Tuesday, December 30, 2008

It's a Family Thing...

There have been some eerie coincidences between my mother’s and mine pregnancies. Our first children, daughters, were born when we were 23, our seconds to be born about three years later. Beautiful blue-eyed girls emerged after about 30 hours of labour; we both stopped dilating at about 6 cm, and didn’t progress until we received epidurals.

I am not sure if it is self fulfilling prophesy or some sort of weird genetics, but I will be prepared in case. *

See, my brother, the second-born, was due in Mid-February…like Carli is. He was a large baby, and measured ahead…like Carli does. And he tried to come in Mid-January, 4 weeks early.

Back then, in the mid-80’s, they stopped labour. He said, ‘All right, if you say so…’ and instead came 6 weeks later…2 full weeks after his due date. And GIANT. He had grown to nearly 10 pounds, with the shoulders of a linebacker; my mother had to have an emergency c-section.

So, last night, at 33 weeks and 2 days, I packed most of my hospital bag. I have clean sweatpants and tank tops for after-delivery, a change of clothes for my lovely husband, and Carli’s coming-home outfit. I have hotel bottles of shampoo and conditioner and lotion and mouthwash and body wash, saved from 1 night in a hotel fancy enough to have Bath and Body Works, not Pert Plus. (Mandarin Ginger! Yum!) I have my list of birth preferences, and my hospital pre-registration is ready to be dropped off. I am constantly running through my brain, trying to think of anything else I might need that the hospital won’t provide… feel free to leave a comment if you can think of anything…

Because, even though I am mentally prepared to be pregnant for 6 ½ more weeks…I am physically prepared to insist they let her come out when she darn well pleases. They see no issues with letting her come after she hits 36 weeks, and I am completely and utterly 100% no holds supportive of that…as is my ridiculously large stomach and my inability to sleep more than 3 hours straight…oh, 3 am, how I wish I did not know you…

So, hold tight for 2 more weeks and 4 days, darling Carli Jay. Once January 18th hits, you just come on out whenever you want. We’ll be ready for ya.

* The real test of these genetics will be in about nine months…when my mother conceived her third. We will be employing heavy amounts of birth control around November, that is for sure…

Friday, December 19, 2008

In Which I Go On About Christmas Far Too Long.

December has always been one of my favourite months…Christmas was the big event of the year in our house, and though it was never dripping with extravagance, my mother infused the holiday with charm and love overflowing. We would start the traditions after Thanksgiving – putting up the tree while drinking boiled custard, then turning out the lights and sitting in the glow while my father told us the meaning behind the tree – and they continued throughout the month. We would spend days baking kifle and sugar cookies, buckeyes and peanut butter kisses. There would be holiday music or movies on constantly, and we would wear our Christmas-specific clothing until it fell apart.

Every part of our house was decorated…we even had a Santa toilet seat cover. Christmas dish towels and candles and rugs and knick-knacks replaced the everyday ones for the month of December. In any of the many houses we lived in during my childhood, you could walk in and feel warmth, welcoming. Ours was the house you wanted to come to after school and have a hot cocoa and a cookie, curl up on the big blue couch, and while away your afternoon.

I see now the work that must have gone into it all…my mother had four kids and a budget far below average. It must have been exhausting to not only shop, to find presents geared specifically for four vastly different personalities, but to spend your nights wrapping the gifts and hiding them after we went to bed. To find room in a meager grocery budget for butter and milk and eggs to make an abundance of Christmas treats. To make everyone in your extended family feel welcome and loved, and taking the time to fit them all into our schedule. To wake up at 5 am on Christmas morning, after very little sleep, and corral four highly over-excited children around a tree to open presents in a peaceable manner. And to do it all with a smile on your face.

I am striving to make Christmas the same for my daughter. I have fewer kids and more money than my mother, so it should be incredibly easy…but I am not sure I have the same amount of charismatic grace, the same imaginative ease that she does. She tells me it doesn’t come naturally, that it is something you strive towards. So I do. I bake cookies with Violet as she tries to eat the flour. We watch Rudolph and Santa and the Grinch, and the Nutcracker episode of the Wonderpets far too many times. We shop for presents for baby cousins and Salvation Army Angels and Daddy. We decorate wreaths and centerpieces and everything we can get our hands on; we spend hours playing with foamy stickers shaped liked penguins and polar bears and trees. We sing carols and talk about leaving cookies for Santa (he has requested snickerdoodles, apparently), and she wears her Santa T-shirt as soon as it comes out of the laundry.

And it all takes an effort. It requires having, “Tip-toe, Tip-toe, Tip-toe, Mouse King!” in your head at all hours. Burns on your fingers from hot glue guns. Countless trips to the mall to see Santa, without ever being brave enough to do more than wave. Spending more money and time than you anticipated trying to make sure you do everything you can to make the season memorable.

And then she lays in bed, before you shut her door for the night, and she says, ‘Thank you for watching Wudolph, Mama.’ She sings a wordless version of ‘Where are you, Christmas?’ from her beloved Grinch movie. She chatters about asking Santa for a watch and a purse and an umbrella, and how we are gonna bake more cookies the next day. She points out lights on houses as we pass by, and never, ever gets over the wonder of Christmas.

And it is all worth it.

Monday, December 8, 2008

A Kind of Feminism

I am not perfect.

I cry way too often. Enough that I invest in waterproof mascara. Enough that my husband knows to ask, “Is this an alone-cry, or a need-a-hug cry?”

I lose my temper. Mainly with my husband, when I have to remind him of something for the 87th time, or when he leans toward pragmatic when I want romantic. Sometimes, with my daughter, after she throws a tantrum because I only let her watch 2 episodes of Yo Gabba Gabba; or, heaven forbid, I want to take her out to dinner before SHE is ready to go.

I don’t smile as often as I used to.

I have no head for numbers or space. I cannot add up the groceries in my head; I need a list. I will not be able to figure out if the couch will fit in a new space until I try it. I have NO concept of feet or inches, and have to think hard every time I buy diapers: is she a 4 or a 5?

I hate cleaning.

I am bossy.

I am entirely too judgmental when it comes to grammar and sentence structure.

These are a few of my faults. A small glimpse into the cracks that line my surface. I wish I didn’t have them; I wish I was ever-patient with my daughter and husband, that I could smile constantly and never cry.

But I cannot, because I am human. I am 100% woman, wife and mother. These cracks form the mosaic that is me, and though I will never stop trying to improve, trying to be a more awesome piece of work, I am proud of these cracks. I have earned them.

I don’t want my daughter to grow up thinking I am perfect. I want her to grow up knowing I am a woman. I want her to know, most importantly, that she doesn’t need to be perfect to be a work of art.