Wednesday, May 25, 2011

May at my House

Another month has flown past, full of blessings, chief among them the joy of watching our little one grow.

5 months seems to be a huge milestone developmentally as William adds to his repertoire of abilities almost daily! Some of his achievements are practical, such as the ability to use a 'pincer grasp'; others are just plain fun such as blowing raspberries! William is also able to roll over on his tummy from either direction (no more leaving him on the bed!!) and sometimes from his tummy back onto his back. He can nearly sit on his own, and stands with us holding him just by one hand. He smiles giggles and interacts well, and entertains us with an increasing repertoire of babbling which I call 'vocal stylings by DouDou'.

A highlight this month was William's first flight! Greg took me to Prague for a long weekend as an anniversary present, and of course our cutie pie tagged along. This trip also necessitated getting a Canadian passport for William, which was a nightmare.....4 trips to the Embassy and we still only have a temporary one......but I digress. The flight was sceduled for 7:30, and this being William's bedtime I thought it would be a disaster. But he surprised me (and probably always will) by settling down to nurse and nap like a seasoned flyer (not that most flyers nurse but you know what I mean!). He was equally unruffled on the return flight. This bodes well for future travel!

Another high was a visit from our good friends Angela and Derek (Angela and I work together at VAC, and we all lived in the same neighborhood) and their son Elliott. It was great to do a 'kid visit' as we got to see parks, zoos and almost every carousel in the city! William loved having a big kid around and laughed out loud when Elliott hopped on one foot. Angela and Derek kindly took William for us for a few hours so Greg and I could have a date on our wedding anniversary (#12). We chose to go see a movie together and it was nice to snuggle and eat popcorn from the same bag without being rushed.

We've done some enjoyable things around Paris too. Greg was thrilled when Team Canada played an exhibition hockey game against Team France in late April. The game was actually pretty good, with Canada only winning by one point, and the French went all out to make the team welcome. We all brought hockey jerseys, but it was too hot in the stadium to wear them for long; in fact the ice on the rink was melting! There was also a real rock concert atmosphere with racous tunes, fireworks and hordes of hollering fans.....all a bit to much for William. He enjoyed it more when I took him on a historical walking tour of the interesting and beautiful Promenade de Plantee (although apparently the Parisians hate this name as plantee means stuck in French, as in 'my computer is stuck'...). He also liked watching the Royal Wedding but not as much as Mummy did! Mummy also loved her visit to the hammam, a Turkish style spa. The experience would not be for everyone, but I loved stripping down and steaming away the stress, then getting the best massage of my life. Afterwards my friends and I lolled about on the haram style cushions and drank rosewater tea. Pretty hedonistic!

A final highlight was the reunion of our parenting class. What a thrill to see all the mummies looking slim with babies in arms, as well as their beaming dads. William, of course, was the cutest baby there and as the 'old man' of the group was much admired for his developmental prowess. His favorite part was playing with his girlfriend Samira, a pretty Irish lassie only a few weeks younger than himself. A future match, perhaps??

Monday, May 23, 2011

Pivos in Prague

Ok, enough about the baby already! Lets talk about travellin'!

We have just returned from a delightful long weekend in Prague. This was an exciting trip for us for several reasons. First, it has been high on our Bucket list of destinations since forever; second we were lucky to travel with our good friends the Jacksons; and finally the trip was William's first ever flight! And things went exceptionally well on all counts.

We set out late Friday afternoon, which meant we would be travelling right at William's bedtime. so I was trepidatious about his behaviour. But he was a gem. Both to and from, he settled happily down to napping and nursing, and no-one heard a peep from him (You could see the look of horror on our fellow travellers faces.....oh no they've got a BABY!!!! But he was awesome).

We were extremely impressed with our accomodations at Hotel Christie right from the start. Greg ordered a car for the 6 of us to get into town, with baby seat. Car was waiting for us when we arrived, seat properly installed, and we were efficiently whisked into town: 1 point for the hotel!

Then our room....did they think we were the high rollers, we wondered? We were installed in the top floor suite with King sized bed, gleaming bathroom and charming aerie that looked out over the spires of Prague. When they were unable to provide us with a baby cot for the first night (not a problem as the bed was enormous) the hotel sent us a gorgeous fruit tray as an apology. Breakfast each morning was 'full on' as Greg would say, which we happily partook of before setting our for fast paced days.

Since William has arrived, our ability and interest in researching our destinations has plumetted; lately we show up, look around, and wish we knew what we were looking at. So this trip we were doubly glad to travel with friends, and we rode their researching tailfeathers the whole way! This was only problematic when we took the tram seperately as Greg and I got completely lost, ended up in the suburbs of town. Kindly locals soon set us straight in a language soup of Czech, English and French.

We started with the top priority site as far as the lads were concerned: brew pubs! Our first stop was at a Medieval monastary that has been making beer or pivos, since the dawn of time....and time to perfect the recipe they obviously had, for it was delicious. It took several pints to wash down our heavy, satisfying potatoe pancakes, sausages and dumplings before -finally- doing some siteseeing.

