she made us homemade fruit rollups, no joke) and a husband who is an exercise fiend so my tendency to rolly polly-ness is mostly dealt with in a healthy way, but do not doubt I am familiar with that particular kind of self loathing that comes from not looking the way you think you should look.

So, even though getting pregnant was an incredible thrill, one of the many myriad thoughts meandering through my brain was: how fat will I get? And how long until I get thin(ish) again after the baby?

But like so many things in my life, I was blessed, thrilled and surprised to find that I felt fabulous during my pregnant. Despite an ice-cream per day habit during a trip home to Canada (it helped kill the heartburn) I did not put on a gross amount of weight. However, for the first time in my life, weight was no longer a concern. I had a reason to have a big, beautiful belly: I had a big, beautiful baby in there! I was in awe of my body, and what it was accomplishing. With very little help from Greg (no offense, honey) I was growing a PERSON!! It was incredible. I felt like a goddess.

And that sense of awe and appreciation for my body continued into William's first months of life, for, as a breast feeding Mom, I was helping him to grow outside of my tummy too. And not only did he grow, he thrived! He was a fat, jolly, happy little baby who loved to feed, and had a Mommy who loved to feed him. So, I was scarred by childbirth, plump, with huge boobs and I did not care. What relief! What liberation!

But of course, the day of reckoning came as it must. For me it was once William started on solids, and I took him to a doctor's appointment. Very casually I stepped on the scale only to realize that I weight MORE than I did after the baby was born. That was not a good day.

So slowly, and to be honest resentfully, I started to claim my body back from the rigours of childbearing. But despite feeling fat (again) I have come to this stage with a new respect for my body. It is an awesome body, capable of miraculous things. And even though my son is born, nourished, and nearly weaned, it is a body still capable of amazing things. My body is coming back to being my own, but I share it generously with my boys. It is a body that is a bit padded, but aren't I cozier that way?

Not to say I was not delighted to lose a few pounds during a bout of the flu. And I am ecstatic that my old clothes fit again (its like getting a new wardrobe!!!). I am committed to eating a bit better, and exercising a bit more. Because shouldn't I care as much about what I am putting in my mouth, as what I am putting in William's? I want to be fit and fabulous in my new life, to keep up with my active toddler, but also to feel like a pretty woman again.

I know myself well enough to know that I will have fat days again; don't we all? But even then, I will never forget that I have a body that is capable of amazing things. It can run and jump, stretch and breathe. It can laugh and cry, write and sing. It can bake a cake while simultaneously talking on the phone. It can love a husband. It can grown and nourish a son.

I am a goddess.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Our Lives in Ordinary Time

Something you may not know is that I was a little Catholic schoolgirl; yup, navy blue tunic, knee socks, pigtails, scary nuns, and kindly priests, the works. Our school year was punctuated not only with homework and tests, but by the annual Easter procession, live Christmas pageant and lectures on true sacrifice during Lent (which for me was no TV). While I have left the knee socks and pigtails behind (and scary nuns) I have retained the wonderful rythmns of the Catholic liturgical year. In my internal calendar that marks the most private, precious events of my life I celebrate not only the biggies like Christmas and Easter, but those lesser appreciated times such as Advent and Lent. I have learned to love and value those seasons of preparation and denouement. But my favorite season has always been the least appreciated one: ordinary time. It means nothing is happpening save the daily rounds and small rituals of every day life. There is nothing to preapre for, nothing to clean up after. It is just that, ordinary time, and I have come to realize how very special it is.

In my old life I don't think I had ordinary time. There was a house to keep, a cottage to renovate, a job to do, and garden to cultivate, family to attend to and friends to see. There was no time for ordinary time. But here life is different for us. It is partly because I have divested myself of most of those former obligations; its much easier to have ease when I don't work, own a home, have a garden or cottage, and our family obligations consists of weekly Skype chats. Its also partly that life with a small child has forced us to slow down, take time for play and be home for an early bedtime and so we simply can't be as busy. But both Greg and I have realized how much we have come to love, and need, ordinary time. Ordinary time gives us time to relax, to play, to spend time as a simply be.

And so what do we do? There is usually an obligation or two in the form of housework, so a bit of cleaning or laundry quickly sets the apartment to rights. We take time over our coffee and breakfast, lounging in our jim jams. Greg surfs the 'net. I scrapbook a little, or write a letter.William ping pongs between us, delighted to have two parents on hand to pester and play with. Then there is often a nap, sometimes for all of us, and afterwards maybe a saunter through the market or a trip to the gym. I use the Stairmaster and Greg lifts a little weight while running after William. Sometimes we'll all swim or go for a coffee. And there is always a visit to the park somewhere in there! In winter we might take in a more obscure exhibit that we've been waiting to see, or take advantage of 'free Sundays' when the big monuments are open gratuit. In summer we might do a walking tour or head out on town to wander a fine park or estate. We emerge from this routine rested, connected to each other, and happy.

And, so with our return home advancing ever more surely on the horizon, the question for me is how to preserve ordinary time? How to go back to work, buy a new house, coexist with our family without losing that precious sense of peace? I'm not sure how it will all work out, but I think it must involve planning a lot less. This is an admonishment mostly to myself, the big social planner! However I have realized there is something to be said for spontaneity, and leaving space on the calendar. It might also mean saying no a little more, so we can say yes more wholeheartedly. I read a great description recently that likened the writer's family to 'barbarians at the gates' in their desire to always get together that I must say rang a little true for me. As children of divorce I am not entirely sure what Greg and I can do about that, but we have promised each other that our own little family will come first. Most important is that I think we have now experienced and enjoyed ordinary time; if we let it, I think its blessings will come home with us in our suitcase.