We went to Prague castle, which was the usual hodge podge of buildings from different eras, and toured St Vitus cathedral, looking in admiration at Mucha's stained glass window. As interesting as the sites were, the view was the best part of this day, which gave us an appreciation for the charm and beauty of the city spread below our feet. We meandered back downhill, stopping to eat icecreams, shop for garnets, get 'walking beers' and goggle at the amazing architecture. On our way home we crossed the touristy but charming St. Charles Bridge which was alive with artisans and buskers. We returned to our aerie (Subway in hand...we don't get to eat dinner out these days) in time to watch the sun set over the city. That night we hosted drinks for the Jacksons and other friends we found out were in town, and we all enjoyed the nightly fireworks display over Prague Castle.

The next day our friends had to head home, so we (happy that we had another full day) set out on our own to explore Old Town and the Jewish Quarter. We watched the ancient Astrogical Clock spin and whir at the hour and waved to the trumpter posted on the turret. The cool interior of St Nicolas Church soothed both our sore feet and souls before heading to the Jewish Quarter.

Jews have had a strong presence in Prague since the Dark Ages and much of their history as a people -pogroms, religious persecution and the Holocaust- were played out here. One synagogue is a memorial to all those killed during WWII, with names and dates being hand painted on the walls during the 50's. During the Communist regime, these names were painted over and had to be re-written again in the early 90's. What tenacity.

The Old Jewish Cemetary was fascinating! According to Jewish custom, burial is the only option after death, and it is forbidden to disturb a grave once it has been established. And so, over centuries of life in the ghetto, people have been buried on TOP of one another, yeilding a strange, Tim Burton like garden of crooked headstones and meandering paths. Apparently the cemetary is 10 bodies deep and is one of the largest and oldest in Europe.

On the final morning I was very keen to see the Mucha Museum as Alphons Mucha is one of my favorite artists; he is an especially interesting artist as he also has a strong association with Paris during the fin de siecle period. Greg took DouDou for a long walk to allow me to enjoy the gallery undisturbed. Among the posters that made Mucha famous were also some exceptional paintings, including an especially moving one called 'Star'. I love how I go to a museum to see a certain painting or painter, then in turn get excited about something new from my visit. I walked away wanting to know more about French actress Sarah Bernhardt (who had a 6 year contract with Mucha to do her publicity posters) as well as Mucha's lesser known painting career.

After a final look at the Municipal Hall (designed by an amalgam of Czech artists) and to munch on a 'big weiner' we headed home, happy to have experienced this warm and lovely city.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

My First Mothers Day ( a few months late)

I wrote this many months ago, before Mothers Day, but was not satisfied that it really hit the nail in my head. I've read it again and it is close, but still not exact....perhaps I am still searching for the meaning of motherhood. Perhaps I will search for it, and find it, and search again for my whole life as my relationship with my son changes? Anyways, here is what I imperfectly put into words:

For my own Mother Day -my very first- I have been trying to put into words what this role means to me. It means a whole lot, I know. When Avery was born (my friend Jennifer's baby, who's birth I was blessed to be at) it shook my foundations; but when William was born it was even more profound, changing what and where those foundations you see I still struggle for the right analogy, the right phrases to capture what his coming has meant to me. I still don't have it quite right.

It has somethig to do with role. Being a Mom puts you in the club. Passing other mothers (and a few fathers) with children in pousettes, we give each other a knowing nod. I know she gets it, like fellow combat soldiers or bikers on life's highway. Greg has noticed that I am much happier living in Paris since William has arrived: I now know what I do, have some answer for those inquisitors at cocktail parties (not that there have been many of those) asking 'so what do you do?'. I 'do' motherhood, big time. The yoga I practise now includes my baby; the books I read are to help me raise him well; the shopping is to meet his needs (and 'cause the clothes are so darm cute) and the decorating.....doesn't exist! Almost everything is about him and for him. Perhaos this is unbalanced and the pendulum will need to swing back to center at some point. Perhaps, but for now I am reveling in the intensity of the role.

This new role has forced me to be different, think different and act different. Its not all about me anymore, or even me and Greg. Its about William (usually) and what William needs (mostly). I think this is what I was struggling so hard with a few months back. I was losing the old me and hadn't found the new me yet. For someone who once upon a time was questioning whether she even wanted to be a Mom this was a tough transition. Face it, Greg and I had it pretty good! A happy relationship, lovely home, good jobs, great friends...I wondered what a baby would do to all of that. Quite a lot, as it turned out. But I no longer worry about it....these changes are more than OK.

I used to say you did not need to have a child to have children in your life, and I still believe that to be true. It is wonderfully fulfilling to be an auntie, a godmum or a Big Sister. But with William's arrival I now feel that having a child is one of the most important and fulfilling things I could do with my life. Author Abraham Verghese writes that children are a foot wedged in the door of mortality and this feels true; that it is important to know you will leave a little bit of something good behind you when you die. Though children do help us elude death, is the task of their raising that is so fulfilling. But he also writes that as satisfying as it is to cheat death, it is most important to make something beautiful of your life; that beautiful thing right now is William.

And the new me is a again what does that mean? It means I'm the one up at 4 am feeding him. It means I buy, wash and choose his clothes each day. It means I notice the moment he stills his play in need of a nap. It means I get to delight in his giggles and cherish his small body. It means I have the right to touch, and hold, and wash, and feed, and cuddle and play with this amazing baby. I get to watch his 'aha' moments as he rolls over and grabs at life. I get to be the one he wants when the chips are down, and know that I can soothe him just by my presence.

That's huge. That's powerful. That's being William's Mum.

(and Happy Mothers Day to everyone else in the club!)